Tuesday, 7 September 2010

I've moved...

Hi Everyone,

Now that I'm no longer in north London, I decided it would make more sense to move the blog too (and finally get a more instinctive blog address!)

I'm now at number ninety eight. 

I hope that you'll continue reading over there, and join me for a new start and new adventures in baking, cooking, preserving, knitting and cat refereeing!

This blog will remain static so you can still find recipes etc, but all the posts have been transferred so they will be over there too, and I will no longer place new posts here.

I look forward to seeing you at the new abode, perhaps for some tea and cake?

Monday, 30 August 2010


I don't know where to start. Over a month has disappeared since our interwebs went down, and there are so many things that have gone on it's hard to know where to begin. Firstly, I huge thank you if you've stuck with my silence and are willing to read again, I am hoping to be a better blogger now, and a better keeper-in-toucher.

And, well, er, yes. I guess I should begin with a confession. We moved! Yep, we're no longer living it up in Our Lovely Flat(tm) in north London. At the beginning of the year, oh yes, way back in January, we decided that it was time to get away from the hustle and bustle of life in the city. Peace, quiet and space in the suburbs were beginning to call, as was the exciting prospect of owning a place of our own, one with a proper garden, and stairs, and fireplaces. It seemed to take forever, with each viewing worse than the last, nothing affordable, and morale and dreams of houses disappearing faster than the post-viewing bottle(s) of wine.

Then finally an offer was accepted on the perfect place, and after much box packing, cat calming, and tester pot choosing later, we are in, unpacked, and even online again!

Now, obviously, there is a slight problem, as I cannot be "From a North London Kitchen" if in fact I am no longer in north London. Oops! So there will be some bigger changes a-foot on the blog.

But before then I have other things to share. The new house has meant more space, and as if we didn't have enough books, jars, wool and fabric to fill it with, we decided that something was missing from our new set-up.

Meet Gatto, the newest member of the family! Don't be fooled by those large cute eyes, he's a little terrorist! He eats Sniff's food, loves to climb on anything and everything, and three days into his life with us managed to scratch me in the left eye just as I opened them in the morning! He is definitely stamping his way into our lives (and refuses to sit still for good photos!)

Finally, a week into our new life a wonderful box arrived for me. The month before I had signed up to Siri's amazing Farmer's Market Exchange. It was a mad dash to get mine posted before the deadline, and amidst all the frantic packing, but I managed to get my box off, and wondered what would appear for me. Then we moved and I forgot about it, and suddenly a letter arrived saying a parcel was ready for collection. I was so lucky to be paired with Jes. Not only is her photography absolutely stunning, but she is an incredibly generous exchanger. As I delved into her package I felt ashamed that the timing of the exchange meant I hadn't squeezed more into hers. It was a box filled with Minnesota goodness; natural harvest maple syrup, blended tea, honeys and apple rings, as well as some homemade jelly and a piece of pottery made by Jes' Dad. How amazing is that?!
Thank you so much Jes. I've already enjoyed tea in my lovely new teacup, and can't wait to try the honey on some homemade bread (still tinkering with the new oven, it's not playing ball!)
It has been a month filled with madness, and stress, but also crammed with goodness. And now, as the autumnal chill begins to lurk in the air I am looking forward to a whole new phase of things.

I really hope that you'll all stick around and join me at number ninety eight, for a whole new set of adventures. There will be cake, and jam, and tea, a bigger garden to transform, knitting projects to finish, and cats to referee. I can't wait to share it all with you, and catch up on what everyone else has been getting up to.

Monday, 26 July 2010

We interrupt your regular programming...

...to give you this announcement.

Due to the ineptitude of a customer services person we are about to lose our internet. Don't ask. I'm sure you can all imagine just how the phone call went when the news was broken to me.

It might be a while before it's back too. And so in the flat we are pulling faces like this.

I'm sure there is a way to do fancy things with fancy phones. But this blogger is not someone who has gotten her head around all that yet.

