Family Farming Campaign: Why the International Year of Family Farming can make the difference

It’s not the first time that I talk about Slow Food in this blog. That’s not just because Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement, is from my region. Piedmont, in Italy, but also because I share his vision about food. Indeed, food is not only a commodity. It is culture, it is taste, it is a lot of things that are closely related to our history.

The naming of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming is good news, especially in times of obesity epidemic and processed food scandals. Hopefully, it will offer opportunities for change and for collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Slow Food.

The FAO’s director-general declared that family farming should be seen as an opportunity to be promoted, not a marginal element, and that we need to shift from the paradigm based on the fast-food model, with commercial production on a huge scale, to the new Slow Food paradigm, based on local distribution and traditional foods

The solution to the serious food problems affecting our planet lies with the local communities and family food production. So, the good news is that during 2014, the FAO and Slow Food will work to recover the wealth of local recipes preserved by communities, and especially by the mothers who feed their families local food.”

Carlo Petrini stated that both organizations share a vision “of a sustainable world free from hunger that safeguards biodiversity for future generations. Slow Food will make a great contribution to family farming. In 2014, we will continue with renewed energy our work to support the Terra Madre food communities, organizing local markets and school and community food gardens, encouraging small-scale producers’ access to the market and cataloguing the food biodiversity at risk of extinction. At the center of the process is gastronomy and the idea that this multidisciplinary science, which includes everything, from agriculture to history, from economics to anthropology, from botany to the culinary arts, can be a liberating force for communities suffering from malnutrition.”

And today’s recipe is an homage to the land of Petrini (and mine). Brasato al Barolo (Beef braised in Barolo wine), an exceptional and elegant dish from Piedmont.

1.5kg/3lb 5 ox chuck steak in a single piece
6 tbsp olive oil
30g/1oz unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 salted anchovy, cleaned and washed, or 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 tbsp chopped celery leaves
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 bottle of Barolo, Barbera or other good Piemontese red wine

For the marinade
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions cut into pieces
2 carrots cut into pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into pieces
the juice of 1 lemon
2 bay leaves
sprigs of fresh sage and fresh thyme
small piece of cinnamon
3 cloves
5 or 6 black peppercorns
10 juniper berries

First prepare the marinade. Mix all the ingredients in an earthenware pot or a bowl, add half the bottle of red wine and place the meat in it. Leave to marinate for 24 hours, turning the meat over as often as you can remember. Unless the weather is hot, do not put the bowl in the refrigerator. A larder or a garden shed is the ideal place.

Heat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3
Take the meat out of the marinade, dry it very thoroughly and tie it into a neat oblong shape.

Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy frying pan and, when the oil is hot, slip in the meat and brown very well on all sides, and the two ends, over high heat. Transfer the meat to a side plate.

Strain the marinade and add to the frying pan. Deglaze for a minute or two, scraping the bottom of the pan with a metal spoon to release all the delicious bits.

Put the onion, garlic, parsley, sage, celery, remaining oil and half the butter into an oval casserole large enough to hold the meat comfortably but snugly. Put the casserole on the heat and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently.

Place the meat on the bed of vegetables; add the strained wine of the marinade plus the remaining half bottle of wine and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring slowly to the boil. Cover the pan with a tight lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1 ½ hours. Keep a watch on the meat: it should cook at a steady low simmer. Turn the meat over 3 or 4 times.

Sprinkle with the sugar and continue cooking, always tightly covered, for a further 1 ½ hours until the meat is very tender.

Transfer the meat to a chopping board and allow to cool a little, while you make the sauce.

Scoop the cooking vegetables and juices into the bowl of a food processor and whiz to a smooth soft purée. Pour this into a small saucepan and place on a low heat. Add the butter, bit by bit, shaking the pan after each addition. When all the butter has been added and has melted into the sauce, taste and check seasoning.

Carve the meat into thick slices (no less than 1 cm/1/2in) and surround the slices with the velvety winey sauce.
©Anna Del Conte

Family Farming Campaign: Why the International Year of Family Farming can make the difference

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