Popping up?

At Whistle Wines one can buy the most delectable wines in Exeter. In fact, Whistle Wines is more or less the only place I buy wine when I am in town. At times, I even bring wine along from there when heading up to Bristol or elsewhere. Piers does not just sell wine, he has a passion for wine, which makes it a joy to be a customer in his tiny shop. I love it there. Even more so because he is another natural wine enthusiast.

IMG_1214Next door to Whistle Wines is the Exploding Bakery, which is rather fortunate. As evident from my previous blog post, I adore it there. The coffee, the banter – top quality. Now, in an ideal world, one would combine Whistle Wines with the Exploding Bakery. However, that would leave one with good wines, awesome espresso, and delicious cakes. But what about the savoury bit? As in the starter and the mains, the mezze, tapas, sharing plates, or whatever you want to call it.

On occasion, we have combined forces and enjoyed small informal dinners together – Mr Whistle, the bakery boys and myself. Once, when I delivered a manuscript, the menu was lentil and tomato soup with soda bread and a great bottle of Dard and Ribo’s St Joseph (2009) – the atmosphere was so good, the postman even had a cheeky glass of this natural wonder. Another time, not long ago, we had pork liver pate brought back from Paris, serrano ham, tapenade, roast artichokes in olive oil and, of course, some nice bread and dark chocolate to follow. The wine? Mind-blowing. A lovely Portuguese white – a rather affordable, light and crisp, yet fruity vinho verde Quinta da Raza. The star of the show, however, was a beautiful Sagrantino di Montefalco (Pagliaro Secco) by Paolo Bea. A limited edition natural wine, and therefore not cheap, but completely worth every penny. Not too natural in flavour, despite being unfiltered, and having no sulphites – a ‘vin vivant’. The flavour is full of mineral, fruit (think figs and prunes), and some oak. Interesting and just perfect; a real sharing wine.


Given the shared passion for cooking, food and wine, this simply seems an opportunity too good to be missed. And Danes are doers rather than talkers. So, a tiny kitchen is going to be popping up sometime in 2014. It is almost certain. Almost. There will be dinner for 14 people. 3 courses with wine. When? Not sure yet. Where? We are getting to that. Price? Not too high, but enough to be able to use local, seasonal, organic produce as much as possible. How often? Once a month or so. I shall keep you posted. It may be a bit of a slow process, but that is because once we pop up, we mean business. In a good way. Lovingly cooked food, the funkiest bottles from Whistle Wines, locally sourced ingredients, and served in a quirky, intimate space. Informal, cheerful, fun. An omnivore’s delight.

On Monday, I shall do my best to convince my potential partners in crime, that this really has something going for it. Hence, I shall engage in a little cooking. To go with a bottle or two of funky wine we shall surely be cracking open, and to enjoy alongside (or prior to) Ollie’s delicious garlicky, pea pesto and yogurt pasta dish, I shall be cooking a  potential item on a Middle Eastern inspired menu: a warm salad of roast cauliflower, almonds, celery, pomegranate and plenty of herbs. And perhaps another loaf of sourdough. Salad recipe to follow on Tuesday.

Whistle Wines: 1a The Crescent, Queen Street, EX4 3SB. Open Mon 10-6; Tue-Sat 10-7. Keep up to speed with what is going on: @whistlewines

Ciambella – by Mr Speranza

Danish Storm is not a cake person. I am. So when she asked me to contribute a guest post on the subject of baking, I found it hard to choose a particular recipe.
Then I realised that there is one cake in my baking repertoire that I cook more often than any other. A cake that is at the same time excellent tasting, not too indulgent (you could happily have a slice every day with your morning coffee), Italian in origin, and dead easy to make. It had to be it. So let me tell you about the ciambella.
The ciambella is a round Italian cake (hence the name – ciambella means “tyre” in Italian) with an interesting floury texture, somehow in between a biscuit and a pound cake. It’s great for dipping in tea or coffee, and can also be served with desserts where its dry texture works wonders – particularly as an accompaniment to creamy puddings such as chocolate mousse or creme caramel.
The basic recipe below is flavoured with lemon and vanilla, but can be easily changed to incorporate different flavours instead: rhum, amaretto liqueur, orange zest, orange blossom water, rose water, etc.
For one ciambella:
115g butter (at room temperature)
450g self raising flour
170g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs (reserve 1 tsp of one yolk for the glaze)
2 tsp of vanilla essence
4 tbsp of milk
1) Rub the butter it into the flour and sugar with your hands until you get a mixture that looks like fine breadcrumbs.
Mr Speranza
2) Add the eggs, milk and salt and mix together into a dough.
3) Shape the dough into a thick sausage and form a ring with it.
4) Score the dough with 4 long slashes (in a criss-cross pattern).
5)  Brush the ciambella with a glaze made with 1 tsp of beaten egg yolk and 1tsp of water.
6) Bake for 35 minutes at 190C (170C fan assisted).

Sourdough – my base recipe

Sourdough. Lots of it. fresh with salted butter and homemade blackberry jam. Toasted with serrano ham and aged comté. After a week of non-chewy food, I was ready for bread. Proper, crusty, chewy bread. Sourdough, in other words. After all, there is only so much polenta, mash, porridge, riz au lait and yogurt one can eat before entering a state of depression.

I pretty much bake a sourdough loaf a week. Sometimes I use a spelt starter, at others a rye-based one. I also vary the flours used in the main dough. strong, organic white mixed with spelt (usually), or once in a while rye, or just plain white. I know you are supposed to be exact when you bake, but I am not at all. Probably the reason why I will never be a great pastry chef. But then, again, I am not much for cake anyway. That is, unless it is really exceptional, or an apple galette.

This recipe makes one (very) large loaf. It will keep for about a week if you use organic ingredients. It can be done in a day (morning to eve kind of thing), but it tastes much better if you do it properly. And you have to leave one hour between the folds. That cannot be skimped on. Sorry.


6 dl water

4-5 tbsp starter culture

400 g strong, white flour

200 g spelt

1-2 tsp sea salt (not heaped!)

Day one: Mix 1 dl water and starter in a very large bowl. Add 100 g flour. Stir and leave overnight on the kitchen table or somewhere else that is not too warm, not too cold, and also not drafty.

Day two: Add 1 dl of water and a further 100 g of flour. Stir and leave overnight again.

Day three: Add the final 4 dl of water, the rest of the flour, and then the salt. Give it a good stir. Knead in a ‘robot‘ for 10 minutes (no longer for spelt, please), or for 20 minutes by hand. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour after a few minutes of kneading. The dough should be wet and springy, but not impossible to handle. If it is too dry, the bread will be dense. Leave to rise for 2 hours or so.

Take the dough out of the bowl and slam it on the table (literally). Pull and stretch the dough as much as you can without tearing it. Then fold the top third of the dough towards the middle, and afterwards the bottom third over the top. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. Turn a final time and repeat again. Return to the bowl and leave for another hour before repeating this process once more. Then repeat again (a final/3rd time) after a further hour’s rest. This time, transfer the dough to a large proving basket dusted with semolina, sprinkle the bottom of the loaf with polenta (corn meal), and cover with clingfilm. Leave the dough in peace overnight somewhere quite cool.

Day four: In the morning, turn on the oven to the maximum temperature, leaving the baking tray on the second-to-bottom shelf, and a loaf tin full of water on the shelf below. Mine gets to 240 C (fan). Go have a shower, grind some beans, and have a good coffee. Your oven should now be ready.

Take out the very hot baking tray, and turn the dough out straight onto the tray. If you please, score deeply (almost to the base) with a very sharp knife. Transfer to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, keeping a watchful eye, then turn the temperature down to 190 C (fan) for a further 20-25 minutes. The bread is baked when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

It is a rare day, we do not enjoy sourdough.

I got one of my proving baskets here. A great, big round one: Masterproofing Round Banneton Basket (500g dough)– 22*8.5cm

Mallard with candy beets

Tomorrow my wisdom teeth come out. After a day high on morphine, I will be spending the next two weeks eating food that does not require much chewing. Pretty much my idea of hell. I intend to make up for that in advance, so meat it is.

Yesterday, I went to the market in search of a glorious t-bone steak. Or alternatively duck breasts. I came back with a whole mallard instead, and some beautiful candy beets.

A mallard is a rather skinny bird, and also not very big. It serves two, but only just.

1 mallard
1 onion
1 cooking apple (such as bramley)
2 medium candy beets
salt, pepper, olive oil
100 ml (or so) of stock
a handfull of asparagus (green)

Turn on the oven to 160C (fan). Peel and slice the beets into coins, season, and put in a roasting tin. Peel and quarter the apple and onion. Clean the mallard, stuff with the apple and onion, rub with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place on top of the beets. Put in the oven, middle shelf, and roast for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the juices should still be bloody – otherwise your oven is set too high. Add the stock, and return the duck to the oven for a further 30 minutes. Check that the juices run absolutely clear. If they do not, roast some more. If done, leave the duck to rest in the warm oven for 10-15 minutes.

While the bird is resting, heat a griddle pan until very hot and sear the asparagus. I like crunch, alas I cook them for only about 5 minutes.

Plate up and enjoy with a nice glass of wine. We had a great French: Château Plaisance Fronton (2011) from Corks of Cotham (which is a gem!). Bio and unfiltered. A light wine with some minerality.

Corks of Cotham: http://corksof.com/

Spicer and Cole


I have so far only posted lovely reviews. That is because I tend to go by word of mouth, and the coffee community is generally pretty sharp at sniffing out the new good places – and even at recommending the competition.

I went to Spicer and Cole simply because I ran past it on my way to the Downs one day, and the sandwiches looked appealing. I could see that the coffee was from Extract, which is popular in Bristol at the moment, so I thought the place ought to be decent, although nobody had flagged it up. Oh, how wrong I was!

My boyfriend was gigging a Saturday morning, so I decided to pay a visit to Spicer and Cole. Have a coffee, sample a sandwich and do some writing. I arrive at about 11:30 and eye two sandwiches on the bar. I ask the girl at the till, whether I could perhaps have a sandwich made up as I do not care much for brie, which was the filling in the two on display. She tells me that more sandwiches are currently being made in the kitchen, but I will have to wait until noon before they are ready as they do everything from scratch. I like that, so I decide to order a flat white to have while I wait.

I pay for my flat white and sit down. The coffee does not arrive, but sandwiches do appear on the bar. Hence, I get up and ask if I could purchase one. The girl says that they are not for sale until noon, and I will have to wait. She then orders the two young kitchen staff to remove the sandwiches again, which they promptly do. I sit down and continue waiting for my coffee. It has now been 20 minutes.

My coffee finally arrives at noon. I wonder what took them so long, but I do not ask. It is perfectly nice, but not excellent, and by now I really need it. After finishing, I get up and make another attempt at purchasing one of the sandwiches, which have now reappeared and seem to be for sale. I choose a piece of foccacia filled with fresh mozzarella and grilled vegetables and rocket. I also order another flat white. So far, so good. While paying, I see the girl about to put my sandwich into the panini toaster. I tell her that I would like my sandwich un-toasted, to which she replies that it is not possible. I repeat that I would like my sandwich un-toasted, and she says that sandwiches must be toasted. Period. Then she turns around and ignores me, but puts the sandwich aside.

I wait. Another girl appears and asks me whether I am being served. I tell her that I am not entirely sure, but I do not think so. This prompts the first girl to turn around, hissing ‘she wants her sandwich un-toasted!’ They both turn to look at me, and the second girl explains that it would simply not be a good idea. You see, the sandwiches have been in the fridge for hours and are terribly cold, and the bread will be dry. I point out their conflicting stories, and reiterate that I just want the sandwich as it is. I am hungry. I do not want a toasted sandwich. It turns out that at Spicer and Cole, the customer is never right. I cannot buy a sandwich unless I have it toasted. End of story.

I pay for my second flat white, sit down and write a bad (but highly deserved) review, and do some reading. I also rather pettily occupy an entire table with my lone coffee for three hours on what is a busy Saturday. In all fairness, I did try to spend more money, I just was not allowed.

I can see from the decor that Spicer and Cole has spent quite a bit of money on their outfit in Clifton. Here is a suggestion for you (in addition to using the superb Hart’s Bakery, rather than Hobbs House): if you have not run out of cash, do invest in staff training. Your customer service is non-existent. I shall never return. Not in a million lightyears. Not even if you paid me. There are excellent places to have coffee in Bristol – most notably Full Court Press and Small Street Espresso (post to follow) – so why go to Spicer and Cole, unless you want to raise your blood pressure and cry with frustration.

Spicer and Cole, Princess Victoria Street, Bristol (Clifton)

Appears to always be open.


Before I leave, a sign appear next to the sandwiches, stipulating that these are only sold toasted…

Exploding Bakery in Exeter


Anyone who reads this blog will have realized by now that I am a coffee geek. I am rather particular about my coffee. I like it strong, but with some milk in the morning. Just so my stomach does not burn entirely. I also like my coffee to be fun. Or challenging. I want to learn and explore new tastes. To me coffee is very similar to wine. I find both absolutely exhilarating.