So please bear with me, I promise I will be back as soon as I can. Hopefully with news about this, and other such exciting summery ventures.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


84 apricots, don't make as much jam as you'd expect for that much de-stoning.

But it's worth every one. The height of the jamming season has begun, and I'm doing the best I can to put as much gorgeous summer fruit into jars as possible.

Are you preserving the summer too? If so, please share how. This marmalady can't get enough of whacking things in jars!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Ladies wot lunch

A couple of weeks ago, when summer was at it's height, Rosy and I decided it was time to take advantage of the tucked away green spaces that London has to offer, and have a picnic.
It's amazing just what tranquility you can find in this city. Moments away from a busy road, and convenient bus route you can find yourself in gently green spaces, dappled in sunlight, refreshed by breezes, affording both quiet and comfort. I don't take advantage of it enough, and I really should.

I also don't take enough advantage of Rosy's amazing skills. I was in charge of the booze, and she was in charge of the main food items. I've been to picnics before where it's all a bit shambolic, the food is last minute, and squished into tupperware or still wrapped in shop cellophane, the blankets aren't sufficient and there is always one less plate or cup. I love those picnics for their charm, their laughter and their hapharzard cobbling together of things.

I suspected this would be something different, and I was right, after all it was two food bloggers, who take a leisurely lunch very seriously indeed. What I wasn't prepared for was just how unbelievable it would actually be. Honestly, this lady served up a still warm pesto and salad tart, a still perfectly crisp panzanella salad, and, wait for it, individual eton mess! I was out classed.

But I had the booze, so I like to think I did my bit. (we won't talk about the awful lemon cake I made that was so bad it embarrased me to even offer it...a write-off recipe that has been torn from my scrap book and burnt).

It was a perfect afternoon of calm, in the midst of one of the craziest and noisiest summers I've ever known.

I could very much get used to being a lady wot lunches.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The curious incident of the frog in the night time

This cute, fluffy, adorable little blighter has been getting up to some rather impressive tricks recently.

He doesn't enjoy the heat much, or rather, he likes to bathe in the sunshine in spring, but the height of summer is not his friend. You can't blame him, you'd be a summer grump too if you were carrying rather a lot of hot ginger fur (and perhaps a little bit of weight?! - yes, the v.e.t. did mention he should lose a few hundred grams!).

As a result he doesn't venture into the house much at the moment, but seeks out shadier spots under the decking or neighbours trees. Only popping in occasionally to remind us he needs feeding.

So I get all silly. I worry that he doesn't sit on my lap or want to be cuddled, I fear he loves someone else more than us and spends his days with them. I get in a bit of a tizz about it all.

And so Sniff finds ways to show his appreciation, as only cats do. A couple of nights ago we were graced with a midnight mouse hunt. Sniff kindly brought it in to show us just how exciting it can be to chase both him, and said rodent, around our living room. The prize was captured by a very on-the-ball N and given it's freedom, and what we thought was ample time to run and hide before Sniff was allowed out again.

Not so. How could two humans be so bad at this game? The aim is not to free the mouse, but to eat it! Sniff showed us just how we were going wrong by treating us to bit of ex-mouse around the flat the next morning.

Not to be deterred by his humans failings he upped the game. The night we finally got some humidity relieving rain he tried again. We were woken not by the pleasant noises of raindrops on the windows, but instead a very strange sound indeed emanating from the kitchen. Another poor mouse we assumed, so I gaily went out to do my fair share of chasing. In my sleepy haze I made the mistake of not taking my glasses, and so was peering at the strange shape on the floor, thinking how it was amazing that a mouse that spread out could still make so much noise, when it leapt into the air and emitted a mighty croak! It was a huge frog! Goodness knows how this innocent little cat had managed not only to catch the amphibian, but to get it through the cat flap in one piece! 

At this discovery all rescue duties were promptly handed over to a very sleepy N. I have nothing against frogs, but they rank with slugs and snails for their potentially sliminess, at least in my head! And I wasn't about to attempt capture, not least because I had no shoes on, nor glasses, nor any idea how to go about the manouver.

