Chef David Tsirekas' parents have always been his cooking role models.
"My mother and father have always been an inspiration with their approach to cooking, being all about nurture, nourishment and sharing," Tsirekas tells SBS Food.
"The act of love using food has played an important part of my parents' personality and is how I approach my cooking as a chef."
Tsirekas explains his parents not only cooked for their immediate family, but for their community.
"Whenever my mum made her biscuits, like melomakarona or kourabiethes, hand-rolled filo pastries or dolmades, she would always have a care package for either the neighbours, the garbage man, the postman and the barman at the different clubs she went to, like RSL and bowling clubs."
Now, like his parents, Tsirekas shares his Greek culture through food. He currently owns Xanthi restaurant in Westfield Sydney and is also planning to open Perama 2.0, where he wants to encourage Australians to learn more about and try Greek wines.
"My mother and father have always been an inspiration with their approach to cooking, being all about nurture, nourishment and sharing."
Tsirekas is keen to introduce people to more authentic Greek dishes, like the ones he grew up eating in Greece. These include kokoretsi barbecue: something he enjoys with his family on the weekends.
Kokoretsi includes barbecued lamb heart, lung, kidney, tripe, stomach and liver. This mix is skewered and seasoned with garlic, herbs and spices, and wrapped in intestines.
He says you can put slices of kokoretsi in a crusty bread roll and serve it with tzatziki, lettuce, onion and mustard. "One of my favourite [Greek dishes] is from the city of Ioannina, which is renowned for barbecue cooking and has the kokoretsi roll."
Another Greek sandwich, which people in Australia are more familiar with, is gyros. However, Tsirekas points out that the 'gy' is pronounced yee rather than gee.
Traditional gyros also features pork, not lamb, which is how many people make it in Australia.
"This once again was an adaptation made because of the lamb eating culture in Australia. Lamb in Greece is the least consumed protein of the big four," says Tsirekas.
"Before 2014, most of [the meat found in kebab shops] were pressed processed meat to make it look like Spam. The new breed of 'gyros' shops now use sliced stacked meat, which is then put on a rotisserie like how Greece does it, but the change [also meant] pork was used."
Tsirekas also says a typical gyros does not include pita.
"[Australians] use incorrect bread" he explains. "Initially they used Lebanese flatbread, which was huge like the size of kebabs. And then it further got diluted by adding cheese, hummus etc, which is far from the original of pork, tomato, onion, parsley, tzatziki, mustard and chips."
But the kokoretsi roll and gyros are not the only sandwiches in Greek cuisine; there's also the Greek pita club sandwich, which is found in cafes across Greece and is often enjoyed with a coffee frappe.
"There are rolled versions of the pita club sandwich, but there is also a flattened version, which makes it a great sandwich because it can be cut into portions and shared, which is what Greek food is all about," Tsirekas says.
Club sandwiches are usually filled with kasseri and kefalograviera, both Greek cheeses. "These cheeses melt nicely into heavily oiled bread and when filled with gyros-fillings, it is amazing to eat."
David's Greek lamb pita sandwich
- 300 g lamb steak
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp ginger, crushed
- 1 juice of a lemon
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 250 g shredded cabbage or packet coleslaw mix
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 2 tbsp chopped mint
- 2 tbsp currants
- 2 tsp flaked almonds
- 4 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 pita, 15-18 cm in diameter
- Dijon mustard
- Tzatziki dip
- Marinate lamb by rubbing all ingredients into it, except the lemon, and set aside for 30 minutes.
- Toss all the ingredients for the Greek slaw into a large bowl and set aside.
- Heat oil in a skillet or on a hot barbecue. Sear the lamb for 2.5-3 minutes on each side on high heat. Take it off the heat, squeeze lemon juice over the lamb and set it aside to rest.
- Spray both sides of both pita with canola oil. This will help them remain puffy; they will turn dry and brittle without oil. Toast each pita on both sides until golden brown.
- Place toasted pitas down on a bench. Spread tzatziki on one pita and Dijon mustard on the other.
- Slice lamb into thin strips and arrange on the tzatziki-covered pita. Add the Greek slaw.
- Place the mustard-buttered pita onto the pita with lamb and Greek slaw. Press down to seal.
- Cut into quarters and use skewers to keep each together, if need be.
- Serve with hot chips.
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