The me I show to the world isn’t always the same as the private me. I know that, sometimes, people who think they know me, suppose my life is one big idyllic bubble. All baking and babies and countryside and long grass through which to trail my fingers.
And that is indeed part of my life, especially since our lawn mower breaks down often. But it’s also because I don’t always choose to share the more negative parts of my life publicly because I like to see the best in everything and I like to spread joy and comfort; not worry and misery.
I have this memory of being very young and being in the playground at primary school. I sometimes found playtimes hard but pretended, largely, that I didn’t. Mostly they were okay but not my favourite time: too disorganised, too sprawly and I didn’t have a best friend til way, way later with whom to buddy up.
The school bully (someone actually very troubled, I discovered lately) only once picked on me so I was never really bullied. That wasn’t the problem. But she invariably picked on someone and I thought “Jesus this playtime is just a free for all, where are the adults to help us?” (My mother is Neapolitan and in Naples no child is allowed to misbehave and everyone parents everyone else’s child.)
And then I remembered that Kizzy was on that afternoon and I got this surge of happiness (it was to be 30 years before I realised it was actually a surge of a hormone called oxytocin and for ages I thought I was the only one who experienced these physical surges of happiness). And I realised, right there and then, that life was about a series of episodes; pockets of good things and bad things and if you could just concentrate on the good things, the bad things could diminish. Mostly. And that Kizzy moment has never left me.
This week a much loved colleague from my years at the Independent on Sunday, died. She was also a friend that I’d known for twenty years. Someone that I hadn’t spoken to in a while, because I took it for granted that she’d always be there to catch up with. As you do. I won’t say anything else about her or what happened to her, because it will probably just make you anxious and think the world is a big, scary, place. And it isn’t. It’s mostly really good.
Clare read this blog avidly, although she never commented. Even in her last message to me just last Saturday she said “I’ve really loved your blog”. Because I can’t be absolutely sure that you can’t read the internet when you’re dead (I mean, come on, who knows?). I’m giving her a shout out here. Clare was a hopeless romantic and we shared many cosy, chatty evenings at her house in Crouch End when she lived in London. This is just the sort of tart we’d have made because it would have been lovely, and shown caring and thought, but not distracted us too far from the task in hand: putting the world to rights.
So here is an easy tart. Although usually, because I am a crashing, crashing snob about home made things, I would never entertain the thought of buying a home made pastry case, sometimes, it’s okay to. Buying the pastry case for this makes this so easy. And yet the result is glorious. I’ve put it here, today, because there are so many berries being picked right now and this is a lovely way to use them. It will make you feel good making it and even better eating it.
You need a ready made shortcrust pastry case, about…8 or 9 inches? They’re pretty standard size in the supermarkets.
3 tablespoons of lemon curd. Something artisan would be lovely
Half a teaspoon of vanilla essence
One tablespoon of icing sugar
300g berries, whatever you like
The syrupy topping (which isn’t essential):
Three tablespoons of caster sugar
The zest of half a lemon
Put your pastry case on a plate. Mix together the mascarpone, lemon curd, vanilla extract and the icing sugar until smooth and all homogenous. Spread it evenly over the pastry case. Chill for one hour. [Note: if you don’t have time and want to just assemble it all in one go, do, but you must then either leave the lemon syrup out of make sure it’s chilled, don’t pour it over hot!]
Meanwhile, make the syrupy topping which you do by putting the caster sugar and two tablespoons of water in a pan over a low heat. Let the sugar dissolve, increase the heat to boil for a few minutes (2-3). Remove from heat and add lemon zest. Cool completely.
When ready to serve put the berries on top (I find them nicer at room temperature), pour the syrup topping over the whole thing and serve.
Sorry I don’t have a pic of the actual tart, but above is a photo of wild blackberries picked this week.