Best laid plans


Do you have little things that really give you pleasure but that you never tell anyone about because you think they're too insignificant and that no-one would understand? When I spend the weekends in Berlin, one of my favourite things is to go food shopping late at night, around 10 or 11pm at the store around the corner. It feels so nice to walk there, canvas shopping bag in hand when everything's quiet. In my street, there are old fashioned lamps sending out a soft, white light and last night, the breeze rippled through the leaves so you weren't sure if it was raining. Opposite the store is the Deutsche Oper and often you see crowds of people standing round outside in the intervals or coming out afterwards to make their way home. Perhaps what I love most in the supermarket are the groups of people buying things for their evenings together like wine, garlic baguettes, potato chips, cheese and fruit. People linger over vegetables and yoghurt and there's never any need to rush. It sounds strange but it makes me feel happy coming out afterwards into the darkness, knowing I can make myself a tisane and a supper of whatever I've bought myself.

It was a good way to finish a day when nothing seemed to work out as planned. The fruits I'd so wanted for a pie have disappeared from market stalls and supermarkets and my planned trip to Köpenick which I'd been so looking forward to ended in frustration, waiting on a deserted platform for an S-Bahn train that never came. Getting through Berlin is now only possible by U-Bahn or regional train but they don't always take you where you want to go and sadly, travelling to smaller places outside Berlin seems difficult until the end of the year. On my way back to the centre, I decided to get out at Alexanderplatz, a place I normally avoid at weekends with so many tourists around. It has a reputation for being ugly with a lot of concrete and high buildings around and there's nowhere really nice to eat but I've never found it so bad. I remember how much I loved being able to see the TV tower from my first flat in Pankow and the old eastern things there still seem to have charm like the Haus der Lehrer or the clock which shows the time in different countries. It's the modern attempts to make it popular that are ugly, like the big pink shopping centre or enormous Saturn store.

The rote Rathaus being eaten up

Even though it's September, it still felt like a summer's day with people sitting outside at cafés and wearing shorts. Oktoberfest has begun in Munich (please don't ask me why it's in September, I've never understood!) and near the Rote Rathaus, there was a tent set up with waitresses wearing dirndls and Berliners enjoying large glasses of frothy beer. Funnily, alongside it was a demonstration for the Left and people holding red banners close to the statue of Marx and Engels who started it all.

Marx and Engels on what used to be called Marx Engels Platz

Often , it's difficult to find traces of the old East in the centre. A line of bricks on the street indicate where the Wall once stood and the massive Palast der Republik which took so long to demolish has vanished without a trace, replaced by a fresh green lawn where people picnic. Only the stalls with fake Russian hats and furs remind us of the former presence of communism there.

A nice day for a boat trip on the Spree (on the right, the old spot of the Palast der Republik)

Its remains last winter

I also finally made it to König, a wonderful bookshop near the cathedral. If you like art, philosophy, cinema or photography, you have to go there. It seems to continue inside forever with shelves stacked from floor to ceiling with the loveliest books imagineable. For a bibliophile like me, it was tough sticking to just one book but I came away with only a sweet little Reclam guide to film noir with its yellow paper cover. There are some places which capture your heart and where you seem to fit in the moment you walk through the door. For me, this was one of them and I'm already looking forward to my next visit, flicking through the pages endlessly in a world where only words and images matter.

Even the window displays are amazing!

The "Three Girls and a Boy" statue opposite the cathedral

The international business centre in Friedrichstraße

Close to Friedrichstraße station, I wandered through the flea market and on the bridge, a man was playing music on wine glasses and selling cds. As I climbed into the hot, overcrowded train that would take me home, I knew I was in serious need of a pie and a couple of lazy hours with my book. Not for nothing is this blog called coffee and pie. As Rose already knows, it was named like this because of my passion for Twin Peaks and Agent Dale Cooper, a man who likes his coffee blacker than a moonless night and can eat three pieces of cherry or huckleberry pie, not to mention his passion for doughnuts! Apparently, Kyle Maclachlan who played him hates cherry pie so perhaps it's appropriate that the first serious one I'm making should be apple which might appeal to him more! When I'd finished though, I realised I was fighting a losing battle to get decent photos with so little light which is why they're not my best. Believe me though that there are few things as nice as getting a hot, fruity pie out of the oven.

The days are already getting a little shorter and the leaves are tinged with gold. In the schoolyard behind my room, I can see some fluttering down to the ground and soon there will be more. I spent the afternoon at the cinema (though not one of my favourites) watching Julie and Julia. Everybody's talking about it so I'll just say that I loved it and felt inspired to try new things in the kitchen. Just make sure you're not hungry when you see it! I was which is why I'm also giving you the recipe for Bratkartoffeln, the perfect Sunday evening comfort food when the though of Mondays seems too depressing.

Apple pie

Martha Stewart's Pâte Brisée
4 large Canadien Gris/ Boskop apples or whichever you prefer (they shouldn't be sweet though)
30g butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar, plus a little white sugar to sprinkle over for decorating

Pre-heat the oven to 170°C

1. When you've made the dough, divide it into two equal parts (I like to weigh mine) and press them into discs. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for one hour.
2. Roll out your dough so that it just fits your tin (you can place it upside down to measure it first) and gently place one disc for the base into the greased tin. Leave the one for the top to one side while you make the apple filing.
3. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples then place them into a medium saucepan with the butter. Leave on a medium heat, moving them around with a wooden spoon until the apples are soft but not a purée.
4. Spoon the apple mixture onto the pie base. Take the pastry for the top and press gently around the sides of the base in the pie tin to seal it. Make a cross on top in the middle to let the steam out while baking. Sprinkle with sugar on top. Place in the oven and bake for about 30-40 mins or until golden brown and crisp. Best served warm with vanilla ice cream, custard or whipped cream.

Bratkartoffeln for 2 (from Basic Cooking)
500g potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

1. Wash, peel and dice the potatoes. Heat the oil in the frying pan (you'll need one with a cover) so it's good and hot.
2. Carefully tip the potatoes into the frying pan, taking care not to burn yourself. Cover with a lid and leave for 10-15 mins.
3. Uncover and give the potatoes a stir. Then add in the butter and fry for another 10-15 mins without the lid and stirring occasionally until brown and crisp. Serve with whatever you're most in the mood for but ratatouille or fried egg go especially well.


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