Tag: spring

Crunchy Market Salad

The weather has been crazy and spring like here in San Francisco. Just a few days ago it was stifling hot, still 28 degrees outside at ten o’clock in the evening. It felt wrong to waste it, so after a few glasses of wine with dinner, Ollie and I thought it would be a great idea to wake Lilias and go for a walk in the park. She thought it was the best game ever, crawling through the grass in the dark with the lights of the city surrounding us. A few days later though and the clouds and rain had rolled in putting us right back in winter. Thank goodness for the market full of green things to keep us feeling fresh.

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Here is the crunchy salad we ate after the market on Sunday. Making the most of all the good green things, especially for my sister in law who has come to stay and managed to land herself with the flu.

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Crunchy Market Salad
Feeds four 

1 cup of cooked quinoa
1 fennel bulb
1 green apple
1 avocado
A handful of sugar snap peas
A handful of snow peas
A handful of lettuce leaves
A couple of basil leaves
A handful of pinenuts
Goats cheese or feta to top
Juice of a lemon
Olive oil
1 tsp whole grain mustard
Sea salt

While you cook your quinoa, slice the fennel, apple, avocado, sugar snap peas and snow peas. Place these in a bowl with a dressing made of lemon, olive oil, salt and mustard – the lemon will stop the vegetables discolouring. Once the quinoa is cooked, leave it to cool and then mix it in with the vegetables, adding the torn lettuce and basil. Top with a sprinkling of pinenuts and some goats cheese. Enjoy!

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A kind cake to have with tea

As I have mentioned before, I am not a baker. That skill was handed out to my sister who can make the most delicate tarts and cakes. She also manages to turn gluten free baking into some kind of delicious realm of possibilities, something I never thought was possible. However, lately I have been finding myself wanting to have fresh baking in the house. I have been making banana bread, gluten, sugar and dairy free muffins (actually really good, will post the recipe soon), lemon and ricotta ring cakes, and yesterday I made a rhubarb and strawberry cake.

Both Ollie and I go crazy for rhubarb. Stewed with muesli in the morning, with ice cream, in a crumble or pie. Any way possible in fact. So this cake is perfect. It is easy, both sweet and tart, and goes perfectly with a cup of tea. It is the kind of cake you can imagine eating with thick clotted cream and your grandmother.

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An Old Fashioned Cake
(Based on a pear cake in Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries)

130g butter
130g caster sugar
2 eggs
130g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Half a punnet of strawberries
About 5 stalks of rhubarb
A sprinkling of brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork, and gradually mix them in with the butter and sugar. Sift the flour and baking powder and fold in carefully. Spoon into a greased cake tin and don’t worry that it looks like there isn’t enough mixture.

Finely slice the rhubarb and cut the strawberries into quarters. Place them evenly over the cake mixture, and then sprinkle some brown sugar on top. This recipe can be used for any fruit, I have made it with apple and pear in the past, in which case you don’t need extra sugar. Rhubarb often needs a bit more love than other fruit to make it sing.

Bake for 1 hour, until a skewer comes out clean, leave in the tin for 10 minutes, and then cool on a rack. Or if you are impatient like me, cut a slice and eat it with some natural yoghurt and a cup of coffee.

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The book you can see in the photo arrived in the mail just a few days ago. It is part of a #savetheculture book exchange I am part of. Despite Ollie referring to it as my Ponzi scheme and another friend calling it a glorified chain letter, I think it is a pretty cool idea. I saw a friend had shared a post about it on facebook which I bit the bullet and liked. She sent me a stranger’s address for me to post a book to, plus her address to share with people who liked my post. Theoretically, I should get a whole lot of books in the mail. Who am I to say no to that?

I had been eyeing up Ali Smith’s newest book at The Booksmith just the other day, so I was thrilled to receive it with a little postcard from an old school friend I haven’t talked to in years. I will let you know if I get any other goodies in the letter box.

Happy baking and happy reading from sunny San Francisco x

A fresh look for spring

With spring in the air and finally at the market, plus our move into the new apartment and Lilias turning one in a couple of weeks (!!!) it feels like a everything is refreshing and new things are happening. So I cut my hair short again, and then followed up by redesigning the blog.

It is coming up two years since we moved to San Francisco and I started this blog. I felt like things needed an update so I called on a certain someone with some rather fabulous design skills, Catherine.  An old English student of mine and a good friend’s little sister, Catherine quickly became a good friend to me as well. After talking to her about the blog, she very kindly did the calligraphy for the header. Isn’t it gorgeous? Thank you Catherine x

I am starting off with a fresh, spring salad as per Catherine’s request. It is crunchy and zingy as well as being strangely comforting. We ate it warm, but I think leftovers the next day would be pretty good too. Pity there weren’t any…

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Spring Noodle Salad
Serves four

Soba noodles (according to appetite)
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame beans
Small bundle of asparagus cut into quarters
Four spring onions finely sliced
A handful of snap peas cut into thirds
A large handful of fresh coriander
1 lime
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt
A small handful of peanuts
3 tbsp of sesame seeds

Cook the soba noodles according to the instructions and put aside in a large bowl.

Gently fry the finely sliced spring onions in a little sunflower oil until softened, then add the parboiled asparagus and edamame beans to fry for a few more minutes. When these are cooked but still have some bite, add them to the noodles with the roughly chopped coriander, the juice of the lime, sesame and sunflower oil, rice wine vinegar, salt, peanuts and sesame seeds. Toss it all together and eat while it is still warm. I would recommend an accompanying cold beer for balance.

We added hot sauce to ours afterwards because we were eating with Lilias, but you could definitely add the chilli at the beginning when you are frying the spring onion.

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My next post is an easy rhubarb and strawberry cake because you have to enjoy both the sweet and the savoury sides of spring. Also because anything with rhubarb makes me happy, especially if you can eat it with a cup of tea.

Market Day

For the last few Sundays, I have been waiting for Spring to be at the market to meet me. I am waiting for there to be baskets of fresh peas in their pods and fava beans to be shelled, asparagus and green beans, sweet and delicate new season fennel and spiky artichokes. Instead, there are still piles of citrus fruits and bundles of winter greens.

So here is a last of the winter’s market put together for a lunch. Finger’s crossed for Spring to be there next weekend.

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Green Winter’s Lunch
Serves two and a half

A big bunch of sprouting broccoli
A ball of fresh mozzerella
A handful of fresh basil, torn
The juice of a lemon
A handful of pine nuts
One ripe avocado
Good olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh bread and butter to serve

Simply steam the sprouting broccoli- the young and tender kind, not the old woody kind- until it has lost its crunch but has maintained its dignity. Lay on a plate and cover with half an avocado, half a ball of mozzarella, the torn basil leaves, the juice of half a lemon, a generous glug of olive oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts. Repeat on the other plate and add some fresh bread to mop it up. Then remember the baby and distribute some of the food onto her plate.

Enjoy at the table while you watch people out the window and debate whether all three of you should have an afternoon nap on this overcast and stormy Sunday.

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Spring time and new beginnings.

It is funny how quickly your expectations can change. Living in a one bedroom apartment with a baby is completely normal in this crazy expensive city. I was talking to a mother just yesterday who lives in a two bedroom with three children. All of a sudden, having a child in its own room seems like an unnecessary luxury. Having a spare room for friends to come and stay? Madness.

Currently we live in a one bedroom apartment. Looking south through the big windows, you get beautiful views over the hills of San Francisco and the Sutro tower comes and goes as the infamous mist rolls in and out. We moved to this apartment as a couple coming to work in this city and soon became a family of three with a baby who sleeps in a converted cupboard where the vacuum cleaner and suitcases used to live.

Nearly a year old, Lilias is well and truly on the move. She crawls at a scarily fast pace and climbs anything she can find. All of a sudden, a cupboard doesn’t seem quite big enough for her bedroom. The fact that it is off the living room is not great for having people over in the evenings. The nine flights of stairs are starting to feel steeper and steeper as she gets heavier, and I won’t get started on not having a laundry.

So we are on the move! We love the neighborhood so much we are just hopping over the other side of the park, a huge move of four blocks, but it is big! It has TWO bedrooms. And a kitchen with room for a table to eat at. And it is only up one flight of stairs. And I am beyond excited. We move next Sunday, so who knows? Maybe my next blog post will be from my brand new kitchen, sitting at my table looking out towards the park.

It feels like just the right time for a move and a new adventure. Springtime in the San Francisco.

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Pasta primavera

This is my version of pasta primavera, or springtime pasta. A deliciously easy way to enjoy all the fresh green things that this season has to offer us. With cheese. Obviously.

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Pasta Primavera

Olive oil
1 big garlic clove
A bundle of asparagus- try and find the young skinny ones
2 spring onions
A handful of baby spinach
About 8 basil leaves
A handful of freshly podded peas (or frozen ones if you can’t find the real deal)
Juice of half a lemon
A ball of mozzarella di bufala (or feta if you prefer)
Salt
Pasta of the short variety

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Start with golden, grassy olive oil in a frying pan. Add a fresh garlic clove and two spring onions, finely sliced, and a bunch of tall, skinny asparagus cut into fives. Slowly and softly fry these.

Next add your dark green baby spinach leaves, a squeeze of lemon, then the basil and finally the freshly podded peas. These only need a minute to bring out their colour and sweetness all ready to burst with sweet flavour in your mouth.

Finish the dish off with some creamy mozzarella di bufala broken on top and another drizzle of olive oil. This dish works best with a shorter pasta and is delicious cold for lunch the next day.

I added chilli flakes to the olive oil at the beginning of the cooking process, which is, like everything in cooking, entirely optional. I am just doing anything in my ability to encourage this baby out of me and into the world. Tonight? Super spicy tacos from the hole in the wall round the corner. Wish me luck!

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April and a sunny spring.

We have been welcoming April and spring time with lots of green meals. I have been coming home with bags of asparagus, peas, zucchini, spring onion, basil, fennel, broad beans and baby spinach. These have then found their way into, and been the stars of, pasta, risotto, frittatas, soups and tarts.

Spring has also meant fresh flowers all around our apartment- on tables, bookshelves and benches. Our $4 flower guy at the market brightens up any Sunday.

Now we are ready to welcome a new member to our family as well. Come on out little baby, we are all ready to meet you!

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Orange and Coconut Cake to Celebrate the Sun

Spring is in the air in San Francisco, the sun is shining and there is the smell of blossom wherever you walk. I love the idea of having a spring baby, new life as the city wakes up after winter.

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Here is an easy cake to celebrate the sunshine, fresh flavours and the plentiful citrus fruits on offer at the moment.

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Orange and Coconut Cake

1 orange
3 eggs
150g butter (melted)
1 ½ cups icing sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1 cup desiccated coconut

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Boil the whole orange, skin and all, for about half an hour, checking the water level. This will make your house smell delicious and make sure the cake isn’t too bitter. Leave the orange to cool then cut into quarters and remove the seeds. Put in a blender until you have a smooth consistency. In a bowl, beat this with the eggs, butter and sugar then fold to combine the baking powder, flour and coconut. It’s as simple as that! Pour into a well greased cake or loaf tin and pop into the oven for about 40 minutes at 190 degrees celcius, or until a skewer comes out clean.

This cake is delicious warm from the oven, or cold the next day. I like it with a tart and creamy Greek yoghurt and a cup of tea in the springtime sunshine.

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