Gujerati-inspired spiced vegetable cake

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Spiced vegetable cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. It feels like a while since I posted a recipe. To be honest, I have been busy with work projects and haven’t had so much time to set aside for my blog. But I about to  rectify that now with this week’s recipe, inspired by a Gujerati dish called “Handvo”. This is a savoury cake made with spices, grated vegetables and a flour made from rice and lentil or dahl. It reminds me of a savoury carrot cake.

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Lightly spiced and full of flavour. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The cake is best eaten hot with a salad and some fruity chutney. I have eaten it cold, at room temperature, and it was still very tasty but the texture was a little drier. Something different for a picnic or packed lunch perhaps? You need to start the recipe the day before baking because you need to soak the flour and yogurt mixture overnight. After that, it’s all pretty straightforward.

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Vegetables and flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The vegetable ingredients can be changed to suit personal preference. Carrots and ordinary potato work instead of sweet potato; chard or spring greens would make a good alternative to spinach; use pea instead of sweetcorn and leek instead of spring onion. The spices I use give a mellow flavour, so you may want experiment with others if you prefer something more robust. For a shortcut, you could replace the lot with a general purpose curry powder.

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A slice of savoury cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 115g gram flour
  • 115g white rice flour
  • 150g plant-based yogurt (I used coconut)
  • 115g grated raw sweet potato
  • 75g cooked sweetcorn kernels
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 50g raw spinach, chopped
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander plus more for serving
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • ¼ tsp asafoetida
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 75ml sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp each cumin and black onion seeds
  • 4 tsp sesame seeds
  1. Sieve the flours into a bowl and mix in the yogurt along with 100ml luke warm water until well blended and the consistency of thick batter. Cover and leave in a cool room temperature for about 12 hours.

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    Soaking the flours in yogurt and water. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. The next day, preheat the oven to 240°C, 220°C fan oven, gas 9. Grease and line a 20cm spring-clip or loose-based cake tin.
  3. Add the vegetables, coriander, chilli, asafoetida, garlic, salt and sugar to the soaked cake batter and mix thoroughly.
  4. Heat the oil and fry the spice seeds gently until starting to pop then add to the cake mixture and mix well.
  5. Spoon into the prepared tin, smooth the top and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6, and cook for a further 35-40 minutes until firm to the touch and golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin. Serve hot or cold with more coriander and salad.
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    Making and baking the cake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    I hope you enjoy the recipe. Have a good few days. It’s beginning to feel a little more spring-like here, but I expect I’ve put a damper on things now I’ve said that! See you again soon 🙂

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    A savoury cake with a texture a bit like carrot cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Gingerbread cupcakes and cookies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Gingerbread cupcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I have two lighthearted recipes for you this week. One for cake and one for cookies, and if you choose to, you can make either or both 🙂

I don’t think there are many people who can resist a  gingerbread man cookie. They look so cute for one thing and then there is the sweetness and the mellow spiciness of gingerbread itself. It is a perfect bake for this time of year with its warming and comforting aroma and flavour.

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Just waiting to be eaten. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The gingerbread men cookies keep very well in an airtight container for over a week, and also freeze well. The cakes are best eaten within 24 hours, so you may want to ice a few at a time. After 24 hours, I find that the cake dries. The cake batter has a relatively low fat content compared to other cake recipes so the keeping qualities are reduced. No matter, the cakes and the frosting freeze fine too. By the way, the uniced cakes can be served warm as a pudding, just pop in the microwave for a few seconds and voila!

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Mini homemade gingerbread men cookies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipes. They are remarkably similar in ingredients and straightforward to make so I hope you enjoy making them 🙂

Gingerbread men cookies

Makes: approx. 25

Ingredients:

  • 75g plain gluten-free flour blend (such as Doves’ Farm) + extra for dusting
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • 25g dairy-free margarine
  • 40g soft dark brown sugar
  • 25g golden or corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp white icing for decorating (I make mine simply with 2 tbsp icing sugar and a few drops of water)
  1. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the spices into a bowl and rub in the margarine with your fingertips until well blended. Stir in the sugar.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the syrup, then mix everything together well to make a softish, smooth dough.
  3. Lightly dust the work surface with a little more flour and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3mm. Use a small gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes, gathering and re-rolling the trimmings as necessary. My cutter is 6cm tall, and I made 25 cookies. Transfer to the baking trays and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5 and bake the cookies for about 10 minutes until firm and lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  5. When cool, put the icing in a piping bag (no nozzle necessary). Snip off a tiny piece from the end and pipe features on each cookie. Leave for a few minutes to dry before storing in an airtight container.
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    Making, baking and decorating gingerbread men cookies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

Gingerbread cupcakes

Makes: 12

Ingredients

  • 300g plain gluten-free flour blend
  • 20g gluten-free baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 190g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped (optional)
  • 75ml vegetable oil
  • 225ml plant-based milk (I used oat milk)

Lightly spiced frosting

  • 100g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 tbsp ginger wine or the syrup from stem ginger jar if using (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Line 12 muffin or cupcake tins with paper cases. Sieve the flour, baking powder and spices into a bowl. Add the sugar and stem ginger if using. Mix everything together.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and milk. Gradually work the dry ingredients into the liquid and continue mixing until all the ingredients are well blended and make a smooth, thick batter.

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    Gingerbread cupcake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Divide between the cases and bake for about 30 minutes until just firm to the touch – they do sink a little bit so don’t worry. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  4. For the frosting, put the margarine in a bowl and beat to make it smooth and glossy, then gradually sieve over the icing sugar, in small batches, mixing it in well after each addition, to make a smooth, soft and fluffy icing. Stir in the spices and ginger wine or syrup if using.
  5. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small closed star nozzle, and pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake. If you don’t fancy piping, simply smooth some frosting on top using a small palette knife.
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    Baking and decorating gingerbread cupcakes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Just before serving, pop a gingerbread man cookie on top of each cupcake. The cookies will go soft if left on top of the cakes for more than half an hour, so best leave the arranging until the last minute to eat them at their crisp best.

    Have a good few days. Until next time, happy baking!

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    Love at first bite. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Burns Night 2020

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Happy Burns Night! Image: Kathryn Hawkins

January 25th is a national celebration here in Scotland. The day commemorates the birthday of the famous Scottish poet, Robert (Rabbie) Burns. All over the country, parties and gatherings will be held in honour of Mr Burns, based around a traditional meal of haggis, neeps (mashed turnip or swede) and tatties (mashed potato), washed down with a wee dram or two of whisky.

I have noticed from the stats on my site, that from the end of December onwards, my tattie scones recipe gets lots of hits from all over the world. I think, in fact, that this is the most popular recipe I have ever posted. The chocolate haggis is a close second. Vegan_haggis_and_tattie_scones_traditional_Scottish_Burns_night_food

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Vegan haggis, tattie scones, shortbread and chocolate haggis. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipes for my vegan haggis and my old favourite, shortbread , as well as the aforementioned, can be found by clicking on the (pink) links.

Whatever you’re doing this January 25th, I hope you have a good time. I raise a glass to you and say “Slàinte”.

PS. A recipe for the (naked) gingerbread men will follow shortly 🙂

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A wee highland gingerbread man decorated for Burns Night. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Seville orange marmalade – traditional and dark (naturally gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan)

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Homemade Seville orange marmalade. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Seville orange marmalade-making comes but once a year, and that time is now. The bitter Spanish oranges are only in the shops between January and mid February. They are the best citrus fruit to achieve a classic tartly-flavoured orange marmalade, the favourite preserve of one Paddington Bear 🙂

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In season, Seville oranges. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There’s no getting away from it, making marmalade is labour-intensive if you make it the traditional way, but I enjoy it, and to me, the reward is greater than the effort involved. I have 2 versions of the same recipe to post this week. The first is the traditional, bright orange, softly set breakfast staple that we’re all familiar with. The second is a dark version which includes dark brown sugar to give a treacly flavour; it  is also my personal favourite – delicious over porridge or rice pudding. However, it doesn’t photograph that well in the jar as you may imagine, so I am only posting “selective” images!

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Traditional and dark Seville orange marmalade. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

How you prepare the peel is up to you. I like chunky (which is easier to prepare!). Get yourself organised and soak the peel overnight as this helps soften it, and make sure you cook it properly before adding the sugar to the pan – once the sugar is added, the peel won’t soften any more.

