Thoughts for summer wine and food...
My first encounter with Cypriot food was at the old Ledra Palace Hotel, Nicosia, in 1965. Several years after that, I moved my offices in London W1 to a building just off Great Portland Street, where just around the corner, was a Cypriot restaurant. At her little 20-seater place on a corner, Eleni Ttokou did much of the cooking for many years (until she trained a man from Bangladesh to replicate, exactly, all her dishes), whilst her husband, Gabriel, chatted with his cronies and looked after his accounts, at least one of which was with the local bookmaker. The food was superb – the finest Cyprus grub I have ever had. The reason was that Eleni always used the very best and most tender English or New Zealand lamb for her kebabs, her “Kofta”, keftedes and sheftalia.
I courted my dear wife at Ttokos and today our minds boggle at the meals we used to get down us. We started with a generous glass of KEO
sherry, followed it with a bottle of either red, or white, concluding, with a handsome slug of VSOP Anglias brandy. The food kicked off with dishes of olives and pickles, the best taramasalata we ever had, homous and cucumber-with-yogurt, or soup (chicken with egg and lemon sauce). The house special was Eleni’s “Mixture” – a plate of two sticks of lamb kebabs, a couple of keftedes and a substantial example of sheftalia, accompanied by a chopped salad and roast potatoes to die for. Over the course of numerous summer lunches, we formed a great liking for the white
And so it was, prompted by the Cyprus food at Ttokos, that we began to holiday on this pleasant island, where we continued the custom. Perhaps, sadly, we never, ever, got a “Mixture” as good as Eleni’s. One day we stumbled upon a bottle of Chrysorioyiatissa Monastery white, which we learned was made from the indigenous white grape of Cyprus. We thought then, and still do, that in a good year, a good bottle of this is the best white in Cyprus. It has had problems of consistency, though. Nevertheless, among my handful of good Cyprus Xynisteris, I number it along with and
Once upon a time, I took a couple of bottles back to the UK and one night one of them went with us to a Cypriot restaurant in south-east London which had no drinks licence. The proprietor, upon tasting it, refused to believe it was Cyprus wine. This was no doubt due to the fact that when it went modern, the people at Monte Roya acquired winemaking equipment and advice from Germany.
And to think it isn’t so long since a lot of us tut-tutted and said
won’t shame by naming them! Instead, I shall raise my glass to those intrepid chaps, many I am proud to call my friends, who have succeeded with this local grape. As I do I offer a recipe or two for some summer salads with a difference…
I 1 small green or red pepper 2 Cyprus cucumbers, peeled. 1 tbsp mint, 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped 4 tbsp salad oil Juice of 1 large lemon 1 crushed garlic clove Salt and pepper 1 slice of griddled Halloumi per person (optional)
1. Toast, oven-bake or fry the bread until it is quite crisp. Cut or break into small pieces or strips.
2. Shred the lettuce into very fine strips. 3. De-seed and slice pepper very, very thinly. 4. Trim and finely slice spring onions. 6. Remove skins and chop tomatoes and cucumbers. 7. Put all ingredients except the bread into a salad bowl, mix and season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Just before serving, add the bread.
It is said that this is popular with the smarter citizens of Rome for lunch on hot summer days. It adapts ideally to Cypriot ingredients and is simple and inexpensive to make. 1. Put all the ingredients, except the spaghetti, into a large bowl and mix together well. 2. In a large saucepan, cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted boiling water, according to instructions on the packet.
3. When ready, drain and mix into the salad mixture and serve at once.
If the day is hot, I would serve this dish with sliced cucumbers tossed in oil, lemon and finely chopped mint and a chopped green salad of lettuce, lachana, green pepper and some parsley. Then merely add some crusty fresh bread and a cool glass of your chosen white wine.
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