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This month's Fairtrade Fortnight highlights some of the issues around food sourcing and fair payment to farmers and growers.
What does Fairtrade really mean?
This months Fairtrade Fortnight highlights some of the issues around food sourcing and fair payment to farmers and growers. Martin Griffiths investigates the local Fairtrade food scene, and cooks up some tasty Fairtrade dishes.
The Fairtrade logo is a regular feature in our food stores and as we become aware of the implications of how and where we shop, the reasons for considering Fairtrade goods have become increasingly relevant. The Fairtrade logo means that the producers have received a fair price, environments are protected, extra investment has gone into their communities, and producers have a democratic say in the process.
Add in the ingredients of animal welfare and food miles and you get what writer Robert Elliott calls A Food Maze. Robert and his partner Sally Dean run Real Food Discovery Weekends at their B & B in Herefordshire. They are just a part of a growing movement of people who are increasingly aware of what we are doing to the land, our bodies and indeed the whole planet.
All these issues affect us as consumers as we can make a difference simply by choosing where we spend our money. As we drink around 165 million cups of tea in the UK every day, that makes us a powerful player in the global tea trade. Tea trader Claire Trumper, from Hereford, has established her business to work with tea-growing communities across the world and uses the Fairtrade ethos as it: assists in the creation of real sustainable business across the world, its not about charity.
Coffee growers have also benefited from Fairtrade. Shops like the Co-op have a long history of supporting Fairtrade and continue to stock produce which has been produced ethically. Throughout the county many small independent shops and cafes use ethically produced coffee. One lovely example of this is in Evesham where Louise Roberts runs the Word of Mouth caf. Louise not only uses local suppliers, including seasonal surplus from the local allotments but also uses coffee supplied by illycaff whose philosophy is that sustainable development means working
hand in hand with producers and their communities to produce excellent quality.
Evesham, with huge support from the Town Council, is one of many towns that have invested in the becoming a recognised Fairtrade town. This enables them to involve the population, schools and business in developing a policy of fair trade and sustainability. Caroline Price is one Evesham trader who supports the work of Fairtrade through her online business Peruse. Working with the British Association of Fairtrade Shops enables her to know that the goods she sells have been sourced fairly and that the money goes back into the communities consistently to enable families to be fed and children educated. Caroline gives talks on the role and importance of Fairtrade and why the continuity of investment is important to the communities.
Worcestershire County Council is also backing this years Fairtrade Fortnight by encouraging everybody to take part in the Big Swap Fairtrade campaign. Councillor Anthony Blagg is supporting the issue. Making a swap to Fairtrade on just one item may seem very simple but for the communities this organisation supports it can change lives, he says.
Sustainable and fair food and drink is a complex issue and none more so than in the area of food miles. Importing tasteless foods from the other side of the world may create a dreadful carbon footprint but is it really best for us to make an individual journey out into the countryside to source our food when one van can bring tonnes into a town all in one go? If we only consume local produce are we denying trading opportunities to poorer developing countries and is all packaging really bad? If the world population continues to increase, unnecessary packaging could represent a huge cost but it may be a valid way of prolonging the storage life of
foods and therefore actually cut down waste.
One way to cut down food miles and understand foods provenance is to get to know your local farmers markets and farm shops. Their food will invariably be fresh, local and seasonal. That doesnt mean we have to go without lemons and coffee and chocolate. It just means we have to spend a bit more time and thought thinking about what food we buy and eat.
The issues are complex but in a world where over a third of British children aged between five and 13 are said to be overweight, UK households throw away 8 million tonnes of food waste annually and the worlds population is calculated to grow from 6.5 billion to 9.2 billion by 2050 then we really do need to secure a more sustainable global food system!
This spring, you can save money and shop ethically by buying local seasonal vegetables and cheaper tastier cuts of meat such as shin of beef. Some of these cuts of meat are the basis of traditional farmhouse options and the addition of some Fairtrade spices will add another flavour dimension.
Spiced Lamb Meatball Parcels
Sheep farming is an important feature of our countryside and one way of trading fairly with our farmers is to buy locally-reared sheep raised on sustainable grass. This recipe uses lean lamb mince, spices and
Fairtrade apricots to produce beautifully crisp little parcels stuffed with spicy, juicy lamb.
450g lean lamb mince
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes or one small fresh chilli finely diced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon demerara sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 x 270g pack filo pastry
Juice and zest of one Fairtrade organic lime
6-8 Fairtrade apricots, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1.Pre-heat the oven to 180C
(gas mark 4).
2.Put the lamb into a large bowl, add in all the spices, apricots and sugar and mix together well.
3.Heat a large non-stick frying pan and dry fry (add no oil) for 3-4 minutes or just brown. Stir constantly and carefully pour off any excess juices and fats released from the meat.
4.Add the yogurt, stir in well and simmer gently for another 5 minutes before removing from the heat and allowing it to cool slightly.
5.Put three pieces of Filo pastry out onto a work surface and cut into
15 x 8cm (3 inch) squares.
6.Put a tablespoon of the lamb mixture into the middle of each one and fold the corners up into the centre and brush with a little of the beaten egg to glaze and seal.
7.Place on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden.
Serve with a crisp spring salad, good bread and a chilli dipping sauce for those who like a hot tongue-tingling experience.
Cooks tip: You can make meatballs from a variety of meats and they can, of course, be served with tomato sauces and spaghetti. Its easy to exchange the lamb in the recipe above for lean beef and serve them along with steaming bowls of fragrant, tasty Pilaff rice. Pilaffs are rice dishes of the Middle East and Asia and usually use Basmati rice cooked in a stock flavoured with fresh herbs, aromatic spices, nuts and fruits.
30ml vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and
1 x 5cm piece of cinnamon stick
1teaspoon garam masala
400g Basmati rice
750ml good stock
2 teaspoons of flaked almonds
2 teaspoons sultanas
2 teaspoons freshly chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
Seasoning to taste
1.Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the onion until soft and lightly coloured.
2.Add the spices and stir in the rice.
3.Add the stock, season and bring to a gentle boil.
4.Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
5.Remove the cinnamon stick and add the almonds, sultanas and parsley. Stir into the rice and serve with the meatballs.
Braised Beef with Star Anise and Herb Dumplings
A combination of British beef and dumplings with the addition of the slightly sweet, liquorice flavours that come from star anise from eastern Asia. Shin of beef, sometimes called gravy beef, is a fairly cheap cut that needs long slow cooking but its packed full of flavour and is excellent in this recipe.
For the beef:
675g boneless shin, chuck or braising steak
30ml vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 x 5cm piece of root ginger, peeled and grated
2-3 cloves garlic
3-4 whole star anise
100g artichoke, peeled and quartered
100g carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
Salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
300ml red wine
1 large leek, washed and trimmed
For the herb dumplings:
100g self-raising flour
100g home made bread crumbs
50g softened unsalted butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 egg, beaten
Rub the flour and butter together to form breadcrumbs. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together and form into six separate, evenly-sized balls.
1.Pre-heat the oven to 170C
(gas mark 3).
2.Put the beef into a bowl and season.
3.Heat the oil in a large frying pan and sear the beef in batches until lightly browned.
4.Transfer the beef into a large oven-proof casserole.
5.Add the onion, garlic, and ginger to the frying pan and cook until just soft not browned. Add these to the casserole.
6.Add the remaining ingredients to the casserole except the vegetables, and bring to the boil. Cook for 90 minutes.
7.Make the dumplings while the casserole is cooking and sample the remaining red wine!
8.Add the vegetables 25 minutes before the end of the cooking time and dot the dumplings on the top of the dish and finish cooking without
Cooks tip: This sort of casserole is a great way of using a variety of cheaper cuts of beef or lamb and a vegetable stew with these herby dumplings is an easy variation. n
Worcesters Fairtrade Coffee Morning is on Thursday 4th March (10am to 12pm) at the Guildhall. www.fairtrade.org.uk