Salame al cioccolato (Chocolate salami) (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Chocolate and orange treat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I thought it was time to deliver a little treat. This week, I’ve broken into the chocolate to make something deliciously decadent. Still feeling inspired by my culinary adventure with Sicilian red oranges in last week’s post, I used some to flavour this rich Italian confection which is traditionally served at the end of a meal with coffee and liqueurs, or in my case, Marsala wine.

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Sliced Italian chocolate salami with coffee and Marsala wine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I was watching a travel programme about Sicily over the festive holidays. It really does seem like a food and drink paradise, and I hope to pay a visit some day. In the meantime, I tracked down some of the island’s Modica chocolate which is so very different from any other chocolate I have eaten or cooked with. It is naturally vegan as it is made with just cocoa, sugar and vanilla. The texture is grainy and slightly crunchy, with a flavour that is rich and intense. Modica chocolate is very like the chocolate the Aztecs would have been familiar with; it was introduced to Europe in the 16th century by the Spanish, and I’m delighted to have finally made its acquaintance.

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Sicilian Modica chocolate. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

You can add any flavourings you fancy to the basic salami recipe. I opted for all things Italian and went with pistachios, marzipan and the red orange. Candied peel is often added but I’m not a huge fan. Because I had the fresh red oranges to hand, I made my own non-candied peel which is much softer and much more zesty than the preserved variety. However, feel free to use the more traditional candied peel if you like it.

I put some red orange juice in the salami mixture as well. If you fancy something with more oomph, you can use 2 tbsp.  liqueur instead. I used a dairy-free margarine which has a lower fat content than a solid fat. The combination of the margarine and the added liquid gives a more fudgy texture to the salami. If you prefer a firmer set then leave out the liquid altogether and use something like coconut oil  (or unsalted butter if you eat it) which will give a much firmer set.

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Italian flavours. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 16 slices

Ingredients

  • 2 medium oranges, red or other variety
  • 100g 50% cocoa Modica or similar free-from plain chocolate
  • 75g dairy-free margarine
  • 150g free-from ginger biscuits, lightly crushed (or use your favourite variety)
  • 50g natural pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
  • 75g natural marzipan, finely chopped
  • 15g each ground almonds and icing sugar
  1. First prepare the orange rind. Using a vegetable peeler, pare off the orange rind thinly. You need about 40g rind to achieve a rich orange flavour.
  2. Slice the pared rind into thin strips. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the strips for 4-5 minutes until soft. Drain and cool under cold running water, then drain well and pat dry, before chopping finely. Extract 2 tbsp. juice from one of the oranges – and enjoy the rest of the juice at your leisure 🙂

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    Making fresh orange peel. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Break up the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Add the dairy-free margarine and place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and leave until melted. Remove from the water and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Put the biscuits, pistachios, marzipan, chopped orange rind and juice in a bowl and mix together, then stir in the melted chocolate. Leave in a cool place for about 30 minutes to firm up but not set completely.

    Mixing_up_the_chocolate_salami
    Chocolate salami mix. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Line the work top with a large double layer of cling film and pile the chocolate mixture in the centre to form a rough rectangular shape about 24cm long.
  6. Fold over the cling film and twist the ends closed to make a fat sausage-like shape with slightly tapering ends. Chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight until firm.

    Steps_t0_shaping_chocolate_salami
    Shaping chocolate salami. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. To decorate, place a large sheet of baking parchment on the work top and sift the ground almonds and icing sugar down the centre to cover an area the same length as the salami.
  8. Carefully unwrap the salami and roll evenly in the sweet almond mixture to coat it lightly. Slice and serve. Store any remaining chocolate salami in the fridge – the sugary almond coating will start to dissolve in the fridge but this doesn’t affect the flavour or texture of the salami. Buon appetite!

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    Delizioso. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

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Moorish red orange and carrot salad (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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A seasonal salad to banish the winter blues. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a great time of the year for oranges. Last weekend, I bought a bag of Seville oranges and made some marmalade, something I haven’t done for many years. It took me much longer than I remembered, but the effort was worthwhile as I have 12 large jars to see me through the year. The other citrus fruit that caught my eye this week comes from Sicily. Beautiful, blushing red oranges (or “Blood oranges” as I remember them being called). They look as lovely on the outside as they do on the inside.

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Sicilian red oranges. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It may not seem the right time of year to be serving up a salad, but my recipe this week is a good choice for eating now, it oozes health and vitality, is robust in flavour with a crunchy texture, and makes a great accompaniment to pulse, rice or grain dishes or can be served on its own as a simple light lunch with bread and a dollop of hummus. The flavours and colours of this salad are the perfect tonic to pick you up if, like me, you are suffering from the winter blues.

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Robust flavours and crunchy textures. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The salad is dressed with a simple combination of olive oil and freshly squeezed orange juice flavoured with the warming, earthy spices toasted cumin seeds and dried chilli. I also fried some sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds for 4-5 minutes in a little olive oil with some sea salt, to add bite and nuttiness as a sprinkle on top. I hope you enjoy the recipe, and if you can’t find red oranges, any orange or even pink grapefruit would work.

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Salad dressing and toasted, salted seeds. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2 to 4 (lunch or accompaniment)

Ingredients

  • 250g carrots (for extra colour I used a heritage variety which were purple, orange and yellow)
  • 3 red oranges
  • Red orange juice (you should have sufficient leftover from peeling the 3 oranges)
  • Approx. 25ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 – 2 tsp caster sugar or maple syrup (or honey if you eat it), optional
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • ½ tsp toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 100g pitted black olives
  • Fried, salted sunflower and pumpkin seeds to sprinkle
  1. Peel and grate the carrots. Place in a bowl and put to one side. Slice the top and bottom off each orange, then using a small sharp knife, slice off the skin, taking away as much of the white pith as you can – see images below. Slice each orange into thin rounds and remove any pips.
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    Heritage carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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    Preparing red oranges. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Drain the orange slices, reserving the juice – any pieces of orange skin that have orange flesh attached can also be squeezed to obtain precious drops of juice.
  3. Measure the juice and mix with the same amount of olive oil, then stir in the salt, spices and sugar, if using. Toss the dressing into the grated carrots.
  4. Carefully fold in the orange slices (you may prefer to cut the orange into smaller pieces) along with the olives. Cover and chill until ready to serve, but allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes for the flavours to develop.
    Moorish_red_orange_and_carrot_salad_ready_to_eat
    Ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    I’ve been enjoying freshly squeezed red orange juice for breakfast this week as well. Such a pretty colour, and a super-zingy start to the day.

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    Freshly squeezed red orange juice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    I have another Sicilian inspired recipe lined up for next week, so until then, I hope you have a good few days 🙂

Bare trees and blue skies

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Small pear and cherry trees in winter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy February everyone! Any thoughts I had of an early spring have gone out the window these past couple of weeks as temperatures in the UK have plummeted. So far, there has been little snow to speak of, but there have been many a frost-laden night and day. The saving grace amongst all the chilliness is a beautiful blue-sky and bright sunshine we have been blessed with most days.

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Copper beech in winter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Icy sunrise. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So, on with my quick round-up of what’s going on in the garden right now. The snowdrops and crocus have been in flower for a couple of weeks and seem to be coping well with the sunny days and freezing nights.

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Early 2019 snowdrops and golden crocus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The first Hellebore of the year has now been joined by a couple of other blooms, but other varieties are still firmly in bud.

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Hellebore trio. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Most of the winter pansies have been chewed. Each flower head lasts about 24 hours once it opens before some wee beasty makes a meal of it. I managed to capture this pansy’s delicate, pretty petals before it becomes part of another insect supper.

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A winter bug’s next meal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a good season for the winter heathers. This pink heather is full of blooms. There aren’t so many pink flowers around at this time of year, so this one is  a welcome burst of colour. Sadly the early flower heads of the pink rhododendron I photographed at Hogmanay have inevitably perished in the frost.

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Pink winter heather in full bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Perhaps my next garden post will be more spring-like – who knows? So until then, wrap up warm and keep cosy. Have a good few days 🙂

 

 

For Burns Night, Scottish shortbread (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Scottish shortbread. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy Burns Night, or Day, depending on when you are reading this!

