Archive for the ‘Family’ Category


Kleftiko ovens

September 17, 2010

Traditional cooking is a corner-stone of Cypriot family life.  Every weekend, every holiday, every festival is an opportunity to gather family together and spend time together, preferably whilst eating.

When we lived in Aradippou our neighbours had a traditional kleftiko oven next to their house.  Technically it was built in their driveway but every good Cypriot knows that the street is a perfectly good place to leave a car so why not utilise the driveway for something useful?

We’d been in the house a month or two when we were woken early one morning, perhaps 3 or 4am, by an unusual noise outside.  A quick check out of the upstairs windows showed the source of the noise: the neighbours were lighting their kleftiko oven.  Clearly there was an upcoming celebration that we weren’t aware of.

Kleftiko is a lamb dish, although in Cyprus young goat is sometimes used.  The lamb is cooked very slowly over the course of many hours resulting in meat that is tender enough to cut with a spoon.

According to local legends the dish was made from stolen sheep and to disguise the cooking process from the shepherd the lamb was cooked in a pit in the ground so that no smoke could be seen.  Today the dish is cooked in an external wood-fired clay oven.  A wood fire is lit in the heart of the oven and then allowed to burn very low; meat, and later potatoes, are added in shallow containers. The oven is kept sealed with clay until the cooking process is complete, many hours later.

On that first occasion it was too dark to get photos but the neighbours obliged by lighting the oven again a month or two later.  The second photo shows quite how fierce the wood fire is at the start of the process.

For anyone who is interested in trying kleftiko without the expense of building their own external oven there’s a nice recipe on the Waitrose website here.  With such a relatively short cooking time the dish won’t be as meltingly tender but should still be a nice taster of how superb good kleftiko can be.


Calculating Easter

April 6, 2010

We mentioned in passing that Easter here in Cyprus does not always coincide with Easter in other parts of the world.  A moral obligation to explain why reared its ugly head but a large glass of crisp white wine dealt with that.

You see, it’s all to do with the first Sunday after the full moon after the vernal equinox.  And the Julian and Gregorian calendars and the missing 13 days.  Oh, and the Nicaea Council of 325AD.  And Passover, that’s important too.  You can see the appeal of the white wine in the face of all that surely?

Happily someone at the Cyprus Mail took on the challenge and published a useful explanation.  Read carefully, there may be a test later on.

THIS YEAR, like next year, Easter falls on the same day for both Orthodox and Western Christians.

Next year Easter Sunday falls on April 24. The problem in identifying when precisely Easter occurs perhaps stems from the time of the Apostles of Christ, who did not actually record the date of his resurrection.

This then left room for approximations, historical research and logical deduction: when exactly did the Resurrection occur, and when would it best be celebrated? These speculations and logical discourses, by means of ecumenical councils, became codified into Church lore over the centuries.

Both Orthodox Christians and the rest of the Christian world, including Catholics and Protestants, define the date in the same way as the first Sunday after the full moon following the first Vernal Equinox.

The equinox is an astronomical event, being the two days in the year when the Sun crosses the equator – as viewed from Earth – and with night and day being of equal length. However, the early Church fathers convened the Conference of Nicaea in 325AD, during which they decided to calculate the date by means of reference to pre-formulated tables instead of waiting to see when the days of the year were the same length.

These tables were formulated using the Julian calendar in place at the time, which was originally designed by Julius Caesar, the Roman emperor.

Caesar’s calendar was actually quite accurate: it erred from the real solar calendar by only 11½ minutes a year. After centuries, though, even a small inaccuracy like this adds up. By the 16th century, it had put the Julian calendar behind the solar one – the actual astronomical position of the solar system – by ten days.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered the advancement of the calendar by ten days and introduced a new corrective device to curb further error.

If somewhat inelegant, this system is undeniably effective, and is still in official use for most countries globally. The Gregorian calendar year differs from the solar year by only 26 seconds—accurate enough for most mortals, since this only adds up to one day’s difference every 3,323 years.

