This weird spring

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Chionodoxa, Spring’s little gem. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again everyone. I hope you are keeping well. The weather has turned fine these past few days since my last post and it has been a joy to be able to escape into the garden. Whilst the world is in shut-down, Mother Nature is carrying on as usual.

This very week, 16 years ago, I moved to Scotland and took over a much neglected garden. There was not much in flower back in April 2004, but by the following spring, with a little TLC, the first Chionodoxa magically appeared (I didn’t plant them) and have been coming up each spring ever since. They love the sunny flowerbeds and paths and are poking through everywhere at the moment. In contrast, their relation, Scilla, prefer the cooler, damper, shadier part of the garden. In the low light, their bluish-lilac flowers seem to glow with a luminous quality.

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In the shade of a tree, Scilla flowers blooming. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another shade lover, is the primrose. There are 2 varieties in the garden at the moment. The bushy yellow one flowers just for spring whilst the paler variety is in bloom and and off for several months of the year. There are several primrose clumps now; they seed themselves and multiply every year, and really do brighten up a dark corner.

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Scottish primroses. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There were a few tasks to get on with at the weekend. One of which was to prune the bay tree-bush which has got a bit wild. I ended up with a huge trug full of bay leaves – they will keep me going for a very long time!

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Springtime bay pruning. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the first tasks I can remember tackling in the garden that first spring, was to dead-head the Hydrangeas. The papery flower heads act as a natural frost protector for the buds and leaves forming on the stem below. This is one of my most enjoyable annual tasks in the garden mainly because it doesn’t involve too much bending ūüôā

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Bucket of dry Hydrangea flowers. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image this week is of a Ribes Sanguineum or the flowering currant bush. It has been looking a bit sad for the past couple of years, but after a rigorous pruning last Autumn, it has come back to full flower and is looking much healthier. I love the blackcurrant aroma that the flowers have.

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Flowering currant bush. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week or so. Enjoy the outdoors if you are able, and keep safe. Until next time, take care.

 

Spring rhubarb harvest, roasted and poached

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This year’s first and second stems of spring rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are all keeping safe and well. Over the past couple of weeks, with the growing limitations on social interaction and movement, I have felt more grateful than ever before to have my own outside space. Not only are there cheery spring flowers everywhere and the joyful sounds of birds singing, I have been able to pick the first of this year’s home-grown produce.

At the beginning of the month, I had my first taste of this year’s bright pinkish-red, tender stems of forced rhubarb which I covered in early February. The stems weren’t very long because the pot I used wasn’t that tall and it made the stems¬† grow a bit wonky and squat. However, the colour was intensely vibrant and the flavour was fruity and¬† tangy.

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My home-grown forced rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

With more undeveloped stems peaking through, I re-covered the clump and was able to pick a second harvest a fortnight later. I have left the remaining stems to grow naturally. I have covered up another clump which will (hopefully) yield a few more stems ready for another harvest next month.

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Freshly picked and prepared, forced rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I didn’t do anything fancy with the rhubarb this year. I roasted the first batch with vanilla (recipe below), and the second harvest of stems got poached in the juice of my last blood orange of the season (sob) and some of last summer’s frozen raspberries (recipe below). Both very simple serving suggestions, but utterly delicious.

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Roast rhubarb with vanilla. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Roast vanilla rhubarb – I used 200g prepared spring rhubarb stems cut into even thickness pieces, about 8cm long. Put the rhubarb in a small roasting tin and sprinkle with 2 tbsp vanilla sugar and 3 tbsp water. Add a split vanilla pod and bake at 200¬įC, 180¬įC fan oven, gas 6 for 15-20 minutes until just tender. Serve warm or cold.

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Spring rhubarb with orange and raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rhubarb with raspberries and orange: I used 250g prepared rhubarb stems, cut into 5cm lengths. Put the rhubarb in a frying pan with 300g frozen raspberries and the juice and rind of 1 orange. Sprinkle over 5 tbsp granulated sugar. Heat gently until steaming, then put the lid on the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes until just tender and cooked through. Stand for 10 minutes before serving hot, or allow to cool completely. Discard the orange peel before serving.

I do enjoy eating rhubarb with a crumble topping but I find that spring rhubarb overcooks under a a crust of any kind. I came up with an idea which means you can cook a crumble topping separately and sprinkle it over fruit just before serving.

