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Visiting the Bavarian Sugar fairy

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The passionate cookbook author, Theresa Baumgärtner is full of inspiration. Her cake recipes and wintry decoration ideas invite us to enjoy the baking craft.

Theresa Baumgärtner’s philosophy is “Follow your heart.” And she lives her life according to this. Already during her studies of culture and business in the university, the amateur chef decided to become self-employed in relation to culinary topics. Inspired by her roots in Baden as well as numerous journeys, the lively North German conjures up refined dishes on the table, which always have a history. On her food blog „theresaskueche.de” her readers are always very close to the action of pans and pots. After a small baking book on the subject of shortbread, Theresa Baumgärtner developed her show “Theresa’s Kitchen” (in the NDR) and also determines the prop and the look of the show in loving detail. Today, the creative connoisseur lives in Luxembourg, where she transforms the products from her small garden into tasty creations.

Meet the Sugar Fairy

Theresa, who was inspired by Ludwig’s castle and Tchaikovsky’s ballet in writing one of her book, will be my guide. I’m not surprised then, when she calls me and says we should go to the castle first. Place of longing and inspiration for 150 years, the fairy tale castle, Neuschwanstein in Bavaria enchants the people of all over the world. Especially in winter, it turns into a breath-taking stage under the sugary snow hood.

-“Before making the baking stuffs and decorating the biscuits, you need to tune in. An impulse, a delightful spark that ignites your creativity. But where do we find it? The theatre is a good place for this. In Germany already at the beginning of December, some ballet productions come back to the stages. Tsackovski Swan Lake enchants and also the Nutcracker instantly takes me into a glamorous dream world.”

So Nutcracker and Swan (the latter is Ludwig’s and Wagner’s favorite) these wonderful inspirations we take with us on our journey to near Allgau. During the night, winter takes over its task as a formidable set designer. Rough-ripened snow cover the landscape with a white delicate coat. What an appearance by the castle Neuschwanstein in this winter setting! It sparkles and glitters as if it were a gigantic festival stage. Swaying frosty reeds at the Weissensee. The ice on the shore seems thin like fine crystal glass. But we won’t linger in Neuschwanstein, after taking a few pictures of the castle, we’ll be on our way to Füssen.

Füssen was already settled in Roman times, then in Late Antiquity it was the home of a part of the Legio III Italica, which was stationed there to guard the important trade route over the Alps. By now the town is known for violin manufacturing and as the closest transportation hub for the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles!

First we check the site of the “Hohes Schloss” (High Castle), the former summer residence of the prince-bishops of Augsburg. Below the Hohes Schloss is the Baroque complex of the former Benedictine monastery of St Mang, whose history goes back to the 9th century. Saint Mang or Magnus of Füssen as its patron saint. In the old buildings of Füssen, the roofs of the historic half-timbered houses nest together tightly. White dusted, they look like they are from a Fairy Tale’s book. Here we stroll through the festively decorated streets of the old town up to the courtyard of the Hochen Schloss (the High castle), step by step up the spiral staircase to the Storchenturm. Arriving at the top, icy wind gusts and a magnificent view over the snowy ones await us. Roofs of the city down stairs, so it’s time to warm up, with Theresa guidance we head for the bakery of the sugar fairy, Stefanie Perkmann’s atelier. It is a wonderful place. As we see in her pastry shop there is a lot to do in the pre-advent’s time.

“Baking is an art and expresses the imagination. Historical cake displays made of brass and special finds from the Fleamarket inspire me!”- she says cheerfully when we arrive at her place. The production of the spicy gingerbread dough, the pricking of the biscuits, the shaping and decorating of the different varieties, all this seems to be easy for her to get out of hand. “The quality of ingredients and the love of baking are the most important.”- she says. And we are sure, that’s why her spicy biscuits are considered the best in the city.

Allgau, the region of Bavaria is full of beautiful stories so that it inspires the imagination. Baking with models pays for the most beautiful Xmas traditions. The nostalgic wooden shapes are often passed down from generation to generation.

The sophisticated pumpkin

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I have a kind of love and hate relationship with the pumpkin. When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand the sweet and slimy pumpkin baked in the oven. But in San Francisco after eating a pumpkin soup, I fell in love with. And since I’ve been living in Germany for a decade, I’ve tried almost 100 variations of pumpkin dishes. The Germans especially prefer it at fall.

All about pumpkin

The pumpkin is a cultivar of winter squash. Native to North America (northeastern Mexico and the southern United States), and they are one of the oldest domesticated plants, having been used as early as 7,500 to 5,000 BC. Nowadays pumpkins are widely grown for commercial use and as food, aesthetics, and recreational purposes. Pumpkin pie, for instance, is a traditional part of Thanksgiving meals in Canada and the United States, and pumpkins are frequently carved as jack-o’-lanterns for decoration around Halloween, although commercially canned pumpkin purée and pumpkin pie fillings are usually made from different kinds of winter squash than the ones used for jack-o’-lanterns.

So as we can see pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. Pumpkin purée is sometimes prepared and frozen for later use. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, or roasted. In its native North America, pumpkins are a very important, traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed and making its way into soups and purées. Often, it is made into pumpkin pie, various kinds of which are a traditional staple of the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holidays. In Canada, Mexico, the United States, Europe and China, the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack.

Pumpkins that are still small and green may be eaten in the same way as summer squash or zucchini. In the Middle East, pumpkin is used for sweet dishes; a well-known sweet delicacy is called halawa yaqtin. In the Indian subcontinent, pumpkin is cooked with butter, sugar, and spices in a dish called kadu ka halwa. Pumpkin is used to make sambar in Udupi cuisine. In China and Korea, the leaves of the pumpkin plant are consumed as a cooked vegetable or in soups. In Australia and New Zealand pumpkin is often roasted in conjunction with other vegetables. In Japan, I lived in Hokkaido, where small pumpkins are served in savory dishes, including tempura. In Myanmar, pumpkins are used in both cooking and desserts (candied). The seeds are a popular sunflower seed substitute. In Thailand, small pumpkins are steamed with custard inside and served as a dessert. In Vietnam, pumpkins are commonly cooked in soups with pork or shrimp. In Italy, it can be used with cheeses as a savory stuffing for ravioly. Also, pumpkin can be used to flavor both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.

In the southwestern United States and Mexico, pumpkin and squash flowers are a popular and widely available food item. They may be used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then fried in oil. Pumpkin leaves are a popular vegetable in the Western and central regions of Kenya; they are called seveve, and are an ingredient of mukimo, respectively, whereas the pumpkin itself is usually boiled or steamed. The seeds are popular with children who roast them on a pan before eating them. Pumpkin leaves are also eaten in Zambia, where they are called chibwabwa and are boiled and cooked with groundnut paste as a side dish. Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are edible and nutrient-rich

Traditionally Britain and Ireland would carve lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnipmangelwurzel, or swede, they continue to be popular choices today as carved lanterns in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The practice of carving pumpkins for Halloween originated from an Irish myth about a man named “Stingy Jack”. The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips. Not until 1837, does jack-o’-lantern appear as a term for a carved vegetable lantern, and the carved pumpkin lantern association with Halloween is recorded in 1866. In the United States, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween. In 1900, an article on Thanksgiving entertaining recommended a lit jack-o’-lantern as part of the festivities that encourage kids and families to join together to make their own jack-o’-lanterns.

Association of pumpkins with harvest time and pumpkin pie at Canadian and American Thanksgiving reinforce its iconic role. Starbucks turned this association into marketing with its pumpkin spice latte, introduced in 2003. This has led to a notable trend in pumpkin and spice flavored food products in North America. This is despite the fact that North Americans rarely buy whole pumpkins to eat other than when carving jack-o’-lanterns. Illinois farmer Sarah Frey is called “the Pumpkin Queen of America” and sells around five million pumpkins annually, predominantly for use as lanterns!

Growers of giant pumpkins often compete to see whose pumpkins are the most massive. Festivals are often dedicated to the pumpkin and these competitions. I participated in one in Ludwigsburg/Germany two years ago. It was a mega event! Pumpkins everywhere. The record for the world’s heaviest pumpkin was, 1,190.5 kg (2,624.6 lb), and was established in Belgium in 2016.

In the United States, the town of  Half Moon Bay California, holds an annual Art and Pumpkin Festival, including the World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off.

Pumpkin festival in Germany/Ludwigsburg

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The fall is just around the corner. What better way to celebrate than to visit the world’s largest pumpkin festival in southwestern Germany? You probably never knew that there are 800 different kinds of pumpkin in the world and at the Blooming Baroque (Blühenden Barock), the gardens surrounding Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, is home to this annual event with over 600 varieties and over 450,000 pumpkins on display for all to see.

Facts: Each year the festival chooses a new theme keeping return visitors coming back again and again. The theme for 2016 was Rome, 2019 was “Fantastic World of Fairytales” and this year, in 2020 the theme is “Music.” As you make your way around, be sure to have your camera ready. You will see hundreds of thousands of pumpkins transform into interesting creations. The imagination and planning put into the design of these displays are mind-blowing. My respect to all of those working hard behind the scenes to make this event a success! Chapeau!

Food: Be sure to bring your appetite. There are plenty of pumpkin-inspired foods and drinks, and if you are lucky some free samples along the way. Delicious pumpkin beers, pumpkin lattes, champagnes and wines are available. The food menu has plenty to offer to range from pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin burgers, (it was excellent) spaghetti with pumpkin and the list goes on and on. Not a fan of pumpkin? Don’t worry there is plenty of traditional German fare to choose from, as well.

