Persian-style sour cherry rice (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Persian-style sour cherry rice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

All the fabulous sunshine we’ve been having has done wonders for the fruit this year in the garden, although it has meant a lot of watering.

I picked my precious harvest of Morello cherries last weekend. I had had the tree netted for several weeks and successfully managed to fend off the birds. One small espalier tree produced just under one kilo of cherries 🙂

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Home-grown Morello cherries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

So what to do with such a precious harvest. Decisions, decisions. Last year I made my usual compote and with the remainder I made cherry jam. Sadly, I over-cooked the mixture and ended up with cherry toffee! This year, I was determined not to be so fool-hardy. I got my old-fashioned cookery books out and bottled a jar for a treat later in the year. With the rest, I made this rice dish, based on the Iranian recipe for Alo-balo polo or sour cherry rice. Traditionally chicken is added and the dish is served at a celebration. I made my meat-free version to serve as a side dish. It is only mildly spiced so will go with anything.

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Fragrant spices for cooking with basmati rice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Bowl of home-grown Morellos ready for pitting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I appreciate that not everyone will have access to fresh Morello cherries, but dried sour cherries are readily available, and cranberries will work well as an alternative. Just stir dried cherries or cranberries into the rice towards the end of cooking time – use about 150g dried. If you have fresh or frozen cranberries, you can follow the recipe below exactly, using 250g berries.

Serves: 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 250g basmati rice
  • Generous pinch of saffron strands
  • 300g fresh whole sour cherries
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
  • Handful of chopped pistachio nuts
  1. Put the rice in a bowl  and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 2 hours, then drain and rinse well. Meanwhile, put the saffron in a small bowl and spoon over 1 tbsp. very hot water. Leave to infuse and cool.
  2. Stone the cherries and place in a saucepan with the sugar. Heat gently, stirring carefully, until the sugar dissolves, then bring to simmering point and cook gently for 2-3 minutes until tender and juicy. Leave to cool.
  3. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the salt, and gradually sprinkle in the rice so as to keep the water boiling. Cook in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes until slightly opaque, then drain, rinse well and shake off the excess water.
  4. Divide the rice equally between 2 saucepans. Stir the saffron water into one portion and level off the surface of the rice. Mix the cardamoms and cinnamon into the other and level off the surface. With the end of a wooden spoon, make indents in the rice and drizzle 1 tbsp. oil into each saucepan.

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    Preparing saffron and spiced basmati rice for steaming. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Cover each with a layer of foil across the top of the saucepan; put the lid on top, and cook over a very low heat, undisturbed, for 30 minutes. After this time the grains of rice will be tender and slightly crisp on the bottom of the saucepan. Fork through the rice in each saucepan to mix well. Discard the spices.
  6. While the rice is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion, covered, for about 15 minutes until very tender.
  7. To serve, drain the cherries, reserving the juice, and mix the cherries into the spiced rice along with the onion. Pile into a warmed serving dish. Spoon the saffron rice on top and gently mix the two rices together. Sprinkle with pistachio nuts and serve immediately with the cherry juice to pour over – reheat this if preferred.
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    Ready to serve, Persian-style sour cherry rice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
    Pair_of_ripe_Morello_cherries_on_stalks_with_leaf
    Freshly picked home-grown Morello cherries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

Fresh raspberry jellies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Fresh raspberry jellies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s peak raspberry season here in central Scotland, and the juicy red fruits are coming thick and fast. I have bags of berries in the freezer already for jam making later on in the year, but right now, I’m enjoying them cooked in a compote with rhubarb on my breakfast granola and as an occasional treat in a fruity dessert. Fresh_Scottish_raspberries_growing_on_bushes

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Ripe and ready for picking, home-grown Glen Ample raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe this week takes me back to my childhood. We often had jelly for dessert as kids. Using fresh fruit takes a bit of effort but the flavour can’t be beaten. The variety of raspberries I grow are called Glen Ample. They are ideal for cooking because they are very juicy and flavoursome, but they do lack sweetness when eaten fresh. You may need to alter the amount of sugar and water in the recipe if you have a different variety.

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Freshly picked and ready for cooking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To set jellies, I use the Dr Oetker product ‘Vege-Gel’, which is a gelling powder made from Carrageenan. It gives a lovely silky, smooth soft texture. You’ll need to alter the preparation instructions if you prefer to use another setting agent.

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Free-from home-made raspberry jelly. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To finish the jellies off, I made a free-from white ‘chocolate’ and coconut ganache to top the jellies for an extra special indulgence. Use dark chocolate if you prefer something less sweet.

Makes: 4

Ingredients

  • 450g fresh raspberries
  • 100g caster sugar (or amount to taste)
  • 6.5g sachet Vege-Gel (Dr Oetker)
  • 100g free-from white ‘chocolate’
  • 50g dairy-free coconut milk yogurt
  • Fresh raspberries and raspberry leaves to decorate
  1. Rinse the raspberries and shake off the excess water. Put in a saucepan with the sugar and 75ml water. Heat gently, stirring occasionally and carefully, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes without stirring. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Place a nylon sieve over a heatproof jug and strain the raspberry mixture through. Leave to cool completely then discard the pulp. Try to avoid squeezing the raspberry mixture in the sieve as this will make the jelly cloudy.
  3. Pour 200ml cold water into a bowl and sprinkle over the Vege-Gel powder. Whisk until completely dissolved. Pour into a saucepan and add the raspberry juice. Heat the mixture to boiling point and then leave to cool for about 30 minutes. As the liquid cools, the mixture begins to set, so keep an eye on it to avoid it setting completely in the saucepan.

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    Making vegan raspberry jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Divide the mixture between tumblers or heatproof glasses – the glasses need to be at least 150ml capacity. Leave to cool completely, then chill for an hour until firm.

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    Making free-from white chocolate ganache. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. For the topping, melt the free-from chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then stir in the yogurt. Spoon on top of each jelly and return to the fridge for a further hour to set. Decorate, serve and enjoy 🙂

    Single_serving_of_vegan_fresh_raspberry_jelly
    Free-from fresh raspberry jelly with white ‘chocolate’ ganache-style topping. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Broad bean byessar & fresh thyme za’atar (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Broad bean byessar served with fresh thyme za’atar on flat breads, with carrots and black olives. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a great time of year for fresh fruit and vegetables. The first of the home-grown beans, broad beans, have arrived in the shops these past couple of weeks, and I have made one of my favourite dips with my first batch. If you like hummus (houmous), you’ll love byessar. Usually made with dried broad beans (fava beans), I prefer to make my version with fresh when the beans are in season, or frozen, at other times of the year.

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Fresh broad beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To accompany the dip, I have made up a batch of za’atar (zaatar or zahtar), a blend of thyme, sesame seeds and sumac powder. This is a traditional blend from the Middle East and it is used as a seasoning for lots of meat dishes; it is sprinkled over salads and vegetable dishes, and used as a topping for breads. Simply make it into a paste with olive oil, spread it on flat breads or pittas and pop under the grill to toast. As I have lots of fresh thyme in the garden, I’m using fresh leaves, but dried thyme is more traditional. Using dried also means that you can keep it for longer as a dry mix,  in a sealed container as you would any other spice blend.

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Za’atar ingredients. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

If you can’t find sumac powder, something tangy and zesty like lemon rind would bring a bit of zing to the mix.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Byessar:

  • Salt
  • 500g fresh broad beans, shelled (or 175g shelled beans)
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tsp ground cumin or hot curry powder
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Fresh thyme flowers to garnish

Za’atar

  • 1 tbsp. lightly toasted sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp sumac powder
  • ½ fresh thyme leaves or dried thyme
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil

Free-from flat breads, carrot sticks and olives to serve

1. To make byessar, bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil, and cook the beans with the thyme, garlic and cumin or curry powder for 4-5 minutes, until tender. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid, and cool for 10 minutes. Discard the thyme.

2. Put the beans and garlic in a food processor or blender. Add 75ml of the cooking liquid and the oil. Blitz until smooth. Taste and season with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl and leave to cool, then chill until ready to serve. Accompany with bread and carrots to dip; garnish with fresh thyme flowers or leaves, if liked

 

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Making byessar. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To make za’atar, mix the dry ingredients together. When ready to serve, mix with sufficient olive oil to make a paste. Lightly toast flat breads, cut into strips, then spread lightly with the za’atar paste. Toast under a hot grill for a few seconds to warm through. Serve as an accompaniment to dips and salads.

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Delicious summery lunch. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Courgette and white bean salad (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Courgette and white bean salad with fried pine nuts, basil, gluten-free flat bread and extra virgin olive oil. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Amazingly, the heat is still on full blast here in the UK. The sky has been gloriously blue, day after day, and the sun is shining down strongly. No rain in the forecast; the water butt has been dry for days!

Plenty of time to enjoy the garden at a more leisurely pace. The thought of preparing and eating hot food is not so appealing at the moment, so salads are featuring heavily on my menu. I picked my first courgettes this week – all the extra watering by hand has been worth it – and made an exception by doing a little bit of cooking. I made them into a tasty cold dish with some canned beans and a rich tomato sauce.

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The first of this year’s home-grown courgettes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can adapt the recipe to use other vegetables and pulses – aubergine and chickpeas make a good combination too, especially seasoned with some cumin and fresh coriander. The salad makes a good sauce for pasta when served freshly made, and I have also served it as a filling for a warmed pastry case.

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Platter of salad and accompaniments. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. tomato purée
  • 2 teasp caster sugar
  • 1 teasp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 250g cooked cannellini beans
  • 500g courgettes, trimmed and chopped into 2cm dice
  • Fresh basil, fried pine nuts, gluten-free flat bread and extra virgin olive oil to serve
  1. Heat the oil in a large covered frying pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and herbs, with the lid on, over a low heat, for 15 minutes, to soften without browning.

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    Prepared onion and garlic with fresh bay and rosemary, ready for the pot. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Pour in the wine and stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the rosemary and bay leaves.

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    Courgette cut into 2cm dice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Stir in the beans and courgette, making sure they are well covered in the sauce. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer gently for 7-8 minutes until the courgette is just tender. Leave to cool completely.

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    Making the sauce and cooking the salad. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Transfer to a bowl and chill until ready to serve. Best served at room temperature for more flavour. Delicious spooned over warm flat breads, sprinkled with fresh basil, fried pine nuts and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Bon Appétit 🙂

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    The perfect lunch for a sunny day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins