burnt toast

Toasty Brown Butter and Maple Old Fashioned

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…And what a ridiculously long and pretentious title that is. But really, if you love whisky, and you love the toasted, malty flavours of browned butter and maple, do go make this. However, keep in mind that you need to let the whisky infuse for three days before making this – so if you hurry, you’ll have some by the weekend.

Also makes for an excellent gift, kittens.

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Brown Butter and Maple Old Fashioned

taken and adapted from this wonderful site.

60ml brown butter infused whisky (recipe below)

2 tsp maple syrup

2 shakes bitters

1 strip of orange rind

ice

combine the whisky, maple syrup, and bitters in a tumbler. Squeeze the orange rind over the top and drop it in, giving it a bit of a stirry-smash to release some more of its orangey goodness. Add the ice and give it one last stir.

Yum.

 

Brown Butter Infused Whisky

makes about 500ml

 

100g butter, cubed

500ml whisky (go for something that’s drinkable on its own, but not sinfully wasteful if mixed into a drink – I used Red Label here)

One 600ml jar with a lid

A coffee filter, a clean tea towel or muslin of some sort

a 500ml bottle, to store the whisky in

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat and let it sizzle gently until it smells deliciously nutty and has gone a nice shade of hazelnut brown. This will take a moment or two, but be sure to keep an eye on it, because it can go from brown to black in an instant. Remove from the heat and let it come to room temperature (otherwise it’ll sizzle when it gets into contact with the whisky, and you lose precious alcohol percentage for nothing). Pour the butter and the whisky into the jar, screw on the lid, and give it a good shake. Then, place it into the fridge for three days.

Once those three days are up, filter the whisky into a bottle, using the coffee filter or tea towel. I regretfully don’t like whisky flavoured butter, so I usually discard it. If you’re a fan, please use it. But basically, once you’ve transferred the whisky into the bottle, you’re done! Keep it in the fridge between cocktail – making.

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Gazpacho

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Gazpacho has always reminded me of  that one summer in Spain – of cripplingly hot days, late meals on the terrace, and of thick, creamy gazpacho, made of mostly tomatoes, torn tufts of fluffy white baguette, and masses of olive oil. Every gazpacho that came after that was a disappointment. They were either too chunky, too watery, and always lacking enough salt. All everyone was doing was blending up salad and I wasn’t impressed.

Things needed to change guys. And finally, they did. This summer, in Ardèche, at the local supermarket.  France, with their carton-encased gazpacho from the chilled product isle, had all the answers to the questions I didn’t even know I had. It was delicious. And we had it nearly every night. Before you roll your eyes at me and tell me that you’re not a gazpacho sort of person anyway, focus those eyeballs of yours back on my face and listen. I’ve spent the past week trying to recreate that bottled soup at home and I know what its secrets are now. No, not bread. I don’t want blended bread in my gazpacho. I do want bread with it though, whole and crusty, to dip into the soup at the end. No, the silent winner of this recipe is the tinned tomato. The flavour is so much more well rounded than that of fresh (and at times acidic and watery) tomatoes. The second part to this recipe’s success is the comparatively small amount of cucumber. You only need a small hit, enough to add a hint of refreshing watery coolness, not a whole plate of it.  Finally, make sure you salt it well. This seems like an obvious instruction, but because the soup is cold, and because people tend to think of it as juice, they tend to under-salt it. So go on, give it a try. You might even love it a little bit.

 

Gazpacho

Unless you have a vitamix, you will have to do this my way with a hand held blender. Make sure you peel and de-seed the cucumber and the capsicum, because there’s nothing worse than having capsicum skin stuck in your teeth.

And just a suggestion for those still weary of this whole gazpacho business – don’t overdo it when serving it. A small bowl or even glass of it will do. Think of gazpacho as more of an amuse bouche than a full-on course, as something to dip your bread into and whet your appetite before you head on to your main dish.

You can either serve it immediately, at room temperature, or one or two days after making it. Just remember to take it out of the fridge at least half an hour before you intend to serve it.

