Fairtrade Fortnight: How we can all get involved

Fairtrade Fortnight is coming up (28th February – 13th March 2011), and there are plenty of ways to get involved in your local UK city.  Check out the Fairtrade Big Swap page with a list of events happening in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Liverpool and Dundee.

Supermarkets will also be advertising their Fairtrade goods more prominently in the coming weeks, so look out for those promotions and free samples whilst shopping.  Also Oxfam will be advertising Fairtrade loads; the first 350 Ethical Collection orders (their Fairtrade collection) over £10 will receive a free pack of Cafédirect medium roast Fairtrade coffee. Yum.

The Fairtrade website also advertises what products are now available in Fairtrade form, so before you next go shopping, be sure to look at the loooong listof all the Fairtrade swap-ups you could make.  You can also download their Little Book of Swap.  It’s a short and sweet booklet, which gives you information on why we should all think about swapping to Fairtrade cotton, fruit, coffee and other products.

Fairtrade products available in most supermarkets

Fairtrade Product Prices:

Wine: Sainsburys from £5; Co-Op 3 for £12.

Tea: Sainsburys £1.64 for 80 bags; Co-Op 2 x 80 bags for £2.50; Tesco £1.83 for 80 bags

Coffee: Sainsburys from £3.18; Co-Op ground coffee 2 for £3; Tesco £2.59

Cocoa Powder: Sainsburys, £1.89;  Tesco, £1.89 (both Green & Blacks Cocoa, 125g)

Oranges: Sainsburys £1.95 for 5; Tesco £1.50 for 4

Bananas: Sainsburys £1 (was £1.39); Tesco £1.37

Sugar: Sainsburys £1.09 (1kg own brand); Tesco 68p (Tate & Lyle, 1kg)

Honey: Sainsburys & Tesco, both £2.99 (Rowse Chilean Fairtrade Honey, 340g)

Ice-cream: Sainsburys & Tesco both £4.29 (Ben & Jerry’s Fairtrade ice-cream, 500ml)

– – – – –

It’s easy to make a couple of changes to become more Fairtrade.  Tate & Lyle sugar has now become Fairtrade, Bournville cocoa powder is also Fairtrade (I get through so much of it with my cooking!), and Fairtrade options of tea, coffee and bananas are readily available in all supermarkets.  Though food might be one of the options that you decide to try Fairtrade, there are other options as well.  Marks & Spencer now do a range of Fairtrade t-shirts for both men and women (plus all their coffee and tea in their cafés are Fairtrade, organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified™).  Read more about their Fairtrade cotton and their tea and coffee.

Boots also do a fantastic range of bathing and beauty products called Boots Extracts, that you can check out.  The body butters are divine, and though a bit on the expensive side of moisturisers, they are so worth it.  I bought the Extracts Fairtrade Cocoa Butter Body Butter (200ml) for £7.92 in the Autumn, and I’ve still got half the tub left, after using it regularly for several months.  They’d make a fantastic gift for someone’s birthday (and you can get smaller 50ml versions too, for £2.55).

You could also search for Fairtrade shops around the area that you live.  Shared Earth – which has shops all over the UK – sells beautiful hand-crafted wooden boxes, jewellery and ornaments, which make perfect Christmas and birthday presents.  Whenever I go into their shop, I find it so difficult to not just go buying lots of things for myself…!  They also have a website, which you can use to find your local shop, or shop online (they offer free delivery to all UK orders over £20).

Though it might seem daunting (and expensive) sometimes to swap your normal options for Fairtrade ones whilst shopping , especially if you have a limited budget, think of it this way; 20p more for a Fairtrade packet of tea isn’t that much of a change to us.  However, it could change the life of a child in the Third World by giving his family a fair wage, allowing them to send him to school to get an education, something that we take for granted all too often.  That 20p seems insignificant to us, doesn’t it?… But it changes that child’s life.  Pretty cool stuff when you think about it.  And by making that stand and choosing Fairtrade products, we’re showing the supermarkets and chain stores that they need to introduce even more Fairtrade products, in turn helping more families and communities in the Third World.

So what do you all think about Fairtrade?  Do you actively choose Fairtrade options over others?  And how do you find it balances out with your normal shopping budget?

(P.S.  I seem to have gone a bit link-happy for this blog post… Sorry about that, but seriously, check out those links, there’s some fantastic stuff there!).

(P.P.S.  I’ll be cooking and baking using Fairtrade ingredients to support Fairtrade Fortnight, so check back for recipes soon!)


Apple Spice Muffins

Due to me visiting my parents this past week, I did a lot more cooking than design projects… This is one of the recipes I made this week whilst staying with them.

We had a lot of cooking apples in the shed – hurrah for apple trees! – so we decided to make some stewed apple (some thing I’ve always loved since my childhood… It makes for a wonderful topping on plain yoghurt).  As we had a lot of the stewed apple ready, I decided to experiment a bit with a muffin recipe, and put some  apple into the middle of a muffin before baking.

Apple Spice Muffins

Apple Spice Muffins (makes 10)

280g self raising flour

110g granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

70g raisins

(3 fl oz) vegetable or sunflower oil*

(8 fl oz) milk*

1 egg

5 tbsps stewed apple

* I use vegetable oil and soya milk to reduce the fat content, and make them more healthy than they aready are…

1.  Preheat oven to 180’C and prepare muffin tin (either use cases, or use a non-stick muffin tin, otherwise the muffins may stick when trying to take them out after baking).

2.  Place flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices into a bowl and mix together.  Add raisons and make sure raisons are mixed and covered with dry ingredients.

3.  Measure out the oil and milk into a jug, add the egg and beat lightly.

5.  Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix carefully (muffin mixture should only be stirred round approximately 8 times, so that it doesn’t become too heavy a mixture).

6.  Spoon a small amount of each mixture into the bottom of the cases / muffin tins, being careful to make sure that the bottom of the case is completely covered.

7.  Puree 5 tablespoons of stewed apple in a blender (or use a potato masher if you don’t have a blender).  Add a desert-spoonful of the apple to each case.

8.  Finish spooning out the rest of the mixture equally on top of the apple.  Do not press down, as the mixture will naturally spread to the sides and cover the apple underneath whilst baking.

9.  Put in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes (until golden brown and crisp to touch on top), and then let cool for 10 mins before turning out onto a wire rack.

These muffins are best eaten fresh, but can be frozen, or kept in a sealed container in a cool place for 2 – 3 days.  You could also top the muffins with a small amount of oats and brown sugar for decoration.

When cutting open the muffin, you should be able to see a line in the middle of apple (unfortunately my photo isn’t particularly good, but you can see some of it on the right-hand side of the muffin…).

These are perfect for breakfast or for a daytime snack on the go.


Spinach and Goat Cheese Filo Parcels with Spiced Tomato Relish

I recently decided to make a more fancy meal than I normally do.  I tend to cook most of my meals from scratch to avoid accidentally eating dairy, but I quite often get into a routine of making the same old stuff over and over again.

So, to shake things up a bit, I decided to make a starter, rather than just make my usual easy salad as a side.  I made the relish the day before, and then stored it in a sealed pot in the fridge, and then made the filo parcels on the day.

Spinach and Goats Cheese Filo Parcels & Spiced Tomato Relish

Spinach and Goat’s Cheese Filo Parcels

10 sheets of ready-made filo pastry

oil / melted butter

250g fresh spinach

soft goats cheese

These parcels were incredibly easy and quick to make.  Separating the individual sheets of filo pastry and brushing them with the melted butter takes the longest preparation time, but even this only takes a few minutes (I decided to use vegetable oil as a more healthy substitute, which spread far easier and meant I used a lot less).

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180’C.

2. Take the top sheet of filo pastry and brush with oil / butter.  Then take this top layer and place it at the bottom of the pile of pastry.   Take the next sheet of pastry and repeat, then take the top two sheets of pastry and place at the bottom of the pile.  Repeat until all layers have been covered with oil / butter.  (I wasn’t particularly tidy with brushing on the oil, but it doesn’t matter).

3.  Steam the spinach in a pan with a little hot water for 2 – 3 minutes until dark green and tender.

4. Cut the pastry into squares measuring about 15cm x 15cm.  Then place a spoonful of spinach in the middle of each square.  Top with a small amount of goats cheese, and then pinch the corners together over the spinach and cheese to create a parcel shape.

5. Place in oven and cook at 180’C for  15 – 20 mins (until the pastry has turned golden brown and crispy).

These parcels are definitely more tasty when eaten hot, as the cheese melts over the spinach nicely, but they could be eaten cold too.

Spiced Tomato Relish

500g fresh tomatoes (I got a cheap pack at the local supermarket for 80p)

2 cloves of garlic

2 (white) onions

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp mixed spice

75g brown sugar

Ingredients for the Spiced Tomato Relish

1.  Roughly dice the onion, and crush the garlic.  Add to a frying pan with a little oil to soften and brown slightly.

2.  Chop up the tomatoes into small chunks, and add to the pan, along with the 2 tablespoons of tomato puree.

3.  Add the spices, stir, and simmer until mixture has reduced slightly, and becomes less liquidy.

Cooking the spiced tomato relish

4.  Add sugar, bring to boil whilst stirring, and simmer for 5 mins, then pour into a container and let cool.

For the presentation of the starter, I placed two of the spinach and goats cheese parcels on a plate, and placed a tablespoonful of the spiced tomato relish beside them.  The relish really helps bring out the flavour of the filo parcels, and makes for a yummy – and super easy – starter!

Snow Photos

Whilst clearing out my large stash of photos on my iPhone, I thought I’d upload a couple of them here… They’re quite old (you can tell I don’t link up my iPhone to the computer much – I prefer just charging it via the mains!), as they date back to the early weeks of December last year (2010).

I used an iPhone application called ‘Hipstamatic’, which you can find out more about here: http://hipstamaticapp.com/.  Since taking them with the application, they haven’t been further edited.

I love old black and white photos, so I adjusted the settings for the ‘lens’ and the ‘film’ to create nice contrasts, which were particularly effective in the snow.  I didn’t last particularly long in that snowstorm either – my phone didn’t seem to like being out in sub-zero temperatures, and nor did my body; I came down with a flu bug the next day!

Main Road, first day of snow (Friday 10th Dec), waiting for the bus to work.

Bench by the bus stop (Friday)

Snow-covered fence by the bus stop (Friday)

Bin by bus stop (Friday)

Icicles hanging outside my kitchen window

My road, snowed in. Taxis weren't even going up it at one point.

Walking along the main road on the Monday – when it was snowing particularly heavily – was bizarre.  As one of the main roads out of my city, it was almost completely deserted for once.  I’ve never experienced this much snow before (we had over a foot of snow in a weekend), so it was quite exciting for me, though the fun was lessened somewhat when I still had to make it into work through the snow!

My main road, the following Monday. Very few cars were on the roads.

... And the cornershop was still advertising ice-creams in the snow. I couldn't help but find this amusing.

I’m quite taken with the photos of the fence and the bin in particular… I feel that perhaps I should print them out or do something with them, but I haven’t decided exactly what yet.

Hand-Painted Monogrammed Mugs

I’m a massive fan of home-design blogs, and whilst reading one a while back I happened upon a link to some very cute cups from Anthropologie.

Missus Mug - Anthropologie

Whilst  they were only $6 in America (a bargain when converted to GBP at £3.72!), when redirected to the European site, they became £6… A little expensive considering they are quite small… (I’d need about three cups of tea in those to start my day!).  And so, disappointed, I turned away from the site, closed the browser and went on with my work (ironically, now at the time of writing, some weeks later, they’re on sale for £3.95, which is a far more tempting price again.. But they don’t stock ‘S’, so that’s a bit disappointing!).

However, a couple of days later I came across an entry in a completely different blog about how someone decided to make personalised cups for their family through using ceramic paint…  And then I was excited!  I could buy plain white cups, a ceramic black pen, and doodle to my heart’s content!

And so I did.  I bought a Maribu Porcelain Painter Pen from Ebay (it was cheaper than elsewhere), and some plain white 12 oz mugs – also from Ebay (I honestly don’t know where I’d be without that site sometimes).

Maribu Porcelain Pen - Black

I figured it would be safe to buy a 6-pack of cups, to allow for a couple of painting mistakes and mishaps along the way.

I then spent a long looooong time browsing the internet for some cute free fonts. I wanted something quite elaborate, so that it would stand out on the cup and look pretty on a shelf too, whilst not looking overtly handmade once painted on.

I decided to stay with the idea of an old-fashioned font, which whilst elaborate, wouldn’t be too difficult (I hoped!) to trace onto a cup with graphite paper.  I happened upon this site: http://www.urbanfonts.com/free-fonts.htm, which offered a wide variety of downloadable free fonts to use, and then narrowed it down to a select few.  It was a difficult choice to make, but I decided to use ‘Selfish’, by Eduardo Recife (you can see his website here: http://www.misprintedtype.com/v4/)

So the next step was to create a large stencil on Microsoft word, print, and then cut roughly around the letter.  I then attached it to a piece of homemade graphite paper (I used a 6B drawing pencil and scribbled hard over a small area of paper), and then very carefully traced over the outline of the letter on to the cup (make sure that the graphite paper is graphite-side to the cup!).

It looks a bit messy, but the graphite can be washed off when all is finished.

All in all, from the creating graphite paper, tracing on the letters, and painting over them with the porcelain pen, it only took me a couple of hours to completely finish painting monograms on three mugs.  The paint pen is perhaps a little too thick for very small details and thin lines, but it worked well with what I wanted, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a cheap and non-messy porcelain paint.

So, after I left the mugs to dry overnight, they looked like this:

S and T monogrammed mugs

I thought they still looked like they were missing something, so I added a little picture to the inside of the cups as well, leaving them looking like this:


S and J monogrammed mugs

I’m quite pleased with the results of my first design project… And am definitely raring to go for my next one now!

In other news, I shall be featured shortly on a cookery blog as a guest chef… I have a cookery photoshoot scheduled in the next few weeks, so that’s going to be exciting!

Paintpots and Pancakes – The Beginning

Welcome to Paintpots and Pancakes, a blog that will be featuring lots of different crafty fun adventures of a 20-something post-student out in the big world, who enjoys cooking, painting and various other creative endeavours.

Hopefully there will be a couple of blog posts per week, usually split equally between design projects and baking, each of which will be as cheap as possible (got to think of the very poor post-student budget here…!), whilst being creative and having fun.