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!
Well, I admit, not quite “icing” on top of my Christmas cake this year, but a delicious layer of marzipan instead. If you’re not a fan of almond paste, then a layer of ready-to-roll white icing will do the trick just as well.
This is the sugar and spice fruit cake I made back in November – recipe here. It’s turned out ok and smells divine. I can’t wait to tuck in.
If you want to marzipan or ice the top of a cake, it’s quite straightforward. For an 18cm round cake like this one, you’ll need 250g marzipan or ready-to-roll icing for a reasonably thick layer. Knead it gently to soften a little (this will make it easier to roll), then dust the work top lightly with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan or icing to form a rough 19cm circle. Use the base of the tin that you cooked your cake in as a template to cut yourself a neat round.
Unwrap your cake, turn it upside down to give a smooth surface and brush with some smooth apricot jam – I like to add a splash of rum to the jam for an extra kick. Carefully transfer the marzipan or icing circle to the top of the cake and smooth it in place.
Now your cake is ready to decorate and tie with ribbon for a finishing touch. I have used glacé cherries with fresh bay leaves and rosemary sprigs for a very simple yet festive decoration, but I’m sure you will have your own ideas.
This is my last post before Christmas. Thank you all for stopping by over the past 12 months and for your lovely comments. I hope you have a good time over the holidays and I send you my best wishes for a happy and healthy festive time. I look forward to posting again in the new year.
In my kitchen, November marks the month that I bake a fruit cake for Christmas. I love the fragrant spicy and citrus aromas wafting from the oven as the cake bakes. Utterly delicious.
Making a rich fruit cake about 6 weeks before Christmas allows the spices chance to settle down, mellow and improve before serving up over the festive season.
When it comes to fruit, I usually go with a mixture of dried vine fruits, chopped apricots and glacé cherries. Orange and lemon rind and juice add some zest and zing. I always use dark brown sugar and treacle for richness and colour. I usually vary the spices, one year I did mostly ginger and mixed spice for a classic “gingerbread” flavour, but this time around I’ve used cinnamon and allspice together with a classic mixed spice blend. I had white rum to use up this year, but most often I use the dark version.
Fruit cakes do take a long time to cook, so you need to make sure the outside edges of the cake don’t over-cook. Double-line the sides of the tin inside with baking parchment and then wrap the outside of the tin with a double layer of brown paper and secure with string. I also put a circle of brown paper in the bottom of the tin before adding a couple of circles of baking parchment on top.
It is worth checking the oven temperature manually before you start baking any cake but especially before one that needs long, slow cooking – I always pop an oven thermometer in the oven before preheating to check the temperature is correct. My cooking time of 3 hours will produce a very moist and dense cake, but if you prefer something drier and more crumbly, extend the cooking time by 30 minutes up to 1 hour.
On with the recipe. If you’ve never made a Christmas cake before I understand that the list of ingredients will be completely daunting, but this is a very straightforward recipe, so I hope I can tempt you to have a go.
900g mixed dried and glacé fruit such as raisins, sultanas, currants, chopped dried apricots, and cherries
Finely grated rind and juice 1 small lemon
Finely grated rind and juice 1 small orange
100ml white or dark rum + 2 – 4 tbsp. extra for feeding
225g coconut oil
150g dark brown sugar
2 tbsp black treacle
40g chia seeds
175g gluten-free plain flour blend
100g ground almonds
1 ½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tbsp. ground mixed spice
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp natural almond extract
1 tbsp. natural vanilla extract
Prepare a deep, 18cm round cake tin by double lining with baking parchment and brown paper – see above. Place on a baking tray.
Put the fruit in a large saucepan with the citrus rind and juice, rum, coconut oil, sugar and treacle. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until melted, then bring to the boil and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 150°C, 130°C fan oven, gas 2. Put the chia seeds in a bowl and add 125ml cold water. Stir and leave for 5 minutes to form a thick, gel-like mixture.
Transfer the fruit mixture to a large bowl and mix in the chia “egg”. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to make sure that there are no pockets of flour. Transfer to the tin, smooth the top and bake for 3 hours – see notes above for longer cooking.
Remove from the oven and skewer the top deeply all over. Spoon over 2 tbsp. rum, then leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
When the cake is completely cold, remove from the tin and discard all the wrappings. Wrap well in fresh baking parchment or greaseproof paper and then either wrap tightly in foil or store in an air-tight container.
Keep the cake in a cool, dark, dry place for best results. If you want to give the cake a bit more of a kick you can feed it with more rum every 2 weeks. I find one more dose is fine for me. Avoid adding rum in the final few days before serving as it will not have time to mellow out and may spoil the overall flavour of the cake.
To feed, simply unwrap the cake and spoon over another tablespoon of rum. Let it soak in completely before wrapping up again and ontinue storing until you are ready to ice the cake for Christmas. I’ll follow up this post next month with the unveiling of the finished cake.
Limes are my favourite of all citrus fruit. I love the intense, slightly perfumed flavour. A small fruit that packs a punch on the taste-buds. This week’s recipe is a simple dessert with a ginger gluten-free biscuit crust but can be easily adapted to use other plain biscuits if you prefer. If you like lemon, the filling will taste just as good using lemon on its own or as a mix with lime.
If you are making a gluten-free crust, it will be softer than if you use traditional biscuits, so pop the pies out of the tins and onto a serving plate at the last minute for best results. The mini lime pies make a perfect light summery dessert or tea-time treat served with berry fruits. I hope you enjoy 🙂
Makes: 12 pies
250g gluten-free ginger biscuits (if you use non gluten-free biscuits, the crust will be firmer), finely crushed
90g dairy-free margarine, coconut oil or vegan butter (if you use the oil or vegan butter, the crust will hold together better; dairy-free margarine gives a more crumbly texture), melted
Finely grated rind and juice of 3 limes (if using lemon and lime, you want about 75ml juice and 7g zest for good flavour)
90g caster sugar
45ml diary-free single cream (such as soya or oat)
Natural green food colouring, optional
Lime zest, dairy-free white choc bar shavings and small berries to decorate
Line a 12-cup jam tart tin with a double layer of cling film. Put the biscuit crumbs in a bowl and mix in the melted margarine, oil or butter until well mixed.
Divide the mixture equally between the tins and press into each indent using the back of a teaspoon or small pastry case shaper. Chill for 30 minutes to set.
For the filling, put the cornflour in a saucepan. Add the lime rind and gradually blend in the juice to make a smooth paste. Stir in 75ml cold water and the sugar.
Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then slowly bring to the boil, stirring , and simmer gently for 1 minute until thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and a few drops food colouring if using. Cool for 10 minutes.
Divide between the biscuit cases, tap the tin on the work top to level the filling and leave to cool. Chill for at least an hour before serving.
When ready to serve, carefully peel the pies from the cling film and place on a serving platter. Sprinkle with lime zest, white choc bar shavings and serve with mini berries such as wild strawberries.
Summer has been slow to start here in central Scotland but it’s getting warmer at last, and we’ve had a beautiful blue sky day here today. With the increase in temperature, I find it becomes difficult to keep fruit a room temperature and resort to putting things in the fridge which inevitably means loss of flavour. Bananas really don’t keep for very long before they over-ripen and I prefer to eat them a little on the under-ripe side so I seldom want to eat them over the summer months. If the skin turns too yellow and brown-speckled then I know the texture is not going to be to my liking and the banana is destined for the baking bowl or a smoothie.
This week’s recipe is my turn-to bake for using up over-ripe bananas. Easy to make, it improves with keeping, and also freezes well. I call it “bread” because it has a lower fat content than a cake recipe, although I usually serve it with an icing on top. Uniced, it is delicious spread with your favourite margarine or nut butter. If you have a glut of ripe bananas, peel them and pop them in a freezer bag. They keep in the freezer for several months and, once defrosted, will be easy to mash up and add to cake mixes in the future.
