Author Archives: Monica

No Churn Zabaglione Ice Cream

Zabaglione Ice Cream

This recipe emerged after a stint of tiramisu making while I was visiting my family for Christmas in 2012. We made the entire tiramisu from scratch, including the ladyfingers, and it was a bit of a mission. The adventure left us with a lot of leftover marsala wine and whipped cream, which led me to this ice cream creation.

Zabaglione Ice Cream

Zabaglione is an Italian custard whose core ingredients are egg yolks, sugar and a sweet wine (usually Marsala). Effort-wise, this ice cream version of Zabaglione is the complete opposite of tiramisu. There are only four ingredients and you don’t need an ice cream maker to achieve a scoopable, almost fluffy ice cream (you can thank the whipping cream for that). Sure, there’s some double boiler action going on and a little cream whipping, but trust me, you can do this!

Zabaglione ice cream in progress. #bsfic

I made this at least twice while I was visiting home, largely because my mom was kind of obsessed with it. So there you have it folks, a mom-approved ice cream that’s easy to make and just as good as tiramisu (stick a lady finger in it and enjoy it with a hot espresso if you don’t believe me!).

Zabaglione Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 150ml dry Marsala
  • 150ml whipping cream
  • crushed amaretti biscuits (optional)

Method

  1. Put the egg yolks into a large bowl that will fit over a saucepan. Add the sugar and whisk until the mixture is pale and thick and leaves a trail when the beaters are lifted.
  2. Whisk in the Marsala, then put the bowl over (not in) a pan of simmering water and continue whisking until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
  3. Remove from the heat, stand the bowl in cold water and whisk until cool (or put it in the fridge for a few hours).
  4. Whip the cream until it just holds its shape. Add to the cold zabaglione and whisk together.
  5. Pour into a container and freeze for about 1½-2 hours or until firm. Serve in small glasses or bowls, garnished with crushed amaretti biscuits if you’d like.

Zabaglione Ice Cream in progress

Zabaglione Ice Cream
I am submitting this to Kavey’s Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream challenge. Trust me, you will totally scream for this one!

Plum Upside Down Cake

Plum upside down cake

I have recently been the grateful recipient of a large quantity of Damson Plums thanks to the generosity of nature and my friend Gloria Nicol. Some of these plums have been turned into Damson Vodka, others were made into Gloria’s recipe for Dumpsideary Jam from her book 100 Jams, Jellies, Preserves and Pickles. But the first thing I did was turn some of these plums – super soft, ripe and sweet – into a cake.

Plum upside down cake

I was inspired by my friend (and pastry chef) Kathy (aka stresscake) to go for an upside down cake. She did something very similar with her plums last August and aptly pointed out that a recipe like this will help you get through a pound and a half or so of plums in an extremely delicious way (very handy if you have a lot of plums to get through).

Damson Plums

Upside down cakes are really easy to make, but usually the reserve for pineapples (and if you’re going that route, Kathy’s got a classic Pineapple Upside Down Cake Recipe, too). Plums offer a nice twist on this, with a hint of spice in the cake complimenting the autumnal plums. If you don’t have a cake pan that is large enough to fit all of the batter called for in this recipe, you can make smaller mini upside down cakes in ramekins which are really fun.

Plum upside down cake

I really love this plum upside down cake served with creme fraiche or Greek yogurt, but vanilla ice cream or whipped cream would go equally well.

Plum Upside Down Cake

For the plum layer

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • 12-15 damsons (or other plum), halved and pitted
  • Blackberries or blueberries (optional)

For the cake

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup milk

To serve

  • Whipped cream, creme fraiche or ice cream

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F. Put 4 Tbsp of butter in a 9-inch-diameter skillet or cake pan. Put the pan in the oven and leave it until the butter has melted. Remove the pan and swirl the butter around so its distributed evenly. Sprinkle over 3/4 cup of brown sugar. Lay the plums on top of the sugar in a single, tightly-packed layer, skin-side up. If you’d like, fill in any gaps with blackberries or blueberries.
  2. Now make the batter. Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Beat the remaining 6 Tbsp butter in large bowl with an electric mixer until light. Add sugar and beat until creamy. Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and almond extract.
  3. Add the milk and the dry ingredients to the mixture and mix with a spatula just until blended. Spoon batter evenly over plums. Bake  until golden and a toothpick or knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean (this will take about 50-60 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack; cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Using a knife, cut around the pan sides to loosen the cake. Place a plate on top of the cake pan then invert the cake. Let it stand with the pan still on for 5 minutes, then gently lift off the pan. Serve cake warm with whipped cream, creme fraiche or ice cream.

Plum upside down cake

Raw Double Chocolate Brownies

Raw Vegan Brownies

Here is a brownie that ticks all the right boxes – raw, vegan, gluten-free, paleo… – and they taste delicious too. The classic raw brownie is made by blitzing dates, nuts and cocoa in a food processor and mushing the mix together into a ball or bar. Though tasty, those raw brownies are also very dense and usually very sweet because it takes a lot of dates to hold the mixture together. These raw brownies are a slightly different breed. Made with coconut flour, ground almonds and apple puree, they have a texture that’s much more like a traditional brownie.

I was inspired to make these by Emma Potts of Coconut & Berries who posted a recipe for Raw Berry Cream Brownies which totally got my attention. I used a similar method for the brownie base, but instead of a berry cream topping, I went for chocolate ganache – it was a double chocolate kind of day.

This recipe uses cacao powder, which you can readily buy at health food shops or online. I make my own cacao powder from Naturya Cacao Nibs which I blitz to a powder in my blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9400 which has a jug specially made for grinding dry ingredients). You could do the same to make almond flour, too.

Raw Vegan Brownies

Alternatively, if you’re not fussed about the raw aspect, you can use regular cocoa powder (cocoa powder is made by roasting cacao at high temperatures, which destroys some of the enzymes, and makes it no longer raw – snap!).

Another bonus to these brownies is they give me an opportunity to use my retro vintage nut grinder! Perfect for sprinkling walnuts on top of the brownies! (Of course, you could just use a knife and a cutting board instead.)

Raw Vegan Brownies

Raw Double Chocolate Brownies 

Makes 6 brownies.

For the brownies:

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 Tbsp maple syrup or agave (add more or less depending on how sweet you like your brownies)
  • 1/3 cup apple puree or mashed banana
  • 1/3 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder if you aren’t worried about the raw thing)
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup ground almonds or almond flour
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • pinch of salt

For the ganache:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar (or other liquid sweetener of choice)
  • small pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method

  1. Line a small baking tin or container with parchment paper.
  2. Mix all of the brownie ingredients together with your hands or in a food processor. You should get a very thick mixture.
  3. Spread the mixture into the prepared container and smooth out the top. Refrigerate or freeze.
  4. For the ganache, melt the coconut oil over low heat in a medium pot. Remove from heat and whisk in the cacao powder, agave, salt, and vanilla until combined and smooth.
  5. Pour the ganache over the brownies and spread out evenly. If you’d like, dust the top with cacao powder and/or chopped walnuts. Put back into the refrigerator to chill.
  6. Remove from the refrigerator, slice and enjoy!

Raw Vegan Brownies

There are lots more people out there grinding their own flours and powders to make awesome snacks. Check out Nazima’s Fig and Blackberry Crumble using her own quinoa flour, and Emma’s Flatbread made with almond and oat flour.

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

 

Mixed Vegetable and Tofu Coconut Curry

Tofu Coconut Curry

It doesn’t make the prettiest of pictures but that’s curry for you. This is one of those anything-goes curries and is a great way to use some of those trickier items in the veggie box. On this particular occasion, the vegetable that mystified me most was runner beans. I know this is staple British fare but where I’m from in the US, I’d never seen them before. So when a big bunch of runner beans arrived in the Riverford box last week, I was mystified. When in doubt: make a curry. And in this case, the runner beans turned out to be the star of the show.

Riverford Box

To make this curry, I had on hand my friend Donovan, a real Master of Taste especially when it comes to Asian flavours. We were lucky to have some fresh turmeric around (gratefully received from my friend Jo at Demuths Cookery School) which we combined with cumin, coriander, chilli, lime and coconut to create a tangy, creamy spicy sauce for the vegetables. In addition to the runner beans, we also made use of carrots, potatoes, celery, red pepper and broccoli, all from the Riverford box. The beans really made this dish, though, their fresh green flavour going perfectly with the coconut sauce.

Donovan at work on Tofu Coconut Curry

We ate this like a soup with some crusty sourdough bread – a bit of fusion, I know – but you could also have it over rice or noodles.

