I bought a chequered lily last week (Fritillaria meleagris) as I decided to choose it for being our major Easter decoration. I discovered it couple of years ago in Germany and since it has been my favorite flower of the Lent. It is a Eurasian species of flowering plant in the lily family. Its common names include snake’s head fritillary, snake’s head (the original English name), chess flower, frog-cup, guinea-hen flower, guinea flower, leper lily (because its shape resembled the bell once carried by lepers), Lazarus bell, chequered lily, chequered daffodil, drooping tulip or, in northern Europe, simply fritillary.
The name Fritillaria comes from the Latin fritillus meaning dice-box, possibly referring to the chequered pattern on the flowers although this derivation has been disputed. The name meleagris means “spotted like a guineafowl. The common name “snake’s head” probably refers to the somewhat snakelike appearance of the nodding flower heads on their long stems. Vita Sackville West called it “a sinister little flower, in the mournful color of decay.
The flower has a chequered pattern in shades of purple, or is sometimes pure white. It flowers from March to May and grows between 15–40 cm in height. The plant has a button-shaped bulb, about 2 cm in diameter, containing poisonous alkaloids. It grows in grasslands in damp soils and river meadows at altitudes up to 800 m.
Fritillaria meleagris is native to Europe and Western Asia but in many places it is an endangered species that is rarely found in the wild but is commonly grown in gardens. In Croatia, the flower is known as kockavica and is associated by some with the country’s national symbol. It is the official flower of the Swedish province of Uppland, where it grows in large quantities every spring at the meadows in Kungsängen (Kings meadow), just outside Upsala, which gives the flower its Swedish name, kungsängslilja (Lily of Kings meadow). It is also found for example in Sandemar Nature Reserve, a nature reserve west of Dalarö in Stockholm Archipelago. It is also a symbol of the Italian Botanical Garden Alpino di Pietra Corva.
On the first week of Advent my Christmas cactus has already in full blossom. That reminded me of that it’s time to make plans for the festive season: what to eat, how to decorate the house the table etc. Today I went to shop around in the flower market and these were the top 10 Xmas flower offers:
Christmas cactus flower
Christmas cactus, also known as orchid cactus, often blooms around Christmas time. Pendulous stems of Christmas cactus make it a great choice for hanging baskets. There are a number of different cactus species sold as “Christmas cactus.”
One plant called Christmas rose is regarded as a true Christmas flower in certain parts of the world. Christmas rose (Serissa) is also known as the “snow rose” or “winter rose.” Originally from tropical regions of Asia, cultivated Serissa often blooms during the winter. On the occasion of Christmas Eve, it is traditional for young women in North America to exchange specially designed Christmas roses with each other resembling their spirit of fraternity.
Another plant known as Christmas rose is Helleborus niger.
Holly is the plant most associated with Christmas in many European countries. Holly wreaths are hung on doors, and sprigs of holly used to trim Christmas puddings.
Like most of the other Christmas flowers, ivy leaves symbolize eternity and resurrection. The ivy leaf has been associated with the Egyptian God, Osiris, and the Greco-Roman god, Attis; both of whom were resurrected from the dead.
Mistletoe is a Christmas plant whose origin is said to date back to the Pagans. Druid priests used this Christmas plant two hundred years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. A more modern tradition is to exchange kisses under a sprig of mistletoe
trained on a sheltered south or west-facing wall will reliably produce shiny olive-green shoots studded in pallid yellow flowers from November on. The spiky twigs can be picked, although they don’t have the heady scent associated with jasmine. Cut the shoots back hard after flowering to encourage new growth
You can grow your own, but I’m in favour of buying a plant that’s about to explode with bright trumpets. Opt for glowing scarlet or a pure white. ‘Red Velvet’ is a classy single, ‘Red Dragon’ a fiery double. ‘Papilio’, an elegant red-striped white and ‘Benfica’, dark red, are both excellent
Paper white narcissi
Paper whites can be planted in mid-October for Christmas flowers. Half-fill glass jars with stones, glass beads or gravel. Cluster five or 10 bulbs together, not touching, pointed end up, then add gravel until only a third of each bulb shows. Water to just below the base of the bulbs. Place in a cool, dark spot and bring into a warm room a few days before you need flowers
Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’
The festive creamy flowers of this winter-flowering clematis are heavily splashed and freckled in bright red – hence the name. Clematis cirrhosa is a Mediterranean species, so good drainage and the protection of a south-facing wall are vital. It reaches up to 10ft and has pendent bells. ‘Freckles’ is the earliest cirrhosa to flower
The simple Christmas rose, such a failure in most gardens, is now grown under glass. Small plants make excellent displays in a cool porch or windowsill when mixed with ivies. Place several in a basket and top-dress with moss
Almost always out by Christmas Eve, this bright yellow miniature daffodil was named after the artist (1889-1982), who founded the East Anglian School, by his friend Beth Chatto. It has a shallow trumpet and the outer petals are shaded in emerald green where they meet the stem. Sir Cedric found it over 50 years ago on a rocky ledge in Spain
This Algerian iris is perfect to plant at the feet of your winter-flowering clematis. Soft blue flowers unfurl from pointed buds from November onwards. Pick single flowers and let them unfurl indoors. ‘Mary Barnard’ was collected by the lady herself near Algiers in 1937. Snip out any untidy leaves twice a year. Other than that, neglect is the best option
Skimmia confusa ‘Kew Green’
The head of pale green buds on this choice and compact evergreen are arranged in a tight, lilac-like raceme. Place ‘Kew Green’ in a container by the front door, add some variegated trailing ivies and forced crocus, tiny narcissi or white muscari. Replace the bulbs as they fade with other early flowers.
