Tag Archives: cardamom

A Union of coffee & competition…

My coffee addiction reached new heights last weekend when I spent a very enjoyable day at Union Hand Roasted Coffee HQ with a gaggle of lovely food and drink bloggers. My interest had been well and truly piqued earlier in the week at the mention of a competition…we’d been tasked with bringing along an item of food that we felt would best be enjoyed with coffee. I had just thing in mind and spent Friday night baking away in preparation…but more of that later.

Union have a great little set up in West Ham…a roastery, training centre and tasting room…a veritable hub of coffee connoisseurship!

We were welcomed with a cup of their La Esperanza and some delicious pastries from Gails before splitting into groups. My group were taken into the training room and let loose on the coffee machines! I was so unbelievably excited to be given the opportunity to play with a La Marzocco, my dream machine!

Helena shared her wealth of coffee knowledge with us…

Explaining everything from the importance of maintaining and cleaning the hopper…

to exactly how to hold the tamper and the exact pressure to exert in order to produce the perfect extraction…

We were using their Revelation blend, which is very deep, dark and rich. First off we extracted it for 22 secs…

then a not very successful 13 secs…

and finally 21 secs, which produced the perfect espresso with just the right balance of acidity to get the juices flowing without leaving a bitter aftertaste!…

We all had a go at producing the perfect espresso before moving onto the milk steaming masterclass…

Steamed milk should be shiny, thick and velvety NOT empty, Mr Whippy style foam that some high street coffee shops try and palm you off with! The trick is to get the milk spinning evenly and then to gradually introduce a bit of air into it by letting the steam wand just peek above the surface…

You can gauge when the milk is ready by sight, sound (there shouldn’t be any torturous high pitched squealing) and touch (you should always be able to touch the bottom of the jug). Once it’s ready you tap the jug on the worktop to get rid of any excess surface bubbles and finally swill it round to ‘polish’ it. The finished product should coat the back of a spoon luxuriously like so…

Then you can use it to turn your perfect espresso into the perfect coffee. Believe it or not, with a little help from my friend Helena, I managed to create this beautiful cappuccino…

One of the things I love about Union, is that although they are growing in popularity and are even stocked in Sainsbury’s, they are still very grounded (pun fully intended!). The co-founders, Jeremy and Steven, are inspiringly passionate about coffee and devote much of their lives to researching, sourcing and tasting to ensure that Union produce the finest coffee possible! This is Jeremy in a hat that he brought back from one of his sourcing trips, it also happened to be the star prize in the barista championship smack down, which took place later in the day…

After lunch we were taken on a tour of the roastery, an Aladdin’s cave of sack upon sack of coffee bean varieties from all over the world…

They have 2 main roasters…the big daddy, which can roast 90kg per batch…

and the little ‘San Franciscan’ drum roaster, which roasts batches of 10kg…

Steven talked us through the roasting process…

He dipped into the roaster at intervals to check on the beans progress (spot the bloggers)…

It took approximately 13 minutes for the green coffee beans to go through these stages…

and to eventually be turned into the finished beans that can be used to make a cup of coffee…

Steven made it all look very easy, although the reality of coffee roasting is apparently very hot, messy, sweaty and physical.

We all strained to listen for the ‘first crack’, which would tell us that the beans were ready, at which point Steven released them from the drum onto the cooling tray to halt the roasting process…

We were then led through to the tasting room for a lesson in ‘cupping’. It all felt very serious. We were presented with 5 varieties of coffee from Costa Rica, which had been ground, put in glasses and covered up to stop the aromas escaping before we could get a whiff…

The first stage was to unleash those aromas and to smell the ground coffee using short ‘dog like’ sniffs.

Then hot water was poured over them…

Jeremy showed us how to use a spoon to break through the crust of ground coffee to inhale the coffee…

We then skimmed the coffee grounds off and used the spoon to ‘slurp’ the coffee. This bit was the most fun…the noisier the slurping the better! :)…

After all of that coffee inhalation I was feeling pretty giddy and just about ready for a dose of my other vices…cake and competition!

