It’s Not Jimmy’s, It’s Mine!

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I will never forget the first Jimmy’s I had. I bought it in a deli behind Ladbroke Grove on one of our first sunny days of the year. Before then I wasn’t necessarily convinced that iced coffee was a drink for me; sticking to piping hot espressos and frothy cappuccinos to perk me up. Well I was wrong. Since this very day in the middle of May, I have never looked back. It was also on this momentous occasion that I posted an alluring shot of my iced coffee on a bright turquoise bench in my friends garden….@jimmyicedcoffee ‘liked’ the picture and the rest is history.

What Jim Cregan has created is something cool,  fun and something so delicious that it is genuinely sad when you reach you the bottom. Iced coffee never tasted so good.

I grabbed Jim for a quick Q&A, to  give us a little insight into his world…

I am going straight in for the kill, which Country do you think produces the best coffee?

I think Costa Rica produces the best coffee.  I’ll put this down to ignorance of not exploring enough countries and their own coffees but when I went to Costa Rica, I distinctly remember having cup after cup of consistently incredible coffee.  That isn’t to say our Honduran coffee isn’t bad, as it’s EPIC.  I guess it’s also down to enjoying it in the place of origin, sat on plastic chairs in a road side cafe, without a care in the world after a great surf. That all adds to making a cup of coffee taste that extra bit better.
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Lying in the grass, on a hot & sunny day, I would reach for an Original Jimmy’s Iced Coffee. What is your ideal coffee-scenario?

My ideal coffee scenario is this; waking up knowing I’ve got enough time to brew an epic Iced Coffee at home using my Aeropress and cook up some scrambled eggs to enjoy with my wife whilst listening to some crazy music on BBC 6 Music. It’s super simple as everything should be, and so fulfilling for my belly and my brain.
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How long has it taken you to grow this wonderful brand from the very first seed of inspiration, to the Iced Coffee Empire it is fast becoming? 

Firstly, thanks for calling it a wonderful brand! The seed was sewn in Australia in 2008 when I first found ready to drink Iced Coffee. It wasn’t ‘watered’ until November 2010 when it turned into a weed and grew like mad. I guess the brand is me and my outlook on stuff which has always been there, it’s just needed to become a tangible object to make it come to life for others to enjoy. Does that even make sense?

Tell us about your involvement with the ‘This is Africa Initiative’? 

‘This is Africa’ is an epic little initiative run by a friend of mine, Lucy Devall.  She runs a heap of school enterprise campaigns here in the UK and in Africa, encouraging young people to actively think about being entrepreneurial.  She asked if we could be involved as a case study for the students as it fits well within their community and their climate. She figured that as Africa produces amazing Coffee and the sun shines a great deal, Iced Coffee could be produced for two reasons. One, the sunshine puts you in the mood for Iced Coffee and two, Solar energy could be used to power fridges, making it a viable business proposition. We proved to be a useful case study and it made the students broaden their ideas on enterprise, which is ace. In the future, I’d love to go out and do more, but for now it seems like we’ve managed to help out in a way that’s different and I like that a lot.
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Do you have a favorite café in the UK and what makes that place so special?

My favourite cafe…that’s a tough one as there are a great deal of them across the length and breadth of the UK. Right now, I would have to go with ‘Boscanova’ in Boscombe, funnily enough. It’s ace. There are some of the UK’s greatest baristas in there who literally love coffee to death.  Their breakfasts are off the chart and the chefs are like mechanical maniacs.  It’s always rammed, always playing the best music and if you get in before 9am, you can do 2-4-1 early bird brekkies. They love messing around with different types of coffee without being all ‘London’ about the whole thing and are so happy to explain all the processes involved without making you feel like a douche.  It’s perfect on a hangover, then a stroll down the beach. Simple.
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Where do you see Jimmy’s Iced Coffee in 5 years time? 

Wow. Big question.  In 5 years, the Jimmy’s brand will have a great presence in at least 5 countries across this fine globe in number of guises from Iced Coffee to the best portable BBQ you’ve ever seen.

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Your view right now… 

My view right now is the length of my office out into the car park at our Industrial Estate named ‘Beaver’ for some ridiculous reason. It’s not all that glam, but it’s amazing what a few plants and some optimism can do to your work space.

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Your next adventure is… 

My next adventure is the birth of my first nipper and man what an adventure it’s going to be. My wife is already experiencing contractions, so it won’t be long now, maybe a week!  It’s made me reflect on my life heaps and how much my folks have looked after me.  What a mission I’ve been on, even at 32.

And finally, what are you listening to in your (perfectly adorned) truck on a Jimmy’s road trip? 

On a perfectly adorned road trip, I’m listening to a mix of Nas, Pearl Jam, Snoop, Black Seeds, Russ Chimes, Beirut, Fat Freddy’s Drop, stuff like that.

Amazing. Thank you Jim! 

On that note it is time to sit back with an ice cold glass of the good stuff and enjoy this…

(Stockists include: Waitrose, Selfridges & Co., Whole Foods, Budgens, WHSmith, RoadChef and many more!)

www.jimmysicedcoffee.com 

My Spain…

Back into the swing of things here in London and with Summer finally here, my holiday blues are subsiding. Leaving Spain for me however, is always hard…

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Arcos De La Fronterra is a little Spanish town near Jerez, that I can happily call my second home. If you want to discover typical Andalusian culture then this is a good place to start. It is surrounded by olive groves but towering high above the surprisingly lush landscape are elaborate churches, family run tapas bars and Moorish inspired homes and dwellings built into the rocks. There is a wonderful little vineyard called Bodegas Marascal, right next to Arcos town which is a simple hobby to its owner Marco (& a real treat for those locals who get to taste the wines!) We visited last year and got to see this working vineyard in action, followed by a thorough tasting whilst snacking on cold meats and cheese.

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Just by the reservoir 10 minutes from Arcos is a town called Bornos and this is where I experienced Caraquoles for the first time. ‘Caracoles guisados en caldo’ (snails stewed in broth!) is an apertivo typico for the Province of Cadiz. I spotted the gentleman on the table next to me devouring this peculiar looking delicacy as we sat outside a Tapas bar a couple of weeks ago. My only experience of Snails before now, has been stabbing at big, garlic escargot in piping hot ceramic dishes ‘the French way’. Drinking down the grey liquid then carefully picking at the little caracquoles with my teeth was a new venture. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised and washed down with a chilled glass of Cruz Campo, I can see why this herbacious and well seasoned broth is popular despite its daunting appearance.

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(top tip: avoid the black sack at the base of the snail….!)

On June 23rd, we celebrated Midsummer in honour of San Juan (St. John the Baptist). Led by a group of Spanish friends it was a day of good food and very good wine as well some fantastic ‘Spanglish’ conversation- we were really stuck on the word ‘Host’ and this escalated into a rather hilarious game of language-charades. Needless to say, the Spanish dictionary was coming in handy. At 12am the fireworks started and out came a banquet of sweet treats; traditional Spanish cakes and desserts.

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The sun setting over Arcos de la Fronterra

It is a celebration particularly prominent to some of the coastal towns of Spain (Alicante for instance consider it their most important Fiesta) and they spend their day preparing huge bonfires, which become the focal point of the night when revellers jump over them to “purify and cleanse the soul”. We kept it a little more low key but toasted to the shortest night of year with copious amounts of Cava, whilst releasing lanterns into the sky.

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Cucumber & Mint Salad: Light, fresh salads are essential lunches for scorching hot days

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I take my Cruz Campo with a slice of lemon!

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The train from Jerez to Seville is very simple and well worthwhile. It takes just over an hour and gets you right into Seville about a 15-20 minute walk from the centre. Seville won my heart over the first time I visited on a lone expedition 4 years ago. With very little planning I jumped on a bus from Algerciras on the southern coast (next to Gibraltar) and made a journey with nothing but a map and a camera. I have returned every year since with friends to show them this magical place.

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A visit to the Alcázar is a must when visiting Seville. This Royal Palace, encased by the most enchanting of gardens, is still in use and houses the Spanish Royal Family when they are on trips to the city. Peacocks strut in between cooling water features & ancient foliage whilst tourists stagger around in awe of the Palace’s fine detail, inside and out. Good food and drink isn’t hard to come by down the many cobbled streets surrounding the Alcázar and horse pulled carriages wait patiently at the Cathedral to lead you further afield.

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To really, really experience the true heart & soul of Spanish life however, you must find and witness the passion of its Flamenco. Last year my boyfriend and I were near hypnotised behind the big wooden door of Tablao El Arenal; sweat was flying, heeled boots were clicking and hands were clapping during this deeply emotive performance, that has stayed with me ever since…

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Now, tucked away in the Sierra Morena mountains just outside of Seville, is another little piece of heaven. This year Isaac and I were lucky enough to spend the night in the perfectly rustic ‘Trasierra‘ (owned by Charlotte Scott) which is the ultimate escape.

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We drankRosé by the pool and were treated to a typically Spanish spread for lunch; fresh salads, almond gazpacho, braised sausage & lentils. Homemade cakes & mint tea are served in the afternoon, post siesta and by night, you can enjoy a three course dinner under fairy lit trees in the courtyard of the Cortijo. Sleep was easier here than I have found it to be in years, no doubt the fresh white linen sheets and rare silence of the night had something to do with that. Sounds pretty idyllic doesn’t it…

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The warm breeze is perfumed with Jasmine and around every corner, set against white washed stone are dashes of colour from the lavender and rose bushes. Come here to relax. Be barefoot and carefree. Read. Eat, drink and surrender to this rural way of life.

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There is no doubt that I am truly in love with Spain. The culture, food, drink and hospitality. The weather is glorious and it continues to fill my soul with goodness each and every time I visit. It also beholds many more little secrets and adventures which I can only hope to indulge you in on countless other occasions…

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For more information on Trasierra you can LIKE their Facebook page, check out their website or give them a Tweet @trasierra
http://trasierra.eu/
https://www.facebook.com/trasierra?fref=ts

Orange & Basil Cocktail

I am currently in a little town in Spain, just over an hour away from Seville. The temperature is 34 degrees and most of my days are spent lounging around reading, sunbathing and sleeping. The heat seems to intensify around 6 to 7pm, which ties in nicely with what is fast becoming “cocktail hour”…

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My craving for something refreshing and indulgent goes off like an internal timer around this time and yesterday I decided to make something a little different  (my usual tipple would be a Spritzer or Cerveza!) utilising the fresh basil growing in the garden and the abundance of oranges famous to this region of Spain, this drink is bursting with the essence of Summer and perfect for a scorching Spanish evening!

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Orange & Basil Refresco

(makes 4 cocktails)

Peel of 2 Oranges

A handful of fresh Basil

500 ml Vodka

Dash of Soda

Dash of 7UP or Gaseosa (Spanish soft drink)

Ice cubes

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You will firstly need to make an orange and basil infused vodka (which can also be done a couple of days in advance). I put orange peel, basil and vodka into a jug, along with a slice of orange to heighten the flavour. Muddle with a fork (cover in cling film) and pop it into the fridge for a couple of hours at least.

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Get your glass tumblers ready with a small strainer hovering over each as you pour around a shot & a half of the infused Vodka into the glasses, over ice. Add a dash of soda and top up with a very light, sweet soda of sorts (I used Gaseosa, which is a Spanish soft drink and resembles 7UP, so I’d say that would be a good match). Finally one squeeze of fresh orange in each glass.

I garnished our cocktails with an orange spiral and a single basil leaf.

Now sit back under a shady tree and watch the world go by…

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For more information on infusing spirits, check out this blog below-

http://theshiksa.com/2013/02/13/infuse-vodka-flavor/

It’s been a while….

Over the past couple of months it feels as though I have been totally consumed with work, which has left little (or no) time to keep up with the blog. Really it is inexcusable but I can assure you there have been daily thoughts about it, or more like ‘daily pangs of guilt.’ It is finally time for me to give A Shuffle in the Pantry some much needed TLC, whilst I sit in the peace and quiet of the Spanish countryside…. (and breathe a sigh of relief).

I am waking up early at the moment around 7:30am and spending 20 minutes meditating- something I have been doing twice daily for the past 3 weeks. It clears my heads and provides an inner calm, which in turn prepares me for the day ahead. Prior to learning the Transcendental Meditation technique my stress levels were sky high, which was manifesting in the inability to sit down and the constant tidying up and moving of objects (to his dismay, my boyfriends belongings) around our flat. The need for a holiday was becoming increasingly apparent. Now I am here, it is heavenly and paired with TM*, contentment has captured me.

Today is no different with regard to my routine. I woke up naturally (no alarm, which is bliss!), sat for 20 minutes then made myself scrambled eggs with the essential addition of Salsa Picante, a glass of peach juice and a French press. I never make coffee this way at home in the UK but it has become habitual for me when on Spanish soil, finding the whole process satisfying and delicious.

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Now this is when I sit down to write but where do I start? There are places I have been that I’d love to share with you, dishes I have cooked or baked that I want to tell you about and lethal-but-delicious cocktails consumed which are a must, however with mention already of meditation and trascendence…it seems appropriate to touch on the book I am currently reading- “The Physiology of Taste, Or Meditations on Trascendetal Gastronomy” by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

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“Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are.”

I came across it on Amazon when I was buying a book on TM called the Science of Being and Art of Living. In the section labelled “Recommended for you”, was this book, staring at me with its big, beautifully illustrated artichoke. No sooner had I read “The most famous book about food ever written” in the description, I had ‘bought now’ and it was on its way…

A book that would appear to be so highly sophisticated is always daunting as a holiday read. Last year as part of a book club that I am in, I was battling my way through ’50 Shades of Grey’ poolside, grimacing with each page turn and every repeatition of “lip biting” and appearance by her “inner goddess”! As much as I would love for a minute to be the sort of person who loses themselves in a romantic fiction or the like, I am not. I generally look through cookery books, read biographies and learn from books on spirituality (although did totally adore the Hunger Games!)

Let me touch on this all ever so briefly, as I am only just starting to read this myself but firstly I will admit one thing. I am reading this book in one hand with a dictionary firmly in the other. There are the most magnificent words page after page, some I know and some I don’t (and as it was first published in 1825, this is no surprise), what a shame it would be to never know their meaning. It is easy to arrogantly breeze through a book like this and pretend to yourself that you understand all of it, which will potentially result in very little learning, however I swallowed my pride (a mildly dyslexic one at that) and made a decision after the first page to have a reference guide alongside.

The book is set out not in chapters but in ‘Meditations’, which makes clear to the reader the devotion and contemplation of this subject of Gastronomy by the author. Jean Anthelme Brillat- Savarin was born in France in 1755, aside from his epicure status, he was primarily a lawyer and politician. He spent the last few years of his life writing ‘The Physiology of Taste’ and in 1825 published the book at his own expense. He died in 1826.

