Monday, October 1, is International Coffee Day which was introduced by the International Coffee Association to celebrate this iconic beverage globally.
As someone who can’t function in the morning without at least a double espresso, this is my kind of day.
Indeed, if it wasn’t for the recent resurgence of coffee shops, most of our high streets would be littered with even more empty premises.
In my experience the best places to get decent coffee is 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.
As well as being an invigorating, tasty drink, coffee adds a complexity of flavour to savoury and sweet dishes alike.
My first recipe uses beef cheeks cooked with Pomoja coffee ale from Hillstown Farm in Ahoghill. Nigel Logan, who rears beef at Hillstown, first got into beer production to add to grass to feed his cattle. The inspiration came from the way the Japanese look after their Kobe cattle – adding beer to their diet, massaging them and playing classical music in the byre. The resulting beef, borne out of chilled out cows, is tasty with perfect fat marbling.
At Hillstown they quickly realised they’d a knack for brewing and decided to allow humans to try it too. Pomoja is a collaboration with Middletown coffee producers in Ballymena. Pomoja means collective in Swahili, hence the synergic moniker. The beer is rich with a slight hint of coffee, malt and raisins.
Beef cheeks are braised slowly in the ale and served with a roast onion and potato puree and then topped with shaved radishes and parsley to cut through the richness – the perfect dish for early autumn.
Espresso Martinis are the current cocktail of choice for the trendy set. Never mind fashion, they are delicious – espresso is shaken with coffee liqueur, vodka or bourbon, sugar syrup and ice to make a frothy drink. I’ve taken the ingredients of the cocktail and turned it into a mousse for my other recipe. A silky dessert like this needs a crunchy accompaniment. Cantucci biscuits are served in Italy with coffee and are quite easy to make.
My version uses walnuts and honey. Butter and sugar are beaten, eggs, walnuts, flour and honey added. The mix is then rolled into a log, baked, sliced and baked again. You can buy them but they don’t taste a tenth as good as homemade.
The actor Hugh Jackman said: “To me, the smell of fresh-made coffee is one of the greatest inventions.”
So on Monday toast the coffee growers, roasters, blenders and baristas who help to start our day so well.