Tuesday 13 December 2022

Advent 2022 - Fast Tracking #17


Today's Challenge: Fast from... using the dishwasher.

Today is the Feast of St Lucy. We don't celebrate that much here in the UK but in Sweden they make a big thing of it. It's a light-centred festival which used to mark the shortest, darkest day of the year - 13th December, under the old Julian calendar, was originally the winter solstice instead of 21st or 22nd under the Gregorian calendar we use today. Traditionally it was an occasion when the eldest girl in each household dressed in a white dress with a red sash and wore an evergreen circlet of lighted candles on her head. Her duties for the day (in addition to keeping her hair from catching fire!), included preparing breakfast for the family and making specially baked, golden 'lusserkatter' or St Lucy buns.

Supposedly, this is in memory of the original St Lucy who, according to tradition, was a young Roman Christian at the time of Diocletian who used to take food to the Christians who were hiding in the catacombs in Rome, in fear of violent persecution. With her hands full of food packages, she had no way of holding a candle to light her way in the dark, labyrinthine passages so she wore a circlet of twigs into which she inserted lighted candles instead - the 3rd C equivalent of a head torch! 

Regardless of whether there's any truth in this story, St Lucy became a symbol of taking light and hope to people in literally and metaphorically dark places something that caught on easily in the dark winters of Scandinavia and it's a lovely opportunity, before Christmas itself, to bring in a few evergreens, light an array of white candles and enjoy a golden bun, fragrant with saffron and cardamom as it gets dark. 

These saffron and cardamom buns which are made all over Scandinavia today are traditionally curled and twisted in a variety of scroll shapes which have their own individual names. The most well-known of these is the 'lusserkatter' or 'St Lucy's cats'. I think the coils are meant to represent the curls at the tips of cat's tails. In addition to the curly cat's tails, The Nordic Baking Book by Magnus Nilsson lists some intriguing alternative shapings - the 'julgalt' or 'Christmas boar', the 'pojke' or 'boy', the 'lilja' or 'lily', the 'julvagn' or 'Christmas carriage', the 'julkuse' or 'Christmas kiss' and the 'prästens hår' or 'priest's hair'.

I haven't managed an example of each of these today but I had a go at a few. See pics for how they came out! 

The 'julgalt' or 'Christmas boar' (in the pic above) is the easiest to shape neatly, I think. The recipe for the dough is a tweaked version of Kate Young's recipe in The Little Library Christmas. I use two eggs in the dough, not one and I add a teaspoonful of ground cardamom which Kate Young inexplicably omits. I also include some golden raisins in the dough itself rather than as decoration.

As it's another no dishwasher day, the rest of the day's menu was on the simple side. I always cook scrambled eggs in a non-stick pan which can't go in the dishwasher anyway so I made a virtue out of necessity and cooked this for supper.

tea with unsweetened soya milk
apple juice
oat porridge and maple syrup

leftover yoghurt cheese, rolls from the freezer, apricot and tomato chutney

black tea
St Lucy's buns

scrambled eggs on granary toast
leftover Marsala spiced prunes 

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