March, in like a lion….

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


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

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

Crocus after the snow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

Scarlet Rhododendron bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

Pink pot Hyacinth in full bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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


Overnight seed and berry porridge (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Oatmeal and seed porridge with berry compote. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It still feels more wintry than spring-like here in central Scotland. We have had a blue-sky day today, the first for a while, and the temperature is slowly rising. The snow is beginning to thaw slowly, but most of the garden is still covered in a thick, white crust of powdery snow. The snowdrops under the hedge are the first to emerge at long last and I am relieved to see that they have survived their week inside a snow-cave – what robust little flowers they are 🙂

After-the-snow snowdrops. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

One of my favourite warming breakfast dishes is porridge, and it seems a lot of people agree: porridge has become the super-star amongst breakfast cereals, and the supermarket shelves are stacked out with different varieties and all sorts of flavours.

Pinhead oatmeal for “proper” porridge”. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I like my porridge made the traditional way, which means I prefer to use oatmeal (or groats) rather than rolled oats. However, it’s not an instant breakfast and requires some organisation: the oatmeal requires overnight soaking before it can be cooked. But if you have a slow-cooker, you can cut down on the preparation: just mix everything up in the slow-cooker the night before and leave it on a low setting until the next morning, by which time it’s ready to eat as soon as you want it.

The oatmeal in the picture above is a local Scottish brand and is not guaranteed gluten-free. As you will know, oats themselves don’t contain gluten, but there is a contamination risk from other grains during processing, so if you do have a serious gluten allergy, you should seek out gluten-free oatmeal.

Slow-cooker porridge: oatmeal, water and salt. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you don’t fancy leaving your slow-cooker on overnight, slow-cook the porridge as you like, and once cooked and cooled, the porridge will keep in the fridge for a few days. You can take out a portion and reheat it with you favourite soya, rice, nut or oat milk when you’re ready. Just pop a portion in a microwave-proof bowl, mash it with a fork and stir in some milk, then reheat on High for about 1 ½ minutes. Alternatively, you can reheat the porridge in a saucepan, with milk, in the same way.

The following quantity will make 4 to 6 servings: pour 1.1litre water into your slow-cooker and stir in 175g pinhead oatmeal. Add a pinch of salt and mix well. Cover with the lid and switch the cooker on to the Low setting. Leave to cook, undisturbed, overnight (for 8-10 hours), until thick and soft. To serve, stir well and serve with hot, non-dairy milk mixed in. Add sugar or syrup to sweeten if you like, and top with sliced banana, fresh berries, grated apple, dried fruit etc.

Homemade seed mix and my frozen summer berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For an extra nutritious start to the day, I like to stir a heaped tablespoon of ground seeds into my bowl porridge and top with some summer berry compote.

For the seed mix, grind 3 tbsp. flax seeds with 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp. chia seeds and 1 tbsp. sesame seeds – I use a coffee grinder to do this. Stir in 1 to 2 tbsp. ground almonds, pecans or Brazil nuts. Store in the fridge in an airtight container and use to sprinkle over anything you like for some extra nutritious nuttiness!

The berry compote is made from my freezer supply of home-grown raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. I simply put a quantity, still frozen, in a saucepan with the lid on and sit the pan over a very low heat until the berries soften and cook. I add a little vanilla sugar once the berries are cooked. Delicious eaten hot or cold.

A spoonful of my favourite oatmeal porridge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins





Seeded wholemeal spelt loaf (dairy-free; vegan)

Seeded spelt flour loaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A bit of a departure from my usual gluten-free cookery this week. It’s been Real Bread week here in the UK  and my thoughts turned to one of my old favourite loaves made from wholemeal spelt flour. Incidentally, it’s also been a week of “Real Snow” here as well – we are currently in the throes of a snow-storm coming across our shores from Siberia. Bread-making is a perfect excuse to enjoy some baking time.

A stormy start to the new month. Image: Kathryn Hawkins


I first started using spelt flour in my cookery about 20 years ago. Whilst I am intolerant to traditional wheat flours, the lower gluten content of the ancient spelt wheat grain is easier on my digestion, and providing I don’t over-indulge, every now and then it is a real treat to include this flour in my baking.

