Grow your own salad

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May salad of homegrown herbs, flowers and leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope the sun has been shining on you these past few days. It has been glorious here, although we did have some very unseasonal gale-force winds whipping up a storm last weekend. Luckily, no serious damage done.

My post this week is more of a “show and tell” rather than a recipe or garden feature. I’ve never been one for growing much in the way of salad leaves, but this year, with more time on my hands in early spring, I decided to try my hand. With vegetable seeds in high demand, I was limited in choice, but  2 of my favourites were obtainable and that’s how I ended up sowing pea shoots and rocket.

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Easy to grow, pea shoots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Pea shoots are a crop that you can grow all year round indoors. You just need a container and some compost or soil, and watering can on stand by. I planted up a couple of pots and have had them in the conservatory since the end of April. The shoots don’t like direct sunlight, just bright light and warmth. After 3 ½ weeks they are ready to harvest. The seed packet says that you might get a second harvest so I have cut the first few stems just above a pair of leaves about 3cm from the bottom of the stalk, and now I will wait and see if they shoot up again.

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Homegrown rocket. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rocket is a leaf for out-of-doors growing according to the pack, but I have grown the leaves on a windowsill indoors before. I did have the ground space outside but I put my seeds in pots because I was convinced the young seedlings would get eaten by the big fat pigeons that strut around the back garden hoovering up the leftovers from the bird feeders. The pots are easier to protect and keep out of greedy beaks.

I planted a few pots with seeds at the same time as the pea shoots. The seeds are so tiny,  it is impossible to sow them thinly. After 2 weeks or so, they were ready to be thinned out. I was able to replant some of the bigger seedlings but the tinniest ones made excellent peppery sprinkles on a salad. By the way, these are the pretty heart-shaped leaves around the edge of the plate above.

Rocket plants grow in clusters of leaves, so when you harvest, snip leaves sparingly from each plant so that the rest of the plant can regenerate.

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Seasonal salad herbs and flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Around the garden at this time, I found other herbs and flowers to add to my salad plate. Choose young sorrel leaves to eat raw as they are soft in texture and have less of an astringent taste. Salad burnet is one of my favourite herbs. I have had a pot growing in the garden for several years. Although it looks very delicate with it’s soft, bright, serrated-edged leaves, it is a hardy herb and keeps going from year to year without much looking after. The leaves have a mild, fresh cucumber-like flavour.

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Sweet berry vinegar and thyme dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A simple combination of salad ingredients requires just the simplest of accompaniments. A while ago I posted on how to make your own flavoured vinegars. The link to the basic recipe can be found by clicking here . At the bottom of the recipe you will find ideas for other flavourings including berries. The vinegar above was made last year using some of the wild strawberries that grow around the garden and I also added a few sprigs of fresh thyme. A simple salad dressing, no oil nor added sugar required.

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Homegrown salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I will probably be back in the garden next time, until then, take care and enjoy the fine weather.

Strawberry shortcakes (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Strawberry shortcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are all keeping well. Time for something sweet this week on my blog to celebrate the start of the soft fruit season here in central Scotland. The area I live in is well known for its soft fruit production. A couple of weeks ago, the first of the new season strawberries arrived in the shops, and very delicious they are too. Sweet with a slight acidic note, aromatic and fruity, they are one of the best soft fruits around.

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New season Scottish strawberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

What better way to enjoy them than with shortcakes and cream. I’ve been working on a thick vegan cream for a while. As much as I like coconut yogurt, sometimes you just don’t want the flavour dominating whatever you are eating. I am able to buy a pouring cream made from soya milk as well as various crême fraîche-style non-dairy alternatives, but I haven’t been able to find anything that resembles whipped cream. What I have come up with I think makes a great alternative to any of the above.

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Ta dah! Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe for the cream and shortcakes. Make the cream first because it needs time to cool and then chill to allow it to firm up. Ideally, start the day before for less faffing around. The shortcakes are best eaten freshly baked but do freeze fine.

Makes: 8 filled shortcakes

Ingredients

For the vegan cream:

  • 100ml readymade soya pouring cream
  • 40g white vegetable fat such as Trex or flavourless coconut oil (this need to be a solid fat, not a margarine)
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • A few drops vanilla extract, optional

For the shortcakes:

  • 250g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 4 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 80g dairy-free margarine
  • 40g caster sugar + extra to sprinkle
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • approx. 80ml dairy-free milk (I use oat milk) + extra to glaze

To serve:

  • Strawberry jam
  • Fresh strawberries, hulled washed and sliced
  1. First make the cream. Pour the soya cream into a small heatproof bowl and add the fat. Place on top of a small saucepan of barely simmering water and leave to melt, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from the heat, mix well, then stir in the xanthan gum until completely blended. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally. The mixture thickens on cooling.
  3. When cold, have a taste and see if you like the flavour as it is. Otherwise add a few drops  of vanilla extract (or you might prefer a pinch of salt).  Whisk for about a minute with an electric whisk, then cover and chill the cream for at least 2 hours. After this time, the cream should be the consistency of thick, spoonable yogurt. It will keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.
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Making thick vegan cream. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  1. For the shortcakes, preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C fan oven, gas 7. Lightly grease 8 muffin tins. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the margarine and rub into the dry ingredients until well blended.
  2. Stir in the sugar and xanthan gum along with sufficient milk to bring the dough together in a soft ball. Turn on to the work top, dust with flour and knead lightly until smooth.
  3. Divide into 8 equal portions, form each into a ball and press into the muffin tins.
  4. Brush with a little more milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until risen and lightly golden. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then loosen and transfer the shortcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Steps_1_to_6_showing_how_to_make_individual_shortcakes
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    How to make individual shortcakes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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    Cool the shortcakes on a wire rack. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Just before serving, slice the shortcakes in half and add a dollop of cream, jam and a few sliced berries. The shortcakes are also good simply spread with dairy-free margarine and jam.

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    Filling shortcakes with vegan cream, jam and sliced berries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Here’s one I sampled earlier……..

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    Irresistible. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Until next time, I hope you have a good, safe and healthy few days. I look forward to posting again in a few days time 🙂

No-egg omelette with asparagus (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Egg-free omelette with roast asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. A simple recipe for you this week. Perfect for the time of year. It makes a lovely lunch or light supper, and more than anything else, it gives me the opportunity to show you how you really can make an omelette without breaking a single egg 🙂

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Egg-less omelette ingredients. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My chosen filling for the month of May would always be fresh asparagus. This magnificent vegetable has been available here, home-grown in the UK, for about 3 weeks now. And very delicious it is too. I roasted a few stems to eat with my omelette and then let the rest go cold to eat with a salad.

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British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To roast asparagus (I find thicker stems cook better this way), trim off the woody ends and lay out, spaced apart on a large lined baking tray. Brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes at 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6 until tender. Drain and serve hot or cold.

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Preparing and roasting asparagus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. I add chopped fresh herbs to the omelette mixture for colour and flavour. I have tried adding shredded leek and spring onion but found that they added water and changed the texture. A few tablespoons of chopped herbs is fine but anything more and the mixture may become more pancake-like. The aqua fava gives added lightness to the mixture which makes it less like a pancake batter. Leave this out if your prefer. By the way, if you’re not gluten-free, plain white flour can replace the tapioca flour.

Makes 4 small omelettes or 2 medium-sized

Ingredients

  • 75ml chickpea or bean water (aqua fava)
  • 50g tapioca flour
  • 50g gram (chickpea) flour
  • 3g gluten-free baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150ml dairy-free milk (I use oat milk)
  • 2 tbsp each freshly chopped parsley and chives
  • Sunflower oil for cooking
  1. Pour the chickpea water into a bowl and whisk for 2-3 minutes until thick and foamy.
  2. Sieve the flours, baking powder and salt into another bowl. Make a well in the centre and gradually blend in the milk to make a smooth batter.
  3. Scrape the whisked foam on top and add the herbs. Gently fold everything together until well blended.
  4. Brush a small crepe or frying pan (approx. 15cm base) with a little oil and heat until hot. Reduce the heat to low and pour in ¼ of the batter to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook over a medium/low heat for 2-3 minutes until bubbles form on top and the mixture is almost set. The omelette should be lightly golden underneath.
  5. Turn over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until cooked through. Turn onto baking parchment and cover with foil whilst preparing the other omelettes. Best served warm with your favourite filling.
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    How to make an egg-less omelette. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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    A perfect May-time lunch. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    I hope you have a good few days ahead. Enjoy the fine weather if you have it and above all else, keep safe.