Welcome to my blog all about the things I love to grow and cook. You'll find a collection of seasonal gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly recipe posts, as well as a round up of my gardening throughout the year. I wish you good reading, happy cooking and perfect planting!
Hello again. It’s been a lovely weekend so far here in central Scotland. Lots of sunshine and blue sky which really shows off these Japanese maple leaves, slowly on the turn from green to gold, and finally to red before they fall. The temperature has dropped a few degrees, and the forecast is for a much cooler week ahead, so I think the new season has well and truly arrived.
The garden is still looking quite flowery which is good news for the bees. It’s been a great year for all the heathers, with the autumn varieties looking particularly pretty and laden with tiny blooms.
The well-established white Hydrangea shrub has been heavy with flowers this year. A victim of its own success, its thin stems and branches have bowed with the weight of all the flower-heads. Whilst most have a pinkish or brown tinge, there are still one or two perfectly white blooms visible with their pin-head-sized tiny blue centres.
The Campanulas have been out in flower for a while. I keep trimming away the spent flower-heads and new ones have been forming lower down the stems which is why they are still flowering so late in the year. The same goes for the deep-pink Verbascum which is now flowering for the third time this year.
When I was out in the garden today, I was happy to see so many bees and flying insects enjoying the flowers and sunshine as much as I was. All the lavender bushes in the garden have a few late sprigs of flowers which these insects particularly love.
It’s not all blue, purple and pink in the garden, the Rose of Sharon has produced a few more golden yellow flowers which have a waxy-look to the petals in the sunshine.
My final image is of my favourite Lupin which has broken my back garden record this year, with its third flowering of the year. It’s not fully open yet but it’s not far off. All the other Lupin bushes have died down completely yet this one has stayed lush and healthy. Alongside is one of my Borage flowers; these have only just decided to put in an appearance this week. Better late than never though 🙂
I hope you have enjoyed my images this week. I will be back in the kitchen for my next post. Until then, take care and thanks, as always, for stopping by.
Hello again. What a mixed bag of weather there has been here since my last post. Plenty of rain to restore the water supplies with thundery downpours and a few sunny days here and there. The garden has bucked up again and the green grass has been restored.
My recipe post this week gives a little nod towards the change of month and season. The greenhouse tomatoes are ripening now. I planted only 3 plants this year, but I am enjoying a steady supply to eat in salads. The variety is called Golden Zlatava, orange on the outside with reddish flesh inside. Whilst I haven’t grown enough for cooking this year, there are plenty of delicious locally grown tomatoes around, like these fantastic small plum tomatoes, which are perfect for sauce-making.
The greenhouse basil really enjoyed the hot weather we had last month and has grown very bushy and bold. I love the flowers as well. Plenty of leaves to make one of my most favourite savoury sauces, pesto, which seems to be the best way to preserve the flavour of the herb once it has been frozen.
There are 2 main components to the recipe this week: making the pancakes and making a tomato sauce. Both elements freeze well in case you want to make the recipe in stages. I made pesto in a previous post, so if you fancy having a go at that as well, here’s the link to the recipe Runner bean and pesto fritters (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)
1kg fresh tomatoes, washed and chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
A selection of fresh herbs such as sage, bay, marjoram and oregano
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp caster sugar
100g drained sundried tomatoes in oil, blotted on kitchen paper
Salt to taste
110g tapioca flour
110g gram (chickpea or garbanzo) flour
6g gluten-free baking powder
65g fresh vegan pesto
250ml plant-based milk (I used oat milk)
160ml chickpea canning liquid (or other aqua fava)
Vegetable oil for brushing
1. First make the sauce. Put the tomatoes in a large pan with a lid and add the garlic and herbs. Heat until steaming, then cover, and simmer gently for about 45 minutes until very tender. Turn off the heat and leave to cool with the lid on.
2. Discard the herbs. Push the tomatoes and garlic through a nylon sieve, in batches, to remove the skins and seeds. Depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes, you should end up with around 700ml pulp.
3. Pour the pulp into a clean pan. Add the oil and sugar, heat gently, stirring, until boiling, then simmer for about 20 minutes until thickened and reduced to about 300ml. Leave to cool.
4. Put the sundried tomatoes in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth, then stir into the cold tomato sauce. Taste and season. Cover and chill until ready to use.
5. For the pancakes, put the flours, baking powder and salt in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the pesto, and gradually blend in the milk to make a smooth batter.
6. In another bowl, whisk the chickpea water until very thick and foamy, then gently mix into the batter to make a bubbly mixture.
7. Brush a small frying pan (15-16cm base diameter) lightly with oil and heat until hot. Spoon in 4-5tbsp batter, tilting the pan to cover the base with batter. Cook over a medium/low heat for 2-3 minutes until set and bubbles appear on top. Flip over and cook for a further 2 minutes until cooked through.
8. Layer the cooked pancake on a sheet of baking parchment on a wire rack, and cover while you make another 7 pancakes. Stack the pancakes on top of each other, between sheets of parchment to help keep them from drying out. If you are making the pancakes in advance, leave them to cool, then wrap them well and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
9. To assemble, spread a pancake with cold tomato sauce, almost to the edge of the pancake. Transfer to a lined baking tray and continue the spreading and layering with the remaining sauce and pancakes. If you have leftover sauce, keep it to serve with the pancakes.
10. Cover the pancake stack with foil and place in a preheated oven at 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5. Heat through in the oven for about 45 minutes. Best served warm. Top with fresh chopped tomato and fresh basil to serve and accompany with wild rocket and any leftover tomato sauce.
That’s all for this post. See you all again soon. Thanks for stopping by. Best wishes 🙂
Hello again. How can we be at the end of another month already? When I wrote my last post, we had been having some very hot weather and a distinct lack of rain. Since then, the rain has started falling, the air has cleared and it has been feeling a lot cooler, with some mornings feeling positively chilly.
The garden is far more advanced this year with quite a few favourites finishing their display much earlier than before. The Himilayan Hydrangea is looking quite spectacular at the moment. Recently, I discovered that it is also known as Crepe Myrtle which is a charming name. The other Hydrangeas in the garden have started to fade from bright blue petals to mauve and pink.
Another blue flower I captured at its peak about a week ago, is my potted Agapanthus, Regal Beauty. Last year it had 3 flowering stems, but this year, after splitting the plant in Autumn, I had a single, very large flower stem. it is such an eye-catching shade of bright blue.
More blue from the Globe thistles (Echinops) which grow alongside the bright yellow Golden Rod stems. Such a great contrast on a sunny day, and both are very popular with the bees and other flying insects.
It’s not all blue in the garden. For a few weeks now, the Japanese Anemones have been in flower. They seems to survive all weather conditions and haven’t been affected by the extreme heat or lack of rain earlier in the month.
At their best this week, the Star-gazer lilies which grow in 2 separate places in the garden, both nestling beside high shrubs which offer support for their very long stems.
It looks like I will have a good crop of apples this year, and the birds will be pleased that I managed to dry the head of the greenhouse sunflower successfully; they will have plenty of seeds to pick at very soon.
Apart from the birds and bees, the occasional frog, squirrel and the neighbours’ cats, the garden is quite quiet. Once every couple of years, a young deer, completely disorientated, has ended up in the garden. I am always unclear as to how they get in and get out again. This one visited one evening and took quite a liking to the flowers of several Japanese Anemones. Quite exotic taste-buds don’t you think?
Until next time, thanks for stopping by and I will see you again soon 🙂
Hello there. I hope you are keeping well and managing to stay cool in this very hot summer. The temperatures have been exceptional here in the UK and all over Europe which is great if you’re on holiday but not so good if you’re working. The garden is looking quite different this year due to the heat; many of the flowers are fading much more quickly than in previous years.
