Friday, June 24, 2011

Ratatouille Tart with Red Lentil Crust

While you desperately wait for a post with a bit more archaeology in it, I'll show you a recipe I found on The crust is heavenly for vegans and gluten free gourmets (or gourmands like us) because it is based on red lentils and oat. Thanks for the recipe bettal!
The original recipe ( is vegetarian, but readily adaptable into a vegan dish. And that's exactly what I did; I left out the cheese and only put some on top of M's half. The other half got some pine nuts instead.

Although the dough was quite soft and it was a bit difficult to actually cut the tart in nice pieces it was very very yummy.

When I packed up the leftovers, however, the dough had settled and became quite firm. We were just too greedy, again. So I recommend to either put in some more oat meal or wait for about 10 minutes for the dough to rest and firm up. Look at that crust, so nice and red :)

And here is the recipe:

Ratatouille tart with red lentil crust

For the crust:

125 g red lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
50 g oat meal
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

For the topping:

1 small eggplant, diced
1 courgette, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
salt and pepper to taste

For the 'egg' glaze:

3 eggs (vegan version: 2 tablespoons of silken tofu and 1 flax egg*)
125 g Crème Fraiche (vegan version: 125 g soy cream)
100 g Cheese (vegan version: roasted pine nuts or vegan cheeze)

What to do:

1. First make the crust. Wash and cook the lentils in plenty of water until they start to become mushy. Strain the lentils and let cool. While lentils cook, fry the onion in olive oil until they are soft but don't let them brown. Add pressed garlic and turn off the heat. Mix all ingredients for the crust. You might need to add some more oat meal. Spread evenly into an oiled pie dish.

2. Heat oven to 190°.

3. Prepare the filling; heat olive oil and fry the onions. Add courgette, bell pepper, and eggplant and roast slightly. Add seasoning and herbs. Finally add tomatoes and let cook until excess water has evaporated. Spread on the lentil base.

4. Prepare the glaze. Mix all the ingredients and spread evenly over the vegetables. Sprinkle with cheeze or pine nuts.

5. Let bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until glaze has settled and gets firm.

* to replace one egg, measure one tablespoon of flax seed and grind in a blender or coffee grinder. Add ground flax seed to a small bowl with 3 tablespoons of water, and whisk. Voila! This will replace one egg in a recipe (excerpt from ehow )

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pentecost Holiday - Il Castello di Vezio

This is our holiday home, also known as the Mouldy Manor. Not bad to look at, isn't it? It looks huge, but it is built into the hill and is only one room in depth.

Therefore all rooms had an undisturbed view on the lake, which was pretty nice.

Our friends didn't want to climb the castle, so when they left Mouldy Manor (and they had to leave early since Gottfried the cat was already pouting and sulking at home) our first trip was up the hill to the castello di Vezio. The tiny village in the mountains has a very nice church from the 11th century, the church of San Giacomo. Though most you can see are additions from the 17th and 18th century.

The main altar of carved and gilded wood is also from the 18th century.


Next to the church is the castle of Vezio (
The castle was full of surprises. There were lovely exhibitions of art all over the castle grounds,

and apart from an equally lovely herb garden (I really had to restrain myself from picking up herbs) they also had quite some flowers to show, here a lily:

I especially loved the 'ghost art' which was all over the castle. They were moulded over volunteers and the papier mâché lies around until snow and rain dissolves it completely and a new ghost is made in the next spring season.

There was also a falconry but we missed the performance. But here you can see Parsival, the Harris Hawk:

There was also a nice outdoor restaurant (Il Ristoro del Castello) where we treated ourselves to some spaghetti and mint water (on the right-hand side) and mint granita (on the left-hand side) which is basically frozen and then muddled up mint water. Isn't the artificial colour abominable? But it was a cool and refreshing drink nevertheless.

Our way back led us along a river which cascaded down the valley

and along old and not so old houses.


