The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts...

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Working mornings for me are nearly always the same; I’m cruelly woken up by the piercing ring of my alarm clock which eventually drags me out of bed. Then I draw back the curtains and go out onto my balcony to get the first glimpse of the day; everything looks so lovely and fresh in the yard behind my room and I so long to be able to just stop and enjoy that stillness. Once I even saw a small fox sliding under the garden fence. Next I tiptoe out to the kitchen to make my all important first cup of tea (black with milk – very British). If I’m lucky I have it to myself and can perhaps read a bit of Cahiers du Cinéma between sips of hot tea. More often though, I go in to find it’s already occupied by P., my flatmate’s über chatty boyfriend or P and my flatmate together. I’m not one of those people who can’t stand any form of conversation before midday but nor do I want to hear about Brazilian saints or your business plan involving blackberries and GPS before 7am. Five minutes ago I was having a wonderful dream so please don’t spoil it so soon! In that case, I hastily put together a tea tray with a few breakfast things (yoghurt, half a grapefruit, a small slice of bread with Nutella), even if I really can’t eat much so early, and go back to my room to listen to music which inevitably makes me mess up my time schedule because I find it awful to leave in the middle of a song so end up dashing out of the door to make my train.

Recently though, something strange happened: I’m sleeping less and wake up very early bursting with energy and ideas. This sounds great I know and it is but somehow I feel a terrible need deep inside to use it constructively and so far I haven’t come up with anything concrete. For the past few days however, I’ve been journeying back into the wonderful world of Alice. In some ways, I’d forgotten how much this book meant to me as a girl and wondered how all those days, months and years that separate me from her could have slipped through my fingers. It also made me long for the jam tarts my mother makes on Christmas Eve when outside everything is white and stiff with frost and the icy wind burns your cheeks. Inside the kitchen, there are piles and piles of strawberry, apricot and lemon curd tarts being assembled, taken out of the oven or cooling on wire racks. How difficult it is to wait until they are no longer too hot and taste the warm, crisp pastry and sticky jam in your mouth.



Yesterday I could no longer bear to wait until Christmas and decided to make my own jam tart, a Linzer Torte to be exact. Initially, it seemed like one big disaster; the stickiest pastry you could imagine, plus the strips I so carefully cut to decorate it disintegrated in my fingers. In the oven though, all was well. The nuttiness of the pastry made it crispy but not too hard and a raspberry jam filling which melts on your tongue. Let’s face it, any blemishes can be covered up with icing sugar and if something tastes so good, it doesn’t have to look perfect, although the Double Chocolate Torte from Smitten Kichen that I remade last weekend for a friend's birthday manages be be just that. If you haven’t tried it, I can assure you it’s pure culinary heaven and reminds me of eating slightly melted chocolate ices but in a cake form.



Tomorrow I’m taking the train to Munich to finally see J. again. I’ve been so long without him, it’s almost unbearable. Virginia Woolf’s Diaries (recommended by Patoumi , kindly brought me back from Paris by Ju) will accompany me with her beautiful, sad words, abrasiveness and wit.

Linzer Torte

For the pastry

200g flour

200g icing sugar

150g ground almonds

150g ground hazelnuts

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

150g cold unsalted butter, grated

Some chilled water to bind

1 egg yolk

For the filling

250g raspberry jam


1. To make the pastry, sift the flour and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl, followed by the ground cinnamon, almonds and hazelnuts. . Grate in the butter. Mix with your finger tips, adding some water or more flour if needed, until you have a not too sticky dough. Shape it into a ball and wrap in clingfilm. Chill in the oven for at least 1 hour.

2. When the time’s up, remove it from the fridge and pre-heat the oven to 175°. Grease a 28 cm Springform tin and begin rolling out three quarters of the dough on a floured work surface. Don’t worry if it’s too sticky; just mould it into the tin by hand and smooth the surface. Press the top of the dough around the sides down a little to create a thicker crust.

3. Spoon in the jam and spread evenly across the pastry.

4. Roll out the remaining dough and cut some thin strips for decorating. If they fall apart, repair with water and press them down into the jam at the sides until you have a criss cross effect. Brush the strips with the egg yolk and bake the torte in the oven for 30 – 40 mins or until golden and crisp. Leave to cool completely and for best results, eat the next day when the flavours will have become more intense.



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