Grow your own bunch of flowers

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Carnations, back in fashion. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s post is one I’ve been putting together for over a year. At last the timing is right to publish. I hope it will be of use to anyone who likes “recycling” and raising plants for free.

A wee while ago I celebrated a “big” birthday. One of my friends sent me a very lavish bouquet containing many varieties of flowers. One bloom in particular caught my eye because it was not a favourite of mine.

The carnation (Dianthus) is a mainstay in many a flowery bunch.  It is great value and lasts for a very long time in  a vase of water. The carnation went out of fashion for the very same reasons that it is back in fashion today. However, my birthday-bouquet carnation wasn’t a patch on other varieties I’d seen. It had rich peach-coloured petals with a red frilly detail. It was a real beauty and changed my opinion of the flower there and then.

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My birthday carnation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A few months before my birthday, I’d been staying with my Mum and she had had a jug of green shoots on her window-sill. They were carnation cuttings which had rooted and she was about to plant in her garden. I could hardly believe that they would be so easy to root and grow on, naturally I had to have a go myself. Above is one of the cuttings from my original birthday carnations in full bloom last summer, 3 years after taking the cuttings from the original stems.

There are 2 simple ways to root carnation cuttings: one is simply in a pot of water on the window-sill (like my Mum did) and the other is with rooting powder and a pot of compost. If you fancy a go, the best time of year to do it is  from now and into early summer when the weather is warm.

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Selecting cuttings for rooting. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Select side shoots from carnation stems that don’t have any flower buds on them. They should look healthy and have 4 or 5 sets of leaves on them. Trim off the bottom pair of leaves and cut the stem just below a joint.

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Rooting in water. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To root in water, simply pop the cuttings in a jam jar of water and leave on a light window-sill, out of direct sunlight. Change the water every 2-3 days. After 3-4 weeks you should begin to see thread-like roots appearing from the joint on the stem.

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Potting on rooted cuttings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Once the roots appear, lightly dust the rooted ends in a little hormone rooting powder and plant in compost. Keep watered and in a well-lit, warm area out of direct sunlight – an unheated greenhouse is ideal. Once the plants are strong and established, plant outside in late summer.

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Rooting cuttings in compost. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pot-rooted carnation cuttings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

You can also root carnation cuttings by adding them straight to compost. Dip the ends of the cuttings in hormone rooting powder and place in compost. Cover with a clear plastic bag or cloche and sit on a warm, well-lit window-sill, not in direct sunlight. Keep watered. After 3 to 4 weeks the cuttings should have rooted. Remove the bag and keep the cuttings  in the same way as the water-rooted cuttings above until they are ready to plant outside in a few weeks.

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Last Autumn, carnations in flower in my garden. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My carnations have been flowering on and off for the last 3 years. This spring, the stems had become very long and “leggy”. I trimmed them right down, leaving a few shoots in situ, and from the stalks I cut down, I took some more cuttings. Now I’m starting again with another batch of cuttings and looking forward to populating other areas of the garden with some very attractive carnation stems later on in the year.

I was amazed to see that even the tight flower buds I removed from my cuttings burst into flower after a few days indoors, which just goes to show that the carnation really is a great value flower. Happy blooming 🙂

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The last of the flower buds opened in a vase indoors and lasted for over a month.           Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

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Griddle cakes (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Fresh out of the pan, a teatime treat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Every now and then I have a hankering for scones, but I have yet to bake a gluten-free version that makes the grade. However, this week’s recipe is very similar in terms of ingredients to scones, but instead of the traditional oven baking, these “cakes” are cooked in a frying pan. So good are they that they have now become my gluten-free scone-alternative of choice and can be whipped up and cooked in next to no time.

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Griddle cakes, a great alternative to gluten-free scones. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For a few years, my family used to holiday in Wales, where I can remember enjoying  traditional Welsh cakes known as Cage Bach for the first time. Studded with currants, flavoured with the merest hint of spice, and served warm with butter, these were a very welcome and delicious teatime treat. Welsh cakes are traditionally cooked on a griddlestone, a heavy flat pan which sits directly on top of an open flame or stove top. They cook to a dense, but crumbly texture and are extremely moreish.

My recipe this week for griddle cakes  is an homage to my Welsh ancestry and yet another happy childhood foodie memory.

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My homage to the Welsh cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 7-8

Ingredients

  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend + extra for dusting (If you are not gluten-free, use traditional wheat plain flour for a more authentic texture)
  • 10g gluten-free baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 70g white vegetable fat or coconut oil + extra for greasing
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 70g currants
  • 60-70g plain unsweetened dairy-free yogurt
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Rub in the fat until well blended. Stir in the sugar and currants.
  2. Add sufficient yogurt to make a softish dough. Turn on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth and well blended.
  3. Either press or roll the dough to a thickness of 1cm. Using a 7cm round cookie cutter, cut out 7 rounds, re-pressing or rolling the dough trimmings as necessary. I like to cook the rounds at 1cm thickness so that the cakes have a dense texture in the middle. If you roll out the dough to ½-¾ cm depth, you should make 8 cakes, and the resulting cakes will be crisper all the way through.
  4. Very lightly grease a flat griddle pan or large frying pan with a little fat and heat until melted. Place the cakes in the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook the cakes for 8-10 minutes on each side, taking care not to burn the outside – lift up the edge of 1 or 2 to check, and lower the heat further as necessary.
  5. Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little. Best served warm, spread with dairy-free butter and your favourite jam. Yummy 🙂
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    Preparing and cooking griddle cakes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    The cakes are best eaten on the day of cooking but they freeze well and defrost in next to no time. You can reheat them successfully by popping them in a low oven for a few minutes to heat through.

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    Griddle cake with butter and jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Spring vegetable pancake (Gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spring vegetable pancake with new season asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you’ve read my previous posts at this time of the year, you’ll know that spring is my favourite season. Not just because I love the flowers and the feeling that everything is coming to life, but my favourite vegetable is available right now for a very short period of time, British asparagus.

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Fresh British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I rarely do very much with asparagus. I like to savour the tender green stems just as they are. Either a quick flash in a hot frying pan or a blast in a hot oven, to give them a subtle smokiness, and that’s all the extra flavour I need.

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Fresh asparagus in a hot pan. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s recipe is based on a Japanese dish called Okonomiyaki which caught my eye recently. Originally made with wheat flour and eggs, my version of the pancake is gluten-free and egg-free. There’s a bit of vegetable preparation, but once that’s out of the way, everything else is very straightforward. The pancake makes a lovely lunch or light supper, and is the perfect base for a topping of freshly cooked asparagus.

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Spring-vegetables for pancake making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

If you don’t want the hassle of a cooked topping, try sliced avocado and baby spinach or a pile of fresh pea shoots and wild rocket for a salad topping instead. If you have the inclination and the extra ingredients, I recommend making the barbecue dressing that accompanies the pancake. Utterly delicious, simple to make, and far tastier than any barbecue sauce I’ve ever been able to buy. A great finishing touch to any grilled or barbecued food.

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Home-made barbecue dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. flax seeds
  • 45g white rice flour
  • 50g dry white free-from breadcrumbs
  • 75ml white miso or vegetable stock
  • 75g soft-leaved cabbage, such as Sweet-heart or Hispi, shredded
  • 3 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 150g thin fresh asparagus stems, trimmed
  • Vegan mayonnaise to serve

For the barbecue dressing:

  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp gluten-free light soy sauce
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  1. Put the flax seeds in a coffee grinder or small food processor and blend until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 6 tbsp. cold water. Leave to soak for 5 minutes by which time the mixture will thicken.
  2. Sift the rice flour on top and mix together with the stock to make a smooth batter.

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    Making the pancake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Add the cabbage, spring onion and breadcrumbs and mix everything together to make a thick, stiff batter – add a little water if the mixture is very dry, but this is not a pourable batter, it is more like a firm cake mixture.
  4. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a frying pan with a lid and add half the batter. Press the mixture to form a thick round approx. 16cm diameter. Fry over a medium heat with the lid on for 5 minutes. Carefully flip over, and cook on the other side, covered with the lid, for another 5 minutes. Drain and keep warm, whilst you cook the remaining mixture in the same way.

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    Cooking spring vegetable pancake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Once the pancakes are cooked, heat the remaining oil in the frying pan until hot and quickly cook the asparagus, turning, for 3-4 minutes until just wilted. Drain and keep warm.
  6. To serve, mix all the dressing ingredients together. Slip the pancakes on to warm serving plates and drizzle with mayonnaise and the barbecue dressing. Top with asparagus and serve immediately.
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    Asparagus-topped spring vegetable pancake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Until next week, I’ll leave you with another image of my favourite vegetable. Have a good week and I look forward to seeing you next time 🙂

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    Early May British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy May!

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Early May bluebells. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Welcome to the best month of the year everyone! After a wonderfully sunny and warm Easter, the garden has burst into bloom. Every bed is full of colour and the air is heavy with aromatic perfumes, and best of all, there are Bluebells in every corner.

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Happy May! Image: Kathryn Hawkins

These beautiful Narcissi are multi-headed, each having 4 bloom heads per stalk. I took the photo about a week ago, and sadly now they are just beginning to go over. They have been flowering for a month and have been great value. The perfume is delightful.

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Late spring Narcissi. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The Azalias are about 2 weeks ahead of themselves this year, and as usual the smaller-petal varieties are fully laden with flowers. In the sunshine, their bright pink blooms are intense and dazzling. The golden yellow variety is less blousy but brightens up the partially-shaded flower-bed it lives in, and is a lovely contrast amongst the bluebells .

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Golden yellow and vibrant pink Azalias. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Some of the fruit tree blossom has set since my last post – it looks like there will be lots of cherries this year 🙂 The miniature apple tree is laden with blossom, and today saw the first opening of petals on the big old apple tree. Such pretty and delicate flowers.

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Early May apple blossom. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another flowering plant that is ahead of itself this year, is the Solomon’s Seal. The bell-shaped white flowers are just opening. Each year the plants seed themselves so year on year there are more in the flower-beds. It is a truly elegant plant, and stays in bloom for several weeks.

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Solomon’s Seal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from the mass of blue from the all the bluebells, just across from my kitchen window, now that the Tête-à-tête have finished, the raised bed has become overrun with Forget-me-nots. Not planted, they just appeared, courtesy of the birds (or perhaps the fairies?). No matter, they are so cute and dainty, and a delightful shade of baby-blue.

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Forget-me-nots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been pleasing to see so many bees, butterflies and other beasties in the garden these past couple of weeks, busy in the sunshine and enjoying the warmth. I discovered this wee chap whilst I was weeding the flower-bed underneath. He’s either sunbathing or perhaps he is completely intoxicated by the aromas drifting up from the geranium leaf he’s sitting on and from the bluebell above! Until next week, enjoy the sunshine if you have some!

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Sunbathing ladybird. Image: Kathryn Hawkins