Cures what ails you.

This is a recipe for a chicken soup that Louise Marchionne used to make when she cooked for us at our sister cafe The Folk House Cafe, on Park Street.  Lou is a nutritionist and fantastic cook - this soup would always appear this time of year as people began to start sniffling and sneezing (never a good thing in a kitchen) and complaining of the ague (not that anyone knew what that was but it sounded serious and requiring of soup).

Lou at Folk House Café, with squash.

Lou at Folk House Café, with squash.


It is packed with nutrition - ginger for circulation, garlic as antiseptic and both anti-inflammatory.  Miso is fermented soya beans which makes it incredibly good for your gut, and helps give a real depth to the flavour.  Chicken broth is good for everything as any good Jewish (Italian, Asian, Any) Mama will tell you, it is simply magic stuff.

Lou could tell you much more and you can now find her behind the counter of the Better Food Company’s deli counter on Whiteladies Road where she produces delicious, fresh salads and beaming ‘Hello Darlings’ for the lucky customers there.  She can also be contacted via her website and is available for dietary and nutritional consultations.

Chicken miso soup.

To make chicken stock:

1 roast chicken carcass 

1 onion

2 carrots, 

2 sticks celery, 

3 bay leaves 

6 or 7 black peppercorns 

5 cloves of garlic 

1 large ‘thumb’ of ginger

Put everything in one large pot.  

Fill pot with water to cover the carcass.  Bring this to almost boiling point then turn right down to lowest flame and simmer for 2-3 hours, with lid loosely over the pot until the last half hour when you can reduce the liquid slightly by removing the lid altogether.  Top up water if necessary but don’t dilute it too much..

Note: If you want a clearer cleaner stock then use a raw carcass, if you want a deeper darker stock then use a roasted carcass. For this soup roasted is better for flavour but both equally good nutritionally.

Strain the liquid, holding back the bones etc.  The bones can be picked over for meaty bits, then discarded along with everything else.

Put the stock back in the pot and add:

1 small leek and 1 - 2 carrots very finely sliced, or ‘julienned’.

1 handful Arame seaweed – only needs rinsing and rehydrating for 15 or 20 minutes (optional but delicious and nutritious)

2 handfuls finely shredded kale or dark leafy greens.

Heat gently until the vegetables are cooked but still al dente.

Add 2 tablespoons of light Miso, a good splash of Tamari soya sauce and freshly ground black pepper. Taste it. Adjust accordingly.

To serve:

Place some pre-cooked rice or buckwheat noodles in the bottom of the bowl.

Pour in ladle full of the chicken soup.

Add a few slices of spring onion and some coriander leaves on top.

Eat - it cures everything!

Substitutions and add ons…

You can substitute or almost any greens - broccoli, cabbage, spinach, chard, spring greens, lettuce, pak choi - just be aware of different cooking times.  The stock is the most important ingredient - just remember that.

You can also add very finely sliced radish at the end, for some peppery crunch and a bit of colour.  Also some micro greens would work very well, now grown right here in Bristol by Grow Bristol (and sold in Better Food) - pretty, delicious and nutritious - astonishing what you get in one tiny leaf!  If you want to beef it up (s’cuse the pun) you can add lots more chicken meat - I would shred it. 

I would avoid chunky vegetable as they would change the nature of the dish too much.  Finely sliced mushrooms are a lovely extra too - it's hard to know where to stop sometimes but once you have made it a few times you will settle on your favourite way, or just get creative with whatever you have to hand, just remember it's all about the stock.

If you want to make it vegetarian/vegan you would need to make your own strong and clear veg stock, using garlic and ginger as in chicken recipe.  I would also use dried mushrooms for a bit of oomph, and definitely add some fresh ones at the end.  Veg stock will be another post  - keep an eye out!



We make our own bread here.  Rob has spent many hours nurturing his sourdough mother, coaxing her gently with songs from ancient kitchens from the days of yore, and she has rewarded him with gorgeous, bouncy bread with huge flavour and a lovely crust, as Mary Berry would say.  We also buy in delicious organic breads for sandwiches from Hobbs House bakery as they are more consistent in their shapes and sizes, Mother Dough being a little erratic in her design skills.

