Lamb is king of the meats in Cyprus! Served in a host of different ways, it is a yummy, flavourful mouthful of meaty pleasure. We have had two lamby nights. :) Baa Baa....
Last night we had lamb ribs marinated in soy sauce and then dipped in nigella and cumin seeds and baked on a rack in the oven. They crisped up beautifully on the outside and remained juicy and succulent on the inside. Lamb ribs are a really cheap cut of meat, akin to a breast of lamb joint. They make a very good supper at a bargain cost. A welcome change from pork ribs yet with similarities. They are quite fatty although the cooking method removes much of the fat but there is no getting away from the fact that its a cut you have to be willing to pick up in your fingers and bite into. For us a bit of a revelation that we will definitely repeat at home. So easy to make. Heat the oven to 150C. Mix 4 tbl soy sauce, 1 tbl sunflower oil, 4 tsp nigella seeds, 4 tsp cumin seeds. Put the ribs into the mix and scrounge them around. There isn't a lavish amount of mix but that's ok, you are just lightly coating them. Put the ribs on a rack over a tin in the oven and bake for between 1 and 2 hours. That's a massive cooking range I know but it totally depends on your ribs. Thinner, leaner ones will be ready before fatter, fatty ones. You are aiming for a crisp outer but still juicy inner. Keep checking.
Tonight we tried a new restaurant which will now firmly be a regular favourite on all our visits: Villaggio Templos at Zeytenlik. We heard about this restaurant from a friend who mentioned they offered a complete shoulder of lamb as the main course of a meze. Well..... This was irresistible. I rang ahead and the owner told me that they offered three lamb mains: shoulder; leg and crown roast. As we've had a lot of chops, and a couple of legs, we decided to go for the shoulder. They offer a variety of meze choices based on your main course. We'd opted for lamb, but they also have fish, and beef. The meze comes in two "weights" and you can also order a la carte i.e. not meze.
The restaurant is a visual delight, set amongst olive groves in the very picturesque village of Zeytenlik. We have been there before to dine at the Archway restaurant. I have to say that Villaggio blows Archway right out of the water. At this time of the year the dining has largely moved inside but the outside areas are beautiful. Inside, it is a traditional Cypriot house decorated in white and turquoise, with beautiful shuttered windows and arches. More Greek than Turkish.
The welcome was good and service throughout was exemplary. The waiter caught on that we were interested in food and he took care to explain the dishes to us. The courses were not rushed. We were in there for over two hours which is quite long by Cypriot standards. But it was just as well because there was A LOT of food. More than we had expected.
We began with a cold meze of perhaps 13 plates: a beetroot puree and walnut dish (utterly sublime), cream cheese with aromatic herbs, black eyed peas in a marinade, smoked aubergine salad, artichoke hearts stuffed with carrot puree, 2 types of marinaded olives, humus with nuts, tahini, a large feta and green salad, bread, chicken liver pate, asparagus with a creamy mushroom sauce, local sausage slices. A feast already. And to be noted that the chef makes all of these dishes from scratch. Nothing is brought in. Then came the hot meze: vegetables in a tempura batter (amazing), halloumi cheese deep fried with a sharp lemon zest, liver and onion, vegetable and goat cheese kebab.
Out came the shoulder of lamb, cooked to perfection. It had been slow cooked for 8 hours and it literally flaked off the bone in succulent splendour. So full of flavour and juicy deliciousness. It was served on a massive platter with potatoes, lemon wedges, accompanied by an amazing rice pilaff and a potato/beetroot Lyonnais. It was massive. We bravely ate at least half feeling reassured by the fact that the waiter had said that he would pack up what we couldn't manage. It will be lunch tomorrow.
Following on from the lamb came a dessert of nut and honey pastry. Somewhat like baklava, again made in house that day. It was tiny and just hit the spot. Washed down with Turkish coffee. And then a surprise. A complimentary offering of French cognac. Yes. French. And a very generous pouring.
We couldn't have eaten another crumb and went away happy and content and carrying our lunch for tomorrow. It wasn't just the quantity though. The quality of the food was outstanding. Absolutely outstanding. The chef here is a treasure and he combines technical expertise with a great talent for combining flavours and foods. This restaurant has definitely leapfrogged to the top of our list. How much for this feast you ask? £12. yes... £12 each for all that lovely food and deliciousness. Amazing. We washed it down with a £7 bottle of Spanish Cab Sauv/Tempranillo that went well with the lamb.
Do try Villaggio Templos. Don't leave it to the last night. You will want to go again. We do!