TessaKiros by Manos Chatzikonstantis

 

I was gifted my first Tessa Kiros cookbook in 2004. It was called Falling Cloudberries. The cover was so colourful and striking, just a snapshot of what was to be revealed in the book’s coming pages. More recently I spotted Tessa’ latest release, Provence to Pondicherry and was so enchanted by the recipes, travel and food photography that I gifted it to myself as an early Christmas present. It is so rich with colour, stories and detail that I could happily sit and read it like a novel (which I sometimes do!).

More than 12 years have past since my first encounter with Tessa’s work and since that time we have seen the rise of social media, and more celebrity chefs and TV cooking shows than you could poke a grissini stick at. Nowadays cookbooks heave from bookshop shelves. Trained chefs are no longer the only people staring back at us from the countless hardback-bound cookbook covers. They are joined by bloggers turned cooks, celebrity nutritionists, and sometimes it seems almost anyone. Despite the trends and changes, Tessa Kiros is a food and travel writer and cook who still stands out with integrity on the bookshelves and has withstood the test of time. After my recent brush with Provence to Pondicherry I just had to contact her and see if she would be interested in being featured on DC.  It was such an honour to chat with her over email the last few months, and ask her about her journey until now. In our first Foodie Profile for 2017, Tessa shares with us two of her recipes (old and new), her food and travel tips for Venice and Tuscany, and so much more. Pop the kettle on, curl up on the couch and enjoy!

JC x

 

TESSA, YOUR MIXED HERITAGE & PASSION FOR TRAVEL HAVE SHAPED YOUR LIFE & YOUR COOKING. COULD YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR HERITAGE; PLACES YOU’VE LIVED & YOUR COOKING STYLE?

My mom is Finnish & my dad is Greek. I was born in London & did my schooling in South Africa. There we were involved with a mixture of people & cultures. But we always had some constants, like lamb with lemon & oregano, gravadlax, cinnamon & cardamom buns. I now live in Tuscany between Florence & Siena. The food we eat here is a combination of everything – places I have travelled to, my heritage, the project I am busy working on, & seasonal produce in Italy. I love experimenting with new cultures.

 

WHEN DID YOUR LOVE OF COOKING START & WHERE DID YOU LEARN TO COOK?

I always appreciated ‘helping out’ in the kitchen when I was young. We grew up with simple & good food in our home with certain rituals of preparation at different times of the year – like Scandinavian Christmas dinner on 24th, Christmas lunch of course on the day. Greek Easter was a big celebration. I loved all this. After school I travelled a fair bit while studying a correspondence degree & working in a few restaurants. I think it was this combination that really settled into a deep love of cooking. I was very lucky to meet some incredible people along the way like chef Angela Dwyer who first gave me a chance in the kitchen.

 

Tessa Kiros Falling Cloudberries Manos Chatzikonstantis
Venezia Food and Dreams by Tessa Kiros

 

 

Tessa Kiros Provence to Pondicherry Manos Chatzikonstantis

 

YOU HAVE PRODUCED 10 COOKBOOKS IN ALMOST 15 YEARS. WHICH HAS BEEN YOUR MOST POPULAR TO DATE?

My cookbooks have all had their own story & different people have responded to different ones. Many people wrote to me about Falling Cloudberries & Apples for Jam – that they could relate to them & had their own stories to share. Twelve & Venezia have also been popular. Everyone seems to love Italian food.

 

1965cOmelette with blossoms from Limoncello & Linen Water – image by Manos Chatzikonstantis

 

14849cPerfumed salts from Limoncello & Linen Water – image by Manos Chatzikonstantis

 

port02727Pork with Clams from Piri Piri Starfish – image by Manos Chatzikonstantis

 

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY IN YOUR BOOKS. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS ON STYLING, PROPS & BACKGROUNDS?

I believe that food styling & photography is such a personal story & really has to represent you. I think truly that one of the most essential things, is to cultivate a deep understanding with the people you are working with – photographer, stylist, designer etc. I imagine without this, it would be close to impossible to work. It is such team work. I like to work spontaneously & don’t like to plan up ahead what will be in the shot. I love using natural light as much as is possible if it can give the mood you are looking to give. I think that you have to love each & every shot – & everything in it before you can give it in a book.

 

YOU HAVE TRAVELLED EXTENSIVELY & LIVED IN MANY CITIES. WHAT ARE SOME CAFES & RESTAURANTS YOU ALWAYS RETURN TO ON YOUR TRAVELS?

I always love to try new places. Some cafes that I often go to are for example: – in Florence I like to have my coffee at Cafe Gilli (standing up at the bar as Italians do). Cafe Schober in Zurich – I love the hot chocolate there & live piano. Da Capo in Athens is my favourite cappuccino with stafidokoulouro (sesame & grape bread ring). Pastelaria de Belem in Lisbon for the show of it all & further along at Chique de Belem for Pasteis de nata which I adore. In London I like to do things like a tea at Claridges for example & also small Maison Bertaux in Soho for tea.

 

Tessa Kiros Prawns Feta recipe Manos ChatzikonstantisPrawns with lemon, peri peri, garlic and feta –  image by Manos Chatzikonstantis

 

OF ALL YOUR RECIPES, WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE & WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE IT WITH OUR READERS?

There are so many that I love & come back to. One that comes to mind is Prawns with Feta
from Falling Cloudberries. There is also a version in Food from Many Greek Kitchens, my
greek book, with tomato rather than lemon. I love both.

 

PRAWNS WITH LEMON, PERI PERI, GARLIC & FETA by Tessa Kiros

Serves 6 or more.

