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2 minutes with MasterChef champion Irini Tzortzoglou

Lauren Taylor/PA

Irini Tzortzoglou gave us all an insight into the flavours and techniques of Greek cookery when she triumphed in the final of MasterChef 2019.

To follow, the 62-year-old released her first cookbook, Under The Olive Tree: Recipes from my Greek Kitchen, a celebration of classics and dishes she grew up with in the tiny village of Ano Akria in Crete, as well as the culture for ‘slow food’ and sharing many dishes with many people.

You’ll also find plenty of ingredients you’ve probably never heard of and Tzortzoglou wants to encourage us to seek out and try things like dakos (dried bread), bottarga (cured roe, typically of grey mullet) and mizithra (a fresh cheese made from the whey of sheep or goat’s milk).

“We’re generally a really foodie nation,” she says.

We caught up with the MasterChef champion about the everyday stuff…

What would be your death row meal?

“Stuffed tomatoes with rice, pine nuts, sultanas or raisins, lots of herbs and aromatics.”

Is there anything you still can’t cook?

“Sourdough. I do love sourdough, my mother had a sourdough starter. I tried once, I failed, and I thought, ‘OK, bakers need to make a living!'”

What’s your favourite store cupboard essential?

“Olive oil.”

What kitchen utensil can’t you live without?

“My [food] processor.”

What late night snack would you reach for?

“God help me – ice cream. How healthy is that!? It’s my own ice cream though.”

What’s your signature dish?

“I have a winter one which is stifado – a dish [often beef] cooked with lots of onions, rich tomato and wine sauce, and in the summer, moussaka.”

How do you like your eggs cooked?

“Poached.”

What was for dinner last night?

“Stuffed tomatoes!”

Is there anything you can’t stomach?

“Nothing! I’m allergic to sea urchins, but I’d love to eat them because I loved them as a child.”

Under the Olive Tree: Recipes from my Greek Kitchen by Irini Tzortzoglou (£25, Headline) is available to buy now.

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