Just back from Slow Food Terra Madre Salone Del Gusto 2018, the biggest international event, anywhere in the world, dedicated to food, 1.2 million people attended in 2016. Every two years a most intriguing mix of people from all over the world, farmers, fishermen, artisan food producers, transhumant shepherds, food scientists, chefs, food writers, activists, university professors, seeds savers, migrants and indigenous people descend on Turin, a beautiful small city in Piedmont. They come from all four corners of the earth to attend a massive 5 day artisan food fair and a variety of seminars on how to change our current fractured food system.
Carlo Petrini, the messianic president of Slow Food International, who was named “one of the 50 people who could save the planet” by The Guardian, gave an impassioned speech about Food For Change – a global campaign aimed at educating all of us on the effect of our food choices have on climate change. Slow Food is committed to a food system that not only provides Good, Clean and Fair food for all but is also sustainable and positive for the planet, www.slowfood.com.
Each and every one of us can and must make a difference by choosing food that doesn’t harm the environment though its production, its transportation or its disposal.
It comes as quite a shock to realise that we could reverse climate change by changing our diet. I attended a variety of intriguing sessions; one on natural ferments, the panel included one of my food heroes Sandor Katz, the king of Fermentation, and Venetia Villani, director of Cucina Naturale.
In another session on pesticides entitled The Poison in The Pot Miryam Kurganoff de Gorban from Argentina showed a heart rending video on the effect of glyphosate on farm workers in Argentina.
On a more positive note Earth markets are changing communities from Krakow to San Diego, Uganda to Turkey.
A session on soil, ‘the Future is Under Our Feet’ included Arwyn Jones a soil scientist from the EU Soil Research Centre in Milan – he and his fellow speakers painted a grim picture of the effect of intensive chemical farming on the soil that feeds us and suggested many ways to rebuild the diminishing fertility.
I learned from chef Yuriy Pryiemskyi from Kiev that there are 76 different types of Bortsch. Imagine that, I thought there was just one.
Ireland was represented by the Raw Milk cheese producers – Italians were intrigued to taste Young Buck Mike Thompson. Long-time Slow Food member Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery in West Cork gave an engaging session to a packed audience on Ireland’s smokehouses and also demonstrated kedgeree and ceviche.
Feeding thousands of people every day is quite the mission but there are many options. The ‘street food’ area offered many intriguing dishes as did the ‘smoke food over fire’ and several others including Terra Madre Kitchen.
The Slow Food Youth area was buzzing with passionate young people from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo www.unisg.it determined to make a difference. Slow Seeds, Slow Fish, Slow Insects, Slow Meat, and Slow Cheese all offered back to back sessions.
Slow Chickens were determined to put an end to caged birds.
Slow Food Terra Madre is quite simply a life changing event, thousands of inspirational people all helping to change, or wanting to change the fast food culture that has enveloped our lives and make a difference to the planet with how they spend their food euro.
Just by coincidence Joe Trivelli of the River Cafe in London’s new book The Modern Italian Cook has just arrived…. now this is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating. Joe is the much loved co head chef at River Cafe and has worked there since 2001 but this book is packed with recipes for the food Joe likes to cook at home for his lovely wife and two children and his fortunate friends…..just the sort of comforting food I too love….
Here are a few recipes to tempt you – could be a delicious Christmas present for a food loving friend.
Focaccia di Recco
One of the stalls in the Slow Food Street Food area served thin crackly paper thin focaccia, oozing with Stracchino, one of the best things I’ve ever eaten and lo and behold I have a recipe in Joe Trivelli’s book, The Modern Italian Cookbook.
Joe Trivelli’s Focaccia from Recco Focaccia Di Recco
Recco is a town on the Ligurian coast between Genova and Portofino. If you go there you can eat this on the street or at a focacceria, where it is treated more like a pizza. If you’d like to make a large one, it’s easier to do it with another pair of hands, stretching the dough very gently between you. The stretching of this dough requires a lightness of touch and a minimum of pulling.
