Raspberry and almond shorties (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Raspberry_and_almond_shorties_on_a_wire_rack
Freshly dusted shorties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are enjoying some sunshine. It’s been incredibly hot here in the UK these past few days, lots of blue sky and high temperatures. I have been outside enjoying the warmth but also seeking the shadier parts of the garden to work in. I have lots of produce to water as well, so I am hoping for some (night-time) rain to refill the water butts again.

Homegrown_Scottish_raspberries_on_the_bush
Ripe and ready for picking, this year’s homegrown Scottish raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe post this week is inspired by one of the best and most successful home-grown Scottish fruits, the raspberry. I have been picking a bowlful a day for the past week or so, enjoying some for breakfast and putting the rest in the freezer, ready for jam making later in the year.

Heart-shaped_bowl_of_freshly_picked_raspberries
Freshly picked July Scottish raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
Overhead_image_of_raspberry_and_almond_shorties_with_fresh_berries_and_leaves
Berry nice shorties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a very simple recipe. The texture of these little fruity bakes lives up to their name, it is incredibly short, crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth. The Shorties are best eaten from the cases. You could try adding a little xanthan gum to the mixture for a firmer bite, but I love the crumbliness. They are also very moreish – you have been warned.

Pink_polka_dot_paper_cake_cases
Pretty pink cake cases. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I use smaller cake cases for this recipe, so not the large muffin or cup-cake size. These are the cases you would use for fairy cakes or small buns. You can see from the image above that the cases don’t quite fit the depth of the muffin tins. However, I like to use the deeper tins to hold the cases as the deeper sides give support to the cases while the mixture bakes.

Jar_of_homemade_raspberry_and_beetroot_jam
Raspberry and beetroot jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can use any jam you like for the filling. I made some reduced sugar raspberry jam using a recipe I posted last year. It replaces some of the sugar with cooked beetroot. You can find the recipe here if you fancy trying some. One other thing to mention is that most of the jam added before baking will become buried once the mixture cooks, so you might want to add some more on top along with a few more almonds just before serving.

Makes: 12

Ingredients

  • 75g white vegetable fat (such as Trex) or coconut oil, softened
  • 75g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 1 teasp good quality vanilla extract
  • 100g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Doves Farm) + extra for dusting
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 25g cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 45g icing sugar + extra for dusting
  • 3g gluten-free baking powder
  • 150g your favourite jam
  • 40g toasted flaked almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line 12 muffin tins with paper cake cases (fairy cake size).

2. Mix together all the ingredients except the jam and flaked almonds until smooth and creamy. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm diameter plain nozzle.

3_steps_to_making_almond_shortie_batter
Making the shortie batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Pipe an approx. 3cm diameter mound in each paper case. If you don’t want to pipe the mixture, use a teaspoon to spoon the mixture into the cases instead and then smooth the tops.

4. Dust the end of a wooden spoon with more flour and use to make a neat pocket in the centre of each.

Raspberry_and_almond_shorties_preparation
Filling the cases. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of jam into each and sprinkle with a few flaked almonds. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly golden. Leave to cool for about 20 minutes to firm up before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. Just before serving, top with a little more jam and a few more flaked almonds, then dust lightly with icing sugar and serve. The Shorties will keep in a sealed container for 4-5 days but the texture will soften.

Close-up_on_raspberry_and_almond_shorties_with_fresh_raspberries_and_leaves
Shorties ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
Raspberry_and_almond_shortie_broken_open
Inside a shortie. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. I hope you enjoyed my post and I look forward to seeing you again in a couple of weeks. Until then, take care and keep safe.

Steamed sesame buns (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Gluten-free_sesame_steamed_buns_filled_with_asparagus_broccoli_and_rainbow_salad
Gluten-free sesame steamed buns. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are well. I’ve had a busy few days since my last post and been “enjoying” some unseasonal British summer weather (!) which has meant more time indoors that I would usually have at this time of year. No matter, I have a delicious recipe for you this week, and one which I have been working on for a while. I hope you will be tempted to give it a try. The texture of the buns is light, soft and chewy and has a slight sweetness as well as a savoury nuttiness from adding sesame oil and topping with seeds.

