Turkish-Cypriot cuisine defines culinary cultures at a crossroads

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Summer in Cyprus includes a mezze plate of fried, buttery potatoes, broad beans dressed in extra virgin olive oil with mint, garlic, and salt, plus beetroot and cracked green olives. Photo by Meliz Berg.

Meliz Berg recalls reading Shakespeare’s Othello and the description of Cyprus as a melting pot where East meets West in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Just below Turkey, above Africa, and neighboring Syria, Lebanon, and Greece, the island became the crossroads of cultures, armies, and travelers, making for a melange of flavors when it comes to Cypriot cuisine. 

Influenced by Greek and Turkish cooking, Cyprians use herbs like coriander, which was brought over by Asian travelers. One of Berg’s favorite ingredients is halloumi, a spongy cheese that is both eaten fresh and cooked in pastas, salads, and baked goods.

Her cookbook is Meliz’s Kitchen.

“Once you’ve tried freshly-grated halloumi and dried mint on pasta, it’s really hard to go back,” says Meliz Berg. Photo by Meliz Berg.

Pilavuna is a traditional pastry made by Greek Cypriots at the end of Easter and by Turkish Cypriots during Ramadan. Photo by Meliz Berg.

Meliz Berg describes the Cyprian flavor palette as one of simple food with quintessential fresh flavors and slow-cooked meat dishes, heavily laden with lemons and herbs. Photo by Dan Jones.

Meliz’s Kitchen
is a compilation of traditional, comforting recipes celebrating the intersection of cultures. Photo courtesy of Interlink Books.