Tuesday, 24 April 2018

P and O cruise tips: life and death at sea.


Off on a cruise! Msmarmitelover. Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover

 Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover

It's perhaps a myth that the word 'posh' comes from having a cabin Port Out, Starboard Home (meaning you are always on the shady side, a plus when going to India) but I'm feeling very spoilt on this P and O culinary cruise. My cabin is on A deck, level 15 at the top of the ship and it has a balcony.

Britannia is the largest ship in the fleet with nearly 4,000 passengers and 1,300 staff. The average age of people on this ship is 75, most are couples. Being with older people has the positive effect of making you feel very youthful. During the summer and school holidays, there are more families.

The ship itself is beautiful, gleaming white, its prow slashed with the blue and red of the Union Jack.  You feel a swell of British pride when emerging from it at ports. 

lifeboats.  Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover
On the first day, some of the crew were showing passengers how sailors used to navigate, using the stars, maps and sextants. Today they use computers but in case of an emergency they still need to know the old fashioned way. 

I saw the emergency supplies in case the ship sunk: around 250ml of water in plastic bubble packs of 5oml and a dense tasteless shortbread, for each passenger.
The passenger lifeboats have a hard shell roof, they can turn over in rough seas and are self-righting. 
'I bet that leads to quite a bit of vomiting' I suggested to the seaman. 
'We give everyone a sea sickness pill as they enter' he chuckled.
The crew use a normal open rubber dingy. 

On my cruise, eight people were removed for reasons of ill health, I think some of them died although this was kept hush-hush. Every cruise ship has a morgue for this reason and in view of the age of the passengers, this makes sense. There is also a mini-hospital on board with an X Ray machine, doctors and nurses.
One night I was woken by the sound of a helicopter, a 'medivac' on the roof. For one thrilling but dreadful moment, I thought somebody had gone overboard. Search lights were scanning the waves. Several times the ship had to change course to deliver sick passengers to the nearest port.


Painting the ship when it's docked.  Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover

Tips

This is an all inclusive holiday, and prices are very reasonable, between £700 and £1000 per person for 14 days. However you do have to pay extra for: alcohol, spa, excursions, internet access, the special restaurants, soft drink, coffee and ice cream packages.
  • Bring small magnets. Your cabin is made of metal, so you can use the magnets to hang up notices and the daily 'newspaper'.
  • Pack for all weathers. My cruise ranged from windy, wet and rocky, necessitating sweaters and raincoats to bikini weather.
  • Bring sparkly formal wear. There were four 'Black Tie' evenings and people really make an effort.
  • Bring books, kindle, HDMI cord for the TV. There is a library and a variety of films in your cabin however.
  • If tasty food is important to you, bring your own condiments such as hot sauce, Malden's salt.
  • In the cabin there are tea bags, but if you have a particular favourite, bring it. Likewise good coffee; I bought my own in Madeira, our first stop, plus a portable coffee filter and saved the milk from breakfast.
  • You are allowed to bring 1 litre of alcohol or a bottle of wine on board at the beginning. After that, if you buy alcohol on stops, it will be taken from you and stored on board till the last day of your trip.
  • Bring mineral water with you on board and at stops. You can buy water on the boat too.
  • Breakfast in bed is free. There's nothing nicer than eating croissants on your balcony. (I also saved the orange juice from my breakfast in the cabin fridge for an aperitif.)
  • Take a lanyard for your cruise card, which will get constantly lost. Also don't put it next to your phone, it will stop working.
  • People also bought large plastic clothes pegs for their deckchair towels. If it's good weather, you need to do like the Germans and save your place with your towel.

Cabin and Staterooms


The twin cabin is the size of a large caravan, with a powerful shower and incredibly comfortable beds, a kettle and a fridge. Best of all is the balcony. There's nothing like sipping on coffee while sat in the sunshine, watching the ocean. 
When leaving Madeira, we saw dolphins skipping in the waves.

Down on deck 5, there is the Atrium which has a crystal waterfall chandelier, stretching up three decks. Below the Captain is addressing everyone on Black Tie Night.
The Captain speaking. The Atrium.  Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover

Food


Every cruise is terrified of the dreaded Norovirus. You are encouraged to wash your hands frequently and use a paper towel to open toilet doors.

To cook on a ship this size for this many people is no easy task. There are no open flames, containers are metal as they aren't breakable and jugs, saucepans, fryers aren't overfilled - imagine if it's a rough crossing! (They even empty the swimming pools on the top deck when the sea is stormy. Otherwise the water just sloshes out).
Out of almost 200 chefs on board, there are only 3 or 4 women, and they are in the pastry section. 
'It's too rough for them' explained a chef. 'It's really long hours, hot, cramped and you have to lift heavy pans'.
The last night of the cruise, all the chefs and waiters did a kind of victory parade, while the diners applauded, it was very sweet.

Parade of chefs. Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover
Britannia has two restaurants on lower decks with silver service sittings at 6.30 and 8.30pm and the open-all-hours buffet on the top deck. I choose 'freedom dining' option which means I don't have a fixed sitting and can dine where I want.

You have to control yourself at the buffet. I tried to prevent myself from doing the typical, try a little bit of everything, but mostly failed. In the end I just ate huge piles of salad and compensated with a carb offload of pudding. I'd generally eat around five desserts a day. 


Meals and the buffet are often themed: Italian night, Asian flavours, etc. 



One chef explained that the food is cooked for the average British (and elderly) palate, so not too much salt or spice. In the Indian restaurant, Sindhu, you can request more authentic spicing. 
'The customers may want more spicy food,' opined the wise Maitre d', 'but their stomachs think differently.'
The menu, designed by executive chef Atul Kochar, was a nice change from the usual restaurants on board.
Another paying restaurant, The Epicurean, recreates the glamorous cruising years of the 1930s; cream furnishings, white linens, fine glassware and crockery, with attentive service. The food here is of a gourmet standard, with a wine list chosen by TV wine guru Olly Smith. Definitely worth booking here for an occasion. We also had afternoon tea, designed by Eric Lanlard.

Staff


Most of the ship crew is Indian or Philipino: the Indians are soft-spoken while the Philippinos are smiley and almost overly attentive. In the dining room, you have the choice of eating alone or sharing a table with others, a bit like a supper club. Staff frequently expressed surprise that I was on my own (apart from the few days I spent with my sister who joined in Madeira and left from Lisbon). I preferred to be on my own, eating while reading a book, which I love. I like some solitude when I'm travelling. Waiters would whisper the title of my book as they passed, I'd hear snatches like:

'Jon Ronson' 
Then, approaching me: 'This book, what is it about?' 
'It's a book by Jon Ronson, a book of short stories.' 
'Ah yes I've heard of him.' The waiter said.
I sort of didn't believe him. Is Ronson big in India?

You are expected to tip the cabin steward and this is added to your bill. There is no cash on board, you have a 'cruise card' which is logged with your credit card. 

Our cabin steward or butler, Sujit, appeared to live in the corridor. Every time we emerged from the cabin, he'd spring from behind his trolley, waving hello. Mind, at the end of the trip, when I asked him to help me with my voluminous baggage, 50 yards to the lifts, he snapped 'Sorry madam, I'm very busy'. Oh well.
Black Tie Night..  Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover

Dress

I packed a nautical wardrobe. I soon realised, so did everyone else. Stripes everywhere.
A facebook friend advised, when she found out I was going on a cruise:
'Take sequins. Lots of sequins'.
I saw what she meant on the first Black Tie Night. Those oldsters certainly know how to put on a show: the men looked so handsome in crisp white shirts with pleated fronts, bow ties, dinner jackets, all elderly James Bonds. The women had their hair blow dried, folded into chignons, teased and flicked; the jewels were out on display, earrings, rings, necklaces even armbands of diamonds; satin heels and glinting dresses, silk clutch bags. Pashminas came into their own. I felt underdressed.


Entertainment

Deck quoits.  Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmiteloverQuoits.  Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover
All of landlubbing life is recreated on board: nightly theatre, pubs, casinos, quizzes, workshops 'make your own corsage', talks 'nutritional eating', gym and stretch classes. 

Cruise ship entertainment often doesn't have a very good reputation but the point is, there is lots of it. We saw the ventriloquist who, I'll be frank, I didn't quite 'get'. But the audience were literally pissing themselves.

I missed Sam Bailey, ex X factor winner, which I regret. It's the sort of thing I'd never pay for on land so I should have made the effort. I heard good things about the 'Barry from Eastenders 'set. 
I ended up not attending 11 am line dancing but went to watch the nightly ballroom dancing. Very impressive, a whole culture by itself.

I'm more of a quiz person and participated most nights in the syndicate quiz, which got quite heated at some points. Ferocious players all.

Deck 'quoits' is a traditional game on long cruises, in which players throw coils of rope. I also enjoyed hanging out in the library wing-tipped armchairs on rainy days. This lies next to the 'crows nest' bar at the fore of the ship, where people would spend all day looking at the horizon, the hynoptic lure of the sea. 

I also joined the choir, pictured below, at their final performance.
The blue bar.  Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover

storm across the Bay of Biscay.  Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover


The Ocean

sunrise.  Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover

The best thing during this cruise was of course the ocean itself which I could see from my cabin balcony. I'd even get up frequently in the night just to see what was happening past the balcony: was the sea rough? Did it have creamy meringue peaks? Was it turquoise and shiny flat? Was it foggy and choppy? 

And of course the pleasurable but relentless succession of sunrises and sunsets, each as individual as a person's face. I slept with the door open, rocking in my bed, breathing in the mineral air, the salt, the smell of the Atlantic.

It's never boring: the sea, a liquid epidermis wrapped around this knobbly rock, the Earth, held in place by gravity.

sunset.  Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover

I was invited by P and O cruises for a 14 night cruise to Madeira, the Canary Islands, Lisbon, from Southampton. 


telescope in the crows nest.   Britannia, P and O cruise ship. pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover

In my next posts, I will discuss each island stop and my day with Eric Lanlard.

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Monday, 2 April 2018

Lent and Easter Cypriot style


Easter Flaounes, Cyprus pastry Pic: Keratin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com



Most religions have designated times of the year for fasting or feasting - Orthodox Christianity as practised in Cyprus is no exception. One of the earliest Christian countries, St Paul and St Barnabas journeyed to Cyprus in 45 AD to spread the word.


Greek Cypriots take Lent very seriously, Many people fast, avoiding meat, and Easter is bigger than Christmas here. Churches are full, eggs are dyed red, tables are laid, bulging with special foods, especially lamb souvlaki.


There are strong links between Cyprus and Britain; conveniently the same 3-pin plugs are used, and they drive on the left. I'm old enough to remember, post-1974, the sudden influx of Greek and Turkish Cypriot children to North London schools. Suddenly my school mates had names like Costas! North London, particularly Haringey, still has many Cypriot shops and restaurants. Sadly the island is still riven in two parts since the Turkish invasion.


Fertile Cyprus grows wheat, barley, olives, olive oil, vegetables. It has citrus, a different type for every month, for 10 months of the year and nut trees are pink with clouds of blossom during Lent.


Here are two recipes: a lenten soup and an Easter pastry using the classic Cypriot cheese, halloumi.


Lenten split pea soup Louvana with bitter orange


Traditionally this unusual soup is dressed with seasonal bitter orange but I've used blood orange or ordinary orange. My version is chunky but you can blend it for a smoother soup.

Serves 4

250g split yellow peas or chana dhal, soaked
1l vegetable stock
100g orzo or rice
1 large onion finely sliced.
1tsp Bitter orange peel (optional)
4tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
2 large oranges, squeezed


Cook the pulses in boiling water until soft, skimming off any foam. Then add the vegetable stock and orzo.
Gently fry the onion (and bitter orange peel if chosen) with the garlic cloves, salt and pepper in olive oil until light golden.
To serve, squeeze the orange juice into the soup, check seasoning and add a dollop of fried onions to each bowl.

Easter Flaounes


Makes 6 or 7

These cheesy pastries are usually triangular, representing the trinity. It uses a couple of unusual ingredients: mastic or mastiha, a tree resin from the Greek island of Chios; and Mahleb, a bitter cherry stone ground into a powder. For authenticity, you can also add a little of these ingredients to the filling but it's not absolutely necessary.


For the filling
250g pecorino
150g halloumi cheese
3tbp plain flour
4tbsp fine semolina
1tsp instant yeast
1tsp dried mint
50g sultanas
3 large eggs
2tbsp milk
1tsp baking powder

For the pastry
350g/strong flour
1tsp mastic powder
1tsp ground mahleb
1tsp caster sugar
1tsp salt
1tsp instant yeast
3tbsp unsalted butter, softened
225ml whole milk

For the glaze
100g sesame seeds
dash of white wine vinegar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten


Method


Grate both cheeses into a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix the plain flour, semolina, yeast, dried mint and sultanas together.
Beat the eggs and milk together in another bowl.
Mix all 3 bowls together with your hands.
This can be left overnight.
Add the baking soda to the filling and put aside.
To make the pastry: mix together the flour, mastic powder and mahleb.
Add the sugar, salt and yeast.
Add the butter and milk, making a well in the centre of the flour.
Combine the ingredients to form a soft dough.
Knead until smooth by hand or with a stand mixer.
Return to the bowl, cover and leave to rest for an hour.

For the glaze:
In a small pan, cover the sesame seeds with water and a dash of vinegar.
Bring to the boil.
Remove from the heat, strain and spread the seeds over a clean tea towel to dry.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Line a baking tray with a silpat or baking parchment.
Divide the pastry into 6 or 7 large pieces and roll out on a lightly floured work surface into 12 cm circles.
Press the unclouded side of the round into the sesame seeds.
Divide the filling into 6 or 7 balls and place one in the centre of the round pastry.
Fold in 3 sides to make a triangle shape, leaving a gap in centre with the filling exposed.
Place the flaounes on the baking trays, brush the tops with the beaten egg yolk and bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold.



Saturday, 31 March 2018

Rural Cyprus: what to eat and drink, where to stay.

Baker with flaounes, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com

making halloumi, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Flag of Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Taverna, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Goats, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com

I've visited Cyprus twice: the first time when my daughter was a baby, 24 years ago, and I was still with her father. We stayed at a stuffy hotel in Larnaca. The beaches were beautiful but the town looked like a building site. It was a half-hour bus ride to a gorgeous white beach with a classic turquoise sea. During my visit, I crossed over the green line, a no man's land of barbed wire and UN soldiers, to the Turkish side. My Cypriot friends were sad. They weren't allowed to go.

Since the financial crisis of 2012, we haven't heard much from Cyprus. This time, visiting during Lent, I explored the rustic interior, a more authentic look at the island. Cyprus has mountains! Who knew?

Tourism is a steady earner for Cyprus: warm seas, fantastic snorkelling, byzantine churches, sun, sand and ancient history. Plus they speak English, drive on the left, have English three- pin plugs. (In this age of constant recharging of phones, laptops and cameras, you'd be surprised how useful this is as a feature.)

Sadly the island is still split: 37% is occupied by the Turks who have sold the homes of Greek Cypriot families to tourists. In one recent incident, a family that returned to look at their old house now occupied by 'Europeans', were arrested and spent the night in jail until rescued by the UN.

Cypriot Christians and Muslims shared the island for decades without rancour according to our guide, Demetra, and it appears there is little anger between actual Cypriots, Turkish or Greek. "We were neighbours, we got on."

It's probably because of their complicated history that Cyprus has a vibrant and varied food and drink culture. Like Sicily, another great island food culture, they've been occupied by virtually everybody over the decades. As a result the food and drink sources inspiration from Greece, Turkey, Byzantine, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. 

village inn bed,  Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com

Most tourists visit Cyprus for sun, sea and sand, but you are missing out on the rustic interior. Traditional Cypriot village inns have grand beds with white cotton canopies: ceilings used to be made of mud and sticks and leaves, and the canopies stopped vegetation and insects falling. The scenery is stunning: running streams of fresh water, chilly snow-tipped hills, thick stone houses, abundant forests with Cypress trees, after which the island is named.

Here is a list of food and drink you must try.


1. Halloumi and Anari

Making halloumi mould baskets,, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Dried Anari cheese, , Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Making anari from Halloumi, , Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Making Halloumi, , Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com

Petros, a former restaurant manager now traditional basket weaver and Halloumi maker, gives demonstrations and runs workshops teaching both skills in a village called Choirokitia. He does everything by hand, the slow way. He gets up at 6am to find the water grass, which grows near fresh water for the basket weaving.

Halloumi, made from sheep and goat milk, doesn't melt when cooked. The traditional Cypriot method is to make it in a green grass basket mould, pressing it down, recooking it and adding fresh mint. We watched his billiard-ball brown head bending over the green basket, kneading the halloumi. Eventually it becomes a flat pancake that is then folded over, taco style. 

A secondary cheese can be made, Anari, from the whey. Similar to ricotta, it forms a soft fresh cheese when boiled.


2. Carob

Coffee with anari and carob syrup,, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
carob rusks,  Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Carob trees grow everywhere in Cyprus. The pods are used as a chocolate substitute. The Arab word for Carob, carat, is also used to measure the quality of diamonds and gold. A baker who sold carob rusks explained to me that a certain amount of carob seeds amounts to 1 carat. Carob syrup is a popular sweetener, often squirted upon warm fresh Anari cheese. 


3. Citrus and fruit

Giant oranges,, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Marmalade home made, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Petros the basket weaver, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Petros makes large colourful straw trays for sultanas and table grapes

Another treat from was the fresh lemonade, squeezed from the fruit in the orchard belonging to Petros, which we sipped under the carefully trained branches of a mulberry tree covering the courtyard. How did you do this? 'I'm an artist,' he proclaimed.

Cyprus produces a different citrus for ten months of the year: pomelos, mandarins, lemons, kumquats, enormous oranges the size of melons, bergamots, sweet lemons and more. I was told of a bitter orange soup, Louvana. (Recipe coming soon.) There is also the traditional egg lemon avgolemono soup. 


4. Chickpea bread

rising dough for apkatena bread, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
apkatena bread, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
baker,  apkatena bread, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com

At George's bakery in Omodos, they sell apkatena bread leavened with chickpea scum, an interesting idea when you consider the advances made in vegan cookery with 'aquafaba' as a replacement for eggs. It seems chickpea can also work as a rising agent. 


5. Commandaria wine

Tsiakkas winery, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
This is the oldest named wine in the world. Similar to sherry, it's a dessert wine dating back to 800 BC. The grapes, Cypriot varieties Xynisteri (white) and Mavro (red) are left to overripen on the vine, boosting the sugar levels, and then left to dry in the sun, further concentrating sugar. I visited one of the best wineries in Cyprus, Tsiakkas, run by a former bank manager who decided to chuck it all in and follow his viticulture dream. You could see terraces cut into the hillside for new vineyards.


6. Flaounes

baking flaounes,, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Lent is taken seriously in Cyprus and many people go vegetarian for the 40 days prior to Easter. Come Easter, however, the festivities go crazy. In Orthodox Christianity, Easter is a bigger deal than Christmas. Churches are full, eggs are painted red, families have barbecues on the beach and everybody buys flaounes from their local bakery. This is a savoury pastry, mixing mastiha, mahleb spice and filled with halloumi cheese. I visited a bakery, Kouyiouka Watermill, that uses local wheat, a wood-fired oven and sourdough techniques to make their pastries, rusks and bread. (Recipe coming soon.)


7. Medlar jam

medlar/hawthorn jam,  Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Medlar jam tastes a bit like honey, with an interesting slightly medicinal flavour. The fruits usually need to be 'bletted', that is softened and then cooked down into a clear strained 'jelly'.


8. Olives

cyprus meze, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Almost every yard has olive trees, almond trees and bulging citrus trees casually lurking about. The olives I tasted in Cyprus are some of the best I've ever had. Petros' home-cured green olives with coriander seeds and lemon were sublime.


9. Yoghurt

yoghurt, honey, halloumi,, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Similar to Greece, Cyprus makes thick sculptural alabaster yoghurt, like cream. It is served in large bowls for breakfast; mixed with mint and cucumber as tzaziki dip, or with syrupy baklava for dessert.


10. Village salad

village salad, hummus, tarama, meze, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Sometimes known as a 'Greek salad', meze are always presented with a large wide bowl of tomatoes, cucumber, olives, green pepper, red onions and feta served with astringent olive oil in tow. I couldn't get enough of this.


11. Red potatoes

Cypriot red potatoes, pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover

Cyprus is famous for the 'red' potatoes grown in burnt ochre clay. Look out for them in the UK from April. We had a simple dish of potatoes cooked in stock at a village taverna - in the mountains. Delicious, dense, waxy with a buttery colour. Recipe here.

12. Cyprus coffee




George the jeep driver showed me how to make this. In a traditional cafe in a small village, there is a machine with a water tank on top and a trayful of hot sand underneath. Put a spoonful of finely ground coffee and a teaspoon of sugar for 'metrio' (medium sweet) into a small metal pan with a long handle, enough for a thimbleful of Cypriot coffee. Fill with boiling water, using the tap that is filled by the water tank, and place in the hot sand over the fire. When it starts to froth up, pour into the small cup and serve with a glass of water.


13. Spoon sweets

spoon sweets, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Coffee is often served with trays of 'spoon sweets', candied fruit and nuts. I tried candied walnuts, which are like large black olives as they are repeatedly dipped in syrup before the shells become hard and fragrant thick rinds of orange, simultaneously sweet and bitter.


14. Nuts

nuts covered in pomegranate syrup and sesame seeds, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com

You see nut trees every where in Cyprus, especially in March when they are in blossom. Cashews and almonds are often roasted and covered with pomegranate syrup, studded with sesame seeds. 


15. Shoushoukos

shoushoukos, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
So many aspects of Cyprus remind me of the country Georgia, especially the ropes of churchkela, known as shoushoukos. These are strings of almonds or hazelnuts dipped repeatedly in grape jelly, sometimes up to 6 times, to form a chewy snack. 


16. Kollifa

Kollifa, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Kollifa, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
This is a pagan tradition that has become part of Orthodox Christinity. Dishes of boiled wheat, with nuts, pomegranate and seeds, are laid out in decorative patterns with either the initials of the dead or a photograph, placed in church during funerals, Lent and after Easter. Prior to placing it in the church, it is offered to passersby and the community.


17. Trimithotes

trimithotes, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
These are rusk-like biscuits with seeds from the pistachio tree. Not pistachio nuts, but some kind of medicinal black hard seed. They grow on you.


18. Fish

fisherman, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
sardines, Paphos, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
What the Cypriots don't know about cooking fish isn't worth knowing. I had simply grilled fish in several restaurants: tender flakes, perfectly seasoned. In Paphos I saw a guy catching sardines, a bucketful in three hours.


19. Bread and rusks

Koulouri bread, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
Koulouri bread,  Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
The traditional loaf of Cyprus, Koulouri, is pieced together like a caterpillar of dough and covered with the ubiquitous sesame seeds. Each section can be easily broken off for dipping, wiping, dunking. Separated and dried these become rusks, Daktylos, rather like the Cretan dakos. Useful for villages that aren't near a bakery - the rusks last virtually forever.


20. Souvla

BBQ and grilled meat, particularly lamb kebab is a speciality in Cyprus. Obviously I didn't try it but you may want to!

olive bread, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com

More information 

Hotels:
Half Board + €16 per person
Full Board + €32 per person
Note: No toiletries were provided in these hotels on my visit, so take your own shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, etc.

Flights:

Easyjet operates flights to Paphos from London Gatwick and Manchester airport with fares starting from £26.49 one way. 

British Airways operates flights to Paphos from London Gatwick with fares starting from £268 one way for March time.

Excursions:

agios Nikolaos, tis Stegis,Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.combalalaika player, Paphos,  Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com mosaic,paphos, Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com
interior Cyprus pic: Kerstin Rodgers/msmarmitelover.com