We all like the food when we holiday in Greece and Cyprus. Some of us even come back raving about it. Though, strangely, we also seem to feel the need to make excuses for doing so
“it’s because of the sunshine and the setting”
“the [insert seafood/vegetables] are just so fresh over there”
“I drank too much ouzo”
And in contrast to, say, Italian food, few of us make it part of our staple diet once back home.
Maybe we need a gentle prompt and / or a bible of authentic yet achievable-when-back-home recipes. Georgina Hayden’s Taverna is both of those things.
Hayden is a former key member of Jamie Oliver’s food team, whose debut book Stirring Slowly is perhaps one of the most underrated cookbooks of the last five years (translation: get that as well as this). Basically, she knows how to write recipes that are as cookable as they are appealing.
This book, which runs from breakfast through meze, veg and grains, fish, meat, sides and sweet things mixes the familiar and expected (taramasalata, moussaka, spanakopita, souvlaki, stifado, grilled squid and calamari), with the unexpected (halloumi and mint bundt, fish balls in mustard and dill, pork shoulder with quince, and Cypriot apple pie).
Those familiar things seem set to be a go-to for years to come (follow her instagram feed and watch others recreate the moussaka, for example). And there’s invention in the recipes that, I’m guessing, are contemporary recipes using Cypriot flavours, like the baked halloumi, honey and apricot jam; the apricot, pine nut and kataifi pie; or spice-roasted squash with dried cherries and tahini.
It’s difficult and maybe unnecessary to write more without dribbling, really. Every turn of the page is a treat — both food styling and in-situ/in-Cyprus shots suck you in, ditto the dish titles and recipes themselves — and I honestly think you could cook from this book alone for the rest of the year, and be very satisfied indeed.
If anything, there’s so much in there, it’s hard to know where to begin. No need for easyjet this year: holiday at home.
Format and design
Classic crown quarto shape (so it’ll fit on your shelf). Serene and inviting photography — of both landscape and food. It’s both gently and calmly done, and also absolutely packed with ideas.
Recipes that tempt
Who is it for?
All home cooks. This is a celebration of home-style cooking and eating. Perhaps of a culture that makes more from scratch than we Brits do. But that Jamie Oliver background means everything is possible; she translates sometimes multi-stage cooking and makes everything seem achievable.