THE CYPRIOT NYTRITION – GASTRONOMY
The island of Cyprus has over time formed a particular mosaic of tastes affected by its geographical position (between three continents), its relation to the neighboring countries and the gastronomic influences of their conquerors.
From the 12th century onwards Cyprus was consecutively under the domination of the French, Italian, Turkish and English. All of them influenced and shaped the island’s cuisine into a mixture of Greek- Mediterranean, Oriental and European cuisine. This is why Cyprus is characterized as a “gastronomic crossroad”.
Cypriots who had to developed trade throughout the Mediterranean, brought back from their journeys raw materials and eating habits of other peoples, integrating them into the culinary culture of the island.
As part of ancient Egypt, Cyprus has had access to cumin, while cinnamon was imported from Sri Lanka. The cookware known as “tavas” comes from Syria (during the Middle Ages, Cyprus used to accommodate a great community of Maronites from Syria). The mixing of cumin and cinnamon is one of the local characteristics of the Cypriot cuisine and an additional example of the cultural gastronomic exchange which took part on the island. Other examples of typical dishes in the Cypriot Cuisine according to the American food historian Weaver are bread from chickpea flour which used to be common during the middle Ages and “trachanas” which was brought from the Franks in the area.
The Cypriot Cuisine is based mainly in meat, with pork being mostly used in Cypriot meals, salads and fruits for which the island is famous for since the ancient years.
An important place in the Cypriot diet have olive oil, bread, honey as well as the consumption of legumes and vegetables. Many dishes with vegetables served in Cyprus have exceptional taste. Seafood also has a prominent position. Squid and octopus are served marinated with wine and the popular Cypriot mullet or fried small fish (gavros) are exceptional local delicacies.
The main aromatic components used in the Cypriot cuisine are: coriander, spearmint, cinnamon, laurel and cumin which give a special flavor in the Cypriot dishes.
The variety of the cold cuts that stand out in the Cypriot cuisine was a result of the efforts for the preservation of meat. Salt, wine and smoke were the main meat preservation materials. Consequently, products with unique tastes came up like sausages, lountza, tsamarela, etc.
Wine is another particular element of Cypriot gastronomy, with Commandaria being one of the oldest wines in the world, in terms of its production. Richard the Lion hearted, characterized Commandaria as “the wine of kings and the king of wines”. Zivania, which is the “national” drink of Cyprus, is also connected with the Cypriot tradition and culture.
When it comes to dairy products, two are the most notable cheeses of Cyprus: the popular halloumi (which is the only cheese that can grilled without melting and it is consumed in different ways) and “anari”.
Some typical dishes of the Cypriot cuisine that every visitor of the island has to taste are: “ofto kleftiko” made from lamb’s pieces with laurel leaves and cooked in a traditional oven sealed with clay, the Cypriot skewer of lamb or pork, “seftalia”, made from minced pork with onion and parsley, cooked on the grill, the Cypriot smoked sausages, ‘’koupepia’’ which are vine leaves stuffed with rice and minced pork, “Cypriot ravioli”, stuffed with halloumi and egg, sprinkled with chopped mint or peppermint, “kokokassi” which is sweet potato meat with chicken or meat, “pasha” rabbit stew, rabbit or pork with large onions and cucumbers and the “meze” consisting of several dishes, cold and warm, which vary depending on the season and are served in small quantities.
Despite the fact that the favorite dishes of the Cypriots are the grilled and baked ones, soups also play an important role in the Cypriot diet.
The gastronomic journey in the Cypriot cuisine is completed with the traditional spoon sweets which are the registered trade mark of the Cypriot hospitality and the ultimate treat. For the production of the spoon sweets, honey, syrup, walnuts, fruits and vegetables are used.