Tofu Coconut Curry

Mixed Vegetable and Tofu Coconut Curry

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 inch chunk of fresh turmeric, finely chopped (or 1/4 tsp turmeric powder)
  • 1 inch chunk of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 potatoes, peeled, diced and par-boiled
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 8-10 runner beans, sliced into then 2-inch pieces
  • 250g tofu, cubed
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • salt and pepper
  • handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, cayenne, sugar, paprika, lime juice and some salt and pepper (and the turmeric powder if using).
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a wok or frying pan on medium heat. Add the turmeric, ginger, garlic, onion, carrots, celery and red pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Add the lime juice and spices and stir to combine. Add the coconut milk, tofu, runner beans and broccoli and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked but still have some bite to them.
  4. Serve garnished with fresh coriander and lime wedges.

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

 

Squash and Sweetcorn Tamales

Roast Butternut Tamales with Mole Poblano

Last night I had a little Tamale Party with friends Jane, Jimmy and Steve to celebrate Jane’s and Jimmy’s Month of Anniversary. The event stemmed from a recent walk in Wales, wherein I expressed to Jane and Jimmy my desire to further my tamale practice, and they offered themselves as willing taste testers and sous chefs.

Hot Tamale Party Chalkboard Menu

There was a pretty steep learning curve here, and I admit our tamale rolling efforts weren’t exquisite (that may have been the numerous margaritas, white russians, negronis and long island iced teas talking). So this morning I woke up and had another sober attempt at rolling tamales, and things went pretty well, so I thought I’d share my notes and photos from the process in case it’s helpful to anyone else.

Roast Butternut Tamales with Mole Poblano

The recipe I used as a base is Rachel Demuth’s Tamales Rellenos de Calabacin from Demuths Cookery School which uses roast butternut squash and feta for the filling. I’ve written about this recipe before, but this time I made a few tweaks that I think improved matters considerably. I added roasted red pepper and sweetcorn to mine – the corn really made it for me. Instead of feta, I did some tamales with queso fresco, and others with goats cheese. The queso fresco offered a nice melty chewy cheesy hit, but I think I preferred the salty creaminess of the goats cheese tamales.

Big learning points were: make sure that the batter is pretty soft – you should be able to smear it across the husk with a spoon; also, spread the batter in one corner of the husk – this makes rolling the tamale a no-brainer (this video was very helpful in this regard).

My tamale technique still needs practice and I’d love to experiment with other fillings, so hopefully my amazing sous chefs will return for more tamale rolling and taste testing, and requisite margarita drinking which, let’s face it, makes even the most poorly rolled tamale taste like a dream!

Squash and Sweetcorn Tamales

I recommend serving these with mole poblano sauce, but you could also do any kind of salsa, red or green, or a creamy verde sauce.

Makes about 10 tamales.

Ingredients

  • 20 large fresh or dried sweetcorn husks

For the masa

  • 200g masa harina
  • 50g butter, softened
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50mls milk
  • 100mls vegetable stock

For the filling

  • 100g queso fresco, goats cheese, feta or other cheese of choice
  • 1 small butternut squash (or another variety if available)
  • corn kernels from 1 ear of corn
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 chopped fresh red chilli
  • 4 cloves garlic, whole with the skin on
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • Chopped coriander
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Olive oil

Method:

  1. Roast the squash and red peppers in a hot oven (180/gas mark 7) with the garlic, chilli, thyme, and olive oil until it is soft-this should take 30-40 minutes. When cooked remove the garlic from its skin and pound in a pestle and mortar and then stir back through the squash. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir through some chopped coriander and lime juice. Add the corn and crumble in the cheese (or if using a very soft cheese like goats cheese, keep it separate until you are filling the tamales).
    Roast Butternut Tamales with Mole Poblano
  2. To prepare the sweet corn husks, if fresh, carefully peel the husks off the cobs and place in a saucepan of boiling water and simmer for 5minutes, drain and leave to cool. If using dried husks soak them in hot water for 30minutes. When they are soft rinse them under running water as you separate them. Lay them flat on a plate and keep them covered with a damp cloth.
  3. To prepare the masa, combine the masa harina with the salt and baking powder. Add the butter in chunks and crumble it through with your hands until it reaches the consistency of breadcrumbs (much like making scones).
  4. Add the milk and stock and mix with your hands until combined and you have a soft dough. Add a bit more milk until it becomes easily spreadable (slightly softer than the consistency of scone dough).
  5. To assemble a tamale, take on corn husk and place it on the table. Put a heaped spoonful of batter in one corner of the husk and spread it out into a long rectangle with two sides running along the edge of the husk (see picture below).
    Roast Butternut Tamales with Mole Poblano
  6. Take a spoonful of the filling and spread it out down the middle of the masa. Roll the tamale as you would a burrito, starting with the end where the masa is flush with the side of the corn husk, rolling over so that the edges of the masa meet, folding up the bottom corner of the tamale, and then finishing the roll.
  7. Steam the tamales in a vegetables steamer. Cover the bottom of the steamer with some left over husks, place the tamales standing upright and fill the spaces between them with wads of silver foil. Cover the top with a lid or cover with silver foil. Steam for 45- 60 minutes. You can tell when they are done because the masa will be soft and sponge like.
  8. Serve them as soon as possible, before the masa becomes stodgy.

