Paleo Chicken Curry

 

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It has become increasingly obvious that my body is completely incapable of tolerating carbs, so at the beginning of the year I decided to start eating the Paleo way. It’s not a diet per se, but I know I feel about a million times better if I cut my carb and sugar intake to a bare minimum.

Since this dish is based on ready made curry powder and mango chutney it is remarkably quick and easy – we make it all the time for a weekday supper – but still quite delightfully fruity, aromatic and succulent. I miss good curry like nobody’s business here in Seattle, and while this is not remotely authentic, it certainly hits my curry sweet spot. (And yes, I know that mangoes aren’t strictly Paleo, but I figured the small quantities used here wouldn’t hurt too much.)

 

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Because they are so integral to the dish it is important that you use the best quality curry powder and mango chutney you can lay your hands on – that ancient pot of stale, yellowish-brownish power at the back of your store cupboard is not going to cut it, nor is a jar of sickly sweet jam-like commercial mango chutney. 

 

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Instead go to a good grocer or supermarket where they might sell curry powders imported from India, and high quality artisan chutneys, full of fruit and whole spices; or try your local spice shop or gourmet food shop. I like to experiment with different spice blends and chutneys and make subtly different versions of this dish. I’ve had good success using Sun Brand Madras curry powder imported from India and available on Amazon and Neera’s mango chutney.

 

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, crushed (or to taste)

1 small fresh red chili, finely chopped

2 tablespoons curry powder (or to taste)

2tbsps coconut oil or ghee

1 boneless, skinless chicken (I used chicken thighs, but you could also use breasts) cut into thin strips

1 cup mango chutney

1 1/2 cups coconut milk or single cream (half and half)

1 bag of baby spinach or some fresh sorrel if you’re lucky

Salt and pepper to taste

Coriander (cilantro) to garnish

 

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Method
 
Heat the oil or ghee in a large steep-sided frying pan or skillet.  Coconut oil or ghee are recommended  for Paleo cooking and are absolutely delicious in this dish, but you could also use vegetable oil.
 
Saute the onions and garlic until soft and then add the chili and curry powder.  Fry for a minute or two until the spice become fragrant.  Add the chicken strips and saute until brown all over.
 
Add the mango chutney and coconut milk (or cream) and then cook at a medium heat for about five minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Add a huge heap of spinach or sorrel and continue cooking until the spinach has wilted into the curry.  If you’re lucky enough to have some sorrel, the lemony sharpness is perfect for this.
 
Season to taste and garnish with a little lime and cilantro (coriander).  To keep with the Paleo theme, I like to serve this with tiny roasted cauliflower florets, but some Basmati or jasmine rice would obviously work too.
 
 
 
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Project 52: Portrait of a Stranger

 

So a couple of weeks ago, I kicked off Project 52 PRO – a year of critiqued professional level photography assignments, with ace commercial photographer Don Giannatti (although Project 52 PRO is no closed, you can always sign up any time for the free version Project 52).

The first assignment was a tricky one for me. We had to make a portrait of a stranger – someone we’d never met before, even someone we’d just approached in the street with our cameras.  And they had to be aware that we were taking the shot and be participating in it, no candids allowed. 

It was difficult for me, not because I’m particularly nervous about approaching people, but because I have very little interest in actually making portraits and hardly ever do anything other than the odd snap of the Minx.  There’s a pressure to people shots which doesn’t exist with still life or landscapes – you want to create something interesting and hopefully beautiful, but you can’t push people, especially strangers. around like you can with food.

 

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I cheated a bit with my first portrait by posting on here and on the Seattle Bloggers’ Unite Facebook page, to see if I could find a willing victim er, client. 

First out of the blocks was the gorgeous Inward Facing Girl Melanie Antley Biehle.  I’d been wanting to meet her for a long time, so it was no hardship at all to arrange a meeting in a local coffee shop which I knew had pretty light.  (Go read her blog – it’s excellent and thought-provoking).

It did feel like I was breaking the spirit of the assignment a bit though.  I’d followed Melanie via her blog and on Facebook and she really did seem like a friend, even though we’d never actually technically met. 

So I decided to challenge myself to just walk into local shops, and see if I could find someone willing to pose for me.  I struck gold in our beautiful local stationery and paper Paper Delights, where the very pretty assistant agreed to pose for me in between serving people buying Valentines’ cards, and where the window displays and light were made for photography.  We managed to put this shot together in about five minutes.

I ended up submitting the Melanie shot, because I found her wistful expression gazing out of the window to be more intriguing; though I’m prouder of the Girl in the Shop as I had to screw up my courage to ask her and had a much shorter time to get the shot.

