Greek (George Calombaris) – A cookbook review

Part of being a food scientist/science enthusiast, is to try out new foods, either when eating out, or in your own kitchen. Despite the fact that the internet is full of recipes, I still tend to like using cookbooks for these experiments. They help in trying out something completely new, that you might not have searched for online. Also, they give some context to the recipe, especially if it’s a good cookbook. That why my favorite cookbooks probably aren’t the cookbooks that contain every type of recipe, but are instead focused on one cuisine, course, etc.

In earlier posts we discussed a great book to experiment with British Indian cooking as well as baking bread (for beginners & intermediate bread bakers). This time it’s modern Greek/Australian food.

Long time readers of the blog will know we’re big fans of the series Masterchef Australia hence, we’re reviewing the book by one of the main presenters/judges: Greek, by George Calombaris.

George, the author

If you’ve watched Masterchef Australia, you will know George Calombaris, he’s one of the judges/presenters of the program. He’s a chef himself with a clear passion for food as well as plating food. His plating passion comes back every time a contestant brings in a dish for the dishes to taste at the table. George will be the one who will split the food over the three plates. He does this with great care, trying to make those smaller plates look just as good as the original larger plate. That’s probably why he always seems to carry a pincer in his back pocket, carefully depositing flowers and other delicate elements.

You will also know that he has a Greek heritage. Cooking something Greek as a contestant of the show is tricky, but if you manage to surprise him, it’s an immediate win. He’s also the first one to admit that he himself doesn’t necessarily cook traditional Greek food, but that he’s become more of an Australian/Greek fusion chef as well. As is clearly explained in the introduction of the book, it’s his style of cooking, not necessarily 100% Greek, despite the title.

Greek, the styling

Zooming in on the book. It’s a thick book, 300 pages of a thick high quality material and consistent styling. That’s also what we start with, the photography and styling are of a high level. There’s a very distinct style to the entire book, even though it might not necessarily be my style.

The composition of the photos has clearly been thought through extensively, but it’s not very realistic anymore. For my personally photography in a cookbook is essential. In all honesty, if I would do a statistical analysis on all the recipes from cookbooks I made, I think by far most of them had an accompanying photo. A recipe without a photo is just less appealing. In this book, though, the photos themselves are a piece of art. They don’t necessarily serve the recipe, instead, the recipe might be serving the photo, explaining the piece of art.

Greek example of a page
Beautiful photo, just not exactly how you would serve it at home 😉

Greek, the content

The book has been split in several chapters, starting with a chapter on snacks. Of which, in all honesty, I haven’t yet made anything. The kale chips, flavoured popcorn and quail don’t appeal to me too much, they aren’t really regular meals, nor do I see how they would fit in a special meal. The next chapter focusses on dips, a common theme in this style of cooking. There are plenty dips, but somehow they are pretty similar, only a few popped out. That said, the ones we made tasted good and were original, not the standard tzatziki or hummus dip. One of the dips we made was a carrot tzatziki, a surprising combination with the carrot and yogurt that tasted really good.

Then there’s chapters on pasta, souvlaki, streetfood, salads and desserts. Since it’s an Australian book, some chapters tend to use ingredients that aren’t very common in the Netherlands. But, of these chapters, we used the souvlaki chapters most by far! We’ve tried a couple and they all turned out great. The nice thing is that they had some surprising elements to them. One used orange zest, it’s a combination I wouldn’t have thought of myself, but it turned out great. Another used grated potato resulting in a great tender souvlaki. Since then we used the grated potato trick in hamburgers as well. That’s what cooking and experimenting is all about. Learning some new tricks that you can then apply in other areas as well. Greek really does that.

The books ends with drinks (which we didn’t try, we’re not really drink makers to be honest) and then basics. These basics are true basics, most useful but not necessary, except for the pita recipe. A good souvlaki can’t go without a good pita bread and this recipe worked well, as we reviewed quite extensively before, when exploring the science of pita bread.

Greek meal with pita breads
PIta bread, with souvlaki and couscous, from the Greek. Tasted great!

Overall review

If you like owning good, pretty cookbooks of which you might not necessarily make all recipes, this is a good addition. It’s well styled, has original recipes and content in general and will provide a good original source of inspiration.

If you’re looking for a complete guide to Greek cooking, this is probably not your choice. Nor if you’re looking for a book of which you’ll make each and every recipe or if you’re looking for a no nonsense book with clear descriptive photos. We’ve got cookbooks we use a lot more than this one. Somehow the book doesn’t invite to actually make everything, but is nice to swipe through.

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