Winter garden round-up

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A splash of much-appreciated Winter colour, early Rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So far this year, Mother Nature has provided 4 seasons in 1 month. There have been several mild days; a few blue-sky, frosty days; a couple of snow-laden days, and in between, grey skies, rain and gusty winds. The poor bulbs and bushes don’t know whether they are on the way up or whether they should still be hibernating.

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Earlier this week. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Snow-covered apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The snow has now gone, and the temperature has gone up several degrees. I’m happy to say that plants and bulbs that were covered at the beginning of the week, have survived and are blooming again.  The crocus were a couple of weeks early this year, so they must have had one hell of a shock on Monday night when the weather changed. The rhubarb shoots have begun to unfurl since the snow melted. I think I will pop a large pot over this clump at the weekend, and force a few stems for spring.

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Yellow crocus, snow-covered and snow-survivors. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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New rhubarb shoots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

At the beginning of the week, all the snowdrops in the garden were still tightly closed, but as the thaw took hold and the temperature rose again, many of the buds have opened. These are such pretty, dainty little flowers, and are a sure sign that spring isn’t too far away. Have a good few days whatever the weather brings with it 🙂

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New season snowdrops. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Burns Night 2020

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Happy Burns Night! Image: Kathryn Hawkins

January 25th is a national celebration here in Scotland. The day commemorates the birthday of the famous Scottish poet, Robert (Rabbie) Burns. All over the country, parties and gatherings will be held in honour of Mr Burns, based around a traditional meal of haggis, neeps (mashed turnip or swede) and tatties (mashed potato), washed down with a wee dram or two of whisky.

I have noticed from the stats on my site, that from the end of December onwards, my tattie scones recipe gets lots of hits from all over the world. I think, in fact, that this is the most popular recipe I have ever posted. The chocolate haggis is a close second. Vegan_haggis_and_tattie_scones_traditional_Scottish_Burns_night_food

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Vegan haggis, tattie scones, shortbread and chocolate haggis. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipes for my vegan haggis and my old favourite, shortbread , as well as the aforementioned, can be found by clicking on the (pink) links.

Whatever you’re doing this January 25th, I hope you have a good time. I raise a glass to you and say “Slàinte”.

PS. A recipe for the (naked) gingerbread men will follow shortly 🙂

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A wee highland gingerbread man decorated for Burns Night. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Seville orange marmalade – traditional and dark (naturally gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan)

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Homemade Seville orange marmalade. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Seville orange marmalade-making comes but once a year, and that time is now. The bitter Spanish oranges are only in the shops between January and mid February. They are the best citrus fruit to achieve a classic tartly-flavoured orange marmalade, the favourite preserve of one Paddington Bear 🙂

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In season, Seville oranges. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There’s no getting away from it, making marmalade is labour-intensive if you make it the traditional way, but I enjoy it, and to me, the reward is greater than the effort involved. I have 2 versions of the same recipe to post this week. The first is the traditional, bright orange, softly set breakfast staple that we’re all familiar with. The second is a dark version which includes dark brown sugar to give a treacly flavour; it  is also my personal favourite – delicious over porridge or rice pudding. However, it doesn’t photograph that well in the jar as you may imagine, so I am only posting “selective” images!

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Traditional and dark Seville orange marmalade. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

How you prepare the peel is up to you. I like chunky (which is easier to prepare!). Get yourself organised and soak the peel overnight as this helps soften it, and make sure you cook it properly before adding the sugar to the pan – once the sugar is added, the peel won’t soften any more.

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Marmalade spoonfuls. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe, and happy marmalade making if you fancy having a go 🙂

Makes: approx. 3kg

Ingredients

  • 750g Seville oranges (approx. 5 large fruit), washed
  • 2.5 litres cold water
  • 2kg granulated sugar
  • 100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. The day before, juice the oranges, keeping all the pips and membrane that remain on the juicer. Cover the juice and refrigerate.
  2. I use a serrated grapefruit spoon to scrape out the fleshy bits that remain inside the orange shells, leaving just the skin and pith of the oranges ready for slicing.
  3. Pile all the pips, membrane and scrapings from inside the orange shells onto a large piece of clean muslin, and tie in a bundle securely with string. Put to one side. Halve the orange shells and slice as thinly and as small as you like.

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    Preparing the orange peel. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Place the sliced orange in a large bowl, pour over the water and add the muslin bag. Cover loosely, put in a cool place and leave to soak overnight.
  5. The next day, carefully transfer the contents of the bowl into a large preserving pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer the peel gently until very soft. This takes around 45 – 55 minutes depending on how thick you cut the peel.
  6. Carefully remove the muslin bag and place in a sieve over a jug. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can, and pour back into the saucepan. Discard the bag.

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    Soaking and cooking the peel. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. Pour the orange juice into the saucepan and stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Mix well and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and let the mixture come to a rapid boil, then cook the marmalade for about 20 minutes until the temperature reaches 105-106°C – spoon a little on to a cold plate from time to time as the temperature rises to check setting point is reached; once it cools, the pool of marmalade should wrinkle when pushed gently with your finger.
  8. Turn off the heat and leave the contents of the pan to stand for about 15 minutes – this enables the mixture to thicken a little and helps keep the citrus peel evenly suspended in the jelly when transferred to the jars.
  9. Stir the marmalade well before spooning into clean jars whilst hot, and seal well. Leave to cool, then label and store in the usual way.
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    This year’s haul of homemade marmalade. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    For the dark version, replace 500g of the granulated sugar with dark brown sugar and cook as above. If you use a very dark Muscovado sugar you may find the setting point more difficult to achieve (as I did this year!). I added a 250ml bottle of liquid pectin to the mixture to help things along, and a good set was achieved. I have no idea why this happened, the same recipe worked fine last year, the only change was a darker variety of sugar. One of life’s little mysteries…..Have a good week 🙂

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    Brown sugar Seville orange Marmalade. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Indian-style rice and peas (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Indian-style rice and peas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Welcome to my first recipe post of the year. I hope you’ve all had good Christmas and New Year celebrations. It has seemed like a good long holiday this year. Not only have I had plenty of time to recharge my batteries, but the longer holiday gave me the opportunity to spend time in the kitchen experimenting with different ingredients.

I have noticed that many of the blogs I follow have started the year with spicy offerings. Something about this time of the year usually gets me delving into the spice cupboard too, in search of different flavours to liven up my repertoire of recipes.

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Tray of spices and flavourings for basmati rice and chana dal. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe this week is based around 2 basic and ordinary ingredients: rice and dried peas. But cooking with some spices, onion and other flavours, they can be transformed into something quite sensational.

The combination of spices I have used in this dish are more fragrant and comforting than spicy. You may want to add something with heat to give it more of a kick if you prefer e.g cayenne pepper or dried red chilli. To mellow the flavour, toast the whole spices first in a dry frying pan, just for a couple of minutes, and then cool and grind them up before using. If you don’t have the time to make your own spice mix, use 2-3 tsp curry powder or garam masala.

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Preparing the spice mix. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The combination of spiced chana dal (yellow-split peas) and fragrant basmati rice makes this a very tasty accompaniment to serve with a vegetable curry sauce, or you can sprinkle it with roasted cashew nuts or almonds to make a deliciously comforting meal. It freezes well too, so is worth making up as a batch-bake and then portioning up for the freezer, ready to serve at a later date. The recipe takes a bit of time to organise but being able to make it for the freezer is a good incentive to have a go.

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Ready to serve, Indian-style rice and peas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The dish is made up of 2 layers of basmati rice, top and bottom, with an onion, garlic and ginger chana dal layer in the middle, enriched with coconut yogurt. To finish the dish, the spice mix is sprinkled on top along with lemon juice, coconut milk, green chilli and butter (or coconut oil or dairy-free margarine).

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Rice and pea flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Once the dish is baked, leave it to stand for a short while, then stir it up before serving so that all the wonderful flavours mingle together.

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All mixed up and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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A spoonful of rice and peas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins.

Serves: 3 to 4 as a main dish, or 4 to 6 as an accompaniment

Ingredients

  • 100g chana dal (yellow split peas)
  • 350g basmati rice
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves. peeled and finely chopped
  • 25g root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried bay leaf
  • 5 tbsp dairy-free coconut yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 40g butter or ghee if you eat it, or use coconut oil or dairy-free margarine instead
  • Juice 1 small lemon
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 or 2 large mild green chillies, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 tsp each cumin and coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • ¼ tsp crushed black peppercorns
  • Seeds of 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • Fresh coriander and cashew nuts to serve
  1. Rinse the chana dal in cold running water. Place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 45 minutes. Then drain, rinse and place in a saucepan. Cover with fresh water, bring to the boil and cook in simmering water for 25 minutes until tender but not mushy. Drain well.
  2. Rinse the rice in cold running water. Place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Drain and rinse the rice and then add to the water. Bring back to the boil and cook for 5 minutes only. Drain, rinse and leave to one side.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger with the bay leaves for 5 minutes over a medium heat until lightly golden. Add the yogurt 1 tbsp at a time, stirring the mixture in between additions, until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the salt and cooked chana dal. Leave aside. Discard bay leaves if preferred.

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    Preparing the chana dal and onion layer. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Spoon half the rice into an ovenproof dish and spread to form an even layer. Top with the oniony chana dal mixture and then the remaining rice. Pat down gently.
  5. Dot the top with butter, ghee, coconut oil or margarine, and drizzle with lemon juice and coconut milk. Sprinkle with sliced chilli to taste. Mix the spices together and sprinkle over the top of the rice. Cover the dish tightly with aluminium foil.

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    Layering the rice and peas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. Stand the dish on a baking tray and cook for 45-50 minutes until piping hot. Leave the covering in place and allow to stand for 10 minutes before removing the foil and gently mixing everything together. Serve with fresh coriander and cashew nuts.

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    Out of the oven and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins