It’s been quite a while since I made this — over a month. H. and I had just arrived in Sandy Cove, from Newfoundland, and (yes) happened to have a couple of old bananas we needed to use up. (One of them may have even made the journey from NL to NS ;) ). I decided to make this bread thinking that I would take most of it to a dinner party we’d been invited to that night.

Truth be told, I was not too happy with it. The loaf came out quite dry and crumbly and I am not sure why. :/ No one else complained, but it just didn’t do it for me. I like my banana breads quite moist, and this one lacked that. I think I should have added a bit more buttermilk at the end. The taste was fine — the cocoa makes a nice addition, although if I am going to have chocolate in banana breads I think I prefer it in chunks. However this loaf didn’t beat Tessa Kiros’ version, which is still the best banana bread I’ve had/made.

cocoa banana bread

Longtime readers and those that know me well will know that I am not really a cocktail person. Given the choice I generally much prefer the simplicity of a glass of wine, a G&T, whisky with a bit of water, or even a beer, over a cocktail. But every once in a while a cocktail just appeals. I love how they are so celebratory and feel like something special, and on this night we had lots to celebrate — family, friends, summer, the Cove, local food (and berries), the list goes on…

I made these with my aunt and they were delicious (a little too good, because they end up tasting a bit like juice).

Blackberry (vodka) martinis
Makes 1
These measurements are approximate — feel free to adjust to your own preferences!
1 shot vodka
15 mls/ 1/2 oz lime cordial
60 mls/2 oz blackberry juice*

Combine all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker, shake, and top with a blackberry!

*To make the blackberry juice using fresh berries, strain them overnight with something heavy on top. Don’t mash them as it will make the juice cloudy.

NS part 2 1127

NS part 2 1137

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about family — likely because I’ve spent every day with them for the past five weeks, and my mum, who came back over to the UK with me, just left us today. My time with my family tends to be in short and intense bursts. I live thousands of miles away from my mum’s side, who I was closest to growing up, and although most of my dad’s side are in the UK, I’m only usually able to see them a couple of times a year.

Sandy Cove seems a world away now that we’re back in crazy London, but H. and I were lucky to spend a full two weeks there in August. For most of the time we were in the village, there was lots of family, both extended and immediate, around. And what better to do together than EAT! On this particular evening there were 7 of us: my father, grandfather, aunt, uncle, sister, H., and myself. I wanted to keep it very casual so we decided on a BBQ and several salads.

Snacks
Goat cheese dip and hummus with crackers

Main
BBQ meat
Garden salad (like, from a real garden!)
Roasted potato salad with pecan & mustard vinaigrette
Peanut slaw

Dessert
Raspberry pie (homemade, but not by me, I confess)

Now the commentary
The goat cheese dip was fairly underwhelming. Not bad, but didn’t wow by any means. Too bad. I’ve preached before about House & Home’s website but I might have to revise my statement a bit!

Onto the salads… it’s so funny to me that I am writing about cabbage and potato salad, neither of which I ate until I made this meal for years! I have never liked cabbage – I’d eat it if it was put in front of me, generally, but I’d never buy it or order it on a menu. I’ve also never liked traditional coleslaw which always seems to be doused in (too much) mayo. This is also the reason that I’ve stayed away from most potato salads. Mayo just does not appeal.

I am happy to report that I’m becoming a convert to cabbage and will not paint every potato salad with the same brush from now on.  The peanut slaw from the Bite House was just the thing I needed. I made it with cabbage from my uncle’s garden and it was lovely — the vinegar, peanuts, and (swoon) cilantro combine together perfectly. The same goes for the potato salad, which I modified to mustard-pecan due to an allergy. Everyone really enjoyed the salad and particularly the fact that the potatoes were roasted. I don’t think I’ll go back to just plain boiled!

If you do decide to prepare either, I would let them sit for as long as possible before serving. :)

peanut slaw

The first half of 2014 was unusually full of travel for me: Poland (play), Brussels (work), Spain (play), Italy (work), and North Yorkshire (play). It was a complete whirlwind of intense learning and hard graft (work) and true relaxation (play), and I am incredibly grateful for both sets of experiences.

To add to that list, at the beginning of this month, H. and I spent 8 days in Newfoundland on another family trip. My grandfather, the instigator of these adventures, has a bit of a love affair with Newfoundland, and rightly so. The whole thing was proposed in December and organized in 6 months (yes, we have some mega-planners in the family!), and on 1 August, 31 members of my extended family gathered in Deer Lake. We didn’t really know what to expect, except that it would be an adventure. And that it was. 8 days of stunning landscapes, history, long bus journeys, delicious food and probably too much drink, screech and cod kissing, MUSIC, sunshine, laughter and reminiscing, icebergs, whales, and moose! And did I mention the bus journeys?

We saw as much of the island as we could pack in. Newfoundland is a magical place full of tragedy, historical and present, and yet brimming with the kindest, most generous people. My only regret is that I did not get to try moose burger or cod tongues!  Here are a few snaps.

(Also, for those who are interested, check out this article by Michael Crummey on how being a Newfoundlander is changing).

Newfoundland 1128

Amazing burger + salad in Twillingate!

Amazing burger + salad in Twillingate!

Salvage

Salvage

Beautiful Port Rexton

Beautiful Port Rexton

The perfect scallop!

The perfect scallop!

Hello again. :) H. and I have been in Canada for nearly 3 weeks now (hard to believe!) and are having the best time. We spent 8 days in Newfoundland (a few pics to come) and since then have been relaxing in our summer paradise, Sandy Cove! :)

I have been cooking quite a bit and have several posts saved to drafts, but not posted anything because I’m trying to limit computer time here. I’m also trying to be a bit more laissez faire about my posts, i.e. not “force” anything and let them come more naturally.

So, without further ado, inspired by this link, I made crostini for a weekly garden party here in Sandy Cove.

I tried to cater for as many dietary requirements as I could, but of course they are not gluten free: tomato-y bruschetta; tomatoes and pesto; blue cheese and prosciutto; a couple of just pesto; goat cheese and pesto; kale and prosciutto; and goat cheese and zucchini.

This was really fun — easy to prepare and would be great as a make-your-own as well. There are lots of ideas at the link above or of course you can get creative and make your own! (Notes: I’d recommend lightly toasting the bread, and making them as close to eating time as possible).

crostini party

Oh July, how quickly you’ve gone. It has been a busy but very enjoyable month: a visit from our good friend P., sunny days and reading in the park, Yorkshire, a great meal out with friends we met last year in Alaska, fun times volunteering, a trip to the theatre, and lots more. As I am off to Canada tomorrow morning (!!!!), this post is coming a wee bit early.

On the death of American seafood. A good read, and the book looks good too.

Blueberry recipes galore. More here.

“Every trendy restaurant menu” — at least for London, this is dead on.

Gossip on Halifax’s restaurant scene. + part 2

◌ And while we’re on the subject, the craft beer guide to NS! :)

Better living through motivational passwords: I LOVE this! (via Cup of Jo)

Marinades from Bill Granger.

◌ Build your own gin + tonic bar.

“Can I really not manage a brief subway ride without textual support? Is that normal?” Took the words out of my mouth, Zadie.

◌ I love this table and this kitchen. And pretty much all of these too.

Books coming over the next 6 months. I’m particularly looking forward to Mantel, French, The Kills (already out here in the UK), and Atwood.

Regal-looking sheep in North Yorkshire :)

Regal-looking sheep on the North York Moors :)

And with that, I’m on holiday, and the blog will be on hiatus for a couple of weeks! :D :D :D

 

London has recently decided that it was missing out on summer; we’ve now had about 2 weeks of very hot temperatures (mostly sunny, but with a few massive summer storms). So, like last year, I am doing a wee roundup of new (to me), interesting salads that are good for hot weather.

Carrot, Couscous, & Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing {recipe}
I made this quite a while ago now – my version featuring the addition of couscous and cilantro (of course) and without the pistachios. The 3 Cs make a great combination — tasty, filling, healthy, and little effort required. *Note: to make this no-cook, simply use chickpeas from a can, or soak overnight. I like the roasting though because it adds a bit of a bite.

summerrolls 026


Roasted Carrot, Avocado & Citrus Salad
 {recipe}
I’m contradicting myself a bit with this salad because it does involve turning the oven on and roasting carrots (of course better done on a BBQ if you are fortunate enough to have a yard one!). This salad might look a bit tedious and intimidating, as there are quite a few ingredients, but I promise it will be worth it! The recipe is Tim from Lottie + Doof’s take on one served at the Pump Room at Chicago’s Public Hotel. He calls it “the salad of our generation.” I don’t know about that, but the mix is delectable and the effort worth it.

summer eating 036 summer eating 037

 

Grilled Corn Salad with Mint, Cilantro, & Feta {recipe}
This Lebanese salad is surprisingly filling, and perfect either on its own or as a side for a BBQ or summer potluck. In my version, I omitted the red onion and added a healthy dose of fresh cilantro leaves. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to grill my corn, but it was still good without. This dish is so tasty (if, like me, you love corn ;) ), and ideal for hot weather!

summer eating 047

H. was very confused when I started whisking avocado and sugar together whilst making these muffins. Fair enough! It isn’t the most obvious combination. The avocado replaces butter or oil (although I’ll be honest I chose the recipe not for that reason but because I had an avocado I needed to use up and was intrigued).

As you can see I did not make the topping and mine appear slightly lumpier than the ones in the original link. Oh well. They tasted good! They didn’t surpass the blueberry muffins I made 2 years ago because I didn’t pick the berries myself and they were not as fresh. But I am a blueberry fiend so I thoroughly enjoyed them, as did did H. and our friend P. who was visiting from western Canada. :)

summer eating 044

This is definitely one of those “it’s so simple, why didn’t I think of it before” dishes. And although it looks and sounds a bit like a side dish, I had this meal on its own for lunch one day and it was so filling that I couldn’t finish it. The “recipe”, from a new book called A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones, appeared on A Little Bird, and I happened to have all of the ingredients, including some green beans that really needed to be eaten up. It is the perfect example of less is more.

In my version I didn’t include the maple syrup (too precious!), so just toasted the nuts with a bit of salt and pepper, and then replaced it with honey in the dressing.

Although this is perfect for summer (very little prep and less than a minute to blanch), Anna’s recipe includes options for all seasons using other greens such as kale, broccoli, sprouts, etc. If you like tahini or haven’t yet tried it I would urge you to give it a go. :)

 

summer eating 024

For the past couple of years for Christmas, H.’s parents have very generously and kindly given us a little money to put towards a trip. Last year we went to Lisbon; this year we stayed in the UK and visited the North York Moors. It is an area of the country I have always wanted to spend more time in, and we definitely got want we wanted: solitude, lovely scenery, kind people, good pubs, walks, wildlife — a brief escape from our busy busy lives in London. And we got ID’ed buying alcohol at M&S in York! Ha (we’re 27 & 30…..and the age is 18 :D). Here are a few photos.

 

Yorkshire 179

 

Yorkshire 092

Near Kirkham Abbey

Near Kirkham Abbey

Yorkshire 201

Yorkshire 282

Your esteemed

In the evening light!

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