“The bigger boxes are massive. I’d be surprised if we use them all.”

“Can you hide in one? We can build dens.”

Having agreed to renewing the lease on our flat, the landlord quickly changed his mind after our clearly outrageous request that he inspect and treat the severe damp, rot and mould scattered throughout his otherwise beautiful Victorian investment/nest-egg.

Landlords, however, are bastards. As are ‘managing’ estate agents. And so, as a result of politely asking to not have our clothes, health and the structural integrity of the building suffer any further damage, we were given a month to vacate the premisses. Which, as I am certain most other London renters in their early 30s with only acceptably-paying jobs will agree, is not enough time to scrape together the ‘spare’ cash for a deposit, new agent fees, van hire charges, packing materials, or to arrange time off from work.

And so, my younger brother and his fiancée, who recently bought a warm, dry, newly built flat (in Barking of all places), kindly and sweetly offered us the use of their spare room. The plan is simple: Tidy up after ourselves, use 1 shelf in the fridge, get some curtains up, and move on in the summer, once we’ve saved up a bit. We’ll pay what by London terms can only really (amazingly – thank you, family) be referred to as a gesture of rent, which in turn will help my brother pay for the food at his wedding next year. In fact, we’ve timed this so well that we now get to help with the menu choices for their big day, which is particularly nice, seeing as we’ll be the only guests who would have paid for their dinner.

Apart from the mould rotting our lungs and dusting itself over the contents of the built-in wardrobe, I love our flat. There are stained glass windows here and there. A huge, towering plant that has grown so far up the very high living room ceiling that it may well now be load-bearing, and the bed is cabin-style, built in to a sort of bulkhead sandwich, above one stairwell and below another. It’s a bit like what I imagine sleeping in a boat would be like, which incidentally was very almost our other option before moving here, and one of the reasons we knew this was The Place For Us, despite having never set foot in Muswell Hill even once before coming to view it.

Home is where you make it, not where you come from, and for whatever reason, I find it pretty easy to feel at home almost anywhere. Pretty much any place I visit on holiday I’ll catch myself saying at least once “yeah I could see myself living here” – France, Budapest, Barking… And although it’s terribly materialistic of me to think that as long as I have all of my Stuff around me – records, photos, plants, nick-nacks, letters from lost lovers, postcards from friends, handmade gifts from sweet baby cousins, then anywhere will feel like home. Stuff helps me feel settled.

The spare room at my brother’s place isn’t big. It will be perfect for us, and will have everything we need (a place to sleep and store clothes, and wash – turns out we don’t actually “need” much else, really), but it’s somewhat smaller than a split-level one-bedroom flat in N10. And so, unable to part with so much of our Stuff, we are putting quite a lot of boxes and bits of furniture in to a storage unit. Or ‘The Lockup’ as my mum brilliantly seems to have taken to calling it in her most born-in-the-sound-of-Bow-bells accent.

I now find myself packing up our books, our combined collected nicknacks, our Stuff, without the slightest idea of where we might unpack it all.

We don’t know where we’ll be living, what day of which month it will be, or even, like some sort of ridiculous precursor to waking from a coma, who the Prime Minister will be. Where will I be working then? What will my hair look like by then? (amazing and massive, obviously). What might I have done or seen or eaten or made or read or written by then? Will I even still want the bright red coffee pot I just bubble-wrapped? What if I don’t even like coffee any more then? Is it even possible to change that much in less than a year?


Naughty Breakfast.

Breakfast at our kitchen table was fairly standard and uncolourful, by 1990s semi-detached London suburban standards. A bowl of Weetabix (two, with semi-skimmed milk) and a piece of toast after if you had PE or a particularly long day or it was cold or you just really wanted some and asked nicely enough.

Until one chilly autumn Sunday morning when my dad announced we’d be going off for a drive “to find a naughty breakfast”. I could not for the life of me imagine what this might entail.

“Naughty” in our house was rarely about calorific content. Something for which I find myself increasingly grateful to my parents for, as I am largely free of the harmful notion that food can be a ‘treat’ or that sweet, delicious things are ‘a bit naughty’. Food is for eating, and enjoying. Nothing more complicated than that. In more recent years, I have ground my teeth so tightly my jaw has fought for freedom with a loud cracking sound whenever the slightly older (and occasionally younger) ladies inhabiting offices I’ve worked in have announced “oh I am naughty” when snaffling a tiny 5gram micro-chocolate from a selection box.

And so, the very mention of a “Naughty Breakfast” baffled my 11-year-old self.

