Welcome to my blog all about the things I love to grow and cook. You'll find a collection of seasonal gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly recipe posts, as well as a round up of my gardening throughout the year. I wish you good reading, happy cooking and perfect planting!
It’s the time of year when you might be thinking about making something edible for giving as a Christmas present so my post this week may be an idea for you. Last week I found large fresh mangoes for sale in the supermarket at a very reasonable price and decided to make mango chutney. This is a favourite preserve in our house; we get through lots of it, but I hardly ever get round to making it.
Choose slightly under-ripe mangoes for chutney so that you end up with some texture in your preserve. Very ripe mango will go very soft and will also increase the sweetness of the final chutney.
You can go one of two ways when you make mango chutney: the spicy route, whilst or the smooth, sweet and jam-like. If you prefer the latter, you don’t need to add the spice bag or the chillis and onion seeds from the recipe below, but I do recommend keeping the ginger, bay and garlic as well as salt and pepper . Blend or mash the mango finely before you start, and for a more vibrant colour, add some paprika.
For a spicy version, I prefer to keep the chutney as clear as possible so I avoid ground spices as these can give a murky result. Instead I opt for making a spice bag. It’s a bit of a faff but worth it to achieve a more “professional” appearance. Toast the cumin, coriander and black mustard seeds first in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes. Cool and then grind them with the cardamom pods. Pile on to a small square of clean muslin and add the ground pepper. Tie up with a strip of muslin or clean cook’s string and you’re ready to go.
If you can bear to part with your preserve, it does make a lovely and impressive gift for any curry or Indian food lover. Make it now and it will be just about ready to eat at Christmas, but perfect for keeping into the new year. I haven’t decided what to do with my 3 jars yet – keep or gift? Probably the former 🙂
Makes: approx. 525g
½ tsp each cumin, coriander and black mustard seeds
4 cardamom pods
½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
2-3 large slightly under-ripe mangoes – see below
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
20g piece root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
150ml cider vinegar
225g granulated sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp black onion seeds
½ tsp salt
First make up the spice bag as described above and put to one side. Next prepare the mango. Slice down either side of the large smooth, flat central stone. Peel off the skin and chop the flesh, then slice off the remaining flesh from around the edge of the stone. You will need 600g prepared fruit for this recipe.
Put the mango flesh in a large saucepan and add the spice bag, garlic, ginger, bay leaves and chilli. Pour over the vinegar, bring to the boil, cover and gently simmer for about 10 minutes until softened.
Stir in the sugar until dissolved, then add the lemon juice. Bring to the boil and cook for about 15 minutes until thick and jam-like, stirring occasionally as it may start to stick on the bottom of the saucepan. Turn off the heat, stir in the onion seeds and salt, cover and stand for 10 minutes, then discard the bay leaves and spice bag.
Stir the mixture before spooning into hot, sterilised jars and sealing immediately. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dry cupboard for at least a month to mature before serving.
That’s all for this month. I wish you a good few days. I’ll see you again in December on the run up to Christmas 🙂
Here we are in the bewitching month of October already. Where does the time go? We’ve been enjoying some late season sunshine here in central Scotland which has been very welcome. Not only am I still able to garden and tidy up outside uninhibited by poor weather, the tomatoes are ripening off nicely in the greenhouse, and all the eating apples are ready for picking.
This week’s recipe is my twist on the well known French upside-down apple tart. So many tomato varieties are sweet to eat these days, they can easily be eaten as part of a dessert. However, I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you serve this recipe. The tart goes well either served simply dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or is equally as delicious served as a dessert with pouring cream or custard.
I use freshly grated nutmeg and fresh thyme to flavour the tart as well as salt, pepper and a little sugar. I use a crisp, layered pastry as a base so that it doesn’t crumble when you turn it out. Use readymade, chilled or frozen (gluten-free) puff pastry for convenience, but if you have the time, try my own recipe for a gluten-free rough puff pastry
I have made the tart with all tomatoes and, of course, just with apples, but mixing and matching both fruit is my favourite combination 🙂 I hope you think so too.
Gluten-free flour for dusting
175g gluten-free puff or rough puff pastry
35g vegan margarine
1 tbsp. caster sugar
Freshly grated nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A few fresh thyme leaves
2 small eating apples
4 large plum tomatoes
6 cherry or other small variety of tomatoes
2 tsp olive oil
Fresh thyme to garnish
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line a 20cm round cake tin with baking parchment and lightly grease the sides.
