FINANCIAL MIRROR April 11 - 17 , 2012
Editor: Matthew Stowell
Days and Nights of Flaounas By Alexander Lowell My wife and her sister had already spent four hours driving from shop to shop for the right spices, correct-sized plastic tubs and giant rounds of cheese. The perennial stress-inducing, knuckle-biting, Flaouna Crisis was upon us. “I have to go with my sister now to grind the cheese.” “Excuse me?” “How did you think we’re going to get all that cheese into the flaounas?” “I hadn’t really thought about it. But you go to an awful lot of trouble to make those silly things. Why don’t you just buy some from the bakery and be done with it?” “You don’t understand, so don’t ask stupid questions. And I’m telling you right now, all day tomorrow and tomorrow night we’re going to be busy. You’ll have to feed yourself.” No problem. A mostly liquid diet, supplemented with peanuts, digestive biscuits and pâté would suffice. I could catch up on my reading and Internet research. Most importantly, for at least 24 hours I’d be lord of the manor, king of the castle, master of my own destiny! No interruptions, no pesky requests to fix a window shutter, replace the washer in a dripping faucet, clean the car . . . I’ve observed this Flaouna Crisis for several years, and tried not to ridicule what struck me as ‘much ado about nothing’. The intense preparation seems truly a Sisyphean task that requires the battle-planning skills of an Alexander and forces worrying heads to turn grey overnight and tempers to flare into homicidal stratagems. And for what? A mediocre bread-product better used as a doorstop than as daily sustenance. I figured it was another one of those things you had to grow up with to appreciate. Only once, on a day when I was particularly famished, have I been willing to admit that it was a foodstuff that might be deemed tasty. Come 10:30 that night, as I was contemplating another glass of Maratheftiko, I was asked to help carry the gargantuan tubs of dough and cheese down to a relative’s restaurant kitchen. No problem. It was the least I could do. But upon arrival in said kitchen I found a table laid out with a late dinner—every activ-
ity in Cyprus is accompanied by generous amounts of food, even the activity of making new food—so I sat and partook. Which is how four hours later I found myself forming globs of dough into baseballs. Then with a rolling pin I flattened them into discs to be used as flaouna outer shells, and plopped those shells onto a tray of sesame seeds for a quick coating. My wife, at her designated station next to me, picked up those shells, filled the centers with the cheese-egg-spice mixture then sculpted them into oblong, pointy ended pastries. In the adjoining room, the sister arranged these torpedoes on blanket-covered warming trays and, when it was their turn, basted them with egg before loading them into the oven. I like to finish a job once I start it. But every aspect of flaounamaking is pure hell on the back muscles and spine. I soon understood why the women interspersed one particular part of the job with another and took frequent coffee/cigarette breaks. During one of those breaks, the sister temporarily abandoned her ovens and took over my wife’s job. Right next to me. “But Alex, you’re rolling them too thin, agapimou. And they’re much too big around. Look, they should be thicker, and smaller, like this.” I tried making one her way then dropped it onto the mound of sesame. She smirked. When I finished rolling the next one, she pushed my hand from the sesame mound and told me to drop it onto the bare metal table. She then proceeded to trim around the edges with a knife to make a more perfect circle. I increased my efforts to roll out a more rounded edge, but she insisted I continue to leave them in the same spot on the table so she could reshape them. When my wife returned I popped what I thought was now a perfect specimen onto the metal surface. “Why are you putting it on the table? Panayiamou! Are you normal?” “But your sister told me—” “I don’t care. Put it here, on the sesame. And why on earth are you making it so thick and so small?”
I came to understand that such light disagreement and expression of opposing personal styles is an essential element in the shared drama of the experience. Also, it’s not so much the production of the flaounas that drives the women to sacrifice so much time, effort and money. It’s more the intensity of feeling (with a few dashes of nostalgia) that accompanies a cultural ritual that has been passed down through many generations. It’s something learned from mothers, grandmothers and aunts, who sang and told stories (even ribald jokes), laughed or shouted at each other, perhaps even shed a few tears together, as the exhaustion of long hours of labour in a hot kitchen drained body and spirit. It is about spending time with loved ones in a productive way—not just sitting around having coffee, bloating up on snacks and complaining about the government. And after fifty days of fasting, with no meat, eggs or cheese, the joy on Easter morning of breaking open a hot flaouna and savouring the smell and taste of the spice-infused filling can be an epiphany. You should try it sometime.
