Upside-down ginger apple cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Upside-down ginger apple cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. We’re well into the season of Autumn now, and it wouldn’t feel complete if I didn’t share an apple recipe with you. It has been a bumper year for apples in the UK. Back at the end of last month, the old apple tree in the garden was groaning with fruit, and on a dry, bright day, it was finally time to relieve the tree of all its fruit.

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Lord Derby apple harvest 2022. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

With the very sunny and warm summer we enjoyed here, the apple crop was much sweeter than ever before, so as well as being used in cooking, the apples make good eaters this year. There were far too many for one household to cope with, I am pleased to say that several local families in the town were able to enjoy a bag full this year.

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Ginger apple cake with ginger syrup. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. The main preparation for the recipe is the apples, after that there is only a very simple cake batter to make. I picked out the smaller apples for my tin. If you have larger apples, you may want to slice them into quarters or thick rings rather than simply cutting them in half.

Make the cake the day before you want to serve it because it will benefit from a few hours keeping. The flavour and texture will improve greatly overnight. The recipe makes quite a large cake, but it freezes well so you’ll have plenty for another day. Serve warm as a pudding with custard, or cold as a comforting cake.

Serves: about 10

Ingredients

  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon
  • approx. 9 small cooking or eating apples
  • 2tbsp stem ginger syrup (I used the syrup from the jar)
  • 125g plant butter
  • 125g treacle
  • 125g golden or corn syrup
  • 125g light soft brown sugar
  • 250g gluten free plain flour
  • 250g gluten free porridge oats
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4tsp ground mixed spice
  • 75g chopped stem ginger
  • 175ml oat milk or other plant-based milk

1.Put the lemon rind to one side. Add the juice to a bowl of cold water. Peel and core the apples; cut in half and place in the lemony water to help prevent browning. Leave aside until ready to assemble the cake.

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Preparing the apples for cake making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Put the butter, treacle, golden syrup and sugar in a saucepan, and heat gently to melt. Mix well then leave to cool for 10 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Line a 20 x 30cm tin with baking parchment and drizzle the base with ginger syrup. Drain the apples, pat dry with kitchen paper and arrange over the bottom of the tin – see above.

4. Put the flour, oats, baking soda and spice in a bowl. Mix together and make a well in the centre.

5. Pour in the melted ingredients and add the reserved lemon rind and chopped ginger. Carefully mix everything together along with the milk, then spoon over the apples making sure they are covered.

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Making the ginger cake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Stand the tin on a baking tray and bake for about 50 minutes until firm to the touch. Transfer the tin to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Turn out on to a large sheet of baking parchment. Wrap carefully and store in an airtight container overnight to allow the flavours to develop.

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Just out of the oven. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I mixed some of the ginger syrup from the jar of stem ginger with plain carob syrup and drizzled it over the cake to serve.

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Up close on ginger apple cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. Until next time, happy baking 🙂

Italian round aubergine baked in tomato and garlic sauce (gluten-free, with dairy-free and vegan alternative)

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A vision in violet, Italian round aubergine (eggplant). Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My post this week is inspired by this wonderful aubergine (eggplant) I bought recently from an Italian deli. The size of a small football, it weighed in at just over 700g. The variety is Italian round aubergine or Melanzane to give it its authentic Italian name.

Aubergine is one of my favourite vegetables – I love the way it cooks down to a rich, melting tenderness – and my number one recipe for serving it is simply baked in homemade tomato and garlic sauce.

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Halved and sliced, Italian round aubergine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Round aubergine can be prepared just as you would the standard black variety. I cut it in half and then sliced each half in half again and then into approx. 1cm thick slices. It looks like a giant purple bug don’t you think?

I always salt aubergine as I find it cooks more quickly and also cooks more tenderly. Simply lay the slices in layers in a large colander or strainer, sprinkling with salt as you go, and then leave to stand over a plate or bowl for 30 minutes. After this time, you should see water exuding from the slices. Rinse thoroughly and then pat dry with kitchen paper.

