Following a recent invitation to discover some of the food and drink highlights available at St Pancras International station, Pete and I had a lovely morning visiting Benugo’s Espresso Bar, Searcys Champagne Bar and Sourced Market.

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Unlike the downstairs branch of Benugo, the upstairs coffee bar (near the Martin Jennings sculpture of poet John Betjeman) is much quieter and cooler. An original tile floor leads to the service counter; the seating area next door has been designed to evoke rail travel of old; gentle jazz music completes the retro feel. During our morning visit, we tried coffee and cake (the shop has one coffee blend for espresso and espresso-based drinks, and another for drip filter coffees). Manager Ondrej was on hand to give further information about all the options, including some good quality loose leaf teas, for those who aren’t in a coffee state of mind. I particularly enjoyed my chocolate, pear and rosemary tart and the biscotti served with coffee.

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Searcy’s champagne bar might seem like an option better suited to summer, given that the concourse is open to the elements at both ends. But booths have little heaters at foot level, and guests are offered blankets and hot water bottles too, so it’s actually rather cosy as a winter destination. I found my hot chocolate excessively sweet but Pete enjoyed his rose champagne tasting trio (£19 for 50 ml each of Henri Giraud Esprit Rose, Besserat Cuvee des Moines Rose and Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose). It’s also a lovely spot to admire the beautiful architecture of the station.

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Sourced Market, downstairs, was a revelation. This little store has crammed in a lot of great products into their wide but shallow floor space. As well as delicious lunch options such as a variety of pies (with mash, gravy and peas), sausage rolls, scotch eggs, charcuterie and cheese platters, soups, sandwiches, salads and more you can also buy ingredients to take home. Pete was particularly impressed by the excellent selection of bottled beers, with small London breweries particularly well represented. I loved the cheese counter and the bakery table. There were lots of delicious treats and I’ll certainly pop in again before long. My only gripe about this lovely place was that all the seating provided was stool-style chairs and table, which are really challenging for those of us with hip, back or mobility problems, not to mention difficult for small children.

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Kavey Eats were given a guided tour of the above venues at St Pancras International.

 

My walnut brittle was so delicious it’s a miracle I managed to set some aside to make ice cream as planned!

Once again, I opted to use fresh ready made vanilla custard as my base, adding coffee, rum and walnut brittle. Because Pete isn’t a huge fan of nuts, I made the coffee and rum ice cream first, and then stirred 100 grams walnut brittle pieces into half of it, leaving the other half nut free. To make a full batch, simply add 200 grams of walnut brittle into the ice cream during churning.

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Coffee, Rum & Walnut Brittle Ice Cream

Ingredients
500 grams fresh vanilla custard
30 ml rum
3 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
200 grams walnut brittle, broken into pieces

Method

  • Combine the custard, rum and coffee and transfer to your ice cream machine. Pour in the walnut brittle pieces. Freeze according to the instructions for your machine.

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  • If your ice cream machine produces slightly soft ice cream, transfer into a container and freeze for 20 minutes to solidify further.

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This is my entry into January’s Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream challenge.

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A light industrial estate in Cirencester is probably not the first place you’d look for a high quality coffee shop, but that’s just where you’ll find Rave Coffee in Stirling Works, Love Lane.

Suppliers of wholesale coffee, Rob and Vikki Hodge also sell coffee, tea and cakes to individual customers to drink in or takeaway, and have built up a loyal following of local workers as well as customers who visit from further afield.

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In the front of the store is a coffee counter graced by a beautiful Expobar Diamant coffee machine, a couple of comfy sofas and stools and a few shelves displaying coffee syrups and teas available to purchase.

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Behind a full width wall of clear glass is the working area where Rob roasts and blends sacks of coffee beans to meet customer requirements.

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So good was the coffee we enjoyed on our first visit, we made a second visit the very next day. Those of who usually have sugar in our coffee were particularly impressed with the lack of bitterness in our full flavour coffees.

If you’re in the general area, would definitely recommend you pay a visit, especially if you also want to buy some beans or ground coffee to enjoy at home.

 

Another great guest post by Matt Gibson.

The other day, I woke up and realised I had no coffee in the house. The fact that this realisation terrified me might give you some idea of the relationship I have with caffeine. It’s a geek thing.

Luckily, I remembered I *did* actually have some coffee. The only problem was that what I had, tucked away in the back of a cupboard, was a bag of unroasted green beans.

So. Out with the popcorn maker!

Yes, the popcorn maker. I’ve had one hanging around since I read a fellow geek’s blog post about how you could convince a hot-air popcorn maker to roast coffee beans. A week after I read that post, I saw one going on Freecycle. They’re just the kind of appliance that people buy on a whim, use twice, and then relegate to the back of a cupboard until the next clear-out, so Freecycle is a pretty good source for them.

The next bit is more easily shown than told, so, without further ado, here’s me, on a Saturday morning, making a cup of coffee all the way from a handful of green beans to the mug:

The coffee tasted pretty damn good. It helps that green beans last for *ages* compared to roasted beans, which is excellent motivation for home roasting.

If you want to try this at home, (a) see if you can find a friend with a popcorn maker they’ve not used since 1988 and steal it, and (b) look to somewhere like Has Bean for supplies – all their beans are available to buy green.

Enjoy! But do bear these caveats in mind:

  • The same hot air that’s designed to lift the popped corn out of the machine also blows out the chaff (the papery “skin” of the beans.) The chaff starts floating off soon after you put the beans in the machine, and is much harder to catch in a bowl than popcorn. Be prepared to sweep up afterwards.
  • You normally roast coffee to somewhere between first and second “crack”. Each coffee bean makes a sharp little cracking sound once, near the beginning of the roasting, and then again, a few minutes later in the case of my popcorn maker. The longer you leave it, the darker the roast, which I like, but it’s a fine line between “French roast” and “burned to a cinder”. This guide may help.
  • Coffee roasting takes longer than popping popcorn. Be careful your popcorn maker doesn’t overheat! Watch for deforming plastic, etc. Don’t leave it unattended. Basically, don’t try this at home, kids, unless you’re prepared for unexpected consequences.
  • You can, of course, buy “proper” home coffee roasters, but they’re more expensive. And less fun, in my opinion, than repurposing something orange and plastic from the 1980s and bending it to your will.
  • If you’re going to point an expensive camera lens into a hot-air popcorn maker’s exhaust port, make sure you do it from a safe distance. I got away with it, luckily.
  • You probably want your beans to “rest” a while after roasting to “de-gas” them. The typical advice is to wait around a day between roasting and using the beans. In practice, though, the coffee tasted fine to me straight away, but that might have been because I was caffeine-starved :)
 

Indulgence Coffee is a book about nostalgia. Published in April, it’s part of a series by Murdoch Books which aims to celebrate vintage style and “a bygone era when dressing up, serving tea in fine china and writing personal thank you notes afterwards were regarded as simply good manners.”

In that, it succeeds, full of beautifully styled photographs featuring lots of vintage crockery and props. The textured matt cover, without the ubiquitous shiny dust jacket also contributes to the dated feel.

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The recipes themselves include classics such as coffee mousse, Viennese coffee and a range of traditional cakes as well as ideas for more modern tastes such as self-saucing puddings, panna cotta with coffee jelly, espresso martini and espresso lassi.

Having been to two parties recently where chocolate profiteroles were on the menu, I was keen to try the recipe for Café Choux Puffs, having never made choux pastry before.

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Indulgence Coffee Café Choux Puffs

Ingredients
Choux Puffs:
100 grams (3.5 oz) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons caster sugar
125 grams (4.5 oz) plain flour
4 eggs
1 egg beaten with a little water, for glazing
icing sugar, sifted, for dusting
Coffee Custard Filling:
4 egg yolks
55 grams (2 oz) caster sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
250 ml (9 fl oz) milk
200 ml (7 fl oz) double cream
1 tablespoon freshly made strong espresso coffee
1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract

Notes
The recipe advises that the amounts above will make about 32. We halved the amounts, but made our buns smaller which resulted in 27 buns, with enough filling for 24 of them.
We used slightly salted butter.
We didn’t bother glazing the choux pastry.
We made some very strong instant coffee instead of espresso (3 heaped teaspoons in a quarter of a mug of boiling water).

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Method

  • To make the coffee custard, beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and thick, then stir in the flour.

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  • Bring the milk, cream and coffee to scalding point in a saucepan over medium heat.

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  • Remove from the heat and gradually whisk the milk mixture into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the clean saucepan, place over low heat and whisk until the custard just comes to the boil and thickens.

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  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl to cool, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until required.
  • Preheat the oven to 220 C (200 C for a fan oven). Line two baking trays with baking paper (we used silicon baking sheets).
  • Place the butter, caster sugar and 250 ml water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil.
  • Remove from the heat, add the flour, and stir until smooth.

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  • Return to the heat and stir for 1-2 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball around the spoon.
  • Remove from the heat and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Transfer the choux mixture to a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm plain nozzle. (We used a freezer bag and cut a hole in one corner).

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  • Pipe 5 cm rounds onto the prepared trays and brush with egg glaze (we skipped the glaze).
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180 C (160 for a fan oven) and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until crisp. (As our buns were smaller, they were ready in just under 20 minutes in total).

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  • Transfer to a wire rack, then slice the choux puffs in half to cool.

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  • Fill the choux puffs with the coffee custard.

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  • Dust with the icing sugar and serve.
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The coffee choux buns were absolutely wonderful!

I’d worried that using extra strong instant coffee instead of espresso wouldn’t be ideal but the custard filling was really delicious; the coffee flavour came through clearly. In retrospect, we don’t think the icing bag approach was necessary, next time we’ll simply spoon and gently flatten the loose choux pastry dough directly onto the baking tray. We were surprised at how simple the choux pastry recipe was, something we definitely want to make again. I’d like to add a little more sweetness to the choux pastry – will need to experiment a little to find a good balance without breaking the choux recipe.

As someone who loves coffee as a flavouring far more than as a drink, a selection of sweet recipes based on coffee is ideal. I also love the pretty, old-school feel of the book. I think it would make a rather lovely gift for someone will similar coffee sensibilities and a love for pretty things and cookery books.

Many to Murdoch Books for the review copy.


Indulgence Coffee is currently available on Amazon for£6.03, normal price £9.99.

http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=F2984C&t=kaveat-21&o=2&p=8&l=as1&m=amazon&f=ifr&asins=1741965144

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