A Mid Week Lunch In January: Roasted Carrot, Ginger & Coriander Soup & Chocolate Cake

23 January 2013

Today was my first morning off since returning to work from Christmas. The business has had a busy start to the year, so I've found myself going into the studio more than usual. My morning off was, all in all, a 2 hour window while Arthur was at playgroup. But it was two hours peace and a chance to tidy up the house and prepare for my mid week lunch to which I invited my yoga ladies for a long overdue catch-up. Lunch was simple: Carrot, Ginger & Coriander Soup, followed by a dense Chocolate Loaf Cake.

It's been a while since I shared a recipe here on Buttercup days as I tend to 'save them up' for my weekly posts over at Heart Home. So see it as a rare treat.

The soup is not a recipe, its far too simple to have such classification. Basically, peel a bag of carrots cutting them into fair thick chunks of around 3 - 4". Tip into a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and season. Peel a thumb sized piece of ginger and finely grate over your carrots. Give it all a good mix and then roast in the oven for roughly 25 - 30 mins or until the carrots are soft and caramelised in places. Tip the carrots into a large saucepan and add a generous handful of chopped coriander. Make up some vegetable stock (around 1 - 1.5 pints) and add enough to cover the carrots. Blend with a blending stick until smooth and then add further stock until it reaches your preferred consistency.

The Chocolate Cake is a 'Nigella' and big favourite of mine. Perfect for all chocoholics out there.

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake.

225 g soft unsalted butter
375 g dark muscovado sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g best dark chocolate, melted
200 g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas5. 

Grease and line a 23x13x7cm cm (9x5x3in) loaf tin. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating in well. Next fold in the melted and cooled chocolate, taking care to blend well but do not over beat. You want the ingredients combined: you don't want a light airy mass. 

Gently add the flour, to which you've added the bicarb, alternately spoon by spoon, with 250 ml of boiling water until you have a smooth and fairly liquid batter.

Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 170C/gas mark 3 and cook for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be a bit squidgy inside, so an inserted cake tester or skewer won't come out completely clean. Place the loaf tin on a rack and leave to get completely cold before turning it out. It improves if left for a day or so before eating. This cake will probably sink in the middle because of its denseness.

The Hand-Me-Down Desk

21 January 2013

Some of my most treasured possessions are those pieces of furniture that have been a constant in my life. They are what can only be described as comforting. They're all pieces that I can remember from my childhood.

My great-grandmothers wardrobe stands in Arthur's bedroom and despite it's age and old dark wood, it fits in effortlessly with his modern styled room. Then there is our dining table, that I've written about on this blog before, that originally longed to my grandparents. Also there is my lamp, probably originating from the late 60's, that's lives in my living room: that was rescued from my parents old house some years ago when they were about to get rid of it. In my eyes that just couldn't be thrown away: as far as lighting goes it was practically part of the family!

Then there is my desk. I was the 'middle' owner of it really. My grandfather made it for me when I was little; so little that my feet dangled above the floor when seated at it. The metal frame part of the desk had been the same metal frame of the desk he made for my dad. My grandfather reconditioned the frame and made a new wooden lidded desk top (complete with ink well) before passing it onto me. Once I grew out of it, it was kept in my parents loft and, once I left home, it took residence in the various lofts of the homes I have lived in.

Now it's in Arthur's bedroom and therefore under its third ownership. He loves it. He should get a few years out of it yet, as when he sits at it his feet still dangle above the floor, much like mine did. 

How very comforting that is.

Musical Youth

11 January 2013

Way back last year, whilst in our loft, I came across an envelope full of pin badges that David use to collect from the various and frequent gigs we use to go to. I finally put them to use, displaying them in an old printers tray, which is next in line to be put up on the wall.

Looking back, much of our 'courtship' was carried out in music venues: the Town & Country Club, the Astoria, Brixton Academy, Subterania, the ULU and local venues to us back then such as The Old Trout in Windsor.

David still goes to gigs, though to be fair, not nearly as often as he once did. Occasionally, if I like the band or artist, I will tag along too.  But nowadays the venues tend to be local Brighton based ones, rather than the trek into London (up on the train, back on the night bus) and the experience seems to be an altogether more civilised affair. The venues are smoke free and the drinks, although still served in plastic cups, are more refined: organic lager anyone? The old familiar flickering haze of cigarette lighter flames has been replaced with the glow of camera phones and when I  recently attended a Spiritualized gig I was offered complimentary ear plugs. I never saw any pin badges for sale either. A sign of the times for sure.

Move Over Nigella

9 January 2013

This is the cake that Lily baked for David last weekend. It was her birthday present to him: a gingerbread cake with white chocolate cream cheese icing and sprinkles in 'gunners' red. All very much her own work. Not bad eh?

A New Year + Distance

5 January 2013

So here we are in a new year: 2013. The decorations come down tomorrow and all traces of Christmas will be gone, packed away in the loft for another year. It was a good Christmas with lots of time spent relaxing with family and good friends; all the day-to-day stuff that dominates the other fifty weeks of the year firmly pushed to the back of the mind.

In our home the start of January is never dull as we have a very important birthday in the house (David's: today), it seems to just gate-crash itself into the tail end of Christmas and therefore extend the kid's excitement somewhat. They both have an effortless ability to get more enthusiastic about our birthdays than we do ourselves.


However, the new year hasn't been rosy everywhere. Someone I'm very close to lost her father on New Years Eve. It was unforeseen, cruel and shattering and I can't begin to understand the emotions that she must be experiencing at this time. There's roughly 350 miles between us. I want to be there. To do what, I don't know. I just want to take round a cooked meal for an evening that ends a tough day. I want to take her little girl, who has lost her granddad, out for a milkshake or an ice cream on the windy beach (I'm certain she'd have no problem eating ice cream in January). Just lots of little nothings. How I wish that distance wasn't so great.