New season courgettes + recipe for courgette and thyme fritters (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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My first vegetable harvest of 2017: home-grown courgettes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The mild spring weather and fine, early summer days has brought on my greenhouse vegetables a treat this year. It looks like I’m in for another bumper crop of courgettes. I thought I’d try to grow a new variety, and decided on this round, globe courgette called Tricolour. I only raised 4 plants from seed, so it is completely by chance that I’ve ended up with 2 yellow and 2 dark green vegetable plants. The third colour is pale green, and, I guess, is to be saved for next year.

Providing you give them plenty of water, I think growing courgette plants offers little challenge to the gardener, and for a modicum of effort, you are usually rewarded with plenty of produce. I have mine growing in grow-bags; the roots don’t stretch very deep so it is an ideal way to grow them if space is limited.

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My grow-bag courgettes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Here’s an easy recipe for a courgette starter or vegetable accompaniment. Chives or rosemary work well in the batter instead of thyme, if you prefer. If you’re not dairy-free, add a couple of tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the batter for extra flavour. The batter goes with any vegetable that’s suitable for deep-frying such as rings of onion, baby leeks, spring onions, sliced mushrooms, strips of pepper and carrot, sliced aubergine, etc.

Courgette and thyme fritters – serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 400g courgettes
  • 65g self-raising gluten-free flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 40g cornflour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teasp freshly chopped thyme leaves + extra for serving
  • 90ml soda water
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  1. Wash and pat dry the courgettes. Trim away the ends and cut into thin slices, approx. ½ cm thick. Arrange in layers in a wide, shallow dish, sprinkling lightly with 25g of the flour as you go. Make sure both sides of each slice have a light coating of flour.
  2. For the batter, mix the rest of the flour with the cornflour in  bowl and season. Stir in the chopped thyme leaves. Using a small whisk, gradually blend in the soda water. Heat the oil for deep-frying to 180°C.
  3. Carefully pour the batter over the courgette slices, lifting them up so that the batter seeps right through to the bottom of the dish – the slices don’t have to be completely covered in batter (this is a very light, crispy batter that cooks better when used sparingly) but make sure there is a little on each slice. Tongs are useful for lifting individual slices.
  4. Cook the slices in the hot oil, in  4 batches, for 4-5 minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp and lightly golden. Drain well and keep warm whilst cooking the remaining slices. Serve as soon after cooking as possible, sprinkled with more fresh thyme and some crushed sea salt flakes.
    Freshly_cooked_courgette_fritters_in_a_thyme_flavoured_batter
    Courgette and thyme fritters. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    For more recipes using courgettes see my previous posts Homegrown courgettes with chive butter (gluten-free) and Yellow courgette and lemon cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

 

Homegrown strawberries – tips and recipe ideas

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Homegrown Scottish strawberries Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It feels like summer is here now that my strawberries are ripening. The aroma of sweet berries fills the air every time I open the greenhouse door. I have been growing strawberries in my unheated greenhouse for several years. The soil is free draining and the plants have plenty of room to spread.  Apart from an occasional feed, and plenty of water, I leave them alone to get on with the business of berry production.

Strawberries are best eaten fresh. They don’t freeze well as a fruit by themselves, but you can purée them and then serve as a sauce. The fresh purée makes excellent ice cream and sorbet too. I sometimes pop a few in with a fruit compote with other berries, but on the whole, I don’t cook them other than to make jam.

One of the best ways I’ve found to preserve them, is to dry slices in a dehydrator; this way you can enjoy them once the season is over. The perfume of drying strawberries is divine. If you have a dehydrator, slice the berries and brush them with a little lemon juice to help preserve the colour. 500g prepared strawberries, spread over 3 tiers in a dehydrator, will take between 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours at 70°C/158F. This amount yields about 65g. Sealed completely in an air-tight jar, and stored in a dark, dry cupboard, they will keep for several months. The dried slices add a splash of colour and a fragrant, fruity flavour to any bowl of cereal – especially good with Coconut granola (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) – and they make a pretty, natural cake decoration too.

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Drying fresh strawberry slices. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Granola with home-dried strawberry slices. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

All round the garden borders, the wild strawberries are also beginning to turn colour. Whilst they are much more time-consuming to pick, they have a more perfumed flavour and make a lovely addition to a fruit salad. Leave them to ripen fully for the sweetest flavour, and eat them as soon after picking as possible – they really don’t keep well. I have a battle with the birds every year to get to them before they do! The plants are prolific spreaders, but give good ground cover and make a pretty display when in flower.

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Alpine strawberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Strawberry serving suggestions

  • Fresh strawberries go well with smoked salmon, Parma or Serrano ham, and peppery leaves like rocket or watercress. They are also delicious with slices of ripe avocado.
  • Spread almond nut butter over warm toasted bread and top with lightly mashed strawberries and a little sugar for an indulgent toast topper.
  • Add finely chopped tarragon, lavender syrup, rosewater or passion fruit juice to a bowl of strawberries to enhance the floral flavour of the fresh berries.
  • For very sweet strawberries, halve and sprinkle with fruit or balsamic vinegar and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with goat’s cheese as a starter with salad ingredients.

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    Strawberry and goat’s cheese salad with sweet berry vinegar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  • If you have sufficient wild strawberries, fold them into whipped cream with a little dessert wine and strawberry jam for a topping or filling for meringues.
  • For a special fruit salad, mix halved strawberries with chopped mint and sugar, then toss in some lime juice, dry white wine or crème de cassis.
  • Mash strawberries with vanilla sugar and fold into soft cheese to spread over pancakes.
  • Pop a handful of wild strawberries into white balsamic vinegar to make a sweetly scented berry dressing for fruit or leaf salads later on in the year.

 

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Last year’s wild strawberry vinegar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Pinkies (beetroot and raspberry blondies – gluten-free with dairy-free/vegan alternative.

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Beetroot and raspberry blondies Image: Kathryn Hawkins

After my post on Fresh globe beetroot a couple of weeks ago, I finally got round to a spot of beetroot-baking with the fine specimens I took pictures of. This is a great tasting recipe which makes the most of how naturally colourful the vegetable is.

You’ll find plenty of recipes for brownies and blondies, so now, here’s one for “pinkies”. For all intents and purposes, it is a blondie recipe with cooked beetroot added to it. I used natural raspberry extract to flavour my recipe but a good quality vanilla extract or freshly grated orange rind would work just as well. As with the more traditional blondie  (and brownie) recipes, this one is better the day after baking. By the way, if you cook beetroot from raw, the cooking water turns very pink. I used a little of this to make the icing. The pinkies also freeze well. By the way, the recipe also works with cooked carrot instead of beetroot.

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Cooled, fresh beetroot cooking water. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 9 pieces

  • 100g white chocolate drops (or dairy-free alternative)
  • 75g butter (or dairy-free alternative)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g silken tofu
  • 115g cooked, peeled beetroot in natural juice
  • 75g gluten-free self raising flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • ¼- ½ tsp natural raspberry extract
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 2-3 tsp beetroot cooking water or water and natural pink food colouring
  • Freeze-dried raspberry pieces, to decorate
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160° fan oven, 350° F, gas mark 4). Grease and line an 18cm square cake tin. Put the chocolate chips, butter and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently to melt together. Cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, blend the tofu and beetroot together to make a purée.
  3. Sieve the flour into a bowl. Add the ground almonds, beetroot purée and melted chocolate mixture. Add the extract and mix well to make a smooth batter.
  4. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes until lightly crusted but slightly soft underneath. Cool for 20 minutes then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in greaseproof paper and foil and store for 24 hours to allow the texture and flavour together.

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    Preparation of beetroot and raspberry blondies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To decorate. remove the wrappings and cut the cake into 9 equal squares. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in a little beetroot or tap water to make a smooth, spreadable icing. Add pink colouring if using.
  6. Spoon a dollop of icing of over each piece of cake and spread to cover the tops, allowing it to drip down the sides. Sprinkle with freeze-dried raspberries. Leave to set for about 30 minutes before serving.

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    Slice of beetroot and raspberry blondie. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Joyous June

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Lovely lupins. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

From the last few days of May, I think my garden looks at it’s best. There is so much colour, so many fragrant blooms, it is a real joy to be outside, and even the weeding seems less of a chore! The weather has been kind, and I have been outside more than I have been indoors. The lupins are great value in the garden; the flowers with their rich, spicy aroma, are in bloom for a long time, and once the long heads have finished, cut them off and smaller blooms appear for a second showing.

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White and pink lupins. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The last of my spring bulbs are in flower now. I planted alliums for the first time a couple of years ago, so this is their second late spring showing. I love the intricate web of tiny star-like lilac flowers that make up the globe shaped bloom.

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Allium cristophii. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a fine year for rhododendrons and azaleas. Most have past their best now, but this scarlet beauty stands at the bottom of the drive-way and is always one of the last to flower. It makes a stunning display. The later varieties are particularly sweet-smelling. The peachy-pink one below is heavily scented although sadly not quite so many blooms this year. The pure white azalea and the apple blossom-pink rhododendron, on the other hand, are almost overloaded with blooms.

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Scarlet rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Later flowering rhododendrons and a white azalea. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the finest trees in the garden is the laburnum. On a bright day, the rich yellow glow from the petals is quite dazzling, and the heavy scent is intoxicating. The flowers look particularly glorious against a blue sky. Sadly it’s not in flower for more than a few days before the petals start falling like vibrant confetti, all over the garden.

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In full flower, laburnum tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have been patiently waiting for this iris to come into flower. For the first time, I split the rhizome back in the Autumn and was delighted (and relieved) when the buds started to form about a month ago. This variety is a real beauty called Iris Pallida; the pale sky blue flowers have the aroma of slightly spicy bubble-gum. It’s planted in a dry, sunny corner by the front house wall, and flowers from the top down. I believe the rhizome of this particular iris is used as a botanical in some gin varieties.

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Iris pallida. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image to share this month, is from a crop of plume thistles Atropupureum which are growing in the back garden. Not only popular with me, but the bees love them too 🙂

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Plume thistle (Atropupureum) and bee. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Fresh globe beetroot

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Fresh beetroot. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from the glorious colour of fresh beetroot, if you’ve never tried this root vegetable fresh, it is well worth checking out. The texture is firm, almost meaty, and the flavour of the fresh root is delicately earthy and sweet – sadly both characteristics get lost once it is pickled or soaked in vinegar.

The dense texture does mean it requires a lot of cooking, but you can enjoy small, raw slivers in salads – it bleeds into other ingredients so is best added at the last-minute. Small beet leaves are also good as salad leaves, and have a slight flavour of the vegetable itself; the larger, red-veined leaves can be cooked like spinach or chard but sadly they lose much of the red colour once cooked.

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Baby beet leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Preparing and cooking fresh beetroot

Beetroot juice is very strongly coloured. To prevent staining your hands, you might want to wear thin latex gloves. Slice off the leaves, wash the roots thoroughly, peel thinly, and grate coarsely. Alternatively, slice thinly and then into fine strips for salads, or pare pieces directly into a salad using a vegetable peeler.

For boiling, remove the leaves, wash the whole roots and then place unpeeled in a saucepan. Cover with water, bring to the boil and cook for 1 to 2 hours depending on the size – golf ball sized beetroot are best for boiling and will be ready easily within an hour. If you cut the beetroot before cooking, you will lose much of the colour to the cooking water – although this is fine for making soups or casseroles when you will eat the cooking juices as part of the dish. Drain and refresh in cold water before rubbing away the skin. Serve as a hot vegetable or leave to go cold for other uses.

Beetroot bake well. Choose medium-sized roots and wash as above. Leave unpeeled and wrap individually in foil. Place the parcels on a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 200°C(180°C fan oven, 400°G, gas mark 6) for about 1 ¼ hours until the beetroot feels tender when slightly squeezed. Serve straight from the foil, split, and lightly seasoned.

Serving suggestions

  • Beetroot goes well with orange, apple, watercress, rocket, dill, caraway, cumin, horseradish, smoked fish, pickled herring, and goat’s cheese and other soft dairy cheeses or creams.
  • Toss thick slices of cooked beetroot in seasoned flour and shallow fry in vegetable oil for a few minutes on each side until golden. Drain well and serve with a sweetened balsamic vinegar and wholegrain mustard dressing.
  • You can make an instant beetroot “chutney” by grating or chopping cooked roots and mixing with finely chopped raw red onion, grated carrot, black onion seeds and seasoning. Mix in balsamic vinegar and sugar (or honey) to taste. Keep sealed in a jar in the fridge for 24 hours to allow the flavours to develop. Great with Indian food. Will keep for about a week, sealed in the fridge.
  • Peel and chunk raw beetroot and mix with chopped onion, carrot, garlic, cumin and ground coriander. Place in the bottom of a casserole dish, season and sprinkle with a little sugar. This makes a great base for slow cooking lamb on top – seal with a tight-fitting lid so that everything cooks in its own juices.
  • Shred raw beet leaves and add to a stir fry for the last-minute of cooking.
  • One of my favourite winter salads from yesteryear is Russian salad: a combination of cooked diced beetroot, mixed with cooked diced potatoes and carrot, some cooked peas, chopped fresh cucumber and some chopped pickled gherkins. Tossed in mayonnaise. Often topped with sliced hardboiled egg for more of a main meal. Also good with pickled herring.
  • Replace grated carrot in a cake or loaf recipe with grated cook beetroot. You’ll end up with a pretty pink bake with a deliciously moist texture. Note: sadly I’ve been too busy with work to bake this week, but I do have a great recipe which I’ll be posting once I get back in the kitchen again 🙂

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    Globe beetroot. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Tutti frutti loaf cakes (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, no added sugar)

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Tutti frutti loaf cakes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

No eggs, no added fat nor added sugar, gluten-free and dairy-free, these loaf cakes will probably sound either a bit boring, or too good to be true, depending on your point of view. Actually, they are extremely tasty and a wee bit too eatable for my liking!

This recipe is a great way to use up all those odds and ends of dried fruit you often have leftover. You can add nuts and seeds to the mix too if you like. Just after Christmas, I made up a bag of dried and candied fruit that was getting towards its use-by date, and put it in a tub the freezer, where it stayed until this week, when a craving for fruit cake came upon me. Combined with a recently opened bag of dried cranberries I had in the fridge, the frozen mix of chopped dried apricots, red and green glacé cherries and golden sultanas made up a colourful addition to my cake mix.

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Post-Christmas homemade tutti frutti mix. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe below will fill 8 mini loaf tins or 1 large (1kg) loaf tin. The cakes taste better if left until the day after baking – the flavour and texture improves on keeping. You will be rewarded if you can leave it alone for a few hours! They also freeze well. I find that the lower content of fat in this recipe means that after 3 or 4 days, the cakes begin to lose their freshness; it is well worth freezing any that you’re not going to eat within a couple of days of baking, in order to enjoy them at their best.

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Mini loaf tins. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Makes: 8 minis or 1 x 1kg loaf

  • 250g stoned dried dates, chopped
  • 2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
  • 150g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 15g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 10g arrowroot
  • 2 tsp chai masala or ground mixed spice
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 500g mixed dried and candied fruit
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven, gas mark 3). Grease 8 x mini loaf tins or 1 x 1kg loaf tin, or line with paper loaf tin liners, if preferred. Put the chopped dates in a saucepan and pour over 350ml water. Bring to the boil, simmer for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to cool completely. Blitz with a hand blender or in the food processor to make a smooth purée. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  2. Sieve the flour, baking powder, arrowroot and chai masala or spice into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds and dried fruit. Add the date purée and then mix until well blended.
  3. Divide equally between the prepared tins and smooth over the tops. Place on a baking tray and bake for about 35 minutes for the individual cakes or about 1 hour for a larger loaf cake – a skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when the cake mixture is cooked. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.  For best results, wrap the cakes well or store in an airtight container until the next day before serving.
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Tutti frutti cake mix ready for baking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Packed full of colour and flavour. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Asparagus and sesame sushi rice bars (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Asparagus is my favourite vegetable. It has been highly prized since Roman times, and it is peak asparagus season at the moment. I had my first taste of the new season’s crop a couple of weeks ago when I was on holiday in Sussex, and I have consumed quite a lot since then!

The season here in the UK is brief: just  6 short weeks in late spring. In my mind, asparagus is one of the vegetables that tastes noticeably different when locally grown and freshly picked. The flavour is sweeter, fresher and nuttier than the varieties that are flown in all year round. I think it is well worth the wait each year and am taking every opportunity to savour and enjoy it whilst it is available.

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New season British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Keeping asparagus fresh. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As with any vegetable, buy and eat asparagus as soon as possible after picking to enjoy the freshest flavour and juiciest texture. But if you do end up with more than you can eat, trim away the woody ends as you would with fresh flowers and pop the stems in a vase or jug of cold water. Either store in a cool place or put in the fridge. This way, the stems will stay fresh for at least 48 hours. You can freeze it, but I really don’t like the softer texture of frozen asparagus once it is cooked – I think it over-cooks too easily – however it makes the perfect base for soup-making or blending with mayonnaise or very ripe avocado for a dip, so it is worth freezing a few stems for this purpose alone.

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Preparing fresh asparagus for cooking and keeping. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I like my asparagus best when it has been griddled or roasted. Thin spears cook very quickly in a hot, lightly oiled frying pan or on a griddle pan brushed with oil. Larger stems are good for roasting –  brush with oil and spread out on a lined baking tray, and bake in a moderately hot oven for 10-15 minutes. If you prefer to use water, try to cook the stems so that the tips stay out of the water. You can buy tall upright asparagus steamers if you’re a big asparagus fan – these enable you to stand the stems upright in bunches – only the stalks are in the water whilst the tops only cook in the steam. Otherwise, steaming, covered, over a saucepan of water is the next best way – keep the cooking water to add to your recipe as stock if you’re making a soup or risotto.

Here’s my recipe for sushi rice bars topped with asparagus tips – a delicious light snack for a spring lunch. If you need to trim away lots of stalk to make this recipe, keep the leftovers, and either use them to make stock or soup, or slice them into thin rounds and add to a stir fry.

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Homemade asparagus and sesame sushi bars. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 12

  • 150g sushi rice
  • 25g piece root ginger
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp freshly chopped chives
  • 4 tsp mirin, sweet sherry or white balsamic vinegar (Agredolce)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 12 fine asparagus spears
  • Fresh chives and flowers to garnish

1. Double line a shallow 18cm square cake tin with cling film so that the film overhangs the sides. Rinse the rice in cold running water. Put in a small saucepan and pour over 200ml cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes undisturbed. Turn off the heat and leave to stand with the lid on for 20 minutes. It is worth checking the manufacturer’s cooking instructions for the particular rice you are using as timings and water quantities may vary between brands.

2. Meanwhile, peel the ginger and garlic and chop finely. Heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan and gently fry for 2-3 minutes until softened but not browned. Leave aside.

3. When the rice is ready, scrape it into a heat-proof bowl and fork through to break up the grains. Add the ginger and garlic along with the seeds, chives, wine, sherry or vinegar and salt. Mix well.

4. Pile into the prepared tin, press down with the back of a spoon and leave to cool completely, then fold over the cling film and chill for 2 hours until firm.

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Making seasoned sushi rice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Trim the asparagus to approx. 8cm lengths and place in a steaming compartment over the water. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until just tender – insert the tip of a sharp knife into the end of the stalk is a good way to check it is perfectly tender. Cool under cold running water, then drain, place on damp kitchen paper and chill until required.

6. To serve, remove the rice cake from the tin and remove the cling film. Place on a board, cut into 12 bars and arrange asparagus on top of each bar. If liked, wrap a length of chive stem around each piece and arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with chive flowers, and serve with wasabi paste if liked.

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New season fresh, British asparagus spears. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

May bluebells and blossoms

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My Perthshire garden in May. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s May! My favourite month of the year. I’m so excited, I hardly know where to start. The weather has been fine and dry for several day and there is so much going on in the garden, I am utterly spoilt for choice. So here goes….

There are bluebells everywhere, ranging in height and depth of colour, and not just blue ones, white and lilac-pink stems as well. When the sun is up, the fragrance is quite intoxicating.

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Bluebells, lilac and white varieties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Tall, white variety of bluebell. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The golden glow of daffodils has been replaced by the vibrant yellow of Welsh poppies which are blooming all over the garden now and will continue to do so throughout the coming months. The petals are so delicate yet the poppies withstand all sorts of random weather that a Scottish spring and summer has to offer.

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Vibrant and bold Welsh poppies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have high hopes for an abundant fruit crop this year. All the trees, especially the Morello cherry, have been laden with blossom. To me, the prettiest of all fruit blossom is the apple blossom, I love the deep pink buds which burst open into hint-of-pink flower petals. Pear blossom comes a close second with its intricate and prominent stamens.

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Morello cherry tree in full blossom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Lord Derby apple blossom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Concorde pear blossom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The weather here in Perthshire is set fair for another few days, with no rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future. Whilst I enjoy the sunshine and blue sky, this is one of the worst times of the year for there to be little water for the plants. It looks like I will be busy with the watering can over the next few days. Until next month, I’m heading outside 🙂

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Bluebells under a May Perthshire blue sky. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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May bluebell, up close and personal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Cherry almond amarettis (Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Vegan cherry almond amaretti cookies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For several weeks, every now and again, I have been trying to make eggless meringues. The meringues I prefer are the large, pillow-like ones made with brown sugar and lots of chopped nuts and a drizzle of dark chocolate, and not the plain white, dainty variety. Sadly, I haven’t been successful so far. However, my experimentation has led me to find other uses for vegan “egg white”, hence, I come to this week’s post.

Next time you open a can of cooked white beans or chickpeas in water, keep the canning liquid, for this is vegan “egg white”. Amazing as it sounds, the liquid whips up into a thick foam and can be used (with care) as a substitute for fresh egg whites. You may find it referred to as aqua fava for after all, that is what it is: bean water!

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Bowls of butter bean and chickpea canning water. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The drained liquid content of a 400g can is approx. 140ml which equates to 3 medium egg whites. It freezes well so you don’t need to use all of it in one recipe – an ice cube tray is perfect for individual egg-sized amounts, but don’t forget to label it otherwise your G&T may taste a little strange! As with fresh egg white, place in a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk in the same way. I add a pinch of cream of tartar to assist the volume when whisking up.

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Whipped butter bean and chickpea canning water. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Once I have cracked a decent meringue recipe and got my sugar and nut quantities correct, I look forward to sharing it with you. Until then, here is my recipe for Italian amaretti cookies. These are the soft variety, and are truly delicious (and very moreish). They make a lovely gift too.

Makes: 18

  • A few sheets of gluten-free edible paper (optional)
  • 45ml chickpea or white bean canning water
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 225g ground almonds
  • 100g glacé cherries, chopped
  • 125g + 2 tsp icing sugar
  • 2 tsp natural almond extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Using a 4cm diameter round cookie cutter, trace and cut out 18 rounds of edible paper if using, and place on the trays, spaced a little apart.
  2. Put the canning water in a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk until softly foaming. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking until the beaters leave an impression in the foam – this takes about 3-4 minutes of whisking.
  3. Put the almonds and cherries in a bowl. Sift 125g icing sugar on top. Mix well and then add the almond extract and whisked foam. Carefully mix together to make a softish dough.
  4. Divide into 18 portions and form each into a ball. Place one on top of each paper circle and press down gently to flatten slightly – if you’re not using the paper, just space them out directly on the lined trays.

    Edible_paper,_amaretti_dough_and_shaped_cookies
    Amaretti making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The biscuits will store for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. Serve lightly dusted with icing sugar.
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Sugar-dusted cherry amarettis. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For gifting, wrap each amaretti cookie in a small, clean square of tissue paper, and twist the ends on each side to seal the wrapping. Arrange in a shallow box and tie with ribbon to present. Perfect for serving with coffee.

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Gift-wrapped amarettis. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

Marsh samphire

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Fresh marsh samphire Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Also known as glasswort, marsh samphire is a vegetable that I associate with this time of year. I’m not entirely sure why, but the texture is succulent and crisp, and goes well with the lighter, brighter dishes I yearn for at this time of year. The vibrant green colour makes it look fresh and very appealing.  Samphire is definitely one of the ingredients and flavours that marries perfectly with this vibrant season.

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Griddled samphire. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The thin, green succulent stems of marsh samphire remind me of fine, young asparagus stalks and can be eaten and cooked in the same way. However, the flavour is completely different; you won’t need to turn to the salt-cellar  or any other salted ingredients when you come to cooking and serving samphire, it is naturally salty and is, therefore, best served in small portions. I like to griddle a handful of stems in a very hot pan, brushed with a little oil. They wilt in a couple of minutes and take on a slightly charred flavour. You can also toss stems in oil, spread them out on a baking tray and blast them in a hot oven for a few minutes to get a similar effect.

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Fine, young samphire stems. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Young, fine, very fresh stems can be eaten raw. Just give them a thorough rinse in cold running water, chop them into small bits and toss them into your salad greens for a salty crunch. Larger stems are best briefly cooked in boiling water or lightly steamed, and can be a stir-fried.

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Smoked Salmon and samphire noodles Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Because of the “sea-salt” flavour, samphire is perfect served with fish, but it is also good with roast lamb. I like to add some sweetness in a dressing, or add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to temper the taste of the salt. Samphire is a vegetable that is traditionally pickled (although I haven’t tried this); I can imagine a sweet, spicy pickling liquid would work well and make a great accompaniment to go with smoked mackerel or ham. My current favourite combination of ingredients with griddled samphire is freshly cooked plain rice noodles, flakes of hot smoked salmon and a dressing of Thai sweet chilli sauce – so simple and yet utterly delicious!