Life, Things and a Reading list

Hello dearest ones,

I thought I would play catch up here with what I’ve been doing over the last few weeks so this is an integrated ‘this is what I have been up to’ story and my reading list!

I am busy reading The Camino: A pilgrimage of courage by Shirley Maclaine. Walking the camino is on my list of things to do at some point. This is a starting point to get me there.

I had a craving for chocolate soufflés the other night so I made some from Mastering Simplicity. It is a recipe I’ve had bookmarked for ages and ages and it is ridiculously simple – butter, chocolate, sugar and eggs. If you made it differently you could make a chocolate mousse. Chocolate soufflés (which I always always always want to pronouce su-ful in a ridiculous voice because my mother does) remind me (and Jen, it turns out) of that silly, ridiculous and yet wonderful movie Because I Said So. (I am a big fan of ridiculous and totally romantic movies. Also how many times can I say ridiculous in one paragraph? A lot it turns out.) I love that movie because of the cakes and because of the way Mandy Moore’s character has the psychic ability to know when chocolate soufflés are done. I mean who does not want that ability? Andrés and I shared one, as it came out of the oven and then we cooled and refrigerated the other to eat greedily the following day. The cold soufflé was like a mix between a mousse and a fondant. Rich, creamy, smooth, decadent. Andrés says he prefers them that way which makes me think he doesn’t actually like soufflés. I prefer them hot, at a temperature almost to burn your tongue. Next time I’ll make some custard to pour inside it.

Did you watch the Great British Bake-Off final? I did! I even managed to watch it on the night it aired which made me feel super accomplished because normally I’m at least a week behind the times. And it means we can talk about it in the office at work. I am officially converted as a fan of GBBO. It is just so lovely. And everyone cried! Too sweet. And even though I was slightly stressed at certain points, I actually enjoyed watching! (And I’ve told you about it without revealing the winner, just in case you’re still in the dark. I am such a nice person.)

I tried to make Molly Yeh’s funfetti cake last weekend. It has been on my list like all year. I wanted to make it for my birthday but that never happened so I finally got round to making it last week (only like 7 months too late but never mind). It was a total fail! The cake itself was fantastic (like proper birthday cake from your childhood) but the sprinkles I used disappeared.There was no pop of colour! So this is now an ongoing project. Ali is going to send me both sprinkles and the original box cake mix from the US so I can experiment – maybe British sprinkles aren’t up to the task? Maybe I need a different flour? Different oil? I’m not sure yet but watch this space!

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I made Deb’s broccoli and cheddar soup. Because autumn. And cheesy soup.

We ate it with Small Food Bakery‘s radford wild sourdough. I love love love Small Food Bakery. It is a 10 minute walk from my house and a few Saturdays ago I wandered up the street in the morning to buy bread and pastries. We had a very lazy breakfast at around noon, first eating eggs with jamón on sourdough and having the pastries for dessert. It’s only open Fridays and Saturdays but worth a trip every week. I’m hoping Kim will hold a sourdough course soon. I couldn’t make her last one and want to learn the art to sourdough croissants!

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Yesterday I visited Sutton Bonington farmers market. I haven’t been in over a year. It was awesome and I spent far too much money but they had sour cherry chocolate! And really awesome squash. And flour that I’m going to make bread with over the weekend!

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I’ve been eating much overnight oats with raspberry yoghurt and apples (picked from the community garden!) It’s my ideal autumn breakfast during the week. It doesn’t require me to actually be functional in the morning and is easily transportable to work if I’m running late (basically every morning…)

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I worked a final shift at the Pudding Pantry. And I got to make this cake, which for the record is dark chocolate, salted caramel and cookies ‘n cream in flavour. And have a ridiculous series of photos taken for funsies.

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Maybe you haven’t noticed yet but Christmas is on its way. I am excited because it is my favourite holiday. Gingerbread. Mince pies. Ham cooked in coca cola. Fairy lights. Shop windows. Generally excessive behaviour. Champagne. Roast potatoes in duck fat. I could go on but I do also believe Christmas is a December activity! There is still Halloween to look forward to! But, just in case anyone is very organised, I really want this calendar for 2016!

