Normally, 'entertaining' chez Recipe Junkie involves easy crowd pleasers, many children milling around and slightly too much wine on a weekend lunchtime, or an evening dinner party, adults only, still too much wine. If I'm getting together with girlfriends, we usually take any opportunity to escape the shackles of domesticity and go to the pub.
When the lovely Fairtrade press office contacted me and suggested that I 'Dine with a Difference' and hold a dinner party in aid of the Fairtrade Foundation, well, it seemed like a great opportunity to do just that.
The idea is to host a dinner party and cook with as much Fairtrade produce as possible.
I was sent some coffee produced by a women's co-operative. This is massively significant. In the coffee growing regions of Kenya, men own both the land and crops. This carries with it status and decision-making powers, and means the earnings from the whole family’s work goes to the man.
That is, until now. In one area, Fairtrade convinced men to give their wives legal ownership of some of the family's coffee bushes, to cultivate and sell the coffee beans in their own name.
The result? The women's bushes are yielding more coffee beans, there's more money in the household purse for school fees and to put food on the table, and there's more say for women in the household.
In the spirit of these women, I decided immediately that my dinner would be a girls only affair - and in the interests of keeping the garden under control, I designed a menu that would encompass Fairtrade produce and also the abundant veg that the garden was producing. It also had to be easy and relatively quick to prepare.
Fortunately the weather held, so we could dine al fresco .
Just because it was summer, we started off with a lovely apple, elderflower and gin cocktail that I'd spotted in a Good Food mag. Not much Fairtrade I'm afraid, but very delicious, all the same.
To start, we had a Middle Eastern red pepper dip known as Muhammara created by Kate Hayter of Moro. Very delicious, with lots of Fairtrade nuts, sugar and olive oil. I served it with pitta bread crisps, which are basically pittta breads sliced up, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and baked till crisp.
For a main course, we had a tomato & goats cheese tart (a sheet of puff pastry smeared with sundried tomato paste, sliced tomatoes and topped off with some lovely goat's cheese, baked for 20 minutes or so. I also did a couple of salads from Veg Everyday which gave me the opportunity to incorporate lots of Fairtrade goodies: a tahini dressed courgette and green bean salad,
and a rocket, fennel and puy lentil salad.
While most of the veg did come from the garden, I found Fairtrade green beans in a supermarket and Fairtrade tahini in the Ethical Superstore.
For pud, well, I made a cake that I'd seen on twitter (who'd have thought it) - created by the rather enigmatic Gentleman Baker, this Hazelnut Cappucino cake was the perfect medium for both the coffee, and the oodles of Fairtrade baking ingredients in my cupboard - vanilla, sugar, chocolate... It was lovely with a dollop of creme fraiche, although controversially, if I made it again, I might (gasp) leave out the chocolate chunks. Or may be not.
Needless to say, after the gin cocktails, we hit the Fairtrade wine...
A great evening, and £40 raised for the Fairtrade Foundation. Marvellous.
If you'd like to hold your own Dine with a Difference dinner, you can find loads to help you on the Fairtrade website including great recipes. Cook up a storm, then ask your friends to donate to the Fairtrade Foundation to help people like these women in Kenya who produced the delicious coffee I was sent to earn a far price for their produce and improve their communities, and standard of living accordingly.
Just in case you missed it, I was sent a pack of Fairtrade Coffee by the Fairtrade Foundation in preparation for my Dine with a Difference Diner party, but have received no other payment in respect of this post. Just saying.