If dining in is the new dining out then The Spice Pioneer subscription box will be a great success. Members receive a spice box each month in the post which includes a menu plan and recipes. Enough to impress your friends and create a dinner party for four people. There's a postcard from the place that inspired the menu (each month is a surprise and travels the culinary world) and a link to a music playlist to set the scene while you are cooking and dining. The spices are provided for a starter, main course and side dish or a dessert. I've been sent the aromatic Moroccan box and the spicy Sri Lankan box to try, both with easy to follow and inspiring recipes. The quality of the spices is really very good, and for those of you out there unlikely to have a store cupboard with the selection required to cook amazing curries and spicy dishes, then this is the answer. You do need to go and buy the main ingredients but the shopping list is concise and easy to snap on your phone camera. Nothing complicated to search for with all the Moroccan box ingredients found in Lidl and the Sri Lankan ingredients all from Asda.
- Chicken tagine with apricots ginger and ras el hanout from Morocco
- Orange and date salad with preserved lemon and pomegranate molasses from Morocco
- Spicy green beans and black mustard seed from Sri Lanka
- Sri Lankan monkfish curry
- Beetroot curry - really very good and I would never have thought of making this before
- The spice box and ingredients purchased actually fed 6 of us.
An invitation to review Giraffe in Bury St Edmunds solved my Wednesday night supper dilemma last week. It's in a part of town that I don't really go to, by the muliplex cinema. I prefer the Abbeygate Cinema with its' arty films and live streamed National Theatre performances. Anyway, I digress ... Giraffe was extremely quiet and to be honest a little chilly but Ben and Lauren who were serving kept it lively and upbeat and chatted to us, providing a great, without being overbearing, service. Well done to them, because it's hard when you are working in a quiet restaurant to keep some pace going. I'd taken Mr SuffolkFoodie so I thought that a steak would be inevitable; he always hones in on meat, being a South African. I actually think South African food will trend at some point soon, so was hoping that the menu might reflect this part of the world, especially with a name like Giraffe, but no Bunny Chow on this occasion. Mr SF chose a Chilli Beef Burrito, which he enjoyed. I had the Lamb Tagine which was a very generous portion and not shy with the meat. It arrived with some ceremony as the lid of the tagine was lifted, tah dah, revealing the dish scattered with tasty pistachios and pomegranate seeds. The blend of meat, spice and apricot was excellent, with a great depth of flavour and assured by Ben, had been made in house. For pudding, as I always enjoy something sharp and fruity, I went for the best option which was a white chocolate and passion fruit cheesecake. I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived with a fresh passion fruit drizzled across the top and not a smear of coulis in sight. A good meal, and definitely worth taking a look at if you want to take children out for a meal (kids eat free) or want a good breakfast before noon. I've been hearing good things about their £5 breakfast deal.
...my control freakery about coffee is well known. I went to the restaurant show one year and decided to ask the experts there what my kind of coffee is called - an espresso with the same amount of hot milk - and a barista said 'a bloody awkward'. I don't like froth, it has to be hot milk, I hate too much milk, I want it strong... I thought I had it when the Flat White arrived but they are still just too big and milky in most places. I had it in Cuba in a Cafe con leche - you don't have to ask for hot milk there.
Coffee has a long history - longer, perhaps, than most of us originally realised. Rumour has it that the first person to understand the effects of the coffee bean was a goat herder in Ethiopia in the ninth century. Apparently he noticed the effect of coffee beans on the goats in his care which consumed them. However, others argue that the real beginning of coffee drinking began in the middle of the 1400s in the Yemen by monks in a Sufi monastery. These monks are said to have recognised the properties of caffeine which they found useful to keep themselves awake during nocturnal devotions.
The consumption of the drink spread to the northern African countries and by the 1500s, the practice of drinking coffee had spread throughout the Middle East and also travelled to Turkey and Persia. The first coffee house was said to have opened in Istanbul in 1554. At first, there was some suspicion about the effects of caffeine but the popularity of the bean eventually overcame these objections. From here, it was not long before the beverage was consumed in Italy. This was probably because of the strong trade at the time between Venice in Italy and the North African countries. As in the Arabic world, there was initially some concern about the stimulating effects of the drink within the Catholic church, but also as with the Arabic world, these objections were overcome.From Italy, coffee spread across Europe. One of the first coffee houses opened in Venice in the mid-seventeenth century. Franco Anglo, an Italian farmer, is said to be responsible for discovering many coffee beans in far flung countries. Thanks to the British East India Company and also the Dutch East India Company, England was introduced to the drink around the 1500s and the first English coffee house was said to be opened in the Cornhill. The word `coffee` probably comes from the Dutch word `koffie` which came from the Turkish `kahve` which comes from an Arabic phrase which translates as `wine of the bean`. Certainly it was said to be the Dutch who were responsible for taking the coffee drink out of Europe and across to America and the East Indies.
Of course, the modern day coffee industry is huge. There are many many varieties of coffee, blend of coffee and ways to serve the drink. Many countries in the world are being seduced by the caffeine elixir and markets are growing quickly in countries such as India and China (both traditionally associated with tea). There is also a celebration in the art of coffee preparation. Many nations now take part in the World Barista Championships and many competitions have already been held to try to find the national representatives for this years` global competition to find the world champion. Each barista will have to do his or her best to impress the judges about their skills in transforming humble coffee beans into a delicious and creative drink that is worthy of the title.
This three hour tour takes you through the foodie paradise of Bethnal Green in East London - from the famous and beautiful Columbia Rd flower market for fresh morning coffee and pastries from Italy, to Brick Lane, the home of curry, with foodie stops all the way. Jamie Oliver comes here to buy his Vietnamese street food and even the kebab vans are good. So we can try fresh oysters; beigels stuffed with salt beef or smoked salmon, traditional Cockney pie, mash and eels and home made baklava - from the traditional shops that have been here for years, and from the fabulous new street food vendors that cook here at the weekend.
The tour is £10 per person, runs most Saturdays and Sundays and meets at Hoxton station. You buy your own food throughout but don't worry, it's mostly under a fiver and you'll easily walk it off! It starts at 11.00am going for coffee, and ends at 2.00pm with whatever you liked best...and there is even a Cockney cashpoint to get your money out in rhyming slang!
Send me a message for details of the next tour dates and how to book.