The weekend at Litfest was a bombardment of good food, amazing produce and a collection of really interesting people from all aspects of the food and drink industry. We attended several ‘pop up’ restaurants where you find yourself next to a fellow foodie but each with a fascinating story and lots of interesting careers in food. There were guest speakers from all around the globe Eric Weyner and Myra Henry were from Tulum Mexico after leaving their restaurant in New York and building a restaurant on the edge of the jungle in Tulum! They have a book called Hartwood. Another hot ticket was the Argentian Chef Francis Millman who in the early hours of Friday morning began preparing his fire for the feast on Saturday. Here under a wire frame and with the heat and smoke of the fire he cooked not only chickens and vegetables but an entire lamb. His expertise is cooking with fire and using cast iron. He grew up in Patagonia and combines this with a prestigious French Culinary background. He has a couple of books with reference to cooking with fire. I think for me the highlight of the weekend were the talks with Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully. I have long been an avid fan of Ottolenghi from all that time ago now where he first introduced us to middle eastern cooking and gave us the confidence to cook this in our own homes. This has in turn created an entire food movement of middle eastern cuisine. I do also have Claudia Roden’s middle eastern cookbook but I do think it was Ottolenghi who gave me the confidence to not be afraid to really experiment with new and unknown flavours. And then there was Nopi and if you have not visited this yet you must make it a priority. I think one of my favourite restaurants in London. Tucked away behind Regent Street this is where Scully creates his magic. The term ‘fusion cuisine’ has been destroyed by some shocking results hiding under this umbrella but Scully’s Asian background combined with Ottolenghi’s middle eastern traditions create a perfect marriage of flavours and techniques. Scully had a traditional french training and this is apparent in many of his recipes in the methods used for some of the sauces and food preparation. The cookery demonstration was fantastic and Scully was very generous with his knowledge and ideas by throwing in constant tips and suggestions on how to expand on recipes. I felt very inspired watching the two of them produce the most wonderful feast with what seemed like such ease! There was of course all the wonderful freshly grown produce from the Ballymaloe farm also on hand which added to the fantastic flavours and Darina Allen was on hand and the three of them chatted and interacted with the audience whilst they cooked.
The cookery demonstration was using a collection of recipes from their lastest cookbook which is in conjunction with the restaurant in Warwick Street. Nopi the cookbook. One of the things which Scully discussed is the difficulty as a professional chef to translate the recipes and techniques into a book that can be followed and produced at home. I have a collection of Ottolenghi cookbooks including Nopi and they are all very well used and quite worn out as they are fantastic to follow and use always with amazing results. Our Ottolenghi Scully demo was on the Sunday and on the Monday I had to fly to Italy where one of my main aims was to source a top quality main ingredient that we had been shown on the Sunday so that I could have a go at it at home ! Thank you to Ottolenghi and Scully for a great Sunday.