Stripped-back meals are the order of the day here at TDB HQ. It’s the best time of year to have that kind of constraint, with produce tasting good enough on its own that all it takes is a decent pairing and a sprinkle of salt.
That’s not to say that we’ll be without treats. You may have already noticed a new name around here – Sophie‘s recipes will be popping up regularly, and there are some beautiful bakes in the pipeline. I hope you all like chocolate!
Why so little time? Well, next month I’m leaving London. After nearly five years of sweaty tube rides, balanced out with access to gorgeous food and never being more than five minutes away from a coffee shop, I’m getting a train outta here. And then getting another train via London a couple of weeks later, but that’s not the point. Read More
This courgette cake was a long time coming. The cake stand in my kitchen had gathered dust. Perched atop the cabinets, it’s stood unloved since the Marvellous Night Circus cake, a state of affairs that 2012 me would never have predicted.
She also wouldn’t have predicted me being caught out with a cache of enormous courgettes that need eating.
Those ones went into courgette and Comté gratin (recipe tbc), but they got me thinking about courgette cake. When I said those words, people recoiled slightly, much like they did with avocado cake, but I’ve proven ’em wrong once and I’ll prove ’em wrong again.
This cake is perfect for this time of year, when strawberry season comes to an end, courgette gluts leave home gardeners desperately pressing the vegetable into the arms of visitors, and the clouds open to remind us that yes, we’ve had a delightful three days of summer but we are still in England, giving you just enough time to put the oven on and consider branching out into wearing sleeves again.
Summer fruit pudding season has been the longest time coming. The cravings came mid-winter, just before I wrote a post half about out-of-season berries, and stuck around until my twice-weekly supermarket check for those red and blue and purple gems bore, er, fruit.
There’s satisfaction in the fact that the recipe saves a little food waste – I don’t keep bread in the house so I bought a loaf from the reduced section in the supermarket, but for the average person it means using up those past-best slices, and the crusts can be whizzed up into breadcrumbs for meatballs or a savoury crumble. Between that and all the vitamins you’ll be getting, it’s pretty much a virtuous pudding. Read More
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. Read More
oney, I’m hooooome! May was quite the month, with Work Stuff being bonkers, Saturdays being taken up by a course, and a nice trip away for my brother’s wedding, but now we’re back in business.
It’s a good month to be getting back proper food – I’m eating meals that take more than 10 minutes to make! – because we’re finally out of the cabbage months. I try to practice what I preach and eat British seasonal produce, which makes the winter months preeetty dull. I cave every now and then, but try to stick to “not if it’s flown further than I have”.
You might have noticed (who am I kidding?) that the shops, after St George’s Day, the traditional kick-off date for the British asparagus season, were full of Peruvian asparagus. It took a few weeks to catch up with the usual season thanks to the wrong weather this spring, and I spent longer than is normal trying to find a workaround, but I’ve not been to Peru. So I waited – and the home grown stuff tastes all the better for it.
But really, that’s not the exciting thing about June. The best bit is that we can once again walk through a market and be hit by waves of the scent of fresh strawberries.
inally, finally, finally, we’re out of the cold. As I type this, I’m looking out on grey skies (oh, England), but there’s solace in the fact that the streets are increasingly lined with the bright colours of summer fruits with “British” on the sticker.
Related to all this, you can now browse recipes by ingredient (up….^^^ there) on this little ol’ blog. There’s even a dedicated salted caramel section, along with the less indulgent fruit and veg bits.
As a natural ginger, I often find summer kind of tough – I’ve got skin that burns quicker than a slice of toast if I’m not careful, and would rather be caught in autumn drizzle than stuck in the stifling heat of midday sun bouncing off buildings. This used to mean a) browsing in supermarket frozen aisles for a long time, and b) clutching a Starbucks frappucino more frequently than anyone’s bank balance can really take.
Homemade iced coffees just weren’t the same, with the drink getting weaker with every drop of melted cube. Enter coffee ice cubes. Made with coffee stronger than what you’d actually drink, they stop your drink from losing its power. They do tend to be a little sticky – you can encourage them out of the tray by running the back of it under the tap before popping them out. Happy bank balance, happy inner thermostat.
Pick of the Week
Now Wimbledon is over, it’s time to break away from plain old strawberries and cream. You could go with a cake, or cookies, sure, but Kathryn at London Bakes has gone a step further to make these phenomenal balsamic-roasted strawberry margaritas. Balsamic strawberries, tequila, and lime – yeah, I’m gonna need a few of these.
Surprisingly delicious: black pepper cream cheese & fruit
It’s a well-known fact among friends that I’m a weird eater – one of the ladies I went on holiday with was frequently openly baffled by what I ate, although considering one of those experiments was mussels and chocolate sauce, you can hardly blame her. But the juxtaposition of sweet and savoury is one of the best things about pairing foods, as proven by maple syrup and bacon.
So when it comes to snacking, of course I follow suit. Black pepper (light!) cream cheese (so far I’ve seen it in Morrisons and Sainsburys) goes wonderfully with apple and strawberries, keeping that 3pm lull interesting as well as virtuous.
Tip of the Week – How to rescue “seized” chocolate
Seizing – or, to you and I, “Oh balls, the chocolate’s gone grainy” – happens when chocolate overheats or the cocoa powder in it absorbs water. You can bring it back for use in brownies or puddings by gently reheating it in a bain marie and adding 1 tsbp of vegetable oil, boiling water, or hot cream for every 175g of chocolate. No more sadly spooning gritty Green & Blacks into your mouth before dashing to the shops again.
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.
People 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. Read More
I never have been, and never will be, sporty. Not just in terms of partaking in sport, but in terms of watching it. I don’t “get” it. Even when the Olympics were going on just a hundred miles down the road, it was still just a bunch of people jumping about in shorts to me.
At school – the last time sport was compulsory for me – PE lessons meant one of three things: chatting while walking around the circuit for cross country, recycling a selection of sick notes and then…having a chat, or playing ping pong over the top of 6 tables set up in the hall. PE lessons contained very little actual PE. We liked it that way.
So unsurprisingly, the fact that this week heralds the beginning of Wimbledon means just two things, much as I’m sure it does for the majority of the nation: strawberries, and Pimms. Not so much about sport.
In the family home, I am the chief Pimms maker, due, no doubt, to the fact that I make it stronger than anyone else does. That’s the only part I have in it. Just when the tennis starts to get “good” – marked by gasps, shouts, and my dad shifting to the edge of his seat rather than dozing – I retire to take a Pimms-induced nap in a roasting conservatory. For now, I’m without the Pimms and the warmth of sleeping in, essentially, a fancy greenhouse, but I can keep hold of those strawberries.
As I’m not completely weird, I like my cookies soft. Eating a cookie shouldn’t be a jaw workout. These are beautifully soft.
Adapted from Picky Palate Makes 14
Note: It pays to bake the whole batch at once, as when the mixture is left out for a while before baking it spreads more and the cookies don’t rise so nicely.
50g light brown sugar
135g granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1/2tsp baking soda
100g chopped strawberries (about 1cm cubes)
100g chopped white chocolate
1) Line two baking trays with baking parchment, and preheat the oven to 160C. Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
2) Add the egg and vanilla and mix until just combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Gradually add to the wet ingredients, stirring as you go.
3) Add the chocolate and strawberries, and mix until they’re evenly distributed throughout the dough. Space tablespoons of dough about 3 inches apart, and bake for around 10-15 minutes, until a deep golden brown.