The huge dilemma: Cypriot souvla or ovelias?
Easter in Greece has been equated with ovelias, which is a spit-roasted whole lamb or goat. On the other hand, in Cyprus, most of us like to eat the traditional Cypriot souvla at Easter; usually lamb (and more rarely pork) meat cut into pieces. Indeed, to be completely honest, we must admit that Cypriots eat souvla at almost any occasion and opportunity, and not just at Easter. We like having fun and why not?
Back in the old days, ovelias meant anything that was spit-roasted, since “ovelos” means steel rod, where pieces of meat are skewered on and slowly cooked. In the last few years however, this word means, roasting a whole lamb or goat on the spit. From a religious perspective, the ovelias symbolises the Lamb of God, which was sacrificed for the people.
Although roasting a whole lamb is mainly a Greek custom, more and more Cypriots are facing the challenge of roasting an ovelias on Easter Sunday and instead cook Cypriot souvla and more rarely kleftiko on Easter Monday. The truth is that roasting an ovelias requires a lot more time and effort than Cypriot souvla, while it also requires a long preparation that starts on Holy Saturday, when the lamb must be very carefully washed inside and outside. Furthermore, the animal should be very firmly tied on the spit, in order to avoid any accidents and to roast uniformly; also, the lamb’s belly must be sewn closed. The lamb must be placed vertically on the spit, while it must be covered with napkins to protect it until roasting begins.
Before roasting, the “ovelias masters”, spread the lamb with seed oil so that the salt and pepper sticks on it well, both inside and outside. Like they say, the bigger the lamb, the longer the cooking time. For each kilo, another 35 minutes is required for it to cook. We know that our ovelias is ready, when its skin is crispy and the meat comes off the bone with ease.
Less effort is required for the Cypriot souvla, since no special preparation is needed from the day before, unless you choose to marinate the meat; the marinade must be prepared from the previous day. The secret to an excellent souvla, is choosing fresh meat, lighting the charcoal well and avoiding to salt the meat while it’s cooking, since as it is well-known, salt dries the meat. It’s preferable to add salt a few minutes before you remove the meat from the spit. As it comes to adding oregano, it’s a matter of taste. It depends on your guests’ preference.
Whether you go for ovelias, or the Cypriot souvla this Easter, you should try to be in your best mood, and definitely have some ice-cold beers in the fridge to keep you company while you’re cooking and… tasting!
You can buy the meat for your souvla or ovelias from Alphamega Hypermarkets. You can see our offers in our latest brochure.