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

 

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Pear, pecan and maple crostata. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Pastry leaf border. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Autumn pear harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

Serves: 8

Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

    Slice_of_pear_and_pecan_crostata_with_maple_syrup
    Sliced and ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

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

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Roast love apple soup. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Home-grown love apples. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Home-grown Flamingo tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Heart-shaped tomato. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

Ingredients

Serves: 4

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

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

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    Real love apples? Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Freshly made Green chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Chopped green tomatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

Makes: approx. 1.3kg

Ingredients

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

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

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Preparing the vegetables for green chutney. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

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

 

Early autumn garden

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Still blooming, white Japanese anemones. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

When I posted my last garden round-up back on August 9th, only one or two of these beautiful white Japanese anemones were in bloom. Here we are some eight weeks later, and they are looking magnificent in the flower-beds. Having survived the storm of last week, and the breezy weather we have had recently, they continue to flower when most plants around them are dying back.

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Meadow cranesbill enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have a lot of meadow cranesbill (hardy geranium) in the garden. I love the fragrant bright green foliage which trails over just about every wall. I cut back the first flowers when they started dying back a few weeks ago, and now there are new fresh pink blooms about the flower-beds to keep summery thoughts alive.

However, it is autumn, and these lilac crocus are popping up all over the place to remind me of the change of season. I love these strange, top-heavy flowers that poke out of the bare soil with no leaves and long mauve stalks. The rich, golden stamens smell of saffron, and on a warm day, the aroma is truly delicious.

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Fragrant Autumn crocus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Old fruiting Lord Derby apple tree. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a fantastic year for fruit. The old cooking apple tree is laden. I’ve been busy cooking up the wind-falls while the main crop still remains on the tree. I have two miniature eating apple trees in another part of the garden. These rarely produce more than half a dozen apples, but this year, I have enough to fill a large fruit-bowl,

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Mini eating apple harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I am particularly pleased with the crop of Concorde pears on a small tree at the top of the garden. I have had the tree for about a decade, and it hasn’t fruited very well until this year. The pears keep very well, so I will be able to enjoy them over the next few weeks. I’m sure there will be a pear recipe posted from me in the next few weeks.

In the same part of the garden, the Autumn-fruiting raspberries are ripening. I never have very many at a time, but a few berries ripen every two to three days, and are just enough to occasionally scatter over my morning granola.

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Concorde pear tree laden with fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Early Autumn-fruiting raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not been a good year for the roses in the garden. Too dry I think. However, there are a few second buds forming now, so if the sunny weather continues a while longer, I may get a few more blooms like this beauty. Until next week, my best wishes to you.

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Second time around, Gertrude Jekyl rose. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

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

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Plum and bay membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I hadn’t intended to write another post about plums this week, but after making several pots of jam with the largest, juiciest plums, I was down to my last kilo of the smallest fruit. Flicking through an old book on preserves, I happened upon a recipe for making damson “cheese”, and I decided to have a go. It turned out to be very similar to Spanish quince paste, so I’m calling it membrillo. And very delicious it is too 🙂

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Sliced and ready for tasting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It takes a bit of time to make plum membrillo because you need to keep stirring the fruit mixture to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan, and it can’t be rushed otherwise you will end up burning the mixture. Other than this, there are just 3 ingredients and a little water. I like the herbal aroma of bay with stoned fruit, but cinnamon would work well, or you could omit the extra flavour altogether for maximum fruitiness.

The flavour is intense and fruity. It is very rich so serve in slices as a sweet treat or as an accompaniment to cheese and cold meats as you would quince paste. It needs to be stored in the fridge, but will keep for a month in a sealed container, or it can be sliced, wrapped and frozen. It would make a nice gift for a foodie friend – wrap in waxed paper for keeping at it’s best.

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Wrapping membrillo in waxed paper. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I also cut a couple of slices into small cubes and rolled in granulated sugar to make melt-in-the-mouth home-made fruit pastilles.

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Home-made plum fruit pastilles. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 8 slices

Ingredients

  • 1kg small plums (damsons or apricots would also work)
  • 4 fresh bay leaves or 2 dried
  • Approx. 500g granulated sugar
  1. Line a 500g loaf tin with baking parchment. Wash the plums and place in a large saucepan (there is no need to stone them). Pour over 200ml water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until very soft. Cool for 10 minutes, then rub though a nylon sieve to extract as much pulp as possible – I ended up with about 1l of pulp.

    Cooking_and_sieving_plums_to_make_membrillo
    Cooking plums for membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Pour the pulp back into the saucepan, add the bay leaves, and bring to the boil. Simmer gently, stirring to prevent sticking, for about 15 minutes, until reduced by half. I find a spatula is good for stirring preserves because it enables you to scrape the pan more thoroughly. Cool for 10 minutes, then discard the bay leaves.
  3. Measure the pulp and pour back into saucepan. Add the equivalent amount of pulp in sugar – I had 500ml reduced pulp and added 500g sugar. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved completely.
  4. Turn up the heat and cook the mixture until it becomes very thick – about 30 minutes – until the spatula leaves a clear line across the bottom of the pan. If you prefer, it needs to reach 105°C on a sugar thermometer. You need to keep stirring the mixture which will be very hot, so do take care. I find it easier to wear a long rubber glove when stirring, because the mixture can spit.

    Measuring_plum_pulp_and_cooking_with_sugar_to_make_membrillo
    Cooking the sugary plum pulp for making membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Scrape the thick, pulpy mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top and leave too cool completely. It will set firm as it cools. Chill until required.
  6. When ready to serve, remove the lining parchment, and slice the membrillo with a sharp knife – a warmed blade should make for easier slicing. Wrap and store in the fridge for up to a month, or freeze for later use.
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Fresh bay leaves with Victoria plums. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

The garden’s taken a bit of a battering this week. It’s been very windy since the weekend and yesterday the remnants of the recent US Hurricane blew through. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to have been too much damage, but any plums that I left on the tree are no longer.

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

I had been picking the Victoria plums  since the beginning of last week, and thankfully harvested the majority of what was left at the weekend. I’ve been busy making jam, and freezing a few in bags for later use. The tree is only small, but it has done very well this year in spite of the dry summer, although some of the plums are smaller than usual.

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Freshly picked ripe Victoria plums. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Stoned fruit like plums, apricots and peaches go very well with the flavour of almond. If you crack the stones open, the inner part of the kernel has a strong almond aroma – I always add the kernels, in a muslin bag, to jam as it cooks, to give it more flavour. I realise marzipan isn’t to everyone’s taste, but is one of my favourite ingredients and in my mind, is perfect for eating with plums. This week’s recipe will work fine without it, the cake will be lighter in texture and will cook slightly quicker.

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

You can make this cake with most fruit, just be aware that if a fruit is very juicy, the bottom of the cake will be quite sticky and may not completely cook through. The cake also makes a great pudding served warm with custard. I use spelt flour, the white variety, for this cake, but use gluten-free plain if you’re intolerant to wheat, and ordinary plain white flour if you don’t have spelt.

Serves: 10

Ingredients

  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 550g plums
  • 175g dairy-free margarine
  • 175g non-dairy yogurt (coconut or soya work well)
  • 175ml unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used soya)
  • 190g white spelt flour (or gluten-free plain flour)
  • 12g gluten-free baking powder
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 175g marzipan, cut into small pieces
  • 20g flaked almonds, toasted
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a deep, 23cm round cake tin. Sprinkle the base of the tin with 2 tbsp. sugar and put to one side.
  2. Halve the plums and remove the stones, then arrange in the bottom of the tin to cover it completely. If you have any plums left over, chop them and sprinkle them over the layer of plums.
  3. Put the margarine in a bowl with the remaining sugar and whisk together for 3-4 minutes until creamy and light in texture and colour. Gently whisk in the yogurt and dairy-free milk with half the flour until well blended. Sieve the remaining flour and baking powder on top; add the ground almonds and marzipan, and mix everything together until thoroughly blended.

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    Preparing upside-down cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Spoon the cake mixture on top of the plums and smooth over the top. Put the tin on a baking tray and bake for about 1 ½ hours until richly golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool for at least 30 minutes in the tin before serving warm, or leave to cool completely in the tin if serving as a cake.
  5. To serve, turn the cake out on to a serving plate and sprinkle with flaked almonds to serve.

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

 

 

Rhubarb and raspberry jelly preserve (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Home-made jelly preserve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I had planned a garden round-up for this week’s post. However, the long spell of fine weather has finally broken and I haven’t been able to get outside that much this past week. To be honest, the hot spell has left the garden looking a bit sad and lacking in colour. So, instead of a weekend in the garden, I got the jam pan out of the cupboard and made some jelly preserve with the last of my raspberries.

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Rhubarb and raspberries after a heavy shower of rain. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The last of my raspberries make a perfect match with some freshly pulled summer rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A jelly preserve takes a bit more time to make than most other jams, but if you do find yourself in a preserving mood, I can recommend having a go, as the reward is great and the flavour, intense and rich.

You will need some clean muslin if you don’t have a jelly making bag, but if you are only making a small amount, as per the quantity below, you don’t need any other special equipment, although a sugar thermometer will help take the guess-work out of judging when the jelly has cooked sufficiently. All you need to ensure is that all the equipment and jam-jars you use are very clean; this will enable you to store your preserves for as long as required.

Makes: approx. 650g

Ingredients:

  • 450g prepared raspberries, washed
  • 450g prepared rhubarb, washed and chopped into small pieces
  • Approx. 500g granulated sugar
  • Approx. 25ml fresh lemon juice
  1. Mash the raspberries to release the juices and place in a saucepan. Stir in the chopped rhubarb and 2 tbsp. water. Heat gently until steaming, then cover and cook for 6-7 minutes until very soft.
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    Cooking the fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    2. While the fruit is cooking, set up the muslin or jelly bag ready for straining the juice. I use a tall jug which I can suspend a jelly bag over the top. Otherwise, a large nylon sieve lined with muslin, suspended over a bowl will work well. The volume of liquid produced by following this recipe will not be much greater than 500ml, so you don’t need a massive collecting container. Make sure it is stable so that it can’t tip over when you add the fruit.

    3. Carefully spoon the hot fruit and juices into the bag or muslin, and then leave undisturbed for several hours until the fruit stops dripping. Don’t be tempted to press or squeeze the fruit as this will make a cloudy preserve. Discard the pulp. Measure the juice and work out the quantity of sugar and lemon juice required. You need 75g sugar and 5ml lemon juice per 100ml juice.

    4_steps_showing_equipment_and_process_for_straining_fruit_for_making_jelly_preserve
    How to strain fruit for jelly preserve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    4. Pour the juice into a large saucepan and heat gently until hot, then stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and continue stirring over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.

    5. Raise the heat and bring to the boil, then boil rapidly until setting point is reached – between 104° and 105°C on a sugar thermometer. Skim away any scum that rises to the surface during boiling. Pour into clean, hot jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 6 months, but the preserve is ready to eat as soon as you want! Delish 🙂

    2_spoonfuls_of_rhubarb_and_raspberry_jelly_served_on_a_Welsh_cake
    Spoonfuls of freshly made jelly preserve on a home-made Welsh cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Persian-style sour cherry rice (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Persian-style sour cherry rice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

All the fabulous sunshine we’ve been having has done wonders for the fruit this year in the garden, although it has meant a lot of watering.

I picked my precious harvest of Morello cherries last weekend. I had had the tree netted for several weeks and successfully managed to fend off the birds. One small espalier tree produced just under one kilo of cherries 🙂

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Home-grown Morello cherries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

So what to do with such a precious harvest. Decisions, decisions. Last year I made my usual compote and with the remainder I made cherry jam. Sadly, I over-cooked the mixture and ended up with cherry toffee! This year, I was determined not to be so fool-hardy. I got my old-fashioned cookery books out and bottled a jar for a treat later in the year. With the rest, I made this rice dish, based on the Iranian recipe for Alo-balo polo or sour cherry rice. Traditionally chicken is added and the dish is served at a celebration. I made my meat-free version to serve as a side dish. It is only mildly spiced so will go with anything.

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Fragrant spices for cooking with basmati rice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Bowl of home-grown Morellos ready for pitting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I appreciate that not everyone will have access to fresh Morello cherries, but dried sour cherries are readily available, and cranberries will work well as an alternative. Just stir dried cherries or cranberries into the rice towards the end of cooking time – use about 150g dried. If you have fresh or frozen cranberries, you can follow the recipe below exactly, using 250g berries.

Serves: 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 250g basmati rice
  • Generous pinch of saffron strands
  • 300g fresh whole sour cherries
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
  • Handful of chopped pistachio nuts
  1. Put the rice in a bowl  and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 2 hours, then drain and rinse well. Meanwhile, put the saffron in a small bowl and spoon over 1 tbsp. very hot water. Leave to infuse and cool.
  2. Stone the cherries and place in a saucepan with the sugar. Heat gently, stirring carefully, until the sugar dissolves, then bring to simmering point and cook gently for 2-3 minutes until tender and juicy. Leave to cool.
  3. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the salt, and gradually sprinkle in the rice so as to keep the water boiling. Cook in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes until slightly opaque, then drain, rinse well and shake off the excess water.
  4. Divide the rice equally between 2 saucepans. Stir the saffron water into one portion and level off the surface of the rice. Mix the cardamoms and cinnamon into the other and level off the surface. With the end of a wooden spoon, make indents in the rice and drizzle 1 tbsp. oil into each saucepan.

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    Preparing saffron and spiced basmati rice for steaming. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Cover each with a layer of foil across the top of the saucepan; put the lid on top, and cook over a very low heat, undisturbed, for 30 minutes. After this time the grains of rice will be tender and slightly crisp on the bottom of the saucepan. Fork through the rice in each saucepan to mix well. Discard the spices.
  6. While the rice is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion, covered, for about 15 minutes until very tender.
  7. To serve, drain the cherries, reserving the juice, and mix the cherries into the spiced rice along with the onion. Pile into a warmed serving dish. Spoon the saffron rice on top and gently mix the two rices together. Sprinkle with pistachio nuts and serve immediately with the cherry juice to pour over – reheat this if preferred.
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    Ready to serve, Persian-style sour cherry rice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
    Pair_of_ripe_Morello_cherries_on_stalks_with_leaf
    Freshly picked home-grown Morello cherries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

Fresh raspberry jellies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Fresh raspberry jellies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s peak raspberry season here in central Scotland, and the juicy red fruits are coming thick and fast. I have bags of berries in the freezer already for jam making later on in the year, but right now, I’m enjoying them cooked in a compote with rhubarb on my breakfast granola and as an occasional treat in a fruity dessert. Fresh_Scottish_raspberries_growing_on_bushes

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Ripe and ready for picking, home-grown Glen Ample raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe this week takes me back to my childhood. We often had jelly for dessert as kids. Using fresh fruit takes a bit of effort but the flavour can’t be beaten. The variety of raspberries I grow are called Glen Ample. They are ideal for cooking because they are very juicy and flavoursome, but they do lack sweetness when eaten fresh. You may need to alter the amount of sugar and water in the recipe if you have a different variety.

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Freshly picked and ready for cooking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To set jellies, I use the Dr Oetker product ‘Vege-Gel’, which is a gelling powder made from Carrageenan. It gives a lovely silky, smooth soft texture. You’ll need to alter the preparation instructions if you prefer to use another setting agent.

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Free-from home-made raspberry jelly. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To finish the jellies off, I made a free-from white ‘chocolate’ and coconut ganache to top the jellies for an extra special indulgence. Use dark chocolate if you prefer something less sweet.

Makes: 4

Ingredients

  • 450g fresh raspberries
  • 100g caster sugar (or amount to taste)
  • 6.5g sachet Vege-Gel (Dr Oetker)
  • 100g free-from white ‘chocolate’
  • 50g dairy-free coconut milk yogurt
  • Fresh raspberries and raspberry leaves to decorate
  1. Rinse the raspberries and shake off the excess water. Put in a saucepan with the sugar and 75ml water. Heat gently, stirring occasionally and carefully, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes without stirring. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Place a nylon sieve over a heatproof jug and strain the raspberry mixture through. Leave to cool completely then discard the pulp. Try to avoid squeezing the raspberry mixture in the sieve as this will make the jelly cloudy.
  3. Pour 200ml cold water into a bowl and sprinkle over the Vege-Gel powder. Whisk until completely dissolved. Pour into a saucepan and add the raspberry juice. Heat the mixture to boiling point and then leave to cool for about 30 minutes. As the liquid cools, the mixture begins to set, so keep an eye on it to avoid it setting completely in the saucepan.

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    Making vegan raspberry jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Divide the mixture between tumblers or heatproof glasses – the glasses need to be at least 150ml capacity. Leave to cool completely, then chill for an hour until firm.

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    Making free-from white chocolate ganache. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. For the topping, melt the free-from chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then stir in the yogurt. Spoon on top of each jelly and return to the fridge for a further hour to set. Decorate, serve and enjoy 🙂

    Single_serving_of_vegan_fresh_raspberry_jelly
    Free-from fresh raspberry jelly with white ‘chocolate’ ganache-style topping. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Strawberry, pomegranate and sumac salad (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

 

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Sweet and savoury combination of fruit, grain and herbs. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been enjoying home-grown strawberries for a couple of weeks now. They have grown quite small this year, but they are still sweet and tasty. As usual, I never have more than a handful to use at any one time (jam-making is out of the question) and I usually end up eating them on their own. However, following a recent trip to London’s Edgware Road,  where I was able to stock up on a few of my favourite, more exotic, ingredients, I felt inspired to try something different.

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My micro-harvest of home-grown strawberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Pomegranate molasses make an ideal accompaniment to fresh strawberries. I love the thick texture and semi-sweet flavour. It reminds me of sherbet sweets as it has a light acidic fizz on the tongue. It makes a good ingredient for a salad dressing as it adds fruitiness as well as subtle sweetness and tempers any vinegar you may add. Its thick texture means you can cut down on the amount of oil you use without noticing.

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Dressing ingredients for my strawberry and pomegranate salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Choose a fruit vinegar or white balsamic to add extra sweetness, and use a mild tasting olive oil or other vegetable oil to help bring out the fruit flavours without dominating the dressing.

One of my other purchases was sumac powder. An astringent, fruity powder made from dried berries. It has a high tannin content and reminds me of rosehips. It is the perfect seasoning for sweet berries. Just sprinkle a little on before serving as you would black pepper. A final note on seasoning, I didn’t add any salt to my salad as I didn’t think it needed any. Everyone’s taste is different, so add a pinch to the dressing or mix some into the quinoa if you prefer a more savoury note.

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Strawberry salad sprinkled with sumac powder. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2 as a main course; 4 as a side

Ingredients

  • 250g cooked, cold quinoa
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Small bunch fresh parsley and coriander, roughly chopped
  • A generous handful of pomegranate seeds

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tbsp. fruit vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. light olive oil

To serve:

  • 150g fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
  • Sumac powder or freshly ground black pepper, to season
  1. Mix the quinoa, onion, herbs and pomegranate seeds together, then whisk all the dressing ingredients together and toss half into the salad, and pile into a serving dish.

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    Preparing the salad. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Halve or quarter larger strawberries, leave smaller ones whole, and sprinkle on top of the salad. Season with a little sumac and serve at room temperature for maximum flavour.

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    Perfect little strawberry. Image: Kathryn Hawkins