Coffee Illustrated: What’s in your coffee cup?

coffee infographic

Ever wondered what goes into the various types of coffee drinks that you can buy in your local coffee shop? Well, as you can see from the above coffee infographic the ingredients are pretty simple – it’s the quantities and order that’s important.

Espresso, of course, is the actual coffee in each cup and that’s brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans. Espresso should have a surface layer of crema (foam).

Many thanks to Lokesh Dhakar for allowing me to republish his excellent coffee graphic.

Delia: When she baked for Jagger

Let It BleedLet It Bleed is the eighth British album by The Rolling Stones and is considered by fans and critics alike as being one of their best. I own a copy myself, on vinyl, and it’s one of my favourite albums from any artist.

But what links UK favourite TV cook Delia Smith to Mick Jagger and The Stones? Well the clue is in the picture – or more accurately the album cover (pictured). Delia made the cake that sits on top of the surreal sculpture that was used for the album!

Artist Robert Brownjohn designed the sculpture for the 1969 album and it’s made up of the Let It Bleed record being played by the tone-arm of an antique phonograph and a record-changer spindle supporting several items stacked on a plate in place of a stack of records:

  • a tape canister labelled Stones – Let It Bleed
  • a clock face
  • a pizza
  • a tyre
  • and a cake with elaborate icing topped by figurines representing the band.
The reverse of the cover depicts the construction all smashed to pieces.

The cake part of the construction were made by Delia Smith, then an unknown cookery writer. The sponge cake was decorated with cherries, silver balls, trails of pink and green icing and wedding cake-style figures of the band. Delia is quoted as saying: “They wanted it to be very over-the-top and as gaudy as I could make it.” Delia owns a framed image of the sleeve signed by frontman Sir Mick Jagger. The original artwork for the album cover was to be sold at auction in December 2011 and was expected to attract bids of over £30,000.

Are there other “famous” cakes out there …do leave a comment if you know of any!

Tea pot design project by nendo

nendo teapotI’ve seen this unusual teapot on a couple of design-based blogs and I thought I’d mention it here too.

It’s a project by the Japanese design firm nendo and is to be exhibited at this year’s forthcoming Milan Design Week (background). The tea pot is part of a collection entitled top-tea set consisting of the teapot pictured and tea cups that have no handles.

The white porcelain teapot has a thick wooden lid which provides good insulation to keep tea warm. The lid is shaped like a spinning top which directs condensed steam back into the tea rather than collecting on the inside of the lid and dripping down the sides of the pot.. The tea cups also have small wooden lids but no handle.

The conical tea pot lid is a great idea though overall I think the teapot would prove to be less than practical for everyday use – the spout seems much to small for accurate tea pouring don’t you think?top-tea set

Vinegar? Yes if it’s chips, but not it’s fries

fish chipsSalt and vinegar on those?

Well, according to researchers you need to say “yes” when it’s chip shop chips and “no” when it comes to French fries. In what sounds like my kind of job, scientists from the University of Leeds tested salt, vinegar and ketchup on chunky chips and fries in an attempt to identify what condiment went with different style chips.

The research, as part of National Chip Week, found that the texture of the chip and not the taste, was the key to matching chips with condiments. It turns out that salt and vinegar works best with the texture of French fries, while just vinegar is best suited to chip shop chips. I haven’t managed to identify if crinkle-cut chips were also a part of the testing. Also, I guess it depends on what your having your chips with – fish and chips (as pictured) always works well with salt and vinegar don’t you think?

Professor Murray of Leeds University said of the study: “The effects of condiments on the texture of different sorts of chips plays a large part in deciding which condiments or sauces will taste best.”

Personally, as I don’t frequent fast food venues that typically sell French Fries, I’m more of a chip shop chips chap (try saying that repeatedly!) and I take mine the traditional way …with salt and vinegar! And for me, ketchup (tomato sauce) with chip shop chips while not feeling 100 percent right, isn’t too bad either. The Wro Bar is a local (to us) cafe bar and they serve a bowl of chunky, somewhat soft, chips that I’m pretty sure come served with a balsamic vinegar – they taste fantastic!

