October 24, 2016

Ricotta, Pear & Almond Toast

occasionally it's the little things in life that make each minute count. Like the wink of an eye of a passer-by, a familiar smile, kind gesture or the cosy warmth of your duck-down duvet and the waft of freshly grilled toast on a Saturday morning. Sometimes it's good to stop and slow down; to appreciate the little things that little bit more. The simplicities. And when we stop, we realise that actually, these small things are what make our day shine bright. 

On Saturday morning, I realised we were J-1 until my sister left for real and I wasn't prepared for the organised chaos I'd be faced with when heading home to my parents for a weekend of what I thought would be "leisure". Suitcases littered the hallway and peeped round corners, sprawling onto the stubby carpet of our living room floor. Make up empties and testers burst out of plastic bags like something of an art installation at the Tate. Tiny coloured post-its peeked awkwardly from a wad of paper, zips burst at their seams and I was somewhat smug by the fact that I had not had to endure the craziness of my family in the preceding 48hrs when the tumble dryer was not working and the last minute panic of crossing off the to-do list had set in. 

I made a mental note to remember not to step on the upturned plug of my sister's straighteners that had escaped the grasp of one of her bags when I eventually returned upstairs, and whacked the Nespresso machine on. Today I was going for a "satiny smooth, elegantly balanced" Dulsão do Brasil: The calm before the storm. I lay down in my pyjamas in my favourite spot in the house, coffee cup beside me and wondered whether I should chance it slicing into the freshly bought rustic loaf on the counter. You can never tell what's being used in this house for some culinary experiment so I find it's always best to establish the facts first. 

I heard tiptoes on the landing and a muffled groan of "this place looks like a bomb has hit it" from my rather disgruntled dad as he padded down the stairs in his sheepskin slippers. A jovial "morning Charlie" greeted me with a "would you like some toast?" Now, the first thing that comes to mind is what is going to go on top of my toast. Marmalade, honey, poached eggs, smashed avo, all of which I love as much as each other, however today I really wanted elegant simplicity. Some may chuckle at the concept of this "simple" recipe, since it does require a little labour. But it is a labour of love. And that affair is what makes breakfast so pleasant. 

I cut five slices of bread from the rustic loaf and dropped them into the toaster. Leaning against the granite counter, I sipped my coffee and wiggled my toes, waiting for the bread to brown. The thought of a salmon and cream cheese bagel seemed extraordinarily appetising; the thick spread smothered onto crispy sesame-sprinkled halves. But all I could find after inspecting the fridge was a reduced-price ricotta I'd bought two days earlier. Some plump conference pears lay out on the granite worktop, firm and dotted with brown spots and freshly toasted almonds were cooling in a ramekin.

My toast popped. I stood two pieces together like a teepee to cool off whilst I ran thin ribbons of orange zest into the bowl of ricotta. I squeezed in some honey, gave it a mix and spread it thickly onto the crisp wholemeal squares. I sliced my pear and fanned it over the ricotta mix, taking a handful of almonds to throw on top and a little extra honey to finish. The table was set for five. Placing the toast on the table, I called up the stairs that breakfast was served and heard the feet of tiny elephants coming to greet me. 


October 17, 2016

Rice Krispie Squares

art is the illusion of spontaneity; a spark of creativity flourishing in a fluid moment. As an individual who thrives on the notions of order and forward planning, I’ve come to realise that the act of now – the present – is where we are boundless and where we should embrace a little impromptu living into our lives. If you’re anything like me, scribbling notes and ideas for future bakes, endless shopping lists of double cream and Himalayan salt, gianduja chocolate and hand-picked hazelnuts, you’ll know that the desire to bake starts with a little spark. 

That spark started with my sister, who recently decided she was to quit her job and travel as far away as possible from the vibrant chaos that is London: Melbourne, Australia. Having booked her one-way ticket to Down Under, the party planning was under way for her leaving 'do. Naturally, my parents started to panic like there really was no tomorrow and so in the build-up to the big day and with less than a week before we drive her to Heathrow Airport, I was commandeered with the task of producing three deliciously delectable desserts to take a little load away from them on the food front. 

I spent the week planning and leafing through books, magazines, scouring Pinterest and Instagram for foodie inspiration, making lists on post-its, eyeing up the baking aisles as I did my weekly shop and eventually finding myself plonked on the sofa contemplating what she'd love best. 

Number one: Brownies. Rich and chewy, crammed with white chocolate and doused in Baileys or Tia Maria. Nutty and decadent. Number two: Apricot and ricotta cake. Definitely one you can expect to serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and plate up for Sunday breakfast (for any leftovers that might be going...!). Number three: Now, this is where my brain ticked over one too many times. Considering we also had pavlova, banoffee pie and the cheese platter to get through, I ruled out anything overly indulgent and eyeballed my recently purchased box of Rice Krispies. 

Remember the times at primary school, when you found yourself face to face with a Kellogg's Rice Krispies Squares? Either your face lit up like a fairground carousel, or crumpled, nose upturned by the sight of the shiny, metallic blue glare emanating from your plastic lunchbox. Unfortunately, mine was the latter and so reluctantly I melted my marshmallows and butter, stirred in the puffs of toasted rice cereal and dumped the gooey mess into a square tin to set. 

Thinking this was indeed a crime against baking and also a sad excuse of a dessert to present my sister at her leaving party, I reluctantly laid these out for our guests to devour. Yet to my astonishment, they disappeared within minutes of being placed on the dining table. Seems like the Rice Krispie Square hasn't been lost on us then. And it caused a stir among those of us born in the 80s and 90s who nostalgically turned the conversation to that ghastly blue packaging we all remember so well. Even if my sister didn't eat one, her send-off was one of spontaneous speeches, glittering emotion and one hell of a good laugh. And in that moment of encompassing warmth, I almost forgot she was going...