Please give a warm welcome to Eugenia, author of Eat Yourself Greek food blog. Eugenia Makrogianneli took sometime out of her busy day, to come hang out with us and chat about her life in the kitchen, and her newest love and journey, Eat Like A Greek.
Where do you currently reside?
I live in Moschato, a leafy residential area between Athens and Piraeus. It’s very quiet still very close to the center both from Athens and Piraeus, 10 minutes away for the ferry to the islands. I have an easy escape route.
How did you start Eat Yourself Greek food blog? (What was your inspiration?)
Eat Yourself Greek is actually my transition from London, UK to the homeland, Athens. It’s been a diary and an ideal way to keep in touch with my foodie friends abroad. After 8 years abroad I realised that very few people know about Greek cuisine. There is moussaka of course, souvlaki and ouzo whose reputation precedes them but there are so many more Greek dishes that we enjoy every day, the unsung heroes. I started writing about dishes I missed as I was making them. Dishes like kokkinisto, beef stew in red sauce or our simple Sunday roasts like lemon and oregano chicken. Artichoke and peas in a pot, stuffed calamaris. Wholesome and very healthy dishes that I always had in my routine.
Of course I am a home-chef, I’m self-taught. I take the yummy dishes that my grandmas prepare with all their practical experience, I submit them to the test and write down the recipes with the exact measurements so that anyone can reproduce them at home. The same goes for my own recipes. It’s not always as easy as one might think, empirical instructions from grandmas’ can often be super vague. I started showing techniques in my process of mastering them like learning how to open traditional Greek phyllo dough or just the simple secrets and tips to make a good baklava and galaktoboureko.
I also love the sustainability of Greek cooking, we cook seasonal. It makes a huge difference cooking with fresh ingredients from local producers, picked when these are just ripe. We still have this culture here, cooking seasonal is almost second nature in Greece.
So Eat Yourself Greek is about the lesser known Greek dishes that fill our pots as the seasons change. In the course of two years, I have managed to cover the staples I think. Now I am going regional, starting to showcase dishes from different parts of Greece as I discover them myself.
I understand you were a part of a very fun food blogging contest in Greece. Can you tell us a little bit about this contest, and who won? (You can go into detail in this.)
This contest was really fun! VIMA gourmet is the food magazine of a leading Greek newspaper and I was thrilled to take part in the first food blog competition they organised in Greece. Imagine the SAVEUR competition only scaled for Greece. My category was, Best Greek cooking in English and we were asked to work on specific challenges on a course of 3 months that the competition was on. The first one was to re-use ingredients in a way nobody can think these dishes have been reheated, the second to cook with humble ingredients, so I took on pulses a lot!
It was such an inspiration blogging with these two goals in mind. I turned a wholesome but very simple chickpea stew in chickpea burger with red onion chutney, the traditional fasolada soup was turned into bean mass with beef sausage. I made little tangerine truffles using just their peel and almonds. I might also have put a couple of kilos on from all this trying and testing of delicious food but it was all worth it.
I won both the editor’s choice and fan’s choice awards. It’s a great honor seeing your work acknowledged by your peers and get so much love from your fans. Needless to say when I was awarded these two on stage, I was at such a loss, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was so startled looking down at the sea of people, I almost dropped them both.
If you were stuck on an island, what three ingredients would be a necessity for you to survive?
Hmmm, given that I have gone mad about regional and seasonal cooking I would probably need a rake and seeds to start growing my own food and my camera to take snapshots of the whole process. Please come and rescue me soon, I would probably mess it up so badly!
As a Greek food blogger, do you specialize in Greek cuisine? Or do you have another favorite?
I love Greek cuisine and you can certainly say I have nailed my specialization, especially now that the blog starts traveling through the country. On Eat yourself Greek you will find the traditional recipes, the real thing as recorded by grandmas and mums alike. My sweet and savory improvisations are also thrown into the mix, as I experiment a lot but I mainly stick to Mediterranean flavors.
If you could be one ingredient, what would you be and why?
I would very much like to be oregano bush – tiny purple fragrant buds, it survives with nothing on rocky hot stones and if it so happens that I dry out, I hope I will make somebody’s roast very tasty.
You’re not only a wonderful cook, but you have some amazing photos on your blog. Where did you get the inspiration for photography?
Photography competes with my love for food and blogging is actually a great way to combine the two. I used to be a bigger fun of street photography but there is something thrilling to use the camera to record this super tasty mouthful. There is always the challenge of capturing light, this super bright Greek light and also break away from the stereotypes that define Greek food so much.
Greece has some amazing restaurants, especially in Athens. What are your top 3 favorite restaurants in Greece?
There are really many good places to eat out in Athens. I love Astir in Petralona, they specialize in Cretan cuisine and are using local ingredients in very interesting ways. From the traditional marathopita and honey pies to wholesome roasts.
I also love keftes kai den ftes – a genius wordplay about blaming the meatballs they serve. Exceptional meatballs and also a wide variety of vegetarian fritters with a modern twist. All in tiny meatball shape – well you could even call this a Greek dim sum.
The third, is actually the maritime club of Varkiza. It started off ages ago, as a cantine to serve the sports people and of course being just next to the beach it is a very popular traditional tavern. You can have traditional sea-food dishes like grilled octopus or marinated anchovies as a light snack to accompany this glass of ouzo when you are out swimming. If you are around, you should always ask about the daily catch of fish, they collaborate with the fishermen and there is bound to be something super fresh just out of the sea for you.
Who is your favorite chef, and why?
Favorite chef, that’s a toughie for me. I like home-cooking a lot and as you can imagine I surf around blogs even more. I prefer small and humble opposed to great and flamboyant. Nigel Slater is my man for this.
I saw a lot of fuss around Eat Like a Greek, can you tell me a little more about this project?
Sure, this is one of my favorites. Eat Like a Greek is a supper club with a very Greek twist. Think of an underground restaurant, you can come and visit us at my place for dinner, join in the process of cooking if you like or just sit back have a dinner party. It’s me and also Artemis in the kitchen of Eat Like a Greek. We are really exciting as this was our first summer together and people have really welcomed it.
I like to end this interview with your favorite quote.
“Eat well, travel often!”
There you have it folks! Next time you are travelling to Greece, please be sure to check out Eat Like A Greek.
Thank you to Eugenia for stopping by, and sharing her fabulous Greek culinary journey with us. Please make sure to connect with Eat Yourself Greek, and Eat Like A Greek below.