Monday, October 21, 2013

Spectacular Santorini
and a recipe for Santorinian Tomato Fritters
(Tomatokeftethes)


Hello everyone! All two of you that might still be waiting for me to post again on the blog. I am so sorry for taking such an extended leave of absence – I feel terrible about neglecting this space, especially because my only excuse is that I've been busy with work.

This would be completely legitimate if I was genuinely snowed under, but that hasn't been the case. I pretty much have the standard amount of work that anyone else has to deal with. I only have to look at dedicated bloggers like Veggie Mama who works and has two small children, and Liz over at I Spy Plum Pie who also works and posts almost every day, and I have to confess that my real problem is just laziness.

I mean, it's not like I spend every waking hour working. I spend many waking hours just sitting around thinking about dumb stuff, procrastinating about the housework, and worrying about things that I can easily fix with just a little motivation.

Blogging is something that I do enjoy, but like other things in my life, once I get out of the routine it's difficult for me to get inspired again – not helped at all by my annual struggle with post-holiday depression! I do, however, gain a lot of inspiration from other bloggers and over the weekend I spent some time catching up with many of my favourite blogs.

Thanks to blogs like Veganopoulous, Where's the Beef, Souvlaki for the SoulOh My Veggies and The Vegan Chickpea, I woke up this morning feeling excited about posting on here again.

So before it's too late, I'm going to try my best to make up for my tardy behaviour. This blog hasn't been around for very long but in the 10 months that I've been posting here, I have been nothing but humbled by the amount of support and kind comments from so many lovely people, and I really don't want to lose that.

I haven't been cooking much since we returned from our trip, and my photography has been narrowed down to staff portraits for work, but I'm hoping that getting back into the blogging momentum will reignite my passions for both cooking and photography because these are the things that make me happy.

The blog also serves as a record of our trips to Greece which have now become an annual event for Tony and I. These days I rarely print my holiday photos and they inevitably end up hidden away as numbers in folders on my hard-drive. Having them on the blog means they will always be in easy reach to look back on and remember the fun we had on our holidays.

So here I am, trying to make a comeback, sincerely hoping that I haven't lost too many readers over the last few weeks, and desperately hoping that my burst of enthusiasm that I've managed to harness today gets me back into the practice of perpetual blogging.


When last I posted from Greece, I'd just started to tell you about the wonderfully blissful time we'd spent in spectacular Santorini.

Created after a huge volcanic eruption over 3,500 years ago, Santorini is a staggeringly beautiful ring-shaped island with the most amazing views out to the Aegean Sea. Our small villa was perched high up on the Caldera's edge, 300 metres above sea level in the quiet village of Imerovigli – our minds repeatedly blown away by the incredible vista that greeted us every morning from our own private terrace.

We spent four days in Santorini, mostly walking around the towns of Thira and Imerovigli, admiring the views and taking ridiculous amounts of photos. We also explored other parts of the island on a motor scooter, riding out to Perissa Beach where black volcanic sand burns your feet, and spending a day at beautiful Oia drooling over the boutique art and craft shops.

Okay, prepare yourself now for the barrage of photos from our never-wanted-it-to-end affair with this fantasy island.







Meticulous pebble-work covers the foot ways and squares of the main villages. This one, located in Thira, is of a double-headed eagle, a beloved Greek symbol that is often used as a decorative motif.




We couldn't get enough of the panoramic scale of this place. Here I am enjoying the view from the same vantage point that I have managed to find each of the three times I've visited Santorini. It's the roof of a villa in Imerovigli, and somehow, amongst the maze of cobble-stoned pathways that riddle the island, I've been able to locate this spot every time...


And here I am on the same roof, over 20 years ago:


More incredible views.



Even the cats enjoyed the views.


Another view that mesmerised me to no end was the delectably-stocked mini-market shelves, loaded with all those Greek goodies that you can only get at specialty delicatessens here in Australia. These mini markets were dotted all over Santorini, this one a stone's throw from our villa.


The village of Oia is not only known for its amazing sunsets, but also for its abundance of boutique art and craft shops and street stalls.





This dog wasn't all that interested in shopping. He was happy to just relax in the shade with the cool marble beneath him, away from the hot Santorini sun.





Black volcanic sand of Perissa beach.





"Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world ... I feel like I can't take it ... and my heart is just going to cave in."
(quote taken from the plastic bag scene of American Beauty.)


Could there possibly be a more outrageous place to live? Yes, I believe this was someone's private property:





Below is the view from the our gorgeous little studio villa. We stayed at Artemis Villas, run by a Greek Australian guy named Chris and his wife Angela. We had our own private terrace from which to take in the vast expanse of the indigo seas and not for one minute during our four days here did we stop marvelling at this ridiculous view.


How gorgeous is this? Every day the towels on our bed were sculpted into the shape of a different animal by the most friendly (and talented!) room attendant I think I've ever met, Juliana. She was such a lovely and delightful lady, and every afternoon delivered complimentary cake and champagne for us to enjoy on our terrace.






Menu choices when eating out in Santorini were a mix of traditional Santorinian fare along with quite a range of western and other international favourites to cater for the vast variety of tourists that visit the island. I'm always drawn to the Greek appetisers for vegetarian options, but was pleasantly surprised to find Vegetarian Moussaka was a specialty dish at Argo Restaurant in Thira. I also loved the way it was served in its own terracotta dish.


The landscape of Santorini is very dry and arid with harsh volcanic ash soil, however these conditions enable some unique produce to be cultivated on the island such as the indigenous Asyrtiko grape, beautiful white eggplants, and deliciously sweet cherry tomatoes.

The intensely-flavoured tomatoes of Santorini are grown using a centuries-old method called dry farming. Plants are nurtured until established, then all watering is stopped which forces the plant to find water deep underground, in turn encouraging it to be more proactive in producing fruit. The hot, dry summers of the mediterranean are perfect for growing tomatoes this way. The fruit is smaller but the flavour and texture is incredibly rich and sweet.

It's no surprise then that Tomatokeftethes is featured on just about every taverna menu in Santorini.

During our short stay in Santorini, the best tomatokeftethes we came across were at Thalami Taverna in Oia. Golden brown and oh-so-crispy on the outside, soft and sweet with a hint of tartness on the inside.


I knew I'd never be able to reproduce these at home without access to Santorini-grown tomatoes, but with the help of some tomato paste and a bit of pre-frying to intensify the flavour, my version of Tomatokeftethes didn't turn out too badly.

Most of the recipes you will find online don't include egg in the batter, but after a little experimentation with and without egg, I found it necessary to use egg to hold the batter together (without the egg I pretty much ended up with little bits and pieces of brown crumbled rock – which may or may not have had something to do with my worn-out "non-stick" frying pan which is anything but non-stick). I'd be interested to hear if anyone (other than the phantom internet people posting all the eggless recipes) has had success making tomato fritters without egg.


Santorinian Tomato Fritters (Tomatokeftethes)


Makes around 20 fritters

Ingredients

  • 400g cherry or mini roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, grated
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 120g self raising flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Olive oil for flying

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, fry the onion in a little oil over medium heat for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and cover for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Transfer the onion and tomato mixture to a large bowl, add tomato paste and herbs and season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the flour and egg, mixing, until it forms a thick batter, adding more flour if necessary.
  5. Over high heat, pour some olive oil into a large non-stick frying pan until it reaches a depth of around 1cm. Once the oil has heated, drop a small amount of the batter into the oil and if it sizzles, the oil is ready. Turn the heat down to medium.
  6. Drop heaped tablespoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil and fry both sides until golden and crisp.
  7. Drain over paper towels and serve immediately with fresh Greek yoghurt.




54 comments:

  1. Those photos look absolutely amazing.... can't wait to try those Tomatokeftethes.

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    1. Thanks Anon! Santorini looks exactly like it does in the photos. No photoshopping there!

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  2. I just found your blog on Pinterest and I have to say I am so happy I found it! I am also a Greek vegetarian!! I can't wait to look through your recipes and make lots of new Greek foods! Also those are some gorgeous photos. I got to visit Greece a few years ago and it was amazing. I remember seeing all the kitties everywhere too :) I am really excited to see more of you posts!

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    1. Hello Little Monster! Wonderful to meet another Greek vegetarian! I love hearing from new people who have found my blog. All the more pressure for me to make sure I keep up with the posts now! I hope you get to go back to Greece again soon. As you know, it's an amazing place :)

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  3. Absolutely wonderful photos and I want to try the recpie as well (veganizing it). Only recently found your blog and love it. Can you enlighten me about what photo equipment you use - lenses etc? I'm hoping to go to Greece next year.

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    1. Hi Deborah. I use a Canon 5D MkII. For food photography I mostly use my 100mm f2.8 macro and 50mm f1.4. I took both these lenses overseas with me this year, along with my 16-35mm and 70-200mm (all Canon lenses). It can get pretty heavy carrying all that gear around while travelling but I'm a bit obsessed that way :)

      Great to see you here! I would love to hear how you go with a veganised version of tomatokeftethes.

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  4. Spectacular photos! Thank you so much. It must have taken you DAYS to select the ones you published!
    Ina.

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    1. Hi Ina. I'm so glad you loved the photos! Yes, it was a BIG task going through all the photos for the post, but lovely to look at them all again :)

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  5. It's lovely to have you back, Lisa! And thanks for sharing that "20 years ago in the same spot" photo, what a gem. :-)

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    1. Thanks Cindy! Yes, that same spot – different colour but same structure. I can't imagine the architecture of Greek island villas ever changing!

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  6. These sound amazing! It reminded me of our trip to Santorini when I was younger and made me desperately want to take my husband and show him just how beautiful it is :)

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    1. Hi Emily, oh I hope you can convince your husband to take a trip to Santorini. As you and I both know, once you've been, you simply have to go back. Did you know it was named 'the world's best island' by the BBC in 2011?

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  7. Gorgeous photos Lisa - it just looks magical. So nice to have you back on the blog too, and thanks for the shout out, you're too lovely

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    1. Thanks Liz :) And thank you for being my inspiration for coming back! I've always admired your dedication to blogging and how many fabulous recipes you just keep coming up with!

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  8. Lisa, your photos and commentary were absolutely worth the wait! Your photos leave me breathless! Stupendous! I can't wait to try the tomatokeftethes. I had them in Oia last year and they were so good that the last two that I couldn't manage to wolf down, and knowing that Europeans don't favor "doggie bags" for taking home leftovers (as we do shamelessly here in the U.S.), I actually sneaked them into my purse for eating later!
    Again, your photos are positively divine!

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    1. Melinda! I've just been over at your blog going through all your photos of Santorini – you have MILLIONS! And they are all wonderful!

      Oh my god! Tomatokeftethes in your purse?! That's so funny :-D

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  9. I want to go on that holiday now, dodgy scooter and all! And whenever I see pics of Greek landscapes and gardens I get determined to make my backyard look the same. I even kept a big empty tin of olive around for months so I could use it as a pot plant, then got sick of it hanging around and threw it out and the next day someone gave me a lettuce to plant. Anyway, I'm going to try your recipe with a flax egg!

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    1. Hello Veganopoulous! Yes, do the dodgy scooter holiday!!! It's so worth it. Book the tickets! They might still have some early bird fares available. (Tony and I already have ours for next year!!)

      I'm the same with the Greek gardens, and Greek kitchens. This year I was really hoping to bring home a collection of Greek kitchenware and crockery, but silly me didn't take into account the weight of my suitcase that was already over the 20kg limit! So I came home with very few things.

      Yes, please tell me if tomatokeftethes work with flax egg!

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  10. I've wanted to make these tomato fritters for ages, but I will have to wait until the tomato season really kicks in until trying these. The tomato paste is a good idea I've also seen recipes using some sun dried tomatoes as well so I guess that would add a similar Santorinian effect. Welcome back to the blogosphere I've missed your regular posts.

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    1. Hi Elizabeth, thanks so much for the welcome back wishes. It means a lot :)

      I find our regular tomatoes here in Australia are pretty bad all year round don't you think? But those little grape tomatoes and some of the mini romas seem to be lovely and sweet at any time of year. I used mini romas for this recipe. Using sun dried tomatoes sounds like a good idea too!

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  11. gorgeous photos, lady! i've missed you, but i can totally understand that life gets in the way. i've been wrestling with the same guilt lately.

    my jealousy for your trip is insurmountable, but i am also so happy for you and tony getting away to paradise. i love the photos of you on that roof...and all the landscapes and foods. ok, maybe i just loved this post.

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    1. Oh thank you Caitlin! And thanks for understanding my silly behaviour!! It's people like you that make me realise how important the blog is to me :) Thanks so much for being such a regular visitor here. I hope you get to go back to Greece soon. Did you go to Santorini last time?

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  12. Hi Lisa, great Comeback! Seeing the latest posts must have amazing time judging by the wonderful photos.
    Difficult adjustment but should devote yourself to your block. Think your followers they need you!
    I've been away from my blog for three months and I know it is difficult! Glad to see you again.

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    1. Hello Mina! Good to hear from you! I have been waiting for you next post too :) Those chocolate twist buns you made look amazing. I am glad to see you've made a comeback, and I'm also going to try and stick around :)

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  13. I have just stumbled on your blog and how happy this makes me! Your trip to Santorini brought back so many happy memories for me - your photos captured it perfectly - just beautiful. Looking forward to reading your archives and trying out your recipes.

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    1. Hi Francesca! So wonderful for you to find my blog :) Santorini holds a special place in the hearts of many – I'm glad you loved the photos. Hope to see you here again soon :)

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  14. I commented on the wrong post by mistake! Will e-mail you soon!

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    1. That's ok Shvetha! I saw your other comment – good to hear from you again! I am slowly getting back into the swing of blogging, still so many posts to write about from the holiday, including our wonderful dinner with you in Singapore!!

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  15. I think you can safely exchange those eggs for ground chia seeds and/or ground flax seed (ex: soak each TBSP of the ground seeds into at least 3 TBSP of water and then add the thickened mass that develops to the other ingredients). You will find these ground seeds make excellent 'binders' in homemade veggie burger recipes, too.

    By the way, your photography, as always, is eye-candy amAzing...simply BEaUtiful !!! Thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. Hi Demitra! Yes, I agree, I think chia or flax seed would work well to bind tomatokeftethes. I will have to try that next time!

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  16. I was waiting for you, Lisa! :) And now I am waiting to make those tomato fritters! They look absolutely amazing! I love making things like that for lunch on the weekend.

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    1. Hi Rachael! Tomatokeftethes for a weekend lunch sounds like a plan! I have just bought a few punnets of little grape tomatoes that are so sweet they’re like lollies – they will be perfect for another batch of these fritters.

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    2. I finally made these for an appetiser yesterday and they were a huge hit! They'll be on our fritter rotation permanently now!

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    3. That's great Rachael! We have some lovely tomatoes appearing at the farmers' markets at the moment – must be time to do another batch of these I think!

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  17. Honestly, if blogging wasn't how I made my living, there is no way (NO WAY!!!!) I would post as much as I do. It's a labor of love, but sometimes it can feel more like a labor, less like a love. But I'm glad you're back! And back with a delicious recipe, which is a great way to make a comeback. :) The photos of Santorini are completely unreal--just gorgeous!

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    1. Oh Kiersten, thank god I don’t have to write my blog for a living. I think I’d get the sack after a week. You are quite the machine though. I don’t know how you do it. AND you’re writing a book! Thanks for being so honest about the labor/love ratio – it’s a volatile thing isn’t it :)

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  18. Beautiful photos, as always and a delicious recipe! I'll be making lots of these beauties with summer tomatoes, when I return to Australia,

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    1. Thank you MP! I’ve just been looking at your blog and your pictures of Greece are amazing! Are you still there?

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  19. Hello Lisa,

    I just found your blog while looking at recipes for fasolakia. My wife avoids eating meat when possible, so I'm always on the lookout for good vegetarian recipes. Since I'm completely and utterly obsessed with Greece and Greek food, your blog is my favorite food blog by FAR. Keep up the good work, it's so hard to find good Greek vegetarian recipes, as you know.

    Anyway, we went to Santorini early this summer, and I took a hands-on cooking class at Selene restaurant in Pyrgos. They did not use egg to bind the batter for the tomatokeftethes. They just kept slowly adding flour until the batter juuuust started to come together perfectly. Too much and they get doughy and you lose the "fresh" tomato flavor, too little and they won't hold together in the pan. I think if you get it just right, there are inevitably a few casualties of little bits of tomato or herb that escape the main fritter, but it will stick together. I've made the recipe at home and mine looked like they did at the restaurant and like yours did too.

    Thank you for the wonderful blog!
    Jeff S.

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    1. Jeff, hello again (I have just replied to your comment on the Fasolakia post). I’m so happy to hear you have an obsession with Greece and Greek food, and even more excited that you have found my blog! This is the kind of incentive that keeps me going so thank you so much for your comments and kind words.

      Yes, I have been doing some further research myself on the making of tomatokeftethes, and it is indeed a technique of slowly adding flour to get the right consistency, without the need for eggs. Having a good quality frying pan also helps! (mine has definitely seen better days!!)

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  20. a tomato fritter….it sounds moist and delicious….have just bought a couple of kilos of organic tomatoes so shall try this out, thank you.

    Hope you don't give up on your blog - I am new to it, but have been very inspired by both your recipes (I have 2 vegetarian children) and your photographs. I don't think it matters how often one posts, it's more about quality than quantity to me.

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    1. Hi there Glamour Drops and thanks so much for stopping by. As I mentioned in my reply to Jeff above, it’s comments such as yours that inspire me to continue posting on the blog so thank you :)

      I think the organic tomatoes will work wonderfully with this recipe :)

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  21. I love this blog! We run a Greek food site, so it's amazing to see popular dishes made vegetarian. The pics are amazing! Makes me wish I was there now :)

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    1. Hello Kenton, and thank you for the lovely comment :) You have a Greek food site? I’m going to have to go take a look I think!

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  22. Hi Pictures make Santorini look magical. my favorite greek vegetarian dish this summer whilst in Kefalonia was Courgette Fritters (κολοκυθάκι λουκουμάδες) with a little bit of chilly sauce, just delicious. www.amarivilla.co.uk

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    1. Oh it's not the pictures :) Santorini is just as magical in the flesh.

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  23. I came for the recipies (random web search found your blog),
    But I'm staying for those wonderful pictures. Your travels inspire the food!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Banesfinger. I haven't been posting much on the blog lately, but I love that these holiday memories will always be here :)

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  24. WOW what a great time you had in Greece! The accommodations look well appointed. I like greece.
    Places to visit in Greece

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    1. Yes, our villa was just beautiful. I would recommend it to anyone – Artemis Villas in Imerovigli.

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  25. Bougatsa is the best thing ever; thank you for understanding! Your pictures make it difficult to not want to run back to Greece right now :) Last summer I took a veggie Greek cooking class at a small holistic retreat center called KaliKalos. It was in Kissos, on Pelion, and Damouhari was a short trip away. I highly recommend the experience :)

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    1. Hi quailmaam, I agree with you about bougatsa – it's a very difficult treat to resist!! Tony and I will be visiting Greece again in a few months where we will no doubt be indulging in lots of bougatsa and other sweet delights :) Wow, the cooking class sounds amazing. Unfortunately we won't be visiting that area this year but I will have my aunt Koula at hand for some Greek cooking tips in Limnos!

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  26. Just came across this fabulous blog...wow, every so often browsing through the wild web you find a little gem...this is it. I hope one day whilst you might no longer be in love with your blog; you find you still love it enough to post every now and again. Much love and happiness from London, L x

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    1. Oh thanks so much L. I may not feel the love for the blog right now but it's lovely to know that people are still discovering it and enjoying the recipes. Thanks for stopping by :)

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