The highlight of this past week was the visit of the founder of Slow Food International, Carlo Petrini to Ireland.
This organisation which was officially launched in 1986 could be described as the Greenpeace of gastronomy â€“ the antidote to the fast food culture which threatens to engulf us. Slow Food defends biodiversity, encourages and supports artisan food production and safeguards foods and food cultures in danger of extinction. Membership is growing worldwide, now over 100,000 in 104 countries around the globe.
What type of person joins what may sound like a very esoteric organisation â€“ a very diverse group â€“ people who have a real concern about whatâ€™s happening to food production and who feel very strongly that we should have choice. After all, those of us who want our food processed, convenient and wrapped in plastic, are very well provided for â€“ every shop and supermarket in the country offers a wide and sometimes mesmerising choice. However, the growing number of people who are seeking out local food in season find it much more of a challenge to locate, unless there is a Country Market or Farmersâ€™ Market in the area. A terrifying number of varieties have already been lost or are in danger of extinction. Old varieties of fruit and vegetables, traditional and rare breeds of animal, not considered to be of commercial value, are also under threat. Slow Food has done much to highlight the problem and the importance of action on a national and international scale through its various projects, Presidia, Arc of Taste, Slow Food Awards, Salone del Gustoâ€¦.
The latter, the largest artisan food fair in the world is held in Turin every second year. From 21-24 October 2004, Slow Food will bring 5,000 farmers and food producers from all over the world to Terra Madre in Turin, so they can meet and share concerns and solutions for a sustainable future, and thereby build a global network of food â€˜communitiesâ€™. Can you imagine the logistics of arranging an event like that?
During Carlo Petriniâ€™s week long visit he met with Minister for Agriculture and Food, Joe Walsh, Bord Bia, UCC, food historians, farmers and fishermen, artisan food producers, chefs, fish smokers, butchers, teachers and Slow Food members.
Carlo Petriniâ€™s primary purpose in coming to Ireland on this occasion was to announce details of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo and Colorno in Italy.
This new project, the first in the world, will help to create a new type of professional: an expert who is able to lead and elevate the quality of production, to teach others how to taste, to guide the market, and to communicate about and promote foods and beverages. â€œThe University will provide those with an interest in understanding food with a humanistic, sensory approach, knowledge of traditional and industrial processes, and an appreciation of cooking and gastronomic tourism. In a world where â€˜specialitiesâ€™ and â€˜typical local productsâ€™ are increasingly important and are raising the standards of the market, gastronomes will be able to communicate a wealth of knowledge, in advising new businesses, designing distribution outlets and advising the restaurant trade. Though undervalued in the past, this profession is destined to become a true interpreter of food culture.â€
At a dinner at Ballymaloe House, Rory Oâ€™Connellâ€™s menu reflected an abundance of wonderful Irish produce and the local foods of the area. Among the many delicious dishes served were, Carpaccio of Beef with Horseradish Mayonnaise, Ballymaloe Potted Crab, Nora Aherneâ€™s Traditional Duck with Sage and Onion Stuffing, Carrigeen Moss Pudding with new seasonâ€™s Rhubarb Compote.
Crab Pate with Cucumber and Dill Salad
This pate which is made in a flash once you have the crab meat to hand can be served in lots of different ways. We make it into a cylinder and roll it in chopped parsley for extra posh!
Serves 8-10 as a starter
5 ozs (140 g) mixed brown and white cooked crab meat
4 ozs (110 g) softened butter
1-2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
1 medium clove garlic, crushed
Few grinds of black pepper
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Tomato chutney or Ballymaloe Tomato Relish (optional)
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
Flat parsley, fennel or chervil
Fennel or chive flowers, if available
Mix all ingredients (except the parsley for coating) together in a bowl or , better still, whizz them in a food processor. Taste carefully and continue to season until you are happy with the flavour: it may need a little more lemon juice or crushed garlic.
Form the pate into a cylinder, roll up in greaseproof paper, twist the ends like a Christmas cracker and chill until almost firm.
