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

the a-team | honeyed rhubarb + cardamom cake

So my parents were out of town for a couple of days last week. Perfect setting to invite a bunch of people, throw some crazy party that turns into a rave and gets shut down by the police. In my next life I'll make backyard raves a priority. Instead I spent the few days tossing a date around in my head: August 18th. May 18th snuck up on me really fast, but the weight of August 18th has just sunk in, like you know when you've had a dull pain in a muscle and then there's one movement and it totally goes? Well I just blew that figurative muscle. On August 18th my sister has to be in Aberdeen, for her masters. It's the start of her first semester. Weird as it may seem, we have never really been apart. She went on a solo trip to the Bahamas last year and I remember how lost I was - kind of floating, without an anchor, like a helium balloon that a careless kid had lost. One of those no end and no beginning feelings. The day was suddenly devoid of random laughter and the kind of chatter that keeps the wheels of a family unit oiled and running. You probably know that Layla and I are very close.  But straight out, we fight a lot. Like, a lot. At least a couple of times a week, some weeks are better than others, some are just short fuse after short fuse, maybe because we're so close, we pick up on each other's feelings really quickly. If she's upset, I know it, and I get frustrated that she won't just tell me what the problem is and maybe I could help. Probably the same for her because neither of us are the type to have these big 'I'm so stressed' type breakdowns, or really to whinge and complain because do you want some cheese with that whine? is a stock response. 

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We both suddenly grew up a lot in the last few years, independence and responsibility wise. We have new cars, we have very floaty schedules with this whole university enterprise, so we took on a lot of the household stuff. Not saying that my parents don't do anything, I haven't yet taken up loading the washing machine but I mean we do things like take the dogs to the vet, keeping the fridge reasonably stocked and spend some time sweeping up dog hair. So maybe that's what has changed our relationship, and maybe that's why sometimes there's more friction. We're not just playing house anymore, we're living in a house where drains pack up when my parents aren't around and I have the number of the electricity network on my phone because storms do funny things to wiring. This is in no way to be interpreted as a complaint, in fact the freedom we have is great. It's more of an acknowledgement that things are changing and life goes in phases, a bit like a chrysalis. It's almost as if Layla and I are in a team (the A-team, of course) against various forces like city traffic, professors that don't respond to emails, parking shortages at university, rude receptionists and the like. We're together in this game of keeping alive a dog without a spleen who sits waiting by the door for Mum to come home, and another monkey whose default mode is hunger strike. The game also means that kale runs out at inconvenient times, scary dashboard messages about tyre pressure appear, players miscommunicate and mess up, but we're on the same side. And that's what matters.

So we reshuffle the new stack of cards we've been dealt. Hard to know how to play them sometimes, but I go back to a very simple phrase we've said since we were young - when friends were giving up on us, when we ended up alone on the first day in some new school. At least we have each other, on repeat. Same now. Days can be long, the traffic is murder, it rains a lot, we worry non-stop about Prune and Suzi. But never alone, there are two of us through all that. 

Our little team, on a feeble lifeboat tossed about in tidal waves. With two helmsmen learning on the job, always seeking out dry land a calm lagoon where we can moor. After August, I'm losing my lookout and I'm going to learn how to navigate by myself. I mean, I can do it, physcially,  there's not that much more around the house or anything that I'll have to do juggle, but it's just the spirit that will be gone. No one to ask whether or not it's going to rain, no fall back person to ask for a hand cleaning muddy paws... the hull of the boat will be there, there'll be a working engine, a spot in the harbour, but the sea can feel like a very empty place when you're down a crew member.

The vast night. Now there’s nothing else but fragrance.” – Jorge Luis Borges

My dad gave me what I consider a huge compliment when this cake was baking. He said that it reminded him of his childhood, the smell of something baking, of coming home and finding his mum had baked a warm snack. Idk why that meant something to me but it did.  Anyways. I remember I saw (aaaages ago) a photo of a rhubarb cardamom tart in an ikea magazine (that must've been when we lived in Belgium because there's no ikea around here) and the combination stuck with me. Credit to the Scandies and their impeccable taste because this cake turned out really well.

You'll see that I make you cook the rhubarb first which may seem fussy but stick with me on this one because the fruit becomes totally tart-sweet with the honey. It then melts into these little custardy pockets of goodness, so my apologies for the extra dirty dish but it's worth it. Other than the rhubarb pre-cooking the batter comes together very fast, no mixer and you have a rustic, humble cake. If you want to fancy it up a light dusting of powdered sugar would be nice, or perhaps serving it with some vanilla bean ice cream. Or yogurt and have cake for breakfast. As a side note, apparently it was mother's day in the States on Sunday, so another big shout out to all the amazing mamas out there, I don't know how you do it all.
Love xx

PS. You'll notice that this post has a title... most of my old posts do now, too. In my post drafts (in email chains ha) I always gave them titles but then decided not to include them. I thought it would help search engine rankings but since google doesn't index the site at all (don't ask), nothing to win and nothing to lose :) 


honeyed rhubarb + cardamom cake

makes a single layer 8 inch (20cm) cake       // gluten + easily dairy free

1 cup (100g) almond meal
1/2 cup (50g) oat flour
1/2 cup (60g) brown rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/3 cup (75g) coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (100g) coconut sugar, light muscavado or cane sugar
2 eggs
1 cup (250ml) plain yogurt of choice, room temperature

// rhubarb

450g (1 pound) rhubarb stalks
4 tablespoons (80g) honey
heaped teaspoon cardamom pods


Start by preparing your fruit. Chop the tough ends of each rhubarb stalk, then slice the stalks into chunks around 5cm (2 inches) long. If any stalks are super chubby, slice them in half lengthwise too. Set a pan over medium high heat, add the rhubarb, pour over the honey and stir to combine so everything is coated, then add the cardamom pods. Cook for 6-8 minutes, till the fruit is soft but not falling apart (the oven takes care of that). Set aside to cool in the pan.

Preheat your oven to 180'C, 350'F. Line an 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper*, then rub a little coconut oil on the sides and the parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda/powder, salt and cardamom. 

In another large bowl, whisk the sugar and oil together so the sugar isn't clumpy, then beat in both eggs and the yogurt till smooth and pale (the tahini comparison is relevant here). Add the vanilla and mix once more.

Drain the cooked rhubarb, reserving around 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid (if there is less don't worry). Toss the fruit in the flour mix, it may fall apart a bit but that's fine. This stops the fruit sinking to the bottom.

Pour the wet mix into the dry; add the two tablespoons of rhubarb syrup and gently mix with a wooden spoon till there are no more patches of flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan then bake for 50-55 minutes, till a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake shows it's done. If the top is browning too fast (this is a very moist cake so it's possible) you can tent it with foil and there shouldn't be a problem.

The cake will keep on the counter for 3ish days, better in the fridge for a few days after that, it's  light so it may dry out.

Notes

One thing to note is that the moisture from the fruit means the cake sort of buckles once cut and then has a rather 'savaged' appearance. No harm for snacking but if you'd like to serve this cake to company, present it before really going at it with a knife. Everyone will be then be too busy eating to notice how the middle caved.

*this is related to the above. I usually don't fret about instructing people to grease/line pans because you all have your preferences, but because of the custard-y nature of the fruit, the batter sticks and the cake is quite fragile at first - not really one to stand up to inverting onto a rack. So parchment, coconut oil and a pan with removable sides make things a lot easier. As I said, it's somewhat rustic, so don't worry too much.


