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How to add a Greek Cypriot flare to your barbecue

How to add a Greek Cypriot flare to your barbecue

Simple steps to enjoy a Greek Cypriot-inspired barbecue this summer

It’s barbecue season and Brits across the nation are looking for unique ways to elevate their summer feast. While there are plenty of variations out there from the American-inspired to a Korean twist, the humble Greek Cypriot barbecue is among the most underrated.

As a writer with Greek Cypriot heritage myself, this has become a staple of the hotter months. It’s important to make use of the wonderful ingredients available here in the UK but it’s vital to note that there are always workarounds to localise international recipes.

Here’s some really simple and accessible ways to add some Greek Cypriot flare to a barbecue without breaking the bank.

Dips and bread

Garlic hummus with olive oil, onion cloves and pitta breadGarlic hummus with oilive oil and pitta bread. Credit: VeselovaElena

Whether it’s mezzes or a barbecue, Greek Cypriot food isn’t complete without a good starter of breads and dips. Although pitta bread has become the most commonly used flatbread in the UK when accompanying Greek, Cypriot, Turkish and other Mediterranean food, there is a fantastic alternative that beautifully accompanies a barbecue.

Koulouri daktylia is a Cypriot village bread which can be homemade or sourced from local bakers. The seeded loaf is perfect for dipping in an array of sides and is gorgeous with olive oil.

When we’re talking dips, whether it’s for pitta or koulouri daktylia, hummus has to be the go-to. The traditional Greek Cypriot version is usually heavy on the garlic and contains a dash of olive oil—a very apparent trend in Mediterranean cooking. However, any array of shop-bought hummus will suffice here!

"Greek Cypriot hummus is usually heavy on the garlic and contains a dash of olive oil—a trend in Mediterranean cooking"

The cucumber and mint dip, tzatziki is another Greek mainstay and can easily be made at home. Taramasalata is the final dip to look out for. The bright pink accompaniment is built from the salted and cured roe of the cod.

Potatoes

Every barbecue has to have a side of salad and Greek salad, containing crumbly feta cheese has become the de-facto option for most in Britain.

But what about other sides? Well potatoes will always pop up with a Greek Cypriot barbecue, but they aren’t cooked on the grill. It’s best to use new potatoes, which are boiled and combined with olives, onion, olive oil, lemon, salt, parsley and a little malt vinegar. Garlic and chicken stock can add even more flavour, but they aren’t necessary. The key to a great potato here is to peel the skin after they have been boiled to allow the spud to soak up all that flavour.

Couscous

Pilafi Pourgouri is a traditional Greek Cypriot wheat dish that can be found alongside most meat-based meals. However, in the UK it’s often hard to get hold of the right wheat grains, even if bulgar wheat can serve as a solid alternative. To simplify the process, there’s a really easy way to add a similar addition to a barbecue that feels fresh and light. Couscous is a fantastic alternate option. Add a little bit of stock and the plain side is suddenly taken to the next level.

Couscous can surprisingly be elevated with the easy addition of Greek natural yoghurt. Mix the yoghurt and couscous together, with some mint, a little olive oil and herbs of your choice and it becomes a low-effort crowd pleaser. Plus, you can swap out a Greek salad for this couscous dish by throwing in a few roasted vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and red onions.

Halloumi

Halloumi on the grillHalloumi on the grill. Credit: etiennevoss

Vegetarians and cheese lovers will already know about the benefits of bringing halloumi into the mix. Although it’s hard to source, the traditional village halloumi is often a lot harder and doesn’t feature that same squeaky texture commonly associated with the goat's cheese in the UK.

Regardless of where it’s sourced from, not enough people are throwing their halloumi on the barbecue. The cheese will char and lock in all of that phenomenal flavour that comes from a coal barbecue. It’s effective on a gas barbecue too, but the real winner is that charcoal base.

Calamari

Moving away from the vegetarian options, pescatarians will be well aware of the joy of placing a fish on the barbecue. But the squid is underused in the barbecue landscape. That’s often because people don’t know what to do with it.

"To really effectively grill squid, it’s important to pat it dry before cooking and only place it on an incredibly hot grill"

To really effectively grill squid, it’s important to pat it dry before cooking and only place it on an incredibly hot grill. Drizzle on a bit of olive oil, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. Leave the squid on too long and it can overcook and become rubbery. You’re looking for the calamari to begin to brown on both sides. That’s roughly three to four minutes on the flame before the squid needs to be flipped.

Of course, the fresher the squid the better it’s going to taste, so take advantage of any local resources.

Loukaniko

Loukaniko sausagesLoukaniko is a type of traditional Greek sausage. Credit: AlizadaStudios

It’s time to talk about meat. Burgers, steaks and hotdogs are often the delicacies of a British barbecue. But there is a sausage that can be found in the UK that packs a real punch.

Loukaniko is traditionally made from pork or lamb and includes powerful ingredients like orange peel, dried herbs and fennel seed. Loukaniko can be cooked on the barbecue and marinating it in a little red wine is going to really up the ante!

There are plenty of online markets that sell Greek and Cypriot foods to be shipped straight to your door, and loukaniko always features on those pages.

Souvlaki

Now to the star of the meal and the most iconic feature of a Greek Cypriot barbecue: the souvlaki.

A souvlaki traditionally consists of small cubes of pork meat that are cooked on long skewers with lemon and salt. Chicken can also be used here though, and a skewer is usually packed out with vegetables to char too. Pepper, courgette, onion, and aubergine are the plant-based mainstays.

"The secret to a great souvlaki is marinade—giving the meat a good soak will add flavours which flames from the grill will capitalise on"

The secret to a great souvlaki is the marinade. Giving the meat a good soaking will add so many flavours which the flames from the grill will capitalise on. Lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, and even a touch of paprika are all great ingredients to throw into a marinade but feel free to experiment.

The other key to success is the barbecue that the souvlaki is being cooked on!

The barbecue

Foukou in use with skewersFoukou being used with souvlaki. Credit: cyprusbbq.co.uk

It’s tough to talk about Greek Cypriot barbecues without talking about the apparatus itself. For those who really want to immerse themselves in the culture, they might want to go out and buy a new piece of kit. The Foukou, which roughly translates to “fire” or “barbecue”, is the rotisserie set that Greek Cypriots use.

It usually has a traditional barbecue grill, a second shelf and, most importantly, a component designed to hold skewers above the flames. Some even have automatic capabilities that turn the meat and veg at all times.

Allowing those flames to get an even taste of the meat is what’s really going to bring the best out of the food. Pack the Foukou with charcoal lumpwood for the best results! Ultimately, that coal fire is the key to unlocking the secrets of a great Greek Cypriot summer feast.

Banner photo: Greek food spread outdoors. Credit: los_angela

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