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!
To be completely honest with you all, this really isn’t my favourite time of year. However, when it’s not raining and when the sun is out, I do spend a lot of time in the garden admiring the glorious colours that this month often has to offer.
The Japanese maple tree above is situated in the corner of my drive-way. It has leaves that seem to glow in the sunshine, and when the leaves mature and fall to the ground, they turn a vivid shade of red as they dry out.
There is more red to be seen elsewhere in the garden. The Cotoneaster is crammed full of berries this year. Standing in front of this hardy specimen is a more delicate Fuschia bush with pink and purple petals that clash spectacularly with the scarlet berries behind.
Another crop of Autumn crocus has sprung up in one of the flowerbeds. A later variety, these beauties are Crocus Sativus or the saffron-crocus. When the sun hits the golden stamens, the spicy aroma is quite mouth-watering.
It’s been a good year for Hydrangeas; they have been in bloom for many weeks. I love the way that the blooms fade gradually and gracefully as the days draw in, and develop a “vintage” appearance.
A few plants are now on their second blooming of the year. This solitary Leucanthemum flower stem is the only one that has developed on the plant second time around. It does look a bit lonely. The variety is Bananas and Cream which is a great name for any plant in my opinion.
Have a good few days and enjoy the Autumn colours if you’re out and about 🙂
Here we are in the bewitching month of October already. Where does the time go? We’ve been enjoying some late season sunshine here in central Scotland which has been very welcome. Not only am I still able to garden and tidy up outside uninhibited by poor weather, the tomatoes are ripening off nicely in the greenhouse, and all the eating apples are ready for picking.
This week’s recipe is my twist on the well known French upside-down apple tart. So many tomato varieties are sweet to eat these days, they can easily be eaten as part of a dessert. However, I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you serve this recipe. The tart goes well either served simply dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or is equally as delicious served as a dessert with pouring cream or custard.
I use freshly grated nutmeg and fresh thyme to flavour the tart as well as salt, pepper and a little sugar. I use a crisp, layered pastry as a base so that it doesn’t crumble when you turn it out. Use readymade, chilled or frozen (gluten-free) puff pastry for convenience, but if you have the time, try my own recipe for a gluten-free rough puff pastry
I have made the tart with all tomatoes and, of course, just with apples, but mixing and matching both fruit is my favourite combination 🙂 I hope you think so too.
Gluten-free flour for dusting
175g gluten-free puff or rough puff pastry
35g vegan margarine
1 tbsp. caster sugar
Freshly grated nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A few fresh thyme leaves
2 small eating apples
4 large plum tomatoes
6 cherry or other small variety of tomatoes
2 tsp olive oil
Fresh thyme to garnish
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line a 20cm round cake tin with baking parchment and lightly grease the sides.
Lightly flour the work top with gluten-free flour and roll out the pastry to a square slightly bigger than the tin. Using the tin as a template, cut a circle 1cm larger than the tin – keep the pastry trimmings for baking as croutons or use small tart bases – then chill the pastry circle until ready to use.
Dot the margarine all over the bottom of the tin, and sprinkle with sugar, seasonings and thyme leaves.
Peel, core and thickly slice the apples; halve the large tomatoes and leave the small ones whole. Arrange over the tin base in a decorative pattern.
Carefully arrange the pastry circle over the fruit and press the pastry edges to the side of the tin to seal. Brush with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Bake for about 25 minutes until crisp and golden. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before inverting on to a warm serving plate. Spoon over any juices that remain in the tin. Best served hot or warm, garnished with fresh thyme sprigs if liked.
Hello again. As I sat down to write this post, it felt like summer was here again. Today has been gloriously warm and sunny with blue sky all over. A perfect day to do some tidying up in the garden before the weather turns more seasonal. Whilst the nights are drawing in and leaves on the trees are on the turn, spring bulb shoots and leaves are sprouting all round the garden.
The Japanese anemones have been in flower since early last month and are still going strong. Surviving batterings from both wind and rain, they are so hardy and yet so fragile looking.
One indicator that Autumn is upon us is when the Autumn crocus appears. Towards the end of last month the tall, pale, leafless stems of the crocus first appeared in the shadier parts of the borders. Another leafless stem is the Nerine. These lilies have opened this week; they love the sunshine and their deep pink petals are a very welcome sight when most plants are dying back.
In my garden, September is the time of year when a lot of produce is ready for harvest. This late sunny spell is very welcome particularly for the greenhouse tomatoes. I have so many green ones yet to ripen, but I am hoping that over the next couple of days more will start to redden, and herald the time to get the chutney pan out again.
It’s not been such a good year for the old apple tree in the garden. In fact, you have to play spot the apple this year. I should have enough to put with the tomatoes for making chutney, but not enough to freeze. The miniature eating apples have done well though. The fruit is crispy, refreshing and sweet; they make a delicious tarte tatin.
The runner beans had a slow start this year but have more than made up for it now. The plants are heaving with beans. I dug the first of the Pink Fir potatoes last weekend, and was very pleased with the yield. They store well, so I should have plenty for a few weeks ahead. That’s all from me this week. I’m looking forward to spending the weekend out of doors and enjoying the sunshine. A happy weekend to you what ever you are doing 🙂
I’ve had a great crop of home-grown cucumbers this year, and have been enjoying them since July. I’ve been growing 2 varieties in the greenhouse, a small green one called Mini Munch, and a pale yellow, more rounded variety, called Crystal Apple. The Mini Munch have almost finished now, but there are still a few more Crystal Apple come.
So to celebrate my cucumber-filled summer, this week’s recipe is my very simple, gluten-free version of the classic Middle Eastern salad, tabbouleh, and for good measure, to go with it, my favourite accompaniment, a super-speedy hummus recipe. You can add any combination of soft-leaved herbs to flavour your grains. The herb patch was looking a bit shabby at the weekend and I needed to pick off a few stalks of mint and chives to help rejuvenate the plants again. I also added some of the delicate zig-zag-edged herb salad burnet which has it’s own mild cucumber flavour, but parsley and coriander make good substitutes if you prefer.
There are no set rules to this recipe. It is very simple. I cheat and use a ready-cooked pack of red and white quinoa grains. Very convenient and a perfect quantity for a couple of hearty portions. If you like, add tomato for extra colour and moisture to the salad, and spring onions will add a tasty, oniony bite. I hope you enjoy the fresh flavours.
250g cucumber, washed
250g cooked quinoa
½ tsp salt
20g chives, chopped
7g mint leaves, chopped
A handful of salad burnet leaves (parsley or coriander)
Lemon wedges and extra virgin olive oil to taste
Male cucumber flowers to garnish
Hummus (serves 3-4)
400g can chickpeas
1 garlic clove, peeled
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Paprika to dust
For the tabbouleh, cut the cucumber into small pieces. Put the quinoa in a bowl and mix in the cucumber, herbs and salt. Cover and chill for an hour to allow the flavours to mingle. Stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
For the hummus, open the can of chickpeas and drain the canning liquid into a jug. Pop the chickpeas in a blender or food processor along with the other ingredients and 3 tbsp. of the reserved liquid. Blitz for a few seconds until smooth. I like my hummus to have the consistency of thick porridge, but if you prefer something softer, just add a bit more canning liquid. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Don’t forget to keep the rest of the canning liquid for using as an egg white substitute – it freezes very well.
Serve the tabbouleh decorated with cucumber flowers; dress with a squeeze of fresh lemon and extra virgin olive oil to taste, and accompany with toasted seeds, home-made hummus (dusted with paprika if liked) and warm, gluten-free, toasted pitta breads. Perfect 🙂
I wasn’t planning another preserve recipe for my blog so soon after my “jam” post earlier in the month, but last weekend I made up a new recipe and as the result was a success, I am sharing it with you this week.
I inherited several established shrubs and bushes when I moved into my current house over 15 years ago. Many were familiar to me but a few were not. One of the curios was the Aronia Melanocarpa. This is an evergreen shrub with leathery green leaves. In the summer it produces arms of red berries which ripen and turn black. For a while, I assumed the shrub with its berries was purely ornamental, however after a wee bit of research I discovered that the berries are edible.
