Date and Ginger Cake

Montage 1

I recently heard of the concept of a ‘house-cooling’ (from the infinite wisdom that is Kinfolk magazine). This is pretty self-explanatory, being the opposite of housewarming: it involves saying a fond farewell to a dwelling that has provided so many memories, and welcoming in the transition and all its exciting new developments. My friends Alex and Heather have lived on a houseboat for the past 3 years. The time has come to say goodbye to the converted Dutch barge, and they are moving out of the boat onto dry land.

Montage 2

I made this dark and sticky ginger and date cake to take to the ‘boat–cooling’ gathering. I felt that feeling something stodgy and spicy might be in order, not least to fuel the impending sorting and moving of an entire boat-worth of stuff. We ate the cake huddled in the warmth of the boat, feeling the calm sway of the water and remembering all the many previous days and evenings spent there. This time felt poignant given the shift in seasons too – saying farewell to the boat and farewell to summer. There was a definite fizz of excitement around the anticipation of the next exciting phase, of things to come.

Montage 3

 

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Vegessential: Quinoa Porridge with Roasted Beetroot, Apple and Ginger

Quinoa Porridge

My friend Paris has started a food and lifestyle website called Avocado Please. She writes interesting and informative articles on all manner of topics, from muesli to nail varnish. We decided to ‘collaborate’ by writing some recipes together, then making, styling and eating the food. I have recently started trying to incorporate much more veg into my diet, and have therefore been thinking more outside the box when it comes to using vegetables in a variety of different ways. The idea is to make vegetables a more essential part of our diets, hence Paris coining the genius ‘vegessential’ to describe our project. We decided to focus on one ingredient and experiment with how it can be used in a variety of dishes, both savoury and sweet. After much deliberation, considering among others avocados, sweet potatoes and kale, we eventually settled on beetroot. It’s pretty versatile, and has been reliably tested in cakes. It’s also cheap, and, as anyone whose ever grated a raw beetroot will testify, seems to go on forever.

beetroot montage

The idea is to demonstrate how you can get more out of one ingredient- focusing on how it can be used throughout the week, to reduce waste and get us all thinking more creatively about using vegetables. Beetroot usually comes elastic-banded together in a group of at least 4, and just grating them into salads can get a bit tedious. So, beetroot on your porridge anyone? Quinoa porridge, made by cooking the grain slowly in milk, is something that I’ve heard of on the grapevine (and seen on Instagram) but never tried. Something that might cause a frown among the less open minded of cooks. But I was prepared to go in with an open mind. We also added stewed apple and fresh ginger, to liven the proceedings up a bit.

Ingredients montage

Quinoa. However it’s pronounced – my Dad still insists on ‘keenoya’, even though I repeatedly insist that it’s ‘keenwa’ – it seems to be taking the health food world by storm. Usually the preserve of salads and the like, but rarely used in sweet dishes. The result, despite trying to go in with the aforementioned open mind, was…interesting. Pleasantly creamy and nutty, which was helped by the almond milk. But it was oddly savoury – maybe because quinoa is a taste and texture that I associate with savoury food. I think my mouth was slightly confused at being presented with quinoa and having to process that it was sweet. We roasted the beetroot in rice syrup, adding to the sweetness, but overall the dish was still too savoury for my liking. After all, I’m not one of those strange individuals who puts salt on their porridge – for me it’s got to be a sweet thing.  We could have equally made these ingredients into a salad, omitting the almond milk. A worthwhile experiment, but I think I might add more sugar next time.

Porridge

 

For the recipe and riveting beetroot-related facts, visit www.avocadoplease.com.

Rhubarb and Ginger Gin

gin

I am an obsessive reader of food blogs. I have about 20 of my favourites bookmarked on my computer, and consider it a good use of a few hours to go through them all on a regular basis. Some people put up new entries with astonishing regularity – I consider anything over the one post a week that I manage as pretty superhuman.

rhubarb cordial

Every blog contains in it the promise of inspiration- whether it be a new recipe, an interesting way of styling a shot or simply a well written post. The best blogs, in my opinion, have to have good photographs- that’s why most of the blogs I follow are by food photographers. The attention to detail and the quality of the photographs always inspires me to push myself in my own photography.

ginger

I’m always excited when I discover a new blog. Usually, this comes about via Instagram, which is my new Facebook, although that rather seems like replacing heroin with cocaine.  Lately I discovered not one but two new blogs – Call Me Cupcake (don’t be put off by the twee name) by the Swedish photographer Linda Lomelino, and Nordljus, by the Japanese photographer Keiko Oikawa. Both of these blogs contain photographs that make me want to weep with how beautiful they are.

glasses

One of the things that inspired me about the photography in both of these blogs in their attention to how each shot is set up – creating a balanced composition and filling the frame. Each item is placed with such precision, yet looks very natural. So I tried to emulate this in my photos for this post. I used a vase of flowers and a chequered cloth as props, to add visual interest. I also thought carefully about how I positioned each item, and how the colours would work together. And after all that, I fancied a bit of gin.

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