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!
I fancied a spot of baking this week especially as it seemed to be a while since I baked a cake for my blog. This recipe is extremely easy to make, even if you’re an inexperienced baker, there is little to go wrong here. The cake is naturally dense in texture so you haven’t got to worry about whisking for a specific length of time or getting a good rise. The decoration is optional, the cake tastes just as good with or without icing. The mixture is not particularly sweet and makes a good alternative dessert topped with fruit, accompanied with free-from cream or ice-cream.
The cake gets its rich yellow colour from polenta and cold pressed rapeseed oil. I’m very fortunate to have an excellent local supply of this amber coloured oil called Summer Harvest. The rapeseed is harvested just down the road from my house. The oil has an earthy, nutty flavour and makes an excellent addition to any recipe with nuts and seeds added to it. If you prefer to use an alternative oil, us sunflower oil which adds little extra flavour but the cake will also be paler in colour.
I usually use just ground almonds and polenta in this recipe, but for a change, I ground up flax seed with whole almonds to make a fine meal. As long as you grind the seeds or nuts finely, you should be able to use any combination with polenta in this recipe. I use an electric coffee grinder to make my own seed and nut flours, I find the sturdier blade is able to blitz more finely than the food processor or blender.
150ml cold pressed rapeseed oil
1 tsp good quality natural vanilla extract
150g unbleached caster sugar
100g silken tofu
50g each flax seeds and whole almonds, finely ground
5g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
100g ready to roll white icing
½ tsp good quality natural vanilla extract
A handful of fresh berries
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line an 18cm a round cake tin. Pour the oil into a bowl. Add the vanilla and sugar and whisk together until creamy and well blended. Add the tofu and whisk again until smooth.
Add the seed mix, polenta, baking powder and arrowroot, and gently mix all the ingredients together until well blended. Scrape into the tin. Stand the tin on a baking tray and bake for an hour – test the centre of the cake with a wooden skewer, it should come out clean when the cake is properly cooked through. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
To decorate the cake, remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack. Cut up the white icing into pieces and put in a small saucepan. Add 1 tsp water and heat the mixture very gently, stirring, until it begins to melt and form a paste. Stir in the vanilla, then drizzle the icing all over the top of the cake using a dessert spoon, letting it drip down the sides. As the icing cools, it will set firm again.
Leave the icing to cool and scatter, then scatter the top with berries before serving. I used my latest precious harvest of blueberries. Not a very good year for them in my garden, but the berries do have a good flavour none the less. Have a good week 🙂
A variation on a Middle Eastern classic salad for you this week. Fattoush is served all over the Middle East in various forms, but always with toasted bread added to it. It makes a light and refreshing sharing platter as a starter or lunch, and also serves as a versatile accompaniment to barbecued and grilled food. Most usually Fattoush consists of crisp lettuce, cucumber, tomato, pepper, onion and herbs, with chunks of bread tossed into them. It is usually dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice.
The good mix of sunshine and, latterly, rain this summer has produced a flourish of runner beans. Only 3 plants survived the initial “trauma” of being planted outside this year, and they were very skinny and frail for several weeks. But then suddenly they took off, and now just look at them, I have my very own giant beanstalks.
My fattoush recipe combines the salad ingredients I have growing in the garden at the moment – cucumber, tomatoes and runner beans. For the herb, I used salad burnet which has a refreshing cucumber taste; coriander, mint and parsley are most usually added.
Instead of onion, I used fresh chives, and for extra crunch, I chopped up some whole almonds and sprinkled them on top. After toasting the bread, I seasoned it with salt, pepper and tangy sumac powder for extra zing.
175g runner beans
1 Romaine or Little Gem lettuce
150g cherry tomatoes
1 small cucumber
A small bunch fresh chives (or use 3 chopped spring onions, or finely chop half a small red onion)
A few sprigs salad burnet (or coriander, parsley and/or mint)
2 large gluten-free pitta breads
Good quality olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g whole almonds, roughly chopped
Trim the beans – I like to peel the sides with a vegetable peeler, and then nip of the tops. Cut into chunks. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the beans for 3-4 minutes until lightly cooked. Drain well and rinse in cold running water to cool. Drain well.
Tear or shred the lettuce and place in a large serving bowl. Halve the tomatoes, and thickly slice the cucumber. Toss into the lettuce along with the cooked beans. Snip the chives into pieces with scissors and strip the leaves from the salad burnet or other fresh herbs. Mix into the salad.
Toast the pitta breads. Brush with oil and sprinkle with sumac and season to taste. Tear into chunky pieces and toss into the salad. Sprinkle with almonds. Serve the salad with olive oil and wedges of lemon to squeeze over.
I have never been able to pick home-grown tomatoes this early before. Usually, my tomatoes don’t ripen until at least September, and I’m always left wondering whether I will be making pots-loads of green tomato chutney. This year, the tomatoes are ripening at least one month ahead, and I am delighted 🙂
I planted 8 different varieties this year in the greenhouse, and all are doing very well. I’m going to be eating a lot of tomatoes this year!
I enjoy eating tomatoes raw, simply sliced, sprinkled with a little seasoning, and a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness, and topped with a few fresh basil leaves.
However, I do cook with them occasionally, and my recipe this week is for a lightly cooked tomato dish which I put on top of gluten-free ciabatta-style bread to eat as a light lunch or quick supper snack. The topping also makes a great sauce to serve over pasta or roast veg. The tomatoes are flavoured with fresh sage, garlic and capers, and for a tangy sweetness, I’ve added a little white balsamic vinegar.
To enjoy all the flavours of the recipe, leave the mix to cool slightly before serving rather than eating it too hot or fresh out of the saucepan.
225g small tomatoes, halved or quartered
A few leaves fresh sage
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp. capers
1 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of freshly toasted bread
Put the tomatoes, sage, garlic, capers and vinegar in a small saucepan. Season to taste and heat gently until simmering. Cover with a lid, turn down the heat to low and cook the tomatoes very gently for 10 minutes, until soft. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes.
To serve, discard the sage leaves. Drizzle freshly toasted bread with olive oil and spoon over the tomato topping. Garnish with fresh sage.
The more traditional Scottish summer weather has returned this past week. It is much cooler now; there have been a few more rain showers, and the garden has rehydrated and is greening up again. Earlier today, I was having a look back at my garden post of this time last year; several of the flowers I featured then are well and truly over by now due to the heat and dry of the past few weeks.
There seem to be plenty of bees (and butterflies) in the garden this year which is very good news. The Goldenrod and globe thistles were alive with sound of buzzing while I was capturing these images. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed quite so many different kinds of bees and flying insects as I waited to capture the pollen collecting action.
The poppies add a brief splash of colour when they bloom. The fragile petals are like tissue-paper. Once in full bloom, each flower head looks radiant for about 24 hours before the petals are shed, on by one.
Just as fragile looking are the Japanese anemones, but although they look so delicate and pretty, the flowers last for many days, if not weeks, and seem to be able to tolerate any wind, rain, heat and chill that a Scottish summer has to offer.
Year after year, the back garden flowerbeds become packed out with the long stems and leaves of Crocosmia. The weight of several flower heads per stem means that they do appear to grow horizontally, particularly in the sunshine; in the shadier parts of the garden, the stems hold their heads higher as they reach for the light. For me, it is the bright orange flowers and lush green foliage of this plant that represents the peak of summer like no other.
My final images are of another orange flower in the garden: very tall and elegant tiger lilies. I love the way the petals fold back so neatly at the back of the bloom, just like a beautifully tied ribbon. Until next week, my best wishes to you 🙂
I had planned a garden round-up for this week’s post. However, the long spell of fine weather has finally broken and I haven’t been able to get outside that much this past week. To be honest, the hot spell has left the garden looking a bit sad and lacking in colour. So, instead of a weekend in the garden, I got the jam pan out of the cupboard and made some jelly preserve with the last of my raspberries.
A jelly preserve takes a bit more time to make than most other jams, but if you do find yourself in a preserving mood, I can recommend having a go, as the reward is great and the flavour, intense and rich.
You will need some clean muslin if you don’t have a jelly making bag, but if you are only making a small amount, as per the quantity below, you don’t need any other special equipment, although a sugar thermometer will help take the guess-work out of judging when the jelly has cooked sufficiently. All you need to ensure is that all the equipment and jam-jars you use are very clean; this will enable you to store your preserves for as long as required.
Makes: approx. 650g
450g prepared raspberries, washed
450g prepared rhubarb, washed and chopped into small pieces
Approx. 500g granulated sugar
Approx. 25ml fresh lemon juice
Mash the raspberries to release the juices and place in a saucepan. Stir in the chopped rhubarb and 2 tbsp. water. Heat gently until steaming, then cover and cook for 6-7 minutes until very soft.
2. While the fruit is cooking, set up the muslin or jelly bag ready for straining the juice. I use a tall jug which I can suspend a jelly bag over the top. Otherwise, a large nylon sieve lined with muslin, suspended over a bowl will work well. The volume of liquid produced by following this recipe will not be much greater than 500ml, so you don’t need a massive collecting container. Make sure it is stable so that it can’t tip over when you add the fruit.
3. Carefully spoon the hot fruit and juices into the bag or muslin, and then leave undisturbed for several hours until the fruit stops dripping. Don’t be tempted to press or squeeze the fruit as this will make a cloudy preserve. Discard the pulp. Measure the juice and work out the quantity of sugar and lemon juice required. You need 75g sugar and 5ml lemon juice per 100ml juice.
4. Pour the juice into a large saucepan and heat gently until hot, then stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and continue stirring over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.
5. Raise the heat and bring to the boil, then boil rapidly until setting point is reached – between 104° and 105°C on a sugar thermometer. Skim away any scum that rises to the surface during boiling. Pour into clean, hot jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 6 months, but the preserve is ready to eat as soon as you want! Delish 🙂