“Ebola is real and is now with us in the country. “

Slow Food Edinburgh members and supporters who contributed to the 10000 Gardens in Africa project have been anxiously awaiting news of “our” garden in the hills at Walay in western Sierra Leone since the Ebola epidemic hit that country earlier this year.

Our last communication with Abdul Mamoud Akorama, the garden curator, was in August, but within the past few days, we have had an update from the 10,000 Gardens co-ordinator at Slow Food International, Michela Lente, She has had contact on an almost daily basis with Patrick Mansaray, Slow Food national co-ordinator in Sierra Leone.

So far, a central donation from SF International of €5000 has been sent to the country to assist the producers and their families with food and medicines. At the forthcoming Terra Madre, there will be a campaign to support the Ebola relief programme and Slow Food members and delegates are invited to contribute. A report will also be given by the only Sierra Leone delegate, Ibrahim Mansary, co-ordinator of the gardens, who by serendipity, moved to the Ivory Coast (which is Ebola free) four months before the onset of the outbreak.

But the current picture is best and very vividly painted in a telephone interview Patrick Mansaray gave on the 8th October:

“Ebola is real and is now with us in the country.  There is no denial today among the population.  Although it is expected to be eradicated one day, which date is yet uncertain.

It will leave an indelible footprint on a large pool of orphaned children and a battered economy, health system and food crisis.  The total death rate is increasing every day.  Statistics from the Ministry of Health on 7th September 2014 reported that 13 out of the 14 Administrative Districts have had incidents of the Ebola virus. 

The impact of the disease is very high, more especially among the communities in the Kailahun and Kenema Districts in the Eastern Region that holds the epicentres.  These two Districts have been quarantined since 7th August 2014 and the movement of people within these areas is restricted.  All transport in and out of these areas is rationed.  Though Honda bikes are to start running from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, all recreational activities e.g. cinemas, restaurants and sports events are suspended indefinitely.

Three additional districts have now been quarantined bringing the total of the most affected areas/districts to 5.

Everyday life in these areas is very difficult, as most people are farmers or petty traders.

The lives of people are equally difficult for people living both in the urban and rural communities as each of them relies on the other for their daily food survival.  Most of the surplus fruits and vegetables produced by the rural farmers are consumed by the urban dwellers and the rural communities in turn sell their products in exchange for items such as salt, Maggie, soap, clothing or other materials for their families.

Since the outbreak of Ebola, all the week-end mini markets (Bazaars) have been closed and shopping for their daily food is very difficult for both rural and urban dwellers.

All schools or Educational institutions have been closed since July, 2014 and all public examinations suspended for an indefinite period.

Working in the fields is problematic.  Normally at this time, village communities form themselves into groups of 5 to 10 people and work on a rotational basis in their farms to enable them to cultivate a sizeable acreage of land for their domestic food consumption and to take the surplus for sale. Since the outbreak of Ebola, there has been a ban on assembly of more than five people in one place. There is a decline in the cultivation of the normal size of farmlands this year because, of the imposition of the Public Health State of Emergency.

Slow Food gardens must still try to continue during this crisis period.

The spirit of collaboration among the members of Slow Food garden communities has been strengthened.  Most communities now depend on their gardens’ products for their daily food during this food crisis. The gardens have been of great help to families who barter their farm products with their neighboring communities in exchange for items such as salt and Maggie.

Slow Food ideology has significantly influenced these communities, making them realize the value of their own resources and the need to remain linked to their land and traditions.  This has helped most of the Slow Food garden communities to overcome this dreadful food crisis. To stop communicating and assisting them at this particular time is not advisable.”

Patrick reinforced a plea for support from the international communities for everything from highly-trained Ebola specialists, laboratory staff, family doctors and nurses, hospital beds and equipment to food for the nation. Slow Food International will be doing what it can to provide assistance.

What can you do? Well, we would urge everyone to give to organisations such as Doctors Without Borders who are both on the frontline of this battle, but also training health workers to work safely and professionally. You can also strengthen the 10 000 Gardens in Africa network by donating here. Thank you.


Bees, Beer and Bangers

Slow Food committee member Andrew Marsden remembers some great times in June.

Recent suppers with Slow Food Edinburgh have been the catalyst for a couple of fascinating site visits.

Secret Herb Garden

Secret Herb Garden

Buzzing in the The Secret Garden.

Hamish Martin’s “Secret Herb Garden” was the venue for my first exposure to beekeeping on a one-day course delivered by Brian Poole of Scottish Honey.

