Every family has a set of favourite stories in rotation, the kind you tell at social gatherings, on meeting new people or simply to each other: a kind of comfortable, if slightly repetitive, recognition of knowing each other inside out and of memories fondly shared.
When she’s feeling sentimental, my Mum loves to tell stories from our childhood holidays in Italy. The tale of choice for my brother involves a restaurant laid out for a wedding banquet, an excitable two-year-old boy, a table cloth corner just a little too enticing not to pull and . . . well, you can probably guess the rest (except, perhaps, the part where the restaurant owners forgave the devastating mess, whisked my brother into the kitchen and onto the counter, then proceeded to feed him as my mortified mother finished up her meal. God bless the Italians). Continue reading
After three straight weeks of sunshine (ok, plus the occasional shower, this is England after all), it feels like we’ve actually achieved a summer of sorts. As with anything weather related, this is a hot topic of daily conversation, discussed at length amongst friends, colleagues and at almost any social occasion (especially if there’s some sort of awkward silence to fill).
Some people are praying for cooler weather to make their commute more bearable, some pessimistically suggest that this isn’t going to last while others simply soak up as much sunshine as they can get while it lasts (I’m firmly in the final category). The only thing we all seem to agree on is that they just don’t make summers like they used to. Continue reading
We spent this weekend just gone at my parents’ house in Italy (yes, if you clicked the link, I’m finally on Instagram and a little bit addicted, come join me!). High in the Tuscan mountains with little more than the sun shining above us, trees around and valleys below, we had time to reflect on the important things in life. Love and family and food featured foremost, with pretty much equal emphasis on all three.
Leaving lessons in love and family aside, let’s focus on the food. There everything seems to just taste better, from freshly podded borlotti beans to creamy mozzarella cheese, ripe tomatoes, leafy greens and the heaviest of melons, sweet flesh replete with juice. Continue reading
Hands up if you’re the person who always orders the chocolate option for dessert in a restaurant?
Until recently, that was me. In fact I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t seriously consider something chocolate based if you took me out for dinner tomorrow. But as I’ve got older, I’ve started to appreciate other flavours on my plate, subtle sweetness, spice and seasonal ingredients like this simple honey almond cake with strawberries. Continue reading
Summer and strawberries go hand in hand. Wimbledon, barbecues and, being a summer baby, birthdays are all synonymous with a strawberry or two in my mind, the season kick starting with that first sweet burst at the end of May.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but memories of my childhood summers are dappled in sunshine, garden grass scorched by the sun as we took turns spraying each other with the hosepipe and praying that it wouldn’t be banned. As an adult, the Great British Summer seems a little wetter, certainly colder, the sky hung with clouds and even edible sunshine kept at bay with our strawberry season delayed by several weeks. Continue reading
If someone presented you with a ‘seriously nutty’ pistachio ice cream, what would you expect?
To me ‘seriously nutty’ suggests the presence – perhaps even an abundance – of nuts. And in the case of a pistachio ice cream, pistachio nuts. Call me an idealist, but if an ice cream is labelled as ‘nutty’, I’m expecting a whole load of the good stuff. Continue reading
Meringues will always make me think of my Granny.
Not my paternal grandmother – a skilled home baker whose larder was always stocked with a homemade chocolate cake, fluffy scones or knobbly rock buns the size of a fist – but my mother’s Mum. The same amazing woman who would serve stale Maltesers had little interest in baking, producing meringues from a packet and filling them with cream from a can, yet somehow this dessert remains utterly magical in my memory. Continue reading
Coffee ice cream, crisp choux pastry & hot chocolate caramel
Coffee ice cream will always make me think of the Caribbean.
I’m aware of how horribly pretentious that sounds, but bear with me. I’m pretty sure there’s a blog-worthy story hidden somewhere within that statement.
When I was about eleven, my parents took us on holiday to the Cayman Islands. My Dad spent part of his childhood living in Jamaica and still has some family on the islands. This holiday was the perfect opportunity to introduce us to a few distant relatives, as well as a wonderful excuse for a serious dose of sun, sea and sand.
Squidgy chocolate brownies packed with caramelized white chocolate
The simple magic of an oven will never cease to amaze me.
Subjected to its heat, pudgy rounds of dough become crusty loaves, liquid batter rises into golden-crowned cakes, pastry puffs, biscuits bake and incredible aromas escape around the edges of its door.
Normally baking requires some sort of skill, an understanding of the alchemy of ingredients and an ability to weigh, whisk, beat and blend. Butter, sugar and flour are combined, flavours and textures far greater than the sum of their parts created. Whether an amateur cook or a professional chef, it’s satisfying to know that baking is both a science and an art. Continue reading