Top Irish chef, cookery school owner and author Catherine Fulvio took 5 minutes out her busy schedule to talk about everything from her love of food to kitchen fears.
Hi Catherine! Can you tell us about your journey into food? Was it something you always knew that you would work in?
I have always had a close relationship with food in the sense that living in Wicklow on a working farm and growing up here meant all the family we were involved in getting the food on the table from harvesting the potatoes to planting the beans I understood the journey our food makes long before many of my peers. This has given me a great appreciation for good quality fresh ingredients. I enjoyed my time before coming back to Ballyknocken House and gained lots of experience along the way working as marketing manager for a small country house hotel; but I have never been happier than where I am now – writing, teaching and testing out new ingredients and new combinations. And what better time to be doing it than now when Ireland is enjoying somewhat of a food revolution.
What are the three most common kitchen fears you see in students at Ballyknocken Cookery School?
Confidence is the single biggest thing holding people back in the kitchen – it is amazing to see the confidence that just one morning’s guidance in the cookery school can make when it comes to cooking. We are here to build confidence and share some fail safe tips that will make food preparation just a little bit more fun and enjoyable for all concerned – that’s from cooking to consuming!
If you could teach every person in the world one recipe to inspire them to start cooking, what would it be, and why?
A Fulvio family favourite is Palermo Chicken – the flavours are a great reminder of happy dinners together during the summer. It is oh so easy and full of flavour and you can make your own pasta too if you want, which is always a treat or use good quality pasta if short on time…
As a working mother, how do you handle the family meal? Are you a batch cooker?
There are certain times that batch cooking is necessary for example when I am filming I tend to get organised on a Sunday for the week ahead. The kids are growing up fast and they have daily activities which mean they need their energy for the football pitch or the extra study time required in secondary school. So I do batch cook from time to time when necessary, although I do enjoy when the workload is less and I can be a little bit more flexible and simply cook on demand, using up leftovers from the night before or even just putting together a healthy and nutritious omelette and potatoes with fresh beans from the garden.
What top three tips would you give working mothers who want to feed their families nutritious dinners, but are tight on time and high on stress levels?
Plan ahead and if possible batch cook and freeze at least two or three midweek meals. I know it seems tedious at the time but it does pay off in the long run.
We have run a course in the Cookery School for the past couple of years and it gives you the solution – seven nights, seven meals one plan! You wouldn’t believe how well that sold… so yes people are looking for the solution to everyday easy meals in the kitchen.
What do you put in your kids lunchboxes?
Variety is the spice of life and I like to vary what goes into the school lunchboxes as often as possible – so it could vary from healthy carrots sticks and hummus and pitta to cold noodles with chicken to a Friday treat of Home-Made Pizza Slices … one thing I do try not to deviate from, except for very special occasions or school outings is the drink should always be water and you will always find some fruit in there too whether it’s an apple, melon slice or bunch of grapes.
Are your kids fussy eaters? What recipes do you love, but they absolutely hate?!
One is one isn’t! But you would be surprised at what my fussy eater will eat… he is in fact quite adventurous but just hard to get the 5 a day into… They are quite adventurous really and there isn’t much they won’t try.
What’s your family food philosophy?
Eat well Be Well is my philosophy – simple but true.
What do you think is the most important thing when it comes to eating with the family?
Time spent around the dinner table is irreplaceable – this is the time when families bond and stories of the day are exchanged, problems are worked out and projects planned… this time is sacrosanct in my book.
Finally, what’s in your fridge right now?
Well lots of things from mascarpone cheese to potted mackerel and lots of other go to ingredients for quick snacks and easy fast meals. And of course some delicious pecorino cheese to accompany the broad beans growing in the garden right now (check out my Pecorino & Broad Bean Salad in Eat Like an Italian for the recipe)…
Catherine’s new cookbook Bake Like an Italian , published by Gill & Mac Millan, will be on the shelves of book stores nationwide from the 19th September.