Reduced-sugar raspberry jam (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Home-made reduced sugar raspberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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The last harvest of summer raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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…

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Beetroot. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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!

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50% less sugar Scottish raspberry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Freezing reduced sugar raspberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

Ingredients

  • 400g fresh raspberries
  • 200g smooth, cooked beetroot purée
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  1. Put the raspberries and beetroot in a saucepan. Cook gently for a few minutes until the raspberry juices begin to exude.
  2. 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.
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    Making reduced sugar raspberry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  3. 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.

    Small_pancake_with_coconut_yogurt_raspberries_and_a_generous_spoonful_of_reduced_sugar_raspberry_jam
    Pancake topped with coconut yogurt, fresh berries and home-made reduced sugar jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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My July garden retrospective

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End of July in the garden. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Wild thistle. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Early July Campanulas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Old fashioned, highly scented rose. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Scabious and lavender with bumblebee and butterfly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Tall red poppies and small bush Hydrangeas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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 🙂

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Mid July Morellos. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Aptly named, Glen Ample raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me for now. I look forward to sharing more recipes and garden posts in a short while.

Mini lime pies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Zesty and zingy, mini lime pies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Intensely citrusy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

Ingredients

  • 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
  • 20g cornflour
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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    Making mini lime pies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. 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.

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    Super citrusy mini lime pies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Banana and coconut bread (dairy-free; vegan)

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Banana and coconut bread. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Iced and coconut sprinkled. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Just one slice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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My new/old loaf tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Ripe bananas and coconut products. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Ingredients

Serves: 8

  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

    Banana_and_coconut_bread_mix_before_and_after_baking
    Before and after baking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. 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.

    A_slice_of_iced_home-made_banana_and_coconut_bread
    Ready for the eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Lovely Lupins

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Lupin-laden flower bed. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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 🙂

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Up close on Lupins. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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!

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Lupin-lovin bees. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Pink and white Lupin varieties. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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The blue and the orange. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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 🙂

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Lupin-tastic. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Grow your own bunch of flowers

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Carnations, back in fashion. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s post is one I’ve been putting together for over a year. At last the timing is right to publish. I hope it will be of use to anyone who likes “recycling” and raising plants for free.

A wee while ago I celebrated a “big” birthday. One of my friends sent me a very lavish bouquet containing many varieties of flowers. One bloom in particular caught my eye because it was not a favourite of mine.

The carnation (Dianthus) is a mainstay in many a flowery bunch.  It is great value and lasts for a very long time in  a vase of water. The carnation went out of fashion for the very same reasons that it is back in fashion today. However, my birthday-bouquet carnation wasn’t a patch on other varieties I’d seen. It had rich peach-coloured petals with a red frilly detail. It was a real beauty and changed my opinion of the flower there and then.

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My birthday carnation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A few months before my birthday, I’d been staying with my Mum and she had had a jug of green shoots on her window-sill. They were carnation cuttings which had rooted and she was about to plant in her garden. I could hardly believe that they would be so easy to root and grow on, naturally I had to have a go myself. Above is one of the cuttings from my original birthday carnations in full bloom last summer, 3 years after taking the cuttings from the original stems.

There are 2 simple ways to root carnation cuttings: one is simply in a pot of water on the window-sill (like my Mum did) and the other is with rooting powder and a pot of compost. If you fancy a go, the best time of year to do it is  from now and into early summer when the weather is warm.

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Selecting cuttings for rooting. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Select side shoots from carnation stems that don’t have any flower buds on them. They should look healthy and have 4 or 5 sets of leaves on them. Trim off the bottom pair of leaves and cut the stem just below a joint.

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Rooting in water. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To root in water, simply pop the cuttings in a jam jar of water and leave on a light window-sill, out of direct sunlight. Change the water every 2-3 days. After 3-4 weeks you should begin to see thread-like roots appearing from the joint on the stem.

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Potting on rooted cuttings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Once the roots appear, lightly dust the rooted ends in a little hormone rooting powder and plant in compost. Keep watered and in a well-lit, warm area out of direct sunlight – an unheated greenhouse is ideal. Once the plants are strong and established, plant outside in late summer.

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Rooting cuttings in compost. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pot-rooted carnation cuttings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

You can also root carnation cuttings by adding them straight to compost. Dip the ends of the cuttings in hormone rooting powder and place in compost. Cover with a clear plastic bag or cloche and sit on a warm, well-lit window-sill, not in direct sunlight. Keep watered. After 3 to 4 weeks the cuttings should have rooted. Remove the bag and keep the cuttings  in the same way as the water-rooted cuttings above until they are ready to plant outside in a few weeks.

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Last Autumn, carnations in flower in my garden. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My carnations have been flowering on and off for the last 3 years. This spring, the stems had become very long and “leggy”. I trimmed them right down, leaving a few shoots in situ, and from the stalks I cut down, I took some more cuttings. Now I’m starting again with another batch of cuttings and looking forward to populating other areas of the garden with some very attractive carnation stems later on in the year.

I was amazed to see that even the tight flower buds I removed from my cuttings burst into flower after a few days indoors, which just goes to show that the carnation really is a great value flower. Happy blooming 🙂

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The last of the flower buds opened in a vase indoors and lasted for over a month.           Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Griddle cakes (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Fresh out of the pan, a teatime treat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Every now and then I have a hankering for scones, but I have yet to bake a gluten-free version that makes the grade. However, this week’s recipe is very similar in terms of ingredients to scones, but instead of the traditional oven baking, these “cakes” are cooked in a frying pan. So good are they that they have now become my gluten-free scone-alternative of choice and can be whipped up and cooked in next to no time.

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Griddle cakes, a great alternative to gluten-free scones. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For a few years, my family used to holiday in Wales, where I can remember enjoying  traditional Welsh cakes known as Cage Bach for the first time. Studded with currants, flavoured with the merest hint of spice, and served warm with butter, these were a very welcome and delicious teatime treat. Welsh cakes are traditionally cooked on a griddlestone, a heavy flat pan which sits directly on top of an open flame or stove top. They cook to a dense, but crumbly texture and are extremely moreish.

My recipe this week for griddle cakes  is an homage to my Welsh ancestry and yet another happy childhood foodie memory.

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My homage to the Welsh cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 7-8

Ingredients

  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend + extra for dusting (If you are not gluten-free, use traditional wheat plain flour for a more authentic texture)
  • 10g gluten-free baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 70g white vegetable fat or coconut oil + extra for greasing
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 70g currants
  • 60-70g plain unsweetened dairy-free yogurt
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Rub in the fat until well blended. Stir in the sugar and currants.
  2. Add sufficient yogurt to make a softish dough. Turn on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth and well blended.
  3. Either press or roll the dough to a thickness of 1cm. Using a 7cm round cookie cutter, cut out 7 rounds, re-pressing or rolling the dough trimmings as necessary. I like to cook the rounds at 1cm thickness so that the cakes have a dense texture in the middle. If you roll out the dough to ½-¾ cm depth, you should make 8 cakes, and the resulting cakes will be crisper all the way through.
  4. Very lightly grease a flat griddle pan or large frying pan with a little fat and heat until melted. Place the cakes in the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook the cakes for 8-10 minutes on each side, taking care not to burn the outside – lift up the edge of 1 or 2 to check, and lower the heat further as necessary.
  5. Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little. Best served warm, spread with dairy-free butter and your favourite jam. Yummy 🙂
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    Preparing and cooking griddle cakes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    The cakes are best eaten on the day of cooking but they freeze well and defrost in next to no time. You can reheat them successfully by popping them in a low oven for a few minutes to heat through.

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    Griddle cake with butter and jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Spring vegetable pancake (Gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spring vegetable pancake with new season asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you’ve read my previous posts at this time of the year, you’ll know that spring is my favourite season. Not just because I love the flowers and the feeling that everything is coming to life, but my favourite vegetable is available right now for a very short period of time, British asparagus.

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Fresh British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I rarely do very much with asparagus. I like to savour the tender green stems just as they are. Either a quick flash in a hot frying pan or a blast in a hot oven, to give them a subtle smokiness, and that’s all the extra flavour I need.

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Fresh asparagus in a hot pan. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s recipe is based on a Japanese dish called Okonomiyaki which caught my eye recently. Originally made with wheat flour and eggs, my version of the pancake is gluten-free and egg-free. There’s a bit of vegetable preparation, but once that’s out of the way, everything else is very straightforward. The pancake makes a lovely lunch or light supper, and is the perfect base for a topping of freshly cooked asparagus.

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Spring-vegetables for pancake making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

If you don’t want the hassle of a cooked topping, try sliced avocado and baby spinach or a pile of fresh pea shoots and wild rocket for a salad topping instead. If you have the inclination and the extra ingredients, I recommend making the barbecue dressing that accompanies the pancake. Utterly delicious, simple to make, and far tastier than any barbecue sauce I’ve ever been able to buy. A great finishing touch to any grilled or barbecued food.

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Home-made barbecue dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. flax seeds
  • 45g white rice flour
  • 50g dry white free-from breadcrumbs
  • 75ml white miso or vegetable stock
  • 75g soft-leaved cabbage, such as Sweet-heart or Hispi, shredded
  • 3 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 150g thin fresh asparagus stems, trimmed
  • Vegan mayonnaise to serve

For the barbecue dressing:

  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp gluten-free light soy sauce
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  1. Put the flax seeds in a coffee grinder or small food processor and blend until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 6 tbsp. cold water. Leave to soak for 5 minutes by which time the mixture will thicken.
  2. Sift the rice flour on top and mix together with the stock to make a smooth batter.

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    Making the pancake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Add the cabbage, spring onion and breadcrumbs and mix everything together to make a thick, stiff batter – add a little water if the mixture is very dry, but this is not a pourable batter, it is more like a firm cake mixture.
  4. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a frying pan with a lid and add half the batter. Press the mixture to form a thick round approx. 16cm diameter. Fry over a medium heat with the lid on for 5 minutes. Carefully flip over, and cook on the other side, covered with the lid, for another 5 minutes. Drain and keep warm, whilst you cook the remaining mixture in the same way.

