Writing

Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery

The Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery is an annual conference on food history chaired by writer and journalist, Paul Levy and co-chaired by Claudia Roden, food writer. It was originally founded and co-chaired by Alan Davidson, food historian and Dr. Theodore Zeldin, social historian of France. This symposium has done much to encourage the re-discovery of historical reasoning behind our foods and drinks.

Celebration

Transylvanian Lambs and Easter Tables: Celebrations in danger of extinction

An extract

... By the end of the 19th century, long-distance transhumance was in decline. Agrarian reforms in the lowlands resulted in the conversion of pastures into arable land ... This caused an exodus of some transhumance flocks from Transylvania to the Crimea, the Caucasus, Wallachia, the areas bordering Serbia and Hungary, and to Bulgaria and Greece. ... A defining work of Romanian culture is the poem, Miorita, a story of a shepherd being warned by his lamb of a plot to murder him. It is, however, quite different from the stories at the core of other European civilisations ...

... Over the following two hours, the innards were minced with onions, herbs, smoked pork fat and seasonings into a large bowl, an egg added, and all mixed by hand until the texture resembled curds ... Nicolae, meanwhile, made 20 slits in the two legs and pushed a garlic clove into each, then rubbed the legs with plenty of salt and pepper ... On the stove the head and bones were simmering in a large saucepan ...

... The last of the dishes to be prepared during this enjoyable morning was the miel umplut. Nicoleta carefully removed the skin from the ribcage, leaving it attached along the side away from the spine, to create a packet ... Vlad was once again brought into action, this time to thread a needle with twine and sew up the ‘packet’ ... This rhythmic way of life – both in the kitchen, with a fresh, whole celebratory lamb and in the mountain grazing pastures – is now under threat from our way of life in the modern European world ...

Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery 2011 Published (as a Collection of Papers) in 2012 by Prospect Books

Available at

Cured, Fermented and Smoked Foods

Transylvania Charcoal-Coated Bread From village staple to local hero

An extract

To travel on the night train from Budapest into Transylvania is to open a history book. Leaving a city of streets lined with ornate, elegant buildings and waking up the next morning to the sight of compact, carved wooden houses surrounded by exquisitely shaped haystacks, fruit trees and neat vegetable gardens, and horses plodding along the rough roads pulling their flat-bottomed carts, it's easier to imagine how the sophisticated Hapsburgs viewed this arcane land on their eastern borders.

... One beautiful, warm May morning, I found myself in a summer house in the village of Mesendorf, in southern Transylvania, whacking a large charcoal-covered loaf of bread with a heavy stick ... (The Saxons) built large churches in their villages that, in times of need, served as fortresses that could withstand attack and siege. High stone walls surround each church citadel, and an inner wall with a strong wooden roof provided storage space for hay and shelter for their animals. When danger approached, the huge bell tolled, warning the shepherds to bring the animals down from the high meadow or the villagers to bring them from the houses to the church. Within each church's fortified walls were a well, vegetable beds and, sometimes, a few fruit trees. The belfry served as a pantry as well as a lookout, a place where villagers could hang their hams and even smoke them when necessary ...

... The village she returned to had changed for, in the intervening years, both Ceausescu's regime and the Berlin Wall had fallen. Only a few, mostly elderly, Saxons remained ...

Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery 2010 Published (as a Collection of Papers) in 2011 by Prospect Books

Available at

Wild Food

Capering About

An extract

During the fall and winter months, the Greek Cycladic islands can be quite different from the idyllic images on the pages of travel magazines. Sometimes windswept and cool, and invariably damp, they provide the ideal conditions to explore the islands’ kitchens and tavernas. From my first visit to Thira (Santorini), in 1965, capers have intrigued me. This wild food, or flavouring, is still on every traditional Santorini table, yet capers are very time-consuming to gather and prepare. Why, on this most elegant and wealthy Mediterranean island, should anyone bother with the back-breaking and awkward work of their preparation for the table? How has this native wild food shaped the kitchens, and the lives, of the Cycladic islanders over thousands of years?

... Capers, like olives, cannot be eaten without some kind of processing – salting, pickling, or drying. The wild capers of the Mediterranean are not easy to pick, as mature plants have sharp spikes along their trailing branches. So who were those first people to think of taking the trouble to preserve those tiny flower buds, and why? ...

Kitchen notes: Cycladic dishes to taste

Santorini fava with capers & caper berries

Capers & green olive sauce

Dried capers & tomato sauce

Bread salad with capers & sheep cheese

Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery 2004 Published (as a Collection of Papers) in 2005 by Prospect Books

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The Fat of the Land

Fat as a Preservative: Cheese in Oil The ‘Fighting Cheeses’ of Crete & Zante

An extract

... Invited to share a meal one evening, in the Cretan village of Anopoli, Evangeli, my host, asked me what I thought of the cheese I had just eaten. The only Greek word I could muster was orea (wonderful). My thoughts, though, were quite different – I was convinced that my mouth was on fire. Cretan villagers being what they are, Evangeli wasn’t taken in by my polite Greek words. He smiled, and patted my arm. “Take more, and you will become a fighter, like our cheese”, he said.

... The cheese I was being persuaded to finish didn’t look particularly aggressive: dull, greyish-white, quite hard, but no rind, it lay coarsely crumbled in a puddle of olive oil. I’d taken my first mouthful ‘English-style’, as if eating Cheddar. This was a mistake that I was not to repeat ... Before renewing my attack on the cheese (for its consumption now was a matter of both national and gender pride), I noted the careful way Evangeli approached it. He took a little of the cheese and a more generous amount of its accompanying olive oil, spread both over a thick wedge of coarse barley bread, then sprinkled all with rigani (origanum heracleoticum) and more (fresh) olive oil. Holding his lovingly assembled snack to one side, he gave me a knowing smile, and took a large shot of tsigouthia, the local fire-water ...

... The correct name of this ‘fighting cheese’ is lathotyri, or ‘oil cheese’. Attempting to discover its ‘story’, the nearest description to a date of origin that I could establish was in the words of a Cretan shepherd: ‘it’s been made this way since the beginning’ ...

Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery 2002 Published (as a Collection of Papers) in 2003 by Prospect Books

Milk: Beyond the Dairy

Touloumotyro: Centuries Old and About to Die

An extract

Why, I wonder, should I, or anyone else, feel a sense of unease at the imminent disappearance of a cheese, in particular, of one that is by no means 'world-class'? Is it because I once took this cheese – touloumotyro – for granted, during the long periods I’ve spent on Crete; now, when I'd like one for us all to share, I've had to have it specially made? Or maybe it’s because similarly-made cheeses were mentioned in the classical texts? Or that touloumotyro is, to many older Greeks, simply 'cheese' – one of our greatest foods? Perhaps I enjoy touloumotyro's sharp tang because it demonstrates above all man’s ingenuity – skin used as packaging? Or is it a fond food memory of a time when I was younger, perhaps? A feeling of nervousness as to the future of our foods? Or is all this consideration just esoteric nonsense?

... My first introduction to this great food of classicism was literally accidental – I tripped over a low mound of stones straddling a Cretan mountain path, knocking the stones and, what appeared to be an old and battered grey rugby ball underneath them, down the mountainside. A shepherd, who had witnessed my clumsiness, shouted awful insults at me; my friend and I thought it prudent to scramble down the mountainside and retrieve the old rugby ball, which was obviously the source of the problem. We suspected that it may have had some emotional value for the old man. By the time we returned to the path, the rugby ball had begun to smell rather ‘high’ in the hot sun, and the shepherd had calmed down; he invited us to supper ...

Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery 1999 Published (as a Collection of Papers) in 2000 by Prospect Books

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Fish, Food from the Waters

Fish up the Path

An extract

... Fish, very difficult to keep alive once caught, is the stuff of Greek comedy too, for it deteriorates rapidly and smells disgusting. The ancients made a virtue of this economic necessity, creating what appear to be quite gruesome rotted fish sauces, as well as perfecting the art of smoking and heavily salting fish. They were also the masters of lightly preserving fish, and it was this technique – a sort of ‘flash-preserve’ method – that the local fishermen used with the fish they would send us by donkey two or three times a week ...

... Even 20 years ago, many people had access to fresh fish, but not today, in this high-tech, clogged-road age; high-street fishmongers have closed and supermarkets tell us the public doesn’t like fresh fish. Most of the population are having to buy old, chemically treated rubbish that will do them little good. Perhaps our future lies in an ancient fish dish; treated only with mineral-rich sea salt and a little wine vinegar, protected with the anti-oxidant herb, rosemary, and immersed in life-enhancing olive oil. But will we like the flavour?

At the Symposium, symposiasts sampled Fish up the Path

Three days old: With olives and Cretan watercress salad

Six days old: With a Cretan meze of beets and beet greens

Nine days old: With unleavened fermented Cretan bread

Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery 1997 Published (as a Collection of Papers) in 1998 by Prospect Books

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Cooks & Other People

An Exhibition of Cooks, Pots and Crockery: Culinary Utensils in Greek Art, Myth & History

An extract

In the course of the study of food history much has been said and written about cooks, chefs, and their cuisines, about flavours and tastes, and about the origins of various foodstuffs. Less consideration has been given to the implements and utensils traditional cooks have employed to create and serve great dishes; less still to the vessels in which they transported and stored their ingredients.

This exhibition is dedicated to the cooks of the past – the archimagiroi of ancient Greece – and their contribution to civilisation. To illustrate the continuity of this time-honoured Greek culinary tradition, photographs of archaeological finds from the Minoan, Classical, Hellenistic, and Byzantine periods of Greek history are juxtaposed with traditional utensils still in use in Greece today. Many of these objects are ceramic, because metal has always been expensive while clay is plentiful, cheap and esily moulded into any shape. It is the original plastic material, the root coming from the ancient Greek word, plasso, meaning to form or create something. Also included ae a few items made of reeds and of wood ...

Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery 1995 Published (as a Collection of Papers) in 1998 by Prospect Books

Magazines

Our ever-evolving food story – why we eat what we do, how we find, prepare and cook our food and, especially, how we share and enjoy it – fascinates and inspires me. My most recent work has appeared in Food and Travel magazine (a subscription website) and Zester Daily.

Transylvania: Love at first bite

Gourmet Traveller

... Brasov is one of the Siebenburgen, or seven citadels, that were built by those early Saxon farmers, along with several hundred villages, each one designed in the shape of a cross around a church with stout, surrounding walls and a belfry that doubled as a lookout tower. Brasov's city ramparts proclaim its historical role as a defender but, inside these walls, and along its cobbled back streets, you will find a more recent history to enjoy.

... Until six years ago, he played the jazz he loved – he had been the first Romanian to lead a Big Band – in Bistro de l'Arte, just off Brasov's medieval main square. Now, Daniel Nehoanu, a classical music interpreter who had cherished the old man's playing, has taken his place. Local and visiting artists know to call in, to check if there is space on the Bistro's walls to display their work, and owners Marian Tita and Oana Coanta provide an attractive wine list and some delicious traditional dishes alongside their menu reflecting the tastes of a forward-looking city. They opened Bistro de l'Arte 12 years ago, when Ceasescu's legacy was still part of everyday life ...

... The menu changes according to the season and Oana's success in the market that day. Autumn markets sell cartloads of cabbages and, in Oana's kitchen, these become a feast. A handsome placinta cu varza (cabbage pie) and placinta imparateasca, (emperor's pie – layers of wafer-thin pastry and sheep cheese between ragouts of wild and field mushrooms) are followed by ciorba de perisoara (meatballs in a broth made velvet-smooth with cabbage brine) and varza calita cu ciolan afumat (melt-in-the-mouth, slow-baked smoked pork thigh and lightly-fermented cabbage) ...

Jordan: Jewel in the crown

Gourmet Traveller

The Bedouin – proud dessert nomads whose way of life has captured our imagination for generations – are at one with their environment. Their woven goat hair tents are allow the slightest breeze to enter so they can adapt their daily culinary tasks to the relentless summer heat. For celebrations, Bedouins prepare mansaf, a magnificent dish made with a whole lamb and ingredients that are easily transported – rice, spices, nuts, dried laban (yogurt) and flour (for bread) ...

... Mansaf is a feast made to share. Many Jordanians consider it their national dish, an apt choice in a country where visitors are greeted with the words, 'we welcome you'. In the kitchen of Iraq Al-Amir ('Caves of the Prince') Women's Cooperative, cooks Amena, Nwer, Latifa and Sabah Al-Abaddi prepare mansaf with chicken: “First, I tear shirak (bread, stretched into thin rounds by hand and lightly baked) into pieces and spread these over a large tray, like this” demonstrates Amena ...

... Coffee plays an important role in traditional society: if you are accepted, you are served coffee – a moment of relief, no doubt, for many a desert traveller in the past ...

... Jordan is a relatively young country with an ancient and complex history. In 1921, following the collapse of the Ottoman empire and Arab Revolt, the French assumed influence over Lebanon and Syria; the British over the Palestinian territories, encompassing the Emirate of Transjordan (east of the River Jordan) and the British Mandate for Palestine (west of the river). In 1946, the Emirate gained independence as The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, with Amman as its capital ...

Crete: The Minos Touch

Gourmet Traveller

The land has been good to the Cretans. It is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean, and has a wonderful climate of plentiful sunshine and winter rains. Lying between three continents, it has been much fought over too. The Minoans, whose DNA now suggests an Anatolian, or European, background - not Near Eastern as once thought - were masters of the sea, as well as being skilled potters, farmers and herbalists. Their society thrived for over 2000 years. Weakened by the catastrophic Santorini eruption in the 16th century BC, they were eventually conquered by the Myceaneans, who came from mainland Greece.

During the 1st century BC, the Romans took control of Crete and, in their quest to dominate the eastern Mediterranean, began building cities and coastal defences. For artists and intellectuals of the Byzantine empire, Crete offered sanctuary from the more stultifying mores of Constantinople and the island became a thriving cultural centre. Fast-forwarding to the Middle Ages, Venice snatched Crete from the Byzantines and, for more than four centuries, considered it their most important dominion. They traded the island's wines, honey and sweetmeats to an increasingly wealthy Renaissance Europe, making fortunes in the process and building elegant towns and magnificient fortresses along the spectacular coastline which can still be seen today.

Next it was the muslim Ottomans who arrived from Constantinople, in the mid-17th century. Crete's vineyards were torn up and its towns changed again, this time adapting to an invader whose society included people from the Balkans and the Levant. The island became part of the modern Greek state only 100 years ago ...

Cavolo Nero

In Season

What's in a name? Quite a lot, where cavalo nero, is concerned. First of all, there's the appetite-inducing attractiveness of it, the glamorous-sounding Italian name suggesting a delicious product of the Mediterranean. Then there's that faint hint of someting exotic, that it's a food for the more adventurous cooks and gardeners among us. But when cavolo nero is translated into English, its name – black cabbage – causes this wonderful, nutrient-packed, dark-leaf vegetable to lose some of its allure, especially for those who dislike cabbage or who have a vivid imagination. This would be a mistake, for cavolo nero is neither a cabbage (though it's a member of the same botanical family), nor black (though nearly so), and it's a very, very good food that has the added bonus of being fairly easy to grow.

Cavolo nero is in fact a kale (brassica oleracea var. acephala), known in the English-speaking world as tuscan kale, black leaf kale, dinosaur kale or lacinato kale, and nero di toscano or cavolo toscano in Italy. Its cultivar heritage dates from 19th century Tuscany and possibly earlier ...

Brussels Sprouts

In Season

My favourite food writer, Elizabeth David, was rather unkind to brussels sprouts. In an introduction to her masterpiece, French Provincial Cooking, she admiringly quotes Ford Madox Ford when he writes (of Provence) “There there is no more evil, for there the apple will not flourish and the brussels sprouts will not grow at all.” She hesitates to agree with him about apples but she relishes his attack on the poor “sprout from Brussels”, adding “the drabness and dreariness and stuffy smells evoked by its very name..”

