woodsmoke | gingerbread bundt cake

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I started this post a few days ago, well before Christmas Eve. In a quiet, dimly lit area of a fairly empty terminal in Amsterdam Airport. Before the boarding crush I could find a seat on tired, cracking vinyl, by the floor to ceiling windows that looked over the runways. The fields and the tarmac were dark, the bodies of planes loomed in gray shadow, brooding and immobile. Like the darkest clouds of a winter sky on the coldest days when rain would fall as snow, casting deep shadows, swallowing the moonlight. 

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I wasn’t at a window seat but when the plane, enlivened in flight, dipped its wing, Amsterdam played out in lights far below us. The warm golds from street lights, the cheery red blinking of cars heading home for the holidays, white glow from illuminated buildings. Like the lights on a Christmas tree, with the colour from strands of tinsel, full of memories, familiar. 
I had a long wait in Abu Dhabi. A wait with a lot of anticipation, eagerly checking my watch, wishing for progress. It reminded me of the night before Christmas when I was very young and impossibly charmed by it all. Finding it so hard to lie in bed and wait for the morning, the expectation so palpable.

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It was early morning when I arrived in Bangalore. Warm, thick tropical darkness, loaded with fumes, throbbing with action, like how the thin winter air clings on to the scent of pine and woodsmoke. Something celebratory in how India does chaos, like everyone is waiting for something to happen. The taxi guys with their windows open played the morning prayers and Bollywood pop, some background similarity to it all, something different woven into each. Telling the same stories to different beats, like Christmas music. Dawn breaks, the red roofs echo the pinky streaks of hot morning sky, doves cry from deep in the clumps of bougainvillea. There’s a whispering breeze through the palms and the clearing night clouds are violet, indigo, pillowy. Someone is cooking in another house, something with spices. Chilli maybe, red and intense; turmeric, powdered gold; ginger, the rounded spice.
There were lights and anticipation; music, people on the move, heady air filled with spices. There was Christmas everywhere, and all the time. 

"and all my soul is scent and melody"  Charles Baudelaire 


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Wow. Christmas Eve already. A little last minute perhaps but if anyone is considering some Christmas baking, this cake is perfect. If you don't have a small bundt pan it will also look cute as a real gingerbread loaf in a regular loaf pan (just keep an eye on the baking time). This cake somehow encapsulates the holidays so I hope you try it.

Merry Christmas to you all. Much love xx

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gingerbread bundt cake

1 3/4c spelt flour 
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg 
Pinch cloves
1 tsp baking soda 
1/2 tsp salt 
1/4c olive oil
1/3c pure maple syrup
1/4c pure cane molasses
1 free range egg
3/4c milk of choice 
2T coconut sugar (or other dark type of sugar)


Preheat the oven to 180 c, 350 f.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
In another bowl beat together the egg, oil and maple syrup. Add the sugar, then the milk and molasses. If the molasses isn’t combining well it may help to heat the whole mixture a little.
Pour the wet mix into the dry and stir gently until just combined.
Prepare a 6 cup bundt pan: oil and flour it well so that the cake comes clean out with the beautiful shape. Prepping the pan right before baking means the oil won’t slide down the sides and pool at the bottom which wouldn’t help much for sticking. If using a different kind of pan, you can prepare it how usually works for you.

Bake 40-45 minutes, until the cake looks deep golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Allow the bundt a little time to cool in the pan, then gently release onto a cooling rack. It will be a little fragile to cut at first so if you can resist the ginger-y smells, it will cut cleaner after it’s cool.
This baby bundt will keep well for a few days in an airtight container and tastes as good (better?) with time. It will also frost and defrost nicely.

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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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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

a background murmur | honey-oat nectarine cobbler

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I was driving to go shopping the other day when I turned off the radio in my car. I'd left the house just before 1pm so it was almost time for ads and the news; they were playing a pretty terrible song anyway so I thought I'd save myself listening through all of that. It went quiet. Inevitable consequence, really. In the year or so I've had my car I honestly don't think I've ever driven alone without the radio - it was so quiet it was striking. More like a yell. I'd come to a stretch of road just after crawling through the village at 30 miles and finally I could go 60, a bit like when you've been sitting on a flight too long waiting for the cabin crew to disarm the doors and then you walk off the shoot into the airport and just walk, really fast, even if you have nowhere else to go. Just to test your legs and make sure they still work, really fast? That's what I always do at that point. Test the pedals, just to make sure they work. Really fast, after all that crawling. I could hear the mechanical whir of the engine, a heady thrum of the Mini's electrics doing their thing. Tyres over the bumps in the road.

A sort of cher-chunk when I eased my foot off the brake. A background murmur, as the car was buffeted by wind over the open heath on both sides of the road. It was one of those perfect Norfolk afternoons; a few strands of liquid cirrus clouds, spilt milk on a toddler's table, the sky Malibu blue, so much so it fades to gray over a hazy horizon. The beech trees that delineated fields swayed enthusiastically, sheep grazed in said fields, a tractor ploughed. But it felt different. It wasn't just a Norfolk summer Thursday afternoon without the radio. It was a transplant of some kind. I was in France, maybe, in some region so rural we couldn't find a radio station that actually played. We'd been there before, many times, same thing, different places. I remember a few years ago we rented a caravan and toured the center of the country for the week, we were somewhere in the heart of the Loire where RTL waves didn't reach. We had parked the truck on a green outside a village under a castle, we were by a lake eating off a plastic table on unreliable plastic chairs, sourdough baguettes. I bit into a local peach, it was the juiciest and sweetest I've ever had, the juices dripped down my wrist but I didn't feel like going into the truck to wash it off, so I just sat there with a sticky hand in the hot sun, trying to lean back in the rickety chair, unsteady on the rough grass of that green. 

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The radio silence lasted me along that single lane in the heath and onto the two lane highway towards town. We used to drive over to England from Belgium and there was always this awkward patch of land around Kent and Essex where the radio would just sort of cut out, and my dad would put on BBC radio 2 instead, since it plays everywhere, and I hated it. The annoying channel switches would have started somewhere around Calais in France, but the French always seem to play decent music so that was ok. It was worse in England where in general the music was far less ok. But the first part after you disembark (from the Channel Tunnel) was bearable, despite the music, because back then England was a novelty, and it was fun seeing everyone drive on the wrong side of the road, there were these green fields, sort of hilly, with white chalk underneath, and they'd be filled with horses. Thousands, all colours, just take your pick and it would be there, like types of coke in a vending machine. There was this one rest stop where we'd break journey for a while, and the sun would be blindingly bright, the wind sharp as a slap, and we'd always say how the weather would just visibly deteriorate as we headed North. We were almost always right, but I never remember having a bad time. 

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I was almost at the grocery store by now but I didn't turn on the radio because I was stuck in a thought. I was thinking about that kind of silent city ride in a taxi. There have been so many, mostly in Asia. Not because we don't take taxis in European cities but because their drivers seem to like the radio. In Asia they don't, or not with passengers, something like that.  There'd be tired, sagging leather seats sticking to the backs of sweaty legs, feet with blisters. Window down, the heat inside when the car was idling would be so thick you could cut it with that proverbial knife, but you wouldn't be bored, because Asia has a habit of carrying on life outside of closed doors for the benefit of those stuck in sweltering taxis. Sometimes the cabs had AC, which was better, especially since most of those times I'd be wearing jeans and a sweater and we'd be heading to an airport on a tropical highway, which means the possibility of potholes and debilitating traffic jams and errant cows, and feelings would be mixed. It would be Europe, which would be home. Which could be good. If we lived in Asia then it was nice to drive on highways that were free of cows and potholes. But it could mean that's it, the end of the tropical highway was really the end of the tropical highway since the holidays were over and rainy winter loomed on the other side with piles of school work and a freezing cold house. We could contemplate it, either way. Like leaving something to cook in the residual heat on the stove. We could sit and think, stew it out, in the silence in the back of the cab, without the radio.

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I'm told quite often I'm a quiet person. I don't talk as much as people expect me to, considering I'm 18, female and spend an unreasonable amount of time getting ready in the morning. I prefer to listen, is what I usually say. Listen hard enough and my thoughts seem to take me back, snapshots, times and places and feelings I thought I'd misplaced. A lot to fill the emptiness; it overflows. 

"How free it is, you have no idea how free, the peacefulness so big it dazes you" Sylvia Plath

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I hope that you're all not too tired of stone fruit yet because personally I could eat them year round and I'll proceed to eat peaches and nectarines until they disappear from the shelves. I'd intended to make a peach cobbler but we only had nectarines, so be it. You could of course use peaches if you'd like. Not the most glamorous dessert, maybe, but the fruit really doesn't need much dressing up to be pretty gorgeous. I mean, just look at the colours of those nectarines. Hope that you're enjoying these sort of Indian summer days, this has got to be one of the nicest times of the year - cool mornings and evenings, mild days, sun still warm.

Hugs xx

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honey-oat nectarine cobbler

gluten + dairy free

1/2 cup (50g) rolled oats
1/2c  (60g) brown rice flour
1/2 c (50g) oat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4c (55g)  coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/4c (75g) honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

//filling
600g-800g (5-7ish medium) ripe peaches
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1.5 tspn arrowroot powder / similar starch


Preheat oven to 180'C, 350'F.

Rub a little coconut oil around the sides of a baking dish with around 2L (2 quarts) real estate. An 8x8 square pan would work.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry cobbler ingredients. Add the honey, vanilla and and oil and mix through with a fork until the dough looks, well, dough-y (like cookie or scone dough). Set aside.

Chop nectarines into slices and chunks - no need to peel but you can if you prefer. In your  baking dish, drizzle the lemon juice over the sliced fruit, toss with the arrowroot and sugar.

Top the nectarines with the cobbler - drop blobs, for want of a better word, over the filling. Not so glamorous.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cookie blobs (sorry) are golden and the filling is bubbling.

You can keep the whole dish in the fridge for a couple of days and serve cold or warm, as you prefer. Some people like ice cream with these things, if that's you, go for it.  As a heads up, if you do keep the cobbler, the biscuits will soften from the fruit juices but it will still taste pretty amazing.


fruity desserts