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Basic ingredients for my spelt loaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For this loaf, I used the wholemeal variety of spelt flour, but you’ll also find it as white flour as well which is good for cakes where a lighter coloured sponge is required. Other than the flour, my bread recipe is a very standard dough with a blend of my favourite seeds added (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, fax, linseed and chia). The loaf works just as well without the seeds or you can add chopped nuts and dried fruit instead if you prefer something sweeter. Because spelt flour is lower in gluten, the resulting bread is denser and more cake-like in texture, but it still has the familiar chewy texture of real bread. The flavour is slightly sweet, earthy and nutty.

Wholemeal spelt flour and my favourite seed mix. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 1 x 700g loaf


  • 450g wholemeal spelt flour (I use Dove’s Farm)
  • 1 ½ level teasp easy-blend dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp. light Muscovado sugar
  • 100g mixed seeds
  • 1 level teasp salt
  • 275ml tepid water
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  1. Put the flour in a bowl and stir in the yeast, sugar, 75g seeds and salt. Make a well in the centre and gradually pour and mix in the water along with 1 tbsp. oil, to make a softish, mixture. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and slightly elastic – about 10 minutes. Note: to save time when bread-making, I often put the dough in my electric bread-maker to mix together and prove while I get on with other things. I then do the shaping, final rise and baking by conventional means.
  2. Put the dough in a large, lightly floured glass, china or plastic bowl and cover the bowl with a clean tea-towel. Leave at a coolish room temperature for a couple of hours until doubled in size.
  3. Once risen, turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently (or “knock back”). Shape into a ball and let the dough rest for 5 minutes before shaping into an oval shape about 25cm long. Transfer to a lightly floured baking tray, cover with a large sheet of oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for about an hour until well risen.

    Proving and shaping the spelt dough. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6). Remove the cling film. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal slashes in the top of the loaf. Brush with the remaining oil and sprinkle with the remaining seeds. Bake for about 45 minutes until golden and crisp – the loaf should sound hollow when tapped underneath. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
    Freshly baked spelt loaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    I’d like to have brought you up to date with my garden this week but all the newly sprung snowdrops and crocus are buried under several centimetres of snow. This glorious hyacinth stands proud on my kitchen window-sill just now, and is a reminder of things to come. Until next week……. 🙂

    Double pink hyacinth. Image: Kathryn Hawkins


Curly kale – recipe ideas and serving suggestions

Green and red curly kale. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The hardiest of all the Brassica family, and probably the closest to wild cabbage, kale (or kail) is one of the most traditional of Scottish vegetables. The robust leaves withstand harsh frosts and snow, and are said to taste all the better for it. In the past, kale was dismissed as animal fodder, but today it is one of the most trendy vegetables on the menu.

Kale is one of my favourite greens. I love the strong flavour, it is bursting with vitality in every bite, and it is one of the few vegetables tasty enough to stand its own on a plate with other bold flavours.

Keeping kale fresh in a bowl of water. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As with all leafy vegetables, cook as soon as possible after purchase. Choose firm stalks with fresh, dark or bright green leaves. If you do want to keep them for a couple of days, arrange the stems in a bowl or large jug of water as you would a bunch of flowers, then put in the fridge. I find kale is one of a few vegetables that doesn’t freeze very well – it loses texture and flavour, and becomes a bit slimy when cooked.

Kale leaves. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Simple to prepare, just rinse kale well in cold, running water to flush out any trapped earth caught in the tight, curling leaves, and then shake off the excess water. Pull off the lower, frilly leaves and keep to one side – these softer leaves are perfect for eating raw in winter salads. Slice out the central stem, and then shred the leaves into the desired size.

Preparing curly kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you are steaming kale, pack the wet leaves into a steamer and cook for 10-15 minutes until tender. Alternatively, pack the wet leaves into a saucepan, turn on the heat and when the contents begin to steam, put the lid on, reduce the heat to medium and cook with the lid on, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes – don’t have the heat too high otherwise the leaves will dry and burn. Drain well and chop finely.

For baking and deep-frying, rinse the leaves then make sure you dry them as much as possible in order to cook them to a crisp. Blotting them between layers of absorbent kitchen paper is a good way. If the leaves are too damp, you will end up steaming them in the oven rather than drying them out. In hot oil, the contents will spit and hiss if water still clings to the leaves.

