Recipe: Gluten-free chocolate raspberry brownie from Hamilton's Cinnamon Cafe
Cinnamon has all the credentials of a happy neighbourhood cafe. It has friendly staff, well-made coffee and food, and it's on the sunny side of the street.
Cinnamon is in the Hamilton suburb of St Andrews, and I had a lovely warming lunch there (lamb's fry and bacon, kumara mash and creamy Marsala sauce) recently on a bleak day. I thought they were doing an excellent job. The place was chocka; the staff didn't miss a beat.
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I went back to interview owners Charlie Duncan and Amy Hodgson (partners in life and business) about the niche-market eatery they started from scratch. It was a sunny day this time and we sat out on the terrace. They talked about how they love their cafe, and neighbourhood, and what great staff and customers they've got.
Charlie and Amy live handy and their daughter Zaria is at the local kindergarten. Son Harvey is a chilled-out little lad who attracts cuddles from everyone. They opened Cinnamon four years ago, and they've since bought the former Grace cafe (down the road a bit), which they're refurbishing.
"Our big thing is service," says Charlie. "Our customers here are mostly local – 80 per cent of them would be at the cafe three times a week. We've built a great rapport, we know everyone's names." Adds Amy: "And the names of their kids, grandkids, and dogs."
Charlie is a chef and has been in Hamilton restaurants since he was a teenager. At Cinnamon, he's switched sides to become the barista. "The coffee has to be perfect; you need quality and consistency."
Amy is hands-on, too. She worked in Europe for eight years for a British company that ran bars, restaurants and hotels in Spain. When she returned to New Zealand, she was maitre d' for restaurateur Simon Gault at Bistro Lago in Taupo. She also reconnected with Charlie, who she'd met much earlier when they both worked at Le Grand Hotel in Hamilton.
Cinnamon's head chef is Virginia Mold, who has been with them since they opened. "She's a legend," says Amy. The legend joins us at the table, and she kindly passes on a recipe for a gorgeous chocolate and raspberry brownie (see below).
Cinnamon is licensed and runs seven days from early until 5pm. Virginia says her vision is to provide "cafe food, done right; it's comfort food". But it's comfort food with a twist, a modern spin, such as the delicious Marsala sauce served with the lamb's fry that I had recently.
One of Virginia's favourites is the pork burger, which has a tasty Asian-style treatment. A "winter nourish bowl" packed with good flavours and robust vegetables is popular, as is the slow-braised beef cheek. For breakfast, the corn fritter stack and the Cinnamon hotcakes, are much-loved staples.They do a couple of menu specials each week, and regulars like the extra choice this offers.
There is sweet and savoury cabinet food as well. Everything's made on site except the bread, and Virginia says the kitchen prides itself on its fresh homebaking. Says Amy, "We love coming to work, we love the connections we make here. Our customers are our friends."
CINNAMON'S GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY BROWNIE
300g canola oil, or butter
300g Whittaker's 72 per cent Dark Chocolate
2 cups caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
1½ cups gluten-free flour (or plain flour)
½ cup cocoa
1 cup raspberries
½ cup Whittaker's 72 per cent Dark Chocolate, chopped
Place the oil and first measure of chocolate in a microwave bowl and gently heat until the chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally.
Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla essence together until pale and creamy. Combine with the chocolate mix.
Sieve together the flour and cocoa and add to creamy chocolate mix. Mix together well, pour into a lined, shallow baking tin, approximately 25cm x 30cm. Sprinkle raspberries and chopped chocolate on top. Bake at 190C for 30-40 minutes.