Decorating Elsie

Author: Sarah-Louise

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Hey, all. Welcome to a post that’s a bit of a hybrid, like a cronut. It’s both a coffee shop review and the tale of the secret screen prints. Sorted? Right let’s get started… I love nothing more than a piece of cake and a skinny cappuccino in a takeaway cup with a straw.

However, working from home while simultaneously entertaining/making sure my 16-month old doesn’t stick her fingers in plug sockets does not afford much time for cake-baking. And coffee at home is never the same.

So, yay for Elsie, a new cafe-bar and deli, that’s just opened around the corner in my ‘hood, Hornsey. (The bit between Muswell Hill and Crouch End in north London, for those who don’t know.)

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Not only does Elsie do coffee and cakes, it does pastries, savoury muffins, chocolate croissant bread pudding slices (top left), breakfasts, sandwiches, soups, sharing platters and big steaming bowls of chilli. And booze.

Because it’s a deli, it also does takeaway organic loaves, posh chocolate, panettone in glamorous boxes, quirky handmade cookies and chunky chutneys with amusing names.

Owner Claire has also adorned the place with her own quirky artwork, bedecked it in fairy lights and fills the airwaves with a cockle-warming mix of crackly jazz, show tunes, Bowie and James Taylor.
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The result is a twinkly, relaxing little haven. You can eat here, drink here, work here – and take your toddler without causing too much chaos. There’s a mini library for you to help yourself to books, a menu of nighttime events coming up – Time Traveller’s Wife author Audrey Niffenegger is hosting an evening at the end of March –  and a primary-coloured portrait of Jeremy Corbyn in one corner. He’s promised to visit the place soon. He wouldn’t need to do up his top button here. Anything goes. Baby J and I practically live here.

Anyway, one day Claire produced a bulging Ikea bag of fabric from behind the counter and asked if we could do anything creative with it. She explained that it had come from the daughter of a local lady named Irene Kent Gouly, who had sadly recently passed away and left behind a secret stash of gorgeous handmade screen-printed fabrics.

Apparently, screen-printing was Irene’s not-shouted-about hobby rather than her profession – but judging by the sheer volume and array of beautiful, bonkers and brilliant designs she’d left behind, she could have opened her own shop or gallery.

My mum, Maria from We May Be Little, was suitably impressed and very excited by all its creative potential. She carefully opened up each new piece with an ooh, an aah or a wow – her imagination well and truly revved.  “We could do this! And this! And this! Throw! Curtains! Cushion cover! Blouse!”

The upshot of all this was that we’d thank Claire, and Irene’s daughter, back for their generosity and beauteous threads by making something decorative for the cafe. Having Irene’s work on display in a public space, in the area in which she’d always lived, felt a fitting tribute to her secret talents. My mum suggested bunting and Claire decreed it so. “Bunting is just what this place is missing,” she said.

And so, we decided on a huge swathe of abstract print fabric, splashed in neons, pastels and black brushstrokes. It was kind of 80s but kind of 2016-ies too. We figured it’d take the bunting from twee to edgy (c’mon, bunting can be edgy) and that all the random colours and patterns would give each flag its own unique look.

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After knocking up a long piece to festoon the length of the bar, Maria – being the unashamed bunting-basher that she is – whipped up some mini flags for Elsie’s dressers, too. All that was left to do was get it in place.

And happily, Claire seemed chuffed with the results. We must admit, this funky bunting does look right at home in this little joint. It was like it was meant to be. Take a look and see. And if you ever find yourself in this part of north London, treat yourself with a stop-off at Elsie.

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A big thank you to the ridiculously talented Irene and her generous daughter for the inspiration. We think there might be more where this came from.

Elsie, 10 Priory Road, London, N8

 

 

 

 

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Shakshook for the weekend?

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Author: Sarah-Louise 

Meet, shakshuka. Or, as it’ll be known here, shakshook. It’s a spicy, oniony, tomatoey, baked-eggy dish of dreams that originally hails from Turkey and is a breakie fave in Israel.

I first had it in New Yoik and now it’s starting to pop up on breakfast menus over here (though not on as many as I’d like). I recently had it at Nati’s on Priory in Crouch End, third pic on right, below. It’s a real international affair.

Anyway, the weekend is the best time to get acquainted or re-acquainted with it. As this baby, while easy to knock up, is best prepped sloooooooooow and with lots of TLC. And with crusty sourdough. And endless coffee. Or Mimosas.

Take a look below the pics for the how-to.

 

Ingredients for 4: 2 or 3 tins (depending on appetite) of organic chopped toms; 6 organic eggs; 3 cloves of garlic, minced; 3tbsp olive oil; whole red pepper; whole red onion; 1 tsp paprika; 1tsp cumin; a pinch of cayenne; 1 1/4 cup of feta; sourdough; rock salt and pep

How to:

1. Whack on your oven to 190C

2. De-seed your peppers and slice into tiny cubes. Slice your onion super thinly

3. Heat your olive oil over a moderate heat in a saucepan then add the peppers and onion.

4. Cook gently for 20-30 mins until they start to get all nice and mushy

5. Add your garlic and cook gently for another couple of mins

6. Add your cumin, paprika and a sprinkle of cayenne and cook for another min

7. Chuck in your toms, seasoning with your salt and pep as you go, and cook for another 10 to 15 mins

8. As soon as your toms start to look all thick and slushy, crumble in your salty feta

9. Now the tricky bit, for me anyway: make sort-of hollows in your toms, then crack in your eggs

10. Season again

11. Now pop your pan into your nice hot oven. Depending on how runny you like your eggs, you can leave your wondrous concoction in there from 7 to 15 minutes. Just keep an eye on it and judgez for yourself

12. Relieve your pan from the oven. Sprinkle with something green like coriander, if you like it. Eurgh. Devil’s food. I didn’t.

13. Serve with warmed-through slices of sourdough and if you fancy giving your shakshook an extra kick, sprinkle it with tabasco

14. Consume with mugs of coffee, glasses of cool water and/or Mimosas – a simple-yet-super mix of Prosecco and OJ (Mimosa! Mimosa!)

Et, voila. What’s your favourite indulgent breakfast? We’d love to hear.

 

 

Sunday Snaps

From hot coffee to a great big neon jelly fish in the sky, it’s our week in pics…

 


Clockwise, from top left…

1.Alice: “This giant light-up sculpture (London by Janet Echelman) greeted me last week as I left my job at Top Shop at 7am, after a busy night shift. It reminded me of a huge jelly fish and looked eerily beautiful floating over a very dark and quiet Oxford Street. It was part of the Lumiere London light festival, which ran for four days last week. The artist’s inspiration was the 2011 Japanese Tsunami and this piece is actually a 3D representation of the effects of the quake, which momentarily sped up the earth’s rotation and shortened the day.”

2.Sarah: “I was taking Jasmine for an afternoon walk through our local park in Crouch End and it was icily cold but the colour of the sky was beautiful and hopeful. I’d also just been reading that this year’s official Pantone colour is Rose Quartz and Serenity – pale pink and blue – and here it ruddy was, out in the natural world.”

3. Sarah: “My ballet shoes on the church hall’s parquet flooring. First Saturday of term and I was more than a little rusty.”

4.Maria: “Sometimes all it takes is a flat white and a good croissant to feel that all’s right with the world. This was at one of my favourite London coffee shops, Coffee Circus in Crouch End.”

5.Maria: “This is a snapshot of some baby name-bunting I made for one of Sarah’s friend’s nieces. I haven’t take a pic of the whole thing as the baby in question hasn’t received it yet and we want it to be a surprise! I used red and white strawberry-print fabric and crocheted some little red flowers to sit on the white cord.”

 

Dealing with… January

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Author Sarah-Louise James

Hello, how’s your January going?

Yup, and ours…

But we’re attempting to combat the blues with the following: gallons of coffee, walks in the park when it’s not raining, wine, good TV – Spin on More 4 is on record and Netflix’s Making a Murderer is on the to-do list – concocting recipes that are both healthy and tasty (watch this space), making billions of yards of baby-name bunting and coming up with new products for our shop.

One of which is Doughnut the Cat. Please see pic of the prototype Doughnut, below – made by Alice for bebe Jasmine for Christmas. Doughnut was so named by Jasmine the other day. “What’s your cat called, Jasmine?” I asked. *15 seconds’ frowny face* “Doughnut,” came the reply. Well it sounded like doughnut, anyway. So doughnut it is. (Jasmine also has a toy dinosaur called Kevin, a fluffy white bear named Bacon and a rag doll called Hedgehog.)

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Doughnut will be a bespoke item when she arrives in the shop and we’re currently working out ways to make her very, very personal to the person who buys her. So they love her just as much as Jasmine does. Even though Jasmine chucked her out of her cot and trod on her yesterday. That’s tough love. Or maybe it’s just because it’s January.

Oh, and while we’ve got you, we wanted to draw your attention to the main image in this post. Yup, it’s a small request to follow our blog! All you need to do, if you’re not doing so already (thank you, lovelies, who are doing so already) is pop your email address in the box at the top right of the screen and you’ll get an email pop up in your inbox whenever we post a new recipe, craft how-to or style tip. Go on, follow us, you might like us!

In the meantime, stay strong. We’re almost half-way through January already…

 

This December, we love…

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It’s the meteorological start of winter, if you live in the northern hemisphere that is. But this is not a weather report. Nor is it a hint of any sort about what we might want for Christmas…

This is just a round up of stuff we’re loving as the temperatures plummet, day light fades and the twinkly lights come out to play. Here goes…

1.This cuddly faux fur throw is perfect for snuggling under while watching The Bridge on BBC4 on Saturday nights. £39.99, Dunelm

2. Coffee shop Christmas coffee. We’d never normally order a black forest gateaux mocha but something just compels us…

3. Marks & Spencer’s Christmas food to order. In particular, its cheese boards. Serve with port. Or Prosecco. And repeat until 3rd Jan.

4. We May Be Little’s coffee cosy for an even Christmassier Christmas coffee. Coffee cup sleeve, £5, Etsy.com/shop/WeMayBeLittle

5. Why buy sequins now when wearing them in January will make you look like a Christmas tree who’s been put out for collection. Save pennies and buy beautiful sparkly earrings instead. Junk Jewels, Not On The Highstreet

6. Man knitwear. Casz but chic. Cosy but cool. And we’re liking the classy offerings over at Boden

7. Old-school Santa duvet to snuggle under? Why wouldn’t you. Prices from £19.50, M&S again

8. Now, this is an advent calendar. £29.50, Not On The High Street

9. How can a jumper look stylish? This answers the question. Plaited cable knit, £115, Karen Millen

10. These claret – or let’s say, port – skinnies are the perfect match for the above jumper. Darla trousers, £110, Reiss

11. The forever coat. A classic cosy parka. Women’s Charlie Fishtail Parka, £285, Parka London

12. And for men: £285, Parka London

13. Love you, steel grey Nikes. Nike Air Max Thea Premium, £95, Nike.com

14. What’s as cosy as snuggling up at home in an Aran jumper with candles flickering away in the background? Ah! Jumper candles and more from, Dibor,  Not On The High Street

15. White lights are nice an’ all, but didn’t the candy-coloured fairy lights of the 80s and 90s just feel more like Christmas? Go retro with these beauties. Fairy lights, £25, Ellie Ellie, Not On The High Street

16. And to finish? Why, a tangerine of course. Available at a supermarket/green grocers/farmers market near you.

But first… Coffee, cake, croissants, toasties…

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Never is coffee more important than on a Monday morning. A little bit of much-needed rocket fuel to chase the post-weekend blues away and make the boss’s demands a little more bearable.

And while we definitely don’t turn our noses up at a Nero’s cappuccino, there’s nothing better than finding a quirky little independent coffee shop, that does a rich, strong bean (with a flourish), to put a spring in your step.

We’re going to be reviewing indie coffee places whenever we come across a good ‘un. First it’s independent family-run Coffee Circus in Crouch End, nestled down a little side street, like a secret – within sniffing distance of Costa and Starbucks, but a world away.

If you come early in the morning you’ll find a long queue snaking its way out of the door but if you come mid-morning or afternoon, you’ll get a bit more space to explore a menu boasting blends and beans from all over the world – sourced by artisan roasters, BeanWanders.

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You can slurp your way through flat whites, French press, long blacks and skinny caps, macchiatos and ristrettos or really live it up and try an affogato – rich, dark espresso poured over creamy vanilla ice cream and served in a cup. There’s a loose tea list for brew lovers too.

There are homemade cakes – all gluten-free – plus a range of superior toasties and melt-in-your-mouth pastries. We’ve been a few times and not encountered a stale crust yet.

Local artists’ work adorns the walls; there’s a book shelf with tatty old reads for anyone who really has a day to while away but for anyone else there’s free wi-fi so you can come and work here. Though it’s not the kind of place to be a table hogger. Nip across the road to Starbucks for that.

And if you like what you drink, you can buy it. All the teas and coffee beans are for sale too. Open 8-6 during the week and 9-6 at weekends, this place is a little haven worthy of your attention if you ever find yourself in the locale. There are two adorable little Coffee Circus takeaway places in Camden Lock and Stables, too.

Do you have a favourite indie coffee hangout? Let us know.

Coffee Circus, 136 Crouch Hill, London, N8 9DX

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