So far, I have written a few rather nice blog posts about coffee. I shall write some (or at least one) not so nice ones too. This is not one of those, because the Exploding Bakery is my absolute favourite coffee place in the UK. Their coffee is the best, the morning banter is how it should be, the guys are lovely as well as knowledgable and passionate about what they do, and their cakes are excellent too. And that is coming from someone who does not actually care very much for cake.


Let’s begin with the coffee. Because, to me, this is really what the Exploding Bakery is all about, even if it is technically a bakery. While there are a number of guest beans appearing on a regular basis, such as e.g. a rather fantastic Roundhill take on the Ethiopian Hunda Oli Co-op, the standard coffee at the Exploding Bakery is my all-time favourite Monmouth. Monmouth is virtually impossible to get in the Southwest – I am yet to come across it in Bristol on more than a fleeting basis – so the Exploding Bakery is like a small piece of heaven to me. Due to space restrictions (connected to the fact that it is a bakery rather than a cafe), the coffees at the Exploding Bakery are all espresso based, that is, save for the rare event when the machine breaks down.

Exploding Monmouth

The espresso based way suits me just fine. Either I am not hipster or grown up enough to appreciate filter/aeropress/cold extractions/etc. And the espresso base suits Monmouth. Monmouth is quite dark, but it is awesomely nutty, chocolatey and spicy. Nice and warm and rounded – perfect with a little milk to add a hint of sweetness. The milk is full-fat, by the way, as the Exploding boys do no frills coffee: one base, one kind of milk, one price. £2 for any coffee, whether an espresso or the milky latte, which so many people seem to like (but, why?!). I shall admit that I have never tried Monmouth or an Exploding Bakery coffee as anything else than a macchiato or a flat white. I like my coffee strong. Hence, whereas I cannot vouch for how the others taste, I can tell you that the boys make the best macchiatos and flat whites. Not only in town, but in the Southwest.

In addition to the great coffee, the Exploding Bakery supplies great morning banter. There is always a great atmosphere in the bakery – laughs, jokes and high-brow political discussions on food and World affairs. Just what you want on the way to work! Something to get you kick-started and put a smile on your face. Should that not be enough, there are also a vast assortment of cakes, some croissants (filled at lunch-time), Spanish tortilla (lunch-time), soup, and soda bread. I am not really much of a cake person, but if I had to buy a piece of cake anywhere, it would be either a slice of their lemon polenta cake or banana bread. The kid and boyfriend both agree, and they are both massive cake lovers.

The Exploding Bakery, Queen Street, Exeter (next to the Central Station)


Open Mon-Fri 8-4, Sat 9-4.

If you fancy a look at their cakes, which can also be bought to take home by the tray, do go to their website. Plenty of pics.

And before you shoot me, I know Exeter is not in Bristol. In fact, it is an hour away. But there is no point in having an Exeter tab, because there is only one place to go for good coffee in Exeter (and outskirts). That place has now been covered.

Cauliflower and potato salad

Warm salads are what I am all about. And nuts and flowers, but it is hardly the season for the latter, so I have omitted the edible flowers this time. If you make this salad in summer, do add nasturium and/or calendula leaves. Pretty. Tasty. Easy to grow.

1/2 head of cauliflower
3-4 waxy potatoes
2 tomatoes
1 shallot
100g fresh spinach
a handfull of blanched almonds
nigella seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, salt, pepper, chili
a drop of tabasco
olive oil

Chili and lime pickles to serve.

Peel the potatoes, then dice into cubes of 2x2cm. Parboil in salted water for about 8 minutes. Drain and spread out on a baking tray lined with parchment.

Turn the oven on to 175C (fan). Cut the cauliflower into florets about the same size as the potato cubes. Mix with the potatoes, then coat lightly in olive oil, and season w freshly ground (and toasted) cumin and coriander, plus salt, pepper and chili (dried flakes – if using fresh, add after cooking). Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. The cauliflower should have slightly charred edges, and the potatoes retain a little bite.

