Tradition

Cooking with gomashio

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Have you heard of Gomasio? No, then here are the infos about it: It is a sesame salt which is so aromatic and tasty therefore it adds extra flavor to simply dishes, such as steamed vegetables.

In Japanese, “goma” means “sesame” and “shio” means “salt”. Gomashio has been used in their cuisine for centuries.  It is as common in Japanese households to find Gomashio on the meal table, as it is to find a salt shaker on the table in western homes. It comes in three popular flavours: To prepare it you need only two ingredients: sesame seeds and salt. You toast both and pestle them in a mortar. Sesame is very good to your body because it contains calcium and eight essential amino acid. In Japan gomshio is traditionally made from black sesame seeds. Have fun and make some gomashio spice.
Traditional Gomashio This is a time-honoured recipe – simply roasted and ground sesame seed with salt. It has the highest concentration of salt in the salt-to-sesame seed ratio. Use as a condiment anywhere you would typically use salt – on rice or other cooked grains, eggs etc.
Sea Vegetable Sesame Sprinkles The same recipe as Traditional Gomashio plus added flavour and nutrition from kelp and dulse, with a dash of tamari soy sauce. It has less salt than the Traditional Gomashio. Sprinkle on cooked grains, potatoes, popcorn, eggs, rice, salads – anywhere you would use salt but want some extra flavour.
Salt-Free Sea Vegetable Sesame Sprinkles Organic, unhulled, sesame seed roasted with dulse and kelp and a little dash of soy sauce. No salt is added. People on a salt-reduced diet love it for the extra flavour it gives to rice, potatoes, salads, veggies etc. It is also wonderful on fruit salads, puddings, and ice cream.

Gomashio (also spelled gomasio) is a dry condiment, similar to furikake, made from unhulled sesame seeds goma) and salt shio). It is often used in Japanese cuisine, such as a topping for sekihan. It is also sometimes sprinkled over plain rice or onigiri Some commercially sold gomashio also has sugar mixed in with the salt.
The sesame seeds used to make gomashio may be either tan or black in color. They are toasted before being mixed with the salt. Occasionally the salt is also toasted. The ratio of sesame seeds to salt varies according to taste and diet, generally ranging between 5:1 (5 parts sesame seeds to 1 part salt) and 15:1. Gomashio is often homemade, though it is also commercially available in glass or plastic containers.
Gomashio is also a part of the macrobiotic diet, where it is used as a healthier alternative to ordinary salt. Generally, the gomashio used in macrobiotic cuisine will contain less salt than traditional Japanese gomashio (a ratio of 18 parts sesame seeds to 1 part salt is recommended for some individuals with a particularly restricted diet) and made by hand grinding in a suribachi
Gomashio is also used in the Japanese to describe a head of hair containing both white and black hair strands that intermingle, similar to the English idiom “salt and pepper”.

Tulip, Love and the Persian New Year

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The superstar of the spring there is no doubt that the tulip is. They can take centre stage like no other flower can, creating unforgettable spring shows. Because the tulip is truly an extraordinary flower. It has a past steeped in legend and has been a muse for art and poetry, it has obsessed nations, and enthralled sultans. Here is one of the exotic legends of its origin from the 6th century. The tale goes…In Persian folklore, the first tulip is said to have bloomed from the blood of star crossed lovers, Farhad and Shirin, in a tale reminiscent of the infamous Romeo and Juliet.

A lowly stone cutter, Farhad, loved the Princess Shirin, and wanted to win her heart. When she heard of this, she would have none of it, and would not even see him, what would she want with a lowly tradie? So Farhad took to the hills with his flute and made beautiful music in praise of Princess Shirin. He fasted as he pined for his love, and soon the villagers made him the talk of the town. They saw Farhad’s plight and felt for him, so they conspired that the two should meet. Princess Shirin was led into the mountain’s forest by her courtesan and when she saw Farhad and heard his music, she fell in love.

The father isn’t happy When her father, the Shah heard that his only daughter had fallen for someone beneath her he was not happy. He could see that she loved him, but was adamant that she should not. He was no dummy, he knew if he told her no, then he may lose her, so he devised a clever plan. He decreed that Farhad, being a commoner, must complete a task, a task that no man could complete. A task that heroes would run from, and only if he was able to do this could he have any hope of ever being with his beloved princess. Now, you might think that that is clever, but it is not the best bit. He had Shirin ask this of Farhad, as a task she wanted complete.