My family are Jewish, and my mum tried to keep a kosher home in those days, so there were no weekend bacon sarnies. Sausages were a rare chicken or beef-based feature of the occasional summer B-Word (we weren’t allowed to say “barbecue” because that would make it rain). This is all actually responsible for the entire trajectory of my adolescence and most likely my entire existence, as my attempts to attend the local grammar school were thwarted by my failure to answer a question in the 11+ exam involving the phrase “wafer thin”, which I had never encountered in my whole life as it is rarely used in the language of a child other than when referring to ham, which I had not yet eaten, or the Monty Python sketch, which I had not yet watched because I was only 10 years old.

Consequently, the only thing different about a weekend breakfast from a school-day breakfast was that it may feature the occasional beigel, some smoked salmon on a slice of leftover Friday night challah, or that you were having your regular weekday breakfast but were still wearing pyjamas.

On that chilly Sunday morning, sleepily hurried into tracksuits and warm jackets, my brother and I nervously buckled up on the back seat. Misty windows wiped with pasty cold fingers, air pollinated with the scent of New Company Car, all adding to the sense of adventure and mystery. And hunger.

We sped off through the dark roads of Epping Forest, where ancient trees arch over the cars, growing together like they’re holding hands to form a secret tunnel through which you safely emerge from Suburbia and out into the wilds of South West Essex.

The pleasing scrunch of tyres turning over gravel as we ease our way in to the carpark announced the end of our mystery tour; Hobbs Cross Farm. Fields full of rusting decommissioned tractors for climbing and playing on, gangs of barnyard animals tottering around a hay-scattered yard, and a chimney puffing actual real life smoke out from of a story-book farmhouse building.

Excitedly, we climbed out of the car and pushed open a huge squeaking metal gate.

When I was much younger, I distinctly remember feeling confused and upset the moment I realised “chicken” was the same as “a chicken”. But rather than turning me off meat for good, being led around this small working farm, waving at sheep, tentatively handing little paper bags of pellet feed to hungry goats and birds whilst I worked up an appetite before feasting on the remains of the family’s hard work helped a lot of things about food make sense to me.

This is what farms do!

This is where food comes from!

Meat doesn’t come from ‘The Shops’, it comes from misty fields, muddy boots and early starts.

After noseying around fields, barns and shelters, we are shown in to the farmhouse, converted into a small restaurant with a huge, brick-built serving area opening right up in to the kitchen. We pick a table by the open fire; the first working fireplace I had ever sat beside – or even seen. Piles of delicious, farm-fresh, hot salty slices of bacon (and eggs, and sausages, and every perfectly-cooked homegrown Full English Breakfast ingredient you could ever hope to see on such a plate apart from chips because chips have no place in an Full English Breakfast whatever you may argue), were flipped on to huge blue and white Delft-style platters by a floppy-haired, ruddy-cheeked giant in an apron; pig pens and hay loft in view from his kitchen window.

Our “naughty” was not about scoffing greasy grub. It was naughty because of bacon. We don’t eat bacon. We’ve never had bacon at home.

I cut a little piece of thick, fatty meat from a rasher, and used it to pop the bright, bulging yolk of my fried egg. For reasons I’ll go into another time, I didn’t really eat much hot food at all until this point in my childhood, but the sunny gloop of an egg yolk has always been a more perfect and reliable condiment to me than any red or brown bottled sauce. Coated in an oozy yellow film, I excitedly tried my first taste of bacon. That chewy, salty oaky flavour has stayed with me throughout my life, every other time I have eaten it. A cheap, common, easy-to-find meat that to me still tastes like a rare, precious and… well… naughty adventure. Every single time.

This was the culinary awakening of my youth, hidden from grandparents and school chums. A small, delicious secret rebellion.

Your worth is not your work.

Somehow, sometimes, living in London can suck you in to the belief that your value is based on what you do all day. But your work is not your worth. Your worth is not your work.

I used to believe that some people fulfil the trope “you do what you are”, which I always found a bit more aspirational than the un-muddled-up original phrase which is intended to insinuate that you somehow reflect your professional life and little more.

I’ve never been the sort of person who wanted to be “A Somethingorother”, which at times can feel more isolating than freeing, coming from a family of teachers. And so I am not what I do, and I don’t do whatever it is that I am.

If you are happy doing what you do, you are the exception, not the rule. If you are unhappy, there is something wrong with it, and it’s easy to change because it doesn’t change the fundamental things which make you who you are.

Self worth is not defined by professional success. Your opinion of yourself shouldn’t change when you suffer a setback or a triumph.

Love people for who they are, and what they are like, not what they do. That is their value to you. Having a job to identify yourself by is not the most important way to define yourself. What you do to earn a living is not the most important thing about you.

