Thousands of cookery books are published every year, but very few stand the test of time. However, Rosemary Barron’s Flavours of Greece, which has recently been republished by Grub Street Press (£18.99) as a stylish hardback, is one such book which has now become accepted as a classic. Never out of print, this superb publication is proving as popular now as it was when it first appeared in 1991.

Flavours of Greece is the only recipe book listed in The Rough Guide to Greece and The Rough Guide to the Greek Islands and was an Editor’s Choice in The New York Times in the year of its publication.

Rosemary’s links with Oxford go back more than 15 years with her regular attendance at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, an annual event which attracts food writers from all over the world. It was during one of these symposiums that she met up with Donald Sloan, Head of the Department of Hospitality at Oxford Brookes University. Their mutual interest in food and culture led them to establish Oxford Gastronomica at Oxford Brookes University in 2007, which brings together people who share a desire to improve society’s relationship with food and drink.

Their aim was to create a hub for academics from around the world who share a concern for improving the quality of the food we eat and an understanding of food and drink issues through academic enquiry — which is exactly what they have done. Founding patrons of Oxford Gastronomica include Raymond Blanc, Geraldene Holt, Ken Hom, Madhur Jaffrey and Paul Levy. A series of free public lectures, which place food and drink at the centre of our culture, enable members of the public to become involved too.

Rosemary has linked food with culture ever since, joining a archaeological dig on the Island of Crete during the 1960s, where she unearthed pieces of painted clay pots, decorated with the very same foods she and her companions were eating — olives, olive oil, bread, and herbs. This experience began her passionate and lifelong curiosity about Greek food, its history and the way food is linked to life in Greece. She began seeing how the spectacularly beautiful Greek landscape, with its olive groves and fishing communities, is entwined with food production.

Rosemary returned to Greece in the 1980s to establish a cookery school on Crete that soon became known as one of the best in Europe. Her recent courses, which explored the foods and flavours of Greek antiquity, were described as one of the top ten cookery courses in Europe.

Given all that, it is no wonder that her book, which came out of a need to produce a standard text for the school, has become a classic.

Rosemary accepts that Greek recipes cooked in the UK will never be quite the same as those enjoyed on a Greek island, perfumed with the heady fragrances of wild herbs. There are some flavours that lose something when transferred to another location, but she is confident there are ways you can ensure any Greek recipes you cook from her book are as close to the original flavours as possible.

She sees her role as a translator. “In the book I describe cookery techniques that will help the reader get the best out of what they have got. Fortunately so many items that were once difficult to find over here are now readily available at specialist food outlets and supermarkets. Rocket for example, which grows as a weed in Greece, and purslane, are now widely available.

“Quality Greek olives, Feta cheese and virgin Greek olive oil are much easier to get hold of now too.”

Rosemary advises all those who use her book to seek out quality ingredients. She sees Greek virgin olive oil as one of the most important ingredients. Good sea salt is important too.

“Greek virgin olive oil is now rating very high in blind tastings and enjoyed for its distinctive taste, which when used to flavour a dish adds a magic all of its own.”

The health value of Greek herbs, oils and olives should not be overlooked either. She believes that the ancient Greek diet was one of the reasons for civilisation growing as it did.

“Fish, oils, live yoghurt and herbs provide a perfect diet for the human brain to grow,” she says.

It comes as no surprise to Rosemary that many of the herbs used by ancient Greeks are now being embraced by modern medicine.

In the introduction to her book she points out something else, which she believes is equally important.

She writes that civilised Greek society developed the framework in which we enjoy food — the art of dining and dinner party conversation. This observation brings us back to Rosemary’s fascination with food and culture, that began in the sixties when she held fragments of those painted Greek pots in her hand and came to see how food and culture were inextricably linked.