Wednesday, 23 September 2009


A bowl of blackberries does not a blog post make. Not even when I gathered them myself while on holiday in Dorset. And not even with a gratuitous picture of bebe enjoying said berries thrown in. It will have to do for now though, since S and I are getting married next week and there are a million tiny little things to sort out still. After the wedding I'm hoping to get back into the swing of blogging, but right now I need to go sort out table arrangements, centrepieces and more of that...

Saturday, 11 July 2009

figs after easter

This post won't have anything to do with figs whatsoever. Or food for that matter. It's just that, when you do something so late that it's really no use anymore - say announcing the birth of a baby when said baby is four months old for example - in Flemish the expression for this is 'figs after easter'.

Our baby girl was born on 7 March, a week after her due date. At which point I was convinced we 'missed our window' and she would never ever come out. But that's a whole different story altogether. Delivery was smooth and easy (as was my entire pregnancy), the three of us settled nicely back into some kind of normal life at home and bébé is an absolute joy to have around. She's very alert and inquisitive, and it seems she will be as stubborn as her mummy. Having a baby is a lot of work though, especially when combined with renovating a house and planning a wedding (a combination I do not recommend by the way). It's not that I don't have time to cook or bake - I can't remember how often I have made my chocolate fudge pie in the last few months, it's the easiest cake to make and a real crowd pleaser - but having time to try out new recipes, write, photograph and blog is something else entirely. All the pics on our camera these days are of the little one. But I will try to change that, if only because the world should not be deprived of a recipe for a wonderful chocolate cake.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

a weekend away, an easy dessert and nesting

Last month S and I decided to leave our dining room/building site and all the DIY as it was and go away for a long weekend - just the two of us, one last time before the arrival of our little one. So a week after the big snow - I do wonder how Britain ever managed to colonise half the world, when something as normal as snow in the middle of winter brings the entire country to a complete standstill - we set off for a relaxing countryside weekend. We found a lovely B&B in Happisburgh, Norfolk; a beautiful Georgian farmhouse and barn owned by the wonderful David and Rosie, about a half hour's drive from Norwich and only five minutes from the sea. We saw seal colonies at Horsey Beach, where volunteers were very happy to answer all our questions about the seals; had a nice walk at the Hickling Broad Nature Reserve; had a superb pub dinner in Ingham; and visited the grounds of Blickling Hall, which made us feel very Jane Austen!

Of course both S and I were a bit paranoid about me going into labour while away (even though I was still 3 weeks away from my due date) so we packed my hospital bag and baby car seat as well, just in case - we both reasoned 'if we take the bag, we won't need it, but if we leave it at home we will'. We decided to have dinner at the B&B the first night, so this tired pregnant woman wouldn't have to go out foraging for food at night after the long drive there. After emailing back and forth with Rosie about all the good things I'm not allowed to eat, we were served a delicious and hearty home-cooked meal, perfect for the cold February month. Dessert was either a sticky toffee pudding - S's choice - or lemon posset. Which I'd never even heard of before, but I like anything lemony and am always keen to try new things, so that's what I went for. A quick google didn't return much information, other than it seems to be a very old English dish and something about MacBeth. Of course I just had to try and make it myself at home, and I can tell you it is most definitely the easiest dessert in the world. All you need is cream, sugar and lemon juice. I would love to understand the chemistry behind it - when you add the lemon juice the mixture thickens instantly - but for now I'm happy having this recipe on stand-by should I need a delicious dessert in a pinch.

Which brings me to the nesting bit. Maternity leave is a wonderful thing: I'm cooking and baking a lot and even bake my own bread most of the time - that Kitchenaid mixer sure is getting a regular workout and S isn't complaining, as his dinner is on the table by the time he gets home from work. I've been having fun with some knitting and sewing projects (our sitting room now has proper curtains, yay), the nursery is all set up, and once in a while I even have time to meet up with girlfriends for coffee. And of course I've been nesting: scrubbing floors like there is no tomorrow, doing laundry like it's going out of fashion, re-organising the kitchen cabinets and wardrobes, cleaning out the fridge and defrosting the freezer, and then spending a whole day making soup and healthy meals to restock the freezer. Now the house sparkles, my laundry basket is empty and the freezer full, so all that remains now is put my feet up and wait for our little one to arrive. And maybe have another lemon posset...

lemon posset
serves 4

300ml double cream
75g caster sugar
juice of 2 lemons

Pour cream and sugar into saucepan and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil for three minutes while stirring continuously. Remove from heat and add lemon juice; mixture will start to thicken instantly. Leave to cool for about five minutes and pour in small glasses. Chill in fridge for a few hours, until set.

I added a layer of lemon curd at the bottom (I used Duchy lemon curd, but of course you can make your own) and decorated with a lemon peel curl. The posset would no doubt be even better with some lavender shortbread, but that will have to wait until another time.

Friday, 9 January 2009

sugar and spice and all things nice

Happy New Year everyone! Santa has been very good to me and brought me not only a subscription to the Donna Hay magazine, but also a Kitchenaid stand mixer! With a note from Santa saying I can now bake him lots of bread and cookies.

I haven’t had any time to use it yet though, S and I are still spending every spare moment doing DIY – I know, the story is getting really old now, but what can I say. S and I are both perfectionists, we want everything to be done properly. With my parents’ help, we did actually get our sitting room finished, decorated and furnished in time for Christmas. There is now a sofa, armchair, cabinet, tv, and even some pictures and ornaments above the fireplace. And we even managed to put up a Christmas tree. We don’t have curtains yet (the windows are still covered with newspapers, very classy) and there are some details to sort out, but the room is finished enough to enjoy spending time in there.

Now we only have the dining room to finish and we really want to get that done before our little one arrives. Yes, seems like I’m part of the baby boom in blogland. Must be something in the flour. Or the eggs. Less than two months to go now and only one more week until my maternity leave, so hopefully I’ll get some use out of that Kitchenaid before our little one makes her appearance and my days (and nights) get filled with bottles and diapers.

We’re trying to hold off on the pink (and plastic Dora/Bob/Disney/…) invasion for as long as possible, but a bit of sugar and spice never hurts. I baked these sugar and spice cookies for our antenatal class (pre-Kitchenaid), where they were demolished in the blink of an eye. I fully intended to make these cookies again for Christmas, in nice snowflake shapes with some icing swirls, but that of course never happened. They taste just as good though without any fancy shapes and go perfect with a nice cup of tea on a cold winter’s day.

sugar and spice cookies
makes 24

100g butter
1/3 cup muscovado sugar
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 cup plain white flour
1 egg, beaten
Demerara sugar

Cream butter and sugar together. Add flour and spices. Roll in a log and put in fridge for about half an hour. Cut off 24 ‘slices’ and pat those slightly out with your fingers. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with Demerara sugar. Bake for about 12 minutes at 150˚C. Enjoy.