As we begin a new year it’s all about calendars, diaries and planning over here. For Christmas I made up desk diaries with photographs for all my nearest and dearest using Blurb. Here is the one I made for the farm:
It really was a lot of fun searching though my photo archive and picking out the best of the bunch for the books. I made one of the these diaries for Didier last year and ordered a copy for myself – such a great keepsake for the year that just passed and also a good way of disciplining me to ‘print-out’ the photos I take as we go. I did the same this year – and then expanded it, adapted it and customized it for others on my Christmas present list.
If you still don’t have a diary for the New Year and you don’t have the time to create a diary at Blurb here are a couple of other favorites:
The Persephone Diary for 2013 celebrates one hundred Persephone books – although in fact it has one hundred and one endpapers since the forthcoming Persephone Book of Short Stories has a different endpaper front and back.
The diary has a week to a page, a list of bank holidays and religious festivals, and blank pages at the back for making notes. It shows the first sentence of every Persephone book, and the details of each fabric. It also has a separate jacket, like all grey Persephone books, but instead of having a quotation or a biography of the author on the flaps, it has a space for the owner of the diary to enter useful details. This has to be one of the most stylish diary out there and it will also act as great inspiration to read a few more of the titles from Persephone. In 2012 I read Harriet – my top read of the year narrowly nudging out Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth: A Novel - then there was The Homemaker and Someone at A Distance, amongst others – another two top reads and I highly recommend any and all of these titles. So much more satisfying than all that mummy porn we were subjected to in 2012.
At the other end of the spectrum I give you 2013 The Guinea Pig Games – oh how we all laughed at the silly images in this calendar that Santa left in Rémy’s stocking.
My grandmother would always have a slim Smythson of Bond Street pocket diary to record her appointments. I’m rather keen on this pale blue Panama number to slip into my pocket book:
In the kitchen I am going to focus on The Kitchen Diaries II: A Year of Simple Suppers. Nigel Slater each month. I find his writing delicious – not only are the recipes always so well thought out but the prose between recipes is more than a little inspiring. I devoured The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater and couldn’t wait for a US release of his follow up so bought it from amazon.co.uk. Slater makes me want to be a better cook, a better writer and maybe even a gardener for this coming year. I fear the memories of my fights with the wildlife in the garden have faded and I’m once again dreaming of cultivating my land to provide food for our table. The ground squirrels attack from below, the deer and rabbits from above – perhaps my visits to the farmers’ markets would be a wiser, cheaper, less stressful option?
Yesterday I cooked up Nigel’s chocolate banana cake when Charlotte, Juliette and Rosetta came for a play-date. As Charlotte and I caught up post Christmas and the children played mini olympics on the deck and explored several continents on the ridge, this delicious loaf baked in the oven. It was all we could do to wait for it to cool enough to eat. The addition of chocolate ‘gravel’ makes it super rich and decadent – I’m not surprised that this is the most cooked up recipe from the book. Slater states “There is always one recipe that becomes the star of a television series, the one that more people make than any other. According to the monumental Twitter activitiy, this cake ‘trended’. A cake ‘trending’.” Charlotte texted me when she got home to let me know the banana cake was a huge hit with the girls and she had already ordered a copy for herself.
The Chocolate Banana Cake that ‘Trended’
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Chocolate Muscovado Banana Cake in The Kitchen Diaries II
250g all-purpose flour – plus 1 tablespoon for dusting the loaf tin
2 teaspoons baking powder
125g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the loaf tin
235 g dark brown sugar
4 ripe bananas (400g peeled weight)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
100 Ghirardelli Bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces, the size of fine gravel
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a loaf pan and lightly dust with 1 tablespoon of flour.
2. Sift the flour and the baking powder together and set aside.
3. In the bowl of the KitchenAid with the paddle attachment cream together the butter and sugar until light, fluffy and pale coffee colored.
4. Mash the bananas in a bowl – they should be lumpy rather than puréed. Stir in the vanilla extract and set aside.
5. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar, if the mixture starts to curdle add a spoonful of flour.
6. Fold the chocolate gravel, bananas and vanilla into the mixing bowl with the eggs, butter and sugar.
7. Gentle fold in the flour and baking powder.
8. Pour the batter into the greased loaf tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
9. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 15 minutes – it will shrink away from the sides as it cools. Gently invert onto a wire cooling rack and life the pan off. Leave to cool – if you can stand the wait – before cutting into thick slices and serving.