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Race Report: Osterley Winter 10k

Saturday 3rd December – a very cold morning, grey skies and a chilly breeze. I wasn’t feeling 100% either, having a croaky voice and sinus problems. Okay I probably should have just stayed in bed, but of course I didn’t.

Osterley 10k is always quite a busy race as it is flat, and is scheduled right after the Parkrun. In previous years I have done both, but I felt that really would be too much yesterday! I managed to find a parking spot, and went off to find my friends. We stood around waiting until the very last minute to take off the layers and hand in our bags.

Chris, Cate, Darren and me. We didn’t really want to take off our jackets, and I don’t know how Chris and Darren coped with shorts! But then they did run quite fast!

The warm up by the steps to the house was fun, and certainly got the blood flowing – why is it that you always feel exhausted after the warm up?! Then you have to run 10k!

Warm up routine by some people from GoodGym

It’s a friendly race, people chat to each other very readily, and while we waited for everyone to get into place for the start there was lots of conversation about times, mud, the cold.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas 🎄

And then we set off! The course is basically two laps, or a lap and half, but each lap is different. The route goes through the garden, and all round the grounds. There a few bits that are easier to run than others – the wide paths round the grounds are good, but the narrow pavement outside the walled part is annoying! And you have to do it twice! It wasn’t as muddy as I thought it would be, and although there were some puddles they were easy to negotiate round.

I was glad of my Santa hat to keep my head warm, although the dangling bobble was never going to be a good idea, so I tucked it in my collar. I also thought it would be fun to wear Christmas tree earrings – the jangling was quite annoying!

Lining up at the start

Even though I wasn’t feeling at my best I felt ok running. I had decided that if I felt unwell or out of breath I would slow down, walk or even stop if I really didn’t feel good. But in the end I did it in 1 hour and 28 seconds. And I really did feel all right.

However then we had to queue to collect our bags. Now I know that races rely on volunteers, and I am very grateful to all those who came to help out by marshalling, handing out water, setting up signs and organising the bag drop and all the other myriad jobs that have to be done. But. It was really cold, and we had all just got quite warm and sweaty running. This is not a good combination for standing around in a line. I think it took the best part of 30 minutes to get my bag and by the time I did I was frozen. I got in the car, put the heated seat on and the heated steering wheel but was still frozen when I got home. Then I had some hot food and got into bed. Three hours later I was just about thawed.

In the queue at the end. But before I was so cold I could barely talk! I don’t know these two women but they were very friendly and chatty. I screen grabbed this shot from the Ealing Half Marathon Instagram page.

The actual run was really great, but getting so cold did rather put a dampener on the experience I must say. At least in the queue I had a good chat with various people, including a man who only took up running a few years ago and now does ultras! (More than marathon distance.)

Osterley Park is a lovely place to visit. I wrote a little bit more about it in this post from 2019 – the year I ran the equivalent of a half marathon every month! And in that post is a photo of me in a Christmas pudding costume – and that was in 2018! So I’m sure I will be back next year. I just might find a way of keeping my bag more accessible at the end!

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Lemony Lemonies in Minnesota

I’ve been on my travels again, and am now in Woodbury, Minnesota, just outside the Twin Cities. We’re staying with more very dear friends, Tracy and David, who we haven’t seen since 2019 when we were all in Florida.

Flying over the Rockies!

They are in the process of moving home, and had a sizeable bowl of lemons as part of ‘set dressing’ for showing their beautiful home to prospective buyers. And now they have a buyer (fingers crossed!) so what to do with a large number of lemons? Why, make a lemon cake!

I have made lemon ‘brownies’ before (read about them here) but this was a recipe Tracy (of international carrot cake fame) found via Pinterest. It was easy, quick and used about 4 lemons altogether which made a small dent in the pile!

Fall in Minnesota

Tracy kindly lent me the use of her kitchen, and also helped out with measuring, melting, turning on the oven, washing up and generally being very useful!

In the UK we don’t get white eggs!

