Salt and caramel nut butter fudge (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Gift-box_of_salt_and_caramel_nut_butter_fudge
Salt and caramel nut butter fudge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve had a hectic few days since my last post. I have got a bit behind with my festive preparations, but I’m pleased to report that back on track again now. I’ve been in the kitchen this weekend and here is the first of my 2 festive posts.

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Home-made fudge, a perfect gift for Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I am a huge fan of homemade sweeties, especially fudge, but I have found it difficult to find a recipe that works well as a dairy-free version. I have made the super-easy chocolate-based fudge recipes from time to time, but they do have a different texture to the fudge I remember from childhood.

For this week’s recipe, I have turned to an old recipe book and adapted a traditional recipe which produces the flaky, melt-in-the-mouth texture I really like, and it makes a lovely edible gift too, perfect for the time of year – if you can bare to give it away!

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Melt-in-the-mouth home-made fudge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I used peanut butter as the main flavouring, but any nut butter (or tahini) will work just as well. To get the right consistency, you do need to use a butter replacement with a high fat content; I used coconut oil but a solid white vegetable fat like “Trex” would work if you don’t want the extra flavour from using coconut.

As with most traditional sweet making, a sugar thermometer is a vital piece of kit, but if you don’t have one, I’ve included a quick tip which will help determine whether the fudge is ready or not.

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Ingredients for making home-made fudge the traditional way. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 25 to 36 pieces

Ingredients

  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt (use less or none if you don’t want the salty flavour)
  • 50g coconut oil or white vegetable fat
  • 150g no added salt or sugar peanut or other nut butter
  • 150ml unsweetened dairy-free milk (I use unsweetened soya milk)
  • 2 tbsp. golden syrup
  • 2 tsp caramel flavour (or vanilla extract to taste if you prefer a different flavour)
  1. Line an ungreased 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment or waxed paper. Put all the ingredients except the flavouring in a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the coconut oil melts.
  2. Bring to the boil and continue boiling for about 5 minutes until a temperature of 116°C is reached on a sugar thermometer. Alternatively, drop a little of the mixture into a cup of cold water. If it forms a soft ball when rolled between your finger and thumb, the cooking is complete. It is important to keep stirring the boiling mixture to prevent it sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan.

    Steps_showing_the_cooking_and_testing_of_fudge_mixture
    Cooking and testing the fudge mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Turn off the heat, add the flavouring and stir well. Keep stirring the mixture occasionally as it cools. After about 20 minutes or so, the mixture will begin to thicken and lose its shine, this is the time to mix thoroughly until the texture becomes grainy and stiffer – this is how the perfect texture is achieved.
  4. Transfer to the prepared tin, smooth off the top and leave to cool for about 30 minutes until almost set. Score the top with a sharp knife into 25 or 36 squares, then leave to cool completely for 2 to 3 hours.

    Steps_showing_fudge_texture_and_setting_in_tin
    Cooling and setting cooked fudge mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Cut through the pieces completely and remove from the tin. Store between sheets of baking parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
    Home-made_salt_and_caramel_nut_butter_fudge_cut_into_sqaures_in_tin
    Ready for sampling. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
    Stack_of_home-made_fudge_pieces
    Traditional home-made fudge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Have a good few days and good luck with all your festive preparations. I have my second festive post to put up before Christmas, so I will be with you again in a few days time 🙂

Mini gluten-free Arlette (dairy-free; vegan)

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Mini gluten-free Arlette biscuits. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A few months ago, I posted a recipe on how to make a gluten-free rough puff pastry; it has proved to be one of the most looked at recipes on my blog. If you have the time, it is worth making your own pastry, but now there are also viable ready-made pastries to use if you are in a hurry such as Jus-rol gluten-free puff pastry sheets.

