Cypriot ladies’ fingers…

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 our trip we will enjoy yummy ladies’ fingers (daktyla), made by Mr. George the Cypriot! Or do they maybe look more like little feet??

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.

Mr. George the Cypriot made traditional ladies’ fingers at his home…
And send us a package! Thanks a lot!

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.

The Spice Route passed by Cyprus too… Read more in our article “Stayhome and make Greek loukoumades“!

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.

Cypriot haloumi has the particular quality of not melting at very high temperatures, and therefore it is awesome fried or grilled! It is also consumed with watermelon, grated on pasta, in trahana soup and as a filling in various pastry. (source)

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…

Koupepia: little wraps with grape leaves, rice and pork or veal minced meat. Their difference to Greek dolmadakia is that they are usually made tomato sauce instead of avgolemono (egg and lemon sauce) (source)
Ravioles: Cypriot ravioli, a
κυπριακά ravioli, a remnant of the Venetian rule in Cyprus, pasta filled with haloumi, mint and eggs, served with grates haloumi or dried anari. (source)
Kolokasi: a root vegetable similar to a potato, usually stewed with pork or chicken. (source)
Patates antinahtes: a particular side dish, small potatoes fried with their skin and stewed, scented with dry coriander. (source)
Ofto kleftiko: a typical Cypriot main dish, mostly in Lefkosia, lamb flavored with bay leaves, baked traditionally in a special oven or in a clay vessel. (source)
Sheftalia: Well known and beloved, minced pork meat with onion and parsley (source)

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!

Ladies’ fingers, traditional Cypriot sweets. Find the traditional recipe at the end of the article and make them yourselves!

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.

Cypriot kattimerka (source)

Flaounes

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.

Cypriot Easter flaounes (source)

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.

How the Ancient Greek palathi became Cypriot flaounes (source)

Shoushoukos

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.

Traditional Cypriot shoushoukos made with grape must (moustos in Greek) (source)

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!

Preparation of traditional Cypriot shoushoukos (source)

Pisies

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.

Traditional Cypriot pisies, pancakes with lots of thin dough layers. (source)

Mahalepi

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.

Refreshing, fragrant Cypriot mahalepi (source)

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.

Cypriot almond spoon sweet (source)

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!

Ladies’ fingers prepared with an authentic Cypriot recipe!

Our recipe

Cypriot ladies’ fingers

Ingredients for the ladies’ fingers

For the dough:
All-purpose flour500 gr (4 cups)
Olive oil50 ml (3,5 tbs)
Salt0,5 tsp
Vinegar1 tbs
Water220 ml (almost 1 cup)
For the filling:
Almonds200 gr (2 cups)
Sugar100 gr (0,5 cup)
Cinnamon0,5 tsp
Rosewater or flower water3 tbs
For the syrup:
Water480 ml (2 cups)
Sugar400 γρ. (2 cups)
Honey3 tbs
Cinnamon1 stick
Cloves5 pieces
Lemonjuice for half a lemon and peel
Rosewater or flower water3 tbs
The ingredients for the filling.

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.

Combine the flour, salt, vinegar and olive oil.
Gradually add the water, stir and knead.
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.

The filling for the Cypriot ladies’ fingers.

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.

In a saucepan combine the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and lemon peel.
Add the water and boil the syrup for five minutes. Then add the honey, lemon juice and flower water.

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.

Roll the dough with a rolling pin as thin as you can.
Spread the filling, a teaspoon a time leaving a space in between. The spread of the filling will give the final length of your ladies’ fingers, since each teaspoon of filling will be contained inside one ladies’ finger.
Roll the dough twice.
And cut the ladies’ fingers.

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!).

Seal the edges of the fingers pressing with a fork.

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.

Deep fry the fingers and after staining them for a while, when they are still hot, sink them in the lukewarm syrup.

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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20 Comments Add yours

  1. oldhuang says:

    Regarding the non-stop trips during pandemic homestay, we have planned one from bedroom to bathroom via living room, which could be repeated day by day, hope you like it. By the way, the grape leave used as wrapper can be eaten, right?

    Like

    1. Hahaha, very funny! We take that trip everyday too! Yes of course it can be eaten!! Have a nice day and stay healthy!

      Like

  2. Food comforts and at times like this the your posts are extra comforting.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for your comment!!

      Like

  3. I used to live in Greece a long time ago, looking at all of this makes me wanna cook all of it!

    Like

    1. Thank you very much our good friend!! Your recipes are great too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is so kind! Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful masterclass in Cypriot cookery and some wonderful dishes thank you…thank goodness for the Internet so that we can travel virtually to all corners of the world. I have pressed for this evening…stay safe.. Sally.

    Like

    1. Thank you very much Sally! We are glad that you find our articles interesting! Stay safe and happy! 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You too…and thanks again for the very interesting post.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for the great recipe, and the fantastic information about Cyprus too. Happy Easter! Michael

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    1. Thank you so much! Happy Easter!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Happy Easter, too! Thank you for the efforts bringing all these wonderful information online. Michael

        Like

  6. CarolCooks2 says:

    Lots of lovely recipes …I love the sound of the pastries although my poor waistline is groaning…haha…Those ladies fingers sound delicious 🙂

    Like

    1. 🙂🙂 Thank you so much! 🙏🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A very interesting introduction to Cypriot cuisine, which is brand new to me! The ladies’ fingers do look like little feet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They do, don’t they? We’re glad our article introduced you to a new cuisine! Thank you so much!! Greetings from Greece, stay safe!!

      Like

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