Thursday, 30 July 2009

Vegetable stock problem solved and more flour

I have heard back from Jardox and they have confirmed that Vecon does not contain palm oil or its derivatives so I have found my replacement for Swiss Marigold Bouillon vegetable stock. I made some more of the carrot and ginger soup with lime yesterday and it tastes every bit as good so I'm sticking with this product in the future.

My husband, Geoff, came home with some more breadmaking flour yesterday. The local Co-Op close to where he works has a local products section and this has been milled at Mount Pleasant Windmill, which is located in Lincolnshire a bit further North than Ellis windmill in Lincoln which we visited last Sunday. The Mount Pleasant flour, like the Ellis windmill flour is untreated and unbleached but you can get it by mail order via The flour from Ellis Windmill is only available when they have some bagged up and when we went, I was lucky to get the last but one bag.

It'll probably be Sunday or next week before I finally get round to making my first loaf; as it's getting close to the end of the week, I need to concentrate on getting stock made for my stall on Saturday.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009


Freddie the orangutanIsn't this a lovely photograph of a baby orangutan? (He still has better hair than me!)

The Orangutan Foundation have kindly given me permission to use Freddie's photograph in conjunction with my efforts to raise funds for them on the charity page of my Sooz jewels website.

I am sending the £50 I was going to pay to a picture library to the Orangutan Foundation instead.

I have been a bit remiss on reporting on my progress lately, I've not been totally idle on the palm oil front but some of the letters I've been meaning to write did not get written. I have been making some important decisions concerning my business which have got in the way a bit. (To be announced on Sooz Jewels shortly).

Anyway, the letters to Warburton and Kingsmill have now been written and will go off today. Also, I purchased a jar of Vecon concentrated vegetable stock. It is made by Jardox Health. The list of ingredients look like they're palm oil free but I've e-mailed today for an unequivocal statement concerning palm oil and their products so hopefully I should hear back soon so my chilled soup for lunches can be palm oil free.

My husband and I had a trip out to Ellis Windmill in Lincoln on Sunday afternoon. They mill their own wholemeal flour there which I remembered from a trip there many years ago. It is the only surviving and working windmill out of a total of 9 that used to be in Lincoln. The guy who mills the flour also showed us around the mill and I recommend it for a fascinating hour. They're open Saturday and Sunday afternoons only. Admission is free though donations are welcome.

However, from what the miller told me, the dough produced by their flour isn't the most elastic that's available and I may find kneading it for 10 minutes feels like 20! Sounds like I haven't made the best choice of flour for my first loaf but hey ho, I'll give it a go and report back, Tesco delivered some dried quick acting yeast which is recommended in my book so I have no excuse not to make any now!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

More about bread

I have heard from Hovis about why they use small quantities of palm oil in their loaves. Apparently they justify it by saying that it's a good replacement for animal fat (ie lard) which used to be used by bakers. Sunflower/rapeseed oil etc is too liquid it needs to be a hard fat to stop too many bubbles bursting at a critical moment during baking. If the bubbles burst, it gives a texture to the bread that is too open. (Their answer is much longer and very technical!)

Still waiting for responses from Kingsmill and Warburton, I will have to follow up my enquiries through their website contact form with a snail mail letter expressing how disapointed I am with them.

I've now got a book on breadmaking now (ordered that one from Amazon), it's supposed to be the definitive guide to breadmaking and how odd that they don't mention the necessity for hard fat instead of oil; all their recipes use sunflower oil.

But the big discovery of the last few days on the bread front has been palm oil free bread from the Co-Op. Their 2 part baked baguettes which you finish baking yourself uses rapeseed oil and their truly irresistable ciabatta uses extra virgin olive oil. It makes a great bread to eat with the chilled carrot, ginger and lime soup, plus I've also made a big roll with ham, tomato and chutney yesterday which was lovely. The texture of the ciabatta is indeed open but that didn't detract from it for me.

I'm still working on the stock problem so the soup, whilst very very nice, is unacceptable to me once the Swiss Marigold Vegetable Bouillon runs out. I can't seem to find out on-line who makes Vecon so I'm going to have to look at the label again next time I'm shopping and get the manufacturer then.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Thumbs up for Australia!

I picked up a jar of Vecon at the weekend, I didn't buy it because I couldn't tell from the ingredients list if it contains palm oil or not, but I'm hopeful it doesn't. I've used this in the past; it's thick black gooey stuff like marmite or bovril which you dilute for stock. I'll write to them to find out if its palm oil free.

