Our German Gingerbread Gallery

All quiet in the orchard at this time of the year (but Hermann the German is sharpening up his specialist tree pruning saw for the winter pruning due to start any weekend now…) so we (mainly me and sometimes Mini-Kraut) have been busy in the kitchen creating some more exhibits for our gingerbread gallery.

This year’s main creation has to remain a secret for the time being until this year’s Christmas Guests of Honour have been able to peruse and applaud it live, but we have been busy baking building components for lucky recipients in the neighbourhood, complete with building instructions, in German:

P1210642_LI

Here are a few flashbacks to past creations where we have gained all this skill and experience 🙂

2016: Recreated in gingerbread, the little village in the Wiesent Valley, close to Erlangen, where we like to spend our holidays and long weekends

 

2015: The tree house that collapsed and became a forest hideaway (Waldversteck)

 

 

 

2014The Forest Gnomes’ Railway

Snow with copyright

 

2013: Nutville, or Nußdorf in the vernacular

P1110747 (2)

2012 was when we started expanding from single buildings to gingerbread urban development:

P1090328 (2)

2011: was our very first attempt.

Lesson 1 was: make sure the roof weighs less than the walls 🙂

But it all came right on the night!

 

 

Happy Christmas!

 

Spring in the South

P1200113

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.

P1200049

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!

P1200039

With many elements of local distinctiveness on offer too!

P1200104

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.

p1190585

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

Garlic Walnut Bread

p1190589

Made using my

Garlicky Cheese and Walnut Dip recipe

– which will of course work just as well indoors.

p1110505-2

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:

P1150279 (2)

Midsummer = Walnut Liqueur

It is time:

Midsummer, the Feast of St John, the summer solstice,

call it what you will, it is time to make walnut liqueur…

Green walnuts with copyright P1160383 (2)P1130563 (3)

Of the many recipes for walnut liqueur, this one leans on the Croation version, known as Orahovac.

… and you will thank me for this come Christmas!

IMG_3753

Images of the finished product courtesy of www.taylorsphotosafaris.co.uk

Walnut Liqueur, Croatian-Style

Green walnuts, unblemished                    12 to 15

Neutrally-flavoured alcohol

such as vodka or a neutral grappa            700 ml

Raw brown sugar                                           250 g

Vanilla pods                                                      2

  1. Sterilise a large preserving jar by filling it with boiling water and leaving to stand for at least 5 minutes before emptying and leaving to cool somewhat.
  2. Rinse the walnuts and then cut in half (or into quarters if they are large).
  3. Place the walnuts in the preserving jar together with the sugar.
  4. Slice open the vanilla pods with a sharp knife, scrape out the seeds and place these and the pods in the jar with the walnuts.
  5. Pour in the alcohol and seal the jar. Give it a good shake and then place in a bright, warm place (e.g. a sunny windowsill) for at least 6 to 8 weeks. The liquid will turn an intense coffee-like brown in this time – give the jar a shake every now and again to make sure the sugar dissolves completely.
  6. After a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks – longer will do no harm either – filter the liqueur through a coffee filter and bottle in clean, sterilised bottles.

Hues and Hints of Walnut

P1160078 (2)

Among the last to don their new leaves, the walnut trees are coming out in hues of green and facets of brown …

and I can see hints of walnut liqueur in there. Can you?

 IMG_3753

Image by kind permission of www.taylorsphotosafaris.co.uk

In no more than about 6 weeks from now it will be time to seek out those green walnuts:

Green walnuts with copyright

Making walnut liqueur starts at midsummer …

tradition dictates around the Feast of St John in June,

closely coinciding with the summer solstice…

 Watch this space – I shall remind you with the recipe because it is worth the (minimal) effort!

P1110179

Preserved lemons and Garlic Mustard Pesto

Remember those Preserved Lemons from back in February?

P1150640 (2)

Well, its May and that means its time to get them out of the cellar – the lemons are now well and truly preserved in their lemony brine and one of the things I love using them for at this time of the year is

Garlic Mustard Pesto

(alternative nut-free version here)

P1150982 (2)

Preparation time: about 10 minutes

Cooking time: none

Serves: 4

Garlic mustard (also known as

Jack by the Hedge,

or alternatively use wild garlic)      50g of leaves (and blossoms if in flower)

Lemon (organic)                           1 (or 1 to 2 teaspoons of preserved lemon brine, according to taste)

Whole almonds, toasted               50g

Olive oil                                         150ml                                        

Honey (or sugar)                           approx. 1 tsp

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Remove the garlic mustard leaves from the stalks, rinse and place in a liquidizer together with the toasted almonds.

2. Halve the lemon and squeeze out the juice.

3. Add the olive oil to the garlic mustard leaves and whizz together in the liquidizer.

4. Season with lemon juice (or brine), honey (or sugar), salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, whizzing thoroughly to produce a pesto-like consistency.

Garlic Mustard PestoPreserved Lemons are also great in Garlic and Tomato Butter

06_05_2013 Garlic Mustard Butter

Enjoying Autumn

P1150570 (2)

Waiting for spring and enjoying the fruits of last autumn as I work my way through the remaining jars of

Pears in Rosemary Syrup

P1140202 (3)

and Swedish-Style Ginger Pears

P1140293 (2)

still stashed away in the cellar …

 … and one of our favourites at the moment is

Chocolate and Pear Cake

 (Has some great added benefits too – that rosemary-pear syrup makes a great cordial diluted with water – think “mild ginger beer” and you are pretty much there!)

Here’s the link to the Chocolate and Pear Cake recipe in its non-tweaked form:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2493638/chocolate-and-pear-cake

 With a couple of tweaks from me as an added extra:

– lightly roast the nuts before using as per the recipe – it just makes them so much more nutty…

– hand chopping the chocolate will give you a “chocolate chip” cake as per the recipe image; blitzing the chocolate in a blender will give you chocolate cake… take your pick and enjoy either way!

P1150567 (4)

Hazelnut Crispbreads

Hazelnut catkins…

appearing in what is still the middle of winter here in the northern hemisphere, the hazelnut catkins coupled with the return of the light are what reassure me that spring (and summer and autumn) will come again…

P1120057

bringing us hazelnuts…

P1150487 (2)

with which to make a multitude of moreish things, such as Nussecken

Nussecken

and Hazelnut Crispbreads

…really quick and easy, these offer a huge return on your minimal effort.

P1150499

The recipe comes from one of my Scandanavian cookery book discoveries – by the young Swedish cook, Carina Brydling: “Naturally Swedish, The Best 88 Seasonal Recipes” – that is my English translation of the title because – unfortunately – I have (yet) to track down an English version of the book (available as “Natuerlich Schwedisch” in German, published by Christian Verlag GmbH, or “Maten jag älskar”, published in 2009 by Tree Publishing, Stockholm).

P1130307 P1130309
I hope there might be an English publisher out there considering translating this wonderful book into English as it is an absolute delight for anyone who enjoys eating with the seasons and tasting the “terroir”…

Carina uses rye flour in her crispbreads recipe – I used buckwheat because that’s what I had available – and they are simply delicious.

The hazelnuts and the raw sugar

P1150493 (2)

add a toasted nut/caramelised sugar dimension that really take these crispbreads up a level.

P1150500

Hazelnut Crispbreads

 Prep. Time: about 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 10 minutes

Makes 8 to 10 crispbreads

Rye flour, wholemeal                                   150 g

Wheat flour                                                  150 g

Baking soda                                                  1 tsp

Salt                                                                1 tsp

Hazelnuts, shelled                                          80 g

Raw sugar                                                      75 g

Rye flour for rolling

1) Combine the flours, baking soda, salt and 250 millilitres of water to form a stiff dough.

2) Finely chop the hazelnuts and combine with the raw sugar.

3) Divide the dough into 8 to 10 pieces and roll each piece out thinly, using just a dusting of rye flour. Sprinkle each piece with the hazelnut/sugar mixture and press in well with the rolling pin (on both sides of each piece).

4) Place the individual crispbreads on a lined baking sheet and bake in the pre-heated oven (250 °C) for about 5 minutes on each side – keep an eye on them as you want the sugar to caramelize but not burn…

5) Cool on a wire rack – do not stack them until they are completely cold and crisp.

Recommended for serving with goat’s cheese and honey, these crispbreads will glam up your cheeseboard whatever you have on it.

A Beautiful and Positive Gift

09_04_2011 Kirschblüte, Walberla (2)

Orchards of tall trees are a wise way of sharing the land – a beautiful and positive gift to those who follow.”

Sue Clifford, Co-Founder of http://www.commonground.org.uk

in Orchards and Groves: Their History, Ecology, Culture and Archaeology, Ed. Ian D. Rotherham www.wildtrackpublishing.co.uk, www.ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com

Christmas in the Orchard … or the Orchard in my Christmas

Cheese Bites with Wild Garlic Mustard Seeds

Garlicky Walnut Dip

Mulled Apple and Quince Punch

 Cheese bites with copyright P1110505

Roast Duck with Cherry Sauce

 Braised Red Cabbage with Plum Sauce

Cheesy Chard with Walnuts

Apple Jelly Glazed Sweet Potatoes

 Sweet_or_Dessert Cherries with copyright Plum Sauce with copyright

P1110192 Apple jelly with copyright

Walnut Liqueur Tiramisu

Meadow Orchard Mince Pies

 P1110179 P1110347

Blackberry Liqueur

Cherry Brandy

Quince Liqueur

Sloe Gin

IMG_3775 Preserved cherries with copyright

Quince liqueur with copyright

Sloe Gin glass with copyright

This is when all that hard work preserving the edible landscape really comes into its own:

Merry Christmas!


Images with copyright Richard Taylor are courtesy of www.taylorsphotosafaris.co.uk