This week’s recipe is based on a French patisserie classic. Arlette are traditionally large, thin spirals of very crisp puff pastry flavoured with butter, cinnamon and sugar. My free-from version is flavoured with vanilla seeds but feel free to use a dusting of ground cinnamon if you prefer something more authentic. I found it easier to make smaller rounds as it is challenging to roll out, and then slice, gluten-free pastry thinly. If you’re not gluten-free, just roll out regular puff pastry as thinly as possible and prepare and cook the Arlette in the same way.

Close-up_of_a_single_mini_gluten-free_arlette_biscuit
Sugar and spice, and all things nice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s a simple recipe with few ingredients, but the pastries taste very good, and make the perfect nibble to go alongside a mid-morning coffee 🙂

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Mid-morning coffee break. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 28

Ingredients:

  • 1 vanilla pod
  • Gluten-free flour for dusting
  • 275g gluten-free, vegan puff or rough-puff pastry
  • 25g vegan margarine, softened
  • 25g caster sugar
  1. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. Slice the vanilla pod in half and using the tip of a small, sharp knife, scrape out the seeds from the middle. Put to one side.
  2. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the pastry to make a 30cm square.
  3. Spread the vanilla seeds all over the pastry, then spread with margarine and sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Carefully roll up from one side, as tightly as possible, to make a long, thin sausage-shape.

    Step_by_step_to_making_gluten-free_arlette
    Arlette preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Trim away the ends to neaten, then cut into 1cm thick slices – you may find it easier to flour the knife blade each time you make a cut. You should be able to make 28 thin rounds. Transfer them to the baking trays and chill for 30 minutes.
  6. When you are ready to cook the Arlette, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

    Gluten-free_arlette_preparation_rolling_to_baking
    Rolling, slicing and baking Arlette. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. Serve them underside up to reveal the crisp sugar coating and vanilla seeds. If you can leave them alone, they will store for up to a week in an airtight container.

    Top_tier_of_small_cake_stand_displaying_mini_gluten-free_arlette
    Ready to serve, home-made gluten-free Arlette. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

Two potato gnocchi (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Two potato gnocchi. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m feeling a bit pleased with myself this week. I have just dug up the first couple of sweet potato plants and harvested a reasonable crop. I planted the “slips” back in early June in my unheated greenhouse, and with the wonderful summer we had this year along with plenty of watering, the plants flourished.

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Home-grown sweet potatoes, variety: Beauregard. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To be honest, the sweet potatoes did better than the regular potatoes I planted outside. I grew my favourite variety, Pink Fir, which have knobbly pink skins and a delicious flaky texture inside. I had a fair crop, but I think the lack of natural rain water did inhibit their growth.

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Final crop of Pink Fir potatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s recipe combines the two varieties to make one of my favourite Italian meals, the floury potato dumplings known as gnocchi. Adding sweet potato in the mix gives the dumplings a light golden colour, and subtle sweet flavour.

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Freshly cooked two potato gnocchi. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Choose a dry textured white potato to mix with the sweet potato, and you’ll have the perfect textured gnocchi. Because my sweet potatoes were home-grown, they were quite small in comparison to ones I can buy. To make the perfect gnocchi, you cook the potato whole, in the skin, so you may need to cut up the potatoes if they are very large to make sure both varieties cook evenly and in a reasonable time.

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Scrubbed and ready for cooking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Once the dumplings are cooked through, I like to pop them in a heated pan with some melted dairy-free margarine and olive oil, and stir fry them for a few minutes to crisp up the outsides. The more traditional way of serving gnocchi is simply freshly boiled, seasoned, and then accompanied with the dressing of your choice – I like to dress freshly cooked gnocchi with extra virgin olive oil, some fresh basil and wild rocket leaves. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Ingredients

Serves: 3 to 4

  • 450g same-size sweet and white potatoes, scrubbed
  • Approx. 100g gluten-free plain flour blend (I use Dove’s Farm)
  • Salt
  • 25ml good quality olive oil
  1. Put the whole potatoes, unpeeled, in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender – mine took about 15 minutes. Drain well, and leave to cool for about 10 minutes until just cool enough to handle, then slip off the skins.
  2. For perfectly smooth gnocchi, process the cooked potatoes by pushing through a ricer or wide meshed metal sieve, directly on to the work top, then work in sufficient flour, along with ½ tsp salt and the olive oil to make a smooth, firm dough.

