Morning or Afternoon Tea, Super Easy, Sweet

Leaning into Home / Banana, Coconut & Chocolate Loaf Cake

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” Meister Eckhart

I’m sitting in my new coffee shop just around the corner from my new house, watching my new neighbours pass by. It’s noisier and busier than my old area, the barista doesn’t know how I like my coffee, there are fewer trees, and I haven’t seen a child shoot past the window yet — and a crooning voice says this is a mistake, that I should go running back to my old life, that I can’t possibly risk all of this.

I know this voice so well, it’s the sprawling bad neighbourhood in the city of my mind, and have learned over time to gently and kindly ignore its sentiments until another voice wraps itself around my fears and murmurs comfort, finding courage in just doing this one small step at a time. That I don’t need all the answers all at once. That not knowing what my world looks like beyond today is just fine. That my only job is to making a beginning and keep trying.

And then the universe lovingly joins in to console by sending a little boy, about the same age as mine, racing past the cafe so that he can beat his heavily pregnant mother to the crossing and press the button for the pedestrian light.  An old lady is leaning on her walking stick, also waiting to cross, and the three of them share a big smile before the green man appears to propel them across the road.

In watching their ease with each other and in deliberately moving to the peaceful parts of my head, I know in this moment that we’re going to be just fine here. We’re going to find new spaces to be happy and to live fully. My son will do what he does everywhere we go and make friends with everyone on the street, even people who don’t warm to me will be swept up in the joy he exudes with every heartbeat.

I’ll learn where I can join in and where I can be still, I’ll learn to do it standing on my own two feet, I’ll learn to smile in a new house and in a new car and in a new neighbourhood. I’ll learn to take photos in the new light. I’ll learn to bake in the new oven. I’ll learn where my joy has travelled with me, where old joys can be let go, and where new joys can be found.

Grief and fear are still present, but in this moment they are stilled by the possibility of truly living a full and authentic life. I deliberately started walking down this path to make sure I lived that way, and with each seemingly trivial step, I’m living bigger than I’ve ever lived before.

So welcome back to The Imperfect Kitchen everyone. I’ve no idea what the road ahead looks like, but the road today’s looking pretty good.

All starting with this banana, coconut and chocolate chip loaf cake. I wanted something that was easily transportable while we moved house, something low in sugar so my son could eat some without becoming manic, and something that I could make with ease in an oven I didn’t know much about. Philip’s fabulous Home Baking recipe book gave me the base for this recipe. The great thing about this cake, other than the gorgeous flavours and that it lasts for days in a cake tin, is that it’s quite hard to mess up; something that my distracted mind needs at the moment!

Enjoy.

  • 200g (7 oz) unflavoured Greek yoghurt
  • 110g (4 oz) shredded coconut
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 150g (5 ½ oz) raw sugar
  • 150g (5 ½ oz) wholemeal self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180˚C

Grease and line a loaf tin with greaseproof baking paper (my loaf tin is 22cm x 12cm, 8.5 inches x 4.5 inches)

Thoroughly mix the yoghurt, coconut, salt, banana and sugar in a mixing bowl before covering and placing in the fridge for about ½ hour (if you’re in a hurry don’t worry too much, it’s just slightly tastier to let the coconut soak and soften before baking)

Stir the chocolate chips into the banana mix before folding in the flour and cinnamon to create a smooth batter. Spoon the mixture into your tin to bake for about 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. I find that the top is brown enough after about 45 minutes but the middle takes another 15 minutes, so I place some tin foil over the cake to finish baking. Just keep an eye on it and do the same if you need

Remove the cake from the oven and rest for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool

Eat in great big slabs. On its own or with butter if you prefer

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Dessert, Easy, Sweet

A New Beginning / Lemon, Blueberry & Thyme Slice

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

We’ll call it a leave of absence, shall we? I think it’s justified, but then I would, I’m the one who disappeared and it suits me to call it that. A few weeks with my family in England, winding through the streets of central London. Reclaiming a version of my youth while introducing my son to the joys of London’s gorgeous parks and the unique political views of our taxi drivers.

There was a particularly bad day about a week in. I woke with my jaw clenched in tightened anxiety and immediately sought out the self-recrimination and self-loathing that can sear through my mind like wildfire since my marriage ended. Everything stood out in negative, the light in my mind utterly doused.

