When I walked into my dining room this morning I knew something was not quite right. It was only later, while having breakfast, that I noticed that the first of my Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) to flower this winter was bent over at a dangerous angle threatening to uproot the bulb and put the second bud at risk. So I cut it immediately and put it in a tall vase. Then I realised it is not only Boxing Day, but also Monday – serendipity! I have a vase to share with you after all!
A neighbour gave me this bunch of red Amaryllis which are also lovely and cheerful on my windowsill.
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.
And I canwish 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…
I have been experimenting a bit with my Christmas cookie recipes again, and after discovering a bag of cashews were coming up to their ‘use by’ date I decided to incorporate them into a cookie recipe instead of the more traditional almonds or hazelnuts.
They are just how shortbread should be – slightly salty, buttery, sugary and crunchy!
So if you are looking for a shortbread recipe with extra crispness and flavour this Christmas, here is my recipe.
115 g (1 stick) vegan butter
75 g (2 1/2 oz) raw cashews, ground to a fine powdery ‘flour’
125 g (1 cup) self-raising flour, sifted
zest of an orange
2 tsps cardamom (optional as the flavour was sadly lost during baking)
60 g (1/3 cup) soft brown sugar
a pinch of salt
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and work the butter into the mixture with your finger tips until it is nice and crumbly. Bring the dough together into a ball, adding a drop of non-dairy milk or water only if necessary to make it stick. Then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180° C/350°F and line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Roll out your dough to about 4 or 5 mm (about 1/6th of an inch) and, using a very small cookie cutter (mine was 4 cm, or 1 1/2 inches), cut out your shapes. Place on the baking sheets and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Carefully move to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before storing.
This is definitely my second favourite after my vanilla cookies. (By the way, I have updated my original recipe for the Vanillekipferl here, so they are also vegan now and just as good as ever too!)
Are you doing any special baking this Christmas? What is your favourite sweet Christmas treat?
This second week of December I am once again joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden with a Monday vase. As it is very cold and very frosty I decided to just add a few snippets to the remains of last week’s vase with the lovely Mahonia at the centre.
I added some Hypericum and some sprigs of lavender, box and pine. The grasses and seed heads from last week were also reused.
A Christmas tealight holder was used as a container and all the other paraphernalia is my seasonal windowsill decoration. (Elvin the Elk is making his annual appearance on this blog!)
If you think there is nothing to pick in your garden, why not go and take a second look… it is amazing what you may find! 😉
P.S. I have also got a few small branches of Forsythia in a jug, hoping they will open by Christmas Eve… if you have already had a cold spell and cut a sprig from spring-flowering shrubs or cherry or apple trees now, they should flower indoors within 3 -4 weeks. 🙂
As Christmas approaches, and with Thanksgiving in the US this week, I thought my vegan pumpkin pie recipe might go down well. I adapted my original recipe (which you can also find on my recipes page) using alternatives for the eggs and milk, and the result was amazing… it tasted fantastic, full of flavour and nobody would ever guess it’s vegan!
I invited a friend over to test it, and the verdict was a definite thumbs up!
So here it is:
Vegan Pumpkin Pie
225g (1 4/5 cups) plain flour
a pinch of salt
100g (3 1/2 oz) vegan butter
425 g (15 oz) pumpkin puree
125 g (2/3 cup) brown sugar
4 tbsps maple syrup
100 ml (2/5 cup) canned full-fat coconut milk
4 tbsps unsweetened almond or soya milk
3 tbsps cornflour
a pinch of salt
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
Grease a 23 cm pie or flan dish. Rub the butter into the flour and salt until fine and crumbly, then add just enough cold water to bring the dough together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Roll out the pastry to fit your pie dish. Place some greaseproof paper on top and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for about ten minutes. Remove the beans and paper.
Blend all the filling ingredients together. Pour into the pastry case and bake in the oven for a further 40 – 50 minutes.
Leave to cool and then chill for a few hours or preferably overnight.
Serve with vegan whipped cream and enjoy!
Wishing all American readers a Happy Thanksgiving!
Last winter and spring, after seeing some gorgeous blooms on various blogs, I made a note to myself to order plenty of Amaryllis/Hippeastrum to see me through the following winter. I ended up with eight different bulbs, only one of which failed to flower (called ‘White Christmas’, of which we all dream of in vain 😉 ).
They were all planted in light compost with a little grit, in fairly small pots, and with a third to a half of the bulb showing above the soil. From December to March I had at least one in flower constantly. Some of them needed minimal support as they started to go over, but most were sturdy enough to stay standing on their own. Here is a summary of which ones I grew and how they flowered.
First of all, the record-breaking ‘Tres Chic‘: planted on 4th November and flowering by 15th December…
(It must have taken me by surprise, as I failed to take a decent photo of it!)
It was a lovely bright, festive red with a white centre, and it flowered for about two and a half weeks.
The next one to flower was ‘Chico‘. Planted on 9th October, Chico flowered on 27th December, and then again on 19th January. This was quite possibly my favourite. Click on any image to enlarge…
I just loved the way the petals curled upwards, and the shades of pink and green were very delicate. I will definitely try and grow this one again.
In early January Chico was accompanied by ‘Apple Blossom‘…
This was a much more traditional-style Amaryllis: frilly pink and white flowers, with pretty markings on the petals. It was planted on 25th November and flowered on 7th January. There must have been about seven flowers on this one stalk – stunning.
In January another more unusual one flowered: ‘Evergreen‘…
This was such a lovely pale creamy green, and lasted extremely well too. It was planted on 9th October and flowered on 16th January. There was something very classical about this one, and it reminded me very much of oriental lilies.
My windowsills were now getting a little overcrowded, as two days later, on 18th January, ‘Rosy Star‘ joined the party.
This was a simple flower – not as fussy as Apple Blossom – and rather pinker than the photos show. It was pretty, but not mind-blowing. Still, very welcome in the darkest month of the year!
In February ‘Lemon Star‘ finally opened and put on a beautiful display for several weeks – it flowered on two stalks simulataneously and was the firm favourite of my Man of Many Talents. I planted this one on 25th November and its flowers opened on the 10th and 18th of February.
It looked very lemony. In fact I kept thinking if I sniff it, it might even smell of lemons! (It didn’t though.) This was a nice light colour to welcome spring and the longer hours of daylight. This one will also go on my list for next year too.
Around the same time ‘Blossom Peacock‘ opened too. This was planted on 22nd December and flowered on 6th February and again on 6th March. It was the last one, cut down only last week.
As you can see from the planting and flowering dates there is no way of telling when they will flower – some needed three months, while others needed only four to six weeks. I kept all of the bulbs almost dry and rather cool until they started shooting. Then they need only a little water and a warmer spot to flower.
Do you grow Amaryllis? Do you have any particular favourites? Or do you hate them?! I thought it would be interesting and fun to ask you to vote for your favourite from those that I grew. I will then tell you the results next week. Thanks, and a have a great Easter weekend! 🙂
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?