In many nations, seasonal flowers and plants such as Poinsettia, Christmas cactus, holly, Christmas rose, ivy, mistletoe, form a major part of traditional Christmas decoration.
After buying some pine tree twigs and one advent wreath with four candles I decided to surprise my family with a divine dessert:
Pears poached in Porto wine
Serving for 8, prep time max. 35 minutes
Ingredients: 600ml port, 140g caster sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, halved, 8 ripe but firm pears, peeled with the stalk intact
For the meringue cream: 425 ml double cream, 1 tbsp icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 meringue shells, broken into pieces (bought ones are fine), good pinch of cinnamon
1.Pour the port into a large pan with 600ml water, add the sugar and cinnamon, then heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the pears, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until tender all the way through. They are ready when a cocktail stick can be easily pushed through each one. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to cook the pears in 2 batches using the same port syrup, or turn the pears several times as they cook so they become an even color. Let the pears cool in their syrup, preferably overnight to allow the syrup to really stain them. Will keep for 3 days in the fridge.
2.Check the consistency of the syrup. If it is very thin, boil it in a pan to reduce the amount and concentrate the flavor.
3.To serve, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until it holds its shape then fold in the meringue. Sprinkle with the cinnamon. Arrange the pears in a shallow dish and spoon over the syrup. Allow guests to help themselves to both pears and cream.
Today I’ve made again my 100 kms bike tour around the Lake Starnberg but at this time after leaving behind the village Tutzing I stopped at the Feldafing park. I let my bike to “rest” and just for change I went to the Rose Island by a special, historical boat. When we got out, we found ourselves in a charming island. What I’ve learned of it was the next: The Rose island in Lake Starnberg (Germany, Bavaria) is the only island in the lake and site of a royal villa of King Ludwig II of Bavaria which had been commissioned by his father. He was particularly attached to this place and made frequent renovations of the small garden and the villa, which is called Casino. Guests on the island were the composer Richard Wagner, his close friend Prince Paul of Thurn and Taxis, Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Czarina Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. The villa is today a small museum, open to the general public.
More details of the Rose island
In 1853 King Maximilian II of Bavaria commissioned Peter Joseph Lenné to design a landscape park on the west shore of the Starnberger See. The park, which combines decorative formal and natural landscape elements, was laid out by Carl von Effner. The palace commenced much later in 1863 was abandoned on the early death of the king in March 1864 (blood poisoning). Rose Island with its small island villa, the “Casino”, and a rose garden also designed by Lenné, became one of the favorite places of Maximilian’s son Ludwig II.
Feldafing Park-Rose blossom
Usually the first blossom begins around mid-June, the second around mid-August, each lasting for about 4 weeks. Depending on the climate the roses may bloom (even weeks) earlier or later.
Monument under water
The remains of prehistoric pile dwellings on the bottom of Lake Starnberg by Rose Island have been included on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list.
In June 2011, over 100 selected archaeological sites in several countries were declared cultural heritage under the heading of “Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps”. They provide researchers with unique insights into the ancient world of farming, everyday life, agriculture, animal breeding and technical innovations. The pile dwelling sites in Lake Starnberg, together with other remains of settlements, represent an archaeological heritage which dates back to 5000 BC.