Enjoy this duo while waiting for my next post. They are really good! Thanks for the tip P :)

If you can't see it because of some weird copyright protection look here on jukebo and for the 'Welcome to the jungle' video on vimeo. Blogger doesn't even allow to upload movies if they are not from youtube. What crazy world is this; 2Cellos owe their fame to youtube and now nobody can view their videos anymore. They should never have signed up with a big company :(

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pentecost Holiday at Lake Como, Lombardy

In case you have missed me, we spent a week in Italy, at Lake Como to be specific. We rented a cosy (that is as the Adam's family would define cosy, in other words cold and damp) holiday home with view on the lake. In addition to it's 'cosiness' it added an internet free surrounding which was actually quite beneficial. C rented a dongle for the time being, which was maddeningly slow, but I survived quite happily without internet. Neither mouldy manors nor rainy days could dampen my spirit. I wanted to enjoy the holidays, especially since our friends from Austria spent a couple of days with us in the mouldy manor.

This is Lake Como with a view on Varenna, the 850-inhabitants town where our holiday home was situated.

Here is a closer look where you can see the castello di Vezio on top of the village:

An even closer look shows how picturesque the villages around the lake are:

They are full of old fountains,

narrow staircases (this is in Bellagio),

dangerous cats (the sign reads 'beware of the cat')

and beautiful passion fruit flowers.

My friend K even found an Austrian bench in Bellagio. In case you don't know, Austrian benches have one short leg and one long leg because of the hills and mountains in Austria. You would never be able to put up a regularly built bench. Since Bellagio is quite hilly, too, Austrian benches are quite convenient as you can see. They are especially suited to Austrian people since it is said that they all have one leg shorter than the other to be able to stand on an Austrian street. Here is the proof:

Don't believe everything I say, though.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Travelling through Oxfordshire: Wayland's Smithy and Seven Barrows

The Ridgeway in southern Oxfordshire is Britain's oldest road. Long before the Romans came, this street high above the marshy valley ground was used for making contact and trade by Neolithic and Bronze Age men and women. Its importance is best seen on this map; along the ridgeway are relevant markers like Wayland's Smithy's long barrow, Bronze Age settlements, Iron Age hill forts, and not to forget the Uffington Horse hill figure. Down in the valley we have two important hoards, the Crow Down gold hord and the Tower Hill axe hoard, as well as a Neolithic long barrow and the Bronze Age barrow cemetery 'Seven Barrows'.

modified after Varndell, Coe and Hey 2007, fig. 3
A short walk brings you from the parking lot at Uffington castle to the chamber tomb Wayland's Smithy. Rudyard Kipling brilliantly tells the sad story of Wayland (Weland) the Smith in his story Puck of Pook's Hill:
'All sorts of sacrifices,' said Puck. 'If it wasn't men, it was horses, or cattle, or pigs, or metheglin - that's a sticky, sweet sort of beer. I never liked it. They were a stiff-necked, extravagant set of idols, the Old Things. But what was the result? Men don't like being sacrificed at the best of times; they don't even like sacrificing their farm-horses. After a while, men simply left the Old Things alone, and the roofs of their temples fell in, and the Old Things had to scuttle out and pick up a living as they could. Some of them took to hanging about trees, and hiding in graves and groaning o' nights. If they groaned loud enough and long enough they might frighten a poor countryman into sacrificing a hen, or leaving a pound of butter for them. I remember one Goddess called Belisama. She became a common wet water-spirit somewhere in Lancashire. And there were hundreds of other friends of mine. First they were Gods. Then they were People of the Hills, and then they flitted to other places because they couldn't get on with the English for one reason or another. There was only one Old Thing, I remember, who honestly worked for his living after he came down in the world. He was called Weland, and he was a smith to some Gods. I've forgotten their names, but he used to make them swords and spears. I think he claimed kin with Thor of the Scandinavians.' ....
'It was Weland's Ford then, dearie. A road led down to it from the Beacon on the top of the hill - a shocking bad road it was - and all the hillside was thick, thick oak-forest, with deer in it. There was no trace of Weland, but presently I saw a fat old farmer riding down from the Beacon under the greenwood tree. His horse had cast a shoe in the clay, and when he came to the Ford he dismounted, took a penny out of his purse, laid it on a stone, tied the old horse to an oak, and called out: "Smith, Smith, here is work for you!" Then he sat down and went to sleep. You can imagine how I felt when I saw a white-bearded, bent old blacksmith in a leather apron creep out from behind the oak and begin to shoe the horse. It was Weland himself. I was so astonished that I jumped out and said: "What on Human Earth are you doing here, Weland?"'
'Poor Weland!' sighed Una.
'He pushed the long hair back from his forehead (he didn't recognize me at first). Then he said: "You ought to know. You foretold it, Old Thing. I'm shoeing horses for hire. I'm not even Weland now," he said. "They call me Wayland-Smith."'
'Poor chap!' said Dan. 'What did you say?'
'What could I say? He looked up, with the horse's foot on his lap, and he said, smiling, "I remember the time when I wouldn't have accepted this old bag of bones as a sacrifice, and now I'm glad enough to shoe him for a penny."
"'Isn't there any way for you to get back to Valhalla, or wherever you come from?" I said.
"'I'm afraid not, " he said, rasping away at the hoof. He had a wonderful touch with horses. The old beast was whinnying on his shoulder. "You may remember that I was not a gentle God in my Day and my Time and my Power. I shall never be released till some human being truly wishes me well."
Now you know where the long barrow got its name from. Here is the entrance to the tomb:

and this is how the longbarrow stretches over the tomb and covers the original wooden mortuary house with 14 to 17 burials:

At some time there was a crop circle near Wayland's Smithy, beautifully caught by satellites:

(c) 2011 Google Map dat

Further down south is Seven Barrows long barrow and the Bronze Age barrow cemetery Lambourn Seven Barrows. According to Richards (1990) there are at least 32 definite barrows but there are likely to exist more over 40 of them. Most of them were built in two rows emanating from the Early Neolithic long barrow (3700 calBC).

J. Dyer, Discovering Prehistoric England, 2001, p. 16

This is how the cemetery looks from the air; you still can clearly see the two rows of barrows on the east side of the road:

(c) 2011 Google Map data

Today only small bumps are visible; this one is from the Western side of the Road (no. 18) and contained a cremation burial with a bronze awl and a jet pendant in a sarsen stone cist that was added later into the barrow.

In the foreground you can see barrows nos. 10, 11, and 12 with the second row of barrows in the background. The double barrow no. 10 (just visible in the lefthand corner) was robbed in ancient times and, when excavated in 1850, contained only the bones of an ox and a dog.

Well, I guess you have had enough archaeology by now; too cheer you up a bit, here is a late night guest we met on our way to dinner:

And this is where we actually had dinner, The White Horse Inn in Woolstone. There weren't too much vegetarian dishes on the menu, but the cook offered to make us something special and lo! did he make us a dinner. So worth a visit! Absolutely delicious and beautifully decorated, very recommendable!

His desert creation:

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Travelling through Oxfordshire: Uffington White Horse and Uffington Castle

About 30 miles to the south you can find the chalk hill figure of a horse, the so-called Uffington White Horse. Recent OSL dating (optically stimulated luminescence dating, basically dating when minerals were last exposed to sunlight) of the soil directly underneath the lowest level of the chalk filled trenches which constitute the horse figure, showed that it was made during the late Bronz Age (early urnfield culture), at about 1000 BC and was already present when they built the Iron Age hill fort a little bit further up White Horse Hill. This of course leaves the question whether it was supposed to be a horse at all, since the horse was re-introduced into Britain by the Celts. Maybe scouring changed it to something more familiar in medieval times. So it could as well have been a dog or a dragon.

You can see the horse in full on this photo made by the Royal Air Force in 1929:

D. Woolner, New Light on the White Horse, Folklore 78 (2), 1967, fig. B
Detail of the head area:

The horse was scoured every seven years since medieval times (with some periods of discontinuity) up to the very present. This has been a great idea, and although it probably changed the apperarance of the horse it also saved it from oblivion. However, I have to say that P and C openly refused to take part in next year's scouring. Even the prospect of taking part in the traditional feast after the deed accomplished couldn't persuade them.

Also on White Horse Hill is Uffington Castle, the aforementioned Iron Age hill fort.This is how it looks from the long barrow Wayland's Smithy:

And here are the banks and ditches of this hill fort. While excavating it in the 19th century, remains of timber walls were found on top of the banks.

These are not Iron Age warriors but us, standing on the bank of the hill fort and enjoying the slight breeze (actually we were nearly blown off the bank and into the ditch):

This is Dragon Hill, as seen from the hill fort, a smallish and already in ancient times artificially flattened hillock with views onto White Horse. It is said that S. George slew the dragon at this very spot, so  the 'horse'  might well have been a dragon after all, or rather a symbol for heathen faith. There is a white spot of chalk in the middle of the artificial platform where the dragon spilled its blood and no grass can grow anymore.

I'm finishing with yesterday's promised view of the landscape. Here a view as seen from the horse:

And just to let you know that I am still cooking and because this blog entry has much too much green in it, a recipe I tried from Bryanna Clark Grogan's blog Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen, a Turkish-style potato casserole:

The recipe is included in her new book World Vegan Feast which will be released in August 2011. It was very yummy, although next time I will use lentils instead of minced soy for even more yummieness :)

And for desert a super easy semolina pudding made with coconut milk and marinated strawberries:

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Travelling through Oxfordshire: Rollright Stone Circle

We left Stratford-upon-Avon after a nice English breakfast and some tea (with soymilk! yippee!) and headed for Reading. Luckily for me and unfortunately for P and C Oxfordshire is very rich in archaeological sites. In case you are not that interested in those beautiful monuments, just lean back and watch the surrounding landscape. Well, not much landscape in this photo of the King Stone, but a nice story about it. An ambitious chieftain wanted to become King of England but instead was transformed into a stone figure by a witch. So I present you the 'nearly King':

These stones are his men, today called the Rollright Stones:

You can still recognize human features, now can't you?

Three treacherous knights who wanted to plot against their chieftain stayed behind and were whispering to themselves, but the witch saw them and turned them into stone, too:

In reality it is a portal dolmen, a Neolithic tomb, called The Whispering Knights

This area is not only famous among archaeologists, it is very alive in the memory of the British people. The English rock band Traffic wrote a song in 1973 about the rock circle, tellingly called The Roll Right Stones. You can listen to it for more than 11 minutes (in case you have really nothing else to do and are nearly bored to death) here. But the lyrics are quite nice. Not a brainer, but still ... 

"Went to see a standing stone
Some in circles, some alone
Ancient, worn, and weather torn
They chill me to the very bone
Cause everybody is going insane
The only, the only thing that will sustain are the Roll Right Stones."
The stones also featured in a children's book by  Penelope Lively, The Whispering Knights. And fans of the 4th Dr. Who (Tom Baker) can enjoy a whole episode of Dr. Who and the gruesome secrets of the stone circle; the episode is called The Stones of Blood. The first ten minutes are here. Note that the series is not accurate in the depiction of the circle. There is no inner circle with lintel stones like in Stone Henge. I like the part where K9 takes everything so literally.

PS I have a correction to make. Since the King Stone is separated from the Rollright Circle by a street which itself separates Oxforshire from Warwickshire, the King Stone lies in Warwickshire and only the Rollright Circle and the Whispering Knights are actually in Oxfordshire.