Dec 292009
 

I had all kinds of posts planned for the last couple of weeks of the year:-

  • I had such a great response to my twitter survey on which foods and drinks people were most and least looking forward to over the Christmas period that I had decided to share some with you.
  • I thought I’d join in with those journalists and bloggers providing lists of their favourite cookery books of the year.
  • And of course, I wanted to cook and share some more festive recipes with you before the year was out.

Instead, I’ve been struck down by yet another cough/cold lurgie which has rendered this Christmas a bit of a wash out! Ma, thank for getting that lovely, lovely boned rib of beef for Christmas, sorry I couldn’t eat more than a few bites, but I did manage some of the leftovers you sent us home with, thank you!

Which is my excuse for not posting any of those ideas, above…

So what shall I do to see out 2009 – the year I joined the mushrooming ranks of food bloggers?

Review my year in food, via my blog posts, that’s what! Whilst sharing a few photos from our recent trip to Lapland!

(Although I didn’t start the blog until April, I copied over content I’d shared in my personal blog as well as reviews I’d shared via email or in food discussion boards, hence the archive of older content).

February
In my first post dated for 2009 I shared my favourite banana bread recipe – thank you Mr Charles Campion. A moist, gooey affair, this is far more cake than bread which is just as I like it!

I also posted a review of the lovely La Trompette restaurant in Chiswick.

March
Not long afterwards, I visited sister restaurant Glasshouse, in Kew Gardens, also very good.

I also attended the filming of Market Kitchen, an interesting experience, not at all how I’d imagined it! I went once more, later in the year, to see some different chefs and presenters.

April
I’d idly thought about starting a food blog many times over the years, having enjoyed reading many of the earliest ones for so long. Somehow, attending the Guardian Word of Mouth blog’s Chocolate Tasting Event proved to be the catalyst and I began creating the blog on getting home that evening, tweaking the formatting and copying across the archival content the next day.

With the zeal of a newbie, that first month was prolific!

I posted recipes for hot cross buns and real fast stroganov.

I visited and reviewed Oliver Rowe’s Konstam restaurant.

I eulogised the alphonso mango.

I fell further in love with Paul A Young’s chocolates.

And I got to grips with a slow cooker, since when we’ve made home-made stock far more often (and more easily) than ever before.

May
As May came around my sister and I made The Cookies of Dreams for the first (but not last) time.

Twitter friends helped me choose a boston baked beans recipe for pork belly slices.

I shared Pete’s cheesey potato bake – such a simple recipe and yet so incredibly delicious and comforting and fantastic!

A tale of two crumbles closed the month of May.

June
Having a blog – even a small, recently created one such as mine – helped open doors. The first of which were those of the new Artisan du Chocolat store in Westbourne Grove.

I thought it about time I told my readers a little more about myself. The Wonder Years was the first installment.

By June I was really enjoying meeting wonderful new friends in the world of food (both fellow bloggers and the wider food industry).

As summer rolled in we enjoyed eating more and more garden bounties.

July
In July I discovered the great affinity of coriander and mango!

We continued to enjoy eating lovely produce from our garden.

And my mum and cousin helped me make vast quantities of pickles, chutneys, ketchups and jams in readiness for my one-off market stall the following month.

August
I finally shared the second part of the “who am I?” posts.

And I enjoyed some very fine cheese!

The rest of the month was spent preparing for the big day at Covent Garden and enjoying a week’s holiday in Dorset.

September
And, once I’d recovered, I shared our experiences of hosting a market stall at Covent Garden’s Real Food Market.

In Dorset, I’d had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Mat Follas, winner of Masterchef 2009, at his new restaurant, The Wild Garlic, which we then visited for dinner with friends.

I attended a photography workshop at the Scandinavian Kitchen.

Pete and I had a marvellous weekend in Bristol including a really fine meal at Bell’s Diner.

October
October’s excitement in the food world was for Pierre Koffman’s pop up restaurant – I was lucky enough to visit for the first lunch on the first day of opening (and again a few weeks later).

My sister and I celebrated our (shared) birthday with a lovely evening at Jun Tanaka’s Pearl restaurant.

I met one of my favourite food bloggers for lunch at Leong’s Legend.

I realised that I’d developed a bit of an obsession with preserving – making even more jams and chutneys (and I didn’t even blog the spicy tomato ketchups I made more than one batch of!).

I spent a week on a photography course in Inzigkofen, Germany and shared this tragic romantic story.

I had a really most fantastic evening with Paul A Young – charming, passionate, sweet and funny.

And I became involved in the Blaggers Banquet through which food bloggers raised money for Action Against Hunger.

November
In November I fell for Paganum – their meat that is! Here’s a recipe for boneless leg of lamb braised in red wine and garlic and how about some curried beef marrow bone?

I reviewed some cookbooks including The Ultimate Student Cookbook and Michel Roux’s Sauces.

I found out more about organic versus free range chicken with a fun (but yes, statistically irrelevant) taste test.

The main night for the Blaggers Banquet came and went and was rather splendid (after which I invested a shocking number of hours during the next several weeks running the online auction and payments phase of the fundraiser).

I had fun participating in a christmas pudding cookery competition, creating a home-made custard-based ice-cream with chunks of Christmas pudding that came out better than I’d dared to hope for.

And I recommended some fine tea gifts for Christmas lovers.

December
It may have taken a few months but I was finally able to cook for my friend, Daisy (better known as Dan from FoodUrchin) for his Where’s My Pork Chop? project.

I was thrilled to be able to learn about Fair Trade from Divine Chocolates. I went on to use their chocolate in a fantastic stem ginger & chocolate chunk cake recipe from their own book as well as my own Cookies of Dreams recipe (which worked fantastically well).

Pete and I found another great way to use leftover roast chicken in these nifty croquettes.

And I ended the year with my face on a box of Jordan’s Country Crisp Cereal!

I also wanted to tell you how very, very much I have appreciated the wonderful comments left by friends and strangers alike. Thank you for visiting and reading and especially for taking the time to let me know you’re here.

Wishing all of you the very best for 2010!

Kavey

Dec 182009
 

Serial Cereal Eater!

When it comes to cereal I’m a creature of habit! I flit between three favourites like a serial trigamist!

My sister and I developed such an addiction to General Mills Lucky Charms, during frequent childhood visits to family in Florida, that we would bring back boxes upon boxes in our suitcases. And woebetide any Florida relative who dared to visit us in the UK without bringing some over! “Magically delicious”, says the Lucky Charms leprechaun. It certainly is! Of course, I don’t get to enjoy this American cereal very often, here in the UK.

Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut is, as their marketing slogan so insistently declares, “ludicrously tasty”! Crunchy nuts and sweet honey adhering to corn flakes of deliciousness. Even the most lacklustre of hotel breakfast buffets can redeem themselves by having some Crunchy Nut on offer! I love the taste of the cold milk, towards the bottom of the bowl, after the flavours of the cereal has infused into it!

After a night of strange alcoholic concoctions at a friend’s party a few years ago, I raided his kitchen cupboards for breakfast and discovered a bag of Jordan’s Original (now called Crunchy Oats). I was immediately hooked and can’t begin to tell you how many bags of the comfortingly solid clusters of sweet, crunchy, generously raisined cereal I’ve munched my way through since then! As this cereal makes a good snack without milk it’s doubly handy to have in the cupboard!

Occasionally I’ll philander with other options – a generously-fruited muesli, a thick, warming porridge or naughty Cinammon Grahams (now called Curiously Cinammon) but these flirtations seldom last long and I quickly return to my true loves.

Leith’s Cookery School

So when I was invited to the Jordan’s Country Crisp Appreciation Society food bloggers event, to be held at Leith’s Cookery School, organised by PR company Wild Card, I could not resist! How would their Crispy Crunch compare to their Original/ Crunchy Oats?!