Enough as an entrée for 4 people

 

A 400g can of whole plum tomatoes

One red capsicum

One shallot

1/3 of a cucumber

100ml water (or more)

4 – 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1 – 1 ½ salt, to taste

 

To serve

More olive oil, cracked black pepper, chilli flakes, maybe some green leafy herb, cherry tomatoes, and crusty bread

 

If you’re using a hand-held blender, do this in batches, one or two vegetables at a time. This ensures that you don’t have a chunky texture of different-textured veggies.

Get out your blender and two jugs. Start off with the plum tomatoes. Empty them into one of the jugs and give them a good blend. Add a few splashes of the water if you need to loosen it a bit. Once smooth, pour into the second jug. Quarter and de-seed the capsicum. With a vegetable peeler, peel away the skin. Yes, this may seem a little fiddly, but you’ll get the hang of it. Squish the capsicum towards the peeler and you’ll get all the more tricky bits, too. Add the capsicum to the jug and while you’re at it, finely chop the shallot and add it as well. The two are sort of similar in toughness, so they blend quite well together. Blend until smooth, adding a little of the water again to loosen it and make it easier to blend. Once completely smooth, add to the tomatoes. Finally, peel and core the cucumber, chop and chuck in the blender. Add a little more of the water and, surprise, also blend until smooth. Add the cucumber to the other blended veggies and add the olive oil, vinegar and salt (start with half a teaspoon, then add to taste), and give it all another blend. Add more water if you’d like it a little more liquidy.

Now pour into glasses or little bowls and decorate with a dribble of olive oil, some pepper, maybe some herbs and some deliciously crusty bread.

 

Also, surprisingly delicious mixed with tequila for a bloody Maria.

Potato Gratin

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I love this recipe. I know you probably make your own version of this and probably more frequently than me. But if you have the time to give this one a try, then do, because to me, it’s the best I’ve ever had. Here, instead of chucking everything into a baking dish and waiting forever till it’s done, you pre-boil the potatoes in the cream mixture, which not only makes it nice and creamy, but also cuts down the baking time considerably. If you’re not sure whether you should go for a medium / deep dish or a large / shallow one, go for the latter. Maximise that surface area to get the most of that caramelised cheesy goodness you get in the end.

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Potato Gratin

Adapted from here.

Serves 4-6 people

 

500ml milk

250ml cream

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 tsp vegetable stock powder

a few gratings of nutmeg

1 kg waxy potatoes, peeled and finely sliced

salt and pepper

80-150g gruyere (or more), grated

chopped parsley (if you can bother)

 

Combine the milk, cream, garlic, stock powder, and nutmeg in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the potatoes and bring to a simmer, cooking them until they just start to soften. Remove from the heat. See if it needs any more salt, and add a few grindings of pepper.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°C. Transfer the potato and cream mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle over the 80 grams of grated cheese. Now, side note here – If you LOVE cheese, feel free to stir extra into the sauce before transferring it into the dish, and then layering more of it between the layers of potato. I swear I love cheese too, but here I don’t think it’s necessary. But you do you, k? Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

Cinnamon Old Fashioned

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The third cocktail in a row – am I on a roll or what? Look – nah, I won’t even. You don’t need convincing anyway. Drinks are always front page news in these parts. I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for a few years now, but only a few months ago did I discover the ultimate version of the Old Fashion by adding cinnamon syrup. The cinnamon doesn’t punch you in the face, which is what I like and need in my life. The world is way too oversaturated with cinnamon-spiced things as it is.

This is one of the easiest and quickest drinks to have around – everyone should have bitters at home anyway, and a jar of maraschino cherries doesn’t take up much room in the fridge either. All you need to do is go out and buy a juicy (and preferably organic – you’re getting a bit of the rind smooshed into the drink, kay?) orange and make that cinnamon syrup. YAHM.

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Cinnamon Old Fashioned

Makes 1 glass

1/2 slice of orange, plus another half for decoration

1 maraschino cherry, plus another for decoration

3 shakes of Angostura Bitters

2 tsp (10ml) cinnamon syrup (recipe below)

ice

60ml whiskey (I used Red Label)

 

In a jug, combine the orange slice, the cherry, the bitters and the syrup. With a muddler or even a spoon, mash everything together until you feel certain that the orange oils and cherry juices have done the best they can. Add about 3 ice cubes and the whiskey, and give it all a good stir. Fill a pretty tumbler with a few more cubes of ice (or a fancy big one if you have it) and sieve the delicious golden liquid right over the top of it. Add the additional orange slice and cherry to garnish. Done.

When I feel lazy (which is mostly) I skip the sieving and the additional cherry and orange slice and just pour that into my glass. Do whatever your level of lazy requires of you.

 

Cinnamon Syrup

Makes about 130ml

110g raw sugar

125ml water

1 big pinch salt

1 cinnamon stick, or 1/2 big chunky one

 

Combine everything in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and darkened in colour. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Remove the cinnamon by sieving the syrup into a glass jar.

Keep it in a jar in the fridge – it’ll last quite a long time there.

The Barcelonian (G&T)

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I like myself a good G&T as much as the next aficionado, but I do get bored with it pretty quickly. I need some pizazz. The current favourite around here is the cucumber and black pepper combination, which is wonderful in its own right. And after two of those, crunching on a diluted strand of gourd, I have often wondered what other fridge ingredients could be added to amp up the next phase of the evening… and this is what I found. A lovely friendship of flavours, somewhere between a martini and a gin and tonic, with enough goodies thrown in to keep you satisfied till the end.

 

The Barcelonian (G&T)

Inspired by this recipe

 

Ice (at least 5 cubes)

30ml gin

a squeeze of lemon juice

a lemon twist

one big green olive (preferably Sicilian)

one caper berry

a sprig of rosemary, smacked with the back of a spoon to release some of the delicious oils

60-80ml tonic water

a pinch of Maldon sea salt

Get yourself a glass and add the ingredients one by one until you’ve topped everything up with tonic water. Finish everything of with the salt. Donesies.

Cyclone

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As warmer weather approaches (hahahah), people are once again slowly opening up to the idea of drinking something a bit more refreshing than wine, yet a wee tastier than yeasted bubble water (why humanity, why). Granted, this is more of a summer drink, but I recently discovered Bundaberg Ginger Beer, the one and only ginger beer, in Bern. And lord knows I need to make the best of it.

I last had this drink at the Beaufort in Carlton, Melbourne (another excellent place to visit if you’re in the neighbourhood). There they called it a Hurricane, but since I’m only using one type of Rum, I’m settling for “Cyclone” – the tame, tasty sort that limits itself to small glass vessels. You get a hint of vanilla from the rum, an extra punch of ginger from the syrup,  all zingily balanced by the lime. What more is there to say.

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Cyclone

 

Makes 1 drink

ice, rather more than less

60ml Sailor Jerry Rum

15ml ginger syrup (recipe below)

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

2 lime wedges

120ml Bundaberg Ginger Beer

 

Get yourself a tall glass and fill it with ice. Add rum, syrup and bitters. Squeeze over the lime and fill up with ginger beer.

 

Ginger Syrup

makes about 180ml

220g white sugar

250ml water

100g ginger, thinly sliced, then roughly chopped

1 pinch salt

Combine everything in a small pan. Bring to the boil, then let simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes until syrupy. Let it cool, then pour into a jar through a fine mesh strainer. Will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

Cabbage, Carrot and Crispy Fish Tacos with Chipotle Mayo

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I’ve been making this recipe for a good year now, and I’ve been making it at least once a month. It’s stupidly easy and delicious, as any good taco should be. It’s also the home diy version of this incredibly fantastic one you can get at Los Hermanos in Brunswick, Melbourne (miss you), if you’re ever there.

Again, this is one of those “throw together / non-recipe” recipes, but it’s nice to have some sort of instructions, so here they are. Go forth and adjust and enjoy as needed.

 

Cabbage, Carrot and Crispy Fish Tacos with Chipotle Mayo

Makes 4

 

6 fish fingers (you can go as glamorous or as childhood nostalgic as you like here)

 

150g white cabbage, thinly sliced

1 medium carrot, grated

½ bunch of coriander, leaves picked, roughly chopped

salt

 

5 Tbsp mayonnaise

½ tsp chipotle

½ tsp smoked paprika (you can go all chipotle here if you like it super spicy)

½ tsp honey

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp water, to thin it and make it easier to drizzle

 

4 small (mini) flour tortillas

a few wedges of lemon, to serve

 

Preheat oven to 200°C. Add the fish fingers and leave them for about 20-25 minutes – you want them to be super crispy. Alternatively, heat some oil in a pan and transform your place into a deep-fry venue.

In the meantime, combine the cabbage, carrot and coriander with a pinch of salt. I find this helps soften the cabbage, making it not only easier to eat, but also less bland.

Combine the chipotle mayo ingredients. Remove the fish fingers from the oven once they are done, and let them cool a little. Once they are cool, halve them at an angle for no other reason than to make them look fancy. Skip this step if fancy isn’t your jam.

Get out a big frying pan, and heat each tortilla on each side – a few toasty spots are highly welcome here, but keep an eye on them, because they darken pretty quickly. Place one of the tortillas on a plate, add a smear of mayo, followed by the cabbage mixture, 3 fish finger halves and top it off with a drizzle of more mayo. Repeat with the remaining tacos. Serve with lemon wedges.

The Carroty Smoked Salmon Alternative

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Look who’s here. A third of a year later. Look at me just waltzing in like I’ve had the busiest four months in my life. Ha! Whatever. My attempts for 2016 have been abysmal, so I can’t make any promises, but I shall attempt to better myself on the c”ooking, holding off the eating part, photographing, and then, once that’s done, and only then, eating” -front. Let me introduce you to my first attempt below.

I may not get out much, but I feel that I am speaking truthfully if I say that I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like smoked salmon (food-group avoiders/haters, you are exempt). It’s what people whip out to up their brunch game, or to add some glam to their last-minute assembly of party canapés. As soon as there’s smoked salmon anything, people lose their shit and will leave said event with the best memories ever, for life. Good for them. That’s how it should be I reckon – simple, elegant, crowd-pleasing, delicious. And unforgettable. But you know what? I fucking hate smoked salmon. There, I said it. For years I have tried to fall in love with that stinky oily rag of sea creature, but deep down I’ve always known that there’s no way in hell I will ever grow to love that stuff. So instead, I compromise and eat it anyway, because there are worse things in life(definitely better ones, too), and the lovely people offering it to me only mean well. And to be honest, I love how smoked salmon is used, especially the ultra clichéd cream cheesed and capered baguette sliced variation. Again – simple and fancy. I was actually slowly getting to terms with the “either eat and slightly regret or admire from afar and feel sad” relationship I was forming with it, when I accidentally tripped over a vegan youtube channel that had some pretty interesting ideas about smoked salmon alternatives, ones that for once weren’t of the tofu / tempeh / seitan variety. Hurray! I decided to try out the recipe, and try it I did. And you know what? I’m really into it.

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Roasted carrots people! What a versatile vegetable. Marinated for a day or so, then used the same way as salmon would be. It even looks a bit like smoked salmon. Those of you who love the original, you will most probably be disappointed, so maybe don’t make this. However, everyone else who has the same complicated relationship with pungent sea dwellers as I do, venture forth.

 

Roasted Marinated Carrot to Use as a Delicious Topping

or

The Carroty Smoked Salmon Alternative

(titles aren’t my strength today, soz)

This can be adjusted to however much you want to make, but I’d start off with the amount below, just in case you decide that you are not a roasted marinated carrot person

 

2 medium-large carrots, peeled

a little olive oil

salt

tin foil

 

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 pinches smoked paprika

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Rip off a nice-sized sheet of foil – you’re going to make a little carrot package out of this, so make sure there’s enough of it. Drizzle the middle with a teensy (1 tsp) bit of oil. Plonk the carrots on top and turn them a few times so they’re oiled all over. Sprinkle over the salt, then wrap it up tightly, rolling up the edges to form a nicely sealed bag. Place it into the oven and roast for about 45 min – 1 hour. Check on it after 30 min to see how they’re going. You don’t want the carrots to brown!

Once they’re nice and soft when tested with a knife, take them out of the oven and let them cool in their tin bag. When they’re room temperature, grab a big jar or container and combine the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, soy and smoked paprika. Thinly slice the carrots at an angle and transfer them into the jar and close the lid. Give everything a nice shake and put it into the fridge. Leave it for at least half a day before garnishing your toast with it.

I love this the classic way with a shmear of cream cheese and a sprinkling of red onion and capers, but please, do whatever you want with it.

Quince Jelly, Queen of Jellies

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Quince jelly is the epitome of sophistication in the jam world. No jam will ever be as fancy or as florally seductive as this one. Not even that lemon grass and lavender jelly your aunt Ruth gave you last Christmas. It is also dead simple to make, despite you may think scrolling through my instructions. I like to know what I’m doing when I’m making jelly, with all those boiling points and whatnot. So this is my simplified, non-candy thermometered version for you (but really for next year me). No other jelly will make you feel as emancipated as this one. You cook it for an hour and then pouf! It’s jelly. I know, magic.

This will take a bit of time, so it will require a bit of planning and / or a rainy day or two.  I like to boil and drip the quince on an evening, so that I can turn the liquid into jelly the following day.

Quince Jelly

Enough quinces to fill a big pot, about 6, depending on size

Water

A medium-meshed sieve

Large bowl

Measuring cup

 

500g sugar per 600ml quince liquid

½ large lemon per 600ml quince liquid

a saucer

small sieve

(another) big pot of boiling water (for sterilizing the jars)

Jam jars (with well-fitting lids)

Tongs (to remove the hot jars from the boiling water)

Soup ladle

 

You can tell that this is a bit of a “wing it” job by reading through the ingredients list, so if you’re feeling panicky already, I suggest you have plenty of sugar and lemons on hand, just in case you end up with way more than planned. On that note, the quince water will happily wait for you for a few days in the fridge. I get just over 1200ml of quince water per batch if that’s any help.

The leftover quince can be kept in the fridge for a few days. There are a bunch of things you can do with it, quince paste being one of them. But I’ll get to that recipe in a bit.

Chop the quince into chunks. To start off, I usually cut through the top where the stem is, as I find it can be pretty hard to slice from the side. Don’t worry about size or shape here. The smaller the pieces, the faster it’ll cook, but you’ll also be chopping longer. If you come across any worms or weird growth, just cut it away.

Fill your pot with the quince chunks and fill up with water, 2-3 cm shy of the edge. Top with a lid and bring to the boil. Move the lid slightly so some of the steam can come out, and reduce the heat a little. Let it cook until done – this will vary, depending on how enthusiastically you cut the fruit. I’d say between ½ to 1 hour. The quince is done once it’s very soft when pierced with a knife.

Let everything cool to room temperature. I wouldn’t suggest you rush this part, as I feel the liquid really benefits from hanging with the fruit for a few hours. Once cool, grab your sieve and prop it over the large bowl and gently pour the water and quinces into it. This helps get rid of any grit or seeds that may have got loose during the cooking process. Press down slightly on the fruit in the sieve and place something slightly heavy on top to help coax out the rest of the juices (I usually stick it in the fridge overnight).

Measure the liquid: Per 600ml quince liquid, you’ll need 500g of white sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Transfer all of this back into the pot you used at the beginning. Bring to a soft boil. Now the watching, waiting and skimming part begins! Once the mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat. Use the small sieve to scoop away any white froth that forms. All up, I’d say this part takes about one hour. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over, but also so it doesn’t stop boiling.

While waiting for the liquid to thicken, put your saucer in the freezer. You’ll use this for testing the doneness of the jelly later. Once the jelly starts to turn a beautiful reddish colour (at about 40 min), take your plate out and drop some hot jelly on it with a teaspoon. Wait a few seconds, then drag your finger through it. If it starts to form wrinkles, it’s nearly ready.

At this point, get your Big pot with boiling water ready. Fill the glass jars about halfway up with hot water and fit them snugly in the pot. Slip the lids in too. Let them boil away for at least 10 minutes.

Once you feel the jelly is ready (don’t be afraid of letting it boil a little longer – it takes a while for it to get super stodgy), take the tongs and pick out one of the glass jars, emptying any of the water inside it back into the pot. Place it down in front of you, making sure all the water has evaporated, then take the ladle and scoop some of the hot jelly slowly into the jar. Pick out the right lid from the water bath and screw it on. Repeat with the rest.

Once all your jars are filled and screwed tightly shut, turn them around and pop them on their head for about half an hour, then turn them back over again (this is the moment of truth – if some of the jelly starts seeping out from the sides, you know the lid is crap. Open and pour back into the pot while you go off looking for a new jar) The jelly will thicken as it cools. You’ve made quince jelly!

Besides bread and butter, it’s especially great with cheese on toast, or even stirred into a fruity herbal infusion, or for glancing at admiringly from time to time.

Berry Bircher Muesli with Toasted Walnuts

img_7926Oh hey kids. Ready for some super delicious, comforting breakfast fare? Then read right on. A well-known Swiss staple, folks eat it in all kinds of combinations at all times of day, knowing that besides Rösti and Fondue, this too will give them enough stamina to wrestle a herd of cows any day. The exciting lives we lead, people.

In all honesty, and I do say this a lot, this might be my favourite version ever. I’ve had my fair share over the years and can give you a few pointers of what I think should be included (or excluded):

  •  Always add a grated apple. And try to let it sit overnight. It sort of melts into the mixture by the following day, and forms a lovely flavour base together with the dates.
  • Only add fresh fruit when ready to serve, or else make a compote or jam. I hate fresh fruit going mushy, but I do like the flavour they add. To intensify this flavour, compote is the way to go.
  •  If adding nuts, roast them and do so at the end as well. Soggy blandness is never the answer.
  •  Don’t go crazy on the sweetener at the beginning. The rest of the ingredients will omit their own share of sweetness during the resting period, so let them do that first. You can always add more later.
  • Stick to only a small number of different fruit, about 2-4, but don’t add anything ridiculous like kiwi fruit or pineapple. This isn’t a fruit party.
  • And last but not least, add that pinch of salt, to everything, always. It makes it taste so much better.

 

Berry Bircher Muesli with toasted Walnuts

Serves 4 – This’ll keep nicely in the fridge for a few days. Just give it a good stir when you get it out.

150g instant oats

350 ml full fat milk

350g plain yoghurt

2 Tbsp cream or sour cream (optional)

1 Tbsp maple syrup or honey

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 pinch of salt

1 large apple, grated (with skin on)

6 dates, quartered and chopped into small pieces

20g (small handful) of cranberries, roughly chopped

 

200g berries, I used blueberries and strawberries, chopped if needed

2Tbsp raw sugar

¼ tsp vanilla essence

 

100g walnuts

1-2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey

sprinkling of salt

 

more berries, to serve

 

This is best made the day before, or at least two hours in advance, so plan accordingly.

Get a big container that comes with a lid and combine the oats, milk, yoghurt and cream in it. Give it a good stir, then add the maple syrup, cinnamon and salt, as well as the apple, dates and cranberries. One last stir, then pop the lid on and transfer to the fridge.

In the meantime, combine the berries with the sugar and the vanilla in a small pan. Cook over low heat until it starts to thicken into a delicious smelling, syrupy fruit jam. Remove from the heat and pour into a little jar. Let it cool at room temperature before screwing on a lid and packing it into the fridge to join his oat friend.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper, and add the whole walnuts, spacing them out. Bake for about 5 minutes, then drizzle over the maple syrup and sprinkle over the salt. Give it all a good stir, then return to the oven for about 10 more minutes – you might need less, so keep your eyes peeled. The nuts are good when they have taken on a slightly darker colour, and the maple syrup has more or less “evaporated”. Remove from the oven and cool. Chop into small pieces and transfer to another jar.

A couple of hours or even a day later, Take out your oats. Give them another stir before adding the berry jam and about half of the nuts and most of the fresh berries. Gently combine them so that you can still see a few streaks of purple from the berry jam. Top with the remaining nuts and whatever berries remain. Eat.

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Yes, I really love using this bowl. And no, unless you gift me with a better option, I won’t stop using it in my shoots.

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