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Simple ingredients, wonderful flavours. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The sauce is made with ripe tomatoes, garlic and a bunch of fresh herbs tied together for flavour. It is seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little sugar and enriched with a dash of olive oil. I have outlined the cooking stages below but for more details, take a look at this previous post for some more illustrations on tomato sauce-making Pesto pancake and tomato layer (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

I topped mine with some grated Parmesan, but a non-dairy alternative works just as well. If you prefer not to use cheese at all, sprinkle the top with gluten-free dried breadcrumbs or polenta, or leave the bake untopped and cover the dish with foil when ready to bake.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 1.25kg ripe tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped
  • Large sprig each of fresh thyme and sage
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2tsp caster sugar
  • 2tbsp good quality olive oil

For the aubergine:

  • 750g aubergine, sliced into 1cm thick slices
  • Salt
  • Approx. 150ml good quality olive oil
  • 50g freshly grated Parmesan or plant-based alternative, optional – or 3tbsp dry gluten-free breadcrumbs or polenta

1. Make the sauce first so that it is cold when you assemble the dish. You can make it up a day or two beforehand to save time on the day you want to serve it. Put the tomatoes in a deep frying pan or large saucepan and add the herbs and garlic. Season well. Cover with a lid and cook over a low/medium heat for about 40 minutes until soft and collapsed.

2. Discard the herbs, then push the tomatoes and garlic through a nylon sieve to extract as much tomato pulp as you can. Return the pulp to a clean pan and add sugar to taste; spoon in the oil. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook gently for 30-40 minutes until thickened and reduced – you will need about 450-500ml for this recipe. Leave to cool, then cover and chill until ready to use.

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Making tomato, garlic and herb sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. For the aubergine, salt them as I described above, then rinse well and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat 2-3tbsp oil in a large frying pan and fry a few slices at a time for 2-3 minutes on each side, until lightly golden. Drain well on kitchen paper. Repeat using more oil as needed to fry the remaining slices. Leave to cool, then cover and chill until ready to assemble the bake.

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Salted and fried aubergine (eggplant) slices. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

4. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Spread one third of the sauce over the bottom of a 1.5l baking dish and top with half the aubergine slices. Add half the remaining sauce and top with the remaining aubergine slices.

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Layering up the bake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Spoon the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with cheese or crumbs. Stand the dish on a baking tray and bake for about 50 minutes until tender, golden and bubbling.

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Sprinkling the bake with dairy or plant-based cheese. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Leave the bake to stand for 10 minutes before serving. I sprinkled the top with the last few leaves of homegrown basil from my greenhouse and accompanied it with a crisp salad and some freshly cooked rice. It was absolutely delicious 🙂

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Just out of the oven and sprinkled with fresh basil. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have a good few days ahead. We will be into November the next time I post. I know I say this quite a lot but where does the time go? Until then, take care and best wishes to you. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Apple and salal berry jelly preserve (naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan)

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Homemade apple and salal berry jelly. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. I hope you are keeping well. It’s that time of year when I get the jam pan out and start making preserves and chutneys for the months ahead.

Back in August I harvested a lot of salal berries from the garden. I did compote a few but the rest went in the freezer for making preserves. There are still a few on the bushes now but I am leaving those for the garden birds to enjoy.

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August 2022 harvest of Salal berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I haven’t picked all the apples yet, but I have been taking one or two as and when I need them for cooking. The old tree in the garden is looking heavy with fruit this year, so I think I will be gathering in the apples very soon.

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October 2022, cooking apples ready for picking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe is a very simple jelly preserve. If you don’t have salal berries, blueberries or blackberries will work just as well. Salal berries can be quite challenging to pick as they are quite squishy when ripe so I usually pick short branches and then remove the berries when I get back into the kitchen. Have a look at this post from last year for an easy preparation technique Salal berries – jam and muffins (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Single jar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe below makes a small quantity of preserve and as such can be easily doubled or trebled should you have more berries and apples. Making a smaller amount means that you can strain the fruit through a sieve rather than in a jelly bag; it is quicker to strain, and it also cooks down in less time.