Image source.

Chef returns Michelin Star

An acclaimed chef resigned from her restaurant and removed all trace of the Michelin Star is was awarded as it had “become a curse”.

Having run the Petersham Nurseries Cafe since it opened in London in 2004, Skye Gyngell left the venue last week because she felt she could no longer reach the standards that diners expected from a Michelin Star restaurant. According to the Daily Telegraph she said of the accolade: “It’s been a curse. That probably sounds very ungrateful. Since we got the star we’ve been rammed every day, which is really hard for such a small restaurant. And we’ve had lots more complaints.”

It transpires that Miss Gyngell  had recently left the restaurant but that she made the comments last year when interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald. The shabby-chic  restaurant (pictured- website),  that originally started with just one ten-seater table, has since appointed Greg Malouf as guest chef for three months.

I’ve never been, but having read the background of Petersham  it does sound rather pleasant. Have you been yourself …what do you think of place?

East Sussex: Residents warned over cutlery salesman

door to doorEast Sussex residents are being warned about door-to-door salespeople selling kitchenware and cutlery.

East Sussex Trading Standards have issued the warning after receiving several complaints about a man selling cutlery and kitchenware claimed to be made by a company called Kaiserbach.

Trading standards officers are concerned that the knives, pans and utensils could be fake and have urged residents to be cautious. They are also concerned residents are being bullied into the sale or not being given the option to change their minds.

There was a similar situation across Oxfordshire in 2008 according to a report by the Herald Series. Nigel Strick, head of the county council’s trading standards team, gave sound advice that should be followed in the current situation in East Sussex: “We would strongly advise all [residents] not to deal with traders who call at their house.”

East Sussex Councillor Carl Maynard said it was thought the salesman was operating across the county. To report a doorstep call the Trading Standards department on 0345 60 80 197

Baking can improve your brain power

loafExercising the brain with activities such as word and number puzzles, conversation and baking can help slow the decline in memory ability in dementia patients according to a recent study.

In research undertaken by Bangor University, led by Prof Bob Woods, dementia patients who received cognitive stimulation treatment scored higher in both memory and thinking ability tests. Patients who stimulated their brains with activities such as gardening and baking bread (loaf pictured) in sessions lasting around an hour twice a week reported an improvement in their quality of life.

Prof Woods says: “The most striking findings in this review are those related to the positive effects of cognitive stimulation on performance in cognitive tests.” He continues: “These findings are perhaps the most consistent yet for psychological interventions in people with dementia.”

Of course many people also find cooking and baking not only an enjoyable pastime but also a stress release. You’ll hear from many home cooks who say that immersing themselves in a recipe book in the kitchen takes their mind off the worries of work and life in general. There’s also the shared enjoyment that home cooking gives …it’s a great feeling to see everyone’s face light up when you serve up a freshly baked cake or a favourite family dish.

When you think about it, you do actually think quite a bit when cooking or baking:

  • choose and read the recipe
  • check you have all the ingredients (or substitutions)
  • work out your timings
  • choose your utensils and pans
  • remember to pre-heat the oven if required
  • consider if you need any storage space in the fridge or freezer?
  • do you have enough worktop space?
  • will you need to wash up at all as you’re going along?
  • etc
Without noticing it you’re using a bit of brain power. In fact you could say: bake a loaf to improve your loaf!


Plate inset chopping board

transfer chopping boardI’ve been browsing through some product design blogs over lunch and spotted a chopping board that I’ve not seen before.

The Transfer chopping board (pictured) has been designed by German designers Chris&Ruby who feel that they’ve come up with a practical way of transferring chopped ingredients from the board to a plate. Their chopping board which is made from solid beech and pre-oiled with linseed oil has a carved inset that you slide a plate into. Their idea is that you just slide your chopped ingredients from the board straight onto the plate.

It seems well made and solid beech is a good choice of wood for a chopping board but I think that many home-based cooks will find it a bit limiting. You can only use plates of a certain diameter and height in order that they slide into the carved inset. Most times you’ll lift your chopping board up to your saucepan or frying pan to slide in the chopped veg, fruit, etc.

If you’re after a new board do take a look at our chopping boards that we’ve got in stock today.

Freeze-by: Sainsbury’s chills over dates

freeze bySupermarket Sainsbury’s is relaxing its freeze-by advice in a move that it suggests will save billions of pounds in food waste.

The supermarket is to update product labeling (as pictured) to advise that suitable foods can be frozen “as soon as possible up to the use by date”. Typically the advice given has been to “freeze on day of purchase”.

Beth Hart, Sainsbury’s head of product technology for fresh and frozen said: “The ‘freeze on day of purchase’ advice needs to be changed as there is no food safety reason why it cannot be frozen at any point prior to the use by date.” She adds: “As a large UK retailer, we have a responsibility to minimise food waste where possible and this new labelling will certainly help us do that. As one customer pointed out to me while discussing the previous labelling, ‘how does the product know which day I purchased it on?'”

According to figures from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)  UK households waste around 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink every single year, most of which could have been eaten, costing families up to  £50 every single month.  The figure amounts to a whopping £600 a year and is obviously an unnecessary cost in any household – freezing surplus food and saving leftovers does really pay for itself. It is not yet known if the other major supermarket chains are also changing their freeze-by labeling.

Among the WRAP food-saving suggestions is a tip to freeze milk and thaw in the fridge when you need it. I’ve previously tried this, freezing a four-pint container of semi-skinned with just a bit poured beforehand to allow for ice expansion. The issue I had was that it took an age to defrost in the fridge and was still pretty-much frozen when I actually needed it. So with milk maybe you might to plan ahead to allow for thawing?

Here’s a little tip that you might want to try. Rather than pour the splash of unwanted wine left at the bottom of a bottle, pour it into an ice-cube tray and you’ll have handy wine cubes for adding to a dish that includes a splash of wine.

Kitchen Mixers: As noisy as a chain saw

chainsawNow it’s not very likely that you’d fire up a petrol chainsaw in your kitchen, but if you did can you imagine how noisy it’d be? Here’s a clue… about as noisy as some kitchen mixers!

We all know that some tools and appliances make a lot of noise, things like chainsaws (pictured), lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners are noisy. But a lot of household noise is generated in your kitchen with items such as mixers, blenders and juicers being just some of the culprits. A decent size electric mixer can be measured as generating 95dB (decibels) of noise – that’s pretty much the same as a chainsaw. We regularly bake cakes at home and there’s no doubt that our trusty electric Kenwood  mixer makes quite a bit of noise when running on full speed. In fairness, some of the noise comes from the whisks spinning against the side of the mixing bowl and that’s pretty much unavoidable.

The Quiet Mark is a trading arm of the Noise Abatement Society and it awards a Q stamp – a kite mark equivalent – to products that have been specifically designed to make much less noise than their traditional counterparts. For example, one Quite Mark blender is about eight times quieter than the average blender and an electric juicer makes 50dB of noise less than similar models.

Other obvious culprits in the kitchen are washing machines, dishwashers (although ours doesn’t seem too bad) and my own bug bear the cooker hood. We’ve got a Neff cooker hood over the hob and on setting 3 it really does make a right old racket! A kettle generates about 50dB of noise which is apparently the same as heavy rain falling outside.

dualit toasterSome noises from your kitchen will though be appealing or heart warming if they bring back happy memories. For me, it’s the ticking of the manual timer on my beloved Dualit toaster. I’d wanted a stainless steel Dualit (like the one pictured) for years and took the opportunity to treat myself when its predecessor went kaput. I just love the ticking that the timer makes, especially as it speeds up as it nears the end. It means one thing …hot buttered toast is only seconds away!