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MasterChef's 2019 champion, Irini Tzortzoglou, recently used The Stables at 94 as the venue for her Greek Easter-themed photo shoot.
With the additional help of ceramics from Miles-Moore Ceramics, glassware from Nettle + Tansy, photography by Victoria Sedgwick and flowers by Victoria Williams, the event was a great success, helping to beat the lockdown blues and promote local talent.
The joyful collaboration provided the perfect setting for Irini and her Greek Easter feast. From sumptuous savouries to delicious sweets, the culinary expertise that led to her MasterChef victory was on show throughout. Combining the traditional Easter soup of magiritsa with a selection of savoury muffins, tastebuds were already tingling before the introduction of best end neck of lamb, accompanied by vegetables in filo parcels.
All of this was joined by an array of differently flavoured tsoureki - the much-loved sweet Easter bread - and a bread and butter pudding with some of that tsoureki inside. Of course, no Easter feast would be complete without Easter eggs, and Irini's was no exception. Cracked to symbolise the fact that "Christ is risen", her eggs were dyed naturally using red onion skins to signify the blood He shed for the salvation of humankind.
Those who would like to try Irini's recipes for themselves, including the Easter tsoureki and kleftiko-style lamb, can find them listed below:
4 pieces of lamb rump, 170g each
1 courgette, approx. 200g, washed, trimmed and cut in small cubes
1 sweet potato, approx. 250g, peeled and cut in small cubes
2 parsnips, peeled and cut in small cubes
100g frozen peas
6 small plumb tomatoes, cut in half
3 tbp extra virgin olive oil
½ lemon, juice and zest
1 preserved whole lemon, sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
4 small sprigs of rosemary
1. Preheat the oven to 1900C.
2. Wash and pat dry the lamb. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Bring a large frying pan to a high heat. Add olive oil and brown the lamb all round, adding 25g of butter too and basting the meat with. Transfer to a dish and keep to the side
4. Add the chopped vegetables to the same frying pan, apart from the halved tomatoes, season and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add 50g of butter, toss the vegetables to flavour and transfer to a bowl. Last, brown the tomato halves on the cut side and add to the vegetables too.
5. Cut four pieces of baking parchment large enough to make parcels of each piece of lamb and a quarter of the vegetables and lay them on a baking sheet. In the centre of each piece of paper, place a quarter of the vegetables, sprinkle with a pinch of dried oregano and a little lemon zest and juice, close the parcels making a pleat all along the middle and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. At the end of this time, add the lamb to each parcel placing a piece of preserved lemon over the lamb and a sprig of rosemary, a sprinkling of pepper and salt and close again. Cook for 15-20 minutes more (depending on how cooked you want your lamb) and take out of the oven.
6. Leave each parcel to rest for 5 minutes and serve.
Ingredients (makes 4 tsourekia):
200g condensed milk
275g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
150ml sunflower oil
150ml melted butter, plus extra for kneading
100g fresh yeast
1 tsp baking powder
1.4-1.5kg strong flour
1 tsp masticha tears, ground into powder
1 tsp mahlepi
½ tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp vanilla extract
½ orange, juice and zest
1 egg white for brushing
2-3 tbsp almond flakes
1. In a medium sized pan melt over low heat the sugar and the condensed milk stirring continuously. Add the beaten eggs, sunflower oil and vanilla extract and whisk to incorporate everything together. Leave until tepid before using.
2. In a large bowl if kneading by hand, or the bowl of your standing mixer, put 400ml tepid water and melt the fresh yeast by whisking it thoroughly. Add the contents of the saucepan to the yeast and all the remaining ingredients apart from the flour. Whisk to mix well.
3. Start adding the flour gradually mixing with your hands continuously. You should aim for a dough that is soft and pliable, perhaps even a little sticky. The way to deal with that and help with the texture of the dough is to grease your hands with a little melted butter and continue kneading. By hand, knead for around 10 minutes for a glossy and stringy dough, in the mixer you will need less kneading time, around 6-7 minutes on medium speed.
4. Put the dough in a slightly greased large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and put in your oven which should be preheated at 50 0C. Leave the dough in the oven for 2-3 hours until it doubles in volume.
5. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface, punch out the air from it and roll into a thick sausage shape. Cut into 4 equal size pieces and roll again each one into a sausage shape. Cut each again in three or four. I use four strands to make my plats but you can make them with only three.
6. You may leave your plats straight or join their two ends to form a round ‘koulouri’ shape. Put the tsourekia onto lined baking tins and leave to rise again. Do not put them anywhere where the temperature is over 40 degrees as the dough will spread and the tsourekia will end up being flat.
7. When the tsourekia have risen, beat the egg white to loosen and brush them. Sprinkle with almond flakes or other things you like such as poppy seeds, sesame, etc.
8. Preheat the oven to 180 0C and bake the tsourekia for 25-30 minutes. Place a shallow tin with some boiling water on the bottom of the oven for even fluffier tsourekia.
9. If you make smaller or bigger tsourekia, you will need to adjust the baking time.
Irini said ‘Collaboration in these challenging times lifts us up. Working together not only makes us smile, but also provides inspiration, meaning and hope for our future as creatives and artists, which is what this event was all about. Information about the artists involved in the event can be found below.
For more of Irini Tzortzoglou’s mouthwatering recipes, visit www.irinicooks.com or her Instagram @irinitzortzoglou. For Easter-specific recipes, call her on 07876 245563.
For information on Siobhan and Martin Miles-Moore's work, visit www.milesmooreceramics.com or Instagram @MilesMooreClay.
To commission photography by Victoria Sedgwick, visit www.victoriasedgwick.com or Instagram @victoria.sedgwick.
To view the stunning hand-blown glasses of Nettle + Tansy founder Emma Mackintosh, visit www.nettleandtansy.co.uk or Instagram @nettleandtansyhome.
For Victoria Williams’ fabulous flower arrangements, visit www.theflowerbank.co.uk or Instagram @the_flower_bank.
To follow more adventures at The Stables at 94, visit Instagram @TheStablesat94.
Irini Tzortzoglou is a celebrity chef, author, business woman and motivational speaker. Both Irini’s talent and fire for cooking has led to a breadth of challenging work projects – from appearing and winning MasterChef 2019 and shooting Instagram Live videos with Michelin Star celebrities, to lecturing at universities and authoring her own cookbooks.
Irini won UK Masterchef in 2019 by wowing the judges with her signature red mullet with squid risotto, griddled rosemary lamb chops, and handcrafted hazelnut baklava and fig leaf ice cream. That year, the champion chef also held a culinary retreat at a 5-star hotel in Crete her home.
In 2020, Irini published her first cookbook with Headline, Under the Olive Tree: Recipes from my Greek Kitchen. She is currently working on the copy for her second book, which is due spring 2022.
Irini has recently helped develop recipes for a brand of Greek feta – a true cheese lover!
A little closer to home – Irini now delivers cooking and nutrition classes to culinary enthusiasts at Cumbria University. The classes, called UNI.YUM, focus on ensuring university students prepare for, cook, and eat beautifully balanced meals while creating minimal waste, whilst discovering the mental and emotional benefit of own cooking.
When she’s not wowing uni students with her resourceful approach to food shopping and cooking, Irini is inspiring the public by regularly being published and appearing in the media as well as appearing on the BBC. Irini is also the darling of the Greek media, often interviewed for TV and press in Greece but also the US, Australia and Canada. She has over 15k followers through social media and other channels.
Irini was born in a small village on the island of Crete, where the food heritage stems right back to the Minoan civilisation.
From a young age, she loved to explore the traditional Greek flavours of wild ingredients that grew on her doorstep – and she admired how they were always fresh, wholesome, and readily available.
Irini quickly learned how to forage for food and eventually grew her own, too; her hunter-gatherer activities are huge inspirations to the way she cooks today.
While living on the island, she also became potently aware that our shopping and cooking behaviours affect the planet.
Irini makes a conscious effort to choose local, avoid wastage, and to use where possible environmentally friendly options to assist her cooking.
Her heritage really is in the eye of her cooking – this is evident by the use of wine, cheese, herbs, fruits, filo, succulent seafood and abundance of juicy meats in her dishes.
Irini’s degree in Art, Architecture and Design from Kingston University has a lot to do with the artistic flair and daring displays of aesthetics you’ll see in her dishes.
Though it was her upbringing and family which inspired her to enter MasterChef, one could argue it was her creativity and ability to present food as art which earned her the winning status!
Irini is also a trained olive oil sommelier and enjoys informing on the health and flavour benefits of extra virgin olive oil.
Irini regularly has produced cooking videos for two charities – Kids on the Green and Royal Voluntary Service. She has been recently appointed an ambassador of Slow Food UK and is working with a leadership expert in creating food-centred corporate retreats to help people in business re-connect and re-energize for the post-Covid era.
Irini is currently working with a villa holiday specialist to offer culinary weeks in Crete in Summer 2021 and with a top hotel operator to do the same in Corfu in the Autumn.
When she has spare time she loves walking in the beautiful Lake District where she lives.
Before she became a competition-winning chef, Irini spent 30 years in the banking industry
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