FOOD ( and drink) FOR THE GODS – AND MERE MORTALS
An Email from friends in Cyprus arrived in the morning as I sat looking out of the window where I write. It described an evening at a local restaurant I remember so well, having spent many happy dinner hours there: my wife and me on our own; with two or four or more friends or as part of a larger gathering. In two decades we never had a bad meal there. The food, the message said, is as good as ever. I would not expect anything else from the lady chef-proprietor, Ariadne. Mary and I have fond memories of our 25 year friendship with this charming lady, and our perennial enjoyment of her cooking.
I haven’t tasted Ariadne’s food for two years but it is clearly as good as ever. Mostly, it is a high quality conventional Mezze, but seasonally she may add something special. One of my favourites of these was, is, her stuffed Courgette Flowers (Anthous), which she used to do for us on request, when the flowers were available. It is not easy to do because it is essential to bring them to the table immediately they are done. This said, they can be made at home. herbs and some salt and pepper.
2. Carefully scoop the filling into the courgette flowers: you should get between two and four teaspoons in each one, depending on size. Twist the petals gently to enclose the mixture.
3. Just before you’re ready to cook, prepare the batter. Sift the flour, corn-flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Begin whisking in the water, until you have a batter the thickness of single cream. Be careful not to over-mix and don’t worry if there are a few lumps.
4. Meanwhile, heat about a 6cm depth of oil in a deep-fat fryer or deep, heavy saucepan (to come no more than a third of the way up the pan), till a cube of bread dropped in turns golden brown in about one minute.
5. Dip one stuffed courgette flower into the batter and immediately lower into the hot oil. Repeat with a couple more. 6. Do not have more than 3 or 4 in the pan at the same time. 7. Cook for 1–2 minutes, until puffed up, crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper. 8. Set aside and keep warm, while you cook all the flowers. 9. Serve as soon as possible, sprinkled with a little flaky sea salt. If I have just four or six people to serve I bring them to the table in relays. As we always eat near the cooker this ensures fresh, hot flowers for all.
The American magazine, “Wine Spectator”, arguably the most influential wine publication in the world, described the Guigal family as “the best winemakers on the planet”. Indeed, I think their rich, fruity Rhone valley wines are truly splendid.
Most astutely, when he was building his wine importing and retailing enterprise (La Maison du Vin) Victor Papadopoulos flew to France and signed a contract to purvey their wines in Cyprus. Not long afterwards, Guigal père, mère et fils (father, mother and son) came for a holiday-cum-business visit to Cyprus. As part of a Cyprus food and wine itinerary, Victor arranged lunch at Ariadne’s.