lundi 18 avril 2011

Und der Tag ist ein Tag den du magst

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* The title could be translated as "a day that you like" but of course it sounds nicer in German.

The day after tomorrow, just three little words but with so much meaning. On Thursday I'll be flying back to Derbyshire to rediscover those familiar places in bloom. As always Berlin manages to be at its most beautiful for my departure and I've been waking up each morning and gazing at the first rays of sun catching the tops of the roofs opposite. The last week was such a whirlwind of activity and I wish I had more time to write more about all that I've done. There was a lunch at the Sarah Wiener restaurant next to the Hamburger Bahnhof where I was served a huge bowl of creamy risotto with wild garlic I couldn't finish and in front of my table, people came to stare at the window displaying the cakes and their eyes lit up. There were two Jacques Demy films at the Arsenal cinema, Potiche with Catherine Deneuve and a German one about the Jewish cemetery in Weißensee which prompted me to make another trip out there on a rather grey morning. Last Sunday while taking the train to Schlachtensee, a lake in the West, we caught sight of a craft fair in Zehlendorf and decided to get out and visit it. Stands with handmade jewellery, blankets, exotic hats and best of all, chocolate with chilli or tonka beans and another selling the most delicious range of mustard, chutney, syrup and so much more. I couldn't resist the bottle of ginger syrup after hearing of how it could be used not only to make tea but also on Streuselkuchen or whipped cream and the young woman selling it won me over immediately after explaining how she would never use margerine instead of butter for baking. After that we caught the last rays of sunshine by the lakeshore, watching the rowing boats go by and stopping for a drink at the (always busy) Fischerhütte. I'll hopefully be back over the weekend to share some recipes with you but in the meantime, have a lovely Easter dear readers.

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At the Sarah Wiener restaurant at the Hamburger Bahnhof

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My photos of the risotto didn't come out well but I was so hungry that I devoured this delicious wholemeal ciabatta roll with olive oil that the waiter set down in front of me in record time.

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The Richard Long exhibition in the hall of the Hamburger Bahnhof

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Some of Anselm Kiefer's work

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Warhol's Mao

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Sleeping video

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Joseph Beuys' felt

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On the way to the Jewish cemetery

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At the market on Mexicoplatz in Zehlendorf

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Exquisite chocolate

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The lovely stand with Miriam Eva Kebe products, including ginger syrup

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...and all kinds of salt

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Magnolia in bloom

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On Schlachtensee

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In the Biergarten of the Fischerhütte

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Some already had their first picnic of the season

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Rowing boats for rental

To finish, a recipe for buckwheat pancakes I've been dying to try for ages. There's so much chocolate at Easter that I had a longing for something not so sweet before the celebrations begin so I hope you won't mind it's without sugar but in my opinion, the deep flavours of the berries, the tangy sharpness of the apples and wholesomeness of the galette make up for it.

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Buckwheat pancakes with berries and apples

180g buckwheat flour
300ml milk
1 egg
a pinch of salt
a little freshly grated nutmeg
a splash of olive oil

For the filling

3 apples, coxes or russets are perfect
200g berries, raspberries, blueberries, red or blackcurrants, strawberries or blackberries or a mix of different kinds
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardammon seeds
2 slices of fresh ginger
50ml water

1. Mix the flour, egg, salt, nutmeg and half of the milk together in a bowl until you have a smooth batter. then beat in the remaining milk and the splash of olive oil. Leave to thicken for 30 minutes.
2. To prepare the filling, peel and chop the apples and place them in a small pan with the berries and all other ingredients and leave to simmer for around 20 minutes.
3. Make the pancakes by first coating a small frying pan lightly with neutral oil like sunflower then heat until sizzling hot and pour in 1-2 tbsp of the batter. Cook for a couple of minutes until golden then flip it over. Serve with the warm fruit.

lundi 11 avril 2011

Nobody belongs here more than you

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There have been many long nights when I lay in bed, tossing and turning, pursued by demons which I struggled to keep from the door. Sometimes because of a particular problem, other times because of fundamental questions going round in my head about the kind of life I lead and whether I would really ever achieve anything. I worry about the instablilty of the future, about not being qualified to do anything else, about having no talent to produce anything artistic. I'm often suspicious of happiness, knowing that with a blue sky must also come dark clouds, that both sides are necessary. That doesn't mean I'm a gloomy person, far from it, but simply that I'm cautious and prefer not to push my luck, even if it means missing out. Recently though I've managed to sleep well, knowing that everything looks better in the morning after a cup of tea. There's still the dilemma of what to do in the long-term but that's something that will always be with me, the demon that refuses to go away.

Last Sunday morning I got up early before the church bells had rung, making my way through quiet streets to the nearby Bürgerpark and to the row of cherry blossom trees behind Wollankstraße S-Bahn station which I discovered last year. The emotion was no less great though as I took my time, wandering from tree to tree, walking over their petals scattered on the ground in different shades of pink. I have no idea how long they've been there but I like to think of them springing up after the Wall fell whose border that strip of land must have marked, such beauty and delicacy after such ugliness.

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In the park outside where I live

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Close to Winterfeldplatz where there is always a stunning array of tulips

Last Sunday afternoon, I finally got a chance to meet up with with the lovely Kat who's staying in Berlin until summer. Sipping a large milky coffee in a cool place selling 50s and 60s memorabilia, I felt I had met a kindred spirit and am already looking forward to the next few months. We headed over to the Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts), close to the Brandenburg Gate, to hear some prominent people in the theatre reminisce about GDR poet and writer Heiner Müller, in between extracts of his reading. There was the clinking of teacups against saucers, a woman whose baby in a striped suit crawled under the chairs clutching a crayon and the man next to me who continually asked me to spell German names I hadn't heard the first time. From the large glass windows of the auditorium, I could see the sun setting on the Brandenburg Gate, pick out the isolated figures of visitors in the Reichstag dome and see the chairs on balconies of the modern building oppsite. I wondered how all this had looked before reunification, that the Berlin I know must be so different from the people we were listening to and realised once again that such a divided and complex city reflects who I am, pulled in conflicting directions, haunted by the past and forever searching for a way to move forward but then again, I wouldn't want it any different.

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Waiting for the sun

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At Café Sorgenfrei in Schöneberg

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Guess who?

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Cool retro stuff you can buy

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After the 5 Uhr Tee at the Akadamie der Künste about Heiner Müller

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The Quadriga on the Brandenburg Gate in the evening sun

Chocolate chip shortbread

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A final cookie recipe I found on Mingou's blog, originally from Pascale Weeks. Of all the cookies I've made, these might be the most popular, even making the most hardline dieters weak at the knees or prompting some readers to accuse me of trying to kill them by posting the photo above. But they're so easy that there's no reason why you can't also make your own. The original recipe calls for chocolate chips but I'm not too happy with the quality of the chocolate used in the supermarket ones so preferred to chop my own chocolate into chunks.

For about 40 shortbreads

300g flour
100g brown sugar
200g very soft butter
40ml milk
100g chocolate chips or chocolate chopped into chunks (see above)

1. Pour the flour and sugar into a large bowl and combine. Add in the butter cut into rough cubes and mix in with your fingers.
2. Add the milk and the chocolate and mix again until the dough forms a ball.
3. On a worktop sprinkled with flour or covered with some greaseproof paper, roll the dough so it forms a long sausage shape around 3.5cm in diameter. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
4. When the time's up, remove the dough from the fridge, preheat the oven to 180°C. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into slices about 1cm thick and place them on a lined baking sheet. Place in the oven for around 10 minutes or until the edges begin to turn pale golden. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.