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banana cake with penuche icing


apologies for the dreadful photo. i should wait until i make the cake again and try to take a better picture but i’d rather share it with you now, as it’s a beautiful cake and you should give it a try sooner rather than later. i also want to experiment, using both the cake and icing in different combinations, so again it’s best to share avoid delay.

the banana cake is wonderfully light and fluffy – a very different texture to the banana loaves i am more used to. it also has a lovely pure banana flavour as there are no spices in it. this is not to say that spices are bad – i still love this cinnamon swirl banana loaf which also has a hint of vanilla – just that sometimes it’s nice to keep things simple.

the less simple thing is the icing, but in a good way. i’d never heard of penuche but a quick look before baking told me to expect something similar in flavour to caramel. having made the icing and looked again properly, now i’m writing this up, i see it is actually a bit more complex than that.

penuche is primarily from new england and is a type of sweet (candy), very similar to fudge or tablet, made from butter, brown sugar and milk.  apparently it often has vanilla in (which it doesn’t here) and can also have nuts in to add a bit of texture. i like the idea of walnuts to help mitigate through the tooth-aching sweetness of the penuche.

all of this means that it needs to be used on a cake that isn’t too sweet - i’ve definitely got more bitter cakes in my repertoire, which i’d love to try this with (this dark chocolate cake would be top of my list), but having said that, the banana and caramel flavours work really well and i love this combination - just make sure you are expecting the sweetness that the pairing brings. 

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this was our first cocktail on the balcony of the new flat – and a nice way to raise a toast to spring sunshine whilst also remembering london (i typed home there – oops!)  and good times in the garden, including with rufus, our lovely cat who’s now happily ensconced in yorkshire.

to make a pussycat shake with ice, 1 ½ shots bourbon, 1 shot lime juice, ½ a shot sugar syrup, 2 shots orange juice and ¼ shot of grenadine syrup. strain and serve over ice. a bowl of padron peppers on the side is a delicious accompaniment!


avocado spaghetti

this was a wonderfully quick and easy lunch, which i tried after hearing friends rave about the flavour combination.

there are various recipes online but you don’t really need one – i used one small avocado, mashed with some lemon juice (just less than ½ a lemon’s worth), olive oil (about a teaspoon), a dash of chilli sauce (i used tabasco), grated garlic (1 small clove, raw) plus salt and pepper. this was mixed with cooked spaghetti and garnished with some toasted pine nuts, lemon zest and more black pepper. i also added a sprinkling of some finely grated hard cheese.

the flavour of the avocado is enhanced by the warmth of the pasta and obviously creates a wonderfully creamy sauce. the only trick is making sure your avocado is ripe enough.



last week i wrote a blog post called "getting settled" - i don’t know why, as we’d only been in the new flat for a few days and everything was in a state of flux. things are still much the same, as we try to find homes for our belongings and work out how we want to live in this new space, but this week is when i have actually started to feel settled. 

on tuesday i registered as a frankfurt resident and on the walk home, picked up my new bike which had been shipped direct from london to a local bike shop. yesterday i filled our newly-built, wonderfully yellow and joyous, drinks cabinet with bottles of booze, glasses, cocktail shakers and a few other bits that had been sitting in a box, in the corner. i also made roast chicken (with lemon, fennel and courgettes) for supper and then, having stripped the leftover meat off the carcass, i made stock.

it’s a funny combination of things –a bit of official paperwork, thoughts of exploring on two wheels, a bit of unpacking and some very simple home cooking - but together they made a big difference and now, i really am starting to feel a bit more at home. i'm interested to see what other things make a difference in the coming weeks and months.


white asparagus

it’s asparagus season at the moment and in frankfurt that means white asparagus – little stalls selling “spargel” have been popping up around the city.

in the uk white asparagus has a much lower profile than its green cousin but given the local passion for white, and the fact that i’ve not seen a peep of the green stuff, i’m getting stuck in. i’ve only cooked it once before and that was simply, just boiling it for a few minutes, and serving it to accompany a tomato and lentil salad.

this time i decided to draw inspiration from anna hansens’s roasted fennel with lemon, which i’be made every which way, and roasted it for c40 minutes along with some fennel and following the usual recipe. actually, i made a few tweaks - instead of using halloumi i crumbled a pack of feta over the roasting vegetables for the final ten minutes which created a lovely creamy sauce. fresh basil and potato gnocchi were the finishing touches in a lovely fresh and springlike meal.