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!
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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
60-70g plain unsweetened dairy-free yogurt
Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Rub in the fat until well blended. Stir in the sugar and currants.
Add sufficient yogurt to make a softish dough. Turn on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth and well blended.
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.
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.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little. Best served warm, spread with dairy-free butter and your favourite jam. Yummy 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Sift the rice flour on top and mix together with the stock to make a smooth batter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Here’s what to do….
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.
I’ve been back in the kitchen this week, making something deliciously sweet and impressive for the Easter holidays. I’ve come up with a dessert that is very easy to make, inspired by the flavours of Italy, and is everything you want to round off a celebratory Easter meal (but with no chocolate in sight – gasp, shock, horror!).
You can add your own choice of chopped dried or candied fruit and nuts – it’s a great recipe to use up the bits and pieces you have leftover (and you could even add chunks of chocolate if you really want to!). Flavoured with marzipan, mincemeat and Marsala wine, it’s a dessert that would also be right at home on the Christmas table as well.
Here’s what to do:
115g golden marzipan (use plain if you prefer but the golden variety adds a little colour to the semifreddo), chopped
600ml dairy-free single “cream” (I use oat cream, but soya cream or canned coconut milk would also work)
150g vegan mincemeat
100g glacé cherries, chopped
25g pistachio nuts, chopped
3 tbsp. Marsala wine (or use sweet sherry or cherry brandy)
Extra cherries and pistachios to decorate
Line a 1kg loaf tin with a double layer of cling film. Put the marzipan in a saucepan and pour over the dairy-free “cream”. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together.
Remove from the heat, mix well then stir in the remaining ingredients and leave to cool completely.
Transfer to a freezer container at least 1.1l capacity, cover and freeze for 2 to 2½ hours until starting to turn slushy. Mix well then freeze for a further hour or so until icy and stiffened. Mix well to distribute all the pieces and pack into the loaf tin. Freeze for at least 2 hours to firm up enough to slice. For prolonged freezing, fold over the cling film and wrap in foil. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To serve, gently ease the semifreddo from the tin using the cling film. Place on a serving plate and discard the cling film. Scatter with more cherries and pistachios. Slice, serve and enjoy! Happy Easter everyone 🙂
It’s been a glorious week here in central Scotland and I just couldn’t resist posting another series of images of spring flowers. It is my favourite time of the year and this year the garden seems more abundant than ever, bursting with colour in every corner.
Whilst the sky has been blue and the temperature relatively warm during the day, the nights have been chilly, and only this morning the lawn was covered with frost.
There is plenty of blossom forming on the fruit trees, and the sprigs nearest the walls are already in bloom and sweet-smelling. The bees will be smiling.
I have been in and out of the garden all week keeping my eye on the progress of the bluebells because they are exceptionally early this year. In the sunny spots, the stems are getting longer and the buds bluer, and today I discovered one wee bell-shaped flower fully open in amongst a thicket of twigs, and here it is, my first bluebell of 2019 🙂
One of the most prolific plants in the garden is Euphorbia. This time of the year the flowers are lime-green and yellowy and look stunning in the sunlight. They really brighten up the dullest parts of the garden and make an eye-catching display with the fading pink and white hellebores in the background.
My last images of my post this week are of a beautiful pink Persian Buttercup (Ranunculus) with its many layers of delicate petals. I don’t seem to be able to grow them in big clusters, just the odd one comes up here and there. The other is a very “early bird” in the garden this year, a single Mountain Cornflower (Centaureamontana). Usually these thistle-like flowers grow in abundance from early summer and onwards throughout the autumn, but this fellow has popped up several weeks ahead of the others.
That’s all for this week. Have a good few days – enjoy the sunshine if you have it. I’ll be back in the kitchen with an Eastery recipe for next week’s post.
For this week’s post, I have made a slight departure from my usual offerings. I have just returned from a few days down in the south of England celebrating Mothering Sunday with my family.
