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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spinning and marking time | summer berry crumb cake

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

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

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

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

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

Love you xx

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Summer berry crumb cake

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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

maybe that's not a bad thing | mocha-chip loaf

It was my dad's birthday last weekend. He wasn't with us to celebrate, in fact I've not seen him since he was here in December. That was for three days. He was supposed to arrive on his birthday and the next day we were all supposed to leave for France. But my dad had to stay in Mozambique for work, and we left for France without him. Which was hard. Harder for him than for us, in general, because he doesn't change so much, but we do, and he misses that.

It's been a long time since I called him daddy.  I actually don't remember the last time I did. I think sometimes he misses those days - when we were small enough to ride on his shoulders, when we'd grab his hand and pull him places, the days when he would pick us up and pretend to 'drop' us, catching us just before we hit the ground. It's an occupational hazard of being a long-distance dad who spends huge chunks of time away. What he doesn't realize is that he's more or less always 'there'. We talk about him all the time. He's taught us so much. I'm quite sure I am the only girl (or maybe the only person?) doing contract law who has any idea about anything to do with ships - I heard someone asking what the stern of a ship was. I remember last year in class no one knew what it meant for a ship to be 'berthed'. A charterparty? No chance. Grabs? Bulk? No way. Not terms that are plastered all over facebook, not a typical dad-daughter discussion . He's the person who's taught me about hydraulics ('to do with air and water'), that brown bread is always better than white, that cumin should always go with cheese. That the best part of Formula One is when they splash each other with champagne, the best way to take a penalty ('two steps back and one to the side'), that baby birds are always worth saving.

He probably thinks, and you probably think, those are just small things. And maybe they are, but they make a difference, in  a not-so-every-day way. There are people who teach you other things - too many people actually. There's my mum to teach me to read and write and study hard. My dogs, to teach patience, my sister, to laugh. Then there's the internet, instagram, friends, books, who tell you how to eat, what to wear, where to go, how to act. But there's only ever been one person who's told me to take care of my tools, when he's putting away the chainsaw or the hedge trimmer; and I must have the cleanest Vitamix around. One person who's taken a look at my tripod, found that yellow bauble that shows when things are level and said, suspiciously, 'do you know how to use this?'. One person who's helped me to repot my indoor plants, who taught me that every room needs some green. The one person who, when it's supposed to be summer but it's freezing cold and raining and you're wearing shorts and standing with your bike sheltering under a tree by a cemetery, would say 'it's a bit dead around here', totally nonchalantly. 

He doesn't consider himself the teaching sort of person - he tried to teach me to ski, but I ended up with an instructor. Showed us that sometimes you just have to admit defeat, and you'll be better for it. But Layla and I grew up with him more present, and from the small things he did, we learnt. A little bit of discipline, we take care of our equipment. Huge attention to detail, a total love for plants and the smallest animal. We walk past a house where their fence stops short of the hedges by about two meters. That would never have happened with dad, we say, because he'd have measured the fence, or else have gone back to the hardware store and picked up another panel. If you're doing a job, might as well do it right. Wherever we are Layla and I gravitate towards the water. A lake, a river, the sea, we'll be there, if there are boats involved, even better. That's because our dad is the boat person, he's shown us that the best things happen near the water and he's almost never been wrong. Our mum always finds it odd and says 'you take after your dad sometimes'. Maybe we do, and maybe that's a good thing.

Love you dad xx

This is one of the first recipes I wrote with someone in mind. For my dad, who taught me the coffee-chocolate combination. It's a really simple recipe, just a dry mix, a wet mix, dump into the dry bowl, into the pan, a fresh loaf in about 45 minutes. This is a very low-key loaf,  it's more of a breakfast-y or snack-y every day type of cake, which are my favorites. There's not loads of chocolate so it's not super rich, the beautiful dark color is actually just from the espresso, nutty buckwheat flour and dark sugar. Together, they make this loaf look and taste quite special. A note on ingredients - I've made this without almond meal (brown rice flour instead) but I prefer the structure from the nuts. Hazelnut meal would be really nice too, so stick to something nut based if you can. I found that I had no chocolate at all, halfway through baking, but I had some chips lying around so I used those. If you have a chocolate bar, go that route, I always prefer the meltiness to the way that chips hold their shape. 

Here's to every day cake, and a not so every day dad of mine.


mocha - chip loaf

gluten + easily dairy free    //  makes one 9x5 inch loaf

1 cup (100g) almond meal
1/2 cup (50g) oat flour, gf if necessary
1/2 cup (65g) buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon espresso powder (or finely ground coffee)
1/4 cup (25g) coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup (120ml) plain yogurt of choice at room temp.
2 free range eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup (100g) dark muscavado sugar or coconut sugar*
50g chopped dark chocolate (70% is good) or chocolate chips


Oil & line a 9x5 inch loaf pan and preheat the oven to 180'C, 350'F.

In a large bowl, whisk to combine the flours, baking powder + soda, salt, cinnamon and espresso powder.

In a medium bowl, add the coconut oil, room temperature yogurt, eggs and vanilla and beat together. Add the sugar and beat again so the mix is smooth and dark.

Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and gently stir the batter with a flexible spatula. When it starts to come together, fold in the chocolate. The batter will be very thick.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30-33 minutes. The top of the loaf will crack for sure, but I think that makes it look rustic :)

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then gently release onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

The loaf is quite moist initially but almond meal tends to dry out, so it's best finished in about 3 days. Otherwise, it holds up well frozen + defrosted. 

Notes

*Either type of sugar will work, I've made this loaf several times with both. Dark brown sugar would work too if that's what you have around, but keep the sugar as dark in color as possible.


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