Flour. Yeast. Water. Salt. These are the ingredients that real bread is made from. A drizzle of olive oil if you’re making pizza, perhaps, a handful of oats or wheatgerm for flavour, nuts and seeds or dried fruit for texture. Real bread goes from oven to table in minutes. It starts life on the kitchen counter, serves several meals then is either eaten or repurposed to thicken soup, as crumbs to coat fish, or crusts saved in the freezer. Real bread doesn’t sit on a shelf for a week, stuffed with synthetic fats, stabilisers and mould inhibitors to allow it to do so. It doesn’t live as long again in your kitchen, sliced and stodgy and sweating slightly in its plastic wrapper . Continue reading
I’m writing this post on a Sunday afternoon, sitting in my slippers at the kitchen table as clouds drift into previously clear blue skies and the light begins to fade. One boy is napping, the other enjoying a cheeky post-lunch pint with a friend at the pub where we all ate prodigiously after a trip to Kew Gardens: roast chicken and Yorkshires and red cabbage (hello Christmas) and an enormous ‘kids’ serving of battered fish, mash and peas for Nino who practically licked the plate then proceeded to demolish any leftovers on other peoples’ plates. Sunshine, sharing good food and spending time together is what it’s all about: my belly is very full and my heart even fuller. Continue reading
Ever since Nino uttered his first few gurgles, I’ve been noting down the things he says in his baby book, adding an explanation in brackets where necessary in the hope that our future selves will be able to decipher their meaning. It all feels so important in the here and now that it’s impossible to imagine that one day these precious milestones will be eclipsed by greater events: full sentences, proper facts, probing questions, and the rest. But the logical part of my brain knows that they will, so for the last year or so there has been this list. Which is now running at full capacity, words scribbled in the margins and over the page. Before I had Nino I didn’t realize quite how talkative a twenty month old would be, and although we have a lot of conversations about bears and cats and pee, there are already glimmers of so much more, a little joker who’s keen to communicate and eager to learn. It all feels very special. Continue reading
How many cookbooks do you own . . . And how many do you cook from on a regular basis? One . . . three . . . five? The walls of our little flat are lined with tome after tome but the likelihood of my having more than a handful on rotation in any one month is pretty slim. When I was writing my own cookbook, I read somewhere that most people consider a book purchase successful if they add just one recipe to their repertoire. And although there are, of course, exceptions to the rule where I’ve cooked and baked my way from front to back, I’d have to say this often rings true for me too. In which case, why do I keep on buying them? Continue reading
When we first started our weaning journey over a year ago, I chose the baby led route because I wanted meal times to be easy. The idea of handing over a pear or slice of bread, moving on to chicken drumsticks and eventually plates of the exact same food we were eating as adults appealed as a simple option and seemed like the best way to avoid fussy eating or multiple meal making. To a large extent I’d say it’s been a success – Nino’s a hearty little eater, loves his veg and asks to try almost anything in sight – but I’d be lying if I said it was plain sailing over here. There are days when foods are rejected, forced on whichever unfortunate soft toy he’s lined up as a mealtime companion or thrown on the floor. Like any normal mother, I often cook the things I know Nino will like, especially if it’s someone other than me feeding him. And although he’s pretty handy with plastic cutlery nowadays, he’ll still insist that I spoon food into his mouth or ask me to cut something that could easily be bitten in two on a pretty regular basis. Continue reading
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a rut and a routine. Weekday toast or oats plus topping on repeat. Saturday pancakes. Sunday brunch. Meals which comfortably turn from favourites to familiar but run the risk of crossing that extra line towards boring.
In the interest of mixing things up, I made a big batch of granola for the first time in forever. It’s great for breakfast but also serves for snacking purposes. Luke swears by it as an after dinner mid-week treat. It’s as good on oats as ice cream and can adapt to infinite variations depending on what you have to hand.
Cooking is something I’ve always wanted to share with my children. So many of my childhood memories involve standing on a chair beside the kitchen counter, stamping out biscuits, licking utensils and pouring one too many silver balls over dollops of sticky homemade icing. When Nino was still a babe in arms we’d cook together every day, him nestled inside the sling, beady eyes peeping out as I scrambled eggs or stirred a Bolognese. When he got a little older I’d sit him on the kitchen counter, the most appreciative one man audience to my one (wo)man cooking show, letting him suck a lemon or sniff at herbs as I went about the business of making dinner for his dad and I. Then came a good few crazy months, that age where everything goes straight into the mouth and control is neither mastered or desired, directions to mind a hot oven perhaps not understood, perhaps wilfully disobeyed. Either way, most of my serious culinary creations took place while the babe was napping or after bedtime for at least six months. Continue reading
Two weeks at my parents’ house in Italy and it feels like we were away for two months. Somewhere around the 15km mark outside the local town, time stands still and you slip into this blissful world where – although the days are packed with swimming and eating and chatting – nothing really happens and nobody else much matters. Looking out across the mountains from the edge of the garden there are a handful of houses in the distance, so small that they hardly look real, and at night the sky is a vast canvas of twinkling stars, all the more visible and beautiful for the lack of electric light. Continue reading
According to reliable sources – aka Wikipedia and the various blogs and websites who have authoritatively regurgitated its contents – the word ‘butterscotch’ was first recorded in Doncaster in 1817. Little wonder my Doncaster-born husband ranks butterscotch in his top three sweet treats of all time (battling it out against fig rolls and lemon sorbet, if you’re interested). Butterscotch Angel Delight is his particular weakness (the boozy version from my book now trumping any nostalgic memories of the nasty artificially flavoured packet stuff) but he’s also partial to a simple sauce – on meringues, in cake or smothered all over ice cream. So when I was recently tasked with creating a ‘Taste of Britain’ for Rennie’s 80th birthday celebrations, I knew exactly what to make. Continue reading
London when it’s hot can be beautiful. Leafy green spaces, a sparkling River Thames, the sounds and smells of barbecues drifting across garden fences during long, light evenings. It can also be sticky and stifling and nigh on insufferable, especially if you’re stuck under an armpit on a tube without air conditioning. Or trying to sleep beneath a mop of sweaty but oh-so-adorable baby curls that your mother refuses to chop off (sorry Nino). Continue reading