Fluffy_texture_of_homemade_gluten_free_steamed_sesame_buns
Steamed sesame bun texture. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is one of the easiest gluten-free bread doughs to make and cook. The buns are very versatile and can be filled with anything you fancy – sweet or savoury. Leave the sesame oil and seeds out if you prefer – just replace the oil with your favourite vegetable oil instead. Enjoy them for a light lunch or supper, but eat them warm or hot as the fluffy, chewy texture is lost once the buns cool, although they can be quickly reheated in the microwave or steamer.

Makes: 4

Ingredients

  • 75g cornflour
  • 50g tapioca flour
  • 50g white rice flour
  • 50g glutinous rice flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 ½ tsp sunflower oil
  • 125ml + 1 tbsp plant-based milk, slightly warm
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds or combination of white and black seeds

To serve:

  • Teriyaki asparagus and sprouting broccoli, rainbow salad and sesame mayonnaise – see below

1. Put the flours in a bowl and mix in the salt, sugar and baking powder until well blended. Mix in the yeast thoroughly.

2. Make a well in the centre and add the oils and gradually mix in 125ml milk to form a soft, but not sticky, ball of dough.

3_steps_showing_the_ingredients_for_gluten_free_steamed_sesame_buns
Basic steamed bun dough ingredients. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Turn on to the work top and knead gently until smooth then put back in the bowl, cover with cling film or a clean, damp tea-towel and put in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours until well risen.

4. Divide into 4 equal pieces and shape each into a smooth, approx. 7cm round.

6_steps_showing_shaping_gluten_free_steamed_sesame_buns
Shaping the dough. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Cut a cross in the centre of each, about ½cm deep. Brush lightly with remaining milk and sprinkle the tops with seeds. Place on a lined tray, cover lightly with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for about 40 minutes until risen.

Steamed_sesame_buns_ready_for_steaming
Finishing touches before steaming. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Meanwhile, preheat your steamer or bring a saucepan of water to the boil and place a steaming compartment on top. Line the steamer with baking parchment or edible rice paper. Add the buns, cover and steam for about 25 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. The outside will be a little sticky Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes to firm up and dry before slicing with a serrated knife to fill. Best served warm.

Steaming_gluten_free_sesame_buns
Cooking the buns. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The filling I chose for these buns was thin asparagus and sprouting broccoli stems stir fried in a little oil for about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat, add 1 tbsp gluten-free teriyaki sauce or soy sauce, cover and stand for 5 minutes.

Stir-fried_asparagus_and_sprouting_broccoli_stems
Asparagus and sprouting broccoli flavoured with teriyaki. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I also made a rainbow salad using my latest kitchen gadget which shreds vegetables into fine ribbon slices, but you can grate the vegetables just as easily. I combined carrot, radish and cucumber and added a few chopped home-grown chives.

Preparation_of_rainbow_salad
Rainbow salad vegetables. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

And, for a finishing touch, I flavoured readymade vegan mayonnaise with a few drops of sesame oil and some teriyaki sauce. Perfect 🙂

Close-up_on_a_filled_steamed_sesame_bun
Dressed and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. Until my next post, take care and keep safe.

Midsummer rainbow garden

Midsummer_in_a_Scottish_garden
Midsummer garden. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you well and that the sun has been shining wherever you are. It’s been a mixed bag here. Some sunshine, some rain, but warmer temperatures on the whole.

I have a very simple post this week. Several plants in the garden are about 2 weeks behind this year, and this has enabled me to put together a post I have wanted to do for a while but have not, until now, had the selection of colours to make it work.

Below is a compilation of flowering plants from my garden photographed this week from Midsummer’s Day on Monday through to this morning. All the colours of the rainbow plus a couple more. I hope you enjoy them.

Deep_red_Aquilegia_plume_thistle_and_Skimmia_Japonica_berries
The reds: Aquilegia; Plume thistle, and Skimmia Japonica berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
Peachy-red_Azalea_orange-yellow_lupin_and_Pilosella
The oranges: Azalea, Lupin and Pilosella (fox and cubs). Images: Kathryn Hawkins
Yellow_flowering_Sedum_Lysimachia_and_Day_Lilies.
The yellows: Sedum, Lysimachia and Day Lilies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
Green_Euphorbia_flowers_lemon_thyme_and_fresh_sage_plants
The greens: Euphorbia, lemon Thyme, and sage. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
Geranium_Magnificum_nlue_Campanula_and_Centaurea_Montana
The blues: Geranium Magnificum, Campanula and Centaurea Montana. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
Purple_lupin_trailing_Campanula_and_deep_violet_violas
The violets: Lupin, trailing Campanula and Violas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
Gertrude_Jekyll_rose_deep_pink_Foxglove_and_white_and_pink_lupin
The pinks: Gertrude Jekyll rose, Foxglove and Lupin. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
White_hebe_flowers_white_Veronica_and_white_foxglove
The whites: Hebe, Veronica and Foxglove. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m heading back to the kitchen for my next post. I will see again in a few days. Until then, take care and keep safe 🙂

Baked spiced golden carrots (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Homegrown_golden_carrots_with_carrot_top_and_coriander_dressing
Spiced golden carrots with carrot top and coriander dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. It’s another “golden” post from me this week, all be it a recipe-led one rather than one from my garden. To be honest, I had intended this to be a “rainbow carrot” feature but Mother Nature stepped in and things turned out a little different to what I was expecting. Let me explain.

Packet_of_opened_carrot_seeds
Rainbow carrot seeds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in September last year, I decided to experiment by sowing some carrots seeds as a late crop. All being well, I should end up with baby carrots in the early winter. I chose a rainbow mix, and planted them in 2 trench-style containers in the (unheated) greenhouse. I was delighted when they started growing, but as the daylight hours dwindled, and the temperature cooled, the seedlings, unsurprisingly, stopped growing.

Overwintering_carrots_in_3_stages
From December 2020 through to April and June 2021, overwintering carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I decided to leave them alone and allowed them to overwinter in the same spot in the greenhouse. Nothing much happened until the weather warmed up in March this year when the seedlings started growing again. By April they were thriving so I put the pots outside. With the benefit of hindsight, the carrots were probably ready for pulling about a month ago, but nevertheless, this month, I finally enjoyed a bunch of homegrown carrots with fine flavour, all be they with a distinct lack of rainbow 🙂

Homegrown_golden_carrots
Golden carrot harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Only white and yellow carrots grew, although there was one orange one which didn’t quite make the grade for this recipe. It had split and grown in a very strange shape, much like a crossed pair of legs. It went in a salad instead and tasted delicious.

Homegrown_wonky-shaped_carrot_
One wee wonky carrot. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the carrot recipe which uses up all parts of the vegetable. I peeled the carrots because they were a little hairy, but ideally homegrown carrots are best left unpeeled. I also wanted an excuse to make crispy carrot peelings which I love. I used some of the carrot tops in a dressing and the rest I am working my way through as a sprinkling over salads and soups. I keep them in a jug of water in the fridge; they last for several days if you change the water regularly. If you have carrots without the tops, you can make the dressing with all coriander instead. Give all parts of the carrot a good wash to remove grit, dust and soil from the ground.

Preparing_carrots_tops_and_peelings_for_cooking
Carrot preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients

  • 350g carrots, washed and peeled if preferred (don’t forget to keep the peelings!)
  • 1 tsp each coriander and cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup + a little extra if you are going to cook the peelings
  • 4 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil (I chose this for the nutty flavour and golden colour, but any vegetable oil is fine) + a little extra for cooking the peelings
  • Sea salt
  • 15g carrot top leaves, washed (use the leafy fronds rather than the stalks which can be tough) + a few extra for garnish
  • 15g coriander leaves, washed
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ¼ tsp ground fenugreek (use a mild curry powder if this is unavailable)

1. Preheat oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. If the carrots are different sizes, cut them into even sized pieces. My carrots were about 10cm long, and I simply cut them in half. Put in a roasting tin and sprinkle with half the toasted seeds.

2. Mix the maple syrup and 1 tbsp oil together and toss into the carrots. Season with salt, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Grouns_whole_toasted_spices_along_with_maple_syrup_and_cold_pressed_rapeseed_oil_for_flavouring_baked_carrots
Toasting and grinding spices for baking carrots with maple syrup and rapeseed oil. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Remove the foil, mix the carrots in the pan juices and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, this time uncovered, until tender and lightly golden.

Roasting_tray_of_freshly_baked_golden_carrots
Baked carrots straight out of the oven. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

4. While the carrots are cooking, make the dressing. Put the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and with the remaining toasted seeds and oil, and blitz until well blended. Season with salt to taste. Cover and leave at room temperature for the best flavour.

Blitzing_the_ingredients_for_carrot_top_and_coriander_dressing
Making carrot top and coriander dressing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. If you want to cook the peelings, mix them with a drizzle of maple syrup and oil, then spread them out on a baking tray, season and bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

Roasting_carrot_peelings
Roasting carrot peelings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. To serve, drain the carrots and arrange on a warm serving plate. Sprinkle with chopped carrot tops and serve with the dressing and crispy peelings.

Baked_golden_carrots_with_herby_green_dressing_and_crispy_carrot_skin_sprinkles
Carrots with dressing and crispy sprinkles. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have chosen to grow a purple variety of carrot this year, and the first seedlings are quite well advanced already. If all goes to plan you may well see another carrot-led post from me in a few weeks.

Carrot_top_and_coriander_dressing
Carrot top and coriander dressing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have a good few days ahead. Until my next post, take care and keep safe 🙂

Golden garden

Yellow_poppies_and_Laburnum
Golden corner. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well and that you have been enjoying some good weather. After a mostly miserable May all over the UK, the clouds finally disappeared towards the end of last month and the warmth and sunshine began in earnest. I was away from home for a few days and when I came back I was amazed at how much the garden was transformed. Every corner and flower bed was alive with golden yellow Welsh poppies.

Yellow_poppies_growing_in_gravel_path_and_rockery
Welsh poppies in paths, beds and rockery. Images: Kathryn Hawkins.
June_Scottish_garden_borders
Poppy-filled borders. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The amount of poppies this year seems exceptional, and they are a welcome flash of brightness now that the bluebells are finishing. Quite a sight to behold when the sun is shining.

Yellow_poppy_in_sunshine
Welsh poppies ablaze in the sun. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can probably imagine, the poppies seed themselves and are very well suited to the climate here. One of the most successful plants in the garden in fact. They are loved by the bees and will keep producing new flower buds well into the Autumn. Something I hadn’t noticed until this year was how they close up towards the end of the day. Given that it is light until well after 10pm at this time of the year, they seem to fold in their petals a long time before the daylight begins to fade.

Yellow_poppy_growing_from_wall_during_day_and_closed_at_night
Day-time and dusk. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The bright yellow petals make a great contrast with so many other plants in the borders. Also doing well this year is the aptly named Snow in Summer or Cerastium which is cascading over one of the walls at the moment, and the fresh, green Euphorbia is thriving at the very back of the garden.

Yellow_poppies_with_Cerastium_and_Euphorbia
Poppies amongst the Cerastium and Euphorbia. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Just a short post from me this week, but hopefully a bright and cheery one. I wish you well for the days ahead and look forward to sharing my next recipe post with you a few days time. Until then, take care and my best wishes to you 🙂

Cherry Bakewell tart (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Close-up_of_homemade_Morello_cherry_tart
Cherry Bakewell tart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As I sit down to write my post this week, I am looking out on a sunny garden, with blue sky and fluffy white clouds. This has been a rare sight this month. Here we are in the third week of May and the season feels like it is hardly shifting forward. In fact, at times it has felt that things were moving in retrograde with chilly strong winds, rain and grey skies.

Homemade_cherry_Bakewell_tart_cooling_on_a_wire_rack
Classic almond-topped Bakewell tart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Time to cheer myself up with a spot of baking, and a Bakewell tart always hits the spot. I was spurred on by the sight of newly set cherries on the espaliered Morello cherry tree in the garden. After another bumper blossoming, I was very happy to see lots of fruits forming. All my fussing around with fleece last month to protect the blossom from frost has paid off. Fingers crossed.

April_Morello_cherry_blossom_and_May_set_fruit
This year’s blossom and newly formed fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I still have some of last year’s precious harvest in the freezer. Morello cherries have a tart, tangy flavour and make an ideal companion for the sweet, rich almondy sponge in a Bakewell tart. This time I kept the tart plain and simple with a classic topping of flaked almonds for a bit of crunch. A few weeks ago I made a slightly more indulgent version with extra cherries and pistachio nuts – options for either version below.

Homegrown_frozen_Scottish_Morello_cherries
2020 Morello harvest on ice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Use whatever cherries you have for this recipe; fresh, canned or frozen will work fine. Other berry fruits will work as well such as blueberries, blackberries or raspberries, or try a layer of cooked apple and pear. The classic version is to spread the pastry base with jam; I find this a little too sweet nowadays, but it’s down to personal taste. If you find almond extract too overpowering, replace it with vanilla for a more subtle flavour. If you don’t want the bother of making your own pastry, use 325g ready-made gluten-free shortcrust.

Serves: 8

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 60g white vegetable fat, softened
  • 55g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 230g gluten-free plain flour blend such as Dove’s Farm
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (not essential but it does make the pastry easier to work with and slightly crisper)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling and topping:

  • 30g ground linseeds (flax seeds)
  • 125g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 25g gluten-free plain flour
  • 1 tsp almond extract (use vanilla for a less almondy flavour)
  • 225g – 300g pitted cherries, thawed if frozen (or other prepared berries)
  • Flaked almonds or chopped pistachios to sprinkle
  1. First make the pastry. Beat together the fats until smooth and creamy, then whisk in the sugar until well blended. Add the remaining pastry ingredients and carefully stir everything together to make a crumbly mixture.
  2. Bring the crumble together with your hands and knead gently to make a smooth, firm ball of dough. Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. This pastry doesn’t firm up very much but it is easier to handle if you do refrigerate it before rolling out.
  3. Lightly dust the work surface with more flour and roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/2 cm – any thinner and the pastry tears easily. Transfer the pastry to a lightly greased 23cm loose-based fluted or plain flan tin, 3-4cm deep. You may find it easier to transfer the pastry in pieces and patch it together in the tin.
  4. Trim the edge to neaten the edge and then chill the pastry for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan, Gas 5. Line the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans or raw rice (or dry pulses). Bake for 15 minutes. Stand for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the beans and peel away the paper. Prick the base and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes to set the pastry all over. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C fan, Gas 4.
  6. While the pastry is cooking, make up the filling. Put the ground linseeds in a bowl and stir in 90ml cold water. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes until thickened. Mix together the margarine, sugar, almonds, flour and almond extract until well blended, then stir in the linseed paste, to make a smooth, creamy mixture.
  7. Spread 225g cherries over the base of the pastry case and smooth the almond mixture on top. For a very cherry version, gently push another 75g cherries into the almond mixture. Sprinkle with generously flaked almonds or pistachios and put the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 1hr until golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin before removing.
6_steps_to_preparing_Cherry_Bakewell_tart
Making Cherry Bakewell tart. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
Cherry_Bakewell_tart_with_extra_cherries_and_pistachio_topping
Bakewell tart with extra cherries and chopped pistachios. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
Overhead_image_of_homemade_Bakewell_tart
Classic Bakewell tart topped with crispy flaked almonds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I prefer to serve the tart at room temperature because I think it has more flavour, but it can be served warm as a pudding with cream or custard. I made a cherry sauce with the juices from the thawed cherries and a little fruit juice. Simply heated and thickened with cornflour. Any which way, this is bake is in my top 10 all-time favourite sweet treats.

Slice_of_cherry_Bakewell_tart_with_cherry_sauce
Bakewell tart with cherry sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

All the best for now. See you again in a couple of weeks. Take care and keep safe 🙂

May’s finest: asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, Jersey Royals and some of my favourite (rain-soaked) flowers

Hello again everyone. I hope you are keeping well. We have been suffering another down-turn in the weather since my last post. Very unseasonal hail storms, winds and heavy rain. It’s been chilly too. The lack of heat has helped keep some of the spring flowers going but delayed later ones like the bluebells, and some of the trees are still bare.

I have been busy with work since my last post and haven’t been able to spend much time in the kitchen. The poor weather has put pay to spending much time out of doors. However, May is my favourite month of the year and I have been eating some fine seasonal produce. And today, I ventured out into the garden to take a few images of some of the best May flowers.

