Three months have passed since my partner and I moved to our new flat. I only now realise that I never told you about it, and how we’re turning it into a cosy little home, with a view on North Kensington’s brown brick buildings.
The living room is really nice. There’s still an awkward blue wall, which doesn’t really match the brown furniture we bought – but we’ll repaint it as soon as the weather gets warmer. If we go by March’s temperatures, that will probably happen in a parallel universe we don’t yet know about!
One of the things I’m most proud of is the square bookshelf we got from Ikea. It looks a bit empty now, but we’ll surely manage to fill it up.
Last week, a parcel from my mother arrived, full of things I had left in Italy and was missing sorely. I’m now reunited with my record player, which my friends gave me as a present when I first graduated. With it came the records I borrowed from my parents’ collection: we have diverging musical tastes, but I could still save some Neil Young and Bob Dylan from their pile of ’70s Italian pop records.
There’s a special pleasure in listening to music from a vinyl. It has to do with the way its crisp sound fills the space around you, like an affectionate, warm embrace. Both my partner and I love it, and, with Portobello Market just around the corner, shopping for more records is easier than ever.
The box also contained a brand new espresso machine. My dad received it from his colleagues, when he left Rome to move abroad. He didn’t take it with him, and as my mother didn’t want it, it became my housewarming gift. I only used it once so far, and still need to get the hang of it. My first espresso tasted a little burnt, but still better than anything you get at the average high street coffee shop.
Our kitchen may not be the biggest and most modern ever, but has everything we need. I’m so happy about having an electric oven again: it works much better than the old gas oven we had in Cricklewood, and it’s nice to finally be able to predict cooking times accurately.
Cupboards are full of accessories that the previous tenant left behind: two cupcake trays, a loaf tin, and much more. It’s as if the house was summoning me to bake: who am I to say no? I already tested the loaf tin, to make a treat for our Sunday breakfast.
Apple, Apricot and Walnut Loaf
(makes 8 – 10 slices)
I’ll start off with a confession: I’m not a huge fan of raw fruits. I’ll gladly have anything that ends in “-berry”, some tropical fruits, and any kind of dried fruit (which I’m not sure counts!). To lure me into eating anything else, you have to sneak it into a more elaborate dish. Give me a slice of apple pie, and you can be sure that I’ll dive into it headfirst. Same for apple crumble. Or a delectable, moist apple loaf, such as the one featured here.
I found the recipe in my newest cookbook, where the Apricot Swiss Roll also was. It required a few tweaks, such as using cane sugar instead of brown sugar, and butter spread instead of margarine. We had a full pack of it in the fridge, which will take some time to empty – butter doesn’t get used much here!
- 225g wholemeal flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- A pinch of salt
- 115g butter spread, such as Lurpak Light or similar
- 175g cane sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- The grated rind and juice of 1 orange
- 50g walnuts
- 50g dried apricots
- 1 large Granny Smith apple
- In a large bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder and salt.
- Add the butter spread, sugar, eggs, orange rind and juice. Stir with a metal spoon for a couple of minutes, then switch to an electric mixer and beat until smooth.
- Chop the walnuts and apricots, and stir them into the batter.
- Peel and chop the apple, then stir it in.
- Pour the batter in a greased loaf tin, levelling the top with a spoon or spatula.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°, and bake for about 1 hour.
- Insert a skewer (or flat knife) into the centre: if it comes out clean, you can take the loaf out of the oven.
- Leave the loaf in the tin for 5 – 10 minutes, then take it out and transfer it to a cooling rack.
- Decorate with icing sugar, slice, and serve warm. If you serve it cold it’ll be just as delicious, but I definitely recommend trying it both ways: a slice of loaf and my first cup of homemade espresso made my Sunday breakfast a real treat!