Spring rhubarb harvest, roasted and poached

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This year’s first and second stems of spring rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are all keeping safe and well. Over the past couple of weeks, with the growing limitations on social interaction and movement, I have felt more grateful than ever before to have my own outside space. Not only are there cheery spring flowers everywhere and the joyful sounds of birds singing, I have been able to pick the first of this year’s home-grown produce.

At the beginning of the month, I had my first taste of this year’s bright pinkish-red, tender stems of forced rhubarb which I covered in early February. The stems weren’t very long because the pot I used wasn’t that tall and it made the stems  grow a bit wonky and squat. However, the colour was intensely vibrant and the flavour was fruity and  tangy.

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My home-grown forced rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

With more undeveloped stems peaking through, I re-covered the clump and was able to pick a second harvest a fortnight later. I have left the remaining stems to grow naturally. I have covered up another clump which will (hopefully) yield a few more stems ready for another harvest next month.

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Freshly picked and prepared, forced rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I didn’t do anything fancy with the rhubarb this year. I roasted the first batch with vanilla (recipe below), and the second harvest of stems got poached in the juice of my last blood orange of the season (sob) and some of last summer’s frozen raspberries (recipe below). Both very simple serving suggestions, but utterly delicious.

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Roast rhubarb with vanilla. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Roast vanilla rhubarb – I used 200g prepared spring rhubarb stems cut into even thickness pieces, about 8cm long. Put the rhubarb in a small roasting tin and sprinkle with 2 tbsp vanilla sugar and 3 tbsp water. Add a split vanilla pod and bake at 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6 for 15-20 minutes until just tender. Serve warm or cold.

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Spring rhubarb with orange and raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rhubarb with raspberries and orange: I used 250g prepared rhubarb stems, cut into 5cm lengths. Put the rhubarb in a frying pan with 300g frozen raspberries and the juice and rind of 1 orange. Sprinkle over 5 tbsp granulated sugar. Heat gently until steaming, then put the lid on the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes until just tender and cooked through. Stand for 10 minutes before serving hot, or allow to cool completely. Discard the orange peel before serving.

I do enjoy eating rhubarb with a crumble topping but I find that spring rhubarb overcooks under a a crust of any kind. I came up with an idea which means you can cook a crumble topping separately and sprinkle it over fruit just before serving.

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Preparing oaty crumble topping. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Oaty crumble topping (serves 4): in a saucepan, melt 110g dairy-free margarine with 25g golden syrup and 25g Demerara sugar. Remove from the heat and stir in 150g gluten-free jumbo oats and 50g gluten-free plain flour blend. Spread out thinly over a lined baking tray and bake at 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5 for about 15 minutes until merged together. Break up the mixture into clusters and return to the oven to bake for a further 7-8 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve hot or cold. Once cold, the mixture will keep in an air-tight container for several days, and it freezes well too.

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Roast rhubarb with oaty crumble. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for this month. I look forward to posting in April. Until then, keep well and stay safe 🙂

 

 

Rise and shine oatmeal porridge (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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A super sunny start to the day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone! I have something bright and cheerful for you this week. Given all the doom and gloom in the news, this tasty and super-charged breakfast will get your day off to a bright and cheerful start. It’s a seasonal update on a recipe I posted a couple of years ago.

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Blood orange slices. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

No sooner has the bitter marmalade orange season finished, the next citrus beauties are on the horizon, coming into the shops and markets in mid-February. Actually, the season is coming to an end but I’ve been enjoying the ruby-red fleshed oranges for a couple of weeks already. This orange seems to have had a name change, and is now, rather boringly, called red orange, but I will always think of them as the blood orange or Sanguinelli. The flavour is sweet and tart at the same time. They are very juicy and you never quite know how red the flesh will be until you start peeling.

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Perfect peeling. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For the past few days the weather has been decidedly chilly here; it’s been the kind of temperature that calls for porridge. My recipe for an overnight oatmeal porridge which cooks in the slow-cooker means it is ready for you to enjoy the next morning without any fuss. The oatmeal is cooked the traditional Scottish way in just water with some salt to season. Everything else is added afterwards. I posted the original recipe back in March 2018 – you can find it here.

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Slow-cooker + water + salt + oatmeal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To make 6 hearty servings, put 150g pinhead oatmeal in your slow-cooker. Add a generous pinch of salt and pour over 950ml cold water. Cover with the lid and switch on to the low setting. Leave for 8 hours (up to 10). After the cooking time, the surface of the porridge will form a light skin, but give it a good stir and the creaminess of the cooked oats will be appear. Once I’ve got my portion in my cereal bowl, I mix in oat milk (I love the Barista versions for extra richness) to loosen up the texture. Once the porridge has cooled it will solidify. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week, and reheats very well in the microwave – just mash with a fork, mix in some milk and reheat.

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Slow-cooker oatmeal porridge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So with the cooking taken care of, you just need to make up your mind what to eat with it. To prepare the orange slices, slice the top and bottom off an orange and then remove the peel by slicing downwards with a sharp knife, trying to take only the skin and white pith away. Slice into rounds or chop smaller.

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Homemade marmalade for extra citrus flavour. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in January, I posted my recipe for Seville orange marmalade. I’ve been putting my stocks to good use this week. It makes a great addition to a bowl of porridge, adding some sweetness and also more orange-flavour. All in all, this is a seriously citrusy and sunshiny breakfast bowl, with a few pecans sprinkled over for some crunch. I’m looking forward to my breakfast already 🙂 Until next time, I hope you have a good few days and stay healthy.

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A breakfast bowl of sunshine, 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

 

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

Apple and tomato tart tatin (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Apple and tomato tart tatin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here we are in the bewitching month of October already. Where does the time go? We’ve been enjoying some late season sunshine here in central Scotland which has been very welcome. Not only am I still able to garden and tidy up outside uninhibited by poor weather, the tomatoes are ripening off nicely in the greenhouse, and all the eating apples are ready for picking.

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Flamingo and Ildi tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Miniature eating apple tree (variety unknown). Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s recipe is my twist on the well known French upside-down apple tart. So many tomato varieties are sweet to eat these days, they can easily be eaten as part of a dessert. However, I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you serve this recipe. The tart goes well either served simply dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or is equally as delicious served as a dessert with pouring cream or custard.

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Served warm with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I use freshly grated nutmeg and fresh thyme to flavour the tart as well as salt, pepper and a little sugar. I use a crisp, layered pastry as a base so that it doesn’t crumble when you turn it out. Use readymade, chilled or frozen (gluten-free) puff pastry for convenience, but if you have the time, try my own recipe for a gluten-free rough puff pastry

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Whole nutmeg and fresh thyme. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have made the tart with all tomatoes and, of course, just with apples, but mixing and matching both fruit is my favourite combination 🙂 I hope you think so too.

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My favourite combination. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • Gluten-free flour for dusting
  • 175g gluten-free puff or rough puff pastry
  • 35g vegan margarine
  • 1 tbsp. caster sugar
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • A few fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 small eating apples
  • 4 large plum tomatoes
  • 6 cherry or other small variety of tomatoes
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Fresh thyme to garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line a 20cm round cake tin with baking parchment and lightly grease the sides.
  2. Lightly flour the work top with gluten-free flour and roll out the pastry to a square slightly bigger than the tin. Using the tin as a template, cut a circle 1cm larger than the tin – keep the pastry trimmings for baking as croutons or use small tart bases – then chill the pastry circle until ready to use.
  3. Dot the margarine all over the bottom of the tin, and sprinkle with sugar, seasonings and thyme leaves.
  4. Peel, core and thickly slice the apples; halve the large tomatoes and leave the small ones whole. Arrange over the tin base in a decorative pattern.6_steps_for_making_apple_and_tomato_tart_tatin

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    9 steps to the perfect apple and tomato tart tatin. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Carefully arrange the pastry circle over the fruit and press the pastry edges to the side of the tin to seal. Brush with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Bake for about 25 minutes until crisp and golden. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before inverting on to a warm serving plate. Spoon over any juices that remain in the tin. Best served hot or warm, garnished with fresh thyme sprigs if liked.

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    As pretty as a picture. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Aronia berry and apple jelly (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Garden berries and apples combined to make a delicious jelly preserve.                            Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I wasn’t planning another preserve recipe for my blog so soon after my “jam” post earlier in the month, but last weekend I made up a new recipe and as the result was a success, I am sharing it with you this week.

I inherited several established shrubs and bushes when I moved into my current house over 15 years ago. Many were familiar to me but a few were not. One of the curios was the Aronia Melanocarpa. This is an evergreen shrub with leathery green leaves. In the summer it produces arms of red berries which ripen and turn black. For a while, I assumed the shrub with its berries was purely ornamental, however after a wee bit of research I discovered that the berries are edible.

