Baking Classes: Le Pain Quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien (luh-PAN-koh-TI-dyan) is a wonderful chain selling honest-to-goodness seasonal food as well as wonderful baked goods.  It began life in Brussels by a chef unimpressed with the bread on sale.  Alain Coumont began making his own, and fitted out his store with pieces of furniture from antique shops – one of which was a large communal table.  Now, the shops are all around the world, the large tables remain a feature and something of a signature.

Le Pain Quotidien, Borough Market

Le Pain in London have thrown open their doors to give customers the opportunity to bake like the pros.  Their stores in St Paul’s and Borough Market are transformed into a giggly home economics class after dark.  Well, certainly the table at my Borough Market experience was a sea of women and the lovely Ben.

Le Pain Quotidien, Baking Classes, Borough Market

Ingredients for the two recipes had been weighed out for us already, all that needed doing was the mixing, a little kneading and some piping.

Weighed ingredients, Le Pain Quotidien Baking Class

Homemade mincemeat


Raw Mince Pies

Twelve cooks grated, whipped and whisked  their way to mince pie and speculoos cookie perfection with Didier at the helm.

Le Pain Quotidien Baking Classes

The two glasses of alcohol probably helped and the session that began at 6pm,  finished just after 8.15pm.  A platter of open sandwiches did arrive at some point but post-work hunger meant that they disappeared in a thrice.  I grabbed a delicious ham, cheese and gherkin topped beauty and it set me straight until our baked goods arrived fresh from the oven.

Filling the Speculoos Cookies

Speculoos Cookies, Le Pain Quotidien Baking Class

We all left with two boxes of just-warm cookies and pies and a recipe sheet for both.  Didier’s cookies were perfectly spherical and the class managed to pinch a few of his too.

Didier The Baker


Here are my ‘neighbours’, a rather chuffed Mother and Son with their mince pies.

Mother and Son Mince Pie perfection

Packing to leave

The mince pies and cookies were inhaled by the office and I was asked for the recipes.

Mince Pies

The class is a great present for the non-baker or the experienced, an opportunity to learn tips from the experienced Patissier was really useful.  A couple of people I spoke to were returning visitors and said that they really enjoyed it, and even if you’re on your own, it really is a fun evening.

I will be back, maybe not for the singles baking evening, but definitely in the New Year for the orange Madeleine class (quite a good present for any Christmas list).

Here are a few of the classes coming up.

They’re a bargainous £27 per person and this price includes two organic beverages (I had coffee and a G&T), a small open sandwich (or two) and your own baked treats to take home. To book, email or tweet them on @LPQUK.

I was a guest of Le Pain Quotidien, Borough Market.

Le Pain Quotidien, Borough Market

Tilia: the artisan food delivery service

It’s his passion for the capital’s artisans and his love of food that helped Rob Ford quit his job in the City and turn food entrepreneur. Tilia is an artisan grocery delivery service that brings together established brands and upcoming names from the street food circuit. Ideal for the consumer who is time-poor, not too cash-rich and who has a taste for the finer things in life. The idea was born when Rob moved to Islington and saw some of the great British produce available in London’s ‘villages’ he realised the opportunity to connect producers with all Londoners, not just those who lived nearby. The Tilia website allows shoppers to browse suppliers all over London, add them to a virtual basket and have them delivered to their kitchen door.

What’s impressive is the brands he has on board and what sets them apart from the hundreds of other food producers and suppliers in the capital. Tilia has a rigorous five point selection process that looks at provenance, expertise, creativity, passion and value and the food categories includes meat, fish, baked goods, greengrocer, delis and drinks. This guarantees they sell only the highest quality produce and make sure that shoppers really do get to experience the finest and most exciting food and drink available. If you’re an artisan food supplier and want to get involved, it’s not too late to join their network, simply apply online.

‘Uncorked’ is a fine wine merchant in the City, a great shop for geeky wine buffs but not intimidating at all for those who don’t know their ‘minerality’ from their Macabeu. The wine experts here know their stuff and the impressive notes that come with the wine sum up what you drink. A 2008 bottle of Le Soula for instance “weighs-in at around 14% alcohol and a mere 3.2pH and smells of fresh fig, pineapple and grapefruit, all of which lusciously and juicily flood the palate”. As well as Le Soula, the merchant’s selected 48 other wines for Tilia, all with comprehensive notes to help make your choice.


Market-regular Mark Gevaux is The Rib Man. He sells hundreds of kilos of his pork ribs in Brick Lane and the KERB Markets at King’s Cross and The Gherkin sites. After a car accident Mark lost a leg which eventually prevented him from working as a butcher so he decided to set up his rib business. It’s grown over the five years he’s been trading and his ‘Holy F*ck’ sauces are almost as famous as his ribs. He’s totally passionate about his products and takes time and effort to make them all, using only the best ingredients he can find. You only have to look on Twitter (if you’re so inclined) to see the praise he gets from his customers. He’s also worth a follow on @theribman.

Mark Gevaux The Rib Man

Mark works out of a shipping container and has raised enough funds to go large, soon he’ll be trading-in his current unit for a much bigger one to keep up with his expanding business. Tilia is selling his Naga Chilli sauces which, as the name suggests, aren’t for the heat-shy. Not sure if you can see the illustration on the bottle but this particular bottle is Christ on a (Boris) Bike. Each of the sauces on sale have been starred to show their heat from tingle to something that may need a fire extinguisher to put out a fire. Mother Inferior I could just about bear X but there’s also Holy F*uck XXXXX; Christ-on-a-bike XXXXXX; Holy mother of god XXXXXXXX and the sauce that uses 4 kilos of Naga and Scotch Bonnets Judas-is-scary-hot XXXXXXXXXX, comes with a health warning.

Naga Chilli Sauce

Scotch Bonnets The Rib Man

‘Rubies in the Rubble’ are an award-winning social enterprise who buy the fruit and vegetables for their hand-made jams and chutney from Spitalfields saving kilos of perfectly decent food from waste. They recruit staff who are struggling to get back into work and train them up to be connoisseurs. Alicia Lawson heads up the company with the founder and former fund manager Jenny Dawson. Alicia explained how they make their produce from a commercial kitchen at New Spitalfields picking up high-quality produce on their doorstep, paying a small price for it and in turn preventing it ending its life in landfill or composting. The tomato chutney that I tried was not too spicy and bursting with a just-picked tomato intensity. Perfect with cheddar cheese, meats, dolloped in a burger or even a bacon sandwich. In fact would make a great alternative, and change to red sauce. Choose from mango chutney; spicy tomato chutney; red onion and chilli chutney and pear and walnut chutney.

Tomato Chutney

All the way from Buenos Aires, Porteña is so-called to honour the people of Argentina’s capital. It’s run by three friends with a small covered stall in Borough Market and a coffee shop in Farringdon. It’s at their London Bridge shop they bake their empanadas, medialunas and sell the dangerously good Dulche de Leche and Chimichurri sauce – all Argentinian staples. They sell their empanadas; ham and cheese; spicy chicken; spinach and ricotta and traditional beef on Tilia’s site.

Meat empanadas

When you’ve filled up your shopping basket on the site, it’s delivered to your home. Not by a helmet-wearing courier who’s desperate for a signature, but by someone who has the knowledge about the suppliers goods contained in your bag. With each delivery, the drivers will chat with the customer, keeping them up-to-speed with the latest products on offer and recommending new seasonal products.

Other suppliers on Tilia’s website include Allens of Mayfair, one of the oldest butchers in the capital and suppliers to some of the capital’s best hotel kitchens including the Connaught, Claridge’s, The Dorchester, The Berkeley and The Savoy. If fish is your thing Rob’s got Steve Hatt on his side. Steve comes from a generation of fishmongers and personally collects the fish dock-side, selecting the best and bringing them back to his shop. Bread is supplied by Holtwhites an Enfield bakery run by a husband and wife team and pastries by Belle Epoque Patisserie. Choice Organics provide their organic fruit and vegetables and the Chiswick Delicatessen Mortimer and Bennett are the main greengrocer. Chocolate, is available in the Deli section and Cocomaya sell their bars here.

Cocomaya chocolate

If you want ice cream Gino Gelato is the award-winning Italian company bringing a taste of the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany to the UK. The much talked-about traiteur Adafina who has a shop in St John’s Wood and a concession in Selfridges will be selling its Jewish cuisine on the site. I’ve just mentioned a few of the suppliers who have signed up so far but there are many more, take a look and sign up to the Tilia site here.

Tilia deliver throughout London from Tuesday to Saturday and delivery is free for orders over £50, otherwise it’s a nominal £4.95. If you do a little travel maths -v- time study the suppliers are so widely placed, you’d probably not make their outlets in a day and and a capped Oyster travel card, zones 1-6 comes in at £15.80.

If you try Tilia, please do let me know what you think.


Located in north-east France, along the Swiss border, Franche-Comté is made up of four counties; le Doubs, le Jura, la Haute Saône and the Territoire of Belfort. Traversed by the Doubs and Saône rivers, and bordered by the Jura and Vosges mountains, it boasts vineyards and lakes.

Why the geography lesson? Well, it’s here where my favourite cheese is produced.

Manufacture began as early as the 12th century, when shepherds would spend the summer months in their huts in the middle of nowhere. The distance from towns meant that the cheese made would need to mature over a period of months. Milk was shared between shepherds nearby, and at the end of the season they’d be carried to market.

A cheese seller who sold only Comté introduced me to it a few years ago at Borough Market. His cocktail-party-cube-lure, tasted so good, each bite different to the one before, that like a moth to a flame I couldn’t get enough. I seriously thought I knew enough about the cheese but I discovered a whole lot more when I went to a Comté tasting afternoon in a Soho basement recently.

The guests were treated to six Comtés of varying maturity, fresh from the Franche-Comté region, including a 5 month old Trévillers, a 13 month La Ferté, a 15 month Belleherbe, a 16 month La Baroche and a two year old Les Fins Frenelots.

Claire Perrot, a French cheese and wine specialist, shared her expertise with an assembled group of writers.

Made with raw milk, in a completely natural way, with nothing added but salt to help it mature. This was first among cheeses to get a label of origin (AOC).

There are currently 160 fruitieres scattered over a production area of 25kms, making 160 different cheeses each day, the process of which hasn’t changes for centuries. Women no longer work in the fruitieres and the movement of the massive cheese wheels is done by machine but the rest of the process is continued by hand.

The milk is partly skimmed, then poured into a copper vat and the temperature is raised to 32 degrees. Natural leavens are added – processed from the whey – then rennet. After thirty minutes the milk curdles, that’s split into grains, heated to 55 degrees to extract the whey. When the consistency is reached, it’s transferred to a mould that drains the whey and holds back the curd. Once removed from the mould it’s laid out on spruce boards for the affineur (cheese maturer) to take over. There are 15 in the area and each works differently.

Each Comté is unique; the maturing process takes at least 4 months and at the very best 12 or 18 months. The cheese remains on the boards and they’re moved to various cellars – temperate, warm and cold, the affineur responsible for the sequence of each wheel. They’re turned, and rubbed with a cloth soaked in a salted solution, which contains ferments found in the rind of older wheels. This eventually forms the protective rind.

Now that rind protects the paste throughout the maturing period, even its making is recorded within it. Its colour can vary from golden yellow to brown depending on the cellar.

Each cheese tastes very different depending on the age, the food the cows were eating very simply put, because there’s no pasteurization some of the natural micro flora from the milk is passed to the cheese and enhances it.

Young Comté tastes nutty, with vanilla notes and there’s definite caramel there. Whilst a long matured cheese will be far creamier, with a lot of roasted nutty flavours, melted butter and spices will jump out but made softer by creamed citrus fruits.

Because no colourings are added, the season the wheel is produced is visible in the paste. A pale cheese means a winter Comté, made when the cows are stabled and fed hay, producing milk with a low carotene (natural vegetable colour) content. A summer Comté is the very opposite, a more yellow paste means the cows have been free to graze on plants rich in carotene.

There is a real science to smelling this cheese – there’s even an aroma wheel which picks up a well of aromas from within 6 families – lactic; fruity; the roasted empyreumatic; vegetable; animal and spicy. A whopping 83 descriptors correspond to the most frequently found smells and aromas but apparently it’s still possible to detect other smells when smelling a piece of Comté

Next time you see Comté for sale, see if you can age it and determine it’s season.

Comté Top Trumps

Comté has the highest production figures of all the French AOC cheeses (51,000 tons in 2005, or about 1,275,000 rounds every year).

The average maturing period for a round of Comté is eight months. The maturing period ranges from four months (the legal minimum) to twelve, fifteen, eighteen or even twenty-four months.

A round of Comté weighs an average of 40 kg, having a diameter of 60 cm and a thickness (or “heel”) of 10 cm.

450 litres of milk are required to make one 40 kg round.

A Montbéliarde cow produces about 20 litres of milk over two milkings; to make one round of Comté therefore requires twenty-three cows and, since each cow must be given at least one hectare, a minimum of twenty-three hectares (about fifty-seven acres) of pasture.

Comté was granted AOC status (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) in 1958.

Source: CIGC Comté