spinning and marking time | summer berry crumb cake

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It's been a while. Where have I been? I ask myself that often. Away, I suppose. We had a full house, some warm weather. I was saying I'll get to it to a lot this year and I, well, finally got to it. Some things at least. That's how it goes in the summer - I scramble around for the first few weeks doing anything and everything then somewhere that fire just kind of ebbs. I'm one of those people who is used to having a life that's just way too full and doing nothing was like a nice act of rebellion. Against myself, of course. I started off going places to conquer the wilds of Norfolk and rack up mileage in my (now one year old) car, working on projects for the blog... it fizzled out. I took it. You get a flat bottle of club soda now and then. 

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I suppose I'm just looking for a nutshell. To put summer in. You start by acting, then you get to thinking, but thinking is dangerous so you start acting again. Illustrated by the fact that most of the summer has passed and there are at least three books on my desk I want to read, and two half finished projects and a spotfiy playlist that really needs updating. But there were days when the sky was bluer than your Twitter feed and the water was instagrammable and the wind was blowing my hair in my face and I was walking on that stretch of promenade and watching freighters cruise the North Sea. There were wind turbines spinning and marking time and my dad was laughing as he loaded our panting dogs into the car and there was traffic all along the ocean front.  There was the tie rope strung up between the side of the house and the shed and my grandparents hanging the washing out to dry and the dogs' towels were flapping in the breeze. There was Layla sitting with two pints of berries on her lap in my car and we were singing to a mediocre song and there had been berry fields and bushes heavy with fruit so ripe they burst as you touched them to pull them from the vine, maybe a sign that they were happy enough as is . Happy enough as is. As I was, in a pair of Nike shorts with my hair in a pony tail, with a DVD box of NCIS on my bed and a half read spy novel of sorts open on the desk and a growing to do list and tabs open and cherry tomatoes and clothes piled up on a chair. 

And that is summer. It's sunshine and downpours. You do so much, but it feels like painfully little. And it flies. Away, quicker than jet trails in a clear evening sky, and you start thinking of the things you could have done, should have done, that you did. It's like sticking your hand into a crate of berries. Some are sweet, some are less so, but they're all color. Color and life and memories and two seconds of quiet complacency. 

"I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer – its dust and lowering skies."
Toni Morrison

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I hope that you guys have all been enjoying the summer and the gorgeous produce that goes with it. I love peaches, I love tomatoes, I love plums but berries. Berries first. This cake is very simple to make but the crumble adds a little something and the tart berries are little bursts of summer. You can really use any mix of berries you like, and frozen if that's more convenient. 

Love you xx

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Summer berry crumb cake

makes 1 8 inch (20cm) round cake  // gluten free

1 cup (100g) oat flour
1/2 cup (60g) brown rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 free range eggs
1/4 cup (60ml) oil (I used avocado*, melted coconut or olive oil would work great too)
2/3 cup (130g) coconut sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) plain yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (225g) mixed summer berries of choice, fresh or frozen ( I used raspberries, blueberries & blackberries)

// streusel
1/3 cup (30g) rolled oats
1/4 cup (40g) chopped walnuts (or almonds)
1/4 cup (50g) turbinado sugar (or natural cane sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons (30ml) coconut oil (room temp/solid is fine)


Preheat the oven to 180'C, 350'F. Line an 8 inch (20cm) springform pan (with removable sides + base) with parchment paper and rub a little coconut oil on the sides.

Start by making the streusel-y topping. Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a small bowl, then add the coconut oil. With your fingers, crumble the dry mix through the oil so it becomes clumpy with a coarse sand texture. You can do this a day or so in advance and refrigerate if that helps. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder & soda, salt. 

In another large bowl, beat together the sugar, oil and eggs until combined. Beat in the yogurt and vanilla until smooth.

Pour about half the berries (around 3/4 cup) into the dry bowl and toss gently to coat with flour. This should stop the berries from sinking.

Pour the wet mix into the dry and gently stir until just combined. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth over the top with an offset spatula. Sprinkle over the remaining 3/4 berries, then over that, evenly drop the streusel topping and press it very gently into the batter so it sticks a bit.

