We think it’s safe to say, we’ve become fans of the smoothie bowl. They are perfect for breakfast – packed with good energy foods and lots of vitamins from fruit and vegetables, these smoothie bowls are an easy way to get a whole lot of good stuff into your system first thing! And they keep you feeling full, so great if you’re trying to stay away from midday snacking!
Makes 2 bowls
120g pre-cooked beetroots (we used a ready cooked pack from the supermarket)
1 cup raspberries
2 weetabix biscuits
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp sifted cocoa
1 cup almond milk
To pre-cook the beetroot, cook it in boiling water till it’s soft enough to poke a fork through. You can do this the night before and leave the beetroot in the fridge overnight so you can get the smoothie done quickly in the morning.
Add all the ingredients, except the milk into a blender. Pour in half the milk and start the blender. As the ingredients are blending, pour the rest of the milk in bit by bit until you get the consistency you want. You may find you prefer it thicker and so may not use the whole cup of milk.
Pour into a bowl and if you like it chilled, cover with cling film and pop it in the fridge, or use frozen raspberries instead!
If you haven’t caught on to the rage, it’s not too late to start – we just have! Trade in a glass of smoothie in the morning for a bowl of it and use it as a canvas for fruits, nuts, seeds and herbs – excellent fun! This may be our first, but it’s certainly not going to be our last!
1/2 cup oats (cooked according to packet instructions)
2 ripe bananas
1 cup blueberries (we used frozen ones as we wanted a cold smoothie)
1/2 cup almond milk (you can use regular milk too)
1 tbsp greek yoghurt
Grated rind of a medium orange (optional)
Cook the oats according to packet instructions – we used almond milk for the oats.
Break up the bananas and put them in a blender. Add the blueberries and the almond milk and blitz it on medium till everything is blended together.
Next, add the cooked oats, the yoghurt andrind. Blitz again on medium till combined. Empty it all out into a bowl and unleash your creativity!
This cake was inspired by two things – 1) needing to use a bag of polenta we bought in Switzerland last month for a family dinner but never used and 2) a recent discovery that the maroon and cream livery of the Great Northern Railway’s dining carriage in the 1940s (random fact of the day) came to be affectionately known as ‘Plum and Spilt Milk’, which sounded like a divine flavour combination! So obviously, we had to make a cake featuring those ingredients. It turned out a real treat with a cuppa tea so we thought we’d share it with all of you.
Serves 8 (big slices) or 10 (medium slices)
Prep Time: 20 mins Baking time: Approx 50-60 minutes
3/4 cup muscovado sugar
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup (250g) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup polenta (we used fine polenta)
1 cup sifted self-raising flour (or plain flour with a tsp of baking powder sifted in)
1/2 cup double cream
a tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsps strawberry or current jam
Turn the oven on to 160 degrees c. Ours is an electric fan oven. Grease a round tin and line with baking parchment.
Cut the plums down the middle and twist each half in opposite directions. Slice the half with the stone in half again and twist, same as above – this will help in removing the stone. Cut each quarter into half again so that from each plum, you get 8 slices in total. Set aside.
Next, put both types of sugar together with the butter and beat until creamy. Add one egg at a time and beat till well mixed in. After adding all three eggs, add the double cream and vanilla. Mix well.
Now add half the flour and half the polenta, fold in. Now, add the other half of both and fold in until well mixed. Careful not to beat the flour and polenta in and don’t mix vigorously either. Just patiently fold it in, we promise that will be worth the effort!
Pour the batter into your tin and smooth the surface. Now, starting from the edge of the tin, place the plum slices one next to the other, vertically, all around the tin (sneak a quick look at the picture above to see what we mean about the placing – that said, if you place it horizontally, it’ll be fine too!). Keep going till you fill up the whole top of the cake. You may want to choose the plum slices according to how they fit but really, don’t hesitate to squeeze them together or force them into shape! What you want to avoid is pressing the plums in because the cake will rise and you don’t want the plums sinking in when that happens.
Put the tin in the oven, middle shelf, and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Put the cake on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes and while that’s happening, zap the jam in the microwave for 10 seconds or put it in a bowl and the bowl in a bath of hot water – basically loosen the jam so you can brush it all over the cake. Brush the cake with the warm jam and leave it to cool completely.
When the weather is good in London, it is spectacular. And there is no better time to slather on some sunscreen, arm yourself with a bottle of water, slip into a pair of comfy trainers (or summer sandals) and tackle London’s wonderful literary history. And this is exactly what I did a when I went on a pilgrimage to the places once graced by the Bloomsbury Group.
Like most fangirls I became quite obsessed with the Bloomsbury Set after reading Virginia Woolf. Everyone I know gets sucked not only into her words but also, into her deep and complex life – one that ended tragically with her walking into the River Ouse with pockets full of stones. Her life, though, was so rich and her friendships and frictions so compelling that it’s hard to be living in the city where so much of that took place and not feel drawn to the places where they happened.
The Bloomsbury Group were a set of writers, artists, and intellectuals, who from 1905 met weekly at the home of Virginia Woolf and her sister, the artist Vanessa Bell in Gordon Square, to share ideas. They were an unconventional group, rebellious against social conventions and the authority of the generation before and notoriously known for the numerous affairs they had with one another. Dorothy Parker famously wrote, ‘they lived in squares…and loved in triangles’.
The members were made up of Woolf’s brother’s Cambridge university friends, mostly all members of the exclusive university club called ‘the apostles’, and friends of Woolf and Bell. Some of them included essayist, Lytton Strachey (lover of Maynard Keynes), the author Leonard Woolf (Virginia’s husband), the art critic Clive bell (Vanessa’s husband but also in love with Virginia for a time), the economist Maynard Keynes, the artist Duncan Grant (lover of Maynard Keynes and Vanessa Bell) and the artist, critic and curator Roger Fry (lover of Vanessa Bell). The Tate website has an excellent short introduction to the main members of the set, so check that out if you’re keen.
I signed up for a walking tour, which I highly recommend if you can spare the dosh because it was wonderfully fun and informative. But I ‘ve also just noted that they aren’t doing the Bloomsbury walk at the moment so if you want to get going while the sun is still out, it might be best to print out this entry and use it as a guide. The guide covers not only the Bloomsbury Set but some other famous writers who lived and worked in the area.
I also highly recommend you dress the part! Needless to say, I attempted to vibe Virginia’s style…and equally, needless to say, did not quite succeed, though I did provide entertainment for the group…
Starting point: Holborn Station.
Get your map out and mark these spots beforehand or just pull out your mobile phone and let Google maps lead the way!
1st stop: Coffee. Free State Coffee, 23 Southampton Row
Consistently great coffee. Every time I’ve popped in, I’ve had lovely, deep, nutty, smoky coffee. My one complaint is that the cup could be bigger. If you’re feeling peckish, they have some exciting brownies as well and there is no faulting the music selection – they had Japanese jazz trumpeter Takuya Kuroda on while I was there this time.
2nd Stop: Red Lion Square.
It’s a small square in Holborn. Here you’ll find the bust of the philosopher Bertrand Russell, credited as one of the fathers of Analytic philosophy. The statue itself is the stuff of nightmares. In a nutshell, the bust of Russell looks like an armless zombie. If that’s not worth seeing, I don’t know what is! Russell won a Nobel prize for literature and was a prominent anti-war activist. He also had a wonderfully scandalous life – four wives and a slew of affairs, most notably with TS Elliot’s wife, the writer Vivienne Haigh-Wood. Russell’s connection to the Bloomsbury Group was through ‘the apostles’.
3rd stop: Great St James Street – house numbers 3, 14 and 16.
The poet AC Swinburne lived at No 3. The publisher and author David ‘Bunny’ Garnett (another Bloomsbury member) lived in No 14. He had an affair with Duncan Grant and married the daughter of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, Angelica. It’s rumoured that he was present at the birth of Angelica and said, “I think of marrying it. When she is 20, I shall be 46 – will it be scandalous?”. They then did marry when Angelica was in her 20s. The writer Gerald Brennan lived at No.16. His connection to the Bloomsbury Group? Apparently, it was to Brennan that Leonard Woolf, Virginia’s husband, confessed that their marriage was never consummated!
4th Stop: No 18 Rugby Street.
This is where Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes spent the first night of their marriage. Plath and Hughes have had one of the most tumultuous and painful marriages of all literary history. The day after she met him (and bit him on the cheek till he bled), Plath wrote a poem dedicated to him, ‘Pursuit’ that suggests Hughes would lead her to her death (“There is a panther stalks me down:/One day I’ll have my death of him.”), and yet they fell madly in love and married. Hughes was unfaithful, and Plath’s depression worsened. She committed suicide in 1963, some say it was a cry for help gone wrong.
