Courgette & Raisin Loaf Cake

Courgette & Raisin Loaf Cake - 3

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

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate

grapefruit-olive-oil-chocolate-loaf-1

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

Date, Apricot & Walnut Loaf Cake

Date, Apricot & Walnut Loaf Cake

Up until the end of my third trimester of pregnancy, the only things we had in our freezer were ice, a champagne jacket, frozen blueberries and petit pois. So much of what we eat is quick to cook or relies on an abundance of fresh ingredients, it barely seemed worth the hassle to prepare, pack and label portions of any given meal, let alone the time it would take to defrost before we wanted to eat. It wasn’t until the teacher at our ante-natal classes drew a twenty four hour clock portioned into hour long pieces for baby feeding, bathing and nappy changing on repeat that I realised a few pre-made meals might come in handy for the weeks after Nino arrived. Continue reading

Chai Spiced Pear Porridge + WIN Loaf.com Ceramics

Chai spiced porridge with mapled pears & pecans & cream

Today we’re doing something a little different. I’ve got a recipe for you – this creamy, comforting bowl of porridge jazzed up with mapled pears, spice and pecans to warm your autumn mornings – but there’s a little something extra on offer, too. I don’t own much in the way of ceramics. so the eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed that these rather charming breakfast bowls are new. New to me and potentially to you to as I’m offering one reader the chance to win a set, plus a copy of my book. It’s not often you see a sponsored or branded post in this space, but these gorgeous bowls come from a company called Loaf and with a name like that I simply couldn’t resist. Continue reading

A Little Loaf

little loaf
I’m keeping it short and sweet today but first of all, thank you. For your lovely comments on this post, but also for your emails, texts, Facebook messages and more. I’m overwhelmed by how many wonderful individuals there are out there and truly touched and humbled by your words of encouragement, stories and love.

Today we’re sticking with a carbohydrate theme and a loaf a little bigger than the one currently in my tummy (although he’s doing his very best to catch up with more kicks and wriggles every day). This recipe is originally from Homemade Memories and has been reproduced online by the lovely people at Design Sponge. It’s a gorgeous space and I’m honoured to have been featured. Continue reading

Squidgy Chocolate Apricot Loaf Cake

Chocolate Apricot Loaf Cake slice

If, like me, you watch more than your fair share of food programmes, you’ll be aware of a running theme. Every time a presenter takes a bite of the food they’ve just prepared or been served or discovered by the side of the road in some exotic country – Great British Bake Off judgement and soggy bottoms excluded – they declare it the best they’ve ever eaten. Food bloggers can be guilty of the same hyperbole – it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment that nothing else compares; it’s not exaggeration, it’s how you actually feel. So here goes . . . this is the most delicious chocolate loaf cake I have ever eaten.

Continue reading

Quick Courgette + Rosemary Bread

Courgette rosemary loaf

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…

[Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.’

M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating Continue reading

Banana, chocolate & walnut loaf

banana_bread

Sticky, moist banana loaf

Over the last few days I’ve seen quite a few blog posts cropping up with recipes recommending what to do with leftover Easter chocolate. Rocky road, tiffin, brownies, rice crispy cakes, chocolate cake, chocolate sauce and more; these are all suitably worthy resting places for those sad little eggs and shells that didn’t quite make it into the Easter morning binge. But to be honest, I’ve never really had this issue of ‘egg-cess’ (sorry), having subscribed to more of an ‘all or nothing’ approach to anything sweet from a young age. Consuming my own body weight in chocolate before Easter breakfast has now become pretty much standard practice.

Having said that, yesterday a little bit of Easter egg chocolate did manage to sneak its way into the mixing bowl as I was making my favourite banana loaf recipe. I’d returned home after Easter to a pile of soft, slightly blackened bananas and needed a recipe to salvage them pretty quickly, This sticky, moist banana loaf was the perfect answer- in fact, it simply doesn’t taste the same if the bananas you use aren’t blackened, squidgy and sickly sweet. And the addition of a few nuggets of deliciously dark chocolate prevents the richness of the banana from becoming overpowering.

chocolate_walnut_banana_loaf

Banana, chocolate & walnut – the perfect combination

I mentioned a few weeks ago my discovery of a delicious banana, chocolate and walnut loaf recipe on Gourmet Traveller ‘s blog. I’ve made it a few times since, tweaking the ingredients here and there, and the result is always spot on – dense, moist and nutty inside, crusty and golden on the top, with a richly intense banana flavour and little hits of chocolate. This loaf is delicious as a dessert with natural Greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream, the perfect tea-time snack served straight up, or an incredible indulgence toasted and smothered in butter. It’s really more of a cake than a loaf though, so arteries take heed if you do decide to go for this final option.

Banana, Chocolate and Walnut Loaf
(adapted from a Gourmet Traveller recipe)

4 large ripe bananas
100g unsalted butter, slightly soft
140g soft brown sugar
2 large free range eggs
50g walnuts, chopped
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa minimum), chopped
150ml semi-skimmed milk
140g plain flour
140g wholemeal flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 level tbsp demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with butter and line the base with baking parchment.

Peel and roughly mash the bananas with a fork. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Crack in the eggs and whisk further to combine, then stir in the mashed banana, walnuts, chocolate and milk. Stir thoroughly to incorporate all the ingredients – the banana means there may be a few lumps.

Sift the flours and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl and gently fold into the wet mixture until just combined. The key here is to work carefully to preserve the lightness of the cake batter. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf tin and sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour – you’ll know it’s done when a metal skewer inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. If it’s still wet with batter, pop your loaf back in the oven for another 15 minutes, covering with foil if the top is browning too much. When cooked, remove from oven and leave to sit for 5 minutes before transferring the loaf out onto a wire ack to cool completely.

Golden, salty, oily focaccia

Having recently eaten some good, but slightly unremarkable, focaccia at Gemma Tuley’s Fulham restaurant, Manson, I wanted to have a go at making my own. I’m loving The River Cottage Bread handbook at the moment so I decided to trust Daniel Stevens’ detailed directions and advice and give his recipe a go.

Freshly_baked focaccia

My reward was an incredible pillow of beautiful golden bread, studded with salt crystals and speckled with crispy baked rosemary. The shallow finger wells collected little pools of fruity olive oil, and a good ten minutes of dedicated kneading resulted in a slightly aerated dough with little air pockets that made this really look and taste like the real thing. Focaccia seems to be a pretty forgiving dough, so if you’re fairly new to bread baking, I definitely recommend giving this a go.

Focaccia_fresh_from_oven

Homemade Italian Focaccia (quantities adapted slightly from The River Cottage Bread Handbook to match my 7g sachet of yeast)

700g strong white bread flour, Italian ’00 if possible
7g powdered yeast
14g fine salt
480ml warm water
1 tbsp olive oil plus extra to finish
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped and torn
A good sprinkle of flaky sea salt

Combine the flour, salt, yeast and water in a bowl to form a sticky dough. Add the oil, then turn the dough onto a clean worksurface and knead until smooth and silky, around 10 mins.

Shape the dough into a round and return to the cleaned bowl. Wrap the bowl in a black bin liner and leave to rise in a warm place for around an hour (this weekend it was so gorgeous I left mine to rise in the sunshine in the back garden). When it has doubled in size, tip it onto the work surface and press into a rough rectangle.

Place dough on a lightly oiled baking tray and leave to rise, wrapped back up in the bin liner, for around 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees C/Gas Mark 10 (basically the highest your oven will go).  Press your focaccia dough all over with your fingers to form deep pockets (these will later collect all that delicious oil, salt and rosemary), drizzle with olive oil and scatter with salt and rosemary.

Bake for 15 mins, then turn down the heat if browning too quickly, and bake another 5-10 mins.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly. Focaccia is delicious served warm, so if you don’t want to eat it straight away, you can reheat in a low oven just before serving.

Homemade_focaccia

Once you’ve made this recipe you’ll come back to it time and again. You can also try different toppings and flavour combinations – I love it with black olives and a sprinkling of red onion which caramelizes beautifully on the golden crust. Or sundried tomatoes distributed through the dough, different pestos and cheeses, nuts, thyme instead of rosemary . . . the list in endless.