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Behind the scenes at Epocha Restaurant

In action, chef Angie Giannakodakis is mesmerising to watch. On set, she made us laugh and filled our bellies with good, wholesome food. And during this chat, we discovered the meaning of her restaurant, Epocha, the hidden gem located across the road from Carlton Gardens, and the significance of the silverbirch tree out the front.


What does the word Epocha mean?


It means an era, a season, an instance in time. Eleven years ago, I finished up at one of the restaurant groups I was with and
I thought, ‘This is about my time, it’s about my time to do some really good work, to bring hospitality together and make sure that we’re also looking after the next generation.’

What would you like our readers to know about Epocha?


Sometimes the focus of Epocha’s success is on me, but it’s the fact that I’ve surrounded myself with extremely good people with a lot of talent. They are the heroes for me.

We’re a very Melbourne restaurant and we’re located in
a historical building. If you go upstairs, you’ll find the 1892 draft of the Carlton Gardens plans on the ceiling. We wanted to link time with everything we did. But it’s not just about our food, it’s not just about our service. It’s about the feeling you get when you’re here.

In 11 years we’ve also had a lot of weddings here and they come back to us every anniversary. We’ve seen their children grow up. We always wanted to be more than a neighbourhood restaurant and I believe that we achieved that.

Tell us about that stunning tree out the front of Epocha

That tree dictates our entire menu. Every time it changes, our menu changes; that could happen every three to six weeks. Right now (at the time of interview) the tree is flowering and starting to bud, which means the new vegetables are coming in now. By the time we hit early October, springtime vegetables will be right at our door. It’s how we plan our menu.
We also had a really special customer that would eat here all the time. She was ill and passed away a few years ago. We’ve scattered some of her ashes around the tree out the front. She was amazing, a real foodie. She would eat everywhere and then come here and always give me feedback, like “sharpen up the tables” or “the cutlery should be as big as the plate”. I was always appreciative of it. Then when she left us, we scattered some of her ashes around the tree out the front. It is the biggest honour to have her across the road and I always feel her intentions with me.

Angie Giannakodakis’s Mum’s Veggie Moussaka

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During my childhood, there was always a certain aroma in our kitchen that filled me with nostalgia whenever I caught a whiff of it. It’s the kind of smell that takes you back to your roots and makes you feel at home. I’m excited to share with you a recipe that embodies those feelings: my mum’s homemade moussaka. This recipe has travelled over a century through my family. While there’s a traditional meat version with beef, I’m going to walk you through a delicious vegetable moussaka that’s a nod to my family’s culinary history, rooted in the flavours of the western coast of Turkey.

Ingredients:

Serves 10

  • 6 large all-purpose potatoes
  • 3-4 eggplants
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 250g brown lentils
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 400g portobello mushrooms, diced
  • 400g tomato masala or tomato purée
  • 300g Saganaki cheese (or Manchego as a substitute)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch All spice
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Bechamel Sauce
  • 150g butter
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3-4 tsp cornflour
  • 2 eggs
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Crisp iceberg salad,
  • lemon & dill, to serve
  1. Begin by slicing the potatoes and eggplants into thin pieces, about the thickness of a pinkie finger. Ensure some parts have a bit of texture for that delightful crispiness.
  2. In a large frying pan, fry the potato and eggplant slices in olive oil until they turn golden and slightly crispy. Place them on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  3. In a separate pot, boil the lentils in water until they are cooked, approximately 15 mins. Drain them well.
  4. In a large saucepan, sauté the onion and a handful of parsley in a generous amount of olive oil until
  5. the onions become translucent.
  6. Add the diced mushrooms to the pan and stir until they absorb the olive oil and develop a slight colour.
  7. Stir in the cooked and drained lentils, tomato masala or purée, cinnamon sticks, cloves, bay leaves
  8. and old spice. Allow it to come to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer.
  9. If the mixture seems dry, add more olive oil and water as needed. Simmer for about 5 mins.
  10. Once the lentil-mushroom mixture is ready, season it with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. For the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, then add milk and cornflour. Stir continuously until it thickens into a creamy sauce.
  12. Whisk in 2 eggs and grate some nutmeg into the sauce. Continue stirring until well combined.
  13. Now it’s time to assemble your moussaka. Layer the potatoes and eggplants alternately in a baking dish. Grate some Saganaki cheese (or your preferred substitute) between the layers and season
  14. with salt and pepper. Then add the lentil-mushroom mixture on top.
  15. Pour the prepared bechamel sauce evenly over the top layer of the moussaka.
  16. Beat an egg yolk with a little water and brush it over the surface to create a golden crust.
  17. Sprinkle more grated cheese and a pinch of nutmeg on top.
  18. Bake the moussaka in a preheated oven at 180°C for 35-40 mins or until it’s bubbling and golden.
  19. Let it rest for a while before cutting into squares. Enjoy your delicious homemade moussaka with
  20. a side of crisp iceberg salad dressed with olive oil, lemon and dill.
  21. Moussaka tastes even better the next day, so don’t hesitate to save it as leftovers.
  22. Afiyet olsun (enjoy)!

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