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!
Peas are one of my favourite vegetables. When they’re not in season, I always have a bag in the freezer; they are my “go to” emergency vegetable.
The filling for these pastries is very versatile. You can use it as a dip, spread it thickly on warm toasted bread or, it makes a lovely fresh filling for wraps or sandwiches with some crisp green leaves and cooked chicken. Make your own pesto if you have time, it really does make all the difference.
Gluten-free plain flour, for dusting
400g block ready-made gluten-free puff pastry (such as Silly Yak)
225g cooked peas, mashed with a fork or potato masher
50g fresh pesto sauce (recipe below)
1 medium egg
100ml whole milk or soya milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas mark 6). Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the pastry to make 30cm square. Cut out 9 x 10cm rounds using a pastry cutter.
Mix the peas and pesto sauce together and pile a spoonful in the centre of each round. Pinch the edges of the pastry round the pea filling to make a tartlet shape. Transfer to the baking tray.
Mix the egg and milk together and season well. Carefully pour a little over the top of the pea mixture. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until lightly golden. Best served warm.
To make your own pesto sauce: in a blender or food processor, blitz together 125g pine nuts (kernels), 2 peeled garlic cloves, 60g freshly grated Parmesan cheese , 15g fresh basil leaves, pinch of salt and 90ml good quality olive oil. Unused pesto sauce will keep in the fridge, in a sealed container for up to 1 week. Homemade pesto sauce is also suitable for freezing.
One of the culinary terms that has stuck with me since my cookery classes at school, is the word”confetti”. Whether it is actually a technical term doesn’t really matter; it is one of those quirky, self-explanatory meanings that has lived with me for years. It aptly describes a combination of finely chopped fruit or vegetables, and I think it is very appropriate.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a Summer cookery feature for one of the magazines I freelance for; I included a “confetti” salad of finely chopped vegetables. It looked bright and tasted great; it did take a bit of time chopping everything up small, it looked spectacular.
I’m less inclined to eat a raw vegetable salad during the colder months of the year, so I have taken the same combination of vegetables and started baking them in the oven. Serve the vegetables as a side dish on their own or mix them into freshly cooked pasta. I like them stirred into freshly cooked basmati rice and served sprinkled with roasted cashew nuts. Here’s the (very easy) recipe:
Makes 8 servings
1 each red, yellow and green (capsicum) peppers
150g red cabbage
1 red onion
6 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 6). Line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Halve, deseed and finely chop the peppers and put in a large bowl.
Trim and chop the radish. Peel and finely chop the carrots. Shred and chop the cabbage. Mix them all into the peppers.
Peel and finely chop the onion, then toss into the other vegetables along with the olive oil and garlic.
Spread the vegetables evenly over the lined baking tray and season well. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes, turning occasionally, until tender. Drain well and serve.
Breakfast is the one meal of the day that I am more choosy about than any other. I rarely have the same thing 2 days running, and often can’t face breakfast at all. At present, I am alternating between gluten-free toast, fresh fruit and coconut yogurt, and my own recipe, granola.
I turned to making my own granola after finding most ready-made combinations either too sweet or so hard and dry that they were more tortuous to eat than enjoyable. This granola recipe is easy to make and is much tastier than anything I can buy, plus you can chop and change the flavourings to suit your taste and whatever you have in the cupboard. If you like dried fruit in your granola, it is better to stir it into to the tray of still warm, cooked ingredients once the tray is of the oven – this helps to keep the fruit soft and stops it drying out and hardening in the oven.
Makes 8 servings
175g thick milled or jumbo oats
1/2 tsp salt
50g coconut sugar or light brown sugar
50g flaked coconut
3 tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla paste
Preheat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan oven, gas mark 2). Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
Put the oats, salt and sugar in a large bowl and toss in the coconut, coconut oil and vanilla paste. Mix well until well coated in oil.
Spread the mixture evenly across the tray. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring 3 times during baking, until lightly toasted. Leave to cool on the tray.
Transfer to a clean storage jar and seal well. Delicious served with coconut rice milk and fresh berry fruits or sliced banana.
If I have them, I often add pecan pieces, flaked almonds or pumpkin seeds for extra crunch.
The pears I picked a couple of weeks ago are fully ripe now. Most usually, I enjoy them fresh, peeled or unpeeled; occasionally I use a few in cooking. One of my quick “comfort” desserts is to chop pears and mix them with grated marzipan to use as a filling for a gluten-free puff pastry jalousie or plait. Quite delicious.
Today, I’m sharing a recipe for what I call a “proper cake”. In other words, a dense textured cake, neither spongy nor light, but something substantial, and just right for this time of year. Keep it for at least a day after baking to allow the fruit juices to soak into the cake and for the flavours to develop. I use coconut oil and coconut milk a lot in my cookery because I love the flavour; but in this recipe it isn’t noticeable by taste, it simply adds to the richness of the texture. Use another vegetable oil or vegan margarine if you prefer, and a nut, rice or soya milk will work fine as an alternative to coconut milk.
Serves: 6 to 8
75g coconut oil
75g light brown sugar
75g golden syrup
6 tbsp canned coconut milk
150g gluten-free, self raising flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
2 tbsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground allspice
4 small pears
Juice ½ lemon
Preheat the oven 170°C (150°C fan oven, gas mark 3). Grease and line a deep, 12cm round cake tine. Put the oil, sugar, syrup and treacle in a saucepan and heat very gently, until melted together. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut milk. Cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, sift the flour and spices into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
Thinly peel the pears, leaving them whole. Trim away a small slice from the base of each so that they sit upright, and arrange in the cake tin. Brush all over with lemon juice.
Pour the melted ingredients into the spiced flour and mix together to form a thick, smooth batter. Carefully pour into the tin.
Cover the tops of the pears with small pieces of foil to prevent burning. Put the cake tin on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 1 hour 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Discard the foil and leave the cake to cool in the tin completely.
Remove from the tin. Wrap in foil and store in a cool place for 24 hours to allow the texture and flavours to develop. Enjoy cold as a cake or, warm slightly and serve as a pudding with dairy free custard.
This time last month, I was wondering what I would be sharing with you in November. But having had an unseasonally mild October, with no high winds or frosts, we are being treated to a magnificent Autumn, here in central Scotland. As I type this, I am looking out on to the copper beech in the front garden which is a blazing coppery-orange in the setting sun.
All around this part of the country, trees form the backdrop of the scenery. Autumn is a time for getting out of doors and celebrating the glories of natural colour. I’m fortunate in the fact that I don’t have to travel very far to experience this, my garden is alive with different shades of foliage, and even a few flowers.
Back in the Summer, I shared my white Hydrangea flowers in a post. The plant is still producing, and now as a bonus, the foliage is starting to turn wonderful shades of blue and purple; I thought it was worth another outing.
I’ll draw this piece to a close (the light is rapidly fading outside) with a splash of colour from one of my favourite garden plants, the nasturtium. This variety is called Empress of India and the leaves are a blue-green when they first open, and the flowers a deep red. It’s been blossoming for a few weeks now and has gone a bit “blousy”, but still offers an eye-catching display at the front of the house. I wonder what I’ll be posting next month; fingers crossed the garden’s not covered in a pile of the white stuff……