Bright October colours

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Acer Palmatum in Autumn splendor. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. As I sit down to compile this week’s post, it is very wet and dull outside. In fact it has been raining just about all week and there is very little end in sight. During the very few brief dry spells, I have been outside to capture some of the bright colours that are on show in the garden at the moment. One positive thing about the low light levels is that natural colours do seem to stand out all the more.

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Maple leaf ground cover. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The rain rather than the wind has driven many leaves from the trees this year. The colour of the Japanese maple is stunning – so many shades of pink, orange and red from just one tree.

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3 Nerines. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In the rockery in the back garden, the foliage is mostly fading green or dying back now, but the Nerines are standing proud, bright and bold.

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Second flowering of Rosa Felicia. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Just along the border from the Nerines, is my old faithful rose bush and true to form, it is in flower once again. The heads are heavy and drooping with the weight of rain drops but the perfume is just as sweet and fragrant.

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October Runners. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In between the rockery and the rose are my runner bean plants. Still going strong and still providing me with beans. This latest basketful weighed just under 500g. We have had neither very cold weather nor strong winds so far this autumn and these factors seem to have given the beans an extended lease of life.

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Late Autumn raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The Autumn raspberry canes are still fruiting well. Another wee basket picked ready for my morning granola.

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Anemones still flowering. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The white Japanese anemones are still going strong, and now the garden has a new addition to the collection, this pink hybrid anemone called Pamina. Lots of pointed pink petals. I hope it does well in its new home.

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Hypericum Rose of Sharon. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I gave the Rose of Sharon Hypericum a big “hair-cut” early last month. It had flowered very well but had become too large for the flower-bed. I am amazed to see that it is flowering again already.

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Saffron crocus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can see, it wasn’t raining when I captured these delicate little saffron crocus. To be honest, is was over a week ago when I took the pictures. Sadly, they haven’t survived the rain battering this week. I love the shadows of the saffron-scented stamens just visible through the petals.

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Second time around Borage. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a very good year for Borage and I have had a continuous supply of bold star-shaped flowers since early summer. Long may they continue adding their vibrant splash of electric blue colour.

Already decorated for Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m returning to the Japanese Maple for my last image. As I was capturing the leading image for my post, I noticed that the small conifer next to the tree was covered in red leaves giving it a rather festive look 🙂

That’s all from me this week. I will be back in the kitchen and recipe posting again soon. Until then, take care and keep safe 🙂

Toffee apple upside-down cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Toffee apple upside-down cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. How are you? All well I hope. It feels very autumnal now, and with the world seemingly facing a lot of uncertainty again, it feels the right time to publish a heart-warming slice of comfort with this week’s post.

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First main harvest of apples. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been picking a few cooking apples here and there from the tree in the garden for about a month now. This week, I decided it was time to gather as many as I could reach. The baskets above contain about half the amount the tree has produced this year – I need to call in the cavalry to get the rest!

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Solo apple. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To be honest, the apple variety Lord Derby isn’t the greatest tasting apple out there, but the apples cook very well and reatian their texture if you want them too, so are ideal for baking. They also require little sugar, and can be eaten raw – they are similar to a Granny Smith eating apple.

This week’s recipe is a combination of a cake batter used for sticky toffee pudding along with the delicious sauce – you can find a festive version of the classic comfort pudding by clicking here – baked in a tin lined with fruit as you would for an upside-down cake.

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Apples, cake and toffee sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you enjoy the cake, it really is good, and it is just as delicious served hot as a pudding or cold as a slice to go with a cup of coffee 🙂

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Apple cake and apple leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 10

Ingredients

  • 225g pitted dates, chopped
  • 25g golden or corn syrup
  • 450g cooking apples
  • 1 lemon
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 150g soft light brown sugar
  • 300g gluten-free self raising flour blend (such as Doves Farm)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 180ml dairy-free milk (I use oat milk)

For the sauce

  • 100g golden or corn syrup
  • 40g dairy-free margarine
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 100ml single dairy-free cream (such as oat or soya)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Put the dates in a saucepan with 225ml cold water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes until soft and thick. Remove from the heat and beat until smooth – use a stick blender to obtain a very smooth paste. Leave to cool completely. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

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Making date paste. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Grease and line a 23cm round spring-clip cake tin and drizzle the syrup over the base. Put to one side.

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Apple cake tin preparation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Next prepare the apples. Core the apples and peel them thinly. Extract the juice from the lemon, cut the juiced lemon in quarters and place both in a bowl with cold water. Slice the apples thinly into rings and submerge in the water to help prevent discoloration.

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Apple preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C, gas 4. Mix the oil and sugar into the date paste. Stir in the flour, vanilla and milk to make a thick batter.

5. Drain and pat dry the apple slices on kitchen paper, and arrange sufficient slices to cover the base of the tin. Spoon over half the cake batter. Smooth and then use the remaining apple slices to make a layer on top.

6. Cover with the remaining cake batter, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 1 1/4 hours until risen and firm to the touch – test with a wooden skewer inserted into the centre to make sure the cake is thoroughly cooked. Leave too cool for 15 minutes before releasing from the tin and turning out on to a serving plate, upside-down.

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Making the apple cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

7. While the cake is cooking, make the sauce. Put the syrup, margarine and sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the margarine melts.

8. Raise the heat and bring to the boil. Stop stirring and simmer the mixture for 3-4 minutes until richly golden – take care not too over-boil as the mixture will soon over-caramelise and burn. Turn off the heat and gradually stir in the cream and vanilla. Stir until well blended and leave to cool. Serve hot or cold.

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How to make gluten-free and vegan toffee sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

And that’s it, the cake is now ready to eat hot as a dessert with the warm sauce poured over, or let it go cold and drizzle over the sauce to serve.

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Inside the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

All my best wishes to you for the days ahead. Take care and keep safe. I look forward to posting again in a few days time.