Aug 1, 2014
The Duck And The Lady
I'm watching the passersby on the street from the balcony in my usual morning absent-mindedness with a coffee cup in my hand. It is busier than usual because it's weekend; mostly there are people walking their dogs. On the street that stretches ahead of where I'm at, I see a duck on the sidewalk behind a woman. When the woman reaches the end of the street she turns the corner, throws a gaze at her back as if to see the duck coming and the duck follows suit. The duck waddles and effortlessly makes the ninety degree turn, seemingly undistracted by the cars driving by.
Other people on the street gaze briefly at this odd scene and adding to my amazement, carry on their ways without finding much interest. On the other hand, had I not been in my pyjamas, I would run out to the street to follow the duck and the lady to discover all the whats, whys and where tos. But worried that I might miss a second of this, I stay put and avoiding to blink, I see them out of sight.
The Plastic Trash Pin
The white plastic trash bin in my kitchen cabinet, one of those ugly ones with a turning lid, finally becomes disposable as soon as I get a handsome, metal one. I take it with me when I'm leaving the apartment that day, to throw it into the container across the street. I see a recycler boy looking for something of good use inside the container, ask him if he'd be interested in taking the bin, he expresses gratitude and takes it.
Suddenly, the old man I usually see sitting by the shade of a tree at the entrance of my building and sometimes greet too, starts yelling at me from across the street: 'bring that to me, don't you give that away!'. When I look at his direction, I see him crossing the street coming our way, swinging his walking stick in a threatening kind of way. The recycler boy freezes with the bin in his hand and I, startled, retreat behind the container as I am too old - and too afraid - to be spanked by a walking stick.
The old man is so aggressively determined that for a second I pause and review the brief course of events to figure if I actually did take something that belonged to this man and if so, I certainly deserve to be spanked.
Passersby stare at this woman hiding behind a container who have apparently lifted something that belonged to this unfortunate old man and her accomplice, the recycler boy. The old man occasionally lifts his walking stick up like a lightsaber. I mumble with fear ' hmm, sir, that was mine and I no longer use it so I gave it to him' pointing at the boy's direction. He, on the other hand, has no interest in my explanation and keeps yelling instead 'no give it to me! It's mine!'.
The fruit-vendor in our street who knows me and apparently knows the old man too, comes from behind him and gestures me that translates to saying 'don't mind him, just go'. I gladly obey and begin moving away sideways. I hear the old man behind me calm down and am relieved. The fruit-vendor helps him cross the street to the shade of the tree while one of the take-away boys who works at the grocery escorts me and says to me in a secretive manner, 'that man's a fourty-sixer you know'. I don't understand what the birth year of the old man has to with anything.
It turns out '46' is the section of the Turkish criminal code that deals with the criminal capacity of the mentally ill; that's why in slang 'fourty-sixer' comes to mean certifiably insane. Who would know.
The Flying Plums
I return to my second floor home in the afternoon with eggplants I picked up from the marketplace on my way back. My plan is to cook rice with eggplants. I fill the pan with frying oil, turn the heat up and open the kitchen window wide. While I'm rinsing the eggplants in the sink facing the open window, I hear a muffled 'tap' sound in my back. I ignore it thinking it's the fridge making its usual noises but when I turn around to go next to the stove, an object flies right next to my ear into the pan, splashing the burning-hot oil. Scared as well as dumbfounded, I advance towards the stove on tip-toe to see what's lying in the bottom of the pan: a green plum minus a bite.
I approach the window to discover the source of the flying plums when another comes flying and barely misses me on the forehead. Four boys are looking at my direction, one of them with his arm stretched to his back, about to send me another plum - perhaps minus a bite - freezes upon seeing me.
I loose my senses after almost getting burned because of a plum, I yell at the them like a fourty-sixer: 'are you boys insane, you almost burned me!' They apparently have no clue how a flying plum can burn a lady, but in any case they all point their fingers at each other.
After briefly simmering dried orange slices with sugar, I pour the almond filling onto the crust I half-baked the day before and pop it in the oven. When the tart is done and is conveniently at room temperature I decorate it with the caramelized oranges. I place it on the kitchen counter and take a step back to enjoy the sight of my glossy work of the art.
For a change, I'm going to do a shoot with a 'afternoon tea' theme out on the terrace with shadows and sun reflected in the background. I bring the napkins, plates and flatware I'm going to use for the shoot and finally the tart and place it outside on the table. And while I'm putting the tart down, I see a crow facing my direction on the fig tree whose branches are sweeping the balustrade.
As I turn around and step inside to collect my photography gear I instantly remember the fate of those eggs mom had left out at the terrace once. Their shells were skilfully cracked and through a tiny hole their insides were eaten by what it turned put to be one sophisticated crow. The likeliness of my tart suffering the same destiny seems suddenly very probable; I make a swift 180 degree turn on the heels to catch the crow red-handed.
It is standing on the tart with its claws on my sticky oranges, working on the thickest edge of the crust with its beak. I leap forward swinging my arms to scare him away and seeing my reaction, it hastily flaps its wings but fails to take off because its claws appear to be cemented in the caramel. As it struggles to free itself, it slowly picks up while some of the oranges stuck on its claws fall down in slow motion, caramel stretching between its claws and oranges. Some fall on the balustrade and some disappear behind it. I run forward, look down and am surprised to see after all that on a mischievous day like this, the sticky oranges are only decorating the pavement and not somebody's head.
Once, a plastic ball fell on top of the meringue pie I concocted so diligently by whisking egg whites for unending minutes with a fork. Just as that didn't dishearten me, neither will this. As soon as I get over the shock of this even more improbable accident, I caramelize another batch of oranges, secure my set indoors away from predators and shoot the attached photos.
So, three of these four events happened on the exact same day. But one, I made up entirely. Can you guess which?
Almond Tart With Caramelized Oranges
Kitchen Equipments Required:
- 20-22 cm / 8 inch round tart tin with a removable base
For the tart base:
- 200 gr flour, sifted
- 100 gr butter, softened at room temperature
- 100 gr powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 2 eggs
- 80 gr caster sugar
- 120 gr almond meal
- half a teaspoon vanilla extract
- juice and zest of 1,5 lemons
For the topping:
- 2 oranges (or 3 lemons)
- 330 gr caster sugar
- 250 ml water
The tart base:
- With a hand-held mixer whisk butter until creamy. Add flour and rub it into the butter in between your palms to obtain a crumbly mixture. Make a well in the centre, add egg, powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
- With a hand-held mixer or your hand, blend everything together to form a smooth and soft dough. Roll the dough into a ball. Flour your hands if the dough doesn't come off easily. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 180 C/350 F. On a clean, dusted surface, roll the dough into a disk slightly larger than the base of the tart tin. With the help of a spatula, place the dough loosely on the baking tin and press gently into the bottom and the sides.
- Pierce a dozen of holes in the bottom of the dough with a fork. Line the base with a grease-proof paper and put a handful of dried chickpeas or beans for weight. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Leave to cool at room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F.
- Beat eggs and sugar for 4-5 minutes until light and creamy.
- Fold in almond meal, vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest.
- Pour the filling onto the tart base. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. To tell if the pie is baked, insert a toothpick into the tart. If it comes out clean, it's done.
- Slice oranges in 2mm slices. (If using lemons, remove seeds).
- Put sugar and water in a sauce pan, occasionally tilting the pan in circular motion until the sugar melts. Add oranges and simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce thickens and oranges get a darker color.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly. (The caramel will solidify if cooled completely. Heat it up slightly before use.) Decorate the cake with oranges and drizzle the caramel on top. Serve the tart at room temperature or chilled.