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. Welcome to my favourite blog post of the year:) Yes, it’s May, and it’s the most colourful time of the year in my garden. I have a few images to share which capture what’s been happening in the garden over the month. The weather has been mostly dry and a bit overcast, but these past few days have seen things turn warm, sunny and bright.
May is all about Bluebells, Azaleas and Rhododendrons in the garden. The Bluebells haven’t lasted as long as usual due to the lack of rain. The bulbs in the shade are still looking vibrant, and now the Centaurea are coming out, there is even more blue around. All the Azaleas and Rhododendrons are out in full flower now, and are thriving. The colours are strong and vibrant and seem to glow in the sunshine.
Earlier in the month, the Tulips were in flower, but like the Bluebells, they weren’t around for very long. These are two of my favourites.
The Aquilegia and Lupins have flowered a couple of weeks earlier this year. They really do enjoy the sunshine and are in all the sunny beds and borders of the garden, with the exception of this one which is growing out of the old wall at the top of the garden. Not sure where it came from, and it hasn’t seeded in any other part of the garden, but it is very striking and a fabulous colour.
There are plenty of Welsh poppies all around the garden again this year. The birds will be especially pleased when the seed heads are ripening.
As well as the joy all these colourful flowers bring, it has been a happy time with the arrival of a new visitor to the garden. I had seen a few glimpses of an adult red squirrel over the lockdown months, but how delightful it was to see this baby the other morning enjoying the spills from the bird feeder and taking a drink from the container of water we leave out for the birds. He/she has been back a few times, but is so quick, it is hard to capture, hence my not very good pictures.
That’s me for another month. I’ll be back in the kitchen next month. Until then, take care and enjoy the sunshine.
Hello again. Before I moved to Scotland, I had never heard of a macaroni pie before. I soon learnt that, along with a whole range of other flavours, macaroni pies are familiar fayre in the hot cabinet of most Scottish baker’s shops as a popular takeaway treat. If you prefer to eat your pies at home, head for the chiller cabinet at the supermarket and you will find a wide selection of pastry pies to choose from. Traditionally made with a hot water crust pastry shell and filled with a thick, creamy macaroni and cheese sauce filling, the macaroni pie certainly makes a substantial and very tasty snack.
A few years ago, I wrote a pie book called Comfort Pie I made my own version of the macaroni pie as part of a collection of recipes influenced by pastry dishes from all over the world. Several years later, I thought it was about time I give my recipe a bit of an upgrade and I have developed a gluten-free and vegan version which I have to say is pretty tasty.
There are a few steps to the recipe, but it can be made in stages if you don’t have the time to get the pies made and baked on the same day. The pies are made in steel rings which I appreciate aren’t an everyday piece of kit but a great investment if you do like pie making. If you don’t have the rings, you could adapt the recipe to make smaller pies in muffin tins.
The recipe is broken into 3 different parts, and I have included a lot of pictures to help explain the different sections. I do hope you might give the recipe a try and, if you do, I hope enjoy them.
115g free-from macaroni
For the sauce:
15g plant-based butter
15g gluten-free plain flour
200ml plant-based milk (I use oat milk)
4tsp yeast flakes
½ teasp onion salt
For the pastry:
25g plant-based butter
25g white vegetable fat (such as Trex)
215g gluten-free plain flour
For the topping:
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
2tbsp free-from dry white breadcrumbs
½ teasp onion salt
½ smoked paprika
20g plant-based butter
1.Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and cook the macaroni for 9-10 minutes – slightly under-cook the pasta so that it doesn’t go too mushy during baking later on. Drain well; leave aside.
2. Next make the sauce. Melt the plant butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Remove from the heat and blend in the plant milk. Return to the heat, and cook, stirring, until the mixture boils and thickens. Simmer for 1 minute, then turn off the heat and stir in the yeast flakes and onion salt.
