A novel Christmas tree

 

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Sarah writes…

If you love books like I do and fancy a pine-free tree – or just another tree to add to your collection – how about giving this book tree a go?

It’s pretty easy and only a little bit fiddly – and it’s guaranteed to make your festive poppers-in think you’re really literary and clever.

 

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Here’s how…

1  Get all your books together – it’s good to get a mix of large hardback, paperback and smaller books. A metre-high tree, like this one, requires about 30 or 40 books

2  Lay your foundations by arranging 6 books of a similar size and thickness into a flower shape. If you’re doing a massive book-off tree then you might want to use 10 or even 12 books in your first flower layer

3 Start building, bringing your books towards the centre of the tree a bit more with each new flower layer. Make sure to use books of a similar girth (oo-er) on each level to prevent the wobbles

4 When you’ve gone as far as you can with your flower layers, you can start using one large book or two smaller books to build up your tree, getting narrower as you go

5 When you’ve reached a height you’re happy with, add a few smaller books to finish it off – Jasmine’s tiny pop-up books came in handy here. At this point, you might also want to prettify your tree shape by shifting books around here and there

6 Drape your tree in lights – I’m a sucker for a retro coloured light as it reminds me of being a misty-eyed kid in the 80s and 90s. I topped off the tree with a flickering LED tea light, too, but you could go for a pine cone, or an angel or whatever floats your Christmassy boat

Important aside: if you have a marauding toddler like I do – you could secure your books with a bit of blue tack to stop it from being smashed over. Or even better, build your tree on a surface they can’t reach. Building your book tree on a low bookshelf means double the book-y joy

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Will you be decking your halls nice and early? We’d love to hear your DIY deco ideas..

You might have noticed that WMBL has driven back for Christmas – yup, we had a very extended summer break and didn’t blog during that time, which we’re slapping our own wrists for. No excuses other than we’ve all been manically busy with jobs and kiddos etc. But we’re back now and won’t be going away again! Thanks for bearing with us and see you again very soon. Merry early Christmas! 

At it like rabbits…

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Or: the last-minute handmade bunny Easter card how-to.

You know how Kate Middleton gave the Queen a home-made chutney for Christmas? Well that inspired us. And it’s really easy. Not the chutney but this card we made to give to our metaphorical gran this Easter.

So much so, that once you’ve made one you might want to make another one and another one. For your fella perhaps (see, kinky black leather bunny in middle of photo), or your gal (she’ll appreciate all of them). Watch them, though, they multiply.

They’re also zero-calorie, sugar-free and you won’t have to fight anyone for the last one down the Sainsbury’s chocolate aisle this Good Friday.

Basically, all you need is some good quality card, a scrap of nice fabric, a pencil and a pair of scissors, some glue or spray mount and something to tie around your bunny’s neck – optional though, that one.

Here’s goes…

ABUNNYDRAWINGDesign your bunny. Either freestyle like we did or google bunny silhouette, print one off and trace over it. You can always copy ours by drawing a big half-creme egg shape for the body, two long skinny half-eggs for its legs, then drawing around a coin for its head and adding nice ears.

ABUNNYTEMPLATECut out your paper bunny template.

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Now fold your cardboard in half to create traditional greeting card shape. Draw around your bunny template on the front of the card. Make sure you have two areas of bunny that meet the fold of the card. We did the ears and knees. Next, cut round bunny, open up, et voila… as you can see above, a Bugs-shaped card.

ABUNNYFABRICGrab your paper bunny template again and draw around it onto your fabric, using pencil or fabric pen.

ABUNNYCUTOUTCut out your fabric – you only need one piece for the front of the card.

ABUNNYGLUEUse glue or spray mount to stick your fabric on the front of your card. Don’t worry about raw edges – it’s all the rage this season, just ask Pinterest.

ABUNNYBOWFind a stray piece of ribbon and tie it around your bunny’s neck, making sure to only tie it around the front of the card so as not to strangle bunny.

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And there you have it: a bunny card in situ, alongside a bunch of spring blooms and a shelf-full of craft books. (Don’t say we don’t do our best to look Pinterest-appropriate.)

And with that, we’ll bid you a hoppy Easter, full of stuffing your face with too much chocolate, drinking too many Bank Holiday beers and admiring your rabbity handiwork on the mantelpieces of your nearest and dearest.

