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Reading List (19/1)

I am busy reading, and thoroughly enjoying, The Land Where Lemons Grow. It is a fascinating account of citrus trees in Italy, weaving together history, art and food in a very readable text.

Sausage rolls! I’ve been wanting to make some for months and months. Also I do love this blog and the associated column in The Guardian.

Children going to school hungry.

The realities of school lunch in the US.

Tin Pot Creamery

I finally made this apple cake. It was a snow day on Sunday so it seemed only appropriate. I added poppyseeds to mine. It made for perfect Sunday evening dessert. And yes, I used all the icing. Possibly excessively. (Apologies for the out-of-focus shot – it was dark, we were eager to eat cake.) I brought the rest to the office today, where we have been snacking on it.


Whilst I cooked on Sunday, I listened to Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour podcast. I almost managed all the episodes in one shot. They’re engaging, funny, sometimes poignant and she talks to the most interesting people, including Zadie Smith (whose voice I just love and whose strategy for writing – discussed in the ‘work’ episode – is just fascinating).

The Tree Farm – a fascinating long read on forestry plantations in Scotland, the way landscapes change and move as a result. ‘These untrustworthy woods shapeshift, arriving and departing without ceremony. The landscape forms and reforms according to the whims of the plantation planners.’

Michael Pollan on Netflix. Yay for another cooking show to binge watch.

Working at McDonalds.

The world’s most famous butcher.

Marmalade. I still haven’t made any yet and then had a meltdown last night after burning the peels – apparently my predicted timings were way off (thank goodness for boys who understand how to get burnt black peelings off the bottom of a jam pan) – but if there are any Seville’s kicking about this weekend, I will be trying to make some again. Or maybe I’ll make the grapefruit marmalade? Either way I’ll be paying far more attention this time.



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

Ricotta Raspberry Cake

Greetings dear readers. You may have been wondering where I have been. I like to think you have, even if this is not at all the case. The truth is I have been utterly and completely swamped with my thesis re-write and some project work. The last post was 6 weeks ago! 6 weeks! Where did they go? I’m three chapters out from a new draft (yay!) and have a first working draft of my project report (double yay!) and despite my lack of activity on here, I have actually been cooking and baking. (I also had a birthday (!), which was super fun, and not at all terrifying in that oh wow, I’m a whole year older and now a big, grown-up 32, what the hell am I doing with my life kind of way.) I am starting to work part-time in a pastry kitchen again. I start next week. It is a hard thing to explain, given all those terrible articles about the horrors of working in professional kitchens but I am looking forward to being back in a professional kitchen again – the physical aspects of the work, the fact that I can bake and call it work, the team work, the time-off from thinking (although I suspect it may help the thinking, which will continue anyway). So things have been busy and will continue to be so but, as I emerge from thesisdom, hopefully, more writing, more regularly, here!

I had planned to tell you about sticky toffee pudding and banana bread during the course of February but when I made the recipes I was dissatisfied. Both still needed work. I couldn’t put my finger exactly on what was wrong with either recipe, but something was. And so I trashed those posts and then I sort of lost momentum. (I still need to figure out what to do with the frozen sticky toffee pudding that is in the freezer – the recipe made loads more than I anticipated.)

One of the things I like to show here is the step-by-step process of making a recipe – mainly because I often wonder what batters/ingredients/foods/doughs are supposed to look like at certain points in the process. Does it matter if the batter has split at a particular point? Will it come back? What does bright, white creamed butter and sugar look like? Is this bright enough? Should the batter be so liquid I have to pour it out? I find the photographs help the process of creativity. Yes, the batter may split. Yes, the batter may be gloopy or stiff or practically liquid. No, that is not quite bright enough. Etcetera and so on and so forth. But taking those photographs takes time, which I haven’t had much of of late. But today I decided to blog despite not having a whole heap of photographs. Instead I just have two…

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You can blame (or thank I guess) Molly over at Orangette, and Jen, who told me about the post and insisted I go over and read it. I duly did and realised that I also quite like everyday cake and that there was time this week to make cake. So last night I finally got round to baking again. I like this cake (which is obviously why I am telling you about it). It has a texture reminiscent of a mousse, but slightly more sturdy. Molly described it as moist and it is moist, or damp, depending on your word preference. It is also soft and smooth, with the occasional burst of tart raspberry. (I doubled the original amount of raspberries called for because there just didn’t look like enough for the batter. And let’s face it, you want a lot of raspberries in your cake really.) I browned the butter too, because you know, if you’re going to melt the butter you might as well brown it. The result is a nutty undertone to the flavour. You’re supposed to break up the raspberries a little but I quite like them whole. This cake is a doddle to put together and then you just have to wait for it to bake (it takes around an hour). I quite like it still warm from the oven (wait the allotted 20 minutes for it to cool before you attempt to undo it as it is fragile) but it works well as elevenses too. (Or breakfast, if you’re into that kind of breakfast-non-breakfast-food-thing.)

Ricotta Raspberry Cake

Adapted (ever so slightly) from Orangette

3 eggs

325g ricotta

1 tsp vanilla

200g granulated sugar

210g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

two pinches of salt

125g unsalted butter

200g raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin (I use a springform one as I find cakes are easier to undo from them).

In a small saucepan, over a medium heat, melt the butter. Continue cooking the butter over the heat until it turns brown and starts to smell nutty. You want it a deep golden colour but watch it carefully as the speed at which it can turn black and then burn, is alarming. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Whisk the eggs, ricotta and vanilla together until smooth. (I used an electric beater but I’m sure a regular hand-held whisk works fine too. I just didn’t have one, and you know, needs must.)

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) together. Fold the dry ingredients into the ricotta in two parts and until just combined – refrain from over-mixing. Add in the butter and mix until combined. Finally, stir through 3/4 of the raspberries. (Feel free to break them up a little.) Scoop the batter into the cake tin and smooth it out. Scatter the remaining berries over the top.

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Bake for around an hour, until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the cake springs back at a touch. Leave to cool for 20 minutes before removing from the tin and placing on a plate.