By Nan Mackenzie
Having a quiet adviser at our elbows when we venture into the kitchen to prepare a new dish is always reassuring. And with most of us either unable or unwilling to cook off-piste we tend to treat cookery books with reverence, as an instruction manual, leaving our latest tome lying around for friends to admire. Androula’s Kitchen has to be a publication lovers of Cyprus will turn to to remind themselves of the beauty, charm and culinary creative diversity they experienced while here.
For those resident on the island it’s a book that should take pride of place on every coffee table as a reminder to journey on roads less travelled around the island and be injected again with a love of their home and appreciation of its culinary and cultural heritage. Although pitched as a cookery book, it is a great deal more than a batch of recipes with tempting photographs – it’s much more than that.
Aspiring home cooks own 171 million cookery books even though 61 million of them will never be opened. Even if 110 million are still collecting splatterings of tomato paste, splodges of fat, and multiple gravy stains in the line of duty, home cooks only ever try 35 recipes from their cookery book collection. The hope is then that this title’s classic, easy to make, Cypriot recipes will soon become part of every home cook’s weekly repertoire.
feature3-kitchen I readily admit to an obsession for both food and cookery books, and by putting the two together I can be transported to far flung places offering exotic spices and unusual food combinations; a real sense of place.
Cyprus on a plate via Androula’s Kitchen is a classic example of excellence in this regard – pick up the book and you are instantly transported to this beautiful island where herbs, spices and foodstuffs have been used in traditional recipes for hundreds of years, with some of the island’s most popular dishes so simply described you can throw off any lingering culinary timidity to be guided with ease into making the best batch of stuffed vine leaves ever, or to relish the soothing comfort offered by a bowl of Avoglemono (egg and lemon soup).
Author Sonia Demetriou certainly knows her stuff, and the way the book is presented in such a way that it’s never boring; Cyprus is brought to an English-speaking audience on a plate, with not only recipes that one might actually get round to cooking, but highly evocative photographs, making it a perfect gift for any foodie or those who enjoy learning more about the down to earth, human cultural heritage of Cyprus.
Sonia herself has a passion for her father’s country, and more specifically her cousin Androula whose daily cooking and way of life in the village of Yerolakkos inspired her to write this meze of Cypriot culture.
She paid herself to have the book published, which is no mean feat. But why is she so dedicated to the island?
“My father is Cypriot married to an Englishwoman and my brother and I were brought up in the east end of London, my dad was then the only Greek Cypriot living in the area, no shops were around like there are now selling imported Cypriot goods and the like, so we as a family would regularly receive parcels from relatives, inside would be large tins of halloumi, hard folded parcels of cheese floating in mint flavoured brine, also big bags of shelled almonds, and long candle lengths of soushouko, so we as children were introduced at an early age to my father’s culinary culture.
“I had always wanted to connect with his birthplace and the book came about through a combined love for arts and crafts and of course food, all of which are truly creative acts. I have tried to capture all these elements and at the same time deliver a feast for both the eyes and the stomach so the book had to be a true visual delight in every regard, and yes it’s also a loving dedication to my father, it’s my way of trying to memorialise the traditions and way of doing things that I feel are rapidly disappearing in the wake of modern technology”.
There are references in the first half of the book to the art of basket making, weaving, lace making and pottery, with lively photographs capturing the villagers and their traditions. There is only one warning in the book and this relates to the village of Treis Elies, never ever ask here for a remedy for a hangover, you will be proffered a drink which does indeed cure almost instantly the effects of drunkenness, the only wrinkle being it’s a form of tea made from dried donkey excrement (sadly this recipe has been omitted from the book)
Androula’s Kitchen Cyprus on a Plate
rrp £17.99. Buy it direct from Sonia Demetriou for £13 plus post and packing via http://cyprusonaplate.blogspot.co.uk. Available in Cyprus at Mouflon Nicosia; The Leventis Museum, Nicosia; Inga’s Vegetarian Heaven, Nicosia; Hearn’s bookshop, Coral Bay, Paphos; Lemba Pottery, Lemba; Tina’s Art Café, Polis; Pano Akourdalia Herb Garden.