Cauliflower – the king of winter vegetables – 3 recipe ideas (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

 

Indian-spiced_roast_cauliflower_teriyaki_stir_fried_cauliflower_and_Italian-style_cauliflower_steak
Cauliflower roasted, stir fried, and steaks. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

When it comes to the winter months of the year, trying to buy only home-grown, British vegetables (as is my want) can be quite challenging especially if you desire something other than starchy root crops. In my opinion, the humble cauliflower reigns supreme at this time of year as it is a welcome diversion in flavour, taste and texture.

However, my thoughts haven’t always been so positive towards the cauliflower. At school, cauliflower was boiled beyond all recognition and served as a watery, soft mush – enough to put anyone off the vegetable for life. Yet, today, it is one of the “on trend” vegetables. If you cook it correctly, cauliflower has a  meaty texture, sweet flavour, and best of all, it can be cooked in many ways. It’s full of vitamin C and K, as well as B vitamins and dietary fibre. Easy to prepare, you can eat just about all of it from the inner the cream-coloured curds  to the outer wrapping of juicy leaves.

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Preparing cauliflower. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The leaves help protect the curds, so try to buy the vegetable with as much greenery as possible. If you want to store cauliflower for a few days,  keep the leaves intact and place the stalk-end in a shallow depth of water in a bowl, in the fridge, and the cauliflower should keep fresh for up to a week.

To prepare, discard any damaged outer leaves, but keep the inner, more tender leaves – these can be cooked like cabbage. Once the curds are free from leaves, slice or break the head into florets. Prepared cauliflower florets dehydrate quickly so are best cooked soon after preparation.

I rarely cook cauliflower in water, but if I do, it is for a very short time only – the curds can get very spongy very quickly when cooked in water, and the flavour will be lost.

Following are my current 3 favourite ways of cooking cauliflower for maximum taste and texture: roasting, griddled steaks and stir-fried sprouting stems.

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Roast cauliflower with Indian spices. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Toss chunky florets of cauliflower and  thickly sliced red onion in sunflower oil. Season with garam masala to taste. Spread out on a baking tray, season with salt and pepper and roast at 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6) for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Mix in cooked chick peas and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes until everything is lightly browned. Drain well, then serve sprinkled with black onion seeds. For a main meal,  mix into freshly cooked Basmati rice and sprinkle with fresh coriander and roasted cashew nuts.

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Freshly roasted spiced cauliflower. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Probably the most popular way to serve cauliflower at the moment is as a steak. I usually cut the prepared curds into 2cm thick slices and poach them in simmering water for a couple of minutes before frying or placing on a griddle or barbecue – a large frying pan is good for poaching as it enables you to lift out the steaks more easily. Use tongs to make sure you drain the steaks well,  and dry them on kitchen paper so that excess cooking water is removed before cooking in oil.

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Pre-cooking cauliflower steaks. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Cauliflower steaks with Italian flavours. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Brush the prepared cauliflower steaks lightly with vegetable oil on one side. Heat a griddle pan or frying pan until very hot, then add the streaks, oiled-side down. Press into the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden or lightly charred. Brush the top with more oil, and turn the steaks over. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes or until cooked to you liking. Serve straight from the pan drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic glaze or reduction, and toasted pine nuts. Top with griddled cherry vine tomatoes and fresh basil.

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Sweet sprouting cauliflower. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the new kids on the block in the cauliflower world, is a variety with fine green stems and small, flowery curds. I was a bit sceptical when I first saw it (mainly because of the price), but I have since been converted. The stems are best cooked for a minimum time, just as you would for asparagus – steamed, griddled or stir fried – in order to retain the crisp texture. Unusually, the stems become even brighter green when cooked. The flavour is mild and sweet. To make sure the stems cook evenly, break or cut the stems up so that you have same-size thickness pieces.

You can keep these stems in a jug of water in the fridge for a couple of days to keep them fresh, as they do lose texture quickly. These sweet stems are a perfect choice for a single serving or to add to a combination of other vegetables.

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Freshly steamed in 3-4 minutes, sweet sprouting cauliflower stems. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a deep-frying pan or wok until hot. Add prepared raw stems and stir fry in the hot oil for 3 minutes. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and cook for a further 1 minute. Turn off the heat,  add finely chopped garlic to taste and drizzle with a little honey or agave syrup and gluten-free teriyaki marinade. Put the lid back on and leave to stand in the residual steam for a further minute. Drain the stems, reserving the juices, and pile into a warm serving bowl. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Mix a little sesame oil into the pan juices and serve alongside the stems as a dressing or dip. Utterly delicious 🙂

Bowl_of_freshly_cooked_cauliflower_stems_dressed_with_teryiaki_and_sesame_seeds
Teriyaki and sesame dressed cauliflower stems. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

New year, new cake – Coffee and pecan loaf (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan option)

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Coffee and pecan loaf cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I had planned that my first recipe post of the year would be a recipe bursting with nutrition and vitality – new year, fresh start, etc. However, it’s been so cold these past few days, when it came to it, I simply couldn’t face anything too healthy. Instead, I’ve been in the kitchen keeping warm by baking, and thus, my first recipe of 2018 is one of my favourite cakes.

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Sun-up on a frosty January morning. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I took this shot of the garden from an open window about 9am yesterday morning, just as the sun was rising. The image below is the window adjacent to the one I opened – the beautiful ice pattern is on the inside!

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Window pane iced-up on the inside. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So, in my books, cold weather is enough justification for cake, and I start my new year blog posts with one of my “desert island” cakes: a coffee one.

I’ve been using a heritage brand of coffee and chicory essence as a coffee flavouring in baking for as long as I can remember. It was our “turn to” flavouring long before decent barista-style instant coffee and espresso shots came to British shores. Sadly, the glass bottle packaging of old has been replaced by a plastic version (making it look less authentic), but the old-fashioned label is practically unchanged in design and the product within tastes just as good as always. I haven’t found anything that comes close to the concentrated flavour it offers in baking. In summer, I use it to make a base for a deliciously smooth and well-rounded iced coffee, ice-creams and chilled custards.

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My favourite coffee flavouring, and finely ground pecan nuts. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The sweet, nutty flavour of pecans goes particularly well with coffee. You can use walnuts if you prefer, but I find them a bit overpowering if you really want the taste  of coffee to dominate your bake. For this recipe, grind up some of the pecans very finely to make a “flour” for a better formed cake crumb, and then add the remainder as finely chopped pieces for extra nutty texture. I add a little arrowroot to help bind the mixture but you can leave it out if you prefer. I hope you enjoy the flavours as much as I do 🙂

Serves: 10

Ingredients

  • 225g pecan halves
  • 125g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 8g arrowroot
  • 2 level teaspoons gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 175g light brown soft sugar
  • 3 large eggs (or, for a vegan cake, use 180g silken tofu)
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 4 tsp Camp coffee essence or similar
  • 50g Demerara sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. Put 125g pecans in a blender or food processor and blitz until very finely ground. Chop the remaining pecan nuts finely.
  2. Sift the flour and arrowroot into a bowl and stir in both lots of pecans along with the sugar. Beat the eggs (or tofu) with the oil until well blended, and then thoroughly mix into the dry ingredients.
  3. Transfer to the prepared tin. Smooth the top and put the tin on a baking tray. Scatter the top of the cake with the Demerara sugar. Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes until risen, lightly cracked, and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when the cake is cooked. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap and store for 24 hours for better flavour and texture.
    Freshly_baked_coffee_and_pecan_loaf_cake
    Dense, moist textured coffee and pecan loaf cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
    Overhead_sliced_coffee_and_pecan_loaf_cake
    Coffee and pecan loaf cake, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

     

 

 

Happy new year!

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Hogmanay heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy new year to you all. My very best wishes to my blogging friends for a happy, healthy and peaceful year ahead.

It’s been a quiet start to the year. After a milder, rain-soaked, grey morning, the afternoon brought with it much calmer and brighter weather, with a glorious blue sky, sunshine, and crisp, fresh air.

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The glow of fading sunshine on the first day of the year. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Enjoy the rest of the holiday. I look forward to starting my regular posts again soon 🙂

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A first-footing robin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Sticky toffee Christmas pudding (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Sticky toffee Christmas pudding. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Just a few days to go before the festive feasts begin, and what could be more appropriate for my last post before Christmas, than a delicious alternative Christmas pudding. I do enjoy a traditional, steamed fruit pudding, but this year I fancied a change, and have developed an alternative recipe. This pudding is fruity, but a little wee bit lighter in texture, and with the emphasis on toffee flavour rather than spice; I guarantee, it is utterly divine 🙂

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Cherries, apricots, sultanas and currants. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe makes 2 x 250ml puddings, which I think serve between 2 and 4 people, depending on how large an appetite you have. If you prefer,  put the mixture in a 500ml basin and cook it for about an hour longer. I usually steam puddings in a slow cooker, this way I can forget about them and don’t end up with a steamy kitchen. If you prefer, put the puddings on a trivet, in a saucepan or in a steamer compartment, cover tightly with a lid, and then cook in the steam for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. You can use any combination of fruit (or nuts) you have to make up the weight in the ingredients list, it’s a great pudding to use up any odds and ends you have.

Makes 2 x 250ml puddings

Ingredients

  • 75g dried dates
  • 50g dairy-free margarine
  • 50g light Muscovado sugar
  • 50g silken tofu
  • 65g self-raising gluten-free flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g mixed dried fruit

For the sauce:

  • 85g light Muscovado sugar
  • 30g dairy-free margarine
  • 110ml canned coconut milk
  • ½ tsp good quality vanilla extract
  1. Grease and flour 2 x 250ml pudding basins. Put the dates in a small saucepan with 75ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes until very soft. Beat well with a wooden spoon until smooth, then leave to cool completely.
  2. When you are ready to mix up the puddings, put the slow cooker on High and leave to preheat for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the margarine, sugar and tofu in a bowl. Add the cold date mixture and whisk everything together until smooth and creamy.

    Preparing_the_pudding_mixture
    Preparing the date mixture and blending the ingredients. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda on top. Add the fruit and gently mix all the ingredients together. Divide between the 2 basins and smooth the tops.

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    Preparing the puddings for steaming. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Cover the puddings with a layer of baking parchment, and then foil, and tie securely with string. Put the basins in the slow cooker, side by side, pour in sufficient hot water to come halfway up the sides of the basins, cover and leave to cook for 2 hours. A skewer inserted into the centre of each pudding will come out clean when the puddings are ready.
  5. For the sauce, put the sugar, margarine and half the coconut milk in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together, then raise the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until richly golden and caramelised. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining coconut milk and vanilla extract.
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    Making the toffee sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  6. When the puddings are ready, remove them from the slow cooker and leave them to stand for 5 minutes. Remove the wrappings and turn out on to warm serving plates. Pour over sauce and serve immediately.

    A_spoonful_of_sticky_toffee_Christmas_pudding
    Ready to eat, sticky toffee Christmas pudding. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    That just leaves me to pass on my very best wishes to you for a happy, healthy and enjoyable Christmas holiday. Happy festive feasting!

 

Rumbledethumps (gluten-free + dairy-free & vegan alternatives)

 

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Freshly baked Rumbledethumps. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Great name for a recipe eh? What’s more, I haven’t made it up. This is a Scottish classic, and I’ve chosen to post it now for 2 reasons. It’s been very cold here this week and this is fabulous comfort food, and also with the festive season nearly upon us, it is an excellent recipe for using up leftovers. It uses 2 of my favourite vegetables, potatoes and kale (or cabbage).

I love kale. So much flavour and texture, I think it out-strips cabbage and other greens in every way. Up until a couple of years ago, Cavelo Nero, Italian black kale, was my favourite variety, but then along came mini kale and my mind was changed. Very quick to cook, simple to prepare, with a milder, slightly sweet and nutty flavour, it looks very pretty too. The small leaves are  also excellent raw in winter salads.

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Mini kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Heads of mini kale, up close. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So on with the recipe. Traditionally, this is a very simple combination of leftover cooked potatoes and cabbage fried with onion and then grilled with cheese on top. What’s not to like? The name, by the way, is believed to come from the combination of the “thumping” sound associated with mashing potato and the mixing together of the ingredients (a “rumble”). Here’s my version.

Serves: 3 to 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 150g mini kale, kale, cabbage or other greens (if you have leftovers, you’re halfway there with the recipe already)
  • 500g cooked potatoes (I had some boiled small potatoes with skins on to use up)
  • 25g butter or dairy-free margarine
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 leek, trimmed and shredded (or use thinly sliced onion if you prefer)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g grated Scottish Cheddar or dairy-free/vegan grated cheese
  1. If you are starting from scratch, prepare the greens and cook them in lightly salted water for 3-5 minutes until just tender. Drain well.
  2. Put the potatoes in a bowl and mash them to crush slightly.
  3. In a large frying pan, melt the butter with the oil and gently fry the leek for 3-4 minutes until softened (if you’re using onion, cook it gently for longer, until tender).
  4. Stir in the potatoes and greens, and stir fry the vegetables gently together for 5-6 minutes until thoroughly heated. Season well and transfer to a heatproof dish.

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    Basic preparation of Rumbledethumps. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Preheat the grill to medium/hot. Sprinkle the vegetables with grated cheese and grill for about 5 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.
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Comfort with every spoonful. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Early December in the garden

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Blue-sky December day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As I sat down to write this post last night, we were awaiting the arrival of the first major storm of the season. Nothing has materialised overnight, but it is suddenly feeling much colder. There is a thick frost this morning, and it is bright and clear again, the wind has dropped, and all is calm.

On the whole, the first few days of the month have been quite kind to the gardeners amongst us here in central Scotland. Whilst the east coast did have more seasonal weather, we were blessed with several blue sky days, milder temperatures, and some glorious sun rises.

To be honest, I haven’t been outside much recently – work has kept me inside. The garden is looking a bit tired now, and ready for a rest. I cleared a lot of the autumn debris a couple of weeks ago and it’s beginning to look a bit bare in places. However, the evergreens provide shape and colour and look very vibrant on a fine day, and the Cotoneaster hedge is laden with berries, as it is every year.

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Berry-laden Cotoneaster hedge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The best value plants in the garden this year have been the carnations I planted last year – taken as cuttings from a birthday bouquet. They began flowering in August, and are still producing blooms at the moment. I’m sure the winter weather will get to them eventually, but the south-facing wall seems to be providing them with sufficient shelter to have kept them going this far into the year.

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Carnations enjoying the winter sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Elsewhere in the garden, the colours have faded. The Hydrangeas have taken on a beautiful “vintage” look, and the blooms of Echinops and white Japanese Anemones have left behind interesting seed-heads which are slowly weathering away.

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Faded beauty: Blue Hydrangea. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Globe thistle and Japanese Anemone seed heads. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The last of my garden features this month is this wee fellow, a perennial primrose. Just one solitary bloom at the moment, hidden away in a sheltered, damp part of the garden. A small flash of pale yellow which acts to remind me that spring will be here again in just a few weeks. Have a good week 🙂

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Perennial primrose. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Sesame shortbreads (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Sesame shortbreads. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve had a busy few days with my work, and subsequently only had time for one quick baking session this week. I turned to an old favourite of mine, shortbread. Easy to make and lovely to eat, and open to so many variations. This time, I had a break with tradition and made a super rich seeded version and replaced some of the fat with tahini.

I often replace a portion of the flour in cakes and bakes with ground almonds, and, if I don’t have enough ready-ground, I blitz up my own in a coffee grinder. If you use the non-blanched almonds, you’ll find the ground meal gives a more earthy to your bakes.

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Sesame seed paste and home-made ground almonds. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

These tasty shortbreads have a soft, crumbly texture, and a rich, nutty flavour; they are delicious with a cup of coffee and keep well for a few days in an airtight tin. I find them impossible to resist. I’m away to eat the last one after I finish typing this!

Makes: 18

Ingredients

  • 150g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 65g icing sugar
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 25g toasted sesame seeds
  • 85g tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 50g very soft dairy-free margarine (or butter if you eat it)
  • 1 tbsp. each of chia seeds, toasted sesame seeds and Demerara sugar, mixed, for the topping
  1. Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds and toasted sesame seeds.
  2. Mix the tahini and margarine together until well blended, then stir into the dry ingredients until well mixed.
  3. Bring the ingredients together using your hands, then turn out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead gently to form a smooth dough. Divide into 18 portions and form each into a ball.
  4. Arrange on the baking tray, press down lightly to make chunky rounds and sprinkle lightly with the sugary seed mix. Chill for 30 minutes.

    Preparation_of_sesame_shortbread_biscuits
    Preparing sesame shortbreads. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven), gas 4. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Bake the shortbreads for about 25 minutes until lightly brown and crisp. Leave to cool on the tray.

    Serving_of_home-made_sesame_shortbreads
    Ready for eating, sesame shortbreads. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Mini sco-nuts (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Vanilla sugar-dredged mini sco-nuts. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The weather has turned colder this past week, and my thoughts have turned to comfort food. In my opinion, food doesn’t come much more comforting than a light, fluffy doughnut with a crunchy, sugary coating. Sadly, not usually a choice for anyone on a gluten-diet, but I think these little treats are a good alternative, and best of all, they can be made in a fraction of the time that it takes to make the real thing.

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Mini sco-nut, fresh out of the pan. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As the name suggests, the recipe derives from a scone mix that is cut and fried like a doughnut. I coated mine in home-made vanilla sugar but plain sugar is just as good. Leave them plain and dip them in a little of your favourite jam or sweet dipping sauce. Sometimes, I drizzle them with a little vanilla or cocoa flavoured glacé icing and decorate with a few sprinkles.

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Drizzled and decorated, mini sco-nuts. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Home-made vanilla sugar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I always have a pot of vanilla sugar in the cupboard. I chop up bits of vanilla pod that is past its prime, or any part of the pod that has dried out, and just keep topping up the pot with caster sugar. Every now and then I give the pot a shake to distribute the vanilla pieces, and I keep the pot well sealed. You do need to sieve it when you use it, but keep the bits of pod trapped in the sieve and put them back in the pot along with a top up of sugar, and you can replenish your supply more or less indefinitely. Here’s the recipe.

Makes: 14 mini sco-nuts

Ingredients

  • 150g gluten-free self-raising flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 5g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 2g xanthum gum, optional – I have started adding this to my scone mixture as it really does improve the crumb texture
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil + extra oil for deep-frying
  • 1 tsp good quality vanilla extract
  • Approx. 6 tbsp. soya or other non-dairy milk
  • Vanilla sugar or caster sugar to dredge
  1. Sieve the flour, baking powder and xanthum gum into a bowl and stir in the caster sugar. Make a well in the centre, and spoon in the oil and vanilla, then bind together with sufficient milk to form a softish scone dough.
  2. Pour the oil for deep-frying into a saucepan or wok and begin heating – the oil temperature needs to be around 180°C to fry the sco-nuts properly. While the oil is heating, turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently to bring the mixture together and make smooth, then roll or press to a thickness of 1cm.
  3. Cut out rounds using a plain 5cm cookie cutter, and press out the middles using a 2cm round cutter. Re-roll the trimmings nd middles to make 14 mini rings in total.
  4. Fry the sco-nuts in 2 batches, turning them gently in the oil, for 2-3 minutes, until golden and crisp all over. Drain well on kitchen paper and keep warm while cooking the second batch.
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    Preparing and cooking mini sco-nuts. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Dredge in sugar if liked, or drizzle with icing. Best served while still warm. Sco-nuts do freeze well if you have any leftover; just bag them up, seal and freeze. You can reheat them gently in a moderate oven for about 5 minutes if you want to eat them warm.

    Warm_sco-nuts_being_dipped_in_vanilla_sugar
    Extra indulgence, dipping mini sco-nuts in vanilla sugar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Super-seed flapjack (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Straight out of the tray, super-seed flapjack. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Over the past year or so, I have been trying to include as many different seeds in my diet as I am able. Seeds are crammed full of protein, minerals and fibre, and unusually for such a worthy food, I find them utterly delicious and a pleasure to eat.

I have been making flapjack since my school days; it’s a real family favourite. Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe to include flavours and ingredients that take my fancy, and for the last few weeks, I’ve been packing this much-loved bake with tiny seeds.

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A delicious foursome: chia seeds, flax seeds, linseed and sesame seeds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In order to benefit from as many of the nutrients in seeds as possible, it is important to make sure you chew them thoroughly. A bake like flapjack is a perfect recipe to make this happen naturally because the oats help increase the chewy texture. If you pre-grind seeds that have a more slippery texture in the mouth, like linseed and flax, you’ll help yourself to more nutrition with ease. I pop a handful in an electric coffee grinder and blitz them for a short while before I put them in the mix.

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Grinding linseeds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Sesame seeds are a real gold mine of nutrients and a valuable source of calcium for anyone on a dairy-free diet. I love their intense nutty flavour which I enhance by toasting them lightly in a dry, hot frying pan before adding them to a recipe. Keep an eye on them and keep them moving around the pan, as they brown very quickly once they reach a certain temperature.

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Toasting sesame seeds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My flapjack recipe makes a large quantity, perfect for batch baking, but you can easily educe the quantity by half and press into an 18cm square tin instead.

Makes: 24 squares

Ingredients

  • 250g vegan margarine (or butter if you eat it)
  • 165g Demerara sugar
  • 75g golden syrup
  • 75g crunchy almond butter (or wholenut peanut butter tastes good too)
  • 325g porridge oats
  • 175g mixed small seeds such as chia seeds, linseeds, flax seeds and toasted sesame seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line a 20 x 30cm oblong cake tin. Put the margarine, sugar, syrup and nut butter in a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until melted.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the oats and seeds until well mixed. Press  evenly into the prepared tin and bake for about 25 minutes until lightly golden all over.
  3. Whilst the bake is hot, gently score the top into 24 squares and then leave to cool in the tin. Once cold, cut through the squares completely and remove from the tin. Store in a air-tight container for up to a week. Flapjack freezes well too!

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    A stack of freshly baked super-seed flapjack. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

November blooms and berries

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Early November blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Last weekend in the garden, at times, it was a little hard to believe that it was actually the beginning of November. There was a biting wind to remind me, but the sun was out, the sky was blue and in just about every corner of the garden, there were flowers in bloom. The dainty, pale-pink cranesbill above with the rose-bush in the background, are plants on their second flowering of the year. The darker pink flowers are Nerines, a glamorous, lily-like autumn flowering bulb, which I planted in late spring and have been flowering since the end of September.

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Second flowering of Rosa Felicia. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
Nerines
Autumn flowering Nerines. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not only pink flowers. There are bright yellow Welsh poppies here and there, and a seasonal reality check: the first flowers of Winter Jasmine are just opening out.

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November blooming Welsh poppies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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First blooms of Winter Jasmine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Flowers aside, there are also various berries adding splashes of colour. The holly trees are stacked out with berries this year – both red and yellow berried varieties – and the native iris, Foedissima, which flowered so prolifically a few months ago has now become laden down with bright orange berries. It looks very curious indeed, the berries are bursting out of pods which open out to match the exact formation of the iris petals earlier in the year. With all the berries around, there is clearly going to be plenty of food for the birds this winter.

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Yellow and red holly berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Bright orange iris foedissima berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

And finally, one more berry to report: it looks like I may have another crop of strawberries this year. I’m not getting my hopes up on the jam-making front, but I am curious to see if they do actually ripen.

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Second strawberry crop. Image: Kathryn Hawkins