Lightly flour the work top with gluten-free flour and roll out the pastry to a square slightly bigger than the tin. Using the tin as a template, cut a circle 1cm larger than the tin – keep the pastry trimmings for baking as croutons or use small tart bases – then chill the pastry circle until ready to use.
Dot the margarine all over the bottom of the tin, and sprinkle with sugar, seasonings and thyme leaves.
Peel, core and thickly slice the apples; halve the large tomatoes and leave the small ones whole. Arrange over the tin base in a decorative pattern.
Carefully arrange the pastry circle over the fruit and press the pastry edges to the side of the tin to seal. Brush with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Bake for about 25 minutes until crisp and golden. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before inverting on to a warm serving plate. Spoon over any juices that remain in the tin. Best served hot or warm, garnished with fresh thyme sprigs if liked.
I wasn’t planning another preserve recipe for my blog so soon after my “jam” post earlier in the month, but last weekend I made up a new recipe and as the result was a success, I am sharing it with you this week.
I inherited several established shrubs and bushes when I moved into my current house over 15 years ago. Many were familiar to me but a few were not. One of the curios was the Aronia Melanocarpa. This is an evergreen shrub with leathery green leaves. In the summer it produces arms of red berries which ripen and turn black. For a while, I assumed the shrub with its berries was purely ornamental, however after a wee bit of research I discovered that the berries are edible.
The shrub is well known in the USA and was introduced into Europe in the 1700’s, as an ornamental. The berries get their common name of chokeberry because the fruit is very astringent when eaten raw, however, I have decided not to test this out for myself! The berries contain a large amount of vitamin C and looking on the web they are considered to be a bit of a “wonder-berry”. Aronia berries are ripe when they are fully black, which happens from mid to late summer depending on where you live. I found the ripest fruit difficult to pick without squishing the berries, so snipped off the stalks as well (which is fine for jelly making). The juice is potent and stains a vibrant shade of blue, so you might want to wear gloves. I should imagine the berries would freeze ok if you needed to harvest them in batches.
I could find little reference in terms of recipes, so I based my mixture on a cranberry jelly, adding apple to temper the astringency and to help with the set. The final jelly has set well and is dark red-purple in colour, with a taste that is sweet and quite similar to a blueberry preserve. This is a great result for me because my blueberry bushes produced no fruit at all this year, so I’m glad I have discovered the wonders of Aronia Melanocarpa 🙂
Makes: approx. 650g jelly preserve
200g aronia berries, washed (small stems are fine if it is difficult to pick the berries without)
400g whole cooking apples, washed
Approx. 430g granulated sugar – see method for exact quantities
Put the berries in a large stainless steel saucepan. Chop the apples into small pieces, (skins, core and pips included) and add to the pan along with 350ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally, until very soft and pulpy.
Line a large nylon sieve with muslin and place over a large bowl. Choose a sieve that you’re not too precious about as it may stain blue with the juice. Carefully pour the pulp into the muslin and leave to cool. Leave to strain for at least 3 hours.
Pour the strained juice into a measuring jug, cover and chill until required. Tip the pulp back into a saucepan. Add another 200ml water, and heat, stirring, until back to the boil.
Repeat the straining of the pulp as before, but this time, after cooling, put in the fridge and leave to strain overnight until the pulp is very dry.
Discard the pulp and pour the juice into the jug. I achieved 375ml juice from the first straining, and 200ml from the second. The ratio of sugar to juice is 450g sugar to 600ml juice, so I used 430g for my 575ml.
Pour the juice into a saucepan and heat until steaming. Add the sugar, and stir over a low heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. For jelly making, I use a sugar thermometer to gauge the setting point – 104°-105°C- to give the best result.
Pour into warm, sterilised jam jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool then label and store in the usual way. The jelly will keep fine for at least 6 months. Serve as a sweet preserve or with savoury dishes too.
It’s beginning to feel like Summer is over already. We have had a lot of wet and windy weather which makes it seem more autumnal than summery. I picked the last of the raspberries a few days ago which draws my home-grown soft fruit season to a close. The canes have produced another bumper crop this year, and the freezer is stacked out with berries ready to be used in the months ahead.
Earlier in the year, I was intrigued by a recipe posted by my fellow blogger Joëlle who published a recipe for a reduced sugar orange jam. Her recipe inspired me to have a go at making a raspberry version. I am always looking for ways to reduce sugar in my diet and her use of one unusual jam ingredient seemed like too good an opportunity to pass me by. So, thank-you very much Joëlle. So, here is Joëlle’s sugar-replacing ingredient…
Beetroot! I guess this revelation will put some of you off, but I can assure you, you really can’t taste it. You do need to make sure the beetroot is cooked very well – it needs to be completely soft to blend it into a pulp. I had some cooked beetroot in the freezer and found that the texture was much more silky-smooth once it defrosted; it blended into a perfectly fine purée. You can use ready-cooked, vacuum-packed beetroot, but please make sure it’s packed in natural juices and not vinegar, as that really would give the game away!
I usually use equal quantities of raspberries to sugar in my jam recipes, but in this one, I replaced half of the sugar with beetroot purée. Sugar acts as a preservative which is why jams keep so long in the store-cupboard. This jam needs to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten within a month, so is better made in small amounts. However, it freezes well, so instead of sealing it in jars in the traditional way, leave it to cool and spoon into small, sealable freezer containers; freeze down and then you can take out the quantity you need to avoid wasting any. The jam will keep well in the freezer for at least 6 months.
The texture of this jam is more pulpy than a traditional raspberry jam and it lacks the syrupy consistency that a full quantity of sugar gives, but the flavour is fruity and sweet and the colour unaffected by the beetroot. It spreads well and makes a deliciously fruity topping for pancakes and puddings. I hope you might be intrigued enough to give it a go.
Makes: approx. 575g jam
400g fresh raspberries
200g smooth, cooked beetroot purée
200g granulated sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Put the raspberries and beetroot in a saucepan. Cook gently for a few minutes until the raspberry juices begin to exude.
Stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking on the bottom of the pan, until thick and pulpy – like stewed apple.
Transfer the hot jam into sterilised jam jars in the usual way, and seal immediately. Leave to cool, then date and keep in the fridge for 4 weeks unopened. Use within a week once opened.
Hello everyone. We’re almost at the end of another month; how time flies. I’ve been taking some time off work and my blog this month but I found some time to capture some of the flowery and fruity delights that have come and gone these past 4 weeks.
The wonderfully prickly specimen below appeared in the garden last year courtesy of the birds. It didn’t flower, but produced some magnificent spiky leaves. This year it has gone from strength to strength and this month it really took off. Sadly it was a victim of its own success and toppled over under its own weight. Most of the blooms are growing at all angles but upwards apart from this one.
Something a little bit more delicate are the charming and dainty Campanulas which flower at the beginning and middle of the month. The flower-heads seemed a lot bigger this year. And in the picture below them, my beautiful, very fragrant and very old rose bush. It did me proud again this year and was laden with blooms. Sadly now finished, but I am ever hopeful for a second blooming later in the year.
The garden has been alive with bees and butterflies this summer. Lots of different varieties of bees all over the tiny petals of the Scabious (or Pincushion) flowers, it seems to be one of their favourite blooms. And here is a Scarlet Lady butterfly bathing on a very fragrant sun-bed of lavender.
Aside from the delicate and fragrant, the brash and bold flowers have also been abundant. The Hydrangeas seem more colourful than ever this year, and the poppies are springing up everywhere to add bright splashes of colour to the borders and beds.
It’s also been another good year for the outdoor soft fruit. The small espalier Morello cherry produced ¾kg cherries (all bottled and stored) and the raspberry bushes, now in their 14th year, have produced another mega-harvest of berries which I have frozen for making into jam later in the year. The dishful of berries in the picture were cooked with freshly picked rhubarb and made into a “crump”, one of my favourite desserts from my blog a couple of years ago. Here’s the link: Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)Very tasty it was too 🙂
That’s all from me for now. I look forward to sharing more recipes and garden posts in a short while.
Limes are my favourite of all citrus fruit. I love the intense, slightly perfumed flavour. A small fruit that packs a punch on the taste-buds. This week’s recipe is a simple dessert with a ginger gluten-free biscuit crust but can be easily adapted to use other plain biscuits if you prefer. If you like lemon, the filling will taste just as good using lemon on its own or as a mix with lime.
If you are making a gluten-free crust, it will be softer than if you use traditional biscuits, so pop the pies out of the tins and onto a serving plate at the last minute for best results. The mini lime pies make a perfect light summery dessert or tea-time treat served with berry fruits. I hope you enjoy 🙂
Makes: 12 pies
250g gluten-free ginger biscuits (if you use non gluten-free biscuits, the crust will be firmer), finely crushed
90g dairy-free margarine, coconut oil or vegan butter (if you use the oil or vegan butter, the crust will hold together better; dairy-free margarine gives a more crumbly texture), melted
Finely grated rind and juice of 3 limes (if using lemon and lime, you want about 75ml juice and 7g zest for good flavour)
90g caster sugar
45ml diary-free single cream (such as soya or oat)
Natural green food colouring, optional
Lime zest, dairy-free white choc bar shavings and small berries to decorate
Line a 12-cup jam tart tin with a double layer of cling film. Put the biscuit crumbs in a bowl and mix in the melted margarine, oil or butter until well mixed.
Divide the mixture equally between the tins and press into each indent using the back of a teaspoon or small pastry case shaper. Chill for 30 minutes to set.
For the filling, put the cornflour in a saucepan. Add the lime rind and gradually blend in the juice to make a smooth paste. Stir in 75ml cold water and the sugar.
Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then slowly bring to the boil, stirring , and simmer gently for 1 minute until thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and a few drops food colouring if using. Cool for 10 minutes.
Divide between the biscuit cases, tap the tin on the work top to level the filling and leave to cool. Chill for at least an hour before serving.
When ready to serve, carefully peel the pies from the cling film and place on a serving platter. Sprinkle with lime zest, white choc bar shavings and serve with mini berries such as wild strawberries.
Summer has been slow to start here in central Scotland but it’s getting warmer at last, and we’ve had a beautiful blue sky day here today. With the increase in temperature, I find it becomes difficult to keep fruit a room temperature and resort to putting things in the fridge which inevitably means loss of flavour. Bananas really don’t keep for very long before they over-ripen and I prefer to eat them a little on the under-ripe side so I seldom want to eat them over the summer months. If the skin turns too yellow and brown-speckled then I know the texture is not going to be to my liking and the banana is destined for the baking bowl or a smoothie.
This week’s recipe is my turn-to bake for using up over-ripe bananas. Easy to make, it improves with keeping, and also freezes well. I call it “bread” because it has a lower fat content than a cake recipe, although I usually serve it with an icing on top. Uniced, it is delicious spread with your favourite margarine or nut butter. If you have a glut of ripe bananas, peel them and pop them in a freezer bag. They keep in the freezer for several months and, once defrosted, will be easy to mash up and add to cake mixes in the future.
I found this lovely old loaf tin in a bric-a-brac sale recently. It’s been well used but I like the design on the metal-work. Lined with a paper tin liner, it bakes up a treat and has got many more years of baking life in it I’m sure.
For the bread, I use a combination of coconut-based ingredients: yogurt, sugar and oil, but it works just as well using a plain dairy-free yogurt or a light soft brown sugar, and your favourite plant-based margarine or butter if you prefer things less nutty. I also use wholemeal spelt flour but traditional wheat flour would be fine too. Add some chocolate chips or chopped dried fruit for extra sweetness.
I have been working on a gluten-free version using coconut flour but I haven’t been able to get the right combination of other flours to give a moist crumb – coconut flour has a tendency to absorb a lot of moisture and can give bakes a dry texture. I’ll publish an update when I achieve something I’m happy with, so watch this space.
2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (you need about 250g mashed banana for good flavour and texture)
100g dairy-free coconut yogurt
100ml dairy-free milk
200g wholemeal spelt flour
15g baking powder
50g solid coconut oil
100g coconut sugar
For the icing:
125g icing sugar
¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
30g toasted raw coconut chips, to decorate
Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 3. Line a 1kg loaf tin. Mix the banana with the yogurt and milk.
Put the flour in a bowl and sift the baking powder on top. Mix well then rub in the coconut oil and stir in the sugar.
Make a well in the centre and stir in the banana mixture to make a smooth, thick cake batter. Spoon into the loaf tin, smooth the top and bake for about 1 hour until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
When cold, wrap and store for 24 hours before serving for better flavour and texture. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Mix in 3-4 tsp warm water and the vanilla to make smooth spreadable icing. Spread over the top of the loaf and sprinkle coconut chips.
It’s time for a rhubarb recipe this week on my blog. Spring is well under way now and rhubarb is plentiful. In the garden at the moment, my own early rhubarb plant is coming along nicely and looks very healthy. Not quite ready for picking just yet, but I don’t think it will be long.
This week’s post is a dense-textured, delicious rhubarb cake that can also be served warm as a pudding. You do need a fair bit of rhubarb to make the cake – 600g. Cut the rhubarb stalks to the same thickness for even cooking during the first part of the recipe, and take care not to over-cook in order to retain some texture in the finished bake.
The orange adds a subtle flavour to the cake, but leave it out if you prefer. Bake the rhubarb with a little water instead of the juice. For a spicy twist, replace the orange rind in the cake mix with ground ginger and/or mixed spice.
600g fresh rhubarb stalks
1 medium orange
3 tbsp. caster sugar
For the streusel mix:
85g gluten-free self raising flour
75g jumbo oats
50g dairy-free margarine, softened
For the cake:
200g dairy-free margarine, softened
200g caster sugar
Finely grated rind 1 orange
200g plain dairy-free yogurt (I used plain soya yogurt)
100g ground almonds
100g gluten-free self raising flour
To decorate (optional):
100g icing sugar
Fresh orange zest
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Trim the rhubarb and cut into even thickness pieces, 3-4cm long. Place in a roasting tray. Pare the rind from the orange using a vegetable peeler, and extract the juice. Stir both into the rhubarb and sprinkle over the sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until just tender, then leave to cool in the tin.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin. For the streusel, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and rub in the margarine. Set aside.
For the cake mix, put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk everything together until well blended.
Drain the rhubarb well, reserving the cooking juices, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Put half the cake mix in the tin, spread smoothly, sprinkle over half the streusel mix and top with half the rhubarb.
Spoon over the remaining cake mix and spread smoothly. Sprinkle over half the remaining streusel mix and arrange the remaining rhubarb on top.
Finally, sprinkle the rhubarb with the remaining streusel, stand the cake tin on a baking tray and bake for about 1 ¾ hours, covering with foil after an hour or so to prevent over-browning. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin to serve cold as a cake, or stand for about 30 minutes to firm up before removing from the tin to serve warm as a pudding with dairy-free custard and the reserved juices spooned over if liked.
To decorate and serve as a cake, carefully remove from the tin and place on a wire rack. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in about 4 tsp of the reserved cooking juices to make a soft, dripping icing. Drizzle over the top of the cake using a teaspoon and scatter with orange zest. Leave for about 30 minutes to firm up before slicing to serve.
I keep the cake in the fridge and bring to room temperature for a few minutes before serving. You can also heat up a slice in the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off. The cake freezes well without the icing. Have a good week 🙂
This is a great time of the year for oranges. Last weekend, I bought a bag of Seville oranges and made some marmalade, something I haven’t done for many years. It took me much longer than I remembered, but the effort was worthwhile as I have 12 large jars to see me through the year. The other citrus fruit that caught my eye this week comes from Sicily. Beautiful, blushing red oranges (or “Blood oranges” as I remember them being called). They look as lovely on the outside as they do on the inside.
It may not seem the right time of year to be serving up a salad, but my recipe this week is a good choice for eating now, it oozes health and vitality, is robust in flavour with a crunchy texture, and makes a great accompaniment to pulse, rice or grain dishes or can be served on its own as a simple light lunch with bread and a dollop of hummus. The flavours and colours of this salad are the perfect tonic to pick you up if, like me, you are suffering from the winter blues.
The salad is dressed with a simple combination of olive oil and freshly squeezed orange juice flavoured with the warming, earthy spices toasted cumin seeds and dried chilli. I also fried some sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds for 4-5 minutes in a little olive oil with some sea salt, to add bite and nuttiness as a sprinkle on top. I hope you enjoy the recipe, and if you can’t find red oranges, any orange or even pink grapefruit would work.
Serves: 2 to 4 (lunch or accompaniment)
250g carrots (for extra colour I used a heritage variety which were purple, orange and yellow)
3 red oranges
Red orange juice (you should have sufficient leftover from peeling the 3 oranges)
Approx. 25ml extra virgin olive oil
1 – 2 tsp caster sugar or maple syrup (or honey if you eat it), optional
Pinch of sea salt
½ tsp toasted cumin seeds, ground
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
100g pitted black olives
Fried, salted sunflower and pumpkin seeds to sprinkle
Peel and grate the carrots. Place in a bowl and put to one side. Slice the top and bottom off each orange, then using a small sharp knife, slice off the skin, taking away as much of the white pith as you can – see images below. Slice each orange into thin rounds and remove any pips.
Drain the orange slices, reserving the juice – any pieces of orange skin that have orange flesh attached can also be squeezed to obtain precious drops of juice.
Measure the juice and mix with the same amount of olive oil, then stir in the salt, spices and sugar, if using. Toss the dressing into the grated carrots.
Carefully fold in the orange slices (you may prefer to cut the orange into smaller pieces) along with the olives. Cover and chill until ready to serve, but allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes for the flavours to develop.
I’ve been enjoying freshly squeezed red orange juice for breakfast this week as well. Such a pretty colour, and a super-zingy start to the day.
I have another Sicilian inspired recipe lined up for next week, so until then, I hope you have a good few days 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bake for about 50 minutes until lightly golden and cooked through. Best served warm, sprinkled with chopped pecans and accompanied with extra maple syrup.