What a fascinating creature is the honey bee! We learned about the bee’s lifecycle and the structure of a hive where up to 50,000 bees produce and store their honey.

The worker bee’s principal role is to support the queen who, in a productive hive, can lay up to 2000 eggs per day. We learned how, through pheromones and by their “waggle dance”, the bees communicate the source of pollen and any triggers for major events affecting the colony. We learned about colony propagation and swarm control and, more seriously, of the prevention and management of diseases affecting the bee including, of course, infestation with the feared varroa mite.

Donning our bee suits we visited the production hives and watched these amazing insects at work. Finally we learned about honey production methods. We learned, surprisingly, that the main source (80%) of pollen for honey in Scotland is oil seed rape (heather honey is scarce because of a short season and climactic restrictions) and there is an interdependent agricultural relationship between pollinating (the beekeeping community) and harvesting (the farming community) the crop.

Of course the honey bee is only one of 50 different types of bees, each of which requires support to provide pollination of our food crops, but, with honey bee populations dwindling, we must all do our bit to understand the causes and reverse the trend.


Will this encourage me to keep bees myself? Possibly, but with start up costs for swarms, hives (two is the minimum) and equipment approaching £1000 and adequate time being required to attend to the hive, it is something which must wait till I have fully retired!

The Secret Herb Garden is a great location for the course (delicious packed lunches on site and herb beers shortly available) and a lovely space to visit in its own right and we were delighted to hear that their show garden (built in three days!) received a Silver Gilt award at the recent Gardening Scotland festival.

Hives near rape-seed field

Hives near rape-seed field

Urban farming in Edinburgh.

Ten of us braved the recent rainstorms during Slow Food Week to visit Gorgie City Farm where manager Ross Mackenzie explained the farm’s philosophy and gave us a tour of the enterprise.

The livestock has been selected both for its educational value and for its suitability to an urban environment. We saw a range of poultry, Poll Dorset sheep who lamb all year round, goat kids, pigs (Gloucester Old Spot selected for their docility and wonderful meat) and Fudge the Guernsey cow who, though at her due delivery date, did not oblige us by calving during our visit.

There is a decent-sized horticultural area supporting a variety of fruits and vegetables from which gardener and cook volunteers manage the crops. The farm and its activities not only achieve the aims of demonstrating to young urban children where their food comes from, but also supports confidence building in adults with learning difficulties who work and volunteer on the farm.

Following the tour, we enjoyed a delicious supper of farmed-pork chops and home-made sausages with salads and vegetables from the beds. This was washed down with tastings of beers from Top Out Brewery and soft fruit drinks from Roots Soda.

The farm, managed as a Trust with an active supporters’ scheme, is gradually becoming more self-sufficient and a model for the more local use of food produced from the farms is being developed.

Slow Food Edinburgh would be keen to re-form its Piggy Club in which members and supporters can “adopt a sty” or buy in to the pork raised on the farm and butchered locally.

There’s always something to learn from Slow Food visits, but the most moving take home message is the commitment and dedication portrayed by our hosts at all venues.

Thank you to them and all the people who joined us on our visits.

Andrew Marsden August 2014

Slow Food Film Night – Jeans and Marto/Local Food Roots

There’s something special about bringing people together to share good food, conversation and stories.  To be inspired by issues of the day, learn about other cultures, or just feel  a sense of being with like-minded people who all care about changing the food system.

 In the Autumn of 2013, Slow Food Edinburgh embarked on a Film Club, with a view to doing just this, providing a forum to screen engaging, thought-provoking films that would provide a platform for discussion and action.

 We were delighted, therefore, to host our first screening of 2014 at Slow Food Chef Alliance members, The Edinburgh Larder Café, on 20th March. The Café prides itself on impeccable sourcing, relationships with producers from around Scotland and creating a community around a good food culture.

Ethiopia meets Banffshire

It was fitting that for our chosen main feature, Jeans and Marto, an Ethiopian/Italian collaboration by Claudia Palazzi and Clio Sozzani, 2011, we chose to welcome guests with a warming Ethiopian curry of which the star attraction was meat from the Scottish Goat Meat Company from Banffshire. Little known in this country, it was a triumph, and we hope to see much more of it on menus before long. If you’d like to try this healthy and delicious meat for yourself, you can buy direct from the Scottish Goat Meat Company online.

Jeans and Marto tells the moving story of a young boy, Roba,  who is torn between his pastoral roots and the modern world.  With a yearning for education and to broaden his horizons, he faces a battle with his family who are pushing him into an arranged marriage, and trying to convince him that he would be letting the family down if he moved away.  But Roba is determined to seek pastures new and, despite his heartache and feelings of guilt, he makes the move to Adis Ababa to pursue his dream of education, and to learn tools, skills and knowledge that will help his family back home.

The disparity between the two worlds is starkly demonstrated when visits his family from university and changes from his jeans to the traditional robe worn by the local people, the marto.


Roba’s world is transformed when he attends the Slow Food international gathering, Terra Madre where farmers, fisherman, growers and breeders descend from around the world, from often very remote communities, to share knowledge, find solutions to their common problems and build a strong network for the future.

 He has found is true vocation and, upon passing his studies with flying colours, he sets up an NGO to help his own village back home, and others like it, to learn more sustainable methods of farming and to find solutions for increasing a clean water supply to remote regions.

The gap between traditional and modern is bridged when is parents attend the graduation ceremony and come to understand their son’s desire for education and what it will mean for the family, their community and fellow pastoralists.

Challenging our food system

Following an interval of homemade sweet treats, Local Food Roots, an f3 production in collaboration with Sprout Films was up next, featuring a roll-call of well-known food champions and activists, producers, distributors, caterers and more, including the legendary Sheila Dillon, presenter of the Radio 4 Food Programme and Guy Watson, founder of Riverford Organic Farm.

 The film charts the rise of the local food movement from the 1990s, when the country was in crisis following BSE and Food and Mouth Disease. It shows the incredible spirit creativity and determination of so many people to challenge the food system, find better alternatives and take food supply back into the hands of local people and out of the grasp of big business. From box schemes, direct selling, new models of public catering and feeding cities, it is an inspiring and ultimately hopeful insight into the future of our food. As Sheila Dillon commented Food really matters, how you eat, how you shop, crucially affects how the world is”.

 With a short discussion afterwards, guests left fully satisfied with lots to think about and full stomachs.

 Watch this space for details of our forthcoming regular film nights!


N.B. Our friends at the Edinburgh Larder Café have now posted the recipe for their wonderful goat curry on their website, check it out and learn how to make your own here!

Slow Food Film Night: Babette’s Feast – Sat. Nov. 30th

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Following up the immensely successful and thought provoking showing of Sono L’Amore  on October 30th, we’re happy to announce the next edition of Slow Food Film Night.

We’ll be showing:

  • Babette’s Feast
  • Saturday 30th November, 7.30pm.
  • Inspace, Crichton Sq. Edinburgh
  • £5, includes delicious, local, seasonal snacks and wine.

BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL – and last month it was a sell out, so make sure you book your ticket soon! Click here to book your tickets now.

(please note: on the Eventbrite page, it says the event is from 8pm – 10pm, but this is the film start time. Please arrive for 7.30pm to join us for a pre-film drink!)

Babette’s Feast has become a classic of food film. It celebrates the unique power of food and conviviality to break down all social barriers, to bring people together, to inspire compassion and joy.

The film observes the initially subtle, and ultimately astonishing impact of a french female chef and refugee, on a 19th century remote Danish town. The towns people have become insular and cold in the harsh environment, and gradual accumulation of grudges and bitterness has left little joy in their lives. But when Babette seeks refuge in their community, a great transformation comes about in dramatic fashion, through one simple act of generosity.  Though a few years old now, Babette’s Feast still stands the test of time with stunning food cinematography, extraordinary atmosphere and humorous insight into human nature.

Slow Food Scotland

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 18.58.50Slow Food members will have recently received notice about the upcoming Slow Food UK AGM in London on Saturday October 19th. Along with a number of valued local supporters, Slow Food Edinburgh will attending and meeting with friends and fellow Slow Fooders from around the country, to discuss the future of Slow Food in the UK.

Whether you’re a member or supporter, or just interested in the future of food in Scotland, you may be interested to know what we’ll be discussing and proposing at this meeting.

Back in January, Slow Food Edinburgh held our AGM. The agenda was full with the many achievements and successes of the last year and the event was well attended. However, one of the main points raised and discussed by members was their dissatisfaction at the current structure of Slow Food in the UK; a centralised  office in London that manages national programs and membership. This was reported as being inappropriate and ineffective by many of our members. Concerns were voiced that this configuration is not in line with the hyper localised Slow Food ethos, and that a remote SFUK office was not able to adequately or sensitively address local Scottish issues.

We listened, and since then we’ve been assessing levels of support for the formation of Slow Food Scotland and creation of an office located and run in Scotland. We spoke with as many members and supporters as we could, other Scottish convivia leaders, and with leaders from around the UK. In May, there was a meeting in London, attended by Slow Food International and leaders from around the UK, to discuss the future of Slow Food in the UK. The vast majority believed that Slow Food in the UK should be regionalised and the current SFUK office in London closed. Regionalisation would provide each base (Slow Food England, Scotland, Cymru and hopefully Northern Ireland) with the agency to tend to, and focus on, local issues and members. Such a move would also serve to create a stronger sense of local community cohesion and local ownership over Slow Food in each area. We believe that this will strengthen the Slow Food movement across the nation.

There is every intention among the potential regions, to remain collaborative and involved with one another’s projects, and to maintain a web presence that clearly communicates a collaborative national network of Slow Food in the UK.

So, this is what we’re going to be advocating at the upcoming AGM in London.

The Proposal

We strongly believe that Slow Food in Scotland could play a very active and important role in the movement towards a more sustainable food future. At present, there are major changes afoot regarding Scottish food systems, food culture and food production. Growing awareness of the need for a better national diet and improved access to fresh food is now being communicated in media, government policy, education and the home. The issues at hand are unique to Scotland. Scotland has a different food culture, history and agricultural environment to the rest of the UK, and this needs to be recognised, addressed and celebrated. This is one of the key reasons that SF members have identified the need for a Slow Food Scotland (SFS) office.

Sadly, in the past few years a few valued Scottish SF groups have closed and membership has fallen. But from the work we have been doing at Slow Food Edinburgh, we’ve gauged an extremely positive response to Slow Food especially among younger folk and those interested in issues of sustainable food. We believe that despite a drop in membership, there exists more than enough support to grow the movement in Scotland. But we need more agency to drive relevant projects and make sure the work we’re doing is tailored towards Scottish communities.

Why we’re relevant

Slow Food is a unique body in Scotland, driven by a philosophy that would greatly compliment and enhance the current food movement. Slow Food is one of the only organisations expressly addressing issues of food culture, food heritage, and is almost certainly the only organisation in Scotland with a primary focus on ‘linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to [the] community and environment’ [Taken from the SFI website]. It is also unique in its foundations: an incredible international network that gives rise to extraordinary and important events such as Salone Del Gusto/Terra Madre and the Terra Madre network. We believe that a local presence and knowledge, combined with this international perspective could be a great agent for change in Scotland.

We hope that you agree with us that this is an essential ingredient in building a positive food future here in Scotland, as well as throughout the UK. We also hope that whatever happens, you will continue to support Slow Food in Scotland with your perspective, energy and ideas, and that you will consider becoming an active member of Slow Food Scotland if it is formed.

If Slow Food Scotland is formed, it will need your care, help and support to be successful, so please keep in touch.


Take Action

Members! – we hope you’ll consider attending the AGM on October 19th in London. If you can’t, but would still like to vote, please contact us and we will take your voice to the AGM.

Supporters! – not a member but have opinions on the formation of Slow Food Scotland? We’d love to represent you at the AGM. Please contact us ASAP.


We’ll post the results of the AGM soon, and will provide more on the visions for the future as well as plans for setting up an office. Thank you for your support and input so far and stay tuned…



Pressing questions? Please contact us:




And… action! Slow Food Film Night: Wed. 30th October

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This month sees the launch of Slow Food Film Nights:  we’ll be showing a series of films exploring the depths of food culture through history to the present, between reality and the imagination. With films and documentaries from around the world, we offer the chance to learn about, explore and appreciate the many facets of food – all accompanied by conversation, conviviality and some good food.
Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 22.31.17Our first film is the Sono L’Amore (I Am Love). Much like the star of the movie, Tilda Swinton, this movie is unsettlingly beautiful. Set between Milan and somewhere in the Italian countryside, the movie follows our complex heroine’s transition from the gilded cage of upper-class Italian family life, to a more expressive existence with her chef-lover. Food is the medium bringing her out of her shell. But this is no romantic portrayal of Italian cuisine. Just like the people, sex, soundtrack and relationships in this movie, food is alternately challenging, raw, graphic and beautiful. This is a must see.
We’ll be showing this movie and more to come, at the fantastic Inspace at Edinburgh University. We’ll be providing themed food and drink, plus the movie, for £5 per person. There’ll be time for discussion afterwards.
BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL: Click here to book your ticket
Sono L’Amore (2009) Italian with English subtitles.
Wednesday 30th October
7.30pm, Inspace. 1 Chrichton St. Edinburgh.
£5 donation at the door.