Bake the cake for around 60-70 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for around half an hour in the tin before attempting to remove the sides and transferring the cake to a rack. Cool fully before slicing, the cake can be a little fragile.

*I think the avo oil and coconut sugar contributed to the caramel color of the cake. If you prefer something lighter coloured (the berry streaks will show up better) I think melted coconut oil would be best.


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the ebb and flow | lemon-blueberry loaf

nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

It was our dad who picked us up from Heathrow the other day after our trip. He was waiting in arrivals, a smiling face in the crowd. Two weeks ago he'd been there himself. His homecoming. In three days he would be back. His departure. It's odd, in families like ours, where people keep coming and going. In families which are absence and reunion. We flow like rivers. Rivers run dry, it's a reaction to absence. Slowly, rain trickles down and the level picks up. The currents move you along as usual. There's a reunion and your river is full.

lemon-blueb-3-1.jpg
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

You learn to pick it up where you left off. Changing seasons, hair cuts, height. The same jokes, the same fights, the same people. Absence. Maybe it taught me things. You learn to appreciate someone's presence - waking up in the morning and knowing everyone is home. Small things. Seeing the coffee cup on the sideboard and knowing that someone's already awake and pottering around. Getting back from a cold, wet walk with the dogs and finding the lights on, fresh towels hanging in the hallway and knowing that someone is home. If people were around all the time, wouldn't I grow complacent? I know I do, because in the short periods that dad's work has been more from home, I just sort of get... meh, too used to it in a way. I wonder what it's like for those who have grandparents living in the same town; or where normality is having all your people under the same roof, a dad who works the 9 to 5 at an office. It's just not - not a concept to me, for some of us jobs are in other places, there are dusty port cities all over the world, nucleated families who are together but apart. The absence puts the every day, the ebb and flow, into perspective. Time seems to tumble down a waterfall. From above, from the outside, it seems to be barely moving. But deep in the swell, when you're swept up in the currents, things go fast. There are whirlpools of thoughts, everyday events that you only recollect when the spinning has stopped and you're on the other side, sitting on the banks with everyone and you're looking back and thinking "I can't believe that much time has passed". Because the truth is that it will rain. And your river will rise. And you don't notice it rising because you're in the water and totally taken along by the flow.

nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

The last time dad was visiting I was still practicing for my driving test. This time, last week, I drove him to our local train station with a full license. The sky was smooth and slick, cool, monochrome gray, like tiles in a Kinfolk kitchen. The radio raved about the 4cm snow expected overnight and worse ice. Howling wind through the ribs of trees over the Broadland marshes, the landscape in muted green and brown, fields fallow and hedgerows bare. Dad and I stood on the platform, the wind eating through our clothing, looking over the tracks into the distance. A long straight path. We talked, just like normal, as if we were like the three other passengers. Just off to the city for the afternoon. Not that my dad had three trains and two planes and twenty four hours of travel ahead of him. Alone. But we talked, about trains and wood working and the London Underground, as dads and daughters do on drafty rail platforms in January. The train arrived on time. "Go", my dad said to me as he moved towards the carriage. The little station was eerily quiet. Down a country track, in the middle of the Broads, a part of that muted landscape. There was an old rickety bridge, the rail house needed painting, there were a few arbitrary tracks leading to it from the fields. I wanted to wait. To watch him and the train leave. But he didn't like to see me stand there. He wanted to see me go home. Always his little girl. That was absence, somewhere he'd missed me swim out of the shallows and into the channel. "Go now" he said again. Our rivers, running dry. By tomorrow they'd start filling again.

