in that split second | peanut butter & banana trail cookies

It feels like it's been a long time since I last visited this space. The boring truth is that there aren't that many readers and since things are pretty hectic with exams and week of work experience I thought I'd just post less. I have these cookies and some muffins that I baked ages ago - there's a bit of a weird time lag since I actually had prepared the other (muffin) post a couple of weeks earlier, but whatever. Anyway, I just thought I'd say hi. 

I have been working on this post for three weeks,  maybe that shows the extent of my exam-fatigue (which is a thing). I had my first law exam on Thursday... criminal law. We were with the marketing (as in the course, not PR ha) people which was apparently where all the cool kids were and they left after an hour, all the law losers were still scrambling, it was amusing. The questions were ok I guess. Hard to say. Fingers crossed for the foreseeable future, lots of waiting for 11:11. If you have a spare wish, direct it here. Just over a week until the next paper (but I'm working next week so it doesn't really count). It's going to be so strange when it's all over - I'll be so free. I can't remember the last time when I just woke up and thought wow, I have the whole day ahead of me to do whatever I like. School weeks from September to February/March aren't as bad as around exam time, it's been the case for the past couple of years. It's such a peacetime - wartime thing: when I study, I study. Everything pretty much comes to a hold for a couple of months, it reminds me of those books you read about the world wars. There'll be people saying they'll go on picnics, clean the house, plant roses, whatever, once the war is over and the peace is back. It's a bit like that for me - hostility, from March onwards. I say I'll delete 1000+ extra photos on Lightroom, repot one of my indoor plants, tidy all my papers, cuddle the dogs a bit extra... once the exams are over.

Someone, when they found out I was doing law, recently asked me what I was going to do to celebrate the last of my exams. Funny thing is that I have always found the end of the school year so anticlimatic, even when I was young and in school. It would just... finish, and I would go home, and wonder what to do with myself. It has felt even stranger in the years when I've studied hard, really crazy hard, for months because I literally forget how to live a civilian life, if that makes sense? Like if I'm doing anything else I'll unconsciously feel this guilt until I realize that the exams are done and I don't have to study any more... really strange. Anyway the first day of the summer will come and go, particularly since Layla and I are leaving for Rome the day after my last exam. So I guess I get a holiday to celebrate. No wild parties or anything, as I said last time I don't really do those. But sometimes I think it would be nice if I did because I'd really have that 'free' feeling - that it doesn't matter that your head is pounding and you need to lie immobile in bed for most of the next morning, just because you can.

In a way maybe it doesn't matter, because freedom and weightlessness are so heady. I remember something I said to my sister a few years ago, when we were running through the ruins of an abandoned French chateau in the rain, it was on a high hill that looked over rolling green fields and craggy escarpments. Deep in the heart of the Champagne region and because of the bad weather the whole medieval castle was quiet as a still life, and the hills and pastures seemed so still too. I said to her, this is what I need, now and then. Maybe that's why I'm different from other people my age but I was... so swept up by the fresh, wet air; the adventure of it, the emptiness and space, it made me so feel alive, something about obscure moments like those. Simple, so surreal, I wonder whether they actually happened or if it's all in my head. Other than another week of work in August I don't need to think about law, or read another statute, or find an academic text... and that's really powerful. Not at first, it'll be like the early hours of the aforementioned party, too eager to do too much. But after a week or so, I'll find myself with nothing really to do. Nothing to do! Now that really is something. That's enough for me.

The last few weeks counting down to exams are rough - almost out of material to study, but not feeling like I know enough, an awkward week in a law firm in between.  I tell myself to keep my eyes on the horizon, which is blurry, abstract and far, but exists, always. There are times when you're driving in the dark and it's been raining and the wipers haven't cleared the water from the windscreen... there'll be these fuzzy pillions of light in the distance. You'll know what they are just because the shapes are familiar - traffic lights, usually, and then the wipers work and you're waiting, the engine purring at a standstill, under the lights. I'm there, in that split second before the wipers sweep across and the roads are clear and empty, and neon signs for shops are streaking past, you feel... wired. Or maybe that's just me. Open stretches of road, either metaphorical or not. Emptiness, relief, contemplation... at this point, that's enough. 

“One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters. But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.”  Charles Baudelaire

Did that just bore you? Yeah it just bored me too, sorry about that but ugh these exams. If I thought glaciation was bad, I hadn't met vitiation. Anyway. Trail cookies, in the spirit of (prospective) summery events like picnics, road trips, hikes etc. These cookies travel well and use aaalll the pantry staples, so you can pretty much make them now. You probably have some black bananas somewhere... Aaaalso I originally made this for my baby Suzi's second anniversary waaay back in early May; that is the day she came to us two years ago. My monkeys go crazy for the pb + banana combination but if I was making these for myself I'd probably use any nut butter but pb (I'm not crazy about it) so feel free to switch in any nut/seed butter you/your dogs/your kids like, but just be sure that it's the totally natural variety (palm oil, sugar and salt are meh* ok) and reasonably smooth (stir the oil back in). I somehow managed to make these cookies gluten and egg free, which is incredibly rare for me, but if gluten isn't an issue, feel free to use spelt flour or even whole wheat in place of the flour + flax meal. If you are going the gf route, the flax meal is really good as a binder/absorbing agent, so I wouldn't replace it. You can just whizz flax seeds in a blender/food processor or similar handy tool. And bananas are the only sweet thing here, so make sure they're super ripe, they won't be overpowering.  I hope you try these little pucks this summer, they come together super fast and are probably the most virtuous cookie around. Thank you guys for your patience (and support), I can't wait to be back here (and in the kitchen) a bit more regularly. 

Love and cookies xx

*meh is such a great adjective, am I right?


peanut butter and banana trail cookies

makes 15-18 medium cookies  // gluten free + vegan (how did that happen??)

3/4 cup (75g) oat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (75g) (gf if needed)
1/4 cup flax meal (28g) (ground flax seeds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 medium sized, super ripe bananas
1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) natural peanut  butter / nut butter of choice
1 tablespoon coconut oil, solid is fine


Preheat the oven to 200'C, 390'F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, flax meal, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. 

In another large bowl mash your peeled bananas with a fork till they're pulpy, a little chunky is fine. Add the pb, coconut oil and vanilla, then stir well with a wooden spoon so the batter is smooth.

Pour the wet mix into the dry and stir firmly with a wooden spoon until well combined. Using a medium cookie scoop or a heaped tablespoon of dough, place mounds of dough on the cookie sheet.  Flatten each cookie (moist hands work well here) so they're more like flat pucks. They don't spread much, so you won't need to leave huge amounts of space between.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until set and slightly golden. Cool on a wire rack, or enjoy warm.

The cookies will keep well in an airtight container for 5 days and will travel great too.  


on-the-go snacks

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)

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