Toffee apple upside-down cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Toffee apple upside-down cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. How are you? All well I hope. It feels very autumnal now, and with the world seemingly facing a lot of uncertainty again, it feels the right time to publish a heart-warming slice of comfort with this week’s post.

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First main harvest of apples. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been picking a few cooking apples here and there from the tree in the garden for about a month now. This week, I decided it was time to gather as many as I could reach. The baskets above contain about half the amount the tree has produced this year – I need to call in the cavalry to get the rest!

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Solo apple. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To be honest, the apple variety Lord Derby isn’t the greatest tasting apple out there, but the apples cook very well and reatian their texture if you want them too, so are ideal for baking. They also require little sugar, and can be eaten raw – they are similar to a Granny Smith eating apple.

This week’s recipe is a combination of a cake batter used for sticky toffee pudding along with the delicious sauce – you can find a festive version of the classic comfort pudding by clicking here – baked in a tin lined with fruit as you would for an upside-down cake.

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Apples, cake and toffee sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you enjoy the cake, it really is good, and it is just as delicious served hot as a pudding or cold as a slice to go with a cup of coffee 🙂

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Apple cake and apple leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 10

Ingredients

  • 225g pitted dates, chopped
  • 25g golden or corn syrup
  • 450g cooking apples
  • 1 lemon
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 150g soft light brown sugar
  • 300g gluten-free self raising flour blend (such as Doves Farm)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 180ml dairy-free milk (I use oat milk)

For the sauce

  • 100g golden or corn syrup
  • 40g dairy-free margarine
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 100ml single dairy-free cream (such as oat or soya)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Put the dates in a saucepan with 225ml cold water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes until soft and thick. Remove from the heat and beat until smooth – use a stick blender to obtain a very smooth paste. Leave to cool completely. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

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Making date paste. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Grease and line a 23cm round spring-clip cake tin and drizzle the syrup over the base. Put to one side.

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Apple cake tin preparation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Next prepare the apples. Core the apples and peel them thinly. Extract the juice from the lemon, cut the juiced lemon in quarters and place both in a bowl with cold water. Slice the apples thinly into rings and submerge in the water to help prevent discoloration.

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Apple preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C, gas 4. Mix the oil and sugar into the date paste. Stir in the flour, vanilla and milk to make a thick batter.

5. Drain and pat dry the apple slices on kitchen paper, and arrange sufficient slices to cover the base of the tin. Spoon over half the cake batter. Smooth and then use the remaining apple slices to make a layer on top.

6. Cover with the remaining cake batter, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 1 1/4 hours until risen and firm to the touch – test with a wooden skewer inserted into the centre to make sure the cake is thoroughly cooked. Leave too cool for 15 minutes before releasing from the tin and turning out on to a serving plate, upside-down.

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Making the apple cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

7. While the cake is cooking, make the sauce. Put the syrup, margarine and sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the margarine melts.

8. Raise the heat and bring to the boil. Stop stirring and simmer the mixture for 3-4 minutes until richly golden – take care not too over-boil as the mixture will soon over-caramelise and burn. Turn off the heat and gradually stir in the cream and vanilla. Stir until well blended and leave to cool. Serve hot or cold.

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How to make gluten-free and vegan toffee sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

And that’s it, the cake is now ready to eat hot as a dessert with the warm sauce poured over, or let it go cold and drizzle over the sauce to serve.

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Inside the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

All my best wishes to you for the days ahead. Take care and keep safe. I look forward to posting again in a few days time.

Runner bean and pesto fritters (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Runner bean fritters. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you have had a good few days. I can hardly believe that it is September already! We have had a fine few days of weather this last week, and the garden dried out enough to get gardening again. It felt good to be outside once again.

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Runner beans 2020. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

At the end of my last post I mentioned that I was about to tackle a glut of runner beans. It has been perfect conditions for a bumper harvest this summer: plenty of rain intermixed with sunshine and warmth. The bean vines are still looking very lush and healthy, and there has been a second flush of flowers which means, if the weather holds, I should be picking beans for a while longer.

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Fresh basil pesto. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from enjoying runner beans as an accompaniment to meals, so far I have a couple of bags in the freezer for eating later on in the year. I seldom do anything else, although leftover cold beans make a great salad ingredient – click here for a delicious runner bean salad I posted last year. This week’s recipe gives runner beans a leading role. I hope you enjoy the fritters, they are crisp and delicious, and for a little extra effort, I would suggest making your own pesto. I am very proud of my basil plant. It is thriving in the greenhouse; the leaves have a strong, peppery bite. The quantity below will make enough for this recipe. If you double or triple it you can freeze the remainder in small batches. It will also keep for a couple of weeks sealed tight in a jar in the fridge.

Vegan pesto: put a peeled garlic clove in a small food processor with 15g basil leaves, 60g unsalted nuts such as pistachio, pine nuts or almonds (I used a combination of all 3), a pinch of salt, 50ml extra virgin olive oil and 30g grated hard vegan cheese. Blitz for a few seconds until smooth, and that’s it. Pesto perfecto! This combination makes a thick pesto which is perfect for this recipe, but add extra oil to taste for a looser pasta sauce.

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Preparing and cooking runner beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have found that strips of bean work well in this recipe. The batter has a larger surface area to cling on to and cooks really crisply. Peel the sides of the beans using a vegetable peeler and remove the stalk end. If you have a bean slicer, push them through that, otherwise, slice them as thinly as you can. Steam them over simmering water for 5 minutes, then cool in cold water and drain well. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Now, let’s get on with the recipe.

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Fritters and pesto mayo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 8

Ingredients

  • 50g polenta
  • 75g gluten-free plain flour
  • 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds, finely ground (I use a coffee grinder)
  • 3 tbsp pesto sauce – see recipe above
  • 120ml dairy-free milk
  • 75ml aqua fava (bean or chickpea canning water)
  • 225g cooked runner beans
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • Vegan mayonnaise
  1. Put the polenta, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Mix together and make a well in the centre. 
  2. Mix the flax seeds with 3 tbsp cold water and leave to stand for about 5 minutes until thickened. Pour into the well.
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    Preparing fritter batter and flax egg. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Add the pesto sauce and milk and whisk together to make a smooth batter.
  4. In another bowl, whisk the aqua fava to a stiff foam and then gently fold into the batter. Finally, carefully stir in the beans, making sure they are well covered. Adding_homemade_pesto_and_whisked_aqua_fava_to_fritter_batter
    Folding_in_whisked_aqua_fava_and_runner_beans_into_fritter_batter
    Adding pesto, whisked aqua fava and the beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    5. Pour sufficient oil into a large deep frying pan or wok to a depth of about 3cm and heat to 180ºC. Fry bundles of beans in batter in batches of 3 or 4, turning in the oil, for 4-5 minutes until crisp and golden. You should be able to make 8 fritters with this quantity. Drain well on kitchen paper and keep warm until ready to serve.

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    Cooking the fritters. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    6. To serve, mix 1 part pesto to 2 parts vegan mayonnaise and serve with the fritters accompanied with fresh tomatoes. Scatter with fresh basil and runner bean flowers, if liked.

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    Fritters with homegrown tomatoes, fresh basil and homemade pesto mayo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Use this batter with ribbons of courgette or carrot instead – lightly steam them first. Leave out the pesto if you prefer, or simply add grated vegan cheese to the batter and some chopped chives, shredded leek or spring onion.

    Until next time, take care and best wishes 🙂

Lemon and cucumber cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Lemon and cucumber cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. I hope you are well. I was having a look at the stats on my site last week and I noticed that the most frequently viewed recipe on my blog over the past 4 weeks has been a recipe I posted 3 years ago for a lemon-soaked cucumber cake. I am assuming that lots of readers have as many cucumbers as I do and are looking for different ways to use them up!

Time for a recipe review. Same combination of flavours, but this time an iced cake and a simple cake batter.

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Sliced and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have had a bumper crop of cucumbers this year, from just 2 plants. I only had a couple of seeds left in a packet from the year before and, once sown, both have thrived. Mini Munch is a great variety to grow. The cucumbers are small, sweet and delicously refreshing and juicy. They ripen in next to no time once the vines get established.

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Greenhouse Mini Munch cucumbers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. This is a very easy to make cake, no special equipment necessary. I do advise you to add either the xanthan gum or arrowroot as this really does hold the ingredients together to give a firmer texture, but if you decide not to, you’ll still have a delicious cake, it will just be crumbly.

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Home-grown cucumber harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 1 x 18cm cake

Ingredients

  • 90g dairy-free margarine
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 100g plain dairy-free yogurt (I used coconut)
  • 150g gluten-free self-raising flour blend (I use Doves Farm)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum or 10g ground arrowroot
  • 125g grated cucumber
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon
  • 125g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line an 18cm square tin. Put the margarine and sugar in a bowl and whisk until creamy and well blended. Stir in the yogurt.

2. Add the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice and icing sugar, and mix together until well combined.

3. Pile into the tin, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 45 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Lemon and cucumber cake preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in 3-4 tsp lemon juice to make a smooth, thick icing. Spread all over the top of the cake and allow it to run down the sides. Leave to set for about 30 minutes before decorating.

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Baked cake ready for icing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Drizzling fresh lemon icing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I decorated my cake with cucumber flowers (male ones – no little fruit attached), orange-scented geranium leaves and a few strips of blanched lemon rind.

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Decoration of cucumber flowers, orange scented geranium leaves and lemon rind. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I’m off to sort out my glut of runner beans! Until next time, my best wishes to you 🙂

My raspberry round-up plus recipe for Raspberry and pistachio cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Combination of fresh raspberries, pistachio nuts and marzipan. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are keeping well. I’ve had a busy few days since my last post. There seems to be lots to do in the garden and kitchen at the moment. Plenty of tidying up (and weeding!) in the garden, and the much anticipated home-grown fruit and veg is ripe and ready so lots to cook up and freeze as well.

This week’s post is an homage to my Glen Ample raspberry canes which have produced a phenomenal 6.3kg of berries this year. Rather forlornly, I picked the last few berries this week.

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My 2020 raspberry haul. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The canes are now having a well-earned rest and enjoying some sunshine – they had been covered with fleece for over a month as the birds took a fancy to the berries early on.

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My exhausted raspberry canes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can imagine, I’ve had a lot of berries to play with but a combination of jam, vinegar, compote and a couple of large bags for the freezer has seen them all used up. By the way, compote makes the dish sound a bit grander, I literally cooked them with a bit of sugar to eat with my morning porridge!

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Raspberry compote, jam, freezer packs and vinegar. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Links to all my other raspberry recipes can be found by clicking on the key-words below:

On with this week’s recipe. Another reinvention of a crumble-topped cake – they are so easy to make, and taste delicious, I just can’t resist making them! Leave out the pistachios or replace with almonds or hazelnuts if you prefer, and the marzipan layer is optional (I realise it’s not to everyone’s taste) but you may want to add some sugar to the raspberry mixture if you don’t use it.

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Fruit and nut, a winning flavour combination. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 10-12

Ingredients

  • 180g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 100g vanilla or plain caster sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 260g gluten free plain flour blend (such as Doves Farm)
  • 50g unsalted pistachio nuts, finely chopped + extra pistachios to decorate
  • 150g marzipan, grated (optional)
  • 300g fresh raspberries
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • Icing sugar to dust
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a deep 20cm round cake tin – I used a spring-clip tin for ease. In a mixing bowl, beat together the margarine and sugar until creamy, then stir in the almonds, flour and pistachios to make a crumbly mixture.
  2. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the tin, prick with a fork and put the in on a baking tray. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly golden round the edge. Sprinkle the marzipan all over the cooked base if using and put to one side. Steps_1_to_6_in_the_making_of_raspberry_and_pistachio_crumble_cake

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    Making the crumble and assembling the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Mash the raspberries with a fork and add the cornflour – if you are not using marzipan add 2 tbsp caster sugar to the raspberry mix as well. Spoon over the marzipan layer and spread out evenly.
  4. Sprinkle over the remaining crumble mixture, pat down lightly with the back of a spoon and bake for about 40 minutes until lightly golden. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before releasing and transferring to a serving plate to serve warm, or leave to cool completely in the tin to serve cold.

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    Adding the raspberries and crumble top. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Serve this cake warm as a dessert with cream, yogurt or custard or cold as a delicious and indulgent slice to accompany a cup of coffee.

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    Melt-in-the-mouth crumble cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Until next time, thanks for stopping by. Take care. I will be posting again soon 🙂

No-churn berry nice vegan ice cream (gluten-free; dairy-free)

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Homemade vegan ice cream. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I am very much hoping that by publishing this week’s recipe, the weather will become more appropriate for enjoying an icy dessert. It’s been much cooler here these past few days, but the forecast is hotting up again so hopefully my post will be quite timely.

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Vegan berry-flavoured ice cream with fresh strawberry sauce and wild strawberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a huge fan of frozen desserts, but when the heat is on, I can be persuaded by a scoop or two of a good non-dairy ice. I’ve been trying to perfect a recipe of my own for a while, and at last, I think I’ve cracked it.

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Cooling, creamy and delicious. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe is a combination of a thick vegan cream I made a posted a few weeks ago and an uncooked aquafaba meringue mixture. Once the two are combined, the resulting mixture doesn’t require any stirring, you just pop it in the freezer for a few hours until frozen. Easy-peasy.

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Homemade vegan cream. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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Bean water (aquafaba) meringue. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To flavour the ice cream, I added some freeze-dried fruit pieces and a little soft-set blueberry jam I’d made. If you want to experiment with other flavours, I would suggest using dry ingredients like chocolate chips, crushed caramel, small pieces of dried fruit, cocoa powder, etc. Adding anything too sloppy or saucy will water down the mixture; you will lose air, and the resulting ice cream will be solid and icy, rather than soft and creamy.

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Freeze-dried berry pieces and soft-set blueberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe below makes a small quantity (around 350g) which is enough for 2-3 servings. I have a cute little ice cream scoop which dishes up a perfect 30g scoop. This is just right for me, and is why my bowl is piled high with scoops! You may want to double the quantities in the recipe for more hearty portions.

Serves: 2 to 3

Ingredients

For the cream:

  • 100ml readymade soya pouring cream
  • 40g solid white vegetable fat such as Trex or flavourless coconut oil (or use traditional coconut oil for a coconut flavoured ice cream)
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • A few drops vanilla extract or a pinch of salt

For the meringue:

  • 75ml canning liquid from beans or chickpeas (aquafaba)
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 60g caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum

To flavour:

  • A few drops vanilla extract if liked
  • 5g freeze-dried fruit pieces
  • 25g soft-set jam
  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
  4. When the cream is thick and chilled, make the meringue. Pour the aquafaba into a large clean bowl, add the cream of tartar and whisk for a full 2 minutes.
  5. Whisk in the sugar 1 tbsp at a time, whisking well in between additions, and then continue whisking for another full minute.
  6. Add the xanthan gum and whisk for 1 more minute to make a thick meringue.
  7. Gently and gradually mix the meringue into the cream taking care not to lose too much air, then gently stir in more vanilla if liked along with the berries. Lightly stir in the jam to give a rippled effect.
  8. Scrape into a freezer container, seal and freeze for 3-4 hours until solid.

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    Frozen and ready to scoop. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    To serve, stand the ice cream at room temperature for about 10 minutes until soft enough to scoop. I served my ice cream with a fresh strawberry sauce made from purée’d fruit sweetened with a little icing sugar, and a scattering of wild strawberries which I happened upon in the garden 🙂

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    Just one more scoop. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Until next time, I hope you have a good few days and may the warm weather be with us all.

 

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

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    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.

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    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 🙂

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

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    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

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    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.