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!
Welcome to my first post of the new year. On the menu this week is a hearty (and healthy) breakfast/supper dish cooked in the slow-cooker, perfect for the time of year and for Veganuary, as this month has become known 🙂
The recipe takes next to no time to prepare, and once it’s all mixed up and in the cooker, you’ve got 9 hours to get on with your life. The hash is a simple combination of vegetables that slow-cook well, some cooked beans and a mix of spices to pep things up.
So with no more blurb from me, here’s what to do……
225g sweet potato
225g general purpose potatoes
1 red onion
1 each yellow and red pepper
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
350g ripe tomatoes
240g cooked pinto, kidney or borlotti beans
1 tsp each ground cumin and smoked paprika
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
½ tsp smoked or regular salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly chopped parsley
Peel the potatoes and cut into approx. 0.75cm thick pieces. Peel and slice the onion. Deseed and slice the peppers.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and stir fry the prepared vegetables for 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker dish.
Quarter the tomatoes and mix into the vegetables along with the beans, spices and seasonings.
Cover with the lid. switch the slow-cooker on to the Low setting and leave to cook undisturbed overnight or up to 9 hours, until the vegetables are meltingly tender.
To serve, stir the mixture well. Pile on to warm serving plates and sprinkle with parsley. For breakfast, some freshly grilled toast is all the extras you need; for supper, the hash is great spooned over rice or pasta.
It still feels more wintry than spring-like here in central Scotland. We have had a blue-sky day today, the first for a while, and the temperature is slowly rising. The snow is beginning to thaw slowly, but most of the garden is still covered in a thick, white crust of powdery snow. The snowdrops under the hedge are the first to emerge at long last and I am relieved to see that they have survived their week inside a snow-cave – what robust little flowers they are 🙂
One of my favourite warming breakfast dishes is porridge, and it seems a lot of people agree: porridge has become the super-star amongst breakfast cereals, and the supermarket shelves are stacked out with different varieties and all sorts of flavours.
I like my porridge made the traditional way, which means I prefer to use oatmeal (or groats) rather than rolled oats. However, it’s not an instant breakfast and requires some organisation: the oatmeal requires overnight soaking before it can be cooked. But if you have a slow-cooker, you can cut down on the preparation: just mix everything up in the slow-cooker the night before and leave it on a low setting until the next morning, by which time it’s ready to eat as soon as you want it.
The oatmeal in the picture above is a local Scottish brand and is not guaranteed gluten-free. As you will know, oats themselves don’t contain gluten, but there is a contamination risk from other grains during processing, so if you do have a serious gluten allergy, you should seek out gluten-free oatmeal.
If you don’t fancy leaving your slow-cooker on overnight, slow-cook the porridge as you like, and once cooked and cooled, the porridge will keep in the fridge for a few days. You can take out a portion and reheat it with you favourite soya, rice, nut or oat milk when you’re ready. Just pop a portion in a microwave-proof bowl, mash it with a fork and stir in some milk, then reheat on High for about 1 ½ minutes. Alternatively, you can reheat the porridge in a saucepan, with milk, in the same way.
The following quantity will make 4 to 6 servings: pour 1.1litre water into your slow-cooker and stir in 175g pinhead oatmeal. Add a pinch of salt and mix well. Cover with the lid and switch the cooker on to the Low setting. Leave to cook, undisturbed, overnight (for 8-10 hours), until thick and soft. To serve, stir well and serve with hot, non-dairy milk mixed in. Add sugar or syrup to sweeten if you like, and top with sliced banana, fresh berries, grated apple, dried fruit etc.
For an extra nutritious start to the day, I like to stir a heaped tablespoon of ground seeds into my bowl porridge and top with some summer berry compote.
For the seed mix, grind 3 tbsp. flax seeds with 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp. chia seeds and 1 tbsp. sesame seeds – I use a coffee grinder to do this. Stir in 1 to 2 tbsp. ground almonds, pecans or Brazil nuts. Store in the fridge in an airtight container and use to sprinkle over anything you like for some extra nutritious nuttiness!
The berry compote is made from my freezer supply of home-grown raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. I simply put a quantity, still frozen, in a saucepan with the lid on and sit the pan over a very low heat until the berries soften and cook. I add a little vanilla sugar once the berries are cooked. Delicious eaten hot or cold.
It feels like summer is here now that my strawberries are ripening. The aroma of sweet berries fills the air every time I open the greenhouse door. I have been growing strawberries in my unheated greenhouse for several years. The soil is free draining and the plants have plenty of room to spread. Apart from an occasional feed, and plenty of water, I leave them alone to get on with the business of berry production.
Strawberries are best eaten fresh. They don’t freeze well as a fruit by themselves, but you can purée them and then serve as a sauce. The fresh purée makes excellent ice cream and sorbet too. I sometimes pop a few in with a fruit compote with other berries, but on the whole, I don’t cook them other than to make jam.
One of the best ways I’ve found to preserve them, is to dry slices in a dehydrator; this way you can enjoy them once the season is over. The perfume of drying strawberries is divine. If you have a dehydrator, slice the berries and brush them with a little lemon juice to help preserve the colour. 500g prepared strawberries, spread over 3 tiers in a dehydrator, will take between 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours at 70°C/158F. This amount yields about 65g. Sealed completely in an air-tight jar, and stored in a dark, dry cupboard, they will keep for several months. The dried slices add a splash of colour and a fragrant, fruity flavour to any bowl of cereal – especially good with Coconut granola (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) – and they make a pretty, natural cake decoration too.
All round the garden borders, the wild strawberries are also beginning to turn colour. Whilst they are much more time-consuming to pick, they have a more perfumed flavour and make a lovely addition to a fruit salad. Leave them to ripen fully for the sweetest flavour, and eat them as soon after picking as possible – they really don’t keep well. I have a battle with the birds every year to get to them before they do! The plants are prolific spreaders, but give good ground cover and make a pretty display when in flower.
Strawberry serving suggestions
Fresh strawberries go well with smoked salmon, Parma or Serrano ham, and peppery leaves like rocket or watercress. They are also delicious with slices of ripe avocado.
Spread almond nut butter over warm toasted bread and top with lightly mashed strawberries and a little sugar for an indulgent toast topper.
Add finely chopped tarragon, lavender syrup, rosewater or passion fruit juice to a bowl of strawberries to enhance the floral flavour of the fresh berries.
For very sweet strawberries, halve and sprinkle with fruit or balsamic vinegar and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with goat’s cheese as a starter with salad ingredients.
If you have sufficient wild strawberries, fold them into whipped cream with a little dessert wine and strawberry jam for a topping or filling for meringues.
For a special fruit salad, mix halved strawberries with chopped mint and sugar, then toss in some lime juice, dry white wine or crème de cassis.
Mash strawberries with vanilla sugar and fold into soft cheese to spread over pancakes.
Pop a handful of wild strawberries into white balsamic vinegar to make a sweetly scented berry dressing for fruit or leaf salads later on in the year.
Breakfast is the one meal of the day that I am more choosy about than any other. I rarely have the same thing 2 days running, and often can’t face breakfast at all. At present, I am alternating between gluten-free toast, fresh fruit and coconut yogurt, and my own recipe, granola.
I turned to making my own granola after finding most ready-made combinations either too sweet or so hard and dry that they were more tortuous to eat than enjoyable. This granola recipe is easy to make and is much tastier than anything I can buy, plus you can chop and change the flavourings to suit your taste and whatever you have in the cupboard. If you like dried fruit in your granola, it is better to stir it into to the tray of still warm, cooked ingredients once the tray is of the oven – this helps to keep the fruit soft and stops it drying out and hardening in the oven.
Makes 8 servings
175g thick milled or jumbo oats
1/2 tsp salt
50g coconut sugar or light brown sugar
50g flaked coconut
3 tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla paste
Preheat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan oven, gas mark 2). Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
Put the oats, salt and sugar in a large bowl and toss in the coconut, coconut oil and vanilla paste. Mix well until well coated in oil.
Spread the mixture evenly across the tray. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring 3 times during baking, for about 40 minutes, until lightly toasted. Leave to cool on the tray.
Transfer to a clean storage jar and seal well. Delicious served with coconut rice milk and fresh berry fruits or sliced banana.
If I have them, I often add pecan pieces, flaked almonds or pumpkin seeds for extra crunch.