In the end it took two of us, one inside and one outside, to coax the poor thing back out into the damp garden, whilst little Sniffer was trapped in the bedroom eeking for all his little lungs could managed (I like to think he was balling instructions about how the game worked!)

Luckily the frog survived the encounter and hasn't been seen since, and our little kitty has been smugly sleeping off the exertion.

What remains a mystery is where the frog came from in the first place. As far as we are aware there are no ponds, streams or water holes anywhere near us.

It truly was a curious incident of a frog in the night time, and shall remain so...

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Blame it on the pav-a-lova

Sometimes I inexplicably get songs running round my head. This would be fine, except it goes on for days and days and it seems nothing will cure it. I can even hunt out the song, listen to it, and still my brain doesn't seem satisfied.

Which is how I came to be singing "blame it on the pa-va-lova" to the tune of "blame it on the bossa nova" which incidentally I only know because of watching this.

Why pavlova? Because this week I made some ice cream and decided that it would be a wonderful excuse to pile some cream, passion fruit and passion fruit curd on top of a cloud of crispy-on-the-outside mallow-in-the-middle meringue.

Because really, who needs and excuse for this super-sweet fat free (ahem, we're ignoring the cream, alright?) fluffy cloud of summery deliciousness? Not me. Especially as it means I can dance around the kitchen in my dressing gown singing "blame it on the pa-va-lova" at the top of my voice!

There's only one problem really. Unless you are super talented, it can be hard to make pavlova photogenic. Or perhaps it's just me? But seriously, this baby did not want it's picture taken. The light was all wrong, the cream kept trying to leap off the top, and all in all it just wasn't having it. So I've dolled it up with poladriod in the hope that you will trust me that it's a lovely idea to make this for your next summer gathering. I scaled down my recipe to make me feel less guilty about eating all that cream and curd for four days in a row. As a result this recipe makes a nice size pavlova for four servings. I'm sure it's not the best in the world, but it's easy and quick and I think it tastes lovely after a salad with a chilled glass of white wine.

Passionate Pavlova - Serves four.

2 large egg whites
250g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp lemon juice

2 very ripe passionfruit
100ml double cream
3 tbsp passion fruit (or lemon) curd

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with parchment. 

Whip the egg whites until peaks form. Then gradually whip in the sugar until the mixture becomes stiff and glossy. Then sprinkle over the lemon juice and cornflour and gently fold it into the mixture with a metal spoon trying to knock as little air out of the mixture as possible.

Pile into the centre of the baking sheet and smooth the top as best you can. You want a disk around eight inches in diameter and 1-2 inches tall.

Place in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 120C. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the oven off, but leave the pavlova in there to continue baking as the oven cools, leave until completely cold.

When you are ready to serve, gently invert the pavlova onto a place and peel off the paper. Whip the cream gently until it is still soft and fluffy, but holds its shape. Then stir in the pulp from the passion fruits. Gently spread the curd over the pavlova and then top with the cream, serve immediately, or within an hour.

Please don't forget to sing "blame it on the pa-va-lova" whilst serving, it makes it taste better. Honest.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

A sigh of relief

Today brought many a sigh of relief. Firstly, it is the first Sunday in a long time that I have not been working, and so meant a full day of N's company. It was spent in a very typical manner, him being crafty at the table, me being crafty on the sofa, but even this silent time, spent in mutual contemplation of our tasks, and the cricket, made everything feel aligned again.

Speaking of cricket, a huge exhalation went up when the final ball was lofted over the outfield for four, and England won the series. It was touch and go at the end there, and two people and one cat held their breath as they prayed that it wouldn't be a truly dreadful day for English sport.

Because yes, unless you've managed to blissfully avoid World Cup mania, you're probably aware the England went out of the tournament today. I know it is controversial to admit, but I breathed a sigh of relief at this too. Frankly, now we can stop pretending to believe the hype that England are going to win (which they never were, let's face it), we can all sit down, relax, and enjoy the rest of the competition, whilst watching some teams who actually can play football.

