Recipe: Festive cranberry and white chocolate cookies

The festive season gives me an excuse to do more baking. It’s not something I’ve done that much of in my life so it’s taken me a while to realise how amazingly satisfying it is. You mix a load of dry stuff, add wet stuff to make it stick together, put it in the oven and somewhat miraculously you’ve created something totally delicious to eat. Well, it doesn’t always work quite like that – I have had some total disasters, like the cake I produced that was the thickness of a frisbee (almost)!

Today’s recipe, though, couldn’t be simpler or the results more yummy. I decided to make these cranberry and white chocolate cookies as the perfect partner to a lovely, satisfying cup of ground coffee. For me the key to  making coffee at home is using coffee beans, it results in a way more flavourful drink and the aromas while you’re grinding make the kitchen smell delightful.

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How I love the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans

For this, of course, you will need a grinder. I love this one from Judge Cookware. It has a stylish stainless steel finish and what’s called a ceramic burr mechanism which means the beans are ground rather than cut up which retains maximum flavour. Very important!

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This handy little grinder is efficient and stylish too

And here’s the recipe….

CRANBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE COOKIES

Half a cup of butter, softened

Half a cup of brown sugar

Half a cup of white sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp sherry

One and a half cups of self-raising flour

Half a teaspoon of baking powder

1 cup of white chocolate chips

1 cup of dried cranberries

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Sweet, chewy and oh-so-satisfying

Heat the oven to 190C.

Mix together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth.

Add the beaten egg and sherry to the mix.

Stir the flour and baking powder together and add to the mix. Combine well together.

Mix in the white chocolate chips and cranberries.

Line a baking tray with tin foil. Mould the cookie mixture into small balls and place on the tray, flattening with your hand. Make sure to leave some space between the cookies as they will expand as they cook. You can make them as big or small as you like.

Bake for about 15 minutes, keeping a close eye on them to ensure they don’t burn. It’s nice if they stay a bit moist and chewy.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes before moving them from the baking tray.

Serve with a cup of piping hot freshly made coffee. This little glass cafetiere from Judge Cookware is scratch resistant, dribble free and looks really cute. It officially serves up three cups – but I guess that all depends on the size of your cups. I’m quite partial to a large coffee hit.

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Coffee and cookies – a great combo at any time of the day

Do you have a favourite cookie or biscuit recipe? Or a secret to making the best coffee at home? Do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

Find out more about Judge’s great range of coffee and teaware at judgecookware.co.uk

Coffee in Cape Town: Spoilt for choice

Today I’m delighted to have a double-guest contribution to Eating Covent Garden. Nicky Elliot and Yvette Wilsenach live in Cape Town and as a fabulous photographer/writer combination have produced a stunning book called The Coffee Route. It’s their guide to Cape Town’s hottest coffee spots.

It’s a volume of beautiful pictures and useful facts to help enhance the lives of coffee lovers. Each section is prefaced with a map to help plot your route and each entry also includes information about parking, wifi (always important in a coffee shop) and the type of coffee served, as well as ideas of what else to do while you’re in the area.

Here’s what Yvette has to say about Cape Town’s coffee culture.

There is much to say about the beauty of Cape Town. There is the famous Table Mountain, the sea, the colourful Bo-Kaap, the greenery and nature in the middle of the city, the views. But one of the things that I am most grateful for, is the lack of shopping malls.  Make no mistake, we do have them – for example, one is a kilometre long, the other sits in the docks in Cape Town and has stunning views and shops – but we do not really have a mall culture.  Which is great and I believe that it contributes to the individualism of which Capetonians are so proud.

I love the beautifully quirky Bo-Kaap in Central Cape Town

I love the beautifully quirky Bo-Kaap in Central Cape Town

Cape Town has always had a bit of a hippie vibe, with markets like Greenmarket Square and Church Street having been around for decades.  In recent years, say the past decade, this individualism has married with the global rise of a coffee culture and so, thank heaven, we have dozens, if not hundreds of small, quirky and independent coffee shops.

