TV presenter and Greek food expert Tonia Buxton shares how she cooks on a daily basis for her family.
How to entertain
‘The first point to bear in mind is that you must have a nice evening. If you’re stuck behind the cooker feeling unhappy then nobody enjoys themselves. I like to make baked octopus which is in the oven for three hours, and then is served cold with ladolemono lemon-olive oil beaten together. It’s an easy delicious starter. Then for a main course I’ll make kleftiko baked lamb which I prep beforehand.
I miss pre-children dinner parties when I could take a day to think about what to make, a day to shop, another to cook and then stay in bed until midday on Sunday. Now things have to be simpler. But it’s possible to have a wonderful time eating with friends and family.
As I’ve got older I’ve realised we must strive to be happy in everything we do from working to eating.’
‘I now add cumin or turmeric to every meal now as these are wonder spices help us metabolise our food. These spices are also good for joints and pains because they are anti-acidic so they reduce inflammation; they’re also anti-bacterial which means they help fight infections. I love cinnamon in everything and aside from the taste it’s great for regulating blood sugar. I order huge amounts of the real thing, cassia bark, and grind it myself. Obviously Greek olive oil is essential (though I use groundnut oil or flax oil if I fry anything). And lemons. I adore lemons.’
Healthy yummy cooking for families
‘Cooking for the family can be joyless. There, I’ve said it. Cooking for friends and for events is great fun. But when you’ve got fussy eaters and a super health conscious husband, well it drives me nuts. My teenage daughters Antigone and Sophia are developing an adult palate so if I make something like an Aegean baked fish dish they’ll now have some, but my two boys will look away.
To get the boys eating vegetables I make keftedes Greek meatballs but in my version I use broccoli and I bake them instead of frying. I make a big batch and on the second day I add a tomato sauce.
What I cook for the family depends on my work for the week. I plan and shop on Sunday at local supermarkets, mostly Waitrose, but Tesco’s too. Even if I had the luxury of time, the individual shops I’d love to go to like butchers and fishmongers don’t exist now. If it’s a busy week for me and I’m out most days or evenings then I plan the dinners for every night on a Sunday. My husband Paul will help with the cooking — he makes a great pasta dish with garlic and parsley. And the girls cook too. I’ll make some dishes like keftedes or a tray bake with chicken thighs on the Sunday, and lay them out ready to be baked. I’m a great one for prepping.
We always have a salad that we make on the spot. In the summer we harvest from whatever we’ve grown in our garden. We add raw garlic too as it’s anti-viral and very good for you.
I don’t buy ready meals for the family. I am lazy and would happily do so but I find the list of ingredients worrying. Making food from scratch doesn’t have to be difficult. A stir fry with some wholemeal wraps and salad is nutritious family food and only takes minutes.
When I’m working from home in the mornings I ask what everyone what they fancy. I can cook in between working, so I’ll make dishes like a fish pie with a Greek twist of course –olives and thyme, and without cream.
We like to have people round for Sunday tea. I don’t use fancy equipment, I just make the cakes by hand. I like to use wholegrain flours, olive oil, eggs and bananas and fruit, depending on what’s lying around.’
Eat Greek for a Week by Tonia Buxton RRP £16.99 out now (Blink Publishing).