Last weekend, in an effort to stay cool and enjoy the outdoors at the same time, I went for a walk in some local woodland. I was looking to see how long it would be before the hedgerow blackberries (brambles) would be ripe enough to pick – I don’t think it’s going to be a good year for brambling sadly. Quite unexpectedly, I came across several wild cherries trees, completely untouched by birds, and laden with fruit as far as the eye could see.
I was completely unprepared for foraging. I had no bag other than the small holster bag I was using to carry a water bottle. Cherry trees are enormous in the wild, but there were quite a few fruits on the lowest branches and I was able to fill my bag with just under 1kg of fruit. The cherries were the sweetest, juiciest I have ever tasted. Such an unexpected treat. Apparently, it has been a bumper year for cherries because of the hot weather, but I am still amazed that the birds hadn’t been interested in them. If only I had gone walking with a ladder! 🙂
Back at home, I pitted the cherries. The firmer ones were easier to pit using my faithful old Italian cherry pitter, but the ripe ones I sliced and pitted using the tip of a sharp knife. Some went in the freezer, others were cooked in a crumble for tea, and the rest went into this week’s recipe.
Easy to make, just a bit of advanced prep – you need to line a cake tin and make up a flax seed egg replacement mixture. Then, you are good to go. The brownies keep well but in this warmth, I kept them in the fridge to stop them going too soft and sticky. They also freeze perfectly. Eat them as a sweet treat but they are also good served with more fresh cherries or compote and ice cream for dessert.
175g dairy-free dark chocolate (I used 54% cocoa – if you use darker chocolate, omit the cocoa powder and add an extra 25g flour)
150g lightly salted plant butter, cut into pieces
25g ground flax seed
200g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
75g gluten-free plain flour
25g cocoa powder
140g pitted cherries, halved (approx. 170g whole)
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 5. Line an 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment.
2. Put 150g chocolate in a heatproof bowl with the butter and melt gently over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove from the water and cool for 10 minutes.
3. Make up the flax egg by mixing the flax seed with 110ml cold water and leave to stand for 5 minutes until thickened.
4. Mix the sugar and flax egg into the melted chocolate along with the vanilla paste, then add the flour and cocoa powder and stir well until everything is well blended.
5. Pour into the prepared tin and scatter the cherries on top. Bake for about 1 hour until the mixture is set in the middle – initially the mixture rises round the edges leaving the centre molten but after a longer time in the oven, the centre firms up. Leave to cool in the tin.
6. Remove from the tin and peel away the lining paper. Cut into 16 squares – you may find it easier to chill the brownie before you cut it as the texture is quite soft at room temperature.
7. Melt the remaining chocolate. Put the brownie squares on a board and drizzle each piece with a little chocolate. Leave to set before serving. Best stored in the fridge.
I’m off to enjoy another slice now. I’ll see you again towards the end of the month. Until then, keep well and stay cool 🙂
Hello again. I hope you are keeping well and are having a good summer. Since my last post, the UK, like the rest of Europe, has been subject to some very hot weather. Fortunately here, not for a particularly long spell as the high temperatures were unprecedented for this part of the world. It has cooled down again now and the air feels fresher and the sun less strong.
I was worried that the soft fruit in the garden would suffer in the heat. The rhubarb in particular likes a good soaking as well as the sunshine. I was pleased to see that it bounced back once the temperature dipped and we had some very welcome rain.
My recipe this week is a very simple one. I try to avoid putting the oven on in the hot weather, but I did make an exception for one of my favourite fruity combinations. Strawberries and rhubarb go together especially well, and when cooked with vanilla, I find the aroma and flavours is irresistible.
It has been a good year for Scottish strawberries. They have been juicy and have tasted fragrant and sweet. I didn’t grow these myself, they came from the local farm shop. I chose larger fruit to cook with the rhubarb as they hold their shape better in the oven.
