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Posts from the ‘In Our Basket’ Category


My Christmas Chocolate Treats

Divine chocolateWe love chocolate. Not the sweet, cloying stuff you can buy in big bars, made using all kinds of ingredients and added chemicals.

Oh no. We love dark, dark chocolate often referred to by is percentage cocoa solids. One such is the Divine 70% Dark Chocolate with Ginger and Orange. Suitable for vegetarians and carrying the Kosher mark, it is available in Sainsburys nationwide and online £1.69.

Divine chocolate is only made with the best Fairtrade cocoa beans from Kuapa Kokoo, a coopertive of smallholder farmers in Ghana. Many of you will know all about Divine chocolate, but have you noticed the brand new Christmas gift boxes – dark chocolate disks with mint, and dark chocolate with raspberry.Divine gift sets

The raspberry taste is really fantastic, the aroma is enticing and the taste confirms your wise decision to eat it!

All the chocolate is free from artificial flavourings, preservatives and colourings.

Available from Waitrose, Booths, Liberty of London and Oxfam. RRP £4.50

Divine Chocolate barsThe other Divine chocolate allowed in the house – not much is because we just eat it until it has gone and then we feel rather guilty – is the 70% Dark Chocolate Covered Salted Fudge. This is a serious grown-up fudge, you experience a mouthful of delightful textures and tastes. Like no other fudge we have ever come across, we will have a secret stock … Only offered to those who really appreciate unusual, top quality confectionary!

Read all about the Divine range on their website where you will find recipes for cooking with chocolate … They have a shop on line as well.

Val Reynolds, Editor

Luscious Chocolate Recipes

Ok, you’ve guessed! We’re total chocoholics and we want to share our love with you! Here are some more of our favourite recipes from Menier, the cooking chocolate we couldn’t be without.
Mexican Pinto Bean, Sweet Pepper & Garlic Soup with an Avocado Salsa  – Serves 4-6 Ingredients:

Mexican Pinto Bean, Sweet Pepper & garlic Soup with Avocado Salsa

Mexican Pinto Bean, Sweet Pepper & Garlic Soup with Avocado Salsa

Soup 5 tbsp olive oil 1 medium red onion, finely diced 6 garlic cloves, crushed 1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped 1 red pepper, de-seeded and roughly chopped 1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and roughly chopped 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper 1 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp ground coriander 1 tsp smoked paprika 2 tbsp tomato purée 1 tin pinto beans, drained 2 tins chopped tomatoes 400ml vegetable stock 35ml red wine vinegar 1 tbsp white sugar 30g Menier dark chocolate 1 tsp salt Large pinch ground black pepper Avocado Salsa 1 ripe avocado ½ red onion, finely diced ½ red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped 1 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped Juice of 1 lime 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Large pinch salt To make the soup: Heat the olive oil in a medium/large saucepan. Once hot, add the onions, garlic and red and yellow peppers, stir and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the onion and peppers start to colour and soften. Add the fresh red chilli and all the ground spices – cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika – then gently cook for approximately 15 – 20 minutes. If it starts to catch on the bottom, add a little water. Add the red wine vinegar, sugar and tomato purée, stir and cook for a further 5 minutes.  Add the pinto beans, chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock.  Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and gently simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, to make the avocado salsa, peel, stone and finely dice the avocado. Place in a bowl and combine with the red onion, chilli, coriander, extra virgin olive oil and lime juice.  Season with the salt, and set to one side. To serve: Ladle the soup into 4 pre-heated bowls and top with a good spoonful of the avocado salsa, a dollop of sour cream, and a drizzle extra virgin olive oil. The soup should be served piping hot.
White Chocolate, Raspberry and Lime Drizzle Cake     Serves 8 – 10 Ingredients:

