by Antonia Komarkowski
Nostalgic Greek recipes with a twist, Peináo will have you instantly heading for the kitchen.
“It all began in the kitchen with our Yiayia [grandmother] at the age of 5. Whilst mum and dad worked, Yiayia [grandmother] and Pappou [grandfather] were always there cooking up a feast for us to eat. We would sit by the stove top and stir a pot of kima (lamb bolognese) or one of us would be slicing the tops off the green beans. This is where our obsession with food began.”
Helena and Vikki Moursellas’ new cookbook is a very personal one. The identical twins born in Adelaide, South Australia, grew up with a passion and love for Greek cuisine, learning their skills from yiayia Koula.
“We are so thankful they [grandparents] spoke Greek to us and now as adults we can speak a second language, which makes us feel more connected with our roots.”
You may remember them as the ‘sassy twins’ from Australian television show My Kitchen Rules in 2014, where they won the hearts of the nation with their Greek family food.
“Our lives changed forever and we wouldn't be where we are today without this experience. The show opened a lot of opportunities for us that led us to the career we have now.” The following year, they published their first cookbook Taking You Home: Simple Greek Food for Friends & Family with Hachette Books Australia.
Fast forward a few years and Helena and Vikki are freelance photo chefs, recipe developers and content creators working with brands such as Bonnie and Neil, Bed Threads, WÜSTHOF and Olea Olive Oil.
Their latest release, Peináo ~ A Greek Feast for All, isn’t another taverna cookbook. The Powerhouse twins share their fun and modern spins on the Greek classics.
“We have been the girls who have always loved entertaining and cooking for our friends and family no matter where we are living. No matter the occasion we are forever feeding hungry guests and this is where the inspiration came from. And how many times have you said “peinao” (which translate to ‘I’m hungry’).”
And it wasn’t easy choosing which recipes to include. “For us, each recipe has a special memory and we share a story for each one. A lot of our recipes are nostalgic and bring back memories like Yiayia’s cheesy garlic & butter makaronia which is close to our hearts and our citrus revani cake which is 3 generations old.”
It’s like you experience what it’s like to eat at their Greek family table.
The book is divided into sections: Mornings, Mezze, Big Plates, Salads, Sweets, Cheers and Basics and each one begins with an excellently constructed introduction for which the authors share personal stories, tips and photos from their own collection.
Whether it’s ‘kalimera’ rizogalo, oregano yoghurt pita breads or yemista, Helena and Vikki share delicious recipes with very little ingredients… Yet what truly lies at the heart of the book is joy that comes from gathering around a table filled with delicious, soulful dishes made with love.
“Our recipes are not traditional (sorry Yiayia), we wanted to focus on modern Greek recipes but still staying true to the Greek cuisine.”
“When readers open Peináo, we want them saying ‘yes I can make this’ ! Hosting a dinner party can be overwhelming but with the help of Peinao we show our readers how to set the scene, from table styling, music and creating the perfect menu.”
One dish the girls think everyone, Hellene or Philhellene, should know how to cook is… Moussaka!! And yes, the recipe is in the cookbook!
Peináo is out now and available here.
I’ve been busy trying out all these recipes, and believe me when I tell you, they’re just as fun to eat as they are to look at!
Book credits: Peináo by Helena Moursellas & Vikki Moursellas, published by Smith Street Books, distributed by Thames & Hudson Australia, AUD$55.00, available 29 August 2023.
Copyright photography: © Jorge Rivera, Helena Moursellas and Pawel Soltysinski