I’ve been a fan of fairtrade ingredients for a number of years now. If I have the choice of a fairtrade over a non-fairtrade one, I’ll always go for the fairtrade one. I like to think I’m fairly well educated about what I put in my trolley and what I use in my cooking. I’d done some research into fairtrade ingredients and they offer opportunities to farmers and producers to have a better life.
Vanessa Kimbell recently went to Uganda to see how Ndali grow their vanilla and to see the effects of being fairtrade producers. This was subsequently featured on Radio 4’s ‘Food Programme’ and it was fascinating, as the growers and farmers were interviewed and said what being fairtrade meant to them. It was also the first time that I realised just what went into producing vanilla as I’d never really thought about where it came before. I sometimes see pods in the supermarkets and think ‘Crikey, that’s expensive,’ but had never known the process from seed to supermarket.
Vanessa organised the ‘Ndali Vanilla Gift Swap’ at Fortnum and Mason, in association with the Fairtrade Foundation to celebrate the launch of the Fairtrade Bake. All of those who participated, were sent Ndali vanilla pods and Ndali vanilla powder. We could enter up to three products in 4 categories – cakes, biscuits, preserves and sweets.
I made some Viennese whirls, which I filled with plum and vanilla jam and vanilla buttercream and I also made some hazelnut, chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, with a whipped vanilla ganache icing.
It wasn’t exciting enough that we could talk to lots of lovely people and take someone else’s goodies home with us. Vanessa had arranged for Lucas Hollweg, Chantal Coady and two of the buyers from Fortnum & Mason to taste everything. The lovely (and very generous!) Kenwood and Fortnum & Mason had supplied prizes and Chantal also offered a class at her wonderful Rococo chocolates.
Fortnum & Mason had provided tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakey treats for all of us. They looked amazing, but a few months ago I gave up wheat and so I asked whether it would be possible to have something without wheat. I was looking enviously at the food on offer and knew I’d be peckish before I went home.
Time went on, I was chatting to lovely people and I’d given up hope on eating. I was also starting to feel more than just a tad peckish. Imagine my delight, when a lovely waiter from F&M came up to me with these two plates. The sandwiches had been lightly toasted and had had their crusts cut off (as all good sandwiches should!). I didn’t manage to eat everything (it would have been very gluttonous!), but I was so touched by the thought and my tummy was very happy too!
So, as I was tucking into my sandwiches, Vanessa stepped to the front and told us all about her experiences in Uganda and the generosity of Lulu Sturdy (Ndali’s owner). We all felt moved by Vanessa’s tales and I knew that my support for fairtrade ingredients was absolutely the right thing and I will continue to use fairtrade ingredients in my baking wherever it is possible.
Before I knew it, the prizes were being awarded. There were some fabulous looking goodies around and I was sure that they were going to taste delicious too. I was pleased with what I had made, but the competition was fierce!
I was so chuffed when I realised that my cupcakes had won a ‘runner’s up’ prize in the best cakes and cupcakes category. I wasn’t convinced that the vanilla taste was there, but I thought that they did taste good and so I hoped for the best! As mentioned above, the lovely people at Kenwood very generously donated all of the prizes and I can’t wait for my new toy to come along, so I can have a play. I already have a Kenwood k-mix food mixer (which is not only a thing of beauty, but a joy to work with as well), so I’m super-dooper excited to be having a new addition to my kitchen gadgetry!
When it was time to leave (after we all congratulated the winners and consoled those who didn’t quite make it on this occasion), it was time to swap gifts and go home. Just before we left, we were given a goody bag from the Fairtrade Foundation, which included some Green & Black’s cooking chocolate, some almonds, apricots, raisins, cardamom seeds, cinnamon sticks, a Divine Chocolate cookery book and a Delicious magazine cookery book too.
I’ve already used the apricots and raisins – I made some Christmas cakes today. I’m also going to make some fig and vanilla jam in the next few days and I have to think of a use for my cinnamon sticks and cooking chocolate, but I’m thinking that either raspberries or cranberries may feature.
I would like to thank Lulu from Ndali for my fabulous vanilla, to Fortnum and Mason for not only being superb hosts, but for providing me with an excellent afternoon tea, to Kenwood for my shiny new toy, to the judges for giving up their afternoon and ‘having to eat’ lots of cake, to the Fairtrade Foundation for the yummy goody bags and finally, to Vanessa for organising such an amazing afternoon. I had such a fantastic day out and realised that the simple choices that I make in a supermarket can (and do) have a feel impact on lives in other parts of the world.
If you feel like baking in the next week, why not make it Fairtrade and take part in the Big Fair Bake? You’ll have something yummy to eat and be making a real difference to the lives of people who don’t want charity, they just want a fair deal.