‘Unchained’ – A touch of vegan glamour on York Shambles market

A glance into York’s independent food scene

York’s daily market has undergone a lot of changes in the last twelve months. As the dust settles on the new market space I stopped by Melrose Organics to ask Jodie Barber why she had decided to join the newly christened York Shambles Market.

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Originally from Sheffield, Jodie moved to Los Angeles to study Visual Communications with the intention of pursuing a career in fashion. During her time in California she became caught up with the trend for organic and ‘clean eating’ sweeping across the West Coast .

“Soon after changing my diet I noticed a big improvement in the condition of my skin and hair. And I generally felt a lot healthier too. That was seven years ago now.”

In 2013 she relocated back to Britain and found herself working as a stylist for Marks and Spencers in York. Frustrated with the lack of organic and vegan food on offer in the city Jodie took action and Melrose Organics was born. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs she is not remotely fazed by the idea of setting out on her own and feels sure that there is a generation of stylish, fashion conscious customers looking for healthy food options to fit into their busy lifestyle.

“I want to show that vegan and organic food is about more than brown rice and eating beans,” urges Jodie. “It has moved on a lot since then. I try to provide plenty of options for people with different allergies and dietary requirements too.”

wpid-imag0444.jpgThe stall has a range of whole wheat  wraps and boxed salads that are inspiring to even the most committed of carnivores. Jodie complements these with a choice of seasonal juices and guilt free sweet treats. I can safely vouch for the delicious sweet potato, mustard and hummus salad and have regularly dropped by just to pick up a bottle of her excellent chocolate almond milk.

Jodie aims to one day find Melrose Organics a permanent home on our high street but is enjoying being part of the York Shambles Market in the meantime. You can’t fail to see the enthusiasm she holds for ‘clean’ eating, and I agree that whether a committed vegan, or simply looking for a healthy lunch alternative, there is plenty to make a hungry foodie like myself very happy.

Jodie can be found Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday on York Shambles Market.

Melrose Organics can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram  as @Melrose_Organic or contacted at info@melrose-organic.com. Check out the website for information on products and keep up to date with changes.

Pared down suppers

As a cookery writer it is easy to get caught up in the avalanche of food trends, exotic ingredients and new gadgets rushing at me from me via social media. Whilst I am normally complicit with the wonder that is our digital world; there are times when I look to step back and bask in the warmth of simplicity. Tonight was such a time.

A heathens arrabiatta

Crush two cloves of garlic. Chop fresh chilli, chorizo and any spare courgette/aubergine/mushrooms knocking about in the fridge. Fry in good quality olive oil.
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Tip over a tin of chopped tomatoes, a sprinkling of sugar and whichever herbs you wish. I had wild oregano and bay to hand. Simmer until thick and unctuous. Boil your pasta.

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When the pasta is almost ready take a few spoonfuls of the cooking water and use it to slacken your sauce to the desired consistency. Toss with the pasta and enjoy in the last of the days sunshine.

The New Black – Healthy Energy Snacks

There is nothing new except that which is forgotten

Marie Antoinette

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I have chosen a History Girls favourite to launch this series combining modern food trends with historical recipes. The demand for reduced sugar, healthy snacks continues to rise; as does the use of dried fruits, nuts and seeds within the diet and exercise industry. In the vein that nothing is new, let me introduce you to the original energy snack.

Ancient Egyptian Tiger Nuts

Tiger nut illustration

Consisting of a mix of dried fruits, almonds, honey and sometimes sesame seeds, Tiger Nuts date back to 1400 BC. They are named after the edible tuber of Cyperus grass, a commonly used plant native to ancient Egypt. The ingredients can be found engraved into stone tablets of the era and are referenced in the Old Testament story of Joseph and his eleven brothers. Many components of this simple recipe were expensive food stuffs at the time; with honey revered as a food of the Gods and only available to the extremely wealthy.

A few food facts

  • Dates are high in dietary fibre, iron, potassium and contain good levels of vitamin A.
  • Figs contain soluble fibre, potassium, magnesium, iron and are excellent sources of vitamins A, E and K.
  • Almonds are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids – which can be helpful in lowering bad cholesterol levels – and supply you with healthy Vitamin E and B-Complex vitamins.

tiger nuts image 3The Recipe

The secret of these goodness packed little mouthfuls is their simplicity. The ingredients are not cheap but you can make quite a lot in one batch and store them almost indefinitely in an air tight container. They never last long in our house though!

  1. 250g dried dates
  2. 100g ready to eat figs
  3. 75g sliced or chopped almonds
  4. Honey to bind
  5. Toasted sesame seeds to coat (optional)

tiger nut image 2Rough chop the dates and figs and combine with the almonds in a large bowl. Squeeze in a small amount of honey and use your hands to bring all of the ingredients together. Add more honey as you need to but try not to make the mixture overly sticky. Form small amounts into balls about the size of a walnut, pressing together with your fingers and rolling between the palms of your hands as you go.

Lay out onto a baking tray and leave to air dry overnight. Pack away and store in a cool, dry place.

