Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Leave or remain? | Design books

Yes, I'm referring to Brexit in the title. Tomorrow the EU Referendum is upon us and the debate will finally be over! One cannot turn on the news or go anywhere without being bombarded with 'leave or remain', and it's been like that for weeks. I doubt I could take one more day of this (it's been raining for a few days which could also explain my limited patience). One particular politician complained in a speech about European passports and that 'we were drinking French wine'. My thought was, Yes, that's a great reason to leave, to get the Brits to drink British wine with their fish and chips and Yorkshire puddings! By the way, I'm on the remain-side but I'm not engaging in the debate as I don't have the right to vote. I do, however, have the right to be sarcastic.

Let's talk about coffee table books, shall we?

I would like to share with you a list of design books that are on my radar; either they have been published recently or soon will be. I have added some comments to each.

· Casa Mexico: At Home in Merida and the Yuctan by Annie Kelly
- this gorgeous book is next on my buying list; on the Rizzoli website you can take a look inside
· Past Perfect: Richard Shapiro Houses and Gardens by Richard Shapiro + Mayer Rus
- I have shared Shapiro's work on my Tumblr page and his outdoor living area on the blog
· Beautiful: All-American Decorating and Timeless Style by Mark D. Sikes
- remember his beautiful Hollywood Hills home on the blog? (since then it has been renovated)
· Would You Like to See the House: Unapologetic Interiors by Lorraine Kirke
- the bohemian inside wants this one
· Alberto Pinto: Signature Interiors by Anne Bony
- remember the large Valdés painting in Pinto's studio?
· Decorative Textiles from Arab and Islamic Cultures: Selections from the Al Lulwa Collection
- stay tuned for a review on the blog soon

Friday, 17 June 2016

bookshelf styling | № 2 summer reading list

I have a bookshelf crush. Not my first. The July issue of Elle Decoration UK has a feature that has had me swooning just a little with my coffee, a home in LA that has so many right touches ('House on the Hills', photographed by Stephanie Bjelkstam). The open shelves in the living room display an uncluttered mix of books and decorative objects; books arranged both vertically and horizontally, adding visual interest. The shelves seem to breathe and echo the rug on the floor. Beautifully done. These days I'm reading a few books and soon I will be reviewing one of them on the blog: Decorative Textiles from Arab and Islamic Cultures: Selections from the Al Lulwa Collection. That Egyptian cotton appliqué to the left is a little preview.

My summer reading list is ready (I should probably call it my early summer reading list) and consists of plays and autobiographical writing. Recently I returned Arthur Miller's memoir Timebends (wonderfully written, highly recommend it) to the library and picked up two of his plays. On the same day I was browsing online for works by Virginia Woolf and was lucky to find two used copies (vol. 3 of her diary has arrived and looks like new - love it). Here is my list:

Some people would perhaps call this a bit heavy reading in summertime but I'm just not one of those readers who pick up a stack of quick-reads at the local bookshop. My children were making fun of me recently, saying that I read weird books. I'm trying to remember the exact phrase one of them used, 'English upper-class snob literature' or something like that. It cracked me up.

On a more personal note: It's the National Day of Iceland and my husband and I celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. It's also Friday pizza day but he's abroad for work. The children and I are going for French cheese, baguette and grapes ... and chocolate. Have a wonderful weekend!

images by me | credit - top photo: Elle Decoration UK, July 2016, p. 116 · Stephanie Bjelkstam

Monday, 6 June 2016

Walnut chocolate fudge cake with raspberries

It was a warm summer in 2010 and we had just moved to Antwerp, where we lived for two years. Our son's birthday was coming up and he asked me to make this walnut chocolate fudge cake with raspberries that needs no baking. He had seen it in Ani's Raw Food Desserts by Ani Phyo and his mind was set. A fudge cake and Playmo and our five-year old was happy. The original recipe, called raspberry ganache fudge cake, had two layers with frosting and raspberries between them. I made it, we loved it, but after only one slice we were full. For us the two layers were simply too much. I reduced the cake's size and my version is one layer with frosting and berries on top. The beauty of making the cake is its simplicity: There is no soaking of nuts or dates needed; everything is mixed in a food processor. The cake is shaped and ready to serve. Excellent on summer days when you're craving a chocolate cake but it's too warm to turn on the oven.

One of the reasons why I love this cake so much is that it has two of my favourite foods: walnuts and raspberries. Walnuts are an excellent source of (plant-based) omega-3 fatty acids. They are considered good for the heart and they have anti-inflammatory benefits. I read in my Larousse Culinary Encyclopedia that the ancient Greeks and Romans believed walnuts cured headaches because of the shape of the kernel, which looks like the two halves of a brain (p. 1143). In the same food bible I read about 'the nymph Ida prick[ing] her finger while picking berries for the young Jupiter and thus raspberries, which had been white until then, turned red' (p. 861). Let's leave the mythology and make the cake.

This walnut chocolate fudge cake recipe is adapted from the aforementioned book by Ani Phyo, which is filled with delicious raw treats. I have reduced the cake's size, as we prefer one layer, with the frosting and raspberries on top. Phyo's recipe calls for dry walnuts (first soaked, then dried in the sun or in a dehydrator) but I simply use walnuts without soaking them. Some people are sensitive to caffeine and in such cases you can substitute the cocoa powder in the fudge cake for carob powder. The original recipe calls for pitted Medjool dates, which are soft and don't need soaking. You can of course use pitted dried dates instead and soak them first. The original frosting recipe has agave syrup but I use pure maple syrup instead. The cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.


fudge cake
220 g walnuts (2 cups)
50 g cocoa powder (¼ cup + 2 heaped Tbs)
scant ¼ teaspoon fine sea/Himalayan salt
175 g pitted Medjool dates (scant 1 cup)

60 g pitted Medjool dates (about ¼ cup)
40 ml pure maple syrup (scant 3 Tbs)
70 g ripe avocado flesh (⅓ cup)
30 g cocoa powder (¼ cup)

topping: 70-100 g raspberries (about ½ cup)

To make the fudge cake, combine the walnuts, cocoa powder and salt in a food processor and pulse until coarsely mixed. Avoid over-processing. Add the dates and pulse until mixed well. Use your fingertips to feel the texture of the batch and add one or two Medjool dates if it feels dry. Using your hands, shape into a cake of desired size on a plate (I like mine 18-19 cm (about 7 inches)). Set aside.

To make the frosting, combine the dates and maple syrup in the food processor and process until as smooth as possible. Add the avocado and process until smooth. Add the cocoa powder and process until smooth.

To serve, spread the frosting over the cake and top with fresh raspberries.

Uppskrift á íslensku.

If using pitted dried dates, instead of Medjool dates, chop them first and soak them in water for at least 30 minutes. Do not discard the soaking water, as you may need some of it to get the right texture, both for the cake and the frosting (depends on how good your food processor is). Instead of walnuts only for the fudge cake you can switch one cup for a blend of pecans, almonds and cashew nuts.