As I mentioned earlier, we’d been asked to bring along something (bought or made) that we thought would be perfect paired with a cup of coffee. Back in April I made a delicious cardamom coffee mud cake, which immediately sprung to mind as a great companion for coffee. So on Friday night I stayed in and baked (rock and roll!) to produce my (hopefully) winning entry…

After a bit of twitter banter and a good dose of healthy competition everyone had really pulled out all the stops to come up with their ideal coffee pairing… 

We had to wait until the very end of the day to discover who had won but it was well worth the wait because I’m extremely chuffed to announce that me and my cardamom coffee mudcake were victorious!!!

Chloe (@Faerietalefoody) was awarded joint 1st prize with her delicious fruit and spice laden biscotti. We are now very proud Union ‘Roastmasters’ and are going to be spoilt rotten by being sent coffee by Union Hand Roasted every month for a whole year…bliss!

As if that wasn’t enough they’ve also given me a special code to share with you so that you can receive 10% off online orders at www.unionroasted.com just shop away to your hearts content and when you get to the checkout enter the discount code ‘AFTERNOON10’.

Many thanks to Jeremy, Steven, Gail, Ari, Helena and Alan for a wonderful day and to Union Hand Roasted Coffee for fuelling my caffeine addiction 🙂

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Rhubarb & Cardamom Muffins

Recently, during my daily igoogle check up, a recipe caught my eye and lured me to a blog called Kitchen Culinaire. It was for rhubarb cardamom breakfast muffins, which looked absolutely amazing. I printed it off and stashed it away for future use!

I love a bit of rhubarb and try to make at least one crumble during the rhubarb season. This year it’s seemed that rhubarb has been more popular than ever…I was even introduced to rhubarb bellini’s at a friends party recently. She had stewed the rhubarb with some sugar, passed it through a sieve, poured some into a glass and topped it up with champagne…simple yet divine!

I have been carrying the rhubarb muffin recipe around in my handbag for a couple of weeks now with the intention that next time I was in the supermarket I would buy the ingredients but I somehow kept getting waylaid. I was re-inspired by the fresh rhubarb on sale at Kinvara Farmers Market, on my recent trip to Ireland  but after prevaricating a bit too much, I returned to the stall only to find that it had all sold out! I didn’t let this put me off and yesterday I unearthed the somewhat crumpled recipe from the depths of my bag and got around to baking the little beauties!

Kitchen Culinaire is written by a Canadian lady and therefore all of the measurements are in cups, which is still a pretty alien concept to me but I managed to work it out with the help of Delia and her online conversion tables.

I also risked making a few substitutions, which actually worked really well. So here’s my version of the recipe…

Rhubarb & Cardamom Muffins

150g plain flour

150g wholemeal flour (I used self raising flour because that’s all I had in the cupboard and just halved the quantity of baking powder)

160g granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 fine sea salt

240ml creme fraiche (the original recipe used plain yoghurt)

8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled (I have never measured butter by tablespoon before so I just did my best to approximate 8 tablespoons worth)

2 large eggs

175g rhubarb cut into 1/4 inch dice (This worked out to be approx 2 stalks)

For the topping – 

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

My first hurdle came when my local supermarket didn’t stock ground cardamom. I was determined not to be put off and decided to grind my own…I slit open 25 cardamom pods, scraped out the seeds and ground them to a powder using good old fashioned elbow grease in a pestle and mortar. This made the perfect amount for this recipe (you need 1 tsp in total).

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, make sure the oven rack is in the middle of the oven and line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases.

Mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, cardamom, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.

Whisk the crème fraiche, melted butter and eggs in another bowl until smooth.

Lightly stir the liquids into the dry ingredients until just combined. Don’t over mix it or apparently the muffins will turn out very tough.

Stir in the diced rhubarb.

In a small bowl mix together the topping ingredients.

Divide the muffin mixture between the 12 cases (I actually made 13) and sprinkle over the sugar and cardamom topping. 

Bake for approx 20 minutes until they’re golden brown and a skewer/sharp knife comes out clean if plunged into the centre of one.

Allow to cool slightly and then tuck in!

They turned out to be incredibly moist and the fresh tartness of the rhubarb was balanced beautifully by the sweet, spicy topping. My rhubarb repertoire is looking pretty healthy.

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