I always have a jar of vanilla sugar in the cupboard. I chop up bits of vanilla pod that is past its prime or dried out too much and add it to caster sugar. I keep it in a glass jar with a screw-top lid. Every now and then I give the jar a shake to distribute the vanilla pieces. Sift the sugar as you use it to remove the pod pieces but keep the bits trapped in the sieve and put them back in the jar along with a top up of sugar ready for next time. You can replenish your supply more or less indefinitely.
On with the recipe. I allow the fruit to cool after baking as I prefer the flavours when they are cold and the fruit is more refreshing, but it’s personal preference. The fruit makes a deliciously light dessert or breakfast compote served with yogurt and toasted cereals.
50g vanilla or plain caster sugar – white sugar helps retain the colour of the fruit, but you may prefer to use brown for a more caramely flavour
300g large fresh strawberries
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5. Wash and trim the rhubarb. Cut into even-thickness and same-length pieces – this will help with even cooking.
2. Place in an oven-proof dish and sprinkle over the sugar. Cover the top with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, wash and hull the strawberries and cut in half. Uncover the rhubarb and add the strawberries. Bake, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes until the fruit is just tender.
Leave to cool, then chill until ready to serve. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to develop. Delicious served with coconut yogurt.
That’s me for another week or so. I can hardly believe we’re just about to enter the month of August. Until next time, take care and my best wishes to you 🙂
Summer is in full swing as I sit down to type my post this week. There’s been plenty of sunshine this week and the garden is in full bloom. I haven’t been able to spend as much time outside as I would have liked these past few days but I have managed to capture a few highlights to share with you in my post this week. I hope you enjoy them.
Along the front of the house and in several of the sunny borders, the lavender grows very well. The bees love it and the perfume in the warm breeze was heavenly as I took these pictures.
These 2 shrubs have been sitting side by side for years. Both have done very well this year and are packed with flowers. I love blue and yellow combinations; the garden has quite a few plants in these colours. Below are Campanulas which grow all over the garden, and Lysimachia which takes over one whole flowerbed at this time of year with a blaze of sunny blooms.
I’m not sure where this fine fellow came from. Perhaps a seed from the bird food brought in to the greenhouse by a mouse? For a while, back in the spring, I thought it was a self-seeding courgette plant (!) but as it grew taller, I realised what it was. Rather challenging to capture because of its position up against the glass, hence the sideways angle. I am going to leave it to dry out and then feed the birds with the seeds.
For several years I have been trying to grow Himalayan poppies in the garden. I have tried several spots, and only ever managed to achieve a flower once. So last year, I dug up my latest attempt and put it in a pot in the shadiest spot I could find. I kept it watered and, lo and behold, it has had 3 beautiful blooms from a tall and willowy single stem.
It’s not all blue and yellow in the garden, there are some pinks here and there as well. I grew this rather odd looking Dianthus from seed last year and was delighted to see that it has come back again with more blooms than ever. It’s called Superbus which I like to pronounce as Super bus 🙂 The pink Kalmia is a very old shrub in the garden, but it’s produced another fine display of flowers this year.
More blue from these dynamic looking Hydrangeas. This one started life a deep red colour but has reverted back to the blue which I believe is because the soil here is acidic. I was surprised to see a couple of Japanese anemones out in flower already this week. Very early for this garden.
And finally, I am rather proud of my barrel container of plants. Usually home to runner beans or potatoes, this year I decided to plant it with flowers instead. Planted at the end of May, they have been flowering non stop for 6 weeks, so I am well chuffed. There is a combination of Viola “Dawn”, Nemesia “Evening Dusk”, Brachyscome “Brasco Violet” and yellow Bidens.
Enjoy the sunshine and I will be back posting again soon. Until then, my best wishes to you as always.
Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. We’re into joyous June already with all the lovely things this month brings in the garden. As well as being beautiful to look at, there are many varieties of garden flowers that can be grown to eat as well as admire. I planted a small patch of plants in late spring for this very purpose, and now the plants are established, every now and then I pick a few petals to liven up salads and to decorate desserts. Many of the herbs are producing flowers now and these are also good to eat.
Not every flower is edible so please do your research before you start picking and eating. If you are planning on eating your flowery plantings, it is best to avoid spraying them with any chemicals and to try and grow them as organically as possible. Once picked, use quickly and give the flowers a very gentle rinse and pat dry with absorbent paper before eating to remove any dust or soil.
If you’ve never tried eating flowers before, I guess you might be thinking, what do they taste like? As a rough guide, the fragrance of the flower is very much like its taste. Herb flowers like chive, thyme, sage and rosemary have the same flavour as the herb itself, just much milder. Calendula/marigold petals can be used to give a saffron colour to dishes and have a light peppery flavour. Clove pinks get their name from their sweet, spicy aroma and taste like a mild version of the same-named spice – make sure you remove the petals from the white central core (this can be bitter and tough). When it comes to roses and geraniums, the most fragrant varieties are the ones for eating, anything without a pleasant aroma will not have much flavour.
To start your floral culinary journey, eat individual petals rather than whole heads until you are used to the texture and flavour. Most flowers contain vitamin C and some have anti-inflammatory properties like calendula. I think above all else they bring a little bit of extra joy and colour to your plate and can really lift the spirits. Until next time, happy pretty eating!
It is with a happy heart that I publish my post this week. Here in the UK and other Commonwealth countries, we are celebrating the 70 year reign of our Queen Elizabeth II this weekend. For my part, I have been inspired to give one of my favourite bakes a bit of a Platinum Jubilee twist 🙂
This bake has a great combination of flavours for the time of year: lemon, lime and juniper as well as gin and tonic water in the icing. Leave out the gin and tonic if you prefer, and replace them fresh lemon or lime juice instead. If you are Coeliac, make sure the gin you use is gluten-free.
I baked the shortbread in a tin in order to achieve a good shape, but if you don’t have the right size tin, you can simply bake the shortbread round on a baking tray as it is. If it isn’t a jubilee occasion, I would usually decorate the shortbread with a few cake sprinkles or some fresh lemon and lime rind. I have captured a few images of how I made up the Union Jack flag design in case you ever want to make your own version for another occasion.
25ml gin and/or tonic water, or fresh lemon or lime juice
1. Beat the butter and sugar together until well blended and creamy. Mix in the salt, citrus rinds and juniper.
2. Add the flour and gradually work into the creamy mixture, then bring together with your hands to make a firm dough.
3. Lightly flour the work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth. Form into a thick round piece and roll into an approx. 20cm round. If you are not using a tin, roll the mixture to form a 23cm round and neaten the edges.
4. For the tin version, base line a shallow 23cm cake tin and transfer the shortbread round to the tin, then press the dough right to the edge. Prick all over with a fork and chill for 30 minutes. Without a tin, transfer the shortbread round to a baking tray, prick with a fork and chill.
5. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Score the top of the chilled shortbread (about 1/3 the way through the dough) into 8 equal segments and bake for about 30 minutes until lightly golden. Cool for 5 minutes then carefully cut the segments all the way through and leave to cool in the tin or on the tray. Transfer to a wire rack.
6. For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually stir in sufficient gin and tonic or lemon juice to form a smooth, thick, spreading icing.
7. Carefully spread the icing all over the top of each shortbread segment to cover and place on a board. If you prefer a smoother finish, add a little more G&T or juice to the icing so that you can spoon it over and let it drip down the sides of each piece – keep the shortbread on the wire rack for best results.
8. If you are decorating with sprinkles or citrus zest, add the decoration before the icing sets. If you are using ready-to-roll icing to decorate the tops, let the icing set before decorating. Below are a few images of how I created the flag effect on top of the shortbread.
Whether you are celebrating or not this weekend, I hope you have a good time. Thanks for stopping by and I will hope to see you with my next post later on in the month.
Hello again. What a colourful month it has been in the garden. May is my favourite month of the year for the sheer variety of plants and flowers springing to life. I hope you enjoy the images I have been capturing over the past 3 weeks of my garden as it bursts into bloom.
The apple blossom this year was remarkable. I took these images about 10 days ago. The petals have now dropped and the fruit is beginning to set. Fingers crossed for a bumper harvest.
There has been another carpet of bluebells all over the garden. Those in the lighter borders are beginning to go over now, but the ones in the shadier parts are still vibrant and fresh.
The best in the garden this month has to be the many colours and varieties of Rhododendrons and Azaleas in flower. They love the acidic soil here and always do very well.
These two flowers, the Himalayan cornflower and the yellow Welsh poppies will continue to flower throughout the next 3 months or so in the garden. Great value, low maintenance and lovely bright colours. Below, under a blue sky earlier this week, the golden yellow Laburnum flowers look stunning.
I’m back to where I started with my images. The image below was taken a couple of days ago. You can see that the apple blossom has finished. There are still a few bluebells about, but now the lupins are on their way and it won’t be long before the peonies open.
To finish my post this week, not only is the garden full of flowers at the moment, it is visited by many birds collecting food for their babies. This fellow, rather scruffy in attire, has been my companion in the garden this week. I am amazed at how many sultanas he can fit in his beak!
Until next time, take care and enjoy the sights and scents of the season.
Hello again. How lovely it is to be well and truly in the season of spring, my favourite time of year. It is a joy to be out of doors and in among all the new growth and activity in the garden.
Earlier in the month, I picked my first rhubarb of the season. It was a good harvest of tender, thin, colourful stems with a tangy, fruity flavour. My recipe this week is not so much about the rhubarb but about an indulgently, rich recipe to serve with this tasty seasonal treat.
My very simple combination of vegan white chocolate, plant-based cream, coconut and vanilla, lightened with aquafaba foam makes a very delicious mousse to serve with any acidic fruit. If you’re not vegan, dairy-based products will work fine. Leave out the foam if you want a denser more custardy texture. If you don’t want to use cream, replace the creamed coconut and plant-based cream with full fat or reduced fat coconut milk.
The mousse is very rich and can easily spread to 6 portions if you use small serving glasses. Here’s the recipe.
350g prepared rhubarb, cut into short lengths
2-3tbsp caster sugar
40g creamed or block coconut
approx. 60ml plant-based double cream
1tsp vanilla bean paste
300g free-from white chocolate
100ml aquafaba (I used canned cannellini bean liquid)
1. Put the rhubarb in a shallow pan with 2tbsp sugar and 3tbsp water. Heat until steaming, then cover with a lid and cook gently for 10-15 minutes until tender. Cool slightly, taste and add more sugar if required. Leave to cool completely, then chill until ready to serve.
2. Shave the creamed coconut into thin pieces using a small sharp knife or vegetable peeler and put into a measuring jug. Spoon over 3tbsp boiling water and stir until dissolved. Make up to 100ml by adding sufficient plant-based cream. Stir in the vanilla paste.
3. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl over barely simmering water. Keep warm.
4. In a clean, grease-free bowl, whisk the aquafaba for 4-5 minutes until thick and foamy – you should be able to leave a trace of the whisk in the foam when it is sufficiently whipped.
5. Mix the coconut cream into the warm melted chocolate until well blended and then gently fold in the whisked foam in several batches. The chocolate mixture will begin to thicken quite quickly once it starts to cool.
6. Divide the mousse between 4 or 6 serving glasses and leave to cool completely before chilling until ready to serve.
Spoon cooked rhubarb on top of each mousse just before serving. Delicious 🙂
That’s me for another week. I will be posting again at the end of the month. Until then, enjoy marvellous May!