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Full of Flavour

The Modern Vegetarian

Smashing Plates - Greek flavours redefined

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Cookbook Collection:
Maria Elia

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Full of Flavour

The Modern Vegetarian

Smashing Plates - Greek flavours redefined

Full of Flavour

Maria Elia is a celebrated chef. She has written several other cookbooks and has graced our TV screens presenting her delicious dishes that have been inspired by her Anglo-Cypriot heritage. Yes, she is an accomplished food professional.

cookbook review Full of Flavour is something of a departure from the usual chef cookbook. They are often heavy tomes and metaphorically carved in stone. There will be, perhaps, the suggestion that any change to ingredients or cooking method will be viewed as culinary treason and would best be undertaken behind locked kitchen doors, never to be publicly admitted,

Maria offers us a masterclass in taste and flexibility. Full of Flavour is a unique cookbook that will help you evolve as a home cook rather than just expanding your list of recipes. She gives the reader permission, nay, encourages them, to change ingredients with the seasons and you’ll find yourself just tweaking, to your taste, Maria’s suggested spices and seasonings – and you’ll be confident that you have the chef’s blessing.

The recipes here are delicious but also practical. Maria turns the less costly cuts of meat into meltingly tender family dinners. There are dishes with which you will likely be familiar and others that are Elia-elevated, but all of them have that eponymous Flavour.

Spiced Carrot Puree with Dukka is a dish that will find its way onto all your Eastern tapas tables. Maria uses almonds in her dukka rather than the usual hazelnuts. It’s a mix that will work well as a seasoning sprinkle on almost any root vegetable puree, but I would also add it to the breading for fried chicken breasts, which are notoriously bland.

Brisket is a great joint for feeding a crowd without the need for a mortgage extension. Maria’s is an aromatic, slow-cooked dish with unmistakable Asian flavours from ginger, coriander and chilli. Just serve with rice and some green Asian vegetables. This recipe will be difficult to better, so make it in its original form before you even consider tinkering.

Pink Grapefruit Vodka shows Maria’s love of a good cocktail. This is a simple concoction of, well, vodka and grapefruit or at least the zest thereof. An easy method but waiting for a couple of weeks to allow the fruit and booze to infuse is rather taxing – start this just before you go away to Greece on holiday. When mature it has a distinct citrus flavour and would make a delightful vodka martini.

Full of Flavour is a cookbook, but there is another element. It teaches even confident home cooks that there is no need to be a slave to somebody else’s recipes. Maria Elia gives all of us the tools to adapt not only her recipes, but all others as well, to our own taste and to take advantage of fresh seasonal ingredients. A practical and charming book.

Full of Flavour
Author: Maria Elia
Published by: Kyle Books
Price: £19.99
ISBN-10: 0857830066
ISBN-13: 978-0857830067

food and travel reviews Maria Elia

The Modern Vegetarian – Food adventures for the contemporary palate

Maria Elia is a chef who has graced our small screens and headed restaurant kitchens, and she has also penned several delightful cookbooks. Maria isn’t a vegetarian evangelist but The Modern Vegetarian reflects her passion for flavourful food and in this case those dishes just happen to be sans meat.

cookbook review We know we should all eat more of them - vegetables, that is - but we want meals that are delicious and tempting rather than just being healthy and nutritious. We want to savour food rather than having a ‘dose’ of dinner. Gone are the days of over-worthy dishes appealing to those clad in tie-dye, sandals and likely owning a bandana-wearing dog that would also be vegetarian. Maria presents us with recipes that will become regulars on your table.

There are more than 120 recipes here along with striking photography by Jonathan Gregson. It’s an attractive book that will enable you to make the best of fresh seasonal produce. Yes, healthy vegetables but also economic and that’s more of a consideration than ever. There are smart dishes with which to impress dinner party guests and others that are more for an evening in the company of the TV. Rosemary Popcorn could be your snack of choice for the next showing of ‘The Sound of Music’. Well, Christmas is just around the corner.

