An estimated 846,000 food parcels will go to people in crisis this October to December – a 61% increase on last year. We chat to Patrick Prekopp, chair of non-for-profit organisation Slow Food Aylsham, about a new recipe book helping those in need to get the most out of their rations


What is Slow Food?

“Slow Food is a global, grassroots organisation dedicated to encouraging people to take an interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.”

How did you become involved with the Slow Food Movement?

“My introduction to Slow Food Aylsham was rather prosaic. As a journalist, I contacted the Aylsham group suggesting its website needed updating and rewriting. Before I knew it, I became a member in 2017 and within six months, its chairman. I am a foodie, love cooking and delight in helping people think differently about food. It's a natural fit.”

How did the idea for a recipe book come about?

“The Aylsham group has a long association with the Food Bank and published its first recipe book five years ago. It was felt the time was right to revisit the book in the light of the growing food poverty crisis.

Canny Cooking is a 24-page, fully illustrated handbook to give away to Food Bank customers who are reluctant cooks but keen to try. All the recipes are based on the contents of a typical food bank parcel – mainly non-perishable canned and dried foods – and are simple and easy to follow.

“We hope our contribution will go some way to helping all those on tight budgets – students, single-parent families, unemployed, etc. – manage their budgets and encourage them to make best use of their rations.”

What are some of your proudest achievements with Slow Food Aylsham over the years?

“Aylsham [in Norfolk] is celebrating 15 years as a Slow Food town. And every year (except 2020) it has organised an annual three-day Food Festival. 

“On the Friday morning we have the Aylsham Country Market; Friday evening the Gala Dinner for up to 100 guests held at the local high school with a three-course meal prepared, cooked and served by the students. SFA works with local schools and other community partners to widen knowledge of food and encourage people to shop locally.

“On the Saturday there is a farmers’ market with stalls selling local produce in the Market Place. SFA lays on cookery demonstrations, live entertainment, plus a café and more artisan stalls in the town hall. 

“Finally, on the Sunday we have ‘The Big Slow Breakfast’ or Sunday brunch with an all-you-can eat full English fry-up or continental croissants/pastries in the town hall, and all prepared by SFA members. Up to 100 pre-booked guests pay a nominal fee.

“We also host cooking workshops for school children, and have been part of the Aylsham Show, one of the largest one-day agricultural shows in the country.”  

What other projects is Slow Food Aylsham involved with at the moment?

“We are currently identifying local food products which are at risk or might disappear within a few generations, to raise awareness and protect our food heritage. This will form part of the national Ark of Taste programme to catalogue exceptional gastronomic products endangered by current food production and distribution systems.

“Examples in Aylsham include the Norfolk beefing apple, Stiffkey blue cockles, the Norfolk Grey chicken and Cromer crabs.”

Do you have any exciting plans for 2021?

“We will be identifying ways to ‘shop smart’ and become more connected to our food to reduce food waste - a major contributor to climate change.”

This winter, how can people support the Slow Food movement?

“Become a member! We need more members to plan and organise events for 2021, initiate new ideas and help promote our message. There's a lot of catching up to do.”

Canny Cooking is available from Slow Food Aylsham at £5 (pp inc.), all profits going to the Trussell Trust. To order, email: [email protected]