Ever since Nino celebrated his second birthday, we’ve been talking almost daily about what kind of cake family members will be getting for their upcoming birthdays. For Grandpa there was polenta cake, rolled out annually on request (with ever so slight variations to satisfy my urge to experiment). Daddy wants a whiskey one next January. Nino was shocked to discover that his Nonna isn’t that keen on cake, nor is a close toddler friend, but we’ve now been to enough birthdays with caterpillars and rainbows and tray bakes to establish a playing field to work from and, after much debate, we’ve hit on a lemon sponge with fresh strawberry buttercream to make for me at the end of the month.
My go-to is almost always chocolate so it’s refreshing to be pointed in a different direction by my mini kitchen sidekick and I’m excited to make and taste his fruity creation. But before then, chocolate cravings still call – thank goodness for an uncle with a birthday before mine and a last minute lunch invite creating the need to whip up an easy one bowl chocolate cake for a sunny Sunday afternoon. Continue reading
Let’s talk about courgettes. Or zucchini. Whatever you call them, it’s impossible to avoid their charms and abundance during the summer months. When we were in Italy a few weeks back our neighbour gifted us a bowl of freshly picked courgettes and their flowers which we respectively grilled, grated into a frittata with pecorino and softened in butter. Back in the UK we picked an enormous bag full from the local farm and while most made it into savoury dishes, I couldn’t resist saving a few for some sweeter baking experiments. Continue reading
Three years ago my debut cookbook, Homemade Memories, hit the shelves. I adored the process, a labour of love written, tested and tasted during the evenings and on weekends whilst working a full time job. The day after my book launch, I found out I was pregnant and since then Nino has been born and his little sister is cooking up nicely for her summer arrival. I guess you could say this book was my first baby, a trial run of late nights and hard work and ever so slight obsession. When I was working on the book, people often asked how I managed to find the time. But if you truly love, believe in and benefit from something, somehow you make time, whether it’s baking, or jogging or juggling a family alongside a career.
That’s what I’d like to believe, anyway. Recently – most likely due to our house move last weekend – the scales of work and family and personal projects feel slightly off kilter. Suffice to say I’m excited for maternity leave, for nesting in our new family home, spending time with Luke, Nino and our imminent arrival and reconnecting with the kitchen. Everyone knows new baby visits must be accompanied by cake, right? So there will be cake. And scones and biscuits and bringing out the ice cream machine in time for hot summer days spent in the garden without dreaded commutes or deadlines. I’ll be making a lot from Homemade Memories – is it odd to bake from your own book? It truly is a collection of my favourite recipes, so I suppose not. Anyway, I’d love for you to make things from it too, so in the spirit of moving house and discovering some spares (!) plus the thrill of a third birthday and need for celebration, I’m giving away three signed copies. Continue reading
Crisp meringue layered with fruit and softly whipped cream is what British summers are made for. Nino has recently discovered ‘I spy’, or a two year old interpretation thereof. The game more than often involves him naming a noun (most likely an animal, food stuff or vehicle) then demanding that I ‘do a [insert cat, ice cream, tractor] mummy’. I’ll name the letter with which it begins, provide a couple of clues then wait for his excited answer. Repeat ad infinitum. This weekend we were baking and I kicked off the round with an ‘M’. Clue: ‘it’s crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle and made from eggs. Nino helped mummy whisk it up and we’re going to fill it with whipped cream and blackberries.’ To which he replied, after serious consideration . . . ‘it’s a yummy pavlova’. Well, you can’t win them all. Continue reading
A few weeks back our family shared a slice of the most magnificent mango cheesecake. Buttery biscuit base, the creamiest of cream cheese fillings and a juicy, generous portion of mango with pistachios, passion fruit and pomegranate seeds. Sharing puddings isn’t in my nature – my second ‘sweet stomach’ operates at generous capacity and I try not to share with my husband simply because he consumes at such breathtaking speed you have to speed eat the dish in question to be in with the chance of even a taste – but on this occasion a mouthful or two felt like it would fit the bill. A big mouthful for Daddy, a medium mouthful for Mummy and a teeny tiny mouthful for Nino, as our two year old still happily recounts, Goldilocks style. Continue reading
Making memories is a wonderful thing. Ever since we’ve had Nino, each time a celebration rolls round I get a little twinkle of excitement at the thought of how I can recreate the fond traditions of Luke and my childhoods. Summer holidays with sandy toes and sticky ice creams, unwrapping presents at Christmas, Mothers Day lunches and chocolaty Easters. For as long as I can remember, my mum would organize an Easter egg hunt in and around the house and garden, working so well on their hiding places that tiny, shiny eggs would appear in the most unexpected places months after the actual event. One year we wondered why she’d disappeared during a dinner party at our flat, only to discover on getting into bed those same tiny, shiny surprises hidden under our pillows, mattress and tucked into our pajamas.
This blog has never been a hugely controversial space. I don’t tend to talk about politics, haven’t voiced my opinions on Europe or the horrors of what’s happening with the American presidency. Since having Nino there’s been plenty of parent chat; on birth, sleeping, eating, breastfeeding, but although I have my opinions on all of the above, I’m not going to go out of my way to pass judgement on others. Parenting is an incredible, but also incredibly tough, gig, and the last thing any mother needs is someone criticising the myriad choices she has to make on a daily basis. So when, last week, a blog reader compared giving a mouthful of cookie to my one year old with offering him alcohol and cigarettes, I was more than a little bit miffed. Continue reading
This time last year we were still in hospital. Forty eight hours after he was born, Nino had an emergency balloon septostomy in the paediatric intensive care unit of the Royal Brompton Hospital, a precursor to the open heart surgery he would undergo nine weeks later. I can remember sitting waiting for him to wake from the anaesthetic as if it was yesterday: the flutter and fall of his tiny chest, the sleepy beeps of a dozen life support machines, the artificial light illuminating our twenty four hour world and the sweet nurse suggesting, gently, for the eleventh time that I try to get some sleep myself. Continue reading
This week Nino started his settling in sessions at nursery. Having seen him through countless hospital visits, scans and over ten hours of open heart surgery, you’d think I could handle leaving him a cosy room surrounded by toys and a loving team of staff for a few hours. Not so much. It’s been a week of tears, and not all of them Nino’s. Separation anxiety, it seems, isn’t just for babies. Continue reading
Last year we celebrated Luke’s birthday with a bottomless brunch, the tables filled with food, nearly 30 friends and endless bellinis. Being heavily pregnant, I replaced my alcohol calories with a lot of toast, two platefuls of miniature desserts and likely at least one more croissant than is socially acceptable, soaking up the atmosphere and pondering what we’d be doing for the next birthday as a newfound family of three. Fast forward one year and Luke spent a much more low key couple of hours in the local pub while I stayed at home sticky with Calpol as I snuggled a feverish baby to sleep. When he arrived home at the rock and roll hour of six thirty, Luke promptly fell fast asleep on Nino’s activity mat whilst tidying up his toys (true story), but not before he’d hoovered up a large slice of this peanut butter and jam mini cake. Life as we know it has changed unrecognisably, but wherever there’s a birthday, there will always be cake. Continue reading