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Lifestyle : A Taste Of Greece Special Report
1HERSA1 0016 Products imported from Kebia Importex Pty Ltd 16 goodfood TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2012 www.smh.com.au/goodfood Taste of Greece Maintaining a sense of place While making use of local ingredients and influences, Greek food stays faithful to its origins. By Carli Ratcliff. SPECIAL REPORT New breed . . . (clockwise from main) Jonathan Barthelmess; his grilled calamari, peas, quinoa, oregano and dressing; David Tsirekas with venison and a mixed pulse salad. Photos: Steven Siewert 'PEOPLE OFTEN POINT AT something on the menu and say, 'That's not Greek','' says chef David Tsirekas of Xanthi restaurant. ''I remind them that dolmades and moussaka are made a thousand different ways across Greece.'' Tsirekas is renowned for his reworking of classic Greek recipes, but in all the tweaking, he tries to remain true to history and to his heritage. ''When I first started cooking I thought Greek food was just souvlaki and tzatziki and the common Greek dishes we all know,'' he says. ''I had a feeling that recipes must have been lost over time, that the soul of Greek cooking was missing.'' In an attempt to locate those lost dishes, Tsirekas started reading. ''I went back to ancient texts . . . Homer has a lot of references to food and to how well Greeks ate,'' he says. ''The style of eating that Homer writes about still exists today with Greek people. Mezze, banquets and sharing were all part of the way ancient Greeks ate.'' From November 24, in celebration of the Australian Museum's coming exhibition Alexander the Great, Tsirekas will present a menu that follows Alexander's journey from Macedonia across Turkey to Persia, on to Asia and ending in Babylon. ''The trade routes that Alexander established greatly affected Greek cuisine -- apricots, limes and sugar cane were introduced,'' Tsirekas says. The chef and co-owner of The Apollo, Jonathan Barthelmess, also looks to the ancient Greeks for inspiration. In designing the restaurant's menu, Barthelmess set out to find rarely served Greek recipes. ''There are probably 40 or 50 Greek dishes that are served across Sydney restaurants,'' he says. ''Each chef has their own interpretation of those recipes, but I wanted to cook different dishes, to find recipes that had been forgotten about.'' Born to a Greek mother and father, Barthelmess grew up eating Greek food. ''We weren't brought up typically 'Greek','' he says. ''I didn't know that a lot of what we ate was specifically Greek until I started cooking it. We ate barbecued seafood, roast lamb and there was always taramasalata and tzatziki in the fridge, but I just thought that was mum's cooking.'' As well as researching forgotten recipes, he says he gets inspiration from home. ''Some of the dishes in the restaurant are based on family recipes,'' he says. ''My mum is a great cook, and my aunties are great bakers. When we were trialling dishes we had three different family members come in to show us how they make taramasalata.'' Though respecting heritage is important, Tsirekas and Barthelmess place equal emphasis on the evolution of Greek cuisine. ''Many of our parents who started Greek restaurants here have retired and aren't cooking for the public any longer,'' Tsirekas says. ''That gives my generation the opportunity to create our own, contemporary version of Greek food.'' The chef at Medusa Greek Taverna, Greg Akridas, says contemporary Greek food is emerging in Sydney. ''Finally it is on the rise,'' he says. ''It has taken a long time, but now people are interested in Greek food, because it is 'real' food. It is made from fresh ingredients, it is healthy, homely and accessible.'' Akridas calls the standard dishes ''mummy food'' -- what a Greek mother would cook. ''There is a lot of Greek food that still hasn't been seen in Sydney,'' he says. ''Customers come for the dishes they know -- moussaka, souvlaki and roast lamb. They come back for the dishes they want to try, which are less known or more contemporary.'' Akridas, who was born in the mountainous Peloponnese town of Agrino, also serves regional dishes as specials. Among them are youvetsi (lamb with tomatoes) and kritharaki
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