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Durham21′s New Food Section ‘Nom’ On How To Be Fairtrade, The Student Way

Posted on 2nd November 2010. No Comment

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In the first of our new series on how to eat well in Durham, Gwen Smith explores how to cook Fairtrade on a student budget.

Fairtrade, the student way
As students we generally want to save up the cash rather than splurging on expensive food all the time. In the supermarket, I guess most of us think more about having to rush to the next lecture rather than launching into complex ponderings about the ethical implications of our food selection. In the same way we can flick over from harrowing images on the news at ten and be laughing about Monica’s cornrows on ‘Friends’ in a matter of seconds, we can munch on the delights of a Yorkie bar without considering how it is made or who has been exploited in making it.

Fairtrade won’t be leaving us with any excuse to claim ignorance for long.

Does this make us evil horrendous people? Hopefully not. I doubt we would think the same way about our cheap coffee if we witnessed some of the scenes of poverty across the world at first hand. However, surely the idea that ‘ignorance is no defence of a crime’ rings true in this situation? We may not be condemned to the inner circle of hell just yet, but our ostrich impression is wearing thin. Fairtrade won’t be leaving us with any excuse to claim ignorance for long. The ethical brand is constantly expanding: only three products appeared on shop shelves in 1994 whereas now we can choose between over three thousand. Even supermarkets have cottoned on to the innovation, with the Co-op selling only fair trade hot beverages and Tesco offering their own fair trade brands of roses, mangoes, citrus fruits, avocados and cookies (hurrah).

Durham University itself resides in a hub of fair trade opportunity. Paul Chandler, the CEO of ‘Traidcraft’ is a fellow of Chad’s and Richard Adams, one of the company’s founding members, was a student in John’s in the sixties. This reflects happily on the Bailey: on a trip to John’s, one can visit the ‘Just World Shop’ and it’s Fairtrade coffee house which are open from 1 till four in the afternoon or 9 till eleven in the night. SLAG also helps steer us towards fair trade buying, handing out fair-trade teabags after this Christmas break last year and making Valentine’s Day a tad more exciting by promoting fair trade chocolate and condoms. Goodness.

Most of aren’t saintly enough to forsake the thrill of the bargain shelf every day of the week

So how can we get ourselves eating and thinking ethically without making the student loan whine in pain? I think we have to be realistic, most of aren’t saintly enough to forsake the thrill of the bargain shelf every day of the week. It may be more doable to buy one major ingredient fair-trade and then base the dish around that, to make sure that the extra expense will pay off. Unfortunately we’re pretty limited in Durham in the way of having accessible and widely stocked supermarkets so it is probably easier to concentrate on finding fair trade chocolate, coffee, tea, fruit and vegetables during term time. However, during the holidays, it’s a great idea to try making stir fries using fair trade vegetables and bean sprouts, which can be found in the Co-op. Add Tesco’s fair-trade peanuts for an authentic twist. If we start doing this as students, surely it means that when graduate unemployment hell finally comes to an end and we are presented with a welcome pay cheque, we’ll be more likely to make the right food choices in the future.

Buying local produce also helps us along the ethical road

Even though it may not hit the fair-trade mark, buying local produce also helps us along the ethical road: try Durham farmers market which happens on the third Thursday of each month in Market Square or buying only fruit and veg which is in season. ‘Jeeves’’ Grocer offers deals on the fibrous stuff to Hatfield and Mary’s students, so have a scout around there if you’re hovering in the viaduct.

Just for some ideas, here are a few food ideas that benefit from a bit of fair-trade fun, and aren’t too costly to prepare.

Fair trade Chocolate and Banana Loaf

This hybrid breakfast/pudding item is highly cost effective, coming in handy in several different situations. It can be offered romantically, as morning dawns, to an overnight guest who needs impressing/buying off. It can be devoured pre or post the sporting activity of your choice to ensure a win. The banana chocolate loaf also fits snugly, almost smugly, into a lunchbox if ever a library trip should arise, in order to make the people queuing in Yum! Cafe look silly.

You will need:

115g butter ,softened
175g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate soda
A pinch salt
1tsp ground cinnamon
175g golden caster sugar
2 large ripe FAIRTRADE bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten
5 tbsp boiling water
175g FAIRTRADE chocolate, chopped into small pieces. Try Divine 70% cocoa dark choc, or half and half this with Dairy Milk, which now is fair-trade certified.

A loaf tin (around the 900g size)

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
2. Grease and line your loaf tin.
3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl and keep to one side.
4. In a different bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
5. Beat in the bananas and eggs. Don’t have a fit if it looks a bit like curdled milk. This is perfectly normal.
6. Stir the flour mixture in alternately with the boiling water.
7. Add our lovely fair-trade chocolate pieces.
8. Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the top down lovingly.
9. Bake for 1hour and 10 mins until the loaf has risen well, is golden brown and firm to touch.
10. Leave to cool in the tin for half an hour, fighting any desire to gauge it from the container with your bare hands.
11. Turn out, peel off grease proof paper and commence consumption.

Fairtrade banana curry
I know this may sound a bit strange, but it really is fabulous and ensures that you always have a conversation starter point with that awkward person at the college bar later that night.

Serves 6

You will need:

1 tbsp vegetable oil
5 bananas, peeled and sliced
1 apple grated (try to buy this locally, or fair-trade if you take a trip to the Sainsbury’s in Gilesgate)
1 onion
Handful of peanuts (fair-trade, Tesco sell these so if you have a car, seek them out in the ‘Big Tesco’.
Handful of raisins (see above)
Quarter of a jar, korma paste
400ml coconut milk (this is relatively hard to find fair-trade it seems, unless you shop on line, but bear this in mind for the future)
Tsp coriander, if you want to splash out
One red chilli, de-seeded and cut into slices
Squeeze lemon juice

1. Heat the oil in a pan and then add the sliced bananas, browning them on each side. Put them to one side on some kitchen towel to let them rest after their hot ordeal.
2. Brown the onion in the pan.
3. Add the korma paste, bananas (again), grated apple and half of the coconut milk.
4. Cook for about ten minutes then add the raisins, peanuts, chilli, lemon juice, the rest of the coconut milk and some salt and pepper.
5. Wait until the mixture thickens up and then serve with warm naan bread or rice.


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