When did you realize you had a passion for cooking?
I loved cooking from a very young age. I used to take a comic – Princess – that published a recipe each week which I used to cut out and paste into a scrapbook. I used to make a terrible mess in the kitchen which my mother always used to clear up for me. Spoilt or what? She was a very good traditional “plain cook” (her words not mine) but making everything from scratch as did everybody in the country back them. We were not farmers but grew all our own produce, kept cows, pigs and chickens and had milk, cream and eggs on tap. Coming home from school there was always a cake or scones fresh from the oven waiting for my brother and me and in the summer we used to take tea outside in the garden.
How did you get to be the accomplished cook you are today?
I have always been surrounded by cooks! My father’s mother and sister were both good cooks and we had lots of family recipes hand written in a book which I loved. I was always being told that I should go to domestic science college to train to become a professional cook but I never enjoyed the restraints of cooking at school – following recipes, clearing up and so on – I am a bit of a free spirit in everything I do…I went to art college instead and then on to Italy. My first year there (to learn Italian) was spent with a family in Bologna. La Mamma Tina was another exceptional cook too so I added traditional Bolognaise food to my repertoire. I had already spent some time in France as a teenager. I moved on to Rome and stayed in Italy for the best part of seven years; cooking and eating my way around the country for fun – I worked in the fashion and film industries during that that time. I later spent several years living in Penzance in Cornwall where I developed my love of fish.
I eventually came back to the UK married and had a family. When my youngest started school I decided to write a cookery book combining my love of Italian food with my experiences in Italy. It was eventually published in 1994. I very soon discovered that cookery books don’t sell themselves you have to get yourself out there and I started a demonstration based cookery club called the G2club. The rest followed.
Can you tell us about your cookery school: what kind of classes, cuisines and techniques do you teach?
The Chef’s Room fish and cookery school in Blaenavon South Wales, which is my current project has access to some of the best fresh fish and produce in the country and is located in a state of the art teaching facility. It was purpose built by Vin Sullivan, one of the country’s major suppliers of produce to the catering industry with forty years experience as fishmongers. Not surprisingly one our most popular cookery courses is basic fish skills where students learn, to clean, fillet, skin, cut and dress fish. I work on a regular basis with a well known Italian chef Franco Taruschio who founded the renowned Walnut Tree Inn. We also have a programme of guest chefs.
My own cooking is a melange of British country and Italian regional food reflecting by upbringing and the years I spent in Italy. I perfected my cooking skills as most women did in the past, putting a meal on the table for my family. I believe that sitting around a table, sharing a homemade meal on a regular basis, is as important for our children’s education as sending them to school. I therefore like to teach achievable healthy home cooking using seasonal produce, so my students can replicate it for their families and friends. I am also well aware that the eye as well as taste buds plays an important part in our enjoyment of food and presentation is important too.
I cover most aspects of food and specialise, I suppose, in fish and game and preserving. My latest book Cured: salted, spiced, dried, smoked, potted, pickled and raw is on curing meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.
Your book, Sunny Days & Easy Living, is the perfect cookbook for summer. Why is eating outdoors so magical? Do you have any tips for eating al fresco?
Being outdoors close to the elements heightens ones senses so everything becomes more intense including the taste of food. I also believe there is a heightened sense of anticipation when taking food outdoors whether to the garden, a park, the beach or into the country.
I am a great believer in setting the scene. There are so many beautiful garden accessories to be had -lanterns, candles, fairy lights, pretty cloths and napkins, table-wear and glasses that can create a wonderful setting for your al fresco parties and picnics. Having said this you don’t have to spend a fortune on garden furniture or even have a garden you can carry out a rug and cushions to a park and dine Turkish style on the ground. Oh and don’t forget the flowers – you maybe in the garden surrounded by flowers but you still need them on the table…and if you don’t have a table, wear them in your hair!
Be organized, get as much prepared in advance as you possibly can. Provide some shade if it is day time. Not everybody likes eating in the sun. Keep food covered indoors in the cool and carry it out last minute. Always warn your guests you will be eating outdoors so they can bring extra cloths incase it turns cool.
To learn more about Lindy, you can visit her website: www.lindywildsmith.co.uk
Interview by Marny Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org