Soba noodles with fresh asparagus (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Soba noodles with asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

It is the height of the home-grown British asparagus season right now, and I’m eating as much as I can while these fresh, green, juicy stems are available to buy. I rarely do anything fancy with asparagus,  just enjoy it on its own, steamed, griddled, or baked in the oven, and seasoned simply with a little salt and pepper. Delicious.

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In season. British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a very simple, yet very tasty, combination that makes a lovely light lunch or quick supper dish. If you want to make it in advance, it’s just as good eaten cold as a salad, or boxed up for a picnic or packed lunch.

Bottles_pf_sesame_oil_mirin_andTeriyaki marinade_with_a_bunch_of_soba_noodles
Three favourite seasonings for soba noodles. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To serve 2: prepare 200g fresh asparagus spears by trimming away about 3cm of the stem – this is usually a bit woody and tough to eat. Then cut the rest of the stems into short lengths. Brush a non-stick frying pan with a little sunflower oil and heat until hot. Stir fry the asparagus for 3-4 minutes until just tender. Turn off the heat and add a good glug of gluten-free teriyaki marinade. Immediately cover with a lid and leave to stand. Leave to one side while you cook the noodles, or leave to cool completely for serving as a salad.

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Trimming fresh asparagus, and stir-frying. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of unsalted water to the boil and add 100g soba (buckwheat) noodles. Cook for about 5 minutes until tender, then drain well and place in a heatproof bowl, or rinse in cold running water, and leave to drain and cool completely.

When ready to serve, toss the asparagus and pan juices into the noodles along with 4 tbsp. freshly chopped chives,  2 teasp sesame oil and 1 tbsp. mirin. Pile into serving bowls and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy 🙂

Soba_noodles_with_asparagus_Image_by_Kathryn_Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

Tulip-tastic May

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May-time tulips. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been working away from home since my last post. When I arrived back at the weekend (a gloriously sunny one), I was delighted to see the garden so full of colour, and the tulips looking particularly magnificent. The extended winter/late spring has done wonders for the flowering bulbs this year. All of them have emerged strong and bold, and are lasting longer than usual.

Tulips have been a favourite flower of mine for many years. I love their simplicity. Whilst I have few words to share with you this week, I have some colourful images of these lovely, elegant blooms. I’ll be back in the kitchen again this weekend, getting ready for my next post in a few days time. Until then, have a good week.

Collection_of_spring_flowers_growing_by_a_wall
The colours of spring. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Tall, red tulips in planters. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Six of the best. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Tulips overhead. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark chocolate brownie bites (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Dark chocolate brownie bites. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Something a little bit on the indulgent side for you this week. I am working my way through a hoard of classic baking recipes, converting them into vegan versions, and recently I got to a chocolate brownie recipe.

There are so many variations on this particular bake, and everyone has their own personal favourite. My version gives a texture which is soft and gooey when eaten warm, but when cold, it firms up to something more like chocolate fudge. I find it quite rich, and cut it into small squares, but that’s a question of personal taste.

Just_sliced_still_warm_vegan_dark_chocolate_brownie
Warm dark chocolate brownie. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I use coconut oil now instead of the butter in my traditional recipe. This does give a slightly nutty flavour, so if you’re not a fan, use a solid vegetable fat such as Trex instead, or choose a vegan margarine with a high fat content. Other than that, it’s a very straightforward recipe, with a minimum amount of ingredients. I hope you like it.

Makes: 20 small squares

Ingredients

  • 150g 85% cocoa extra dark chocolate (dairy-free)
  • 150g extra virgin coconut oil
  • 140g silken tofu
  • 225g light Muscovado sugar
  • 2 teasp vanilla paste
  • 100g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)

To decorate:

  • 50g 85% cocoa extra dark chocolate (dairy-free)
  • Freeze-dried raspberry pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven, gas 3). Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin. Break up the chocolate and put in a heatproof bowl with the coconut oil. Place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water until melted. Remove the bowl from the water and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

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Melting dark chocolate with coconut oil. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Whisk the tofu and sugar together until well blended and creamy and stir in the   vanilla paste. Mix in the melted chocolate and coconut oil, and gradually mix in the flour. Transfer to the prepared tin and bake for about 45 minutes until marbled and crackled on top, just set in the middle but still with a slight wobble underneath. Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin.

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Vegan chocolate brownies, from tin to bake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

3. To decorate, carefully the bake remove from the tin and discard the lining paper. Cut into 20 bite-sized pieces and arrange on a sheet of baking parchment. Melt the chocolate as above and drizzle over each piece of brownie using a teaspoon. Scatter with raspberry pieces and leave for a few minutes to set before serving.

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Just decorated, vegan brownie bites. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

Spring, glorious spring

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Snakeshead Fritillary under a blue spring sky. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It really was a glorious day today. After a few April showers this morning, it was a sunshiny blue-sky afternoon. It was very pleasant to take a stroll, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the sunshine. Out of the sun, it is still chilly, and the night-time temperature is low, but the spring flowers are at their best right now, and I couldn’t resist another post showing how the garden is looking at this very colourful and fragrant time of year. The scent from some of the flowers is intoxicating, I only wish there was some way of posting the aromatics as well as the images!

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Bold and brash, candy-striped tulips. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pale lemon Narcissus, each tiny stem has 4 very fragrant blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m in the throes of a very busy period with my work and subsequently, I have had little time to spend trying new recipes in the kitchen. I will have a recipe post ready for next week though, so in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the glorious multi-colours of my Scottish spring garden. See you next week.

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Pale pink rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Grape hyacinths (Muscari) by a privet hedge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Highly fragrant, double-blooming pink and magenta hyacinths. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Spiced roast chana & dal (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spiced roast chana and dal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A mix of roast pulses, nuts and seeds flavoured with warming spice is a tempting snack, a delicious sprinkle for soups and salads, and a great diversion if, like me, you are forever fighting a battle against a sweet-tooth.

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Ingredients ready for mixing and roasting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Easy to make, tasty and less fatty than the shop-bought mixes, this is my interpretation of the Asian snack, Bombay Mix. The bulk of the mix is made up of cooked chickpeas (chana) and green split lentils (dal). You can add any nut or seed, but choose the unsalted, natural varieties so that you can adjust the seasoning to suit your taste. I use Madras curry powder but garam masala is also a good blend to use. Here’s what to do:

Makes: 300g

Ingredients

  • 250g cooked chickpeas
  • 250g cooked green lentils
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 teasp Madras curry powder
  • 1 teasp salt
  • 65g pumpkin seeds
  • 65g sunflower seeds
  • 100g unsalted cashew nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan oven, gas 2) . Line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Dry the chickpeas and lentils thoroughly on kitchen paper.
  2. Transfer them to a large bowl and toss in the oil and curry powder. Spread evenly over the baking tray and bake for 1 hour, turning occasionally.
  3. Mix in the seeds and cashews, turning them well on the tray so that they become flavoured with the spices and oil. Spread out evenly again and put back in the oven to roast for a further 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until everything is golden and the pulses have dried out. Leave to cool on the tray.

    Drying_pulses;_roasting_pulses_and_roasting with nuts and seeds
    Drying, flavouring and roasting. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. When the mix is completely cold,  pack into an airtight container or storage jar, and keep in a cool, dry place. The mix should stay fresh for about 2 weeks, after this time, the pulses may begin to soften.

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    Storage jar of home-made “Bombay Mix”. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Rhubarb crumble and custard muffins (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Rhubarb crumble and custard muffin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For the first time in a while, I didn’t have a clump of rhubarb to put under a forcer pot back in January. I had transplanted all my rhubarb crowns to a new bed at the end of last year, and I decided that I would be sensible and let them recover and leave them to grow in the open for a harvest later in the year. Now, of course, I regret not having the lovely pink, tender stems to cook, but, never mind, I look forward to a home-grown harvest whenever it is ready. Actually, the clumps are doing very well, so I don’t think it will be too long before I get to pull my first stems of the year.

