I was pleased to be invited by the organisers to this year's Natural and Organic Products show, having attended last year. I was interested to see what was new, what has gained recognition and won awards and what has changed in the last year.
There were many great products and enthusiastic producers and merchants at the show, all suffused with passion for their wares and enthusiasm to spread that passion. Sadly, I can't feature everyone I met, but here are my highlights of products I think are worth looking out for, or worth UK retailers stocking.
Obviously, this blog has a bias towards home cooking. So it was interesting to see that organic cooking oils appear to be a growing trend in natural and organic foods. I found that there were 2 prizewinning products. The first was an organic "virgin" coconut oil, perfect for south Indian cooking.
The other was an organic extra virgin olive oil, but not from Italy, as you might expect, but Sierra Nevada in the USA.
I often find that pastas, pulses and risottos make excellent nutritious and sustaining dinners. I was therefore very interested in TerraBio, an Italian organic co-operative, which was the first to be certified to the exacting Naturland Fair standards.
TerraBio's members, over 60 farmers and food processors make high quality durum wheat pasta, egg pasta and something quite novel; semi-wholegrain spelt pasta. Cereals such as spelt, millet and cous cous, and pulses such as chick peas, borlotti beans, red lentils, green lentils and the rarer "Mountain lentils" are their other popular lines. They find themselves located near Urbino in Le Marche in central Italy, is a fertile area blessed with lots of sunshine.
I hope that their products will be appearing on the shelves of good delis and health conscious food stores, as they are small production, high quality products. All their pastas are bronze die formed/cut and their products completely organic.
One of my favourite producers of teas and infusions is Pukka. I love their herbal teas and their green and white tea blends. So I was pleased to see that their new Serene Jasmine Green Tea had won a prize. This new tea is organic, and you will see that a donation is given to the WWF for each box purchased.
Arcadie is a company, founded in 1968 specialising in organic herbs and spices. Arcadie have 2 major operations, L'herbier de France (producing organic herbs and teas) and Cook (organic seasonings, spices and dried food goods).
It is a truly international operation, with partners all over the world. Madagascar is where they obtain organic Bourbon vanilla along with nutmeg, pepper, turmeric, ginger, chilis, pink pepper and cloves, all grown by family groups on a Fairtrade basis. Iran provides saffron and Hungary produces mild paprika. Tea, coffee and spices are grown in Kerala, South India. Other producers are located in Guatemala, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Germany, Austria and Burkino Faso. Much of the 100% organic herbs are grown in France, in the Ardeche, Massif Central and South East.
I hope to see their products being taken up in the UK, as they are good quality, ethical and organic.
Anyone who loves Indian food and cooks it at home knows that what you end up with is lots of small quantities of many spices, which despite their obvious benefits to the flavour of your dishes, take up space. Eventually, if you don't cook with them frequently, you re-discover your little stash, long after you bought it, often long past its "best before" date. Then there is the whole question of measuring, toasting and grinding. Pre-blended curry powder is one solution to this problem, but is there another which doesn't lead to such a predictable and expected flavour combination? Holy Lama are a small company who were a finalist in the Ocado Top Supplier competition for 2014 who may have cracked this problem. Their product is the unique "Spice Drops"; the essence of the spice in question in terms of aroma and flavour having been captured in oil. The herbs and spices are all grown in Kerala, South India. The oils have an incredible aroma, which has to be experienced to be believed, such is the intensity.
So far I have only focussed on new and innovative products. It is easy to forget that there are many earlier pioneers of good quality organic products. It was a pleasure to see that Infinity Foods are going from strength to strength. I was at university at Sussex, where I first discovered their products. Being Brighton based, our university Co-op shop supported them as an ethical local business. I was delighted to find that partnership continues.
I had the opportunity to meet and chat to Jean-Michel Chaurier from Caves de Rauzan. Cave de Rauzan is the only organic wine producer in Bordeaux which operates as a co-operative. It is a co-operative with an impressive pedigree, consisting of 62 chateaux, founded in 1933. Caves de Rauzan grows 6 types of grape in its farms situated in the Entre-Deux-Mers region, only 15 kilometres from the world famous winemaking town of Saint-Emilion. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc are all used for their red wines. Sauvignon Blanc, Semilon and Muscadelle for the white wines.
Cave de Rauzan has a unique way of working, where they try to achieve the best aromatic profile for their wines. They do this by timing as accurately as possible the date to pick the grapes from the vines. An average grape takes 100 days from flowering to reach full size. After 110 days, it takes a matter of days to switch from the best condition for the grapes' "black fruit" quality, to "red fruit" quality, this change fundamentally affecting the flavour and colour of the resulting wine. The colour of the grape is monitored carefully to see those changes as they occur. The window of opportunity to catch the grapes as they switch between these states may only be 4-7 days. Cave de Rauzan work to co-ordinate their harvesting to speedily and efficiently gather the grapes as soon as the optimum point has been reached.
Cave de Rauzan aims to achieve harmony in its wine. Their goal is an easy to drink wine which is appropriate and enjoyable in all occasions. Their watchwords are a smooth length, good nose and good palate. Perhaps not up to the dizziest heights of the Bordeaux region, but that is an unfair comparison as we would be comparing with the very finest wines in the whole world. But I do agree with Jean-Michel that they have succeeded in their aim; to create a wine where they "want to make each sip so you want another". The white wine I tried was beginning to get a little warm at the end of the day, it was a warm day and the ice in the ice bucket had truly started to melt, so although I can say it had potential, I cannot rate fairly.
I met Primrose from Dorset based "Primrose's Kitchen" at the event. Primrose Matheson's naturopathic products range from superfood powder sprinkles (to cleanse, increase energy or improve brain power), to almond butter (a highly nutritious alternative to peanut butter with a more gentle flavour, with variants with chia seed or hemp seed).
However, it was their flavourful mueslis which grabbed my interest. These are slow dehydrated mueslis, and this process has had a noticeable effect on both the texture and taste of the finished product. The addition of interesting ingredients like beetroot, ginger, carrot and cinnamon mean that these are inviting and tasty mueslis, banishing all memory of bland bowls of Alpen.
My final product highlight would be the seaweed based products by Marinoe based on the Brittany coast. Established in 1992, Marinoe harvest edible organic seaweed, which they use to make fresh algae for retail sale, "tartares" (delicious robustly flavoured pesto style pastes for use either as a pesto, tapenade or chutney), agar agar sweet desserts, dried seaweed condiments (like the Japanese would use as a seasoning for sushi rice balls).
All were interesting, desirable products. However, the fresh salads were my personal favourite. Deli salads, which require refridgeration, these are healthy, low in fat and full of fibre. The Esprit d'Asie salad (spirit of Asia), has kombu, sea spaghetti and wakame seaweeds. Dressed with a sesame oil salad dressing and featuring mung bean (glass) noodles, this salad would make a wonderful lunch or accompaniment to grilled fish. The Esprit du Sud salad is typically Provencale in flavour (hence the name, which translates as spirit of the south), with chilli, sea spaghetti and tomato. It is punchy, and redolent of the Mediterranean, to be eaten on its own, stirred into pasta or served with crusty French bread.
Snigdha attended the Natural and Organic Products Show 2014 as a guest of the organisers.