Today marks the launch of the third Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine and we thought it would be a great opportunity to chat to festival director and all round inspirational foodie, Rory O’Connell. Having spent more than twenty years cooking in the world’s finest kitchens, Rory is uniquely equipped to share his expertise and knowledge with others. Today he teaches at the Ballymaloe Cookery School while consulting for other restaurants throughout the country. His reputation as a food stylist regularly sees him working on photoshoots with other authors, publishers and magazines. Rory’s passion for refining not just our palate but how we prepare and cook food is still his priority. This inspired him to provide a wide range of bespoke cookery classes, catering for all levels and both groups and individuals, at his 18th century farmhouse near Shanagarry, in East Cork. As one of the leading lights of the Irish food scene, Rory’s tips below are essential reading, as are his delicious recipes, excerpted from his book Master It: How To Cook Today.
You are well known for your commitment to Irish produce. What three Irish products would you champion to someone who was curious about Irish food?
Irish butter, native oysters and lamb. All of these products have a terrific flavour.
How has Irish food changed over the last decade? What do you see as the cornerstones of Irish cooking?
I think we have become more confident about the quality and range of ingredients both cultivated and wild and that is now feeding into the food being served in restaurants. I also think there is a new raft of young Irish cooks who are travelling and outward looking and bringing their experiences from abroad back home and putting their new ideas on the plate here whilst using Irish ingredients that we rarely saw before.
Who is your personal food hero and why?
I would have to say Myrtle Allen from Ballymaloe House. She realised the quality of food we had in Ireland long before anyone else and had the confidence to serve it in a simple way long before it was cool to do so. She was also a great champion of the small producer and became actively involved in trying to protect them from being completely swallowed up by the red tape designed for much large organisations.
What three tips would you give to someone who wants to learn to cook, but doesn’t know how to get started?
Buy a good cookery book and read it ….all of it including the boring little notes at the beginning about oven temperatures and so on. Buy a scales, measuring jug and measuring spoons and then follow the recipe accurately. Go slowly, take your time, taste all of the time and learn from any mistakes.
What was the greatest culinary advice you have ever received, and how does it translate to your life today?
If it doesn’t taste good its just not worth the effort. That advice still holds up.
What recipe transports you back to childhood and who taught it to you?
A dish called Scalloped Potato which was actually a combination of slow cooked beef, beef kidney, onions and potatoes that my mother made for us and taught all of my siblings and I how to make it. We all still adore it .
What’s in your fridge right now?
Olives, milk and butter, Chorizo, smoked Pollock and a black pudding.
If you could teach the world to cook one recipe, what would it be, and why?
An omelette would be useful. Its a simple but nutritious and quickly made meal and can be varied with different fillings according to the changing seasons. At the moment sea kale would be fantastic, in a few weeks time it would be asparagus but of course it can just be a few herbs, a little cheese and so on.
The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine has become the most coveted ticket on every foodie’s calendar. What has been your all-time highlight of the festival so far?
So many its hard to choose but certainly seeing Rene Redzepi speaking to a packed and wrapt audience in a room on a farm in East Cork was a great thrill.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine and why?
I am very much looking forward to hearing Alice Waters speak. She is an inspiration and a lot of what she supports is relevant to us here in Ireland as it is in any part of the world.
The third Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine runs from 15-17 May 2015. The full schedule of events and speakers is now available on the LitFest website www.litfest.ie
From world-famous chefs to boutique coffee roasters, guerrilla gardeners to polished restaurateurs, cocktail specialists to renowned wine makers, the unique international approach of the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2015 brings together yet another awesome lineup of fascinating and intriguing food and drink focused writers and speakers.
For more information please call the Litfest office on 00353 21 4645777, email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the website www.litfest.ie