Celebrate life – that’s what Kathy Tsaples new cookbook Sweet Greek Life: My Shared Table aims to do. Cancer-free now, and past the five-year mark, Kathy has many reasons to count her blessings. She says, “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than cooking for family and friends”. This, her second cookbook, is a “bit of me and where I am in life”. Filled with her interpretations of Greek cuisine, along with more traditional offerings, it would seem Kathy is in a very good place.
Her Sweet Greek shop in Melbourne’s Prahran markets is a dream come true for this passionate food-lover. It was an opportunity that came up right at the end of her cancer treatment and initially she cooked all the food at home, taking it into the market each day.
In the foreword in My Shared Table, she says, “At Sweet Greek I have had the opportunity to create and cook Greek food just as I had dreamed. The enticing comforting aromas of cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, oregano, fennel, lemons and oranges filter out of the shop and through the corridors of the market, awakening the senses and soothing the body and soul”.
Her cookbooks allow her to share this even further afield. “It’s hit a nerve with existing Greek Australians, giving them a vehicle to cook the food of their heritage they hadn’t learned. It’s brought back flavours, memories and senses,” she says. For non-Greeks, it’s an opportunity to embrace this perhaps lesser-known “cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet”. The recipes are easy to follow, which “encourages people to give it a go – break away from the mould of souvlaki and tzatziki”.
Olive oil, oregano, lemon, garlic, pasta, rice, cinnamon, all spice, walnuts, yoghurt – essential Greek pantry requirements – are common threads throughout the book. There are sections on soups and salads, meat and seafood. But it’s the baking and sweets section that had the Dish team hungrily deciding which to make first. This isn’t surprising given Kathy’s predilection. Her mother, the woman who taught Kathy her craft and who this latest cookbook is lovingly dedicated to, wasn’t as keen on “doing sweets,” says Kathy. “She always left that to me.” Hence the Sweet Greek name of her cookbooks and her shop.
Along with all the know-how, what she also inherited from her manoula was the desire for sharing food – “the beauty of planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, serving – I saw how happy that made her feel”. Food, in Greek culture, is “everything, apart from family – it’s the medium through which you get together, even if it’s as basic as bread, cheese and olives”.
It’s this idea Kathy hopes people will embrace with her book. It’s all about giving it a go, she asserts. “Never be afraid of making a mistake or something not working out quite as you planned. Embrace every dish with lots of love – it’s the most important ingredient. Food isn’t a chore, do it with love and you’ll be rewarded.”