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
I’m hoping a suitably refreshing ice cream recipe in this scorching weather will make up for radio silence the last few weeks. We’ve just got back from two weeks in Italy split between three locations – a dear friend’s wedding, my parents’ house up in the Tuscan mountains and down by the sea in Senigallia, a sweet little town in Le Marche we’ve been visiting since I was seven. Nino stayed up well past his bedtime on multiple occasions, got to play properly in the sea and sand for the very first time, dined in a Michelin starred restaurant and ate mussels, clams, whole prawns (sucking the ‘prawn brains!’ from their heads with unabashed glee), wild boar and rabbit for the first time. We ate equally well, soaked up plenty of sunshine and indulged in the gift that is grandparental babysitting including an – unheard of – day of lunching and lounging by ourselves. All in all, it was bliss.
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
When I was pregnant with Nino, brownies and ice cream were my Sunday evening indulgence. It wasn’t a pregnancy craving per se: brownies and ice cream are the treat that never fails to cheer me up, my dessert island dessert. But I’m pretty sure I ramped up consumption during those nine months. Ice cream, vinegar, beef mince 😉 This time round, however, baby girl – or the body containing said baby girl, to be precise – has different ideas. Ice cream still appeals but eating it any later than lunchtime simply isn’t on the cards. If you suffer with heartburn outside of pregnancy, my heart goes out to you (quite literally, it burns). So last weekend, after dinner, I sadly ignored the good stuff calling to me from the freezer and – feeling disproportionately sorry for myself – looked to the cupboards instead to rustle up something sweet.
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
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
Before I had Nino, it used to annoy me when people told me that I wouldn’t understand a particular something or story until I was a parent. It sounds so patronising, so exclusive, that this club you’re not yet a member of has this deeper understanding of a situation that your single self can’t yet comprehend. My mum would say the same thing with books of hers I’d borrow – you’ll appreciate it more when you’re older, as a mother – which I’d resolutely ignore, assuming my teenage self to have all the emotional capacity (surely more?) of a grown up adult. But the thing about those parents, my mum? They’re right. Continue reading
On Saturday, I went out to dinner with girlfriends for the first time in months. Before having Nino I couldn’t comprehend parents who never went out, always assumed it was easy but – (not such a ) news flash – it’s not. There’s a reason why all those friends with kids smile wryly and forecast the end to your social life as soon as you tell them you’re pregnant. Being a parent is wonderful in more ways than can be imagined, but it can also be repetitive, tough and – unless you have a live in nanny, endless family or an even more endless supply of cash – full time. Add into the mix a not-so good sleeper, breastfeeding on demand and separation anxiety (both Nino’s and mine), and you’re talking stay-at-home central. 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.