Following the schism between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, the former ended up retaining the Julian system, whilst the latter based their calculations on dates from the Gregorian calendar.

The approximate 13-day difference currently experienced between the two calendars is expected to continue to add up as the centuries progress.

On top of the calendrical differences, a number of canonical theological considerations factor into the process. The most pertinent of these, again stemming from Nicaea, is the tradition that Easter must always fall after the Jewish Passover, since the death, burial and resurrection of Christ happened after the celebration of Passover.

This, in turn, factors the Jewish lunar calendar into the considerations determining the date of Easter.

You can see why the thought of explaining that brings on a headache?

Next year, 2011, the Western and Eastern calculations coincide once more.  To balance that out in 2013 they are far apart once more with the Western date falling in March whilst here in Cyprus we won’t celebrate Easter until May.  The same is true again in 2016.


Catching up at last

September 24, 2009

A wedding … one transatlantic crossing by sea … one house purchase … one mad and deluded vendor … 20 weeks of builders onsite … one legal battle with Cypriot bureaucracy … one lawyer’s  suggestion to sue the Government in the European Courts … one sneaky workaround to get round said bureaucracy … two minor operations … one set of demolished external stairs … lots of fruit trees … several hammered thumbs whilst building a kitchen … an awful lot of paint, and filler, and sanding, and non-square walls … some visitors … some temporary electrics … a few rats … some fresher air and cooler evenings

So, we’re back after a break of almost 15 months.  The intention had always been to keep the blog going but circumstances have kept us rather busy of late.  Of course, there’s nothing quite like being accosted, in the toilets of a hotel during a wedding reception, by a total stranger saying …

I know who you are, I used to read your blog!

… to bring on the guilt of letting things slip.

We have now moved, to a property which we first saw and made an offer on in Spring ’08.  It took until December for us to get vacant possession and then until July ’09 before it was fit to inhabit.  Considering the previous (see deluded, above) owner said it needed nothing more than a little light replastering and a coat of paint that may give an indication of some of the challenges that have kept us busy over the last year or so ago.

Technically the blog should be renamed …


… but that seems rather wordy so, for the time being we’ll stick with AradippouTales even though we’ve left Aradippou behind us.

Welcome back :-)


Daybreak over Larnaca bay

July 26, 2008


One of the upsides of getting up at an ungodly hour to pick up visitors from the airport is the chance to watch the sun rise over the island.

Yesterday morning we were out of bed at 3am to meet the early flight of our last visitors of the summer. Having picked up people and bags we headed to the nearest Zorbas, the fantastic local 24 hour bakery, to collect breakfast. With bags of pastries, biscuits and fruit juice in hand we headed up into Avdellero while it was still dark.

The church of Agia Marina, high above the village, has superb views over to the coast and across Larnaca bay. It is near to here that we saw the bee-eaters and saw eagles and long-legged buzzards soar.

As the sun slowly rose and night faded away, the two photographers took a series of photos while the blogger perched on a ledge outside the church, admired the view and captured the moment.



Looking East

Looking East




Sunrise, seen through the church


Sunrise over the bay

Sunrise over the bay





Seating within the outer perimeter of the church

Seating within the outer perimeter of the church


Catching Up

June 28, 2008

I know, I know. We sort of disappeared off the face of the world for a while. Sorry ’bout that and all!

Summer has truly arrived, in fact we’re in the middle of a heatwave according to the government, not unlike last year. This year’s heat is made more challenging by the continuing lack of water. Rationing has now been in place for several months and impacts our lives much more that we anticipated. More of that later perhaps.

In other news we’ve just waved goodbye to our second set of visitors this summer. Both sets had good hot weather, possibly hotter than they might have wanted, and managed to get out and about to see the sites as well as fitting in a fair few beach days. With both we headed to Nicosia and crossed through to the north via the newly opened Ledra Street crossing.

