International Women's Day 2019 #BalanceforBetter

It’s International Women’s Day and we thought we would celebrate this by celebrating some of the amazing women who work for the Cooking Company. This Florrie who is manager at Spike Island Cafe (soon to be Bowl of Plenty at Spike Island), she is super talented, energetic, kind and funny - she can also eat her body weight in just about anything and sleep well after.

Meet Florrie, one of the epic women working for the Cooking Company…

Meet Florrie, one of the epic women working for the Cooking Company…

Role with the Cooking Company:

Manager at Spike Island Cafe

(soon to be Bowl of Plenty at Spike Island)

How many people are managed by you? 

I've got 7 regular staff, but I like to be available to anyone in the company who needs a hand or some advice.

What does an average day at work look like? 

Emails and texts are an inevitable constant, answering questions and fixing odds and sods, checking what food we've got on for the day and making sure anything really special gets on our social media! My favourite part of the job is still going the extra mile for customers and making sure events run smoothly. Spreadsheets and banking are a necessary evil! Although I do love maths…

What would you like to see happen in the world in the next year? 

I'd like to see people connecting with each other, questioning their surroundings and looking to make things better but most importantly making the most of what we've got. There needs to be some radical changes too but I'll leave that for another day…

Who are you in another life (fiction or non-fiction)? 

As a kid I saw myself as Anne from Anne of Green Gables, but now I'm not so sure!

Who is your heroine?

All the women in my life who've paved the way.

What book are you currently reading? 

I've just finished a collection of short stories called Barbra the Slut and also Bringing Up The Bodies by Hillary Mantel. I've read everything in the house (and the neighbours) right now so I'm waiting for a chance to get to the book store.

How does it feels to be a strong woman in the workplace, and particularly in this role?

As a member of management I just feel very lucky to work with so many other strong women. On a day to day basis I don’t feel I have a point to prove, if I fail I’m not failing because I’m a woman. And that’s a massive boost that a lot of women don’t have the luxury of.

What is your super power?

I can sleep anywhere, at any time!

What to do with a tomato glut!


Raw ingredients getting ready for low and slow cooking...

Raw ingredients getting ready for low and slow cooking...



  • 1kg tomatoes
  • 400ml olive oil
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Good sprinkle of sugar
  • Couple of large sprigs each of thyme & rosemary, salt, freshly ground black pepper

Cook them:

  • Pre heat the oven to very low setting - 120oC or lowest gas setting.
  • Boil a kettle full of water.
  • Make small slit in each tomato then put them in a big bowl and pour the boiling water over them.
  • Let them sit for a about 1-2 minutes to loosen the skins while you peel the garlic.
  • Once the water has cooled a little pour it off and peel each tomato.  They may still be hot so wait a little longer if necessary.  You can also plunge into icy cold water to stop them cooking and cool them down - but its not really necessary.
  • Cut the tomatoes into quarters and de-seed them.  Theres no need to be too picky about this, it’s just about removing as much of the watery bits as you can.  Also remove the cores as this can be a bit woody.
  • Put all the ingredients into a good roasting pan and mix up, adding a little salt & pepper and a good sprinkle of sugar.
  • Put into the oven for about 3-4 hours, or until the tomatoes are almost melting.  You can up the temp towards the end just a little to give them a final oomph of heat to get them really soft.
  • Sterilise a large kilner jar (750ml) if you have one, otherwise get a mish mash of jars and clean and sterilise them.
  • When the tomatoes are cooked spoon them into the still hot jars and cover with the oil left in the pan.  If you have oil left over keep it for roasting other vegetables which will bring a really lovely depth of flavour to them.
  • They will keep in the fridge for a good while in an air tight container.  Once opened use within a week or so.  


You can use any kinds of tomatoes for this recipe - good greengrocers and markets will have a glut of them right now so you can get them at knock down prices.  If you use cherry tomatoes I wouldn’t bother peeling them - far too fiddly.  

All measurements are rough - basically you need to cover the tomatoes with the oil so you may need more or less than the 400ml, depending on whether you use more or less tomatoes


  • On bruschetta ( Here's how - toast or chargrill some really nice bread, sourdough or ciabatta is good, and spread a few on top - bob's yer bruschetta!)
  • Pasta sauce - just as is or add some feta, or other sharp cheese.
  • With roasted vegetables - add at the end of the roast for a real punch of unctuousness.
  • In salads - e.g  quinoa/millet/short grain brown rice/orzo pasta/puy lentils with roast peppers, peas, mint, basil and broccoli - add a spoon full of the tomatoes, a squeeze of a lemon and season to taste - lovely contrast between soft and crunchy veg.
A perfectly delicious ingredient for use in all sorts of dishes.

