QUITE A JOURNEY Ledra Palace, 1968 to Ezousa Wines 2014
It’s astonishing really, pottering around in our quiet corner of eastern England, how many people I meet who have been to, or lived in, Cyprus: with the British forces, as business people, residents or holiday-makers. A few days ago, at a drinks party I got into conversation with another elderly chap who was a senior executive in Barclays Bank in Cyprus before and during the 1974 invasion, who told me some interesting stories which I shall recount another time. He happened to mention the Ledra Palace Hotel, which was one of the better watering holes in the eastern Mediterranean for many years and my memory cells danced about.
It was in the later 1960s I stayed at the Ledra on my first proper visit to the island. One glorious May day I lunched on the delightful garden terrace. The food was simple, good and what I came to know as essentially Cypriot. One of the things I remember about that meal was my first, delicious encounter with fresh white beans and vegetables in tomato sauce (see the recipe below) and the soft and laid-back “local” red wine.
Sadly, my first visit to the Ledra Palace was almost certainly my last, because it is probably unlikely there will be a settlement of the Cyprus problem and consequent restoration of the hotel in what remains of my lifetime.
On that occasion, I flew in to Nicosia from Beirut in a Middle East Airlines Viscount, but on later visits we often came by Cyprus Airways Trident, as pictured here. What remains of this aircraft, or one like it, may still be seen on what is left of a runway.
I hired a car and spent a couple of days driving around the country. There was little traffic and I was little troubled by tourists. The southern coastal road meandered narrowly from Larnaca to Limassol and thence to Paphos (which took four hours). I lodged in a small hotel in Paphos town and next day, Sunday, drove onwards towards Latsi. I didn’t know about Cypriot “hunters” then, and as I drove up into the hills gun-shots rang out all around me and it seemed like a war had started – I stopped to investigate and a villager put a troubled visitor’s mind at rest! I little knew that 25 years later I would drive up there again to visit young men making international quality wines. One of those young men is
who deservedly has come to the forefront of Cyprus wines in a very few years. Cyprus Gourmet’s “Cyprus Wine Man of the Year” in 2009, he has won a
number of awards since. His wines are now more widely available than ever, because Ghalanos are now distributing them. Elena Ghalanos tells me: “All seven of the Ezousa wines can be found at the five regional sales branches of Ghalanos Distributors in Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Famagusta and Paphos. Selected hotels, restaurants and cava/wine shops usually have a selection, if not the whole Ezousa range. At the major hypermarket chains and most smaller supermarkets you can find the Xinisteri ( the Maratheftiko Rosé ( and the three red grape blend of Maratheftiko-Cabernet Sauvignon-Mourvedre (
Fasolia is not difficult to make. Seasonally, you can find the “fresh” haricot beans in the shopslong pods looking rather dry. Unfortunately, they’re expensive, too, but worth it for a treat. Remove the beans and cook until almost tender, not only for “Fasolia”, but salads and many other dishes. You may also use dry white beans, soaked for 24 hours, then rinsed and put back into a pan of water. Bring to the boil, skim, change the water and bring back to the boil, cover and cook slowly for 2-3 hours, until tender. Reserve liquid.
Or, you can use two 400g cans of Cannellini beans, reserving the juice, for the following recipe. You may vary the fresh vegetables as much as you wish, according to season and personal taste. 500g of cooked white beans 3-4 stalks of celery 3-4 carrots 4 medium onions 2 large cloves of garlic 4 medium-large tomatoes, skins removed. 4-5 tbsp olive oil Salt, or one vegetable stock cube and pepper 1. In a large stew-pan heat the olive oil. When hot, tip in the celery, carrots and onion and stir round. 2. Keep on medium to high heat, stirring regularly, for five minutes. 3. Turn heat to low and cover the pan. Stir every few minutes and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. 4. When the vegetables are tender, add the tomatoes and the beans, with the juice and carry on cooking slowly. Add salt or crumbled stock cubes, and pepper to taste and stir in. 5. Add a little water if necessary. After 15 minutes this staple Cyprus dish is ready to serve, but you can gently simmer it for longer if you like. Its flavour develops over a day and it keeps for several days in the fridge.