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

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

what I learnt | olive oil + honey quinoa granola

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)
nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

My first thought was that I'd do a post about my highlights of 2016 but then I quickly ruled that out. I didn't want to sound like one of those people who just make their lives all shiny and then sing about it on social media. That's the thing with these spaces - it's so easy to curate what you show, and what you don't, I think people forget that. Am I going post a photo of the pouring rain and a scummy North Norfolk puddle on instagram? No, exactly, I'll post a nice picture of some spring sunshine or maybe something I baked because I've styled those photos to hell and back. Easy. Reality is boring. If I just wrote, I'd be telling you about these 6 essays I've been working on over the holidays. And about how our flight may be cancelled because of fog. So I'll just leave the good and the bad aside and I thought instead I'd share two things I learnt this year. Ok, I know I'm barely 18 so this may sound funny to some people but I think this is actually that window when we learn the most. We're still easy to mould, the things that shape us now give us our form forever, I would've thought.

Life is fragile. I don't mean this in a let's-go-out-get-smashed type of you-only-live-once-way, but I take for granted that my life will overlap with others. I say this after the episode with Prune that I mention often. I thought I'd have years with them, apparently not. I then realized I don't have enough photos of the girls, that there will never be enough days to bury my face in their fur. I mean, their lives are like a sunrise. So short, so bright, filled with energy, bringing us so much beauty. Blink and you'll miss it. It's probably the same for parents, I wouldn't know. One minute you're driving kids around everywhere and thinking oh lord when is this going to end then suddenly the kids have their own cars, they go to university and that's that. People, pets whoever, they have small batteries and no armour. It doesn't mean that Prune won't get an earful when she picks fights with dogs half her size or that Suezie can endlessly stretch with her claws on my bare feet but I should hug them more. And stop saying, when they suddenly sleep in the crate together, that I'll take a photo next time.

People have been designed to put up with a lot. Somewhere I read that 'all flowers must grow through dirt' and I think of that often. Just when you think that nothing worse will happen, the tsunami hits after the earthquake. They also say that something good will always come from something bad, I don't think that's always the case. Instead I think what you learn is that your resilience is much more than you expected. And the people who are with you through it, they're the keepers, the ones you should remind to eat their kale.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

In the spirit of eating kale, new beginnings and general healthfulness, I'd like to bring you some honey and olive oil quinoa granola. A mouthful, but a tasty protein packed one at that. I literally eat 'nola in some form every day, but this is different to my orange granola because it's less oat-based with lots of crunchy quinoa, nuts and seeds, which will appeal to a lot of people at this time of year. There are quite a few indredients but if you stock a remotely whole-foods pantry they're all staples and if you don't, I have added a little info about each ingredient - either way, it's nice to know a bit about what you're eating. This is quite long, so feel free to skip down to the recipe. I don't have one particular source for the info, I am enough of a food nerd to keep a notebook with this kind of thing.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Rolled oats (porridge oats): what would I do without these guys? boil them up for a quick and creamy breakfast, bake them into muffins or granola, bake with the flour... they are a great source of manganese (connective tissue builder + regulates blood sugar + absorbs calcium). Beta glucan is the fiber (a super source of fiber, oats) specific to oats that is associated with lowering cholesterol, preventing cardiovascular disease through unique anti-oxidants, and helping the heart. Oats are inherently gluten free, but are often processed alongside wheat products so if you/those you feed are very sensitive to gluten, be sure to buy certified gf oats :)

Quinoa: ah quinoa, the tiny gluten free superfood that's taken media by a storm. you've probably seen it around in supermarkets by now - not strictly a grain, but rather a seed (though it's considered a whole grain. imposter.)that contains all 9 essential amino acids. This is pretty incredible for a plant and what makes it so popular as a protein source for vegetarians/vegans. It is high in many minerals (iron, manganese, magnesium, copper....) so can help ease migraines. It is no headache to cook either; it can be used like rice (boil with a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio, so 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water). Just make sure you rinse it first, like I do here, because there is a bitter coating to the grains otherwise.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)
nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Sunflower seeds: good for your bones because they're so rich in magnesium which helps with structure and regulating nerve cells. They are very mild and always remind me of granary bread from when I was young; they can easily be tossed into salads or to add a bit of crunch to oatmeal. The selenium helps with cancer prevention and certain chemical compounds (phytoserols) play a role in lowering cholesterol, and as an anti-inflammatory agent. Sunflower seed butter is often used as a nut-free alternative to almond butter, I'm sure it's really tasty.

Pumpkin seeds: These seeds contain a huge range of anti-oxidants; wider than many other nuts and seeds. They are also a source of unique proteins which have anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties and are super sources of zinc. Zinc is huge in boosting immunity and fighting colds, never a bad thing at this time of year. Like sunflower seeds, they can go almost anywhere you want a crunchy element and are often used to make pesto, which I really must try.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Brazil nuts: incredible sources of selenium, which is an anti-flammatory agent and also helps prevent free radical damage and so have been associated with lower levels of cancer, as well as having an important role in regulating your metabolism by influencing thyroid hormones. Selenium also helps prevent depression - it's a mood lifter, so smiles all around. They have a flavor that to me is a lot like almonds, I'm always surprised they're not used more in recipes. I have added soaked nuts (saving my blender) to smoothies and they are so creamy!

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Almonds: the world's highest source of vitamin E (fat soluble anti-oxidants) which kindly protect your cell walls from damage. they're high in monounsaturated fats, the 'good fats' which help lower cholesterol and keep hair and nails and the heart healthy. They are also potassium rich, like bananas (!!!) so great for active people and nerve transmission & muscle contraction. Incredibly, these mild & tasty nuts have been associated with regulating blood sugar levels and lowering the glycemic index of the meal they're incorporated into.

Flax seeds: aside from containing lots of essential fatty acids and omega 3, these unobtrusive seeds are incredible sources of lignans. Lignans are chemicals found in some plants that have been linked to colon and breast cancer prevention. Flax is high in fibre and help regulate the passage of food through the intestines, assisting with the absorption of other nutrients (the midfielders of the nut/seed world). The combination of omega 3 fatty acids & high levels of vitamin B mean they're good for shiny, healthy hair and skin.

Hemp seeds: (un?)fortunately nothing to do with weed but you'll feel pretty good after eating these protein powerhouses. Much like quinoa, these seeds are a complete protein and are valued in plant-based protein powder; they also contain the type of aminos needed for muscle repair. They are a valuable source of omega 3, good for preventing inflammation; and are high in iron as well as a bunch of vitamins (A, B, D, E). They have a pleasantly nutty flavor and I often use them in granola but you can also chuck them into smoothies, salads, wherever you would any seed.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Chia seeds: I know what you're thinking but these have become mainstream now, I can find them at my local supermarket... and I'm not suggesting you use these tiny superfoods to make chia pudding (chia soaked in milk/water, the seeds swell with the liquid and resemble something tapioca-ish, popular with health foodies but a step too far for some of us ahem), which I am aware resembles frogspawn, I know from experience. Instead, I use them in granola, baked into muffins and cookies, sprinkled over oatmeal, blended into smoothies... because they have so much goodness! They are very rich in omega 3 & fatty acids; even more so than flax seeds, and are also good sources of iron and calcium, great for non-dairy and non-meat eaters. They are useful as a binder in gluten free baking and can stand in for eggs too.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)
nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Olive oil + honey quinoa granola

This granola is fruity and fragrant from olive oil; with floral notes from honey and a whole lot of energy and goodness from quinoa and hemp seeds. The nuts and seeds are toasted and golden; quinoa adds a little crunch to this protein-packed breakfast.
// gluten + dairy free // makes about 5 cups (1.25l)


2/3 (130g) cup quinoa
2 cups (200g) rolled oats, certified gf if neccessary
1/2 cup (75g) almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (70g) brazil nuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (70g) pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup (65g) sunflower seeds
1/3 cup (40g) hemp seeds
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (80ml) honey*
dried fruit, optional**

Pour the quinoa into a fine mesh sieve and rinse really well under cold water; rub the grains together and between your fingers for a couple of minutes. Lay our a few paper towels and spread the rinsed grains over them, pat them down to dry a bit and leave aside to dry.

Preheat the oven to 165’C and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl (like, super sized) add the oats, nuts, seeds and salt, spices, mix it all up with your hands. Add both the olive oil and the honey plus vanilla, mix well again.

Dry the quinoa one last time and then add it to the melée, toss everything around so it’s evenly coated.

Dump the bowl out onto the prepared pan, spread it out into one even, thick layer. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Remember to rotate the pan every 10 minutes and to stir the granola up, bringing the edges into the middle and the middle over to the edges so it all browns evenly and nothing burns.

Once the granola is nicely browned, allow it to cool fully on the pan. After it’s cool, toss  through the dried fruit if you’re using any, then fill a large air tight jar. The granola will keep at least a month. Question is: will it last that long?

NOTES

*to keep this vegan, you can substitute maple syrup for honey in the same quantity, maple also goes amazingly with olive oil

As always, you can adapt the liquid – dry ratio in the recipe and use what you have/like instead. I’ll often use half walnuts instead of brazil nuts, or sometimes all sunflower seeds if I have no pumpkin seeds.

** I generally like to add dried fruit to my ‘nola, especially in winter when there’s little fruit in season. You can leave this out if there’s fresh fruit where you are, otherwise I like to use dried cranberries, blueberries, figs or raisins. Use what you like, just check there’s no added preservatives (sulphur) or sweetener.


nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

I hope you found this remotely helpful and that it inspires you to add a few new goodies to your pantry, or reminds you of some. This granola is infinitely adaptable, so I really hope you make it. Granola, cute dogs and funny people exist, so don't let January get you down. Hugs xo

Ps. Today is our last day in India. I can't believe it... how did three weeks go by so fast? I will have some photos of Bangalore on the blog soon, if you're curious.



more breakfasts

to want and to knead | cardamom-cranberry spelt wreath

nutmeg and pear | healthy spelt bread wreath w/ cardamom & cranberry (naturally sweetened & dairy free)
nutmeg and pear | healthy spelt bread wreath w/ cardamom & cranberry (naturally sweetened & dairy free)

There is a strange familiarity about the whole ritual. It usually involves climbing into some loft or burrowing through the shed to some degree to find the Christmas tree, that we swear to replace every year. The decorations are like meeting characters from an old book you haven't read for a long time - you remember all their quirks, where you were when you first noticed them. Someone plays Christmas music, the dogs sniff in the boxes and bash the shaky tree with their tails.

nutmeg and pear | healthy spelt bread wreath w/ cardamom & cranberry (naturally sweetened & dairy free)

A couple of years ago my dad passed the light-stringing-up altar to me. Nothing official about it, but he was travelling for longer and longer during the holidays and I was, perhaps inappropriately, deemed the most competent in this field. The lights still shine and twinkle in the evening, but I've never managed to curl them evenly round the tree like dad has, the lights themselves are so old that a few have gone out, but no one's really had the heart to buy a new set. We've been using the same decorations for as long as I can remember, the little round baubles and the intricate figurines my dad used as a kid. We are not so much of a family for tradition. We travel too much, the family as a whole is too spread out. And when I asked my parents, when I was young and these things mattered to me, they asked me what Christmas was really about. Did it have to be gifts around a tree, a big dinner, celebrated on the 25th? Or was it about the principle - the gathering with people you love, sharing food that you've made with love, giving, more than just material gifts?

