Terra Madre means Mother Earth

Fashionistas have Fashion Week, artists have Burning Man, racing car enthusiasts have Silverstone…. farmers, fishermen, cooks and chefs interested in sustainable food and local food economies have Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto.
As Slow Food Councillor for Ireland, I was privileged to attend the first Terra Madre two years ago in Turin, Terra Madre means Mother Earth. It is the brainchild of Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food International, who in the early eighties became haunted by the spectre of fast food companies eroding Italy’s ancient food culture. He realized the only way to counter the threat was to tackle the problem internationally, by promoting a gastronomic culture, safeguarding bio-diversity, developing taste education, creating presidia to protect traditional foods in danger of extinction and so Slow Food was born. The association is also dedicated to supporting local food economies and promoting sustainable methods of food production. There are now 80,000 members in 180 countries including Ireland, who are actively involved in fulfilling the aims of Slow Food.
The first Terra Madre in October 2004 provided a meeting place and a forum for people from around the world - farmers, fishermen, seed-savers, shepherds, nomads, cooks, cheese-makers, fish smokers, cured meat producers, foragers … came together to exchange ideas, share their diverse experiences and try to find solutions to similar problems.
This year over 6,000 people participated in Terra Madre, including 400 professors and researchers representing 250 universities and academic institutions in 50 countries around the world. Petrini’s vision was to create a virtuous triangle that would connect farmers and food producers with chefs, professors and food scientists, so they could share their knowledge and experience and co-operate to support sustainable food production.
This year’s event was held in the Oval Lingotto in Turin, where the skating competitions were held at the Winter Olympics. It had the full support of the Italian government and was opened by the President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano amidst much pomp and ceremony and a parade of flags from 150 countries, including the Irish tri-colour.
At the opening session on Thursday, Iraq and Iran, two countries President Bush defined as part of the ‘axis of evil’, received some of the warmest applause, as did the delegation from Lebanon. Later in the ceremony, Kamal Mouzawak, founder of the farmers’ market in Beirut – billed as Lebanon’s first - provided one of the most poignant moments. Beirut has lost almost all of its public gathering places, which makes the farmers’ market so vital. “Without a place to sell local products, farmers lose hope. And without local food traditions, people lose hope”, he said.
“If you don’t dream, you don’t exist,” he told the crowd. “So lets dream together”.
Carlo Petrini set out his agenda to protect the rights of the small farmer and promote sustainable agriculture.
It was also a call to unite against the growing domination of the multinationals and large corporations, ‘alone and divided communities can not react against violence’, Petrini told the enthusiastic if jet-lagged assembly, who had converged on Turin from all corners of the earth. Some had never before strayed from their villages, not to mention travelled on trains or planes. They came, each food heroes in their own way, each with an amazing story to tell, some clutching precious seeds, others with grains, all with a deep knowledge of their own food culture. Many were dressed in their colourful traditional clothes, distinctive headdress – from Indian feathers to cowboy hats, sombreros, head scarves…
From the several keynote addresses translated into eight official languages, it was clear that politics not just pleasure would dominate the three days of workshops. Carlo Petrini called for food production to be good, clean and fair. “Clean, because one cannot produce nourishment by straining ecosystems, ruining the air, and destroying biodiversity. Fair, because the citizen must be paid; if we want the young people to stay and return to the land here in our countries they must have dignity and fulfillment, and they must be valued. It is inconceivable that a civilized nation could enslave the workers of other nations to produce tomatoes. It is inconceivable that a civilized country can encourage organic economies like that of green California at the same time that it reduces many Mexican farmers to slavery. So good, clean and fair are three adjectives that farmers must offer to the consumers, whom I would like to call co-producers, in an effort to change this system that is turning into a big mistake.”
Both Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Indian activist Vandana Shiva accused decision makers of being out of touch with farmers, ‘the earth’s caretakers’, and stressed
the need for bio-diversity. Speaker after speaker lashed out against transgenic crops, illustrated how globalization is causing the erosion of rural communities, how the indiscriminate use of pesticides and antibiotics is destroying the land and how the WTO organization accords affect farmers and food producers.
Where else would Masai peasants meet Afghan raisin farmers, American maple syrup producers meet Tibetan yak herders, Irish raw milk cheesemakers meet their counterparts from Kyrayzstan, Tolosa Black Bean producers of Spain meet the Irish Seed Savers from Co Clare……
If you would like to know more about Slow Food check www.slowfood.com  or www.slowfoodireland.com

Sweet Sour Pork with Prunes, Raisins and Pinenuts
Jo Bettoja whose food I adore served us this rich sweet sour stew in her home in Rome. It’s an old family recipe for wild boar that has been passed down through the generations. I loved the rich gutsy flavour so she kindly shared her recipe.

1.7kg (4lb) boneless shoulder or leg of pork

Marinade
6 juniper berries
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon thyme leaves.
1 carrot chopped
1 onion chopped
1 stick celery chopped
725ml (24 fl oz) or more dry red wine
50ml (2 fl oz) red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
180ml (6fl oz) red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
36 prunes soaked in water
½ cup raisins, plumped in hot water
50 g (1¾oz) pine nuts toasted
2 tablespoons sugar
40g (1½ oz) dark chocolate

Accompaniment
Soft Polenta 

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Add the cubes of pork, stir well. Cover and marinade for 48 hours in the fridge. Stir every now and then during this period.
Drain the meat, reserve both the marinade and vegetables. Dry the meat on kitchen paper.
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides and then transfer to a casserole, season with salt. Add a little more oil to the pan, cook the marinated vegetables for 5-8 minutes or until the onion is soft, add a few tablespoons of the marinade to prevent the vegetables from burning. Add to the meat in the casserole. Deglaze the pan with the rest of the marinade plus 2 fl oz of red wine vinegar, bring to the boil and scrape into the casserole.
Add ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, bring back to the boil, cover and cook in a preheated oven 160ºC - 325ºF regulo 3 until the meat is tender, 1½ hours approximately.
Remove the meat to a bowl and strain the sauce into a saucepan, press the vegetables through the sieve to get the last of the juices. Add the prunes, raisins and pinenuts to the sauce.
In another small saucepan simmer 4 fl oz of red wine vinegar with 2 tablespoons sugar for 4 minutes then add to the sauce with the grated chocolate and the meat. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve with soft Polenta and follow with a good green salad.

Hazelnut Semi fredo Con Nocciole
Serves 10-12

10 ozs (285g) sugar
5 ozs (150g) unpeeled hazelnuts, lightly toasted and peeled
vegetable oil
4 free range eggs, separated
2 tablesp. white rum
12 fl ozs (400ml) cream

1 large loaf tin

Lightly oil a marble surface or a large platter. Put the hazelnuts and 3½ ozs (100g) of sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, do not stir. When this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel. When the nuts go 'pop' pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold. When the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.
Reserve ¼ of the praline for garnish.
Mix the egg yolks, with 3½ ozs (100g) sugar until thick and fluffy. Add the rum. In a separate bowl whisk the cream until stiff. Whisk the egg whites stiffly adding the remaining sugar a little at the time. Gently fold the cream into the yolks followed by the egg whites. Spoon a little of the mixture into the prepared mould and sprinkle some crunchy praline on top. Repeat twice more always spooning the mixture into the mould rather of pouring. Cover the mould tightly and freeze overnight.
When ready to serve, turn the semifreddo out onto a chilled platter and leave for a few minutes. Remove the silicone paper. Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnut praline. Serve with hot chocolate sauce if desired.

Hazelnut Semi fredo Con Nocciole
Serves 10-12

10 ozs (285g) sugar
5 ozs (150g) unpeeled hazelnuts, lightly toasted and peeled
vegetable oil
4 free range eggs, separated
2 tablesp. white rum
12 fl ozs (400ml) cream

1 large loaf tin

Lightly oil a marble surface or a large platter. Put the hazelnuts and 3½ ozs (100g) of sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, do not stir. When this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel. When the nuts go 'pop' pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold. When the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.
Reserve ¼ of the praline for garnish.
Mix the egg yolks, with 3½ ozs (100g) sugar until thick and fluffy. Add the rum. In a separate bowl whisk the cream until stiff. Whisk the egg whites stiffly adding the remaining sugar a little at the time. Gently fold the cream into the yolks followed by the egg whites. Spoon a little of the mixture into the prepared mould and sprinkle some crunchy praline on top. Repeat twice more always spooning the mixture into the mould rather of pouring. Cover the mould tightly and freeze overnight.
When ready to serve, turn the semifreddo out onto a chilled platter and leave for a few minutes. Remove the silicone paper. Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnut praline. Serve with hot chocolate sauce if desired.

Sweet Sour Pork with Prunes, Raisins and Pinenuts
Jo Bettoja whose food I adore served us this rich sweet sour stew in her home in Rome. It’s an old family recipe for wild boar that has been passed down through the generations. Tim and I loved the rich gutsy flavour so she kindly shared her recipe.

1.7kg (4lb) boneless shoulder or leg of pork

Marinade
6 juniper berries
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon thyme leaves.
1 carrot chopped
1 onion chopped
1 stick celery chopped
725ml (24 fl oz) or more dry red wine
50ml (2 fl oz) red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
180ml (6fl oz) red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
36 prunes soaked in water
½ cup raisins, plumped in hot water
50 g (1¾oz) pine nuts toasted
2 tablespoons sugar
40g (1½ oz) dark chocolate

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Add the cubes of pork, stir well. Cover and marinade for 48 hours in the fridge. Stir every now and then during this period.
Drain the meat, reserve both the marinade and vegetables. Dry the meat on kitchen paper.
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides and then transfer to a casserole, season with salt. Add a little more oil to the pan, cook the marinated vegetables for 5-8 minutes or until the onion is soft, add a few tablespoons of the marinade to prevent the vegetables from burning. Add to the meat in the casserole. Deglaze the pan with the rest of the marinade plus 2 fl oz of red wine vinegar, bring to the boil and scrape into the casserole.
Add ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, bring back to the boil, cover and cook in a preheated oven 160ºC - 325ºF regulo 3 until the meat is tender, 1½ hours approximately.
Remove the meat to a bowl and strain the sauce into a saucepan, press the vegetables through the sieve to get the last of the juices. Add the prunes, raisins and pinenuts to the sauce.
In another small saucepan simmer 4 fl oz of red wine vinegar with 2 tablespoons sugar for 4 minutes then add to the sauce with the grated chocolate and the meat. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve with soft Polenta and follow with a good green salad.

Foolproof Food

Marrons Glacé with Sweet Cream

The cafes and food shops of Turin were all selling little trays of beautiful new season’s marrons glacé in October. They were sold on little gold trays decorated with crystallized violets.

The Italians eat them for dessert on a bed of crème Chantilly. The combination sweet cream and marrons glace is divine.
Look for them in specialist food shops during Christmas.

Hot Tips

FAUCHON est arrive!
Lovers of luxurious chocolates, rare Champagnes and a range of speciality foods such as Truffles and Foie Gras, will welcome the recent arrival of FAUCHON which is now available in Ireland. The famous Parisian food house based in the heart of Paris is one of France’s oldest and most renowned fine food stores. Gift selection available to order on line at www.planit.ie/fauchon  or by phone on 01-2805795/2957522

New Ross Christmas Market – December 8th-10th – on the Quayside in New Ross as part of a Christmas Festival in the town.
Dublin Docklands Christmas Market – 12-23 December 12 noon to 8pm daily
‘12 days of Christmas’ with a Bavarian theme – German Mulled Wine stall, Erdinger Beer Bar and a programme of entertainment throughout the event.

North Cork Coop will sponsor a Cookery Demonstration by Darina Allen on
Thursday 14th December in Kanturk Hall at 7.30pm on the theme of ‘A Stress-free Christmas’
Check out  courses on Game Cooking (13th December) and Christmas Flower Arranging (14th December) Tel 021-4646785

Book of the Week

The Festive Food of Italy by Madalena Bonino published by Kyle Cathie
Festival of Wild Mushrooms and Truffles –
During the mushroom season from the end of September to November, Italians all over the country begin the serious ritual of mushroom hunting. Rising early in the morning, not only at weekends but sometimes before going to work, they venture into the woods kitted with woven baskets (any other kind of carrier could damage the spoils of the search), walking sticks, short knives and Wellington boots, and the hope of a good catch. Everyone has a favourite place to go and this closely guarded secret is not shared with just anyone but passed from generation to generation.

Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout
Serves 4

Polenta
1½ litres milk
300g maize flour
115g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mushroom Ragout
70ml olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
550g mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and roughly cut
3 tablespoons dry white wine
115g butter
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the polenta, heat the milk and season well. When it starts to simmer gradually whisk in the maize flour. Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the butter and mix.
To make the ragout, heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic, and leave to colour. Add the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes, then add the white wine and a couple of tablespoons of water. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and allow most of the juices to evaporate, then incorporate the butter and lemon juice. Stir in the parsley, check the seasoning and serve immediately with the polenta.
From the Festive Food of Italy by Madalena Bonino.