Making flaounes (traditional Easter cheese pies) is a big deal throughout the Holy Week, an intrinsic part of Cypriot culture that sees family members crowd together in the kitchen to start making the baked delights that are then devoured to mark the end of Lent.
While each family, and indeed each village, usually adds their own little twist to the age-old recipe, the basics involve a rather dreamy cheese filling which is largely made of the so called traditional ‘tiri flaouna’ (flaouna cheese), crushed mint, eggs, and often, a good handful of raisins and a dash of mastiha (mastic) and/or mahlepi (an aromatic spice). The pies almost always have a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds over the top. Absolutely delicious when eaten warm out of the oven, they are seriously divine with a swig of tea or coffee.
But of course, not everyone makes their own flaounes, and if you like to get hold of yours ready-made, simply read the My Cyprus Insider hot list below to find out which are some of the best to indulge in that come as close to the home made variety as you can get!
1. Twice as Nice, Aglandjia, Nicosia
You would hardly know that this place exists if you were just driving past it on the busy Aglandjia Avenue in Nicosia. But step into this little shop with its unassuming exterior and you’ll come across a whole range of absolutely delicious delights that make the place famous; from its gorgeous samosas, to spinach pies, traditional olive pies, and the list goes on. Come Easter, city dwellers make a beeline to the place for some great flaounes, made the good old fashioned way without a single preservative in sight.
“We take pride in the fact that they are all natural,” says owner of the establishment, Kikis Evripidou. “And after doing them for the past 22 years, we think we’ve got it down to a tee.” And what about their recipe? “Ah that’s a secret!” he exclaims. “But it’s mostly kaskavali and ‘flaouna cheese’. Then a hundred different things; we tried a lot of things before we got it right, it’s not easy at all. I have an amazing team and we’re blessed to come out of the kitchen alive when we’re done with all the preparations,” he says with a big chuckle. For people that are watching their figure, Twice as Nice also make flaounes with the less fatty anari and mizithra cheese. Take note, the ownerships encourages everyone to order their falounes beforehand to avoid disappointment.
Where? 40 Aglandjia Avenue, Nicosia. Tel: (+357) 22-334006
2. To Stema, Astromeritis
If you’ve ever noticed crowds pilling into a bakery on the Nicosia to Troodos road, chances are it’s ‘To Stema.’ Famous for its absolutely delicious village halloumi and olive pies, this place in Astromeritis is so very popular come weekend, that you’ll often see people loading up on treats to last them for the whole week. And it’s not just village folk from the surrounding areas that love the place; it’s actually very popular with Nicosians who can’t wait to indulge in their baked goodies when out on a road trip in the area.
With their flaounes equally delicious, you may be tempted to buy a few to stash in the freezer. Owner of the place, Maria Hadjicharalambous, busies herself in the kitchen with her husband, with her mother also on hand, adding her touch to their delicious goodies. “We’ve been open for 21 years and we do what we do with a great amount of love, I think that’s what makes our pies so good,” says Maria. “And our fresh ingredients of course.” The cheese used is ‘flaouna cheese’ from producers of the area, with all the usual flaouna varieties made on site. “But it’s the traditional unsweetened kind with raisins that people love the most,” Maria exclaims. And with that, hurries back to the kitchen to continue doing what she does best.
Where? 18 Troodos Avenue, Astromeritis. Tel: (+357) 22-823923.
3. Artopiisi Bakery, Argaka Village, Paphos district
A little off the beaten track, this is where real tradition comes to life. And although this place is situated a little out of the way for most people – on the far western coast of the island – Artopiisi Bakery actually send their flaounes to dedicated fans across the country.
A family run business, Loukas Thedorou and his wife Maria run the show with the help of their kids, having been open in this location for seven years. Before that, they were running a bakery in South Africa for twenty years. Just as popular with tourists as they are with locals, foreign vistors love to try their traditional Cypriot produce. But what’s really different about this place when it comes to their flaounes, is that they have become rather popular for their rare variety made with meat called ‘paskia’.
