Spring, glorious spring

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Snakeshead Fritillary under a blue spring sky. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It really was a glorious day today. After a few April showers this morning, it was a sunshiny blue-sky afternoon. It was very pleasant to take a stroll, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the sunshine. Out of the sun, it is still chilly, and the night-time temperature is low, but the spring flowers are at their best right now, and I couldn’t resist another post showing how the garden is looking at this very colourful and fragrant time of year. The scent from some of the flowers is intoxicating, I only wish there was some way of posting the aromatics as well as the images!

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Bold and brash, candy-striped tulips. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pale lemon Narcissus, each tiny stem has 4 very fragrant blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m in the throes of a very busy period with my work and subsequently, I have had little time to spend trying new recipes in the kitchen. I will have a recipe post ready for next week though, so in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the glorious multi-colours of my Scottish spring garden. See you next week.

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Pale pink rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Grape hyacinths (Muscari) by a privet hedge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Highly fragrant, double-blooming pink and magenta hyacinths. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Spiced roast chana & dal (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spiced roast chana and dal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A mix of roast pulses, nuts and seeds flavoured with warming spice is a tempting snack, a delicious sprinkle for soups and salads, and a great diversion if, like me, you are forever fighting a battle against a sweet-tooth.

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Ingredients ready for mixing and roasting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Easy to make, tasty and less fatty than the shop-bought mixes, this is my interpretation of the Asian snack, Bombay Mix. The bulk of the mix is made up of cooked chickpeas (chana) and green split lentils (dal). You can add any nut or seed, but choose the unsalted, natural varieties so that you can adjust the seasoning to suit your taste. I use Madras curry powder but garam masala is also a good blend to use. Here’s what to do:

Makes: 300g

Ingredients

  • 250g cooked chickpeas
  • 250g cooked green lentils
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 teasp Madras curry powder
  • 1 teasp salt
  • 65g pumpkin seeds
  • 65g sunflower seeds
  • 100g unsalted cashew nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan oven, gas 2) . Line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Dry the chickpeas and lentils thoroughly on kitchen paper.
  2. Transfer them to a large bowl and toss in the oil and curry powder. Spread evenly over the baking tray and bake for 1 hour, turning occasionally.
  3. Mix in the seeds and cashews, turning them well on the tray so that they become flavoured with the spices and oil. Spread out evenly again and put back in the oven to roast for a further 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until everything is golden and the pulses have dried out. Leave to cool on the tray.

    Drying_pulses;_roasting_pulses_and_roasting with nuts and seeds
    Drying, flavouring and roasting. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. When the mix is completely cold,  pack into an airtight container or storage jar, and keep in a cool, dry place. The mix should stay fresh for about 2 weeks, after this time, the pulses may begin to soften.

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    Storage jar of home-made “Bombay Mix”. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Rhubarb crumble and custard muffins (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Rhubarb crumble and custard muffin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For the first time in a while, I didn’t have a clump of rhubarb to put under a forcer pot back in January. I had transplanted all my rhubarb crowns to a new bed at the end of last year, and I decided that I would be sensible and let them recover and leave them to grow in the open for a harvest later in the year. Now, of course, I regret not having the lovely pink, tender stems to cook, but, never mind, I look forward to a home-grown harvest whenever it is ready. Actually, the clumps are doing very well, so I don’t think it will be too long before I get to pull my first stems of the year.

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April rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In the meantime, I bought some rhubarb from the local farm shop this week and baked up a batch of muffins. Serve them hot with extra stewed rhubarb and custard as a pudding, or enjoy them slightly warm for a spring-time breakfast or tea. Best eaten on the day they are made, although they will freeze, and can be reheated successfully in the microwave for a few seconds.

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Chopped fresh rhubarb ready for muffin making. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I made my own tulip-style paper cases, which make large “coffee shop” sized muffins. You will need 15cm squares of baking parchment and a jar or glass the same size as a muffin tin, and then it’s just a case of pressing the paper into the tins to make the case shape. If you prefer, divide the mixture between 12 ready-made paper muffin/cupcake cases and cook for slightly less time.

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Making tulip-style baking cases. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 7 large muffins (or 12 traditional size)

Ingredients

For the crumble top:

  • 85g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 2g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 55g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 55g caster sugar

For the muffin mix:

  • 225g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 8g arrowroot (optional, but I find it does help bind the ingredients together and gives a chewier texture)
  • 10g gluten-free baking powder
  • 115g caster sugar (or half caster and half vanilla sugar)
  • 60g dairy-free plain or coconut yogurt
  • 115g dairy-free margarine, melted
  • 150ml soya milk
  • 2 teasp good quality vanilla extract
  • 175g rhubarb, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 150ml free-from custard
  1. First make the crumble top. Put the flour and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the margarine until well blended. Stir in the sugar and mix until it all clumps together. Cover and chill until required.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6). Line a muffin tin with 7 large tulip-style paper cases or 12 traditional sized cases. For the muffin batter, sift the flour, arrowroot and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre.
  3. Mix the yogurt, melted margarine, non-dairy milk and vanilla extract together in a jug. Gradually pour into the dry ingredients, mixing well to blend everything together. Stir in the chopped rhubarb.
  4. Spoon half of the mixture equally between the paper cases, and spoon a dollop of custard on top, then cover the custard with the remaining muffin batter. Sprinkle the tops generously with the prepared crumble mixture.

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    Filling the muffin cases. Images: Kathryn Hawkins.
  5. Bake for about 35 minutes for large muffins, and 25-30 minutes for the smaller size. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Best served warm and eaten on day of baking.
    Freshly_baked_muffins_cooling_on_a_wire_rack
    Straight out of the oven. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    The recipe works well with chopped apple or pear (add a little cocoa powder to your custard for a chocolate filling), or you can add fresh small berries like raspberries, blueberries or cherries. Until next week…….happy cooking!

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Spring sprang, then winter returned….

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The blue star-shaped flowers of Chionadoxa. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

We had a lovely, blue-sky Easter weekend here in central Scotland; I was able to spend several hours working outside (without a coat!) and taking my images for this week’s post. However, come Easter Monday, the temperature dipped again,  it snowed, and just about everything I photographed disappeared under a layer of white slush.

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Chionadoxa in the snow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Spring flower bed. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I will never tire of these vibrant blue, star-shaped spring flowers. In the sun-light, they dazzle with vibrancy, and in the gloom, they take on an almost iridescent quality. They seem quite hardy and I can see that they haven’t been crushed by the weight of the snow.

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Chionadoxa and a Dog-tooth violets. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a marvellous year for crocus. I have never known so many come into flower. Apart from the ones I transplanted into a wooden barrel last year, there are small clumps all over the garden which seemed to  have appeared from nowhere. I think the Crocus fairies were busy planting when my back was turned.

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My barrel of mixed crocus, the white variety looked particularly stunning in the sunshine. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Shades of pink and purple Crocus planted by the fairies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Most of the spring flowers in my garden are shades of blue, yellow and white, but these tulips fellow are an exception. Always the first to flower, long before the rest of the tulips, and this year, ahead of the daffodils.

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Early dwarf tulips. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To round off my flowery post this week, I have a wonderful display of Hellebores again this year. They have been slow to open up, but are now in full bloom and glory. They are quite magnificent, and because they grow in the sheltered parts of the garden, they are not snow-bound 🙂 Have a good week.

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