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!
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Until next time, take care, my best wishes to you, and thank you for stopping by again 🙂
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.
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.
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.
225g runner beans
325g small to medium-sized carrots
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.
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.
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.
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.
Until my next post, I wish you fine weather and good health. I hope to see you again in a couple of weeks.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope you have a good few days ahead. Until my next post, take care and keep safe 🙂
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hello everyone. I hope you have had a good few days. I can hardly believe that it is September already! We have had a fine few days of weather this last week, and the garden dried out enough to get gardening again. It felt good to be outside once again.
At the end of my last post I mentioned that I was about to tackle a glut of runner beans. It has been perfect conditions for a bumper harvest this summer: plenty of rain intermixed with sunshine and warmth. The bean vines are still looking very lush and healthy, and there has been a second flush of flowers which means, if the weather holds, I should be picking beans for a while longer.
Apart from enjoying runner beans as an accompaniment to meals, so far I have a couple of bags in the freezer for eating later on in the year. I seldom do anything else, although leftover cold beans make a great salad ingredient – click here for a delicious runner bean salad I posted last year. This week’s recipe gives runner beans a leading role. I hope you enjoy the fritters, they are crisp and delicious, and for a little extra effort, I would suggest making your own pesto. I am very proud of my basil plant. It is thriving in the greenhouse; the leaves have a strong, peppery bite. The quantity below will make enough for this recipe. If you double or triple it you can freeze the remainder in small batches. It will also keep for a couple of weeks sealed tight in a jar in the fridge.
Vegan pesto: put a peeled garlic clove in a small food processor with 15g basil leaves, 60g unsalted nuts such as pistachio, pine nuts or almonds (I used a combination of all 3), a pinch of salt, 50ml extra virgin olive oil and 30g grated hard vegan cheese. Blitz for a few seconds until smooth, and that’s it. Pesto perfecto! This combination makes a thick pesto which is perfect for this recipe, but add extra oil to taste for a looser pasta sauce.
I have found that strips of bean work well in this recipe. The batter has a larger surface area to cling on to and cooks really crisply. Peel the sides of the beans using a vegetable peeler and remove the stalk end. If you have a bean slicer, push them through that, otherwise, slice them as thinly as you can. Steam them over simmering water for 5 minutes, then cool in cold water and drain well. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Now, let’s get on with the recipe.
75g gluten-free plain flour
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tbsp flax seeds, finely ground (I use a coffee grinder)
3 tbsp pesto sauce – see recipe above
120ml dairy-free milk
75ml aqua fava (bean or chickpea canning water)
225g cooked runner beans
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Put the polenta, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Mix together and make a well in the centre.
Mix the flax seeds with 3 tbsp cold water and leave to stand for about 5 minutes until thickened. Pour into the well.
Add the pesto sauce and milk and whisk together to make a smooth batter.
In another bowl, whisk the aqua fava to a stiff foam and then gently fold into the batter. Finally, carefully stir in the beans, making sure they are well covered.
5. Pour sufficient oil into a large deep frying pan or wok to a depth of about 3cm and heat to 180ºC. Fry bundles of beans in batter in batches of 3 or 4, turning in the oil, for 4-5 minutes until crisp and golden. You should be able to make 8 fritters with this quantity. Drain well on kitchen paper and keep warm until ready to serve.
6. To serve, mix 1 part pesto to 2 parts vegan mayonnaise and serve with the fritters accompanied with fresh tomatoes. Scatter with fresh basil and runner bean flowers, if liked.
Use this batter with ribbons of courgette or carrot instead – lightly steam them first. Leave out the pesto if you prefer, or simply add grated vegan cheese to the batter and some chopped chives, shredded leek or spring onion.
Hello there. I hope you are well. I was having a look at the stats on my site last week and I noticed that the most frequently viewed recipe on my blog over the past 4 weeks has been a recipe I posted 3 years ago for a lemon-soaked cucumber cake. I am assuming that lots of readers have as many cucumbers as I do and are looking for different ways to use them up!
Time for a recipe review. Same combination of flavours, but this time an iced cake and a simple cake batter.
I have had a bumper crop of cucumbers this year, from just 2 plants. I only had a couple of seeds left in a packet from the year before and, once sown, both have thrived. Mini Munch is a great variety to grow. The cucumbers are small, sweet and delicously refreshing and juicy. They ripen in next to no time once the vines get established.
On with the recipe. This is a very easy to make cake, no special equipment necessary. I do advise you to add either the xanthan gum or arrowroot as this really does hold the ingredients together to give a firmer texture, but if you decide not to, you’ll still have a delicious cake, it will just be crumbly.
Makes 1 x 18cm cake
90g dairy-free margarine
140g caster sugar
100g plain dairy-free yogurt (I used coconut)
150g gluten-free self-raising flour blend (I use Doves Farm)
50g ground almonds
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum or 10g ground arrowroot
125g grated cucumber
Finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon
125g icing sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line an 18cm square tin. Put the margarine and sugar in a bowl and whisk until creamy and well blended. Stir in the yogurt.
2. Add the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice and icing sugar, and mix together until well combined.
3. Pile into the tin, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 45 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in 3-4 tsp lemon juice to make a smooth, thick icing. Spread all over the top of the cake and allow it to run down the sides. Leave to set for about 30 minutes before decorating.
I decorated my cake with cucumber flowers (male ones – no little fruit attached), orange-scented geranium leaves and a few strips of blanched lemon rind.
That’s all from me this week. I’m off to sort out my glut of runner beans! Until next time, my best wishes to you 🙂
Hello again. I hope you are well and enjoying some fine weather. It’s been a busy few days since my last post. The garden is thriving thanks to a mixture of sunshine and showers. There’s lots to do, and at last the soft fruit is ripe. I picked these cherries from the small espalier tree in the garden today. Just under 800g. Not bad at all 🙂
The raspberries have been coming thick and fast since my last post too, and there are still lots more to come. As well as the cherries and berries, my runner beans and potatoes are coming along nicely.
In the flower borders, there is a predominance of yellow interspersed with shades of pink and lilac. The lavender season is in full swing here at the moment. I love the yellow cotton lavender with its silvery foliage which grows alongside the purple and lilac varieties. This is a very fragrant part of the garden.
The palest coloured lavender is at the front of the house. It is full of blooms this year and the bees love it. This pale pink Campanula has just come out this past week. It was new in the garden last year and I am very pleased to see that it is blooming again and seems to have doubled in size.
More splashes of vibrant colour from the Lysimachia which has run a bit wild down one border but it does provide colour for several weeks; and the delightfully named “Banana Cream” Leusanthemum which sounds good enough to eat!
Happy to see so many bees in the garden again this year. My recent gardening activity has been accompanied by the sound of gentle buzzing; they are always busy gathering pollen and enjoying the summer flowers no matter which part of the garden I am in.
As well as the bees, the garden attracts many feathered friends too. Blackbirds and robins are by far the friendliest and really do seem to make themselves at home in amongst the plants and flowers.
That’s it from me this week. I hope you enjoyed the post and pictures. I will be back in the kitchen before the end of the month. See you then. Best wishes and take care 🙂
Hello everyone. I hope the sun has been shining on you these past few days. It has been glorious here, although we did have some very unseasonal gale-force winds whipping up a storm last weekend. Luckily, no serious damage done.
My post this week is more of a “show and tell” rather than a recipe or garden feature. I’ve never been one for growing much in the way of salad leaves, but this year, with more time on my hands in early spring, I decided to try my hand. With vegetable seeds in high demand, I was limited in choice, but 2 of my favourites were obtainable and that’s how I ended up sowing pea shoots and rocket.
Pea shoots are a crop that you can grow all year round indoors. You just need a container and some compost or soil, and watering can on stand by. I planted up a couple of pots and have had them in the conservatory since the end of April. The shoots don’t like direct sunlight, just bright light and warmth. After 3 ½ weeks they are ready to harvest. The seed packet says that you might get a second harvest so I have cut the first few stems just above a pair of leaves about 3cm from the bottom of the stalk, and now I will wait and see if they shoot up again.
Rocket is a leaf for out-of-doors growing according to the pack, but I have grown the leaves on a windowsill indoors before. I did have the ground space outside but I put my seeds in pots because I was convinced the young seedlings would get eaten by the big fat pigeons that strut around the back garden hoovering up the leftovers from the bird feeders. The pots are easier to protect and keep out of greedy beaks.
I planted a few pots with seeds at the same time as the pea shoots. The seeds are so tiny, it is impossible to sow them thinly. After 2 weeks or so, they were ready to be thinned out. I was able to replant some of the bigger seedlings but the tinniest ones made excellent peppery sprinkles on a salad. By the way, these are the pretty heart-shaped leaves around the edge of the plate above.
Rocket plants grow in clusters of leaves, so when you harvest, snip leaves sparingly from each plant so that the rest of the plant can regenerate.
Around the garden at this time, I found other herbs and flowers to add to my salad plate. Choose young sorrel leaves to eat raw as they are soft in texture and have less of an astringent taste. Salad burnet is one of my favourite herbs. I have had a pot growing in the garden for several years. Although it looks very delicate with it’s soft, bright, serrated-edged leaves, it is a hardy herb and keeps going from year to year without much looking after. The leaves have a mild, fresh cucumber-like flavour.
A simple combination of salad ingredients requires just the simplest of accompaniments. A while ago I posted on how to make your own flavoured vinegars. The link to the basic recipe can be found by clicking here . At the bottom of the recipe you will find ideas for other flavourings including berries. The vinegar above was made last year using some of the wild strawberries that grow around the garden and I also added a few sprigs of fresh thyme. A simple salad dressing, no oil nor added sugar required.
That’s all from me this week. I will probably be back in the garden next time, until then, take care and enjoy the fine weather.