inward restlessness | chocolate + almond snack cake

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There are times when you do more travelling than other times. Perhaps this is obvious, but travelling isn’t always a physical state, rather a state of mind. An inherent inward restlessness, wandering thoughts. When you see something that has been there every day but is really someplace else. The earliest sprigs of white tree blossom along the highway; a smoggy stretch of road between a few Norfolk towns, but not always. They seem to exist in two separate spaces, coexistence in a chaotic internal harmony. The same skies, a pebbly gray; dense, tactile cloud; watery sunshine and a lingering dampness. But this is France, somewhere on the A10 autoroute, after Paris, perhaps direction Orléans, heading south, where the air is milder and there are more green buds on trees. 

Recently I think we have had tropical rain on our minds. The real rain, that falls in crystalline sheets from towering cloud the color of a twilight sky. Pool water. Hot rain, chubby droplets, rippling the pool’s surface and distorting your view of the tiles lining the bottom. That strange similarity of being underwater and coming up for air, only to have warm rain drops in your face. Air conditioning that felt even colder on damp skin and hair as we watched the rusted trucks of the tropics turn rubble roads into rivers of muddy rainwater.

Perhaps it is because it’s easier being anywhere other than where you really have to be. There are no real feelings, no sense of time, in that dream like state. Just glimpses of places and people both completely frozen and very animate. Because slowly the line between those travels in your head and the trips you actually take becomes very blurred. So travel becomes your constant state, and you are everywhere but nowhere, all at once. 

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls” - Anais Nin 

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Hello again :) It’s been a while since I last posted but I am back, with cake. A simple chocolate cake based on a recipe for a deeply chocolatey almond cake I tried while visiting our grandparents over the holidays . I’m not sure when a cake becomes a snack cake but this little guy is very simple to make, kind of virtuous and also just a great chocolate cake for any day. It is good to have around since it keeps well for a while, too. I hope you try it.
Also, I appreciate you coming back to visit this space after every time I disappear.
Much love xx

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Chocolate + almond snack cake

1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
1/2tsp basking soda
1/2tsp salt
4 free range eggs
1/2c honey
1/4c plain yogurt of choice (or applesauce)
1tsp pure vanilla extract 


Preheat the oven to 170’C, 340’F*.
Prepare an 8inch round cake pan - even if it is non-stick I usually use a little coconut oil and line the bottom of the pan to be suuure the cake won’t stick.
In a large bowl, stir together the almond meal, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt until the cocoa powder is fully mixed through the flour.
In another large bowl, beat together all remaining ingredients until they’re fully combined and the mixture is smooth. If you have a stand mixer or a hand mixer and a large bowl, this would be really quick.
Combine wet and dry ingredients until the batter is dark brown and smooth. Since there is no gluten don’t worry about over-mixing, a flexible spatula is useful.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan. 
Bake 30-35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. You won’t want to bake this cake too long, it will lose some of its charm if it’s too dry.

This cake will keep well for about a week in the fridge in an airtight container.

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Tiny has appointed herself kitchen assistant

older | Almond - vanilla bean layer cake with raspberry preserves

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It was my sister's birthday last week. 21. It's been strange because it's her last one at home, the last in a chapter. As the younger sibling I think you watch the older one near the end of the last page. You see that for them home slowly becomes - claustrophobic, heavy, too small. There's a sudden shift and they're ready for new cities, big adventures, different people. And maybe that's what you wonder the most. You wonder what more they're going to learn, where they're going to go, and with whom they're going to do it all.

Layla, remember that pink bedroom in the house on Burlingham Drive? Our first 'big girl' bedroom. We spent hours trawling the paint aisles of the hardware store with dad, looking for that shade of pink. We had those 3 lamps above the bed, the heart, the moon and the star. There were the paintings - ponies for you, piggies for me. Frames on the walls, with our drawings. We'd sit on the blonde wood floor and you'd teach me to draw people, all with crazy curls and round noses. There was our huge bookshelf and we'd sit cocooned in quilts in the bed on dark November evenings and you'd read me a book. I could read fine by then, but you could read better, and you'd read me the longer books, I liked to listen to your voice. There'd be a glow from those three lamps, hazy twilight outside. We'd play in the garden too, on those cold but crisp autumn days, in our corner sandwiched between the red brick walls of the house and the wooden fencing over which the holly grew. You taught me to spot the footprints of different animals in the mud; the night time cats and morning robins, you'd seen it on a wildlife program. We'd go out into our street, the quiet cul-de-sac, where our house was next to the little woods full of holly and big trees. Sometimes there were horses in the field that bordered the forest. You showed me how to climb the five bar gate to be right up close to the horses and taught me how to hold the sugar cubes so that only his velvety muzzle would touch my palm. In a way I'm not that surprised you want to be a teacher, you've always been teaching someone.