I would recommend the use of a microplane zester for the lemons, as you can make very fine zest that mixes evenly with the rest of the ingredients. Also you wouldn’t have to ice them if you wanted to keep the sugar content down a bit. Instead you could dust with icing sugar just before serving, or even leave them plain. We tested for doneness after 20 minutes and then 25, and the cake appeared to be still too wet in the middle. But – another 5 minutes and they were almost TOO done, so I would advise taking them out of the oven just before you think they are actually cooked – tricky timing, and it’s not the end of the world. But they could’ve been just a little bit more squidgy for maximum deliciousness!

Possibly slightly too done, but still squishy, not dry at all.
With the icing on top.

The recipe is from this website Bakerella, but there are many versions of it, and a lot of the recipes are exactly the same. I do not therefore have any qualms about reproducing it here. Actually I am not reproducing it verbatim, as I have adapted it (as usual 😂), and added some blueberries.

Ingredients

FOR THE BARS:

1 cup plain/ all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp lemon zest (approx 3 lemons)

3/4 cup unsalted (or salted – omit the extra salt) butter almost completely melted and then cooled

2 eggs

3 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup of blueberries – optional – my addition!

FOR THE GLAZE:

1.5 cups icing sugar/ powdered sugar, sifted

2 tbsp (or a bit more) lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

Method

Grease an 8” square pan or line with foil/ non stick parchment. Preheat oven to 350*/ Gas mark 4.

Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and zest using a whisk.

Add melted butter, lemon juice, eggs and vanilla. Stir until completely combined. Add the blueberries.

Pour into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until done. But not TOO done. Remove from oven and cool.

Make the glaze by mixing the sieved icing sugar with the lemon zest and juice, and pour over the cooled Lemonies. Let it set before cutting.

ENJOY!!

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Guest post! Peach pie by Christine

I am excited to introduce my first guest baker – one of my very dearest friends Christine Rookwood. Now living in Nelson, BC, Canada, Chris is a talented potter. Her work can be found in several art galleries and craft shops locally, and she also does commissioned work. I’ve known Chris for 43 years (I can hardly believe this!), and she has always been a fantastic baker.

Golden eagle sculpture

We are staying with Chris and her husband Paul (who I’ve known for even longer!), in their beautiful home just outside Nelson, a lovely old town on the Kootenay River.

On the drive from Vancouver we went through an area known for its fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, and bought a box of peaches (as well as some apples, pears, tomatoes, corn and little purple potatoes). Some of the peaches made it into a bowl of yogurt for breakfast, but some were destined for a peach PIE! Oh yes, dear readers, Chris made a delicious pie for us.

Chopped peaches just chilling for a while in one of Chris’s beautiful bowls
The filling is dotted with butter before the crust is folded over.
The pastry was brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with a little sugar before baking in a hot oven (in another fabulous dish made by Chris).

The crust was a basic shortcrust made with butter, and formed galette style. This means the pastry is rolled quite a bit larger than the pie plate and then folded over the filling. The filling was chopped peaches, mixed with some sugar, vanilla and a little cornflour to thicken the juices. The peaches were left for an hour or so to combine nicely with the other ingredients. Baked in a hot oven for approximately 45 minutes, and then allowed to cool on a rack, the pie was served with softly whipped cream. How lucky was I?!

Bread AND pie! (All ceramics in this photo made by Chris)
Delicious peach pie – I am so lucky to have such a wonderful friend – generous, talented and kind. And a brilliant baker!

And it doesn’t stop there! Two gorgeous loaves of bread shared the oven space with the pie. Stuffed with toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and some plump raisins, I am looking forward to some delicious toast tomorrow morning.

Sunrise
Two delicious loaves
View from the deck of the house

You can check out more of Chris’s work on Instagram – @cvrookie or on her website by clicking here.

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Race Report- Ealing Half Marathon 2022

Happy 10th Birthday to the fabulous Ealing Half Marathon! Number one was set up to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics and has run every year since. Every year apart from one – in 2020 no race took place in real life, but there was a virtual run which I undertook on a very cold and wet day in Suffolk. I just re read that post, and oh my it was a very different experience from the one today! For a start it never seems to rain on the last Sunday in September in Ealing! The weather today was perfect for running – sunny, blue skies and not too hot.

Bright and sparky and ready to run!
Waiting at the start we found ourselves a bit too close to the 2 hour pacer for comfort so hung back a bit! All the Xempo pacers were women. Apparently the 2:05 pacer ran a half last week in 1:25 😳

As usual I knew quite a few people taking part, and also lots of the volunteers and supporters along the route. It’s always fun looking out for friends. It’s a while since I ran alongside another person (I mean apart from the crowd) but today my son Jack decided at the very last minute to take part. Later he told me that this was the only the 5th actual run he’s done in two years! So he was basically running on no specific training at all. Crazy. But it was very nice to have the company, and the encouragement. He set his fancy watch with a target of 2 hours and 5 minutes – ambitious. The first half we were on track and I managed the fastest 10km I’ve done for years! But after that the second half began to take its toll on our legs. There’s a point where the route goes quite close to our house – and his – and it is hard to run past that point when your legs are screaming STOP!

Race village atmosphere

But the fantastic support from the crowd, offering jelly babies, water and general cheering really does give you a boost. There is also plenty of music and drums along the way, with the Hanwell Ukelele Group smashing out tunes, and a fab dhol player outside the Sikh temple on Drayton Bridge Road. Click here if you don’t know what a dhol is! There were also some great drummers on the Uxbridge Road which was a great energising sound to hear at mile 12.

Happy – but knackered. We did it though!

As always superb organisation and a huge army of volunteers of all ages from Beavers to seniors made this a fantastic event, enjoyed by everyone.

Jack and I finished in 2 hours and 7 minutes. Hurray! He wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t done it, and I certainly wouldn’t have done it that quick without him, and his ambitious target! At the end my feet, legs and back were killing me, I’m not going to lie. However, after a long soak in a hot bath and an extremely good Sunday lunch at The Green W7 in Hanwell I am feeling ok, if a little tired.

Shout out to Race Directors Sandra Courtney and Christina O’Hare. As usual you have done an amazing job. And thanks of course to the founder of Ealing Half Marathon Kelvin Walker, without whom this wonderful race would have never existed. If you have never thought about doing a half marathon then start thinking about doing this one next year!

Lovely anniversary medal – and made from wood too for extra save the planet points.
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Chocolate chip peanut butter oat cookies

Tomorrow it’s Ealing Half Marathon Day! Therefore today I’m going to eat cookies! I am really looking forward to running tomorrow, although I have not prepared as carefully and rigorously as I could have done. I have run quite a bit, and done some long runs in the last few weeks, so hopefully it will come good on the day.

Setting up the finish line today in Lammas Park!
The race village takes shape.

I have made this recipe twice now. It is from the Sainsbury’s site, by Mitzie Wilson, and can be found by clicking here. It’s very easy and quick to make. It would be good recipe for children because the easiest way to mix everything together is with your hands. I also think it is an ideal on the run snack cookie, as it is full of carbs and protein. Next time I’m on a long run I think I might try this out! I will probably freeze a few for this very purpose.

I made the first batch faithfully following the recipe (apart from using dark brown sugar both times as that was what I had). The second time around I adjusted it slightly. I never thought I would say this but you CAN actually have too many chocolate chips 😂. There were so many the first time around I had a lot of trouble getting them all to stick in the cookie dough. Second time around I reduced the amount from 100g to 80g and still had to press them in individually to use them all up.

These are nice quality choc chips, but any are ok

Second time I used a different type of oats – the first time I had some very classy jumbo oats, and used up the last of them. Second time I used regular porridge oats (the cheapest ones from Lidl as it happens). I think it actually works better with the cheap ones as the jumbo oats don’t stick together quite so easily. But either is fine.

In the oven
Out of the oven

Further adaptations: I also sprinkled just the tiniest bit of salt on top of each cookie before they went in the oven because chocolate, peanuts and salt go well together. I also reduced the cooking time by 1 minute to make them a bit more squidgy – they were fine with 15 mins, but almost getting on the dry side.

Well – it worked! Bursting with chocolate chips and peanuts, and with the nuttiness of the oats and tang of salt they are a Taste Sensation!

I can highly recommend this recipe; quick, easy and very tasty.

My version of the chocolate chip peanut butter oat cookies! :

Ingredients:

200g crunchy peanut butter (you could use smooth too)

100g dark brown sugar (or whatever brown sugar you have)

1 egg

100g porridge oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

80g dark chocolate chips (but milk would work too)

Before starting get 2 baking sheets and line with baking parchment. Put the oven on to Gas Mark 4, 350 F or 180 C.

Beat the peanut butter, sugar and the egg with an electric whisk until well blended. Add the oats, baking powder and chocolate chips. You can mix with a wooden spoon but it’s easier to squash together with your hands. Form into 16 balls and flatten slightly on the baking sheets. If you like sprinkle the tiniest specks of salt on each.

Bake for 14-15 minutes. Let them cool for 5-6 minutes before transferring to a metal rack to finish cooling completely.

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It’s not cake – it’s kimchi!

Contrary to popular belief I don’t eat cake all the time. I like baking and eating cake, but recognise that a daily cake habit is probably not something that anyone would recommend as part of a healthy lifestyle.

It’s becoming more and more clear that maintaining a healthy gut biome is important for overall health – both mental and physical. And although we would all like to think that cake plays a major part on this it seems that sadly it probably doesn’t! Luckily I like a range of food, and fermented food is something I do enjoy. I also enjoy experimenting in the kitchen with different things, and making my own kimchi is something I have been doing for a little while now.

Kimchi is a Korean speciality; it’s fermented/ pickled vegetables, often Chinese / napa cabbage and Korean radish, but can be many others too. It’s often spicy, and flavoured with fish sauce, but many regional varieties exist. In the days before refrigeration was available storing food was tricky. And in the winter people relied on many different ways of preserving the harvests of summer and autumn to see them through the winter. Drying, salting, fermenting, canning, pickling, jams and jellies – all necessary methods of ensuring that you could feed your family throughout the year. Sauerkraut maybe familiar to many in the UK and Europe, and kimchi is essentially a variation of that.

As kimchi has become more popular in the west it has undergone many iterations and variations to accommodate the western palate as well as the availability of vegetables here. Because it takes time to prepare it can be expensive to buy. It is so easy to make that if you like eating it then I really would recommend having a go at making it yourself.

Anyway – back to my kimchi! When I first started making kimchi in 2020 I used a recipe by Felicity Cloake in the Guardian. I like this recipe partly because it is based on manageable amounts. There are some great recipes and articles/blogs about kimchi and many are very authentic. The problem is that the really authentic ones use a lot of cabbage! I don’t really have the space or inclination to make such huge quantities.

The first couple of times I followed the recipe above pretty much exactly. But then I started tweaking it a bit, either out of necessity – not having quite the right ingredients – or just to see what happened. My variation now is still based on the recipe, but is slightly different. The next time it might be different again.

Why eat kimchi? Why eat any fermented food? Because it is chock full of many ‘good’ bacteria that help your gut become the best it can be, improving your immune system, reducing chronic inflammation, reducing your chances of cancer, probably improving your mood, and maybe even helping you lose weight (if that’s what you want). Professor Tim Spector, author of The Diet Myth, is a big fan of fermented foods, explaining here why some of the things we have been told in the past about healthy eating are actually not true. (I’m a big fan of a Tim Spector – look up the Zoe podcast and have a listen.)

Key ingredients

When I make it I grate the radish, the carrot and – a beetroot. I smash up the garlic and ginger in a mortar with a pestle with a pinch of salt. I didn’t add any fish sauce or salted shrimp this time so it is vegetarian. I do sometimes add them though, it depends what I feel like. I have made this with ordinary English radishes sliced up, but I do actually prefer the daikon/mooli. The one thing I think you really should try and get is the Korean red pepper flakes as they definitely do have a distinct flavour. I don’t always add as much as the recipe says though.

The red pepper mix – smashed ginger and garlic with red pepper flakes (gochugaru) and mixed to a paste with water.
Brined cabbage, grated veg and pepper mix ready to get saucy.
All mixed together – I would strongly advise wearing gloves for this bit!

How long it takes to ferment depends on the ambient temperature. In the winter (in my freezing cold house 😉) it can take a week. At the moment it’s a lot warmer so after just 2 days it is already audibly and visibly bubbling away, and the smell is quite strong. I think I’ll probably leave it another 24 hours at least to do its thing a bit more, before decanting into smaller jars and putting it in the fridge. Even in the fridge it will continue to ferment, just much more slowly.

The plastic bag is filled with water and sits on top of the kimchi to exclude air but allow the bubbles to escape.
2 days later bubbling away. The beetroot really makes it a beautiful colour.
Close up of the fermentation process!

People sometimes ask me what I eat it with. The answer is really whatever you want. In Korea is is eaten as a side dish, or added to fried rice, egg dishes etc. If you do use it in cooked food take care to add it right at the end of cooking because you don’t want to destroy all the good stuff by too much heat.

If you’re not a fan of spicy then try making sauerkraut- I have to admit the only time I tried this several years ago it was a bit of a disaster. I really should try again. I have made water kefir which is a bit like kombucha. That was really easy, and very tasty, but I ended with litres of the stuff, and couldn’t drink it fast enough so I haven’t done that for a while. I’d be really interested in your experiences of fermenting or pickling in salt/brine, please do comment below.

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Let’s run in Rye

I’ve been away for a long weekend in Rye, East Sussex. I haven’t done a lot of running because I’m only here for a short time, and also it is the middle of a heatwave, and far too hot at most times of day to do much of anything, let along running.

But this morning I was awake at 5-ish, so I made the most of the cool(er) temperatures and went out for a 10km (6 miles) run.

My favourite photo from my run today.
First outing for my new running shoes! Adidas Supernova. Love them!

There was almost nobody about. I saw a couple of other runners, a couple of touring cyclists who stopped at a bird hide on the nature reserve, and a couple of dog walkers. Oh and a man delivering today’s newspapers to a shop.

Rye used to be next to the sea. I spent about half an hour looking on the internet for a picture of Rye in mediaeval times, and found one on another blog called LoveTravelEngland. Then I spent another half an hour reading the blog, which is great by the way!

I don’t know where this picture originally came from so can’t credit it any further than the blog it came from. You can see how Rye was once on the sea, and surrounded by navigable rivers: the Brede, the Rother and the Tillingham.

Then longshore drift created a spit of pebbles, and storms in the 13thC hastened the silting of the harbours and rivers. Now the town is 2 miles from the sea, and ship building, which was a major industry for hundreds of years, is dead.

Nowadays tourism plays a big part in the town’s economy, and it is easy to see why. The very picturesque buildings and cobbled streets are full of art galleries and shops full of nice things. (I bought a nice red hat…and a handy water bottle…)

Looking down Mermaid St, home of the very ancient Mermaid Inn (on the left) whose cellars date from 1156!

There are lots of literary connections too. Lamb House was once the home of Henry James and later EF Benson (of Mapp and Lucia fame).

We visited the house which is very interesting and has a lovely peaceful garden.

Back to the run. We’re staying right in the centre of the town, so the first part involved a few steep cobbled streets – careful! Then a long stretch of road to the village of Rye Harbour, passing many industrial buildings and factories. And finally to the Nature Reserve, which was looking beautiful in the early morning light.

This place recycles solvents. I thought it looked rather magnificent in a shiny metallic way.
A relic from WWII, a look out for enemy invasion
View at the turnaround point

It was a lovely run, not at all too hot. And I was back at around 7am! All done!

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Too hot to run, too hot to bake!

It’s been hot in the UK in the last few days. In London the temperatures have been over 40*C, which is waaay too hot for me. Houses in this part of the world are not built for this sort of weather, more to keep out the cold and rain. I’m sure that in the middle of winter we will be dreaming of the hot sun, but right now I’m dreaming of a cool shower of rain. I love talking about the weather, because I’m English. Everyone in the UK loves to talk about the weather. It’s a cliche, but it’s true!

Oh yes – light rain this evening!

It’s also been too hot for baking. So no cake bakes recently. Just salads and light food. But I’m watching Nadiya Bakes which is on repeat right now. So I can get a baking fix distantly and without getting hot.

My running has a been a bit on and off recently for many reasons, not just the heat. Time is an issue, and social activities also seem to get in the way. I’ve also been walking – my other blog is all about Walking the London Loop if you’re interested.

