October 31, 2011


the day has come, the one moment in the year when the physical and the supernatural worlds are supposed to be closest and magical things can happen...

every living thing (this side of the equator) is preparing for winter.

but today there will be just a little celebration before the quiet.

with some of the season s bounty.

(of which i had two left... yes, well)



250 gr self-raising flour
125 gr golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea-salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground dried ginger
130 ml milk
50 ml rapeseed (canola) oil, or sunflower oil
1 large free-range egg
1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored, cut into smallish chunks
2 tablespoons of coarse sugar mixed with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon


1. prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by lining with paper cups and heat the oven to 180°C
2. sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl
3. beat the wet ingredients together and mix in with the dry, combine, but do not overmix
4. add the apple pieces and mix gently
5. divide the batter into the prepared tin, it should be just enough to fill all 12 cups
6. sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar
7. bake for about 15 minutes or until a wooden skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean
7. leave to cool on a wire rack, but lukewarm these are also very nice, (i like mine with a cup of coffee)

meanwhile, we ve gone back to 'winter-time', the clocks have been set back an hour, and the evenings close in a lot earlier now.

that meant we needed to take advantage of this day and enjoy some of the final flourishes of nature.

ginkgo... (their fruit really do NOT smell nice, but the nuts are a delicacy)

red agapanthus still in bloom

magnolia seeds ready to pop (aren t these the strangest sight?)

and an old-fashioned little geranium...

there s been a freak snow-storm in the east coast of the States, it s absurdly warm over here for the time of year, down under they re preparing for summer...

but it s a magical time, a hallowed time, stay safe everyone... boooooooh!

happy halloween!

October 23, 2011

sweetly tart

lemon curd.

sweetly tart and so easy to make it s almost a sin to use shop-bought, although i have often done so, probably because i thought it was going to be complicated.

but that s what happens when you have loads of other stuff to do. full-time job, taking evening classes, housework that needs to get done.

and then i found this recipe on the BBC food website. a couple of friends of mine had already told me it was simple to make, and they had sent me their recipe, but i d misplaced it and today i just had my mind set on making some.

i followed the recipe almost to a tee... except that i didn t quite let it cool down completely before potting, but i think it ll be alright (i hope).

and because i really don t have to add anything, or didn t even tweak amounts, i ll only show how it went in pics. please do take a look at the link and when you have 30 minutes to spare, have a go too.

you ll need 4 organic un-waxed lemons

4 eggs and 1 egg yolk

100 gr unsalted butter

200 gr fine caster sugar

all the zest from the 4 lemons

and all the juice too

melt the butter and the sugar with the lemon juice and the zest in a bowl over simmering water, then slowly add the beaten egg

after stirring constantly until it becomes like a thick custard, leave to cool before potting into sterilized jars

i really did get exactly the amount mentioned in the recipe, which is 2 x 250 gr pots.

hmmm, i think i ll be making some of my favorite cupcakes again soon, with lemon curd, ofcourse.

October 22, 2011

to market & les coings

weekend markets.

i love them, especially when the sun is shining and the air is crisp. people strolling and looking at what s available. either planning ahead for the week, or just being bowled over and buying the best seasonal produce that s on offer. like i often do, with recipes and the day s dinner already in my head.

then sampling different delicacies: churros and hot chocolate for those who haven t had breakfast yet, oysters and champagne for the chique, Vietnamese spring rolls with a lot of sriracha sauce to wake up, Moroccan pancakes with goat s cheese and honey and a pipingly hot sweet mint tea, typical shrimp croquettes to remind us of the Belgian seaside, ofcourse the baguettes filled with anything you like as a quick lunch, or even the hamburgers and the sausages with loads of fried onions for those with a hangover from the previous night s revelries.

it s all there.

naturally, one needn t worry about not having the right utensils for cooking a warming tajine for example...

or decorating your front porch and your house with flowers. although now is the season for chrysanthemums (my mother s favorite)...

and don t you just want to keep touching these?

but we found us some quinces. i love what they re called in French: les coings (pron. k-WANG)... sometimes i like to go around mumbling 'coing coing coing...' (makes me sound like a duck too, i know)

the fruits are very fragrant, impossible to eat raw because they re so hard, but they make the bestest ever jelly. and since my mom-in-law is the best jam-maker i know... here s her recipe:



quinces, perhaps easiest to start with about 3 kg
2 cinnamon sticks
a few cloves
some mace


wash the quinces and cut them into smallish pieces. put them in a large pot with a lid, add the spices and just cover with water. boil until the fruit is soft. strain the leftover water with the fruit through a cheesecloth over a large bowl overnight to catch the juices. measure the juice and mix with about half to three quarters of the weight in sugar (so if you have one liter of juice, add 500 to 750 gr of sugar). boil the syrup until thickened and when a little amount put on a cold saucer immediatly jellifies... it won t react like jam, but will remain a little syrupy, more like a thick honey.
when ready, put into sterilized jars and close, then leave to cool.

my mom-in-law had to make this in batches because there were so many quinces, but she tried different cooking times and the results are pretty interesting. the first came out quite light, then a little more cooking produced a very floral tasting jelly (with the scent of roses) and the last one almost like caramel... all though, very very yummy on buttered toast.

i cannot wait to see what the market will offer next weekend.

October 9, 2011


last weekend we probably had the last heatwave of this year...

today, we have rain...

and in the meantime, i saw a rainbow. twice!

the dahlias in Vordenstein were in full bloom when we visited. i think they might be my favorite flower.


Hot Lips

Night Butterfly

Beertje (Little Bear)



beautiful, don t you agree?

i wonder if they re edible too?

like the crystallized violets i used to make these sea-salt chocolate snaps, inspired by Mr. Nigel Slater.



200 gr dark chocolate
small handful of almond slivers
a tablespoon of very fine caster sugar
small handful of pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
a few crystallized violets (or crystallized rose petals), lightly crushed
sea-salt flakes


1. melt the chocolate au-bain-marie (don t rush or it will go grainy)
2. while the chocolate is melting, toast the almonds slivers in the oven at about 200°C for about 5 minutes (keep an eye on them, they can burn very quickly), then sprinkle with the sugar and toast for another 3 minutes
3. line a cookie sheet with baking parchment and spoon on circles of the melted chocolate
4. quickly sprinkle with the toasted almonds, the pistachios, and the crystallized flower petals
5. give the snaps a very light sprinkling of sea-salt flakes
6. leave to cool completely before storing in an airtight container

according to Mr. Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, salt (and vinegar too) lifts and enhances already existing flavors, whereas pepper and other spices or herbs actually add another flavor-dimension...

and that is exactly what the sea-salt in these chocolate snaps does, every ingredient seems more outspoken...