One of my highlights of travelling to Greece last year was attending a few Greek cooking workshops.
We chose three different styles of workshops so we can get a broad view of the type of cooking that takes place in modern Greece.
Funny though..all three of them prepared stuffed tomatoes! Well, it was the season for big plump red tomatoes so why not? But when it came to preparing them and cooking them, they were all very individual.
The first workshop was set in a heritage building with very basic equipment. Even the old olive press the donkeys used to work was still in there. The instructor was a very lovely and friendly young lady who preferred to demonstrate the recipe so that we would be fully instructed on how it is traditionally prepared in her village. I didn’t mind as I have made these recipes before but many of the other tourists struggled with this. They wanted to get their hands into it!
Eleni and her family ran the second workshop; they were friendly, warm and I fell in love with them immediately! Eleni had a beautiful way about her that I think everyone fell in love with her! The property belonged to her family and there she grew up learning how to plant in the garden, feed the sheep and stomp on the ripe grapes each season. We were treated to a taste of the ancient barrels of wine and raw sweet honey. The participants of this workshop were from all over Europe and after prepping and cooking the food, we spent hours around Eleni’s family table getting to know each other and knowing because of this experience, we were all the richer for it.
Our third workshop was held on an old olive farm, which Yianni and Valia were restoring. These two were contemporary thinkers – sustaining the environment was on the top of their bucket list and like most Greeks, welcomed us with open and warm hearts. The word that best described this setting would be ‘rustic’. Everything about it gave you that rustic country feel. From the timber cutting boards, to the wood fire oven to the free-range chickens roaming the long dry grass beside the deck, this place was mesmerising.
Yianni and Valia were all about connecting – connecting with nature, connecting with participants, connecting with their family. Their little two year old boy Jason loved the attention from all those around him and added to welcoming spirit of this family.
And that was just the beginning.
The food was scrumptiously good! It felt light, nourishing and just like home… well my mum’s home.
You see, growing up down under, there’s always going to be a few changes take place. You don’t always have the same option to ingredients so you adjust. Then you rub shoulders with people who may be Greek but have Turkish influence and the spices come out.
That’s my story!
The spices are what I love. My growing years in a multicultural area exposed me to middle-eastern spices and with a little bit of this and a little bit of that … my Greek food has a middle eastern twist to it.
It’s something I noticed in Greece .. the little use of spices.. well in the circles I found myself in. They do use a little cinnamon or nutmeg but that’s about it. And as for garlic, there wasn’t a lot of that used either, I was very surprised!
So when my relatives started to quiz me about my recently published cookbook, they wondered what was so special about it? “But we cook Greek food everyday,” they would point out. In fact what they were saying was, ‘it’s our everyday, nothing new.’ But after explaining to them that Australians don’t grow up eating Greek food everyday and not only that, my recipes have taken on a new twist with the influence of spices, they understood the attraction.
That’s why I love running my rustic cooking workshops. The reality is that many of these ancient original recipes go back for thousands of years but my recipes with my twist on them are uniquely mine and worth sharing with anyone that would want to learn new ways. I would think this story would be the same for many from different cultures who have migrated to other countries.
My workshops are hands on with some demonstration. You will generally work in pairs and once all the food is prepped and cooked, together we will sit around my table and enjoy the food, the friendship and create wonderful memories.
If attending a rustic cooking workshop is on your bucket list, then I invite you to take the plunge and come join us as we explore together the joys of the Mediterranean cuisine! Check out my website – www.insofiaskitchen.com.au for details and with open arms and a warm heart – we welcome you!