Elderflower Pancakes (vegan)

If Elder (Sambucus nigra) grows in your part of the world you may be seeing the frothy white flowers this week or even enjoying a whiff of the heady fragrance. For us the elderflowers are a little earlier than usual. Time to make cordial, perhaps some sorbet, and definitely pancakes. ‘Hollerkiachl’ as they are called in Bavaria. 😃

We are lucky and have several trees/shrubs directly on our doorstep and in our lane, away from traffic and foraging passers-by!

First I made the pancake batter. Here is my recipe for about 8 small pancakes:

  • 200g (1 3/5 cups) flour
  • Pinch of baking powder
  • 2tsps sugar
  • 425 ml (1 4/5 cups) almond milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 ‘veg eggs’ or 1 large tbsp soya flour mixed with a little water

Whisk all the ingredients together to make a smooth batter. Leave to stand while you cut your elderflowers.

The best time here to cut elderflowers is late morning on a still and sunny day. The aroma seems to be at its peak then. You will need about 8 -10 flowerheads, one for each pancake. (It depends on their size so cut a few extra if you aren‘t sure.) Shake off any flies and beetles. Bring them indoors and shake again over the sink, then place on a yellow surface. This attracts any remaining tiny flies to crawl out.

Heat a little sunflower oil in a pancake pan. Dip an elderflower head in the batter, holding it by the stalk, and drop it in the pan with an extra tablespoon or two of batter.

You can now cut off as much of the stalk as possible so you can turn the pancake once you see little bubbles forming. Fry until golden brown on both sides, and sprinkle with a little sugar. Continue until you have used up all the batter.

Enjoy!

 

The Ice Saints, May 2020

Modern art, you may ask?

No, it’s a young Gingko tree, given to us by friends when we moved here, and wrapped up in garden fleece!

In Germany the final frosts of the year according to ancient folk sayings are mid-May, on the four Saint‘s Days from 12th to 15th May. And until today they are surprisingly accurate. Last night the 11th-12th was Saint Pankratius and we had a couple of degrees of frost. Tonight is Saint Servatius and temperatures could drop below zero again… a nightmare for gardeners who have been tempted by an exceedingly mild and warm April and early May to plant up pots of Pelargoniums and vegetables and sow annuals…

The Cold Frame

Thank goodness for garden fleece and various bits of packing materials saved for wrapping up sensitive plants. And for our trolley, which came in handy for gathering up these pots to put under cover for the night.

The zucchini and butternut are in pots this year as the ongoing drought deterred us from starting a vegetable bed again this spring. Maybe next year… In the meantime, it means wrapping up pots overnight. These looked a bit peaky this morning when I took the photo, but by the afternoon they had perked up, albeit with some slight leaf damage despite the fleece wrapping.

With our greenhouse plans also postponed for at least another year, I invested in this mini patio greenhouse. It has been worthwhile, with room for twelve trays. And with a bit of garden fleece it stays above freezing overnight. It was delivered in a trillion pieces though, so don’t ask how long it took me to put it together! 😫

At the beginning of our lockdown in mid-March I panicked a bit and worried I would not get any tomato plants, as even if our garden centres ever opened again there would be a rush for them. So I ordered a mix of tomato seeds from a Russian lady not far from us who has a private nursery and usually sells young plants in spring. They are all old varieties brought over from Russia by her parents, and so are not EU certified (so I can‘t eat them… 🤪🤣😉) and ALL of them germinated! So I now have 28 healthy young plants and cannot give them away as I can‘t visit anyone! I think I will be spending all summer watering…

Tomatoes, Tithonia, Sunflowers, salad leaves and a couple of leftover zucchini plants

Some dahlia tubers freshly planted in pots were brought indoors, as were my Lemon Verbena plants. I have been coddling these darlings, bringing them indoors every night.

I love lemon verbena tea and dry the leaves so I can enjoy it all year round. Last year my plants did not thrive and I had to ration my remaining tea. I hope this year I can refill my stock. 😀

The last of our Ice Saints is the dreaded ‘kalte Sophie’, cold Saint Sophia on the 15th, and it looks like that might be our last frosty night…. I do hope so as the wrapping up and unwrapping is getting a bit ridiculous!

How do you cope with late frosts? Is there a specific date for the last ones where you live?

🌷❄️🌷

Homemade Potato Soup and Life in January

It tends to go a bit quiet here in January at Words and Herbs, with frosty days and chill winds keeping the gardener indoors. But inside it is warm and my kitchen is welcoming.

And with January also becoming known as Veganuary in the UK (and anywhere else?) I simply can‘t let the month pass without posting a recipe or two.

😃

If you haven‘t heard of Veganuary, it is basically a month of vegan eating to get the new year off to a healthy start – and to promote a vegan lifestyle. Magazines are full of ideas for new vegans or for people who simply want to try out a plant-based diet. For old vegans like me I find the magazines rather repetitive and full of time-consuming recipes using trendy ingredients that are either unavailable in our part of the world or out of season or horribly expensive!

