the deluge | apple blondies

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The thing with these long, dry European summers is that when the heat breaks, it really breaks. Those first showers after the heatwave aren’t the typical spirit-sapping drizzle, but something closer to tropical. The heavy, fat, cool drops of rain mingle with the warmth and the air turns steamy, a foggy blanket broken by those continuous chubby drops. They fall fast in a sort of percussive one-two, more like a hurried trap beat than mellow, languid r&b. Curtains of water turn the dry summer gutters into rapids and liquid seems to seep into every crack. Wood creaks and groans, trees heavy with leaves strain under the weight of the deluge. 

It might be just for an hour or it might be for days. The skies might have lightened from that angry purple-gray to something more marbled and the raindrops perhaps stroll out of the sky rather than rush. Tarmac roads are soaked to dark beady black, car headlights glow, the windscreen becomes foggy on the inside. On one of those late summer rainy days, somewhere deep in the deluge, we took a drive north along the coast. The fields were growing wild with ivy, dewy and happy, ploughed fields looked rich and earthy in coffee tones from deep espresso black to milder latte. Crows cling to power lines that flail in the wind, the car engine hums healthily, fields part and the North Sea fills the windscreen, moody and agitated, like the rain only added fuel to the restless sea’s fire. The stretch of beach looked pale yellow, like it was itself a lonely shaft of sunlight as waves kissed the breakers, maybe once painted white, now peeling down to the dark wood, in that kind of melancholic, forgotten feeling of small seaside towns in Europe.

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Maybe it would be different on a sunny summer day in mid July. Maybe during the heatwave the beach was a quilt of cheery sun umbrellas, kids in colourful swimsuits, pale limbs seeking out the sun. The sea was quiet and settled and a tempting shade of baby blue. There were packed cars lining the boulevard and the little hotels had turned the signs to ‘no vacancies’. There were ice creams to be bought and waves to skip through and the photos of said ice creams would grace office pin-boards and living room walls. It seemed short lived. Like a good song, the first hour of a Friday afternoon, a sunrise, the heatwave itself.

You could almost feel the curtains twitch, on that rainy day. The eager little hands of the youngest late summer holiday makers, pulling back the musty fabric, releasing a shower of dust towards the murky wallpapered room and onto thinning carpets. Pressing a face to cool glass and looking upwards, trying to find the streaks of light in the feathery sky. I’d done it myself, as a kid. Thin hotel windows rattling in a seaside breeze, the incessant crashing of the sea, cries of gulls, container ships outlined and ghostly on the horizon.

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The tourist hoards slowly ease and instead it’s the earliest autumn leaves that swirl on the wet tarmac, picked up by the coastal wind to dance around the hood of your car. The dark lingers for longer each morning and if you’re out in the country, maybe walking dogs, puddles reflect the skies and seem to pool moonlight. You watch the dawn push in from the east, the lines and patches of clear light competing with the white moon and a million stars. Dawn always wins, but the night comes to take back its turf earlier and earlier. The sun is mellower and the wind is sharper, collars are pulled up around necks and drying hands are crammed deep into pockets. They may have forecast another Indian summer but there’s a shift in the air. The rain that washed the cooler countryside this weekend was different, less benevolent. The wind that made the leaves dance may have pushed those ashen clouds away but the real rain of fall will lace soggy grass and damp umbrellas. It dusts clear dewy mornings with a promise of more, and soon you'll see the moon as much as the rain and sun. 

“staring into the clouds, they rising or are they coming down?”
Lil Wayne ft xxxtentacion, Don’t Cry

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Hi. It’s been a while. My bad. I was doing... not really anything. Anyways I’m back to this space again. As Lil Wayne would say, don’t call it a comeback, it was dark out, now the sun’s back. Guy’s full of wise words, at least we know where Drake got it from. I digress.
Funny thing is that I’ve been holding on to these photos since a very dark and shadowy day last year but I lost the recipe so I had to try it again. Good news is, the recipe works, yay. I call these little guys apple blondies but they are just like an apple cake. They are quite pretty and seem fitting for the time of year, well, until it’s 20 degrees out again. 
I hope you like them. Love xx

