About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Friday, November 13, 2009
Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart

You know how it is. Limited time and budget, but you need to get your teeth into something.

That's how I was feeling the other day in the bookshop, equivocating between two Australian authors, Matt Preston (Cravat-a-licious), who is now a contender for Australia's sexiest man, and George Calombaris, who also has a bit of a ladies fan club.

Fame can do that for you.

It can also make people want to be connected to you in some way, like the bookseller who proudly informed me that he went to the same school as Calombaris (Mazenod College).

Sorry Matt, perhaps next time.

I wanted Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart from the moment I flipped through a couple of pages. Dean Cambray's photography grabs you by the goolies with mouth watering food shots interspersed with action photos that bring this book to life.

But more than that, the Heart in the title is no empty promise, with references to family, friends and home, and one chapter a dedication to his mother Mary's cooking skills which imbued the young George with a passion for food, even if she did suggest that he get an office job instead!

Very often, Greek cookery seems like a franchise; eat at one Greek restaurant and it's like you've eaten at them all: Calombaris has worked hard to avoid the cliche with inventive takes on many dishes. It can be risky to mess around with classics - his somewhat infamous souvlaki, which appears here, a case in point - for the most part though, the Calombaris' recipes are ones you will want to recreate.

For me, the very best cookbooks are the ones that draw you in with their personal touch, which let you in to the author's world, giving an understanding of the influences that have shaped the recipes. Such books are rare and to be treasured.

Highly recommended.

Footnote: When I showed this book to my wife, she looked slightly aghast and said,

"You don't like him."

"That's not true, I just didn't agree with a few things he's said and one dish he's cooked. It's not a sin to have an opinion, especially for a Greek."

That's why they have tavernas, to sort things out, over food and drink, maybe with a little Zorba.


  posted at 5:24 pm

At 3:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Neil. I happen to think Greek food is largely overlooked for the wonderful cuisine that it is. I also think that the Greeks themselves can carry some of the blame for this as they have tended to express a bit of cultural cringe especially when compared to Italian cookery. This cringe has been going on for some time now & was evident when years ago, a Greek aristocrat moving in European high culture circles & embarrased of his countrie's peasant style food, introduced the use of butter & French & Italian technique. This bought us dishes such as Moussaka, bechemal, custard tart(galatabouriko) & other seemingly incongruous biscuits & cakes. Unfortuantely these very dishes went on to become emblematic of some of the most tired & grim versions of what should have been a great cuisine often left languishing in the greasy spoon taverna that we have all came to know. This is changing though & pioneers of it here were Peter Conistis(sydney) Lew Kathreptis(adelaide) & of course Chris from Beacon Point et all in Lorne.
Greek food to me is one of the most delicious & healthy foods that one can partake in & really love it.

At 10:06 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi steve, I completely agree with you. I was watching a cooking program that centred on Greece and the host asked one of the local restaurateurs, who served the local peasant style food (read vegetables) if tourists could ever come to enjoy his food. The answer was no, he replied that tourists only wanted what was familiar.

I think we also need to get past the cliche that is Greek food as served here, so many restaurants serving identical dishes. As you say, there is much more depth to it than say a fried cheese.


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