The “Mediterranean Diet” is definitely established as the go-to recipe for anyone seeking the ingredients for an authentic healthy-eating lifestyle. It’s perhaps a view shared by many of the 3.6 million visitors from around the world who visit Cyprus every year! Moreover, not only can guests at Londa Hotel’s own Caprice Restaurant sample the wholesome menu flavours of an Italian ‘Insalata avocado con rucola…’ or a ‘Gnocchi ripierni di pomodoro…’, their culinary delights may also be enjoyed while taking in views of the Mediterranean in all her equally rich variety of hues.
Incredibly, it was only in 2017 that the world’s first review of the Mediterranean diet concluded it was definitely linked to maintaining quality of life – throughout all of life! A detailed look into the “impact of dietary factors” involving more than 800 studies found that those people who daily eat a Mediterranean-type diet are less prone to chronic disease, stroke or heart attack, and more likely to remain mentally alert.
The sudden rise of the vegan diet into the mainstream has led to predictions of “plant-based” foods as the eating trend of 2018. Many cultural explorers of authentic experience will seek to discover more about being “mindful and making a positive change” through its increasingly high-profile lifestyle.
So what exactly is the Mediterranean diet? Traditionally eaten in Cyprus, Greece, Crete, southern France, and parts of Italy, the food prepared is sourced from fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, olive oil, grilled or steamed chicken and seafood.
Cyprus dishes are uniquely of the island and the eastern Mediterranean
Cypriot cuisine is closely related to Greek cuisine. However, by being linked to the three continents of Europe, Africa and Asia, the colourful combination of typical Cyprus dishes are both uniquely of the island and from other countries in the eastern Mediterranean and beyond. Over the centuries, influences have ranged from Byzantine Rome, France, Catalan Spain and Ottoman Turkey to countries like Lebanon and Syria. While Cypriot dishes contain less spice or garlic, instead, they are infused with lemon and olive oil, well-seasoned with a variety of herbs.
Salad vegetables are eaten at every meal, and are often prepared and dressed with lemon and olive oil. Cypriots frequently use fresh vegetables including zucchini, green peppers, okra, green beans, artichokes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and grape leaves. Many dishes will also contain pulses such as beans, peas, black-eyed beans, chick-peas and lentils. Apart from the most well-known spices and herbs, the main dishes will traditionally include cumin and coriander seeds. Mint is also a very important herb in Cyprus, which tends to be added to most dishes, particularly those containing ground meat.
Favourite among both vegetarians and non-vegetarians
There is an endless variety of Cypriot dishes that use the ingredients of a Mediterranean diet. One of the most well-known is probably Halloumi, which has become a favourite among both vegetarians and non-vegetarians all around the world. Easily fried or grilled, the cheese is produced by mixing goat and sheep’s milk before being set with rennet, but without the acid-producing bacteria in any part of the process.
Another well-known dish is Koupepia in which minced meat, rice, onions, tomatoes and a mixture of herbs are carefully wrapped in fresh vine leaves. The stuffing of vegetables is a Cypriot village tradition, which extends to peppers, tomatoes, onions and courgettes. A staple in every Cypriot kitchen is Louvi – a simple and healthy dish mainly consisting of black eyed beans, served with vegetables, oil, salt and lemon. Tuna, cucumber and tomato are often served as side dishes.
Bamies or Okra in tomato sauce has long been popular in Cypriot and Greek cooking despite Okra being most often associated with Indian cuisine. In Cyprus the okra is oven cooked until soft, and combined with a tomato and onion based sauce, before being transferred to a pan containing meat – usually lamb – to absorb the aromatic flavours. Fakes is the name of Cypriot lentils with rice and caramelised fried onions, often with a side dishes of olives, local Cypriot fried potatoes and smoked sausages.
Hands-on with local grown organic produce
Those visitors who are regulars at local farmers markets back home can also get hands-on with local grown organic produce in Limassol! Only 6.2 kms (3.8 ml) north of Londa Hotel is Hadjipieris Organic Farmer’s Market where every Saturday between 9am – 1pm you can get your pick of fresh, 100 per cent organically grown cherry tomatoes, kale, cucumbers, courgettes and watermelons.
Vegan restaurants are springing up around Cyprus too. But will a pure plant-based menu influence the Cypriot love of meat dishes? Or will the power of the Mediterranean diet outlive its culinary rival? Just like the many peoples and cultures who have long prepared their dishes from plants, fruits and herbs in the lands around its historic shoreline.