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Apple blondies 
makes one 8x8 pan, or similar

2/3c (75g) almond meal
2/3c (75g) oat flour
2/3c (80g) buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp salt
3/4c coconut sugar
2 free range eggs
1/3c melted coconut oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large apple, grated

1 or 2 apples to top


Preheat the oven to 180’C, 350’F
Line an 8x8 inch square pan (or something similar)
Sift together the flours, salt, cinnamon and baking soda in one bowl
In another bowl, stir together the coconut oil, eggs and coconut sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla and stir again. Combine the wet and dry mixes gently; stirring through the grated apple. Stir until just combined, then set aside.
For the remaining apples, core and cut them into thin crescent shapes. They will be to top.
Stir the batter one last time, then pour into the pan, you can use a spatula to make it smooth and (relatively) even.
Arrange the sliced apples over the top in a pattern of your choice - I messed this up the first time, but you probably won’t. Try to lay the slices very gently over the batter until you get them in a pattern you like, then push them in a little so they sink in slightly.
Bake for between 25-35 minutes. This is a big window but it will depend on the shape of your pan, how ripe the grated apple was, and how much moisture the apple slices added. Keep an eye on it. It will be kind of pleasantly golden but not brown - blondies are better a little under-baked.
They will be fragile, so let them cool completely before moving them around. 

They will keep well in the fridge for several days.

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hiatus | the heatwave

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It has been a long time since I wrote anything for this space. A hiatus of sorts, perhaps a symptom of a busy school year.

Over Christmas we inevitably travelled, to India. It started with the flight and the queues of Heathrow, the temporary disorientation, remembering whether or not we flew out of terminal four last time. You do it enough, it's all some sort of mechanical, learned haze. Being carried along in the crush, down the jet bridge, through frigid air heavy with the stink of kerosene. Like the air’s coldness somehow traps the fumes, holding onto them through to the cabin, where in the first few steps into the early aisles fuel mingles with coffee scents and artificial air pressure. Our flight turns and taxies, clumsy. Slick tarmac, onto the runway. The plane pauses, composes itself, the engines gun and the floor shakes and the flight rumbles over the concrete awkwardly, until the wheels retract, the ground falls away, the wing dips, the cabin hums. London fans out below winking and blinking lights, carved into bays and headlands by swathes of black.  Then there was the bombardment of color and chaos and life that hits you after a trip to India, that stays with you through the flight home, then is sucked out of you by London's damp, clammy night air. 

It was cold after Christmas. Just as people saw the first few gleams of spring, the buds and their hope were engulfed by some of the most intense snow the eastern UK has seen since Tupac was rapper of choice. Flurries started and didn’t stop, it was beautiful, hypnotic, coming down harder in sloppy white sheets like puppy kisses. There was too much snow on sidewalks, the dogs played in the garden, chasing icicles and snowballs that sank deep, leaving tracks and furrows while plumes of grey smoke from a dozen chimneys muddled with the heather sky. Geese flew overhead in formation, shadowy onyx against towering somber cloud; peppery and rippled. Hands were dry and fragile like old paper, the ground was undisturbed feathery white until it met fields where the earliest wheat was fighting through; there it looked chunky and porous, like paper towel. The wind murmured and caressed the ribs of haggard trees, blowing powdery snow onto the roadsides. They were littered with abandoned trucks and cars looking overly bright and metallic so the place felt more like midwinter Alaska than spring Norfolk. More brilliantly brutal than subtle and charming. 

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And then summer came, like a flash flood of dry heat, no warning, no expectations, the ground and the people unable to absorb it all. The atmosphere just decided that was it, enough of winter's indecisive drizzle and mild, pale yellow rays, the sun seemed to go from being the color of butter to somewhere closer to an Indian temple marigold. No spring. No buffer period, no hesitation. There was no way to miss it. Europe basked and burnt in a heatwave. The sky was so clear it was a storybook cliché, or a childhood drawing, like someone had said, kids, let's color the sky blue. It was more as if the world was upside down, like looking at the Mediterranean Sea, suspended above you. The dogs would run out of the shade to where the sun cast blocky shadows through the needles of pines, chase a squirrel, and come back with their own fur like charcoal; hot, black, and sandy. I would take my car out and send up a plume of umber dust, winter's puddles were bone dry and left everything coated in a fine layer of what looked like cinnamon. I'd follow that usual rural route framed by fields and in the rear view mirror driving downhill fast it left a distorted smudge of pale green, flax and straw behind me. From above the countryside probably looked khaki, as if it was washed in sepia with patches of dun and tan like fading army combat uniform. 

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There is football on TV, most of which is bad, and a new Drake album, most of which is great, and the sun sets late and barely sets at all. It takes a short dip over the inky horizon then floats back up, between the russet roofs of houses to the east of our own, casting long shadows and cool blue shade. In the shade you shiver, maybe watch the swirling dust, or crystalline drops of dew forming on cut grass. But there are these tepid mornings when you walk out and the earth just smells warm, of verdant leaves and heavy fruit trees and every bush bristling with life and flowers, and you should be somewhere further south. France or Italy, maybe, somewhere with stone farm houses the color of caramel and where the roads aren't full of harassed holiday makers in packed cars. But another week of high pressure has been forecast, so another week of sunshine spilling over the yellowing grass. The sun will rise amber and brush early cloud with peach, it will fade the roses on the trellis to watery claret. The clouds will be rare, light, with pretty latin names like altocumulus, cirrocumulus and altostratus, which meteorologists call the clouds of fair weatherWait, until around midday, when everyone is where they need to be and the roads are quiet, the sun is sharp and the heat uninhibited. To hear kites call as they cruise the thermals miles above us, perhaps a light rustle of grass in a sliver of breeze, and absolutely nothing else.

"this bud of love, by summer's ripening breath, may prove a beauteous flower when we next meet"           
- juliet to romeo (Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, what else?)

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** All these photos are from around Norfolk, taken over the past 3 summers. The cows were at the Norfolk Show a couple of years ago.

just bones | tahini chocolate chip cookies

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When I was young we had a picture book called Birthday Bear. I don't remember much of the actual story but the family lived on a farm and the book had the most beautiful illustrations - every time fall reaches this nook of Norfolk I think of those pages. The pictures were those quintessential countryside images: rolling fields that stitch together into a valley, patches of green and brown and maybe some gold, a blue gray sky, birds, maybe the skyline punctuated by a distant chapel. There’s a scene just like that one of the places where I walk the dogs - the landscape just flattens out and you can see far away. By fall the tones are more muted, if summer was a yell then by fall you have the whisper. Sage and faded olive from the winter beet crop, squares of field left fallow, plump soil in chestnut, coffee and hazel. A tractor ploughs, red and cheerful, alabaster gulls ride the wake, dipping and diving, bright against a concrete sky. There’s rain in the air, still a drizzle, lacing the wind like a promise.  A skinny stretch of tarmac traces alongside, a seam on the quilt. Pulling it all together.

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There are days when the sky is alive - Norfolk is empty, so there is a lot of sky. Early mornings they’ll be streaky gray and inky blue, scattered with whispy pink and coral. And there’ll be traffic. Swallows swoop and doves dive and the air is just filled with chatting geese. Hundreds and hundreds of geese, in their perfect formations, circling the fields to land or passing through or taking off again, as they have always. Compared to the quiet colours on the trees and on the ground sometimes the sunset seems overly loud - pyrotechnic violet and red, with the orange sun dipping below the tree line. Most of the trees are now just bones and black silhouettes but there are a few trees along the highways that are still fall poster girls - the whole spice cabinet of earth tones. Basil and dusky thyme green, saffron and turmeric, smoky red cayenne and paprika. As much as I love art I was never very good at it, forget being able to draw well. But I’ve always noticed colours and shapes and movement so when I look out at this time every year, I always wish I could draw. There's something about drizzle, moody light, ground frost, that sits well with creativity. It would be nice to draw, to capture the muted and the quiet and the feeling of more to come. 

