Apple Tarte Tartin Cake

This is somewhere between a cake and a pudding, but it’s made like a tarte tartin.

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Let me explain- the cake is cake (simple). Apples are laid in the bottom of a cake tin, and smothered with golden caramel, before the cake mixture is poured on top. When it’s baked, it is flipped over, and the gooey caramel apple seeps down into the cake, making it rich and moist and dense, like a sponge pudding.

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It’s the perfect antidote to a cold autumn nearly winter day.

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This has been a busy week for me cooking-wise. Firstly, it was Thanksgiving on thursday. I absolutely love Thanksgiving- it’s like all the best things about Christmas without the stress of presents. I always make an effort to celebrate, even though living in England does sort of restrict! And then, today I had my mum and my grandparents over to my flat for lunch. I’m finally getting the hang of my new oven, so really any opportunity to cook is perfect!

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This cake was the dessert, smothered in custard.

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Apple Tarte Tartin Cake

For the cake:

120g self raising flour

120g caster sugar

20g brown sugar

40g butter

120ml milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together the flour, sugars and butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually pour in half the milk and mix until combined.

Beat the egg into the rest of the milk, then add the vanilla. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and mix well.

For the caramel:

100g caster sugar

about 1 tablespoon of water

Melt the sugar into the water in a saucepan, then cook until a light golden brown colour. Be careful to watch it as it can burn really quickly- and make sure you do not stir it!

Cut an apple into slices, and arrange in the bottom of a well-greased and lined cake tin. Pour the caramel over the apples. Then, add the cake mixture on top and bake at 180 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.

When it is cool, flip the cake over so the apples are on top, and sprinkle with brown and caster sugar.

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xxR

Breakup Chocolate Cake

This cake was created out of both joy and sadness.

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Joy first- my kitchen is finally here! I can cook, I can bake, I can wash up. I’ve never been so exciting to wash my dishes- after weeks of washing up in my tiny bathroom sink. I wanted to start with something simple, to get used to my new oven, so this cake was the perfect choice. This is my absolute go-to recipe- it’s so simple to make and deliciously easy to remember. It can be whipped up at a moment’s notice.

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Now the sadness- I was dumped quite dramatically by my boyfriend a few days ago. I really don’t want to be one of those girls whose like ‘oh I’ve broken up with my boyfriend, let’s all get together and watch romcoms and eat ice cream and cry.’ No.

Although I did do a lot of crying.

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Sometimes, in these situations, all you need is cake. Simple, easy to make, chocolate cake. Requires little thought and even less effort and the finished product is entirely comforting.

Perfect for a heartbreak.

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Chocolate Cake (my mother makes this cake for every birthday- we call it 6, 6, 6 and 3- because that’s all it is (6 ounces of butter, sugar and flour and 3 eggs- give or take a few things!)

6 ounces butter

6 ounces caster sugar

3 eggs

5 ounces self raising flour (okay, okay, I know I said 6 of flour, but you need to deduct 1 for the cocoa powder. if you want a plain cake, do 6 of flour and no cocoa powder)

1 ounce cocoa powder

1 teaspoon bicarb of soda (for extra lift)

Beat together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb, and mix until combined.

Spoon into a greased and lined cake tin, and bake for around 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees celcius.

For the chocolate icing:

140g butter

280 icing sugar

1 teapoon cocoa powder

splash of milk- if you need it

Beat together the butter and icing sugar, then add the coca powder. Mix until it is a nice, smooth consistency, adding a splash of milk if it is too hard.

I sandwiched my with the chocolate buttercream, and decorated with pretzel praline, which is one of my favourite things. (I’ve made it here before!– totally forgot it was for Valentine’s Day- how ironic!)

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Isn’t that pretzel praline one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen? My pretzels happened to be in the shape of Christmas trees- but that is totally optional!

Serve this cake with a big mug of tea, whether you’re suffering a heartbreak, or just a cold, wet, Saturday afternoon.

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xxR

No Kitchen Needed Sweet Potato and Goat’s Cheese Salad

So, I’ve recently moved into a new flat, I know I keep talking about it- sorry (here). It’s really lovely, and it’s definitely coming along, but I still don’t have a fully functioning kitchen! As you can imagine, I’m not dealing with this that well! IMG_6802

However, I have learned to adapt. I can actually make a pretty tasty meal using just a kettle and a microwave, although it is mostly salad, I must admit! But I’ve not been able to bake for what seems like forever, and I’ve missed using ovens and writing about my creations.

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I have been lent a little single hob, so I can actually now cook some things! This salad is very easy to make- if I can do it in my tiny, ill-equipped kitchen, then you definitely can too!

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Grilled Sweet Potato and Goat’s Cheese Salad

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olive oil

2 sweet potatoes

1 round of goats cheese with a rind

1 tablespoon of soft brown sugar salad leaves

bread, to serve

Begin my poking your sweet potatoes with a fork and then microwaving (this is such an innovation for me- I’ve never before owned a microwave so I’m still learning all the tricks!) for about 5 minutes, or until they are very soft.

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In the mean time, heat about a teaspoon of olive oil in a griddle pan. When the sweet potatoes are soft, cut them into slices. Sprinkle with brown sugar, then fry for a few minutes on each side, or until crispy. Cut the baguette into slices and lay these in the pan until they are crunchy and brown.

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Pile your salad leaves on a plate. Cut the goat’s cheese into slices, and put in the pan for about 30 seconds, just to soften them up. Then pour your sweet potatoes and goats cheese over the lettuce, drizzle with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar and tuck in! Easy!

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Look forward to seeing you again soon when I can actually bake again!

xxR

A Day of British Art

Yesterday I set off, in the brilliant, sunny, autumnal weather to go see some art. I’m at a university (the Courauld Institute of Art) that only teaches art history and I’m doing a Masters degree in art history, so I’m looking at art constantly right? Right, but sometimes it can be easy to forget to go and look at the real things, especially in London where there is so much to choose from! Yesterday I stayed very local, both in terms of location and time. I went to see the work of two contemporary british artists, Tracy Emin at the White Cube and Grayson Perry at the National Portrait Gallery. The work in both these shows was created in the last two years, so its very current, and both explored themes of identity, making them an interesting couple to compare.

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My first stop was the White Cube in Bermondsey to see Tracy Emin’s latest show ‘The Last Great Adventure is You.’ Tracy actually came to my university a few years ago and did a talk, which was amazing, and since then I have been a real fan. This show is brilliant. It starts with a whole row of really rapid sketches of female nudes. It’s hard to tell, but from the names of the sketches, written in pencil on the bottom of each work, they could well be self portraits. There are no information panels with any of the works in the gallery, nor describing the show as a whole, so it is really up to the viewer to draw their own conclusions.

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In the next room, the gallery entitled 9x9x9, there are what appeared at first to be much larger versions of the first sketches. They are and huge and imposing and very impressive, really dominating the whole space, despite only using black lines on a white background. However, as the viewer gets closer, it becomes clear that they are not made of drawn or painted lines at all, but are in fact embroidered onto a lineny sort of material. Tracy has used different thicknesses of thread to create the differences in line and build up some areas more than others. This room was undoubtedly my favourite in the exhibition, and I had to revisit it one more time before I left.

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The next room shows her versatility as an artist. It includes works made of paint, neon lights, plaster, clay. The paintings have the same feeling of rapidity as the female nude sketches, but are much more colourful and abstract. The furthest end of this space is made up of little tables with sculptures of women of varying degrees of abstraction and deformation. I was reminding of the maquettes Henry Moore made before creating his enormous stone sculptures. However the way they were presented on these isolated tables also made me think of the presentation of Edgar Degas’ sculptures of dancers, like the ones we have in the Courtauld Gallery.

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Another room is full of very bright, abstract paintings, which contrast with the black and white sketches of women. This show is definitely worth a visit. It’s engaging, versatile and shows a great amount of artistic ability. Also, Bermondsey Street, which the White Cube is on, is just a fabulous place to mooch around or get breakfast, so make the most of the opportunity to visit!

I then ran across town (via Borough Market, because hey, I was in the area and hungry!) to the National Portrait Gallery to see the new Grayson Perry exhibition ‘Who Are You?’ This exhibition is quite unique in that it is not given a dedicated space in the gallery, but rather the works are distributed within the 19th and 20th century rooms. The viewer is then led on a trail through the different spaces to seek out his works.

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The show is made up of portraits of all different people, from politicians to celebrities to transsexuals. He is hoping to get to the bottom of the question ‘who are you?’ Like Tracy’s show, this too includes a lot of different media, from ceramic to tapestry to screen printed silk to sculpture. The first work in the show is a self portrait in the form of a map. It shows a walled city, with the sense of self in the centre; the roads are called things like ‘boredom’ or ‘inspiration.’ This map of personality serves to set out the aims of the rest of the exhibition.

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The next work is a huge tapestry showing British identity. It is brightly coloured and loud and commands attention, and comments on British identity as a collective. The viewer is then led through the 19th and 20th century galleries, spotting pots and rugs, money boxes and hi jabs. Each work includes a description written by Grayson himself, outlining what his aims were in creating the piece and what he was trying to convey about each person. This was very unlike Tracy’s starkly blank walls with no descriptions or information.

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I thought there were both positive and negative attributes to the work being displayed within the permanent galleries. The exhibition was taking a huge number of viewers into galleries that they might not normally visit- I’ve never seen the National Portrait Gallery so busy! (But then, I normally don’t go on a Saturday…) Many of the works, it seemed, were placed in a very specific gallery for a reason, and they often provided an interesting comparison to the other works in the room. A lot of the portraits in the gallery, particularly the 19th centuries ones, show powerful, white, men, so Grayson’s portraits of arguably more normal, less idealised people seemed almost subversive, dotted among these galleries. However, there also seemed to be a lot of people ignoring the permanent collection completely in their hunt to find the Graysons. IMG_6771 IMG_6777 IMG_6779IMG_6772

My favourite was called ‘Memory Jar,’ and showed a man with Alzeihemers disease, and his wife, who acts as his carer. The pot included photographs of their life being snipped into tiny fragments by a personification of the disease itself. I think this was the most emotionally arresting piece in the exhibition.

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The exhibition ended in the 20th century gallery, where a portrait of Grayson himself, from 2011, hangs, which seemed a fitting way to end.

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Like Tracy’s show, this serves as a exploration of identity. Tracy’s, at first glance, appears to be much more autobiographical, focusing mainly on self portraiture, whereas Grayson creates images of other people. Yet, through these images he seems to be trying to understand something fundamental about people in general, and therefore, something about himself too. IMG_6776

Grayson’s show is run in collaboration with a Channel 4 documentary, which shows some of the people he has depicted and him creating the works. I had seen one episode before visiting, however, the works that I hadn’t seen on the documentary seemed to me to be far more engaging. I would thoroughly recommend seeing the art first, and engaging with it in person, and then watching the documentary to hear the story behind it, instead of the other way around. The Tracy Emin is on until the middle of November- so get down there quickly! The Grayson is on until March, so you have more time, but both are well worth a visit and free, so there really is no reason not to! xxR