The county of Sussex is where I grew up and I remember the bluebell woods especially well. Carpets of fragrant blue flowers lined these particular woods in Slindon, most usually from mid to late April onwards. With the early onset of spring this year, I had a feeling that there might be some out in flower and I wasn’t disappointed. There were quite a few of the delicate, sweet-selling blue blooms alongside many other wild flowers.
It was a glorious day in these woods. The sun was warm and the sky was blue. The flowers seemed to almost glow in the bright light, and with the combination of good weather and the untimely blooming of these wild flowers, it was hard to remember exactly what month it actually was.
Not only were there flowers to enjoy in the woods, but the hedgerows and trees around and about were full of life too. Several species of butterfly were darting around from flower to flower (too quick for me to capture), and the bees buzzing and busy collecting pollen. It’s going to be a bumper year for hedgerow fruits if these blossom-laden Blackthorn trees are anything to go by.
My final image this week is of a Sussex pastoral scene and a tree that encompasses this time of year so well, the Salix Discolor, or Pussy Willow, with its fuzzy pollen-laden stamens so tempting to the bees and flying insects.
I hope you have enjoyed the visit to Sussex this week. I will be back with you next week with something equally seasonal. Until then, have a good week and enjoy Spring 🙂
It’s time for a rhubarb recipe this week on my blog. Spring is well under way now and rhubarb is plentiful. In the garden at the moment, my own early rhubarb plant is coming along nicely and looks very healthy. Not quite ready for picking just yet, but I don’t think it will be long.
This week’s post is a dense-textured, delicious rhubarb cake that can also be served warm as a pudding. You do need a fair bit of rhubarb to make the cake – 600g. Cut the rhubarb stalks to the same thickness for even cooking during the first part of the recipe, and take care not to over-cook in order to retain some texture in the finished bake.
The orange adds a subtle flavour to the cake, but leave it out if you prefer. Bake the rhubarb with a little water instead of the juice. For a spicy twist, replace the orange rind in the cake mix with ground ginger and/or mixed spice.
600g fresh rhubarb stalks
1 medium orange
3 tbsp. caster sugar
For the streusel mix:
85g gluten-free self raising flour
75g jumbo oats
50g dairy-free margarine, softened
For the cake:
200g dairy-free margarine, softened
200g caster sugar
Finely grated rind 1 orange
200g plain dairy-free yogurt (I used plain soya yogurt)
100g ground almonds
100g gluten-free self raising flour
To decorate (optional):
100g icing sugar
Fresh orange zest
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Trim the rhubarb and cut into even thickness pieces, 3-4cm long. Place in a roasting tray. Pare the rind from the orange using a vegetable peeler, and extract the juice. Stir both into the rhubarb and sprinkle over the sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until just tender, then leave to cool in the tin.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin. For the streusel, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and rub in the margarine. Set aside.
For the cake mix, put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk everything together until well blended.
Drain the rhubarb well, reserving the cooking juices, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Put half the cake mix in the tin, spread smoothly, sprinkle over half the streusel mix and top with half the rhubarb.
Spoon over the remaining cake mix and spread smoothly. Sprinkle over half the remaining streusel mix and arrange the remaining rhubarb on top.
Finally, sprinkle the rhubarb with the remaining streusel, stand the cake tin on a baking tray and bake for about 1 ¾ hours, covering with foil after an hour or so to prevent over-browning. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin to serve cold as a cake, or stand for about 30 minutes to firm up before removing from the tin to serve warm as a pudding with dairy-free custard and the reserved juices spooned over if liked.
To decorate and serve as a cake, carefully remove from the tin and place on a wire rack. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in about 4 tsp of the reserved cooking juices to make a soft, dripping icing. Drizzle over the top of the cake using a teaspoon and scatter with orange zest. Leave for about 30 minutes to firm up before slicing to serve.
I keep the cake in the fridge and bring to room temperature for a few minutes before serving. You can also heat up a slice in the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off. The cake freezes well without the icing. Have a good week 🙂