Cinnamon, cumin, coriander or aniseed can be added by those who wish to spice things up and they are also quite delicious rolled in toasted sesame seeds.

Rememberance of Things Past

This week I have been developing a lemon and cardamom recipe for madeleines.

First melt the butter…

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then whisk the eggs and sugar…

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Flour, baking powder, lemon zest and the beautiful ground cardamom….

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Combine, apply heat and…..
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Ras El Hanout

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Ras El Hanout spice mix with rose petals

My store cupboard is packed with spices from food cultures all over the world. None of them lift my mood quite like the complex notes of a good quality Ras El Hanout.

Use in a dry rub, as part of a marinade or simply stir into a tomato based stew for warming depth of flavour

July In Focus – Summer herbs

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British summer herbs from left to right – Mint, Flat leaf parsley, Easy Cook Mixed Grains, Dill and Watercress

In addition to an abundance of soft fruit, July also heralds the verdant arrival of fresh herbs. A far cry from the dry, sawdust filled jars of my childhood, modern home cooks can now add a plethora of bright flavours to their dishes.

Beyond the ubiquitous basil of an Italian pasta or spicy coriander in a handmade curry, many cooks still report a lack of confidence when utilising herbs in their repertoire. On top of adding depth and complexity to an otherwise simple dish, herbs are often packed with numerous vitamins and minerals required for a healthy diet. This month’s ‘In Focus’ thread concentrates on how to get the best out of this powerhouse ingredient.

Herby Mixed Grain Salad

The mixed grains give a nuttier texture to this salad and many combinations are available in supermarkets or health food stores. Mine contained emmer, barley, durum wheat and buckwheat as well as red and black rice. You can replace the mixed grains with extra 85g of couscous if feels easier. Delicious served warm with steamed fish or cool to room temperature and add the watercress and radish for a satisfying vegetarian lunch.

Serves 4

  • 90g quick cook mixed grains
  • Half a chicken stock cube
  • Small handful of green beans
  • A good handful each of flat leaf parsley, mint and dill
  • One small courgette
  • 100g couscous
  • Peel and juice of 1 lemon
  • Slug of cold pressed rapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 80 – 100g bunch of watercress (optional)
  • 8 – 12 chopped radishes (optional)

Method

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  • Put the quick cook mixed grains and half a stock cube in a pan and cover with boiling water. Cook according to pack instructions.
  • Top and the tail the green beans. Add to the pan around 7-8 minutes before the grains are due to be cooked.
  • Finely chop the herbs and dice the raw courgette. Put to one side. Pour your couscous into a heat proof dish and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the zest of half a lemon and a good slug of the rapeseed oil. Combine well.
  • Once the grains are cooked and the green beans al dente, drain and keep the cooking water.
  • Take your heatproof bowl and just cover the couscous with the reserved water from earlier. Top up with hot water from your kettle if required. Leave until the water is fully absorbed and you can fluff the couscous up with a fork.
  • Prepare to assemble the salad. In a large dish combine the grains, green beans, couscous, herbs and diced courgette. If serving at room temperature toss with the watercress and scatter on the crunchy radishes before serving.

Tips for buying and using herbs

  1. Buy what you need and no more if you can. Most summer herbs don’t keep well in the fridge. If you use a particular herb on a regular basis then you can find a great selection of healthy plants at your local garden centre.
  2. Look to other cultures for herb based inspiration. Dill can be found running through Ukrainian and Norwegian recipes, whilst the combination of parsley, mint, garlic and lemon is the linchpin of Middle Eastern salads.
  3. Don’t be scared of big flavours. Experiment. What’s the worse that can happen?

A spicy British breakfast

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I recently purchased a chilli plant for my window ledge. It is absolutely covered in fruits, I only hope that I can keep it alive long enough to take full advantage. (House plants and I don’t have a great history of success.)

This constant supply of fresh and fairly hot chillies has triggered a craving for one of my favourite breakfast options. Simple but rewarding this dish deserves only the best of ingredients so I popped out to buy Yorkshire free range eggs and outdoor bred, British bacon from my local butchers and grabbed the frying pan.

Middle bacon with spicy eggs and tomatoes.

Serves One

Fry two slice of middle bacon and set aside to drain. Throw 6 or 7 cherry tomatoes into the pan and cook over a low heat whilst preparing the eggs.

For the spicy eggs

wpid-wp-1435050381462.jpegBeat three eggs, salt and pepper in a large cup. Finely chop one small, hot chilli pepper. Roughly chop a handful of fresh coriander.

When the tomatoes are just cooked, remove from the pan and set aside. Fry the chilli pepper for 1-2 minutes then pour in the beaten and seasoned eggs. Stir as for scrambled eggs. Fold in the coriander just before they reach your chosen consistency and remove from the heat. wpid-wp-1435050691962.jpeg

Plate up the eggs, bacon and tomatoes and enjoy with a big mug of coffee.

June In Focus – Elderflower

wpid-wp-1434541395899.jpegJune offers an abundance of choice when it comes to the culinary calendar. 2015 has already given us a longer than is usual opportunity to try the deliciously grassy stems of asparagus and early British strawberries are now hitting market stalls across the country. This month also brings free food options with nettle tops, dandelion leaves and elderflower ripe for picking.

With brands like Bottlegreen and Belvoir introducing the floral sweetness of elderflower to the national consciousness it still surprises me how few of us utilise this delightful flower in our home cookery repertoire. Celebrity chefs annually share their recipes for home made  cordial and you will find my preferred Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe on his website.

If you don’t have time to harvest a bag full of blossoms and devote a couple of days to create your own cordial don’t despair. Just three or four of these scented blossoms can always be used to add a top note to your every day baking. In this month’s In Focus I share a few tips for harvesting and preparation along with a quick summer crumble recipe which puts the flowers to good use.

Tips for harvesting

  • Elderflower should be picked on a warm, dry day as the scent is lost in particularly damp weather.
  • Look for open, full blossoms covered in creamy coloured pollen. The bigger the flower heads the better.
  • Never wash your elderflower. Pick over for insects but remember not to shake too hard or you will also lose all of the flavour giving pollen. For this reason I try to make sure that I don’t collect flowers from the roadside.
  • The stalks can be toxic so be careful to snip the tiny flowers off close to the petal base.

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Rhubarb and Elderflower Crumble

  • 500g rhubarb (approx 4 full stalks)
  • 70ml water
  • 3 -4 heads of elderflower
  • 4 teaspoons caster sugar
  • 150g wholemeal self raising flour
  • 50g rolled oats
  • 100g butter
  • 50g caster sugar

Trim and chop your rhubarb into pieces around an inch long. Place into a pan with the water and three teaspoons of caster sugar. Bring to the boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cover with a lid.

wpid-wp-1434541154537.jpegAs the fruit cooks prepare the elderflower. Using a pair of scissors snip off the tiny flowers into a saucer, catching all the pollen too. Tip all the flowers and pollen into the pan with the rhubarb and replace the lid. Continue to simmer for about ten minutes or until the stems are just cooked through.

wpid-wp-1434540923175.jpegCombine the flour and oats and rub in the butter to a breadcrumb texture. Stir in the 50g of caster sugar. Spoon the rhubarb into a shallow oven proof dish and pour over any residual syrup from the pan as this will be infused with the scent of the blossom. If you don’t like your puddings too tart then sprinkle on the remaining  teaspoon of sugar before topping with as much of the crumble mixture as you wish.

Bake for around thirty minutes at 160C /Gas Mark 4

Making York a Fair Trade City

Since 2004 a group of volunteers have been working behind the scenes to maintain York’s status as a fair trade city. They state Fair Trade – as opposed to Fairtrade – because there are many ways in which everyone can support fairly traded goods even when they don’t meet the exacting status of the official Fairtrade movement. With the celebration of International Fair Trade Day in May, Claire Davies met with Helen Harrison and Kathryn Tissiman to discuss their work within the York Fair Trade Forum.

 

Why worry about fair trade?

Most people have seen the Fairtrade label on the coffee, tea and chocolate sitting on our supermarket shelves. But fair trade is about much more than paying a little more for food and drink products imported from developing countries. For a deeper understanding of the various goals of the Fairtrade Foundation you can read more on the website. But how does this affect us on a local level? Why are the Forum working to keep York a Fairtrade city? Kathryn points out that fair trade principles apply to every aspect of trading, whether that be buying bananas grown in Columbia or milk produced at a Yorkshire Dales dairy farm. “I firmly believe that we live in a global village and we have a responsibility as global citizens. Fair trade is about fair prices and conditions for everyone.”

 

What does it mean to hold the Fair Trade City status?

On the most basic level it involves engaging local business, institutions and public services with fairly traded products. Local retail outlets such as Fairer World and Alligator Wholefoods are longstanding stalwarts of the fair trade principles. The Forum have supported a total of 79 churches to become fair trade champions and hope to encourage more to join through 2015/16. More recently York City Council have also come on board – with a recent display in West Offices and a commitment to use Fairtrade tea and coffee throughout their offices.

With the status under review every two years, the Forum set new goals and objectives to keep improving year on year. The annual Schools Conference engages children, parents and teachers with concepts such as global education and social justice, laying the foundations with generations to come.

 

In an attempt to become a more diverse group the Forum also holds links with the city’s universities and a student body from York Uni now attends the monthly meetings. A publication around the history of fair trade throughout the ages and a booklet with details of a fair trade trail around the city are also in the pipeline.

 

Where will I find fair trade products?

The selection of food and drink establishments is varied. A full list can be found  on the traders section of their website, but as a local food enthusiast I wanted to finish on a few of my favourites. To find out more about the work of the Forum and how to get involved you will find York Fair Trade Forum on Facebook or at their website.

Places to visit

Bar Convent Café, 17 Blossom Street

Explore Central Library café – Library Square

Alligator Wholefoods – 104 Fishergate

Henshelwoods Delicatessen – 10 Newgate

Tarts and Titbits Delicatessen – 78 Gillygate