Northern Ireland’s First Lady of home cooking, North Coast native Jenny Bristow, will swap her studio kitchen for NI’s Best Food Event when she makes her debut at the LegenDerry Food Festival (March 17 - 19).
Jenny, who learned to cook while growing up on her parents’ dairy farm outside Coleraine, is among the celebrity chefs taking part in LegenDerry, which is supported by Tourism NI and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) NI Regional Food Programme.
She will be be one of the star attractions in the festival marquee at Guildhall Square on Sunday, March 19 when she takes to the Theatre of Food stage for her live cookery demos at 1.30pm and 3.30pm, with another festival favourite from the North Coast, good food ambassador and Radio Ulsterresident chef, Paula McIntyre, as compere.
Looking forward to pairing up with Paula at the award-winning three-day gourmet event, Jenny said: “We have joked about the fact we are both in the same line of business and grew up about four miles apart and the first time we met was at the Clipper Food Festival last summer.”
Jenny has fond memories of life on the family’s dairy farm near Coleraine where she learned to make deliciously wholesome meals “out of very little” using a ready supply of seasonal local produce.
“When I was a child I was renowned for my lemon meringue pies, I was always messing about in the kitchen and doing things,” recalled Jenny who plans to cook two starters, two main courses and two desserts with an Easter theme at LegenDerry which will run on March 17-19 from 12 noon until 6pm daily.
Just like the title of one of her best-selling cookery books, ‘Gloriously Good Food’ is guaranteed when Jenny works her magic at one of Ireland’s most popular festivals which attracted more than 36,000 visitors over two days last year and won Best Food Event at the recent NI Year of Food and Drink Awards.
As for her own favourite dish to cook at home, Jenny believes in keeping it simple: “Probably something quick and easy now that the kids are up and away, and there are just two people to cook for. I love the simplicity of fish”.
The former Home Economics teacher also loves a good pudding and her Baked Lemon Curd and Elderflower Cheesecake or Lemon Drizzle Cake could well make an
appearance on the LegenDerry demo stage.
Prior to her successful broadcasting career, mum of three Jenny also worked for several food organisations including the Seafood Authority, visiting schools across the North West as part of her educational role. Her big break in local television followed an appearance on Farming Ulster when she was working for the Potato Marketing Board in 1989.
She recalled: “I was working at Downtown Radio and UTV rang and asked me to come and do a feature with Eamon Holmes. I did the first cookery series, Kitchen Garden, and all the produce was grown at Baronscourt. They had some of the most unusual fruits in their walled garden and we used to go there for filming.”
Jenny, whose prime time cookery shows also took her to the USA, the Mediterranean and France, now runs her own cookery school from her home nestled in the rolling countryside outside Cullybackey and, she will be offering some courses as a prize at LegenDerry.
Her busy schedule also includes a weekly slot on BBC Radio Ulster with Kerry McLean, public appearances and charity events. She recently joined forces with the Women’s Institute to find the best Victoria ‘Square’ Sandwich baker in Northern Ireland and, she is hoping to do a planned 14th cookery book which has been “on the back burner” for some time.
Jenny is also a woman on a mission following the latest advice for people to eat a whopping ten portions of fruit and vegetables a day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A recent study led by scientists at Imperial College London claims that while five portions of fruit and veg a day is good, doubling the recommended intake could prevent up to 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide every year.
Jenny said: “I am fascinated at the minute with this whole ‘eat ten portions of fruit and veg a day’ but nobody has given people advice and inspiration about how to incorporate it into their everyday diet.”
According to NI’s doyenne of cookery, we just need to leave out more of “the nonsense food” and add more of the good stuff.
It’s a theme Jenny also hopes to take on board at LegenDerry “showing how we can incorporate fruit and veg into our meals rather than sitting with ten bits of fruit and wondering how am I going to eat all this? We can put different fruits into breads; there are so many clever ways we can weave it in without fats and sugars, adding natural sweetness.”
A firm believer in getting back to basics, Jenny says: “Nothing restores body and soul more than around the kitchen table. People are going back to cabbage and kale, celery, leeks and onions, things we would have grown out the back in the past. We don’t have to be buying exotic peaches and nectarines and an avocado every day of the week; we just need to instil a bit of common sense.
“We have got much more relaxed about cooking but much more adventurous, much more healthy and creative. If we can keep getting more and more people into the kitchen and putting things together and not feeling threatened that is really good.”
Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Alderman Hilary McClintock said she was delighted with the local and visiting culinary talent lined up by Council for this year’s LegenDerry Food Festival with chef restaurateur and TV legend Brian Turner of BBC2 ‘Ready, Steady Cook’ fame, expected to attract the crowds on Saturday, March 18 and popular local celebrity chefs Jenny Bristow, Ian Orr, Brian McDermott and Paula McIntyre all in action during the weekend.
A number of local restaurants will also be cooking their signature dishes for festival-goers in the marquee. In addition, mouth-watering street food will be served up by top vendors in Guildhall Square, while around 20 artisan food producers will showcase their wares in the LegenDerry FoodHall at the Guildhall.
A packed programme of free family-friendly entertainment is also on offer with free LegenDerry themed children’s arts and crafts, cupcake decorating and chocolate workshops, street theatre and animation across all the festival zones.
For more information about the LegenDerry Food Festival taking place in Guildhall Square and the Guildhall on March 17 - 19, visit www.derrystrabane.com/food