In seven days, the sky turned from deepest grey to the lightest blue. Through my parents' visit, I rediscovered the joys of seeing Berlin with fresh eyes, returning to places half forgotten or which somehow fade into the background of everyday life.The heavy drizzle the first day left us cold and wet and after sighing at the enormous queue, the idea of a visit to the Pergammon museum was abandoned and we did what any sane person would; head for Marzipantorte and a large cup of coffee in the plush salon of the (soon to close - sob!) Opernpalais. The whimsical delights of an afternoon screening of Midnight in Paris left me humming Cole Porter and wanting to re-read a Moveable Feast. Some mornings there were a breakfasts of scrambled eggs with chives, dark bread with quark and mini Windbeautel or cream puffs with a view towards Alexanderplatz and the TV Tower with its disco ball. I discovered that from the top of that the trains look like something from a model railway set and the city glides by over lunch as the restaurant turns. There was the pleasure of afternoon tea at Café Einstein where the waiters wear long aprons and the sunlight filters in through half closed blinds. A large portion of borscht at Datcha followed by a warm blini with almond quark and cherries made the perfect autumn dinner. I got used to cooking in the evenings for them, making large pots of pumpkin, cauliflower and tomato soup, with plum crumble or Zupfkuchen for dessert. One of the best things about having visitors is the pleasure of preparing a breakfast table crammed with the most delicious things; fresh rolls, quark, apple and cherry juice, goats' cheese, cheddar, large bowls of porridge and of course, a cake (see below). In the evenings we'd move to the red sofa in the living room with candlelight to watch a Woody Allen film. It was all over much too quickly, and exactly seven days later I found myself once again at Schönefeld saying goodbye. Even if the UK is only a couple of hours away by plane, I'm envious of Berliners who can visit their families on Sundays and wished it could have been one week earlier, even if it would have meant exchanging sunshine for rain. The city seemed somehow emptier when I got back, in spite of the autumn glow that strange, hollow feeling washed over me knowing that I would only be cooking for myself that night. Luckily there was still cake, one with quark, streusel and apples from my parents' garden, the bramley ones that give you stomach ache and are only suitable for cooking. I thought of my dad, making masses of stewed apple from them, of my mum's apple pie with single cream, of the blossom on the tree in the spring and felt glad that at least a part of Derbyshire was in my kitchen.
Early morning at Senefelderplatz
Statue of a socialist worker near Alex
Cheesecake and Sachertorte at Café Einstein
The Jewish memorial
Apple quark Streselkuchen (from Heimwehküche Backen)
For a 26cm springform tin
280g all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
125g cold butter, cubed, plus some more for greasing the tin
a pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 kg cooking apples (or non sweet ones like russets)
1 cinnamon stick
250g low fat quark/fromage blanc/curd cheese
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1. To make the dough, sift 250g of the flour and baking powder together into a large bowl. Add the cubes of butter, the sugar, salt and the egg and mix together (you can also do this in a food processor but I find it more satisfying by hand).
2. Grease the springform tin. Take two thirds of the dough and flatten it with the palm of your hand and your fingers to create a base and sides for the cake. Prick with a fork.
3. To make the filling, peel and quarter the apples, discarding the pips. Place the apple quarters, 150ml water, 50g sugar and the cinnamon stick in a saucepan and cook over a low heat for a few minutes until softened but not mushy. Drain the apples and save the cooking juice.
4. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Whisk together the quark with the remaining sugar, the egg yolks and cornflour. Add in 4 tsp cooking juice and mix again. Pour the quark onto the streusel base and scatter the apples evenly over it.
5. To finish, mix the remaining 30g of flour and the cinnamon into the remaining stresel mixture in the bowl until you have large pieces of crumble. Sprinkle over the quark and apples.
6. Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden.