Three walnut trees

Outside it is grey, wet and windy. Weather that suits the fall. Yet it is almost spring.

I'm sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of warm winter tea and craving something sweet.

The wind squeezes in between the cracks in the window frames. I feel drafts down my legs, the joys of living in an old house.

I think about our little country.

Not long ago we were able to buy the plot of land next to our house. The flag went out! A sloppy one and a half thousand square meters, destinationless and overgrown by blackberries. So roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Meanwhile we know that no herb has been washed against blackberries. No clever tricks or "grandma knows what to do"-like tips, but just shovel into the ground and dig out that mess. And the weekend after that and the weekend after that again and…

In addition to blackberries, there are also three fantastic walnut trees on the land. Their generosity is known for miles around, we found out.

A sunny afternoon in September. Two cyclists, electrically assisted. The middle-aged lady hops resolutely from her bicycle into the garden “Uhh, what's happening here?”, partner asks cautiously.

“We come every year,” the lady replies, “to collect walnuts.”

Partner explains that we bought the land and that is why some sort of hedge is under construction. Madam does not listen to this. She has been coming to this no man's land for years, so she thinks she has old rights.

After a bit of sputtering and incensed, she finally lets herself out of the garden and back on her bike to talk.

A sunny Sunday morning not much later. We see a car stop. A Mediterranean family gets out. Resolutely, the overhanging branches are taken in hand and shaken vigorously from side to side. Plastic bags are brought out and filled at a rapid pace. We are surprised to watch it for a moment. When asked what is happening here, a broad smile breaks out on the face of the paterfamilias. He works nearby and every year he harvests his walnuts here for the baklava that his wife will be making.

He is downright taken aback when he understands that we are the new owners. Then suddenly a twinkle in his eye. What if he later brings us baklava? We'll tack and let them do their thing for a while.

After that, we ourselves are sweet for days with bringing in the harvest. There are nuts in containers all over the house. From the scullery to the living room you only come by hopscotch. When the sun peeps through the clouds, I drag the bins to the roof terrace to dry.

I look forward to authentic baklava. But nothing comes.

Until three quarters of a year later, suddenly a knock on the open back door. There stands the Mediterranean nut picker with a broad smile and a bag containing the long-promised delicacy.

My tea is finished. Our country is calling. But it will have to wait a while because in the meantime it has started to rain even harder.

The thermostat is turned up a degree and only one activity possible: making walnut cake!

Tip from Francis:

Here is my recipe for this delicious cake. Can hardly go wrong. Enjoy!


For the dough:

150 grams of cold butter –

1 small egg –

90 grams of sugar –

240 grams of flour –

pinch of salt

For the filling:

175 ml whipped cream

50 ml honey

pinch of salt

250 gr sugar

50ml water

300 g walnuts, coarsely chopped

Place all ingredients for the dough in a bowl and knead into a cohesive dough. Do not knead for too long: as soon as you can form a ball from the dough, it is good. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile make the filling. Place the cream, honey and a pinch of salt in a pan and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, put the sugar and water in a high saucepan and bring to a boil without stirring to the boil. Let the sugar syrup boil to a golden caramel. Don't stir it, but stick with it. If the caramel becomes too dark, it is no longer edible. Pour the hot whipping cream over the caramel (note: this will splash and fizz a lot) and stir until all the caramel has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, stir the walnuts into the caramel filling and let everything cool down to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. fat one springform pan of 24 centimeters in diameter with butter and line the bottom with a piece of baking paper. Knead the dough briefly and roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of about 4 millimeters. Cover the bottom and the side (halfway) of the springform with this. Divide the filling over the dough and press it down gently.

Bake the walnut pie for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.












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