Welcome to my collection of seasonal gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly recipe posts; a round up of my gardening throughout the year, and the plants and produce I grow here in central Scotland. I wish you good readng, happy cooking and perfect planting!
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.
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.
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.
Serves: 2 as a main course; 4 as a side
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
2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp. fruit vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. light olive oil
150g fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
Sumac powder or freshly ground black pepper, to season
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.
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.
I pulled my first stems of rhubarb at the weekend. The 3 crowns I re-planted back in the Autumn are doing well in their new patch (watched over by 2 stone rabbits), and it is looking likely that there will be plenty more stems before the summer is over.
To celebrate my first harvest, I have a simple rhubarb recipe to share this week. It’s a pastry classic, and gets its name from a slatted louvre window because it has thin slits cut across its top which give a glimpse of the filling inside. I’ve combined the tartness of the fresh rhubarb with the sweet, richness of marzipan, but I realise this is an ingredient not to everyone’s taste, so if you’re not a marzipan fan, simply leave it out altogether or make a thick vanilla custard instead and spread this across the pastry instead.
Serve this delicious pastry warm as a dessert with custard or leave to go cold and enjoy a slice as a pastry with a cup of coffee.
300g fresh rhubarb
40g caster or vanilla sugar
325g gluten-free, vegan puff pastry (such as Silly Yak)
125g natural marzipan, coarsely grated
A little dairy-free milk, optional
50g icing sugar
A few drops almond extract
A few toasted flaked almonds
Trim the rhubarb and cut into short, even-thickness lengths. Place in a frying pan, sprinkle over the sugar and heat gently until steaming. Cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes until tender. Leave to cool completely. Cooking rhubarb this way means you will have little juice which is important in this recipe in order to keep the pastry crisp.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan oven, gas 7). Line a large flat baking tray with baking parchment. Divide the pastry into 2 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of pastry to make a rectangle 28 x 15cm.
Sprinkle over the marzipan, leaving about 2cm pastry showing all round the edge, and spread the rhubarb on top. Brush the pastry edge with water or little dairy-free milk if preferred.
Roll the other piece of pastry to a rectangle slightly larger than the bottom piece and carefully lay the pastry on top. Press down the edges well to seal them together and slice off any ragged pastry to neaten the edge.
Using a sharp knife, cut thin slashes through the top of the pastry to make the slatted effect. Carefully transfer the pastry to the baking tray, brush with dairy-free milk if liked and bake for about 30 minutes until browned. Leave on the tray to cool for 30 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool further.
To decorate, sieve the icing sugar into a small bowl and mix in a few drops of almond extract and about 2 teasp warm water to make a smooth, drizzling icing. Use a teaspoon to drip the icing all over the top of the warm or cold pastry and then scatter with almonds. Transfer to a serving plate or board to slice and serve.
For the first time in a while, I didn’t have a clump of rhubarb to put under a forcer pot back in January. I had transplanted all my rhubarb crowns to a new bed at the end of last year, and I decided that I would be sensible and let them recover and leave them to grow in the open for a harvest later in the year. Now, of course, I regret not having the lovely pink, tender stems to cook, but, never mind, I look forward to a home-grown harvest whenever it is ready. Actually, the clumps are doing very well, so I don’t think it will be too long before I get to pull my first stems of the year.
In the meantime, I bought some rhubarb from the local farm shop this week and baked up a batch of muffins. Serve them hot with extra stewed rhubarb and custard as a pudding, or enjoy them slightly warm for a spring-time breakfast or tea. Best eaten on the day they are made, although they will freeze, and can be reheated successfully in the microwave for a few seconds.
I made my own tulip-style paper cases, which make large “coffee shop” sized muffins. You will need 15cm squares of baking parchment and a jar or glass the same size as a muffin tin, and then it’s just a case of pressing the paper into the tins to make the case shape. If you prefer, divide the mixture between 12 ready-made paper muffin/cupcake cases and cook for slightly less time.
Makes 7 large muffins (or 12 traditional size)
For the crumble top:
85g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
2g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
55g dairy-free margarine, softened
55g caster sugar
For the muffin mix:
225g gluten-free plain flour blend
8g arrowroot (optional, but I find it does help bind the ingredients together and gives a chewier texture)
10g gluten-free baking powder
115g caster sugar (or half caster and half vanilla sugar)
60g dairy-free plain or coconut yogurt
115g dairy-free margarine, melted
150ml soya milk
2 teasp good quality vanilla extract
175g rhubarb, trimmed and finely chopped
150ml free-from custard
First make the crumble top. Put the flour and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the margarine until well blended. Stir in the sugar and mix until it all clumps together. Cover and chill until required.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6). Line a muffin tin with 7 large tulip-style paper cases or 12 traditional sized cases. For the muffin batter, sift the flour, arrowroot and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre.
Mix the yogurt, melted margarine, non-dairy milk and vanilla extract together in a jug. Gradually pour into the dry ingredients, mixing well to blend everything together. Stir in the chopped rhubarb.
Spoon half of the mixture equally between the paper cases, and spoon a dollop of custard on top, then cover the custard with the remaining muffin batter. Sprinkle the tops generously with the prepared crumble mixture.
Bake for about 35 minutes for large muffins, and 25-30 minutes for the smaller size. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Best served warm and eaten on day of baking.
The recipe works well with chopped apple or pear (add a little cocoa powder to your custard for a chocolate filling), or you can add fresh small berries like raspberries, blueberries or cherries. Until next week…….happy cooking!
Last weekend, I finally got round to gathering the last of the windfall apples from underneath and around the old apple tree in the garden. There were quite a few; some badly bruised, others almost entirely unscathed. I had picked a good harvest from the tree a couple of weeks previously and have these apples safely stored away in an old fridge for later use. In my kitchen, windfalls are destined for the cooking pot and for making preserves.
I find it very satisfying making chutneys, jams and jellies, although jelly making does take a bit of planning and time, and can not be rushed. However, the finished result is very rewarding and worth the wait. This apple variety (Lord Derby) isn’t particularly flavoursome (it is reminiscent of a very large Granny Smith apple), but it is a great cooking apple as it holds its shape and some texture when baked or stewed. It’s not the juiciest for jam making, but as I had so many to use up this year, I decided to get all the jelly making stuff out of the cupboard and get preserving.
I always keep a good supply of glass jars on stand-by throughout the year, ready for filling as different fruit and veg comes into season. I give them a good rinse with hot soapy water and then sterilise them along with the lids – I gave up boiling jars to sterilise them, I now use a sterilizing fluid followed by a thorough rinse. I haven’t had any problems with any preserves spoiling since I switched to this less time-consuming method.
The jelly strainer is a piece of kit I’ve had for a few years. The whole contraption stands over a bowl or jug to catch the juice. If you don’t have a purpose-made jelly bag, line a large nylon sieve or strainer with some muslin and suspend over a deep bowl. Make sure you thoroughly clean all the equipment that comes into contact with the fruit or vegetable juice to maximise the keeping qualities for your preserves.
I’ve written a couple of savoury variations on a basic apple jelly recipe I made with my windfalls during the week. Both jellies are delicious with cheeses, barbecue food or roast meats and cold cuts. If you want a plain, sweet apple jelly (the best choice if you have a really tasty apple variety), just follow the recipe for the herb jelly below, and leave out the herbs.
Herb apple jelly
1.5kg prepared cooking apples, roughly chopped – this is the overall weight once they have been thoroughly washed and all the bad bits taken out
Approx. 825g granulated sugar
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and sage
Put the chopped apples (unpeeled, pips and stalks attached!) in a large saucepan. Pour over 1l cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally, until tender.
Carefully ladle into a suspended jelly bag and leave to drip into a clean bowl or jug, in a cool place, lightly covered, overnight. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag, just let it drip through naturally. Jelly making is an excellent test of the patience!
The next day, remove the juice bowl, and cover and chill it. Scoop the pulp back into a large saucepan and add a further 500ml water. Bring to the boil, then strain again as above, for a few hours – there won’t be so much juice the second time around, so 5-6 hours should be long enough.
Measure both juice yield together and calculate the amount of sugar required as 450g per 600ml juice. My yield was 1.1l which needs 825g sugar, but if you have a juicy apple variety you will capture more juice.
Rinse and pat dry a large sprig of rosemary and sage. Pour the juice into a preserving pan or large saucepan, add the herbs, and heat until steaming. Stir in the sugar until it is dissolved, then raise the heat and boil rapidly until the temperature reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer – this will take several minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the jars by adding a small sprig of washed rosemary and a sage leaf in each. Remove the jelly from the heat and let the bubbles subside. Skim away any surface residue from the top and discard the cooked herbs. This jelly begins to set quite quickly so ladle it into the jars and seal them while the jelly is piping hot. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months. The jelly is ready for eating right away if you can’t wait! Once opened, store in the fridge for up to a month.
Apple and hot red pepper jelly
1.25g prepared, chopped cooking apples (see above)
500g prepared weight chopped red peppers (capsicum) (approx. 4 medium peppers), seeds and stalks removed
6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
60ml cider or white wine vinegar
Approx. 675g granulated sugar
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
Put the chopped apples, peppers and garlic in a large saucepan and pour over 1l cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, mashing occasionally, until tender.
Carefully ladle into a suspended jelly bag and let the mixture drip into a bowl or jug underneath. Leave in a cool place, covered lightly, overnight.
The next day, put the pulp to on side and measure the collected juice. You will need 450g sugar per 600ml juice. Pour the juice into a preserving pan or large saucepan and add the vinegar and bay leaves. Heat until steaming hot and then stir in the sugar until dissolved.
Bring the juice to the boil and boil rapidly until the temperature reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer. While the juice is boiling, pick out 50g of the cooked pepper and garlic, rinse, pat dry and chop finely – discard the rest of the pulp. Divide the chopped vegetables between your prepared jam jars.
Once the jelly has reached the correct temperature, turn off the heat, discard the bay leaves and stir in the salt and smoked paprika. Divide between the jars – for even distribution of the vegetable pieces, wait for about 10 minutes before sealing the jars, then give them a quick stir with a teaspoon to suspend the vegetable pieces throughout the jelly before putting the lids on tightly. Cool, label and store as above. Best left for a month to mature before eating.
I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy heat in my food, so, although I call this “hot”, it’s pretty mild. However, if you can stand the heat, this is a good recipe to add as much chopped red chilli to suit your taste. Just cook the prepared chilli with the apples and peppers at the beginning of the recipe – leave the chilli seeds in as well if you like!
I’ve had a very “light” pear harvest this year. In fact, just 4 fruit developed on one tree and the other had no fruit at all. Not sure why, the spring was fine, there was so much blossom and plenty of bees around to pollinate it. Perhaps the pear trees decided to have a bit of a holiday this year.
So with such a precious harvest, what to cook? I picked the pears a couple of weeks ago, and they have been ripening gently and slowly in a cool spot in the kitchen. They remained quite firm, so I decided I would cook them.
Vanilla is one of my favourite spices, and it is a particularly delicious flavouring for pears. This is a very simple recipe, but it tastes a little bit more special because the pears are cooked in Moscatel de Valencia – the floral notes of this sweet Spanish wine are a perfect match for both pears and vanilla.
Chocolate is another “must have” with pears as far as I’m concerned, and this easy “butter” makes an interesting alternative to the usual chocolate sauce. Moscatel is one of the few wines I think goes well with chocolate, so this is a “win win” recipe for me. Serve the pears very slightly warm or at room temperature so that the cooking juices don’t begin to set, and avoid chilling the chocolate accompaniment (unless the room temperature is very warm) as it will become very hard to spoon.
4 firm pears
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 vanilla pod
300ml Moscatel de Valencia wine (or white grape juice if preferred)
1 tbsp. agave syrup (or clear honey if you eat it)
40g dairy-free margarine (or unsalted butter)
100g dairy-free 85% cocoa chocolate
50g golden syrup
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Peel and core the pears, and cut in half. Brush lightly with lemon juice and place cut-side up in a shallow baking dish.
Split the vanilla pod and scoop out some of the seeds using the tip of a sharp knife. Push the rest of the pod into the dish of pears, mix the scooped-out seeds with the wine and pour over the pears.
Dot the pears with 15g of the margarine and drizzle with agave syrup. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, turn the pears over, baste with the cooking juices, and return to the oven to bake, uncovered, for a further 20 minutes or until the pears are tender.
Cool for 30 minutes in the cooking juices, discard the vanilla pod, then lift out the pears using a slotted spoon and place in a heatproof dish. Pour the cooking juices into a small saucepan.
Bring the cooking juices to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until reduced by half. Pour over the pears and leave to cool.
For the chocolate “butter”, break the chocolate into pieces and put in a saucepan with the remaining margarine and the golden syrup. Heat very gently, stirring, until melted. Remove from the heat, mix well and pour into a small, heatproof dish. Leave to cool – the “butter” will solidify when it becomes cold.
Serve the pears at room temperature accompanied with the chocolate “butter”. If you prefer, leave the chocolate mixture to cool for about 30 minutes and serve warm as a thick, glossy chocolate sauce.
With the fine, warm spring weather we had this year, my tomato plants have done very well. The fruit started to ripen earlier than usual, and I have been picking a steady supply tomatoes since the end of July. By this time of the year, I’m usually left with a greenhouse filled with hard, green fruit, wondering how on earth they are all going to ripen as the days shorten and the weather turns.
Of all the fruit and vegetables you can grow yourself, the tomato has to be in my top 5 as having the most marked difference in flavour compared to most commercially grown varieties, and it is one that I never tire of; I would happily consume a plateful every day if given the opportunity.
To preserve the flavour, avoid putting tomatoes in the fridge as this seems to destroy a lot of the taste – the unique fragrance also seems to disappear. I try to pick only what I need for eating or cooking that day, but if there are a lot that are ripe, I store them in a cool place in the kitchen and use within a couple of days.
Last month I made a batch of my favourite tomato preserve: Smoky Tomato Jam (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) and semi-dried a batch which I have preserved in olive oil – Preserving the Summer (Semi-cuit tomatoes – gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) If preserving isn’t your thing, and you have too many ripe tomatoes to eat, you can freeze them whole in bags for use in sauces and soups later on. Making a batch of tomato sauce is a good way to use them up too, and it also freezes well. Homemade tomato sauce makes a deliciously intense flavoured base for soups and pasta dishes, or as a tasty pouring sauce for meat, fish and vegetables.
To make about 450ml fresh tomato sauce: simply wash and pat dry 1 kg tomatoes; cut in half and place in a large lidded frying pan or saucepan. Try and keep them in a single layer if possible, for even cooking. Season lightly with salt and pepper and add a bunch of fresh herbs – I use rosemary, thyme, oregano and a bay leaf. Place over a low heat until beginning to steam, then cover with a lid and continue to cook very gently for about 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the tomatoes, until soft and collapsed. Cool for 10 minutes, then discard the herbs and push the tomatoes through a nylon sieve to make a pulpy juice.
Pour into a clean saucepan, add 25g butter or vegan margarine, 1 tbsp. good quality olive oil, and 1 tsp caster sugar. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Heat gently until the butter or margarine melts, then raise the heat and simmer steadily for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened, but still thin enough to pour. Use as per recipe or allow to cool completely, then cover and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Freeze in sealable containers for up to 6 months. Note: you can add garlic to the tomatoes before cooking – peeled, whole cloves work fine and will cook into a pulp with the tomatoes. I prefer to keep the sauce plain and add my garlic when I use the sauce in a recipe.
Here are a few other ideas for serving up fresh tomatoes:
Dress a plate of sliced fresh tomatoes by simply seasoning with a light dusting of white sugar, a little salt, freshly ground pepper and a few toasted and crushed cumin seeds.
For a quick “chutney”, gently fry 2 finely sliced red onions with a crushed clove of garlic in olive oil. Add a pinch or 2 of chilli flakes and cook until very soft. Add 225g chopped fresh tomatoes, 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp. caster sugar. Season and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until thick. Leave to cool, then store in the fridge for up to a week. Lovely with barbecued meat, vegetables and as an accompaniment to cheeses.
Roughly chop a few ripe tomatoes. Blitz in a blender; push through a nylon sieve into a jug. Season with Tabasco sauce and/or Worcestershire sauce. Put ice in a tumbler, add a slug of vodka and pour over the seasoned juice.
Bake halves of tomato, side by side in a shallow dish, in a moderate oven with a topping of fresh breadcrumbs, capers, slivers of garlic and a drizzle of olive oil, until tender. Serve scattered with lots of freshly chopped parsley.
Small pieces of sweet tomato make and interesting addition to a citrusy fruit salad. Pour over a plain sugar syrup and scatter with chopped, fresh mint to serve.
For a delicious salsa to go with Indian food: combine chopped tomatoes, cucumber, and fresh mango with a little finely chopped red onion. Sprinkle with black onion seeds and toss in a little white balsamic vinegar. Serve at room temperature for the best flavour.
My first harvest of plums in the year marks the end of summer in my mind. There is, of course, something to celebrate in having such lovely fruit to pick, and yet, I feel a bit sad that autumn is approaching. I managed to get a head-start on the wasps this year, picking about 1kg of unblemished fruit. There are plums a plenty yet to ripen, so I need to work on my timing over the next few days and harvest them before the wee sugar-seeking beasties move in.
My plum cookery isn’t very adventurous or fancy. I usually make jam or a plum sauce. Sometimes I make a compote. Baking them in wine is another very simple way I enjoy the rich, distinctive flavour of this particular fruit. Fresh bay-scented orchard fruit is something I tasted for the first time in Cyprus. The familiar glossy-leaved herb has become a flavour I use a lot in my kitchen, both in sweet and savoury cooking, and now that I have a bay tree in the garden, I use the herb all the more. Fresh bay gives a refreshing, herbal taste to fruit. You can use dry leaves, but as the flavour is much more intense than the fresh, you may want to experiment by reducing the quantity of leaves by at least half. If you don’t have any wine, or prefer not to use it, cranberry juice makes a good alternative in this recipe. If you don’t have plums, the recipe works equally well with apricots, peaches or nectarines. The baked fruit also freezes well too.
750g fresh Victoria plums
60g Demerara sugar
4 fresh bay leaves
300ml fruity red wine or unsweetened cranberry juice
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Wash and pat dry the plums. Cut in half and remove the stones. Arrange the halves neatly, cut side up, preferably in a single layer, in a baking dish or tin.
Sprinkle with sugar and push in the bay leaves, then pour over the wine or juice. Bake for 30-40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, until tender.
Discard the bay leaves. Carefully strain off the cooking juices into a saucepan . Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 5 minutes until reduced and syrupy. Pour over the fruit and leave to cool. Cover and chill for 2 hours before serving. Best served at room temperature for maximum flavour. Delicious accompanied with coconut yogurt or rice pudding.
It’s been feeling a wee bit autumnal here in central Scotland for the past couple of weeks. Some of the leafy foliage in the garden is on the turn and the nights are drawing in fast. I also have blueberries ready for picking.
Home-grown blueberries are a delight to behold and eat. The skin is much bluer than any variety I can buy, and the skin has a silvery, almost downy bloom. The fruit is firmer in texture and has a slightly tart, more pronounced flavour. The plants are easy to grow, require little maintenance, and love the acidic Scottish soil. The leaves turn pink as the season progresses, and make a wonderful display in the fruit beds.
I planted 3 blushes about 5 years ago. One fruits end of July/beginning of August, one is in full ripening mode now, and the other has fruit that is just turning pink. It is unusual for me to be able to harvest enough berries to make anything substantially blueberry flavoured in one go. Usually I keep adding to a bag of berries in the freezer until I have enough to make jam – blueberries do freeze very well and make very good jam from frozen fruit. This year has been an exception, and I have harvested sufficient fresh berries for this unbelievably easy blueberry cake.
115g dairy-free margarine, softened
115g caster sugar
115g gluten-free self raising flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
2 large eggs
50g ground almonds
100g marzipan, cut into small pieces
200g fresh or frozen blueberries
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4) Grease and line an 18cm square cake tin. Put the margarine, sugar, flour, eggs and ground almonds in a bowl. Using an electric mixer on a low speed, gently whisk the ingredients together until loosely blended. Increase the mixer speed and continue to whisk for a few seconds longer until creamy and smooth.
Gently stir in the marzipan and blueberries and spoon into the tin. Smooth the top and bake for about 45 minutes until lightly golden and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin, then slice into 8 portions and serve. If you can leave it alone, the cake tastes even better the next day. It is also delicious served warm as a pudding.
There are other signs of Autumn in the garden. The Autumn Crocus opened out this week, and the globe thistles (Echinops) are in various stages of blooming. I was delighted to see so many bees still hard at work when I was taking these pictures. Until next week, enjoy the late summer/very early autumn sunshine.
Picking the cherries from my espalier Morello cherry tree is one of the highlights of my fruit growing calendar. Having had such a mild Scottish spring this year, all the fruit in the garden seems to be ripening a bit earlier than in other years. The cherries are no exception. Usually I pick them in the middle of August, but this week, they were ripe and ready. The harvest was pretty good too: from one small tree, I picked ¾kg.
I’m not that adventurous when it comes to cooking with cherries. I suppose it’s because I never have that many to play with, therefore, I want to make sure I enjoy what I cook. Morellos are a sour cherry and are too tart to eat as a fresh fruit. This year I made a large pot of jam and, my favourite, a compote flavoured with vanilla and lemon – recipe below.
I use a cherry stoner to remove the pits; I’ve had it for years, and it does the job perfectly. This years cherries were so ripe, the pit just plopped out without any effort. Wash the cherries first and then prepare them over a bowl to catch the stones and the juice that falls; you can then easily drain off the stones, keeping the juice. If you don’t have a specialist stoner, a small knife with a pointed blade should enable you to prise out the stones with ease. After preparation, the final weight of the cherries I picked this year, along with the juice from the bowl, was around 650g.
Flavours that go well with cherries are: almond (especially marzipan); citrus fruit; vanilla; cinnamon (just a pinch); coconut, and chocolate. I often make something chocolatey to go along side the compote, and this year, it was a nostalgic chocolate blancmange, deliciously velvety and thick. A perfect combination. So here are my recipes for both compote and blancmange. By the way, if you are using sweet cherries for the compote, you’ll need to reduce the quantity of sugar you add to the compote by at least half.
For the compote:
300g prepared ripe Morello cherries (about 350g with stones)
100g caster sugar
2 level teasp cornflour
½ vanilla pod, split
Juice of ½ small lemon or half a lime
For the blancmange:
25g cocoa powder
50g vanilla sugar (use plain caster if preferred)
500ml non-dairy milk (I used soya milk)
1. To make the compote, put the cherries in a saucepan and gently mix in the caster sugar and 3 tbsp. water. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook for about 3 minutes until just tender – take care not to over-cook, ripe cherries need very little cooking.
2. Blend the cornflour with 2 tbsp. water to make a paste, then stir into the cherries. Bring back to the boil, stirring, and cook for a further 1 minute until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat, push in the vanilla pod and leave to cool completely. Remove the pod and stir in the lemon juice. Chill lightly before serving – about 30 minutes.
3. For the blancmange, mix the cornflour, cocoa and sugar in a saucepan, and gradually stir in the milk, making sure it is thoroughly blended – I find a balloon whisk is good for mixing powders into liquids.
4. Keep stirring the mixture over the heat, until it reaches boiling point and becomes very thick. Continue to cook for 1 minute to make sure the cornflour is completely cooked then spoon into small individual heat-proof dishes – there is enough to fill 6 x pot au chocolat dishes (it is quite rich, so these little dishes are the perfect size for me). Leave to cool completely, then chill for an hour until ready to serve.
Raspberries love the Scottish climate (lots of rain!). The plump, juicy berries carry on ripening even on the most dreary of summer days. I have been picking my raspberries since the end of last month. Sadly, it looks like the end is nearly nigh; the supply is dwindling, but there are still enough to bag up for the freezer for later in the year, and then I will leave the rest for the blackbirds!
The bushes in the garden are now in their twelfth year, and have given me a good harvest every season. However, I think this autumn, it will be the time to plant some new canes. The variety I chose to grow is Glen Ample; selected for the large-sized fruit, and as the label said at the time, “perfect for cooking and jam-making”. And, they have certainly proven to be.
If you’ve never made jam before, raspberry jam is the easiest to make. It practically sets as soon as the fruit and sugar boils. Frozen raspberries work equally as well for jam-making; whilst other fruit loses pectin (the natural setting agent found in many fruits) after freezing, I have found little difference in setting jam made with the frozen berries.
I have 3 methods for making my raspberry jam, depending on how much fruit I have picked, and how much time is available. The first method, is the traditional saucepan method, great if you have a large amount of fruit and a bit of time. This method works well with frozen berries – just let them thaw out in the saucepan you’re going to use to cook them in so that none of the juices are wasted.
Traditional raspberry jam – use equal amounts of prepared fresh (or frozen) raspberries to granulated sugar. The yield is approximately the same as the weight of the 2 ingredients combined, so 500g raspberries and 500g sugar should give you 1kg of jam.
Heat the fruit by itself in a clean, large saucepan, stirring, until it steams and starts to break down. Mash it a little with a wooden spoon, reduce the heat and stir in the sugar. Heat, gently, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved, then raise the heat, bring the jam to a rapid boil, and stop stirring. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jam settle for about 5 minutes. Stir, and then transfer to clean, sterilised jars whilst still very hot. Seal immediately. Cool and label. In a cool, dark, dry cupboard, this jam will keep unopened for up to 12 months. Store in the fridge once opened, and eat within a month.
Microwave raspberry jam – super-speedy; hassle free; the perfect jam method for smaller amounts of fresh berries (I haven’t tried this with frozen berries but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work). Use finer, caster sugar for this jam as it heats and dissolves more quickly. The jam has a good set, and I find the colour is brighter than the traditional method; the flavour is much the same. My microwave is 900W so you may need to adjust timings accordingly.
Wash and pat dry 250g prepared fresh raspberries and mash with a fork in a large, perfectly clean microwave-proof bowl ( the mixture needs room to boil in the microwave, so choose a good size to prevent the mixture boiling over).
Put 250g caster sugar in a microwave-proof bowl and cook on Medium for 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The temperature of the sugar should be around 80°C (I use a food probe to check). Carefully pour the sugar over the mashed raspberries and stir well – the mixture will be very sloppy at this stage.
Put back in the microwave, and cook on High for 3 minutes to reach boiling point, then boil for 2 minutes. The jam is now ready to put in jars and seal as above. The jam has the same keeping qualities as with the traditionally made jam above.
My third method for making jam is probably the most delicious and it involves no cooking of the raspberries at all. You do need to select the perfect, unblemished, fresh specimens for best results, and wash the berries well before using. Use caster sugar for speedier heating and dissolving.
This fresh jam has a much softer texture than the other 2. You need to store it in the fridge – I find it keeps well for 4 to 6 weeks. It also freezes so you can keep it for longer and then take out small portions as and when you fancy. If you haven’t got a microwave, you can heat the sugar in a saucepan – just keep the heat very low and keep stirring the sugar so that it doesn’t melt or burn.
Fresh (uncooked) raspberry jam – wash and pat dry 250g prepared, unblemished, very fresh raspberries and mash with a fork in a large, perfectly clean, heat-proof bowl. Sit the bowl on a clean tea-towel.
Put 250g caster sugar in a microwave-proof bowl and cook on Medium for 15 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The temperature of the sugar should be around 120°C (I use a food probe to check). Carefully pour the hot sugar over the mashed raspberries and stir well – it will hiss and steam. Cover loosely and leave to cool completely, then spoon into clean, sterilised jars or containers. Seal and label, and store in the fridge or freezer.