Birds, bees, flowers and fruit

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Morello cherries just picked today. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Glen Ample raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

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The lavenders. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Lavender and Campanula. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Lysimachia and Leusanthemum. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Homemade raspberry and rose sugar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

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

Makes: 200g

Ingredients

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

    Steps_4_to_6_making_homemade_raspberry_sugar
    Mixing and drying raspberry sugar. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Spread the sugar evenly on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a board, then cover with another sheet of paper and leave in a dry, warm place for a few hours (or overnight) until dry and crisp.
  5. Transfer the sugar to a clean plastic bag – it will dry in clumps. Twist the bag closed and and crush with a rolling pin to break up the clumps of sugar crystals.

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    Preparing dry raspberry sugar for storage. Images: Kathryn Hawkins.
  6. Spoon into clean jam jars and seal well. Store in a cool, dry place, away from the light for up to 6 to 8 weeks.
    Close-up_of_strawberries_and_raspberries_dusted_with_homemade_raspberry_and_rsoe_sugar
    Sugar dusted berries with coconut yogurt. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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June 2020, homemade strawberry vinegars. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Wild and cultivated Scottish strawberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

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Strawberry vinegar preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Maturing on with windowsill. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Strawberry heart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

Early June in a Scottish garden

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The colours of early June. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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A June favourite. lovely Lupins. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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A trio of Iris. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Alliums and Armeria. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Persicaria and bee. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Day Lilies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Vanilla-scented Gorse. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Blue Aquilegia. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

 

 

 

Grow your own salad

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May salad of homegrown herbs, flowers and leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope the sun has been shining on you these past few days. It has been glorious here, although we did have some very unseasonal gale-force winds whipping up a storm last weekend. Luckily, no serious damage done.

My post this week is more of a “show and tell” rather than a recipe or garden feature. I’ve never been one for growing much in the way of salad leaves, but this year, with more time on my hands in early spring, I decided to try my hand. With vegetable seeds in high demand, I was limited in choice, but  2 of my favourites were obtainable and that’s how I ended up sowing pea shoots and rocket.

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Easy to grow, pea shoots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Pea shoots are a crop that you can grow all year round indoors. You just need a container and some compost or soil, and watering can on stand by. I planted up a couple of pots and have had them in the conservatory since the end of April. The shoots don’t like direct sunlight, just bright light and warmth. After 3 ½ weeks they are ready to harvest. The seed packet says that you might get a second harvest so I have cut the first few stems just above a pair of leaves about 3cm from the bottom of the stalk, and now I will wait and see if they shoot up again.

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Homegrown rocket. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rocket is a leaf for out-of-doors growing according to the pack, but I have grown the leaves on a windowsill indoors before. I did have the ground space outside but I put my seeds in pots because I was convinced the young seedlings would get eaten by the big fat pigeons that strut around the back garden hoovering up the leftovers from the bird feeders. The pots are easier to protect and keep out of greedy beaks.

I planted a few pots with seeds at the same time as the pea shoots. The seeds are so tiny,  it is impossible to sow them thinly. After 2 weeks or so, they were ready to be thinned out. I was able to replant some of the bigger seedlings but the tinniest ones made excellent peppery sprinkles on a salad. By the way, these are the pretty heart-shaped leaves around the edge of the plate above.

Rocket plants grow in clusters of leaves, so when you harvest, snip leaves sparingly from each plant so that the rest of the plant can regenerate.

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Seasonal salad herbs and flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Around the garden at this time, I found other herbs and flowers to add to my salad plate. Choose young sorrel leaves to eat raw as they are soft in texture and have less of an astringent taste. Salad burnet is one of my favourite herbs. I have had a pot growing in the garden for several years. Although it looks very delicate with it’s soft, bright, serrated-edged leaves, it is a hardy herb and keeps going from year to year without much looking after. The leaves have a mild, fresh cucumber-like flavour.

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Sweet berry vinegar and thyme dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A simple combination of salad ingredients requires just the simplest of accompaniments. A while ago I posted on how to make your own flavoured vinegars. The link to the basic recipe can be found by clicking here . At the bottom of the recipe you will find ideas for other flavourings including berries. The vinegar above was made last year using some of the wild strawberries that grow around the garden and I also added a few sprigs of fresh thyme. A simple salad dressing, no oil nor added sugar required.

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Homegrown salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I will probably be back in the garden next time, until then, take care and enjoy the fine weather.

