The older you get the faster the years fly by…. or so it seems, despite doing everything more slowly than one used to. It is our fourth since we returned to England after our two decades resident in Cyprus. Despite now being formally “retired”, we seemed too busy to make a trip to the Island of Sunshine, but we intend to remedy that in 2016.
So, in 2015, for one reason or another, we stayed in Britain. Apart from weekends visiting family and friends we took just the one holiday – two weeks in Wales and the West of England. As I reported during the summer, of 24 lunches and dinners consumed, 22 of them had been “Out of the Bag”, i.e. Ready Meals heated up by the “Chef”. It is a disappointing catering scene – even our local hotel-restaurant has succumbed, despite the owner being a good chef (in fact, he cooks for “special” occasions, such as a monthly “themed” lunch for around 25 regular customers – such as Italian, Swiss, Lebanese and so forth, but for the rest of the time he uses pre-cooked stuff).
One meal that was memorable – a home-cooked tableful of Cyprus-style food with six friends around us: tahinisalata; taramasalata; melitzanasalata (pictured above);yogurt with mint and cucumber; fried Halloumi; Greek salad; olives and pickled cucumbers; pitta bread; BBQ chicken, bulgar wheat pilaf; roast potatoes. For dessert Mary made one of her favourites from our Cyprus years, orange and almond tart, which is really Spanish in origin. It is delicious, and with the oranges in season now, it is well worth doing.
Cyprus Orange and Almond Flan
A recipe providing a good excuse for opening up a delicious Cyprus liqueur
Rind and juice of 3 large or 4 medium oranges
125 g freshly ground almonds
175 g caster sugar
1 tbsp Cyprus orange liqueur
1. Take a large, round, shallow pastry tin (around 30 cms diameter), and rub some butter over the inside.
2. Sprinkle flour on and shake until it is settled all over.
3. Wash and dry the oranges. With a fine grater, carefully grate the rind and set aside. Halve and squeeze them. Set the juice aside.
4. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks with 125 g of the sugar and the rind until
creamy and yellowy.
5. Beat in the ground almonds slowly.
6. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold gently into the mixture. Spoon out into the baking dish and put in the centre of the oven, heated to 220?C.
7. After 15 minutes turn down oven to 170?C and cook for about 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin.
8. Mix the remaining sugar with orange juice and liqueur or brandy and sprinkle over the flan.
The Year to Come
At my age, one simply hopes for “another year, please”. One still plans, though. In 2016 we intend to return to Cyprus for sunshine, food and wine – and our friends, of course. Encouraged by initial reactions to my bit of autobiography, I am tapping away at my laptop with part 2 – the years from 1950 to 1970. In that time I was an unwilling member of His Majesty’s Royal Air Force for 18 months, then a cinema manager, a film publicity writer and then owner of my own public relations business. These years saw my first visits to Cyprus – in 1965 and 1968. It was a bit different then!
Ghost of New Years Past?
In 2005 when I had been writing a weekly page in the Cyprus press for over ten years I penned the following at this time of year
I am far too long in the tooth to make New Year Resolutions. My intentions for this year are the same as last: to try and bring you thoughts, reviews, recipes and items about enjoying eating and drinking, with the emphasis on getting the best out of Cyprus. (Amen to this in 2016! I followed this with a recipe adapted from a Claudia Roden book on Middle Eastern Cookery. It tastes just as good today)
SAUTEED CHICKEN with TOMATO PILAF
Sautéed chicken kebabs are more tender and juicy than the grilled ones on skewers which are served in kebab houses. Accompany these with tomato pilaf and a yogurt and cucumber salad. The dark wine-red spice called sumac (*) lends a sharp
lemony taste to the chicken.
Ingredients for four servings
4 boned and skinned, chicken thigh fillets
l tablespoon sunflower oil
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
To garnish: l lemon, quartered, or sumac
FOR THE TOMATO PILAF
300g long-grain or basmati rice
500 g ripe tomatoes, peeled
1 chicken stock cube
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and black pepper
1. Start by making the tomato pilaf. Wash the rice by pouring cold water over it in a bowl, stir well and leave to soak for a few minutes, then strain and rinse under cold water.
2. Quarter the tomatoes, remove the hard white bits near the stem end, then liquefy in a food processor. Measure the resulting tomato juice and add enough water to make it up to 650ml.
3. Pour it into a pan, add the crumbled stock cube, the sugar and a little salt and pepper and bring to the boil.
4. Add the rice and stir well. Simmer, covered, over a low heat, for 18-20 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid absorbed. Do not stir during the cooking, but add a little extra water if it becomes too dry.
5. Fold in the butter, cut into small pieces.
6. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.
7. While the rice is cooking, cut the chicken into pieces of about 3.5cm.
8. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and sauté the chicken for 6-8 minutes until lightly browned, turning the pieces over once.
9. Sprinkle the chicken with parsley and serve with lemon quarters or with sumac to sprinkle over, accompanied by the rice.
(*) Sumac is available in small jars in many supermarkets. The brand I have is ‘Ostman’, from the Limassol-based food firm that makes an excellent range of herbs and spices.
My Book gets its First Review… by Email and on Amazon
From time to time I have featured in these pages what I would term “Notes from Limassol”, contributed by an old friend, whose pen name is Charalambous. His latest thoughts, in an Email to me are kind ones, on the subject of my recently published Ebook, “One Kid’s War”. A dear friend indeed… he actually paid good money for it!
“I enjoyed your book which I loaded on my kindle. It is quite an amazing saga, in parts very evocative to me (although my memories of those times are less exact than yours and limited by my comparative youth at the time). The detail is most impressive… It’s an extraordinary story and a different angle from all the other reminiscences of the war years that I’ve come across…”
A Happy New Year to you all – may it be peaceful, prosperous and progressive for all in Cyprus… and a special good wish to Charalambous!