Monday, 21 February 2011

The Joy of Baking

As I sit, nibbling on the charred remains of my recent baking venture, I find I am still filled with The Joy of Baking. 

Without fail, my baking escapades - fondly referred to as ‘cocking up a storm in the kitchen’ - have been a complete disaster. 

The pecan pie, which came out a burnt slab on top, with an eggy, wet (strangely lemony) base. 

The scones [I’m not entering the debate on pronunciation. But it’s Sc-own-s.], which came out as smoldering shells, completely devoid of any ‘middle bit’ - light & fluffy or otherwise.

The ‘oaty bread’, which you could bring down with considerable force on the kitchen-counter, and run more risk of damaging the woodwork (tried & tested). 

The carrot cake that was meant to come out a warmly spiced, thick slab of moist, carroty goodness. I took it to work with a large Health & Safety sign attached: ‘WARNING: Non-functional charred edges. Serving suggestion: break apart in hands before attempting consumption. Soften with lengthy tea-dunking. Enjoy!’ 
The Victoria Sponge, which was fondly renamed ‘the Bernard Black placemat’ - crunchy, flavourless and hilariously pathetic. You could pick it up, as a whole, and vigorously wobble it 5ft above ground level before safely returning it to its wire rack without any structural damage (tried & tested). 

This was also true of my botched attempt at Nigella’s choc-chip cookies. 'The Bernard Black Coasters'. O! Nigella, how I’ve failed you.

And, finally, this evening’s effort - vanilla cupcakes. So bizarrely did they cook that my darling boyfriend assumed the gritty black rim of the golden-topped cupcake was the paper nest within which, it was scorched to perfection. In my defence - if you pick away the sides with a chisel - the middle & lid is quite passable.

Perhaps inexplicably, all attempts tasted delicious at the mixing stage (tried & tested). It’s just wonderful. Creamy, sweet and silky. All over my spoon. And face.

I even spilled a blob of mixture on my Moleskine once. I think I am among few of the writing community who can claim they have licked their Moleskine. [This is, incidentally, probably not the post that will establish my presence within the Blogging Community, but it made me LOL].

My mother’s theory is that our ancient gas oven is terrible at keeping a constant, even temperature. And I should probably learn to follow a recipe.  

My theory - far more plausible - is something terrible happens en route from mixing bowl to baking tin. Perhaps the mixture has an outright aversion being spooned? Or being tilted, en masse, to 90ยบ? 

Le sigh.
For me [she says, with a Nigella-esque sultry look to the camera], The Joy of Baking lies solely in the licking of the mixing bowl, waiting for my latest cock-up to finish laughing at me from the depths of our oven.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Bishopston Trading Company

- Published on -
In the first of my series of pieces taking a look the ethical fashion designers and brands in and around Bristol, I thought it only right to begin with the founders of ethical fashion. Happily enough, they’re right on our doorstep.
Bishopston Trading Company
Recently in the blogging community, there has been some debate establishing ‘just who started Ethical Fashion?’
Bagsful, written by the clothing researcher of Ethical Consumer, lists Bishopston Trading Company as the first on the scene. 
In 1985, Carolyn Whitwell (a Bristol local) travelled to K.V.Kuppam, a village in South India. 
Her mission: to set up a tailoring unit with the sole aim of fair trading with the locals, providing them with work - not charity.
26 years later, Carolyn is still designing and Bishopston Trading Co. has 4 retail stores with HQ here, in our own Bishopston, on Gloucester Road.
Fair Trade Certified and, with the Spring/Summer collection made entirely from organic cotton, Bishopston Trading remains steadfast in its primary objective:
“Trading and retailing with regard to helping to promote the social welfare and wellbeing of suppliers and producers.”
Sourcing their fabrics from GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) accredited Agrocel farming group, the collections’ ethics are refreshingly transparent. Sub contractors are regularly checked. Members of the Bishopston Workers’ Co-Operative are paid a living wage. Alongside this, they are given maternity leave, retirement gratuity, sick pay and a bonus for festivals. 

But with the recession falling heavily on the retailing sector and global cotton prices suffering a crippling inflation of 120%, how is Bishopston Trading coping?
“Like most other retailers, we have had to raise some of our prices in response to the sharp increase in the cost of raw cotton. At Bishopston Trading, we are adding new and accessible designs to our collections each season - allowing customers to make ethical purchases regardless of their style or budget. We refuse to compromise on our ethics, and over the last 26 years, we’ve built up a pool of incredibly loyal customers. The new designs are now beginning to reach a wider market - and are attracting interest from a younger generation of ethically minded consumers - despite the economic crisis.” 
With an exclusive preview of the new Spring/Summer collection due to arrive from late February, it does not fail to deliver. Inspired by Crete, deep blues & purple tones are the predominant colour themes. Expect clean lines in their range of shirts - checked patterns are trending and will appeal to a younger market. The ladieswear range embraces the  season’s colours and white tailored blouses, which can be teamed with  the trousers and floral jackets for stylish effect.
But whilst you wait for the new collection to arrive, their Autumn/Winter sale is in full swing with many items better than half price. Luxurious velvets and corduroys took over the collection last season, with colours of charcoal, berry and a sumptuous mallard keeping the cold weather out with a clean conscience. Sale ends March.
Join for an exclusive discount on the Bishopston Trading Co. range.
For more information on Bishopston Trading Co., go to
Follow us on Twitter @bishopstontrade
Follow me on Twitter @HJFantaskis
Next time, I’ll be updating you on what’s new in the Bristol Ethical Fashion world - Look out for me at The Swish at the CREATE Centre (13th February, 11am-3pm).