Favourites across the board

Tessa KirosTessa Kiros combines her love of food, travel, and world cultures to create international best-selling cookbooks. Born in London to a Finnish mother and Greek-Cypriot father, she and her family moved to South Africa when Tessa was four. At the age of 18, she travelled the world, learning all she could about the world's cultures and traditions, especially about food. Her latest publiciation, Tessa Kiros - The Recipe Collection, is a selection of recipes from five of her previous cookbooks: Falling Cloudberries, Apples for Jam, Piri Piri Starfish, Venezia, and Food from Many Greek Kitchens. (Australian and UK members can enter our contest for their chance to win one of six copies of the book.) EYB posed several questions to Tessa about her cookbook, travels, and life in Tuscany with her husband and two children.


You have written 7 cookbooks (plus one journal), with over 1,100 recipes (we know because we have indexed them all on Eat Your Books!). How hard was it to decide on which ones made it into The Recipe Collection? What were your criteria for deciding?

It was favourites across the board, a collection of recipes that could stand up alone in a separate book. I wanted a fair selection of soups, fish, desserts and so on. It was a collaboration between my publisher Murdoch Books and myself.

You have an interesting heritage. How has this impacted your food tastes?

I love the food I have grown up with, in particular my mother's gravadlax, herrings, cinnamon and cardamom buns and my father's lemon and oregano lamb. I think I have grown up learning to eat foods from different heritages and to really appreciate those. These are the things I really value in my work, in research and when collecting my recipes.

You have also travelled a lot, living in lots of different countries. What has been the effect of each place on your cooking?

Well, it has really been integrated into our way of life here and the way I approach things. It makes me want to be able to recreate the things I lived and saw elsewhere in my kitchen wherever I am. I like to mix things like fresh coriander, avocado and lime into my everyday life in Italy for example, where these ingredients are not used much by the Italians. I also like to baste my meat with barbecue marinades and this mixing of flavours makes me want to travel more. I love to learn the way things are done from the people of the place. I think it has made me appreciate the singular approach to cooking of a culture, as well as an eclectic approach.

Is there anywhere you have travelled to or lived that you really did not care for the food?

Nothing comes to mind, nowhere that I have stayed for longer than a day but I can't really comment on places that I just drove through or passed by. Most places that I have stayed long enough to lift up a knife and fork I have found interesting because I think my interest is also beyond just what hits the palate necessarily. I am fascinated by why people eat what they do and when, and what they do with the products their land gives them and so on.

Now you have children, how has your travelling changed?

Ha! I always say the thing I love about Italian school is the 3 months summer break! It's such an opportunity. Apart from this, it can be a challenge especially as I like to take my family with when I travel, so we might go for a shorter time, or sometimes I will travel alone if necessary for work.

Are your children as passionate about food as you are? Do they eat the same food as you and your husband?

They love food, but they definitely have their own tastes. They like jam shortbreads, spaghetti with meatballs, huge schnitzels, scaloppini al limone, stuffed vegetables, big roasted dishes with potatoes, Mexican grills wrapped in tortillas, spiced yoghurt on everything, croissants....things like this. We eat mostly the same food, but I know what they won't appreciate. They do not appreciate things like liver, small birds, tripe and innards but they certainly appreciate the seasonal things here and the way people eat, so love it for example when asparagus come into season here. They also very much appreciate tasting things in new places when we travel and getting to know the food there.

Your books have been influenced by the places you have lived. Which people have also been an influence?

Many people. My mother and father. My Cypriot grandfather and my Finnish grand uncle. Corinne Young and Liz - wonderful cooks who I worked with in South Africa in a Mediterranean restaurant. Ketty in Athens who has a wonderful restaurant cafe (Avissinia) where I worked when she first opened. Angela Dwyer - a truly fantastic chef who first took me in to the kitchen in London. She is in Wales now and still a big inspiration. Herve Pronzato - a French chef I worked with in Athens. My mother-in-law here in Tuscany and many more people I have met along the way. It is never-ending really!

Is there any one recipe in The Recipe Collection that is a personal favourite?

I love the prawns with lemon, piri piri, garlic and feta. Also lamb with lemon and oregano. They have been part of my life for as long as I can remember.

Post a comment

You may only comment on the blog if you are signed in. Sign In

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!