I went. Over the wooden bridge and his train left. I turned back to watch it, from the bridge, I waved to him and waved to the retreating train as it cut through the murky browns and greens.

nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

My car was one of the few parked in the pebbled lot, nestled in the brambles and the naked branches. I sat for a few minutes, door locked, and listened to a blackbird, remembering all the boring day to day questions I'd forgotten to ask my dad. Never mind, I thought, there's next time, and next time, it will be spring, our rivers will be full.

nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

So here's a lemon blueberry loaf. And a funny story about how this was the first gluten free recipe I wrote myself, and how I miscalculated and forgot a cup of flour, but it still turned out ok, albeit after three days in the oven. What I'm trying to say is that if you'd like to start baking gluten free, this loaf is ahem very forgiving and you can't go wrong because I've remembered the cup of flour. I'm calling it the 'house loaf' because I think it's the most requested recipe of mine, and I know it may seem slightly odd to pair lemon and blueberry but it's seriously so addictive. A zesty, sunny shock of citrus from the lemon and a bright sweetness from blueberries. Not to mention the vitamin C and anti-oxidants that winter loves to sap. This loaf has a very light crumb with all the yogurt and is not overly sweet, more of a breakfast or snack loaf. To keep it simple I generally do a 1-1 rice flour oat flour mix, but I see more people concerned about trace levels of arsenic in brown rice - if that's you, I've tried a new option, it's in the recipe notes. Either way, I really hope you try this. The comfy sweater of loaf cakes. Sending lots of winter brightness your way. Happy weekend xx

nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

Lemon - blueberry loaf

// gluten free + dairy free option // makes 1 9x5 inch loaf

1 cup (100g) oat flour, certified gf if necessary
1 (120g) cup brown rice flour OR 1/2 cup (60g) brown rice flour and 1/2 cup (60g) millet flour *
2 tablespoons flax meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (150g) light muscavado sugar or coconut sugar
Zest of one lemon
1/4 cup (60ml) melted coconut oil
2 free range eggs
1 cup (240ml) plain yogurt (I used goat yogurt, use non-dairy or regular as you wish)
1/4 cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (this was 1 1/2 medium lemons for me)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (150g) blueberries, fresh or frozen (frozen will make the batter a bit blue, but I find that so pretty)


Preheat the oven to 175’C / 350’F and line a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl combine the flours, flax meal, baking powder and soda, salt. Add the cup of blueberries and toss them through so well coated in flour – this stops them sinking to the bottom. Set aside.

In another large bowl, combine the coconut oil, two eggs, sugar and lemon zest. With a whisk, beat together till smooth and dark brown. Add the vanilla and 1/4cup (60ml) lemon juice with the yogurt and beat again till smooth and pale. It always reminds me of thin tahini at this point, probably a personal thing.

Add the wet mix to the dry mix and use a flexible spatula to combine till moist and even. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake till the top is cracked and golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean – probably about 1hr-1hr 5 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes then allow it to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Being gluten free and fairly light, it will be a bit fragile but if you would like neat slices, wrap the cake in foil for a bit and refrigerate and then cut.

The cake will keep, in an airtight container in the fridge for about 5 days but freezes and defrosts very well.

notes

*There are some concerns about trace levels of arsenic in brown rice. I’ve done some research into this and found that in the UK and EU, imports of rice are very closely regulated and surveyed for arsenic. There are strict standards and that seems to make brown rice products sold through UK/EU companies very much food safe because the sources are regulated . I buy my brown rice flour from a British brand. I don’t know in the US, though, how much regulation there is and I understand the concerns came out of the US initially. Either way, I know this can be off-putting if you don’t know the sources of your flour, so I’ve tried cutting the rice flour with millet flour . For the first time tested the recipe with half the quantity (1/2 cup or 60g) millet flour which acts very similarly in baking, and it worked just as well. So you have another option if you don’t want to go with all brown rice flour, though I wouldn’t recommend going above a 1/2 cup millet flour because it can be slightly bitter and also a bit pale yellow, which works ok here for the sunshine effect but it may become too much. Hope that helps.


nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

nutmeg and pear favourites

headlights and tail lights | mixed berry baked oatmeal

nutmeg and pear | maple-sweetened mixed berry baked oatmeal (gf+dairy free)

It's been thanksgiving weekend in the States. I read a lot of American food blogs/sites and I think the cranberry population's been pretty much decimated, pumpkins too and I guess turkeys as well (I only really read veggie blogs... but they're the tradition I know). Anyway, looks like a fun holiday, getting together for a meal with friends and family when it's vague November and Christmas seems just slightly out of reach.

nutmeg and pear | maple-sweetened mixed berry baked oatmeal (gf+dairy free)

I know that some people find it superficial, giving thanks on one arbitrary day of the year. That you should be thankful every day, but sometimes it's hard and you just need a reminder. It's four o'clock, you're sitting in class, watching the light fade away, the night moves in and you wonder where the day went. It's chilly out, the sun won't be up till 8am, you've got a hundred tedious jobs to do tonight, there are puddles by the side of the road, cars plough through, you get an icy blast of scummy water. I don't know if it's so much thankful as... I've learnt to see the beauty in things, I suppose. I'm not saying that there's always beauty in life: sometimes I feel like I'm walking through damp sand, one step forwards, two steps back, often my sky nothing but a blanket of dark clouds. Keeping my head up is not always natural, but I've taught myself how. My room is small, the smallest in the house, and it's ironic since I think I have the most stuff. A whole shelf of cookbooks, camera equipment, an ice cream maker (yes, in my room).But it's from my room that I can lie in bed under the big window, watch the stars all night in winter, I'm sure I slept under a constellation. Summer mornings, I open the window, listen to the birds, watch a little deer stroll across the lawn, wave to a warbler sitting on the roof of the car. The room is small enough that the fairylights strung to the bed frame light the whole thing up, that if the sun is coming in and I close the curtains, the whole room turns into a little cocoon of white.

I moan about the farmers who till the fields and the big rubber tyres of their tractors drag mud out onto the road. The bottom of my jeans are never clean anymore and after every walk I crawl around on hands and knees, scrubbing the dogs' paws. But the fields are what the make the place. We watch deer jumping on sunset walks, the same little guy, we called him Stanley. There was once a group of four stags so big we thought they were horses, running in the long grass. Sometimes I stand in the kitchen, the kitchen that I curse for the gray tiles and strangely big windows, and I watch a pheasant sitting on the back fence. The fence that's old with peeling paint, but it's heavy with ivy, little birds have built a nest in the bird house by that fence. I'll long for a dishwasher and stand at the sink, a little robin will sit at the bird feeder, I'll meet his eye. In the garden that's a muddy swamp from all the rain, littered with leaves that cover the lawn, I've watched a baby pigeon fight his way back to life after his nest fell in a storm, bunnies eat fallen apples and blackbirds sing from the roof of the shed that I deemed 'such an eyesore'.

When does a place lose it's beauty? I realize that maybe it looks like I'm just really ungrateful. Complacent, whatever you want to call it: I live in some countryside idyll and I moan. I don't want it to come across like that - not like those people who'll post a photo on instagram, them in their expensive gym clothes with their great abs at some trendy gym in LA and write about how 'blessed' they are to be off to yoga at 9am on a Tuesday morning. Or the people who post overhead shots of brunches at cute indie cafes in Hoxton somewhere, predictably with a beautifully plated avocado toast (on sourdough rye bread, naturally. with an almond milk latte) and also write about how 'blessed' they are to have the gift of travel, or something. Nothing like that for me. My jeans are muddy, my room is still small, it rains, I get splashed, I live a normal life. I think I cried a couple of times in the past week, I fought with my sister over something irrelevant, I found the jar of granola was empty (yes, this is a disaster), I missed a huge deal on a camera lens, I stayed up way too late reading a cookbook and was so tired I was shaky the next day. There are times I laugh with my family, times when I'd rather sit in my room, door closed. I've learnt and I've set out very intentionally to try and see the little beautiful things a bit more, since the sun is always shining somewhere above the clouds.

nutmeg and pear | maple-sweetened mixed berry baked oatmeal (gf+dairy free)

I drive home in the night, I like the bouncing flashes of the headlights and tail lights, the dark and the road signs make me think of car trips, adventure. It's cold but the heating is on, sometimes it kind of smells of musty, but that's ok since it reminds of when we first bought this house and it was all new and exciting. Tractors run me off the road but I just sigh and take a minute to pat the doggies' heads, see that they're ok. There are days that I forget to do any of this, that I just plough on, autopilot, blinkers, just keeping my head above the sand. But then I'm reminded and I see the sun for a bit, no doubt night always draws in, but I take a step back. Whether you need a day to remind of you of the light, or it's just something you can do, either way, go you. Plants grow towards the light for a reason, and sometimes, you've got to make the clouds part yourself. If you celebrated, hope you had a good Thanksgiving. Either way, hope there's a li'l bit of light in your next week.

a sure-fire way to make your own brightness? A good breakfast. Therefore, I present you baked oatmeal. This ingenious idea is not my own, lots of blogs have similar renditions which all come from the famous baked oatmeal in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day. But anyway, it's seriously so good. Berries, because I thought we could all do with a bit of a vitamin C and an antioxidant boost at this dreary time of year and also because I don't want to bore you with more apple and um, it's in the name. Also I'm going to go and upset a few people and mention that c word Christmas. Yes this could come in handy over that crazy festive season we have in store for us - it's great for family brunches or something since its gluten free and vegan (which is where it differs from the original recipe) and easily feeds 9-12 people. It keeps well for 5 days in the fridge, so you can make it ahead or freeze extras for once you've cooked yourself out. And serve it with whatever you like, too. I hope you try this, even oatmeal haters, this is more like a very lightly sweetened crumble than anything porridge-y. Warm or cold, with a group or on a weekday, it's a keeper.

nutmeg and pear | maple-sweetened mixed berry baked oatmeal (gf+dairy free)

MIXED BERRY BAKED OATMEAL

// gluten free + vegan (dairy free) // serves 9 or 12 less hungry people

A wholesome gluten free and vegan breakfast recipe that keeps well and is fun to share. It's lightly sweetened with maple and has a lovely crunch from toasted oats and almonds. Swap in any fruits, berries or nuts you have
 

2 cups / 200g rolled oats, certified gluten free if necessary
1/2 cup / 75g almonds, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups milk of choice / 400ml (I used almond milk, any plant or regular would work) – room temperature/warm*
1/3 cup / 80ml pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 1/2 cups (400g) berries**
// for serving: milk or yogurt of choice, extra maple, more fruit or other goodies

preheat your oven to 190’C or 375’F and grease an 8x8inch square pan well with coconut oil.

in a medium bowl, combine the oats, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and half the chopped almonds. Set aside.

in a liquid measuring jug or large bowl, combine the milk, oil, vanilla and maple syrup, whisk till well combined.

add the berries to the bottom of the pan, then evenly scatter the oat mix over.

drizzle the wet mix evenly over the oats, it should look moist. Tap the pan on the counter so that the liquid spreads through the batter, then sprinkle the remaining chopped almonds over.

bake for 37-40 minutes, till the oats are set and the top is lightly golden. If you know for sure you’re freezing/reheating, it may be a good idea to undertake it slightly.

allow to cool completely and then slice for clean squares. Serve however you like – with extra milk, yogurt, something sweet or more fruit for garnish.

notes

*the milk shouldn’t be cold because otherwise the coconut oil will solidify. What I usually do is put the oil and milk from the fridge into a glass measuring cup and heat them together in the microwave, but otherwise just leave the measured milk out for a bit and you’ll be fine
** I used a cup of blackberries and 1/2 a cup raspberries, both were frozen. If you can find fresh (in November? Where do you live?) you can of course use them and any combination of berries would work, blueberries or strawberries would be amazing. Or even apples I think would be really nice, you can’t really go wrong here. 
This will keep around 4 days covered in the fridge, you can serve it cold or reheat it with/without milk in the microwave or over the stove. To freeze, I portion it out into freezer bags and then just reheat in the microwave for longer, or let it thaw at room temperature and eat it with yogurt. Still tastes really good and is so handy to have around.