I found this lovely old loaf tin in a bric-a-brac sale recently. It’s been well used but I like the design on the metal-work. Lined with a paper tin liner, it bakes up a treat and has got many more years of baking life in it I’m sure.
For the bread, I use a combination of coconut-based ingredients: yogurt, sugar and oil, but it works just as well using a plain dairy-free yogurt or a light soft brown sugar, and your favourite plant-based margarine or butter if you prefer things less nutty. I also use wholemeal spelt flour but traditional wheat flour would be fine too. Add some chocolate chips or chopped dried fruit for extra sweetness.
I have been working on a gluten-free version using coconut flour but I haven’t been able to get the right combination of other flours to give a moist crumb – coconut flour has a tendency to absorb a lot of moisture and can give bakes a dry texture. I’ll publish an update when I achieve something I’m happy with, so watch this space.
2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (you need about 250g mashed banana for good flavour and texture)
100g dairy-free coconut yogurt
100ml dairy-free milk
200g wholemeal spelt flour
15g baking powder
50g solid coconut oil
100g coconut sugar
For the icing:
125g icing sugar
¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
30g toasted raw coconut chips, to decorate
Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 3. Line a 1kg loaf tin. Mix the banana with the yogurt and milk.
Put the flour in a bowl and sift the baking powder on top. Mix well then rub in the coconut oil and stir in the sugar.
Make a well in the centre and stir in the banana mixture to make a smooth, thick cake batter. Spoon into the loaf tin, smooth the top and bake for about 1 hour until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
When cold, wrap and store for 24 hours before serving for better flavour and texture. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Mix in 3-4 tsp warm water and the vanilla to make smooth spreadable icing. Spread over the top of the loaf and sprinkle coconut chips.
Every now and then I have a hankering for scones, but I have yet to bake a gluten-free version that makes the grade. However, this week’s recipe is very similar in terms of ingredients to scones, but instead of the traditional oven baking, these “cakes” are cooked in a frying pan. So good are they that they have now become my gluten-free scone-alternative of choice and can be whipped up and cooked in next to no time.
For a few years, my family used to holiday in Wales, where I can remember enjoying traditional Welsh cakes known as Cage Bach for the first time. Studded with currants, flavoured with the merest hint of spice, and served warm with butter, these were a very welcome and delicious teatime treat. Welsh cakes are traditionally cooked on a griddlestone, a heavy flat pan which sits directly on top of an open flame or stove top. They cook to a dense, but crumbly texture and are extremely moreish.
My recipe this week for griddle cakes is an homage to my Welsh ancestry and yet another happy childhood foodie memory.
175g gluten-free plain flour blend + extra for dusting (If you are not gluten-free, use traditional wheat plain flour for a more authentic texture)
10g gluten-free baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
70g white vegetable fat or coconut oil + extra for greasing
70g caster sugar
60-70g plain unsweetened dairy-free yogurt
Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Rub in the fat until well blended. Stir in the sugar and currants.
Add sufficient yogurt to make a softish dough. Turn on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth and well blended.
Either press or roll the dough to a thickness of 1cm. Using a 7cm round cookie cutter, cut out 7 rounds, re-pressing or rolling the dough trimmings as necessary. I like to cook the rounds at 1cm thickness so that the cakes have a dense texture in the middle. If you roll out the dough to ½-¾ cm depth, you should make 8 cakes, and the resulting cakes will be crisper all the way through.
Very lightly grease a flat griddle pan or large frying pan with a little fat and heat until melted. Place the cakes in the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook the cakes for 8-10 minutes on each side, taking care not to burn the outside – lift up the edge of 1 or 2 to check, and lower the heat further as necessary.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little. Best served warm, spread with dairy-free butter and your favourite jam. Yummy 🙂
The cakes are best eaten on the day of cooking but they freeze well and defrost in next to no time. You can reheat them successfully by popping them in a low oven for a few minutes to heat through.
It’s time for a rhubarb recipe this week on my blog. Spring is well under way now and rhubarb is plentiful. In the garden at the moment, my own early rhubarb plant is coming along nicely and looks very healthy. Not quite ready for picking just yet, but I don’t think it will be long.
This week’s post is a dense-textured, delicious rhubarb cake that can also be served warm as a pudding. You do need a fair bit of rhubarb to make the cake – 600g. Cut the rhubarb stalks to the same thickness for even cooking during the first part of the recipe, and take care not to over-cook in order to retain some texture in the finished bake.
The orange adds a subtle flavour to the cake, but leave it out if you prefer. Bake the rhubarb with a little water instead of the juice. For a spicy twist, replace the orange rind in the cake mix with ground ginger and/or mixed spice.
600g fresh rhubarb stalks
1 medium orange
3 tbsp. caster sugar
For the streusel mix:
85g gluten-free self raising flour
75g jumbo oats
50g dairy-free margarine, softened
For the cake:
200g dairy-free margarine, softened
200g caster sugar
Finely grated rind 1 orange
200g plain dairy-free yogurt (I used plain soya yogurt)
100g ground almonds
100g gluten-free self raising flour
To decorate (optional):
100g icing sugar
Fresh orange zest
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Trim the rhubarb and cut into even thickness pieces, 3-4cm long. Place in a roasting tray. Pare the rind from the orange using a vegetable peeler, and extract the juice. Stir both into the rhubarb and sprinkle over the sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until just tender, then leave to cool in the tin.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin. For the streusel, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and rub in the margarine. Set aside.
For the cake mix, put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk everything together until well blended.
Drain the rhubarb well, reserving the cooking juices, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Put half the cake mix in the tin, spread smoothly, sprinkle over half the streusel mix and top with half the rhubarb.
Spoon over the remaining cake mix and spread smoothly. Sprinkle over half the remaining streusel mix and arrange the remaining rhubarb on top.
Finally, sprinkle the rhubarb with the remaining streusel, stand the cake tin on a baking tray and bake for about 1 ¾ hours, covering with foil after an hour or so to prevent over-browning. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin to serve cold as a cake, or stand for about 30 minutes to firm up before removing from the tin to serve warm as a pudding with dairy-free custard and the reserved juices spooned over if liked.
To decorate and serve as a cake, carefully remove from the tin and place on a wire rack. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in about 4 tsp of the reserved cooking juices to make a soft, dripping icing. Drizzle over the top of the cake using a teaspoon and scatter with orange zest. Leave for about 30 minutes to firm up before slicing to serve.
I keep the cake in the fridge and bring to room temperature for a few minutes before serving. You can also heat up a slice in the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off. The cake freezes well without the icing. Have a good week 🙂
I’ve been trying to make a decent gluten-free loaf for some time. Whilst I still haven’t mastered the light and airy consistency of the ready-made loaves I sometimes buy, I am very pleased with the chewy texture and flavour of this loaf recipe. I combined starchy tapioca and rice flours with jumbo oats and a little xanthan gum which all go together to create a dense loaf with a springy bite that tastes good untoasted. The texture (not the flavour) reminds me of the dense German pumpernickel-style breads.
I made 2 variations of the same recipe, one with small seeds added – flax, black sesame and chia – and the other I kept plain and added a few more oats to the mixture to increase the fibre content. The method and ingredients are the same for both loaves.
Because there is no gluten to develop, bread-making the gluten-free way is a doddle. No kneading, just a quick mix and then you can get on with your life for a couple of hours or so, until the yeast has done the rest of the work for you. Here’s the recipe 🙂
Makes: 1 small loaf
125g tapioca flour
125g white rice flour
50g jumbo oats (for plain white loaf, use 65g)
75g mixed small seeds, optional
½ tsp salt
12g light brown sugar
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp easy blend dried yeast
1 tbsp. sunflower oil
275ml tepid water
5ml unsweetened soya milk + ½ tsp maple syrup, to glaze
15g crushed sunflower and pumpkin seeds or extra oats, to sprinkle
Lightly grease a 500g loaf tin. Mix the flours, oats, seeds (if using), salt and sugar in a bowl. Add the yeast and stir in completely.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and stir in the oil and water to make a thick batter.
Transfer the mixture to the greased loaf tin, smooth the top and place in a large, clean food bag. Secure the bag closed making sure there is enough room for the bag to expand. Leave to rise in a coolish room temperature, out of draughts, for about 2 ½ hours until slightly risen and a few bubbles appear on the top.
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Brush the top of the loaf lightly with the soya and maple glaze and sprinkle with seeds or oats. Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden and crusty – the loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the base. Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.
The loaf will keep lightly wrapped or in a tin, at room temperature for about a week, or you can slice it and freeze it for longer storage. I have toasted the bread; it becomes denser and for some reason doesn’t brown all over, but it still tastes good. Have a good week 🙂
I thought it was time to deliver a little treat. This week, I’ve broken into the chocolate to make something deliciously decadent. Still feeling inspired by my culinary adventure with Sicilian red oranges in last week’s post, I used some to flavour this rich Italian confection which is traditionally served at the end of a meal with coffee and liqueurs, or in my case, Marsala wine.
I was watching a travel programme about Sicily over the festive holidays. It really does seem like a food and drink paradise, and I hope to pay a visit some day. In the meantime, I tracked down some of the island’s Modica chocolate which is so very different from any other chocolate I have eaten or cooked with. It is naturally vegan as it is made with just cocoa, sugar and vanilla. The texture is grainy and slightly crunchy, with a flavour that is rich and intense. Modica chocolate is very like the chocolate the Aztecs would have been familiar with; it was introduced to Europe in the 16th century by the Spanish, and I’m delighted to have finally made its acquaintance.
You can add any flavourings you fancy to the basic salami recipe. I opted for all things Italian and went with pistachios, marzipan and the red orange. Candied peel is often added but I’m not a huge fan. Because I had the fresh red oranges to hand, I made my own non-candied peel which is much softer and much more zesty than the preserved variety. However, feel free to use the more traditional candied peel if you like it.
I put some red orange juice in the salami mixture as well. If you fancy something with more oomph, you can use 2 tbsp. liqueur instead. I used a dairy-free margarine which has a lower fat content than a solid fat. The combination of the margarine and the added liquid gives a more fudgy texture to the salami. If you prefer a firmer set then leave out the liquid altogether and use something like coconut oil (or unsalted butter if you eat it) which will give a much firmer set.
Makes 16 slices
2 medium oranges, red or other variety
100g 50% cocoa Modica or similar free-from plain chocolate
75g dairy-free margarine
150g free-from ginger biscuits, lightly crushed (or use your favourite variety)
50g natural pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
75g natural marzipan, finely chopped
15g each ground almonds and icing sugar
First prepare the orange rind. Using a vegetable peeler, pare off the orange rind thinly. You need about 40g rind to achieve a rich orange flavour.
Slice the pared rind into thin strips. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the strips for 4-5 minutes until soft. Drain and cool under cold running water, then drain well and pat dry, before chopping finely. Extract 2 tbsp. juice from one of the oranges – and enjoy the rest of the juice at your leisure 🙂
Break up the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Add the dairy-free margarine and place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and leave until melted. Remove from the water and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Put the biscuits, pistachios, marzipan, chopped orange rind and juice in a bowl and mix together, then stir in the melted chocolate. Leave in a cool place for about 30 minutes to firm up but not set completely.
