Recipes from Greek by chef George Calombaris

Garden peas, cauliflower, almonds, lemon; Greek, by George Calombaris.
Garden peas, cauliflower, almonds, lemon; Greek, by George Calombaris.  Photo: Penguin

Renowned chef George Calombaris shares his passion and enthusiasm for traditional Greek food, but not as you may know it. Greek is a snapshot of the chef's mind and heart, the people and the memories that have influenced him and the food they have inspired him to create. Here are some great recipes to create a Greek feast.

Garden peas, cauliflower, almonds, lemon

Serves 4

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
300ml pure cream (45 per cent fat)
500g cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
1½ cups (240g) green peas
50g blanched almonds
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
large handful of pea tendrils (optional)

Hellenic mess from Greek.
Hellenic mess from Greek. Photo: Supplied

Oregano salt:

¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp salt flakes
¼ tsp castor sugar

Lemon dressing:

Grilled calamari, watermelon, olives, goat's curd, crispy vine leaves.
Grilled calamari, watermelon, olives, goat's curd, crispy vine leaves. Photo: Supplied

1 tbsp lemon juice
2½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the cream and half the cauliflower and simmer gently over low heat for 10-12 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently to avoid any colouration. Strain, reserving the cooking liquid. Transfer the cauliflower and onion to a blender and blend to a smooth puree, adding  the reserved cooking liquid as required.

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the peas then refresh in iced water. Drain.

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Preheat the oven to 160C (fan-forced).

To make the oregano salt, combine the dried oregano, salt and sugar in a small bowl.

Toast the almonds in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden, then chop roughly and season with a little oregano salt.

<i>Greek</i>, by George Calombaris. Lantern.
Greek, by George Calombaris. Lantern. Photo: Supplied

To make the lemon dressing, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste with oregano salt.

Heat the oil for deep-frying in a deep-fryer to 180C (or in a heavy-based pan until a cube of bread browns in 15 seconds). Add the remaining cauliflower florets and deep-fry until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Season with oregano salt.

In a mixing bowl, combine the peas, cauliflower florets, almonds and lemon dressing.

Spoon the cauliflower puree onto a serving plate, top with the mixed salad and garnish with young pea tendrils (if using). Serve cold.

Hellenic mess

Serves 8

1½ cups (375ml) thickened cream
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
½ cup (40g) flaked almonds, toasted

Meringue:

240g castor sugar
4 egg whites
1 tsp rosewater

Orange blossom jelly:

200ml orange blossom water
100g castor sugar
5 gelatine leaves (gold strength)

Strawberry sauce:

250g strawberries, washed and hulled
½ cup (110g) castor sugar
1½ tbsp ouzo

To make the meringue, preheat the oven to 200C (fan-forced) and line a large baking tray with baking paper. Spread the sugar evenly over the prepared tray and place in the oven for eight minutes or until the sugar starts to dissolve around the edges. When the sugar is nearly ready, start to whisk the egg whites in an electric mixer until the whites begin to froth. Carefully add the hot sugar and the rosewater and whisk for a further 10 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 100C (fan-forced) and line a baking tray with baking paper. Spread the meringue over the prepared tray, then transfer to the oven and bake for three hours. Remove and allow to cool completely, then break into bite-sized chunks.

Meanwhile, to make the jelly, place all the ingredients and 200ml water in a small saucepan and allow to sit for two minutes so the gelatine leaves soften. Stir over medium heat until the sugar and gelatine have dissolved, then pour into a suitable container and place in the fridge to set. This will take at least 2-3 hours.

For the strawberry sauce, blitz the strawberries in a food processor, then pass through a fine-mesh sieve. Place in a saucepan with the sugar and ouzo and stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Store in the fridge until needed.

Shortly before you are ready to serve, whip the cream and vanilla seeds until firm peaks form.

Layer the chunks of meringue, jelly and dollops of whipped cream in a serving dish. At the last minute, drizzle over the strawberry sauce and finish with a sprinkling of flaked almonds.

Grilled calamari, watermelon, olives, goat's curd, crispy vine leaves

Serves 4

¼ small watermelon
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
50g vine leaves in brine
⅓ cup (50g) plain flour
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to garnish
500g calamari, cleaned, scored and cut into bite-sized pieces, tentacles reserved
salt flakes and cracked pepper
200g green olives
200g goat's curd, broken into small pieces
flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

Trim the skin from the watermelon and cut the flesh into thick rectangles about 15×5-centimetres. Store in the fridge until needed.

Heat the oil for deep-frying in a deep-fryer to 180C (or in a heavy-based saucepan until a cube of bread browns in 15 seconds). Remove the vine leaves from the brine and pat dry with paper towel. Dust with flour, shaking off any excess, then deep-fry until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

Meanwhile, heat a chargrill pan or barbecue grill or flatplate until hot. Drizzle the olive oil over the calamari and season with salt and pepper. Grill the calamari until lightly charred and the flesh has no transparency.

Arrange the watermelon, olives and goat's curd on a serving plate. Put the calamari and crisp vine leaves on top and finish with parsley leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and a final grinding of salt and pepper.

Greek, by George Calombaris. Lantern. $59.99.