Dozens of food artisans and smaller processing businesses here are now part of a unique global collaboration to promote interest in healthier food that could also help save the planet.
They are linked to the international Slow Food Movement through their membership of the Taste Causeway food and drink promotional organisation that works with smaller companies and individuals to encourage them and support their growth objectives. It is also focused on ethical tourism.
Taste Causeway, which is based in Coleraine, was the first organisation in Ireland to join the Slow Food global movement which is led here by celebrity chef Paula McIntyre, the regional chair.
Taste Causeway, a collaborative network formed by the Causeway Coast and Glens Council, is now Northern Ireland’s first accredited and internationally recognised Slow Food destination. The network organises a programme of activities including outdoor markets and mentoring sessions to help its member companies succeed and grow.
A recent deal for Portglenone-based Annie’s Delight to supply handcrafted preserves to the National Trust was set up by Taste Causeway.
The collaborative network that comprises local food and drink businesses was awarded the accolade by the global Slow Food Movement following a rigorous assessment process by the Slow Food Movement in Italy, explains Paula.
“Slow Food is a global organisation dedicated to nurturing good, clean and fair food,” continues Paula, author of a unique cookbook that recommends a series of creative recipes and stories of the region’s Slow Food producers. She has also cooked local food at sessions of the famed Terre Madre Salone del Gusto food congress held in Turin every two years.
Paula’s cookbook ‘Recipes and Stories’, is intended as “a celebration of local food and drink from the Causeway Coast and Glens”. She describes it as both a travel guide and a recipe book and tells the stories of the farmers, fishermen, chocolatiers, bakers, chefs, distillers, brewers, smokers and charcutieres, who understand well the value of this incomparable landscape”.
The movement seeks to encourage people to reduce consumption of high volume fast food, instead taking the time to prepare and eat whole, locally-sourced and seasonal foods especially in family settings. The focus is not only on nutrition, but also on preserving culture and heritage as it relates to food and reducing waste.
The congress, scheduled to be held this October, is likely to feature Taste Causeway member companies. Northern Ireland Executive ministers have also attended before the pandemic lockdown.
Taste Causeway chairman Leona Kane, the owner of the hugely successful Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oils in Limavady has been to Terre Madre. She says: “The congress with its associated exhibitions of food is a tremendously inspirational occasion. It’s great to see Taste Causeway becoming involved in an organisation with such international respect, The Slow Food campaign aims to reinvigorate people’s interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.”
Taste Causeway’s membership has also been backed by Tourism NI. Gary Quate, food and drink experience development officer at Tourism NI, adds: “Slow Food Causeway presents a unique opportunity for visitors to embrace the superb food and drink offer of the Causeway Coast and Glens.
“With an outstanding array of fresh local ingredients, passionate producers, award winning chefs and dynamic distillers and brewers, Slow Food Causeway will provide visitors with an exciting programme of unique foodie experiences amidst the stunning backdrop of the region.”
Taste Causeway also works alongside Food NI, the local food promotional body.
Slow Food was originally founded by a group of activists in Italy during the 1980s with the aim of defending regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slower pace of life. It has since grown into a global movement of millions of people, in more than 150 countries that links the pleasure of local food with a commitment to the community and the environment.
The new Slow Food cookbook, which has been endorsed by both Slow Food and Taste Causeway, has been inspired by collaboration, something which Paula simply defines as “an alliance which multiplies the success of individuals.”
She continues: “Taste Causeway was born out of a conversation, an ambition and a small group of like-minded people with a passion for their local heritage and their place in the world, connected by shared values of Community, Culture, Local and Responsible. Our ambition is to build a food destination brand synonymous with our people, our place and our passion.
“When I travel to cook abroad my luggage always contains ambient products like Broighter Gold rapeseed oil, Islander Kelp, North Coast Smokehouse smoked dulse, Broughgammon veal salami to name just a few.”