Randoms 4.16.18

First things first: I am curating (sorry!) a small collection of cookbooks that will be sold at Field & Florist, one of the coolest shops in Chicago. My friends Heidi and Molly own Field & Florist, which is a sustainable flower farm in southwest Michigan and, as of last summer, a flower shop/gift shop/art space in Chicago. They’re basically The Best. I picked out a selection of three recently released cookbooks which will be sold alongside some carefully selected vintage titles. I even wrote about why I love each of the books. I am super excited to be contributing to the Field & Florist dream/lifestyle in this small way. Please stop by and check it out, it would mean a lot to me. Tell them I sent you! Or maybe I’ll be there and you can tell me. The shop just opened for the season this weekend and there is so much good stuff.

Erik Hall is a dear friend and all-around-great guy who records and performs music under the moniker In Tall Buildings. His latest album, Akinetic, is wonderful and worth a listen. He’s also touring around a bit and I highly recommend catching him in person if he shows up in your town. I stayed up past my bedtime for his Chicago show.

What are you reading? I finished Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, which I can’t stop thinking about. It was so precise. And so far the only author whose inclusion of emails and instant messages hasn’t made me cringe. I learned a lot about writing from the book.

Helen Rosner on the strange and fascinating story of the food scientist (“scientist”?) who fought the Joy of Cooking and how the Joy of Cooking won.

There are two cookbooks that I am super excited about right now. One is Jessica Battilana’s Repertoire, which I plan to say more about soon. The other is Caravan: Dining All Day, from the all-day cafes in London of the same name. My friend Emily, who happens to own her own all-day cafe, recommended it and I’ve been cooking from it a bunch since it arrived. I’m especially excited to use it this summer when I have access to delicious fresh produce. Their Banana and Coconut Streusel Coffee Cake is one of the best things I’ve ever made, and the book would be worth it for that recipe alone. But I am also in love with the coconut bread recipe, which makes truly incredible toast (I’ve included that recipe below). I like it best fried, using a cast iron pan, and then given a smear of apricot jam.

Speaking of British books, I would encourage all of you to buy the original UK versions of cookbooks rather than their American editions. First of all, they usually have better-designed covers (why do American presses thing we have terrible/literal taste in book design?). Second, they are less likely to have errors—a problem that frequently plagues these books when publishers convert from weight to volume. This was highlighted recently by the disappointing release of Sweet and the need to reprint that book because of the huge number of errors. Obviously the best solution would be for the USA to transition to weight measurements for baking, but I’ve given up on that dream (though I will continue to work hard to convince each of you to get a scale). Assuming I am preaching to the converted and you have a scale, buy your Slater, Henry, and Ottolenghi books directly from the UK. I use Book Depository, which offers free shipping to the US.

I learned about Monty Don a couple of weeks ago when I randomly started watching Big Dreams, Small Spaces on Netflix. As the show keeps telling us, Monty Don is “Britain’s favorite gardener” and in the series he helps people create their dream gardens with limited money and space. The show is a true delight, and Monty is my new style icon/celebrity crush.

Have we all been watching these Janelle Monáe videos? I mean. (NSFW?)

Coconut Bread (from the Caravan cookbook)

  • 360g all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 135g unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 60ml whole milk
  • 240ml coconut milk (full fat)

Preheat the oven to 170°C (or 350°F) and line a loaf pan with parchment paper so it hangs over long sides. Lightly spray with nonstick spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and coconut. In a separate bowl combine the eggs, vanilla, milk, and coconut milk, whisking lightly to break up and mix in the eggs.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix lightly until you have a smooth batter. Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake in the oven for 50-65 minutes (the books says 45 minutes but it took considerably longer for me even at the slightly higher temp), until golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

13 comments to “Randoms 4.16.18”

  1. 100% in love with Monty too! That show is SO RELAXING OMG.

    Great recs! Thank you!

  2. That coconut bread looks fantastic. Regarding books, I’ve been on a binge reading non-fiction — “The Winter Fortress” by Neal Bascomb, “Family Spirits” by Peter Foster, “Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba” by Tom Gjelten, “Havana Nocturne” by T.J. English, “The Fish that ate the Whale…America’s Banana King” by Rich Cohen, “Banana…” by Dan Koeppel, “Cod” and “Birdseye” both by Mark Kurlansky, “The Day the World Came to Town 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland” by Jim Defede. That’s just a few, plus I read cookbooks and glad I bought the UK version of “Sweet.” Love the cover.

  3. YES to weights and scales. I get so frustrated when I want to make a recipe that only cups, and especially when it includes tips on how to properly scoop and level the flour into the cup or whatever- it’s still so imprecise. Great tip on buying the cookbooks from the UK!

  4. So lovely, thank you Tim. I have always thought of Monty as the Keith Floyd of gardens without quite so much booze. Hope to see you this Summer!

  5. Hi Tim, I am a long time silent stalker and big fan of your recipes and writing. It has made me so happy to see you posting more regularly again! Thank you! The best book I have read this year was Tomorrow I’ll be Twenty, by Alain Mabanckou. It is short, charming and hilarious. Plus, African writers don’t get the attention they deserve. If you pick it up, you’re in for a treat!

  6. Johanna- Yes, this summer for sure.
    Sadie- Thanks for the rec, and for breaking your silence! ; )
    Lousie- You have read more non-fiction recently than I have in my entire life. I struggle with it.

  7. I love the scale for weights, but it’s the mLs that get me.

  8. I agree with Sadie, and what a great post. The books I’m reading now would be of no interest – Science for Potters, and other chemical books – though they are about recipes, only I’m cooking at 1222ºC (that’s 2230ºF for us here in the States). I’m pushing my brain to switch to switch to weights, metric, and Centigrade, as it works much better. Thank you for that link to Book Depository. I think. I tend to lurk, commenting infrequently, but your blog is one of my favorites.

  9. Yeah. Monty don. I used to watch his gardening show on the bbc until we emmigrated to netflix. so good to know that he can be found there, too.
    I love your blog. I really do. oh my. I not actually saying anything, but: I appreciate your being being here and doing this. tanks

  10. Coconut bread! YES. Have spent all morning trying to think of ways to use up the inexplicable POUNDS of shredded coconut in my pantry only to find this here, waiting for me. xo

  11. Reading Alexander Chee’s new book of essays. Highly recommend. Do not let the title fool you. It is only the focus of one of the essays. https://www.amazon.com/How-Write-Autobiographical-Novel-Essays/dp/1328764524. I also recently finished The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes and Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen. Book good albeit the topic a tad slight in the case of Quindlen.

  12. I made the coconut bread, and it was extremely delicious – terrific flavor and texture. Also mixed up very quickly. Thanks for the recipe!

  13. I made the bread. My house smells like heaven. Fried with apricot jam is super magic. Thank you for this.

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