Media coverage from media giants last week took a look at some of Cyprus' cultural aspects, such as its heritage and its local alternative culture. Just as one thought our tiny island had been nicely rounded up through CNN's On the Road Series or Euronew's online portal, CNN came forward with another two features, this time presenting the culinary sides of Cyprus' delights - namely, our very own Commandaria -'the oldest wine in the world'- and our traditional dishes which, according to the report, make Cyprus unique.
Initially, CNN reporter Robin Gauldie, differentiates between the hospitality industry on the coast as opposed to urban areas, only to depict the 11 essential tastes of Cyprus.
"Pizza joints, sushi bars, "British" pubs, curry houses and Thai restaurants rule in Cyprus' sprawling resort areas, far outnumbering humble Cypriot places. But you can find true indigenous dining in urban parts such as Limassol, Larnaca or Nicosia if you follow groups of determined-looking Cypriots around lunch or dinnertime.
"The search is easier if you head for the hills, to smaller villages with fewer visitors.
"Either way, you'll find menus that blend flavours inherited from Greece, Venice, Turkey and the Middle East," the journalist writes.
Gauldie referred to local spices such as cumin, cinnamon and coriander and local chefs' tendency to use "wild and foraged ingredients, including greens such as kapari (wild capers), the tiny snails called karaoli and game including rabbit, hare and partridge".
In his top 11 list of essential tastes of Cyprus, Gauldie includes the Meze and specifically, the Cypriot inclination to the traditional feast. "But many of the individual Meze dishes you'll find in Cyprus are peculiar to the island. A typical Meze table begins with dips such as tahini, pickles, stuffed vine leaves and cold bean salads. Grilled halloumi cheese will likely follow, along with spicy sausages such as loukanika, often simmered in red wine."
Referring to meat, the features attests to "grilled meat on the spit, skewered or barbecued over charcoal…Pork gets top billing, but lamb and chicken play supporting roles," naming local taverns around the island.
Second on the list come the 'Karaoli yahni', "the tiny wild snails called karaoli emerge in vast numbers with the autumn rains," as he reports.
"They're especially common in the Akamas peninsula, the island's wild western tip, where they're gathered by the bucket-load and served simmered in tomato sauce. Among the best are cold cuts such as tsamarella (sun-cured goat thigh), hiromeri (pork thigh marinated in wine, then pressed and wood-smoked) or pastourma, Cyprus's take on salt beef."
'Koupepia', the tender young vine leaves used to wrap minced lamb or pork and rice to make this typical snack, served hot or cold, the 'Poikilia' known as an assortment of savoury dishes and, afelia, sheftalia and kolokasi could not be absent from his list.
Gauldie picks out Oktapodi Krasto as distinctly Cypriot, and acknowledges that although Cypriot cuisine is 'meat heavy', "devout Orthodox Christians eschew meat during Lent and there are plenty of veggie options, including anthous (courgette flowers stuffed with rice and feta cheese) and louvi me lahana (black eyed beans served cold with wild greens, oil and lemon juice) and dips, such as tahini".
Leaving savouries for last, "Ravioles are part of the culinary legacy left by the Venetians, who ruled Cyprus from 1489 to 157," he puts forward. "Similar to Italian ravioli, these pasta parcels are stuffed with haloumi cheese, then simmered in chicken broth."
Anogyra village takes pride in a sweet delicacy. According to the feature writer, "Anogyra is the place to find sticky toffee called pasteli that's still made the old way from the juice pressed from the carob bean. It's known as mavros chrysos ("black gold")."