Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For me, one of the signs that Spring is on its way is the first harvest of my forced rhubarb. I love the rich colour of the stalks, their tenderness when cooked and the mild astringent, tartness of flavour that really packs a punch on the palate. Sadly, my rhubarb is not ready for picking just yet as you can see below, but I couldn’t resist the fresh stalks I saw in the local farm shop this week.

My homegrown forced rhubarb in late February. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
Spring rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of my favourite pairings with rhubarb is raspberry. Whilst it seems like a long time ago I had raspberries ripening in the garden, I have a few packs in the freezer, and this recipe is the perfect opportunity to delve into my supplies.

I love the name of this dish. I assume it comes from the hybridisation of the pudding called “slump” and the one called “crumble”. The recipe works fine with any cooked fruit baked underneath the glorious, melt-in-the-mouth topping. The custard is a recent addition to my recipe and brings an extra spoonful of comfort at this time of the year.

Last years homegrown raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 6

  • 350g fresh rhubarb, trimmed
  • 50g vanilla sugar (or you can use plain caster if you prefer)
  • 175g frozen raspberries
  • 115g dairy free margarine (or butter if you eat it), very soft
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend (I use Doves Farm)
  • 5ml good quality vanilla extract
  • 500ml gluten-free, dairy-free custard
  1. Trim the rhubarb and cut into 5cm lengths. If you have thin and wider stalks, cut the stalks down so that they are all roughly the same width – this helps the rhubarb cook more evenly.
  2. Arrange neatly in a large, lidded shallow pan. Spoon over 2 tbsp water and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar. Heat until steaming, then cover with the lid and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes until just tender but still holding shape.
  3. Remove from the heat, sprinkle the frozen raspberries on top and leave to cool completely. Transfer to an ovenproof baking dish, about 1.2l capacity. If the fruit is very juicy, drain off a few spoonfuls and keep as a separate serving syrup.

    Rhubarb and raspberries, a winning combination. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. For the topping, put the margarine (or butter) in a bowl and beat in the caster sugar until smooth and creamy. Mix in the flour and vanilla to make a lumpy, sticky mixture, resembling a soft cookie dough. Cover and chill for 30 minutes until firm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas mark 6). Spoon over about half of the custard in small dollops. Break up the chilled topping into clumps and scatter over the top, covering the fruit and custard as much as possible. Stand the dish on a baking tray and bake for about 35 minutes until lightly golden, bubbling and the topping has merged together. Serve hot or warm with the remaining custard and the fruit syrup.
    With custard; with topping, and the freshly baked crump. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    A spoonful of comfort: hot crump pudding. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Gluten-free rough puff pastry (with dairy-free & vegan variation)

Freshly baked gluten-free vol au vent cases. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the foodie joys I miss most by not eating wheat is the crisp, golden, flaky, melt-in-the-mouth bite of real puff pastry. Whilst I’m not about to claim that the following recipe comes close to the original, it does make a crisp, flavoursome alternative that makes a crunchy base for a tart or a handsome topping for a pie. It’s good with sweet or savoury flavours. I use half white vegetable fat and half butter for my taste, but you can substitute the butter for a vegetable based block margarine if you’re dairy free or vegan – butter or margarine adds colour as well as flavour so using all white fat will give a different result. Tapioca flour is often part of a gluten-free blend but adding a little extra to the mix helps give a more stretchy texture to the dough which helps in the layering process.

I remember that rough puff pastry was one of the first “fancy” pastries I made at school, and I’ve been making it ever since. A favourite because it starts off as one hell of a messy mixture, but by the end of all the rolling and folding, you end up with a silky smooth, perfect block of pastry. Even with wheat flour, the rise isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot easier to work the fat into gluten-free flour using the “rough puff” method than with any other method I have tried. It does take a bit of time, but if you fancy the challenge, why not give it a go?

Makes: approx. 550g

  • 65g cornflour
  • 65g tapioca flour
  • 120g gluten-free plain flour blend + extra for dusting (I use Dove’s Farm)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 75g unsalted butter or non-dairy, vegetable margarine, chilled
  • 75g white vegetable fat (I use Trex), chilled
  • 150ml cold water
  1. Put the 3 flours in a large mixing bowl with the salt and mix together until well blended.
  2. Cut the butter or margarine and white vegetable fat into small pieces and stir into the flour, coating each piece of fat in flour.
  3. Gradually stir in the water until the mixture comes together to make a soft, very lumpy  dough.Then turn turn out on to a lightly floured work surface and work the dough into a flat, roughly rectangular, shape.
    Step 1: making the pastry dough. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Step 2: rolling and folding the pastry dough. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Now the rolling and folding begins. The aim is to consistently roll out the pastry to the same dimensions, and then to fold it, turn it and seal it in the same way each time; this is how the pastry layers get constructed. My rolling pin is 35cm long and is the perfect length guide for rolling out the pastry to consistently the same length. Roll out the pastry to approximately this length, with a width about 12cm.
  5. Fold the top one third of the pastry down and the bottom one third up and over the top pastry; twist the pastry round so that the open edge is facing to the right, and gently press the 3 open edges of the pastry together with the rolling pin (see middle image of slide below).
  6. Repeat this rolling, folding, turning and sealing 3 more times and then chill the pastry for 30 minutes. The mixture will be very sticky but try to refrain from dusting with too much flour as this will dry the texture of the pastry.
  7. After the chill time, repeat the rolling, folding, turning and sealing another 3 times, working the pastry each time in the same direction. You should now begin to feel that the fat is more blended into the flour. Chill the pastry for a further 30 minutes.
  8. Now you’re on the home-stretch. Repeat the process 3 more times and you should see that the fat pieces have practically disappeared. Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour before using. From start to finish, you should aim to roll and fold the pastry 10 times.
    Progression of the dough, from the rough to the smooth. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Unless I have lots of baking to do, I usually cut the pastry in half or quarters and wrap for freezing. It cooks perfectly after freezing and means that you have a back up supply for future use. You’re now ready to use the pastry as per your recipe.

    Homemade gluten-free rough puff pastry. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You will need to dust the work surface with extra gluten-free flour and put some on your rolling pin too. It is tricky to roll the pastry very thinly, so I usually stop trying at 1/2 cm. For thicker crusts (like vol-au-vents), 1cm gives a good rise. When rolling up, say for palmiers or arlette, you will notice the pastry cracks quite easily. After chilling and wrapping the roll in baking parchment, it is possible to smooth out some of the cracks before slicing and baking – recipes to follow in future posts.

I usually bake the pastry at 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas mark 6), and most things benefit with a light protein-based glaze (milk or egg depending on your diet). I have found that exposed edges of the pastry do bake quite hard after cooking, so if you’re making a turnover or roll, you may want to wrap the pastry round the filling entirely so that the pastry forms a seam rather than a flat, sealed edge.

The finished result is crisp and flaky, with good flavour, and if you do the rolling and folding correctly, you should get plenty of layers.

Crisp, baked gluten-free pastry. Image: Kathryn Hawkins



Chocolate tart (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Chocolate tart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Only a few days ago, in my last post, I had the feeling that spring was on its way. But only one day later, down came the snow once again. In fact, as I go to post this piece, it’s very white outside.  At times of despair, a “cheer-me-up” pudding is called for to help me get through the rest of this dreary month, and what comes to mind most naturally? Chocolate, of course!

This is a simple recipe with only a few ingredients. I don’t usually buy out of season fruit, but I made an exception this week and bought some rather delicious looking strawberries. Best of all, they tasted pretty good too. Of course you can top your dessert with any fruit you fancy, or simply leave it plain. I also added a sprinkle of my favourite toasted raw coconut flakes on top, just before serving. Depending on your chocolate taste-buds, use however much of the darker variety you prefer. Enjoy!

Serves: 8-10

  • 140g plain gluten-free, dairy-free granola, finely crushed
  • 50g coconut oil
  • 200ml canned coconut milk
  • 200g dairy free plain chocolate
  • 100g 90% cocoa extra dark chocolate
  • 1 to 2 tsp good quality vanilla bean paste
  • Fresh fruit and toasted coconut, optional, to serve
  1. Grease and line an 18cm spring-form cake tin. Put the granola in a bowl. Melt the coconut oil and mix into the granola until well incorporated.
  2. Press into the bottom of the tin using the back of a spoon and chill whilst preparing the chocolate layer.
  3. Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan. Break up the chocolate and add to the pan. Place over a very low heat, and stir occasionally until melted. Cool for 10 minutes, stir in vanilla paste to taste and then pour over the granola base. Leave to cool, and then chill for about an hour until firm.
  4. Carefully release from the tin. Peel away the lining paper and transfer to a serving plate. Top with fruit and coconut if using.
Finished with a coconut topping. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
One slice is never enough. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

February in a Scottish garden

Frosty mornings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Frost and fog have been the order of the day since my last out-of-doors post. Without doubt, February is my worst month of the year. To me, it’s neither one season nor the other, and I am longing for Spring. Many plants that seemed so advanced back in December, have slowed down recently, and my hopes for an early end to Winter have been thwarted.

On a positive note, the afternoons are getting noticeably  lighter as the days begin to draw out, and, the snowdrops are beginning to bloom at last. I hadn’t given much thought to this well-known, delicate little flower until I moved to Scotland. Snowdrops grow every where in the countryside around me: from the sides of the roads to carpets in the forests, and in the most modest of gardens to the landscaped grounds of castles and palaces, they certainly feel at home here. I have small clumps growing in different areas all over the garden; none have been planted, they come back naturally year after year.

Early February snowdrops. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Other bulbs are greening up, and most shrubs are in tight bud; I am hoping they will open up in the next two to three weeks. I have are a few heathers in bloom here and there, adding splashes of pink amongst the green shoots.

The weather has just turned milder these past couple of days, which means (fingers crossed) that the garden will spring into action once more. Until next month………..

February pink heathers and rhododendron buds. Images: Kathryn Hawkins