Thursday, 21 July 2011

A brief chat about coffee.

Up until recently, I was quite happy to drink instant coffee.

Not exclusively, mind you. My coffee of choice was Douwe Egberts ground coffee, brewed in a filter machine or (preferably) in a cafetiere. But on those mornings when I just couldn't be bothered, or if I needed to fill up a flask to take somewhere, I could cope with some Kenco instant. No problem.

No more.

I have always liked espressos but lacked the equipment to make them at home. Recently I did a bit of looking around on the internet and discovered that a little stovetop coffee pot was the next best thing to an expensive espresso machine, and one trip to TK Maxx later and £5.99 poorer, I became the proud owner of a little cream-coloured one. And to make my shopping trip even more successful, I found some pretty white and duck egg blue espresso cups and saucers in a House of Fraser outlet store - £3.00 for a set of four. It'd be rude not to.

For my first attempt with the little stovetop, I used my Douwe Egberts coffee. It was good. Really good.

The following day I popped into a coffee shop in the town where I work. They blend and roast all their own coffee and will grind it however you like. I bought a little bag of java mocha, which is apparently their biggest seller and which smells better than almost anything on earth. And you know what? This is the stuff that's ended my relationship with instant coffee for good. I can never go back now.

So I'm interested. Do you drink coffee? What type? How do you brew it? Tell me about your coffee habits.

The only thing that can improve a good coffee, by the way, is a good biscotti to perch on the saucer. So here's a recipe for a good chocolate chip & hazelnut biscotti (adapted slightly from Good Housekeeping Favourite Cakes, Bakes & Cupcakes).


125g plain flour
75g caster sugar (golden, if you have it)
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
25g hazelnuts (remove the skins first)
25g chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat or similar.

Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. In a separate jug or small bowl, beat the milk, egg and vanilla with a fork. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet stuff, the hazelnuts and the chocolate and mix it all together with a fork until you get a sticky dough.

Knead this on a floured surface till it comes together and roll it into a log about 25-30cm long. Place this on the baking sheet, flatten it slightly and bake for about 20 mins till golden.

Remove from the oven and drop the oven down to 150ºC. Transfer the log to a chopping board and slice it on a diagonal into slices about 1cm thick. Stand the slices on the baking tray and put back into the oven for about 10-15 minutes until dry and golden.

This particular biscotti recipe produces biscuits that are very hard (this is traditional, but see here for a softer biscotti recipe) and you really need to dip them into your drink to make them easy to eat - but they are truly delicious!


  1. I must admit to not being a coffee drinker at all! Love the smell and very much wish I did like it, but have never quite been able to get there. Those biscotti though, yum.

  2. I love the biscotti! Your espresso maker is super, it's what I use in England, I have a presse here in France. I would just say, as a very keen coffee drinker, I use Percol as it is Fair trade ! Coffee is after all a luxury, and I like the idea of supporting the producers! Jude x

  3. Percol is lovely :) I also really like Co-Op's Fair Trade Italian coffee, the strength is rated as 5 which is great as I do like it strong.

  4. The little cups are cute as is the coffee pot. The only good thing about coffee for me though is the smell, but I'd happily keep you company with the biscotti ;-)

  5. I really like the sound of the biscotti and I love biscotti with good coffee. However, my wife told me today that the only thing that can improve a good cup of coffee is that it's served by the dishy young waiter (her words, not mine) at a local restaurant.


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