January Recipe – Celeriac and Leek Gratin w/ Fried Cavolo Nero


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped thyme, plus extra to garnish
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 300ml (1/2pt) vegetable stock
  • 50ml double cream
  • Butter, for greasing
  • 1 celeriac, finely sliced
  • 450g (14 1/2oz) floury potatoes, finely sliced
  • 300g cavolo nero
  • 50ml olive oil

To make a Vegan poaching liquor:

  • 500ml plant milk, oat milk or unsweetened soy milk
  • 300ml oat or soy cream
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves


  1. Preheat the oven to gas 6, 200°C, fan 180°C. If using make the vegan poaching liquor by adding all of the poaching liquor ingredients to a pan and stir thoroughly. Heat on medium and bring to a gentle simmer.
  2. Heat the oil in a large lidded frying pan. Add the leeks and garlic then cover and sweat, over a medium heat, for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the leeks catching. Stir in the thyme, then remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  3. In a small jug, stir the flour into 4 tbsp stock Add the cream, followed by the remaining stock; stir to combine. Set aside.
  4. Grease a 2ltr ovenproof dish with butter. Layer up the celeriac potatoes and the leek mixture, alternating between each until all are used up. Pour over the cream mixture, Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.
  5. Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, or until tender and golden. Leave to stand for 10 minutes, before scattering with the extra thyme and serving.
  6. If the cavolo nero leaves are large remove the stalks and slice the leaves into strips about 1cm wide. To blanch them, cook in a saucepan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until just beginning to wilt, then drain well.
  7. Add the oil to the saucepan, turn the heat to high, then add the cavolo nero. Season, then cook for a couple of minutes, tossing frequently, until tender. Serve immediately.


The Green Recovery Challenge Fund

We are proud to announce that a partnership of locally based organisations, led by ourselves here at Middlesbrough Environment City, has been successful in receiving support through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund! The fourteen-month project will engage local people in practical action to improve our green environment, through volunteering and training opportunities.

The partnership includes Actes, The Linx Project Hemlington and The Other Perspective, and will work particularly with young people, BAME communities and refugees and asylum seekers. Focussing on Middlesbrough’s local wildlife sites, the volunteering and training opportunities will help improve and manage habitats, making them even better for wildlife. Through involvement, participants will also develop practical nature conservation skills and employability skills, as well as having a positive impact on their local area.

The project builds on previous projects including One Planet Pioneers, part of the National Lottery Community Fund Our Bright Future project, which has been helping young people into further training and jobs for over five years. Emily, pictured first, joined the initiative as an apprentice with Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, working towards an award in nature conservation. After completing her apprenticeship she was successful in finding work with Middlesbrough Environment City as a Forest Schools Assistant, helping children and families to learn more about the natural world and become more physically active. Emily said: “The opportunity to build my skills and experience through my apprenticeship at Tees Valley Wildlife Trust has really helped me to get work in the environment sector. I really enjoy being able to share my own love of the natural world with others.”

The project will also help support other communities in Middlesbrough to make a positive difference, building on projects such as the Albert Park Community Allotment. From a Council depot to a place to enjoy, Middlesbrough Environment City with Investing in People and Culture have created a thriving allotment where asylum seekers, refugees and people of more than ten nationalities grow plants, alongside other residents. Ibrahim, who manages the site sees it as a place to make friends and improve English language skills while growing and nurturing crops. For Ibrahim, “it’s like one big family and a way of improving your mental wellbeing. The community garden is a good place, you have no fear, your mind is at ease.”

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) , who have announced grants between £62,000 and £3.8 million, to help create and retain thousands of green jobs. The projects, spread across England, will see trees planted – 800,000 in total – and protected landscapes and damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests restored, alongside wider conservation work. The projects will also support environmental education and connecting people with green spaces. The #GreenRecoveryChallengeFund is a key part of Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan to kick-start nature recovery and tackle climate change. The fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said:
“These projects will drive forward work across England to restore and transform our landscapes, boost nature and create green jobs, and will be a vital part of helping us to build back greener from coronavirus.

