Masala Chai


again the emerald green pallu of her sari
tucked in at her hips, across her breast,
and cough it up over her shoulder a hush
of paprika and burnt honey across my face.

—   from ‘Wrap’ by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

India is unrelenting and wildly beautiful. It is an endless array of colour and scent and sound, a byproduct of the sheer density of population. It is also a geographic rainbow, from rolling tea hills to dry desert, high buddhist enclaves at the foothills of the Himalaya to incense-wreathed Hindu temples, the bustling metropolis of Mumbai to long stretches of sand and ocean down south. The one consistent thread, the soundtrack of India if you will, is the chai-wallah call to arms: chai, chai, coffee, chai, chai…  Continue reading Masala Chai

Coconut Turmeric Noodles

“…balance of humors, coconut liquor thinned / by broth, sour pulp of tamarind / cut through by salt, set off by fragrant / galangal, ginger, basil, cilantro, mint, / the warp and woof of texture…”

– from ‘Hot’ by Craig Arnold

Lately, both kids have been climbing into our bed at various points through the night, so by the morning all four of us are squeezed in together. We’re not sure if it’s these cold winter nights that have them seeking extra body warmth, or just that natural childish desire to be close, but either way it is a habit that is equally parts endearing and exasperating (much like parenting more generally, in fact).  Continue reading Coconut Turmeric Noodles

Flourless Chocolate Cake

The skies today are a bright, pale mid-winter blue, the air still and cold. I’m enjoying a moment of afternoon silence, drinking a cup of tea with a thin sliver of the Rhubarb & Chocolate Ganache Tart that I baked on Sunday afternoon.

T will be waking up any minute now, so I’m going to keep it short and sweet with a list of my latest favourites (if you’re just in it for the Flourless Chocolate Cake, keep on scrolling)… Continue reading Flourless Chocolate Cake

Winter Borscht Salad

The beetroot is in my roots, borscht in my bloodline.

My great grandmother was Ukrainian. The story goes that during a pogrom in the early 1900s she stabbed a Russian solder who was attempting to rape her, then escaped with nothing but a pair of brass candlesticks. I can’t vouch for the truth of this story – it could be that my mind has simply embellished a snippet overheard in childhood – but I’m not too bothered either way. As a storyteller, I’m a fan of narrative embellishment. What is true is that my great grandmother eventually made her way to England where she married a Polish man and had four children, one of whom is my paternal grandmother.  Continue reading Winter Borscht Salad

Pear & Strawberry Muffins

Now the leaves are falling fast…

– from ‘Autumn Song’, W. H. Auden

The day we made these Pear & Strawberry Muffins last week was unexpectedly lovely. The morning was the first really cold one of the year. Thick socks and hot cups of tea kind of cold. Frosty breath in the morning air, clear blue skies, thin yellow sunshine turning the autumn leaves still clinging onto tree branches all the shades of gold there are no names for.  Continue reading Pear & Strawberry Muffins

Carrot, Beetroot & Pickled Fennel Salad

Spoon of everyone. Spoon
of the belly. Spoon of the empty belly.
Spoon of the full one. Spoon of no one
hungry. Spoon for everyone.

— from ‘Spoon Ode’ by Sharon Olds

I’m writing this sitting at our wooden kitchen table, early on a Friday afternoon. The big window above the bench is overlooking a grey sky, treetops bending low under the wind. The rain started up sometime during our sleep last night, and washed everything cool and clean and white. The oven is on, and full of trays of roasting vegetables sprinkled liberally with za’atar. W is playing next to me, sorting star anise into piles. T is fast asleep in our bed. S is stretched on the couch doing some work. The apartment feels warm, cosy. A rare moment of stillness in the chaos of our lives.  Continue reading Carrot, Beetroot & Pickled Fennel Salad

Cinnamon Cake with Labneh Frosting

I made this cake for my niece’s second birthday a couple of weeks ago. A pretty chilled out afternoon – balmy weather, an assortment of salads, cold beers, barbecued snags, kids underfoot. It was a family affair, and my niece had a great-grandmother there from both her dad – my brother – and her mum’s side. Coming from an immigrant family that was almost decimated in World War II, it was especially poignant to have four generations sitting around the table together.

My sister-in-law is one of my favourite people to bake for – she has a killer sweet tooth and so my efforts are always appreciated. I wanted to make a cake for this occasion that had a classic feel – something simple yet sophisticated . I opted for an airy double-layer cinnamon cake – appropriately autumnal – finished off with a rich labneh frosting, tangy and celebratory. I topped it with a bounty of fresh berries too, mostly for the pretty.  Continue reading Cinnamon Cake with Labneh Frosting