Pear, pecan and maple crostata (dairy-free and vegan)

 

Pear_and_pecan_crostata_with_maple_syrup
Pear, pecan and maple crostata. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

Close-up_of_pastry_leaves_on_a_crostata
Pastry leaf border. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

Home-grown_Concorde_pears_in_wooden_crate_on_garden_seat
Autumn pear harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

Home-grown_Concorde_pears_on_tree_and_in_wooden_crate
Just before and after picking on a sunny Autumn day. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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 🙂

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

    3_steps_to_cooking_fresh_pears
    Preparing fresh pears for crostata. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

    Steps_1_to_6_preparing_shortcrust_pastry_for_pear_and_pecan_crostata
    Making vegan shortcrust pastry. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. 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.

    3_steps_to_preparing_pecan_and_maple_paste
    Pecan paste preparation
  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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

    Step_by_step_preparation_to_pear_and_pecan_crostata
    Assembling the crostata. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  10. Bake for about 50 minutes until lightly golden and cooked through. Best served warm, sprinkled with chopped pecans and accompanied with extra maple syrup.

    Slice_of_pear_and_pecan_crostata_with_maple_syrup
    Sliced and ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Fresh raspberry jellies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Glasses_of_raspberry_jelly_with_white_chocolate_topping
Fresh raspberry jellies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s peak raspberry season here in central Scotland, and the juicy red fruits are coming thick and fast. I have bags of berries in the freezer already for jam making later on in the year, but right now, I’m enjoying them cooked in a compote with rhubarb on my breakfast granola and as an occasional treat in a fruity dessert. Fresh_Scottish_raspberries_growing_on_bushes

Two_ripe_raspberries_ready_for_picking
Ripe and ready for picking, home-grown Glen Ample raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My recipe this week takes me back to my childhood. We often had jelly for dessert as kids. Using fresh fruit takes a bit of effort but the flavour can’t be beaten. The variety of raspberries I grow are called Glen Ample. They are ideal for cooking because they are very juicy and flavoursome, but they do lack sweetness when eaten fresh. You may need to alter the amount of sugar and water in the recipe if you have a different variety.

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Freshly picked and ready for cooking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To set jellies, I use the Dr Oetker product ‘Vege-Gel’, which is a gelling powder made from Carrageenan. It gives a lovely silky, smooth soft texture. You’ll need to alter the preparation instructions if you prefer to use another setting agent.

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Free-from home-made raspberry jelly. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To finish the jellies off, I made a free-from white ‘chocolate’ and coconut ganache to top the jellies for an extra special indulgence. Use dark chocolate if you prefer something less sweet.

Makes: 4

Ingredients

  • 450g fresh raspberries
  • 100g caster sugar (or amount to taste)
  • 6.5g sachet Vege-Gel (Dr Oetker)
  • 100g free-from white ‘chocolate’
  • 50g dairy-free coconut milk yogurt
  • Fresh raspberries and raspberry leaves to decorate
  1. Rinse the raspberries and shake off the excess water. Put in a saucepan with the sugar and 75ml water. Heat gently, stirring occasionally and carefully, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes without stirring. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Place a nylon sieve over a heatproof jug and strain the raspberry mixture through. Leave to cool completely then discard the pulp. Try to avoid squeezing the raspberry mixture in the sieve as this will make the jelly cloudy.
  3. Pour 200ml cold water into a bowl and sprinkle over the Vege-Gel powder. Whisk until completely dissolved. Pour into a saucepan and add the raspberry juice. Heat the mixture to boiling point and then leave to cool for about 30 minutes. As the liquid cools, the mixture begins to set, so keep an eye on it to avoid it setting completely in the saucepan.

    Preparation_steps_for_making_vegan_jelly
    Making vegan raspberry jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Divide the mixture between tumblers or heatproof glasses – the glasses need to be at least 150ml capacity. Leave to cool completely, then chill for an hour until firm.

    3_steps_to_making_free-from_white_chocolate_mousse
    Making free-from white chocolate ganache. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. For the topping, melt the free-from chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then stir in the yogurt. Spoon on top of each jelly and return to the fridge for a further hour to set. Decorate, serve and enjoy 🙂

    Single_serving_of_vegan_fresh_raspberry_jelly
    Free-from fresh raspberry jelly with white ‘chocolate’ ganache-style topping. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Rhubarb and almond jalousie (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Sliced_rhubarb_and_almond_slatted_pastry
Iced and sliced, rhubarb and almond jalousie. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I pulled my first stems of rhubarb at the weekend. The 3 crowns I re-planted back in the Autumn are doing well in their new patch (watched over by 2 stone rabbits), and it is looking likely that there will be plenty more stems before the summer is over.

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My first harvest of home-grown rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To celebrate my first harvest, I have a simple rhubarb recipe to share this week. It’s a pastry classic, and gets its name from a slatted louvre window because it has thin slits cut across its top which give a glimpse of the filling inside. I’ve combined the tartness of the fresh rhubarb with the sweet, richness of marzipan, but I realise this is an ingredient not to everyone’s taste, so if you’re not a marzipan fan, simply leave it out altogether or make a thick vanilla custard instead and spread this across the pastry instead.

Iced_whole_jalousie_and_and_single_portion
Iced and ready to serve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I gave a recipe for a Gluten-free rough puff pastry (with dairy-free & vegan variation) on my blog last year which you can use for this recipe, but if you don’t have time to make your own, SillyYak make a very good gluten-free, vegan-friendly pastry. Alternatively, for wheat eaters, roll out ready-made traditional puff pastry thinly and instead.

Serve this delicious pastry warm as a dessert with custard or leave to go cold and enjoy a slice as a pastry with a cup of coffee.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 300g fresh rhubarb
  • 40g caster or vanilla sugar
  • 325g gluten-free, vegan puff pastry (such as Silly Yak)
  • 125g natural marzipan, coarsely grated
  • A little dairy-free milk, optional
  • 50g icing sugar
  • A few drops almond extract
  • A few toasted flaked almonds
  1. Trim the rhubarb and cut into short, even-thickness lengths. Place in a frying pan, sprinkle over the sugar and heat gently until steaming. Cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes until tender. Leave to cool completely. Cooking rhubarb this way means you will have little juice which is important in this recipe in order to keep the pastry crisp.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan oven, gas 7). Line a large flat baking tray with baking parchment. Divide the pastry into 2 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of pastry to make a rectangle 28 x 15cm.
  3. Sprinkle over the marzipan, leaving about 2cm pastry showing all round the edge, and spread the rhubarb on top. Brush the pastry edge with water or little dairy-free milk if preferred.

    3_stages_to_assembling_a_jalousie
    Preparing the bottom layer of the jalousie. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Roll the other piece of pastry to a rectangle slightly larger than the bottom piece and carefully lay the pastry on top. Press down the edges well to seal them together and slice off any ragged pastry to neaten the edge.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut thin slashes through the top of the pastry to make the slatted effect. Carefully transfer the pastry to the baking tray, brush with dairy-free milk if liked and bake for about 30 minutes until browned. Leave on the tray to cool for 30 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool further.

    3_further_stages_to_making_and_baking_a_jalousie
    Finishing and baking the jalousie. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. To decorate, sieve the icing sugar into a small bowl and mix in a few drops of almond extract and about 2 teasp warm water to make a smooth, drizzling icing. Use a teaspoon to drip the icing all over the top of the warm or cold pastry and then scatter with almonds. Transfer to a serving plate or board to slice and serve.
    Jalousie_freshly_drizzled_with_almond_icing
    Freshly drizzle-iced jalousie, sprinkled with toasted flaked almonds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Slice_of_rubarb_and_almond_jalousie_ready_to_eat
    An iced slice, ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

Baked lemon and pistachio cheesecake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Baked_lemon_and_pistachio_cheesecake_dairy-free_and_vegan
For Easter, baked lemon and pistachio cheesecake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

How I love a good cheesecake. But, with regret,  it is a dessert that has been off my menu for quite a while due to my intolerance to most dairy products. Over the years, I have been experimenting with different combinations of ingredients but with little success. However,  recently I revisited a much-loved, traditional cheesecake recipe, and I think I have achieved a perfect balance between flavour and texture. So at last, I am able to make a cheesecake entirely without cheese and eggs, and this classic dessert is very much back in my life 🙂

My culinary discovery is perfect timing for the Easter holidays. I have given my recipe a seasonal twist by adding lots of zesty lemon flavour and a subtle nuttiness from pistachios although almonds work just as well if you prefer. If nuts aren’t your thing, leave them out altogether and replace them with another 25g gluten-free flour.

Overhead_image_of_a_no_dairy_vegan_baked_cheesecake
My no dairy, no eggs baked cheesecake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You will need a deep tin for this recipe as there is a lot of mixture to start with. Once the cheesecake is baked, it does sink down, but you do need the initial volume of mixture to make a deliciously, deep slice with a firm, dense texture. I prefer to use a spring-clip cake tin because there is less chance of damaging the bake as you take it out of the tin, but it isn’t essential. It is more important to make sure you have a depth of at least 7cm so that you can use all the mixture.

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Spring-clip cake tin ready for cheesecake mixture. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

For the pistachio base:

  • 50g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 5g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 50g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 50g silken tofu
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 25g ground, shelled pistachio nuts
  • ½ teasp good quality almond extract
  • Natural green food colour gel (optional)

For the lemon cheesecake:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 60g silken tofu
  • 350g free-from vegan soft cheese
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 35g cornflour (if you prefer a softer, more mousse-like texture, use 25g)
  • Natural yellow food colour gel (optional)
  • Approx. 150ml white bean canning liquid (this is the approximate proportion of canning liquid in a standard sized can)
  • 50g sultanas

To decorate and serve:

  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 25g chopped, shelled pistachio nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven, gas 3). Grease and line a 7cm deep, 18cm diameter spring-clip cake tin. Put all the ingredients for the pistachio base in a bowl and blend together using an electric whisk until smooth and creamy. Spread over the base of the tin and put to one side (you don’t need to cook this layer on its own).
  2. For the cheesecake, whisk the sugar and tofu together until smooth and creamy, then whisk in the vegan soft cheese, lemon rind and juice, and cornflour until smooth and well combined. Add a few drops of food colouring if using.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the canning liquid until thick and foamy, and then gradually fold into the cheese mixture until well combined but trying to retain as much of the airy-foam texture as possible.
  4. Gently stir in the sultanas and pour the cheesecake mixture over the uncooked pistachio base. The tin will be very full. Carefully transfer to a baking tray and bake for 1 to 1 hour 15 minutes until golden and crusty – the cheesecake should still wobble a bit in the middle.
  5. Turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar, and allow the cheesecake to cool completely – it will shrink as it cools. Once the cheesecake is cold, carefully remove it from the tin and place on a  serving plate or cake stand. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

 

Slicing_pared_lemon_rind_and_making_lemon_syrup
Preparing the lemon decoration and syrup. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For the decoration:

  • Thinly peel the rind from the lemon using a vegetable peeler, and cut into thin strips. Pour 150ml water into small saucepan, bring to the boil, add the lemon rind and cook for 1 minute. Drain, reserving the liquid, and leave the rind to cool.
  • Extract the juice from the peeled lemon. Return the cooking liquid to the saucepan, pour in the lemon juice and stir in the sugar. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until reduced by half.
  • Transfer to a heatproof jug and leave to cool. When you are ready to serve the cheesecake, scatter the top with the cooked lemon rind and the pistachios. Serve the syrup as a pouring sauce.
Serving_of_baked_vegan_cheesecake_with_lemon_syrup
A slice of baked lemon and pistachio cheesecake with lemon syrup. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you all have a lovely Easter holiday, and that the sun shines for at least some of the time. See you next week as usual 🙂

Happy_Easter_greeting

 

Sticky toffee Christmas pudding (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Individual_sticky_toffee_Christmas_pudding
Sticky toffee Christmas pudding. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Just a few days to go before the festive feasts begin, and what could be more appropriate for my last post before Christmas, than a delicious alternative Christmas pudding. I do enjoy a traditional, steamed fruit pudding, but this year I fancied a change, and have developed an alternative recipe. This pudding is fruity, but a little wee bit lighter in texture, and with the emphasis on toffee flavour rather than spice; I guarantee, it is utterly divine 🙂

Pile_of_dried_fruit_for_Christmas_pudding
Cherries, apricots, sultanas and currants. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe makes 2 x 250ml puddings, which I think serve between 2 and 4 people, depending on how large an appetite you have. If you prefer,  put the mixture in a 500ml basin and cook it for about an hour longer. I usually steam puddings in a slow cooker, this way I can forget about them and don’t end up with a steamy kitchen. If you prefer, put the puddings on a trivet, in a saucepan or in a steamer compartment, cover tightly with a lid, and then cook in the steam for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. You can use any combination of fruit (or nuts) you have to make up the weight in the ingredients list, it’s a great pudding to use up any odds and ends you have.

