Easter Chocolate Cake

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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.

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Chewy Chocolate, Oat & Raisin Cookie Bars

One of the (many) things I love about having a little person in my life is the way he’s made me reappraise my relationship with people I don’t know. Sitting on the quieter side of the social spectrum and living in London where everyone (with a few exceptions) is happy to go about their daily lives without so much as a ‘good morning’, I’m not much one for speaking to strangers if I don’t have to. But it’s impossible not to wave and smile along with Nino’s uninhibited attempts to make friends with any and everyone. Over the past year I’ve found myself striking up conversations in the shops and playground or on the bus. And even the surliest of strangers find it hard not to crack a smile at his full bodied, double handed wave. It’s incredibly sweet to watch.  Continue reading

Millionaire’s Shortbread with Salty Peanuts

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Millionaire’s shortbread
is something of staple in my baking repertoire, second only to brownies, perhaps cookies, in the list of simple treats I’ll bake when called on to bring something sweet to a special occasion. Like brownies, I’ve got a favourite recipe (ok three, on rotation) but I’m not averse to a little tinkering here and there. These lovely little morsels were my contribution to a baby shower this weekend just gone, and although it’s hard to beat the classic, I may have to throw a handful of salty peanuts into every batch of millionaire’s shortbread I make from now on, they’re so damn delicious.  Continue reading

Chocolate Banana ‘Nice Cream’ with Blackberry Compote & Hazelnut Crunch (Vegan)

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Judging by all the gingerbread, peppermint, cranberry and brandy recipes that have been landing my inbox of late, this simple ice cream isn’t exactly on trend for this time of year. With no refined sugar, no dairy and an absence of alcohol, it’s possibly more suited to the New Year, New You party which rolls around with guilt-incuding speed just as you’re polishing off that Christmas selection box you found down the back of the sofa. But I’m posting it today because, despite its short ingredient list and surprising vegan credentials, this chocolate banana ‘nice cream’ tastes luxurious enough to serve alongside any more indulgent dessert as you celebrate the season.  Continue reading

Emiko Davies’ Pear & Chocolate Cake

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It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster in the little loaf household of late. About ten days ago Nino started saying ‘mama’ in a very deliberate way, calling me back if I disappeared round a corner or snuggling in and saying it rather than the indiscriminate sound making we’ve been hearing a little longer. My heart is fit to burst and it’s literally the sweetest word I’ve ever heard, but at the same time this cognitive leap seems to have brought with it possibly the hardest behaviour we’ve seen to date. Our usually sunny little man has been grumbling and fussing, clinging round my ankles, waking multiple times each night and resisting sleep with a renewed and infuriating fervour for someone clearly so in need of it. Until you become a mum it’s impossible to understand how you could love one little person so deeply and completely, yet at times want to pop them in a padded room, pour yourself a stiff drink and sleep, uninterrupted, for a week.

Today our little sleep resister turns ten months old. I know this fussy phase will pass (until the next one, that is . . .) but am also wary of wishing a single day away. With less than two months of maternity leave left I’m trying to live in the moment and soak up each precious morsel of my baby, so in the spirit of celebration (and because my sleep deprived brain might forget if I don’t write it down), here’s what we’ve been particularly loving about you this month, sweet boy.   Continue reading

Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

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A few days before our 20 week appointment when I was pregnant with Nino, I remember reading an article about things you should look out for. After entering into the (relative) safety of the second trimester, it’s easy to think that this second pregnancy scan is all about the gender reveal – a subject of divisive debate between the ‘surprise!’ camp and those who are desperate, indeed need to know – but your stenographer is looking for a lot more than a pair of balls as she swipes cold jelly over your ever-expanding belly. There’s the baby’s brain and spine, fingers and toes, stomach and kidneys, position in the womb and position of the placenta. And then, of course, there’s his (or her) heart.  Continue reading

Festive Chocolate Biscuit Cake with Cranberries, Pistachios & Ginger

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Now that Halloween and Bonfire Night are out the way, I feel like I’m legitimately allowed to mention the C-word. I’m not normally one to plan the festivities too far in advance, but since a certain little person arrived in our lives I’ve been looking forward to his first Christmas and the magic it will bring. There’s a stocking embroidered with Nino’s name that I’m hoping will last a lifetime, his very first decoration for the tree (we have a tradition of getting a new bauble or item to hang every year), matching jumpers to wear, stories to read and a long list of presents to buy, even if he’s (inevitably) more interested in the the boxes they arrive in. And then of course – although I’m not allowing Nino refined sugar til he’s one (mean mummy) – there’s dessert to plan for the grown ups in attendance.  Continue reading

Fig, Dark Chocolate & Almond Flapjacks

 

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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

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Few things make you appreciate the passage of time like a baby. This time last year I was five months pregnant, just starting to feel the movement and weight of his little life inside me. Now that (not so) little is careering round our kitchen, shrieking with delight as he masters each new trick. Nino’s lived in the outside world almost as long as he spent in my tummy and October has well and truly arrived with its crisp, bright mornings and chill in the air. We’ve started putting on the heating in the nursery again, our families are discussing Christmas and as the nights draw in I’m seeking comfort in autumnal offerings of squash, spice and all things nice.  Continue reading

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate

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Long enough ago to make me feel extremely old, I met my husband-to-be at university. We were young, in love and, being students, didn’t really go on dates. There were late nights clubbing, bacon sandwiches eaten on scruffy sofas and a few ‘fancy’ suppers when housemates were out, but mostly we just spent time together without needing to label it a ‘date’. As we got older there were meals out and tasting menus, holidays, birthdays, trips to the cinema and all the usual things that couples do. It was easy; spending time together didn’t need a second thought.

I’ve owned a copy of Ashley Rodriguez’s Date Night In since it published a couple of years ago (check out this ice cream cake), but it wasn’t until our little man blazed his way into the world and made us a family of three that I truly understood the sentiment behind her words. Since he started a new job and I went on maternity leave, Luke and I have arguably spent much more time together during the week, yet somehow there are days when I find myself missing him. Or missing the ease of existing alongside him before we had this extra human to care for and entertain. Life as a parent is brilliant and bettering and blissful, but it can also be all-consuming and pretty tough at times. Suddenly you’re sharing not just your heart but your time with this new little life, and making space to appreciate, talk to and love my favourite grown up boy alongside our baby sometimes takes a conscious effort. Continue reading