    Preparing_potatoes_for_making_gnocchi
    Cooking and ricing potatoes for gnocchi. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes on the work top, then divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into long rolls about 2cm thick, and cut each roll into 2cm wide chunks. You should be able to make about 50 pieces in total.
  4. To achieve the distinctive shape of the dumplings, roll the potato pieces into a balls and gently press your finger into the centre of each to make an indent, then roll onto the prongs  of a fork to make the pattern. Spread out the prepared gnocchi on a clean floured tea-towel.

    How_to_shape_Italian_potato_dumplings_(gnocchi)
    Shaping gnocchi. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To cook, bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the dumplings gently, in 2 batches, for 2-3 minutes until they float to the surface, then remove from the saucepan  using a slotted spoon and place them in a warm serving dish. Cover and keep warm while you prepare the remaining gnocchi in the same way. Serve immediately with your favourite accompaniment. Buon Appetito!

    Close-up_on_serving_of_freshly_cooked_home-made_two_potato_gnocchi
    Freshly cooked gnocchi with fresh basil, black pepper and wild rocket. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Pear, pecan and maple crostata (dairy-free and vegan)

 

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Pear, pecan and maple crostata. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A few weeks ago, I promised a new pear recipe, and now I have harvested all the pears from the garden, I have been back in the kitchen, cooking up something suitably fruity for this week’s post.

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Pastry leaf border. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My small Concorde pear tree produced a bumper crop this year. I picked all the fruit at the end of last month, just before a cold snap. It was a beautiful warm and sunny Autumn day and the colours in the garden looked rich and golden.

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Autumn pear harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I put most of the pears in storage, apart from the few smaller ones which were ready to eat. Unlike apples, pears don’t need to be wrapped for storing; just pack them, not touching, in a tray or crate, and keep them in a cool place. When you want to ripen them off, bring them in to room temperature and, in about 3 days, they should be ripe and ready to eat – you can tell if a pear is ripe by gently pressing the flesh at the stalk end, if it gives a little, then it is ripe.

Home-grown_Concorde_pears_on_tree_and_in_wooden_crate
Just before and after picking on a sunny Autumn day. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. A crostata, one of the easiest forms of pie or tart you can make because you don’t need a tin and it doesn’t matter if you’re not very good at rolling pastry to a neat edge. I made a vegan pastry using white spelt flour, but any short-crust pastry will work – you’ll need about 500g ready-made pastry if you don’t have time to make your own. Pecans and maple syrup give the flavour and sweetness in my recipe – walnuts or hazelnuts would be good too – as would clear honey if you eat it. Choose pears that have some firmness to them for cooking – perfectly ripe pears are best for enjoying as they are 🙂

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 450g small pears
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 300g white spelt plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 85g white vegetable fat (I use Trex), cut into small pieces
  • 100g dairy-free margarine, cut into small pieces
  • 6 tbsp. + 1 tsp maple syrup + extra to serve
  • 4 tsp dairy-free milk
  • 100g chopped pecan nuts + extra to decorate
  1. First cook the pears. Peel the pears, cut in half and remove the core. Pare a few strips of rind from the lemon using a vegetable peeler, and extract the juice. Brush the pears with lemon juice all over to help prevent discolouration.
  2. Put the pears in a shallow pan with the remaining lemon juice, pared rind and 2 tbsp. water. Bring to simmering point, cover and cook gently for 5 -10 minutes, depending on ripeness, until just tender. Leave to cool in the lemony liquid, then drain well and cut each pear half into 4 slices. Cover and chill until required.