Midweek salmon supper


Oh, if only fish ‘n’ chips were fat-free, gluten-free, zero-calorie, organic, paleo, suitable for a 2-day on the 5:2 diet, full of healthy endorphins… Only 4 more school nights ’til Friday, though.

In the meantime, if you’re also having a non-stuff-your-face day then try out this quick little salmon dish for dinz.

It’s served with garlic spinach, spiralized veg, sprinkled with soy sauce and lemon and baked in paper – en papillote, as Greg Wallace would say. Yes, the spiralizer’s been partying again.

Oily fish + mountains of spiralized veg + select condiments = a surprisingly yum and filling dinner that might make you forget about your need for stodge for a while.

Here’s what you need to make this for two:

2 courgettes, spiralized (or grated or peeled)
2 carrots, spiralized (or as above)
1 medium/large onion, spiralized (same again)
Bag of pre-washed spinach leaves
Fat clove of minced or grated garlic
2 salmon fillets
1 lemon, sliced in half
Soy sauce
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Baking paper

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Here’s what you do:

Preheat your oven to about 160C

Rip 2 sizeable sheets of baking paper to create your parcels

Place half of the mound of your spiralized veg in the centre of the paper

Place your salmon fillet on top

Sprinkle soy sauce on your salmon and over your veg, as much or as little as you like, according to prefz

Grab your lemon half and give it a massive squeeze so it rains over your ingredients

Sprinkle on some pepper

Now create a loose parcel by scrunching up the corners of the paper

Place parcels on a baking tray in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes

About 15 minutes in, splash some olive oil into a frying pan and heat over a moderate setting for 30 seconds

Throw in your garlic and heat for a minute or two until it’s translucent

Chuck in your bag of spinach and, with a spatula or wooden spoon, press it down and turn it until it’s wilted to your favourite wilt setting

Pull salmon from the oven, and still in its parcel, plonk on a white plate and open carefully – this is not the time for a steam facial

Add spinach, salt and pepper, and serve with a very cold glass of wine

Or water. It’s Tuesday. God. Tuesday. But perhaps just one very cold glass of wine because it goes really well. Not two glasses. No. Never.

Decorating Elsie

Author: Sarah-Louise

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Hey, all. Welcome to a post that’s a bit of a hybrid, like a cronut. It’s both a coffee shop review and the tale of the secret screen prints. Sorted? Right let’s get started… I love nothing more than a piece of cake and a skinny cappuccino in a takeaway cup with a straw.

However, working from home while simultaneously entertaining/making sure my 16-month old doesn’t stick her fingers in plug sockets does not afford much time for cake-baking. And coffee at home is never the same.

So, yay for Elsie, a new cafe-bar and deli, that’s just opened around the corner in my ‘hood, Hornsey. (The bit between Muswell Hill and Crouch End in north London, for those who don’t know.)

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Not only does Elsie do coffee and cakes, it does pastries, savoury muffins, chocolate croissant bread pudding slices (top left), breakfasts, sandwiches, soups, sharing platters and big steaming bowls of chilli. And booze.

Because it’s a deli, it also does takeaway organic loaves, posh chocolate, panettone in glamorous boxes, quirky handmade cookies and chunky chutneys with amusing names.

Owner Claire has also adorned the place with her own quirky artwork, bedecked it in fairy lights and fills the airwaves with a cockle-warming mix of crackly jazz, show tunes, Bowie and James Taylor.
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The result is a twinkly, relaxing little haven. You can eat here, drink here, work here – and take your toddler without causing too much chaos. There’s a mini library for you to help yourself to books, a menu of nighttime events coming up – Time Traveller’s Wife author Audrey Niffenegger is hosting an evening at the end of March –  and a primary-coloured portrait of Jeremy Corbyn in one corner. He’s promised to visit the place soon. He wouldn’t need to do up his top button here. Anything goes. Baby J and I practically live here.

Anyway, one day Claire produced a bulging Ikea bag of fabric from behind the counter and asked if we could do anything creative with it. She explained that it had come from the daughter of a local lady named Irene Kent Gouly, who had sadly recently passed away and left behind a secret stash of gorgeous handmade screen-printed fabrics.

