Vefa’s Kitchen
by Vefa Alexiadou
Publisher: Phaidon, Country: UK
ISBN: 9780714849294, Year: 2009
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

This comprehensive book of Greek food offers an assortment of delicious dishes, from salads and soups to mezedes (appetizers) for the summer to the slow-cooked dishes every Greek grows up with. Vefa’s Kitchen also showcases a huge array of regional desserts and pastries, breads and other baked delights. At more than 650 recipes, the scope of this book is nearly unparalleled.

Full review

Structure of the book

The book starts out with an introduction to Greek cuisine, which includes some background on where it originated, its remarkable influence on all the cuisines that surround the Mediterranean basin, and how Greeks still enjoy some of the dishes their ancestors ate.

The book gives about a page of detail on each of the cooking regions of Greece. Vefa touches on everything from Macedonia and Thrace to Epirus and Thessaly, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, all of the Greek Islands including Crete, and even goes beyond the boundaries of Greece into Cyprus. She discusses the bias of these regions and their cooking towards certain ingredients based on what’s available seasonally and in that particular micro-climate. You get a sense of some overlap in the regional tastes but also their particular nuances.

About the author

For the past 30 years, practically every homecook in Greece would have owned at least one of Vefa’s thirteen best-selling cookbooks. She has sold more than 5 million books, has her own television show and served on the board of the Centre for the Preservation of Traditional Greek Gastronomy. For the first time, her recipes have been compiled into this definitive collection of Greek cuisine.

How is this book interesting/special/new/useful?

One of the most appealing features of the book is its comprehensiveness: it contains over 650 recipes and 200 photos. Even I, as a person of Greek extraction, have found some new, unfamiliar dishes that I am eager to try out, such as scallops from Lesvos, braised snails from Crete, Mount Athos fish soup, octopus stifado, and saragli (rolled baklava).

The benefit is that not only do you get plenty of recipes but that the book ranges from basic sauces and dressings, on to starters such as garlic-stuffed zucchini and savory baked kataifi, soups such as artichoke soup and clam and vegetable soup, salads, and then on to every food group including meat dishes such as kontosouvli, stuffed lamb rolled in grape leaves and pheasant with almonds and pine nuts, seafood dishes such as monkfish with avgolemono sauce and crayfish stew, and vegetarian dishes. She even has several recipes for breads such as Mount Pelion cheese bread, pita bread, fried olive bread and cinnamon twists, and sweets and desserts such as melitinia from Sifnos, kormos, carrot truffles, and mastic-flavored marzipan cookies. Of course, she also includes recipes for well-known Greek classics such as moussaka, pastitsio, roast lamb, baked chicken and rice, and souvlaki.

While she does not include any menu suggestions, the appetizers are further subdivided into the four seasons, which may help planning.

Much like a Greek host or hostess who fears not feeding their guests enough, Vefa gives yet another chapter of recipes by prominent Greek chefs who operate restaurants outside of Greece and ends the book with an extensive glossary of Greek cooking terminology and ingredient descriptions that will prove very valuable to someone new to Greek cookery.

What problems/flaws are there?

Although more than 200 photos appear in the book, some of the more obscure dishes are without photos. I would have liked all the dishes to have included a picture (even a small one beside the recipe). This would greatly benefit the person who has just embraced or discovered Greek cuisine. Also, while the photography is good, the styling of the food and the lighting could have been better, as a few photos appear dull.

Vefa does give some some historical insight into some dishes, but not all. Some more background on a dish, a story or some context would have been value-added.

While I have a feeling the recipes were simplified so as to appeal to a broader audience and allow for some creativity in the kitchen, it’s hard to pinpoint or fault leaving out some herbs or ingredients, as it is a subject of personal preference for Greeks, who may even have debates or arguments about a dish! With some more experience, one may feel that an extra herb here, a dash of your own spice there could be used in some of the dishes.

Who might enjoy/use this book most?

Vefa’s Kitchen is probably the best large volume Greek cookbook since Nikos Tselementes’ Greek cookbook was released in 1910 (known as the Greek cooking bible). While Vefa’s Kitchen cannot replace the Tselementes, it should still be in the posession of any serious Greek cook. Vefa’s Kitchen would appeal to both the seasoned cook familiar with Greek cookery and the budding cook interested in Greek food. The recipes are easy to follow, I’ve tried a few dishes and they turn out extremely well.

Main rating: 4. Recommended – good
Visual appeal: Attractive
Suitability as a gift: Likely to be strongly appreciated
This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
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Rate this book
Rating: 3.2/5 (17 votes cast)
Vefa's Kitchen, Vefa Alexiadou | 2009 | UK, 3.2 out of 5 based on 17 ratings

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3 Comments

  1. Tina Z
    Posted 17 Jul 2009 at 00:41 | Permalink

    [EDITOR'S NOTE: A reader called "Tina Z" left a comment. We have tried to contact her but her email address was incorrect. "Tina Z" wanted to point out that Vefa's Kitchen is not an original work, but instead combines many of Vefa's previous books into one large all-in-one volume. For readers who already own some of Vefa's books, this new volume could be disappointing because of the overlap with previous books.

    We have also corrected an ambiguity in the review text to address another issue raised by "Tina Z".]

  2. cgHipp
    Posted 19 Aug 2009 at 12:34 | Permalink

    I recently purchased this book and tried a couple of the recipes tonight – the chicken with lemon sauce and potatoes (p.355), and the zucchini stuffed with rice (p.227). Both recipes turned out fantastic – and I have never tried Greek cooking before. One quibble I have, though was about specificity in ingredients. For example, is the rice in the stuffed zucchini cooked or uncooked? It would take so little effort (and space) to just say one way or the other. I had a hunch, but why should I have to figure it out?
    The recipe also calls for one onion. What size onion? One white onion can easily be twice the size of another.

    I couldn’t get too worked up about this, though, because my own personal recipes are just lists of ingredients, and usually when I look for a recipe it’s just to find what ingredients are in a dish, not how much of it. So, how much onion? A lot, because I like a lot. Works for me! I can’t wait to try more.

  3. Fiona
    Posted 29 Mar 2012 at 06:21 | Permalink

    I was interested to read the review posted for Vefa’s Kitchen. I’ve quite a number of Greek cookery books, and my family are particularly fond of Greek desserts. I know that there is a specialized book by Vefa on Greek desserts, but it is rarely available and seems to be very expensive. I contacted Phaidon as I was wanting to know whether the new Vefa’s Kitchen would contain all the recipes from her book of desserts and pastries.
    Phaidon were a bit vague in their response, and were unable to provide me with index listings for either of the books. Would anyone here be able to help?
    Another real gem of a book is the paperback Cooking the Greek Way , by Anne Theoharous. A small paperback with many excellent recipes. I wish it was back in print….!!

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Vefa’s Kitchen, a huge tome of Greek recipes compiled from her previous books is released in the English market, read my review [...]

  2. [...] So, let's wander into an Australian bookshop and see what we find. Independent booksellers tend to sell at the Australian recommended retail price (RRP). They can't often afford to discount, but they aren't out to gouge customers either. Now pop into Borders. What if you want to buy, say, Vefa's Kitchen — a new Greek cookbook (recently reviewed over at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf)? [...]

  3. [...] when it’s grilled. The idea for this recipe comes from a recipe I saw in Vefa’s Kitchen. This book is huge, full of recipes from all regions of Greece and surely a “must-have” [...]

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