From what I have read thus far, I have learned that Brillat-Savarin had a wicked sense of humour and a brilliant mind. For a foodie of any kind this book will be a wonderful education and an entertaining read. Don’t rush it, take it all in at your own pace, research as you go anything you do not understand, underline beautiful quotes and enjoy all that it has to offer on food, drink and the culture that surrounds it. It covers everything from the senses & the power of taste, to the theory of frying & the pleasures of the table.

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“Those persons who suffer from indigestion, or who become drunk, are utterly ignorant of the true principles of eating and drinking”

*TM or Transcendtal Meditation; A technique of meditation derived from Hindu traditions that promotes deep relaxation through the use of a mantra.

For more information have a look at the work of the David Lynch Foundation.

Homemade Vitamin Water!

I have my boyfriend to thank for showing me this refreshing alternative to fruit juice! It is natural, simple and delicious…

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Choose a nice selection of fruits or herbs and find a glass* mason jar or something with an equally secure lid (we used Bonne Maman jam jars). Wash the fruits to rid of any pesticides or chemicals then dice into suitable sizes. Add these into the jar with any berries and/or herbs and fill to the top with water (filtered is preferable).

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Put your vibrant, healthy looking jars into the fridge and steep the fruits in the water overnight (or for up 48 hours).

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Once you have given sufficient time for the water to be infused with flavour and goodness you will see the water has had a very gentle change in colour.

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At this point, I strained the water into a glass whilst my boyfriend drank straight from the jar (fruits included).

What Are The Benefits?

Keeps you hydrated

No added sugar & no flavourings

Economically friendly

Great substitute to store bought soft drinks

Replaces lost fluids after a workout

Tasty

Effortless & fun!

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I think these are going to be fantastic for Summer parties, served over ice in a beautiful glass not to mention a great way of getting both adults and kids to drink more water throughout the sunny days ahead!

More combinations to try…

Lemon, mint & ginger

Blackberry & lavender

Lemon & Thyme

Strawberries & Basil

Orange, lemon & lime

*Glass is BPA-free. BPA stands for bisphenol A. and is an industrial chemical used to make some resins and plastics. For more information please read here.

My Foodie Week: THE Full English, Coconuts & Picklebacks…

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If you want to start the weekend with a bang, then I highly recommend the Full English at The Electric Diner. It is served from 8am All Day long and it hits the spot like nothing else. Get your hangovers down their over the weekend and try it for yourself if you don’t believe me!

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I never got the  ‘Coconut Water’ thing when the artificial looking cartons first starting to hit our newsagents & supermarkets (especially when there is a stall on the Portobello Road with the real stuff). However after much searching I have found a couple of brands that definitely do what it says on the label and i’d say are the next best thing. As Summer seems to be approaching keep rehydrated with Go Coco 100% Coconut Water (pictured above) or the equally refreshing Cocofina, Natural Coconut Water.

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Having made some rather delicious Courgette and Cinnamon Muffins last week, I was left with an abundance of grated Courgette. Making the most of the ingredients I had (1 beaten egg, a chopped green chilli, 1 grated potato, fresh parsley and seasoning) I made these fritters, which were a simple and delicious vegetarian dinner. Make sure that once you have grated your veg, you ring out the excess water (I did this buy using a clean, dry tea towel). I winged this without any recipe however here is a nice and easy one from Nigella.

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I had the rare treat of going to Nobu for dinner with a girlfriend after visiting Ronnie Wood’s latest exhibition at the Castle Fine Art Gallery on Bruton Street. We both indulged in a pre-dinner cocktail and I chose the exquisite ‘English Rose’  which my friend described as “like the breath of an Angel, having just eaten a marshmallow”- I tend to agree!

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My friend Molly had her Birthday at our fave East London hangout, The Hemmingway. The food is absolutely fantastic and this Beef Wellington, has to have been the best I have had. It was a sharing dish and came with perfectly cooked runner beans, salad and thick cut chips served on a big wooden platter. If you are looking for a quirky, cool pub with a great menu and friendly staff then head to Victoria Park Road and check it out.

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Guilt free sweetener…? Yup. You may have already heard of Stevia or Pure Via (the natural sweeteners) but until a recent trip to Holland & Barrett I had never tried Crystallised Coconut Nectar! ‘Tiana‘ is 100% raw, high in nutrients and as I have discovered, a great sugar replacement for tea or coffee.

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And finally… presenting to you The Pickleback. If you have never tried one of these then shame on you! A shot of Whiskey followed by a shot of Pickle brine…enough said!  

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

Spring Has Sprung…(Well Nearly!)

With the start of Spring comes the prospect of sunshine, warmer weather, new life and lush surroundings. This year, for those of us in the UK however, it has disappointed and confused thus far- officially 3 weeks in and I  have on as many layers of thermal & wool as I would in the depths of our Winter.

It is at this time of year that we celebrate Easter- the resurrection of Jesus and/or  a visit by the Easter Bunny, depending on which way you are inclined. Easter being a ‘moveable feast’ can fall anywhere between 22nd March and 25th April, on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon- which seems much more complicated than I had ever given it credit for. This year, it fell the Sunday before my Mum’s Birthday and so we decided to make it a family celebration and get together for an Easter Egg Hunt and Birthday Roast Lunch!

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My local flower stall is on the corner of the Portobello Road and Blenheim Crescent. It is always bursting with seasonal bouquets and bunches of brightly coloured flowers. I make up my own posies be it for gifts or special occasions and the lovely lady on the stall is always on hand to give guidance where needed. For this Easter lunch, I knew I wanted Tulips and Hyacinths and with all the incredible colour choices it wasn’t easy. The deep purple hyacinths were really too delicious looking not to go for, so I kept it simple with the fresh & clean white Tulips and a hint of yellow to add the sunshine we were in need of.  To finish I added a few clip-on nests & feathered birds from Graham & Green and placed them in and around the bouquets.

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My sister was in charge of the Egg Hunt with the assistance of our brother, who keenly emptied the packets of Mini Eggs out onto the grass (without considering their lack of wrappers!) They created a Beatrix Potter haven for my nephews to explore and seek out the hundreds of chocolate surprises planted in every nook & cranny possible. Easter Egg hunts were always a big thing in my family when I was growing up and (when the weather used to be glorious) it had a similar poignancy of a Birthday or Christmas Day. Friends from near and far would come over, be handed a little basket then hunt around in the woods at the bottom of the garden, whilst the adults partook in champagne & nibbles, ginormous VHS camcorders out at the ready.

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Today I wanted to keep the table vibrant and fun for the kids so doused the place settings with Easter themed sprinkles. I also used a selection of wools to tie up the napkins. The balls of wool were £1 each from Poundland, perfect for wrapping presents, hand tied bouquets or a decorative touch for a table. Poundland is actually a bit of a gem for finding cheap and cheery accessories, stationary and decorations. I had a really good rummage around in the store and made up two party bags for the boys- yo-yo’s, bubbles and little furry chicks were waiting for them on their chairs (always a good idea to provide kiddy things to keep them entertained at the dinner table).

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For lunch, I cooked roast chicken, roasted beetroots, honey & rosemary carrots, chipolatas, beetroot tops, petit pois, purple sprouting broccoli and roast potatoes (I have to thank Isaac, my boyfriend, at this point who is always a fantastic co-chef and saves me from the typical stresses of tricky timings and hot pans!) For the ‘newly Vegetarian’ Isaac, I turned to the fabulous Hemsley & Hemsley and found this scrumptious recipe for Quinoa and Mushroom Nut Roast. Having never made Nut Roast before I was nervous that I would get it totally wrong but the girls have created a perfectly understandable and totally delicious vegetarian dish, which was popular with all of us.

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What’s a Birthday without a Birthday cake! Red Velvet has apparently been around since  the 1920′s and although I am really only accustomed to Hummingbird Bakeries famously red & exceedingly rich cupcakes, I chose to use a recipe for a three layer Red Velvet Cake from Annie Bell’s Baking Bible. I decorated the cake with mini eggs (I just had to add a little Easter touch) and sugared daisies.

N.B. I used a red food colouring ‘liquid’ for the cake and in future would definitely take Annie’s advice and go for the ‘paste’ which will result in a much deeper red colour for the sponge.

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Making chocolate nests is so simple that it is the perfect treat to make with your kiddies. Shredded wheat, 100g Milk chocolate, 100 g of dark chocolate and 50g butter. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie (a heat-proof bowl over boiling water). I used about 4-5 large shredded wheats crushed up into oblivion. Get your paper cases ready and once the chocolate has cooled to room temperature start mixing into the shredded wheat. Finish with a white chocolate egg or two.

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Having watched copious amounts of sport and nearly digested our rather large lunch…it was time to sit down and enjoy a cuppa, cake and Mary Berry’s Lemon Pavlova, with homemade Lemon Curd- much enjoyed and looked bloomin’ fantastic (all thanks to my mum!) We were joined by these little knitted chicks. Made by a elderly lady that my mum visits, the little darlings also double as egg cosies and caused much oooo’ing and ahhhh’ing across the table.

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When all the food was eaten, all the wine had been drunk and the little ones were in bed, it was time to say Goodnight to Easter for another year.

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Full to the brim of chocolate and love.

Simply Raw

What is Raw foodism? How can you live on a totally Raw diet? Is it expensive? Does it taste good?

I am sure I don’t stand alone in asking these questions about Raw living….so let’s get down to basics.

Raw Foodsim it is a diet of unheated food, or food cooked to a temperature less than 46 °C, preserving enzymes and nutrients in the foods whilst avoiding some of the toxins that we put into our bodies when they are cooked above those temperatures. Most people living on a raw diet will be vegan, however some may incorporate fish, meats and dairy.

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An Evening at Yuuga Kemistri

I have always been interested in raw diets and alternative lifestyles- reading about, sampling them and hearing about them from friends however salads and juices are pretty much as far as I have taken it. I did try Pescetarianism’ for a number of years but decided that I really love all foods too much to give up one thing completely.

I am usually throwing myself into things without much idea of what to expect and in this case, my mum emailed me a voucher from a deals website for a Raw Food Masterclass, knowing that it would be right up my street.

There is a whole wealth of recipes that transform raw foods into complex, tasty dishes suitable for any 3 course meal or dinner party and this class was about to give us a little insight….

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My friend Susie has a wonderful site called “Blusher and Blogging” and with as much interest in health & beauty as I have in food & lifestyle, I knew she’d be the perfect partner in crime.

We found ourselves at Tooting Broadway last Tuesday night with no time to spare and so hot footed it to class, full of enthusiasm. We arrive in a small gated business park, looking for the unit “with the big, white cake in the window” as per the tutor’s emailed instructions.

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Upon entering the class, which seemed a tad full for my liking, we were promptly told to wash our hands and pop our bags down. I do get a slight wave of anxiety when I see crowds of people, especially trying to see one particular thing and by the time the class started there must have been 30 people in the fairly small kitchen space. Susie and I managed to burrow our way into the only little corner with some view and settled in with our notepads. Within 5 minutes our teacher Asa had us all captivated with her calming presence. Her name means ‘healer’ in Hebrew which suits her perfectly as she extols the virtues of the health giving and healing Raw foods.

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Originally from Iceland, Asa decided at an early age she didn’t like meat. She waited until she left home (and no longer under the watchful eye of her carnivorous parents) to start living as a vegan, followed a few years later by an almost totally Raw diet. Asa never denied the fact that she is “OBSESSED” and that she did not expect any of us to walk out of the class and be converted to her rather strict regime, being careful at all times not impose her habits upon us. She did however want to share knowledge on nutrition and give a few helpful hints to go home with and did so successfully.

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Making or Cooking?

If the definition of cooking is “to prepare for eating by a heating process”, then I guess we can refer to Raw Food preparation as “making”…Asa did mention that for some dishes people may want some heat through them and warming the plate or bowl (below 41 c degrees) is doable and will still manage to preserve the enzymes in the food.

Our starter was a Creamed Avocado and Spinach Soup

Much like a gazpacho, it was cold and flavoursome. She literally blended spinach, avocado, celery and garlic with water, added herbs and then finished it with some diced red pepper and sunflower seeds as a garnish. Asa seasoned with Himalayan salt, a little cumin and cayenne pepper. The colour from the raw vegetables when it was blitzed together was just incredible, you could see the life in the dish in bright, vibrant green. Incomparable to some of the lifeless ready made soups we see on the supermarket shelves…

Main course was Courgette ‘Spaghetti’ with Marinara Sauce

Using the Spiralizer (see below!) Asa showed us how to get long strands of courgette, that did not look dissimilar to spaghetti. Raw courgette is really tasty and although I have used ribbons of courgette in salad before, had never tried this method.

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The Marinara sauce was blended red peppers, celery, cherry tomatoes, dried tomatoes, garlic, herbs (rosemary, basil, parsley) a seasoning of sea salt and pepper and finally, a dash of olive oil. It tasted so fresh and complimented the courgette perfectly. I even went back for a second helping!

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And for dessert…Apple tart with Almonds & Dates

For the base of this tart, it is simply Medjool dates, ground almonds and a pinch of Himalayan salt. Asa had made up enough little balls of this mixture prior to the class to hand out to each of us. They can easily be prepared well in advance and put in the fridge until you are ready. Once we all had our ‘pastry’ cases nicely put together, we made a big batch of the filling- Apples, vanilla extract, grated ginger, cinnamon and lemon juice whizzed in the blender.

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Using the Spiralizer again, we thinly sliced apples and mixed with a little lemon juice, agave syrup and vanilla essence for the topping.

Susie and I carefully wrapped these little beauties in cling film and took them home to enjoy with a cuppa. They were absolutely delicious however I wouldn’t advise carrying them across London again unless in an appropriate container- the raw, fresh apples contain a fair bit of water and we incurred a small leakage on the Central Line!

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Life After Class

With all diet and lifestyle changes, it is important to find your “own suitable path for nutrition” based on budget & beliefs. It is undeniable that there is an abundance of health benefits following a Raw Food diet, as Asa does. It is said to slow the ageing process, help control your weight and lead to an increase in energy levels to name but 3 of them, but one thing this class really opened my eyes to was the intensity of flavour that comes from “making” with living fruits and vegetables. Flavour that is sometimes lost when boiled, baked, heated, fried and so on.

I, however, will not be cutting off the electricity supply to my cooker or oven any time soon and will continue with my fairly balanced diet of all things weird and wonderful, but what I took away from this particular class was heightened interest in this way of life and a few amazingly healthy dishes to add a spring to my step and a glow to my cheeks!