Phew, mini-rant over. Sorry about that!

What I really wanted to tell you about was the sauce I made for our pancakes this morning. I didn't plan the pancakes, but the lack of bread and unwillingness to miss a single moment of any sport today meant that I needed to come up with a breakfast option fast. I used my go to recipe (which I've tweaked a bit over the last six months) and would have added blueberries to them, except I suddenly decided instead to whip up a sauce. I'm so glad I did! It would have produced a sigh of happiness, had it not been for us both stuffing stacks of pancakes and sauce in our mouths!

It's super simple, quick and uber tasty. It goes incredibly well with a subtly flavoured pancake, and a dollop of creme fraiche, so that the sauce is the star of the show. I'm sure it would be equally delicious on waffles, ice cream or French toast.

Blueboozy sauce - serves two for pancakes, liberally.

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen.
1 large glug of creme de cassis, or for a non-alcoholic version, a dark berry (or elderflower) cordial
1 tbsp water
3-4 tsp cornflour

Place the blueberries in a small saucepan with the water. Begin to heat gently until they release their juice. Then add the cassis or cordial. Continue to cook gently until the blueberries are bursting and there is a large amount of liquid in the saucepan. Add the cornflour a teaspoon at a time, through a sieve (to avoid lumps forming) mixing as you add. Wait for the mixture to thicken slightly in the heat. You can continue to add cornflour until the sauce reaches your desired texture. I had mine fairly thick so that it sat well on pancakes, but if I was using in on ice cream I'd leave it much thinner.

Pour over hot pancakes, toast or waffles, or scoops of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Monday, 21 June 2010


...It seems that maybe, just maybe, Britain might get some summer. For some reason it hasn't felt like there's been much summer here yet, despite the slightly depressing fact that it was apparently the solstice yesterday. Perhaps I missed it all being stuck in the office, whereas in previous years I have been blissfully at home and therefore able to appreciate each and every day when the sunshine peeks out and the temperature creeps above ten degrees Celsius.

I'm sure it was Molly who once mentioned that bloggers can have a habit of posting less during the warmer sunnier months. I think particularly for those of us who are less used to all this gorgeous weather, and who only get about three days of it a year (yes, I am indeed a jaded Brit), it is imperative to leave the computers behind and head out and frolic.

That's not quite what I've been doing. I would definitely be up for some frolicking in principle, however I have mostly spent the last week and a bit working. The shop I work in has been moving to a larger premises (hurrah!), but being a small business the shifting of boxes was done by us. There is part of me that relishes being back to physical work after months of being in a office. It reminds me of when I was working on the market and shifting palettes of bread every morning. It is a wonderfully satisfying way to spend a day.

But my muscles the following day were not amused, especially when I hauled them out of bed to do it all again!

However, despite the aches and pains and exhaustion that seem to be following me around, there is a huge plus to all this dashing around. You have full license to eat as much as you like! On the actual moving day, when myself and the lovely M shifted box after box and bag after bag from the van to the new shop, dodging pedestrians as we went, I probably ate my body weight in baked goods (and then we discovered the amazing local frozen yoghurt place! I LOVE our new location!), and that's not an insignificant amount. And yet, when I got home, I was still ravenous! Total result. I can once again bake my heart out and stuff my not-so delicate little face with cookies, cakes and tarts and totally justify it (did I mention that the new stock room is on the top floor...I've got a new love affair with all those stairs!)

With all this in mind I decided my co-workers and co-box-sifters might need a little sugar rush to keep the spirits lifted. On our first day open in the new shop I brought everyone cinnamon rolls, topped with my amazing new-found (Thanks Rosy!) cream cheese icing. The days before this, there was a endless supply of cookies.

Why? Because thanks to the advice of a certain young American, who knows her cookies, I was finally pointed in the direction of the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. I shall forever be indebted to her, and her French source, for what will quite possibly now always be my go-to cookie recipe. It's crispy yet still chewy, better on the second day, and held up to some adapting. I made them last week, and we ate the remainder today (the recipe makes a LOT) and they were still good. In my eyes, that's the perfect cookie. They even stood up to what is my high water mark of cookies, the pecan and chocolate chip ones from Ottolenghi.

Go, bake and be sated...nom.

The almost-Nestle Tollhouse cookie - Makes enough to feed an army of movers.

2 1/4 cups strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups dark chocolate (I used 70%) chopped into chunks
1 cup chopped nuts (I'm a pecan gal myself, but walnuts, hazelnuts etc would work fine)

Preheat the oven to 190C and line all the baking trays you have in the house! No, seriously I used all four of mine a couple of times over as you only really want about six on each sheet in case of spreading. 

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a mixer, or by hand beat together the butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy. Then gradually beat in the eggs one at a time. Gradually add the flour mixture and combine. Then stir in the chocolate and nuts. 

Place rounded teaspoons of dough on the baking sheets a couple of inches apart. Bake for aprox. 8 - 9 minutes until they are just golden brown at the edges (this tip was thanks to M, who pointed out this would maintain a chewy centre. mmmm...)

They will keep for quite a while in a air tight box, but I would recommend them either just warm, or the next day with a nice cup of tea.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

I've served my time

I tried, I really tried, but 9-5 office work really isn't for me. At first I loved it. I was in and out of the office running training sessions, and meeting new people. But as the months went on, and the time in the office longer, it became clearer that this wasn't going to be something I could do long term. I loved the people in the office and have made some great new friends, but sitting down staring at a computer screen is downright depressing, and even a little soul-destroying for me.

Who knows, I might go back to it, but yesterday, after much deliberation and financial pondering and deep philosophical conversations with N, I bid farewell to my colleagues and gave it all up.

Eek! So I am taking almost a 50% pay cut and am swapping the office for a (gorgeous) shop job. It sounds strange, but it seems to be working for me at the moment. It's a incredibly creative environment, and I am surrounding by a wonderful group of crafty inspiring people. It also means that for the most part I have my four day weeks back, hurrah! So hopefully I will be here a little more often with all sorts of baking and crafty goodness.

Despite my desperate desire to get out of the office, I was a little sad to leave it behind, and it's very difficult to take such a massive risk. I will no longer be in an academic environment, and I certainly won't have much loose change kicking around. But I'm hoping it will be the start of a new chapter, and some exciting new ventures.

As a little thank you to all my amazing friends and colleagues in my office I baked them one last treat. Little chocolate fairy cakes topped with cream cheese icing and sprinkles. I called them chocolate cheesecake cakes, as that's exactly what they tasted like. Yum! We had a picnic at lunchtime and then wine at the end of the day. A lovely farewell.

The cakes went down a storm and were gobbled up in no time. I won't post the recipe, instead I shall direct you to it's source, as I can't take any credit the delicious cake was all thanks to my lovely friend Rosy. The only thing I can boast about is the decision to put the cream cheese icing on it. It wouldn't be my usual topping, but I couldn't resist and the result was delicious. Make them this weekend and treat yourself, but beware, you'll want to make British fairy cake size ones as they are incredibly rich!

Well, I am off to enjoy my day of freedom with some housework. I'm so rock and roll!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

"We don't like cricket...oh no! We love it!"

Nothing quite epitomises summer for me than cricket. If you've hung around here, or indeed spent much time in my company, it probably hasn't escaped your attention that I am a massive cricket fan.

There's just something so gosh darn civilized about a gentlemanly game that takes places at an almost leisurely pace over an entire day and include a break at 3.40pm for afternoon tea. If you're familiar with other bastions of gentlemanly culture, cricket may well conjure up images of fluffy clouds in blue sky, teams all decked out in white, and spectators politely clapping at the end of each over between mouthfuls of strawberries and cream and swigs of Champers. All of which should be accompanied by the soothing tones of Test Match Special (minus Boycott of course, nothing soothing there!)

The reality of course looks rather more like this:

Five hours of drizzle, rain and inclement weather. If you go to the cricket in England (rather than sensible places like the West Indies, or Australia) chances are you should pack for the arctic. N laughed as he saw me stuffing a quilt, raincoat, hat and scarf into my bag on Saturday, but true to my expectations I spent five hours at Lord's huddled underneath the aforementioned bedding wishing I'd bought some gloves as well.

That's the reality of the British summer. And I embrace it. Partly because I have to, and partly because no matter what at 3.40pm there is a break and out comes the tea and cake. If I do nothing else in preparation for an afternoon of cricket it is to prepare a cake. I've talked about this before, and fruit cake is almost always what I make.

But sometimes I need a little sunshine, and so sometimes I make something a bit brighter in the hope of tempting out the rays and casting off the raincoat. If you need a little sunshine, especially after a damp bank holiday weekend, I suggest you dust off your mixing bowls, search out some good lemons and have a crack at this. It's a great cake for transporting because it is incredible dense and holds up well. I think I might add a strongly lemony buttercream next time. But then again I might not.

Lemon Vanilla Yoghurt cake - makes one 9x5 loaf. (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 1/2 cups Plain Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup vanilla yoghurt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 large eggs
Juice and zest of two unwaxed lemons
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Whisk together the cups flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, mix together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and oil. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, but mix thoroughly.

Pour the batter into the  pan and bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick of skewer in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a baking tray. While the cake is still warm, gently poke wholes all over it with a toothtpick and then brush the lemon syrup over it with a pastry brush until all the syrup is absorbed. Cool and then enjoy, preferably in front of the cricket.

Monday, 24 May 2010

All you knit is love.

These hands are mine. Knitting in Barcelona. They could, however, quite easily be the hands of my mother, or indeed my grandmother. I have clear memories of seeing a photograph of my grandmother in a very similar setting, also on holiday, also in the sunshine. She is sitting on a rock (I think) knitting in her hands, in a beautifully stylish dress, looking at the camera with a little gleam in her eye. She is on her honeymoon, the person holding the camera is her new husband, and I believe she is knitting something for him, even while they are walking in the countryside.

It makes me smile to think of that picture, and to think of how proud she would be to know that I now share her love for knitting (and her wish to do it whenever and wherever). She never saw me knit. She tried patiently to teach me when I was younger, but I was more interested in climbing trees and pretending to be Columbo than sitting patiently forming stitches. But here I am now, having learnt from her daughter, and taken on what feels like the inevitable love of the craft that the women in my family have.

It's lovely, because every time I look down at my hands holding my needles I think of my grandmother and I think of my mum, and I smile.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Would you like another cookie?

I increasingly find myself baking cookies these days. I think because working six days means I have lost my lazy Sundays of baking, and my weeknights are taken up with either frantic knitting to finish projects (I've become newly obsessed, and last week stayed up until 2am and got up at 8am just to finish something in time to wear for work! - more on this in another post...) or crashing out on the sofa trying to keep my eyes open and my cat happy with some cuddles.

As time has become precious, I want quick fixes. I still want to bake and cook, but am aware that the window for doing so is a lot smaller, especially with all the other things that also get missed and need doing in my snatches of time.

Cookies are perfect, you can whip most recipes up in one bowl, and either cook then and there, or rest the dough in the fridge overnight and pop them in the oven the following day.

This is one of the reasons I chose today's cookie. It meant I could whack it all together last night at ten, and get home to ready mixed deliciousness to be formed into balls and baked. Perfect. There is nothing quite like the smell of cookies baking after work, with the late afternoon sun gently dipping across the garden, and a breeze coming in through the open patio doors. It would be completely idyllic if it wasn't for the stack of washing up on the side, the drying clothes on the rack (and still piles of dirty ones loitering in the bedroom) and the mountains of fur that are beginning to taunt me as I'd rather be baking than hoovering!

