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...

London Loves

Summer was teasing us for a couple of weeks, but now it has bid us farewell autumn is easing us in gently. Lots of sparkly, mild afternoons to run around in the leaves and get to grips with wearing jumpers again. We had a lovely last weekend with Nanna & Quinto before their return to Spain for the winter. After a morning at Coram's Fields we stumbled across an incredible French bakery, run by two enthusiastic and charming brothers, who showed us how they make raisin buns and gave us bags of free beignets whilst regaling us with tales of their family baking business in Cannes. Incredibly delicious and such a rare warm atmosphere. Highly recommended: Aux Pains de Papy. For god's sake buy some sacristans, like a hundred, and try not to eat them all at once. HEAVEN.

I basically only dress them in dungarees now. Can't help myself.

I basically only dress them in dungarees now. Can't help myself.

As we ambled back up to King's Cross, stuffed with croissants and brioche and with a french stick under each arm, we discovered the King's Cross Square Carnival in full swing. It would have been rude not to stay and brave the Helter Skelter, after which we headed up to Granary Square where the festival continued, celebrating the history of King's Cross with singing chimney sweeps, Victorian fairground attractions & some busty, dusty wenches.  

I think I'm a little bit in love with Granary Square now, and the whole regeneration of King's Cross. The perfect juxtaposition of old and new makes living in this big stinky city feel a bit exciting. 

buns!

Mmm SUMMER. It has actually finished now, apparently, but there is still the odd hero sending bbq smoke out into the late afternoon air to help you remember a time when the weather was reliably not going to flash-hailstorm (in July) and lying in the grass drinking beer seemed like a reasonable plan for an evening out. Anyway, just in case it decides to pay us another visit between now and next June, here's a rad recipe for burger buns. Or hot dog buns. Or whatever kind of bun you need. It is mindbendingly easy, and so delicious that you will never (seriously, never) buy buns again. Ever. The recipe below is a cheat's version of this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, so if you're not in a mad hurry all the time like me, or don't have a Kitchenaid/stand mixer, it's worth checking the original recipe out.

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Brioche burger buns

3 tbsp warm milk
2 tsp dry active yeast
2.5 tbsp sugar (have made this with both caster and soft brown, both awesome)
2 large eggs
330g strong bread flour (plus more for dusting)
40g plain flour
1.5 tsp salt
36g butter, cool and in cubes (not room temp, but not straight from the fridge)
 

In a large jug, mix 235ml warm water with the warm milk, sugar and yeast. Leave it to stand for 5-10 mins. Beat ONE of the eggs in a cup. (I totally added both eggs the first time I made this, and actually it was fine, but adding just ONE is a much better idea...) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flours and salt on low speed. Add tiny cubes or shavings of butter about 10 seconds apart until it is all incorporated and the flour mixture has a texture like breadcrumbs. Switch to a dough hook and add in the yeast/milk mix and the beaten egg. Knead with the dough hook for approximately 8 minutes medium speed, until a dough forms. It is extremely sticky so add a bit more bread flour as you go - as little as you can comfortably get away with, maybe another 100g max - as you would do if you were kneading by hand. Once you have a ball of dough, pop it in a large floured bowl and cover with cling film or a damp tea towel for about an hour (if it's summer - probably closer to two in winter) or until doubled in size. 

 

Once the dough has risen, tip it out onto a very floured work surface, give it a bit of a punch, and use a big ol' knife (or a dough scraper, if you have one) to chop it into as many pieces as you'd like buns. This recipe makes about 8 very large buns, or 15 small buns, but you can also make long hot dog buns - really, it's up to you, just be aware that obviously the smaller the bun the shorter the cooking time. For burger buns roll and fold the dough into small rounds, then pop onto a baking tray lined with parchment. Cover again with oiled cling film or a damp tea towel for another hour whilst they rise to about double in size. They really do rise a lot - I made hot dog buns that ended up the size of small baguettes. 

Heat the oven to 200C. Beat the remaining egg with one tbsp water and brush your buns with this wash. Pablo did this bit and loved it. You can sprinkle with sesame seeds too at this point (please do, it's ultra delicious). Pop a large tray of shallow water in the bottom of the oven and then put the bun tray in the middle (I did middle and top, and they came out just fine). Bake for approx 10-15 mins depending on bun size (don't open the oven too early or you will cry, but you should be able to see they are done when they are a beautiful golden colour.) Allow to cool on a rack and then devour with home made burgers YUM!

We had a few left over and they kept really well, very moist, for sandwiches the next day, which is another reason they are better than store bought buns. Store in an airtight container.

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

We made doughnuts...

Sickeningly easy, and luckily we had a BBQ to attend so a good excuse to gift them to someone else before we ate them all... 

If you're hunting for a good recipe for raised doughnuts I highly recommend Lara Ferroni's. Or you can make yummy English jam doughnuts via this post on my blog... 

little one

We had a beautiful first birthday & naming party for Indiana and so many gorgeous friends and family came along. Rebecca, Theo, Mark, Katie D and Katie C were made godparents and helped fill a time capsule for her to open at 18. Lots of pink treats to eat and drink, and Indy adored being the centre of attention and swanned about flirting with everyone all day. 

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raspberry ripple birthday dreams

My gorgeous husband had his latest birthday on Monday, and we were under strict "no presents" instructions, so Pablo & I conjured up a home made gift of his favourite raspberry ripple ice cream and a hand-crafted card. Then I decided that if we were making ice cream we may as well make an ice cream cake (a first for me!) Our freezer is now full to bursting with raspberry ripple but Konch had a lovely birthday and we all made ourselves feel a bit sick eating too much cake.

an apple a day

Pablo's much loved childminder, Lucinda, moved away a year ago and we were very excited when she asked if she could pop down for a visit. Obviously we had to make a cake, but with a miserably poorly baby a trip to the shops was not going to happen. I scoured the cupboards and we had just the right amount of this and that to make this delicious apple cake. It was extremely easy and Pablo helped me lots. Indy did the opposite by tugging on my leg and looking pathetic throughout, but we got there in the end...

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Caramelised Cinnamon Apple Cake

100g butter + 1 tbsp
175g brown muscovado sugar + 1 tbsp
2-3 dessert apples
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
100ml milk
TOPPING:
25g flour
85g demerara sugar + 1 tbsp
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
50g butter
3 tbsp toasted sliced almonds

recipe adapted from BBC Good Food 

Heat oven to 160C. Mix the topping first - flour, demerara sugar, cinnamon butter with your fingertips to make sticky breadcrumbs. Pablo did half of this, but once he began threatening to eat hunks of sugary butter from his fingertips I chucked it all in a food processor. Stir in 2 tbsp of the almonds and set aside. 

Cut the apples into 1.5cm-ish squares. Melt the 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp sugar in a non stick frying pan and then add the apples and cook for about 5 minutes until everything is brown and gooey and yummy smelling.

Make the cake by creaming the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well, then add the vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients and alternate adding them and the milk until all is well combined. Grease a springform 8in/20cm tin and line with a circle of parchment on the bottom. Spoon in your cake mix and then sprinkle with the topping. Mix your remaining 1 tbsp demerara and almonds together and sprinkle these on top. Bake for 45ish minutes. Cool ten minutes in the tin before removing, then cool on a wire rack until it's time to indulge.

latest bake

Three layer red velvet with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle cherries for Gemma... now excuse me whilst I deal with day six of the hangover from her birthday megaparty...