I left my son with my family and went for a walk, but nothing could shake my overwhelming fear and sorrow. Battered and broken by my thoughts, I wandered into an elegant cafe and ordered a tea, hoping to find some solace in the comings and goings of the world around. I turned my mind to the kindness I trusted still existed somewhere in the world, and asked desperately for some sign of hope.

lemon blueberry & thyme

Hunched over my tea a short while later, I nearly missed her as she shuffled in. A garish, floor length skirt under a shirt so small it rode up to show her ample stomach, her hair stringy and wild, dirt encrusted feet pushed into near-shredded ballet shoes, a big toe poking out from one in a gasping bid for more space. She stood in the middle of the floor, as out of place as a left shoe on a right foot, glaring around her with no seeming idea of where she was.

“I’m hungry!” She announced to the room, “Hungry! Hungry! I want food!”

The owner hurried over from the corner where he’d been smoothing a white table cloth onto a just-vacated table. He paused at the counter and then strode towards her. She shies away and I shy away with her because we both know what’s coming. He’s going to move her on; push her out. She’s smelly and bedraggled. They don’t want her sort in here making them look bad to the patrons who can actually pay a bill and may not if she’s here.

Instead, he stops in front of her and holds out a fresh blueberry muffin. He reaches onto the table next to her and pours a glass of water, “Let me know if you need a coffee love,” he says, eyes warm and inviting.

She snatches the food and crams it into her mouth, crumbs tumbling from her lips in protest from being overfilled. She doesn’t thank him, too far gone in her made up world to see his kindness.

lemon zest blueberries & chopped thyme

I felt it keenly though, it stabbed through my self-pity and I immediately started to tear up, although I didn’t let them fall. Not in public anyway.

It’s so easy to find darkness at this time, to see where all my fears of how life might be cruel can dictate where I point the mirror I hold up to others. And a man in a cafe, surrounded by a halo of everyday kindness shatters my mirror and presents a new, gentler light. I can almost hear the universe whispering at me; all will be well, there’s more kindness in this world than not, keep walking, keep trusting.

She has the coffee after her muffin and stands outside waving it at people walking by. I smile at the man as often as I can while I finish my tea. He probably thinks I’m a little strange for the constant goofy grin. He doesn’t know that his kindness has given me back the smile I’m currently turning on him. That he’s my sign. He probably thinks his only kind act is giving a sick person some food — but that sustenance has already spread so much farther than he could possibly imagine. How many others in that cafe found their ease in that moment? And how many more experienced his kindness rippling out from me as I left lighter-hearted and hopeful?

And, of course, I immediately decided that some form of blueberry concoction with a joyful twist had to be my first recipe back. Those requirements, coupled with having numerous loving visitors in my new house gave me the idea for this deliciously tender and fresh cake.

Enjoy.

  • 150g (5 ½ oz) self raising flour
  • 175g (6 oz) ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 160g (5 ½ oz) caster sugar
  • finely grated zest from 2 lemons
  • 2 tbl sp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 160g (5 ½ oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • roughly 80ml full fat (whole) milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) blueberries

Pre heat the oven to 180˚C. Grease a 20cm square baking tin and line with baking paper

Whisk the flour, almonds, baking powder, sugar, zest and thyme in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined and all lumps have disappeared

Using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs

Weigh out 220g of the mixture and sprinkle it evenly over the base of the tin before pressing down firmly, ensuring there are no gaps

Pour the lemon juice into a measuring jug and top up with enough milk to make 100ml

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs before adding the lemony milk and mix well

Using a spoon, gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, one-third at a time. You want a smooth batter but want to make sure you don’t over-mix

Pour the batter into the tin and scatter the blueberries over the top

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the tin and taking off the paper. Serve as you like with what you like

Find joy

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Dessert, Morning or Afternoon Tea, Not So Easy, Sweet

A Messy, Hopeful Path / Ginger & Lemon Panna Cotta with Blueberries and Thyme

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
C.S. Lewis

This year’s been hugely challenging and revealing. I’ve had an unshakeable instinct that life’s been headed in the wrong direction and the quiet, steady voice deep inside’s been nudging me towards alternate routes I’ve been unwilling to walk.

