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!
I am very much hoping that by publishing this week’s recipe, the weather will become more appropriate for enjoying an icy dessert. It’s been much cooler here these past few days, but the forecast is hotting up again so hopefully my post will be quite timely.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not a huge fan of frozen desserts, but when the heat is on, I can be persuaded by a scoop or two of a good non-dairy ice. I’ve been trying to perfect a recipe of my own for a while, and at last, I think I’ve cracked it.
My recipe is a combination of a thick vegan cream I made a posted a few weeks ago and an uncooked aquafaba meringue mixture. Once the two are combined, the resulting mixture doesn’t require any stirring, you just pop it in the freezer for a few hours until frozen. Easy-peasy.
To flavour the ice cream, I added some freeze-dried fruit pieces and a little soft-set blueberry jam I’d made. If you want to experiment with other flavours, I would suggest using dry ingredients like chocolate chips, crushed caramel, small pieces of dried fruit, cocoa powder, etc. Adding anything too sloppy or saucy will water down the mixture; you will lose air, and the resulting ice cream will be solid and icy, rather than soft and creamy.
The recipe below makes a small quantity (around 350g) which is enough for 2-3 servings. I have a cute little ice cream scoop which dishes up a perfect 30g scoop. This is just right for me, and is why my bowl is piled high with scoops! You may want to double the quantities in the recipe for more hearty portions.
Serves: 2 to 3
For the cream:
100ml readymade soya pouring cream
40g solid white vegetable fat such as Trex or flavourless coconut oil (or use traditional coconut oil for a coconut flavoured ice cream)
¼ tsp xanthan gum
A few drops vanilla extract or a pinch of salt
For the meringue:
75ml canning liquid from beans or chickpeas (aquafaba)
¼ tsp cream of tartar
60g caster sugar
¼ tsp xanthan gum
A few drops vanilla extract if liked
5g freeze-dried fruit pieces
25g soft-set jam
First make the cream. Pour the soya cream into a small heatproof bowl and add the fat. Place on top of a small saucepan of barely simmering water and leave to melt, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat, mix well, then stir in the xanthan gum until completely blended. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally. The mixture thickens on cooling.
When cold, have a taste and see if you like the flavour as it is. Otherwise add a few drops of vanilla extract or you might prefer a pinch of salt. Whisk for about a minute with an electric whisk, then cover and chill the cream for at least 2 hours. After this time, the cream should be the consistency of thick, spoonable yogurt. It will keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.
When the cream is thick and chilled, make the meringue. Pour the aquafaba into a large clean bowl, add the cream of tartar and whisk for a full 2 minutes.
Whisk in the sugar 1 tbsp at a time, whisking well in between additions, and then continue whisking for another full minute.
Add the xanthan gum and whisk for 1 more minute to make a thick meringue.
Gently and gradually mix the meringue into the cream taking care not to lose too much air, then gently stir in more vanilla if liked along with the berries. Lightly stir in the jam to give a rippled effect.
Scrape into a freezer container, seal and freeze for 3-4 hours until solid.
To serve, stand the ice cream at room temperature for about 10 minutes until soft enough to scoop. I served my ice cream with a fresh strawberry sauce made from purée’d fruit sweetened with a little icing sugar, and a scattering of wild strawberries which I happened upon in the garden 🙂
Until next time, I hope you have a good few days and may the warm weather be with us all.
Hello again. I hope this post finds you keeping well and enjoying some good weather. It’s been a mixed bag here since my last post. Quite a lot of rain, some strong winds and some sunshine in between. Apart from the wind which no plant likes, the combination of rain and sunshine has been perfect for the ripening of the raspberries in the garden.
This past week, quite randomly, one or two berries have turned red almost overnight. I have been able to harvest a handful so far, which, believe it or not, is more than you need for my recipe this week.
This very simple recipe for fruit-flavoured sugar can be made with strawberries if you have them and makes a pretty sprinkle over fruit desserts or as a cake or cookie decoration. It doesn’t take long to make but if you want to store the sugar for a while, you need to leave the sugar to dry out for a few hours before putting it into a storage container. If the flavour of rose isn’t to your taste, leave it out of the mix altogether, or add some finely grated orange rind or vanilla seeds instead. Here’s what you do……
Approx. 25g fresh raspberries
A few drops rosewater
200g granulated sugar
Wash and pat dry the raspberries. Push through a small sieve to remove the seeds and make a purée – you need 1 tbsp of sieved raspberry purée.
Add a few drops of rosewater to taste.
Put the sugar in a bowl and mix in the raspberry purée until well blended. The sugar can be used immediately but will be too soft and damp for long-term storage.
Spread the sugar evenly on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a board, then cover with another sheet of paper and leave in a dry, warm place for a few hours (or overnight) until dry and crisp.
Transfer the sugar to a clean plastic bag – it will dry in clumps. Twist the bag closed and and crush with a rolling pin to break up the clumps of sugar crystals.
Spoon into clean jam jars and seal well. Store in a cool, dry place, away from the light for up to 6 to 8 weeks.
I am looking forward to a good crop of raspberries this year, the bushes look full of berries. I netted the bushes today – I want to make sure I get to them before the birds do! Until next time, I hope you have a good few days and that you are able to enjoy eating fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables 🙂
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.
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!).
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.
Here’s what to do:
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
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.
Remove from the heat, mix well then stir in the remaining ingredients and leave to cool completely.
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.
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 🙂
A few weeks ago, I promised a new pear recipe, and now I have harvested all the pears from the garden, I have been back in the kitchen, cooking up something suitably fruity for this week’s post.
My small Concorde pear tree produced a bumper crop this year. I picked all the fruit at the end of last month, just before a cold snap. It was a beautiful warm and sunny Autumn day and the colours in the garden looked rich and golden.
I put most of the pears in storage, apart from the few smaller ones which were ready to eat. Unlike apples, pears don’t need to be wrapped for storing; just pack them, not touching, in a tray or crate, and keep them in a cool place. When you want to ripen them off, bring them in to room temperature and, in about 3 days, they should be ripe and ready to eat – you can tell if a pear is ripe by gently pressing the flesh at the stalk end, if it gives a little, then it is ripe.
On with the recipe. A crostata, one of the easiest forms of pie or tart you can make because you don’t need a tin and it doesn’t matter if you’re not very good at rolling pastry to a neat edge. I made a vegan pastry using white spelt flour, but any short-crust pastry will work – you’ll need about 500g ready-made pastry if you don’t have time to make your own. Pecans and maple syrup give the flavour and sweetness in my recipe – walnuts or hazelnuts would be good too – as would clear honey if you eat it. Choose pears that have some firmness to them for cooking – perfectly ripe pears are best for enjoying as they are 🙂
450g small pears
1 unwaxed lemon
300g white spelt plain flour
½ tsp salt
85g white vegetable fat (I use Trex), cut into small pieces
100g dairy-free margarine, cut into small pieces
6 tbsp. + 1 tsp maple syrup + extra to serve
4 tsp dairy-free milk
100g chopped pecan nuts + extra to decorate
First cook the pears. Peel the pears, cut in half and remove the core. Pare a few strips of rind from the lemon using a vegetable peeler, and extract the juice. Brush the pears with lemon juice all over to help prevent discolouration.
Put the pears in a shallow pan with the remaining lemon juice, pared rind and 2 tbsp. water. Bring to simmering point, cover and cook gently for 5 -10 minutes, depending on ripeness, until just tender. Leave to cool in the lemony liquid, then drain well and cut each pear half into 4 slices. Cover and chill until required.
For the pastry, sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the fat and 85g margarine, then rub the flour and fats together with your fingertips until well blended, and the mixture resembles a crumble topping.
Make a well in the centre, and add 2 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tbsp dairy-free milk. Stir with a round bladed knife to bind together, then turn on to the work surface and bring together with your hands to make a smooth, firm dough. Leave to rest for 10 minutes on the work surface.
Meanwhile, put the pecan nuts in a blender or food processor and grind until fine. Mix in 2 tbsp. maple syrup to make a spreadable paste. Put to one side. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6.
Place a large sheet of baking parchment on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Cut off a 100g piece of pastry and set aside, then roll out the remaining pastry to make a round approx. 30cm diameter.
Spread over the pecan paste, leaving a 3cm space round the edge of the pastry circle. Arrange the pear slices on top of the pecan filling.
Carefully fold up the pastry edge to cover the edge of the pears – I find a small palette knife useful to help flip the pastry over the fruit. Transfer the crostata on the parchment to a large baking tray, and trim the parchment as necessary to fit the tray. Roll out the reserved pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut out leaves to decorate the edge.
Mix 1 tsp maple syrup with the remaining dairy-free milk and brush over the pastry edge. Arrange the leaves on top and brush with the maple/milk glaze. Dot the pears with the remaining margarine and drizzle with remaining maple syrup.
Bake for about 50 minutes until lightly golden and cooked through. Best served warm, sprinkled with chopped pecans and accompanied with extra maple syrup.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
To decorate and serve:
1 unwaxed lemon
60g caster sugar
25g chopped, shelled pistachio nuts
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That just leaves me to pass on my very best wishes to you for a happy, healthy and enjoyable Christmas holiday. Happy festive feasting!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.