Tray-baked pasta sauce (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Tray-baked vegetable sauce spooned over spaghetti. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again everyone. I hope you’ve had a good few days. It felt like summer here at the weekend, very warm and sunny over the Easter holiday. The temperature has gone back to something more seasonal now..

I have a very versatile vegetable sauce recipe for you this week. The sauce is as tasty on it’s own over pasta as it is when used as a soup or casserole base, or spread over pizza dough or tart pastry. It is also a great recipe if you like batch-cooking for the freezer.  It’s so easy to make, with everything cooked together on a large baking tray in the oven.

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Freshly cooked pasta sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The sauce base consists of a selection of colourful vegetables which are baked with fresh herbs. I find the woody herbs work best in this recipe as they stand up well in the oven. I use bay, rosemary, sage and thyme, but if you prefer a less robust flavour, stir in freshly chopped finer, more delicate herbs for a final flourish once the sauce is cooked.

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Rainbow vegetables. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Fresh bay, rosemary, thyme and sage. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The rest of the sauce is made up of tinned tomatoes, stock and red wine. The first time I made the sauce I had a glut of fresh tomatoes, so if you prefer to use fresh, then they works fine too but you might want to add some tomato purée to the sauce to thicken it up and concentrate the flavour.

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Served with toasted seeds and fresh basil. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here’s what to do….

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 250g carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large leek, trimmed and shredded
  • 2 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. caster sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • A few sprigs each of fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 250ml fruity red wine
  • 250ml vegetable stock

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Put all the vegetables in a large bowl and mix in the oil and sugar, then spread them out on a large, deep baking tray and season well. Pop the herbs on top and bake for about 40 minutes, turning occasionally until tender and lightly browned.

2. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour over the vegetables. Put the tray in the oven and continue to cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and reduced. Cover and stand for 10 minutes. Discard the herbs before serving.

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The 4 stages of sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serve the sauce over pasta and sprinkle with fresh basil and fried and salted seeds (recipe for the seed mix is on my post Moorish red orange and carrot salad (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan) For extra richness, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Perfect. See you next week 🙂

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Up close on pasta sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Tutti frutti semifreddo (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Easter dessert. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been back in the kitchen this week, making something deliciously sweet and impressive for the Easter holidays. I’ve come up with a  dessert that is very easy to make, inspired by the flavours of Italy, and is everything you want to round off a celebratory Easter meal (but with no chocolate in sight – gasp, shock, horror!).

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Iced tutti frutti loaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can add your own choice of chopped dried or candied fruit and nuts – it’s a great recipe to use up the bits and pieces you have leftover (and you could even add chunks of chocolate if you really want to!). Flavoured with marzipan, mincemeat and Marsala wine, it’s a dessert that would also be right at home on the Christmas table as well.

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Easter semifreddo ingredients. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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A spoonful of semifreddo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here’s what to do:

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 115g golden marzipan (use plain if you prefer but the golden variety adds a little colour to the semifreddo), chopped
  • 600ml dairy-free single “cream” (I use oat cream, but soya cream or canned coconut milk would also work)
  • 150g vegan mincemeat
  • 100g glacé cherries, chopped
  • 25g pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. Marsala wine (or use sweet sherry or cherry brandy)
  • Extra cherries and pistachios to decorate
  1. Line a 1kg loaf tin with a double layer of cling film. Put the marzipan in a saucepan and pour over the dairy-free “cream”. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together.

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    Cling film lined load tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Remove from the heat, mix well then stir in the remaining ingredients and leave to cool completely.
  3. Transfer to a freezer container at least 1.1l capacity, cover and freeze for 2 to 2½ hours until starting to turn slushy. Mix well then freeze for a further hour or so until icy and stiffened. Mix well to distribute all the pieces and pack into the loaf tin. Freeze for at least 2 hours to firm up enough to slice. For prolonged freezing, fold over the cling film and wrap in foil. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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    Freezing semifreddo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. To serve, gently ease the semifreddo from the tin using the cling film. Place on a serving plate and discard the cling film. Scatter with more cherries and pistachios. Slice, serve and enjoy! Happy Easter everyone 🙂

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    Sliced and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Spring in full swing

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Raised bed of spring flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a glorious week here in central Scotland and I just couldn’t resist posting another series of images of spring flowers. It is my favourite time of the year and this year the garden seems more abundant than ever, bursting with colour in every corner.

Whilst  the sky has been blue and the temperature relatively warm during the day, the nights have been chilly, and only this morning the lawn was covered with frost.

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Muscari and Snakeshead fritillary. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There is plenty of blossom forming on the fruit trees, and the sprigs nearest the walls are already in bloom and sweet-smelling. The bees will be smiling.

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Victoria Plum, Morello Cherry and Doyenne de Comice Pear blossoms. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have been in and out of the garden all week keeping my eye on the progress of the bluebells because they are exceptionally early this year. In the sunny spots, the stems are getting longer and the buds bluer, and today I discovered one wee bell-shaped flower fully open in amongst a thicket of twigs, and here it is, my first bluebell of 2019 🙂

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My first bluebells of 2019. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the most prolific plants in the garden is Euphorbia. This time of the year the flowers are lime-green and yellowy and look stunning in the sunlight. They really brighten up the dullest parts of the garden and make an eye-catching display with the fading pink and white hellebores in the background.

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Euphorbia with hellebores. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My last images of my post this week are of a beautiful pink Persian Buttercup (Ranunculus) with its many layers of delicate petals. I don’t seem to be able to grow them in big clusters, just the odd one comes up here and there. The other is a very “early bird” in the garden this year, a single Mountain Cornflower (Centaurea montana). Usually these thistle-like flowers grow in abundance from early summer and onwards throughout the autumn, but this fellow has popped up several weeks ahead of the others.

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Persian buttercup and a Mountain cornflower. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all for this week. Have a good few days – enjoy the sunshine if you have it. I’ll be back in the kitchen with an Eastery recipe for next week’s post.

A springtime woodland walk

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End of March, Bluebells. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For this week’s post, I have made a slight departure from my usual offerings. I have just returned from a few days down in the south of England celebrating Mothering Sunday with my family.

The county of Sussex is where I grew up and I remember the bluebell woods especially well. Carpets of fragrant blue flowers lined these particular woods in Slindon, most usually from mid to late April onwards. With the early onset of spring this year, I had a feeling that there might be some out in flower and I wasn’t disappointed. There were quite a few of the delicate, sweet-selling blue blooms alongside many other wild flowers.

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Wood anemones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Wild primroses. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It was a glorious day in these woods. The sun was warm and the sky was blue. The flowers seemed to almost glow in the bright light, and with the combination of good weather and the untimely blooming of these wild flowers, it was hard to remember exactly  what month it actually was.

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Lady’s Smock (Cuckoo flower), Celandine and Herb Robert. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Not only were there flowers to enjoy in the woods, but the hedgerows and trees around and about were full of life too. Several species of butterfly were darting around from flower to flower (too quick for me to capture), and the bees buzzing and busy collecting pollen. It’s going to be a bumper year for hedgerow fruits if these blossom-laden Blackthorn trees are anything to go by.

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Blackthorn against a blue sky. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image this week is of a Sussex pastoral scene and a tree that encompasses this time of year so well, the Salix Discolor, or Pussy Willow, with its fuzzy pollen-laden stamens so tempting to the bees and flying insects.

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Pussy Willow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have enjoyed the visit to Sussex this week.  I will be back with you next week with something equally seasonal. Until then, have a good week and enjoy Spring 🙂