Shopping Tips…

Think seasonally -I have talked about this before in previous blogs but eating seasonal fruit and vegetables is more cost effective, higher in nutrients and tastes better! End of.

Look out for offers- Holland & Barrett often have some great deals in store and on their website. It’s not just specific health food shops but also some delivery websites like Ocado where they have health & wellbeing sections with plenty of discounts.

Go organic- or as much as possible and within reason given that we are all at time of budgeting a little here & there. I have been very happy with Abel & Cole in the past, an Organic delivery service. You chose the specifications of the box (small, medium or large/gourmet, veg. or salad) and they provide you with the seasonal, organic produce to you door!

Some Raw Essentials…

Himalyan salt has endless benefits. Found at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, it contains 84 essential minerals that are found within our own bodies and beneficial for day to day health. It is pure, raw, unrefined salt. Contains no chemicals or additives and helps to restore & rebalance.

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Agave Syrup (or Agave Nectar) is a natural sweetener that comes from the Blue Agave plant, most commonly grown in Mexico. It is the vegan alterantive to honey, has a low glycemic index and so keeps your sugar levels balanced. Delcious, without the highs and lows of a sugar rush.

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The Spiralizer is a piece of kitchen equiptment used to cut fruit and vegetables from thin slices to long spirals. You can create dishes like Courgette ‘spaghetti’ or strips of carrot or cucumber to add to salads. It is simple and easy to work and adds a little fun to the whole process. The Spiralizer below is by Lurch and can be found here.

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Fruit & Vegetable wash removes Pesticides, Herbicides, Fertilizers, Dirt, Waxes, Micro-Organisms, Bacteria, Mould & Mildew. Because it is impossible for foods to be 100% free of chemicals (yes, even Organic produce!) a vegetable wash like this will easily and successfully remove all contaminants improving the flavour and extending the freshness. It is also easy to make your own, see here.

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Further Reading…

The Complete Book of Raw Food by Julie Rodwell is jam packed with recipes for raw meals, juices and smoothies plus heaps of information on the benefit of this diet. For help with a more structured program then I can definitely recommend the Raw Food Cleanse book by Penni Shelton, which helps you to follow a 3, 7, 14 or 28 day plan along with recipes and weight loss advice.

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Yuuga Kemistri is run by Asa and based in Tooting, a 5 minute walk from Tooting Broadway tube station.

Information on Asa’s classes can be found on the website.

Off to Camden Town…”Hell Yes!”

Last Thursday morning, I went down to the Camden Town Brewery for a tour and sampling of all their beers! Pretty great way to start the day….

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A drizzly 5 minute walk from Kentish Town tube station found us winding down the back streets of Camden, closely watching our iphone maps to see which way to turn. It seems strange to imagine a brewery existing in this part of town…aren’t they big, industrial factories, usually along the side of the motorways with great big bellowing chimneys? The only notable recollection I have of a Brewery until this day, was on the journey into Edinburgh Old Town as a child exclaiming “it’s marmite mummy!” every single time the yeasty aromas from Caledonian Brewery wafted into the car. Oh and of course Fuller’s Brewery, whose exterior I am all too familiar with as I tiresomely wait in traffic along side it each time I am heading west out of London…

Turning into the Mews in NW5 however took us by surprise- 7 small units underneath the railway station sees the cosy home of Jasper Cuppaidge’s craft beer brewery.

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There is always a risk with a ‘tour’ that it will be boring, overly informative (resulting in loss of concentration) and potentially body achingly long but to our total delight, breezing down the stairs of the reception area was Christine our guide; a perfectly groomed, energetic and knowledgable asset to the Camden Brewery’s family.

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The 4 brand new tanks outside the brewery are a sign of just how popular this brand is becoming and the ever growing demand for the product. Starting with a home brewing kit, Jasper decided to sell his own beers to customers in his pub The Horseshoe, in Hampstead back in 2010. In just 3 years the company has come to supplying hundred’s of pubs and restaurants across the UK (with a couple of accounts in Europe too).

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The brewery is certainly high-tech and I couldn’t even begin to get my head around the computer programs and terminology written up on big white boards, but the system in place is slick to say the least.

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Christine talked us through the brewing process from start to finish, walking us around the building unit by unit and allowing us to see it all happen ‘live’. We talked about, felt and tasted the different malts used at the brewery, our guide ensuring we were engaged around every corner, albeit it with puckered lips; ever tasted a grain of roasted malt?

The guys working there were just getting on with the job in a cool, laid back fashion as we cautiously stepped over pipes and hoses in our protective eye wear (and of course these were in the form of geek chic glasses- true to the quirky style of the place).

Before moving through to the ‘Fermentation’ stage we are led to a chest fridge that looks no different to a one you might find in some dude’s garage, adorned with skateboard stickers and scribblings. At this point we are given an insight into the world of Hops, the key to the bitterness, flavour and aroma of all beers. Until today I never thought there could be a passion for Hops but how wrong I was! Christine is Passionate about Hops. Opening the chest I imagined some sort of angelic chorus would be released along with a bright heavenly light…and I am sure to a beer connoisseur that would be the case. To the untrained eye however, it was a puff of cold freezer mist and the distinctive hum of a generator, unveiling stacks of plastic bags filled with several varieties ready and waiting for their time to come.

I remember there was a time at my Junior school, when I had to do a pencil drawing of the Hops flower in art class using an example in the middle of the table. I must have drawn at least 5 different angles some lightly coloured in green, some just grey and cone like…but that was the first and only time I had ever inspected or seen this plant ‘in person’.  Today, Christine let us feel these sacred hops with their pungent (and sort of illegal smelling) aromas, whilst we talked about where they were from, the difference between USA and UK hops and lingered on the topic of  the ‘Simcoe’, a unique American hybrid Hops used in their Camden Pale Ale.

I would do the plant and the Brewery an injustice to go into detail myself as there is SO MUCH you can learn, so this tour is the perfect place to further your Humulus lupulus’ education.

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After the Fermentation stage, it was through the final unit- where the bottling and packaging happens. This is where they get the barrels ready to send out to the pubs and restaurants too and so the walls were absolutely lined with their kegs, coloured stickers for each brew determining what goes where.

Whilst we were in they were getting the labels on the USA Hell’s Lager Beer, which is back by popular demand and apparently “better than ever”, so keep your eyes peeled for the red, white and blue!

With the tour finished, our increasing thirst for the stuff was at an all time high so like the pied piper, Christine led us back to the water hole….

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Let the tasting commence!

Beer taps line the white brick tiles in the perfectly minimalist bar set up here. They serve popcorn in an original looking tabletop popcorn machine (a lovely touch) and have couple of independent wines and spirits ready to serve but the main attraction is of course, the beer.
We were all accustomed to the Gentleman’s Wit beer (they add roasted lemons into the brewing process, it is very special!), so we started to work through the other guys on offer and discuss the story behind each one.
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1. Hells Lager; so ready to drink this when the sun decides to come out. This is everything I want a lager to be. Refreshing, crisp and interesting pale lager made with a Pilsner malt (4.6% ABV).

2. Pale Ale (USA);  I went into a restaurant that had this beer not long ago and made the insane decision not to order it because I wasn’t sure if Pale Ale was for me…WRONG. This is delicious. Fruity. More, more, more…American and Hop-heavy using that beloved Simcoe Hop varietal. Can’t wait to get back to the brewery to enjoy this with friends. (4.0% ABV).

3. Jopa (UK Pale Ale); did anyone see the Food Fight Club program on Channel 4 with Jamie Oliver? Well this beer is Jamie’s creation so to speak and literally stands for ‘Jamie Oliver Pale Ale’.  The brewery had to come up with this name to keep it all secret before it aired back in December. The beer is totally British and true to that style of pale ale, had a much more bitter quality than the previous…(a little more on the ABV too at 5.1%).

“Think of it like walking through a forest – spicy and earthy and fragrant and herbal – while listening to a punk rock cover of the National Anthem. That’s the vibe” – Camden Town Brewery

4. Ryeld; a limited release, Rye Mild beer. Definitively nutty on the nose and to the taste, creamy texture and with a low ABV (3.7%) perhaps the perfect lunch break treat!

5. Camden Ink; I would definitely call this a sexy stout. It is dark and mysterious to look at and surprisingly light to drink. Launched in December and is only available on draught for obvious quality purposes (4.4% ABV).

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6. Dopplebock; another limited beer on tap with an ABV soaring above the rest (6.7%!). Glad we tried this last, because tasting on an empty stomach already had us rosy cheeked and smiley. This is Camden’s version of the German Dopplebock classic, which is typically strong and sweet (and apparently first brewed by Friars around the 17th Century & consumed as a ‘liquid bread’). A number of flavours arise and proved popular among the group. I’m sure we’ll be back for more when we don’t have to go straight to work after!!

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Coming soon to Camden Town Brewery…

‘The Growler’

Yes, the name caused me to giggle into my Pale Ale however a growler is ‘a thing’ in the beer world and not just something crude from the Urban Dictionary!

If a refillable, takeaway beer bottle sounds good to you, then lucks in. Camden Town are just about to launch their own Growler beer bottles, which will enable us to pop in for a big helping of their finest and take home to enjoy with friends or all to ourselves (consumed in a sensible fashion of course).

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The growler dates back to the 19th Century and was a mode of transporting beers from one place to another. Apparently the sound of CO2 when the cap was unscrewed similar to a growl, hence the name… 

Further Information…

Booking a tour at the brewery is easy, just click here and choose the date, but get in there quickly because they get booked up a few weeks in advance.

Open 12pm to 11pm Thursday through Saturday, you can pop in for a lunchtime pint or gather after work to enjoy a beer and some street food. The food calendar for March is below so see what takes your fancy and check the website for future updates.

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Follow @CamdenBrewery on twitter

http://www.camdentownbrewery.com