Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Kitchen Sink...

I never really understood what all the fuss was about when people with children used to complain about the difficulties of packing to go on holiday.  Why should it be any more difficult than normal, pre-baby packing... you just need a few more babygrows, no?
We are going to France this week and I cannot believe how deciding what to take, has turned into a full scale military operation.  It's meant to be a holiday.  I've been mentally making lists for the past couple of weeks and now I actually have to get on with it.    There's just so much stuff...
Clothes. Just-in-case-medicines. Baby food -yes I know there are supermarkets in France but what if the Smallest Prince decides French food is not for him?  sterilisers, suncream in mousse, cream and spray forms, in every possible factor.
   Do I really need four sun hats for each Cub?  Twenty pairs of tiny shorts? Will I wear all five pairs of shoes even though we'll be on the beach 90% of the time? Probably not.  
But I like to be prepared for all eventualities.  

I learnt my lesson when we went to Tresco in the Scilly Isles in July.  It rains a lot there.  So, naturally,  I took enough waterproofs to keep the whole island dry.  It was sunny and hot every single day.  And all I'd packed was cashmere and jeans.  And my favourite Paul Smith semi-lightweight trousers. Which I wore for seven days straight and are consequently now ruined from too much sand, seaweed and general over exposure.  

This time I'm not going to be caught out.  The car might buckle under the extreme weight en route to the airport or failing that we will end up paying more for excess baggage than the whole holiday has cost us but as least I'll be prepared come rain or shine.  Or if there's a passing tornado, flood or snow storm.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Wild for Wilderness

We spent last weekend hanging out at Wilderness festival.  It wasn't as crazy as we'd hoped for as we had both cubs in tow.  I don't usually associate a festival with small cherubs but it was actually such a wholesome, relaxed, child friendly one that it would have felt very odd without them there.  

The Big Cub's transportation

En route...

The whole day was totally food orientated and spent wandering from one food seller to another.  If we'd been more organised we could've been banqueting with Yotam Otteleghi and Valentine Warner but the tickets went like lightening and we made do with the next best thing; Deep fried scallop, pancetta and rocket and seared tuna and tempura samphire burgers from Fin and Flounder.  I hadn't been that excited by the sound of them - the mac'n cheese bar seemed a bit more alluring - but I don't think I've ever tasted anything quite like them.  A proper taste sensation.

The Royal Mail post ladies deliver love letters to fellow campers.

The Jaffe and Neale tent where I would have been doing craft lessons had my book been out in time.

Salami shower curtain?

Small Cub's lunch time.  No Scallop burger for him...

My most favourite place was a tent designed by couture florists 'Bella and Fifi'.  Sitting bang in the middle of the festival mayhem was the most serene, calm, flowery haven. A secret hideout where you could make your own flowery masks and head dresses, sitting around a bath of gypsophila and hydrangeas.

The Bella and Fifi tent with the hydrangea bath.

A Bella and Fifi flower mask.

A passing fleet of singing foxes.


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Apple and Olive Oil Cupcake Sensations

I like to think of myself as a bit of a cupcake connoisseur.  Not that I actually know anything special about them.  I just like them a lot and have made a few good batches in my time.  We went to one of the Cub's friend's birthdays this week though and came across a cupcake that knocked all the others off the scale in a major way.  
It was an apple and olive oil one.  I know, sounds a bit fancy - I rarely stray far from chocolate.  But this was another level.  Nothing has ever come close.  The most insanely - I can't think of another word, sorry - moist, light and tasty creation I've ever tasted.  
I came straight home to hunt for the recipe and it turns out that Mr Ottolengi's been doing them for years.  How have I missed this?
I'm now got to make up for serious lost time and plan on baking them all weekend.  

makes about 18 cupcakes

280g flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
120ml olive oil (fruity extra virgin works best)
160g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, separated
4 granny smith apples, peeled and cut into 0.5 cm cubes
zest of 1 lemon
2 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
120g unsalted butter, softened
100g light brown sugar 
100ml maple syrup
250g full fat cream cheese,  room temperature 
big pinch

1. Preheat the oven to 170oC (or 150oC fan).  Line two 12 cup muffin tins with muffin cases.

2. Sift flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into a bowl.

3. Whisk olive oil, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy.  Then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time beating for around 1 minute after each addition.

4. Stir in the diced apples, lemon zest and the sifted flour mixture. 
5.  Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff then fold into the appley cake batter.   The batter will be quite stiff and it will seem like there is more apple than batter.  Don't panic, this will only lead to appley deliciousness for your cupcakes.

6. Scoop the batter into the cases to fill them up all the way to the top. Bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.  Cool completely in the muffin tins. When completely cool you put the cupcakes in an airtight container and  leave them in the fridge overnight (or for up to 3 days).  The flavours develop better when you leave it overnight.

7. To make the frosting: beat the butter until it's light and fluffy then beat in the cream cheese until just mixed in (be careful not to overbeat!).  Try to get rid of any lumps in the brown sugar then beat in maple syrup, salt and brown sugar to the cream cheese mixture until well incorporating making sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl.

8. Pipe frosting on the completely cooled cupcakes and just before serving sprinkle over with chopped walnuts or drizzle over maple syrup.  Will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for around 3-4 days.

recipe via bakingequalslove.com

Monday, 6 August 2012

Magic Coat

After several especially grey days and sleepless nights last week, I took myself off to Oxford for a time out.
I'd had a thought about doing some culture; maybe pop into the  Jenny Saville exhibition at the Ashmolean or even take a peek at the shrunken heads in Pitt Rivers.  
It unsurprising remained just a thought though and I ended up doing retail therapy instead. 

I ended up with a new winter coat.  It's from Zara. Although it really could be Celine.  I am completely mesmerised by it and keep getting it out of the cupboard to stare at it.

I now know why it's called retail therapy...


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Glitzy Puddings

If there was a food category in the Olympics, these would be in the running for a gold.  Even if just for aesthetic reasons. 
They're one of Nigella's creations  and I can't think of a more appropriate pudding for our Olympic themed feast this weekend.  Apart from perhaps a Sundae in homage to Michael Phelps. 
 But it wouldn't be nearly as pretty. Or sparkly.

100g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
100g soft butter
200g sugar
4 eggs
50g flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda pinch of salt

150g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
45g butter
2 x 40g Crunchie bars, broken into shards

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4

Break up the chocolate and melt it with the butter in a bowl in the microwave or in a double boiler. Once it's melted, sit the bowl on a cold surface so that the chocolate cools.
Preferably in a freestanding mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and pale and moussy, then gently fold in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt.
Fold in the slightly cooled chocolate and butter mixture and then divide between eight ramekins, put in the oven to bake for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, get on with the glaze by melting the chocolate and butter in a microwave (or double boiler), then whisk to form a smooth glossy mixture, and spoon this over the cooked puddings.
Decorate with Crunchie rubble: I just put the bars in a freezer bag, set to with a rolling pin and strew over the top


Wednesday, 1 August 2012


I was looking though my photos last night and realised that I'd talked about going to Venice but had never actually posted about the trip itself. 
It was such a whirlwind visit but we managed to pack in so much that I actually felt like I'd been there for days.  We did sightseeing, ice cream eating, whizzing around on Gondolas, dancing around to Bryan Ferry, feasting on more Venetian delicacies than we knew what to do with and all in less than 24 hours...

Taxi anyone?

On our way to the hotel

Everyday Venetian life

India and Poppy

Our Hotel

Detail of Poppy's Manoush dress

En Route to the party, Amanda, Poppy, Me and India.

A very glam Olivia Hunt shimmying to dinner

  Razor clams and scallops 

The empty party church - the most amazing venue of all time

The venetian delicacy puddings

Poppy, Amanda and Amanda Ferry dancing to Bryan Ferry.

Bryan in action.

Venice by night, home time...