About the Food of Cyprus

Psst… does your heart ache? Even just a little? I’ve got the cure: take a tour of Cyprus. In this gloriously mountainous Mediterranean island even the loneliest heart will find love in the air and on the beaches. In fact, legend has it that Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, was born amidst the crashing waves and sandy shores of Cyprus.

Befitting this romantic legacy, the Cypriot have a fascinating habit of cooking food in red wine. Almost anything can get a long slow simmer in the stuff – pork chops, potatoes, or even squid. The red color bleeds into the food making a rosy statement perfect for any date night.

Most Cypriot food is an alluring blend of Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine – you’ll find staples such as oregano, olive oil, lamb, cucumber, yogurt and eggplant mixed on menus with such delicacies as octopus or squid.

Once the romance of Cyprus grabs hold of you, celebrate with a dish fit for any holiday table. Oh, and I just happen to know the perfect one: succulent lamb shanks roasted in clay ovens, called Kleftiko [Recipe]. Locals replicate this method at home with a covered casserole. The tender meat will literally astound you with its elegance and complex flavor.

If you’d rather vegetables, the Cypriot are renowned for stewing/roasting in loads of olive oil. As in…there is enough oil you could almost deep fry the food. The flavor is rich and addicting, although small portions are encouraged. Eggplant always makes an appearance [Recipe], especially on Meze-style meals – a seemingly endless parade of small dishes (rather like the Spanish tapas). Then there’s the famous Cyprus potato, which is prepared in a sloshy bath of olive oil and red wine [Recipe].

At the end of the day, you’ll need to cut through all that oil with something sweet. Typical desserts include regional favorites such as Turkish delights (recipe), baklava, and spoon sweets – fruits like apples cooked in syrup until tender and saturated with sticky goodness [Recipe]. A more unique dessert is Souzouko – a long string of almonds dipped repeatedly in thickened grape juice and hung to harden. This “wand” of sweet goodness takes days to make but is available for purchase almost anywhere on the island, especially around festivals and fairs.


  1. Jessica Bennett says

    Oh, you should make Souzouko. I’d love to hear about the experience (and see pictures).

    • Sasha Martin says

      I was intrigued too – I looked into it, but the process seems to be pretty technical and messy – usually only made in professional settings. Also – I couldn’t get my hands on a reliable recipe and, with something so involved, I’d be afraid of another Epic Fail. Figuring out where to hang the Souzouko to drip dry would be another problem. If you can find a good recipe, I’ll reconsider, maybe for Greece (although I was hoping to make Baklava). Here’s a discussion about it… any idea where I can get Grape must ? LOL http://www.food.com/bb/viewtopic.zsp?t=150254&sid=d3841506999473d9e3fc1bd55ac07eec

      • Jessica Bennett says

        Okay, I see the problem! I guess I’ll just have to get myself to Cyprus one day 🙂

      • Kristen says

        Souzouko, as I understand, is not served in Greece. It is unique to Cyprus.

  2. Collette Lemons says

    I used to do something like that years ago with pecans.

    1/4 cup of concentrated grape juice and 1 cup of the sweetest thickest red wine I could find, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of unflavored jello.

    bring the wine and the grape juice to a simmer and add the sugar and stir until no granules are left then let it cook on low heat – stir it often – all you are doing is getting rid of the water content and cooking it slow will retain the flavor without burning it.

    (a double boiler can make this easier)

    then add in the tablespoon of unflavored jello and stir until that too is completely dissolved.

    Once it gets thick you let it cool. once it is cool just dip the nuts and put them on wax or parchment paper if you have no place to hang them.

    You can hang them from a clothes hanger over a platter to dry as well. but it does take up space.

    This is also awesome with sliced apples that have been soaked in lemon juice. Except they don’t dry and you roll them in sugar before serving.

    I made them for the kids a few times but don’t know if they remember. they were pretty young.

  3. Vicky says

    I think I’m going to like everything on the Cyprus menu. Yum, eggplant (and olive oil)!

  4. What a lovely thing to do for a hurting heart. 🙂 I took mine to Greece and Italy and they were both beautifully healing and nourishing. 🙂

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  6. Kristen says

    I believe that souzoukos are traditional Cyprian food, unique to Cyprus. They are not served in Greece, I am told.

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