mercredi 1 décembre 2010


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While I was in Britain, I started reading Hemingway's A Moveable Feast which has been on my reading list for as long as I can remember. He describes how it was writing in a freezing cold room in Paris as a young man. On rainy days, he felt tempted to buy a bunch of expensive twigs to burn in the fire but would walk through the streets looking up at the chimneys and the way the smoke was drifting and knew that the damp wood would only fill the room with smoke without heating it and that it wasn't worth spending the little money he had. I can definitely identify with that feeling since I'm now confined to the kitchen with a blanket over my knees and fingerless gloves as the wind howls by viciously outside. Winter has arrived with a vengeance to chill every warm fibre of your body and this morning the pipes to the living room radiator froze. A thin layer of ice lines the inside of my windows with their wooden frames which I try to scrape away without much success. The only sensible thing to do then is to switch on the oven and make a cup of tea. Even though I only returned to Berlin yesterday, my days in England seem strangely distant. When my train pulled into Waterloo from Portsmouth, thick grey clouds still hid the sun but I could feel the city drawing me to it like a magnet and could not wait to explore. Blue fairy lights were twinkling over Oxford Street, Eros remained stoic against the cold and the shops windows were filled with snowy branches and winter landscapes. I took the last remaining seat at the Curzon cinema in Soho for The Kids are All Right on the front row and was glad of the cosy auditorium. Susan had asked me to get a few shots of the ice skaters at Somerset House but unfortunately, the rink wasn't yet open. I had to content myself with René Gruau and his fabulous Line of Beauty. There was still enough time to get through two huge exhibitions, Treasures from Budapest at the Royal Academy and best of all, Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes. Nothing I can say could describe the thrill of seeing those exquisite but incredibly bulky costumes (how did they dance in those things?), of letting your eyes wander over those sketches and designs while the familiar strains of the Stravinsky's Firebird music are played overhead. I loved Picasso's vast backdrop with two monumental women and wished that I could have been around to witness the scandal of The Rite of Spring and the fun of Satie's Parade.

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Keeping warm with a London bear

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At Piccadilly Circus

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Christmas lights on Oxford Street

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Do they have a Miss Messy one for me?

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Great hats near the Royal Academy

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In the stunning shop windows of Fortnum and Mason which this year have an artistic theme

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At Hatchards, one of my favourite London bookshops where I got Tove Jansson's the Winter Book

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Gorgeous but heartstoppingly expensive meringues at the V&A restaurant

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At the V&A museum

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Back in Derbyshire, I found the trees still green or golden. My footsteps left imprints on the frozen grass which the few rays of sun couldn't melt. Windfall apples lay on the ground and a grey squirrel scuttled here and there gathering the stray nuts left by the birds. In the evening, I curled up in my favourite armchair, watching Groundhog Day even though my eyelids were heavy with sleep and wished we too could have a blizzard. The next morning, I pulled back the curtains and there it was; 8 cm of the whitest, most beautiful snow. The night before it comes are filled with a strange silence, as if all the little creatures are lying in wait for the thing that will muffle their steps and camouflage their traces. My feet felt like blocks of ice in new wellies in wool tights but foolishly without socks as I ventured out on the ground where no others had dared to tread. There's something about snow that creates a curious solidarity between people who would never otherwise be keen to stop and talk to you and perhaps I love it for that almost as much as what it does to the landscape. I told myself that it wouldn't be so hard to leave this time since I'll be back in Derbyshire again by mid-December but it never gets any easier and I fought back the tears before going through airport security. If only those I care about the most and the city I love could be together. While taking off, immaculate white fields spread out as far as the eye could see; I had a feeling I was missing all the fun and hope that they can save a little snow there for Christmas time.

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Mungo, cosy on his pillow with a hot water bottle underneath to keep warm

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London cheesecake

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It seems appropriate to leave with with a recipe fr a London cheesecake, although I admit to having tweaked it a little to make it more of a Berlin one by adding quark.