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    Cooking spring vegetable pancake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Once the pancakes are cooked, heat the remaining oil in the frying pan until hot and quickly cook the asparagus, turning, for 3-4 minutes until just wilted. Drain and keep warm.
  6. To serve, mix all the dressing ingredients together. Slip the pancakes on to warm serving plates and drizzle with mayonnaise and the barbecue dressing. Top with asparagus and serve immediately.
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    Asparagus-topped spring vegetable pancake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Until next week, I’ll leave you with another image of my favourite vegetable. Have a good week and I look forward to seeing you next time 🙂

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    Early May British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy May!

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Early May bluebells. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Welcome to the best month of the year everyone! After a wonderfully sunny and warm Easter, the garden has burst into bloom. Every bed is full of colour and the air is heavy with aromatic perfumes, and best of all, there are Bluebells in every corner.

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Happy May! Image: Kathryn Hawkins

These beautiful Narcissi are multi-headed, each having 4 bloom heads per stalk. I took the photo about a week ago, and sadly now they are just beginning to go over. They have been flowering for a month and have been great value. The perfume is delightful.

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Late spring Narcissi. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The Azalias are about 2 weeks ahead of themselves this year, and as usual the smaller-petal varieties are fully laden with flowers. In the sunshine, their bright pink blooms are intense and dazzling. The golden yellow variety is less blousy but brightens up the partially-shaded flower-bed it lives in, and is a lovely contrast amongst the bluebells .

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Golden yellow and vibrant pink Azalias. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Some of the fruit tree blossom has set since my last post – it looks like there will be lots of cherries this year 🙂 The miniature apple tree is laden with blossom, and today saw the first opening of petals on the big old apple tree. Such pretty and delicate flowers.

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Early May apple blossom. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another flowering plant that is ahead of itself this year, is the Solomon’s Seal. The bell-shaped white flowers are just opening. Each year the plants seed themselves so year on year there are more in the flower-beds. It is a truly elegant plant, and stays in bloom for several weeks.

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Solomon’s Seal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from the mass of blue from the all the bluebells, just across from my kitchen window, now that the Tête-à-tête have finished, the raised bed has become overrun with Forget-me-nots. Not planted, they just appeared, courtesy of the birds (or perhaps the fairies?). No matter, they are so cute and dainty, and a delightful shade of baby-blue.

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Forget-me-nots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been pleasing to see so many bees, butterflies and other beasties in the garden these past couple of weeks, busy in the sunshine and enjoying the warmth. I discovered this wee chap whilst I was weeding the flower-bed underneath. He’s either sunbathing or perhaps he is completely intoxicated by the aromas drifting up from the geranium leaf he’s sitting on and from the bluebell above! Until next week, enjoy the sunshine if you have some!

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Sunbathing ladybird. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Tray-baked pasta sauce (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Tray-baked vegetable sauce spooned over spaghetti. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again everyone. I hope you’ve had a good few days. It felt like summer here at the weekend, very warm and sunny over the Easter holiday. The temperature has gone back to something more seasonal now..

I have a very versatile vegetable sauce recipe for you this week. The sauce is as tasty on it’s own over pasta as it is when used as a soup or casserole base, or spread over pizza dough or tart pastry. It is also a great recipe if you like batch-cooking for the freezer.  It’s so easy to make, with everything cooked together on a large baking tray in the oven.

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Freshly cooked pasta sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The sauce base consists of a selection of colourful vegetables which are baked with fresh herbs. I find the woody herbs work best in this recipe as they stand up well in the oven. I use bay, rosemary, sage and thyme, but if you prefer a less robust flavour, stir in freshly chopped finer, more delicate herbs for a final flourish once the sauce is cooked.

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Rainbow vegetables. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Fresh bay, rosemary, thyme and sage. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The rest of the sauce is made up of tinned tomatoes, stock and red wine. The first time I made the sauce I had a glut of fresh tomatoes, so if you prefer to use fresh, then they works fine too but you might want to add some tomato purée to the sauce to thicken it up and concentrate the flavour.

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Served with toasted seeds and fresh basil. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here’s what to do….

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 250g carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large leek, trimmed and shredded
  • 2 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. caster sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • A few sprigs each of fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 250ml fruity red wine
  • 250ml vegetable stock

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Put all the vegetables in a large bowl and mix in the oil and sugar, then spread them out on a large, deep baking tray and season well. Pop the herbs on top and bake for about 40 minutes, turning occasionally until tender and lightly browned.

2. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour over the vegetables. Put the tray in the oven and continue to cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and reduced. Cover and stand for 10 minutes. Discard the herbs before serving.

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The 4 stages of sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serve the sauce over pasta and sprinkle with fresh basil and fried and salted seeds (recipe for the seed mix is on my post Moorish red orange and carrot salad (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan) For extra richness, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Perfect. See you next week 🙂

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Up close on pasta sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins