Purple hail

purplegnocchi

The days seem suddenly longer and lighter, and we had already taken for granted that after school would once more mean lolling in the park, skateboarding down hills and demanding ice creams that we would never EVER finish (ahem...), working on our chasing and catching skills, and casually topping up our suntans. But today there was hail. HAIL. In late April. So we had a little family cooking & music session... 

In light of Prince sadly popping up to the stars on Friday/because it was a rad excuse to dig out my Purple Rain vinyl & inflict it on the kids/because our Abel & Cole veggie box delivered us a big bag of them that urgently needed eating, we settled on using our purple potatoes. My kids are strange, in that they will happily devour mountains of raw greens or pull apart big scary prawns, but aren't very happy about eating potatoes in any form other than deep fried. Blue chips seemed like a cop out, so we thought we would experiment with a purple gnocchi supper. 

Gluten Free Purple Gnocchi

700g purple potatoes
1/3 cup flour (we used Doves Farm plain gluten free flour blend)
1 small egg

In an ideal world, your first step would be to bake your purple potatoes for 45ish mins, then scoop out the flesh into a bowl. This retains maximum purpleness and keeps everything nice and dry. We were nowhere near as organised, and only had 30 mins before tummies were going to start demanding to be filled, so we peeled, boiled and drained ours extremely well. Both kids are very into peeling veg at the moment, because they are mad, so loved labouring over each potato whilst I silently panicked over how long it was taking them. Once your potato is skin free, cooked and in a bowl, whatever the method, mash well and add 1/3 cup of flour - we went gluten free with Doves Farm's plain gf blend, but I reckon rice flour would work well or you can use regular plain flour if you're not fussed about gluten content. Also add one small egg - cracking the eggs is easy and fun for kids so I always let them do this bit and they rarely get egg everywhere or any shell in the bowl. Add a couple of pinches of salt (& pepper if you like). 

Indy peeling spuds... 

Indy peeling spuds... 

The mashing of the ingredients is another bit the kids can totally take over on. Basically with this meal they are doing the lot, so you can sit back and relax (unless you are too busy taking pictures, like me....) The mixture quickly comes together into a lovely satisfying dough which Indy very accurately compared to play doh. Separate into 4 separate pieces and roll each one out into a long snake - another job for the kids - then cut each snake into bite size nuggets. The texture makes this a really easy job for the kids to practice using a proper knife, and much was their glee at being trusted with something sharp and grown-up. 

gnocchisnakes

Once the nuggets are chopped, roll a fork over them to make them look lovely and authentic and gnocchiesque. Or, if you are doing this with kids, give up on that and accept that they will all be totally different shapes and sizes and degrees of squashedness, but will nevertheless taste the same. 

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Add your beautiful misshapen purple nuggets to boiling salted water and wait for them to float to the surface and tell you they're done, which takes approximately a minute, so don't wander off. Drain immediately and serve with something buttery, or we made a quick pesto from fresh basil, toasted pine nuts, olive oil & some goat's cheese. Devoured. Prince would totally not approve, because he was a vegan, but I'm sure there's an easy vegan version of this... 

 

 

GONE BANANAS

baby, it's extremely cold outside...

baby, it's extremely cold outside...

I actually have gone bananas, because *still* rarely a night passes without Indy padding down the hall and squirrelling in next to me, using me as a pillow and wrapping herself around me like a little butterscotchy octopus. Then I can't get back to sleep. And she wriggles the covers off. And in the morning I feel like lying on the floor with a funnel in my mouth whilst someone fills me to the brim with coffee. Or waves a one way ticket to a Mexico in front of my face. It's January, so even the brightest days are mostly dark and frosty and I'm not a fan of long spells of hibernation, I need some sun and air and adventure. So we have been baking a lot to make the house smell of cinnamon and warmth, and keep away from watching too much tv or feeling too blue. 

This banana bread is our latest invented recipe and we are all now total addicts. It's delicious straight from the oven or cold or toasted with butter or slathered in almond butter and raspberries for breakfast. We're on a loaf a week at the moment and show no signs of slowing down. But it's totally sugar/gluten/dairy free so we can smugly devour as much as we fancy & get ourselves strong for treeclimbing season at the same time... 