White Chocolate, Raspberry and Lime Drizzle Cake

White Chocolate, Raspberry and Lime Drizzle Cake

Lime Syrup: Juice of 5 limes Zest of 1 lime 140g golden caster sugar Cake Mix: 220g golden caster sugar 225g unsalted butter, softened 4 medium-sized eggs Juice of 2 limes Zest of 1 lime 25g ground almonds 210g raspberries 100g Menier white chocolate, chopped 250g self-raising flour For the cake: Pre heat oven to 160°C. Line the base and sides of a 22cm square cake tin with greaseproof paper, then butter the paper and set aside. Cream the sugar and butter together until light in colour and texture, then gradually beat in the eggs. If they start curdling, add a little flour, folding in gently. Add the lime zest, followed by the rest of the flour and the ground almonds. Next, add the lime juice one spoonful at a time, as you don’t want the mixture to be too wet. (It needs to be dropping consistency.) Gently fold in ¾ of the white chocolate and the raspberries, then pour the mixture into the lined cake tin. Give the tin a little shake to ensure that the mixture spreads evenly to the corners.  Place the rest of the chocolate and raspberries on top. Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is firm to touch. To make the lime syrup: Put the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan and place on a moderate heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat and add the lime zest. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, prick the cake all over with a metal skewer, then pour the syrup all over the top of the cake. Leave for 1 hour so that the cake absorbs all of the syrup. To serve: Remove the cake from the tin, then gently pull away the greaseproof paper. Cut into wedges and dust with icing sugar.
Hot Chocolate Mocha – Makes 2 generous cups Ingredients:

Hot Chocolate Mocha

Hot Chocolate Mocha

100g Menier dark chocolate 400ml whole milk 20ml double cream 1 tsp vanilla essence 1 cinnamon stick 50ml strong coffee 2 tbsp orange blossom honey For garnish; 2 cinnamon sticks (optional) Put the chocolate in to a heatproof bowl and set to one side. Place the milk, cream, vanilla, cinnamon stick, honey and the coffee in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, set aside to steep for 30 minutes. When the milk mixture has steeped, place the saucepan back on the heat and bring back to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and let the milk subside. Pour a small amount of the hot milk and cream over the chocolate and stir to a smooth consistency, then gradually pour in the remaining milk, stirring gently until the chocolate is completely melted. Return the chocolate mixture to the saucepan and reheat gently. Don’t let it boil at this stage or it might split. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk to a foam using a balloon whisk or a cappuccino frother. Pour into pre-warmed cups or heat proof glasses and garnish each with a cinnamon stick.
More Cooking with Chocolate features:
Cooking with Chocolate – Gifts for all occasions
Cooking with Chocolate – Sweet and Savoury
Chocolate Cake for Coeliacs
Menier Swiss premium cooking chocolate is available in major supermarkets nationwide with a RRP of £1.19.
Val Reynolds, Editor


New Cereals for Coeliacs – In Our Basket

Bread is not an option for coeliacs

Bread is not an option for coeliacs

It has often been suggested that many people could benefit from a gluten-free diet for many reasons. Gluten is a sticky starch (gliadin) found in wheat and related cereals such as barley and rye but absent in rice and other related cereals. Most doctors agree that bowel problems are mainly genetic. Ancient Greeks gave its name, Coeliac.

The problem arises from an immune reaction to an enzyme in the starch, causing an inflammation in the small bowel, damaging the food absorption process.

Symptoms may range from extreme intolerance – excessive tiredness to extreme bowel problems (IBS) – to a barely noticeable effect.

Interestingly tennis player Novak Djokovitch claims his stamina has improved since switching to a gluten-free diet. Djokovitch has sworn off pasta, pizza, beer, French bread, Corn Flakes, pretzels, empanadas, Mallomars and Twizzlers — anything with gluten, since last year. And with the results he achieved in 2011 who’s to say he is wrong!!!

Choco Crispies made by The Groovy Food Company is one of our favourite gluten free breakfast foods. These really are crispy and yummylicious as they describe on the box! Specially made for coeliacs in a totally and utterly dedicated gluten free environment they are free from wheat, dairy, colourings, dodgy additives and sweetened with Agave Nectar.

Special flakes - a maize and rice mix © Pintail Media

Special flakes - a maize and rice mix © Pintail Media

Others in the range include Cornflakes, Frosted Flakes and Special Flakes made from a maize and rice mix.

We have tried them all and have to confess we liked the Choco Crispies best … we blame our chocolate addiction!

The Groovy Food Company cereal collection is available throughout major multiples and health food stores nationwide and online at: More information on

The Coeliac UK website gives a great deal more valuable information.


EATING AL FRESCO – Picnic time is any time!

Punting on The Cam © Pintail Media

Punting on The Cam © Pintail Media

It’s always picnic time when the sun’s out, the river looks enticing and we’re in a hurry!

We grabbed a couple of packs of pate*, a french loaf, butter in a tub, some paper plates, a sharp knife**, something refreshing to drink, plastic cups and we were off.

Off to Cambridge for a break – why not? It’s the start of the term and yes there’ll be visitors galore, but it’s always possible to find a grassy spot on the river bank and have a great time with friends, gossiping, remembering times past, dreaming of good times to come. That’s the atmosphere we find whatever the weather.

It feels so good with the sun warming your bones on a cool autumn day, lounging on the grass, drinking in the view, admiring, or not, the prowess of the punters. We always feel better after a break away from the desk. Of course it doesn’t need to be Cambridge … Anywhere quiet and green with something to focus your attention on is good. Great for reducing blood pressure – frequent breaks from the pressures of publishing  are a must for us.

We took some Castle MacLellan pates. Three of us had tried them previously. Here are our preferences, each marked out of ten, ten being the top mark.

Mushroom with garlic and thyme – 9 – memorable, would buy this regularly

Salmon with lemon juice and horseradish 9 – excellent, would definitely buy it if we saw it in the supermarket

Duck with bramley apple jelly  7 – good but not outstanding

Crab with lemon juice and Galloway mustard – 6 – good but not outstanding, perhaps more mustard would give it more of a bite

Chicken pate with Scottish heather honey – 5 – needed more of a bite to make it memorable, bacon perhaps, or garlic, personally we added some lemon juice when we had it on toast and in a sandwich.

Punting on The Cam © Pintail Media

Punting on The Cam © Pintail Media

Castle MacLelland products are available at Waitrose, Nisa, Coop/Somerfield, Spar, Booths and also in Sainsbury and Morrisons (crab only), Asda (Scotland stores only) as well as independent stores throughout the UK.

The Crab is on special offer in Sainsbury’s reduced from £1.25 to just £1 from 31 August to 20 September – four days left!

**Sharp knife is needed to open the seal on the pate packs.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


Tropical Fruits Giveaway – Are you a Winner?


The winners of the Tropical Fruits Giveaway are:

K Bolton, Wilts
N Clifford, London
L Jeffs, London
K Christodoulou, Herts
S Darby, London
D Johnson, Devon
H Izzard, Manchester
C McLeary, London
D Criscuolo, Surrey
D Hilliard, Powys

Not a winner? Perhaps you didn’t include all your contact details. Two entries drawn didn’t include postal details so we had to draw again.

Why miss out on future giveaways we will be offering soon … books, skincare, tickets to shows …  Just click on the Sign me up! box at the bottom of the righthand column


Miró the Surrealist – Major Retrospective 2011

Approach to Miró the Surrealist - Major Retrospective Tate Modern 2011

Approach to Miró the Surrealist - Major Retrospective Tate Modern 2011

The major retrospective of Joan Miró the Surrealist at Tate Modern 2011 comes to an end on Sunday, 11 September.

Renowned as one of the greatest Surrealist painters, working in luxuriant colour, Miró worked in a rich variety of styles. This is a rare opportunity to enjoy more than 150 paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints created across six decades of an extraordinary career.

Give yourself at least two hours to take in this exhibition, I went round twice, using the audio commentary. I came out rather over ‘Miróed’ but completely in awe of his range of artistic styles. Overall I looked at The Farm for the longest. It has such a story to tell, I could have looked at it for hours and even then found something new to see.

This really was intended as a must-see exhibition by Tate Modern and for once I agree. If you can squeeze in a visit this weekend I think you won’t regret it.

The last exhibition tour on Saturday is at 12.15 for just 15 visitors. This costs £5 plus of ticket £15.50, concessions £13.50. The exhibition closes on Sunday. You can Book online or call 020 7887 8888.


Real Fruit Drinks – no added sugar – Just the job for the Picnic Basket

Latest Tasting News

We’ve just tried a range of fruit drinks that contains no added sugar, just 100% natural ingredients, and which helps to fulfil your five a day diet. And very good they are too!

cloudy lemon drinkYou can choose between still or gently sparkling flavours, we loved the sparkly Cloudy Lemon and the still Orange and Mango. The Cranberry and Pomegranate appealed to the older teens and the younger kids loved the small cartons. The grownups appreciated the good, solid feel of the glass bottles, recyclable.

Where to buy? Supermarkets and you will see them in Costa Coffee shops and in Orchid pubs and restaurants.

So what’s the story behind this range of drinks? 

Founded by three friends who had all worked together at Coca Cola, Dave Wallwork, Chris Wright and Steve Cooper created the company with the simple aim of making gorgeous tasting, healthy soft drinks, and to have fun while doing it.

Feel Good logoFeel Good by name and Feel Good by nature, the company’s ambition is to spread ‘feelgoodness’ throughout everything it does; whether that’s developing a brand new range of drinks packed full of the good stuff, making drinkers smile with their marketing activities, or giving each team member five extra ‘feelgoodness’ days off each year to help out a charity that means something to them!

Globally, Feel Good Drinks can be found in no less than 12 countries including Hong Kong, Finland, France, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Norway and Ireland – and this number is growing all the time!

Enjoy some feelgoodness for yourself! Visit or the doodling website to get your creative juices flowing!

PS If you can’t get enough mango do try some dried fruit from Tropical Wholefoods, available in all good health food stores, Oxfam stores, Fairtrade shops and catalogues and of course at our favourite online supplier GoodnessDirect We love ’em! And we are giving some packets away click here for info


The Tropical Tale behind Delicious Dried Fruits+Bundles of Giveaways!*

We enjoy hearing about successful projects with a strong social theme and Tropical Wholefoods is just that with the bonus of selling great products. We love their dried mangoes and there’s a whole range of dried fruit, mushrooms and even vanilla, to choose from available in good healthfood stores, Oxfam, Fairtrade stores and online. You can enter the giveaway of bundles of gorgeous Tropical Wholefoods healthy Fairtrade goodies at the bottom of the page.*

Adam Brett grew up in Uganda but went to the UK during the Amin period and subsequent civil war. In the late 1980s, he returned to Uganda as an adult with a plan: to enable Ugandan farmers to produce quality sun dried fruits using a low tech, low cost solar drier he had designed.

Dried mangoes

Dried mangoes

Teaming up with a Ugandan friend, Angello Ndyaguma and his English partner Kate Sebag, Adam set up the fairtrade company Fruits of the Nile. It distributed solar driers to farmers at cost, trained them in using and constructing them and then bought the resulting dried fruits at guaranteed good prices from the farmers. Soon, considerable numbers of farmers began working with the driers, producing gorgeous sun dried pineapple, bananas and mangoes for onward sale.

Back in England, Adam and Kate marketed the products under the label Tropical Wholefoods, initially from market stalls and then from a factory in south London. They quickly built up a small but dedicated fan club for Tropical Wholefoods products. People were attracted by the fresh and powerful flavour of the dried fruits – especially because they were 100% natural with no added preservatives or sugars. Preparing the fruitBecause the fruits were dried immediately after harvesting, they preserved extremely good flavours. The buying public also liked the simplicity and directness of the operation and the clear benefits that Tropical Wholefoods was able to deliver back to farmers in Uganda.

Dried apricots

Dried apricots

Adam and Kate were able to sell directly to retail shops in London and attracted the custom of larger distributors in the health food and delicatessen trade. According to Kate, “Running a packaging factory and doing delivery runs around the capital wasn’t exactly what we imagined we would be doing when we started the business. We thought we would be living in Uganda, but we found that intensive marketing and product control in UK was necessary to build our brand.” With Adam and Kate deeply involved in building a market in the UK, day to day control of the Uganda operation passed to Angello Ndyaguma. Supported by a number of Ugandan aid agencies, Angello undertook extensive training sessions with farmers in solar drying operations and business management. Today, there are about 100 different solar drying sites in Uganda, who have organised themselves into six different Community Based Organisations.

Mango harvest

Mango harvest

Dried pineapple

Dried pineapple

In many cases, people operating solar driers use their own fresh fruit to fill their driers, adding value to fresh fruit.  Solar drier owners also buy fresh fruit from other farmers, therefore providing them too with a market for their produce.  Both fresh fruit farmers and solar dryer operators are certified Fairtrade by the international Fairtrade Organisation FLO.

After nearly 20 years of operation Fruits of the Nile estimates that at least 1,000 adults are benefiting from the solar drying operations they have initiated and trading with around Uganda. The most common use people have for their additional income is to pay children’s secondary school fees and medical bills, neither of which are freely available in Uganda. One of the producer groups, Nakatundu Muslim Farmers Group, has also been able to send one of their founder members, Umaru Wasswa, back to school:

“Thanks to solar drying our pineapple, I have not only been able to send my child to a good city boarding school, I also have now managed to go back to school to advance on my academic standards as I had dropped out when my dad passed away,” says Umaru.

Sangar TON community

Sangar TON community

Farmers are also able to improve their farms and homesteads by being involved in solar drying. When people expand their solar drying operations, they often incorporate drying fans powered by solar electricity into the dryer, so speeding up their fruit processing. This also provides the opportunity to install solar lighting and power into their houses and community centres. Since very few villages in rural Africa or Asia have access to the national electrical grid, this is a great resource to have. As Umaru comments, “Now I no longer use candles but electricity in a rural Ugandan village!” 

Apricot kernels

Apricot kernels

Tropical  Wholefoods’ good example in Uganda led other fairtrade businesses in developing countries to get in touch and Adam and Kate are now trading and doing business development work with partners in Burkina Faso, West Africa,  Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.



Back in the UK, Tropical Wholefoods teamed up with Fullwell Mill in 2001. Initially a small Sunderland bakery employing people with special needs, Fullwell Mill has now expanded to a staff of 35 who pack all Tropical Wholefoods products as well as baking their dried fruit and cereal bars and making energy and health food bars for other companies.

Fullwell Mill now owns the Tropical Wholefoods brand, and Kate and Adam are directors of FM along with original founders Richard Friend and Peter Fawcett. This merger has left Adam and Kate freer to concentrate on development work overseas as well as marketing work in the UK.

Alya Noorin, Mountain Fruits, Northern Pakistan

Alya Noorin, Mountain Fruits, Northern Pakistan

In 2003, Fullwell Mill was awarded first place in the North East for the Inner City 100 Index – an index launched by Gordon Brown MP, the New Economic Foundation and Royal Bank of Scotland to reward the fastest growing and best run inner city companies in the UK. Nationally, FM was sixth overall. This is not the only prize to have been collected by the Tropical Wholefoods/FM Foods team. In 1998, they were the winners of the World Vision Award for Development, when the judges commented that “Tropical Wholefoods are an outstanding entrepreneurial team, giving heart to people who would not normally aspire to a stake in the quality end of the food market of the developed world.” In 2000, they won the National Westminster and Directory of Social Change Enterprising Solutions Award.  In 2010, FM were winners of Sainsburys’ Own Brand Supplier Awards – Best for Corporate Responsibility.

Tropical Wholefoods website has an excellent recipe section, we specially liked the mango chutney and amoretti biscuits recipes.

Amoretti biscuits

Amoretti biscuits

Bread and butter pudding

Bread and butter pudding

Tropical Wholefoods products are available in all good health food stores, Oxfam stores, Fairtrade shops and catalogues and of course at our favourite online supplier GoodnessDirect

Call 0845 258 2781/2782 for details of your local stockist

*WE HAVE TEN BUNDLES OF Gorgeous Tropical Wholefoods health Fairtrade goodies to GIVEAWAY to IN BALANCE READERS


Last date of entry 30 August 2011  One entry per household


The winners announced on 8 September 2011

Apricot kernalsFruit bars



We love Wine especially Pinot Grigio on a Sunny Day!

Pinot Grigio

The wine just slipped down so easily, no sharpness, clear white wine that we drank all afternoon. It was so good, and reminded me of hot sunny days in France, in the countryside, where I spent so many summers, so many years ago.

I bought it by chance from Virgin Wines when they had a week of specials and I splashed out on the Pinot Grigio, four bottles from the Piedmont area in Italy, four bottles from South Africa and four bottles from d’Arcana in Italy. They are so good I have decided to buy another case!

Can Rafols 2001

I also bought some Can Rafols 2001. Made with great care using no chemicals whatsover, this Spanish wine compares well with classic bordeaux and at £9.99 a bottle it has to be the best bargain going! In fact the six bottle cases sold out quickly. There were still some twelve bottle cases on the website when I looked today, have a look to see if there are any still available. We have until 2021 to drink it at its best! We can really spread it out – that would be roughly a bottle to celebrate every six months! – with fillet steak, sautéd onion, boiled new potatoes. Oh bliss!

2009 Bordeaux

2009 Bordeaux

There are still some cases of 2009 Bordeaux vintage wines, three bottles of four wines. Am tempted to buy some to put to one side … Yes, I’ll go for it! Good health!

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


Gorgeous, meaty, tasty … Cornish Pasty

Gorgeous, meaty, tasty, great pastry, a good mouthful … just some of the remarks made when we tried the Ginsters Original Cornish Pasty, no, not the chefs! – you’ll see them later!

Ginsters Cornish Pasty

Ginsters Cornish Pasty

Considering the recipe hasn’t changed since Ginsters set up business in 1968, the remarks are testament to its pedigree!

All ingredients used are sourced locally to ensure they are the freshest possible and Cornish. This includes the meat, the cheese, double cream and vegetables.

So, what did we try and what did we think?

We tried the Chicken and Mushroom Slice: Mm, delicious, great pastry, distinctive sauce. One of us would have liked more meat. One mum said it would be a good standby in the freezer when having a hard day and not wanting to produce something substantial for the family. We had a carrot and celery salad to go with it  on a hot day, and spinach and broccoli on a cool day. We heated the slices up on both occasions. Overall the women preferred this product.

Steak Slice: Popular with the men, we thought it was a good snack. Heated up it would be a good meal with vegetables. It was very meaty and well seasoned.

Cornish Pasty: This authentic recipe went down well with the men who like a satisfying filling product. Good pastry texture, could really taste the meat, good pub grub! Great heated up and makes a good meal with vegs.

Eaten hot or cold our findings were positive enough for us to be sure to look for them on our next trip to the supermarket. They are good for on the go, to take on picnics and a great fall back if we don’t have much time to cook. In fact, the freezability of all the products made them very desirable indeed, and with the reassurance of quality ingredients they are a knockout!

We’ll be keeping a look out for other Ginsters products especially the new Cornish Bara, a new creation of the creative chefs at Ginsters.

A cross between a sandwich and a pasty, they are designed to be ideal for eating on the go, without any mess. Can see the kids liking these!

Toby, Graham, Stefan

More information on

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