Lammas

Lammas And The Year Of The Water Tiger

February 1st is Lammas (or Lughnasadh) in the southern hemisphere and Imbolc in the northern hemisphere. This year these festivals coincide with Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. As Chinese New Year begins on a New Moon, February 1st is shaping up to be a very powerful day.

Lammas is the halfway point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. It is the First Summer Harvest and, in Australia, the first Pagan festival for the year. Baking bread, crafting and enjoying the produce of the first harvests are traditional ways of celebrating this festival.

In the Chinese zodiac, every New Year is ruled by a different animal that rotates through a twelve year cycle. This year is the Year of the Tiger. The tiger is the king of all the beasts and is associated with strength, confidence and bravery. Like all the animals in the zodiac, the tiger not only rules a year, but also a month (February 4th to March 5th), day (Saturday), and hour (3am to 4.59am).

To celebrate both Lammas and the Year of Tiger, I wanted to make tiger bread. Tiger bread, also known as Dutch crunch, tijgerbrood or tijgerbol, is a Dutch bread with a mottled crust. The crust is made by coating half-proofed bread dough with a rice flour paste. The resulting crackle crust is supposed to resemble the patterns of a tiger. However, after a three year old girl wrote to Sainsbury’s saying the pattern looked more like a giraffe than a tiger, the supermarket chain changed the name to giraffe bread. You be the judge!

(Photo from Wikipedia)

January has been a very hectic, but fun, month so I didn’t have time to make tiger bread. So to celebrate both Lammas and the Year of Tiger, I made Tiger Stripe Cupcakes instead. There are lots of ways to decorate cupcakes to look like tigers, but I went for two-toned chocolate and orange cupcakes piped with black and orange coloured cream cheese frosting.

Tiger Stripe Cupcakes

Special Equipment (optional)*
Two piping bags

Ingredients
for the cupcakes
125g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 cups plain flour, sifted
3 teaspoons baking powder, sifted

for the chocolate cupcakes
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
black food colouring

for the orange cupcakes
1/2 teaspoon orange oil
orange food colouring

for the cream cheese frosting
125g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
125g (1/2 cup) cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered (icing) sugar

for the black cream cheese frosting
black food colouring

for the orange cream cheese frosting
orange food colouring

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 12-hole muffin pan with 12 paper cases.
In a medium sized bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy.
Add the eggs one at a time and beat until light and fluffy.
Add the milk and beat until combined.
Using a wooden spoon, fold in the flour and baking powder.
Divide the mixture into two half portions.
For the chocolate cupcakes, mix in the cocoa powder and enough black food colouring to achieve the desired black colour.
For the orange cupcakes, mix in the orange oil and enough orange food colouring to achieve the desired orange colour.
To create a stripe effect, dollop approximately half of the chocolate mix evenly into the bottom of the cupcake cases and wait until the mixture has spread to the sides of the cases.
Dollop approximately half of the orange mix evenly over the chocolate mix and wait until the mixture has spread to the sides.
Repeat with remaining chocolate mix and finish with the orange mix.
Bake for 10 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

While cupcakes are cooling, make the cream cheese frosting by creaming together the butter and cream cheese in a medium sized bowl with an electric mixer.
Gradually beat in the powdered sugar.
Beat until frosting reaches a piping consistency.
Divide the mixture into two half portions.
For the black frosting, mix in enough black food colouring to achieve the desired black colour.
For the orange frosting, mix in enough orange food colouring to achieve the desired orange colour.
Spoon black frosting in one piping bag and the orange in the other.
Pipe alternating black and orange stripes onto cupcakes.

*if you don’t have two piping bags just pipe one frosting first, leaving spaces to fill in with the other frosting and wash the bag between frostings. You can also leave the cakes unfrosted and serve a frosting on the side.

Happy Lunar New Year and Happy Lammas (or whatever Pagan Festival you are celebrating!) 🙂

Corn Dollies For Lammas

Lammas marks the halfway point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. It is the first of the Harvest Festivals and is usually celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere on February 1st. This year I decided to get into the spirit of Lammas by exploring Corn Dollies.

Corn Dollies are traditionally made for Lammas. They are made from a variety of grains and crafted into an assortment of different shapes. Corn Dollies can be used as good luck charms or as a home for the Spirit of the Grain.

In ancient Pagan culture, the Spirit of the Grain was believed to live in the crops. When the crops were harvested, the Grain Spirit was left homeless. A Corn Dolly was made from the last sheafs of the harvest and offered as a winter home for the Grain Spirit. When the new planting season arrived, the Corn Dolly would be ploughed back into the earth so the Grain Spirit could return to its home amongst the crops. If I can get my crafting act together, I may make a Corn Dolly for next Lammas. 

For this Lammas I used my culinary skills to make edible Cornbread Dollies. I usually make some type of cornbread  for Lammas, so this year I thought I would make sweet cornbread that could be cut into shapes using cookie cutters. In honour of the Grain Spirit, I used gingerbread women and men cookie cutters to make little corn people. They are too cute to eat. Well almost! 🙂

Cornbread Dollies

Special Equipment
Gingerbread women and men cookie cutters

Ingredients
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
60g unsalted butter, melted and lightly cooled
1 cup buttermilk

Instructions
Preheat oven to 200C /400F.
Line a baking pan with baking paper. (I use a 18cmx32cm / 7.5”x13” sized pan).
Mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and honey until combined.
Add the melted butter and buttermilk and beat until combined.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until firm and golden.
Allow to cool slightly before cutting into shapes with your gingerbread people cookie cutters.
If you don’t have gingerbread cookie cutters you can use a knife to cut into shapes.

Blueberry Soup For The Uncertain Soul

This weekend is the celebration of Lammas or Lughnasadh in Australia. It is the midpoint between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. It is supposed to bring with it the promise of autumn, but with the temperature soaring, autumn seems so far away.

Bread is traditionally baked for Lammas but with such hot weather enveloping me, putting the oven on is the last thing I want to do. So instead of making bread, I thought I would make something that goes really well with bread – soup!

I know what you are thinking – hot soup on a hot day? Well this refreshing sweet blueberry soup can be served hot or cold. In Australia we can have a dramatic drop or rise in temperature in just one day so this soup is perfect for celebrating in uncertain weather.

While this soup isn’t traditionally served with bread, you can bring a bit of “loaf mass” spirit to the dish by pairing it with toast or a sandwich. For hot soup I serve it with a slice of buttered fruit toast or a dark bread. I serve cold soup with panettone, plain bread and butter, or jam sandwiches.

I’d love to know what breads you would serve with your blueberry soup!

Hot or Cold Blueberry Soup

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Ingredients
2 cups blueberries
2 cups water
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 tablespoons water
cream for serving (optional)

Instructions
Bring the blueberries, water and honey to a boil in a saucepan.
Simmer for 10 minutes or until the blueberries are beginning to soften.
Mix the cornflour and water to make a smooth paste.
Add a spoon of hot soup to the paste and mix to combine.
Add the cornflour to the soup and stir until combined.
Continue stirring until the soup thickens.
Ladle into bowls or cups and serve warm, or chill in the refrigerator and serve cold.
Serve with a drizzle of cream if desired.

Lammas Down Under

February 1st is Lammas or Lughnasadh in the Southern Hemisphere. In the pagan calendar it marks the halfway point between the Midsummer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. It is the first of the harvest festivals and the first autumn festival of the year. It is a time of thanksgiving and sacrifice. The name Lammas is derived from an Old English term for “loaf mass” while Lughnasadh is derived from the name of the Celtic God Lugh.

Back in my coven days we followed a Celtic calendar so we celebrated Lughnasadh. When I left the coven I tried to continue embracing this ritual but found it difficult. Using the name Lammas rather than Lughnasadh helped as I could focus on bread and the harvest rather than a male Celtic God. Unfortunately Lammas is celebrated in Australia during the hottest time of the year. Temperatures soar, days are hot and sticky and nights are warm and muggy. It’s hard to get into the spirit of a festival focussing on baked goods when you yourself are baking as long and hot as a Lammas loaf. So instead of baking bread, I thought I would concentrate on the thanksgiving part of Lammas and make a sandwich I had on a recent trip to the USA. 

One of the things I am really grateful for is being able to visit my dear friend Anne on Whidbey Island in Washington State. She was a great host and tour guide and took us to some fantastic places to eat. For our last meal on the island we had lunch at Pickles Deli. There was so much on offer so I took my time devising the perfect sandwich. For the fillings I chose turkey with cranberry sauce and mayonnaise. This combination always makes me think of a thanksgiving dinner. Feeling adventurous, I did something I have never done before, I chose lettuce leaves instead of bread as my wrapping. My bread-free sandwich was a light and fresh taste sensation!

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The great thing about this sandwich wrap is that you can make it with homemade ingredients or store-bought ones and you can also substitute chicken for the turkey. I’ve made it many ways and they have all been delicious.

You can read more about my travels and recipes from Whidbey Island and other parts of the USA in my book Bites and Pieces of America. 🙂

A Very Full Moon

This week’s coming Full Moon is going to be a big one. It’s being called a Super Blue Blood Moon and, depending on which part of the world you are in, you may experience it all!

The main event is the total lunar eclipse. During a total lunar eclipse the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon and covers the Moon with its shadow. During this time the Moon can appear red which has led to the term Blood Moon. This eclipse will be fully visible in
Melbourne, Australia from around 10pm January 31st to around 3am February 1st.

A Super Moon is when a Full or New Moon occurs when the Moon is in its closest orbit to the Earth, making it look larger. While it won’t be the closest orbit, the Moon will be very close to the Earth making it almost a Super Moon.

In some parts of the world it is also a Blue Moon which is the second Full Moon in a month. It’s not a Blue Moon in Melbourne so we won’t be experiencing a Super Blue Blood Moon, we’ll be having a Super Blood Moon instead. Our Blue Moon will be at the end of March and will coincide with Easter.

If you follow a seasonal calendar, this Full Moon also coincides with a major festival – Imbolg in the northern hemisphere and Lammas in the southern hemisphere. Lammas is the mid point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox and is the first harvest festival of the year. Lammas is also known as Lughnasadh. The name Lughnasadh is derived from the name of the Celtic God Lugh whereas Lammas is derived from an Old English term for “loaf mass.” Traditional foods for Lammas/Lughnasadh are breads baked from new crops.

Inspired by my recent visit to America, I just had to bake cornmeal muffins flavoured with pecans and maple syrup. These sweet delights are perfect fare for a powerful harvest Full Moon.

Pecan and Maple Cornmeal Muffins

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Ingredients
1 cup flour, sifted
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup finely ground pecans
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda (bicarbonate)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 eggs, beaten
125g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Instructions
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F.
Line a 12-hole muffin pan with 12 paper liners.
Mix together the flour, cornmeal, pecans, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium sized bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat together the milk, maple syrup, egg and melted butter. (Don’t worry if it looks curdled. It should come together when you add it to the flour.)
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
Stir gently until just combined. Do not over mix, as the muffins will turn out tough.
Spoon batter evenly into the paper cases.
Bake for 10 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.
Place on a wire rack to cool.

Learning About Lammas

I had always assumed that Lammas, Halloween, Imbolc and Beltane were fixed date celebrations while the Solstices and Equinoxes were moveable dates. It’s a bit like Xmas being a fixed date and Easter being a moveable one. I thought it was the same for our eight witchy holidays – four are fixed and four are moveable. Well, that’s not quite the case.

Realising Lammas was upon me I googled to see what was happening for Aussie Lammas. That is when I got a surprise. Some were celebrating on the traditional date of February 2nd while others were celebrating on February 4th. Why the discrepancy? Lammas is meant to be the mid point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox, but if the dates of the Solstices and Equinoxes change, then so too would the midpoint. It makes sense, but does it feel right? I’m not sure. It’s something I will think on. One thing I do know – I won’t be celebrating Halloween on May 5th. When it comes to Halloween I’m a traditionalist – I celebrate on April 30th and October 31st 🙂

Lammas, also known as Lughnasadh, is the first Autumn festival of the year. Lughnasadh is derived from the name of the Celtic God Lugh while Lammas is derived from an Old English term for “loaf mass.” While I am into Gods, I am way more into bread, so to celebrate Loaf Mass Day, or Lammas, I went to one of my favourite places for jaffles – Bad Frankie.

Jaffles are one of my favourites forms of toasted sandwich. Two pieces of bread filled with savoury or sweet ingredients, buttered on the outside and then cooked in a special sandwich maker known by a few names such as pie iron, toastie iron or jaffle iron. The key to a jaffle is that the bread is toasted while the filling is heated and sealed between the slices of bread. It’s the sealing that makes it different to a toasted sandwich.