The shrub is well known in the USA and was introduced into Europe in the 1700’s, as an ornamental. The berries get their common name of chokeberry because the fruit is very astringent when eaten raw, however, I have decided not to test this out for myself! The berries contain a large amount of vitamin C and looking on the web they are considered to be a bit of a “wonder-berry”. Aronia berries are ripe when they are fully black, which happens from mid to late summer depending on where you live. I found the ripest fruit difficult to pick without squishing the berries, so snipped off the stalks as well (which is fine for jelly making). The juice is potent and stains a vibrant shade of blue, so you might want to wear gloves. I should imagine the berries would freeze ok if you needed to harvest them in batches.
I could find little reference in terms of recipes, so I based my mixture on a cranberry jelly, adding apple to temper the astringency and to help with the set. The final jelly has set well and is dark red-purple in colour, with a taste that is sweet and quite similar to a blueberry preserve. This is a great result for me because my blueberry bushes produced no fruit at all this year, so I’m glad I have discovered the wonders of Aronia Melanocarpa 🙂
Makes: approx. 650g jelly preserve
200g aronia berries, washed (small stems are fine if it is difficult to pick the berries without)
400g whole cooking apples, washed
Approx. 430g granulated sugar – see method for exact quantities
Put the berries in a large stainless steel saucepan. Chop the apples into small pieces, (skins, core and pips included) and add to the pan along with 350ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally, until very soft and pulpy.
Line a large nylon sieve with muslin and place over a large bowl. Choose a sieve that you’re not too precious about as it may stain blue with the juice. Carefully pour the pulp into the muslin and leave to cool. Leave to strain for at least 3 hours.
Pour the strained juice into a measuring jug, cover and chill until required. Tip the pulp back into a saucepan. Add another 200ml water, and heat, stirring, until back to the boil.
Repeat the straining of the pulp as before, but this time, after cooling, put in the fridge and leave to strain overnight until the pulp is very dry.
Discard the pulp and pour the juice into the jug. I achieved 375ml juice from the first straining, and 200ml from the second. The ratio of sugar to juice is 450g sugar to 600ml juice, so I used 430g for my 575ml.
Pour the juice into a saucepan and heat until steaming. Add the sugar, and stir over a low heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. For jelly making, I use a sugar thermometer to gauge the setting point – 104°-105°C- to give the best result.
Pour into warm, sterilised jam jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool then label and store in the usual way. The jelly will keep fine for at least 6 months. Serve as a sweet preserve or with savoury dishes too.
It’s beginning to feel like Summer is over already. We have had a lot of wet and windy weather which makes it seem more autumnal than summery. I picked the last of the raspberries a few days ago which draws my home-grown soft fruit season to a close. The canes have produced another bumper crop this year, and the freezer is stacked out with berries ready to be used in the months ahead.
Earlier in the year, I was intrigued by a recipe posted by my fellow blogger Joëlle who published a recipe for a reduced sugar orange jam. Her recipe inspired me to have a go at making a raspberry version. I am always looking for ways to reduce sugar in my diet and her use of one unusual jam ingredient seemed like too good an opportunity to pass me by. So, thank-you very much Joëlle. So, here is Joëlle’s sugar-replacing ingredient…
Beetroot! I guess this revelation will put some of you off, but I can assure you, you really can’t taste it. You do need to make sure the beetroot is cooked very well – it needs to be completely soft to blend it into a pulp. I had some cooked beetroot in the freezer and found that the texture was much more silky-smooth once it defrosted; it blended into a perfectly fine purée. You can use ready-cooked, vacuum-packed beetroot, but please make sure it’s packed in natural juices and not vinegar, as that really would give the game away!
I usually use equal quantities of raspberries to sugar in my jam recipes, but in this one, I replaced half of the sugar with beetroot purée. Sugar acts as a preservative which is why jams keep so long in the store-cupboard. This jam needs to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten within a month, so is better made in small amounts. However, it freezes well, so instead of sealing it in jars in the traditional way, leave it to cool and spoon into small, sealable freezer containers; freeze down and then you can take out the quantity you need to avoid wasting any. The jam will keep well in the freezer for at least 6 months.
The texture of this jam is more pulpy than a traditional raspberry jam and it lacks the syrupy consistency that a full quantity of sugar gives, but the flavour is fruity and sweet and the colour unaffected by the beetroot. It spreads well and makes a deliciously fruity topping for pancakes and puddings. I hope you might be intrigued enough to give it a go.
Makes: approx. 575g jam
400g fresh raspberries
200g smooth, cooked beetroot purée
200g granulated sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Put the raspberries and beetroot in a saucepan. Cook gently for a few minutes until the raspberry juices begin to exude.
Stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking on the bottom of the pan, until thick and pulpy – like stewed apple.
Transfer the hot jam into sterilised jam jars in the usual way, and seal immediately. Leave to cool, then date and keep in the fridge for 4 weeks unopened. Use within a week once opened.
Hello everyone. We’re almost at the end of another month; how time flies. I’ve been taking some time off work and my blog this month but I found some time to capture some of the flowery and fruity delights that have come and gone these past 4 weeks.
The wonderfully prickly specimen below appeared in the garden last year courtesy of the birds. It didn’t flower, but produced some magnificent spiky leaves. This year it has gone from strength to strength and this month it really took off. Sadly it was a victim of its own success and toppled over under its own weight. Most of the blooms are growing at all angles but upwards apart from this one.
Something a little bit more delicate are the charming and dainty Campanulas which flower at the beginning and middle of the month. The flower-heads seemed a lot bigger this year. And in the picture below them, my beautiful, very fragrant and very old rose bush. It did me proud again this year and was laden with blooms. Sadly now finished, but I am ever hopeful for a second blooming later in the year.
The garden has been alive with bees and butterflies this summer. Lots of different varieties of bees all over the tiny petals of the Scabious (or Pincushion) flowers, it seems to be one of their favourite blooms. And here is a Scarlet Lady butterfly bathing on a very fragrant sun-bed of lavender.
Aside from the delicate and fragrant, the brash and bold flowers have also been abundant. The Hydrangeas seem more colourful than ever this year, and the poppies are springing up everywhere to add bright splashes of colour to the borders and beds.
It’s also been another good year for the outdoor soft fruit. The small espalier Morello cherry produced ¾kg cherries (all bottled and stored) and the raspberry bushes, now in their 14th year, have produced another mega-harvest of berries which I have frozen for making into jam later in the year. The dishful of berries in the picture were cooked with freshly picked rhubarb and made into a “crump”, one of my favourite desserts from my blog a couple of years ago. Here’s the link: Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)Very tasty it was too 🙂
That’s all from me for now. I look forward to sharing more recipes and garden posts in a short while.
Limes are my favourite of all citrus fruit. I love the intense, slightly perfumed flavour. A small fruit that packs a punch on the taste-buds. This week’s recipe is a simple dessert with a ginger gluten-free biscuit crust but can be easily adapted to use other plain biscuits if you prefer. If you like lemon, the filling will taste just as good using lemon on its own or as a mix with lime.
If you are making a gluten-free crust, it will be softer than if you use traditional biscuits, so pop the pies out of the tins and onto a serving plate at the last minute for best results. The mini lime pies make a perfect light summery dessert or tea-time treat served with berry fruits. I hope you enjoy 🙂
Makes: 12 pies
250g gluten-free ginger biscuits (if you use non gluten-free biscuits, the crust will be firmer), finely crushed
90g dairy-free margarine, coconut oil or vegan butter (if you use the oil or vegan butter, the crust will hold together better; dairy-free margarine gives a more crumbly texture), melted
Finely grated rind and juice of 3 limes (if using lemon and lime, you want about 75ml juice and 7g zest for good flavour)
90g caster sugar
45ml diary-free single cream (such as soya or oat)
Natural green food colouring, optional
Lime zest, dairy-free white choc bar shavings and small berries to decorate
Line a 12-cup jam tart tin with a double layer of cling film. Put the biscuit crumbs in a bowl and mix in the melted margarine, oil or butter until well mixed.
Divide the mixture equally between the tins and press into each indent using the back of a teaspoon or small pastry case shaper. Chill for 30 minutes to set.
For the filling, put the cornflour in a saucepan. Add the lime rind and gradually blend in the juice to make a smooth paste. Stir in 75ml cold water and the sugar.
Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then slowly bring to the boil, stirring , and simmer gently for 1 minute until thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and a few drops food colouring if using. Cool for 10 minutes.
Divide between the biscuit cases, tap the tin on the work top to level the filling and leave to cool. Chill for at least an hour before serving.
When ready to serve, carefully peel the pies from the cling film and place on a serving platter. Sprinkle with lime zest, white choc bar shavings and serve with mini berries such as wild strawberries.
Summer has been slow to start here in central Scotland but it’s getting warmer at last, and we’ve had a beautiful blue sky day here today. With the increase in temperature, I find it becomes difficult to keep fruit a room temperature and resort to putting things in the fridge which inevitably means loss of flavour. Bananas really don’t keep for very long before they over-ripen and I prefer to eat them a little on the under-ripe side so I seldom want to eat them over the summer months. If the skin turns too yellow and brown-speckled then I know the texture is not going to be to my liking and the banana is destined for the baking bowl or a smoothie.
This week’s recipe is my turn-to bake for using up over-ripe bananas. Easy to make, it improves with keeping, and also freezes well. I call it “bread” because it has a lower fat content than a cake recipe, although I usually serve it with an icing on top. Uniced, it is delicious spread with your favourite margarine or nut butter. If you have a glut of ripe bananas, peel them and pop them in a freezer bag. They keep in the freezer for several months and, once defrosted, will be easy to mash up and add to cake mixes in the future.
I found this lovely old loaf tin in a bric-a-brac sale recently. It’s been well used but I like the design on the metal-work. Lined with a paper tin liner, it bakes up a treat and has got many more years of baking life in it I’m sure.
For the bread, I use a combination of coconut-based ingredients: yogurt, sugar and oil, but it works just as well using a plain dairy-free yogurt or a light soft brown sugar, and your favourite plant-based margarine or butter if you prefer things less nutty. I also use wholemeal spelt flour but traditional wheat flour would be fine too. Add some chocolate chips or chopped dried fruit for extra sweetness.
I have been working on a gluten-free version using coconut flour but I haven’t been able to get the right combination of other flours to give a moist crumb – coconut flour has a tendency to absorb a lot of moisture and can give bakes a dry texture. I’ll publish an update when I achieve something I’m happy with, so watch this space.
2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (you need about 250g mashed banana for good flavour and texture)
100g dairy-free coconut yogurt
100ml dairy-free milk
200g wholemeal spelt flour
15g baking powder
50g solid coconut oil
100g coconut sugar
For the icing:
125g icing sugar
¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
30g toasted raw coconut chips, to decorate
Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 3. Line a 1kg loaf tin. Mix the banana with the yogurt and milk.
Put the flour in a bowl and sift the baking powder on top. Mix well then rub in the coconut oil and stir in the sugar.
Make a well in the centre and stir in the banana mixture to make a smooth, thick cake batter. Spoon into the loaf tin, smooth the top and bake for about 1 hour until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
When cold, wrap and store for 24 hours before serving for better flavour and texture. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Mix in 3-4 tsp warm water and the vanilla to make smooth spreadable icing. Spread over the top of the loaf and sprinkle coconut chips.
The garden is full of colour at the moment, thanks largely to the abundance of Lupin bushes. We’ve had the right mix of rainy days and dry days to bring them to full flower, and they look magnificent. Tall and sturdy, the structured flower stems are made up of many delicate individual flower heads with a distinctly peppery aroma, Lupins are a delight to behold. The violet-blue Lupin bush above has a quirkiness to it, each year one solitary pink stem grows in amongst all the blue ones 🙂
It’s not just me who’s enjoying the Lupins, the bees are all over them at the moment – just look at those pollen sacs!
Lupins are the ultimate low-maintenance plant, and such great value. They will self-seed each year if you allow the seed heads to dry on the plant. I usually collect a few seed pods each year and pot up a few extra plants just in case I have a space in a border for a new plant – the pink one below is one of last year’s newbies. If you cut back the stems once the flowers have faded, you will get a second flourish of smaller flower stems later on in the season.
The orange Lupin was planted last year, and I was intrigued to see whether it would grow back the same colour this year. I have found that Lupins often change colour in acidic soil just like Hydrangeas, and often revert back to the original violet-blue variety. The colour of this one is slightly more peachy this year, but still a lovely contrast to the other colours in the garden.
That’s it for this week. I’ll be back in the kitchen again soon. Until my next post, have a good few days and enjoy the sunshine when you have some 🙂