While the potatoes and cauliflower are roasting, blanch and skin the almonds, then roast until golden. Chop roughly and set aside. Dice the tomatoes and shallot finely. Shred the spinach. Mix everything together, add the nigella seeds, and adjust the seasoning. I always add a dash or two of tabasco. If you are not a fan, adjust the acidity level with a few drops of red wine vinegar. Drizzle over a little oil before serving if you like. Serves 2 as usual if you add some pickles and an additional salad. Otherwise, enjoy a bit of sourdough bread and a hunk of cheese with a glass of red wine after.

Pressure cooker

This is another life saver. I love, love, love beans and lentils. Not a day goes by without us eating one or the other at home. My favourites are chickpeas, black eyed beans, cannellini beans, butter beans, Puy lentils and red lentils. I use the various pulses in a variety of salads, dips, soups and stews. They are great, and not just the domain of vegetarians.

Cooking beans takes quite a while, unless, of course, you own a pressure cooker. I love mine. It is old and battered, bought at a fleamarket in Marseille on a hot August morning. It is beautiful, and it evokes beautiful memories. The French, like the Italians, swear by pressure cookers. The English seem to be afraid of them if one is to go by the warnings that come with them if you purchase a new one here.

I am totally with the French on this. I would not give up mine for the world. With my pressure cooker, I can not just cook pulses quickly. Making veal or chicken stock takes no time. And lamb shanks or osso buco is now feasible to make for dinner after a long day at work, and with a very tired, little sous chef. The same goes for a proper ragu, an ox cheek stew, and risotto. The possibilities are endless. And the pressure cooker is super cheap to boot. If you go to sunny Marseille, that is…

You can buy a modern one from Amazon. I can only teally vouch for the Tefal: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0030DG3OQ/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B0030DG3OQ&linkCode=as2&tag=danis-21

Kenwood Chef A701

I am all about vintage. My kitchen has a bare brick wall, original wooden floor boards, and ancient kitchen units. We eat at a small formica table, my side cabinet is an old metal piece, and most pots and pans are fleamarket finds from Paris and Marseille, or local second hand finds.

I do not own many gadgets. For a long time, I had no kitchen timer, no blender, mixer or chopper. I do not own a juicer, nor a bread maker. What I do own, however, is a beautiful Gaggia espresso machine (more on this later) given to me by an old friend when I first moved into my house. And as of two weeks ago, I also own a Kenwood Chef. Model A701 from the 1960s, restored to its former glory by my very own engineer. An item of beauty and utility that fits right in.

I love my Kenwood Chef, and I already cannot imagine how I did without it. It has an old glass blender attachment, which works a treat for making hummous. It has a dough hook and enough horse power that I can make rye sourdough without it feeling like a major upper body workout, and the whish makes it a million times easier to whip egg whites if compared to my daughter’s pink balloon whisk. My Kenwood Chef is truly awesome. Thank you so much, Mr Speranza.

A modern version of the wonder can be purchased via Amazon:

Colonna and Small’s


Every time we go to Bath, it rains. Save for the one time we walked the entire way from Bristol along the old railway line. It was some 30 km, and when we got there, we looked decidedly dishevelled. Hence, we did a bit of grocery shopping and took the next train back. At home, we cooked pizza, which we ate in bed accompanied bysome nice red wine and an episode of Mad Men (which, although clever, is nowhere as near as awesome as Breaking Bad).

Bath is beautiful. Even in the rain. But when your feet get wet, and you are freezing, you either need a good pub with a log fire and real ale, or a great coffee place, the latter of which there are not that many of down here. Colonna and Small’s is an exception. It is pretty cool. In fact, if I lived in Bath, I would come there a whole lot (especially if they took their many certificates down. Well done winning them, but they are an eye sore).

Today we had a flat white and a cortado. Both made with Workshop’s Santa Clara roast (Guatemala). Personally, I prefer Workshop’s roast to that of Clifton’s. I like the notes of chocolate and warm spices that go so well with a small amount of milk – it works particularly well as a cortado. Especially enjoyed with a small piece of chocolate, which Colonna and Small’s also sell alongside various cakes and pastries. It is nice to see that us, who are not so keen on cake, are catered for too. Quite a rarity. My boyfriend likes cakes. And biscuits. He thought the flat white was like a petit beurre (him being French). That is quite a compliment, by the way.

Apart from the coffee being great, it is worth noting that the staff at Colonna and Small’s are mad about coffee. And they are nice. Very nice. They were chatty and smiley, and there was clearly quite a few customers present who came there on a frequent basis, which is always a good sign. I will certainly beback on another rainy day. I love the place.

6 Chapel Row, Bath

Open every day.