summer shadows | strawberry flax loaf

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I feel there have been a lot of posts recently where I start with some kind of an explanation for my absence. Of course I don’t really need to explain to anyone, this space is in many ways more for me than anyone else, so perhaps it’s an explanation to myself. I’m not in the habit of forgetting things I care about; I keep the list short. A few people, the dogs, my plants, this space. I think I’m ok about keeping up with the other three even when things are busy so I guess in terms of blogging, I kind of fall behind. For me the autumn and winter have always been the season for quiet thoughts and introspection; the slight melancholy inspires those feelings so well. The spring and summer are so brave and brazen they seem to leave you with little space to think, except maybe about when summer fruit will be best and whether gathering clouds mean thunderstorms. There are exams at this time, my head becomes overgrown like the heavy bushes everywhere and time becomes as elusive as shade at midday.

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As elusive as the time I’ve had to think has been sleep. It’s been some time now since I went to bed at what’s considered a normal hour and woken up at something around objective dawn. Sleep seems to come in short dreamy bursts, where my subconscious seems very real. I dream I walk over to the window and look out at the dark street; when I wake up I struggle to separate that dusky dreamworld from myself, awake near midnight and watching the shadows of the loft’s eaves by lamplight. I walk to the window and look out, but I’ve seen it before, in my head, or had I just been at the window? The curve of the ebony road, the amber glow of streetlights; the cries of sheep in the distance, the inky sky and fleeting stars. It is a strange, fragile line to tread, fading between the familiar, enveloping night and the pleasant lightness of dreams.

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Sometimes sleep doesn’t come at all. The night will be a cool mist. A hovering. On the periphery of full alertness, where there’s clarity and a difference between hot and cold, day and night. But there’s a place, a gap, between sleep and being awake, where I fall on those nights. It’s hours but I don’t look at the clock, the summer shadows melt into purple, indigo, denim, and onyx fog. The air becomes very still, like a curtain must be hung to fade out the light and provide a stage for a sliver of pearly moon and its accompanying stars. Darkness cocoons the room, my plants fold their leaves, a fan whirs. My thoughts are both lucid and liquid, I can remember them, but they don’t make sense in the pale light of the morning. Dawn arrives so early. Just after the dark sets in, the stage prepares to clear, the first hints of brightness appear. And I find that nothing around me has changed, it looks the same as when I turned off my light hours ago. It could have been minutes, an hour at most, but the night’s act is over.

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It becomes slowly more difficult for me to draw solid a line between night and day, as that lack of sleep seems to flutter in a cloud all day, so sometimes daytime tasks happen in a dreamlike state. The brightness of the summer seems more translucent, like the reflection of spilled moonlight, and quiet afternoons could be silent midnight. The night has a sort of grasp, over the non-sleepers, the daydreamers, the lamplight wanderers. It sweeps into the day, like warm summer winds through swaying fields of wheat, scattering thoughts like seeds. So you stay, in that gap between the clear light of day and indistinct night, so the sun and the moon exist simultaneously, all the time, and every day fades into a feathery haze. A haze with streaks of peach, for the day; heady mulberry and smoky kohl for the elusive night, and fragile lilac for the dreamlike state between night and day.

“All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom. By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times into something better”
- Mary Oliver, Twelve Moons

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Hi. Thank you for coming back to this little corner of the world after yet another disappearance, it’s nice to be back. I hope you think so too. I bring to you a summery loaf for these brighter, longer days when aaalll the fruits are around. It’s a really simple loaf that you could use with any fruit you have (peaches would be nice). Also as you’ll see I added weight measurements to the cup measurements - I usually weigh my ingredients, it’s more precise and I find it easier (fewer cups to wash) so if you want to do the same, well now you can 😉
There’s still a lot to do around these parts but I hope you’re enjoying all the overgrown hedges, summer traffic and sweet evenings sitting out until late.
Love you xx

PS. If you have three minutes may I suggest you watch this video by two Italian filmmakers that shows a tree in Abruzzo National Park (in the Apennines), filmed over a year, and the animals that interact with the tree. Just the cutest thing that I could watch forever.

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strawberry flax loaf

1c (100g) oat flour
3/4c (90g) brown rice flour
1/4c (30g) flax meal*
1/2tsp salt
2tsp baking soda
1c (250ml) plain yogurt of choice
1/2c (125ml) honey or maple syrup
1tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4c (60ml) melted coconut oil
1 heaped cup (160-180g) chopped strawberries



Preheat the oven to 180’C, 350’F. Prepare an 8inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
In another bowl, beat together the melted coconut oil, maple/honey and eggs. Once combined, add the yogurt. The coconut oil may harden somewhat if your yogurt is straight from the fridge, so it may help to leave the 1c yogurt on the counter for a bit before you start. Add the vanilla extract and stir until batter is smooth and uniform.
Add the chopped strawbs to the dry flour mix - toss gently until the berries are covered with flour. This should help stop the berries sinking to the bottom of the cake.
Add the wet mix to the flour/berries and stir until just combined.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for around 60 minutes - if the top seems to be browning too fast, you can ‘tent’ it with some foil loosely over the top. Either way the top will crack, that’s ok, loaves are kind of cute in that rustic way.
Transfer to a cooling rack and let the loaf cool before cutting - like a lot of gluten free breads/baked things it will be a bit fragile before that. The loaf will keep for about 5 days in the fridge, or will freeze/defrost nicely.

*I think instead of flax meal you could use rolled oats, 1/4c (50g) should work well instead, in case you don’t keep flax around. Of course it wouldn’t be a flax loaf anymore, but will be great all the same.

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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

winter sun | grapefruit, honey + almond mini muffs

We lived in England years ago, when I first started school. Thinking back, I feel like I watched a lot of TV. I spent a fair bit of time in class, a lot of time playing in the garden and mucking about outside generally, reading too, but it was then that I watched the most TV I ever have. Maybe because I had the most free time I ever had, but either way, TV was a pass time for dark, wet days. For the most part it was those kiddie cartoons, with animated animals that teach things like to be truthful, to embrace differences, standard lessons that may or may not be relevant as you grow up. Later I also liked wildlife and art shows, but from even when I was very young I could watch the travel channels endlessly. In those days (I'm talking 13-14 years ago) the big tour operators had their own channels - Thomson, Thomas Cook, the whole crew shot footage of their hotels and cruise ships. If you read this blog now and then you'll know that we adopted some kind of semi nomadic lifestyle (kidding) and in those years those of movement my travel channels disappeared, perhaps with the high street travel agents themselves.

At age 5 you could've quizzed me on the Balearics, The Canary Islands, the Spanish costas, north Africa and the Caribbean. I could've told you the main resorts, the nearest airports and the hotel chains operating in each area. It's funny because these are pretty much the exact places and types of resort I'd scorn now, but through the eyes of a curious 5 year old who didn't quite understand package holiday crowds, these places were dreams. There's no denying many of them are beautiful. I have the most vivid footage of Fueterventura etched in my mind - a white stone house with purple shutters under a clear blue sky, dusty desert grounds, a wooden chair with a straw-hatted man dozing. That stereotypical Mediterranean music playing in the background - you know, the gentle acoustic guitar that leaves you lusting after cobbled plazas and stone buildings covered in bougainvillea, an evening breeze ruffling the leaves of palms. I knew that Rhodes had the best water parks, I was fascinated by Lanzarote's black sand beaches, I knew which cruise ships had skating rinks and climbing walls, the Dominican Republic had the bluest sea (and you call it the Dom Rep). I wanted to see them all, to swim in all those pools, to stand on the balconies, to climb onto the flights with blue tail wings, to run barefoot on the golden arcs of sand.

The tour operators sold packages at all times of year - Easter, summer, but their biggest campaign was for the winter. 'Winter sun', they called it, and if you've ever lived somewhere that is hit hard by winter, the power of that name is really something. With the sun setting by 4pm and not rising till 8am, the thought of going anywhere with blue skies, sand and long sunshine hours is like a magnetic pull. We did eventually make it to Fuerteventura when I was about 12, to a sprawling resort where I played beach volleyball most of the day and we walked to an Italian restaurant on the promenade in the evening. We'd visited Malta and southern Spain, I'd taken on playgrounds and raced through hotel corridors, there had been mild sunshine and warm winds, I remember glasses of fresh orange juice on a Maltese pier, and being sent to the bar by my dad to ask for the bill for the first time. The year we went to Spain, my mum and I were down with chest infections, but there was just enough dry air and subtle heat that our lungs remembered to breathe and I could eventually shed my sweater. I learnt to ride the swings standing on the seat, how to climb up a slide and not use the staircase, how to read a map and bus timetables. 

We made friends with other kids, from similar families, with parents who worked hard and liked to take their little ones traveling as much as possible so they'd be part gypsy all their lives. I remember driving around Spanish hillsides, looking at property, since my parents were considering a small second home, so we could easily leave northern Europe to dry out. As you've probably seen, we don't holiday loads in Europe anymore, nor do we tend to go with all four of us  (ever since we became a family of six). We visit France often, driving from village to village, shopping in local markets, I try to speak French and we stake out a small village in the big French countryside to rent a charming place. Very different to the European trips growing up - no pool, no restaurants, no waterslides, no one my age.

