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Pourekkia > Cyprus traditional small pastries February 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus, Greek Culture.
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Pourekkia me halloumi i anari > Small pastries stuffed with halloumi or anari cheese 
Pourekkia me keima > Small pastries stuffed with minced meat
Pourekkia me spanakhi > Small pastries stuffed with spinach
Pourekkia me lachanika > Small pastries stuffed with vegetables

We’re a little bit late, since today is the last day of “Sikoses”, the fortnight in the Greek Orthodox calendar between the beginning of Carnival and “Clean Monday”. This is the time when the faithful no longer eat meat, gearing up for the 40-day fast of Lent, but can still eat dairy products, hence the popularity of “pourekkia”, the little squares of fried dough traditionally stuffed with sweet anari cheese.

Hardcore religious types will look askance at this, since they can’t eat pourekkia from tomorrow, but it’s gone way beyond religion, just like pourekkia have gone way beyond the traditional anari (a Cypriot type of soft cheese, salted or not). Most bakeries now do variations with cream, halloumi and even mincemeat. Still, we stuck with the old-fashioned formula, sampling the wares of seven Nicosia bakeries and confectioneries, and here are the results. Prices quoted are for six pourekkia in each case.

San Remo > Strovolos confectionery is famous for its “sadji”, savoury halloumi pies in thick, chewy dough, so it’s no surprise to find the pourekkia crust similarly soft and thick. The anari mix is also robust, choppy more than creamy, but delicately sweetened, complementing the chewy exterior. A very satisfying pourekki from a place that prides itself on generosity; the owner was aghast when we suggested paying after sampling a spring-roll, and the lady at the till confided that he “always likes to treat the customers”.
Price: £1.30, Tel: 22 510305

Twice as Nice > Aglandjia “pastry shop” comes with an advantage, since it was the only place where we encountered pourekkia fresh from the oven; on the other hand, we happened to go twice in three days and found a fresh tray on both occasions, so I can only assume Mr. Evripidou takes his pourekkia seriously. Diametrically opposite to San Remo, with a crispy fried crust absolutely packed with anari, blended to the consistency of fresh cream. Probably not the healthiest pourekkia in town, and certainly the most expensive of the seven we sampled. No matter; these are our favourites. Price: £1.50, Tel: 22 334006

Sarah Lyne > Here’s the thing: Sarah Lyne, which prides itself on avoiding mass-production, was almost out of available pourekkia by the time we got there. It was only 4pm, but the little fried wonders were either sold out or reserved by eager customers, the shelves behind the till were heaving with trays of pourekkia, unfortunately spoken-for, which itself is a testament to their popularity. Just a single tray of halloumi pourekkia was left, which the shop generously let us have for free, and they were indeed spectacular: delicate crust, minty-cheese interior. I can only imagine the anari are even better. Price is £6.50/kilo. Approximate price: £1.10, Tel: 22 671222

Zorbas > Probably the biggest bakery chain in Cyprus, with pourekkia which, appropriately, are bigger than usual, curiously flat instead of round. Not very appetising but they taste all right, with a strong hint of rose-water in the anari mix; factory-made or not, they’ll do the trick when you need to pick up something in a hurry for your local pourekkia party. Avoid the custard cream ones, however, which are pretty vile. Price: £1, Tel: various branches

Yiannis Georgiou Ltd. > A hole-in-the-wall “traditional bakery” near Strovolos Church, making small, rounded pourekkia with an optional dusting of icing-sugar. Not a lot to say on the product itself, the crust is thin and crispy, the anari plentiful if a little bland, and again with a hint of rose-water, but the size and shape are aesthetically pleasing, and you also get the satisfaction of helping out a small entrepreneur. Support your local bakery, we say! Price: £1, Tel: 22 425338

Morfo > Is Morfo in decline? We’ve had sensational pourekkia from this Acropolis confectionery in the past but these were uninspired, not to mention worryingly large and misshapen. The crust was puffy but bland, as if puffed-out beyond its natural shape, and the mix was among the sweetest we sampled, which could be good or bad, according to taste. The cream ones are actually superior, as you might expect from a confectionery, closer to creme patissiere than custard and strongly redolent of cinnamon. Price: £1.30, Tel: 22 495456

Mrs S > And finally the home-made option. Mrs. S. lives down the street and makes pourekkia to order, which, according to the Law of Homemade Products, should make her pourekkia the best of the lot. In fact, the crust was a bit thick, overpowering the anari which was rather too solid and pillow-like, ideally it should melt in the mouth when you bite into it; still, at least you know they’re fresh. Ask around to one of the myriad Mrs. S’s making home-made pourekkia. Or else you can always make your own. Price: We paid £0.85

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