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new york in the fall // pumpkin spice muffins

An American friend is in London this weekend, and I cannot wait to catch up with her. It was this time last year that I was studying on the east coast, and her visit, combined with the serious onset of autumn, has brought the many fond memories of my time there to the fore once more. Although I was based in Princeton, New Jersey, it’s proximity to New York meant I made several trips there, including for a week in October when my family came to visit. In addition to several days in the City, we made the five hour journey up to the top of New York state to stay with family friends, where the scenery and vivid autumn colours that surrounded their lakeside home were just spectacular.

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chocolate hazelnut tart

In the week before returning to university, I had so much work to do that I decided the best course of action was to do none of it. Better to have a week to properly switch off, rest and relax, than continue to work constantly without achieving much, getting frustrated and bored and tired without being productive. Illogical, yes, and I probably shouldn’t encourage such a lax attitude to work and responsibility, but it works for me.

Instead, I enjoyed lazy days of late starts, big breakfasts, fresh coffee, travel magazines, baking, lounging, wine-drinking, film-watching, and nights of long deep sleeps uninterrupted by alarms.  This tart was a product of that week, and I enjoyed a large slice (or two) whilst watching Casablanca with my mum one evening.

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when life gives you lemons // lemon + honey cake

when life gives you lemons….

Everyone knows that old saying. Lemons are a good analogy for life’s challenges because in their natural, unadulterated state they are sour and unpleasant. The saying continues by instructing us to make lemonade — turning bitterness into sweetness, which on the face of it is a good thing. But the truth is, making lemonade isn’t everyone’s natural reaction.

Different people have different ways of dealing with the lemons that life throws. Some people chomp on the raw, unsweetened slices, wallowing masochistically in the sourness as a sign of toughness or self-pity. Some add lemon juice to hot water, knowing that it’s good for them in the long run but not enjoying the taste at the time. Some people ignore the lemons for so long that they go bad, and taste even worse than before. Some people add so much sugar to their lemons that the lemony flavour is lost entirely. Read More

apple + blackberry crumble

Slowly but surely the leaves are turning, the days are shortening, the rain is falling and the year is beginning to grow weary and fade. Every now and then the dying breaths of summer give us a golden day, but there is no mistaking the steady march into autumn.  With it comes new beauty, though, and new flavours.

I’d love to say I went to the trouble of picking these blackberries myself but alas I came too late to the local blackberry bushes this year.  Most years, though, I enjoy filling tub after tub with wild blackberries on brisk autumn walks, and sporting the thorn-pricked and juice-stained hands to prove it. The apples, however, came from our very own apple tree, so I’m halfway there.

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Spiced Stone Fruit Porridge

I’ve always liked the seasons to be distinct. I want my winters snowy and ice-cold, and my summers bright and balmy.  I’m not averse to a cold slice of sunshine on a winter’s morning, provided it shines through windows thick with frost, and I don’t mind rain, as long as it isn’t between the months of May and October. It’s the only form of OCD I suffer from.

However, I live in a place where weather is erratic, unpredictable, and refuses to conform to the pattern of seasons; I have known heat-waves in March and snow in April.

As such, the type of food I want to eat changes just as rapidly. Salad becomes stew and ice cream becomes crumble as fast as dresses become jumpers. But I can maintain a link with the changing seasons through the fruit and vegetables I use. By merging the fresh produce of late summer with the warming spices of early autumn, this is comforting enough for a cold wet September day like today, whilst still preserving a small slice of late summer sunshine — if only in taste.

N.B.: Any respectable recipe will tell you to cook porridge slowly on the hob, as that is undoubtedly the best way to do it. However, I’d be lying if I said that’s how I cook my porridge — I prefer 2 minutes in the microwave and no pan to wash up. I have therefore not given any method; I’ll let you decide how to cook it. Mix all the ingredients together to start with and cook as desired.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 cups milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2 handfuls of chopped stone fruits — e.g. 4 apricots/2 peaches or plums or nectarines/ 10 cherries/ or a combination of all — plus a little extra to garnish if desired
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 tbsp honey (optional)
  • Serving suggestion: reserved fruit/almond butter/Greek yogurt/honey/chopped nuts

Chocolate + Coconut Cookies

It’s been a rainy few days in London, and the only thing worth doing on a rainy afternoon is curling up with fresh cookies and a good book or film. Not to mention the new series of Bake Off is here — if, like me, you’re enviously eyeing the tasty treats on a Wednesday night and wishing you could reach through the screen and steal a slice, this recipe is for you. Using only a handful of wholesome ingredients, these come together in under 20 minutes and have the bonus of being good for you, too. Provided you don’t eat them all in one sitting, that is.

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Quinoa Salad w/ lemon + mustard dressing

Vegetarianism was evidently an alien concept for the poor hotel staff in Italy, who seemed at a total loss as to what to give me. Because the menu changed daily and there wasn’t always a vegetarian option, it was a bit hit and miss and it became a nightly guessing game as to what I’d be presented with. Some nights I got delicious pasta with sautéed vegetables or gnocchi in tomato sauce, but other nights it was a few slabs of cheese or a bowl of salad leaves. For breakfast one morning, despite there being plenty of things I could eat at the breakfast buffet, they presented me — “are you the vegetarian?” —  with an enormous bowl of tomatoes. By the end of the holiday I had learnt to request specific, easy dishes each day.

It is not the first holiday where food has been problematic — anyone with any kind of dietary requirements can probably identify with that. Throw healthy eating into the mix too — generally I don’t bother or I’d go hungry! — and finding somewhere to eat can be a nightmare. I’m always slightly puzzled by this because it’s actually not at all difficult to create simple, hearty, wholesome vegetarian meals.  Read More