Makes: approx. 650g

Ingredients

  • 200g prepared salal berries, washed
  • 400g cooking apples, washed and chopped, but left unpeeled or cored
  • approx. 450g granulated or preserving sugar

1. Put the fruit in a large saucepan with 350ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until soft and pulpy. Mash the fruit occasionally to help break it down.

2. Place a large sieve over a jug or bowl and line with clean muslin. Carefully ladle in the pulp and leave to strain for 3-4 hours.

3. Put the pulp back in a saucepan and the harvested juice in the fridge. Re-cook the pulp, this time with 200ml water, for about 5 minutes, and then strain again as above.

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Preparing and cooking the fruit for jelly making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Measure the juice and pour into a large clean saucepan. Add sugar to the ratio of 450g per 600ml juice – I had 575ml juice and added 430g sugar.

5. Heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, then raise the heat and bring to the boil. Cook rapidly until the temperature reaches between 104°C and 105°C – this will probably take around 10 minutes.

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Making the jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Pour into small, clean, sterilised jars and seal immediately. When cold, label and store for 6-12 months, although the jelly is ready to eat immediately. Serve with cold cuts, cheeses or as a sweet spread on toast or crackers.

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Apple and salal berry jelly on oatcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Well that’s the end of my post for this week. I will be back in the kitchen again next time. Until then, I hope you have a good few days ahead 🙂

Pesto pancake and tomato layer (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Pesto pancake and tomato layer. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. What a mixed bag of weather there has been here since my last post. Plenty of rain to restore the water supplies with thundery downpours and a few sunny days here and there. The garden has bucked up again and the green grass has been restored.

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Homegrown orange tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe post this week gives a little nod towards the change of month and season. The greenhouse tomatoes are ripening now. I planted only 3 plants this year, but I am enjoying a steady supply to eat in salads. The variety is called Golden Zlatava, orange on the outside with reddish flesh inside. Whilst I haven’t grown enough for cooking this year, there are plenty of delicious locally grown tomatoes around, like these fantastic small plum tomatoes, which are perfect for sauce-making.

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Fresh plum tomatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The greenhouse basil really enjoyed the hot weather we had last month and has grown very bushy and bold. I love the flowers as well. Plenty of leaves to make one of my most favourite savoury sauces, pesto, which seems to be the best way to preserve the flavour of the herb once it has been frozen.

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Greenhouse basil. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There are 2 main components to the recipe this week: making the pancakes and making a tomato sauce. Both elements freeze well in case you want to make the recipe in stages. I made pesto in a previous post, so if you fancy having a go at that as well, here’s the link to the recipe Runner bean and pesto fritters (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Serves: 4

Ingredients

Tomato sauce

  • 1kg fresh tomatoes, washed and chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • A selection of fresh herbs such as sage, bay, marjoram and oregano
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1tsp caster sugar
  • 100g drained sundried tomatoes in oil, blotted on kitchen paper
  • Salt to taste

Pesto pancakes

  • 110g tapioca flour
  • 110g gram (chickpea or garbanzo) flour
  • 6g gluten-free baking powder
  • 1tsp salt
  • 65g fresh vegan pesto
  • 250ml plant-based milk (I used oat milk)
  • 160ml chickpea canning liquid (or other aqua fava)
  • Vegetable oil for brushing

1. First make the sauce. Put the tomatoes in a large pan with a lid and add the garlic and herbs. Heat until steaming, then cover, and simmer gently for about 45 minutes until very tender. Turn off the heat and leave to cool with the lid on.

2. Discard the herbs. Push the tomatoes and garlic through a nylon sieve, in batches, to remove the skins and seeds. Depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes, you should end up with around 700ml pulp.

3. Pour the pulp into a clean pan. Add the oil and sugar, heat gently, stirring, until boiling, then simmer for about 20 minutes until thickened and reduced to about 300ml. Leave to cool.

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Homemade plum tomato sauce preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Put the sundried tomatoes in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth, then stir into the cold tomato sauce. Taste and season. Cover and chill until ready to use.

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Adding sundried tomato paste. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. For the pancakes, put the flours, baking powder and salt in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the pesto, and gradually blend in the milk to make a smooth batter.

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Making the pesto batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. In another bowl, whisk the chickpea water until very thick and foamy, then gently mix into the batter to make a bubbly mixture.

7. Brush a small frying pan (15-16cm base diameter) lightly with oil and heat until hot. Spoon in 4-5tbsp batter, tilting the pan to cover the base with batter. Cook over a medium/low heat for 2-3 minutes until set and bubbles appear on top. Flip over and cook for a further 2 minutes until cooked through.

8. Layer the cooked pancake on a sheet of baking parchment on a wire rack, and cover while you make another 7 pancakes. Stack the pancakes on top of each other, between sheets of parchment to help keep them from drying out. If you are making the pancakes in advance, leave them to cool, then wrap them well and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

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Cooking the pancakes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pesto pancake stack. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

9. To assemble, spread a pancake with cold tomato sauce, almost to the edge of the pancake. Transfer to a lined baking tray and continue the spreading and layering with the remaining sauce and pancakes. If you have leftover sauce, keep it to serve with the pancakes.

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Layering before baking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

10. Cover the pancake stack with foil and place in a preheated oven at 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5. Heat through in the oven for about 45 minutes. Best served warm. Top with fresh chopped tomato and fresh basil to serve and accompany with wild rocket and any leftover tomato sauce.

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Tomato-filled pesto pancake layers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all for this post. See you all again soon. Thanks for stopping by. Best wishes 🙂

Chocolate cherry fudge brownies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Homemade chocolate cherry fudge brownies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. I hope you are keeping well and managing to stay cool in this very hot summer. The temperatures have been exceptional here in the UK and all over Europe which is great if you’re on holiday but not so good if you’re working. The garden is looking quite different this year due to the heat; many of the flowers are fading much more quickly than in previous years.

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Scottish wild cherry trees. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Last weekend, in an effort to stay cool and enjoy the outdoors at the same time, I went for a walk in some local woodland. I was looking to see how long it would be before the hedgerow blackberries (brambles) would be ripe enough to pick – I don’t think it’s going to be a good year for brambling sadly. Quite unexpectedly, I came across several wild cherries trees, completely untouched by birds, and laden with fruit as far as the eye could see.

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Wild cherry picking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I was completely unprepared for foraging. I had no bag other than the small holster bag I was using to carry a water bottle. Cherry trees are enormous in the wild, but there were quite a few fruits on the lowest branches and I was able to fill my bag with just under 1kg of fruit. The cherries were the sweetest, juiciest I have ever tasted. Such an unexpected treat. Apparently, it has been a bumper year for cherries because of the hot weather, but I am still amazed that the birds hadn’t been interested in them. If only I had gone walking with a ladder! 🙂

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Pitting ripe cherries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Back at home, I pitted the cherries. The firmer ones were easier to pit using my faithful old Italian cherry pitter, but the ripe ones I sliced and pitted using the tip of a sharp knife. Some went in the freezer, others were cooked in a crumble for tea, and the rest went into this week’s recipe.

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Wild cherry flavoured fudge brownies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Easy to make, just a bit of advanced prep – you need to line a cake tin and make up a flax seed egg replacement mixture. Then, you are good to go. The brownies keep well but in this warmth, I kept them in the fridge to stop them going too soft and sticky. They also freeze perfectly. Eat them as a sweet treat but they are also good served with more fresh cherries or compote and ice cream for dessert.

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Chocolate cherry brownies, gloriously fudgy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 16

Ingredients

  • 175g dairy-free dark chocolate (I used 54% cocoa – if you use darker chocolate, omit the cocoa powder and add an extra 25g flour)
  • 150g lightly salted plant butter, cut into pieces
  • 25g ground flax seed
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 75g gluten-free plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 140g pitted cherries, halved (approx. 170g whole)

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 5. Line an 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

2. Put 150g chocolate in a heatproof bowl with the butter and melt gently over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove from the water and cool for 10 minutes.

3. Make up the flax egg by mixing the flax seed with 110ml cold water and leave to stand for 5 minutes until thickened.

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Flax egg preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Preparing chocolate brownie mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Mix the sugar and flax egg into the melted chocolate along with the vanilla paste, then add the flour and cocoa powder and stir well until everything is well blended.

5. Pour into the prepared tin and scatter the cherries on top. Bake for about 1 hour until the mixture is set in the middle – initially the mixture rises round the edges leaving the centre molten but after a longer time in the oven, the centre firms up. Leave to cool in the tin.

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Baking brownie batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Remove from the tin and peel away the lining paper. Cut into 16 squares – you may find it easier to chill the brownie before you cut it as the texture is quite soft at room temperature.

7. Melt the remaining chocolate. Put the brownie squares on a board and drizzle each piece with a little chocolate. Leave to set before serving. Best stored in the fridge.

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Adding a chocolate drizzle. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m off to enjoy another slice now. I’ll see you again towards the end of the month. Until then, keep well and stay cool 🙂

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Cherry brownies for tea. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Baked summer fruit (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Baked Summer fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well and are having a good summer. Since my last post, the UK, like the rest of Europe, has been subject to some very hot weather. Fortunately here, not for a particularly long spell as the high temperatures were unprecedented for this part of the world. It has cooled down again now and the air feels fresher and the sun less strong.

I was worried that the soft fruit in the garden would suffer in the heat. The rhubarb in particular likes a good soaking as well as the sunshine. I was pleased to see that it bounced back once the temperature dipped and we had some very welcome rain.

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Just picked, homegrown rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe this week is a very simple one. I try to avoid putting the oven on in the hot weather, but I did make an exception for one of my favourite fruity combinations. Strawberries and rhubarb go together especially well, and when cooked with vanilla, I find the aroma and flavours is irresistible.

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Scottish rhubarb and strawberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It has been a good year for Scottish strawberries. They have been juicy and have tasted fragrant and sweet. I didn’t grow these myself, they came from the local farm shop. I chose larger fruit to cook with the rhubarb as they hold their shape better in the oven.

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Homemade vanilla sugar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I always have a jar of vanilla sugar in the cupboard. I chop up bits of vanilla pod that is past its prime or dried out too much and add it to caster sugar. I keep it in a glass jar with a screw-top lid. Every now and then I give the jar a shake to distribute the vanilla pieces. Sift the sugar as you use it to remove the pod pieces but keep the bits trapped in the sieve and put them back in the jar along with a top up of sugar ready for next time. You can replenish your supply more or less indefinitely.

On with the recipe. I allow the fruit to cool after baking as I prefer the flavours when they are cold and the fruit is more refreshing, but it’s personal preference. The fruit makes a deliciously light dessert or breakfast compote served with yogurt and toasted cereals.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 450g rhubarb
  • 50g vanilla or plain caster sugar – white sugar helps retain the colour of the fruit, but you may prefer to use brown for a more caramely flavour
  • 300g large fresh strawberries

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5. Wash and trim the rhubarb. Cut into even-thickness and same-length pieces – this will help with even cooking.

2. Place in an oven-proof dish and sprinkle over the sugar. Cover the top with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

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Preparing rhubarb for baking with vanilla sugar. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Meanwhile, wash and hull the strawberries and cut in half. Uncover the rhubarb and add the strawberries. Bake, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes until the fruit is just tender.

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Preparing Strawberries for baking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Leave to cool, then chill until ready to serve. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to develop. Delicious served with coconut yogurt.

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Baked fruit served with coconut yogurt. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week or so. I can hardly believe we’re just about to enter the month of August. Until next time, take care and my best wishes to you 🙂

Gin and tonic shortbread (gluten-free; diary-free; vegan)

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Shortbread bunting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It is with a happy heart that I publish my post this week. Here in the UK and other Commonwealth countries, we are celebrating the 70 year reign of our Queen Elizabeth II this weekend. For my part, I have been inspired to give one of my favourite bakes a bit of a Platinum Jubilee twist 🙂

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Patriotic shortbread. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This bake has a great combination of flavours for the time of year: lemon, lime and juniper as well as gin and tonic water in the icing. Leave out the gin and tonic if you prefer, and replace them fresh lemon or lime juice instead. If you are Coeliac, make sure the gin you use is gluten-free.

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Shortbread flavourings fit for a queen. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I baked the shortbread in a tin in order to achieve a good shape, but if you don’t have the right size tin, you can simply bake the shortbread round on a baking tray as it is. If it isn’t a jubilee occasion, I would usually decorate the shortbread with a few cake sprinkles or some fresh lemon and lime rind. I have captured a few images of how I made up the Union Jack flag design in case you ever want to make your own version for another occasion.

Makes: 8 pieces

Ingredients

  • 100g lightly salted plant (or dairy) butter, softened
  • 50g caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1tsp each finely grated lemon and lime rind
  • 8-10 juniper berries, finely crushed
  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend

Icing

  • 175g icing sugar
  • 25ml gin and/or tonic water, or fresh lemon or lime juice

1. Beat the butter and sugar together until well blended and creamy. Mix in the salt, citrus rinds and juniper.

2. Add the flour and gradually work into the creamy mixture, then bring together with your hands to make a firm dough.

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Making the shortbread dough. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Lightly flour the work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth. Form into a thick round piece and roll into an approx. 20cm round. If you are not using a tin, roll the mixture to form a 23cm round and neaten the edges.

4. For the tin version, base line a shallow 23cm cake tin and transfer the shortbread round to the tin, then press the dough right to the edge. Prick all over with a fork and chill for 30 minutes. Without a tin, transfer the shortbread round to a baking tray, prick with a fork and chill.

5. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Score the top of the chilled shortbread (about 1/3 the way through the dough) into 8 equal segments and bake for about 30 minutes until lightly golden. Cool for 5 minutes then carefully cut the segments all the way through and leave to cool in the tin or on the tray. Transfer to a wire rack.

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Shaping a shortbread round. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually stir in sufficient gin and tonic or lemon juice to form a smooth, thick, spreading icing.

7. Carefully spread the icing all over the top of each shortbread segment to cover and place on a board. If you prefer a smoother finish, add a little more G&T or juice to the icing so that you can spoon it over and let it drip down the sides of each piece – keep the shortbread on the wire rack for best results.

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Gin and tonic icing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

8. If you are decorating with sprinkles or citrus zest, add the decoration before the icing sets. If you are using ready-to-roll icing to decorate the tops, let the icing set before decorating. Below are a few images of how I created the flag effect on top of the shortbread.

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Making an icing Union Jack. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Whether you are celebrating or not this weekend, I hope you have a good time. Thanks for stopping by and I will hope to see you with my next post later on in the month.

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Melt in the mouth homemade iced shortbread. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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!

My last minute Simnel Cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Happy Easter 2022. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy Easter everyone. I hope you have a good Easter holiday. I’ve had a busy few weeks so Easter has crept up on me and caught me ill-prepared this year. Even though I am having a quiet one at home, I still wanted to do something to mark the occasion. Having no time to bake afresh, I set to this afternoon and transformed my stored and completely forgotten Christmas cake into a Simnel cake, ready to serve this weekend. And very successful it was to.

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Last minute Easter cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you fancy having a go yourself, this is what I did.

