Tomorrow marks the end of Epiphany or Twelfth night when the three wise men, the Magi, brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.
In France a Galette de Rois, or King’s Cake is made to celebrate Twelfth night. Layers of flaky pastry are filled with an almond cream mix. In Germany and Spain they serve a ring shaped cake that’s decorated with candied fruit. In New Orleans, they serve a King Cake, and it’s eaten any time from Epiphany to Shrove Tuesday. They cover it with gaudy decorations and it has a spicy flavour.
To my mind this is a very sensible idea – always have a sparkly cake on hand to banish the Winter blues.
And it’s a feast that was celebrated in England up until the 19th Century, when they served a Twelfth cake that was made from dried fruit and decorated with crowns made from icing.
This has long since died out and been replaced by magazines and TV shows constantly harping on about new year, new you diets and how you should have completely ignored all those food adverts coming up to Christmas and abstained instead.
My first recipe is for my Aunt Doreen’s fruit loaf. There’s something comforting about a warm dried fruit and ginger laden cake, anointed with butter and served with hot tea. Unlike traditional Twelfth night cakes it’s not made with yeast so is a low maintenance in the cooking department.
It’s a great way of using up any excess dried fruits left over from Christmas. You could decorate it or not – it’s entirely up to you. It’s delicious served warm or equally as good toasted.
Also two new traditions started at the beginning of the month – Veganuary and Ginanuary. Veganuary as its name suggests is an initiative to get us all to embrace veganism. Eating a plant based diet is very on trend now and I’m all for it a few days a month. We tend to eat too much meat, mainly out of habit. Replacing some of the meat protein with beans and pulses makes economic as well as health sense.
I won’t be taking part in Veganuary – there’s a joke doing the rounds of “how do you know someone’s a vegan” – “they’ll tell you!”.
No one needs to know anyone else’s dietary habits, unless life threatening, nor do they need to be converted.
Likewise with Ginanuary. Another enterprise, devised by a PR company, to get us to drink Gin in January.
Like veganism I’d rather embrace some common sense this month without being dictated to.
One sensible creation on the food calendar is National Shortbread Day which is also celebrated tomorrow. The origins of this day aren’t known but what could be better, after all the excess, than a simple biscuit made with great ingredients. My other recipes are for two different shortbreads.
One is for a classic Viennese shortbread which is piped rather than cut out. I pipe them in sausage shapes and when baked and cooled, fill with jam and cream. It’s a lot more work than my other recipe which involves melting butter in a pan and adding the rest of the ingredients. This is my mum’s recipe, adapted from a WI cookbook, and one we call “Thee” shortbread. It’s fool proof but crisp, golden and lovely as it should be.
A fruit loaf and shortcake or some quorn – know how I’d like to start 2019.