Welcome to my collection of seasonal gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly recipe posts; a round up of my gardening throughout the year, and the plants and produce I grow here in central Scotland. I wish you good readng, happy cooking and perfect planting!
I hadn’t intended to write another post about plums this week, but after making several pots of jam with the largest, juiciest plums, I was down to my last kilo of the smallest fruit. Flicking through an old book on preserves, I happened upon a recipe for making damson “cheese”, and I decided to have a go. It turned out to be very similar to Spanish quince paste, so I’m calling it membrillo. And very delicious it is too 🙂
It takes a bit of time to make plum membrillo because you need to keep stirring the fruit mixture to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan, and it can’t be rushed otherwise you will end up burning the mixture. Other than this, there are just 3 ingredients and a little water. I like the herbal aroma of bay with stoned fruit, but cinnamon would work well, or you could omit the extra flavour altogether for maximum fruitiness.
The flavour is intense and fruity. It is very rich so serve in slices as a sweet treat or as an accompaniment to cheese and cold meats as you would quince paste. It needs to be stored in the fridge, but will keep for a month in a sealed container, or it can be sliced, wrapped and frozen. It would make a nice gift for a foodie friend – wrap in waxed paper for keeping at it’s best.
I also cut a couple of slices into small cubes and rolled in granulated sugar to make melt-in-the-mouth home-made fruit pastilles.
Makes: 8 slices
1kg small plums (damsons or apricots would also work)
4 fresh bay leaves or 2 dried
Approx. 500g granulated sugar
Line a 500g loaf tin with baking parchment. Wash the plums and place in a large saucepan (there is no need to stone them). Pour over 200ml water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until very soft. Cool for 10 minutes, then rub though a nylon sieve to extract as much pulp as possible – I ended up with about 1l of pulp.
Pour the pulp back into the saucepan, add the bay leaves, and bring to the boil. Simmer gently, stirring to prevent sticking, for about 15 minutes, until reduced by half. I find a spatula is good for stirring preserves because it enables you to scrape the pan more thoroughly. Cool for 10 minutes, then discard the bay leaves.
Measure the pulp and pour back into saucepan. Add the equivalent amount of pulp in sugar – I had 500ml reduced pulp and added 500g sugar. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved completely.
Turn up the heat and cook the mixture until it becomes very thick – about 30 minutes – until the spatula leaves a clear line across the bottom of the pan. If you prefer, it needs to reach 105°C on a sugar thermometer. You need to keep stirring the mixture which will be very hot, so do take care. I find it easier to wear a long rubber glove when stirring, because the mixture can spit.
Scrape the thick, pulpy mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top and leave too cool completely. It will set firm as it cools. Chill until required.
When ready to serve, remove the lining parchment, and slice the membrillo with a sharp knife – a warmed blade should make for easier slicing. Wrap and store in the fridge for up to a month, or freeze for later use.
The garden’s taken a bit of a battering this week. It’s been very windy since the weekend and yesterday the remnants of the recent US Hurricane blew through. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to have been too much damage, but any plums that I left on the tree are no longer.
I had been picking the Victoria plums since the beginning of last week, and thankfully harvested the majority of what was left at the weekend. I’ve been busy making jam, and freezing a few in bags for later use. The tree is only small, but it has done very well this year in spite of the dry summer, although some of the plums are smaller than usual.
Stoned fruit like plums, apricots and peaches go very well with the flavour of almond. If you crack the stones open, the inner part of the kernel has a strong almond aroma – I always add the kernels, in a muslin bag, to jam as it cooks, to give it more flavour. I realise marzipan isn’t to everyone’s taste, but is one of my favourite ingredients and in my mind, is perfect for eating with plums. This week’s recipe will work fine without it, the cake will be lighter in texture and will cook slightly quicker.
You can make this cake with most fruit, just be aware that if a fruit is very juicy, the bottom of the cake will be quite sticky and may not completely cook through. The cake also makes a great pudding served warm with custard. I use spelt flour, the white variety, for this cake, but use gluten-free plain if you’re intolerant to wheat, and ordinary plain white flour if you don’t have spelt.
300g golden caster sugar
175g dairy-free margarine
175g non-dairy yogurt (coconut or soya work well)
175ml unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used soya)
190g white spelt flour (or gluten-free plain flour)
12g gluten-free baking powder
175g ground almonds
175g marzipan, cut into small pieces
20g flaked almonds, toasted
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a deep, 23cm round cake tin. Sprinkle the base of the tin with 2 tbsp. sugar and put to one side.
Halve the plums and remove the stones, then arrange in the bottom of the tin to cover it completely. If you have any plums left over, chop them and sprinkle them over the layer of plums.