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Preparing oaty crumble topping. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Oaty crumble topping (serves 4): in a saucepan, melt 110g dairy-free margarine with 25g golden syrup and 25g Demerara sugar. Remove from the heat and stir in 150g gluten-free jumbo oats and 50g gluten-free plain flour blend. Spread out thinly over a lined baking tray and bake at 190¬įC, 170¬įC fan oven, gas 5 for about 15 minutes until merged together. Break up the mixture into clusters and return to the oven to bake for a further 7-8 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve hot or cold. Once cold, the mixture will keep in an air-tight container for several days, and it freezes well too.

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Roast rhubarb with oaty crumble. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for this month. I look forward to posting in April. Until then, keep well and stay safe ūüôā

 

 

Amaryllis – no one year wonder

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Amaryllis Picotee in spring last year. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been compiling this week’s post for a while, and I have been in a bit of a dilemma as to the best time to go public with it.

Often given as Christmas presents, Hippeastrum hybrida, commonly known as Amaryllis, will begin to grow soon into the new year if they have sufficient warmth and light, but where I am in the north of the UK, I find it a challenge to get the bulbs started much before late spring. I do love their big voluptuous blooms, so flamboyant for something that grows in such a confined space. I’ve purchased many a variety over the years but it’s only recently that I have realised that you can keep the bulbs from one year to the next, and have them flower again. So while I wait for mine to start shooting, I thought I would post this week for the benefit of anyone who has been enjoying their Amaryllis already this year and who wants to do so again.

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Amaryllis first and second time around. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When I first planted the Amaryllis bulb back in 2017, the following spring, I was delighted to see 2 strong stems of flowers forming, I ended up with 4 blooms on each stem and they lasted in succession for several weeks. Once the flower buds form, move the plant to a cooler spot, still in the light as too much warmth and mean that the flowers will go over quickly.

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When the floral show is over. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When the final flower has faded, cut off the stalk but leave the plant in the light and¬† warmth, and continue to water and feed as usual. You need to encourage the plant to grow foliage so that it can photosynthesize and build itself up for next year. These plants are best left indoors; they are not very robust and can’t tolerate variable climates.

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Green foliage and the dormant season. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In late summer, you will notice that the foliage will begin to die back. Stop watering at this point and allow the foliage to dry and shrivel. Store the bulb, still in its pot, in a cool place, unwatered, so that it can become dormant over the Autumn and into winter. Leave it like this for at least 6 weeks, and don’t let the temperature get below 10¬įC.

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New shoots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As the coolness of winter approaches, bring the bulb back into the warm and start watering and feeding again, and soon the shoots will appear. Don’t over-water otherwise the bulb will rot, but make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely. In the second year, my Amaryllis produced one flower stem with five blooms attached.

After the second year of flowering, you might want to re-pot the bulb when the flowers have died down. They don’t like too much space, so only upsize if really necessary and then only transfer to a pot one size up from the original. Take care with the roots, they don’t like root disturbance either.

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A stunning floral display, 2 years running, Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It looks like my bulb is a long way from doing anything at the moment. The weather is too cold and dull for it to get it started. But I am looking forward to it’s splendid display in a couple of months time. Until my next post, I wish you well and hope you have a good few days ahead.

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Amaryllis with 5 blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Autumn approaches

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Autumn-flowering heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. As I sat down to write this post, it felt like summer was here again. Today has been gloriously warm and sunny with blue sky all over. A perfect day to do some tidying up in the garden before the weather turns more seasonal. Whilst the nights are drawing in and leaves on the trees are on the turn, spring bulb shoots and leaves are sprouting all round the garden.

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Grape hyacinth foliage. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The Japanese anemones have been in flower since early last month and are still going strong. Surviving batterings from both wind and rain, they are so hardy and yet so fragile looking.

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Pink and white Japanese anemones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One indicator that Autumn is upon us is when the Autumn crocus appears. Towards the end of last month the tall, pale, leafless stems of the crocus first appeared in the shadier parts of the borders. Another leafless stem is the Nerine. These lilies have opened this week; they love the sunshine and their deep pink petals are a very welcome sight when most plants are dying back.

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Autumn crocus and Nerines. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In my garden, September is the time of year when a lot of produce is ready for harvest. This late sunny spell is very welcome particularly for the greenhouse tomatoes. I have so many green ones yet to ripen, but I am hoping that over the next couple of days more will start to redden, and herald the time to get the chutney pan out again.

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September greenhouse tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not been such a good year for the old apple tree in the garden. In fact, you have to play spot the apple this year. I should have enough to¬†put with the tomatoes for making chutney, but not enough to freeze. The miniature eating apples have done well though. The fruit is crispy, refreshing¬†and sweet; they make a delicious tarte tatin.

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This year’s eating and cooking apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The runner beans had a slow start this year but have more than made up for it now. The plants are heaving with beans. I dug the first of the Pink Fir potatoes last weekend, and was very pleased with the yield. They store well, so I should have plenty for a few weeks ahead. That’s all from me this week. I’m looking forward to spending the weekend out of doors and enjoying the sunshine. A happy weekend to you¬†what ever you are doing ūüôā

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Runner beans, Autumn raspberries and Pink Fir potatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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My weekend harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Aronia berry and apple jelly (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Garden berries and apples combined to make a delicious jelly preserve.                            Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Aronia Melanocarpa shrub and fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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 ūüôā

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Scottish berry jelly with oatcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: approx. 650g jelly preserve

Ingredients:

  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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    Preparing the fruit for jelly-making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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¬į-105¬įC-¬†to give the best result.
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    Cooking the juice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  7. 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.

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    Aronia berries, ripe and ready for picking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

My July garden retrospective

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End of July in the garden. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Wild thistle. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Early July Campanulas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Old fashioned, highly scented rose. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Scabious and lavender with bumblebee and butterfly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Tall red poppies and small bush Hydrangeas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s also been another good year for the outdoor soft fruit. The small espalier Morello cherry produced ¬ĺkg 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 ūüôā

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Mid July Morellos. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Aptly named, Glen Ample raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me for now. I look forward to sharing more recipes and garden posts in a short while.

Grow your own bunch of flowers

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Carnations, back in fashion. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s post is one I’ve been¬†putting together¬†for over¬†a year. At last the timing is right to publish. I hope it will be of use to anyone who likes “recycling” and raising plants for free.

A¬†wee while¬†ago I celebrated a “big” birthday. One of my friends sent me a very lavish bouquet¬†containing¬†many varieties¬†of flowers. One¬†bloom in particular caught my eye because it¬†was not a favourite of mine.

The carnation (Dianthus)¬†is a mainstay in many a flowery bunch.¬†¬†It is great value and lasts for a very long time in¬† a vase of water.¬†The carnation¬†went out of fashion for the very same reasons that¬†it is back in fashion¬†today. However, my birthday-bouquet carnation¬†wasn’t a patch on other varieties I’d seen. It had¬†rich peach-coloured¬†petals¬†with¬†a red frilly detail. It was a real beauty and changed my opinion of the flower there and then.

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My birthday carnation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A¬†few months¬†before my birthday, I’d been staying with my Mum and she had had a¬†jug of green shoots¬†on her window-sill. They were carnation cuttings which had rooted and she was about to plant in her garden. I could hardly believe that they¬†would be¬†so¬†easy to root and grow on, naturally¬†I¬†had¬†to have a go myself. Above is¬†one of the cuttings from my original birthday¬†carnations in full bloom last summer, 3 years after taking the cuttings from the original stems.

There are 2 simple ways to root carnation cuttings: one is simply in a pot of water on the window-sill (like my Mum did) and the other is with rooting powder and a pot of compost. If you fancy a go, the best time of year to do it is  from now and into early summer when the weather is warm.

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Selecting cuttings for rooting. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Select side shoots from carnation stems that don’t have any flower buds on them. They should look healthy and have 4 or 5 sets of leaves on them. Trim off the bottom pair of leaves and cut the stem just below a joint.

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Rooting in water. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To root in water, simply pop the cuttings in a jam jar of water and leave on a light window-sill, out of direct sunlight. Change the water every 2-3 days. After 3-4 weeks you should begin to see thread-like roots appearing from the joint on the stem.

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Potting on rooted cuttings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Once the roots appear, lightly dust the rooted ends in a little hormone rooting powder and plant in compost. Keep watered and in a well-lit, warm area out of direct sunlight Рan unheated greenhouse is ideal. Once the plants are strong and established, plant outside in late summer.

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Rooting cuttings in compost. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pot-rooted carnation cuttings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

You can also root carnation cuttings by adding them straight to compost. Dip the ends of the cuttings in hormone rooting powder and place in compost. Cover with a clear plastic bag or cloche and sit on a warm, well-lit window-sill, not in direct sunlight. Keep watered. After 3 to 4 weeks the cuttings should have rooted. Remove the bag and keep the cuttings  in the same way as the water-rooted cuttings above until they are ready to plant outside in a few weeks.

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Last Autumn, carnations in flower in my garden. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My carnations have been flowering on and off for the last 3 years. This spring, the stems had become very long and “leggy”. I trimmed them right down, leaving a few shoots in situ,¬†and¬†from the stalks I cut down, I¬†took some more¬†cuttings. Now¬†I’m starting again with another batch of cuttings¬†and looking forward to populating other areas of the garden with some very¬†attractive carnation stems later on in the year.

I was amazed to see that even the tight flower buds I removed from my cuttings burst into flower after a few days indoors,¬†which just goes to show that the carnation¬†really is a¬†great value flower. Happy blooming ūüôā

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The last of the flower buds opened in a vase indoors and lasted for over a month.           Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Two potato gnocchi (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Two potato gnocchi. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m feeling a bit pleased with myself this week. I have just dug up the first couple of sweet potato plants and harvested a reasonable crop. I planted the “slips” back in early June in my unheated greenhouse, and with the wonderful summer we had this year along with¬†plenty of watering, the plants flourished.

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Home-grown sweet potatoes, variety: Beauregard. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To be honest, the sweet potatoes did better than the regular potatoes I planted outside. I grew my favourite variety, Pink Fir, which have knobbly pink skins and a delicious flaky texture inside. I had a fair crop, but I think the lack of natural rain water did inhibit their growth.

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Final crop of Pink Fir potatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s recipe combines the two varieties to make one of my favourite Italian meals, the floury potato dumplings known as gnocchi.¬†Adding sweet potato in the mix gives the dumplings a light golden colour, and subtle sweet flavour.

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Freshly cooked two potato gnocchi. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Choose a dry textured white potato to mix with the sweet potato, and you’ll have the perfect textured gnocchi. Because my sweet potatoes were home-grown, they were quite small in comparison to ones I can buy. To make the perfect gnocchi, you cook the potato whole, in the skin, so you may need to cut up the potatoes if they are very large to make sure both varieties cook evenly and in a reasonable time.

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Scrubbed and ready for cooking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Once the dumplings are cooked through, I like to pop them in a heated pan with some melted dairy-free margarine and olive oil, and stir fry them for a few minutes to crisp up the outsides. The more traditional way of serving gnocchi is simply freshly boiled, seasoned, and then accompanied with the dressing of your choice – I like to dress freshly cooked gnocchi with extra virgin olive oil, some fresh basil and wild rocket leaves. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Ingredients

Serves: 3 to 4

  • 450g same-size sweet and white potatoes, scrubbed
  • Approx. 100g gluten-free plain flour blend (I use Dove’s Farm)
  • Salt
  • 25ml good quality olive oil
  1. Put the whole potatoes, unpeeled, in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender – mine took about 15 minutes. Drain well, and leave to cool for about 10 minutes until just cool enough to handle, then slip off the skins.
  2. For perfectly smooth gnocchi, process the cooked potatoes by pushing through a ricer or wide meshed metal sieve, directly on to the work top, then work in sufficient flour, along with ¬Ĺ tsp salt and the olive oil to make a smooth, firm dough.

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    Cooking and ricing potatoes for gnocchi. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes on the work top, then divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into long rolls about 2cm thick, and cut each roll into 2cm wide chunks. You should be able to make about 50 pieces in total.
  4. To achieve the distinctive shape of the dumplings, roll the potato pieces into a balls and gently press your finger into the centre of each to make an indent, then roll onto the prongs  of a fork to make the pattern. Spread out the prepared gnocchi on a clean floured tea-towel.

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    Shaping gnocchi. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To cook, bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the dumplings gently, in 2 batches, for 2-3 minutes until they float to the surface, then remove from the saucepan  using a slotted spoon and place them in a warm serving dish. Cover and keep warm while you prepare the remaining gnocchi in the same way. Serve immediately with your favourite accompaniment. Buon Appetito!

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    Freshly cooked gnocchi with fresh basil, black pepper and wild rocket. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Runner bean fattoush (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Runner bean fattoush. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A variation on a Middle Eastern classic salad for you this week. Fattoush is served all over the Middle East in various forms, but always with toasted bread added to it. It makes a light and refreshing sharing platter as a starter or lunch, and also serves as a versatile accompaniment to barbecued and grilled food. Most usually Fattoush consists of crisp lettuce, cucumber, tomato, pepper, onion and herbs, with chunks of bread tossed into them. It is usually dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice.

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My take on a Middle Eastern classic salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The good mix of sunshine and, latterly, rain this summer has produced a flourish of runner beans. Only 3 plants survived the initial “trauma” of being planted outside this year, and they were very skinny and frail for several weeks. But then suddenly they took off, and now just look at them, I have my very own giant beanstalks.

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Come rain, come shine, I have plenty of beans on the vine. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My fattoush recipe combines the salad ingredients I have growing in the garden at the moment Рcucumber, tomatoes and runner beans. For the herb, I used salad burnet which has a refreshing cucumber taste; coriander, mint and parsley are most usually added.

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Freshly picked runner beans, cucumber and salad burnet. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Instead of onion, I used fresh chives, and for extra crunch, I chopped up some whole almonds and sprinkled them on top. After toasting the bread, I seasoned it with salt, pepper and tangy sumac powder for extra zing.

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Toasted gluten-free pittas with olive oil and sumac. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Ingredients

Serves: 4

  • 175g runner beans
  • 1 Romaine or Little Gem lettuce
  • 150g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small cucumber
  • A small bunch fresh chives (or use 3 chopped spring onions, or finely chop half a small red onion)
  • A few sprigs salad burnet (or coriander, parsley and/or mint)
  • 2 large gluten-free pitta breads
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Sumac powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g whole almonds, roughly chopped
  • Fresh lemon
  1. Trim the beans РI like to peel the sides with a vegetable peeler, and then nip of the tops. Cut into chunks. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the beans for 3-4 minutes until lightly cooked. Drain well and rinse in cold running water to cool. Drain well.

    TRimming_and_chopping_home-grown_runner_beans
    Preparing fresh runner beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Tear or shred the lettuce and place in a large serving bowl. Halve the tomatoes, and thickly slice the cucumber. Toss into the lettuce along with the cooked beans. Snip the chives into pieces with scissors and strip the leaves from the salad burnet or other fresh herbs. Mix into the salad.
  3. Toast the pitta breads. Brush with oil and sprinkle with sumac and season to taste. Tear into chunky pieces and toss into the salad. Sprinkle with almonds. Serve the salad with olive oil and wedges of lemon to squeeze over.

    Runner_bean_fattoush_salad_close-up
    Close-up on fattoush. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Warm tomato, sage and caper bruschetta (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Warm tomato, sage and caper bruschetta. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have never been able to pick home-grown tomatoes this early before. Usually, my tomatoes don’t ripen until at least September, and I’m always left wondering whether I will be making pots-loads of green tomato chutney.¬†This year, the tomatoes¬†are ripening¬†at least one month ahead, and I am delighted ūüôā

I planted 8 different varieties this year in the greenhouse, and all¬†are doing¬†very well. I’m going to be eating a lot of tomatoes this year!

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Early August tomato harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I enjoy eating tomatoes raw, simply sliced, sprinkled with a little seasoning, and a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness, and topped with a few fresh basil leaves.

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A colourful variety of tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

However, I do cook with them occasionally, and my recipe this week is for a lightly cooked tomato dish which I put on top of gluten-free ciabatta-style bread¬†to eat as a light lunch or quick supper snack. The topping¬†also makes a great sauce to serve over pasta or roast veg. The tomatoes are flavoured with fresh sage, garlic and capers, and for a tangy sweetness, I’ve added¬†a little¬†white balsamic vinegar.

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Rosella tomatoes, fresh sage, and Flamingo tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To enjoy all the flavours of the recipe, leave the mix to cool slightly before serving rather than eating it too hot or fresh out of the saucepan.

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Bruschetta ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 225g small tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • A few leaves fresh sage
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 1 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices of freshly toasted bread
  1. Put the tomatoes, sage, garlic, capers and vinegar in a small saucepan. Season to taste and heat gently until simmering. Cover with a lid, turn down the heat to low and cook the tomatoes very gently for 10 minutes, until soft. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes.

    Tomatoes_capers_fresh_sage_and_gluten-free_ciabatta_bread
    Bruschetta ingredients and preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. To serve, discard the sage leaves. Drizzle freshly toasted bread with olive oil and spoon over the tomato topping. Garnish with fresh sage.

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    Bruschetta, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins