Got a sweet tooth? Read on for a pick of some of the island’s most famous deliciously sweet bites.
During the winemaking season, grape juice is poured into a huge pot, where it’s sweetened if necessary – usually with a little honey – thickened with starch, and left to cook until it becomes almost glutinous.
Long strings threaded with either almonds or walnuts are then repeatedly dipped into the mixture until they are well coated and the right thickness before being hung out to dry in the sunshine. Enjoy your knobbly Soujouko fix in true local style with a cup of strong Cyprus coffee or a swig of stiff and ice cold Zivania.
Made from the same grape juice coating as Soujouko, the difference is that this one isn’t left to dry. Instead, you can expect a blancmange-type consistency that’s usually naturally sweet served on a small plate or bowl with chopped nuts sprinkled over the top. And if you’re traipsing around one of the island’s villages, be sure to try it while it’s still warm: absolutely delicious!
Carob trees have been growing on the island for centuries, with their valuable bean-like pods once a major source of revenue for the island. The pods themselves are naturally sweet and are still used in some countries as a healthy chocolate substitute. In Cyprus, they’re used to make carob toffee known as pasteli where carob syrup is cooked until it caramelizes and then spun (like toffee) to form flat, brittle, golden slabs as cools. Pastelli toffee is often mixed with sesame seeds and/or chopped peanuts and formed into small bars. You can find the packaged bars in most supermarkets and kiosks, but the best place to get hold of the crunchy stuff is village fairs or festivals where they are fresh and often handed out in good old brown paper bags.
4. Sugared Almonds
You can’t beat a sugared almond if you’re after a bite sized treat. Often handed out as favours at special occasions including weddings and christenings, almost every household will have a few tucked away to offer visitors. The best are the freshly-made ones you can get hold of in the loukoumi-making shops of Geroskipou village (Paphos).
5. Glyko Tou Koutaliou (Spoon sweets)
If you love syrup then these so called ‘spoon sweets’ will be right up your street with all sorts of fruit (and even nuts and vegetables) preserved in thick sugar syrup. Walnuts are a firm favourite (picked before the shells have hardened and then flavoured with cloves and cinnamon) as is the peel from bitter Seville oranges, grapefruit and bergamot, which are cut into segments and rolled into small portions.
In the summer months, you’ve got to try cherries, apricots, quince. Love to tuck into watermelon? Nothing beats the syrupy indulgence of a thick crunchy watermelon rind (the hard green outer skin is removed). Everything is prepared in bite-size pieces and usually dished up on a small plate together with a glass of water to wash it all down.