Line the work top with a large double layer of cling film and pile the chocolate mixture in the centre to form a rough rectangular shape about 24cm long.
Fold over the cling film and twist the ends closed to make a fat sausage-like shape with slightly tapering ends. Chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight until firm.
To decorate, place a large sheet of baking parchment on the work top and sift the ground almonds and icing sugar down the centre to cover an area the same length as the salami.
Carefully unwrap the salami and roll evenly in the sweet almond mixture to coat it lightly. Slice and serve. Store any remaining chocolate salami in the fridge – the sugary almond coating will start to dissolve in the fridge but this doesn’t affect the flavour or texture of the salami. Buon appetite!
Happy Burns Night, or Day, depending on when you are reading this!
When I started my blog several months ago, my very first recipe was for an old favourite of mine, shortbread. Looking back recently, I thought that the recipe could do with a bit of an update. Now I have a dairy-free version which I am very happy with and so, I have updated my original recipe, timing it for this year’s January 25th celebration.
On with the recipe. I have given my shortbread rounds a suitably Scottish flourish by embossing them with a thistle on the top. If you don’t have a traditional shortbread mould, then simply roll out the dough and cut out rounds using a plain or fluted edge cookie cutter. Prick the tops and press the edges with the fork before baking.
Here’s the link back to the updated original shortbread recipe – now dairy-free and vegan as well as gluten-free – and if you are using a shortbread mould, there are some step by steps images to help you.
That’s all for this week. I’m off for a wee dram; I’ll be posting again soon. Sláinte!
I love a good mince pie, and this recipe is one of easiest and tastiest you can make. No rolling pin or tart tins required, just a square cake tin and a pair of (clean) hands.
You can use homemade or readymade mincemeat for the filling and any combination of dried fruit or nuts you have – it’s a good way to use up leftover bits and pieces. Grated apple also works well added to the mincemeat. Add a splash of your favourite tipple and you have something very festive indeed!
The crumbles keep well for up to a week when stored in an airtight container – they will become softer and more cake-like a time goes by, but the flavour intensifies – and they also freeze well. Enjoy them warm, straight out of the tin, as a hot pudding, or let them cool and serve as a delicious bake. Here’s what to do:
115g solid white vegetable fat (such as Trex or coconut oil), softened
115g dairy-free margarine or spread
115g soft light brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp good quality almond extract, optional (or use 1 tsp ground cinnamon or mixed spice to flavour)
100g ground almonds
250g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Doves Farm)
10g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
500g vegan mincemeat
100g dried cranberries
100g chopped dried apricots
2 tbsp. cherry brandy or your favourite tipple
50g golden marzipan (optional)
1 tsp icing sugar, to dust
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a deep 21cm square cake tin. In a mixing bowl, beat together the fat. margarine, sugar and salt until well blended. Stir in the ground almonds and extract or spice, if using.
Sift the flour and baking powder on top and mix everything together to form a soft, crumbly mixture. Press 350g of the mix into the base of the tin – I find using a floured back of spoon is a good way to achieve a smooth, thick base. Prick all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden and firm.
Mix the mincemeat, cranberries, apricots and brandy together and spread over the base. Sprinkle the remaining crumble on top, gently packing it down but making sure you retain the crumbly texture.
Bake for about 40 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then slice into 16 squares. Leave in the tin to cool completely before removing and arranging the pieces on a board or tray.
To decorate, roll out the marzipan thinly and cut out as many stars or festive shapes as you are able, re-rolling the marzipan as necessary. Arrange the stars on the squares and dust lightly with icing sugar.
This is my last post for 2018. I’d like to thank all of you who have stopped by my blog and read my posts. It is a pleasure to write my posts and receive such lovely feedback.
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas as the song says, we had our first snowfall last night and I woke to the garden transformed into Narnia. On this wintry note, I’d like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and new year when it comes. I will be back up and running in a few weeks.