Archive for June, 2015

5 Ways with Rose Water

Monday, June 29th, 2015

For many years and in many countries, rose water has been used as a wonderful natural perfume, its gentle floral scent being used to refresh and revitalise.  Its benefits are also widely extolled as a health essential: in its diluted form as a skin toner and as a valued addition to moisturisers and body treatments.

Steenbergs organic rose water is however manufactured solely as a food product and is made from the simple water extraction of Persian Damask Rose blossom.  It reminds Axel of his favourite rose – Rose de Rescht – and its heavenly perfume.

Victoria, of Bois de Jasmin blog, in her post 10 ways to use rose water, suggests indulging in the ultimate of luxury with rose water scented bed sheets.  As much as we love that idea, here we’re going to stick to the foodie benefits of rose water.  We recommend trying it in all sorts of sweet dishes, from custards and creams to fruit salads.  Why not be adventurous too and try it splashed onto savoury salads or a dash in your drink?  Here are 5 recipes you might not have tried…

1. SELF SUFFICIENT CAFE’S ROSE WATER SPARKLE

sparkler1 - self sufficient cafeEarlier this year we sent Jasmine some samples to try out, one of which was our fragrant rose water.  We love this Rose Water Sparkle recipe – lovely and refreshing for the summer.

Ingredients – Serves 1 to 2 people
1 Orange, freshly squeezed
1 Tsp Rose water
½ Tsp Agave nectar
200ml Sparkling water

Method
Mix the first three ingredients together then slowly pour in the sparkling water. Give the sparkler a little stir before pouring into glasses. Enjoy!

2. ROSE WATER SHORTBREAD

A tasty tea-time treat, these crumbly shortbreads, use dried rose petals as well as rose water.  Ideal with a cup of Steenbergs Rose and Bergamot Tea for the full rose experience!

Rosewater Shortbread resized

INGREDIENTS

250g butter

110g caster sugar

360g organic plain flour

1 tsp Steenbergs organic Rosewater

1-2 tsp Steenbergs Rose petals 

Steenbergs organic Fairtrade Rose Sugar for sprinkling

METHOD

Heat the oven to 190oC/375F/Gas 5

In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light in colour

Turn out on to a work surface, and roll until 1.5 cm thick.

Cut into fingers or different shapes, chill in the fridge for 30 mins.

Bake for 10- 12 minutes until golden brown.

Transfer to wire cooling rack and sprinkle with rose sugar.

3. WARM PERSIAN SWEET POTATO & SPINACH SALAD

Steenbergs Sweet Potato & Spinach salad with Rose WaterCreated to go sit alongside a delicious Orange, carrot & pine nut salad with orange blossom and our tasty Dukkah-encrusted lamb cutlets for a Persian feast, this salad would make a moreish lunch on its own.

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato sliced into rings

2 tins of cannellini beans drained

1 red chilli, de seeded and chopped finely (or use crushed chilli – but sparingly)

1 red pepper finely sliced

1 red onion finely sliced

10/12 mixed cherry tomatoes

1 bag of washed baby spinach

100g baby rocket leaves

salad cress to garnish

200g feta cheese crumbed into small chunks

Steenbergs black pepper to taste

Dressing: 2- 3 tspn Steenbergs Organic Rose water

75 ml organic extra virgin olive oil

2 tspn organic runny honey

Pinch Steenbergs organic perfect salt 

Method
Fry the sweet potato rings gently in a little oil and Steenbergs perfect salt until soft, set aside and keep warm.
Mix the Steenbergs Organic Rose water with the honey and perfect salt and whisk in the olive oil slowly.
Mix salad ingredients together and dress with the Rose water dressing
Serve immediately.

4. DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH ROSE WATER CREAM

Double chocolate cake & vanilla rose creamA wonderful indulgent tea-time cake or dessert, filled with rose water laced cream and sprinkled with rose petals and chocolate shavings.  Definitely in the ‘naughty but very nice’ category!

 Cake Ingredients

225g plain flour
300g caster sugar
50g Steenbergs Fairtrade organic Rose sugar
85g Steenbergs Fairtrade organic Cocoa powder
1½ tsp Steenbergs baking powder
1½ tsp Steenbergs bicarbonate of soda
2 free-range eggs
250ml milk
125ml vegetable oil
1/2 tsp Steenbergs Fairtrade organic vanilla paste
250ml/9fl oz boiling water

Icing Ingredients
200g plain fair trade chocolate
400ml double cream
1/2 tsp Steenbergs organic vanilla paste
3 tsp icing sugar
½ cap of Steenbergs organic Rose water

To decorate
Steenbergs Rose petals
Steenbergs Fairtrade organic chocolate drops
Steenbergs Cocoa nibs
Fairtrade white chocolate

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line two 20cm/8in sandwich tins.

For the cake, place all of the cake ingredients, except the boiling water, into a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, or electric whisk, beat the mixture until smooth and well combined. Add the boiling water to the mixture, a little at a time, until smooth.

Divide the cake batter between the sandwich tins and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.  Remove the cakes from the oven and stand for 30 mins, before transferring to a wire rack for 10 mins before attempting to ice them.

For the chocolate icing, melt the chocolate and 200mls of cream together in a saucepan over a low heat. Take the pan off the heat and stir vigorously until smooth, allow to cool.  With the remaining 200ml of double cream, add another 1/2 tsp Steenbergs vanilla paste, a pinch of rose petals and a small dash of Steenbergs Rose water and whisk until soft peaks appear.

5. GEORGE’S FAVOURITE CUP CAKES

jpgBring a summer, garden flavour to your cup cakes and enjoy decorating with rose petals or indulge in the chocolate and rainbow strands cake toppings!

Ingredients

6 oz self-raising flour, sieved

6 oz fairtrade granulated sugar

6 oz soft marg

3 eggs

1 tspn Steenbergs baking powder

1 tspn Steenbergs vanilla extract (optional)

cake cases

For the icing

3 oz butter or marg, softened

6 oz icing sugar (sieved)

1 tbs milk

1 tbsn Steenbergs rose water

Method

Preheat oven to 180oC. Line 12 muffin or Yorkshire Pudding tins with cake cases.

Mix butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and eggs in a food processor for 2 -3 minutes.

Add the vanilla extract and mix.

Divide the mixture between the cake cases. Bake for 20 minutes or until evely golden and springy to the touch of a finger.

Leave for 5 minutes then move to a wire rack to cool.

To make the icing, mix the butter and icing sugar together with the rose water and milk. Add icing sugar to obtain the desired consistency – for spreading or piping.

When the cup cakes are cook, add the icing and then whatever decoration takes your fancy!

Cacao Chai Smoothie – A Quick Breakfast

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

This morning we made this dairy-free chocolate flavoured smoothie using almond and coconut milk.

Raw Cacao and Flax Seed Breakfast Smoothie

Raw Cacao and Flax Seed Breakfast Smoothie

The almond butter, banana and flax seed give the smoothie body and good sources of protein and natural carbohydrates.

I flavoured it with cacao powder and our chai masala mix for a warming cinnamon, cardamom and ginger.  This gave it a light chocolatey taste and hints of spice.

The maca powder was there, so why not chuck that in as well for extra goodness.

As for the sweetener, we used a little maple syrup, but you could use honey.  I prefer not to use agave because it is very high in fructose, so I find it overly sweet.  Agave is, also, much more processed than I choose normally as sweetener, and it’s best to let the bananas do the sweetening work.

It was great – not too sweet and with that hint of chocolate anyone (of any age) would love it.

Ingredients for Raw Cacao Breakfast Smoothie

Ingredients for Raw Cacao Breakfast Smoothie

Cacao chai smoothie

75ml almond milk
100ml coconut milk
1 chopped banana
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 tsp chai masala spices (don’t overdo this as it can become too spiced very easily)
2 tsp cacao powder
1 tsp maca powder (optional)
1½ tsp maple syrup or honey

Simple combine all the ingredients into a blender.  Whizz until smooth, then enjoy.

TEA TASTER PANEL Steenbergs English Breakfast Tea & Steenbergs Jasmine Green Tea

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Many thanks to our tea taster panel who this month had the delights of tasting Steenbergs English Breakfast Tea: a strong, aromatic blend of organic Fairtrade teas from Sri Lanka and Assam, Kerala and Darjeeling in India; and Steenbergs Green Tea with Jasmine: a delicately flavoured green flower tea from China.  Two very different teas with unique flavours and we loved hearing how, when and why you enjoy drinking them.

Steenbergs organic Jasmine Green Tea 

organic-jasmine-green-tea-loose-leaf-tea-caddy

We asked you to describe the flavour and aroma of the tea and the predominant descriptions were floral, sweet, light, fresh, delicate and (luckily!) jasmine. Interestingly one of you who wasn’t keen on the flavour of scented teas still loved the aroma! We did love the fact that one of our panel likened the tea to ‘coming home – similar to a pair of cashmere bedsocks!’

We were also fascinated to find out how it made you feel, with many of you saying relaxed, refreshed and healthy – what more could you want from a tea!  Other notable quote included: ‘both myself and my 2 year old give a big thumbs up to the Jasmine Green Tea'; ‘much nicer than jasmine flowers which I find too heady or sickly’; ‘warm climes with jasmine abundant on every corner’; ‘evokes holiday & summer memories’; and ‘floral with perfect level of bitterness’.

Around half of our tea panel were already green tea drinkers with a wide scope of brands and varieties regularly enjoyed, including long jing and gunpowder. Brewing of the tea averaged 4-5 minutes but again it was often down to personal preference.

When assessing the overall preference for teas, the Jasmine was more popular than the English Breakfast. However, other interesting teas were mentioned such as Silver Needles, Gingerbread Chai, Redbush, Rose & Bergamot & Happy Hippy, all making it into your top tea choice.  It shows the great range and variety of teas available to us now, with green, white and herbal teas vying for position with our traditional black teas to be your favourite.  We certainly had an expert panel though, with 76% of you championing tea as your favourite daytime drink.

 Jasmine Green Tea

Steenbergs organic Fairtrade English Breakfast Tea

english-breakfast-tea-in-caddy-organic-fairtrade

With comments such as: ‘good balance of high & low tones’, ‘good subtle flavour’ and the ultimate accolade of being ‘better than PG’, many of you enjoyed the flavoursome qualities of this black tea, although a few of you did feel that it could be more intense and fuller in flavour.

Our tea tasters were evenly split in their desire to try it with or without milk, with 63% preferring to drink it in the morning than any other time of day.

Half of our tea tasters use a pot to brew their tea, with 27% preferring a mug and the rest going with the flow.  The majority of our panel do have a favourite mug from which to drink their tea with all sorts of shapes and sizes to choose from.  Porcelain was popular as were some personal favourites: an Emma Bridgewater mug saying ‘Best Friend’; a tall thin Disney Princess mug or a big wide green stoneware mug.  On average the tea was brewed for 3-4 minutes, although anywhere between 1 and 8 minutes was noted.

For that first drink of the morning, many of you always go for tea (60%) with hot or cold water (24%) being increasingly popular than coffee (12%).  A luxury for some, a newspaper is only standard with your cuppa for 40% of you, with The Times and The Guardian featuring as the most popular reads.

Have a look at some of the words used to describe Steenbergs English Breakfast Tea – the larger the word the more times it was mentioned.  Do you agree?

