Welcome to my collection of seasonal gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly recipe posts; a round up of my gardening throughout the year, and the plants and produce I grow here in central Scotland. I wish you good readng, happy cooking and perfect planting!
Happy new year to you all. My very best wishes to my blogging friends for a happy, healthy and peaceful year ahead.
It’s been a quiet start to the year. After a milder, rain-soaked, grey morning, the afternoon brought with it much calmer and brighter weather, with a glorious blue sky, sunshine, and crisp, fresh air.
Enjoy the rest of the holiday. I look forward to starting my regular posts again soon 🙂
As I sat down to write this post last night, we were awaiting the arrival of the first major storm of the season. Nothing has materialised overnight, but it is suddenly feeling much colder. There is a thick frost this morning, and it is bright and clear again, the wind has dropped, and all is calm.
On the whole, the first few days of the month have been quite kind to the gardeners amongst us here in central Scotland. Whilst the east coast did have more seasonal weather, we were blessed with several blue sky days, milder temperatures, and some glorious sun rises.
To be honest, I haven’t been outside much recently – work has kept me inside. The garden is looking a bit tired now, and ready for a rest. I cleared a lot of the autumn debris a couple of weeks ago and it’s beginning to look a bit bare in places. However, the evergreens provide shape and colour and look very vibrant on a fine day, and the Cotoneaster hedge is laden with berries, as it is every year.
The best value plants in the garden this year have been the carnations I planted last year – taken as cuttings from a birthday bouquet. They began flowering in August, and are still producing blooms at the moment. I’m sure the winter weather will get to them eventually, but the south-facing wall seems to be providing them with sufficient shelter to have kept them going this far into the year.
Elsewhere in the garden, the colours have faded. The Hydrangeas have taken on a beautiful “vintage” look, and the blooms of Echinops and white Japanese Anemones have left behind interesting seed-heads which are slowly weathering away.
The last of my garden features this month is this wee fellow, a perennial primrose. Just one solitary bloom at the moment, hidden away in a sheltered, damp part of the garden. A small flash of pale yellow which acts to remind me that spring will be here again in just a few weeks. Have a good week 🙂
Last weekend in the garden, at times, it was a little hard to believe that it was actually the beginning of November. There was a biting wind to remind me, but the sun was out, the sky was blue and in just about every corner of the garden, there were flowers in bloom. The dainty, pale-pink cranesbill above with the rose-bush in the background, are plants on their second flowering of the year. The darker pink flowers are Nerines, a glamorous, lily-like autumn flowering bulb, which I planted in late spring and have been flowering since the end of September.
It’s not only pink flowers. There are bright yellow Welsh poppies here and there, and a seasonal reality check: the first flowers of Winter Jasmine are just opening out.
Flowers aside, there are also various berries adding splashes of colour. The holly trees are stacked out with berries this year – both red and yellow berried varieties – and the native iris, Foedissima, which flowered so prolifically a few months ago has now become laden down with bright orange berries. It looks very curious indeed, the berries are bursting out of pods which open out to match the exact formation of the iris petals earlier in the year. With all the berries around, there is clearly going to be plenty of food for the birds this winter.
And finally, one more berry to report: it looks like I may have another crop of strawberries this year. I’m not getting my hopes up on the jam-making front, but I am curious to see if they do actually ripen.
Looking down the driveway from my office window I can see the wonderful shades of an Acer tree. As the seasons change the foliage turns from bright, lush green in spring, to more coppery tones in summer and now, the leaves are shades of rich red and brown.
There is still a lot of green in the garden, but now that the pinks and blues of the summer borders have faded, it is the time of year when the reds flowers and shrubs really stand out.
The fine specimen above was planted last year and has been producing flower stems for several weeks. It’s still going strong, adding a splash of colour to a flower-bed which was alive and vibrant with lupins a few weeks ago. The Antirrhinum is a nostalgic plant for me; we had them growing in most of my family gardens as I grew up. I used to think that the flower heads looked like little faces staring up at me from the borders.
The Fuchsia bushes have also been in flower for a while. This dainty variety grows in front of a magnificent Cotoneaster horizontalis, which is splayed out against a wall. Together the two plants look very bright and bold, one in front of the other. The Cotoneaster is laden with berries which tend to stay in place throughout the winter – for some reason the birds aren’t that interested in them.
Another later flowering plant in the garden is Lyceteria, more familiarly known as Pheasant Berry. Occasionally there has been a pheasant in the garden but I have yet to see one anywhere near this bush. The unusual flowers last a long time, and look like a succession of dark red lampshades hanging from a thin red cord.
