September reflections

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Acer leaves in the Autumn sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. It’s been a busy month for me which has meant that I haven’t had much spare time to put a post together. Now as the season feels like it is shifting, I thought I would take a look back on what’s been happening out of doors this past month.

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A cascade of Autumn crocus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The garden is showing signs of Autumn now with leaves changing colour and a crop of pale lilac crocus appearing in a shady border. Earlier in the month I went to visit my family in Sussex. The weather was very warm and we spent most of our time together out of doors. On one walk, I was delighted to find some blackberries untouched in a hedgerow and was able to carry my precious cargo of black jewels all the way back home to Scotland to make into a compote with apples from my tree. Delicious.

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Wild hedgerow blackberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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My apple tree laden with fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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First pickings. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can see, it’s another good year for apples. I’ve only picked a few so far, but I think with the weather turning cooler this weekend and a predicted frost,, I will be picking the remainder in the next few days. I’ve also harvested a lot of potatoes, and put many more in storage. I’m feeling pleased with myself, after years of giving up on carrot growing, I’ve had a fair crop this year. The variety was called “Rainbow” and I had high hopes of a multi-coloured batch, but in the end, they were mostly yellow. No matter, they tasted fresh and spicy, just as homegrown carrots should do.

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Freshly dug carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Box of tatties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m over-run with tomatoes too. Dehydration for the small ones, and tomato sauce for the larger ones. I haven’t started my annual chutney making ritual, but once the apples are picked, the preserving with begin.

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First major haul of tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in the garden, my lovely scented rose bush is back in flower, and the orange lupin is flowering for the third time – I didn’t know this was possible! Another splash of orange in the garden comes from the carnations I planted a few years ago. Back in the spring, I moved them to a different spot, in a raised bed by a sunny wall, and they are thriving.

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Second-time-around rose, and lupin in third flowering. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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September carnations. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m pretty sure that I mentioned the Japanese anemones in my last garden post back in August. They have gone from strength to strength, and I think this year is the first time they have grown en masse to create such an impactful display under the apple tree.

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Japanese Anemones under apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another month. I wish you well over the coming days, and look forward to sharing a recipe with you next time around. Until then, my best wishes to you.

Runner bean and pesto fritters (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Runner bean fritters. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you have had a good few days. I can hardly believe that it is September already! We have had a fine few days of weather this last week, and the garden dried out enough to get gardening again. It felt good to be outside once again.

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Runner beans 2020. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

At the end of my last post I mentioned that I was about to tackle a glut of runner beans. It has been perfect conditions for a bumper harvest this summer: plenty of rain intermixed with sunshine and warmth. The bean vines are still looking very lush and healthy, and there has been a second flush of flowers which means, if the weather holds, I should be picking beans for a while longer.

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Fresh basil pesto. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from enjoying runner beans as an accompaniment to meals, so far I have a couple of bags in the freezer for eating later on in the year. I seldom do anything else, although leftover cold beans make a great salad ingredient – click here for a delicious runner bean salad I posted last year. This week’s recipe gives runner beans a leading role. I hope you enjoy the fritters, they are crisp and delicious, and for a little extra effort, I would suggest making your own pesto. I am very proud of my basil plant. It is thriving in the greenhouse; the leaves have a strong, peppery bite. The quantity below will make enough for this recipe. If you double or triple it you can freeze the remainder in small batches. It will also keep for a couple of weeks sealed tight in a jar in the fridge.

Vegan pesto: put a peeled garlic clove in a small food processor with 15g basil leaves, 60g unsalted nuts such as pistachio, pine nuts or almonds (I used a combination of all 3), a pinch of salt, 50ml extra virgin olive oil and 30g grated hard vegan cheese. Blitz for a few seconds until smooth, and that’s it. Pesto perfecto! This combination makes a thick pesto which is perfect for this recipe, but add extra oil to taste for a looser pasta sauce.

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Preparing and cooking runner beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have found that strips of bean work well in this recipe. The batter has a larger surface area to cling on to and cooks really crisply. Peel the sides of the beans using a vegetable peeler and remove the stalk end. If you have a bean slicer, push them through that, otherwise, slice them as thinly as you can. Steam them over simmering water for 5 minutes, then cool in cold water and drain well. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Now, let’s get on with the recipe.

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Fritters and pesto mayo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 8

Ingredients

  • 50g polenta
  • 75g gluten-free plain flour
  • 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds, finely ground (I use a coffee grinder)
  • 3 tbsp pesto sauce – see recipe above
  • 120ml dairy-free milk
  • 75ml aqua fava (bean or chickpea canning water)
  • 225g cooked runner beans
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • Vegan mayonnaise
  1. Put the polenta, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Mix together and make a well in the centre. 
  2. Mix the flax seeds with 3 tbsp cold water and leave to stand for about 5 minutes until thickened. Pour into the well.
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    Preparing fritter batter and flax egg. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Add the pesto sauce and milk and whisk together to make a smooth batter.
  4. In another bowl, whisk the aqua fava to a stiff foam and then gently fold into the batter. Finally, carefully stir in the beans, making sure they are well covered. Adding_homemade_pesto_and_whisked_aqua_fava_to_fritter_batter
    Folding_in_whisked_aqua_fava_and_runner_beans_into_fritter_batter
    Adding pesto, whisked aqua fava and the beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    5. Pour sufficient oil into a large deep frying pan or wok to a depth of about 3cm and heat to 180ºC. Fry bundles of beans in batter in batches of 3 or 4, turning in the oil, for 4-5 minutes until crisp and golden. You should be able to make 8 fritters with this quantity. Drain well on kitchen paper and keep warm until ready to serve.

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    Cooking the fritters. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    6. To serve, mix 1 part pesto to 2 parts vegan mayonnaise and serve with the fritters accompanied with fresh tomatoes. Scatter with fresh basil and runner bean flowers, if liked.

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    Fritters with homegrown tomatoes, fresh basil and homemade pesto mayo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Use this batter with ribbons of courgette or carrot instead – lightly steam them first. Leave out the pesto if you prefer, or simply add grated vegan cheese to the batter and some chopped chives, shredded leek or spring onion.

    Until next time, take care and best wishes 🙂

Lemon and cucumber cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Lemon and cucumber cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. I hope you are well. I was having a look at the stats on my site last week and I noticed that the most frequently viewed recipe on my blog over the past 4 weeks has been a recipe I posted 3 years ago for a lemon-soaked cucumber cake. I am assuming that lots of readers have as many cucumbers as I do and are looking for different ways to use them up!

Time for a recipe review. Same combination of flavours, but this time an iced cake and a simple cake batter.

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Sliced and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have had a bumper crop of cucumbers this year, from just 2 plants. I only had a couple of seeds left in a packet from the year before and, once sown, both have thrived. Mini Munch is a great variety to grow. The cucumbers are small, sweet and delicously refreshing and juicy. They ripen in next to no time once the vines get established.

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Greenhouse Mini Munch cucumbers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. This is a very easy to make cake, no special equipment necessary. I do advise you to add either the xanthan gum or arrowroot as this really does hold the ingredients together to give a firmer texture, but if you decide not to, you’ll still have a delicious cake, it will just be crumbly.

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Home-grown cucumber harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 1 x 18cm cake

Ingredients

  • 90g dairy-free margarine
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 100g plain dairy-free yogurt (I used coconut)
  • 150g gluten-free self-raising flour blend (I use Doves Farm)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum or 10g ground arrowroot
  • 125g grated cucumber
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon
  • 125g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line an 18cm square tin. Put the margarine and sugar in a bowl and whisk until creamy and well blended. Stir in the yogurt.

2. Add the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice and icing sugar, and mix together until well combined.

3. Pile into the tin, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 45 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Lemon and cucumber cake preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in 3-4 tsp lemon juice to make a smooth, thick icing. Spread all over the top of the cake and allow it to run down the sides. Leave to set for about 30 minutes before decorating.

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Baked cake ready for icing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Drizzling fresh lemon icing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I decorated my cake with cucumber flowers (male ones – no little fruit attached), orange-scented geranium leaves and a few strips of blanched lemon rind.

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Decoration of cucumber flowers, orange scented geranium leaves and lemon rind. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I’m off to sort out my glut of runner beans! Until next time, my best wishes to you 🙂

August brights

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Crocosmia with flowering runner beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you have had a good few days. As I sat down to sort out my images this week’s post, it was rather gloomy outside. The weather this month really hasn’t been very summery at all, and to be honest, it is beginning to feel autumnal with the evenings drawing in more rapidly that I care to think about. However, there are some pockets of vibrant colour in the garden at the moment to help brighten the days.

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2020 Japanese Anemones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The delicate-looking Japanese anemones are beginning to flower all over the garden at the moment. I know that they will last well into next month, probably longer, and will stand up to whatever weather comes their way. They are so much hardier than they look.

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Second time around Lupins. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The lupins have all flowered for a second time this year and with much bigger blooms than usual. Often the second flowers are half the size of the original June flower-heads at best, but this year they have put in a magnificent effort just 2 months later.

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Golden Rod (Solidago) and Echinops, August 2020. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There are still plenty of bees and flying insects being busy around the garden, and in particular the 2 plants above are favourites with them all.

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Blue, pink, mauve and white Hydrangeas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have been living here in central Scotland for over 15 years now, and I am still surprised by the plants that grow around me. This year, for the first time, I noticed that the tiny blue ball-like centres of the aged white Hydrangea open out to form their own blue 4-petaled flowers with stamens.

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Tiger lily. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This beauty hides behind the aforementioned white Hydrangea in the front garden. Far too flamboyant to be in the shadows, but that’s where it thrives, so I’ll not interfere.

Until next time, I’ll leave you with another plant in second flower, my Gertrude Jekyll rose. Heavenly scented as well as sheer perfection to look at. I hope you have a good few days. I will be back in the kitchen again for my next post.

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Gertrude Jekyll in second flower. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My raspberry round-up plus recipe for Raspberry and pistachio cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Combination of fresh raspberries, pistachio nuts and marzipan. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are keeping well. I’ve had a busy few days since my last post. There seems to be lots to do in the garden and kitchen at the moment. Plenty of tidying up (and weeding!) in the garden, and the much anticipated home-grown fruit and veg is ripe and ready so lots to cook up and freeze as well.

This week’s post is an homage to my Glen Ample raspberry canes which have produced a phenomenal 6.3kg of berries this year. Rather forlornly, I picked the last few berries this week.

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My 2020 raspberry haul. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The canes are now having a well-earned rest and enjoying some sunshine – they had been covered with fleece for over a month as the birds took a fancy to the berries early on.

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My exhausted raspberry canes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can imagine, I’ve had a lot of berries to play with but a combination of jam, vinegar, compote and a couple of large bags for the freezer has seen them all used up. By the way, compote makes the dish sound a bit grander, I literally cooked them with a bit of sugar to eat with my morning porridge!

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Raspberry compote, jam, freezer packs and vinegar. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Links to all my other raspberry recipes can be found by clicking on the key-words below:

On with this week’s recipe. Another reinvention of a crumble-topped cake – they are so easy to make, and taste delicious, I just can’t resist making them! Leave out the pistachios or replace with almonds or hazelnuts if you prefer, and the marzipan layer is optional (I realise it’s not to everyone’s taste) but you may want to add some sugar to the raspberry mixture if you don’t use it.

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Fruit and nut, a winning flavour combination. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 10-12

Ingredients

  • 180g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 100g vanilla or plain caster sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 260g gluten free plain flour blend (such as Doves Farm)
  • 50g unsalted pistachio nuts, finely chopped + extra pistachios to decorate
  • 150g marzipan, grated (optional)
  • 300g fresh raspberries
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • Icing sugar to dust
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a deep 20cm round cake tin – I used a spring-clip tin for ease. In a mixing bowl, beat together the margarine and sugar until creamy, then stir in the almonds, flour and pistachios to make a crumbly mixture.
  2. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the tin, prick with a fork and put the in on a baking tray. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly golden round the edge. Sprinkle the marzipan all over the cooked base if using and put to one side. Steps_1_to_6_in_the_making_of_raspberry_and_pistachio_crumble_cake

    Steps_7_to_9_in_making_raspberry_and_pistachio_crumble_cake
    Making the crumble and assembling the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Mash the raspberries with a fork and add the cornflour – if you are not using marzipan add 2 tbsp caster sugar to the raspberry mix as well. Spoon over the marzipan layer and spread out evenly.
  4. Sprinkle over the remaining crumble mixture, pat down lightly with the back of a spoon and bake for about 40 minutes until lightly golden. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before releasing and transferring to a serving plate to serve warm, or leave to cool completely in the tin to serve cold.

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    Adding the raspberries and crumble top. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Serve this cake warm as a dessert with cream, yogurt or custard or cold as a delicious and indulgent slice to accompany a cup of coffee.

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    Melt-in-the-mouth crumble cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Until next time, thanks for stopping by. Take care. I will be posting again soon 🙂

No-churn berry nice vegan ice cream (gluten-free; dairy-free)

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Homemade vegan ice cream. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I am very much hoping that by publishing this week’s recipe, the weather will become more appropriate for enjoying an icy dessert. It’s been much cooler here these past few days, but the forecast is hotting up again so hopefully my post will be quite timely.

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Vegan berry-flavoured ice cream with fresh strawberry sauce and wild strawberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a huge fan of frozen desserts, but when the heat is on, I can be persuaded by a scoop or two of a good non-dairy ice. I’ve been trying to perfect a recipe of my own for a while, and at last, I think I’ve cracked it.

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Cooling, creamy and delicious. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe is a combination of a thick vegan cream I made a posted a few weeks ago and an uncooked aquafaba meringue mixture. Once the two are combined, the resulting mixture doesn’t require any stirring, you just pop it in the freezer for a few hours until frozen. Easy-peasy.

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Homemade vegan cream. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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Bean water (aquafaba) meringue. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To flavour the ice cream, I added some freeze-dried fruit pieces and a little soft-set blueberry jam I’d made. If you want to experiment with other flavours, I would suggest using dry ingredients like chocolate chips, crushed caramel, small pieces of dried fruit, cocoa powder, etc. Adding anything too sloppy or saucy will water down the mixture; you will lose air, and the resulting ice cream will be solid and icy, rather than soft and creamy.

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Freeze-dried berry pieces and soft-set blueberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe below makes a small quantity (around 350g) which is enough for 2-3 servings. I have a cute little ice cream scoop which dishes up a perfect 30g scoop. This is just right for me, and is why my bowl is piled high with scoops! You may want to double the quantities in the recipe for more hearty portions.

Serves: 2 to 3

Ingredients

For the cream:

  • 100ml readymade soya pouring cream
  • 40g solid white vegetable fat such as Trex or flavourless coconut oil (or use traditional coconut oil for a coconut flavoured ice cream)
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • A few drops vanilla extract or a pinch of salt

For the meringue:

  • 75ml canning liquid from beans or chickpeas (aquafaba)
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 60g caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum

To flavour:

  • A few drops vanilla extract if liked
  • 5g freeze-dried fruit pieces
  • 25g soft-set jam
  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
  4. When the cream is thick and chilled, make the meringue. Pour the aquafaba into a large clean bowl, add the cream of tartar and whisk for a full 2 minutes.
  5. Whisk in the sugar 1 tbsp at a time, whisking well in between additions, and then continue whisking for another full minute.
  6. Add the xanthan gum and whisk for 1 more minute to make a thick meringue.
  7. Gently and gradually mix the meringue into the cream taking care not to lose too much air, then gently stir in more vanilla if liked along with the berries. Lightly stir in the jam to give a rippled effect.
  8. Scrape into a freezer container, seal and freeze for 3-4 hours until solid.

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    Frozen and ready to scoop. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    To serve, stand the ice cream at room temperature for about 10 minutes until soft enough to scoop. I served my ice cream with a fresh strawberry sauce made from purée’d fruit sweetened with a little icing sugar, and a scattering of wild strawberries which I happened upon in the garden 🙂

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    Just one more scoop. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Until next time, I hope you have a good few days and may the warm weather be with us all.

 

Birds, bees, flowers and fruit

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Morello cherries just picked today. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are well and enjoying some fine weather. It’s been a busy few days since my last post. The garden is thriving thanks to a mixture of sunshine and showers. There’s lots to do, and at last the soft fruit is ripe. I picked these cherries from the small espalier tree in the garden today. Just under 800g. Not bad at all 🙂

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Glen Ample raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The raspberries have been coming thick and fast since my last post too, and there are still lots more to come. As well as the cherries and berries, my runner beans and potatoes are coming along nicely.

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Runner beans and my tub of tatties. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In the flower borders, there is a predominance of yellow interspersed with shades of pink and lilac. The lavender season is in full swing here at the moment. I love the yellow cotton lavender with its silvery foliage which grows alongside the purple and lilac varieties. This is a very fragrant part of the garden.

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The lavenders. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The palest coloured lavender is at the front of the house. It is full of blooms this year and the bees love it. This pale pink Campanula has just come out this past week. It was new in the garden last year and I am very pleased to see that it is blooming again and seems to have doubled in size.

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Lavender and Campanula. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

More splashes of vibrant colour from the Lysimachia which has run a bit wild down one border but it does provide colour for several weeks; and the delightfully named “Banana Cream” Leusanthemum which sounds good enough to eat!

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Lysimachia and Leusanthemum. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy to see so many bees in the garden again this year. My recent gardening activity has been accompanied by the sound of gentle buzzing; they are always busy gathering pollen and enjoying the summer flowers no matter which part of the garden I am in.

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Busy bees on Scabious, Salvia and Geranium flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As well as the bees, the garden attracts many feathered friends too. Blackbirds and robins are by far the friendliest and really do seem to make themselves at home in amongst the plants and flowers.

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Baby blackbird and robin, and a sunbathing adult blackbird. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s it from me this week. I hope you enjoyed the post and pictures. I will be back in the kitchen before the end of the month. See you then. Best wishes and take care 🙂

 

Raspberry rose sugar (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Homemade raspberry and rose sugar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope this post finds you keeping well and enjoying some good weather. It’s been a mixed bag here since my last post. Quite a lot of rain, some strong winds and some sunshine in between. Apart from the wind which no plant likes, the combination of rain and sunshine has been perfect for the ripening of the raspberries in the garden.

This past week, quite randomly, one or two berries have turned red almost overnight. I have been able to harvest a handful so far, which, believe it or not, is more than you need for my recipe this week.

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Berries and yogurt sprinkled with raspberry sugar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This very simple recipe for fruit-flavoured sugar can be made with strawberries if you have them and makes a pretty sprinkle over fruit desserts or as a cake or cookie decoration. It doesn’t take long to make but if you want to store the sugar for a while, you need to leave the sugar to dry out for a few hours before putting it into a storage container. If the flavour of rose isn’t to your taste, leave it out of the mix altogether, or add some finely grated orange rind or vanilla seeds instead. Here’s what you do……

Makes: 200g

Ingredients

  • Approx. 25g fresh raspberries
  • A few drops rosewater
  • 200g granulated sugar
  1. Wash and pat dry the raspberries. Push through a small sieve to remove the seeds and make a purée – you need 1 tbsp of sieved raspberry purée.
  2. Add a few drops of rosewater to taste.
  3. Put the sugar in a bowl and mix in the raspberry purée until well blended. The sugar can be used immediately but will be too soft and damp for long-term storage.Steps1_to_3_making_raspberry_rose_sugar

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    Mixing and drying raspberry sugar. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Spread the sugar evenly on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a board, then cover with another sheet of paper and leave in a dry, warm place for a few hours (or overnight) until dry and crisp.
  5. Transfer the sugar to a clean plastic bag – it will dry in clumps. Twist the bag closed and and crush with a rolling pin to break up the clumps of sugar crystals.

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    Preparing dry raspberry sugar for storage. Images: Kathryn Hawkins.
  6. Spoon into clean jam jars and seal well. Store in a cool, dry place, away from the light for up to 6 to 8 weeks.

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    Sugar dusted berries with coconut yogurt. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    I am looking forward to a good crop of raspberries this year, the bushes look full of berries. I netted the bushes today – I want to make sure I get to them before the birds do!  Until next time, I hope you have a good few days and that you are able to enjoy eating fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables 🙂

Strawberry vinegar (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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June 2020, homemade strawberry vinegars. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are well. I can hardly believe that we are halfway through the year already! Where does the time go? This is such a great time of the year for homegrown produce. The strawberries in particular seem particularly good this year. Very fragrant and sweet. To mark midsummer on the calendar, I decided to make some strawberry vinegar this week to capture the flavour of the season.

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Wild and cultivated Scottish strawberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have a few wild strawberry plants growing around the garden and I managed to harvest a handful of ripe berries before the birds got to them. The cultivated ones came from a local farm shop. Perfectly formed heart-shaped fruit, sweet and delicious, and perfect for flavouring vinegar.

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Ingredients and equipment for fruit vinegar making. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In the past I have used white balsamic vinegar as a base, but as the fruit is so sweet this year, I used a plain white wine vinegar. A clean screw-top bottle for the wild strawberry vinegar, and a wide-neck screw-top jar for the larger berries. Make sure the lids are non-corrosive and that everything is very clean for perfect results. The method is the same for any berry.

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Strawberry vinegar preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Wash and pat dry the fruit and remove stalks and hulls, etc. Prick larger fruit with a small skewer a few times before putting in the jar to help release the juices. Depending on the time of year you are making fruit vinegar, you may want to warm the vinegar slightly before you pour it over the fruit. The temperature here was quite warm this week, so I just used the vinegar straight from the bottle. Simply cover the fruit with vinegar and seal it up. How much fruit you use is up to you, I like to use a fair bit to start with to give a more intense flavour at the beginning.

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Maturing on with windowsill. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Leave the vinegar on a bright windowsill, and give it a light shake each day. You will see the colour change quite quickly. I leave the first lot of berries in the vinegar for 3 or 4 days, then I strain off the vinegar and add a fresh batch of berries. After the second addition, put the vinegar in a cool, dark place and after this time you will end up with a vinegar ready to use in about a month. For longer storage, remove the fruit after a month. rebottle and seal until ready to use.

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Strawberry heart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As I type this last paragraph, it is still very bright here at just after 9.30pm and the sky still has patches of blue here and there. Until next time, I wish you a happy summer solstice and midsummer eve 🙂

Early June in a Scottish garden

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The colours of early June. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you have had a good few days. It has been lovely weather here. Plenty of blue sky days, and also, I’m pleased to say, some rain at long last. The water butt is full up again and the garden refreshed. We’re still under lockdown here in Scotland although restrictions have been lifted a little. There is plenty to keep me occupied outside.

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A June favourite. lovely Lupins. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

No June garden round-up of mine would be complete without Lupin pictures. They have been open for a couple of weeks now. The heat and strong sunshine has forced the purple ones over already, but the orange and pinks one are holding up well.

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A trio of Iris. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have been trying to resurrect Iris corms for a couple of years unsuccessfully, but this year I have achieved 3 out of 6. The blue ones are both Iris Pallida – one for some reason has grown much paler than the other – they smell sweet and sugary, like bubblegum. The pink one is called Wine and Roses and is slightly spicier in aroma. I will be lifting and dividing them all with care in the Autumn and hoping that I might have at last found the the right locations for them in the garden.

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Alliums and Armeria. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s a good year for the Alliums too. The few bulbs I planted about 3 years ago have steadily multiplied and are now growing in small groups. To be honest, how these 6 managed to grow side by side to the exact same height I will never know; if I had tried to achieve this formation myself, I’m pretty sure it would never have happened like this! The Armeria (Thrift) is looking very healthy too. The bees love it; it is a very cheery sight in a narrow flower border beside a path. Talking of bees, here’s another favourite flower of our little winged friends……

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Persicaria and bee. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There are lots of scents in the garden at the moment. The Day Lilies have just come out and make weeding a real pleasure when you happen to be working in a spot near to where they grow. The Gorse bush at the top of the garden is also very fragrant (spicy vanilla) but more inaccessible to work near so I leave this one for the insects.

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Day Lilies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Vanilla-scented Gorse. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Along side the Gorse bush, in a shady corner, dark blue and bright blue Aquilegia (Columbine) grow. There are lots of pink and white varieties growing all over the place but the blue ones like to stay in this part of the garden for some reason. They do make a lovely contrast to the bright yellow Gorse flowers.

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Blue Aquilegia. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week or so. I was hoping to have included Peony images this time but they are still in quite tight bud. I’m sure a few more days of sunshine and they will be blooming by the end of the week. Until next time, take care and enjoy the sunshine 🙂