Ivy and Aphrodite were both born in the city of Limassol. Cyprus owes its nickname “Island of Aphrodite” or “Island of love” to Greek mythology. According to the legend, the goddess of love and fertility was born on its shores. She would have sprung from the foam of the waves of the sea, in the Bay of Petra tou Romiou situated between Limassol and Paphos.
The Republic of Cyprus is an island to the east of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Levantine basin.
The occupation of Cyprus is very old, at the crossroads of civilizations since ancient times. Due to its location, its history has been very hectic and the island was conquered by a number of nations for the past 3000 years. It has been under Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Frankish, Venetian, Ottoman and then British occupation. It is from the latter colonizer, the United Kingdom, that the country gained its independence on October 1st 1960, following a 5-year armed struggle. Every year, this National Day gives rise to military parades, processions and celebrations of all kinds.
In 1974, an intervention by the Turkish army led to a split of the island in two territories. Since then, the government exercises its authority only over two-thirds of the country to the south. Since 1974, the northern part of the island is under Turkish military occupation and in 1983, the territory was proclaimed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus without any recognition by the international community, except, of course, by Turkey.
Ivy told us during the interview she gave us that it is very difficult to choose a recipe between all the Cypriot recipes as the cuisine of the island is so rich and varied. Assisted by Mike, I decided to go with the famous flaounes pastry.
Flaounes are stuffed with halloumi, the emblematic Cypriot cheese, but also raisins, dried mint and they are garnished with sesame seeds; a combination that may seem unusual but that works wonderfully!
Flaounes were created in Cyprus a long time ago and have been served as a delicacy for breaking the fast of Lent. They are popular around Easter, and are traditionally prepared on Good Friday to be eaten on Easter Sunday by Orthodox Christians. They are eaten in place of bread on Easter Sunday, and continue to be prepared and eaten the following weeks.
It is very rare that I discover three ingredients in a single recipe.
I had obviously heard of halloumi, mahlepi (or mahlab) and mastic, but I had never used them before.
Mahlepi (or mahlab) is a spice derived from the black cherry pit which gives food a taste ranging from cherry, almond and orange blossom. It is most often used in sweet dishes but it would be a shame not to use it also in savory preparations, as in this flaounes recipe!
Mastic is actually the very fragrant sap of a pistachio tree.
And finally halloumi! Famous halloumi! It is a goat and sheep milk cheese native to Cyprus. Cheeses related to halloumi are manufactured in the Near East, such as hâlûm in Egypt or variations in Lebanon, Turkey or Greece. Mike, who also used halloumi in its makaronia tou fournou, told us everything about this cheese.
The preparation of this flaounes recipe was reminiscent of that of Georgian khachapuri that I made during Mike’s visit to Paris 2 years ago.
I will let you stroll on the island of love and why not even visit it! Legend has it that if you bathe at midnight on a full moon night, you will live an everlasting love! Have a good trip!
Happy Independence Day to all our Cypriot friends!
- 6 cups flour
- 3½ teaspoons instant dry yeast
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon ground mastic
- ½ tablespoon ground mahlepi
- 1¼ cup milk (warm)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 oz gruyere (or Swiss cheese), grated
- 6 oz. feta , grated
- 10 oz. halloumi , grated
- 3½ teaspoons instant dry yeast
- 1 cup hot milk
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 eggs
- ½ cup fine semolina
- ½ cup raisins , soaked in water to rehydrate
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 1 egg
- Sesame seeds
Dissolve the yeast in warm milk.
Mix the cheeses, semolina and baking soda.
Add the eggs one by one and beat well.
Add the mint and raisins.
Cover and let stand for 6 hours (or overnight).
Pour some milk in a bowl and mix with yeast. Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature.
Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer and make a well in the center.
Add sugar, mahlepi, mastic, olive oil, salt, remaining milk and dissolved yeast.
Knead until reaching a homogeneous and slightly compact dough ball.
Lightly oil the surface of the dough and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand 1 hour away from drafts.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Degas the dough and divide into 15 equal balls.
Roll each dough ball with a rolling pin to obtain 6-inch circles.
Brush each circle with beaten egg on one side.
Spread the sesame seeds in a shallow dish, dip the circles of dough in sesame seeds (brushed side down) and press lightly.
Place 2 teaspoons of filling in the the center of the dough.
Fold the edges toward the center without locking the stuffing completely (in a square or triangle shape).
Pinch the edges.
Arrange flaounes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving enough space between them.
Brush with leftover beaten egg and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Enjoy warm or cold.