Exciting Announcement!

miranda's notebookPhotograph by Diana Patient

I’m  so thrilled to announce that Miranda’s Notebook will be officially relaunched in September. There will be a whole new site, with a fresh look and  beautiful illustrations by Fall into London. I’ll continue to focus on Lifestyle blogging and will be writing predominately about Fashion, Food, London and Travel. I’m busy planning and writing and can’t wait to share the new blog with you all. The 1 month countdown has begun!

Thank you so much for your patience!

Miranda xxx

The Joy of Imperfect Cooking

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I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. I used to think this was a good thing, and it’s true that there are some benefits to this type of personality: perfectionists tend to be hard-working, detail-orientated and driven. There are also, however, many negatives: I am my own worst critic and can find it hard to relax and enjoy achievements, before leaping into worrying about the ‘next step’ on my list. I tend to obsess over anything that has gone wrong and barely spare a thought on all that’s gone right.

The only area in my life in which I am not striving for the impossibly perfect is in the kitchen. I think this is why I find cooking so relaxing. Who cares if my chocolate cake looks nothing like as perfect as the picture in the recipe book and has to be prettied up with some icing? Amazingly, I don’t. After all, I tell myself, it’s not like Nigella hasn’t burnt a cake or two in her time. Whenever I make anything that doesn’t burn and tastes remotely edible, I feel incredibly proud of myself. There are few things that taste as good as something you’ve made yourself, even if it’s just spaghetti bolognese. Never one to give myself much of a pat on the back, I become positively smug with self-congratulation on serving up a good dish.

Take this hummus for instance. I made it the other day and it blew my mind. I’ll never buy hummus again. Even the most kitchen incompetent could throw this together and feel pretty good about themselves on tasting it. So if, like me, it’s about time you gave yourself a bit of a break and indulged in some self-praise, make this hummus! And if you’re blessed with a relaxed, happy-go-lucky personality, make this hummus anyway because it’s delicious and the perfect summer snack.

IMG_2626Hummus 

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup sesame tahini paste

1/2 – 1 cup water

2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 cumin seeds (grind with pestle and mortar)

Salt to taste

Olive oil to drizzle on top at end

Smokey paprika to sprinkle on at end

Place the garlic, lemon juice and tahini in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process to a smooth paste. Add the water and chickpeas and process until the mixture is very smooth, almost fluffy (adding more water if necessary). This process can take longer than you might expect so be patient! Season with with cumin and salt to taste.  Put the hummus in a bowl (it lasts for a week in a fridge, so you can portion it out into tupperware containers if you wish) and drizzle some olive oil on top, swirling slightly with the tip of a knife. Sprinkle over the smoked paprika.

Enjoy!

Summer Sale Dresses

There are some very tempting sales on at the moment. Below, I’ve gathered together some of my favourite picks, with suggestions for appropriate occasions. Happy shopping!

1. Saturday Markets

weekend chic

This dress and bag are perfect for wandering around Broadway Market over the weekend, and perhaps popping in for a cup of tea and slice of delicious lemon cake at Loafing.

2. Bride Side

wedding wear

I adore this dress and think it would be perfect for attending a summer wedding (although any occasion would do!).

3. Date Night.

dress to impress

This figure hugging, but elegant dress is sure to be a winner.

4. Picnic in the Park

picnic dressThis polka dot halter neck dress is perfect for picnicking on Hampstead Heath.

American Cake

IMG_2562The disadvantage of growing up moving around a lot as a child is that I get stuck straight away on ‘home town’ whenever facebook nags me to update my details. Where am I actually from? I can never make up my mind. London is definitely where I think of as home now, but I am repeatedly reminded of the fact that not growing up in the UK sets me apart from my British friends, no matter how much tea I drink. I’m accepting of my identity crisis, however, and have come to appreciate the fact that I’m a mish-mash of Canadian, Swiss French, American and British culture.

American style baking formed a huge part of my childhood, living in the States for 10 years. Much as I enjoy a slice of Victoria sponge, I find that instinctively my mind turns towards the American classics of my childhood whenever I get the urge to bake. Blueberry muffins, pumpkin pie, peanut butter cookies: these are the comfort food recipes I return to again and again.

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My Mum made this cake repeatedly when we lived on Long Island, and I learnt to make it myself as a young girl. The recipe is adapted from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and is very American in its use of oil rather than butter. It’s incredibly tasty and also quick to whip up, but looks like you’ve made an effort:

Quick Chocolate Mocha Cake

2 ounces 70% dark chocolate

1 large egg

1 cup caster sugar

1/3 cup sunflower oil

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup strong coffee

1 1/3 cups plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Butter, line base and lightly flour an 8-inch springform round cake tin. Melt chocolate in microwave, taking care it doesn’t burn. Set aside. Beat the egg in a bowl and slowly add the sugar, continuing to beat until well blended. Add the oil, vanilla, melted chocolate and coffee and beat well. Mix the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and add, beating for 2 minutes with an electric beater. Spread in the pan and bake for 35-40 mins, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Spread with broiled frosting (see below) whilst still in the pan and put under the grill to brown. Once brown, place tin on rack for 10 mins, then remove cake from tin.

Broiled Frosting

Watch carefully to make sure the topping browns lightly and evenly.

3 tbsps melted butter

3 tbsps brown sugar

2 tbsps cream (or milk)

1/2 cup desiccated, shredded coconut or chopped nuts

Mix all the ingredients together and spread over a warm cake while it is still in the tin. Set the tin under the grill, until the frosting bubbles and turns golden.

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Summer Hair Care Tips

hairecare

 

In the summer, I think it’s important to have natural, healthy looking hair. Whatever your type of hair, it really is best to work with what you have, rather than spending hours with a straightener or curling tongs. Nothing bores me more than fiddling around with my hair, so I came up with a routine that keeps it looking as glossy and healthy as possible, but barely takes more than a couple of minutes.

I used to be very wary of any type of hair product, thinking they were just a waste of money, but over the years I’ve found a few that are now firm favourites and are part of my regular hair care routine. I have naturally wavy hair so generally choose products that help enhance loose curls.

1. Aveda be curly shampoo and conditioner smells great and adds shine to wavy hair. I also love their rosemary mint shampoo.

2. When my hair is still damp, I apply 2-3 drops of Davine’s Absolute Beautifying Potion.

3. As much as possible, I like my to allow my hair to air dry, but if I’m in a rush and need to use a blow-dryer, then before drying I apply a small amount of Kerastase Resistance Ciment Thermique.

4. Once my hair is dry, I often apply a little Kerastase Soleil Aqua-Seal, which gives a lovely shine and helps to style hair (just twist sections of your hair around your finger for a loose curl).

5. I’ve repeatedly heard rave reviews of Bumble and Bumble’s surf spray, and having a Space NK gift certificate, finally I decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did! This stuff is amazing. Just comb through a few squirts to either dry or damp hair, and voila you get perfect beachy waves. Flip your hair over your head and scrunch up the roots to get some added volume.

Man Food

IMG_2424I’m afraid I’ve never been the sort of girl who wins men’s hearts by baking them boxes of brownies, with loving little notes tucked inside. I don’t think I’ve ever even baked a boyfriend a birthday cake. For ages, in fact, I swore off cooking anything for a guy. Ever. This stance stemmed from having spent the better part of a year slaving away at an oven, thinking up different recipes every night (on a carefully balanced food budget), for the boyfriend I lived with when I first moved to London. I was so annoyed when we broke up, and I realised that he cooked and ate the same horrible pasta dish every day, without minding at all. Cooking for men, I decided, was clearly a pointless waste of time.

It didn’t take me too long to soften, however, when the present boyfriend came along. I’m afraid I’m very superficial when it comes to men and food, generally feeling one wants the type of guy who looks like he’ll tuck into a steak, rather than, say, a tofu curry. In fact, the first thing I made for my boyfriend was steak, and then I just kept on cooking it for him (it’s a good thing he likes routine). Sometimes, however, one wants to change things up a bit, and then I figure a meatloaf is a good way to go.

Meat Loaf (recipe adapted from Canadian Living Cookbook by Carol Ferguson)

750g minced beef

175ml rolled oats

1 onion, finely chopped

1 egg, beaten

1tbsp worcestershire sauce

1 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp Herbes de Provence

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

50ml ketchup, mixed with 1 tbsp brown sugar

Combine all ingredients, apart from the ketchup and brown sugar (easiest to mix with your hands). Use your hands to shape into a loaf in a ceramic baking dish. Spread ketchup mixture on top. Bake at 180C for 50mins to 1 hr. Can be served hot or cold. Any leftovers freeze well.

This recipe is not guaranteed to win any hearts, but it’s certainly very enjoyable to make and eat, with or without a man involved!

How To Bake and Not Get Fat

IMG_2487I love cooking and baking. It really is the best therapy (at least when my dishwasher is working, which it isn’t at the moment, and I’m back to the washing up grind which I detest). The down side to loving to bake is that I live on my own. Which means that if an entire flourless almond chocolate cake disappears in the course of three days, there’s really only me to blame.

In not wanting to give up baking, but still be able to fit my clothes, I came up with a few strategies.

1. Cook for other people. When I’m craving a full carbs blow-out, like risotto followed by tiramisu, I invite friends round to enjoy it with me. That way, there are hardly any leftovers by which I could be tempted and what is left I put in doggy bags and push on people anyway (see point 2). Also, if you happen to like the people you work with (or just want to ingratiate yourself), you can have the pleasure of trying out recipe after recipe for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, and if you’re lucky get to eat the crumbs left at the bottom of the tin.

2. Send people home with cake. Don’t think you’re getting away from my house without any leftover cake wrapped up in a parcel of tinfoil and thrust into your hands. Just take it,  I tend to hiss. Give it to your boyfriend / roommate / mother / cat / garbage, but TAKE IT. This way I do not find myself mindlessly munching my way through all the leftovers as I load the dishwasher.

3. Portion Control. Generally baking a cake that lasts for a while and doesn’t go dry and horrible in a day (and thus practically forces you to eat it up very quickly) is a good idea if only 1-2 of you are eating it. That way, you can just enjoy 1 slice of delicious cake a day (if you have any will power) for about a week. If you don’t have the willpower, then baking things that freeze well is a good idea. This is why I make muffins.

Muffins are fantastic because they’re delicious, but they also freeze exceptionally well. I don’t know why, but I invariably forget about things that are in the freezer. I’ll go for days, having completely forgotten that I made, say, blueberry muffins, and then suddenly it’ll hit me that there’s a great big stash of them in the freezer, and it’s like I’ve won the lottery. I’ll toddle along, take one out of the ziplock bag, zap it in the microwave for about a minute so it defrosts and eat it with a cup of tea. Then I’ll completely forget about the muffins again, and the whole cycle starts once more.

IMG_2500This recipe is adapted from The Open-House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase and is my favourite for muffins. Her recipe in fact makes Tri Berry Muffins, but I’ve always had a weakness for good old fashioned blueberry. Her recipe also makes about a gazillion muffins, so I halved it. Here’s my version:

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup milk

1 large egg

125g butter, melted

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

3/4 cup caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 375F. Place paper liners in 10 muffin cups. Stir the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Add the milk, eggs, and butter to the well and stir quickly just to combine. Add the berries and sugar and stir quickly again just to combine. Spoon the batter into the cups, filling each cup almost to the top. Bake until brown and crusty, about 20 minutes.

Makes 10 muffins.

Smile: It’s the Weekend!

I thought I would start a regular Friday feature, in which I share a few things that have kept me smiling through the week, and will hopefully see you smiling into the weekend!

1. Discovering new perfumes.

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I always seem to have sample files of perfume lurking at the bottom of my handbag. On a whim, I fished out Space NK’s Laughter Jour the other day and squirted it on my wrist. To my surprise, I absolutely loved it. It’s very light and fresh and perfect for everyday wear. Their Laughter Nuit is rather nice too, and suitably a little more glam.

2. Laughing out loud.

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This blog is hilarious. I discovered it just this week, as I’d heard great things about blog founder Esther Walker’s new cookbook. Having read the book introduction visible on the amazon preview, I immediately bought the kindle edition and searched google for the blog. I chuckled my way through past posts and will start the book asap. Walker has a wonderfully human and incredibly funny writing style that warms you to her instantly. The recipes look pretty yummy too!

3. Learning about wine.

pairing wine with food

I enjoy wine, although know hardly anything about it. Thanks to my (ever trendy) Grandmother, I discovered the brilliant Wine Folly, a blog about wine for novices and seller of some fantastic posters to further your wine knowledge.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!