A month of new adventure

Rainbow sunset view from my bedroom is none too shabby…

Rainbow sunset view from my bedroom is none too shabby…

It is one month and one week ago we realised we weren’t going to fly to our new life in California on time, because the kids’ visas had been inexplicably denied. And a week of camping in our dusty, empty Walthamstow home, a week of cursing the Christmas closure of all the best takeaway pizza places, later that we finally took to the skies to begin a new chapter in Los Angeles.

A month we have now been here, camping in another hilltop home, slowly accruing furniture and new ways of life. This weekend our shipment of things arrives from its eight week ocean odyssey. I can’t think of what I have missed beyond EVERYTHING in my kitchen. I can’t wait to bake and make and fill my jars with flours and luxuriate in the use of more than one saucepan. Can’t wait to invite people for lunches and suppers. It’s been weeks we’ve had no television, and I’ve read so many books, but I am looking forward to vegetating in front of it again…if we ever buy a sofa.

A month’s worth of observations on our new home town. The biggest is how much there is of everything. There is often too much. I feel guilty at the supermarket, as though I’m condoning the colossal waste implicit in shopping there. Each Whole Foods - and I am never more than ten minutes from one - has enormous fish and meat counters boasting multiple octopus and massive crab legs, twenty different kinds of bacon, every cut of meat known to man, salmon marinated and smoked a hundred ways. A sushi bar, a taco bar, a deli. But these shops are never very full, so much must go to waste. Is it a sort of entitlement just having it there to gawp at?

Homeward bound on a January beach day

Homeward bound on a January beach day

Nowhere is full and there are never crowds or queues, which is relaxing and disconcerting all at once. I’m so used to being in a rush and a line and jostling for space. The traffic hasn’t ruined our lives yet, as we have the luxury of mostly travelling outside rush hour. The anxious parking panic that riddles driving in London with anxiety for me is gone here, there’s always space and it’s often free. Although I can potter to a few local places on foot, I miss having a neighbourhood where everyone walks everywhere and you therefore see and know each other. I miss the corner shop where I could grab a forgotten bulb of garlic on the school run. We are walking the 15 minutes to school and back here, but barely seeing a soul beyond gardeners and bees. So many magical and sweet smelling trees though!

School has been the most amazing change, having spent years unhappy with their London school and watching especially Pablo come out miserable and crushed each day. They are very in love with their new school. There seems in the culture here a much greater appreciation of the experience of childhood. School wants the children to enjoy learning, and there are so many wonderful resources. We have already had, despite a week-long teacher’s strike, an amazing school play by Pablo’s class about Harriet Tubman, with brilliant costumes and a set made of freedom quilt squares the children designed themselves. Indy and Pablo both starting after school Rock Band club living out their School of Rock dreams, and culminating in a performance at a Hollywood club next term. The club is sponsored by actual Slash. Glowing reports of doing actual experiments in an actual science lab once a week, as well as weekly art and music which was so depressingly missing in the UK. No uniform and so much time outdoors is another upside, whereas nightly homework for Pablo is a big downer. Parents take a massive interest in school and their children generally, with constant fund raisers and volunteering, as well as so many incredible sounding camps involving nature hikes, art… School starts and finishes an hour earlier so it doesn’t feel like I never see them anymore, which is another dream come true.

One thousandth ice cream…

One thousandth ice cream…

Of course we miss London very much, especially our lovely family and friends, Friday after school whines over wine and pizza whilst the kids go wild. Feeling grateful so far that so many have already booked to come and visit. We have space and will soon have the crockery to be able to feed you! Our new community has been so very welcoming, friends both new and old, and we have been invited to parties and suppers and fed and introduced to so many great people and places. When our bed was inexplicably delivered to the wrong street by a dopey FedEx driver, the elderly couple upon whose lawn it was dumped drove it over and insisted I not help at all as they lugged it into the house. We took them flowers the next afternoon and were greeted at the door by Mary with a parrot sat on her shoulder, which made the children very happy. A week later during a torrential downpour Mary appeared on our doorstep in a big glistening mac with flashlights and a radio as the power had gone out. So very sweet and thoughtful.

Weather has been half dreamy and half nightmarish, with a couple of weeks so far of absolutely torrential rain. Rain so hard it runs like rivers down the streets, filling our boots as we run for the car, and thunder so violent the house shook. A few spectacular rainbows glimpsed have been a treat but we are secretly hoping for more dry days. Of course we know the rain is desperately needed here so we can’t be too vocal in complaint, though “this NEVER happens here” does prompt an eye roll or a hard stare. Warm days we can spend sledding down sand dunes or gazing at the sunset over the ocean. Lovely beach parties into the evening, big new parks to explore. Secretly can’t wait for it to be “too hot” for a bit.

A few of our new favourite things so far…

cheese in paradise

Indiana & Quinto pruning trees at Harmony Farm, 2015

Indiana & Quinto pruning trees at Harmony Farm, 2015

We are abundantly lucky to have an especially magical holiday each year, to my mama's tiny farm in the hills of Andalusia. It's amazing how content the most basic living standards can be as long as the sun is reliably shining. We sleep in a tiny, sloping hut my mama and her partner Quinto built themselves from old bedsprings (!), share a remarkably pleasant outdoor composting toilet (also built by them) and bathe in river water, when we remember to bathe. The power is only solar, and it goes without saying that there is no television. The air is filled with the scent of orange blossoms and song of bees in the springtime, you have to dodge falling pomegranates in late summer and wintertime is for the olive harvest. There is such an abundance of food from the land, and everything tastes at least a hundred times more delicious than anything shop-bought. Fresh OJ for brekkie, almonds to collect and shell then toast or turn to milk or cheese, salads and fruit trees, broad beans to shell in the sunshine as a happy team. And if we need eggs then every little homestead a short walk away has chickens. 

Every afternoon I steal some time to lie on the flat roof and let the sunshine throb through me, soaking up a book, whilst the kids climb trees or hike hills or scrub the big empty swimming pool ready to fill from the river for an icy frog-ridden swim. There's no sound beyond the lazy carpenter bees and the occasional breeze rustling the sage bushes, until the distant sound of goat bells begins, and they all slowly plod up the hillside to graze, the air filling with their hypnotic tune. This last trip my mama offered to show us how to make our own cheese, so we went off down the riverbed to visit Davide the goat herder, and collect some milk from my sunbathing companions.

It takes quite a lot of milk to make a decent sized cheese - we collected 3 litres which was plenty. It goes without saying that this milk is totally unpasteurised - if you are buying milk and you can't find raw, unpasteurised milk then make sure you get full fat, organic, non homogenised milk - the kind with the layer of cream sat at the top, ideally. Once home we poured it through a muslin to remove any dirt and hair. We then heated the milk in a big saucepan with a thermometer to sterilisation point - 38C - which is the same point at which the milk begins to rise in the pan. Immediately remove from the heat. Leave to cool slightly until milk is warm. Stir in lemon juice. The amount of lemon juice you add varies totally from batch to batch. Begin to stir it in half lemon by half lemon and stop once the milk begins to form curds. Now leave the milk to cool completely. 

Once cooled, strain the cheese through a fresh muslin and squeeze out as much liquid as possible - make sure you keep this liquid as it is essentially buttermilk and great for making pancakes with! Tie the muslin at the top and hang it, over a bowl to collect any liquid, for a few hours, then you can either transfer it to keep straining in the fridge or transfer it to a cheese mould or press which does the same job - removing as much liquid as possible. Be sure not to have the cheese in anything airtight though - air needs to circulate and moisture needs to drain. 

Separating the curds and whey

Separating the curds and whey

After a day or so in the fridge your cheese will be set. The longer you leave it the more solid but also more tangy it will be come. The less time you leave it the sweeter it is - more like ricotta. We ate ours asap with peaches and pancakes made with the buttermilk, but any left longer can be rubbed in salt to prevent mould. Or you can form it into creamy little balls, rub in herbs and drop it into jars of oil, a technique we learned earlier in the summer whilst doing a little cheese making workshop at Fforest Gather. Either way, delicious, and fun, easy and magic for kids to join in with. As well as much better for you than anything you could buy in a shop...  

