These are the wonderful small dishes which are eaten before the main meal or can be a light meal in themselves and are tantalising morsels to entice the appetite. Meze is always to be shared with friends and is intended to accompany drink, scenery or conversation. You can explore bite-size different flavours, textures and aromas between sips of wine or ouzo. What is in the actual Meze will depend on where you are. Meze has a special place in Northern Cyprus cuisine and your mouth will begin to water as you see the huge range available such as fried zucchini, fried aubergine, the freshness of cucumber and garlic in yoghurt, sweet stuffed peppers, crisp pilaki (green bean salad dressed in oil, plump juicy stuffed tomatoes, halloumi, green and black olives, cold meats, mixed salad, caper salad… the list goes on and on and these are just the cold meze. Hot meze plates may also be brought out to you including such delights as grilled or fried halloumi, one of my personal favourites, squid, filo parcels, seftali kebab, kofte (lamb kebabs) , but more of kebabs next!
Kebab is the favourite main in Northern Cyprus and come in many different varieties. Lamb shish kebabs remain popular in homes and restaurants where small cubes of lamb are roasted over charcoal on a skewer along with peppers, onions and tomatoes served up with delicious freshly baked pitta bread. Kebabs can also be made with chicken or liver instead of lamb. Other specialities include seftali kebab a form of meatball or sausage unique to Cyprus, Kofte which is a minced lamb kebab. Your mouth will water as you smell the wonderful aromas and as you bite into the soft meat. Delicious!
Hellim is a traditional speciality food of Cyprus and is well known around the world. It is one of Cyprus’ signature dishes and is a building block of its cuisine. In the days before refrigeration hellim was a way of using surplus milk and is made from sheep or goat milk or a mixture of the two. The traditional cheese making methods have been replaced with the most up-to-date techniques in hygienic conditions. hellim can be eaten hot or cold and is an integral part of many meze dishes; stuffed zucchini flowers, fried with eggs, eaten with mouth-wateringly sweet cantaloupe melon or water melon, in omelettes and on oven baked bread.
Local Traditional Sweets
The desserts known as ‘Macun’ (a type of fruit compote) are as highly prized today as they were in days past. Why not try one of these flavours of macun: bitter orange, green walnut, date, fig or quince. Kadayif is another popular dessert, made from shredded dough, butter, milk and nuts. It tastes similar to a sweet shredded wheat, with a sugary syrup poured over the top. The word Kadayif is generally used to describe the dessert ‘Tel Kadayif’ and also the string dough that it is made with. There are various other types of dessert that can be made with the Kadayif dough such as ‘Ekmek Kadayif’ (bread pudding) and ‘Taş Kadayif’ (stone pancakes). ‘Ekmek Kadayif’ is normally served with ‘kaymak’ which is a kind of Turkish clotted cream and is one of the oldest Turkish Cypriot desserts served in Cyprus.
Turkish coffee is an indispensable part of daily life and is at the heart of all social interaction in Cyprus. It came to Cyprus during the time of the Ottoman Empire and remains a central aspect of the country’s culture today. You will be offered Turkish coffee wherever you go in Cyprus; when visiting friends, in restaurants and in homes as it binds people together. It is made in a special small saucepan called a cezve and is served slightly sweet, medium sweet, very sweet or with no sugar at all… the choice is yours.
So while in Northern Cyprus be sure to sample some of these traditional dishes which will help you connect with the culture of this beautiful land.