Unsure about Latte Art but sure about soup.

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My fight with Latte Art

I am having a dilemma when it comes to Latte Art.  There!  I’ve said it!  God it feels good to confess.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Latte Art is a wee bit silly but I am also worried that it may be a defence mechanism I have unconsciously put in place because I am just not that good at it.  The above image isn’t mine.  It is from the wonderfully humble Aaron Prittyfrom Stewarts of Trent Bridge, our lovely coffee supplier.

As part of a team building exercise we spent 2 hours at Stewarts learning more about the coffee we sell as well as trying to come to grips with the art of Latte Art because I have signed myself, and husband, up to Nottingham’s first every Latte Art Throwdown.

Under Aaron’s tutalage a few weeks ago all seemed to be going well.  I corrected some mistakes I’d been making in terms of heating the milk, the way I held the cup in my hand and the distance I held the jug from the cup.  Great!  My ability to mentally process what I needed to do and my body’s ability to perform the task were in alignment.  The following week continued along these lines of progression, my brain communicating in symmetry with my hands and all looking ok. Not greatmind you, not; I’m going to smash this competitionbut a more gentle self-confident; I’m not going to utterly embarrass myself and soil the name of my business I have worked so hard to create these past 3 years in one disastrous evening among Nottingham’s coffee elite, kind-of-feeling.

But things have now taken a turn for the worse.  With the competition now days away my Latte Art has deteriorate.  My hands are no longer playing ball and doing what I have mentally set them as a target.  I am putting this down to nerves.  To a natural reaction to not having competed personally in much in 20 years but there is a nagging feeling that I may be getting too old for learning these kinds of new skills.  It’s bloody annoying as I care much less about what others think of me now so will do crazy things, like sign myself up to Latte Art Throwdowns, but my ability to acquire new skills seems to have slowed.

So if you find yourself in Nottingham on Friday and feel sympathetic to my cause do support an ageing hippy (ster), it would be fab but please do come in the spirit of solidarity and humour.

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup

Warming soup with a hint of ginger and hit of chilli to keep you toasty on cold markets.  We serve ours with crusty sourdough bread from our local bakery Tough Mary’s Bakehouse  during the Autumn months with a splash of cream but topping with pumpkin seeds, a good grind of pepper and rosemary makes a lovely vegan alternative.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
onionfinely chopped
salt and pepper
3 cloves of finely chopped (or grated) garlic
5 cm (2in) piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped (or grated)
chilli flakes(to your spice-level-liking)
cinnamon stick
900g (2lbs) of butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
900ml of vegetable stock

Method:
1. Preheat slow cooker on low setting. Heat oilin a large saucepan over a medium heat.  Once hot add onionswith a good grind of salt and cook till soft, approximately 4-5 mins.  Add garlic, ginger, chilli flakesand cinnamon stickand stir for 1 min before adding the butternut squashand giving it all a good stir to coat evenly.
2. Add hot stock to the squash pan and give everything a good stir.  Bring to the boil and then add carefully to the preheated slow cooker.  Cover with a lid and head out for the day while your butternut squash softens to autumn loveliness.
3. After 8 hours (or thereabouts) remove the cinnamon stickand blend until smooth using a hand held blender or liquidiser.
4. Top with a spot of cream, a good grind of pepper, roasted seeds or more chilli flakes and enjoy.  The soup freezes very well and a great one to make for a lazy Sunday lunch and bring to work later in the week.

The Story of May and my Rhubarb Load

he Story of our May (our coffee camper).

Let me introduce you to May, our beautiful 1965 Volkswagen Coffee Panel Bus. A LHD, ’65 European import sliding door panel van with 1600 twin carb engine, slightly lowered, IRS rear set up & with EMPI wide 5 wheels (in the VW world this kind of detail is important).
She began life in Wolfsburg, Germany as a bread delivery vehicle for the local byckerei (German bakery). She then became a family camper in Poland, before being shipped over to England in 2005 to reside in Malvern. There she was restored by a VW enthusiast and spent several years as a show car. Her  transformation to the charming, helpful van she is today started in 2013 and included a 70 inch roof cut, full roll cage skeleton with top side hinges & gas struts to open & close the roof. Still fire engine red at this point, she was then wrapped in chocolate brown & cream vinyl and branded The Split Screen Bakery by Kate and Ash, who now run The Steamhouse Cafe (http://steamhousebagels.co.uk) in Leamington Spa.  May then came to us in Nottingham via Kate and Dan from Sleaford.   I rebranded her and started the business The Split Screen Coffee Company.  When I jump into the driver’s seat I always have a little smile; the padded bench seat, the steering wheel you can slouch over, the pinch and slide windows… all so appealing, all so tactile.  It is the most personified object I own –  May and I are a team.

However,  May’s comfortable is where the list of creature comforts ends.  No heating on cold days, no air con on hot.  She leaks on raining days, and on snowy days I discovered this winter, the seat belt has only one setting which is tight and then very tight when I’m layered up and even that lovely leather bench seat I keep banging on about has an evil side – think hot days, long drive and bare skin.

But despite all this we are so looking forward to the start of another season and can’t wait to make the trip to London this weekend for the wonderful Classic Car Boot (http://classiccarbootsale.co.uk) in King’s Cross.  One of the coolest things happening in London this weekend and one not to be missed if you are into your vintage and classic cars.
Hope to see you there.

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My rhubarb loaf recipe – adapted from https://www.olivemagazine.com/recipes/rhubarb-pistachio-soured-cream-cake/

‘Tis the rhubarb season.  So abundant in our allotment at the moment, there are so many ways to use rhubarb but here is the recipe I use for my hugely popular rhubarb, soured cream and pistachio loaf.

Ingredients:
150g butter (softened)
125g soured cream
3 eggs
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
75g of chopped pistachios
100g of thinly sliced rhubarb

Method:
1. Line a loaf tin with parchment paper and preheat oven to 180C/160C fan
2. Use a hand mixer to beat together softened butter, sourced cream, eggs, flour, baking powder, bicarb, sugar and vanilla until smooth.
3. Stir in most of the pistachios with all of the rhubarb and then pour into the lined tin.
4. Scatter over remaining pistachios and bake for 50-55mins until a skewer comes out clean.  I cover with tin foil so it doesn’t browns too quickly.
5. Cool on in tin and then wire rack.