Thursday, February 7, 2013

Recipes from Dhekelia

Do you remember Akrotiri? Well, that's where we are again. Except it's Dhekelia.

Dhekelia is exactly the same sort of place as Akrotiri; it's a British-administered sovereign base area on the island of Cyprus, with the primary difference of course being that Akrotiri is on the southernmost point of the island, while Dhekelia is in the south east.

I'm sure it will not surprise you to hear that the roots of this arrangement lie in British colonialism—after the Cypriots gained independence from the British Empire in 1960 they agreed to let the UK have a couple of bases on the island, I suppose as a consolation prize. This was important to the Brits because Cyprus is strategically located at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, and they wanted a place where they could stage military aircraft in the event of an international incident in that region.

Both of these "sovereign base areas" are squarely in the category of "not really a country and I have no idea why they are on my list." Now Akrotiri and Dhekelia have their own separate legal system, which is distinct from that of both Cyprus and the United Kingdom, so I suppose that is enough to set them apart as their own psuedo-nation. But whatever their reason for being there, there they are, and since I managed Akrotiri without too much difficulty I figured I might as well tackle Dhekelia, too.

It actually wasn't terribly difficult. A quick Google search of "Dhekelia Food" turned up several references to a restaurant called Lambros Fish and Chips, which is widely hailed as one of the best eateries in the area. Lambros serves (you guessed it) traditional fish and chips as well as other traditional British meals like steak and kidney pie, which is unsurprising when you consider that most of the restaurant's patrons are British nationals.

This was the only creative commons photo I could find of Dhekelia.

Now I wish I'd found this reference before I actually made this meal, because I would have done a couple of things differently. Instead I relied on a few other scattered restaurant reviews, mostly from  From these reviews I gleaned that the restaurant serves a starter of pita or village bread with tahini, and from there was able to locate Cypriot versions of all three recipes (between the two breads I settled on the pita). Then I tracked down a recipe for traditional British fish and chips and was ready to go.

Now after I served this meal I noted the following differences between what I made and what Lambros Fish and Chips actually serves:

    1. Their chips are thick-cut; mine were thin (mostly because my French fry cutter doesn't have a thicker insert).
    2. They do serve the traditional mushy peas with their fish and chips, though it sounds like you have to order them separately. I didn't make the mushy peas because yuck.
    3. They serve their fish and chips with Sarsons vinegar, which I didn't have (or know about), though you'd think Martin would have said something.

So if you want the more authentic Lambros experience, you may want to make these changes or additions to your menu. Otherwise, here's what I did:

Cypriot Pita Bread
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
And the tahini:
  • 5 tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water (I left this out because it seemed like it would be way too runny)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cilantro (for garnishing)
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Traditional Fish and Chips
(modified heavily from a recipe I found at Great British Chefs)

For the fish:
  • 18 oz cod (the1 original recipe called for haddock, but cod is what they serve at Lambros)
  • 1 1/8 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup lager beer
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp mild curry powder
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp old bay seasoning
For the tartar sauce:
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp English mustard (I used Coleman's)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 tbsp capers, minced
  • 1 tbsp chives, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh tarragon, minced
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • Zest of 1 lemon
For the chips:
  • 6 red-skinned potatoes
  • 4 1/2 cups oil for frying
  • pinch salt

That's a ton of ingredients, I know (you should have seen the original recipe, which included mushy peas and also had you make your own mayonnaise). Anyway, to get started let's do the bread:

First mix all the dry ingredients together. Slowly add the water until you get a smooth dough (it should not be sticky).

Or, put everything in your bread machine.

Now cover the bowl with a clean towel and let rise in a warm spot. When the dough has doubled in volume, punch down and then divide into 10 pieces.  Shape the pieces into balls and cover for another 10 minutes or so. Then flatten each piece with your hand.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees on an greased baking sheet until golden. (The recipe says that this will take 15 to 20 minutes, but in my oven it was more like 35 or 40. My oven is weird.)

Meanwhile, make the tahini:

You may need to warm up the tahini in order to get a uniform paste, which is what you want. Add the tahini to a food processor with the garlic, lemon juice and salt. Pulse until you get a thick cream, gradually adding the water and olive oil (like I said, I left out the water and I thought the texture was perfect).

Garnish with the cilantro.

And finally, the fish and chips:

To make the tartar sauce, mix the mayonnaise with the lemon juice and English mustard, then add the salt and pepper. Gently stir in the garlic, shallots, capers, chives and tarragon. Grate the hardboiled egg over the mixture and fold in gently. Finish with the lemon zest.

Peel the potatoes (I just left my peels on) and cut them into thick, evenly sized wedges (since I used a French fry cutter, mine were a little more McDonald's sized). Wash under cold water and drain.

Heat the oil until bubbles rise around the non-stirring end of a wooden spoon. Fry the chips until golden on all sides (7 to 8 minutes if you are a Great British Chef, 12 to 15 minutes if you are me).

 Drain the chips on paper towels and keep in a warm oven while you cook the fish.

Meanwhile you can make the batter (but keep a close eye on those chips): mix the flour with the beer, salt, pepper and curry powder. Whisk until smooth. The batter should be pretty thin, so add a little more beer or a little less flour as necessary.

Cut the fish up into strips. Mix the 3/4 cup flour with the Old Bay Seasoning and then coat each piece of fish lightly in the flour, then dip in the batter. Let most of the batter run off (you don't want too much).
Using tongs or some other tool that will keep your hand away from that hot oil, hold half of each fish piece in the oil for about 30 seconds. This should stop the fish from sinking and sticking to the bottom of the fryer. Then gently drop the fish in the oil and keep cooking for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the batter is golden all over. Drain on paper towels and place in a warm oven until all the fish is done cooking.

I tried to take some photos of the batter, but they were awful.

Serve with the tartar sauce and lemon wedges.

OK so I'll start out by saying that Martin is dieting. I am too, but Martin is actually starving himself half to death. So we went easy on the portion sizes, which was a real shame because this whole meal was delicious. The tahini paired beautifully with the pita bread, though Martin and I were its only fans since my kids seem to hate anything that is delicious. The kids did gobble up the pita bread with loads of butter, though, which is how they eat any kind of bread.

The chips were obviously the favorite. My kids had them with ketchup, which is borderline sacrilegious, but there you go. They also ate the fish with ketchup, but at least they ate it.

The fish really came out well. Shockingly well, when you consider how most of my deep fried stuff usually turns out. The batter was really crispy and delicious and I loved the tartar sauce, which was really different than the stuff I usually make out of mayo and pickle relish.

Hailey ate one fish stick and exclaimed excitedly that she loved it, then asked for another and failed to eat the second piece. What that means, I don't know. Maybe she was trying to protect my feelings, though that was unnecessary because I am very confident that the fish was delicious and she's just a crazy eater.

So overall this was a huge success, so I'm glad I tackled Dhekelia instead of just excusing myself based on it not really being a country and being exactly the same as Akrotiri. I do find that most of my non-countries end up being pretty tasty meals, maybe because I have to get so creative when I come up with the recipes.

So anyway, back to the real world next week: Djibouti.

For printable versions of this week's recipes:


  1. Hi Becki,

    I have a quick question about your blog. Please email me when you get a chance...thank you!

  2. Hi again Becki,
    I tried to send you a comment a few days ago, but it seems to have got lost in the ether. Wanted to say I was glad you enjoyed your British-ish meal (haven't read your England post yet). Re. the pudding, I was watching UK TV recently, and learned that the word 'pudding' shares its roots with the French 'boudin', and thus was originally savoury. You might want to forget I told you that the original version was wrapped in a sheep's stomach and cooked for a good long time. Apparently a raw sheep's stomach doesn't smell too good, and carries on that way for the first couple of hours or so of cooking. The female TV presenter took one sniff and said "OMG, my brother's sleeping bag!".
    Hope you don't mind my mentioning it, but I do also want to say that there are other fish we should be choosing instead of the seriously-under-threat-of-extinction cod - if you need more info you could Google Hugh's fish fight, these TV programmes were a real eye-opener.
    Going to go and read about your English meal now ... all the best, Lyn

  3. Hi Lyn! Thanks for posting. OK yeah, I'm going to forget that thing about the sheep's stomach (ew). Haha.

    No, I don't mind you mentioning the status of Atlantic Cod at all--in this case in fact I can actually defend myself--I live in California and the cod we get over here is Pacific Cod, which isn't on the endangered species list. Of course I have used other questionable fish for my blog such as red snapper. The reason is because I try whenever I can to be true to a recipe so that it will be as close to authentic as possible. I don't do this in my day-to-day cooking, though, and will stick with things that I know are on the sustainable list.


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