How important is family to your food philosophy?
Love for my family is at the core of everything I do. I learned Greek cooking from my mother and her friends, and now I use those recipes and skills to nurture my own family. At the end it’s the moments we share with family and friends that we are left with – the more we have of those, the better our life is.
What are your go-to ingredients that every good kitchen should always contain?
Good quality ingredients are essential. My pantry would be empty without Greek olive oil (it tastes like Greece to me), lemons, Greek oregano, pimento berries, cinnamon, feta cheese, herbs, ricotta and always Greek coffee!
But I think the most important ingredient you should always include in your cooking, which cannot be purchased, is love. Cook with love and your dishes will always be delicious.
Your favourite quick-and-easy Greek recipe?
Feta cheese and chips omelette is our family favourite! (recipe below)
What were the first recipes you learnt to cook and who taught them to you?
I learnt to cook from my mother, she inspired me and also gave me freedom in the kitchen to help her. She always made me Galatopita as a treat – it was her go-to sweet. The first dish I learnt to cook on my own was a walnut cake “Karithopita” with syrup. It was the first recipe I had the confidence to experiment with and it soon became my signature dish among family and friends.
One dish that everyone should learn how to cook and why?
A shoulder of lamb slow-roasted Greek-style with lemon and oregano – it’s my favourite entertaining dish. You can’t go wrong with it along with salad and potatoes. It’s a fabulous crowd pleaser.
How do you celebrate the beginning of spring?
Spring lamb! We do dishes like shoulder of lamb, cutlets and skewers on the BBQ, and salads made with lots of fresh broad beans and artichokes. Everything comes alive in Spring so I want my food to be colourful, bright and fresh. We have an outdoor kitchen with a wood fired oven, a rotisserie spit and a big bbq so we love to entertain outside, keeping fuss and effort to a minimum but the end result is always amazing.
What inspires you to give new life to Greek classics?
I believe there are three ways to teach Greek culture and heritage – through cuisine, language and religion. For me it’s food – I’m inspired to keep our culture alive so our traditions live on from one generation to the next. I’m also realistic and understand the need for balance. In giving new life to Greek classics I hope to honour the sacrifices the migrants made and their commitment to creating a life in this country. I also want to ensure their traditions don’t get lost by adapting their cuisine to be more suited to the modern life of the next generation.
When do you feel most at peace?
In an ideal world it would be sitting by the water in Greece eating honey and figs, watching the sun go down… But seriously, I’m always at peace when i’ve cooked a meal and have it ready for the family – I’m a mother!
Favourite sweet and savoury dishes?
Galaktoboureko – our Greek vanilla slice – it has filo pastry on top and bottom, semolina custard in the middle and it’s drizzled with syrup. I cook it at the shop every day and I still love it!
Avgolemono – chicken and rice soup with egg lemon sauce. It’s Greek penicillin – you have it all through autumn and winter. it’s comforting, you have it when you’re sick, you have it when you’re well – I can never be without it. I have it once a week!
Omeleta me Feta ke Patates or Potato and Feta Omelette
Prep 20 minutes Cook 45 minutes Serves 4–6
5 désirée potatoes,
Greek extra virgin olive oil
200 g feta
A simple omelette is a lovely dish. When you add thick potato chips and feta to it, it becomes something very special — delicious, still simple and very Greek. Every child in every Greek household would have this go-to meal regularly. In this recipe I have chosen to bake the chips rather than fry them to make it a little lighter.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced and line a baking dish with baking paper.
Cut the potatoes into thick chips. Toss the chips in a large bowl with enough olive oil to coat and a sprinkle of salt. Lay the chips out in a single layer in the baking dish. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown and crunchy. Remove from the oven.
Break the eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork. Add about a ½ teaspoon of salt and some pepper.
Heat a deep non-stick frypan with a little olive oil. When the pan is hot add the egg mixture. Allow the bottom to cook without stirring, as the result should be an omelette rather than scrambled eggs. Use a spatula to push the sides into the centre, allowing the raw egg mixture to fill the spaces this creates and cook.
Preheat the grill.
Once most of the egg is cooked, arrange the chips on top of the omelette, then crumble the feta over the top. Place the pan under the grill for 2–3 minutes to set the eggs and bubble the feta.
Serve with a delicious Greek salad.
This is an edited extract from Sweet Greek Life by Kathy Tsaples, published by Melbourne Books.