If you’ve never had this before I think you should opt for the plain version, but you can also ‘pizzerise’ with a tomato and herb topping and a little oil before baking, if you like.
250g (9oz) organic ‘oo’ flour
125m1 (4fl oz) whole milk
200g (7oz) stracchino or crescenza cheese
extra virgin olive oil.
Mix the flour and milk together until you have a dough, then transfer to a clean work surface for kneading. Lightly flour the bench if the dough is tacky. Knead it constantly, rotating it all the while, and flouring the worktop where necessary, for about 4 minutes or longer if your batch is bigger. It quickly feels very smooth on the outside and will bounce back when pressed with your fingertip.
When smooth to the touch, cover well and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/400°F/Mark 6 and oil a light, large non-stick baking tray.
Cut the dough into two roughly equal amounts, but make one slightly bigger than the other. Use the bigger one for the base. Roll it out into a rectangle as thinly as possible, to about 2mm. Keep the tray you are going to use beside you to help you gauge the size and begin to work with your hands. The aim is to make something thinner than regular pasta, almost as thin as filo. The under sheet can be slightly thicker than the top but make sure that it doesn’t have any holes in it. The second will have holes made in it, so it’s not as much of a problem.
Work with your hands together as if you were praying but with the dough sheet draped over. Carefully move your hands apart, but do this very gently, almost as though trying not to stretch the dough. It will, however, do so. Hop the dough on your hands so that it turns around by 45 degrees at first and repeat. Pay particular attention to the edges of the dough, not the centre, which will naturally be pulled by the weight of the dough. Stretch the parts that are thicker and avoid those that look too thin.
When large enough to fit, place on the baking tray and dot with pieces of stracchino cheese. Stretch out a second piece of dough, ideally slightly thinner. Place on top of the cheese and cut around the edges with a knife. Crimp the border together and tear a few holes in the top. Lightly sprinkle with olive oil and salt before baking.
Bake for 8 minutes until golden and slightly bubbling through the holes. Eat immediately and make another straight away.
Joe Trivelli’s Tomato Frittata Ruthie Rogers Frittata Al Pomodoro Ruthie Rogers
This is straight from the boss, something she makes at home rather than serves in the restaurant. It’s evocative for me as we ate this all summer in between shooting her Classic Italian Cookbook in southern Tuscany with Rose Gray. It’s a dish without a time. Quick to prepare; quick to enjoy; fine to eat standing up but also great to linger over with a glass of wine.
I have tried hard not to be too specific with ingredients but here I must insist that this is made with only the very ripest and tastiest tomatoes at the height of summer and spanking-fresh eggs. This is because it’s what Ruthie would insist on when making it for us. It would be less than half the dish otherwise.
Add some cheese if that’s your thing but it’s not really necessary.
½ ripe oxheart tomato or 1 plum tomato, cut into 2cm slices
2 small basil sprigs
sea salt, black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Break the eggs into a bowl, season and lightly mix with a fork,
Heat a 25cm trusty pan to smoking hot with oil just covering the bottom. Add the tomato and turn over with a spatula as soon as it is hot, i.e. quite quickly. You don’t really want to cook it, just heat up and scorch it a bit.
Add the basil and pour over the eggs, moving them a little after 20 seconds when the middle has started to cook so that that cooked egg is distributed throughout the pan. Position everything to look pretty, if you care about this sort of thing. Cook for minute.
Flip and cook for 1 minute more.
Barny Haughton’s Bucatini all’ Amatriciana
The sauce for this deeply delicious and simple dish has four basic ingredients: tomatoes, shallots, chilli and bacon. But there are some rules about the ingredients:
You really need to get the right bacon; the deep flavour of a good Amatriciana comes from the rendered-down fat. The best bacon cut is guanciale (pork cheek) but a good fatty unsmoked pancetta will do fine as well.
Bucatini, (like thick spaghetti) is best for the pasta but rigatoni or penne will also do well – but don’t use fresh pasta.
