Four treasured vegetarian recipes from a Greek family kitchen

Effortlessly easy: Kolokithokeftethes (zucchini fritters).
Effortlessly easy: Kolokithokeftethes (zucchini fritters). Photo: Alan Benson

For Sydney cook Fofi Gourlas, food is all about love of family and community. Her new book, Artichokes and Village Greens, honours her mother's home-style Greek cooking and recipes, which have been passed down through generations of family and friends. 

The collection is a trove of favourite, cherished and timeless vegetarian dishes Gourlas loves to cook – a time capsule that captures simple and traditional cooking skills that have survived over the years.

"It's my way of honouring the wealth of tradition that has been passed down to me through cooking and sharing food and is a means of preserving my Greek heritage," she says. 

Fofi Gourlas's new cookbook.
Fofi Gourlas's new cookbook. Photo: Alan Benson

Kolokithokeftethes

This is my aunt Argiro's recipe – she makes these zucchini fritters so effortlessly. She taught me when I went to visit her in Pireas a few years ago. Enjoy them as they do in Greece, sandwiched between two pieces of bread, with a spread of taramasalata and chopped cos lettuce.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 zucchini
  • ½ cup finely diced brown onion
  • 1 cup coarsely grated floury potato
  • ¾ cup coarsely grated feta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup plain flour
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup canola oil, for shallow-frying
  • lemon wedges, to serve

METHOD

  1. Coarsely grate the zucchini into a bowl, toss with salt and set aside for 15 minutes. Drain well. You should have about 1½ cups of grated zucchini after salting and draining.
  2. Place all the ingredients, except the oil, into a large bowl and season with pepper. Mix well with your hands. Roll the mixture into balls the size of a golf ball and flatten slightly.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and cook the fritters until golden brown and cooked through. Put the cooked fritters on a plate lined with paper towel to absorb the oil.
  4. These can be made well in advance and reheated in the oven. Serve with the lemon wedges.

Makes 12 fritters

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Edited extract from Artichokes and Village Greens by Fofi Gourlas published by Cru Agency, RRP $34.99
Cheese tart
Single use online and print only - do not reuse without permission from Cru 

Beautiful rich texture and flavour. Photo: Alan Benson

Cheese tart

The buttery pastry of this tart gives it a beautiful rich texture and flavour, which is complemented by the nuttiness of the cheese. I have passed this recipe on to many friends and family.

INGREDIENTS

Pastry

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 200g unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 egg
  • chilled water

Filling

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup pouring cream
  • 250g finely grated parmesan cheese or grana padano

METHOD

  1. To make the pastry, in a large bowl, add the flour and salt and rub in the butter with your fingertips until crumbly. Add the egg and knead lightly, adding enough chilled water to form a smooth pastry. Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 150C fan-forced (170C conventional).
  3. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured workbench to a round, about 5mm thick and 45cm in diameter. Use it to line a 35cm diameter pie dish with 5cm deep sides. Prick the base with a fork, place a sheet of baking paper on top and evenly scatter over pastry weights. Bake blind for about 15 minutes or until a very light golden colour, then remove the pastry weights and baking paper and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  4. To make the filling, in a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and cream together and season with pepper. Sprinkle the cheese over the base of the pastry case. Pour the filling into the case, making sure no cheese is exposed, and bake for 30-40 minutes or until set. Turn off the oven and allow to cool to room temperature in the oven – this will prevent the filling from sinking.

Serves 10

Edited extract from Artichokes and Village Greens by Fofi Gourlas published by Cru Agency, RRP $34.99
Lentil soup
Single use online and print only - do not reuse without permission from Cru 

Double the amount and freeze this soup in portions. Photo: Alan Benson

Lentil soup

This is my favourite soup. It's called fa-ki-es in Greek. Not only does it taste fantastic, but it is also nutritiously good for you. I make double the amount and freeze it in portions, so I have it on hand any time. I often like to add a handful of olives to garnish the soup.

INGREDIENTS

  • 300g brown lentils
  • ¼ bunch celery, stringed and finely diced
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 large carrots, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 6 dried bay leaves
  • ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ x 400g tin crushed tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1 small red chilli, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1.9 litres water
  • crusty bread, crumbled feta or grated Manchego cheese, to serve

METHOD

  1. Half fill a large saucepan with water, add the lentils and bring to the boil. Once boiling, strain the lentils and discard the water. Return the lentils to the pan, along with all the other ingredients, except the bread and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are cooked.
  2. Serve with crusty bread and cheese sprinkled over the top.

Serves 10

Edited extract from Artichokes and Village Greens by Fofi Gourlas published by Cru Agency, RRP $34.99
Fasolakia giahni
Green beans cooked Greek style
Single use online and print only - do not reuse without permission from Cru 

Green beans cooked Greek style. Photo: Alan Benson

Fasolakia giahni

These are green beans cooked Greek style. This is my mother's recipe. She would serve them as a side dish every week. It is a great addition to any dinner, but also works well as a meal on its own, on toast or with salad and feta.

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 400g ripe tomatoes, finely chopped (see note)
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 potato, cut into chunky pieces
  • ½ cup water
  • 1kg green beans, trimmed and stringed
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked

Note: If tomatoes are not in season, substitute 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes or 400ml tomato passata.

METHOD

  1. Add the oil, onion and garlic to a large saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until translucent.
  2. Stir in the tomato and cook until completely broken down.
  3. Add the carrot, potato and water, season with salt and pepper and cook until just tender.
  4. Add the beans, cover with a lid and cook for about 4 minutes or until tender. Add the parsley, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serves 6 as a side

This is an edited extract from Artichokes and Village Greens by Fofi Gourlas, published by Cru Agency, RRP $34.99. Buy now