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
Peanut butter and jam is something I’ve come to later in life. I grew up on butter and Marmite for breakfast, melted and scraped over slightly burnt toast or mashed together and spread on bread (which will sound delicious or disgusting depending on your love/hate stance). My Dad would mix peanut butter into his Marmite (which definitely sounds disgusting, regardless of your stance) but combining it with jam just isn’t something that happened in our household. Continue reading
Meringues will always make me think of my Granny.
Not my paternal grandmother – a skilled home baker whose larder was always stocked with a homemade chocolate cake, fluffy scones or knobbly rock buns the size of a fist – but my mother’s Mum. The same amazing woman who would serve stale Maltesers had little interest in baking, producing meringues from a packet and filling them with cream from a can, yet somehow this dessert remains utterly magical in my memory. Continue reading
With spring just around the corner, winter doesn’t seem quite ready to relinquish its icy grip. The mornings are bright, sunshine streaming through windows and skies clear and blue. By evening, the clouds have descended, rain transforming into snowy shards, shivers and umbrellas the order of the day. Continue reading
Celebrity chefs are making us fat.
Or so the media might have you believe. According to recent research from the British Medical Journal, recipes from the likes of Jamie, Hugh and Nigella are less healthy than a supermarket ready meal. The study shows these recipes to contain, on average, considerably more calories and saturated fat than their pre-packaged counterparts, casting the latter in a much more favourable light. Continue reading
First up, a quick note to say that thelittleloaf is now on Facebook! If you read this blog and would like to see more recipes, photos and links, I’d love it if you’d head on over and ‘like’ my page.
I can clearly remember the first time I tasted maple syrup. My brother had a friend from Canada and one year he came back from his holidays with a little glass bottle of viscous amber liquid for us. I’d never tasted anything quite like it: silky textured and distinctively flavoured, like honey, but not and sweet as sweet can be.
We treasured that tiny container – this was a treat from all the way from across the pond with little likelihood of being replaced – and eked it out in little portions. My favourite way to eat this syrup, bizarrely, was straight up, poured over raw porridge oats and left to macerate for a few minutes until the mixture became beautifully soft and sweet. I’m sure my dentist – and my Mum – would have any number of objections but in my defence, this odd concoction probably wasn’t so very much worse than any of the sugar filled breakfast cereal options out there nowadays (it’s a tenuous excuse, but I’m sticking to it). Continue reading
Raspberry cupcakes topped with a chocolate ganache swirl
Aga toast is probably the best toast in the world.
Other than that, and the occasional slow-cooked one-pot wonder, I’m not an enormous fan of agas. Aside from the fact that I’d boil to death were we to install one in our tiny London kitchen (that is, if it’s great weight didn’t cause it to fall through the floorboards to the foundations below), they can guzzle enormous amounts of gas and slightly scare the obsessive baker in me with their lack of precision dials and just four basic oven temperatures.
But they do make seriously good toast. Continue reading
Crispy, chewy, creamy chestnut meringue cake
With Christmas just around the corner, thoughts are turning to festive food. Turkeys, geese and glistening hams have already been ordered, mincemeat made for perfect pies, salmon smoked, butter brandied and puddings laden with boozy fruit stored. In the last week or so there’s been a creeping chill in the air, and suddenly all this hearty winter fare feels just that little bit more tempting.
For most, a Christmas spread wouldn’t be complete without stuffing, and when I think of stuffing, chestnuts come to mind. Associated with warmth and winter, chestnuts are in their element when roasted over hot coals, the toasty smells wafting temptingly through the streets as vendors tout their treats to passers by. The Christmas Song, composed in 1946 and sung by Nat King Cole, is alternatively titled ‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’ and conjures up all the cosily romantic images we so strongly associate with Christmas. There’s never been a better time to cook with these strong, sweet, shiny nuts.