The cherry on the top

They say it takes 7g of coffee beans to make 1 espresso.

 

This has always intrigued me so today I weighed out 7g of our beautifully roasted SOHO coffee beans and counted them.

 

My 7g came to 50 beans, which is more than I’d expected. 

 

Given each coffee cherry contains 2 beans, that’s 25 coffee cherries that have been picked by hand from the coffee bush to make a single espresso.

 

Not to mention the care and attention required to transform these from cherry to the rich, smooth coffee nectar that so many of us depend on to kick start our day.  These 25 coffee cherries are as precious as they’ve ever been as coffee is a commodity in crisis. 

 

As our climate changes, increasing extreme weather patterns are altering the flowering and fruiting cycles of coffee and increasing pests and diseases. It also hasn’t helped that, for some time now, coffee has traded on the open futures market below the cost of production for many farmers, which may lead many to abandon growing coffee in favour of other more lucrative crops.

So, these 25 coffee cherries really are as precious as they’ve ever been. Little nuggets of pure gold.


And, an important reminder that our commitment to our certified coffee farmers has never been so essential.  By ensuring a fair price for their crop, we demonstrate how much we value them, the land they work, the challenges they face and the high quality of coffee they produce, every cherry.

 

Through purchasing from Fairtrade, Organic and Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM farms, we are guaranteeing our certified farmers receive a much higher price for their coffee than beans bought purely on the open futures market.  This allows them to plan for the future and re-invest in some of the poorest and most remote communities, supporting local health and educational services.

 

The organic matter from the tree canopy that naturally shades our arabica coffee bushes, provides an ecological mulch that reduces the need for weeding, naturally controls bugs, reduces the need for fertilisers, controls erosion and helps build the soil. And, our farmers know how to filter clean water naturally through straw and re-use coffee bean husk in their organic fertiliser. 

 

It’s no surprise that this environment creates a healthy eco-system, one that attracts migrating birds and allows farming to co-exist alongside rainforest without leading to its devastation.

 

We’re fully committed to serving you the best tasting and most ethical coffee we can. We don’t pretend to be perfect, we’re just doing what we can.

 

This is why we’re super proud to partner with the first coffee roastery in the world to achieve the Carbon Neutral Gold Standard. 

 

It’s also why we then proudly hand over our precious SOHO blend to our trained baristas to carefully craft the perfect flat white, cappuccino or latte, made with organic dairy milk.

 

This way, we can all continue to enjoy our delicious daily fix with a slightly clearer conscience.


Christmas Round Ours

Okay, so I know I said I plan to be more flexitarian and include more plant-based meals in my diet, but I’m afraid I’m a sucker for the traditional Victorian Christmas, and for me that means full on nostalgia and indulgence.

 

My lead up to the big day started 3 weeks ago when I made my plum duff beer. I take the same elements of a plum duff; the dried fruits, spices and just a little bit of chilli to make a really good heavy beer with the perfume of Christmas. I tend to add chocolate malt to my base malt of maris otter. This gives great bitter notes, rich colour and a nice, dark porter-style beer. It will be ready perfectly in time for Christmas Day.

 

I’ve already got all my chutneys ready that I’ve made throughout the year – apple chutney from the garden, home-made piccalilli and pickled red cabbage. All will go brilliantly with my good fine cheeses, which I’ll enjoy picking out at my local cheese monger, not to mention the ham.

 

I tend to do a glazed ham for the evenings over Christmas. A smoked gammon to be precise. This fills me full of evocative nostalgia for the days as a child when Christmas started in our household 12 days before, with the arrival of the ham, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, sent by my great Aunt who owned and ran a butcher’s shop in Limerick. I like to bring my ham to the boil in home-made cider, with cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon, leaving it to stand and removing the skin once its cold. I then score the top and bathe in honey, good English mustard and demerara sugar. Whack it in the oven to let it caramelise into a lovely dark mahogany colour…and I’m transported back to the wonderful earthy smells of the familiar, well-used family smokery.

 

On the Big Day

 

Knowing where our meat comes from is important to me. This Christmas I’ve decided it’s got to be locally sourced fore-rib of beef, matured and dry aged for 32 days. I tend to sear it and smother it in butter, thyme and rosemary, maybe a bit of mustard – then in the oven for 20 mins @220 so it colours up, down to 180 until the meat probe reads 54 degrees in the centre - the perfect medium beef!

 

I’ll make the gravy for this on Christmas Eve. I always make a natural jus with veal bones. These I roast off before putting into my large stock pot with carrots, leeks, onions, bay leaves, peppercorns, and loads of a good red wine which I bring to the boil and reduce to a slow simmer for about 6 hours. This pulls the marrow goodness out of the bones to enrich it. Having let it sit all night, I remove the bones and reduce it by three quarters which makes a really intense jus.

 

Christmas Day, and while the beef is resting for a good hour, the gravy takes shape. I tend to put a little bit of flour in with the fat from the roasting juices, cook out and then add a good glug of port, red wine and then add the veal jus. Reduced just enough to coat the back of the spoon and then great to dip yorkies in.

 

Best Yorkie recipe was given to me by Brian Turner years back on a cooking evening together; 1 cup of each: plain flour, milk and eggs. Add salt & pepper, and then simply whisk, it’s okay to have a few lumps, and leave out at room temperature. I use a muffin tin and lard if I’ve got some, into a really hot oven and then watch the kiddies’ faces as you present them.

 

If you want to go veggie this Christmas, use good quality cold pressed rapeseed oil in place of animal fats and maybe go for a vegan suet pudding of slow cooked confit of white onions, roasted field mushrooms with thyme, garlic and oil, layered and wrapped in vegan suet pastry. This is one of my favourites. Sourcing the freshest veg I can find in the local market means I know I can keep it simple and they’ll pair with this or the beef, brilliantly.

 

 

My top tips

 

Whatever you do and however you choose to spend Christmas this year:

  • Keep it simple
  • Don’t feel pressured, it’s your Christmas too.
  • Cook what you want to cook
  • Prepare as much as possible in advance
  • Freezing is a great way to keep Mother Nature’s goodness locked in

(all the veg can be prepped, blanched and frozen, as can gravy)

  • Ask people to bring something to help, if they offer, say “yes please”
  • Don’t go crazy with veggies… but…make sure you have enough roast potatoes
  • Don’t take my word, play around and do your own thing

 

And have a very Happy Christmas!

 

Martin, Head Foodie

 


IT’S CHRISTMAS!

It’s that cosy time of year again.  No excuse needed to indulge, relax and get those fluffy slipper socks on…

 

Of course, it goes without saying that our favourite thing about Christmas is all the delicious festive food. Sometimes we feel it’s just too short-lived. So, we’re starting Christmas flavours this year from 8th November.  And, as usual, we have something for everyone.

 

What better way to kick off Christmas than with our SOHO Christmas Dinner Sandwich; slices of turkey, streaky bacon & homemade nut roast with a crispy onion mayo, cranberry sauce & baby leaf spinach on malthouse bread. All the flavours of Christmas in one bite.

 

Veggie’s can look forward to our Brie & Cranberry Melt; the perfect marriage of Brie and cranberry sauce with crispy onion mayo & baby leaf spinach on caramelised onion & rosemary focaccia…just take me to be toasted, tuck in and enjoy.

 

We’ve got Christmas wrapped up with our Vegan Festive nut roast Wrap; Homemade nut roast & roasted butternut squash with a mustard & onion gravy, sugar snap peas, baby leaf spinach in a multigrain tortilla.

 

Chocolate & Cherry is a match made in heaven and tastes even better when you know that 10p on every Choc & Cherry muffin goes to our Charity MDUK, helping support those struggling with this muscle-wasting disease. The same delicious Choc Cherry combo makes the best Black Forest Vegan Shake ever; made with almond milk, blended with ice and topped with our new vegan whipped cream, cherry sauce and chocolate shavings.

 

Festivity can also be found in our bakery where you’ll find a lovely collection of Christmas cakes and biscuits. From our Christmas Bakewell Slice with fruity mincemeat to our special Christmas Pudding Shortbread and the star, Choc Orange Marshmallow Tea Cake (dark chocolate, marshmallow & orange curd).  The perfect accompaniment to our triple-certified coffee.  Or double up on marshmallow and chocolate with our amazing Rocky Road Hot Chocolate, one of our Three King Seasonal drinks!  And, our Gingerbread Latte can also be made vegan, what more is there to say?

 

Fluffy slipper socks allowed…?

 

Rocky Road hot chocolate, gingerbread latte, black forest vegan shake


Plant Power

I’ve just been inspired by the movie “The Game Changers” – where big top name athletes swap out meat for plant protein. My favourite quote is – “how could you get as strong as an ox without eating meat?” Answer: “Have you ever seen an ox eating meat?”

 

I’ve always been a fan of plant-based food since going to Japan, where back in the day I trained and learned to make sushi. I was also wowed by the amazing breadth of tofu on offer and the different ways it can be prepared; it’s a completely different beast to here in the UK. I’m realising now, several years later, that I must make a change and introduce more plant power into my life. When I can’t get into my motorbike trousers I know it’s time to get serious. Having a job that involves being in the kitchen and constantly tasting, well you can imagine how easily your waist can fall out of line, and I have no switch off when it comes to food. So, I’ve decided to be more flexitarian and include more plant-based meals in my diet.

 

Eating more plant-based meals is not a new thing and definitely on the rise. Vegetarianism as we know it is has been around for hundreds of years and the Vegan Society today celebrates 75 years of the official term, vegan: https://bit.ly/2NvfbQr

 

One way to pile in the veg is juicing. And, because you’re getting your roots and fruits raw, you get max nutrients straight to where you need it. There is something really exhilarating as freshly juiced kale, cucumber, apple, pear, ginger and lemon slip down. Our Marketing Manager, Sophie, hasn’t stopped ranting about how good she feels having spent a week on fruit & veg alone, all in the form of juices.

 

Game Changer

 

So, I’m up for the challenge.

 

But, I’m also a meat lover. So, I’m going to be my own guinea pig. I’m not sure how I feel about working hard to create a vegan meal that pretends to be meat…I’ve been around people who have been vegan for years and doing magical stuff without having to create something that’s trying to be something else…do we do this for meat lovers to reduce their FOMO (fear of missing out)? Or, for vegans who haven’t eaten meat for years? Gary Rhodes has been a great exponent of good, wholesome vegan flavours and textures, for their own sake and I think I tend to lean towards this camp.

 

I believe eating this way really is a game changer. Good for us all and good for the planet.

 

The Japanese certainly top the global table for life expectancy so looks like I have nothing to lose in trying ? Watch this space!

 

Martin


My Special Sourdough

Meet the Magical Horace…

#sourdoughSeptember

 

There’s sourdough and then there’s sourdough.

 

A natural artisanal sourdough is a live culture that’s fed daily.

 

Meet Horace.  My eight year old.

 

This precious sourdough starter began life in a little Kilner jar as fresh homemade yoghurt, sultanas, water, rye flour and flour.  And after 5 days of caressing and feeding he came to life and was born.  Horace lives in a yoghurt pot in a corner of the kitchen and is fed every day with equal parts flour to water to keep him alive and healthy.

 

I ponder on a Friday night about all the different sourdoughs I can make. Am I going to make traditional Pain de Campagne (classic country farmhouse)?  What flour shall I choose? – spelt, rye, organic white? At this point I feed Horace. Without Horace, I am nothing.  He needs to be fed before I can make my sourdough and that’s 12 hours in advance to make sure he’s got enough yeast cells in him to give my bread the necessary lift.

 

More often than not, I go for the classic Willie’s sourdough (that’s my nickname).  As Horace comes to a lovely rise, about 7am in the morning, I take 200g of him and add him to the dry mix and water.  My chosen dry mix is Canadian wholemeal flour, the same of white and a touch of rye. To boost Horace and introduce a bit of speed for the enzymes, I sometimes add a bit of malt flour – it makes him go crazy!

 

Hands on time!

I’ve used Dan Lepards’ sourdough method for years, and some bakers that I’ve shared this with choose this method for their home baking. You can’t rush a good thing.  It involves patience and nurturing; mixing and resting – slowly increasing Horace’s rest periods in between from 10 minutes to 2 hours until he’s nicely aerated and full of lots of lovely bubbles to his structure.

 

It’s then time to divide, shape and rest in the banneton (proofing basket) where I leave Horace to rise naturally, which could take anywhere between 4 – 6 hours.  Funny that I should have named him Horace, meaning “Time Keeper”, when he’s anything but this!  But don’t panic if you need to go out.  You can pop the sourdough into the fridge and pick it up again in the morning. Although I rarely choose to do this, it does give the sour notes time to develop.

 

What I do a lot of, is make crackers for my kids when I replenish Horace.  When I take away a little bit of Horace to feed him fresh flour and water in equal parts every day, I take this live but not so active piece of Horace and add wholemeal flour, cold pressed rapeseed oil, salt & pepper, smoked paprika, onion granules, a pinch of garlic powder and sesame seeds.  Rolled out, cut out with a ravioli cutter and dried in the oven at 120 degrees C for 15-20 mins, creates great kiddies’ cracker snacks.

 

Horace gets better with age.  Although he’s only 8 years old, in theory he could live forever.  He already has sons and daughters.  The little bit of Horace I recently gave away is now called Laurace…and so his legacy lives on.  I find it comforting to think that generations might enjoy the same toasted sourdough, topped with smashed avo, beautifully crisp bacon and poached egg and sriracha of a Sunday morning – Willie’s Sunday fave.

 

Martin


A bowl of salad with feta

Salad Days

Welcome to the first of our regular thought-sharing slots.
We thought we might take it in turns to bring you snippets from behind the scenes at SOHO. This month, to celebrate the launch of our new website, this space has been given over to…

The Marti & Mandy Show…

Who together, make up the foodie team here at SOHO. These guys walk, talk, eat and sleep food – it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it.

 

Before we start the taste-making process for the day, we have to start with our morning brew, a builder’s tea for Amanda and our classic Flat White for me. We like to call it Procaffeinating: the tendency to not start anything until you’ve had a cuppa.

 

Has anyone else noticed how ballistic the garden has gone this summer? The warm, wet weather has brought on a bumper crop and we’ve been playing in the development kitchen experimenting with different seasonal salad ingredients. Salads are one of my favourite things. The possibilities are endless, with textures and colours reflecting this brilliant time of year. It’s like creating a painting that just invites you to eat with your eyes: vegetables, roots, fruits, and seeds offer us a great palette of bitter, sweet, salty, sour & pungent (umami) flavours that is well documented to create health and well-being. There’s been a lot of talk recently in the news about Britain’s food self-sufficiency too, and we’re lucky to be able to grow an amazingly wide variety here in the UK.

 

There’s lots of ways to prepare Mother Nature’s seasonal crop; raw, steamed, roasted…no two salads are ever the same. We also forget that acid is a perfect tenderiser – nothing better than tender-stem broccoli, left to steep for a few hours in first cold-pressed olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar, sea salt and crushed pepper corns. Slow-roasted beetroot with walnuts and spring onion or oven-roasted squashes with rosemary and thyme added warm to a bed of rocket, I could go on all day.

 

I tend to think about the next layer as something proteiny - from crumbled goat’s cheese, feta, to torn chicken, prawns, soft-boiled free-range egg or how about some pan-fried pancetta or heated pumpkin and sesame seeds?

All of this, and we haven’t even considered dressings yet!

 

Some people find choice overload too much and I’d say that maybe my Dad had it right back in the day, when the only salad he ever made we all loved: quite simply squares of cheddar, pineapple chunks and raw white cabbage with a cider vinegar dressing. Anyone for a bit of nostalgia?

 

If you have a fave salad that’s been in the family for years, we’d love to hear about it.

Email talktous@sohocoffee.co.uk or get in touch via social media using #FaveSalad.

 

Martin & Amanda


Muffin with union jack flag decoration by SOHO Coffee Co.

The ‘Royal County’ brings you the Queen of Cakes

In honour of the Royal Wedding this Saturday we at SOHO will be celebrating this momentous day by launching a limited edition Royal Muffin. This is a take on the Royal Wedding cake, a delicious lemon and elderflower muffin, decorated with edible flowers, golden chocolate balls and rice paper union jack butterflies – the most beautiful thing to behold!

 

Based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, the same county as many of the Royals have chosen to make their homes, it seems only fitting that we should create a cake fit for a Princess.

 

Available in selected stores for the special day only!

 

Congratulations Meghan & Harry from all of us at SOHO