Seaweed from Selmun, salt from Comino, wild loquat (naspli) from Xemxija and mint from Buskett.

These are just a few of the ingredients that a young local chef has used to prepare a five-course meal with items that he foraged from the wild.

“There is another life beyond processed, packaged and frozen food. The opposite of fast food – slow food – is all about fair, clean and healthy food.

“It takes the same amount of time to cook a meal with fresh local ingredients as it takes to prepare a meal with products that come out of a plastic bag,” John Portelli, from Slow Food Malta, told this newspaper.

Slow Food Malta is a branch of Slow Food International – which has supporters in 150 countries. It was founded as a non-profit association in 1989 by Italian journalist Carlo Petrini after he rallied (unsuccessfully) against the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna.

Its aim is to protect food biodiversity, link producers with consumers, and raise awareness about the food system. In 2012, it set a target of identifying 10,000 products that could be allowed aboard its Ark of Taste: a list of products that belong to different cultures and traditions worldwide, some of which are at risk of extinction.

Three products in Malta have made it to the list, including the Maltese wild thyme honey which is produced in Fawwara. This is the only Maltese honey that has been tested in a laboratory in collaboration with the University of Malta and found to have at least 75 per cent of Maltese thyme pollen.

The other two, which are still in the process of registration, are the Black Maltese chicken and the Ruttneri Bee.

The concept of slow food is not about slow cooking, but about living an unhurried life, beginning at the table.

Mr Portelli believes that Malta is lacking behind when it comes to eating good healthy food, and has actually seen an increase in the number of people suffering from food-related illnesses and allergies.

In a bid to prove that people can move away from ready-made meals and fast-food remedies, Slow Food Malta organises events in the community including meals with local produce.

This weekend, it is teaming up with chef Keith Abela who sources some his ingredients from local producers and searches for the rest in the wild.

One of the dishes he is preparing includes three types ofseaweed that he foraged from Selmun, local beetroots baked in clay from the same locality and sea herbs from Mistra.

Mr Abela, who qualified from the Institute for Tourism Studies, was introduced to the concept of foraging fresh and local ingredients with a low-carbon footprint while studying abroad.

Once back in Malta, he brought together a group of young chefs with the same passion, forming Culinary Forward Malta, who prepare meals with locally produced ingredients and items collected from the wild in a bid to show that Malta can offer a variety of quality produce.

More information on www.slowfood.com or Slow Food Malta’s Facebook page.

Did you know?

▪ Some 160 plants from the pea family grow in the wild in Malta
▪ You can make soup from nettle (ħurrieq), which is one of the most common local plants
▪ Goji and black berries, which often carry exorbitant price tags at supermarkets as they are imported, can also be found in the wild

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