So we wrote a book about some of them, called The Coffee Route. And what does that mean? That means we are constantly being asked, yes, but which is the best? And that is very hard to answer, because it all depends on what you are looking for. It is currently winter in Cape Town, otherwise known as the Cape of Storms, so this is a good time to huddle up in a coffee shop, devour some comforting cake and watch the sea, wind and rain.

Other times, you may need to focus on finishing that deadline. Then you don’t want too much of a distracting view, you need some low-level background activity and waiters who cater to your needs without helicoptering over you as you have just had that brainwave that pulls everything together. Or you want to go somewhere charming, perhaps with some dappled shade, some comfortable cushions, a pile of mags, or meet a friend for lunch. Other times you are dashing in to get a take-away on the way to your yoga class/meeting with a venture capitalist/friend’s birthday tea and before you get to the counter they are making your regular. All of this and more is available on the Cape Town coffee scene and I haven’t even got to the coffee yet!

Ten years ago Origin Coffee opened in Cape Town and was one of the very first home-grown roasters.  Now there are dozens of them in Cape Town itself, not to mention the outlying areas. These guys (men and women) are proud, excited, excitable and adventurous. They are roasting and producing some pretty awesome coffee and experimenting with new ideas, roasts, beans and products.

So yes, if you are a tourist to Cape Town and seeking reassurance, you will be able to find many international brands such as Illy and Lavazza or the ubiquitous Starbucks, currently making its debut in South Africa, but I would urge you to try some of the roasts from Origin, Truth, Deluxe, Rosetta, Tribe and one of their wonderful coffee shops.

And here beautifully photographed by Nicky are some of those wonderful establishments where you can get your daily coffee fix. There’s a lot of choice…

You can follow The Coffee Route on instagram and Facebook for daily inspiration by clicking on the links here.

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To find out more and buy your own copy of this stunning book visit www.thecoffeeroute.co.za

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At the Bean There Coffee Company, coffee is African sourced, Fair Trade and roasted on site

The welcoming, contemporary interior of Bean There

The welcoming, contemporary interior of Bean There

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The edgy, masculine interior of Deluxe Coffee in Roodehek Street

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Rosetta Coffee is a sophisticated shop with roasters passionate about single origin coffee and its origins

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High Tea in Southern Suburb, Constantia serves amazing muffins and other delights from talented baker Irma Brummer

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The revamped cafe in the Company’s Gardens serves coffee in ant cups under enormous trees

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Four & Twenty Cafe serves great food and Bean There coffee

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Truth is an award winning coffee shop with a huge roaster

Industrial light fittings and plugs dangling from the ceiling encourage people to stay and work

Industrial light fittings and plugs dangling from the ceiling mean that people are encouraged to stay and work

Hout Bay Coffee is a tucked away gem that roasts unique blends on site with African flair

Hout Bay Coffee is a tucked away gem that roasts unique blends on site with African flair

ADDRESS BOOK
Bean There Coffee Company, Wale Street, City Bowl
Deluxe Coffee, Church Street, City Bowl
Deluxe Coffee, Roodehek Street
Rosetta Coffee, Albert Road, Woodstock
The Company’s Garden Restaurant, Queen Victoria Street, City Bowl
High Tea, Constantia Road, Southern Suburbs
Four & Twenty Cafe, Wolfe Street, Wynberg
Truth, Buitenkant Street, City Bowl
Hout Bay Coffee, Princess Street, Hout Bay
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Beautiful Table Mountain dominates Cape Town’s skyline

Thank you Nicky and Yvette for your contribution. I can’t wait to get back to Cape Town and visit some of your discoveries with you.
Are you an expert on eateries in your area? Or have you been somewhere you really want to tell the world about? I’m always looking for guest contributors to share their stories, so please do get in touch.

What to drink in Chaweng, Koh Samui

We’ve explored the fabulous food in Koh Samui, but what is there to drink? Nothing quite says Thailand to me than the array of colourful and tasty fruit shakes available everywhere. There’s such a selection the best thing is to start at the top and aim to sample everything on offer during your stay.

In Chaweng, they were often served in console jars with handles attached. Looks really cool and tastes amazing. And a shake on the beach is a great way to start the day.

Like the beautiful yellowy orange of a mango shake at Sabroso on the beach in our little bay.

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The sweetness and vibrancy of a mango smoothie

Or how about the beautiful pinkness and sweetness of watermelon. Sipped here under colourful umbrellas in the aftermath of one of many downpours. I think it’s my favourite…though I am also particularly partial to mango and pineapple too. Oh and the mixed combinations are lovely and fruity.

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A jar of liquid watermelon to savour

It’s always important to find your coffee place when you arrive somewhere new. And we soon gravitated towards The Coffee Club in Chaweng Main Road. The perfect spot for some people watching and the day’s caffeine fix.

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Cappuccino at The Coffee Club

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A piccolo latte – the mini version

Breakfast at our hotel also offered some lovely beverage offers. Like this Bael fruit juice…we also enjoyed lemongrass, ginger and freshly squeezed orange juice.

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Breakfast juice that gives you health

And then of course there’s the gamut of alcoholic options to chose from. Wine is more widely available in Koh Samui than I’ve found in other places in Thailand. A lot of the restaurants and bars we visited sold wine by the glass and had a wine list of sorts. Prices are still pretty steep, expect to pay £20 upwards for a bottle of wine, choices are normally Australian or Chilean.

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Chilled white wine on the beach at Sabroso

Unless you visit the Samui Wine Oasis which has a book of a wine list with a selection from all over the world, including some incredibly high end options. It soon became a regular pre-dinner drink venue when we made the most of happy hour and sipped on a decent glass while watching the world go by on the bustling main road.

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The perfect place for wine lovers in Koh Samui

And then there’s our favourite bar – Your Place – right on the beach with the sea lapping up against your feet when the tide was high.

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The ultimate beach bar

Our friendly local bartender was a dab hand with the cocktails. And it was so beautiful sitting there it soon became a regular pleasure. Go at happy hour for bargain drinks (90 baht, which is less than £2) for a cocktail. This is called Coconut Wonderful, and it was wonderful.

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The joy of Coconut Wonderful on the beach

Or how about a Welcome to Samui.

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Seaside Samui cocktails decorated with an orchid

Or the Sombie was a tasty citrussy combination.

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Artfully made for our drinking pleasure

I bet these pictures have made you thirsty! Happy drinking.

My new tea-time heaven

So I’ve relocated to Cape Town in South Africa for a bit, which is great news for all of you as it’s the chance for me to share some wonderful new food experiences with you. From cafes and restaurants to exciting new recipes – watch this space, there’s plenty to come.

Today I met up with my sister for lunch. Angie is always on the lookout for exciting new places for me to try and today, as usual, she came up trumps.

Oway Teacafe is a beautifully unique place for a tea or coffee break, breakfast or lunch. Its welcoming, sleek Oriental-style interior is furnished with mismatched tables and chairs and full of exotic goodies to sample and purchase to take home.

First the tea. They serve over 80 types, ranging through green, white, Chinese, Oolong, black, red, herbal infusions, fruit infusions and rooibos…the menu is quite mind boggling. After much pondering we went for two of the most intriguingly named. Herbal Immensely Beautiful and Gunpowder.

Our teas arrive with their beautiful glass pots ready for brewing

Our teas arrive with their beautiful glass pots ready for brewing

It’s all quite a ceremony (gotta love a ceremony) with glass pots filled with steaming water sat on glass stands with candles to keep the tea warm (amazing how effective it is). The actual tea comes in a separate glass container which fits into the pot when you are ready to start brewing. The presentation also comes with a three-minute egg timer and instructions from the waitress. Three minutes to brew the Gunpowder and six for the aptly-named Immensely Beautiful.

