In a small neighbourhood at Strovolos, in Nicosia, on a sunny morning, my sister, our friends, the neighbours next door and I are playing in the front yard, as we did most weekends.
Suddenly, a familiar voice…
‘ Ούλλοι να ζήσουμε! Κουπες, έσηιει φρέσκες κούπες! ( We all need to make a living! Koupes, fresh koupes!)’
Yiannis, the ‘koupes man’ (Ο Γιαννής που τις κούπες), a short, always wearing a hat and always smiling 60 year old was going around the neighbourhoods on his little vespa with a huge box on the back to keep his homemade koupes warm (it’s still uncertain whether he made them himself or his wife did, if any of my childhood friends know more, please do comment).
There are very few things I enjoyed more than a warm koupa with freshly squeezed lemon on a Saturday morning.
So what is koupa? Κούπα/kibbeh/keufteh/içli köfte as it’s known in other countries is an eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern (where the Med meets the Arabic cuisine) dish made of bulgur, minced onions, and finely ground lean beef, lamb, goat, or camel meat with Middle Eastern spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice).
In Cyprus is made of bulgur, minced onions, minced beef and spices. The best way to describe it is a mince filled croquette (there is also veggie variant with mushroom filling).
And is delicious. The slightly crispy but soft bulgur crust, the tasty, faintly sweet from the spices, the onions and the beef filling and the bitterness of the lemon, it’s hard to imagine until you try it.
None of the koupes I had since Yiannis died years ago ever tasted the same and it never will, that’s the beauty of homemade food but it’s still one of my favourite treats. This is the first thing I’m having when I make it home for Christmas.
You can find koupes in most bakeries and few fast food restaurants.
Special thanks to my mum for reminding me some of the finer details I forgot. I had no idea Yiannis was actually my grandpa’s cousin!