Friday, 20 December 2013

Alternative bread baking at the Hornbeam cafe

Wholemeal Spelt Loaf

Rosemary focaccia, ciabatta rolls and a baguette

The Hornbeam café is a perfect place to take a break and escape from the hustle and bustle of busy Walthamstow streets. Tucked away by the bakers arms, this friendly little café specialises in organic vegetarian food, with a strong emphasis on community involvement. The café also plays host to various book groups, open mic nights and occasional supperclub evenings.

One particularly successful group, the Hornbeam Bakers collective, also operated from the café throughout the past couple of years. These guys bake the loaves sold at the Hornbeam café and market stalls, in addition to running a range of baking classes, designed for everyone from total beginners to regular bread bakers. Already having some home baking experience, I signed up for two of their Sunday bread making courses; Alternative Breads, featuring a range of wheat free flours, and Speciality bread, where we would make a range of more advanced loaves such as focaccia, ciabatta and baguette.
Our teacher for these two classes was Raju, a young baker with a clear passion and enthusiasm for home baking. The courses ran from 11-4pm in the Hornbeam kitchen, where we would spend the day sharing baking stories and preparing our dough mixes before placing our lovingly made loaves into the communal oven for baking. I found the alternative bread day particularly useful, I've never managed to find a supermarket wheat-free bread that didn't taste of cardboard, so it was really good to have the confidence to make decent spelt, rye and tapioca loaves at home. In fact, I was so inspired by the courses that I went out and bought a breadmaker, and haven't bought another supermarket loaf of bread since!

As of winter 2013, the Hornbeam bakers group are moving into their new premises at the Blackhorse Workshops. They are expanding the range of baking courses offered to include some new ones such as pastry making (homemade croissants - yum!) aswell as all the old favourites such as the ever popular sourdough bread course. At just £30-35 per course, I can highly recommend these to anyone wanting to learn more about baking! You can find more details of all the upcoming classes on their blog here.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Cambodian cooking classes with Da

Pomelo salad with spicy dressing
While walking through Lloyd Park one day I came across a flyer taped to the entrance gate for a series of Cambodian cooking classes taking place over the next few weekends. Being both a huge fan of South East Asian food AND learning new cooking skills, I knew I had to sign up! The classes were held in the community area at the back of the Salvation Army on Forest road. Over the course of a two hour class, we would prepare, cook and eat a two-course lunch together.
Chicken wings with a tamarind, garlic and shallot sauce
Our teacher was the delightfully hilarious Da, a Cambodian woman who now lives in Walthamstow with her family. For the first class we made chicken wings in a spicy tamarind and garlic sauce, with a pomelo, pepper and carrot salad. I had never used pomelo as an ingredient before, and had often wondered what the giant grapefruit-type fruits were that I often saw outside corner shops around Walthamstow. The tamarind chicken dish was a big hit, very easy to prepare, with a delicious sharp tang from the tamarind and garlic in the flavour-packed sauce. In fact, I cooked it again later that week for my husband to try.
The initial set of classes has now finished for the year but Da will be running a more extensive set of classes in the new year. Comment below or check back here later for more details!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

God's Own Junkyard

Inside God's Own Junkyard
Behind an inconspicuous wooden door tucked away on a quiet industrial area of Vallentin Road is where you will find God's Own Junkyard, a fascinating and quirky Alladin's cave packed full of neon artwork. The man behind the Junkyard is Chris Bracey, who has been in the neon business for 37 years. What started out as a sign making company for seedy Soho bars has flourished over the years into something far more spectacular. You can see his artworks everywhere from Hollywood films such as 'Eyes Wide Shut' and the modern 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' to the latest Rimmel London advertisement  featuring Kate Moss stalking and pouting through a giant pink neon Union Jack. Chris's popularity has continued to rise exponentially in recent years, culminating this spring with the launch of a major new exhibition at the Scream gallery in London, gaining him significant media coverage, for example these articles by The Independent and the BBC

The Scream exhibition is well worth a visit, but us E17'ers are in for an extra treat. The Junkyard on Vallentin Road is Chris Bracey's workshop and studio, where he creates his latest pieces and old set props are brought home to rest in the backyard. The interior of the studio is a mind-boggling sight, with every wall crammed full of glowing, flickering illuminations. Much of the artwork here is for sale, from small single words mounted on a wooden board to the bigger, more dramatic installations. As we moved deeper into the studio the back door was opened allowing us out into the yard. Here is home to hundreds more pieces, piled up somewhat haphazardly against each other, giving the impression of a bizzare dilapidated fairground.  The closer you look the more there is to spot and marvel upon. This place is a must-see for all local residents!

God's Own Junkyard can be found at 96 Vallentin Road is currently open for visitors every Friday and Saturday from 10am-4pm. Check their website for the latest opening hours and a photo gallery.