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Do you remember how we used to take those trips back to Holland, on the ferry? And how at first it ways always dad who mum sent to take us out on deck, or to see the magic show, or wherever. But there came a time when it was just us. I remember us standing, totally windswept, on the deck; that was when we were older, once we'd moved out of the pink bedroom. The last few years in Malaysia, when we started to wish that we'd each had a non-pink room of our own. I was still a childish ten year old wearing sports shorts and Nike t-shirts but you'd somehow moved on to dark jeans and beaded sandals. You went to your first non-pool party, at the Hard Rock Hotel, in the evening. I remember thinking you looked so grown up . I'm not sure whether or not you wore eyeliner because you're lucky with those big dark eyes but I just thought you looked so fancy, I wanted to be like you. On that ferry, too, I wished that I could be like you, I was lost on that big ship, but you could somehow steer us back to the table where mum and dad were sitting. We went to the shiny duty free shop, you gave me sunglasses to try and you told me which ones you and your friends were wearing. We were looking at the maps of Europe and you knew where we'd be going, you told me places that we'd maybe go when we were older.

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I caught up somewhere. Do you remember that cross country race - the home race, on a blistering hot Belgian summer's day? When for the first time, I left you behind, because I could go and you couldn't. I felt like I cheated you. You were the older one, always forging the path for me. But sometimes we stumble on the path; it was your turn to stumble and mine to overtake. I was suddenly more like you. It was me who was showing you the joys of shopping at Urban Outfitters, it was me who had tumblr and suddenly it was me who was calling the shots between us. Not as well as you did, but I figured it out.

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Remember Latitude last summer? How we were the only ones at that boho festival not in hipster shorts and Docs? And then how we managed to lose the car and wander around in those hot fields all afternoon. People looked us at oddly, in our presentable sweaters and me with my camera. I'll always think of us, the warm sun, zipping through golden wheat and bucolic Suffolk countryside. Next somehow you brought us back from Newmarket, after midnight. Your first time driving on a proper motorway, the roads pitch black and only a few trucks for company. How during the concert we'd stood in a quiet corner of the stands watching the revellers go wild; how someone threw champagne over us and the crowd in general so the two good clean kids we are could drive home reeking of booze anyway. How we sang to old hits from circa 2013 and started a little rave of our own in the front seats of your Mini.

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It's the countdown now. It's gone scarily fast, no? Maybe you feel like you're standing on that shaky bridge between curious excitement and the unknown. I'm supposed to be the younger one so I can't say much to help you. There'll be a new page, shiny cities, different people. But in your growing, you've done a lot of it before. The winning, the losing, the raves, the love, the loss, the teaching, the learning. You'll finish it with others but you won't forget, will you, that you did it first with me?

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” - Anais Nin

Happy birthday Layla, this year is yours xx

nutmeg and pear | gluten + grain free almond d meal layer cake w/vanilla bean, refined sugar free raspberry preserves + whipped ricotta frosting
nutmeg and pear | gluten + grain free almond d meal layer cake w/vanilla bean, refined sugar free raspberry preserves + whipped ricotta frosting
nutmeg and pear | gluten + grain free almond d meal layer cake w/vanilla bean, refined sugar free raspberry preserves + whipped ricotta frosting

Layla didn't want a big celebration for her birthday. Just our mum, us, and the doggies. What Layla had asked me for, was a cake. Something like the fairy cakes of childhood birthdays - typically a simple, soft vanilla sponge, a layer of jam for the sandwich, and a vanilla frosting. Layla can be sensitive to gluten so I set about making a gluten free, whole grain version of a super airy sponge cake, which isn't so easy considering whole grain cakes tend to lean towards the 'hearty' side, and gluten free cakes are usually loaded with starches that aren't great either. So, almond meal! Almond meal cakes are often seen as the 'healthy' variety because they're grain free but tbh that's weird because most recipes then call for 5-7 eggs (!!!!!) and a few sticks of butter... does that sound very healthy to you? Anyway, to combat the dryness I just use yogurt, revelation. And 2 eggs which find themselves separated; beating the egg whites to firm peaks means the cakes turn out super light, airy and fairy-like. The cake is actually very simple to make - the instructions are very long because I give a lot of detail for beating egg whites, in case you've not done it before, I do it often because it's fun for pancakes etc. so I thought I'd help the newbies out, just skim over it, and the assembly part too if you make fancy cakes often (also because I'm a pretty rubbish cake decorator. no patience). to bore you further, I wanted a simple & light but not coconut-based frosting, hence ricotta cheese which is very mild and cheese-sensitive types usually take it fine, but feel free to use something diary free if that's an issue for you. Last thing - I almost broke a cake taking it out of the pan, so let them cool for a bit because they're fragile. and then freeze them before you decorate to stop crumb problems. and use two pans exactly the same size, so unlike me, you do not have to go at them with a knife (which is why they look uneven in the photos, yours will be fine). Also, do use vanilla beans - I know they're not cheap but worth it for the beautiful flecks and the smell. Oh and you can also totally use a good, natural sort of store-bought jam/preserves (and any flavor you like) if making it yourself seems OTT. Only the best for my sistah though. Ok I know you didn't come here for me to talk and talk, so here's to little layer cakes and big birthdays.


Almond vanilla bean layer cake with raspberry preserves & whipped ricotta

makes 1, 2 layer 6 inch round cake + enough preserves/frosting for the cake
gluten free

// for the almond-vanilla bean cake

1 1/2 cups (150g) almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons  (45ml) extra virgin coconut oil, melted and cooled
2 free range eggs, separated
1/2 cup (50g) coconut sugar or light muscavado sugar
3/4 cup (180ml) plain/natural yogurt (plant based or any type)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
seeds scraped from one vanilla bean (or 1 more teaspoon pure vanilla extract)

// for the raspberry preserves (or feel free to use about 1/4 cup/60ml store bought nice tasting preserves without too many fillers)
1 cup (130g) raspberries, fresh or frozen
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons honey
1 vanilla bean (empty – the one from the cake)

// for the whipped ricotta
125g / 4oz  nice ricotta cheese (thats about half a standard tub. Eat the rest or feed it to your begging dog that is supposed to be on a diet )
1/2 cup (60g) powdered cane sugar*
Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
raspberries to garnish (if you like)


Start with the cake. Preheat the oven to 180’C (350’F) and oil + line 2 6inch/15cm round cake pans, dust a little flour and set them aside.

In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Separate the eggs – if you have a stand mixer, crack the whites into the bowl; otherwise crack them into a large metal/glass bowl, check the bowl is very clean which helps them fluff up.

Add the egg yellows to a large bowl/liquid measuring jug with the oil and sugar, beat with a wire whisk till the sugar is moistened. Add the yogurt, vanilla bean seeds and extract (or just extract) and beat again till pale, light and creamy.

Time to whip the egg whites. Make sure they’re not cold (start with room temp. eggs – if they’re kept in the fridge, take them out 1/2 an hour before you start) and with the beater attachment of a stand mixer, or a hand held electric beater, beat the whites till they form  firm peaks. The best way to do this is to start with the beater on a low speed, and slowly increase it to high speed. Keep beating till the whites start to hold shape, but you don’t want them to be too stiff or they won’t incorporate. check every now and then on the consistency, especially if this isn’t something you do often. Hold the beaters up horizontally: if the egg white just holds its shape without flopping into a curve and without being all stiff and shiny, that’s correct.

If you overbeat the whites they will go grainy and liquid and aren’t easy to salvage, so err on the side of soft peaks**

Retrieve the sugar-yolk mix and the dry mix. Fold the wet into the dry till just combined and smooth, then very delicately  fold in the egg whites so not to deflate them. They should be thoroughly mixed through but not flat – be gentle but assertive, like you’re walking a very nervous gundog. Anyway. Once there are no more white streaks, stop mixing.

Split the batter evenly between the prepared pans (I would recommend using a scale; weigh your bowl before starting then you can weigh once the batter is ready, weigh one of the cake pans) and smooth it gently – the batter is not very thin. Drop the pan gently on the counter a few times to level it out (muffle the sound with a towel if you have x2 nervous gundogs) and so that it’s not too airy.

Bake for 25-28 minutes, till golden on top and when a skewer inserted into the center comes out without crumbs. Allow to cool in the pan first, then carefully invert and allow to cool completely on a rack. The cakes are fairly fragile and I broke mine quite badly (can’t tell though can ya) so take it slowly. Wrap with plastic and freeze till you need to assemble.

// for the preserves

This too can be prepped a bit in advance and kept in the fridge, or you can do it while the cake is baking.

In a small metal pan, add the zest and juice of the 1/2 lemon, the berries, honey and vanilla bean. Add 2-3 tablespoons water so the whole thing is moist then place on a burner on high heat.

Once the liquid starts to bubble enthusiastically turn the heat down to a simmer and smush the berries when you stir, every couple of minutes so the pulp doesn’t stick. Continue cooking for 15 – 20 minutes, till the mixture is thickened and reduced. When it’s done, take off the heat and immediately pour into a small glass jar. Leave to cool without the lid – the preserves will thicken as they cool, so if they’re not very firm, don’t worry. Once cool, fish out the vanilla bean and discard. Keeps in the fridge for about a week.

// The day of assembly

Make the frosting.

Combine the ricotta, vanilla and powdered cane sugar and using an electric beater or stand mixer, beat till light and fluffy. (or use a non-dairy frosting of your choice)

Depending on the texture of your cheese you may need to add a few tablespoons of milk or sugar  – we are looking for a consistency of cake batter, no looser. Refrigerate for a few minutes.

Take the frozen wrapped cakes out of the freezer. Cut three rectangles from parchment paper or kitchen towel.

Put a small dollop of whipped ricotta onto your cake stand or serving plate, then place one cake layer, flat side down (this is to stop it sliding around).

Place the 3 pieces of parchment under the base, to catch crumbs.

Spread about 3 tablespoons of the ricotta onto the top of the first cake layer.

Retrieve your preserves. Dollop about 1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons (this is pretty much all the jam, if you made it yourself) into the middle of the riccotta layer and spread the preserves, leaving a gap before the edges so it doesn’t smush out. It’s ok if the jam and frosting blend a bit.

 Place the second layer on top, give it a little squeeze so it is secured in place. Now for a crumb coat (so crumbs don’t color the final coat).

Take a small amount of frosting – about 4 tablespoons – and pile it on top of the upper layer. Using an offset spatula or small knife, push the frosting over onto the sides and around the sides. It’s ok if there are some crumbs in this first coat.

Once the two layers are lightly covered, allow the cake to rest in the fridge for about 5 minutes for that layer of frosting to set a bit. After a bit of fridge rest, continue to frost the whole cake.

There are different ways to do this but usually I pile whatever frosting is left onto the top then push it down and over the sides, the mess collects on the parchment at the base. The frosting is much thinner than traditional buttercream so it will not be pipeable consistency, more of a drippy cake so the end result will be more ‘rustic’ but that’s the effect, so don’t worry about being too neat. You have an excuse.

Once you’re happy with the top coat, remove the parchment paper from under the cake. Garnish however you wish.

The cake will hold up ok, frosted in the fridge for a few hours. Bring to room temperature before serving. If you garnish with frozen raspberries serve the cake like, straight away, especially if candles have been on the cake, or pink juice will start to leak and that’s just sad. I did it, not smart.

The cake will also keep in an airtight container in the fridge for about 2 days, but almond meal does tend to absorb moisture from the frosting and then dry out.

baker's notes

* I just put about 1 cup (100g) of real chunky turbinado sugar in a food processor and process till it’s powedery. You can of course always use icing sugar, which will also be lighter coloured , as you can see mine looks almost caramel so if you’re after something really white, seek out some organic icing sugar.

** this guide on the kitchn has some useful visuals for beginners 

As I mention, these cakes are tender so really benefit from an overnight rest in the freezer, which makes them handy to make ahead and assemble the day you’d like the cake.


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the birthday girl


more berries

what I learnt | olive oil + honey quinoa granola

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)
nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

My first thought was that I'd do a post about my highlights of 2016 but then I quickly ruled that out. I didn't want to sound like one of those people who just make their lives all shiny and then sing about it on social media. That's the thing with these spaces - it's so easy to curate what you show, and what you don't, I think people forget that. Am I going post a photo of the pouring rain and a scummy North Norfolk puddle on instagram? No, exactly, I'll post a nice picture of some spring sunshine or maybe something I baked because I've styled those photos to hell and back. Easy. Reality is boring. If I just wrote, I'd be telling you about these 6 essays I've been working on over the holidays. And about how our flight may be cancelled because of fog. So I'll just leave the good and the bad aside and I thought instead I'd share two things I learnt this year. Ok, I know I'm barely 18 so this may sound funny to some people but I think this is actually that window when we learn the most. We're still easy to mould, the things that shape us now give us our form forever, I would've thought.

Life is fragile. I don't mean this in a let's-go-out-get-smashed type of you-only-live-once-way, but I take for granted that my life will overlap with others. I say this after the episode with Prune that I mention often. I thought I'd have years with them, apparently not. I then realized I don't have enough photos of the girls, that there will never be enough days to bury my face in their fur. I mean, their lives are like a sunrise. So short, so bright, filled with energy, bringing us so much beauty. Blink and you'll miss it. It's probably the same for parents, I wouldn't know. One minute you're driving kids around everywhere and thinking oh lord when is this going to end then suddenly the kids have their own cars, they go to university and that's that. People, pets whoever, they have small batteries and no armour. It doesn't mean that Prune won't get an earful when she picks fights with dogs half her size or that Suezie can endlessly stretch with her claws on my bare feet but I should hug them more. And stop saying, when they suddenly sleep in the crate together, that I'll take a photo next time.

People have been designed to put up with a lot. Somewhere I read that 'all flowers must grow through dirt' and I think of that often. Just when you think that nothing worse will happen, the tsunami hits after the earthquake. They also say that something good will always come from something bad, I don't think that's always the case. Instead I think what you learn is that your resilience is much more than you expected. And the people who are with you through it, they're the keepers, the ones you should remind to eat their kale.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

In the spirit of eating kale, new beginnings and general healthfulness, I'd like to bring you some honey and olive oil quinoa granola. A mouthful, but a tasty protein packed one at that. I literally eat 'nola in some form every day, but this is different to my orange granola because it's less oat-based with lots of crunchy quinoa, nuts and seeds, which will appeal to a lot of people at this time of year. There are quite a few indredients but if you stock a remotely whole-foods pantry they're all staples and if you don't, I have added a little info about each ingredient - either way, it's nice to know a bit about what you're eating. This is quite long, so feel free to skip down to the recipe. I don't have one particular source for the info, I am enough of a food nerd to keep a notebook with this kind of thing.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Rolled oats (porridge oats): what would I do without these guys? boil them up for a quick and creamy breakfast, bake them into muffins or granola, bake with the flour... they are a great source of manganese (connective tissue builder + regulates blood sugar + absorbs calcium). Beta glucan is the fiber (a super source of fiber, oats) specific to oats that is associated with lowering cholesterol, preventing cardiovascular disease through unique anti-oxidants, and helping the heart. Oats are inherently gluten free, but are often processed alongside wheat products so if you/those you feed are very sensitive to gluten, be sure to buy certified gf oats :)

Quinoa: ah quinoa, the tiny gluten free superfood that's taken media by a storm. you've probably seen it around in supermarkets by now - not strictly a grain, but rather a seed (though it's considered a whole grain. imposter.)that contains all 9 essential amino acids. This is pretty incredible for a plant and what makes it so popular as a protein source for vegetarians/vegans. It is high in many minerals (iron, manganese, magnesium, copper....) so can help ease migraines. It is no headache to cook either; it can be used like rice (boil with a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio, so 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water). Just make sure you rinse it first, like I do here, because there is a bitter coating to the grains otherwise.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)
nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Sunflower seeds: good for your bones because they're so rich in magnesium which helps with structure and regulating nerve cells. They are very mild and always remind me of granary bread from when I was young; they can easily be tossed into salads or to add a bit of crunch to oatmeal. The selenium helps with cancer prevention and certain chemical compounds (phytoserols) play a role in lowering cholesterol, and as an anti-inflammatory agent. Sunflower seed butter is often used as a nut-free alternative to almond butter, I'm sure it's really tasty.

Pumpkin seeds: These seeds contain a huge range of anti-oxidants; wider than many other nuts and seeds. They are also a source of unique proteins which have anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties and are super sources of zinc. Zinc is huge in boosting immunity and fighting colds, never a bad thing at this time of year. Like sunflower seeds, they can go almost anywhere you want a crunchy element and are often used to make pesto, which I really must try.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Brazil nuts: incredible sources of selenium, which is an anti-flammatory agent and also helps prevent free radical damage and so have been associated with lower levels of cancer, as well as having an important role in regulating your metabolism by influencing thyroid hormones. Selenium also helps prevent depression - it's a mood lifter, so smiles all around. They have a flavor that to me is a lot like almonds, I'm always surprised they're not used more in recipes. I have added soaked nuts (saving my blender) to smoothies and they are so creamy!

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Almonds: the world's highest source of vitamin E (fat soluble anti-oxidants) which kindly protect your cell walls from damage. they're high in monounsaturated fats, the 'good fats' which help lower cholesterol and keep hair and nails and the heart healthy. They are also potassium rich, like bananas (!!!) so great for active people and nerve transmission & muscle contraction. Incredibly, these mild & tasty nuts have been associated with regulating blood sugar levels and lowering the glycemic index of the meal they're incorporated into.

