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Monthly Archives: April 2015
  • Posted on April 30, 2015

    Win The Curious Barista's Guide to Coffee!

    We're super excited that it's The London Coffee Festival and wanted to celebrate by offering you a chance to win the brilliant new coffee book by Tristan Stephenson. Full of fascinating information - from growing and roasting to brewing and serving the perfect cup - as well as some coffee drink recipes; this is the perfect guide for both baristas and coffee lovers at home! If you love to make and drink good coffee, you will love this book.

    The Curious Barista's Guide to Coffee by Tristan Stephenson

    To read a bit about what Tristan has to say on grinding coffee and his advice about fineness, check out this blog post. For more information about the book, click here, and to enter, simply tell us your favourite coffee drink below!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway


    This post was posted in Competitions, UK, What's new and was tagged with coffee, Tristan Stephenson, 2015

  • Posted on April 30, 2015

    Grinding Coffee with the Curious Barista

    As the London Coffee Festival is kicking off today, we’re getting to grips with grinding over our morning brew with a little help from our go-to coffee expert, Tristan Stephenson. Taken from his new book, The Curious Barista’s Guide to Coffee, Tristan tells us about the basics of grinding coffee beans with some great advice on fineness of the grind. With a delicious mug of French pressed, pre-ground (sorry Tristan!) coffee in hand, we’re going to pass over to the expert…

    Coffee Grinder

    In the most basic sense, grinders take coffee beans and break them up into smaller pieces. Coffee cannot be brewed as whole beans, and the increase in surface area provided by smaller particles allows better access to the inner sanctum of the bean’s porous structure. The smaller you go, the more the bean’s surface is exposed, which means flavour is extracted faster. Put simply, if you grind finer, the brewing time is decreased; if you grind coarser, brewing time increases.

    The grinding of coffee also marks a significant point of no return in the brewing process as, once ground, the coffee is more exposed and vulnerable to the effects of oxidation, and so it remains potent only for a brief spell. If you want to make better coffee at home, probably the best piece of advice that I can give you is to grind it fresh; it is no exaggeration to suggest that doing so will produce a dramatically improved drink when compared with a cup made from pre-ground beans.

    Taking this a step further, I would advise you buy the best grinder that you can afford. A good grinder will last years, require less in the way of tweaking and adjustment, and consistently produce better-tasting drinks. You see, chopping up coffee beans might seem like only a minor part of making a tasty beverage, a basic but necessary step before the real skill of brewing comes into play, but shoddy work at this early stage of coffee’s precarious journey has big consequences later down the line.

    Grinding Coffee

    Fineness

    The finer the grind, the higher the surface area of the coffee. Greater surface area means a quicker extraction, because the water has better access to the flavourful compounds that the coffee holds.

    For percolated coffee, where water lets gravity do the work and flows through a bed of coffee, the surface area needs to be relatively high. The first reason for this is that during percolation brewing the water has a limited contact period with the coffee. It washes through, extracting flavour as it goes. The second reason is that finer ground coffee acts as a barrier of hydraulic resistance during percolation, preventing the water from washing through and underextracting. In other words, a finer grind both speeds up and draws out extraction. A coarse grind means the water flows quickly through the bed of coffee, as well as having a slower rate of extraction. Getting the right balance means fine-tuning the grinder to reach a desirable contact period between water and coffee, and a grind particle size that corresponds to that contact period.

    When immersion brewing, with a French press, for example, the fineness of the grind affects only the rate of extraction, since the water and coffee contact period is determined by the person pushing the plunger. There is, perhaps, an exception where an excessively fine grind is used in a French press, leading to filter clogging, and rendering it impossible to depress fully.

    Tristan Stephenson's Coffee Grind Size Table

    One of the biggest issues that the speciality coffee industry faces is the language and communication of grind fineness. It is perhaps the most important variable in brewing a cup of coffee and yet, even now, it is impossible for me to tell you how fine or coarse to grind your coffee. It’s not even possible to draw comparisons between identical models of grinder, since even minuscule deviations in the manufacture and assembly of the grinder will give rise to a subtle reworking of the grind size. In a properly equipped lab, it is of course possible to measure particle size (in microns) and to grade different samples accordingly, but for most of us this is not a day-to-day option.

    In this book, I refer to different degrees of fineness in words that describe how they might be used, i.e filter grind, Turkish grind. They are ambiguous phrases, highly inexact and only a few steps away from being utterly useless – this admission alone should illustrate the severity of the situation! The table above, however, may go some way towards helping you understand your grinder, so that you can get the best results possible in the cup. Please do not take it as gospel, however; part of the fun of making great coffee is tinkering with the grinder and analysing the shift in flavour. Note that the table is not linear, i.e. a coarse filter (6) is not necessarily the halfway point between filter (5) and coarse (7).

    The Curious Barista's Guide to Coffee

    For more coffee advice from Tristan, check out this article on The Telegraph and learn how to cold-brew coffee at home. For more information about his new book or to buy a copy, please click here.


    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with drinks, coffee, Tristan Stephenson, 2015

  • Posted on April 24, 2015

    A Mindful Recipe for the Weekend

    To finish up #MindfulWeek we wanted to share one of our favourite recipes that we enjoyed for our Mindful Eating lunch earlier this week. This Spiced Pumpkin, Spelt and Goat’s Cheese Salad was utterly delicious, and it achieved at least two of the Mindful Eating Principles; namely putting plant-based foods at the centre of a meal, and making sure there is plenty of colour and variety. You can see more of what we ate below the recipe.

    Spiced Pumpkin, Spelt, and Goat's Cheese Salad

    50g whole spelt

    400g peeled and deseeded pumpkin (any squash works well here)

    65 ml olive oil

    ½ teaspoon sea salt

    ½ teaspoon Spanish smoked sweet paprika (pimentón dulce)

    ¼ teaspoon dried chilli flakes

    ¼ teaspoon ground allspice

    50g unsalted cashew nuts

    1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

    100g soft goat’s cheese

    4 handfuls of wild arugula/rocket

    freshly ground black pepper

    Serves 4

    Put the spelt in a large saucepan with plenty of boiling water.

    Set over high heat, bring back to the boil, and cook for about 30 minutes, until just tender yet firm to the bite. Drain well and set aside.

    Preheat the over to 350F/180C/Gas 4.

    Cut the pumpkin flesh into large bite-sized chunks and put in a bowl of the oil, salt, paprika, chilli flakes, and allspice. Toss to coat the pumpkin in the spiced oil.

    Tumble the pumpkin onto the prepared baking sheet and pour over any spiced oil from the bowl. Cook in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, scatter over the cashews, and return to the oven for 8 – 10 minutes, until the cashews are golden and the pumpkin tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.

    Combine the remaining oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Put the spelt, spiced pumpkin, cashews, goat’s cheese, and arugula/rocket in a large bowl and gently toss to combine, being careful not to break up the cheese or pumpkin too much. Pour over the dressing and season well with black pepper.

    Mindful Eating by Rachel Bartholomew & Mandy Pearson is available here.

    Have a Mindful Weekend everyone!


    This post was posted in Featured, News, Recipes, UK and was tagged with salad, savoury, recipe for the weekend, vegetarian, office lunch, mindfulness, mind body spirit, 2015, healthy, mindful week, mindful eating

  • Posted on April 24, 2015

    Try the 'Sitting Tall' mindfulness exercise!

    We’re feeling pretty stress-free in the office as we reach the end of our #MindfulWeek after trying a range of exercises, from paying attention to the world around us and learning to live in the moment, to a communal lunch (photos later today) following the mindful eating principles, and a mindfulness meditation on our commute. This morning we wanted to turn our attention to the workplace in order to continue our calm and productive mentality throughout the following weeks. Here is a mindfulness exercise for sitting tall at your desk – a great way to release tension and relax the mind at work.

    Desk illustration from Mindfulness@Work

    sitting tall

    My neck and shoulders are the areas that are the first to stiffen. When I pay attention to my posture at work I can see why. My shoulders are scrunched up and my chin is jutting out as I stretch my head towards the computer screen. When I notice how I am sitting, there is an instant softening and letting go. If we can check in with our posture at our desk or in a meeting, we can notice our own habitual patterns. Remember that it is only when we bring something into awareness that we have the capacity to do it differently.

    Sitting Tall Mindfulness Exercise from Mindfulness@Work by Anna Black

     

    Mindfulness@Work by Anna Black

    This exercise is taken from Mindfulness@Work by Anna Black. For more information about the book or to buy a copy, please click here!


    This post was posted in Featured, UK and was tagged with mindfulness, work, mind body spirit, 2015, mindful week, mindful exercise

  • Posted on April 22, 2015

    The Mindful Commute

    So often mindful living can be dismissed with four little words: “I don’t have time…” But mindfulness really can slot into everyone’s daily lives. Whether it’s following these Mindful Eating principles, or taking a daily mindful minute, you can adapt your thinking to live more mindfully. In the exercise we’re sharing today, Stephanie Brookes offers some meditation tips to transform your daily commute from stressful to stress-free.

     

    THE MINDFUL COMMUTER

    Making our way from A to B may sound simple, however, the daily commute can often take its toll on our well-being. If we are lucky enough not to have to take transportation to our place of work, we can count ourselves fortunate indeed. The issue we all experience with commuting is that it is a tiresome activity, often lengthy in duration, and your personal space is likely to be taken up by your fellow commuters. It’s never going to be a relaxing journey, but it can be given a mindful overhaul so you can integrate a worthwhile activity while getting to your chosen destination.

    On the train, I often notice people reading a book, magazine, or listening to their music, and all these activities have their own meditative benefits. However, if you find yourself without anything to occupy your time, I suggest the following mindful exercise, which is ideal if you are traveling on public transport.

    In your current position, whether you happen to be sitting or standing, try and find that moment of personal calm by focusing on your breath. As it is likely to be noisy on the train, bus, or subway, you may not even be able to detect your breath, so focus on what you can pick up on. Can you feel the air as it touches the tip of your nostrils? Or maybe you are following the rise and fall of your chest? Spend a few moments finding your rhythm in order to help you feel more calm and centered.

    After a few minutes of focusing on your breathing, expand your  awareness to where you currently are in your space and become mindful of how your body is positioned. This exercise is all about becoming more aware of “you.” When we commute, we are often swept along with the other passengers, and sometimes it feels as if we're just following the crowd. But if you can bring your “self” into clearer focus, you will become more mindful of your journey, so you will be kinder to yourself, and equally more conscious and considerate of your fellow commuters.

    To conclude: This exercise can be carried out for the duration of your commute, or you may decide to practice for five minutes and then carry on reading your book or listening to music. You can mix and match this exercise to fit your needs on any given day.

    Meditation Made Easy by Stephanie Brookes is available here.

    Don't forget that we're giving away a #MindfulWeek book bundle. Head over to this post to enter.


    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK and was tagged with mindfulness, meditation, Stephanie Brookes, mind body spirit, 2015, healthy, mindful week, mindful eating, mindful exercise

  • Posted on April 21, 2015

    The Mindful Eating Principles

    Today, as part of #MindfulWeek, we turn our attention to food (as we often do in this office!) and take a look at the mindful eating principles recommended by Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson. If you feel like you’ve tried every fad diet under the sun and can’t seem to maintain the diet (or a healthy and happy body weight!) then these principles might inspire you to try a new approach to eating. Not only are they simple, achievable and commonsensical, they offer a way for you to enjoy food again. By putting you in control of what you are eating, encouraging a fascination with food and helping you to discover what constitutes healthy food for you, this mindfulness approach will nourish you from the inside out.

     

    The Mindful Eating Principles

    1. Eat three smaller meals and three snacks daily. Avoid becoming ravenously hungry. Aim to eat every 2-3 hours.

    2. Choose whole, unprocessed foods, which are as close to their natural state as possible.

    3. Make your meals and snacks as complex as possible by simply combining foods from different food groups: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

    4.Include colour and variety in your daily diet

    5. Make friends with fat by including more beneficial unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your diet and less saturated fats.

    6. Make plant-based foods the star attraction, rather than the supporting act

    7. Drink plenty of fresh, filtered water.

    8. Eat breakfast as soon as possible after you wake up.

    9. Plan your meals and snacks in advance, so that you can choose your food rather than it choosing you.

    10. Allow yourself the foods you really love, in moderation.

     


     

    These basic principles are a brilliant place to start, but for more information, check out the book – Mindful Eating by Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson.


    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK and was tagged with mindfulness, 2015, healthy, mindful eating

  • Posted on April 20, 2015

    Living in the Moment

    All this week on the blog we are celebrating Mindfulness practices with #MindfulWeek. You can enter our competition to win a Mindfulness Book Bundle, and all week we’re sharing simple tips and exercises on Instagram and Twitter, so you can see what we’re up to! We’ll be sharing some longer exercises, as well as recipes over here on the blog. Here’s the first of these, taken from Living in the Moment by Anna Black. This activity is all about looking at things, really seeing and making a connection with the world around you. It’s the perfect introduction to mindful being. Relax into it, and simply be…

    I love drawing portraits and when you draw someone’s face you have to really look at them and see them. You are not judging the length of a nose or the size of an ear, but noticing how a certain line aligns with this one, or a particular angle comes down from another, and so on. When you draw someone you need to get up close to them and you feel a connection.

    The following practice does not involve any drawing, but it does require looking. Your subject could be another person, a pet, or an inanimate object, such as a flower or a stone, or even a view from a window.

     

    Take a position where you can see your subject clearly, and settle into your seat.

    Connect first to the breath and then the body.

    Begin looking ahead at the subject. Just open your eyes to whatever comes into your field of vision.

    Notice any urge to turn your head in search of something more interesting… but if you do, just bring your head back in the same way that you escort the attention back when the mind wanders. Notice any thoughts arising and let them go or label them as “judging,” “planning,” “past,” or whatever is appropriate.

    Rest your eyes on the subject, perhaps letting them roam without turning your head… from time to time, becoming aware of the breath like a radio playing in the background… moving the attention backward and forward in a way that feels right for you. Finish by focusing on the breath.

     

    Living in the Moment by Anna Black is available here.


    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with wellbeing, mindfulness, meditation, mind body spirit, Anna Black, 2015, mindful week, mindful exercise

  • Posted on April 20, 2015

    Win a Mindfulness Book Bundle!

    This week we're holding a Mindful Week in the office; we are trying some mindful eating recipes and techniques at lunch, practising some simple meditations and exercises during the day, and generally trying to be aware of the present moment. If you'd like to join in with us then keep an eye on the #MindfulWeek hashtag on Instagram, Twitter and follow us on Facebook for daily mindfulness tips, activities, and to see what we're up to!

    For this week's activities, we are following the advice and ideas in a number of great mindfulness books and we wanted to give you the opportunity to try them too! So we've got a fantastic book bundle to give away on Friday, including four of the books that we will be using; Living in the Moment and Mindfulness@Work, both by Anna Black, Mindful Eating by Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson, and Meditation Made Easy by Stephanie Brookes.

    For your chance to win the bundle, simply enter via Twitter and Facebook below:

     

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Good luck everyone and have a wonderful mindful week!


    This post was posted in Competitions, Featured, News, UK and was tagged with mindfulness, meditation, Stephanie Brookes, Anna Black, 2015, mindful week, mindful eating

  • Posted on April 17, 2015

    Recipe for the Weekend

    The lovely sunshine may have inspired a few spontaneous family trips to the seaside, but if you want to taste the sea without leaving your kitchen this weekend, then we’ve got a great recipe for you to try today! We’ve been hearing a lot from Mat Follas of late - he had a catch up with Liza Tarbuck on BBC Radio 2 last week and appeared on BBC Radio Devon yesterday! - so we couldn’t help but share one of his favourite dishes. Taken from his stunning new book, Fish, this crab thermidor recipe won him the Masterchef title in 2009 and is a firm favourite in his restaurant. Enjoy!

    Mat Follas, photo by Steve Painter

    Mat's Crab Thermidor 

    Prepare: 15 minutes | Cook: 30 minutes | Serves: 2

    This is a variation of the Spider Crab Thermidor I cooked as my MasterChef winning main dish. This is not a true thermidor recipe, as we make the sauce using cream, rather than a flour-based roux. However, this is the one I prefer and that I serve in my restaurant because of it’s wonderful flavour and because it can be eaten by people with a gluten intolerance. The flavour of crab changes throughout the season and so accordingly, the seasoning for this dish must be adjusted (tailor the mustard, Tabasco etc.). Use the method below as a guide but trust your taste buds, this is not a dish of exact measurements.

    Mat Follas' Crab Thermidor

    600 ml unreduced Shellfish Stock (recipe below)

    a few drops of Tabasco sauce

    1 teaspoon English mustard powder

    60 g grated Gruyère cheese

    salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

    100 ml double cream

    200 g white crab meat

    200 g brown crab meat

    4 crab shells (you should be able to buy these from a fishmonger)

    100 g spinach

    100 g. samphire, woody bits discarded

    1 lemon, cut into wedges

     

    Put the stock in a saucepan set over a medium heat and simmer until it has reduced by about two-thirds.

    Add the Tabasco, English mustard, half of the cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary – it should be a spicy, slightly salty, seafood liquor.

    Turn the heat down and add the double cream, then the crab meat and gently stir together. You should now have a thick stew. Take care not to overcook or overstir it as the crab meat is quite delicate.

    Fill each crab shell about a quarter of the way up with spinach leaves, then spoon over the mixture so that the shells are full.

    Scatter with the remaining cheese and place the filled shells under a hot grill/broiler for a few minutes until the cheese has melted.

    Make a small pile of samphire on each serving plate and place the hot crab shell on top of it. Just before serving, sprinkle the crab with pepper and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the samphire.

    Note: Crab meat needs to be handled with care. It should either be kept fridge-cold, or above 70°C (160°F). It’s very important not to leave it sitting out of the fridge for any longer than is necessary.

    Crab photograph by Steve Painter, taken from Fish by Mat Follas

    SHELLFISH STOCK

    Prepare: 10 minutes | Cook: 1 hour | Makes: 2 litres/3½ pints

    4 brown onions, peeled and roughly chopped

    8 carrots, thinly sliced

    8 celery stalks, thinly sliced

    2 tomatoes, cut into quarters

    the peel of 1 lemon

    2 litres/3½pints cold water

    300 ml/1¼ cups shellfish juices (or 200 g/7 oz. scallop frills)

    200 g/3 cups uncooked prawns/shrimp, shells on

    Put all of the ingredients in a large pan set over a gentle–medium heat, bring to a low simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat and continue to cook for a further 45 minutes.

    Blend the mixture using a handheld electric blender, then pour the liquid through a fine mesh sieve/strainer into a jug/pitcher. Discard the pulp.

     

    Fish by Mat Follas

    Fish by Mat Follas, with photography by Steve Painter - check out the book page for more information or to buy the book.

    Have a lovely weekend everyone and happy cooking!


    This post was posted in Featured, Recipes, UK, What's new and was tagged with fish, savoury, recipe for the weekend, 2015, crab, Mat Follas

  • Posted on April 16, 2015

    London Book Fair 2015

    This week has been one of the big trade events for us in the book industry - the London Book Fair - held at the Olympia, West London, with lots of lovely stands (and even lovelier books!). Our sales and rights teams have been busy for weeks in preparation for the fair and have created such a beautiful display with our books that we wanted to share a few photos with you...

    Our new lifestyle titles took centre stage with everything from creative interiors to delectable recipe books, while the kids activity books looked bright and colourful on a stand next to the pretty craft titles...

    The back wall had a stunning collection of practical and inspiring interiors books, a stylish centre poster, and a tasty looking bunch of food books...

    We were particularly pleased with our handmade macramé plant pot holders that decorated the stand, giving a nod to the ever popular bohemian modern style and inspired by author Emily Henson, who taught us how to make them!

    Drinks books from beer writer, Mark Dredge, and master mixologist, Tristan Stephenson (otherwise known as the Curious Bartender), make a statement of their own...

    ...and the Seasalt stationery range (and sunny weather!) made us all want to visit the seaside!

    The fair has been as busy as ever, visitors to our stand admired the stylish rustic look (and our handmade macramé plant holders!) and I enjoyed some of the great talks while visiting yesterday. When leaving the fair last night, however, a piece of advice from an old publishing professor came to mind (an oh, I should have listened!)... if you only remember one thing when you go to LBF, make sure it's comfy shoes!


    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with event, photos, 2015

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