In the run up to Easter, every self-respecting Cypriot housewife on the island prepares her flaounes, her eggy-cheesy Easter pastries. In this, unlike in most Cypriot traditions, I am no exception.
I hated flaounes when I first tasted them. I found them too hard, too goaty, too salty; I had to lie when I wrote articles for the in-flight magazine about the delights of Cypriot Easter cuisine. ‘Yuck!’ I thought. ‘Who in their right mind could really call these delicious?’ For the first few years of my wedded bliss, I sureptiously dumped my mother-in-law’s offerings and played ‘dumb foreigner’ when asked if I had liked them.
Then, dread day: nine-years ago, Best Beloved asked me to make them. ‘Because my mother always makes them with raisins and I prefer them with hash-seeds!’
(Before you rush for the phone to call the Drug Squad down on me, let me mention that hash seeds are a traditional part of Cypriot cuisine: my father-in-law remembers being fed them as a small child for their soporific effect, and the area of riverbed below the village was given over to hemp production – mostly for the making of rope. These days, the seeds are denatured – adding a crunch to the dish rather than a buzz to the brain.)
I tried to get out of the baking project, but Best Beloved was insistent, and I do love him, so I pulled out The Taste of Cyprus by Gilli Davies, and together with Kay, got to work.
The recipe was surprisingly simple – a basic pizza dough encasing a mixture of special flaouna cheese, halloumi, eggs, mint – and of course the hash seeds – for the filling. Kay’s Cypriot husband likes raisins, so we made two batches.
They were delicious. Soft, un-goaty, just the right balance of salt and egg. They didn’t sit like boulders in my stomach, sending up fumes every quarter of an hour for the rest of the day like all the ones I’d ever eaten before. ‘Not quite the traditional Cypriot taste, Manamou,’ Best Beloved said. ‘But tasty, none the less. And with refrigeration these days, we don’t need ones that will last forever like they did in the old days.’
This year the Little Ones helped me – kneading the pastry, mixing the filling, and rolling out the discs of dough. We made a batch yesterday using flaouna cheese from Best Beloved’s goat-keeping Auntie, and I have another kilo of cheese for a batch next week.