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Georgina

Hayden

Georgina Hayden is a cook, food writer and stylist from north London. She writes for publications such as The Telegraph, Delicious Magazine and Observer Food Monthly. Here, Georgina talks about her new book and love for Greek cuisine...

We are looking forward to seeing you come to Topping and Co this month to showcase your new book ‘Greekish’.What can we expect from the new book and from the evening.

 

Me too! I am so excited, I always adore coming to Bath and Toppings is such a wonderful place. I would say that Greekish is my most accessible, and playful, book to date. Filled with everyday recipes that are inspired by my Greek Cypriot roots. They are recipes I make in my own kitchen, all the time, for my family and friends. Effortless, fun and, hopefully, standout.

 

Tell us a bit about your Greek-Cypriot roots. Where did you learn to cook and what were the dishes from your childhood that inspired you to become a food writer and cook.

I feel privileged because both sides of my family have food centred backgrounds. My mum's parents had a beautiful deli in North London, and would import key Cypriot ingredients back in the 70's. It was a well known and loved shop. And my dads parents had an equally well known and loved restaurant for almost 3 decades in the same part of town. A real classic taverna - paper tablecloths, the lot! All the women in my life are amazing cooks and I have learnt (and continue to learn) from them - my mum and yiayias (grandmas). And it's their recipes and stories, the passion for food on our little island that inspired me to become a food writer and cook.

"I would say that Greekish is my most accessible, and playful, book to date."

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So, with ‘Greekish’ are these your interpretations on Greek classics?

 

Exactly. I've spent a lot of time writing about traditional recipes and researching the history behind Greek and Greek Cypriot food (mostly for my books Taverna and Nistisima). And now I want to write about the food I cook, the recipes I've created that are inspired by my roots, what I've grown up with but with a modern take. Making laborious dishes such as pastitsio, and making it in one pan (instead of four!), so it becomes a weeknight staple as opposed to a labour of love. Or taking the flavours and textures I love from baklava and turning it into a moreish sumptuous cheesecake.

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As we come into the summer months, what ingredients do you have in your cupboard at home. Do the seasons play a major role in Greek cuisine?

 

Enormously. You'll find people are very in tune with the seasons in Greece and Cyprus, and always eat seasonally. In the summer I have bowls piled high with tomatoes for village salads. Enormous wedges of watermelon to be served with halloumi or feta. And more lemons than you'd think you needed, for the countless souvlakia and bbq's that happen.

 

Do you think Greek food gets enough of the limelight, compared to some of its Mediterranean neighbours?

 

I dont think it did, but I do think it's having a real moment finally! I think Italian food has been such a hero for a long time (and rightly so, it is delicious). But Greek food definitely seems to be making its mark now too thankfully. Let's be honest, they're not hugely dissimilar, but Greece and Cyprus also have influences from the east too. Spices and softer herbs like cumin and coriander, flower waters like rose and orange blossom. Its wonderful to see so many Greek dishes become more mainstream, and so many wonderful and exciting Greek and Cypriot restaurants opening too.

How does Greek cuisine differ when visiting the mainland and the islands?

 

Greece covers such a wide area, you have the north which has strong roots with Macedonia and historically had a large Jewish community, plus a heavy Turkish influence in its food. To the Ionians with its Venetian rule and similarities in food, to the south where you'll find lots of fresh fish, and more Middle Eastern influence. That especially applies to Cyprus where the food crosses over hugely with countries such as Syria and Lebanon.

The recipes in the book are easy, bursting with flavour and very dependable. Were the recipes selected with any particular demographic in mind?

 

Thank you! Not really, as I want them to feel like they speak to everyone. But as a busy working mum to two small (opinionated!) people, I test and write with that as my reality. I have close friends who are single but work long hours, relatives who are retired but want ease and effortlessness. I wrote them more to make life hopefully easier but still delicious. 

 

Finally, if you could hold a dinner party with 4 other people (dead or alive), who would you invite and what would you cook?

 

Gosh that is hard! I mean, I would be lying if I didn't say Dave Grohl, to cook for him would be a dream come true. I would say Amy Winehouse too, although I'm not sure how into food she was, but I think it would make for a fun night. Anthony Bourdain, because I would have loved to have met him and I feel like that's a good balance/ trio? And finally my husband Pete, because he's my wing man and if I'm meeting those legends then I want him by my side. 

Win

a copy of Georgina Hayden's 'Greekish' Everyday recipes with Greek roots by Georgina Hayden (Bloomsbury Publishing, £26 Hardback). To win, simply click the link below and follow the steps.

Georgina Hayden comes to Topping & Company on 7th May 2024, to chat about her most personal (and best) book yet. Vibrant, modern food that sings of the Mediterranean, Greekish is a must-have for effortless, sunshine food to bring a touch of Greece into your home. To book, click the link below.

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Photography © Laura Edwards

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