Makes 2 x 250ml puddings

Ingredients

  • 75g dried dates
  • 50g dairy-free margarine
  • 50g light Muscovado sugar
  • 50g silken tofu
  • 65g self-raising gluten-free flour
  • ½ teasp bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g mixed dried fruit

For the sauce:

  • 85g light Muscovado sugar
  • 30g dairy-free margarine
  • 110ml canned coconut milk
  • ½ teasp good quality vanilla extract
  1. Grease and flour 2 x 250ml pudding basins. Put the dates in a small saucepan with 75ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes until very soft. Beat well with a wooden spoon until smooth, then leave to cool completely.
  2. When you are ready to mix up the puddings, put the slow cooker on High and leave to preheat for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the margarine, sugar and tofu in a bowl. Add the cold date mixture and whisk everything together until smooth and creamy.

    Preparing_the_pudding_mixture
    Preparing the date mixture and blending the ingredients. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda on top. Add the fruit and gently mix all the ingredients together. Divide between the 2 basins and smooth the tops.

    2_china_basins_covered_with_parchment_and_foil
    Preparing the puddings for steaming. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Cover the puddings with a layer of baking parchment, and then foil, and tie securely with string. Put the basins in the slow cooker, side by side, pour in sufficient hot water to come halfway up the sides of the basins, cover and leave to cook for 2 hours. A skewer inserted into the centre of each pudding will come out clean when the puddings are ready.
  5. For the sauce, put the sugar, margarine and half the coconut milk in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together, then raise the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until richly golden and caramelised. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining coconut milk and vanilla extract.
    Making_dairy-free_vegan_toffee_sauce
    Making the toffee sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  6. When the puddings are ready, remove them from the slow cooker and leave them to stand for 5 minutes. Remove the wrappings and turn out on to warm serving plates. Pour over sauce and serve immediately.

    A_spoonful_of_sticky_toffee_Christmas_pudding
    Ready to eat, sticky toffee Christmas pudding. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    That just leaves me to pass on my very best wishes to you for a happy, healthy and enjoyable Christmas holiday. Happy festive feasting!

 

Baked vanilla pears with chocolate “butter” (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Bowl_of_freshly_picked_home-grown_Comice_pears
Home-grown Comice pears. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve had a very “light” pear harvest this year. In fact, just 4 fruit developed on one tree and the other had no fruit at all. Not sure why, the spring was fine, there was so much blossom and plenty of bees around to pollinate it. Perhaps the pear trees decided to have a bit of a holiday this year.

Comice_pears_growing_just_before_picking
Just before harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So with such a precious harvest, what to cook? I picked the pears a couple of weeks ago, and they have been ripening gently and slowly in a cool spot in the kitchen. They remained quite firm, so I decided I would cook them.

Bowl_of_baked_pears_with_chocolate_"butter"
Vanilla baked pears with chocolate “butter”. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Vanilla is one of my favourite spices, and it is a particularly delicious flavouring for pears. This is a very simple recipe, but it tastes a little bit more special because the pears are cooked in Moscatel de Valencia – the floral notes of this sweet Spanish wine are a perfect match for both pears and vanilla.

Chocolate is another “must have” with pears as far as I’m concerned, and this easy “butter” makes an interesting alternative to the usual chocolate sauce. Moscatel is one of the few wines I think goes well with chocolate, so this is a “win win” recipe for me. Serve the pears very slightly warm or at room temperature so that the cooking juices don’t  begin to set, and avoid chilling the chocolate accompaniment (unless the room temperature is very warm) as it will become very hard to spoon.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 firm pears
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 300ml Moscatel  de Valencia wine (or white grape juice if preferred)
  • 1 tbsp. agave syrup (or clear honey if you eat it)
  • 40g dairy-free margarine (or unsalted butter)
  • 100g dairy-free 85% cocoa chocolate
  • 50g golden syrup
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Peel and core the pears, and cut in half. Brush lightly with lemon juice and place cut-side up in a shallow baking dish.
  2. Split the vanilla pod and scoop out some of the seeds using the tip of a sharp knife. Push the rest of the pod into the dish of pears, mix the scooped-out seeds with the wine and pour over the pears.
  3. Dot the pears with 15g of the margarine and drizzle with agave syrup. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, turn the pears over, baste with the cooking juices, and return to the oven to bake, uncovered, for a further 20 minutes or until the pears are tender.
  4. Cool for 30 minutes in the cooking juices, discard the vanilla pod, then lift out the pears using a slotted spoon and place in a heatproof dish. Pour the cooking juices into a small saucepan.
  5. Bring the cooking juices to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until reduced by half. Pour over the pears and leave to cool.

