We’ve all been there – the end of summer is nearing and your calendar features more barbecues than it does weekdays beginning with S as us Brits clamber to get the last of the rays before they disappear for another six months. Caught up in the traditions, the Pimms is flowing and beers are chilling, and it’s fruit juice only for the designated drivers and non-drinkers. But skipping out on the alcohol doesn’t have to mean making do with warm lemonade hastily dug out from the back of a cupboard. [Read more]
In my head, these biscuits have always been Coraline biscuits. Since I first heard from Emma at Emma Jane’s Bakery, her range of adorable cookie stamps have been destined to become part of my mission to bring together two of my favourite things: books and food.
Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline” is a children’s book, but I didn’t come to it until fairly recently, and like most children’s books, it’s amazing when you’re a grown-up (ha!) too. Better, even, perhaps, because stories become so much more.
Coraline is, sort of, a warning about the grass not being greener on the other side. After wishing for a more adventure-filled life, and more attentive parents, Coraline finds another world with an alternative life. All she has to do is sew buttons into her eyes to live with the Other Mother forever. Of course, nothing is as it seems about she has to fight to get back home. But Coraline isn’t really a book about overcoming an adversary against the odds.
Novelty chocolate klaxon! You know those foods that are so odd, for the first 30 seconds of eating them your mouth doesn’t quite know what to do? When your tastebuds are totally confused as each bit of your tongue is hit with a new flavour? This fig & pink pepper dark chocolate is one of those, but unlike the time my oldest brother tricked me into eating wasabi Lindt, when your tongue finally settles down you’ll be reaching for another piece.
Bonus link – here’s a little love letter to lunchboxes. Who doesn’t love a compartmentalised airtight box?
Tip of the Week – chopping chocolate
Keeping on theme here, there’s one super easy tip that’ll stop chunks of chocolate flying everywhere when you chop it - it’s not just me, right?
Instead of using a straight knife, use a bread knife, particularly when cutting through large blocks. The serrated edge reduces resistance, making the cut less jerky and difficult. Keep the tip of the knife on your chopping board using your spare hand as you cut down. No more three-second-rule-floor chocolate. (Sorry. Ew.)
*For disclosure’s sake, I was sent this bar of chocolate, with no obligation to write about it. I also really enjoyed watching people eat it – they pulled some amazing faces.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand we’re in! We have an oven that works! That tart up there is one of the first things I’ve baked here, and it didn’t burn on the bottom or anything. It’s all about the little victories, right?
A week and a half in, the kitchen stuff still hasn’t been unpacked. If you employ tunnel vision, you’ll find corners that are almost Pinterest-worthy – I couldn’t rest until I found a big jar to keep pasta in – but if you stop squinting you might spot a few still-wrapped plates, or a book that’s not quite in the right place. We’ve got our priorities sorted, though. The first time we came to the flat, we brought the essentials with us: kettle; mugs; teabags; and Hobnobs, always pronounced without the H. We moved the tea supplies in before we’d even been given the keys. [Read more]
As a natural ginger, I often find summer kind of tough – I’ve got skin that burns quicker than a slice of toast if I’m not careful, and would rather be caught in autumn drizzle than stuck in the stifling heat of midday sun bouncing off buildings. This used to mean a) browsing in supermarket frozen aisles for a long time, and b) clutching a Starbucks frappucino more frequently than anyone’s bank balance can really take.
Homemade iced coffees just weren’t the same, with the drink getting weaker with every drop of melted cube. Enter coffee ice cubes. Made with coffee stronger than what you’d actually drink, they stop your drink from losing its power. They do tend to be a little sticky – you can encourage them out of the tray by running the back of it under the tap before popping them out. Happy bank balance, happy inner thermostat.
Pick of the Week
Now Wimbledon is over, it’s time to break away from plain old strawberries and cream. You could go with a cake, or cookies, sure, but Kathryn at London Bakes has gone a step further to make these phenomenal balsamic-roasted strawberry margaritas. Balsamic strawberries, tequila, and lime – yeah, I’m gonna need a few of these.
I’m moving pretty soon, leaving behind our tiny flat for something further out of town and bigger, with a kitchen that isn’t so small that every meal is like a Chuckle Brothers episode.
We got lucky, I guess. We stumbled across a flat that we loved as soon as we stepped through the front door and the smell of new carpets hit our noses. That particular love might just be mine, but there’s nice tiles and a good sofa and enough space, finally, to have people over for dinner. There might even be enough room for my ridiculous collection of shoes.
Surprisingly delicious: black pepper cream cheese & fruit
It’s a well-known fact among friends that I’m a weird eater – one of the ladies I went on holiday with was frequently openly baffled by what I ate, although considering one of those experiments was mussels and chocolate sauce, you can hardly blame her. But the juxtaposition of sweet and savoury is one of the best things about pairing foods, as proven by maple syrup and bacon.
So when it comes to snacking, of course I follow suit. Black pepper (light!) cream cheese (so far I’ve seen it in Morrisons and Sainsburys) goes wonderfully with apple and strawberries, keeping that 3pm lull interesting as well as virtuous.
If you’re feeling a little less saintly, Jane at The Hedge Combers made strawberry and black pepper muffins, too.
Tip of the Week – How to rescue “seized” chocolate
Seizing – or, to you and I, “Oh balls, the chocolate’s gone grainy” – happens when chocolate overheats or the cocoa powder in it absorbs water. You can bring it back for use in brownies or puddings by gently reheating it in a bain marie and adding 1 tsbp of vegetable oil, boiling water, or hot cream for every 175g of chocolate. No more sadly spooning gritty Green & Blacks into your mouth before dashing to the shops again.
This cake was borne of a feeling that told me, Yes, okay, it’s time to bake now, stop claiming lack of inspiration and just look around you. Eggs that supposedly went out of date days ago (still fine!), tubs of yoghurt, and a couple of limes. I desperately wanted to be back on the baking wagon right away; to be able to say, Whisk, whisk, fold, oven, done – victory! But my first attempt at this cake was honestly poor.