Apart from the flowers and foliage, there is also red colour from late ripening fruit. The Autumn raspberries are not as prolific as the earlier variety I grow, but it is lovely to be picking berries at this time of year. The last of my blueberry bushes is in fruit, but it is the leaves and stems that offer so much at the moment; on a dull day, the vivid red is a sight to behold. The little red apples were picked just after I took the image. Just five small fruit on a miniature tree, but crisp, sweet and delicious with every bite.
To finish my red-themed post this week, while I was taking these pictures, I came across two aptly named butterflies having a bit of a stand-off on the white Hydrangea bush. One clapped its wings together as soon as I got the camera out and couldn’t be tempted to open them again. The other fellow was more obliging and sat there for quite a while as I clicked away. It wasn’t until later on that I realised the poor thing only had one antennae. Until next time, enjoy the Autumn shades 🙂
My first harvest of plums in the year marks the end of summer in my mind. There is, of course, something to celebrate in having such lovely fruit to pick, and yet, I feel a bit sad that autumn is approaching. I managed to get a head-start on the wasps this year, picking about 1kg of unblemished fruit. There are plums a plenty yet to ripen, so I need to work on my timing over the next few days and harvest them before the wee sugar-seeking beasties move in.
My plum cookery isn’t very adventurous or fancy. I usually make jam or a plum sauce. Sometimes I make a compote. Baking them in wine is another very simple way I enjoy the rich, distinctive flavour of this particular fruit. Fresh bay-scented orchard fruit is something I tasted for the first time in Cyprus. The familiar glossy-leaved herb has become a flavour I use a lot in my kitchen, both in sweet and savoury cooking, and now that I have a bay tree in the garden, I use the herb all the more. Fresh bay gives a refreshing, herbal taste to fruit. You can use dry leaves, but as the flavour is much more intense than the fresh, you may want to experiment by reducing the quantity of leaves by at least half. If you don’t have any wine, or prefer not to use it, cranberry juice makes a good alternative in this recipe. If you don’t have plums, the recipe works equally well with apricots, peaches or nectarines. The baked fruit also freezes well too.
750g fresh Victoria plums
60g Demerara sugar
4 fresh bay leaves
300ml fruity red wine or unsweetened cranberry juice
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Wash and pat dry the plums. Cut in half and remove the stones. Arrange the halves neatly, cut side up, preferably in a single layer, in a baking dish or tin.
Sprinkle with sugar and push in the bay leaves, then pour over the wine or juice. Bake for 30-40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, until tender.
Discard the bay leaves. Carefully strain off the cooking juices into a saucepan . Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 5 minutes until reduced and syrupy. Pour over the fruit and leave to cool. Cover and chill for 2 hours before serving. Best served at room temperature for maximum flavour. Delicious accompanied with coconut yogurt or rice pudding.
It’s been feeling a wee bit autumnal here in central Scotland for the past couple of weeks. Some of the leafy foliage in the garden is on the turn and the nights are drawing in fast. I also have blueberries ready for picking.
Home-grown blueberries are a delight to behold and eat. The skin is much bluer than any variety I can buy, and the skin has a silvery, almost downy bloom. The fruit is firmer in texture and has a slightly tart, more pronounced flavour. The plants are easy to grow, require little maintenance, and love the acidic Scottish soil. The leaves turn pink as the season progresses, and make a wonderful display in the fruit beds.
I planted 3 blushes about 5 years ago. One fruits end of July/beginning of August, one is in full ripening mode now, and the other has fruit that is just turning pink. It is unusual for me to be able to harvest enough berries to make anything substantially blueberry flavoured in one go. Usually I keep adding to a bag of berries in the freezer until I have enough to make jam – blueberries do freeze very well and make very good jam from frozen fruit. This year has been an exception, and I have harvested sufficient fresh berries for this unbelievably easy blueberry cake.
115g dairy-free margarine, softened
115g caster sugar
115g gluten-free self raising flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
2 large eggs
50g ground almonds
100g marzipan, cut into small pieces
200g fresh or frozen blueberries
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4) Grease and line an 18cm square cake tin. Put the margarine, sugar, flour, eggs and ground almonds in a bowl. Using an electric mixer on a low speed, gently whisk the ingredients together until loosely blended. Increase the mixer speed and continue to whisk for a few seconds longer until creamy and smooth.
Gently stir in the marzipan and blueberries and spoon into the tin. Smooth the top and bake for about 45 minutes until lightly golden and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin, then slice into 8 portions and serve. If you can leave it alone, the cake tastes even better the next day. It is also delicious served warm as a pudding.
There are other signs of Autumn in the garden. The Autumn Crocus opened out this week, and the globe thistles (Echinops) are in various stages of blooming. I was delighted to see so many bees still hard at work when I was taking these pictures. Until next week, enjoy the late summer/very early autumn sunshine.