I've had a response from Marigold about their Swiss Vegetable Bouillon, they aren't planning to switch to other oil for their stock powder, they say that they ensure employ Proforest, who are experts in auditing plantations, to ensure that their palm oil is ethically sourced and the Swiss makers are also members of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil. They also give an explanation of why the can't use anything but palm oil in their product.

I think they'll have to look out though because I have found an Australian manufacturer, Massel, whose product uses olive oil not palm oil. They tell me they hope to have a distributor in the UK by the end of the year. I've written back to Marigold informing them that their competition is on it's way.

The Australian consumer is so far ahead of us when it comes to awareness of palm oil. They have websites that tell them what products to be palm oil free. Also, I read today on Nature Alert (a blog I follow) that an Australian zoo is refusing to stock Cadbury products as they are adding palm oil to their chocolate. Warning:The Nature Alert blogspot is very informative but it has upsetting pictures of orangutans in a bad way before they were rescued so don't click on the link if you're easily upset.

Friday, 10 July 2009


For the last two or three weeks I have needed a haircut - badly! I am very disorganised when it comes to arranging to have my hair cut, there are always lots of other things to do instead ... anyway, Wednesday was the absolute pits, I couldn't make it do anything nice, it looked so bad, I finally rang my stylist and made an appointment, she can't fit me in til Monday afternoon.

If you're fond of orangutans, you've probably seen some very extreme looking hair on some of them; imagine that on a middle-aged brunette female and you're pretty much getting the look that I was going with for most of the past month!

Most of the time it doesn't matter if my hair looks bad, I work alone in my home studio, there's me and the dog most the time (she loves me no matter what), my tortoise when it's sunny (he pretty much doesn't notice) and my husband joins us in the evenings (ditto! bless him!) But I have to face my customers on my market stall on Saturday, oh well, never mind, hopefully they won't notice me; they'll be too busy looking at my jewellery.

However, the shampoo and conditioner I got from Elemis (the brand name is Steiner) has worked absolute magic this morning, for some reason my hair has gone right ... that's weird isn't it??! I'm sure I didn't do anything different with hairdryer, in fact I wasn't hopeful at all as the shampoo made my hair feel like it was being stripped (like the Little Satsuma stuff did) and I just hoped that the conditioner would be able to fix that and whether it's the combination of the two or what, I don't care - I'm having my first good hair day for weeks and it feels great!

Now I'm wondering whether to cancel my appointment ... nah! Better not push it :-)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Excllent news and a disappointment

Excellent response from Elemis who say:
I can confirm that we do not use Palm Oil or any Palm Oil derivatives in our products. This includes the ingredients you have mentioned below. These ingredients are derived from alternative sources such like Coconut Oil.

I've already used the bathroom this morning but I will start using the shampoo and conditioner tomorrow and let you know what I think

There's been a bit of a blow on the chilled soups front. I got all the ingredients I need to make the carrot, ginger and lime chilled soup yesterday. However, I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon powder to make my stock with. I'm happy to spend the time making the soup but making vegetable stock as well is just a time commitment too far I'm afraid. However, Palm Oil is listed as an ingredient of the Vegetable Bouillon powder, along with an asterisk saying that it's sourced from sustainable plantations. 10 out of 10 for adopting an honest labelling policy but ...

As you know, I'm adopting a zero tolerance on palm oil, it's too easy to say it's sustainable and when you hear anecdotal evidence from people working in the field with the wildlife say there's no such thing as sustainable palm oil, plus the fact that a WWF report states that
only 1 percent of the sustainable palm oil available on the market has been bought,
I'm disinclined to believe companies that say they are currently buying from sustainable sources. I'm writing to Marigold Health Foods to tell them how disappointed I am.

So I'm now on the hunt for an alternative. The reason I like the Marigold Bouillon powder is that it has no preservatives, colouring or artificial flavouring. Oxo beef stock cubes don't have palm oil but the flavour is a bit strong and it's packed with E-numbers and MSG.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Here we go again (but I hope not)

On the strength of Elemis's assertion that they don't use Palm Oil or Palm Oil derivatives in any of their products I ordered five items from their website and they have arrived safely this morning.

The very first ingredient listed on the hand and body wash is sodium laureth sulfate and is also listed on some of the other products. Additionally, isopropyl myristate is also listed as being contained in the hair conditioner. I know from my research that these products can be derived from either coconut or palm oil (which is why they're on my list of suspect ingredients). I'm really hoping their SLS and IM are derived from coconut oil and have written for reassurance accordingly.

