Monthly Archives: February 2016

Reading List (23/2)

It’s okay to not love your job. ‘You need less shame around the idea that you’re not doing your best’. The problem with job guidance that says you should ‘follow your passion’.

A school kitchen garden in Australia shares some tips.

These rather glorious photos of snow in Sweden and their accompanying spicy warm cinnamon shortbread recipe.

A super cute baby sea otter finds a home. (Thanks Princess!)

The chef you haven’t heard of. (Thanks Jen).

Food prices, bread boycotts and the power of women. A step-by-step guide to kneading, folding, shaping and baking your own bread.

The food waste debacle and why you should consider the ugly fruits and vegetables.

This brilliant column by Eva Wiseman in this week’s Observer. It articulates much that I find worrying about the #eatclean brigade – the way some foods become ‘clean’ then means that others become ‘dirty’ and feared. This thinking is the same as that which crafts fat bodies as grotesque, uncivilised or unclean from eating foods that are becoming taboo or worse, from eating foods that are pleasurable, enjoyable, comforting. The list of foods is getting longer and longer – wheat, sugar, fat all become feared because of their potential ability to make you fat/unhealthy/unwell. Such foods are ‘unclean’ or ‘dirty’ and should therefore be avoided if one is to be clean/pure/healthy/thin.

I downloaded (via Audible) and listened to (in a few days) The Year of Living Danishly. I thoroughly enjoyed the meandering conversation around the quest for happiness and the insight into living in Denmark (those dark winter days would not be good for me I don’t think). I loved the honesty of how difficult it is to be an immigrant in a country where you don’t speak the language and have no support network, and have to work to make new friends. I happen to love a lot of ‘stunt fiction’ like The Happiness Project and this is of a similar, if more accidental, vein. I’m always up for insight into how to live more happily.

I also bought (as a birthday gift to self) the latest issue of Cherry Bombe. I’ve never really been sure about this particular magazine but this issue is fantastic. There seem to be interviews with lots of my favourite women in food, great illustrations and fantastic contributors. It is quite expensive but as a once-a-year treat, okay…



Reading List (16/2)

Nomadic chefs, popping up to cook dinner in different parts of the world. Sounds brilliant and fun.

You’ve probably seen this, but Pete Wells’ review of Per Se in New York is a pretty fantastic piece of food writing. It caused a furore on the internet in the days after its publication. The comments make for amusing reading too.

Two articles about dating or living with professional chefs and what happens in the kitchen: this one on Serious Eats and this one on The Guardian.

Butchers and traditions in France.

Poverty and obesity. Obesity is all about resources, and what you or your family can afford to eat, not your ethnicity or race.

David Lebovitz made chocolate babka using brownie/cookie crumbs. Now this has made me wonder whether the frozen sticky toffee pudding in my freezer might work in a sticky toffee, date, caramel glaze version…

Phoenix High School in London grows vegetables that they sell via a veg box scheme, some of which end up in restaurant kitchens. Interesting idea mentioned in the article about chef/school exchanges (research mind ticking away).

Talking to (and about) female chefs in San Francisco.

Reading in the school classroom. (One of my PhD friends has just started this blog with a colleague. If you’re interested in how reading works, how we can engage young people in reading, and why you never want to hear the ending of a book from someone else, read this!)

I love ballet. I love Degas’ drawings of dancers. So I loved this shoot in Harper’s.

Three ingredient chocolate torte that looks like heaven. Appropriately named ‘Chocolate Oblivion’.


Reading List (9/2)

I just loved this essay that reads like a love letter to cookbook stores. I go as often as I can to Books for Cooks in London and made a special trip to Kitchen Arts and Letters when I was in New York (nearly four years ago now). I like to go alone, because browsing and choosing cookbooks is such a wonderfully calming task that I hate to feel rushed, or worry about whether my companion is having as good a time as I am, or whether they are bored. (To be fair, this applies to book browsing generally, an activity I find best done alone.)

The internet has been awash with a Gilmore Girls revival courtesy of Netflix. I’ve only ever been vaguely into Gilmore Girls but, after finishing and submitting a book proposal, the time felt just about ripe for a box set marathon. My favourite of all the things I stumbled upon was this article on the #GilmoreGirlsDiet. It sounds ridic, except perhaps as an accompaniment to box set marathons…

This short video – an animated snapshot of Gloria Steinem talking to Sally Ride (the first American woman in space) is just wonderful. When I was 12 I desperately wanted to be an astronaut and even the Apollo 13 movie didn’t stop my enthusiasm (if anything, it made me even more fascinated). My dad had been a stargazing aficionado as a youngster and I ‘borrowed’ all his books and magazines on the space race, rockets, and the moon landing (I still have this vast collection in storage). Later, I loved (I still love actually) Moon Dust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth, an account of trying to talk to the remaining nine astronauts who went to the moon, because some day soon, there will be no one who can account first hand for that journey. (And speaking of, Edgar Mitchell of Apollo 14, passed away last week.)