... I decided to check my bookshelves to see what other food writers had to say about these pretty little 'rose cabbages' (German: rosenkohl). Most have nothing to say at all. So I was relieved to find that Mark Hix, in his engaging British Seasonal Food, makes clear that he loves their distinctive flavour in bubble and squeak ... For good advice on preparing and cooking brussels sprouts I turned to Colin Spencer's Vegetable Pleasures, where I found too appetising serving ideas – with walnuts and walnut oil, sesame oil and chilli, butter and bacon ...

Blood Oranges

In Season

Late winter, a stroll along the stony paths crossing the slopes of Sicily's volcanic Mount Etna will take you through a landscape unchanged in centuries. As you pass through neat citrus groves, assailed by a gloriously heady perfume and overwhelmed by the beauty of the crimson-blushed oranges among waxy-white flowers and deep-green foliage, you appreciate why the wealthy medieval Medici family chose the orange as its symbol of status and power. Today, this small region of Sicily has been recognised by the European Union as an Indicazione Geografica Protetta (Special Zone of Production) for the blood orange.

Blood oranges belong to a botanical family of long-lived evergreens that includes the bitter and the sweet orange, lemon, grapefruit, lime and kumquat. The first citrus tree to be cultivated in Europe was the citron or citrus medica, named for what was then thought to have been its origin – Medea (ancient Persia). Introduced by Alexander the Great after his expeditions to India, the citron spread throughout the ancient Greek world ...

Gooseberries

In Season

A connection between gooseberries, tulips, postage stamps and the Beatles may not be immediately obvious, but it's there: they have all, at some point in their existence, provoked mania. The gooseberry craze began in England in the late 18th century and quickly spread to its recently-forfeited colony, America. Fortunes were spent (and lost), as gooseberries – striped in shades of pink, purple-red, green, yellow or white, pea- to egg-size, with or without stubbly hair – became the object of passion and frenzy ... sometime around 1800, gooseberries took hold of the English imagination. Gooseberry societies appeared throughout the land and, across the ocean, US presidents declared their love of gooseberry fool, gooseberry pie and gooseberry tart ...

... Gooseberries first appeared in 'Herbals' and other manuals around the middle of the 16th century, mostly in the context of medicine ... Etymologists disagree over the origin of the fruit's name, arguing that it could be a corruption of an old German name, krausbeere, the Dutch word, kruisbezie or French, groseille. Or perhaps something to do with the goose ...

Courgettes

In Season

Among the many reasons to welcome summer days is the appearance of the beautiful, yellow-gold flowers and delicate, green courgettes on a plant quite magical in its ability to grow so fast and be so generous with its bounty. Which other fruit can be fried, baked, steamed or grilled, battered or stuffed, turned into a stew, souffle, pie or pasta sauce, become a soup, be made into a bread, cake or salad, and have its flowers fried, stuffed or brighten an omelette or soup?

It's almost impossible now to entertain the quaint notion that a cook might not know of a courgette. But, even in the 1970s, a courgette (the diminutive of courge, French for marrow) or zucchini (Italian, see Wit & Wisdom) was still an exotic ingredient in British cookery. We were familiar with marrows but, for some reason, our gastronomic endeavours included only those at least 25 cms long. In fact, the larger and fatter they were, the greater the pride of the gardener and the greater the need for an imaginative cook ...

Plums

In Season

The peculiarly satisfying names of so many plum dishes trip deliciously off the tongue – duff, shuttle and crumble, as well as tarte aux mirabelles, clafoutis aux reine-claude and pflaumenknoedl (plum dumplings) from across the channel. The fruits themselves are no less mouth-watering. By late summer, English orchards are swathed in blocks of deep purple, ruby red and translucent gold-green and our favourite home-grown varieties appear on the shelves (Pershore egg, Fairleigh damson, guinevere, Warwickshire drooper, to name a very few) ...

