Good day to you, marble seekers out there! We’ve been to the mountains, we’ve lazed on the beach a little, now we need to eat, and a culinary journey through Cyprus would be more than fit. Here are a few yummy traditional Cypriot recipes and how to prepare them.
Halloumi & Anari
One of the most famous Cypriot dishes (perfect choice for a starter or a light, refreshing and healthy meal half an hour before bedtime) is halloumi. Enjoying a remarkable popularity across Europe and the Middle East, it has a high melting point and hence, it can be ‘cooked’ and served in a variety of ways, fried, grilled and of course, raw. With its unique mild salty, minty flavour and rubbery texture, this delicacy has earned a top place in the culinary preference of vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. We all know how certain videos or online posts go viral, well, so did halloumi. Deservedly so! What could be more tasteful and healthier than a combination of goat and sheep milk just before it’s set with rennet? This practice is quite unusual as the acid-producing bacteria, which usually take part in the process of cheese fermentation are in this case absent. We will share the secret with you in a bit, but before we do let us talk a little bit about halloumi’s ‘sweet’, milder sister, anari.
Anari is a fresh, ricotta-style, whey cheese made from goat or sheep milk. Enjoying less ‘publicity’ than halloumi, anari is starting slowly to pick up thanks to public exposure.
Whether you are a fresh or dry cheese lover, we have good news for you! Anari can be consumed both fresh and dry. The fresh version is soft and has a mild, sweet and creamy taste, which makes it a perfect choice for cheese cake or other cheese-based sweets. Packed with protein, anari is low in fat, which makes it easy to digest. 2 in 1 – tasty and healthy! However, if you opt for the fresh version, you’d better consume it fast as it is perishable.
Dry anari is usually salted and either air-dried in the sun or in the oven. Once dried, it becomes hard, brittly and slightly salty. Because it’s too hard to cut, dry anari is usually grated to garnish pasta dishes. Unlike halloumi, it is made from pasteurised milk. Let’s see how it’s made!
23 +1/2 cups sheep (or goat) milk (unpasteurised)
½ teaspoons powdered rennet
1 cup water
½ cup salt
1-2 teaspoons dried mint.
- Pour the milk in a large bowl and let it sit on the stove. Remove one cup of milk for anari
- Heat the milk until it becomes lukewarm. Remove from heat and add the rennet in. Stir until the rennet is fully incorporated. Now, cover the pot with a cloth and allow it about 30 minutes to sit. At this stage, the milk will start to solidify. The secret is that it has to become ‘chunky’. You can check chunkiness by gently pressing the top with your fingers. If your finger leaves a small dent, it means you can proceed to the next step.
- So far so good, your milk is turning into cheese! Now, press the halloumi that has started taking shape on the top down to the bottom of the pot with your hands. Needless to say that you need to make sure your hands are clean before you start playing with the ‘cheesy dough’, otherwise your halloumi will smell funny! (That’s right, you go the idea, dip your hands and wrists into the pot all the way down and press! We did say it had to be a large pot, didn’t we?)
- Now take a large handful of the wondrous mix (about 2 cups) and put it in a special cheese container (with lots of holes in it) on a pan and gently press the cheese down with your knuckles to squeeze the liquid out. Repeat this procedure with all the cheese in the pot (you should have enough cheese to fill about 5 containers). Pour any excess liquid at the bottom of the pan back into the pot.
- Make sure there is no halloumi left soaking the pot. Remove any cheese bits with a strainer spoon and add them in to any of the cheese containers.
- Allow 7 minutes for the halloumi to stand in the cheese containers, then with your knuckles press the cheese down and turn each container upside-down (careful not to break the cheese!). Let it stand for an additional 5 minutes. Pour any excess liquid at the bottom of the pan into the pot. To help drain the liquid sooner, put the cheese containers one on top of the other. Don’t press too hard on the top container, it should only rest there.
- You’ve got this far, now it’s time to make your anari. Place the pot with the liquid back on the stove on high heat. Once the milk is hot but not boiling (you should still be able to touch it without burning yourself), add the 1 cup you removed earlier. As the milk continues to heat, stir gently with a wooden spoon.
- In the meantime, after a lapse of 5 minutes, pour 1 cup of water over the resting halloumi and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Water gives halloumi a glossy shine. Pour the water that has gathered at the bottom of the pan into the pot on the stove. Continue to stir as it warms up.
- After the 10 minutes have passed, remove the halloumi from the cheese containers and place each piece onto the pan and let it stand for a while.
- 13-15 minutes must have passed by now already since you started warming up the liquid for anari. At this stage you will be able to see the anari taking shape – small pieces of cheese floating at the surface of the liquid. Continue to stir for about 1 minute or until the pieces become larger. Turn the heat down and stop stirring. Place the spoon in the middle of the pot and gently wobble it around. Keep doing this for about 3-4 minutes as the pieces of cheese continue to grow. Use a slotted spoon to take out the cheese and put it in a cheese container and let it drain on a pan. Your fresh anari is ready! You can enjoy it with maple syrup, walnuts and cinnamon or mixed with a dash of salt, garlic and dill. You can also dry it and grate over your pasta.
- Now, once the anari is done, don’t forget about the halloumi! After removing the anari from the pot, turn the heat up high again and slowly add the halloumis back to the pot, carefully not to break them. Gently stir just to make sure the halloumis don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook the halloumi like this for about 17 – 20 minutes. By now, your halloumi should have expanded and started to float. Stop stirring and let it cook for 10 more minutes.
- Your halloumi should be ready by now. You can tell it’s ready because it’s floating in the pot and appears to be very soft and bending slightly in the mddle.
- Remove the halloumi from the pot with a slotted spoon and pile the pieces up on a pan (gently not to break them!).
- With the hardest part of the work done, have some fun preparing the halloumi seasoning! Mix the salt and the dried mint together.
- Take a pan and one halloumi piece. Rub the wondrous mint mix on the side of the halloumi, then turn it over and gently rub the other side in the same way (don’t worry if you salted one side of the halloumi too much, after all, it will soak in the water will wash off the extra salt). Once you’re done with the seasoning, fold each piece gently in half. Do this with every piece.
- Finally, put all the halloumis in a clean, air-tight container and cover them with the liquid from the pot it cooked in. Don’t cap the container for about 24 hours, if you cover the top with a cheese cloth it will be more than enough. Close the lid the next day. Halloumi does not require refrigeration; you only need to keep it completely soaked in liquid. Once you remove a halloumi piece from the container (which should ideally be made of glass like a large jar or capped bowl), do not place it back inside otherwise it will spoil the other halloumi (if you don’t eat it all, just put it in another container without any liquid and store it in the fridge). Without any liquid, halloumi’s shelf life is up to one week (provided the container is crystal-clean).
Koupepia (Stuffed Vine Leaves)
You may have seen it mentioned on the menu of pretty much every Cypriot restaurant on the island. Koupepia is a variety of the Greek dolmadakia, made of vine leaves (you might as well use cabbage leaves) stuffed with a delicious mixture of minced meat, rice, onion, tomato, mint, parsley, and lemon juice. This mix is wrapped in fresh vine leaves (because they are usually hard, you can steam them for about 10 minutes before wrapping). If you’re a vegetarian, you need not worry, you can still enjoy koupepia, leaving meat out of the mix.
All of this is then cooked either in the oven or on top of the stove for 1 hour (in the oven, at a temperature of 200°C), or on the stove for half the amount of time (or until the vine leaves become soft). Mouth watering already? Here’s how you can make koupepia yourself.
~ 50 vine leaves (fresh, steamed)
100-150 g minced pork (or pork-beef mix, if you want it lower in fat)
3 quarters cup olive oil
1 small onion minced
Minced parsley (to taste)
¼ teaspoon pepper
Mint (to taste, optional)
1 cup rice
1 teaspoon tomato sauce or 2 cups chopped tomatoes (very small pieces)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
- Wash the vine leaves with plenty of water and steam or let them sit in warm water to soften. You will notice a change in colour, when they’re soft enough they usually darken.
- Pour the olive oil into a pan and cook the minced onion lightly (until it softens and becomes golden).
- Add in the minced pork or pork-beef mix into the pan, mix it with the onion and cook lightly.
- Mix the rice, pepper, parsley, mint, and tomato sauce together with water. Cook them for about 3-5 minutes and stir occasionally.
- When this mix cools down a little, add one teaspoon of filling to each vine leave and wrap them up. As nothing in nature is perfect and no two things are created equal, no two vine leaves may have the same size. This being said, you will either need to ‘tailor’ them a little and bring them to more or less the same size or adjust the amount of filling to the size of your vine leaves. Be careful not to tear the leaves when you wrap them!
- Place all the koupepias in a 4-quart pot. Add the water-mint-tomato sauce mix (if the liquid is not enough to cover, add some more water and lemon juice or chicken stock if you prefer), cover the pot with a lid and let them cook for 30 minutes on low heat.
These directions are for 6 servings, you can adjust the amounts as needed.
This dish is quite common throughout Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East. Koupepia are usually made in large batches and can be frozen to be enjoyed at a later date. Stuffed vegetables are a hallmark of Cypriot cuisine. You can use the same stuffing with aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and even courgette flowers. You can also try this recipe with pickled vine or cabbage leaves. But if you use pickled leaves, you may need to let your koupepia cook a bit longer for the leaves to soften (in this case you can skip the lemon juice).
Avgolemono (Egg-Chicken-Lemon Soup)
Because no lunch is rich and nutritious enough without a soup, the next must have on our culinary journey through Cyprus is avgolemono or egg-lemon (and chicken) soup. This one is really easy and loved by many so, we’re sure you’ll love it too. Here’s how you can make it yourself and thrill your loved ones with your talents.
7 cups of homemade chicken broth
¾ cups of rice
½ cup cold water
2 large eggs or 3 small ones (up to you to appreciate)
Juice of 1 large lemon (freshly squeezed)
Salt and pepper to taste
A handful (1/2 handful) of fresh garden peas (boiled)
A dash of freshly ground black pepper as garnish (optional)
- Pour the chicken broth in a medium-sized pot. Add in the rice and cook it in the chicken broth until ready. Then, reduce heat and add ½ cup of cold water.
- In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the lemon juice until frothy.
- Add 1 to 2 cups of broth in slowly while whisking to avoid curdling.
- Pour the egg mix slowly into the pot, stirring constantly to prevent curdling. Turn heat up a little and continue to stir a few more times. At this stage you need to add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.
- Optional (for pea lovers): boil a handful of ½ handful of shelled green peas and add them to your soup when you serve it. For aspect and more spicy flavour, drizzle a little black pepper on top.
If you enjoyed our culinary journey through Cyprus, why don’t you test and taste our recipes, comment and share these with your friends and stay tuned because we’ve got a lot more marbles for you to marvel at!