In August I wrote about the luscious Portuguese custard tart (pastel de nata) and its availability in Soham, Thetford, Bedford and Peterborough. And lo and behold, on 28th September a Portuguese bakery opened in Norfolk Street in Cambridge.
Adilia Frazao makes two batches of custard tarts every weekday (available at 8.30a.m. and approximately 2.00 - 3.00p.m.) and many batches throughout Saturdays. She is very firm that the tarts must be eaten the day they are made, and preferably while still warm from the oven.
Some people have commented that these pastries are rather small, but the size is authentic, determined by the need to get both the flaky-pastry case and the egg yolk/ cane sugar/ lemon /cinnamon/ vanilla filling perfectly cooked at the same moment. Of course she makes other cakes and tarts and pastries too, some familiar, like brownies, some real specialities like the pumpkin fritters or a soft and wobbly orange creation – torta de laramja – which goes down a treat with coffee.
Adilia bakes loaves: granary and white and wholemeal bloomers, and then, each week, a different loaf, such as white sourdough, or olive bread or rosemary focaccia. There is a short but enticing list of home-made sandwiches, including, naturally, piri piri chicken. On the shelves there is a small selection of Portuguese goodies, such as olive oil, olives, tinned sardines, calamari and tuna, quince paste (brilliant with cheese), honeys and pumpkin-with-nut jams.
Most town centres have the high rents and heavy rates that discourage small independent food shops. Additionally, in Cambridge, a lot of the acreage is occupied by colleges and the University. One result is many people, particularly newcomers, scarcely know where the good food outlets lurk.
Cambridge Food Tours, enthusiastically led by Gerla Pusey-de-Boer, offer walking tours focussed on foodie destinations. The tours, which can be tailor-made, combine eating and drinking with sampling, introductory talks from experts in their own shops, and a surprisingly large number and range of foods, liquids and tipples. Chocolate, beer, cheese, fish, bread, wine, pastries, wild food and tea are some of the things which feature. The walks take about three and a half hours, but sometimes longer when people get really involved.
The wonderful Mill Road Winter Fair always happens on the first Saturday in December. Most of the road is closed to traffic. Just imagine - you can stroll down the very centre of the Mill Road bridge, you and dozens of other people with smiles on their faces! - and there is an amazing amount of activity, entertainment and food involved. All sorts of culinary traditions are likely to be represented by hot food from local shops and communities: Korean, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Indian, North African and even British (don’t miss the terrific selection of hot sausages from Andrew Northrop’s butchers shop.) There is a month to go yet, so the details aren’t finalised, but I’m confident that, as ever, the food side of the Winter Fair will provide lots of pleasure, interest and foodie Christmas presents. Many stall-holders will be local, so it’s a great opportunity to find out about some of the foods available on hereabouts.
You may remember from the September column that Chris Murray of Dovecote Bakery has been preparing to produce a pain d’épice – a spiced honey bread - for the Mill Road Winter Fair. His stall will have his normal range of sourdoughs, but also a range of Christmas cakes and biscuits of the sort he learned about when he worked in a bakery in Emmenthal in Switzerland. There will be stollen, a Christmas bun rather like a Chelsea bun but with home-made mincemeat, and small, lebkuchen-size, decorated pain d’épice. After the Mill Road Winter Fair, these things will be on sale at the Shelford Deli and Burwash Larder.
Whilst on the subject of Mill Road and bread, the Urban Larder has been expanding its evening activities, and has Pie & Mash nights with Pavitt’s Pies, and Vinyl Nights with soup (in a sourdough loaf) and one-pot dishes like risotto. They are now hosting a monthly introduction to sourdough bread making. The evenings are led by Peter Voshal of Loaf for Life Bakery who uses flour from Foster’s Mill at Swaffham Prior. The sessions start with getting hands dirty making spelt bread, mixing, kneading and shaping, to show how simple it is. Then much of the focus is on making and maintaining a sourdough starter. Participants can taste and discuss different starters: a 200-year-old spelt starter, a 100-year-old rye, and the starters which are 1, 2 and 3 days old, to learn how they develop and the different impact they would make on the end product. (Peter gives everybody a dollop of his 200 year old sourdough starter to take home.)
His next sourdough sessions will be on November 13th, January 22nd and February 19th. On Saturday 1st December (the day of the Winter Fair) Peter will be at the Urban Larder, talking about bread making and answering questions. He is also a member of CamBake who will also be at the Winter Fair, sharing a stall with Transition Cambridge.