When vegetables taste as good as this selection, I rarely do anything adventurous with them. The asparagus and broccoli get trimmed, brushed with oil and lightly seasoned, then roasted on a tray for a few minutes in a hot oven. As for Jersey Royals, I just steam or boil them and eat them dressed with seasoned oil or a dot or 2 of plant-butter. Simple but delicious.

Most of my flowery images are a little bit rain-soaked this month. The tulips started flowering early this year and many have been out for 3 or 4 weeks. With the heaviness of the downpours, some have started growing horizontally.

This beautiful purple tulip was actually filling up with water as I took the photo.

There are now bluebells in the garden, but the lack of sun is slowing down the opening of the flower-heads, and the rain is holding back the scent in the air which is something I love about this time of year. The forecast for the week ahead is for more of the same, so it may be a while before I am able to enjoy their sweet heady fragrance.

More blue flowers. The forget-me-nots are growing in abundance in one of the raised beds and provide quite a carpet of blue until other flowers take over. I spotted the first Centaurea or Mountain Cornflower in bloom today. These robust, thistle-like, flowers will continue multiplying and flowering well into the autumn. They are a great value garden plant and their vivid blue colour is very striking in the borders.

Usually in my May garden posts I am able to share pictures of abundantly flowering vivid pink and red Azaleas, but at the moment they remain stubbornly in bud. The scarlet rhododendron has come into flower this last week and is putting on a lovely display. It sits next to one of my favourite rhododendrons in the garden, a rich, candy-pink variety. Sadly the frost caught the other side of this mature shrub. These blooms are on the sheltered side and thankfully remain untouched.

Vivid_red_and_candy_pink_May_flowering_rhododendrons
Red and candy-pink rhododendrons. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all for now. I’m off to start practicing my sun-dance which I hope I can perfect in order to drive the rain away for a while 🙂 Until next time, take care and keep safe.

April rhubarb – 2 easy recipes (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Hello again. I hope you have been enjoying some good weather these past few days. At last we are enjoying frost-free nights and blue-sky days. Long may it last!

I have been able to pick my first few stalks of rhubarb. I didn’t force any plants this year, so I was delighted to find 5 stems ready for picking so early on in the season.

The week before this rhubarb was ready, I used up my last bag of frozen rhubarb from last summer. I combined it with some frozen ripe bananas I keep in the freezer for making loaf cakes and made a compote. It’s not the best-looking mixture you’ll come across but it tasted great. The sweetness of the banana helped to reduce the sugar content.

I put 450g frozen rhubarb in a saucepan with 230g frozen very ripe banana and cooked them over a low heat with the lid on for about 30 minutes until they had thawed and become very soft. Mix together until well combined. I added 4 tbsp white sugar gradually. Taste and sweeten in small amounts to keep sugar content to a minimum. Best eaten cold for maximum flavour – it makes a lovely breakfast bowl with homemade coconut granola and coconut yogurt. You could make this with fresh rhubarb and ripe bananas, and simply reduce the cooking time.

Cereal_bowl_of_granola_with_coconut_yogurt_and_homemade_rhubarb_and_banana_compote
Rhubarb and banana compote breakfast bowl. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My second recipe is something I cooked up using the new season’s rhubarb. It is made from a very simple combination of ingredients I had in the fridge and freezer, and is something I was able to put together quickly.

Roll out 300g gluten-free rough puff or puff pastry (or you can use shortcrust if you prefer) to an approximate 25cm square. Trim to neaten the edges, and then keep the trimmings for decoration. Knead and roll 150g natural marzipan to an oblong about 8cm wide and place down the middle of the pastry. Top with 200g chopped fresh rhubarb (cut into 3cm long pieces) and spoon over 100g raspberry jam.

6_step_images_to_making_rhubarb_and_marzipan_plait
Rhubarb plait preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Cut about 10 strips either side of the rhubarb, brush with a little dairy-free milk and fold over the top of the fruit, pressing together gently to seal together. Press the pastry at both ends together in order to seal the marzipan and fruit within.

Transfer to a lined baking tray, brush all over with 1 tbsp dairy-free milk mixed with 1 tbsp maple syrup. Decorate with any trimmings and brush these before baking in a preheated oven at 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6 for about 40 minutes until lightly golden and crisp. Best served warm. Serves: 6

That’s me for another week. I have a busy few days ahead of me now so it will next month before I get to post again. Until then, take care, keep safe, and enjoy the spring sunshine 🙂

Soy-braised cauliflower (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Serving_bowl_of_soy-braised_cauliflower
Soy-braised cauliflower. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. Here we are half-way through another month, and here I am not knowing where the time has gone since my last post. I hope you had a good Easter holiday. We had some glorious weather over the Easter weekend, but subsequently, we have had a return to winter with sub-zero temperatures at night, along with snow and hail showers. The fruit blossom had just started to open, and then along came Mr Jack Frost. I think I have managed to save the most delicate blooms, but sadly the rhododendrons got scorched.

With the weather being a little on the chilly side, I have been back in the kitchen cooking up some more heart-warming food. This week I’d like to share with you a very simple cauliflower dish, but it’s a tasty one and it uses up just about every part that this magnificent vegetable has to offer.

Whole_cauliflower_encased_in_leaves
The mighty cauliflower. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can adapt the recipe to suit how much cauliflower you have to cook. I had used half of this one in another recipe where just the curds were required, and was left with the other half plus all the leaves and stalks. There is plenty of room for adding your own flavourings to my simple mix of soy sauce, oil and maple syrup, so if you fancy something more spicy or herby, feel free to make your own additions.

Cauliflower_leaves_soaking_in_water
Reviving cauliflower leaves. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Sometimes when you buy a cauliflower, the outer leaves can look a bit sad and wilted, but I have found that if you soak them in a bowl of cold water, it is quite possible to revive them and make them fresh enough to cook. Discard anything that is too damaged or brown, but the other leaves should perk up quite nicely after a good bath. After soaking, simply drain them and shake off the excess water.

Here’s the rest of the recipe.

Serves: 2 to 4 as a main or side

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cauliflower (approx. 300g curds plus leaves)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • Fresh coriander to serve

1. Remove the leaves from the cauliflower. Slice out the stalks and put the leafy bits to one side along with the curds. Cut the stalks into small pieces and place in a roasting tin. Peel and slice the onion, and peel and chop the garlic. Mix into the stalks.

Slicing_and_chopping_cauliflower_stalks_for_cooking
Preparing cauliflower leaves and stalks ready for braising. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Mix the soy sauce, oil and syrup together and toss into the vegetables. Cover with foil and put in a cold oven. Set the thermostat to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6 and cook for 35 minutes.

3_images_ showing_the_cooking_stages_of_cauliflower_stalks_with_soy_and_maple
Cooking cauliflower stalks with soy and maple sauces. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. While the stalks are cooking, prepare the curds. Break them into even-sized florets, and cut any larger ones in half. Discard the stump. After 35 minutes cooking time, mix the leaves into the stalk mixture along with 3 tbsp water. Sit the curds on top and brush lightly with sesame oil. Cover the tin with foil again and bake for a further 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes, until tender.

Preparing_cauliflower_curds_and_cooking_the_leaves
Adding the curds and leaves. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
Close-up_on_soy-braised_cauliflower
Soy-braised cauliflower curds, leaves and stalks. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For an extra finishing touch and fresh flavour, sprinkle the cauliflower with fresh coriander.

I hope you have a good few days until my next post. As always, take care and keep safe 🙂

Chocolate cake with an unlikely ingredient (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Chocolate_Easter_cake_with_unusual_ingredient
One serious chocolate cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy Easter! I hope the sun is shining where you are this holiday weekend. I had intended to post this feature a little ahead of the weekend but time has run away with me this week. Actually, to be completely honest, I was ready to post it yesterday until I realised what the date was, and given the unusual ingredient, I thought that my recipe might not be taken seriously. So, here we are at the end of the week, and I’m ready to reveal all 🙂

Overhead_image_of_chocolate_Easter_cake
Easter on a plate. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is one of the easiest chocolate cake batter recipes you will come across, so even if you don’t have the time to make the chocolate ganache and other finishing touches, do keep the cake batter recipe for trying at a later date with your own icing and decorations. What makes this cake batter a bit alternative is the addition of plain vegan mayonnaise. But, it’s not that weird an addition when you think about it, mayonnaise is just an amalgam of fat and liquid which are 2 of the main ingredients in a cake batter.

Bottle_of_vegan_mayonnaise
The unlikely cake ingredient. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

However, I must emphasise the word “plain”. Please do check the ingredient list for mustard and/or garlic or anything else highly flavoured i.e. choose a mayonnaise with the least amount of flavouring possible. Taste the mayonnaise before you add it to the other ingredients, just to make sure. If you’re not vegan, a plain egg-based mayonnaise will work as well. The same goes for anyone who is not gluten-free, you can use ordinary plain white wheat flour.

Slice_of_Easter_chocolate_cake_2021
A very chocolaty slice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Because it’s Easter and I love marzipan, I have added an additional layer of chocolate marzipan before the ganache gets poured over, and I used some more to make the decorations. If you don’t like marzipan just pour the ganache directly over the cake, and decorate with readymade chocolate decorations. Or you add cocoa powder to ready-to-roll (fondant) white icing in the same way as in the recipe below, and use this to make flowers and eggs instead.

Close-up_of_chocolate_marzipan_eggs
Chocolate marzipan eggs. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The cake is deliciously rich, moist and flavoursome. It freezes well if you have any left. Once cut, it is best stored in the fridge or at a cool room temperature for up to 5 days. I hope you enjoy it.

Serves: 10-12

Ingredients

  • 140g gluten free plain flour blend
  • 65g cocoa powder plus extra for dusting
  • 17g gluten-free baking powder
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum (optional but it does help hold the crumb together)
  • 65g ground almonds
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 190g plain vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g marzipan
  • 2 tbsp smooth apricot jam
  • 250g dairy free dark chocolate (I use 54% cocoa chocolate but use darker if preferred)
  • 125g plant-based block margarine

1. Grease and line a deep 20cm round tin. Put the flour, 50g cocoa, baking powder, xanthan gum and almonds in a bowl and mix together until well blended. Stir in the sugar, and crush any lumps.

2. Make a well in the centre, and add 175ml cold water and the mayonnaise, then beat everything together until smooth and thoroughly blended. Spoon into the tin, smooth the top and put the tin on a baking tray.

3. Bake for about 1hr to 1hr 10 minutes until risen and firm to the touch – test the centre with a skewer, if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Leave for 10 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool completely. The cake may sink slightly in the middle. When the cake is cold, turn it upside down and peel away the lining paper.

Steps_1_to_6_making_Easter_chocolate_cake_with_unusual_ingredient
3_steps_showing_the_baked_chocolate_cake
Chocolate cake preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. While the cake is cooling, make the marzipan. Knead the marzipan a few times to soften it. Flatten slightly then add 1tsp of the remaining cocoa powder. Fold the marzipan over the cocoa and keep kneading until the cocoa is distributed evenly in the marzipan. Repeat the process, adding the cocoa gradually, until it is used up.

5. Cut off a 75g piece and put to one side. Lightly dust the work top with more cocoa powder and roll out the remaining marzipan to fit the top of the cake. I use the tin base as a template to cut out a neat circle.

6. Brush the cake with apricot jam and sit the marzipan circle on top. Any marzipan trimmings can be added to the reserved piece and used to make decorations.

Making_and_using_chocolate_marzipan
Chocolate marzipan preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

7. For the ganache, break up the chocolate and place in a saucepan with the margarine and 50ml water. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together. Remove from the heat, stir well, then leave to cool for about 20-30 minutes. You want the mixture to thicken sufficiently so that it doesn’t run straight off the cake when you pour it over.

8. Once thickened, sit the cake and wire rack over a tray or board. Slowly pour the ganache over the top of the cake from the middle, in a thin stream. If you want a completely smooth finish, continue pouring so that the ganache floods down the sides of the cake to coat them. Alternatively, pour and spread for a more textured appearance. Any ganache that sets on the tray underneath can be scooped up and remelted.

4_steps_showing_making_and_using_chocolate_ganache
Chocolate ganache preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Once the cake is covered, the ganache will set quite firmly if chilled, then you can prise the cake from the rack. If you have a cool kitchen, leave the cake to set naturally; the ganache will be slightly softer and it will be easier to remove it from the rack. Make the decorations while the cake is setting and then all you have to do is decorate the cake, serve it up and take in all the praise 🙂

Covering_a_chocolate_cake_with_dark_chocolate_ganache
Covering the cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Have a good Easter break and see you again soon.