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. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Bell re-opening November 2012

The Bell pub, on the corner of Forest Road and Hoe street has been pretty much my local pub for the last 6 years. In all that time I think I only ventured inside once, found it to be generally quite run down and uninviting, and never went back. However, this summer the Bell closed for several months for refurbishment, and had it's much anticipated re-opening last week. The place was completely packed on opening night, including quite a large number of young trendies, which I cant ever imagine would have set foot in the old pub!

The bar area now looks open and inviting, with a wide selection of real ales and decent wines on offer. Signs in the bar indicate that they hope to start serving food soon, and I think the Bell would be a perfect place for a leisurely Sunday pub lunch.

The Bell refurbishment has been part of a very welcome series of improvements to several E17 pubs including the Cock and the Chequers on the High Street. 

You can find further details on the Bell here:

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thainese - 313a Hoe Street

The quality of Walthamstow eateries has been on a slow but steady increase over the past few years. Not so long ago you would struggle to find a decent pizza in E17, but now we are spoilt for choice (the Spar, Peppe's at the Rose and Crown, the Nags Head and Oregano's for example). Something that has been noticeably absent however is a decent Thai restaurant. i'm a huge fan of South-East Asian food and have been hoping for years that some lovely little sushi bar or Thai place would open up in the village. So when I heard some twitter rumours about a new place called Thainese which had recently moved into Hoe Street, I knew I would have to pay them a visit.
Thainese is found along a rather quiet section of what I call the 'far' end of Hoe Street, close to the intersection with Grove Road. First impressions of the place were pretty good: sleek wooden tables and chairs and walls decorated with artwork and ornate metal lamps.We were greeted with friendly smiles by a man who appeared to be the owner and shown over to our table. The restaurant also boasts a rather unique feature of two cute and cosy little candlelit wooden cabins in the garden which can be reserved for a private party (see photos of the cabins on the Thainese website here).

The Food: Despite the name Thainese, the restaurant doesn't specialise only in Thai food, but also offers a range of Chinese and Singaporean dishes, in fact, according to  the website the head chef trained and worked in Singapore for over ten years. For starters we had crab rangoon, little crispy wonton parcels filled with a crab meat and served with a spicy dipping sauce. For the main course I had chicken Thai green curry, which was good although the sauce had more of the earthy undertones of a yellow curry  so was a little different to the traditional green curries I am used to (but still really nice!). Hubby ordered the beef claypot, beef noodles and vegetables slow-cooked in a spicy sauce. At £10.95, I'd say it was a pound or two overpriced, as were most of the dishes on the menu, although noodles and rice are included in the with all main dishes which makes the prices seem more reasonable. Service was attentive and incredibly friendly, and you could really tell how everyone was trying to make this new restaurant a success. I would definitely come again to try out more of the menu including the chef's speciality Singaporean dishes. One final thing to note is that there is no alcohol on the drinks menu, and no option to bring your own either. 

Claypot Beef
Chicken Green curry

The Verdict: If you're looking for authentic Thai food cooked by Thai chefs, this isn't the place for you ( I would suggest a visit to Singburi on Leytonstone High Road). But for some decent pan-asian food, and super friendly service, Thainese is definitely worth a visit.

You can find contact details, more information and a sample menu on the Thainese website here 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

William Morris Gallery re-opening

So the renovations in Lloyd Park seem to have been dragging on FOR EVER, certainly well past the original April 2012 predicted completion date. Between that and the great British weather we have been experiencing lately, it has somewhat scuppered my plans to spend most of my maternity leave sunbathing and picnicking in the park. But finally in the past week we have seen some progress. The path that runs through the centre of the park is now open, so I no longer have to drag the buggy across the quagmire of Aveling field on my way up to the station. The central island has been turfed over and is accessible by a new bridge, providing easy access all the way from the Brettenham Road entrance through to Forest Road. The new hub building, cafe and playgrounds in the centre are all looking very promising, although there seems like a lot of work still to do.
Ribbon Cutting
Walking up further into the park accross the island, the grounds and ornamental gardens surrounding the gallery building are looking fabulous and should be quite a sight when all the new plants and lawns have settled in. And round at the front of the William Morris gallery, an impressive new driveway has been put in, with ramps sweeping up to the entrance of the building itself, which has been re-opened to the public today! A little crowd had assembled for the ribbon-cutting ceremony before we all rushed eagerly inside.
The new William Morris gallery cafe
Downstairs, as previously, much of the exhibition showcased William Morris' work, with many of the exhibits updated with added child-friendly interactive features. There is also a large room which will house various different exhibitions throughout the year, currently on show is the impressive Walthamstow Tapestry by Grayson Perry. Almost as excitingly (for me!), just behind the contemporary exhibition room is a light and airy new cafe, with a conservatory style glass roof and patio overlooking the grounds. Sadly I didn't have time for a coffee break today as I was rushing off to the Lee Valley white water centre for some Olympic action, but I'm sure I will be back very soon to give a proper cake appraisal!

Part of the Walthamstow tapestry by Grayson Perry
The William Morris Gallery is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10.00 - 17:00. You can find further details of upcoming exhibitions and events on the website here.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 18 June 2012

Arts and Crusts

I've been on maternity leave since the start of March, which has given me the unexpected luxury of time to explore much more of my beloved E17 than I normally get to see during my previously busy evenings and weekends. After my first couple of weeks off work I found that I was having lunch in the same few places over and over again, and it was time to try and discover some more local gems. Thanks to the power of our fabulous twitter community, it just took one quick message and 15 minutes later I was armed with a long list of personal recommendations.
First on my list was Arts and Crusts, on the corner of Victoria Road and Woodend Road. This lovely little cafe is tucked away from the main road on a residential street, making it a peaceful haven just a few minutes walk from the chaotic noise of Wood Street and Forest Road.
Inside the cafe you will invariably find Andrew, the owner and officially 'the nicest man in Walthamstow'. He goes out of his way to remember the names of all his customers, and I have spent many a happy lunchtime chatting to the other customers who Andrew has introduced me to. There is such a genuine warmth and friendliness about this place which keeps me coming back every week. As far as the food and drink goes, I've tried quite a few of the sandwiches and paninis on the menu, which have all been delicious! I'm not a coffee drinker myself, but I have it on good authority that the coffees on offer here are also excellent. The cafe also has a regularly changing display of local artworks, most of which are for sale if anything catches your eye!
You can find Arts and Crusts at 19 Victoria Road. Follow them on twitter @ArtsandCrusts for all the latest news.