With my long stint of both of my children (they are 11 years apart in age) going through Steiner Education, my most treasured memory is of the seasonal festivals & my favourite of those has always been the Winter Solstice celebrations, a beautiful tradition that embraces the magic and beauty of the shortest day & longest night of the year. Some of the activities from those celebration we have continued as a tradition at home. We always celebrate the winter solstice with a fire outside, hot soup, bread with butter & cake.
Connecting seasonally & cyclically to the rhythms of the earth nurtures us on both a spiritual & physical level. The winter solstice is a wonderful time to celebrate this external presentation we experience in the natural world that also mirrors our internal world. Nature offers the symbolism of darkness giving way to light. Welcoming the sun as it begins its gradual return, signalling the rebirth of nature and the promise of a new cycle.
On the day of the winter solstice, the window opening to something new, is a day of particularly high frequency. Earth’s healing abilities are prominent at this time & on the shortest day of the year she invites you to connect with her, acknowledging & letting go of the past & welcoming in the new with intention.
To have the perfect winter solstice evening, set up your dinner table under the moon and stars with a fire, candlelight, or lanterns to represent the incoming light of the sun. Some soup & bread for warmth and nourishment & something sweet to represent the nectar from the flowers that are readying to bloom in spring.
Below are two recipes that are perfect for celebrating this special yearly event, a Tuscan minestrone soup & a Honey & Almond cake.
Happy winter solstice!
Tuscan Minestrone Soup
A deliciously rich & hearty soup. You can play around with the vegetables to match what is in season & what is in your fridge. I recommend keeping the cavolo nero, it has a beautiful colour & texture that makes the dish.
1 leek, sliced
1 tbsp of olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled & sliced thinly
Handful of green beans, topped, tailed & chopped into 2 cm lengths
3 potatoes, peeled & cubed
1 bunch of cavolo nero, spine removed, & leaves roughly torn
1 parmesan rind
2 cans of borlotti beans, drained & rinsed
560 g jar of organic passata
1 & 1/2 L of water (or vegetable broth or chicken bone broth but there is plenty of flavour in the soup without it)
3 tsp of sea salt (use less if using stock, it will be salted already)
1 medium zucchini, diced
Freshly grated parmesan & freshly cracked pepper to serve
1. Heat a small amount of olive oil a large pot on medium heat. Add leeks & cook for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another minute.
2. Add your potato & zucchini. Cook for a further couple of minutes.
3. Add the passata, salt & a litre of water or stock & parmesan rind & simmer for ten minutes.
4. Add the green beans, cavolo nero & borlotti beans. Continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until the veggies are soft but still vibrant in colour. Add the other ½ cup of water/stock if the soup needs thinning out.
5. Remove the parmesan rind.
6. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese & freshly cracked pepper.
Honey & Almond Cake
A sweet little tea cake to brighten up your day.
To make the cake nut free use 300g wholemeal flour & 2 tsp of baking powder & omit the flaked almonds on top.
To make the cake gluten free use 150g of almond meal 150g of buckwheat flour, 2 tsp of baking powder & 2 tbsp of tapioca flour (like the one pictured)
250g runny honey, plus about 4 tbsp extra to glaze (I used raw organic honey)
250g unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 tbsp. of vanilla essence
50 g flaked almonds (optional)
150g of wholemeal flour, 2 tsp of baking powder & 150g of almond meal (or one of the alternatives listed at the top)
Edible flowers & raspberries to decorate (optional)
Cream to serve (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to fan 150C/ conventional 160C/gas 3. Butter and line with baking paper, a 20cm round loose bottomed cake tin. Cut the butter into pieces and place in a mixing bowl with the honey, beat with a cake stand mixer or electric beaters until light and fluffy.
2. Beat the eggs into the honey mixture using a wooden spoon. Add the flour into the egg and honey mixture, lightly beating until you have a smooth batter.
3. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 minutes -1 hour until the cake is well-risen, golden brown and springs back when pressed. A skewer pushed into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
4. Remove cake from tin & cool on a wire cake rack. Warm 4 tbsp of honey in a small saucepan, drizzle and brush honey over the top of the cake to give a sticky glaze, then leave to cool.
5. Decorate with raspberries & edible flowers if you wish. Serve with cream.
6. Keeps for 4-5 days in an airtight container in the fridge.