Strawberry shortcakes (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Strawberry shortcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are all keeping well. Time for something sweet this week on my blog to celebrate the start of the soft fruit season here in central Scotland. The area I live in is well known for its soft fruit production. A couple of weeks ago, the first of the new season strawberries arrived in the shops, and very delicious they are too. Sweet with a slight acidic note, aromatic and fruity, they are one of the best soft fruits around.

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New season Scottish strawberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

What better way to enjoy them than with shortcakes and cream. I’ve been working on a thick vegan cream for a while. As much as I like coconut yogurt, sometimes you just don’t want the flavour dominating whatever you are eating. I am able to buy a pouring cream made from soya milk as well as various crême fraîche-style non-dairy alternatives, but I haven’t been able to find anything that resembles whipped cream. What I have come up with I think makes a great alternative to any of the above.

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Ta dah! Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe for the cream and shortcakes. Make the cream first because it needs time to cool and then chill to allow it to firm up. Ideally, start the day before for less faffing around. The shortcakes are best eaten freshly baked but do freeze fine.

Makes: 8 filled shortcakes

Ingredients

For the vegan cream:

  • 100ml readymade soya pouring cream
  • 40g white vegetable fat such as Trex or flavourless coconut oil (this needs to be a solid fat, not a margarine)
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • A few drops vanilla extract, optional

For the shortcakes:

  • 250g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 4 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 80g dairy-free margarine
  • 40g caster sugar + extra to sprinkle
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • approx. 80ml dairy-free milk (I use oat milk) + extra to glaze

To serve:

  • Strawberry jam
  • Fresh strawberries, hulled washed and sliced
  1. First make the cream. Pour the soya cream into a small heatproof bowl and add the fat. Place on top of a small saucepan of barely simmering water and leave to melt, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from the heat, mix well, then stir in the xanthan gum until completely blended. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally. The mixture thickens on cooling.
  3. When cold, have a taste and see if you like the flavour as it is. Otherwise add a few drops  of vanilla extract (or you might prefer a pinch of salt).  Whisk for about a minute with an electric whisk, then cover and chill the cream for at least 2 hours. After this time, the cream should be the consistency of thick, spoonable yogurt. It will keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.
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Making thick vegan cream. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  1. For the shortcakes, preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C fan oven, gas 7. Lightly grease 8 muffin tins. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the margarine and rub into the dry ingredients until well blended.
  2. Stir in the sugar and xanthan gum along with sufficient milk to bring the dough together in a soft ball. Turn on to the work top, dust with flour and knead lightly until smooth.
  3. Divide into 8 equal portions, form each into a ball and press into the muffin tins.
  4. Brush with a little more milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until risen and lightly golden. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then loosen and transfer the shortcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Steps_1_to_6_showing_how_to_make_individual_shortcakes
    Steps_7_to_9_of shortcake_preparation_shaping_and_baking
    How to make individual shortcakes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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    Cool the shortcakes on a wire rack. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Just before serving, slice the shortcakes in half and add a dollop of cream, jam and a few sliced berries. The shortcakes are also good simply spread with dairy-free margarine and jam.

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    Filling shortcakes with vegan cream, jam and sliced berries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Here’s one I sampled earlier……..

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    Irresistible. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Until next time, I hope you have a good, safe and healthy few days. I look forward to posting again in a few days time 🙂

No-egg omelette with asparagus (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Egg-free omelette with roast asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. A simple recipe for you this week. Perfect for the time of year. It makes a lovely lunch or light supper, and more than anything else, it gives me the opportunity to show you how you really can make an omelette without breaking a single egg 🙂

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Egg-less omelette ingredients. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My chosen filling for the month of May would always be fresh asparagus. This magnificent vegetable has been available here, home-grown in the UK, for about 3 weeks now. And very delicious it is too. I roasted a few stems to eat with my omelette and then let the rest go cold to eat with a salad.

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British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To roast asparagus (I find thicker stems cook better this way), trim off the woody ends and lay out, spaced apart on a large lined baking tray. Brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes at 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6 until tender. Drain and serve hot or cold.

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Preparing and roasting asparagus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. I add chopped fresh herbs to the omelette mixture for colour and flavour. I have tried adding shredded leek and spring onion but found that they added water and changed the texture. A few tablespoons of chopped herbs is fine but anything more and the mixture may become more pancake-like. The aqua fava gives added lightness to the mixture which makes it less like a pancake batter. Leave this out if your prefer. By the way, if you’re not gluten-free, plain white flour can replace the tapioca flour.

Makes 4 small omelettes or 2 medium-sized

Ingredients

  • 75ml chickpea or bean water (aqua fava)
  • 50g tapioca flour
  • 50g gram (chickpea) flour
  • 3g gluten-free baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150ml dairy-free milk (I use oat milk)
  • 2 tbsp each freshly chopped parsley and chives
  • Sunflower oil for cooking
  1. Pour the chickpea water into a bowl and whisk for 2-3 minutes until thick and foamy.
  2. Sieve the flours, baking powder and salt into another bowl. Make a well in the centre and gradually blend in the milk to make a smooth batter.
  3. Scrape the whisked foam on top and add the herbs. Gently fold everything together until well blended.
  4. Brush a small crepe or frying pan (approx. 15cm base) with a little oil and heat until hot. Reduce the heat to low and pour in ¼ of the batter to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook over a medium/low heat for 2-3 minutes until bubbles form on top and the mixture is almost set. The omelette should be lightly golden underneath.
  5. Turn over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until cooked through. Turn onto baking parchment and cover with foil whilst preparing the other omelettes. Best served warm with your favourite filling.
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    How to make an egg-less omelette. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
    Egg-less_vegan_omelette_filled_with_roasted_British_asparagus
    A perfect May-time lunch. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    I hope you have a good few days ahead. Enjoy the fine weather if you have it and above all else, keep safe.

     

 

End of April in the garden

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Flaming Pierus under a clear blue Scottish sky. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope you are keeping well. Not so many words from me in this post, I am letting the glories of the spring flowers speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy looking at them.

Like the rest of the UK, we have had a wonderful month of weather here in central Scotland. In fact, it has felt more like May than April, with several flowers, shrubs and blossoms a couple of weeks ahead than this time last year.  Funnily enough, as I sat down to write this post today, the skies clouded over and we have had some much needed rain. It is also cooler, and the forecast looks set that way for the next few days ahead.

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6 of the best tulips. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The bold and brassy tulips are early this year by about 2 weeks. The classic upright varieties have been planted for a few years now, but the multi-petal, peony-like ones, I put in last Autumn. The colours are so bright, they take on an almost day-glo look in bright sunlight.

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Snakeshead Fritillary in white and deep pink. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

More sedate-looking are the Fritillaries in white and in deep pink. They don’t grow in huge clusters, just a few dotted here and there, but year on year, they are slowly increasing in numbers all round the garden.

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Morello cherry and Conference pear blossom. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Apple, my favourite fruit blossom. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The fruit trees are laden with blossom. Fingers crossed that this means a good harvest of fruit later in the year. The bees are certainly busy, so the signs are looking promising so far.

Now that the daffodils have finished flowering in the raised bed, the Forget-me-nots are free to take up the space left behind. This is a very sunny spot in the garden, and they thrive here.

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Dainty baby-blue clusters of Forget-me-nots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image this week is of another early appearing flower. These last few days of warmth and sunshine have brought out the bluebells in front of my greenhouse. Their sweet, spicy fragrance hangs heavy in the air, and their vivid blue-lilac, little pixie hat-shaped flowers are popping up all over the flower-beds and paths.

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Scottish garden bluebells. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Over the past few weeks, I have been feeling more fortunate than ever over to have such a wonderful garden to escape into, and with beautiful weather to boot, these strange times we find ourselves in have been so much easier to deal with.  My best wishes to you, and I look forward to catching up with you again soon 🙂

Tutti frutti coconut bars (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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All fruits coconut bars. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. Here in the UK, we are now in week 3 of lock-down, and whilst the weather has been wonderful this week and the garden has been very well attended to, I have also spent some time in the kitchen creating this week’s post.

I looked in the fridge at the weekend and noted a few bits and pieces that needed to be used up. The combination before me made me think of a sweet treat from yesteryear, Paradise Slice, which was a combination of dried fruit and sweet fudgy coconut mixture baked with a layer of chocolate underneath. And so, this week’s recipe was born.

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Paradise slice revisited. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can use any dried fruit you have in the fridge or cupboard – sultanas, raisins, dried apricot, cranberries will all work fine. I had the remnants of a bag of Trail Mix and some glacé cherries to use up, and they have created a very colourful combination.

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A filling of candied papaya, mango, pineapple and cherries mixed with coconut. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The original bake I remember contained eggs to bind the ingredients together, but in this recipe, I use a vegan meringue-style mixture which works very well and helps keep the coconut filling moist and pure white in colour. There are a few stages to the recipe, but if you haven’t got time to do it all in one go, you can bake the base first and then make the filling and topping later on. I hope you enjoy it.

Makes: 12 slices

Ingredients

For the base:

  • 100g white vegetable fat (such as Trex) or coconut oil, softened
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 175g gluten-free plain flour mix
  • 20g cocoa powder

For the filling and topping:

  • 90ml chickpea canning water
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • 150g dried or candied fruit, chopped
  • 150g desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g dark dairy-free chocolate
  1. First make the base. Grease and line a deep 20cm square tin. Beat together the fat and sugar until well blended and creamy. Sift the flour and cocoa on top and mix everything together well. Bring together with your hands to form a soft dough and then press into the bottom of the tin. Smooth with the back of a spoon, prick all over with a fork and chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Bake the chocolate base for 20 minutes until just firm to the touch. Leave to cool, the cover until ready to make the filling.

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    Making the chocolate base. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. For the filling, pour the canning water into a large grease-free bowl and whisk until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking for a full 5 minutes.
  4. Gradually add the sugar, tablespoon at a time, whisking well in between, and then add the xanthan gum. Continue whisking for a further 2 minutes to make a thick, glossy meringue.
  5. Add the fruit, coconut and vanilla and gently mix everything together. Pile on top of the chocolate base, smooth the top. Bake at 170°C, 150°C, gas 3 for about 40 minutes until just firm to the touch, puffed up and lightly browned – cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly. Leave to cool in the tin – it will deflate on cooling.

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    Making the fruit and coconut filling. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. When the coconut layer is cool, melt the chocolate and spread it over the top of the filling, right to the edges. Leave in a cool place for a few minutes until the chocolate is just about to set, then score with a sharp knife into 12 bars – it is important to do this before the chocolate sets otherwise, without scoring, the chocolate will shatter when you come to cut the bars through.
  7. Leave to set completely. Chill if necessary. Note: I have kept the bars quite large for easier cutting (and because I’m greedy!), but you can score the chocolate with 2 more lines and cut into 24 for small portions.
  8. To serve, carefully remove the cake from the tin and peel back the lining paper. Use a large sharp knife to cut through the chocolate, filling and base to make 12 bars – it is quite a crumbly mixture but a good blade should get through it easily.

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    Covering with chocolate and slicing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The slices keep well in a cake tin, but if the room temperature is warm, they are best stored in the fridge.

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A slice of paradise. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. My best wishes to you all until my next post. Keep healthy and stay safe 🙂

This weird spring

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Chionodoxa, Spring’s little gem. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again everyone. I hope you are keeping well. The weather has turned fine these past few days since my last post and it has been a joy to be able to escape into the garden. Whilst the world is in shut-down, Mother Nature is carrying on as usual.

This very week, 16 years ago, I moved to Scotland and took over a much neglected garden. There was not much in flower back in April 2004, but by the following spring, with a little TLC, the first Chionodoxa magically appeared (I didn’t plant them) and have been coming up each spring ever since. They love the sunny flowerbeds and paths and are poking through everywhere at the moment. In contrast, their relation, Scilla, prefer the cooler, damper, shadier part of the garden. In the low light, their bluish-lilac flowers seem to glow with a luminous quality.

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In the shade of a tree, Scilla flowers blooming. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another shade lover, is the primrose. There are 2 varieties in the garden at the moment. The bushy yellow one flowers just for spring whilst the paler variety is in bloom and and off for several months of the year. There are several primrose clumps now; they seed themselves and multiply every year, and really do brighten up a dark corner.

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Scottish primroses. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There were a few tasks to get on with at the weekend. One of which was to prune the bay tree-bush which has got a bit wild. I ended up with a huge trug full of bay leaves – they will keep me going for a very long time!

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Springtime bay pruning. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the first tasks I can remember tackling in the garden that first spring, was to dead-head the Hydrangeas. The papery flower heads act as a natural frost protector for the buds and leaves forming on the stem below. This is one of my most enjoyable annual tasks in the garden mainly because it doesn’t involve too much bending 🙂

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Bucket of dry Hydrangea flowers. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image this week is of a Ribes Sanguineum or the flowering currant bush. It has been looking a bit sad for the past couple of years, but after a rigorous pruning last Autumn, it has come back to full flower and is looking much healthier. I love the blackcurrant aroma that the flowers have.

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Flowering currant bush. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week or so. Enjoy the outdoors if you are able, and keep safe. Until next time, take care.