Wednesday, 23 April 2008

It’s April and time for our third meeting of the Suffolk Love Food Champions!

Read the first entry for this Love Food Group

This month’s topic was food preparation and storage. But before we got started we shared our thoughts on how we felt we had done at attaining our goals from the last meeting – it seems to me that all their cupboards and fridges would put mine to shame, but I have made a start upon this task! Shopping lists are being used far more and portion control is certainly better than before. One of the main obstacles seems to be husbands who do not check the cupboards if they are embarking on the weekly shop!!! Bit more training needed here, I feel!

Having played with pasta-portion-control and using up those “tempting-to-throw-away” bits last month, we decided to carry on with the theme of using up bits and pieces, but this time Hannah very kindly made three pizza bases for us to decorate with the “offerings” the others had brought along to finish them off. We had a mixture of red and white onions, mozzarella and ordinary cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, leeks, peppers, Italian sausage and ham slices, artichokes, and some different dressings which all sounds very disparate but let three different groups get their heads together and you come up with some very scrumptious pizzas for all to enjoy – along with a glass of wine which complimented the flavours!

Once the food preparations had been carried out we could then get on with the main objective of the evening, which was to talk about food storage and preservation. Whilst the pizzas were cooking we went through the activity table in the booklet and decided that we could all do more, with a little forethought, about keeping food fresher – we had a hilarious few minutes talking about refreshing limp carrots and other things!!! Good old common sense is what it comes down to and the workbook certainly covers the basics we all need to brush up on to make our food use more effective and less wasteful. We shared some very spontaneous hints and tips for using up food and, hopefully, will end up with some tasty ideas on the Tips and Favourite Recipes form, which they have all taken home to fill out along with their last Caddy-bin test!

Then came the taste-test to try out what we had concocted – it went very quiet – the anticipation was overwhelming and the smells wafted around us as the pizzas were brought to the table – ummmm……… Need I say more – no! This was followed with a delicious chocolate mousse and guess what we are doing next time??! The Chocolate Fountain is getting an outing and we will have fun with different things each person brings!

Watch this space for next month’s thrilling finale!

Fran Saltmarsh

Monday, 14 April 2008

The Challenge of Shopping

Thursday is shopping day.

As it approached I slowly descend into a mild state of panic (something akin to a scene out of Dad’s Army). And no, not over the thought of getting the latest Mulberry handbag or a pair of Christian Louboutin heels but over where to go for my groceries, you know, your everyday goods.

Do I buy organic? Do I go to my local fruit and veg man called Howard or to my supermarket? Where does the food come from? How many miles has it travelled to get here? How much packaging waste will I end up with? With a young family in tow, will they be angelic or devilish if I drag them to the shop? And above all else will price and value of the groceries justify the means?

It’s enough to make you sit down for an extra cuppa. But perhaps that’s it! Maybe I should sit down and question my motives and consequent actions for my choices. As part of the WI and through participating in our campaigns, we are fortuitously able to question and change our habits to make a difference. As individuals we can make a difference, no matter how much climate change is perceived as a global issue. Our Care of the Environment campaign has equipped us with the knowledge and tools to make our choices and take pride in our decisions. It maybe that we can never get it completely right but we can be sure not to get it wrong!

Well, my sit down is over, this challenge is fun and unlike M&S I am fortunate enough to have a Plan B as well as a Plan A, so more panicking Mr Mannering!

Caroline Macdonald

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Contrasting legacies

On Saturday, I went out with a group of friends on a walk on the downs in Wiltshire and was enchanted by Wayland Smithy. The 5000 years old burial chambers with imposing stones, encircled by ancient trees overlooking the beautiful countryside cast a magical spell over me. When I looked up, I could see 5 wind turbines in the distance, dominating the skyline and I thought of the historical link between the two landmarks. I know that there are those who are not in favour of wind turbines, but on that day the wind was ferocious and no doubt, quite a few TVs and washing machines were operating on electricity generated by these modern giants.

We went on bravely in a blizzard as far as Uffington castle, and this time when I was admiring the views I was struck by the ugliness of the coal burning towers of the Didcot power station. There they were, very unappealing big lumps of concrete, churning out tons of grey smoke.

What a contrast, I thought between the eerie beauty of Wayland Smithy and Uffington Castle, left to us by our ancestors, blending with the surrounding countryside, and the brutality of a coal burning power plant. I wonder what people will find if they go for a walk between Wayland Smithy and Uffington Castle in 4008 AD – I bet the burial chambers and the castle will still be there, just as beautiful and intriguing as now, but hopefully, we will have left a better legacy than the power plant. Maybe, there will be a plaque on the ruins of the power plant referring to self-destructing button that mankind was pressing at the time when the power plant was operating. I will not so much mind the association of the wind turbines with my time in history as these are one of the first steps that we have taken in generating power from renewable resources.

As for our own bodily regeneration, we had tea and cakes in the beautiful grounds of Greys Court, not far from Didcot and Denman College. Greys Court, in care of National Trust, is the home of Lady Brunner’s family and it made a fitting end to an unintentionally meditative walk.

Jana Osborne

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

London to Morocco by train

To celebrate the end of the 90@90 project, my partner and I decided a holiday was in order. We wanted to go somewhere far and interesting (translate: hot and sunny!) but I’ve been very aware of my ever growing tally of air miles as of late and with two international weddings in the next year, I just can’t bring myself to allow all my efforts at reducing my carbon footprint to be blown away on another flight. It was going to have to be by train.

We decided on Morocco as destination of choice and laughed upon discovering it’s actually cheaper to take trains and boats all the way to Marrakech than it is to the Scottish highlands!! Gordon, are you listening to this…?

Seat 61 website has already done all the hard work, train travel to (almost) anywhere from London, you just need to log on and sort out your itinerary. It takes 48 hours from central London to Marrakech, but we decided to draw it out over a few days to make the most of our holiday and enjoy not just one destination, but 3 or 4. We started out on the early train from the shiny new St Pancras station (London to Paris is 2:15 min, 186mph, or whatever the new marketing slogan is). We spent one day walking around Paris, enjoying the springtime air, drinking wine and watching people walk by our pavement bistro before catching the night train to Madrid.

Waking up in a moving train and watching the Spanish landscape passing by is a good way to wake up! Since neither of us had been to Madrid, we took two days to explore the city’s museums, gardens and plazas before boarding a morning train to Algeciras (caught out by the clocks moving forward and almost missed the train - my fault!). Upon arriving in Algeciras we made our way straight to the port and bought tickets for the next ferry to Tangier. Watching Morocco approach in the sunny distance was one of the highlights of the trip. We just kept saying “I can’t believe we’ve come all the way from London over land – and now water – and there’s North Africa!”

We actually arrived in Tangier ahead of schedule and because of this, had the opportunity to explore the coast for the afternoon before making our way to the train station for the final leg of our journey to Marrakech. This night train had a four bed cabin which we shared with a friendly German couple. Another night sleeping on the train meant another morning waking up to different landscape passing us by.

The four days we spent in Morocco, (including Tangier, Marrakech and a trek in the Atlas Mountains) was meant to be the “far and interesting” part of the trip, but by the time we arrived, we had already explored so many exciting places that our final destination was actually just one of many memorable places we travelled through. There are more than just carbon benefits to overland travel, you get to eat many different types of wonderful food, watch landscapes unfold around you and meet fascinating people, while actually enjoying the time it takes to reach your final destination.

We decided to fly back to London for two reasons; firstly, we were running out of annual leave days, and secondly, this was an experimental trip and we didn’t know if it would actually work, so we didn’t want to be committed to train both ways in case it was a disaster. But it wasn’t, far from it. The flight home was the worst part of the whole trip. Queues for check-in, passport control, small confined spaces with people behind you kicking your seat, delays on the runway, stale food, waiting for baggage and then the journey all the way back into London.

So why not take your next holiday by train?

Emily Boost

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Love Food Champion tests the Chefs on Ready Steady Cook!

Emily Bennison, Love Food Champion from Yorkshire challenged Chefs Paul Rankin and Garrey Dawson at the recording of the Ready Steady Cook programme to be aired on May 16th, BBC2 at 4.30pm.

With a bag of leftovers she challenged the celebrity chefs to produce interesting and tasty meals. The bag contained – half a loaf of bread, half a lettuce, half a grapefruit, a few mushrooms, a chunk of parmesan cheese, half a jar of passata, half a tin of chick peas, cooked salmon and cooked new potatoes.

The audience voted on their red tomato and green pepper key pads after hearing the ideas the chefs suggested for using the leftovers. But you will have to wait for the programme to air to find which chef took up the challenge!

Ainsley Harriott presents the programme in a very friendly and interactive way; he obviously enjoys his work and is also very passionate about food waste and the effect that waste food being put into landfill is affecting climate change.

From the ingredients Emily had given the chef, he produced
· Lettuce cups filled with chick peas, herbs and some cooked salmon in a delicious spicy dressing
· Omelette with fried potatoes
· Salad of salmon, grapefruit and finely sliced lettuce with herbs and a sweet and sour dressing
· Bread croutons mixed with the tomato sauce, mushrooms and cheese

Now the big moment, and as they say “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. Emily was joined by two very well know celebrities (my lips are sealed until the 16th) who had been the contestants in the first part of the show, to taste the delicious dishes produced.

I have often wondered what happened to the food when the programme was over - now I know! Helen, Emma and I from the West Sussex Love Food group with Emily and her mum, retired to the studio restaurant to sample the dishes – they were great. The celebrities shared with us the meals they had cooked including the winning dishes. So, I can now assure everyone there is very, very little food waste following the Ready Steady Cook programme it is all far too scrumptious to leave!

Janice Langley