31 July 2012

Plum, Almond and Blueberry Cake

I like plain cakes without too many frills and fancy things going on, but sometimes it is nice to do something a bit more special. This cake was a successful experiment and went rather well with our afternoon coffee - rich and moist thanks to the almonds, with juicy plums and sweet blueberries in the mix. I served it with boozy cream for extra indulgence - we were on holiday after all!

8 Ripe Plums
1 dl Blueberries
150 gms Almonds
3 Eggs
180 gms Flour
210 gms Sugar
75 gms Butter
1 tsp Baking Powder

Lightly Whipped Cream
Dark Rum

Start by blanching the almonds and removing the skins. Put them on a sheet of kitchen roll and leave to dry. Wash and halve the plums, taking out the stones as you go. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once dry, use a pestle and mortar to grind 3/4 of the almonds. Cut the rest in half length ways.
Whisk the eggs and sugar until fluffy. Mix the dry ingredients including the ground almonds. Add the melted butter to the egg mixture, then fold in the dry ingredients. Pour into a a greased and breaded cake tin. Gently push the plums down into the batter cut side up, the scatter the blueberries over the top. Sprinkle the almond halves and brown sugar on to the cake and bake for 40 minutes at 200 degrees.

30 July 2012

West coast is the best coast

I love London, I really do. But when Sweden decides to show its best sides, when the weather is good and the sea is clear, it is pretty hard to beat. 

29 July 2012

Luxury / Holiday

To not switch on a computer for seven whole days. No emails, certainly no Facebook, hardly even a text message and just a few phone calls. Could this be the ultimate luxury? I think so.

20 July 2012

Monday night at the Local

Our local pub is the Royal Oak on Columbia Road. Not that many years ago it was a scary place with blacked out windows where people would end up at the end of a night out only to emerge from those doors sometime the following afternoon. Now it is a nice place to have a pint and something to eat, even though it still gets pretty raucous on a Friday night when it is packed with cool young things. The dining room upstairs is a bit more civilised.

On Monday night we stopped by for fish and chips and still made it home in time for University Challenge. Perfect.

17 July 2012

Love and Peas

It is a funny year for gardens. Things just don't seem to be behaving as expected. With the cold and the wet, I guess you can't expect them too. Plants are living things that may not do what it says on the back of the seed packet in with the most perfect conditions.

One of my favourite things in the world is growing sweet peas, watching them climb up my bamboo canes and eventually cut all the stems off at once, then dot the house with little bunches here and there and get high on that delicious scent. This year, my sweet sweet peas have simply not happened. I understand from listening to an expert on Gardener's World that it is not just me - sweet peas really  have suffered this year. Oh well. Let's not dwell on it. I am already thinking about next year when I am going to have buckets full!

At first it seemed that my real peas (the ones you eat) were going to have the same destiny. I sowed them months ago and seedlings did appear, but just as quickly they were gone, devoured by snails or perhaps put off enough by the rain to simply give up. One side effect of the bad weather is that I just haven't been outside as much and my usual daily snail patrol has been reduced to an occasional check. But I decided to have another go with the peas, and now there are plenty of strong, healthy plants making their way up a wigwam.

So the point of this is I am having to repeat my gardening motto of less stress, more fun and focusing on the good things. And I do love peas!

15 July 2012

Dinner with a View

On Friday we were lucky enough to have a lovely meal cooked for us by some friends. The setting was not bad either. This is the view from the balcony. A panoramic slice of sky with most of London's landmarks in view. How wonderful to sit and watch the changes over a few hours - from a moody, cloudy summer evening sky to a glowing cityscape - whilst enjoying a good, strong drink or two.

14 July 2012

Grilled Asparagus with Lemon Mayo Dip

I love things that are quick to make but taste really good - lots of return from little effort. This is a great example of that. A really tasty snack, and good as a canape to serve with a glass of champagne.

Cook some asparagus on a griddle pan or in a dry non stick frying pan until slightly charred and softened. Serve with some mayonnaise - home made if there is time, but out of a jar is fine and definitely quicker - with a bit of lemon juice and some freshly ground black pepper stirred in. Lovely.

12 July 2012

Cap Ferrat

A truly magical evening on Cap Ferrat, with the azure blue bay, yachts with helicopters on, palm trees and agapanthus, gorgeous barbecued prawns, wine and bubbles, barefoot dancing until the early morning, late night swimming, fireworks at midnight, crickets singing so loud and that amazing soft, warm light.

9 July 2012

24 hours in Nice

View from our balcony at Hotel Le Versailles, Villefranche Sur Mer.

One great thing about London is that it is such a great base to travel from. This weekend we spent 24 hours in Nice for a very special occasion. A fuller report will follow shortly. Let's just say we had a pretty nice time for now.

7 July 2012

Phase two

This is the last of the oriental poppies, it got to come inside and sit on display for half a day before the petals fell off in dramatic fashion. The garden has just had a serious haircut. Some plants have done their thing and needed to be be chopped down to allow others to take over. I always feel bad doing it, and it is horrible afterwards when instead of lush, gorgeous growth all over the place you have bare patches of soil. But it is necessary to do this sometime after midsummer. Now there will be a funny couple of weeks before the next lot of plants - marigolds mainly - start to fill out and claim their space. Moving on to phase two of the season.

5 July 2012

Summer evenings

Summer evening sky and rooftops.

Summer is here, so make sure to enjoy lovely moments like this when they come. It is often said that the British are preoccupied with the weather and yes, they do talk about quite a lot, especially at summertime. My observation is that this is because of their high expectations of the weather. People are so disappointed every year, saying that summer was over before it started and so on. Well, I think that is because they just expect too much. We are not likely to have balmy days week in and week out here, we would have to move to the south of France for that. I guess this is my Swedishness talking - where I am from, we hope for nice summer weather but we never expect it so when it comes, we are overjoyed and make the most of it.
I say, it is all about moments. A still couple of days after a windy week, a warm evening after a rainy day. Make sure to remember them. And occasionally, fingers crossed, a glorious sunny, hot few days when no coats or cardis are required and it  is even safe to leave the umbrella at home when leaving for work in the morning. 

3 July 2012

Chicken or Steak? Lunch at Tramshed

On Sunday we decided to try Mark Hix new restaurant Tramshed. It is only 10 minutes away from us and it is always fun to try something new. If I had been allowed to take photos inside the restaurant, I could have showed you a picture of the dead cow in a fish tank by Damien Hirst which sits in the middle of the dining room. Instead you get a photo of me outside, happy and replete after a big meal.
The concept is an interesting one. Basically, if you fancy some roast chicken with chips or a big old steak, this is the place to go. If not, try somewhere else because that is literally the extent of the menu. The chicken is served whole, standing up on on it's neck with legs complete with feet and claws sticking up. According to the menu, a chicken is enough to share between two to three people. This seems slightly vulgar to me - when we cook a roast chicken at home for the two of us, that will last for three meals. But, here's the nice bit, we asked to take the leftovers home with us, and they were swiftly packaged up nicely and along with them, we got a recipe for a chicken and mushroom broth.
For pudding we had apple pie and champagne. Lovely.

2 July 2012

The Queen

So here she is - Queen of Sweden, the first rose to enter my garden. And I have to say it is quite special to watch those buds swell and unfurl. The petals are the softest pink, tightly packed together. One day soon I am going to cut one and take it into the house so I can look at it up close.

1 July 2012

Hazelnut and Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Is it a biscuit, or is it a cookie? Well, I think cookies are round so to me, these are definitely biscuits even though they have that extravagant American thing going on with double chocolate and hazelnuts. They taste great whatever you choose to call them, and are super easy to do - I made this batch from start to finish whilst on the phone to my parents, hand set squeezed between my ear and shoulder. 

115 gms Plain Flour
135 gms Sugar
100 gms Butter
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
2 tbsp Cocoa Powder
100 gms Hazelnuts
50 gms Dark Chocolate

It is a good idea to leave the butter out for a bit before starting this to let it soften. Mix the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients making sure there are no lumps. Add the egg to the butter mixture, then fold the flour into the batter. Chop the hazelnuts and chocolate and add these too. Spread the batter out on a greased baking sheet, smoothing it out until you have a 25 x 25 cm square,  and cook for 15 minutes at 200 degrees. Whilst still warm, cut into 5 x 5 cm biscuits.