2019’s MasterChef champion, Irini Tzortzoglou draws on memories of family life and fresh produce in the tiny village of Ano Akria in Crete to share her contemporary take on Greek cuisine in her debut cookbook, Under the Olive Tree (Headline Home, £25).
A former banker, Tzortzoglou – who now lives in Cartmel – charts her rediscovery of the joy of food preparation, and of the hospitality “ingrained in the Greeks” that surrounded her growing up.
Alongside nostalgia for the Greece of her childhood, Tzortzoglou offers modern, cheffy flourishes (there is a chapter on “fancy gadgets”, like sous vide wands). The opening chapters offer a broad tour of Greek cuisine, from kokkinista (tomato dishes) to pités (pies).
The book is split into two: recipes for “Everyday”, including breakfasts, salads and meat, and for “Entertaining”, including Easter celebrations, Christmas feasting and appetisers, mains and desserts for pull-out-all-the-stops dinner parties – like monkfish with roasted garlic foam.
It closes with Greek wine pairings from 67 Pall Mall sommelier Terry Kandylis, and a guide to Greek food specialists to shop from, like Oliveology and Agora Greek Delicacies.
I elected for king prawn saganaki or a weekend lunch for four from the everyday appetisers chapter; sea bass fillets with herbed tomato sauce for supper from the fish and seafood section, and baklava – I couldn’t resist.