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My Herbal Immensely Beautiful brews in its pretty glass contraption

The Gunpowder was beautifully fresh tasting with a zing of spearmint, while the reddish-pink Immensely Beautiful offered a mix of sweet and floral with hibiscus and blackberry leaf, among others. Wonderfully refreshing brews that you can drink pots of in one sitting…seriously.

The lunch menu offered an exotic-sounding collection of salads, wraps and dim sum. I can never resist a dim sum platter and this combo of dumplings, spring rolls, buns, edamame beans and salad and veggie morsels was packed with flavours. One shared between two was plenty for lunch.

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Our tasty dim sum platter with dipping sauces

There’s also a tasty-sounding range of unusual breakfast options and a range of African coffee blends.

A visit to Oways is a fascinating experience with loads of new flavours and traditions to embrace. It’s the sort of place you feel like visiting every day in an attempt to taste everything on the menu.

Of course I couldn’t leave empty handed and left clutching my own pack of Immensely Beautiful to keep me going until my next visit. Which better be soon…anyone for tea?

Oways is at 20 Dreyer Street, Claremont, Cape Town.

What to drink in Phuket

I have never before enjoyed such a cornucopia of drinks on holiday. Phuket is definitely beverage heaven.

That first morning, straight off the plane from London (via Bangkok), we limped down a hot, hectic street into The Outdoor Restaurant (that’s what it’s actually called) and I spotted a sign saying: watermelon shake 50 baht.

Too hot for coffee (I like cold beverages when it’s 30 degrees outside), I ordered my first of many, many shakes. A tall glass of what was basically liquid watermelon was placed in front of me and I was sold.

My favourite – watermelon shakes, best drunk on the beach

Shakes in Phuket are made from loads of fresh fruit, a dash of sugar syrup and plenty of ice, all blended together. So simple. To give you an idea of their fruitiness, the tomato one had four large  plum tomatoes in it.

Papaya shake with the best view

The chef/patron, general all-round hard worker at our little restaurant on the beach, The Cartoon Shop (more of that later) was the king of the shake. Every morning I made it my mission to try a different one and just about got through the list. My favourite two were papaya and watermelon…but they were all amazing.

Before I even had my first shake of the day, there was the juice at breakfast to look forward to. Each morning something different presented itself. First it was butterfly pea juice – and it was blue! Made from the flower of the butterfly pea plant it’s packed with antioxidants –  a little bit sweet for me but I polished it off for the sake of my health.

We also sipped on chrysanthemum juice, rosella juice and Bengal quince juice to get going in the mornings.  Bengal quince came with a sign which says it all, really.

Sounds like Bengal quince juice sorts out a lot of things

You’ll also find some seriously good coffee in Kata Beach. We love our coffee fix so sought a good coffee shop out and soon had a favourite. As well as serving the coffees you’d expect, their menu was a joy to pore over.  My favourite was the iced latte, exactly what it said it was, no cream or anything else added, just chilled latte – heaven.

The most perfect latte from our favourite coffee shop

Terry swore by the cappuccinos (he can do hot beverages in hot weather) and one day I even tasted a lemongrass water – really refreshing and no doubt health-giving again.

When in Thailand…rehydrate with lemongrass juice

Now on to alcoholic drinks. No holiday is complete without a gin and tonic before dinner. Our favourite from Re Kata a stunning beach club where we also had dinner one night (blog coming soon). Loved the lemongrass stick, this is g&t Thai style.

Gin and tonic at the Boathouse, part of Re Kata Beach Club

Hot weather, sandy feet and mouthfuls of saltwater while swimming in the delightfully warm and clear Andaman Sea brings on the need for a cold beer. Thailand’s famous Singha beer is wonderfully refreshing and served properly chilled to bring your temperature down immediately.

Beer on the beach has never tasted better

And then of course there’s a myriad of cocktails.  On the down side wine is expensive, expect to pay at least £20 for a bottle of red in a restaurant. We tended to drink Chillean or Argentinian at that sort of price and they were perfectly acceptable.

What am I going to drink now I’m back in London? One thing’s for sure, my daily beverage choices aren’t going to be the same. Thank you Thailand for the best drinks ever.