“This used to be a tradition in some villages in Paphos,” says Loukas. “And now about 70 per cent of our orders are for the meat variety.” With a great emphasis on using local village produce from the surrounding area, they take pride in their goats and sheep ‘Flaouna cheese’ sourced from local producers. Some like it with raisins, others like it without, but their good old flaouna is the same old recipe that it has been for years. “It’s all done by us with heaps of love,” says Loukas. And he gives his wife the full credit. “I usually make the bread here but it’s my wife Maria who’s busy in the kitchen with the flaounes at Easter. It’s a real talent.”
Where? Arkaka village, on the seafront road between Polis tis Chryshohous and Pomos.
(+357) 26-323202/ (+357) 99-380875
4. Galette Artisan Bakery, Limassol (with some produce sold at Prinos in Nicosia)
One of the finest (and very few) artisan bakeries on the island, Galette Artisan Bakery has been giving people from near and far good reason to talk. Situated in the hub of the city very close to the old port, we absolutely love their dedication to quality, as well as the really unique combinations offering an alternative twist on traditional tastes. And because the owners are well aware that there is no such thing as Easter in Cyprus without the experience of tucking into a divine flaouna, they’ve prepared some divine treats for you.
Whether you love the savoury or sweet kind, you can tuck enjoy them with or without raisins. Both varieties are made with a blend of four cheeses (kefalotiri, halloumi, sheep’s cheese and anari), sourced from small cheese producers. “We get most of our cheese from a family in Paphos that make cheese from their own farm,” says Christos Karaoli, Head Chef Boulanger /Co-owner at Galette Artisan Bakery. “Free from preservatives and chemicals, their cheese is amazing. We never buy ingredients from mass production businesses and never compromise quality. And we don’t ever use machines; everything in the bakery is handmade.”
When you head to Galette, you can also get hold of a whole range of other Easter treats, including Hot Cross Buns and delicious tsourekia. Take note, they are the very first bakery on the island to make an innovative Black Forest tsoureki- enjoy!
Where? 33 Spyros Araouzos St, Limassol. Tel: (+357) 25 100815. Also available at Debenhams Olympia food court (Limassol), while orders can also be placed at Prinos in Nicosia.
5. Kapitanis Bakery, Larnaca
Around for 83 years, many in Larnaca rave about their baked goodies, while foreign visitors have been known to frequent the place and pack delights in their suitcase back home with them. Whether its delicious feta pies or buttery croissants, Kapitanis Bakery sure know how to keep the taste buds happy!
Situated in the hub of town parallel to the Finikoudes tree lined promenade, the family run place has been open since the 1930s. With Easter Sunday fast approaching, the family has been extremely busy in the kitchen. “These weeks we’ve been making flaounes every day,” says Rea Kapitani, who runs the place with her husband. And what makes their flaounes special? “It’s definitely the recipe which has been the same for years and years. I’d say it comes down to the pure ingredients and good cheese. We always use the special cheese for flaounes.” And given that variety is the spice of life, you can get hold of your flaouna just the way you like it, be it sweet, salty, made with anari, with raisins and without.
Where? 63 Zinonos Kiteos St, Larnaca. Tel: (+357) 24-655055
6. Liotatis, Frenaros and Paralimni
This confectionery is mostly known for its sweet treats, but they also make rather good flaounes as Liotatis loads its trays with the cheesy delights well before the big day.
A family run business, it’s is one of the area’s most popular for Easter treats, with owner Jovanna Liotati and her entire family rushing around the shop floor. Even her sisters are on hand to lend a helping hand. “We take pride in the fact that everything is as fresh as it possibly can be, without ever using preservatives. We always try the cheese a few times before it goes into our flaounes, sticking to the traditional ‘Flaouna cheese’,” says Jovanna. “And we always add mahlepi and mastiha to the mix, it makes them extra delicious!” Take note that Liotatis also offers a great alternative to the sweet flaouna, with a healthier variety made with stevia. So if you’ve got a sweet tooth but want to cut back on the sugar, you know where to go!
Where? 64 Arch Makariou St, Frenaros. Tel: (+357) 23-821041
Ist April St, Paralimni. Tel: (+357) 23-822999
Cover photo: Galette Artisan Bakery