Bank holiday weekends are becoming a regular occurrence and with the weather (hopefully) improving, it’s time to get out and explore. For the foodie, this is about more than just enjoying the scenery; there are plenty of treats to be found if you know where to look. But too many of us don’t, says Slow Food UK CEO, Cat Gazzoli, who is adamant that we need to start taking advantage of our ‘forgotten foods’. 'Eat it or lose it' is the motto behind Slow Food’s Ark of Taste network, which catalogues forgotten flavours. It currently stands at 700 products from 30 countries. ‘The producers of these foods swim against the tide of intensive production methods to continue the culinary traditions that have been passed down through the generations,' says Gazzoli. ‘Every product has a fascinating story behind it.’ So what should you be eating this month? Gazzoli has a few unusual ideas.
Morecambe Bay Shrimps
'What makes them special for us is how they're shrimped in the old traditional method,' explains Gazzoli. 'The story of Morecambe Bay shrimps makes people think that they are a delicacy worth saving.' Shrimping has been a traditional occupation on the Lancashire coast since the 18th century. Although the shrimps are labour intensive as you have to peel them yourself, Gazzoli is confident that they’re worth the effort: 'They really punch above their weight. It's a kind salty intense flavour so we're saying people should go a long way for the Morecambe Bay shrimp rather than losing the taste for them in favour of flown across the world type of shrimp.'
Believe it or not there was a time when Hampshire was the watercress capital of the world and Slow Food hopes to revive that through the Ark of Taste. Watercress is rich in nutrients and vitamins, including vitamin C, iron and calcium, while the Hampshire variety has an unusual peppery flavour. Back in the 1800s people believed it had medicinal qualities curing ailments including scurvy and the (not so deadly) freckles. The railway line to London that opened in 1865 was nicknamed the Watercress Line, taking supplies from the county's many commercial watercress farms to the capital. But by the 1980s, 90 per cent of growers had left the industry and the line had been closed for 20 years. According to Gazzoli, Hampshire Watercress is a prime example of why Forgotten Foods are important. 'We have to keep it in the market place so that we're not just down to one kind of watercress that comes from the US for example,' she says.
Lincoln Longwool Lamb
New season lamb is can is a good option in May. Gazzoli recommends the Lincolnshire Longwool from Woodland Farm. 'It's a really good example of protecting edible biodiversity and what it means for livelihoods,' she explains. 'When people visit they also learn about local producers and special products on the menu of restaurants nearby, it helps revive that part of Britain as a food spot to go to.' The Lincoln Longwool was used as foundation stock during the 1750s by Robert Bakewell, a pioneer of stock breeding. Rare breeds, says Gazzoli, are especially important for maintaining small, local agriculture: 'Consumers can help to protect our traditional British breeds by eating them and giving them a market. There's fewer of these breeds so it's not going to taste as uniform as regular lamb – it's more of a unique taste.'
One of wild garlic's nicknames is Stinking Jenny but don't let that put you off foraging for some this month. 'Wild garlic is in season throughout the spring,' says Gazzoli. 'As an Italian-American, garlic is really my passion and goes back to my Italian roots. Thin garlic green leaves make the perfect addition to a marinade for the lamb before roasting, If you can’t find garlic leaves at your local farmers' markets, give it a whirl in your garden.'
Fresh garden radishes
Keep things simple with this healthy snack. 'I think that if it's amazing enough and the radish is super tasty, which it should be, then you don’t need to do a lot with it,’ says Gazzoli. ‘It's a great ingredient you want to savour, so I normally do it with Halen Môn – a really excellent salt – and sometimes a bit of mashed up garlic. I would throw in just a little little bit.'
Lincolnshire Longwool Lamb with Wild Garlic
'Alice Waters is Slow Food International’s Vice President and this is her recipe with a bit of a British rare breed twist,’ comments Gazzoli. ‘As a student at Berkeley, her seasonal slow cooking kick-started my interest in the Slow Food movement.'
One semi boneless leg of Lincoln Longwool Lamb, trimmed and tied
Four wild garlic cloves, finely chopped
One handful garlic leaves, finely chopped
Seven anchovy fillets, patted dry and finely chopped
60ml olive oil
Two teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
Two teaspoons salt
One teaspoon black pepper
• In a small bowl, use the back of a large heavy knife to mash the garlic, chopped garlic leaves and anchovies into a paste then mix in the rosemary and olive oil.
• Wash the lamb and pat dry.
• Cut slits in the lamb and spread marinade evenly across it.
• Place on a rack in a roasting pan and slide into the oven.
• Roast for 1 to 1.5 hours on 200C.
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