The items all look lovely ... I really hope I don't have to send them back!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

We have bread at last

On Saturday, the Cambridge Cheese company had some of the Poilane French bread I was telling you about a couple of weeks ago. Here's what half a loaf looks like. I'm hoping it will last us all week. We had some with our dinner on Saturday and I also enjoyed it yesterday with some liver and port pate (again from the Cambridge Cheese company), very tasty!

Today's lunch will be leftovers from last night's dinner of pasta bake. I'm beginning to realise that on our tea/dinner meals, we're actually already pretty much palm oil free. We eat very few processed/pre-packaged meals. Mostly we cook fresh, but I will shortly start scrutinising the list of ingredients of all the things that we cook with for our evening meals.

I also realised yesterday that there's another option for lunches, I often have a bowl of soup in the winter, don't really feel like eating soup in the summer, especially when it's as hot as it has been recently but there are some great recipes for chilled soups in my New Covent Garden Soup Company's Book of Soups. Chilled soup will be lovely for the summer and means I can use the Poilane loaf to make croutons (I'll just toast it and cut it into squares) so when it's getting dry at the end of the week, I can still eat it. I've had the book several years and a quick check on Amazon shows it's still in print. I'm going to have a go at making ginger and carrot soup with lime first but iced cucumber and yoghurt plus acocado and cucumber are both of my list to try.

I've heard back from Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of E45 cream, who say "Our laboratories have looked at the formulation for E45 Cream and commented that it is unlikely that anything related to palm oil is in the formulation". It's not really an unequivocal statement (which is what I asked for) but as the list of ingredients doesn't contain any of the usual palm oil "suspects", I'm going to believe them.

It's a similar story from Dermal Laboratories who say "We can confirm that palm oil is not one of the ingredients in Dermol Cream (or any of our other products), and to the best of our knowledge none of the ingredients are derived directly from it." Ditto regarding their ingredients list.

I'm waiting for a delivery from Elemis of their shampoo and conditioner, it's a 3-5 day delivery service so it should be here any time.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Another donation

I sold a pair of my red mist earrings from my jewellery stall on Saturday (thanks Sue and Lucie) so there's another £6 to send to the Orangutan Foundation. I got the receipt for the first donation this morning so I'll scan it in and post that later in the week when it's hopefully cooled down.

Long-winded e-mails and to-ing and fro-ing with the Co-Op (I won't bore you with the details) has finally established that their Fairtrade milk chocolate is palm oil free. Plus the Co-Op tell me they have an honest labelling policy and so if there is palm oil in their own-brand products, it is listed as that and NOT disguised as something else - hurray for them! So I'm glad I don't have to give up chocolate altogether though I am missing Mars Bars. I always used to get myself one on a Saturday as a treat. :-(

I got a Money Sense magazine recently sent to me by my bank which gave a promotional code to obtain 15% off Elemis products who do beauty and skin care stuff. I wrote to them and they have confirmed back that their products are all palm oil free and (as far as they are aware), the ingredients are not derived from palm oil. I've ordered some things from them including shampoo and conditioner but I'm reserving judgement til I've scrutinised their ingredients list and checked euphemisms etc. It's not very good to say "as far as we're aware"; I think they should know personally plus they're a bit expensive again like Weleda (boo hiss!) Weleda have refunded me my money after I complained about their ingredients list, but not the full amount. What's all that about then??! At least Morning Foods sent me a full refund.

Hovis have replied that their bread is not palm oil free but they have set themselves a target to be 100% Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified ‘sustainable’ palm oil by 2011. They point out that palm oil comprises only 0.5% of a loaf so I'm wondering why have it at all and why nothing else will do but at least they replied which is more than I can say for Kingsmill and Warburtons so far.

For lunches at the moment, I am currently eating four slices of Ryvita (which from the ingredients list can't possibly contain palm oil). I'm experimenting with different toppings and having some fruit afterwards. Some toppings (such as cheese either sliced or grated) fall off too easily when you're biting it and so it needs something to "wet" the ingredients together so they stick to the crispbread. Plus they have a tin offer on their website! I like tins! :-)

My favourite topping so far has been line caught tuna (from the Co-Op) mashed up with black pepper and a dollop of salad cream. I'm thinking this will also be nice with finely chopped spring onions. Further suggestions are welcome!

I'm thinking lunches in winter can be Heinz Tomato or Vegetable soup with croutons made with toasted French bread from the Cambridge Cheese Company. Might consider making my own bread as well but it's always a question of time really. I don't have a bread maker but I've added The Definitive Guide to Making Bread by Hand or Machine (Pyramid Paperbacks) to my Amazon wish list just to show willing!