Apples and Cinnamon

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Autumn has arrived. We’re teetering on the edge of October, the leaves are turning golden and I’m craving apple crumble. It’s definitely time to bring out the cinnamon.

I was trying to use up some cinnamon sugar recently, leftover from some snickerdoodles, and came across a recipe for ‘Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts’ in  Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth by Lily Jones. I love doughnuts, but am not generally up for attempting them at home. I associate them with seaside holidays, eaten hot from the fryer out of a paper bag, licking the sugar from my fingers. Although I like the iced and glazed doughnuts which you can buy in coffee shops, I’m particularly nostalgic for simpler sugar-coated ones.

However, as the recipe title suggests, these are not traditional fried doughnuts, but baked. A good number of apples are diced and mixed with a relatively small amount of cake-like batter, coated in a spiced sugar and baked. Admittedly, they aren’t as wonderful as the fried kind, but they were still really good and far easier and less messy than attempting deep-frying in a home kitchen. It wouldn’t have occurred to me before to use a cinnamon sugar mixture to coat doughnuts, but it worked really well. The apple and cinnamon combination is, of course, delicious, and reminiscent of those apple crumbles I’ve been craving. The gentle spice of cinnamon is perfect for this time of year, providing something warming but not quite as heavy as the soups, stews and rib-sticking puddings of winter.

A Fairy Tale

E.T.A. Hoffmann, ‘The Golden Pot’ (translated by Ritchie Robertson)

There are some stories that you need to read multiple times in order to get to grips with them. Not necessarily because they are overly complicated or particularly difficult to understand, but rather because there is so much going on in them and there are so many layers of meaning, that it would be impossible to grasp them all after reading them just once. These can be some of the most rewarding stories to read. When you first read them, there is the satisfaction of finding out what happens in the story, but then you are rewarded for subsequent readings with more and more interesting things to think about.

I suspect that is one such story. ‘The Golden Pot’ by E. T. A. Hoffmann is a relatively short story, so it’s a fairly quick and easy read. It tells the story of Anselmus, a student, and the adventures that result when he takes a job copying texts for the Archivist Lindhorst. The Archivist appears to be a man, but claims to be a salamander from Atlantis with three serpents as his daughters. There’s a love triangle, in which Anselmus is torn between Veronica and Serpentina, the Archivist’s daughter. One of the main themes of the story is the interplay between reality and a fairy world. Are the strange events in the narrative dreams, imaginative flights of fancy, or are they really happening to the characters?

I really enjoyed this story and am keen to read more of Hoffmann’s work. It was both fun and thought-provoking and I would recommend it to anyone interested in fantasy literature or fairy tales.

Rice Pudding for Summer

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Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer (or Nigella Summer, depending on your edition) is unsuprisingly a book about summer food. I bought my copy from a charity shop in the depths of last winter, when I tend to eat more soups, stews and hot puddings in order to stay cosy. I was therefore thrilled to be able to try out some of the recipes from this book over the last few months.

The recipe I chose to make uses ingredients that are easily available all year round. Lots of the recipes in the book use typically summery ingredients (e.g. strawberries, fresh tomatoes etc.) but this Lemon Rice Pudding is, rather, a summery interpretation of what is classically a cold weather dish. Rice pudding in Britian is rib-sticking and nutmeggy. Associated with school dinners and Sunday lunch, it’s something you would load up on to spend an afternoon running around outside in the cold. Nutmeg is a crucial flavouring and a spice generally used in the colder months of the year in Britain, particularly around Christmas.

This was a very different kind of rice pudding. Rather than baking it in the oven, it’s cooked on the stovetop for a considerable period of time and flavoured with lemon zest. Once cool, you beat in lemon juice and, once chilled, fold in some whipped double cream. I was initially wary of a lemon rice pudding because I am so used to the hot, nutmeg-skinned ones we normally eat, but the lemon works spectacularly well in this chilled version. The double cream gives a fantastic texture, making it seem almost mousse-like, and in turn the sharpness of the lemon cuts through the richness of the cream. Nigella suggests serving it with blueberries, but I think it would be good with any fresh summer berries alongside, perhaps as a way of easing us into the autumn to come.

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