A Guide to London’s (many, many) coffee shops

I

made the mistake a couple of months back of impulse buying a book while on a Sunday mooch around the city. I do this quite a lot, but it’s rarely a mistake (I said rarely. Looking at you, Cloud Atlas). But, having wandered into Angel after a visit to the Ray Stitch haberdashery, the lures of Waterstones and coffee were too strong and I ended up walking out with the London Coffee Guide*.

Coffee

You  know what’s in the London Coffee Guide? Recommendations, broken down by area.

You know what’s abundant on the internet for free? Recommendations, broken down by area, with loads of photos and personal notes.

As much as it kills me to admit that a book might have been made a touch redundant by the wealth of information online, it’s true in this case. So, here’s a few of my favourite ways to find out about London’s best coffee shops. Bring on the flat whites, chilled out music, and cosy nooks. Continue reading

What is…the best way to keep iced coffee cool?

As a natural ginger, I often find summer kind of tough – I’ve got skin that burns quicker than a slice of toast if I’m not careful, and would rather be caught in autumn drizzle than stuck in the stifling heat of midday sun bouncing off buildings. This used to mean a) browsing in supermarket frozen aisles for a long time, and b) clutching an iced coffee more frequently than anyone’s bank balance can really take.

Homemade iced coffees just weren’t the same, with the drink getting weaker with every drop of melted cube. Enter coffee ice cubes. Made with coffee stronger than what you’d actually drink, they stop your drink from losing its power. They do tend to be a little sticky – you can encourage them out of the tray by running the back of it under the tap before popping them out. Happy bank balance, happy inner thermostat.

Tips & Hints – Using leftover rice

TipoftheweekIt’s a well-known fact that it’s almost impossible to cook the right amount of rice. It’s also pretty well-known that reheating those mountains of rice leftovers should be avoided, since it can give you food poisoning.

I’m pretty sure the boys I lived with at uni flouted that rule, but I’m also certain they’ve eaten so many technically non-consumable things that they’re now invincible. Good job, guys.

However, for us mere mortals, it’s necessary to take precautions.

Continue reading

What is…a medium egg?

I love eggs, as does my flatmate, to the point that we sometimes completely over-buy and yet we never, ever have to throw them away because they’re too old. We’re far from being the only ones: when I asked on Twitter what foods people refuse to scrimp on, almost everybody said free-range eggs.

I love that you can call eggs any meal you want, that you can eat them any which way at any time of day without it raising eyebrows. You can eat most foods at strange times of day, really — I’m pretty sure that’s what leaving home is about, the trade-off between getting your washing done for you and being able to eat completely weird food — but with eggs it’s kind of legitimate.

The very best I’ve had come from a chicken farm near home, where the chickens roam free in huge enclosures and, before they started running down the dirt track to the main road too often and had to be fenced in, used to peck at your shoes if you stood still for long enough while they ran around your feet. They’re so good that I’ve been known to lovingly transport them more than 100 miles from home to my flat, knowing that at the end I’ll be rewarded with the brightest orange yolks that make them perfect for just about everything, even if they are sometimes a bit strangely shaped.

Anyway. Too often I read recipes and have the wrong eggs. I have medium when it says large, or I’m left wondering whether large in American recipes is the same as a UK large. As in women’s clothes, the sizing seems to be different everywhere you look.

So here we go! Egg sizes translated.

Egg sizes

In UK specifications, as follows:

  • Small – 53g or under – old-fashioned size 5/6/7
  • Medium – 53-63g – old-fashioned size 3/4/5
  • Large – 63-73g – old-fashioned size 1/2/3
  • Extra large – 73g or over – old-fashioned size 0/1

In US specifications:

  • Small – around 42g
  • Medium – around 49g
  • Large – around 56g
  • Extra large – around 65g
  • Jumbo (!) – around 70g

(Source)

More egg facts!

The number of calories in an egg vary from around 55 to 80, depending on size. A medium sized egg is about 70.

The pH of an egg is 8.9-9.4, on average. The yolk is 5.9-6.2, while the white is about 7.6.

12% of the edible bit of the egg — so, not the shell — is protein.

They’re full of vitamins – particularly vitamins A, D, B2 and B12. One medium egg contains 56% of your daily vitamin B12. Which I guess is why fried eggs are amazing for hangovers*.

Eggs contain about 12% less cholesterol than they did 20 years ago.

*This bit might not be scientifically accurate.

Number of times I wrote “egg” in this post: 18.

How to bake a flat-topped cake

We’ve all been there: desperately trying to level your latest cake creation with a bread knife before stepping back and realising that, if anything, it’s more wonky than it was before, and now you’re going to have to battle with crumbs to frost the damn thing.

Or worse, attempting to stack domed cakes and fill the gaps with frosting, leading to an inevitable sponge landslide. There’s a plethora of gadgets and recommended methods for making your cake layers flat-topped and ready for stacking…but really, all you need is a bit of thread or some safety pins, and an old flannel, to create a wrap, like a headband, for your cake tin. Then, simply wet it and wring it out, wrap it around your cake tin, and cook as normal for a perfectly flat-topped cake.

How does it work? The wet towel stops the sides of the cake from getting hot, so it doesn’t bake early on – instead, the whole cake bakes at the same time, and so rises to the same height.

You might be able to buy strips for this purpose from a cookshop – but it’s worth spending a few minutes cutting and sewing, or pinning, to make something that will cost you pennies and last for ages. If you plan on making a few – for different-sized tins, for example – you may be better off cutting up a hand towel.

To make the wrap, cut your (clean!) flannel into strips as wide as the depth of your cake tin, then sew or pin them together end to end, creating a long strip of towel. Run this strip through your hands a few times to remove any fluff or loose bits of towel. Wrap this around your tin, then pin or sew it closed so it’s firmly wrapped around but loose enough to wiggle off when the cake’s done cooking. Each time you want to use it, simply wet it again – and rejoice in never having wonky layer cakes again.

Cooking with Poach Pods {or how to make a perfectly rounded poached egg}

Also alternatively titled, “How to make poached eggs that look a little bit like boobs”.

This post has been updated! Click HERE for wayyyy more info.

Poached eggs have a special place in my heart. I have loved them, with the kind of wistful adoration usually reserved for distant lovers, since my first taste, as part of eggs Benedict at Patisserie Valerie. But I’ve struggled to cook them, always being left with a weirdly gelatinous mermaid’s tale of egg white and never quite getting that perfect yolk.

So on one of my regular escapes from London, I couldn’t help but nip into a Lakeland to get some Poach Pods. And although they’ve been around for years, they were a bit of a revelation – no more trailing egg whites, and I get that elusive beautiful yolk every time. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though – the Pods’ packaging was devoid of usage tips, so on the first time I didn’t put a lid on the saucepan, so after 12 minutes cooking all I got was a half raw, half rubbery egg. Parts of the egg were stuck onto the pod too, as I didn’t realise they needed greasing before use.

But once you take these steps, the Pods are easy to use and deliver excellent results.

Poach

Tips for use

* Lightly grease the pods before use.

* Only half fill the pan you’re poaching in – any more and the water may go over the side of the Pod.

* Cook for 4-5 minutes with the lid on.

* Run a knife around the edge of the egg when cooked to ease it out.

You can buy Poach Pods from Waitrose, Lakeland, and Sainsbury’s.

Image: Poached egg in a toasted English muffin, 5 Weight Watchers ProPoints!