We lived in England years ago, when I first started school. Thinking back, I feel like I watched a lot of TV. I spent a fair bit of time in class, a lot of time playing in the garden and mucking about outside generally, reading too, but it was then that I watched the most TV I ever have. Maybe because I had the most free time I ever had, but either way, TV was a pass time for dark, wet days. For the most part it was those kiddie cartoons, with animated animals that teach things like to be truthful, to embrace differences, standard lessons that may or may not be relevant as you grow up. Later I also liked wildlife and art shows, but from even when I was very young I could watch the travel channels endlessly. In those days (I'm talking 13-14 years ago) the big tour operators had their own channels - Thomson, Thomas Cook, the whole crew shot footage of their hotels and cruise ships. If you read this blog now and then you'll know that we adopted some kind of semi nomadic lifestyle (kidding) and in those years those of movement my travel channels disappeared, perhaps with the high street travel agents themselves.
At age 5 you could've quizzed me on the Balearics, The Canary Islands, the Spanish costas, north Africa and the Caribbean. I could've told you the main resorts, the nearest airports and the hotel chains operating in each area. It's funny because these are pretty much the exact places and types of resort I'd scorn now, but through the eyes of a curious 5 year old who didn't quite understand package holiday crowds, these places were dreams. There's no denying many of them are beautiful. I have the most vivid footage of Fueterventura etched in my mind - a white stone house with purple shutters under a clear blue sky, dusty desert grounds, a wooden chair with a straw-hatted man dozing. That stereotypical Mediterranean music playing in the background - you know, the gentle acoustic guitar that leaves you lusting after cobbled plazas and stone buildings covered in bougainvillea, an evening breeze ruffling the leaves of palms. I knew that Rhodes had the best water parks, I was fascinated by Lanzarote's black sand beaches, I knew which cruise ships had skating rinks and climbing walls, the Dominican Republic had the bluest sea (and you call it the Dom Rep). I wanted to see them all, to swim in all those pools, to stand on the balconies, to climb onto the flights with blue tail wings, to run barefoot on the golden arcs of sand.
The tour operators sold packages at all times of year - Easter, summer, but their biggest campaign was for the winter. 'Winter sun', they called it, and if you've ever lived somewhere that is hit hard by winter, the power of that name is really something. With the sun setting by 4pm and not rising till 8am, the thought of going anywhere with blue skies, sand and long sunshine hours is like a magnetic pull. We did eventually make it to Fuerteventura when I was about 12, to a sprawling resort where I played beach volleyball most of the day and we walked to an Italian restaurant on the promenade in the evening. We'd visited Malta and southern Spain, I'd taken on playgrounds and raced through hotel corridors, there had been mild sunshine and warm winds, I remember glasses of fresh orange juice on a Maltese pier, and being sent to the bar by my dad to ask for the bill for the first time. The year we went to Spain, my mum and I were down with chest infections, but there was just enough dry air and subtle heat that our lungs remembered to breathe and I could eventually shed my sweater. I learnt to ride the swings standing on the seat, how to climb up a slide and not use the staircase, how to read a map and bus timetables.
We made friends with other kids, from similar families, with parents who worked hard and liked to take their little ones traveling as much as possible so they'd be part gypsy all their lives. I remember driving around Spanish hillsides, looking at property, since my parents were considering a small second home, so we could easily leave northern Europe to dry out. As you've probably seen, we don't holiday loads in Europe anymore, nor do we tend to go with all four of us (ever since we became a family of six). We visit France often, driving from village to village, shopping in local markets, I try to speak French and we stake out a small village in the big French countryside to rent a charming place. Very different to the European trips growing up - no pool, no restaurants, no waterslides, no one my age.
It's funny to think I'll never go back to those places. I'll never see most of those islands or coastal towns that were my daydreams all that time ago. No Carribean cruises on the horizon. But in a way that's ok, the pools and the slides, the pizza dinners and the boulevards can stay, as they are, in my head. Sometimes on rainy days in February I'll think of them, and they'll bring light and warmth, just like winter sun.
Does anyone else feel like winter's just dragging its feet now? It's not properly cold anymore, just vaguely mild and sooo wet. If it's not going to be winter, it might as well be spring. Anyway, I made these muffs as a crossover, the citrus still at its winter prime, but bright and light. Grapefruit are at their best at this time of year and we tracked down these beautiful ruby fruit, but pink or white would work too. Equally if you're not into grapefruit, blood oranges would be lovely but even regular oranges or lemon would work. The thing with grapefruit is it gives this occasional bitter edge that goes so well with the sweet honey, almond meal and mild oat flour. It really gives them a little lively kick that is kind of sophisticated - think tahini in something sweet. If you would like to make regular sized muffins, that would work well too you'd just need to add a few minutes to the baking time - I haven't tried, so just keep eye on them. These muffins are also totally gluten free and dairy free depending on which yogurt route you choose, so I hope you try them. Either way, hope that you have a lovely weekend with a little bit of sunshine and maybe a muffin. Hugs xx
grapefruit, honey + almond mini muffs
makes 18 minis or 9 regular // gluten free
1 cup (100g) almond meal
1 cup (90g) oat flour, certified gf if necessary
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (15ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 free range eggs
6 tablespoons (120g) honey
1/4 cup (60ml) natural/plain yogurt (I used goat yogurt, regular or coconut would work too)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of one large grapefruit, about 2 teaspoons
1 large grapefruit
Preheat the oven to 180'c, 350'f. Grease/line a mini muffin pan, or a regular one.
Prepare your grapefruit. Cut the two ends off the fruit, then keep cutting the skin so that the flesh is in a rough block. Use the knife to remove as much of the pith as possible, and slice the flesh into small chunks. This is called supreming the fruit, fyi, in restaurant speak.
In a large bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat together the oil, eggs and honey till well combined. Add the yogurt and grapefruit zest and stir again till well combined.
Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir gently with a flexible spatula. Fold in the grapefruit pieces.
Portion out the batter into your prepared pans of choice, filling minis to the top and regular muffins 3/4 full.
Bake for 19-21 minutes for mini muffs, till the tops are golden, spring back when touched and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow 5-7 minutes more for regular muffins.
Cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. They'll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days or will freeze and defrost well.
As I mentioned, if grapefruit isn't your thing, this would be amazing with blood oranges, or even a regular orange or lemon, so have fun with it.
I started of filling the tin with two spoons but used a medium cookie scoop in the end and it was sooo much cleaner, if you're using mini muffins and have a scoop now is the time to use it :)
more winter recipes