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

Increíble!

Vintage, Sourdough and May

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Vintage at The Classic Car Boot Sale

Twice a year at King’s Cross there is Hemingway Design’s Classic Car Boot Sale https://www.classiccarbootsale.co.uk

Forget what you think you know about car boot sales.  All traders are hand-picked by the Hemingway team and you will find some of the tastiest food around all served out of vintage vehicles.  I was tempted to annihilate your inbox with atmospheric photos from The Classic Car Boot’s Facebook account (photo credit to Mykola Romanovsky http://www.romanovsky.photography) from last month but encourage you to visit and peruse at your leisure. It is a real feast for the eyes and will have you translating each face for meaning and looking for hidden treasures amongst the classic cars and London brick.
Of course we were there serving up the hot coffees for all the cold punters as it was a chilly weekend in London Town but that didn’t stop the cars, dancing, cycling and amazing vintage outfits from coming out of the woodwork.
Always a pleasure and looking forward to next year.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Craft of Sourdough

I’ve developed a liking for sourdough bread and was keen to find out the science and learn some tips about how to bake the best loaf.  So, I booked myself on the half day course at the wonderful School of Artisan Food https://www.schoolofartisanfood.org  in Nottinghamshire’s Welbeck estate.  It’s a beautiful place, located in Sherwood forest, you feel inspired to join the impressive ranks of artisan food alumni just driving up the long drive to the school.
You may recognise it’s founder, Alison Swan Parente, from the BBC two series, Top of the Shop (https://www.schoolofartisanfood.org/page/top-of-the-shop) who began the school from very noble and admirable intentions – baking and making can change lives.  The School is a registered charity and, as a not-for-profit institution, is committed to providing the widest possible access to its facilities.  This was my third time and each time I come back inspired and determined to be braver in the my business and my kitchen.

I was lucky enough to be taught my David who had been made redundant and got through tough times by baking bread which then developed to him being a teacher at the school.  He’s enthusiasm for the benefits of bread making are contagious and his knowledge enlightening – and like a true educator you can ask him anything.

My own adventures in starting a culture have been mixed.  First few days I meticulously added more flour and hand warm water, tucking it safely away in my airing cupboard to then forget about it when we had friends up for the bank holiday weekend and discover it had exploded.  Not to be deterred by the failure of my first attempt I plan to start another in the high hopes that the next levain will become something of legend I can pass down to my children (so far they seem unimpressed by the idea).

Wish me luck!

 

 

 

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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