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Transforming Christmas into Easter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  • Slice a 20cm gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan fruit cake in half and brush both sides with a little apricot jam. Roll out 200g marzipan to fit the cake and place on one half.
  • Sandwich together with the other piece of cake. Turn the cake upside down and brush with more jam. Roll out a further 200g marzipan to fit the top. I embossed the top using an engraved rolling pin before laying on top of the cake.
  • Roll 11 x 15g marzipan balls for the top of the cake and either brown lightly under the grill or with a kitchen blow torch. Arrange on top of the cake and serve decorated with mini eggs and fresh primroses.
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My Cheat’s Simnel cake close-up. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Easter in a slice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Until next time, enjoy the colours and flavours of this wonderful season. See you again soon 🙂

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Easter primroses from my garden. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Sticky rice rolls (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Vegan sticky rice rolls. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been wanting to have a go at making my own sushi-style sticky rice rolls for some time, but have never quite got round to it. But having the right combination of ingredients at last, I have finally been able to experiment, and I am very pleased with the results. Sushi Master I am not, but hopefully good enough to tempt you into giving my easy recipe and method a try.

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Rainbow rice rolls. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The basic “must-have” ingredients are sheets of dried seaweed called Sushi Nori – I used 19 x 21cm sheets made by Clearspring. They have a rougher-textured side and a shiny side. Shiny side faces down when you make up the rolls. The sheets are dry and fairly crisp until you put the rice and filling on them, and then they soften and form a tasty edible wrapping for the rolls.

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Dried nori seaweed sheets. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For the filling, you need sushi rice or sticky rice. This is a short-grain variety which is very starchy so when it is cooked it clumps together. You can use other grains but they probably won’t cling together enough for neat slicing. I should imagine that Chinese glutinous rice and Arborio rice might also work but you’d need to do some experimenting with cooking times to make sure they don’t overcook and become mushy.

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Sushi rice in the raw. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

How you season the freshly cooked rice is up to personal taste. I do like the traditional subtle Japanese flavours of mirin and white rice vinegar. I also added a little sesame oil for some nuttiness, and of course a little salt and sugar for classic seasoning.

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Seasonings for sticky rice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

And finally, the filling. This needs to be thinly sliced and quite flexible for easy rolling. The key to a good roll is not to overfill it and to keep the covering nice and even. I went for thin ribbons of vegetables which I prepared with a vegetable peeler. Grated vegetables would also work in a thin layer. Other things to try could be a sprinkling of toasted seeds; some thinly sliced or grated smoked tofu, or mashed avocado.

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Rainbow carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 12

Ingredients

  • 125g raw sushi rice
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tsp white rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 sheets sushi nori
  • A few thin strips of rainbow carrots and cucumber (approx. 22 carrot and 8 cucumber)
  • Dipping sauce to serve – I mixed sesame oil with mirin, a little salt and sugar and freshly chopped chives
  1. First prepare the rice. Rinse the rice several times in cold water. Drain and put in a saucepan with 200ml cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes until the water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

2. Mix together the mirin, vinegar, sugar, oil and salt. Stir into the rice and leave to cool.

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Sticky rice preparation and cooking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Lay a piece of parchment just bigger than the nori sheet on a dry silicone mat or chopping board. Lay the nori, shiny-side down, on top and spoon over half the rice.

4. Carefully spread the rice over the seaweed, leaving 1cm clear at one end and at both sides. At the other end, leave a 2cm gap where the roll will finish. Make sure that the rice is evenly spread and flattened.

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Ready to roll. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Lay the filling neatly on top. Using the parchment to help you, begin rolling from the near edge, keeping the filling in place with your fingers. Roll firmly without pressing to avoid squashing the filling. Once rolled, wrap the parchment around the roll completely and chill for at least an hour before slicing. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make up another roll.

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Sticky rice roll filling and rolling. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. When ready to serve, unwrap the rolls and discard the parchment. Slice off any overhanging vegetables from each end to neaten, then ussing a sharp knife, cut each roll into 6 slices.

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Rolled rolls before and after trimming. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Your sticky rice rolls are now ready to serve. I arranged mine on a serving platter with the dipping sauce in the middle. I cut out some flower shapes from thin carrot slices and added a few chives to garnish.

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Rice roll sliced in half. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I love the colours of the rainbow carrot and cucumber combination, very cheery for the soul, healthy and delicious to eat on a spring day for or a picnic.

That’s me for another month. Until next time, take care and keep safe.