Welcome to my blog all about the things I love to grow and cook. You'll find a collection of seasonal gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly recipe posts, as well as a round up of my gardening throughout the year. I wish you good reading, happy cooking and perfect planting!
It’s been a late Autumn here in central Scotland. The leaves stayed on the trees longer than I anticipated and the weather has been fine. Most of the month has been mild with glorious blue-sky days which highlighted the golden tones in the garden a few days ago. Fortunately I got to the Japanese Maple tree before the rain fell and captured the rich yellow leaves before they were washed off the branches. The next day, the paths and lawns were covered in a leafy carpet.
Accompanying the fair-weather days have been glowing sunrises and blazing sunsets. Both come and go with speed but are truly spectacular if you are in the right place at the right time. The front of the house faces the sun rising over the Ochil Hills, then in the back garden, a few hours later, you are able to see the sun setting.
In the garden, here and there, signs of life continue. Some of the plants and shrubs have been confused by the warm weather this month and there are unseasonal second and third flowerings taking place.
I cleared out the greenhouse a couple of weeks ago and picked off the last few tomatoes. They are now ripening indoors. I also harvested my first basket of greens; they haven’t done that well and got badly attacked by caterpillars, but there is enough for a few meals. A few more baby purple carrots as well.
It’s been a wonderful autumn for fungus of all kinds. I have seen so many images on social media, I never realised that there were so many different mushrooms and toadstools out there. Each year, to varying degrees, this bracket fungus grows on a old tree stump in the garden. I think this year it has surpassed itself. I love the arch of colours on each piece.
I’m going to finish my post with something a little bit festive. Most of the fruiting trees around and about the garden are covered in berries this year, and the holly is no exception. The red berries seem to get picked off first leaving the yellow variety behind. Perhaps they taste different? No matter, I am happy for them to remain on the tree to give a great splash of colour to the garden and look magnificent against a blue sky. Until next time, take care and keep safe 🙂
Hello there. I hope you are well and enjoying Autumn. With the days getting shorter and the temperature dropping a few degrees here in the UK, my thoughts have turned to comfort food. There are some deliciously leafy seasonal vegetables around just now which make an ideal accompaniment to an autumnal stew or roast. I have a tasty red cabbage dish to share with you this week which is perfect for batch cooking as it freezes very well.
Most often, I braise red cabbage slowly with fresh apple or pear and some vinegar, sugar and cinnamon, but to ring the changes this time I have used a different combination of sweet and sour flavours.
For the sour flavours, I used sumac powder with its tart astringent flavour, reminiscent of lemon juice; dried barberries, another tartly flavoured ingredient which add a sharp tang to the dish (chopped dried unsweetened cranberries would also work), and homemade raspberry vinegar. For sweetness, I added some of the plum cheese I made about a month ago – Plum, sloe and apple cheese (naturally gluten-free and vegan) or you can use plum jam if you prefer. To add a splash of sparkle, juiciness and texture, I sprinkled over one of my favourite ingredients, fresh pomegranate seeds, to finish. All in all, a delicious flavour combination which tastes as good as it looks. I hope you enjoy the recipe.
½ red cabbage
1 large red onion
25g plant butter
2tbsp raspberry vinegar (or balsamic if you prefer)
2tbsp plum cheese or jam (or redcurrant jelly works well)
1. Cut out the cabbage stump, then finely shred or slice the remainder of the cabbage. If you slice everything finely, you can use up the tougher stems of the cabbage as well. I ended up with about 400g prepared cabbage. Peel and thinly slice the onion.
2. Melt the plant butter in a large deep frying pan or saucepan and gently fry the cabbage and onion, stirring, for about 5 minutes until well coated in the butter.
3. Add the vinegar, plum cheese or jam and plenty of seasoning. Mix well, lower the heat, then cover and simmer gently for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender. Stir in the barberries and sumac to taste. Turn off the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
4. To serve, spoon into a warm serving dish and sprinkle the top with extra sumac and pomegranate seeds if liked.
It’s been a glorious day here in central Scotland today. Perfect weather for enjoying the autumnal colours. I hope you have a good few days until my next post. All the best for now 🙂
Hello there. So here we are at the end of another month. I hope you have had a good couple of weeks since my last post. I had been intending to show you round my garden at this point in time, but to be honest, there is not a lot to see. Most things are looking rather soggy and bedraggled after recent heavy rain . It feels like Autumn has been cut short this year by the rain washing the leaves from the trees.
