Tag Archives: london

Baking Plans And A Couple Of Loaves

I’ve been trying to work out how I can make more bread. I love making it and trying new recipes, but there are only two of us in this house & we can only eat so much! Of course I can give bread to family/friends, but I still want something more regular to work on. So I’ve been debating getting some part time work in a bakery or selling some loaves, which would be amazing because I could try more loaves, learn more and hopefully make some money at the same time. Wins all round I think.

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I was on the Real Bread Campaign website (which I frequent) and spotted an advert from a local cafe looking for home bakers to help them supply bread to their market stalls. I had heard of the Hornbeam Cafe in Walthamstow, but I’ll admit I didn’t know a lot about it. It turns out that all of their bread is provided by the Hornbeam Bakers Collective, which is made up of a group of keen local bakers. They also provide bread to three market stalls on a Saturday, one outside the Walthamstow cafe, one in Leyton and one in Stoke Newington.

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Last week I went and met with Pilar from the collective and took her a couple of my loaves to try, a mixed white & wholemeal loaf made with tea (top) and a 50% spelt loaf (above). It was the first time I’d made the 50% spelt, so it wasn’t perfect but I was really please with the mixed grain loaf. Thankfully they both went down a storm, so from this Saturday I will start to provide bread to the stalls. Just 8 loaves at first as I only have a little oven, but if it goes well then who knows where it will lead…

Market Cafe Brunch

This weekend was the first weekend of spring. After months of grey skies and freakishly low temperatures the sun finally broke through and warmed our cockles, a few degrees at least.

The temperature change was minimal, but there was enough of a change on Saturday for East London to emerge from it’s winter hideout en masse. The parks were littered with groups of friends, sat in their coats and hats, beer in hand, enjoying what sunshine they could. The pavements outside of the pubs were crammed with punters savouring the early evening rays with their beer and I had to dodge more than a couple of people on my evening run who had over-indulged during the afternoon.

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Sunday was slightly colder, but the sun was still bright so The Boy and I ventured out for brunch and a little walk. As it wasn’t market day I didn’t get distracted by the delights of Spinach and Agushi so we made it all the way down Broadway Market to try Market Cafe. I’d heard good things about the new set up and the brunch had got a special mention.

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The second I saw the words ‘eggs benedict’ my mind was made up as for some reason it had been on my mind all week. The Boy tried the ham hock hash with a fried egg and a flat white to contrast my breakfast tea. The atmosphere was just what I look for in a brunch venue, busy enough to feel lively, but not packed to the rafters or so loud that you can’t hear each other speak.

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Both dishes looked great. The ham hock hash was a big pile of crispy, meaty goodness topped with a beautifully fried egg. My eggs benedict was almost perfect. The sauce was creamy and slightly sharp and the ham was lovely. The muffin was a little over toasted, but I love slightly burnt toast so I’m not really complaining, and while one of my poached eggs was spot on, the other was a bit watery and just not quite right. If I’m honest though, I could have licked the plate clean afterwards, so it can’t have been too bad.

Market Cafe
2 Broadway Market, London, E8 4QJ

Lunching at Lardo

As The Boy has been in America with work this week we didn’t get to spend the Easter bank holiday together, so when he returned this morning we decided we’d make up for lost time and go out for lunch. There was a slight hitch in the form of a mini blizzard outside, which didn’t make going out very appealling. Luckily we now have a choice of eateries just along from us on Richmond Road, so we didn’t have to walk very far.

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After hearing many good things we decided on Lardo and arrived like intrepid explorers, covered in snow. The Italian restaurant opened last year and I’m embarrassed to say that despite it being just 5 minutes walk from out house, this was our first visit.

The Boy plumped for pizza, which I managed to resist as I have already had two this week and three pizzas in a week is a little indulgent. He went for the Taleggio & Mushroom and after much deliberation (the Lardo, Spinach & Egg pizza was calling me the entire time) I ordered the Oxtail Brassato with White Polenta. I cooked oxtail for the first time a few weeks ago, and I figured this was a good opportunity to see how it should be done.

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The waitress explained that the oxtail would take 12 minutes to cook, which was fine as for once we were in no rush. There was also a glass of wine or a soft drink included in the price of every Hearty or Pasta dish, which included the oxtail, so I savoured my free diet coke while waiting for lunch to arrive. I took the opportunity to drag details out of The Boy about his trip, he never wants to talk about work once he’s home so it’s always hard work. Then I had plenty of gossip for him from friends I’d seen over the long weekend.

