Greek culinary walking tour

Join me, Mary (Mary’s Kitchen), and Kelly (Hellenic Odyssey) for a guided walking tour of Melbourne’s most popular and energetic Greek precinct, Oakleigh.

Get ready to bite into a delicious galahtoboureko, an iconic sweet of creamy custard between filo pastry and drizzled with syrup. Crunch into the bestkoulouri outside of Athens. And savour the taste of Greek olives, dips, feta cheese and much more all from the passionate traders in this bustling neighbourhood. With each bite, you will learn about Greece’s enticing food culture, its history and its healthy essence. A delicious lunch at a gorgeous traditional restaurant is included, and you will leave having experienced many flavours, taking recipes away with you to create at home.

Tour Highlights

  • Introduction to Melbourne’s most vibrant Greek precinct, it’s food and it’s culture.
  • Taste the most popular Greek cakes
  • Sample a koulouri and hear about the art of Greek baking
  • Learn about the health benefits of Greek products.

What’s included

  • Guided walking tour and commentary throughout
  • Morning tea at a Greek café
  • Bakery and deli visits
  • Lunch at a traditional Greek restaurant

Visit various Greek shops to learn about the most commonly used ingredients and products in the Greek cuisine, including some samples to taste.

What to bring
An appetite!

What to wear
Casual and comfortable clothing

Meeting point
At the entrance of Nikos Cake Shop

For tickets go to link below:

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/greek-culinary-walking-tour-tickets-50630320652?utm_term=eventurl_text

Ikaria, nourishment for the soul

Ikaria, nourishment for the soul

It is my last day here in Ikaria, a beautiful Greek island in the northern Aegean, named after Icarus from mythology, who fell into the surrounding sea when his wax wings melted in the sun. Ikaria is a nature lover’s paradise with its crystal blue waters, and lush hiking trails that lead to quaint, mountainous villages nestled on the coast.

Ilias and his wife Thea are the owners of the inn I am staying at. Over my morning coffee, I ask him the question he has been asked many times over: “What do you think is the secret to longevity?” He answers simply: “Mary, here in Ikaria, we do not try to add years to our life. Instead we add life to our years…we make the most of every day.” While I came here to learn about their food, joy, peacefulness and longevity, I have learned so much more.

Ikaria is one of the Blue Zones, a term that was coined by Dr Michel Poulain. It is an anthropological concept that describes the lifestyles and environments characteristic of the world’s longest-lived people. Together with Dr Gianni Pes and Dan Buettner, they have been studying the planet, identifying these blue zones, with Ikaria being one five, the others being Sardinia, Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California and Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula.

After speaking with many of the locals, what I learned was of most importance was the use of olive oil and fresh vegetables. Olive oil is an integral ingredient and the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet – an ‘everyday food’. Here in Ikaria, they slow cook their vegetables in olive oil, and since the nutrients in vegetables are fat-soluble, the benefits of these nutrients are enhanced – and not to mention also delicious. The people of Ikaria enjoy a Greek Mediterranean diet, which is rich in olive oil, whole grains, fruit and fish. Vegetable and bean dishes are often the main meal, rather than served as a side. Salads are a part of every meal, and fruit always follows the main.

Mealtimes not only being a time to eat, but to spend together, and to create a strong bond between family and friends, young and old. I notice this bond not just at meal times but during everyday moments: driving along the road and stopping if you see someone you know; winding down the window and asking how the family is, and if they need anything. Chatting with Thea as we drive, she tells me that they take the time needed, the time required. It left me thinking how lovely this is; there is a genuine concern for the welfare of others on the island. They live a simple life but in so many ways it is a richer life.

The people of the Blue Zones practice healthy lifestyle habits that help them live longer, healthier and happier lives. These are the habits I noticed in Ikaria:

  • Moving naturally – this can be as simple as walking to work, the local cafe or working in the garden.
  • Purpose – having something to live for, a reason to wake up every morning.
  • Reducing stress – simply by taking a nap or having a rest each day and not watching the time constantly
  • Eating honest, fresh seasonal produce, and only until you are almost full, never overeating.
  • Plant-based diet, which also includes a small amount of meat
  • Wine – one or two glasses with a meal
  • Right tribe and community – creating real connections; social circles so important to a healthy life.
  • Loved ones first – people of the Blue Zones put family first, they invest in their children with time and love, and children care for their elders.

The food eaten is of course important, but equally if not even more important are the social connections. The highlight of my stay is attending a panayiri (festival), the essence to their longevity and happiness…the genuine caring for each other. Trestle tables and chairs are set up in the village square, the band is on the stage. Everyone feasts on roasted goat, salad, and the best of the local organic wine (which is drunk diluted with water). It is simply perfect. Young and old, all generations enjoying the night together. The music begins and everyone is singing and dancing to traditional Ikarian songs…soulful music which transports me away…a feeling so hard to describe. We dance all night, tired but at the same time rejuvenated.

Leaving Ikaria I take away with me the lessons of eating honestly, taking the time and living in the moment…it will be hard to leave this paradise, but I will return next year.

Food and Wellness Retreat, Ikaria, Greece

Ikaria, Greece

July 2017
9 nights, 10 days

Join me, Mary Valle, for a deliciously, amazing foodie retreat to Ikaria, Greece…it is time to relax and reward yourself.

Immerse yourself in 10 glorious days and 9 nights of traditional Greek village life and culture. We will be learning about this Blue Zone region of the world, with one of the world’s highest concentration of centenarians, it is known as the island where people forget to die…what is the secret to their longevity, joy and peacefulness? There will be cooking, discussions about the food and the secret to living longer the Greek way, and of course there will be dancing, fun, swimming and time for relaxation…I hope you return back home inspired and rejuvenated.

The retreat includes:

  • 9 Nights accommodation
  • Return transfers to and from Ikaria airport
  • Welcome drink and mezedes on arrival
  • Daily breakfast of eggs, homemade cheese, homemade marmalades, yogurt, Ikarian honey, wild herbal teas and coffee
  • Most lunches and dinners
  • Transfers to excursions on the island
  • Hands-on Cooking classes
  • Ikarian knowledge about longevity and the Blue Zones
  • Honey tasting
  • Winery tour
  • Farm visit…get ready to get your hands dirty…gathering whatever is in season, collecting eggs, milking goats and back in the kitchen to prepare lunch.

Additional highlights:

  • Enjoying and taking part in the local panayiri (festival)…be ready for some dancing!
  • Visit the monastery of Theoktistis
  • Yoga/stretch classes and meditation
  • Swimming in the Aegean sea
  • Hike and picnic
  • Farewell dinner 

Retreat exclusions:

International flights to and from Greece
Travel insurance

$3695 per person twin share
Single supplement available on request

Payment plans are available for this retreat
Booking terms and conditions apply

Early bird
Book and pay by 15th February 2017 to receive a signed copy of my cookbook and to go into the draw to win a personalized three hour, one-on-one cooking class worth $295.

For more information contact Mary
email: mary@maryskitchen.com.au
mobile: 0412 324 846

For travel bookings and payment contact Crystal
email: crystal@sanctuarytravel.com.au
mobile: 0402 472 628

Langham Masterclass – Melbourne Food & Wine Festival

What an inspiring weekend it was, demonstrations, discussions and tastings at the Chefs Masterclass at Langham Melbourne.

I feel immensely privileged to have been part of the Chefs Masterclass amongst some of the world’s best culinary masters…it was so much fun.  Chocolate masterpieces created by Johnny Iuzzini, inspiring discussions together with delicious seafood by Mauro Uliassi and so much more.

Hope everyone that came to my session enjoyed it as much as I did.

Here are the recipes that I prepared on the day…Mary x

Kakavia – Fishermans stew

500 grams fish fillets (I like to use snapper)
1 small whole fish, cleaned
1 whole garlic clove
6 black pepper corns
1 brown onion, peeled and sliced
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 sticks celery, cleaned and sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 bay leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 generous tablespoon chopped parsley
1 lemon

In a large saucepan place the whole fish and cover with about 1½ litres of water.  Add the whole garlic clove and season with salt and add peppercorns. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and  tender. Using a slotted spoon carefully remove the fish, garlic and peppercorns.  Clean the bones from the fish and put flesh aside to be added to the soup later. Strain the stock.

In a large pot sauté the onions in a little olive oil.  Add the celery, garlic and tomatoes and cook until soft, should only need 4 – 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and carrots, bay leaves and season well.  Add the fish stock (there should be about a litre, if not add some water) and simmer gently for 30 minutes.  Add the fish fillets and flesh from the stock and simmer for a further 20 minutes.  When cooked remove some of the potatoes from the soup and mash with a fork then add them back to the soup.

Add the parsley and a squeeze of lemon.  Serve hot with fresh crust bread.

Gourmet foodie tour Greece 2014

Hi Everyone,

Join me, Mary Valle, for the ultimate gourmet foodie tour to Greece.

It will be 10 glorious days of luxurious foodie indulgence, traditional Greek culture and living the Mediterranean lifestyle that we love so much.

The tour begins in Athens where we will explore the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus and the Ancient Agora.  We will visit the colorful central marketplace of Athens, tasting local delicacies along the way.

The magical island of Crete is next where we will stay in a traditional style villa, living like a local.  Visits to local wineries, shopping for the freshest local produce to be prepared later for that night’s dinner.  We will also spend some time in Chania, the town centre, exploring and dining at the breathtaking seaside tavernas in the old port.

We finish with stunning luxurious accommodation in Santorini.  We will be visiting local wineries, cooking with local chefs, enjoying shopping, restaurants, magical blue waters, cobblestone laneways, sun and a breathtaking sunset.

We hope that you return home inspired and rejuvenated.

For more information you can contact me via email or

Jaqui at Touchdown tours,
Email: travel@touchdowntours.com.au
Toll free: 1800 657 441
Telephone: (03) 9482 5215

Hope to see you in Athens in June/July 2014.

Mary x

private cooking classes

I love sharing my passion for cooking, and in particular all things Mediterranean.

I offer private cooking classes in the comfort of your own home for just yourself or a small group of friends.  It makes sense to be learning how to cook in your own kitchen as this is where you will be preparing meals: a home kitchen.  We will discuss your needs, what you would like to learn and for how many people you cook for, whether that is for one, two or more.

Classes run for 2-3 hours and in this time we will cook three dishes.

All classes are tailored for your individual needs whether you are a beginner or looking for some inspiration and ideas for weeknight family dinners or simply to expand your repertoire.

I will share tips and techniques and you will walk away feeling confident to reproduce the recipes adding your personal touch.

You will receive copies of the recipes that are cooked on the day.

Ingredients are not included however; you will receive a shopping list for the ingredients for you to purchase.

It is the responsibility of the participant to make sure all equipment is safe for use for the cooking class.

Following the class, I am always happy to answer questions and any concerns about the recipes; I am only an email away.

Contact me via email for any further details or questions you may have.

Gift vouchers

Looking for a gift for friend or family member…gift vouchers are a lovely idea.

Gourmet culinary tour of Greece

Hi Everyone,

Join me  for the ultimate gourmet culinary tour to Greece in June 2014.

It will be 10 glorious days of luxurious foodie indulgence, traditional Greek culture and living the Mediterranean lifestyle that we love so much.

The tour begins in Athens where we will explore the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus and the Ancient Agora.  We will visit the colorful central marketplace of Athens, tasting local delicacies along the way.

The magical island of Crete is next where we will stay in a traditional style villa, living like a local.  Visits to local wineries, shopping for the freshest local produce to be prepared later for that night’s dinner.  We will also spend some time in Chania, the town centre, exploring and dining at the breathtaking seaside tavernas in the old port.

We finish with stunning luxurious accommodation in Santorini.  We will be visiting local wineries, cooking with local chefs, enjoying shopping, restaurants, magical blue waters, cobblestone laneways, sun and a breathtaking sunset.

We hope that you return home inspired and rejuvenated.

For more information you can contact me via email or

Jaqui at Touchdown tours,
Email: travel@touchdowntours.com.au
Toll free: 1800 657 441
Telephone: (03) 9482 5215

Hope to see you in Athens next year.

Pastitso with creamy bechamel sauce

Pastitso, moussaka, avgolemeno sauces, fish stews and greek salads are considered a perfect example of traditional Greek country cooking and certainly a favourite in my home.

It is probably Tsemelmentes, one of the most influential chefs of his time and whose names is still synonymous to ‘cookbook’, who recreated some of these dishes as we know them today.  He introduced french style methods into the Greek cuisine preferring butter to olive oil and heavier sauces, bringing bechamel sauce and a Greek version of bouillabaisse to our tables.

A favourite in my home is pastitso.  I love to make a big tray so there is plenty for leftovers the next day and it is perfect served with a Greek Salad.

Here is my recipe for pastitso…

Pastitso

700 grams minced beef
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
olive oil
1 bottle tomato passata
½ bottle water
splash of red wine
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
100 grams fetta cheese
750 grams rigatoni
1 tablespoon butter
Béchamel sauce

Cook pasta in a large pot of water.  When cooked, drain and toss in the butter and season with a little salt.

Saute onions and garlic with a little olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the mince and brown, adding the tomato passata and water, mix well and add a splash of red wine.  Season to taste adding oregano and bay leaf.  Cook for about 20 minutes until almost cooked.

While the pasta and meat sauce are cooking prepare the béchamel sauce and set aside.

In a large baking dish place half the pasta, then top with mince mixture and crumble the fetta cheese over then.  Top with the remaining pasta and then finally the béchamel sauce.  Bake in a 200oC oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with a delicious big Greek salad.

Bechamel sauce

4 tablespoons butter
4 cups (1 litre) full fat milk (warm)
2 eggs
4 heaped tablespoons plain flour
salt and pepper

In a saucepan melt the butter and stir in the flour until combined.  Pour the warm milk in slowly, stirring all the time as you pour, add eggs and mix well, season to taste.

I prefer no seasoning as I like the sweetness of this sauce.

Stir and cook until it is a custard consistency.

Join me for a magical foodie tour to Greece

Hi Everyone,

Join me  for the ultimate gourmet foodie tour to Greece.

It will be 10 glorious days of luxurious foodie indulgence, traditional Greek culture and living the Mediterranean lifestyle that we love so much.

The tour begins in Athens where we will explore the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus and the Ancient Agora.  We will visit the colorful central marketplace of Athens, tasting local delicacies along the way.

The magical island of Crete is next where we will stay in a traditional style villa, living like a local.  Visits to local wineries, shopping for the freshest local produce to be prepared later for that night’s dinner.  We will also spend some time in Chania, the town centre, exploring and dining at the breathtaking seaside tavernas in the old port.

We finish with stunning luxurious accommodation in Santorini.  We will be visiting local wineries, cooking with local chefs, enjoying shopping, restaurants, magical blue waters, cobblestone laneways, sun and a breathtaking sunset.

We hope that you return home inspired and rejuvenated.

For more information you can contact me via email or

Jaqui at Touchdown tours,
Email : travel@touchdowntours.com.au
Toll free: 1800 657 441
Telephone: (03) 9482 5215

Hope to see you in Athens in September.

Mary x

Baking tsourekia

It is days like today that stir up so many emotions.  I am baking tsourekia and the house is filled with exotic aromas of mahlepi.  I am always so surprised, and really shouldn’t be, as to how something as simple as baking or a taste or smell can take you back to another place and time.

It is my mother that I am thinking of today as I make my tsourekia…we always spent the day together in the kitchen, as well as my sister and father, after all he was the baker in the family.  I would watch my mother and take instruction not realizing that one day I would be the one giving instruction and being watched by my own children.

It has been almost 10 years now that my parents have passed but I miss them every day, especially on days like these.

These are the memories that I hold close to my heart.

Find my recipe in the recipes section!