When I started my blog several months ago, my very first recipe was for an old favourite of mine, shortbread. Looking back recently, I thought that the recipe could do with a bit of an update. Now I have a dairy-free version which I am very happy with and so, I have updated my original recipe, timing it for this year’s January 25th celebration.

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve noticed that my Scottish recipe posts have been receiving quite a few views, so here are links to other recipes you might like to try this January 25th: tattie scones, chocolate haggis, vegan haggis and Burns Night mini chocolate haggis.

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Vintage thistle cake tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. I have given my shortbread rounds a suitably Scottish flourish by embossing them with a thistle on the top. If you don’t have a traditional shortbread mould, then simply roll out the dough and cut out rounds using a plain or fluted edge cookie cutter. Prick the tops and press the edges with the fork before baking.

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Shortbread and whisky, Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here’s the link back to the updated original shortbread recipe – now dairy-free and vegan as well as gluten-free – and if you are using a shortbread mould, there are some step by steps images to help you.

That’s all for this week. I’m off for a wee dram; I’ll be posting again soon. Sláinte!

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Sláinte! Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Vegan haggis (dairy-free; gluten-free variation)

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Haggis, neeps and tatties the vegan way. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope 2019 is going well for you so far. There’s a wee bit of forward planning gone into  this week’s recipe. Next Friday, January 25th, is the Scottish feast of Burns Night, which is traditionally celebrated in a very meaty way with the dish of haggis accompanied with the only vegetarian part of the meal: “neeps and tatties” (mashed turnip (swede) and potatoes). I’ve been working on a meat-free version for a while, and finally I think I’ve cracked it this year. The flavour and texture is not that far off the traditional version and much nicer than any commercially made veggie haggis I have tried. I hope I might tempt you into making one for yourself.

You’ll need to allow at least a day in advance before you cook the haggis, but it will keep wrapped up in the fridge for 3 or 4 days before cooking if you want to prepare ahead.

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Burns supper. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Without going into the grim details of what’s in a traditional haggis, I’ve replaced the meat, etc. with mushrooms, red lentils and pearl barley which give the texture in the dish. Other than that, the bulk of the haggis is made up in the traditional way with toasted oatmeal. For a completely gluten-free version, replace the pearl barley with well-cooked white or brown rice, and use certified free-from oatmeal. I’ve stuck to the traditional haggis seasonings of plenty of black pepper, nutmeg and salt.

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Traditional haggis seasoning: salt, pepper and nutmeg. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Because there is no outer “skin” to contain  the vegan haggis mixture, the assembly method is quite long, however the recipe itself is pretty straightforward. I’ve included plenty of step-by-step images to help with the assembly. Let me know how you get on 🙂

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 225g large flat mushrooms. peeled and chopped
  • 100g pinhead oatmeal or groats (use certified gluten-free if Coeliac)
  • 150g cooked, well-drained red lentils
  • 150g cooked, well-drained pearl barley (use well-cooked brown or white rice to make completely gluten-free)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper + extra to serve
  • A large pinch grated nutmeg
  • Approx. 4 tbsp. cold vegetable stock
  • 50g vegetable suet
  1. Heat the oil in a lidded frying pan and gently fry the onion with the bay leaf, stirring, for 2 minutes. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms, raise the heat and stir fry for 2 minutes. Cover again,  reduce the heat and cook gently for 10 minutes until tender. Leave to cool completely. Discard the bay leaf.

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    Cooking mushrooms for vegan haggis. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Meanwhile, heat a dry frying pan until hot. Sprinkle over the oatmeal, and cook, stirring the oatmeal over a medium heat, for 7-8 minutes, to “toast”, without over-browning. Leave to cool.

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    Cooking oatmeal. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. To assemble the haggis, mix the oatmeal, lentils and barley or rice into the cold mushroom mixture. Add the seasoning, and sufficient stock to bind the mixture together without making it too wet – how much you need will depend on how juicy the mushrooms are – then mix in the suet – it is important that everything is cold otherwise the suet will melt.

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    Mixing the haggis ingredients. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Lay 3 large  sheets of cling film, approx. 44 x 32cm, on top of each other on a tray or work surface. Pile the haggis mixture in the centre. Fold the longest sides of cling film tightly over the mixture and then twist the ends tightly closed to form a chunky haggis shape, approx. 16cm long. Put in the fridge to firm up overnight.

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    Shaping the haggis. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To cook the haggis, Lay a sheet of foil on a tray or work surface (same size as the cling film) and then place a sheet of baking parchment on top. Carefully unwrap the haggis and carefully place it in the centre of the parchment. It should its hold shape but won’t be completely solid. Fold the parchment over the haggis as you did with the cling film; scrunch the ends gently together and fold the parchment underneath the haggis. Wrap the foil over and twist the ends tightly to retain the haggis shape.

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    Preparing vegan haggis for cooking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. Pour a 1cm depth of water into the bottom of a deep, lidded frying pan or a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, then place the haggis in the water, seam-side up; cover with the lid, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 ¼ hours until piping hot – if you have a food probe, test the centre, it should be at least 75°C to serve.

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    Cooking the haggis. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. Carefully drain the haggis and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and place the haggis, still in the parchment, on a warmed serving platter. Open out the parchment and serve straight away, accompanied with mashed turnip and potatoes, and more black pepper if liked.

    Unwrapped_and_ready_to_serve_vegan_haggis
    Freshly cooked vegan Haggis. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Note: if you have any haggis leftover, let it cool and chill it down for the next day. Cut into chunky slices and fry for a few minutes on each side until crisp, brown and hot. Serve with tomatoes and oatcakes. This is my favourite way of serving and eating haggis, the oatmeal becomes crunchy and deliciously nutty when fried. Have a good week!

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Vegan haggis, even better the next day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Slow-cooker bean and vegetable hash (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Rise and shine, bean and vegetable hash with fresh toast. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Welcome to my first post of the new year. On the menu this week is a hearty (and healthy) breakfast/supper dish cooked in the slow-cooker, perfect for the time of year and for Veganuary, as this month has become known 🙂

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A hearty, healthy start to the day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe takes next to no time to prepare, and once it’s all mixed up and in the cooker, you’ve got 9 hours to get on with your life. The hash is a simple combination of vegetables that slow-cook well, some cooked beans and a mix of spices to pep things up.

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Hash vegetables. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Cooked borlotti beans. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Hash seasoning. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So with no more blurb from me, here’s what to do……

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 225g sweet potato
  • 225g general purpose potatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 each yellow and red pepper
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 350g ripe tomatoes
  • 240g cooked pinto, kidney or borlotti beans
  • 1 tsp each ground cumin and smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp smoked or regular salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly chopped parsley
  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into approx. 0.75cm thick pieces. Peel and slice the onion. Deseed and slice the peppers.

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    Prepared hash vegetables. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and stir fry the prepared vegetables for 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker dish.
  3. Quarter the tomatoes and mix into the vegetables along with the beans, spices and seasonings.

    Preparing_and_cooking_vegetables and beans_for_hash
    Hash preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Cover with the lid. switch the slow-cooker on to the Low setting and leave to cook undisturbed overnight or up to 9 hours, until the vegetables are meltingly tender.

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    My slow cooker. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To serve, stir the mixture well. Pile on to warm serving plates and sprinkle with parsley. For breakfast, some freshly grilled toast is all the extras you need; for supper, the hash is great spooned over rice or pasta.

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    Ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hogmanay in the garden

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Welcoming in 2019. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A very happy new year to you all. I wish you good health and every success in the year ahead. I hope that you have had a good Christmas holiday, and now we wait to see what 2019 brings to us all.

My Christmas holiday has been very peaceful and relaxed. The weather has been mild considering the time of year and has given me the opportunity to get out in the garden and tackle a few jobs like pruning the old apple tree.

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Recently pruned gnarly old apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The holidays started on a very chilly note with a heavy frost on Christmas Eve which made everything look very festive and sparkly in the sunshine and crisp, fresh air. Frosted_Hydrangea_lawn_paths_and_greenhouse_glass

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Frosty garden on Christmas Eve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Out in the garden today, things were looking a little different from a week ago. No frost, just mild, breezy air and patches of blue in a heavily clouded sky. 2018 has certainly given us some unusual weather and I think this is having an impact on the garden now. Several plants are much more advanced than usual: the snowdrops are almost out in flower; the buds on the early spring flowering rhododendron are breaking open, and one Hellebore is already in full bloom. The usual oddities are around too: a solitary stalk of fresh flowers on a very sad-looking, bedraggled lavender bush, and a few new red-fringed orange carnation buds are about to open for a second flowering. Snowdrops_in_bud_and_a_white_hellebore_in_bloom

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Hogmanay flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ll sign off this post with an image of some “lucky” white winter-flowering heather to bring us all good fortune over the next 12 months 🙂

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Hogmanay white heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Mince pie crumbles (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Mince pie crumbles. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I love a good mince pie, and this recipe is one of easiest and tastiest you can make. No rolling pin or tart tins required, just a square cake tin and a pair of (clean) hands.

You can use homemade or readymade mincemeat for the filling and any combination of dried fruit or nuts you have – it’s a good way to use up leftover bits and pieces. Grated apple also works well added to the mincemeat. Add a splash of your favourite tipple and you have something very festive indeed!

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Mincemeat and fruit filling with a splash of cherry brandy. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The crumbles keep well for up to a week when stored in an airtight container – they will become softer and more cake-like a time goes by, but the flavour intensifies – and they also freeze well. Enjoy them warm, straight out of the tin, as a hot pudding, or let them cool and serve as a delicious bake. Here’s what to do:

Makes: 16

Ingredients

  • 115g solid white vegetable fat (such as Trex or coconut oil), softened
  • 115g dairy-free margarine or spread
  • 115g soft light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp good quality almond extract, optional (or use 1 tsp ground cinnamon or mixed spice to flavour)
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 250g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Doves Farm)
  • 10g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 500g vegan mincemeat
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 100g chopped dried apricots
  • 2 tbsp. cherry brandy or your favourite tipple
  • 50g golden marzipan (optional)
  • 1 tsp icing sugar, to dust
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a deep 21cm square cake tin. In a mixing bowl, beat together the fat. margarine, sugar and salt until well blended. Stir in the ground almonds and extract or spice, if using.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder on top and mix everything together to form a soft, crumbly mixture. Press 350g of the mix into the base of the tin – I find using a floured back of spoon is a good way to achieve a smooth, thick base. Prick all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden and firm.
  3. Mix the mincemeat, cranberries, apricots and brandy together and spread over the base. Sprinkle the remaining crumble on top, gently packing it down but making sure you retain the crumbly texture.
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then slice into 16 squares. Leave in the tin to cool completely before removing and arranging the pieces on a board or tray.

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    Making mince pie crumbles. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To decorate, roll out the marzipan thinly and cut out as many stars or festive shapes as you are able, re-rolling the marzipan as necessary. Arrange the stars on the squares and dust lightly with icing sugar.
    Serving_of_a_single_square_of_mince_pie_crumbles
    Ready for the eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

    This is my last post for 2018. I’d like to thank all of you who have stopped by my blog and read my posts. It is a pleasure to write my posts and receive such lovely feedback.

    It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas as the song says, we had our first snowfall last night and I woke to the garden transformed into Narnia. On this wintry note, I’d like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and new year when it comes. I will be back up and running in a few weeks.

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    Festive snowfall. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Salt and caramel nut butter fudge (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Salt and caramel nut butter fudge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve had a hectic few days since my last post. I have got a bit behind with my festive preparations, but I’m pleased to report that back on track again now. I’ve been in the kitchen this weekend and here is the first of my 2 festive posts.

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Home-made fudge, a perfect gift for Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I am a huge fan of homemade sweeties, especially fudge, but I have found it difficult to find a recipe that works well as a dairy-free version. I have made the super-easy chocolate-based fudge recipes from time to time, but they do have a different texture to the fudge I remember from childhood.

For this week’s recipe, I have turned to an old recipe book and adapted a traditional recipe which produces the flaky, melt-in-the-mouth texture I really like, and it makes a lovely edible gift too, perfect for the time of year – if you can bare to give it away!

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Melt-in-the-mouth home-made fudge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I used peanut butter as the main flavouring, but any nut butter (or tahini) will work just as well. To get the right consistency, you do need to use a butter replacement with a high fat content; I used coconut oil but a solid white vegetable fat like “Trex” would work if you don’t want the extra flavour from using coconut.

As with most traditional sweet making, a sugar thermometer is a vital piece of kit, but if you don’t have one, I’ve included a quick tip which will help determine whether the fudge is ready or not.

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Ingredients for making home-made fudge the traditional way. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 25 to 36 pieces

Ingredients

  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt (use less or none if you don’t want the salty flavour)
  • 50g coconut oil or white vegetable fat
  • 150g no added salt or sugar peanut or other nut butter
  • 150ml unsweetened dairy-free milk (I use unsweetened soya milk)
  • 2 tbsp. golden syrup
  • 2 tsp caramel flavour (or vanilla extract to taste if you prefer a different flavour)
  1. Line an ungreased 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment or waxed paper. Put all the ingredients except the flavouring in a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the coconut oil melts.
  2. Bring to the boil and continue boiling for about 5 minutes until a temperature of 116°C is reached on a sugar thermometer. Alternatively, drop a little of the mixture into a cup of cold water. If it forms a soft ball when rolled between your finger and thumb, the cooking is complete. It is important to keep stirring the boiling mixture to prevent it sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan.

    Steps_showing_the_cooking_and_testing_of_fudge_mixture
    Cooking and testing the fudge mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Turn off the heat, add the flavouring and stir well. Keep stirring the mixture occasionally as it cools. After about 20 minutes or so, the mixture will begin to thicken and lose its shine, this is the time to mix thoroughly until the texture becomes grainy and stiffer – this is how the perfect texture is achieved.
  4. Transfer to the prepared tin, smooth off the top and leave to cool for about 30 minutes until almost set. Score the top with a sharp knife into 25 or 36 squares, then leave to cool completely for 2 to 3 hours.

    Steps_showing_fudge_texture_and_setting_in_tin
    Cooling and setting cooked fudge mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Cut through the pieces completely and remove from the tin. Store between sheets of baking parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
    Home-made_salt_and_caramel_nut_butter_fudge_cut_into_sqaures_in_tin
    Ready for sampling. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
    Stack_of_home-made_fudge_pieces
    Traditional home-made fudge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Have a good few days and good luck with all your festive preparations. I have my second festive post to put up before Christmas, so I will be with you again in a few days time 🙂

Early winter garden

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Just a few apples left for the birds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I think it’s safe to say that Autumn is over now, at least it is here in central Scotland. A couple of weeks ago it was still mild and dry, but last week it felt like there was a definite season change. The last of the leaves came off the trees in heavy rain, the temperature dropped, and the daylight hours have dwindled significantly. The garden looks quite sad now. All things told, it certainly feels like December is just round the corner.

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A frosty November morning. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are signs of life amongst the fading foliage and fallen leaves. Spring bulbs are shooting up everywhere: in containers, borders and flowerbeds; they seem more advanced than usual.

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Sprouting bulbs. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The late flowering heather is just coming into bloom. Such a pretty colour and delicate flower for this time of year.

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Just beginning to flower, Winter flowering heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As a reminder of the forthcoming festivities less than a month away (I can hardly believe it!), the Santa-red Skimmia berries and the glacial-white snowberry, give seasonal cheer.

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Seasonal berries, Skimmia and Snowberry

And, here is the most regular visitor to the garden at the moment. He seems to appear whenever I go outside, and chirps away from first light. This is his regular perch, in the hollow of a large conifer, not too far from the back door.

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Master of all he surveys. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

And so to my final image. This Salvia was planted back in late spring and has been in flower ever since. A truly great value plant. Have a good week 🙂

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Still blooming in late November, Salvia. Image: Kathryn Hawkins