Hatty Cary heads to the Cookhouse for a masterclass in Greek cookery
It was a particularly cold and crisp autumn morning, the first of the year, so when Oliveology owner Marianna Kolokotroni greeted us with steaming pots of tea, we couldn’t have been more willing recipients. The choices on offer were Greek mountain herb and olive leaf—although unlimited refills meant that very few of us just stuck to having one. Both were delicious but for me, the former (often referred to in the UK by the less attractive name ironwort) was the winner: mild in flavour, but with slight floral and earthy notes. Marianna then went on to list its medicinal purposes, which only added to its appeal.
Marianna was joined by Greek chef Despina Siahuli who, having worked her way around many kitchens in London (including the E5 Bakehouse and St John’s), set up her company Pan to share a love of Greek cuisine through pop-up events and cooking workshops.
Despina set us off on our culinary journey early on, with tasters of dry fig, stuffed with Cretan cheese and walnuts, followed by a demonstration of how to make fava. Not to be mistaken with fava beans, Greek fava is a purée made with yellow split peas—very simple to make, but incredibly tasty and definitely one that we will all be making for ourselves at home.
The day was a good mix of demonstrations and hands-on experience. Although we watched Despina cook the fava and a mushroom fricassée (made with dried wild mushrooms that Marianna had foraged last year with her partner), we were put to work making everything else on the six-course menu.
Golden brown and crispy
This included rolling out wine crackers made with olive oil and petimezi (grape syrup), making filo parcels filled with a mixture of walnuts, tahini, currants and oranges, and working as team to create an impressive pie filled with squash, feta and tarhana (a Greek fermented grain mix). The latter was created by rolling the filling in sheets of filo to form long sausage shapes, before carefully laying each roll in a round tin in the shape of a snail, brushing with egg and baking till golden brown and crispy.
The workshop was a great opportunity to speak to other foodies and exchange cooking tips and recipes. Even the most avid cook will have learnt something new. For example, contrary to some advice I’ve read, both Marianna and Despina believe that extra virgin olive oil should be used not only for dressings, but also for cooking.
“You want to make sure you are imparting the best flavour at each stage of the cooking process: from making the base at the start, to garnishing at the end. Lower grade olive oils have no place in the world.” Considering the name of the company, it is no wonder that this is a subject Marianna feels passionately about. But after tasting all the dishes, we too were converted to her way of thinking.
There was an abundance of food, so we were lucky enough to bring some home with us, as well as little Oliveology goodie bags filled with a ‘starter kit’ of ingredients and recipes, to help us on our way to becoming Greek cooking pros. Among these, I was pleased to see, was some mountain tea—something I can already see I’m going to have trouble living without from now on!
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or head over to Oliveology's website to book your space