Unsure about Latte Art but sure about Soup

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My fight with Latte Art

I am having a dilemma when it comes to Latte Art.  There!  I’ve said it!  God it feels good to confess.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Latte Art is a wee bit silly but I am also worried that it may be a defence mechanism I have unconsciously put in place because I am just not that good at it.  The above image isn’t mine.  It is from the wonderfully humble Aaron Prittyfrom Stewarts of Trent Bridge, our lovely coffee supplier.

As part of a team building exercise we spent 2 hours at Stewarts learning more about the coffee we sell as well as trying to come to grips with the art of Latte Art because I have signed myself, and husband, up to Nottingham’s first every Latte Art Throwdown.

44590312_1962420457147613_2301707230585552896_nUnder Aaron’s tutalage a few weeks ago all seemed to be going well.  I corrected some mistakes I’d been making in terms of heating the milk, the way I held the cup in my hand and the distance I held the jug from the cup.  Great!  My ability to mentally process what I needed to do and my body’s ability to perform the task were in alignment.  The following week continued along these lines of progression, my brain communicating in symmetry with my hands and all looking ok. Not greatmind you, not; I’m going to smash this competitionbut a more gentle self-confident; I’m not going to utterly embarrass myself and soil the name of my business I have worked so hard to create these past 3 years in one disastrous evening among Nottingham’s coffee elite, kind-of-feeling.

But things have now taken a turn for the worse.  With the competition now days away my Latte Art has deteriorate.  My hands are no longer playing ball and doing what I have mentally set them as a target.  I am putting this down to nerves.  To a natural reaction to not having competed personally in much in 20 years but there is a nagging feeling that I may be getting too old for learning these kinds of new skills.  It’s bloody annoying as I care much less about what others think of me now so will do crazy things, like sign myself up to Latte Art Throwdowns, but my ability to acquire new skills seems to have slowed.

So if you find yourself in Nottingham on Friday and feel sympathetic to my cause do support an ageing hippy (ster), it would be fab but please do come in the spirit of solidarity and humour.

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Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup

Warming soup with a hint of ginger and hit of chilli to keep you toasty on cold markets.  We serve ours with crusty sourdough bread from our local bakery Tough Mary’s Bakehouse  during the Autumn months with a splash of cream but topping with pumpkin seeds, a good grind of pepper and rosemary makes a lovely vegan alternative.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 onionfinely chopped
salt and pepper
3 cloves of finely chopped (or grated) garlic
5 cm (2in) piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped (or grated)
chilli flakes(to your spice-level-liking)
1 cinnamon stick
900g (2lbs) of butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
900ml of vegetable stock

Method:
1. Preheat slow cooker on low setting. Heat oilin a large saucepan over a medium heat.  Once hot add onionswith a good grind of salt and cook till soft, approximately 4-5 mins.  Add garlic, ginger, chilli flakesand cinnamon stickand stir for 1 min before adding the butternut squashand giving it all a good stir to coat evenly.
2. Add hot stock to the squash pan and give everything a good stir.  Bring to the boil and then add carefully to the preheated slow cooker.  Cover with a lid and head out for the day while your butternut squash softens to autumn loveliness.
3. After 8 hours (or thereabouts) remove the cinnamon stickand blend until smooth using a hand held blender or liquidiser.
4. Top with a spot of cream, a good grind of pepper, roasted seeds or more chilli flakes and enjoy.  The soup freezes very well and a great one to make for a lazy Sunday lunch and bring to work later in the week.

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Through the eyes of the bar staff & Cuban Coffee

GUEST BLOG WRITER ED!!

Glawning placement student Ed has written an insightful look into working at a festival behind the scenes.  We LOVE it and think you will have a little chuckle as well.

When I was drafted in by the glawning team to help out at their annual charity festival Glampfest I had only ever met James once before and somehow he’d managed to get me to become his work horse for several days. I started on the Wednesday morning with energy and a smile naive as to the amount of work that needed to be done. Fuelled by out of date peanuts and tea, we fought for hours putting up the gazebos which drained me both physically and emotionally and STILL no one commented on our excellent craftsmanship of those beautifully structured and secured gazebos that weekend! When I was finally allowed to leave on the Wednesday night I was exhausted and now terrified for what was yet to come.

For some reason I returned Friday and was set right away to the most crucial part of the festival –  decorating. With enough lights to compete with Blackpool Illuminations, putting them all up became a thankless task with constant discussion from everyone, who now suddenly each had a Design degree (to be fair one actually did), about the positioning, of which I was the one called upon to fix and move the lights to find which of the 50 positions they preferred.

When people began to arrive I took my position behind the bar and unintentionally it became a location I feel most would recognise me from. From here I met most of you and began to understand and get a feel for the community vibe that is connected with Glawning, however this could have been the alcohol.

Throughout the Friday night, despite no one knowing where to get drink tokens from, we served plenty of drinks from Rudgate Ales to speciality gin and the cocktails (which were surprisingly popular with the blokes). From behind the bar I could see the whole space and had a great view of the two brilliant sets. So despite it being a lot of hard work, when there was time to look around and see everyone having a good time and the lights looking okay despite being in the wrong position, I felt a sense of excitement for what was to come and a craving to do more to make it an even better experience.

With Friday coming to an end I was told I’d be sleeping with the medics in their tent. The only issue being they didn’t know and were asleep already. So it came as no surprise to hear, whilst in the queue for shower the next morning, one of the medics explain to someone about how some drunk guy had rudely crashed into his tent during the night and he had found him passed out next to him in the morning. Luckily as the tent we shared was a Glawning there was plenty of space for all three of us along with all our bags and kit. What a great investment that was.

On Saturday morning only just out of bed I was put to work and was placed on Breakfast duty. Sorry for the big queues. It wasn’t the greatest of starts.  It felt like a war scene, smoke billowing out behind us, orders being fired our way left, right and centre and no matter how fast we got those sausage and bacon cobs out people just kept coming. Luckily for James I made it out alive so was still able to work some more.

The rest of the day, although of course still working, I started to feel really connected to the festival and the community within it and felt I matched perfectly to Glampfest like Harry has to Meghan or Glawning has to quality camping experiences. With plenty of sun, laughter and smiling Saturday had set itself out perfectly as the star day of Glampfest with various activities such as the sports day and having the kids viscously hunt down and attack the ‘sweetie man’ going down well.

Saturday gave us some great performances under the marquee with Josh Gleaves and Zac Carpenter giving us an outstanding performance and brilliant covers. Followed by the return of the band Barr Lane with another brilliant set but there was two stand out performances for me, the first of which were the Dads whose dancing competition produced a lot of blood, sweat and tears along with plenty of embarrassment for each of their counterparts and children. However this was nothing compared to the performance produced to us by DJ Rory Hoy. The man who controlled us like string puppets with an outstanding set. I’ve seen Snoop dog, Noel Gallagher and Madness live (not at the same time) and this was up there with them.

I stayed rooted behind the bar for nearly the whole of Saturday with clear instructions which I did not want to disobey – “make sure to remain suitably drunk tonight.” Now my version of ‘suitably’ and its intended meaning altered as the night progressed to the point that my night became more enjoyable and more of a daze as the clock went by. As my alcohol level and confidence rose throughout the night it allowed me to have some great conversations with all sorts of people and it became a real privilege (from what I remember) getting to know all you interesting people with your stories, opinions and tales. However with no complaints and even praise as to how much people loved the bar I still never received any tips!

When Saturday night came to an end and the “we hate Miriam” chants echoed round the marquee (she kicked everyone out for midnight curfew) I had managed to make good friends with the band and an after party followed on in their caravan which was a surreal moment and a highlight of my festival. However as great as that moment was for me when returning to my tent the photographer (who happened to be out for an early morning stroll) had reported to the boss seeing me clambering through every bush on the site at 4.30am trying to get home.

Despite my late night I was still expected to report to my war zone duty at breakfast and repeat that harrowing task in recovery. Sunday saw no one really looking their best as the heavy headed pack down and departure for most began. The success of Glampfest was apparent and the failures seemed very well hidden.

I returned to the scene of the crime on the Monday ready to remove any evidence the festival ever took place. But this time I looked back over the weekend and despite being worked to the bone I was happy that I’d taken part and against my better judgement will return next year.

*Enormous thanks to Ed for writing this. The Glawning Team were in stitches during our first read through! Thanks for working so hard and being a good sport despite the never-ending rearranging of festoon lighting and ‘harrowing’ breakfast service!

A full gallery of photos from our 2018 festival can be viewed here

Tickets for Glampfest 2019 are ON SALE NOW at extra-special-mega-early-bird prices. We expect next year’s event to be a sell out so get your tickets early to ensure you don’t miss out.

Photo credit John Manktelow Photography
https://www.johnmanktelowphotography.co.uk

 

Cuban Coffee in Little Havana

Miami is a gloriously vibrant city full of all sorts of cultures, traditions, history and stories.  We had a few days to explore and did the tourist thang and got ourselves on an open top bus tour in which one of it’s stops was Little Havana.  There’s an intensity about Little Havana – heat, crowds, traffic, music and the gentle whiff of cigar.  Walking into La Colada Gourmet https://www.facebook.com/LaColadaGourmet/ was like walking into a haven. We were welcomed warmly and allowed to sample different coffees including my favourite, Tres Leches coffee.
So treat yourself this summer! Turn up the heat, get Miami Sound Machine on Spotify and take yourself away to (Little or Big) Havana with this coffee recipe:

  • a shot of condensed milk in the bottom of a glass
  • double shot of espresso (we had Jamaica Blue Mountain beans)
  • add steamed whole milk
  • top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings

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The Story of May and my Rhubarb loaf.

The Story of our May (our coffee camper).

Let me introduce you to May, our beautiful 1965 Volkswagen Coffee Panel Bus. A LHD, ’65 European import sliding door panel van with 1600 twin carb engine, slightly lowered, IRS rear set up & with EMPI wide 5 wheels (in the VW world this kind of detail is important).
She began life in Wolfsburg, Germany as a bread delivery vehicle for the local byckerei (German bakery). She then became a family camper in Poland, before being shipped over to England in 2005 to reside in Malvern. There she was restored by a VW enthusiast and spent several years as a show car. Her  transformation to the charming, helpful van she is today started in 2013 and included a 70 inch roof cut, full roll cage skeleton with top side hinges & gas struts to open & close the roof. Still fire engine red at this point, she was then wrapped in chocolate brown & cream vinyl and branded The Split Screen Bakery by Kate and Ash, who now run The Steamhouse Cafe (http://steamhousebagels.co.uk) in Leamington Spa.  May then came to us in Nottingham via Kate and Dan from Sleaford.   I rebranded her and started the business The Split Screen Coffee Company.  When I jump into the driver’s seat I always have a little smile; the padded bench seat, the steering wheel you can slouch over, the pinch and slide windows… all so appealing, all so tactile.  It is the most personified object I own –  May and I are a team.

However,  May’s comfortable is where the list of creature comforts ends.  No heating on cold days, no air con on hot.  She leaks on raining days, and on snowy days I discovered this winter, the seat belt has only one setting which is tight and then very tight when I’m layered up and even that lovely leather bench seat I keep banging on about has an evil side – think hot days, long drive and bare skin.

But despite all this we are so looking forward to the start of another season and can’t wait to make the trip to London this weekend for the wonderful Classic Car Boot (http://classiccarbootsale.co.uk) in King’s Cross.  One of the coolest things happening in London this weekend and one not to be missed if you are into your vintage and classic cars.
Hope to see you there.

 

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My rhubarb loaf recipe – adapted from https://www.olivemagazine.com/recipes/rhubarb-pistachio-soured-cream-cake/

‘Tis the rhubarb season.  So abundant in our allotment at the moment, there are so many ways to use rhubarb but here is the recipe I use for my hugely popular rhubarb, soured cream and pistachio loaf.

Ingredients:
150g butter (softened)
125g soured cream
3 eggs
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
75g of chopped pistachios
100g of thinly sliced rhubarb

Method:
1. Line a loaf tin with parchment paper and preheat oven to 180C/160C fan
2. Use a hand mixer to beat together softened butter, sourced cream, eggs, flour, baking powder, bicarb, sugar and vanilla until smooth.
3. Stir in most of the pistachios with all of the rhubarb and then pour into the lined tin.
4. Scatter over remaining pistachios and bake for 50-55mins until a skewer comes out clean.  I cover with tin foil so it doesn’t browns too quickly.
5. Cool on in tin and then wire rack.

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We’re reducing our plastic and luxury hot chocolate recipe for raining (where the hell is Spring?) days.

The Split Screen is going green.

Having not yet completely lost hope in humanity’s ability to make the world a better place and finding inspiration from Blue Planet 2, the most watched TV programme in 2017,  we made a little silent pledge to use less plastic.
We have always offered a 50p discount to anyone who has brought us a reusable mug but we are now teaming up with other cafes in and around Nottinghamshire in the hopes of building up a movement away from disposable cups.  Visit http://www.ecocuppa.org.uk to check out all the participating cafes. 992feac1-f1ee-4375-953a-c98f4688d044

Luxury Hot Chocolate.

Spring and the warming sunshine are taking their time this year so we are having to find an alternative heat source.  Our hot chocolate sauce is going down a storm and it couldn’t be easier.  All you need is good quality cocoa, sugar, salt, vanilla, water and a spare 10 minutes.

Here’s how:
Mix 250g unsweetened cocoa with 250g of caster sugar.  Add 250ml of cold water and 1/4 tsp of salt and whisk over a medium heat until boiling stirring constantly.  Allow to boil for 3-4 mins.  Taste and stir in an additional 1/4 tsp of salt of required.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 tbsp of vanilla extract.  Allow to cool before storing in a sterilised airtight container.  Will keep for up to a month.

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Summer Events

As we approached our one year anniversary, we have had quite the successes at recent events.

