fawn and burnt siena | summer rome

Rome apparently has seven hills and we seemed to have climbed at least eight in our first few hours alone . The Trastevere district where we had hired our apartment was very hilly, it transpired, but none of these hills were one of the actual seven. The neighborhood's sidewalks were roughly paved, disturbed where the roots of the Mediterranean stone pines had heaved upwards fortissimo. The leafy streets were flanked by town houses, standing proud and lean in gardens and terraces shaded by spiky palms, lemon and orange trees. The houses were balconied; wrought iron in deep black, set against the earth tones of each facade. Not newly painted; not peeling, shades of fawn and burnt siena, wooden shutters always a degree lighter than the stucco and framing the window. Even for someone like me - probably a good deal colder than the balmy sun-warmed stone around us - it was not hard to imagine Juliette stepping out onto a balcony and calling out to Romeo on the street below. Maybe because that was Verona there was no one out on the street except my sister and I, entranced by the green and the walls and the climbs.

We'd heard horror stories of entrance queues for any famous monument so arrived early at the Roman Forum, with the Circus Maximus and the Colloseum under the same ticket. The Forum and Circus were almost eerily empty before the tourist buses arrived, the complex much bigger than I imagined. The ancient Romans got around, that was clear, and they liked building things. Red, dusty earth swirled under our feet as we padded through the remnants of the government and financial heart of the ancient city. It was signposted, but there was no clear route and the Romans didn't seem to have ease of understanding for foreign visitors centuries later as their main concern. Some say to get a guide or an audio tour, but a bit of imagination and rusty roman history seemed to be enough. Cream swathes of material; togas and laurel; twins raised by wolves.  It was no later than 10am, best, and the temperatures were pushing 34 Celsius. The kind of arid heat that moves over the ground in a haze and dries it to a blushing shade of auburn red, and the trees to muted olive green that appears brushed by a sepia overlay. We stopped in the shade of a cedar, for a drink. I held out the bottle of water to my sister. Et tu, Brute, I said to her, and we moved on. 

There were crowds in the Colosseum in chaotic groups waving selfie sticks, which seemed a pretty fair re-enactment of the real thing, perhaps without the selfie sticks. So instead we walked, as we always do, up a hill, since this was Rome, there was at least a one in seven chance you'd be climbing, but the climb also seemed to filter out a good chunk of the tourists. There were walled gardens, loosely attached to convents and monastaries, where the sisters ambled in the shade, bright white contrasts against the walls in their spectrum of pinks and reds. The shades were like wine glasses on a connoisseur's table, and probably in the hands of more prudent tourists on the buzzy terraces below. The local primary school had come to the park for games, nannies played with their toddler charges in the shade of orange trees and the views stretched far over the River Tiber, the sky so blue it was almost gray, punctuated by the domes of St Peter's Cathedral and the Vatican in the distance.

We had not particularly intended to hit up every tourist site in Rome but I wanted to see Via del Corso, the famous shopping street, and it happened that the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps were in walking distance of each other. The ancient Romans' renaissance counterparts seemed more forward looking in terms of their town planning. We went first to the Pantheon and we might as well have started by being shot in the head. Nothing would have the same impact. It was so foreign but familiar, so silent when the marble on the walls seemed to scream so loud, the handful of tourists inside moved in slow motion but with a sense of urgency, because it was like the whole building was a dream, and if you woke up it would all be over. There had been a sign which baffled Layla and I on the way in - it told visitors not to lie down. Who would go into a monument and lie down? But we could then see why, there was an odd power in the way white light seemed to flood through the dome and reach every corner of the building. Visitors wandered out, slower than they had entered, back into the piazza and shielded their eyes with their hands, blinded by morning sun. The carabinieri, a police-military hybrid that seem to hang out, benignly, on every street corner in Rome, must have got a real kick out of seeing the smugness on pretentious tourists' faces transformed into a blank look of total awe when they emerged.

The streets around the Pantheon and Via del Corso seemed to pump all sorts of blood through Rome - financial, artistic, historic, the fashionable edge. I had warmed to our temporary Trastevere home, but it was defintely the more 'boho', young, neighborhood, and I had been amused and impressed - the local-produce stores, trendy cafes and the raw food place were so, well, LA.   Via del Corso was where the shiny Italian designers congregated in the old Renaissance buildings and was a study in Italian street style, so lessons from the best. A man in a sharp blue suit and polished leather loafers lit a cigarette on the doorstep of Valentino, a white Vespa leant against the wall of D&G, a salesgirl with skin an enviable shade of caramel eased the shutters off the door to Salvatore Ferragamo, all in a days work. The stereotype that Italians know how to dress was remarkably accurate; girls all in black linen and white shoes, the male uniform of blue suits, all rode shining Vespas, most were dark haired, no one looked tired and no one was pale, maybe there's something in the coffee. Despite this also being the tourist heartland there was not a single Starbucks or chain coffee shop to be found, in general far fewer than I had expected, but you could smell the freshly roasted beans from each hole in the wall cafe and wafting out of ground-floor apartments. The modern Romans, it seemed, lived well in their charming Renaissance buildings, gestured enthusiastically while talking, had the most cute and cheerful bambino, drove their Fiats with fervour and took their dogs wherever they could.

I took a half-hearted jog up to the Piazza Garibaldi early one morning to see if I could beat the tourists and the heat to a sunrise view. The rising sun was partially blocked by the night blanket of cumulus puffs, on their way out but the skies seemed painted by streaks. The clouds were heather gray and soft lavender, girly peach and sweet caneteloupe, breaking to the lightest blue in parts. The domes of the Vatican bloomed round and classic in pale beige, the huge war memorial of the Piazza Venezia a solid slab of pillared white marble, the rest of the skyline punctuated by the pixel-squares of townhouses and cathedrals unchanged for centuries. Doves swooped and plunged in the middle distance and church bells rang, each chime bringing to life the stories of empire, demise, rebirth, creation. The metallic notes made me realize that one thing we forgot to do was to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, which would supposedly meant a certain return to Rome. But then I knew I'd be back. There was still a  fog of cobbled squares we hadn't yet touched, there were hushed streets where dogs barked from behind iron gates, there were lines of cypress trees against the titian facades of sunkissed villas, and morning light would still stream through the shaft in the roof of the Panthenon. 


hello all :) Rome was, in all honesty, one of the most beautiful European cities I've visited. We did so much more than I talked about here (we even went out to the countryside one day, but that's a post in itself) and I could just go on about the beautiful buildings and people and sunshine... if you're jealous I get it. Anyways now we're back, I should hopefully be baking again soon, since aaalll the summer fruit is here and I have a few plans for this space over the next few months.
Hope you're all enjoying these warmer days. Ciao xx


he'll be looking skyward | strawberry - oat muffins

For the last few weeks while I was studying for exams I was working at my dad's desk since mine is just too small. He's not here right now and he won't be back until August, so the arrangement seemed to make sense. There are a couple of bookshelves next to the desk and when my thoughts inevitably drifted as I was studying I found myself scanning the names of the folders, the books, the files. They seem to say so much about him. Maybe that's obvious? That if you look at a person's shelves, they do, typically reflect that person? But what's interesting with dad's shelves is that they're not necessarily scream this is me, these are my tastes and interests. There's an anonymous blue binder with a white label, the words "Naturelink Africa" typed in nice neat, clear script. A couple of others like that, a bit like pins on a world map. On the top shelf there's a model of a little crane, the kind that lift containers onto ships in ports, there are copies of the Nederlands - Engels Technisch Wordenboek; the Dutch to English technical dictionary and the 2016-2017 edition of the trade hardware store's catalogue. Books on Spanish, Portuguese and French, the Lloyds Maritime Atlas. There's the floppy cover of a scrapbook we made forhim years ago when we were spending chunks of time apart, a bit like this year. On the sill in front of the desk, porcelain models of the canal houses in Amsterdam. He has this other shelf, it's tall and narrow and just perfectly fits CD cases, the covers always take me back to when I was five or six.

I used to only go into his office when dad had been there and the lights were on, because it was quite a dark room and the shelves seemed to dominate the walls, I was also scared of the paintings of Egyptians (don't ask), but when I did, I was oddly entranced. I remember sitting in his office chair, just a basic plastic affair on wheels, that would spin around, and I would sort through all his CDs. They're all there, the original gang, Bon Jovi's Keep the Faith, Prince's Greatest Hits, The Best of REM. I remember thinking the shelf looked like an appartment block, one of those really basic buildings that were just above shanty towns. Dad travelled, in my mind, to those places, with those kinds of flats. I travelled too, from that young age, but never to anywhere remotely industrial or 'grim'. He told us stories, about where his work took him. I was (and still am) one of those people who could spin out clear mental pictures from descriptions and I had my pictures of cargo ships and dusty docks. The chefs on American ships who talked too fast when dad tried to order his eggs for breakfast, Nigerian border patrols who shot at his car, epic Mozambican floods, tapped phone lines on a one-off trip to North Korea. My favorite were the stories about the dolphins in Turkey who'd swim right into the port. People ask me about what my dad does, he probably sounds like some kind of special agent or something... it's always made me laugh that it was nothing so exciting, just port work. Shipping and bagging things, finding ways to move them around.

Movement. What he does for a living. My dad is one of the restless... in all senses of the word. He, like me, apparently shakes his leg when he's trying to fall asleep and jolts his knee up and down when he's sitting. He paces when he's on the phone, so do I. He trips when we're out walking because he'll be looking skyward, following the trails of jets and helicopters, he's always driven with this reckless caution. It's like his foot hovers above the accelerator, that he could drive so much faster than he does but he won't because it's not worth it and he doesn't need to. He's travelled for work as long as I can remember, buried in a box somewhere I have a barbie in traditional Vietnamese clothes, Chinese fans, cuddly lions, camels and monkeys... Maybe all this shows in the fact that I can identify the shipping company when I see a container on a truck and that trucks with containers were my favorite part of taking the ferry to France. When my sister and I used to play with Lego we would make them go on epic overland road trips through savage mountains, now when I'm studying law thing it's the shipping cases I find easiest to remember. Maybe it brings us closer to him. 

 It's hard to explain but despite us spending so much more time, in reality, with our mum than dad I always find it strange how much his niche lifestyle, his wanderer spirit have spread to all of us. I know all families have their own words for things, but I don't know how many others have the need for synonyms like agw (all going well, I should be in some airport or other by a certain time but this is unlikely), or have regular discussions about Heathrow terminals. I have said it before, he doesn't realize how much he's a part of us - passively, as opposed to my mum's active role as the present parent, who sat me down to do homework as best I could and taught me to thank the bus driver, and smile at him too. She did an A* job of raising a polite and decent human, but I think we can all attribute my quirks to dad. He was there even if he wasn't, like the Colorado River flowing through rock, over the years, and slowly carving out something as iconic as the Grand Canyon, just by doing what it does naturally.  

I don't really know what the message of all this text is meant to be, actually nothing grand or philosophical. Funny how someone so phlegmatic and unflappable can still be such a wanderer. He's thought it, I've thought it, we all have, maybe things would have been different if he'd been your average 9 to 5 dad... maybe they would, maybe we would. Maybe it would have crushed his spirit if he wasn't submerged in some kind of foreign element, driving a pick up over dirt roads and crossing African borders. I had sort of half written this post, mentally, sitting at his desk, drifting from cases and statutes, my fidgety hands pulled the model crane off the shelf and my thoughts wandered to the next place. The windows were open and a breeze whipped through, right to the dark ends of the room where his suit was on a hanger, and the wind ruffled it a bit. The door slammed, I jumped, from picturing him, as I always did. A formal blue shirt and a big wood desk, some indoor plants around, AC blowing in tropical sun. Calm, solid and familiar, but always someplace else. 

"Once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return" Leonardo da Vinci

Happy Father's Day, dad, and thank you for everything (not least for eating my food), today and always xx

Hello again, after another looong hiatus. Hope you're all doing well and enjoying this heatwave craziness if you're in Europe. I made these muffs a while ago to send with my dad since muffins freeze well and I wanted to share them because they are just so good. They're very light and fluffy without sticking to the muffin liners (this is a triumph for me) and have such a nice vanilla tone with a little chew from the oats. The berries are sweet and chunky and really steal the show with the bright bursts of pink fruit. So good for spring and summer. You can use any berry you'd like instead of the strawberries, these are a great template to use all year.
Big shout out to all the dads, grandpas and father figures out there. I really don't think you're given credit for what you do, as compared to mothers, but I know my family wouldn't be the same without them and their calm, steady support. 
Love and muffins xx
 

Strawberry - oat muffins

Gluten free      //     makes 16-18  muffins

1 cup (100g) oat flour
1 cup (100g) rolled oats
1/2 cup (60g) brown rice flour or millet flour
1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
6 tablespoons (95ml) pure maple syrup
2 free range eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (250ml) milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond)
1 tablespoon lemon juice / acv     (or use 1 cup/250ml buttermilk in place of the lemon juice and milk)

2 cups-ish / 300g strawberries


Preheat the oven to 190'C, 375'F. Line (or oil) two muffin pans, for around 18 muffins.

Measure your milk of choice into a mug or measuring cup and add the lemon juice or vinegar. Set aside while you continue with the recipe, for impromptu buttermilk. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the oat flour, rolled oats, brown rice flour, salt and leavening things. 

Prep your berries - wash them and pat them gently dry. Hull the berries then cut them as you wish - larger pieces will leave jammy pockets, smaller slices will leave a little berry in each bite, so it's your call.

In another medium bowl, beat together the oil, maple, vanilla and eggs. Retrieve your faux buttermilk and add to the bowl, beat to combine. Gently stir the berries into the dry mix so they are coated in flour, then pour the wet into the dry and stir to just combine. Try not to rough the berries around toooo much. 

Fill your muffin liners about 2/3 full, with about 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) each. 
Bake for around 18-22 minutes, till a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, and the tops are golden. 

Let the muffs cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack. They will keep in airtight container for about 3 days on the counter, or will freeze and defrost really well.

 


in that split second | peanut butter & banana trail cookies

It feels like it's been a long time since I last visited this space. The boring truth is that there aren't that many readers and since things are pretty hectic with exams and week of work experience I thought I'd just post less. I have these cookies and some muffins that I baked ages ago - there's a bit of a weird time lag since I actually had prepared the other (muffin) post a couple of weeks earlier, but whatever. Anyway, I just thought I'd say hi. 

I have been working on this post for three weeks,  maybe that shows the extent of my exam-fatigue (which is a thing). I had my first law exam on Thursday... criminal law. We were with the marketing (as in the course, not PR ha) people which was apparently where all the cool kids were and they left after an hour, all the law losers were still scrambling, it was amusing. The questions were ok I guess. Hard to say. Fingers crossed for the foreseeable future, lots of waiting for 11:11. If you have a spare wish, direct it here. Just over a week until the next paper (but I'm working next week so it doesn't really count). It's going to be so strange when it's all over - I'll be so free. I can't remember the last time when I just woke up and thought wow, I have the whole day ahead of me to do whatever I like. School weeks from September to February/March aren't as bad as around exam time, it's been the case for the past couple of years. It's such a peacetime - wartime thing: when I study, I study. Everything pretty much comes to a hold for a couple of months, it reminds me of those books you read about the world wars. There'll be people saying they'll go on picnics, clean the house, plant roses, whatever, once the war is over and the peace is back. It's a bit like that for me - hostility, from March onwards. I say I'll delete 1000+ extra photos on Lightroom, repot one of my indoor plants, tidy all my papers, cuddle the dogs a bit extra... once the exams are over.

Someone, when they found out I was doing law, recently asked me what I was going to do to celebrate the last of my exams. Funny thing is that I have always found the end of the school year so anticlimatic, even when I was young and in school. It would just... finish, and I would go home, and wonder what to do with myself. It has felt even stranger in the years when I've studied hard, really crazy hard, for months because I literally forget how to live a civilian life, if that makes sense? Like if I'm doing anything else I'll unconsciously feel this guilt until I realize that the exams are done and I don't have to study any more... really strange. Anyway the first day of the summer will come and go, particularly since Layla and I are leaving for Rome the day after my last exam. So I guess I get a holiday to celebrate. No wild parties or anything, as I said last time I don't really do those. But sometimes I think it would be nice if I did because I'd really have that 'free' feeling - that it doesn't matter that your head is pounding and you need to lie immobile in bed for most of the next morning, just because you can.

In a way maybe it doesn't matter, because freedom and weightlessness are so heady. I remember something I said to my sister a few years ago, when we were running through the ruins of an abandoned French chateau in the rain, it was on a high hill that looked over rolling green fields and craggy escarpments. Deep in the heart of the Champagne region and because of the bad weather the whole medieval castle was quiet as a still life, and the hills and pastures seemed so still too. I said to her, this is what I need, now and then. Maybe that's why I'm different from other people my age but I was... so swept up by the fresh, wet air; the adventure of it, the emptiness and space, it made me so feel alive, something about obscure moments like those. Simple, so surreal, I wonder whether they actually happened or if it's all in my head. Other than another week of work in August I don't need to think about law, or read another statute, or find an academic text... and that's really powerful. Not at first, it'll be like the early hours of the aforementioned party, too eager to do too much. But after a week or so, I'll find myself with nothing really to do. Nothing to do! Now that really is something. That's enough for me.

The last few weeks counting down to exams are rough - almost out of material to study, but not feeling like I know enough, an awkward week in a law firm in between.  I tell myself to keep my eyes on the horizon, which is blurry, abstract and far, but exists, always. There are times when you're driving in the dark and it's been raining and the wipers haven't cleared the water from the windscreen... there'll be these fuzzy pillions of light in the distance. You'll know what they are just because the shapes are familiar - traffic lights, usually, and then the wipers work and you're waiting, the engine purring at a standstill, under the lights. I'm there, in that split second before the wipers sweep across and the roads are clear and empty, and neon signs for shops are streaking past, you feel... wired. Or maybe that's just me. Open stretches of road, either metaphorical or not. Emptiness, relief, contemplation... at this point, that's enough. 

“One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters. But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.”  Charles Baudelaire

Did that just bore you? Yeah it just bored me too, sorry about that but ugh these exams. If I thought glaciation was bad, I hadn't met vitiation. Anyway. Trail cookies, in the spirit of (prospective) summery events like picnics, road trips, hikes etc. These cookies travel well and use aaalll the pantry staples, so you can pretty much make them now. You probably have some black bananas somewhere... Aaaalso I originally made this for my baby Suzi's second anniversary waaay back in early May; that is the day she came to us two years ago. My monkeys go crazy for the pb + banana combination but if I was making these for myself I'd probably use any nut butter but pb (I'm not crazy about it) so feel free to switch in any nut/seed butter you/your dogs/your kids like, but just be sure that it's the totally natural variety (palm oil, sugar and salt are meh* ok) and reasonably smooth (stir the oil back in). I somehow managed to make these cookies gluten and egg free, which is incredibly rare for me, but if gluten isn't an issue, feel free to use spelt flour or even whole wheat in place of the flour + flax meal. If you are going the gf route, the flax meal is really good as a binder/absorbing agent, so I wouldn't replace it. You can just whizz flax seeds in a blender/food processor or similar handy tool. And bananas are the only sweet thing here, so make sure they're super ripe, they won't be overpowering.  I hope you try these little pucks this summer, they come together super fast and are probably the most virtuous cookie around. Thank you guys for your patience (and support), I can't wait to be back here (and in the kitchen) a bit more regularly. 

Love and cookies xx

*meh is such a great adjective, am I right?


peanut butter and banana trail cookies

makes 15-18 medium cookies  // gluten free + vegan (how did that happen??)

3/4 cup (75g) oat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (75g) (gf if needed)
1/4 cup flax meal (28g) (ground flax seeds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 medium sized, super ripe bananas
1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) natural peanut  butter / nut butter of choice
1 tablespoon coconut oil, solid is fine


Preheat the oven to 200'C, 390'F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, flax meal, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. 

In another large bowl mash your peeled bananas with a fork till they're pulpy, a little chunky is fine. Add the pb, coconut oil and vanilla, then stir well with a wooden spoon so the batter is smooth.

Pour the wet mix into the dry and stir firmly with a wooden spoon until well combined. Using a medium cookie scoop or a heaped tablespoon of dough, place mounds of dough on the cookie sheet.  Flatten each cookie (moist hands work well here) so they're more like flat pucks. They don't spread much, so you won't need to leave huge amounts of space between.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until set and slightly golden. Cool on a wire rack, or enjoy warm.

The cookies will keep well in an airtight container for 5 days and will travel great too.  


on-the-go snacks

the a-team | honeyed rhubarb + cardamom cake

So my parents were out of town for a couple of days last week. Perfect setting to invite a bunch of people, throw some crazy party that turns into a rave and gets shut down by the police. In my next life I'll make backyard raves a priority. Instead I spent the few days tossing a date around in my head: August 18th. May 18th snuck up on me really fast, but the weight of August 18th has just sunk in, like you know when you've had a dull pain in a muscle and then there's one movement and it totally goes? Well I just blew that figurative muscle. On August 18th my sister has to be in Aberdeen, for her masters. It's the start of her first semester. Weird as it may seem, we have never really been apart. She went on a solo trip to the Bahamas last year and I remember how lost I was - kind of floating, without an anchor, like a helium balloon that a careless kid had lost. One of those no end and no beginning feelings. The day was suddenly devoid of random laughter and the kind of chatter that keeps the wheels of a family unit oiled and running. You probably know that Layla and I are very close.  But straight out, we fight a lot. Like, a lot. At least a couple of times a week, some weeks are better than others, some are just short fuse after short fuse, maybe because we're so close, we pick up on each other's feelings really quickly. If she's upset, I know it, and I get frustrated that she won't just tell me what the problem is and maybe I could help. Probably the same for her because neither of us are the type to have these big 'I'm so stressed' type breakdowns, or really to whinge and complain because do you want some cheese with that whine? is a stock response. 

rhub cardamom cake 1-1.jpg

We both suddenly grew up a lot in the last few years, independence and responsibility wise. We have new cars, we have very floaty schedules with this whole university enterprise, so we took on a lot of the household stuff. Not saying that my parents don't do anything, I haven't yet taken up loading the washing machine but I mean we do things like take the dogs to the vet, keeping the fridge reasonably stocked and spend some time sweeping up dog hair. So maybe that's what has changed our relationship, and maybe that's why sometimes there's more friction. We're not just playing house anymore, we're living in a house where drains pack up when my parents aren't around and I have the number of the electricity network on my phone because storms do funny things to wiring. This is in no way to be interpreted as a complaint, in fact the freedom we have is great. It's more of an acknowledgement that things are changing and life goes in phases, a bit like a chrysalis. It's almost as if Layla and I are in a team (the A-team, of course) against various forces like city traffic, professors that don't respond to emails, parking shortages at university, rude receptionists and the like. We're together in this game of keeping alive a dog without a spleen who sits waiting by the door for Mum to come home, and another monkey whose default mode is hunger strike. The game also means that kale runs out at inconvenient times, scary dashboard messages about tyre pressure appear, players miscommunicate and mess up, but we're on the same side. And that's what matters.

So we reshuffle the new stack of cards we've been dealt. Hard to know how to play them sometimes, but I go back to a very simple phrase we've said since we were young - when friends were giving up on us, when we ended up alone on the first day in some new school. At least we have each other, on repeat. Same now. Days can be long, the traffic is murder, it rains a lot, we worry non-stop about Prune and Suzi. But never alone, there are two of us through all that. 

Our little team, on a feeble lifeboat tossed about in tidal waves. With two helmsmen learning on the job, always seeking out dry land a calm lagoon where we can moor. After August, I'm losing my lookout and I'm going to learn how to navigate by myself. I mean, I can do it, physcially,  there's not that much more around the house or anything that I'll have to do juggle, but it's just the spirit that will be gone. No one to ask whether or not it's going to rain, no fall back person to ask for a hand cleaning muddy paws... the hull of the boat will be there, there'll be a working engine, a spot in the harbour, but the sea can feel like a very empty place when you're down a crew member.

The vast night. Now there’s nothing else but fragrance.” – Jorge Luis Borges

My dad gave me what I consider a huge compliment when this cake was baking. He said that it reminded him of his childhood, the smell of something baking, of coming home and finding his mum had baked a warm snack. Idk why that meant something to me but it did.  Anyways. I remember I saw (aaaages ago) a photo of a rhubarb cardamom tart in an ikea magazine (that must've been when we lived in Belgium because there's no ikea around here) and the combination stuck with me. Credit to the Scandies and their impeccable taste because this cake turned out really well.

You'll see that I make you cook the rhubarb first which may seem fussy but stick with me on this one because the fruit becomes totally tart-sweet with the honey. It then melts into these little custardy pockets of goodness, so my apologies for the extra dirty dish but it's worth it. Other than the rhubarb pre-cooking the batter comes together very fast, no mixer and you have a rustic, humble cake. If you want to fancy it up a light dusting of powdered sugar would be nice, or perhaps serving it with some vanilla bean ice cream. Or yogurt and have cake for breakfast. As a side note, apparently it was mother's day in the States on Sunday, so another big shout out to all the amazing mamas out there, I don't know how you do it all.
Love xx

PS. You'll notice that this post has a title... most of my old posts do now, too. In my post drafts (in email chains ha) I always gave them titles but then decided not to include them. I thought it would help search engine rankings but since google doesn't index the site at all (don't ask), nothing to win and nothing to lose :) 


honeyed rhubarb + cardamom cake

makes a single layer 8 inch (20cm) cake       // gluten + easily dairy free

1 cup (100g) almond meal
1/2 cup (50g) oat flour
1/2 cup (60g) brown rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/3 cup (75g) coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (100g) coconut sugar, light muscavado or cane sugar
2 eggs
1 cup (250ml) plain yogurt of choice, room temperature

// rhubarb

450g (1 pound) rhubarb stalks
4 tablespoons (80g) honey
heaped teaspoon cardamom pods


Start by preparing your fruit. Chop the tough ends of each rhubarb stalk, then slice the stalks into chunks around 5cm (2 inches) long. If any stalks are super chubby, slice them in half lengthwise too. Set a pan over medium high heat, add the rhubarb, pour over the honey and stir to combine so everything is coated, then add the cardamom pods. Cook for 6-8 minutes, till the fruit is soft but not falling apart (the oven takes care of that). Set aside to cool in the pan.

Preheat your oven to 180'C, 350'F. Line an 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper*, then rub a little coconut oil on the sides and the parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda/powder, salt and cardamom. 

In another large bowl, whisk the sugar and oil together so the sugar isn't clumpy, then beat in both eggs and the yogurt till smooth and pale (the tahini comparison is relevant here). Add the vanilla and mix once more.

Drain the cooked rhubarb, reserving around 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid (if there is less don't worry). Toss the fruit in the flour mix, it may fall apart a bit but that's fine. This stops the fruit sinking to the bottom.

Pour the wet mix into the dry; add the two tablespoons of rhubarb syrup and gently mix with a wooden spoon till there are no more patches of flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan then bake for 50-55 minutes, till a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake shows it's done. If the top is browning too fast (this is a very moist cake so it's possible) you can tent it with foil and there shouldn't be a problem.

The cake will keep on the counter for 3ish days, better in the fridge for a few days after that, it's  light so it may dry out.

Notes

One thing to note is that the moisture from the fruit means the cake sort of buckles once cut and then has a rather 'savaged' appearance. No harm for snacking but if you'd like to serve this cake to company, present it before really going at it with a knife. Everyone will be then be too busy eating to notice how the middle caved.

*this is related to the above. I usually don't fret about instructing people to grease/line pans because you all have your preferences, but because of the custard-y nature of the fruit, the batter sticks and the cake is quite fragile at first - not really one to stand up to inverting onto a rack. So parchment, coconut oil and a pan with removable sides make things a lot easier. As I said, it's somewhat rustic, so don't worry too much.


spring baking