Recipe ideas and serving suggestions

  • Shredded kale makes fantastic “crispy seaweed”: deep-fry in hot vegetable oil for a few seconds, then drain well and toss in a little salt and white sugar. Season with Szechuan pepper or Chinese 5 spice.
  • Toss raw, small, tender kale leaves with finely shredded raw leek and grated apple in a lemon vinaigrette and season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve as a crunchy, bold winter salad sprinkled with toasted walnuts.
  • Steamed kale is delicious, finely chopped, tossed in butter or good quality olive oil and seasoned with black pepper and ground nutmeg. An ideal accompaniment to a bold, red wine gravy based game, meat or bean stew.
  • Add finely chopped, steamed kale to a garlic mash. See My favourite mash (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan
  • Mix finely chopped, steamed kale with cooked brown rice or pearl barley, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan (or Vegan cheese) and use as a filling for baked Portobello mushrooms.
  • Tray-baked kale leaves make a healthy sprinkle for salads, soups, rice and pasta dishes. Here’s what to do: preheat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan oven, gas mark 2). Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Prepare 200g kale leaves as above, then rinse and dry thoroughly. Roughly chop the leaves and place in a large bowl. Toss in no more than 2 tbsp. sunflower oil and arrange over the trays – too much oil will make the leaves go soggy. Mix 1 teasp smoked salt, ½ teasp ground black pepper and 1 teasp ground cumin together and sprinkle over the oily kale.
Baking kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Bake for 25-30 minutes until crisp. Drain well, leave to cool, then pack into air-tight containers or jars to store. The baked kale will keep and stay crisp in this way for up to 2 weeks.

Cumin-spiced, tray-baked kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins



Vanilla bean torte (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)


Vanilla bean torte. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m always on the look-out for interesting bakes. I have a large folder of recipe articles saved from magazines and newspapers going back many years, along with various scraps of note paper, tucked in between, containing my culinary jottings from articles that have taken my fancy. Every now and then I go through the folder and decide which idea to experiment with next.

And so to this week’s post. A cake that came to my attention a few months ago when I was experimenting in the kitchen and making vegan meringue from the canning water in a tin of beans. This recipe uses the beans as well as the canning liquid. Sounds weird, but eating is believing, and I was pleasantly surprised by the texture and how good it tasted.

Vanilla bean torte, sliced and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
Canned cannellini beans for cake-making. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from the beans, the other ingredients are mainstream. The flavour can be varied depending on your preference. I used a generous amount of vanilla paste, but fresh orange and lemon rind would work well, as would almond extract if you like a marzipan flavour. I think the mixture could take about 15g cocoa powder added to it for a chocolate version. My cake is soaked in a vanilla flavoured syrup but the syrup can be adapted to suit your chosen cake flavour. There is no added fat or oil in the recipe which makes the syrup an important addition as it not only adds extra sweetness and flavour, but it helps keep the cake moist too. I hope you enjoy it 🙂

Serves: 8-10


  • 400g can cannellini beans in water
  • 50g polenta
  • 75g silken tofu
  • 215g caster sugar
  • 55g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • Pomegranate seeds to decorate
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Grease and line an 18cm diameter cake tin. Open the can of beans and drain well, reserving the canning liquid. Put the beans in a blender or food processor. Add the polenta and blitz for several seconds until well ground. Leave to one side.
  2. Whisk the tofu with 115g sugar until well blended and creamy. Add the ground almonds, half the vanilla paste and the ground bean mixture and stir to form a thick cake batter.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the bean canning liquid until stiff and foamy, then gently fold this into the cake batter. Transfer to the prepared tin, smooth the top and bake for about 1 to 1 ¼ hours, until golden and firm to the touch.

    Making bean torte. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. While the cake is in the oven, prepare the syrup. Put the remaining sugar in a small saucepan and add 150ml water. Heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves then bring to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until reduced and syrupy. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining vanilla paste. Keep warm.
  5. Once the cake is cooked, skewer the top all over and slowly pour over the vanilla syrup so that it soaks into the cake evenly. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

    Making and adding vanilla syrup. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. To serve, carefully remove the cake from the tin and place on a serving plate. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds just before slicing. The cake will keep, covered, in a cool place or the fridge, for 3 to 4 days.
    Decorating the torte with pomegranate seeds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Vanilla bean torte, deliciously moist and full of flavour. Image: Kathryn Hawkins


Baked root vegetable squares (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Freshly baked root vegetable squares. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I like all root vegetables, but sadly I struggle to grow anything other than potatoes. Fortunately, I am able to buy a good variety from local farm shops and this feels like the next best thing to growing them myself. This week’s recipe can be made with any root you have to hand. The cooking method bakes the different vegetable layers to a melting-tenderness and is a perfect choice if you want a vegetable dish suitable for preparing ahead. Once the basic layering and baking is done, the cooked vegetables will sit quite happily in the fridge for a couple of days before baking again to serve. You can scale the recipe up easily if you’re feeding a crowd and mix and match the vegetables you use.

