How to Eat Cake and Drink Coffee (properly!)

northernmunkeebites.coffeepairingboxesAlthough I now reside on the dark side of the Pennines but I am a very proud Yorkshireman and I’m very proud of the fantastic food and drink that comes from God’s County. This post is a celebration of the coming together of two fine Yorkshire based brands: Grumpy Muleand The Yummy Yank.

The Afternoon Tea trend is now through adolescence and well onnorthernmunkeebites.grumpymulerange2 its way to being considered mature with post-modern, deconstructions and proliferations being the norm. Do you ever stop and wonder if we’re doing it right? Are we just gorging ourselves on towers of cakes and flagons of hot brown liquids without a thought or care to the taste? Are we just racing to finish the pile laid out in front of us? Surely there’s more to it right? Well that’s what I intend to prove with these two awesome Yorkshire businesses.

northernmunkeebites.theyummyyankrange2Now, I don’t profess to be an expert in flavour pairing but anything I have learned in the art I have gleaned from DGH Chocolatier.  Flavour pairing is clearly subjective so thankfully there isn’t a right or wrong answer; if you’re like me and you love Wensleydale cheese with Christmas cake then don’t let anyone tell you that’s wrong! Coffee is a fantastic medium for pairing as it is made up of more than 1000 chemical compounds; these compounds contribute to everything from flavour to aroma. The key to good coffee pairing is just a bit of forethought and experimentation.

So, one blustery afternoon in St Helens Mrs Munkee and I decided to sit down and harmonise two fantastic food and drink brands we’d been sent (it’s a hard life eh?); the results were incredible! I’m going to blow your coffee and cake consuming minds!

Now this is where the magic happens…

First thing’s first, and apologies if this is a little obvious, for the full flavour experience the order is CAKE then COFFEE not COFFEE then CAKE. All the flavours I’m about to walk you through work delightfully together but the power and potency of the coffee has the inclination to overpower some of the subtleties of the sweet treats ; therefore if you want to fully appreciate the journey then this order is a rule not a choice!

Just to be clear, this is not an appraisal of the coffee and cake brands – they’re phenomenal and don’t require further exploration. This post is about pairing two outstanding products to deliver a full flavour adventure so let’s take our lead from the Spice Girls and focus on when two become one…

Carrot Cake with Rwandan Musasa Co-Operative Coffee

Who doesn’t love a good carrot cake, right? This one is exceptional! Initially you getnorthernmunkeebites.coffeepairrwanda drawn into the ride by a light, fluffy and moist sponge and then the sweetly creamy topping and finally the texture is turned with the crunch of the walnuts. This coffee boosts the trip with a bright, citrus-fuelled brew that is deep and powerful. The cream from the cake lingers and is eventually swept away by the bold red fruits in the coffee.

 Butterscotch Caramel Bar with Organic Colombian Equidad Coffee

northernmunkeebites.coffeepaircolombia2Here is masterclass in texture variation to induce excitement and intrigue in each bite. The butterscotch bar is smooth, sweet and almost naughty! So it needs a stiff shot in the arm from a powerful, nutty coffee with just a nod to the smooth caramel.

Raspberry Brownie with Organic Ethiopian Shakisso Coffee

Dark fruits and chocolate play together so nicely and this gooey brownie is the perfectnorthernmunkeebites.ethiopia2 platform for the combination. Pair this with a light, zesty coffee and you’ve got the recipe for a brilliant afternoon!

Cherry and White Chocolate Brownie with Organic Colombian Equidad Coffee

northernmunkeebites.coffeepaircolombiaThe flavour depth here is complimented by the texture variances. This brownie delivers a beautiful blend of creamy, sweet and tart whilst delicately balancing soft, smooth and hard textures. The Colombian coffee extracts the cherry flavours and attaches it to the deep hazelnut notes for a smooth finish.

 Pecan Pie Bar with Organic Seasonal Decaf Coffee

Now for me you can keep your apple pie because there’s nothing more American thannorthernmunkeebites.coffeepairdecaf Pecan Pie – I love it! Here you begin with cheeky apple notes that are juxtaposed by full nutty flavours and held together by a sticky sweetness. The coffee rushes through with a smooth chocolate burst and a curiously acidic finish to bring us back to the fructose acidity of the apple notes.

Peanut Butter Brownie with Brasilian Deterra Sunrise Coffee

northernmunkeebites.coffeepairbrasilThis flavour journey starts with the soft gooey brownie with decadent sweet notes that eventually make way for crunchy, earthy peanut flavours that linger on the palate. The coffee follows on with a smooth caramel entry that is quickly pursued by an echo of hazelnut flavours. A fantastical cyclical flavour flow.

Drunken Pig in the Mud Brownie with Organic Ethiopian Shakisso Coffee

Now, let me warn you – this one isn’t for the purists. This brownie contains vegetariannorthernmunkeebites.coffeepairethiopia bacon, salted caramel and a little whisky for good measure so prepare to be taken on a flavour rollercoaster with a sweet meat treat! The flavours are complex here so I needed to find something that would match these flavours rather than get lost amongst them. This Ethiopian blend delivers just that with a light citrus which picks out the whisky and the caramel to complete the adventure.

So that’s that! Mrs Munkee and I had a belting afternoon and were fully immersed in a self-inflicted, delirious food and drink coma!

Ultimately, there’s no snobbery in me and I’m in the camp that states that you should be able to enjoy your food and drink any way you see fit however I would urge you to give this a go. Just dare to try something a bit different and start your own food adventure!

Northern Munkee.

If you enjoyed my post (or even if you didn’t) please drop me a comment below because sharing is caring!

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BBQ Rubs from Yorkshire…

BBQ Mini-Series: Steenberg’s BBQ Rubs

So, it’s officially the British summer and it’s that time when we fellas refuse to wear sun cream, go an offensive shade of puce and revert back to our Neanderthal instincts by making a fire to burn meat on.

I love BBQ season but living in the UK makes it tough to predict and event more difficult for retailers, producers and eateries to plan for. However each year the offering keeps on getting better and better and the categories that the BBQ occasion spans is ever increasing. We would now happily shop the meat aisles, bakery, salad section, spices, oils, condiments and, of course, the booze aisle. BBQ is much more than a category in retail; it’s an occasion, a mood, an ambience and something that the whole nation, nay the world, goes crazy for.

BBQ has increased in popularity over the last few years with the explosion of street food trucks and festivals that have shown the common household cook what is possible with a fire, a hotplate and a bit of food soul. If we get invited round to a friends for a Saturday afternoon Barbie it’s no longer acceptable to serve salmonella sausages or botulism burgers. Now we expect brioche buns, sliders, low and slow briskets, sliders, kofte, shawarmas and a fabulous infusion of world flavours and tastes all on an undersized paper plate.

Now, I’m good with a pair of tongs and a hotplate but I don’t profess to being an expert by any stretch so I’d recommend you check out the BBQ Geeks for some absolutely top tips and the perfect BBQ.

This mini-series explores some of the new and great products and recipes that I’ve foraged and found this year to make Britain’s BBQ season great. So, even if we need to turn to supplements rather than the sun for our vitamin D, we can always enjoy well-cooked, well-seasoned and well-complimented meat.

Steenberg’s BBQ Rubs

Rating: 7/10

Packaging

I am going to be a little critical here as the packaging used doesn’t really capture the outdoorsy, pioneering spirit that is usually associated with the BBQ category and I’m not sure how well shoppers would relate to the packaging if viewed from a distance on a farm shop or deli shelf. The spices do have a fantastic backstory calling out heritage and provenance from the Foodie county of Yorkshire so, with a few focused tweaks, it is possible to vastly improve the rubs’ outward appearance.

Price

£2.50 – £2.60 – for the size portion that Steenberg’s provide this is great value; you can expect to pay at least £2 for a mainstream spice rub so for a hand blended, organic rub this looks really good in comparison.

Delivery

Cajun Ragin’

This is a firecracker of a spice that is very versatile in terms of meat combinations. The hand blended spice has a sweet and smoky opening that plays softly with your taste buds and really enhances any meat.

Sweet Sensational Rub

This was my favourite of the lot. I love a sweet marinade with a really juicy pork belly and this spice really is sensational. A dash of olive oil, a couple of teaspoons of the rub and overnight to infuse; spot on!

Jamaican Jerk

This is a classic rub that the North Yorkshire company have encapsulated brilliantly. The jerk spice was made for chicken, although it does work with other proteins, so I’d always recommend a good poultry and allow the spices to infuse with the meat for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

One-derful Rub

This is Steenberg’s answer to the all-purpose rub and for that reason it’s a great cupboard filler. It’s easy to use and a real people-pleaser if you’re catering for that fussy guest!

Verdict – in a word, versatile! If you want a fantastic, organic and flexible rubs then you won’t be disappointed. Yorkshire is known for producing great quality foods and up there in Ripon they know how to treat their meat.

Details: www.steenbergs.co.uk

So all that leaves me is to ask: what’s your favourite BBQ recipe, tip or trick? Come on folks, leave me a comment below because sharing is caring.

Also, before you go take a look at my blog on a fantastic condiment I reviewed earlier in the year; it’s the perfect accompaniment to any pork dish.

Northern Munkee.

Yorkshire’s finest delivery…

Food and Drink Subscription Boxes Mini-Series: Posted Pantry

This is the first instalment in my mini-series covering Food and Drink Subscription Boxes.

Food subscription boxes are still a relatively new phenomenon in the UK but they are going from strength to strength. The trend really seemed to gain traction when Ben Jones posted his first Graze box to offer lifestyle-conscious snackers an alternative to the dusty vending machine in the corner of the office.

Now you can satisfy your food foraging and drinks detecting needs for almost anything without even leaving the comfort of your own wifi hotspot. There are some brilliant subscription boxes out there for meat, alcohol, snacks, artisan food, grow-your-own kits and so much more. Think of them as your own personal foodie shopper trawling through the racks of artisan food and drink to find something that’s just in your size and colour.

Product Review: Posted Pantry’s Yorkshire Box

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: foodie foragers, local business supporters and farm shop frequenters.

Packaging:

This subscription box came parcelled up exquisitely to give a great premium feel as well as protecting the integrity of the goodies inside.

Price: 

£22.50 which, for the volume of product you receive straight to your door, is brilliant value; plus you’re getting the added concierge service of hand picked products.

Selection:

Twisted Chilli Tandoori Marinade

White Rabbit Yorkshire Honeycomb Chocolate

Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil

Bracken Hill Yorkshire Lemon Curd

Side Oven Organic Biscuits for Cheese, Organic Museli & Goldenberry’s

Posted Pantry have opted to bring together some of Yorkshire’s finest artisan producers as an introduction to quality food in the White Rose county.

Verdict: in a word, good’un! This is a great way to broaden your food horizons without leaving your own kitchen. In structuring the subscriptions regionally you also get a great sense of the story behind the producers and a greater insight into where the food comes from. Get yourself signed up!!

Northern Munkee.

The Brothers Brew

Coffee Mini-Series: Bean Brothers Coffee Company

This is the final instalment in my three-part coffee mini series.

I love a good coffee. There’s nothing better than pressing pause, to recline in a chair sat outside a coffee roasters and watch the world whizz passed with the sun warming the side of your face. The smell that wafts from the door each time someone new ventures in is reminiscent of the cocoa plantation in a far off world. A coffee for me is more than just a drink, it’s an excuse to stop time and just relax.

Hot beverages was a category that I used to buy so I have a real passion for it and I find it fascinating the shift and improvement that the category has undergone. Britain is a nation of tea drinkers. Correction: Britain was a nation of tea drinkers. The hot beverages has seen a significant change with the rise of the coffee shop culture which has led to coffee overtaking tea in terms of value and frequency. Black tea has seen a dramatic decline and you can now pick up great quality black tea for about a penny a cup. Tea companies have had to react and focus on fruit teas, teas with inherent health benefits and teas with more focus on origin and provenance. Great! This is what we deserve! A hot beverage adventure!

Coffee, however, has stolen a march and is leading the way in the popularity of hot beverages. Like a lot of categories provenance and origins seems to be the dominant appeal for drinkers and people now know the difference between a good Arabica and a robusta. Now this opinion may not be universally agreed with but, for me, the surge in popularity for coffee can be attributable to Starbucks (and to a lesser degree Costa). Starbucks have found a way to charge £3 for a 15p product by creating a coffee occasion and giving a home to that excuse to stop time and relax. In turn, this has led to artisan coffee roasters emerging on high streets, in refurbished military trucks and even a reclaimed phone box (yes, it’s true http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-33755170).

So now hipsters, yummy mummies, 20 somethings, 30 somethings, 40 somethings and 50 somethings have somewhere to meet through the day rather than a Wetherspoons or waiting for a more credible pub to open!

Right, enough of that! On with my review…

Product Review: Bean Brothers Boozy Gladys, Derek and Bernard

Rating: 7/10

Appeals to: coffee adventurers. There are some fantastic subtle flavours in these blends that may not be for the occasional coffee consumer but definitely appeal to a coffee connoisseur!

Packaging

The packaging is very basic but effective and includes helpful tasting notes for the aspiring coffee aficionado. I really like the branding. It’s simple but very on trend and will definitely appeal to the coffee shop culture and consumer.

Price

£4.50 to £5.50– this is a very reasonable price point for a hand roasted and blended coffee. No issue with the positioning here.

Delivery

Boozy Gladys

The first thing I noticed about all three blends as I ground the beans was how dry and light the mix was. I’m used to a deep, dark and moist powder as the beautiful coffee aroma fills my kitchen. However, the Bean Brothers blend was much more dry, light and almost sandy in colour.

Gladys is a seasonal blend produced by the Yorkshire-based brothers and is designed to encapsulate the Christmas season, and I think it achieves that objective! The initial aroma is light and citrus with a coffee undercurrent. The first flavour that welcomes your lips is a light, red fruit and the earthy undertones wait until the finish to make their entrance.

Derek

Derek is another light blend with a sweet almond smell when brewed. The coffee taste hits you right in the face at the start of the sip but slowly fades into a smooth, creamy caramel to finish with a lasting dark chocolate. The bitter – sweet – bitter journey in the cup is brilliant.

Bernard

This blend is my favourite of the three roasts with a familiar light and floral smell. This brew starts softer with a caramel introduction that is reinforced by crisp citrus notes. The coffee comes in late and strong like a reassuring backslap. This is a brilliant brew.

Verdict – in a word, adventurous! This is why I started my mini-series on coffee. I wanted to find and review different flavours and approaches in the same drink. The Bean Brothers have captured subtle nuances of the coffee bean to bring something different. OK, it may not be to everyone’s taste but if you’re adventurous, you’ll love it! Brew on Yorkshiremen!

Details: http://www.beanbrothers.co.uk/

Northern Munkee.

When we pour, we reign!

Coffee Mini-Series: Grumpy Mule Coffee

This is the second in my three-part coffee mini series.

I love a good coffee. There’s nothing better than pressing pause, to recline in a chair sat outside a coffee roasters and watch the world whizz passed with the sun warming the side of your face. The smell that wafts from the door each time someone new ventures in is reminiscent of the cocoa plantation in a far off world. A coffee for me is more than just a drink, it’s an excuse to stop time and just relax.

Hot beverages was a category that I used to buy so I have a real passion for it and I find it fascinating the shift and improvement that the category has undergone. Britain is a nation of tea drinkers. Correction: Britain was a nation of tea drinkers. The hot beverages has seen a significant change with the rise of the coffee shop culture which has led to coffee overtaking tea in terms of value and frequency. Black tea has seen a dramatic decline and you can now pick up great quality black tea for about a penny a cup. Tea companies have had to react and focus on fruit teas, teas with inherent health benefits and teas with more focus on origin and provenance. Great! This is what we deserve! A hot beverage adventure!

Coffee, however, has stolen a march and is leading the way in the popularity of hot beverages. Like a lot of categories provenance and origins seems to be the dominant appeal for drinkers and people now know the difference between a good Arabica and a robusta. Now this opinion may not be universally agreed with but, for me, the surge in popularity for coffee can be attributable to Starbucks (and to a lesser degree Costa). Starbucks have found a way to charge £3 for a 15p product by creating a coffee occasion and giving a home to that excuse to stop time and relax. In turn, this has led to artisan coffee roasters emerging on high streets, in refurbished military trucks and even a reclaimed phone box (yes, it’s true http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-33755170).

So now hipsters, yummy mummies, 20 somethings, 30 somethings, 40 somethings and 50 somethings have somewhere to meet through the day rather than a Wetherspoons or waiting for a more credible pub to open!

Right, enough of that! On with my review…

Product Review: Sumatra Ground Mighty

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: this is a coffee lovers drink! It’s rich, strong and will certainly bounce you out of bed in the morning!

Packaging

I think the branding is fantastic. It’s quirky, it’s tongue-in-cheek and it’s very Yorkshire and I know I’m biased but I love that! The branding is very personal and the messages that come through reinforce the coffee occasion which is great. However, if I’m honest I think they could make more of their packaging to bring the personality of the brand to life. There isn’t anything wrong with what they’ve done, in fact it’s right on theme for the coffee shelf, but I think it’s a little safe. The branding is great so I’d want to see more of it on-shelf. It is great to see a Great Taste Award and I think the prevalence and importance of these awards gets greater year-on-year and it’s something worth shouting about.

Price

£4.49– spot on, no issue with the pricing on this at all. It’s appropriate for its audience and its market.

Delivery

I think I’ve found a new favourite coffee, I love it! The tasting notes promised cocoa and dark chocolate which I could taste, if I screwed my face up and tried really hard, but it didn’t quite capture everything that was going on. The dark chocolate definitely came through on the smell test, it was exactly what I got, but the first taste that hit me with a coffee crack was a tingling aniseed that warmed my lips. This was swept away and replaced by a hazelnutty glow that developed on the front of the tongue that was lapped at by an undercurrent of earthy tones from the deep coffee and cocoa notes. This is a fantastic brew!

Verdict – in a word, amazing! I love the branding and I am in love with the taste. It’s Fairtrade too which, for a commoditised product, is very important. I can certainly imagine sitting down with this cup and a bar of intense dark chocolate to forget 30mins of an afternoon; but for now I’m going to add Grumpy Mule Coffee to my list of great thing to come out of Yorkshire!

Details: http://grumpymule.co.uk/

Northern Munkee.

Saving breakfast, grain by grain!

Product Review: Yockenthwaite Granola

The breakfast category is going through a torrid time at the moment with the sugar tax putting big companies like Kellogg and Cereal Partners under a lot of scrutiny and a pressure to mend their ways. This has sparked a number of low sugar, low salt and low excitement products to reach the market place and, ultimately, bomb. The market reacted to a change in consumer habits by providing more on-the-go opportunities with breakfast biscuits, bars and drinks.

I think this is tragic. I love breakfast and I also believe that, as the most important meal of the day, it’s the best time to get energy into our bodies; so sugar isn’t the enemy, just too much of it is.

Granola is still a growing sub-section of the category which is being driven by a misconception that it’s healthy. It’s not healthy because you can only bind a cluster one of two ways: either with fat or with sugar. So you can’t avoid one of those ‘evils’. However, granolas are a good source of fibre, protein and slow releasing carbohydrates which, coupled with an initial sugar boost, is exactly what a morning meal should contain.

This review is of a product produced on an idyllic Yorkshire farm…how can a Northern Munkee resist?

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: people who are fed up of boring breakfasts, people who see the benefit of a good snack or morning meal

Packaging

This is clearly designed to sit on the shelf of a specialist food retailer. It looks handmade and small batch. As an artisan producer there’s no point producing a brilliant handmade product that looks like it’s been produced by a faceless corporate. The packaging is absolutely appropriate for the product and it certainly enhances its appeal.

Price

£4.99 – this is on the expensive side but in this game you definitely get what you pay for and most granolas’ starting price is around the £3 mark. I don’t have any issue with this price point based on the quality of the product. Value for money and price are two very different things and this, for me, represents value for money.

Delivery

Granola can be enjoyed a number of different ways: with milk, with natural yogurt etc. but I opted to eat it naked and just tore its top off and got in there!

Oaty

This variant starts of with sweet chewy oats interspersed with crunchy bites. All of this sits on top of earthy notes provided by a deep honey flavour.

Nutty

The cashew nuts in this pack adds a real creaminess to the rich honey and oats. There is a generous helping of whole nuts in this bag giving great texture variation.

Real Nutty

The nuts in this bag offer something different to the other variety as they amplify the earthy tones suggested by the dark honey.

Verdict – in a word, beautiful! A good granola is a thing of beauty. Well crafted and carved from wholesome, natural ingredients. Let’s save breakfast one grain at a time and serve it up in a bag of granola!

Details: http://www.yockenthwaite.com

Northern Munkee.

Compliments to the condiments…

Product Review: Yorkshire Oak Smoked Mayonnaise and Jamonnaise

This review is a Yorkshire-inspired post after a visit to Spuds and Berries Farm Shop in Brackenholme (nr Selby). If you haven’t already visited this example of what a good farm shop should be, then I would urge you to do so. The fantastic fresh display that greets you as you walk through the door will make you want to explore further, as I did, and seek out some hidden food gems! If you haven’t spent all your money on fabulous food in the shop then you should explore further into their café where you’re likely to be served some of the great products on sale next door. The staff are very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. It’s a must for any Food Adventurer.

Rating: 7/10

Appeals to: someone that demands a little more from their dips and wants a different experience; food adventurers who aren’t afraid to try new things

Packaging

My comments are the same for both products. The matt black labels and lids portray a sense of simplicity, class and quality. The distinctive pastel yellow contents of the jar make the label stand out well on-shelf giving it a good presence and visibility. The Jamonnaise product does a brilliant job of communicating the right messages to the shopper from the front of the product: ‘making boring food brilliant’ and ‘a devilishly clever mayo combo of chilli jam and rapeseed oil’. What more do you need than that? My only negative comment would be that the Yorkshire Oak Smoked Mayonnaise fails to communicate any USPs to the shopper; you actually have to work quite hard to tell it’s rapeseed oil if you’re not well-versed botanist. Rapeseed oil has some important health benefits that, if communicated clearly, would broaden the product’s appeal.

Price

£3.95 – this is exactly what I’d expect to pay for products like this. It’s artisan, it’s different and that’s something that you should expect a premium on.

Delivery

I tasted both products0 on their own and then with a water biscuit; please be assured that’s not how I usually enjoy my condiments but it’s the best way to ensure I’m not masking the flavours with a hearty skin-on chip!

Yorkshire Oak Smoked Mayonnaise

This is a great alternative to mayonnaise. It has a smooth creamy texture with an undercurrent of earthy notes that come from the rapeseed. Unlike the synthetic, unrecognisable mayonnaise that large manufacturers vomit into jars and force down the throats of de-sensitized consumers, this didn’t leave a sickly taste in the back of your throat; the creamy aftertaste sat and lingered softly for a while. The only drawback of this product is that I would have liked a more intense oak smoked flavour which would have added another layer to the mayonnaise. However the smoking process is quite a delicate balance and there’s always a risk it can completely overpower some of the other subtle flavours in the jar.

Jamonnaise

I loved this! It is layered to perfection in my opinion. The first flavour that hits you is the soft, sweet fruit which is succeeded by the earthy rapeseed and topped with a gentle chilli after burn. The intense cream, the delicate sweet and the subtle heat compliment each other really well. I can think of so many different uses for this product: as a dip, as a nacho topper, as a pasta sauce or to stir through a large bowl of hot, mashed potatoes.

Verdict – in a word, serendipitous! I’m really pleased with my fruitful trip to Spuds and Berries; I’ve found two products that won’t be sat in my cupboard for long! I may be taking a trip back to Brackenholme in the near future, I hear they’ve just taken a Raspberry Jam with Dark Chocolate!

Details:

http://www.spudsandberries.co.uk/

http://www.thechillijamman.com/

http://www.yorkshirerapeseedoil.co.uk/

Northern Munkee.