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The Summer Solstice Beckons
Seasonal celebrations for Litha, a recipe for rhubarb and elderflower cake and the promise of news!
I love writing these letters to you: each month they make me pause and take stock, to focus on the big and small celebrations for the coming month, aligned with the Celtic Wheel of the Year. We’re just a little over three weeks away from the Summer Solstice or Litha here in the Northern Hemisphere and I have a very special announcement in store for you then - so make sure you’re signed up and look out for that! I am positively *bursting* to share this news and I think you will be excited too.
Litha is the celebration of the longest day and shortest night as the Earth tilts closest to the sun and the evenings seem endless here in Scotland. The Summer Solstice on 21st June marks the beginning of astronomical Summer, and - as at all these transition points - it feels like a cause for celebration. Not least because the school holidays will be almost upon us here in Scotland! I jest of course: for me, marking these seasonal celebrations acts as an antidote to the hustle and bustle of everyday life, a reminder of the bigger picture, the rhythm of the seasons and forces larger than ourselves. Here are five ways that I’ll be celebrating this coming month in the lead-up to the Solstice – I hope you join me.
Midsummer is traditionally a time of wearing and decorating with flowers so it’s the ideal excuse to get gathering and fill your house with simple jam jar posies of wildflowers. I’ve been so inspired by the Chelsea Flower Show and have ambitious plans for my developing pot garden! Did you see any of the show? Sarah Price’s muted palette was my favourite. If you don’t have a garden, wildflowers are abundant at the moment, from hedgerow to woodland, garden to roadside - just ask the landowner’s permission first. Otherwise, I urge you to find your local growers via Flowers from the Farm and support sustainable flowers this coming British Flowers Week. Here in Edinburgh, Ochre Botanical Studios grow their blooms in a plot at Granton Castle Walled Garden; it’s the loveliest team who have transformed this space and make such beautiful arrangements. They have a workshop coming up soon at Twelve Triangles if you’re local, and if you’re not do check out their work over on Instagram.
Fire and Light
This time of year traditionally celebrates light, sun, growth, fire, fertility, warmth and abundance. Traditionally it was believed that ‘witches were abroad’ during the time around Midsummer, so people would light fires to ward off evil creatures and celebrate the sun. If you managed to stay awake all night in the middle of a stone circle, you might see the “Fae” or faeries, and be blessed with good luck for the coming year. If you can’t find these near you (!) then introducing the symbolism of light and fire is a way to connect with these past rituals. Perhaps a beach bonfire, or even just lighting the candles for a special meal at home? My year-round favourite is Can to Candle’s Fireside, made with soy wax and poured just outside Edinburgh. What’s more, the light is just something else at this time of year and I love to watch the light turn rose gold, followed by the seemingly endless twilight over the city rooftops.
Somehow, food eaten outdoors seems to taste better. And a cup of tea drunk outside is the best form of caffeinated beverage if you ask me. Maybe it’s because we seldom have the opportunity with our climate here, but a picnic lunch or mezze supper is pure indulgence at this time of year (apparently it’s International Picnic Day next month too). There’s no better treat to mark Midsummer than a delicious homemade feast outdoors. Fill an old basket with tupperware and a flask: keep it simple with seasonal salads and frittatas or galettes, traybake and fresh berries – guaranteed crowd pleasers in portable form! And if you’re short on time like me, even just a flask of tea and a slice of cake eaten outside on your lunch break instead of in front of a screen can do wonders to fill up your cup. Maybe the cake below… I’m taking note for this week as apparently we have some warm days coming to Edinburgh!
The Celts would also celebrate Litha with the other sort of gathering outdoors. Foraging was essential at this time, especially herbs, which Celts were said to forage for their magical properties. Elderflower is pretty magical to me, while wild roses are abundant at this time of year. I’m hoping to experiment by collecting and drying out rose petals to make my own rosewater this year - I’ll be sure to report back! And speaking of elderflower…
Rhubarb and Elderflower Cake
Tangy rhubarb pairs perfectly with sweet, aromatic elderflower here in this rhubarb and elderflower cake - perfect for Litha celebrations! The pink, forced rhubarb has been replaced with its traditional, slightly bitter cousin as Spring produce gives way to Summer’s arrivals. The elderflower sweetness balances the sharpness of the rhubarb beautifully here. To make the cake, you will need:
120g caster sugar
120g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp elderflower cordial, plus 3 tbsp for drizzling.
100g rhubarb, chopped into 5 cm pieces, or so.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cordial, along with one of the eggs and a little flour, then beat briefly to combine. Add the other egg and the rest of the flour and baking powder. Arrange your rhubarb on the base of a lined tin and pour the batter over the top, ensuring you cover all the rhubarb. Bake for 45 – 50 mins at 160 Fan, covering the cake with foil if it starts to brown too much. A skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin a little then turn the cake out while still a little warm. Drizzle the cake with 3 tbsp more of elderflower cordial and leave to cool completely. Serve with yoghurt and extra poached rhubarb, if you wish.
Let me know if you make the cake! What are you celebrating this next month?
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Thanks so much for being here! See you next month, and keep your eyes peeled for that exciting news on the Summer Solstice. Xxx