Smoky Tomato Jam (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Homegrown early Autumn tomatoes. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

This is the time of year when I often get very busy with my work and have little time to spend in the garden or the kitchen (outside work hours). However, making preserves is something I try to find time for no matter what else needs to be done. There is so much produce around at the moment, practically begging to be put in the pot and made into jam or chutney, I can’t ignore it.

One of my most popular preserves is, thankfully, one of the easiest to make, so this weekend I got the large preserving pan out of the cupboard and set about cooking up this year’s first batch of Smoky Tomato Jam. It’s really a smooth chutney, but the texture lends itself better to being called jam. One of the best thing about this particular preserve is that it’s ready to be eaten immediately, as well as being a good “keeper”.

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Ingredients for tomato jam making. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 5 x 325ml jars

  • 700g fresh prepared ripe, but firm, tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 350g prepared red onion, roughly chopped
  • 550g prepared cooking apples, roughly chopped
  • 350ml red wine or cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large sprigs rosemary
  • 275g granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp each of salt, ground cumin and smoked paprika
  1. Put the tomatoes and onion in a food processor and blitz for a few seconds until well chopped and pulpy. Transfer to a large saucepan.
  2. Put the apples in the food processor with half the vinegar and blitz for a few seconds until well chopped. Transfer to the saucepan containing the tomato and onion mixture.
  3. Pour over the remaining vinegar and add the bay leaves and rosemary. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, and then simmer gently for 10 minutes until softened.
  4. Stir in the sugar over a low heat, until dissolved, then raise the heat and simmer steadily for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the consistency of thick jam. Turn off the heat, discard the herbs and stir in the salt and spices.
  5. Ladle into warm, sterilised jars and seal with non-corrosive lids. Allow to cool and store for 6-8 months in a cool, dark cupboard. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 2 weeks. Delicious with all cured meats, smoked fish, and cheese dishes.
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Jars of freshly made Smoky Tomato Jam. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Fresh turmeric root – how to grow

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Peeled, fresh turmeric root. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

A few weeks ago, a “foodie” friend came to stay. He lives in rural Yorkshire, and just before he left home to head north to Scotland, he was amazed to find fresh turmeric root in his local village shop.

I haven’t cooked with fresh turmeric since I left London, over 12 years ago, so to be gifted some of this wonderful root was a real treat. Turmeric is most usually used as a dry, yellow powder in a curry dish; it has a pleasant fragrant/pungent flavour, and gives a warm glow to whatever it is cooked with. Used fresh, it has the same qualities, but the flavour is more earthy, flowery and mellow. Take care when preparing, as it stains anything it comes into contact with. I peeled the root with a vegetable peeler and cooked a few strips with some Basmati rice (see below – it tasted delicious!). Realising how much I missed this fresh spice, I decided to try to grow the remaining  roots to see if I might have my own fresh supply in the future.

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Cooked Basmati rice with fresh turmeric. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Keeping in mind that I live in central Scotland, I wondered whether I might have trouble getting germination underway – I discovered that the roots need 20-30°C to get sprouting and I don’t have a heated greenhouse or a propagator. However, I believed that time was on my side: I was given the roots in June. Here’s how I went about it.

How_to_grow_turmeric_roots
Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Plant the roots, bud side uppermost, in loose, well draining, potting soil and cover with a layer of the same soil about 5cm deep. I wrapped the pots in fleece and them covered them with 3 plastic cloches. If you live in a warmer place, a plastic bag over the top of each pot would probably be sufficient. Keep the pots in full sun or partial shade. The pots need regular watering, and need a temperature range between 20 to 30°C to germinate.

So, all the above happened back in the middle of June. Finally, at the very end of August, I noticed 2 wee green shoots poking out 2 of the pots. Success! I have managed to germinate 2 out of the 5 roots I planted, and this is what they look like just now…….

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New shoots of fresh turmeric. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

As Autumn is on the way, the days are shortening, and the nights are getting cooler, I will have to bring them indoors and try to keep them alive throughout a Scottish winter – apparently it doesn’t survive below 9°C. Fingers crossed….I’ll keep you posted.

In a bit of a pickle

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Homegrown cucumbers. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

For several years now, I have been a successful cucumber grower. So much so, that even though I reduce the amount of plants I raise each year, I always end up with a glut. Whilst I enjoy eating cucumber raw in salads, and they are very good lightly cooked in a stir fry, I have been at a loss as to what else to do with them.

Whilst leafing through an old cookery book for inspiration, I came across an intriguing recipe called Bread and Butter pickle. The name drew me in, and to my delight, it is a real gem. It is one of the best pickles I have ever made, and so easy to make. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Makes 5 x 325ml jars

  • 1kg prepared cucumbers, chopped into 1.5cm pieces
  • 250g prepared red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • 550ml white wine vinegar
  • 175g granulated sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp each of mustard seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds, coarsely ground
  1. Mix the cucumber, red onion and salt together in a large, clean, china or glass bowl. Leave to stand at room temperature, lightly covered, for 1 hour.
  2. Drain the vegetables in a fine-holed colander or strainer. Rinse very well in cold running water, then dry very well on absorbent kitchen paper. Pack into 5 x 325ml sterilised jam jars.

    Preparation_of _vegetables_for_cucumber_pickle
    Preparation of vegetables for Bread and Butter Pickle. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Put the vinegar in a saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.
  4. Pour the hot vinegar over the vegetables, making sure they are completely covered. Seal tightly with non corrosive, screw-top lids. Leave to cool, then label, and store in a cool, dry place for at least 3 months before opening. Delicious served with smoked fish or cold cuts. I spoon the pickle over chilli beef tacos – delicious!

    Homegrown_cucumber_pickle
    Homemade cucumber pickle. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

My garden in September

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Globe thistles in early September sunlight. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

So another month has passed, and now we are heading towards a season change. We have had some wild winds and heavy rains, on and off, this last month, but everything is just about standing. The Echinops (Globe thistles) are looking magnificent just now.

Much of my garden is in shades of blue and pink, but the greenery is still lush and the trees are barely turning. One obvious sign of Autumn are the mauve crocus that appear without any leaves (the foliage comes afterwards). They are quite delicate and aren’t in flower for very long. They thrive in shady areas and are quite easy to miss, usually hiding under shrubbery. These, however, are blooming, bold as brass, on the corner of one of the borders.

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Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) in full bloom. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Throughout the year, different heathers come into flower, but from late Summer going into Autumn, I think the heathers are at their finest. I have many varieties growing around the garden, ranging in shade from bright white and the palest pink, to deep pink and red.

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Autumn flowering heathers in my Perthshire garden. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

One last plant that I am particularly proud of is my Himalayan Hydrangea. I planted it about 10 years ago and it is now very well established; this year is has flowered particularly well. I love the flowers of this variety (Lacecap); the larger petals look like pink butterflies perching on top of tiny mauve flower heads.

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Himalayan Hydrangea (Hygrangea macrophylla lacecap). Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins