The first time I saw a frangipane mince pie, I fell a little bit in love.
To put this in context, I’m not much of a mince pie eater. If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that I’d take chocolate, caramel or creamy desserts over boozy dried fruit any day of the week: an indifference to festive desserts that extends to both Christmas pudding and cake. If a mince pie is all that’s on offer, I’ll probably end up eating it (top removed, filled with copious amounts of brandy butter then replaced) and I do enjoy the ritual of baking them at this time of year, but getting excited about a recipe? It doesn’t tend to happen. Continue reading
When I was about five years old, my brother and I entered drawings into the consecutive age group categories of a children’s magazine competition. The theme was mothers and their babies and although I can’t remember what my brother submitted, I was particularly proud of my illustration of a tiger, a collection of wide-eyed cubs sitting along the length of her back.
I like to think it had something to do with our artistic genius – although more likely the magazine had such a small circulation that ours were amongst the only entries – but we both chosen as the winner of our respective age groups. Our pictures were printed in the magazine and prizes sent out, each of us receiving a giant selection box of Cadbury’s chocolate. 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
There’s something about pre-packaged wraps that makes me sad. The cardboard cousin of plasticky sliced white, they’ve become synonymous with health in recent years, the ultimate ‘light lunch’ on the go, which in reality amounts to little more than minimal protein, soggy lettuce and over-seasoned sauce which weeps into each mean, thin layer.
A homemade wrap – on the other hand – is a thing of joy: puffed and tender, soft with a slight chew and enriched with any flavour you might care to add. In fact, let’s call it flatbread for what it is and allow ourselves to accept its carb-based origins. Bread isn’t always bad. In fact it can be fresh and light and altogether easier on the stomach than the stodge contained within that shop-bought wrap. 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
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
I’m not very good at surprises.
This may well be one of the reasons why I’m such a fan of baking. I enjoy the precision that comes with planning, the security of weights and measurements and the specific anticipation which comes with the understanding of how a combination of ingredients will work together. Continue reading