Cheers! UK toast royal jubilee with English bubbly * Climate change, investment put English wine on par with champagne * Price remains a barrier to mainstream popularity English wine producers are eyeing 2012 as the year homegrown wine, especially sparkling varieties, could become a mainstream product as retailers throw their weight behind it to coincide with Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. Over the past decade improving quality, increasing volumes and solid performances at expert tastings have established English wine as more than a passion for amateurs, though it still accounts for less than 1% of the UK market. Climate change has upped temperatures in southern England to within one degree of Champagne in northern France, meaning some English sparkling wine is now on a par with champagne for soil and climate conditions. Some varieties have even beaten their French rivals in blind tastings. “It has become a proper business with skilled professionals growing vines and making wines,” said wine critic Jancis Robinson, whose website jancisrobinson.com recommends a variety of English wines. “(English wine) needs to increase its market share since the total volume produced is set to increase considerably over the next few years, the result of new plantings.” British supermarket Sainsbury’s launched its first ownlabel English sparkling wine this month and Tesco, which currently stocks one English white wine, said it was considering wines for
the Jubilee and possibly for its website. Upmarket chains Waitrose, which spearheaded the English wine movement among retailers, and Marks & Spencer, said they planned to promote home-grown varieties to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne in June. “Where the supermarkets have come into play is that they’ve been able to give it a much more national distribution,” said Andy Howard, buyer for English wines at Marks & Spencer. Sales of English wine at Marks & Spencer increased by 15% in 2011, ahead of the wider wine market, and Waitrose, with a 38% share of the English wine market, is predicting a 10% growth in sales this year. “The one thing that’s going to become increasingly identifiable is English wines on the high street,” said Julia Trustram Eve, of English Wine Producers, which has changed the date of its annual tasting week this year to coincide with the Jubilee celebrations. An estimated 5 mln bottles of English wine will be produced in 2015, compared to 4 mln in 2010. Most will be consumed in Britain, though Trustram Eve said there is some export activity to Scandinavia and the Far East. Consumers from home and abroad will get a chance to sample English wine at the Olympics this summer, after London wine merchant Bibendum put a domestic rose on its list for Prestige Ticketing, the official provider of corporate hospitality at the London Games, which start on July 27. “Its selection was made purely on the basis of quality although it made perfect sense to list a brilliant English wine alongside the wonderful British food that the Prestige Ticketing chefs will be showcasing,” said Kirstie Papworth, commercial director at Bibendum.
Retailers and producers will focus on sparkling wines this summer, in the hope that Brits will ditch champagne, cava and prosecco in favour of homegrown fizzy wine when they hold street parties to toast the Jubilee. Producer Ridgeview will launch a commemorative wine for the Jubilee and Denbies vineyard in Surrey plans a Jubilee ball. Trustram Eve said a straw poll of producers showed sales increased by over 50% in the first quarter of 2011 and doubled for
some wineries as Brits bought sparkling wine ahead of the Royal Wedding in April. And wine experts think the future of English wine lies in its sparkling varieties, which are well-suited to England’s cool climate. The two most common grape types planted in England are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both used for champagne. Champagne house Pierson Whitaker snapped up a vineyard in southern England this year and rumours abound that more French producers could buy up English land, ideal for growing champagne varieties because of its soil. England’s colder climate makes for more acidic wines, which can be a hard sell in still varieties. “Sparkling wine is where the most buzz, the most interest is and certainly where people find the most quality,” said Jimmy Smith, managing director and head tutor at the West London Wine School. “There’s a lot of acid behind our wines, so it tends to split a group down the middle depending on whether you like acidity and tart wines or if you don’t.” Smith estimates that the amount of wine produced in England is equal to just one percent of that made in Bordeaux, a region of southern France, which pushes prices up. “Price can be a little bit of a barrier currently,” he said. Andrew Shaw, wine-buying manager at Waitrose said although price was a hurdle to English wines becoming more mainstream, it was vital to protect brand association and provide further investment, essential to grow the industry. “It does depend on how consumers engage with English wine this summer over the Jubilee and the Olympics,” he said.
