Back to Basics at Litfest
"Buy a third less, eat a third less and waste a third less". This advice from Rory O'Connell was one of the things that stuck with me after the Litfest at Ballymaloe last weekend. He was speaking at the Questions and Answers session hosted by John Bowman, on a panel with Michael Kelly from GIY, the journalist Joanna Blythman and wine writer Tomas Clancy.
Answering the question 'what should we teach children to cook?' - Rory said simply "how to boil an egg, cook a potato, and prepare green vegetables". I love the simplicity of this. While I've been lucky to learn from the man himself at Ballymaloe, good cooking really boils (sorry) down to the basics - cook well enough to feed ourselves and our family simple and nutritious food.
This was the fifth Litfest at Ballymaloe and the theme this year had evolved from food and drinks writing to food literacy - understanding where the food we eat comes from, who produces it and if it is good for us. It was my third time to attend and I enjoyed it as much as the other years. Some of us from the September 2014 Ballymaloe class had a little reunion, and with the delicious food and drinks, it's a place that's good for the heart and soul.
The next day Derval O'Rourke from Fit Foodie spoke about her lifestyle, diet and cookbooks. The one thing she is careful about avoiding is cheap chicken, and instead buys an organic roast chicken every couple of weeks. When I was training at Ballymaloe in 2014 this message was ingrained in us - invest in the best ingredients you can afford. Jacob Kenedy from Boca di Lupo reiterated this "good quality produce gives much more than it costs."
I believe this wholeheartedly but it's hard to ignore that the attendees at Litfest are mostly a privileged, middle class group who have access to, and can afford, better quality produce. And they are mostly well educated about food before they come to Litfest. While I agree with this thinking about food, I don't always live it when I'm cooking for myself. So, inspired by what I heard last weekend, I've set myself a challenge for the summer. As Rory said - keep it simple - lots of fresh vegetables, potatoes and eggs. I want to eat meat less frequently but better quality when I do.
I started this today with a salad of boiled baby potatoes, boiled eggs, green beans, chorizo (it always sneaks in there somehow) and some fresh herbs.
I boiled some baby potatoes, green beans and an egg. I then fried a little chorizo lightly, and drained from the pan while retaining the oil that came from the chorizo. To make a dressing, I added a little olive oil, tablespoon of red wine vinegar, teaspoon of honey and some fresh chives and parsley into the pan with the oil from the chorizo. Then spooned this over the plate. While it's not a vegetarian dish, in this case the chorizo is used more as a flavouring or seasoning than as the centrepiece of the meal.
I'll post here on what I'm cooking this summer, some recipes, tips and photos. If you'd like to join in I'd love to hear your suggestions on reducing meat and eating more veggies. Next week I'm going back to Finca Buenvino in Andalusia where I visited for Matanza weekend in 2015, doing a photography course with Tim Clinch and enjoying their beautiful cooking.