Since the end of last month, it has felt like summer has left us here in central Scotland. There have even been a couple of chilly nights when it’s felt like Autumn is on the way. Whilst there has been some warm sunshine, the blue sky days have been peppered with heavy rain showers, and the poor plants, flowers and shrubs have been taking a battering.
This baby pink-coloured Astilbe reminds me of candy-floss. The tiny, soft flowers bunch together to give a fluffy-looking display which seems to bounce back even after the heaviest of showers. Just as pink and delicate-looking (and able to withstand the rain!) are the Japanese anemones which grow in a cluster at the base of one of the trees in the back garden. I also have a white variety but this year, the pinks are well ahead of the whites.
On the opposite flowerbed to the anemones is where the wispy Scabious grow. I tie the wiry floral stems in loose bunches, supported with canes, to keep them from falling over and splaying all over the place. The blooms form small white globes, tinged with pale blue-lilac petals; they are so pretty, and the bees love them!
There are lots of flamboyant red and mauve poppies growing alongside the fruit bushes at the moment, but sadly, each one is only surviving no longer than a single day. These beauties are just too fragile to withstand the heavy rain drops. I managed to enjoy this one for a few hours this week, but sadly the next morning, all the petals had fallen.
I’m glad of some longer lasting colour in the garden from my ever-faithful Hydrangeas. All the bushes are in flower now and they will continue to bloom for several weeks, subtly changing colour as time goes on. At the moment, the colours are soft and muted, but as Autumn draws nearer, the petals will deepen in colour and become more intense.
To finish my garden round-up for this month, the greenhouse is pretty colourful at the moment as well. I’ve been picking cucumbers and tomatoes for a few days now, and it looks like I am going to have plenty of produce for the weeks to come. So, until next month, I bid you: happy gardening!
It is pleasantly fragrant in the garden at the moment, thanks mostly to two highly scented rose bushes. One variety is very old, a Felicia rose, with gnarled, stooped stems. However old it is, the foliage is vibrant green and healthy-looking and the bush produces an abundant supply of pale pink, Turkish Delight-scented flowers from late spring through to late summer. The other, a Gertrude Jekyll, I planted last year. The flowers are larger, deeper pink in colour and the fragrance slightly sweeter and more aromatic. Both roses have lots of petals per head, and are perfect for use in the kitchen.
The preparation for any recipe using rose petals is the same. Choose fragrant roses with undamaged petals; they need to be free from pests and chemical sprays. Rose heads are best picked when almost fully open and still fresh. Cut the stems in the morning before the sun becomes too hot – this helps preserve colour and fragrance. Carefully pull the petals from the head, keeping them as whole as possible, weigh them, and then place in a colander or strainer. Fill a bowl with cold water and dip the colander in the water to submerge the petals. Swirl gently the colander and then lift out. Shake gently to drain and shake further to remove the excess water.
The petals are fine to use damp for rosewater, syrup and any recipe where they are cooked in liquid, but if you want to dry them, spread them out carefully on sheets of absorbent kitchen paper or a clean tea towel and pat them dry with more paper or clean cloth. Leave to dry naturally, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour or until they feel dry to the touch.
Rosewater – makes approx. 250ml
25g fragrant rose petals – approx. 4 full heads of rose petals
250ml boiling water
1 tsp vodka (optional) – this helps preserve the rosewater for slightly longer
Prepare and rinse the rose petals as described above. Place in a sterilised, clean preserving jar or heatproof jug, and pour over the boiling water.
Cover the top with a piece of muslin or kitchen paper and leave to steep until completely cold.
Strain through muslin into a sterilised, clean jug and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible. Mix in the vodka if using.
Decant into a sterilised, screw-top bottle or jam jar. Seal, label and store in the fridge. Use within 4 to 6 weeks.
Note: homemade rosewater is weaker in dilution that the distilled rosewater you can buy ready-made, so you will probably need to use more in your recipes.
Rose petal syrup – makes 350ml
85g fragrant rose petals – approx. 9 full heads of rose petals
450ml cold water
265g caster sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Prepare and rinse rose petals as above, then place in a clean, large stainless steel saucepan. Pour over the cold water.
Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 20 minutes – all the colour will come out of the petals. Strain through muslin into a jug, and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible.
Return the liquid to the saucepan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir well over a low heat to dissolve the sugar – the liquid should now be, magically, very pink.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until lightly syrupy. Pour into sterilised bottles or jars and seal well. Label and cool. The syrup will keep unopened for 6 months, once opened keep in the fridge for up to a month.
Rose petal syrup is perfect for fruit salads; adding to cocktails; diluting with sparkling water for a refreshing summer cooler; for pouring over pancakes or for drizzling over freshly baked cakes.
Dried rose petals – prepare rose petals as described above and dry thoroughly. Spread out across the layers of a dehydrator, making sure they are well spaced out, keeping them in as much of a single layer as possible. Cover and dry at 40°C for 1 ½ to 2 hours, swapping the trays around every 30 minutes, until the petals are dry and parched. Leave to cool then place in a clear screw-top jar and store in a dark, dry place. Petals will fade after a few months, and are best used within 4 to 6 weeks. Sprinkle over salads, fruit desserts or use as a natural cake decoration.
My next post will be very rosy and will use all 3 rose recipes. See you in a few days!
Half way through the year already. I can hardly believe it. It’s also just over a year since I published my first post on this blog. What a year it’s been. So many flowers, plants and recipes. So much colour and flavour.
The last week of June has been a turbulent one here in central Scotland. After several days of warm sunshine, suddenly the winds got up and the rain came down. The flowers and shrubs certainly received a bit of a battering, but most have recovered. I have two Kalmia bushes in the garden. When in bud, the bright pink tightly closed flowers remind me of pink icing piped through a star-shaped nozzle (you can see a few in the picture above). As the buds open out, the unusual pink flowers turn into little lanterns or fairy-sized lamp shades. As the petals begin to fade and fall, it looks like someone has scattered pink confetti over the lawn.
Mid-June to early July is probably the best time of the year for colour variation in the garden. There are a lot dainty blue and white Campanula all over the borders as well as different shades of foxgloves – these both seed themselves year after year. I have two clumps of yellow Phlomis, with small crowns of flowers that remind me of little pineapples. The velvety, sage-green foliage comes up in mid spring and lasts long after the flowers have bloomed.
I discovered this small lily underneath a rhododendron in the front garden a few weeks ago. One by one the individual blooms have opened, and finally yesterday, I managed to capture them all open at the same time. It is like a small tiger-lily, so pretty and dainty. I can’t remember planting it, or even having seen it ever before!
This fine fellow was new in the garden last year. Actually, it had probably been in the garden for a while, but it was hidden away in an old compost heap. When the compost was distributed, it sprouted up. Given a more prominent position in the garden, it started flowering last summer. This iris is one of only two native varieties in the UK; it is not the most colourful, but certainly interesting, and it has a rather unfortunate and unflattering common name: “stinking iris” – but this one doesn’t seem to smell at all!
My last image to share this month, is a plant not strictly in my garden, but something I am proud to have raised given the climate here. It is a small Oleander bush. I have kept it through the winter months, swaddled in fleece, in my unheated greenhouse, and this spring the flower buds started appearing. On warm days, it does stand outside for a few hours, and brings a hint of the Mediterranean to the more traditional flora and fauna.
From the last few days of May, I think my garden looks at it’s best. There is so much colour, so many fragrant blooms, it is a real joy to be outside, and even the weeding seems less of a chore! The weather has been kind, and I have been outside more than I have been indoors. The lupins are great value in the garden; the flowers with their rich, spicy aroma, are in bloom for a long time, and once the long heads have finished, cut them off and smaller blooms appear for a second showing.
The last of my spring bulbs are in flower now. I planted alliums for the first time a couple of years ago, so this is their second late spring showing. I love the intricate web of tiny star-like lilac flowers that make up the globe shaped bloom.
It’s been a fine year for rhododendrons and azaleas. Most have past their best now, but this scarlet beauty stands at the bottom of the drive-way and is always one of the last to flower. It makes a stunning display. The later varieties are particularly sweet-smelling. The peachy-pink one below is heavily scented although sadly not quite so many blooms this year. The pure white azalea and the apple blossom-pink rhododendron, on the other hand, are almost overloaded with blooms.
One of the finest trees in the garden is the laburnum. On a bright day, the rich yellow glow from the petals is quite dazzling, and the heavy scent is intoxicating. The flowers look particularly glorious against a blue sky. Sadly it’s not in flower for more than a few days before the petals start falling like vibrant confetti, all over the garden.
I have been patiently waiting for this iris to come into flower. For the first time, I split the rhizome back in the Autumn and was delighted (and relieved) when the buds started to form about a month ago. This variety is a real beauty called Iris Pallida; the pale sky blue flowers have the aroma of slightly spicy bubble-gum. It’s planted in a dry, sunny corner by the front house wall, and flowers from the top down. I believe the rhizome of this particular iris is used as a botanical in some gin varieties.
My final image to share this month, is from a crop of plume thistles Atropupureum which are growing in the back garden. Not only popular with me, but the bees love them too 🙂