So Princess Shirin went to Farhad and asked  him to dig a canal through the bedrock of the hills. Not just any canal mind you, it had to be six lances wide and three lances deep, oh and forty miles long! She appears quite high maintenance by today’s standards!

Farhad didn’t blink, he loaded up his spade and headed for the hills. He laboured tirelessly for years. From dawn to dark he worked his spade, building the canal, and he was making real progress. The princess would visit, in secret to watch him work, falling deeper and deeper in love – he must have been rippling with muscles by this stage!

Word reached the Shah that Farhad had almost completed his task. The clever trick was not going to plan. The Shah sought council from his cunning Viziers. Together they plotted to send one of the princesses courtiers to tell Farhad that Shirin was dead, hoping that with a broken heart he would give up and go away.

So the courtesan was sent to tell Farhad that the princess was dead. He did not believe her, but was eventually convinced. Then, overcome by grief, Farhad used his spade to take his life, and his blood flowed into the canal.

Things didn’t go according to plan When news reached Princess Shirin she ran to the mountains to see if it was true. Upon seeing him, she then took her own life. Where they lay together, their scarlet blood pooled, and each drop formed a tulip. Ensuring their love will live forever.”

Unhappy end…but at least the tulip has become the most cherished flower since… The Iranian celebrate the spring with this flower at Nowruz‘s time, which is the name of the Iranian New Year, also known as the Persian New Year but it is celebrated worldwide by various ethno-linguistic groups usually on or around March 21 on the Gregorian calendar. Nowruz has Iranian and Zoroastrian origins; however, it has been celebrated by diverse communities for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the  Black Sea Basin, the Balkans, and South Asia. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians, Bahá’ís, and some Muslim communities. Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendars. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year, and families gather together to observe the rituals. While Nowruz has been celebrated since the reform of the Iranian Calendar in the 11th century CE to mark the new year, the United Nation officially recognized the “International Day of Nowruz” in 2010.

Sweet dates balls

House cleaning and shopping

House cleaning, or shaking the house (xāne tekāni) is commonly done before the arrival of Nowruz. People start preparing for Nowruz with a major spring cleaning of their homes and by buying new clothes to wear for the New Year, as well as the purchase of flowers. The hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous.

Visiting family and friends

During the Nowruz holidays, people are expected to make short visits to the homes of family, friends and neighbors. Typically, young people will visit their elders first, and the elders return their visit later. Visitors are offered tea and pastries, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and mixed nuts or other snacks. Many Iranians throw large Nowruz parties in as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups of friends and families.

Haft-sin

Typically, before the arrival of father Nowruz, family members gather around the Haft-sin table and await the exact moment of the March equinox to celebrate the New Year. Traditionally, the Haft-sin (seven things beginning with the letter sin are

  • sabze– wheat barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts grown in a dish.
  • samanu– sweet pudding made from wheat germ
  • senjed -Persian olive oil
  • serke-vinegar
  • sib-apple
  • sir-garlic
  • somāq-sumac

The Haft-sin table may also include a mirror, candles, painted eggs, a bowl of water, goldfish, coins, hyacinth, tulip and traditional confectioneries. A “book of wisdom” such as the Quran, Bible, Avesta, the Sahname or the divān of Hafez may also be included. Haft-sin’s origins are not clear. The practice is believed to have been popularized over the past 100 years.

In Iran, the traditional heralds of the festival of Nowruz are Amu Nowruz and Haji Firuz, who appear in the streets to celebrate the New Year. Amu Nowruz brings children gifts, much like his counterpart Santa Claus. He is the husband of Nane Sharma, with whom he shares a traditional love story in which they can meet each other only once a year (one more love story!) He is depicted as an elderly silver-haired man with a long beard carrying a walking stick, wearing a felt hat, a long cloak of blue canvas, a sash, giveh, and linen trousers. Haji Firuz, a character with his face and hands covered in soot, clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat, is the companion of Amu Nowruz. He dances through the streets while singing and playing the tambourine. In the traditional songs, he introduces himself as a serf trying to cheer people whom he refers to as his lords. His face is covered in soot, and he is clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat. He dances through the streets while singing and playing a tambourine. In the traditional songs, he introduces himself as a serf trying to cheer people whom he refers to as his lords. As a black-faced serf, he is a controversial character, seen as symbolically racist. Therefore, half of his face is sometimes painted white in order to avoid the criticisms. According to some sources, Hajji Firuz is based on a tradition called Mir Nowruzi. Mir Nowruz was a comical figure chosen to rule the municipality for “the last five days of the year” (Panje). The temporary “five-day king” (Šāh e Panj Ruze) would often parade the city with a group of singers and dancers for the Nowruz celebrations

