Heart Shaped Foodstuff Day

Pip and I really got into the spirit of things this Valentine's Day. Traditionally, we make some variety of heart-shaped food. This year, we made two varieties. It's sweet that Pip seemed even more excited about this prospect this time around than I did. My love of schmaltz is clearly infectious!

I dressed for the occasion, all in red.



My embroidered 1960s shift dress is a hand me down from my friend, fellow artist and vintage aficionado Kat.

My cherry bomb pom pom earrings (which are quite the conversation piece!) are from Frilly Pops.

My red suede and white off-white saddle shoes are reproduction 40s/50s from Morello's.

Our main course was a heart shaped spinach, halloumi, feta and pine nut pie.



Rustic Greek Pie Recipe

Ingredients

200g fresh spinach

1 block of readymade shortcrust pastry (terrible, I know)

3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

150g halloumi, roughly chopped in small chunks

120g feta, crumbled in chunks

60ml cream

2 eggs

A good few handfuls of pine nuts

A good pinch of fresh or dried oregano (or mixed herbs)

Black pepper to season

Lemon wedges to serve

Method

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 6/200°C/400°C.

Put a few glugs of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heart. Add the garlic, and cook for a few minutes. Add all the spinach gradually, mixing with the garlic until it has all wilted down. Wipe the oil from the frying pan and add the pine nuts. Toast them for a few minutes until browned. (We forgot to do this and had to add them to the dish un-toasted!)

In a jug, whisk the eggs and add the cream.

Roll your shop bought (or made from scratch if you're not lazy cheats like us!) pastry block into a large thin oval shape. Use your hands to sculpt it into a heart. Transfer it to a baking tray and roll the sides up so that they are a good 4cm higher than the rest of the pastry, while still retaining the heart shape.

Using a spoon, spread the spinach and garlic mixture all over the inside of the pastry.

Scatter the crumbled halloumi and feta on top of the spinach and garlic mixture.

Pour the cream and egg mixture over the spinach and cheese. Sprinkle with pine nuts.

Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, until the pastry and cheese has become golden brown.

Cut yourselves half a heart each and serve with a wedge of lemon.


We also baked red velvet cheesecake brownies, a gloriously American dessert that we ate the majority of fresh, hot and squidgy straight from the oven! Unfortunately ours didn't turn out very red; possibly we used too much cocoa powder.


Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies Recipe

Ingredients

For the brownie layer:

115g butter

220g brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon red food colouring

1 teaspoon white vinegar

120g cocoa powder (we used Green & Black's, which is Fairtrade and organic! Yay!)

2 eggs, whisked

120g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

For the cheesecake layer:

230g cream cheese

55g brown sugar

1 egg, whisked

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/350°C.

Grease a small baking tray and line with baking paper.

Brownie Layer

In a small glass bowl suspended over a saucepan of boiling water, melt the butter for the brownies. When melted, tip into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, food colouring and vinegar, mixing between additions and making sure to add each ingredient in that order. Mix in the two whisked eggs. Sieve in the flour and mix until well combined. Pour mixture into the baking tray, keeping back a little to dollop on top once you have added the cheesecake layer.

Cheesecake Layer

In a bowl, blend together the cream cheese, sugar, whisked egg and vanilla extract until softened and slightly runny. Spread the cream cheese mixture in a layer over the layer of brownie mixture. Dollop the brownie mixture you kept back on top of the cream cheese layer, leaving plenty of room between each dollop.

Drag the tip of a knife between the cream cheese layer and the dollops of brownie mixture to create a flat, swirled surface. 

Bake for 30 minutes. Lift the baking paper with the brownies on top of it on to a wire rack to cool, and once cooled, cut into chunks. Or, in our case, scoff them all straight from the oven!

Our second heart shaped food of the day was a giant heart shaped raspberry jelly. We've got to be the only couple in their mid-twenties to have made a giant heart shaped raspberry jelly for Valentine's Day. To hell with champagne!

We scoured the high street for vegetarian jelly, and finally found some in Holland and Barrett. 


Giant Heart Shaped Raspberry Jelly Recipe

Ingredients

4 packets of vegetarian raspberry jelly crystals

Method

The instructions on the packet said simply to add a pint of boiling water, so we added each sachet to a jug and filled it up to a pint with the kettle, before pouring the mixture into our incredible heart shaped mold, which we got the first Valentine's we were together, and unfortunately is no longer stocked by IKEA!

Lift the mold carefully on to the plate and leave to set in the fridge for at least three hours. We garnished our jelly with Loveheart sweets and ate it with vanilla ice cream. Oh, to be six again!


Pip had roses delivered, which was a lovely surprise. I gave him a 1950s sweets-themed cheesy Valentine's card from my extensive collection, which you can just see peeking out in this Polaroid:













We rounded off our evening watching the wistfully harrowing (or harrowingly wistful?) Never Let Me Go, sipping sloe gin martinis and Leffe.


Sloe Gin Martini Recipe

Shake 3 parts sloe gin with 1 part dry vermouth and 4 dashes angostura bitters with ice. Serve in a chilled martini glass (mine had a red stem to match my outfit and the jelly!)



We spent the next morning at Jesse's Cafe, a gloriously kitsch greasy spoon with pink booths, offering everything from Cypriot sausages to cherry pie. We both opted for a fry up, but will certainly be back to try both. It's a gorgeous cafe (the crockery is so dainty, and emblazoned with "Jesse's Cafe"!) and so, so cheap.




I can't remember the last time I had such a lovely, chilled, delicious weekend. We're really going to have to pull out all the stops next year!





"Here Is My Heart" at the Pharmacy of Stories

Tonight I went along to the Here Is My Heart private view at the Pharmacy of Stories gallery in London Fields, Hackney. The Pharmacy of Stories describes itself as "a little storytelling Laboratory and gallery where we explore links between narrative and healing and how performance, installation and the art of making books can be combined."

Arriving at the gallery I had no idea what to expect of the evening but was very pleasantly surprised. As I arrived at the gallery a musician was playing a miniature keyboard and singing a song about Argentinian cows producing milk that is good for your heart! A "triage nurse" greeted me with a friendly "What's your emergency?" I told her that I had a heart to donate, and was immediately categorised as a high priority case. This meant that I could jump to the front of the queue for my "consultation".

The triage nurse then asked me to fill out a form on the condition of my heart;


and write a message in a bottle on my emotional state. Armed with bottle and form I approached the first curtain at the A&E, behind which was a "Flaminian accorn cardio therapist" (no, I have no idea what that means either... apparently the Via Flaminia was an ancient Roman road). The therapist asked me and the two other "patients" to do a number of exercises for her in order for her to assess our hearts' health. She asked us to copy her movements and tell her what we felt as we copied them. I felt excitable and anticipatory. Next, in an effort to "detox bottled up feelings" we began a collaborative dance and then threw our messages in bottles into a wishing well and made a wish.

After detoxing, I made my way to the X-Ray room.


Firstly, the radiologists asked me to drink some "heart contrast dye" (a shot!), as the previous x-ray of my heart was "cloudy" and they wanted to make sure that this time it showed up. They then ushered me into the X-Ray Centre and blindfolded me so that the radiation from the machine wouldn't blind me! Finally they encouraged me to press the "x-ray chalk" to the film and see how the x-ray of my heart turned out.


(I tried to write that my heart was "hopeful", but being blindfolded and attempting to write back-to-front conspired against me!)

(I promise it says "hopeful"!)

The radiologists compared the x-ray of my heart with my previous x-ray and concluded that my heart was "misplaced" (and possibly on the opposite side of my chest!)



The final stop on my trip to the A&E was to be to the "Marine Gastropod Molluscs" and "Cardio Memory Screenings" Departments. At this point, however, I met a "heart psychic", aka Tina, the night's organiser, donated my heart to the exhibition, and discussed a possible collaboration.


Tina the "heart psychic"

All in all, a very interesting, off-the-wall (but of course I'm used to that sort of thing, being a product of Dartington!)and relevant evening, and one which will, fingers crossed, bear fruit.

Stitch Therapy's My Heart Sings Like A Caged Bird, the piece which first introduced me to the Pharmacy of Stories and Here Is My Heart. Cheers Stitch Therapy!

Exhibition Venues/Here Is My Heart

Today I visited two possible venues in which to exhibit The Cure for Love; the 491 Gallery on Grove Green Road in Leytonstone,and The Mill in Coppermill Lane, Walthamstow.

The 491 Gallery was once a factory but is now an art squat; a home for squatters (or not technically squatters, as they pay a peppercorn rent to the building's owners, Transport for London) and an exhibition space for artists, including students from Central Saint Martins.


The Mill is a slightly different organisation (though I suppose both venues operate on similar community-based principals). Orginally the building that houses The Mill was Coppermill Lane Library. This was closed by the council and the plan was to turn it into a drug rehabilitation centre. However, local campaining meant that it eventually became what it is today; a community centre for local people.

Tomorrow I will be travelling to the Pharmacy of Stories gallery in Hackney, to participate in their show Here Is My Heart, in which hearts are given and recieved in "heart transplants"; very fitting for The Cure for Love!


This is the heart I will be taking along.

I find it interesting that it was originally the liver that was the symbol of love, and believed to be the seat of the passions in the body. The heart itself was believed to be the seat of the mind, and thus is (still) poetically linked to the soul.