Snowflake pies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Very Christmassy, snowflake pies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. With the Christmas break just a few days away, my post this week is a very simple and very seasonal dessert recipe which is easy to make and pretty to look at. With little snow in the forecast for the UK this year so far, this sweet treat is probably the closest I will come to experiencing a White Christmas.

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Light and fluffy, snowflake pie. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Assembled in paper cupcake cases, the pies have a biscuit crumb base, and a topping simply made from vegan marshmallows and plant-based double cream. All very straightforward. I flavoured the topping with vanilla extract but you could add some citrus zest or Christmas spice. As you can image, the pies are quite sweet, but I found they paired perfectly with cooked cranberries. I think orange, rhubarb or raspberries would also work very well – something with a bit of acidity is ideal. OK, on with the recipe…..

Makes: 8

Ingredients

  • 115g free-from Digestive biscuits
  • 65g plant-based butter
  • 175g white vegan marshmallows
  • 400ml plant-based double cream, at room temperature
  • 1tsp good quality vanilla extract
  • Icing snowflakes and edible silver glitter to decorate

1. Line 8 muffin tins with plain cupcake paper cases – you don’t need to use anything fancy; the cases are being used as tin liners to help you turn the pies out more easily. Put the biscuits in a clean bag and crush finely with a rolling pin.

2. Melt the butter, remove from the heat and stir in the crumbs until evenly coated. Divide the mixture between the cases; press down well and chill until required.

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Making the bases. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. For easier melting, cut the marshmallows into small pieces – kitchen scissors are good for this. Place in a saucepan and pour over 100ml of the cream and add the vanilla.

4. Heat very gently, stirring occasionally, until the marshmallows melt into the cream. This will take about 5-8 minutes. Keep the heat as low as possible to avoid boiling. Then whisk until smooth.

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Making the filling. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. While the marshmallows are melting, whip a further 225ml cream until just peaking.

6. Working quickly, scrape the molten marshmallows mixture on top of the cream and gently mix the 2 together to make a fluffy, light mixture. The marshmallows will start to set again as soon as they meet the cream, so make sure the cream isn’t too cold.

7. Divide between the cases and chill for about 2hr until completely set, then remove from the tins and peel away the paper cases.

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Assembling the pies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins.

8. To serve, whip the remaining cream and spoon a little on top of each pie. Decorate with snowflakes and glitter. Delicious accompanied with a cranberry, or other fruit, compote.

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Cranberry compote. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is my last recipe post of the year. Thank you for your continued interest in my blog. I hope you have a very happy and healthy Christmas and I look forward to returning to my blog in the new year.

Sweet chilli jelly (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Sweet chilli jelly. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. Are you beginning to feel Christmassy yet? We’ve had some snowfall here, not very much but it certainly feels like winter is upon us.

I haven’t had much time for making preserves this year and most of my harvested garden produce is still buried deep in the freezer waiting for me to get cooking. However, I did find some time a few days ago to make one of my favourites. I love the combination of sweet and smoke with a hint of chilli spice in this savoury jelly. It’s one of those preserves that goes with lots of things and makes a great gift for a food lover. It’s also ready to eat immediately or will store for up to a year.

You might want to scale back the recipe to make a smaller quantity but I wanted a few jars for myself as well as a couple to give away. Add more chillies for a spicy-hot jelly or use hot smoked paprika instead.

Makes: approx. 1.4kg

Ingredients

  • Approx. 1.5kg cooking apples, washed and left whole
  • Approx. 750g red (bell) peppers or capsicum, washed and stalks removed
  • 50-100g red chillies, washed and stalks removed
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 large sprigs of fresh sage
  • 5 bay leaves
  • approx. 1.1kg granulated white sugar
  • 175ml cider vinegar
  • 2tsp smoked paprika
  • 1½tsp salt
  • 1-2tsp dried chilli flakes

1. Chop the apples and place in a large preserving pan – seeds, core, skin, everything. Do the same with the peppers and chillies, then add to the pan along with the garlic, sage and bay leaves.

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Main ingredients: apples, peppers, chillies and garlic. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Pour over 1.7l water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, mashing with a spoon occasionally, until everything is soft and pulpy. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.

3. Carefully ladle the pulp into a jelly bag suspended over a bowl and leave in a cool place to drip over night. Discard the pulp and measure the juice.

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Making and straining the cooked fruit and veg. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Pour the juice into a clean preserving pan and heat until hot. Add 450g sugar for every 650ml juice collected – I had 1.6l juice and added 1.1kg sugar. Pour in the vinegar and stir until the sugar dissolves, then raise the heat and boil rapidly until setting point is reached – 105°C on a sugar thermometer. Turn off the heat and stir in the salt, paprika and chillies. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.

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Cooking and flavouring the jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Stir the jelly mixture and ladle into sterilized jam jars. Seal tightly while hot, then leave to cool before labelling. Store in a cool, dry, dark cupboard for up to 1 year.

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Freshly cooked sweet chilli jelly in the jar and on the spoon. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. One more recipe post before the holidays. I’ll see you again in a few days. All the best until then 🙂

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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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.

The icing on the cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Vegan and gluten-free, fruit cake for Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Cherries and fresh herbs make a simple festive decoration. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Making a marzipan round. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Covering the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Christmas on a plate. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My favourite nut loaf (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Super-easy nut loaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you’re planning a meat-free Christmas menu for yourself or guests this year then my recipe this week maybe one to consider. Time to post my favourite nut loaf recipe. It is very easy to assemble, can be made in advance, and freezes well. What’s more, you can use any combination of nuts and seeds you fancy – it’s the perfect recipe to use up any nuts or seeds that you have already opened. And above all else, it’s very tasty 🙂

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Serve with roast veg and veggie gravy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I prefer to use roasted peanuts and cashews if I have them, but pecans and almonds are favourites too. The mixture is bound together with lentils, flax seed “egg” and nut butter – choose whichever cooked pulses or nut butter you fancy to suit your taste. If you fancy some extra crunch, toast a handful of your favourite seeds and add to the mixture when you bind everything together.

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Ground peanuts and cashews. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

When grinding or chopping the nuts, I like to keep some bigger pieces amongst the finer grinds so that the loaf has some texture but you may prefer something smoother.

On with the recipe, and then on with the festive countdown.

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil + extra to drizzle
  • 1 stick celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 115g grated carrot
  • 115g cooked green lentils (cooked and mashed cannellini, butter or haricot beans work well too)
  • 200g roasted peanuts and cashews (or your favourite nut and seed combination)
  • 40g gluten-free sage and onion stuffing mix
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 125g whole nut peanut or other nut butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. flax seeds
  • Chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the celery, onion and garlic, mix well, cover, and cook gently for 10 minutes until softened. Cool for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line a 1kg loaf tin with a paper liner or baking parchment. Put the remaining ingredients, except the flax seeds and parsley, in a bowl and stir in the softened mixture.
  3. Now make the flax egg. Grind the flax seeds until powdery – I use a coffee grinder. Put in a small bowl and mix in 3 tbsp. water. Leave for about 5 minutes to thicken then stir into the nutty vegetable mixture to bind everything together.

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    Making flax “egg”. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Spoon the loaf mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 25-30 minutes until lightly crusty on top.

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    Before and after baking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To serve, carefully remove the loaf from the tin. Discard the lining paper and transfer to a warmed serving plate or serving board. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, sliced thickly and accompanied with roasted vegetables and vegetable gravy or a fresh tomato sauce.

    Plate_of_homemade_nut_loaf_and_roast_vegetables
    Nut loaf serving suggestion. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    I hope you have a good few days  and I look forward to seeing you again just before Christmas!

 

Sweet and spicy mango chutney (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free and vegan)

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Homemade mango chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s the time of year when you might be thinking about making something edible for giving as a Christmas present so my post this week may be an idea for you. Last week I found large fresh mangoes for sale in the supermarket at a very reasonable price and decided to make mango chutney. This is a favourite preserve in our house; we get through lots of it, but I hardly ever get round to making it.

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Fresh mango fruit. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Choose slightly under-ripe mangoes for chutney so that you end up with some texture in your preserve. Very ripe mango will go very soft and will also increase the sweetness of the final chutney.

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Spice and seasoning tray. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can go one of two ways when you make mango chutney: the spicy route, whilst or the smooth, sweet and jam-like. If you prefer the latter, you don’t need to add the spice bag or the chillis and onion seeds from the recipe below, but I do recommend keeping the ginger, bay and garlic as well as salt and pepper . Blend or mash the mango finely before you start, and for a more vibrant colour, add some paprika.

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Toasting and grinding spices ready for a spice bag. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For a spicy version, I prefer to keep the chutney as clear as possible so I avoid ground spices as these can give a murky result. Instead I opt for making a spice bag. It’s a bit of a faff but worth it to achieve a more “professional” appearance. Toast the cumin, coriander and black mustard seeds first in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes. Cool and then grind them with the cardamom pods. Pile on to a small square of clean muslin and add the ground pepper. Tie up with a strip of muslin or clean cook’s string and you’re ready to go.

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Ready for gifting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you can bear to part with your preserve, it does make a lovely and impressive gift for any curry or Indian food lover. Make it now and it will be just about ready to eat at Christmas, but perfect for keeping into the new year.  I haven’t decided what to do with my 3 jars yet – keep or gift? Probably the former 🙂

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Homemade mango chutney ready for storage until Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: approx. 525g

Ingredients

  • ½ tsp each cumin, coriander and black mustard seeds
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
  • 2-3 large slightly under-ripe mangoes – see below
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 20g piece root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 150ml cider vinegar
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp black onion seeds
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. First make up the spice bag as described above and put to one side. Next prepare the mango. Slice down either side of the large smooth, flat central stone. Peel off the skin and chop the flesh, then slice off the remaining flesh from around the edge of the stone. You will need 600g prepared fruit for this recipe.

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    Fresh mango preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Put the mango flesh in a large saucepan and add the spice bag, garlic, ginger, bay leaves and chilli. Pour over the vinegar, bring to the boil, cover and gently simmer for about 10 minutes until softened.
  3. Stir in the sugar until dissolved, then add the lemon juice. Bring to the boil and cook for about 15 minutes until thick and jam-like, stirring occasionally as it may start to stick on the bottom of the saucepan. Turn off the heat, stir in the onion seeds and salt, cover and stand for 10 minutes, then discard the bay leaves and spice bag.

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    The 4 stages of chutney. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Stir the mixture  before spooning into hot, sterilised jars and sealing immediately. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dry cupboard for at least a month to mature before serving.

That’s all for this month. I wish you a good few days. I’ll see you again in December on the run up to Christmas 🙂

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A spoonful of sweet and spicy homemade mango chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Sugar and spice fruit cake for Christmas (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Getting ready for Christmas, gluten-free and vegan, this year’s Christmas fruit cake ready for wrapping and storing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Christmas cake fruit and flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Tin protection for prolonged baking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

Serves: 16

Ingredients

  • 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
  1. Prepare a deep, 18cm round cake tin by double lining with baking parchment and brown paper – see above. Place on a baking tray.
  2. 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.

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    Preparing the fruit mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. 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.

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    Making chia “egg”. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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    Rum-soaked cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. 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.

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    Wrapping and storing fruit cake for Christmas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    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.

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    Feeding the cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    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.

Tutti frutti semifreddo (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Easter dessert. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been back in the kitchen this week, making something deliciously sweet and impressive for the Easter holidays. I’ve come up with a  dessert that is very easy to make, inspired by the flavours of Italy, and is everything you want to round off a celebratory Easter meal (but with no chocolate in sight – gasp, shock, horror!).

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Iced tutti frutti loaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can add your own choice of chopped dried or candied fruit and nuts – it’s a great recipe to use up the bits and pieces you have leftover (and you could even add chunks of chocolate if you really want to!). Flavoured with marzipan, mincemeat and Marsala wine, it’s a dessert that would also be right at home on the Christmas table as well.

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Easter semifreddo ingredients. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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A spoonful of semifreddo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here’s what to do:

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 115g golden marzipan (use plain if you prefer but the golden variety adds a little colour to the semifreddo), chopped
  • 600ml dairy-free single “cream” (I use oat cream, but soya cream or canned coconut milk would also work)
  • 150g vegan mincemeat
  • 100g glacé cherries, chopped
  • 25g pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. Marsala wine (or use sweet sherry or cherry brandy)
  • Extra cherries and pistachios to decorate
  1. Line a 1kg loaf tin with a double layer of cling film. Put the marzipan in a saucepan and pour over the dairy-free “cream”. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together.

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    Cling film lined load tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Remove from the heat, mix well then stir in the remaining ingredients and leave to cool completely.
  3. Transfer to a freezer container at least 1.1l capacity, cover and freeze for 2 to 2½ hours until starting to turn slushy. Mix well then freeze for a further hour or so until icy and stiffened. Mix well to distribute all the pieces and pack into the loaf tin. Freeze for at least 2 hours to firm up enough to slice. For prolonged freezing, fold over the cling film and wrap in foil. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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    Freezing semifreddo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. To serve, gently ease the semifreddo from the tin using the cling film. Place on a serving plate and discard the cling film. Scatter with more cherries and pistachios. Slice, serve and enjoy! Happy Easter everyone 🙂

    Two_slices_tutti_frutti_semifreddo_ice_on_individual_serving_plates
    Sliced and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hogmanay in the garden

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Welcoming in 2019. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A very happy new year to you all. I wish you good health and every success in the year ahead. I hope that you have had a good Christmas holiday, and now we wait to see what 2019 brings to us all.

My Christmas holiday has been very peaceful and relaxed. The weather has been mild considering the time of year and has given me the opportunity to get out in the garden and tackle a few jobs like pruning the old apple tree.

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Recently pruned gnarly old apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The holidays started on a very chilly note with a heavy frost on Christmas Eve which made everything look very festive and sparkly in the sunshine and crisp, fresh air. Frosted_Hydrangea_lawn_paths_and_greenhouse_glass

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Frosty garden on Christmas Eve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Out in the garden today, things were looking a little different from a week ago. No frost, just mild, breezy air and patches of blue in a heavily clouded sky. 2018 has certainly given us some unusual weather and I think this is having an impact on the garden now. Several plants are much more advanced than usual: the snowdrops are almost out in flower; the buds on the early spring flowering rhododendron are breaking open, and one Hellebore is already in full bloom. The usual oddities are around too: a solitary stalk of fresh flowers on a very sad-looking, bedraggled lavender bush, and a few new red-fringed orange carnation buds are about to open for a second flowering. Snowdrops_in_bud_and_a_white_hellebore_in_bloom

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Hogmanay flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ll sign off this post with an image of some “lucky” white winter-flowering heather to bring us all good fortune over the next 12 months 🙂

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Hogmanay white heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Mince pie crumbles (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Mince pie crumbles. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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!

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Mincemeat and fruit filling with a splash of cherry brandy. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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:

Makes: 16

Ingredients

  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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    Making mince pie crumbles. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. 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.

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    Ready for the eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

    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.

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    Festive snowfall. Image: Kathryn Hawkins