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

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

I wasn’t planning another preserve recipe for my blog so soon after my “jam” post earlier in the month, but last weekend I made up a new recipe and as the result was a success, I am sharing it with you this week.

I inherited several established shrubs and bushes when I moved into my current house over 15 years ago. Many were familiar to me but a few were not. One of the curios was the Aronia Melanocarpa. This is an evergreen shrub with leathery green leaves. In the summer it produces arms of red berries which ripen and turn black. For a while, I assumed the shrub with its berries was purely ornamental, however after a wee bit of research I discovered that the berries are edible.

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Aronia Melanocarpa shrub and fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The shrub is well known in the USA and was introduced into Europe in the 1700’s, as an ornamental. The berries get their common name of chokeberry because the fruit is very astringent when eaten raw, however, I have decided not to test this out for myself! The berries contain a large amount of vitamin C and looking on the web they are considered to be a bit of a “wonder-berry”. Aronia berries are ripe when they are fully black, which happens from mid to late summer depending on where you live. I found the ripest fruit difficult to pick without squishing the berries, so snipped off the stalks as well (which is fine for jelly making). The juice is potent and stains a vibrant shade of blue, so you might want to wear gloves. I should imagine the berries would freeze ok if you needed to harvest them in batches.

I could find little reference in terms of recipes, so I based my mixture on a cranberry jelly, adding apple to temper the astringency and to help with the set. The final jelly has set well and is dark red-purple in colour, with a taste that is sweet and quite similar to a blueberry preserve. This is a great result for me because my blueberry bushes produced no fruit at all this year, so I’m glad I have discovered the wonders of Aronia Melanocarpa 🙂

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Scottish berry jelly with oatcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: approx. 650g jelly preserve

Ingredients:

  • 200g aronia berries, washed (small stems are fine if it is difficult to pick the berries without)
  • 400g whole cooking apples, washed
  • Approx. 430g granulated sugar – see method for exact quantities
  1. Put the berries in a large stainless steel saucepan. Chop the apples into small pieces, (skins, core and pips included) and add to the pan along with 350ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally, until very soft and pulpy.
  2. Line a large nylon sieve with muslin and place over a large bowl. Choose a sieve that you’re not too precious about as it may stain blue with the juice. Carefully pour the pulp into the muslin and leave to cool. Leave to strain for at least 3 hours.

    4_steps_to_cooking_aronia_berry_and_apple_jelly
    Preparing the fruit for jelly-making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Pour the strained juice into a measuring jug, cover and chill until required. Tip the pulp back into a saucepan. Add another 200ml water, and heat, stirring, until back to the boil.
  4. Repeat the straining of the pulp as before, but this time, after cooling, put in the fridge and leave to strain overnight until the pulp is very dry.
  5. Discard the pulp and pour the juice into the jug. I achieved 375ml juice from the first straining, and 200ml from the second. The ratio of sugar to juice is 450g sugar to 600ml juice, so I used 430g for my 575ml.
  6. Pour the juice into a saucepan and heat until steaming. Add the sugar, and stir over a low heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. For jelly making, I use a sugar thermometer to gauge the setting point – 104°-105°C- to give the best result.
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    Cooking the juice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  7. Pour into warm, sterilised jam jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool then label and store in the usual way. The jelly will keep fine for at least 6 months. Serve as a sweet preserve or with savoury dishes too.

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

 

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Golden flax and polenta cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Golden flax and polenta cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I fancied a spot of baking this week especially as it seemed to be a while since I baked a cake for my blog. This recipe is extremely easy to make, even if you’re an inexperienced baker, there is little to go wrong here. The cake is naturally dense in texture so you haven’t got to worry about whisking for a specific length of time or getting a good rise. The decoration is optional, the cake tastes just as good with or without icing. The mixture is not particularly sweet and makes a good alternative dessert topped with fruit, accompanied with free-from cream or ice-cream.

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Easy to make cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The cake gets its rich yellow colour from polenta and cold pressed rapeseed oil. I’m very fortunate to have an excellent local supply of this amber coloured oil called Summer Harvest. The rapeseed is harvested just down the road from my house. The oil has an earthy, nutty flavour and makes an excellent addition to any recipe with nuts and seeds added to it. If you prefer to use an alternative oil, us sunflower oil which adds little extra flavour but the cake will also be paler in colour.

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Polenta and locally produced cold pressed rapeseed oil. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I usually use just ground almonds and polenta in this recipe, but for a change,  I ground up flax seed with whole almonds to make a fine meal. As long as you grind the seeds or nuts finely, you should be able to use any combination with polenta in this recipe. I use an electric coffee grinder to make my own seed and nut flours, I find the sturdier blade is able to blitz more finely than the food processor or blender.

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Flax seeds and whole almonds ground to make a flour. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 150ml cold pressed rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp good quality natural vanilla extract
  • 150g unbleached caster sugar
  • 100g silken tofu
  • 50g each flax seeds and whole almonds, finely ground
  • 125g polenta
  • 5g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 10g arrowroot

To decorate:

  • 100g ready to roll white icing
  • ½ tsp good quality natural vanilla extract
  • A handful of fresh berries
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line an 18cm a round cake tin. Pour the oil into a bowl. Add the vanilla and sugar and whisk together until creamy and well blended. Add the tofu and whisk again until smooth.
  2. Add the seed mix, polenta, baking powder and arrowroot, and gently mix all the ingredients together until well blended. Scrape into the tin. Stand the tin on a baking tray and bake for an hour – test the centre of the cake with a wooden skewer, it should come out clean when the cake is properly cooked through. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

    Step_by_step_preparation_to_cake_making_and_baking
    Making and baking the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. To decorate the cake, remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack. Cut up the white icing into pieces and put in a small saucepan. Add 1 tsp water and heat the mixture very gently, stirring, until it begins to melt and form a paste. Stir in the vanilla, then drizzle the icing all over the top of the cake using a dessert spoon, letting it drip down the sides. As the icing cools, it will set firm again.

    Melting_ready-to-roll_white_icing_to_decorate_a_cake
    Icing the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Leave the icing to cool and scatter, then scatter the top with berries before serving. I used my latest precious harvest of blueberries. Not a very good year for them in my garden, but the berries do have a good flavour none the less. Have a good week 🙂
    On_the_bush_and_harvested_late_August_Scottish_blueberries
    Home-grown blueberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    A_slice_and_a_forkful_of_flax_and_polenta_cake
    Rich in texture and colour, flax and polenta cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

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

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Early August tomato harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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A colourful variety of tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

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Bruschetta ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

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

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

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    Bruschetta, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

August garden

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White hydrangea. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The more traditional Scottish summer weather has returned this past week. It is much cooler now; there have been a few more rain showers, and the garden has rehydrated and is greening up again. Earlier today,  I was having a look back at my garden post of this time last year; several of the flowers I featured then are well and truly over by now due to the heat and dry of the past few weeks.

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Goldenrod (Solidago) and globe thistle (Echinops). Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There seem to be plenty of bees (and butterflies) in the garden this year which is very good news. The Goldenrod and globe thistles were alive with sound of buzzing while I was capturing these images. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed quite so many different kinds of bees and flying insects as I waited to capture the pollen collecting action.

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Vibrant-coloured poppies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The poppies add a brief splash of colour when they bloom. The fragile petals are like tissue-paper. Once in full bloom, each flower head looks radiant for about 24 hours before the petals are shed, on by one.

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Japanese anemones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Just as fragile looking are the Japanese anemones, but although they look so delicate and pretty, the flowers last for many days, if not weeks, and seem to be able to tolerate any wind, rain, heat and chill that a Scottish summer has to offer.

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Crocosmia (Montbretia). Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Year after year, the back garden flowerbeds become packed out with the long stems and leaves of Crocosmia. The weight of several flower heads per stem means that they do appear to grow horizontally, particularly in the sunshine; in the shadier parts of the garden, the stems hold their heads higher as they reach for the light. For me, it is the bright orange flowers and lush green foliage of this plant that represents the peak of summer like no other.

My final images are of another orange flower in the garden: very tall and elegant tiger lilies. I love the way the petals fold back so neatly at the back of the bloom, just like a beautifully tied ribbon. Until next week, my best wishes to you 🙂

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Tiger lily. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Rhubarb and raspberry jelly preserve (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Home-made jelly preserve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I had planned a garden round-up for this week’s post. However, the long spell of fine weather has finally broken and I haven’t been able to get outside that much this past week. To be honest, the hot spell has left the garden looking a bit sad and lacking in colour. So, instead of a weekend in the garden, I got the jam pan out of the cupboard and made some jelly preserve with the last of my raspberries.

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Rhubarb and raspberries after a heavy shower of rain. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The last of my raspberries make a perfect match with some freshly pulled summer rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A jelly preserve takes a bit more time to make than most other jams, but if you do find yourself in a preserving mood, I can recommend having a go, as the reward is great and the flavour, intense and rich.

You will need some clean muslin if you don’t have a jelly making bag, but if you are only making a small amount, as per the quantity below, you don’t need any other special equipment, although a sugar thermometer will help take the guess-work out of judging when the jelly has cooked sufficiently. All you need to ensure is that all the equipment and jam-jars you use are very clean; this will enable you to store your preserves for as long as required.

Makes: approx. 650g

Ingredients:

  • 450g prepared raspberries, washed
  • 450g prepared rhubarb, washed and chopped into small pieces
  • Approx. 500g granulated sugar
  • Approx. 25ml fresh lemon juice
  1. Mash the raspberries to release the juices and place in a saucepan. Stir in the chopped rhubarb and 2 tbsp. water. Heat gently until steaming, then cover and cook for 6-7 minutes until very soft.
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    Cooking the fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    2. While the fruit is cooking, set up the muslin or jelly bag ready for straining the juice. I use a tall jug which I can suspend a jelly bag over the top. Otherwise, a large nylon sieve lined with muslin, suspended over a bowl will work well. The volume of liquid produced by following this recipe will not be much greater than 500ml, so you don’t need a massive collecting container. Make sure it is stable so that it can’t tip over when you add the fruit.

    3. Carefully spoon the hot fruit and juices into the bag or muslin, and then leave undisturbed for several hours until the fruit stops dripping. Don’t be tempted to press or squeeze the fruit as this will make a cloudy preserve. Discard the pulp. Measure the juice and work out the quantity of sugar and lemon juice required. You need 75g sugar and 5ml lemon juice per 100ml juice.

    4_steps_showing_equipment_and_process_for_straining_fruit_for_making_jelly_preserve
    How to strain fruit for jelly preserve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    4. Pour the juice into a large saucepan and heat gently until hot, then stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and continue stirring over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.

    5. Raise the heat and bring to the boil, then boil rapidly until setting point is reached – between 104° and 105°C on a sugar thermometer. Skim away any scum that rises to the surface during boiling. Pour into clean, hot jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 6 months, but the preserve is ready to eat as soon as you want! Delish 🙂

    2_spoonfuls_of_rhubarb_and_raspberry_jelly_served_on_a_Welsh_cake
    Spoonfuls of freshly made jelly preserve on a home-made Welsh cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

August in a Scottish garden

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August flower border with Ox-eye daisies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Soft pink Astilbe. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Pale pink Japanese anemones. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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!

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Wispy Scabious blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Rain splattered mauve poppy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Fresh in bloom, assorted Hydrangeas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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!

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In the greenhouse, cucumber and Tigerella tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

August flowerings

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Scottish garden flower bed in early August. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

I’d been thinking that this is the month that my garden begins to lose some of its overall colour. But I have been pleasantly surprised when I put this post together. I have chosen a different flower bed to photograph this month – the Ox-eye daisies are in full bloom and you can see the Lysimachia, Hydrangeas and Scabious in the background, which add vibrancy now the pretty shades of late spring have faded.

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Pink Hydrangea. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pink Scabious and Lysimachia. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

All round the garden, from mid July onwards, I have bold and brash coloured poppies opening out, adding splashes of pinks and reds in the beds. And then, by way of contrast, white and pale pink Japanese Anemones grow in wispy clumps; they look so fragile and delicate and yet they always bounce back after a heavy shower.

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Large red, black-centred poppies. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pale pink Japanese Anemones

I have many lavender plants, but sadly most are fading fast now as the season progresses. My favourite is the deepest blue-purple Dutch Lavender which grows next to a rather messy clump of Santolina (or cotton lavender). The contrast between the 2 colours is mesmerising on a sunny day. The lavender is coming to the end of a very long flowering, but it’s still adding a lovely splash of colour in the borders and some late pollen for the bees.

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Cotton lavender (Santolina) and Dutch lavender in full bloom. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

There are now some more obvious signs in the garden that Autumn is not too far away. Apart from the slight nip in the air, there are floral reminders too. The globe thistles (Echinops) are blueing up, and several borders are glowing with the colours of Montbretia and Golden Rod. But I’m still clinging on to a memory of summer with a second blooming of lupins.

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From top left: Lysimachia and Montbretia; From bottom left: Echinops and Golden Rod. Second Lupin blooms. All images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m going to close this post with an image of my beautiful white Hydrangea which is just opening up. I don’t have many white flowers in the garden, but this is a beauty. When the flower heads are fully open, the tiny centres of each turn pale blue. I have always thought that these flowers would make a stunning bridal bouquet.

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White hydrangea and petal. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins