Happy Hogmanay 2019 (and New Year 2020!)

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The last frosty morning of the year. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy Hogmanay! I hope you’ve all had a good Christmas. And now it’s the end of another year. Where has the past 12 months gone?

Much like last New Year’s Eve here in central Scotland, it has been a chilly day with bright sun and a cloudless blue sky. In spite of the sunshine, most parts of the garden remained covered in a thick crisp, frosty coating.

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Frost-covered lawn and Foxglove. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Hogmanay afternoon. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To end this short post, I photographed some “lucky” white heather out in the garden today with the hope that it would set us all on a good path for the year ahead. Whatever you’re up to this evening, I hope you have a good time. All my best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous year ahead. Happy New Year 2020!

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Happy New Year 2020. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The icing on the cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Vegan and gluten-free, fruit cake for Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Well, I admit, not quite “icing” on top of my Christmas cake this year, but a delicious layer of marzipan instead. If you’re not a fan of almond paste, then a layer of ready-to-roll white icing will do the trick just as well.

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Cherries and fresh herbs make a simple festive decoration. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is the sugar and spice fruit cake I made back in November – recipe here. It’s turned out ok and smells divine. I can’t wait to tuck in.

If you want to marzipan or ice the top of a cake, it’s quite straightforward. For an 18cm round cake like this one, you’ll need 250g marzipan or ready-to-roll icing for a reasonably thick layer. Knead it gently to soften a little (this will make it easier to roll), then dust the work top lightly with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan or icing to form a rough 19cm circle. Use the base of the tin that you cooked your cake in as a template to cut yourself a neat round.

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Making a marzipan round. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Unwrap your cake, turn it upside down to give a smooth surface and brush with some smooth apricot jam – I like to add a splash of rum to the jam for an extra kick. Carefully transfer the marzipan or icing circle to the top of the cake and smooth it in place.

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Covering the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Now your cake is ready to decorate and tie with ribbon for a finishing touch. I have used glacé cherries with fresh bay leaves and rosemary sprigs for a very simple yet festive decoration, but I’m sure you will have your own ideas.

This is my last post before Christmas. Thank you all for stopping by over the past 12 months and for your lovely comments. I hope you have a good time over the holidays and I send you my best wishes for a happy and healthy festive time. I look forward to posting again in the new year.

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Christmas on a plate. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My favourite nut loaf (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Super-easy nut loaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you’re planning a meat-free Christmas menu for yourself or guests this year then my recipe this week maybe one to consider. Time to post my favourite nut loaf recipe. It is very easy to assemble, can be made in advance, and freezes well. What’s more, you can use any combination of nuts and seeds you fancy – it’s the perfect recipe to use up any nuts or seeds that you have already opened. And above all else, it’s very tasty 🙂

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Serve with roast veg and veggie gravy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I prefer to use roasted peanuts and cashews if I have them, but pecans and almonds are favourites too. The mixture is bound together with lentils, flax seed “egg” and nut butter – choose whichever cooked pulses or nut butter you fancy to suit your taste. If you fancy some extra crunch, toast a handful of your favourite seeds and add to the mixture when you bind everything together.

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Ground peanuts and cashews. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

When grinding or chopping the nuts, I like to keep some bigger pieces amongst the finer grinds so that the loaf has some texture but you may prefer something smoother.

On with the recipe, and then on with the festive countdown.

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil + extra to drizzle
  • 1 stick celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 115g grated carrot
  • 115g cooked green lentils (cooked and mashed cannellini, butter or haricot beans work well too)
  • 200g roasted peanuts and cashews (or your favourite nut and seed combination)
  • 40g gluten-free sage and onion stuffing mix
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 125g whole nut peanut or other nut butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. flax seeds
  • Chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the celery, onion and garlic, mix well, cover, and cook gently for 10 minutes until softened. Cool for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line a 1kg loaf tin with a paper liner or baking parchment. Put the remaining ingredients, except the flax seeds and parsley, in a bowl and stir in the softened mixture.
  3. Now make the flax egg. Grind the flax seeds until powdery – I use a coffee grinder. Put in a small bowl and mix in 3 tbsp. water. Leave for about 5 minutes to thicken then stir into the nutty vegetable mixture to bind everything together.

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    Making flax “egg”. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Spoon the loaf mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 25-30 minutes until lightly crusty on top.

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    Before and after baking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To serve, carefully remove the loaf from the tin. Discard the lining paper and transfer to a warmed serving plate or serving board. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, sliced thickly and accompanied with roasted vegetables and vegetable gravy or a fresh tomato sauce.
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    Nut loaf serving suggestion. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    I hope you have a good few days  and I look forward to seeing you again just before Christmas!