Friends who saved the Earth

earthcafeManchester’s much-loved vegan café Earth is under new management. Friends Patricia Fulwood and Mike Tollerfield took over the basement after its closure last month and are brimming with ideas for a tasty future.

Now in their fourth week at the Northern Quarter eaterie, Patricia tells me that customers have urged her to keep the same ethos as the previous management. “I will be keeping it vegan – I did think at first that I’d change it to be vegetarian but now I’ve got a feel for it, it’s a vegan place and customers have requested that we keep it like that.

“I am from a Caribbean background so I put that spin on it with more of those sort of flavours” she told me. Typical dishes on offer will include seasonal vegetables cooked in a tropical sty-fry, curries and a plethora of different legumes and pulses in the regularly changing menu. Together with Mike, who has worked at the venue for the past five years, and alongside some of the other former staff, Patricia is now looking to expand what’s on offer from the Turner Street base. “We are going to offer more take-out food and offer outside catering. At a holistic level, upstairs (the Buddhist Centre ) is a lovely place for meetings and we can provide the food for bigger parties.”

And once they’ve made inroads into extending the kitchen facilities, Patricia is full of enthusiasm for the venture with plans to also update the furnishings and the lighting to bring a warmer atmosphere into the basement.

“We are both Buddhists who go to Sangha nights. Sangha translates as “friends” so perhaps we the friends who saved the Earth!” she laughs. The new spring menu is now available and the café is soon to start opening on a Monday.

Earth is at 16-20 Turner Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester.

The fat sandwich survey


So Tesco did indeed top them all – with the All Day Breakfast wedge you get a whopping 26.3g of fat!
During the week I’ve taken a look at the different sandwiches available in the best known outlets – everything from Boots to Eat via the supermarket stores.
It’s hard to understand how something as humble as the lunchtime quickie at the desk that we’ve all become accustomed to, can contain quite so much of everything, but that innocuous loaf filler is often hiding a large amount of your recommended daily allowance.
I did request more information on the Tesco “winning” wedge but, after two days, one phone call and two emails, the response wasn’t exactly over-stuffed: “the sandwich is adequately labelled on the website, outlining all of the GDA figures.”
So there you have it, you pays your money and takes your choice which is why checking the small print of the wrapping turns out to be so vital if you need to control your diet.
It was surprising to me to discover that some of the lowest fat options available are from the Subway chain which has choices on offer with less than 3g of fat – and Subway is also very upfront about all the nutritional information.
Juliette Kellow, the chain’s nutritionist, says, “By law, products that make a low-fat claim must contain no more than 3g of fat per 100g. Similarly, any product that claims to be low in saturated fat must have no more than 1.5g of fat per 100g.” All of the eight ‘Low Fat’ Subs meet these criteria.”
I’ve pulled together the results of the survey into this Dipty map. Click on a location balloon to see the supplier and details of the lower and high fat options available.

Sandwich survey on Dipity.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that similar products can contain vastly different levels of fat (and salt and sugar) for that matter, labelling is vital and, frankly, you’re better off with a DIY butty.
All the research material for this survey is available via the tag cloud. Thanks to the @foodiesarah followers for their participation.

Tesco currently topping my fat sandwich trail

I’m still on the train of the UK’s lardiest shop-bought sarnie. Yesterday’s look under the sellophane revealed a remarkable range in the amounts of fat squeezed between two slices with Tesco’s All Day breakfast wedge currently topping the bill with a whopping 26.3g.
Can you beat that?
Whatever the label says on your lunchtime choice today, please share it with me via the comments below or @foodiesarah on Twitter.
the full results of this survey will be published later.

Manchester dining deals on offer

Offers website lastminute.com is hosting a Manchester week at the moment and offering users two course lunches for £15 and three course dinners for £25 at some of the city’s top eateries.
Sound like a useful credit crunch deal to share with you.
Lastminute.com’s Mark Bower said: “Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to sample fine dining at a fraction of the cost and with the great eateries and chefs involved this year I am sure Restaurant Week will once again be great value for money.”
Confirmed this year are MFDF Newcomer of the Year 2008, Ithaca, Shimla Pinks,Tempus restaurant at The Palace Hotel, Olive Press Manchester and London Road Restaurant in Alderley Edge.
Click here to find out more – the offers end on March 29.

Hunt is on for the flabbiest sandwich

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Just how healthy is that quick sandwich at lunchtime? This week I’m going to attempt to unwrap the truth about that shop-bought sarnie, roll, baguette or bap.
Whether it’s a simple cheese and pickle or an exotic super-deli concoction I want to see how much fat, salt and sugar the seemingly endless variations manage to pack between two slices of your favourite.
Yes the hunt is on to track down the UK’s lardiest loaf filler.
So I need your help – simply take a peak at the label of your buttie and drop me a line via the comments below or via @foodiesarah on Twitter to tell me what’s packed in your pitta pouch or bacon barm.
And if you get really enthused with your subject, feel free to share a photo at the group pool here.
Thanks to Amanky on Flickr for the oozy looking sarnie pictured on this page.

