dimanche 26 juin 2011

Remember Midsummer

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It lay forgotten at the back of the closet underneath the pile of heavy jumpers but as soon as I put on the blue cagoule, I found myself instantly transported back to Northumberland two years ago, the day spent in Seahouses visiting the Farn Islands when our boat was tossed by the waves and in spite of the grey skies and heavy showers everyone queued for ice cream. I bought the jacket at the National Trust shop along with a puffin (cuddly not real) and a small book on baking. When I returned to Seahouses last sumer, I spent a long moment standing on the jetty trying to engrave the smell of the sea in my memory so that I would always have the experience of being there but it faded almost as soon as the footprints left behind on the beach. It's difficult to explain why but just recently I've been lacking inspiration, feeling my heart yearn for other landscapes. It's always worse on days full of greyness and rain which take me back to my hotel room in Venice last autumn with its richly coloured wallpaper and dusty Murano glass chandeliers where I spent my time reading a book on Canaletto and a biography of Peggy Guggenheim. As strange as it seems, overcast skies and cool breezes are what I find most romantic.

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Yet there have been some wonderful moments this past week to open my eyes to the loveliness of Berlin; my friend Kat had her book launch for the exceptional Berliner Chic (review to follow here shortly, promise) at St. George's bookshop in Prenzlauer Berg. Arriving soaked to the skin with shoes full of water after walking through a downpour, it was lovely to be greeted by Kat in her beautiful electric blue dress and sip a glass of wine. The next evening, my friend Gabi kindly took me out for dinner at a wonderful Korean restaurant called Ixthys which is Greek for fish (please don't ask me to explain the name). It's perhaps one of the strangest places I've eaten in, with passages from the Bible written in German on all the walls and also in the menu and a tiny interior with no toilets where you have to share a table with other diners. But the food was exceptional, all prepared fresh and a generous portion of Bim Bam Bap, one of the best meals I've had in Berlin. My only regret was not taking my camera along. Next time though...

Tomorrow then I'll board the plane for Birmingham to spend the summer in England with its showers and sunshine so dear to my heart. There will undoubtadly be strawberries and cream, days spent watching Wimbledon addictively, eating dinner in the garden and reading Tove Jansson's the Summer Book and Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger in the shade of the apple tree.


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Brunch at Clärchens Ballhaus

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Coffee with Christine in Mitte

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My summer breakfast of porridge with strawberries

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My friend Sasa made an amazing rhubarb fool with brown sugar which you simply must try if you can still find the pink stuff

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On Alexanderplatz

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On Karl-Marx-Allee

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The great man himself...

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....and a few communist protesters

The other day while wandering around the stands at the tiny market near where I live, my eyes lit up when I spotted the first blackcurrants of the season, all rich and gleamingly luscious so I decided to try out a recipe for crumble squares with them because to me, nothing is more summery than the crunch of buttery streusel with the sharp juices of fresh fruit. They also freeze amazingly well so you might want to have these ready in advance for when the heatwave arrives. I made some changes to the original recipe though, exchanging white flour for spelt, white sugar for brown decreased the amount of butter and took buttermilk instead of ordinary milk.

Blackcurrant crumble squares (adapted from BBC Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes)

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115g butter, softened
100g natural cane sugar
1 egg
250g spelt flour
1 tsp aluminium free baking powder
125ml buttermilk
200g fresh blackcurrants, destalked

For the crumble

50g natural cane sugar
40g spelt flour
25g cold butter

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 23cm square baking tin.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy. Add the egg then carefully blend in the flour and baking powder, followed by the buttermilk until you have a smooth mixture.
3. Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth out until even. Sprinkle the blackcurrants on top.
4. In another bowl, combine the sugar and flour then rub in the butter until you have large flakes of crumble. Spoon over the blackcurrants and place the tin in the oven for 45 minutes or until the fruit has burst through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

22 commentaires:

  1. My sister prefers cloudy days too. I like the sun...good thing considering where I live!
    You're going to have a marvelous summer; I can tell you're looking forward to the comfort of home. A place where you know you are loved and not alone. Absorb everything and hold it dear.

  2. As always, lovely clicks of Berlin! You never fail to make me dream...

    Northumberland is so beautiful. Seahouses, Lindisfarne and Holy Island are dreamlike places I would love to visit again...

    Your bars look mighty delish!



  3. Lovely as always, Emily. I find a mix of weather is best for me...too much cloudiness makes me feel bad. But a cloudy day now & again helps with the relentless heat.

    I do wish I were able to be in the UK this summer...are you going for the entire summer? Lucky you. I'm waiting for Wimbledon to finally come on everyday, today. I don't have cable & so the broadcast begins daily today in the States. I conflate Wimbledon w/the Fourth of July because the finals go into that weekend...funny.

    I look forward to the beautiful photographs you will undoubtedly take while in England. Cheers!


  4. Emily, as usual, to die for photos and to die for adventures! I have to keep in touch with your with your photography tips on nature--they are just stunning! I just started gardening and would definitely love to hear from your tips. Anyways, I love days like this! It just feels so cozy and breezy! It does remind me of Europe though, I just don't know why (and I haven't even been there). Like I have said plenty of times, how I wish I can be in your shoes!

  5. I so enjoyed reading your post, and the photos...it is always good to have a moment with Karl. Berlin has a lot of loveliness, one thing that stays in my mind is the soundscape. I was so taken by the birds, the sound of the trams, the general bustle. Have a wonderful summer in England. All the best.

  6. @Barbara - I think it's a necessary condition of living in Florida to like to heat and sun, no? Thanks for your wishes, I have the feeling it's going to be a good summer in England too although hopefully the heatwave is over now. Today they had 33°C in London, way too hot for me.
    @Rosa - Wouldn't it be lovely to go to those places together? Actually you inspired me to try those bars with your own recipe a while back which I also absolutely loved. Take care dear friend.
    @Susan - Yes, you're right, just grey or always sunny would get me down too. It's nice to have gentle rain after some hot days and sunshine after thunderstorms. Hope you're holding up OK with the heat. I keep looking up the weather for Washington and wincing at the idea of all that heat and humidity. I haven't watched Wimbledon for 7 years so am very excited. They don't show it in Berlin unfortunately. Good to know you're also a fan. I'll be in the UK until the end of July so it'll be a nice long break and hopefully there'll still be some summer to enjoy here when I return. Take care and love to Julie!
    @I.S - Thanks so much.
    @Rylan - It'd certainly be lovely to see you in Europe one day or perhaps in the U.S where I've always wanted to go. I guess we always long for something different but that's what makes the Internet so great since it brings us together. Cool that you've just started gardening, I'm keen to try some myself soon. For photos, the best way to improve is to simply take as many shots as possible and find out what works best for you. I try to take pictures early morning or evening with soft light. Using an SLR camera helps my shots look good but it's also all about practice. Let me know how you get on.
    @P.K - Oh thanks, it's lovely to hear that. I hadn't thought about a soundscape but yes, you're right I can hear the city too through the photos. Hope you have a wonderful summer too!

  7. I'm glad you enjoyed the rhubarb fool m'dear and bon voyage!

  8. I often find announcing my lack of inspiration prompts a return. I'm sure your apple tree will help. I really enjoyed The Summer Book. I'm reading The True Deceiver now. Your crumble looks delicious. I don't think I've ever bought fresh currants. I'd like to give them a try. Enjoy your journey.

  9. I will have to find The Summer Book. Enjoy your days devouring everything that makes your heart happy :)

  10. I always think colors are so much better on cloudy days.... more saturated... as your flower pictures prove. Lovely.

    As for the blue cagoule... I've been reading a lot of Proust lately, he and I both concur... the past is alive in tastes, smells and objects... they open your mind to the past..cool how that can work.

    Hope you have a marvelous time back home.

  11. Have a lovely English summer then, and enjoy your quiet readings - The White Tiger is a great book, one of the best I have read in the past few years.
    A bientot.

  12. @Sasa - Hope you're well and had a good trip back. Thanks so much for the recipe, I'm going to make it again this weekend.
    @Denise - Fresh currants are amazing, a little sour but so juicy and I'm sure you'll come up with some good ways to cook with them. It's true I feel more inspired now and thanks for another book tip. I always like your recommendations.
    @Tracy - I so love that sentence, beautiful and poetic and it will be my official motto for my holiday. Right now things are good here and I'm enjoying the garden.
    @Deana - I was sure you must also love Proust, such a wonderful writer and I often think of his words when past senses are conjured up. Hope you have a lovely summer with plenty of time for reading.
    @Gracienne - I'd been meaning to read the White Tiger for ages and now I wonder what took me so long. Such a great book indeed. Thanks for your holiday wishes, I hope you also enjoy the time in Paris or elsewhere. Bises.

  13. Such lovely remembrances and reflections on future activities.
    It's amazing how an item can transport us back into our own timelines ... and how wonderful activities create wonderful new memories.

  14. Please, more strawberry recipes! Yesterday was Canada day and I desperately wanted a strawberry shortcake but was too late... I'm sure you know how to bake those :)

  15. @Tracey - Thanks a lot for your lovely comment and for taking time to read!
    @Julie - I hear you about the strawberries and have a great cake recipe to share. Hoping to share soon. Yes, I've made strawberry shortcake and it's pretty straightforward. You could try this recipe:

  16. I know what you mean: 'overcast skies and cool breezes are what I find most romantic'...

  17. Strawberries and cream sound perfect. Enjoy your time away- can't wait to hear about your adventures.

  18. This bar of yours was so good, that someone wrote to me about it! Must try it. The changes you made sound like improvements.

  19. love the strawberry recipes, great post and fun pics.

  20. just amazing photos and lovely thoughts. this reminds me of one of your posts about "grey" berlin, and i mentioned that i need a mix of the seasons (which is why i loved virginia so much when i was in law school). anyhoo ... another wonderful post. ;)

  21. @Lecia - How nice we love the same things.
    @Nicolette - That combination always makes me smile and I'll never get tired of it. I'm back now but the time away was so great.
    @Suzy - I can't believe someone wrote to you about a recipe of mine and I feel very flattered. All my friends really loved those bars though and I'll be making them again very soon. Let me know how yours turn out but you're such a great cook that I'm sure there'll be amazing.
    @Dan - Oh thanks!
    @Jg - Yes, I remember that grey post and found it a bit depressing too. The English climate is great for such a mix and one day I hope to visit Virginia to discover those wonderful things you like about it.