Of course in Germany you are obliged to eat a cake and drink coffee in the afternoon. Since I love desserts I couldn’t resist to eat a piece of pistachio-marzipan rose petal cake! It was delicious! But I ate it when I returned from the Rose island since over there is not allowed to eat or drink.(You can organize parties, receptions or wedding ceremonies in the Casino’s basement)
The Lake Starnberg is located in southern Bavaria 25 kilometres (16 mi) southwest of Munich, Lake Starnberg is a popular recreation area for the city and, since 1976, one of the wetlands of international importance protected by the Ramsar Convention. The small town of Berg is famous as the site where King Ludwig II of Bavaria was found dead in the lake in 1886. Because of its associations with the Wittelsbach royal family, the lake is also known as Fürstensee (Prince’s Lake). It is also mentioned in T. S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land
Ingredients: 500 ml heavy cream, 5 egg yolks, 100 grams sugar, 3 grams (about 3 sprigs) lemon verbena leaves or 2 verbena tea filters, 1 gram chamomile leaves
In a small saucepan pour the heavy cream and add the herbs to it and bring to a boil. Turn the heat off in order to let the herbs steep in the cream for a few minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. Temper the warm cream into the yolks and whisk. Strain the custard through a fine sieve.
Place ramekins on a cake pan. Pour custard into ramekins and place pan into the 300F/175 degrees preheated oven. Once the cake pan is on the oven rack, pour some boiling water to create a water bath. Steam cream in this bain mairie for about 20 minutes (it depends on the size of the ramekin). The cream brulée is ready when the center of the cream jiggles slightly but in the midst of the cream is non-liquid.
Refrigerate the baked custards for at least 4 hours. Before serving, sprinkle cream brulées with some brown sugar on the top and caramelize them with a torch or under a hot broiler.
Ingredients: 110 grams butter, 80 grams sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 tbsp lemon zest, 1/2 tbsp chamomile leaves, 175 grams flour, a pinch of salt
Churn the butter with the sugar. Add the egg and mix together. Scrape the bowl. Add the flour, salt, lemon zest and the chamomile leaves. Mix everything together until they are well combined.
Place dough on a parchment paper and roll into a log that is about 1 inch thick. Wrap it in the parchment paper and refrigerate for 2 hours.
As I mentioned in my previous post most recently I spent 10 days in Naples/Italy. As a blooded gastronom I was really looking forward to discovering the best pizzeria/pizza of the town since the pizza is the most popular and best known creation of all Neapolitan cuisine. It soon became very popular among the people as well as barons or princes: it was even present in the Bourbon court. For instance King Ferdinand I experienced cooking pizza in Capodimonte’s porcelain ovens. After Italian unification, the new kings were also attracted by this southern food. The pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito created in 1889, in honour to queen Margherita of Savoy, is a nationalistic pizza, where the colours of the Italian flag were represented by the mozzarella (white), tomato (red) and basil (green). Since then this pizza is called the pizza Margherita.
Pizza can be cheap and nutritious, so it had great success very quickly. Sometimes pizza is made in home ovens, but the real Neapolitan pizza must be cooked in a wood-fired oven, hand-made by an able pizziaiolo who makes the dough disk thinner in the centre and thicker in the outer part; the ingredients and olive oil are rapidly spread on the disk, and with a quick movement the pizza is put on the shovel and then slid in the oven where it is turned around a few times for uniform cooking. I visited the three of the most famous restaurants:
Pizzeria da Matteo
It’s located at via Tribunale, zona Spaccanapoli. Long haunt of the rich and famous previous visitors include the Italian film star Marcello Mastroianni and more recently Clinton. Simple surroundings, tasty pizzas. Excellent prices and quick service. Mind you don’t bang your head going up the stars to the first floor.
Among the most famous pizzerias in Naples this is the most popular pizzeria. The decor is unpretentious and the main attraction is the excellent pizzas. Go armed with bags of patience-because queuing is part of the experience and almost obligatory.
Tradition has it that the mythical Margherita pizza was born here on 11 june 1889, so called in honour of Queen Margherita. One for the address book of all pizza connoisseurs. A good place to head for after a little light afternoon shopping since it is open from eight o’clock!
for the roux: 2 tbsp of oil, 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 1/2 cups cream or milk, heated, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan,
4 small to medium Belgian endive, salt and freshly ground black pepper, vegetable cooking spray, chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Special equipment: small rectangular baking dish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray the baking dish with cooking spray
1. Prepare the roux: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add in the milk, whisking constantly. Allow the mixture to cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the mustard, and 1/4 cup shredded cheese.
2. Prepare the minced meat: peel onion and chop finelly. Heat oil or butter and soaté the minced meat in it. Flavor the meat with salt and pepper and toss some thyme, and oregano. Steam it for 3-4 minutes. If you like you can add a tablespoon of ketchup or tomato from can. Put meat aside.
3. Meanwhile, cut off the woody stems of the endives (they are bitter) cut them in half and make a deep slit into them lengthwise. Place a small slice of Parmesan cheese and spoon on the top of each endives the minced meat. Scatter some bread crumbles on each then place the endives, seam-side down, in the prepared baking dish.
4. Stir the sauce to blend the cheese into the mixture and pour over the endives. Cover with foil and cook for 25 minutes. Uncover, and add the remaining 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Raise the heat to 400 degrees F and cook for 10 minutes more. Let cool a few minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley to garnish.
I have already visited Landshut, in Bavaria, (Germany) for several times but last Sunday I was not only being enchanted by the charm of the picturesque little town but rather by the famous bridal pageant!
Countless visitors from all over the world took part on that wedding procession, and were spectators of the “Landshuter Hochzeit 1475”, a pageant. More than 2,000 participants in medieval costumes brought the festival (from 2pm.-to 4 pm.) to life to recreate the Late Middle Ages.
The historical wedding
The medieval wedding of Landshut is re-enacted now every four years, and everyone gets carried away with medieval jousting, pageantry, feasting and wedding processions. The festival is held (from 28th of June till 21 st of July) in memory of the wedding between George of Bavaria, the son of the Bavarian duke, and Hedwig Jagiellon, daughter of King Casimir IV Jagiellon of Poland, in 1475. The wedding was negotiated in 1474 in Kraków through legations. The marriage was important because it was seen as a strong alliance against the Ottoman Turks. At the time, most royal marriages were not entered into because of love, but because of political motivations. It took the bride two months to travel to Landshut, where she was received by princes and bishops. The bridal pair were married in St. Martin’s Church, and the service was officiated by Salzburg’s Archbishop Bernhard von Rohr. Afterwards the bridal procession proceeded through the Old Town to the Town Hall. Ten thousand people are said to have attended the affair and they were provided food and drink by the young duke’s father such as: 320 bullocks, 1,500 sheep, 1,300 lambs, 500 calves, 40,000 chickens were eaten. The historic event is notable for its detailed records that yield a complete chronicle of the wedding days and which allows the re-enactment to have a touch of realism. The exact recordings can be explained from the historical context with the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 which led into to a longer period of growth of the Ottoman Empire. The marriage of the Polish princess with George “the Rich” was very profitable for the Polish king – the 32,000 Guilder bride wealth he received is worth about 6.5 million Euros in modern currency.
The bridal pageant idea
The original motivation for the festival dates back to the foundation of the German Reich in 1871 which furthered German national pride. In the years 1876 to 1880 the Landshut town hall was renovated and in the years 1880 to 1882 the celebration room in the town hall was given paintings depicting the Landshut Wedding of 1475, as this very room was used as the dance hall for the festivities at that time. From these images the idea arose among citizens to recreate the event and finally the restaurant owner Georg Trippel and the factory owner Joseph Linnbrunner founded a society “Die Förderer” in 1902.
The first Landshut Wedding recreation took place in 1903, only one year after the creation of the society, and largely took the form of a public play performed by 145 citizens taking on a role. The Landshut Wedding play was subsequently presented annually from 1903 to 1914 (paused during World War I) and 1922 to 1938 (paused during World War II). During this time the number of actors involved increased to 2000. The Landshut Wedding became a triennial event from 1950 to 1968 and from 1975 to 1981. Since 1985 the Landshut Wedding has taken place every four years.The number of members of “Die Förderer” society rose from 855 to 5000 during the years 1973 to 2004. The renewed interest in medieval history made the event a major success in terms of tourism. Today the 60,000 or so inhabitants of Landshut welcome 600,000 to 700,000 visitors during the three weeks of the festivities, with some 120,000 visitors watching the bridal procession. The sponsors are able to collect money in the range of 3.5 million Euro to allow for the event to take place. However, the real heroes of the “Landshuter Hochzeit” are the local citizens who act variously as bishops, aristocrats, bride and bridegroom. Without these people, the festival could not take place. The actors are chosen from a commission of the “Die Förderer”. Every person who wants to become a member of this association and who wants to take part in this big event has to live near Landshut. However, it is not only the actors who delve into the medieval times. It is customary among Landshut males to let the hair grow longer in the months before the event to match the medieval fashion better.
The city’s decoration was retrofitted to a great extent. This of course meant that the city became a pedestrian-only zone. Visitors, including media reporters, were asked to wear an outfit that fits in with what the local inhabitants wear. Dressed in the gorgeous raiment of the period the wedding guests from Poland and Germany made their way through the town. The Emperor, the Elector, princes and counts, but also ambassadors, the town’s elders, camp followers, mercenaries and beggar folk follow the bride. The Late Middle Ages revealed the elegance and pomp of the period. What else I was really amused by during the wedding procession was when the enthusiastic audiance hailed the different characters with a long halloooo!!