Signorelli’s Deli – Cambridge (UK)

There was a time when authentic Italian pizza was hard to come by in Cambridge. In the last few years, there have been some excellent cafes, delis, restaurants and even mobile pizzerias serving this popular Italian classic all over our fair city. So much so, that we are now spoilt for choice, as there are many different kinds of pizza with their origins throughout Italy. Each region has their own way of making pizza, with Naples and Rome among some of the best known cities.

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Most people are only familiar with the round single serving pizzas, sometimes baked in a wood fired oven. Signorelli’s Deli, which opened recently on Burleigh Street by The Grafton Centre, serve their pizza differently. They specialise in pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice), where the dough is spread out in a rectangular tray, topped with a choice of ingredients, baked in an electric oven and cut into slices. It’s not meant to be served hot. The rectangular slices are easy to eat on the go but Signorelli’s Deli boasts a welcoming spacious interior with some of the friendliest staff I have ever encountered. The pride and passion for what they create is apparent and they are very helpful in answering any questions about their products. There is definitely a great team there!

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Signorelli Deli’s pizza al taglio has a thick (but not dense) crumb that’s puffy and similar to focaccia. The dough, obviously made from high quality ingredients, is full of air bubbles, resulting in an airy, chewy foundation robust enough to support a variety of toppings.

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1H+K – Vaasa (Finland)

Once in a while you stumble upon the perfect little restaurant that has it all: great food, ambience and service. 1H+K is that place, although it happens to be in Vaasa, Finland so I’m not able to pop in nearly as often as I’d like. However, I did make the most of my short stay and enjoyed dinner at 1H+K twice.

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1H+K stands for one (1) room (huone) + kitchen (keittiö) and that’s exactly what it is, although there is a private dining room available (they call it a cabinet). The restaurant (ravintola) is tucked away on the first floor above the Pentik shop but it isn’t part of the store. It’s completely independent and is accessed through the main entrance with its own staircase. However, you can spot the restaurant from inside the shop.

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Its relatively hidden premises is part of the charm. It’s like discovering a secret location for those “in the know”. It certainly feels as though it’s the type of place only locals know about, as there is no English version of their website. Fortunately, I was able to find their main menu on their Facebook page that included the English translation. The dishes feature local produce and seasonal cooking, which means that the menu changes a few times a year and remains small (as it should be) with 4 or 5 items per course.

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Sweet Vaasa – Vaasa (Finland)

I was delighted when I discovered Sweet Vaasa on my trip to Vaasa, Finland. Just a short distance from the market square, it’s a real gem of a place! Contrary to what the name might suggest, Sweet Vaasa doesn’t only make cakes and bakes. They offer a variety of savoury items too… sandwiches, wraps, massive salads (from the menu or buffet) and their Meal of the Day (such as warm salads, risotto and grilled chicken). They offer a vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and lactose free menu too.

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Sweet Vaasa bake all of their cakes and treats from scratch and I was impressed at the variety on display. It was so hard to choose, every single creation looked absolutely phenomenal. More than just little works of art, they tasted fresh and delicious. I could tell that Sweet Vaasa hold true to their ethos of using natural ingredients and avoiding additives and preservatives. Even their salad dressings are freshly made and thereby free of any unnecessary E numbers.

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Steak & Honour Restaurant – Cambridge (UK)

I’ve been raving about Steak & Honour for years and have been stalking tracking their burger van since it first hit the streets of Cambridge a few years ago. It was so popular, a second Citroen H van was added to keep up with the demand for their delicious gourmet burgers. In January 2017, Steak & Honour launched the long awaited restaurant on Wheeler Street, next door to the Corn Exchange.

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Cambridge is burger heaven with Steak & Honour’s two vans trading at various locations as well as the bricks and mortar site. There is even a handy Steak & Honour app to keep track of their daily schedules and receive restaurant offers and rewards.