The only outcome to battling myself in this way is heartache; and some days the pain of the struggle’s been immense. I’d love to be able to see things are headed into shaky emotional territory and sensibly guide myself back into grownup land. I’m just not. I fight and holler and stamp my feet until, eventually, I’m curled in a ball on the floor, begging for ease of mind and promising anything to the universe if it stops the pain.

After lots of searching, I’ve found that this path’s about authenticity; specifically to drop behaviours developed in childhood as a reaction to feeling unsafe and unprotected in the world. At a young age, I subconsciously took the hand of the small, scared child I was, placed her in the middle of my heart and started building walls around her to keep her safe from whatever was happening outside. Thick, heavy, impenetrable walls. And I’ve kept her there ever since.

Blueberries - TIK

I built a personality designed to keep her protected and ensure no one could ever hurt her again. I became tough, standoffish, controlling, funny, prickly. I chose a career that guaranteed no softness. I surrounded myself with emotionally distant people who also kept everyone at arm’s length, forming no real connections, making enough money that I didn’t have to rely on anyone, never allowing myself to fully love.

Now, having walked a gentler path these last ten years, having fallen utterly in love the day my son was born two years ago, and having continued to seek a path through this pain all year; the girl in the middle of my heart has found enough courage to poke her head above the ramparts and start asking for a place in the world. And it’s terrifying. I keep wondering who’s going to protect her if I can’t anymore (after all, she’s me and, no matter how multiple personality-esque this piece might sound, I don’t have a mind capable of being more than one person at once…) — she’s the writer, the introvert, the dreamer, the idealist, the one who loves without constantly looking for an exit. She’s also vulnerable, easily overwhelmed and very new to the world.

When I’m her, I’m clunky and awkward. I say clumsy things that replay in my head for hours. I talk to people I no longer want to keep at a distance and find myself ducking for cover mid-conversation. I’m writing, baking and photographing for a living even though I’m not making money and yet the thought of walking back into a big corporate leaves me feeling nauseous. I’m not the me of 3 years ago, but I’ve nothing to replace me with yet.

In short, life’s messy.

TIK - Thyme

But I’m back on the path that brings ease and comfort. It’s muddled and awkward with more challenges to come, but it’s also full of the kind of hope I’ve struggled to find for a while.

On walking this new journey, I’ve already found an unexpectedly loving community in my area. This week, after an impromptu breakfast with a local friend, she went home to find ‘just because’ flowers from a neighbour on her doorstop; and I got home to find a book for my son’s current sleep troubles from a lovely friend in my mother’s group, propped against my front door. The most amazing part is how commonplace these acts of kindness are around here.

I’m also challenging myself to seek people who intrigue me, to see if honest and whole connection is possible; I’m particularly excited that those I’m drawn to are funny, smart and irreverent, with a passion for life and a hefty side-helping of quirkiness. This, in particular, remains a fragile area, but intimacy doesn’t seem like the distant planet it once was.

And if I can keep opening my heart and stay on this tangled path that still makes no sense at all; it’s possible those big, tough walls will be dismantled for good. And who knows which paths I’ll be walking then.

A path I’m entirely happy to walk is the one that ends with this delicious Lemon Panna Cotta and Gingerbread with Blueberries and Thyme from Alisa over at The Family Meal. I’ve been in serious sleep deprivation land again with my toddler’s night-time antics and have been pretty sick for the last few days (which is why this post is so late) so food of any sort is not high on my agenda. Luckily, Alisa writes one of my favourite food blogs and I’m happy to share any of her recipes anywhere, the main photo is hers as well so any kudos go straight to her! I made this about a week after she posted it onto her site and it is truly delicious.

Enjoy.

http://familymealblog.com/2014/07/17/lemon-panna-cotta-and-gingerbread-with-blueberries-and-thyme/

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Dessert, Easy, Sweet

Find The Road Home / Pear, Juniper & Lemon Tarte Tartin

“All of life is a coming home. Salesmen, secretaries, coal miners, beekeepers, sword swallowers, all of us. All the restless hearts of the world, all trying to find a way home.” Robin Williams

The Welsh have a word, hiraeth, that has no direct English translation, but can be loosely defined as homesickness for a home you can’t return to, a home which may be never was. I imagine it as a longing for the place you can go exactly as you are without needing any protection around your heart.

