Sticky toffee Christmas pudding (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Individual_sticky_toffee_Christmas_pudding
Sticky toffee Christmas pudding. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Just a few days to go before the festive feasts begin, and what could be more appropriate for my last post before Christmas, than a delicious alternative Christmas pudding. I do enjoy a traditional, steamed fruit pudding, but this year I fancied a change, and have developed an alternative recipe. This pudding is fruity, but a little wee bit lighter in texture, and with the emphasis on toffee flavour rather than spice; I guarantee, it is utterly divine 🙂

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Cherries, apricots, sultanas and currants. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe makes 2 x 250ml puddings, which I think serve between 2 and 4 people, depending on how large an appetite you have. If you prefer,  put the mixture in a 500ml basin and cook it for about an hour longer. I usually steam puddings in a slow cooker, this way I can forget about them and don’t end up with a steamy kitchen. If you prefer, put the puddings on a trivet, in a saucepan or in a steamer compartment, cover tightly with a lid, and then cook in the steam for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. You can use any combination of fruit (or nuts) you have to make up the weight in the ingredients list, it’s a great pudding to use up any odds and ends you have.

Makes 2 x 250ml puddings

Ingredients

  • 75g dried dates
  • 50g dairy-free margarine
  • 50g light Muscovado sugar
  • 50g silken tofu
  • 65g self-raising gluten-free flour
  • ½ teasp bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g mixed dried fruit

For the sauce:

  • 85g light Muscovado sugar
  • 30g dairy-free margarine
  • 110ml canned coconut milk
  • ½ teasp good quality vanilla extract
  1. Grease and flour 2 x 250ml pudding basins. Put the dates in a small saucepan with 75ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes until very soft. Beat well with a wooden spoon until smooth, then leave to cool completely.
  2. When you are ready to mix up the puddings, put the slow cooker on High and leave to preheat for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the margarine, sugar and tofu in a bowl. Add the cold date mixture and whisk everything together until smooth and creamy.

    Preparing_the_pudding_mixture
    Preparing the date mixture and blending the ingredients. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda on top. Add the fruit and gently mix all the ingredients together. Divide between the 2 basins and smooth the tops.

    2_china_basins_covered_with_parchment_and_foil
    Preparing the puddings for steaming. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Cover the puddings with a layer of baking parchment, and then foil, and tie securely with string. Put the basins in the slow cooker, side by side, pour in sufficient hot water to come halfway up the sides of the basins, cover and leave to cook for 2 hours. A skewer inserted into the centre of each pudding will come out clean when the puddings are ready.
  5. For the sauce, put the sugar, margarine and half the coconut milk in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together, then raise the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until richly golden and caramelised. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining coconut milk and vanilla extract.
    Making_dairy-free_vegan_toffee_sauce
    Making the toffee sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  6. When the puddings are ready, remove them from the slow cooker and leave them to stand for 5 minutes. Remove the wrappings and turn out on to warm serving plates. Pour over sauce and serve immediately.

    A_spoonful_of_sticky_toffee_Christmas_pudding
    Ready to eat, sticky toffee Christmas pudding. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    That just leaves me to pass on my very best wishes to you for a happy, healthy and enjoyable Christmas holiday. Happy festive feasting!

 

Rumbledethumps (gluten-free; dairy-free & vegan alternatives)

 

Dish_of_Scottish_classic_potatoes_and_kale_with_cheese_on_top
Freshly baked Rumbledethumps. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Great name for a recipe eh? What’s more, I haven’t made it up. This is a Scottish classic, and I’ve chosen to post it now for 2 reasons. It’s been very cold here this week and this is fabulous comfort food, and also with the festive season nearly upon us, it is an excellent recipe for using up leftovers. It uses 2 of my favourite vegetables, potatoes and kale (or cabbage).

I love kale. So much flavour and texture, I think it out-strips cabbage and other greens in every way. Up until a couple of years ago, Cavelo Nero, Italian black kale, was my favourite variety, but then along came mini kale and my mind was changed. Very quick to cook, simple to prepare, with a milder, slightly sweet and nutty flavour, it looks very pretty too. The small leaves are  also excellent raw in winter salads.

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Mini kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Heads of mini kale, up close. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So on with the recipe. Traditionally, this is a very simple combination of leftover cooked potatoes and cabbage fried with onion and then grilled with cheese on top. What’s not to like? The name, by the way, is believed to come from the combination of the “thumping” sound associated with mashing potato and the mixing together of the ingredients (a “rumble”). Here’s my version.

Serves: 3 to 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 150g mini kale, kale, cabbage or other greens (if you have leftovers, you’re halfway there with the recipe already)
  • 500g cooked potatoes (I had some boiled small potatoes with skins on to use up)
  • 25g butter or dairy-free margarine
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 leek, trimmed and shredded (or use thinly sliced onion if you prefer)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g grated Scottish Cheddar or dairy-free/vegan grated cheese
  1. If you are starting from scratch, prepare the greens and cook them in lightly salted water for 3-5 minutes until just tender. Drain well.
  2. Put the potatoes in a bowl and mash them to crush slightly.
  3. In a large frying pan, melt the butter with the oil and gently fry the leek for 3-4 minutes until softened (if you’re using onion, cook it gently for longer, until tender).
  4. Stir in the potatoes and greens, and stir fry the vegetables gently together for 5-6 minutes until thoroughly heated. Season well and transfer to a heatproof dish.

    Steps_to_making_Rumbledethumps
    Basic preparation of Rumbledethumps. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Preheat the grill to medium/hot. Sprinkle the vegetables with grated cheese and grill for about 5 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.
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Comfort with every spoonful. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Early December in the garden

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Blue-sky December day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As I sat down to write this post last night, we were awaiting the arrival of the first major storm of the season. Nothing has materialised overnight, but it is suddenly feeling much colder. There is a thick frost this morning, and it is bright and clear again, the wind has dropped, and all is calm.

On the whole, the first few days of the month have been quite kind to the gardeners amongst us here in central Scotland. Whilst the east coast did have more seasonal weather, we were blessed with several blue sky days, milder temperatures, and some glorious sun rises.

To be honest, I haven’t been outside much recently – work has kept me inside. The garden is looking a bit tired now, and ready for a rest. I cleared a lot of the autumn debris a couple of weeks ago and it’s beginning to look a bit bare in places. However, the evergreens provide shape and colour and look very vibrant on a fine day, and the Cotoneaster hedge is laden with berries, as it is every year.

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Berry-laden Cotoneaster hedge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The best value plants in the garden this year have been the carnations I planted last year – taken as cuttings from a birthday bouquet. They began flowering in August, and are still producing blooms at the moment. I’m sure the winter weather will get to them eventually, but the south-facing wall seems to be providing them with sufficient shelter to have kept them going this far into the year.

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Carnations enjoying the winter sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Elsewhere in the garden, the colours have faded. The Hydrangeas have taken on a beautiful “vintage” look, and the blooms of Echinops and white Japanese Anemones have left behind interesting seed-heads which are slowly weathering away.

Faded_colour_of_a_blue_Hygrangea_flower
Faded beauty: Blue Hydrangea. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
Seed-heads_of_Echinops_and_Japanese_Anemones
Globe thistle and Japanese Anemone seed heads. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The last of my garden features this month is this wee fellow, a perennial primrose. Just one solitary bloom at the moment, hidden away in a sheltered, damp part of the garden. A small flash of pale yellow which acts to remind me that spring will be here again in just a few weeks. Have a good week 🙂

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Perennial primrose. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Sesame shortbreads (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Home-made_sesame_shortbreads
Sesame shortbreads. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve had a busy few days with my work, and subsequently only had time for one quick baking session this week. I turned to an old favourite of mine, shortbread. Easy to make and lovely to eat, and open to so many variations. This time, I had a break with tradition and made a super rich seeded version and replaced some of the fat with tahini.

I often replace a portion of the flour in cakes and bakes with ground almonds, and, if I don’t have enough ready-ground, I blitz up my own in a coffee grinder. If you use the non-blanched almonds, you’ll find the ground meal gives a more earthy to your bakes.

Dish_of_tahini_and_bowl_of_ground_almonds
Sesame seed paste and home-made ground almonds. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

These tasty shortbreads have a soft, crumbly texture, and a rich, nutty flavour; they are delicious with a cup of coffee and keep well for a few days in an airtight tin. I find them impossible to resist. I’m away to eat the last one after I finish typing this!

Makes: 18

Ingredients

  • 150g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 65g icing sugar
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 25g toasted sesame seeds
  • 85g tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 50g very soft dairy-free margarine (or butter if you eat it)
  • 1 tbsp. each of chia seeds, toasted sesame seeds and Demerara sugar, mixed, for the topping
  1. Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds and toasted sesame seeds.
  2. Mix the tahini and margarine together until well blended, then stir into the dry ingredients until well mixed.
  3. Bring the ingredients together using your hands, then turn out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead gently to form a smooth dough. Divide into 18 portions and form each into a ball.
  4. Arrange on the baking tray, press down lightly to make chunky rounds and sprinkle lightly with the sugary seed mix. Chill for 30 minutes.

    Preparation_of_sesame_shortbread_biscuits
    Preparing sesame shortbreads. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven), gas 4. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Bake the shortbreads for about 25 minutes until lightly brown and crisp. Leave to cool on the tray.

    Serving_of_home-made_sesame_shortbreads
    Ready for eating, sesame shortbreads. Image: Kathryn Hawkins