Regular readers must have already noticed my love for Polaroid photographs. I like their subtle colours that can very quickly somehow transform normal bright images so that they are turned into old memories. I’d say that Polaroid effect gives the minus twenty years feel; anything it touches becomes oldfashioned and reminds me of my childhood. And everything was better back then…
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We’ve just had a wonderfully sunny weekend. The weather was so nice that I didn’t mind walking several kilometers along the coast! It was cold, but also very exciting, as everything reminded me of summer that will sooner or later visit our shores.
Here are a few of the perfect moments; they were so good that they could have easily happened in my childhood.
The most important question these days is – why didn’t we have so much snow for Christmas? It’s so pretty over here! Unbelievably pretty, yet cold. It has snowed for two days solid and now everything is covered in heaps of fluffy stuff – it seems winter has finally decided to show its real face…
Our garden is under a thick white blanket. The snow is so thick that I’m worried some of the branches might break. The dog has lost all of his toys (we should find them in spring) and is scared of the new shapes that have emerged over the weekend. As the landscape has changed so drastically I’m trying to look after our wildlife a bit more. Imagine if you were a tiny bird, where would you look for seeds or crumbs?
The good news is… we have a new bird feeder (bigger and cozier). And I have a personal bird feeding partner.
I know this is crazy, but my bird feeding partner is one of our cats – Moses. He’s a big green eyed boy. I find him extremely attractive, but I’m sure the birds would think he’s a monster. Now going back to the title that I chose for this post – “Catching” Birds, I think I need to tell you that the cat doesn’t catch birds. He just walks round the house with me and then returns to his warm cellar. I’m the bird catcher.
The catching process is painless and remote. I do this looking out of our kitchen window…
At the moment our garden guests are mostly tits and sparrows, but I hope to “catch” someone more exotic soon. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Any ideas what the words fika and hygge mean? I’ll give you a clue: one word has something to do with coziness in winter and the other one – something with extremely tasty breaks. Yet as I’m not a specialist in Scandinavian languages or culture I will tell you more about these two words while we browse a lovely new book – ScandiKitchen: Fika and Hygge by Bronte Aurell.
As you can already see this is a cookbook. And the best thing about it is… It’s full of wonderful desserts! By the way, keep reading if you’d love to have a go at making a special Banana Cake which isn’t “like all the others”; at the end of this post you will find its recipe. But first of all lets find out more about Scandikitchen and its owners.
Scandikitchen is actually a cafe and a grocery shop in London’s West End. It was “born out of pure homesickness and a need to find a space where people could meet for a fika – a cup of coffee and a bite of something sweet to eat”. The owners Bronte and Jonas Aurell come from Denmark and Sweden, so their shop is full off food that can only be found in these countries and their cafe menu lists traditional Scandinavian buns, cakes and little pastries. It’s a wonderful place where “anyone can feel a sense of hygge, a state of content coziness with friends where nothing else seems to matter”.
Sadly I haven’t been to Scandikitchen, but it is one of the places I’d love to go to when I’m in London next. Meanwhile I’m really glad I have their book. Short dark winter days are perfect for drinking hot coffee and sneaking in desserts (I’ll worry about the extra kilos later…). Thinking about it, in the next few days I might bake Real Cinnamon Buns and Danish Pastry Kringle… hmm… Blondie with Lavender and Lemon sounds good as well! No need to be jealous, I can guarantee you’d also find what to make as this book offers plenty of lovely recipes for cookies and biscuits, traybakes, little fancy cakes, celebration cakes and even breads.
You might not be a keen baker, but I’d still recommend this book, especially if you’d like to know more about Scandinavian culture. Reading it you will find out what English word Danish hygge might be related to and that there actually are a few different kinds of fika, also you’ll be introduced to the most important Scandinavian winter celebrations – Sankta Lucia and jul (Christmas), oh, and seven kinds of biscuits and even a cookbook that you would find in every Swedish household.
And here’s the promised recipe for That Banana Cake. I’m sure you’ll love it! (SERVES 8–10)
You will need:
3 ripe bananas
1 teaspoon lemon juice
125 g butter, softened
300 g caster sugar
200 g plain flour or cake flour
50 g cornflour
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar OR extract OR use the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
250 g Greek yogurt, OR natural yogurt OR 250ml filmjölk
125 g butter, softened
125 g cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar OR extract OR use the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lime
300 g icing sugar, sifted
chopped pecan nuts, to decorate
a 23-cm springform round cake pan, greased and lined with baking parchment
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.
Blend the bananas with the lemon juice in a food processor to a purée and set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar in a stand mixer (or using a hand-held electric whisk) until very smooth, light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well with each addition.
Sift the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and then fold into the batter. Add the banana purée, bit by bit, and fold in. Then gently fold in the yogurt or soured milk until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for around 50–55 minutes or until golden brown and springy to the touch. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. The baking time with this cake varies depending on the size of the bananas that have gone in, so keep checking.
Turn out the cake and leave to cool on a wire rack. It must be completely cool before adding the topping, so ideally make it several hours in advance.
For the icing, whisk together the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, lime juice and icing sugar for several minutes until very smooth and creamy. If it becomes too soft then chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before use.
Spread the icing generously onto the cooled cake and decorate with a small handful of chopped pecan nuts.
Let me know how quickly this cake disappeared in your house!
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Taken from ScandiKitchen: Fika & Hygge by Brontë Aurell, published by Ryland Peters & Small. Photography by Peter Cassidy © Ryland Peters & Small.
I wish I could tell you a pretty winter’s story…
It should be decorated with loads of fluffy white snow: slowly landing on the ground, covering up dull colours that autumn has left behind…Imagine looking out out of your window and seeing the first snowflakes arrive – a gentle wave engulfing meadows and forests.
If you went outside, frost would bite your nose! So I’m sure you’d be willing to hear my story while sitting by a roaring log fire. Drinking hot wine? Induging in sweet pies? It’s up to you how you decide to spend your perfect winter’s day.
I guess some would simply enjoy the unusually white scenery – cheeks pressed to the cool and damp glass, eyes wide open, trying to guess how deep the snow can get before it gets dark.
Others would probably worry about the wildlife. (I know I would.)
Unfriendly temperatures and empty fields and gardens can turn one’s life upside down. (I saw a fox the other day, running past our house. It seemed at a loss, as if not knowing where to look for its warm den or something tasty to put in its grumbling stomach. Sadly I couldn’t offer a cosy bed, as all are already taken.)
Have you noticed how right before Christmas, when it gets colder our hearts tend to go the other way – they melt? It’s easy to make us happy, anything can put a smile on our faces and we seem to be grateful we have each other. I love this phenomenon. It just would be great if we could stay like this all year round.
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This wasn’t a story, just a few random thoughts. Why? I dreamt of a perfect Christmas and I was going to weave my photographs into a lovely winter’s tale, but it’s not going to happen. Sadly it’s been an extremely wet December… Rainy days and muddy lawns damaged my festive mood a tad, so you can probably tell that I’m still waiting for that white miracle. The magic time, that smells of greenery and cinnamon, came and went, everything happened too quickly… but I can promise you that even longing for proper cold winter’s days I’m still keeping my heart warm.
(These photos were taken a month ago and I hope that there will be many more – come on, January!)
What comes to your mind when you hear this phrase – English Houses? I think of big old buildings somewhere in the country, pretty secret gardens, cosy rooms with huge fire places and colourful spaces that resemble cabinets of curiosity. I don’t think I was far off – Ben Pentreath’s wonderful new book English Houses is full of such inspirational homes.
Featuring interiors from city apartments to country manor houses this book illustrates the classic English style. Unique architecture, old and brand new interiors, lots of colours and textures – pure inspiration!
From the very first pages I fell in love with the author’s rooftop flat in Bloomsbury. Ben Pentreath is an expert in architecture and interior design, no wonder his home is so rich in objects that straight away draw ones attention (like the framed map of John Rocque’s ‘Plan of the Cities of London, Westminster and Southwark’ in the photograph above). “Shifting collection of vibrant cushions” and heaps of blooms, adored by Ben’s husband Charlie, make this flat spring to life with colour and I’m certainly not a black and white person.
If you think this is just another book about interiors, you are wrong. Ben says that “this is a book about houses, but more than that, it is a book about people”. In his opinion “perfectly decorated room without people to occupy it, love it, and live in it is meaningless”. I coudn’t agree more! (This bright kitchen in the photograph above belongs to Lulu Lytle. She owns a shop Soane Britain that sells furniture, fabric, wallpaper and lighting – all of it made in Britain. Do you like the Owl Lantern hanging above the table? I think it’s brilliant. Apparently it’s made entirely by hand by skilled Sheffield silversmiths and you can order it from Lulu’s shop.)
Oh, that “curious alchemy of putting together rooms”… Ben says that architecture is easier as you can tell precisely for e.g. “the correct thickness of a glazing bar”, yet “good decoration is a matter of opinion”. Well, flicking through this book you’ll be able to pick what YOU like the most. (I was truly inspired by Trematon Castle or the home of garden designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman (photograph above – one of their rooms), as the author has noticed it “fizzes with energy and fireworks”.)
I love the fact that English Houses isn’t only about indoors. In this book you’ll find quite a few lush gardens and extremely green country landscapes. You can pick some ideas for your vegetable patch and flower beds and even for a cosy conservatory!
Well, you might not like English style, you might find it too busy and too cluttered, but I think you would still enjoy a journey to this big island that has so many hidden treasures – splendid castles and manor houses. Ben Pentreath will be your perfect guide. And as there’s nothing plain and simple here, be prepared for an extremely interesting trip!
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English Houses by Ben Pentreath, published by Ryland Peters & Small. Photography by Jan Baldwin © Ryland Peters & Small