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Wintertime Banana Bread

75g Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour (I imagine you could substitute buckwheat or rice flour)
50g coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
50g melted butter or coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 tbsp almond or rice milk (make sure it's unsweetened)
80g egg white (approx 3 large egg whites, but I buy it by the carton)
3 mega ripe bananas
1 tbsp coconut nectar, raw honey, maple syrup or agave
more agave or maple syrup (for serving)

This one is lovely and easy for kids to help with. Pablo's just getting into maths so loves to measure the ingredients, and Indy is always keen to sneak licks of spoons when my back is turned. Line a loaf tin with parchment in the bottom, and butter/coconut oil the sides (indy does this by painting with a pastry brush). Mash the bananas in a bowl, then add all other wet ingredients *except the egg whites*.  Mix all dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then combine the two. Whip the egg whites into soft peaks and very carefully fold into the mixture. 

indy mixing

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 30 minutes. It should come out lovely and golden. Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Warm your additional agave or maple syrup (about 1-2 tbsp) until super runny. Poke the bread with a toothpick all over - not all the way through. Brush with the runny syrup. It makes the bread super glossy and extra delicious. 

The bread is really light and I imagine you could easily jazz it up with some nuts, raisins, coconut, maca....maybe we will try and make a carrot version if any carrots survive in our house long enough not to be juiced. Or a beetroot and chocolate! Ok I'm getting carried away...but make this and eat it and feel better and know that spring is around the corner. I hope. 

These are a few of my favourite things

cactus flower

Baking and sunshine, sunshine and baking…probably my two bests in the whole world. Apart from maybe a very good margarita on a lovely evening with lovely friends. We're a week back from our yearly soaking of Vitamin D at my mama's beautiful little homestead in Spain. Whilst we were there we had a little birthday bash for my mama - al fresco pasta and sangria with the neighbours, who all brought drums and guitars and friends and kept us dancing under the shooting stars. I made a cake (of course), and took the excuse to make one I've been wanting to try out for ages. The original recipe is from the gorgeous Deliciously Ella, and I altered it slightly….and also somehow managed to make it without the luxury of a food processor, so mine was a bit lumpier but just as divine. It's completely gluten/sugar/dairy free and there wasn't a crumb left uneaten…I promise it tasted totally incredible. It's also quick and easy to make. Total winner.

Smug Chocolate & Strawberry Birthday Cake 

for the cake
5ish small sweet potatoes 
2 cups ground almonds
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup gluten free self raising flour (I like Dove's Farm)
1 cup medjool dates (pitted)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 tbsp raw cacao
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 vanilla bean
pinch of salt

for the icing
5 ripe avocados 
1 very ripe banana
1 cup medjool dates (pitted)
3 tbsp raw cacao
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 cups strawberries
handful of almond flakes
edible flowers and desiccated coconut (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel the sweet potatoes, chop into chunks and steam for about 20 mins, until they are really soft. In a large bowl, mix the ground almonds, flours, cacao, cinnamon and salt and set aside. 

Prepare the icing by blitzing all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Or, in my case, pop them in some strange manual chopper and attempt to blitz them until they are as un-lumpy as you can manage… Pop the icing into a bowl, cover and keep in the fridge. 

Place the soft, slightly cooled sweet potatoes, dates, vanilla bean seeds (scraped from the pod - discard the pod), maple syrup & water into a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. Stir this into the dry ingredients until well combined. Prepare three 8" cake tins (I actually think this would be rad even taller in 6" tins, but that might just be me) by brushing with coconut oil and lining with parchment circles. 

Sitting in the hot hot sun whilst you mix the cake is optional but really helps, I find...

Sitting in the hot hot sun whilst you mix the cake is optional but really helps, I find...

Spoon the batter into three separate tins (I like to measure it out with scales to make sure all three have an even amount) and bake for about 20 mins, until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tins 20 mins, then invert onto a cooling rack until completely cool. 

Chop your strawberries and layer your cake with strawberries and the creamy chocolate frosting. I sprinkled some lightly toasted slivered amends and desiccated coconut between the layers too, and topped the cake with more of those plus some yummy edible flowers. Keep in the fridge until serving. ENJOY! God I want to eat it again, right now… 


 

 

sweet potato brownies

spbrownies

For a few especially frantic, especially sleep-deprived weeks now Pablo has been on school dinners instead of packed lunch. Apart from apparently being pretty "cool" when you're 4, school dinners seem to have this amazing power to send him home at the end of the day starving hungry and with such miserably low blood sugar that I have regularly considered selling him to the nearest circus rather than hear one more second of whinge. Maybe this is because every day seems to be pasta, sweetcorn and jelly? Who knows, but it was evident that I had to man up and start packing a lunchbox again. 

The worst bit about the lunchbox is the snacky bit. I don't like buying the palm-oil-filled overpriced kids' snacks from the supermarket, but I do love to bake…duh…so am always on the lookout for some kind of "healthy" treat that takes as little time as possible to whip up. I adapted this recipe from one by the insanely gorgeous Deliciously Ella, who is a goldmine of adventurous, nutritious ideas. And I promise these are totally yummy, and most importantly Pablo thought they were an actual brownie and felt like he was getting a really serious treat…when they are technically a health food. So, proceed….

spbrownieings

Sweet Potato Brownies

2 medium sweet potatoes
2/3 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
14 pitted dates
4 tbsp raw cacao
4 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut oil
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel the sweet potatoes, cut them into chunks and steam them for about 25 minutes, until they are completely soft. Place them in a food processor with the dates and blend until smooth. 

Add all the remaining ingredients to a bowl and fold in the potato/date goo. Fully line a tin (I went for 10x10 and you wouldn't want any bigger or the brownies will be too thin, unless you double the recipe) with baking parchment and spread in your mix as evenly as possible. 

spbrownieprecook

Bake the brownies for about 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out dry. Let them mostly cool in the tin before removing and chopping them up. For a bit of added glamour I painted them with a dry brush and some edible bronze lustre - this is always a good tip for making brownies more fancy! If you do so, do it before you cut them up or you'll be in a world of stress. 

Totally delicious, totally healthy…and also totally vegan, should you need that box ticked too. I might try adding some desiccated coconut next time… already planning a next time...

Crush of the now

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I seem to be a bit fickle with my lust for new things - sometimes there are so many gorgeous things out there that I could post ten crushes a week, but then…nothing…for months. Or I suddenly decide I just don't really want any new things, apart from a very very VERY long holiday in Mexico. So this can become Crush of the Now… for whenever I see something I can't resist. 

At the moment it's What Mother Made - totally handmade and totally gorgeous kids clothes. I had an extremely hard time resisting some of their last collection on my weekly visits to Mother's Hub (E17 folk - beware, if you visit, it's FULL of irresistible small clothing), but these new Spring/Summer bits may be more than I can bear. Little colourful dungarees and crazy pantaloons that are perfect for summertime adventures. Now to find them in my size….

Baking Daddy's cake

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Happy birthday to King Squid, my lovely husband Konch. We made him a crazy little cake - chocolate chip funfetti sponges filled with peanut butter cream and vanilla cream frosting. I make cakes eternally but always much more fun to get the littles involved and go a bit bonkers. This time we cut shapes from fondant, left them to dry, then decorated them with edible markers and squished them around the cake. Yummy and fun and a big success… 

land of kids

Half term is always the best, apart from being about 5 weeks too short. And the fact that everyone else is on half term too, which means that anything even vaguely desirable to do in London is totally heaving and usually sold out 6 months before you've even thought of doing it. But despite this, we packed our sacks of snacks and braved a trip to the South Bank Imagine Children's Festival, not for the *awesome* Grandpa Joe's Giant Storytelling Bed for Roald Dahl tales & epic bouncing, because I absolutely didn't get my act together in time and it was long sold out. However, for mums like me there was the fabulous Land of Kids pop up - totally free and unbookable and all over the Royal Festival Hall. YAY! 

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After fighting through the swarms of toddlers and buggies and agitated mums to park up and feed our gaggle buns and grapes and sandwiches (and ourselves very large coffees) until everyone was on a lovely blood sugar high and ready to rock, we headed up to Pirate School and let them loose. I haven't laughed so much in a long time, as the pirates dressed even little Indy in bandanas, patches and gold then led them on a rampage around the room ("Captain's coming! Scrub the decks!" etc). Lost & Found are the force behind the pirates, and I hear they even do parties so get in touch! The kids were too exhausted afterwards to even face the magical cardboard city building that we'd stuck on the agenda next, but seeing the vast kid-crafted cardboard kingdom stretching across the floor was pretty magnificent. Then it was off to get amazing churros and visit the baby animal petting zoo, cleverly avoiding the face painting…

Why can't half term be every week???

Saxon's very first wishes

The imagined desires of my few-weeks-old nephew

1. Lovely, healing, natural bath soak for mama - Vital Touch Natalia New Mother Bath Soak £14

2. Ingenious invention to turn any top into a breastfeeding friendly top - Breast Vest £15

3. A little outfit for the babe that's a bit of a treat for you both - Oeuf NYC Superhero jumpsuit

4. A very first BFF from Polka Dot Club 

5. Nice comfy changing mat, since he'll be spending so much time there - Farg & Form, £38.50

6. No such thing as too many blankets - Zebra quilt by Ketiketa from Shak Shuka, 50euros

And… something lovely & a bit monochrome to hang on his wall... Perhaps a beautiful Jon Klassen print...

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For the lovers...

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Happy Valentine's Day all you beautiful folk out there! Whether you are spending it wallowing in bouquets and love letters, or out looking for someone to kiss, or home doing not much at all (or home baking like a maniac, then rewarding yourself with steak and chips, like me...) it is, at the very least, a fantastic excuse to make something ridiculously delicious, ridiculously pink and very heart shaped. So here's a recipe. 

These are basically croissant-doughnut love children. I can't use the word C**nut because it's been mega-TMed, so I'll call these Cronies. Because they're smaller than the original, and also because the urban dictionary defines Cronie as "a follower, not a leader. The opposite of a hustla" and these are definitely little followers of the famous Cronut... An illustrative example given is:

I'm a hustla homie,
you a customer, cronie. 

(Jay-Z)

Ok, so now we are all on the same page... 

Cherry, Rose & Vanilla Cronies

Recipe adapted from the marvellous Boy Who Bakes
makes about 10 heart shaped cronies

Although these aren't especially difficult to make, they do have many different aspects and take over 24 hours to sort out, so bear that in mind before embarking. If you do set out on the long road to heaven, however, you'll be extremely glad... First up is the dough. This needs to rest in the fridge twice - once overnight - so start the afternoon of the day before you want to eat them!

For the dough:
60ml milk - body temp
65ml water - body temp
6g dry active yeast
125g plain flour
125g strong bread flour
30g caster sugar
.5tsp salt
150g unsalted butter
To fry:
500ml oil - rapeseed or groundnut

Mix together the milk, water and yeast and set aside. In a larger bowl mix the flours, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into chunks about 2cm square, and using a pastry cutter blend them into the flour/sugar mix very briefly - you want to see large 1cm-ish chunks of butter, so don't go making it into breadcrumbs. Once the butter is combined, add the milk/water/yeast mix and combine with a spatula, then knead with your hands briefly to form a ball of dough. It's essential the butter stays cold and chunky throughout, so only the bare minimum of hand-touching please. Titillating, I know... Now pop the ball of dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film and put into the fridge for a few hours - I'd say minimum 4. At this stage, if you can, make all the other bits & bobs:

to sugar:
50g caster sugar
1/4 tsp rose extract
(or you can use rose sugar if you have a jar)
cinnamon
to ice:

icing sugar
maraschino cherry syrup
cherries
edible glitter
pasteurised egg white 

Mix the sugar and rose extract in a bowl. You could also use rose sugar if you have some, or rosewater, just add to taste - you want it to be pretty dry, so only add a little at a time. Finish with a dash of cinnamon, again to taste. I find one large shake is good. In a separate bowl mix a tablespoon of syrup from a jar of maraschino/cocktail cherries with a tablespoon of water, then add enough icing sugar (sifted) to form a thick paste, a similar consistency to toothpaste is ideal. If you want you can also add a tiny bit of pink gel colour. Tip onto a square of cling film and roll at each end, making it airtight. Keep this in an airtight container until you need it. 

If you want to make glittery cherries to top your cronies, use a paintbrush to brush the cherries with pasteurised egg white and then a dry brush to add edible glitter. You can also use edible glaze or an icing sugar/water solution in place of the pasteurised egg white but I find them less effective and messier. 

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to fill:
250ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
25g plain flour

Now for the yummy vanilla creme patissiere filling. Scrape the vanilla pod into the milk in a small saucepan, then add the pod itself. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the flour and mix until smooth. Heat the milk to just under the boil (it will start to steam a bit and small bubbles will form around the edge). Slowly pour half the milk into the egg/sugar mix, whisking throughout, then slowly add the rest. Return the whole lot to the pan and bring to the boil, whisking continuously. Keep at the boil for one minute, whisking the whole time, then remove to a clean bowl, scoop out the pod and cover the surface with greaseproof paper (pressed onto the surface of the custard, to prevent a skin from forming). Leave to cool at room temp, then pop into the fridge until you need it. 

Before heading to your bed, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface into a rectangle approx 20cm x 40cm. Then fold the short edges towards each other, as though you are folding a letter to post. Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll it out again. Repeat this process until the dough has been turned a total of three times, then return to the fridge, wrapped in cling film, overnight. 

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Wake up! It's time to roll out your dough! On a floured surface, to approx 1cm thick. Then use your cutter of choice to cut the little cronies out, and place them on an oiled and floured baking tray to prove. You can squidge up and re-roll the dough, but don't expect as flawless results and don't let it get too warm from handling. Usually these messier looking ones are the tastiest, so it's worth it.  

The proving process takes however long it takes - it all depends on how warm your kitchen is. If it's very cold, you can try popping them into the oven at 30 degrees but keep a close eye. Mine take anywhere from 25 mins to 45 mins to puff up - you can check by giving them a gentle prod. You don't want them to have too much or too little give. Over-proving will give you big heavy lumps, so be vigilant and keep practicing. 

Heat your oil in a deep saucepan until it reaches 170C. It's pretty essential to use a thermometer as the oil can rapidly become too hot and burn the cronies, or cool down so much that it makes them greasy. Around 160-180C is optimum. Add two or three at a time and cook until golden brown, about a minute and a half per side. Remove to drain on racks with kitchen paper beneath to catch the grease.

As soon as they are cool enough to handle, roll the edges of the cronies in the rose sugar. I find a wide paintbrush helps to get this neat and even. Then leave to cool completely. 

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Once absolutely, definitely cool, use a food syringe to fill the cronies with your delicious vanilla custard. I usually make a hole right in the middle top, as this will then be covered by your cherry icing. Pop your icing into a piping bag and pop a thick swirl on each. It dries super fast so be ready to add your sparkly cherries, or any other topping, asap after piping. And....enjoy! But make sure you eat them same day, they aren't too happy after a night alone in some tupperware. 

If you're not aiming for perfection, this is absolutely something the littles can get involved in, especially the cutting out and icing. And the eating, of course... 

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Hello Saxon

mama, papa & Saxon

mama, papa & Saxon

A belated welcome to my beautiful little nephew Saxon, who was born on 2nd January. He's just a little teeny fella but already full of wonder and enchanting all of us - especially the squids, who are desperate to see their new cousin whenever they can, and then sit gazing at his perfect little face and expressing their amazement at the super softness of his hair as they stroke him. The love, devotion and instinct to protect him that is already very noticeable in Indy & Pablo is so incredible to witness, and their keenness for him to grow so that they can gather him into their little band of mischief & teach him all their tricks is gorgeous. It's also strange to be reminded of those early days, cosying down indoors as a little family, feeding and recovering and getting to know a whole new little human, it's so difficult and so magical all at once, I can't decide whether I miss it or not! Well done Xander & Zara. Love love love...