Recipe Sharing: Aubergine Ricotta Roll-Ups

Food

 The recipe is a delicious combination of char-grilled aubergine slices, stuffed with ricotta and caramelised onion, chestnut mushrooms and spinach and then baked in tomato and basil passata. 

Firstly, slice 1-2 aubergines into relatively thin strips. The best way to do this (I’ve found) is to chop off either side of the aubergines. Lay them on your board, cut off the green end and then carefully slice off the right side of the aubergine, then the other side. Begin slicing to form the ‘roll-up’ strips by cutting as thinly as possible (without being too thin!) It’s tricky!

Oil either side of the slices / strips and then salt to taste. Place on a baking tray and put in the oven under a medium to high grill temperature for 10 minutes. You won’t need to turn them. While they’re cooking, finely dice 1 onion, a handful of chestnut mushrooms (also diced) and cook in a little bit of butter and a glug of olive oil. Season to taste and cook until softened. Add a handful of roughly chopped spinach and cook until wilted. At this point, you’re welcome to add some minced garlic, red chili pepper flakes and some parsley (I love adding parsley – the greener the better!). Take off of the heat and then set aside.

Check your aubergines. If they’re nearly crispy, take them out of the oven and heat up a large frying pan. Leave oven on. Without adding extra oil, add each slice and cook a little on either side. They should be super fragrant now and slightly charred (if you like them that way – I know I do!). Pour 350g of tomato and basil passata onto the bottom of a roast pan that is relatively deep.

Mix a tub of ricotta with the onion, mushroom and spinach mix and again, season to taste. You’re welcome to add some grated parmesan (having just got back from Italy, that’s happening a lot! Parmesan on everything!) and mix thoroughly. To make them easier to handle, wait for the aubergine slices to cool. Then spread ricotta mix on one side of each aubergine slice. Roll from the narrowest side (i.e. where you cut off the green stem). Place each roll-up onto the passata and top with a sprinkling of parmesan.

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I had a bit of the onion and mushroom mix (minus the ricotta) left over so I added that to the top of mine with some grated cheese. Again, entirely your preference. Bake in the preheated oven for around 20 minutes at a medium temperature (around 125 degrees celsius).

I hope you enjoy! This dish is very moreish and I recommend serving it with some simple risotto – if you have the time!

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Recipe Sharing: Minced Lobster / Crawfish

Bahamas, Food, Published Work

After being back home in the Bahamas for several months, one thing really resonated: what you can buy on Green Turtle Cay is pretty limited (and expensive) so it’s absolutely essential to know what ingredients will be available

When I was asked to contribute recipes for upcoming issues of my local magazine, Abaco Life, I was specifically asked to find some of the best, local lobster recipes.

When sourcing these recipes, it was important to recognize the clear line between what is traditionally the Bahamian, and more specifically the Abaconian (local), preference to cooking crawfish compared to what is preferred by tourists and readers. Minced Lobster is a recipe that comes from the Green Turtle Club, a local hotel.

My parents were both managers at the Green Turtle Club when I was growing up so I spent a lot of time there and when I told my mum that I had chosen Minced Lobster as the Bahamian recipe I wanted to master, she told me that she always found it funny that while the tourists were ordering and enjoying the more traditional, buttered lobster tails, the kitchen staff would be preparing themselves a seafood rendition of ‘Fire Engine’ – using minced lobster. By mincing the lobster meat and cooking it down with tomatoes and the Bahamian ‘trilogy’ of pepper, onion and celery, this Minced Lobster recipe is one of the best and easiest ways to spice things up if you’re wanting to try something different and to eat like a true Bahamian at home, wherever that may be!

Thanks to Chef Karen Curry at the Green Turtle Club for sharing all of her tips with me.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 medium lobster tails (removed from their shells and diced)
  • 1 yellow onion (diced)
  • 1 green bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 stalk of celery (diced)
  • 1 large ripe tomato (diced) / 2 tablespoons of canned diced tomato
  • olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of old sour or juice of ½ a lime and ½ tablespoon of red pepper flakes (extra lime can be used on the side)

photoHere’s my older brother, David, kindly mincing the lobster meat for me in exchange for the recipe

Directions: 

Using a sharp, large knife, place it directly on the centre of the first tail. Using a mallet, tap sternly to split the shell straight through the middle with your other hand. Remove the meat and dice. Repeat with remaining tails.

Chop and dice one onion, one green pepper, one stalk of celery and one large ripened tomato (or two tablespoons of canned, diced tomatoes).

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet and sauté the diced vegetables starting with your peppers, then your onion and celery on a medium heat. Add the tomato once the rest has started to soften. Continue to sauté on a medium heat for 5 minutes until the tomato also softens.

Add the lobster, two tablespoons of tomato paste, some fresh thyme (a Bahamian must!) and salt and pepper to taste. Cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes. To really add some kick, try adding a small splash of ‘old sour’ or the juice of a lime and some red pepper flakes to taste.

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To Serve:

Karen, and the rest of the staff at the Green Turtle Club, were quick to correct me when I asked if grits (or polenta) would be the best side dish to serve with the minced lobster. They said that a fresh pot of white rice and coleslaw was much more Bahamian. However, the benefit of this saucy dish is that it works with most side dishes, although I did find that opting with white rice and some of the fresh pumpkin from the local grocery store was a clean and refreshing accompaniment.

*Please note that lobster/ crawfish season is closed in the Bahamas until August 1st. Please respect the laws in place and allow repopulation.

**If you live in the UK or in a place where lobster isn’t readily available (without costing far too much), make sure you try this recipe by replacing the lobster meat with crayfish but opting for a shorter cooking time.

 

 

Recipe Sharing: Creamy Polenta with Spring Veggies

Food, Health & Fitness, Home

I’m sharing with you by far the easiest savory meal that I find to be particularly comforting. This is a recipe that I thank my Mum for teaching me to make and in doing so, provided a tried and tested favorite that will suit my tiny budget in London and banished the fear of cooking ‘grits’. 

Creamy Polenta with Spring Veggies

The creaminess of the polenta (ground cornmeal / maize) with the freshness of your chosen, al dente, spring veggies makes this a nutritious midweek meal perfect for busy bees and can be adapted for lunch, dinner or even a savoury breakfast (popular in the Caribbean).

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Prep time 5mins. Cooking time about 15mins. Serves 4.

  • 500 ml (18 fl oz, 2 cups) water
  • 500 ml (18 fl oz, 2 cups) milk – any milk that you normally use, even almond/soy
  • 450 ml (16 oz, 2 cups) polenta – grains, not the hard block
  • 4 tbs parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

You can be flexible about the following toppings and adapt to your preference:

  • 2 tbps olive oil
  • 1 tbs tomato paste / puree
  • 1 medium-sized bell pepper (any colour), diced
  • 8-10 closed cup mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 handful of trimmed asparagus spears, snapped in half
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
  • ½ tbs garlic puree / 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves / 1 tbs dried, mixed herbs

(You can also add chopped broccoli, zucchini / courgettes, brussel sprouts… you really can do as you please!)

  1. Bring your water, milk and polenta to a gentle boil in a saucepan. Season to taste, add your parmesan and stir constantly to stop it from sticking. Reduce heat to very low and cover.
  2. Heat a large-ish frying pan or wok. Heat your olive oil and tomato puree. Stir quickly and gradually add your chosen vegetables. The peppers will need the most time to cook so add them first – cooking until soft. Next, the mushrooms, the asparagus and tomatoes. Finally, add your spinach and your desired seasonings. If using fresh basil leaves, add them at the very last moment.
  3. Check that your polenta is now a creamy texture and remove from heat, still covered until ready to serve. Serve in bowls and top individually with the cooked vegetables. Top with additional grated parmesan or chopped basil leaves if desired

Both photos taken by Kelsi Farrington with an iPhone 4s using VSCOcam app. 

Recipe Sharing: Bahamian Coconut ‘Trifle’ Cake

Bahamas, Food, Home, Photography

 

One incredibly Bahamian dessert is Coconut ‘Trifle’ Cake. Now, for my British readers, trifle has an entirely different connotation. However, this recipe is essentially a moist pound cake recipe that can be adapted to suit any preference. You swap the coconut for chopped pineapple, bananas… the list goes on!

Mrs. Robertha is one of Green Turtle Cay’s beloved women. She also makes a famous Coconut Cake and does it in record speed and everyone adores them just as much as they love her. Moist and flavorsome, I asked her for the recipe. Her reply: “That’s going to be hard… I don’t have a recipe. I just know how to do it.”

I couldn’t help but giggle because I knew that was coming so I arranged to stop by a day when she was making them and revisited my Ma’s recipe. When Josie, one of her friends, agreed that Bahamians do have the gut instinct of knowing what looks and smells right, they’re always taking that “gamble” and hoping for the best outcome. “You can never make something the same way twice,” she said.

It makes this very specific task of sharing Bahamian recipes an exciting and challenging one. It also takes someone like me who has both the natural, annoying tendency to ignore a recipe and just ‘wing it’. I also have a genuine love for sharing what I’ve made with you. And if I can’t share it with you in person, I’ve got to get it down in words!

With the combination of my grandma’s recipe and photographs of Mrs. Robertha making hers, I’m pleased to share with you a common and delicious Bahamian recipe – Coconut ‘Trifle’ Cake:

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This recipe makes one cake and makes no promises to be healthy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound [225 g] of butter
  • 1 cup [8 ounces / 200g] of packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup [4 ounces /100g] of white (caster / granulated) sugar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups [11 ounces or 525 g] of all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla (Mrs. Robertha also adds 1 tablespoon of almond extract to hers)
  • 2 bags of 7 ounce [400 grams / 4 cups roughly in total] of shredded coconut (I’d recommend unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup [125ml] of  double cream or what Bahamians use – evaporated milk (this is where the ‘trifle’ aspect of the cake comes in)

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a large spoon and then ‘blend’ thoroughly with either a hand mixer or processor. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 175 degrees Celsius in a lined and slightly greased loaf tin (preferably a small 3″x5″).

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Make sure to visit Mrs. Robertha at her little grocery shop offering Bahamian necessities and her baked treats like this Coconut Cake right in the center of Green Turtle Cay.  robertha6All photos are copyright of Kelsi Farrington, 2014.

Tranquil Turtle’s Sunday Fish Fry

Bahamas, Food, Home, Journalism, Photography, Published Work, Travel

As one of Green Turtle Cay’s oldest resorts and marinas, Bluff House has had a major revamp in the last three years. With new owners and a fresh set of staff, they are taking on new projects and events and one of particular success is their Sunday Fish Fry.

Fish

Tranquil Turtle Beach Bar’s Sunday Fish Fry was an idea from Bianca Curry, a familiar face working at the Bar, and although it is only in its first few weeks it’s already had a great start. Attracting around 100+ people every Sunday from 2pm onwards, the focus of this weekly event (which aims to carry on for the rest of the season) is bringing people together for a local treat and Bahamian tradition.

Michael Withers, one of the new owners at the Bluff House explains the secret behind the Sunday Fish Fry which is all prepared from scratch in the Beach Bar’s kitchen:

“It’s all thanks to our staff,” Michael explained. “We’ve got great girls with great ideas and personalities. Bianca ran with this idea and so far so good! We also have other things like our burgers, cracked conch and fritters besides the 60-70 perspective orders of the main attraction.”

The great food and fun atmosphere is helped by the sounds of a local DJ and of course, the star of the Sunday Fish Fry is in the name but it is done with a difference. Crisply and lightly battered whole snappers are served with homemade banana pancakes providing a perfect balance of light and filling for just $12.

Coming from a traditional Bahamian breakfast – fried fish and ‘panny cake,’ the fresh snapper with the hint of sweetness and the chef’s addition of “a little nutmeg” to the pancakes ties the flavours together really well.

For the tourists staying in the hotel rooms and villas, it provides the perfect combination of a beautiful beach location, great food, drinks and music all with a buzzing and unique atmosphere which draws in locals and other vacationers alike.

One GTC local for example, Maxwell McIntosh, approved of the event and expressed his hope for some of the “money to stay on the Cay rather than everyone going to Nippers every Sunday.”

A regular visitor and sailboat owner, Pat Phelan said that Abaco (and Green Turtle Cay in particular) was, out of all the other places in the Bahamas, the place he spends the most money. “There are so many nice things to go to like this. It’s fun and it’s a happy medium here. It’s nice to get everyone together.”

So, whether you’re carried by golf cart, boat or foot, Tranquil Turtle’s Sunday Fish Fry is a Sunday well spent and you’ll leave with your belly full, your dancing-legs sore and maybe some damaged pride after a game or two of corn hole toss or volleyball on Tranquil’s beach.

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As seen in The Abaconian newspaper, published March 15th 2014. 

Cornwall’s Caribbean Connections

Falmouth, Food, Journalism, Negotiated Portfolio, Photography, Photojournalism, Published Work, Reviews, Travel, University Work

Falmouth might not appear to be the obvious location for a Caribbean restaurant but chef John Duncan challenged that assumption when he opened Cribbs. Six years ago, the St Vincent-born chef brought his Caribbean roots and background as a head chef to the small seaside town and has since built up not one, but two successfully received Caribbean-oriented establishments.

Having moved to Cornwall in 2000, John had built up experience as head chef in St Ives’ Onshore and Truro’s One Eyed Cat. Cribbs Caribbean Restaurant was John’s first establishment which opened its doors April 2007 and focused on creating a unique and sophisticated dining experience within what he described as a “dilapidated building.”

Starting with immediate repairs on the roof, walls and inside seating, John focused on making his food a memorable experience. “When I first came here, it was bad. One day I just maxed my credit card out, I called someone to sort the sign out, then I got a guy to give me a quote on new seats – cost me ten grand! I did all of that, then I focused everything around this painting. All the colours in here go with it and I also have a picture of home, my house, it’s all there.

“I think the main reason I opened up my own place was because I got tired of being promised so much by other bosses…so I just decided to do it myself,” he explained. “I don’t walk around in the nicest clothes, the nicest car…but that’s because I have a dream beyond that. Once I’m there, I’ll have all of those nice things.”

Business steadily took off and his most popular dishes: Caribbean Lamb Curry and Jamaican Jerk Chicken became quite the talk of the town. Because of his success with the local and student population at the restaurant, John has been supported with his newest venture, Cribbs Cafe-Bar. Both give anyone interested in trying Caribbean cuisine, dishes full of flavour and fresh ingredients.

Before finding a company to deliver these ingredients, John would travel nearly 200 miles to Bristol during off-peak days, filling his car with his kitchen necessities to create traditional, true-to-home centerpieces (like Jamaica’s national dish: ackee and saltfish.) Ackee, a tricky fruit to prepare, is boiled then served with the salted white fish along with sautéed onions and Scotch bonnet pepper. John plates his with chips of fried plantain and plain white rice.

“What I do is use whatever seafood we have here in Falmouth and just give it a twist. Things like fresh thyme, coriander, curry seasoning and cloves…all of these little bits and pieces that make it authentic Caribbean.”

His experience as a chef on a cruise ship is reflected in the styling of his plated food, regardless of the course by focusing on colours and delicate presentation. The main selections are served on white, heavy, bowl-like dishes that allow the flavours to soak down from the fried plantain on top to the rice ‘n peas at the bottom, whereas lighter dishes are served on simple, wooden boards.

When he talked about what Cribbs represented he said that: “I think for me, it’s all about representing not my island but the Caribbean as a whole because Caribbean food is at the back burner where cookery is concerned.”

As owner and chef of both places, John is spending a lot of his time back and forth but still makes a genuine effort to bring a smile to work on a daily basis. Another thing he never forgets is his knitted beanie which replaces a traditional toque paired with chef whites.

“Growing up as a kid I always had dreads… It’s like a woman changing her hairstyle. I just put the hat on and still feel pretty,” he joked. Known for coming over to chat to his customers, he makes sure that he is known foremost for what he is, a chef and someone who enjoys plating up food worth coming in for.

