A Cypriot-inspired dish known as Yiouvetsi or lamb with orzo casserole.
We can safely say we’re into autumn now in England, which means it’s time for me to start dreaming of sunnier climes, longing for a winter break. Next on my bucket-list of places to visit is Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean separated into two distinct regions, the Greek south and the Turkish north, with the capital Nicosia sitting between the two. My brother was based in Cyprus for a time and my very first room-mate when I moved to university in London was a girl called Marianne, who lived in Nicosia. Although we were strangers then, we found common ground, which was that we were both being incredibly homesick. We soon realised that the best way of keeping our spirits high, particularly when budgets were low, was to take it in turns to cook dishes for one another that reminded us from home. For myself, the dish was usually my mother’s chicken soup and for Marianne, a pasta/pilaf dish with tomato sauce known as Yiouvetsi made with orzo (rice-shaped pasta) or, at the Greek deli, look for Kritharaki. In the years since leaving university, and sadly losing contact with Marianne, I’ve made this dish many times, often beginning the process with gently-cooked lamb shoulder or neck fillet pieces or chicken thighs for a more substantial ‘one-pot’ meal. Yiouvetsi means casserole and this dish is usually baked in the oven in a clay-pot, although I’ve included the method for a stove-top version here. As the colder weather sets in here, I urge you to try it. I usually top my finished dish with plenty of crumbled Cypriot feta and chopped fresh mint for an extra hint of colour and flavour.
I hope this dish warms you up, or perhaps brings back some memories of a dish you’ve tried on holiday? For more Cypriot-inspired dishes take a look here.