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This is the latest of our blogs from Slow Food UK by Nathalie Nötzold, coordinator of Slow Food’s Chef Alliance scheme. Slow Food is a charity championing healthy, environmentally-friendly, ingredients with good provenance sourced locally and seasonally.
A warm welcome to the second Slow Food blog about everything good, clean and fair and our work with over 100 fantastic chefs in Slow Food UK’s Chef Alliance.
We are looking forward to exciting times, Hopshoots are just coming into season and we are preparing to celebrate UK Coffee Week in April. We are also busy working on a talk series about ‘Women in Food’ in May, and we are launching seven new Forgotten Foods for Slow Food Week in June, our annual celebration of everything ’slow’.
Main: Spotlight on Forgotten Foods and why Chefs support our cause
I am always fascinated that chefs are so willing to take time out of their busy schedules and to have me sneak into their kitchens to steal a few minutes to speak with them. Sometimes they are able to sit down with me over a cup of coffee, and sometimes our brief meeting can extend into to a far longer conversation. Such was the case with Brett Graham (The Ledbury) when he sat talking to me in depth about his passion for helping small scale producers build up their businesses, and about using pork jowl in his menu and how he turns this cut of meat that’s often considered waste, into something delicious instead, reducing waste and helping the producer. Also Andy McFadden (L’Autre Pied), who has enthusiastically participated in our Forgotten Foods Recipe Bank and who will be hosting an event during Slow Food Week (Sunday 1st to Sunday 8th June), supports our work at Slow Food because we promote a better way to eat, whilst supporting artisan producers.
Combining the aspect of a better food culture and sourcing from smaller local producers, Sam Harris (Zucca), will also be hosting a Slow Food Week event and has chatted to me about his understanding for a sustainable food culture and that for him, the simple fact that the Alliance exists, shows growing food awareness and appreciation in Britain. The sustainability angle of Slow Food is fabulously represented by one of our ambassadors, Raymond Blanc, who spoke with glowing pride of his kitchen garden, his tomatoes and own grown vegetables at le Manoir when I last saw him, and explained to me that his family has always had a kitchen garden, and that it has always been the most normal thing for him to do as a chef.
Apart from the overall ethos of good, clean and fair, the strongest reason for our Chef Alliance members to support Slow Food is our Forgotten Foods programme! The Forgotten Foods represent Britain’s unique edible biodiversity, and includes products which are in danger of becoming extinct. Our chefs are the best champions of these products and their producers, and introducing these products back to the market is the ultimate goal of our Forgotten Foods programme.
A great example is Florence Knight, for whom the Forgotten Foods are a major reason and point of interest for her support in the Alliance (“When I get your newsletter, the first thing I do is scroll down to the Forgotten Foods part!”). For Richard Corrigan, spokesperson and founding father of the Alliance, the Slow Food cause is very dear to his heart and he and his head chef Chris McGowan (Corrigan’s Mayfair) are particular fans of our Forgotten Foods! Last year during Slow Food Week, they served up a delicious meal of Formby Asparagus, served with duck egg and Grimsby Smoked Haddock at Corrigan’s Mayfair, and throughout the year I have to make sure the supply of Rae Philips Beremeal from Orkney never runs out.
Formby Asparagus is just one of our 72 Forgotten Foods that our chefs love to work with. It’s traditionally grown in Formby near Liverpool and has a short availability of approximately six weeks from May until mid-June, and there are only a few producers left. New crowns are grown from the seeds saved from old plants. After the first year, the crowns are transplanted into a trench, and the first cutting can only be taken in the third year. I reckon that Slow Food Week will be a great time to try out Formby Asparagus in some of our chef’s special menus.
Leaving you all with a fun ‘Forgotten Foods’ challenge why not try out Hopshoots or Poor Man’s Asparagus, in your menus? With very limited growing season from end of March until mid April and only a few small plant nurseries selling the plant, Hopshoots are mainly recognised in the brewery industry, whereas somewhat neglected in the gastronomy world. By raising awareness in advance of the season and asking plant nurseries to provide samples to chefs, who can continue growing them, we try to spread the knowledge of this delicate and slightly peppery flavoured, asparagus like plant.
As you can see, the Chef Alliance is made up of a variety of great chefs, and regardless of different passions for sustainability, home grown ingredients, small-scale artisan producers or traditional British food heritage and culture, these are all elements aligning chefs under the Slow Food umbrella.
In the meantime, watch out for the exciting events coming up, such as a tailored chef event with our partner Lavazza during UK Coffee Week (7-13th April), a special series with our supporter Divertimenti lead by Tim Hayward themed ‘Women in Food’ with Sam Clarke (Moro), Stefani Smith (River Cottage), Carina Contini (Centotre) and Madalene Bonvini-Hamel (British Larder Suffolk) (6th-8th May) and Slow Food Week (1-8th June).
We are proud to working towards a better food culture and grateful for all the support chefs give us in our endeavour. If you are looking for a new highlight in your kitchen, just pick one of our current 72 Forgotten Foods or browse our fantastic producers to get inspired. More about our 115 chefs in the Alliance and Slow Food Week 2014 can be found on www.slowfood.org.uk. Until June, help us Eat It, Don’t Lose It, and keep up the great work in your kitchens!
All the best,
German-born Nathalie Nötzold is hyper-organised to the point of being ever so slightly OCD until it comes to the kitchen – Nathalie does not do recipes, preferring to wing it. But coordinating the Chef Alliance at Slow Food UK has brought out her woollier side. She never misses a chance to slip into chef’s kitchens, and is always ready to get her hands dirty, Nathalie is on a mission to experience the best cuisine her adopted homeland has to offer.