When we were first sent home from hospital with Nino I was tasked by the staff with fattening him up before his open heart surgery. There’s something statistically significant about a baby weighing over 5kg in terms of operation survival rates and, although we weren’t aware of it at the time, Nino’s abnormally complicated network of coronary arteries meant it was even more important that he pack on the pounds. In those early days before his heart was re-plumbed, helpless to fix him myself, food was truly my love language to our little boy. Continue reading
Peaches rarely make their way into my baking. Fruit salads and ice creams or simply eaten whole over the sink, juices spilling down my chin, are all regular occurrences, but subjecting a peach to heat takes a bit more planning. If the fruit is too perfect, it disappears from its brown paper bag before I can even think about cooking; too soft and it won’t withstand the oven’s heat. But every so often I find a contender (or two), and on this occasion a pair of not-quite-perfect peaches made it into these simple little bun cakes. Continue reading
While I’d never say no to a mini egg, my Easter dessert of choice nowadays doesn’t tend to involve chocolate. I’d rather something zesty and bright to sit (slightly) lighter in the stomach, something I can serve with fresh fruit, make well in advance and bring out the next day for any friends and family popping round over the holiday. This flourless lemon, almond and ricotta cake fits that bill on all counts. Continue reading
After spending my first year of university in catered halls of residence, I lived in a house with seven of my very best friends for the remaining two. A single oven, fridge and hob between seven meant certain limitations on our culinary exploits and sharing took on a whole new meaning. I’ll never forget the exchange between one friend who discovered that the lasagne she’d lovingly made to share with her boyfriend had mouse-like nibbles taken out of it and the other who – more night owl than mouse – had drunkenly dug into it the night before and then promptly forgot. Continue reading
When I was fifteen I got my first mobile phone. Not your standard smart phone with fancy apps, a camera or even a colour screen; just a pink-cased Nokia brick which I used as a sort of portable telephone box to call my parents. Friends were contacted using our good old-fashioned landline and the internet (including the joy of MSN Messenger) accessed by via our clunky home PC. I didn’t spend much time online and any baking we did was inspired by my Mum’s extensive collection of recipe books, magazine cuttings and a little bit of imagination. Continue reading
Today we’re talking breakfast (again). Breakfast and whole-grains to be more precise: the subject of a beautiful new book which hasn’t left my kitchen counter since it arrived last week.
Wholegrain Mornings is, at face value, a book of breakfast recipes from food blogger, Megan Gordon. But it’s also so much more than that. Like her blog, A Sweet Spoonful, the book is understated yet compelling, an honest insight into Megan’s life: from the way she thinks her way around a kitchen to running a granola business to a long-distance love story with a wonderfully romantic ending. Continue reading
Despite being a classic dish from childhoods across generations and around the country, crumble isn’t something I’m tempted to make that often.
Growing up with an apple-farmer for a granny, crumble was (unsurprisingly) always made using fruit from her farm and there’s something about the texture of stewed apple that I’m just not that keen on. Whenever a crumble was served, I’d accept the portion offer, add extra ice cream then proceed to eat my way through the crunchy oat crust, leaving a lonely pile of fruit at the bottom of my bowl. Continue reading
Summer and strawberries go hand in hand. Wimbledon, barbecues and, being a summer baby, birthdays are all synonymous with a strawberry or two in my mind, the season kick starting with that first sweet burst at the end of May.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but memories of my childhood summers are dappled in sunshine, garden grass scorched by the sun as we took turns spraying each other with the hosepipe and praying that it wouldn’t be banned. As an adult, the Great British Summer seems a little wetter, certainly colder, the sky hung with clouds and even edible sunshine kept at bay with our strawberry season delayed by several weeks. Continue reading
With spring just around the corner, winter doesn’t seem quite ready to relinquish its icy grip. The mornings are bright, sunshine streaming through windows and skies clear and blue. By evening, the clouds have descended, rain transforming into snowy shards, shivers and umbrellas the order of the day. Continue reading
Chocolate almond pastry, chocolate frangipane & sweet, fresh cherries
How many times have you wanted to bake something only to be thwarted by a store cupboard shortage or lack of ingredients in your local shop?
This post is less of a recipe than a series of ideas and suggestions around a theme. While making drunken plum tart several times over Christmas, I fell more than a little in love with frangipane and have been looking for other ways to use it ever since. Previously I’d associated frangipane with the sickly sweet almond filling you often find in croissants – a heavier, altogether different beast from the light, sweet simplicity of the version I made at home. With a new-found favourite and a new technique added to my baking repertoire, I was keen to get experimenting.