Home Thoughts, from Abroad


Home Thoughts from Abroad


Oh, to be in England

Now that April’s there,


And whoever wakes in England

Sees, some morning, unaware,

That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf

Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,


While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough

In England—now!


And after April, when May follows,

And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!


Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge

Leans to the field and scatters on the clover

Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray’s edge—

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,


Lest you should think he never could recapture

The first fine careless rapture!


And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,

All will be gay when noontide wakes anew

The buttercups, the little children’s dower

—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!


Last April we went back to England in the Springtime and spent a couple of days in the Cotswolds. I’ve been feeling homesick every since.


Rhubarb Polenta Cake with Orange and Cardamom



Occasionally developing recipes is easy. I dream up a flavour combination, figure out the technicalities, make a test version and bam! it works first time.

This, however, was not one of those occasions. This cake, that I made last winter for Edible Seattle, kicked my ass forwards, backwards and into the middle of next week. This recipe is based on a traditional Italian ‘torta di polenta’, to which I thought some seasonal rhubarb would be a lovely addition. And when you have rhubarb, then it’s not much of stretch to pair that with orange and cardamom.

What I couldn’t figure out though, was how to incorporate the pieces of rhubarb to make the cake look pretty enough to go in a magazine. Although my family will eat anything that tastes good and is vaguely cake-shaped, for a magazine you need to have somewhat higher standards.

First I tried to make it like an upside-down cake. The concentric circles of rhubarb looked pretty, but the anaemic yellow of the cake’s underside made the whole thing look like an unappetisingly pallid frittata, which I soon gave up trying to photograph. But boy was it good – with its damp, buttery richness offset by the tang of the rhubarb and citrus and the pleasing bite of the polenta.

For my next trick I painstakingly arranged the rhubarb in concentric circles on the top of the cake. It looked magnificent and my hopes were high. Until I dropped it as I was carrying it to the oven. I scraped it back into the tin (thank goodness for the five second rule) and baked it, and the family loved it because it was cake, but it wasn’t anything I could photograph.

I whipped up another cake, again made an intricate rhubarb design on the top, managed to get it into the oven in one piece and then the rhubarb design promptly sank into the cake while it was baking. All I can say is that it’s a good job this cake is so delicious.


By now I was coming up against the copy deadline. This time round I abandoned the concentric circles and made up for rhubarb sinkage by sprinkling the top with some sliced almonds. And finally I got a cake I could use. With the deadline looming and in the flat winter light of a rainy December afternoon, I managed to grab a few shots, which I felt were OK.

So you could have knocked me down with a feather when my cake somehow wound up on the cover.

edible seattle rhubarb cake

You really do need to make this cake. It may not be the world’s prettiest, but when you’re curled up with a good book and a coffee on a damp spring afternoon, there really is nothing better.

Rhubarb Polenta Cake with Orange and Cardamom
Serves 10
The moist buttery richness of this cake is cut by the tang of rhubarb and citrus, while the polenta has a pleasing bite to it. Perfect for curling up in a chair with a good book, while the rain cascades down the windowpane.
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Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
  1. 2 cups rhubarb, fresh or frozen, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  2. 2 tablespoons turbinado or demerara sugar (granulated sugar would also work here)
  3. 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  4. Approximately 1 teaspoon flour for coating the pan
  5. 1 cup caster/superfine sugar
  6. 2 cups almond flour
  7. 3 extra-large eggs
  8. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. Juice of half an orange
  10. Zest of two oranges
  11. 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon polenta or grits
  12. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  13. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  14. 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  15. Approximately 2 tablespoons sliced almonds to decorate
  1. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan and cut a circle of parchment paper to line the bottom. A Springform pan will make it easier to remove the cake.
  2. Using a stand or hand-held mixer, beat the softened butter and sugar together until pale, light, and fluffy (about 4 minutes at a medium speed).
  3. Stir in the almond flour, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is airy and soft.
  4. With a large spoon, fold in the vanilla extract, orange juice, and zest.
  5. Add polenta, baking powder, and salt, still folding gently.
  6. Fold the cardamom into the batter until evenly distributed.
  7. Spoon the batter, which should be a mousse-like consistency, into the prepared pan and smooth it out to the edges with a spatula.
  8. Take the marinated rhubarb pieces out of their syrup and drain on a paper towel.
  9. Press the rhubarb into the cake batter and scatter the sliced almonds over the top. Some of the rhubarb pieces will sink during baking, so you will end up with a rhubarb-studded cake.
  10. Set the prepared cake pan on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven 50–60 minutes. The cake should be firmly set in the middle and a deep golden brown on top.
  11. Remove from the oven and let sit 5–10 minutes, until the cake shrinks away from the sides. Then remove from the pan and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  1. Note: The leftover syrup at the bottom of the rhubarb bowl is delicious on yogurt or ice cream, or you can pour it over a slice of the cake just before serving.
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Robert Ramsay Cellars


The better I get as a photographer, the more I enjoy shooting people. You have to be totally in charge of your camera to shoot people successfully – to catch the intimate moments, genuine smiles and the light shining just so on their faces.

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Unlike food, people don’t sit around patiently while you spritz them with olive oil and tweak their garnishes, or spend ages futzing with the settings on your camera. You need to be able to think on your feet, make the most of the available light and instantly know which button on your camera does what, and for a long time that totally freaked me out.


You also need to create genuine rapport, to make people who aren’t used to having their photos taken relax and connect with the camera. I’m not sure I could ever do that in an anodyne studio, but I’ve grown increasingly to love taking environmental portraits of the chefs and food artisans I meet every day.

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I’ve found that when people are in their natural habitat – describing and showing you the work that they love – all fear of the camera melts away, and my job as a photographer becomes exponentially easier.

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Of course it helps if you have, as I did on a recent shoot at Robert Ramsay Cellars , the world’s most photogenic family, complete with tiny blonde four-year old; a female winemaker who looks like Kate Middleton, and stacks of barrels and boxes, that bent and shaped the light amazingly.

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Because when you have those things, magic happens.

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The wine in those barrels is pretty magical too. I’m a particular fan of their rich, smooth Par La Mer blend. Thanks so much to the Harris family and winemaker Casey Cobble for being such great sports and making my job so very easy.


Fancy Hotel of the Week: Hotel Diderot in Chinon

When my dear friend and mentor Jamie Schler – food writer extraordinaire – announced last year that she and her husband Jean-Pierre were taking over the Hotel Diderot in the Loire Valley, I decided to tack a trip to France onto our planned vacation in England. A workshop was arranged, my friend Stacey and I spent an incredible day in Paris before taking the train down to Chinon, and I returned to Seattle sated with beauty, inspiration and croissants.


And I realise that I never ended up blogging about Jamie’s wonderful hotel. If you’re visiting France and want to stay somewhere just bursting with charm, history and inspiration; stunning rooms; exquisite breakfasts; and, exceptionally delightful proprietors, then I recommend you book immediately.

When it comes to property you can keep your two-car garage, your granite countertops and your walk-in closets. The only things I’ve ever truly coveted in a house are a mature wisteria, a gravel driveway of exactly the right sort of crunchiness and a wrought-iron spiral staircase.


As I turned into quiet, cobbled rue Diderot, the first thing I saw, piled up on the weathered stone gate pillar like an old lady’s swimming cap, was a wisteria of exceptional age and magnificence.


Worse was to follow.


The gravel of the entrance crunched in the most deliciously satisfying way and as I turned to look at the façade, I saw, to my chagrin, the pièce de résistance spiralling upwards. Quelle horreur!


Jamie greeted us and showed us to our room.

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Of course there were acres of toile de Jouy and ancient beams and French doors looking out onto a pretty terrace wreathed in peonies.




Tentacles of jealousy started writhing around my cold black heart – this was not just any hotel, it was the fantasy French hotel of everyone’s dreams.




To be fair to the woman, it seems like there might be a little work involved in running a successful hotel.

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Jamie posts exhausting updates on Facebook describing her efforts to keep the perfect preserves cupboard stocked with delicious jams of every conceivable flavour and hue.


It is possible that getting up early to prepare a magnificent breakfast replete with locally sourced goat’s cheese, walnuts and honey for hungry hordes of eccentric English tourists is not always sweetness and light.


And I’m prepared to accept that ensuring all twenty-three bedrooms are lovingly cleaned and tidied each and every day might get slightly wearing, as well as spending the winter carefully nurturing the perfect French garden.


But then I remember the evening light caressing the weathered façade, the shadows dancing on the peony-pink umbrellas on the terrace and yes, dammit, the ivy twisting through the railings of that SPIRAL STAIRCASE and I am consumed by bitter envy once more.


Here is madame la châtelaine trying not to look smug. Unfortunately she is far too lovely to hate.





Oh how I have missed blogging.

I’ve had all sorts of beautiful (to me at least) posts lined up in my head over the last few months, but life always got in the way and they never quite made it onto the screen.


It’s partly because I’ve been lucky enough to have a ton of work. Somehow I’ve managed to parlay this food photography, recipe development, writing and content development gig of mine into an actual job, with several regular clients, including Edible Seattle, Seattle Refined and Zagat’s and a bunch of one-off gigs that have been hugely enjoyable and very rewarding (if not always financially).

I’ve also been travelling like crazy. Over the last year and a bit I’ve averaged over a trip a month, which has been total madness, but has left me with a bunch of photos and impressions I’d still love to share with you.


And other stuff has been happening behind the scenes. In October I went back to England, this time to teach a food photography workshop with my dear friend Danielle Acken in the glorious surroundings of Fowey in Cornwall. I love teaching and we’re planning more workshops together throughout the year, so stay tuned for news of those.

I’ve also been working on building my photography portfolio, rebranding my sites, including this blog, and bringing everything together under one big umbrella. I had an update meeting with my web designer this morning and I’ve been grinning with crazy excitement ever since. It’s going to be so pretty!

And I am bursting with ideas for a newsletter, a podcast, a couple of online workshops, and maybe even a quarterly magazine, that I really want to share with you.


In short, it’s time I got back to regular blogging. I hope you’ll join me back here next Wednesday.


I’ve started contributing a regular monthly recipe and photos to lifestyle blog Coco + Kelley . So click here for my recipe for Roasted Romanesco Soup with a Pistachio Pesto and Crispy Prosciutto – it’s warm and comforting enough for the tail end of winter, and pastel pretty enough for the beginning of spring.