By Nan Mackenzie
A proper barbecue has almost nothing in common with the shameful things the British do to sausages when the sun shows itself. How one cringes when the worrying cry ‘I think the chicken thighs might be ready now’ goes out after one’s host has popped his fowl parts over a pile of chemical briquettes and proudly called it cooking. The fact is barbecue has been credited as the world’s oldest cooking method and at its very basic it is always the production of lots of smoke which allows one to call this genuine cooking method ‘barbecue’.
Here in Cyprus the cooking of souvla is a male dominated activity with every family crediting at least one or more members with the kudos of being the best grill master, but the vast majority of souvla I have consumed over the past 20 years has utterly failed to thrill.
Cut to last Sunday and an invitation to lunch at Elea Estate where the ‘Barbie Master,’ Chef John Kouphou converted me into appreciating the art of properly cooked souvla. This ‘man on meat’ action takes a good deal of time and a high level of seriousness; there are no short cuts and throughout the process Chef acts very much as if he is conducting a symphony of meat, ensuring the charcoal is evenly distributed, and the meat is the correct distance from the heat. This means a piece of chicken in his hands has a crisp skin and flesh that holds a subtle flavour bank coming with a texture that laughs in the face of dry.
The aroma is the first thing you notice when you walk into the outside dining area of the Elea Club house, it’s not that harsh bitter charcoal burn, it’s something so much lighter and smoother, a ripe smoking that is both gentle and deeply enticing. Chef was cooking only neck end pork and dismissed the need to marinate it as this causes the meat to go dark. In fact, he uses no herbs or seasoning during the first critical cooking period with the speed of the rotisserie doing the job of preventing any drying of the meat (if one does a slow rotation then the juices drain out onto the charcoal).
Then it’s Chef’s secret seasoning, which he administers almost at the end of the cooking stage with a generous sprinkling of natural crystallised sea salt harvested from salt deposits in Larnaca, along with home grown and freeze dried oregano delivering all the complementary flavours required.
It is served with cut lemons, special Elea salad, roast potatoes and home made dips with pitta bread all for the special price of €12, which in my book has to be the bargain of the month such is the quality on offer and guests can relish this delicious combo until the end of March.
For those who don’t wish to travel the souvla route on a Sunday there is the traditional and mighty portioned roast beef lunch with Yorkshires the size of a baby’s head for €15 with veggies and lashings of delicious roast gravy. The Sunday menu at Elea is eminently sensible in that it’s split into starter, soup, main, pudding and the Sunday souvla option with each priced separately so you can either have a full on lunch with Chef’s moorish chicken liver Parfait, sweet potato soup with tarragon, or choose to forgo those delights (including the lip smackingly good chocolate cheese cake) and just leap straight into enjoying a main dish.
We all know that this is the only type of cooking ‘real men’ will do probably because there is an element of danger involved so ladies if you wish your male partners to improve their skills with fire and coals then pop on down to Elea where a master class is in full swing every Sunday.
WHERE Elea Estate, Yeriskipou, Paphos
PRICE Souvla Sunday lunch, one course €12 until end of March, traditional Sunday lunch €15
CONTACT 26 202001