The summer was a messy start with Split Screen at Mudstock which was a muddy family excursion with a lot of ruined socks and a lot of fun!
Then later, in August, Jen was catering for the wedding of a lovely coffee-loving couple at Tudor Barn. The day after, we were at Trent Basin catering for prospective buyers of the luxury flats and houses in the new development on the outskirts of Nottingham’s city centre.

The weekend after saw us at Gloworm, the first year of a family festival set in Clumber Park.
With arts and crafts, a wide selection of bars and food outlets, rides, a mini beach, a small big top circus, and live entertainment, the first year of the festival was a resounding success for all involved.

The weather held well throughout most of the weekend, except from about 5 on the Saturday, before the great Dick and Dom took to the stage. People fled to their cars and under canopies to escape the rain. For their set though, everyone scurried back out for entertainment for all ages and which got everyone involved.
Mr Bloom and Toploader took the headline for the Sunday, and they were equally as popular.

Bring on the next week and it was our anniversary – the year had brought us back to the venue of our first event; Newstead Abbey.

A gorgeous weekend (with the odd shower) saw a flurry of people flock to see the likes of Michael Caines, Simon Rimmer, and The Great British Bake Off’s Nancy Birtwhistle as well as the array of food stuffs, locally distilled gin (yum!), and entertainment.

Hunkering out of the rain at Gloworm

As much a success as last year, we reflected on the past year. All the hiccups, teething problems, and successes any new business has. Personally, this year has been somewhat of a great juggling act and emotional roller coaster. With keeping down 5 jobs, family bereavements it’s safe to say I’ve been a bit of a mess, but Jen has been the most supportive and caring employer and friend to me during this time. I can’t thank her enough for that.

Another new employee joined us over this anniversary weekend, so you can see, the business is expanding and we’re only going to get better.
Our time gets booked up more and more quickly, and we’re always thrilled to be a part of anything, be it a party, wedding, or event.

Following another week on, Calke Abbey was another resounding success, with a line up of talks from the two Master Chef judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode, and previous contestant Dean Edwards. While Saturday’s weather was miserable, people still weathered the rain to see what the abbey had to offer.
As ever, you really have to come and see these events to see just how much is on, and how much enthusiasm each vendor puts into their business.

As September has begun, I see this as a mark of the end of our hectic summer, and the beginning of the equally busy autumn and winter season, so stay tuned for those events!

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May sunning it up at Newstead Abbey for the second year

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200° Barista Training

A visit to the roastery…

On the 6th of April, 2016, I was initiated in the ways of the 200° barista. Arriving at an unassuming warehouse was the cozied away roastery; save for a small sign in the window, I only knew I was in the right place from the heady smell of coffee drifting onto the street.

Myself and Mike (husband to Jennifer Walker and with her, co-owner of The Split Screen Coffee Company) were introduced to the Californian coffee-guru Alex and head roaster Mike. They gave us thorough training, with tips from the perfect tamping method to frothing milk to create the perfect taste and texture. About ten practice lattes later, and a lot of frothing w1ashing up liquid in water (which is surprisingly akin to milk when using a steam wand, and saves wasting a cow’s worth of milk in training) Mike and I came on leaps and bounds with our coffee making skills.

200 Degrees  have blown up with success from the demand from coffee fanatics. We were told how busy their café is on an average day, the sheer volume of roasting that goes on to keep up with demand, and their plans to open two new shops (one near Nottingham train station – if those works are ever finished!) so they’re pretty much going all out to test, roast, and blend the best coffee in such a relatively small operation.

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Above image taken from 200 Degrees’ website

I’ve been working alongside Jen at Split Screen since September 2015, so pretty much from then, we’ve been trying our best to deliver the best coffee out of the confinements of a ’65 VW Van.
We’ve had a fair few compliments on our coffees, teas, and hot chocolates, but I feel so much more confident with producing high quality beverages consistently now. (Although that may still waver on the cold evenings when we have a huge queue of people all wanting everything so quickly).

There’s so much to be said for the independent businesses trying to make it in cities where so much is franchised out and the heart is often gone. The care and effort that goes from the produce, to preparation, to the customer is so obvious with 200°, and it makes us all the more proud to be using their coffee in the van.
As Alex told us during the training, “there’s not a lot to coffee, but there’s a lot to coffee… it takes so little to either make or break a good cup of coffee – and just a bit of know-how to take something from a good coffee, to an great one”, words to live by.

 

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Inside the roastery – the masses of un-roasted beans lie in wait

Since I graduated from university with my degree in English literature, I’ve had very little inclination to do any writing, but having been around people so passionate about something they love and so clearly care about, it’s given me the impetus to start doing some write ups. Here’s hoping I’ll keep up with this!