We also managed a couple of weeks off the island sailing across the Atlantic … again. We had such a good time last year that we gave in and booked the same trip once more. As last year the crossing was fantastic, the boat was wonderful and the company was excellent. And, with a crew of 200 or so and only 81 passengers we were spoiled rotten. Long may that continue ;-)

While we were away we managed to pick up a number of bits and pieces that either aren’t available here or are simply too overpriced to justify buying them. Top of the list was a tiny computer for traveling and for use out of the house. Right now, while the temperatures are in the mid 30s and the air isn’t moving it is bliss to be able to update the blog from the comfort of the shaded patio rather than a hot study.

And, in amongst everything else, we’re trying to buy a house. Just a small place, a little way up in the hills where it might be a little cooler. There are a few glitches with the sale (including the small matter of the house being four times the size that the Land Registry think it should be) so no more of that until there’s something definite to report!


The builders are back …

February 23, 2008

In case we hadn’t realised they made enough noise when they arrived at 7am to wake the entire street.

Mainly these are builders who have full-time jobs elsewhere and do work on other houses on the weekend to bring in a little extra money. As a result we see them for a couple of days and then they disappear for a week or a month before coming back to do a little more work. The house opposite has been part-built since we arrived in August 2006. It looks like it might finally be finished this summer.

Today it looks like they are sanding the rough finish of the external walls in preparation for them being painted. On a previous visit they arranged for a JCB to come along and remove the excess reinforced steel bars (known locally as re-bar).

Even here we’re not convinced that this is an accepted technique!



Househunting in the snow

January 30, 2008

Today we’ve been househunting in the snow.  Hmmm, doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to us either.  
A friend sent us details of a house he thought might interest us, and on paper it did.  Perhaps a little on the small side, perhaps a little further out than we intended, but on the positive side it was on a large plot and was keenly priced so perhaps there was the possibility to extend it a little.
So, today we drove out Lefkara way to find the village to get a feel for what it was like and how easy it was to get to and from.  These villages are up in the hills and can be disproportionally tricky to get to.  They also tend to have their own micro-climate, more so the higher up they are.
Anyway, we hoped, but didn’t assume, we’d be able to find the house and see what it’s location was like.  Since it’s only being used on weekends at the moment we thought we might even get a chance to get close without disturbing the owners.
Well, we found the village and then spotted the house.  
Our first surprise was the lack of formal road.  There’s a mud/gravel/concrete-in-parts track which, considering the hillside is around a 1 in 6 slope, could be challenging at times.  
Surprise #2 was the water supply.  The entire supply appears to be laid above ground in flexible piping.  The piping extends through the outside area (it might be a little much to call it a garden!) to water the weeds and fruit trees.  
Surprise #3 came in response to a lighthearted joke.
Hey, it is connected to mains electric, isn’t it?
No prizes for guessing the answer to that one.  It turns out the closest telegraph pole sits in the garden of the next house down the hill.  It looks like the folks selling bring a generator with them when they come to stay. 
And finally, surprise #4 was the weather.  
We expected it to be colder in the hills … this would actually be an advantage in the summer … and we’d even mentioned here that there was a bizarre forecast for snow this week.  We just didn’t expect to end up in the middle of a little snowstorm in sunny Cyprus.  
Very light, very fast moving snow, but snow all the same.  Oh, and we don’t think the house is really built on a game reserve, but who knows?
So, should we buy the house?  Needs a new road, connecting to the electric board, replumbing, solar panels, a small extension, and a small herd of goats to keep the weeds down.  
Oh, and we haven’t even seen inside the house! 

End of Year round-up

December 31, 2007

Well, there are about two hours to go until 2008 so just time for a few end-of-year round-ups.

The Beef

Since so many of you have asked we are happy to report that it was absolutely wonderful. Seasoned with mustard and freshly crushed black pepper, it roasted happily in the oven while the trimmings cooked around it. Before the sun set the joint was stripped and the remaining meat was back in a casserole dish with some caramelised onions and the remains of the red wine gravy. Having bubbled for an hour or two it was portioned and popped into the freezer.

That lovely joint will be keeping us fed for some time to come … at least another three meals in cold January!

The Seville Oranges

About a week before Christmas we were offered some Seville oranges. A friend has a tree and, as so often the way here, once it starts to crop it is a challenge to use all of the fruit before it goes bad. Marmalade-makers wandered off with carrier bags full but we have no such leanings. However, if there were half a dozen oranges to spare we might have a beef recipe that would appreciate them, said we.

A few days later we were presented with a carrier containing 17 goodly sized oranges.

Mands did a little research and then amended menus. Instead of Christmas beef followed by tart au citron perhaps there could be a light orange syllabub instead?

After a couple of false starts it ended up being one of the foodie highlights of the holiday, and a perfect foil to rich Christmas pudding.

For 4
o Juice and zest enough oranges to yield 1/4 pint of juice (about two large oranges)
o Reduce juice to about 1/3 of the original volume. Allow to cool
o Mix reduced juice with icing sugar to thicken and sweeten. About 4 tablespoons gives a good consistency
o Whip one pint of cream
o Fold sweetened juice mixture into the cream
o Spoon into small glasses. Serve with almond thin biscuits

Tonight, as part of our NYE meal, we cooked a variation of Gary Rhodes’ Beef with Seville Oranges. This too was fantastic, but does mean that of the original batch of oranges we only have two left. Hmmmm, wonder if there’s another dozen available?

We made another batch of syllabub today to say thank-you to the providers-of-the-oranges. Pity we didn’t know that they’ve gone to Dubai for a holiday! Another friend, who is staying at home by choice, was happy to take them home to add to her planned meal.

The Weather

Bright, clear, warm in the sun but chilly out of the sun.

These last couple of days have given us some of the coldest temperatures this year. Overnight it is dropping to around 6 or 7 degrees. The irony of getting a lightly sunburnt nose during an afternoon and then huddling under a 13.5 tog quilt at night isn’t lost on us! To some extent the issue is made worse by the very poor insulation of our rental house.

At 5pm today the bedroom temperature was 12 degrees and falling. We have no real heating upstairs, and only a gas burning heater downstairs. It isn’t expensive to run but doesn’t heat much beyond that which is in front of it.

The Euro

At midnight tonight we join the Euro. The Cyprus pound will be no more. Well, apart from those liberated from mattress hiding places and cashed in at the bank for the coming six months. There are reams of stories in other locations about the mechanics and the legalities and the difficulties and the dual currency calculators.

Suffice to say that tomorrow we can pay for our groceries (if anywhere were open) with a trusty 10 Euro note rather than a £10 CYP note but we’d almost certainly be standing next to someone, Cypriot or English, complaining that prices have gone up. Same old, same old!

And Finally

Best wishes for the outgoing and the incoming years. We wish you happiness, prosperity and shorter bank queues. Oh, maybe that last one is only relevant to those on the island ;-)

Ian & Mands


Christmas Beef

December 22, 2007

Warning: Not suitable for vegetarians!

This year we are cooking lunch on Christmas Day. It’s been several years since we cooked turkey for Christmas and didn’t really relish the idea of going back to it. When we were in London we often cooked a rib of beef on the bone, sometimes known as a standing rib, but here it is not a common cut of meat. Actually, many of the cuts that we are used to are not well known here which has led to changes in the types of meals we cook.

That aside we thought we might have a solution. A butcher in one of the villages, Xylotymbou, advertises as selling English (actually, the original butcher was from Scotland, so make that Scottish) cuts. Early last week we hopped in the car and drove there to place our Christmas order. Business must be good because despite it being before his published last order day he was already sold out. Not a single rib of beef to be had, though we could have had a dull sirloin in its place.

Somewhat dejected, we got back in the car and drove back towards Larnaca. The Christmas meal plan revolved around this piece of beef and now it looked like we would not be able to get it. Driving back we talked about where else we might get a joint … certainly not any of the supermarkets but maybe one of the other butchers might understand the cut we wanted?

We stopped at one just outside Larnaca, overlooking the sea.

No problem” he said when we asked if he could do a rib of beef for Christmas. After quick conversation about the number of people and therefore size of joint and the number of ribs we wanted he made a note in his diary and we agreed to come back to collect it on Saturday. As we drove away we weren’t entirely convinced that we and he had been talking about the same cut. We certainly didn’t know how much this might cost – the price wasn’t mentioned at all.

Today we headed back there as part of our last run of errands.

He recognised us as we walked in and quickly disappeared into the chiller at the back where he hangs the meat. He came back, not with a neat joint, but with a half carcass of beef.

Having confirmed that it was a three-rib piece we wanted he asked if we would prefer the joint cut straight or following the rib. Cutting straight would mean a joint which would stand better but would mean slicing through one of the ribs. Following the ribs would mean a sloping joint but three intact ribs. We agreed that following the rib was a better option so he proceeded to cut. A single slice, with a scarily sharp knife, separated our joint from the rest of the carcass. Then a cleaver was used to shorten the length of the ribs “Otherwise they will not fit in your oven” he said. A slice or two more to neaten and the joint was brought over for inspection.

It looks not unlike this.

Having agreed it looked wonderful it was bagged, popped on the scales and we handed over a little under £15CYP (£18GBP, $36USD) for about eight pounds of prime beef. Had we bought a similar joint from our old London supermarket we would have paid two, if not three, times the price.

The beef is now lightly oiled and seasoned and is sitting in the fridge. Only a few more days before we know whether it tastes as good as it looks. If so, it may be on the menu more than once a year ;-)

Merry Christmas to you all. We hope all of your holidays are wonderful, peaceful and joyous.

Ian & Mands


Yet more contrasts

October 26, 2007

One of us has been rather sickly with an unknown illness. After (too much) prevarication the sickly one finally agreed that a medical opinion was needed. You may be getting the impression that neither of us are much good at being ill. You would be right.

Anyhoo, the easy solution was a trip to St Raphael’s, the local private hospital in Larnaca. Two minutes with reception secured an appointment for the following day with one of the founders of the hospital. A specialist, not a general practitioner. Standard appointments are 30 minutes, as opposed to the UK standard of 10 minutes.

The appointment started on time, with pleasantries and then a conversation about why we’d moved to Cyprus followed by a lengthy discussion about relative costs of things such as transport, housing and eating out. Essentials, you understand?

When we finally got around to the purpose of the visit the doctor asked a series of questions and subsequently decided that a diagnostic test was needed to get to the bottom of the problem. The sickly one had had exactly the same test a few years ago courtesy of very expensive company-provided medical insurance in England but it had taken a week to arrange, even via BUPA. Here the doctor had the equipment in his consulting rooms and carried out the test there and then. Within five minutes there was a diagnosis, a treatment plan, a follow-up appointment and an escalation plan for if things didn’t work as expected.

We’d have to dig through the records but we think that last time the cost for the diagnostic test (paid for by the insurance company) was about £180. This time the consultation and the test came to … £30 CYP. An earlier consultation at the hospital (when Mands hurt her leg swimming during rough seas) cost £20 so we assume the test cost a princely £10.

Hmmmm, £10 CYP (£12 GBP) and no waiting time vs £180 and a week’s wait even with medical insurance. Tough call eh? A quick trip across the road to the pharmacy got the prescribed drugs, for about £7 CYP. The downside there is that they come with no English instructions and little concern for contra-indications but hey, what do you expect for that price?