    3_steps_to_cooking_fresh_pears
    Preparing fresh pears for crostata. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. For the pastry, sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the fat and 85g margarine, then rub the flour and fats together with your fingertips until well blended, and the mixture resembles a crumble topping.
  4. Make a well in the centre, and add 2 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tbsp dairy-free milk. Stir with a round bladed knife to bind together, then turn on to the work surface and bring together with your hands to make a smooth, firm dough. Leave to rest for 10 minutes on the work surface.

    Steps_1_to_6_preparing_shortcrust_pastry_for_pear_and_pecan_crostata
    Making vegan shortcrust pastry. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Meanwhile, put the pecan nuts in a blender or food processor and grind until fine. Mix in 2 tbsp. maple syrup to make a spreadable paste. Put to one side. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6.

    3_steps_to_preparing_pecan_and_maple_paste
    Pecan paste preparation
  6. Place a large sheet of baking parchment on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Cut off a 100g piece of pastry and set aside, then roll out the remaining pastry to make a round approx. 30cm diameter.
  7. Spread over the pecan paste, leaving a 3cm space round the edge of the pastry circle. Arrange the pear slices on top of the pecan filling.
  8. Carefully fold up the pastry edge to cover the edge of the pears – I find a small palette knife useful to help flip the pastry over the fruit. Transfer the crostata on the parchment to a large baking tray, and trim the parchment as necessary to fit the tray. Roll out the reserved pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut out leaves to decorate the edge.
  9. Mix 1 tsp maple syrup with the remaining dairy-free milk and brush over the pastry edge. Arrange the leaves on top and brush with the maple/milk glaze. Dot the pears with the remaining margarine and drizzle with remaining maple syrup.

    Step_by_step_preparation_to_pear_and_pecan_crostata
    Assembling the crostata. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  10. Bake for about 50 minutes until lightly golden and cooked through. Best served warm, sprinkled with chopped pecans and accompanied with extra maple syrup.

    Slice_of_pear_and_pecan_crostata_with_maple_syrup
    Sliced and ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Roast love apple soup (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Roast love apple soup. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Something pretty to calm the nerves after all the spooky goings on this week, and also a recipe to help take the chill away – it’s been much colder here since last weekend.  Love apple is a much nicer name for a tomato, and this recipe combines tomatoes with apples, fresh sage and bay leaves to give a refreshing sweet/savoury flavour, and there’s a pinch of hot paprika for some warmth.

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Home-grown love apples. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m all for making life in the kitchen as simple as possible, so the main ingredients are baked in the oven, on a tray, first. This allows you to do the preparation one day and then whizz up the cooked veg to make your soup the next. If you have a glut of tomatoes and apples, the baked mixture freezes fine for soup, so you can keep bags ready-prepared in the freezer.

Home-grown_tomatoes_growing_in_the_greenhouse
Home-grown Flamingo tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I used fresh tomatoes for the recipe because I have so many at the moment. I have made the recipe with canned tomatoes, but as these have already been cooked, you will notice a slightly different flavour and the soup will be more intense in colour. My cooking apples are quite mild, so you may need to play around with the sugar content if you are using a more tart variety. Eating apples work well too, but again, do a taste test to make sure that you don’t overdo the sweetness.

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Heart-shaped tomato. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I made some heart-shaped croutons to serve with my soup. Just pieces of seeded, gluten-free, sliced bread cut out with cookie cutters and shallow-fried in olive oil. Simple but delicious. To add another tangy twist to the soup, try drizzling the top with balsamic glaze (a sweet syrup made from grape juice and balsamic vinegar), or extra virgin olive oil for richness.

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Making heart-shaped gluten-free croutons. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Ingredients

Serves: 4

  • 400g cooking apples
  • 500g ripe tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A few sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp. caster sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • ¾ to 1 tsp hot paprika
  • Balsamic glaze, fresh sage and gluten-free croutons to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C  fan oven, gas 5. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Halve the tomatoes. Peel and slice the onion.
  2. Spread out the prepared fruit and veg on a large baking tray. Drizzle with the oil, poke in the herbs, then sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper. Cover the tray with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, stir and cook for a further 10 minutes, uncovered, until tender and soft At this point, you can leave everything to go cold and then keep refrigerated (or freeze) until ready to cook the soup.

    Baking_tray_of prepared_tomatoes_and_apples_with_sage_and_onion
    Roasting tomatoes and apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. When you’re ready to make the soup, discard the herbs and put the cooked fruit and veg into a blender or food processor along with 150ml stock. Blitz until smooth then pour into a saucepan and add the remaining stock and paprika to taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  4. Heat through gently, stirring, for 4-5 minutes until piping hot. Ladle into warm soup bowls and serve with a drizzle of balsamic glaze, fresh sage and croutons.
    Overhead_image_of_roast_love_apple_soup
    Ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Two_apples_joined_together_during_growth
    Real love apples? Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Green chutney (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Freshly made Green chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s that time of year. Out come the jars, preserving pan and accessories again, yes, it’s chutney-making season! Green tomatoes are not something I usually have many of, but this year, I grew a spcific green variety of tomato thinking that they would make an interesting addition to the salad bowl. As attractive as the tomatoes are, they are not to my taste, but as it turns out, when combined with cooking apples, they have made a delicious chutney.

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Green Zebra tomatoes on the vine and a branch of Lord Derby apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Lord Derby apples and Green Zebra tomatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have eaten green chutneys in the past, and mostly they have been flavoured with cinnamon and mixed spice. As tasty as they were, the colour of the spicy flavourings turned the chutney shades of khaki brown. With this in mind, I set to thinking about flavours that would be interesting and also help preserve the colour.

 

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My green chutney flavourings: onions, garlic, bay and ground fenugreek. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I plumped for ground fenugreek which adds that quintessential “curry powder” flavour but is pale in colour. It has a strong, slightly bitter flavour so use with caution. I suggest just 1 tsp to give a hint of curry. If you prefer a stronger flavour, increase to 1 ½ tsp to 2 tsp.

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Chopped green tomatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a very straightforward recipe. Minimum amount of preparation – just peel and roughly chop as necessary, and let a food processor do the rest of the chopping for you. The chutney can be eaten immediately (it’s not too vinegary from the outset) but if you allow it at least a month in storage, the fenugreek flavour will develop further.

Makes: approx. 1.3kg

Ingredients

  • 650g green tomatoes
  • 325g cooking apples, roughly chopped (prepared weight)
  • 325g onions, roughly chopped (prepared weiht)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 425ml cider or white wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 425g granulated sugar
  • 125g sultanas

1. Wash the tomatoes and chop them roughly. Mix with the apples, onion and garlic. Place half in a food processor with half the vinegar and blitz for a few seconds until smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan or preserving pan, then process the other half of the vegetables with the remaining vinegar in the same way and add to the pan.

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Preparing the vegetables for green chutney. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Add the bay leaves, stir well, and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes until softened.

3. Stir in the fenugreek, salt and sugar. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil, and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thick. Turn off the heat, stir in the sultanas, cover and stand for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.

4. Ladle into warm, sterilised jars and seal with non-corrosive lids. Allow to cool then store for 6-8 months in a cool, dark cupboard. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 2 weeks. Delicious with roasted vegetables and cheeses.

Single_small_kilner_jar_of_green_tomato_and_apple_chutney
Sealed and labelled. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
Teaspoonful_of_freshly_made_green_tomato_and_apple_chutney
Spoonful of green chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Mushroom barley risotto (dairy-free; vegan)

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Mushroom barley risotto Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It feels like the right time of year for a mushroom dish. This is one of my favourites. I usually make it with just fresh mushrooms, but I had a pack of dried porcini mushrooms in the cupboard and this seemed like the perfect dish to add them to. They were a present from my Mum who went to northern Italy this summer, for a holiday. Porcini mushrooms do add an extra rich flavour to the dish but if you don’t have them, just use a few more fresh mushrooms and more vegetable stock.

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Dried porcini mushrooms. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The fresh mushrooms I used were small Portobello mushrooms which have a firm texture and good, nutty flavour. I find them ideal for longer cooking techniques as they hold their shape and texture well. Brown chestnut mushrooms work well too.

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Portobello mushrooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To flavour the dish, I added garlic, a splash of wine, and some sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme – strong, woody aromatics that go well with earthy mushroom flavours.

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Home-grown fresh rosemary and thyme. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In terms of making the dish, if you’ve ever made a risotto with Arborio rice, then it’s the same technique of adding the liquid to the grain, little by little, to ensure an even cooking. It’s take a bit of time, but the effort is worthwhile, and I find it strangely therapeutic, especially if accompanied with a glass of wine!

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A hearty autumnal supper. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves:4

Ingredients

  • 35g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Large sprig of rosemary
  • A few sprigs thyme
  • 300g Portobello mushrooms, wiped and sliced
  • 300g pearl barley, rinsed
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • Approx. 750ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly chopped parsley
  1. Put the dried mushrooms in a heatproof dish and pour over 350ml boiling water. Leave to soak for at least 30 minutes until tender, then drain well, reserving the soaking liquid, and slice.

    Dried_porcini_mushrooms_soaking_in_hot_water
    Soaking porcini mushrooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, lidded frying pan and gently fry the onion for 10 minutes with the lid on, until tender. Stir in the garlic, herbs and Portobello mushrooms and stir fry for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the sliced porcinis and pearl barley, mix everything well, then pour over the wine. Bring to simmering point, and cook gently until the wine has reduced by half, stirring occasionally.
    Enamel_dish_of_pearl_barley
    Pearl barley. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  4. Pour the mushroom soaking liquid into a jug and make up to 1l with vegetable stock, then pour into a saucepan and heat until hot. Keep on a low heat.
  5. Add one ladleful of hot stock to the barley and mushrooms, and simmer gently, stirring, until the stock has been absorbed before you add in another. Continue the ladling and simmering until all the stock is used up – this will take about 40 minutes – by which time the barley should be perfectly tender. Turn off the heat, season, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes for the last of the stock to be absorbed.
  6. To serve, discard the rosemary and thyme and sprinkle with parsley. Delicious topped with handfuls of rocket or watercress.
    Spoonful_of_barley_and_mushroom_risotto
    Ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

 

 

 

Plum and bay membrillo (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Plum and bay membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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 🙂

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Sliced and ready for tasting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Wrapping membrillo in waxed paper. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Home-made plum fruit pastilles. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 8 slices

Ingredients

  • 1kg small plums (damsons or apricots would also work)
  • 4 fresh bay leaves or 2 dried
  • Approx. 500g granulated sugar
  1. 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.

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    Cooking plums for membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

    Measuring_plum_pulp_and_cooking_with_sugar_to_make_membrillo
    Cooking the sugary plum pulp for making membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
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Fresh bay leaves with Victoria plums. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Upside-down plum and marzipan cake (dairy-free; vegan, with gluten-free variation)

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Upside-down plum and marzipan cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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This year’s Victoria plum harvest. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Freshly picked ripe Victoria plums. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Perfect flavour paring of plums and almonds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

Serves: 10

Ingredients

  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 550g plums
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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    Preparing upside-down cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. 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.
  5. To serve, turn the cake out on to a serving plate and sprinkle with flaked almonds to serve.

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    Sliced and ready to serve, plum and marzipan cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Ribbon vegetable soba noodles with peanut dressing (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Runner bean and peanut soba noodles. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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My late summer harvest of runner beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Grannie’s Zipp runner bean slicer. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Blanched and ready for the freezer. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Vegetable noodles served cold with peanut dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 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
  1. 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.

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    Preparing the ribbon vegetables. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. 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.

  3. For the dressing, put all the ingredients in a small screw-top jar. Seal and shake well to mix into a thick, dressing.

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    Making peanut dressing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. 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.

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    Ready to eat, ribbon vegetable and soba noodle salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins