Autumn approaches

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Autumn-flowering heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. As I sat down to write this post, it felt like summer was here again. Today has been gloriously warm and sunny with blue sky all over. A perfect day to do some tidying up in the garden before the weather turns more seasonal. Whilst the nights are drawing in and leaves on the trees are on the turn, spring bulb shoots and leaves are sprouting all round the garden.

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Grape hyacinth foliage. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The Japanese anemones have been in flower since early last month and are still going strong. Surviving batterings from both wind and rain, they are so hardy and yet so fragile looking.

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Pink and white Japanese anemones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One indicator that Autumn is upon us is when the Autumn crocus appears. Towards the end of last month the tall, pale, leafless stems of the crocus first appeared in the shadier parts of the borders. Another leafless stem is the Nerine. These lilies have opened this week; they love the sunshine and their deep pink petals are a very welcome sight when most plants are dying back.

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Autumn crocus and Nerines. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In my garden, September is the time of year when a lot of produce is ready for harvest. This late sunny spell is very welcome particularly for the greenhouse tomatoes. I have so many green ones yet to ripen, but I am hoping that over the next couple of days more will start to redden, and herald the time to get the chutney pan out again.

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September greenhouse tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not been such a good year for the old apple tree in the garden. In fact, you have to play spot the apple this year. I should have enough to put with the tomatoes for making chutney, but not enough to freeze. The miniature eating apples have done well though. The fruit is crispy, refreshing and sweet; they make a delicious tarte tatin.

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This year’s eating and cooking apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The runner beans had a slow start this year but have more than made up for it now. The plants are heaving with beans. I dug the first of the Pink Fir potatoes last weekend, and was very pleased with the yield. They store well, so I should have plenty for a few weeks ahead. That’s all from me this week. I’m looking forward to spending the weekend out of doors and enjoying the sunshine. A happy weekend to you what ever you are doing 🙂

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Runner beans, Autumn raspberries and Pink Fir potatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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My weekend harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Cucumber and quinoa tabbouleh (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Gluten-free tabbouleh. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve had a great crop of home-grown cucumbers this year, and have been enjoying them since July. I’ve been growing 2 varieties in the greenhouse, a small green one called Mini Munch, and a pale yellow, more rounded variety, called Crystal Apple. The Mini Munch have almost finished now, but there are still a few more Crystal Apple come.

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Mini Munch and Crystal Apple cucumbers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

So to celebrate my cucumber-filled summer, this week’s recipe is my very simple, gluten-free version of the classic Middle Eastern salad, tabbouleh, and for good measure, to go with it, my favourite accompaniment, a super-speedy hummus recipe. You can add any combination of soft-leaved herbs to flavour your grains. The herb patch was looking a bit shabby at the weekend and I needed to pick off a few stalks of mint and chives to help rejuvenate the plants again. I also added some of the delicate zig-zag-edged herb salad burnet which has it’s own mild cucumber flavour, but parsley and coriander make good substitutes if you prefer.

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Salad Burnet close-up. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There are no set rules to this recipe. It is very simple. I cheat and use a ready-cooked pack of red and white quinoa grains. Very convenient and a perfect quantity for a couple of hearty portions. If you like, add tomato for extra colour and moisture to the salad, and spring onions will add a tasty, oniony bite. I hope you enjoy the fresh flavours.

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Home-grown cucumber, mint chives and salad burnet. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients

Tabbouleh

  • 250g cucumber, washed
  • 250g cooked quinoa
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 20g chives, chopped
  • 7g mint leaves, chopped
  • A handful of salad burnet leaves (parsley or coriander)
  • Lemon wedges and extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Male cucumber flowers to garnish

Hummus (serves 3-4)

  • 400g can chickpeas
  • 40g tahini
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Paprika to dust
  1. For the tabbouleh, cut the cucumber into small pieces. Put the quinoa in a bowl and mix in the cucumber, herbs and salt. Cover and chill for an hour to allow the flavours to mingle. Stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

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    Making gluten-free tabbouleh. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. For the hummus, open the can of chickpeas and drain the canning liquid into a jug. Pop the chickpeas in a blender or food processor along with the other ingredients and 3 tbsp. of the reserved liquid. Blitz for a few seconds until smooth. I like my hummus to have the consistency of thick porridge, but if you prefer something softer, just add a bit more canning liquid. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Don’t forget to keep the rest of the canning liquid for using as an egg white substitute – it freezes very well.
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    Making hummus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Serve the tabbouleh decorated with cucumber flowers; dress with a squeeze of fresh lemon and extra virgin olive oil to taste, and accompany with toasted seeds, home-made hummus (dusted with paprika if liked)  and warm, gluten-free, toasted pitta breads. Perfect 🙂

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    A fresh and healthy salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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    Ready to eat, quinoa tabbouleh with toasted seeds, home-made hummus and a squeeze of lemon. Image: Kathryn Hawkins