TV chef says fresh is best
Mr Barry, popular chef on the long-running BBC Food and Drink programme, said he was 'delighted' to be involved in the event, which sees Devon WI, the Women's Food and Farming Union and Townswomen's Guild join forces to promote healthy cooking with fresh ingredients.
'I think it's brilliant to see this kind of enthusiasm for local, fresh food,' he said.
'Looking round here there are local meat producers, there are cheeses to taste, there's everything from clotted cream to sausages.'
Mr Barry said he was 'passionate' about getting the message across to people that fresh is best. 'The trouble is people have been led to believe that only convenience foods are quick and easy, but that's absolutely not the case.
'Fresh food is quicker, cheaper and certainly nicer,' he said.
Vivian England, chairman of the Women's Food and Farming Union, said: 'This is the first time we have ever tried this kind of thing — it's a unique event.
'We want people to see you can actually produce a fresh meal just as quickly as a convenience one.'
Mrs England said in addition to being healthy, home-cooked food benefited local producers and local economy — and was 'delicious'.
Tania Haycocks, chairman of Devon WI, said: 'We live in an area that produces some of the best food in the country and we want to show people how simple and enjoyable it can be to take advantage of the marvellous fresh produce available on their own doorstep.'
The crowds in the Charter Hall sampled freshly cooked sausages and cups of tea, before watching chefs Michelle Ballay of the Meat and Livestock Commission and Celia Hyland of the Women's Food and Farming Union conjure up a variety of dishes using woks and slow cookers. Then there was a chance to taste the results.
Mrs Ballay said: 'We were doing simple one pot meals, obviously keeping to a budget, varying from 66p to £1.25 per portion.
'We used fresh ingredients but also store cupboard items and familiar items, possibly used in a different way.'
Mrs Haycocks said reaction at the end of the day had been 'very positive'.
'It was quite interesting seeing people's faces and their reactions to some things. They certainly ate well!'
Mrs Haycocks said the event received sponsorship by Bicton College, Devon County Council, the Meat and Livestock Commission, the NFU, Okehampton Town Council, Somerfield and Waitrose.
l Michael Barry signed copies of his new recipe book at Waitrose in Okehampton.
Look out for the competition in next week's Times, when readers have the chance to win one of three signed copies of the new book.