Sunday, 31 July 2011

Recipe - 250g biccies

Whilst the rest of this blog is, admittedly, a bit "do-gooder", the recipes section is here for a very different reason - BFTF appears to be utterly incapable of keeping track of the recipes that it has tried, especially the ones that seemed to work.

So putting them here will hopefully ensure that BFTF can find them when required.

I suppose you could call it "Cloud Cookery". . .

250g biccies

250g butter (British)
250g brown sugar (Fairtrade, if possible)
250g plain flour
200g mixed peel (the sticky kind in tubs, ASDA own-brand seems to work best)
2 eggs, beaten (Free Range - there is no excuse for buying anything else)

Place butter and sugar in mixing bowl and mix together (10-20 seconds in the microwave may help if the butter is straight from the fridge and it is a cold day)

Add Flour and beaten eggs, mix until uniform.

Add Mixed Peel (Avoid the syruppy bits at the bottom of the tub, they can make the biccies over-sweet)

Pre-heat oven to 180C

Use fairy-cake baking trays (and paper fairy-cake cases), place about a heaped teaspoon worth of mix in each tray location. The amounts above should give about 48 biccies.

Place in oven and cook for about 19mins (until nicely browned on top).

Remove from oven, take cases out of tray and allow to cool for 5-15mins then remove cases and your biccies are ready.

Eat within a few days.

Without wishing to blow my own trumpet too much, it has to be said that all feedback thus far suggests that these biccies are rather good.

On the other hand, the butter content means that each one probably takes weeks off your lifespan, so I guess it's a bit swings and roundabouts.

A plate of 250g biccies and mini-muffins

The dish rates as "MEDIUM" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

Woodland Trust Interview (Pt1) - Introduction

Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Interview
Part 3 - Actions

BFTF has a number of arms, as it were, and one of these is a weekly show on Nottingham's Radio Dawn 107.6FM.

Radio Dawn is Nottingham's Muslim Community Radio Station and BFTF is honoured and grateful to have had the opportunity to host a show on the station since it first started broadcasting 7 days a week back in 2006.

The show often features interviews with organisations ranging from Greenpeace to Trading Standards to local Youth Clubs. The intention has always been to transcribe these interviews and put them here on the blog, and slowly but surely, this intention is coming to pass.

A fascinating interview was recently held with Kaye Brennan from the Woodland Trust, but before providing some information on that, it is perhaps worth mentioning the story behind the interview. . .

Several years ago, I was in the car with Number 2 son when he said excitedly that he had just seen a very fast car (a Porsche perhaps, I can't actually remember). We were traveling down a tree lined avenue at the time and I wondered whether he could recognise the trees as well as he could recognise cars.

It turned out that he had no idea what type of trees were around us.

Then it struck me that, actually, I didn't recognise the trees that were passing me by. Oh dear, this wasn't good.

So, a week or two later I bought myself a Collins "Gem" book of Trees and started trying to identify trees as we were out and about in parks and the countryside. It has to be admitted that this wound up the family no end as, when on a walk, I would keep stopping to gaze intently at a tree whilst thumbing through my book to try and identify it.

Very quickly, I was able to recognise many of the common trees that can be found in our parks and woods. I even managed to pass on some of this new found knowledge to the youngsters.

Similarly, it was the sheer joy at now being able to recognise the trees around me, and to start learning about their characteristics, that provoked BFTF into trying to disseminate this information more widely via the "Just 5 Trees" project, which can be found here.

Then, one day, I found myself in a park where I didn't seem to be able to recognise a single tree. It was very strange. What was I doing wrong?

I emailed the Woodland Trust for help. They pointed out that many parks are planted with non-native trees and that this might be why they were not shown in my little book. They also kindly agreed to talk about British Woodlands on the radio - hence this interview.

You can read about the actual interview in Part 2 of this post.

Woodland Trust Interview (Pt2) - Interview

Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Interview
Part 3 - Actions

This page currently holds only a few snippets of information from the Interview. A more comprehensive account will be posted here once a transcription is available.

Kaye initially described how the Woodland Trust had been formed in 1972 by Kenneth Watkins and some friends who were concerned about the rate at which small woodlands had been lost during the second world war and also to softwood plantations.

Since then the organisation has bought many other woodlands and is now custodian of some 1000 woods in the UK. You can find out more about the history, governance and funding of the Woodland Trust at their website here

Kaye also mentioned that the UK has a relatively low level of forest cover at only 12% (a post interview search of t'Intranet revealed that coverage was 31% in France, 32% in Germany and even densely populated Belgium managed 23%)

A key message that Kaye wanted to get across was the the Woodland Trust woods are numerous and close by - you can find out where your local woods are (and what kind of acivities you can do there) by visiting the "Visit Woods" section of or by visiting "" .

One interesting snippet of information that Kaye mentioned was that the "Sumac Centre" , an independant community and social centre, had a " 'Fruit and Notts' " project involving planting fruit trees in Nottingham - respect to the team there for making the effort to do this!

The Woodland Trust constantly campaigns to protect the country's woodlands, and people can get involved firstly be letting their local MP know how important local woods are. Further volunteering opportunities are available, of course, on the website.

After the Interview, Kaye sent an email with a link to a section of the Woodland Trust Website that has a "Tree Guide", so you don't even have to buy a book to get started!

Woodland Trust Interview (Pt3) - Actions

Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Interview
Part 3 - Actions

Although a number of actions are planned related to this interview, only a couple have actually been undertaken. These are listed below.

BFTF tries hard to be a "practice what you preach" blog and does not suggest actions that it has not already undertaken itself.

Sent an email to as many of Nottingham's Mosques as BFTF has email addresses for, suggesting that if they believe the protection of trees and woodlands is something that is important in Islam, they may wish to tell their congregations about the Woodland Trust and how they can find out where their local woods are.

Sent an email to the "Muslim Communities Facilitator" and Nottingham Jammat Ahle Sunnat suggesting that this is an area where local mosques can find common ground with wider society.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Bt Toxins - new threat or old timer

You know, there seem to be so many health scares and threats to life-as-we-know-it these days that it is difficult to know what to do for the best. Life was much simpler when BFTF was a lad. In fact, back then there was only really one thing you had to worry about. Admittedly, that one thing was Global Thermonuclear War which would incinerate hundreds of millions and leave the survivors to mostly die a slow gruesome death from radiation poisioning or starve to death in the subsequent nuclear winter - but at least you knew where you stood.

A typical example of how difficult it can be to decide whether the wool is being pulled over your eyes can be found in an article that BFTF read recently in the Guardian. Written by Jonathan Latham reports a Canadian paper in the journal Reproductive Toxicology in which pregnant women (and their foetuses) were tested for a range of chemicals characteristically found in GM modified crops.

The article states that "Canadian women now routinely have GM pesticides – called Bt toxins – present in their blood streams. So, too, do 80% of their unborn babies. Presumably, they acquired the toxins by eating GM corn or from livestock fed on it."

The article implies that these "Bt toxins" are a new phenomena and that authorities should have performed more tests to invesigate their effects.

So far, so "big bad pharma"

But then BFTF read the reader comments and noted posts that sugested that the source of the Bt toxins might have been "from eating organic food, since organic farms use the same pesticides, just applied externally instead of coded into the genome of the crop". Other readers stated that "Bt toxins have been used since before WW2, so I don't think we need to fear them per se." and that "Bt is actually an approved Organic pesticide, widely used in the UK". A brief look on the Internet revealed that Bt toxins are chemicals that are naturally produced by certain types of soil living bacteria - so they are certainly not something that is new to nature.

These comments suggest that the article is being misleading and that "Bt toxins" have been around for a long time.

But then there are other comments stating that GM crops have been found to have hamful effects on animals in lab tests.

So who is right? Well, BFTF isn't a biochemist so has absolutely no idea !

It is perhaps worth mentioning that the author of the article could have made life easier for readers if he had simply admitted that Bt toxins have been around for a long time and then explained how GM versions of the Bt toxin represent a higher level of alarm, or posted a link to the article

In an effort to find out more BFTF emailed the report author and an expert in GM issues at a local university to see if they could clarify things. Should BFTF get an answer, it will get posted here. . . .

Spores and bipyramidal insecticidal crystal proteins from BT bacteria.  

UPDATE : 07 Jul 12

BFTF doesn't think it received a response to the email, so has resent it.

Canadian paper showing presence of Bt toxin in women

Original article in the Guardian

Paper investigating effects of GM crops on lab animals

A Science Blog with some useful information

Bt in Wikipedia

Image Source : Wikipeida