There is probably no better day to write this article on a book I really enjoyed reading. As I sit in the terrace in Brussels at 10.20pm in the evening, the temperature it is still light, the temperature is 29⁰C and humid.
The only missing thing is a sea-breeze and the sound of the sea hitting the rocks which epitomises a hot Mediterranean summer.
I have to admit that I still have to visit Cyprus though after reading Cyprus a Culinary Journey, I feel I know this Mediterranean island considerably better than I did before I started this ‘culinary journey’.
Our Cypriot friends and avid readers of this site gave me this book a few months ago and I have been wanting to write about it for quite some time.
The book is edited by Marianne Salentin-Trager but it is the work of eight foodies from Germany who were in love with the island and who realised that there was no German cookbook on Cypriot cuisine. We went through the English version of the book though it is also published in German.
Part travel book, part recipe book, this is a beautiful snapshot of an island seen from the eyes of ‘foreigners’ in love with the country and its culinary heritage.
The result is a well-written book which takes you on a trip around the island. It is well designed, with great photography and excellent storytelling.
It is divided into six sections to depict the different facets of Cyprus from Nicosia to Paphos, Roodos, Limassol, Larnaca and the wines of Cyprus.
Each section has photos of the regions or cities depicted with great portraits of people going about their daily lives. You get an excellent description of the place and its people and it is really like taking a trip to this eastern Mediterranean island. There are things which of course remind me of my home country Malta.
The recipes in each section are beautifully presented with excellent photography and simple instructions to follow. There are simple recipes which give you a flavour of the island such as barbecued halloumi or traditional Cypriot sausages marinated in red wine and spices. There are others like tomatoes and eggs which remind us of a Maltese dish called ‘balbuljata’ which is one of the few things that my father could cook. And there are interesting recipes such as a slow-braised shoulder of beef, a rabbit stew, octopus cooked with Commandaria wine and another octupus recipe which I will definitely try with salicornia and cherry tomatoes. The cold cucumber soup with mint, is perfect for this hot weather.
There are also various portraits such as the one of Yiorgos Nikola – the fishermen who explains that on a good day “I can sell 15 kilos, but if my catch contains a lot of sardines, I don’t earn a lot. My father often returned with 60 kilos. But due to more boats and global warning, there are fewer and fewer fish.” It’s a story we have heard time and time again.
For the section on Cypriot wines, the authors of the book go on a tour with Astrid Zieglemeier to visit vineyards and winemakers of the island. They speak with winemakers who explain what is going on in the Cypriot wine scene.
This is a book which will make an excellent addition to your bookshelf. It is a beautiful portrait of an island and one which invites you to visit. If you plan to go to Cyprus any time soon then this is really a book you should savour. But even if you just like to discover different cuisines and cultures, then we would also recommend this book. Who knows, you might even be tempted to take the trip.
We know this is a place we will be visiting soon.