For the base

125g digestive biscuits/graham crackers or Dinkelkekse if you can't get them
75g melted unsalted butter
115g full fat Philadelphia
1 small tub mascarpone
1 small tub quark, 40% fat
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
150g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Put the biscuits into a food processor and pulse until you have rough crumbs. Stir in the melted butter and pulse again.
2. Grease and line a springform tin then pour in the buttery crumbs, pressing them down with the back of your spoon to form an even base. Place the tin in the freezer and pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mascarpone, quark and philadelphia until smooth. Beat in the sugar. Add the eggs, egg yolk and vanilla extract and blend again, finishing with the lemon zest and juice. Remove the base from the freezer and pour in the cheesecake mixture. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until the middle is firm. Leave to cool completely in the tin before transferring to a plate.

35 commentaires:

  1. Aaaahhhh, I miss England and Derbyshire! I can imagine how you feel every time you leave that place... Thanks for sharing those Christmas pictures with us.

    Your cheesecake looks very tempting.



  2. Beautiful post. I'm glad you had a lovely trip and I sympathise with how you feel torn, it's hard, I know. It's snowing crazily here - the streets get cleared every day and we are equipped (unlike the U.K ;P) but it's still scary driving...

  3. I really enjoyed your photography in this post! You have such a good eye. I love the one with the snowy branches.
    Groundhog day... I HAVE to watch this movie again :)

  4. Vanessa,

    Your pictures bring back such fond memories of seeing the Christmas lights of London last year. We traveled to Oxford and were welcomed with such a muffling and beautiful snow much like you show with your photographs. I also can not wait to try a cheesecake with the addition of quark. Sorry for the delay in reading your work, but it is good to see you still have impeccable taste in literature reading A Moveable Feast.

    Take Care,


  5. I am sure I am repeating myself, but this is worth repeating. It is such a pleasure to see the world through your eyes, both your words and your photographs. I have read The Summer Book, but did not know Tove Jansson also wrote A Winter Book. Exciting! Your photograph of the meringues is perfect. It's so nice to be home, perched on my sofa, reading a Vanessa post (happy humming).

  6. Very beautifuls pictures ! Thanks for the trip !

  7. Ici aussi il neige et c'est vraiment tôt pour nous ! Je pense à toi et aux fenêtres glacées de ton appartement et je relativise ;) Jolie théière (au V&A Museum ?) Il faudrait peut-être que je pense à réchauffer mes chats comme Mungo...

  8. Merveilleux billet, où l'on sent le froid et la magie de Noël qui pointe son nez !
    Tes photos sont divines ;-)

  9. That cheesecake looks great! Hope you're staying warm. It's brutal out there-especially today with the snow.

  10. beautiful photos, informative post.

  11. Lovely photographs & prose, Vanessa. I mean to respond in a longer, more thoughtful manner. Soon. Oof. I'm so glad you went to the Dior & V&A exhibits. It was exciting to visit the V&A website, so I can only imagine the real thing. Ah, it's been so long.

    Echoing someone above, I have read how brutal the weather is & I hope you're keeping as warm as possible. I can relate to the ice on the inner window panes, believe me. Cheers. Susan

  12. @Rosa - I always think of you when I'm back there. knowing how special those places are for you too.
    @Sasa - For you it must be even worse because it's much further away and more expensive for you to go back to see your loved ones. I shouldn't complain really! Berlin in winter is a bit of a disaster, though not as much as Britain. The city doesn't have enough money to clear the streets every day, the S-Bahns are really late or don't run altogether. Driving must be horrendous. Happily the snow has made things a little warmer though - yesterday was to cold, even for me!
    @Magda - Thanks a lot for your lovely comment about the photos. Groundhog Day is a huge favourite of mine and actually, I'm having a bit of a Bill Murray season here after Ghostbusters, The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore as well. Broken Flowers tonight I think.
    @Daniel - There's no need to apologise, it's always great to see you here. Oxford is such a magical place and I can only imagine how romantic it must be in the snow. I need to get back there soon. A Moveable Feast is such a great book so I wonder why I waited so long before reading it.
    @Denise - Your words leave a warm glow in spite of the cold. I feel exactly the same about your posts and am slways happy when I see there's a new one. The Winter Book is actually a collection put together but the editor of some of Tove Jansson's stories but you really must read it. They seem so simple but stay with you long after you've closed the pages. Pure magic.
    @Mir - Thanks a lot and you're welcome.
    @Rose - C'est la première fois depuis 17 ans qu'il neige aussi tôt en Angleterre et les gans ne s'y attendaient pas du tout. J'espère que j'arriverai à y rentrer pour Noel. Je me souviens de la neige en janvier à Rouen! Pendant la nuit il a neigé et mes ne sont plus glacées. Hier le froid était vraiment affreux et j'aurais bien aimé être chez toi. Tu peux acheter cette théière (elle n'est pas trop chère). J'avais de la chance de pouvoir la prendre en photo avant que la serveuse me dise que c'était interdit dans le magasin.
    @Alice -Merci beaucoup. J'ai hâte des vacances de Noel qui commencent dans deux semaines.
    @Christine - I found yesterday worse with that icy wind which hurt my ears and cheeks. Getting to work is a bit of a pain though and I'd prefer it if the snow could wait a couple more weeks. I think I'll have to invest in some better boots with a grip as the streets are so bad. The Sony Center was like an ice skating rink this morning. Hope you're staying well wrapped up too!

  13. @Heph - Thanks for stopping by.
    @Susan - Thanks so much for the London tips. I'm sure you would have adored the V&A exhibition too and it was so huge! At the end I was really exhausted. It's true that the weather here is absolutely freezing and it somewhat kills your desire to go far in the evening when you have to make your way over icy streets and hang around on a station platform with the wind blowing through you. Having said that though, if you'd have told me I'd live somewhere with -17°C, I'd have said I could never survive and somehow you just get through it- I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who can relate the the frozen windows, although the landlord came by yesterday and told me he's applied to get them replaced. They could be a thing of the past next year then but we'll see. Luckily the bedroom is cosy. I'm off to start my Lebkuchen and warm up the kitchen. Hope you enjoy Metropolitan - I watched it again myself last night and just adore it.

  14. Broken flowers is one of my favorite movies of all time. I LOVE the soundtrack!

  15. Your posts and photos are such a delight! I'm looking forward to being home soon and I will try your cheesecake recipe. I don't think I can find quark that easily in Canada, what was the original ingredient?
    We had some snow in Montreal, but it melted, and it's still mild.

  16. Aha, cheesecake! so appropriate when it's cold outside... I've heard that Europe is freezing again, which is weird because winter is definitely taking its time to come here! Stay warm and keep taking pictures :)

  17. @Magda - You're right about the music, it's fantastic. What a pity we don't live closer as I think it'd be fun to have a movie evening together.
    @Kat - Thanks dear friend! If you can't find quark, then just double the amount of Philadelphia which makes the cheesecake a little damper but still delicious. You've probably seen that snow has arrived here in Berlin too and it's colder than Canada. Enjoy it!
    @Julie - You're right that a chilled cheesecake isn't really something for winter but I made it before the great freeze arrived. Lucky you with warmer temperatures, although apparently we're promised something above zero next week ;-) I was out in the snow taking photos today so am making the most of things.

  18. You've outdone yourself on the photos, Vanessa. These are exquisite!
    I get caught on the oddest things while reading your commentaries....
    I have reread Moveable Feasts so many times and am charmed each time...hence the title of my blog.
    And how charming are those windows at Fortnum and Mason? Creative, unusual and I could look at them a very long time, finding something new every time.

  19. I can't help it, I am a sucker for great store windows. I have never been in ENgland for Christmas but have seen photos of them for many years... not Fortnum Mason though... mostly big splashy Harrods. These are just magical... thanks so much for letting me peep at them... I am almost there.
    Nummy cheesecake too... so funny to call it Philadelphia Cream cheese over there!

  20. That meringue pie!! Really enjoying your thoughts and images. xo

  21. @Barbara - Wow, it's lovely to hear such things Barbara. The light was so beautiful that day. I love the fact that Hemingway inspired your blog title - really charming. It's such a great book. I'm totally in love with Fortnum and Mason's windows and look especially forward to their Christmas displays. It's amazing the things they come up with.
    @Deana - I'm sure you would love London at Christmas as so many window displays are great. Having said that, I'm dying to get back for the ones in Paris at Printemps and Lafayette as they were truly works of art. Germans are original with certain words but not with others and I guess Pihiladelphia is universally understood!
    @Lecia - I know, doesn't it look amazing and so cute. I didn't dare ask about the price though and was content with window shopping. Have a great weekend Lecia xx

  22. Lovely post and pictures, Vanessa :). I want the same cat! It's been quite cold here as well - though not as cold as in Berlin - and we have lots of snow: exactly my kind of weather!
    By the way, I've recently added many photoblogs to my blogroll, some of which might be of interest to you ;).

  23. I'm actually going to try this recipe and see how it turns out. It looks and sounds delicious. I know I say this every time I visit your blog, but this truly is one of the best posts I've read in a long time. You take your readers on such a journey, I'm literally living vicariously through you. I'm going to have to come back and read this post again, to enjoy it fully.

    I've given you a small prize on my blog, see my latest post :)

  24. Good post!
    very interesting.

  25. @Agnès - Thanks a lot and thanks too for pointing me in the direction of those other blogs. I've just had a look at a few and they're amazing. I have a weakness for the Scandinavian ones. Mungo's a lovely cat, quite big but very timid. When he sees you, his tail quickers with excitement and he reaches out a paw and touches you so you'll stroke him. But then you have to step back because he unfortunately gives you a bite with over excitement! Cats are funny creatures. I'm glad you're enjoying the snow. Something tells me we're in for another long winter.
    @Hila - Fingers crossed your cheesecake works out, otherwise you can blame me! I'm so pleased to hear you liked the post and thanks so much for the award!
    @Ian - Thanks.

  26. Here you go, another mouth watering post... My last cheesecake wasn't completely satisfying and now I know there is an english receipe, I can't wait to test it...
    As for the cold, brrrr, indeed...

  27. Living in a place that does not know winter doesn't allow me to relate. Today it was 82 F and sunny here in Miami.

    The photos are amazing. Love Mungo, he does look quite content on his pillow.

    Be well

  28. Tres belles photos de la campagne sous la neige - j'aime beaucoup l'evocation du silence feutre qui accompagne les flocons. Et je compatis a tes deboires de chauffage, j'espere que ce sera vite repare. Fais attention a toi.

  29. After the horrible winter we experienced on the East coast last year, I am no longer a huge fan of fallen snow. However, your photos of delicate snow draped and dancing on leaves, cables and pathways makes me yearn for a flurry or two on these exceptionally frigid late fall days.

  30. @Pia - Let me know how you get on with the recipe. I think you're an excellent cook so can't wait to get more food posts from you. It also warms up the flat baking a lot.
    @Lazaro - I can't imagine what that's like having such warm weather all year. More cold is forecast for Britain so I think Mungo will be needing the hot water bottle again soon. Take care and have a good week.
    @Gracienne - Merci pour tes voeux et de ton commentaire très gentil! Je suis contente aujourd'hui car depuis ce matin le chauffage marche encore - quel soulagement. C'est vrai que ça m'a déprimé un peu la semaine dernière d'avoir tellement froid mais il ne faut jamais perdre l'espoir. Bises.
    @Tracy - I can totally understand your dislike of the snow. Last year we had -20 and black ice for two months which made walking all but impossible. I love it in the holidays and the forest or in small quantities in the city since everything looks magical and pretty. I'm hoping it doesn't stick around quite as long this year though.

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  32. I enjoyed your photos and spent a lovely time in Derbyshire with friends who own an old stationmaster house in a village of 40 houses at the most!
    love the English cheesecake!

  33. This post is so lovely. I remember visiting Piccadilly during the holidays about 7 years ago. I have never seen so many amazing window displays in all my life. Your photos brought back nice memories for me. I can sympathize with your heat situation too. I hope you get warm soon!

  34. Thank you for the beautiful post, Vanessa!
    I always had love-hate relationship with Hemingway.
    I seriously want to make a London cheesecake :)

  35. @thegreenpoet - Thanks!
    @Joumana - Whereabouts in Deryshire was that? It sounds truly charming.
    @Nicolette - It's true that the shop windows in London are a real joy to behold and I can't wait to go there again soon. Hope things are going better for you. Luckily, my heating thawed out on Monday when we had 2°C after a miserable and cold week without it.
    @Olga - I can understand your feelings about Hemingway. I adore his writing style but sometimes the subject matter (bullfighting) puts me off but somehow, I end up forgiving him.