London Eats: Friends Of Ours

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It’s official– my love and passion for french toast overrides that for so many other things in my life. It’s just not on. But at the same time, some flaws should be embraced. Hence my decision to do a conclusive write-up some time in the future on my favourite french toast places here in London!

Starting with the lovely little Friends of Ours. Goodness have I missed writing about these café adventures. Judgement will be based on:

  • that lovely saturation in the middle of sufficiently-thick bread slices
  • browning
  • usage and appropriateness of toppings

Though I won’t be able to write about every single place I try, the conclusive write-up will comprise my main favourites, so keep an eye out for that.

There’s something special about making a gala out of little trips like this. Yeah, there’s something special about making a very big deal out of your favourite food in the entire world.

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This little hideaway is adorable. Unpretentious, cosy, with service that can’t be beat. Fresh pastries and sandwiches adorn the counter, and though I’m no proper coffee expert, my affinity for long blacks has earned me some sort of coffee brew intelligent quotient, and the cuppa that greeted me seriously hit the spot.

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Organic brioche french toast, roasted pears with rosemary and vanilla, clotted cream and shortbread crumble– £8.50

Long black– £2.20

What. A pretty picture. A slice of perfect thickness. The eggy, nicely-browned crust and exterior made me envision the battered slice hitting the heat of the pan, cooking thoroughly and quickly. Would have preferred a slightly more saturated and moist middle, but that’s really only because I like the texture to reach the point whereby there’s no problem flaking off bites with a fork. Almost ‘raw’, one could say. The roasted pear was tender and flavourful, offering sweet tangy notes to the bready base. So much more impressive than that served at another café I visited recently (here was hardly any on the plate and what was served was so cooked down that ‘saccharine’ would be a severe understatement as a description).

That, the shortbread crumble and clotted cream are what made every bite truly indulgent. Creamy, crunchy, soft. The toast itself provided a good medium for all the flavours to work together well. If anything, a more citrusy option or additive to this french toast would propel it to greater heights. Looked at the menu again, and cursed myself for only having one stomach. I’m dying to return just for that coconut rice pudding (how good does that sound?) or eggs. More coffee, of course.

Made my way to Shoreditch, freezing and hopeful. What I had warmed my stomach and heart. Hurry down to try their gorgeous brunch fare and coffee, armed with a good read. The solo, well-spaced tables and chairs make it easy to lose yourself in your thoughts or focus on some work.

Friends of Ours

61 Pitfield St, London N1 6BU

Mon-Fri: 8am-5pm

Sat: 9am-5pm

Sun: 10am-5pm

Ricotta Chocolate Chip Pillow Pancakes

I keep finding heaven on pancake mornings. I also keep finding heaven when I realise that certain ingredients are about to expire and whatever I expect to be slipshod turns out marvellous and beyond (you could’ve guessed it was ricotta in this case). From now on, I think every Monday shall be pancake Monday. There will be no regrets.

I didn’t want to stray far from these I wrote about quite a while ago, because they’re still my absolute favourite pancakes. I remember squandering my days trying to perfect them. But with university on my heels, there’s simply no time to faff around with proportions and measurements and whatnot. Yet, I needed a bloody good pancake, and a fluffy, well-risen, tender-stomached one at that. Monday would’ve gone quite badly otherwise. I suspect.

That’s where the ricotta comes in. And the chocolate, because 99% of my recipes are incomplete without chocolate. Chocolate crisping up at the edges, chocolate running down your bottom lip when you take a bite and the pocket bursts slowly, lovingly. The pairing of the mild cheese and dark chocolate chunks is not advanced, but necessary. Ricotta makes the batter creamy and mildly sweet, whilst the chocolate (dark, if I may) adds another lush dimension to the whole thing.

‘Twas a funny story, trying to get these right. My first time using the hob to cook pancakes was almost an ordeal. Burnt the first couple and had to chuck those, but the silver lining came when I found the perfect heating level (3) to allow for a nice golden-brown on both sides, without burning them and being left with uncooked centres. These pancakes seem to be more undercooked after the second sides are done, but that’s mostly because of the ricotta, which makes it denser without having to fully compromise on fluff and the slightest chew in the middle.

You deserve it.

Ricotta Chocolate Chip Pillow Pancakes (serves 2-4, makes 8 medium pancakes)

Ingredients

125g (1/2 cup) whole-milk ricotta (strain if watery)

135g (around 1 cup) all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

pinch of coarse salt

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

20g (slightly less than 2 tbsp) melted butter

240ml (1 cup) milk

60g (1/2 cup) chopped dark chocolate

Directions

Preheat your pan or griddle on medium heat, and ready some butter. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients– flour, sugar, baking powder, chopped chocolate and salt. In a smaller bowl, mix together the ricotta, melted butter, egg, milk and vanilla. Pour the wet into the dry mix and stir until just combined. The batter should be quite thick.

Butter your pan (it should sizzle, but not too strongly), then heap batter onto a tablespoon before laying on 2 or 3 in your pan (you can do more with a griddle of course). Flatten a little with the back of your spatula, then wait 2 minutes before flipping to cook the second side, which will take almost less than half the time it takes to cook the first side. Place cooked pancakes on a paper towel to absorb moisture from the bottom.

Serve with yoghurt, fruit or nuts, and honey or maple syrup.

Eggless Honey Chocolate Oat Cookies

I could drone on about the wonders of a cookie and the definite importance of all the components needed to make it, well, wonderful. But to sum this entire post up: Holy shite, little did I know that miracles are within reach without the use of an imperative baking ingredient– eggs.

It was hard not to panic, because the cookie craving was kicking strong. An impatient unborn child raging in my abdomen. I just wanted a cookie, and no, I didn’t want to walk all the way to Sainsbury’s just to buy more basic life needs. That’s for Saturdays, and I don’t mind waiting.

Took my chances.

I was even lacking on the sugar side, and that’s where the honey stepped in. Oh, the honey. Without much sugar left, this was the main sweetener, and surprisingly the biggest flavourer. I didn’t think the flavour would be so profound in the final result, but the first thing that popped into my head when I took a bite was, heck, this is a honey cookie. Which is why the word honey comes before chocolate in the title, and that’s highly, highly unusual. It’s right there, it says everything. It’s fact.

The first batch was not a total failure, but I didn’t quite get what I was looking for. The flavours were all there, but everything was an absolute mess. The overly spread out cookies ranked 10 on the edibility scale but about a 2 for aesthetics. After tweaking the baking temperature and proportion of flour, things were looking up. It’s a little messy, and you end up needing to wait a little longer than usual for a proper set in the middle before tucking into a thin, soft stomach of chewy batter. I thank all that honey and zero egg. It’s grossly divine when you get a bit of chocolate and a bit of oaty chew. Yes, chewy is a key descriptive word here.

Happy mistakes.

Eggless Honey Chocolate Oat Cookies (makes 10-12 medium cookies)

Ingredients

130g (around 1 cup) all-purpose flour

23g (1/4 cup) whole rolled oats

40g (slightly less than a half cup) white sugar

100g (3/4) cup chopped chocolate

1 tsp vanilla extract

113g (1/2 cup) butter, softened at room temperature

8-ml (1/3 cup) honey

1 tsp baking soda

pinch of coarse salt

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350F (177C) and grease 2 large baking sheets. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients– flour, oats, baking soda and chopped chocolate (not the salt!). In a large bowl, whisk together the room temperature butter, white sugar, honey, vanilla and salt. Pour the dry mix into this large bowl and stir together with a spatula or wooden spoon, just until everything comes together. Dollop tablespoonfuls of the mixture on the baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches in between the cookies. Bake for 15-18 minutes in the preheated oven. Once done, leave to cool for at least half an hour.

Chocolate Banana Mascarpone Sandwich

Sundays can be more magical than you ever think them to be.

A quickie, because I want you to make it now, or at least soon, before the magic of what you see above dissipates. Chocolate and banana is a sworn classic, at least to me anyways, and this sandwich has all the goods and more. I wouldn’t call it ‘chocolate and cheese’, because that juxtaposition looks and sounds sacrilegious, because I might as well say ‘chocolate and cheddar’ and make you all gag.

Saturday night made me too pink from the drink. With a late start on Sunday, something easy but lush was much needed. Thrown together in haste, but well astonished afterward. I must thank the gooey, perfect, sinful result of melting chocolate, mascarpone and gooey ripe banana mashed between commercial brioche.

Easy sin.

Chocolate Banana Mascarpone Sandwich (serves 1)

Directions

Heat a pan on medium high heat and ready a generous knob of butter. On one slice of brioche, spread a thick layer of chocolate spread (nutella/chocolate peanut butter/chocolate spread) and layer on slices of banana. On the other slice, spread a thick layer of mascarpone, and then layer on either one big square of dark chocolate or many small chunks of chocolate. Sandwich the slices together. Place butter in preheated pan, spread around a little, then place one side of the sandwich on the hot pan. Leave for 2 minutes, then flip to cook the other side. The surface should be a golden-brown.

Slice on the diagonal (it’s a rule), admire the oozing chocolate and then bite right into the middle while still hot and moist.

Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chip Muffins

This is a special dedication to the one and only Emily Olivia Tapp, AKA the girl I’ve been meaning to see for more than a year…? Or a sister-like figure who’s finally on the same continent as me. Blessings are real.

As we sat in Mildred’s in Soho consuming all sorts of outrageously delicious vegan fare (cue sweet potato fries, roasted cauliflower!!, colourful salads and a pretty memorable apple crumble), it suddenly occurred to me just how long it’s been since I’ve seen her, or since I’ve written her a letter, for that matter.  But next to Em, it felt as if not much time has passed between us. In the middle of a million lectures, lab reports and walking everywhere all the time, Tuesday night was peace. Peace and Happy.

So, pumpkin. With chocolate, granola, and pecans. Everything lovingly encased in a golden batter, speckles of everything in each bite. Not a particularly daring experiment, but armed with a new baking pan, cupcake liners and instinct, I did my best. The rooty, earthy pumpkin marries well with the chocolate, and who doesn’t love gooey hot chocolate pockets in the middle of a warm, fluffy muffin?

Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chip Muffins (makes 6 muffins)

Ingredients

95g (3/4 cup) (95g) plain all-purpose flour

100g (1/2 cup) white sugar

120g (1/2 cup) pumpkin puree

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

30ml (1/8 cup) vegetable oil

1 egg

1 tbsp whole milk

1/4 cup granola or rolled oats

45g (around 1/3 cup) chopped chocolate

30g (around 1/4 cup) chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C. In a medium bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients, except for the last 3 (chocolate, pecans and oats/granola). In a larger bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients– egg, oil, pumpkin, milk and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients, and just before everything is incorporated, mix in the remaining 3 ingredients. You really only need 2 clean bowls and a wooden spoon for this entire process!

Divide the batter amongst 6 cupcake liners (double the recipe of you want of course), then bake for 25-27 minutes (mine took 25) in the preheated oven. Let cool once finished baking and tuck in. Any uneaten ones can be stored at room temperature for a couple of days, or in the freezer for however long you want.