Shopping: For those of you eager to take a pumpkin home, there is a large array of pumpkins for purchase and even carving kits, too. In a shopping area and vendors to find decorative and food items such as: pumpkin Secco, pumpkin tea, a variety of pumpkin spice mixes for soups and other dishes, pumpkin ketchup, pumpkin fruit spread, roasted pumpkin seeds and so on, endless…

Just walking the grounds of Ludwigsburg’s Residential Palace warrants a trip in itself. As one of Germany’s largest Baroque palaces, the palace and the grounds are a must-see while visiting the area. If time allows, guided tours of the inside of the palace are offered in multiple languages. Not to mention, by purchasing admission to the pumpkin festival you will also have access to the infamous fairy tale gardens with over 30 scenes and activities for children big and small. The gardens include a funky little cave/tunnel that leads you from one part of the gardens into a little aviary where you could see a small collection of birds and ducks.

From the well-manicured landscaping to the dreamy fountains and impressive architecture, this is definitely a sight you will not want to miss. Add in some seasonable fun and it makes a perfect day trip for the whole family. Something that I did not expect to see was a huge display of pumpkins labeled with their origin country. I found it fascinating to look at all the different varieties of pumpkins and to see where each one originated from. I definitely recommend stopping by this interesting showcase of pumpkins.

Events: The festival hosts numerous special events on designated dates (from the end of August-to the end of December). Ranging from pumpkin carving contests to smashing pumpkins, to pumpkin weigh-ins to ‘tales from the pumpkin patch’, a beloved storytime for children, to the largest pot of pumpkin soup in Germany cooked and served to visitors.

But my favorite event of all is the German pumpkin paddling championship. Where competitors race in giant hollowed-out gourds to victory across the castle lake!

Germany’s biggest pumpkin soup

In keeping with the tradition, the pumpkin chefs of the Pumpkin Gourmet whip up the biggest pumpkin soup in Germany each year.  This way, the Pumpkin Festival at Blühendes Barock in Ludwigsburg can once again did a good deed: for every dish of the record-breaking soup sold, they donate up to 1 Euro to the Helferherz campaign in the district of Ludwigsburg! And to raise as much as possible, the soup has to be enormous: the pot holds 555 litres of pumpkin soup and around 2000 servings. The pumpkin chefs are happy to swing their wooden spoons to ensure that even this huge amount of soup will taste delicious. If the pot is finished, the Pumpkin Festival organizer (Jucker Farm) will donate a further 50 cents per portion, to make the donation amount 1 Euro per portion consumed. So “lick your bowls clean” on one weekend and have set a goal of finishing the enormous pot of soup not just once, but twice!

Celebrating Midsummer night in the vodka belt region

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Midsummer is the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, and more specifically the northern European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice or take place on a day between June 19 and June 25 and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary among different cultures. The celebration predates Christianity, and existed under different names and traditions around the world. In Scandinavia, young people visited holy springs as “a reminder of how John the Baptist baptized Christ in the River Jordan

On Saint John’s Eve and Saint John’s Day, churches arrange Saint John’s worship services and family reunions also occur, which are an occasion for drinking and eating.

In Denmark, the solstitial celebration is called sankthans or sankthansaften (“St. John’s Eve”). It was an official holiday until 1770, and in accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day, it takes place on the evening of 23 June. It is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people.

Bonfires on the beach, speeches, picnics and songs are traditional, although they are built in many other places where beaches may not be close by (i.e. on the shores of lakes and other waterways, parks, etc.) Bonfires are lit in order to repel witches and other evil spirits, with the burnings sending the “witch” away to Bloksbjerg, the Brocken mountain in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day. Some Danes regard this tradition of burning witches as inappropriate.

As in Denmark, Sankthansaften is celebrated on June 23 in Norway. The day is also called Jonsok, which means “John’s wake”, important in Roman Catholic times with pilgrimages to churches and holy springs. Today, Sankthansaften is largely regarded as a secular or even pre-Christian event. In Western Norway, a custom of arranging mock weddings, both between adults and between children, is still kept alive. The wedding was meant to symbolize the blossoming of new life. Such weddings are known to have taken place in the 1800s, but the custom is believed to be older.

In Sweden, the Midsummer “Midsomer” is such an important festivity that there have been proposals to make the Midsummer’s Eve into the National day of Sweden instead of June 6. (In Denmark and Norway, it may also be referred to as St. Hans Day.)

Acquavit (vodka) sherry, elderberry drink

In Sweden originally a pre-Christian tradition, the holiday has during history been influenced by Christian traditions and the celebration of Saint John, but not as much as to it changing name, as in neighboring Norway and Denmark. A central symbol nowadays is the ‘midsummer pole’, a maypole that is risen on the same day as midsummers eve. The pole is a high wooden pole covered in leaves and flowers. Participants dance around the pole and sing songs. One another Swedish midsummer tradition is that girls should pick seven flowers from seven different fields. The flowers should then be put under the pillow during the midsummer eve night. This night is supposedly magic and the girl is then while sleeping supposed to dream of her future husband. Another tradition common in Sweden is to make midsummer wreaths of flowers. Greenery placed over houses and barns was supposed to bring good fortune and health to people and livestock; this old tradition of decorating with greens continues, though most people no longer take it seriously. To decorate with greens was called att maja (to may) and may be the origin of the word majstång, maja coming originally from the month May, or vice versa. Other researchers say the term came from German merchants who raised the maypole in June because the Swedish climate made it impossible to find the necessary greens and flowers in May, and continued to call it a maypole.

Other traditions include eating pickled herring with fresh potatoes, often the first from the seasons harvest, served with sour cream and chives, and often accompanied by drinking snaps. It is the biggest holiday of the year in Sweden, and with Sweden being a part of the vodka-belt, getting drunk and feasting all the whole day and night is common.

Recipe

Farmer girl in veil” Swedish dessert

In melted butter fry 350 gr bread crumble or use the German pumpernickel bread. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar to it. When it is golden brown pour the crumble into a bowl and let it cool.

Make layers: smear evenly from this crumble to a cake plate, then add apple mousse, then add one layer crumble again and smear raspberry jam on the top, add one more bread crumble layer…etc.

Whip 500 ml cream stiff, flavor with vanilla sugar and cover the crumble cake with it (not only the top but the sides as well). Decorate the cake with raspberry coulis. Easy and delicious midsummer’s cake!

In Sweden Midsummer’s day is a Saturday between June 20 and June 26, but as is usual in Sweden the actual celebration is on the eve, i.e. a Friday between June 19 and June 25. Midsummer’s Eve is a de facto public holiday in Sweden with offices and many shops closed

Gentleman cake with white wine cream

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The lilac is a very popular ornamental plan in gardens and parks, because of its attractive, sweet-smelling flowers, which appear in early summer (rather late spring, in May) just before many of the roses and other summer flowers come into bloom.

During centuries it has been widely naturalized in western and northern Europe.

Lilacs are often considered to symbolize love (see language of flowers). In Greece, Lebanon, and Cyprus, the lilac is strongly associated with Easter time because it flowers around that time; it is consequently called paschalia.

In the poem ” When Lilacs last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”, by Walt Whitman, lilacs are a reference to Abraham Lincoln.

In a sign of its complete naturalization in North America, it has been selected as the state flower of the state of New Hampshire, because it “is symbolic of that hardy character of the men and women of the Granite State”.

Some cultivars

Between 1876 and 1927, the nurseryman Victor Lemoine of Nancy, France introduced over 153 named cultivars, many of which are considered classics and still in commerce today. Lemoine’s “French lilacs” extended the limited color range to include deeper, more saturated hues, and they also introduced double-flowered “sports”, with the stamens replaced by extra petals.

Lilac in the kitchen

I didn’t know that the flowers of the lilacs are edible and even have some medicinal qualities. But eating a single flower raw was a flavor exploding experience with slight astringency (drying to tissues), almost bitter, and very floral.

Medicinal lilac

Medicinal uses are still a gray area when it comes to just the flower. Most resources that I have found (a Modern Herbal) list that the medicinal benefits of Lilac come from the leaves and fruit. Apparently used as a tea or infusion historically it has been used as a anti-periodic. Anti-periodic basically means that it stops the recurrence of disease such as malaria. There has been some studies that indicate a febrifuge action which may help bring down fever.

Lilac flowers have astringent, aromatic, and a little bitter qualities. Astringents tighten, draw, and dry tissues such as skin. So a wonderful application would be a cold or warm infusion to use as a toner on the face. Or using the same method but apply to rashes, cuts, and other skin ailments.

An aromatic action causes irritation to the place that it is touching (think GI tract) and irritation brings blood flow and blood flow equals healing! Eating the flowers raw may help with gastric issues such as flatulence or constipation. Making an herbal infused oil may be a great way to capture the aromatics for healing purposes and to make your own fragrance oil as well as making lilac jelly syrup, wine liqueur, ice cream, or lilac honey. I would say the lilacs are best for garnishes and edible flower displays on pastries rather than whole meals.

One more point of interest. Lilac wood is supposed to be one of the densest in Europe and has been historically used to make musical instruments such as pipes or flutes. We had to cut down one of our lilac shrubs I am sad to say, however we kept all the branches. I will choose one to make a pipe (hopefully one day soon) and will describe the process in another blog post.

Cake for gentleman

From where I got the inspiration to make a cake with lilac flower? From a German magazin, the Wohnen&Garten. In Germany, like all other countries, meeting up for evening coffee and cake and all the chats is usually a lady‘s thing but there is one exception to bring men on such gatherings, and it is the Herrentorte, the Gentleman’s Tart. In German language Herrentorte means “Cake for Gentlemen”. This dessert consists of several individually baked layers of sponge cake and two layers of wine cream so it tastes less sweet than normal cakes. It is an unwritten traditional that in Germany the birthday cake for men is the Herrentorte.

Recipe for the sponge base: 2 goose eggs or 4 normal hen eggs, 160g brown sugar or 150g caster sugar , 150g plain flour, 1 Earl grey tea bag, Lemon curd or marmalade, 300ml double cream, 5 tbsp icing sugar, Juice of half a lemon, Fresh lilac flowers

For the wine cream filling: 180 ml white wine, 120 gr sugar, 200 gr butter, room temperature, 2 egg whites, and some marzipan

Methods: Preheat the oven to 180c 350f

Grease and line two swiss roll tins.

In the bowl of a stand mixer add the eggs and sugar and mix together until pale and thick  (about 5 minutes)

Empty out the contents of an earl grey tea bag and mix with the flour then tip in the flour 1/4 at a time and fold in gently.

Once combined separate between the two tins and tip the trays to spread the mixture to the corners. Don’t spread it out it will knock out the air.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes then tip out onto a sheet of baking paper dusted with icing sugar (i used lilac sugar) or tip onto the work top and gently peel off the paper.

Spread a thick layer or curd or marmalade onto each sponge and sprinkle over some lilac flowers cut into equal strips horizontally rather than diagonally. (As it is marmalade being spread on this can be done while the cake is still hot but if you want to use cream or buttercream then the sponge has to be cool so roll up one strip and let cool in a rolled position then unroll and spread on filling and roll up again).

For the white wine cream: you need the egg whites, 180 ml white wine, 125 gr sugar, 200 gr butter and some marzipan.  Then put everything in a bowl, place over waterbath and stir until it will be creamy.

Start with the first strip and roll up into a tight roll then get the next piece of sponge and place it where the last piece ended and continue rolling until all the strips are used and you are have large cake. (I made a small one as my tins are not very big)

Now let cool completely. Whip the cream and icing sugar until thick  (I added a little color). Then spread onto cake with a pallet knife and smooth out. Decorate with more lilac flowers.

Orgona torta

 

The castle of Hex and its rose garden

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After discovering the rose and herb’s garden of the remarkable castle Heks/ Hex in Belgium I decided to participate in a cook course led by Claude Pohlig. But before sharing my wonderful experience with you I’d like to introduce you to the history of the castle:

The Hex Castle is situated in the village of Heks, about halfway between Sint-Truiden and Tongeren, 3km south of Borgloon (Looz in French). It is a classical castle built for a Prince-Bishop of Liège. It is renowned for its French-style gardens and English-style park.

History

Private residence of François-Charles von Velbrück (1719-1784), Prince-Bishop of Liège between 1772 and 1784, Hex is a jewel of Rococo style almost unrivaled in Belgium.

François-Charles von Velbrück was born near Düsseldorf. In 1735 he became canon priest of the cathedral of Liège then in 1756, Archdeacon of Hesbaye. Between 1757 and 1763, he served as prime minister under Prince-Bishop Jean-Théodore of Bavaria.

As a ruler of the Principality of Liege, Velbrück was remembered as an enlightened philosopher and humanist, a nature lover, a patron of the arts, and an exponent of free education. He endowed Liège with an academy of painting, sculpture and engraving, a free school of drawing for mechanic arts, a free school of surgery, as well as free courses of mathematics and public law. All this, combined with a lasting time of peace during his whole rule made of Velbrück one of the most beloved prince-bishops of Liège in history.

In 1770, François-Charles started the construction of his château in Hex, on an estate where his father François-Joseph had erected a hunting pavilion. François-Charles was struck by the beauty of the Hesbaye region, in the County of Looz. Upon his death, as the castle was a personal possession, it didn’t go the the Principality of Liège but was inherited by François-Charles’ family, passed to the Marchant d’Ansembourg, and eventually to the Counts of Ursel.

Description

Completed in 1772, Hex castle was built in the middle of an exceptional natural site, covering 5 hectares (12.5 acres) of formal French-style gardens and 60 hectares (150 acres) of English-style park. The terrain is hilly, with 60 meters of difference between the highest and lowest point.

Most remarkable of all is the collection of roses, which includes a variety not found anywhere else in the world: the Rosa Velbruck Indica Centifolia, named after the original owner of the property. Let’s also note the Chinese garden and the potager (vegetable garden).

The park was inspired by the works of the celebrated English landscape-architect “Capability” Brown, and was on of the first of the kind on the continent itself. It has the status of natural reserve. The castle is U-shaped and has a front façade of 19 windows in length (on two levels). The interior of the castle was designed in opulent Louis XV and Louis XVI styles. Some rooms have Chinese decoration. There are no less than six living rooms, each of a different colour. The main dining room is decorated with magnificent wood panelling by Liège artist Tombaye.

The castle itself cannot be visited, but the gardens and park are open to the public for the Festival of plants twice a year (2nd weekend of June and 2nd weekend of September in 2020). Guided tours start every hour. Admission is 7.5 € per person (dogs are not allowed).

The rest of the year, group (max. 35 people) tours can be arranged through written request, 3 weeks prior to the visit. The tours take approximately 1h30min to 2 hours, and can be held on weekdays between 10:00 am and noon, or between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm. The individual fee is 7.5 €, with a minimum of 150 € for the whole group (so if the group is composed of only 10 people, the fee will be 15 € per person).

Cooking with Claude Pohlig:

It was a carless Sunday in Brussels, when a large part of the square in front of the royal palace was clad with grass and food and information stands about agriculture and organic food. Some bought sweets and were elegantly clad. Some stood in line to eat ice cream. Some took time to be handed information about all sorts of things, such as tap water or traffic in Brussels or different types of organic cheese. Of course there was a lot of tasting to be done. Soon I hit upon some heirloom tomatoes that looked very familiar to me. Indeed, I had hit upon Claude Pohlig’s temporary, but professionally run food court! I wandered on, to the information stand of the Brussels Slow Food movement, and next door I met Anne, from the blog Les jardins de Pomone, whom I was happy to meet in personShe and her husband know a thing or two about real food too: that’s food coming straight from a garden. Anne made me taste the leaves of the stevia plants, never had before. And Brussels was just the beginning! After I tasted the Pohlig’s dishes, I decided to take part in his training at Hex Castle! And I did it in September.

Visiting Mr Pohlig in castle Hex: The middle-aged, lean, good looking master chef himself was digging in boxes, but his assistant chef was preparing the lentil flour crêpes. As a starter I took a soup made with orange-colored tomatoes, quinoa and purple basil. Next, I chose the beef hamburger dressed with a pumpkin patty, and a mayonnaise with fresh herbs, served with a salad featuring pale yellow carrots. Taste bombs. In short Claude Pohlig, Michelin star chef does catering with what Michael Pollan calls real food! Here are two recipes of mr Pohlig:

Lavender pancake with salmon

Ingredients: 25 ml milk, 2 eggs, 100 g flour, 2 lavender twigs, 4 slices smoked salmon, 25 cl tick cream, pepper, flowers and herbs

Preparation: Make pancake dough with the flour, milk and eggs. Add the lavender flowers and leave the dough for 24 hours rest. Bake the pancakes in cleared butter or in a mixture of half butter, half oil. Place a slice of smoked salmon on each pancake and a spoonful of thick cream. Add flowers and garden herbs to your own preference. Season with some freshly ground pepper before serving. gambero-rosso-tym-k-lejeune

Rosehip cake with nuts 

Ingredients: 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) of earth balance, or other vegan butter, room temperature, 1 cup sugar, 2 ½ cups flour, ½ cup rosehips, loosely packed, with the inside seeds and hairs removed, ½ cup almonds or hazelnuts

Methods: 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper, next finely chop the rosehips and almonds and set aside.
2. Using a hand-mixer, whip the vegan butter. Add the sugar and whip until it is fully integrated and fluffy. With the mixer on a low setting, add the flour, rosehips and almonds half a cup at a time until it has all been added.
3. Scoop the batter onto the baking dish covered with parchment paper and use your hands to push into an even layer across the entire pan. Make as smooth as possible, or use a fork to add texture- the cookies will not smooth in the oven. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until it has turned more golden but not brown- they will still be fairly soft but will harden as they cool.
4. Use the edges of the wax paper to lift the cookie dough from the hot pan and place on a cutting board. While still hot, cut down to the desired size and shape and then allow to cool completely before serving.

5. I prepared cream with Philadelphia cream cheese, adding sugar and whipped cream to it. I decorated with rosehip marmalade and ground hazelnuts.

hagebutten-nuss-torte

Claude Pohlig is a Michelin star chef, works for Cuisine potager as a caterer and gives cooking lessons in the castle of Hex etc.