So here is a simple and delicious recipe using ingredients you probably have in your pantry already, created at the request of my Man of Many Talents who grew potatoes for the first time last year. (They were a big success – here is one of our harvests!)

I hoped to make the soup like his Mum used to, but I believe she must have used celeriac, which I have never tried – I substitute with a parsnip. 😉 If you see soup recipes in German they usually say ‚Suppengrün‘ which is typically pieces of vegetables like this, sold in our supermarkets in bunches:

My version comes pretty close to the original though. Please let me know what you think if you try it. It has become a favourite in our house!

German Potato Soup

You will need:

  • 1 kg potatoes (any sort will do!), peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 parsnip, chopped
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs (and 1tsp of marjoram if you have any)
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • A good glug of olive oil

Heat the oil in a very large saucepan and sauté the onions and leek until nice and soft. Add all the other vegetables and put the lid on for a few minutes. Add the stock and herbs (save the parsley for just before serving) and simmer gently until the vegetables are cooked through – about 20 or 25 minutes. Allow to cool a little. Now the important part!. We like whole pieces of vegetables in our soup, but with a creamy consistency too, so I take my hand blender and pulse very briefly to break down some of the larger chunks of potato.

Add the chopped parsley (and chives go well too) and stir through. Serve with crusty bread, pretzels, crisps or croûtons. 😜

Enjoy!

P.S. I usually make an extra large pot of this soup and freeze some for a rainy day. 😉

 

 

 

In a Vase on Monday: Midsummer

This Monday is Midsummer’s Day, St John’s Day or in Germany ‘Johannistag’, still celebrated in smaller communities with bonfires or beacons and perhaps a party too.

I am celebrating it with flowers – in a vase of course, as it is Monday! And on Mondays gardeners from far and wide join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to put materials plucked from their gardens or foraged locally into a vase to share. 🙂

Our meadow and the perimeters of the garden are full of summer flowers and they seemed so appropriate for Midsummer’s Day.

I’m not sure I can put a name to them all, but will try! There are still lots of the large Moon Daisies (Ox-Eye Daisies), but the other daisy-type white flowers are two different types of Chamomile and Fleabane. The clustered white flowers are Achillea…

… but sometimes the midsummer magic turns the Achillea pink… 😉

The purply pink flower is Centaurea (Knapweed) and the yellow flower next to it in the next photo is Bird’s-foot Trefoil…

Naturally a midsummer vase needs St. John’s Wort (Hypericum), which never fails to flower just in time for this date…

This tall flower bud hasn’t opened yet, but I think it is Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s Lace)…

A few snippets of perhaps not so useless information : according to tradition here, rhubarb and asparagus should not be picked after midsummer’s day. It is also traditionally the date when the mowing of meadows began, although often it is two or three weeks earlier these days. And also the date when I shall start watching out for glow worms. 🙂 (P.S. This evening we did indeed see the first ones on the edge of the garden near the woods. Midsummer magic. 🙂 )

I found a lovely Beth Chatto quote on the NGS website recently, which I find true on face value but today in particular on another level as well…

‘Grow contented plants and you will find peace among them.’

Worthy of thought.

Have a wonderful week, and if the heatwave in western Europe is headed your way too, stay cool! 😎

In a Vase on Monday: Christmas Eve

A dried up branch was spotted and retrieved from the floor of the woods some time ago and carefully tucked away in a corner of the garage. Then yesterday I brought it indoors, stuck it in a vase with some brown paper to keep it upright, added some greenery and then started unpacking my little baubles and bits and pieces to decorate it. Such a pleasing and relaxing activity, and satisfying too. My favourite little tree decorations have been collected mostly from Christmas markets over the years since living here – this will be my 25th Bavarian Christmas – and each bring back memories as I unwrap them from their tissue paper.

The standing angel was given to me by a student many years ago, the vase itself a gift from my Man of Many Talents when we still lived in a flat in the town centre! My goodness, that seems like a lifetime ago! We had a ten metre long balcony that overflowed with flowers and tomatoes each summer!

The red fairy was a gift from my sister, while the pretzel decoration was found on the Christmas market in Regensburg fairly recently. And the tiny little green Christmas tree bauble and the little green house bauble were bought with my Mum when she visited one Christmas – we visited so many markets over the years that she flew over in December!

Christmas is always full of memories for me, and I try and make new ones each year. This will be our first Christmas in the new house, where we seem to have settled permanently now. But my thoughts are already streaming ahead to next year and all the plans I have for the garden…

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful new gardening year! Thank you for reading, liking and commenting throughout 2018. And special thanks go to Cathy who has tirelessly hosted this Monday vase meme for another year.