Blog Posts

St Albans and Harpenden Food & Drink Festival

Barely a 30 minute train ride away from London, St Albans City closed an entire street this Sunday Oct 3rd to welcome the annual St Albans and Harpenden Food & Drink Festival.

Showcasing the best of food and drinks available throughout the District, St. Peter’s Street was transformed into a gourmand’s paradise under a delightful blue sky. I strolled down, nibbling on steak au poivre hors d’oeuvres, savoury tarts and sampling the impressive array of beers and wines.

Ethnic food from the Caribbean, Indonesia, and even Cyprus tempted the crowds, while Chef demonstrations and mini cookery courses were available to those who signed up.

I was sold on a classic: macchiato and the creamiest gluten-free chocolate brownie known to men – courtesy of The Pudding Stop’s “Mobile Pud”. Because not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear barista aprons and roll in a van.

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Padella Pasta

I was hanging around the reception area at Leiths School of Food and Wine when I picked up the latest Jamie Oliver magazine. Everything I love: Autumn leaves, hearty and robust flavours for colder days; hot chilli… sweet potatoes… fresh pasta…(hold up). Fresh pasta. No. Why. Those words defeat me every time. It’s like trying to fight off my cravings with a sword made of soft boiled spaghetti.

I start flipping through the magazine like a rabid hamster to find the recipe. I can already picture myself rolling the dough with flour-covered hands. Instead, there’s an entire spread on PADELLA, a new fresh pasta place next to the Borough Market in London. Boasting seven pasta dishes on the menu, one more tempting then the next, I try to recruit any and every friend via Whatsapp to accompany me (ok, lies, to double our ordering capacity and get through 80% of the menu in one-go). But they all have lives beyond cacio e pepe,  and I’m left walking (running) to PADELLA alone, ordering two main courses and a glass of red, and polishing it off with an espresso.

The pici cacio e pepe had a chewy and bright flavour, with enough pepper and creaminess to topple your lust past infatuation and on to long-term commitment. The Parpadelle ragu makes me think they have an italian grandma sweatshop in the back, where they’re producing slow-cooked, emotional sauces.

FreeState Coffee

Met with an old friend at FreeState coffee near Holborn today. The roasting coffee aroma lulls you in before slapping your system with a triple shot high.

The almond milk cappuccino was magic on a cold morning. My friend’s cold brew (why would they sacrifice hot coffee at the altar of innovation) was also surprisingly smooth. Try anything once, yeah?

The goat cheese and red pepper wrap was not well balanced in terms of proportions. Lacked a bit of flavour, but oh well, they’re coffee experts, not basil-to-goat cheese ratio experts.

 

SERVING EXCEPTIONAL ESPRESSO AND BREWED COFFEES FROM THE WORLD’S MOST INNOVATIVE ROASTERS, PREPARED BY THE MOST SKILLED BARISTAS IN LONDON

LUNCH Trade Show, London, UK

Meet the creatives dictating the look and flavours behind food and drinks you mindlessly purchase and consume on-the-go.

London’s the innovative centre of all things take-away and food-to-go. At least that’s my conclusion after spending Sept 21-22 at LUNCH inside the Business Design Centre.

As a start-up superfood company owner, I was in dire need of innovation and differentiation in this cutting edge world. But instead, I left the trade show wanting to open 50 different new businesses all inspired by the tools, equipment, and concepts I witnessed at LUNCH. Distracting? Yes. Regrets? Zero. My head is still buzzing.

Among my favourites:

Mighty Bee’s Coconut Jerky – a vegan take on jerky served in three flavours: Spicy BBQ, Teriyaki, and Chocolate Hazelnut (codeword: Nutella)

Pop-up cook space: A design team willing to make all your Instagram dreams come true. This company creates pop-up cooking spaces for chef demos, cooking shows, corporate team building sessions, or just bloggers wanting a more posh feel to their demos (the possibilities are endless).

Hippeas: The most delicious feel-good/taste-good organic chickpea puffs currently on the market. And thank your lucky stars, they’ve just signed with Starbucks. Looking at you America.

 

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Homemade Coconut Milk

I love Starbucks for introducing the coconut milk option in their menus around the world because as the big evil milk alternative dictator, soy’s time in power was inching towards a well-deserved coup d’etat. Plus it makes people bloat like balloons.

Lucky enough we have wheelbarrows of coconuts being pushed around in Haiti. So if you manage to spend a whole minutes throwing a rock-hard shell against your patio floor and possess a blender (and an old Haitian woman’s dexterity in scraping out the white flesh from the husk with a sharp knife) – you my friend, are getting a white, creamy, delicious, (and very fat) treat.

For this recipe you need:

  1. An old dry coconut
  2. Water
  3. Blender
  4. Sieve
  • Wash your hands – it will get messy.
  • Trying not to lose a finger, unhusk the dried white coconut by wedging a knife between the husk and the flesh and gently loosening large chunks. Discard the husk.
  • Count your fingers.
  • Placing the chunks in your blender, fill it in half with drinking water.
  • Blend on high speed until a frothy white milk starts to form.
  • Pour the liquid through a sieve into a large jug or recipient, squeezing out the pulverised flesh to release any liquid it absorbed.
  • Place the flesh back into the blender, fill it again to about half and repeat the process.

Use your judgement and personal taste for the amount of water you choose to go with for this recipe in order to achieve the consistency and taste you want.

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Vanilla Rooibos Tea Latte with Warm Spices


Homemade coconut milk is my all time favorite messy recipe. If you’re lucky enough to live in the tropics and have access to fresh brown coconuts, you will feel like Tarzan after smashing those babies open on hard surfaces. If that’s not enough to get you excited, the creamy dreamy texture and taste of homemade coconut milk will make you wonder why you ever went store-bought in the first place. I’m in love with the coco. nut. 
After getting a fresh flavorful coconut milk for your base, it’s all about quality ingredients for the rest on this recipe gotten off Laura Wright’s The First Mess blog. I was lucky enough to have a recent trip to Abu Dhabi where I bought incredible cinnamon, coconut oil and Medjool dates from Jordan. Haiti is also blessed with vanilla pod trees, so we have incredible extracts in the mountainous regions. 

Latte Ingredients

1 vanilla rooibos tea bag (I have previously used pure rooibos)

6 oz boiling water

6 oz unsweetened plant-based milk (homemade coconut milk recipe included below) – yes you can buy at the groceries but I’m hoping you won’t)

1 pitted Medjool date

1 teaspoon coconut butter/oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon + extra for dusting

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

Method

  1. In your serving mug, brew the rooibos tea in the boiling water for at least 3 minutes.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium, bring the plant milk, date, coconut butter, cinnamon, and vanilla extract to a light boil. Carefully transfer the milk mixture to your blender and blitz on high for 20 seconds or so.
  3. Pour the frothy warm milk mixture over the tea. Sprinkle a little cinnamon and nutmeg over the top. You can leave the teabag in or take it out. Rooibos only gets better with longer steeping time.

Homemade Coconut Milk Ingredients

1 Brown mature coconut (dry meat inside)

4-5 cups of water

You’ll need a good blender and a fine strainer or clean cloth

Method

  1. Smash open the coconut on an outdoor surface (you know you want to) Don’t break your ceramics like I did once out of excitement. 
  2. Scoop out the white meat using a knife – this is harder than it sounds, and the two most common outcomes are cutting yourself or breaking the tip of your knife (I know, I know, but it tastes amazing so keep going) The best method is usually to wedge your knife between the white flesh and the husk, and to wiggle it deep enough and give it an easy flick to separate the two. 
  3. Place about 3 Cups of water in you blender with the coconut’s chunks and blend for a good 30 seconds.
  4. Pour the milk in a jug over a strainer or through a clean cloth and squeeze all the milk from the flesh. 
  5. Place the coconut flakes back in the blender and add the 2 remaining cups of water. Repeat step 3 and 4.

Ta-da, you’ve made coconut milk. Refrigerate it and save the rest of the milk and flakes for some Thai Coconut Curry soup or coconut macaroons. 

If you need a quick fix on a hot day, mimic Clear Café in Bali. They blend chilled coconut milk with ice, vanilla extract and honey for hot and thirsty travelers. 

Laura’s Note: Rooibos is my favourite variety of tea. It’s naturally sweet, caffeine-free, and apparently it helps with iron absorption too, which can never hurt for the plant-inclined. Because of the natural sweetness and a slight nutty edge, it makes a perfect latte. I do this up with coconut milk, warm spices and extra vanilla (in addition to the vanilla imbued rooibos that I start with). It’s so cozy and comforting to sip.