FINANCIAL MIRROR April 11 - 17 , 2012
Easter... definitely a time for traditions By Chrissie Flint As the years go by, the number of people who follow the 50-day Orthodox Lenten Fast never diminishes with just as many younger people observing it as their older relatives. Traditionally the fast is broken after the midnight church service on Easter Saturday, with a bowl of magiritsa (soup made with lamb) accompanied by a slice of warmed Flaouna or tsoureki - the distinctive plaited bread decorated with hardboiled eggs that have been dyed red with rigani (oreganon) roots. After a brief night’s sleep, everyone is up early to prepare the lunchtime Easter feast of barbecued lamb. In days gone by, families used to gather in the churchyard and long trestle tables were placed in line as the men took care of the barbecues. Today, this tradition has changed little as families enjoy spending Easter in their parents’ villages and members who are
studying or working abroad do their best to get back home for the festival. Family celebrations in Cyprus are always sizeable and friends and neighbours are always warmly invited to join in the fun and take their seat at one of the tables in the avli (courtyard). Cooking on the barbecue is still very much a male prerogative and the men usually gather around the barbecue, drink in hand and discuss local politics or football whilst checking that the spit is turning steadily so that the whole spring lamb will cook evenly. A popular alternative to a whole lamb is souvla with several king-sized skewers threaded with chunks of lamb turning on the barbecue. Whilst the men cook the meat, the women are busy in the kitchen preparing sizeable bowls of salad and the various dips, slicing crusty loaves of bread and checking that the pans of
roast potatoes are cooking well in the oven. But are there any secrets to ensure the barbecued lamb tastes good? Roddy Damalis, the Limassol restaurateur and cookery teacher, says basting the meat well is essential “The meat should be marinated overnight in a mixture of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and freshly cracked black pepper with a generous amount of oregano, fresh rosemary and thyme and some crushed garlic as an optional extra,” he told me. Roddy recommends that a fresh bowl of the marinade is made when the charcoal is first lit and this be used to regularly baste the lamb as it cooks - every 20 minutes at least. The meat mustn’t be put on the barbecue too quickly as the flames must have died down and the coals
be just glowing, so that the lamb will cook slowly and evenly without drying out. To make the smell of the lamb cooking even more tantalising to everyone sitting relaxing in the spring sunshine, Roddy recommends sprinkling some of the herbs, some green olive leaves and carob leaves on the charcoal... Kalo Paska!
Easter Corner at AlphaMega AlphaMega stores have set up special stalls with their Easter goodies including candles, chocolate eggs, ingredients for the Easter banquet, as well as bakery items such as the traditional flaounes and tsourekia. At the main store in Engomi, they have also created a “Easter Corner” for children to play, paint eggs and have fun with the Easter Rabbit.
Cookbook stresses seasonal recipes Egg’s Art at La Maison Fleurie La Maison Fleurie in Limassol has combined the two “Grands” chocolates, the French Valrhona with the Belgian Callebaut plus a touch of finesse, art and fantasy, to create a special collection of chocolate eggs in various sizes. The designs and colours derive from dark, white, milk, orange and pistachio chocolate, plus the “haute couture” designs that can be a gift for Easter or a decorative object for every home. La Maison Fleurie also has Easter cookies, French multi coloured macaroons, the famous Greek tsoureki and a large variety of homemade mini Easter chocolates, egg cakes and gifts for children. They deliver in all towns so call them on 25320680, www.lmfcy.com.
Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh-Kilmer Purcell, who are better known as the Beekman Boys, have been ceaseless chroniclers of their lifestyle journey from city slickers to organic farmers. Subjects of cable TV show “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” the former Manhattanites turned bucolic when they lost their jobs in the city and turned their weekend getaway, the Beekman 1802 mansion and surroundings, into a working farm and full-time business. “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook” gathers 110 seasonally-arranged recipes that highlight the heirloom fruits and vegetables grown on their 60-acre goat farm in Sharon, New York. Ridge, 38, spoke to Reuters about getting back to the garden, eating seasonally and why he hopes each recipe in the book will engender 100 more. Why did you write this book? “The initial idea was to collect recipes we would cook after harvesting things from our garden. A lot of the recipes our families had been making for a long time, so we adapted them. That’s how the heirloom cookbook came about. In the book we have blank spaces where you can write your own.” How do you define heirloom? “An heirloom variety of anything is something that’s never been adulterated. If it’s in its pure form, never been genetically modified you can call it heirloom. We grow 110 different varieties heirloom vegetables in our garden, and we raise heirloom pigs and chickens and turkeys. Right now we’re growing about 80 percent of the food we consume.” How would you describe your philosophy of farming? “We are an organically managed farm. The overriding philosophy is the idea of heirloom, things that have intrinsic value, rather than monetary value. That’s why we love things that have a story. Our other philosophy is seasonal living. We try to make the most of each season. Once our tomatoes are gone, including what we’ve canned or frozen, we don’t have any tomatoes till spring.” Do you slaughter your farm animals? “Chickens, turkeys and rabbits we do ourselves. For larger animals, cows and pigs, we have someone else. We’re not vegetarians. We would rather have an animal we knew was cared for on our plate. When we sit down to have an animal we’ve raised, we always think about where it came from, which is more than most people can say.”
Company’s Coming Apple Cake (reprinted from the cookbook) Any type of apple can be used but Granny Smiths tend to be too dry and McIntoshes break down too much and get mushy.
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened 1 cup granulated sugar cup packed dark brown sugar 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda teaspoon salt 2 large eggs 1 cup buttermilk 2 cups diced (1/2 inch) peeled apple (from 2 to 3 apples) Nut Crunch Topping cup granulated sugar 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. With a mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually beat in the granulated and brown sugars, and beat until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Fold in the apples just until combined. Scrape the mixture into the pan. For the topping: With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion, cut together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter until the mixture resembles fat, coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts. Scatter the topping over the cake batter in an even layer. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool in the pan on a rack. Serve directly from the pan.