Having worked in a range of prestigious kitchens throughout London, and now firmly placed as Executive Chef at Joe’s Restaurant in Kensington – as well as part time cookery classes at the Authentic Ethnic cookery school – Maria Elia has now bolstered her London takeover with a new cook book, Smashing Plates.
Differing from her earlier ventures, here she tackles exploring her Greek Cypriot heritage, something she never thought about delving into previously, and actually initially saw as a slightly boring exercise. ‘Why would I want to write about my Greek heritage?!’ she exclaimed during her book launch. ‘But then I had a revelation… about exploring those flavours that I grew up with.’
As her third book, Smashing Plates follows on from Full of Flavour and The Modern Vegetarian, seeing Maria taking on those notions of traditional Greek food and giving them a modern twist, using bold new flavours and exciting ingredients to redefine Greek cuisine. So definitely not a book for purists, but rather those who fancy a challenge and trying out new variations of this ancient gastronomy. ‘During my first two books, I already started playing around with Greek ingredients and that’s what triggered the brainwave. It’s been a very nostalgic experience.’
The book is a product of a summer spent cooking and experimenting at her father’s tavern in the Troodos mountains of Cyprus and while that influence is clear, so is that innate Britishness and zest for experimentation. We were treated to a selection of the star recipes from her book including, delicious carrot keftedes, tomato and runner bean baklavas and no Greek party would be the fit without sumptuous lamb, here marinated with feta curd. This made for truly great, inventive as well as refined party food, which one might not instantly associate with Greek food. Another nice surprise was the food being accompanied by fantastic Greek Cypriot wine (who knew?!) as well as a top notch sherry type dessert wine served with dessert.
With Mediterranean food seeing somewhat of a revival and generally being quite en vogue at the moment, as Yotam Ottolenghi returns to our screens, the launch seems very well timed indeed. This bright and vibrant book will be sure to tap into that burning desire we all have to prolong our memories of summer and recreate that holiday feeling as we delve deeper into the winter months.
Should you not care to try the recipes at home, perhaps one of Maria’s cookery classes would be a wise alternative…
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