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The food arrived steaming hot and smelling extremely inviting. The Boy’s pizza was generously topped and by all accounts was extremely tasty, although I can’t actually comment because mushrooms are pretty much the only thing I won’t eat. I did steal some crust though and it was thin, crisp & lightly charred, snapping lightly as you bit into it. It was my idea of the perfect pizza crust to be honest, and the fact that the pizza oven it came out of looks like a giant disco ball somehow made it even better.

My oxtail was soft and rich and falling off the bone. The sauce was thick and mixed with the smooth, pearly white polenta to create the perfect comfort lunch for a day when snow was streaming past the windows. It put my home cooked attempt to shame.

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While it took us a while to visit Lardo, but there are so many other dishes I’d love to try I’m sure it won’t take us long to return. We didn’t even manage dessert this time which is pitiful, but the main was deceptively filling. I think if you’re looking for hearty, classic Italian cooking in Hackney and cracking pizza to boot then Lardo is well worth a visit, or two.

LARDO
197-205 Richmond Road, London, E8 3NJ

Afternoon Tea : Sketch

This Christmas we decided not to give presents for the sake of it and tried to buy more interesting gifts which, in the case of our mum’s, meant we booked to take them out for afternoon tea. My mother-in-law is also an avid baker so we trawled the internet looking for somewhere that wasn’t your standard afternoon tea and in the end we settled on Sketch. The famous bar/restaurant has been open 10 years now, as the host told us as she took us round the different rooms and told us about the different artists who had decorated each room. The decor was half the reason we chose Sketch, it looks beautiful and have some fantastical  toilets…more on those later.

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We booked afternoon tea in The Glade, and ended up sat on the very table featured in the photograph. The menu was intriguing to say the least with some seriously unusual flavour combinations. We ordered afternoon tea for 5 with earl grey, assam breakfast & vanilla tea to accompany it. The food arrived on a cake stand made of stacked cups & saucers and there was so much to fit on the table we had to leave the scones on the bar until we’d got through the sandwiches and pastries.

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We started with the four sandwiches. From top left, clockwise: A super flavoursome smoked salmon on a beautifully soft flatbread. Egg mayonnaise with a fried quail’s egg & caviar. Cucumber, broccoli & ricotta and a croque monsieur with comte cheese. I could eat all of them again (and again and again), but the revelation for me was the egg mayonnaise sandwich. I can’t bear egg mayonnaise sandwiches, but this was no ordinary egg mayo sandwich and the quail’s egg on top was glorious, even if I did bite into the yolk and get it everywhere. Tomorrow I am making myself an egg mayonnaise sandwich, this meal has changed my sandwich eating life.

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Then it was time for the sweet stuff. Clockwise from left: White chocolate & coconut lollipop, almost liquid centred and a flavour pairing to remember. Lemon & basil tart which was like a tiny lemon meringue pie with a savoury basil undertone. Chocolate and mint eclair & finally the fig & port tart. The fig and port tart baffled us all I’m afraid, we just didn’t get it. The eclair was lovely, though I couldn’t really taste the mint. The lollipop was delicious and I will definitely try pairing white chocolate and coconut in a cake soon. But the hands down winner was the lemon and basil tart. After the first bite I was confused and didn’t know what to make of it, but by the end I was completely and utterly won over. I have to try making this flavour tart. I need it in my life.

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Then it was on to pudding, for want of a better course description. A Christmas pudding macaroon, particularly appropriate considering why we were there and a tapioca pudding with pomegranate coulis, blueberries & champagne jelly. I’m not a huge macaroon or Christmas pudding fan so this was never going to be my favourite part of the meal. The macaroon was light and crisp with a beautifully smooth centre and it tasted just like a Christmas pudding! I didn’t like it. I was also less keen on the idea of tapioca pudding as hideous memories of school rice pudding came creeping back to me, but it was delicious. Light and vanillary with a thick berry coulis on top. Delightful.

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By now we were absolutely stuffed and the thought of  a thick, heavy scone with lashings of clotted cream was too much for us to take. However we are not lightweights, so after a couple of cups of tea to wash down the previous courses, we got stuck into the scones and thank god we did. These were the lightest, fluffiest scones I have ever eaten. I ate the whole thing. One half with apple marmalade and the other with strawberry jam. Both with clotted cream, of course.

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I’m afraid to say though, we were then defeated both by time and stomach space. We just couldn’t manage these marshmallows. Luckily Sketch were quite happy to give us a doggy bag, so we don’t have to miss out on trying the gingerbread, kiwi or mandarin marshmallows.

All in all a fantastic afternoon. It wasn’t cheap but it was great value for money – unusual, delicious, filling and inspiring! Oh and the toilets! The famous Sketch toilets, where each cubicle is a giant egg…

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