Almond-topped, spiced mince pies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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My almond-topped mince pies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So here we are, almost at the end of another year, and what a year! I hope you are all well and staying safe at this time. For my final post of the year, I thought it was high time for some festive cheer, and settled on a seasonal treat that I find utterly delicious and hope you will too.

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Sugar and spice and all things nice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I love mince pies, and if you make your own pastry, they taste even better. I use readymade mincemeat but you can put your own spin on the recipe by using your own or just a selection of minced dried fruit – soak in some booze or fruit juice so that it stays juicy during cooking. I like to add a little mixed spice or pudding spice to the mincemeat to give it a really Christmassy flavour. This year I used some homemade chai masala – recipe here – which works very well. The topping is an old favourite of mine, almond frangipane, a rich, crumbly sponge flavoured with almond extract. Delicious 🙂

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Pastry snowflake decoration. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The pastry trimmings can be used to make a finishing touch decoration for the pies if you like, and my recipe allows for extra pastry to do this. If you want to make sufficient pastry to make the cases only, reduce the recipe by one third, or for convenience, use 300g readymade shortcrust pastry (450g if you want to make the decorations on top).

The pies will keep in a sealed container for 3-4 days (if you can leave them alone!), and they freeze well too.

Makes: 12

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 75g white vegetable fat, softened
  • 60g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 260g gluten-free plain flour blend such as Dove’s Farm
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (not essential but it does make the pastry easier to work with and slightly crisper)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling and topping:

  • 200g vegan mincemeat
  • 1 tsp chai masala or mixed spice
  • 80g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 80g ground almonds
  • 15g gluten-free plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 15g ground linseeds
  • Icing sugar to dust
  1. First make the pastry. Beat together the fats until smooth and creamy, then whisk in the sugar until well blended. Add the remaining pastry ingredients and carefully stir everything together to make a crumbly mixture.
  2. Bring the crumble together with your hands and knead gently to make a smooth, firm ball of dough. Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. This pastry doesn’t firm up very much but it is easier to handle if you do refrigerate it before rolling out.
  3. Lightly dust the work surface with more flour and roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/2 cm – any thinner and the pastry tears easily. Cut out 12 x 8cm rounds, re-rolling the dough as necessary.
  4. Lightly grease a 12-cup jam tart tin (approx. 7cm x 2cm cups), and gently press a circle of pastry into each, remoulding if it cracks. Chill for 30 minutes whilst making the filling and topping.
  5. Gather up the trimmings if you want to make the decoration, and roll out to the same thickness as the pastry cases. Use a 7cm diameter snowflake or star cutter to stamp out 12 decorations. Arrange on a lined baking tray and chill for 30 minutes.
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Making the pastry, cases and decorations. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Mix the mincemeat and spice together. In another bowl, mix the margarine, sugar, almonds, flour and almond extract together until well blended. Mix the linseeds with 45ml cold water and stand for 5-10 minutes until thickened, then mix into the almond mixture.

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Making the almond topping. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

7. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5. Divide the mincemeat between the pastry cases and top with the almond mixture. Smooth the topping to seal in the mincemeat and bake for about 40 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Bake the pastry decorations for about 15 minutes and leave to cool on the baking tray.

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Mince_pies_with_almond_topping_before_baking
Assembling the pies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

8. Leave the pies to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then carefully loosen them. Leave them for a further 10-15 minutes to firm up before removing from the tins and placing on a wire rack to cool. Just before serving, dust with icing sugar and top with a sugar dusted pastry decoration.

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Crumbly and fruit-filled with a hint of spice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Thank you for following my blog for another year and for all your lovely comments. I send you my best wishes for a happy, healthy and safe Christmas, and I look forward to returning to my blog in the new year.

Mixed root “stovies” (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Root veg cooked Stovie-style. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are all well and keeping safe. It has turned cold here these past few days and I have hastened towards the kitchen. I’ve been cooking cosy, warming dishes to help keep the chills away.

Until I moved to Scotland, I had never heard of the dish called Stovies. Traditionally, it is made simply with potatoes which are cooked down to a melting tenderness in water or stock with some onion, sometimes with a little meat or bacon added for flavour, and then dotted with butter. The name derives from the French étouffée which means to stew in a closed pot. It is the perfect dish to serve if you’re out of doors, sitting around a bonfire; it is guaranteed to warm you up.

