Cyprus (take two)

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Unusual Fact: In 2004, archaeologists found the remains of a person buried with a cat on Cyprus. Dating back about 9,500 years, this is the oldest known pet cat.

Image from Cyprus Island
Image from Cyprus Island

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You might be wondering why this post is entitled ‘take two’. That because last weekend we attempted to cook from Cyprus at my grandpa’s house. But it was a major fail. The lamb was dry and overcooked, the potatoes and onions were crunchy, the stewed apples were so hard that my great great aunt got cramps in her hands trying to cut them! We had some lovely helpers in the kitchen though. So we made it again. My lovely cousin Sarah liked the lamb. She was just about onto her fourths when we were on our firsts!

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We went down to our grandpa’s house to celebrate his and my uncles birthday. On these record hot days we shuffled between visiting the horses next door, swimming in the river and sitting in the air conditioning. Happy Birthday Pa and Scott!

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No explanation needed we re-cooked Cyprus. This time it was much much better. As in one hundred times better and then triple that. First course was stuffed grape vine leaves. You may know these as Dolmades, but Dolmades are stuffed vegetables and although this is counted as a dolmades the proper name for them are koupepia. Koupepia are vine leaves that have been stuffed with a meat, rice and tomato mix.

There is so much flavour in this stuffing you can't even see the meat underneath!
There is so much flavour in this stuffing you can’t even see the meat underneath!

This recipe is from Food Safari an Australian television show. You can watch them make this if you want some extra guidance. Folding the Koupepia isn’t hard it just takes a while. You might want a friend to help you fold these and it will be a lot quicker.

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We bought a 1 kg jar of vine leaves in brine and used them all. Some of the leaves are the size of dinner plates and others are no bigger than babies hands. So judge how much filling you put into each one accordingly. We had heaps of left over mince and so had it as savoury mince for dinner a few nights later.

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The roast lamb that we had while visiting our grandpa’s house was dry and overcooked. We weren’t originally going to make it again but mum didn’t come down with us and was convinced that we could do it better (which we did). This time it was roasted in a show cooker with water so it couldn’t go dry.

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I did a mixture of two recipes, how ever it was mostly based of this mans recipe with some cinnamon and cumin added which was recommended from other sources. This was cooked all up for about 12 hours, when it finally came time to eat it it was so soft that it just melted in your mouth. There was already bit missing as you can see in the photos.

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This was absolutely gob-smackingly delicious and easy to eat. Though if I had to do it again I would leave out the potatoes. Next on the agenda is Hellenic Republic’s Cypriot Grain Salad. Hellenic Republic  is a restaurant in Melbourne that serves greek food. Oh and did I mention that it is owned by George Calombaris! This recipe was posted onto Good Food by Travis McAuley who is the executive chef at Hellenic Republic Brunswick.

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This salad is incredible. It is light but full of flavour. Do not leave any of the ingredients out they all make it perfect. This salad was still perfect three days later none of the herbs had gone soft or brown. I did add some more freekeh and lentils as I didn’t think there was enough. This salad could very easily be made vegan if you leave out the dressing. In saying that the dressing is so delicious and simple I could eat it straight! I can assure that this will be on our christmas menu. In these photos we forgot to add the pomegranate but we ate it with the pomegranate and it is a must have. It makes the dish amazing.

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Last but not least is dessert, we had a semolina lemon syrup cake. I had never tried a cake made with semolina before. It has a bit of a different texture, slightly grainier. It is really moist though, I say pile on the nuts on top, do more than I did anyway. Make sure you make the syrup as this is what gives the cake its flavour.

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I couldn’t find any mastic. We went to a very good european delicatessen in Brisbane and they hadn’t even heard of it. It is probably a bit hard to source in Australia. The cake still tasted fine, even three days later. We continued to eat from Cyprus for lunch every day for the next week as we had so many left overs. You definitely want to share all of these with at least 8 people.

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Stuffed vine leaves

Mum 8

Dad 9

Me 8

Slow Roast Lamb

Mum 10

Dad 10

Me 10

Hellenic Republic Salad

Mum 10

Dad 9

Me 10

Semolina Cake

Mum 9

Dad 9

Me 9

DSC_0050Koupepia (Stuffed Grape Vine Leaves) Recipe from SBS Food Safari

  • 500 g fresh unsprayed grape leaves
  • 185 ml (¾ cup) olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 500 g pork mince
  • 500 g beef mince
  • 1–2 very ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 250 ml (1 cup) tomato passata
  • 200 g (1 cup) long-grain rice, rinsed
  • 1 lemon, juiced, plus lemon wedges to serve

Place the grape leaves, in batches, into just–boiled water to soften. Drain well.

Heat 60 ml (¼ cup) of the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5–6 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the heat.

Combine the onion, mince, tomato, herbs, salt, spices, passata and rice in a bowl. Place 1 tbsp of mixture in the centre of each leaf and roll up to form a parcel, tucking in ends as you go. Snugly fit koupepia in a flameproof casserole dish and add enough water to just cover. Place a plate on top to keep koupepia submerged and hold their shape.

Pour over the lemon juice and remaining olive oil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 30–45 minutes. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice.

DSC_0040Kleftiko (Slow-cooked oven-baked lamb) Recipe from SBS Food Safari

  • lamb forequarter pieces
  • potatoes, peeled and halved if large
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • rosemary leaves
  • oregano leaves
  • whole unpeeled garlic cloves
  • lemon juice
  • 250 ml(1 cup) water
  • Greek salad, to serve

Work on one lamb forequarter and one large potato for each person and scatter the olive oil, herbs, garlic and juice as liberally as you like.

Preheat oven to 200˚C. If you like meat browned, make sure the oven is hotter at the start. Or use a slow cooker at medium.

Place the lamb in a roasting pan. Push the potato in and around the meat. Season with the salt and pepper, then drizzle generously with the olive oil. Scatter over the herbs and garlic, then squeeze lemon juice over the meat and add the water. Cover and seal tightly with foil. Roast for 4 hours or until lamb falls apart in the mouth.

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Hellenic Republic’s Cypriot Grain Salad recipe from Good Food

Ingredients

1 bunch coriander, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 cup freekah (or cracked wheat or quinoa)
1/2 cup Puy lentils
2 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp toasted slivered almonds
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp baby capers
1/2 cup currants
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive
Sea salt to taste
1 pomegranate, deseeded, to serve

Dressing
1 cup thick Greek yoghurt
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tbsp honey

Method

Blanch freekah and lentils separately in boiling water until both just cooked.

Drain well and allow to cool.

Mix the yoghurt, ground cumin and honey until combined.

In a medium bowl, place the coriander, parsley, red onion, freekah, lentils, toasted nuts, capers, currants, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix well and season to taste.

Place into serving dish and top with cumin yoghurt and pomegranate seeds.

DSC_0077Kalo Prama (Semolina Cake with Lemon Syrup) recipe from SBS Food Safari

  • 200g fine semolina
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 100 g self–raising flour
  • 100 g soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • pinch of vanilla sugar
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • small pinch of ground mastic (see Note)
  • 3 eggs
  • blanched almonds, to decorate (optional)
  • Syrup
    • 400 g caster sugar
    • 200 ml water
    • pinch of vanilla sugar
    • ½small lemon, juiced

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 10 cm x 23 cm loaf tin.

To make the cake, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat all ingredients, except the eggs and almonds, for 2 minutes. Add eggs, increase speed to high and beat for 5 minutes. Spoon batter into prepared tin. Use a knife to lightly mark small serving portions on top of batter, then top each portion with an almond, if you like.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into centre of cake comes out clean.

When cake is nearly cooked, make the syrup. Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and remove from the heat. When cake is cooked, pour a little hot syrup over hot cake, allowing it to absorb. Continue with all of syrup, allowing it to absorb after each addition. Serve.

Note 

Mastic is the hardened resin from a small evergreen tree found mainly on the Greek island of Chios. It is used to flavour Greek and Cypriot baked goods, sweets, drinks and ice-cream. It’s available from Greek food stores and good delicatessens.

7 thoughts on “Cyprus (take two)

  1. This looks amazing! Good on you for giving it a second try – some dishes will bug you until you get them done the way you think they should be!
    It always amazes me that you are having Spring when we are getting ready for Christmas … we are roasting in front of our new wood burner, waiting for the first snow 🙂

    1. Thanks, there are some countries I would like to redo! It’s starting to get pretty hot here. But I would love to have a white christmas someday. That sounds amazing, better than roasting under the summer sun! 🙂

  2. I have made the Hellenic Republic Cypriot Grain Salad several times thanks to you Elly and it is the new family favourite. I will now have to do the Kleftiko as it looks so good. Great pictures!

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