Apparently, screen-printing was Irene’s not-shouted-about hobby rather than her profession – but judging by the sheer volume and array of beautiful, bonkers and brilliant designs she’d left behind, she could have opened her own shop or gallery.

My mum, Maria from We May Be Little, was suitably impressed and very excited by all its creative potential. She carefully opened up each new piece with an ooh, an aah or a wow – her imagination well and truly revved.  “We could do this! And this! And this! Throw! Curtains! Cushion cover! Blouse!”

The upshot of all this was that we’d thank Claire, and Irene’s daughter, back for their generosity and beauteous threads by making something decorative for the cafe. Having Irene’s work on display in a public space, in the area in which she’d always lived, felt a fitting tribute to her secret talents. My mum suggested bunting and Claire decreed it so. “Bunting is just what this place is missing,” she said.

And so, we decided on a huge swathe of abstract print fabric, splashed in neons, pastels and black brushstrokes. It was kind of 80s but kind of 2016-ies too. We figured it’d take the bunting from twee to edgy (c’mon, bunting can be edgy) and that all the random colours and patterns would give each flag its own unique look.

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After knocking up a long piece to festoon the length of the bar, Maria – being the unashamed bunting-basher that she is – whipped up some mini flags for Elsie’s dressers, too. All that was left to do was get it in place.

And happily, Claire seemed chuffed with the results. We must admit, this funky bunting does look right at home in this little joint. It was like it was meant to be. Take a look and see. And if you ever find yourself in this part of north London, treat yourself with a stop-off at Elsie.

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A big thank you to the ridiculously talented Irene and her generous daughter for the inspiration. We think there might be more where this came from.

Elsie, 10 Priory Road, London, N8

 

 

 

 

How to: Do New York in winter with a baby

 

Author: Sarah-Louise

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Hello, all! I’ve just come back from an 8-day trip to New York with the fam’. I’ve always loved the place. The skyscrapers, the lights, the cabs, the rush, the hotdog stalls, the glitzy store fronts, the accents, the secret bars and glamorous cocktails, the steaming manhole covers. But then I’d only ever been with Julian (BF-turned-husband) before.

Now, however, we are in possession of a 15-month-old boddler – a baby-toddler – called Jasmine. How would this work? Both of us wanted to go to New York again but neither of us wanted to leave Jasmine at home with the monitor on and a cot full of snacks. There was only one thing for it.

And how hard could it really be?

Fortunately – “Hurrrrraaaaahhhh!” – it went pretty swimmingly for the most part.

So, for any other willing/mad parents of babies or toddlers who are contemplating it, here are our best tips and suggestions. Just so’s you know: we flew from Heathrow, London – but much of this will apply wherever you fly from.

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MANAGE YOUR FLIGHT TIMES (AKA working out nap times Vs time zones)

If you’re flying from the UK like us, try and book yourself an afternoon, weekday flight. They’re much quieter. We flew out at 3pm on a Thursday and the plane was only half full. Also, it means by the time you get to New York, it’s bed time for your boddler – and customs is quieter, too.

At your departure airport, book yourself some extra leg room then smile sweetly and see if the person at the desk will block a 4-seat row out for you. This really takes the edge off the 8-hour endurance test to come. Note: this is doable on an afternoon flight; not at all doable on a Friday evening return flight, which we’ll come to. *weepy emoticon face*

We decided that Jasmine would have two hours’ sleep on the plane so she’d be ready for a night’s sleep at the other end. She walked the aisles and played with the in-flight remote for the first hour, slept for the next two – giving us the opportunity to watch an actual film from start to finish – and then we woke her with three hours to go. Those three hours weren’t easy but it was worth it.

We arrived at our hotel in Greenwich Village at about 9pm, after flying through customs and getting a cab. Once in our room, Jasmine had her milk and was soon sleeping like the proverbial baby in her snug-looking new cot. Yay. We’d beaten the ‘lag. (For this leg, anyway…)

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DON’T MAKE A FLIGHT BACK-MISHAP

We totally ballsed up our flight home, though. Word of warning: don’t book a Friday evening flight. They are rammed. And they’re fast. Meaning no real time to have a quasi-night’s sleep. Jasmine got 4 hours; we got none. I was so grumpy by the time we got off, in the rain, that I could barely muster up a goodbye to the airline staff. In fact, I only started to feel like there was any light left in this godforsaken world once we’d got home, slept for 3 hours and showered it all off. My advice: go from midweek to midweek!

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FIND THE RIGHT HOTEL 

We booked The Jade in Greenwich Village. It wasn’t cheap but nothing in New York is. (We knew this was a blow-out holiday and accepted in advance that we’d be eating beans for the rest of the year.) We had a bonus two cosy double beds (good for naps) in our Art Deco-inspired room and a luvverly view of the Freedom Tower.

Greenwich Village is also one of our favourite areas in Manhattan. It’s pretty, full of character, relatively leafy and Bleeker Playground and The High Line are within walking distance – perfect for our active boddler.

There are good deals to be had on hotel rooms in all areas of Manhattan at this time of year, however. My mum Maria came to NYC for a couple of days with her hub Colin while we were there, and found a good deal on a Midtown hotel. It was cheaper than ours and the bedroom was huuuuge. So it’s worth doing your research.

GET WALKING!

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Wrap up that boddler warm – or slap ’em with suncream if you go in summer – and get out there. Early morning, preferably. You’ll feel like you have the whole city to yourself and you can squeeze into cool coffee shops and breakfast hangouts without your buggy and kid causing too much of a ruckus. Explore Chelsea Market, too.

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GO DOG-BOTHERING

Manhattan has a lotta dogs. Those things beloved by babies, toddlers and boddlers everywhere. Manhattan’s canines outnumber little people by 200 to 1. That’s how it feels, anyway. Many an excited squeal arose from the Bugaboo or baby backpack as we pounded the streets and encountered the city’s finest – most of whom were dressed better than us. We made special trips to the dog run in Union Square just so Jasmine could get her fix.

GET A BABY BACK PACK (AND REINS)

Another trick – and something that was initially an experiment but came to be the best thing we ever did – was splash out on  LittleLife Ranger child carrier. It’s like a huge backpack for boddlers and offers them an adult’s eye view of the world. Jasmine hates being strapped into things. She can’t ruddy stand her car seat; she’d much prefer to wander, and we weren’t particularly hopeful the first time we cooped her up into her backpack and she screamed her head off. However, once we got out there and she became aware of its benefits, she was smitten. She even took to “giddying up” her dad whenever he walked slowly.

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DO TIMES SQUARE

Whether in a buggy or on your back, your little person is going to love this shiz. All you need to do is walk through the place. They’ll get a week’s worth of back home-stimulation in 5 minutes here. And if you’re feeling brave, take them into the Disney Store. If they walk, strap on the reins and let them explore. It might sound a little tiresome but, like me, you might get swept up in the joy of it all. And – corn alert – seeing Times Square through your boddler’s eyes really is magical. It made me fall in love with the place when I’d only ever been sniffy about it before.

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VISIT MUSEUMS

Go to the American Museum of Natural History on a weekday. Show them the dinosaurs and the big blue whale and let them talk to the museum staff, who, like most people in New York, seem to love babies. This, I’ve decided, is because boddlers are such a novelty. I’m not sure where Manhattanites keep all of theirs; but they must exist somewhere as school-age children aren’t in short supply. Anyway, walking around Manhattan is a very different experience to walking around ten-a-penny, Kid Central, Crouch End, where we live. You’re much more likely to get someone come up and tell you how cute your kid is, which is nice. Because you’ve always thought the same thing too.

We didn’t get time to check them out, but we also heard good things about the Children’s Museum in Greenwich Village and the Brooklyn Transit Museum.

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VISIT THE PARKS

We loved Bleeker Playground; it comes complete with a sandpit, swings and toys donated by local residents. Jasmine had her first go on a scooter at Bleeker Playground, while a neon “Liquor” sign flickered in the distance. It was a very poetic moment. She also had a walk on the High Line, the tarted-up disused railway track that runs through downtown Manahattan, and where we spotted Clare Danes on a very serious jog. We didn’t make Central Park this time round as it was a bit of a walk. And a bit frigging freezing. But if we’d gone in summer rather than February, we’d have done it all.

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EAT OUT – YOU CAN!

Honestly, dining in Manhattan’s finest and funkiest eateries is not a thing of the past when you have a baby. You just have to re-jig your schedule a bit. Fortunately, thanks to the ‘lag, Julian and I have always been “morning people” in New York. It’s perfect when you have a small person too. We made it to some of Manhattan’s best new coffee shops and restaurants all before 8.30 am – and the best bit, our boddler was not turned away at the door. It’s the dining out experience, just done early.