spring baking

a second black muzzle | Goat yogurt + honey tart

We had talked for a long time about getting a second dog to keep Prune company. The new dog couldn't be a puppy because we didn't have the time to dedicate to training, but Prune had come to us as a two year old and her breeder sometimes had other girls who were retiring (early) from competitions. That's how little Suzi came to us just after her third birthday. Dual's Hope Lovely Sue, more commonly known to us as Tiny,  Beanie, Little Bean, Small or Snoozie. Because Sue was just too... not her. Lovely, no doubt, but Sue seemed sensible and orthodox, neither of which she is. She's so full of love for life, playfully spirited, cheerful but sensitive. I have always wanted a puppy - like a real, baby puppy, and she acts so much like one. She still mouths my fingers when she's excited, wags her tail in these really short strokes when she sees you coming and is terrible at bringing the ball back when you throw it. It's hard to believe she's five. How did that happen? How do they grow up so fast?

I feel that I have maybe talked disproportionate amounts about Prune and much less about Tiny. Which is something I worry I do quite often.  But she's really found herself a special place in my heart, one way or another. Suzi girl really started life in our family as my sister's dog, I don't know why, but she adopted Layla and became her little pal. Suzi was not in such good shape when she came to us, perhaps being in a multi-dog household hadn't suited her, and she had retreated deep into a shell. Like the earliest of the spring flowers that tentatively bloom, and shrivel back into their buds as the frost hits. But she did settle in. She struggled to understand some things that Prune had grasped really quickly - that it was no big deal when we wiped their paws after walks, that they could sleep anywhere they wanted, that there is always fun food and toys on offer. Suzi just wanted to sleep in her crate, seemed confused to be offered snacks and hated (ok she's not over this one yet) us touching her paws. Slowly things improved, she trusted us, she'd ask for snacks, she'd take a slice of bread outside and lie in the sun with it in her mouth. She has a darling habit of crossing her paws when she lies down and keeping her glossy head held proudly high.  A charming way of nuzzling my legs with a cold nose when I'm wearing gym shorts, an endearing quirk in the how she sneaks under the table and pops her head out when we laugh. When she first arrived she wouldn't even come to us when we held out a hand for her to sniff, and now who manages to curl up in a ball, all 30 kilos of her flopped on my lap when she's in the back seat of the car? Yeah, a fully grown Labrador who thinks she's the size of a Jack Russell. That's my Suzi bean, in a nutshell. 

Before Suzi came I asked myself if I could ever love another dog as much as I loved Prune. With the same, crazy intensity, that meant her happiness was my own. Prune seemed to, figuratively at least, take up all the space in my heart. At first I thought that was that. But it seems like there are more cracks and gaps to hearts than I thought before. Which makes sense, considering all the downs a person goes through. Lots to patch up. It's hard to explain but it's probably a feeling to which parents can relate when a second child is born. Suzi bean came to us for Prune, as a companion for her, and has become so much more. Frosting on the cupcake, a missing piece of a very chaotic puzzle. She took her time to figure out life as a family dog but I can't imagine rides in the car without a second black muzzle peering over the seat and mornings without the sharp slide of her clumsy paws as she stretches.
Happy birthday, my girl. We're crazy about you and I can't believe how far you've come. 

"If I told you a flower blooms in a dark room, would you trust it?"
Kendrick Lamar ft. Drake, Poetic Justice 

I made this tart with Tiny in mind. She must be my dog because she usually adores yogurt, she always the licks the lid of our yogurt pots. What, your dogs don't do that? Anyway a while ago I started buying goat's milk yogurt after reading that the structure of the protein molecules in goat's dairy is such that it's easier to digest. Yogurt was never such an issue but I see a huge difference with goat's milk versus cow's milk... granted, it's not available everywhere, so it's your call.  Either way the bonus is that goat yogurt is easier for pups to digest too. Apparently New Yorkers make goat's milk popsicles for their dogs in summer... so I'm actually not totally alone on this one. You can of course use regular yogurt, and Greek yogurt would probably strain really well. If you're looking to make this dairy free I think that coconut yogurt would be a bit weird here but I've seen this almond milk yogurt making the rounds, if you can find it, it's definitely worth a shot. The filling is based around labneh - strained yogurt that started out in the Middle East but is pretty mainstream now. It's thicker so holds up well, but if you're looking for a super clean cut, freeze the tart for a few hours before you want to serve, and let the tart sit out a bit before slicing. 

Last thing to mention: I used sunflower seeds because they're 100% ok for dogs (most nuts are ok, though macadamias are actually poisonous, as are any rancid nuts) but you can switch in the same amount of any other nut or seed. Same for the oats actually, you can use more nuts if you'd rather. Have fun with it. Eat a slice for breakfast.
Hoping you have a lovely end to your week xx

Ps. I'm not wearing a bathrobe in the photos, the sweater is just fuzzier in real life than it looked online. Just fyi.


Goat yogurt + honey tart

gluten free     //  makes one 6inch/15cm tart, easily doubled for an 8/9 inch tart

For the strained yogurt/labneh

450g / 15oz full fat goat yogurt (or other yogurt ofc)
1/2 teaspoon salt
(you'll also need a fine mesh sieve and a cheesecloth/muslin/thin piece of material)

For the tart

// crust

1/2 cup (50g) rolled oats, gf if necessary
1/2 cup (70g) sunflower seeds (or other nut/seed)
2 tablespoons (30ml) coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon honey
1-2 tablespoons water, as needed

//filling

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
2-3 tablespoons (40-60g) honey, to taste
labneh from 450g yogurt (a bit here or there won't affect the outcome)


//To prepare the yogurt

At least 24 hours before you'd like to make your tart, line a fine mesh sieve with a few pieces of muslin/cheesecloth or a fine sheet of material. Place the sieve over a high sided bowl - it will look like the bowl is way too big, but the height keeps the sieve up.

Stir the salt through your yogurt (it will taste salty if you taste it, that's ok) and then dump all the yogurt into the cheesecloth in the sieve. Cover with a large plate and set in the fridge for at least 24 hours*

When your yogurt is strained, you can spoon it out of the cheesecloth and continue with the recipe or refrigerate it for a few days. The liquid that collects at the bottom of the bowl is whey; you can discard it or (apparently, I've never tried) use it in any baking.

// For the tart

Grease and line a 6 inch/15cm round springform pan (with removable base/sides) with coconut oil. If doubling the recipe, use an 8 inch/20cm pan.

Warm a large pan over medium-high heat and add the oats and seeds/nuts, stirring them around till they are darker in color and smell nutty + fragrant. This should take 5-7 minutes. Slide off the pan, onto a plate to cool.

While the crust things cool you can prepare the filling. Retrieve your strained yogurt from either the cheesecloth or container (if you made it in advance) and add to a medium bowl with the cinnamon and honey. Stir it around so all ingredients are well combined and it's creamy.

Add the cooled oats and nuts/seeds to a food processor and pulse till a coarse meal forms. You can either add the oil, honey and water to the food processor or if your machine is very basic (like mine ha), tip the ground seeds and oats into another bowl and add the oil, honey and water. The dough should come together when you squeeze it.

Pour all the crust things into your prepared pan and spread it into an even layer along the base, using your hands to pack it flat. You can then cover it with your filling, again aiming for some kind of an even layer (an offset spatula is helpful).

You're pretty much done. Let the tart sit in the fridge to set for 24 hours minimum, or more would work too. Depending on how thick your yogurt was after straining, you should be able to release the sides (gently) and slice it with a clean sharp knife. If it's particularly soft, you can freeze if for a bit and it will firm up, but it might turn into a yogurt-frozen cake rather than a frozen-yogurt cake.

In the fridge the tart will keep for about 5 days, again you could freeze it but it may come out a little icy. If sharing with a dog, that's probably not such a problem.

Notes

* You can make the labneh in advance; once it's strained just keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. If you strain it for more than 24ish hours, it will get suuuuper thick, enough so that you can scoop it into chunks to put in salads, like mozzarella / burrata balls. In case you were interested.

the thief that stole our hearts

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 :) 


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