Counting only a few weeks before Easter, it is considered to be a fasting period according to the Greek Orthodox Church.Usually, a large part of the population only fasts for a few days before taking Holy Communion, while in recent years there is a revival of religious fasting even amongst the young.
The fasting period before Easter, called Lent, is the longer and most important. It lasts for 49 days before Easter, beginning on Green Monday and ending on Easter Saturday. During this period, one must abstain from meat and dairy products, and even fish, although this is permitted on two specific days: on the 25th of March, Day of the Announciation of the Virgin, and on Palm Sunday.
There is a vast variety of preparations for fasting based on legumes, pulses and green vegetables. Flour, made from wheat or barley, constitutes the basis of many preparations. In the same category we can class bourgoul (crushed wheat) which, is a stable part of Cypriot diet served as an accompaniment or with sauces of meat, and which during fasts can be prepared with broken noodles, tomato, onions etc fried in vegetable oil. Another preparation in which bourgoul is used are "kolokotes" which are pastry pies filled with cubed red pumpkin, raisins, sugar, salt, pepper and oil, the basic ingredient of this filling being bourgoul.
One of the most versatile seeds used for the preparation of fasting food is sesame. Widely cultivated on the island in the past, it was largely consumed, especially for the covering of breads and rusks, during Lent. "White tahini" is a dip made of sesame paste beaten with water, lemon, salt and garlic, and is used for the preparation of various fasting desserts. Apart from the sweet tahini pies, "tahinopites", there is also white "halvas", a solid, crumbly sweet made of sesame paste, and "black tahini", which is a sweet paste made of sesame paste beaten with carob syrup - a great treat for children of the past. Another fasting delicacy are "koullourouthkia me terztsomelo", little sweatmeats made of pastry of flour and water rolled into snail-like shapes ("tsestouthkia) or folded to make scissor-like shapes ("psalidouthkia") and deeped into carob syrup.
The olive gives one of the basic ingredients of Cypriot diet: the olive oil. This is permitted on certain fasting periods and it is used for cooking or seasoning, mainly vegetables and pulses.
Pulses have been a stable of Cypriot diet and they are also a stable fasting food. Beans, lentils (both brown and yellow), broad beans, chickpeas and black-eyed beans were and still are the standard (although nowadays, other imported beans and pulses are also consumed). During fasts they are cooked with some green vegetables in several favourite combinations (beans with celery and carrot, black-eyed beans with kale, chickpeas with spinach or celery, etc). Particularly popular during fast are two soups. One is a simple soup of yellow lentils with some rice, flavoured, when permitted, with crispy fried onion. The other, called "ksithkia" (vinegary) is a lot more special. It is made with brown lentils boiled with coriander leaves, lettuce, carrot, onion and garlic.
Green vegetables and salads vary according to season. The island has a plentiful supply of such things. All can be eaten boiled, with the addition or not of olive oil, during fasting. The other special fasting way of preparing all these is to prepare them with a tomato sauce to which onion and parsley is added. The "colocasi" (Colocasia antiquorum), for example, has always been a standard of Cypriot diet, at least since the early Middle Ages, and in older days it played the role that potato plays today. This tuber is normally cooked with pork and celery and even quince, but during fasting it is simply boiled and eaten with olive oil and lemon, or prepared with a plain tomato sauce. Pickles are also a favourite during fasting, such as capers or cauliflower ("mougkra").
Lastly, fruits and nuts are widely consumed during fasts and the variety changes from season to season and from area to area. An example is "sykopittes", that is fig pies from dried figs, flavoured with cumin, bay leaves and rosewater. Nuts and almonds are also very common and usually accompany zivania (a Cypriot eau de vie).
*The information is retrieved from an article by Euphrosyne Rizopoulou-Egoumenidou and Demetrios Michaelides titled "Fasting in Cyprus". Read it all HERE.