    Steps_to_preparing_baked_pears_with_vanilla
    Preparing baked pears with vanilla. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. For the chocolate “butter”, break the chocolate into pieces and put in a saucepan with the remaining margarine and the golden syrup. Heat very gently, stirring, until melted. Remove from the heat, mix well and pour into a small, heatproof dish. Leave to cool – the “butter” will solidify when it becomes cold.
    How_to_make_chocolate_"butter"
    Making chocolate “butter”. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Serve the pears at room temperature accompanied with the chocolate “butter”. If you prefer, leave the chocolate mixture to cool for about 30 minutes and serve warm as a thick, glossy chocolate sauce.

    Single_serving_of_vanilla_baked_pears_with_chocolate_"butter"
    Vanilla baked pears with chocolate “butter”. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Victoria plums, baked with fresh bay and red wine (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Baked_plums_in_red_wine_flavoured_with_bay_leaves
Freshly baked home-grown Victoria plums in red wine, scented with fresh bay.               Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My first harvest of plums in the year marks the end of summer in my mind. There is, of course, something to celebrate in having such lovely fruit to pick, and yet, I feel a bit sad that autumn is approaching. I managed to get a head-start on the wasps this year, picking about 1kg of unblemished fruit. There are plums a plenty yet to ripen,  so I need to work on my timing over the next few days and harvest them before the wee sugar-seeking beasties move in.

On_the_bough_homegrown_Victoria_plums
Ripe and ready to pick, home-grown Victoria plums. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
Freshly_picked_basket_of_Victoria_plums
My first plum harvest of the year. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My plum cookery isn’t very adventurous or fancy. I usually make jam or a plum sauce. Sometimes I make a compote. Baking them in wine is another very simple way I enjoy the rich, distinctive flavour of this particular fruit. Fresh bay-scented orchard fruit is something I tasted for the first time in Cyprus. The familiar glossy-leaved herb has become a flavour I use a lot in my kitchen, both in sweet and savoury cooking, and now that I have a bay tree in the garden, I use the herb all the more. Fresh bay gives a refreshing, herbal taste to fruit. You can use dry leaves, but as the flavour is much more intense than the fresh, you may want to experiment by reducing the quantity of leaves by at least half. If you don’t have any wine, or prefer not to use it, cranberry juice makes a good alternative in this recipe. If you don’t have plums, the recipe works equally well with apricots, peaches or nectarines. The baked fruit also freezes well too.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 750g fresh Victoria plums
  • 60g Demerara sugar
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 300ml fruity red wine or unsweetened cranberry juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Wash and pat dry the plums. Cut in half and remove the stones. Arrange the halves neatly, cut side up, preferably in a single layer, in a baking dish or tin.
  2. Sprinkle with sugar and push in the bay leaves, then pour over the wine or juice. Bake for 30-40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, until tender.

    Baked_plum_preparation
    Baked plums with bay and red wine preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Discard the bay leaves. Carefully strain off the cooking juices into a saucepan . Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 5 minutes until reduced and syrupy. Pour over the fruit and leave to cool. Cover and chill for 2 hours before serving. Best served at room temperature for maximum flavour. Delicious accompanied with coconut yogurt or rice pudding.
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    Glazed plums cooling in the tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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    Baked plums served with coconut yogurt. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Morello cherries – cherry compote and chocolate blancmange (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

 

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Morello cherries, ripe and ready for picking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Picking the cherries from my espalier Morello cherry tree is one of the highlights of my fruit growing calendar. Having had such a mild Scottish spring this year, all the fruit in the garden seems to be ripening a bit earlier than in other years. The cherries are no exception. Usually I pick them in the middle of August, but this week, they were ripe and ready.  The harvest was pretty good too: from one small tree, I picked ¾kg.

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This year’s Morello cherry harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m not that adventurous when it comes to cooking with cherries. I suppose it’s because I never have that many to play with, therefore, I want to make sure I enjoy what I cook. Morellos are a sour cherry and are too tart to eat as a fresh fruit. This year I made a large pot of jam and, my favourite, a compote flavoured with vanilla and lemon – recipe below.