It’s a place I find glimpses of; safety in moments of time, people who seem to calm the yearning in me, pieces of music that lead towards the soft glow from my home’s windows, meditations that sink so deep I can nearly step over the threshold. I’ve wondered at times if the culmination of existence is to find our way home.

Peeled pears - TIK

I’ve recently begun picturing mine during meditations. A light-filled cottage with wild flowers and herbs leading up to the front door, surrounded by a garden big enough to grow a myriad of edibles. It’s perched at the base of a hill, overlooking the sea where you can swim all day and catch fish for dinner. I cook the day’s catch over the garden’s fire pit in summer and in the cook’s kitchen in winter, and serve it with homegrown salads to the few I can be comfortably around without switching into the extrovert mode I use to hide from the rest of the world. We’ll laugh and play music and my son’ll fall asleep under the stars long before the apple pie’s out of the oven. Later, I’ll carry him to his bed before heading to the kitchen to knead some dough for morning’s bread, afterwards curling on an armchair in blessed silence to read The Windup Girl for the first time ever, again.

Two things hold us from home. The first is the path to get there is windingly long and often feels like being lost; sometimes the road dips so low we lose sight of home and wonder if we’ll ever find it again. I think many people stop at a waypoint along their path and think, “this is good enough.” and for many of those it seems it is. The second obstacle is the path itself; strewn with false routes, dead ends and seemingly bottomless precipices, it can sometimes appear a pointless task, especially since the promise of home is just a rumour, easily ridiculed and discarded.

But I have a mind and heart that offer me no choice but to keep searching. For long stretches in time it feels as if I’m blindly stumbling from one confused moment to the next, trusting that the precipices I come across are actually invisible bridges of light, that if I can find the courage to step off, they’ll lead me to the next challenge and so, incrementally, to home’s freedom.

Juniper Berries - TIK

Very recently, it’s been made clear to me that the precipice I’ve been walking towards for the past two years has been one of living authentically. That I’m not the woman I thought I was, and I never was. That even some basic beliefs about myself are painfully misguided, brought on by years of a noisy and busy life, where I never gave myself the time to ask if I was really on the right path to my home.

And so, I’ve been gradually letting go of the good girl who toes the party line and looking for what’s real. I’ve been letting myself be imperfect, first to myself and then to others. I’ve a long way to go. Some days it feels like this’ll be my eternal struggle; authenticity requires courage I’m still not sure I have the fortitude to wear. But the promise of home whispers through threads of constant hope, the dream that it could one day be a reality in every moment.

Until then, I’ve started to recognise people who seem to be walking this path with me. There aren’t many, surprisingly few in fact, but I feel their longing as a mirror of my own and they calm the yearning, some knowingly and others who have no idea that just the sight of them or the smallest touch is enough to still the ache for a moment or more.

TIK - Lemon Caramel Pears

I have a child who reminds me all the time to be present; to make up a song together, or chase each other around the house breathless with laughter, to keep my temper when he’s not keeping his, to hold him close as he weeps and to gently guide him to be who he needs to be.

I have these words, baking and photography which never fail to challenge me to be utterly authentic and to keep moving forwards.

I have music and books that inspire me and fill me up every day. And then there’s this guy

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And I have whole days in silence, where I can allow my rapidly expanding introvert to breathe, and the highly-honed performance skills of my extrovert can drop into increasingly adored quiet.

And this week I have this tarte tartin. I’ve taken the sweet and sharp flavours of caramelised pear and lemon before dampening them down with the earthy flavour from juniper berries. Shortcrust pastry (puff pastry always becomes a little soggy the next day, so I’d avoid using it unless you intend to finish this immediately) is tucked, like a loving blanket, around the pears. No matter where you are, the smell of this baking will bring a sense of home.

Enjoy.

Save & print the recipe by clicking here

  • 4-6 ripe pears
  • 200g golden (raw) caster sugar
  • 20ml water
  • 30ml lemon juice
  • 50g butter
  • 12 dried juniper berries
  • 1 tsp of lemon zest
  • 175g shortcrust pastry (either buy or make your own — the recipe I use is below)

Peel the pears, then put in the fridge, uncovered, for 24 hours. This helps them dry out, so they won’t release too much juice and dilute the caramel when you cook them — don’t worry about them going brown as this actually adds to the finished dish

Put the sugar into a 20cm tarte tartin dish (I use an ovenproof frying pan, as it seems a little too far fetched to buy a pan just for tarte tartin) along with the water and lemon juice and leave to soak for a couple of minutes

Cook over a medium heat until golden and fudgy. Take off the heat and stir in the butter, juniper berries and lemon zest, until well combined

Half and core the pears before tightly packing them in a circle in the pan, ensuring that their more attractive rounded sides are pressed lightly into the caramelised sugar and place on a medium-high heat. The pears will shrink slightly as they cook, so don’t be afraid to add another pear half or two

Keep cooking for 15 to 20 minutes until they are a nice dark caramel colour and feel bouncy when pressed with a spoon

Take off the heat and allow to cool

Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C / 390˚F. Roll out the pastry to 5mm thick, and cut out a circle slightly larger than your pan before placing back into the fridge to rest

Put the pastry on top of the pan before tucking it down the sides, using a spoon or knife to lift the pears and tuck the pastry under. This will ensure the pastry ‘hugs’ the fruit as it cooks, keeping the tart nice and compact. Pierce the top several times with a fork

Bake for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden, then remove from the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then place a plate, slightly larger than the pan, on top and then carefully invert the tart on to the plate. Best served warm, with crème fraîche

Shortcrust Pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 120g cold butter
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp cold water + extra if needed

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar and a pinch of salt. Grate in the butter, then rub together until it is coarse crumbs.

Mix the egg with the water and sprinkle over the mixture. Mix together into a soft but not sticky dough, adding more water (if required) very gradually. Shape into a ball, and then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before rolling out

DSC_9841

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Dessert, Easy, Sweet

Streets of Satisfaction / Carrot Cake {dairy free}

I’m sitting outside our lovingly restored stormy-blue and crisp-white house, thinking about where to go from here.

A pair of main roads intersect a couple of blocks away and are definitely the fastest route anywhere. They’re also noisy and dirty, filled with huge trucks headed to and from the docklands on one road, and fleets of cars cluttering up the other.

The alternative route is packed with windy lanes, planted with apple trees and tomato vines, pale pink roses and dripping wisteria. Going this way, you’ll take longer to get anywhere, but there’ll be riotous colours, sounds of children playing and more than one conversation, while leaning on a front fence, about life and garden produce.

As I pushed my son’s pram to the playground earlier today, I thought about how happy I am to peacefully meander my way through a longer route when I’m relaxed about my destination; but that I rigidly stick to the certainty of main roads if I’m unsure about exactly where I need to be.

I become so focused on getting to the right place, that I’m willing to miss the potential for discovery that back roads always seem to offer. I may arrive a bit quicker, but I don’t have the looseness in my mind and the gentle smile in my heart when I’ve steeped myself in the little wonders that make roaming so much fun.

I’m beginning to think seriously about how I can start earning again, resolved not to go back into big corporate life, and determined to find a writing or editing role, maybe food and produce related. As soon as I start mulling it over, I can feel the panicked anxiety to reach an end point as quickly as possible, that I need to know immediately whether I’m going to end up somewhere I want to work, doing something I love and earning some money.

I’m completely unclear about where this new work could come from, or even if I’m good enough to do it at all. There’s a part of me, steeped deeply in cynicism and fear, that assures me it’s never going to happen and I’m a fool to even try. But, I also have hope that belief, passion and hard work can overcome a multitude of barriers, particularly those erected by a sceptical mind. And if I can keep taking the next written and edible step, it’s all going to work out, until I’ll eventually look back on this time and wonder why I ever doubted.

The big temptation with this fear is to grasp for the nearest solution, whether it fulfils my desires or not – to hop onto the biggest road I can find and arrive somewhere I’m not sure I want to be, but at least I can stop feeling afraid for a while. In the past, it’s been enough to freeze me in my tracks and send me scuttling back into monolithic office blocks with their recycled air and stultifying businesses.

However, this time, I want to believe it’s more important to live with a sparkle of trusting gratitude for the journey I’m walking, and that the destination will come as a result of purposefully enjoying the windy roads that make me so happy.

And who knows? Something wonderful could be just around the corner. As one of my friends regularly says, “Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens”…

Today’s recipe is the very embodiment of how rambling over a longer period of time produces something far, far better than a straight-lined solution. I’ve been making carrot cake for years, and regularly try something new. I have at least 70 recipes for carrot cake from all over the world, versions with pineapple or ginger, topped with nothing or whipped goats’ cheese, ingredients added as chunky or fine, and all manner of spices.

I won’t pretend to you that I’ve reached the end of my search yet, I’m enjoying my culinary wanderings far too much! But this carrot cake is a delicious waypoint in time. My current favourite and popular with absolutely everyone.

Enjoy.

  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 175ml vegetable oil + more for oiling
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150g finely grated carrots
  • 60g raisins
  • 60g walnuts (use organic or fresh if you can, to avoid the slightly bitter flavour of supermarket walnuts)
  • Juice and finely grated zest from 1 large orange
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 175g icing sugar

Pre heat your oven to 180˚C / 350˚F

Drop some oil in each of a 12 cup square muffin pan and, using your finger, smear around each square. If you prefer a single cake, oil and line an 18cm square cake tin.

Using a wooden spoon, mix the sugar, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl

Lightly stir in the carrots, raisins, walnuts and orange zest

Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices, then sift into the bowl with the carrot mix

Gently mix all the ingredients with your wooden spoon until everything is just combined, be careful not to over mix or your cake will end up too heavy. Your mixture should be quite soft and almost runny.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin squares, filling each one nearly to the top and bake for 30-35 minutes (if you’re baking the single cake, bake for 40-45 minutes), until the cakes feel firm and springy when you press them in the centre

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out to cool on a wire rack

Whisk the icing sugar and orange juice in a small bowl until smooth – the icing should be about as runny as single cream (pouring cream)

Drizzle the icing back and forth over the top of the cakes, letting it drip down the sides

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Easy, Morning or Afternoon Tea, Sweet

A Shard of Rainbow Longing / Chocolate, Peanut & Salted Caramel Slice

George Orwell once wrote “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.”

Except I write my expectations in stone and can’t let go of the insistent, pounding future I’ve laid out. It’s the only acceptable one in my mind. All other fates are darkened forests of uncertainty and almost certain pain. I wish I was more ready with pencil and eraser in hand when looking ahead, but chisel seems to be my tool of choice and it makes reality merely an obstacle to overcome.

At the base of my lack of acceptance is the usual fear, and a lack of trust.

The least attractive additional foundation member is ego. I think I’m in charge, I think I can cajole the universe into my way of thinking, that the only reason everyone isn’t living to my script is because they haven’t understood how much happier they would be if only they would listen. Humility’s a faded dream when my ego’s in town.

My trifecta of imperfection roll in like hailstone storms, smashing my life and littering the ground with debris.

Sometimes, after the fire comes the darkness. I move from furious control to apathetic dismay. I called it acceptance for a long time, until someone pointed out that acceptance isn’t passive. That true acceptance is as often followed by action as not. A friend said to me recently that submission is acceptance of the mind, while surrender is acceptance of the heart. When I submit I feel weak and powerless. When I surrender I feel supported and at ease – I don’t give up on the fight, I just realise there’s no fight to be had.

My struggles with a lack of acceptance are many and varied. Mostly it keeps my mind in a small shell that I convince myself is enough, while yearning for the life I believe I can’t have. It prevented me from full and satisfying friendships, as friends didn’t get the carefully-worded scripts I never sent them and my chisel worked overtime. It prevented me from chasing my dream job because I was convinced, before starting, I knew how it ended and it was all bad. My life has been smaller as a result of my lack of acceptance – at the pointy end it’s an endless story depicting loss of hope.

And yet.

“And yet” – how wonderful are those words? A shard of rainbow longing in a miasma of murk.

And yet, when I hold tight to belief in a safe and loving world, when I look around in awe rather than down in defeat, when I refuse to bow to the tantalising trinity of fear, distrust and ego…

When I finally surrender and see me, you and the rest of the universe, exactly as we are, as an essential part of the unity of my life – I am swept up in hope and dazzled by ease. I was rock and I am water. I am the hail that melts to dew. I am the darkness that disappears into light.

How can food possibly speak to all of this? What can meet the darkness, hope and light that’s required for a journey to acceptance? And yet, can’t food speak as strongly as words when made just right? Light texture and dark flavour, punches of tingled hope on my tongue as I slowly chew my way to joyful living.

Enjoy.

Bottom

1 cup self raising flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup raw peanuts, finely chopped

150g unsalted butter, melted

Middle

2 tbl sp golden syrup

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

80g unsalted butter, chopped

3 x 359g cans sweetened condensed milk

2 tsp salt flakes

Top

200g dark chocolate, melted

1 tsp salt flakes

Preheat oven to 180˚c

Combine all the ingredients for the bottom in a bowl and mix well.

Press firmly into a brownie pan (a deep pan, about 20x30cm)

Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden

Meanwhile place golden syrup and brown sugar into a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until melted

Bring to a simmer and cook for one minute or until bubbling, giving off steam and caramelised

Immediately add butter, condensed milk and 2 tsp salt

Stir continuously for 5 minutes until thickened (do not allow to boil)

Spoon the caramel mixture over the base

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a dark golden colour

Cool

Spread melted chocolate over the slice

Sprinkle 1 tsp salt flakes on top

Allow to set in pan before turning out

Cut into squares to serve

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Breakfast, Easy, Sweet

Fear / Sweet Potato & Walnut Pancakes

When I started thinking seriously about resigning from my well-paid corporate job and writing full time I wrote a list of my fears. I called the list “Pros and Cons”, but that’s the cunning of my fear, to grab a classic movie quote, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

There were surprisingly few once I distilled them down, but each of them hurt like a festering wound. “I will always be an average writer, no matter how hard I work”, “If I fail at this I will be too old to become successful at anything else”, “I will never earn enough money writing”, and the big one, “I’ve dreamed of this for so long, what if the reality is a let down?”

Fear can be a blanket fog in my life. It exhausts my courage, my dreams, my joy – and it’s always hungry for more. I’ve spent time so lost in fear that the world has seemed full of bleak and empty eyes, mirroring my own. And it always presents itself to me as being the sensible option, the practical voice in my mind. It works very hard at keeping me small and alone.

The bravest thing I even did was stop running, turn and challenge fear to prove itself. On that day I learnt that all darkness disappears in light.

On this day I spoke to a wise woman. Someone I trust implicitly. Someone who always seems to follow her dreams with clarity and a steady hand. I told her my fears and asked how she continues to find the courage to follow the pages her heart writes. There was a long pause on the other end of the phone, then she answered slowly and deliberately, like her soul spoke the words her head couldn’t translate.

“You can’t control your success. But you can control your regrets.”

I look at that sentence now and it seems so small. I know what each word means, the sentiment isn’t new. But something in me broke as she spoke from her soul to mine and I wept fiercely as my fears finally disappeared under a tidal wave of hope.

I spoke to my husband, resigned from my job and started to write on that day. I don’t know if I’m going to be successful, I may not be one of the greats – I may not even make much of a living from my writing. But I’ll never have to wonder what might have been.

Speaking of living without regrets, I contemplated not making this beautiful recipe from Chez CateyLou because some of the ingredients are hard to find outside of America. I’m so glad I ignored my initial thoughts and deAmericanised it (not a word? It is now!). The sweet potato and yoghurt add a lovely, sweet creaminess to one of my favourite Sunday morning breakfast dishes.

  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tbl sp light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Large pinch ground nutmeg
  • Large pinch ground ginger
  • Small pinch ground cloves
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup full cream milk
  • 1/4 cup greek yoghurt
  • 2 tbl sp melted unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • Extra butter for frying

Mix flour, salt, sugar, soda and spices into a large bowl.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, greek yogurt and butter.

Stir in the mashed sweet potato.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients.

Stir until just combined.

Fold in the chopped walnuts.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat.

Add a small dollop (about 1/2 tsp) of butter to the pan and wait until it melts and starts bubbling.

Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan for each pancake.

Let the pancakes cook until small bubbles appear on top and are brown underneath.

Flip the pancakes to brown the other side.

Remove to a tea towel or wire rack, wipe the pan with a paper towel, add more butter and continue cooking pancakes.

Eat on their own, drizzled in maple syrup or smeared with mascarpone.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/prompt-fear-factor/

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