The team preparing ingredients for the cookery session

The pounding head, bloodshot eyes and woolly thinking hangover symptoms from the previous night’s work Christmas party could not dampen my enthusiasm. Despite the early start, I was the first to arrive at the cookery school (what a shame that Leith’s have moved away from central London and out into the boonies, west of Shepherd’s Bush). With a very welcome coffee in hand (and headache pills quickly swallowed) I watched the Wild Card and Jordan’s team prepare for the event, weighing out ingredients for the recipe we’d be making together and arranging each blogger’s cooking station with everything we’d need.

A quiet moment; the film maker

I also took the opportunity to take some early photos (including one of the guy filming the event) and soon enough, my fellow bloggers arrived.

Food Urchin

Jordan’s Cereal – Past and Present

After an introduction from Rachel, Jordans’ Brand Communications Manager, we heard from Bill Jordan who told us a little about this family business and how they came to develop their original Crunchy Oats cereals and, more recently, the Country Crisp range.

Bill Jordan’s talk

The family had been in the milling business for over 150 years but it wasn’t until 1972 that they branched out into the world of cereal. Having spent some years travelling the world and playing in a rock & blues band, Bill finally made it home and asked his brother David to join with him to launch the cereal business. Looking West for inspiration they brought what the Americans call granola to the UK market. That was their first cereal and it went down well; the range has expanded considerably since then.

Happy with the popularity of the early products, Jordan’s have kept a careful eye on the changing tastes of the consumer which has lead to their Country Crisp range, a lighter cereal than the orginal granola. They’ve also introduced lots of new ingredients from morello cherries to pumpkin seeds, from mango and papaya to flame raisins, from cashew nuts to pecans.

Talking about new flavours, Bill pointed out that sometimes the ingredients you think will work well, such as peaches, really don’t! So it’s a huge amount of trial and error and fine tuning for each product.

Referring to the Chocolate Country Crisp, “I’m a bit of a luddite” he exclaimed, and found the idea of chocolate in cereal quite strange! But went on to explain that chocolate is a popular breakfast ingredient in France and repeated requests from their French customers, who account for 25% of the company’s sales, encouraged Jordans to bring out this Country Crisp flavour.

Conservation Grade

Bill also told us that the cereal itself is all grown to Conservation Grade which means that all 50,000 acres, farmed by more than 50 farmers, are managed to encourage biodiversity – planting wildflowers, clover and other plants to provide pollen, nectar and food for insects and birds, providing grassland habitat that will shelter spiders, beetles and small mammals and supporting wildlife by retaining hedges, ditches, old barns, ponds and woodland. I’m very supportive of any initiatives that encourage the conservation and protection of wildlife so was particularly pleased to learn about this (and have visited the Conservation Grade website to learn more).

Cereal Cakes

Before too long we each took our place at one of the cooking stations and got to work on making the pear cake recipe we’d been provided. All the ingredients had been weighed out ready and Nishita from Wild Card even buttered our cake tins for us, as we got to peeling and slicing our pears.

Bloggers at work

I looked on enviously as Ginger Gourmand quickly produced thin, even slices of pear whilst my pear slid an unceremonious dance around my chopping board – luckily she showed me what I was doing wrong and my pears were quickly reduced to (messy) slivers.

Still at work

We cooked the pear in butter and sugar on the cookers around the edge of the room before returning to our stations and making up our cake mixes. Failing to achieve smoothness whether I employed the electric whisk or a wooden spoon, I decided not to worry too much the lumps in my cake batter! I poured it into the cake tin, scattered over some Country Crisp cereal, topped it messily with the pear slices (eating a few as I went) and then threw on more cereal (as per the recipe). Another glance over to Ginger Gourmand’s beautifully fanned pear layer, Greedy Diva‘s smooth batter and Food Urchin‘s artistic cereal scattering made me realise I’d never win any awards for baking finesse! Still, I did find some extra chocolate curls to sprinkle over mine, so at least it would have the honour of being the most chocolatey!



Cakes, before and after baking

As we cooked, Bill Jordan hopped around the room, gleefully shouting out how much time we had remaining à la Ready Steady Cook! Sadly, he had to leave before the cakes were cooked, so didn’t get to taste them!

Product Development

Cakes into the oven, we gathered around to learn about the complexities of developing the Country Crisp range from Kirsten Hoskisson, the Head of Taste at Jordans Cereals.

Kirsten’s talk

Having developed and delivered training for a food product development tool used by one of the main supermarket chains a few years ago, I had a good idea of how much effort goes into perfecting a recipe – lots of trial and error, refinement after refinement, taste test after taste test. But still it was interesting to listen to Kirsten’s explanations of how they developed Country Crisp.

The aim was to produce a much lighter cereal than the traditional granola range. She included different varieties and sizes of oats from powdery small ones that help the cereal to bind, to larger ones that provide crispness. She experimented with cluster size, deciding that a combination of sizes gives the best eating experience – they sieve to ensure the specified mix of cluster sizes in each batch. She threw in rice flour which puffs up into sticky crescent shapes to which the oats bind and added some barley which helps give a creamy texture as well as a little astringency to balance the sweetness. Eventually, Kirsten created three different bases that are used across the Country Crisp range – known as nutty, vanilla and honey. All three include hazelnut and coconut plus the addition of almond, vanilla and honey, respectively.

Of course, as well as ensuring the crispy base was just right, it took a lot of experimentation to decide on the extra ingredients from freeze dried fruits to chopped nuts to seeds to chocolate. And not just a matter of finding the right tastes but chopping them into different sizes and shapes to create the correct balance – the chocolate is in curls, for example, because this melts quickly in the mouth whereas chips would give a hard bite. On a similar note to Bill’s comment about peaches, she said they’d been sure they were on to a winner with dried banana, and the taste tests went well. But the final feedback was that, whilst consumers liked the taste, they’d probably not buy it given how easy it is to slice fresh bananas into their cereal bowls!

Country Crisp ingredients

As Kirsten talked bowls of the various Country Crisp cereals were passed around for us to munch and we darted forward to taste the ingredients in the various bowls in front of her.

Kavey Country Crisp

And then the bit I’d most been looking forward to – making my own cereal mix! With a large stainless steel bowl in our hands, first we scooped up generous servings of the base clusters before adding in our personal choices of fruit, nuts and seeds. I am a greedy, greedy glutton so mine had an exceedingly generous amount of dried strawberries, dried raspberries, dark chocolate curls and huge, delicious Chilean flame raisins!


Making our own cereal mixes

We proudly transferred our creations into sealable plastic baggies before being presented with our personalised Country Crisp cereal boxes to put them into! Fantastic!


Kavey Country Crisp


And some of the others…

Finally, it was time to taste the cereals, a very welcome breakfast as the cooking smells had made us all hungry!


Breakfast time!

All to soon, the session came to an end and it was time to make our way home, weighed down with our steaming hot cakes (popped out of the oven, allowed to cool for a few minutes and transferred into takeaway boxes), our personalised cereal plus a few other cereals from the Country Crisp range! A huge thank you to Jordans and Wild Card for such a fun morning!

Competition

So what did it say on my cereal box? “Kavey Favelle is a chunky nutster with a warm heart and juicy fruit clusters!”

Cringe-worthy and embarassing, yes, but you try and come up with a short character description of yourself that ties in to the Country Crisp cereal range! It’s harder than it looks!

I’ll send a box of Country Crisp Chocolate out (mainland UK only) to the best Country Crisp character description (of yourself) left as a comment by midnight December 31st. (Note: this will be a regular box, not a special edition one).

 

As I mentioned in a recent post, now I’ve learned more about Divine Fairtrade Chocolate and Kuapa Kokoo, I am keen to incorporate it into my cooking. And something about this time of year gives me the urge to bake sweet-smelling, great-tasting goodies. Maybe it’s the wintery cold weather? Maybe it’s the run up to Christmas? Whatever it is, when the results are as tasty as this, I’m not complaining!

Previously I tried a recipe from Divine’s cookbook: Heavenly Chocolate Recipes with a Heart.

This time I thought I’d use my favourite chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe, which I have blogged about previously under the heading The Cookies Of Dreams.

I used exactly the same recipe as before but halved the mixture before stirring in the chocolate. Into one half I mixed 100 grams of Divine coffee milk chocolate. Into the other half I mixed 100 grams of Divine dark chocolate with raspberries.

As there are only two of us, I baked just 3 cookies of each type, rolling the rest of the dough into two cling-filmed sausages and popping them into the freezer for another time.



Pete reckons the coffee chocolate cookies are better. I prefer the dark chocolate and raspberries variety. Both are absolutely delicious and I really like how using different flavours of chocolate makes it so easy to ring the changes in an already much loved recipe.

If you try this recipe with other types of chocolate, do let me know how you get on! I’m sure, once you bite through the crunchy exterior into the soft, melting interior, you’ll be hooked!

P.S. I’m not being sponsored by Divine. They were simply kind enough to respond positively when I wrote asking if they’d be willing to talk to me about Fairtrade, Divine and Kuapa Kokoo. After our meeting, they kindly gave me some extra chocolate bars to add to my existing stash as well as a copy of their recipe book. (I didn’t realise they had one, but had mentioned my chocolate mousse failure which occured the a few days before I went in to see them and they took pity on me!)

 

Lately, every time we’ve had a roast chicken dinner, we’ve made stock from the carcass, skin and giblets (except the liver, which I’ve fried as a snack). And the next evening we’ve enjoyed a tasty risotto made with some of the stock and leftover roast chicken.

But last time we had roast chicken, we’d had a pancetta and parmesan risotto (made with home-made stock out of the freezer) the night before.

So we fancied trying something different to use up the roast chicken leftovers.

We started flicking through our cookery books for inspiration. The first one I picked up was a book I’d not even read yet – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Meat Book, which I bought only recently.

In the chapter on dealing with leftovers, after the many pages on making home-made stock, I found the suggestion of chicken croquettes. It’s not a detailed recipe; it simply advises to “Chop the chicken fairly small and mix with a roughly equal quantity of course fresh breadcrumbs. Mix in enough beaten egg to get a sticky but spoonable mixture and season well. Shallow fry spoonfuls in hot oil, turning occasionally, until golden and crisp.

Bingo! Just what we fancied. And we had some ageing bread to make into breadcrumbs too!

Leftover Roast Chicken Croquettes
Ingredients
Equal volumes of leftover roast chicken and breadcrumbs
Eggs to bind
Seasoning
Vegetable oil for frying

Method

  • We used our Magimix to blitz slightly stale white bread into breadcrumbs and to chop unevenly sized chunks of leftover chicken into tiny, evenly-sized pieces. (Just a brief blitz will do, you don’t want to make puréed chicken meat!)
  • Combine the chicken and breadcrumbs and then mix in enough beaten egg to bring the mixture together without it getting too sticky to handle.
  • Form the mixture into balls and flatten slightly into patties.
  • Fry gently in about half a centimetre of cooking oil until brown on bottom side. Turn over to brown other side. Don’t let the oil get too hot or the outsides will burn before the insides heat through.
  • Drain on kitchen paper and eat whilst piping hot.


We enjoyed ours with some of my home-made spicy green tomato ketchup!


 

Having found out all about Divine Fairtrade Chocolate (and Kuapa Kokoo) I was keen to use some of the chocolate in cooking.

The Bad (But Not Ugly)

My first attempt did not go well. I wanted to make a light coffee chocolate mousse using Divine coffee milk chocolate, the flavour I’ve consumed so many kilos of over the years. A friend passed on a link to a Raymond Blanc video in which he makes an egg white mousse instead of the usual egg yolk, butter and cream version. Of course, in his recipe he uses a completely different kind of chocolate. But I thought I could surely adapt the idea so I went ahead. The first problem I had was melting the chocolate. I use the microwave to melt chocolate these days and usually it does a fantastic job. For some reason, in this case, the chocolate seized up and the only way I could persuade it to melt was to add some boiling water and beat it into submission. Worried the egg white wasn’t stiff enough, I am sure I over did it, beating it in the Magimix. With a sinking feeling, I went ahead and mixed together the melted chocolate, a tiny bit of sugar and the beaten egg white and poured it into some pretty dishes and popped it into the fridge. Sadly, it never did become any more solid than the thick liquid I poured from the mixing bowl and whilst it tasted very nice, it was a big fat failure.

The Good

So, for my second attempt, I was determined to use a recipe. And not just any old chocolate recipe but one from Divine’s own recipe book, Heavenly Chocolate Recipes With A Heart.

Divine Chocolate’s Stem Ginger & Chocolate Chunk Cake Recipe

This is a lovely, rich ginger chocolate cake. The flavours of the black treacle and honey both come through clearly and I like the little burtst of ginger flavour as you bite down on a piece of stem ginger. Having the chocolate in chunks is also a nice change from using cocoa powder in the cake mix. This one’s definitely a keeper.

Ingredients
50 grams light muscovado sugar
2 tablespoons black treacle
75 grams honey
85 grams unsalted butter
100 ml milk
75 grams chopped glacé ginger (also known as stem ginger)
1 large free range egg, beaten
225 grams plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1oo grams Divine milk chocolate

1 pound loaf tin
butter and flour to line tin

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F/ Gas 4.
  • Place the sugar, black treacle, honey, butter, milk and chopped ginger into a large pan and heat gently until melted together.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before stirring in the egg.
  • Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into the pan and mix in well.
  • Break up the chocolate into small pieces and stir in.
  • Transfer the mixture to the loaf tin and spread evenly.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool in completely in the tin before turning out.
  • Store in airtight container. Will last up to a week.









Amazon has a great offer on the Divine cookbook at the moment. It’s available at £12.47 instead of the RRP of £19.99.

Dec 072009
 

I love that we are still harvesting from the garden, even in December.

Dec 052009
 

Fair Trade. We’ve all come across it but how many of us have much of an understanding, beyond a short soundbite, of what it actually means in practice?

Fair Trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate and flowers.” ~Wikipedia

In the context of the Fair Trade Movement, a fair price is a price that, when paid to the individual producers of a product such as coffee or handicrafts, gives them access to a viable standard of living, including nutrition, health care, education, and cultural autonomy.” ~Deardorff’s Glossary of International Economics, University of Michigan website

And are all Fairtrade products equal or are some more fair trade than others?

Having missed Chocolate Week (only I could book a holiday that took me out of the country for the entire event) I asked the people at Divine Chocolate if they would be willing to help me understand more about Fairtrade in general and how it works in their business specifically. They kindly invited me to Divine HQ near Tower Bridge and we got talking chocolate. If you’re interested in what I learned, read on.

Kuapa Kokoo

The story starts in 1993. The Ghanian cocoa market, which had previously been in the hands of the government, was opened up by license to private organisations for the first time. With help from Twin Trading (a registered charity and trading company that also helped set up Café Direct), SNV (a Dutch NGO) and a forward-thinking representative on the Ghana Cocoa Board, a group of cocoa farmers created a co-operative to collect and sell their cocoa for the benefit of the member farmers. They called the co-operative Kuapa Kokoo, meaning “Good Cocoa Farmers Company” in the local language, Twi.

The idea of farmers working for themselves, looking after themselves, in a co-operative organisation was quite an unusual idea. But it wasn’t long before the farmers began to reap the benefits of working together and they quickly built up a strong reputation for quality, efficiency and reliability.

Kuapa Kokoo today consists of the Farmers Union (which runs local, regional and national elections for representatives to run the co-operative on a democratic basis), the Farmers Trust (which distributes money for community projects), the Credit Union (which provides financial services for the farmers) and the trading arm itself. Kuapa Kokoo is a co-operative of 45,000 farmers in 1,300 villages right across Ghana’s cocoa growing areas. Between them they produce approximately 8% of Ghana’s total and 1% of the world’s cocoa crops.

Fairtrade

A central tenet of Fairtrade is that buyers pay a fixed price, calculated to ensure a decent living for the farmers and producers. In the case of cocoa, world market prices have fallen as low as $1000 per tonne in recent years, but the Fairtrade price is set at $1600 per tonne. At the moment, world market prices happen to be high but the advantage of Fairtrade is the consistency of income in a constantly fluctuating market. On top of that is the $150 premium paid on each tonne purchased, which is invested in farmer support and community development programmes ranging from building primary school classrooms, constructing wells, and investing in corn mills to gender awareness and women’s empowerment workshops to seminars on issues such as nutrition, child care, health and finance.

But why do prices for cocoa vary so much? One reason is that quality varies a great deal too. It’s easy to take shortcuts such as rushing fermentation by using fire to speed up the drying time (which can impart an unpleasant smokey taste to the cocoa). Kuapa Kokoo take pride in doing a proper job to produce higher quality results. And as each sack is coded to the village in which it was made, if it’s not up to scratch, it’s sent straight back!

Additionally, in exchange for those Fairtrade prices, Kuapa Kokoo must ensure that their production methods meet internationally audited conditions regarding, for example, minimum health and safety conditions. They are also obliged to ensure that each producer receives a guaranteed price for their goods and the security of long-term trading contracts.

While intensive, un-shaded cocoa farms boast higher yields initially, these deteriorate rapidly leading frequently to the abandonment of farms and continued deforestation as new farms encroach onto forest reserves. As Kuapa Kokoo wants to ensure longterm income for it’s members, it’s cocoa is grown in the shade. Shaded systems also mean retaining a greater biodiversity, though of course, only a fraction of what is found in virgin rainforest. It’s about finding a realistic balance between environmental conservation and the needs of local communities to make a living.

Until recently, only 10% of Kuapa Kokoo’s output was sold on a Fairtrade basis as the Fairtrade market, whilst growing, remains small. Given that 100% of their cocoa meets the required standards, the aim is to sell much more of it to Fairtrade buyers. You may already know about Cadbury’s recent switch to Fairtrade cocoa for their Dairy Milk chocolate – the good news is that they are buying their Fairtrade cocoa from Kuapa Kokoo, which more than doubles the amount Kuapa Kokoo are selling at Fairtrade prices.

Divine Chocolate

At a 1997 Kuapa Kokoo AGM it was agreed that the best way to to increase the income of the co-operative’s cocoa producers would be to establish their own branded chocolate for sale in the UK chocolate markets. Much of the profit in chocolate is not in the farming, but in production, so it made a lot of sense to expand into that side of the chain.

In 1998, with backing from Twin Trading and The Body Shop (not to mention support from Christian Aid and Comic Relief), Kuapa Kokoo established The Day Chocolate Company. They soon created and launched Divine Fairtrade chocolate, a brand now available in supermarkets throughout the UK. The company itself was renamed to Divine Chocolate Ltd in 2007.

Initially, Kuapa Kokoo owned 33% of the chocolate company (with the rest being owned by Twin Trading, The Body Shop and other investors). That went up to 45% in 2007 when The Body Shop gave (not sold) their 12% to Kuapa Kokoo just before they sold their business to L’Oreal.

So the income stream for Kuapa Kokoo is three-fold: They receive the Fairtrade price for their cocoa, along with the premium. They take 45% of the profit dividends from Divine Chocolate Ltd. And Divine also give 2% of their turnover to a Producers Support & Development fund which, like the Fairtrade premium, is used to improve farmers’ skills and productivity, increase efficiency within the co-operative, help finance the running of the co-operative (and the democratic process).

And of course, there is also the advantage that comes from a stronger understanding of the chocolate industry! The more farmers understand about the chocolate-making process and how the quality and processing of cocoa impacts the final product, the better equipped they are to produce even better cocoa. On top of that, Kuapa Kokoo is better able to obtain more favourable financing deals – paying 5% rather than 25% interest on loans, for example!

So this is how Divine Chocolate stands out from other Fairtrade options for me. Of course, I applaud Cadbury’s decision to make it’s Dairy Milk chocolate Fairtrade. Cocoa farmers will receive the Fairtrade price and premium for their beans. But all the profits from producing and selling the chocolate are Cadbury’s alone. Divine Chocolate is what I’m calling Extra Fair Trade as it feeds more money back to the cocoa farmers.

The Chocolate

Kuaka Kokoo’s motto is “Pa Pa Paa” which means “the best of the best of the best”. That applies to Divine Chocolate too, who aim to produce delicious, high quality chocolate using natural ingredients. In the short time since they launched the brand, they have grown their range to include a wide selection of flavours and some lovely gift products too.

I think I first came across Divine at Destinations travel show a few years ago. For the last few years I’ve bought boxes of 10 x 100 gram bars of the coffee flavour each time I’m at the show. More recently, I’ve been trying other flavours including dark chocolate with raspberries, white chocolate with strawberries, butterscotch milk chocolate, dark fruit and nut, hazelnut milk chocolate, dark mint chocolate and orange milk chocolate.


I’m also a huge fan of their dark chocolate mango slices and apricots; the apricots are Fairtrade from Pakistan and the sun-dried mangoes are Fairtrade from Burkina Faso. Soft, chewy fruit coated in rich, dark chocolate – what’s not to like?

I’ve not yet tried their cocoa powder, but it’s on my list. If you’re interested in exploring their products yourself, they have a Divine shop website, here.

Cooking With Divine Chocolate

I’ve also been experimenting with using Divine chocolate in cooking. Thus far I’ve had one failure and one success. Read more about both in an upcoming blog post.

 

Some of you might have come across FoodUrchin Dan’s Where’s My Pork Chop? project on the interwebs. Heck, some of you may even have participated already, responsible (by dint of your rather fabulous offerings*) for my nervousness and feelings of not being worthy.

For those who haven’t, let me explain. Dan’s job involves some lonely, low-spirited, lugubrious**, late-night shifts during which he not only makes do with the most depressing of supermarket ready-meals for dinner, he does so whilst enviously reading, via food blogs and twitter, the delicious feasts being enjoyed by the rest of the foodie community. Torture! So, in his inimitable, rapscallion way, he has successfully persuaded the denizens of London Foodie Land to feed him with a share of their home-made creations instead! Of course, he’s not a scrounger, our FoodUrchin, not at all, so he’s exchanged these culinary comforters for goodies ranging from home-made chutneys, to spoils from his allotment, to descendents of his sourdough starter (Veronica), to picking up the bill for a smashing brunch.

For our little exchange, it was the latter, and we met for delicious Eggs Florentine at Canteen, in the Southbank Centre. Thanks for that, Daisy – very tasty! (Daisy being what I most commonly call Dan, for a number of reasons… none of which I’ll go into here).

So, what did Daisy get from me (and Pete, who helped me make it all)?

We opted for a veggie selection from Mamta’s Kitchen, of Shahi Paneer and Egg Curry.

Both dishes start out almost identically with cumin seeds, onion, tomato and spices

Egg Curry is one of my favourites and is both easy and economical to make. Mum reckons it’s also a great option when unexpected guests arrive at meal times as she always has eggs in the fridge, tinned tomatoes on the shelf and spices in the spice rack! I would recommend including the asafoetida which counteracts one of the, ahem, after-effects of boiled egg consumption!

Incidentally, on this occasion we used home-grown tomatoes puréed in the Magimix, in place of tinned tomatoes, in order to use up the last of the garden’s summer bounty.

Egg curry

The Shahi Paneer uses a ready-made spice mix {gasp!}, combined with some additional spices and an arterie-clogging volume of butter and cream – hey, it is a paneer dish fit for the shahs! (Paneer, by the way, is a fresh Indian cheese, bland on it’s own but great within tasty dishes like this one).

Shahi paneer

We had itended to make naan bread too, but didn’t get around to it, and went for basmati rice instead. And I picked up a box of colourful goodies from our local Indian sweet shop, Mahavir Sweet Mart. I can’t claim to know what they all were, as I picked based solely on colour and appearance! The selection did include my favourite freshly-made cashew-nut and pistachio roll! Yum!

Read about the meal from Dan’s perspective, here.


* Yes I’m talking about you, Linda of With Knife and Fork and Jan from The Ample Cook and Naomi aka The Ginger Gourmand!
** Come on, at least be grateful I didn’t cram “lachrymose” into there too!

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