When meeting new people for the first time, do you ask what they do quite promptly? I rarely include this in introductions. I used to try really hard to avoid that question, but now it turns out I’m generally not all that interested, actually.

The temptation is often to talk about your work as if it defines you, to ensure it gives people evidence for what sort of person you are. But why would you limit anyone to think of you in those terms?

Try it. Stop asking people. And stop thinking of yourself like that.

I’m in a recipe book! I’m in a recipe book!

Hi gang. Apologies for the lack of recipes recently. I’m struggling to get any cooking completed to a Taking Lovely Photos stage before the light fades at the moment and there just isn’t anything I’m happier shooting food in than natural daylight. Any tips from other foodie photo fans and recipe writers greatly appreciated. In the meantime, follow me on Instagram for over-processed low light mealtime fun and fancy footwear.

I’ve also been terribly busy having a birthday, celebrating my brother’s engagement and prepping to start my new job. All exciting things.

Now the REALLY exciting bit. A while ago I posted a recipe for crispy baked tofu dippers. I was over the moon when people started sending me photos of them trying it out. Friends all over the country and even an old school friend who now lives in Canada gave it a bash (check out the Wall of Fame I made in their honour). The best result, though, is that my recipe was chosen for the Cauldron Street Food Recipe Book.

Lauren Geisler street food recipe bookCreated in celebration of their sponsorship of the snack category in this year’s British Street Food Awards, the books is full of awesome recipes by food bloggers around the UK and street food vendors. But best of all… it’s totally free!

You can download the entire book as a PDF by clicking here – you just need to fill in your email address.

Then quickly whizz to pages 36-37. And look at the rest of it I suppose.

Lauren Geisler recipe book

Eep! Thanks to Gareth for taking my photo, which was ridiculously difficult. I made a quite expensive professional choice about 13 years ago about which side of the camera I wanted to be on, y’see…

Writing some sort of recipe book has been a goal of mine for about 6 or 7 years now. Feels pretty great to be one little step closer, just as I’m about to start working on foodier things full time.


A ‘dam good time! 8 great Rotterdam travel tips.

Pardon the pun but I suspect it is preferable over any ear-worm-inducing alternatives. (You’re probably humming That Song to yourself now anyway so whatever…)

Rotterdam skyline old harbour evening

My love and I have been to Rotterdam and damn, it was great. I initially wanted a little UK hotel break to kick off my extended birthday celebrations (it’s this Thursday, fact-fans). However, as neither of us drive, finding a nice place to visit and paying for rail travel in the UK means it is actually kinda cheaper and better value for us to hop over to Europe. Confusing mathsy economical things and good Dutch value means hanging out and eating in restaurants on the Euro costs less than a Big Weekend in London may have, anyway.

We managed to pack loads in without feeling rushed or too exhausted, in spite of huge torrential downpours – including the biggest thunderstorm either of us have ever been caught in.

Luckily we don’t really mind the rain (which… well, yknow. Londoners…) and sometimes you just hit the point where you can’t actually get any wetter and all you can do is laugh and get on with it…

We’re not too keen on planning city breaks too thoroughly, but maps and vague ideas are great and what we missed when planning our trip was any sort of guide. We had this great book for our holiday in Budapest and it was really handy. Other than the hard-to-find Wallpaper city guide, there isn’t much reading for Rotterdam so I thought I’d do the decent thing and provide some for anyone thinking of visiting. It also doubles up as a neat little diary of our trip (peppered with iPhone-only snaps due to my shoulders needing too much of a rest for SLR-lugging). So. In no particular order…

8 great tips for visiting Rotterdam

1 – Erasmusbrug

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A post shared by Gareth (@strnks) on

We set off on a long old self-guided walking tour, marveling in the incredible architecture and attention to careful design and Town Planning on every street and found ourselves stranded half way across this stunning 1990s cable-stayed bridge. Rather than your average panoramic landscape of the swan-shaped structure, here’s a photo of me stuck waiting to cross as the bascule (upsy-downy) section – the biggest and heaviest of its kind – opened, revealing an Inception-style sight we wont forget in a hurry.

2 – Water Taxi

The best five minutes of our trip by far (that’s what she said etc). Forget hour-long harbour cruises and sightseeing pancake boats (although still kinda wish we’d gone on the pancake boat). When your feet are fed up of walking and you want to whiz back to your hotel in a hurry, take your life in your hands and clamber on to what is essentially a terrifying cross between a jet ski and Crazy Taxi. I spent the entire time laughing hysterically with my mouth wide open in terror/delight, reminding myself that it’s OK because I know how to swim.

3 – Boijmans Van Beuningen and Museumpark

Fantastic collection of paintings and art, including an amazing selection of Eduardo Paolozzi collage prints (one of my faves) and the greatest cloakroom of all time:

We didn’t make it in to the Het Nieuwe Instituut (architecture & design) further than the bookshop, but the building itself is incredible.

4 – Euromast

Even if the cheesy touristy stuff isn’t really your bag, Rotterdam is flat, green and watery enough for the view from the top of the Euromast to be worth a go, even if just to help you get your head around the sprawling landscape.

Euromast lunch Rotterdam travel photos Dutch tomato soup

We rushed up there as the clouds had finally (briefly) parted and enjoyed the most delicious tomato soup with tarragon cream, enjoying the view, interrupted by frequent abseilers stopping to wave through the windows…

Euromast Rotterdam lunch salmon sourdough

I also tried this fresh delicious raw salmon salad open-faced sourdough sandwich. Completely delicious and so filling that we ended up skipping dinner in favour of a late night room service mini-bar raid instead.

5 – Cube Houses

Rotterdam Cube Houses

Put London’s Barbican residences through a 1980s Picasso/Mondrian filter, fill with plants, angles and colour. I would move in to one of these in a heartbeat. One is open as a museum and is well worth the minimal entrance fee to spend time pretending you live there (and wondering why your house is full of nosy tourists).

6 – The Hague

20 minutes by train out of the impressive new Rotterdam Central station, The Hague ticks the history boxes Rotterdam’s architecture misses out on and is full of fresh, sweet air blowing in from the coast.

antique market in The Hague - top 10 Rotterdam

vintage kitchenware tins Netherlands market The Hague

The Hague Gemeentemuseum Mondrian DeStijl

Our Sunday visit included a stroll around the big brilliant antiques market and a tram out to the Gemeentemuseum to gawp at the impressive DeStijl and Mondrian exhibits.

7 – Lunch at Hotel New York

mussels lunch at Hotel New York Rotterdam

Fresh hot steamy mussels to share with Proper Chips and garlic mayonnaise, in the huge space formerly occupied by the Holland America Line. History, stylish decor, dramatic views out to the Maas (although possibly due to the aforementioned impending thunderstorm) and helpful staff made this the perfect first meal in Rotterdam.

8 – Delft

Despite arriving after the museums and ceramic fun had closed for the day (we stopped off on our way back to Rotterdam from The Hague – same train line and no extra ticket cost), we both absolutely loved it here.

Delft shop windows retro vintage barber shop

Gorgeous shopfront of an old-style barber shop in Delft

The craft and creative spirit of the place is obvious as soon as you arrive.

Delft windmill restoration

Delft windmill travel photos

We got to climb right up to the sails of the recently restored windmill and had a gorgeous evening stroll around the canals, spying on perfectly designed canal-side living-rooms and gardens.

delft doorways front garden Rotterdam travel photos

Delft canals Netherlands travel photos


Huge thanks to Frankie for sending us her excellent Rotterdam tips, reviews and general wanderings which was our only real attempt at ‘planning’ for this trip – a real help. Yay for Twitter!


Do you say “scone” or “scone”? Seeded tahini rye scones recipe

seeded savoury scones

This is the first recipe I’ve posted on here which has taken loads of attempts and experimenting. I’ve mentioned before that we rarely have or make Actual Bread in our house, due to me having absolutely no self control around it, resulting in mild wheat intolerance. (Bread/stuffing-my-face intolerance, really).

We were having some sort of light spring-time dinner earlier this year and I thought I’d experiment with making a light savoury scone instead of pitta/garlic bread for the side.

rye scones recipe

This is about the 5th generation of these and flavour and texture-wise, I like to think I’ve totally nailed it. I’ve come to accept the fact that they don’t rise like regular scones, but that’s OK.

They go great with hummus or salady lunches, on the side with a lamb dish or any Moroccan-inspired flavours and spices, and are best enjoyed fresh, warm, and slathered in real butter. And do slather that butter on because there is NONE in the recipe. The tahini replaces the butter in the scones, and they are packed with seeds which means you’re getting a hit of fiber, feeling fuller and baking a boost of vitamins, protein and gut-balancing alkaline (obviously this depends on the seeds you use).

Seeded Tahini Rye Scones

tahini scones

seed and tahini rye scones


300 grams flour (I used a mix of 2/3 organic wholemeal rye flour 1/3 plain flour)

3.5 teaspoons baking powder

100 grams golden caster sugar

4 heaped tablespoons fresh tahini (I use a whole tub of this)

6 tablespoons mixed seeds, nuts, fresh herbs (I use The Food Doctor savoury seed blend)

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

160ml milk

savoury scones recipe

1 – Heat the oven to 190 degrees C.

2 – Sift the flours, sugar, salt and baking powder in to a large mixing bowl.

3 – In a separate bowl, mix the egg and milk together (reserve a little in the bowl)

4 – Add a spoonful of tahini at a time in to the dry ingredients, mixing with a balloon whisk to form breadcrumbs.

5 – Once all the tahini has been combined and the whole mixture resembles breadcrumbs, mix in the seeds. I added chopped fresh rosemary too but this is optional. I’ve added a teaspoon of pesto on occasion which is nice too, although be wary of adding too much oil.

6 – Unlike regular scone pastry, this stays quite wet because of the tahini, so no rolling pin or cutting rings. I just dollop a spoonful or two per scone on to a lined baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. I hadn’t tried this before, but this time I brushed the little bit of leftover egg and milk wash on top of the scones half way through baking, which gave them a nice shine and a little bit of a crusty bite on top.

seeded tahini rye scones

seedy tahini scones

Best served fresh out the oven (after cooling a little on a wire rack), and perfect for cosy, rainy grey evenings.

Ooh – and as so many people mentioned that plant in the background when I snapped these on instagram, fresh out of the oven yesterday, I thought I’d give it a special mention. Since handing in my notice at work, my current colleagues have completely been completely spoiling me. One gave me a plate from the Ridgway Homemaker set, and another took me to the most fabulous plant nursery full of my favourite cacti and succulents. This is just one of my new friends, in the little Hornsea Saffron pot my friend Steven donated to me.

succulant cactus Hornsea pottery Saffron pot

You flippin’ narna! Two ingredient flourless pancakes

two ingredient pancake recipe

Here’s my vague attempt at third in the series I’m calling Stick It To The Man – one woman’s approach to use up a ridiculous stock of wooden skewers.

I’ve been whipping up these two-ingredient banana pancakes since my old flatmate decided to go ‘Paleo crazy’ a couple of years ago. Cutting out flour, grains and added fat and the milky buttery batter you’d use for normal pancakes or crepes makes these a Pinterest-friendly favourite if you’re after an easy wheat-free brunch.

banana pancakes

Pancakes? With only two ingredients? That’s right, chum. All you need is some over-ripe bananas and eggs. A little ground cinnamon is nice if you’re that way inclined, but this is just eggs and bananas. So you can have your (pan)cake and eat it.

banana egg pancake recipe

Despite having made these for ages, they tend to be a bit hit or miss depending on a few factors – the heat of the pan, the cooking agent (butter works better than coconut oil), how mashed your bananas are and the thickness of the pancakes themselves. My biggest problem has always been the flip. The lack of flour means these don’t hold together in the way you’d expect ‘regular’ pancakes to. Then, one rainy, thundery dark Saturday morning I suddenly realised that they don’t have to be too big for my spatula. They can be cute and diddy! And fit on skewers!

banana pancake stack

Two-ingredient wheat-free banana pancakes


3 bananas (plus extra for serving if desired)

4 eggs

That’s it! This is the ratio which works best for me – I’ve experimented with it a lot. This made 15 diddy pancakes. Perfect for sharing and best served with some other fresh fruit and a dollop of plain yoghurt. And maybe a drizzle of honey if you’re feeling righteous having already shaved a bunch of wheaty calories off…

1 – Mash the bananas really well. The best fruit are the ones turning quite black – the ones making you think you need to either quickly make banana bread or throw them out.

banana pancake batter ingredients

2 – When all lumps are mashed out, whisk in the eggs one at a time and combine well. Don’t beat them too much – this isn’t scrambled eggs with a bit of banana in (although it sort of is, technically). The mixture will have the texture and colour of pancake batter.

banana pancake instructions

3 – Heat a small knob of butter in a hot frying pan. Once the butter has melted, add a dollop of pancake mixture in. They can be as big as you like but I really do recommend making small baby pancakes as the mixture cooks nice and evenly and they are easy to flip without breaking or catching. Cook 4 or 5 at a time, depending on the size of your pan. The best time to flip is when you can see the wet uncooked side starting to cook around the edges.

4 – When golden brown, remove and blot on paper towel to remove any excess butter.

no carb paleo two ingredient pancakes

When you’re done cooking them all, arrange in stacks and serve with some chopped banana over the top.

Enjoy! I’m loving how many people are sending me photos of their versions of recipes from here. Keep it up! I’ll do another Wall of Fame soon to show them all off. And I’ve just heard that our replacement oven has been delivered which means I can make all of the things I’ve planned to this week. Hooray!


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