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The restaurant reflects the street food experience with its open kitchen so you can see the chefs in action while you are queueing or waiting for your meal. There are about 40 seats spread out over three floors, mostly on the first and second floors up the colourful stairs.

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Café@abantu, Wysing Arts Centre – Bourn, Cambridge (UK)

Café@abantu is a popular tearoom in Bourn and I’m relieved they managed to find another location in the same village near Cambridge. I wrote about them here a few years ago. They moved to Wysing Arts Centre in July 2016 and it’s really a perfect fit, with the same cosy seating inside and lots more space outside. They offer the same fantastic homemade cakes and treats as well a menu featuring hearty dishes with fresh ingredients (Fairtrade and locally sourced as much as possible).

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Café@abantu isn’t just a run-of-the-mill village tearoom. It’s a destination in itself. You can walk along the trails and admire the outdoor sculptures by the artists at Wysing Arts Centre (ask for a map at the café) but their cakes and treats are definite highlights. Make sure you check out the cake counter at the till for their bakes of the day.

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Their menu, which includes vegetarian and vegan options, is varied enough to keep it interesting whilst still offering staples such as toasties and soup.

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Smoky Chilli Con Carne

Paulo and I have been making our famous chilli con carne for years but this is the first time we tried it on our new Big Green Egg. The recipe already adds smokiness by griddling whole red chillies but using hickory wood chips in the Big Green Egg gave the chilli con carne an even more smoky flavour.

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It’s not essential to have a Big Green Egg to make this recipe so I’ll provide the stove top and EGG versions. However, if you are considering getting a Big Green Egg I heartily recommend it (I’m not getting paid to write that!). It’s more of an oven than a barbecue and can be used year round. So on a crisp winter’s day, Paulo and I donned our Aabelard aprons and fired up the Big Green Egg. They helped keep us warm too!

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Aabelard aprons are top quality (again, not getting paid for this recommendation). Made with waxed cotton, double-faced Italian leather (it’s like butterrrr) and antiqued brass buckles, it’s the only apron I’ll ever need and the cross back strap makes it super comfortable. I initially got one thinking that I would share it with Paulo but it became apparent that we each wanted our own apron, so I bought Paulo one in his favourite colour and even got it personalised with his initials. And besides, there’s nothing like a bit of brass and leather to spice up our culinary experiences! Ooo-err!

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We used Big Green Egg’s Dutch Oven but you can use any cast iron pot, even an enamelled one. You won’t need the lid for this recipe.

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Tapas and Wines from Castilla-León with Qué Rico Tapas and Cambridge Wine Merchants, Cherry Hinton Rd – Cambridge (UK)

I’ve been following the events of Qué Rico Tapas for quite a while so I was delighted when I got my ticket to the latest tapas and wine tasting at Cambridge Wine Merchants. Estefanía Led Ramos of Qué Rico Tapas is a talented, self-taught cook full of originality and passion. This collaboration of matching regional dishes with Spanish wines from Castilla-León brought out Estefanía’s wonderful creativity.

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The event, held in Cambridge Wine Merchants’ cosy wine bar at the back of the Cherry Hinton shop, featured five tapas and five wines. To kick things off, Estefanía addressed the group and ran through the menu. It all sounded so delicious! I couldn’t wait to see what the dishes would actually look like, based on her description of ingredients and flavours.

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The wine tasting was led by Cambridge Wine Merchant’s wine expert Alice Archer. She took us through the tasting notes of each wine with a brief explanation of the wine producing areas. She even gave us a map of Spain to show us where Castilla-León is located. The talk was light-hearted and informative. We weren’t bogged down with excessive details and had the opportunity to talk amongst ourselves between tastings.

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White Cottage Bakery’s French Breadmaking Workshop – Kingston, Cambridgeshire (UK)

White Cottage Bakery is located in Mark and Helen Underwood’s home, a charming white cottage in the picturesque village of Kingston, Cambridgeshire. Some of the most amazing bread has come out of that little bakery in Helen’s kitchen. I discovered Helen’s homemade bread last year at my local farm shops and I’ve been a White Cottage Bakery stalker ever since. Getting my hands on a fresh loaf is like winning the lottery! That’s because you can’t just pop into the bakery whenever you feel like it. The bakery isn’t open to the public. You need to follow White Cottage Bakery on social media (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) to see what Helen will deliver to select farm shops in Cambridgeshire. Helen bakes the amount of bread she can handle; no mass production there! Even so, it’s a testament to Helen’s passion and dedication to baking that she can produce as much as she does.

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Helen also runs a series of workshops, which are aimed at groups of 4 to 6 people. I had the privilege of attending one of White Cottage Bakery’s full-day courses: the French Breadmaking Workshop, held in Helen’s lovely farmhouse kitchen.

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All of the workshops are taught by Helen, an accomplished (and self-taught!) professional baker with decades of experience. The setting is friendly and cosy, as I was in a home and not a purpose-built cookery school. We were a group of 4 people and we were all made to feel very at home. We were led to the gorgeous dining room for a welcome breakfast featuring tea, coffee, jams and the bakery’s own bread. I especially loved the hazelnut and sour cherry loaf.

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Helen ran through the workshop with the group. We would be learning to make a lot of French breads… pain de campagne, baguette, bâtard, pain d’épi, fougasse and pain de mie. C’est magnifique! We received our own folders with the day’s recipes as well as blank sheets and a pencil for making notes.

As tempted as I was to stay in the dining room and admire all of the lovely artwork and curiosities (there’s even a stuffed badger!), it was time to begin the workshop. With my energy replenished with cups of tea and fabulous bread, I was more than ready and put on my White Cottage Bakery apron.

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Café Rouge – Cambridge (UK)

I’m born and bred in Quebec, the French part of Canada, so I grew up enjoying many of the French classics. When the crisp autumn air set in, I found myself craving comfort foods the French do so well, such as rich soups and stews. I was delighted to discover that Café Rouge have added some new warming dishes to their Autumn Edition menu to help make our farewell to summer a bit less painful.

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I’ve been to Café Rouge before (it’s one of my favourite chains) but never visited the location on Bridge Street in Cambridge. It’s housed in a lovely building with a cosy and charming ambience.

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Paulo and I were greeted warmly and shown to a table by the window. The extensive wine list offered a variety of tipples so we decided to pair our meal with some Prosecco. We were drawn to all of the new items on the menu, which included some of our favourite French dishes.

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My Persian Kitchen Pop Up at Espresso Library – Cambridge (UK)

My love for Persian food comes from my “brutha from anutha mutha” Ali, who was born in Iran. You can imagine my delight when I heard My Persian Kitchen were planning to bring their traditional fare to Cambridge through their new pop up and shared dining experience concept. In fact, the duo behind My Persian Kitchen, Sirous V Naderi and Abigail Plet, are no strangers to pop ups. You may remember them as Workshop Kitchen specialising in French and Italian cuisine, in which Sirous trained professionally. However, it is through Sirous’ grandmother and mother that he developed his passion for Persian cooking.

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Cambridge was definitely ready for something new and exciting. Their pop up at Espresso Library on Saturday, 22 October completely sold out! Attendees ranged from newbies intrigued by the menu to Persians who were proud to introduce this cuisine to their friends.

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Persian cuisine is exquisite and varied so there’s a lot I haven’t explored yet. My Persian Kitchen’s three-course menu included dishes steeped in tradition, made with quality ingredients. The menu wasn’t fussy or complicated but it was a great idea to have a description of the dishes printed in the back of the menu, as well as a brief history of Iran. Reading all about the dishes really helped set the tone for the evening whilst we waited for the food to be served.

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The ambience was welcoming and relaxed, with dimmed lights, flickering candles and a lovely jazz soundtrack. Espresso Library have a nice drinks menu so Paulo and I shared a bottle of Belstar Prosecco to go with our meal.

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