collecting lines | roasted plum popsicles with cardamom

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After reading my last post my mum made a comment about the quote at the end. I was pretty happy that someone knew the poet and that, well, someone noticed it. I started adding a quote at the end of each post a while ago - they're not all quotes I guess, since Alan Walker or Kendrick Lamar don't really count. But whatever. I put somebody else's words at the foot of the page, after my ramblings, to conclude. I'm not sure what you think of them? Maybe they come across as unnecessary but I just never really know how to finish a post... to awkwardly shift gears from some abstract mumbling to a foodie discussion. Somebody else's words seemed final enough without me having to spin out a yarn... because these posts are thoughts and thoughts don't particularly just, terminate. Or at least mine don't. I always used to have this issue with creative writing at school that I couldn't stay within the word limit. Too much to say, I guess, I'd have eaten up the word count and then would need to finish the damn thing in 100 words and that's difficult. A chronic fault of mine, saying too much. Using 550 words to say something that could probably use two. Funny that I don't talk a lot, in fact my sister said the other day that I seem to use the least words possible to communicate which made me laugh, internally, thinking of that little blue box in the lower right corner of a word document.  But I digress. Quotes. I've been collecting lines from poems, songs, books, just browsing the internet, for quite some time. If I was a different kind of person they'd probably live in a leather bound notebook but honestly they're all in my email inbox. In a long email with a hundred one line replies. Very cryptic. Very eclectic. 

I have a collection of journals from when I used to write every day;  it's been a while since I've done that but there was time when I did, religiously.  I flick through and there's a striking lack of endings. I seem to just cut myself off abruptly or there's a few lines blank, at the foot of the page. Maybe I was thinking of coming back later with some words to tie it all up but you know how it goes. Lines left blank, thoughts unfinished. Don't they say the only way to become a better writer is to write more? A fallacy, clearly, because I've got a box worth of scribblings without endings. Maybe I'll make that a project for one day, in the future. Sit out on a porch somewhere with that box and fill in the blank lines, all those loose ends. Then seal the box, and put it high on a shelf, or wherever it is you put memories. 

"To finish is sadness to a writer, a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn’t really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done."    John Steinbeck

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Awkward gear shift to popsicles is now initiated. I know it's getting colder - I was wearing a sweater, a sweatshirt  and socks the other morning but the sun's still sharp up north where we are. So make popsicles while the sun shines, with a bit of fall warmth from the cardamom and maple. Plums and blackberries are like those crossover fruits so they were sort of of the obvious choice. Have fun with the layering, I'm not exactly super careful/fiddly but the marbled effect was still gorgeous - the fruit will make the pops pretty, whatever you do.

Love you xx

PS. Shoutout to my amazing grandma who celebrated her birthday earlier this week. Grandma, I picked these berries from the garden, just like you would. xo 

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roasted plum popsicles with cardamom

makes 8-10

2 cups (500ml) full fat yogurt of choice (I used goat yogurt but regular or coconut would be good)
1/4c (60ml) pure maple syrup
Seeds of half a vanilla bean
Fat pinch cardamom (to taste. I like it stronger than I think most people would)

// For the fruit
1 cup (150g) fresh blackberries
Around 4-5 small plums
1 tablespoon coconut sugar 


Start with the roasted fruit - you can even do this in advance. Preheat the oven to 180'C, 350'F and line a rimmed baking tray with parchment paper.

Gently rinse and dry the berries, chop the plums into chunks and spread out on the baking sheet. Sprinkle over the sugar and toss to coat.

Roast for 20 minutes or so, until the fruit is collapsing and smells pretty amazing. Leave to cool, then refrigerate, or continue with recipe.

Into a blender combine the the remaining popsicle ingredients. Blend on high until combined, transfer the popsicle mix into a container from which it's easy to pour (a glass mixing jug or similar)

Rinse out the blender and add your fruit. Blend until pulpy and a little liquidy, it doesn't have to be perfectly smooth.

Into your popsicle moulds pour in some of the yogurt mix - I did about 1/3 but it really doesn't matter, whatever you think looks pretty. Dollop some of the fruit mix (heaped tablespoon or so) over the yogurt, then pour in more yogurt so the mold is more or less full. 

Freeze for 3-6 hours, until solid. If you wrap each individual popsicle they'll keep in the freezer as long as you like. You can run the whole moulds under hot water if the pops are giving you a hard time; they'll release super easily. 

If you have any leftover blended fruit, you can swirl it into yogurt, oatmeal etc a bit like jam.

*This is the popsicle mould I use, I ordered it from the States and it's really good.

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he'll be looking skyward | strawberry - oat muffins

For the last few weeks while I was studying for exams I was working at my dad's desk since mine is just too small. He's not here right now and he won't be back until August, so the arrangement seemed to make sense. There are a couple of bookshelves next to the desk and when my thoughts inevitably drifted as I was studying I found myself scanning the names of the folders, the books, the files. They seem to say so much about him. Maybe that's obvious? That if you look at a person's shelves, they do, typically reflect that person? But what's interesting with dad's shelves is that they're not necessarily scream this is me, these are my tastes and interests. There's an anonymous blue binder with a white label, the words "Naturelink Africa" typed in nice neat, clear script. A couple of others like that, a bit like pins on a world map. On the top shelf there's a model of a little crane, the kind that lift containers onto ships in ports, there are copies of the Nederlands - Engels Technisch Wordenboek; the Dutch to English technical dictionary and the 2016-2017 edition of the trade hardware store's catalogue. Books on Spanish, Portuguese and French, the Lloyds Maritime Atlas. There's the floppy cover of a scrapbook we made forhim years ago when we were spending chunks of time apart, a bit like this year. On the sill in front of the desk, porcelain models of the canal houses in Amsterdam. He has this other shelf, it's tall and narrow and just perfectly fits CD cases, the covers always take me back to when I was five or six.

I used to only go into his office when dad had been there and the lights were on, because it was quite a dark room and the shelves seemed to dominate the walls, I was also scared of the paintings of Egyptians (don't ask), but when I did, I was oddly entranced. I remember sitting in his office chair, just a basic plastic affair on wheels, that would spin around, and I would sort through all his CDs. They're all there, the original gang, Bon Jovi's Keep the Faith, Prince's Greatest Hits, The Best of REM. I remember thinking the shelf looked like an appartment block, one of those really basic buildings that were just above shanty towns. Dad travelled, in my mind, to those places, with those kinds of flats. I travelled too, from that young age, but never to anywhere remotely industrial or 'grim'. He told us stories, about where his work took him. I was (and still am) one of those people who could spin out clear mental pictures from descriptions and I had my pictures of cargo ships and dusty docks. The chefs on American ships who talked too fast when dad tried to order his eggs for breakfast, Nigerian border patrols who shot at his car, epic Mozambican floods, tapped phone lines on a one-off trip to North Korea. My favorite were the stories about the dolphins in Turkey who'd swim right into the port. People ask me about what my dad does, he probably sounds like some kind of special agent or something... it's always made me laugh that it was nothing so exciting, just port work. Shipping and bagging things, finding ways to move them around.

Movement. What he does for a living. My dad is one of the restless... in all senses of the word. He, like me, apparently shakes his leg when he's trying to fall asleep and jolts his knee up and down when he's sitting. He paces when he's on the phone, so do I. He trips when we're out walking because he'll be looking skyward, following the trails of jets and helicopters, he's always driven with this reckless caution. It's like his foot hovers above the accelerator, that he could drive so much faster than he does but he won't because it's not worth it and he doesn't need to. He's travelled for work as long as I can remember, buried in a box somewhere I have a barbie in traditional Vietnamese clothes, Chinese fans, cuddly lions, camels and monkeys... Maybe all this shows in the fact that I can identify the shipping company when I see a container on a truck and that trucks with containers were my favorite part of taking the ferry to France. When my sister and I used to play with Lego we would make them go on epic overland road trips through savage mountains, now when I'm studying law thing it's the shipping cases I find easiest to remember. Maybe it brings us closer to him. 

 It's hard to explain but despite us spending so much more time, in reality, with our mum than dad I always find it strange how much his niche lifestyle, his wanderer spirit have spread to all of us. I know all families have their own words for things, but I don't know how many others have the need for synonyms like agw (all going well, I should be in some airport or other by a certain time but this is unlikely), or have regular discussions about Heathrow terminals. I have said it before, he doesn't realize how much he's a part of us - passively, as opposed to my mum's active role as the present parent, who sat me down to do homework as best I could and taught me to thank the bus driver, and smile at him too. She did an A* job of raising a polite and decent human, but I think we can all attribute my quirks to dad. He was there even if he wasn't, like the Colorado River flowing through rock, over the years, and slowly carving out something as iconic as the Grand Canyon, just by doing what it does naturally.  

I don't really know what the message of all this text is meant to be, actually nothing grand or philosophical. Funny how someone so phlegmatic and unflappable can still be such a wanderer. He's thought it, I've thought it, we all have, maybe things would have been different if he'd been your average 9 to 5 dad... maybe they would, maybe we would. Maybe it would have crushed his spirit if he wasn't submerged in some kind of foreign element, driving a pick up over dirt roads and crossing African borders. I had sort of half written this post, mentally, sitting at his desk, drifting from cases and statutes, my fidgety hands pulled the model crane off the shelf and my thoughts wandered to the next place. The windows were open and a breeze whipped through, right to the dark ends of the room where his suit was on a hanger, and the wind ruffled it a bit. The door slammed, I jumped, from picturing him, as I always did. A formal blue shirt and a big wood desk, some indoor plants around, AC blowing in tropical sun. Calm, solid and familiar, but always someplace else. 

"Once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return" Leonardo da Vinci

Happy Father's Day, dad, and thank you for everything (not least for eating my food), today and always xx

Hello again, after another looong hiatus. Hope you're all doing well and enjoying this heatwave craziness if you're in Europe. I made these muffs a while ago to send with my dad since muffins freeze well and I wanted to share them because they are just so good. They're very light and fluffy without sticking to the muffin liners (this is a triumph for me) and have such a nice vanilla tone with a little chew from the oats. The berries are sweet and chunky and really steal the show with the bright bursts of pink fruit. So good for spring and summer. You can use any berry you'd like instead of the strawberries, these are a great template to use all year.
Big shout out to all the dads, grandpas and father figures out there. I really don't think you're given credit for what you do, as compared to mothers, but I know my family wouldn't be the same without them and their calm, steady support. 
Love and muffins xx
 

Strawberry - oat muffins

Gluten free      //     makes 16-18  muffins

1 cup (100g) oat flour
1 cup (100g) rolled oats
1/2 cup (60g) brown rice flour or millet flour
1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
6 tablespoons (95ml) pure maple syrup
2 free range eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (250ml) milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond)
1 tablespoon lemon juice / acv     (or use 1 cup/250ml buttermilk in place of the lemon juice and milk)

2 cups-ish / 300g strawberries


Preheat the oven to 190'C, 375'F. Line (or oil) two muffin pans, for around 18 muffins.

Measure your milk of choice into a mug or measuring cup and add the lemon juice or vinegar. Set aside while you continue with the recipe, for impromptu buttermilk. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the oat flour, rolled oats, brown rice flour, salt and leavening things. 

Prep your berries - wash them and pat them gently dry. Hull the berries then cut them as you wish - larger pieces will leave jammy pockets, smaller slices will leave a little berry in each bite, so it's your call.

In another medium bowl, beat together the oil, maple, vanilla and eggs. Retrieve your faux buttermilk and add to the bowl, beat to combine. Gently stir the berries into the dry mix so they are coated in flour, then pour the wet into the dry and stir to just combine. Try not to rough the berries around toooo much. 

Fill your muffin liners about 2/3 full, with about 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) each. 
Bake for around 18-22 minutes, till a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, and the tops are golden. 

Let the muffs cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack. They will keep in airtight container for about 3 days on the counter, or will freeze and defrost really well.

 


spring recipes

the hedgerows are playgrounds | strawberry - rhubarb jam scones

I joked to my sister the other day that I should write a post about where we live, north Norfolk. Its little quirks. Do it, my sister said, people will find it interesting. It'll be funny, she told me, and your writing is usually so serious. So here starts a humorous tale about every day life in a small village with a thatched church and fields all around. The antagonists are the tractors. I'll start my story with an anecdote about how I'm often on the one-lane road, headed to the highway and I'll be doing 20 miles because I'm behind a tractor carrying hay on the trailer. It'll be far beyond legal weight limits but hey, this is Norfolk, anything goes. The car in front of me will be a black Range Rover, with a personalized number plate, something like HA1 D3R, and it will be the newest model. The driver will be a woman who is bleached blonde and will attempt to overtake the tractor around one of the hairpin bends. She'll be lucky because the traffic on the other lane is probably held up by a truck transporting a shiny new yacht to one of the marinas on the Broads; the rivers that crisscross the place.  

I'll also write about how we'll be standing on a grassy verge in the village where we live, the leg of my jeans will be soaked from local drainage issues and pressing it against Prune's wet fur to stop her swerving into the road and into the path of another tractor. The tractor will be new and fancy. Farmers do ok here. The roads are already narrow and cars spill out of driveways to park on either side, it'll start to rain, scattered showers, scattered dog walkers. Our house is flanked by forest on one side and a field on the other, where a family keep two horses. I say a family, because we can't really seem to figure out how they're all related, but in north Norfolk villages seem to be made up of a couple of interconnected families. The son (we think he's the son. He could be the brother?) is the local woodcutter with two labradors a bit like ours, a wood pile to rival that of those in northern Utah, and a unimog. When was the last time you saw one of those? He also seemed to have refurbished a Mercedes SUV that his wife likes to drive, off-road style, through the horse fields next door. Maybe it's a way of keeping their two toddlers entertained.

I'll say that the tractors don't stop, the whole year, and the size of their tyres is no joke. I'll recount the time that we were just walking along a genteel country lane, when a pick-up drove out into the middle of a field. We wondered what the driver, a farmer, was doing. He promptly lowered the window of the car, pulled out a rifle and let off a few shots to scare the crows. My heart didn't stop pumping the rest of the day. The car was not further than 25 meters from the road. I'll write as I did before about how people hang pheasants from their rafters, and rabbits from the mirrors of Land Rover Defenders, and about how one of the activities at the local primary school is plucking a pheasant for pheasant pie. My sister had a shock when she walked in to the school one day and found the pile of dead birds by the door. I'll mention that the next village is the winner of RHS Britain in bloom pretty much every year, and that from February onwards as you drive through there are great groups clad in overalls with shovels, preparing the beds and planting seedlings. That the post office is also in that village, owned by a family that everyone knows; it's a local institution. I was standing in line to mail something one day and there was a woman in front of me, collecting a parcel. She was wearing jeans tighter than mine; ankle cropped, with a frayed hem, and fancy Nike hightops, a flowy white blouse and big sunglasses. She was also twice my age (at least) and hugged the man when he served her, then drove off in a white Audi saloon. I tried very hard not to roll my eyes and for my efforts was bumped out of the queue by a man with a bushel of beets in one hand; wearing muddy boots and a deerstalker cap.

But I'll also write about how the kids from the village primary school literally fall out of cars waving to my sister who works there once a week; and little Archie calls from his bedroom window to say hello. There was the time a neighbor came knocking on our door, saying a rooster was in her garden and she was looking for its owner, fearing it would be eaten by a fox. About the elderly farmer with a Norfolk accent so heavy we wonder if he's speaking English (and we doubt he understands us) who stops us to chat and ask about the dogs, then waves from his ancient tractor.  About the bushes that are so heavy with blackberries come late summer the freezer is full the whole year; and the hedgerows that are playgrounds for robins and sparrows.

That there's an older couple with a gentle black Lab who often ask us how our grandparents are doing; they became friends. That in the fall I make applesauce out of apples from our own trees which in spring explode in color, and the roads turn pink from petals. I'll repeat, again, that winter nights are white, that I've never seen more stars in any of the unknown pieces of the wild where I've found myself. That from my bedroom I hear owls call and from in front of a sink filled with dishes I watch a family of blue jays teach their babies to eat from the birdfeeder. That I've seen young pigeons take flight after falling from their nest in a wild Norfolk storm, that the coast around here is one of the rare places that Arctic Terns nest. That someone aptly named it an area of outstanding natural beauty. The silence, early morning and late evening, is so immense it's haunting. That again I'll be standing trying to shelter my face from a biting wind, keeping a dog from under the tyres of a combine harvester, and watching a deer streak across fallow fields, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.  More than anything, I'll be charmed by the beauty in the chaos and the fine layer of red sand that is forever tacked to the bottom of my jeans. 

