The road from Isfahan

On June 16, 2007, in event archive, by Matt
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Route from Isfahan Baklava workshop Road from Isfahan

By Pauline Tresise

IT is believed that baklava was created by the Assyrians – around the eighth century BC – who used layered thin bread dough, chopped nuts and honey baked in their wood fired ovens for their table of sweet offerings.

For centuries baklava has crossed borders and been passed down in history from the renowned Persian patissiers to the Byzantium court of Justinian I at Constantinople. The Greeks, whose merchants and sailors travelled widely in Mesopotamia, were captivated by the taste of these delicacies and as a result invented the dough technique of phyllo. The Armenians who were situated on the spice route incorporated cinnamon and cloves. Over the centuries, as this sweet crossed borders, different ingredients and methods were used: the Greeks added cinnamon and honey and the people in the Middle East added rose water and cardamom. Originally baklava was considered food for the wealthy as many families did not have ovens of their own, but since the 19th century it has been traditionally used by families, especially at celebratory times.

Today it has arrived in the pastry shops in Australia and many of the migrant communities have brought their own family version. As we sit watching it being prepared by Farangeez, who came from Iran 10 years ago we are reminded of the importance of preserving these traditions. Baklava she tells us takes two days to make so all the flavours are incorporated, so the day before she had prepared the first tray which was passed around after the workshop – not once but twice and for some three times. Our warm thanks to Farangeez Ahmadi for giving us her time and sharing her recipes with us.

A special thankyou to Slow Food Perth Members and Fiori coffee merchants, Kamran Nowduschani and Louise Gordon for bringing their new coffee to highlight this taste sensation. For those interested Fiori coffee it can be purchased at quality grocers and used in good coffee lounges such as Tiger Tiger and Boucla. Contact Fiori Merchants on 9328 4988 for further information.

 

A sustainable girotonno?

On June 14, 2007, in the nose, by pauline
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FOR five years now at Carloforte – the only town on the island of Saint Peter, an island lying on the south coast of Sardinia and closely connected by a 40-minute ferry ride – has been celebrating the Girotonno: four days of events that include cultural, artistic, oenological and gastronomic meetings, not to mention the live music, performances, conventions and debates. This event aims to highlight the ancient tradition and culture of the tuna, and how it is historically linked to the territory.

It is a small island with a population of 5000 mainly made up of fishermen and their families. It was originally settled by Tunisians with the result that its food, customs and costumes are unique. Four days in May are dedicated to the ancient tradition of tuna, tuna fishing and the tuna cuisine competition.

Saint Peter has been recorded as one of the earliest places in history for tuna fishing and for the last five years at the Girotonno chefs from all over the world compete in the tuna cuisine competition. It is the only opportunity to experience this cultural exchange of tuna traditions, the life and the economy of this community.

The migration of tuna had been noticed by Aristotle who described the migratory habits of tuna. In his History of Animals he tried in vain to find a logical answer to their seasonal regularity of their migration. Phoenicians and Carthaginians stamped their coins with an image of a blue fin tuna and in more recent history Arabs, Spaniards and Italians incorporated tuna into their diets and culture. The Venetians, Arabs, Romans and Spaniards took advantage of fishing the seas around the migratory habit of the blue fin tuna. Around the ninth century in Sicily, during the Arab occupation, the ritual of the mattanza was developed. For centuries the tuna have been seasonally trapped in May and early June along the southern coasts of Sicily and Sardinia on their way from the Atlantic Ocean to the eastern Mediterranean and into the Black Sea to spawn.

The Northern Atlantic blue fin tuna Thunnus thynnus inhabits the North Atlantic Ocean, and are migratory fish that spawn either in the Gulf of Mexico or the Mediterranean Sea. They can live up to 40 years, weigh from 136 to 680 kilos and can reach 2-3 metres in length. They can attain swimming speeds of 60km per hour, and migrate from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean in as little as 60 days. The blue fin holds an almost mythic position among the world’s pelagic fish.

One of the world’s few truly warm-blooded fish, the blue fin is able to maintain its body temperature between 10° and 20° Fahrenheit higher than the surrounding water. The principal advantage of this ability is increased muscle power; muscles contract more rapidly when warm without loss of energy. As a result, the blue fin is able to swim very fast and travel very long distances.

Fascinating as this information is, the blue fin tuna is sadly on the critically endangered list. Traditionally the mattanza was a sustainable one but ever since the beginning of fishing as a global industry in the 1960s with the move to sonar and satellite technology, the blue fin tuna stocks are much depleted.

Links
Greenpeace: state of southern blue fin tuna
Environmental justice foundation
The Daily Telegraph London report
The Independent report: chef removes blue fin tuna from menu
Environmental news service Australia

 

Organic sourdough  bread talk & tasting with Yoke Caddy, 9.6.07 Organic sourdough bread talk & tasting with Yoke Caddy

Slow Food Perth committee members stuck their hands in dough on 2 June with sourdough baker Yoke Mardewi-Caddy in her Ardross kitchen. A week later more than 40 Slow Food Perth members and friends gathered at a converted private house known as The Church in Mount Lawley to to talk with Yoke about sourdough bread-making. Slow Food Perth member Tracy Barker reports.

NOT all bread is created equal, nor all sourdough! Perth artisan baker Yoke Mardewi-Caddy conducted a sourdough information session for Slow Food members and friends in Mt Lawley.

Yoke has been baking sourdough for over 15 years and her expertise was obvious in the amazing bread we sampled during the session.

As well as ‘plain’ bread (that was anything but), Yoke had made amazing chocolate sour cherry and pistachio cranberry sourdough loaves. Slathered with organic butter I could have eaten it all day long! All of the breads were moist, fragrant and chewy – by far some of the best bread I’ve eaten in years.

Yoke uses biodynamic flour in all her breads – rye, wheat, spelt and a naturally cultured sourdough starter that she has been feeding and using for ten years and allows the bread to rise for up to eight hours.

According to Yoke, bread made with a natural sourdough starter contains natural yeasts that aid the digestion of whole grains and the resulting bread had a naturally low glycemic index.

Yoke runs sourdough bread making classes from her home in Ardross, which include the opportunity to try your hand at making a variety of sourdough breads, and includes some of Yoke’s starter to take home and experiment with. As soon as I can find time, I’ll be lining up for a class.

More information
Email Yoke Mardewi-Caddy

 

A fish to vie for

On June 5, 2007, in the nose, by pauline
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girotonn[1]Â Â

Girotonno is a four-day celebration of the bluefin tuna that provides the San Pietrans with their livelihood. Australia was well represented at Girotonno, reports Meera Freeman of The Age.

5 June 2007: MELBOURNE’S Teague Ezard is just back from a whirlwind trip to Carloforte on the Sardinian of San Pietro, where he competed for Australia at the fifth Girotonno – a four-day celebration of the bluefin tuna that provides the islanders with their livelihood.

He hit the ground running, competing on the first day of the third World Tuna Cuisine Competition and won a special juror’s prize for his savoury panna cotta flavoured with wasabi and bonito flakes with tuna sashimi in a mirin and sesame broth. Enzo Vizzari, chairman of the jury and editor of the l’Espresso restaurant guides, praised the dish for its originality and technical excellence – “a fine example of fusion as opposed to confusion cuisine”.

“I was thrilled to receive this prize, which made the very long journey for a very short stay even more worthwhile,” Ezard says. “I really enjoyed the camaraderie between the competing chefs and was impressed by the sense of community and extraordinary hospitality of the locals that was equal to their wonderful cuisine.”

This year, eight countries competed in the competition. The outright winner was a Peruvian team of three young chefs who presented a trio of tuna dishes a la Creole, combining European and Japanese methods with ancestral Incan ingredients such as corn, different types of chilli and potato – a sweet ceviche, a causa anticuchera (yellow potato cylinder topped with a grilled skewer of tuna) and marinated fried pieces of the fish on a bed of corn and sun-dried pepper paste. The Danish entry was a sliced smoked and seared tuna stack with horseradish and rhubarb sauces, pearls of caraway eau de vie, sea grass and a crisp wheat-grain wafer.