No matter, I have some cheery images of my apple and pear harvests earlier in the month. I was able to capture the images under mostly blue skies which should make for better viewing. I hope you enjoy them 🙂
The old apple tree in the garden produced a fraction of the apples it provided last year. In 2020, I had at least 4 times the amount. However, I still have a good basketful and have started cooking them down. I think they will last a few weeks yet.
It’s been a bumper year for eating apples. Only a handful from one tree last year and nothing from the other, but this year I have been rewarded with a huge crop by comparison. The very red apples are called Katy but sadly I can’t remember the other variety now, however both varieties are sweet, juicy and very delicious, and they keep well.
And so to the pears trees. They have also had a good year, providing a generous basketful after a very poor crop last year. Both trees are still small although they have been planted in the garden for about a decade now. The pears store well so there will be fruit to enjoy for a while yet.
I have posted many apple and pear recipes over the years, but these are my top 3 which you might like to try – just click on the links for the recipes:
Hello again. I have a very seasonal recipe to share with you this week. I have been out and about enjoying the autumnal colours. On one of my walks, I was fortunate enough to find some sloe berries still in situ on a wild blackthorn hedge. They were growing so thickly that they looked like bunches of grapes. I had a small bag with me and was able to fill it with a precious harvest of these dark blue-skinned fruits with their fine silvery bloom.
Finding the sloes coincided with the last few Victoria plums ripening in the garden, and the beginning of the apple season. What better way to use them all than to combine them in a delicious thick and fruity preserve, the perfect colour to match the season.
I have posted a similar recipe to this one, before using only plums. You can find the recipe here: Plum and bay membrillo (naturally gluten-free and vegan) This year’s version is very fruity and makes a delicious sweet treat on its own or with cream or yogurt. Serve it as an accompaniment to roasted, grilled or barbecued food, and if you eat cheese, it’s good served with just about any variety.
I set the fruit cheese in individual silicone moulds and dusted them with more sugar; the remaining cheese went into a ramekin dish. Choose anything heatproof like a tin or ovenproof dish; line the container and then once it is cold you can slice it or turn it out. Keep the cheese wrapped up in the fridge for up to a month or it can be frozen. Set in a pretty little dish, I think it would make a lovely edible gift – if you can bring yourself to hand it over to anyone else!
Makes: approx. 750g
275g plums, stones removed, chopped
275g sloes, washed
500g cooking apples, cored and chopped
approx. 550g granulated white sugar + extra for dusting (optional)
1. Put all the fruit in a large saucepan and pour over 200ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and then simmer for 15-20 minutes until very soft.
2. Mash the fruit and push through a nylon sieve positioned over a large bowl until you have only dry matter left in the sieve. Weigh the purée. My yield was around 850g of fruit purée.
3. Clean the saucepan and put the purée back inside. Bring to the boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes to reduce the pulp by about one third – it should be thick enough to hold a “slice” in the bottom of the sauce.
4. To make the preserve, you need to stir in the same quantity of white sugar to the amount of thickened purée – I had 550g purée so I added 550g white sugar.
5. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves and then bring back to the boil and continue cooking for a further 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the mix sticking on the bottom of the pan, until very thick. If you have a jam thermometer, cook the mixture to 105°C. I use a spatula for the stirring because it gets right into the edges of the pan which helps to prevent the mixture sticking and burning.
6. Working quickly, spoon the mixture into whatever you have chosen to set the cheese. As the mixture cools, it becomes thicker and more solidified making it more challenging to shape. However, you can reheat the mixture gently to soften it if you need to.
7. Allow the cheese to cool and set completely before attempting to turn it out or to slice it. I would suggest chilling it for an hour after cooling if you want to turn it out cleanly.
If you are making individual cheeses, you will find that a sugar coating sticks easily to the surface. Simple sprinkle over or gently roll the cheeses in a pile of sugar. The sugar coating does make smaller pieces easier to wrap in waxed paper and helps prevent the cheese sticking to the wrapping.
I hope you have a good few days ahead and that you are able to get out and about to enjoy the beautiful shades of the season. Until next time, my best wishes to you 🙂
Hello everyone. I hope life is treating you well. Time for a foodie post this week, and something to celebrate the fabulous fruit around at the moment. I picked Victoria plums from the garden last weekend and have been busy making compote and jam, and it won’t be long now until the apples and pears are ripe and ready. One of the most delicious fruits I have eaten recently have been fresh peaches (sadly not homegrown). As well as enjoying them just as they are in all their juicy-sweet deliciousness, I made this bake which I thought to share with you.
The bake will work with other seasonal fruits like plums and greengages – you’ll just need to adjust the sweetness accordingly. As well as adding flaked almonds to the topping, I have added my beloved marzipan but this can be left out and sweeten the topping with sugar instead. If you’re not an almond fan, try pecans or toasted hazelnuts and maple syrup, and add finely grated orange rind or vanilla extract for extra flavour.
I did struggle a bit to remove the stones from the fruit as they were a little bit soft, so slightly less ripe work better for neat slices. I add lemon juice to the slices before sweetening as I find that peaches often discolour when cooked.
6 firm to ripe peaches
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
For the topping:
150g gluten-free plain flour blend
75g dairy-free block margarine (or butter), cut into pieces
A pinch of salt
75g marzipan, grated
50g toasted flaked almonds
15g chopped pistachios
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Wash and pat dry the peaches, then cut in half and remove the stones. Cut into thick slices and place in a baking dish. Toss in the lemon juice to help prevent browning. Set aside.
2. For the topping, put the flour in a bowl and add the margarine and salt. Rub the margarine into the flour until well blended. Stir in the marzipan making sure it is well distributed and then stir in the flaked almonds.
3. Mix the sugar and cornflour (cornstarch) into the peaches and sprinkle the topping over the fruit. Put the dish on a baking tray and bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden. Best served warm, sprinkled with pistachios.
That’s all for another week. I hope enjoy the recipe and I look forward to posting again in a few days time. Until then, take care and stay safe 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here we are in the bewitching month of October already. Where does the time go? We’ve been enjoying some late season sunshine here in central Scotland which has been very welcome. Not only am I still able to garden and tidy up outside uninhibited by poor weather, the tomatoes are ripening off nicely in the greenhouse, and all the eating apples are ready for picking.
This week’s recipe is my twist on the well known French upside-down apple tart. So many tomato varieties are sweet to eat these days, they can easily be eaten as part of a dessert. However, I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you serve this recipe. The tart goes well either served simply dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or is equally as delicious served as a dessert with pouring cream or custard.
I use freshly grated nutmeg and fresh thyme to flavour the tart as well as salt, pepper and a little sugar. I use a crisp, layered pastry as a base so that it doesn’t crumble when you turn it out. Use readymade, chilled or frozen (gluten-free) puff pastry for convenience, but if you have the time, try my own recipe for a gluten-free rough puff pastry
I have made the tart with all tomatoes and, of course, just with apples, but mixing and matching both fruit is my favourite combination 🙂 I hope you think so too.
Gluten-free flour for dusting
175g gluten-free puff or rough puff pastry
35g vegan margarine
1 tbsp. caster sugar
Freshly grated nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A few fresh thyme leaves
2 small eating apples
4 large plum tomatoes
6 cherry or other small variety of tomatoes
2 tsp olive oil
Fresh thyme to garnish
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line a 20cm round cake tin with baking parchment and lightly grease the sides.
Lightly flour the work top with gluten-free flour and roll out the pastry to a square slightly bigger than the tin. Using the tin as a template, cut a circle 1cm larger than the tin – keep the pastry trimmings for baking as croutons or use small tart bases – then chill the pastry circle until ready to use.
Dot the margarine all over the bottom of the tin, and sprinkle with sugar, seasonings and thyme leaves.
Peel, core and thickly slice the apples; halve the large tomatoes and leave the small ones whole. Arrange over the tin base in a decorative pattern.
Carefully arrange the pastry circle over the fruit and press the pastry edges to the side of the tin to seal. Brush with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Bake for about 25 minutes until crisp and golden. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before inverting on to a warm serving plate. Spoon over any juices that remain in the tin. Best served hot or warm, garnished with fresh thyme sprigs if liked.
Hello again. As I sat down to write this post, it felt like summer was here again. Today has been gloriously warm and sunny with blue sky all over. A perfect day to do some tidying up in the garden before the weather turns more seasonal. Whilst the nights are drawing in and leaves on the trees are on the turn, spring bulb shoots and leaves are sprouting all round the garden.
The Japanese anemones have been in flower since early last month and are still going strong. Surviving batterings from both wind and rain, they are so hardy and yet so fragile looking.
One indicator that Autumn is upon us is when the Autumn crocus appears. Towards the end of last month the tall, pale, leafless stems of the crocus first appeared in the shadier parts of the borders. Another leafless stem is the Nerine. These lilies have opened this week; they love the sunshine and their deep pink petals are a very welcome sight when most plants are dying back.
In my garden, September is the time of year when a lot of produce is ready for harvest. This late sunny spell is very welcome particularly for the greenhouse tomatoes. I have so many green ones yet to ripen, but I am hoping that over the next couple of days more will start to redden, and herald the time to get the chutney pan out again.
It’s not been such a good year for the old apple tree in the garden. In fact, you have to play spot the apple this year. I should have enough to put with the tomatoes for making chutney, but not enough to freeze. The miniature eating apples have done well though. The fruit is crispy, refreshing and sweet; they make a delicious tarte tatin.
The runner beans had a slow start this year but have more than made up for it now. The plants are heaving with beans. I dug the first of the Pink Fir potatoes last weekend, and was very pleased with the yield. They store well, so I should have plenty for a few weeks ahead. That’s all from me this week. I’m looking forward to spending the weekend out of doors and enjoying the sunshine. A happy weekend to you what ever you are doing 🙂
A few weeks ago, I promised a new pear recipe, and now I have harvested all the pears from the garden, I have been back in the kitchen, cooking up something suitably fruity for this week’s post.
My small Concorde pear tree produced a bumper crop this year. I picked all the fruit at the end of last month, just before a cold snap. It was a beautiful warm and sunny Autumn day and the colours in the garden looked rich and golden.
I put most of the pears in storage, apart from the few smaller ones which were ready to eat. Unlike apples, pears don’t need to be wrapped for storing; just pack them, not touching, in a tray or crate, and keep them in a cool place. When you want to ripen them off, bring them in to room temperature and, in about 3 days, they should be ripe and ready to eat – you can tell if a pear is ripe by gently pressing the flesh at the stalk end, if it gives a little, then it is ripe.
On with the recipe. A crostata, one of the easiest forms of pie or tart you can make because you don’t need a tin and it doesn’t matter if you’re not very good at rolling pastry to a neat edge. I made a vegan pastry using white spelt flour, but any short-crust pastry will work – you’ll need about 500g ready-made pastry if you don’t have time to make your own. Pecans and maple syrup give the flavour and sweetness in my recipe – walnuts or hazelnuts would be good too – as would clear honey if you eat it. Choose pears that have some firmness to them for cooking – perfectly ripe pears are best for enjoying as they are 🙂
450g small pears
1 unwaxed lemon
300g white spelt plain flour
½ tsp salt
85g white vegetable fat (I use Trex), cut into small pieces
100g dairy-free margarine, cut into small pieces
6 tbsp. + 1 tsp maple syrup + extra to serve
4 tsp dairy-free milk
100g chopped pecan nuts + extra to decorate
First cook the pears. Peel the pears, cut in half and remove the core. Pare a few strips of rind from the lemon using a vegetable peeler, and extract the juice. Brush the pears with lemon juice all over to help prevent discolouration.
Put the pears in a shallow pan with the remaining lemon juice, pared rind and 2 tbsp. water. Bring to simmering point, cover and cook gently for 5 -10 minutes, depending on ripeness, until just tender. Leave to cool in the lemony liquid, then drain well and cut each pear half into 4 slices. Cover and chill until required.
For the pastry, sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the fat and 85g margarine, then rub the flour and fats together with your fingertips until well blended, and the mixture resembles a crumble topping.
Make a well in the centre, and add 2 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tbsp dairy-free milk. Stir with a round bladed knife to bind together, then turn on to the work surface and bring together with your hands to make a smooth, firm dough. Leave to rest for 10 minutes on the work surface.
Meanwhile, put the pecan nuts in a blender or food processor and grind until fine. Mix in 2 tbsp. maple syrup to make a spreadable paste. Put to one side. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6.
Place a large sheet of baking parchment on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Cut off a 100g piece of pastry and set aside, then roll out the remaining pastry to make a round approx. 30cm diameter.
Spread over the pecan paste, leaving a 3cm space round the edge of the pastry circle. Arrange the pear slices on top of the pecan filling.
Carefully fold up the pastry edge to cover the edge of the pears – I find a small palette knife useful to help flip the pastry over the fruit. Transfer the crostata on the parchment to a large baking tray, and trim the parchment as necessary to fit the tray. Roll out the reserved pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut out leaves to decorate the edge.
Mix 1 tsp maple syrup with the remaining dairy-free milk and brush over the pastry edge. Arrange the leaves on top and brush with the maple/milk glaze. Dot the pears with the remaining margarine and drizzle with remaining maple syrup.
Bake for about 50 minutes until lightly golden and cooked through. Best served warm, sprinkled with chopped pecans and accompanied with extra maple syrup.