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April rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In the meantime, I bought some rhubarb from the local farm shop this week and baked up a batch of muffins. Serve them hot with extra stewed rhubarb and custard as a pudding, or enjoy them slightly warm for a spring-time breakfast or tea. Best eaten on the day they are made, although they will freeze, and can be reheated successfully in the microwave for a few seconds.

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Chopped fresh rhubarb ready for muffin making. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I made my own tulip-style paper cases, which make large “coffee shop” sized muffins. You will need 15cm squares of baking parchment and a jar or glass the same size as a muffin tin, and then it’s just a case of pressing the paper into the tins to make the case shape. If you prefer, divide the mixture between 12 ready-made paper muffin/cupcake cases and cook for slightly less time.

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Making tulip-style baking cases. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 7 large muffins (or 12 traditional size)

Ingredients

For the crumble top:

  • 85g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 2g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 55g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 55g caster sugar

For the muffin mix:

  • 225g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 8g arrowroot (optional, but I find it does help bind the ingredients together and gives a chewier texture)
  • 10g gluten-free baking powder
  • 115g caster sugar (or half caster and half vanilla sugar)
  • 60g dairy-free plain or coconut yogurt
  • 115g dairy-free margarine, melted
  • 150ml soya milk
  • 2 teasp good quality vanilla extract
  • 175g rhubarb, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 150ml free-from custard
  1. First make the crumble top. Put the flour and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the margarine until well blended. Stir in the sugar and mix until it all clumps together. Cover and chill until required.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6). Line a muffin tin with 7 large tulip-style paper cases or 12 traditional sized cases. For the muffin batter, sift the flour, arrowroot and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre.
  3. Mix the yogurt, melted margarine, non-dairy milk and vanilla extract together in a jug. Gradually pour into the dry ingredients, mixing well to blend everything together. Stir in the chopped rhubarb.
  4. Spoon half of the mixture equally between the paper cases, and spoon a dollop of custard on top, then cover the custard with the remaining muffin batter. Sprinkle the tops generously with the prepared crumble mixture.

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    Filling the muffin cases. Images: Kathryn Hawkins.
  5. Bake for about 35 minutes for large muffins, and 25-30 minutes for the smaller size. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Best served warm and eaten on day of baking.
    Freshly_baked_muffins_cooling_on_a_wire_rack
    Straight out of the oven. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    The recipe works well with chopped apple or pear (add a little cocoa powder to your custard for a chocolate filling), or you can add fresh small berries like raspberries, blueberries or cherries. Until next week…….happy cooking!

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Spring sprang, then winter returned….

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The blue star-shaped flowers of Chionadoxa. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

We had a lovely, blue-sky Easter weekend here in central Scotland; I was able to spend several hours working outside (without a coat!) and taking my images for this week’s post. However, come Easter Monday, the temperature dipped again,  it snowed, and just about everything I photographed disappeared under a layer of white slush.

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Chionadoxa in the snow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Spring flower bed. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I will never tire of these vibrant blue, star-shaped spring flowers. In the sun-light, they dazzle with vibrancy, and in the gloom, they take on an almost iridescent quality. They seem quite hardy and I can see that they haven’t been crushed by the weight of the snow.

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Chionadoxa and a Dog-tooth violets. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a marvellous year for crocus. I have never known so many come into flower. Apart from the ones I transplanted into a wooden barrel last year, there are small clumps all over the garden which seemed to  have appeared from nowhere. I think the Crocus fairies were busy planting when my back was turned.

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My barrel of mixed crocus, the white variety looked particularly stunning in the sunshine. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Shades of pink and purple Crocus planted by the fairies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Most of the spring flowers in my garden are shades of blue, yellow and white, but these tulips fellow are an exception. Always the first to flower, long before the rest of the tulips, and this year, ahead of the daffodils.

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Early dwarf tulips. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To round off my flowery post this week, I have a wonderful display of Hellebores again this year. They have been slow to open up, but are now in full bloom and glory. They are quite magnificent, and because they grow in the sheltered parts of the garden, they are not snow-bound 🙂 Have a good week.

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Baked lemon and pistachio cheesecake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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For Easter, baked lemon and pistachio cheesecake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

How I love a good cheesecake. But, with regret,  it is a dessert that has been off my menu for quite a while due to my intolerance to most dairy products. Over the years, I have been experimenting with different combinations of ingredients but with little success. However,  recently I revisited a much-loved, traditional cheesecake recipe, and I think I have achieved a perfect balance between flavour and texture. So at last, I am able to make a cheesecake entirely without cheese and eggs, and this classic dessert is very much back in my life 🙂

My culinary discovery is perfect timing for the Easter holidays. I have given my recipe a seasonal twist by adding lots of zesty lemon flavour and a subtle nuttiness from pistachios although almonds work just as well if you prefer. If nuts aren’t your thing, leave them out altogether and replace them with another 25g gluten-free flour.

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My no dairy, no eggs baked cheesecake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You will need a deep tin for this recipe as there is a lot of mixture to start with. Once the cheesecake is baked, it does sink down, but you do need the initial volume of mixture to make a deliciously, deep slice with a firm, dense texture. I prefer to use a spring-clip cake tin because there is less chance of damaging the bake as you take it out of the tin, but it isn’t essential. It is more important to make sure you have a depth of at least 7cm so that you can use all the mixture.

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Spring-clip cake tin ready for cheesecake mixture. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

For the pistachio base:

  • 50g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 5g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 50g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 50g silken tofu
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 25g ground, shelled pistachio nuts
  • ½ teasp good quality almond extract
  • Natural green food colour gel (optional)

For the lemon cheesecake:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 60g silken tofu
  • 350g free-from vegan soft cheese
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 35g cornflour (if you prefer a softer, more mousse-like texture, use 25g)
  • Natural yellow food colour gel (optional)
  • Approx. 150ml white bean canning liquid (this is the approximate proportion of canning liquid in a standard sized can)
  • 50g sultanas

To decorate and serve:

  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 25g chopped, shelled pistachio nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven, gas 3). Grease and line a 7cm deep, 18cm diameter spring-clip cake tin. Put all the ingredients for the pistachio base in a bowl and blend together using an electric whisk until smooth and creamy. Spread over the base of the tin and put to one side (you don’t need to cook this layer on its own).
  2. For the cheesecake, whisk the sugar and tofu together until smooth and creamy, then whisk in the vegan soft cheese, lemon rind and juice, and cornflour until smooth and well combined. Add a few drops of food colouring if using.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the canning liquid until thick and foamy, and then gradually fold into the cheese mixture until well combined but trying to retain as much of the airy-foam texture as possible.
  4. Gently stir in the sultanas and pour the cheesecake mixture over the uncooked pistachio base. The tin will be very full. Carefully transfer to a baking tray and bake for 1 to 1 hour 15 minutes until golden and crusty – the cheesecake should still wobble a bit in the middle.
  5. Turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar, and allow the cheesecake to cool completely – it will shrink as it cools. Once the cheesecake is cold, carefully remove it from the tin and place on a  serving plate or cake stand. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

 

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Preparing the lemon decoration and syrup. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For the decoration:

  • Thinly peel the rind from the lemon using a vegetable peeler, and cut into thin strips. Pour 150ml water into small saucepan, bring to the boil, add the lemon rind and cook for 1 minute. Drain, reserving the liquid, and leave the rind to cool.
  • Extract the juice from the peeled lemon. Return the cooking liquid to the saucepan, pour in the lemon juice and stir in the sugar. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until reduced by half.
  • Transfer to a heatproof jug and leave to cool. When you are ready to serve the cheesecake, scatter the top with the cooked lemon rind and the pistachios. Serve the syrup as a pouring sauce.
Serving_of_baked_vegan_cheesecake_with_lemon_syrup
A slice of baked lemon and pistachio cheesecake with lemon syrup. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you all have a lovely Easter holiday, and that the sun shines for at least some of the time. See you next week as usual 🙂

Happy_Easter_greeting

 

Sweet potato, spinach and coconut stew (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Sweet potato, spinach and coconut stew. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A deliciously fragrant and comforting recipe for you this week. An old favourite of mine which works just as well with potatoes if you’re not a fan of the sweet variety. It makes a good side dish, but I usually serve it as a main course, spooned over rice.

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Preparing sweet potatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The stew is very easy to make. You can change the proportions of the individual spices to suit your taste. The overall flavour is reminiscent of a green Thai curry without the lemongrass or lime leaves. I’m not a huge chilli fan, I like a hint of heat rather than a major blast, so you may want to increase the chilli-factor for more of a spicy kick. If you have fresh green chillies, grind them up in the spice paste as an alternative to using the dried flakes.

If you have any leftover, the stew makes a good soup the next day. Just blend it up in a food processor with stock or more coconut milk. I hope you enjoy it 🙂

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Spice paste ingredients. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1 teasp each of coriander and mustard seeds
  • 1 small red onion or shallot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3cm piece root ginger
  • Dried chilli flakes, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 400ml canned coconut milk
  • 650g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm thick chunky pieces
  • 225g prepared spinach
  • 1 teasp salt
  • A small bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  1. Remove the green casing from the cardamom pods and put the seeds in a pestle and mortar along with the coriander and mustard seeds. Lightly crush them, then toast them in a small frying pan, over a medium heat, for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and lightly toasted but not brown. Leave to cool.
  2. Peel and roughly chop the onion, garlic and ginger and place in a food processor or blender. Add 1 tbsp. oil and the toasted spices and chilli flakes to taste. Blend for a few seconds to make a paste.

    Toasting_spice_seeds_in_a_small_frying_pan_and_blending_ingredients_to_make_a_spice_paste
    Toasting spices and making a spice paste. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a large, deep-sided frying pan or wok and gently fry the paste for about 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Pour over the coconut milk, bring to the boil, and stir in the sweet potato pieces. Bring back to the boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for about an hour until tender.
  4. Add the spinach in batches, stirring well to make sure it gets completely coated in the coconut liquor. Add the salt, cover and continue to cook gently for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until then spinach is wilted and the sauce is thick.
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    The 3 stages of stew. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  5. To serve, sprinkle the stew with a generous amount of chopped, fresh coriander, and extra chilli if liked. Serve immediately,  spooned over rice.

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    Sweet potato stew, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

March, in like a lion….

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Under a yew bush, a lion and thistle embossed, iron screen stands boldly behind the first Tête-a-tête of the year. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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The old saying about March certainly rings true for the start of this month here in central Scotland, but there are a few signs of spring in the garden. The snow has gone, and the temperature has risen (slightly). Today though the weather’s been blowing a gale and it’s very, very wet. I’m still not feeling that spring is here entirely.

However, last weekend was fine, and I managed my first major gardening session for several weeks. I was relieved to see that new life is creeping back into the garden again. The first Tête-a-tête are in flower, and my barrel of crocus seem to have suffered no ill-effects from being under snow for several days, and bloomed in the weak sunshine for a few hours. Ever since I took these images, they have been tightly closed.

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Crocus after the snow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Snowdrops are the main feature in the garden at the moment. The splash of white petals and the bright green foliage bring some welcome interest and signs of life amongst the dying residues of winter and the mostly bare soil.  March_garden_Snowdrops_growing_under_a_beech_hedge

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Charming and delicate, snowdrops are one of the first signs that spring is on its way. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The first Rhododendron is also in bloom. One of a few different varieties in the garden, this scarlet one is always the first to flower, and often, flowering not long into the new year; however, this year it has been curtailed by the frosts and snow.

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Scarlet Rhododendron bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My lovely pot Hyacinth has come into full flower this last week. The fragrance is sweet and spicy, and quite intoxicating. The 2 blooms are so heavy and full, I have had to add support to the pot.

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Pink pot Hyacinth in full bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s the end of my garden round-up for this month. I’m heading back into the kitchen now to get my next recipe post ready. Until then, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the second part of the March saying to come true……..Bring on the lambs!