I began this week badly, with a roaring hangover, a hangover-induced shame spiral, and eight days until my exams start. Gently rocking on the sofa, trying to remember the proportions needed for a soufflé chaud and not remember my less than decorous behaviour the night before was a tall order.
Wednesday is St David’s Day, and in our household that means one thing: Welsh cakes. Sam and his family are Welsh, and Welsh cakes are a staple all year round for them. Of course this meant that the prospect of trying to pull together a recipe that stood up against those of Sam’s childhood was a daunting one.
I’ve been lonely this week. I didn’t expect to be lonely, I expected to embrace my partner’s ten day absence on a work trip in a haze of relaxation with occasional stabs of wild productivity. I would clean the oven! I would take bubble baths every day! I would read nineteen books! Instead, I’ve just been a bit sad and pathetic, moping around the too-quiet house.
I’m licking the last of this recipe off my spoon as I press ‘send’ on a pitch about the tyranny of wedding diets. Because honestly, even if I had even the slightest inclination to spend a whole year of my life not drinking wine and demurely declining puddings and pastries, sticky buns and smelly cheeses, not touching blisteringly hot, glassy roast potatoes or crumbling, buttery shortbread, this recipe would be my undoing. Let’s be real, I will never have that level of will power, and I don’t especially long for the ability to deprive myself of the things that bring joy to my personal and professional life, but even if I did, speculoos chocolate fondant would see off any such intentions.
I have a little electronic diffuser in the room I write in. It is a small white cylinder, that sits in the corner of the room, far away enough from my desk so that I have to actually get up to fiddle with it, but close enough that as it pipes out its scented steam, glowing and vibrating ever so gently, it feels comforting, as if it’s quietly breathing alongside me.
I’ve been back in London a couple of weeks now, and back at college one week. After ten glorious days of being hosted and cooked for and looked after, I came home ready to cook up a storm, flexing my now rested culinary muscles, which hadn’t really been exercised since last term’s exams.
For as long as I can remember, I have loathed New Year’s Eve parties. Perhaps my notion of them remains stuck in my teenage years: parents’ carpets sticky with spilt Bacardi Breezers, no middleground between painfully, eye-wateringly sober and sloppily, miserably drunk, and – the greatest sin of all – no snacks.
Christmas is in touching distance, finally. After the longest year that there ever was, we are so very close to it ending and, if we’re really lucky, at least one good night in the pub, a chocolate orange you refuse to share, and some family civilities beforehand. But first, the horrors of Christmas shopping loom large.
I loathe rye bread. Really, truly do not understand it.
It’s either so dense it’s a brick, miserable and damp, or it’s sliced so delicately, it crumbles on contact, disappearing into a mass of crumbs, so quickly and comprehensively that it’s hard to believe it ever formed a loaf. I spent one miserable afternoon cutting countless slices of the thinnest rye bread into tiny triangles to top with smoked salmon for a garden party, more rye crumbling from the sandwiches than staying on them.
Two years ago, Sam and I visited Siena on holiday. And since then, Siena has been my favourite place in the world.
It’s quieter than Tuscany’s biggest city, Florence. It has a breathtaking palazzo, an incredible Gothic cathedral, sleepy streets lined with even sleepier wine bars. I thought it was unbelievably romantic the moment I saw it. And I discovered, soon after arriving, that it’s home to some of Italy’s best food. So when we found out we would be returning to Florence for a wedding this September, it needed no discussion: we were going back to Siena.