Which shot do you prefer? Do you prefer portraits where the subject is looking away or one where they’re engaged and looking at the camera?

Thanks to everyone who emailed me offering to help.  I’m sure there will be many more chances to be my photographic victims as the year progresses.

   
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Go Love Your Room: The Parker Palm Springs

 

Dear hearts I am BACK -  full of eggy breakfasts, date shakes, sunscreen-induced acne and beautiful memories. We had an absolutely fabulicious time.

 

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I have MUCH to share with you. By a triumph of meticulous planning (or possibly fantastic good luck) Winter Break this end happened to coincide with Modernism Week in Palm Springs. Of course, most of the events were sold out before I got my act together, but I did manage to go to one or two fun events, which I will share with you later this week.

Through a triumph of very bad planning however, our flight back from LA coincided with the Oscars, so I still haven’t watched the ceremony, though I understand from Twitter that it was all, how shall we say, not good.

As a result though mirrormirror’s usual in-depth Oscar coverage will not be happening this year. I am desolate, but I hope you will be able to cope.

 

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Instead, here are some pretty pictures of our room at the Jonathan Adler-designer Parker where we stayed for three nights.

 

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The other reason for lack of Oscars coverage is that tomorrow I start six days of intensive Photoshop training courtesy of Creative Live as a member of their live studio audience. 

My Photoshop skills suck big time, so I’m very excited to learn from the masters. Catch me on the live broadcast any day this week (except Thursday). Let me know if you’re watching and I will wave!

Oh and here is previous coverage from the Parker a couple of years back. It hasn’t changed a bit.

   
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Five Great Things to Grow in Your Pacific Northwest Garden

 

   

I asked my great friend Nazila Merati to write a guest blog post for you while I was away sunning myself in Palm Springs.

Nazila is a very good friend to have.  Throughout the summer months she delivers an endless supply of beautiful fresh produce grown on one of her two allotments (p-patches) and in winter she delivers cookies and homemade rocky road chocolates made with her own homemade marshmallows. See what I mean?

Since she is one of the most green-fingered (green-thumbed, I believe you crazy Americans say) people I know, I asked her to share her thoughts on easy vegetable crops to grow here in the Pacific Northwest. Since the climate here is very similar to that of the UK, these tips would work there as well, and can be easily adjusted for other parts of the US and Europe.  You can find Nazila at Flora and Flying or on her food blog BanamakPlease show her some love.

 Over to Nazila…

 

 

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Spring is popping up all over Seattle and through much of the Northern hemisphere based on the images I am seeing in my social photo streams. I’m a big fan of rejoicing the return of spring through sappy tweets about daylight, romancing the first fat pussy willow, snapping a picture of the first snowdrop, but honestly, my biggest thrill is digging into that cold soil and getting things started.

What, you say it is too cold to go outside? Pshaw, I say. Go put on your big girl wellies you bought to match your hipster beret, double glove up and head outside and survey your back forty. If that is not an option, go look at your meager raised bed in front of your house with the shriveled remains of last year’s bean plants and dead basil stalks. (I believe she is referring to me here:- Paola)

Now that you have gone and looked, it isn’t all that bad is it? Sure there is stuff to clean up and a few weeds to pull out, but the moist soil makes this task so much easier. Look carefully, do you see your tiny chive patch reemerging? Your mint for mojitos? Rosemary to make chicken skewers survive? Fabulous. The bones of your perennial herb garden made it through. Now go inside, make a nice cup of tea and devise a plan about how you are going to succeed growing a small manageable garden of things you actually like to eat and do well here in our temperate Northwest. Here is my list of five things that are easy to grow, give a lot of bang for your gardening dollar, and increase your smug factor when entertaining.

Snap Peas – I suggest growing bush snap peas instead of pole peas because everyone promises to put up netting for a trellis and very few people actually get around to it. Bush varieties seem to yield better and are easier to pick in my opinion. Seeds or seedlings can go in the ground as soon as the ground can be worked which in Seattle is now. The shoots can be consumed along with the young pods. They are great for salads, stir frying, and eating out of hand. Two varieties to look for include Ed Hume’s Oregon Sugar Pod Pea and Territorial Seeds Avalanche Peas .

Swiss Chard – Swiss chard has replaced the ornamental cabbage in many landscape applications. The bright lights variety with its orange, yellow, red and vivid pink stalks and veins makes it a great addition to a small garden as it produces like crazy and through a few frosts and can be used at many stages of maturity. You can start it from seeds, but my recommendation is to go to any local nursery and pick up a 4” pot of seedlings. Plant a few colors in your vegetable patch and then throw a few into ornamental pots for a splash of unexpected color. Use young leaves in salads, mature leaves with kale etc. in braising mixes and throw some in a lemony lentil chard soup. My pick would be Territorial Seeds Bright Lights (you will find many growers will have this available as seedlings) or if you like a monochromatic look and a more traditional chard, try Hume’s Silverado.

