Meze Part 1 and 2
As promised yesterday, here is the full Cypriot meze made by myself and my parents. To see how traditional and realistic it was, we are going out for a meze tonight to compare ;)
This is the components of the first day: Salad, Halloumi, Lountza, Pitta Bread, Egg and Courgette, Hummus, Greek Yogurt, Tomato Aubergine and Olives.
I will put these dishes in the order they would probably be served in a restaurant:
This isn't a traditional Greek salad which would have included only cucumber, tomato, onion, olives, green pepper and feta cheese. I decided to stick with the salad that I make at least four times a week as it is a lot more colourful!
In this salad I put: shredded lettuce, shredded purple cabbage, cucumber, quartered cherry tomatoes, grated carrot, sliced pickled peppers, onion slices and sweet corn...!
The dressing, however, is the typical one that you would get in Cyprus or Greece: olive oil, vinegar and freshly squeezed lemon juice with a sprinkling of oregano.
Pitta Bread and Dips
Along with your pitta bread and salad, you will usually get olives (if not in the salad) and beetroot in some places. You will usually get about 3 massive pitta breads sliced up which you will not want to eat if you're going to make it all the way through the meze!! The dips above are just hummus (the recipe of this can be found here) and greek yogurt. They will also usually serve tatziki (recipe here), tahini (a sesame seed past which I love so much but am actually allergic to...it makes my cheeks go red!) and taramasalata which is a paste made out of fish roe, bread, olive oil and lemon. It sounds disgusting but is delicious!
Next up in the meze:
Halloumi and Lountza
Halloumi is a greek cheese (made on the island of Cyprus) made from a mixutre of goat and sheep milk. It has a chewy texture when cooked and holds it's shape unlike other cheeses. Due to it's texture, it is often called 'squeeky cheese'! It is usually grilled (we just flash-fried it with no oil) and almost always served with lountza. Lountza is also made in Cyprus and is basically just smoked pork tenderloin which has been marinated in brine and red wine. It is incredibly lean and has almost no fat. As it is already cooked, it can be eaten as is or grilled (or flash-fried) along with the halloumi.
After this, Vegetable dishes:
Courgette and Egg
Aubergine is another thing which is nearly always present in mezes but different restaurants create different dishes. In our meze, we just fried very thin aubergine slices in a bit of olive oil before adding the tomato mixture (tomato puree, passata, worcestershire sauce, tobasco, oregano, basil, salt, pepper and a bit of sweet chilli sauce). Mix together and keep on heat for a further couple of minutes. Serve sprinkled with parmesan.
Other ways the Cypriots may serve the aubergine is deep fried in thin slices sprinkled with parmesan (not very healthy but delicious); cold cooked thick slices topped with a tomato mixture or even made into a cold dip and served at the start of the meze.
Other vegetable dishes not in our meze include:
- Potatoes...sometimes! If these are served, it is usually just mixed with olive oil and oregano or cooked with rosemary. More often than not, you will just get chips!
- Tomato - chopped tomatoes mixed with cold halloumi
- Mushrooms - Usually either just served in brine or cooked with a stuffing such as garlic, cheese or both!
- Dolmathes - vine leaves stuffed with rice and sometimes mince meat.
To make up for the missed vegetables, we just had grilled courgette, onion, mushrooms and greek pepper sprinkled with oregano!
Then, or sometimes along with:
Pourgouri/ Bulgar Wheat Pilaf
This dish is lovely served with greek yogurt and is so easy to make. Rinse bulgar wheat (or cous cous) in cold water and empty into a dish. Cover with boiling water (so it just covers it) and sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, pepper and mixed herbs. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 15 minutes until all of the water has soaked up and the bulgar wheat has the correct consistency. Meanwhile, cook a small handful of chopped spaghetti in boiling water for 8 minutes (you don't need to do this step but it is more traditional if you do)! When cooked, drain before mixing in with the bulgar wheat along with chopped tomatoes or passata, tomato puree, a bit of olive oil, basil and seasoning. I also added sweet chilli sauce, but then I add this to almost everything! Serve with greek yogurt.
If this dish is not served, you will usually get a pasta dish or sometimes both. The pasta dish will either be macaroni sprinkled with parmesan or ravioli stuffed with anari cheese and mint and served in brine topped with parmesan.
All of these dishes may come in between or along with the other courses or all at the end when you are already full up!
- You will always get shish/ pork kebab/ souvlaki (different places have different names, normally depending on how tourist orientated they are)! This always tastes a lot more tender and so much better sprinkled with fresh lemon juice.
- Chicken souvlaki/ kebab - basically just grilled chicken cubes on a stick (sometimes marinated in lemon and yogurt). This may come along with or instead of cooked chicken breast fillets or breaded chicken drumsticks.
- Sheftalia - a kind of sausuage but without the skin. The meat is usually mixed with onions and fresh parsley and wrapped in a membrane before being grilled.
- Afelia - pork cubes marinated with red wine and coriander.
- Loukanika (more often than not served along with the halloumi and lountza at the start of the meze) - marinated pork sausages which are soaked in red wine, cloves and coriander.
- Stiphado - a stew made with cubes of beef, onions, vinegar, wine and spices.
- Liver - not really much description needed here but I hate liver.
- Mousakka - Mince meat and aubergine topped with bechamel sauce.
- Pastistio - Pasta, pork, tomato and mint topped with long pasta tubes and bechamel sauce.
- You will also sometimes get fish dish or two (unless of course you have ordered a fish meze) which is usually squid rings or baby squid deep fried with batter; not my favourite course that's for sure!
For our meze we just stuck with chicken souvlaki marinated for a couple of hours with yogurt, freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest then grilled for 25 minutes and pork souvlaki marinated in a sticky sweet charsue sauce and grilled for 20 minutes (turning both regularly through cooking).
And after all of that...
To finish off a meze, you will usually be served with a selection of fresh fruit, daktyla (which are little pastry finger bites stuffed with ground almonds, rose water and cinnamon and topped with a sugar syrup) and finally a cypriot coffee or calypso coffee (tia maria, coffee, whipped cream and sugar)!
If you are able to finish a whole meze by yourself, I salute you.
Have you ever tried a Greek / Cypriot meze? What is your favourite Greek food? Do you think you would like to try any of the foods mentioned above? People from Cyprus, any recommendations of the best place to get a meze? Mine are Sylvannas, the Pastos Farm, the Old Market Square and Elianas. Or do any of my Greek or Cypriot readers have any improvements or adjustments to make to my description of a meze?! I would love to hear your comments! :)