Indy showing off our yummy goat's whey pancakes

Indy showing off our yummy goat's whey pancakes

Drowning in Apples

When we bought our house it was almost entirely for the big, green garden. A lovely wild garden is unusual in London, and someone had spent years carefully filling it with beautiful bushes and trees, so that it's filled with birds and foxes and twinkly sunlight and a sense of magic. Dominating the garden is a sprawling apple tree, its branches hanging so heavy with fruit this late summer that they trail to the ground. The kids love to scale its trunk and hide in the dense branches a la Each Peach Pear Plum, and I have fantasies of all the wonderful apple recipes I'll whip up. 

On the banks of the river apple

On the banks of the river apple

Except I don't whip them up. And the huge apples plop to the ground and gather, too sour to munch raw, giving the kids a tedious chore of loading buckets with half rotten apples lest some poor folk tread on one, and chucking them into the bushes where they slowly decay, filling the air with the stench of cider. Next year we must try harder. 

When we did finally get our act together to do some appley cooking, we hurried outside to collect the very last apples of the season. We had decided on some apple after school snack bars, and adapted a recipe from The Chickpea Flour Cookbook, since I always have way too much gram flour that needs using up. 

After School Apple Cake

3 medium to large apples
3 tbsp coconut palm sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
160g gram flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
85g unsalted butter
200g coconut palm sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened rice milk

Heat the oven to 170C and grease a 9in square pan with coconut oil, then line with parchment. Peel, core and slice the apples into thin wedges. Indiana insisted on doing all the apple peeling and chopping herself. Place in a bowl with 2tbsp coconut sugar and the cinnamon. Sift your dry ingredients together, mix and set aside. Using a stand mixer (ideally, or a hand mixer... or big muscles) beat the butter with the 200g coconut sugar until fluffy. Beat the remaining wet ingredients together in a jug, then alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter and sugar until you have a creamy, golden batter. 

Spread the batter in your tin and top with the slices of apple, finishing with a sprinkling of the remaining 1 tbsp coconut sugar. Bake until golden, approx one hour, and leave to cool completely before cutting. You can absolutely substitute brown sugar for coconut sugar in this recipe if you like things even sweeter. Check the cake after 45 mins and keep a close eye after that, ours went from not golden to slightly burned in about 5 minutes, though it was thankfully still delicious. And our oven is awful, so let's blame that... 

The cake was perfect - really creamy caramel taste and sweet, but not sickly. Pretty cool that chickpea flour can make such  great base for a cake. And it cut into easy, solid bars for lugging about. Might be fun to try as cupcakes or with another fruit, I'm sure peaches or plums or blueberries (or all three) would be delicious. Even strawberries would work well. Or we could wait until next year's apple apocalypse.

Golden milk buns

One of our favourite discoveries of the past year has been golden milk for breakfast. Especially in the winter this is a lovely alternative to tea for the small ones, and they love grinding the cardamom up in the mortar & pestle and adding the neon turmeric (200ml milk, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp raw honey, 3 cardamom pods ground/crushed. warm through, strain and serve). Ever since the kids were teeny I've made a point of telling them about the different powers carried by the food they eat, it helps to add both wonder and reason to meals - avocados make your hair sparkle and shine, tomatoes help to keep your skin safe from the sun, lentils make your brain and muscles strong, bananas help you to have sweet dreams... etc. Turmeric is worshipped as a superfood, coming into your body to help fight off bugs and keep you at your sharpest. We incorporated our golden milk and all its powers into a yummy twisted bun, after being inspired by a pre Christmas post from Twigg Studios. These are another easy one for kids to prepare, delicious for breakfast if you can get out of bed on time, or as a handy snack. We were all off to the women's march in London the next morning and needed something to set us up and to pack for snacks through the day.  I've also adapted them to make a gluten free golden muffin. Both are sugar & dairy free (substitute coconut oil if you don't have butter). 


Golden Milk Buns

300ml almond milk (or other unsweetened milk of your choosing)
1 tbsp ground turmeric
6 pods cardamom, crushed in mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon
360g strong white bread flour (preferably organic)
1 sachet/7g fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
115g coconut sugar

to fill:
230g coconut sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp melted butter

Warm the milk, turmeric and cardamom in a pan until hot but not bubbling. Strain into a jug and top up to 350ml with cold water.  Add the dry ingredients to a bowl and mix, then add your golden milk little by little whilst mixing. This is a fun pouring/mixing one for kids, but be careful as turmeric definitely stains anything and everything a lovely fluoro yellow!  The dough needs to be mixed and kneaded until it isn't too sticky, without adding more than a sprinkle more flour. Let the kids loose to pummel it for a good five minutes, then pop it in the fridge in an oiled tupperware/covered bowl overnight. If you don't want the buns for breakfast you can just leave it to rise for an hour or two somewhere warm until doubled in size. I like how this is easily split into two parts as it helps with short attention spans. We made the dough as a group after school, then split it in half and each family tackled the bun prep the next morning separately. 

Next morning, remove the dough from the fridge. Because it is cold it will be easier to work with. lightly flour a surface and roll your dough out into a large rectangle(ish) shape - my kids are competitive roller-outers so we made two smaller rectangles, which is also fine. Mix together your coconut sugar and cinnamon, and pop the melted butter/coconut oil into a little dish. Use a pastry brush to coat the pastry with melted butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon mix over the dough rectangle (or one of them, if you've made two). Fold your rectangle in half and press the edges together. If you have made the two smaller rectangles, simply place one on top of the other and seal the edges. 

Once you have a single rectangle of dough filled with cinnamony goodness, use a sharp knife to slice the dough into strips lengthways, approx a thumb-width. My kids are allowed to use certain kitchen knives and the dough should be easy to safely slice with supervision. Take a strip and twist it at either end to make it spiral, then wrap it into a little bun shape. The shape you end up with isn't important, as they all taste delicious regardless. Just make sure the edges are tucked in and it's nice and plump. Place the buns on a tray lined with parchment. 

Place your bun tray somewhere warm for 30-60 mins whilst the buns prove. In the meantime heat the oven to 180C. The buns will be ready to go in when they have plumped up. A good way to test is to poke them gently with a finger - if the indentation slowly fills back out they are good to go. A quick bounce-back or no bounce back at all indicate over or under proved dough. Brush the buns with some beaten egg or double cream (or a mix of the two!) and sprinkle with some more coconut sugar and/or fennel seeds before putting into the oven. For vegan egg wash use 2 parts nut milk to one part agave syrup. 

the gluten free muffin version on the left, original golden milk bun on the right

the gluten free muffin version on the left, original golden milk bun on the right

Bake the buns for 20 mins, until they are golden brown. Whilst mine baked I made a gluten free variation, since having regular wheat flour makes me swell up like a super unsexy balloon... recipe below. 

Gluten Free Golden Cinnamon Muffins

170ml almond milk
1 tsp turmeric
3 cardamom pods
1 tbsp butter/coconut oil
7g yeast
50g coconut sugar
220g gluten free self raising flour (I use Dove's Farm)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
1/2 tsp vanilla
for the filling:
125g butter
100g coconut sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine yeast and sugar. Warm the milk with the cardamom pods and turmeric, then strain and return to the pan, adding the butter and warming through to melt it. Add the golden milk/butter combo to the yeast/sugar mix. Leave to get a bit bubbly. Whisk dry ingredients together, then add the remaining wet ingredients (including the egg) to the milk/butter combo. Whisk together then add to the dry ingredients. Beat or mix together until it becomes a coherent dough and is no longer insanely sticky. Try to avoid adding more flour. At this stage I placed my dough in the fridge overnight with the golden bun dough. The dough is much easier to deal with once it's cold. If you prefer you can use it immediately. 

gluten free roll out... 

gluten free roll out... 

Roll out your dough into a large rectangle - if it feels very sticky you may want to do this with some parchment above and below. We just about coped without. Brush the dough with melted butter and sprinkle on the cinnamon/sugar mixture, as with the buns. Fold over to make one lovely filled rectangle. Cut into strips as with the buns, but slightly thicker strips this time and bear in mind they will be fragile. Roll them up into a swirl, as pictured above, and place in a cupcake case in a muffin tin. Leave to prove for 20 mins. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with fennel seeds if desired. Bake for 15 -20 minutes at 180C, until golden. These are seriously delicious... 

We ate about three buns each (!) for breakfast with butter and bacon (!) and packed the rest into a little rucksack to take on the march. Such a yummy all day long treat. Feeling proud of the small folk for both their baking and sign-making skills...

The Dough Nuts Rainbow Gnocchi mayhem

It's been a hundred years since the last recipe post, sort of because winter, sort of because cakes... and much bigger children whose days are spent at school and whose evenings are mostly for sluggishly dragging themselves about looking exhausted and shovelling snacks into their mouths before passing out. No more golden mid-morning hours spent recipe testing with bright eyed assistants. But I miss it and it's important and once they get going they love it, so I'm taking a stand and bringing it back. My stand has been encouraged by magical Hattie Garlick, equally keen to come up with recipes and ways to engage children with food and meals, and encourage some genuine healthy meal enjoyment without being a total pain in the ass, resorting to bribery, ending up in tears etc. We don't want to buy expensive, aggressively marketed soulless snacks. We don't want to spend our evenings silently weeping as we scrape uneaten dishes into the compost. Back in the day children were a valuable extra pair of hands in the kitchen, and food preparation would be something they inevitably helped with and earned respect for. It encourages a connection to what's on the plate, an understanding of what ingredients do and why they're involved, and gives children the power to experiment and exert some control over their own supper. Glistening with all these grand ideas, we decided to drag five slightly-tired children together on a rainy afternoon in the midst of dry January and order them to whip us up some supper. On the menu...


Rainbow Gnocchi

this amount makes enough for 4 small servings of the red (beetroot), yellow (saffron) and green (spinach) gnocchi. You can either multiply the amounts to make different colours/flavours (it freezes well and cooks easily from frozen, so making lots is a good idea) or divide your dough before adding the flavours/colours. Recipe for the orange (sweet potato) gnocchi is below.

150g ricotta
85g organic pasta flour
2 eggs
100g parmesan
for the flavours:
powdered beetroot
garlic paste
100g spinach (per 150 ricotta)
butter and parmesan to serve

for the sweet potato gnocchi (serves 4):
500g sweet potato - baked, skin on, in the oven until soft. Scrape out flesh and discard skins.
50g ricotta cheese
80g pasta flour
dash of cinnamon

For both the regular and sweet potato gnocchi, mix your ingredients together in a big bowl to make a dough. This is why gnocchi is so great for kids - it couldn't be much simpler. Bigger kids can flex their maths muscles and help with weighing out the ingredients, and smaller ones can add and mix and mash. Kids are great at breaking eggs (accurately, for the most part...kind of) and love to measure things. Once you have your dough vaguely mixed, split it into portions for adding flavour (set the sweet potato dough aside - it's done for now). We gave each child a bowl of dough, with the smallest two on a team, and a dough colour each. Pre-wilt the spinach by placing it in a colander and pouring over boiling water, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible and chop - or have a small person chop. Add to one portion of dough with a little squeezy garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well and form into a ball. For the beetroot powder we added approx a tablespoon (kids in charge!) and for the saffron we dissolved a pinch in a little warm water and mixed it in. 

The dough should be not too sticky, and lovely to squash. Add more flour a bit at a time until it feels right. You need a liberal dusting of flour (and tolerance for some fairly epic mess) before asking the kids to roll their balls of dough into long dough snakes. Then dole out some lovely sharp knives for them to cut thumb-sized dough nuggets. With supervision and appropriate sizes, knife wielding children needn't be an issue, and they love being given the responsibility. 

Actual real life ragamuffins

Actual real life ragamuffins

Place your gnocchi nuggets on a plate and keep them in the fridge until ready to cook. I found it helpful to dust them in a little polenta flour to help prevent sticking, as there were so many! With kids in charge they do look a bit bonkers and are not uniform, but this only adds to their charm. Probably. When you are ready to cook, boil a big pot of salted water and pop the gnocchi in ten-ish at a time - don't overcrowd. They are ready when they float to the top, and must be removed with a slotted spoon and placed on a muslin/paper towel for the liquid to drain off. They only take about 2 minutes to cook so you do have to stay close by. As mentioned they cook well straight from the freezer too. To serve melt some butter in a frying pan - for extra yum add some sage leaves or torn pieces of cavolo nero (or both) and fry them briefly. Then add the gnocchi, shake it all about and place in bowls. Top with grated parmesan or pecorino. This was a hit with all our ages, with the absolute top fave flavour being...SPINACH! It is still discussed for its deliciousness. 

During the ensuing dinner party we asked the kids what they would like to call their new little cooking club. Although there was huge support for "Wee Wee Bum Bum Poo Poo" they settled on the Dough Nuts, probably hoping that this meant they would get to eat some. And maybe they will... We will be back hopefully fairly regularly with more yummy kid-cook friendly recipes they will actually want to eat, and you will want them to eat. Now I'm off to try and scrape dried gnocchi dough from my table...

Cloudy cloudy cakes

We made these ages and ages ago, before it was even properly summer. But then the sunshine swept us up and we were so busy barrelling about watching our skin turn golden and eating way too many ice creams...this little recipe was all but forgotten. Today the radio is warning of heavy showers and cold northwesterly winds and the return of the cloudy days, and I remembered. 

this boy is pure gold

this boy is pure gold

This was a last minute panic bake in a wild attempt to lift us all out of the dumps the last time the weather had us low. I am really mean about buying snacks in, as I resent how much they cost and how little goodness they ever contain, and loathe the sneaky marketing to (my poor, desperate to eat them all) children. I always have the best intentions to make a larder full of snacks instead but hardly ever manage, and we mostly exist on fruit and toast between meals.  With zero prep allowed we had to come up with a recipe based on what we had in the house. I scraped together the basics for a gluten free cake and let the kids improvise the rest. The resulting muffins were completely delicious, totally moist and sweet despite being gluten and sugar free. You could make them dairy free by substituting the butter for coconut oil, I imagine. Please let me know if you give it a try. The sun broke through as soon as we had these baked, just like it always does eventually... but Pablo's name stuck, partly because of their cloudy texture.

Pablo's Special Cloudy Cloudy Cakes (named by Pablo)

315g gluten free plain flour (we use Dove's Farm)
1 tsp xanthan gum
135g almond flour or ground almonds
1.5 tsp baking powder
.75 tsp baking soda
.75 tsp salt
168g unsalted butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp rice malt syrup
1 egg
75g egg whites
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup rice milk
1.5 bananas (or one large banana, we used frozen ones but you don't need to)
1 cup berries (we used a mix of strawberries and blueberries, again we used frozen but no need)
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp beetroot powder (optional - to make them pink!)

Heat the oven to 170C. In a large bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer whip up the butter until it's fluffy, then add the syrups, then the egg. Mix until well incorporated. In a blender or food processor whizz together your fruit and rice milk (any milk would work) with your vanilla & chia seeds, plus the beetroot powder if you want your muffins pink. In a further bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff. 

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milky fruitshake mix to the butter/syrup combo. Once all is well mixed in, fold in the whipped egg whites. Pop the mix into muffin cases and bake for 15 mins in preheated oven. Leave to cool on a wire rack. We were still eating these two days later and they were still moist and yummy, but you could definitely pop some in the freezer and add to lunch boxes. We didn't make any icing, just topped with some sheep's yogurt and cherries or raspberries. They are especially yummy for breakfast, and filling too. I imagine this recipe would also be fab for a gluten/sugar free birthday cake though we are yet to try it. Would love to try some flavour variations also, I bet they would be lovely with banana and cacao... or apricots and blackberries.... 

Purple hail


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. 


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. 


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... 




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... 


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


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….


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. 


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...