Saturday, 16 March 2013

Come follow me at Toast & Butter


Hi everyone. As you may have noticed, Tales from the Tiny Kitchen has become rather lazy of late. I have just moved the blog to a new place called Toast and Butter.

The reasons are as follows: I moved house, got a slightly bigger kitchen, had a baby, was too exhausted to write for a long time, and then felt like the blog needed a spring clean. So it’s now resurrected as Toast & Butter – which happens to be my desert island dish. I would walk across hot coals for most buttered toast – as long as it’s not cheap white sliced, and more like the above!

I’d love you to come and take a look, and then follow the new blog – it will still have all the original content featured on TFTTK, but have a sleek, shiny new coat. I think it looks a bit better and less like it was stuck in a 90’s timewarp – I hope you’ll agree. Looking forward to seeing you over yonder for more food ramblings and recipes.

Over and out,


Friday, 30 November 2012

Thali Cafe, Bristol



Ah Bristol. How I heart thee! With your chilled out enclaves, buzzy graffiti, hilly inclines and just enough edge to keep everything interesting. I could really live here one day, it’s such a wonderful city. On a recent visit I noticed literally tonnes of groovy looking independent cafes around the Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft areas and hardly a chain in site. So very refreshing, as most cities in the UK have a tendency to look identical these days with their never-ending bland-outs involving Starbucks, Costa, Mac D’s et al. I often wonder, if I was to be parachuted out of a plane and not told in which city centre I was landing, whether I’d actually know where I was because all the shops look THE SAME almost EVERYWHERE!

I am not against all chains per se, it’s just the blandness of most of them that is so bloody soul-destroying. Urgh. Anyway, enough ranting. I wanted to tell you about a mini-chain of super-cool Indian cafes in Bristol called the Thali Cafe, which happen to be the complete opposite of bland. We ate lunch at the Montpelier branch, one of four, and everything was absolutely wonderful. We arrived, harrassed and starving with a squawking toddler in tow, and were made to feel welcome immediately. We entered a beautiful universe of sumptuous Indian-style decor- all hot pinks, vintage movie posters and twinkling mirrors - and smelt beautiful spices wafting out of the kitchen. Our waitress beamed at us and our demanding toddler and rushed over glasses of spicy chai to warm us up. She didn’t bat an eyelid as our daughter started to shout and throw things all over the floor. A high chair was produced within seconds, and then we could all relax.

The food was really, really good. Light, aromatic and zingy, popping with spice and freshness. We ate every last grain of rice, and drank about 143 cups of amazing chai. I wish this place was on our doorstep.*

Behold – Masala Fish Fry (fillets of white fish, fried in
masala batter served with mango, chilli and lime chutney):


Mogul Chicken Curry (slow cooked chicken, tomato and coconut curry):


Beautiful space  - all that wonderful warm colour:





Lovely things everywhere:



Thali Cafe
12 York Road
Bristol BS6 5QE
t: 0117 942 6687

*Even if you don’t live anywhere near Bristol, you might catch the Thali Cafe at various music festivals over the summer, such as The Green Man Festival

Saturday, 29 September 2012

A first birthday cake


As some of you will already know, I take cakes very seriously. They are an essential part of life, and if I was a doctor, I would prescribe regular cake injections to everyone as a way to stay content! So when it came to the task of making my daughter’s first birthday cake, it was major pressure for me to find something that looked fun and tasted delicious, obviously, but also one that wasn’t too complicated to make, because I didn’t want to have a nervous breakdown. I also didn’t want to make anything that was prim and proper or PINK (I don’t do prim cakes, and neither, I suspect, would our daughter, as she can be quite blokey!).

So thank gawd for the wonder-blog Smitten Kitchen, because after trawling endless celebration cake websites, I found inspiration for the perfect one here – a monkey cake. Fun!!! Not only was it pretty straightforward to make, but it was delicious – a silky soft banana cake enrobed in fudgy frosting. SK recommends that you make a little cake on the side, called a ‘smash cake’, in this case a decorated muffin with the same monkey face, so that your baby can bash it up and smear it all over themselves. I duly presented baby daughter with her little cake. E decided, after regarding it with some calculated deliberation, to throw hers on the floor, icing side down. Hah!

Here’s how everything got made…

The frosting – one colour for the monkey face, the other colour for the monkey ‘fur’ and cake sides:


Pinning the  bottom layer of monkey ears to the head – a halved muffin, placed either side, and fixed in place with cocktail sticks:



The base cake layer and ears get their layer of filling:


Then you attach the second cake on top, as well as a second layer of ‘ear’, fixed with a cocktail stick:


Piping on the outline for the monkey faces on the big and small cakes:



You fill in the white ‘face’ first, then go around it with the brown frosting, then you chill the cakes for an hour or so in the fridge:



When the first layer of icing is chilled, you go at the cake with a second layer, mmmm:


Use a piping bag to make the eyes, noses and mouths:


Voila – ready for action!


Find the full recipe here.

Happy birthday E – at least you didn’t throw the cake AT me! xxx

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Bambino Coffee, Crystal Palace, London


I get tired of drinking pillar-box-sized over-milky cappuccinos or rubbish burnt-tasting brews, and find inspirational coffee hard to track down. (Starbucks and Costas = double ugh; Nero, Pret and Eat, you are passable but nothing more). The worst coffee I had recently was at Membury Service Station, just off the M4, at their branch of Starbucks. I was desperate for something to wake me up, but their interpretation of a flat white tasted weak, burnt and sad, and I squinted in the neon light at the pallid customers all knackered from driving on the motorway.

Coffee in the UK is getting better, though, and I have got to share Bambino Coffee in South East London with you. The coffee here is the some of best I have drunk in most of the UK, and you won’t feel like you’ve inhaled the Thames after even their biggest size of cuppa. All the coffee here is made with the best quality beans and is served in manageable sizes (4, 6 and 8oz to be precise). The guy running the show is a properly insane coffee nerd – and I do mean that in the nicest possible way!

This straight-talking Kiwi barista (known on his loyalty cards as ‘Anarchista Barista’) installed his coffee machine and a few tables in the front part of Crystal Palace’s vintage shop Bambino earlier this year and locals have been flocking to taste his great coffee from the get-go. The experience of sipping lovely drinks surrounded by vintage oddities really makes me enjoy the wonderful bohemian atmosphere here. You can while away the time people-watching (a mix of old and young, and some fairly eccentric folk wearing fab vintage clothes, grand) and ogling at the great stuff for sale, such as old petrol pumps, leather biker jackets, props, rare vinyl and comics. You can kiss any notion of chain cafe uniformity goodbye – think of a Black Books style atmosphere, without the character Bernard’s drunken hostility*, but where Manny might saunter out from the back of the shop wearing a kimono, asking if you wanted a sandwich.

I digress. A month or two ago, I innocently asked the Kiwi barista for a mocha, and his face clouded over. He shook his head despairingly and prompted me to look at the menu to choose from the Antipodean styles of coffee. No Italiano lattes or macchiatos here – it’s all Long Blacks, and other wondrous sounding brews called the ‘Technivorm’, ‘Red Eye’ and the ‘Split Shot’. I overheard him telling a customer: “I’ve removed all the Italian-isms from the menu, because this is how we drink coffee Down Under, it’s totally different.” Don’t be disheartened if you don’t quite understand the coffee at first – persevere! You will be rewarded with a quite sensational cup of something magical. It will also blow your freaking head off.

The shop – bohemian wondrousness:


Anarchista Barista takes his beans and brewing technique very seriously. He uses beans from small local roastery Volcano Coffee (based down the road in Gipsy Hill), and any other interesting UK independents, such as Square Mile and Bristol-based Extract. He was a chef and a coffee machine servicer for 10 years, so he really knows his stuff. He will grind a bag of coffee beans for you according to what device you are going to use them in at home – he didn’t like the sound of my Braun bean grinder and said he would prefer to grind the beans correctly for my cafetiere. His strictness makes me wonder what would happen if you asked him for a Nescafe – he might well explode!

Here he is making some brews:


Beautiful skull motif on the loyalty cards – Costa Coffee this is not!


My 8oz coffee with milk – a thing of bea-uty!


Bambino Coffee
Church Road Market
Crystal Palace
London SE19 2ET

*Can’t resist posting this Black Books clip of Bernard requesting a lolly made of wine. Gold!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Holy guacamole


There is, quite literally, no end to my talents. First of all, I queued up the other day for a takeaway coffee with my top hanging open too low and my bra popping out. The cashier was too mortified to say anything and I discovered my wardrobe malfunction later on, after I’d spent 30 minutes pushing my trolley round a busy supermarket. An hour or so later, in a fit of recklessness (I get my thrills where I can these days) I thought I’d park the car in our too-narrow driveway. Why? I had never done this before, I always park on the road because the entrance to our drive is just too narrow, and there is a lamppost RIGHT THERE getting in the way…but anyway, the weather was tempestuous and I had tonnes of shopping and a baby to get out of the car and into the house. This resulted in me crashing slowly, but determinedly into the neighbour’s adjoining wall, causing it to cave in slightly, scratching all the paint off one side of the car, denting it in various places and busting the headlamp. Then I burnt dinner.

So, anyway, on that note, I thought I’d give out a relatively foolproof recipe for guacamole, continuing this month’s Mexican theme. Perfect for eating sitting indoors looking out at the endless rain lashing into our gardens, day in and day out. Viva the British summer. I just can’t wait for more rain. And some more. And then some more. It’s making me insane. I want to go out and hairdry the garden – it’s waterlogged. I long to take the so-called jetstream, juddering about in the wrong place above Northern Europe, and give it a good swearing-to.

This recipe will feed around four as a dip, with everyone getting plenty.

You will need:

2 perfectly ripe medium avocados
juice of 1/2 lime
A few fresh coriander stalks, about 10, roughly chopped
1 big handful fresh coriander stalks and leaves, chopped up fine
1/2 tsp habanero chile powder, or 1 fresh birdseye chilli, chopped fine
1 large ripe tomato (or handful of cherry toms) diced
1 clove garlic
Salt to taste

Optional: 1 tsp ground coriander and 1/2 tsp ground cumin (extra nice if you toast the whole spices first, then grind up, but ready-ground is fine too)
You can also substitute the chopped tomatoes for pomegranate seeds or diced red grapes if you fancy something a bit different

To serve – salted tortilla chips

Pound the garlic clove and coriander stalks together with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar till crushed up, then add your avocado and pound all this together. If your avocado is a tad on the unripe side, you can cheat and use a stick blender to whiz it all up if it won’t mash well. (But to be honest unripe avos will taste a little bitter). Add the chilli, then the lime juice and mix together, and then add the spices if you are using them. Add the chopped tomatoes and chopped coriander, mix together and taste. Add more salt if you think you need it. Remember your tortilla chips that you dip in will be very salty, so don’t overdo it.

You might have noticed that I don’t add raw onion to my guacamole – this is because I absolutely HATE raw onion in any form and find it too overpowering. Yuk! You really don’t need it, the garlic, chilli and spices are enough to give lots of flavour.