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Round Jaffle Iron

Rather than give a recipe for a jaffle, I’m going to share some photos of the different jaffles I have enjoyed from Bad Frankie and my other favourite jaffle place, Windmills and Waffles – a great place to break your trip from Melbourne to Adelaide when visiting the pandas 🙂

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Bangers & Mash from Bad Frankie – pork sausage and onion jam sandwiched between one slice of bread and one layer of cheesy mashed potato! And served with gravy!!

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The Chook from Bad Frankie – poached chicken, celery and pine nuts. Served with mayonnaise. My favourite 🙂

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Classic Ham & Cheese from Windmills and Waffles – served with tomato sauce and pickles on the side.

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Lamington from Bad Frankie – sponge cake soaked in chocolate, rolled in coconut and filled with jam. Served with cream.

Feeling inspired?
Let me know what your favourite jaffle fillings and creations are 🙂

A Twist in the Pie

The first day of February in the Southern Hemisphere is Lammas, an ancient harvest festival that marks the mid-point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. Even though hotter days are still to come, Lammas marks the beginning of Autumn. Traditionally, breads baked from new crops were made as offerings to the gods. Back when I celebrated Lammas in a coven, I would always offer to make the bread for our ritual. I loved coming up with ideas and shapes for the loaves. As the ritual came to a close and we made our offerings of bread and wine, I felt blessed that I could provide for my coven and the Pagan deities I once believed in. I miss these simple rituals, and the Pagan deities I am slowing coming to believe in again.

To celebrate the first of the solar Pagan sabbats for 2016, I thought I would return to my roots and make a Lammas bread. I decided to try my hand at a French Sun Pie called a Tarte Soleil. A Tarte Soleil is a filled pastry that is twisted to represent the rays of the sun. They look complicated but they are actually easy to make – especially if you use store-bought puff pastry 🙂 All you need is patience, a steady hand and great ingredients. In fact, deciding what to fill my pie with was my biggest struggle.

As I was feeling nostalgic about past friends and covenors, I filled my first Tarte Soleil with peanut butter and strawberry jam – a tribute to all the wonderful American friends I’ve made. It was quite delicious and a lovely blend of sweet and salty. Emboldened by my success, I decided make another one. I really wanted to use sun-dried tomatoes to represent the sun but I can’t eat tomatoes so I didn’t want to make a lovely tart I couldn’t eat. That’s when I came up with an idea, I would make a feta and black olive filling and put sun-dried tomatoes in the inner circle only. That way I could at least eat the sun rays. Happily it was a tasty success and something I would be proud to bring to a Lammas gathering.

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Tarte Soleil

Ingredients
2 sheets frozen ready rolled puff pastry
1 tablespoon finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup Danish feta cheese
1/3 cup whole Kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
sea salt flakes for sprinkling

Instructions
Take pastry sheets out of the freezer to thaw according to the packet.
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Cut pastry into two 23cm (9inch) rounds.
Place one round on the baking tray.
Lightly mark a 7 – 8cm (3inch) sized circle in the centre, being careful not to cut right through the pastry.
Place sun-dried tomatoes in the small circle.
Crumble a small amount of feta cheese over the sun-dried tomatoes.
Crumble remaining feta over the rest of the round, leaving a small margin around the outer edge.
Top the feta with olives.
Top with the second pastry round.
Press the edges together to seal.
Place a 7 – 8cm (3inch) sized glass face down in the centre of the circle, being careful not to cut right through the pastry.
With a sharp knife, cut the pastry into four sections, starting at the edge of the glass and working outward. Cut each section into half and then cut into half again. You will now have sixteen sections which will form the rays of the sun.
Remove the glass.
Gently twist each section, starting at the centre and working outward. You can twist one-to-two times, but be careful not to break them.
Brush pastry with beaten egg.
Sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until brown.
Allow to cool slightly before gently sliding it off the baking paper and onto a serving plate. If the tart sticks, gently prise loose with a spatula.
Can be eaten warm or cold.

If you want to try the peanut butter and strawberry jam version simply follow the instructions above but replace the filling with a 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter and 1/4 cup strawberry jam.