"And the peace which I always found in the silence and emptiness of the moors filled me utterly" James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small

Hello there :) Are you seeing an acute case of seasonal fruit fomo in this post? Particularly if I add that I am on an asparagus-for-dinner-bender? It just so happens that I really like strawberries. And rhubarb. And I wait all year for asparagus. Asparagus aside, the former are obviously a classic pairing and since these early season strawberries are not quite the sweetest yet, they work so well in a compote with the sour tang of rhubarb. I call these babies jam scones but they're really just scones with a dollop of compote (which is really easy to make). You can adjust the amount of maple according to the sweetness of your strawbs, using the lesser amount when the berries are really at their sweetest. These scones are not  typical scones - like my other scone recipes, they are more fragile and bread-like than flaky and rich buuuut no need to worry about keeping butter cold or anything like that.  The pastry/scone part is just barely sweet, so feel free to add a fat sprinkle of turbinado before baking and make sure you choose a compote you really like (whether this one or store bought) because that jammy center really sings. The spelt flour makes the pastry mildly nutty, with a little bit of whole-graininess that is so satisfying. They don't really need any shaping or anything, so I hope you try them out this spring :)

Big hugs xx


strawberry - rhubarb jam scones

makes 8 large scones & 2ish cups / 500ml compote

for the strawberry & rhubarb compote (makes one standard mason jar - around 2 cups / 500ml)

450g / 1 pound rhubarb
600g / 1.5 pounds strawberries
1/3 - 1/2 cup (80-120ml) pure maple syrup, depending on preference and your berries
Juice of one large lemon (or around 3 tablespoons natural oj)

for the scones

2 cups (230g) spelt flour, plus a little extra for dusting
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 free range egg
1 tablespoon (20g) honey
2 tablespoons (27g) coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup (120ml) plain yogurt (I used goat yogurt, use what you have)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) strawberry and rhubarb jam, or your favourite natural-style jam


// To make the compote

Start by prepping the fruit. Discard the ends of the rhubarb stalks and cut to 2cm / 3/4 inch chunks. Wash and pat dry. Hull your strawberries, curing larger ones in half and leaving smaller ones whole.

Place a large, heavy based pan over medium heat.  Add to it the citrus juice and the washed + diced fruit. Pour the syrup over and stir together with a wooden spoon.

Let the fruit cook for about 20 - 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often and letting it bubble and reduce. Initially it will look VERY watery because the rhubarb is releasing its moisture. Don't be put off, it will suddenly thicken and you'll see the juices really reduce. The time will depend on the juiciness of your berries but look for when the liquid is mostly gone, the fruit it soft and broken down and that it slops off a spoon rather than drizzles (very technical, as ever).

Immediately remove from the heat and pour into a heat safe container. Allow to cool before closing; it will thicken as it cools. Magic. The compote will keep around a week to 10 days in the fridge in an airtight jar.

// for the scones

Preheat the oven to 180'C, 350'F and like a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.

In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, beat together the egg, oil and honey. Whisk in the yogurt and vanilla extract till smooth and pale. 

Draw a little well in your dry ingredients then pour in the wet mix. Stir together gently, but firmly with a wooden spoon. Once the dough becomes to come together (don't overmix), dump it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to bring it together.

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces - I used a scale and a bench scraper but you can just eyeball it if you prefer. Shape each piece into a round mound and place evenly spaced on baking sheet.

Dip the back of a  tablespoon measure in flour then press it into the mound of dough to create an indent. Fill the indent with a tablespoon of compote and continue with each scone.

 Bake for 16-19 minutes, till the top of each scone is golden and feels crisp to the touch. Cool on a wire rack, but or enjoy straight from the oven. Cooled and in an airtight container they'll keep well for about 3 days, but will freeze and defrost.

 


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