Hughes references 18 Rugby Street in a poem of the same name in ‘Birthday Letters’. “So there in Number Eighteen Rugby Street’s/Victorian torpor and squalor I waited for you.” He also references it in a poem called ‘That Night’ which refers to his lover Susan Alliston, whom he was with the night Plath died and whom he slept with at Rugby Street. “We went to Rugby St/ Where you and I began/Why did we go there? Of all places…”
En route to the next stop, you’ll see Persephone Bookshop, which is a wonderful place and worth popping into. They publish forgotten female authors of the mid-century. The books have beautiful covers and gorgeous end papers. They also have some excellent Bloomsbury Group related material on sale.
5th Stop: Gordon Square – Nos 46, 50, 51 and 52
These were the houses of the Bloomsbury Group. No 46 is where Virginia lived before marriage and it was where the Bloomsbury Group were founded. It was also where Maynard Keynes later moved into and Virginia and Maynard often spent time together here. Virginia moved to No 52 later and wrote Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, A Room of One’s own and The Waves after moving into this house. No 51 was where Lytton Strachey lived.
6th Stop: The Faber & Faber Building, Bloomsbury House
This is where TS Eliot worked and often met with, advised and published the likes of Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin, WH Auden and Ted Hughes. Rumour has it that Eliot’s wife used to pay surprise visits to Eliot at work and to escape her, he’d run up to the roof. Once she marched up and down outside the building wearing a sandwich board proclaiming, ‘I am the wife TS Eliot abandoned’. Virginia Woolf apparently referred to her as ‘a bag of ferrets’!
7th Stop: Senate House, Univeristy of London
Absolutely stunning art deco building between the School of African Studies and the British Museum. During World War II it was used as the ministry of information and Graham Greene, George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh and Dylan Thomas are all connected with it. The building was the inspiration for Orwell’s ‘Ministry of Truth’ (from his novel 1984) and featured in John Wyndham’s ‘The Day of the Triffids’.
Then, of course, you have the British Museum just next door so if you haven’t had enough culture for the day, more awaits. If like me, by the end of the walk you’ve only become more obsessed, plan a visit to Charleston House (The Bloomsbury Summer House) in the South Downs National Park.
We couldn’t let stone fruit season get away without making these rustic grilled peach & prosciutto focaccia buns. Grilling the peaches makes them taste rich & almost cream-like. Salty prosciutto and sharp, bitter Valeriana leaves bring out the sweetness of the peaches. We wiped these out in one meal , so make them quick before peaches make their last appearance this summer!
550g Bread Flour
7g Dry Yeast
16 g sugar
250 ml water
115 ml milk
45ml olive oil
2 ripe yellow peaches
Butter for greasing
120g cooked prosciutto , thinly sliced
1 cup of green salad leaves of your choice such as Valeriana (corn salad), Rocket or Spinach
Olive oil & Coarse Salt flakes
In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients, then add the olive oil, water & milk – all a little at a time, stirring with a fork as you add. Stir until you get a rough dough. Knead the dough in the bowl, it will be wet & sticky at first , but keep going & it will come together. Dust your hands with some flour if you need to keep it from sticking to the dough. You can add a little flour if you find it too sticky to work with, but don’t add too much as the focaccia will turn out dry.
When you are able to collect all the dough into a ball, transfer it to your kneading surface (we use a silicone baking mat) and knead well for about 10 mins until you get a smooth ball of dough. We push the dough down with the heel of palm, fold it over and repeat. There are great kneading techniques here .
Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rest in a warm place for 2 hours during which it should double in size.
While waiting, prepare your baking sheet by oiling it generously with olive oil.
While waiting for the dough to rise, prepare your grilled peaches. Cut each peach into half and remove the stone. Cut each of those halves into half again making quarters. Now slice these quarters into 1/2 inch thick slices. Heat up your grill pan and grease it generously with butter. Place the peaches cut side down and allow them to just cook through and get nicely grilled , then turn over with tongs and repeat on the other side. Finish doing this with all the slices and keep aside. Keep the butter handy so you can brush the peaches if the pan starts to dry up.
When the rest time is over, knead the dough again for 5 mins on your kneading surface. Place it back in the oiled bowl, cover and let it rest for another 30 mins. Half way through the resting time, preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius on a fan setting.
When the time is up, knead the dough again for 5 mins and divide the dough into 10 equal balls. Place each ball on your kneading surface and press them down flat with the palm of your hand, gently pushing outwards until you get a round-ish shaped bun. Transfer to your baking sheet and re-form any of the buns that have lost their shape. It doesn’t have to be perfectly round – remember we are going for a rustic look!
Press a few slices of the peaches into each bun and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake the buns for 30-35 minutes until they start to brown slightly.
While waiting, get out your prosciutto and salad leaves. Tear up the prosciutto into small pieces and wash and tear any large salad leaves.
Once the buns are done, take them out of the oven, top with the torn up prosciutto and salad leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly sprinkle some salt on top before serving.
Tis’ the season for stone fruits and we pay tribute to them this week, starting with this very quick and easy recipe featuring nectarines. Serve it up as dessert on a warm Summer afternoon or pile it on toast or pancakes for a fast and fancy brunch treat.
Most nectarines are sold slightly underripe because, like most stone fruits, they bruise very easily. So after buying nectarines, let them ripen for a couple of days at room temperature before eating or using them in cooking. If you can’t find nectarines, you can replace them with apricots for this recipe.
Prep time: 10 mins Cook time: 10-15 mins
2 tbsps melted butter
4 heaped tbsps brown sugar
125 g mascarpone
1 vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds (or a tsp of vanilla extract)
Honey, for drizzling
Turn the oven to 180 deg c. Line a baking or roasting tray.
Cut around the nectarines and twist open. Remove the stone from the middle by carefully cutting it out. If it’s quite ripe, the stone may easily be pulled out. Slice each half of the nectarine into 4 slices. Place these on the baking tray.
Melt the butter and set to the side. Sprinkle the sugar as evenly as possible over the nectarine slices and carefully pour the melted butter over the slices so that all the nectarines are coated. Place this in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until the sugar caramelises and the nectarines are lightly browned. They don’t have to brown evenly, all we want is for the nectarines to be coated with the delicious, sticky brown caramel.
While the nectarines are roasting, mix the mascarpone with the ricotta and add the vanilla – either the scraped out seeds or the extract and mix well.
Once the nectarines are done, leave them to cool down and then transfer them to little bowls or plates, dollop the mascarpone and ricotta mix on top and drizzle a teaspoon or tablespoon of honey over them (depending how sweet you like it!). Alternatively, smear the cheese on a slice of toast or some pancakes or dollop on waffles and arrange the nectarine slices on top and then drizzle with honey. We also sprinkled the tops with lightly toasted poppy seeds but almonds could work really well too!
Another dessert in honour of our Singaporean national colours – red and white. We packed some of these up for friends, also missing home here in London, as a wee National Day treat. The great thing about individual portions is that you can eat the cake yourself before anyone else does without having to cut out a slice, which you just can’t do if you’re taking the cake to someone’s house for a party or giving it away as a gift.
Prep: 20 minutes + 15 minutes after baking Cook time: 20-25 mins
200 g softened butter
200 g sugar
250g self raising flour (or plain flour with a tsp of baking powder)
1 tsp vanilla extract
strawberry or raspberry jam
100ml double cream, cold
Turn the oven on to 150 deg c. Line a cupcake or muffin tin or grease with some butter and set aside.
Beat the butter with some sugar until it turns pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure they mix in well. Now, add the vanilla extract and mix well. Sieve the flour to introduce more air into it and then fold it into the batter. Fold gently and avoid any hard mixing at this stage.
Fill each muffin cup to 3/4 full and place in the oven. After 12 minutes, or when you see the cakes starting to turn a more golden colour, turn the tray 180 degrees so the cakes brown evenly. Leave it in for another 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean.
While the cakes are baking, pour the cold cream into a mixer and beat till it forms peaks. Careful not to over-beat or it will start to look lumpy and separate. Fold in 2 tbsps of sifted icing sugar.
Once the cakes are ready, put them on a rack to cool completely. Using a sharp knife, slice the cakes in half horizontally so you can make a sandwich. On one cut half, cut side up, plop a dollop of cream in the middle and spread very lightly (not all the way to the edge as that will happen automatically when you press the top part of the cake down on top of the cream). On the other half of the cake, cut side up, dollop some jam and again, spread very lightly. Now carefully bring both halves together so that the cream and jam are sandwiched in the middle. Make sure the cake is completely cooled so the jam and cream don’t melt in the middle and start dripping out.
We placed a star-shaped cutter (Singapore’s flag has 5 stars on it) on top of the cake before dusting over icing sugar with a sieve but you can just sieve directly over the cake or use any shaped cutter you like!
We packed them up in some nice red and white tissue and tied it all up with some brown string, but only after we stuffed our own faces with a couple of these delicious little poppers!