inward restlessness | chocolate + almond snack cake

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There are times when you do more travelling than other times. Perhaps this is obvious, but travelling isn’t always a physical state, rather a state of mind. An inherent inward restlessness, wandering thoughts. When you see something that has been there every day but is really someplace else. The earliest sprigs of white tree blossom along the highway; a smoggy stretch of road between a few Norfolk towns, but not always. They seem to exist in two separate spaces, coexistence in a chaotic internal harmony. The same skies, a pebbly gray; dense, tactile cloud; watery sunshine and a lingering dampness. But this is France, somewhere on the A10 autoroute, after Paris, perhaps direction Orléans, heading south, where the air is milder and there are more green buds on trees. 

Recently I think we have had tropical rain on our minds. The real rain, that falls in crystalline sheets from towering cloud the color of a twilight sky. Pool water. Hot rain, chubby droplets, rippling the pool’s surface and distorting your view of the tiles lining the bottom. That strange similarity of being underwater and coming up for air, only to have warm rain drops in your face. Air conditioning that felt even colder on damp skin and hair as we watched the rusted trucks of the tropics turn rubble roads into rivers of muddy rainwater.

Perhaps it is because it’s easier being anywhere other than where you really have to be. There are no real feelings, no sense of time, in that dream like state. Just glimpses of places and people both completely frozen and very animate. Because slowly the line between those travels in your head and the trips you actually take becomes very blurred. So travel becomes your constant state, and you are everywhere but nowhere, all at once. 

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls” - Anais Nin 

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Hello again :) It’s been a while since I last posted but I am back, with cake. A simple chocolate cake based on a recipe for a deeply chocolatey almond cake I tried while visiting our grandparents over the holidays . I’m not sure when a cake becomes a snack cake but this little guy is very simple to make, kind of virtuous and also just a great chocolate cake for any day. It is good to have around since it keeps well for a while, too. I hope you try it.
Also, I appreciate you coming back to visit this space after every time I disappear.
Much love xx

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Chocolate + almond snack cake

1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
1/2tsp basking soda
1/2tsp salt
4 free range eggs
1/2c honey
1/4c plain yogurt of choice (or applesauce)
1tsp pure vanilla extract 


Preheat the oven to 170’C, 340’F*.
Prepare an 8inch round cake pan - even if it is non-stick I usually use a little coconut oil and line the bottom of the pan to be suuure the cake won’t stick.
In a large bowl, stir together the almond meal, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt until the cocoa powder is fully mixed through the flour.
In another large bowl, beat together all remaining ingredients until they’re fully combined and the mixture is smooth. If you have a stand mixer or a hand mixer and a large bowl, this would be really quick.
Combine wet and dry ingredients until the batter is dark brown and smooth. Since there is no gluten don’t worry about over-mixing, a flexible spatula is useful.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan. 
Bake 30-35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. You won’t want to bake this cake too long, it will lose some of its charm if it’s too dry.

This cake will keep well for about a week in the fridge in an airtight container.

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Tiny has appointed herself kitchen assistant

hopelessly captivated | lemon - ricotta scones

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Prune has the most vibrant dreams. She’ll be fast asleep but you’ll hear her growl, the unmistakable gravelly growl of a big dog. In her sleep she’ll be running, her paws moving, her claws tapping against the floor, hot pursuit, deep in the hunt. Endless grassy meadows and shallow streams under warm sunshine, dusty tracks, mazes of cornfields where she loses herself. Other dogs to chase, rabbits, mossy forests, utopia. But she reaches the end of the track and she panics, in her somnolent way. She sees it all, the fireworks, thunderstorms, and she whimpers. Out loud, in her deep sleep. We comfort her, bring her back to now, lying on her cushion in the kitchen, she sighs, stretches and seems to shrug, like it was all nothing. Like it was just a dream and we didn’t all need to be so worried.

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Suzi is a hushed dreamer. She runs a little sometimes, but for the most part she sleeps deep and quiet, her head on her paws. But she lives out loud. She goes outside and she’ll run, just to run, because she’s fast and athletic and she can. She’ll take sharp curves around the cherry tree, maybe pick up a snack, throw it in the air, shake it, hunt it, subdue it. Then she’ll lie down right where she is, prick up her ears and listen. For the first sign that something is untoward in the neighborhood, a hint of something new carried in the breeze. Guarding her place and her people. Alert and watching.

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Prune sometimes won’t walk when she should. She’ll make herself very heavy when she wants to, physically and emotionally. She’s considered to be very much a Labrador - solid, often hungry, gentle. But she is highly strung in her own way. Like a Thoroughbred racehorse or a very expensive sports car she’s not easy to handle, she’s confusing to understand, and is far too precious to ever be tamed. We live with her moods, her spirited independence, her wild streak. Like a painter who has moved to live high in the mountains and is hopelessly captivated by the endless winter.

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If Prune is the winter then Suzi is the sun. Burning at times. She’ll seek you out, often in the evening, and she won’t let go. Because what she really wants is affection, to lay her head on your lap, black velvet. And like the sun of spring, she’s at times timid, hesitant. It’s like she’s not sure what you’re going to do to her and the clouds win. So you volley between the scorch of summer and ripple of spring sunshine, waiting for those mellow days in June. When she’s lying on her side, waiting for you to tickle her neck. But there is a beauty in the mercurial seasons, that capricious volley, that temperamental up-down that brings the purest snow days and the cascades of spring blossom. Beauty even in the deepest winter and most despondent vernal sunshine. And like the artist in his mountain cabin, entranced by the downpour and the melt, I have been boundlessly won over, infinitely. 

“She was my darling. Difficult, morose, but still my darling”     - Vladimir Nabokov 


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Hi :) Been a little while since I was here buuuut I have scones. These scones are cute triangular shafts of citrusy sunlight so they’re kind of well suited to the time of year. I have seen ricotta in a few scones recipes so wanted to try it out aaaand I was really pleased with how they turned out - the ricotta makes these scones quite sturdy but not too dry. They are also more simple to make than it may first seem and come together very fast.
Anyway. Love you xx

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lemon - ricotta scones

2/3c almond meal
2/3c oat flour
2/3c brown rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2tsp salt 
2T coconut sugar 
Zest from one lemon
2T olive oil
1c ricotta cheese (or thicker type of yogurt could work)
3T fresh lemon juice 


Preheat oven to 180 C, 350 F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
In a large bowl combine flours, baking powder, lemon zest, salt and sugar. Stir until sugar is completely mixed. In another bowl, beat together the ricotta, oil, egg and lemon juice.
Combine the wet and dry mixes until a workable dough forms. Sprinkle some flour over a work surface and tip out the dough. Using your hands, shape the dough into a circle, around 3cm (1inch-ish) thick.
Cut the circle in half, then quarters, then again so you have 8 kind of triangular pieces.
(carefully + gently) move the scones to the baking tray and bake for around 15 minutes - they will have become a little golden with some browning on the edges.
Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. On their own the scones are not super sweet but are still great. They are equally great with honey or jam.

In an airtight container they will keep for a few days in the fridge but can also be frozen and defrosted.

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my two princesses

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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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