Maria Elia, author of Full of Flavour, 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.
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
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018