Cyprus National Dish – Bring Out the Souvla

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Cypress, an island with a troubled history linked to the convergence of opposing ideologies. Oddly similar in shape to a flipped over Cuba, Cyprus is half way around the world in the heart of the Mediterranean.  If viewed from above, it resembles a shark swimming in circles guarding the entrance to the Suez Canal.  Its geographic location in relation to the Canal became important after the Canal was built as a staging area for the British commercial routes back and forth between India and the UK. 

Cyprus is the stuff of legends.  The fabled birthplace of Aphrodite and Adonis, Cyprus has been associated with Greek society for thousands of years.  Just to the north of Cyprus is Turkey.  Turkey and the Ottomans were also historically linked to this island.  The cultural clashes of Islam and Christianity have rung through the hills of Cyprus since before the Crusades happened resulting in a split culture and battles for claim to the strategically located nation.

Cyprus has changed hands too many times to count and far too many to catalog here.  However, the Greek Cypriots have always identified with and even wanted to officially join the nation of Greece while the Arab Turks have launched multiple campaigns to claim the island as their own and drive out the Greek Cypriots. 

In 1974 Turkey invaded the island capturing 34.85% of its territory in the north of the country.  It still holds the area to this day.  In the campaign, nearly 150,000 Greek Cypriots were forced out of their homes and into the south while the Turkish settled their own citizens in the abandoned homes of the former Greek residents.  Officially, no other nations recognize the Turkish area.  

The Republic of Cyprus is 59.74% of the island, located in the south.  This is the Greek Cypriot area.  There is a UN Green Buffer zone between the feuding sections and the UK still maintains 2 naval bases on the island, a hold-out from their withdrawal in 1960 after 82 years of colonial rule. 

The stability of the nation has been challenged by the conflict between the Turks and the Greek Cypriots.  However, in 2008 after 32 years, the wall that had split the two areas was torn down in the presence of both Greek and Turkish Cypriot officials.  Perhaps the tensions will now fade into history; although history shows that this ancient place has seldom been truly stable.

The national dish and national past time of Cyprus is the preparation and eating of Souvla and Souvlaki.  Souvla is officially the national dish.  According to research, the difference is simply the size of the chunks of marinated skewered meat that you use to prepare it.  Souvla is large chunks while Souvlaki is smaller.  I believe I actually made Souvlak (My own creation), namely something in the middle of the two. 

I give this dish a 4 for difficulty, at least for the recipe that I used.  This is the type of recipe that was probably made by the authors’ Grandmother for many decades, long after she needed to refer to a recipe to make it.  The steps are long and tedious.  Do not forget the salt as I did.  It is challenging to follow all the directions with hungry little foodies milling around the grill as you try to approximate a rotisserie through simple manual labor (i.e. hand turning the skewers). 

All in all, I was not entirely thrilled with the outcome of this recipe although it looks pretty and tasted pretty good.  When cutting down a recipe that calls for 5 Kilos of meat, it seems that something is always lost in translation.  I would recommend taste testing your marinade in advance and tweaking it to your specific tastes.  I would have liked more lemon and cumin, which I feel got lost in the mix.  I also might have added the salt to the marinade or to the meat before marinating rather than in stages.  Finally I chose to use Beef and Pork and I chose lesser cuts (chuck roast and butt).  I do not like lamb as I have mentioned before.  Both were tender and juicy.  But, I think the whole thing would have been even better with tenderloin or rib loin. 

Finally this is the type of dish that is best prepared by a person with a lifetime of experience doing so.  There is an inherent understanding of each process that comes from years of repetition.  Notice the expertise of the author in the use of a rotisserie?  Raising the height and judging the temperature levels is the key to this dish.  I pulled it off by experience on a grill, blatant improvisation and a bit of dumb luck.  BTW I don’t keep Lamb Fat around the house.  Do you?  Sub more bacon grease if you can’t conjure the fat of a lamb.  Enjoy!



Appearance:  4 out of 5

Aroma: 3 out of 5

Flavor: 3 out of 5

Total: 10 out of 15


5 kilos/11 lbs lamb shoulder/neck cut in (7.5cm) 3 inch chunks

5 medium size onions

1 whole fresh garlic bulb

2 cups canola oil

1/4 cup water

Zest and juice of 3 fresh lemons

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground rosemary

1 tablespoon ground Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper

3 tablespoons ground/powder (for better absorption & flavor) salt

5 ounces lamb fat

2 ounces bacon fat


In a blender, mix onions, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and water. In a pan, heat 1 cup of canola oil until just starting to slightly smoke, then very slowly pour into separate bowl with cumin, rosemary, Spanish paprika and crushed red pepper while constantly stirring. Once mixed, pour immediately into blender with onion, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and water combination and continue to blend.

Put meat into a big enough bowl, then pour the above marinade over it and mix together. Let it sit for no more or less than 6 hours.


When ready to cook, discard the marinade and wipe the excess off the meat with a clean towel. Pass meat evenly through 0. 8meter/2. 5foot long and (2cm) 1/4 inch thick metal skewers so that it won’t slip down while on the rotisserie (Foukou).

Prepare charcoal in the “Foukou” to high heat. If you can hold your hand where the meat will be for no more than 2-4 seconds before having to move away, then it’s at “high heat”. 6-8 seconds is medium heat, while 10 seconds or more is low.

Set the meat on the rotisserie over high heat, and high speed. You do this first so that to sear the outside of the meat and seal in the juices and flavor. When you notice the meat starting to change color, dust it with 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt. If you mix in MSG with your salt (2 parts salt to 1 part msg) the flavor of the meat will double!

When the meat just starts to turn brown, remove skewers and lightly wrap meat with aluminum foil (to make the meat tender & juicy), then put the skewers back on over high heat and low rotisserie speed until you can measure an internal temperature of 65 °C (150 °F).

Remove aluminum foil, and raise meat until over “medium high” heat.

Melt lamb and bacon fat with 1 cup of canola oil in a microwave and brush onto the meat, then dust on the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt.

Remove and serve when color is golden brown.,1922,137163-235204,00.html

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