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Marmalade spoonfuls. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe, and happy marmalade making if you fancy having a go 🙂

Makes: approx. 3kg

Ingredients

  • 750g Seville oranges (approx. 5 large fruit), washed
  • 2.5 litres cold water
  • 2kg granulated sugar
  • 100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. The day before, juice the oranges, keeping all the pips and membrane that remain on the juicer. Cover the juice and refrigerate.
  2. I use a serrated grapefruit spoon to scrape out the fleshy bits that remain inside the orange shells, leaving just the skin and pith of the oranges ready for slicing.
  3. Pile all the pips, membrane and scrapings from inside the orange shells onto a large piece of clean muslin, and tie in a bundle securely with string. Put to one side. Halve the orange shells and slice as thinly and as small as you like.

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    Preparing the orange peel. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Place the sliced orange in a large bowl, pour over the water and add the muslin bag. Cover loosely, put in a cool place and leave to soak overnight.
  5. The next day, carefully transfer the contents of the bowl into a large preserving pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer the peel gently until very soft. This takes around 45 – 55 minutes depending on how thick you cut the peel.
  6. Carefully remove the muslin bag and place in a sieve over a jug. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can, and pour back into the saucepan. Discard the bag.

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    Soaking and cooking the peel. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. Pour the orange juice into the saucepan and stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Mix well and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and let the mixture come to a rapid boil, then cook the marmalade for about 20 minutes until the temperature reaches 105-106°C – spoon a little on to a cold plate from time to time as the temperature rises to check setting point is reached; once it cools, the pool of marmalade should wrinkle when pushed gently with your finger.
  8. Turn off the heat and leave the contents of the pan to stand for about 15 minutes – this enables the mixture to thicken a little and helps keep the citrus peel evenly suspended in the jelly when transferred to the jars.
  9. Stir the marmalade well before spooning into clean jars whilst hot, and seal well. Leave to cool, then label and store in the usual way.
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    This year’s haul of homemade marmalade. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    For the dark version, replace 500g of the granulated sugar with dark brown sugar and cook as above. If you use a very dark Muscovado sugar you may find the setting point more difficult to achieve (as I did this year!). I added a 250ml bottle of liquid pectin to the mixture to help things along, and a good set was achieved. I have no idea why this happened, the same recipe worked fine last year, the only change was a darker variety of sugar. One of life’s little mysteries…..Have a good week 🙂

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    Brown sugar Seville orange Marmalade. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Spicy rice and peas (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spicy rice and peas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Welcome to my first recipe post of the year. I hope you’ve all had good Christmas and New Year celebrations. It has seemed like a good long holiday this year. Not only have I had plenty of time to recharge my batteries, but the longer holiday gave me the opportunity to spend time in the kitchen experimenting with different ingredients.

I have noticed that many of the blogs I follow have started the year with spicy offerings. Something about this time of the year usually gets me delving into the spice cupboard too, in search of different flavours to liven up my repertoire of recipes.

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Tray of spices and flavourings for basmati rice and chana dal. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe this week is based around 2 basic and ordinary ingredients: rice and dried peas. But cooking with some spices, onion and other flavours, they can be transformed into something quite sensational.

The combination of spices I have used in this dish are more fragrant and comforting than spicy. You may want to add something with heat to give it more of a kick if you prefer e.g cayenne pepper or dried red chilli. To mellow the flavour, toast the whole spices first in a dry frying pan, just for a couple of minutes, and then cool and grind them up before using. If you don’t have the time to make your own spice mix, use 2-3 tsp curry powder or garam masala.

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Preparing the spice mix. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The combination of spiced chana dal (yellow-split peas) and fragrant basmati rice makes this a very tasty accompaniment to serve with a vegetable curry sauce, or you can sprinkle it with roasted cashew nuts or almonds to make a deliciously comforting meal. It freezes well too, so is worth making up as a batch-bake and then portioning up for the freezer, ready to serve at a later date. The recipe takes a bit of time to organise but being able to make it for the freezer is a good incentive to have a go.

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Ready to serve, Indian-style rice and peas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The dish is made up of 2 layers of basmati rice, top and bottom, with an onion, garlic and ginger chana dal layer in the middle, enriched with coconut yogurt. To finish the dish, the spice mix is sprinkled on top along with lemon juice, coconut milk, green chilli and butter (or coconut oil or dairy-free margarine).

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Rice and pea flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Once the dish is baked, leave it to stand for a short while, then stir it up before serving so that all the wonderful flavours mingle together.

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All mixed up and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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A spoonful of rice and peas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins.

Serves: 3 to 4 as a main dish, or 4 to 6 as an accompaniment

Ingredients

  • 100g chana dal (yellow split peas)
  • 350g basmati rice
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves. peeled and finely chopped
  • 25g root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried bay leaf
  • 5 tbsp dairy-free coconut yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 40g butter or ghee if you eat it, or use coconut oil or dairy-free margarine instead
  • Juice 1 small lemon
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 or 2 large mild green chillies, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 tsp each cumin and coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • ¼ tsp crushed black peppercorns
  • Seeds of 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • Fresh coriander and cashew nuts to serve
  1. Rinse the chana dal in cold running water. Place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 45 minutes. Then drain, rinse and place in a saucepan. Cover with fresh water, bring to the boil and cook in simmering water for 25 minutes until tender but not mushy. Drain well.
  2. Rinse the rice in cold running water. Place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Drain and rinse the rice and then add to the water. Bring back to the boil and cook for 5 minutes only. Drain, rinse and leave to one side.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger with the bay leaves for 5 minutes over a medium heat until lightly golden. Add the yogurt 1 tbsp at a time, stirring the mixture in between additions, until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the salt and cooked chana dal. Leave aside. Discard bay leaves if preferred.

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    Preparing the chana dal and onion layer. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Spoon half the rice into an ovenproof dish and spread to form an even layer. Top with the oniony chana dal mixture and then the remaining rice. Pat down gently.
  5. Dot the top with butter, ghee, coconut oil or margarine, and drizzle with lemon juice and coconut milk. Sprinkle with sliced chilli to taste. Mix the spices together and sprinkle over the top of the rice. Cover the dish tightly with aluminium foil.

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    Layering the rice and peas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. Stand the dish on a baking tray and cook for 45-50 minutes until piping hot. Leave the covering in place and allow to stand for 10 minutes before removing the foil and gently mixing everything together. Serve with fresh coriander and cashew nuts.

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    Out of the oven and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The icing on the cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Vegan and gluten-free, fruit cake for Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Well, I admit, not quite “icing” on top of my Christmas cake this year, but a delicious layer of marzipan instead. If you’re not a fan of almond paste, then a layer of ready-to-roll white icing will do the trick just as well.

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Cherries and fresh herbs make a simple festive decoration. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is the sugar and spice fruit cake I made back in November – recipe here. It’s turned out ok and smells divine. I can’t wait to tuck in.

If you want to marzipan or ice the top of a cake, it’s quite straightforward. For an 18cm round cake like this one, you’ll need 250g marzipan or ready-to-roll icing for a reasonably thick layer. Knead it gently to soften a little (this will make it easier to roll), then dust the work top lightly with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan or icing to form a rough 19cm circle. Use the base of the tin that you cooked your cake in as a template to cut yourself a neat round.

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Making a marzipan round. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Unwrap your cake, turn it upside down to give a smooth surface and brush with some smooth apricot jam – I like to add a splash of rum to the jam for an extra kick. Carefully transfer the marzipan or icing circle to the top of the cake and smooth it in place.

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Covering the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Now your cake is ready to decorate and tie with ribbon for a finishing touch. I have used glacé cherries with fresh bay leaves and rosemary sprigs for a very simple yet festive decoration, but I’m sure you will have your own ideas.

This is my last post before Christmas. Thank you all for stopping by over the past 12 months and for your lovely comments. I hope you have a good time over the holidays and I send you my best wishes for a happy and healthy festive time. I look forward to posting again in the new year.

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Christmas on a plate. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My favourite nut loaf (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Super-easy nut loaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you’re planning a meat-free Christmas menu for yourself or guests this year then my recipe this week maybe one to consider. Time to post my favourite nut loaf recipe. It is very easy to assemble, can be made in advance, and freezes well. What’s more, you can use any combination of nuts and seeds you fancy – it’s the perfect recipe to use up any nuts or seeds that you have already opened. And above all else, it’s very tasty 🙂

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Serve with roast veg and veggie gravy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I prefer to use roasted peanuts and cashews if I have them, but pecans and almonds are favourites too. The mixture is bound together with lentils, flax seed “egg” and nut butter – choose whichever cooked pulses or nut butter you fancy to suit your taste. If you fancy some extra crunch, toast a handful of your favourite seeds and add to the mixture when you bind everything together.

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Ground peanuts and cashews. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

When grinding or chopping the nuts, I like to keep some bigger pieces amongst the finer grinds so that the loaf has some texture but you may prefer something smoother.

On with the recipe, and then on with the festive countdown.

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil + extra to drizzle
  • 1 stick celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 115g grated carrot
  • 115g cooked green lentils (cooked and mashed cannellini, butter or haricot beans work well too)
  • 200g roasted peanuts and cashews (or your favourite nut and seed combination)
  • 40g gluten-free sage and onion stuffing mix
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 125g whole nut peanut or other nut butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. flax seeds
  • Chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the celery, onion and garlic, mix well, cover, and cook gently for 10 minutes until softened. Cool for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line a 1kg loaf tin with a paper liner or baking parchment. Put the remaining ingredients, except the flax seeds and parsley, in a bowl and stir in the softened mixture.
  3. Now make the flax egg. Grind the flax seeds until powdery – I use a coffee grinder. Put in a small bowl and mix in 3 tbsp. water. Leave for about 5 minutes to thicken then stir into the nutty vegetable mixture to bind everything together.

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    Making flax “egg”. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Spoon the loaf mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 25-30 minutes until lightly crusty on top.

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    Before and after baking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To serve, carefully remove the loaf from the tin. Discard the lining paper and transfer to a warmed serving plate or serving board. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, sliced thickly and accompanied with roasted vegetables and vegetable gravy or a fresh tomato sauce.
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    Nut loaf serving suggestion. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    I hope you have a good few days  and I look forward to seeing you again just before Christmas!

 

Sweet and spicy mango chutney (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free and vegan)

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Homemade mango chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s the time of year when you might be thinking about making something edible for giving as a Christmas present so my post this week may be an idea for you. Last week I found large fresh mangoes for sale in the supermarket at a very reasonable price and decided to make mango chutney. This is a favourite preserve in our house; we get through lots of it, but I hardly ever get round to making it.

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Fresh mango fruit. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Choose slightly under-ripe mangoes for chutney so that you end up with some texture in your preserve. Very ripe mango will go very soft and will also increase the sweetness of the final chutney.

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Spice and seasoning tray. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can go one of two ways when you make mango chutney: the spicy route, whilst or the smooth, sweet and jam-like. If you prefer the latter, you don’t need to add the spice bag or the chillis and onion seeds from the recipe below, but I do recommend keeping the ginger, bay and garlic as well as salt and pepper . Blend or mash the mango finely before you start, and for a more vibrant colour, add some paprika.

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Toasting and grinding spices ready for a spice bag. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For a spicy version, I prefer to keep the chutney as clear as possible so I avoid ground spices as these can give a murky result. Instead I opt for making a spice bag. It’s a bit of a faff but worth it to achieve a more “professional” appearance. Toast the cumin, coriander and black mustard seeds first in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes. Cool and then grind them with the cardamom pods. Pile on to a small square of clean muslin and add the ground pepper. Tie up with a strip of muslin or clean cook’s string and you’re ready to go.

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Ready for gifting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you can bear to part with your preserve, it does make a lovely and impressive gift for any curry or Indian food lover. Make it now and it will be just about ready to eat at Christmas, but perfect for keeping into the new year.  I haven’t decided what to do with my 3 jars yet – keep or gift? Probably the former 🙂

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Homemade mango chutney ready for storage until Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: approx. 525g

Ingredients

  • ½ tsp each cumin, coriander and black mustard seeds
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
  • 2-3 large slightly under-ripe mangoes – see below
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 20g piece root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 150ml cider vinegar
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp black onion seeds
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. First make up the spice bag as described above and put to one side. Next prepare the mango. Slice down either side of the large smooth, flat central stone. Peel off the skin and chop the flesh, then slice off the remaining flesh from around the edge of the stone. You will need 600g prepared fruit for this recipe.

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    Fresh mango preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Put the mango flesh in a large saucepan and add the spice bag, garlic, ginger, bay leaves and chilli. Pour over the vinegar, bring to the boil, cover and gently simmer for about 10 minutes until softened.
  3. Stir in the sugar until dissolved, then add the lemon juice. Bring to the boil and cook for about 15 minutes until thick and jam-like, stirring occasionally as it may start to stick on the bottom of the saucepan. Turn off the heat, stir in the onion seeds and salt, cover and stand for 10 minutes, then discard the bay leaves and spice bag.

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    The 4 stages of chutney. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Stir the mixture  before spooning into hot, sterilised jars and sealing immediately. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dry cupboard for at least a month to mature before serving.

That’s all for this month. I wish you a good few days. I’ll see you again in December on the run up to Christmas 🙂

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A spoonful of sweet and spicy homemade mango chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Sugar and spice fruit cake for Christmas (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Getting ready for Christmas, gluten-free and vegan, this year’s Christmas fruit cake ready for wrapping and storing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In my kitchen, November marks the month that I bake a fruit cake for Christmas. I love the fragrant spicy and citrus aromas wafting from the oven as the cake bakes. Utterly delicious.

Making a rich fruit cake about 6 weeks before Christmas allows the spices chance to settle down, mellow and improve before serving up over the festive season.

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Christmas cake fruit and flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When it comes to fruit, I usually go with a mixture of dried vine fruits, chopped apricots and glacé cherries. Orange and lemon rind and juice add some zest and zing. I always use dark brown sugar and treacle for richness and colour. I usually vary the spices, one year I did mostly ginger and mixed spice for a classic “gingerbread” flavour, but this time around I’ve used cinnamon and allspice together with a classic mixed spice blend. I had white rum to use up this year, but most often I use the dark version.

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Tin protection for prolonged baking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Fruit cakes do take a long time to cook, so you need to make sure the outside edges of the cake don’t over-cook. Double-line the sides of the tin inside with baking parchment and then wrap the outside of the tin with a double layer of brown paper and secure with string. I also put a circle of brown paper in the bottom of the tin before adding a couple of circles of baking parchment on top.

It is worth checking the oven temperature manually before you start baking any cake but especially before one that needs long, slow cooking – I always pop an oven thermometer in the oven before preheating to check the temperature is correct. My cooking time of 3 hours will produce a very moist and dense cake, but if you prefer something drier and more crumbly, extend the cooking time by 30 minutes up to 1 hour.

On with the recipe. If you’ve never made a Christmas cake before I understand that the list of ingredients will be completely daunting, but this is a very straightforward recipe, so I hope I can tempt you to have a go.

Serves: 16

Ingredients

  • 900g mixed dried and glacé fruit such as raisins, sultanas, currants, chopped dried apricots, and cherries
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 small lemon
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 small orange
  • 100ml white or dark rum + 2 – 4 tbsp. extra for feeding
  • 225g coconut oil
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp black treacle
  • 40g chia seeds
  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 ½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground mixed spice
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp natural almond extract
  • 1 tbsp. natural vanilla extract
  1. Prepare a deep, 18cm round cake tin by double lining with baking parchment and brown paper – see above. Place on a baking tray.
  2. Put the fruit in a large saucepan with the citrus rind and juice, rum, coconut oil, sugar and treacle. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until melted, then bring to the boil and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.

    Melting_ingredients_for_gluten-free_and_vegan_Christmas_cake
    Preparing the fruit mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Preheat the oven to 150°C, 130°C fan oven, gas 2. Put the chia seeds in a bowl and add 125ml cold water. Stir and leave for 5 minutes to form a thick, gel-like mixture.

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    Making chia “egg”. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Transfer the fruit mixture to a large bowl and mix in the chia “egg”. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to make sure that there are no pockets of flour. Transfer to the tin, smooth the top and bake for 3 hours – see notes above for longer cooking.
  5. Remove from the oven and skewer the top deeply all over. Spoon over 2 tbsp. rum, then leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.

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    Rum-soaked cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. When the cake is completely cold, remove from the tin and discard all the wrappings. Wrap well in fresh baking parchment or greaseproof paper and then either wrap tightly in foil or store in an air-tight container.
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    Wrapping and storing fruit cake for Christmas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Keep the cake in a cool, dark, dry place for best results. If you want to give the cake a bit more of a kick you can feed it with more rum every 2 weeks. I find one more dose is fine for me. Avoid adding rum in the final few days before serving as it will not have time to mellow out and may spoil the overall flavour of the cake.

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    Feeding the cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    To feed, simply unwrap the cake and spoon over another tablespoon of rum. Let it soak in completely before wrapping up again and ontinue storing until you are ready to ice the cake for Christmas. I’ll follow up this post next month with the unveiling of the finished cake.

Sweet potato steaks with sweetcorn salsa (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Steaks, barbecue dressing and salsa. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Now that there’s a bit of a nip in the air and the daylight hours are limited, I feel the need for some comfort food. Very soon “bewitching” date in the calendar will be upon us, and the colours and flavours of my recipe this week make it a perfect dish to serve up on All Hallows Eve.

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Salsa-sprinkled sweet potato steaks. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There is a little heat in my recipe coming from chilli oil to cook the steaks and sweetcorn; green chilli in the salsa, and some sweet chilli sauce in the dressing. I’m a chilli wimp so the flavours are relatively mild,  you can add more to bump up the intensity if you prefer. I make my own chilli oil by adding Mexican chipotle seasoning to sunflower oil, and brush it over the steaks and sweetcorn just before cooking. Use plain oil if preferred.

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Home-made chilli oil for brushing over sweet potato steaks. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The salsa salad is consists of fresh sweetcorn flavoured with green chilli (use red for more heat), some spring onions for sharpness. and for nuttiness, toasted sesame seeds and sesame oil. To finish, I add white balsamic vinegar for a little sweetness. You can experiment with the balance of flavours to suit your taste-buds.


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Sweetcorn salsa basics. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. I hope you enjoy it, and have a Happy Hallowe’en 🙂

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 900g medium-sized sweet potatoes, scrubbed
  • Chilli oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salsa:

  • 4 sweetcorn cobs, hole or quartered
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 mild green chillies, deseeded and chopped
  • 3 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar

For the dressing:

  • 2 tbsp. tomato ketchup
  • 3 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp. Thai sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Chilli flakes to sprinkle
  1. Leaving the sweet potatoes unpeeled, cut them into  ½cm thick slices. Bring a large shallow pan of water to a gentle boil and cook the slices for 3-4 minutes in simmering water to soften them but not cook them completely. Drain well, pat dry with kitchen paper and leave them to air dry on a wire rack.

    Sliced_sweet_potato_softening_in_simmering_water_and_drying_on_a_wire_rack
    Preparing sweet potato steaks. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. When ready to cook, heat a large griddle pan until hot. Brush the slices with chilli oil and season on both sides, then cook the slices a few at a time, for 3-4 minutes on each side, pressing them on to the griddle, until lightly charred. Drain, cover and keep warm until you have cooked all the slices.
  3. For the sweetcorn salsa, cook the cobs in boiling unsalted water (salt can toughen the kernels) for 4-5 minutes until tender. Drain well.
  4. Preheat the grill to a hot setting. Arrange the sweetcorn on  the grill rack and brush with chilli oil. Cook under the grill for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until golden and lightly blistered. Drain well and leave to cool.

    Boiling_and_grilling_sweetcorn_ready_for_salsa
    Sweetcorn preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Strip the sweetcorn kernels from the cobs using a sharp knife and mix with the remaining salsa ingredients. Cover and chill until required.
    Slicing_off_cooked_sweetcorn_kernels_from_the_cobs
    Stripping kernels from the cobs. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    To serve, mix all the dressing ingredients together and place in a dipping bowl. Arrange the sweet potato steaks on a warm platter and serve with the salsa salad and the dressing. Sprinkle with chilli flakes if liked.

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    Up close on sweet potato steaks. Image: Kathryn Hawkins