Put the margarine in a bowl with the remaining sugar and whisk together for 3-4 minutes until creamy and light in texture and colour. Gently whisk in the yogurt and dairy-free milk with half the flour until well blended. Sieve the remaining flour and baking powder on top; add the ground almonds and marzipan, and mix everything together until thoroughly blended.
Spoon the cake mixture on top of the plums and smooth over the top. Put the tin on a baking tray and bake for about 1 ½ hours until richly golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool for at least 30 minutes in the tin before serving warm, or leave to cool completely in the tin if serving as a cake.
To serve, turn the cake out on to a serving plate and sprinkle with flaked almonds to serve.
Over the past week or so, I’ve picked more runner beans from my 3 plants than I can possibly eat. The beans do keep well for a few days in a container of water in the fridge, but even so, this year, I have resorted to freezing some down. Not ideal as they do lose some texture, but it’s a good way of eking them out a while longer.
I like my runner beans cut thinly in fine ribbons. I inherited a tiny, wee gadget from my grandmother which is perfect for this. If the beans are very fresh, you can whip them through the fine, grill-like slicing plate in next to no time, and sliced this way, they take just a few minutes to cook.
For freezing, it helps preserve texture if you cut the runner beans into chunkier pieces, and that’s what I did with the majority of these beans. I blanched the prepared beans in rolling, boiling water for about 1 ½ minutes, then drained them and cooled them completely in cold running water. Before bagging your prepared vegetables, shake off the excess water, pat dry with kitchen paper and then pack into freezer bags. Make sure the bag is free of as much air as possible. I do this by screwing the bag closed, and then sucking out the excess air via a straw inserted into the top. It’s very effective. Seal the bag tightly with a wire bag tie or clip, and don’t forget to label – remember how time flies! Blanched vegetables should keep perfectly fresh in the freezer for at least 6 months. If you don’t do the blanching, use them up in a couple of months.
This week’s recipe is a tasty vegetable noodle dish that can be eaten hot but I usually enjoy the dish served cold as a light lunch. Try and cut all the vegetables thinly and evenly so that they cook to the same texture. If you don’t have a bean slicer, cut the beans into short lengths and then slice thinly lengthways. For the dressing, if peanuts aren’t to your taste, use cashews or almonds and the associated nut butters instead.
225g runner beans
1 large carrot
1 medium leek
200g soba noodles (or use your favourite variety and cook accordingly)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
40g roasted peanuts, crushed
For the dressing:
50g smooth whole nut peanut butter
1 tsp sesame oil
25g Tamari gluten-free soy sauce
1 tbsp. white rice vinegar
15g light soft brown sugar
Trim the beans. Peel the sides of the beans using a vegetable peeler and slice into thin shreds. Peel and trim the carrot; slice into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Trim the leek. Slice down the centre and run under cold running water to flush out any trapped soil. Shake well to remove excess water, then cut in half, and slice into ribbon-like strips. Arrange all the vegetables in a steamer, colander or large sieve.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil (unsalted if you’re using soba noodles). Put the vegetables on top, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add the noodles to the boiling water, bring back to the boil, put the vegetables back on top, and cook everything for a further 5 minutes, until the noodles are tender and the vegetables are just cooked through. Drain the noodles well, and return to the saucepan. Toss in the sesame oil and then the vegetables. Mix well and either leave to cool if serving as a salad, or cover to keep warm.
For the dressing, put all the ingredients in a small screw-top jar. Seal and shake well to mix into a thick, dressing.
To serve, pile the hot or cold vegetable noodles on to a serving platter and sprinkle with sesame seeds and peanuts. Serve with the peanut dressing.
It has reached the time of year that sees the end of my supply of home-grown courgettes. The three plants I sowed from seed have been growing happily, side by side, in a grow-bag, in my greenhouse over the past few weeks. The plants have given me a good, steady and tasty crop of yellow and green globe-shaped fruits. I am sad to see their demise.
To use up the last of the crop, this week’s recipe is for a mildly spiced, Indian-style fritter, based on a classic takeaway favourite, the onion bhaji. The flour used is chickpea (or gram/besan) flour which very is earthy and nutty in flavour, and the flavourings used are fragrant rather than over-powering: cumin, fenugreek, black onion seeds and toasted sesame seeds. Add some minced green chilli or chopped fresh coriander for some zesty freshness if you like.
Serve the bhajis as a starter with wedges of lemon to squeeze over, some fresh coriander, and a traditional cucumber and yogurt salad.
190g chickpea (gram or besan) flour
1 tsp salt
200g courgette, trimmed and coarsely grated
1 small leek, trimmed and shredded
1 tsp ground fenugreek
1½ tsp ground cumin
2 tsp black onion seeds
2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
Sunflower oil for deep-frying
Fresh coriander and lemon to serve
For the cucumber salad
150g cucumber, trimmed and chopped
Small bunch fresh chives, chopped
A few sprigs fresh mint, leaves chopped
100g free-from coconut yogurt
Salt to taste
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the courgette, leek, spices and seeds. Mix well. Put to one side. Heat the oil for deep-frying to 180°C, then mix 75ml cold water into the spiced vegetables to make a thick batter. Add the water just before cooking to make sure it stays thick.
Use 2 dessert spoons to form scoops of batter and gently drop into the oil – cook 7-8 scoops at a time for 7-8 minutes, turning in the oil, until golden and crisp. Don’t make the bhajis too big otherwise they won’t cook all the way through. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm while you prepare the other remaining batter.
For the cucumber salad, mix all the ingredients together and season to taste.
Serve the bhajis while they are warm, sprinkled with fresh coriander and accompanied with lemon wedges and the cucumber salad.
I fancied a spot of baking this week especially as it seemed to be a while since I baked a cake for my blog. This recipe is extremely easy to make, even if you’re an inexperienced baker, there is little to go wrong here. The cake is naturally dense in texture so you haven’t got to worry about whisking for a specific length of time or getting a good rise. The decoration is optional, the cake tastes just as good with or without icing. The mixture is not particularly sweet and makes a good alternative dessert topped with fruit, accompanied with free-from cream or ice-cream.
The cake gets its rich yellow colour from polenta and cold pressed rapeseed oil. I’m very fortunate to have an excellent local supply of this amber coloured oil called Summer Harvest. The rapeseed is harvested just down the road from my house. The oil has an earthy, nutty flavour and makes an excellent addition to any recipe with nuts and seeds added to it. If you prefer to use an alternative oil, us sunflower oil which adds little extra flavour but the cake will also be paler in colour.
I usually use just ground almonds and polenta in this recipe, but for a change, I ground up flax seed with whole almonds to make a fine meal. As long as you grind the seeds or nuts finely, you should be able to use any combination with polenta in this recipe. I use an electric coffee grinder to make my own seed and nut flours, I find the sturdier blade is able to blitz more finely than the food processor or blender.
150ml cold pressed rapeseed oil
1 tsp good quality natural vanilla extract
150g unbleached caster sugar
100g silken tofu
50g each flax seeds and whole almonds, finely ground
5g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
100g ready to roll white icing
½ tsp good quality natural vanilla extract
A handful of fresh berries
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line an 18cm a round cake tin. Pour the oil into a bowl. Add the vanilla and sugar and whisk together until creamy and well blended. Add the tofu and whisk again until smooth.
Add the seed mix, polenta, baking powder and arrowroot, and gently mix all the ingredients together until well blended. Scrape into the tin. Stand the tin on a baking tray and bake for an hour – test the centre of the cake with a wooden skewer, it should come out clean when the cake is properly cooked through. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
To decorate the cake, remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack. Cut up the white icing into pieces and put in a small saucepan. Add 1 tsp water and heat the mixture very gently, stirring, until it begins to melt and form a paste. Stir in the vanilla, then drizzle the icing all over the top of the cake using a dessert spoon, letting it drip down the sides. As the icing cools, it will set firm again.
Leave the icing to cool and scatter, then scatter the top with berries before serving. I used my latest precious harvest of blueberries. Not a very good year for them in my garden, but the berries do have a good flavour none the less. Have a good week 🙂
A variation on a Middle Eastern classic salad for you this week. Fattoush is served all over the Middle East in various forms, but always with toasted bread added to it. It makes a light and refreshing sharing platter as a starter or lunch, and also serves as a versatile accompaniment to barbecued and grilled food. Most usually Fattoush consists of crisp lettuce, cucumber, tomato, pepper, onion and herbs, with chunks of bread tossed into them. It is usually dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice.
The good mix of sunshine and, latterly, rain this summer has produced a flourish of runner beans. Only 3 plants survived the initial “trauma” of being planted outside this year, and they were very skinny and frail for several weeks. But then suddenly they took off, and now just look at them, I have my very own giant beanstalks.
My fattoush recipe combines the salad ingredients I have growing in the garden at the moment – cucumber, tomatoes and runner beans. For the herb, I used salad burnet which has a refreshing cucumber taste; coriander, mint and parsley are most usually added.
Instead of onion, I used fresh chives, and for extra crunch, I chopped up some whole almonds and sprinkled them on top. After toasting the bread, I seasoned it with salt, pepper and tangy sumac powder for extra zing.