 

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Lettuce – As I look at the four dollar heads of Buttercrunch lettuce I am buying this time of year, I secretly wish I had a hydroponic set up just to grow lettuce. The price for something that is so easy to grow starting in April and if you are careful about the type you grow, through November here in Seattle. I am a big believer in growing your own lettuce from seed or from seedlings, just remember that it will mature around the same time, so planting in succession is important. If you like variety in your greens, I recommend growing a patch of mesclun mix with a bit of bite from mizuna and arugula. A patch, if well-tended and harvested regularly, should last you a month or two. Plan to do another sowing of seeds two weeks after the first planting to prolong the growing season. If you are a head lettuce person and are not sure what you like – try putting in seedlings. Some nurseries will have seedlings in different varieties – try out a few through the growing season. My mesclun pick is Hume’s Mesclun Mix. My favorite lettuce varieties are Territorial’s Tom Thumb for its petite adorableness and taste and the beautiful heirloom variety Speckles.

Tomatoes – Who doesn’t like a fresh tomato picked right off the vine? In a small garden with at least six hours of sunlight, try for something with great appeal that is easy to harvest, does not require staking and promises a big return on investment not based on the poundage of tomatoes harvested and canned, but on the number of ways you can use that fruit. A cherry, pear, grape or currant tomato will fill this requirement quite well. If you are a dedicated gardener, then you have already started your seed trays full of the tomatoes you will tend all summer. If you are a practical gardener, you might have taken notes on what didn’t work last year and avoid that variety entirely this year. If you are me, you will read the tags on the seedlings at the first big plant sale and pick something with the best name and the fewest number of days to maturity. This is probably not the best way to proceed, but look for varieties that say they do not require staking, are compact, yield lots of bite sized tomatoes with sweet fruit. I am a fan of growing at least two of these types – a yellow and a red variety. Some varieties to look for include Sun Gold and Juliet and Yellow Canary. Sun Gold and Juliet will require cages and staking. You can’t go wrong with the Juliet, it will produce until the first frost.

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Leeks – The Leek is misunderstood by Americans and is revered as highly as Jerry Lewis is by the French. They are simple to grow, take up so little room, make a great onion substitute for those who want a little onion flavor but can’t handle sulfur and side effects of the rest of the allium family. They also look pretty – the blue green leaves that can look grey in certain light are gorgeous in the fall. You can plant a row in the spring to harvest in the summer for use in sofritos, soups, grilled alongside lamb. Plant a row later for fall and winter harvest. I believe that the novice gardener should start with leek sets,sold either in bunches like onion sets or in 4” pots if you are looking for specialty leeks. My picks for leek varieties to last you through your first vichyssoise until your last chicken pot pie is Cook’s Garden’s Blue Solaise Leek.

Gosh, there are so many other things I would recommend you grow, but these five things are good places to start. The peas and lettuce will start you off right, the chard and lettuce will keep you green and strong, until the tomatoes and leeks start coming in.

Happy gardening.

 

Thanks Nazila!  Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see more gardening on the blog. I’m into year two of my little raised beds and need all the tips I can get.

   
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Monthly Trend Report

 

Dear hearts, Tina is back with her monthly trend reports!  Do say thank you by showing her lots of love on her blog.

Hello mirrormirror readers! It’s Tina of Life in Sketch, back again with a Monthly Trend Report for February. Today I’d like to chat about the Sputnik Chandelier. I’ve had my eye on this type of lamp for about a year now, and it’s holding steady as one of my favorite chandelier looks! I know you’ve seen these around, but may not have identified them as Sputniks. Sputniks come in all shapes, sizes and heights. Some are very close to the ceiling and some hang much lower and take up more space. Some have long, pointy bulbs, and some have round, globe shaped bulbs.

 

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{via Loft Life Mag}

Although the sputnik is trending right now, it’s not a new look. The original sputnik style lamps were made in the 1950s and 1960s, soon after the launch of the Russian Sputnik satellite. (Interesting note: the Sputnik was the first artificial satellite to circle the Earth.) Some of the first designers that created the sputnik type lamp were George Nelson and Gino Sarfatti.

 

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{via Steven Gambrel}

The sputnik lamp works well in many settings. The one that comes to mind first is a “Mad Men” look of the 1960′s, because that was the way the lamp was first used. However, since it does come in many different shapes and styles you can pick the perfect sputnik for your room! There’s a wide cost range, too, so you can definitely find something that fits your budget. On the lower end of the spectrum, IKEA has come up with it’s version of the lamp which will cost you $90, and ZGallerie makes one for $300. Design Within Reach makes a satellite lamp for $1325. If you’re willing to spend a bit more you can find some originals and replicas at 1st Dibs.

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Sources: Furnnish // Desire to Inspire // Elle Decor // Architectural Digest // Paloma 81 // Design Within Reach

Whatever your budget, you can definitely get this look, which I’m sure is here to stay. I’m curious, do you have a Sputnik chandelier in your home? If not, are you thinking of getting one? Do you love the look or hate it?

     
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Kitchen Remodel: Cabinet Decisions

 

The first decision we had to make when it came to the kitchen was choosing the cabinets.

In the end it wasn’t a particularly hard decision – I wanted them to be white and they had to be from IKEA, since we wanted to spend what budget we had on things like countertops/worksurfaces (and fancy fridges, but that is another story).

We also had to take into account the age and style of the house. The horrible upstairs kitchen is essentially an 80s(?) extension on a 1912 craftsman house and the room itself has nothing particular to recommend it in the way of architectural features or mouldings.  Which meant that we couldn’t go too modern, otherwise it wouldn’t look good with the rest of the house; and we couldn’t go too folksy, firstly because I’m just not that kind of a gal and secondly because we’re not exactly dealing with a charming country kitchen here.                                                                                           

As far as I could see that narrowed down the choices a lot. The Lidingo kitchen would be lovely if you DID have a charming country kitchen, but it was a little too fussy for this remodel.

 

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{via Ikea USA}

I dithered about the high gloss Abstrakt –  probably my fave -  for a bit, but I think they would be a bit too space age for the rest of the house.  It’s also one of the pricier options, and I was a bit worried about chipping the gloss finish.  They sure are pretty though.

 

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{via Design Crisis}

The panelled Stat might be a good choice if you didn’t already have a hideous panelled ceiling.

 

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{via House to Home}

Which left us with the Adel cabinets.  The lines are clean and modern, and classic enough to fit in with the rest of the house.  I dithered about these a little – they’re coated with melamine and I was worried they’d seem too ‘plasticky’, but in the end they were the only option that really seemed to make sense.

 

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{via Houzz}

I do admit to being hugely swayed by this lovely remodel which used them.

 

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{via Little House Blog}

So there you are.  Which ones would you choose?  Remember you’re not allowed to say you hate the Adel doorfronts, because we have ten tons of Ikea boxes sitting in our basement, bought in the 15% off sale just before Christmas, and I would cry.

Here’s how the kitchen is looking at the end of week one.  Yes, those are cabinets you spy being assembled.

 

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We’re off to spend Winter Break in Palm Springs to escape from the carnage and so I can work on my massive Vitamin D deficiency. When we get back next Monday the bathroom demolition will start. God help us all.

     
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Things I Am Loving: Walnut Birds from Gretel Home

 

The sun is shining here in Seattle and the photography studio is calling me, but I quickly wanted to share the gorgeous present that I was lucky enough to receive yesterday for Valentines Day.

 

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Pinterest may have set back cause of feminism by several hundred years, but it sure has made it easier to give husbands a list of acceptable presents.

This little carved walnut bird with the pink lacquer chest has been a cover picture on my Pinterest boards for a long time, so I was thrilled to actually get one in the ‘flesh’ yesterday – along with four little birdie friends. 

As with most wooden things, these are so much more lovely than any picture can show – smooth, warm and tactile and most beautifully carved and finished.  Exquisite craftsmanship at its very best.

 

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The birds are handmade in the UK and are available at Gretel Home.

Here are my tweeties having a chat.

 

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I haven’t had time this week to trawl the Internet for design WTF**ckery. If you chaps ever come across anything that you think might be suitable to feature, do please let me know.

   
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Last Minute Valentines’ Ideas

 

As has become traditional round here, we’re all about the last minute Valentines.  And since it’s Valentines’ morning already we are taking the definition of last minute to new extremes.

Still here are some things you can do to surprise the family this evening.

Get the kids to work on this cute colour mixing chart courtesy of Art Projects for Kids.

 

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Or make or buy pink and white loaf cakes (pound cakes) and have fun with cookie cutters (courtesy of Matthew Mead).

 

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Set the kids to work again. This time with buttons (courtesy of Hands On As We Grow).

 

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Or let them get busy with heart-shaped doilies (from Say Yes to Hoboken).

 

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Have breakfast for dinner tonight, and break out the squeezy pancake bottle (via Recipe By Photo)

 

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Or if you’ve been organised enough to get a gift, but not any wrapping paper (er, that would be me), here’s a cute gift wrap idea from Babble.

 

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Or maybe you could just arrange some fruit and make a pretty Valentines’ photo. From DaitoZen.

 

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However, and with whomever, you are celebrating today, make sure you tell someone you love them. To all my lovely readers out there, I LOVE YOU very much!

(If none of these float your boat checkout last year’s last minute ideas round up here.)

   
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The Best Ever Victoria Sponge Cake

 

It’s the day before Valentines, and, if you’re anything like me you haven’t exactly managed to buy or make anything in advance. Never fear though. There is still time to make a delectable sponge cake and decorate it with a heart. 

 

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A Victoria sponge cake is a simple but delightful British afternoon tea treat, said to be a favourite of Queen Victoria’s. It is most usually filled with a red jam (raspberry, strawberry, plum and cherry are all good) and whipped cream, and sprinkled with icing sugar, making it somehow look very ‘Valentinish’. 

However you can just fill it with jam; with jam and a vanilla buttercream (keeps longer); with jam, whipped cream and fruit as I did for this cake, or my mother would often fill our family cakes with a thick layer of chocolate buttercream. If you’re using jam I do recommend using the best quality you can lay your hands on as it is a prominent part of the whole experience. I used a homemade seedless raspberry for this cake.

First make your sponge cakes.

 

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Classic Victoria Sponge

The following quantities make for a nice deep cake in 7 in cake tins or 8 in cakes with a more even proportion of filling to cake. The traditional quantity – 4oz (110g) of all the dry ingredients + 2 eggs makes deep 6 in cakes, or a shallower 7 in ones. (The pictures show the quantities below baked in 7 in cake tins).

For American readers who prefer to use volume measures, I used this recipe as the demo when I was giving a class on British baking and using weighing scales.  I suggest you weigh the ingredients for this as you will get a more accurate result.

 

Ingredients

175g (6oz) butter at room temperature

175g (6oz) caster (baker’s) sugar

3 large eggs

A few drops of vanilla extract (make your own vanilla extract)

175g (6oz) self-raising flour, sifted (or the same quantity of all purpose or cake flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder)

Hot water as required

To finish

Jam, whipped cream and icing sugar

 

 

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Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (325F)

Butter two 18cm (7inch) sandwich tins and line with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugar together until very pale and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla extract together in jug and add a little at a time to the creamed mixture, beating thoroughly after every addition.  If the mixture starts to curdle then add a tablepoon of the weighed flour and keep beating.  If the mixture curdle and you can’t rescue it, don’t worry, it just means your cake won’t rise quite as much.

When everything is incorporated sieve about a third of the flour into the bowl and fold in the flour thoroughly with a metal spoon. Repeat until all the flour is incorporated. Be careful when you’re folding to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.

Add hot water or milk as necessary, until the mixture slides easily off a spoon. This is called ‘dropping consistency’ and it key to a bouncy sponge with an even top.  I find that I need to add more liquid for American flours. Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and smooth out to the edges. (If you want your cakes to be perfectly even you can weigh the mix in the pans).

Bake for around 25- 30 minutes if making the shallower cakes (4oz of dry ingredients in a 7 in tin or 6 oz of dry ingredients in an 8 in tin) or for 30-35 minutes if you’re making one of the deeper cakes (4 oz of dry ingredients in a 6 in pan or 6oz of dry ingredients in the 7 in pan). When they are fully cooked your cakes will be golden and springy. Press the cake with a fingertip and it should leave no imprint. Loosen round the edges with a palette knife and turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Fill with cream and jam and sift a little icing sugar over the top – in the shape of a heart if you’re feeling romantic.

 

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Things I Am Loving: Doodle Bowls

 

I’m sitting here gently blogging to the sound of banging, the odd crash, and builders noisily chatting about skateboarding.  Yes, the kitchen remodel is underway.  We spent a glamorous weekend taking a huge mountain of STUFF out of our upstairs kitchen and making the downstairs kitchen one where actual food can be cooked (until now we’ve most used it to make breakfast). 

I knew I had a lot of kitchen paraphernalia, but seeing it all boxed up is rather mindblowing. Anyway, onwards and upwards. April 26th can’t come quickly enough as far as I’m concerned.

Just time for a quickie today.

 

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Saw these wooden Doodle Bowls and Plates from HappyDoodleLand on Pinterest (where else) and loved them. Unfortunately the artist doesn’t seem to be selling them at the moment (though her prints are also super cute).

But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to doodle as creatively as Flora Cha?

 

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