Rob's bread, or a really big moustache.

Rob's bread, or a really big moustache.

Bread is a staple here in the UK, and in most of the world in various forms.  It’s a wonderful thing in it’s own right but is also often simply a vehicle for other foods (butter mostly, in my case).  From flatbreads to bridge rolls, focaccia or doorstep sourdough, what better than bread for dipping into thick, winter warmer soup just long enough for the butter to begin melting…

Hot soup, ready for the big dipper

Hot soup, ready for the big dipper


Given that it's called the stuff of life it's hard when you discover you can't tolerate it, for whatever reason though mostly it’s due to the gluten it contains.  Some people see gluten allergies and intolerance as fad, a lifestyle choice and irritation to businesses like ours.  Just to be clear, that is not how we see it.  

The argument goes that we have eaten bread for millennia, so why the problems now?  I think that is exactly the problem, or at least a big part of it.  As a nation we eat too much bread,  and the bread we eat is the wrong sort of bread. 

Modern bread is made from modern wheat that is grown using pesticides, glysophates (think what Roundup can do to your weeds and think about that inside you), in great quantities, especially just before harvesting to hasten the dying or, as we think of it, the ripening process.  The wheat is then made into highly processed flour, cleansed of all it’s nutritional values, only to have them replaced with artificial additives.  The pesticides remain throughout and gets eaten with the bread, and in whatever minimal quantities it’s still poison.  Bread from 1000 years ago, or even a 100 years ago, bears little relation to the stuff you see on the supermarket shelves now.  To avoid these toxins in your bread buy organic, or buy organic flour and make your own (see below for how). 

That however doesn’t solve the gluten issue.  I don’t have the answer but here in the cafe we do try to serve a good choice of gluten free dishes, but really good gluten free bread is the one thing that continues to elude us.  Rice cakes don’t really cut it with soup, or oat cakes, nice as they are.

We will continue to experiment and hopefully come up with a perfect loaf one day soon!  If you have a good recipe you think we could try then ping it over please!.  A mild intolerance can sometimes cope with eating organic, homemade bread, or a really good sourdough.  But other than that avoidance really is the key.

Simple Bread Recipe

(taken from the Folk House Cafe Recipe book)

1 kg strong white or wholemeal flour

2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp dried yeast

about 600ml + hand hot water

2 tblsp olive oil (optional)

Combine all dry ingredients in a big bowl.  Mix in water and knead into a rough, wet dough. Add the oil and mix well. Make sure you have added enough water for the dough to be quite sticky.

Flour a clean work surface and tip the dough out. Knead it well for 5-10 minutes, depending how cross you are (it’s good therapy), adding more flour as you go to stop it sticking to the surface and your hands (It will inevitably stick to your hands a bit though, so learn to love it).

When the dough is completely blended and you can handle it in one lump, either transfer it into an oiled and floured bread tin (about 24x12cm), or 2 smaller ones. Push the dough down into the tin/s and dust with flour.

Another option is to make rolls by cutting the dough up (it’s easy to slice through with a sharp knife) into equal size balls, bearing in mind it will double in size after proving and baking. Take each ball and smooth the top over with your thumbs, while tucking the raggedy side bits underneath to create a smooth finish on the top. You can glaze these with an egg wash if you want for a lovely shiny shell, or damp them down and add some seeds of your choice, or just dust with flour as with the loaves, placing on an oiled and floured baking tray.

Leave the dough to prove in a warm place for about half an hour, during which time it will double in size. It needs to be covered by a damp, clean cloth to avoid a hard skin forming on the exposed surface.

Bake in the pre heated oven for about 25-40 minutes, depending which size tin or shape you have chosen. When ready the bread should sound hollow when tapped and be golden brown. Turn out onto a cooling rack and try not to break some off, cover it with butter and scoff it while still so hot it burns your mouth.

What all the fuss is about...

What all the fuss is about...

To make your own sourdough starter and bread try Laura Hart's recipe.  Laura is one of Bristol's best independent bakers and any train journey makes a visit to her subterranean bakery a must.

It's a Family Affair

Fame at at last!

