There are people you meet who are just so warm and welcoming, and this week's guests, George and his mum, were no exception.
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28 Apr 2014 - 10:50 AM  UPDATED 24 Oct 2018 - 2:02 PM

There are people you meet who are just so warm and welcoming, and this week's guests, George and his mum, were no exception. George's mum was probably one of the most generous people I’ve ever met (along with Eileen Yip). As soon as I met her, she grabbed hold of me, gave me a big kiss on the cheek and a big grandma bear hug. She was really, really warm. George was this gentle giant, ex-rugby player, but, at the same time, he was really down to earth, friendly, articulate and I automatically felt part of the family when I walked in.

I loved cooking the octopus on the barbecue with George’s brother-in-law, Costa. They introduced me to dirty ouzo. It was basically octopus juice that had run off from the BBQ - once the octopus had been cooked it was rested on a plate with lemon juice and salt, it was the residual juices left on the plate that were poured into the ouzos. Apparently, it’s what Kalimnians do... it was real hair-of-the-dog stuff! Very funny.

Cooking the spanikopita with Foffi and her mum was amazing. I don’t think I appreciated the amount of love and technique in a dish like this before. Sometimes, what you’d imagine was the simplest of dishes, actually has so much depth and work that goes into it. I was taken aback by how sensational the pastry was. I think we made five layers of pastry all up. The crunchiness of the pastry was what really stood out. It was almost like it didn’t crumble; it sort of cracked into large shards. It was very different from puff or flaky pastry. I guess some people might make that dish with frozen filo, but real thing clearly requires years of practice.

The trip to the Orthodox Church with George on his name day was funny for me. I’m a Catholic, so while there were some things I recognised in the church, the one thing it did bring back was memories of my time as an alter boy when I was a child and being asked to leave because I couldn’t stop giggling all through the services. The whole ceremony was so austere, and obviously really important, in a way being there with a film crew made me feel like we were gatecrashing this service.

I’d never opened a fresh sea urchin until that day, so when George handed me the whole thing I didn’t realise I wasn’t meant to eat it all. It wasn’t until I looked closer that I realised that the urchin actually comes in two parts – the fleshy part that you eat and then a poo bag, which I had eaten not realising! Finally, I found I had to fish out the fillets of flesh myself. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it was quite pleasant with fresh lemon.

My Family Feast airs  Thursdays at 8:30pm on Food Network, then on SBS On Demand.