Food Writer and MasterChef UK 2019 Champion, Irini Tzortzoglou, is the latest chef to join our talented culinary family of Chefs at The Cookaway. Inspired by her beloved Greek cuisine, Irini has designed a range of recipe boxes that will delight her followers and ours, bringing the flavours of Greece effortlessly into your kitchen. Here, she talks about her passion for food, her inspiration for finessing traditional dishes and how the joy of creating MasterChef winning recipes, is all in the sharing.
Growing up in Crete meant sun-kissed fruit, vegetables and herbs were picked fresh every day, homemade cheeses made from our own goats milk, honey was eaten straight from the hive, and we enjoyed the purest of olive oils from our own olive trees. My father taught me the importance of quality ingredients and my grandmother and mother taught me how to use them to create the healthy, wholesome and delicious meals they served to their large and hungry family.
Our collective memory so often centres around food. Celebrations with happy, expectant faces around a table laden with delicious, lovingly prepared dishes, the air filled with laughter and tempting aromas. When I think of food, I think of the people I want to share food with, loved ones, family and friends. I also think of my childhood and the dishes I grew up with and learned to cook, almost as a right of passage.
My family relocated to Athens when I was 8 and this broadened my appreciation for the food of my homeland. I now went to a school with girls from all over Greece and was soon enjoying dishes from many different regions. But instead of going to our garden for vegetables and fruit, we bought them at the central market. The difference in freshness and how it impacted the taste has stayed with me, and I have always sought to use fresh, simple ingredients in all my dishes.
Moving to London and building a career meant a life of hard work and long hours. This quenched my enthusiasm for food and cooking, but this all changed when I relocated to Cartmel in Cumbria. Living back in a farming community I reconnected with the quality ingredients of my youth. And although green, lush Cumbria is far removed from the dry, rocky landscape of Crete, the principles of fresh, vibrant produce, bursting with flavour, remain the same.
As my love of cooking grew, I wanted to push myself further, sourcing recipes and ingredients for Greek dishes, experimenting and adding my own touches. When my husband John suggested MasterChef, I knew I was ready. I surprised myself with my motivation to learn, improve and demonstrate my culinary heritage. I took my cherished memories of the very best home cooking, and brought my love of flavour, texture, vibrancy and design to the competition. Winning the trophy was as much for my beloved Greek cuisine as it was for me.
the greek cookaway
And it’s that love for my home cuisine that means I am so excited about my collaboration with The Cookaway. Bringing my Greek dishes to a wider audience in a way that is easy for them to achieve in their own kitchen. The recipes are my versions of the food I grew up with, quality ingredients, the same love in the preparation but with a lighter, more contemporary Irini touch. Everything you need to create your Greek food experience is in the box, from the unctuous, earthy flavours of Kritharoto to the rosemary, garlic and lemon infused Kleftiko, to the gooey indulgence of Sokolatopita. I’ve captured the essence of my culinary journey in the dishes and sides I’ve created for The Cookaway.
Food and cooking have coloured and enriched my life, but the true joy is in sharing. Whatever you choose to cook, infuse it with lots of love and serve it with abundance and everyone will love your food, and you for it!
cookalong with irini tzortzoglou
We’re excited to have our very own Greek MasterChef bringing her culinary magic to our Easter Cookalong. Irini will be cooking one of the most popular of all our Greek menus, Lamb Kleftiko & Braised Baby Gem with Avgolemono sauce. The event is completely free to join, all you need to do is order your recipe box and we’ll send you all the information you’ll need.
The date for your diary is Thursday 14th April at 6pm. Order your box here before Monday 11th April, 4pm. Remember to share this with friends and family – let’s make this a night to remember! We can’t wait to see you there.