It’s so hot.

We have all the doors and windows open but it seems to be making the house hotter rather than cooler, as well as inviting in all the wasps and flies in the neighbourhood. Heat incapacitates me, and I can’t do much other than lie around all day, moving sloth-like from one room to another. I’m not complaining exactly, I’m just not sure how anyone survives in places where this kind of temperature is standard.

A few weeks ago when it was about as warm as it is now, we visited our local lavender farm, and walked slowly between the rows of English lavender under the hot sun, watching the bees drift lazily from flower to flower. I love the smell of lavender, and the way it always makes me think of hot summers. But it’s only relatively recently that I’ve come across the concept of baking with it. We had a luxurious all-lavender afternoon tea in the shade, smelling lavender, tasting lavender, seeing lavender. Lavender shortbread, lavender fudge, lavender macarons, lavender scones, lavender cupcakes, lavender rolls with lavender honey, lavender cider, lavender tea, lavender lemonade. It came in a beautiful wooden crate with a complimentary bouquet of lavender.

The only lavender recipe here so far is my lemon + lavender cookie recipe which, incidentally, I made after last summer’s visit to the lavender farm. I still love those cookies, but I’ve learnt even more about baking with lavender since then, and thought I’d share a few tips for those who want to try using this fragrant summer flower but are scared it will taste like soap. View Full Post

I’m back from Stockholm, and although it rained the entire time I had a beautiful apartment and the best of company. The ever-present grey drizzle was compensated for by the long hours of daylight and old cobbled streets of Gamla Stan, as well as the fact it provided plenty of opportunities for fika, Swedish for coffee-and-pastry break. The two days were equal parts exploring in the rain and warming up in Shoreditch-worthy coffee shops with cinnamon or cardamon buns, staring out through the steamed-up windows at the blur and bustle of the streets in between sips of scalding coffee. We even braved a rooftop bar, and stoically nursed cognac and champagne cocktails under our umbrellas, for the sake of a hazy view of the Stockholm skyline.

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SIMPLE SUMMER SPAGHETTI | magpie + mapleI’m running around frantically throwing things into a suitcase, having only just realised that tomorrow’s  flight requires a 6.32am train and only permits 10kg of luggage…so just a short post tonight. Which is actually very appropriate, because this recipe is all about expediency. Minimal effort, ingredients, and washing up, but with maximum flavour. It’s also great for days when it’s too hot to turn on the oven but you’re not really on board with the salad-as-dinner idea. That way there’s time to pack, sip a pre-dinner drink in the evening light, and still have a hearty, wholesome dinner on the table in twenty minutes.

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Remember all those currants I told you about? We picked so many that those not destined for the crumble had to be frozen, along with our rhubarb crop. When we were blessed with some warm weather and sunshine this week, frozen fruit became an attractive prospect, and I took the opportunity to jump on the raw ‘cheesecake’ bandwagon. I’d seen a lot of recipes for raw, vegan desserts of this nature but was always somewhat sceptical — after all, it can’t actually taste like cheesecake, can it? — so I decided to give it a go.

Here’s what I learnt:

  1. it’s a more time consuming and complicated thing to make than an actual cheesecake, but isn’t especially difficult
  2. it doesn’t taste like cheesecake
  3. it tastes really good in its own right
  4. worth it.

While I might therefore dispute the use of the ‘cheesecake’ term, it did turn out as a really delicious dessert which my very non-raw, non-vegan family all enjoyed, and one that we could feel good about eating. (According to MyFitnessPal, one slice contains 17% of your GDA of iron, 11% of your calcium, 16% of your potassium, 21% of your protein, 21% of your fibre, and 121% of your vitamin C.) View Full Post