“He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.” - J.R.R. Tolkien

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In my spare time (there's not much of that, trust me) I study cookie science. Yeah, it’s a thing. Cookies are intricate pieces of chemistry, or so you'll find if you read around. I may only have one real cookie recipe here and they’re honestly not my favourite sweet but I think about cookies a strange amount of time. They’re fascinating. So tahini cookies. You a tahini fan? I love middle eastern flavors - tahini, cardamom, pomegranate, cumin, sumac, things like that. A trick to cookies that spread well is sugar - you need a lot of it, and the bitter edge of tahini takes away from the cookies becoming sugar bombs, while adding some fat which also helps the spread. Hence palm-sized chewy cookies with cute bulldog wrinkles and soft centers aahhh so good. They're sort of nutty and... interesting. Much more three dimensional than your average ccc. Chocolate chip cookie. Anyway things to note: I don't like a chocolate overkill so I go on the lower end of the chocolate spectrum but take your pick - though use a dark (like 70% cacao) bar and not chips because chips are made to be un-melty and therefore un-photogenic. And this is by far my favorite brand of tahini, I order it from the States which may seem strange but it's like 500x better than anything I've found in Europe.

Also, the recipe is somewhat specific with the whole thing of taking the cookies out early, dropping them on the counter to remove air, and leaving them to firm up, but it's necessary for cookies that hold up but are still flat, soft and perfect. These cookies are so good, idk if I can now go back to the regular kind. A bit like once you've listened to the remix of a song and then when you hear the original it just doesn't sound right?
Ok good talk. Love you guys xx

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tahini chocolate chip cookies

makes around 10 biiiig cookies  // dairy free

1 1/4 cups (137g) spelt flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c (120ml) tahini
1/4c (60ml) coconut oil, soft room temp (solid)
1 free range egg
3/4c (150g) coconut sugar
1/4c (50g) turbinado sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
60g-100g (2oz-3.5oz) dark chocolate, chopped coarsely from a bar (70%-85%)


Preheat the oven to 180'C, 350'F and line two cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, whisk together the first three ingredients.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl (with a hand mixer), combine the tahini, coconut oil, sugars and egg . Mix on low speed until the batter is dark and smooth. Add the vanilla and mix once more.

Add the tahini mix to the dry and using a wooden spoon, combine the two. The dough will be very stiff and will look like it won't turn out because there's too much flour, but keep at it. It will come together. As it does, fold in the chopped chocolate. It's a good arm workout.

Once you have a dough ball, portion it out into large balls of 3 tablespoons or so each (I smoosh two scoops together) and leave a good amount of space in  between because they will spread.

Bake for 14-16 minutes, they will have spread. This is important - they will not be fully set yet, so drop the pan on a hard surface (scare the family dogs) for nice pug-like wrinkles. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes so they are set - otherwise you will have a puddle. Granted, a pretty tasty puddle, but if you want to hold your cookie rather than lick if off a baking sheet, wait a bit.

They taste best right after they're baked (obviously) but they still taste amazing a couple of days later. Try to make them last one afternoon.

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more chocolate

apple + molasses loaf |they took their chances

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I can't really boast to being a 'native' french speaker but I've studied it long enough that I can read 17th century literature; I can write it well and understand it almost word for word but my speaking isn't great. Considering my speaking in English isn't that great I guess I'm not too surprised that things look better on paper and sound better in my head than when they leave my mouth. I know more than enough of the language that words and phrases often pop into my head. The French have a way of putting things into words that I can't seem to find in English and I was recently stuck on the basic French verb 'profiter'. All over the local news, the radio, on TV... the UK's mini heatwave for a weekend in early October. Temperatures in the low twenties, sunshine like it was the Mojave, no humidity, it was barbecue time. A welcome surprise, as the leaves started to turn and we'd dusted off our scarves and gloves. I can't properly translate profiter. To make a profit, I guess would be the direct translation, but nothing's being bought or sold. Nothing monetary or countable about a feeling. Something fleeting. Taking advantage, a pleasant surprise, something unexpected. Better translations. That October weekend - on profite du soleil. We're enjoying the unexpected sunshine. Sounds clumsy. Isn't it funny that English has no concept of that - if you're taking advantage, have you planned and executed something? If it's unexpected, can you possibly enjoy it fully, or are you still recovering from the shock? In English it's almost like we imply that it's selfish to enjoy something. I heard it on the radio - people needed to 'sneak' in a barbeque. So we couldn't just... revel in it? Stretch out the fleeting moment?

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Maybe the Romans started it when they said carpe diem. Seize the day. Just take it and go. Get what you can, when you can. It seems ironic that English hasn't coined anything similar considering that the most... beautiful things crop up in the most unexpected places. Nothing particularly extraordinary. A hot weekend in October. Three perfect bubbles around the rim of a retail park filter coffee. A farmhouse, standing lonely and proud and windswept with the stubs of harvested wheat looking yellow like shafts of sunlight, you'd ease off the accelator. The two elegant horses who graze in a field nearby, trotting and bucking under ashen autumn skies, like they could feel a storm coming. When you've been watching a particularly good episode of a TV show and it has a particularly strong ending that makes you think. Maybe you'll watch it again and you'll see facial expressions and subtle gestures you'd missed but it won't get to you the way it did the first time, will it? 

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I mentioned it when I wrote about our trip to Normandy. It was spring, rubbing shoulders with summer, a cold morning, like heat was on the tip of the tongue, but not quite there. Every website and radio station and newspaper screamed it's summer, go get it. The French did. We had a short stretch of road before the exit and it was jammed as suburban Rouen and Caen headed to the coast in Le Havre, or Honfleur, or any other small seaside town. Maybe, if they'd planned, they'd have left on Friday night, or early Saturday morning, maybe have gone to the forest north of Le Mans instead. But they didn't know, and they didn't plan. They woke up to a hot spring day and took their chances. For tanned skin on a Monday and a memory card full of tacky beach photos in April. No doubt they got something out of it. A profit, in every sense of the word.  

"but beauty is like that, it is a fraction of a second, quickness of a flash and then immediately it escapes.” Clarice Lispector

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Oof I see it’s been a while since I last posted. Hi anyway. I have another loaf cake recipe because I’m sure you’re not bored of loaves yet? I know I have like 22,000 other loaf recipes on this site, maybe even more than scones but they’re so convenient. One baking dish, probably two bowls, easy to change up seasonal flavours and fruit, a long enough baking time you can get work done while you wait, so practical they’re basically leather boots. Which I have never owned. I digress. This guy is super seasonal - when it starts baking there’s no way you’ll forget the nights are getting longer and the trees are showing a bit more bone. In a good way, of course. Molasses and all those spices, it's almost like fruity gingerbread. The loaf isn’t too sweet but more rich in flavour and lasts well for a few days. A little unexpected treat on a cool morning. 

Big cozy hugs xx

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Apple + molasses spice loaf

makes 1  8x4 inch loaf   // dairy free
Adapted from
A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones

1 1/2 - 2 cups (165-220g) spelt flour*
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1/3c (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 large free range eggs
1/3c (80ml) cane molasses
1/3c (80ml) pure maple syrup
Chunk ginger, grated
3 large apples, coarsely grated 


Preheat the oven to 190'c, 375'f. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and salt.

In another large bowl or liquid measuring jug, beat together the oil, molasses and maple syrup. Pro tip: measure the oil out then measure the molasses directly into the same measuring cup and it'll slide right out. Beat in the eggs and ginger.

Pour the wet mix into the dry and gently fold together. Fold in the grated apple without over mixing.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean. The top will mostly likely crack, it's ok, rustic and all that. Allow to cool a few minutes in the pan (the loaf is quite fragile so don't handle it too much) and then completely on a wire rack.

This cake is super moist and rich flavoured so it will keep for some time in the fridge, tightly wrapped, but tastes amaaazing warm. Freezing and warming works great too. Almond butter drizzle highly recommended. 

*I'm not sure why maybe it's the cake tin I use but my loaves turn out better, with better rise if I up the flour to 2c from the usual 1 1/2c. The ratio works fine here, so use whichever you prefer. Might also be because I live in an extremely damp climate... 

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