Fame at at last!

Bristol Life magazine did a lovely piece on the opening of the Better Food Company's third shop, in Wapping Wharf.  Phil, who owns BFC, is my brother, as is Barny who is the founder of The Square Food Foundation, cookery school and community kitchen, so all three of us are involved in food one way or another in Bristol.  The other seven siblings have proper jobs.



Galloping into summer.

The weather has warmed up, it's finally stopped raining.  While many people make a rush for the west at this time of year, plenty of you hard working stalwarts stay in the city.  So, just for you here is something to make staying here better... not one, but two artists previewing this Friday 8th July, from 6pm!

(Left to right) Xavier Antin,   Insolation   (2016); Stuart Whipps,   Ffestiniog Slate   (2015)

(Left to right) Xavier Antin, Insolation (2016); Stuart Whipps, Ffestiniog Slate (2015)

XAVIER ANTIN & STUART WHIPPS  launch their summer exhibitions, The Eternal Network and Isle of Slingers respectively.  

In the café we will be slinging drinks and food all evening - come for the art stay for the food, come for the food, stay for the art - your choice, but it's going to be a great party so don't miss out!



Summery, robust Tuscan salad that will take your mouth on holiday.



by Barny Haughton of Square Food Foundation

6 people

6 -8 slices of Ciabatta or other robust, chewy, white bread

8 ripe tomatoes

2 large red peppers

2 large yellow peppers

Handful good black olives, pitted

Handful basil leaves

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 tables red wine vinegar

Crushed garlic clove

Salt and pepper

A few anchovies (optional)

Tear the bread into bite sized chunks, crust and all, and put in a large bowl.

Scald, peel and quarter the tomatoes, remove pulp and seeds, Reserve, peel, seeds, juice and pulp for the dressing. Add tomato quarters to bread. 

Roast the peppers and peel when cool. Add skin and pips to the reserved tomato pulp etc. Slice the pepper into 3 cm strips. Add to bread and tomato. 

Add the pitted olives and torn basil leaves.

Make the dressing: salt and pepper into a bowl, strain the juice from the pulp, skin, etc. add the red wine vinegar and crushed garlic clove add olive oil and beat well. Pour this, minus the garlic clove over the salad. Combine well with your hands or a wooden spoon. The dressing should be completely absorbed and the bread should be soaked and pinkish in appearance. Serve at room temperature with a little more olive oil and a scattering of Maldon salt. 

Why Organic?

A lot of people ask why we choose to use organic ingredients own our food.  It costs more, it's usually muddy and quite often you can't tell the difference in the taste .  

It is essentially food you can trust, which today can be hard thing to find.  So many foods, even fresh products, have additives and residues of pesticides, and it has been proved to be better for you nutritionally.

Not absolutely everything we use is organic, sometimes it's about price, sometimes taste and sometimes because we know and trust the supplier so don't feel the need to see a rubber stamp. But it's always a conscious choice, and if possible organic is always the first.

There is a ton of information out there which I am not going copy and paste here.  I go with my my gut (haha) and simply know it's the best for me, you, the farmers and agricultural workers, the animals and the planet as a whole.

In the same way that any decent human wants to make life fairer for workers around the world by buying Fair-trade products, so organic agriculture benefits every person, animal, and cabbage involved.  

Yes, I make less money in order to keep the prices affordable, but to me it's worth it and I hope it is to you too.

Want to give it try at home? Click on the picture of the Community Farm veg box.

Spike Island Café Gala Launch Dinner

On Friday evening, at about half past six, glamorously dressed people began arriving at Spike Island Café.  The scene was straight out the pages of Hello Magazine,  if Hello had any integrity and was interested in interesting people.  

It begins...

It begins...

The theme of the evening's food was a taste of Italy so we started with classic Negroni cocktails using vermouth made down the road by the Ethicurean, Bellinis using luscious Prosecco, made from grapes stomped on by beautiful Italians with very clean feet.

Exceptional negronis made with The  Collector Vermouth .

Exceptional negronis made with The Collector Vermouth.

Delicious canapés were handed round, little toasts with peppers, tomatoes, fresh sheep's cheese, pomegranate and smoked fish... Negronis were sipped, the place filled up.

Here they come

Here they come

Threading his way through the throng was a tall man who beguiled the guests with magic, sleights of hand, tricks with cards and coins and as eyes widened his smile said you will never, ever know how...

Guests took their organic Italian wine to their tables, took their seats, and were served course after course of heavenly dishes cooked by a sweaty team of chefs under the strict eye of the head master, he of the Food and Farming Local Hero Awards.

Set for take off...

Set for take off...

Starter of broad beans, fresh peas, peashoots, home made goat's milk curd, Ligurian olive oil & Amalfi lemons .

Starter of broad beans, fresh peas, peashoots, home made goat's milk curd, Ligurian olive oil & Amalfi lemons.

The evening wore on, heavenly food and wine was consumed, talk was of happy things, the chefs took a bow, little speeches were made and Lady Nade sang songs of complicated love that made everyone pretend they had lost a dust mote in their eye.

Lady Nade, perched atop the counter, mesmerising everyone.

Lady Nade, perched atop the counter, mesmerising everyone.

It was a perfect way to launch this wonderful new café space, showcasing it's adaptability and charm (not  a word you would have used for it before) and we hope that this is just first of many events like this.  

All pictures courtesy of @moodycolin 


After the euphoria of our suberbly successful Crowdfund it's been all hands to the tiller, or some such nautical metaphor, us being on an island surrounded by water, you get the drift...

Anyway, Shape Studio chaps Tom and James did a couple of all nighters plus a whole Sunday while we were closed and here are some of the results.

It's a Rothko.

It's a Rothko.

Blank canvas

Blank canvas

Tom with one of his clever drills with a torch on it.

Tom with one of his clever drills with a torch on it.

Leigh-Anne  adding the squidge - calico covered as a holding fabric, waiting for the real thing.

Leigh-Anne adding the squidge - calico covered as a holding fabric, waiting for the real thing.

All coming together nicely.

All coming together nicely.

Beautiful Wych elm counter settling into its new home - the cracks will eventually be filled with coloured epoxy resin.

Beautiful Wych elm counter settling into its new home - the cracks will eventually be filled with coloured epoxy resin.

Shelves just waiting to be filled.   More soon!

Shelves just waiting to be filled.

More soon!

A new start - come and be a part of it!

Welcome to our first Spike Island Café news bulletin, brought to you by the makers of the much loved Folk House Café.  On 1st December 2015 we moved into Spike Island Café and started cooking.  We met the locals, the regulars and the suspicious, have poured coffees, teas and soup, battled new tills and grills, fed the people and now we feel like we are home and settled in our new community.  Thank you all for welcoming us so warmly!

Be a part of our transformation!

Already two thirds of the way there please take the time to visit our crowdfunding page by clicking on the poster above, and pledge if you can. 

We want to attract local people and also reach out across Bristol to engage new people. To help us do this we have great plans to transform the interior into a vibrant, ethical arts café to complement Spike Island, an international centre for the development of contemporary art and design.  We are crowdfunding to pay for this transformation so we can use the best artisans, the best local people and skills to make this a truly collaborative project.

There are some enticing rewards to help you decide to pledge, from a groovy Spike Café mug to having the whole café for your own party... check them out!

Some of the things your money will go towards:

  • training and mentoring of our cooks to understand the ethics and sustainability in food
  • hiring the best local designers and makers to help create a perfect space for the whole community
  • hiring weavers and upholsterers who are keeping valuable skills alive

Food is our thing and we are really good at it, but good food alone is not enough. We need your help to bring together all the components that will make Spike Island Café a success - whatever the reason you visit we want you to want to come back.

Get 20p off every hot drink
Just bring your own mug!  If you choose the Mug Reward from our Crowdfunder Campaign, just think, you can use that forever after.

Wedding venue required? Big birthday coming up?

Pledge for your party HERE! £900 includes canapés and a welcome drink, plus the venue for a whole evening.
We can of course add superb catering, music, balloons and whatever else you might want for your perfect day - just ask0117 954 4030.

The cafe is available to hire with or without pledging - call for more information.