Flax seeds: aside from containing lots of essential fatty acids and omega 3, these unobtrusive seeds are incredible sources of lignans. Lignans are chemicals found in some plants that have been linked to colon and breast cancer prevention. Flax is high in fibre and help regulate the passage of food through the intestines, assisting with the absorption of other nutrients (the midfielders of the nut/seed world). The combination of omega 3 fatty acids & high levels of vitamin B mean they're good for shiny, healthy hair and skin.

Hemp seeds: (un?)fortunately nothing to do with weed but you'll feel pretty good after eating these protein powerhouses. Much like quinoa, these seeds are a complete protein and are valued in plant-based protein powder; they also contain the type of aminos needed for muscle repair. They are a valuable source of omega 3, good for preventing inflammation; and are high in iron as well as a bunch of vitamins (A, B, D, E). They have a pleasantly nutty flavor and I often use them in granola but you can also chuck them into smoothies, salads, wherever you would any seed.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Chia seeds: I know what you're thinking but these have become mainstream now, I can find them at my local supermarket... and I'm not suggesting you use these tiny superfoods to make chia pudding (chia soaked in milk/water, the seeds swell with the liquid and resemble something tapioca-ish, popular with health foodies but a step too far for some of us ahem), which I am aware resembles frogspawn, I know from experience. Instead, I use them in granola, baked into muffins and cookies, sprinkled over oatmeal, blended into smoothies... because they have so much goodness! They are very rich in omega 3 & fatty acids; even more so than flax seeds, and are also good sources of iron and calcium, great for non-dairy and non-meat eaters. They are useful as a binder in gluten free baking and can stand in for eggs too.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)
nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Olive oil + honey quinoa granola

This granola is fruity and fragrant from olive oil; with floral notes from honey and a whole lot of energy and goodness from quinoa and hemp seeds. The nuts and seeds are toasted and golden; quinoa adds a little crunch to this protein-packed breakfast.
// gluten + dairy free // makes about 5 cups (1.25l)


2/3 (130g) cup quinoa
2 cups (200g) rolled oats, certified gf if neccessary
1/2 cup (75g) almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (70g) brazil nuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (70g) pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup (65g) sunflower seeds
1/3 cup (40g) hemp seeds
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (80ml) honey*
dried fruit, optional**

Pour the quinoa into a fine mesh sieve and rinse really well under cold water; rub the grains together and between your fingers for a couple of minutes. Lay our a few paper towels and spread the rinsed grains over them, pat them down to dry a bit and leave aside to dry.

Preheat the oven to 165’C and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl (like, super sized) add the oats, nuts, seeds and salt, spices, mix it all up with your hands. Add both the olive oil and the honey plus vanilla, mix well again.

Dry the quinoa one last time and then add it to the melée, toss everything around so it’s evenly coated.

Dump the bowl out onto the prepared pan, spread it out into one even, thick layer. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Remember to rotate the pan every 10 minutes and to stir the granola up, bringing the edges into the middle and the middle over to the edges so it all browns evenly and nothing burns.

Once the granola is nicely browned, allow it to cool fully on the pan. After it’s cool, toss  through the dried fruit if you’re using any, then fill a large air tight jar. The granola will keep at least a month. Question is: will it last that long?

NOTES

*to keep this vegan, you can substitute maple syrup for honey in the same quantity, maple also goes amazingly with olive oil

As always, you can adapt the liquid – dry ratio in the recipe and use what you have/like instead. I’ll often use half walnuts instead of brazil nuts, or sometimes all sunflower seeds if I have no pumpkin seeds.

** I generally like to add dried fruit to my ‘nola, especially in winter when there’s little fruit in season. You can leave this out if there’s fresh fruit where you are, otherwise I like to use dried cranberries, blueberries, figs or raisins. Use what you like, just check there’s no added preservatives (sulphur) or sweetener.


nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

I hope you found this remotely helpful and that it inspires you to add a few new goodies to your pantry, or reminds you of some. This granola is infinitely adaptable, so I really hope you make it. Granola, cute dogs and funny people exist, so don't let January get you down. Hugs xo

Ps. Today is our last day in India. I can't believe it... how did three weeks go by so fast? I will have some photos of Bangalore on the blog soon, if you're curious.



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a toast to you | cardamom + pistachio layer cake

nutmeg and pear| cardamom + pistachio layer cake (gluten free + dairy free)
nutmeg and pear| cardamom + pistachio layer cake (gluten free + dairy free)

I had every intention of writing this really long, heartfelt post and I actually started it. Then I thought about whose day I was celebrating and I went back and deleted it all, because that really isn't mum's thing. For her birthday, every year, I'll go into the card store and look up and down the mother's birthday card section, picking them up, grimacing, putting them down. She's not really the one for cute rabbits; not for the low-brow jokes about getting older, never in a million years would I send her a note about 'putting your feet up". Last year, I settled on a card with a toaster on the front that read 'Mum - you're the best thing since sliced bread'.

Is it weird that bread reminds me of her? Bread. There's comfort in a sliced loaf, something familiar. In that every piece, whatever the kind, whether it's dark and seeded or white and airy, it's kind of known. And that's what Mum is like. No matter where I am, where we are, what I ask, she stays the same. Sure, we all have off days, but somehow she manages to push that off-ness away, so that she can always do what's best for me. There's something unselfish about a slice of bread. Bread tastes good on it's own, it's a vehicle for sweet jam, or you can get a nourishing meal out of it when the loaf is wholemeal spelt. She is the most generous person I know. Generous is an under statement, I sometimes wonder if she knows how to think about herself. She'll go in the car for hours, driving unknown darkened highways in February sleet when buses leave us at airports. She's sat in the freezing car while we're at the gym, she has a long commute every day since she wanted us to reach school in half an hour. I always thank her, when she does something, but it's like thanking your piece of toast. You regret the words as soon as they come out of your mouth. The toast will never reply, but with Mum, the words are just inadequate.

nutmeg and pear| cardamom + pistachio layer cake (gluten free + dairy free)
nutmeg and pear| cardamom + pistachio layer cake (gluten free + dairy free)
nutmeg and pear| cardamom + pistachio layer cake (gluten free + dairy free)
nutmeg and pear| cardamom + pistachio layer cake (gluten free + dairy free)

When we fight, I cry, she hates it. Most of the time I'm not even upset because I care so much about what a actually led to the fight, but more because I hate the fight in the first place. She says everything because she knows it's the best for me. I wonder where she can find it - find the energy, the brain capacity to keep us all afloat. Every morning, she remembers things. Call your insurance, I've left money on the desk, don't forget a house key, I've called a taxi, there's stuff in the wash, but leave it, I'll sort it when I'm home. One breath. As I've grown up I've come to roll my eyes at that stereotypic 'super-mum' (super-mom?) image that's drawn everywhere. Why do they have to be yoga teachers wearing leggings, sipping kombucha in Venice Beach, while completing the school run and loading three washes? Or otherwise do they have to be single mothers who've adopted three abused kids and now have started a charity? Or must they wear power suits and killer heels, and have men shaking at board meetings? Why can't we just acknowledge those that are like my mum? They're the ones who make the world go round. No killer heels (anymore. I've seen her wedding photos) and god forbid the leggings and green juice. But here's the kid who's never gone to school without a cooked breakfast, never been the only one without a certain brand, been the only one to eat a homemade sandwich at lunch. And she never complained, never asked for the board room or the board walk, she ate her toast, fed us ours, we've laughed a lot.

She often thinks she's made mistakes as a parent, which I guess all mothers do. I'll never agree with her. I am my own person as much as I am hers. If she hadn't been the person who she is, we'd all have been left without a lifeline. The anchor of the rocky family ship; the lighthouse showing us where to go, the winds that pushed us in the right decision, the sails that drove us there. The captain, but also the navigator, probably feeling like the deckhand and the lookout. I'll never be able to thank her enough. What's a baguette without the seeds? Happy birthday Mum.

nutmeg and pear| cardamom + pistachio layer cake (gluten free + dairy free)

So yesterday was my mum's birthday. I think everyone struggles to find the right words and the right gifts for their mothers... you know them so well but in a way you wonder what they really need because they never say! I figured mine needed cake, so I put a few of her favourite things together and then this beauty emerged. There's a subtle exotic hint from nutmeg and cardamom, deepened by toasted pistachio. A combination of almond meal and brown rice flour keep the cake really light and with great structure for a gluten free cake. The frosting isn't very sweet, and if you're suspicious, doesn't taste overly coconutty at all. A little tropical, but pleasantly light and sticky, it's not the very thick type so doesn't distract from cake loveliness. It's a very simple but special cake, which I think is the way my mum would like it. I know she would've been happy with a wheat floury, butter filled cake, or none at all, but this is one of the few ways I can give to her, so there you have it. Hope you find a reason to make this one soon, it's not overly festive, but wouldn't be out of place on a holiday table. Enjoy the lights and cheer. Hugs xo

nutmeg and pear| cardamom + pistachio layer cake (gluten free + dairy free)

CARDAMOM + PISTACHIO CAKE

//gluten free + dairy free // makes one 2 layer 6inch/15cm cake

A subtly exotic layer cake with fragrant cardamom and nutmeg. Garnish this light cake with crunchy pistachios and not-too-sweet coconut frosting if you'd like something more fancy.


1/2 cup (50g) almond meal*
1/2 cup (60g) brown rice flour
2 tablespoons arrowroot starch**
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup (50g) extra virgin coconut oil, soft/ room temperature
3/4 cup (120g) light muscavado sugar (see the notes on my blondie recipe for more info about this sugar)
2 large free range eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120ml) coconut milk

// for the coconut frosting
1/3 cup (80ml) full fat coconut milk
1/3 cup (40g) powdered cane sugar***
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom

TO DO

preheat the oven to 180’C, 350’F. oil & line 2 6inch/15cm round cake pans, dust with flour and set aside.

start with the cake. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, arrowroot, baking powder, salt and spices, whisk so they’re combined. set aside.

in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment) add the softened coconut oil and the sugar. With a hand mixer/stand mixer on low, combine the two till the oil is churned up into sugary clumps (make sure the oil is fairy soft, or there’ll be a mess here). This is like creaming. Once combined, add the eggs one at a time, beat on medium-low till combined; add the vanilla. In three additions, add the dry mix, one third at a time. After each dry addition, add 1/3 of the coconut milk, each time beating till just combined.

once mixed, pour the batter into the prepared pans. if you’d like them very even, weigh your large bowl before you start, then do some math with the weight of the pans.

Bake for 25-27 means, till a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean and the top is light golden. Allow the cakes to cool 20 minutes in the pans, then invert them onto a rack and cool completely. You can either frost immediately (which I don’t recommend, it’s easier to frost a cool cake which sheds less crumbs) or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a day, or freeze for longer.

// for the frosting
combine all the ingredients and whisk together well. It will not be very thick – this is for the drip effect on the cake, that’s fine. leave in the refrigerator till you want to frost the cake, then allow it to come to room temperature and it will loosen up again, or add a splash of coconut milk.

 

// to assemble
Place a little dollop of frosting on the plate/cake stand you finally would like to present your cake with, to hold the cake in place. Place one layer of cake, flat side down, over the frosting, push it into place. Cut 3 rectangles of parchment paper (or kitchen towel) and slide under the cake, so that no crumbs/frosting fall on your serving plate.
Spread a thin layer of frosting – about 4 tablespoons – over the top of the first layer, up to the edges is fine. Lay the next cake on top gently, pat it to secure into place. The decorating is really easy with this more rustic style – just add about another 4 tablespoons frosting to the top of the cake, smooth downwards over the sides onto the parchment. Make sure the top is fairly well covered, with some gaps on the sides. Sprinkle over the pistachios and remove the parchment which would’ve caught the drips.
Leftover cake can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3 days, though the frosting will firm up a bit. Still tastes great 

notes

*almond meal is the darling of gluten free baking – it is essentially ground almonds (the name it goes under in the UK) and the high protein and fat of the nuts help contribute great structure and tenderness to your goodies. You may come across almond flour which would work too – in almond flour the nuts are blanched, skinned and ground; in almond meal they are ground with their skin. In most cases this can be a direct switch, but almond flour is usually more finely ground, so if this is crucial to a recipe (madeleines for example) a switch wouldn’t work. Almond flour is often more expensive, but almond meal can be made from whole almonds ground in a food processor.
** arrowroot powder (starch) is just a starch, similar to cornstarch or tapioca starch. It’s often used as a thickener for pies, jams etc, but in gluten free baking it helps with texture and cohesion. You can substitute another starch, but I think you could omit it all together and not notice too much. I’ve never tried – I usually add a little since it’s always worked. You can find it at most supermarkets or online.
** to make powdered cane sugar, add about 1/2 cup (100g or so) turbinado/cane sugar to a food processor and process till fine and floury. You can of course just use confectioner’s/powdered sugar, which will also be whiter. But you know me.

Last note: If you are looking for a more traditional frosting (cream cheese or a buttercream maybe), and more decorating tips, I’d recommend the Vanilla Bean Baking Book. Sarah Kieffer blogs at The Vanilla Bean Blog and her cakes are gorgeous – I remember seeing a cardamom frosting on the site (there is also one in the beautiful book).


cardamom + pistachio layer cake (gluten free + dairy free)

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