Olwen Woodier, award-winning food author and Leesburg resident, will hold a cooking and tasting demonstration of fun and easy summer foods at Ashburn Library, 43316 Hay Road, Saturday, June 16, at 2 p.m. Books will be available for purchase. Visit www.lcpl.lib.va.us.
Olwen Woodier, owner and instructor of Glenfiddich Farm Cookery School, Canby Road, Leesburg. I started the school early 2005 at the farm I share with my husband and ceramic artist/potter Richard Busch (Glenfiddich Farm Pottery).
How did you get your start in cooking?
Prior to moving to New York, I had lived in Switzerland and France for seven years. My new boss (a CEO of a New York City publishing company) knew this and also that I enjoyed cooking so he asked me to cook lunch every Friday for his executive group in the executive kitchen. I accepted and started watching Julia Child's television French cooking shows to finesse my cooking skills.
Your latest book is all about peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots and other stone fruits. Why did you choose these fruits?
My long-time publisher Storey Books asked if I would write about "Peaches and Other Juicy Stone Fruits." I had already written four books for them including the more recent "Apple Cookbook" and one on corn and they are very good sellers so they gave me first dibs at Peaches. Sounded peachy to me so I decided to write the book.
What was the first dish you made and why did you make it?
The first menu — class — I taught at Glenfiddich Farm Cookery was a Mediterranean theme including pork tenderloin with a sauce of roasted peppers and pine nuts; a salad of beets, oranges, olives and feta cheese; and an apple phyllo tart. I chose Mediterranean because I was comfortably familiar with that cuisine after living on the continent for seven years.
What is your favorite ingredient to use in dishes? Why?
Ooh, that's a hard one. I grow every herb imaginable so I can use them profusely according to the seasons. I do love to use fresh gingerroot, lots of garlic, also leeks and shallots year-round as a way to heighten flavors.
What is it that you love about cooking?
I love experimenting with different ingredients for all types of savory dishes. But I also love baking — cakes, breads, tarts, you name it. However, I also love cooking for friends — and strangers. It's a very nurturing and sharing experience.
Do you have any favorite places to cook?
In my large farm kitchen on my workhorse of a Wolf professional range.
What are you favorite dishes to make? Why?
Well, some of my favorite dishes are risottos and paellas. The reason being that they are great one-pot meals and you can incorporate just about any kind of vegetables, seafood or meats. I like to make Mediterranean and Middle Eastern versions of both. And though it might sound a bit sacrilegious, I could see making Asian versions. And why not? There is nothing sacred about cooking. It's wide open to interpretation.
How did you come to start teaching cooking?
About 15 years ago, I asked if I could teach gardening classes at Fairfax County Community Centers — I had written several gardening books. Instead, I was asked to teach vegetarian cooking classes — at the time I was going through a very intense vegetarian phase. I taught cooking classes for Fairfax County for seven years and gave it up one year after moving to Leesburg.
What can people expect to learn from the program at Ashburn Library?
I'm teaching how to make a fresh summer gazpacho soup, which can also be used as a sauce for seafood or salads. I will also make three-ingredient, three-minute chicken tenders on a contact grill; and then a very quick fruit crisp dessert in a sauté pan instead of traditionally in the oven.
How has living in Loudoun affected your cooking?
In particular, with the explosion of Asian (Indian, Vietnamese, Thai) restaurants I'm able to taste authentic dishes, which give me ideas for developing recipes for my classes. Also, the many farmers markets provide a great variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits, which I fill in with those grown in my own gardens. Moving to Loudoun allowed me to expand my growing areas for fruits, vegetables and lots of different herbs. Also to raise chickens and ducks for their eggs — the "girls" all have names so they will never end up in the pot.
Best compliment about a dish you’ve made?
While I receive compliments about many dishes, probably the variously flavored pork tenderloins may garner the most compliments — they are so flavorful and tender after quick roasting (and I don't use ready-brined ones because of all the sodium they contain). But, you know, perhaps one of the greatest compliments I get is that I have so many class repeaters and word-of-mouth recommendations.
Anyone you would really like to cook with or for?
I think it would be neat to cook with a Thai or Indian restaurant chef.
Describe your cooking style:
It seems that people enjoy my classes not only for the menus but because I am largely laid back rather than structured. I tend to cook from the heart rather than by the book. Inexperienced cooks in particular don't feel intimidated and feel they can go home and do the same.
Biggest influences (if chefs have influences):
Julia Child's classic cooking techniques and concepts; also Boot Camp at the Culinary Institute of America, and eating in Asian and good American fusion restaurants to get ethnic and innovative ideas.
Returning in 2008 to the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, N.Y., to take Asian Boot Camp — so called boot camp because the day starts at 6:30 a.m. and it's nonstop with lectures, cooking techniques, cooking lunch and more lectures until you're ready to drop. Also, I have a trip planned to Vietnam in January. I want to visit the food markets and take cooking lessons.