Victoria Beckham announced last week on her Instagram feed, that she has taken to chewing coffee beans on nights out instead of drinking wine. I long for the days when phrases like this were just a far off fantastical notion – no Instagram, no VB and coffee was served out of silver pots into china cups with saucers.
As a non-tea or milk drinker, I rely on good espresso to kick start my day. This has nothing to do with being cool or trendy - just a simple appreciation of a great product. I spend a lot of money leaving half drunk, poor excuses for coffee at airport cafes. My pet hate is when cafes offer espresso and then serve it in large mugs – a faint little puddle of already cold, murky liquid in its depths.
There are so many “hipster” cafes now where slightly scruffy looking young men with sleeked hair and beards, torture over, for what seems like hours, the perfect brew.
One of the silliest coffee trends I’ve seen is serving a latte in an avocado shell – what nonsense. Not to mention the increasingly daft patterns on the frothy milk. Very rarely does the resulting coffee live up to the effort that seems to have gone into creating it. Gilding this lily is a waste of time.
In my experience the best places to get decent coffee are good restaurants. When chefs are at pains to source the best produce and front of house provides carefully chosen wines, you’ll invariably find the same amount of effort has gone into providing the perfect coffee.
The best coffee I’ve ever had was in a little village called Atina in the Abruzzi mountains in Italy. The place itself probably hasn’t had a refurb since the 1960s but the marble floors and shiny chrome tables are timeless and irresistable. There, men in suits stand beside farmers and construction workers to have their early morning caffé corretto – a shot of espresso, swiftly followed by a shot of potent grappa spirit. They then hop into their cars and go on their way. Not to be recommended here – the authorities would have something to say.
Espresso Martinis are all the rage now and unlike some trends,if they’re properly made, they can be delicious. Place some ice in cocktail shaker (or jam jar if you don’t have one) add 50ml Tia Maria coffee liqueur, 35ml vodka and 50ml cold espresso. Shake well and strain. Add three coffee beans on top for good luck. Being like Victoria and eating them afterwards is entirely optional.
Coffee and walnut cake has always been popular here. Coffee and chocolate have a natural affinity – the bitterness of the former bringing out the sweetness in the latter. My first recipe takes the traditional combination of coffee and walnuts and adds chocolate in a fudge cake. It’s topped with a hot chocolate sauce – moist and warm like a good chocolate cake should be.
Meringue and coffee also go extremely well together – the bitterness of the bean cutting through the cloying sweetness of the meringue. My other recipe tops the baked confection with a chocolate mousse. Classically this mousse is made with egg whites and yolks but mine makes use of the yolks left over from the meringue making. A pate a bombe is whipped egg yolk with a hot sugar syrup whisked in. It’s slightly complex but the end result is the silkiest chocolate you’ll ever taste and well worth the effort.
Serve with a nice cup of coffee on the side in proper crockery, for a taste of winter comfort.