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!
A short post this week, but I wanted to publish a recipe to celebrate Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, whose anniversary falls on January 25th each year. These cute, haggis-shaped sweet treats are a version of my Chocolate Haggis for a Burns Night supper (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) recipe from last year. You can mix and match ingredients according to the bits and pieces you have to hand. If you don’t like marzipan, use ivory or cream coloured fondant icing instead.
50g unsalted butter or coconut oil
50g heather honey or golden syrup
75g free-from dark chocolate, broken into pieces
75g free-from oatcakes, finely crushed
40g toasted fine oatmeal
50g toasted flaked almonds, crushed
Icing sugar to dust
400g natural marzipan
Put the butter (coconut oil) and honey (golden syrup) in a saucepan with the chocolate, and heat very gently, stirring, until melted.
Remove from the heat and stir in the crushed oatcakes, oatmeal, currants and almonds. Mix well until thoroughly combined. Leave to cool, then chill for about 30 minutes until firm enough to form into portions.
Divide the mixture into 16 and form each into an oval-shaped sausage. Chill for 30 minutes until firm.
Divide the marzipan into 16 and flatten each into a round – use a little icing sugar if the marzipan is sticky. Wrap a disc of marzipan around each chocolate oat cluster; press the edges to seal and then twist the ends to make a haggis shape.
Store the mini haggis at a cool room temperature until ready to eat. The marzipan will become sticky if refrigerated. Best enjoyed with coffee and a wee dram. Until next week, I raise a glass to you all and say “Slàinte!” – to your good health 🙂
When it comes to the winter months of the year, trying to buy only home-grown, British vegetables (as is my want) can be quite challenging especially if you desire something other than starchy root crops. In my opinion, the humble cauliflower reigns supreme at this time of year as it is a welcome diversion in flavour, taste and texture.
However, my thoughts haven’t always been so positive towards the cauliflower. At school, cauliflower was boiled beyond all recognition and served as a watery, soft mush – enough to put anyone off the vegetable for life. Yet, today, it is one of the “on trend” vegetables. If you cook it correctly, cauliflower has a meaty texture, sweet flavour, and best of all, it can be cooked in many ways. It’s full of vitamin C and K, as well as B vitamins and dietary fibre. Easy to prepare, you can eat just about all of it from the inner the cream-coloured curds to the outer wrapping of juicy leaves.
The leaves help protect the curds, so try to buy the vegetable with as much greenery as possible. If you want to store cauliflower for a few days, keep the leaves intact and place the stalk-end in a shallow depth of water in a bowl, in the fridge, and the cauliflower should keep fresh for up to a week.
To prepare, discard any damaged outer leaves, but keep the inner, more tender leaves – these can be cooked like cabbage. Once the curds are free from leaves, slice or break the head into florets. Prepared cauliflower florets dehydrate quickly so are best cooked soon after preparation.
I rarely cook cauliflower in water, but if I do, it is for a very short time only – the curds can get very spongy very quickly when cooked in water, and the flavour will be lost.
Following are my current 3 favourite ways of cooking cauliflower for maximum taste and texture: roasting, griddled steaks and stir-fried sprouting stems.
Toss chunky florets of cauliflower and thickly sliced red onion in sunflower oil. Season with garam masala to taste. Spread out on a baking tray, season with salt and pepper and roast at 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6) for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Mix in cooked chick peas and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes until everything is lightly browned. Drain well, then serve sprinkled with black onion seeds. For a main meal, mix into freshly cooked Basmati rice and sprinkle with fresh coriander and roasted cashew nuts.
Probably the most popular way to serve cauliflower at the moment is as a steak. I usually cut the prepared curds into 2cm thick slices and poach them in simmering water for a couple of minutes before frying or placing on a griddle or barbecue – a large frying pan is good for poaching as it enables you to lift out the steaks more easily. Use tongs to make sure you drain the steaks well, and dry them on kitchen paper so that excess cooking water is removed before cooking in oil.
Brush the prepared cauliflower steaks lightly with vegetable oil on one side. Heat a griddle pan or frying pan until very hot, then add the streaks, oiled-side down. Press into the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden or lightly charred. Brush the top with more oil, and turn the steaks over. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes or until cooked to you liking. Serve straight from the pan drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic glaze or reduction, and toasted pine nuts. Top with griddled cherry vine tomatoes and fresh basil.