And finally: use pecorino not parmesan. The difference may not seem a big deal but what you get from pecorino (made from sheeps milk) is a sharpness which works brilliantly with the rich Amatriciana sauce. Parmesan (made from cows milk) is sweeter and less defined in its flavour
Serves 4 people
400g (14oz) guanciale or a piece of fatty pancetta
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
3 shallots very finely sliced
600g (1¼lb) ripe tomatoes – or a 380g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
80g (3¼ oz) aged pecorino, grated
400g (14oz) bucatini
You are going to make a passata out of the tomatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Place the tomatoes on a roasting tray, toss them in a little olive oil and salt and bake them for about 45 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then pass through a mouli or sieve, leaving behind only the dry skin and seeds. You should end up with about Note: if you have lots and lots of ripe tomatoes, say, five kilos, you could do as above, then reheat the passata to simmering and transfer to sterilised jars, screw the lids on tight and keep in a cool place for up to three months until needed.
Slice the guanciale into thickish rashers and then into lardons about 1cm wide. Put a splash of olive oil in the bottom of a deep solid bottomed sauté or frying pan, bring to a medium heat and put the lardon in the pan. Once they have started to fry, turn the heat down and continue to fry gently. As the fat renders down, pour it off into a bowl. Continue doing this until the lardons become crispy. Drain the remaining fat off into the bowl, put the lardons to one side. In the same pan, fry the sliced shallots until they or soft but not brown. Add the chilli flakes, fry a little longer, then add the passata, bay leaves and a few twists of black pepper. Simmer gently for 25 minutes and keep warm
Cook the pasta in the normal way but make sure you cook it to just before it’s al dente. This is because you are going to finish it in the sauce for a further 30 seconds or so. Drain, toss in olive oil and put to one side.
Meanwhile, add the rendered fat to the tomato sauce and have the crispy lardons ready in a warm place.
Now add the pasta and lardons to the sauce in the frying pan, simmer for 30 seconds and serve immediately with lots of grated pecorino.
Our fig trees in the glasshouse are giving us a second flush of fruit at present. The first plump fruit ripened in May but there’s an extra bonus in the Autumn so I was thrilled to find this recipe. Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen guanciale and pancetta are worth seeking out.
Joe Trivelli’s Rigatoni with Figs Al Fichi
This sounds like an unusual pairing but actually the faintly spicy figs with the rich cured meat is a delicious combination.
400g (14oz) rigatoni
150g (5oz) guanciale or pancetta, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
6 fresh figs, washed and sliced into three
100g (3½oz) grated mature pecorino, plus extra to serve
sea salt and black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Put a large pan of salted water on to heat. You can start cooking the pasta as soon as it boils as the sauce is that quick to make.
Fry the guanciale or pancetta in a large pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. When it is nice and crispy, and most of the fat has melted, acid the thyme and figs and toss quickly.
Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the other pan and toss everything together, adding the cheese and using the cooking water to emulsify the sauce as necessary. Add a good grind of pepper and salt to taste.
Serve with more cheese for grating at the table.
Joe Trivelli’s Ricotta Ice Cream Gelato Alla Ricotta
Super-easy, super-creamy, with figs, hazelnuts and chocolate, I’ve thrown all the good stuff at this.
100g (3½oz) dried figs
juice of 1 lemon
140g (4¼ oz) caster sugar
500g (18oz) ricotta
6 egg yolks
300g (10½oz) double cream
200ml (7fl oz) whole milk
70g (3oz) roasted hazelnuts, chopped into small pieces
80g (3¼ oz) dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
Take the tips off the figs and cut into pieces. Put the lemon juice in a pan with log of the sugar and the figs. Bring to the boil then turn off the heat and leave to soften.
Pass the ricotta through a sieve and then do it again to make it creamy. Whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar until pale then add the cream, milk and ricotta.
Churn in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Towards the end, stir through the nuts, chocolate and figs. Best eaten as soon as it’s scoopable, after about 3 hours in the freezer, but this ice cream will keep for a week.
Remove from the freezer well ahead of serving to soften once frozen solid.