I use a cherry stoner to remove the pits; I’ve had it for years, and it does the job perfectly. This years cherries were so ripe, the pit just plopped out without any effort. Wash the cherries first and then prepare them over a bowl to catch the stones and the juice that falls; you can then easily drain off the stones, keeping the juice. If you don’t have a specialist stoner, a small knife with a pointed blade should enable you to prise out the stones with ease. After preparation, the final weight of the cherries I picked this year, along with the juice from the bowl, was around 650g.

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Vital piece of kit: my cherry stoner. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pitting cherries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Flavours that go well with cherries are: almond (especially marzipan); citrus fruit; vanilla; cinnamon (just a pinch); coconut, and chocolate. I often make something chocolatey to go along side the compote, and this year, it was a nostalgic chocolate blancmange, deliciously velvety and thick. A perfect combination. So here are my recipes for both compote and blancmange. By the way, if you are using sweet cherries for the compote, you’ll need to reduce the quantity of sugar you add to the compote by at least half.

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Fresh Morello cherry compote. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 4

For the compote:

  • 300g prepared ripe Morello cherries (about 350g with stones)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 level teasp cornflour
  • ½ vanilla pod, split
  • Juice of ½ small lemon or half a lime

For the blancmange:

  • 50g cornflour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 50g vanilla sugar (use plain caster if preferred)
  • 500ml non-dairy milk (I used soya milk)

1. To make the compote, put the cherries in a saucepan and gently mix in the caster sugar and 3 tbsp. water. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook for about 3 minutes until just tender – take care not to over-cook, ripe cherries need very little cooking.

2. Blend the cornflour with 2 tbsp. water to make a paste, then stir into the cherries. Bring back to the boil, stirring, and cook for a further 1 minute until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat, push in the vanilla pod and leave to cool completely. Remove the pod and stir in the lemon juice. Chill lightly before serving – about 30 minutes.

3. For the blancmange, mix the cornflour, cocoa and sugar in a saucepan, and gradually stir in the milk, making sure it is thoroughly blended – I find a balloon whisk is good for mixing powders into liquids.

4. Keep stirring the mixture over the heat, until it reaches boiling point and becomes very thick. Continue to cook for 1 minute to make sure the cornflour is completely cooked then spoon into small individual heat-proof dishes – there is enough to fill 6 x pot au chocolat dishes (it is quite rich, so these little dishes are the perfect size for me). Leave to cool completely, then chill for an hour until ready to serve.

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Chocolate blancmange and Morello cherry compote. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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My espalier Morello cherry tree with spring blossom, and in fruit earlier this week.             Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Rhubarb ruminations and recipe ideas

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Spring rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

At last, my forced rhubarb was ready to pick this week! Now I feel the season of Spring has begun. Long before all other fruits in the garden are even formed,  forced rhubarb gives us a flavour of all the sweet delights yet to come.

To me, rhubarb is associated with fond memories of my childhood. My grandparents used to grow “forests” of the thick, leafy stems in the summer – no summer holiday was complete without one of Grannie’s rhubarb crumbles.

If you fancy having a go at growing your own, now is the best time of year to buy yourself a  rhubarb plant (or “crown”) and get it in the ground ready for next year.

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My first rhubarb harvest of 2017. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Rhubarb grows best in an open site, ideally in the sun, but it will grow anywhere. It likes a good mulching and needs plenty of soil depth as the roots, once established, run deep. Give it a good feed once in a while and it will do well. It is very easy to grow and a single plant will provide a good yield for a small family. Rhubarb is really a vegetable, but most of us regard it as a fruit because we serve it mostly for pudding. Only the stalks are edible – the leaves are high in oxalic acid and are, subsequently, very toxic.

Hold yourself back and avoid picking any stems in the first year of planting a new crown. In the second year, pull a few stems, leaving about half of the plant untouched. Once a plant is established – after 3 years – you can pick as many stems as you want. A rhubarb plant can be “forced” at this age, ready for an early crop in spring. You can buy special rhubarb forcers – very tall, slim, terracotta pots – which go over the crown in late winter. These are very expensive; I use the tallest pot I have and this works fine – as you can see in the image above. Although the pot covering doesn’t produce really long stems, they are good enough for me. I’ve put the pot back over the crown again, ready for the next batch of stems to grow – usually the plant produces four good batches of stems before I leave it to recover and rejuvenate for next year.

I have 3 rhubarb plants in the garden now. Each year, I rotate a plant for forcing, and the other 2 are left for summer eating rhubarb, and for freezing. Here are a few tips and ideas for cooking and serving rhubarb:

  • High in acidity, there are a few flavours that help temper the tartness of rhubarb: ginger, cinnamon, orange rind and juice, coconut, banana, angelica and liquorice.
  • Trim the leaves from spring rhubarb and discard, then rinse the stems well and slice off the base. Cut into 3cm pieces for really quick cooking, but leave in longer pieces for gentle poaching and using to top tarts or desserts. Spring rhubarb takes barely 4-5 minutes to cook. I usually place the pieces in a frying pan and sprinkle with sugar and add 1 – 2 tablespoons of water. Once it begins to steam, cover with a lid and cook gently.

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    Preparing spring rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  • For a tangy sweet and sour sauce, cook rhubarb in a little water with sufficient sugar to make it edible, then add a dash of raspberry or balsamic vinegar. Served cold, it goes well with roast duck, smoked mackerel or pan-fried herring.
  • A favourite simple dessert of mine is to mix mashed banana, coconut (non-dairy) yogurt and vanilla extract together and layer in glasses with poached, vanilla sugar-sweetened rhubarb. It is absolute deliciousness guaranteed!

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    Rhubarb, banana and coconut pots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  • For an easy pastry, bake-off a sheet of (gluten-free) puff pastry and allow to cool, then top with thick (dairy-free) custard and lightly poached stems of sweetened rhubarb. Always a winning combination…..rhubarb and custard.
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    Rhubarb and custard tart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    I have posted a couple of other rhubarb recipes in my blog over the months, here are the links Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) and Rhubarb and custard ice lollies (gluten-free)

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    Tender pink stems of forced rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For me, one of the signs that Spring is on its way is the first harvest of my forced rhubarb. I love the rich colour of the stalks, their tenderness when cooked and the mild astringent, tartness of flavour that really packs a punch on the palate. Sadly, my rhubarb is not ready for picking just yet as you can see below, but I couldn’t resist the fresh stalks I saw in the local farm shop this week.

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My homegrown forced rhubarb in late February. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Spring rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of my favourite pairings with rhubarb is raspberry. Whilst it seems like a long time ago I had raspberries ripening in the garden, I have a few packs in the freezer, and this recipe is the perfect opportunity to delve into my supplies.

I love the name of this dish. I assume it comes from the hybridisation of the pudding called “slump” and the one called “crumble”. The recipe works fine with any cooked fruit baked underneath the glorious, melt-in-the-mouth topping. The custard is a recent addition to my recipe and brings an extra spoonful of comfort at this time of the year.

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Last years homegrown raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 6

  • 350g fresh rhubarb, trimmed
  • 50g vanilla sugar (or you can use plain caster if you prefer)
  • 175g frozen raspberries
  • 115g dairy free margarine (or butter if you eat it), very soft
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend (I use Doves Farm)
  • 5ml good quality vanilla extract
  • 500ml gluten-free, dairy-free custard
  1. Trim the rhubarb and cut into 5cm lengths. If you have thin and wider stalks, cut the stalks down so that they are all roughly the same width – this helps the rhubarb cook more evenly.
  2. Arrange neatly in a large, lidded shallow pan. Spoon over 2 tbsp water and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar. Heat until steaming, then cover with the lid and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes until just tender but still holding shape.
  3. Remove from the heat, sprinkle the frozen raspberries on top and leave to cool completely. Transfer to an ovenproof baking dish, about 1.2l capacity. If the fruit is very juicy, drain off a few spoonfuls and keep as a separate serving syrup.

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    Rhubarb and raspberries, a winning combination. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. For the topping, put the margarine (or butter) in a bowl and beat in the caster sugar until smooth and creamy. Mix in the flour and vanilla to make a lumpy, sticky mixture, resembling a soft cookie dough. Cover and chill for 30 minutes until firm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas mark 6). Spoon over about half of the custard in small dollops. Break up the chilled topping into clumps and scatter over the top, covering the fruit and custard as much as possible. Stand the dish on a baking tray and bake for about 35 minutes until lightly golden, bubbling and the topping has merged together. Serve hot or warm with the remaining custard and the fruit syrup.
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    With custard; with topping, and the freshly baked crump. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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    A spoonful of comfort: hot crump pudding. Images: Kathryn Hawkins