Cookies are also a great little gift, a nice homemade thing to say thank you. This weekend I shall be sharing them with a lovely girl I work with at my new job. She makes brilliant cups of tea, humours my love of sport, helps with my knitting disasters and is the perfect company on a rainy Sunday afternoon when work is quiet and we are knitting and nattering. She rocks.

Some shall be going to someone else too, who's husband very kindly presented me with a Ottolenghi cookie a few weeks ago, as he didn't want me to miss out. How lovely is that?! I shall pass on a batch for her and the family as a thank you (She's also the wonderful woman who got me the job, there will be a lot of cookies (and the curd I promised) going her way!)

I borrowed the recipe from Nicole, who adapted it from the ever-great David Lebovitz.

I made a few changes, mostly due to necessity than will. I couldn't bare to part with my entire chocolate stash, so only used a scant two cups (200g) and I used only one cup of nuts, pecans, as I didn't have any more. I also sprinkled them ever so lightly with salt to balance the flavour. I won't pass on my version as Nicole and David have already done such a good job and deserve the credit. I have to admit too that I still found these a little disappointing, and I wonder if my changes are the fault (which is the most likely reason frankly). Don't get me wrong, they are a very good cookie (*nods and munches from the background*), but I still feel like I am searching for my "perfect"  chocolate chip cookie. Perhaps I should just give in and buy the book so I can give the original a go? And really, I don't mind having to bake a few more cookies in the quest for the perfect one. We're troupers in this flat, we'll do out best to try as many cookies as it takes!

Monday, 17 May 2010


There has been a lot of talk about books around the web at the moment. About old favourites, new favourites, and of course everyone's favourite, the public library.

So I thought for a bit of fun I would share with you just how out of hand my little cook book library is getting. We live in a small flat, and are both book obsessives, and so books are on shelves, on floors, on books, in cupboards, and always, always in hands. We have many genres, and are not snobs, "bath books" (those deemed comfort reads that do not suffer from damp fingers, rather revel in them) are tucked alongside classics, both new and old. My PhD related books take up almost the entire spare room (which is mostly to do with having to have at least three copies of all works by the author I was writing about, one for reading, one for annotating, and one first edition - oh and sometimes ones in languages I can't read, but simply wanted for the novelty!)

But it is the cookbooks that pose the most problems. They are of unusual and uneven sizes, and so do not uniformly suit one shelf. Nor is there space enough for all of them in the kitchen, so they are spread out all over the place like a grazing flock. And they move around. They go from being presents on show (in the living room), to bedside reading, to much splattered and in use, to pausing on the kitchen table before they make the rounds again. They are often found in cahoots with the craft books, conversing with the gardening section, or hanging out with the fantasy literature.
I dream of a house where I can have them all in one place, and yet I know it's much more fun this way.
Where do your cookbooks hang out?

Friday, 14 May 2010

Because you can put jam in everything.

The Jamvangalist strikes again! The cake I bring you today is a wonderful way to use up the dregs of marmalade that might be taking up several rooms space in your house cupboards. Okay, so I'm sure you don't actually have that problem, but when I am trying out new marmalades the half-full tester jars gradually stack up in our "breakfast" cupboard and because I try and eat nice boring healthy museli in the morning and so only have toast at weekends, I need another way to re-appropriate the half-filled jars.

I discovered this cake when doing all sorts of research in the run up to Food Junctions. In the spirit of "isn't preserving amazing and versatile" that I was trying to get across in my presentation I wanted not to have tasters of just jams and marmalades, but examples of the things you can do with them other than spreading them on bread. As a result I spent the evening and then morning before the talk frantically whipping up cakes, biscuits, tarts and slices all of which used jam, marmalade, curd or other preserves. It was the marmalade cake that was the first to go. It's moist, and whilst it doesn't taste too strongly of bitter orange marmalade, it does have a wonderful background hint of it, and a great depth of flavour.

It was so good that one participant actually prized the cake paper out of my hand and stood scraping the crumbs off it!

So today, I bring you my newly-found go-to marmalade cake. I used my "dark side" Seville marmalade, which is made with bitter oranges, all dark sugar (making it almost black, and very treacly in flavour) and a nice dash of smooth Irish whiskey. I also intend to make a version that uses my lemon marmalades. In fact, I might even try using other jams, as I get the impression it is highly adaptable and will suit many preserves and many tastes. It is adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe (of course) and so all credit must go to him really. Except I like my cake a bit darker and so have used light muscovado sugar instead of white, and didn't add orange blossom water, or any additional orange, or icing as I don't think it needs these extras. That said, a dash of lemon juice and perhaps some zest would probably make this cake really sing, but I shall leave that up to you.

Marmalady Cake - makes one large loaf cake.

175g unsalted butter, very soft.
175g light muscovado sugar
175g self-raising flour
3 large eggs
75g marmalade

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease or line a large loaf pan.

Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs a little and then add to the creamed mixture a little at a time, beating well between each addition. You want to make sure that you do this really well, I would probably even use a whisk next time because the dark sugar is less easily incorporated (or so I find). Next add the marmalade. I also chop the peel a little so you get nice bits of preserved peel all though the cake. Finally, in a swift firm action fold the flour into the batter until it is fully mixed, trying to whip in a bit of air as you go.

Pour the batter into the lined tin and bake for 40mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine was 40min bang on.

Leave to cool in the tin before turning out. Serve in thick slices.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Cake is coming...

A big thank you to everyone for voting. I promised cake, and you shall have cake. One that got rave reviews at the Food Junctions event. However, I need to make it again, and take photos, as the only proof I have is an empty tin and the full bellies of the people leaving my talk with suspicious crumbs around their mouths. 

We have just returned from a whirlwind visit to Spain. Five hours sightseeing followed by three days of family chatter in bars, and at train stations (an awful lot of time was spent here it would seem). Fortunately the ash only delayed us by an hour. Thank you Joe.

I shall bake this evening, and photograph and bring it to you with smiles and more thank yous. I also have some cookies to share. But tomorrow...until then I shall leave you with photographic proof of why I love my new job (and why I won't be going anywhere near a bikini this summer...) 

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Cast your vote?

It's election night, and it's going to be a long one. So let's have a little fun...why not vote for me instead?

Dorset Cereals little awards

Maybe you could ask your friends too?

Pretty please, I'll bake you a cake...

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Is there a Doctor in the house?

Yes there is!  

As of yesterday it's official, I've had the confirmation of award, and so the thesis is finally, finally complete. No more waiting for paperwork, it's all done, finished. Forever. 

Weird. It's a strange process, and I have to say it's left me with a feeling of anti-climax. I think in part because I am so tired at the moment, but also because the process at the end of a PhD is a bit like that. I did the examination at the end of November, then I made all the required changes by early January, and since then I've been hanging around waiting on a piece of paper to get passed to the right person. When this was eventually produced it got lost in the internal mail. It got to the point where I really thought the world was trying to tell me something, and that the damn award would never be given. 

But last week the paperwork finally fell into the right hands, and so the thesis made it's way from my desk draw to the relevant office, and yesterday a headed piece of paper confirmed that it was done, months after the actual writing and editing and work. 

So now I'm not just a jam lady, I'm Dr jam lady! (Wow, wouldn't it be amazing to have a PhD in jam?! Perhaps that should be my next aspiration?) 

For all the relief that it is finally done, there is now a huge gaping hole where it used to be. I know people who have spend years battling with their thesis, and when they finish it is with a cheer that they say goodbye to the project, and often to academia as a whole. 

I don't have that. I wish I was back at the beginning, starting over again, about to embark on wonderful years of reading and research. I miss it so much, and I want it back! I am beginning to realise that perhaps finishing early wasn't something I should have aspired too, and that I should have spent more time stretching it out. 

I have spent most of my life waiting for the day when I would be awarded my doctorate. Pretty much my entire education was planned with exactly this in mind. Now I've run out of plan and I'm at a bit of a loss. 

I think I might go home and make jam...