up in flames | spelt + walnut bread

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I had started a post about something different altogether then it started to rain. I was wandering the back roads, Prune on the track ahead of me, off lead, we had no umbrella. Out of nowhere fat, cold drops fell fast and hard, a liquid sheet. Prune looked at the skies, she questioned our luck. It was an autumn shower and I started to count seconds of rain knowing it would be over soon. I counted to 130. That's just over two minutes and it felt like a very, very long time. My shoes were just water and I was cold and Prune was soaked through and we were miserable and it was only 2 damned minutes. I don't really like to comment about world events here because I never feel I have anything adequate to say but there are times when it's all burning up and other things seem irrelevant. I was thinking about how 11 minutes would be a very, very long time to listen to gunfire. How long do firefights last with professional soldiers in kevlar vests? Why do I doubt things go on that long? We seem to have a habit of tearing people, places, apart, either intentionally or not. 

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There are companies cutting posts in the city nearby and in a county nearby and there will be good hardworking people with no jobs and mouths to feed and more uncertainty and kids' birthdays will be a bit less shiny than before. Cities seem to be either up in flames or drowned or crumbling because the weather seems to think we don't cause each other enough pain already. I was at the supermarket, standing in one of my favorite aisles. The nut butter aisle. Half in a hurry, half indecisive, looking between cashew butter, crunchy almond butter and high eolic peanut butter (smooth), when I saw a box in another shopper's cart. Pampers, the ubiquitous British diaper brand. Diapers. I'd recently seen something online about the Texas diaper bank, in urgent need of donations in the aftermath of hurricane Harvey. I was there making a moral decision about peanut butter and there were parents who were struggling to give their kids even the smallest things they needed. I grabbed the PB and left. It doesn't happen often to me because I'm used to living in the developing world but I was humbled, for once, I just told all my small internal conflicts to shut up for a while. Maybe because I was going back to a working house and the place we live is safe and stable and my parents both had jobs and I had a dog who'd lived almost a year longer than her ordeal, so little miracles did exist. I had another dog who'd just had three gorgeous pups and there was a loaf of home made bread on the table and I'd just bought my fancy peanut butter. It's coming up to Thanksgiving, isn't it? My life is far, far, from perfect. Sometimes I just feel like I've jumped overboard, ditched my life jacket, I'm treading water, a constant battle of wills with the current and no palm-lined shores around. But really, I think that most of us will be able to find something, anything, your four walls, a tedious job that cashes in every month; a brave dog. Gratitude. Not something I'm familiar with, but it was there, and I'll have it back again.  

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” 
― A.A. Milne, in Winnie-the-Pooh

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What's it about home baked bread that makes me think of the simpler things? I found this pretty much fool proof recipe in the gorgeous book Panetteria by Genarro Contaldo, it's essentially about Italian baking (this bread is called pane alla farina di spelta e noci in Italian which sounds so pretty) and is so well written and photographed it's totally up there with my favourite cookbooks. It arrived post-Rome and I bookmarked this recipe. I've copied it pretty much word for word because it works perfectly, no adaptations. But the truth is that the last three photos are of my third loaf. I'll say this - if you're after a fool proof, really tasty spelt bread recipe you'll have your loaf day one. But I'll warn you it won't be super instagrammable and photogenic unless you're quite good at baking bread, which I'm not. My first loaf spread far too much while baking to look super rustic and bready... so did my second. There are good reasons for this. Not to lecture in the science of the loaf but especially with a flour like spelt you really have to knead - you need to develop the gluten for it to hold any shape at all. But even if I kneaded more and I shaped the original loaf into a height focused ball it wasn't doing what I wanted. So I read around and I found that many pro bakers seem to use a proofing basket, or banneton, which also leaves the pretty rings of flour and it held the loaf's shape and height. If you're not too uptight you'll get it the first time, no doubt. Otherwise, try the proofing basket.
Ok so I could talk on about bread but there are people here today to cut our trees and they've brought a unimog and a mulcher and I must actually be an eight year old boy because Prune and I are off to the window to watch.

Hugs, gratitude and fresh bread xx
PS. If you're looking for a new tartine idea, I love chunky slices the OG way with smushed avo, chilli flakes and salt, or with a slice of nice cheese (hi dad). Sweet toasts with almond butter and strawbs or Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey + a sprinkle of cinnamon (so good! But weird I know). 

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Spelt and walnut bread

From Gennaro Contaldo's Panetteria // makes one loaf

1 3/4 teaspoon (5g) active dry yeast
1/2 tsp honey
generous 3/4 cup (200ml) lukewarm water
2 1/4c (270g) whole spelt flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3c (40g) roughly chopped walnuts

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Dissolve the yeast and honey in the lukewarm water and leave to proof as necessary (usually around 15 minutes, check the package). Combine the flour and salt, then add the yeast mixture and mix into a dough. It will be quite sticky but that's ok.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and and incorporate the walnuts, kneading for two minutes.  Shape into a ball and place on the baking tray*. Using a sharp knife, make an incision in the shape of a cross. Cover with a cloth and leave to rest in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200'C, 400'F.
Bake for 45 minutes, Remove from the oven, leave to cool, then slice. Or if you're ok with a loaf that looks kind of savaged and collapsed, go at it straight from the oven, because there's nothing like freshly baked bread. 

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eagerness to heal | maple + pear buckwheat scones

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I actually have no idea how this happened but a couple things of days ago I managed to hit my knee on the side of my bed. It was a really hard hit and oh god my knee was ringing so badly I had to sit down and when I looked at it there was a nice little stream of blood. Rich and red, velvety like errant drops of red wine on the edge of a coaster. Not that much blood, but my knee was open. When was the last time that happened?  I mean I cut myself now and then, on cans of coconut milk and the like but it's been a very, very long time since I last 'grazed' a limb. I was looking at that knee, at the liquidy bubbles, and there were so many other scars. All the knocks and bumps and scrapes. I heal pretty well and pretty fast but I suppose there's always a mark left behind. Knees, ankles, elbows, mostly. I can't even remember where some of them came from, especially on my knees... I remember taking a curve too fast on a scooter once and taking a knee instead. Burns from astro-turf back in the days when I played football and a tackle got too rough. A sketchy rental bicycle in Holland once and a gravelly side of the road and braking suddenly and tarmac and tears. 

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There are dark patches on the back of my heels from blisters, the constant tearing open of soft skin and the body's resilience, its eagerness to heal. From socks slipping in soaking wet shoes and tiny sharp stones from the forest trails, years of winter cross country running, sitting in the warm car finding my feet bloody and raw. As I got older trying out new fancy shoes and running for the bus through the pain and sitting on the upper deck texting and licking my wounds. Elbows that have seen school fields and playgrounds and ski slopes and ice rinks and cobbles and lawn. 

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They're supposed to be just layers of dead skin and cells and scabs and anti-bodies. But there are layers of memories and learning the hard way, proof of a life fully lived. Pain and healing and down time and recovery and monkey bars and rental bikes. I've never had stitches but my dad has a solid line over the knee and they must be... throwbacks, to his teenage days of football and penalties, referees and adrenaline. I have a scar on my hand from plastic casing, opening a new set of barbies. I used that scar when I was very young to tell my right hand from my left; that scar is novelty and creativity and trying not to cry when my parents left me at school. I have three thin lines over my left ankle from friction between the anklets I refuse to take off and a ski boot. Even through the thermal socks I could feel the dull pain at the end of the day, as the slopes emptied out and the bars filled up. Those tiny lines of light skin... sweat, stupidity, plain fun, courage. A throbbing knee and a bloodstain were a strange way for me to be reminded that my life is actually pretty full.  

"Underlined passages, fragments of happiness that traverse the body and raise bridges all around" Nicole Brossard

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Maple syrup, spices, pears... pretty autumnal? Feels much more like it, too, even all the Norfolk farmers have broken out the jackets and wool hats. Doesn't leave much hope for the rest of us, but I digress from scones. I know I've made a bunch of scone recipes before but they're really easy to customize and are nice snacks or maybe breakfast treats with a little honey and almond butter. These are the first time I made scones gluten free and the blend of flours worked really well, they were maybe a little fragile but nothing disastrous and also turned out really light. The buckwheat flavour is subtle but there, I always like it with these kind of spices. Anyways I seemed to have veered miles off my posting schedule but for some reason it's taking me some time to settle back into the school routine of studying and reading textbooks. Seems to get harder ever year... maybe a symptom of having been in the game too long?

Happy fall. Stay warm. xo

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Maple and pear buckwheat scones

makes 12-18 small/medium scones   // gluten free

2 cups (200g) oat flour
1 1/4c(200g) buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tspn baking soda
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn ground nutmeg
1/2 tspn ground ginger
1 free range egg
2 tablespoons (30g) coconut oil, melted
4T (80ml) pure maple syrup
1c (240ml) plain yogurt of choice
1 ripe pear, diced small 

Preheat the oven to 180'C, 350'F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  In another small bowl beat together the egg, oil, maple and yogurt.

Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. As the dough begins to come together, fold in the chopped pear. The dough will be thick - once the pear is evenly incorporated, use your hands to gather the dough into a ball.

Lightly flour a work surface and press the dough out into a rectangle. Use a bench scraper or sharp knife to divide the dough into 9 squares, then cut each square on the diagonal so you have 18 triangles, or as you prefer. 

Lay the triangles out on your baking tray; they don't spread much. Bake 15 minutes or so until lightly brown and the top of each scone is firm. Serve as they are or with some honey and nut butter. So so good.

They taste amazing out of the oven but keep well for 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge, or will freeze and defrost well. They actually taste ok half frozen too, I found out. 

scones for every season

they always are | carrot - ginger loaf

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So it was my birthday yesterday as you may well know; I turned 19. It's been an interesting year - big in some ways. But then they always are, aren't they? We never really do much for our birthdays anymore so my mum and I just took Prune out to village nearby. To walk by the river and watch the yachts; sailboats skirting the reeds and the wind teasing the willows. The sky was a sort of pale, washed out blue; the sun mellow and subtle, so warm I sat outside all afternoon, with a slice of cake and a book. Nothing much, but I felt lucky anyway. The last of the Indian summer seemed like enough. That's how I wanted it to be, reflective and promising. 

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"I want to remember us this way - late September sun streaming through the window, bread loaves and golden bunches of grapes on the table" Peter Pereira

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I felt a bit weird about making an epic layer cake for my own birthday so I made a loaf cake instead; carrot cake is probably my favourite kind. This recipe is adapted from the brilliant Everything I Want to Eat by Jessica Koslow of the LA cafe Sqirl - when I get the chance to visit LA, Sqirl is so on my list. Anyway. I made a few adaptations: using spelt flour, so you could use AP if you wanted; and also halving the sugar. It's still sweet, kind of soft and dense, infinitely snackable, with a little kick from ginger which is so so good. And this loaf is naturally vegan somehow. One of my new favourites - I still have some organic carrots in the fridge and I see another loaf in my future. My first cake as a 19 year old, huh?

Love you xx

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carrot - ginger loaf

Adapted from Everything I Want to Eat by Jessica Koslow  // makes 1 8x4 inch loaf // vegan

2 cups (220g) spelt flour (or unbleached AP: 240g)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2tspn salt
1 tspn ground cinnamon
1/3c (80ml) coconut oil, melted
1/3c (80ml) almond (or whatever) milk
1/2c (120ml) unsweetened, all natural applesauce
3/4c (150g) coconut sugar (or muscavado) (you could go up to 1 1/2 cups if you like it sweet)
1 tspn pure vanilla extract
2 inch (5cm) piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
2 large carrots (200g - try to find organic if you can), coarsely grated

Preheat the oven to 175'C, 350'F and line an 8x4inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, except sugar.

In another large bowl or liquid measuring jug, combine the milk, oil, applesauce and sugar; beat in the vanilla and ginger until smooth. 

Pour the wet mix into the dry and gently fold to combine - don't stir too much since once the carrots are in the mix you'll need to seriously stir. Add your carrots and continue to fold gently until they're incorporated. 

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and bake until the middle of the loaf has puffed (maybe cracked) and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; 60-70 minutes.

The loaf will keep tightly wrapped for around 3 days but also freezes and defrosts well. It's better warm/room temperature than cold, personally :)

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all kinds of cakes

a bit of both | banana + flax pancakes

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We celebrate both our dogs' birthdays and anniversaries - that is, the day they came home. For Prune the two days fell over the summer just weeks apart. We had a trip to the beach and a walk by the river, as markers. They felt that way. Momentous. Poignant. She turned eight. We've had her six years. There were a few dark days last October I didn't think we'd celebrate in August ever again. Those were cold thoughts, in the heat of August, watching sailboats on the Broads as our girl grinned and sniffed everywhere she shouldn't. Weird to say, but Pruney and I are very similar. Independent, sort of prickly. Sullen when we want to be. Introverted. I don't think I was even 12 when prune first came to us - she was two, but from the start I think she established that I was the kid and I needed to be looked after, for whatever reason. She took it on herself to do so and has the most uncanny way of knowing when something is wrong. Better than anyone in the family, because she knows but she doesn't ask. She'll just sit there - on the cushion in the hallway outside my room, under the couch, right over my feet. Just sit with her ears slightly pricked, as if to say, I'm here if you want to talk, kid. I don't and I think she prefers it that way. Ah Prune, you're just my type.

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We brought Prune back home after her surgery last year pretty late evening. A bitter October Friday - the sky had been doleful, dour, a matte gray and the radios spluttered about how the nights were among the coldest in the year. It was bleak. We felt it, inside and out. Suzi stopped eating cheese without her sister to steal it. We picked Prune up from the vet and her whole stomach had been shaved; pink skin and a 30 centimetre gash of stitches that had put her back together again. She was in pieces - off the operating table with just a shell. She cried. Pain, confusion, abandonment, the whole lot. It was haunting. She was my darling. We couldn't leave her alone with the risk she'd lick the stitches so my mum and I each stayed up half the night to be with her, 2 am, the thermometer on my phone telling me it was below freezing out. I had a kitchen chair shoved next to the radiator where I could face the dogs on their cushions and keep my back warm. Too much time to think. To will her to pull through. Watch her ribcage heave up and down as she slept, fitfully. She was alive. She couldn't go into the garden without a lead so I wore sweatpants and took her out, Suzi a few steps ahead, sniffing the frosty grass, our footsteps louder than they should've been; the moon brighter than suited the occasion. Or maybe it worked, because it put the three of us in a white light. Something uplifting about the clear mornings and watery sunshine when Prune and I took our first slow stroll around the block. She sniffed the air, watched the clouds from her breath in the cold, and I could almost see her smile. 

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Her fur grew back, slowly, the scar healed, physically, for all of us. She was older. I was older. When she was a pup in the summer we would paint her toenails and make daisy necklaces that we'd tuck into her collar, a bit of festival flair. We'd play baseball, she fielded ok. She'd jump in and out of our SUV with reckless abandon and it's now noticeably more of a cautious leap.  She still hops up and down when we come home, she still licks her paws to the point of obsession, she still purrs when you scratch her chin, still has those irresistible puppy eyes. But this year I sat out in the sun reading and she lay in the shed, behind me, where the floor was cool. Took her for drives in my car, music playing, fields and rivers flashing past. I sang, she rolled her eyes, more or less. She lay under the couch where I was sitting with her face resting on her paws, alert and thinking. About the future or the past I'm not sure. Probably a bit of both. About the cold days of autumn that brought her back to life, and the summer heat; the days for living. 

"What she realised was that love is that moment when your heart is about to burst" Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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This is the second time that I'm making Prune pancakes but she loved these to say the least. Easy, pretty quick and you probably have all the ingredients at home right now. I love recipes that have such a short ingredient list, nice and minimalist. The first of the so-called 'autumn storms' hit our nook of the UK last week so I was graced with some beautifully moody September light for the photos. Prune is with me as I write this, using my leg as a sort of prop for her head and thumping her tail when I stop scratching her neck.
Love from the two of us xx

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banana + flax pancakes

gluten free // makes 4-6 pancakes

2 medium bananas, ripe
4 free range eggs
1/4 tspn pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons flax meal, oat flour or mix of both
sprinkle ground cinnamon
1/4 tspn baking powder

coconut oil, for cooking
pure maple syrup, nut butter, etc for serving

In a medium bowl, mash bananas with a fork until fairly smooth. Crack in eggs and beat together; beat in vanilla. Add the flax meal, cinnamon and baking powder, stir until batter is smooth.

Allow batter to rest 10ish minutes so the flax absorbs some of the liquid. Cuddle your puppy, check your emails, scroll instagram as the batter thickens to something that's pourable but not watery. Get a non stick pan going over medium heat.

Scoop a sort of conservative quarter cup of batter (maybe 3T)  - keep the pancakes on the smaller side, they're easier to handle that way. Pour into the pan, cook for 2-3 minutes on one side until bubbles form, then (very gently) flip to continue cooking on the other side for around 2 minutes (I cook on an electric stove so this will be different if you have a gas stove) until both sides are golden brown, or done to your liking. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

If you're planning on freezing your pancakes, I recommend letting them cool on a wire rack and then freezing them straight away because they tend to go off really fast (I speak from past experience). Otherwise, keep warm in a low oven and serve with maple, nut butter, whatever you like. The pancakes in the photo were originally frozen (they look fresh right??  except maybe folded funny from the freezer bag?), I just put them in a dry pan over the stove but in hindsight why didn't I just use the toaster?

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