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 think it’s safe to say that Autumn is over now, at least it is here in central Scotland. A couple of weeks ago it was still mild and dry, but last week it felt like there was a definite season change. The last of the leaves came off the trees in heavy rain, the temperature dropped, and the daylight hours have dwindled significantly. The garden looks quite sad now. All things told, it certainly feels like December is just round the corner.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are signs of life amongst the fading foliage and fallen leaves. Spring bulbs are shooting up everywhere: in containers, borders and flowerbeds; they seem more advanced than usual.
The late flowering heather is just coming into bloom. Such a pretty colour and delicate flower for this time of year.
As a reminder of the forthcoming festivities less than a month away (I can hardly believe it!), the Santa-red Skimmia berries and the glacial-white snowberry, give seasonal cheer.
And, here is the most regular visitor to the garden at the moment. He seems to appear whenever I go outside, and chirps away from first light. This is his regular perch, in the hollow of a large conifer, not too far from the back door.
And so to my final image. This Salvia was planted back in late spring and has been in flower ever since. A truly great value plant. Have a good week 🙂
A few months ago, I posted a recipe on how to make a gluten-free rough puff pastry; it has proved to be one of the most looked at recipes on my blog. If you have the time, it is worth making your own pastry, but now there are also viable ready-made pastries to use if you are in a hurry such as Jus-rol gluten-free puff pastry sheets.
This week’s recipe is based on a French patisserie classic. Arlette are traditionally large, thin spirals of very crisp puff pastry flavoured with butter, cinnamon and sugar. My free-from version is flavoured with vanilla seeds but feel free to use a dusting of ground cinnamon if you prefer something more authentic. I found it easier to make smaller rounds as it is challenging to roll out, and then slice, gluten-free pastry thinly. If you’re not gluten-free, just roll out regular puff pastry as thinly as possible and prepare and cook the Arlette in the same way.
It’s a simple recipe with few ingredients, but the pastries taste very good, and make the perfect nibble to go alongside a mid-morning coffee 🙂
1 vanilla pod
Gluten-free flour for dusting
275g gluten-free, vegan puff or rough-puff pastry
25g vegan margarine, softened
25g caster sugar
Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. Slice the vanilla pod in half and using the tip of a small, sharp knife, scrape out the seeds from the middle. Put to one side.
Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the pastry to make a 30cm square.
Spread the vanilla seeds all over the pastry, then spread with margarine and sprinkle with sugar.
Carefully roll up from one side, as tightly as possible, to make a long, thin sausage-shape.
Trim away the ends to neaten, then cut into 1cm thick slices – you may find it easier to flour the knife blade each time you make a cut. You should be able to make 28 thin rounds. Transfer them to the baking trays and chill for 30 minutes.
When you are ready to cook the Arlette, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Serve them underside up to reveal the crisp sugar coating and vanilla seeds. If you can leave them alone, they will store for up to a week in an airtight container.
I’m feeling a bit pleased with myself this week. I have just dug up the first couple of sweet potato plants and harvested a reasonable crop. I planted the “slips” back in early June in my unheated greenhouse, and with the wonderful summer we had this year along with plenty of watering, the plants flourished.
To be honest, the sweet potatoes did better than the regular potatoes I planted outside. I grew my favourite variety, Pink Fir, which have knobbly pink skins and a delicious flaky texture inside. I had a fair crop, but I think the lack of natural rain water did inhibit their growth.
This week’s recipe combines the two varieties to make one of my favourite Italian meals, the floury potato dumplings known as gnocchi. Adding sweet potato in the mix gives the dumplings a light golden colour, and subtle sweet flavour.
Choose a dry textured white potato to mix with the sweet potato, and you’ll have the perfect textured gnocchi. Because my sweet potatoes were home-grown, they were quite small in comparison to ones I can buy. To make the perfect gnocchi, you cook the potato whole, in the skin, so you may need to cut up the potatoes if they are very large to make sure both varieties cook evenly and in a reasonable time.
Once the dumplings are cooked through, I like to pop them in a heated pan with some melted dairy-free margarine and olive oil, and stir fry them for a few minutes to crisp up the outsides. The more traditional way of serving gnocchi is simply freshly boiled, seasoned, and then accompanied with the dressing of your choice – I like to dress freshly cooked gnocchi with extra virgin olive oil, some fresh basil and wild rocket leaves. I hope you enjoy the recipe.
Serves: 3 to 4
450g same-size sweet and white potatoes, scrubbed
Approx. 100g gluten-free plain flour blend (I use Dove’s Farm)
25ml good quality olive oil
Put the whole potatoes, unpeeled, in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender – mine took about 15 minutes. Drain well, and leave to cool for about 10 minutes until just cool enough to handle, then slip off the skins.
For perfectly smooth gnocchi, process the cooked potatoes by pushing through a ricer or wide meshed metal sieve, directly on to the work top, then work in sufficient flour, along with ½ tsp salt and the olive oil to make a smooth, firm dough.
Leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes on the work top, then divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into long rolls about 2cm thick, and cut each roll into 2cm wide chunks. You should be able to make about 50 pieces in total.
To achieve the distinctive shape of the dumplings, roll the potato pieces into a balls and gently press your finger into the centre of each to make an indent, then roll onto the prongs of a fork to make the pattern. Spread out the prepared gnocchi on a clean floured tea-towel.
To cook, bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the dumplings gently, in 2 batches, for 2-3 minutes until they float to the surface, then remove from the saucepan using a slotted spoon and place them in a warm serving dish. Cover and keep warm while you prepare the remaining gnocchi in the same way. Serve immediately with your favourite accompaniment. Buon Appetito!
A few weeks ago, I promised a new pear recipe, and now I have harvested all the pears from the garden, I have been back in the kitchen, cooking up something suitably fruity for this week’s post.
My small Concorde pear tree produced a bumper crop this year. I picked all the fruit at the end of last month, just before a cold snap. It was a beautiful warm and sunny Autumn day and the colours in the garden looked rich and golden.
I put most of the pears in storage, apart from the few smaller ones which were ready to eat. Unlike apples, pears don’t need to be wrapped for storing; just pack them, not touching, in a tray or crate, and keep them in a cool place. When you want to ripen them off, bring them in to room temperature and, in about 3 days, they should be ripe and ready to eat – you can tell if a pear is ripe by gently pressing the flesh at the stalk end, if it gives a little, then it is ripe.
On with the recipe. A crostata, one of the easiest forms of pie or tart you can make because you don’t need a tin and it doesn’t matter if you’re not very good at rolling pastry to a neat edge. I made a vegan pastry using white spelt flour, but any short-crust pastry will work – you’ll need about 500g ready-made pastry if you don’t have time to make your own. Pecans and maple syrup give the flavour and sweetness in my recipe – walnuts or hazelnuts would be good too – as would clear honey if you eat it. Choose pears that have some firmness to them for cooking – perfectly ripe pears are best for enjoying as they are 🙂
450g small pears
1 unwaxed lemon
300g white spelt plain flour
½ tsp salt
85g white vegetable fat (I use Trex), cut into small pieces
100g dairy-free margarine, cut into small pieces
6 tbsp. + 1 tsp maple syrup + extra to serve
4 tsp dairy-free milk
100g chopped pecan nuts + extra to decorate
First cook the pears. Peel the pears, cut in half and remove the core. Pare a few strips of rind from the lemon using a vegetable peeler, and extract the juice. Brush the pears with lemon juice all over to help prevent discolouration.
Put the pears in a shallow pan with the remaining lemon juice, pared rind and 2 tbsp. water. Bring to simmering point, cover and cook gently for 5 -10 minutes, depending on ripeness, until just tender. Leave to cool in the lemony liquid, then drain well and cut each pear half into 4 slices. Cover and chill until required.
For the pastry, sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the fat and 85g margarine, then rub the flour and fats together with your fingertips until well blended, and the mixture resembles a crumble topping.
Make a well in the centre, and add 2 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tbsp dairy-free milk. Stir with a round bladed knife to bind together, then turn on to the work surface and bring together with your hands to make a smooth, firm dough. Leave to rest for 10 minutes on the work surface.
Meanwhile, put the pecan nuts in a blender or food processor and grind until fine. Mix in 2 tbsp. maple syrup to make a spreadable paste. Put to one side. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6.
Place a large sheet of baking parchment on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Cut off a 100g piece of pastry and set aside, then roll out the remaining pastry to make a round approx. 30cm diameter.
Spread over the pecan paste, leaving a 3cm space round the edge of the pastry circle. Arrange the pear slices on top of the pecan filling.
Carefully fold up the pastry edge to cover the edge of the pears – I find a small palette knife useful to help flip the pastry over the fruit. Transfer the crostata on the parchment to a large baking tray, and trim the parchment as necessary to fit the tray. Roll out the reserved pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut out leaves to decorate the edge.
Mix 1 tsp maple syrup with the remaining dairy-free milk and brush over the pastry edge. Arrange the leaves on top and brush with the maple/milk glaze. Dot the pears with the remaining margarine and drizzle with remaining maple syrup.
Bake for about 50 minutes until lightly golden and cooked through. Best served warm, sprinkled with chopped pecans and accompanied with extra maple syrup.
Something pretty to calm the nerves after all the spooky goings on this week, and also a recipe to help take the chill away – it’s been much colder here since last weekend. Love apple is a much nicer name for a tomato, and this recipe combines tomatoes with apples, fresh sage and bay leaves to give a refreshing sweet/savoury flavour, and there’s a pinch of hot paprika for some warmth.
I’m all for making life in the kitchen as simple as possible, so the main ingredients are baked in the oven, on a tray, first. This allows you to do the preparation one day and then whizz up the cooked veg to make your soup the next. If you have a glut of tomatoes and apples, the baked mixture freezes fine for soup, so you can keep bags ready-prepared in the freezer.
I used fresh tomatoes for the recipe because I have so many at the moment. I have made the recipe with canned tomatoes, but as these have already been cooked, you will notice a slightly different flavour and the soup will be more intense in colour. My cooking apples are quite mild, so you may need to play around with the sugar content if you are using a more tart variety. Eating apples work well too, but again, do a taste test to make sure that you don’t overdo the sweetness.
I made some heart-shaped croutons to serve with my soup. Just pieces of seeded, gluten-free, sliced bread cut out with cookie cutters and shallow-fried in olive oil. Simple but delicious. To add another tangy twist to the soup, try drizzling the top with balsamic glaze (a sweet syrup made from grape juice and balsamic vinegar), or extra virgin olive oil for richness.
400g cooking apples
500g ripe tomatoes
1 red onion
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs fresh sage
1 tbsp. caster sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
750ml vegetable stock
¾ to 1 tsp hot paprika
Balsamic glaze, fresh sage and gluten-free croutons to serve
Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Halve the tomatoes. Peel and slice the onion.
Spread out the prepared fruit and veg on a large baking tray. Drizzle with the oil, poke in the herbs, then sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper. Cover the tray with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, stir and cook for a further 10 minutes, uncovered, until tender and soft At this point, you can leave everything to go cold and then keep refrigerated (or freeze) until ready to cook the soup.
When you’re ready to make the soup, discard the herbs and put the cooked fruit and veg into a blender or food processor along with 150ml stock. Blitz until smooth then pour into a saucepan and add the remaining stock and paprika to taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
Heat through gently, stirring, for 4-5 minutes until piping hot. Ladle into warm soup bowls and serve with a drizzle of balsamic glaze, fresh sage and croutons.