In a Vase on Monday: Sugar and Lemons

Tomorrow is Pancake Day in the UK, and although the tradition of eating thin crepe-style pancakes on Shrove Tuesday does not seem to exist anywhere else in the world I have always made them wherever I have been – even when I lived in Japan I had a pancake party!

The traditional topping for these pancakes is lemon juice and sugar. Yes, there are plenty of other things you can put on your pancake, but not on Pancake Day. You can have maple syrup, nutella, bananas, etc any time of year. But tomorrow it’s simply lemon juice and sugar; the inspiration for the title for my vase this week…

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Every Monday I join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden with her lovely meme where we are asked to find something from our garden and bring it indoors. Two days ago my first golden (lemony) crocus opened (Yippee!), so I knew I would have to bring some indoors.

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The tiniest ‘vase’ I could find was a miniature salt sellar, and since I had two I decided to pick a few (sugary) snowdrops too, which also immediately opened once brought into the warm house. There are only a few – most are still too small to pick.

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But these are not the only flowers I have this week. About three weeks ago I cut some Ribes sanguineum, remembering that when it is forced the normally deep pinky red flowers are white. In the course of the last week they have opened…

And another Amaryllis opened two days ago too – Amaryllis ‘Blossom Peacock’. A real beauty with a lovely straight stem.

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I shall do a round-up of all my Amaryllis/Hippeastrums once they have all flowered. So far I have had one or two flowering constantly since November. 🙂

Until Friday it had rained practically all week, so having flowers indoors is very cheering. I am looking forward to seeing a few more of my spring bulbs emerge this week, but first I am looking forward to my pancakes tomorrow. What will you have on yours? Sugar and lemon juice?

😉

Sweet Flower Bread

Our Christmas cookies all disappeared pretty rapidly in December, so on Christmas Eve I made a sweet bread to go with our afternoon cup of tea – after all, the afternoon of Christmas Eve is traditionally a time for the festivities to begin here in Germany.

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It is easy to make and absolutely delicious!

Here is how I made it:

Sweet Flower Bread

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In a large bowl sieve together 300g (2 and 2/5 cups) strong flour, 100g (4/5 cup) plain flour, 100g (4/5 cup) wholemeal flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar and 1 packet instant dried yeast (2 tsps)

Stir in 325 ml (1 and 1/3 cups) lukewarm water and 2 tbsps olive oil and mix to form a ball.

Put on a floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Now place the dough in a clean bowl, and coat in a little oil. Cover with a tea towel and leave it in a warm place  to rise – a couple of hours should be long enough.

While the dough is rising you can make the filling. I used 200g (7 oz or 1 and 1/3 cups) finely chopped mixed nuts, 50g (1/4 cup) golden caster sugar and 50g (1/4 cup) brown sugar, 75g (2/3 stick) margarine (or butter), the zest of an orange, a few glace cherries cut into small pieces, and some spices – 1tsp cardamom, 1tsp cinnamon and 1tsp allspice. But you can add chocolate chips or omit the spices, whatever you fancy! Mix the ingredients together so you have a thick paste.

When the dough has risen, punch it to remove the excess air (my favourite part!) and divide into three portions. Now is the also time to preheat your oven to 225° C/425°F. Roll out each piece of dough into a circle about 35cm/14in in diameter. One circle will be your base, so place the other two to one side and cover them for now. The base needs to be placed on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking tray. Now spread it with half of your filling. Put the second circle of dough on top and press down lightly. Spread the rest of the filling on top. Finally place the third disc on top and press down lightly.

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To make the flower pattern place a dish or large cup (about 10cm/4in diameter) in the centre but do not press it down! From the dish outwards you now slice the bread into 16 pieces, just as you would cut up a normal cake but obviously without the middle. Remove the dish.

Take two pieces/’slices’ in your hands and lift slightly. Twist the right-hand piece over to the right, TWICE, and the left-hand piece to the left, TWICE. It is easiest to do this with both hands at the same time. Then tuck the ends underneath to tidy it up a bit. Repeat with the other pieces. It really doesn’t matter if the filling spills out a bit as that makes it look so pretty when it is baked! Brush with a little soya cream or milk (optional), sprinkle a few sliced almonds on top and  place in the hot oven for approximately 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it and remove it when it is golden brown all over.

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Delicious served warm, warmish and cold too. This bread can be adapted for any occasion, and I have even made a savoury version before, using homemade tomato sauce and pesto for the filling. I am going to try it with just herbs and garlic soon. 🙂

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Enjoy!

A Very Short Day

To mark this short day I found a lovely, if somewhat sober sonnet by Edmond Holmes, from ‘The Triumph of Love’ collection, which I would like to share with you.

Like as the thrush in winter, when the skies
Are drear and dark, and all the woods are bare,
Sings undismayed, till from his melodies
Odours of Spring float the frozen air, –
So in my heart when sorrow’s icy breath
Is bleak and bitter and its frost is strong,
Leaps up, defiant of despair and death,
A sunlit fountain of triumphant song.
Sing on, sweet singer, till the violets come
And south winds blow; sing on, prophetic bird!
Oh if my lips, which are for ever dumb,
Could sing to men what my sad heart has heard,
Life’s darkest hour with songs of joy would ring;
Life’s blackest frost would blossom into Spring.

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The winter solstice occurred here in Germany at 5.48am this morning. I was not up to experience the moment, although I doubt very much if anything would have marked the moment anyway. Since it is, quite simply, just a moment – albeit a moment many of us have been waiting for – and it is over in a tick and leaves that little itch of a thought behind… Yes, the days will not become noticeably longer for a couple of weeks yet, but they ARE getting longer. And do you sense that tinge of excitement at the thought of snowdrops, daffodils and tulips popping up in the garden to greet the spring?

We haven’t had winter yet though, so I mustn’t count my chickens…

I had in fact been looking forward to a snowy winter, but now I think I may be happier to forego snow and ice and skip straight ahead to the March winds and April showers! I have been reading how the winter appears to be just as mild in most of the US and UK too. And John at A Walk in the Garden in North Carolina has already spotted some daffodils in flower! Have you seen any daffodils yet?

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Whatever the weather, I wish you all a very happy and harmonious Christmas, full of all the things you wished for. And I look forward to seeing you in the New Year to share another year of my garden and kitchen with you and to be delighted by all your wonderful posts too.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Cookies: Linzer Cookies (Vegan)

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A novelty twice over for me – not only are they the first Linzer Cookies I have ever made, they are also my first vegan Christmas cookies – and I am absolutely delighted with the results!

I must give all the credit for the recipe to a wonderful vegan cook and baker, Stina Spiegelberg. Her blog Vegan Passion is also written partly in English, so please do go and visit her. Even better, if you know some German then buy one of her books. I bought her Vegan Xmas cookbook recently and have tried her delicious non-cheese “cheescake” (Zupfkuchen) already too.

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Stina, you have made my first vegan Christmas a delight!

Linzer Cookies

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  • 4-5cm round cookie cutter and small cookie cutters for the centres
  •  460g (3 and 3/4 cups) wholemeal (spelt) flour
  • 80g (1/2 cup) ground hazelnuts
  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 250g (about 2 sticks and 2 tbsps) vegan butter
  • 4 tbsps soya milk
  • 200g (7 oz) raspberry jam/jelly (I prefer the seedless jelly 😉 )

Mix all the ingredients together except for the jam. Add the soya milk at the end as you bring the dough together to form a smooth ball. Then chill it for at least 30 minutes, wrapped in clingfilm.

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F and line large baking trays with greaseproof paper. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 3mm thickness. Cut out circles using a 4-5cm cookie cutter. In half of the circles cut out tiny hearts, stars etc from the centre. You are aiming to make about 50 cookies.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Don’t let them get too brown! Let them cool on a rack and then spread the jam over the bottom halves and gently press the top halves onto them. You need about a third to a half a teaspoon per cookie.

The jam filling does mean that they go a little soft after a day or two, but they still taste wonderful and can be kept for a couple of weeks in an airtight tin.

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Have you done any Christmas baking yet?

 

 

In a Vase on Monday: Sunshine and Sand

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I bought a dear little yellow bucket on impulse last week, and have been wondering what would look good in it. The Cosmos mixes I sowed this spring are gorgeous, and I have several pots of them in front of our living room window. The Shasta Daisies have also flowered well this year. So putting these two flowers together just made me think of long stretches of sandy beaches lined with colourful beach huts.

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Golden sand and sunshine!

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Makes me want to run along the beach and feel the hot sand between my toes, then jump into the ocean! (It’s been hot here!)

Well, that won’t be happening, as the nearest beach would be a 6-hour drive or so! 😉

Are you going to a beach this summer?

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Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting the In a Vase on Monday meme. Why not join in and pick something from in or near your garden to put in a vase? It’s fun and you might just get addicted and find yourself looking forward to Mondays as much as I do!

😀