Eco Easter Eggs…

This is it. The weekend were we can (legitimately) wake up and consume chocolate before 9am if we so desire. Easter, or Ostara to give the festival it’s pagan name, is all about fertility and new beginnings. This is why we have eggs delivered by the rabbit which is well famed for it’s ability to reproduce faster than you can shout ‘fairtrade chocolate please’. But, with so much crap chocolate out there, we have picked our top 5 eggs that we would be happy to find in a hunt.

Montezumas Eco easter egg
£7.99 from Montezuma’s Chocolate

1 – First up is the Eco Egg from Montezuma’s Chocolate. Organic chocolate with bits of butterscotch all enclosed in a completely plastic free packaging option. Eat the egg, compost or recycle the packaging. Perfect.

Montezumas Eco easter egg 2
also £7.99 from Montezuma’s Chocolate

2 – Okay – this is technically the dark chocolate version of the one above, but hey. It’s a different egg, still encased in the eco packaging and this time complete with cocoa nibs. Tasty.

Divine Easter Egg
£3.99 from Ethical Superstore

3 – Next up is the fairtrade milk chocolate egg from Divine, with Toffee and Sea Salt. As well as being a good ethical choice for your chocolate fix, this egg also has a great absence of plastic in it’s packaging too. Get yours from the Ethical Superstore.

Half a Dozen Praline-filled Hen's Eggs
£25 for half a dozen – Rococo Chocolate

4 – Fancy something a bit fancier? How about the half a dozen praline filled hens eggs from specialist chocolatiers Rococo? Presented in their trademark patterned packaging nestled in a coloured egg box, these are something special.

Picture of MINT EASTER EGG
£6.59 – Green & Black’s

5 – and lastly we are going dark and minty with the Green And Blacks Organic Mint Chocolate Egg. One for the grown ups, and a mint chocolate egg that tastes stunning and not like toothpaste. And look. No plastic either.

So. Our top five Easter Eggs. Let’s hope we will find a couple hidden in the garden this weekend…

(images via links)

Monday Musings – foraging – taking advantage or taking your share?

Today on Monday Musings we have a very apt discussion to wade into – foraging. Yesterday we ran one of our popular Urban Foraging walks in Brighton, leading a small group through a couple of parks and streets of the city. We pointed out what is edible, abundant, how you can use it and the folklore and traditions that surround the things we walk past every day. But one discussion that we had, was not how we should forage, but whether we should at all.

cherry plum foraging

This had arisen with the recent discussion – and argument in the Daily Mail – that foragers are stripping the New Forest bare of mushrooms. John Wright, the foraging expert linked with River Cottage (and one of our heroes) came under fire, as his paid foraging courses were blamed for the sparseness of mushrooms in the area. This accusation was quickly rubbished by Wright and River Cottage, who stated that not only do they operate within the law, but that they collect a tiny fraction of the mushrooms discovered on a walk – taking only one basket of edible mushrooms and one basket of ‘interesting’ mushrooms between the whole group. No mushroom is picked twice, and only Wright picks the mushrooms. And of course, only with permission of the landowner.applesPlus, the mushroom is only the reproductive organ of the living organism below ground, so saying that picking mushrooms is harmful, is quite honestly, rubbish. Where the argument against over picking stands is when the forest is laid bare of mushrooms – not perhaps from a conservation point of view, but it is indeed a sad sight.

So this is an interesting argument. With the increasing interest in foraging taking hold, how can we ensure that us, who teach the skill, are being responsible? 

Frankly, I believe that the people I teach to forage – those who want to reconnect with the seasons and their landscape (with respect) and supplement their weekly shop and autumn larders with nutritious and plentiful goodies are not the problem. Like Wright, I only point out items that are so common we would have to all locally down tools and pick for a week to make any kind of dent in the harvest. Hawthorns? Japanese Roses? Nettles? Do me a favour. hawthorn

We never pick items that are rare, or unusual, and if we do discover something, we look and learn.

My personal bugbear with foraging does not sit with people (like me) who run paid for foraging courses, or write books or blogs on the subject. It does not sit with people who post their foraging forays on twitter, facebook and instagram. It certainly does not sit with the individual who picks a kilo of apples on a piece of waste ground. My bugbear sits with those few unscrupulous ‘commercial foragers’ who flaunt the 50 shades of grey areas of the law – picking wherever they can, in large quantities for resale to restaurants and gastropubs. Whenever I see ‘locally foraged’ on a menu I ask questions. Where, who, when? With permission?

