Coffee, where it comes from and why we love it so

For many of us, coffee is an important part of the day; from our early morning espresso fix before a business meeting, to an ear bending chat over a flat white with a good friend. Whatever your choice of style or flavour, or your reason for drinking it, coffee is the worlds most consumed drink -with over 400 billion cups drunk worldwide.

But where did our fascination for the rich fragranced velvet drink come from?

Coffee, as a drink has been around for some time. Some reports date it as far back as the 10th century. There are many fascinating stories which try to give us a definitive answer of how we came to drink coffee, but the general ideas are the same and so it goes something like this…

After eating the berries of the coffea plant, animal’s behaviours were observed as hyper or joyful. In one tale, goats were described as dancing after eating the berries of the coffea tree. Intrigued at the animals behaviours under the influence of the berries, humans decided to try them for themselves. Disgusted by their raw texture and flavour, the berries were thrown into a fire where they were roasted; thus the rich coffee aroma was born and that fresh roasted coffee scent has had us hooked ever since.

coffee shutterstock_660230209.jpgBut it’s not just the bold chocolaty bouquet that keeps us drinking the world’s most favoured hot beverage. Coffee has become more than just a habit for a pleasant caffeine lift. Instead, drinking coffee has become a religious affair. Getting together to drink coffee is about fostering communities, repairing sorrow and building bridges between despair and hope. How many times have you heard those sacred words ‘do you fancy a coffee?’ and your little cup of joy has overflowed at the prospect of an hour of putting the world to rights, pouring your heart out or formatting an indestructible life plan?

Drinking coffee on a social level does more than give us an artificial buzz. It nurtures our souls, it binds communities and stimulates conversations and these are the things that are important to us. These are the things that make us human. And that is why, apart from being woken up and having our senses stimulated, we enjoy consuming coffee on such a colossal scale.

Whilst getting together with friends, colleagues and families, you are encouraged to be aware of the coffee industry and help support the 3rd world countries that produce it. Most of the world’s coffee is produced between the tropics; the areas where water is most scarce.

UK coffee week (16-22 April 2018) is sponsored by the Allegra foundation which raises funds for areas such as Tanzania and assists them with producing access to water facilities, so that women and children don’t have to walk up to 15 kilometres a day to get their days’ supply of water. To date, Project Waterfall has raised over £230’000 which has benefited over 10’000 people in Tanzania.

You can donate to the charity here at Allegra foundation .

The London Coffee festival takes place 12-15 April 2018

An Ocean Of Happiness

An ocean of happiness

The ocean and food are a marriage made in heaven. We all love to eat by the sea; especially when the weather allows us to enjoy a spot of alfresco dining. Over time humans have developed and maintained a strong tie with the marine environment – firstly for our survival in terms of food and secondly for recreation. Whether we live 2 or 200 miles from the ocean, as a species we are drawn to the sea.

So when we thinking about where we would like to eat out, whether it’s for a light brunch, a long lazy lunch or a romantic supper, it’s not surprising that we flock to a seafront location to refuel. The mere sight of an ocean for many produces awe and a profound sense of invigorating peace. What better way to ensure a relaxing and stress free eating experience than by heading towards a view of a vast ocean.

Taking children out to eat can often bring with it a myriad of challenges, yet as a parent I often feel a gratifying sense of peace when I am near the beach with kiddies in tow. Partly because there is an endless landscape of flat sea and sand for them to run across, paddle in, discover and create things on, rendering my mind partially free to roam, daydream or simply switch off -but also because I know that they are absorbing healthy negative ions and that maybe at some point, we are all subconsciously being lulled into a meditative state by the sounds of the waves.

A tranquil surrounding of turquoise waters and brilliant blue sky can guarantee happiness and contentment as the colour blue had long been associated with a sense of calm and serenity. Let’s face it, any parent will opt for a composed eating experience over a ‘stuff it in their faces and get out of here’ style marathon any day of the week.

Children that have eaten well, sat still and remembered their manners, whilst maybe throwing in an extra portion of cuteness for spectator purposes, is every parents pursuit of happiness. Being able to eat out at a restaurant that is child, family and dog friendly that is based at a seafront location, for me – is happiness personified.

 

Prep – the new cookery concept

Prep is a cookery concept aimed at every person who wants to eat a nutritional and delicious meal at the end of the day, wants to cook the meals themselves and needs a little assistance and motivation from a professional.

