Monthly Archives: March 2016

Reading List (29/3)

This weekend I was taken out by flu. Every time I thought I was well enough to leave the house, my body would remind me forcibly that it was unwell and I should stay put in my pajamas, read, watch movies  and try not to move too much. I mostly complied. I broke the rules to go to the library to fetch Rachel Roddy’s Five Quarters (more on that soon), to eat breakfast at Annie’s, and to visit the Park Market to buy a croissant and some killer chili and lime hummus. We also slow roasted a leg of lamb on Friday, inspired by the 8-hour lamb in What Katie Ate.

I read though – The Gourmand, almost cover to cover,  and Nightbird by Alice Hoffman. Nightbird was just wonderful – a quick read, full of magic and mystery and coming-of-age innocence. It is set in a fictional town in Massachusetts. I’m not sure what it is about writing set here, but I find myself longing to live in a small American town, not far from Boston, where I will have a bakery and an orchard and a walled kitchen garden. (Having only been to Boston twice, and to the wider areas of Massachusetts once, I am not sure where this idea/longing actually comes from. Far too many books of magic and witchcraft perhaps?) And I watched the conclusion of The Night Manager (soooo stressful to watch!) And Jane Eyre, seeing as how next month is the bicentenary of Charlotte’s birth.

People affected by food poverty, and waiting in line at food banks, are probably not what you expect. Preliminary findings linking childhood poverty with an inability to regulate food intake.

If you’re in London on April 10th, go and partake in Disco Soup. And if you’re around April 21st/22nd, this pop-up sounds awesome. I’m biased, because I did some recipe testing for Emiko’s new book, Florentine.

Beekeeping on the rooftops in London and Manchester.

The trials and risk of making ganache.

Pudding, pudding and more pudding! I very much want to read Pride and Pudding and have someone take me to the Hotel Cafe Royal so I can eat their take on a Snickers bar.

The reassurance of childhood books, reread as an adult.

Privilege and food writing.


Saffron Earl Grey Tea Loaf

Happy Good Friday all! Andrés and I are lazing about the house today, preserving quince, roasting lamb (yes, I know this is usually saved for Sunday but today is the only day we are off together so we’re feasting early) and this morning I have been shaping and baking this loaf. In case you are all hot cross bunned out, this is equally satisfying and moreish. The texture of this loaf is akin to brioche, it is a pretty yellow colour from the saffron, and it works incredibly well as a vehicle for butter and marmalade.


The original recipe comes from this month’s Delicious magazine. I can’t decide exactly when but at some point this last week I started dreaming about saffron and earl grey tea together in a brioche-type dough. I read loads about hot cross buns made with fruit steeped in earl grey tea and decided I could adapt a recipe to suit my needs. The tea doesn’t add flavour so much as plumps out the fruit in a rather glorious way. Take note, this is a two day affair. You proof the dough three times so it is easiest to make the dough the night before and proof it in the fridge overnight. Then you only have two proofs to do on the day you’d like to eat it. I took the dough from the fridge at 8.30am and we ate the loaf for brunch at 1pm. If you’re a dried fruit hater (I have been known to be one in the past), simply remove it. You can add in some candied peel if you like too.

Saffron Earl Grey Tea Loaf

Adapted from Delicious Magazine

For the dough:

1 tsp saffron

220ml full fat milk

zest of two clementines

500g strong white flour

1/2 tsp salt

100g golden caster sugar

8g quick yeast

1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon, ground ginger and mixed spice

2 eggs

75g unsalted butter, soft

60g sultanas

60g currants

2 tea bags earl grey tea

Heat the saffron in a small saucepan until the colour darkens (this literally takes like 2 minutes). Remove from the heat and grind into a fine powder. (You do not want any threads of saffron in your final loaf – I did this by using my pestle to grind the saffron directly in the pan but this is mostly because the mortar part is still in South Africa.) Add the milk to the saucepan (and put the saffron back if you have ground it in another pan/in a mortar or coffee grinder) along with the zest of the clementines and heat until scalding. Leave to infuse for about an hour – the mixture should be cooler than body temperature when you use it.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, place the flour, salt, sugar, spices and yeast. Make sure the salt and sugar are kept separate from the yeast. You don’t want to kill the yeast by accident. When your milk mixture is cool, mix the dry ingredients briefly using a dough hook. Whisk the eggs into the milk mixture and add in the butter in pieces. With the dough hook on low speed, pour the milk/egg/butter mixture slowly into the dry ingredients. Mix until everything is incorporated. Once the dough has come together, increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic – approximately 8-10 minutes. Take the bowl from the standing mixer, cover with clingfilm and leave in your fridge overnight.


Place the currants and sultanas in a bowl with the tea bags. Pour over boiling water until the currants/sultanas are covered and leave to steep overnight.

The next morning, drain the currants and sultanas and remove the tea bags. Set aside.

Take the dough from the fridge and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knock it back lightly. Take handfuls of the raisins/currants and knead them into the dough. This is a messy procedure and you won’t incorporate the currants/sultanas entirely but try. Some will escape but don’t worry too much, so long as most of them are incorporated into the dough. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and proof for an hour and a half in a warm spot (I always use the oven with the light switched on).


Grease a large loaf tin and line the base with baking paper. When your dough has doubled in size, knock it back and weigh it. My dough weighed 1100g. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions and shape the portions into elongated buns. I found this easiest to do with wet hands as the dough is quite sticky. Fit these together into the loaf tin. Cover the tin with a clean shower cap or a plastic bag torn and secured with an elastic band. You do not want your loaf to rise and touch the plastic so make sure there is enough space between the top of the tin and the plastic. Proof again for approximately one hour – until the loaf is peeking up over the top of the tin.


Preheat the oven to 180C. Make a paste with 25g flour, 1 tsp sunflower oil and 2 tbsp water. Pour this into a piping bag and pipe crosses (or any pattern of your choice) onto the tops of your buns.


Bake for 40-45 minutes. After about half an hour, make a glaze for your loaf. You can either use apricot jam heated with a little water until smooth or you can make a glaze (as directed in Delicious) by heating 2 tbsp caster sugar and 75ml clementine juice (approximately both the clementines you zested earlier plus one more) for five minutes. When your loaf is baked through, remove it from the oven and glaze whilst it is warm. Allow it to cool before slicing.



Reading List (22/3)

I am sure you have all been watching the events of today in Brussels. I never know what to say or do on such days. The only resolution I have is to continue on, in spite of all the fear and horror and worry. So, with that in mind, here is a reading list to get you through Easter.

I was originally going to show you this S’mores Custard Cake from the Hint of Vanilla blog but then I got totally side-tracked on the pretty layer-cake that is last week’s post so two things to make/recreate now. Sorry. Save the strawberry cake for high summer perhaps?

Some philosophy this week: on success and recognition. Does your work have value if it is not recognised? How much recognition is too much? Whom should you be working for? Also, how much do I want to stay in that hotel? Possibly next ski trip? (And related to ski trips, these 80’s ski outfits, stolen from Jo.)

Sometime soon I’m going to make these vanilla custards and accompanying shortbread.

Challah and more challah. Maybe over this long weekend (I have six days off! Six!) I will make a version of challah for us to eat.

I started listening to All the light we cannot see. Has anyone read this yet?

Great British Pie Awards

I subscribed to The Misandry Hour this past week and have listened to a load of episodes in the days since. It is a super interesting feminist podcast that discusses a wide range of issues – from sexual harassment in the workplace to abortion rights.

Growing a garden in Illinois.

Eating ‘traditional’, classic Roman cuisine.

I want to make an earl grey tea version of this hot cross bun loaf this weekend.

The Alice in Wonderland Cookbook.




Wholewheat Buttermilk Scones

We woke up late on Sunday. It was almost midday when we finally opened our eyes, sighed and stretched. The only acceptable form of food was brunch – too early for proper lunch and too late for breakfast. I made these scones, an adaption of my Ngonu’s traditional scones that my aunts and I have been making since time immemorial.


They’re an easily adaptable wholewheat scone, that I like because it feels ever so slightly more balanced than an all-white-flour scone would. The savouriness of the wholewheat is good early in the day, as a first flavour. I love sweet breakfasts too but sometimes, even on a Sunday, it seems too extravagant. (Particularly after eating my way around Hackney through baked goods yesterday.) We both ate half a scone with jam and the other half with jamón and tomatoes. My jam was the blackberry and bay leaf that I bought yesterday from London Borough of Jam. The earthiness of the bay leaves cut into the tart sweetness of the blackberry. Andrés ate the strawberry jam I bought for him in December from Fitzbillies.

These scones take an hour or so from start to finish, easy baking if you’re wanting a baked good on a Sunday. They key thing is to barely work the dough – gather it together and pat it out. None of the kneading or rolling that I will admit is tempting. They freeze well too – just glaze them with egg wash on a lined baking tray and place the tray in the freezer for several hours. Once they’re frozen solid, remove them from the tray and store in freezer bags until needed. You can bake them from frozen, just make adjustments to the time.

Wholewheat Buttermilk Scones

1 1/2 cups white spelt flour

1/2 cup wholewheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

3 tbsp golden caster sugar

80g unsalted butter, cold

1 egg cracked into a 250ml cup, filled up with buttermilk

1-2 tbsp milk

1 egg for egg washing

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Place the white spelt flour, the wholewheat flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar into a bowl and stir to combine. Cut the butter into cubes. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.


Make a well in the centre and pour the egg/buttermilk mixture on top. Use a fork to initially combine the ingredients, then use your hands to bring the dough together. If it seems a bit dry, add in 1-2 tablespoons of milk. The dough should be reasonably soft, with no dry portions of flour.


Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat down lightly with your hands. Cut into four portions. I use the largest round cutter I have, 98mm in diameter. I usually get two scones from the initial dough and then bring it back together to cut/shape two more. (The last scone is usually pieced together from scraps.) Place your scones on the baking sheet. Crack the egg into a dish and brush the tops of your scones with egg.


Bake for approximately 20 minutes. I usually put a timer on for 10 minutes and then check the scones. This size usually takes about 18-20 minutes but my oven is also quite hot. If they start to brown but aren’t quite cooked through, turn the temperature down to 180C and cover loosely with foil. Allow to cool slightly before eating/smothering in jam.


Reading List (15/3)

A day in the life of a recipe tester and cookbook assistant.

An interview with Sami Tamini, of Ottolenghi. And a long read from the New Yorker a few years back on Ottolenghi, Tamini and their business.

I loved this post on being an artist. Does one ever feel comfortable with a title? I’ve always wondered about people who easily self-define. I’ve been at conferences where speakers declare ‘I am a sociologist’ or ‘I am an anthropologist’. I’ve never found it easy to declare myself as something. When I was writing my thesis I used to have a mantra going in my head ‘I am a writer, I am a writer’ to remind myself that yes, writing a thesis means you are a writer. But I’ve always been interested in so many things (and maybe because my first degree was in three disciplines) that I have never thought to define myself as one thing over another. Possibly that is the problem.

I love The Little Library Cafe blog, all about books and food, and food in books. I particularly like this week’s entry, which fairly accurately describes the weather over the last few days, especially Friday when the mist rolled in and all was grey and damp.

2016-03-11 09.04.48

This review of the #eatclean brigade was the most refreshing piece of writing I’ve read in ages. Yes, some of the items they want you to purchase are slightly ridiculous, and some of their advice is down right dodgy (the evilness of carbs), and some of their smoothies look like brown sludge, but some of the advice given is fairly normal – eat veggies, fruit, wholegrains and the like. (And if you’d like to find out what exactly extreme eating clean is all about, read this.)

It was Pi(e) Day yesterday over in the USA. Those of us who put the day before the month are never going to encounter it but Smitten Kitchen’s chocolate peanut butter tart is worth making any day of the year I think. Also this peach pie has me longing for warm summer days.

I need to make this cake. Possibly in the summer so I can finish it with fresh berries.

A funny interview with Christina Tosi (of Momofuku Milk Bar) about being a judge on Masterchef. (And if, like me, you fall into a wormhole looking at Milk Bar creations and wondering if you shouldn’t attempt to make one, here is a recipe for their Funfetti cake from Bon Appetit.)

A fascinating long read about whales and their culture.

I started reading Isabel Allende’s Ripper over the weekend. I love detective/mystery/whodunit novels and this has been thoroughly enjoyable so far.


Reading List (8/3)

‘See if there is any bacon, and if there is, ask the cook which pan to fry it in. Then ask if there are any eggs, and if so, try to persuade the cook to poach two of them. It is better not to attempt toast as it burns very easily’. This is a wonderful little article about a book, Favourite Recipes of Famous Women – a collection of recipes from women in the 1920s, famous for various reasons. The above quotation is from Zelda Fitzgerald. Sigh. If only one had a cook…

I love the sound of this programme at the University of Vermont, connecting food studies to practical food work in a kitchen setting.

I discovered the Eater Upsell podcast. Did you all know about this? I feel like I totally should have. It is a great series of food conversations with various food writers/cooks/chefs/TV personalities. My favourites so far include Yotam Ottolenghi (whose cafe in Notting Hill I finally visited at the weekend – the blackberry pistachio financier was a thing of beauty), David Lebovitz and Gabrielle Hamilton, whose book Blood, Bones and Butter is one of my favourite chef memoirs ever. I’m currently lusting after her Prune cookbook. On Saturday I listened to the conversation with Jessica Koslow, owner of Sqirl. I want to learn how to make jam like she does! Also this super short video about cooking and writing from the conversation they had with Dan Barber of Stone Barns.

How much does this story not make you want to shed a tear? Children reading to animals living in a shelter. (Shamelessly stolen from Sarah.)

‘It turns out there is no such thing as too much cheese’. A cheese bar to visit the next time you’re in NYC.(Thanks Jen!)

In case you are suffering from a feeling that you will never have enough to buy a house/start a family/function as a normal adult, you are not alone. Turns out, our whole generation is feeling the brunt of stagnating income and we are being cut out of wealth. And suffering seriously as a result.

Are you watching The Piglet tournament? I find it fascinating. I also don’t really understand how they make the initial round selections – how does a bakery book go up against a vegetable book? What is the algorithm? If you’re the reviewer, how do you get over your bias?

This week I’m reading Corvus: A Life with Birds. I’ve only really just started it, a few pages in but I love the descriptions of the doves and their dovecote. I borrowed it from my new favourite library in West Bridgford. It is new, light and bright with fantastically organised selections near the front (I am almost always overwhelmed by the choice in the fiction section so I appreciate smaller recommendations of books, or new reads etc). This one has a note in the front for you to write your thoughts on the novel as part of their ‘Better with Books’ reading chain. They also have Rachel Roddy’s cookbook Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome which I’ve been wanting to read for ages. I will have to ask for it to be reserved as it is super popular but yay!


Reading List (1/3)

How is it March? How is it even possible that it is March already? Easter is now only a few weeks away! (Okay yes, it is super early this year but still.) I’ve been eating Daim bar mini eggs for weeks and last week broke into the Cadbury mini eggs stash (a sign of impending doom I am sure). My job concludes next month and I haven’t yet found an alternative. Gah. Things are moving to fast! Stop the world, I want to get off.

Failing that, here is this week’s reading list!

Margot Henderson (swoon, female chef crush) on women in kitchens, and how we need to make space for different types of chefs in professional kitchens.

A love letter to public libraries. A reminder that a library is not just a place to borrow books, or leaf through magazines. It is also a place for people to work, to gather, and to engage in their local communities.

Cooking with children.

On writing and figs.

The wilds of Skye – if like me you are pining for the wild outdoors, open dark skies and the occasional hairy coo, don’t read this now.

I’m currently reading Not that kind of girl by Lena Dunham. It’s a funny, insightful little book detailing the rigours/disasters/encounters of having to grow up and behave like an adult.

The Life Project – this is a fascinating article on a longitudinal research project, following people through their lives from birth to the grave.

I love this series on Serious Eats ‘The Comfort Food Diaries‘ and particularly this essay on the cupcake by Helen Rosner. Just reading it makes me want to make some. Maybe this weekend.

This video and interview.