Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Menu for Hope 2007

Around this time of year, every year, while most of us (myself included) are busy thinking about our Christmas shopping lists, Pim of Chez Pim reigns over the fundraising raffle that is Menu for Hope. 2007 marks for fourth year that food bloggers (and others) the world over donate items for an online raffle. Most of the gifts are food related but the odd non foodie gift makes it's way in. However, this isn;t a raffle just for the sake of it. Money spent on tickets goes to the World Food Programme (WFP); last year's raffle raised over $60,000 for the WFP. This year we've been allowed to earmark the money for a specific programme, a school feeding program in Lesotho.

Lesotho has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world and the U.N. describes 40% of the population as 'ultra poor' and cannot afford basic supplies. The country has had its worst drought in nearly 30 years and the WFP estimates that 410,00- out of a population of only 1.9 million- will face basic food shortages. It is estimated that malnutrition in Lesotho claim the lives of one in 12 children before they reach the age of five. 56% of the population live on less then $2 per day. The school feeding programme provides a nutritious meal to almost 150,000 children every day.

This year, children from Lesotho schools will be photo-blogging alongside us and bringing their stories to an international audience.

So, why am I bringing this up on my blog? Well in addition to wanting to support a good cause, Johanna and Jeanne (the UK hosts) have asked me to participate. I had wanted to take part last year but was about to go on holiday so I jumped at the chance to do some good during the season of giving.

I've teamed up with my buddy Clare (formerly of Lemon Soul but I'm working on bringing her back!) to bring a couple of prizes to the fold that you will want to purchase a raffle ticket for.

Behind door number one-
A Taste of Mexico - Bring out your inner Mexican with this spicy little care package. This will bring a smile to anyone missing home or that lovely holiday you had in Mexico. It included a selection of Mexican treats from my personal box of Mexican tricks that I replenish when I go home. Included in this package are a collection of dried chiles, dried Mexican Oregano, a tin of tomatillos (great for salsa), a tin of chipotle peppers (so many uses, so little time), some El Pato sauce (a back up enchilada sauce in many a home) and I will also throw in half a dozen corn tortillas (the real deal- I don't share these with just anyone!) plus to drink you get Abuelita hot chocolate and dried hibiscus flower used to make the drink Jamaica. Suggestion recipes for all the ingredients will be included too. This prize is for the UK and Europe only.

And behind door number two-
Tea for Two - Are you a homesick Brit? Do you miss Marmite on toast or a cup of proper tea and a good ol' Chocolate Hob Nob? Then this is for you. Clare and I have started a collection of a few British favourites and we will give you another £20 to spend in the shops so you can add HP sauce, Colman's english mustard or a few bars of Dairy Milk t(or Sherbert Dib Dab to take you back) to the shopping list that YOU give us. Please bear in mind that they need to be items that we can legally ship into your country and please remember that we will also have to cover the cost of shipping so not too many glass bottles!

Hopefully this little treasure trove of delights has whetted your appetite and made you eager to buy a raffle ticket. The ticket office CLOSES on DEC 21st. A link for all the prizes and to the donating site is here.

Remember that this is for a good cause, the $10 you spend will go to feed a child. And don't forget- your giving may well get you some receiving!

If you have any questions, leave a note and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Happy Holidays!

Xochitl xx

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My new obsession-smoked oatcakes

Yesterday I nipped into my local Waitrose to pick up a few bits to get myself through yet another Post-Christmas party hangover (this one had the best food yet so it was well worth it). One of the hosts is Irish and on our cheese plate was a wedge of Cashel Blue- an Irish blue cheese. I had seen it in the shops before but I'm so enamoured with French blues that I get sidetracked and forgo most British blue cheeses. The exception being glorious Stilton that each Christmas I sneak a wedge from Neal's Yard to my Father-in-law who is barred from having in the fridge. His eyes light up when we sneak into a corner, drinks in hand to devour it without getting caught.

So after completely enjoying the Cashel Blue, I was having withdrawals and went to buy some and nipped down the cracker aisle to get some Carr's Water Biscuits when something caught my eye. Ditty's Irish Smoked Oatcakes. So I gave them a try and now I'm hooked. The package says it's 'handmade with rolled oats from County Armagh and smoked by Frank Hederman at the Belvelly Smoke House, County Cork.' The oatcake triangles are thicker that other ones on the market and at the initial bite are slightly sweeter that other ones I've had. You get a soft hit of smoke at the start but it's the after taste where you get the deeper hit of smokiness.

It went well with my Cashel Blue (I have yet to try it with a slice of cheddar) as it adds another dimension to your plain ol' cheese and biscuits and I find myself eating them plain too. If you see it at a shop near you- try it.