• Breakfast,  Sweet

    Peach pancakes and feeding frenzy

    We have a neighbour’s dog to stay at the moment and also a new young horse, bought on the admittedly shaky premise that one can never have too many horses. As it’s very hot, I got up extra early this morning to feed/medicate/placate the animals and felt really rather virtuous. More fool me. I fed the foal, not forgetting his ‘growing horse’ supplement, extra virgin olive oil and generous application of sunblock to his nose, and gave the hens their corn. I then fed the dogs, each of which has a different food and quantity. Feeling quite proud at having fed 12 animals in under five minutes, I returned to the kitchen to prepare my own ‘feed’. Glancing out of the window, I saw the 31-year-old retiree, having appeared from nowhere, polishing off the foal’s feed; the foal was happily sharing the hens’ whole corn kernels, sun-blocked nose to the ground; Hugo was making impressive headway through the guest’s bowl; Java was inhaling Hugo’s ration, which left our poor guest who is far too polite to kick up a fuss, with a small bowl of puppy food. The moral of the anecdote is this: if you’re under the impression that you’ve been unusually quick and efficient, think again…
    Ingredients (makes about 8 pancakes)
    3 eggs, beaten
    250ml almond milk (or normal milk)
    100g ground almonds
    150g spelt flour (or normal flour)
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    Pinch of sea salt
    3 peaches, peeled and cut into rough cubes
    1 teaspoon garam masala
    Coconut oil for frying (you could use butter)
    Mix the eggs with the milk. Sift the ground almonds, flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt together in a bowl and gradually add to the egg/milk mixture. Combine well and add the peaches and garam masala. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Heat a teaspoon of coconut oil in a frying pan and drop a large spoonful of pancake batter into the pan. Cook until golden brown, flip and repeat.

  • Breakfast,  Hugo blogs,  Sweet

    Coconut cake and Hugo’s scuppered plans

    cococakestrawcoulis HugojournoandJava
    I would like to set the record straight about my recent excavation venture, because I thought that Bossy portrayed me as a bit of a halfwit by suggesting that I was stuck down my magnificent hole. I admit that I did let her haul me out with a rope (there was lots of swearing on her part), but only to shut her up. The plan was, once I’d finished what I’d set out to do (we won’t go into details to spare any squeamish readers), I was going to create a tunnel back to the top at a gradient of about 30%. Of course, this would have taken quite a long time and I’m not sure where I would have ended up, but anything that gets me away from Bossy’s incessant blabbering and Java’s stubborn insubordination can only be a good thing. As an aside, are you impressed at how my vocabulary is becoming more and more sophisticated? Bossy says that I must be careful to avoid becoming too verbose, although she’s a fine one to talk. Anyway, the upside was, she was so convinced that I had been traumatised by my adventure, when we got home she gave me an extra-large piece of camembert. Sometimes it pays to just go with the flow…
    Thank you Hugo for telling your side of the story, although I think we could have done without the reference to my ‘blabbering’! This wonderfully light cake is inspired by ‘Love, bake, nourish’.
    Ingredients (serves 8-10)
    175g spelt flour
    120g desiccated coconut
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    75g cane sugar
    1 egg, beaten
    200ml coconut milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Combine the flour, coconut, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sugar in a  large bowl and then add the egg, coconut milk and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly and transfer into the prepared tin. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool and serve with strawberry coulis or Greek yoghurt (or both!).

  • Breakfast,  French,  Sweet

    Apricot and ginger muffins and drug-free pharmacists

    A few years ago, I wrote an article about a much-revered institution in France: The Pharmacy. Yesterday, having popped into our local one for some toothpaste, I found myself in the incongruous position of dispensing advice to the pharmacist on how to treat her debilitating cold. She was quite adamant about not wanting to use ‘nasty chemical drugs’ that made her feel drowsy and dried out. I found her resolve amusingly disloyal in view of her job – rather like a butcher promoting a vegetarian diet – but I was even more astonished when she went on to say that she tries to avoid pharmaceuticals at all costs: Talk about doing yourself out of work! Anyway, I spent so long dealing with her fervent drug phobia and streaming orifices (I set her up with a concoction of herbs and some essential oils to sniff and rub on) that it was only when I reached home that I realised that I’d come away empty-handed… Natural remedies: 1, pharmaceutical profits: 0.
    Ingredients (makes 12)
    60g salted butter, softened
    60g coconut oil, softened
    150g spelt flour
    2 organic eggs
    60g ground almonds
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    80g cane sugar
    50ml milk
    200g apricots, cut into quarters and lightly poached
    2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cream the butter and coconut oil for about four minutes. Add a spoonful of flour, beat again, then add the eggs, beating further until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add a little more flour to prevent curdling. Gently fold in the remaining flour, ground almonds, baking powder, cane sugar, and milk. Lastly, fold the poached apricots and grated ginger into the mix. Spoon into muffin trays and bake for 25 minutes.

