Friday, 25 June 2010

Oh, it turns out I can cook after all

As you may remember from my last entry, I made a sweeping statement about bringing some home made, ethically sourced food product for Renata and her husband to sample. I opted to bring an item for dessert, and as it is strawberry season, I thought I would base it on strawberries. So far, so good.

However, when it came to finding a recipe for a local strawberry dessert, it was not so easy. Many sites that talk about using local produce helpfully had recipes on them. However, they kept referring to certain things that even my limited knowledge tells me are not local. Sugar being the main one. Big Barn is a website which gives details of where you can find produce from within a 50 mile radius and had loads of strawberry recipes. Strawberry sponge, strawberry short cake, strawberry cupcakes. Right, that will be with the sugar from the sugar cane plantations of hackney marshes, will it?

So, strictly local proving tough and wanting more of a challenge than making fruit salad, I broadened the horizon beyond local. The 3 principles of slow food are clean, fair and free. So I decided to use these as the guidelines for my dessert and make strawberry cheesecake cupcakes. So called because of the cream cheese icing, and not because they are a cheesecake. So I bought the following:

  • British strawberries from Cambrideshire – big tick for the local.
  • Free range organic eggs (tick and tick)
  • Cream cheese (cross for not organic, but tick for being from small local shop and not big evil supermarket)
  • Organic milk (tick)
  • Organic butter (tick)
  • I even remembered my own bag, so another tick for no carrier bags!
  • In the interest of reducing food waste, my flatmate let me use her fair trade caster sugar, fair trade icing sugar and organic flour. As well as vanilla, bicarbonate of soda and salt (pinch of only).

And the results were actually okay. I think they could do with a bit of perfecting, but they were tasty, went down well in the office, and more importantly, Renata managed to eat about 5 of them. Which I think means they were a roaring success.

However, some (or a lot) of the success has to go to my flatmate Ela for her hand holding, technical advice and moral support during the baking! And to my other flatmate Ashley, for pointing out that the icing sugar and butter would mix a lot better if I remembered to put the butter in.

Again am drawn to the same conclusion. Only local is too restrictive. Really hard and really limiting. The rest can be done and is not actually too hard. It’s just thinking about things a bit and not mindlessly putting them in your trolley. That said, everyone I mention local to talks about the Stoke Newington Farmers Market, which will be my next stop on Ethically Challenged.


  1. I come to save you!
    Sugar cane isn't grown much in the UK, but sugar beet is (I grew up near the sugar factory in Newark and the smell still haunts me). And the best bit: their Suffolk Factory is 88 miles away from you! I've no idea what brand they sell under though, but the good news is, you can get locally-produced sugar.

  2. oh fantastic!!! this is great news. I will look this up straight away and see what I can find out.