“I look forward to working with environmental organisations as these projects help address the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, while creating and retaining jobs as part of the green recovery.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:
“Supporting our natural environment is one of the most valuable things we can do right now. All these projects are of huge benefit to our beautiful countryside and wildlife, but will also support jobs, health and wellbeing, which are vitally important as we begin to emerge from the coronavirus crisis.”

The government’s forthcoming Environment Bill puts the environment at the centre of policy making to ensure that we have a cleaner, greener and more resilient country for the next generation. The fund is supporting a range of nature conservation and recovery and nature-based solutions projects, which will contribute towards government’s wider 25 Year Environment Plan commitments, including commitments to increase tree-planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025.

Our team here at Middlesbrough Environment City, alongside Actes, the LINX Project and The Other Perspective are proud to work #TogetherForOurPlanet and help to teach others expand upon their conservation skills, providing a better future for our planet, for future generations, for the BAME community and for the refugees and asylum seekers who now call Middlesbrough home.

December Recipe – Easy Fruit Christmas Cake


  • 3 large eggs
  • 300g  plain flour
  • 250g  butter, softened
  • 250g  light muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 410g jar of mincemeat
  • 3- 4 tbsp brandy (Can be substituted with orange, grape or apple juice)
  • 500g dried mixed fruit, soaked overnight with a tbsp of brandy
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 20cm round or 18cm square cake tin, lined with baking parchment


  1. To ensure the cake is positioned centrally in the oven, put one of the shelves just below the centre of it. Set the oven to 140°C/280°F/Gas Mark 1.
  2. Lightly grease the base and sides of your chosen tin and line with baking parchment. To prevent the outside edges of the cake drying out, tie a double band of brown paper, 3cm deeper than the depth of the tin, around the outside of the tin.
  3. Break the eggs into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, except for the remaining brandy. Beat the mixture until smooth, then spoon it into the lined cake tin. With a wet spoon, press the mixture into the tin and smooth on top, so that it’s level then in the centre make a slight hollow as this will help the cake to have a level top when cooked .
  4. Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 3 – 3.5 hours, or until the cake feels firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean after being inserted into the cake. If the top is getting too brown, cover with foil or greaseproof paper.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack. Leave the cake to cool for about 15 minutes, then spoon over the brandy. Leave it to cool completely in the tin.
  6. Remove the cake from the tin and wrap it in more baking parchment and then foil, and store in a cool place for up to 3 months, until ready to cover with icing and decorate. If desired once a week ‘feed’ the cake with a drizzle of brandy.

Cook’s Tip

Soak your dried fruit overnight in a glass bowl if you’re choosing to make a non-alcoholic Christmas cake to avoid the cake being too dry.  Keep the cake in an airtight tin and don’t feed the cake with brandy.

November Recipe – Apple & Pecan Flapjack


  • 2 eating apples (unpeeled), cored, cut into quarters and roughly chopped
  • 150g (5oz) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 150g (5oz) light soft brown sugar
  • 50g (2oz) porridge oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g (7oz) self-raising flour
  • 50g (2oz) pecans, plus 12 to decorate


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Gas mark 4, then grease the sides of the Swiss roll tin with butter and line the base with baking parchment.
  2. Place the prepared apples in a food processor and pulse a few times until they’re in small pieces.
  3. Add the butter and sugar and cream together for 20 seconds or so, then add all the remaining ingredients and pulse just until mixed.
  4. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and place the pecans on top, spaced apart to form an even grid (4 x 3). Bake for 25-30 minutes or until risen and golden, then remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool down completely.
  5. When cool, cut into 12 bars, each with one pecan on top, and remove from the tin.

Non-food processor method

  1. Chop the apple into small chunks. Set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together, add the oats and self raising flour and apples and thoroughly mix everything together.
  3. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and place the pecans on top, spaced apart to form an even grid (4 x 3). Bake for 25-30 minutes or until risen and golden, then remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool down completely.
  4. When cool, cut into 12 bars, each with one pecan on top, and remove from the tin.


Boro Active Explorers Half Term Activities

Last week, over half term, Boro Active Explorers delivered two days of fun outdoor activities to children from the TS3 area as part of our BAE project: Boro Active Explorers is all about engaging children, families and schools in physical activities through outdoor learning and play.

On Tuesday, children came to our site here at MEC to pick, prepare and press apples making fresh apple juice which was enjoyed by one and all. They also had a chance to explore our forest school area and finished the day around our camp fire toasting marshmallows.

Then, on Thursday, the Explorers enjoyed a circular guided cycle ride from Teessaurus Park, along the River Tees to Maze Park and Tees Barrage before heading back to Teesaurus Park for a packed lunch and some organised games.

Nicky and Emily would like to thank MEC’s Mike and Dave for their help with the guided ride on Thursday and special thanks to all the families for making the two days successful events.


October Recipe – Chicken Yakitori Skewers


  • 3 tbsp miso paste
  • 3 tbsp  soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 3 chicken breast fillets, cut into 2cm pieces
  • Ground white pepper, to season
  • 2-3 large spring onions, trimmed and cut into 2cm (¾in) pieces
  • 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 spring onion, extra thinly sliced on the diagonal


  1. Bring the miso paste, soy sauce, mirin and sugar to a simmer in a saucepan over a medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 mins, or until the sauce thickens slightly. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the chicken and half the sauce in a bowl. Season with ground white pepper. Chill in the fridge for 30 mins to marinate.
  3. Thread the chicken, and spring onions alternately onto metal or (pre-soaked) bamboo skewers.
  4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the skewers to the pan and cook, turning once, for 6 -8 mins, or until cooked through.
  5. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with the remaining spring onion. Serve immediately with the extra sauce for dipping.




Boro Active Explorers

Boro Active Explorers is a free-to-access collaborative project delivered in partnership by ourselves at Middlesbrough Environment City, Community Ventures -and Middlesbrough Voluntary Development Agency, delivering Forest School family sessions, CPD training to volunteers and teachers plus physically-active school holiday sessions to primary age children.

This project is part of the “You’ve Got This“ delivery pilot funded by Sport England, which aims to transform the delivery of physical activity in the South Tees area.

If any families or schools in the Thorntree, Brambles Farm or North Ormesby area would to get involved or find out more they can contact the team via the Boro Active Explorers Facebook page, or call Rachel at Community Ventures on 01642 989254.

These images in particular show the wonderful Johansen-Berg family taking part in a Park-to-Park Walk!


September Recipe – Vegetable Biryani


  • 1 small carrot, peeled, cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium potato, peeled, cut into small cube
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 25g/1oz French beans, finely chopped
  • 50g/2oz frozen peas
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • ½ tsp finely chopped green chillies
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • 225g/8oz cooked basmati rice
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 roasted cashew nuts, chopped
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • yoghurt, to serve (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/235F/Gas 3.
  2. Cook the carrot, potato, peppers, French beans and peas in a pan of boiling water for 3-4 minutes, or until tender. Drain and return to the pan.
  3. Add the tomato purée, green chillies, garam masala and turmeric to the vegetables and mix until well combined.
  4. Place half of the rice at the bottom of an ovenproof dish, spread the vegetable mixture on top, and then place the rest of the rice on top, spreading it evenly.
  5. Sprinkle the top layer of rice with the chopped onions, cashew nuts, cumin seeds and red chilli powder. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 15 minutes. Serve with yoghurt.


Announcing our support for NEECCo

Middlesbrough Environment City are pleased to announce our support for the recently created North East of England Climate Coalition (NEECCo).

NEECCo is England’s first regional climate coalition and it is open to all organisations from all sectors to join.

The coalition has been created to tackle the climate emergency, reverse ecological collapse, and deliver an urgent and just transition.

Collectively we hope our activities will help make the North East England’s greenest region.

For more information please see the new NEECCo website here: www.neecco.org.uk