Spread one-quarter sheet of greaseproof paper out on the work top, sprinkle the chopped parsley over the paper, unwrap the pate and roll it in the parsley so that the surface is evenly coated. Wrap it up again and refrigerate until needed.
Make the cucumber salad
To serve, arrange a circle of cucumber slices on individual white plates and put one or more slices of pate (depending on the size of the roll) in the centre o of each. Garnish with flat parsley, fennel or chervil and fennel or chive flowers if available. Serve with crusty white bread or hot toast.
Cucumber and Dill Salad
1 medium cucumber
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
1-2 dessertspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped fennel (herb) or 2 teaspoon fresh dill
Finely slice the cucumber (leave peel on if you like it). Sprinkle with wine vinegar and season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a good pinch of sugar. Stir in the snipped fennel and taste.
Carpaccio with Rocket and Parmesan
Carpaccio is the ultimate recipe to make a little beef go a very long way. This sophisticated dish was invented in Harry’s Bar in Venice and named for Carpaccio, the great 15th century Venetian painter. There are many variations and this one is inspired by a version served at the Cipriani Hotel.
1 lb (450g) fillet of beef, preferably Aberdeen Angus (fresh not frozen)
Fresh rocket or arugula leaves - about 5 per person depending on the size
6-7 very thin slivers Parmesan cheese per person (Parmigiano Reggiano is best)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil or Mustard Sauce (see below)
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
3 pint (150ml) light olive oil or sunflower oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh horseradish
1 generous teaspoon chopped parsley
1 generous teaspoon chopped tarragon
If you are using Mustard Sauce, make it first. Put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the mustard, sugar and wine vinegar and mix well. Whisk in the oil gradually as though you were making Mayonnaise. Finally, add the grated horseradish, chopped parsley and tarragon. Taste and season if necessary.
Chill the meat. Slice the beef fillet with a very sharp knife as thinly as possible. Place each slice on a piece of oiled cling film, cover with another piece of oiled cling film. Roll gently with a rolling pin until almost transparent and double in size. Peel the cling film off the top, invert the meat on to a chilled plate, and gently peel away the other layer of clingfilm.
Arrange the rocket leaves on top of the beef and scatter with very thin slivers of Parmesan over the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with the Mustard Sauce or with very best extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.
Note: Rocket and Parmesan Salad served without the carpaccio but drizzled with extra virgin olive oil is a very fashionable starter and very addictive it is too.
Nora Aherneâ€™s Roast Stuffed Duck with Bramley Apple SauceÂ
1 free range Duck 4 lbs (1.8kg) approx.
Sage and Onion Stuffing
1Â½ ozs (45g) butter
3 ozs (85g) onion, finely chopped
1 tablesp. sage, freshly chopped
3Â½ ozs (100g) soft white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Neck and giblets from duck
1 carrot, sliced
Bramley Apple Sauce
1 lb (450g) cooking apples, (Bramley Seedling)
1-2 dessertsp. water
2 ozs (55g) sugar approx. depending on tartness of the apples
To make the stock, put the neck, gizzard, heart and any other trimmings into a saucepan with 1 medium carrot cut in slices and the onion cut in quarters. Add a bouquet garni of parsley stalks, small stalk of celery and a sprig of thyme. Cover with cold water and add 2 or 3 peppercorns but no salt.
Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 2-3 hours. This will make a delicious stock which will be the basis of the gravy. Meanwhile, singe the duck and make the stuffing.
To make the stuffing, sweat the onion on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes until soft but not coloured, add the breadcrumbs and sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Unless you plan to cook the duck immediately allow the stuffing to get cold.
When the stuffing is quite cold, season the cavity of the duck and spoon in the stuffing. Truss the duck loosely.
Roast in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 1Â½ hours approx. When the duck is cooked remove to a serving dish, allow to rest while you make the gravy. Degrease the cooking juices (keep the duck fat for roast or sautÃ© potatoes). Add stock to the juices in the roasting pan, bring to the boil, taste and season if necessary. Strain gravy into a sauceboat and serve with the duck.
Bramley Apple Sauce
Peel, quarter and core the apples, cut pieces in two and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan, with the sugar and water, cover and put over a low heat, as soon as the apple has broken down, stir and taste for sweetness. Serve warm with the duck and gravy.
Carageen Moss Pudding
Carageen Moss is a seaweed which can be gathered off the south and west coasts of Ireland. It is rich in iodine and trace elements and is full of natural gelatine. Carageen means 'little rock' in Irish.
Â¼ oz (8g) cleaned, well dried Carrageen Moss (1 semi-closed fistful)
1Â½ pints (900ml)
1 tablesp. castor sugar
1 egg, preferably free range
Â½ teasp. pure vanilla essence or a vanilla pod
Soak the carageen in tepid water for 10 minutes. Strain off the water and put the carageen into a saucepan with milk and vanilla pod if used. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently with the lid on for 20 minutes. At that point and not before separate the egg, put the yolk into a bowl, add the sugar and vanilla essence and whisk together for a few seconds, then pour the milk and carageen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture whisking all the time. The carageen will now be swollen and exuding jelly. Rub all this jelly through the strainer and whisk this also into the milk with the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla essence if used. Test for a set in a saucer as one would with gelatine. Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold or fluff it in gently. It will rise to make a fluffy top. Serve chilled with soft brown sugar and cream and or with a fruit compote eg. poached rhubarb.
1 lb (450g) red rhubarb, eg. Timperley early
16 fl. ozs (scant 450ml) stock syrup
Cut the rhubarb into 1 inch (2.5cm) pieces. Put the cold syrup into a stainless steel saucepan, add the rhubarb, cover, bring to the boil and simmer for just 2 minutes (no longer or it will dissolve into a mush). Turn off the heat and leave the rhubarb in the saucepan until cool.
Stock syrup is the basis of homemade lemonade, fruit salad and all our compotes. We sometimes flavour it with sweet geranium elderflower, mint or verbena leaves.
1 lb (450g) sugar
1 pint (600ml) water
Dissolve the sugar in the water* and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then allow to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.
*Add flavourings at this point if using.
Rhubarb and Banana CompÃ´te
Slice 1 or 2 bananas into the cold compÃ´te.
Rhubarb and Ginger Jam
Makes 8 x 450g (1 lb) jars
This delicious jam should be made when rhubarb is in full season and not yet thick and tough.
1.8kg (4 lb) trimmed rhubarb
1.8kg (4 lb) granulated sugar
grated rind and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
30-50g (1-2oz) bruised fresh ginger
50g (2oz) chopped preserved stem ginger in syrup (optional)
Wipe the rhubarb and cut into 2.5cm (1inch) pieces. Put it in a large bowl layered with the sugar, add the lemon rind and juice. Leave to stand overnight. Next day put into a wide stainless steel saucepan, add the bruised ginger tied in a muslin bag, stirring all the time over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved, then boil rapidly until the jam sets about 10 minutes. Remove the bag of ginger and then pour the jam into hot clean jars, cover and store in a dry airy cupboard.
If you wish 50g (2oz) chopped preserved stem ginger may be added or stirred in at the end of cooking time.
Slow Food Ireland has been active throughout its 4 years, for details of how to become a member and join a convivium, check out â€“ www.slowfoodireland.com
For details of the University of Gastronomic Science and courses in its two locations, Pollenzo and Colorno, visit www.unisg.it
A date for your diary The Salone del Gusto in Turin from 21-24 October 2004. www.slowfood.com
This month The Ecologist Magazine is entirely dedicated to Slow Food â€“ entitled â€˜Slow Food â€“ a movement to save the worldâ€™
Now is seed planting time â€“ for a wide variety of traditional varieties of vegetable seeds and details of their gardening workshops, contact Irish Seed Saver Association, Capparoe, Scarriff, Co Clare, tel 061-921866 firstname.lastname@example.org www.irishseedsavers.ie