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!
Another sign this weekend that summer is fading fast, I picked my final stems of rhubarb for the year. Rather than freeze it for later use, I decided to cheer myself up and make a batch of delicious rhubarb and custard ice lollies. Here’s the recipe.
Makes: 6 x 100ml lollies
250g prepared rhubarb stems, washed and chopped
75g granulated sugar
6 tbsp water
150ml ready-made (gluten-free) custard – at least double the sweetness of your usual custard (you need the extra sugar to prevent the custard from freezing too solid and icy)
150ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla paste
Put the rhubarb in a shallow pan with the sugar and water. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the rhubarb is beginning to steam.
Cover and simmer gently for 7-8 minutes until soft and collapsed. Remove from the heat and mash with a fork. Leave to cool completely. If preferred, blitz in a blender for a few seconds to make a purée.
Mix the custard with the cream and vanilla paste, and chill until required.
Using a long-handled teaspoon, divide the rhubarb between 6 x 100ml ice lolly moulds. Pour in the custard mix and then marble the 2 layers together a little using the spoon or a skewer.
Place the lolly moulds in the freezer for 1 ½ to 2 hours until semi frozen, then push a wooden lolly stick into the centre of each. Put back in the freezer for at least 2 hours until frozen solid.
To unmold, dip the lolly moulds in very hot water for a few seconds, and then pull out by the stick. Serve immediately or pop back in the freezer on a tray lined with baking parchment until ready to serve.
I’ve been picking tomatoes from my greenhouse for over a month now, and there are still plenty to ripen. Whilst I am enjoying them fresh, I do like to make preserves, and first up this year is to steep a few tomatoes in olive oil. A couple of years ago I bought myself a dehydrator, and I have been drying various homegrown produce ever since. Semi-cuit (semi-dry) tomatoes make a sweet, indulgent and delicious out-of-season treat for later in the year, so these wee treasures are heading for the dehydrator right away.
Dehydrating is a very straightforward process. Wash and pat dry the tomatoes; if they are small to medium size, cut them in half – you may want to slice larger tomatoes or just “cook” them for longer. My dehydrator has 3 shelves; I divide up the tomatoes between the shelves, making sure there is some air space between them, pop the lid on and set the temperature to 70°C (158°F). This batch of 650g will take 6-7 hours to dry down so that they are still a bit fleshy and not too leathery. The final yield will be about 150g.
Once the tomatoes have cooled, I will pack them into a sterilised jam jar with a screw top lid, and add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, bay and thyme from the garden. Pour over good quality extra virgin olive oil to cover the tomatoes completely and screw on the lid tightly. Stored in a cool, dark, dry cupboard, they will keep for about 6 months – so perfect for festive eatings. Once opened, store them in the fridge for up to 6 weeks – the oil will turn cloudy and clumpy when chilled, but becomes liquid again at room temperature. Roll on Christmas!
One of my favourite flavours married with a much loved sweetie are a match made in heaven in this recipe. Some shop-bought marshmallow can be a bit on the chewy side to my taste, so my version may be a bit different to what you’ve come to expect. This recipe makes a lighter, fluffier marshmallow, but if you want a firmer texture, it is worth experimenting by adding more gelatine.
If you can make meringue, then marshmallow is just one step on. You will need a sugar thermometer to take away the guesswork when making a sugar syrup. Other than that, the most important thing I can say before you get started, is to get yourself organised and have everything lined up and ready to go.
Makes 1 x 18cm square of marshmallow which cuts into 9 chunky pieces
5 leaves good quality gelatine
2 medium egg whites or 2 single egg sachets dried egg white powder
100g granulated sugar
50g liquid glucose
Pink food colour gel
Good quality rose water (I use Nielsen Massey)
Sugared rose petals to decorate
Line a deepish 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment. Cut up the gelatine into small pieces and place in a small heatproof bowl. Add 75ml cold water and leave to soak for 5 minutes, then place in the microwave and cook on High for 30-40 seconds until dissolved – microwave in 10 second blasts to avoid overheating, and do not boil. Leave aside.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites or powder in a large, grease-free, heatproof bowl until very stiff.
Put the sugar in a small saucepan with the glucose and 50ml cold water. Heat gently, stirring, until melted, then raise the heat and let the mixture bubble until it becomes clear and syrupy and reaches 118ºC on a sugar thermometer.
Remove the syrup from the heat. Start whisking the egg whites again and gently pour over the hot syrup in a slow and steady stream. Keep whisking as you pour in the liquid gelatine.
Continue to whisk to form a thick and glossy meringue-like mixture – this may take up to 5 minutes depending on how much heat I retained.
Working quickly before the mixture begins to set add sufficient food colour gel and rose water to taste.
Scrape the marshmallow into the lined tin and smooth over the top as best you can. Leave to cool, then put in a cool place (not the fridge) for 3-4 hours until completely set and firm to the touch.
To finish, dust a tray with the cornflour and turn the marshmallow on to it. Peel away the parchment. Using a large bladed knife, cut into 9 squares and toss in the cornflour to coat lightly. The marshmallow is ready to eat, or it will store, layered on pieces of baking parchment in an airtight container, in a cool place for up to 2 weeks. Note: homemade marshmallow does not like the fridge and will start to dissolve in damp conditions.
For an extra rose flavour, top each piece with a sugared rose petal – I gave a recipe for these in my July 19th 2016 post.
I’ve had a bumper crop of green and yellow courgettes this year, and they are still ripening thick and fast. Apart from enjoying them as a vegetable, they do make a good substitute for grated carrot in a cake. After a successful weekend bake-in, I thought I’d share my recipe for courgette and lemon loaf cake with you. It is moist and tasty, and improves with keeping (if you can leave it alone!). Perfect sliced and eaten on its own with a cup of tea, or served as a dessert with coconut yogurt and blueberry compote. Enjoy!
2 medium eggs
150ml sunflower oil
150g caster sugar
Finely grated rind 1 unwaxed lemon
115g yellow courgette, trimmed and grated
50g ground almonds
150g plain gluten-free flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
7g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
3 tbsp Demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Line a 1kg loaf tin with a baking parchment liner and sit the tin on a baking tray.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and lemon rind. Stir in the courgette and ground almonds.
Sift the flour and baking powder on top and carefully mix all the ingredients together. Pour into the tin and sprinkle thickly with Demerara sugar.
Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour until risen, golden and firm to the touch – insert a skewer into the centre of the cake, it should come out clean if the cake is cooked. Cool for 30 minutes before removing from the tin and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap and store for 24 hours before serving to allow the flavour and texture to develop. The cake freezes well, leave to cool then wrap and freeze for up to 6 months. Allow to thaw at room temperature, in the freezer wrappings.
I’d been thinking that this is the month that my garden begins to lose some of its overall colour. But I have been pleasantly surprised when I put this post together. I have chosen a different flower bed to photograph this month – the Ox-eye daisies are in full bloom and you can see the Lysimachia, Hydrangeas and Scabious in the background, which add vibrancy now the pretty shades of late spring have faded.
All round the garden, from mid July onwards, I have bold and brash coloured poppies opening out, adding splashes of pinks and reds in the beds. And then, by way of contrast, white and pale pink Japanese Anemones grow in wispy clumps; they look so fragile and delicate and yet they always bounce back after a heavy shower.
I have many lavender plants, but sadly most are fading fast now as the season progresses. My favourite is the deepest blue-purple Dutch Lavender which grows next to a rather messy clump of Santolina (or cotton lavender). The contrast between the 2 colours is mesmerising on a sunny day. The lavender is coming to the end of a very long flowering, but it’s still adding a lovely splash of colour in the borders and some late pollen for the bees.
There are now some more obvious signs in the garden that Autumn is not too far away. Apart from the slight nip in the air, there are floral reminders too. The globe thistles (Echinops) are blueing up, and several borders are glowing with the colours of Montbretia and Golden Rod. But I’m still clinging on to a memory of summer with a second blooming of lupins.
I’m going to close this post with an image of my beautiful white Hydrangea which is just opening up. I don’t have many white flowers in the garden, but this is a beauty. When the flower heads are fully open, the tiny centres of each turn pale blue. I have always thought that these flowers would make a stunning bridal bouquet.
I’m not a huge fan of cultivated geraniums growing in pots, but I do like the wild pelargoniums and the fragrant, culinary variety, pictured above. The leaves smell of exotic, spiced rose and the petals are not only very pretty, but make a lovely addition to a summer salad – see my post: Salad herbs and edible flowers on July 16th, 2016. The leaves make a lovely flavouring for syrups and sugars, perfect for livening up a fruit salad.
The plants aren’t hardy enough to survive outside without shelter and consistent good weather, so for convenience, in the summer months, they most often stay in my greenhouse, in pots. I bring them indoors once the temperature drops and the days get shorter in length.
Choose small to medium sized leaves, undamaged, and snip off the stalks. Rinse gently in water, then pat dry with kitchen paper, taking care not to bruise them, and making sure they are completely dry. Put 125g caster sugar into a small bowl and mix in the leaves, then transfer to a small clean, dry, sealable jar. Cover securely and label. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for about a month before using. Discard the leaves before serving. Ideal for sprinkling over berry fruits – especially raspberries and strawberries – pancakes and cakes. The sugar will keep for 3 to 4 months; the sugar will form clumps if condtions are damp.