I don’t know if you remember but last year I discovered a bookshop with a bar. It was in Hudson, NY. And I thought it was a brilliant idea. But then I read this story from David Lebovitz about Butter & Scotch, a bakery-bar in Brooklyn and now I am obsessed with opening a bar/bakery/bookshop. Maybe I’ll call it Triple B’s?! (That sounds kind of naughty doesn’t it?) That is my new life’s ambition. Along with all the others…

That is all!


Peace Walls in Belfast

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You will forgive me for beginning a post on the peace walls in Belfast with an image of Madiba. But the truth is that being in Belfast provoked much thought about home – the conflicts in both places reached their heights near the same time and within several years of each other had moved towards peace agreements and transition (our first democratic elections and the IRA ceasefire both happening in 1994). One of the sessions I went to at BERA was on how you teach children about their history in societies in (post-conflict) transition, particularly when divisions and discontent are still balanced on the edge of a sword. The researchers spoke about how important it is for educators to begin these hugely difficult (and often painful) discussions of what we did to each other, the importance of conflict resolution, and the role teachers play in beginning these conversations with young people. Such conversations are particularly difficult in a city like Belfast where education is still divided along religious lines, despite the introduction of integrated schools, and so children may not have the opportunity to make friends with ‘the other’. The session made me wonder about how we teach the story of our history in South Africa? What do we teach young people? How do we have these conversations? How do we explain what happened? (For one example of how you can have these conversations by learning from political ex-prisoners, see here; and you can read an evaluation of the programme here.)

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In order to contemplate all these questions I took a morning off from the conference to wander the areas of west Belfast that feature some of the many peace walls that litter the city. I walked down from the Shankill Road (unionist) to the Falls Road (republican), along Cupar Way – the biggest peace wall in Belfast. It is imposing. The wall itself is heightened by a fence on top, making it double or triple the size of a ‘normal’ wall; keeping the neighbourhoods on either sides separate and divided. The wall is covered in murals and graffiti. The neighbourhoods surrounding the wall felt poor and economically depressed. Vast abandoned lots had been let over to wild grasses (sometimes these were the result of forced removals and demolition). Random graffiti was sprayed over the murals. There was none of the new construction and building that was on display in the city centre and docklands. There was hardly anyone about and on several occasions I suddenly wondered if walking along this wall was the best idea (other tourists hopped in and out of taxis). The main Shankill and Falls roads were full of people, walking purposively towards their Thursday morning destination, but the routes between them were eerily silent except for the tourists and occasional magpie.

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The murals on the peace walls themselves are fascinating. There are many signatures of visitors on the artworks (and notices imploring people to only write on the white, blank spaces – all obviously ignored). Some murals were clearly political but others I struggled to understand the meanings of. Along the sides of buildings on the Falls and Shankill roads are paramilitary murals – dedications to those who fought in the conflict or lost their lives in protest.

Shankill Road Murals (and flags outside a shop):

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Falls Road Murals:

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It is fascinating to contemplate living with this visual reminder of history. Does one not notice them after a while? Or does the continued presence of these murals fuel bitter memories? Does it begin conversations? I finished my walk along the International Wall, which features various activists from around the world.

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Garden inspiration (and sunshine) for Tuesday (and a reading list)

I’m at the BERA conference this week, in Belfast. I’ve never been to either a BERA conference or Belfast before so both are new experiences. (BERA is the British Educational Research Association by the way.) I’m presenting a paper tomorrow morning and yesterday afternoon I attended a session on education and social justice. I got to meet some postgrads and had some very interesting discussions around how we do socially just research, particularly as early career researchers. After I survive Wednesday, I get to hang out on the Titanic experience in the evening which will be fascinating. I’ll try and update you all over the course of the week but in the meantime I thought we could use some summer garden inspiration. Plus a reading list!

This is a kitchen garden at a private house in Derbyshire. When my mom was here last month we stayed in their converted stables. They do wonderful preserves and chutneys with the produce they grow. My dream is to have a place like this when I grow up –  a large kitchen garden and a house where you can teach cooking classes and have pop-up dinners! And have chickens roaming free, obviously.

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I particularly love the still run-down greenhouse with its low brick wall and out-of-control grapevines.

