Good bye, a love letter.

So, after ten years we are Closing The Kitchen Table. There, I’ve said it out loud and so it must be true. I know so many of you have been hearing the rumblings of this news for a while and, like so many including us, didn’t believe it would ever happen.

We opened The Kitchen Table almost on a whim, a nuts, hazy, not at all thought through whim.  After bumping into the former owners, and having them tell me that they were giving the business up, I suggested that I would might be interested in taking over. Fast forward about six months, and we were deep in negotiations. Fast forward another couple of months, and you’ll find me slumped on the sofa after our first day open, large drink in hand wondering what the hell we had done. And so, ten years later you’ll find me once again, large drink in hand writing a good bye note, wondering if we’ve done the right thing.

The Kitchen Table has been an enormous learning curve. To go from being an employee to an employer in a small business is no mean feat. To have started a business during a not too terribly stable financial climate some might say was fool hardy. Actually some people did say we were being fool hardy. And to say it has all been a breeze would not be telling the whole truth, but its certainly been interesting.

Over the last ten years Tom and I have become part of a community. An amazing community both of business owners, and of the lovely residents of West Hampstead. Our incredibly loyal custom base has been a mix of families, business owners, people who work from home, teachers, babies, dogs, office workers and tourists to mention a few. These amazing people have supported us from day one, and have continued to do so for ten years. During this period of time we’ve watched people graduate, get married, have children, then more children, and in some cases even more children. I’ve made birthday cakes, wedding cakes and retirement cakes. We’ve catered everything from 1st Birthdays  to funerals. We both feel like we’ve been privileged to become a part of peoples daily lives, a part of their routine. And we are now lucky enough to call a great many of these people our friends, friends we’ll be able to take away from our time here. Another wonderful part of The Kitchen Table has been the staff. Ten years has brought an eclectic group of job hunters through the door, most of whom we still know, and who continue to come in for a coffee and a catch up. There have been times when I’ve looked over at the big table to see a group of former staff sitting there laughing at something ridiculous one of them has said. I’m not sure what this says about The Kitchen Table, but I’m really glad its been a place people have wanted to come back to.

The Kitchen Table has been fun, but its time for us to start our next adventure. We have loved the last ten years, and will be very sad to say good bye. We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts for all of your support over the years. Without all of you, the last ten years would have been very dull indeed. We will miss you all terribly. As for what comes next? Having gone though the sale process for almost nine months, we will need to have a few weeks to breathe. We will then re-group and move onto the next phase. All I will say is watch this space.

This Saturday, the 15th of July will be our last weekend, but Tuesday the 18th will be our final day of trading. From about 5pm we will be having good bye drinks, and would love to see you all there. Please do come in and say good bye, even just for a quick hug.

We want to wish the new owners the best of luck, and hope that they manage to gain as much as we have by being a part of West Hampstead.

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Granola

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Breakfast is such an incredibly important beginning to the day, and means different things  to each of us. My sister requires breakfast upon waking, it doesn’t matter what it is, but without it she becomes a snarling mess, not to be spoken to until she’s eaten. My dad was exactly the same, but with less snarling, and with far more importance put on what he was eating. Routine plays a huge part in peoples eating habits, more so in the morning when people tend to be limited for time, than at any other time of day, and so something quick and easy tends to win. Toast, cereal a quick piece of fruit while heading out the door. Or maybe just a coffee to tide you over until you have time to eat something.

Despite working with food for a living, I am absolutely terrible at making time for breakfast, which is odd given that it is my favourite meal. I will always start my day with a cup of strong Earl Grey, but during a long morning of prep my breakfast might include a meatball, some apple cake, a spoonful of soup and some chutney. Give me a day off though and suddenly breakfast becomes all that I can think about, even better give me people to feed and a day off and my morning is perfect.  I love that breakfast can include almost anything at all depending on your personal preference. Anything goes, it can be cake, eggs, fruit, cereal, chilli or potatoes. I also love to bake in the morning, theres nothing nicer to wake up to than the smell of freshly baked anything coming from the kitchen, and if its something that needs butter spread all over it, that makes it even better. But of course days off are few and far between, and so when I’m short of time a quick bowl of granola will do, and actually the smell of baking granola is pretty amazing too.

While there are some great store bought granola’s out there, making your own is far more satisfying. Not only is it less expensive, but you can make it exactly the way you like it. It can be loaded with fruit, nuts or seeds, or it can be a really simple blend, using just oats and honey. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth in the morning, so tend to lean towards nuts and seeds, with a little bit of dried fruit. But the great thing about it is that once you’ve got the basic recipe sorted, you can pretty much do whatever you want.

Before we begin with the recipe, I just need to tell you that I use measuring cups. This comes as the result of having American parents, and far more American cook books than English. But for this recipe if you don’t have measuring cups its not a big deal at all, a good size tea cup with work just as well. I tend to use a basic ratio of three cups of jumbo oats to two cups of nuts and seeds, this does tend to make it quite nut heavy, so just add and take away as you prefer.

Granola

  • 3 cups of jumbo oats (very important not to use porridge oats)
  • 1 cup of chopped nuts – I use almond, brazil & hazelnut, but use whatever you prefer
  • 1 cup seeds – a mix of pumpkin, sunflower and linseed gives good crunch
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • a good pinch or two of salt
  • 1/2 cup of flavourless oil (sunflower, hemp, coconut or rapeseed all work well)
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of dried fruit

preheat the oven to 150c/300f

  1. Put all of the wet ingredients into a medium size saucepan. Warm over a low heat for a few minutes. Watch this carefully as it has a tendency to boil over.
  2. in a large bowl mix all of the dry ingredients, except the dried fruit, which is added after its cooked.
  3. Pour the warmed liquid over the dry ingredients, and mix until everything is evenly coated.
  4. Spread mixture evenly onto a baking tray, one with a high side makes mixing easier.
  5. Bake granola in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, mixing every 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. Take out of the oven when a good toasty colour.
  6. After taking out of the oven, and while still warm, add dried fruit and mix well.
  7. Now leave in the tray to cool completely, and when cool place in an airtight container. It should last a good few weeks, unless you eat it all in one day.

 

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Scone love

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I’ve developed an addiction, sorry no not an addiction, more an obsession I would say. Addiction would imply that I had no control whatsoever over my absolute need for scones, when actually its more an obsession for making them. A need to have them on the front counter, still warm from the oven, making someone’s morning better with the comforting smell of buttery rhubarb and orange, or maybe peach and cinnamon. And when I say scone, I don’t mean the classic British teatime scone, which of course I also love, but rather I mean American scones. American scones are a different thing altogether. Usually served in the morning, they are made with a higher fat content, therefore making a more buttery, tender pastry. Where a British scone is served with either butter or rich clotted cream, the American version can be eaten as is, or as I prefer, overkill as always, hot out of the oven with butter. These scones also usually have the addition of some kind of fruit, not dried fruit such as raisins or currents, but fresh, seasonal fruits. My current favourite are made with fig and orange, and also plum, but as we head into Autumn I’m looking forward to apple and cinnamon,  blackberry or pumpkin.

The following recipe should produce eight perfect breakfast sized scones, ready for the table in about 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 200C/390F/Gas Mark 6

  • 2 cups/260g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of cold butter
  • 1 cup/240ml p4 of double cream
  • 3 small sticks of rhubarb and the zest of one orange

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  • Variations could include: a punnet of raspberries and lemon zest, or blackberries and cinnamon, Strawberry and vanilla, peach and cinnamon, or almost any fruit you feel like actually. Just experiment, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having far too many scones in your life.

In a large bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Add cold butter and work into the flour until the butter is in pea sized pieces. This can be done using either your fingertips or a pastry cutter, or even in a food processor using the pulse option. Add the rhubarb to the mix, and then add the double cream. Mix enough that the dough starts coming together and forming a loose clump. Be careful not to over mix, as the more you mix it, the more the fruit breaks up, and then the pastry becomes too wet. So mix the dough quickly, until the pastry comes together. Tansfer dough to a well floured surface, and using floured hands shape the dough into a rough square, that’s about an inch high. Using a large, sharp knife cut the dough into eight even triangles. Place on the baking tray, and place into the hot oven. They should take around 20 minutes to cook, they may take a couple of minutes more or less, it all depends on your oven. They are cooked when they are very lightly browned. They really are best while still warm, so take them out of the oven, cool for a bit and then serve with tons of butter, or just a little bit, you probably have more self control than I do.

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