When it comes to British varieties, we owe much to ancient Rome. A staple food back home, soldiers invading Britain put as much blood and sweat into planting their crops as they did battle. Indeed, the damson, or 'plum from Damascus' was much favoured by the Roman, Pliny ...

... If you've plans to grow your own crop, bear in mind that a tree may grow from a discarded pit, but does not always bear the same delicious plums as you savoured before planting ...

Clementines

In Season

Christmastime without clementines? It's unimaginable. On gloomy winter days, a fruit bowl piled high with these orange gems is as cheering as lights on the tree. Their sweetness enhances our ham and, for generations, children have joyfully turned them out from the toes of their Christmas stockings.

Clementines, with their pretty leaves still attached, are sold as premium fruit. But how did they find their way into our festive traditions? Saint Nicholas could provide one explanation. Born into a wealthy Greek family in the 4th century, he inherited a fortune. Hearing of the plight of three sisters about to be sold into slavery, he tossed three bags of gold coins through their window (some say chimney), where they landed in stockings hung up to dry. Some medieval paintings of Saint Nicolas – or Santa – used oranges to represent the gold.

But the real reason for our festive love of clementines is probably more prosaic: these sunshine fruits are a much-needed tonic during the winter months. Deliciously sweet, juicy and aromatic, these smallest of mandarins have a characteristic flavour and glossy, oily skin ...

Bitter Oranges Open Dialogue In Greek Economic Crisis

Zester Daily

A late-winter stroll through Athens is a joy. The cool, breezy air is filled with an exquisitely heady perfume from the hundreds of citrus trees shading the city's squares, gardens and boulevards. Dusty, heat-wilted summer foliage is long gone. In its place are lush, deep-green canopies of scented leaves, waxy-white flowers, and beautiful oranges.

Throughout Greece’s grim economic crisis of the past five years, these lovely trees have produced their annual bounty for the beleaguered people, with bursts of sunshine in the gloom. So why are the oranges left mostly ungathered, in a country where cooks are well known for their imaginative frugality and their ability to create feasts from foraged foods ...

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Dried Figs Can Deliver Mediterranean Delights

Zester Daily

Much is writtten about the delights of fresh figs but, unless you have the good fortune to live in or visit a country or region with a Mediterranean climate, you probably have to take the author's word that they're delicious. Fresh, ripe figs are delicate, and they neither travel nor store well. Most of us, though, are able to buy dried figs.

In fact, their ubiquity, and their unimaginative preparation both commercially and – frequently – in our kitchens, has greatly reduced the dried fig's culinary status over the years. This is a shame because by early spring, months of winter food have left us in dire need of assistance to bring our sluggish digestive systems back on track ...

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Ingenius Food For Shepherds' Trek In Romania

Zester Daily

In the Carpathian mountains of Transylvania, western Romania, where transhumance -- the movement of animals between winter and summer pastures -- is still practised, shepherds will now be settling their animals in the high meadows after a trek that could have lasted five weeks or more. Late autumn last year, these shepherds left with their flocks to walk hundreds of kilometers east, to the Danube floodplains, or northwest, to the lowland plains near Hungary. Now they're back in their summer home.

A lack of historical records makes it impossible to establish a precise time that long-distance transhumance began in the Carpathians but, since the region's shepherd communities date back to the pre-Roman Dacians, we can probably assume that this form of year-round grazing has been practised since then ...

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Why You'll Go Wild For Greek Capers

Zester Daily

It's a strange world, where we pick flower buds, spread them out to dry in the sun, then leave them to macerate in salt or vinegar. If they are left undisturbed on their spiny bushes, caper buds burst into glorious bloom in the early-morning sunshine. For a few short hours, their long, waving stamens are irresistible to bees then their lovely pink-white petals quickly whither in the strong, afternoon sun. Who could possibly have discovered that, once 'cured' (dried, salted, or soaked in vinegar), the rather vegetal-tasting caper bud develops a delicate, earthy flavour with a lovely floral overtone? It's this symphony of tastes that make capers so alluring.

The appeal of capers has been long-lasting and far-reaching. Until recently, few caper flowers were ever seen on the Greek Cycladic islands of Santorini ...

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Greek Rigani: It's Not Your Mother's Oregano

Zester Daily

Making a favorite summer dish at a friend's house recently, I used oregano that he'd bought in his local supermarket. The baked chicken I made that day didn't taste at all like the dish I make at home with the oregano (rigani) I bring back from Crete, or buy tied in large bunches in a Greek deli in London.

My friend had taken care to source a fine chicken and good olive oil, the wine was flowing, and everyone was having a great time. But, as far as I was concerned, the chicken didn't taste 'right'. I wondered if everyone who's enjoyed wonderful, rigani-fragranced foods in Greece has found that their home-baked dishes don't taste quite as good. The attractive label of the herb I'd used from my friend's shelf had declared it “wild oregano”, but was it really oregano?

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How The Greeks Bring Out The Best In Cauliflower

Zester Daily

Although cauliflowers are sold in our supermarkets all year round, this beautiful member of the wild cabbage family (Brassica oleracea) is at its bright and healthy best in early spring. Cauliflowers harvested at that time have had the benefit of a longer growing season (about 80 days, instead of 50 days for their summer-grown counterparts), allowing their valuable nutrients more time to develop.

The cauliflower, whose name derives from the Latin caulis (stem) and floris (flower) is actually a cabbage bred for its flowers. The edible part of the plant, the head of tender stems and flower buds, is known as a curd. Similarly to broccoli and calabrese (close relatives), the cauliflower stores nutrients for the developing flowers at the base of the buds, so a fresh, crisp curd is packed full of vitamins and minerals. Its Latin botanical name, Brassica oleracea var. botrytis (meaning cluster, or grape-like), is an apt description of this remarkably clever vegetable ...

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Meze Curbs The Winter Urge To Overeat

Zester Daily

It's that time of year again. Wherever I turn, I see beautiful and seductive images of food. When I'm tempted – and fortunate enough – to eat too much, I needn't worry, for there's plenty of dietary advice waiting for me. Somehow though, in these short, dark days of our northern Europen winter, the recipe suggestions accompanying that advice never seem quite so tantalizing as those lovely dishes I'd been tempted by. So what can I do? I can turn for help to those wise thinkers of Greek antiquity.

Mezes are often described as small plates of food made for sharing, and they are. But it's not the whole picture. The origins of mezes can be traced to travelers in the ancient world, who relied for sustenance on the goodwill of the people they met on their journeys. Refreshments offered were simple – from the garden or hillsides, store-cupboard or pot - and no one was turned away from the table ...

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Garden of Eden

Bon Appetit Magazine Special Collector’s Edition: Islands of the Mediterranean

Olive oil, vegetables, pulses, fruit, fish, and cheese – the healthy foods enjoyed by Greeks, Italians, Spanish, and others who live in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea – are well known to us as the 'Mediterranean diet'. If wild greens, shellfish, herbs, game, snails, honey, yogurt and other fermented foods, nuts, grains, and variety meats are added to these good foods, it becomes a diet that has been familiar to Cretan islanders for over four millenia. Studies have shown that Cretans following their traditional diet enjoy a standard of health unknown anywhere else in Europe – lower rates of heart disease, fewer serious cancers, less obesity, and increased longevity.

Until recently, the Greek island of Crete could be reached only by sea. A traveller would glimpse its mist-shrouded mountains hours before entering one of its beautiful medieval Venetian-built harbors. Although it’s now easy to reach Crete by air, inland, and away from tourist paraphernalia, the charmed and mysterious island of antiquity still exists. Its landscape and traditional way of life are fundamentally unchanged since medieval times, and much of its culinary history can be traced back to the Minoan settlers of more than 4000 years ago...

BBC Good Food

World Food Feature: Greek Food

Decanter

Gourmet Greece

Weston A. Price Foundation

Purslane (Click here to read more)

San Francisco Examiner

An English Christmas Dinner

Contributions to guidebooks

Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guides

Where to Eat & What to Eat

Greece: Athens & the Mainland

The Greek Islands

Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guides

What to Eat

Boston

Washington, DC