Cronuts from Mark Bennett Patisserie in Poole.

Apparently cronuts were a ‘thing’ quite a long time ago; the whole craze about them started in 2013 in New York. I didn’t know anything about them until last Friday, though. When I accidentally read an article about this combination of a croissant and a doughnut filled with flavored cream, my urge to eat one became unstoppable. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait a long time and uncle Google directed me to a local patisserie in Poole – Mark Bennett – where you can order delicious cronuts online. Let me tell you why you should do it!

What is the cronut story?

Cronuts
Would you resist eating one?

I wouldn’t normally write a blog post about a donut, but the story behind the cronut is quite fascinating and I think you should know it too! Little did the cronut’s creator Dominique Ansel know that his original bake would make people queue at his patisserie in New York from 5am! Ansel’s bakery is opened from 8 a.m. and regardless of the weather, people wait patiently for hours to get a famous cronut. Turning up to the bakery at 8.30 requesting a cronut will result in an apologetic smile from Ansel’s staff. Dominique prepares only a limited amount of them according to his noble philosophy of ‘quality over quantity.’ Due to a huge success of the cronut, it was trademarked and its recipe remained unknown for a long time…

Cronut Recipe

The cronut’s recipe was finally revealed in 2014 by Dominique himself and it turned out, not surprisingly, that it takes three whole days to prepare the croissant-doughnut hybrid! There are some simplified recipes available on the internet (here for example), and with so much time on our hands in quarantine, you could try to make one, but…it’s probably better to use this time reading books or something and instead support a local business in these difficult times!

A local patisserie in Poole, owned by award-winning baker Mark Bennett, offers artisan bakes, sandwiches and the famous cronuts delivered to your house, all done in keeping with social distancing rules. Please, make sure you call them (the phone numbers here) the day before you want to eat your cronuts, because they sell out quickly and are not available to hand! I had to wait 24 hours and it felt like eternity 😉

What does a cronut taste like?

What does a cronut look like?

Coming back to the main topic of my article, the cronut from Mark Bennett’s bakery was crispy outside, fluffy and flaky inside and the nutty hazelnut cream that was in-between the layers tasted just heavenly. It indeed was like a hybrid of a croissant and a doughnut, but more towards the doughnut. I’m obviously not the right person to say if it tastes like the original New York cronut because I haven’t eaten one, but even so, I can reassure you Mark Bennett’s will become your favourite guilty pleasure.

What does a cronut taste like?
These cronuts disappeared from the table within seconds…

The cronut’s story, its uniqueness and flavour made me want to taste it as soon as I found out about it. I hope you’ll be encouraged to order one and indulge in this little, simple pleasure of sweetness and crunchiness.

If you’re interested in finding out more details about cronuts, you can watch an interesting interview with their creator Dominique Ansel here.

Healthy sweet porridge recipe and useful tips

I used to think of porridge as a gluey, tasteless and boring type of breakfast that you eat to be healthy, but don’t really enjoy the process of eating. How mistaken I was! You can make your porridge healthy, nutritious, tasty and beautiful-looking by adding some plant milk and other toppings. If you’re looking for some recipes to take your porridge to the next level – read the blog post below! I promise this article is very informative and educational and you won’t look at porridge in the same way ever again!

porridge recipe
Porridge for breakfast doesn’t have to be boring…

What milk is best for porridge?

In my opinion any type of milk is better than water in porridge as it simply gives it a creamier texture. Most of us know that plant milk is much better for your health than cow’s milk, however there are some drawbacks to it as well. I’ve tried many different types of plant milk in my porridge, but also read about its impact on the environment and here are my thoughts on it:

Coconut milk goes well with different kinds of berries, especially strawberries and raspberries; cashew and almond milk are nutty and creamy milks which go well with bananas and different kinds of nuts. However (!) please be aware that the above plant milks are unfortunately bad environmental choices. Producing coconut milk on a global scale leads to the exploitation of the poorer communities in which it grows; almond milk production exploits bees (which pollinate almond trees); cashew nuts have to be peeled from their skin which contains acids and many workers who peel them experience hand burns. You can read about the plant milk industries here and here.

What milk is best for porridge?
Cow’s milk or plant milk? Which one do you prefer?

Hazelnut milk is my ultimate hero. It’s creamy, nutty, naturally sweet and most of all good for the environment, because its trees are pollinated by the wind, not bees. You can use soy milk if you want to add protein to your porridge, just make sure you choose an organic one. Oat milk is not my favourite kind of plant milk as it’s kind of watery and not as creamy as hazelnut milk, but it’s the most sustainable option out of all plant milks.

I don’t think it’s wrong to drink almond or coconut milk from time to time, but if you care about the environment try to choose hazelnut or oat milk more often to create a bigger demand for it.

What to put in your porridge

If you’re planning to eat porridge more often, I definitely advise buying the following ingredients which you can store in the cupboard/freezer and experiment with while creating your porridge recipes. They may seem expensive if you buy them all at once, but I promise they will last a long time!

Fresh fruit: bananas add a lot of texture and good carbs to your porridge and are great for carmelising as well; strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pears, peaches (if in season), anything really!

Frozen fruit: a great way to always have some fruit for porridge is to have some frozen ones. I always have some frozen raspberries or forest fruit in the freezer and add them directly to hot milk, which gives the milk a nice colour. Frozen fruit defrosts in hot milk quickly, so there is no need to make it ahead.

Spices: use cinnamon to add sweetness; tumeric or kurkuma – super healthy spices to boost your immune system – create a beautiful golden colour in your porridge; maca powder (a yellowish root spice) doesn’t taste great in itself, but when added to milk is tasteless, and it’s full of iron to give you energy.

What spice to put in porridge
Cocoa powder, tumeric, cinnamon – spice up your porridge with these amazing colours and flavours.

Nuts: pistachios, walnuts, almond flakes, coconut flakes, hazelnuts…whatever you like! You can caramelise nuts with some sugar/honey on the pan which will add lots of sweet crunch to your porridge.

Nuts
Do I need to explain the health benefits of nuts?

Nut butter: this will add protein to your porridge. My favourite nut butter is cashew (which unfortunately goes against the environmental issue it causes).

Dark chocolate – if you add a slice of it to hot porridge it will melt delightfully.

Other sprinkles: flax seeds (a source of Vitamin D), hemp (a source of protein).

Porridge toppings
You can easily order flax seeds, hemp or maca powder online at Holland and Barret. Yes, I know they are expensive, but they will last a long time and health is a good investment.

Milk-oat ratio in porridge

The milk-oat ratio in your porridge will depend on the texture you like. I would say a bit less than 3/4 of a cup of oats to 1 full cup of milk is fine for me. Add a bit more milk if you find it too dry. I heat up the milk first in a pot and then based on what I have in the fridge add spices and ingredients to it. I am sure that if you add a pinch of cinnamon, some honey and your favourite fruit to your porridge, you’ll never go wrong, so let yourself be free and experiment. Here is one of my favourite recipes and some photos of other porridge bowls I’ve made for inspiration.

Nutty banana oat bowl recipe

Sweet porridge recipe
I just feel like diving into this bowl of ‘nuttiness’, don’t you?

Heat up 1 cup of hazelnut milk with a teaspoon of cocoa powder (optional), half a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of runny honey (manuka honey is the healthiest option, but unfortunately not the cheapest). Once it’s warm, add your 3/4 of a cup of oats and stir occasionally.

In the meantime, cut a banana either in small pieces (shown in the the picture above) or cut it in half if you want to carmelise it. To carmelise the banana, heat up a pan and spread a bit of butter on it. Fry the banana for 1 minute on each side. I normally cut some pistachios and almonds into small pieces and carmelise them with a sprinkle of brown sugar in the same pan in which I carmelised the banana.

Pour your oat mixture into the bowl and add the caramelised banana, one spoon of cashew butter and sprinkle with nuts. You can add one sliced strawberry for some colour and a ‘wow’ effect, plus a piece of dark chocolate 😉

Sweet porridge recipe
A version with a caramelised banana and a sliced strawberry for colour.

I know it looks like a lot of work, but you once you get experienced in preparing your more advanced version of porridge, it’ll be a matter of 10 minutes maximum. You obviously can just throw the ingredients in the porridge without placing them evenly – the taste will remain the same, it just won’t be Instagrammable! I hope I managed to convince you that porridge does not have to be a boring breakfast, but an easy and quick way to an exciting start of the day!

Sweet porridge recipes
As you can see, there is no right or wrong when experimenting with porridge toppings. Enjoy!

Romanzo. A family-run Greek restaurant in Bournemouth

‘Kalispera!’ means ‘good evening’ in Greek, and what a great and delicious evening we had with our friends at Romanzo last month. It is a genuine, independent place, awarded with a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor. It’s been run by a very hospitable family from Cyprus since 1986 and, believe me, they will make you feel as if they are welcoming you in their own home. It’s located in Westbourne (address here) and you’d better reserve your table in advance, as they are always packed!

Cosy light and homely decorations are very inviting…

Romanzo is a cosy and fairly small restaurant where the tables are placed very close to each other. While some may think that sitting so close to other people is an attack on privacy, I personally love it, because it feels as if you are part of a big family attending a Greek feast. And don’t worry, other people’s conversations are gently muted by Greek music.

What deserves mentioning is Romanzo’s attention to detail and its decorations. Greek music and tablecloths patterned in white and blue squares will transfer you to a Greek Taverna. The menu’s picture, presenting the elderly man looking down nostalgically alongside two donkeys, is so original and captivating. Once we opened the menu, it was difficult to make a choice as all the descriptions of the dishes looked so appealing and appetizing. Here’s what we eventually decided to order.

Happy people who can’t wait to start eating…
One of the starters, Calamari Fritti (fried Calamari), with some fresh salad and yoghurt. Refreshing and crispy.
We were gifted a big plate of fried potatoes. Who would say no to some extra fried potatoes?
I probably don’t have to introduce this Greek classic, called Moussaka, which consists of layers of potatoes, minced meat and aubergine topped with cheese. My friend ordered Moussaka and I was truly envious, despite my dish being delicious as well.
Souvlaki – which is simply a skewer of meat (pork, chicken or lamb) with rice, salad and tzatziki.
Roast dinner? No, it’s Arni Tava, which is a knuckle of lamb slow cooked in the oven with tomatoes, onions and cumin.
I ordered a seafood platter with grilled sardines, prawns and calamari. It tasted delightful and refreshing, especially with a splash of lemon.
Afelia pork fillet cooked with mushrooms in wine and coriander seeds, served with rice & Greek salad. The price of starters is approximately 5 pounds and main dishes are between 12 and 15 pounds.
A good dinner accompanied by wine must be followed by a decadent dessert, and as you can see on the board there’s plenty to choose from.
Mama’s orange, caramel and banana dessert. Delightful sweetness!
Homemade cheesecake. I know it’s not very Greek, but who doesn’t like cheesecake?

We fell in love with Greek food while travelling in Crete last year. Eating at Romanza reminded us of this fantastic sunny time in Crete and all the culinary pleasures we experienced there. Highly recommended!

A photo of me at Chania’s harbour in Crete. If only the weather in Bournemouth was the same.