One of the highlights of being in Cyprus is the opportunity it gives to eat the island’s wonderful food. There is a plethora of fresh fruit and vegetables available year round, grown locally in the rich soil and ripened by the hot sun. This gives an intensity of flavour that we in northern Europe have forgotten, raised as we are now, on supermarket fast grown fodder. Cypriot tomatoes may not be always perfectly round but, my goodness, the sweet rich flavour will blow your socks off. It’s not just the fruit and vegetables: lamb is top choice for meat dishes, tender and juicy; chicken is always free range; fish locally caught and day fresh.
One of the secrets is that the produce reaches you so much more quickly than it does via our home supermarket supply system. We buy our fruit and vegetables at Y Belli, a daily farmers’ market 5 minutes from the villa. You see the farmers’ tractors pulling up regularly through the day to unload their produce straight from the fields. You can’t get fresher than that!
The other secret to buying the best produce is to do what the Cypriots do and buy what is in season. When I was a child, before supermarket supply chains became global, you couldn’t always get everything year round. If something wasn’t in season in your area, you couldn’t find it. Sometimes this was inconvenient, but on the plus side it ensured that what you could find was fresher and very much cheaper. So, if you buy non Cypriot or non-seasonal fruit and vegetables in the shops – and it is available - you will pay a higher price. Buy the vegetables that are in great big piles signifying that the farmer are bringing them in great quantity because they are at peak. This takes a bit of getting used to for the under 40s who didn’t grow up this way but one look at the prices will soon have you adjusting your shopping list to fit in.
So, you can stock the fridge with a wonderful quantity of cheap fresh fruit and vegetables for meals and for juicing. And don’t forget that adults can juice up some of the fruit and add a bit of rum or vodka (again, buy the Cypriot distilled brands) for fantastic evening sundowners.
As regards meat, chicken and lamb are top choices. For a special treat one night buy a full leg of lamb to slow roast in the wood burning oven. Cypriot sheep are a different, more mountainous, breed than British and the legs are consequently a different shape. Flatter, more muscular. So delicious though. Meltingly good. The other fantastic meat offering is the kebabs, available mornings only in good butchers and from supermarket butchers counters. They sell out by lunchtime latest. You can buy all sorts of different sorts but we like the sheftali. These are made from lamb, shaped like a sausage and then wrapped in a fatty lamb caul (like a web). It looks a bit off-putting I know, but this fatty caul will melt away and disappear on the grill, having basted your kebab effortlessly throughout the cooking, keeping the meat incredibly juicy. Try it.
And then there's the bread..... of course you could make your own in the wood oven.... so easy to do. But, on the other hand the village bakeries are still going and offer a daily treat. Our's is literally 5 minutes walk up the hill but if that is too much on a hot day, they will hand deliver to the house. There is something so wholesome and happiness-inducing about clutching an oven warm loaf to your bosom as you head back for breakfast humming that Hovis song....... resist it if you can!
Restaurants of course capitalise on the huge variety of produce available and it has given birth to that most famous treat: the meze. The meze is a fantastic feast which offers the diner an endless supply of tiny plates of food. Commonly you would expect to receive something like 25 plates of cold appetizers, 10 hot appetizers, 5 grilled meats, dessert, fruit, coffee and liqueur all for the princely sum of about 45 YTL i.e. £12. It is just an amazing treat and fantastically family friendly. No matter how picky everyone will find plenty to eat. It’s like a personal buffet.