Specialising in take away food, Cribbs Cafe-Bar officially opened May 1 and serves some of John’s roti wraps and other grab-and-go snacks that are available all day and into the evening. John and his ‘crew’ have also taken their atmosphere-enhancing cocktails like ‘Koko Kolada’ that transport you to a tropical paradise in one sip and with its history of being Q-Bar on the Moor, John has given the venue a new life, leaving its graffiti-grunge past behind.

His secret? Determination and choosing your company wisely. “People that you can trust and be able to delegate to them and them come back and delegate to you with the best possible answers for the scenarios or situations.”

“I think fixing up places is my niche,” joked the chef. “If I’m going to be a millionaire, it’s going to be from finding old dilapidated places and turning them into something special!”

Published in Cornwall Today (The Summer Issue, August 2013)

A Chat and a Bowl of Pea Souk

Falmouth, Food, Journalism, Negotiated Portfolio, Photography, Published Work, Reviews, University Work

Being cramped and hard to find aren’t normally advantages for a business, but for Nicola Willis, her ability to put a positive spin on her unique and off-the-beaten-track café ensures Pea Souk’s season-dependent vegetarian menu is fresh, colourful and continuously inspired by her far-east travels.

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Walking through the door of Pea Souk in Falmouth, Cornwall feels like you’ve stepped into the owner and chef’s personal kitchen. Nicola’s end-of-alley blackboard menu entices you up Well Lane, opposite a view of cascading green vines. Hung above the door, its sign incorporates the hand of Miriam and indicates a middle-eastern charm and its size seems more like a ‘sit while you wait’ café with two tables and a sharable wooden bench.

“People say I should get a place on the high street. Why,” she asks. “I’d get more customers… but I’d get more annoying customers! Like people pushing prams saying ‘do you do chips?’ Oh f*** off,” she says with a half-laugh in her voice.

A colourful character to say the least, Nicola steadily attracts tourists and locals alike to her monthly Supper Club evenings or daily servings; the café can be fully booked and can fit an astonishing 19 people at a genuine squeeze. It’s interior boasts clean, white walls with a prided collection of Arabic mirrors, framed posters and artwork and red cushioned seats. And even after she thoroughly scrubbed its two-man kitchen of its greasy past as infamous fry-up joint, The Clipper Café, Nicola has yet to break Cornwall’s celebrity status as the ‘home of the pasty’ (meat enveloped in pastry).

Regardless, Pea Souk has done nothing less than pull its weight since opening. Famous for her Happy Pig Porkless Pies, Supper Clubs, bespoke catering and even her ‘no nonsense’ approach to both cooking and serving, she’s restored hope for the recent, lifelong or occasional veggie.“I’m not a perfectionist but I’m not a slap dash cook. I’m trained and I have specific skills and that’s why I like to have a small café because if you’re making huge batches of food, you lose the attention to detail and you lose the flavour.

“I mean if I was cooking a curry in a pan this big,” she says as she creates an image of a cauldron with ingredients carelessly being chucked in, “it’s very difficult to keep the flavouring…to have such sharp flavours as if I was making a small pan,” explains the chef.

Nicola also talks about how she’s found the past five years of being owner, chef and waitress, challenging, “You just can’t do all three” she says. “And when I go home, I don’t do any cooking. My boyfriend does – I just supervise!”

Like many owners of small eateries with an online presence, Nicola has had to stomach both sides of customers’ testimonies of their experiences at Pea Souk. Some of the reviews on TripAdivsors read how the food is dated and “old fashioned vegetarian…something you’d find in the 70s or 80s” or that you should “only go here if you like cramped conditions, sharing a table with strangers, and being abused by rude staff.”

Not words she takes lightly, but somehow manages to not lose steam. In her head, she’s stored what she learnt through her specialist diploma (and fascination) in the influence of Arabic and Muslim cooking and her own personal experience in French and Italian cooking.She also carries in some of the produce her green thumbs planted in her allotment just four miles away and she does that for her more humble customers like two who visited Bequia and “came back with two Egon Schiele prints that they’d seen in a shop and they’d thought of me.”
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“Wild,” she says, looking genuinely astounded. “How do you think of me on your holidays? Do I really mean that much? I obviously do and it’s really lovely.”Although for the bulk of her dishes, Nicola relies on sourcing locally from organic farms and farmers near Falmouth. Fond of the Tuesday market, Nicola will also grab a selection of freshly cut anemones in purples, yellows, oranges and pinks to add to her already laden counter. The fact that she studied Textiles at university shows in her choice of interior decor.
If sat there long enough, you realise what a tranquil place it really is.Nicola’s favourite food memories stem from Sicily and she loves nothing more than summery dishes full of ripe tomatoes, aubergines and basil which will be perfectly displayed in the glass center-pieced cabinet that at the moment gives you visual tasters of freshly baked cakes, her Porkless Pies and vegetable tarts. Just as an added touch, an all day veggie breakfast can be fried up, one of her Doorstep Sandwiches or mouthwatering veggie burgers.

“Everyone raves about the tarts. I never, ever roast vegetables in the same tray. I never steam vegetables all together because they take different amounts of time. Just having the knowledge of knowing how to cook vegetables to their best. And the fact that the tarts here are I’d say 70% veg and 30% egg custard,” she explains.

“That is why people like it here. I use different cheeses, I layer different kinds of vegetables that have been really, really well cooked, well seasoned. I use fresh herbs with different types of vegetables and you can’t get that anywhere else. That’s why I’m a trained vegetarian chef.”

What is certain is that if you make the effort to travel up the slightly inclined hill of Well Lane and have a chat and some ‘grubbins’ at the petite noshery that is Pea Souk, you’ll be one of many who have taken the first initial step into a whole other transition of traditional Cornish eating all together, even if it is a bit intimate.

“I don’t want to expand it,” Nicola concludes and yawns loudly.

Photographs by Lucy K. Piper
Published on Frais Magazine

The Art of Bread Baking at Stones Bakery

Falmouth, Food, Journalism, Negotiated Portfolio, Photography, Published Work, Reviews, University Work

 

At the bottom of the Old High Street of Falmouth, Cornwall, the staff at Stones Bakery are busy gathering steady praise for their established art of bread baking.

Lightly dusted in flour, its owner and in-house baker, Oli Kingdon and his wife Rosie, are assisted by their small team in this retro-styled ‘shop’. Offering a selection from the everyday farmhouse to specialty granary loaves, their breads come from ovens less than 10 feet away from where they’re shelved and displayed; hot and ready to be grabbed.

From 2009, Oli and Rosie’s business grew from weekly market sales at Falmouth and St Ives’ farmer’s market. After realising the impracticality of freshly baked produce being exposed to the Cornish elements on cold, wintery (or worst still, rainy) days, the couple found somewhere to really set up shop. Now, just five years in, Stones has what Oli refers to as a ‘core’ of followers.

As a bakery, it has been ticking the boxes for creating loaves that are guaranteed to be free from artificial flavourings, ‘improvers’ and are instead crafted to stay naturally fresh from core to crust by only adding the ‘good stuff.’ Nuts, both fresh and dried fruit, herbs and spices and a lengthy time to ferment are just a few tricks to their trade and is what makes their bread revive the belief of quality home baking.

With the shop door usually slightly ajar, Oli and his selected staff are always open to customer feedback and requests:

“We have input from customers and input from what we want to make as well so we try to meet somewhere in the middle.”

On a normal day, he explained how they replicate as many of the eight or so different styles of loaves they have on offer as they can.

“You need to get as many of that eight as possible… because we make everything fresh daily, you can’t really afford waste so we ended up cutting them down to a limited number for a batch. When it turns out that it [a trial loaf] is not worthwhile for the time it takes and the labour, it’s not worth it.”

They also stock freshly baked cakes, sticks, petite pastries and both sweet and savoury tarts made with just as much care as their specialty breads and their windows, usually stacked full of the daily goods. What is also a nice touch is their pride in showcasing their ingredients (i.e. half-opened bags of organic flour) and the apron-clad, hard working staff. It creates a unique package deal that appeals to not just the regulars, but the casual passersby and holidaymakers, too. Dash into Stones to grab a freshly baked loaf of your choice and bring to the counter. What you’ll have tucked away is a handcrafted work of art, still warm from the Kingdon’s ovens.

Words and Photographs by Kelsi Farrington
Published on Frais Magazine, July 2013