The island of San Pietro was settled in 1736 by 300 families of Genoese coral gatherers and fishermen living on the Tunisian island of Tabarka and seeking refuge from the ravages of overpopulation, depletion of their local coral beds and attacks by the marauding Barbary pirates who roamed the Mediterranean coasts during that period.Â

It lies on the migratory route of the bluefin tuna and the ritual mattanza, or tuna kill, is still practised using methods handed down from rais to rais (head fisherman) since the Middle Ages. It is home to one of the last fully operating tonnare, complex systems of fixed nets that trap the tuna. The nets are hoisted by hand and the tuna speared and loaded onto small boats, from where they are transported to the nearby tuna processing plant. Bloody and cruel as this method may seem, it is a selective process and far less wasteful and harmful to the environment than trawling.

The four-day festival, May 17-20, brought tens of thousands of visitors to the island. Local restaurants offered special menus featuring every imaginable part of the noble fish – tuna prosciutto and sausages, tuna sperm, salted and preserved heart, bottarga (dried roe), as well as the various cuts of the tuna flesh.

Four of the guest chefs, including Ezard, held masterclasses at the new Theatre of Taste presided over by Italy’s renowned world food and music expert, Vittorio Castellani. There were tastings of Sardinia’s excellent wines and stalls set up along the waterfront promenade provided samplings of local produce, smallgoods and cheeses.

Cookery teacher Meera Freeman was a member of the 14-person Girotonno jury headed by Enzo Vizzari.

 

Pork & sons: master of a dying art

On May 31, 2007, in the nose, by Matt
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SFP web general piglets spencers brook

French chef and author Stephane Reynaud recently visited Australia and demonstrated his skills in a dying art at a workshop with members of Slow Food Central Victoria. Richard Cornish of The Age was there to witness it.

STEPHANE Reynaud is a big man. He could be a rugby player. He uses his size and strength to lift the 70-kilogram pig onto the rafters of the old barn. In front of a small ensemble of onlookers, the French chef opens his arms and gesticulates towards the carcass and says: “OK! Let’s eat!” There is a silent pause before a relieved chorus of laughter. Reynaud also has a big sense of humour.

He has taken a day off from his busy schedule publicising his award-winning book Pork & Sons to take part in a Slow Food Central Victoria pig workshop. Over the course of the day an entire rare-breed Wessex Saddleback pig is to be broken down, cooked, made into pate, terrine, roasts, grills and sausages. Local farmer Nick Chambers helps Reynaud cut the pig in half.

‘How does this compare with your French pigs,’ asks Chambers.

‘We let our pigs grow much larger to 18 months old and they weigh 200 kilograms, so about 120 kilograms dressed,’ he says.

‘How many men does it take to cut up a pig in France?” asks an onlooker, a well-known home butcher. ‘Drunk men or sober men?’ Reynaud asks cheekily in reply.

The owner of popular Paris restaurant Villa9trois, Reynaud spent childhood winters with his grandfather Francois Barbe, the butcher in the town of Saint-Agreve in Ardeche, 560 kilometres south-east of Paris. With him Reynaud learned the tradition and etiquette of the traditional French pig kill, taking part in his first slaughter at the age of seven on a day that was minus 12 degrees.

Despite a busy life in the city, Reynaud keeps his rural roots by attending the annual kill in Saint-Agreve and is even part owner of a pig. ‘I still return to Ardeche to kill the pig with a friend. He is a machine salesman,’ he explains. ‘We do it for the good food and the tradition.’

‘In a village where people still kill the pig for their own consumption, the animals don’t have names. They do (however) have free-range lives and are eating the produce of the farm,’ he insists.

‘A friend’s pigs will eat the milk from a nearby goat’s milk dairy,’ he says as he cuts off the head and splits it open, reserving the brain. He cuts off the cheeks and places these and the head into a stockpot with vegetables and seasonings to make a terrine.

He cuts the skin off the belly and some from the head and places this in a bowl with some fat and a little flesh. This will shortly be minced to make a saucisse de sabodet a lyonnaise sausage, similar to a small cotechino, flavoured with salt and pepper.

The head of Slow Food Central Victoria, Mary Ellis, is armed with a bag of potatoes and pounces on the offal. ‘According to the book,’ she says, ‘it’s traditional to make a fricassee with the heart, liver and kidneys and potatoes. See page 48!’

To this, another guest replies: ‘In that case let’s all be traditional and have a glass of wine like Stephane does on page 26!’ There’s a pop of a cork and a small cheer. It is still morning.

On the table in the centre of the old barn, Ballarat restaurateur Dean Smith bones a hind leg. ‘This bloke’s (Reynaud) a dying breed. Apart from some notable individuals there is virtually no whole-carcass butchery left in the Australian restaurant industry and it’s getting that way in Europe. A lot of the apprentices don’t even have knives. They buy their meat cut up in bags and give customers what they want – prime cuts.’

At the bench, the loin racks have been laid on a bed of celery and chorizo, lightly salted and oiled, and placed by the stove ready to go in the oven. A pile of meat and fat sits in a bowl and Reynaud asks everyone to make an offering of a flavour. ‘Just like an offering plate in church everyone must drop something in,’ he says.

In goes fennel, orange, chestnuts, rosemary, pepper and other spices. ‘Good. This will be the saucisse esprit de spontaneite,’ he says, translating it with a cheeky smile, ‘That is, er, sausage of the day.’

Someone asks the question: “Would you make a sausage like this at home?” Reynaud replies: “Of course. Everyone puts something in. Back in France when we cut up a pig it is done by loving people, who love food. This way everyone eats something made by everyone.”

Another bowl comes out and pieces of pork and fat are mixed with shallots, cognac, salt and sage. Reynaud lines a terrine dish with slices of local prosciutto from Istra smallgoods, pressing the terrines into the dishes, decorating them with bay leaves and finally putting them into the oven in a bain-marie.

Sitting outside in the kitchen garden, basking in the late autumn sun, we wait for the racks of loin to rest and discuss the book Pork & Sons which won the 2005 French Gourmand Cookbook Award. The English translation is a beautiful production with a soft-pink, gingham cover and laced with humorous line drawing caricatures of pigs by artist Jose Reise de Matos.

The 150 recipes are more a guide to day-to-day rustic cooking and entertaining than a bible for charcuterie, but at their heart they have a solid respect for good pork. The breakouts also pay respect to a way of life in rural France that is fast disappearing.

‘The men I learned this (sic) recipes from are dying. These recipes are practices that are passed from grandfather to son to grandson.’ Reynaud looks around at the people cooking, making sausages and terrines. ‘Now there is less and less of this sort of thing even in France. I am 40 this year and I wanted to give my (three) children something in black and white about their great-grandfather, about Saint-Agreve and the pig. Because in 10 years time this could all be gone. Hopefully not.’

Pork & Sons is published by Phaidon $59.95

 

SFP food news eataly pasta

By Elisa

betta Povoledo
International Herald Tribune

13 May 2007 MILAN: For the gourmand, stepping into Peck, the celebrated gastronomic emporium in Milan, is the mouth-watering equivalent of Ali Baba stumbling upon the legendary treasure cave. For a company like Whole Foods Market that is hoping to break European consumer habits, it is a nightmarish glimpse of the difficulty of the task ahead.

In case after polished glass case, mounds of rare cheeses, fresh pastas and breads, savory salamis, prosciuttos, and assorted antipasti – boletus mushrooms in olive oil, wafer-thin anchovies, lobster-crab in olive oil – are artfully displayed to tease taste buds. Most bear the distinctive sun-like Peck logo.

In an outsized back kitchen, cooking crews concoct high-end meals for take-out – everything from lasagna to deboned rabbit to beef wrapped in a bread crust to boiled vegetables that have been hand-picked each day.

Such an established institution feels little threat from large distributors like Whole Foods, which are ‘structured differently and offer a much broader range of products,’ said Mauro Stoppani, the manager of the Milan store and a member of the family that has owned Peck since 1970.

Even branching out, the Stoppani family has remained close to home. There is an online store proffering a variety of products including wine, but with only a fraction of the more than 4000 labels sold at the main store. And they have two restaurants, one of which is run by a well-known chef, Carlo Cracco, just around the corner from the Milan store.

Peck does not cater to a niche market, Stoppani said during an interview by telephone. Many clients, he said, were just neighbourhood folks. But products do not necessarily come cheap. Jars of Peck sauces or pickles can be had for less than €10, but scampi in cocktail sauce will set you back €140 a kilo, or $95 a pound. Asparagus – currently in season, as the website www.peck.it informs – costs €39.50 a kilo if you buy it cooked.

SFP food news eataly fish

Somewhere between Peck and Whole Foods lies Eataly, a three-month-old experiment in bringing gourmet food to the masses.

Occupying what once was a sprawling vermouth factory in Turin, Eataly is more shopping mall than supermarket, where overflowing food stalls mix with gourmet restaurants and dining counters, a bakery, a cavernous wine and beer cellar, and classrooms for cooking courses and lectures. There is even a chef on hand dishing out personalized dining advice. Most of the hundreds of goods come from local producers, a basic Eataly tenet. Another is that shopping for food should be educational.

‘We want the client to be a co-producer – to be aware that choices in the store influence the lives of other people from the farmer to the guy who slices salami,’ said Oscar Farinetti, the founder and owner of Eataly. The idea is to teach people ‘that what we put inside our bodies is more important than what we’ve got on the outside’.

Eataly is also the tangible expression of the Farinetti beliefs that everyone can eat well, even if the food budget is tight. Part of the problem is perception.

‘When gourmet foods are branded as niche products, it makes people feel ignorant, or that they can’t afford them,’ he said. But Eataly is ‘democratic like a supermarket, with big informal areas where people can feel at ease’.

Slow Food, the international food movement based in the nearby city of Bra, helped to stock the shelves.

‘We focused on what is seasonal and on finding small producers that could keep up with demand,’ said Sebastiano Sardo, a Slow Food staff member who consults for Eataly. One rule: products must be reasonably affordable. ‘The last thing we wanted to do is to create a gigantic niche market,’ he said.

Eataly - www.eataly.it

Photographs from www.eataly.it

More information
www.eataly.it

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Slow Food Perth / Feast Perth / 18 Mar 2007

SLOW Food Perth supported nine Western Australian producers to participate in Feast Perth on the Swan River foreshore at East Perth on 18 March. Despite a very hot and humid day, an estimated 20,000 people attended what is now considered to be Western Australia’s artisan food fair.

North Perth nougat-maker Rochelle Adonis, away in London at the International Food & Wine Show, was represented by her husband Michael above left who shared Slow Food Perth’s marquee space with Romy Surtees above right from Elixir Raw Honey. Terra Madre 2006 participant and biodynamic farmer William Newton-Wordsworth, from Williams River Produce in the Great Southern, was helped by his daughter Tara and Slow Food Perth members Pauline Tresise and Freddie Kronborg. Other Terra Madre participants in Slow Food Perth’s marquee included Jane and Tom Wilde from Cambray Sheep’s Cheese at Nannup in the South West, Suzanne and Peter Little from Random Valley Organic Wines at Karridale, and Patricia Tew from Food Symphony at Bullsbrook. Merilyn Basell from Mount Barker Wine Vinegar offered tastings of her superb botrytis vinegar. Biodynamic wine from Gerry and Judy Gauntlett’s Gilead Estate at Neerabup, north of Perth, was also shown, together with Bunn Wine from Richard and Irene Bunn’s Redmond vineyard in the deep Great Southern. Maggie Edmonds from Gingin Heritage Estate offered fresh Gingin passionfruit for tasting, together with her sumptuous passionfruit membrillo.

The crowd at Feast Perth enjoyed tastings and heard panel discussions, hosted by journalist Verity James, ranging from regionalism in food to organic gardening.

More information
Slow Food Perth’s Feast Perth 2007 participating producers’ brochure

 

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