175g runner beans
1 Romaine or Little Gem lettuce
150g cherry tomatoes
1 small cucumber
A small bunch fresh chives (or use 3 chopped spring onions, or finely chop half a small red onion)
A few sprigs salad burnet (or coriander, parsley and/or mint)
2 large gluten-free pitta breads
Good quality olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g whole almonds, roughly chopped
Trim the beans – I like to peel the sides with a vegetable peeler, and then nip of the tops. Cut into chunks. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the beans for 3-4 minutes until lightly cooked. Drain well and rinse in cold running water to cool. Drain well.
Tear or shred the lettuce and place in a large serving bowl. Halve the tomatoes, and thickly slice the cucumber. Toss into the lettuce along with the cooked beans. Snip the chives into pieces with scissors and strip the leaves from the salad burnet or other fresh herbs. Mix into the salad.
Toast the pitta breads. Brush with oil and sprinkle with sumac and season to taste. Tear into chunky pieces and toss into the salad. Sprinkle with almonds. Serve the salad with olive oil and wedges of lemon to squeeze over.
I have never been able to pick home-grown tomatoes this early before. Usually, my tomatoes don’t ripen until at least September, and I’m always left wondering whether I will be making pots-loads of green tomato chutney. This year, the tomatoes are ripening at least one month ahead, and I am delighted 🙂
I planted 8 different varieties this year in the greenhouse, and all are doing very well. I’m going to be eating a lot of tomatoes this year!
I enjoy eating tomatoes raw, simply sliced, sprinkled with a little seasoning, and a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness, and topped with a few fresh basil leaves.
However, I do cook with them occasionally, and my recipe this week is for a lightly cooked tomato dish which I put on top of gluten-free ciabatta-style bread to eat as a light lunch or quick supper snack. The topping also makes a great sauce to serve over pasta or roast veg. The tomatoes are flavoured with fresh sage, garlic and capers, and for a tangy sweetness, I’ve added a little white balsamic vinegar.
To enjoy all the flavours of the recipe, leave the mix to cool slightly before serving rather than eating it too hot or fresh out of the saucepan.
225g small tomatoes, halved or quartered
A few leaves fresh sage
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp. capers
1 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of freshly toasted bread
Put the tomatoes, sage, garlic, capers and vinegar in a small saucepan. Season to taste and heat gently until simmering. Cover with a lid, turn down the heat to low and cook the tomatoes very gently for 10 minutes, until soft. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes.
To serve, discard the sage leaves. Drizzle freshly toasted bread with olive oil and spoon over the tomato topping. Garnish with fresh sage.
The more traditional Scottish summer weather has returned this past week. It is much cooler now; there have been a few more rain showers, and the garden has rehydrated and is greening up again. Earlier today, I was having a look back at my garden post of this time last year; several of the flowers I featured then are well and truly over by now due to the heat and dry of the past few weeks.
There seem to be plenty of bees (and butterflies) in the garden this year which is very good news. The Goldenrod and globe thistles were alive with sound of buzzing while I was capturing these images. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed quite so many different kinds of bees and flying insects as I waited to capture the pollen collecting action.
The poppies add a brief splash of colour when they bloom. The fragile petals are like tissue-paper. Once in full bloom, each flower head looks radiant for about 24 hours before the petals are shed, on by one.
Just as fragile looking are the Japanese anemones, but although they look so delicate and pretty, the flowers last for many days, if not weeks, and seem to be able to tolerate any wind, rain, heat and chill that a Scottish summer has to offer.
Year after year, the back garden flowerbeds become packed out with the long stems and leaves of Crocosmia. The weight of several flower heads per stem means that they do appear to grow horizontally, particularly in the sunshine; in the shadier parts of the garden, the stems hold their heads higher as they reach for the light. For me, it is the bright orange flowers and lush green foliage of this plant that represents the peak of summer like no other.
My final images are of another orange flower in the garden: very tall and elegant tiger lilies. I love the way the petals fold back so neatly at the back of the bloom, just like a beautifully tied ribbon. Until next week, my best wishes to you 🙂
I had planned a garden round-up for this week’s post. However, the long spell of fine weather has finally broken and I haven’t been able to get outside that much this past week. To be honest, the hot spell has left the garden looking a bit sad and lacking in colour. So, instead of a weekend in the garden, I got the jam pan out of the cupboard and made some jelly preserve with the last of my raspberries.
A jelly preserve takes a bit more time to make than most other jams, but if you do find yourself in a preserving mood, I can recommend having a go, as the reward is great and the flavour, intense and rich.
You will need some clean muslin if you don’t have a jelly making bag, but if you are only making a small amount, as per the quantity below, you don’t need any other special equipment, although a sugar thermometer will help take the guess-work out of judging when the jelly has cooked sufficiently. All you need to ensure is that all the equipment and jam-jars you use are very clean; this will enable you to store your preserves for as long as required.
Makes: approx. 650g
450g prepared raspberries, washed
450g prepared rhubarb, washed and chopped into small pieces
Approx. 500g granulated sugar
Approx. 25ml fresh lemon juice
Mash the raspberries to release the juices and place in a saucepan. Stir in the chopped rhubarb and 2 tbsp. water. Heat gently until steaming, then cover and cook for 6-7 minutes until very soft.
2. While the fruit is cooking, set up the muslin or jelly bag ready for straining the juice. I use a tall jug which I can suspend a jelly bag over the top. Otherwise, a large nylon sieve lined with muslin, suspended over a bowl will work well. The volume of liquid produced by following this recipe will not be much greater than 500ml, so you don’t need a massive collecting container. Make sure it is stable so that it can’t tip over when you add the fruit.
3. Carefully spoon the hot fruit and juices into the bag or muslin, and then leave undisturbed for several hours until the fruit stops dripping. Don’t be tempted to press or squeeze the fruit as this will make a cloudy preserve. Discard the pulp. Measure the juice and work out the quantity of sugar and lemon juice required. You need 75g sugar and 5ml lemon juice per 100ml juice.
4. Pour the juice into a large saucepan and heat gently until hot, then stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and continue stirring over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.
5. Raise the heat and bring to the boil, then boil rapidly until setting point is reached – between 104° and 105°C on a sugar thermometer. Skim away any scum that rises to the surface during boiling. Pour into clean, hot jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 6 months, but the preserve is ready to eat as soon as you want! Delish 🙂
All the fabulous sunshine we’ve been having has done wonders for the fruit this year in the garden, although it has meant a lot of watering.
I picked my precious harvest of Morello cherries last weekend. I had had the tree netted for several weeks and successfully managed to fend off the birds. One small espalier tree produced just under one kilo of cherries 🙂
So what to do with such a precious harvest. Decisions, decisions. Last year I made my usual compote and with the remainder I made cherry jam. Sadly, I over-cooked the mixture and ended up with cherry toffee! This year, I was determined not to be so fool-hardy. I got my old-fashioned cookery books out and bottled a jar for a treat later in the year. With the rest, I made this rice dish, based on the Iranian recipe for Alo-balo polo or sour cherry rice. Traditionally chicken is added and the dish is served at a celebration. I made my meat-free version to serve as a side dish. It is only mildly spiced so will go with anything.
I appreciate that not everyone will have access to fresh Morello cherries, but dried sour cherries are readily available, and cranberries will work well as an alternative. Just stir dried cherries or cranberries into the rice towards the end of cooking time – use about 150g dried. If you have fresh or frozen cranberries, you can follow the recipe below exactly, using 250g berries.
Serves: 4 as a side dish
250g basmati rice
Generous pinch of saffron strands
300g fresh whole sour cherries
65g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
Handful of chopped pistachio nuts
Put the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 2 hours, then drain and rinse well. Meanwhile, put the saffron in a small bowl and spoon over 1 tbsp. very hot water. Leave to infuse and cool.
Stone the cherries and place in a saucepan with the sugar. Heat gently, stirring carefully, until the sugar dissolves, then bring to simmering point and cook gently for 2-3 minutes until tender and juicy. Leave to cool.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the salt, and gradually sprinkle in the rice so as to keep the water boiling. Cook in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes until slightly opaque, then drain, rinse well and shake off the excess water.
Divide the rice equally between 2 saucepans. Stir the saffron water into one portion and level off the surface of the rice. Mix the cardamoms and cinnamon into the other and level off the surface. With the end of a wooden spoon, make indents in the rice and drizzle 1 tbsp. oil into each saucepan.
Cover each with a layer of foil across the top of the saucepan; put the lid on top, and cook over a very low heat, undisturbed, for 30 minutes. After this time the grains of rice will be tender and slightly crisp on the bottom of the saucepan. Fork through the rice in each saucepan to mix well. Discard the spices.
While the rice is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion, covered, for about 15 minutes until very tender.
To serve, drain the cherries, reserving the juice, and mix the cherries into the spiced rice along with the onion. Pile into a warmed serving dish. Spoon the saffron rice on top and gently mix the two rices together. Sprinkle with pistachio nuts and serve immediately with the cherry juice to pour over – reheat this if preferred.