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Aronia Melanocarpa shrub and fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The shrub is well known in the USA and was introduced into Europe in the 1700’s, as an ornamental. The berries get their common name of chokeberry because the fruit is very astringent when eaten raw, however, I have decided not to test this out for myself! The berries contain a large amount of vitamin C and looking on the web they are considered to be a bit of a “wonder-berry”. Aronia berries are ripe when they are fully black, which happens from mid to late summer depending on where you live. I found the ripest fruit difficult to pick without squishing the berries, so snipped off the stalks as well (which is fine for jelly making). The juice is potent and stains a vibrant shade of blue, so you might want to wear gloves. I should imagine the berries would freeze ok if you needed to harvest them in batches.

I could find little reference in terms of recipes, so I based my mixture on a cranberry jelly, adding apple to temper the astringency and to help with the set. The final jelly has set well and is dark red-purple in colour, with a taste that is sweet and quite similar to a blueberry preserve. This is a great result for me because my blueberry bushes produced no fruit at all this year, so I’m glad I have discovered the wonders of Aronia Melanocarpa 🙂

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Scottish berry jelly with oatcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: approx. 650g jelly preserve

Ingredients:

  • 200g aronia berries, washed (small stems are fine if it is difficult to pick the berries without)
  • 400g whole cooking apples, washed
  • Approx. 430g granulated sugar – see method for exact quantities
  1. Put the berries in a large stainless steel saucepan. Chop the apples into small pieces, (skins, core and pips included) and add to the pan along with 350ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally, until very soft and pulpy.
  2. Line a large nylon sieve with muslin and place over a large bowl. Choose a sieve that you’re not too precious about as it may stain blue with the juice. Carefully pour the pulp into the muslin and leave to cool. Leave to strain for at least 3 hours.

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    Preparing the fruit for jelly-making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Pour the strained juice into a measuring jug, cover and chill until required. Tip the pulp back into a saucepan. Add another 200ml water, and heat, stirring, until back to the boil.
  4. Repeat the straining of the pulp as before, but this time, after cooling, put in the fridge and leave to strain overnight until the pulp is very dry.
  5. Discard the pulp and pour the juice into the jug. I achieved 375ml juice from the first straining, and 200ml from the second. The ratio of sugar to juice is 450g sugar to 600ml juice, so I used 430g for my 575ml.
  6. Pour the juice into a saucepan and heat until steaming. Add the sugar, and stir over a low heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. For jelly making, I use a sugar thermometer to gauge the setting point – 104°-105°C- to give the best result.
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    Cooking the juice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  7. Pour into warm, sterilised jam jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool then label and store in the usual way. The jelly will keep fine for at least 6 months. Serve as a sweet preserve or with savoury dishes too.

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    Aronia berries, ripe and ready for picking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Reduced-sugar raspberry jam (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Home-made reduced sugar raspberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s beginning to feel like Summer is over already. We have had a lot of wet and windy weather which makes it seem more autumnal than summery. I picked the last of the raspberries a few days ago which draws my home-grown soft fruit season to a close. The canes have produced another bumper crop this year, and the freezer is stacked out with berries ready to be used in the months ahead.

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The last harvest of summer raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Earlier in the year, I was intrigued by a recipe posted by my fellow blogger Joëlle who published a recipe for a reduced sugar orange jam. Her recipe inspired me to have a go at making a raspberry version. I am always looking for ways to reduce sugar in my diet and her use of one unusual jam ingredient seemed like too good an opportunity to pass me by. So, thank-you very much Joëlle. So, here is Joëlle’s sugar-replacing ingredient…

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Beetroot. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Beetroot! I guess this revelation will put some of you off, but I can assure you, you really can’t taste it. You do need to make sure the beetroot is cooked very well – it needs to be completely soft to blend it into a pulp. I had some cooked beetroot in the freezer and found that the texture was much more silky-smooth once it defrosted; it blended into a perfectly fine purée. You can use ready-cooked, vacuum-packed beetroot, but please make sure it’s packed in natural juices and not vinegar, as that really would give the game away!

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50% less sugar Scottish raspberry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I usually use equal quantities of raspberries to sugar in my jam recipes, but in this one, I replaced half of the sugar with beetroot purée. Sugar acts as a preservative which is why jams keep so long in  the store-cupboard. This jam needs to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten within a month, so is better made in small amounts. However, it freezes well, so instead of sealing it in jars in the traditional way, leave it to cool and spoon into small, sealable freezer containers; freeze down and then you can take out the quantity you need to avoid wasting any. The jam will keep well in the freezer for at least 6 months.

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Freezing reduced sugar raspberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The texture of this jam is more pulpy than a traditional raspberry jam and it lacks the syrupy consistency that a full quantity of sugar gives, but the flavour is fruity and sweet and the colour unaffected by the beetroot. It spreads well and makes a deliciously fruity topping for pancakes and puddings. I hope you might be intrigued enough to give it a go.

Makes: approx. 575g jam

Ingredients

  • 400g fresh raspberries
  • 200g smooth, cooked beetroot purée
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  1. Put the raspberries and beetroot in a saucepan. Cook gently for a few minutes until the raspberry juices begin to exude.
  2. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking on the bottom of the pan, until thick and pulpy – like stewed apple.
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    Making reduced sugar raspberry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  3. Transfer the hot jam into sterilised jam jars in the usual way, and seal immediately. Leave to cool, then date and keep in the fridge for 4 weeks unopened. Use within a week once opened.

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    Pancake topped with coconut yogurt, fresh berries and home-made reduced sugar jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My July garden retrospective

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End of July in the garden. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. We’re almost at the end of another month; how time flies. I’ve been taking some time off work and my blog this month but I found some time to capture some of the flowery and fruity delights that have come and gone these past 4 weeks.

The wonderfully prickly specimen below appeared in the garden last year courtesy of the birds. It didn’t flower, but produced some magnificent spiky leaves. This year it has gone from strength to strength and this month it really took off. Sadly it was a victim of its own success and toppled over under its own weight. Most of the blooms are growing at all angles but upwards apart from this one.

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Wild thistle. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Something a little bit more delicate are the charming and dainty Campanulas which flower at the beginning and middle of the month. The flower-heads seemed a lot bigger this year. And in the picture below them, my beautiful, very fragrant and very old rose bush. It did me proud again this year and was laden with blooms. Sadly now finished, but I am ever hopeful for a second blooming later in the year.

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Early July Campanulas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Old fashioned, highly scented rose. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The garden has been alive with bees and butterflies this summer. Lots of different varieties of bees all over the tiny petals of the Scabious (or Pincushion) flowers, it seems to be one of their favourite blooms. And here is a Scarlet Lady butterfly bathing on a very fragrant sun-bed of lavender.

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Scabious and lavender with bumblebee and butterfly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Aside from the delicate and fragrant, the brash and bold flowers have also been abundant. The Hydrangeas seem more colourful than ever this year, and the poppies are springing up everywhere to add bright splashes of colour to the borders and beds.

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Tall red poppies and small bush Hydrangeas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s also been another good year for the outdoor soft fruit. The small espalier Morello cherry produced ¾kg cherries (all bottled and stored) and the raspberry bushes, now in their 14th year, have produced another mega-harvest of berries which I have frozen for making into jam later in the year. The dishful of berries in the picture were cooked with freshly picked rhubarb and made into a “crump”, one of my favourite desserts from my blog a couple of years ago. Here’s the link: Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)Very tasty it was too 🙂

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Mid July Morellos. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Aptly named, Glen Ample raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me for now. I look forward to sharing more recipes and garden posts in a short while.

Mini lime pies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Zesty and zingy, mini lime pies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Limes are my favourite of all citrus fruit. I love the intense, slightly perfumed flavour. A small fruit that packs a punch on the taste-buds. This week’s recipe is a simple dessert with a ginger gluten-free biscuit crust but can be easily adapted to use other plain biscuits if you prefer. If you like lemon, the filling will taste just as good using lemon on its own or as a mix with lime.

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Intensely citrusy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you are making a gluten-free crust, it will be softer than if you use traditional biscuits, so pop the pies out of the tins and onto a serving plate at the last minute for best results. The mini lime pies make a perfect light summery dessert or tea-time treat served with berry fruits. I hope you enjoy 🙂

Makes: 12 pies

Ingredients

  • 250g gluten-free ginger biscuits (if you use non gluten-free biscuits, the crust will be firmer), finely crushed
  • 90g dairy-free margarine, coconut oil or vegan butter (if you use the oil or vegan butter, the crust will hold together better; dairy-free margarine gives a more crumbly texture), melted
  • 20g cornflour
  • Finely grated rind and juice of 3 limes (if using lemon and lime, you want about 75ml juice and 7g zest for good flavour)
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 45ml diary-free single cream (such as soya or oat)
  • Natural green food colouring, optional
  • Lime zest, dairy-free white choc bar shavings and small berries to decorate
  1. Line a 12-cup jam tart tin with a double layer of cling film. Put the biscuit crumbs in a bowl and mix in the melted margarine, oil or butter until well mixed.
  2. Divide the mixture equally between the tins and press into each indent using the back of a teaspoon or small pastry case shaper. Chill for 30 minutes to set.
  3. For the filling, put the cornflour in a saucepan. Add the lime rind and gradually blend in the juice to make a smooth paste. Stir in 75ml cold water and the sugar.
  4. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then slowly bring to the boil, stirring , and simmer gently for 1 minute until thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and a few drops food colouring if using. Cool for 10 minutes.
  5. Divide between the biscuit cases, tap the tin on the work top to level the filling and leave to cool. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

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    Making mini lime pies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. When ready to serve, carefully peel the pies from the cling film and place on a serving platter. Sprinkle with lime zest, white choc bar shavings and serve with mini berries such as wild strawberries.

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    Super citrusy mini lime pies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Banana and coconut bread (dairy-free; vegan)

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Banana and coconut bread. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Summer has been slow to start here in central Scotland but it’s getting warmer at last, and we’ve had a beautiful blue sky day here today. With the increase in temperature, I find it becomes difficult to keep fruit a room temperature and resort to putting things in the fridge which inevitably means loss of flavour. Bananas really don’t keep for very long before they over-ripen and I prefer to eat them a little on the under-ripe side so I seldom want to eat them over the summer months. If the skin turns too yellow and brown-speckled then I know the texture is not going to be to my liking and the banana is destined for the baking bowl or a smoothie.

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Iced and coconut sprinkled. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s recipe is my turn-to bake for using up over-ripe bananas. Easy to make, it improves with keeping, and also freezes well. I call it “bread” because it has a lower fat content than a cake recipe, although I usually serve it with an icing on top. Uniced, it is delicious spread with your favourite margarine or nut butter. If you have a glut of ripe bananas, peel them and pop them in a freezer bag. They keep in the freezer for several months and, once defrosted, will be easy to mash up and add to cake mixes in the future.

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Just one slice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I found this lovely old loaf tin in a bric-a-brac sale recently. It’s been well used but I like the design on the metal-work. Lined with a paper tin liner, it bakes up a treat and has got many more years of baking life in it I’m sure.

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My new/old loaf tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For the bread, I use a combination of coconut-based ingredients: yogurt, sugar and oil, but it works just as well using a plain dairy-free yogurt or a light soft brown sugar, and your favourite plant-based margarine or butter if you prefer things less nutty. I also use wholemeal spelt flour but traditional wheat flour would be fine too. Add some chocolate chips or chopped dried fruit for extra sweetness.

I have been working on a gluten-free version using coconut flour but I haven’t been able to get the right combination of other flours to give a moist crumb – coconut flour has a tendency to absorb a lot of moisture and can give bakes a dry texture. I’ll publish an update when I achieve something I’m happy with, so watch this space.

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Ripe bananas and coconut products. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Ingredients

Serves: 8

  • 2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (you need about 250g mashed banana for good flavour and texture)
  • 100g dairy-free coconut yogurt
  • 100ml dairy-free milk
  • 200g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 15g baking powder
  • 50g solid coconut oil
  • 100g coconut sugar

For the icing:

  • 125g icing sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 30g toasted raw coconut chips, to decorate
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 3. Line a 1kg loaf tin. Mix the banana with the yogurt and milk.
  2. Put the flour in a bowl and sift the baking powder on top. Mix well then rub in the coconut oil and stir in the sugar.
  3. Make a well in the centre and stir in the banana mixture to make a smooth, thick cake batter. Spoon into the loaf tin, smooth the top and bake for about 1 hour until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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    Before and after baking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. When cold, wrap and store for 24 hours before serving for better flavour and texture. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Mix in 3-4 tsp warm water and the vanilla to make  smooth spreadable icing. Spread over the top of the loaf and sprinkle coconut chips.

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    Ready for the eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins