Slow food is as much about enjoying the experience as it is the cooking

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Slow Food is an international organisation that celebrates good, clean and fair food. It has nothing to do with cooking slowly in a casserole but is more about food provenance.

The emphasis is on slow cultivation of produce without the use of pesticides and slow rearing of animals without the use of excessive growth hormones. If it sounds sensible and familiar it’s because it’s the way our grandparents produced food. For me, slow food is also about getting around a table and enjoying the conviviality of food as much as what’s on the plate.

The Guildhall square in Londonderry will be host to Northern Ireland’s only slow food festival next weekend on the 29th and 30th September. This is the third year of the event which won “NI Food and Drink Experience of the Year 2018” at the NI Tourism awards.

The festival is a showcase of producers, chefs and experts all bestowing the virtues of “slow”. I’ll be cooking alongside Inishowen chef Brian McDermott and London based, Maiden City native Aine Carlin. Local chefs will be cooking and there’ll be food and beer matching with James Huey of the Walled City Brewery in Ebrington Square. Thomas Carroll, head brewer at the Dopey Dick Brewing Co, will be demonstrating how to make your own beer at home in 15 minutes.

One of the producers exhibiting at the event epitomises the slow food ethic perfectly.

The White Oaks Acorn project is an organic produce scheme which operates at the White Oaks rehabilitation facility in the outskirts of the city. It provides therapeutic work for residents as well as supplying seasonal vegetables to the public, local restaurants and shops.

Last year White Oaks had an area in the festival marquee full of lush root vegetables, encased in dirt as they should be, late season tomatoes, pumpkins, herbs and even locally grown aubergines and peppers. Late season tomatoes are particularly good this year having had the benefit of a good kiss of sun and a liberal sprinkling of rain too. For my first recipe I like to cut then up and cook them in quick pickle to go on top of toast with some chorizo and cheese. Alastair Crown’s Corndale chorizo from Limavady and Dart Mountain cheese from the Sperrins will also be there as perfect local examples of the kind of food we should be using.

My other recipe is for a fresh pasta rolled with leeks, potatoes and Dart Mountain’s Banagher Bold cheese. This is a beer washed cheese that is beautifully sharp with the sweet leeks and potatoes. You can make your own pasta or alternatively just buy ready made fresh sheets. The advantage of making your own is you can choose the eggs – free range ones with a good deep orange yolk make the best pasta.

The Slow Food Festival starts at 10am next Saturday and Sunday and is a free event with activities for children, a drinks marquee for adults and a street food area as well as the marquee with food producers and chef demonstrations. Check out www.derryandstrabane.com for more information.