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Potatoes, turnip, onions and carrots for Stovies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I like to use a selection of root vegetables. My stovie-selection consists of onion to flavour, then carrots, yellow turnip (Swede) and potatoes, but parsnip, white turnip, sweet potatoes and celeriac will also work well as part of the mix. The secret to success is to make sure everything is cooked thoroughly so that means cooking denser roots like carrot and turnip first before adding the potatoes. Also, use a potato that will cook very soft – a variety with a floury cooked texture works best or one suited for mashing.

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Freshly cooked Stovies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For extra flavour, I like to add a bundle of herbs tied up in some muslin. Using the muslin bag means that the coarser leaves don’t spoil the overall soft texture of the vegetables. Chopped chilli, garlic and curry spices can also be added if you fancy turning up the heat or adding more intense flavours.

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Fresh herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary and bay) tied in muslin. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

With one eye on waste, I am including a quick recipe using the potato and carrot peelings. Just make sure you wash the vegetables well before you start preparing the veg. The peelings make a lovely sprinkle to eat with the cooked vegetables, as does crispy kale – my recipe here.

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Preparing the veg and keeping the peelings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced
  • 500g yellow turnip (swede), peeled and diced
  • 300g carrots, peeled (peelings reserved) and diced
  • A few herbs tied in muslin (I used bay, rosemary, thyme and sage)
  • 450g main crop potatoes such as Maris Piper or King Edward, peeled (peelings reserved) and diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Chopped parsley to sprinkle

1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large lidded saucepan or flame-proof casserole until hot. Add the onions, turnip and carrot, and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes to coat in the oil.

2. Add the herbs, reduce the heat to low, cover and gently cook the vegetables in their own steam for 30 minutes.

3. Stir in the potatoes, season well and pour over the stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to simmer for about 10 more minutes, or until everything is well cooked and tender. Discard the herb bag.

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Cooking the veg. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. While the roots are cooking, preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Mix the carrot and potato peelings together with the remaining oil, and spread out over a lined baking tray. Season and sprinkle with smoked paprika. Bake for 25-30 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain well.

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Making potato and carrot peel crisps. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serve the stovies sprinkled with chopped parsley and accompanied with the crispy peelings and baked kale crisps. If you have any stovies leftover, use in soup or mash, or as a topping for a vegetable pie.

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Stovies, ready to eat with kale chips and crispy root veg skins . Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. Not so far away from the end of the year now. My next post will be something a little more festive, so until then, keep warm, stay safe and take care 🙂

Late Autumn in the garden

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A blue-sky November day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I’m back in the garden this week. It’s been a topsy-turvy few days of weather. We have had a lot of rain, a few strong winds, and plenty of grey, gloomy skies. However, there have been one to two blue-sky days, one of which was today, and as well as being a great opportunity to get outside and do some tidying up, I have been able to take all my pictures in the glorious November sunshine.

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Flaming yellow Acer before and after the fall. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The two images above capture the essence of Autumn for me. One day you can admire the brilliant colours of a tree in leaf, and then the next day, following a heavy downpour, the leaves are washed to the ground and the paths and beds are covered in a rich golden carpet.

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Beech hedge in the Autumn sunshine. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The beech hedge is more robust than the Japanese Maple, and is still fully clad although the golden leaves have dried and browned this week. I love this hedge. It is quite tall and thick and is alive with the sound of bird-song – many sparrows live in this hedge and at times their chitter-chatter tweeting is quite something to hear. You never feel alone in this part of the garden.

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Sunlit Cotoneaster. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There are several Cotoneaster shrubs growing around the garden. This one hangs over the front drive-way. It is rather spindly compared to others that grow up against walls, and to be honest, I rarely notice it. In the sunshine the other day, the tiny leaves were glowing red, it really caught my eye.

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Late-flowering Hebe. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Just the other side of the Cotoneaster, this pale lilac Hebe has come into flower for the second time this year, and in the back garden a lonely, and tired-looking Foxglove is still clinging on to a few of its precious pink flower heads.

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Fading Foxglove. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Last greenhouse tomatoes of the year. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m feeling a bit sad this week as I have finally harvested all my tomatoes. The plants were slowly withering away in the greenhouse due to a lack of light and warmth at this time of year, and with the prospect of some very chilly weather in the offing, I decided to pick off all the fruit and bring the tomatoes indoors. I am hoping some will ripen off a bit more, but the majority will be going in chutney. The greenhouse is looking pretty bare today now that I have taken down most of the vines.

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November Chamomile flowers. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It seems slightly unseasonal to me to have so many Chamomile flowers in bloom. The rockery in the back garden has four large plants, all with several daisy-like heads. They certainly make a cheery feature in this part of the garden now most of the other plants are dying back.

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A flurry of snowberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Before I started writing this post, I looked back at images I have taken of the garden in previous Novembers and I came across a picture of a small cluster of snowberries taken a couple of years ago. The same plant is now covered in berries after being given a new lease of life earlier in the year. It was given a lot more space to develop when an old shrub was taken out. I’m so glad it has made the most of its new found freedom.

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Japanese Anemone hybrid “Loreley”. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image this week is of another new pink Japanese Anemone which wasn’t in flower in time for last month’s piece. This one is called Loreley. It has gone from strength to strength since it was planted, and still has flower buds yet to open. I wonder how long it will keep flowering given that we are heading for winter.

That’s all from me this time. I hope you are all keeping well and staying safe as we head into the winter months. Until next time, my best wishes to you. See again you next time.

Spiced spinach tattie scones (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Lightly spiced spinach and potato scones served with mango chutney. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope all is well with you this week. With tighter restrictions entering many of our lives for the foreseeable future, I have turned to another comforting recipe this week. I am revisiting a Scottish classic, and also the most popular recipe on my blog to date, the humble tattie (or potato) scone.

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Freshly cooked and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can read my original recipe here but this time I have given the basic ingredients a spicy twist, inspired by one of my favourite Indian dishes, Saag aloo.

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Classic combination, spinach and potatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have grown a lot of potatoes this year. At the beginning of lockdown back in March, I struggled to find any seed potatoes to buy, and ended up with a variety called Nicola which has turned out to be a very tasty and very high-yielding potato. I planted mostly in pots and the old barrel below. I am storing the leftover crop in dry soil in the greenhouse for winter use.

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Freshly dug Nicola potatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe is very simple, with just a few ingredients. I have a couple of tips for guaranteed success: use a dry-textured potato for good results and also drain and dry off the cooked spinach as much as possible to avoid soggy scones. When you cook the scones, only brush the pan with oil so that you give them a little colour without making them crispy.

I use a garam masala spice blend for a mild, fragrant spiciness, but try using your favourite curry powder if you prefer something more defined.

Makes: 8

Ingredients

  • 425g potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • Salt
  • 5 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 4 tsp garam masala
  • 300g baby spinach
  • 60g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

1. Put the potatoes in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Cover with water, bring to the boil and cook for 7-10 minutes until completely tender. Drain well; leave to air dry, then push through a ricer to make smooth. Leave to cool.

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Boiled potatoes put through a ricer. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a small frying pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and spices for 2-3 minutes. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat and leave to cook gently in its own steam for about 15 minutes until very soft. Leave to cool.

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Cooking down the onion and spices. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Rinse the spinach and pack into a saucepan whilst wet. Heat until steaming, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and cook for about 5 minutes until wilted. Drain well, pressing against the sides of the colander or strainer to remove as much excess water as possible. Leave to cool.

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Preparing the spinach. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Once the spinach is cold, chop it up and then blot well with kitchen paper to remove any excess water that remains in the mix.

5. To make the dough, put the potatoes, onion and spinach in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder and some salt. Mix together to form a ball, and roll out on a lightly floured work top to a thickness of about 1cm. Use an 8-9cm round cutter to make 8 scones, re-rolling the dough as necessary. Cover and chill until required.

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Making the scone dough. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. When you are ready to cook, brush a frying pan lightly with oil, heat until hot then cook the scones gently for about 3 minutes on each side until lightly golden. Drain and keep warm. If you want to store them, cool them on a wire rack, then cover and chill. They will keep for about 5 days in the fridge and also freeze well.

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Cooking spiced spinach tattie scones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To reheat, either give them a quick blast in the microwave for a few seconds, or gently toast on a dry frying pan for a a couple of minutes on each side.

They make a delicious accompaniment to a bowl of soup just as they are, or spread with butter or margarine and topped with mango chutney 🙂

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Buttered-up and ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. Until next time, take care and keep safe.

Bright October colours

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Acer Palmatum in Autumn splendor. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. As I sit down to compile this week’s post, it is very wet and dull outside. In fact it has been raining just about all week and there is very little end in sight. During the very few brief dry spells, I have been outside to capture some of the bright colours that are on show in the garden at the moment. One positive thing about the low light levels is that natural colours do seem to stand out all the more.

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Maple leaf ground cover. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The rain rather than the wind has driven many leaves from the trees this year. The colour of the Japanese maple is stunning – so many shades of pink, orange and red from just one tree.

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3 Nerines. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In the rockery in the back garden, the foliage is mostly fading green or dying back now, but the Nerines are standing proud, bright and bold.

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Second flowering of Rosa Felicia. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Just along the border from the Nerines, is my old faithful rose bush and true to form, it is in flower once again. The heads are heavy and drooping with the weight of rain drops but the perfume is just as sweet and fragrant.

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October Runners. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In between the rockery and the rose are my runner bean plants. Still going strong and still providing me with beans. This latest basketful weighed just under 500g. We have had neither very cold weather nor strong winds so far this autumn and these factors seem to have given the beans an extended lease of life.

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Late Autumn raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The Autumn raspberry canes are still fruiting well. Another wee basket picked ready for my morning granola.

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Anemones still flowering. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The white Japanese anemones are still going strong, and now the garden has a new addition to the collection, this pink hybrid anemone called Pamina. Lots of pointed pink petals. I hope it does well in its new home.

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Hypericum Rose of Sharon. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I gave the Rose of Sharon Hypericum a big “hair-cut” early last month. It had flowered very well but had become too large for the flower-bed. I am amazed to see that it is flowering again already.

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Saffron crocus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can see, it wasn’t raining when I captured these delicate little saffron crocus. To be honest, is was over a week ago when I took the pictures. Sadly, they haven’t survived the rain battering this week. I love the shadows of the saffron-scented stamens just visible through the petals.

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Second time around Borage. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a very good year for Borage and I have had a continuous supply of bold star-shaped flowers since early summer. Long may they continue adding their vibrant splash of electric blue colour.

Already decorated for Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m returning to the Japanese Maple for my last image. As I was capturing the leading image for my post, I noticed that the small conifer next to the tree was covered in red leaves giving it a rather festive look 🙂

That’s all from me this week. I will be back in the kitchen and recipe posting again soon. Until then, take care and keep safe 🙂

Toffee apple upside-down cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Toffee apple upside-down cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. How are you? All well I hope. It feels very autumnal now, and with the world seemingly facing a lot of uncertainty again, it feels the right time to publish a heart-warming slice of comfort with this week’s post.

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First main harvest of apples. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been picking a few cooking apples here and there from the tree in the garden for about a month now. This week, I decided it was time to gather as many as I could reach. The baskets above contain about half the amount the tree has produced this year – I need to call in the cavalry to get the rest!

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Solo apple. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To be honest, the apple variety Lord Derby isn’t the greatest tasting apple out there, but the apples cook very well and reatian their texture if you want them too, so are ideal for baking. They also require little sugar, and can be eaten raw – they are similar to a Granny Smith eating apple.

This week’s recipe is a combination of a cake batter used for sticky toffee pudding along with the delicious sauce – you can find a festive version of the classic comfort pudding by clicking here – baked in a tin lined with fruit as you would for an upside-down cake.

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Apples, cake and toffee sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you enjoy the cake, it really is good, and it is just as delicious served hot as a pudding or cold as a slice to go with a cup of coffee 🙂

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Apple cake and apple leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 10

Ingredients

  • 225g pitted dates, chopped
  • 25g golden or corn syrup
  • 450g cooking apples
  • 1 lemon
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 150g soft light brown sugar
  • 300g gluten-free self raising flour blend (such as Doves Farm)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 180ml dairy-free milk (I use oat milk)

For the sauce

  • 100g golden or corn syrup
  • 40g dairy-free margarine
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 100ml single dairy-free cream (such as oat or soya)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Put the dates in a saucepan with 225ml cold water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes until soft and thick. Remove from the heat and beat until smooth – use a stick blender to obtain a very smooth paste. Leave to cool completely. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

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Making date paste. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Grease and line a 23cm round spring-clip cake tin and drizzle the syrup over the base. Put to one side.

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Apple cake tin preparation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Next prepare the apples. Core the apples and peel them thinly. Extract the juice from the lemon, cut the juiced lemon in quarters and place both in a bowl with cold water. Slice the apples thinly into rings and submerge in the water to help prevent discoloration.

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Apple preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C, gas 4. Mix the oil and sugar into the date paste. Stir in the flour, vanilla and milk to make a thick batter.

5. Drain and pat dry the apple slices on kitchen paper, and arrange sufficient slices to cover the base of the tin. Spoon over half the cake batter. Smooth and then use the remaining apple slices to make a layer on top.

6. Cover with the remaining cake batter, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 1 1/4 hours until risen and firm to the touch – test with a wooden skewer inserted into the centre to make sure the cake is thoroughly cooked. Leave too cool for 15 minutes before releasing from the tin and turning out on to a serving plate, upside-down.

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Making the apple cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

7. While the cake is cooking, make the sauce. Put the syrup, margarine and sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the margarine melts.

8. Raise the heat and bring to the boil. Stop stirring and simmer the mixture for 3-4 minutes until richly golden – take care not too over-boil as the mixture will soon over-caramelise and burn. Turn off the heat and gradually stir in the cream and vanilla. Stir until well blended and leave to cool. Serve hot or cold.

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How to make gluten-free and vegan toffee sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

And that’s it, the cake is now ready to eat hot as a dessert with the warm sauce poured over, or let it go cold and drizzle over the sauce to serve.

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Inside the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

All my best wishes to you for the days ahead. Take care and keep safe. I look forward to posting again in a few days time.

September reflections

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Acer leaves in the Autumn sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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A cascade of Autumn crocus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

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

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

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First major haul of tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

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Japanese Anemones under apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

Runner bean and pesto fritters (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Runner bean fritters. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you have had a good few days. I can hardly believe that it is September already! We have had a fine few days of weather this last week, and the garden dried out enough to get gardening again. It felt good to be outside once again.

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Runner beans 2020. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

At the end of my last post I mentioned that I was about to tackle a glut of runner beans. It has been perfect conditions for a bumper harvest this summer: plenty of rain intermixed with sunshine and warmth. The bean vines are still looking very lush and healthy, and there has been a second flush of flowers which means, if the weather holds, I should be picking beans for a while longer.

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Fresh basil pesto. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from enjoying runner beans as an accompaniment to meals, so far I have a couple of bags in the freezer for eating later on in the year. I seldom do anything else, although leftover cold beans make a great salad ingredient – click here for a delicious runner bean salad I posted last year. This week’s recipe gives runner beans a leading role. I hope you enjoy the fritters, they are crisp and delicious, and for a little extra effort, I would suggest making your own pesto. I am very proud of my basil plant. It is thriving in the greenhouse; the leaves have a strong, peppery bite. The quantity below will make enough for this recipe. If you double or triple it you can freeze the remainder in small batches. It will also keep for a couple of weeks sealed tight in a jar in the fridge.

Vegan pesto: put a peeled garlic clove in a small food processor with 15g basil leaves, 60g unsalted nuts such as pistachio, pine nuts or almonds (I used a combination of all 3), a pinch of salt, 50ml extra virgin olive oil and 30g grated hard vegan cheese. Blitz for a few seconds until smooth, and that’s it. Pesto perfecto! This combination makes a thick pesto which is perfect for this recipe, but add extra oil to taste for a looser pasta sauce.

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Preparing and cooking runner beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have found that strips of bean work well in this recipe. The batter has a larger surface area to cling on to and cooks really crisply. Peel the sides of the beans using a vegetable peeler and remove the stalk end. If you have a bean slicer, push them through that, otherwise, slice them as thinly as you can. Steam them over simmering water for 5 minutes, then cool in cold water and drain well. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Now, let’s get on with the recipe.

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Fritters and pesto mayo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 8

Ingredients

  • 50g polenta
  • 75g gluten-free plain flour
  • 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds, finely ground (I use a coffee grinder)
  • 3 tbsp pesto sauce – see recipe above
  • 120ml dairy-free milk
  • 75ml aqua fava (bean or chickpea canning water)
  • 225g cooked runner beans
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • Vegan mayonnaise
  1. Put the polenta, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Mix together and make a well in the centre. 
  2. Mix the flax seeds with 3 tbsp cold water and leave to stand for about 5 minutes until thickened. Pour into the well.
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    Preparing fritter batter and flax egg. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Add the pesto sauce and milk and whisk together to make a smooth batter.
  4. In another bowl, whisk the aqua fava to a stiff foam and then gently fold into the batter. Finally, carefully stir in the beans, making sure they are well covered. Adding_homemade_pesto_and_whisked_aqua_fava_to_fritter_batter
    Folding_in_whisked_aqua_fava_and_runner_beans_into_fritter_batter
    Adding pesto, whisked aqua fava and the beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    5. Pour sufficient oil into a large deep frying pan or wok to a depth of about 3cm and heat to 180ºC. Fry bundles of beans in batter in batches of 3 or 4, turning in the oil, for 4-5 minutes until crisp and golden. You should be able to make 8 fritters with this quantity. Drain well on kitchen paper and keep warm until ready to serve.

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    Cooking the fritters. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    6. To serve, mix 1 part pesto to 2 parts vegan mayonnaise and serve with the fritters accompanied with fresh tomatoes. Scatter with fresh basil and runner bean flowers, if liked.

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    Fritters with homegrown tomatoes, fresh basil and homemade pesto mayo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Use this batter with ribbons of courgette or carrot instead – lightly steam them first. Leave out the pesto if you prefer, or simply add grated vegan cheese to the batter and some chopped chives, shredded leek or spring onion.

    Until next time, take care and best wishes 🙂

Lemon and cucumber cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Lemon and cucumber cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. I hope you are well. I was having a look at the stats on my site last week and I noticed that the most frequently viewed recipe on my blog over the past 4 weeks has been a recipe I posted 3 years ago for a lemon-soaked cucumber cake. I am assuming that lots of readers have as many cucumbers as I do and are looking for different ways to use them up!

Time for a recipe review. Same combination of flavours, but this time an iced cake and a simple cake batter.

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Sliced and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have had a bumper crop of cucumbers this year, from just 2 plants. I only had a couple of seeds left in a packet from the year before and, once sown, both have thrived. Mini Munch is a great variety to grow. The cucumbers are small, sweet and delicously refreshing and juicy. They ripen in next to no time once the vines get established.

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Greenhouse Mini Munch cucumbers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. This is a very easy to make cake, no special equipment necessary. I do advise you to add either the xanthan gum or arrowroot as this really does hold the ingredients together to give a firmer texture, but if you decide not to, you’ll still have a delicious cake, it will just be crumbly.

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Home-grown cucumber harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 1 x 18cm cake

Ingredients

  • 90g dairy-free margarine
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 100g plain dairy-free yogurt (I used coconut)
  • 150g gluten-free self-raising flour blend (I use Doves Farm)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum or 10g ground arrowroot
  • 125g grated cucumber
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon
  • 125g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line an 18cm square tin. Put the margarine and sugar in a bowl and whisk until creamy and well blended. Stir in the yogurt.

2. Add the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice and icing sugar, and mix together until well combined.

3. Pile into the tin, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 45 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Lemon and cucumber cake preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in 3-4 tsp lemon juice to make a smooth, thick icing. Spread all over the top of the cake and allow it to run down the sides. Leave to set for about 30 minutes before decorating.

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Baked cake ready for icing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Drizzling fresh lemon icing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I decorated my cake with cucumber flowers (male ones – no little fruit attached), orange-scented geranium leaves and a few strips of blanched lemon rind.

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Decoration of cucumber flowers, orange scented geranium leaves and lemon rind. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I’m off to sort out my glut of runner beans! Until next time, my best wishes to you 🙂

August brights

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Crocosmia with flowering runner beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you have had a good few days. As I sat down to sort out my images this week’s post, it was rather gloomy outside. The weather this month really hasn’t been very summery at all, and to be honest, it is beginning to feel autumnal with the evenings drawing in more rapidly that I care to think about. However, there are some pockets of vibrant colour in the garden at the moment to help brighten the days.

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2020 Japanese Anemones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The delicate-looking Japanese anemones are beginning to flower all over the garden at the moment. I know that they will last well into next month, probably longer, and will stand up to whatever weather comes their way. They are so much hardier than they look.

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Second time around Lupins. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The lupins have all flowered for a second time this year and with much bigger blooms than usual. Often the second flowers are half the size of the original June flower-heads at best, but this year they have put in a magnificent effort just 2 months later.

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Golden Rod (Solidago) and Echinops, August 2020. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There are still plenty of bees and flying insects being busy around the garden, and in particular the 2 plants above are favourites with them all.

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Blue, pink, mauve and white Hydrangeas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have been living here in central Scotland for over 15 years now, and I am still surprised by the plants that grow around me. This year, for the first time, I noticed that the tiny blue ball-like centres of the aged white Hydrangea open out to form their own blue 4-petaled flowers with stamens.

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Tiger lily. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This beauty hides behind the aforementioned white Hydrangea in the front garden. Far too flamboyant to be in the shadows, but that’s where it thrives, so I’ll not interfere.

Until next time, I’ll leave you with another plant in second flower, my Gertrude Jekyll rose. Heavenly scented as well as sheer perfection to look at. I hope you have a good few days. I will be back in the kitchen again for my next post.

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Gertrude Jekyll in second flower. Image: Kathryn Hawkins