Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: Ela! Ela!, by Ella Mittas

An original, heartfelt journey through food, culture and belonging by standout young Anglo-Greek writer and cook Ella Mittas.

A wonderful collection of authentic recipes that dive deep into the Mediterranean.

Feature image credit: @vanessaellewrites

Greek-Australian chef and food writer Ella Mittas has worked and trained right across the Mediterranean, from Italy and Turkey to Greece itself. Ela! Ela! (Come! Come!) showcases the recipes that she picked up along the way, as well as those that have shaped her journey of food and culture. Between recipe gems like Shallow-Fried Eggplant (page 27) and Sfakià Honey Pie (page 97) are stories from Mittas’s travels abroad and also a few plucked from a little closer to home, at her grandparents’ house.

Rather than being set up like a traditional cookbook, the recipes and stories are divided by location. The first sections are Istanbul and Alaçati, where you’ll find the Turkish dishes, followed by the Greek sections of Crete and Home. I was a little disorientated at first, expecting to see starters at the beginning and desserts at the end, but after reading through the book, I think this is a lovely way to organise it as every section tells a complete story (that does indeed end with sweets).

There’s a good variation of recipes included that reach further than the staples of Greek and Turkish cuisine. From the recipe notes detailing their origins, it’s obvious they’re authentic dishes you could only find by trekking to these far-flung locations and finding an eatery tucked away somewhere beyond the tourist traps.

Aside from the collection of wonderful dishes themselves, this book is beautiful to look at, with a hardback matte cover (that I have tragically already splashed oil on) and gorgeous images of food, travel, and family.

Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Tahini Yoghurt, Sumac Onions, and Yoghurt Flatbread (Page 36)

With eight hours of roasting time, this lamb shoulder is truly slow-cooked, but the results are well worth the wait. As long as you’re prepared ahead of time, it’s an optimal recipe for entertaining because — other than rubbing on the spices and whacking it in the oven — you don’t have to do anything else to the meat. Lamb shoulder is one of the more expensive cuts, but I’d still recommend this recipe to a beginner or nervous cook but it’s extremely hard to screw up!

After resting, the meat cut like butter and fell off the bone, and one of my dinner guests called it the best lamb they’d ever had. For me this was definitely up there among the top contenders, though I prefer a slightly different flavour profile with more garlic and less smoked paprika. But the method is fool-proof regardless of your preferences — simply adjust the spice rub to your taste and follow the same steps.

Even with the lamb being delicious, the star of this dish was the yoghurt flatbread. These were so easy to make, dangerously moreish, and incredibly filling. The quantity in the recipe fed much more than six people and everyone had enough to take home. Plus, they were also easy to whip up (though mine didn’t quite achieve the perfect round shape).

The tahini yoghurt and sumac onions made nice additions to this dish, and were both simple and quick to prepare while the lamb was resting. I skipped straining the yoghurt as I didn’t have a cheese cloth, so I may have ended up with a totally different result from what was intended, but that result was still yum!

Potato Salad with Herbs and Roast Almonds (Page 71)

This was a pleasantly surprising recipe that was quick and easy to bring together. The author recommends Dutch cream potatoes, but I used regular kestrals as I had them already, and they turned out nicely. Adding juice from two lemons plus the red wine vinegar, I expected this salad to be super tangy, but the grounding flavours of the potatoes and the almonds balanced it out beautifully.

I wouldn’t have thought to add almonds to a potato salad, but they give it a satisfying crunch (and a little hit of protein). But if you aren’t a fan of almonds, you can swap them out for red onions and capers, per the author’s recommendation. Not crazy about mint, I opted for parsley, dill, and chives for my herb mix, but this is another way you could easily adapt the recipe to your taste.

This was even better for lunch the next day and will probably become a regular in the rotation!  

Reviewed by Vanessa Elle
Instagram: @vanessaellewrites

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Murdoch Books
Released: May 2024
RRP: $39.99

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