CULTURE

Two born-foodies-turned-chefs serve up yummy Greek recipes

Two new English-language cookbooks offer very different takes on Greek eating for foodies who fancy trying their hand at recipes old and new – all the way from rabbit mountain-style to smoked salmon mousse with horseradish. Theodore Kyriakos, who co-authored «The Real Greek at Home» with award-winning restaurant writer Charles Campion, has made a name for himself as a restaurateur in London with his The Real Greek restaurant and The Real Greek Souvlaki. He returns to his roots in «The Real Greek Cookbook: Dishes from the Heart of the Greek Kitchen,» published by Mitchell Beazley, where he shares traditional recipes from the islands and cities of Greece. Obsessed with food «In this book,» he writes, «I return to the fabulous store of recipes that were part of my childhood and homeland, recipes that sum up Greece and what it means to be Greek.» Born into a family he describes as being obsessed with food, as a child Kyriakou joined them on culinary expeditions where he sampled regional delicacies, which he recalls lovingly. Each section – such as festival food, Easter lamb or food for fishermen – has an introduction to the occasions, meaning and personal memories associated with the dishes. And each recipe is preceded by a few lines – hints on ingredients, folk wisdom or serving tips. On pureed fava, for example, the author has this to say: «My mother says that ‘fava beans without spring onions is like a wedding night without games,’ so leave them out at your peril!» The recipes go right back to basics, not quite as far as Mrs Beeton’s famous injunction: «First catch your hare,» but there is one where the first instruction is to skin the rabbit, accompanied by helpful photographs. The full color closeups of skinned bunnies, thrashed octopus, gasping fish, tethered sheep and lamb on the spit may prove a shade too authentic for the tenderhearted, but there are many dishes of gentler origins. A rocket, leek and caper pie sounds a tasty change on the better-known spinach pie; pan-fried olives are a winter speciality on Thasos; tomato kefthedhes from Santorini are made with sun-ripened tomatoes and roast feta with oregano brings out the best in two classic Greek ingredients. There’s succulent Christmas pork with figs, spicy chili stuffing and hearty smoked eel with braised leeks from northern Greece – delicious flavors and a guide to the festivals and occasions of Greek life. Everyday delights Vangelis Driskakis, also the offspring of a family of food lovers, incorporates new influences into his «The Ultimate Greek Cookbook for an Everyday Chef» published by Patakis, which received an honorable mention in the 2004 gourmand World Cookbook Awards. An imaginative chef and culinary adviser who is familiar to Greek television audiences, Driskakis creatively fuses classic local ingredients with scrumptious flavors from around the Mediterranean – prosciutto and panna cotta and further afield, hummus. Though some recipes sound exotic, Driskakis makes them accessible to the everyday chef by presenting them as menus, offering tips on ingredients and suggestions for matching wine and food. The book is organized around menus for the four seasons, plus Easter and Christmas meals. Naturally, all the dishes can be cooked separately but it’s worth sampling combinations selected by an expert for their contrasting tastes and textures. Try this for a light summer menu: smoked salmon with horseradish, salt-crusted dorado, followed by a sweet wine sorbet with baked figs. Or, more appropriately for December, what about a winter menu of eggplant wraps with anthotiro and basil, marinated mushroom salad, pork roast with winter vegetables, and chocolate creme brulee.