A couple of years ago I made a wonderful discovery. There were some left over chickpeas in the fridge, a few nuts that needed using up, one lonely carrot, and some stale wholemeal bread! What could I make for dinner? Well, with a few additions I invented these carrot patties…

… christened thereafter “Carrot Schnitzels“!

The flavours go so well together, and these are both filling AND healthy! They are also a year-round store-cupboard favourite. Serve with a nice crispy salad.

The recipe is more than enough for two people, but leftovers taste fantastic cold the next day.

Carrot Schnitzels

  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 slices wholemeal bread (75g)
  • 75g cashew nuts
  • 75g drained chickpeas (tinned – about half a tin)
  • 60g parmesan or cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg
  • (Wholemeal) flour for coating
  • A little oil for frying
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs, 1 tsp coriander, salt and black pepper

In a chopper/blender, whiz bread and nuts to fine breadcrumbs. Place in a large mixing bowl. Now whiz onion and carrot and add to bowl. Finally whiz parmesan and chickpeas and add to bowl. Add herbs and seasoning. Mix everything thoroughly and then stir in beaten egg and mash together. Chill for 30 mins.

With the help of a dessert spoon, form into rissoles and coat in flour. Heat the oil in a large frying pan – not too hot – and fry, pressing a little flatter with the spatula to cook right through, until golden brown on both sides. Makes about 10 schnitzels.

Vanilla, Vanilla


Where would we be without vanilla – vanilla ice cream, custard, vanilla fudge and vanillekipferl would simply not exist! I love vanilla. Its warmth and aroma is rich and pure.

Did you know the vanilla plant is an orchid?  In fact Vanilla is a genus of orchid, with over 100 species. The best known one used for flavouring is the Vanilla planifolia. This plant is native to Central America, and was treasured by the Aztecs,  but by the early 19th century had already been taken to Indonesia, the Bourbon islands, Tahiti and Madagascar.

Today it is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron. Why?

Well, in its original habitat of Mexico it is pollinated by the Melipone bee. However, when removed to Indonesia these natural pollinators were lacking. This means pollination has to be done by hand, inserting a small stick into each and every individual flower. The seedpods are harvested several months later and cured; first they are dried in the sun, then wrapped in woollen blankets to ferment. They must dry out completely before the pods can be stored in airtight boxes to develop the aroma…  All this is, of course, a very labour-intensive and therefore costly procedure.

Bourbon vanilla (Vanilla planifolia), is the term used for vanilla produced in the Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar and Réunion (the Bourbon Islands).

Mexican vanilla (the real thing!) is also made from vanilla planifolia.

Tahitian vanilla (Vanilla tahitiensis) is from French Polynesia and is possibly a hybrid-cross of Vanilla planifolia and Vanilla odorata. Apparently it is slightly sweeter and more floral.

What we buy for baking is usually labeled Bourbon or Madagascan in the form of vanilla sugar, vanilla extract, or vanilla pods.

Personally I prefer the seed pods… I can be 100 percent sure it is real vanilla, it’s alcohol-free, and I can make my own vanilla sugar out of it.

The flavour of the vanilla bean pod is most definitely better and more rounded than any other form I have ever used.

A couple of favourite vanilla recipes will be coming up soon!

Corydalis Party

(Click on the photos to see these wonderful flowers in all their glory!)

I love this plant! Somehow I associate it with Edwardian ladies in long dresses, with white gloves and parasols! It must be the pale pastel colours and the fine, delicate foliage!

The German name “Lerchensporn” comes from the translation of the Greek “Korydalis”, and means “lark spur”, as its dainty flower is apparently reminiscent of a lark’s crest.

Corydalis cava

This wild corydalis flowers from mid- to late March, forming beautiful carpets of colour in our open woodlands by the river; purply red and pink, creamy yellow and white.  Such a beautiful sight before there is much other greenery around.


Corydalis solida ‘GP Baker’

I have several of these pinky red specimens in my garden – all in dappled shade until mid-April, when the sun moves round and climbs above our trees. Apart from the lovely flower, which speaks for itself, the soft pale green leaves are an extra attraction. It is a brief splash of colour, fading quickly in warm weather, but lasting a good two weeks in damp and cool springs.


Corydalis lutea

I also have this sunny yellow version, which flowers from April-May right through till early autumn. (My own photos will follow as soon as it flowers!) With delicate and attractive pale silvery-green foliage, it is also a favourite of mine. It seems happiest in semi-shade, but looks good in the full sun too. It seeds itself profusely – in cracks in the wall, between paving, anywhere in fact!

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

My 200th Post! (And a German Osterkranz)

Today I am celebrating my 200th post!

I’ve been blogging for just over six months now, and it has sustained me through a difficult winter. (My Irish wolfhound – the love of my life – has been quite poorly, and we have been confined to the house and garden since November.)

Not only writing, but reading other blogs has brought me immense pleasure and has inspired me in so many ways. I am extremely grateful to all those who read my blog and to fellow bloggers too. Thanks for the comments and for all the wonderful posts!

To mark this occasion a recipe of course!


I think the best translation for Osterkranz is “Easter Bread”. It is a very simple, light and only slightly sweet plaited bread with curd cheese (quark), but no yeast, in the dough. (If you have a really sweet tooth it can be sliced and spread with jam). It has slowly become a tradition for me to make it shortly before Easter, as a modest treat during Lent. And, as a good “Hausfrau”, I have to have something to offer my neighbours when they come for coffee on a Sunday afternoon! 😉


  • 400 g self-raising flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 200 g quark (curd cheese)
  • 6 +1 tbsps milk
  • 6 tbsps oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 80 g sugar
  • 2 tbsps vanilla sugar
  • Decoration if required (see picture)

Mix the quark with 6 tbsps milk, the oil, egg, sugar and vanilla sugar. Sieve the flour, baking powder and soda and stir half into quark mixture. Mix well. Add rest of flour and stir gently until thoroughly mixed. Preheat oven to 180°C and grease a baking tray.

Divide the dough into three, and on a floured surface form each into a 50cm long roll. Place on the baking tray now, and plait the rolls on the baking tray (Easier than trying to transfer the whole thing later!) Form the plait into a ring. Mix the last tbsp milk with the egg yolk and brush over the bread.

Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Please help yourself to a piece… there’s enough for everyone!


Word of the Day/British Humour

Pun (noun)

  • the usually humorous use of a word that has two meanings, or of words with the same sound but different meanings.
  • e.g. Anne has been a pilot for a some time now, but last year her career really took off.

Trying to translate puns into a foreign language hardly ever works. I am not good at telling jokes, but when I have made the effort to relay one in English to German students, I am frequently met with blank faces and perhaps a polite grin seconds later! A classic example was a vocabulary activity involving ambiguous newspaper headlines such as “Drunk gets nine months in violin case”, or “Crash course for private pilots”, etc.

The English language lends itself to the use of puns in jokes and comedy, satire or simply for the sheer pleasure of letting them roll off the tongue. They are often worthy of a groan, sometimes a giggle…

Shakespeare was a master of the pun. But I’m not going to quote Shakespeare. I’ve got a more modern example… This is an absolute classic, worthy of more than a giggle. (It has me laughing my head off!)

The Two Ronnies: Four Candles Sketch

Have a good laugh! 😀

Cheese and Potato Pie

Mum’s Cheese and Potato Pie

Whenever I’m at my parents’ house we often end up having this for dinner – an old family favourite. It is quick to prepare, light enough for a spring lunch and still truly comforting; the type of dish that cannot be altered or added to without spoiling its simplicity. My Mum claims not to have a recipe, but my sister wrote it down once and passed it on to me. I still have the original hand-written copy!

Cheese and Potato Pie

  • 700g new (“waxy”) potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 275ml milk
  • 125g grated cheese (cheddar, parmesan, or something tasty)
  • Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 180°C

Peel and slice potatoes and parboil for about 5 minutes. Drain and cool slightly. Butter an ovenproof dish and layer the potato and grated cheese alternately, ending with cheese. Beat eggs and milk together, adding seasoning. Pour over potatoes.

Cover dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil, stir the potatoes from the outside to middle to ensure even setting, and cook uncovered for a further 20-25 minutes.

Serve with fresh bread, grilled tomatoes, or green salad.

Flowery Words (Part Two)

Viola odorata

Did you know that violets are Cleistogamous?

There’s a good word for you!

Who was listening in biology lessons at school?

I was, really, but we didn’t cover this. I’m sure!

While reading about the origin of the name for violets in this cute little book “100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names” by Diana Wells, she mentioned that they produce a set of self-pollinating flowers later in the year…

I had not heard of this before. I have since found out the following:

Some flowers, especially violas and peas, beans etc. are able not only to produce large, early, showy flowers bursting with nectar to attract insects to pollinate them, but they also produce self-pollinating flowers. They are cleistogamous.

These second flowers are smaller and less significant, since their aim is to conserve energy. They do not need to be boldly visible for insects, and they do not need to produce nectar. In fact they do not even need to open, since these inconspicuous bisexual flowers can literally pollinate alone. And the seed production is extremely high.

Why does this happen? Well, if conditions are harsh these plants need to ensure they will produce the maximum number of seeds possible. It’s a matter of self-preservation;  a super back-up system in case pollination was sparse first time round!

A “side-effect” perhaps is the prevention of cross pollination… interesting for the agricultural sector indeed, such as when modifying soya beans genetically. For a violet, however, this may simply mean less genetic diversity.

Viola odorata ‘Sulphurea’