Chunky Seville orange marmalade (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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February 2023, marmalade making. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Something bright and cheery to start the new month. It’s that time of year when the air is full of the scents of aromatic citrus and the sweet smell of sugar. Seville oranges are in season and marmalade-making is in full swing.

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New season Seville oranges. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I do enjoy making preserves, but I find the peel-cutting for marmalade a bit of a chore. This time I made marmalade, I cooked the oranges whole, then once the oranges were cooked, I extracted the fruit pulp from the skin and was left with softer peel to slice. I found the cooked orange skin much easier to slice, and the resulting preserve tastes and looks pretty much the same, so I think this recipe will be my go-to marmalade recipe for the future.

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New season marmalade ready to label. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

You may want to cut the quantities down to make a smaller amount – I had a fair few oranges to use up!

Makes: approx. 3kg

Ingredients

  • 1kg Seville oranges, washed and left whole
  • 2.4l water
  • 1 unwaxed lemon + 60ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (the extra juice is optional but I find it helps with the set especially if the oranges have been stored for a while)
  • 1.8kg granulated sugar

1. Put the whole fruit in a large saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for about 1½ hours until a skewer can be inserted into the fruit with ease. Drain the fruit using a draining spoon and leave aside until it is cool enough to handle. Keep the cooking water.

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Cooking whole Seville oranges. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Cut the fruit in half, then scoop the seeds and pulp into the saucepan with the cooking liquid. Halve the lemon, extract the juice and add to the saucepan along with any seeds and the lemon shells. Bring to the boil and boil steadily for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid, discard the pulp, and return the liquid to the saucepan.

3. Meanwhile, cut up the orange shells into the size of shreds you prefer and put to one side. I kept the sliced peel quite chunky, hence my name for the marmalade.

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Cooked orange preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Stir the shredded peel into the cooking liquid. Add the sugar and extra lemon juice if using. Stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat and boil for about 25 minutes until setting point is reached – 105.5°C . Allow to cool a little in the saucepan until the mixture begins to firm slightly, then stir the marmalade to distribute the peel before spooning into clean jars and sealing whilst still hot.

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Cooking the marmalade. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Cool, label and store in the usual way. Here’s a link to my other marmalade recipes if you want to compare the methods Seville orange marmalade – traditional and dark (naturally gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan)

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Homemade marmalade serving. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I had a few spoonfuls of marmalade leftover once I had put the rest in jars; the “cook’s privilege” I call it. It made the perfect topping for a very indulgent bowl of porridge the next morning 🙂

Until next time, have a good few days and I look forward to posting again soon.

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Chocolate porridge with homemade marmalade. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Fruit butter (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free, and vegan)

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Homemade fruit butter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy New Year! I hope you have had a good holiday. We find ourselves at the beginning of a brand new year, wondering what 2023 has instore for us all. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

It’s been a chilly, frosty and snowy end of year here in central Scotland. I didn’t venture very far. I have been in the kitchen keeping cosy and have been trying new ways of using up what remains of the stored fruit from last Autumn. This week’s post is the result of one of my experiments, slow-cooked fruit butter. It keeps for about a week in the fridge but can be frozen for use later in the year.

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In the jar. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Fruit butter has nothing to do with dairy butter. In fact, it is completely fat free. I guess it gets its name from the fact that it is silky smooth in texture. It tastes delicious and is very easy (and moreish!) to eat. You can use it like jam, spread on toast, or as a filling for pancakes, pastry cases and sponge cakes, or as a dessert with yogurt. It is delicious served with rice pudding, granola, porridge or as a topping for a cheesecake.

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Fruit butter with coconut yogurt and on griddle scones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The sugar content is much lower than jam so you do need to keep it in the fridge. It freezes very well with no alteration in texture, colour or flavour. If you portion the butter up in small containers, it will defrost quickly and can be used up in a few days.

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Ripe fruit and flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I used a combination of quince, cooking pears and small cooking apples, but you can use the same method for a single fruit butter, although you may need to adjust the sugar content. And when it comes to flavouring, you can use whatever you fancy. For speed, ground spices are the easiest option because it saves time at the end of cooking. You can simply blitz the fruit and store. I prefer whole spices along with lemon rind, and as long as you know how many pieces you have added, then you know how many bits you need to fish out before your start blending. Cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger and orange would all work very nicely, it’s just personal preference.

On with the recipe. All the work is in the preparation of the fruit, then it’s a case of letting the slow-cooker do the rest of the work.

Makes: approx. 1.6kg

Ingredients

  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 2kg quince, cooking or firm pears, and cooking apples (dessert apples will also work, just adjust the sugar quantity accordingly)
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 6 to 8 cadamom pods, split

1. Pare the lemon rind in thick strips using a vegetable peeler, and extract the juice. Put the spent lemon shells in a large bowl, pour over the juice and top up with cold water to half fill the bowl. Keep the pared rind for the slow cooker.

2. Peel and core all the fruit, and cut into pieces – apple and pear will cook more quickly than quince if you are using a combination. Simply cut the quince (or any firmer pieces of fruit) into small pieces for even cooking. As you prepare the fruit, put it in the lemony water to reduce the deterioration of colour.

3. When you have prepared all the fruit, use a draining spoon to ladle it into your slow cooker. There is no need to drain the fruit too much as a little of the lemony water will help create steam as the fruit cooks. Discard the lemon shells.

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Preparing fruit for slow cooking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Add the sugar, pared lemon rind and your other chosen flavourings and mix everything together, then cover with the lid and set the cooker to High for 5 to 6 hours, or Low for 10-12 hours. The exact cooking time will depend on how ripe the fruit is. After a couple of hours, give the fruit a stir then re-cover, and stir again after a further 2 hours. Continue cooking until the fruit is very soft.

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Before and after cooking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Switch off the cooker and leave the fruit, covered with the lid, to go cold. Remove the rind and whole spices if using and either use a stick blender to blitz the fruit or transfer to a standing blender. The fruit butter should be thick and beautifully smooth.

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The final step to perfect fruit butter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Once you have your butter, either spoon it into clean, sealable jars or containers for keeping in the fridge, or pack it into cartons for freezing.

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Ready for freezing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have enjoyed my post this week. I will be back with another recipe in a couple of weeks. Until then, take care and keep well. I will see you again soon 🙂

Slow-cooked quince in mulled wine (naturally gluten-free; diary-free and vegan)

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Slow-cooked quince in mulled wine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the delights of Autumn for me is that it is the season of the quince. In recent years, I haven’t managed to find any but this October I got hold of a box of 9 of the tempting fruit. Like apples and cherries this year, quince trees have also provided a bumper harvest.

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Box of quince. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in October the quinces were barely ripe. Very firm, pale yellowy-green in colour with little of their renown aroma. As the weeks passed, the skins turned waxy yellow and the spicy scent increased. Every time I opened the box, I inhaled a waft of their fruity smell. If you haven’t experienced the aroma, it is intensely appley with a hint of sweet aniseed.

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Perfectly ripe quince. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To be honest, I don’t think the flavour of the fruit is that pronounced, more like pear than apple, but the texture makes it very different to other tree fruits. There is a slightly granular, rich texture to the flesh and a much firmer, almost chewy bite. Quince holds up exceptionally well to prolonged cooking, making them a winner for the slow-cooker.

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Perfectly cooked quince. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Raw quince is too hard and dry to enjoy raw; it also discolours very quickly. If you peel and core the fruit and put it in a bowl of lemon juice and water this helps keep the discolouration to a minimum. However, if you want to enjoy the fruit “au natural”, hold back on the lemon and the fruit will take on a rich, rusty red colour as it cooks.

My recipe this week is simple but requires a little bit of preparation to start with. Once it’s all in the slow cooker you can sit back and enjoy the festive fruit and spice smells that are emitted as the quince cooks through. If you can’t get hold of quince, firm pears will work just fine.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 unwaxed orange
  • 3 large quince (approx. 1.5kg)
  • 500ml fruity red wine
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken

1. Use a vegetable peeler to pare the rind from the lemon and orange. Put 3/4 of the rind to one side for flavouring the wine, and cut the remainder into thin strips for decoration – if you don’t want to do this, you can use all the rind in the mulled wine.

2. Extract the lemon juice and pour into a mixing bowl. Add the empty lemon halves. Fill the bowl with water to to 2/3 full and set aside ready for the quince. Extract the juice from the orange and set aside for the wine.

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Preparing quince and flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Peel the quince thinly. Cut into quarters and slice out the core. As soon as you prepare each quarter, push down into the lemony water to help prevent discolouration.

4. Now prepare the mulled wine. Pour the wine and orange juice into a saucepan. Add the sugar and heat gently stirring until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil.

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Making mulled wine for the slow-cooker. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Drain the quince very well and place in the slow cooker dish. Add the pared rind, vanilla and cinnamon and pour over the hot mulled wine. Cover with the lid, switch the cooker on to High and cook for 3 hours, turning the fruit every hour to ensure even cooking, until the quince is tender.

6. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the quince to a heatproof dish. Cover loosely with foil. Strain the wine into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 10-12 minutes until reduced by half and slightly syrupy. Pour over the quince, mix gently, and leave to cool completely, then cover and chill until ready to serve.

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Reducing mulled wine to syrup. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

7. While the quince is cooking or cooling, bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the shreds of lemon and orange rind for 2-3 minutes to soften them. Drain well and leave to cool.

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Orange and lemon zest decoration. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

8. To serve, arrange the quince quarters in a serving dish and spoon over a little syrup. Sprinkle with citrus shreds if using and serve the quince with the remaining mulled wine syrup on the side. Delicious accompanied with vegan vanilla ice cream 🙂

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Finishing touch, orange and lemon shreds, Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Quince served with vegan vanilla ice cream. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have a very happy Christmas and I look forward to posting again for the new year. Seasonal best wishes to you and thank you for your interest in my blog.

Upside-down ginger apple cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Upside-down ginger apple cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. We’re well into the season of Autumn now, and it wouldn’t feel complete if I didn’t share an apple recipe with you. It has been a bumper year for apples in the UK. Back at the end of last month, the old apple tree in the garden was groaning with fruit, and on a dry, bright day, it was finally time to relieve the tree of all its fruit.

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Lord Derby apple harvest 2022. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

With the very sunny and warm summer we enjoyed here, the apple crop was much sweeter than ever before, so as well as being used in cooking, the apples make good eaters this year. There were far too many for one household to cope with, I am pleased to say that several local families in the town were able to enjoy a bag full this year.

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Ginger apple cake with ginger syrup. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. The main preparation for the recipe is the apples, after that there is only a very simple cake batter to make. I picked out the smaller apples for my tin. If you have larger apples, you may want to slice them into quarters or thick rings rather than simply cutting them in half.

Make the cake the day before you want to serve it because it will benefit from a few hours keeping. The flavour and texture will improve greatly overnight. The recipe makes quite a large cake, but it freezes well so you’ll have plenty for another day. Serve warm as a pudding with custard, or cold as a comforting cake.

Serves: about 10

Ingredients

  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon
  • approx. 9 small cooking or eating apples
  • 2tbsp stem ginger syrup (I used the syrup from the jar)
  • 125g plant butter
  • 125g treacle
  • 125g golden or corn syrup
  • 125g light soft brown sugar
  • 250g gluten free plain flour
  • 250g gluten free porridge oats
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4tsp ground mixed spice
  • 75g chopped stem ginger
  • 175ml oat milk or other plant-based milk

1.Put the lemon rind to one side. Add the juice to a bowl of cold water. Peel and core the apples; cut in half and place in the lemony water to help prevent browning. Leave aside until ready to assemble the cake.

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Preparing the apples for cake making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Put the butter, treacle, golden syrup and sugar in a saucepan, and heat gently to melt. Mix well then leave to cool for 10 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Line a 20 x 30cm tin with baking parchment and drizzle the base with ginger syrup. Drain the apples, pat dry with kitchen paper and arrange over the bottom of the tin – see above.

4. Put the flour, oats, baking soda and spice in a bowl. Mix together and make a well in the centre.

5. Pour in the melted ingredients and add the reserved lemon rind and chopped ginger. Carefully mix everything together along with the milk, then spoon over the apples making sure they are covered.

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Making the ginger cake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Stand the tin on a baking tray and bake for about 50 minutes until firm to the touch. Transfer the tin to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Turn out on to a large sheet of baking parchment. Wrap carefully and store in an airtight container overnight to allow the flavours to develop.

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Just out of the oven. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I mixed some of the ginger syrup from the jar of stem ginger with plain carob syrup and drizzled it over the cake to serve.

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Up close on ginger apple cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. Until next time, happy baking 🙂

Apple and salal berry jelly preserve (naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan)

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Homemade apple and salal berry jelly. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. I hope you are keeping well. It’s that time of year when I get the jam pan out and start making preserves and chutneys for the months ahead.

Back in August I harvested a lot of salal berries from the garden. I did compote a few but the rest went in the freezer for making preserves. There are still a few on the bushes now but I am leaving those for the garden birds to enjoy.

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August 2022 harvest of Salal berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I haven’t picked all the apples yet, but I have been taking one or two as and when I need them for cooking. The old tree in the garden is looking heavy with fruit this year, so I think I will be gathering in the apples very soon.

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October 2022, cooking apples ready for picking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe is a very simple jelly preserve. If you don’t have salal berries, blueberries or blackberries will work just as well. Salal berries can be quite challenging to pick as they are quite squishy when ripe so I usually pick short branches and then remove the berries when I get back into the kitchen. Have a look at this post from last year for an easy preparation technique Salal berries – jam and muffins (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Single jar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe below makes a small quantity of preserve and as such can be easily doubled or trebled should you have more berries and apples. Making a smaller amount means that you can strain the fruit through a sieve rather than in a jelly bag; it is quicker to strain, and it also cooks down in less time.

Makes: approx. 650g

Ingredients

  • 200g prepared salal berries, washed
  • 400g cooking apples, washed and chopped, but left unpeeled or cored
  • approx. 450g granulated or preserving sugar

1. Put the fruit in a large saucepan with 350ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until soft and pulpy. Mash the fruit occasionally to help break it down.

2. Place a large sieve over a jug or bowl and line with clean muslin. Carefully ladle in the pulp and leave to strain for 3-4 hours.

3. Put the pulp back in a saucepan and the harvested juice in the fridge. Re-cook the pulp, this time with 200ml water, for about 5 minutes, and then strain again as above.

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Preparing and cooking the fruit for jelly making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Measure the juice and pour into a large clean saucepan. Add sugar to the ratio of 450g per 600ml juice – I had 575ml juice and added 430g sugar.

5. Heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, then raise the heat and bring to the boil. Cook rapidly until the temperature reaches between 104°C and 105°C – this will probably take around 10 minutes.

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Making the jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Pour into small, clean, sterilised jars and seal immediately. When cold, label and store for 6-12 months, although the jelly is ready to eat immediately. Serve with cold cuts, cheeses or as a sweet spread on toast or crackers.

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Apple and salal berry jelly on oatcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Well that’s the end of my post for this week. I will be back in the kitchen again next time. Until then, I hope you have a good few days ahead 🙂

Chocolate cherry fudge brownies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Homemade chocolate cherry fudge brownies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. I hope you are keeping well and managing to stay cool in this very hot summer. The temperatures have been exceptional here in the UK and all over Europe which is great if you’re on holiday but not so good if you’re working. The garden is looking quite different this year due to the heat; many of the flowers are fading much more quickly than in previous years.

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Scottish wild cherry trees. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Last weekend, in an effort to stay cool and enjoy the outdoors at the same time, I went for a walk in some local woodland. I was looking to see how long it would be before the hedgerow blackberries (brambles) would be ripe enough to pick – I don’t think it’s going to be a good year for brambling sadly. Quite unexpectedly, I came across several wild cherries trees, completely untouched by birds, and laden with fruit as far as the eye could see.

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Wild cherry picking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I was completely unprepared for foraging. I had no bag other than the small holster bag I was using to carry a water bottle. Cherry trees are enormous in the wild, but there were quite a few fruits on the lowest branches and I was able to fill my bag with just under 1kg of fruit. The cherries were the sweetest, juiciest I have ever tasted. Such an unexpected treat. Apparently, it has been a bumper year for cherries because of the hot weather, but I am still amazed that the birds hadn’t been interested in them. If only I had gone walking with a ladder! 🙂

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Pitting ripe cherries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Back at home, I pitted the cherries. The firmer ones were easier to pit using my faithful old Italian cherry pitter, but the ripe ones I sliced and pitted using the tip of a sharp knife. Some went in the freezer, others were cooked in a crumble for tea, and the rest went into this week’s recipe.

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Wild cherry flavoured fudge brownies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Easy to make, just a bit of advanced prep – you need to line a cake tin and make up a flax seed egg replacement mixture. Then, you are good to go. The brownies keep well but in this warmth, I kept them in the fridge to stop them going too soft and sticky. They also freeze perfectly. Eat them as a sweet treat but they are also good served with more fresh cherries or compote and ice cream for dessert.

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Chocolate cherry brownies, gloriously fudgy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 16

Ingredients

  • 175g dairy-free dark chocolate (I used 54% cocoa – if you use darker chocolate, omit the cocoa powder and add an extra 25g flour)
  • 150g lightly salted plant butter, cut into pieces
  • 25g ground flax seed
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 75g gluten-free plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 140g pitted cherries, halved (approx. 170g whole)

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 5. Line an 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

2. Put 150g chocolate in a heatproof bowl with the butter and melt gently over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove from the water and cool for 10 minutes.

3. Make up the flax egg by mixing the flax seed with 110ml cold water and leave to stand for 5 minutes until thickened.

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Flax egg preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Preparing chocolate brownie mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Mix the sugar and flax egg into the melted chocolate along with the vanilla paste, then add the flour and cocoa powder and stir well until everything is well blended.

5. Pour into the prepared tin and scatter the cherries on top. Bake for about 1 hour until the mixture is set in the middle – initially the mixture rises round the edges leaving the centre molten but after a longer time in the oven, the centre firms up. Leave to cool in the tin.

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Baking brownie batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Remove from the tin and peel away the lining paper. Cut into 16 squares – you may find it easier to chill the brownie before you cut it as the texture is quite soft at room temperature.

7. Melt the remaining chocolate. Put the brownie squares on a board and drizzle each piece with a little chocolate. Leave to set before serving. Best stored in the fridge.

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Adding a chocolate drizzle. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m off to enjoy another slice now. I’ll see you again towards the end of the month. Until then, keep well and stay cool 🙂

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Cherry brownies for tea. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Baked summer fruit (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Baked Summer fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well and are having a good summer. Since my last post, the UK, like the rest of Europe, has been subject to some very hot weather. Fortunately here, not for a particularly long spell as the high temperatures were unprecedented for this part of the world. It has cooled down again now and the air feels fresher and the sun less strong.

I was worried that the soft fruit in the garden would suffer in the heat. The rhubarb in particular likes a good soaking as well as the sunshine. I was pleased to see that it bounced back once the temperature dipped and we had some very welcome rain.

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Just picked, homegrown rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe this week is a very simple one. I try to avoid putting the oven on in the hot weather, but I did make an exception for one of my favourite fruity combinations. Strawberries and rhubarb go together especially well, and when cooked with vanilla, I find the aroma and flavours is irresistible.

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Scottish rhubarb and strawberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It has been a good year for Scottish strawberries. They have been juicy and have tasted fragrant and sweet. I didn’t grow these myself, they came from the local farm shop. I chose larger fruit to cook with the rhubarb as they hold their shape better in the oven.

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Homemade vanilla sugar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I always have a jar of vanilla sugar in the cupboard. I chop up bits of vanilla pod that is past its prime or dried out too much and add it to caster sugar. I keep it in a glass jar with a screw-top lid. Every now and then I give the jar a shake to distribute the vanilla pieces. Sift the sugar as you use it to remove the pod pieces but keep the bits trapped in the sieve and put them back in the jar along with a top up of sugar ready for next time. You can replenish your supply more or less indefinitely.

On with the recipe. I allow the fruit to cool after baking as I prefer the flavours when they are cold and the fruit is more refreshing, but it’s personal preference. The fruit makes a deliciously light dessert or breakfast compote served with yogurt and toasted cereals.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 450g rhubarb
  • 50g vanilla or plain caster sugar – white sugar helps retain the colour of the fruit, but you may prefer to use brown for a more caramely flavour
  • 300g large fresh strawberries

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5. Wash and trim the rhubarb. Cut into even-thickness and same-length pieces – this will help with even cooking.

2. Place in an oven-proof dish and sprinkle over the sugar. Cover the top with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

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Preparing rhubarb for baking with vanilla sugar. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Meanwhile, wash and hull the strawberries and cut in half. Uncover the rhubarb and add the strawberries. Bake, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes until the fruit is just tender.

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Preparing Strawberries for baking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Leave to cool, then chill until ready to serve. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to develop. Delicious served with coconut yogurt.

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Baked fruit served with coconut yogurt. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week or so. I can hardly believe we’re just about to enter the month of August. Until next time, take care and my best wishes to you 🙂

Spring rhubarb with white chocolate and coconut mousse (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Rhubarb topped mousse. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. How lovely it is to be well and truly in the season of spring, my favourite time of year. It is a joy to be out of doors and in among all the new growth and activity in the garden.

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May 2022, fist rhubarb harvest. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Earlier in the month, I picked my first rhubarb of the season. It was a good harvest of tender, thin, colourful stems with a tangy, fruity flavour. My recipe this week is not so much about the rhubarb but about an indulgently, rich recipe to serve with this tasty seasonal treat.

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Mousse ingredients. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My very simple combination of vegan white chocolate, plant-based cream, coconut and vanilla, lightened with aquafaba foam makes a very delicious mousse to serve with any acidic fruit. If you’re not vegan, dairy-based products will work fine. Leave out the foam if you want a denser more custardy texture. If you don’t want to use cream, replace the creamed coconut and plant-based cream with full fat or reduced fat coconut milk.

The mousse is very rich and can easily spread to 6 portions if you use small serving glasses. Here’s the recipe.

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 350g prepared rhubarb, cut into short lengths
  • 2-3tbsp caster sugar
  • 40g creamed or block coconut
  • approx. 60ml plant-based double cream
  • 1tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 300g free-from white chocolate
  • 100ml aquafaba (I used canned cannellini bean liquid)

1. Put the rhubarb in a shallow pan with 2tbsp sugar and 3tbsp water. Heat until steaming, then cover with a lid and cook gently for 10-15 minutes until tender. Cool slightly, taste and add more sugar if required. Leave to cool completely, then chill until ready to serve.

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May rhubarb on the hob. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Shave the creamed coconut into thin pieces using a small sharp knife or vegetable peeler and put into a measuring jug. Spoon over 3tbsp boiling water and stir until dissolved. Make up to 100ml by adding sufficient plant-based cream. Stir in the vanilla paste.

3. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl over barely simmering water. Keep warm.

4. In a clean, grease-free bowl, whisk the aquafaba for 4-5 minutes until thick and foamy – you should be able to leave a trace of the whisk in the foam when it is sufficiently whipped.

5. Mix the coconut cream into the warm melted chocolate until well blended and then gently fold in the whisked foam in several batches. The chocolate mixture will begin to thicken quite quickly once it starts to cool.

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White chocolate and coconut mousse prep. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Divide the mousse between 4 or 6 serving glasses and leave to cool completely before chilling until ready to serve.

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Ready to set. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Spoon cooked rhubarb on top of each mousse just before serving. Delicious 🙂

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Fruity and creamy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. I will be posting again at the end of the month. Until then, enjoy marvellous May!

Freezer berry jam (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Freezer berry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. It’s the time of year for me when I try and use up as much from the freezer as I can, both for reasons of economy and also to make sure there is room for any new season produce that comes along. In the past few days, the freezer fruit drawer has attracted my attention; the jam pan came out of the cupboard and another cooking session began.

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Frozen Summer berries from 2021. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I wasn’t that sure how the jam would taste if I put all the berries I had in one pot. I always have lots of raspberries from the garden but last year also produced some great hedgerow blackberries as well as homegrown salal berries and a few strawberries I decided to freeze down. I settled on 2 combinations: raspberry, strawberry and blackberry, and raspberry with salal berries. I made 2 separate batches of the recipe below.

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The vital ingredient. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

When raspberries are fresh they have a lot of the setting agent pectin present, and any jam made with the fresh berries sets very quickly. However, freezing fruit destroys some of the pectin, so it is important to add freshly squeezed, pectin-rich lemon juice to any frozen fruit mix to compensate for the loss – redcurrant juice will also work. Otherwise, jam-making with frozen fruit is exactly the same as with fresh.

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Jars ready for jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Make sure your jars and lids are sound – no signs of corrosion on the lids if you are recycling – and thoroughly clean them in hot soapy water. This should mean that your jams, jellies and other preserves will store in perfect condition for many months ahead.

I have reduced the sugar content slightly in the recipe. Usually berry-based jam recipes suggest equal sugar to fruit, but I have found you can reduce the quantity slightly and still maintain a good set and a lengthy period of storage time.

Makes: approx. 1.2-1.4kg

Ingredients

  • 900g frozen berries – I used 300g each frozen raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, and then for the second batch, 450g each of raspberries and salal berries
  • 750g granulated white sugar
  • 2tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Put the berries in a large saucepan or preserving pan and allow them to semi-defrost so that the juices begin to run. When slushy, heat the fruit gently until steaming, cover with a lid and simmer for about 10 minutes or until very soft and pulpy.

2. Add the sugar and lemon juice, and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.

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Cooking the fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Raise the heat, bring to the boil and cook the fruit uncovered until the temperature reaches 104 – 105°C on a sugar thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, check the jam after about 5 minutes of rapid boiling by spooning a small amount on to a cold plate. If you can push the jam with your finger and see wrinkles on the surface, the jam has reached setting point.

4. Turn off the heat and let the jam settle for 5 minutes. Stir and skim away any scum from the surface of the jam. Spoon into clean jars and seal with the lids while the jam is still very hot.

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Testing for setting point and spooning into jars. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Homemade jam sealed properly and stored in a cool, dry cupboard should keep for many months. If you have insufficient jam to fill a jar completely, let the jam cool before putting the lid on and then keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks. I had some jam leftover from both batches which meant I could taste the fruits of my jam-making labours instantly 🙂

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Ready to enjoy, three berry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Homemade raspberry and salal berry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Great set, lovely rich colours, and above all else, delicious homegrown berry flavours in the depth of winter.

It looks like a wintry week ahead for this part of Scotland so I may just have to tuck into another jar to remind me of the summer just gone. All the best for now. Until next time, take care.

Sweet chilli jelly (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Sweet chilli jelly. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. Are you beginning to feel Christmassy yet? We’ve had some snowfall here, not very much but it certainly feels like winter is upon us.

I haven’t had much time for making preserves this year and most of my harvested garden produce is still buried deep in the freezer waiting for me to get cooking. However, I did find some time a few days ago to make one of my favourites. I love the combination of sweet and smoke with a hint of chilli spice in this savoury jelly. It’s one of those preserves that goes with lots of things and makes a great gift for a food lover. It’s also ready to eat immediately or will store for up to a year.

You might want to scale back the recipe to make a smaller quantity but I wanted a few jars for myself as well as a couple to give away. Add more chillies for a spicy-hot jelly or use hot smoked paprika instead.

Makes: approx. 1.4kg

Ingredients

  • Approx. 1.5kg cooking apples, washed and left whole
  • Approx. 750g red (bell) peppers or capsicum, washed and stalks removed
  • 50-100g red chillies, washed and stalks removed
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 large sprigs of fresh sage
  • 5 bay leaves
  • approx. 1.1kg granulated white sugar
  • 175ml cider vinegar
  • 2tsp smoked paprika
  • 1½tsp salt
  • 1-2tsp dried chilli flakes

1. Chop the apples and place in a large preserving pan – seeds, core, skin, everything. Do the same with the peppers and chillies, then add to the pan along with the garlic, sage and bay leaves.

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Main ingredients: apples, peppers, chillies and garlic. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Pour over 1.7l water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, mashing with a spoon occasionally, until everything is soft and pulpy. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.

3. Carefully ladle the pulp into a jelly bag suspended over a bowl and leave in a cool place to drip over night. Discard the pulp and measure the juice.

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Making and straining the cooked fruit and veg. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Pour the juice into a clean preserving pan and heat until hot. Add 450g sugar for every 650ml juice collected – I had 1.6l juice and added 1.1kg sugar. Pour in the vinegar and stir until the sugar dissolves, then raise the heat and boil rapidly until setting point is reached – 105°C on a sugar thermometer. Turn off the heat and stir in the salt, paprika and chillies. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.

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Cooking and flavouring the jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Stir the jelly mixture and ladle into sterilized jam jars. Seal tightly while hot, then leave to cool before labelling. Store in a cool, dry, dark cupboard for up to 1 year.

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Freshly cooked sweet chilli jelly in the jar and on the spoon. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. One more recipe post before the holidays. I’ll see you again in a few days. All the best until then 🙂