A perfectly delicious ingredient for use in all sorts of dishes.

Wild Spring


April 23rd and spring is finally springing up all over, cherry blossoms raining down pink petals, bluebells stretching their stalks upwards, buds at the ready.  Leaves on the trees are about to explode in all their delicious pale greens.  It is a most wonderful time of year.

Where there are bluebells you almost always also find wild garlic, that most abundant and pungent of free foods.  Leigh Woods is full of it, road sides groan with it and if you have your car window open the unmistakeable smell will hit you as you drive by.  May I suggest that you don't drive by, but stop, breathe deep and pick some.

You can use this magnificent plant in all sorts of ways.  When it's young put it in salads, just as it is.  The flowers too are edible and make a gorgeous decorative addition.  Use in stir fries, tarts (as we have in both our cafés), braised with spinach or other greens, add to soups and stews.  My favourite way to use wild garlic however is to make a pesto with it.  

There is nothing like a bowl of spaghetti with fresh wild garlic pesto - it is epic in it's simplicity and deliciousness. My brother Barny Haughton of Square Food Foundation has the best recipe I have ever tried.  It can be used in loads of ways, as an addition to any dish that can use a little lift or greening, for example Barny's  'Rigatoni with with borlotti beans, potato and wild garlic pesto'.  But I leave him to share that recipe with you another time.  I will share the pesto recipe though - let us know your thoughts.

Wild Garlic Pesto by Barny Haughton

This is best made when the wild garlic leaves are still young and tender because the flavour is more delicate and you can chop them up more easily. And like any freshly-made basil pesto, wild garlic pesto is best eaten minutes after making it. So, have all your ingredients separately prepared and ready. It will take 1 minute to actually make it

1 large handful of wild garlic leaves, thoroughly washed

20g each hazelnuts & walnuts or 40g of either

30g Parmesan, grated

20ml extra virgin olive oil

Black pepper

Juice half a lemon

Toast the nuts in the oven or in a frying pan – just enough – golden brown not dark.  

Wash the garlic leaves under cold water, dry them thoroughly and, on a large chopping board, chop them until fine but not to a paste. 

Add the nuts and chop them into the garlic until they are like very small bread crumbs. Add the parmesan, olive oil, black pepper and mix well. 

Add the lemon juice just before serving.

Serve any way you like but if with spaghetti chuck it in with the cooked, drained spaghetti, straight off the stove, with a tiny bit of the cooking water to loosen it all.  Put in a bowl.  Eat.

While obviously it is best served immediately this pesto can be kept in the fridge for up to a week in a sealed jar, and also frozen.


While we are on the subject of Barny (yes, there really is no 'e' in his name) and Square Food Foundation here's a quick reminder of the next pop-up they are bringing to Spike Island Cafe.  A cookery demo and supper by acclaimed Sicilian cook and author Fabrizia Lanza from Case Vecchie in Sicily. 

BOOK HERE NOW to avoid disappointment!

Here it comes...


The nights are drawing in and will be drawing in a lot faster when the clocks change at the end of this month.  Our thoughts will turn inward, to the indoors, twinkly lights and warm spaces, hot soup after a chilly, damp walk.  And before we know it Christmas will be looming on the horizon, like it or not, it's coming your way.  Here at Spike Island Café we are rather partial to Christmas, fond of a bit of tinsel and spiced wine, a hearty meal with friends and colleagues, festive music and the throwing away of cares for a night be-bopping to Wham while wearing a cracker crown.

If you are like us and fancy a little or large knees up this December, give us a call - there is no hire fee*, you can have lots of food or no food, we have a splendid bar, smiling staff who will wear elves' hats if that's what pleases you,  you can bring your own music or listen to our play lists - all you need to bring is some Christmas spirit!

Call Natalie on 0117 954 4030 for more information and to book your do.

*minimum bar spend applies


Risotto alla Milanese

Risotto Milanese is pillar of the Northern Italian cuisine, whose origins are blurred in history and legend.  Brought by the Moors and Saracens after they settled in Europe, rice was first introduced in Sicily as early as the 13th century. From there, it spread to the Naples area and later to the Po Valley in northern Italy, where it found the ideal conditions to be grown: flat lands, abundance of water, and humidity - perfect for growing the starchier, shorter grain rice that lent itself so well to slow cooking, and hence risotto.

When they weren't off killing and pillaging the Saracens were cooking lovely little suppers of rice and saffron.