nutmeg and pear | healthy spelt bread wreath w/ cardamom & cranberry (naturally sweetened & dairy free)
nutmeg and pear | healthy spelt bread wreath w/ cardamom & cranberry (naturally sweetened & dairy free)
nutmeg and pear | healthy spelt bread wreath w/ cardamom & cranberry (naturally sweetened & dairy free)
nutmeg and pear | healthy spelt bread wreath w/ cardamom & cranberry (naturally sweetened & dairy free)

It makes me wonder. This season of craziness... the crazy is everywhere. The pressure on mothers to cook a perfect turkey, to choose the best gifts for their children. The pressure on dads to put up the best outdoor lights, to earn the money to finance it all in the first place. Pressure on kids to stay cool throughout the affair, to get the best most expensive presents. Pressure on the dog to not steal the turkey from the table, dammit, and not to bark when an army of strangers rings the doorbell. Pressure on everyone to keep a good face, to laugh with family members you don't really know.

I go back to bread. We have no great expectations of the holiday, nothing to go back on, I doubt I'll make this wreath next year as a Christmas tradition. I started making my own bread some time ago, but that was after a long break from the habit. Somehow my hands remembered it, the smell of the yeast was familiar, my hands could fold and knead the dough without a second thought. It gave me something, some quiet zen, two minutes to think amid my crazy; travel prep and essays. I think about the puppies who'll be abandoned because the kids couldn't handle the well meant gift. About the wives who'll fall out with their mother in law because the turkey didn't work out. About the dads who'll feel like crap because they didn't get that promotion in time to get that shiny new phone.

nutmeg and pear | healthy spelt bread wreath w/ cardamom & cranberry (naturally sweetened & dairy free)

It's not that I don't have warm memories of Christmas, or that I have a problem with traditional holidays, I think it's great to have something to look back on, to warm you somewhere inside. Childhood Christmas for me was lots of light, more laughs, some fun gifts that I'd play with the whole year. This year will be similar. We'll celebrate after the India trip, on January 10th, when the people who've fought with their mother in law and chucked their puppies have moved onto the most depressing month of the year and salad diets. I just spare a thought for those people who believe that they're making it Christmas, and I go back to my bread. My thoughts on the puppies and the grains, on the holiday from which so many of us took the spirit when we first put up the lights.

nutmeg and pear | healthy spelt bread wreath w/ cardamom & cranberry (naturally sweetened & dairy free)

I understand that lots of people are scared of working with yeast but I promise that, like the aforementioned holiday, it's also overcomplicated by most people! Just make sure it's really puffy after proofing time, otherwise the yeast is dead and it will also kill the recipe. Also, the temperature of the water is important - I found a sneaky method to do this, see the recipe notes if that will help you. As for the swirly wreath pattern - I tried to get photos, but they weren't great so I will direct you to this site I trawled the internet for, which quite clearly shows how to get that pretty pattern going.The bread is gently sweet, a nice contrast to the sharp berries and fragrant cardamom - it's more the kind of bread for eating chunks plain, rather than slicing and slathering with jam. The best kind of bread, I'd say. It's kind of cozy but light, which is how Christmas should be. Whether it's the traditional kind on the 25th, or something a bit unconventional like ours, wishing you the brightest, warmest holidays with people + pets you love. xx

nutmeg and pear | healthy spelt bread wreath w/ cardamom & cranberry (naturally sweetened & dairy free)

[kindred-recipe id="1918" title="cardamom-cranberry spelt wreath"]

I am away on holiday (India!!!) right now, so it may be a bit quiet on my end. If you are looking for more baking inspiration, I will direct you to this baked oatmeal to serve holiday guests for breakfast, this granola for edible gifting and these scones because why not. and (coconut oil) gingerbread cookies. And again, I thank you for visiting this little corner of the internet, have a wonderful Christmas. I'll be back with a few photos in a bit.