Welcome to Cyprus!

The sunshine island of exotic fragrances and Eastern Mediterranean flavours. Relax and let yourself slip into the Cypriot pace of life. Why not take a seat by the sea and sip your first brandy sour, or an ouzo. Just breathe and you could become intoxicated by the tang of fresh lemons and the delicate citrus blossom, the wholesome smell of freshly baked bread or the fermenting grapes from the wine harvest.

Cypriots, are a naturally hospitable people and generous to the extreme, in a way that is so much part of the Mediterranean.

Cyprus lies at the crossroads of three continents Europe, Asia and Africa. Just take a glance at its history and you will see how various empires, invasions, foreign settlers and traders over the centuries have brought their influence to Cyprus. They have also brought their recipes and many of these have been introduced into Cypriot cooking, the main ones coming from Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, Italy, France and latterly Britain. These foreign flavours have combined with the food produced on the island to give Cyprus its own traditional cuisine.

Its turbulent past has made Cyprus self-sufficient and in rural areas Cypriot families still produce everything they need. Not so long ago the grain, oil and wine were stored in Pitharia, those enormous onion shaped terracotta pots that adorn the countryside. The island has always produced a huge variety of food due to its fine climate. In fact everyday foods such as figs, beans, chick peas, herbs, olives, dates, almonds and nuts date back to the Bible. The Cypriots enjoy a healthy diet apart from their love of syrup and soaked pastries. Everything is cooked fresh, daily, and the quality of the produce is superb. 


Cyprus Halloumi - Car Hire

Time to Visit a Taverna

Eating out to catch some local flavour is always the high spot of a holiday, but where do you start when faced with the Cypriot menu at your local taverna?In the course of your stay it is quite possible to try everything but why not order a meze and taste all the dishes at one sitting.

Meze is short for mezedhes, or little delicacies, and wherever you travel round the Mediterranean they appear in some form or other. Share a meze in Cyprus and you have tasted the true flavour of the island, for you may be served anything up to 30 dishes. It is a complete meal, but, beware, don’t be tempted to finish every dish that arrives on the table, or you may feel as though you’ve eaten for a week by the end!  

Well, the decision has been made and your meze is ordered – what can you expect to eat? First come the olives, black and green (elies) tsakistes with a dressing of lemon, garlic, herbs, coriander seeds and oil.

Dips of tahini, taramosalata, and talattouri arrive with a basket of fresh village bread and a bowl of salata horiatiki, village salad.

Octapodi krasato, octopus in red wine, karaoli yahni, snails in tomato sauce, zalatina, kappari, pickles of capers and moungra, pickled cauliflower, are some of the unusual meze dishes that may arrive.

Bunches of greens, some raw, some dressed with lemon juice and salt such as carrots and kohlrabi, and some tossed in oil and bound with egg may fit into your meze at this point.

Fish of some kind could be next on the menu. Marida, tiny sardine type fish or barbouni, red mullet which are usually served very small, and kalamari or rings of squid are buttered and deep fried, accompanied with chunks of fresh lemon.

Grilled halloumi cheese and lountza, smoked pork, come next followed by keftedes, (meat balls), the popular sheftalia, grilled pork and loukanika, smoked Cyprus sausages. Now for the composite dishes or casseroles such as afelia, moussaka and stifado. Towards the end of the meal come the kebabs or souvlakia, the ofto kleftiko (meat baked in a sealed oven), as well as pieces of chicken, arriving straight from the grill.

Sit back contented in the knowledge that little else is to follow. Just some fresh fruit, carefully prepared and segmented and, well, perhaps just a few sugar dredged bourekia pastry filled with fresh curd cheese and honey.

If eating in a tavern seems like hard work then a visit to the local “souvlitzidiko” (kebab place) is recommended. Enjoy the most traditional Cypriot take away: in the shape of a pitta bread envelope filled with souvlakia (kebab) and salad. This is not to say that you cannot enjoy it on the spot accompanied with al cool beer.

Cyprus Tavernas - Car Hire

Home Cooking


Eating with a Cypriot family is an experience not to be missed, should you be lucky enough to be invited. Alternatively, buy a local cookbook and have a go yourself! Vegetables, pulses and grains, as well as meat of course, make up the majority of a family diet. Eating home-cooking opens a whole new spectrum of Cypriot tastes and flavours. Here are some of the dishes you could try from a Cypriot cookbook:

Pourgouri or cracked wheat is cooked together with some fried onions and chicken stock to make a light pilaf which is always served with plain yogurt.


Louvia me lahana is a good mixture of greens cooked with black eyed beans and served with olive oil and lots of fresh lemon juice.

Koupepia (dolmades) are rolled vine leaves stuffed with meat and rice, especially good when prepared with the spring leaves from young vines.

Melintzanes Yiahni is a superb mixture of aubergines, garlic and fresh tomatoes.

Spanakopitta – a pie of spinach, feta cheese and eggs, wrapped in pastry.

Yemista, or stuffed vegetables, uses tomatoes, onions, courgettes, peppers or even aubergines, or marrows.

Moukentra – a combination of lentils, rice and onions.

Cyprus Sweets - Car Hire

Try making Cypriot casseroles such as tavas which should be cooked in particular earthernware pots and combine lamb or beef with tomatoes, lots of onions, potatoes and cumin. Or Stifado, a rich stew of beef or rabbit cooked with plenty of onions, vinegar and wine.

Home made soups are refreshing as well as filling in Cyprus. Taste trahana made from cracked wheat and sour milk, or avgolemono which is egg and lemon soup in chicken stock.

For a celebration or large family meal, souvla is very popular. Large chunks of lamb, pork or chicken flavoured with fresh herbs, are threaded onto a spit and grilled over charcoal.

Cypriots often cook souvla on a picnic: whilst at home, ofto, or roast meat with potatoes, is usually prepared. If there is a traditional sealed oven in the garden, then ofto Kleftiko will be the order of the day. By this method of cooking the meat cooks completely in its own juices and tastes delicious.

Cypriot housewives have a real flair for these and you should try galatopoureko, which is made with fillo pastry and a cream filling or kandaifi, whose pastry strands are wound into a cigar shape and soaked in syrup.

Cyprus Souvla - Car Hire

Time for a Coffee


After all this talk of food, let’s stop a while in a cool shady cafe and have a coffee. More often than not an instant or espresso coffee will be offered to a visitor but perhaps you would prefer to drink the same as the locals sitting around you. Cypriots drink lots of local coffee. It is made individually in small, long handled pots, wide at the base and tapering at the top. These are called mbrikia and come in various sizes. Fresh coffee beans are  ground or powdered daily and one heaped teaspoon is added to each demitasse of cold water. Sugar goes in too at this stage, before heating the coffee on the stove. So you need to know whether you order you coffee glykos (sweet), metrios (medium sweet) or sketos (unsweetened). The mbrikia are heated on the stove and when the sugar has dissolved, the coffee is allowed to come to boil, forming a creamy froth Kaimaki on top. As the froth turns in from the sides and the coffee begins to rise in the pot, it is removed from the heat and a little is poured into each cup to distribute the froth. Cyprus coffee is strong and should always be served with a glass of cold water.

Cyprus Coffee - Car Hire




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