Staying home doesn’t mean that we can’t travel too… Not by car, ship or plane of course… But with our minds! So, pack your bags and let’s go to our beloved Cyprus!
In search of our next fasting recipe, we thought that we haven’t yet looked into the traditional sweets of our Cyprus. We asked Mr. George the Cypriot and he told us that one of the most famous and delicious fasting, Cypriot recipes are ladies’ fingers or daktyla in Greek. So, in our new sweet and savory article we take a mental, gastronomic trip to Cyprus, study its gastronomic tradition and learn how to make fasting ladies’ fingers (daktyla) by Mr. George the Cypriot.
Wanting to learn some things about Cypriot gastronomy, we read at the website of the “Taste Cyprus Delightful Journeys” certification by the Debuty Ministry of Tourism of Cyprus that given its geographic position, its relationship to neighboring countries and the foreign domination -French, Italian, Turkish and English- that influenced its gastronomy, the Cypriot cuisine today is a mixture of Greek-Mediterranean, Oriental and European cuisine.
Historically Cyprus had commercial relationships with the whole Mediterranean Sea and the traders would bring from their travels ingredients, ideas and habits. A representative example of the incorporation of influences is mixing cumin -that arrived from Ancient Egypt- with cinnamon -from Sri Lanka, read more in our article– a mixture that consists one of the local characteristics of Cypriot cooking.
Also, according to a brochure of the Ministry of Agriculture of Cyprus, the ability of the locals to face the difficulties of the environment, with no refrigeration and the need for longtime food conservation, and to utilise the scarce means they had available, played an important role in the development of Cypriot cuisine.
Therefore, Cypriot cuisine consists of meat -mainly pork, lunch meats (sausages, lountza, tsamarela etc.), fish, vegetables, fruit, legumes, olive oil, honey, bread, herbs such as mint, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, bay. Wine, mainly Koumantaria one of the most ancient wines of the world, is often used in cooking. Among Cypriot cheese products, the most famous are haloumi and anari.
Now, because an image is worth a thousand words, let’s see some traditional Cypriot dishes. Since it is our first Cypriot article, we didn’t chose only fasting food…
Hungry yet? And there is more! Now we will see some of the most famous and delicious desserts of the island. Since our article is dedicated to ladies’ fingers, we will start this way the sweet part of our trip!
Ladies’ fingers (daktyla)
One of the most famous Cypriot sweets. They are made with a very thin filo dough and a filling of crushed almonds, sugar, cinnamon and rosewater or flower water. They are fried and then moistened in syrup. The success secret is tbeir staying crispy!
They owe their name to their elongated shape or to the fact that they used to be served at ladies’ houses. We also wandered, could their name be related to the foreign ladyfingers biscuits?
Pittes tis satziis or kattimerka or katimeria
Thin flatbreads of filo dough topped with honey, grape molasses or carob honey or even chocolate in more modern versions. They used to be baked in satzii, a curved metal utencil, from which they got their name.
Pies with a sweet or savory filling made with a special cheese from Pafos, raisins and mint, flavored with mastic and mahleb. Their preparation is a traditional Easter custom in Cyprus, where they are kneaded on Holy Tuesday. The cheese is prepared in Pafos especially for the flaounes, only during Easter. Of course, flaounes can also be made with other types of cheese, such as haloumi, ladotyri, graviera or kefalograviera.
In an excerpt form the Cypriot Encyclopedia by Andros Pavlidis we read that the etymology of their name originates from the Ancient Greek language and that they are the continuation of an Ancient Greek custom concerning the preparation of a sweet named palathi. Palathi was being offered to children going from house to house singing for the arrival of swallows and spring. Until recently in Cyprus flaounes were being offered to children singing to announce the Resurrection of Jesus or to wake people to go to church on the night of the Resurrection.
One of the most traditional Cypriot sweets, made with white grapes, which we read that dates back to the end of the 19th century when the rich production of grapes begun in Cypriot villages. We also learned that with the simple ingredients they had at hand -grapes, flour, herbs and nuts- the Cypriots made this special confection.
In order to make shoushoukos, except for the mentioned above ingredients, we also need a needle and thread! The nuts (almonds or walnuts) soak in water and then are passed on the thread and let some days to dry. Then, they must be dipped in moustalevria (a pudding made of grape must) and dried, several times over and over again. Then, they must dry well for some more days. So, if you ever try to make shoushoukos, prepare yourselves with lots of patience!
Traditional Cypriot pancakes that are made in a particular way: one must prepare a very thin dough, grease it with olive oil, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar and roll it. Then the roll is cut into pieces and each piece is rolled until very thin with a rolling pin. They are deep fried and moistened in honey. With this procedure, the pancake consists of many thin dough layers.
A chilled and light dessert, a custard made with corn flour, scented with rosewater and rose. It is usually consumer during summer. It is traditionally made fasting with water, but it can be also made with milk. It is always served with a rose syrup. The origin of its name is Arabic and similar desserts are found in Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.
We read that in the old times, mahalepi was made by street vendors. They would prepare the custard only with water and corn flour, put it in empty milk cans and keep it cool on ice. Before serving, they would flip it on a plate and pour on top rosewater and sugar or rose syrup, as much as one wanted!
Almond spoon sweet
And now a less known traditional sweet of the Kouri-Ksilouriko area. It is made with almonds, sugar and flavorings (mastic, flower water, lemon). The area produces the largest quantity of almonds in Cyprus, according to a brochure of the Ministry of Agriculture of Cyprus. Each year, there takes place the Feast of the Blossomed Almond Tree, where the way to prepare the dessert is presented.
Having seen some particular savory and sweet delicacies, it is time to make one too! Mr. George the Cypriot with show us how to make Cypriot ladies’ fingers (daktyla). We thank him a lot for the photos, recipe and detailed instructions, as well as for the package of ladies’ fingers he sent us! We must warn you in advance: as soon as we received them, they disappeared in a second!
Cypriot ladies’ fingers
Ingredients for the ladies’ fingers
|For the dough:|
|All-purpose flour||500 gr (4 cups)|
|Olive oil||50 ml (3,5 tbs)|
|Water||220 ml (almost 1 cup)|
|For the filling:|
|Almonds||200 gr (2 cups)|
|Sugar||100 gr (0,5 cup)|
|Rosewater or flower water||3 tbs|
|For the syrup:|
|Water||480 ml (2 cups)|
|Sugar||400 γρ. (2 cups)|
|Lemon||juice for half a lemon and peel|
|Rosewater or flower water||3 tbs|
How to make the dough
Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the olive oil, salt, vinegar and water gradually and knead until a uniform dough forms. Let the dough rest for an hour.
How to make the filling
Crush the almonds in a blender for just a while, watching not to turn them into powder. Combine them with sugar and cinnamon and add the flower water, as much as needed so that the mixture becomes a pliable maze.
How to make the syrup
Pour the sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and lemon peel in a small saucepan, and add the water. Boil for five minutes and add honey, lemon juice and flower water and stir. Let the syrup aside to cool.
How to make the ladies’ fingers
Roll the dough as thin as you can with a rolling pin. Now we will spread a line of filling along the dough in the following way: one teaspoon of filling, a small space, one teaspoon of filling, a small space and so on. When you have spread teaspoons of filling along the whole length of the dough, roll it twice.
Cut the dough and do the process all over again, spreading teaspoons of filling and rolling. This way you will have many long rolls, which you will then cut in portions to make smaller rolls, the ladies’ fingers. Seal each roll’s edges using a fork, to make the characteristic indents (which to us look like five fingers too!).
Heat vegetable oil in a deep pan and as soon as it is hot place some fingers inside until they gain a nice colour. Take them out with a slotted spoon and place them on kitchen paper to strain. Then moisten them in the lukewarm syrup. For the syrup to get well absorbed, the fingers must be hot and the syrup lukewarm, so don’t let them too long on the kitchen paper! Finally, place the fingers on a platter and sprinkle them with some more filling.
They are most delicious when they are fresh and crispy, so don’t hesitate! We all wish you to enjoy them, with health, optimism and patience as we need to say lately!
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