All Good Wishes for a Very Happy 2020!

‘Hope’ is my word for 2020.

As we enter another new year, another decade, I look forward to seeing our trees grow, the garden flourish and our surrounding countryside recover from two severe drought years.

There IS always hope.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and may your gardens provide you with much pleasure and joy in the year 2020!

In a Vase on Monday: Hello Autumn!

The last day of summer was warm and mostly sunny – perfect for gathering some flowers for a vase to join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. 🙂

The first flower I chose was my Aster pringlei ‘Pink Star’ – a tall and airy plant with lots of colour impact in the butterfly bed. The Verbena bonariensis next to it went perfectly. Then I added some Miscanthus and Pennisetum, a Cranberry Cosmos, some silvery Artemisia foliage and a couple of sprigs of pink Gaura.

A second posy of autumny colours was placed on the picnic table  – we had a delicious barbecue dinner outside early evening, savouring every moment in the knowledge that it may be the last day warm enough to do that this year. The miniature beer glass contained a red zinnia, Tithonia, Chrysopsis, Borage, some yellow Achillea and my favourite Rudbeckia.  🙂 The first picture includes the papery remains of one of the small wasp nests we have had dotted all around the house, barn and garage – in autumn they just drop and are blown about in the wind before simply disintegrating. The wasps are peaceful and have not disturbed us at all, even when eating outside.

Despite the days getting noticeably shorter and the nights much cooler (just above freezing recently with a light frost last week) the garden still has much to offer. I wonder if you are also happy to see the heat of summer fading and the golden autumn days arriving – it is my favourite season and has got off to a good start with some light rain, although a good downpour would be more welcome!

Happy Autumn!

 

World Vegan Day 2017 and a Fabulous Sponge Cake

After a rather busy start to the week I spent Tuesday lamenting the demise of the garden after our first frost of the year. But today I am celebrating…

Why? Well, the first day of November is not normally a reason for celebration in our part of the world. In Germany, for example, it is a national holiday where people commemorate those who have died and visit their family graves. And for gardeners here November is a dreary month too, with the dreaded onset of frosty weather and the approach of winter.

And yet for me today stands out in the calendar as it is World Vegan Day! According to figures from the German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung)  there are now over 800,000 vegans in Germany, and research in Britain claims almost 550,000 people in the UK are vegan too. Now that is a very good excuse to celebrate so I have baked a fabulous vegan cake to share with you!

After trying so many recipes for a basic sponge cake, I was over the moon when I finally found the perfect one on the Vegan Recipe Club website, which is the recipe reservoir put together by Viva!, the British group promoting animal rights and a vegan diet.

Here is the link to the original lemony recipe: Our Favourite Sponge Cake

And here is my vanilla version…

The Best Vegan Sponge Cake Ever

For the sponge you will need:

  • 175g (1 and 1/2 sticks) vegan butter (I use ‘Alsan bio’. Find a UK or US brand here)
  • 175g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 330g (generous 2 and 1/2 cups) SR flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 330ml (1and 1/3 cups) plain soya yoghurt (I use the zero sugar sort)
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal mixed with 3 tbsp warm water)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 vanilla beanpod

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F, grease and flour two 20cm/8 inch cake tins.

2. Melt the butter then add the sugar. Mix in well till the sugar has partially dissolved. Set aside.

3. Sieve the flour, baking powder, soda and salt into a bowl. Rub in the vanilla bean with your finger tips. Add the butter/sugar mixture, yoghurt, flax egg and vanilla essence. Gently fold in until you get a soft dropping consistency and the flour is incorporated. If it isn’t soft enough, add a splash of non-dairy milk.

4. Spoon the cake mix into the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until risen and golden. Test by inserting a sharp knife or toothpick into the centre of each cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. If not, return to the oven for another 5-7 minutes. Let the cakes cool completely before removing them from their tins. Carefully place them upside down on a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.

5. For the filling, spread jam of your choice on one of the cakes. (You can also spread buttercream on the other cake – see recipe below*) Put the cakes together like a sandwich. Sprinkle a little icing sugar on the top and decorate as you like.

* For the buttercream filling: Mix 125g sieved icing sugar, 75g vegan butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla essence and a tiny splash of non-dairy milk until creamy.

I do hope you will try this vegan recipe. If you would like more inspiration, there are others on my recipe page (see above), all vegetarian and many vegan!

Happy Baking! 😉

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Amarena Brownies for World Vegan Month

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Yes, it IS possible to make delicious vegan brownies without eggs and butter!

As promised, here is the recipe in my November ‘World Vegan Month’ series, and it is in fact relatively healthy compared to most other brownie recipes I have tried… relatively. 😉

The twist to these particular brownies is the amarena cherries I used – the sort that come in syrup in a small jar. They are incredibly sweet and have a lovely slightly almondy flavour. If you can’t find them, try using an alternative syrup and ordinary tinned cherries.

Vegan Chocolate Amarena Brownies

(in a heart-shaped tin, just because! 😉

Dry ingredients:

  • 150g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour (I use one third wholemeal)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 50g (1/4 cup) raw cane sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla sugar or 1tsp vanilla essence

Wet ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps syrup from the amarena cherry jar
  • 2 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 150ml (2/3 cup) sparkling mineral water
  • 50g (1 3/4 oz) vegan dark chocolate, melted in a bain marie
  • About 10-12 amarena cherries

Grease and flour a 15 x 15 cm (6 x 6 inch) baking tin (or a heart-shaped one 😉 )

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350° F.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Stir the syrup, oil and water together and mix in, whisking lightly with a fork. Fold in the melted chocolate. Pour into the baking tin and spread evenly. Scatter the cherries on the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Leave in the tin until completely cool, then turn out, sprinkle with a little icing sugar if you like, and slice. Serves 8.

Delicious with vegan whipped cream! 😉

 

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Enjoy!

(I dare you to resist!) 😉