Guest Post by Mrs K: Taramosalata

Today Mrs K and I had a first solo cooking lesson, sans Mr K and my father in law. I was so excited about today, I actually woke up at about 6am - which is an extraordinarily unusual thing for me to do on a Saturday morning. I have to say, my time together with my wonderful mother in law lived up to every expectation I had at 6am. 

Our lesson together was special, as I have a very basic grip on the Greek language and Mrs K has a very good grip on English, but it comes with a smattering of Italian (courtesy of her beautiful Italian neighbour who has been one of her best friends for over 50 years) and a health dose of Greek. On most occasions where we spend time together there is a handy family member nearby to translate the more difficult conversational territory. So, for our first cooking lesson in "Gra-talian", sans interpreters, Mrs K cleverly chose a simple and delicious recipe to kick things off. It also just happens to be one of my favourite dishes that comes out of Mrs K's kitchen (and there are so many great dishes) - an incidental bonus was that this recipe is also a great favourite of Mr K. 

The beautiful clear blue waters and white cliffs of Zakynthos 

But first, a little about my beautiful mother in law. Mrs K hails from the idyllic Greek Island of Zakynthos, known for its groves of thick plentiful olive trees, juicy grape vines and crystal clear aqua blue waters.  Talking over our thick, sweet Greek coffee this morning, Mrs K shared with me the story of how she had learned to cook. 

The olive trees of Zakynthos, showing thousands of years of history in their twisted trunks

While many women learn to cook from their mothers, when they are eye level to the kitchen table, sadly this was not the case for Mrs K. Tragically, her own mother died when Mrs K was still only a girl. As a consequence, Mrs K was raised mainly by her Grandmother (or yia yia) Marietta, but this came at the time of the conflict of World War 2. The harsh time of this period is known in Greece as the Great Famine (Μεγάλος Λιμός), where there was mass starvation in the Axis-occupied country. 

The fields of olive trees that remain on the land where Mrs K was raised, the house itself is no longer there. 

A lemon tree grows amongst the stones of the old house 
From adversity, struggle and sadness, there were times of happiness and warm memories. Mrs K told me how her yia yia taught her to identify and gather wild herbs and greens, which were a source of sustenance and life during this terrible period in history. Mrs K said that some greens were sweet, some were bitter and some cured certain aliments. There were dandelions, sorrel, a wild form of chicory, wild bulbs and more. Capers also grew, near the cliffs close to the sea. To this day, Mrs K like many Greek people religiously eat wild greens and they come with no bitter memories of the war - but of life affirming survival. 

My parents in-law's garden today, which is filled with a variety of wild greens 
Mrs K arrived in Australia in the mid 1950s to join her brothers, while her yia yia and sister remained in Zakynthos. The Island she left behind had changed dramatically from what it was before the conflict of World War 2. Not only had the war left an indelible mark, but in 1953 a savage and unprecedented earthquake had raged on the island. The earthquake destroyed villages and towns, which had once been described as the paradise of the Venetian empire. The only buildings left standing after the disaster where the St. Dionysios Cathedral, the National Bank building, and the church of St. Nicholas. 

The St Dionysios Cathedral, which still stands today in the main town

St Dionysios, the patron saint of Zakynthos - many boys from the Island are named after the saint. 

After arriving in Australia, it was not long before Mrs K met, fell in love with and married my father in law. It was here, in her kitchen in Sydney, that Mrs K embarked on an ambitious program of self education - to teach herself to cook and bring the culture of her homeland into her kitchen and the hearts of her growing family. 

Mrs K, a beautiful young bride in 1950s Sydney 
Today, Mrs K very warmly and generously shared this experience with me. It was coincidental perhaps that driving on the way to my first cooking lesson, that Radio National broadcast an interview with cook and writer, Kate McGhie and Liz Harfull on the art of writing recipes.  During, the interview, the comment was made that often women make time honoured family recipes instinctively. If you ask them to write the recipe down - it often misses a step or a detail because these are made, almost on auto pilot. How fitting, I thought that I was going to stand with Mrs K in the kitchen and record each step of her creamy, delicious, lemony taramosalata. 


For this recipe you will need:

100g of tarama / taramapoltos (cod fish roe)
2 small onions
1 round of week old country style bread
About 1 cup of fresh lemon juice
About 1 cup of olive oil 

You will also need a huge mortar and pestle, or a food processor. 

Step 1. Place the tarama into the bowl of the food processor. 

Step 2. Grate the two small onions into a bowl. 

Step 3.  Add the grated onions to the tarama in the bowl of the food processor. Blend. 

Step 4.  Take the week old loaf of bread (it must be at least a week old, and have been left to dry on a kitchen bench under a towel - not in the fridge). Soak the bread in a large bowl of water. 

Step 5.  Break off pieces of the bread and carefully remove all of the crusts. 

Step 6. Squeeze all of the water out of the pieces of bread - make sure as much of the water is removed as you possibly can. 

Step 7. Start the food processor running and add each piece of the bread as you go, after the crusts and water has been removed. 

Step 8. Take your cup (or bottle of good Greek olive oil) and gradually add a little bit at a time to the bowl of the food processor, while the motor is running. 

Step 9. Take your cup of lemon juice and gradually add a little bit at a time to the bowl of the food processor, while the motor is running.  You should alternate pouring in the olive oil with the lemon juice. 

Step 10.  Stop the motor of the food processor, take a spoon of the taramosalata and check the balance of the oil and lemon. If it needs more of either oil, or lemon, or both - adjust by adding to the bowl of the food processor. When ready, place the finished taramosalata in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. You may also like to decorate with capers and chopped parsley. 

Before I had arrived, Mrs K had made up a delicious batch of wild green pie (hortopita) which we enjoyed along with a large dollop of taramosalata. 


  1. Mrs M, this post is so beautiful and inspiring that it brings tears to my eyes! And those olive trees, oh my!

    1. Aren't those trees amazing! So much history! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post Lizzy x

  2. I think this might be my favourite dip ever! Just the most gorgeous post, thanks for sharing!

  3. This is a beautiful post and my favourite dip too! I love the photos and the family history and stories. I agree with Lizzy...those olive trees are incredible.

    1. Thanks so much Jane! Those trees are truly incredible, what they would have seen over time!!

  4. wow wow wow just awesome, what a beautiful post.

  5. It's such a wonderful thing to treasure, cooking with your mother in law. These are the kinds of recipes that get lost if they are not passed down and recorded. How lucky you are. This post reminded me a lot of cooking with my grandmother (she passed away several years ago). She and her mother owned a bistro in Paris and I was lucky enough to learn many of their recipes. Beautiful post. And those olive trees...just gorgeous.

    1. Emilie, how wonderful to have been able to learn your family recipes from Paris! What an absolute treasure!! Thank you for your lovely words. I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful mother in law x

  6. What a beautiful back story and thanks for introducing us to Mrs K. As for taramosalata, I cannot be left alone with a bowl of it because it has been known to disappear! ;)

    1. Thanks Lorraine! I hope you give this recipe a whirl - it makes a HUGE batch!!! ; )

  7. I just love taramosalata and this one looks beautiful! Usually in the shops here it is pink which I suspect is food colouring (not ideal). I can't wait to get my hands on some cod fish roe!

    1. Thanks for your lovely words Anna - yes, Mrs K advises to stay well clear of any pink tarama. Ask for "white" tarama if you are buying from a deli ; )


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Maira Gall