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… 


 

 

oranges and lemons

After being very dramatic  for the past year about my absolute need for some extreme exposure to the sun, we finally got a mega-hit when we made a long overdue visit to my mama's idyllic little farm in Spain at the end of April. We must have picked the perfect time of year because wildflowers were everywhere (even in our salads) and the air was warm, full of bees and the scent of orange blossoms. The kiddos were in heaven, pottering about semi (or totally) nude, picking and eating oranges from the trees and catching frogs by day, stargazing and sleeping SO soundly by night. There was no TV to turn to and it wasn't missed, and with my mum and her partner Quinto about I got some very luxurious rooftop sunbathing spells and finished an entire book! 

The hippies who live down on the riverbed through a Children's festival that perfectly coincided with our visit - think Shamanic drumming lessons, Geodesic domes, Kids trapezing at dusk and lots of daal. On other days we made home made strawberry granita with berries so naturally sweet they made me dizzy, or paddled with the tadpoles in my mum's pool, filled with river water. Pablo fell in love with his first ever pet, a snail, and got his first kiss from the neighbour's two year old daughter, Umi, by the festival campfire. Dreamy days...

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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2013

New Year's Eve is one of the first casualties of parenthood. I am pretty sure that I was asleep on the sofa in front of Jools Holland by 11pm last year. My own sofa. Nobody wants to babysit, nobody wants to imagine a way home across town at whatever-o-clock when the cabs are scarce and pricey . From about October I start to have little fantasies about countryside new years eves, snug and up to our eyeballs in wine and food with friends whilst the squids snooze upstairs. It's not quite raving but it's as close as I can hope for. WELL...The most magical invitation sailed our way this year - welcoming 2013 in Cornwall, staying with my awesome schoolfriend and king of comedy Felix in the most beautiful giant house with views of the sea. By the second day Pablo was trying to haggle for extra nights:
"How many more sleeps can we stay?"
"Three more."
"How about Five?"
He was in heaven with daily walks to see fairy toadstools and hunt out crabs, spot pirate ships on the horizon, play pinball, swim or watch Avengers on the giant television screen with our adoring fellow guests, who doted on him and fed him Haribo endlessly. What a treat.  

New Year's Eve we did feasted on chilli and Katie D's perfect pavlova with cherries, plus my first ever (and definitely delicious) chocolate mousse. Pablo (aka Spiderman) was allowed up late to wander down to the local pub to see the pirate fancy dress competition and midnight fireworks. New Years day was pancakes, leftover puddings, swimming and a Dark Knight marathon. Nothing could be finer.