Gluten free carrot cake – and open water swimming #50in50

A couple of years ago I rediscovered my love of swimming. I used to swim a lot as a child – we had swimming lessons at our local pool on a Saturday morning and my brother and I spent hours in the (very cold) sea every year when we had our family holidays in Wales or Cornwall. More recently I swam if we ever stayed in a hotel with a pool, or in the sea when on holiday, but I rarely swam at other times. If I did get the opportunity, I would tend to swim breast stroke at a gentle pace and didn’t feel that it was particularly useful as a way of keeping fit. I would manage about one length of freestyle before having to stop, gasping for air. Coupled with the fact that I am always intimidated by the idea of going to a new pool – where does one get changed? where does your stuff go while you are swimming? will I see anyone I know while I’m wearing my swimming costume? – I didn’t do any decent swimming for years.

TJ Holowaychuk (Unsplash)

This changed after a friend started adult swimming lessons when he had a painful back and found other exercise e.g. running made this worse. He found the lessons really enjoyable and started going more often as a way of keeping fit. I was inspired to try myself and was pleasantly surprised by the range of opportunities – from lessons for complete beginners to just what I wanted – stroke development, to help me get that freestyle right. I braved that first trip to the local pool (worked out where to get changed and put my stuff – and didn’t see anyone I knew) and loved the lessons, which I did for about 18 months. I then moved on to a ‘Masters’ swimming club and have now been doing this for over a year. The club has members of all ages and is very friendly. Although I am often the slowest (even in the slow lane), I love going and am now a much, much better swimmer. And the sessions are really tiring, so I am presumably getting fitter as well.

Todd Quackenbush (Unsplash)

I was also keen to start open water swimming (and thought that my #50in50 challenge was the ideal time to do this). Last year I went on a course run by Swim the Lakes in the Lake District, which gave me confidence as well as being great fun (link). This year I managed to persuade a friend to come swimming in one of our local reservoirs, where lots of people who are into this sort of thing go open water swimming. Mr McGregor is not a keen swimmer, but sometimes comes along for a picnic on the shore….. The picture above is not me, but the ones below are of my friend and I taken one glorious evening (courtesy of Mr McGregor, who managed to put his scone down for long enough to take a few quick photos).

In other news, we finally had some rain and the garden harvest is going well. We have had a monster crop of courgettes and are munching our way through the tomatoes.

There are also some beautiful flowers….

This week I decided to have a go at a recipe for ‘Venetian Carrot Cake’ by Nigella Lawson. My version of the recipe is below – with just less than half the sugar). Mr McGregor tells me he doesn’t like carrot cake, but he’s already demolished half of it. I am not sure whether it counts as one of your ‘five a day’, but would suggest it is worth a try. It is not a deep cake, but is very, very tasty.

carrot cake 2Gluten free carrot cake (pdf Gluten free carrot cake)

2x15ml tablespoons toasted pine nuts

2 medium carrots (200-250g)

75 grams sultanas

50ml rum

80g caster sugar

100ml olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

260g ground almonds

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

finely grated zest and juice of half a lemon


  1. Line the base and sides of a 20cm round springform cake tin with baking parchment
  2. Preheat oven to 180/160 fan/gas 4. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan
  3. Grate the carrots and remove excess water by drying between two sheets of kitchen roll
  4. Put the sultanas into a small pan with the rum, bring the the boil and then simmer for 3 minutes.
  5. Whisk the sugar and oil until creamily and airily mixed
  6. Mix in the vanilla extract and eggs, followed by the ground almonds, nutmeg, grated carrots and sultana/rum mixture. Finally stir in the lemon zest and juice.
  7. Spoon into cake tin and smooth the surface. Sprinkle over the pine nuts
  8. Bake for 30-40 minutes until skewer comes out clean
  9. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely

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