3. Stir the cooked macaroni into the sauce. Transfer to a bowl and cover the surface with a layer of baking parchment – this helps prevent a skin forming. Leave to cool, then chill until required.
4. For the pastry, put the plant butter and vegetable fat in a saucepan and pour over 125ml water. Heat gently until melted, then bring to the boil and add the flour all in once go. Beat the mixture quickly, turn off the heat and continue to mix vigourously until a dough ball forms in the saucepan.
5. Arrange 4 x 9cm diameter, 4cm deep steel pastry rings on a baking tray. Divide the pastry into 4 equal pieces. Work on one piece at a time, keep the other portions covered in foil. Roll out a piece of pastry to an approx. 16cm round and carefully transfer to a pastry ring.
6. Mould the pastry to fit inside the ring, then trim away any excess to neaten the top edge. Continue to make 3 more pastry cases in the same way. Leave to cool before filling. You can chill the pastry at this stage, ready to cook at a later time. Use this pastry when it is warm. As it cools it becomes dry and brittle and will be impossible to mould. You can warm the pastry carefully, by heating for a very few seconds in the microwave to make it more pliable.
7. When you are ready to cook the pies, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Spoon macaroni filling into each pastry case to fill them to the top.
8. Arrange cherry tomato halves on on top of each. Mix the crumbs, paprika and onion salt together and sprinkle a little over each. Dot the tops with a little plant butter. Bake for 35 minutes until thoroughly hot, crispy and golden.
9. Stand for 10 minutes before removing from the pastry rings. Serve the pies hot or warm, sprinkled with chopped parsley. Accompany with sweet chilli sauce or tomato ketchup. Alternatively, leave the pies to cool completely on a wire rack, then chill until you are ready to reheat them the next day. They will also freeze very well.
I’m feeling rather peckish after writing up this week’s post. I do love a good pie, and I think this hot water crust pastry is one of the most successful gluten-free pastries. Until next time, I hope you have a good few days until my next post. Thanks and best wishes 🙂
Hello again. What a lovely time of year it is for flowers and foliage. I thought I would reflect on the month just gone by and post some images of things I have seen when I have been out and about these past few weeks.
Over Easter, I travelled down to England to visit my family in West Sussex. One of our favourite places to visit is West Dean gardens near Chichester. Until this year, I have only visited in mid to late Summer to see the wide variety of fruit and vegetables that are grown there. In early April, the grounds were covered in wild spring flowers and it made for a very pretty scene indeed.
Back in the garden at home, there are primroses galore, and the grass verges and local woodlands are also decorated with these pretty yellow blooms. My favourite spring flowers, Snakeshead Fritillary, are also out in bloom in the garden, along with lots of Muscari and the first of the new season Bluebells.
Out on a walk last weekend, just a few miles from where I live, there were plenty of primroses growing on the grassy banks of the loch. The golden clumps certainly helped liven up a dull-weather afternoon. The trees are just coming to life now, although I’m not sure how much longer some of them will stay upright given the activity of the local beaver population!
The things-to-do-in-the garden list is beginning to lengthen now that the plants (and weeds!) are growing again. Just as I pruned the old heads off this aged Hydrangea bush there was an overnight frost, but fortunately no damage was done. I managed to cover the fruit trees with fleece before the frost descended. Lots of lovely blossom again this year which I hope means plenty of fruit if the bees and insects get busy.
I’ll leave you where I began, with one more image of Fritillaria, captured in West Dean gardens on Easter Saturday. Until next time, thanks for stopping by. See you again soon 🙂
Hello again. I hope you have had a good Easter holiday. I had intended to post this recipe before the holidays began, but time ran away with me. I have had a few days away visiting family and friends, and now I’m back home and ready to post again.
One of my first blog posts was a recipe for gluten-free rough puff pastry. It has had many hits but I am always looking for ways to tweak the recipe. Here’s the original if you are a newcomer to my blog: Gluten-free rough puff pastry (with dairy-free & vegan variation) The latest version of the recipe uses my favourite combination of gluten-free flours and also adds psyllium husk to the dough. The latter makes a much more silky dough which is very much easier to roll and shape. If you don’t have the individual flours, just use a ready blended plain flour. I also use all plant butter in this version. However, whilst the dough is quite puffy and light, it has lost some of the flakiness of the original recipe. I guess it’s up to personal taste which version you prefer and for what purpose you want to use it.
The pastries tasted pretty good though despite the lack of pastry layers. The texture of this latest pastry is crisp and chewy, and I am pleased with the flavour. If you do compare the 2 recipes yourself, let me know what you think, and which you prefer. By the way, the recipe makes twice as much pastry you need for making 4 pastries so you can freeze the other half to make something else at a later date.
Makes: approx. 625g pastry. Use half the pastry quantity to make 4 pastries
For the pastry dough:
70g cornflour (corn starch)
60g tapioca flour
60g white rice flour
60g glutinous rice flour
2tsp psyllium husk powder
150g plant butter, cut into small pieces
For the pastries:
60g raspberry jam
1tsp carob syrup
20g flaked almonds
Icing sugar to dust
Fresh raspberries to serve
1.Put all flours in a large mixing bowl with the salt and psyllium husk powder, and mix together until well blended. Stir the butter into the flour to coat each piece in flour.
2. Gradually stir in between 260-275ml cold water until the mixture comes together to make a soft, very lumpy dough. Turn out on to a lightly floured work surface and roll the dough into a flat, roughly rectangular shape approx. 35cm x 12cm.
3. Now the rolling and folding begins. The aim is to consistently roll out the pastry to the same dimensions, and then to fold it, turn it and seal it in the same way each time; this is how the pastry layers form. Fold the top one third of the pastry down and the bottom one third up and over the top pastry; twist the pastry round so that the open edge is facing to the right, and gently press the 3 open edges of the pastry together with the rolling pin.
4. Repeat this rolling, folding, turning and sealing 3 more times and then chill the pastry for 30 minutes. The mixture will be sticky but try to refrain from dusting with too much flour as this will dry the texture of the pastry.
5. After chilling, repeat the rolling, folding, turning and sealing another 3 times, working the pastry each time in the same direction. You should now begin to feel that the fat is more blended into the flour. Chill the pastry for a further 30 minutes.
6. Repeat the process 3 more times and you should see that the fat pieces have practically disappeared. Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour before using. From start to finish, you should aim to roll and fold the pastry 10 times.
7. Cut the pastry in half, and use half to make the pastries – wrap and freeze the other half for later use. Roll out the pastry to make a 24cm square. Trim the edges as necessary.
8. Cut the pastry into 4. Working on 1 square at a time, starting cutting 1cm inside the edge of one side as if about to cut out an inner square. Just before you reach the centre point, leave a 1cm space of uncut pastry then continue the cutting down the rest of the side. Repeat this cutting on the other 3 sides, and then cut the other pastry squares in the same way.
9. Knead the marzipan; cut into 4 and shape each piece into a small round to fit in the centre of each square. Top with jam. Bring the corners together in the centre of the pastry.
10. Place on a lined baking tray. Chill for at least 1hr before baking.
11. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C fan oven, gas 7. Mix the milk and syrup together and glaze the pastries. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and bake for about 20 minutes until risen and lightly golden. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm.
I hope you enjoy the pastries. It is a bit of a long recipe this week, but if you do have the time, the pastries certainly make a lovely treat. As the for pastry update, my jury is out on which version I prefer but I will keep adapting and reposting any progress I make. Until next time, take care and best wishes 🙂
Hello again. Today is the first day of British Summer Time here in the UK. The clocks went forward an hour last night, so we will be enjoying longer days from now on until the Autumn.
It hasn’t really felt very summery today though. We have had a mixture of sunshine and light hail storms, and tonight the temperature is due to drop below zero here in central Scotland. No matter, the garden is colouring up nicely so I thought I would share some of the sights and scenes from my garden today.
