Wednesday, 25 June 2014
Belgian Apple Tart (#ReadCookEat)
"Becoming Jane Eyre" by Sheila Kohler had raving reviews and very decent testimonials on the cover, yet having just finished it, I remain in the minority of the un-converted. Joyce Carol Oates even called it "a tour de force of style, vision and imagination..." For me it was more of an unfulfilled promise and a lost potential.
First, I had issues with the title. "Becoming Jane Eyre" was almost identical to "Becoming Jane", a film which came on the big screen a couple of years before Sheila Kohler's book was published. It also dealt with the predicament of a pre-fame author.
The first pages of the book take you to 1846, the days when the Bronte father has just had an eye operation and is bed-ridden in a small Manchester room, with his dutiful daughter Charlotte keeping him company. This is where embittered by the rejection from the publishers and set on revenge, she starts creating "Jane Eyre". The narrative flickers between countries and years.
The whole plot reminded me of high school essays or a dissertation, when you try to put forward your theory by finding small relevant details to prove your point.
The three sisters are portrayed as quite garrulous, selfish, thriving on petty grievances between themselves and to be frank, quite unpleasant women. The magic of the Brontes' style of writing has been lost. Of course, there was a rivalry between the three sisters, that must have been inevitable, living and writing together and being so different as personalities.
I am often shocked at the cavalier approach some authors take with the imagined conversations and inner thoughts of their real life characters. Take the marital bed scenes between the older Brontes: the poor exhausted mother muttering prayers "please God help me" when performing her marital duty, or the Bronte father remembering "the strong odour of her body after sex". A gratuitous sex detail anyone?
Sheila Kohler was neither generous nor kind to the Brontes.
Was Charlotte really so condescending towards anyone below her in social status? I believe her books tell differently.
Some pages were tediously long in describing very minor occurences, yet the end of the book was very rushed, and the author almost skipped the deaths of Branwell, Emily and Anne with ungainly haste. The same goes for Charlotte's relationship with her husband. He appeared almost out of nowhere with his passionate pleas of love, but why wasn't he worthy of being talked about in greater detail, is a mystery.
I wanted to like this book, because Jane Eyre has been one of the novels which has influenced me greatly as a child and teenager (I must have read it at least twenty times), but to me it proved to be disappointing.
Food doesn't feature prominently in this book, and those meals which are mentioned are rather unappealing like the watery porridge or greasy mutton. While Charlotte sits next to her blind father in a small room in Manchester, she recollects her trip to Belgium and her further infatuation with a man she calls the Professor. Her memories go back to her first day in Brussels, where "they ate something heavy bu delicious in a brown sauce with fresh bread followed by an apple tart..."
This was the point of my foraging in the woods of blogs and sites in search of a Belgian-style apple tart. I have found a delightful recipe for an Apple Pie on Baking in Belgium blog (see her post Quick Apple Pie).
I have adapted the recipe slightly, and the resulting tart is so tasty, I will be certainly baking it again.
As it uses ground almonds, it is almost marzipan-y.
Belgian Apple Tart
1 block of sweet pastry (I used Tesco Finest Dessert Pastry Ready Rolled)
2 medium eggs
125g caster sugar
70g ground almonds
1tsp vanilla essence
As mentioned above, I used Tesco Finest Dessert Pastry, and very nice it proved to be as well. I often use Jus-Rol, and happy to report that Tesco pastry was excellent, and I will be buying it again.
Spray the tart dish with spray oil. Roll out the pastry and cut the corners to make it fit the round dish.
Prepare the filling: Peel one apple and grate it on coarse. Mix with the ground almonds, eggs, caster sugar and vanilla essence.
I was a bit concerned that the pastry might get soggy, as the recipe suggested pouring the filling straight on the raw pastry (I usually pre-bake the pastry before adding the filling), but I shouldn't have worried. It cooked perfectly well. Slice two apples thinly and put the slices around the edges, leaving the middle open.
Place the dish in the oven preheated to 180C. bake for 25 minutes.
As this recipe is inspired by a novel, I am adding to #ReadCookEat linky, which Chris from Cooking Around the World and I run together.
As it is a Belgian recipe, I am also adding it to the World Cup culinary challenge to represent Belgium playing tomorrow, on the 26th of June.
Chris from Cooking Around the World has challenged the foodies to take part in a culinary-football-themed game this month. Read all about the rules of the game in his linky Bloggers Around the World.