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Tuesday Reading List

Lunch in Paris – I am thoroughly enjoying this story of love and food. I can relate to this American girl’s experience of falling in love with a Frenchman – communicating with family members who do not speak the same language as you being something to which I can particularly relate. But the way she tells their relationship through food is wonderful.

I finally finally read a trashy book that I enjoyed. In fact I read it in a week (fairly unusual for me) because I simply could not put it down. Thanks Jen for the recommendation! The book is The Royal We and is a ridiculous romp about an American girl falling in love with an English prince whilst studying abroad for a year at Oxford and the story of what happens to them afterwards. Wonderfully light and easy.

I cooked pancakes from The Breakfast Bible last week. This is a great book if you’re as obsessed with breakfast as I am. (I mean really, why can’t all meals be like breakfast?) And I use (and have adapted) their pancake recipe numerous times. I will admit that I failed spectacularly to get the pan to the right heat (at one point it was smoking) and then I got distracted when the first few pancakes were cooking and burnt them. Andrés insisted they were perfectly edible but I managed to salvage enough portions from the remaining mixture so that we didn’t have to eat them. Further proof that I should live closer to the princess so she can flip pancakes for me. (It is a truly workable sistership when one can make the batter and the other can do the pancake flipping.) Also, my skills at pancake making seem to be perfectly fine at work. I spent all of the Saturday (the day before I burnt the pancakes) making beautiful, fluffy American-style pancakes to feed to the patrons at the cafe.

This story about how to write a bestselling cookbook made me laugh and laugh. Because it does seem to be so true.

Until next time.


Chocolate and Pistachio Babka (and list making)

I would like to be the type of person who makes life lists. You know, like the big life lists – I will accomplish x by the time I turn 30/35/40. There is something aspirationally optimistic in such a list. I have never written one but part of me would like to.


When my mom was here we were talking about life and living, as we like to do often but particularly since I was in that post-PhD-hand-in crisis that entails questioning what the hell I was a) thinking when I embarked on said PhD and b) what the hell I am supposed to do now, after four years working on the same project. I realised, through the various conversations we had, that I am not the type of person who has a life plan. The best I’ve had is the post-school ‘I’ll go to university and study something for a while and see what happens’ and the nearest serious decision-making I have done was deciding I whole-heartedly needed to go to cooking school and learn how to make dessert. (My mom confessed she is much the same, didn’t really make plans and followed things as they happened.) And so I guess, being that I have been the type of person to leap at opportunities as they appear, it makes sense that I don’t make life lists. (I also wonder at the pressure of such a list. What happens if you don’t finish it by the time you’re supposed to? How do you cope with the disappointment?) But I was reading Sara over at Sprouted Kitchen (an old post titled ‘birthday cake’) and she wrote that making a layer cake made her list of ‘things to do before I turn 30’. And it struck me as odd because a) it never occurred to me to make a list before I turned 30 and b) I cannot imagine not having made a layer cake before that but then I realised that I probably don’t count in the real life version of making cake because I’ve been making layer cakes since I was about six. (And I mean that simply in a statement of fact kind of way and not a oh my goodness, I am amazing because I have been baking since I was six kind of way.)

Anyway, the point of all this rambling was that I realised I wanted to make a list (feel free to laugh here Jen, I know we laughed at other people and their lists together). Not a ‘things to do before a turn 35’ (dear god, how is that kind of a list even conceivable?!) because that is far far far too scary but a kind of list of things I want to do soon (I am good at writing and then promptly forgetting various new years lists, but they hardly count). I figured I could write it here so that there is proof the list exists. (And also because if I write it anywhere else, I will never look at it or remember it again.) And the best thing about this list is this post crosses off one thing that has been on the list of things I want to do (the one that exists in my mind)! So yay! Maybe list making is not so scary?

The 2015 List

Survive my viva

Learn Spanish

Make chocolate krantz cake from Jerusalem (done! see below)

Finish The Third Plate

Write an article for publication

Make a birthday funfetti cake

Use my recipe books more for everyday eating

Read newspapers that are not The Guardian (so I can widen my news sources)

Have people over for dinner

Make this (possibly for said friends above)

Okay. That is more than enough to be getting on with. Nothing totally unrealistic or unachievable. No real timeline. All possibly accomplishable in some way before the end of the year.

So about these babka. Ottolenghi calls them krantz cakes in the book and it appears that the name is interchangeable for babbka (he spells it with two ‘b’s – I’ve always spelt it with one, as does Deb over at Smitten Kitchen). They are soft and sweet, like a sweetened brioche dough and you fill and roll them like a cinnamon bun. But then you split the log down the centre and plait the two halves together, with the inside on the outside. (Even as I write that I realise how complicated it sounds and that is one of the reasons it has taken me so long to make these. But don’t be intimidated. They’re really quite simple and, once you’ve got the rolling and plaiting down, you will probably want to make these every week.) The result is a wonderfully soft, sticky (due to the syrup) sweet bread that you want to pull apart as soon as it is cool enough to touch with your bare hands. I am saving some to make French toast on Saturday morning because I suspect this will make French toast of the gods. I shall report back.

Some notes on the recipe: 1) the dough is pretty soft and if you leave it out of the fridge for a while (like I did) before working with it, it will be difficult and sticky. Keep the dough as cold as possible. 2) The filling needs to be spreadable but it will need to cool to become so – it is quite liquid when you first make it. So make this slightly ahead (by like 15-20 minutes) of when you want to roll the dough into a rectangle so the filling cools and becomes spreadable. 3) This recipe makes enough for two breads. I’m not sure what happens if you halve it but I have frozen the second half of the dough and shall report back when I defrost and use it. 4) Plan ahead. You have to leave the dough in the fridge overnight before you can use it.

Chocolate and Pistachio Babka

Adapted (ever so slightly) from Jerusalem

Bread Dough:

530g plain flour

40g golden caster sugar

60g soft brown sugar

a pinch of salt

10g instant yeast

3 eggs

120ml water (plus about 2 more potential tablespoons – 30ml)

150g unsalted butter, at room temperature (reasonably soft), cut into cubes


50g icing sugar

30g cocoa powder

130g dark chocolate

120g unsalted butter

100g pistachios, roughly chopped

2 tbsp golden caster sugar

Syrup: (enough for one bread)

130g golden caster sugar

80ml water

First, make the dough. Place the flour, sugars, salt, and yeast in a bowl. Stir everything together. Using either a standing mixer with a dough hook or a hand-held mixer with dough-beater-feet, add in the eggs and water and mix until the dough starts to come together. If it seems dry and is struggling, add in the extra water. Once the dough has come together nicely, begin to add in the butter. I cut it into cubes and add them one at a time into the mixture. Mix until the dough is smooth, shiny and elastic. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl during this process so everything is incorporated. Place the dough in a large bowl (I just use the one I’ve mixed it in), cover with clingfilm so it is safely sealed and refrigerate overnight.


In the morning, grease a loaf tin with some oil and place a layer of parchment paper along the bottom. Make the filling. Melt the butter on the stove. Switch off the heat and add in the chocolate. Allow it to sit for a minute and then stir until smooth. Combine the icing sugar and cocoa powder in a small bowl and then whisk in the butter mixture. Leave this to the side to cool.

Retrieve your dough and divide it into two. (I froze the second half). Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, into a rectangle shape of 38cm x 28cm. Keep a 2cm border at the edge and spread the chocolate filling onto the dough. Scatter the pistachios over and press them into the chocolate filling very lightly with your hands. Sprinkle over 1 tbsp of caster sugar. Brush the long side of the rectangle furthest away from you with some water.




Roll up the rectangle as you would cinnamon buns, folding the long side closest to you over onto itself and continuing to roll away from you. Press the log closed along the seam. Even the log out with your hands and leave it to sit on the seam. Trim the ends (approximately 2cm).

Now slice the log in half, down the length of the log. Open the two halves so they are sitting cut side up, the filling looking up at you. Press the ends together lightly and then lift the left half over the right half. Repeat with the right lifting over the left, then left over right, until you have plaited the loaf. Press the ends together.

Very carefully lift the plaited loaf into your loaf tin and place in a warm place (covered lightly with a tea towel) for an hour to prove. If you are making the second loaf, repeat this process.

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Heat the oven to 190C and place the risen loaf into the oven. Bake for approximately 25 – 30 minutes, until the cake sounds hollow and a skewer inserted comes out clean.


While the cake is baking, combine the caster sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat to dissolve the sugar and then bring the syrup to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. When the loaf comes out of the oven, pour the syrup over the loaf. Do this slowly so that the loaf absorbs all the syrup. Restrain yourself whilst it cools. Then eat with abandon.

Nectarine and Blueberry Buckle

I woke up on yesterday’s bank holiday Monday to the sound of steady rain drip dripping outside my window. I had work to do – reading mostly, and some decision-making around presentations – but I also wanted to spend time in the kitchen. It is warm and cosy in there, particularly on a grey day. (It is best in the early evenings when the sunlight flickers in and, in truth, it is my favourite room in the house. I wrote the Foucault chapter of my thesis sitting at the kitchen table.)

I have been experimenting with buckles this past weekend. I cannot rightly remember how I stumbled across them now – possibly looking to use up summer fruit in a way that is warm and comforting. I think I was reading The New York Times and I stumbled across this video for making a buckle and it felt like the perfect thing to celebrate the late summer (yes I know, what late summer? Although, this morning – the first day of autumn – it is gloriously sunny). And then, if the NYT wasn’t enough, David Lebovitz’s post came through on my email last week and what do you know? He’d made a buckle too. So I decided a buckle was fate. Destiny. Meant to be and all that.

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The New York Times buckle.

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The David Lebovitz buckle

I also decided that, for possibly the first time ever, to do a bit of a review post and bake both the NYT version and David’s version and then tell you all about them. I have struggled to understand exactly what a buckle is – well, to find a more elaborate definition than ‘late summer fruit topped with pastry of some kind and baked’ (which could also describe a cobbler, perhaps a crumble or a crisp, and then it turns out the Americans have names like pandowdy, grunt, betty, boy bait, fools and the like to describe a plethora of fruit/batter desserts that makes the mind just boggle). And the two different versions are slight variations on each other too – David’s has a topping. So what is a buckle?

Apparently, according to Serious Eats, a buckle is named such because it buckles as it cooks. It is a coffee cake* with a streusel topping and as the cake cooks the fruit sinks, causing the streusel to buckle over the cake batter. Rustic Fruit Desserts describes a buckle as a berry-filled cake batter poured into a tin in a single layer, the top of which buckles as it cooks. Martha Stewart describes a buckle as a “cake-like cobbler with a crumble topping”. So sometimes a buckle has a streusel topping and other times not. Perhaps it is simply up to you and your own traditions which recipe you follow? They seem to be most often made with blueberries although I have seen a few recipes for strawberries and others with blackberries too. Martha has a recipe for a plum and nectarine one.

*Coffee cake is not, as I assumed, a cake that contains coffee – like the classic coffee and walnut cake of my childhood. Rather, for Americans, coffee cake refers to a cake that is good eaten with coffee, preferably also easy to hold in the hand. It is what you have on your coffee break…They do also often seem to have streusel toppings.

So with all this confusion and debate, I decided the easiest way to solve the problem was to follow two different sets of instructions (both American) and see what happened. I’ll be honest, I don’t think either of my recipes really ‘buckled’. But the tops did break apart slightly and the second one fell in on itself but I think that was because I took it out too early and had to return it to the oven. I loaded the batters with blueberries and nectarines, two summer fruits which I love but the truth is both buckles taste, and have the texture of, dense cake. David’s one is more crispy at the edges and soft and crumbly in the middle. The NYT one is cake-like with lots of fruit at the base. I can imagine how the NYT version fits into a coffee cake idea, it is easy to slice and hold with your hands. David’s version is more like a dessert, and with cinnamon rather than nutmeg to flavour the batter, I think I prefer it, although if I made it again I would probably reduce the cinnamon slightly.

You can find the recipes from the respective sites linked in above. I made half of David’s recipe and baked it in a small 16cm cake tin. I didn’t make the lemon syrup because I wanted the buckle to mirror the NYT one as much as possible. I made the full recipe for the NYT version, baking it in a 20cm so it was slightly deeper than the other. The NYT recipe calls for 4.5 cups of berries. I used 2 cups of blueberries and 2 large nectarines. David’s recipe only uses 3 cups of blueberries and it did seem to have less of a fruit to cake ratio in the final individual slices.