Foraging is about being respectful. And the vast majority of us are just that. We respect our local areas, we respect the local biodiversity and we respect the knowledge that has been gathered over generations that we risk losing forever in the eternal glow of the supermarkets.

So will I stop foraging, or teaching people how to forage? Not on your nelly. Knowledge is power and respect comes from education, not ignorance.

2014 recap – March – Mr Popple’s Raw chocolate…

Today on our 2014 recap we are back in the realms of the responsible edibles, with a look at the fantastic Mr Popple’s Raw chocolate…

first published 18 March 2014…

We all know that eating too much chocolate is rather bad for us. It is the essential 4pm sugar hit that we all crave, yet know that really we should eat an apple instead. But, like lots of things in this big old world, not all chocolate is made equal. Some chocolate is, (dare we say it) actually rather good for you. Raw cacao chocolate has stacks of health benefits, including natural stimulants (without the sugar crash) and loads of trace minerals and other loveliness. Mr Popple’s chocolate is not only made from beautiful raw cacao, it has the most wonderful packaging.

popples chocolate 1

This is where the term eating with your eyes really comes into its own – we spotted this beautiful chocolate first by its packaging in hiSbe Food in Brighton (our latest retail design project) and just fell in love with it.

Simple, hairy manilla style brown recycled card, the packaging of Mr Popple’s differentiates each of the delicious flavours with a single, one colour print in the centre of each bar, complete with honest mis-prints and strong logo styles.

popples chocolate 2

We do have a bit of a ‘thing’ for this type of honest and simple packaging and branding as it helps to communicate the honest nature of the brand itself with incredible clarity. A brand using raw ingredients would not really fit a packaging design that is high gloss and multicoloured. It would not work. But get it right, and it really is a powerful tool indeed.

So much so in fact, that we are going to have a bar a week as our treat, not only for the deliciousness of the chocolate itself, but to collect the packaging and drool over that as well. We are, indeed, design geeks.

(photos by claire potter)

december wish list day 8 – Brighton Gin…

We are keeping it local today on our december wish list, with a beverage that has just been launched in our very own city – Brighton Gin.

Created by five Brighton chums who all enjoy a spot of gin, this rather special tipple has literally just hit the shelves. 

We discovered Brighton Gin at the recent hiSbe Food 1st birthday party, where we were all there celebrating one year since the store that the Anslow sisters (plus Jack) had envisaged and we had designed was open. It was a marvellous night of fun – and of gin – specifically Brighton Gin, which is now being stocked at the hiSbe store in York Place Brighton.

And after double checking the Brighton Gin website today, we noticed that it will also be stocked at Quaff in Portland Road – just along the road from our new studio, which is also on Portland Road…

So – when you are stocking your drinks cabinet this year, why not think about getting something new, and if you are in our neighbourhood, something very local…

(images via Brighton Gin)

Wednesday walls – espalier apples, alliums and box…

Today on Wednesday walls we are giving you a very brief peek at our new studio, which is finally taking shape and will be open very soon for the Brighton Eco Open Houses tours in the middle of this month. It is an old public toilet that we have converted into a new design studio (in keeping with our upcycling obsession), and as well as having a lovely interior space, we have a lovely exterior space too – which we are filling with fruit and herbs, including espalier apples, alliums and box. espalier apples alliums and box 1Now, you may be thinking where the wall aspect comes in today – well, with our south facing studio we have two walls which are perfect for fruit trees – and specifically, espalier trained apple trees.

The espalier trees not only benefit from the support of the wall (they will be tied into supports on the wall), the fruit will benefit from the heat that the bricks will store.

espalier apples alliums and box 2We have chosen two espalier apples for the front of the studio, which have now been underplanted with Purple Sensation Alliums, Box (which will be trained into spheres) and lavender, to aid pollination. The rest of the planters are now filled with more bulbs, grasses, herbs and fruit – plus there will be seasonal vegetables planted too over the coming months.

As well as the side walls, we have the front facade of the building, which will soon have a kiwi fruit scrambling up the front and a green wall planted above the cycle racks…

So – make the most of your walls for planting – and get fruity!

(photos by claire potter)

 

Monday musings – Brighton foraging and the edible city

A couple of Saturdays ago, we led a walk around a little patch of our city that we know pretty well – guiding a few people in the ways of edible urban Brighton foraging as part of our edible city month and as part of the Chelsea Fringe.

edible city walk brighton flyer

The day was perfect – wonderfully sunny but with a bit of a breeze, and with everyone turning up we soon had a crowd of 20 or so people, raring to learn a bit of urban foraging. A few people had foraged before, a few had never thought of foraging and it was great to see a couple of families interested in exploring their repertoire of wild foods.

After a run down of the (very complicated) laws of foraging we started our walk, pointing out around 15 different edible flowers, fruits and foliages, from the highly fragrant and blousy Japanese Rose to the very unassuming Hairy Bittercress.

Some of the plants and shrubs were very familiar, others not so, and we told a bit of the ancient folklore that accompanies the uses of the plants as well as uses in modern medicine – especially with our favourite shrub, the hawthorn.

But the most important factor of the day was to show how a relatively short walk can supplement the weekly food shop – urban foraging is not going to replace the supermarket, but why spend a few quid on salad leaves when you can pick them, fresh and tasty on your doorstep for free?

After an hour of walking and talking, loads of photos and chat later (including a couple of stinging nettle casualties) we ended up back at our start point, on a bit of urban greenery right next to a large supermarket, where we had a little foraged picnic feast that we had made, comprising of:

– Elderberry and ginger cordial, wild plum and rum cordial and nettle cordial for the drinks.

– Japanese rose syrup drizzle cupcakes, lilac and lavender shortbreads, ground elder and garlic mustard quiches, mini cheese scones with wild garlic pesto and mini cheese scones with wild apple cheese.

It was a wonderful afternoon – thank you to everyone who attended the event and made it such a success. We will be running a series of these Brighton foraging walks over the coming months, so if you would like to attend one of the next walks, drop us an email – hello@clairepotterdesign.com

And you can read a review from one of the attendees here, at the Epicurious Adventurer.

the perfect pancake

Well, happy pancake day one and all.

We think it is a real shame that pancakes are only really celebrated once a year as they are incredibly quick to make, are nice and interactive to make and can be customised in all manner of ways to suit the seasonal flavours around and about.

So, what makes the perfect pancake? For us, it has to be lovely and thin, with little crispy bits on the side and nice brown blotches. And it must be tossed. Very important.

Our favourite recipe in the studio is the one from River Cottage, which uses either plain flour (which we use for sweet concoctions) or very fine wholemeal flour (which we use for savoury fillings)

Basically:

Sift 250g of flour (plain white or fine wholemeal) into a large bowl with a pinch of sea salt. Make a well in the centre and add in 2 lightly beaten organic eggs and 50ml whole milk. Begin to bring the dry ingredients into the centre of the well, mixing to combine them. Using a jug with 550ml milk in, gradually add more milk bit by bit into the well, combining the wet and dry ingredients until all are together at a consistency of single cream. If it is still thicker, add a little more milk.

Let the bowl of batter rest for at least 30mins while you collect all your fillings together. Top of our list are:

  • golden caster sugar and lemon juice
  • warmed blackberry jam from the larder
  • butter and cinnamon
  • stewed apple and ginger
  • mature cheddar and smoked paprika
  • fried egg and hawthorn ketchup
  • a sprinkle of rose petal syrup
  • a sprinkle of wine mulling syrup

Now comes the all important making. Make sure your chosen pancake pan is heated over a medium heat for a little bit, then add a desert spoon of oil – swirl it around then transfer the excess into a heat proof dish.

Using a small ladle, tip a small amount of batter into the centre of the pan and swirl it around so it is nice and thin. Cook for a minute or two, then, turning up the edges, loosen the pancake from the pan, then after a bit of shaking, flip the pancake over. Cook briefly on the second side.

The first pancake will be absolutely rubbish. This always happens and is duly fed to the chef whilst the second one is cooking.

Get a few together (keep them warm) then all sit down and get creative with your fillings!

Enjoy! Have a flipping good time.

(image via C4)