Turnip_sweet_potatoes_and_King Edward_potatoes_in_a_small_wooden_crate
Turnip, sweet potatoes and King Edward potatoes ready for preparation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My version makes an 18cm square layer which cuts neatly into 9 portions and uses sweet potatoes, turnip (or swede, depending on where you come from) and potatoes, but carrots, parsnips and celeriac work fine as well, and you can also use just 1kg of your favourite root, if you prefer. The most important things to remember are to slice the vegetables thinly and evenly (preferably use a food processor or mandolin) and make sure you cook the vegetables until completely tender during the first baking – test with a skewer to be completely sure.

Thinly sliced root vegetables. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 9 portions


  • 300g sweet potatoes
  • 300g turnip (swede)
  • 400g main crop potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Piper
  • 75ml vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 40g dairy-free margarine (or butter if you eat it)
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly chopped parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line a straight-sided, deep 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Peel and thinly slice all the vegetables – I use a food processor for this. Either layer in the tin individually or mix all the vegetables together and arrange evenly in the tin.

    Layering_sliced_vegetables Original
    Layering the root vegetables in individual layers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Pour over the stock and drizzle with the oil. Cover the top of the tin with foil and bake for at least an hour until completely tender. Remove the foil and leave to cool completely.
  4. Cut a square of firm cardboard the same size as the inside of the tin and wrap in a layer of foil. Place a sheet of baking parchment over the vegetables and sit the foil-wrapped board on top. Weigh down the vegetables evenly using 3 or 4 same-weight cans or jars and chill overnight or for up to 2 days before serving.

    Pressing the vegetable layer. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6). Remove the weights, foil board and baking parchment and carefully remove the pressed vegetable square from the tin.
  6. Cut into 9 squares and arrange on a lined baking tray. Melt the margarine (or butter) and mix in the garlic and seasoning. Brush the mixture generously over the vegetable squares.

    Ready for baking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. Bake the squares for about 30 minutes until golden and hot. Serve immediately sprinkled with chopped parsley. A great accompaniment to any kind of roast.
    Just baked root vegetable squares. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
    Root vegetables: meltingly tender and packed full of flavour. Image: Kathryn Hawkins


First of February in the garden

Blue sky day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a lovely start to the new month today. Very clear and crisp. After taking the image above this morning, after a full day of sunshine, by the time I got round to typing up my post, most of the snow had melted away.

There has been quite a lot of snow fall in January, and it’s been quite cold too. No sooner had the temperature risen again and things were beginning to feel a bit more spring-like, then down came another pouring of the white stuff yesterday.

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Last day of January snowfall. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The new season’s growth seems a little slower in showing this year. Most of the bulbs I have planted around the garden are only  just beginning to poke through the soil, but the ones below, in an old wheelbarrow, are much more advanced. When I’m gardening I often accidentally dig up bulbs. I usually put them back in the same place, but last year I cleared an area which had become too densely populated, and ended up with loads to replant. The wheelbarrow and an old barrel seemed like suitable new homes. Hopefully I will end up with a colourful display from both in a few weeks time.

My barrow of bulbs. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Looking back at my garden in February last year, I had a few snowdrops out in full bloom by this time. At the moment, the petals are firmly closed, but with a couple more days of sunshine, they should open up. In other more sheltered spots around the garden, the snowdrops still have quite a way to go before they flower.

First of February snowdrops. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Another precious flower in the garden at this time of year is the winter-blooming white heather. It certainly looks very healthy. Believed to bring good luck, white heather brings the feeling of life and vibrancy to the garden long before the other colours of spring appear.

Lucky white winter heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Another plant that is also looking very floral just now is a new Helleborus Orientalis I planted last year. It’s very pink and very pretty. The more established Hellebores in the garden are only in leaf with no sign of flower stems, so I guess that this one must be an early variety. It does look a wee bit lonely in the border, with just the one flower open, but there are lots of buds, so they may well be flowering when the others decide to make a show. See you next time 🙂

Early Hellebore. Image: Kathryn Hawkins


Burns Night mini chocolate haggis (gluten-free; dairy-free & vegan alternatives)

Mini haggis sweeties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A short post this week, but I wanted to publish a recipe to celebrate Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, whose anniversary falls on January 25th each year. These cute,  haggis-shaped sweet treats are a version of my Chocolate Haggis for a Burns Night supper (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) recipe from last year. You can mix and match ingredients according to the bits and pieces you have to hand. If you don’t like marzipan,  use ivory or cream coloured fondant icing instead.

Makes: 16


  • 50g unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 50g heather honey or golden syrup
  • 75g free-from dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 75g free-from oatcakes, finely crushed
  • 40g toasted fine oatmeal
  • 50g currants
  • 50g toasted flaked almonds, crushed
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • 400g natural marzipan
  1. Put the butter (coconut oil) and honey (golden syrup) in a saucepan with the chocolate, and heat very gently, stirring, until melted.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the crushed oatcakes, oatmeal, currants and almonds. Mix well until thoroughly combined. Leave to cool, then chill for about 30 minutes until firm enough to form into portions.
  3. Divide the mixture into 16 and form each into an oval-shaped sausage. Chill for 30 minutes until firm.
  4. Divide the marzipan into 16 and flatten each into a round – use a little icing sugar if the marzipan is sticky. Wrap a disc of marzipan around each chocolate oat cluster; press the edges to seal and then twist the ends to make a haggis shape.
    Mini chocolate haggis preparation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Store the mini haggis at a cool room temperature until ready to eat. The marzipan will become sticky if refrigerated. Best enjoyed with coffee and a wee dram.  Until next week, I raise a glass to you all and say “Slàinte!” – to your good health 🙂

    Mini haggis and a wee dram. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Cauliflower – the king of winter vegetables – 3 recipe ideas (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)


Cauliflower roasted, stir fried, and steaks. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

When it comes to the winter months of the year, trying to buy only home-grown, British vegetables (as is my want) can be quite challenging especially if you desire something other than starchy root crops. In my opinion, the humble cauliflower reigns supreme at this time of year as it is a welcome diversion in flavour, taste and texture.

However, my thoughts haven’t always been so positive towards the cauliflower. At school, cauliflower was boiled beyond all recognition and served as a watery, soft mush – enough to put anyone off the vegetable for life. Yet, today, it is one of the “on trend” vegetables. If you cook it correctly, cauliflower has a  meaty texture, sweet flavour, and best of all, it can be cooked in many ways. It’s full of vitamin C and K, as well as B vitamins and dietary fibre. Easy to prepare, you can eat just about all of it from the inner the cream-coloured curds  to the outer wrapping of juicy leaves.

Preparing cauliflower. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The leaves help protect the curds, so try to buy the vegetable with as much greenery as possible. If you want to store cauliflower for a few days,  keep the leaves intact and place the stalk-end in a shallow depth of water in a bowl, in the fridge, and the cauliflower should keep fresh for up to a week.

To prepare, discard any damaged outer leaves, but keep the inner, more tender leaves – these can be cooked like cabbage. Once the curds are free from leaves, slice or break the head into florets. Prepared cauliflower florets dehydrate quickly so are best cooked soon after preparation.

I rarely cook cauliflower in water, but if I do, it is for a very short time only – the curds can get very spongy very quickly when cooked in water, and the flavour will be lost.

Following are my current 3 favourite ways of cooking cauliflower for maximum taste and texture: roasting, griddled steaks and stir-fried sprouting stems.

Roast cauliflower with Indian spices. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Toss chunky florets of cauliflower and  thickly sliced red onion in sunflower oil. Season with garam masala to taste. Spread out on a baking tray, season with salt and pepper and roast at 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6) for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Mix in cooked chick peas and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes until everything is lightly browned. Drain well, then serve sprinkled with black onion seeds. For a main meal,  mix into freshly cooked Basmati rice and sprinkle with fresh coriander and roasted cashew nuts.

Freshly roasted spiced cauliflower. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Probably the most popular way to serve cauliflower at the moment is as a steak. I usually cut the prepared curds into 2cm thick slices and poach them in simmering water for a couple of minutes before frying or placing on a griddle or barbecue – a large frying pan is good for poaching as it enables you to lift out the steaks more easily. Use tongs to make sure you drain the steaks well,  and dry them on kitchen paper so that excess cooking water is removed before cooking in oil.

Pre-cooking cauliflower steaks. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
Cauliflower steaks with Italian flavours. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Brush the prepared cauliflower steaks lightly with vegetable oil on one side. Heat a griddle pan or frying pan until very hot, then add the streaks, oiled-side down. Press into the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden or lightly charred. Brush the top with more oil, and turn the steaks over. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes or until cooked to you liking. Serve straight from the pan drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic glaze or reduction, and toasted pine nuts. Top with griddled cherry vine tomatoes and fresh basil.

Sweet sprouting cauliflower. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the new kids on the block in the cauliflower world, is a variety with fine green stems and small, flowery curds. I was a bit sceptical when I first saw it (mainly because of the price), but I have since been converted. The stems are best cooked for a minimum time, just as you would for asparagus – steamed, griddled or stir fried – in order to retain the crisp texture. Unusually, the stems become even brighter green when cooked. The flavour is mild and sweet. To make sure the stems cook evenly, break or cut the stems up so that you have same-size thickness pieces.

You can keep these stems in a jug of water in the fridge for a couple of days to keep them fresh, as they do lose texture quickly. These sweet stems are a perfect choice for a single serving or to add to a combination of other vegetables.

Freshly steamed in 3-4 minutes, sweet sprouting cauliflower stems. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a deep-frying pan or wok until hot. Add prepared raw stems and stir fry in the hot oil for 3 minutes. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and cook for a further 1 minute. Turn off the heat,  add finely chopped garlic to taste and drizzle with a little honey or agave syrup and gluten-free teriyaki marinade. Put the lid back on and leave to stand in the residual steam for a further minute. Drain the stems, reserving the juices, and pile into a warm serving bowl. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Mix a little sesame oil into the pan juices and serve alongside the stems as a dressing or dip. Utterly delicious 🙂

Teriyaki and sesame dressed cauliflower stems. Image: Kathryn Hawkins




New year, new cake – Coffee and pecan loaf (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan option)

G;uten-free_dairy-free_ coffee_and_pecan_loaf_cake
Coffee and pecan loaf cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I had planned that my first recipe post of the year would be a recipe bursting with nutrition and vitality – new year, fresh start, etc. However, it’s been so cold these past few days, when it came to it, I simply couldn’t face anything too healthy. Instead, I’ve been in the kitchen keeping warm by baking, and thus, my first recipe of 2018 is one of my favourite cakes.

Sun-up on a frosty January morning. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I took this shot of the garden from an open window about 9am yesterday morning, just as the sun was rising. The image below is the window adjacent to the one I opened – the beautiful ice pattern is on the inside!

Window pane iced-up on the inside. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So, in my books, cold weather is enough justification for cake, and I start my new year blog posts with one of my “desert island” cakes: a coffee one.

I’ve been using a heritage brand of coffee and chicory essence as a coffee flavouring in baking for as long as I can remember. It was our “turn to” flavouring long before decent barista-style instant coffee and espresso shots came to British shores. Sadly, the glass bottle packaging of old has been replaced by a plastic version (making it look less authentic), but the old-fashioned label is practically unchanged in design and the product within tastes just as good as always. I haven’t found anything that comes close to the concentrated flavour it offers in baking. In summer, I use it to make a base for a deliciously smooth and well-rounded iced coffee, ice-creams and chilled custards.

My favourite coffee flavouring, and finely ground pecan nuts. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The sweet, nutty flavour of pecans goes particularly well with coffee. You can use walnuts if you prefer, but I find them a bit overpowering if you really want the taste  of coffee to dominate your bake. For this recipe, grind up some of the pecans very finely to make a “flour” for a better formed cake crumb, and then add the remainder as finely chopped pieces for extra nutty texture. I add a little arrowroot to help bind the mixture but you can leave it out if you prefer. I hope you enjoy the flavours as much as I do 🙂

Serves: 10


  • 225g pecan halves
  • 125g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 8g arrowroot
  • 2 level teaspoons gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 175g light brown soft sugar
  • 3 large eggs (or, for a vegan cake, use 180g silken tofu)
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 4 tsp Camp coffee essence or similar
  • 50g Demerara sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. Put 125g pecans in a blender or food processor and blitz until very finely ground. Chop the remaining pecan nuts finely.
  2. Sift the flour and arrowroot into a bowl and stir in both lots of pecans along with the sugar. Beat the eggs (or tofu) with the oil until well blended, and then thoroughly mix into the dry ingredients.
  3. Transfer to the prepared tin. Smooth the top and put the tin on a baking tray. Scatter the top of the cake with the Demerara sugar. Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes until risen, lightly cracked, and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when the cake is cooked. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap and store for 24 hours for better flavour and texture.
    Dense, moist textured coffee and pecan loaf cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
    Coffee and pecan loaf cake, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins