Costa Georgiadis of Costa’s Garden Odyssey talks to SBS Food about cooking with produce he's grown himself and his favourite food memories.
By
April Smallwood

9 Sep 2009 - 2:03 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Costa Georgiadis of Costa’s Garden Odyssey talks to SBS Food about cooking with produce he's grown himself and his favourite food memories.

What are the easiest fresh ingredients to grow at home?

Cherry tomatoes. Anyone can get a 12" (30cm) pot, put some potting mix in it and grow the sweetest of sweet cherry tomatoes for the whole summer. You’ll never look back.

Rocket. Plant this in your vegie patch and harvest the lowest leaves first, this keeps it sprouting new leaves. If it throws up flower heads, cut them off.

Mint. Plant it in the soil under your tap or in a moist area in the garden and it will just go ballistic. It loves a bit of moisture.

What's a simple way to prepare your favourite fruit/vegetable?

A little recipe of my own: Steam some green beans until they’re just cooked – I like them still crisp. Then pick some fresh rocket leaves from the garden and wash them. A quick dressing of pumpkin-seed oil mixed with some freshly squeezed lemon (off my tree, of course), white or balsamic vinegar if no lemon, and a few grinds of pepper. Pour this over the beans and rocket and toss. Then grate feta cheese over the top and enjoy with pan-fried ocean trout fillets"¦ yummo!

Your most memorable moments around food?

Travelling from Athens to Thessaloniki by taxi, as a backpacker, with my mates Michael and Adam. There was a national strike and there was no public transport. Our cab driver, Nikko, stopped along the way and we did the trip over two days and two nights. We stopped in a small village where he knew everyone and we went to a taverna that specialised in chicken. The platters of the most sublime tasting and, of course, organic chicken came out and we were washing it down with local Greek wine that Nikko had in a big bottle wrapped in cane.

There was fresh horta (like endives) grass as they say in Greek, baked potatoes to-die-for (crisp and doused in olive oil, oregano, rosemary and lemon) and Greek salad. It was just a feast under the stars in this little village. God, I can taste and smell and see the moment as clear as I write. I remember lying on the road midway through the meal and looking up at the stars and thinking, "This is what we are here for. This is life, right here in this little village. I have all I could ever want for".

I remember going to the island of Ischia off the coast of Naples, in Italy, to catch up with my friends Rick and Barbara and Rick's cousin Roy. They said we had to go to this special ristorante where you book a day in advance to have the house specialty, rabbit. I remember this meal so well. On arrival, we had antipasto and then out came a pasta, which had sauce from the clay pot that the rabbit was slow-cooked in. The pasta was so lush and the sauce so rich it coated your mouth with tastebud overload.

In between courses, I remember the owner coming out with sorbet and or a kind of grappa to clear the palate for the next course. And, then, out came the big clay hot pot with the slow-cooked rabbit in a tomato-and-herb-infused sauce. I took the owner's tea towel off his waist and put it over my head so that I could inhale the aromas like it was some kind of vaporiser for a cold. Having never had anyone do such a thing, he left and immediately returned with more grappa and good will. The taste of this totally home-grown organic meal, prepared with so much love, was another moment that I can still taste as I write.

My yia yia (Mum’s mum) used to live five doors down the street when I grew up. I learnt about unconditional love from yia yia. She just loved us and would love to cook and feed us. One of my earliest memories would be staying over at her place and she would cook her roast chicken with patates (potatoes) and vegies. Food is about memories, taste is about time and place, and nothing can take the taste and time context of these memories of my yia yia away from me.

Four or five years after she passed away, I was in Czechoslovakia, Bratislava. I was wandering the streets looking around and stumbled into the cafeteria of an office building – drawn by a smell. It was the smell of my yia yia’s roast chicken. I walked in and there was a servery, which, in true eastern-bloc style of the time, prevented eye contact with the people serving – a true hole in the wall. So I stood in line and was served a plate with chicken, sat down and had tears running down my eyes as I ate this chicken, feeling totally connected to my yia yia. It was such a special moment. I think I went back six times and probably ate close to two chickens just to be there in the moment. Food... family... memories... nothing else matters really when all is said and done.