It's funny to think I'll never go back to those places. I'll never see most of those islands or coastal towns that were my daydreams all that time ago. No Carribean cruises on the horizon. But in a way that's ok, the pools and the slides, the pizza dinners and the boulevards can stay, as they are, in my head. Sometimes on rainy days in February I'll think of them, and they'll bring light and warmth, just like winter sun.

Does anyone else feel like winter's just dragging its feet now? It's not properly cold anymore, just vaguely mild and sooo wet. If it's not going to be winter, it might as well be spring. Anyway, I made these muffs as a crossover, the citrus still at its winter prime, but bright and light. Grapefruit are at their best at this time of year and we tracked down these beautiful ruby fruit, but pink or white would work too. Equally if you're not into grapefruit, blood oranges would be lovely but even regular oranges or lemon would work. The thing with grapefruit is it gives this occasional bitter edge that goes so well with the sweet honey, almond meal and mild oat flour. It really gives them a little lively kick that is kind of sophisticated - think tahini in something sweet. If you would like to make regular sized muffins, that would work well too you'd just need to add a few minutes to the baking time - I haven't tried, so just keep eye on them. These muffins are also totally gluten free and dairy free depending on which yogurt route you choose, so I hope you try them. Either way, hope that you have a lovely weekend with a little bit of sunshine and maybe a muffin. Hugs xx


grapefruit, honey + almond mini muffs

makes 18 minis or 9 regular // gluten free

1 cup (100g) almond meal
1 cup (90g) oat flour, certified gf if necessary
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (15ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 free range eggs
6 tablespoons (120g) honey
1/4 cup (60ml) natural/plain yogurt (I used goat yogurt, regular or coconut would work too)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of one large grapefruit, about 2 teaspoons 

1 large  grapefruit 


Preheat the oven to 180'c, 350'f. Grease/line a mini muffin pan, or a regular one. 

Prepare your grapefruit. Cut the two ends off the fruit, then keep cutting the skin so that the flesh is in a rough block. Use the knife to remove as much of the pith as possible, and slice the flesh into small chunks. This is called supreming the fruit, fyi, in restaurant speak. 

In a large bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat together the oil, eggs and honey till well combined. Add the yogurt and grapefruit zest and stir again till well combined.

Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir gently with a flexible spatula. Fold in the grapefruit pieces.

Portion out the batter into your prepared pans of choice, filling minis to the top and regular muffins 3/4 full. 

Bake for 19-21 minutes for mini muffs, till the tops are golden, spring back when touched and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow 5-7 minutes more for regular muffins.

Cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. They'll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days or will freeze and defrost well. 

Notes

As I mentioned, if grapefruit isn't your thing, this would be amazing with blood oranges, or even a regular orange or lemon, so have fun with it. 

I started of filling the tin with two spoons but used a medium cookie scoop in the end and it was sooo much cleaner, if you're using mini muffins and have a scoop now is the time to use it :) 


more winter recipes

can we dumb it down | chocolate + cherry rye oatmeal cookies

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I don't love talking about politics, not here or anywhere else. I also don't love valentine's day. But I think, considering everything that's going on right now, that it's a bit hard to miss the irony. I walked into the store the other day and looked at the news stand at the front. The newspapers, headlines to the back page, filled with hate. Hate from the people for a campaign that's built on it; the words of its supporters. People killed, families torn apart. The shelf next to the papers, the valentine's cards. The pinks and reds and roses, telling husbands and wives and friends you love them.

I don't propose we all start to love everyone, because we don't all live in some fair trade commune in southern Philadelphia. Maybe we need to rethink about how we think about love. Perhaps it's been over complicated. Perhaps we should just dumb it down to acceptance and quiet respect. Not even acceptance, just tolerance. That there will be people who don't want to celebrate valentine's day. That there'll be girls who want to show off their hair and others who'd prefer to keep it covered. That there are happy families with parents who never married and content kids with parents who married in a church. That there are some guys that love toting guns and driving tractors and there are some who curate art and live in lofts with exposed brick.

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chocolate + cherry rye oatmeal cookies

Maybe it's because we're actually scared. Maybe have good reason to be. Maybe we're not as accepting as we thought we were. Maybe it's because fewer and fewer families are actually composed of a mother, a father, two kids, a dog, a suburban detached house with a double garage and a toyota. Maybe the acceptance of change is on the outside. Maybe we did it because it's the cool thing to do, to feign openness; maybe it became trendy. Maybe, deep down, we cling to tradition. The tradition that love is romance, or perhaps duty to care. For soul mates, your children, a sibling. Maybe it's what we were taught. We grew up watching TV shows were people give each other candy hearts and pink cards and wait breathlessly for the popular boy to ask them to the dance. But maybe things have changed. Maybe now there are people getting hurt, pushed aside, loosing opportunities. And there's no moral high ground. You know how you read everywhere, every day, that we can't go on eating processed wheat and sugar because it's just not modern? Not sustainable. Not healthy. People have seemed very happy to jump off the ship of what health food once was, into a very stormy sea and onto a very shaky lifeboat that is what eating well has now become. In the same way, maybe love as it once was isn't sustainable, healthy or modern. Would we abandon our ship of chocolates and slinky black dresses and acceptance being cool? Watch the sinking of the concept with which we're comfortable? People will moan that we have jumped ship and that I said it myself. That we're not all married in churches anymore, we're ok that some people don't marry at all, some of us are hipsters these days. But love was simply supposed to keep people afloat, stop them from getting hurt, stop the coldness. Whatever we've done, then, is far from love.

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On the one hand we've hijacked the concept. Not just that it's cool to claim tolerance. The number of bloggers and social media people who sign off with a 'love you friends'. People ask you in class whether you know the funny guy, and you're supposed to say 'him? I love him! he's so funny'. We're supposed to love our friends, right? So is this our broader, trendy definition? If it is, why I am I so put off by saying that I 'love' the neighbours? They're fine, but to say I love them would be going a bit far. Because, like everything else, we've taken love out of context sometimes, when kicking the tradition is cool and ok, detached. On the internet, it goes out to too many people to really think about. The funny guy? He'll never find out you said that.

Your friends? Well, maybe, you love them in a way. If love can encompass actual, quiet tolerance of individual quirks, warmth and acceptance, then it's there. Acceptance of differences and that you'll never see some things the same way, that your values and priorities might even clash. Maybe it's just not been something people think about. That love could be much simpler than the marriage-or-not debate, than a cold analysis of the number of broken families, and a whole lot more simple than dinner dates and bouquets. More rational than trying to make acceptance the new in thing. Maybe it could just be letting people walk down the street without feeling unsafe; or being able to take public transport without funny stares or being asked where you're from. Maybe we do love our friends because we put up with all their eccentricities, like we do our own family. Tolerance for differences has always been there, as part of love, in our living with kids and siblings and soul mates. Maybe we can stretch that out a bit - just the tolerance, to all the people around us. The hate has evolved, maybe it's time that love does too. It's not love as we know it. But then it's not just candy hearts and popular boys and the world as they said it was, either.

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But there are cookies and there will be cookies as long as I'm around :) since I posted the house loaf cake a few weeks ago, I now present the house cookie. I pretty much sum up its amazingess in the recipe header but seriously. So good. Rye flour isn't bitter as you may have thought, it's actually quite mild if used with sweet, rich goodies (cherries, hi) and the cocoa really highlights the beautiful colour. The little flecks of oatmeal add some chunky texture and the cherries are so moist and sweet. They'll be a bit more puck-like than regular cookies because of the oil but still. So good. To share, on Valentine's Day. Whether with your little loved crowd or a bigger crew. treat yourself. Big hugs and cookies for you all xx

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Ps. I would've made something for any doggie loves you have but Prune is meant to be on a diet (!!!!) so you could make these if you'd like, my monkeys are crazy about them.

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chocolate + cherry rye oatmeal cookies

Little pucks of goodness - slightly malty rye, the color and richness of dark cocoa. Plump, velvety, sweet cherries. Light flecks of chewy oatmeal. Infinitely loveable. 
// makes 18-20 medium cookies // dairy free

1 cup (110g) rye flour
2/3 cup (70g) rolled oats
1/3 cup (40g) natural cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (100g) dark muscavado sugar
1/4 cup (50g) turbinado sugar
1 free range egg
1/3cup (75g) melted coconut oil
1/2 cup (75g) unsweetened dried cherries, coarsely chopped if large
1 -2 tablespoons of any milk, as needed


Preheat the oven to 180’C, 350’F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the rye flour, rolled oats, salt, baking soda. Add the cocoa powder, you may need to sift it into the bowl if it’s very clumpy. Mix together so evenly combined and set aside.

In a small bowl, add the melted coconut oil and the two sugars, stir well with a flexible spatula. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

Combine the wet mix with the dry oat mix and stir together well, you may need to use a stiff wooden spoon for this since the dough is quite thick. If it’s way too dry (this depends on the cut of your rye flour) slowly add a little milk, teaspoon at a time. Fold in the dried cherries.

Using a medium cookie scoop or heaped tablespoons, portion out the dough. Use the bottom of a glass/measuring cup to flatten each poof into a disk, leaving about 3cm/ an inch between.

Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.

Allow to cool on the sheets for about 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

The cookies will keep for about 4 days in an airtight container, but are something else straight from the oven 

notes

I think these could take some other goodies as add-ins too – about 1/2 cup worth. Hazelnuts might be nice. If you’re feeling decadent, half a cup (75gish) chopped dark chocolate would be amazing. Next time…


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