The ultimate truth is I am not convinced by buckles. I prefer a higher fruit to pastry ratio if I am honest and so I suspect my love for crumbles will not be outdone by these buckles, although they’re kind of fun to talk about. And they’re good to eat – alone with some coffee in the mid-afternoon or with creme fraiche in the evening – if you’re in the mood for a light, fruity cake. Below is a photo series of the making of the buckles.

The New York Times Buckle

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David Lebovitz’s buckle

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The Kitchen Garden at Chatsworth (and a Sunday reading list)

The kitchen garden at Chatsworth is incredibly inspirational – especially in the high summer. I have written about it before but I wanted to take mom here when she was visiting recently. The princess is doing her dissertation on Chatsworth and so we went to visit the house and then wandered through some of the (extensive) gardens. I love kitchen gardens and aspire to have one as fantastic as this. I particularly love the greenhouses and raised brick cold-frames.

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The garden has spectacular views over the estate and grounds.

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And the tomatoes in the greenhouses were just! oh! I have only managed to grow green tomatoes so far. To grow some like that. Wow.
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Parts of the garden felt slightly wild and yet other parts are planted in neat straight stripes. I did enjoy the mad growth of nasturtium, which made me feel better about our garden – where the nasturtiums have practically taken over an entire bed, and not because we planted them either but because they self-seeded. I’d like to go to Chatsworth every year, to remind myself of what is possible if you keep gardening.

Sunday Reading List

Rather short today I’m afraid. I’ve been faffing this week, not getting enough done.

I started to read Slaughterhouse 5. I’ve never read it and have had it next to my bed since December when mom, the princess and I went to see Conflict, Time, Photography at the Tate Modern. It was an interesting exhibition – the photographs were all displayed according to the time they were taken in relation to an event of war – 1 minute, 30 minutes, several days, weeks, years. It was totally fascinating – I find both war and photography intriguing subjects and I have never been to an exhibition organised in such a way. It is particularly interesting to contrast the last pictures – those taken years after a conflict has ended – to those right at the beginning, in the midst of things.

I’ve been listening to the NYPL podcast today – Zadie Smith (whose On Beauty is one of my favourite novels) talking to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about race and writing. It’s the kind of conversation one listens to and has to think about – not least because Adichie makes reference to South Africa several times, explaining how her life’s experiences (and her experiences of race) would be so different if she had grown up there instead of in Nigeria. They talk at one point about how people couldn’t bring themselves to watch 12 Years a Slave during the Oscar season – how it is too difficult. And Zadie says ‘try living it man’. I’d not really considered stories of race from a perspective like that before – you should understand something because people have lived it; because it was somebody’s personal experience. And yes, it makes you uncomfortable, and it should make you uncomfortable. But somehow, in reading or watching these stories, we gain knowledge of the other, broaching (and potentially working towards mending) what Adichie calls the ‘wilful denial of the other’. Smith and Adichie imply in their conversation that by accepting our chequered past, fraught with violence and aggression towards those who are not like us, acknowledging and listening to other people’s stories, we can move towards a conversation about a better future. I’ve not read Adichie’s books yet but now have Americanah on my list.

This week I’ve been cooking from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. I love Ottolenghi and have cooked often from his other books but, until January, hadn’t made anything from here. I’m having people over for dinner on Monday and so will report back on forays later this week.

I’m also reading Those Faraday Girls. Only about 60 pages in and not quite sure what I make of it yet.

Finally, I’ve become totally addicted to Great British Bake Off. No, I’m not entirely sure how this happened either but it did. And yes, I find it stressful and distressing when things go wrong. But I cannot wait for the next week’s episode. (Although I rarely actually manage to watch it on the same night it is broadcast – I normally catch up several days later. So far I’ve managed to remain ignorant of the interwebs and spoilers before I watch it but I doubt I’ll manage the whole series like that.)

Until next time. xxx

Adventures in Spain (part 1). (And another Sunday reading list.)

So I promised a catch-up post and this is the first of a few. Whilst I have been writing my thesis in (what at times felt like) a hermit-like cave for many many months, I have somehow managed to fit some fun in around it too. After I redrafted my conclusion at the end of May, Andrés and I made a trip to Spain so I could meet his family and see his hometown. It was my first time in Spain and I absolutely loved it, although I desperately need to work on my Spanish (currently non-existent). I discovered there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to communicate with someone, particularly when you have many many questions to ask.


Andrés comes from a small town (he swears it is not that small but really, when you come from Joburg, everywhere else seems pretty tiny, and yes that is my Joburg-biased voice talking) called Chiclana de la Frontera. It’s on the Andalusian coast, near Cadiz. Chiclana has the most incredible beach (the picture above) where we spent several afternoons swimming, hanging out and sun worshipping. I met various members of Andrés’ family – his parents, his grandparents, various uncles and cousins. We ate a lot – I even tried tiny fried birds (I am not convinced).

We spent several mornings in Chiclana’s town centre. Andrés took me to the covered market, where you can get fresh fish, fruits and vegetables and meat. We wandered aimlessly along the cobbled streets, went down to the river, and visited several cafes for fino and tapas. I particularly loved how over the hours of lunchtime people popped into the cafe (where we stood at the bar talking and watching the goings-on) buying fino or beer and talking to each other. It was such a significant change to my own experience of people rushing from one meeting to the next, grabbing lunch to go and rushing off again. Here there was time to talk and share a drink, and the occasional snack too.

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One day we drove to Cadiz, which, alongside Seville, was one of my favourite places. I loved everything about Cadiz – the clear blue water, the fig trees, the food, the quirky streets, the old buildings.


But my absolute favourite in Cadiz was the market. The market is in an open square, the traders are (undercover) around the edge and in the centre, and in-between, there are tables and stools so that you can buy things to eat and enjoy them in the sunshine whilst people around you shop and talk about food. It strikes me as incredibly special to be able to visit such a place to do your weekly or daily shop – where you can strike up conversations with your favourite butcher or fishmonger, dally awhile amongst the noise and bustle, and delight in the colours.


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We wandered through the city, watching people sunning themselves on the beach, boats anchored just off-shore. We visited the castle where we found a random (but fantastic) collection of old ophthalmology equipment (I took photographs for my dad) and ate a spectacular lunch at a restaurant where a friend works as the pasty chef.

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I also insisted we poke around Cadiz Cathedral, mainly because I love churches for their aesthetic beauty but also because I am fascinated by their power and wealth. Andres was super chuffed because he charmed the guys at the entrance into giving me a student ticket (despite my lack of student card). The cathedral is beautiful and intimidating – the way one should be, I imagine.

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Finally we took refuge from the heat in a museum where Andrés showed me a painting of the signing of the 1812 Spanish constitution.


More on Spain next week but in the meantime, here is this week’s reading!

Sunday Reading List

This article was in last month’s Observer Food Monthly magazine. It details how one school has successfully changed their lunchtimes and food to suit their children’s needs, with the help of a wonderful chef. Feel good reading about the world, if you need it.

I was reminded of the article above because I was reading today’s Observer Food Monthly. It has a great article on chefs and their gardens. I love stories about people growing and then cooking food and the pictures of the gardens are inspiring. I particularly love how so many stories begin with gardening in childhood – with grandparents or parents.

I also read Rachel Roddy’s article in the FT. I love the way Rachel writes about food. If you haven’t read her blog about her kitchen in Rome, do. I want to learn to write about food and life the way she does. It reminds me strongly of writing field notes, paying attention to the small details of everyday life but somehow I haven’t yet learnt to do that in my ordinary day-to-day living. Her book – Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome – is on my list of things to buy soon.

I’ve been listening to The Moth on the Power of Storytelling via The New York Public Library podcast.  Inspiring storytelling and fascinating ideas of how to tell stories – Carly Johnstone’s piece was particularly gripping.

I’m still busy with H is for Hawk (almost but not quite done) but I’m also reading Ghosts of Spain which I actually started before our trip but then put down. It’s an expat investigation of the art of forgetting (about Franco) in Spain. I’ve found it historically fascinating but I’m also enjoying it for the insights of an English person living there.

Finally, I’m working on a book chapter on gardening and have been perusing My Cool Allotment for research purposes. The photographs are fantastic but the stories of the allotments and community gardens are just wonderful. If you’re in need of inspiration for a green space, pick this up!

Til next time!