The Fluffy Pancake Files

On Sunday, and quite by accident, I made the fluffiest pancakes ever.  I think the reason for this serendipity was because a) I was out of regular flour so I had to use self-rising and b) I added slightly whiffy cream to the recipe.  When some women feel experimental they drastically change their appearance, career, hometown or even add just one of 50 Shades of Grey to their bedroom.   When I feel experimental I add spoiled dairy to my pancake batter.  I’m crazy.  I know.  Well here I am to prosthelytize because the addition of that slightly whiffy cream was one of the best decisions I ever made in the kitchen.  The result was amazing(even better than my buttermilk pancakes).  Especially with my orange blackberry syrup.  If you fancy yourself a connoisseur of tasty, I recommend you make both.

Henry and Helena

Greedy Guts 1 and 2

don't talk with your mouth full

don’t talk with your mouth full

even caterpillar liked it

even caterpillar liked it


for the pancakes:

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup cream that’s gone slightly off

4 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups self-raising flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

for the syrup:

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup fresh blackberries (or defrosted frozen ones and their juice)

the zest of 1/3 of an orange as well as the juice squeezed from that 1/3

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla


for the pancakes:

Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl and set aside.  Now, in a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cream, butter, and vanilla.  Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients and pour the wet ones into it.  Whisk to combine but don’t over whisk.  Let the mixture sit a spell.  At least half an hour.  I left mine overnight but that’s because I tend to prepare things well in advance knowing that when my toddler awakes she wants breakfast NOW.  Heat some vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat for a few minutes.  Let it get really hot but not so it’s smoking.  Pour some batter into the skillet.  Wait until it starts to bubble then flip.  Continue cooking another minute then remove.  Transfer the pancake to a serving platter and butter.  Repeat until the batter is gone.

pancakes with orange blackberry syrup

pancakes with orange blackberry syrup

for the syrup:

Heat a small saucepan over low heat.  Add the butter, berries, zest, juice, sugar, and vanilla.  Simmer but do not boil.  The sauce will thicken.  When desired viscosity has been achieved, remove the syrup from the stove.  Pour it into a warmed ceramic jug.  Now get ready for some pancakes and a nap!

Orange blackberry syrup

Orange blackberry syrup


Coconut Cake and Paolo Conte

Today is a good day.  Not just because I purchased tickets to see my favorite Italian Grandpa perform in London later this fall, but because there is leftover coconut cake from this weekend.

Saturday was an old friend’s birthday.  He and his joined us and ours for aperol spritzes and a Mexican feast I spent two days preparing.  To top it all off, I made Mr.  Peacock‘s famous coconut layer cake.  The recipe is on Better Homes and Gardens if you want to check it out.  There is even a helpful video of him walking you through each step.  I recommend it.  The only modification I made was using the fresh coconut milk in lieu of water for the syrup that goes in the icing.  Also, yesterday, I served the cake with sliced mango.  ‘Twas a winning combination.

coconut cakethe cake cake slicecross section P1000658

Apple, Pork, and Fennel Stew

I know it’s technically summer but the seasons are changing.  I mean sure our days are hot and sunny but there’s a crispness to the night air and a cool breeze that wasn’t a week ago.  This means only one thing.  Fall is falling.

Which is why I wanted something comforting for supper.  Like this stew.  It’s rich and fruity but with a deep aromatic savoriness that comes from the addition of vermouth, star anise, and mustard.  I promise the ingredients emulsify beautifully.

The only criticism I have of this recipe is that no matter how much I make, there are never any leftovers.  Really, it’s that good.


1.2 lbs of pork shoulder steaks

2 onions, sliced

2 fennel bulbs thickly sliced (Save the fronds to chop and put atop the stew before eating)

2 large green cooking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

3 smashed garlic cloves

2 stars of anise

1 cup of Noilly Prat

1 cup of chicken stock

2 heaping tablespoons of Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons of salt

1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

olive oil


First, season the meat.  Brown it in a large ovenproof casserole and set aside.

browned pork

Add a drop more oil to the pork grease. Then the star anise, the vegetables, and the apple slices.  Cook until soft.

star anise

vegetables, apples, star anise

Dice the pork and add it to the pot.  Stir for a minute just to make sure the meat is browned, not fully cooked but browned, then add all remaining ingredients.  Bring to a simmer.

simmering pork, vegetables and fruit

Cover the casserole and put it in the oven at 330F/150C/Gas2 for 3 hours.  After the first hour and a half, remove the casserole to give it a good stir.  Be sure to scrape the brown savory grease that coats the sides of your dish.

after 1.5 hrs

Continue cooking for another hour.  Then remove the lid for the final 30 minutes to thicken and reduce.  When you are ready to serve, be sure to remove the star anise and sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds.  Delicious on its own with a thick slice of your favorite bread, boiled potatoes, or rice.

finished product

Blackberry Cobbler

We all know the idiom “When life gives you lemons. . .”  That said, this summer has given us an abundance of blackberries.  Which is why I’m making cobbler.  Well that and because my friend, Miss Danielle Bell of de Porres, told me I should.  When I told her of the surfeit we had and asked whether I should make preserves or pies, she answered with a resounding “COBBLER!”  As her sentiment was strongly supported and echoed on my Facebook wall, I thought I better listen.  Below is the recipe I used this evening based on her instructions.  Let me tell you she is a lady whose word is to be heeded.


1/2 recipe of Only the Best Brisée Ever

4 cups of blackberries

the zest of 2 small lemons and part of your knuckles if you’re not careful like me (Here’s my public service announcement:  Do not drink and zest.)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

1/2 cup Demerara sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

freshly grated nutmeg (I only went the length of the grater 4 times.  Just enough for a little exotic dust.)

egg wash


Preheat your oven to 450F/230C/Gas 8.

In a large bowl, mix all your ingredients together except for the berries.  Those you will gently stir in and coat once everything else has combined.  Otherwise, you’ll beat your berries to a pulp.  You don’t want that.


berry mixture

Set the bowl aside.

Divide your dough into three sections.  Two of equal size and small one for rolling cut outs you’ll put on top.

Roll the first piece so it’s large enough to line the bottom of your dish.

1st layer

Spoon a layer of fruit on top of that.

2nd layer

Now do another layer of dough followed by another layer of fruit.  After that, place your cut outs on top and brush with the egg wash.

cut outs with egg wash

Bake for 20 minutes then turn down the heat to 375F/190C/Gas 5.  Continue baking for another 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.

finished cobbler

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or Greek yogurt.

Cuckoo for Cocoa Powder Brownies

People say addiction is genetic.  Well both my daughter’s grandmothers are chocoholics.  My husband can take it or leave it.  I like it but prefer pastries or fruit pies.  Or plain old sour gummy candy.  That said, yesterday I made brownies.  When it came time to clean up, I gave in to the great tradition of handing my child the utensils to lick clean.  It was her first real experience with chocolate.  Madness ensued.  She got a crazed look in her eye then ran around like a happy drunk brandishing her whisk in the air.  Today, I’m painting over all the chocolate handprints that didn’t wash off my pale pink walls.  Below is the recipe.  Use with caution or you too might spend the next day repainting your home.

P1000324 P1000325 P1000335 P1000340 P1000343


1/2 cup butter (1 stick/4oz./113g)

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

2 large eggs

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds


Preheat oven to 325F/175C/Gas3.

Line an 8″ square baking tin with foil.  Not just the bottom but also the sides so there’s an overhang.  Coat lightly with nonstick spray or a bit of butter and flour.

Melt  the butter over medium heat and let cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, cocoa, and salt in a bowl.  Pour the butter into the dry ingredients and whisk constantly to blend.

Whisk in vanilla.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with each addition.

Finally add the flour and stir until just combined.  Then stir in the almonds should you want them.  I always do.  Be careful not to over mix.

Use a spatula to scrape the batter into your pan and smooth the top.  Bake until the top begins to crack and a toothpick comes out clean.  Approximately 35 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan.

Kiwi Orange Blossom Popsicles

In May, my family rented a beautiful house in Céret.  Actually it was an old Catalan Mas and it sat in the most floral of settings.  Outside there was not only a cherry orchard and an assortment of herbs, but also lilacs and roses, and my favorite–an orange tree laden with blossoms.  The perfume from all those tiny white flowers was divine.  At the end of each long beach day and just after my husband and I put our daughter to bed, I’d sit on the windowsill with a glass of wine and take in that heavenly fragrance.

orange blossoms in the backyard in Ceret

orange blossoms in the backyard in Ceret

la mer at le Racou plage

la mer at le Racou

le Racou plage

le Racou plage

my favorite evening seat

my favorite evening seat

See the house where I grew up in Laurel Canyon also had an orange tree and its flowers always made our yard smell so pretty.  Sweet and delicate but with a citrus punch.  I’ve never forgotten it.  Whenever I go shopping for perfumed oils I only search out fragrances with notes of orange blossom.  It’s a scent that comforts me.

It’s also a taste I adore.

Orange blossom water is the perfumed distillation of bitter orange blossoms.  Its flavor is extremely floral and far more intense than that of rose water even though they are often used in place of each other.  What I’m saying is a little goes a long way.  Use sparingly.  Unless you’re not cooking with it and have opted to use it for morning ablutions instead.  In which case, pour it on!

My recipe for kiwi orange blossom popsicles is below.  How did I come to pair orange blossom with kiwi?  Through lots of experimentation.  But I promise you it’s a winner!

Orange blossom water

Orange blossom water

kiwi orange blossom popsicle

kiwi orange blossom popsicle


the juice of 3 large oranges

5 peeled kiwi fruit

1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water

1/4 cup honey


Add all ingredients to the blender and purée.  Pour into popsicles molds and freeze at least 4 hours.

Happy Almost Independence Day!

4th of July

It’s no surprise that the English don’t care about the 4th of July.  But I do!  My husband and I always start our feast with a re-enactment.  He pretends to be a Redcoat and I throw Yorkshire Tea into the Thames.  It hardly makes up for the lack of fireworks, but still, it makes me feel very American and proud.

My favorite stomachache each 4th of July has got to be from too many cherries and icy glass bottles of Coke after too many spicy chicken wings and too much pie.  Below is my menu for tomorrow’s feast–fresh fruit and iced colas excluded.  What’s yours?

The Barefoot Contessa’s buffalo chicken wings with blue cheese and crudité

Red Rooster Hot Sauce

The Barefoot Contessa’s fresh corn salad with basil

My mint juleps as originally featured on Henry’s World of Booze

Lemon icebox pie

Cherry Hand Pies

Cherry pies