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. 

crush of the week

Indiana is getting a new bed for Christmas. We will need a lot of luck and patience once she is released from behind the cot bars, but she is convinced she is a grown up and therefore both confused and furious about plonked in her own little prison night after night…so it's time. The bed is bought, and I've invested in *hours* of very important (& not at all indulgent) bedding research. It turns out there's a bit of a gap in the market for beautiful, affordable girl's sheets that aren't very gingham or covered in ballerinas, but a handful of really lovely designs at the exquisite-but-a-bit-of-a-treat end of the spectrum. There's Lulu & Nat with their magical rainbows and neon butterflies,  and these perfect pink clouds from The Little Baby Company…but then I stumbled upon the ultimate...

Little Cabari specialise in stunning, handmade linens and other children's decor - including the most snuggly looking sleeping animal rugs, and entrancing wallpapers. The designs manage to be both timeless and playful, with hidden little characters and really beautiful colour combinations. They aren't cheap but they are high quality and the stylish, un-faddy design is worth the investment, if you can. Definitely one to watch, and really really want….

Biscuit Brigade

This blog has been like a ghost town since my last post, which promised a website reveal and cronuts recipe that never materialised. The shame! I promise they are both on the horizon, and will appear one day before the year's end. In the meantime I've been up to my armpits in cake orders and small children, and haven't even checked an email for actual weeks. However, I've been shocked out of my sugar rush by the realisation that Christmas is hurtling towards me. It's just one month away, and I've not even thought about all the festive fun I want to cram in before I wake up in a sea of Quality Street wrappers on the 27th to the harsh realisation that life is once again devoid of reason for overeating, over-baking, random platters of large cheeses and general overindulgence in port. 

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So it was that we kicked things off with a gingerbread party! I thought it would be fun to add a bit of nutrition to balance the treacle, and so we attempted the following, which I stumbled upon via this site

Spelt and Agave Gingerbread

330g spelt flour 
.5 tsp salt
.75 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
.25 tsp ground nutmeg
.25 tsp ground cloves
113g unsalted butter
1 large egg
80ml agave syrup
80ml treacle/molasses

(if you prefer your gingerbread lighter in colour, use golden syrup in place of treacle)

some of the treacle actually made it into the dough...

some of the treacle actually made it into the dough...

The dough is so easy to make that the kids did it all themselves, bar the weighing and measuring, and despite devouring dangerous amounts of treacle along the way it came together perfectly. Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, and all the wet (including butter) in another, then just stir them together, at some stage transferring from spoon to hands to squish it all into a ball. We then left ours in the fridge overnight, but you would want to leave it for at least half an hour as otherwise it's too sticky to work with. 

Cutter-sorting kept her busy for almost an hour! Coup!

Cutter-sorting kept her busy for almost an hour! Coup!

Next day we had besties Edie & Holly coming over for a dinner date, so we planned a gingerbread baking party beforehand and the kids went to town making some fabulous gingery creations. Roll the dough out to about 5mm thickness, cut your desired shape, then pop on a parchment-lined tray in the oven (170C) for approx 10 minutes. We decorated ours first, with varying degrees of success, with pumpkin seeds, raisins, sugar crystals and bits of orange peel. You could also ice with basic royal icing and sprinkles after they are cooked and cooled, which I did a tiny bit of before losing interest and just eating them. The pumpkin seeds were super yummy baked into the gingerbread. It was lovely to watch the kids really get into decorating - Indy and Holly, despite being the littlest, really focussed on making pretty designs. It took them ages to catch on to the fact that the dough was edible, at which point we had to step in and confiscate it… Such a lovely activity from start to finish, that the kids can really just take over with and isn't hideously messy. Needless to say we all enjoyed devouring them afterwards too… 

indygrows

fiercely independent but very affectionate, always bestowing unrequested kisses and cuddles...loves to play with dolls and coo over babies...loves to play "the screamy game" which involves a post-bath nude rampage around the flat with Pablo...still not many words but she is impeccable at making her will known regardless!

fiercely independent but very affectionate, always bestowing unrequested kisses and cuddles...loves to play with dolls and coo over babies...loves to play "the screamy game" which involves a post-bath nude rampage around the flat with Pablo...still not many words but she is impeccable at making her will known regardless!

sunday sunday

Ok it was actually Saturday Saturday but after a late night and lots of margaritas vs little sleep it felt like a Sunday... We zoomed over to my brother & sister-in-law's in Stokie for the most delicious totally sugarless (!!) spelt cake** (I promise, it was actually nice - check out my epic portion, which I consumed in its entirety) and chats. I gossiped with Z, Uncle X took Pablo to Clissold Park to  jump in some puddles, and Konch and Indy zonked on the sofa in a heap of teething and hangover. Dreamy (literally, for some of us)... I spent my actual Sunday cancelling exciting tea party plans to snuggle with our still feverish Indy. Those teeth need to HURRY.

*Pablo managed to plant himself in a large muddy puddle so he got to go home dressed like a tiny wizard in Konch's cardigan, which he thought was fantastic.

**Anyone wishing to try the dreamy Lemony Hazelnut & Blueberry Cake, it's recipe is from The Telegraph

ski babes

We went on holiday! It was the beginning of a very long enforced holiday from updating this blog, too, but I'm finally getting round to posting about it. I booked it on a whim, being desperate for a getaway and having the vague excuse of Konch's birthday being nearby-ish. A friend who'd been before couldn't stop singing its praises and it was so temptingly affordable that I couldn't resist. After the initial excitement of booking had passed, I began to panic a bit. What had I done? As the dark days of January and February kept us locked inside and longing for long afternoons on hot beaches, I suddenly realised, to my horror, that this was the first time I had ever booked us (or even just myself) a holiday somewhere cold. Very cold. With snow. WHY WOULD I DO THAT? The looks of confusion I was met with when I mentioned we were off on a springtime family jaunt to snowy Poland were also a bit off-putting. But once we got there all faith was restored. 

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We flew to Krakow, rented a car (complete with snow tires) and started off up into the Tatra Mountains for the two hour trip to Zakopane. We arrived in a winter wonderland - valleys of snow three feet deep and dark blue skies, air so fresh I immediately looked ten years' younger (probably), houses that looked carved from gingerbread. We each had apartments in Villa Dorota, a fairytale alpine lodge with loads of space and views across to snowy peaks. The weather was so sunny and gorgeous that I managed to snatch a full twenty minutes of reading on the terrace one morning and got an actual suntan.  

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A highlight for me was epic sledding in our own garden , but when we weren't doing that (or gorging on Kinder-bars by our wood fire, or eating VERY big sausages) we mostly went skiing. Pablo was zooming down the beginner's slope like James Bond (sort of) by day three, and afterwards there were infinite apres ski options - hot wine, big jars of lard to smear on your potatoes, and many raw, organic beetrooty salads. Most restaurants had built in play areas for the kids to frolic about in their long johns arguing over arcade games whilst we grown ups compared skiing aches and dared each other to try "hot beer" . We also visited vast indoor hot springs with multiple water slides, jacuzzi jets, whirlpools and outdoor relaxation zones steaming in the snowy wonderland. Everything was confusingly affordable - a grown-ups dinner out with vodka galore, wine, and three BIG courses of delicious, fresh food (+ atmosphere) came to £20 per couple. Ski hire was £20 for the week, lessons only £10 a pop. We didn't manage horse and sleigh rides, which are everywhere, or snowmobile hire, though I would love to if I ever end up there not with tiny children. The absolute highlight was just the fresh air itself - I had forgotten what that felt like after relentless London and it was incredibly energising. We are keen to go back one summer, when the hills are apparently alive with the sound of goat herding and the scent of wildflowers, and there are stunning lakes to visit for swimming. 

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