Francesco Mazzei, Giorgio Locatelli and Angela Hartnett hosted a dinner at L’Anima in the City to highlight the Chef Alliance, a major development of the Slow Food Movement. How fitting that a trio of leading Italian chefs should be at the forefront of the London events of Slow Food Week, 18th to 24th June, 2012, given the origins of the Slow Food Movement.
Founded in the 1980s in Italy – a country deeply proud of its regional food traditions – to counter the horrors of Fast Food, it has now taken root in 150 countries, with the aim to highlight the “pleasure of food with a commitment to the community and environment.” This entails promoting awareness, via educational, charitable and culinary activities, of the origins and production of food, with a emphasis on locality, sustainability and nutritional value.
A variety of sub groups encourage those of different ages and backgrounds to engage in the process. For example, Slow Food Kids urges the use of all five senses in the exploration and enjoyment of food, whilst Slow Food on Campus aims to get students to play a leading role in the development of the food system. Forgotten Foods aims to preserve the endangered heritage of traditional dishes
The restaurant world has also been actively engaged, as witnessed by the Chef’s Alliance which now numbers 53. Amongst those championing forgotten food and slow food menus are Richard Corrigan at Corrigan’s Mayfair, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley and Gilbert Scott, and Anna Hansen at the Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell. Restaurants of distinction in Bristol, Devon, North Yorkshire, Edinburgh and Wales, including Ynyshire Hall, are also represented. The 2012 Taste of London in Regent’s Park, 23rd and 24th June, also featured a Slow Food UK Secret Garden. With such a distinguished following, the movement can only go from strength to strength.
The reception at L’Anima saw each of the three chefs give a passionate speech about their dedication to the principles of the Slow Food Movement. Together they created a menu which showcased the virtues of Slow Food both in their choice of ingredients and cooking techniques. The dishes were accompanied by Felluga Wines from North East Italy, all produced with an ecologically sustainable approach to viticulture.
Canapes featured crostini of beautifully roasted sweet baby vine tomatoes. These were paired with Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio 2011
First Course: Risotto carnaroli with roasted quail and grana padano riserva.
This was made with the “king of rice,” native to the Vercelli district in northern Italy, and traditionally used to make risotto. Firmer in texture and higher in starch than Arborio rice, it to keep its shape in the slow cooking, and gives a richer creaminess to the finished dish. Cooked with one of Italy’s most popular cheeses, which is aged for at least 20 months, the delicate taste and sweet nutty intense flavour lifted the risotto to ethereal heights. The succulent, flavoursome breast of quail garnish complemented the rice perfectly. (Wine: Abbazia di Rosazzo Rosazzo Bianco 2009)
Main Course: Portland Hogget lamb with wild garlic mash and minted artichokes and peas
The use of English hogget in preference to the more tender but less interesting milk fed Pyrennean lamb, or similar breeds, was much appreciated, and more akin to slow food traditions. With its firmer texture, good covering of fat and deeper flavour, the meat was deliciously succulent. Mashed potato flavoured and coloured with wild garlic, minted artichokes and fresh peas comprised well prepared seasonal garnishes, whilst a rich lamb jus bought the whole dish together. (Wine: Livio Felluga Vertigo 2010)
Dessert: Wood oven roasted spiced pineapple with salted caramel gelato
This dish emphasised both a traditional cooking technique and traditional Italian skill in producing artisan ice creams. The roasted sweet pineapple had an enhanced aromatic quality which worked well with the velvety smooth salted caramel gelato sprinkled with pistachios. (Wine: Livio Felluga Picolit 2006)
Clearly, this was an inspired menu with which to begin Slow Food Week. It is important to remember in this context that many chefs, including some who have not formally joined the Alliance, have been following the principles of Slow Food for some time, and that Slow Food Week, whilst not totally innovative, aims to raise awareness to a higher level.