As ever, at this time of year, the paths and borders are covered with the tiny, blue Chionodoxa flowers. The bees were all over them earlier in the week when it was milder. The Dogtooth violets are coming towards an end now, but this one looked so exotic today, I couldn’t resist taking another photo. The pink Hyacinth above has been flowering every year for over 10 years. It was a potted house plant that I popped in the ground and it has been here every spring since.
Like the Daffodils at the top of my post, there are clumps of Tête a Tête everywhere. I love their sweet fragrance. The old Forsythia gets cut back every Autumn because it becomes much too big for the area it is growing in. It is very old and too established to move, but it seems to cope with the pruning and this year it is very colourful indeed.
The old apple tree is still looking a bit sad, but I can see buds forming now, and in a few short weeks, hopefully the tree will be covered in blossom again.
The rhubarb is coming along now. The fine red stems look very tempting, but I will save them until they grown a bit longer. As well as the spring flowers, the garden is busy with feathered friends. One in particular sings most of the day and often into the night. I can rely on the robin for some company whenever I’m in the garden, and today was no exception 🙂
I hope you have enjoyed my images this week. I will be back in the kitchen next time, so I hope to see you again then.
Hello again. I was intending to post a frozen dessert recipe this week, so confident was I that spring had sprung and that the warmer days were here. However, these past few days have seen a return to winter. Much of the UK has been under a blanket of snow this week. So far, none of the white stuff here (fingers crossed), it has been dry, bright and clear, but it is far too chilly to be thinking about or eating cold food. Instead, I have been back in the kitchen cooking comforting recipes instead.
I am a huge fan of green veg, and this handsome specimen is one of my favourites. My recipe this week is a simple gratin of baked Savoy cabbage wedges with onion, a plant-based cream sauce and crispy crumbs of sage and onion to finish. Very hearty as a meal on its own, the gratin is also a great accompaniment to a stew or roast. I enjoyed mine with a pan-fried tattie scone (or two) – if you fancy making your own, here’s a link to my very easy recipe: Tattie scones (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)
2. Peel and slice the onion, and peel and finely chop the garlic. Melt half the butter with the oil and gently fry the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes to soften but not brown. Spoon over the cabbage and season well. Sprinkle with sage leaves.
3. There is no need to preheat the oven for this recipe, just place the dish in the oven and set the temperature to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Bake for 30 minutes.
4. Pour over the plant cream and cover with a lid or foil and bake for a further 30 minutes until tender.
5. While the cabbage is cooking, soak the stuffing mix in 100ml boiling water until reconstituted. Melt the remaining butter and heat until bubbling, then break up the stuffing and add to the pan. Keep stirring and breaking up the stuffing until it forms clumps and starts to brown and crisp up; this takes about 6-7 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm.
6. To serve, discard the sage leaves and sprinkle over the crispy crumbs. Garnish with fresh sage if liked.
Perhaps by the time I write my next post, spring will have returned and it will be more fitting to publish a recipe for warmer days. Until then, wrap up warm if you need to and enjoy the sights and sounds of the new season. Thanks for stopping by 🙂
Hello again. Thank you for stopping by. So, here we are at the end of another month. A chance for me to take a look back on what’s been happening out of doors since my last post.
It’s been a bumper year for snowdrops here in central Scotland. Along the roadside verges, riverbanks and country walkways, the tiny white bulbs are flowering prolifically. And, in my own garden, there are green and white clumps of the delicate little flowers in the beds, borders and paths all over the place.
Other spring classics are opening up in the garden as well. In the shady borders, the Hellebores are unfurling, as are the primroses. In the sunshine, the crocus are flowering and giving bold, bright, blasts of colour all over the garden.
The delicate pink Rhododendrons are blossoming in the back and front garden. Fingers crossed that the frost keeps at bay.
More hardy are the spring heathers. I haven’t seen many bees yet, but there are some tempting blooms out there in wait for our important little pollen collectors.
Very happy to see the first of the garden produce beginning to grow. Looking forward to my first harvest of fresh pink stems in a few weeks time.
My final image this week is of a glorious winter sunset I captured at the beginning of the month, and it was a real beauty.
That’s me for this month. I will be back with a recipe post very soon. Until then, have a good few days and enjoy the unfurling of spring.
Something bright and cheery to start the new month. It’s that time of year when the air is full of the scents of aromatic citrus and the sweet smell of sugar. Seville oranges are in season and marmalade-making is in full swing.
I do enjoy making preserves, but I find the peel-cutting for marmalade a bit of a chore. This time I made marmalade, I cooked the oranges whole, then once the oranges were cooked, I extracted the fruit pulp from the skin and was left with softer peel to slice. I found the cooked orange skin much easier to slice, and the resulting preserve tastes and looks pretty much the same, so I think this recipe will be my go-to marmalade recipe for the future.
You may want to cut the quantities down to make a smaller amount – I had a fair few oranges to use up!
Makes: approx. 3kg
1kg Seville oranges, washed and left whole
1 unwaxed lemon + 60ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (the extra juice is optional but I find it helps with the set especially if the oranges have been stored for a while)
1.8kg granulated sugar
1. Put the whole fruit in a large saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for about 1½ hours until a skewer can be inserted into the fruit with ease. Drain the fruit using a draining spoon and leave aside until it is cool enough to handle. Keep the cooking water.
2. Cut the fruit in half, then scoop the seeds and pulp into the saucepan with the cooking liquid. Halve the lemon, extract the juice and add to the saucepan along with any seeds and the lemon shells. Bring to the boil and boil steadily for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid, discard the pulp, and return the liquid to the saucepan.
3. Meanwhile, cut up the orange shells into the size of shreds you prefer and put to one side. I kept the sliced peel quite chunky, hence my name for the marmalade.
4. Stir the shredded peel into the cooking liquid. Add the sugar and extra lemon juice if using. Stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat and boil for about 25 minutes until setting point is reached – 105.5°C . Allow to cool a little in the saucepan until the mixture begins to firm slightly, then stir the marmalade to distribute the peel before spooning into clean jars and sealing whilst still hot.
It’s that time of year again when the Scottish nation gathers together to celebrate the birth of the poet Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns. The celebration comes exactly one month after Christmas Day and it is a great way to help beat the January blues.
Over the years on my blog, I have posted several recipes which are traditionally served at this time of the year. Proper comfort food, guaranteed to warm you up on a cold day. This year, my recipe is very simple and combines a traditional Scottish pudding with a favourite sweet chocolate treat.
Last year I posted a recipe for a homemade clootie dumpling which you can find here Clootie dumpling (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan). My recipe this week uses this traditional Scottish pudding as a base. You can use a light fruit cake mixed with a little oatmeal instead if you prefer.
I flavoured my truffles with chopped stem ginger and ginger wine but ground spices and ginger syrup or orange juice will work fine as alternatives. The truffle mixture is simply wrapped in small rounds of marzipan or use a thin layer of ready-to-roll icing if you prefer.
So here’s the recipe. You can also use the same mix to make small haggis-shaped truffles.
125g free-from clootie dumpling crumbs (or use 100g free-from light fruit cake crumbs combined with 25g toasted gluten-free oatmeal)
25g stem ginger, finely chopped
100g vegan dark chocolate, melted
2tbsp ginger wine, ginger syrup or orange juice
240g natural marzipan
1. Put the crumbs and ginger in a bowl and bind together with the melted chocolate and wine, syrup or juice. Form into 8 balls and chill for about 1hr until firm.
2. Divide the marzipan into 8 equal pieces and roll out thinly to make rounds large enough to encase each truffle. Scrunch together at the top to give the cloth effect. Tie with twine or ribbon if liked. Keep in a cool place or the fridge until ready to serve.
