Best mates can be ace but just as they enlighten you with joy and understanding, they can also ruin everything. Well, perhaps not everything, but certainly coffee. The simple, if overpriced, act of going out for a delicious latte has been ruined because, to be honest with you, lattes are a bit shit, although I only realised this when NZ-living KT dragged me* to Flat White on Soho's Berwick Street and made me sup on an actual flat white. With one taste, coffee imbibing would never be the same again, and I would like to thank our antipodean cousins for caring enough about the bean to conjure such delicious alchemy as to reveal Starbucks to be peddlers of coffee-esque cordial.
Not long after this epiphany, I discovered Monmouth Coffee, the beautiful purveyor of delicious coffee in both Covent Garden and in the heart of London's food mecca, Borough Market,
It's where the beautiful and caffeine-bereft go to redress the balance,
...to share stylish thoughts and titter knowingly at hidden meanings in highbrow text.
But luckily, they let plebs like me in too.
Sadly, I thought that a decent coffee was the preserve of the black-lunged folk of our capital city, but the good word seems to have infiltrated the shires too and the God of Coffee has bestowed His Magical Elixir a little closer to my home, at least. Behold - The Black Dog Cafe:
latte art, but the taste is delicious, wholesome and invigorating. It's a small independent cafe in an area of Tunbridge Wells that is stoically independent, slightly bohemian and without the cloud of snobbery that hampers so much of what is wonderful in that town, so I urge you to go to keep that spirit alive. The coffee is wonderful: why would you not go?!
Can I just state that my coffee snobbery hasn't extended to home...yet, although I do prefer a freshly brewed cuppa as opposed to instant...
However, I certainly wouldn't judge a friend who gave me a cup of instant unfavourably: drinking at home and drinking out are different experiences. Granted, they don't need to be, thanks to readily-available coffee machines, mail-order beans and youtube instructionals. But coffee in a friend's kitchen, good banter and a welcoming face can elevate even the shoddiest instant cuppa into something celebratory, the oil to grease the wheels of conversation if it should be needed. As long as there are cookies or cake, you can give me any old sluice. Which leads me neatly to...
This recipe is a bastardization of one from The Borough Market Book, which is in turn a version of a recipe by Sara-Jayne Stanes, author of the promising-sounding 'Chocolate: the Definitive Guide'. Now, this tart is everything a chocolate tart should be, although those attributes may seem contradictory: crisp, smooth, sweet and sharp. Use as strong a chocolate as you prefer, but not milk chocolate. I admit that, despite my earlier witterings, I did use instant coffee just because I couldn't be bothered to brew some espresso, but as long as you have a couple of tablespoons of strong black coffee, it doesn't really matter which type it is: it's just there to give the chocolate a bit of balls (technical term).
Wooahhh Mama! Chocolate Tart 'o' Joy!
90g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
80g unsalted butter
30g ground almonds
60g golden caster sugar
1 large egg (free-range, natch, yet beaten)
240g plain chocolate (I used 70% cocoa)
60g unsalted butter
3 large eggs, separarted
90g golden caster sugar
6 tablespoons double cream
2 desertspoons strong coffee
- butter and flour a suitable ovenproof dish: mine was a shallow ceramic one, measuring 7.5"x11", though my book specifies a 9" round flan tin
- first, make the pastry: in a large bowl, sieve together the flour and cocoa powder
- add the sugar, ground almonds and stir together
- cube the butter, add to the powdery mixture and rub together with fingertips only to create a chocolatey crumble
- add the beaten egg to bind it all together in a ball of doughy promise, wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes (or 24 hrs and 30 mins in my case as I forgot I was going out...)
- on a lightly floured surface, attempt to roll out thinly to a size suitable for your dish
- attempt to hoist the rolled dough into the greased receptacle, tutting as random shapes drip off your rolling pin Dali-style before exclaiming 'Oh fuck this' and popping pieces of rolled dough into the dish, squidging the seams together until it is fully lined and respectable looking
- pop the mangled case into the fridge for another 30 mins
- preheat the oven to 200C / 400F / Gas 6
- line the case with foil, cover with baking beans or dried beans (that you are not hoping to cook later) and bake blind for 15 minutes
- remove the beans and foil and bake again for another 15 mins
- now make the filling: melt the chocolate and butter together and allow to cool
- whisk the egg whites to form soft glacial peaks
- in another bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar until frothy
- add the double cream and coffee to the bubblesome yolks and stir gently and respectfully
- pour in the buttery chocolate and using your respectful spoon, marry it all together
- fold in the egg whites with reverance...oh and a big metal spoon
- pour into the tart case, even out and bake for 20-25 mins
- allow to cool and serve with cream, ice cream or a good mate and weak-ass coffee (though delicious coffee of groovy brewing would be better)
Such was the potency of its' deliciousness, I completely forgot to take a photo of it, so you'll have to make do with this sadly executed digital scribble which, however, is a pretty accurate representation:
*dragged me, my arse: we skipped as if we were on the yellow brick road.
For further caffeine inspiration, why not follow The Guardian's helpful trail, or perhaps plough your way through Time Out's comprehensive list. The fabulous Cosy Coffee Shops blog produced a top 10 in January of the UK's best coffee shops, which, Hurrah!, also includes places outside of the London sprawl. It also includes some fabulous coffee shops from around the world as they are currently 'on tour'.