In the Beginning.....
My love affair with food began as a young kid attempting to bake a chocolate cake!
Let’s go back a few years…actually a few decades!
We had just made our way back to Australia after spending close to four weeks travelling on a large ship to the land of my ancestors. I was 7 years old.
My parents had missed what was familiar to them – their families, their food and their language.
It started out like a good idea – let’s return to Greece, start fresh again and raise our children the way we were raised…but Greece had changed. For those that left Greece the way they remembered it, they took up a new residency but time froze for them and they continued living in ways that were familiar to them back in the day.
Now I am not saying this was good or bad but what I am saying, it was a shock to my parents when they returned to Greece after 10 years living abroad and nothing was the same.
Time progresses even if we don't!
Work was scarce, homes to rent were scarce and the first day we were enrolled into the local school, let’s just say I was traumatised by what I witnessed and wanted to return home … to Australia.
Funny how we desire what is familiar to us!
For me, when my parents announced after a few weeks in Greece we were returning to Australia, I couldn’t pack quick enough. This time we flew home and within 24 hours we were back in our beloved country, Australia.
After selling everything in Australia because we were going to Greece forever, we came back to nothing – like I mean nothing. No beds to sleep in, no pots to cook with and no chairs to sit on. Not only that, my parents had no work to return to.
Never say never!
Anyway, just to simplify this complicated story (I’ve written my autobiography available on amazon.com.au – My Greek Civil War published by Exousia Publishing) my dad purchased a mixed business store, as you do when you are Greek and friends, we were back in business!
It was at this time my love for cooking blossomed and I spent hours in the kitchen teaching myself, as my mum had to run the shop while my dad worked wherever he could.
Besides, my mum was never the teaching type so I had to teach myself. I did a lot of watching though. I started off using packet mixes to bake a cake. I wasn’t having much success as the cake kept sticking to the pan. Years later I realised I wasn’t greasing the tin!
Fast forward a few decades and today I am chuffed that I have been able to publish my very own cookbook.
In the introduction of my book, I share how my real passion is opening up my home and welcoming in my family, my friends and even the stranger.
Someone recently said to me that I must love entertaining. But as I thought about that, I don’t welcome people into my home to entertain them, I welcome people into my home to connect with them, have meaningful conversations with them and at the end of the day, have a better understanding of the person and what makes them tick. I welcome people into my home to love them!
Connection is the Key!
My cookbook is a collection of popular recipes I have cooked for family and friends over the years. These recipes are easy to follow, using the freshest of ingredients that can be accessed from your local farmers market or supermarket. There are recipes for a meze spread, which simply means a variety of finger food dishes when you are having a light meal. The book has vegan, vegetarian and dairy free options – just a taster really as I will be releasing a vegan and a vegetarian e-book and possibly in a magazine style option.
The recipe I’d like to share with you today is from my published cookbook – In Sofia’s Kitchen: Mediterranean Flavours Down Under and is a dish for vegans (omit the cheese), for vegetarians and those looking for a Meatless Monday recipe to add to their collection.
My cookbook is available on my website – www.insofiaskitchen.com.au/store and from local retailers in the Newcastle area – Essential Ingredients located in The Junction Mall, MacLeans Bookstore located on Beaumont Street, Hamilton, Sobelle Living located on Elder Street, Lambton, Harry Hartog located at Westfield Kotara and Spectrum Café, Nelsons Bay Rd, Anna Bay.
Grab your copy today!
Briami me Feta (Baked Vegetables with Feta)
This dish is very similar to the French Ratatouille – layers upon layers of fresh vegetables separated by a generous dollop of tomato passata, onion and fresh herbs. Served with hot crusty bread, it is a very satisfying meal.
Serves 4 – 6
1 large eggplant, sliced
1 can (400g) diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon lemon rind
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 potatoes, sliced
2 zucchini, cut lengthways and sliced
200g green beans, tips removed & halved
1 red capsicum, seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow capsicum, seeded and thinly sliced
2 large red onions, peeled, halved and sliced
1 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
salt & pepper, to taste
¼ cup olive oil
100g Greek feta, crumbled (Vegans omit)
1. Preheat oven to 180*C. Lightly oil a baking dish (26cm x 21cm)
2. Salt eggplants and let stand in colander for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with kitchen paper.
3. Combine tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon rind and garlic in a jug.
4. Arrange half the vegetables, starting with potatoes, then eggplant, zucchini, beans and capsicum, separating each layer with tomato mixture, onion and fresh herbs. Season each layer. Repeat until all vegetables and tomato mixture used.
5. Drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil. Bake in oven for about 1¼ hours.
6. Remove foil, crumble feta (vegans omit) on top and bake for a further 15 minutes.