Rhubarb, strawberry & almond crumble

There are two topics when it comes to desserts that I’ve found will split people: the ideal dessert menu (up to two chocolate options, at least one lemon option, and a soft choice for brace/denture wearers – anything after that is inconsequential) and the perfect crumble.

It’s a surprisingly divisive dessert, when you get down to it: you can’t deviate much when it comes to a pie, but when it comes to this particularly British pudding, “crumble” can be both its name and what happens to your relationship with your best friend when you realise they’re devoted to some white sugar based sandy monstrosity. Don’t even get me started on a mushy apple filling.

Why yes, I do have strong feelings on this. How could you tell?

Any crumble is a marriage of flavours. The fruit layer, the one that diminishes any (badly placed) feeling of guilt over the butter, will inform the nuances of the crumble itself: the sugars; the spices; the nuts. 

That layer of virtuousness, for me, is a vehicle – an excuse – for a thick layer of lightly spiced topping, made up equally of crumbs, oats, and little balls of what is essentially shortbread. Continue reading

Spicy spring pasta with spinach and pea pesto

Did I add those ingredients just so I could have a fun title? I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t part of the equation — but mostly it’s about the snuck-in secret veggies, because there’s something weirdly satisfying about being able to tick off your five a day very swiftly by whipping up spinach and pea pesto.

Spicy spring pasta with spinach and pea pesto // The Dinner BellWhat can I say? I lead a thoroughly rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

Honestly, this week we’re all craving green things, whether it’s because we’ve acquired a lot of chocolate or just down to the brighter skies that come with switching the clocks back, (although that always seems to mean losing an hour’s sleep).

But it’s time for fresh starts, again, and rediscovery — the “tomorrow” we were awaiting the arrival of before it’d be sensible to look to getting in shape is here. And so we shake off the darkness of winter, peeling it away like soggy shoes after a rainy commute, and we dig into recipe books, reminding ourselves what vegetables look like, and we chuck in some extras.
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Double chocolate raspberry tart

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ou know what’s a great idea in 30C summer heat? Laying around in the sun with a good supply of drinks. You know what’s not such a great idea? Making pastry.

So naturally, on Saturday afternoon/evening, the scene was me standing in my kitchen, swearing at an uncooperatively melty pastry case while I desperately tried to cool myself and it with a standing fan positioned next to us. Continue reading

Pear & honey mini galettes

This time last week, I was waking up from a nap, with a pounding headache and a strange sense of home that contradicts everything I wrote about in my past post.

Pear & honey mini galettes // The Littlest BakehouseIf you’re expecting this to be a romantic story about friendship and discussing deep issues under the stars…you’re going to be disappointed. At a friend’s place, we were far enough out of London to actually see the stars, but bank holiday Friday was a night of tequila shots and pizza, cookies baked at 1am and so many ridiculous stories that will become part of the lore of our group. The weekend has been the subject of a number of flashbacks throughout the week that have left me burying my face in my hands, half in laughter and half in disbelief. In short, it was excellent. Continue reading

Balsamic strawberry galette with ricotta

Balsamic strawberry galette with ricotta // The Dinner Bell

It’s April, and I sneeze at least five times every morning, right when I wake up. Pollen’s in the air. We’ve cracked out the light jackets. Summer is coming for us.

Summer is the time for falling in love: with cities, with food, with freezing cold showers. It’s suncream, hot tarmac, and that unmistakable smell of strawberries, an aroma that hit me unexpectedly a few weekends ago, giving just a hint of things to come, before the UK was once again blanketed in grey.

London has never been my home – I never yearned for the big city like other teenagers did, and for too long after I moved here I lived in a bubble, terrified that I just couldn’t do it and yet too stubborn to give in. At no point has it been love. London and I are like the married couple that stays together for the sake of the kids.

Balsamic strawberry galette with ricotta // The Dinner BellPeople still say, Ooh, London eh? Good place to live while you’re young. You must have so much fun. And every time, I smile and nod and think, Well, sort of. The economy is harsh, meeting people is difficult and honestly I would rather cook for my friends and pack them off, giggly and stumbling, with a fist full of cookies, than hit the nightlife. 

But just when I think it’s too much – the isolation, and the cost – something good happens. A gaggle of strangers offers to help a women with a buggy, or a museum visit turns out to be particularly good. In this case, it was a trip to a local grocery stall – the one that’s not part of a market, and where you get called “babe” as standard – that saw me laden with almost more fruit and vegetables than I could carry.

I’m still not in love, but it helps. It’s more bearable when you can go home and say, Okay, so a pint might bankrupt me but damn it, I can buy 750g of strawberries for a quid and I dare you to beat that. These are small pleasures, and it’s almost worth it. Summer is a little slice of sunshine breaking up the unrelenting grey, and I suppose this posh jam tart is my sunshine. Continue reading