Spring Shades

Two years ago, Mini-Kraut and I had great fun colouring our own eggs for Easter:

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Mini-Kraut is now more into more technical creations and I am lucky enough to be involved with our local community supported agriculture initiative where Gerhard, our “summer farmer” (who delivers organic, free range (i.e. normal!) eggs throughout the winter – his hens sometimes take their winter break in summer) – has hens who lay blue eggs:P1190772

Perfect for our Easter decor this year!

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And if you want to know what determines the colour of a hen’s eggshell, here’s the answer, click on the link: The Colour of a Hen’s Eggshell.

 

 

 

 

Spring in the South

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Orchards and groves: close relatives, worked, or working, trees, they occur throughout Europe as both rich habitats and heritage features in the landscape.

Meadow in May P1200053

 

 

 

 

 

I am paraphrasing Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University here – a man far more knowledgable than I on the misunderstood and threatened resources that are orchards and groves. (Orchards and Groves: Their History, Ecology, Culture and Archaeology, Landscape Archaeology and Ecology, Vol. 7, 2008, published by Wildtrack Publishing).

I do know how to appreciate them, though, and was privileged to be able to visit the almond, citrus and olive groves of southern Spain’s Andalusia at the beginning of March – a pre-season dose of spring for this traditional orchard fan(atic) from north of the Alps!

In fact, with elements of spring, summer and autumn all happening at once, it was a real feast for the senses!

Some almonds in blossom, some already fruiting, depending on location and elevation.

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Citrus, ripe for the picking and on your doorstep, literally…

Magnificent, majestic symbols of the heritage of which they form part: olive trees,

many still resplendent with olives as the harvest season draws to a close.

The feast for the senses continues at Malaga’s main food market: olives, almonds and so much more, by the bucket load!

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With many elements of local distinctiveness on offer too!

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Carrot Jam

This is a recipe that has grown out of a task I took on last autumn: volunteer vegetable photographer  for our community supported agriculture initiative here where we live in Germany. A nice gallery of veggie photos we have built up in the process too: Veggie Gallery.

And, while the orchard is enjoying its winter rest, I have been pickling and preserving my way through the produce 🙂

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Carrot Jam

 In the Orient a classic, for us, something different for the breakfast table

1kg carrots, peeled and grated

Zest and juice of 1 untreated lemon

Zest and juice of 2 untreated oranges

2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

½ tsp crushed cardamom seeds

500 g brown sugar

250 ml apple juice (naturally cloudy i.e. unfiltered)

 

  1. Combine the grated carrots with the sugar in a bowl, cover and leave to draw overnight.
  2. The next day, place the carrots and sugar in a large saucepan together with the remaining ingredients and stir over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, remove the lid and boil for 30 to 60 minutes until the liquid has reduced to the consistency of jam (test for a set if you want to be sure).
  4. Place in sterilised jars and seal immediately. Keeps for several months if stored in a cool, dark place.

 

Makes about 1.3 kg

The Return of the Light: A Gallery

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Imbolc 2017

“Lichtmess”, or Candlemas as it is known in English, is the Christianised name for an age-old European festival celebrating the return of the light in the northern hemisphere, its roots going back to the Celtic festival of Imbolc celebrated on the evening of 1st February.

As of February, the increasing hours of daylight start to become more noticeable and the day’s work again begins and ends in daylight.

In the country calendar “Lichtmess” or Candlemas also marked the end of the annual employment contract for farmhands and maidservants: traditionally presented with a farewell gift of a new pair of shoes from their farmer employer, come Candlemas on 2nd February, farmhands were free to seek new masters for the next year.

Neither farmhand nor in need of a new master, Imbolc always lightens my spirits, just knowing that the light is back. Be it with candlemaking or a ritual “back to the light” hike or bike tour, it is cause for a personal celebration:

 

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Fruit and Spice

…and all things nice is what this winter fruit cake is all about.

Actually, it is more like your classic Anglo-Saxon gingerbread in texture, made with pureed fruit (apples, pears, quinces or plums), preserved in the autumn and full of mellow fruitfulness. The fruit puree is what makes the cake wonderfully light and moist.

And the glazed walnuts on the top are reason enough on their own to make it!

Those lucky enough to live in my vicinity will find it in my (German language) pop-up shop this winter, the rest of you will have to make it yourself – here’s the recipe:

Winter Fruit and Spice Cake

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Pureed fruit

(apples or pears or quince or plum all work well)            300g

All-purpose flour                                                                        300g

Baking powder                                                                              2 tsp

Salt                                                                                                   1 tsp  

Cinnamon                                                                                       1 1/2tsp

Ground cardamom                                                                       1 1/4tsp 

Unsalted butter, softened                                                          120g

Rapeseed oil                                                                                   120ml

Light brown sugar                                                                         300g

Large eggs                                                                                        

Crème fraîche                                                                                 80ml

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C and butter and flour a ring tin (26 cm).
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together in a bowl.
  3. Beat the butter, oil, and brown sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between each egg. Add the crème fraîche and fruit puree, stirring to combine. Fold in the flour mixture.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared ring tin. Bake the cake until golden and cooked through, 55 to 65 minutes. Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.
  5. Allow to cool before glazing, if desired.

For the glazed walnuts and browned butter glaze:

Walnuts                                                      about 12 whole walnuts

Unsalted butter, soft                              6 Tbsp

Icing sugar                                                  150g

Milk                                                                2 to 3 Tbsp

Pinch of salt

  1. Place the butter in a small saucepan over a medium to low heat. Let the butter melt completely and begin bubbling. Add the walnuts, turning them to cover them on all sides in butter. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes until the walnuts are lightly browned and the butter begins to smell nutty and darkens in color. Remove the walnuts and set aside. Remove the butter from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Beat in the icing sugar and a pinch of salt followed by enough milk to make a smooth, pourable glaze. If the glaze breaks or curdles, add a bit of warm water to help it re-emulsify. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake, arrange the walnuts on top and allow to harden slightly before slicing

 

Garlic Walnut Bread

“A bubble of warm air” is how our local German weather forecaster described the nearly double-digit temperatures we enjoyed last weekend, so that had us out in the orchard for a round of winter “grilling”, to use the literal translation from the German.

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And on the fire, apart from the ubiquitous “Bratwürtschen”:

Garlic Walnut Bread

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Made using my

Garlicky Cheese and Walnut Dip recipe

– which will of course work just as well indoors.

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Which is where I  shall be this coming weekend as we have quite the opposite of a “bubble of warm air” coming in for the start of the new year:

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