Later, it was claimed that the blackened face of Hajji Firuz symbolizes his returning from the world of the dead, his red clothing is the sign of the blood of Siavash and the coming to life of the sacrificed deity, while his joviality is the jubilation of rebirth, typical of those who bring rejuvenation and blessing along with themselves. Bahar speculates that the name Siyāwaxš might mean ‘black man’ or ‘dark-faced man’ and suggests that the term black in the name may be a reference either to the blackening of the faces of the participants in the aforementioned Mesopotamian ceremonies, or to the black masks that they wore for the festivities.

Oven baked sweet potato with kidney beans

Traditional Hungarian Christmas sweet the bejgli

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There is no Christmas in Hungary without their iconic Beigli. It is a traditional walnut and poppy seed roll. The “Bejgli” is originated from Silezia and it was already well known in the 14th century in Germany. However it spread in Hungary only in the 19th century but it ‘d became immediately the most beloved pastry. The rolls, one with poppy seeds filling and the other one with walnuts filling, each filling, are served together at Christmas season. The advantage of this pastry- not mention it’s not forgettable special flavor- is it can be preserved for at least one month.

The combination is known as mákos és diós (poppy seed and walnut). However, in some English language cookbooks there may be no mention of the walnut filling, as if poppy seed were the only filling used. Some other food writers combine the poppy seeds and walnuts together in one filling. This is not correct, the reason is because Polish and Czech culture have intermingled, immigrants to America sometimes use the term “Kolache” to describe it.

The poppy seed filling is a paste of ground poppy seeds, milk, butter, sugar and/or honey, often with additional flavorings such as lemon zest and juice. It may have raisins. The walnut filling is a paste of ground walnuts, milk, butter, sugar, and raisins, often with additional flavorings such as coffee or orange zest.

A very long roll may be bent so that it fits on a baking sheet; the result is called a patkó (Hungarian: horseshoe) in Hungarian. Before baking, the roll may be given a wash of milk. The roll can be finished with an icing after baking, made of powder and lemon juice (or a glaze during baking). Usually it is brought from the kitchen already sliced.

This year a competition was held in Hungary about the Bejgli with the traditional walnuts, poppy filling and also in gourmet categories; the five-member jury tasted a total of 56 bejglis in Budapest from the three categories before making a decision. In the gourmet category, creative professionals combined the bejgli with a number of special taste combinations, such as favored with pistachios, pumpkin seeds, coffee, but also pumpkin, ginger and red wine among the ingredients were used. The Gourmet Bejgli of the Year became the Angelic bejgli, it was made with traditional Bratislava noodles, and at the filling was made with green walnuts. (This fruit has a significant vitamin C and iron content, which has a purifying, gastric strengthening and disinfectant effect, as well as helping to combat anemia and lethargy, the summary states).

As a new trend, a chestnut-filled variant (gesztenyés bejgli) was emerging. The recipe of the bejgli is complicated and it demands time at least two an half hours. But if you want to give a try for this super delicious dessert here is the recipe for you!

Ingredients

For the dough: 500 grams (17,6 ounces) of flour, 100 grams (3,5 ounces) of butter, 100 grams (3,5 ounces) of lard, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 50 grams of (1,8 ounces) of powdered sugar, 120 ml (1/2 cup) of milk, 2 whole eggs, 15 grams (0,5 ounces) of compressed yeast, 1 sachet of vanilla flavored sugar (1 flat tablespoon), Zest of half a lemon, Pinch of salt

For the walnut filling: 200 grams (7 ounces) of finely ground walnuts, 1 handful of coarsely chopped walnuts, 100 ml (1/2 cup) of milk, 100 grams (3,5 ounces)) of powdered sugar, A pinch of ground cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of apricot jam, 1 coffee spoon of lemon zest, 1 coffee spoon of orange zest

For the poppyseed filling: 250 gramms (8,8 ounces) of ground poppy seeds, 100 ml (1/2 cup) of milk,100 grams (3,5 ounces) of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of raisins – optional, 1 coffee spoon of lemon zest

Other: 1 egg for eggwash

Takes at least 2,5 hours

Instructions

  1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in the lukewarm milk, then add the yeast, wait a few minutes until blooms.
  2. Mix the flour with the butter and lard by hand. The mixture will be quite crumbly.
  3. Add 2 whole eggs, the powdered sugar, pinch of salt, vanilla sugar, lemon zest and the yeast/milk mixture. Knead thoroughly. Add more flour if necessary.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 balls, cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, you have time to make the walnut and poppy seed filling.
  6. Walnut filling: In a pan heat the milk with the sugar, bring it to a boil. Take the pan off the heat, add the ground and coarsely chopped walnuts, the raisins, the lemon and orange zest, the cinnamon and the apricot jam. Mix well and let it cool completely.
  7. Poppy seed filling: In a pan heat the milk with the sugar, bring it to a boil. Take the pan off the heat, add the ground poppy seeds, the raisins and the lemon zest. Mix well and let it cool completely.
  8. Heat the oven to 180°C (355°F). Line a pan with parchment paper.
  9. On a floured surface roll out each piece of the dough into a rectangle measuring about 12×14 inches (30×35 cm).
  10. Spread the walnut or poppy seed filling on the dough while leaving approx. 1/2 inch empty edges on each side, and roll up lengthwise. Make sure it is not too tight and not too losse. Carefully transfer the rolls onto the baking sheet.
  11. Egg wash: Separate the egg, set the egg whites aside. Gently whisk the egg yolk and brush the top of the 4 rolls. Let them sit in the yolk dries, it will take about half an hour or so. After the egg yolk has dried, brush on the egg white, let it dry in a cool place, if possible not in the fridge.You can leave them overnight and bake the next day.
  12. Prick on the top with a skewer, making sure it goes all the way through. It allows vapor to escape, that could cause the pastry to split.
  13. Bake the rolls for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Keep the rolls in a cool and dry place and slice them only before serving.

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

Saint Sophie’s day is over

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The Ice Saints are St. Mamertus (or, in some countries, St. Boniface of Tarsus), St. Pancras and St. Servatius. They are so named because their feast day fall on the days of May 11, May 12, and May 13 respectively, known as “the blackthorn winter” in Austrian, Belgian, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, North Italian, Polish, Slovak, Slovene and Swiss folklore.

In parts of the Northern Hemisphere, the period from May 12 to May 15 is often believed to bring a brief spell of colder weather in many years, including the last nightly frosts of the spring. Pupils of Galileo confirmed this weather pattern for the years 1655-70 and reported a marked cold snap over the days of the Ice Saints. However, in 1902 William Dines, President of the Royal Meteorological Society, used modern statistical techniques to demonstrate that the Ice Saints were a myth, brought about by selective reporting. On the other hand, a review from 1941 to 1969 showed that 13 May was usually the warmest day of the month, and was followed by a sharp drop in temperature.

In 1582, the replacement of the Julian calendar by the Gregorian calendar involved omitting 10 days in the calendar. So if the folklore predates the calendar change, then the equivalent dates from the climatic point of view would be May 22–25.

St. Mamertus is not counted amongst the Ice Saints in certain countries, whereas St. Boniface of Tarsus belongs to them in other countries (Flanders, Liguria, Czech Republic, etc.) as well; St. Boniface’s feast day falling on May 14. St Sophia, nicknamed Cold Sophia (German kalte Sophie) on May 15 can be added in Germany, Alsace (France), Poland, etc.

In Poland and the Czech Republic, the Ice Saints are Pancras, Servatus and Boniface of Tarsus (i.e., May 12 to May 14). To the Poles, the trio are known collectively as zimni ogrodnicy (cold gardeners) and are followed by zimna Zośka (cold Sophia) on the feast day of St. Sophia, which falls on May 15. In Czech, the three saints are collectively referred to as “ledoví muži” (ice men or icy men) and St. Sophia is known as “Žofie, ledová žena” (Sophia, the ice woman). Sisymbrium sophia, called the Sophienkraut in Germany, and it’s named after her.

In Sweden, the German legend of the Ice Saints has resulted in the belief that there are special “järnnätter” (Swedish for “iron nights”) especially in early June, which are susceptible to frost. The term likely arose out of mistranslation of German sources, where the term “Eismänner” (German for “ice men”) was read as “Eisenmänner” (German for “iron men”) and their nights then termed “iron nights,” which then became shifted from May to June.Eisheilige-kalte-sophie

 

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