Beetroot and Carrot Slaw

Raw Carrot & Beetroot Salad with Raisins & Pine Nuts

I’m on a bit of a raw food kick lately. Of course when it comes to raw food, it’s all about the quality of the ingredients, which should ideally be organic and locally sourced to maximise their flavour potential. In this way, my recent Riverford boxes have been packed full of autumn inspiration, with carrots and beetroot being mainstays for the last couple of weeks. Most of my beets typically go straight into the juicer, but recently I’ve been look for other ways to enjoy beetroot in its pure unadulterated form.

Riverford Box

Most recently, my favourite way to enjoy raw beetroot is shredded in combination with carrots and dressed with something sweet and tangy. Here I use raisins for the sweetness and lemon and white wine vinegar for the tang. Feel free to experiment with other dried fruits like dates, apricots or prunes. Same goes for the nuts: I use pine nuts but pistachios would be fantastic here, as would some toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Raw Carrot & Beetroot Salad with Raisins & Pine Nuts

Many people don’t often brave the gory hand mess that comes with handling raw beetroot. But really, folks, the mess isn’t that bad and the result is fantastic. Just wear an apron and go to it!

And if the slaw isn’t enough, here’s more beetroot inspiration for you:

Raw Carrot & Beetroot Salad with Raisins & Pine Nuts

Beetroot and Carrot Slaw

Serves 2-3 (or one greedy Monica)

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 beetroot
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp raisins
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • small handful parsley
  • small handful mint
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted

Method

  1. Combine the raisins, vinegar and garlic in a bowl and leave to sit for about an hour.
  2. Peel the carrots and beetroot and grate them with a box grater or a julienne slicer (a julienne slicer looks prettier).
  3. Combine the raisins, vinegar and garlic with the carrots and beetroot, then toss with the olive oil, lemon juice, most of the parsley and mint, salt and pepper.
  4. Serve the slaw scattered with pine nuts and sprinkled with the extra herbs.

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

Do Sleep Apps Help You Sleep?

sleep-cycle

Sleep is one of those universal activities that also seems to be almost universally problematic for even the best of sleepers. The quest for better sleep is inherent to all of us, and the secret to a good night’s sleep is different for everyone. For that reason, my friend Fiona Beckett has recently launched a new website called Secrets of A Good Nights Sleep which explores various theories behind the illusive good night’s sleep.

One such theory suggests that we should track our sleep to better understand our rhythms and adjust our sleep habits accordingly. I have recently been experimenting with two devices for sleep tracking – the FitBit One and the Sleep Cycle App for iPhone. How do they compare?

You can read my full review on Secrets of a Good Night’s Sleep: Do Sleep Apps Help You Sleep?

Family Recipes: Tomato Soup with Cheddar Cheese Dumplings

Mom's Tomato Soup with Cheddar Dumplings

I’ve been living in the UK for over seven years now. Along the way I’ve become a British citizenship, I’ve acquired a wonderful dog, and I’ve accumulated a lot of “stuff”. But I still regard Chicago as my “home”. It’s where I grew up and almost all of my family still live there, as do many dear friends. And even after seven years, I still get a little “homesick” sometimes.

Food is a natural way to go get my fix of virtual family time. I am very grateful to my mother who put together a family recipe book, a collection of recipes spanning three generations and nine households. I turn to this book often, with the most stained pages being Auntie Jo’s Sunshine Cake (now legendary across the globe), Aunt Sue’s Cranberry Chutney (a must-have at Christmas, amazing with Stilton), my sister’s Ranch Dressing (Clausen dill pickle juice is the key) and Grandma’s famous Oriental Coleslaw (especially popular with my friend, Henry).

SeasonedWithLove

The recent onset of cooler weather, paired with the end of tomato season, compelled me to turn to another page of the family recipe book: Mom’s Tomato Soup & Dumplings. This is a classic and probably shares the Gold with Matzo Ball Soup for Ultimate Comfort Soups by Mom. In fact, it’s worth saying that my mom is a soup genius – her Shorabat Addas and Green Lentil Soup are two favorites that I make frequently. (When is your book on SOUP coming out, Mom?)

Mom's Tomato Soup with Cheddar Dumplings

Back in the day, we used tomato soup from the Campbell’s can (jazzed up with fresh tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and grated cheese), but now that I grow my own tomatoes (and am wary of the salt and preservatives in tinned food), I make my own roasted tomato soup that is silky smooth without added milk, cream or cheese. The cheese element comes from the dumplings, which couldn’t be easier: mix up grated cheese, eggs and breadcrumbs then spoon in bits of the batter. The dumplings cook right in the soup.

Mom's Tomato Soup with Cheddar Dumplings

In this case I was prompted to use Davidstow Mature Cheddar in my dumplings thanks to my latest blog post on Great British Chefs featuring this very soup. You could use whatever cheese you have on hand – it might be fun playing with feta, parmesan, gruyere or a combination of cheeses. You could also add fresh or dried herbs. Feel free to use whatever bread you wish for the breadcrumbs – I tend to go for wholemeal bread crumbs but white works just as well and sourdough is absolutely dreamy.

Mom's Tomato Soup with Cheddar Dumplings

The soup is vegan without the dumplings. I haven’t tried vegan dumplings yet but there are a few recipes around, including these chickpea flour dumplings from Edible Mosaic and these rosemary dumplings from Post Punk Kitchen. In the non-vegan version, the eggs help puff up the dumplings making them nice and light. Without the eggs, the dumplings would seem very stodgy to me, so if anyone has some good suggestions for a vegan alternative, I’d love to hear them!

Mom's Tomato Soup with Cheddar Dumplings

Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheddar Cheese Dumplings

Serves 4

For the tomato soup:

  • 1kg ripe tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Small bunch of basil, separated into leaves and stalks*
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • grated cheddar (optional garnish)

For the dumplings

  • 2 slices bread, crumbled (or about 1/2 cup bread crumbs)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 oz grated cheddar cheese
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F and cut the tomatoes in half. Arrange the tomatoes cut-side up in a baking dish. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about an hour, until the tomatoes are totally soft and beginning to char around the edges.
  2. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a soup pot over a medium heat and add the onion, carrot and garlic. Cook for about 7 minutes until softened. Meanwhile, chop the basil stalks, and then add to the pan and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the roasted tomatoes (including any juices that seeped out) to the pan along with the vegetable stock. Stir and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down, cover and leave to simmer for about 10-20 minutes (until the carrots are very soft).
  4. Purée the soup in a blender (I used a Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender which works a dream for this purpose) then return to the pot and gently reheat.
  5. Meanwhile, make the dumplings by mixing together all of the ingredients – you should have a moist doughy mix that’s easy to shape into small balls (about the size of a teaspoon).
  6. Drop the balls into the hot soup and simmer covered for about 10 minutes.
  7. Ladle the soup and dumplings into bowls and garnish with grated cheddar cheese and fresh basil leaves before serving.

* The impressive bunch of basil pictured in the top photo was grown by The Organic Farm Shop, who also supplied a few extra tomatoes to go in my soup. I also used their eggs for the dumplings and can only imagine that their award-winning homemade cheeses would have lifted this recipe even further. Their ingredients are top of class and the shop itself is a treasure, with a vegetarian cafe and Indian textile shop to boot. I highly recommend giving them a visit if you’re ever in the Cirencester area!

Spoon Carving at The Cherry Wood Project

My spoons

Last Wednesday I spent the day in the woods learning to carve spoons from Tim Gatfield at The Cherry Wood Project near Bath. I was inspired to take the workshop after my brief but memorable brush with Spoonfest in Edale last June while road tripping around the UK. The trip was supposed to be all about walking and wild camping – and in many respects it was – but many of the trip highlights were found on my rest days. Spoonfest was one of them – thank you Gloria Nicol!

Spoon carving en masse.  I love seeing people geek out with their craft. #spoonfest #peakdistrict

I didn’t carve any spoons at Spoonfest, but I totally caught the buzz. Spoon carving en masse is an inspiring thing to behold. And it seemed a natural fit to my camping / walking / outdoorsy tendencies. And let’s face it, every good camper should know how to use an axe.

Spoon Carving Workshop at The Cherry Wood Project

Back home I decided to treat myself to a spoon carving workshop on my local turf. I found out about The Cherry Wood Project through Chris Allen (a spoon carver I am grateful to have met through Spoonfest who makes awesome whale spoons).

Spoon Carving Workshop at The Cherry Wood Project

The workshop with Tim left me wanting more – which is probably the best thing you can say about a day like this. I especially enjoyed getting to know the story behind The Cherry Wood Project, which you can read more about on their website. This excerpt from Tim is a good summary:

For many years I have had a keen interest in conservation, rural and craft skills, and living in a way that is more sustainable and sympathetic with nature. It had also long been a dream to own my own woodland, and I purchased Cherry Wood near Bath in 2005 with the intention of improving and managing the wood and setting up a ‘school’ to teach green woodworking skills to others, and pass on the pleasure of living and working in the woods. A previous career in the army has given me valuable knowledge of bushcraft and living outdoors, which I aim to pass on to students.

Spoon Carving Workshop at The Cherry Wood Project

I came home with two usable spoons, a knife, a hook knife and one small knick on my thumb. Now all I need is an axe and you all can guess what you’ll be getting for Christmas this year.

This was a happy day in an inspiring and beautiful place, a day spent carving wood around an open fire, with many tea breaks and an ace lunch in view of their enviable clay oven. I plan to return very soon (they have volunteer days everything Thursday). There is much to learn here, and really great people to learn with.

You can see all of my spoon carving pictures on Flickr. Here are a few favourites:

Spoon Carving Workshop at The Cherry Wood Project

Clay oven – me and my sourdough long for thee:

Clay Oven Envy

Crossfit skills finally being put to good use:

Spoon Carving Workshop at The Cherry Wood Project

Many tea breaks:

Spoon Carving Workshop at The Cherry Wood Project

Fantastic veggie / vegan lunch: Spoon Carving Workshop at The Cherry Wood Project Ewok Village Compost Loo:

Spoon Carving Workshop at The Cherry Wood Project

How I Make Sourdough Bread

Been using #JuiceFeast as an opportunity to practise my #sourdough. Really happy with how it's coming along (thank you @ed_fryer).

Having posted a few pictures of my sourdough loaves in recent weeks, a few people have asked me for my recipe. Making sourdough is about a lot more than just a recipe. True, I follow the book Tartine Bread very closely (a very generous gift from my friend Rita Munn in Tennessee which really got me going on sourdough bread baking). But the truth is, I’ve only ever become “good” at sourdough (and I put “good” in parentheses because I still have so much to learn) by baking a lot of loaves and talking to other people who bake sourdough. A recipe will get you started, but only practice – and probably a lot of shitty results – will get you to the kind of loaf you’re after.

Practice will teach you when your sourdough starter is happy and well.

Practice will teach you how the dough should “feel” when it’s ready for breaking.

Practice will get you good at working with a dough scraper and a dough knife. Practice will give you the confidence to let your bread rise in baskets and flip them over into a hot oven!

Practice as often as you can, and don’t be sad if you have to throw away a loaf or two (or make a lot of breadcrumbs) – it’s all part of the learning process.

If it makes you feel any better, this is what my loaves looked like in the beginning:

Try as I may...

The best help I’ve had with sourdough baking is through talking to fellow bakers, most recently Ed Fryer (#edbakes), and also Gloria Nicol and Azelia Torres. This has been especially true of getting to grips with sourdough starter, the place where everything begins.


I do recommend the book Tartine Bread for its extremely detailed description of how to make sourdough, including step-by-step photographs from start to finish. It also has a good set of recipes on which to build on once you get comfortable with the “basic country loaf”. I’m sure other bakers out there have similar tomes they could recommend.

Finally, there is no substitute for hands on guidance. Dan Lepard runs excellent sourdough masterclasses at Cookery School at Little Portland Street in London. Rachel Demuth also runs top notch bread making classes at Demuths Cookery School in Bath. Again, I’m sure there are loads more classes you could choose from as sourdough is become super trendy (and rightfully so).

Sourdough explosion: car snacks for travel buddy and leftovers for @Airbnb guests, who get mega props for funding this weekend's Cornwall mission (partially at least).

If you do start getting serious about your sourdough practice, you might find you have a lot of extra sourdough starter on your hands, in which case I recommend making some Sourdough Pancakes and/or Sourdough Crepes.

Any other recommended reading on sourdough? Recipes that use up sourdough starter? Fabulous baker peeps that sourdough bakers should follow? Please share in the comments!