Talking of the festive season, I have been rather taken with the prospect of Christmas Pudding Brulée with Caramelised Blood Oranges. It's two recipes in one as Maria suggests that the oranges work well just garnished with some crème fraîche. The brulée element makes good use of left-over pud, and there is bound to be some of that.

Following that sweet note the Honey Dough with Greek Yogurt Mascarpone Cream is a must-try. These doughnut-like treats have more a cake texture than that of bread; it has plain flour with both bicarbonate of soda and baking powder for lift. These would be a delight as part of an exotic afternoon tea.

Beetroot has long been an underutilised vegetable but it is enjoying something of a revival. Maria delves into her Greek heritage to bring us Beetroot Keftedes. These are basically meatballs having the meat replaced by feta cheese and beetroot. They can be eaten hot or cold and would make a lovely addition to a meze or tapas spread.

There are also exotic flavours here. Ginger Beer-Battered Stuffed Tofu with Asian Mushy Peas is exciting. Tofu always needs help: it’s a bland and boring article when unadorned but this recipe allows it to soak up flavours. The assembled dish looks enticing and is a tapestry of flavour and texture. A must-try.

The Modern Vegetarian – Food adventures for the contemporary palate is a true contender for that much vaunted phrase ‘something for everybody’ but it is indeed a book to encourage even the most dedicated carnivore to delve into its pages and turn up recipes that they will cook again and again. Great value for money.

The Modern Vegetarian – Food adventures for the contemporary palate
Author: Maria Elia
Published by: Kyle Books
Price: £14.99
ISBN 978-0-85783-109-5

food and travel reviews Maria Elia

Smashing Plates - Greek flavours redefined

The title alone would encourage a bookshelf browser to reach for this volume. A humorous play on words conjuring visions of exuberant Greek revellers ruining a restaurant's crockery budget, or of polite Brits commenting on some jolly good food.  Smashing Plates - Greek flavours redefined does touch on both the passion of Greece and the quality of some smashing food.

cookbook review Maria Elia was brought up surrounded by food. Her dad was a Cypriot chef so Maria had a childhood of total taste immersion. She dips into her culinary heritage to offer dishes that range from the rustic to the refined, but all have the same common denominator - good taste.

Smashing Plates - Greek flavours redefined offers recipes for complete dishes but also for those constituent parts such as goat's milk ricotta and even homemade halloumi. The book would likely be popular just for that recipe alone.

Sardine keftedes are store-cupboard gems. Maria elevates the humble and much overlooked can of sardines to new culinary heights. They have had a reputation of old-fashioned tea-time fare but this book presents another face of that healthy fish as the key component in a cooked patty served with salad or even as a filling for a crusty baguette.

 A simple but must-try from Smashing Plates is Condensed Milk Ice-cream. It's another one of those forgotten ingredients: condensed milk is thick and rich with an unmistakable flavour. This is a simple custard-style ice-cream and Maria suggests flavouring it with cardamom.

My pick-of-the-book is another sweet recipe and is that for Coffee Custard Doughnuts with Fennel seed Sugar. This is a departure from traditional Greek doughnuts which are soaked in a syrup after frying. They are extremely sweet, although delicious, but Maria's alternative offers a dessert that is less sticky to eat and retains its cake-like properties. The custard filling is easy to make as it uses the much-loved Bird's Custard Powder. Yes, it's retro and it works!

Smashing Plates - Greek flavours redefined is unmistakably Greek, but Maria's approach is contemporary and thoughtful. She has penned a volume that is practical for the non-Greek home cook, and indeed one that has never even had a Greek grandmother.

Chef Maria Elia has worked with the celebrated Ferran Adria and it's his words that grace the front cover of this book:  "...Maria Elia shows us the magic of cooking."  Endorsements don't come much more worthy than that.

Smashing Plates - Greek flavours redefined
Author: Maria Elia
Published by: Kyle Books
Price: £19.99
ISBN-10: 0857831712
ISBN-13: 978-0857831712

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