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
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
Last weekend I was chatting to someone and mentioned that Nino isn’t going to be allowed refined sugar until he turns one. The topic came up because we were eating flapjacks which Nino was desperate to try – you know, that full body baby intention with propeller arms and slightly wild eyes – and this mean mama diverted his attention with a crust of bread instead. Lots of people I discuss this no-sugar rule with think it’s a perfectly sensible idea in an era where we’ve come to see the sweet stuff as the root of all evil, but this particular someone looked at me with the weary eyes of a parent of more than one child. ‘Wait til you’re onto littlest loaf number three, you’ll be feeding them birthday cake for breakfast without batting an eyelid’.
True as this may be, I’m sticking with the courage of my first time mum convictions for now and allowing Nino sugar only in the form of fruit, milk etc for the next two months. There’s a whole rainbow of incredible natural sweets he’s been working his way through before anything more processed. And although straight up juice is a no-no for those teeth (six so far with an adorable middle gap), when an irresistible urge to bake takes hold of me, there’s the possibility of naturally sweetened wholesome treats like these spelt and apple stars.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve spoken voluntarily in front of a big crowd. The first was at our wedding, where it just didn’t feel right to let the men do all the talking. My speech was short and mostly centred around our incredible cake (and Luke, of course), but nonetheless I stood up in front of 150 people and said my piece. The second was at the launch party for Homemade Memories (again talking about cake) and the third was Nino’s naming party. I can’t think of a much better reason to stand up and say some words than your first born overcoming ten hours of open heart surgery . . . Of course I’ve spoken at conferences for work and a few other events as well, but it isn’t something I relish or would naturally choose to do. I’m more of a conversation with close friends or pouring my heart out on the internet sort of person, as this space attests.
But I’m happy to say that I’m excited to be speaking at Stylist Live’s Foodie Friday on 14th October. In front of 150 people. Of course I’m a little bit terrified after months of maternity leave (and wondering whether I can do more than blow raspberries and sing a nursery rhyme or two), but I’ll be talking about food and blogging, two of the subjects closest to my heart. There will be a video (to take up some of my talking time), some slides (so you have something to look at when I forget my words) and of course some delicious Little Loaf samples baked by yours truly. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a whole lo of fun and I’d love you to come along too. So . . . Continue reading
A shop-bought Jaffa cake is one of those goodies somehow so much greater than the sum of its parts. The cake-y base is drier than you average sponge, the jelly too sticky to wobble and the outer coating too thin for a proper chocolate fix. Yet somehow, combined, these elements make a uniquely satisfying and more-ish mouthful. Better still, have you ever tried making your own Jaffa cakes at home? Now that’s where the magic really begins to happen . . .
With their fiery flavour and tooth-breaking crunch, ginger nuts – sometimes known as ‘snaps’ – regularly come top of ‘dunkability’ experiments. If you don’t have a cup of tea to hand but prefer something softer, a shop-bought ginger nut can be gently warmed in the oven or microwave. Just be careful with the timings or you’ll end up with incinerated biscuits, a wailing fire alarm and an angry university warden (I’m speaking from experience).
This year January has taken its cue from Christmas with gluttonous ease. Rather than observing an abstemious month of little or no alcohol, fewer desserts, low-fat-this and diet-that, we’ve eaten and drunk our way round London, Paris and Yorkshire. A birthday was celebrated several times over with rounds of cake and cocktails, an anniversary with an epic ice cream pie (more on that next week, just you wait) and Paris passed by in a blur of macarons, garlic butter and a Paris Brest the size of a tyre (albeit an elegant, pastry cream-filled one). Today we’re not going completely cold turkey, but these Apple, Maple & Walnut Cookies are at least a step in the right direction.
There’s something immensely satisfying about making your own dulce de leche. Unlike a cake where everything happens in the oven, this is a recipe where the transformation takes place in front of your eyes and under your spatula.
Over the weekend I had some fun experimenting with tea: tea infused butter, tea leaves ground into dough and this, tea-infused dulce de leche. As someone who doesn’t really drink tea, but loves the taste, this is a wonderful way to experience its flavours. Continue reading
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If my husband happened to be said man, you could pretty much guarantee his affection for life with a humble packet of fig rolls.
When he was little, Carnivorous Husband’s mum would always buy two packets of fig rolls at the supermarket: one to keep in the cupboard and one for my hungry husband-to-be to consume in one sitting. A couple of hundred miles away, at a similar age and unaware at this point that he even existed, I took a similar approach to a freshly baked loaf of bread. Some treats, it seems, are made to be savoured, others to be eaten in enormous quantities. Continue reading
Light, crispy, salty & crunchy – the perfect accompaniment to drinks
When I was little, before I discovered shopping and boys and all the other infinitely important distractions of adult life, one of my favourite things to do was help my Mum out with drinks and dinner parties. Actually, who am I kidding? It’s still one of my favourite things: the selection of ingredients and writing up lists, laying out platters and plating up dishes to make the food look as pretty and enticing as possible.
If you’ve ever wondered where to find me at a party, the kitchen is usually the best place to start. Continue reading