Last week I did a lovely walk near Henley, starting at Hambleden Mill. The route can be found by clicking here.
I made this lime magic cake a little while ago. The layers didn’t come out quite as good as ones I’ve made before.
Here’s a run I did last week locally. Warren Farm is a bit like a tiny piece of countryside – full of larks and kestrels, red kites and occasionally the peregrine falcon that lives on the local hospital. There’s also owls, but I’ve not seen them yet.
It’s not baking. It’s kimchi. This one had beetroot added, and took only 3 days to ferment, because of the heat. It was literally bubbling over the top!
And finally a beautiful water lily picture from a visit to Kew Gardens.

So, just a little catch up. I’ve been thinking about pie again recently (😂) so watch out for that.

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Running tales from Ealing – and beyond!

This morning the weather was a lot cooler than it has been for the last few days – much more conducive to a long run than a few days ago, when it took me nearly an hour and a half to run 10km! My intention was to do between 11 and 16 km, depending on how my legs felt ( I had a late night last night, and there might have been a little alcohol involved!). But it was really such a beautiful morning I ended up in Richmond! So the round trip was about 20km. Nice and slow though, and including a couple of chat stops along the way.

The Thames at Isleworth

The canal was busy with bird life today. The baby moorhens and cygnets are getting bigger and more independent. It’s lovely to see a swan family of 5 swimming along sedately. At the river there were a lot of geese, ducks and swans napping along the slipway while the tide was in.

Richmond Lock and Footbridge

The towpath was busy with humans – walking, running, cycling, scooting and wheeling, next to a river where the activity continued in rowing boats, skiffs, paddle boards and canoes. I didn’t see anyone swimming today!

One of the things I really noticed today was the smell of summer. The linden (lime) trees have been smelling amazing this past week, and this mixed and flowed along with the scent of roses, jasmine and philadelphus.

Of course the sight of all these flowers was also wonderful, and stopping to look at them, to really notice them, was a lovely way to slow down, and give my legs a bit of a break!

I was wearing my new Ealing half marathon running t shirt today, which prompted a chat at Richmond with another runner! She’s also training for the Ealing half which happens at the end of September. It’s the 10 year anniversary this year – it started in 2012, inspired by the London Olympics. I’ve done them all except one (☹️) and can honestly say it’s one of the friendliest, most fun and best organised half marathons you can ever do. It’s always more fun when there’s lots of people – so if you haven’t already then sign up! Even if you have never done one before there’s plenty of time to start training! Click the link above to go the website. Go on – you know you really want to!

View up river towards Twickenham bridge and Richmond

I bumped into a friend on the way back, and stopped for a quick chat – and was able to suggest a visit to an amazing bread/bakery stall outside Syon Park. If only I hadn’t been running with no bag or back pack! I think it might worth a special trip on a another day!

Boats at Richmond bridge

By the time I got back I was quite tired, and hungry. I really need to get myself sorted out better as far as food/ hydration goes on long runs. But after a substantial brunch of omelette and toast, and plenty of water and kefir I felt a lot better! And very satisfied that I managed to run 20km without total collapse!

Beautiful flowers at Syon Park
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Tracy’s Carrot Cake

This is a classic carrot cake recipe from my very dear friend Tracy. My family and I have been making this for literally decades, and I think it’s the best one ever. It always works, and it’s always loved by everyone.

As written out by Tracy. I learned recently that ‘soft cheese’ ie Philadelphia, is not really cream cheese, and proper cream cheese will make a a thicker icing. I will try to get hold of some next time.

It’s easy to make too. The dry flour mixture goes in the bowl, and then the sugar, oil and eggs are mixed in to make a smooth, thick batter. At this point it doesn’t look like a cake batter, but do not worry! Once the carrots, pineapple, walnuts and coconut are mixed in the batter loosens up.

Nowadays it seems to be very difficult to get tinned crushed pineapple, so I use pineapple chunks and then chop them after they’re drained.

I’ve always made this in a 13” x 9” tin but my sister makes it in 2 x 8” round tins and sandwiches them with the cream cheese frosting.

As you can see I don’t grease and flour the tin, but line it with baking parchment.

It’s so full of carrots, pineapple and walnuts that you can kid yourself it is healthy. Of course it’s also full of sugar… but hey – it’s a special occasion.

We didn’t manage to get all the candles lit! They kept blowing out. Next time I’ll get those candles that re-light themselves.
It didn’t last long!