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!

Aubergine (egg plant) in spicy tomato sauce (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Aubergine in spicy tomato sauce with green chilli sprinkle. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

With a nod to the widely adopted new name for the first month of the year, Veganuary, I have for you this week a tasty, warming and comforting dish which fits the season very well. Aubergine (egg plant) is one of my favourite vegetables and I especially like eating it in a garlicky tomato or curried sauce. In this recipe, I combine these two flavours in one sauce to make a dish that can be served as a main meal or as a side to go with other spicy foods. It’s tasty cold as a salad as well.

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Up close on spiced aubergine (egg plant). Image: Kathryn Hawkins

November seems like a long time ago now, but that is when I harvested my homegrown aubergines (egg plants). I grew the variety Slim Jim in my greenhouse; just a couple of plants as a trial. They got off to a slow start but by the autumn both plants were doing well, and produced several small and neat, very pretty, lilac-coloured fruits.

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Home-grown Slim Jim aubergines (egg plant). Images: Kathryn Hawkins

You can use any variety of aubergine for this recipe. I always salt before cooking, regardless of variety. I find that drawing out some of the water before cooking helps to soften it so that it cooks to a melting tenderness. By the way, replace the mushrooms with more aubergine if you prefer. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Serves: 2 as a main meal or 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 1tsp each of cumin and coriander seeds
  • ½tsp ground fenugreek
  • ¼tsp ground black pepper
  • 5tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1tsp freshly grated root ginger
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 400g tomatoes, canned or fresh, chopped
  • 2tbsp tomato purée
  • Salt
  • 250g aubergines (egg plant), chopped or sliced
  • 200g brown (chestnut) mushrooms, wiped and quartered
  • 1tsp black onion seeds
  • Chopped green chilli and fresh mango to serve

1. Toast the spice seeds lightly in a small hot, dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden. Cool, then grind finely with the fenugreek and black pepper.

2. Heat 2tbsp oil in a frying pan and stir fry the onion, garlic, ginger and spices with the bay leaf for 1-2 minutes, then cover with a lid and cook gently for 20 minutes until soft.

3. Add the tomatoes, purée and a pinch of salt, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 15 minutes until soft. Leave aside.

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Preparing spiced tomato sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Meanwhile, stand a colander or strainer on a plate or over a bowl. Layer the aubergine, sprinkling generously with salt as you go, and leave to stand for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse very well, then pat dry with kitchen paper.

5. Heat 2tbsp oil in a frying pan until hot and stir fry the aubergine pieces for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Drain on kitchen paper. Heat the remaining oil and cook the mushrooms in the same way. Drain.

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Preparing aubergine (egg plant). Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Add the vegetables to the spiced tomato sauce, mix well and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until tender and cooked through. Turn off the heat, sprinkle with black onion seeds then cover and stand for 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

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Cooking the vegetables in the sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped green chilli and accompanied with fresh mango. Delicious over rice or with naan breads with a sprinkling of roasted cashew nuts for crunch.

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A spicy feast. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I’ll be back towards the end of the month with something suitably Scottish to celebrate Burns Night. Until then, best wishes and keep safe.

Golden November

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Japanese maple tree lit up in November sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a late Autumn here in central Scotland. The leaves stayed on the trees longer than I anticipated and the weather has been fine. Most of the month has been mild with glorious blue-sky days which highlighted the golden tones in the garden a few days ago. Fortunately I got to the Japanese Maple tree before the rain fell and captured the rich yellow leaves before they were washed off the branches. The next day, the paths and lawns were covered in a leafy carpet.

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Japanese Maple before and after the rain. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Golden leafy carpet. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Accompanying the fair-weather days have been glowing sunrises and blazing sunsets. Both come and go with speed but are truly spectacular if you are in the right place at the right time. The front of the house faces the sun rising over the Ochil Hills, then in the back garden, a few hours later, you are able to see the sun setting.

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Sun-up in mid November. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Blazing November sunsets. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In the garden, here and there, signs of life continue. Some of the plants and shrubs have been confused by the warm weather this month and there are unseasonal second and third flowerings taking place.

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A November Welsh poppy and Sharon Rose. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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November lavender, Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I cleared out the greenhouse a couple of weeks ago and picked off the last few tomatoes. They are now ripening indoors. I also harvested my first basket of greens; they haven’t done that well and got badly attacked by caterpillars, but there is enough for a few meals. A few more baby purple carrots as well.

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Last of the tomatoes, some baby carrots and the first of the greens. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a wonderful autumn for fungus of all kinds. I have seen so many images on social media, I never realised that there were so many different mushrooms and toadstools out there. Each year, to varying degrees, this bracket fungus grows on a old tree stump in the garden. I think this year it has surpassed itself. I love the arch of colours on each piece.

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Rainbow bracket fungus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m going to finish my post with something a little bit festive. Most of the fruiting trees around and about the garden are covered in berries this year, and the holly is no exception. The red berries seem to get picked off first leaving the yellow variety behind. Perhaps they taste different? No matter, I am happy for them to remain on the tree to give a great splash of colour to the garden and look magnificent against a blue sky. Until next time, take care and keep safe 🙂

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Golden yellow holly berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Apples and pears

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Aged cooking apple tree. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. So here we are at the end of another month. I hope you have had a good couple of weeks since my last post. I had been intending to show you round my garden at this point in time, but to be honest, there is not a lot to see. Most things are looking rather soggy and bedraggled after recent heavy rain . It feels like Autumn has been cut short this year by the rain washing the leaves from the trees.

No matter, I have some cheery images of my apple and pear harvests earlier in the month. I was able to capture the images under mostly blue skies which should make for better viewing. I hope you enjoy them 🙂

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Lord Derby cooking apple harvest 2021. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The old apple tree in the garden produced a fraction of the apples it provided last year. In 2020, I had at least 4 times the amount. However, I still have a good basketful and have started cooking them down. I think they will last a few weeks yet.

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Miniature eating apple trees. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Harvested eating apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a bumper year for eating apples. Only a handful from one tree last year and nothing from the other, but this year I have been rewarded with a huge crop by comparison. The very red apples are called Katy but sadly I can’t remember the other variety now, however both varieties are sweet, juicy and very delicious, and they keep well.

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Concorde pear tree and fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Espaliered Comice pear tree. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

And so to the pears trees. They have also had a good year, providing a generous basketful after a very poor crop last year. Both trees are still small although they have been planted in the garden for about a decade now. The pears store well so there will be fruit to enjoy for a while yet.

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Homegrown Concorde and Comice pears. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have posted many apple and pear recipes over the years, but these are my top 3 which you might like to try – just click on the links for the recipes:

  1. Toffee upside down cake – Toffee apple upside-down cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)
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Apples, cake and toffee sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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A fruit tart as pretty as a picture. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Pear, pecan and maple crostata. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you are enjoying Autumn/The Fall wherever you are and I look forward to sharing some more recipes and images with you in my next post. My best wishes to you until then.

Homegrown coriander (cilantro) seeds

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Harvested coriander (cilantro) seed. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. Well it’s certainly feeling much more autumnal since my last post. After a few bright and sunny days, the weather has turned much cooler and, as I type this, it is pouring with rain.

Towards the end of last month, I harvested my first crop of coriander (cilantro) seed. When I sowed the herb seeds back in late spring, my only intention was to grow the herb for its leaves for use in salads, curries and salsas. However, once the seedlings appeared, I never quite got round to thinning out the crop. I kept them all in the same pot, in the greenhouse, just picking off a few leaves here and there, and never quite finding the time to separate them and plant them outside.

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Coriander (cilantro) flowers. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

After a while, the individual plants became leggy and formed flower stalks. I enjoyed the flowers for their aroma and the splash of brightness they offered. The leaves had started to become coarser in texture and had a bronze edge, and weren’t quite so appealing to eat. In early August, I decided it was time to get rid of them altogether as the flowers had dried and were falling. However, on closer inspection, the fallen petals had left behind bright green “berries”.

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Bright green seeds. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

After a bit of research and a quick change of plan, I decided to keep the plants with the hope of being able to harvest the seeds. You can pick the green fruit and use it in cooking, but they don’t store well. I tried one or two, the flavour was mild, fresh and slightly sweet, and would be good chopped up in a salad or added to a relish. The green berries can be pickled as well.

However, I read that if you leave the fruit on the stems long enough, the berries will dry naturally and can be harvested for longer storing, and used as the familiar fragrant spice.

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Beginning to dry out. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

By the end of August the seeds had turned light gold, and in another month, they had dried out completely. At the time, we were blessed with some dry weather so I think this helped with the drying process. I guess that a damp atmosphere could cause the seeds to turn mouldy.

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Coriander seed dried and ready for harvesting. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I found it easier to pull the stems from the soil and pick off the seeds into a small bowl. I left them in the greenhouse for a few more days to finish ripening naturally in the sunshine.

It was a very small harvest, accidental by nature but rewarding all the same. Now the seeds are in a tiny jam jar in my spice cupboard waiting for the right recipe to include them in.

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Precious seed harvest ready for storing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Until next time, take care, my best wishes to you, and thank you for stopping by again 🙂

Seasonal vegetable salad (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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My homegrown seasonal vegetable salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again everyone. I hope you are keeping well and enjoying the summer. I’ve had a busy few days at work and in the garden. Everything is growing fast after several days of fine weather. The garden and greenhouse have reached “peak vegetable” with runner beans, courgettes, cucumbers and carrots all ready at the same time. It seemed a fitting choice for my post this week to make up a recipe using this selection of delicious homegrown vegetables.

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Full of fresh flavours, warm vegetable salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This year, I have runner beans growing in 3 large pots this year in the garden; courgettes in the greenhouse along with a couple of mini cucumber plants, and deep containers of carrots which I’m pleased to say are thriving.

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Barrel-grown Scarlet Emperor runner beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Ridged courgettes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Mini Munch cucumbers, July 2021. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Container-grown Purple Sun carrots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My salad this week is very simple. A selection of griddled vegetables mixed in a piquant caper and olive dressing served with fresh cucumber and a sprinkle of chopped carrot tops. Serve it warm or allow it to go cold. Enjoy it as a light meal with crusty bread or serve it as a main dish with freshly cooked grains. Sprinkle with toasted seeds or chopped roasted nuts for extra crunch. Lovely fresh flavours and a real taste of summer. Here’s the recipe.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 225g runner beans
  • 325g small to medium-sized carrots
  • Salt
  • 1 large courgette
  • Vegetable oil for brushing griddle pan
  • 1 mini cucumber, sliced
  • 1 or 2 fresh carrot tops, washed and chopped (or use chopped parsley or coriander)

For the dressing:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used cold pressed rapeseed oil)
  • 1 banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar plus extra to serve
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp capers in brine, drained and chopped
  • Handful of pitted green olives, chopped

1. Peel the sides of the runner beans to remove any strings, and remove the stalk end. Cut into lengths about 6cm long. Peel and trim the carrots, cut in half or in pieces, making sure all the slices are about the same thickness.

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Runner bean and purple carrot preparations. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Cook the beans in lightly salted boiling water for barely 2 minutes, to soften slightly, then drain, cool and pat dry. Cook the carrots the same way for 3-5 minutes depending on thickness. Drain, cool and pat dry. Slice the courgette into even thickness pieces.

3. Brush a griddle pan with a little oil and heat until very hot then arrange the vegetables in batches in a single layer on top. I use a potato masher to press the vegetables on to the griddle in order to achieve a good colour. Turn the vegetables over using tongs. The beans will take 1-2 minutes on each side, the carrots and courgettes 2-3 minutes. Brush the griddle with more oil as necessary. Arrange the cooked vegetables in a heatproof dish, cover and keep warm while you make the dressing.

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Griddling veg. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Heat the oil in a small saucepan and stir fry the shallot and garlic for 2-3 minutes, then cover with the lid and cook gently for 5 minutes to soften. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour the warm dressing over the vegetables and mix well. Leave to stand for 10 minutes if serving warm or leave to cool completely.

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Dressing the griddled vegetables. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Pile the vegetables on to a serving platter and scatter with cucumber and carrot tops. Serve warm or cold with extra white balsamic vinegar.

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Seasonal salad close-up. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Until my next post, I wish you fine weather and good health. I hope to see you again in a couple of weeks.

Baked spiced golden carrots (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spiced golden carrots with carrot top and coriander dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. It’s another “golden” post from me this week, all be it a recipe-led one rather than one from my garden. To be honest, I had intended this to be a “rainbow carrot” feature but Mother Nature stepped in and things turned out a little different to what I was expecting. Let me explain.

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Rainbow carrot seeds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in September last year, I decided to experiment by sowing some carrots seeds as a late crop. All being well, I should end up with baby carrots in the early winter. I chose a rainbow mix, and planted them in 2 trench-style containers in the (unheated) greenhouse. I was delighted when they started growing, but as the daylight hours dwindled, and the temperature cooled, the seedlings, unsurprisingly, stopped growing.

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From December 2020 through to April and June 2021, overwintering carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I decided to leave them alone and allowed them to overwinter in the same spot in the greenhouse. Nothing much happened until the weather warmed up in March this year when the seedlings started growing again. By April they were thriving so I put the pots outside. With the benefit of hindsight, the carrots were probably ready for pulling about a month ago, but nevertheless, this month, I finally enjoyed a bunch of homegrown carrots with fine flavour, all be they with a distinct lack of rainbow 🙂

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Golden carrot harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Only white and yellow carrots grew, although there was one orange one which didn’t quite make the grade for this recipe. It had split and grown in a very strange shape, much like a crossed pair of legs. It went in a salad instead and tasted delicious.

