The countryside is full of surprises, and many of them I disclosed over the past month.
I found new foraging places and new paths, but little did I know I would even find my new studio.
So here are three surprises that gave me happiness from these past days.
A New Studio
A month ago my family decided to finally get rid of a lot of scraps and junk that was laying around the backyard, where my great-grandparents used to keep sheep, pigs and other animals. Today, that area is mostly dedicated to chicken, and to a rampant overgrowth that, in late spring, explodes into bushes of mauve, nettles, mint and poppies.
As I was rummaging about, trying to forage greens and getting stung by nettles and mosquitoes, I noticed a broken wooden door, opening a way into a concrete wall.
I entered and, to my surprise, I found the most wonderful light.
Then I remembered.
When I was a kid, my grandpa used to keep his rabbits there. He was absolutely adamant as not to even go near that room, as rabbit mothers would ignore their bunnies if they felt unknown presences, leaving them to certain death. Therefore I always had images of rabbits being evil animals, and I steered clear of that place.
Now, rusty, broken cages were lying about the place, untouched for years. A beautiful light streamed in from a small window, glowing through the overgrowth outside. It was love at first sight.
I cleared the place out, set up a table, and took these photos. Lately I have been longing for a brighter mood, for something that reflects the sunny countryside around me. I have been longing for photos that I would not call ‘moody’. I was eager to discover a new light. So, for now, I hope you will welcome these new streams of sunlight as happily as I did.
The Mysterious Knight
If you follow this blog, you might have seen several pictures of horses. They have been put in a field around here about two years ago and I never managed to find out who owns them. I thought at some point I would have uncovered the mystery, and just forgot about it.
Yesterday, as I walked by a field, looking for herbs, I found that much to my dismay it had been mowed. It is a huge field, and I think what was growing there were greens to feed cattle. Instead of the usual bunch fo flowers, I found a black cat, much resemblant to my own.
He let me pet him, then let me into the field. In the middle of it, I finally met the Mysterious Knight. He was a nice man, maybe slightly younger than middle age. He said hi nicely, asked what I was doing, and let me photograph him. I love it when you meet people on the street, and they smile at you. Why not, after all? why would you not smile at anyone? If they are even willing to spare a word…it makes me so happy that it is enough to make my day.
Next time I meet him, I will ask him if he is willing to let me horse ride.
The Hidden Bushes
Right after my brief encounter with the Mysterious Knight, I kept walking into the field. I is a huge field and I never crossed it in its entirety. When I got to the top, I was rewarded with several wonderful bushes of both chamomile and wild daisies. Telling the two apart is easy, as the chamomile just smells wonderful while daisies have no smell at all. I hung some chamomile to dry, and I am planning to go look for more before the season ends. I was inspired to create all sorts of chamomile things, starting with these muffins.
This probably all sounds extremely silly. But I get so happy with these trivial things. There is one part of me that never changed since I was a kid, and that finds pleasure in the most trivial things, like foraging flowers or picking fruit straight from the trees. Even with all the problems that adulthood brings along, There are some feelings that give me incredible peace. So, just below the recipe, I want to share some link love with all the things that gave me happiness these past few days (that haven’t been easy at all).
The recipe was inspired by Green Kitchen Stories’ GF Blueberry Cake, and by Valentina Masullo’s Hot Milk Chamomile Cake. I then converted it into muffins because, well, I just felt like photographing muffins.
I wanted to test a Gluten-Free, eggless cake and I am absolutely happy with the result! The crumb is soft and intensely flavored. I decided to use the honey we produce, as I love its flavor with chamomile, but if you wanted to keep this entirely vegan, just swap it for any liquid sweetener you like, and swap the yogurt for coconut cream or coconut yogurt. If you do not want to use flax seeds, use 3 organic eggs instead, for an even fluffier crumb.
If you want to convert this to a cake, a 7″ / 18cm tin should do.
- 2 cups greek yogurt or creme fraiche (or vegan yogurt / coconut cream)
- 1 cup honey (or agave/rice syrup)
- 2 heaping tablespoons chamomile honey
- ½ a vanilla bean (or one whole for more flavor)
- 1 cup / 250 ml milk, almond or other plant milk if vegan
- 5 tbsp / 10g dried chamomile flowers
- 3 tbsp (20g) flax meal + 8 tbsp water
- 1 cup / 100g almond flour
- 1½ cup / 200g rice flour
- ½ cup / 90g potato starch
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ cup / 50) brown sugar*
- 3 tsp / baking soda
- zest and juice of 2 lemons
- ½ cup / 125ml chamomile-flavored honey (or agave or rice syrup if vegan)
- ½ cup / 125ml flavorless vegetable oil such as sunflower
- * the sugar can be skipped entirely for a healthier option.
- Make the topping first: combine the honey and flowers in a bowl, and heat it over a bain-marie. The honey will turn very runny and the heat will infuse the flavor of the flowers to the honey. Let steep until cool, then heat again until runny enough to filter it trough a fine mesh strainer. Let cool, then mix a couple tablespoons into the yogurt / creme fraiche / vegan yogurt / coconut cream, whatever you are using. Reserve the rest in a glass jar.
- Make the muffins:
- First, infuse the milk: add the scraped seeds and pod of the vanilla and the chamomile flowers to the milk, and heat it gently. Be careful not to boil it! once slightly smoking, turn off the heat and let cool.
- In the meantime, combine the flax meal with the water, stir well and let sit until slimy and thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir every now and then to accelerate the process.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F˚ / 180 C˚, and grease and flour muffin tins or prepare some muffin liners.
- Combine the almond flour, rice flour, potato starch, salt, baking soda, sugar if using and lemon zest in a bowl.
- In another bowl, filter the infused milk. Add the lemon juice, chamomile honey and vegetable oil. slightly heat the liquids over a bain-marie or for a few seconds in the microwave so that the honey dissolves fully. Whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture little by little to avoid lumps. The batter should not be too runny, but rather sticky and spoonable.
- Distribute the batter evenly in the tins and bake for about 20 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. If batter still sticks to the toothpick, bake for 5 further minutes. It is very important not to overbake them, or they will turn stiff.
- once the toothpick comes out clean, remove from the oven and let cool.
- Frost with the chamomile yogurt, or chamomile creme fraiche for something a little more decadent. Enjoy with your favorite hot beverage!
Kyra’s Blog: I love the peaceful, bright feel of it and I love the natural ways she talks about motherhood. I especially loved her post about the toys she selects for her daughter: I also think that kids, just like adults, need way less clutter than we think.
Me & Orla: Another clean blog with a bright feeling I have been loving lately. She has some amazing insights for Instagram, but because I am getting nauseated by social media lately I much prefer her Parenting/Personal blog categories. ‘The I Hate Game’ was one of my favorite articles.
I bought Christine Ferber’s ‘Mes Confitures’ book! With the incredible abundance of uses
Beth Kirby’s Instagram has been positively glowing lately. She seems so enthusiastic about Paris that I can almost feel her excitement and I love the feeling!