Closer to 1000 Gardens!

IMG_9304Thank you to everyone who attended our 1000 Gardens in Africa event at the Royal Botanic Gardens on September 7th and 8th. It was amazing to have such support, to be able to have some good conversations about food sovereignty and to get one step closer to our goal of sponsoring a garden. Thanks to your generous donations, we are now almost at £600 – not far from our target of £800!!

If you weren’t able to be there or to speak with one of our members at the event, 1000 Gardens in Africa is a Slow Food founded project to create food growing gardens across the continent in places where the skills, precious knowledge and resources to grow food locally have been lost, either as a result of international trade injustices, or because agriculture has become considered a ‘lesser’ profession. So far, the project has seen immense success with 782 gardens having been adopted and we can’t wait to add to that number. We’re also hoping to eventually support a food growing garden here in Edinburgh, too, in partnership with our friends at Bridgend Growing Communities.

IMG_9325 Knowing how to grow your own is such an important skill, and as the wonderful Ben from Royal Botanics showed us at the event, its easy to do, even in the city! Thank you also to Chef Neil Forbes for his splendid workshop on how to extend the harvest, and to Bridgend Growing Communities for teaching us how to build a compost heap 🙂

See the pictures from the weekend by clicking here.

Thank you also, to our stellar volunteer, Joy, for all the delicious African inspired salads. So many of you asked for the recipes, so we’ve included them below. Buon apetito!

If you missed the event but would like to donate to the 1000 Gardens project, please get in touch. Also, come along to our future events and get involved. We have a lot going on for the rest of the year… Hope to see you soon!


African Roasted Squash Salad with Chiles, Ginger and Garlic

Serves 4

• 2 1/2cups 1-inch cubed butternut squash

• 3tablespoons olive oil

• 1/2teaspoon cinnamon

• 3cloves garlic, minced

• 1tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

• 3/4teaspoons crushed red pepper

• kosher salt

• black pepper

• 1/4cup veg stock

• 6cups packed spinach

• 1tablespoon fresh parsley or cilantro, minced (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven while it is heating to get


2. In a large bowl, toss cubed squash with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, cinnamon. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread out onto preheated baking sheet into single layer and roast until tender, tossing occasionally,

about 35-45 minutes.

3. When squash is almost done, heat remaining olive oil, garlic, ginger and red pepper in a medium-sized

skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes, or until garlic is

golden, but not brown. Add chicken stock and simmer until reduced slightly, 2-3 minutes.

4. Add spinach to skillet, turn off heat, and toss until just slightly wilted. Remove roasted squash from

oven and combine with spinach in a large bowl; toss well to evenly coat. Season to taste with salt and


5. Place on a large platter and sprinkle with chopped herbs, if using.

African-Spiced Broccoli-And-Cauliflower Salad

Serves 2

• 3/4 cup broccoli floret

• 3/4 cup cauliflower floret

• 1/8 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

• 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

• 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

• 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

• 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

• 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

• 3 tablespoons yoghurt

• 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

• 1/2 teaspoon honey

• 2 tablespoons green onions, sliced


1. Steam first 3 ingredients, covered, 2 minutes.

2. Rinse broccoli mixture under cold water; drain well.

3. Combine salt and next 5 ingredients (salt through crushed red pepper) In a small skillet; cook over medium

heat 2 minutes or until lightly browned; stirring constantly.

4. Combine spice mixture, soy sauce, sour cream, vinegar and honey in a bowl; stir well.

5. Add broccoli mixture; toss well to coat.

6. Stir in green onions just before serving.

North African Beetroot, Fennel and Lentil Salad

Serves 6


• 3 medium beetroots, trimmed

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 medium fennel bulb

• 400 g brown lentils, rinsed and drained

• 100 g wild rocket

• 200 g feta cheese, thinly sliced


• 1/2 cup olive oil

• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

• 1/2 teaspoon white sugar

• 1 minced garlic clove

• 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh fennel leaves


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Take a small baking dish and mix the oil and the beetroot together. Bake for 1 hour or until tender.

Allow to cool. Peel beetroot and chop coarsely.

3. Finely chop the fennel until you have 2 heaped teaspoons. Slice the fennel bulb nice and thin.

4. Mix all the dressing ingredients together. Use a wide necked bottle or screw top jar for ease.

Shake really well!

5. Toss the fennel, lentils and rocket in a large bowl with half of the dressing. Slowly add the beetroot

and toss gently. Top with the feta cheese and drizzle with the remaining dressing.