It’s hard not to fall in love with the traditional cuisine while travelling around Cyprus. This country is famous for the hospitality of the locals, that’s why learning about Cyprus specialties will be the best way to prove it.
Today I want to share some recipes of traditional homemade food with you. Originally they all are my friend’s family recipes. His mom was so kind to tell me them special for this article. All the recipes are traditional Cyprus ones. Taking into account the fact that my friend Panayotis likes a good meal and various fiests, I can assure that the recipes of his wonderful mother can be trusted.
I want to note that Cypriots always enjoy a big course of meals. They are just used to eat well that’s why the food here is served in big generous portions. In this article I will tell you in detail how to cook several kinds of appetizers, hot meals and desserts.
Here is our menu:
- Appetizers: Taramasalata and Watermelon salad.
- First course: Egg and lemon soup and Magiritsa soup.
- Second course: Sfoungato, Octopus braised in wine and Tiropita cheese pie with Tzatziki sauce.
- Desserts: Sikopita (fig) pie and Carob cakes with walnuts.
- Drink: Grape lemonade.
Taramasalata is a traditional spread of Greek cuisine. It’s a quite simple dip made from fish roe. The cooking time is about 20 minutes.
125 g fish roe (carp or cod)
250 g dried white bread (if you don’t like or don’t eat bread, you can replace it with the mashed potatoes)
250 g corn or olive oil (you can use both in halves)
juice of 2 lemons
1 medium onion
black olives and some fresh greens to serve with
Grate the onion while the bread is soaking in water. Squeeze the bread to remove the water and put it in a food processor together with grated onion, roe and juice of 1 lemon. Blend until the creamy consistency. Continue adding oil and the rest of the lemon juice to taste stopping occasionally to scrape the sides.
Plate, add black olives and sprinkle on some greens.
The colour of the dip depends on the kind of the fish roe. It could vary from white to cream and pale pink.
Cypriots often prefer to serve this dip with any kind of crisps.
Watermelon salad is an easy summer appetizer. The juicy flesh adds a fresh harmonious taste to the salad. Preparation time is 15 minutes.
500 g watermelon flesh
200 g homemade feta cheese
fresh greens: cilantro, mint, parsley, arugula
2 Tsp oil
1 Tsp rose water
1 tsp roasted sesame seeds
1 tsp homemade pomegranate syrup
salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the watermelon and feta cheese up into cubes and put them into one big bowl.
- Add mint, parsley, arugula and cilantro leaves.
- On the frying pan slightly roast the sesame seeds and add to the bowl.
- Sprinkle the salad with pomegranate syrup and rose water.
- Add oil, salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix the ingredients gently because they have a very soft texture.
Please, note, that feta cheese is quite salty by itself, so be careful while adding salt to the salad.
Egg and Lemon Soup
The name of this dish sounds like it is something extraordinary exotic and suits only an acquired taste. But when I’ve tried it by myself for the first time, it won my heart immediately. It’s a very light and fresh soup.
By the way it a traditional Cyprus soup that is usually served during the Easter celebrations. Cypriots say that this soup symbolizes the end of the fasting in some way. Preparation time is 25 minutes.
nourishing homemade chicken broth (replace with vegetable one for vegetarian version)
½ glass of basmati rice (any other kind of rice is also okay)
lemon juice at taste
mint leaves for garnishing
salt and pepper at taste
- Cook the chicken and strain the broth. Put the chicken aside for a while.
- Wash the rice carefully and add to the broth stirring occasionally. Cook until the rice is ready.
- Squeeze the lemons. As I told you above you could add juice at your taste. You can start with one lemon and try how it would taste. Speaking of myself, I like it sourer; one and a half or even two juicy lemons are working well for me.
- In a bowl mix some broth with room temperature drinking water, add eggs and lemon juice. Stir everything carefully.
- Add egg and lemon mixture to the cooked rice in a pot. Boil it for a few minutes, be careful and do not let the eggs fold.
It is better to serve the soup hot right after it is ready. Dress with mint leaves. Chop the chicken in bite sized pieces and add to the soup if you want it to be more nourishing.
In a classic traditional variation of this recipe I will tell you below this soup is usually made from lamb’s heads and offal. If you don’t feel good about it, you can use something less extraordinary like T-bone lamb. Preparation time is 1 hour.
1 lamb head and offal
3 fresh carrots
1 medium onion
2 Tsp flour
2 Tsp rice
2 Tsp butter
juice of 2 lemons
- Wash the meat carefully. Put the lamb head to the pot adding the water to cover the meat completely. Boil until it cooked and add sliced vegetables and greens. Sieve the stew.
- Wash the offal under running water and slice into quite big pieces. Add it to the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Drain the water after that.
- Take another pot and put in cooked offal, add butter and finely chopped greens. Boil on a medium heat for about half an hour together with the previously made lamb stew. Add the rice and cook until it is ready.
- Whip the eggs adding flour and lemon juice from time to time. Add this mix to the pot and stir well. Leave it on the stove for a few more minutes.
Sfoungato recipe is a very easy to cook one. This ragout is also high in protein. Preparation time is 50 minutes.
2 medium onions
4 big tomatoes
100 g greens of any kind at your choice
spices at taste
- Wash the zucchinis and slice into dices or wedges at your choice.
- Peel the onion and slice into thin rings.
- Prepare the tomatoes by putting them into boiling water for 2 minutes. That will help you to peel them. Slice the tomatoes into dices after that.
- Put the zucchinis and onion in a hot pan, add olive oil and fry on a medium heat.
- Add tomatoes and your favourite spices to the frying pan. Braise the ragout on a medium heat until less liquid consistency.
- Cover the vegetables with whipped eggs.
- There are two options for the next step: you could leave Sfoungato on the stove for extra 5 minutes or put it in the oven until golden brown.
I like this ragout to be put in the oven, but if you don’t have time or don’t want to wash a lot of dirty dishes after that, you can leave it on the stove. It will taste delicious anyway!
Dress with a lot of any fresh greens before serving. By the way Sfoungato could be served hot as well as cold. This dish is good both for breakfast, main course or even as an appetizer.
Octopus Braised in Wine
Octopus braised in wine is also a traditional Cyprus meal. Cyprus cuisine can’t be imagined without seafood. And meals made from octopus are one of the best here. This recipe will bring something new to your diet and surprise the guests for sure. Preparation time is 1 hour and 10 minutes.
2 kg frozen octopus
1 glass of good dry red wine
2 Tsp olive oil
3 Tsp vinegar
4 Tsp ground dry coriander
any greens at your choice for dressing
- To defrost the octopus put it in the strainer for about 20 minutes. It’s an easy way to get rid of the water too.
- Chop the octopus into equal big slices.
- Add vinegar to a hot pan and put the octopus in. Fry for 3-4 minutes on a high heat until the water is evaporated and the meat is soft. Add some oil and continue to fry the meat for a half an hour without covering the pan with a lid, to avoid additional liquid.
- Add grounded coriander and fry for another 5-10 minutes.
- Add the wine in the end and cook stirring about 5 minutes on a medium heat to let the alcohol evaporate.
The meal is usually served on a big plate dressed with fresh greens. Please, note, that you don’t need to salt it because the meat is already salty by itself, so it will be enough for a good taste. The octopus meat is a diet and healthy food and will be a good addition to your everyday menu.
Tiropita Cheese Pie
Tiropita in Greek literally means a cheese pie. You can buy Tiropita pies with a golden crust at every corner in Cyprus. This pastry is loved both by children and adults because it’s a perfect yummy snack to be happy with. The main rule is to use fresh feta cheese, which is the key secret to its taste. Preparation time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.
550 g flour for the dough
550 g butter
1 and ½ tsp salt
500 g feta cheese
200 g milk
150 g flour for the filling
1 and ½ tsp white pepper
- Begin with making the dough. In a bowl mix the flour, butter, salt and some water. Form it into a ball and put in the fridge for half an hour.
- Take it out and roll it adding sprinkles of flour. Spread the butter over it and fold squares. Repeat the whole thing several times. Ideally there will be 4 square-shaped sheets of the dough. Leave them in the fridge for another 20 minutes.
- Form a roll out of the dough and cut it into 8 equal pieces. Roll all of them into 8 sheets.
- Mix the flour, butter and milk for the filling and put on low heat for 5 minutes. Let it cold and add white pepper and eggs one after another. Mix with the feta cheese.
- Put the dough on a baking sheet alternating the layers of the filling with dough sheets.
- Bake for 40 minutes at 200 °C.
Tiropita pie is usually served warm cut in triangle shaped pieces just like a pizza. It could also be served together with green olives, fresh greens and a glass of wine.
The mother of my friend recommends serving Tirotipa pie with tzatziki sauce, which recipe I will describe below.
500 ml fresh yoghurt
garlic at taste
150 ml oil
1 Tsp vinegar
fresh greens, olives
salt and paper at taste
- Chop the garlic finely, add salt and mix until smooth consistency.
- Cut the cucumber in halves and remove the flesh, grate the rest.
- Mix grated cucumber with yoghurt. Add garlic, oil and vinegar.
Inviting guests to eat the pies in Cyprus is a great opportunity to meet friends and relatives and to enjoy the time spent together. Make a Tiropita pie with tzatziki sauce and invite your friends and family to join you by the meal. I’m sure they will appreciate it very much!
The main ingredient of this pie is fig. This fruit is rich on potassium (second only to nuts), iron and B vitamins.
1 kg of figs
½ glass almond
rose water for flavouring
Mash the figs until creamy pasta. Add almond, anise seeds and some rose water. Mix carefully and form scones. Let the scones dry in the sun, flip from time to time for better effect.
That’s it! It’s a very easy recipe that could be a great way to spend the time for the whole family and teach even small kids how to cook.
Carob Cakes with Walnuts
Carob trees are growing all around Cyprus and its fruits are one of the favourite ingredients for traditional Cyprus pastries. Also carob is rich on B vitamins and other microelements. The recipe of Carob cakes with walnuts is an easy one that doesn’t take much time to bake.
200 g carob syrup
400 g whole grain flour
200 ml milk
100 g butter
- In a bowl mix the butter with carob syrup until smooth consistency. Add the egg and whip it carefully.
- In another bowl mix together the flour, cinnamon, milk and baking powder. Put all the ingredients together and add the walnuts.
- Bake in the oven at 120 °C.
- Dress with powdered sugar or some nuts.
This easy recipe will be perfect if you don’t have time to make any other dessert before the guests arriving or if you want to please your family with some treats. Neither adults nor children can resist these delicious cakes.
The mother of my friend Panayotis was so kind to share her signature recipe of mint grape lemonade with me. This rich on C vitamin fresh drink is perfect for a summer heat. It’s a healthy and simple recipe with the preparation time of 20 minutes.
2 l drinking water
2-4 glass of sugar (at taste)
800 g red or black grapes
50 g fresh mint
juice of 1 lime squeezed
1 lemon cut in slices
ice cubes for serving
- Cut the lime in slices and grain together with mint and sugar.
- Add mashed grapes and fill with water.
- Let the drink stay for 4 hours minimum (for 6 hours would be even better).
You can strain the drink before serving if you want. Serve in glasses with a few ice cubes. Your fresh vitamin-rich drink is ready!
I’ve tried this recipe by myself and it is one of my favourite drinks to save the day now!
Καλή σας όρεξη! What means «Bon appetit» in Greek.