Not Bothering With It

My anti-covid hideaway place this winter is a beautiful prison by the sea. Mountains, olive trees, sunlight, fresh sea breeze, empty streets — Greek villages are always closed in low season (saying nothing of lockdown).

My parents received a weird Christmas present from me this year: a basket of stuff, like olive oil spray, candied almonds, limoncello, a huge bottle of Tabasco and other super valuable items I could get delivered locally without them knowing. Well, actually the “basket” was formed by a piece of carton put into a plastic bag to create a basket shape. I also had a nice golden ribbon which I borrowed from my daughter’s gift once she unwrapped it. To tell the truth the ribbon was originally found on the Christmas gift from my parents. No idea where they got this treasure. My husband and I received our presents on Christmas Eve, when Kathy (my daughter) was asleep, then I put the ribbon on her present and then in the morning we transferred it onto the next present together — the one for my parents, in their turn. I mean this is how festive ribbons travel these days within a really isolated family.

Delivering something more profound than this and with its own ribbon would first be shipped by an airplane, then by a boat, then probably loaded onto a mule and at some point lost in the mountains — you never know the full story.

Anyway, I wasn’t aware we’d be stuck on Corfu island for a few months, when I came (entirely unprepared for Christmas) in early October on the last direct EasyJet flight.

Cooking became my personal psychotherapy since March 2020. I can’t even imagine how many hours I spent in our tiny kitchen in Berlin. Learned a lot too. However, the main principle of my cooking is not really bothering with it. So it really helps against corona panic.

When I was pregnant and my memory shrunk to a span of a few minutes, I could be worried about something, and then immediately forget what it was, and have this feeling of worry without any obvious cause for a while, and then just let it go.

Same idea applies to my cooking. No recipes, no need to remember the precise proportions, just a small bunch of ingredients and inspiration as a starting point. The rest comes with it.

In our hideaway the list of ingredients has a glass ceiling defined by local demand.

So I’ll tell you about my favourite Christmas dessert, that’s baked apples. Just made a tray of them. The smell of hot apple sirup and cinnamon fills the living room, it is comforting, and relaxing, and soothing, and delicious.

Whenever I read about baking apples, it seems that people tend to really overdo it. There is always something about honey, sugar, nuts, yoghurt, quark, oil, butter, dough.

I don’t even bother to take the stem out, haha.

Join me, it’s a very good one. You need sweet simple apples and cinnamon.

Step number one. Take apples. No exotic tastes. Take them however many your baking tray can hold. Wash, don’t dry.

Step number two. Treat your child, cut accurate squares from the top of the apple. Keep the stem. Cut the squares in halves and give the little one a snack.

…or don’t. I mean you can eat them yourself. Or chop and put back into the apple once you have sprinkled it with cinnamon.

Step number three. Yeah, I actually said it already, sprinkle the apples with cinnamon. You can be generous.

Step number four. Bake them. Use baking paper (unless you enjoy washing the trays). I heat my stove to 200 degrees Celsius, but it’s just my favourite baking temperature. You can choose yours.

Step number five. Take them out once they are cooked. That is — the skin has burst, the tray is filled with boiling juice, the apple still preserves its shape, the kitchen is full of wonderful smells.

Let them cool, pour the sirup from the tray all over them and enjoy them warm or cold. The sweet taste is intensified by baking, the texture is soft and a bit chewy, the cinnamon adds Christmasy notes. Yes, you don’t need any sugar there. Really.

observations, memories and cooking