Cyprus at its best?

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I’ve been coming to Paphos and the surrounding area for over 13 years now, since my parents retired out here. I’ve seen a lot of restaurants come and go between trips, I’ve seen a lot of land disappear under development after development, and I’ve had a range of meals from very poor to highly memorable.

And my favourites remain those places that continue to cook simply, that cook local food and tend to cook seasonally. Which pretty much defines my preferences in the UK as well!

Part of me is almost loathe to talk about the places I love, as I don’t want them to get spoilt. But equally you always want good places to do well, and times have been tough here too. So my three choices all deserve to keep going, and to keep doing what they do well.

Firstly, if you want dinner with a sunset, then I’d break my rule about avoiding restaurants with a great view. Yialis is on the coast beyond Coral Bay, at the unspoilt, rocky end, with nothing much else around. This, like all of my choices, is family run, and simple. Sometimes there’ll be a choice and sometimes they’ll just tell you what they’re cooking. Sometimes there’s fish, there’ll always be meat (pork when we were there this week) and a progression of dishes before the main part arrives. Don’t expect a wine list, and in fact a cold Keo is probably the best accompaniment. Just watch out for sand flies after the sun goes down!

If she’s cooking, then I’d be very happy to sit down for lunch at Nitsa’s in Houlou. Except it’s not even called that, so don’t go looking it up in the phone book! It’s now one of two places in Houlou but Andreas and Nitsa have been there the longest I think. I’ve had simple salad followed by freshly made feta cheese with ripe watermelon, which was just delicious. And Andreas does some of the best souvla around. Just depends how many people are booked in, so if you want a scenic trip for a Sunday lunch then it’s worth booking first (tel: 267 24161).

This trip’s highlight was dinner at Laona. Tucked up one of the side streets behind the old market in Paphos, this bills itself as the house of traditional Cypriot meals, which is not always a good sign. But here it is, and I would say the welcome and hospitality was of the traditional type as well. A small meze was by no means meagre, and every dish was beautifully flavoured and spiced. Standout dish for me was the rabbit stifado, cooked slowly with onions, vinegar, cloves and black pepper, with the slowness taking out the sharpness of the ingredients, just leaving a sweet, tender dish.

To me, these places do represent a great side of eating out in Cyprus, as they would anywhere. I’d eat at these places on each trip out here and there aren’t many I’d say that about. Things have changed a lot since my folks moved here though: used to be that if dinner was over five Cypriot pounds my dad thought it was an expensive night out! I didn’t choose these places because they were reasonable, I chose them because they still recognised, and represent, good ingredients, well cooked. That’s what I call value for money.

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The World Cup of Barbecues

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What's your grill like? Or how to celebrate the World Cup if you're a food lover

 

Fabulous! Four weeks of football. Which in our house means 4 weeks of catching up on DVDs. And doing some cooking, hopefully out of doors. So my concession to the football is to offer up some outdoor cooking options from around the world, something to tempt the BBQ king or queen to try something a little different!

I sometimes still hanker after a traditional Greek barbecue, complete with motorised kebab skewers. I had to be convinced once not to try bringing one back from Cyprus last week. If you want to make souvla or souvlaki without the turning, then this is the route to do it. Planet Barbecue offer a variety of rotisserie kits, both battery and mains that they could add to their current charcoal barbecue.

For a different kind of kebab, you could treat them to their own tandoor oven, which would lead them to exploring different flavours. If they’re serious, then check out the serious sounding SS1 Ultima from The Tandoor Clay Oven. Or if you think they might like a project, then click here for how to make one from a flowerpot. A big flowerpot, I hasten to add!

South Africa has its braais, and it seems not only do you get a barbecue but also a potjie pot. It would add a nice bit of variety to your average barbecue to produce something from it, as the traditional recipes are for something we would recognise as a stew. Try BuySouthAfricaOnline who have a whole variety of sizes, and maybe a recipe book to help them get the most out of it.

Of course, the USA has such a big culture of BBQs and outdoor cooking, and I’ve recommended Extreme Barbecue a few times, as a great read as well as recipe reference. If you need to cook for 50 or more. But I think for most of us a Weber BBQ is probably good enough. Thanks to one George Stephen’s eureka moment, the Weber has stood the test of time as he understood some of the challenges most of us face with the weather. He also created one funky design, albeit a bit accidentally!

I don’t know what our traditions here would be, but I guess there will be plenty of disposable BBQs being put to use! I fancy the look, though, of Planet Barbecue as a recipe book to really inspire something different on your grill this year. Over 300 recipes from 60 countries, this should really step up their barbecue game! Or try Outdoor by Ben O’Donoghue, same theme, newer book.

What will you be cooking out of doors this summer? And what on?

Great grilling shot by mccun934 over on Flickr.

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