CULTURE

Recent Greek titles reflect a fresh new style in cookbooks

Two recent releases from Ellinika Grammata reflect a fresh spirit in Greek cookery books. One by a chef, the other by a journalist, both are attractively designed with an emphasis on simplicity and instant eye-appeal. And both show even the rankest amateur how to make the most delicious fare. Greek with a spin Chef Yiannis Geldis puts his own spin on classic Greek dishes in «100 Kalyteres Syntages tis Ellinikis Kouzinas» («100 Best Recipes of Greek Cuisine»). Already in its ninth edition, the book obviously has something to offer Greeks who are familiar with the basic recipes. What makes his approach special? For a start, it is straightforward. The cover promises step-by-step cookery, and that is what Geldis offers. Each recipe gets a two-page spread, one for the recipe and one for a mouth-watering close-up shot by photographer Constantinos Kafiris. The directions are simple and each stage is illustrated by a smaller photograph. The innovation is in the tip that accompanies each dish. As Geldis explains in the prologue, as well as simplifying traditional Greek recipes for novice cooks, he wants to «encourage the imagination of the most experienced to continue making new variations and changes so that they themselves become fellow-travelers in developing the art of cooking.» His tips explain how to change the color of a sauce, pep up the aroma or flavor of a standard recipe and wreak changes by adding or altering ingredients. Some of the tips are general cooking hints. Did you know that octopus will cook faster when boiled with two corks? Or that brushing eggs with lemon juice will stop them breaking in a mince roll? Taught to cook by his father, Geldis is keen to maintain and promote the Greek cuisine he fell in love with as a child and which he sees as a bulwark against processed, mass-produced foods. His 100 best recipes include scrumptious versions of old favorites. Try the feta in pastry with honey and black sesame seeds, baked rabbit stew, cockerel in wine, beef and cheese in pastry, fillets of sea bream with spinach and herbs, tomatoes stuffed with octopus and rice or Cycladic onion pie. Journalist Niki Mitarea specializes in writing about food and wine. She has always loved «the interplay of ingredients and flavors.» In her first book, «Oinomageiremata» (which might be translated as «Cooking with Wine»), she brings the two together in an innovative way: Wine is an ingredient in all 80 recipes. ‘Oinomageiremata’ The book sprang in part, writes the author, from the pleasure she has in seeing people enjoying themselves, a mood «which comes from sitting around the table eating and drinking.» Her delight in her subject coupled with a no-nonsense approach will encourage even the faintest-hearted beginner to become an initiate. Mitarea brings readers up to speed on the rituals associated with wine – drinking it and cooking with it. An introduction to the world of wine covers varieties, how to serve wine, the mysteries of corks, combining food and wine, tips for cooking with wine and 10 commandments for the good wine-cook. Perhaps the most important of the commandments is the first, reiterated by various specialists whose comments preface the book: Never cook with wine that isn’t good enough to drink. The rest are about balance, moderation, understanding what happens to wine when it is heated or chilled, what ingredients it is used with and at what stage of the process it is added. And the recipes? What about drunken mussels, breast of duck with honey and lavender, fillet of beef with Vinsanto, figs in wine syrup or red wine sorbet? Also illustrated with photographs by Constantinos Kafiris – and with food styling by Elena Jeffrey – «Oinomageiremata» follows the same handy two-page layout as its stablemate by Geldis.