Advent in Germany

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How to prepare for Christmas in Germany or some facts about the German Advent:

Displaying of wreaths and candles are a more traditional Christmas display. The concentric assortment of leaves, -usually from an evergreen,- make up Christmas wreaths and are designed to prepare Christians for the Advent season. Candles in each window are meant to demonstrate the fact that Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the ultimate light of the world.

Advent wreath step by step: as early as late November by creating or buying an advent’s wreath which includes four candles to lit each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. If there is a fifth it is lit on Christmas Eve. The lighting of the candles is often accompanied by a devotional Bible reading or singing Carols. Germans also display handmade wooden nativities in their homes. Many of their celebrations are recognized as the traditions brought over to USA by European immigrants.

Second: German Christians don’t just wait, they prepare! The first candle on the advent wreath is often referred to as the candle of HOPE. The second candle is the candle of LOVE, the third the JOY and the fourth is the PEACE! Each Sunday of Advent highlights these „gifts” that possess because Christ came to Earth.

The traditional colors of Christmas decorations were in the past red, green, and gold. Red symbolized the blood of Jesus, which was shed in his crucifixion, while green symbolized eternal life, and in particular the evergreen tree, which does not lose its leaves in the winter, and gold was the first color associated with Christmas, as one of the three gifts of the Magi, symbolizing royalty.

So Advent challenge for focus ever distraction. Germans typically enjoy advent calendars more for the chocolate & toys than the symbolism involved in opening each tiny door and coming down to Christmas …

Flock to many festive Christmas markets for more concerned with the colorful stalls selling gingerbread, mulled wine, nutcrackers ornaments than with the centrally located nativity scene.

The Germans have something to teach us about waiting! For them the Advent is not just passed by, it’s spent remembering hoping & expecting with eyes on the savior!garden fest 005

 

Easter chicken brioche

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Ingredients: 220 g flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, 20 g butter, 5 eggs, 90 ml luke warm milk, 30 g sugar, black raisin, salt

Recipe

Make the bread

Knead the flour together with the baking powder, butter, and 1/2 whipped eggs and milk, add a pinch of salt and sugar. Make a little hole on the top of the 4 eggs with the help of a knitting pin or needle.

Roosters Bread

Divide batter for 4 portions and make small balls. Roll out each balls. On one side let a narrow side and on the other side a wide side. In the middle- over the length- make a horizontal notch where an egg fits lengthwise.

Put the egg in the notch and now gently pull the left and right side of the dough upwards. Form of the narrow piece of dough a cup by laying out the tip of the dough so that a beak is formed. Stretch the wide side gently upwards for the tail. Now cut in the edge of the dough on the spot of the comb of the chicken several times with the scissors, as well as at the back in the tail. Then stretch the cut dough between thumb and index finger for head upwards and for the tail towards the side. Make a hole on the spot of the eye and place a raisin.

Braided Bread

Divide the dough into 4 portions and roll out balls of it. Roll each scoop into a thin rag on a floured counter top. Roll up the lap and press a slightly flat. Cut the roll in the length into 3 bars, fasten the wisps at the top and braid until the end. Make the braid a round and place it on a baking paper-clad baking sheet. Press the ends on. Place the egg in the middle of the wreath. Repeat this so that all the dough is formed.

In the oven

Preheat the oven for 170°C. Smear the top of the wreaths and chicken forms with whipped egg yolk and bake them for 20 minutes in the oven.paasbrood_met_ei_lr_2

Woman so obsessed with vegetable she’s covered her body in tattoos of it

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Zizi Howell talked to “My Crazy Obsession” sequel on TV about her penchant for carrots. The Californian woman showed off 35 carrot-themed tattoos and revealed to the network she owned more than 1,000 pieces of carrot memorabilia, which she spends up to five hours per day organizing. They include fridge magnets, wind-up toys and carrot-inspired teapots.

Arguably one of the juiciest parts in the episode came when Mrs Howell revealed how she and her husband originally met. She said that she had thrown a carrot through the air at a rock concert which hit him in the head. Other bizarre moments included Mrs Howell’s off-site excursion. She took the network’s film crew along with her to a carrot-themed rock concert.

She has more than 35 tattoos across her body including one large one across her belly. Slipping carrots between her fingers in the manner of glow sticks, she head-banged her way through a performance by Carrot Top, a punk metal musician.

She also wore 600 carrots in a belt that was strapped over her chest to ensure she could rock out while her obsession remained intact.

She also has the value of $4,000 carrot-themed dresser, which she uses to store her mother’s ashes. Rather than curlers, she uses carrots to wave her locks. Instead, she looked to her favorite vegetable for its styling ability. Her obsession stems as far as her wardrobe, which features an orange bath robe.

The pink-haired woman’s kitchen seemed like the home’s quirkiest shrine. Inside the small space, Mrs Howell plays with her carrot toys. She also puts her carrot crockery and cutlery to good use, demonstrating her useful each item in front of the cameras. Even her table settings can’t escape Mrs Howell’s obsession. She has carrot glasses and candles. Everywhere you look, another one appears. Mrs Howell’s tea set is even carrot-inspired.

She rationale behind her obsession? She said that: “I just want to have the most carrots in the world!” I’d rather prefer the carrot in my soup or in a side dish!Easter is coming 001

The oddest and longest pumpkin festival

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Though the Germans aren’t known for their Halloween celebrations (there are more European traditions like Reformationstag and Martin’s day), they are very into pumpkins. Generally referred to as “Kürbis” which means “squash”, this is a fall staple that must be consumed in mass quantities like Spargel in spring and summer.

So what better place than Germany for the largest pumpkin festival in the world? Taking place on the grounds of a spectacular palace, Schloss Ludwigsburg, over 450,000 pumpkins are on display during Ludwigsburg Kürbis ausstellung (Pumpkin exhibition).

There are 800 different kinds of pumpkins on display from edible to decorative, bumpy to smooth, mammoth to skinny and curvy. With themes like “Pumpkins in Flight” or “The Pumpkin Circus is Coming to Town!” “Rome”(this year) pumpkins are transformed into elaborate action scenes and art pieces acrobatics, clowns, knife throwers and more.

Hundreds of thousands of festive pumpkins are on display every day, but there are several can’t miss events during the festival. It runs from 1st of September until 5th of November! Here is the event calendar:

Pumpkin festival Grounds

The largest pumpkins of the festival are on display again, this time being cut into by famed pumpkin artists. Watch as they cut into orangey flesh to create giant, organic masterpieces. Watch for famed US Pumpkin carver Ray Villafane and his team from 15th to 18th of September. The audience will judge which giant pumpkin is best transformed.

Pumpkin regatta Sunday, September 18 at 12:30 South Garden, Blühendes Barock

It is surprising what will float…like a pumpkin. The annual pumpkin boat race is a highlight of the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival. Daring canoeists try to steer hollowed-out giant pumpkins across the lake as fast as they can

German Pumpkin Championship on Sunday Oct 2 at 13:30 in the South Garden Blühendes Baroque

The heaviest pumpkins from Germany step up to the scales. So far the German record was 812,5 kg (1,791 lbs). Ludwigsburg-17

European Pumpkin Championship on Sunday October 9 at 13:30

Following the German Championship heavy weights from around Europe will compare their girth for this competition. In 2013 the world heaviest pumpkin was 1,053 kg (2,322 pounds) making first in history to surpass the 1,000 kg mark.

Giant Pumpkin Carving on Sunday October 16 at 10:00

Halloween pumpkin Carving Sunday October 22 and 29 at 10:00 Carving tents by the pumpkin sales stand if you are missing seeing jack’o lanterns on every corner, watch the experts carve Halloween pumpkins into sinister smiles and try your skills at an artistic design. There is even the chance to win great prizes!

Smashing pumpkins Sunday November 6 at 12:00

Pumpkin Festival grounds to celebrate the end of the season, the winning pumpkins are honored with horrific pummeling. The winners of the Weigh Off are smashed to bits and visitors can take home some of the giants’ seeds. And besides there are plenty interesting programs such as:

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival for the Kids

The grounds are a fall wonderland for kids and adults alike, but kids can really run free at the Märchengarten -Fairy Tale Garden. Not quite medieval, this kids’ area was built in 1958 and includes interactive sites like a Rapunzel tower, miniature train and boat ride. Children can also observe dioramas of classic German fairytales, some recognizable…some not so much.

And gastronomy:

All things Pumpkin are on the Menu

What fun is looking at all of these delicious pumpkins if you can’t eat any of them? Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival is happy to oblige with tons of pumpkin-inspired foods and drinks.

Find pumpkin on Flammkuchen (like pizza), in sausage and in Maultaschen. Try Kürbis spaghetti with pumpkin seed pesto or pumpkin burgers and pumpkin fries, find pumpkin in strudel, and in Sekt (champagne) and pumpkin schorle-a non alcoholic beverage with bubbles.

And don’t miss Germany’s biggest bowl of pumpkin soup! Served daily from 11:00 until 17:00 on the weekend of September 24th and 25th. Visitors can enjoy a delicious dish of the record-breaking soup and contribute to charity as 1 euro of each bowl sold is donated to charity.

And if you want to bring a little pumpkin home, there are plenty of delicious pumpkin products. Stands offer everything from pumpkin chutney to pumpkin ketchup to cinnamon-sugar coated pumpkin seeds. Bring your own jug to fill with fresh-pressed apple cider. Take the opportunity to sample everything.  IMG_20150920_172316