Her journey to the top of the United Kingdom’s premier cooking title began in a tiny village on the island of Crete called Ano Akria, population 35.
Irini Tzortzoglou’s earliest memories of life included the scarcity of luxuries but an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, home-cooked food and a loving environment full of people.
Being raised in a culturally mixed environment– her mother originated from Crete and her father from Asia Minor– Irini calls her upbringing “blessed with different but equally valuable life lessons and principles.”
“Hospitality, responsibility and pride on one side,” she explains and “humility, appreciation and a zest for life on the other.”
Irini eventually ended up in London, where she spent more than three decades working as a banker, but always fulfilling her passion for cooking. One day, back in 2018, she took a leap of faith and decided to apply for the UK’s most watched television cooking shows, Master Chef.
The rest, as they say, is history when Irini cooked her way through show after show– seven grueling weeks of food challenges and an average of 5 million viewers every week– reaching the finals when much to her excitement and surprise, she was crowned UK’s Master Chef on nationwide UK television.
Watch the moment Irini won the popular British show:
Irini’s winning menu was inspired by her childhood in Crete, Greece. She cooked up red mullet with squid risotto and confit tomatoes to start; griddled rosemary lamb chops with trahanas puree for a main course; and a fig and hazelnut baklava for dessert.
Within months of the win, she had an international book deal and has become, quite literally, an overnight sensation in the United Kingdom.
Under the Olive Tree is a stunning and user-friendly collection of delicious Greek family recipes, stories and wisdom from Irini. She includes accessible, everyday dishes for the home cook, as well as an entertaining section full of tips and tricks for when you have a little more time or want to impress your guests.
Not only is Irini a fabulous cook, but she is a great teacher who cannot wait to show readers the dishes of her beloved homeland. With over 80 recipes, from breakfasts to quick dinners via salads full of sunshine, and on to feasting for Christmas, Easter and dinner parties, this cookbook is Irini’s celebration of Greece.
“These recipes represent me as a cook and diner in that I like to experiment a little in putting flavors together, mixing classic combinations with my own touches.”
-Chickpea and cumin fritters with a lemon and coriander yoghurt dip
-Cured salmon with star anise, yoghurt and ouzo cream, cucumber and fennel salad
-Aubergine topped with bulgur, sultanas, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts
-Braised Octopus in Red Wine with Sweetcorn Puree and Pepper Salsa
-Moussaka with beef, aubergine and red pepper sauce
-Slow-roasted lamb with herbs, lemon, mustard and honey
-Olive Oil, Almond and Candied Orange Baklava
The book has received widespread praise in the UK, where it was released earlier in the year. Under the Olive Tree is now available in the United States. See below for order links.
Praise for Under the Olive Tree
“Glorious and sumptuous. From the simplest dishes through to the more complex, Irini totally captures the gastronomy of Greece.” Victoria Hislop
“This is my favourite cookbook of the year. A total joy from start to finish.” Russell Norman
“A treasure trove of personal and factual information about the food of Greece and its islands.” Simon Rogan
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