Celebrity chefs, churnalism and some fat facts

Something called the Fat Panel caught my attention today – and probably also caught yours – with a report about Celebrity Chefs and fattening recipes.
This Panel is made up of an independent group of experts (many with impressive multiple letters after their names) who want to help tackle the obesity issue by making us all more aware of how simple dietary changes could add up to valuable weight loss.
In their own words the Fat Panel says “objectives are:
• Educate the public on the fat facts so they can make informed decisions about their diets.
• Provide an independent/objective source of information about the important role and benefits of oils and fats.”
It kicked off today in suitably attention-grabbing media-savvy way by having a go at the recipes devised by celebrity chefs.
And a quick Google search shows it was an approach that paid-off, with just about every national newspaper swallowing and regurgitating without bothering to seek out one essential ingredient I’m going to add later!
Celebrity Chefs Could do Better , says that many of the TV cooks have recipes which contain more than 100 per cent of the recommended daily allowance for saturated far.
Dairy products such as butter and milk get a particularly brisk whipping.
The report says “Anthony Worral Thompson’s porridge with apples and crunch may sound healthy, but one portion contains 20% of a woman’s GDA for saturated fat. The Fat Panel recommends to replace 600ml of whole milk with skimmed milk which cuts a portion down to just 5% of a woman’s GDA of saturated fat.
“Similarly one portion of Gordon Ramsey’s sticky toffee and chocolate pudding has 115% of a woman’s GDA for saturated fat.The Fat Panel recommends to replace the lightly salted butter with sunflower spread and double cream with thick single cream it cuts the saturated fat down to 40% of a woman’s GDA. So you can have your cake an eat it!”
As regular readers of this blog will know, celebrity chef indulgence is an issue that has prompted many a posting before – Nigella’s Christmas excesses being the last such gluttonous telly serving to provoke me.
So this sensible, if rather finger-wagging, advice should be welcomed as a timely and entertaining way of presenting important health advice.
But it turns out this official sounding panel is actually an organisation partly funded by a major margarine manufacturer.
Now, there’s no mention of this fact anywhere on the website – just an unobtrusive link to the The Margarine and Spreads Association in the “useful links” section
Does this matter a dollop?
Is good advice, good advice whoever pays to spread ( no pun intended) the word? Or is it just a (non-sugar coated) marketing message deployed to boost consumer confidence in a basic commodity?

In response to my inquiry, a Fat Panel spokesperson told me this afternoon; “They are funded by an Unrestricted Educational Grant and other brands which does include Flora. However the grant only pays for their time – they have no sway on their influence as the panel is completely independent.”
Fine, it isn’t difficult to comprehend that experts can retain their independence in this way – so why not be up front about it? A lot of what they say is obviously good advice but I want to know who “they” are exactly.
The simple transparent act of placing a link and explanation prominently on the website would surely install confidence?
After the erosion of trust in banking “experts”, property “experts” et al, don’t we all deserve to be aware of just who is speaking when taking on board advice to do with that most precious commoditity of all – our health?
* Fat Panel member and dietician Sian Porter robustly defended the Panel’s independence on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme earlier today, pointing out the strict code of conduct diet experts like her adhere to. (You can listen again to that interview here and, of course, submit your own opinions on the issue below.)

The world’s gone cupcake crazy!

Sweet and sugary they may be but it seems we’re all going crazy for cupcakes! Earlier this week I started getting reports of queues outside the Chorlton Shop Sweet Tooth Cupcakery .
And since then it seems everyone has gone cupcake crazy – baking them, eating them and tweeting about them. Just look at some of the replies to my innocent inquiry on Twitter today.
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The mania has been reported from New Orleans to Beirut and today even Radio 4’s Today programme got in on the act with a report questioning whether the invading American giants of the muffin tin were in danger of squeezing out the traditional British fairy cake. You can listen again here.
(Being inexperienced in such matters, I’m not sure what the technical difference between a fairy and a cup is. If anyone would care to enlighten me – please post below.)
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
The blog post, Are cupcakes recession proof?, even reports from a scheme in Orange County where people are prepared to pay almost $5 decorate their own.
Is a little bit of sweetness just what the bank manager ordered in these uncertain times?
Big companies seem to think so – Cadbury’s reported an increase in chocolate sales last month and M&S launched a jam butty earlier this week to sate our demand for sugar.
Maybe there is some certainty to be found in the simple consistency that a tray of cakes offers.
So cupcakes it is! If you’re facing job insecurity and can’t afford to eat out – get the baking tray out and invite people round to yours. After all Nigella Lawson even serves them for dinner.
In her Domestic Goddess book (which features a cupcake on the cover) she notes that eating such childish treats prompts a certain amount of nostalgia for people of a certain age:
“….it’s not till you hit 30 that nostalgia is even a remotely comforting option. Since then, I’ve decided that cupcakes and fairy cakes – by which I mean the plain-bottomed prettily iced cupcakes – are the perfect things to make for dinner.”
Thanks to Twitter follower Danny Thompson in Dorset for the charming picture of Maeve choosing her cake.

Chicken outlet takes the biscuit

Now I’m prepared to accept I may be getting grumpy in my old age but……..
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Not content with obstructing the pavements in Atkison Street and Hardman Street with blackboards urging us to “piri-piri”, the new chicken-serving neighbours to M.E.N towers are now obscuring the outlook in the only patch of green available to us city workers down Spinningfields way.
Don’t we have few enough city centre recreation areas for them to become blighted by advertising?