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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 2 April 2016
12 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 APRIL 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM History inspired Chef David Tsirekas speaks to Neos Kosmos about connecting to his Greek heritage through food ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS Believe it or not, food and cooking were not always a focus in David Tsirekas' life. Before embarking on the chef's life, the former swimming coach recalls a childhood full of fond memories of swimming and playing water polo. But his career took a turn when, at the age of 28, he was offered a partnership at Perama, a Greek restaurant run by Tsirekas' sister Ula and business partner Harry Tamvakeras, also the original owners of the iconic Sydney tavern Steki. It was there in Sydney's inner-west that his connection with his heritage and food flourished beyond what he could have ever imagined. Though he was the son of migrant parents, who ventured Down Under in the late ‘50s from Ano Komi Kozani, the 46-year-old found himself growing up in what he describes as a predominantly "WASP surrounding". "I didn't do much of Greek tradition, or to be very honest, I didn't have an enjoyment of the food and culture. "I only became more connected with Greece and my heritage when I started cooking and began to read about food and all its history," Tsirekas admits. At Perama, Tsirekas was taken under Tamvakeras' wing. But he soon found himself intent on taking his skill set to the next level, craving knowledge and a deeper understanding of the cuisine. "I wanted to understand where Greek food had evolved from because I believed it to be more than the westernised white Anglo Saxon Protestant palate the Greeks of the diaspora were dishing out in their country cafes and city tavernas in the USA, Canada and Australia," he tells Neos Kosmos. But rather than consulting the work of fellow chefs, Tsirekas found himself immersed in the writings of the ancient Greeks and historians. "I thought, where better to get an understanding of the culinary history than to begin in the oldest literary work - The Iliad. I then moved on to works by Archestratus, Mithaikos, physicians like Hippocrates and Galen, historian Skordalia croquettes Makes 20-30 Ingredients 1.2kg (about 6) desiree potatoes, peeled and halved 120g butter, chopped, at room temperature 80g sour cream, at room temperature 5 garlic cloves, crushed 1 cup dill, finely chopped 1 cup celery leaves, finely chopped flour, for dusting 200g (2 cups) panko crumbs 170g (1 cup) polenta 160g (1 cup) fine semolina 400g plain flour 8 eggs, lightly beaten vegetable oil, to deep-fry lemon wedges, watercress and goodquality mayonnaise, to serve Method 1. Place potatoes in a saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and return potatoes to the saucepan. Add butter, sour cream and garlic. Using a potato masher, mash potatoes until smooth. Stir in dill and celery leaves and season with salt and pepper. 2. Shape 2 tbsp of potato mixture into a ball, then mould into a 5 cm-long cigar. Repeat with remaining mixture. Dust cigars with flour and transfer to an oven tray lined with baking paper. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm. 3. Place breadcrumbs, polenta and semolina in a large bowl, season and stir to combine. 4. Place flour, eggs and breadcrumb mixture in three separate shallow bowls. Working quickly, dust croquettes with flour, shake off excess, then dip in egg and coat in breadcrumb mixture. Place on a plate and refrigerate for 20 minutes. 5. Fill a deep fryer or large saucepan one-third full with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat to 170°C (or until a cube of bread turns golden in 15 seconds). Working in batches, gently drop croquettes into the oil and fry, carefully stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until crisp and golden. 6. Remove croquettes with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with lemon wedges, watercress sprigs and mayonnaise. Chef David Tsirekas. PHOTO: BROADSHEET. Kleftiko lamb A week after Epanastasi, try Chef Tsirekas’ recipe for Kleftiko lamb, done like the Klefts but in your own home. Ingredients 1 leg of lamb, bone out 2 sprigs of rosemary 5kg propagating sand or kids sandpit sand - non toxic 2 tomatoes 2 brown onions 6 cloves garlic 1 tablespoon seeded mustard 1 tablespoon cumin 1 cup red wine 1 cup olive oil 1 stalk celery 2 potatoes peeled 250g feta Method 1. Set oven to 190°C. In a big mixing bowl place leg of lamb. Cut tomato, brown onions and potato into quartered chunks and throw into bowl. Roughly chop celery stalk and add to bowl. Add peeled garlic cloves. Add mustard. Season with cumin, salt and pepper. Add olive oil and wine. Mix well with hands. Add whole rosemary sprigs. Allow to stand for a couple of hours to absorb all the flavour, cover with glad wrap and set aside. In a very deep gastronome dish, line base of tray with foil. Then layer a two-inch thick flat layer of the propagating sand. On a workbench, place a clean old bed sheet that will be enough to parcel up lamb and other ingredients, then place a smaller layer of baking paper. In the centre place 2.
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