I don’t put much personal stuff on here but today it’s relevant, so here goes.
You won’t know, unless we hang out in real life (and probably not even then), that I live with this bastard called anxiety. I say ‘live with’ rather than ‘suffer from’ because I spent many years working with people with chronic illnesses and had it drilled into me that it’s really not appropriate to say people are suffering when you don’t know they actually are. I wouldn’t say I suffer either, but I do have to work to keep my mind in order.
I have many ways in which I do this but occasionally – the past few weeks being one such time – things get a bit much and it’s best to ask for help. This time, that came from my partner (urgh, hate that word) and one small way he helped (one of many) was by making this apple tart when I wasn’t able to. Apples were cooked with butter and sugar, a beautiful sweet pastry was formed, the whole glorious arrangement was baked and served to me with a blob of slightly out of date creme fraiche from the fridge. Heaven.
Why do I want to write about Shine for ShelterBox? We all have causes we feel particularly strongly about. Mine are animal cruelty, homelessness and, by extension ShelterBox, an international aid organisation that helps people who have lost everything through natural disaster or conflict. I have no experience of such horror, thankfully, but I reckon some of the feelings involved are similar – albeit on a different scale – to anxiety, in that you find yourself alone and overwhelmed. Most of all, I can relate to the way that we may, at some point in our lives, rely on acts of kindness from others.
Shine for ShelterBox has launched a campaign which encourages people to host a cosy, candlelit dinner to raise money for people who have been made homeless as a result of disaster or conflict. They deliver emergency aid to families, providing them with shelter and tools to rebuild their lives. The charity is currently heavily involved in providing shelter for those made homeless by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, as well as supporting those affected by flooding in Bangladesh and Nepal, and helping families fleeing conflict in Iraq and Syria.
A community kitchen in Peru, set up after the earthquake which devastated 24/25 regions in early 2017.
Here’s a powerful quote from Lucy Holden at ShelterBox, ‘When disasters strike and power lines go down, families are left vulnerable. That’s why, alongside our shelter aid, we provide lights that dispel the dark and help families in desperate circumstances feel a little bit safer. You can’t underplay the importance of light in these situations. A simple solar lamp can make a huge difference in far-reaching ways, including helping to reduce the threat of gender violence in camps and allowing children to play in safety – not to mention making it easier to cook and share a meal together.’
Donald’s Normandy Apple Tart Recipe
For the pastry
125g lightly salted butter
125g caster sugar
250g all-purpose white flour
1/3 tsp Vietnamese forest black peppercorns, pretty well crushed (Helen: I think you can leave this out if you don’t have the specific peppercorns!)
For the filling
7 small eating apples (like Cox’s Pippins)
125g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
6 green cardamom pods, bashed up
Cream the butter, then add the flour, the sugar, egg and peppercorns and knead until it’s a smooth paste. Refrigerate for minimum 45 minutes.
Cut the apples in half and carefully remove the cores taking care not to break the halves. Finely slice the apples keeping all the slices together in the shape of the apple halves, then transfer the cut apple halves carefully to a large deep sided pan.
Once all the apples are cut, cored, sliced and in the pan (make sure to keep them all neat otherwise the tart will be impossible to prepare correctly) and add the bashed cardamom pods. Cut the unsalted butter into thin slices and lay them on top of the apples, sprinkle with the icing sugar, cover with a lid and cook on a low heat for about 30 minutes until the apples are a bit translucent.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Roll the pastry out and lift into a tart dish (it’ll be quite fragile so you need to do it the first time and will probably need to fill gaps and cracks with leftover bits).
Carefully arrange the apples into the pastry case; I like to alternate the direction of the apple slices for visual interest.
Pour over the remaining butter/apple/sugar pan juices onto the apples and bake for about half an hour or until the edges of the pastry case turn golden.