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! 😉

 

 

 

 

 

A Very Happy Christmas!

The beautiful countryside around us has been shrouded in thick fog and covered in layer upon layer of frost for most of December. When I heard the lovely carol “In the bleak mid-winter” the other day I found it quite apt to describe our surroundings here – the earth is hard as iron (although it has thawed a little in places in the last 24 hours) and the water in the bird bath is hard as stone again. But no snow still. (Sigh)

So I’m afraid I cannot post any pretty photos of frost covered pine trees, glittering in the sun with a blue sky beyond…. but I can offer a glimpse of our black and white world instead.

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And I can wish you all a very Happy Christmas too!

I hope you have the opportunity to relax over the holidays, spend time with loved ones, read a good book or just chill out in front of a warm fireplace with a hot mug of tea…

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Many warm wishes to you all!

😀

 

In a Vase on Monday: THREE

Three cheers for Cathy at Rambling in the Garden!

Today we are celebrating the third anniversary of her wonderful meme ‘In a Vase on Monday’, which has inspired me and many other bloggers from all over the world to go out into their gardens or the countryside each week to gather materials for a vase to share. Come rain or shine. Snow or heatwave. Summer or Winter.

Not only has this meme changed the way I look at my garden, it has also influenced my choices regarding what to sow and grow, ensuring that I have flowers or foliage for indoors almost all year round.

Thank you Cathy!

Cathy has chosen a theme for today’s celebration : THREE

I think the easiest way to interpret that would be to create three different vases, so my tube vases seemed ideal. I think Cathy will approve of the flowers I used: a common favourite is Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ on the left, with Persicaria ‘Blackfield, then Persicaria ‘Lance Corpoal’ in the centre, and my stalwart Persicaria ‘Firetail’ on the right.

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Sorry I can’t send you the chocolate cherry brownie Cathy! (I am sure it will find a good home though, and I will post the recipe soon! 😉 )

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Here’s a closer look at the Persicarias, with Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ as companion.

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I also chose three of my favourite vases from the last year as part of the celebration…

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 So, now we move into the fourth year of In a Vase on Monday. If you are not already on board, why not join us! But first, go and visit Cathy!

Falafel for World Vegan Day 2016

I wonder if you have heard of World Vegan Day before? It was introduced on November 1st 1994 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UK Vegan Society. I have only known about it for a few years, and feel it deserves a bit more publicity, so I would like to celebrate not only this day, but the whole month of November – also designated by the Vegan Society as World Vegan Month – by sharing some of my favourite vegan recipes. Some are new, and some are veganized versions of older recipes that I have refined over the past year. I should love to convince you all to become vegan! But since that is totally unrealistic I hope to tempt you with a few vegan delights instead! 😉

So to kick off, a recipe I have actually had in my drafts box for some time:

Quick Homemade Falafel

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I make these delicious fluffy chickpea patties regularly, and especially love them for being so incredibly quick to prepare.

Falafel are traditionally made using chickpeas, but I use the ground chickpea flour here, also known as gram flour, and this makes preparation much faster with less washing up. 😉 The result is also lighter than ones I have made with whole chickpeas. So go and find some chickpea flour (and a packet of pita breads while you are at the shops) and try these out!

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  • 1 1/3 (175g) cups gram/chickpea flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (400 ml) boiling water
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix all the ingredients together with a fork in a large bowl, and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Depending on your brand of flour you may need a little more water or a little more flour to make a porridge-like consistency, but keep it on the soft side.

Heat some olive or rapeseed oil in a large frying pan and add spoonfuls of the mixture. They will quickly brown so you can turn them. Keep turning until brown and crispy on all sides, then remove and keep warm while you do the next batch. (Don’t keep them in the pan too long as they will turn out overcooked and dry.)

Serve in warmed pita breads with lots of salad and tsatsiki (vegan sour cream, garlic and finely chopped cucumber).

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Enjoy!

😀

P.S. By the way, I have updated my recipe page (see top bar), with all vegan recipes highlighted in dark green.

And for those of you with a sweet tooth, I will be posting a sweet recipe at the end of the week.

Have a good start to the month of November! 😉

 

 

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?

😉

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.

Moss

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?

Daffs

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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4th December 2015: A Barbara Branch

Today is the day I nip out into the garden, regardless how inclement the weather, and snip a branch or two of an early flowering shrub or tree to put in a vase.

Why?!

In the hope that, according to tradition, it will flower by Christmas Eve!

Since my dwarf cherry tree is still very small, I chose some Forsythia again this year – it is cheerful, reliable, and does not shed irritating pollen like the hazel catkins I sometimes bring in.

Here it is today…

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And I will of course do an update at Christmas. On the right are a few green strands of Kerria japonica – I have no idea if any flowers will appear (I doubt it!), but I do hope that at least a few leaves will sprout.

And here are a couple of past “Barbara Branches”, the tradition of which can be read about in this post here.

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Barbarazweig 2014

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Barbarzweig 2012

So go on now, out you go with the shears and join me in picking a piece of spring!

🙂