How to Make a Perfect Salad 0

February 20, 2018


Summer was made for salads. Or is it that salads were made for summer? Our summer has been incredibly hot, tropical and steamy; far too hot for cooking. I seem to be able to bear the heat for cake making (like this one, summer fruit skillet cake) but not for regular cooking. Priorities? 😉


So, what’s the secret of a good salad? In my opinion it’s all about balance. Here are the flavours and textures you want to include, with examples:


Neutral base: Greens or rice or pasta or beans

Sweet ‘n’ juicy: Cherry tomatoes, apple, pear, roasted carrot, roasted eggplant

Protein: Chicken, bacon, feta, mozzarella

Salty: Shards of parmesan, tiny slices of preserved lemon

Sour & Pickled: Capers, pickled ginger, quick-pickled radish

Herb: Mint, oregano, dill, parsley

Texture: toasted pine nuts, croutons, toasted rice, crushed peanuts


You could add some of these aspects by throwing on a sauce or dressing, but I think the best salads have these components as direct ingredients. Plus, nothing worse than a soggy, overdressed salad.

Finally, make sure to season your salad. If it needs it- taste first! – add a bit of olive oil and vinegar.


So, with that “formula” in mind, here is my current favourite summer salad –



Beetroot, Feta, Caper-berries & Fennel Flower Salad


Base: Cooked beetroot cut into quarters

Sweet ‘n’ juicy: apple cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks

Protein: soft feta, broken into chunks

Salty: a couple of pieces of preserved lemon, sliced

Sour & Pickled: caper-berries, stalks removed and cut in half

Herb: Mint leaves, torn + a few soft fennel fronds

Texture: Fresh fennel flower tops (tear the tops off small, soft ones)

Season: salt + pepper


My fennel is giving me more flowers than I know what to do with and I love the little pops of aniseed flavour they give to this salad. You’ll need to use the small, soft, baby flower heads as the more mature flowers can be too overpowering. If you don’t have fennel flowers in your garden you could try toasted cumin seeds or sesame seeds, toasted pinenuts or croutons. Apple cucumber can be substituted with regular cucumber. Preserved lemon can be left out if you don’t have it but if you do – please use it! Preserved lemon – salty, jammy and tangy – is my new addiction.


What is your “formula” for a perfect salad? What is your current favourite salad?

H x



Apricot cake 0

February 13, 2018


Nothing says summer like an abundance of apricots.


You might be a nectarine fan or a lover of plums or mad-keen on those scarlet, seed freckled, early season strawberries, but apricots are the summer fruit for me. When I was a kid my Dad loved them best and, well, I loved my Dad (still do) so apricots it was. Suede-skinned, so easy to split, sweet and soft – how can you not be biased?


This cake might not be the prettiest to look at, but it’s the perfect pedestal for summer apricots. It’s got a good moist crumb and the base and edges are slightly crisp from being cooked in the skillet. The topping is rich, sweet and jammy; adding rosemary and a pinch of nutmeg lends a lovely warm and woody flavour.


I served this cake to my book club (over discussions about Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel) with silver cake forks I inherited from my Dad’s Mum, my Nana. I also made it for my youngest daughter’s birthday. It’s a great cake for taking to a barbecue, dishing up for afternoon tea or slowly devouring with someone you like, slice by slice, lying on a picnic blanket in a fragrant garden, bumblebees in the lavender, cicadas acting as violinists. Up to you. However you choose to share it (or not) I suggest accompanying it with handfuls of fresh berries and big dollops of cream that has been whipped with a little vanilla paste. If your rosemary is in flower you can snip off a few purple flowers and scatter them on top too.




Apricot Cake


For this recipe you will need a 10 inch well-seasoned cast-iron or heavy non-stick skillet at least 2 inches deep


Topping ingredients

  • 113 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 10 or 11 small (2 – 2 1/4-inch) fresh apricots, halved lengthwise and pitted
  • Handful of fresh rosemary sprigs, roughly chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg


Cake ingredients

  • 1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 113 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • 3/4 cup plain greek yoghurt


Step 1: Topping:


Note: for your cake – preheat your oven to 375°F / 190 C on fan bake now

Heat butter in skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides.

Reduce heat to low and sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter, then cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes (not all of sugar will be melted).

Remove skillet from heat and arrange apricot halves, cut sides down, close together on top of brown sugar. Scatter over rosemary, salt and nutmeg.


Step 2: Make cake batter:


Sift together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt into a small bowl.

Beat together butter, sugar, and extracts in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 3 to 4 minutes with a handheld. Beat in eggs 1 at a time then beat until mixture is creamy and approximately doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes.

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches alternately with yoghurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and beat just until combined.

Gently spoon batter over apricots and spread gently and evenly.


Step 3: Bake cake:


If your skillet isn’t ovenproof, wrap handle with heavy-duty foil (or a double layer of regular foil) before baking. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean, around 35 – 45 minutes.

Wearing oven mitts, immediately invert a large plate over skillet and, keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together, invert cake onto plate. Carefully lift skillet off cake and, if necessary, replace any fruit that is stuck to bottom of skillet. Cool to warm or room temperature.






Pregnant Woman Keeps Working 3

January 24, 2018

Well now, that’s hardly a headline is it? How many millions of pregnant women are working at this very moment? You might have done it yourself; you might be doing it right now. But what if that pregnant woman is the leader of an entire nation?


image via


Last week Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, announced her pregnancy in a post featuring a photograph of three fishhooks, including a tiny baby fishhook curled into a larger Mama fishhook (her partner, Clarke Gayford, is known for his love of fishing). Ardern explained on Twitter and Instagram:


And we thought 2017 was a big year! Clarke and I are really excited that in June our team will expand from two to three, and that we’ll be joining the many parents out there who wear two hats. I’ll be Prime Minister AND a mum, and Clarke will be “first man of fishing” and stay at home dad. I think it’s fair to say that this will be a wee one that a village will raise, but we couldn’t be more excited. I know there will be lots of questions, and we’ll answer all of them (I can assure you we have a plan all ready to go!) But for now, bring on 2018.”


And just like that, in the age of politicians making casual social media announcements, Jacinda Ardern is set to take her place in an exclusive club of heads of government who have had babies while in office. The only other Prime Minister in this club being Benazir Bhutto, who, in 1990, gave birth to her daughter, Bakhtawar, while serving as Prime Minister of Pakistan.


Of course, not everyone is a fan of Jacinda Ardern. She is a politician after all, it’s an occupational hazard. Some voters were terrified this is exactly what would happen if we allowed a woman of a “child-bearing age” to lead the country. In fact, Ardern was only chosen to lead her party, Labour (oh, the puns will be great!), only 54 days out from the national election. Then, during the election, Ardern’s party did not receive the majority of votes, they went to the incumbent National party. Talk about being behind the eight ball. Following the election Jacinda managed to form a coalition with smaller parties, New Zealand First and the Green party, which made it possible for Ardern to become Prime Minister of New Zealand on the 26th October 2017. In the space of less than one year Ardern will have become leader of her political party, Prime Minister of New Zealand and first time Mum. Did I mention that Ardern is the world’s youngest female head of government, having taken office at age 37?


I’ll admit it – I had tears in my eyes when I read Ardern’s baby announcement. Various personal politics aside, I know many women who reacted exactly the same way. Clearly there’s nothing new or unique about pregnancy, but this declaration felt special. Special and important. A Prime Minister is saying to the world it’s possible to be a leader and a woman, a leader and a Mum, that we can (and will) do these things despite resistance or in the absence of precedent. Ardern’s example, with her partner Clarke Gayford, demonstrates so many things: that ambition and family are not mutually exclusive, that fathers can parent well and equally and that it’s high time for old gender stereotypes to be shattered.


While writing this my three children (all daughters) have interrupted me approximately forty-five times. It’s summer school holidays and the weather is bad, the tensions running high. One daughter is currently wearing a winter hat and a swimsuit with a jammy muesli bar stuck on her index finger. When I explained to them what I was writing about (and why I had tears in my eyes) my eldest daughter, age seven, simply shrugged. She was completely unfazed by the news that the leader of our country is going to have a baby. Her attitude said it all – “who cares?” I briefly felt a bit sad about her apathy. But then I realised – this is exactly the point. A pregnant woman is just doing her job. This is no big deal. This is my daughter’s normal. And isn’t that just the best thing about it?




Book Crush: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 1

January 16, 2018


Days after reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and I am still thinking about it. But, I’ll be honest, its fantastical premise initially put me off.


“One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.”

(from Knopf jacket copy)


So in Station Eleven we have: a near-future world in which electricity, oil, cities, law and borders no longer exist due to a pandemic that wiped out most of the world’s population, a travelling troupe comprised of Shakespearean actors and orchestra musicians, a prophet and science fiction comic books, all with multiple threads that lead back to a miserable celebrity / actor who, in the first chapter of the book, dies in the midst of performing King Lear. See what I mean? It’s a huge web of an idea.

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Baked French Toast with Panettone and Raspberries 0

January 9, 2018

A one-dish wonder for a breakfast gathering. Hot and custardy, made crunchy by the baked sugar on top, this pudding-ish breakfast is punctuated with tiny, jammy, sweet-sour, in-season raspberries. An easy crowd-pleaser which can also be eaten the next day, cold or warmed, with a drizzle of pouring cream.



I do love a breakfast that looks a bit fancy but requires minimal effort. This might also apply to my taste in fashion (no ironing!) and hair and homeware and just about everything. Lazy-fancy. That’s pretty much my modus operandi. A recipe has to be intriguing and delicious enough to beat simply buying in food, but quick and easy enough that I can be bothered. There’s a fine balance going on and this recipe absolutely fits the bill.


Speaking of Bill… this recipe is based on an excellent Bill Granger recipe from Bill’s Basics  (and we all know how I love things to be basic). French toast is a favourite but I’m not too enamoured with standing around frying individual pieces of bread while everyone else is happily chatting. All this dish requires is assembling, sliding into the oven and retrieving once baked – much easier than french toast. Plus, I really love pudding and am keen to find recipes that allow me to get away with serving it for breakfast.


I find that it really only takes one interesting ingredient to make a basic recipe seem fancy. In this simple dish the fancy element is panettone. Panettone is a cakey-bread given and served at Christmas time in Italy, a favourite to have with a dark, strong espresso. Panettone is light and sweet – a bit like brioche, but even fluffier / lighter – and studded with candied citrus; you will have seen the tall, impressive cardboard boxes at your supermarket.


This raspberry dotted dish is a winner for when you have guests staying and you need to serve breakfast for a crowd. It’s delicious, pretty and easy so it ticks all the boxes. Panettone translates to “Tony’s Bread” so if you happen to have a friend named Tony you could (probably should) invite him over and impress him with this.



Baked French Toast with Panettone and Raspberries


500 ml milk

250 pouring cream

4 eggs

zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons softened butter

80 ml maple syrup

1 Panettone (sliced)

100 grams raspberries

3 tablespoons Demerara sugar


optional / to serve: greek yoghurt




Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade / gas mark 4 / 360 fahrenheit

Whisk the milk, cream, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla in a large bowl. Butter an ovenproof dish (I used an approximately 30 x 20cm rectangular one) and drizzle the base with the maple syrup.


Arrange the panettone slices in the dish, tucking the raspberries between the slices as you go (save some raspberries for the top). Pour the milk-cream-eggs mixture over the panettone, scatter with the remaining raspberries and top with sprinkled demerara sugar. Allow to soak for ten minutes.


Bake for 50 – 60 minutes and serve with thick greek yoghurt, if you fancy it.

Any leftovers can be eaten the next day, cold or hot, with a glug of runny cream.


Love, Hannah x