 

2kg large raw prawns (shrimp), unpeeled

200g butter

10 garlic cloves, finely chopped

45g (3/4 cup) chopped parsley

Less than 1 tsp Peri Peri sauce or chili powder

Juice of 4 lemons

400g Feta cheese

 

Clean the prawns and cut a slit through the shell down the back from the bottom of the head to the beginning of the tail. Remove the dark vein with the point of a sharp knife. Rinse the prawns under running water and drain well.

Dot about 80g of the butter over the base of a large cast-iron casserole dish. Arrange a single layer of prawns in the dish and season with salt. Scatter about a third of the garlic and parsley over the top. Sprinkle with a little of the peri peri.

Dot about half of the remaining butter over the top and arrange another layer of prawns scattered with garlic, parsley and peri peri. Repeat the layer, finishing up the ingredients. Put the lid on, turn the heat to medium-high and cook for about 10 minutes, until the prawns have brightened up a lot and their flesh is white. Add the lemon juice, crumble the feta over the top and rock the dish from side to side to move the sauce about. Spoon some sauce over the prawns. Cover the casserole, lower the heat and cook for another 10 minutes or until the feta has just melted, shaking the pan again. Take the dish straight to the table and give everyone a hot finger bowl with lemon juice to clean their hands afterwards.

 

Sweet Potato Gateaux recipe by Tessa KirosSweet Potato Cake – image by Manos Chatzikonstantis

 

GÂTEAU DE PATATE DOUCE (SWEET POTATO CAKE) by Tessa Kiros

Serves 8 – 10

 

1 vanilla pod split lengthways

750g white sweet potatoes, unpeeled

120g (1/2 cup) butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

120g (1/2) cup light brown cane sugar

3 eggs

2 tbsp rum

60g (1/2) cup plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

2 pinches of salt

 

Using the tip of a pointed teaspoon, scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into a large bowl.

Put the sweet potatoes in a pan with plenty of water to cover, throw in the scraped out vanilla pod and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until tender when poked with a skewer. Drain in a colander. Peel when cool enough to handle.

Either cut the sweet potatoes into smaller pieces and mash thoroughly in the bowl with the vanilla, or pass through a potato mill into the bowl. Add the butter and stir through until fully melted. Put the bowl in the fridge and leave uncovered until completely cold.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and flour a 22cm (9in) pie dish.

Add the vanilla extract and sugar to the sweet potato and stir to mix. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl until creamy, then remove 2 tablespoons to a cup and keep. Add the rest of the egg with the rum to the sweet potato mixture, and whisk in well. Whisk in the flour and salt, then spoon into the prepared dish, levelling the surface.

Gently brush or dab the surface all over with the reserved beaten egg. Make criss-cross ridges with the tines of a fork on top. Bake for about 1 hour, until set and the surface is golden and glossy. If necessary, cover the top with a piece of foil towards the end so it doesn’t get too dark before it is set, and take care that it doesn’t get too dry and ruin the lovely texture.

 

 

Tessa Kiros Tuscany 2 Manos ChatzikonstantisTuscan flowers – image by Manos Chatzikonstantis

Tessa Kiros Tuscany Manos ChatzikonstantisSnapshots of Tuscany where Tessa lives – image by Manos Chatzikonstantis

 

YOU LIVE IN TUSCANY AND HAVE WRITTEN A BOOK ABOUT VENICE. FOR TRAVELLERS VISITING THESE CITIES, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR TOP THINGS TO DO & EAT?

 

ON TUSCANY

I would first of all check out all the ingredients & specialities depending on what season or month it is. Enjoy whatever produce is available due to the season. Vegetables, raw or cooked into thick rustic soups & well splashed with olive oil. Thick steaks & salsiccia grilled on wood fires. Pecorino cheese, fresh ricotta eaten with figs or fruit in season. Pure newly pressed olive oil on grilled bread in November. The nocino liqueur made from green walnuts.

I would try all the rich & unusual sweets that are offered depending on what time of the year it is. Schiacciata d’uva with the collecting of the grapes. Pancosanti in October/November for All Saints Day. Panforte & cavallucci, candied fruit desserts for Christmas. Lentils for New Years luck. I love this kind of thing about all of Italy.

 

ON VENICE

I would go to Torcello, Burano islands. I love the quieter part of Dorsoduro looking out at Giudecca. And the area of Cannaregio that feels like a real neighbourhood. I would ask the locals where they eat. Start at Rialto market & inspect the lovely produce & see what is in season so you know what to order at restaurants. Stop for cicchetti (small bites typical of Venice) in several places. Taste sarde in saor, softshell crab when in season, beautiful risottos & lasagnas of seafood. Snacks like mozzarella in carozza. Go past the crowds for spritz & beautiful bottles of prosecco, polenta, radicchio, lovely artichokes – the small castraure if in season. Baccala mantecato – whipped creamy salt cod, & focaccia Veneziana – which is a sweet & yeasty bread. There are so many wonderful things to see & sample in Venice.

Amongst the many unbelievable buildings, churches & artworks, I would see the Peggy Guggenheim collection & Fortuny museum. I would go to Cafe Florian. But also past the crowds as much as possible into smaller piazzas & streets to feel the real pulse of it.

 

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE CHEFS & COOKBOOK AUTHORS?

I am very inspired by Julia Child for example. I love to read Claudia Roden. Madhur Jaffrey, Laurie Colwin. And I like Diana Henry. I admire Neil Perry. Marcus Samuelsson.

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY MORE COOKBOOKS PLANNED FOR THE FUTURE?

I am always gathering things I love, taking notes & collecting recipes. I am busy working in a couple of directions but nothing sure just yet. I think I would like to enjoy this ‘after a book’ situation for awhile.

 

(All images by Manos Chatzikonstantis Photography)

Website: www.tessakiros.com

Instagram: @tessakiros

Pinterest: pinterest.com/tessakiros