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MAKE BREAKFAST YOUR THING

We had coffees and pastries at new coffee joints Kava Coffee in the Meatpacking District and Third Rail Coffee, near Bleeker Street, where we spotted killer-thighed former Bond Girl Famke Jannsson and her dog. We also enjoyed brilliant brunches at Bubby’s on the High Line, The Grey Dog’s Coffee in Greenwich Village and Coffee Shop on Union Square. We also went to our old favourite, Penelope, near the Flatiron Disctrict – it does the most divine Nutella French toast you’ll ever get your laughing gear around.  We also managed to experience the legendary Reuben sandwiches at the East Village’s Katz’s Deli, – yep, the When Harry Met Sally one – with boddler in tow (see above). Our tip: get there when it opens.

Another brilliant thing about all of the above is that they PROVIDE HIGH CHAIRS. This is not a given in Manhattan so ring ahead if you’re trying out somewhere new.

 

GET YOUR COCKTAIL FIX

Manhattan practically forces you to have a cocktail in the morning. Most menus have a breakfast cocktail section. Mimosas! Bloody Marys! Blackcurrant belinis! It would be rude not to get tipsy before 10am. Drinking a cocktail in the morning has two benefits, too: it gives you a warm Ready Brek-like glow as spend the rest of the morning, sightseeing – then brings on a totally cosy co-nap with your Little at midday. Leaving you refreshed and ready to start again at teatime.

5pm-ish is a very good time to eat out with a boddler. Child-friendly and cocktail-offering places that welcomed our Jazz included Eataly in the Flatiron area; my fave, Penelope; Dos Caminos in Times Square, and The Rink at the Standard in the Meatpacking District, where, not only will your Little get to watch the action on The Standard Hotel’s ice rink, they’ll also get their own menu, colouring book, crayons and an extremely warm welcome from the modelesque staff. (While you warm up on Cold Fashioneds).

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ENJOY THE NIGHTLIFE

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Nightlife. Schmightlife. We all know fauxialising is the new socialising anyway. So make the most of your boddler’s early bedtime. Buy yourself a bottle of vino, order room service and watch a pre-downloaded film on your iPad – on subtitles. Sound boring? We were so tired after our full and busy days that we didn’t make it more than 15 minutes through any of the buggers. It’s all works out: you get to have a big sleep, rise and shine early, and do the above all over again.

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NIGHTLIFE CHEAT

Admittedly, we had one set of grandparents there for a couple of nights and so we let them look after Jasmine for one in exchange for a bottle of Campo Viejo and a bar of Green & Blacks. Then we hotfooted it to The Standard (when in New York…), where we got drunk on two cocktails at the ridiculously beautiful sky top bar (pictured below) and nipped around the corner for rock shrimp at Buddakhan, and the next night had fish tacos at the Mermaid Inn. During the day we brought Jasmine round to peer at the views of downtown Manhattan from our floor-to-ceiling hotel room windows. Another see-it-through-a-child’s-eyes that’s made us feel all warm inside.

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AND SOME MORE TIPS…

  • Pack LOADS of healthy baby snacks. Jasmine’s appetite was not what it usually is, which we put down to jet lag and unfamiliar environment. Without her regular highchair, even her standby cereal and HIPP organic meals, which we brought with us, were a no-go. So for a week she mostly existed on bowls of berries (New York does good berries) Organix raisins, Organix rice cakes, Ella’s veggie pouches, BEAR’s 100% fruit sweets – and toast. She got unusually stressed and fussy if we put anything more daring down in front of her. Thank the lord for milk!
  •  Know that every Duane Reade in town stocks Pampers and Ella’s – or at least their US equivalent
  • Pack your kid’s favourite soft toy and books
  • Download a load of films and TV shows on your iPad before you leave for your ‘Netflix and Chill’ nights
  • Download some kids’ shows too
  • Pack for the season – we bought Jasmine an extra warm snowsuit, which made her look like the Stay Puft marshmallow man
  • Have extra boddler snacks on you at all times, including on both flights
  • Prevent aeroplane ear-pop: during takeoff, take measures to avoid the dreaded ear-pop. We gave Jasmine water from a bottle and had the emergency soother (okay, dummy) to hand
  • Don’t expect regular changing facilities in NYC. Most of the places we went to didn’t have baby changes. This didn’t affect us too much as Jasmine will no longer tolerate lying on a changing mat, anyway. Apparently, the big stores – Macy’s and Bloomingdales – are the best places to go. Otherwise, you might need to get creative on those big restroom floors
  • Explore Brooklyn and in particular, Williamsburg. We heard great things about how baby-friendly W’burg was, but again, ran out of time before getting to check it out
  • Just be aware that jet lag may strike once you’re home… But remember: it’s worth it!

 

New in: chunky bangles, fat-free Doughnut 

author: Alice 

  
Hello, loves! January is over at last. Woo hoo.

During that gloomy month, we did as much eating, Netflix-watching and crafting as we could to lift the gloom: From more bunting-for-local-businesses projects (news of which is coming to the blog, soon), to bespoke commissions and new products for our li’l shop.

One of which is Doughnut the Cat, above. She’s a leggy, 21-inch long cordroy cat (which I made for niece Jasmine for Christmas). She’s now also in our Etsy shop and comes in cool white cord, with or without bow. We’re also taking bespoke fabric orders. So if you fancy a Doughnut made from your baby’s first babygro, for example, your wish is our command!

We’ll also be adding these chunky paracord bracelets with gold clasps that I’ve been working on, below. They’re a luxe take on the sporty jewellery trend and they look nice on their own or stacked up. With a casual tee or a little black outfit.

  

What else? Well, Maria’s been busy bunting-ing and macrame planter-ing and Sarah’s  in New York with a toddler. Look out for the planter how-to and ‘how to do the Big Apple with a baby’ blog posts soon!

Happy Saturday.

 

Shakshook for the weekend?

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Author: Sarah-Louise 

Meet, shakshuka. Or, as it’ll be known here, shakshook. It’s a spicy, oniony, tomatoey, baked-eggy dish of dreams that originally hails from Turkey and is a breakie fave in Israel.

I first had it in New Yoik and now it’s starting to pop up on breakfast menus over here (though not on as many as I’d like). I recently had it at Nati’s on Priory in Crouch End, third pic on right, below. It’s a real international affair.

Anyway, the weekend is the best time to get acquainted or re-acquainted with it. As this baby, while easy to knock up, is best prepped sloooooooooow and with lots of TLC. And with crusty sourdough. And endless coffee. Or Mimosas.

Take a look below the pics for the how-to.

 

Ingredients for 4: 2 or 3 tins (depending on appetite) of organic chopped toms; 6 organic eggs; 3 cloves of garlic, minced; 3tbsp olive oil; whole red pepper; whole red onion; 1 tsp paprika; 1tsp cumin; a pinch of cayenne; 1 1/4 cup of feta; sourdough; rock salt and pep

How to:

1. Whack on your oven to 190C

2. De-seed your peppers and slice into tiny cubes. Slice your onion super thinly

3. Heat your olive oil over a moderate heat in a saucepan then add the peppers and onion.

4. Cook gently for 20-30 mins until they start to get all nice and mushy

5. Add your garlic and cook gently for another couple of mins

6. Add your cumin, paprika and a sprinkle of cayenne and cook for another min

7. Chuck in your toms, seasoning with your salt and pep as you go, and cook for another 10 to 15 mins

8. As soon as your toms start to look all thick and slushy, crumble in your salty feta

9. Now the tricky bit, for me anyway: make sort-of hollows in your toms, then crack in your eggs

10. Season again

11. Now pop your pan into your nice hot oven. Depending on how runny you like your eggs, you can leave your wondrous concoction in there from 7 to 15 minutes. Just keep an eye on it and judgez for yourself

12. Relieve your pan from the oven. Sprinkle with something green like coriander, if you like it. Eurgh. Devil’s food. I didn’t.

13. Serve with warmed-through slices of sourdough and if you fancy giving your shakshook an extra kick, sprinkle it with tabasco

14. Consume with mugs of coffee, glasses of cool water and/or Mimosas – a simple-yet-super mix of Prosecco and OJ (Mimosa! Mimosa!)

Et, voila. What’s your favourite indulgent breakfast? We’d love to hear.