Thursday, September 15, 2011

Recipes from Akrotiri

Recipes from Akrotiri
By far the most challenging part of my little culinary adventure to Akrotiri was not the actual cooking of the food. Nope. It was trying to decide which recipes are good representations of food in Akrotiri. And that was because I had a really difficult time even figuring out what the hell the author of my list was thinking when he decided to include Akrotiri as a "sovereign nation."

There are actually two places on planet Earth called Akrotiri. The first is the excavation site of a Bronze Age settlement on the Greek island of Santorini. I pretty quickly ruled this out as something that might end up on a list of sovereign nations, especially since I didn't fancy having to look at grainy online pictures of ancient Santorini frescoes in order to glean the ingredients for my next couple of recipes (if they even had frescoes in Bronze-age Santorini, how would I know).

The second place is basically an RAF base on the island of Cyprus. Huh? How is that a sovereign nation? But hey, who am I to question political geography.

Akrotiri is the one on the left.

But this did leave me with a problem. First, there is no one--absolutely no one--publishing recipes from Akrotiri online. So I am left guessing, is food in Akrotiri basically just the same as food elsewhere on Cyprus? Or is it heavily influenced by British cuisine, given that the majority of people living there are British military personnel?

The answer is a resounding, I have no idea, I couldn't figure it out.

First I thought I'd check into local restaurants, that should tell me something about what people like to eat in Akrotiri, shouldn't it? Well, as it turns out there seem to be about as many Cypriot restaurants in Akrotiri as there are Indian restaurants. Or Chinese restaurants. Or Italian. Or fast food. So no help there really. I don't feel like I could really do the subject justice just picking something from some other country, even if it is popular in Akrotiri.

OK, so I decided to try emailing some people who live and work in Akrotiri. Well, they're all quite busy apparently because none of them emailed me back. Or maybe it's just that they don't know either.

So then I tried posting in some Greek food forums. No love there, either. Apparently even aficionados of Greek and Cypriot food have no clue what they eat in Akrotiri. Besides Indian food, or Chinese, or Italian.

So I'm back to square one. British or Cypriot.

So I decided to make a choice that was completely and utterly not based on logic of any kind. I'll bet you're so surprised.

When my British husband was young a favorite pastime in England was to spend an evening at the pub and then go out afterwards to get something quick to eat. In England (at least in those days) some of the only food you could get after-hours were these kind of nasty-sounding "doner kebabs" (which apparently morph into something quite tasty after a couple of pints). So I'm going to go out on a limb and pick a Cypriot version of this: pork souvlaki. Here's hoping that hard-working pub goers in Akrotiri also like to buy kebabs after hours.

Now please, if you are living on RAF Akrotiri and you stumble upon this blog and you think to yourself, "No, no, no, that's not right at all!" please email me and let me know. If you send me a few recipes I promise a complete do-over for Akrotiri. In the meantime I'm just going to stick with this totally uneducated idea.

Here's the recipe for pork souvlaki:
(from Greek Food at
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 lb pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch cubes

Cypriot fast food: Pork souvlaki wrapped in pita bread.

The souvlaki is topped with tzatziki, which is a blend of Greek yogurt, cucumber and a couple of other flavors (from

  • 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and shredded
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 tsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

For my second recipe, I'm going to go with pan-fried Halloumi. Since the British almost universally have an appreciation for cheese, I figure this Cypriot recipe is a reasonably safe bet.

(from Greek Food at
  • One 8-ounce package of Halloumi cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil

For my third recipe, I'm sticking with a simple Cyprus "Village Salad," which is probably not all that different from a basic Greek Salad (from Greek Food at

  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 medium cucumbers
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar

So compared to past travels, the souvlaki has a very simple start: a basic marinade made from olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. The original recipe told me to marinade for two to three hours, but since I didn't actually look at the recipe until an hour and a half before dinnertime I figured an hour was good enough.

A simple olive oil and lemon based marinade.

Cube the pork, then toss with the marinade and refrigerate for one hour.

After the hour is up, thread the meat onto skewers. I just used metal ones, though you can also use soaked wooden ones.

The skewered pork cubes.

I imagine the truly authentic version of this recipe is cooked on a grill, but in my family Martin is the grill-chef so I just use my broiler. If you choose the same path, make sure to keep checking, moving and turning because there is a very fine line between nicely blackened and burned beyond recognition.

Just the right amount of blackening, cooked under the broiler.

The final touches for this recipe are some fixins, like shredded lettuce, thinly sliced onion, cucumber and parsley. But the icing on this cake is definitely the tzatziki. It's easy to make, just whip everything together in a small bowl.

Tzatziki: a cucumber and yogurt based sauce.

When you're ready to serve, just put the pork into a folded piece of hot pita bread, add the veggies and top with the tzatziki.

Now on to the salad. I was so sure there was lettuce in this recipe that I didn't even bother to check before I opened a bag and dumped it in the bowl. Then I ended up having to pick out all the other stuff out and start over.

This is basically a layered salad, so if you serve it in a deep glass bowl it will look really pretty on your table. Start by cutting the tomatoes into wedges, then slice the cucumber (I halved the slices) and add those. Top with thinly sliced red onion, feta, olives and parsley.

The Village Salad is a very pretty presentation.
(There are tomatoes under there somewhere)

Whisk the remaining ingredients together and pour on the salad.

The final part of this may-or-may-not be Akrotirian meal is the fried Halloumi, which I admit was the bit I was most looking forward to. Now I know a mere three or four posts ago I was saying I wouldn't go out of my way to find any exotic ingredients, but as a self-professed cheese snob I kind of had to give this recipe my best shot.

Now, since I live in an area that doesn't get much more gourmet than Safeway, I wasn't really sure how I would go about finding cheese that is only made on a small island near Greece. I tried one of the few online stores that will ship cheeses, but the shipping costs were unsurprisingly exorbitant ($9 for the cheese, $12 to ship and $5 for the special box they ship it in). I briefly considered driving an hour and a half to the nearest gourmet cheese shop, but then calculated that my gas costs would be more than the cost of the $12 shipping and the $5 box. Then I remembered that this particular gourmet cheese shop sometimes makes an appearance at our local farmer's market, so I called them. Much to my surprise--since things almost never work out the way I want them to--the owner promised that she would not only be at the market that weekend, but that she would bring some Halloumi with her. Yay! (By the way, if you are ever in the Placerville, CA area check out Dedrick's cheese shop. Some of their cheeses are out of this world).

Halloumi cheese, a traditional Cypriot cheese made with
goat and sheep's milk.

So armed with my $12 block of Cypriot cheese, I embarked on the final recipe. To make fried Halloumi, just slice the cheese about 3/8th inch thick, brush with olive oil on both sides and sear in a hot pan. Getting it right is a little tricky (I scorched a couple of mine). It should only take one or two minutes per side if your pan is hot enough, more than that and it will burn.

I scorched mine a little. Oops.

So here is the complete meal. I won't bore you by telling you how my children liked it (just refer to my last two posts, oh and add the fact that Henry just ripped up the pita bread and threw everything on the floor) but it got thumbs up from my husband ... Except for the cheese that I worked so hard to procure. I admit, I found it less than wowing myself. It was kind of, um, squeaky. Also a little too goaty for my tastes (Haloumi is made from a blend of sheep and goat's milk).

Together at last: souvlaki, Halloumi and salad.

So whether or not this was really a good example of food in Akrotiri I still don't know, but it was tasty (mostly) and pleasantly different from the stuff I usually make. So another huge challenge, but another thumbs-up as well. Now must deal with screaming child. Next week, Albania.


  1. Thank you so much for this blog. This was by far the best site I found for Akrotirian food. The whole thing was delicious and the only change I made was to add Santorinian tomato keftedes and use those and the fried haloumi as an appetizer. Keep up the good work! I have your blog bookmarked.

  2. Thanks! Now you did read the part where this was all sort of an educated guess, right? This meal is really Cypriot in origin, but since Akrotiri is a part of Cyprus I basically just made a guess that you could find Cypriot food somewhere in the area. I do hope I'm right but as of yet I haven't had any confirmation. :) I'm really glad to hear you liked it, though--we really liked it, too.


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