Down on a farm in rural Oxfordshire, foodies and music lovers recently united for Jamie Oliver’s Feastival. Now into its second year, the weekend affair provided a welcoming country fete feel with a dash of urban cool and ACHICA Living went to check it out to find out what tricks and tips we could take away.
From British street food to top restaurants, we were spoilt for choice on where to eat. Jam packed with culinary delights and stalls selling the very best local produce, our taste buds were tantalised with the likes of slow roasted pulled pork with sweet, crisp coleslaw.
Mouths still watering, we pulled ourselves away from the plethora of stands and took a seat in front of one of the many stages. The ‘Electrolux Chef’s Table’ played host to a constant stream of experts, sharing their wisdom, tips and techniques. And with renowned names such as Bill Granger, Mark Hix, Alex James and of course Jamie Oliver himself taking the stage, it was difficult not to be swept up in the excitement of it all and dash home in the hope of recreating the newfound wisdom in our own kitchen.
Here are some of the best tips that we picked up over the weekend that could change the way you cook...
Running into Jamie’s pal and mentor Gennaro Contaldo was a pleasure. Oozing with Italian charm, he shared his favourite ingredient for the upcoming season, root vegetables. Perfect for robust, earthy soups that are brilliant for those dark winter nights, these humble staples can sometimes be overlooked.
Aussie chef, Bill Granger, believes travel is the key to an open mind and creativity when it comes to food. Trying new dishes provides the best form of inspiration. ‘Food is the catalyst for communication,’ he said, ‘which is why dinner parties shouldn’t be about complicated, fancy food. Simplicity and speed is key, and the trick is all in the preparation.’
His top tip is to keep enough ingredients in store to cook a variety of different dishes, without buying lots of perishable items that will inevitably go to waste.
You can do this by...
Freezing whole fresh chillies and simply chop (still frozen) when needed; they defrost quickly and can easily jazz up any dish.
Wrapping fragile herbs in a damp kitchen cloth then covering in cling film can make them last an extra 10 days.
Pouring good quality stock into ice cube trays and freezing so you’ll always have an emergency supply.
Keeping a stash of potatoes are a must have in any kitchen as they’re so versatile, but did you know that when boiling potatoes, adding salt is what causes them to crumble. This is ideal when cooking mash or roast potatoes, but certainly not for boiled spuds which require a firm texture. So make sure you leave the salt out of it.
Blanching your vegetables ahead of time is one of the simplest ways to save those precious minutes in the kitchen. Immediately chilling the vegetables and storing them in an ice water bath (2 parts ice, one part water) prevents them from deteriorating in your fridge. This can be done up to 3 days in advance. When they’re needed, simply reheat in the microwave.
Paul Young, the passionate chocolatier, educated our taste buds, letting us in on the secrets of the chocolate trade. His advice was to only buy good quality dark chocolate, as cheaper bars are padded out with cocoa powder, making them very bitter. After tasting the chocolates superiority (hard job), we were delighted to hear that eating just one square of good quality chocolate can suppress hunger. A perfect solution to that afternoon slump.
Having previously worked for Paxton and Whitfield, David Jowett is an expert in all things cheese. And while he recommended we add crumbled Montgomery Cheddar just below the pastry lid of our apple pie before baking (something we’re not in any hurry to try), we did take note of his advice on the best way to store cheese. ‘Wrap in wax paper then in either cling film or a Tupperware box.’ This ensures breathability without it drying out.
ACHICA Living was inspired by the creativity of all the Feastival contributors. And whilst we were both educated and inspired by the weekend’s events, we most definitely went home a few pounds heavier.
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Fiona Hutchinson, Writer
View all posts by Fiona Hutchinson, Writer