springtime awakening

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i’m a spring bore… i hold my hands up to it. i bet you know one or two too. in fact, you might be one. my name is eleanor and i live for the clocks changing every march.

 

in the winter months, i curl up in a ball and feel sad. i come home from work and load up on carbs, do some weeping and fall asleep. i can’t be bothered to sort out the recycling (who can?!) and i lose an umbrella at a rate of about six a day. and then BOOM. SPRING.

 

BOOM. SPRING. 

 

suddenly everything seems more surmountable, every day seems to be full of more potential, people seem to be kinder, work seems to be more enthralling and my ‘get up and go’ has got up and gone. the longer days mean that it’s still light when you get home, light enough to go for a walk or sit out on the balcony with a cup of earl grey, light enough to sort out that bloody recycling.

 

with this new season firmly in my grasp, i thought i’d set out some aspirations for the next couple of months:

 

 

  • tackle a bit more CSS and web design to make this little bit of the internet a bit cooler. bear with me, i’m a total technophobe.

 

  • networking for work – i’m actually pretty shy and going to work conferences etc absolutely terrifies me. i’ve got a big one this month and i’ve already set up a twitter where i’m wanging on about being a girl in IT but this is the last big push.

 

  • make bagels – always wanted to.

 

  • save for/book a trip to new york in the autumn – this is as much about saving as it is about booking a holiday. we’re not going to a festival this year so i’m using that as an excuse to FINALLY visit new york and eat all the pretzels.

 

  • own a yellow raincoat – this i’ve actually already achieved at the weekend but it was on my grander list so YEAH! I’m looking forward to twirling in an april shower in it.

 

  • keep on with meditation – i’m trying 10 minutes a day of guided meditation and i want to keep on with this because even though it’s early days, i think i’m already feeling the benefits. i’m going to talk about it a bit more soon so stay posted but i was sceptical and now i think i might be a convert

 

  • plant up some pots for my balcony – i’ve never had a balcony before, it’s a funny old thing because it isn’t a garden but i foresee myself using it more than i’ve ever used a garden. i’d like to plant up some pots of thyme, rosemary, mint and lavender for summer evenings.

 

  • be kind

 

so there’s nothing overwhelmingly difficult on there and i’ll check back at the start of summer with a handful more..

 

is there anything you’re aiming for this spring?

 

 

who wants an easter cake after easter…?

last weekend, i baked an easter cake for you, complete with chicks and eggs, and i never actually got on here to tell you about it. the recipe will be below – so keen foodies scroll on down..

 

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the reason it’s a week late (i’m pretty certain no one is going to be baking an easter cake this weekend) is that in an attempt to spend less time in front of a computer, i’ve been having a scheduled downtime from the internet. since being at home for easter, i realised that spending every day in front of my laptop as a city slicker, high-flying, career girl (joke, sort of!), my eyes are beginning to turn square and i’m not sure that’s a look i can style out… this and the deepest darkest cotswolds isn’t the best for internet connection!

 

what’s more, easter has been an absolute blast, just days of hanging with the oldest friends, sooo many adorable babies, reading books in bed, cups of tea, gin, daffodils, blossom, mini eggs, bunnies, trips to the pub, afternoon tea with the mother and soaking up spring in the cotswolds. heaven. i’ve always loved easter so much, it’s like christmas but without the effort and with warmer, sunnier weather. i’m on my way back to the big city this evening and i couldn’t be sadder to be leaving (i know, i know – i’m ALWAYS sad to be leaving wherever i’m not actually residing!) but i feel like a lucky gal to have had such a blissful break. i’m looking forward to getting back to my flat, and my mother not crashing into my ankles with the hoover, but i can’t help the feeling that my flat often feels like i’ve checked into a hotel. a cosy and lovely hotel with my cushions and kitchenaid in it but still a bit institutional. i wonder what i can do to inject a bit more ‘real home’ feeling – answers on a postcard, internet friends!

 

a bit of forewarning: writing might be a bit sporadic over the next few weeks as i haul between oxford and leeds, leeds and liverpool, liverpool and leeds, leeds and birmingham, birmingham and oxford and phew, back to leeds! it’s time for the annual IT conference that always has me questioning my career choice and then a farewell party for the best cheese shop i’ve ever known.

 

to the cake…

 

i’ll preface this by saying that i don’t think you have to make it eastery – i would recommend you mix all sorts of booze into the icing or top with maltesers or meringue or toasty hazelnuts – use it as a base, it’s AMAAAAZING. it’s a Nigella recipe (from the feast book) and she knows her chocolate cakes, except this is actually more of a soufflé which may sound odd but it’s so light and rich and delicious. i would really beg you to spend as much time whisking the air into the egg when making this so that your cake comes out as light and fluffy as possible. Nigella, who is the queen of comforting you as you cook, explains that it doesn’t matter if this comes out of the oven sunken and broken looking because that’s part of it’s charm and it’s hugely comforting to know that as you gaze down at what was a towering majesty of wibbly chocolate but soon resembles a puddle. incidentally Nigella’s looks much nicer but she probably didn’t entrust the buying of mini eggs to her mother who lost a packet in her handbag and ate the rest while sitting in the car.

 

i have a fantasy of this cake with frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) stirred into the icing and little toasty nutella filled meringues across the top with scattered broken hazelnuts… watch this space!

 

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nigella’s easter egg nest cake

 

ingredients:

 

for the cake:

250g dark chocolate (broken up)

125g softened unsalted butter

6 medium eggs (2 whole, 4 separated into yolks and whites)

175g caster sugar (you’ll use 75g for the yolk mixture and 100g for the whites)

1 tsp vanilla extract

for the topping:

125g dark chocolate (broken up)

250ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

pack of mini eggs (or similar) for decorating

 

using:

my kitchenaid is in leeds so i used a bowl and electric whisk, actually two bowls..

a water bath for melting the chocolate – i’ve burned too many bowls of chocolate in the microwave to do this any other way

23 cm springform tin + release spray (if you have it, otherwise baking paper/butter)

 

how:

preheat the oven to 180c (gas mark 4 or 350f) and line the bottom of the springform tin with baking paper or cake release spray – do not grease the sides of the tin.

melt the 250g chocolate with the butter over a pan of hot water (or in the microwave if you’re a real daredevil!) and then set aside to cool slightly

in a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm and then gradually add the 100g of sugar (as if you’re making a meringue/pavlova). do this until they’re holding their shape but not stiff.

in another bowl, whisk the 2 whole eggs with the 4 yolks, the 75g sugar and the vanilla extract (i whisked these until they had doubled in size and were white and fluffy in consistency) and then fold in the chocolate mixture. lighten the mixture with a spoonful of the whisked egg white and then fold in the rest gently – in about 3 goes.

pour into the tin and bake for 35-40 mins or until the cake has risen and cracked and is no longer wobbly on the surface. cool in its tin on a wire rack and don’t be at all afraid when it splinters and sinks.

to make the topping, melt the chocolate and leave it to cool for a bit, whip the cream until it’s firming up and add the vanilla and fold in the melted chocolate. put the cake on a plate, not worrying if bits fall off and fill the crater made by the sinking of the cake with this chocolatey cream.

arrange your eggs/sweets etc on top.

buttered hazelnut cake & re-introductions

just over a year ago, i wrote on here about why i’d been away and where i’d been. it was a handful of malaise and a big lump of homesickness and all in all, i knew we’d all be happier, scrap that – i’d be happier, if i didn’t have to come on the internet and find words to put around pictures. and do you know, i came back with the absolute best of intentions, fired up and excited about putting fingertips to keys and then BOOM, the worst year in a long time.

 

now i’m not silly enough that i don’t realise that everyone has shit times, and a lot of people don’t come on the internet to talk about it. and i think some people sigh and say ‘oh god, she’s telling us about things being shit again. woe, woe, woe’ but it really was shit. some of the people i love most can attest to that, and the last thing i wanted to do (or even had the space to do) was to find words to describe cupcakes or pictures of baby rabbits (if you’re new to these parts, i do like to get in quite a few baby rabbit pictures). i should have been channeling Ru Paul and all I could do was muster Morrissey on a bad day.

 

but then at the end of last year, i moved to a new city. and while things aren’t perfect, i’m definitely ready to put fingertips to keys again. i’m no longer planning to write about just food because there aren’t enough eggs in the world to sustain my baking and i am a busy career woman (buy buy buy, sell sell sell) and don’t always have time for cooking. i’m also feeling a bit funny about the privacy side of things, having suddenly realised how much i appreciate keeping parts of my life out of public view but we’ll see how we get on.

 

i hope you’ll forgive me for my absence and rejoin me in this new small, cosy part of the internet.

 

while i whip you up some content, i’m going to recycle the recipe i used to re-introduce myself last time. my bake off audition beauty. such a cracking cake. make it and enjoy it.

 

 

buttered hazelnut cake

 

buttered hazelnut cake

 

 

ingredients:

 

for the cake:

250g unsalted butter

225g soft light brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for grinding the hazelnuts

125g blanched hazelnuts

175g plain flour

3 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

5 medium eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

for the candied hazelnuts:

150g caster sugar

300ml water

50g blanched hazelnuts

 

for the icing:

250g icing sugar

2-3 tbsp Frangelico hazelnut liqueur – a pain to find but so worth it

25g unsalted butter

 

using:

obviously my kitchenaid but a bowl and electric whisk would be fine

20cm bundt tin

sugar thermometer

food processor

– recommended – cake release spray

 

how:

Preheat the oven to 170C and grease your bundt tin. This is where your cake release spray will reward you a thousand times over.

 

In a saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat and simmer until it turns a deep golden brown and starts to smell nutty – this took about 5 minutes on both occasions I’ve made this. Sieve the butter into a clean bowl, stir in the sugar and set aside to cool.

 

Spread the cake’s hazelnuts out on to a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 5-8 minutes until also golden brown. Allow to cool slightly. When cooled slightly, tip the nuts and remaining sugar into the food processor and finely grind.

 

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a clean bowl. To your cooled butter/sugar mixture, add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. Gradually add this to the bowl of flour etc and beat until just combined, then slowly fold in the hazelnuts.

 

Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer can be removed clean. Leave the oven on for the candied hazelnuts. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

To make the candied hazelnuts, gently heat the sugar and water in a medium pan with a sugar thermometer attached. You don’t want to stir the mixture – it’ll form crystals – so swirl it around the pan to encourage the sugar to dissolve. Allow the mixture to reach 121C, it’ll feel like it’s never going to happen and it’ll seem like a super waste of time and then suddenly (10 to 15 minutes later) boom, it’ll happen. Whilst waiting for this to come to temperature, bake the remaining hazelnuts in the oven for 5-8 minutes until once again golden brown. Line a tray with baking paper and as soon as the syrup has reached 121C turn off the heat and stir in the hazelnuts. This bit is super exciting because if you keep stirring for long enough the syrup will suddenly turn crunchy and white. Tip the hazelnuts on to the prepared baking tray and separate with a fork.

 

To make the icing, beat the icing sugar, hazelnut liquer (or 2-3tbsp water if not using frangelico) and the butter in a bowl until smooth. The icing should be opaque but thin enough to run down the sides of the cake.

 

Once complete, drizzle the cake with the icing and scatter over the hazelnuts.

 

 

 

baby, i’m back

 

so, i’ve been gone a while (AGAINNNN!)

 

but LOADS of stuff happened and I’m not making excuses (I totally am) but writing my blog was the last thing on my mind. then i lost everything i’d written – boooo – but i’m back and i’m starting again but this time with probably more than just food. still LOVE food but wanting to venture out a little. anyway, thank you for bearing with me, please subscribe if you’d like to. thank you, love you xx