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Do you say biscuits, or do you say cookies? Either way, you’re talking kourabiedes. The Greek and Cypriot versions are a sort of shortbread, made with almonds, lots of butter (it wouldn’t be shortbread without lots of butter), egg, flour and – sometimes – also with rose water. Shortly after they come out of the oven, and while they’re still warm, they’re rolled in icing sugar to give them a coat of sugary butter. They’re standard fare to celebrate weddings and baptisms (not unlike the sugared almonds that people in southern Italy hand out to mark a wedding).

As far as anyone can tell, this kind of cookie originated in Persia in the 7th Century. Sugar had only just become available and Persians, like Cypriots (indeed, like most of the people of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East), liked sweet things – not overwhelmingly sweet; a touch of sweetness mingled with a touch of tartness is what we, and they, hanker for.

A little touch you’ll find in many home-made Cypriot kourabiedes is brandy or ouzo – and that’s something you can try, if that’s your taste, by dunking the kourabiedes in a glass of brandy. Please don’t send us a complaint, though, when the icing sugar forms a layer on the brandy.

And perhaps it’s time to say something about the almond, because almonds feature in many foods of Cyprus, both sweet and savoury. Hardly surprising, we suppose, because the almond is native to the eastern Mediterranean (including North Africa), the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. It belongs to the same family as the cherry and the plum; like them, it has a sharp, tangy edge to the sweetness so, like them, it can be used in a wide variety of cooking styles.

We think of the almond as a nut, but it isn’t really – it’s the seed. You should, of course, treat almonds with respect because it is from the wild almond that amygdalin comes, and amygdalin, when crushed or chewed, produces prussic acid, commonly known as cyanide. How early farmers came to realise that a genetic mutation had taken place, and that the deadly amygdalin was absent from some forms of the wild almond, and how they then came to domesticate that variety, is simply not known.

Did early farmers lose their lives as a result of experimenting? We can only hope that didn’t happen – but whoever saw the change and began to cultivate the almond opened the road to kourabiedes. And for that they desrve our grateful thanks.

Company Info

Contact Person: Nikos Andrea
Mailing Address: Koniele Trading LTD,
Evagorou 6, Dromolaxia, Cyprus 7020
Call/Text: 00 357 97 884776
Company Reg. No: HE343968