Honey and
food and travel

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

This year we finally got round to doing a pumpkin, so took Gardenista's advice and made a starry sky. 

The seeds didn't go to waste, and were mixed with sugar and spice and all things nice. With a glass of red.

And if I'm lucky, I may be making a pumpkin pie this afternoon. Watch this space.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Coffee and Biscotti

Escaping the storm, we locked ourselves inside, and got to work making chocolate-dipped hazelnut biscotti, hoping that maybe school would be cancelled today and we could spend all morning dunking these crunchy, nutty biscotti (an adult way of eating nutella) into our coffee. Alas, school is on, so I'll have to take one with me to aid the Monday morning blues.

Recipe by the lovely London Bakes, where this recipe and many other delicious treats can be found.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Apple, Walnut and Custard Cake

Saturday afternoon and I felt ill, exhausted and headachey. B went out to the birthday party we were both meant to be attending. I put my pyjamas on, dosed up on hot spiced pear juice and ibuprofen, and cautiously, slowly, constructed Dan Lepard's squelchy, sweet apple, walnut and custard cake. With a dollop of crème fraîche and a drizzle of San Franciscan maple syrup, an evening of bed, hot drinks and sleep didn't seem as dreadfully depressing as it has a couple of hours previously.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Wellies and Leaves

Tramping through all the fallen and falling leaves, admiring the colours, smell and sounds before the imminent storm violently strips the trees of their clothing, I was suddenly taken by the colour coordination of my fading red wellies and the autumnal carpet.

Green Fingers

After the scrumptious dinner I wrote about last week, followed by a day being a tourist in my old University town, we finally arrived home. The rest of the weekend was spent cooking, exercising, eating, talking, and admiring M and D's new veg patch, and M's new and adored greenhouse. Since we moved to this house (almost twenty years ago) M has been wishing for a greenhouse, and soon after a veg patch after the community allotments in the old Palace Gardens over the wall had to be abandoned due to people's inability to get along with each other. 

But now she has all she wished for (well, the garden shed is still in the post, and Gardenista haven't turned up to photograph it yet), and the garden has been transformed. In the few weeks since the beds have been in, lettuces have sprouted, the tomatoes, chillies, basil and avocados are flourishing in their relocated position, and M has spent many hours drinking tea in her small glass box of peace.

As autumn progresses, the fruit continues to grow, and so there will be boxes of fruit, turning into crumbles, pies and cakes whenever I get the chance, fresh salads (if she can get there before the very hungry caterpillars), add continual excitement as something different sprouts a new leaf or bears a new fruit with every day.

Living in London does have its advantages, but when green space can provide this much happiness and nourishment, it's hard to be elated on a return to grey, drizzly London.

Luckily for us, the pears were not quite ready, so it was clear that we'd have to return again very soon to feast on the beautiful baubles,  and return with more baskets full of proper, English fruit.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Bake Off Watching Nourishment

I seem to be unable to watch the Great British Bake Off without having just put a cake in the oven, knowing it will be out in time for the revelation of who has won and lost. Maybe it's just because I'm greedy and can't look at that much cake without my tummy sounding like a jacuzzi, causing me to search desperately around the kitchen for any form of sweetness. But maybe it's an inferiority complex: watching the skills and knowledge of these bakers, I need to prove myself to, well, myself, and so make a cake with the perfect crumb and flavour, which I can hope would please Mary Berry.

This week, as we nestled down to watch the final, we had a banana and ginger cake, from Leith's Baking Bible. It felt dark and wholesome and simultaneously rather fluffy and cloud-like.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Blackberry and Plum Streusel Cake

I promise the blackberry obsession will stop soon. In fact, this will be their last mention until next year. I've used them all up.

This recipe was taken from Bill Granger's 'Easy'. Although not all the recipes are necessarily that easy, the majority are quick and realistic - perfect for any couple or family with time-pressed evenings.

The plums and berries were gooey, melting into the base, and the sugary sweet crumble topping adding a guilty crunch, satisfying the crumble-obsessive that I am.

If you're going to ignore my recommendation, and not buy the book, you can find the recipe here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=10855289.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Baked blackberry and lemon cheesecake

Having spied this baked blackberry cheesecake on Caroline Taylor's blog earlier in the week, I checked with M and D that there were still a surplus of blackberries at home and spent much of the week dreaming about this pudding which I hadn't tasted for so many years.

Saturday evening, I set to work. Smashing digestives, which is hugely therapeutic, melting butter and mixing them together to form the irresistibly, buttery biscuit base. The cream cheese and sugar blossomed into a pillowy white cloud.

The slow addition of eggs made it richer, thicker, and a sunnier colour.

The bowl of lemons caught my eye (the luxuries of being at home), so I added the zest, which gave it a fresh, tangy taste, cutting through the sugary, luxurious richness and the sweet fruitiness of the blackberries.

Follow Caroline's recipe. Improvise as you wish. The most suitable ending to a self-indulgent weekend.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Half-way Home

The Old Bridge Hotel

Rushed back from work on Friday evening, packed up a jumble of clothing and stuffed ourselves into the car in a bid to get to The Old Bridge in time for 8 o'clock dinner. An unsurprising lack of movement on the A14 forced us to nip through the back roads, through a few unspoilt Cambridgeshire villages, dodging potholes and sharp bends, a far cry from the populated roads of Bethnal Green.

The Old Bridge is a second home to me. Run by my parents for as long as I've been trotting around this little planet, it's a bit like a surrogate sibling, taking up as much of their time and energy as me and my little brother T did and do. 

Autumn's presence is more visible here than in London, with the trees a beautiful russet colour, each leaf a slightly different shade, looking at the tree is like flicking through a Farrow and Ball samples card. They're clinging to the spindly branches for a few moments before they float down and are trampled on the floor.

A crateful of gourds stood at the entrance display, bobbly, imperfect, yellow, orange, green, piled high in an old wooden crate that M had happily purchased from someone who dropped by. 

Dinner began (predictably) late with a brief wine tasting in the shop. Not allowed more than a sip of each before D swiped the glasses away from us, filling it up with something different, despairing of our lack of ability to concentrate and keep up with what was what, as different grapes, regions, years, styles drifted in and out of the conversation. His challenge to take us through all on the white wine tasting machine was even harder when we had to decide what to eat - everyone wanted everything and coming to a decision proved tricky.

Countless sips later, we sat down to eat. Seared squid with chilli, rocket and lemon was subtle and fresh, the hint of chilli adding a splash of colour and heat, the soft tentacles contrasting perfectly with the crunchy rocket.

D then took over on the wine front, filling the table with glasses (many large enough for a family of four) and different reds to taste, compare, remember and discuss. Needless to say the other hotel guests must have been a little confused, or maybe simply worried, about the number of bottles and glasses on our table.

And all that blue-cheese smelling vin rouge was drunk alongside sage gnocchi, cavolo nero purée, roasted butternut squash and porcini mushrooms with a rocket and parmesan salad. Autumn on a plate: the colours (which my phone photography hasn't done justice) the same as the trees outside, the scattering of leaves on the rich green grass.

Unfortunately, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, so although I was stuffed full (up to the top of my head, as I would have described many years ago), I wiped the plate clean and did not refuse an in-depth study at the pudding menu. Honey-roast figs with blackberries, hazelnuts and marsala ice-cream. No chance that I wasn't going to find some space in my little toe for that. And just a little slurp of sweet wine too.

Warming and sweet, soft and melting with a little crunch of hazelnut. Autumn has to be the best season for British food. Suddenly the rain and cold doesn't seem so bad.
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