There has been a severe drought in South Africa this summer and the consequences on food prices are starting to be seen in increases in basic foodstuffs.

Especially for Jen: pistachio millefueille 

I haven’t done much planning around what I want to do this year (um, yeah, I am aware it is now February and really, year plans should happen in January but whatevs) except one thing: start a Cookbook Club. This is still in its planning stages but I have at least three eager participants already and after reading the article, I now have a better idea of how to structure it! So yay! (We had a version of this for dinner on Sunday but it was more potluck than cookbook club. It was epic.)

The trailer for Michael Pollan’s Cooked series is here. Food porn and foodieness galore.

Cute animals alert!

Wholemeal apple cake. I had my first veg box delivery at the weekend! (I know right, foodie alert!) I’ve been wanting to set one up for ages and finally took the plunge. I got a ridiculously large white cabbage (which I cooked for supper on Sunday, like you would spinach – with cream, onions and nutmeg) but I need some ideas for the rest of it. I also got potatoes and carrots (still covered in earth), some tomatoes, a cucumber, and some lettuce, and then a variety of fruit, including a number of apples which (given all the other fruit I have to eat) I’ve been contemplating turning into the apple cake because it just looks so pretty.

Some cool friends of mine have started a blog-based reading list. Each month has themes and it is for all of us who struggle to find the time to read. Think of it as an online bookclub collective. I intend to submit things for this months theme ‘new beginnings’.

And just in case you’re exhausted by all the reading, here is a short video on writing advice. 




Vanilla, Blueberry and White Chocolate Cake


This is my go-to birthday cake recipe. Or just when-one-is-in-need-of-cake recipe. I made it last weekend and gave the princess most of it to take back to London. The rest I took to the office, where my colleagues made happy cake eating sounds. This recipe makes a glorious sponge cake that you can make into a bundt (as above) or into a triple or even quadruple layer cake with a frosting of your choice. Don’t like blueberries? Leave them out, or replace them with raspberries or orange zest or lemon zest. Ditto for the vanilla and the white chocolate chips…

So this makes a lot of cake. I made a large bundt cake and a loaf tin out of this. I suspect if you halved the recipe (totally do-able), it would make a regular size bundt cake or a three-layer round cake. You are forewarned.

Vanilla, Blueberry and White Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Joy the Baker via Smitten Kitchen

4 cups plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

227g unsalted butter, softened

2 cups golden caster sugar

4 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla extract

300ml buttermilk

100ml double cream

100ml plain yoghurt

1/2 cup white chocolate, chopped

200g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 170C. Liberally grease a bundt tin with butter, and grease and line a loaf tin; or grease and line 3 layer cake tins.


Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

In a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time.

Combine the buttermilk, cream and yoghurt in a small bowl.

Fold in the flour mixture in three goes, alternating with the buttermilk mixture – flour then buttermilk, flour then buttermilk, flour.

Finally fold in the blueberries and white chocolate.


Spoon the batter into the bundt tin and the loaf tin.


Bake for approximately 40 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out and cooling.


Allow the cakes to cool completely before icing. I used a combination of cookie butter frosting and cream cheese frosting that I’d had in the freezer to ice both cakes.



Reading List (2/2)

I listened to Amanda Palmer and Maria Popova talk about the creative life over on Tim Ferriss’ podcast last week. This then culminated in a ‘podcast binge’ that is on-going, and I am currently listening to Alain de Botton, whose How Proust Can Change Your Life is a favourite book. He talks about starting up The School of Life which seems to be asking and investigating the very questions I have started to ask on this blog.

What are the responsibilities of newspapers for reporting significant events? A short video on the holocaust and the New York Times.

How do you teach children to eat well when on a budget? Do tastes and preferences formulated in childhood make a difference to your choices as an adult?

Eating, hunger and the mind. Hunger operates outside of consciousness. Who knew? A fascinating mind/body thought experiment of sorts. (Thanks Jen).

I’m not sure what it is about Deb over at Smitten Kitchen but she seems to be making all the things I want to eat for dinner. This week is no exception. Taco torte anyone?

Also this squash lasagne from Diana Henry in The Telegraph. I’m a huge fan of squash and really, who needs an excuse to eat cheese?

‘Meanwhile, in the real world, we’re all just doing our best. Any meal you don’t eat standing up, illuminated by the cruel light of an open fridge door, has to count as a success. If, between chucking your coat on the hall chair and hurling yourself into bed, you manage to spoon something into your mouth that’s both delicious and nutritious, you’re winning.’ I love food writers who are realistic about what can actually be achieved on a normal working day. And I like the sound of the lazy meatballs.

I clicked on this link for the blood orange sorbet recipe but really, the Chinese pork loin made me salivate.

Women in top kitchen positions (or lack thereof).