FAY-VRITS

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When Mary and I ran the Cyprus Donkey Sanctuary, after a lot of hard work, we found ourselves with reasonable funds to look after our then 30+ animals. So, we were able to hire the very necessary services of a proper professional farrier, who came every Thursday to look after the feet of eventually houses more than 130) Often a new arrival would have either very long or badly trimmed hooves. It was an all-day job so I got to cooking a meal for the farrier and the helpers, often eight or even ten people. Farriery, whether doing the business with the rasp, cutters or files, or holding the animal still, was tough work. So substantial fare was required. But, whatever I served, George, our farrier, having washed up, would sniff the air and declaim “My favourite!”, pronounced as two long syllables “FAYV – RIT” As an eclectic eater, I am a bit like that, but I do have particular dishes I regard as special.

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Taken in early 20th century, this photograph demonstrates that the technique of shoeing has not changed in more than a hundred years. In the early days of our running the Cyprus donkey sanctuary I asked a villager why his donkeys needed shoes. Somewhat scathingly he told me to have a good look at the ground in the vineyards and the hills. I did and saw how stony it was and how many of the stones were sharp edged. It also became clear to me that the donkey’s foot was quite a complicated arrangement, with a very tender centre, requiring some skills to maintain. Alas, many donkeys had suffered from lack of proper care.

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When we had just a few animals, by arrangement with the British Bases, we had the services once a month of the Army farrier (pictured above). In those days the Bases actually kept polo ponies – small, nippy horses. There were regular polo games at Happy Valley sports fields and from time to time a team from the Jordanian army, with its ponies, would fly in to play a couple of matches. With UK economic cuts, though, the polo “luxury” was closed down. Luckily, we came upon “George”, an ebullient resident Brit., who was actually born in Cyprus, who looked after “our” hooves for more than a decade.

I was not the only one who cooked the “Farrier’s Lunch” – several other helpers did, and it got quite competitive! After a few years, I had so many recipes in my head and in my files, a “donkey sanctuary” cook book was called for. Sales produced several thousand Cyprus Pounds revenue for the sanctuary.

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I once did a little research by asking as many people as I could what their favourite Cyprus dishes were. I got a clear winner from Greek Cypriots and an equally clear one from foreign residents. Local people voted overwhelmingly for Souvla, and the other residents almost as strongly for Moussaka.

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Cyprus’s Numero Uno – chunks of kid and lamb turning on the spit – the charcoal-grilled flavour verges on the sublime when accompanied by hot Pitta bread and a chopped salad.

Having been introduced to Cyprus food in London at its first (and best) kebab house, where tender English or New Zealand lamb was used in the cooking, I never really took to Souvla or its diminutive Souvlaki, when it was cooked with pork. Likewise, a large percentage of moussaka cooked in restaurants has long used pork meat. It’s very good, but to me it’s not authentic. Moussaka cooked with lamb is the proper method!

Pork, of course, has been readily available, always tender and not expensive, by virtue of the pork industry established fifty or so years ago. I remember the lamb used in pre-pork days – stringy and tough, but of good flavour. But no wonder the pork farming and processing industries have done so well.

CLASSIC CYPRUS DISHES – 2 and the Ex-pats Number One.

     PASTITSIO STO FOURNO

     Oven Baked Cyprus Macaroni

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The traditional Cyprus Pastitsio recipe does not contain tomatoes. Without them, the parsley comes through nicely. Sometimes, I either add four or five drained canned tomatoes, or a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée, which adds depth to the flavour, as do a glass of red wine and a couple of cloves of garlic, finely chopped. Every cook I know who makes Pastitsio has his or her own recipe. I like those which produce a lovely gooey, meaty, creamy, juicy dish. Here’s a basic recipe for anyone who hasn’t yet made this great grub.

Ingredients for 8 – 10 portions

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium-large onion, peeled and finely chopped

250g of minced meat – lamb for preference, but beef and or pork are OK.

250 g of macaroni

1 bunch parsley, chopped

100 g of grated anari cheese

Salt and pepper.

For the “Sauce”

1litre milk

100g flour

4 eggs

Method

1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and mince, and cook on a medium heat until the meat is golden brown.

2. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add around 5oml of water and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add the chopped parsley and stir.

4. In a separate pot, cook the macaroni for 7 minutes or until al dente; drain.

5. For the sauce, beat the eggs, add the flour and gradually add the milk, whisking continuously.

6. Transfer the mixture into a saucepan and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until thick.

7. Place half of the macaroni in an ovenproof dish.

8. Sprinkle with grated anari cheese and pour over some of the cream.

9. Evenly distribute the minced meat filling on top of the cream and layer over the remaining macaroni.

10. Sprinkle again with grated anari and top with the remaining cream

11. Bake at 160°C (fan assisted oven) or 180°C (Non-fan oven with upper and lower heat) for around 40 minutes until golden brown.

For accompaniment, let’s let it all hang out: lovely long kidney shaped Cyprus potatoes, halved lengthways, boiled for around ten minutes, until the edges are getting fluffy and then oven roasted in plenty of good oil, turning several times in the 50 minutes or so they take to roast. Complete with a chopped green salad: lettuce, cabbage, spring onions (scallions), raw spinach or other green leaves, mint and parsley. Dressed, of course, with oil and lemon.

IN AN IRISH STEW

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In the “old days” (say fifty years and before) farmers used to keep a proportion of the flocks of their sheep for several years. They would produce several lambs in this time. After which they would be killed and eaten as “Mutton” (any animal of more than one year qualifies for this definition). This was tasty, but tough and often with a good leavening of fat. Hence “slow cooking”, either by boiling (as in Ireland and the UK) or slow pot-roasting (as in Kleftiko) was customary, to tenderize and break down some of the fibres of the meat. Those with lesser incomes opted for the cheaper, tougher parts and slow-cooked.

In earlier times, Ireland was poverty-stricken and ridden with starvation – hence the emigration of a large number of its people to the United States and other countries. Ordinary people often had very little and sometimes no meat in their diets. What there was was often tough and fatty and, chopped up in small quantities, used to “extend” the quantity of stews or casseroles. One recipe became the generic “Irish Stew” and known around the world, wherever the Irish went.

The lines below are a parody from the British humorous magazine, Punch (circa 1860) which would have been sung to the tune of a very popular Victorian song, or “air”, called "Happy Land”. They are also the virtually complete recipe.

Irish stew, Irish stew!

Whatever else my dinner be,                                                                                                                                                                     Once again, once again,

I’d have a dish of thee.

Mutton chops, and onion slice,

Let the water cover,

With potatoes, fresh and nice;

Boil, but not quite over,

Irish stew, Irish stew!

Ne’er from thee, my taste will stray.

I could eat Such a treat Nearly every day.

 

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Classic Irish stew! Perfect for a winter’s day.

IRISH STEW RECIPE

Ingredients for 4 – 6 servings

800g stewing lamb (ask the butcher to cut off the bone and into pieces, or use cutlets with bones removed)

2tbsp vegetable oil

500g potatoes, more if you like, peeled and cut into chunks

2 medium onions

150g carrots, chopped

2 leeks, sliced Seasonal ingredient

100g pearl barley

750ml lamb stock

¼ of cabbage, sliced

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 C.

2. In a large frying pan heat a tablespoon of the oil over a moderate heat.

3. Add the lamb, and fry until brown, turning it over from time to time.

4. Remove the lamb and place in a lidded casserole pan, cover with the potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots, pearl barley and season.

5. Add the stock and cook in the oven with the lid on for one hour.

6. Add the cabbage and cook for a further hour adding more stock, if required. Serve hot.

7. Some cook books recommended drinking Guinness or other dark beer with it. Me, I’ll take a glass or two of a good young Cyprus red.

IRISH HOT POT

To transform this recipe into an Irish hot-pot, you add a couple of the lamb’s kidneys, and remove the lid for the last half hour of cooking. You bring the potatoes to the top of the stew, and put them back in the hot oven to brown the edges. I like to add a couple of dumplings per person to this stew (put into the pot 45 minutes before serving)

Fennel Braised with Tomatoes

clip_image004         Plainly braised or turned in a little butter our Cyprus fennel is delicious as a side dish to roast meat, or even fried fish. Add another flavour with tomatoes and, with some fresh bread and a glass of wine you have a lovely light lunch.

Ingredients for four servings

2 Fennel bulbs, leaves, tops and choggy bits removed.

2 Sprigs of flat-leaf parsley.

2 Small garlic cloves

Half can (400g size) of tomatoes, drained and chopped (Or two or three fresh, ripe tomatoes, skins removed. I don’t mind the pips, but remove these, too, if you like)

60 ml (half cup) of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method

1. Cut each fennel bulb in half, from top to bottom, then slice each half length-wise, 1 cm thick.

2. On your chopping board, combine parsley and garlic

3. Chop finely.

4. Place mixture in a medium-size heavy flame-proof casserole.

5. Add the fennel, tomatoes, and olive oil.

6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pour in 125 ml of water.                                                                                                                        7. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender.

FRANCE IS GREAT… What, again?

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     Inspired by my recent purchase of a big book of French recipes called “SIMPLISSIME”, I have been (figuratively speaking) wearing my big French Toque on a daily basis. Aspects of France – and the French – may annoy us, but it has to be generally agreed that they are very good at the cooking. […]

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At Last! Cyprus Wine on the Web

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Many years have elapsed before Cyprus wines have become properly represented on the Internet. It doesn’t seem long – a few months, perhaps – since I searched the Web and there was not a definitive source of information about the vines, wines and winemakers of Cyprus. Looking recently I found one. It is called Cyprus […]

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SEASONAL GREETINGS AND SOME THOUGHTS TO GO WITH THEM

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As yet another year comes to a close (where did it go to?) I realise that I have now been writing professionally about food and drink for almost 55 years. At 85 I wonder if I am – or on the way to be – the world’s oldest food and wine writer? Who cares! Not […]

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Patrick Skinner’s FOOD, DRINK AND OTHER MATTERS–November

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    THE MEZE TABLE The sight of a meze table fully set is an inspiring one. “How on earth have they done all that?” you ask yourself; but if you look, on closer inspection a lot of the little dishes have come out of jars, cans, packets and the freezer. And you can produce […]

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