Located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, Cyprus offers a rich culinary scene that beautifully blends diverse influences and indigenous ingredients. In this article, we delve into the main dishes that are at the heart of Cypriot cuisine.
Souvla – Souvla, which means ‘skewer’ in Greek, is a popular Cypriot dish. Large pieces of pork, chicken, or lamb are marinated, threaded onto large skewers, and slow-cooked over a charcoal barbecue. Souvla is a common sight at celebrations and family gatherings, encapsulating the Cypriot love for communal eating.
Moussaka – A hearty and comforting dish, Moussaka consists of layered sautéed aubergine, minced meat, and potatoes, topped with a creamy béchamel sauce and then baked. Although it has Greek origins, Moussaka has been adopted by Cypriots and is a staple in many households.
Kleftiko – Meaning ‘stolen meat’, Kleftiko is a traditional dish made by slow-cooking lamb in a clay oven, sometimes for up to 24 hours. The meat, seasoned with garlic and lemon, becomes so tender that it falls off the bone. This dish is a testament to the island’s love for lamb.
Halloumi – Halloumi cheese is a signature product of Cyprus, and while not a dish in itself, it’s a key ingredient in many Cypriot recipes. This semi-hard, unripened cheese can be grilled or fried without losing its shape, making it a versatile ingredient in salads, sandwiches, and even as a side dish on its own.
Sheftalia – Sheftalia are traditional Cypriot sausages, usually made from minced pork or lamb, onion, parsley, and a blend of spices. They’re wrapped in caul fat rather than sausage casings and are often served with pita bread, fresh vegetables, and a squeeze of lemon.
Louvi – A simple yet delicious dish, Louvi comprises black-eyed beans cooked with onion, tomatoes, and spinach, often accompanied by a side of fresh, crusty bread. This vegetarian dish highlights the Cypriot culinary philosophy of using fresh, local ingredients.
Cypriot cuisine, with its fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences, offers a culinary journey as diverse as the island’s history. From the communal Souvla to the comforting Moussaka, the tender Kleftiko to the versatile Halloumi, the unique Sheftalia to the wholesome Louvi, Cypriot main dishes provide a fascinating insight into the island’s rich culinary heritage. Each dish, steeped in tradition and enriched by the local terroir, tells a story of Cyprus’s multifaceted culture, making every meal an authentically Cypriot experience.