  • Breakfast,  Nutritional information,  Sweet

    Anzac biscuits and manic Monday


    This morning I was to take Léo to school, Java to the vet to have her stitches removed, and my husband to the osteopath in an attempt to convince him that his ribs are fractured and that he should temporarily cut out all activities involving long ladders and roofs. We arrived at school to be told that their roof had collapsed in the night and that there would be no lessons for the foreseeable. This suited me quite well as it happens, because it meant that Léo could stay in the back seat to prevent Java from strangling herself with her lead; emergency stops on the hard shoulder to unravel dogs are always a bit of a nuisance.
    While the journey was event-free, it took no fewer than four of us to hold Java down while the vet tried to take out her stitches. Fifteen kilos of hyperactive, adrenaline-fuelled, unadulterated puppy terror produce a force to be reckoned with, believe me. Obviously Luc couldn’t help, what with his dodgy ribs, but it was very useful to have him there barking orders at us all (including the vet) to ‘just hold her down for God’s sake’. The visit to the osteopath was less traumatic (Luc didn’t wriggle on the table), but she did call me in to insist upon the importance of his staying still and on terra firma for the next six weeks. I guess someone else will have to fix the school roof, although presumably he’ll be available for ‘advice’!
    These biscuits are divine and really rather healthy. Oats have a low GI, are extremely high in fibre and contain a multitude of vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in beta glucans which increase the immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. Although beta glucans enhance the immune system, they don’t make it overactive and are therefore suitable for people with autoimmune diseases.
    This recipe is adapted from Amber Rose’s wonderful book ‘Love. Bake. Nourish’.
    Ingredients (makes 16-20)
    125g spelt flour
    100g desiccated coconut
    40g raisins
    100g rolled oats
    Tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
    Pinch of sea salt
    75g coconut oil
    50g butter
    80g honey
    ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare and grease two baking trays. Combine the flour, coconut, raisins, oats, chia seeds and salt in a large mixing bowl. Gently melt the coconut oil, butter and honey in a small saucepan and stir until smooth. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in two tablespoons of boiling water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine well.
    Roll walnut-sized pieces of dough into balls and place on the baking trays, leaving space between each ball. Flatten them slightly and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before serving.

  • Breakfast,  Sweet

    Baked banana and coconut custard and big fat liars

    I’ve always had a certain empathy where animals are concerned. I’m sometimes even convinced that I know exactly what they’re thinking, or what they’d be trying to say if they could talk. This past week though I’ve been well and truly had: It turns out that our animals are a bunch of thieving, pathological liars who are on the way to becoming morbidly obese. Be it horses, dogs or hens, they all put on a really dejected, gaunt and hungry look as soon as they catch sight of me. I curse my husband for not having fed them and dispense generous helpings of sympathy and food until I’m satisfied that they’re not going to fade away from neglect. This means that instead of being fed twice a day, they end up being fed four times (at least!). And all because I fancy myself as some kind of present day Dr Dolittle.
    I had to concoct a recipe that didn’t call for too many eggs as Java (our ten-month-old English Setter puppy) has taken to pinching them the minute they’re laid. I managed to retrieve a stray yolk for this recipe and was very pleased with the result…
    Ingredients (makes 4-6 ramekins)
    30g rye flour (you can use plain flour)
    30g dessicated coconut
    400ml coconut milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla essence
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    1 egg yolk
    1 large ripe banana, mashed with a few drops of lemon juice to prevent oxidation
    50g cane sugar
    40g raisins previously soaked in rum (optional)
    Approx. 30 frozen raspberries (or raspberry jam)
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare the ramekins by lining the bottom with six or seven frozen raspberries or a tablespoon of raspberry jam. Put the flour, dessicated coconut, coconut milk, vanilla essence and nutmeg into a heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan and heat gently, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens. Add the egg yolk, mashed banana, sugar and raisins and return to the heat, again whisking well, for a few minutes. Pour the mixture into the ramekins, filling to about 1cm from the top. Bake for 20 minutes and then chill for a couple of hours before eating.

  • Breakfast,  Hugo blogs,  Sweet

    Dorset apple cake and disruptive females

    I had hoped to find the time to sit down at my computer and write this post before now, but, once again, I’ve been absolutely rushed off my paws. I can’t let Java out of my sight for a minute without her getting up to something unthinkable (three pairs of riding boots and a school bag became history in the space of a week) and Bossy is being almost as troublesome. I suspect they might be in competition; could it be a girl thing? I think Bossy must be a bit vain because she thinks that she is capable of operating electronic equipment sans glasses (did you notice my subtle but appropriate use of a French word there? I am a sophisticated bilingual dog). Anyway, she appears convinced that repeatedly jabbing at every single button on the dishwasher/washing machine/television will help them work. Not so – we’ve been visited by three different men in white vans full of tools during the past few days. Luckily the Tall One seems to find it amusing, although I’m not sure why.
    I commissioned my new byline picture from my favourite artist as it looks as though Java is going to become a fixture. I’m very pleased with it because it perfectly portrays my gravitas and her inconsequence. I hope you like it too.
    Thank you Hugo for your contribution, although I’m not sure it’s altogether flattering. This simple cake is a cross between a cake and a scone. It’s not too sweet and delicious served warm or cold with some Greek yoghurt or ice cream.
    Ingredients (serves 8)
    250g spelt flour
    Pinch of salt
    50g salted butter
    50g organic coconut oil
    2 cooking apples, cored, peeled and diced
    50g sultanas
    75g cane sugar
    1 egg, beaten
    2 tablespoons of milk
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the flour in a bowl with the butter and coconut oil. Rub in the fats until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the apples, sultanas and sugar, then add the egg and milk and mix to a firm dough. Transfer the mixture to greased, medium-sized loaf tin, levelling the surface with your fingertips. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

  • Breakfast,  Sweet

    Spicy courgette loaf cake and green mane extensions

    Top of the class at the School for Extremely Naughty Horses (or bottom really, depending on which way you look at it), Castaño has a multitude of convictions  to his name. He was recently detained overnight at The School for extreme insubordination and unusually boisterous and rebellious behaviour. But don’t let’s go there; let’s visit instead our poor trampled-upon vegetable garden. Did he really think we weren’t going to notice the broken gate, hoof prints, missing vegetables and randomly-deposited manure? Just how stupid does he think we are? To add insult to injury, I found the cheeky monster hanging out in the field afterwards as if butter wouldn’t melt, bearing a striking resemblance to a large, hairy bridesmaid. It’s just as well I had picked the courgettes for this cake beforehand or it would have been a no-show!
    Ingredients (serves 8)
    2 large eggs
    125ml olive oil
    85g soft brown sugar
    350g courgettes, grated
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    140g sultanas, pre-soaked in rum
    300g spelt flour
    2 teaspoons garam masala (or other mixed spice if you prefer)
    ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    ½ teaspoon baking powder
    85g walnuts, roughly chopped
    Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Grease and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Whisk the eggs, olive oil and sugar well in a large mixing bowl and then add the courgettes, vanilla and sultanas. Sift the remaining ingredients together and then incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Pour into the tin and bake for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

  • Breakfast,  Hugo blogs,  Sweet

    Coffee walnut muffins and unusual best friends

    My best friend is a hen. Our friendship is based on mutual compassion – we are both victims of misunderstanding. The other day I was given some chicken bones to eat and, because I’m a generous sort of dog, I invited BHF to share them. I made it plain to the other hens that she was the only one invited; they tend towards vulgar, thuggish behaviour and gate-crashing. Luckily, I can be very intimidating *grrrr* , so they quickly got the message. I’m not sure that BHF knew she was cannibalising, but I didn’t explain because I know she has enough problems and a rather sensitive nature. Sometimes, when Bossy isn’t looking, I invite her into the house to eat from my food bowl. I’m working on a plan to sneak her in to watch television with me. My favourite programme is Scooby Doo and I think she’d like it too (did you like the internal rhyme? I’m learning about poetry at the moment). I think you’d agree that it would be worth it just to see Bossy in full meltdown mode *wicked doggy cackle*.
    Walnuts are a rich source of omega 3 fatty acid (just 25g a day covers most of your needs). They are also very rich in vitamin E and other antioxidants, as well as providing a healthy supply of B-complex vitamins. Added to this, they contain numerous minerals: manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.

    Ingredients (makes 12)

    175g spelt flour

    100g rye flour

    Pinch of sea salt

    I heaped tablespoon instant coffee

    2 teaspoons baking powder

    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

    1 teaspoon ginger, powder or freshly grated

    3 eggs

    250ml coconut milk

    4 tablespoons honey

    60g chopped walnuts

    150g organic virgin coconut oil, melted

    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare and grease two muffin tins with butter or coconut oil. Sift the flours, salt, coffee powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and ginger into a large mixing bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then add the coconut milk, honey, walnuts and melted coconut oil, stirring constantly. Combine the two mixtures well. Fill the muffin tins and bake for about 18 minutes.

    Delicious served hot or cold as a dessert with Greek yoghurt or ice-cream, or alone with a cup of coffee.

  • Breakfast,  Sweet

    Chocolate and vanilla marble cake and the perils of laying at altitude

    Our hens lay their eggs in hay-filled wooden boxes on shelves in my husband’s untidy toolshed workshop. Naturally, they don’t lay in any old boxes;  these are exceedingly posh vintage wine boxes. Three of our more intrepid hens are into extreme sports and like to lay altitude eggs on the higher shelves, while the more cowardly lay at ground level. Yesterday afternoon we heard an unusual and hysterically distressed screeching noise coming from the workshop, very different from the customary ‘get out of my face bitch or I’ll do you over’ squawking. Upon investigation, it appeared that two of the intrepids had been trying to lay in the same high altitude box at the same time and had ended up in a heap on the ground, imprisioned in the box that had landed on top of them. Luckily both they and their eggs were intact or I suspect we’d have been eating coq au vin omelette for dinner. 😉
    250g spelt flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    125g butter
    125g extra virgin organic coconut oil
    100g honey
    100g cane sugar
    5 medium eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Preheat the oven to 160°C. Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together. Divide the mixture in two and add the cocoa powder to one half, combining well. Set aside. Cut the butter and coconut oil into cubes and leave to soften at room temperature. Beat the butter and coconut oil with an electric mixer for about ten minutes until fluffy and then gradually add the sugar and honey, continuing to beat. Add the eggs, one at a time and whisk for another few minutes. Add and combine the vanilla extract. Half the mixture and gently fold in the plain flour mixture to one half and the cocoa powder and flour mixture to the other. Transfer the mixtures to a buttered loaf tin, alternating one spoon of plain mixture, one spoon of cocoa mixture. Bake for 80 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

  • Breakfast,  French,  Sweet

    Spice bread and watching a white hen unravel

    Have you ever seen a hen unravel? I hadn’t, but I have now. A friend (I use the term loosely in hindsight) gave us four hens last week. When I say hens, obviously I mean butch, feathered, street-wise ladettes hell-bent on stealing the others’ food, staying up all night and generally causing mayhen (sorry!). Our white ‘head’ hen was not amused by their arrival and ‘greeted’ them with firmly-closed wings. As soon as she caught sight of them, she strutted purposefully over to the kitchen, squawking loudly until I opened the window. When I explained that it was OK, they had been invited, she wandered off for a mad, muttering walk on her own in the woods, head between wings. Even now, a week later, she comes to check with me everyday that these ruffians are still welcome and spends more time than usual on her perch, disdainfully looking down at them.
    This spice bread is deliciously soothing, which is useful when you’re trying to console a hen with a grievance.
    500g raw honey
    250g spelt flour
    2 teaspoons active dry yeast
    ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    ½ teaspoon ginger
    ½ teaspoon nutmeg
    ½ teaspoon coriander
    ½ teaspoon cardammon seeds
    Zest of 1 lemon
    2 free-range eggs, beaten
    100ml milk
    Preheat the oven to 220°C. Dissolve the yeast in two tablespoons of lukewarm water and set aside. Gently warm the honey, spices and zest until very runny (about 3 minutes). Place the flour in a mixing bowl, leaving a well in the middle. Add the yeast and then the beaten eggs and milk to the well, followed by the honey and spice mixture. Beat until you obtain a smooth, liquid dough. Transfer to a 1kg greased loaf tin and cook for 1 hour 15 mins. Cover the tin with aluminium foil once it is golden brown. It is best to leave the bread in a tin to rest at room temperature for at least three days before eating.