To make haggis truffles instead, divide into 10 portions and shape into small sausage lengths. You’ll need 300g marzipan to roll out into rounds and wrap around each one. Scrunch the marzipan at each end to give the classic haggis shape.
For easy reference, here are a few links to other recipe posts for traditional Scottish dishes with a free-from twist to serve up on January 25th:
Happy New Year! I hope you have had a good holiday. We find ourselves at the beginning of a brand new year, wondering what 2023 has instore for us all. Let’s hope it’s a good one.
It’s been a chilly, frosty and snowy end of year here in central Scotland. I didn’t venture very far. I have been in the kitchen keeping cosy and have been trying new ways of using up what remains of the stored fruit from last Autumn. This week’s post is the result of one of my experiments, slow-cooked fruit butter. It keeps for about a week in the fridge but can be frozen for use later in the year.
Fruit butter has nothing to do with dairy butter. In fact, it is completely fat free. I guess it gets its name from the fact that it is silky smooth in texture. It tastes delicious and is very easy (and moreish!) to eat. You can use it like jam, spread on toast, or as a filling for pancakes, pastry cases and sponge cakes, or as a dessert with yogurt. It is delicious served with rice pudding, granola, porridge or as a topping for a cheesecake.
The sugar content is much lower than jam so you do need to keep it in the fridge. It freezes very well with no alteration in texture, colour or flavour. If you portion the butter up in small containers, it will defrost quickly and can be used up in a few days.
I used a combination of quince, cooking pears and small cooking apples, but you can use the same method for a single fruit butter, although you may need to adjust the sugar content. And when it comes to flavouring, you can use whatever you fancy. For speed, ground spices are the easiest option because it saves time at the end of cooking. You can simply blitz the fruit and store. I prefer whole spices along with lemon rind, and as long as you know how many pieces you have added, then you know how many bits you need to fish out before your start blending. Cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger and orange would all work very nicely, it’s just personal preference.
On with the recipe. All the work is in the preparation of the fruit, then it’s a case of letting the slow-cooker do the rest of the work.
1 unwaxed lemon
2kg quince, cooking or firm pears, and cooking apples (dessert apples will also work, just adjust the sugar quantity accordingly)
125g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split
6 to 8 cadamom pods, split
1. Pare the lemon rind in thick strips using a vegetable peeler, and extract the juice. Put the spent lemon shells in a large bowl, pour over the juice and top up with cold water to half fill the bowl. Keep the pared rind for the slow cooker.
2. Peel and core all the fruit, and cut into pieces – apple and pear will cook more quickly than quince if you are using a combination. Simply cut the quince (or any firmer pieces of fruit) into small pieces for even cooking. As you prepare the fruit, put it in the lemony water to reduce the deterioration of colour.
3. When you have prepared all the fruit, use a draining spoon to ladle it into your slow cooker. There is no need to drain the fruit too much as a little of the lemony water will help create steam as the fruit cooks. Discard the lemon shells.
4. Add the sugar, pared lemon rind and your other chosen flavourings and mix everything together, then cover with the lid and set the cooker to High for 5 to 6 hours, or Low for 10-12 hours. The exact cooking time will depend on how ripe the fruit is. After a couple of hours, give the fruit a stir then re-cover, and stir again after a further 2 hours. Continue cooking until the fruit is very soft.
5. Switch off the cooker and leave the fruit, covered with the lid, to go cold. Remove the rind and whole spices if using and either use a stick blender to blitz the fruit or transfer to a standing blender. The fruit butter should be thick and beautifully smooth.
6. Once you have your butter, either spoon it into clean, sealable jars or containers for keeping in the fridge, or pack it into cartons for freezing.
I hope you have enjoyed my post this week. I will be back with another recipe in a couple of weeks. Until then, take care and keep well. I will see you again soon 🙂