Share, , Google Plus, Pinterest,


Posted in:

Now and Then

by Tessa Kiros (Murdoch, 2023)

“Any book by Tessa Kiros is a pleasure to own — to read, to cook from and to return to over and over again for no particular reason other than to spend time in the author’s beguiling presence. Kiros is half Finnish, half Greek-Cypriot, and a citizen of the world in mind and spirit.

Kiros has penned ten previous cookbooks (seven of them bestsellers), documenting the cuisine of Italy, Venice, Tuscany, Portugal, Greece and the former French colonies, plus a collection of family recipes (Falling for Cloudberries), and a volume on cooking for children (Apples for Jam). All are characterized by her lyrical prose, intimate voice and practical approach to cooking.

Now and Then is a distillation of Kiros life and travels in Italy, South Africa, New Orleans, Mexico, Thailand, and Greece. It is, in her words, “part memoir, part travel guide, part food odyssey,” told in a collection of memories, recipes and visual collages of family, friends and kitchen keepsakes. It is at once deeply personal and universal, connecting to the threads of food, place and memory that bind all of us to our history.

After an Introduction, the book is divided into chapters with whimsical chapter titles: Things That Stay/Nowadays/What I would miss if I left Italy/New Orleans Sojourn/Mexico Flowers/A few things I love every day/Thailand Stories/The ones that got away/A few things I am obsessed with/Roses.

Recipes and narrative merge into a dreamlike reverie, punctuated with trips to the kitchen where practicality takes over and delicious meals come together with minimal fuss or fluster. Kiros writes and cooks effortlessly, so it appears. But there is a great deal of experience and craft underpinning both these activities.

recipe Lamb Chops with Lemon and Oregano
Lamb Chops with Lemon and Oregano

I started cooking with Sipi’s Oven Roasted Lamb Chops with Lemon and Oregano, from Things That Stay. These recipes link to Kiros’ carefree childhood in South Africa, when her mother (Sipi) cooked these chops “by the trayful.” It is a very simple recipe – the chops are roasted with butter, olive oil, lemon juice and dried oregano, emerging burnished and flavourful. I had to increase the cooking time a bit to allow for thicker lamb chops but otherwise things went just as planned.

From the same chapter Roast Fennel with Brandy and Gruyère was also delicious, the melty cheese and brandy providing an intriguing foil to the anise flavour of the fennel. There’s a yummy sounding recipe for Toasted Almond Ice Cream in this chapter that I’ve earmarked for later.

Nowadays reflects Kiros growing interest in Ayurveda and a lighter, more vegetable-forward approach to cooking. I made Cauliflower, Basil and Parmesan Salad, a crunchy melange of raw cauli shaved thin on a mandoline, with parmesan, baby spinach leaves, pinenuts, heaps of fresh basil and zingy lemon vinaigrette. It’s a useful recipe for those times of the year when you want a salad but leafy greens are not in season.

I’m not surprised Kiros would miss Nothing in the House Spaghetti if she left Italy. This store-cupboard standby involves a flavour bomb trifecta of garlic, anchovies and parmesan, plus a few canned tomatoes and crispy croutons made from torn bread fried in olive oil. I served this t a hungry husband who declared it sensational — surprisingly rich and filling, absolutely satisfying. I agree. There are quite a few pasta dishes in this chapter, as you’d expect, plus a three-day pizza with multiple toppings, and Yasmine’s Parmesan Potatoes, a creation by one of Kiros’ daughters, which is now on regular rotation in my house.

I didn’t cook from New Orleans Sojourn but enjoyed the stories from Kiros’ time there in her twenties – arriving by Greyhound in the muggy heat, hanging out in the French Quarter, listening to B.B. King, driving a truck to get dinner for the Neville Brothers. There are recipes here for crawfish pies, buttermilk biscuits, fried chicken and other Southern classics, plus a gorgeous looking strawberry dacquiri.

Mexico Flowers contains instructions for making your own tortillas and bollilos (bread rolls) – a useful skill if you hanker for genuine flavours of Mexico but live in a part of the world where these staples are hard to find. I made Chicken Tinga Tacos – shredded, cooked chicken is doused in a flavourful sauce of tinned tomatoes, with a chipotle (in adobo) adding a hint of heat and smoky depth. Wrapped in (store-bought) tortillas and topped with a fresh Salsa Verde from the same chapter, these tasted just as they do in Mexico, reminding me of times spent sitting on a stool at a tacqueria, like Kiros, “among adults, kids, dogs and parcels.”

Fish with lemons and Oranges
Fish with lemons and Oranges

From A few things I love every day, Fish with Lemons and Oranges is simplicity itself – a piece of white fish sauteed with garlic in olive oil and butter, then bathed in a sauce of reduced lemon juice, orange juice and white wine, studded with green and black olives. One caveat here – the total cooking time for the fish is twenty minutes — ten to cook the fish and ten more to reduce the sauce – which will result in overcooked fish unless the fillets are quite thick. I removed the fish after the first ten minutes, then added it back to the pan to heat through when the sauce had reduced. Fish-averse husband gobbled it up.

Tomatoes Provençal
Tomatoes Provençal

The ones that got away yielded two more winners – savoury Tomatoes Provençal (stuffed with seasoned breadcrumbs) and Fillet and Feta – a lip-smacking, steak sizzled in butter with garlic, oregano and gooey feta cheese.

I am pretty sure A few things I am obsessed with will lead to some obsessions of my own (possibly Caramel Sauce with Ginger Ice Cream!). And a cup of Feel-Good Rose Tea from the final chapter of Now and Then sounds just perfect to me.

Images and text from Now & Then by Tessa Kiros, photography by Manos Chatzikonstantis. Murdoch Books, $50.00 USD, $65.99 CAD.

See all of our cookbook reviews on Pinterest!