Every morning as I open my eyes, I am comforted by the immediate thought of the coffee that awaits me – if I can only make my way downstairs to the kitchen. My ritual is to put a little pot filled with water and strong ground coffee on the stove to brew, and as the smell fills the house I run my bath, knowing that all will be right with the world as soon as I've taken that first sip.
I believe coffee is good for you in small doses; it aids the digestion and stimulates the senses. I am dependent, no doubt – addicted even – but it is something I enjoy so much that I have no plans to break that dependency any time soon.
I grew up in Sydney, which has a fantastic coffee culture thanks to the huge number of Italians and Greeks who emigrated there after the war. Almost everywhere you go you can expect a good cup that's intense, thick and smooth.
At work we use a spoonful of coffee here and there to enhance desserts – to rich dark-chocolate cakes, it adds a delicate, bitter depth. Nothing is quite so delicious as a slice of coffee cake mid-afternoon with a pot of tea.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627
Strong and sweet, crystallised and chewy, this is one of my favourite desserts. Surprisingly refreshing, it is the perfect light ending to a meal. Allow up to seven hours for it to freeze before serving.
Makes 6 granitas
400ml/14fl oz espresso coffee
200g/7oz caster sugar
120ml/4fl oz double cream
Make the coffee and allow it to cool to room temperature. Dissolve all but two tablespoons of the sugar in the coffee and taste; it should be almost too sweet.
Pour into a stainless-steel pan or glass dish; it should form a pool which is no more than an inch or so deep. Freeze until almost solid: due to the high quantity of sugar, this may take up to six hours.
After two hours, remove from the freezer and, using a fork, drag the soft icicles from the outside of the pan, where it will set first, into the centre. Return to the freezer and repeat one hour later. Continue to do this until the granita is set. Much less smooth than a sorbet, it should be granular and textured.
Twenty minutes before serving, remove from the fridge to allow to soften slightly. Place the remaining sugar in a bowl and pour over the cream; whisk until soft peaks have formed. To serve, layer the granita and cream alternately into serving bowls or glasses and serve at once.
Chocolate coffee cake
This is a rich, dense cake, delicious as a dessert or for afternoon tea.
Makes 8-10 slices
Butter to grease cake tin
130g/4oz unsalted butter
130g/4oz caster sugar
7 egg yolks
150g/5oz ground almonds
150g/5oz dark, bittersweet chocolate, grated
4tbsp cooled strong coffee
9 egg whites
A pinch of salt
Cocoa powder for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Butter a 20cm round cake tin and line with greaseproof baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar until pale, then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the almonds and grated chocolate and add to the mixture. Pour in the coffee. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form and fold into the cake mixture. Pour into the prepared cake tin. Stand the tin in a baking dish and pour hot water to come halfway up the sides of the tin. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour or until you can skewer the cake and it comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin completely before turning out.
To serve, dust generously with the cocoa powder. This cake keeps well for a couple of days.
I have always loved iced coffee. Growing up in Sydney, we used to drink it during the hot summer months. This is a luxurious version, rich, cold and sweet – more like a coffee sundae than a drink and, as such, is best as a special treat.
Makes 2 coffees
120ml/4fl oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
60g/21/2oz caster sugar
100ml/31/2fl oz cream
1 cup crushed ice
400ml/14fl oz strong coffee, cooled and placed in the fridge until very well chilled
4 scoops of good-quality vanilla ice-cream
Take four attractive glasses and place in the freezer to chill. Mix the melted chocolate with two tablespoons of the sugar and stir well to combine. Place the cream in a bowl and whisk with the remaining sugar until soft peaks have formed.
To assemble, divide the crushed ice among the four glasses. Pour over half the coffee, and add the ice-cream. Follow with a spoonful of the chocolate sauce and a little of the whipped-cream mixture. Continue to layer in this way until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
Serve immediately, before the ice-cream melts, with a long spoon.
Walnut cake with coffee icing
Makes 8-10 slices
For the coffee icing
150ml/5fl oz cooled, strong coffee
250g/8oz softened, unsalted butter
250g/8oz icing sugar
For the cake
5 organic, free-range eggs, separated
5tbsn caster sugar
3tbsn coffee, freshly brewed
The grated zest of one lemon
175g/6oz finely ground walnuts
12 freshly shelled walnuts, to serve
2tsp lemon juice
Beat the cooled coffee with the butter until smooth, then add the icing sugar a tablespoon at a time. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm slightly.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Butter one 20cm round cake tin and line its base with baking paper – or butter six individual dariole moulds. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and thick. Add the coffee, lemon zest and juice and ground walnuts. Whisk the whites to soft peaks and fold into cake mixture. Spoon into the cake tin or moulds and bake on the middle shelf for 20 minutes or until springy to the touch. Remove and cool slightly before turning out. When cool, ice and decorate with the walnuts.
The Forager by Wendy Fogarty
Petersham's food sourcer reveals where to find the best coffee...
At Petersham we feature three different coffees each season. All are from arabica beans, which are lower in caffeine than robusta – the only other commercially significant species – and have a milder, more complex and aromatic taste. All three are sourced and hand-roasted by Union Hand-Roasted, which works with the smallholders and farmers in Central and Latin America, Africa and Arabia and in the Pacific to produce fairly traded coffees of the highest quality. Some of our favourites are available from www.unionroasted.com, including:
Yemen Bura'e: An aromatic coffee from the semi-arid region of Yemen.
Colombia A: gentle, sweet and "chocolatey" coffee from the Timana Co-Operative in Huila – ideal after dinner.
Organic Ethiopian Wild Forest: Grown by smallholder farmers in Bench Maji, this is another delicate coffee with an aroma of chocolate and gentle citrus flavours.
Rwanda Maraba Bourbon: From the Abahuzambanbi Ba Kawa Co-Operative in southern Rwanda, this is from the arabica bourbon variety, seldom grown nowadays due to its low yields.