Cookery books are great but all they offer is a recipe and a list of ingredients. You still have to find the motivation to cook the meal.

Prep is about getting ahead; having a vast proportion of your weekly meals prepared in advance so that when it comes to dinner time, you can construct a meal in a matter of minutes.

Prep will show you, step by step how to prepare all your meals in advance so that eating an evening meal no longer causes a whole load of stress.

The problem with convenience today

There are plenty of convenience options out there from fully prepared meals you simply put in the oven or microwave to ordering in your own boxed ingredients with recipe cards.

These are all great options in theory but in reality they don’t tick the boxes.

microwave mealConvenience foods from the supermarket

However enticing they look, supermarket convenience foods have been through a process. They will probably contain high levels of salt, sugar, emulsifiers and additives.  Even the very healthy prepared meals have been through a process in a factory miles away from where it ends up on your plate; most significantly the readymade meals available in supermarkets usually taste as though they were made in a factory miles away: they are bland and lack everything that home cooked meals bring to the table. More often than not, the ingredients that are used in the meals which are factory prepared have been brought in from a factory even further away. Double processed.

Fully prepared meals and ingredients boxes on mail order boxed veg

I have perused many a site of mail order food companies and as a chef I know that everything they deliver can be done by a keen cook in the comfort of their own home for a fraction of the price. If you pay for the convenience of a mail order that has been completely prepared prior to arriving you will save time but pay the cost. If you simply order in the ingredients with recipe cards and instructions you are still paying the cost and then having to prepare and cook the meal yourself.

Prep will show you how to get organised in your kitchen without the cost of delivery. So for 5 days out of 7, (the 5  most important days where you are the busiest at work and with your family), you will be able to relax at the end of the day with your cooked meal for yourself and your partner or your entire family. Prep illiminates the the stress of writing shopping lists, buying the ingredients and preparing the food during the week.

take away.jpgTake outs

Everyone enjoys a cheeky take out from time to time but your favourite Chinese take away or curry house should not be appearing as a suggested contact on your smart phone.

Did you know up to 90% of a meal can be prepared in advance?

How do you think those takeaways arrive at your door within 30 minutes? In the professional kitchen we refer to the prep station as mise en place. Mise en place is a French term which means ‘everything in its place’ and in kitchen terms it means getting all the meat and vegetables prepped and ready so that when service begins, they can be assembled into the dish easily.

It is possible for home cooks to adopt this method so that meal times don’t become a chore and the whole family can be fed nutritious and tasty meals for a good part of the week.

Preperation is keyprepared in advance.jpg

That term preparation is key gets bandied about in most industries but in the catering industry it is imperative to the business succeeding.  In order to have a stress free week from Monday to Friday it is essential you remove one of the biggest stresses most people face at 5pm on a weekday. The evening meal.

Preparation for the evening meal can be done serval days in advance and sometime weeks in advance if you utilise your freezer for your own made convenience food and ingredients rather than fish fingers and ice pops.

Prep will give you many chefs’ tricks and tips straight from the professionals and show you how to get prepped and become a home cook to pro cook in just 6 weeks.

pro cook.jpgHome cook to pro cook

Practice makes perfect and once you have spent a few weeks in the frame of mind of a professional cook you will constantly have an array of prepped ingredients to create a meal with any day of the week.

Prep will show you how to make everything from your own pesto and flavoured butters, prepped vegetables and sauces in advance and have them to hand in the fridge or freezer.

With 6 weeks of 5 recipes,  that’s a handsome handful of 30 recipes to get you through a month.

The prep philosophyfamily eating together.jpg

By following the recipes in prep you will be getting prepared in advance. There is some work involved, but it’s not anything near like what you would imagine it to be.  I will show you the best kitchen cheats and show you how to utilise your time and ingredients to get ahead.

Prep begins at the end of the weekend. For those who work Monday to Friday, prep should be done on the Sunday evening. You could do it on the Saturday if you wanted to use some of your weekend.

Prep will take approximately 1 hour of preperation and cooking time and a little extra for clearing up, boxing and bagging ingredients to put in the fridge or freezer. In the grand scheme of things it’s nothing really and you will be grateful come midweek when you would normally be scouring the freezer for something to feed your hungry brood with.

Once you have done this preparation section you are set for the week. You simply come home from work Monday to Friday and take the day’s prepped ingredients and follow the assembly instructions. There may be some heating or final cooking stages but this will not need your full attention, ie; it can simmer on the stove or sit in the oven or will literally take one or two minutes on a hob.

I will soon be posting an example of a week’s menu – with ingredients and schedule so you can get a feel for how the concept will work.

So until then I will be busy pulling out all my professional hints and cheats from my mental attic as well as liaising with my professional collegues to bring you the ultimate cookery repetoire to turn you from home cook to pro cook!

Nina x

 

 

Into the wild

foraged chesnuts

Once upon a time, long before the evolution of the monetary system and corporations, it wasn’t unusual to see our ancestor’s literally defining the meaning of fast food as they chased after an antelope and dragged it home to utilise every element of the creature for food and well-being. These days the hunter gatherer in us can merely press a few buttons on an app on our smart phones and voila! Food arrives!

Unleash the beast!

As convenient as this is in the modern day society, within all of us – lying dormant, is the wild creature who is capable of heading into the wild to source food with our bare hands; or at the very least, a few primitively assembled tools.

Unleashing this natural beast provides incredible benefits for the body, soul and bank balance. To be at one with nature and to connect one’s self to the earth is rewarded with an incredible sense of place and self, diversifies the palate and helps your body fall back into the rhythm orchestrated and conducted by the natural world we inhabit. Mother Nature has provided us with a veritable smorgasbord right on our doorstep. And it’s all free.

dandelionOur connection to the earth

Over the years we have all definitely lost our connections with the environment around us. The centuries that we spent teaching ourselves which plants and berries are edible and which we should avoid, is now redundant in a world where food from across the globe can be accessed via a few clicks. But foraging for food in the hedgerows and undergrowth is beginning to prove popular again amongst a few daring souls who are not only willing to brave the elements and bring home food that hasn’t been pre picked and packaged but are realigning themselves with natures body clock alongside fresh wild seasonal produce.

Some forageable foods that are available all year round are:

  • Shepard’s Purse – flower tips can be used to snack on and leaves can be eaten raw or cooked
  • Crab apple – leaves can be used for tea and the crab apple can be used for cooking.
  • Clovers – the flowers are the part mainly used; the leaves can cause bloating if eaten in excess.
  • Nettle – nettle leaves can be cooked, eaten raw or used in a tea.

foraged mushroomsPoints to remember before you set out to forage

Foraging for any wild food should always be done with professional guidance and it is not recommended that you venture out to forage without fully consulting and cross referencing several information sources first.

If you are trying foraging for the first time, you should first seek out a reputable forging organisation, of which there are many that run all around the country.

You can find one close to you by looking on the internet.

If you are unsure about any food item, DO NOT EAT IT.

The Law

Many forgeable items will be accessible from a public right of way; nature reserves do not count as a public right of way. Certain plants may be considered ‘protected species’.

It’s not always possible to uproot a whole plant without the landowner’s permission

Rules in England and Scotland do differ.

If you are unsure if you should be foraging on a particular piece of land, you can always check with the landowner, if they are unavailable then contact your local authority for further advice.

Seasonal foraging guide

Autumn

Chestnuts – Pickle the chestnuts or eat roasted

Damsons – Jam

Crab apples – Jam, chutney or eat the leaves

Blackberries – Freeze them and add to smoothies or make blackberry jam

Sloe – Make sloe gin

Elderberries – Eat raw, add to berry fruit salads

Winter

Cranberries – Make cranberries sauce, jam or chutney and bake in cakes

Chickweed – Add the leaves, stems and flowers to salads and eat raw

Mussels and Oysters – Clean well and cook

Wild Garlic – Eat the leaves and flowers in salads or flavour olive oil

Spring

Stinging nettles – Make tea with the leaves

Elderflower – Make elderflower cordial

Mallow – Add the leaves to salads or dry to make tea

Primrose – Eat the flowers and the leaves in salads

Summer

Clover- Eat raw in salad

Pignuts – Eat raw or in salads

Some useful foraging websites and apps

www.wildfooduk.com

general advice on what foods are ideal to forage and at what time of year

www.fathen.org

a wild foraging school with plenty of blog posts about wild foraging

Foraging flashcards fall

an app to test yourself on edible plants