English Breakfast

Although a rather unfair comparison with two distinct teas, 70% of you did prefer the Green Jasmine to the English Breakfast.  Are we becoming more international with our flavours? More health conscious? Or, as with many things, is it just down to our own personal preference.

What is Steenbergs’ carbon footprint?

Friday, June 5th, 2015

We seek to offset our carbon footprint so it is pretty small.

For 2014, Steenbergs has purchased carbon offsets for 72 tonnes of carbon dioxide (i), up from 17 tonnes in 2013.  This has increased, because we are now retiring even more of the greenhouse gases from our business.  This is in addition to using solar energy for 45% of our electricity usage and recycling as much of our waste as possible.

In previous footprints, we included direct greenhouse gases from energy consumed and business travel, together with those from the transport of goods to and from Steenbergs (ii).  In effect, this is the climate change impact resulting from what we do.

We actually reduced this direct carbon footprint by 25% between 2013 and 2014, down from 17 to 13 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2014.

However, in looking more closely at our products’ lifecycle from farm-to-landfill, we were excluding virtual carbon embedded within our packaging and ingredients.  So that’s the greenhouse gases arising from farming and the manufacture of glass jars, steel lids and tins, together with impacts resulting from the disposal or recycling of packaging by our customers.  But this embedded carbon (or traded carbon) should be brought into consideration, or an oil trader becomes very green when you ignore the oil (iii).

This would be fine if our suppliers offset their climate costs, but they don’t.

82% of the carbon footprint in Steenbergs’ products is indirect:

Breakdown of carbon impact from Steenbergs in 2014

Breakdown of carbon impact from Steenbergs in 2014

42 tonnes of carbon dioxide relates to packaging, compared to the 13 tonnes from our business.

As for farming, we had naively assumed that its carbon costs are analogous to the carbon captured in the plants themselves.  Mike Berners-Lee in How bad are bananas? gives zero as the carbon footprint of an apple plucked from a tree in your garden.

Initial research gives the impact may be 0.87 kg CO2 per kg of spices; this compares to 12kg and 19 kg CO2 per kg of beef and lamb.  Farming might add another 17 tonnes carbon dioxide (iv).  Because this relates to what we sell, we will need to dig deeper.

But using this, Steenbergs’ total footprint over the lifecycle of its products is 72 tonnes carbon dioxide every year, or 6 families’ worth of carbon.  This has been offset through ClimateCare, which neatly uses projects such as its LifeStraw project that combine Steenbergs’ concern for water with issues of climate change.

Putting this into context, spices and herbs contribute a tiny proportion of the carbon footprint of a meal.

For example, the spices in rogan josh are 0.1% of the total footprint versus 89% for the lamb, or 0.5% in tandoori chicken compared to 85% for the poultry.  The herbs in spaghetti bolognaise are less than 0.01% of its total carbon footprint.  And last month we calculated the carbon footprints of your cup of tea, coffee and hot chocolate.

Notes

(i)    For ease, carbon dioxide is lazily used for carbon dioxide equivalent, so it includes carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide gases.

(ii)   Steenbergs direct carbon footprint includes: electricity, business travel, water supply and sewerage, trade waste and recycled waste.  Steenbergs indirect carbon footprint comprises: freight for raw materials and packaging into Steenbergs and distribution of packed goods to our trade and consumer customers.

(iii)  See: Roger Harrabin (2015) CO2 cuts claims challenged by experts, BBC News, 19 March 2015, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31952888; or John Barrett , Glen Peters , Thomas Wiedmann , Kate Scott , Manfred Lenzen , Katy Roelich & Corinne Le Quéré (2013) Consumption-based GHG emission accounting: a UK case study, Climate Policy, 13:4, 451-470, DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2013.788858

(iv)   I am unclear whether these figures are for the lifecycle of spices and/or include carbon captured in the plants themselves.  47.5% of carbon is locked in plant material, equivalent to 1.7kg CO2 per kilo.  So I am confused…