One of the new kids on the block in the cauliflower world, is a variety with fine green stems and small, flowery curds. I was a bit sceptical when I first saw it (mainly because of the price), but I have since been converted. The stems are best cooked for a minimum time, just as you would for asparagus – steamed, griddled or stir fried – in order to retain the crisp texture. Unusually, the stems become even brighter green when cooked. The flavour is mild and sweet. To make sure the stems cook evenly, break or cut the stems up so that you have same-size thickness pieces.
You can keep these stems in a jug of water in the fridge for a couple of days to keep them fresh, as they do lose texture quickly. These sweet stems are a perfect choice for a single serving or to add to a combination of other vegetables.
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a deep-frying pan or wok until hot. Add prepared raw stems and stir fry in the hot oil for 3 minutes. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and cook for a further 1 minute. Turn off the heat, add finely chopped garlic to taste and drizzle with a little honey or agave syrup and gluten-free teriyaki marinade. Put the lid back on and leave to stand in the residual steam for a further minute. Drain the stems, reserving the juices, and pile into a warm serving bowl. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Mix a little sesame oil into the pan juices and serve alongside the stems as a dressing or dip. Utterly delicious 🙂
I had planned that my first recipe post of the year would be a recipe bursting with nutrition and vitality – new year, fresh start, etc. However, it’s been so cold these past few days, when it came to it, I simply couldn’t face anything too healthy. Instead, I’ve been in the kitchen keeping warm by baking, and thus, my first recipe of 2018 is one of my favourite cakes.
I took this shot of the garden from an open window about 9am yesterday morning, just as the sun was rising. The image below is the window adjacent to the one I opened – the beautiful ice pattern is on the inside!
So, in my books, cold weather is enough justification for cake, and I start my new year blog posts with one of my “desert island” cakes: a coffee one.
I’ve been using a heritage brand of coffee and chicory essence as a coffee flavouring in baking for as long as I can remember. It was our “turn to” flavouring long before decent barista-style instant coffee and espresso shots came to British shores. Sadly, the glass bottle packaging of old has been replaced by a plastic version (making it look less authentic), but the old-fashioned label is practically unchanged in design and the product within tastes just as good as always. I haven’t found anything that comes close to the concentrated flavour it offers in baking. In summer, I use it to make a base for a deliciously smooth and well-rounded iced coffee, ice-creams and chilled custards.
The sweet, nutty flavour of pecans goes particularly well with coffee. You can use walnuts if you prefer, but I find them a bit overpowering if you really want the taste of coffee to dominate your bake. For this recipe, grind up some of the pecans very finely to make a “flour” for a better formed cake crumb, and then add the remainder as finely chopped pieces for extra nutty texture. I add a little arrowroot to help bind the mixture but you can leave it out if you prefer. I hope you enjoy the flavours as much as I do 🙂
225g pecan halves
125g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
2 level teaspoons gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
175g light brown soft sugar
3 large eggs (or, for a vegan cake, use 180g silken tofu)
175ml sunflower oil
4 tsp Camp coffee essence or similar
50g Demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. Put 125g pecans in a blender or food processor and blitz until very finely ground. Chop the remaining pecan nuts finely.
Sift the flour and arrowroot into a bowl and stir in both lots of pecans along with the sugar. Beat the eggs (or tofu) with the oil until well blended, and then thoroughly mix into the dry ingredients.
Transfer to the prepared tin. Smooth the top and put the tin on a baking tray. Scatter the top of the cake with the Demerara sugar. Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes until risen, lightly cracked, and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when the cake is cooked. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap and store for 24 hours for better flavour and texture.
Happy new year to you all. My very best wishes to my blogging friends for a happy, healthy and peaceful year ahead.
It’s been a quiet start to the year. After a milder, rain-soaked, grey morning, the afternoon brought with it much calmer and brighter weather, with a glorious blue sky, sunshine, and crisp, fresh air.
Enjoy the rest of the holiday. I look forward to starting my regular posts again soon 🙂