When they weren't off killing and pillaging the Saracens were cooking lovely little suppers of rice and saffron.

It was in Milan where the rice met its delicious destiny. Milan had been under Spanish rule for almost two centuries (hence the similar evolution of paella in Spain), and rice had become a staple. Slow-cooking also dominated the culinary landscape of the region, with Ossobucco a long-held favourite and still today they are more often than not served together.

One of the most famous risotto is no doubt risotto alla Milanese. There is of course a story attached to this, it is Italian after all.  The legend has it that origin of this famous dish started as a joke played in the year 1574. The Duomo di Milano, the magnificent Gothic cathedral, was being built, and a young apprentice named Valerius was in charge of staining the decorated glass for the windows. Everybody was teasing him because he appeared to have added saffron to the pigments to obtain a more brilliant colour.  Tired of the teasing, he decided to return the joke and added saffron to the rice to be served at his master's wedding. The rice turned out so good that the idea spread immediately throughout the city and became the popular dish we know today.

Stained glass window in the Duomo di Milano - some of Valerius' saffron coloured windows perhaps?

Stained glass window in the Duomo di Milano - some of Valerius' saffron coloured windows perhaps?

Who knows if it’s true - it doesn’t matter, risotto all Milanese is a tribute to Valerius and we can only thank him for his mischief which gave us the beautiful subtlety of saffron's flavour with it's zinging yellow colour in a dish of rice.

This short grain rice, arborio being the one we are most familiar with, lends itself to so many glorious flavours and dishes, it is versatile, comforting and carries a little piece of exotic history in each tiny, magical grain.  And, should there be any left over (not likely in my house), it can be made into arancini, which can be almost as sublime as the risotto it came from.

If you want to know how to create this dish, seemingly so simple and yet often frustratingly easy to mess up, and eat it as it is meant to be, then we will see you on Friday, at 7pm, at Spike Island Cafe.

Barny, our teacher and chef for the night, teaches at the University of Gastronomic Sciences, in Bra, Italy, as well as locally at the Square Food Foundation in Knowle. 

Earth Hour - 25th March 2017

What is it about candle light that is so alluring? Is that we all appear ten years younger when lit by the romantic glow of a flame, or that the flickering takes us out of the here and now,  making the world appear ethereal and slightly unreal?  A welcoming distraction is these disturbing times perhaps.

Candles can also signify the ‘lights going out’, that great fear of all western nations, which is why we scrabble for the last vestiges of fossil fuels; to stop the lights going out.  Those who remember the power cuts of the early 70’s will remember evenings of candle light, no doubt from many different perspectives.  Mine was that of a child, loving the excitement of the dark, the story telling and the candles at the bedside.  My mother knew how to make a massive inconvenience into a fun time, for us kids at least.  That this fear of the lights going out is nurtured at the bosom of the fossil fuel companies is never really given the platform it needs, given the fact that it is very clear we have the technology to fuel our entire nation on renewables if we/they so chose.

I was inspired to hold a candlelit dinner by the WWF Earth Hour phenomenon that has become a global tradition.  For one hour, on the same day at the same time all over the world people turn the lights off.   Some simply turn them off and think about what it’s all about.  Some turn them off and use the hour to spread the word, enjoy explore other ways to light the dark, and make it fun.

I am aiming to do the latter of course.  Gather groups of friends together, eat delicious, simple food, listen to some great live music, drink nice wine, share discussion and listen to some great sweary poetry - all by candlelight.

Anyone remotely awake knows that we heading for climate disaster unless we/they actually take action now.  With the orange fiend in charge in the USA and Mrs. May-i-hold-your-hand here it looks like the path to doom is completely unobstructed.  I, like many others, feel a sense of impotence and frustration that we can’t as individuals do anything to change this.  Democracy is all very well but it moves at a snail’s pace in comparison to the destruction that these people, once in charge can achieve is a very short time.

So, is holding a dinner by candle light, eating yummy food and drinking nice wine going to make any difference?  Is the march in London on the same day going to help keep some kind of unity with Europe?  Will the march in support of the NHS stop the awful, seemingly unstoppable move toward privatisation and USA like insurance style health care coming at us?  Maybe, maybe not.  But what it, and marches and get togethers of all kinds, can do is remind us that we are not alone, that together we are a force, that maybe, one tiny step, one tiny candle at a time we can make change happen.  Maybe from there will come ideas, a plan, or many plans, and maybe, just maybe, we can, together turn this ship around.  Or at the very least we will have a really brilliant evening with friends.


Words by Liz Haughton