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One wee wonky carrot. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the carrot recipe which uses up all parts of the vegetable. I peeled the carrots because they were a little hairy, but ideally homegrown carrots are best left unpeeled. I also wanted an excuse to make crispy carrot peelings which I love. I used some of the carrot tops in a dressing and the rest I am working my way through as a sprinkling over salads and soups. I keep them in a jug of water in the fridge; they last for several days if you change the water regularly. If you have carrots without the tops, you can make the dressing with all coriander instead. Give all parts of the carrot a good wash to remove grit, dust and soil from the ground.

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Carrot preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients

  • 350g carrots, washed and peeled if preferred (don’t forget to keep the peelings!)
  • 1 tsp each coriander and cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup + a little extra if you are going to cook the peelings
  • 4 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil (I chose this for the nutty flavour and golden colour, but any vegetable oil is fine) + a little extra for cooking the peelings
  • Sea salt
  • 15g carrot top leaves, washed (use the leafy fronds rather than the stalks which can be tough) + a few extra for garnish
  • 15g coriander leaves, washed
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ¼ tsp ground fenugreek (use a mild curry powder if this is unavailable)

1. Preheat oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. If the carrots are different sizes, cut them into even sized pieces. My carrots were about 10cm long, and I simply cut them in half. Put in a roasting tin and sprinkle with half the toasted seeds.

2. Mix the maple syrup and 1 tbsp oil together and toss into the carrots. Season with salt, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

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Toasting and grinding spices for baking carrots with maple syrup and rapeseed oil. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Remove the foil, mix the carrots in the pan juices and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, this time uncovered, until tender and lightly golden.

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Baked carrots straight out of the oven. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

4. While the carrots are cooking, make the dressing. Put the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and with the remaining toasted seeds and oil, and blitz until well blended. Season with salt to taste. Cover and leave at room temperature for the best flavour.

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Making carrot top and coriander dressing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. If you want to cook the peelings, mix them with a drizzle of maple syrup and oil, then spread them out on a baking tray, season and bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

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Roasting carrot peelings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. To serve, drain the carrots and arrange on a warm serving plate. Sprinkle with chopped carrot tops and serve with the dressing and crispy peelings.

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Carrots with dressing and crispy sprinkles. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have chosen to grow a purple variety of carrot this year, and the first seedlings are quite well advanced already. If all goes to plan you may well see another carrot-led post from me in a few weeks.

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Carrot top and coriander dressing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have a good few days ahead. Until my next post, take care and keep safe 🙂

April rhubarb – 2 easy recipes (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Hello again. I hope you have been enjoying some good weather these past few days. At last we are enjoying frost-free nights and blue-sky days. Long may it last!

I have been able to pick my first few stalks of rhubarb. I didn’t force any plants this year, so I was delighted to find 5 stems ready for picking so early on in the season.

The week before this rhubarb was ready, I used up my last bag of frozen rhubarb from last summer. I combined it with some frozen ripe bananas I keep in the freezer for making loaf cakes and made a compote. It’s not the best-looking mixture you’ll come across but it tasted great. The sweetness of the banana helped to reduce the sugar content.

I put 450g frozen rhubarb in a saucepan with 230g frozen very ripe banana and cooked them over a low heat with the lid on for about 30 minutes until they had thawed and become very soft. Mix together until well combined. I added 4 tbsp white sugar gradually. Taste and sweeten in small amounts to keep sugar content to a minimum. Best eaten cold for maximum flavour – it makes a lovely breakfast bowl with homemade coconut granola and coconut yogurt. You could make this with fresh rhubarb and ripe bananas, and simply reduce the cooking time.

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Rhubarb and banana compote breakfast bowl. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My second recipe is something I cooked up using the new season’s rhubarb. It is made from a very simple combination of ingredients I had in the fridge and freezer, and is something I was able to put together quickly.

Roll out 300g gluten-free rough puff or puff pastry (or you can use shortcrust if you prefer) to an approximate 25cm square. Trim to neaten the edges, and then keep the trimmings for decoration. Knead and roll 150g natural marzipan to an oblong about 8cm wide and place down the middle of the pastry. Top with 200g chopped fresh rhubarb (cut into 3cm long pieces) and spoon over 100g raspberry jam.

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Rhubarb plait preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Cut about 10 strips either side of the rhubarb, brush with a little dairy-free milk and fold over the top of the fruit, pressing together gently to seal together. Press the pastry at both ends together in order to seal the marzipan and fruit within.

Transfer to a lined baking tray, brush all over with 1 tbsp dairy-free milk mixed with 1 tbsp maple syrup. Decorate with any trimmings and brush these before baking in a preheated oven at 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6 for about 40 minutes until lightly golden and crisp. Best served warm. Serves: 6

That’s me for another week. I have a busy few days ahead of me now so it will next month before I get to post again. Until then, take care, keep safe, and enjoy the spring sunshine 🙂

End of December garden

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First snowfall of Winter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are well and have enjoyed whatever the festive season brought your way. Like so many, I had a quiet one at home, unable to travel to see my family. Hogmanay and New Year celebrations are also cancelled. There has been plenty of time to reflect on what has happened this year, and also to think about new projects for the year ahead.

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Three glorious morning views. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

We have been treated to some bright, crisp days here in central Scotland this year end, with some spectacular sunrises, and the first snow of the winter falling a couple of days after Christmas.

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Snow-covered seat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It seems like a long time ago since I was able to take a rest on my favourite seat and enjoy the peace, quiet and colours of a spring and summer garden, but even now there are some signs of new growth to gladden the soul. I took these images on Boxing Day of a primrose and one of my rhubarb plants. The poor things must have had a bit of a shock waking up the next day to a covering of snow.

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New shoots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in September, once the cucumbers had ceased fruiting, I cleared some space in one of the greenhouse beds and planted 6 seed potatoes. It was an experiment to see if I could harvest fresh new potatoes for Christmas. I’m delighted with the results. All 6 plants produced, and I was able to enjoy freshly dug Maris Peer potatoes over Christmas, with a second harvest for the new year. At the same time, I sowed some carrot seeds, but these are much slower to grow, and I am beginning to doubt that they will ever root properly, but you never know. I will report back if they do develop to an edible size.

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Christmas new potatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Late planted greenhouse carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There were lots of berries in the garden over Autumn and early Winter this year, but by now, most of them have been eaten by the birds. However, our feathered friends never seems to dine out on Cotoneaster or Skimmia berries, so I am grateful to be left with these festive colours to admire.

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Festive berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Like so many, I am looking forward to a fresh start in a brand new year. I am ever hopeful that we will be able to return to some semblance of normality in the not too distant future. Until then, thank you for following my blog for another year, and I send you my very best wishes for the year ahead. Stay safe and healthy, and a Happy New Year to you all 🙂

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Early flowering Rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

September reflections

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Acer leaves in the Autumn sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. It’s been a busy month for me which has meant that I haven’t had much spare time to put a post together. Now as the season feels like it is shifting, I thought I would take a look back on what’s been happening out of doors this past month.

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A cascade of Autumn crocus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The garden is showing signs of Autumn now with leaves changing colour and a crop of pale lilac crocus appearing in a shady border. Earlier in the month I went to visit my family in Sussex. The weather was very warm and we spent most of our time together out of doors. On one walk, I was delighted to find some blackberries untouched in a hedgerow and was able to carry my precious cargo of black jewels all the way back home to Scotland to make into a compote with apples from my tree. Delicious.

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Wild hedgerow blackberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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My apple tree laden with fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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First pickings. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can see, it’s another good year for apples. I’ve only picked a few so far, but I think with the weather turning cooler this weekend and a predicted frost,, I will be picking the remainder in the next few days. I’ve also harvested a lot of potatoes, and put many more in storage. I’m feeling pleased with myself, after years of giving up on carrot growing, I’ve had a fair crop this year. The variety was called “Rainbow” and I had high hopes of a multi-coloured batch, but in the end, they were mostly yellow. No matter, they tasted fresh and spicy, just as homegrown carrots should do.

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Freshly dug carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Box of tatties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m over-run with tomatoes too. Dehydration for the small ones, and tomato sauce for the larger ones. I haven’t started my annual chutney making ritual, but once the apples are picked, the preserving with begin.

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First major haul of tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in the garden, my lovely scented rose bush is back in flower, and the orange lupin is flowering for the third time – I didn’t know this was possible! Another splash of orange in the garden comes from the carnations I planted a few years ago. Back in the spring, I moved them to a different spot, in a raised bed by a sunny wall, and they are thriving.

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Second-time-around rose, and lupin in third flowering. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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September carnations. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m pretty sure that I mentioned the Japanese anemones in my last garden post back in August. They have gone from strength to strength, and I think this year is the first time they have grown en masse to create such an impactful display under the apple tree.

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Japanese Anemones under apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another month. I wish you well over the coming days, and look forward to sharing a recipe with you next time around. Until then, my best wishes to you.