Salt and caramel nut butter fudge (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Gift-box_of_salt_and_caramel_nut_butter_fudge
Salt and caramel nut butter fudge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve had a hectic few days since my last post. I have got a bit behind with my festive preparations, but I’m pleased to report that back on track again now. I’ve been in the kitchen this weekend and here is the first of my 2 festive posts.

Home-made_squares_of_salt_and_caramel_nut_butter_fudge_in_gift-box_for_Christmas
Home-made fudge, a perfect gift for Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I am a huge fan of homemade sweeties, especially fudge, but I have found it difficult to find a recipe that works well as a dairy-free version. I have made the super-easy chocolate-based fudge recipes from time to time, but they do have a different texture to the fudge I remember from childhood.

For this week’s recipe, I have turned to an old recipe book and adapted a traditional recipe which produces the flaky, melt-in-the-mouth texture I really like, and it makes a lovely edible gift too, perfect for the time of year – if you can bare to give it away!

Close-up_on_texture_of_homemade_fudge
Melt-in-the-mouth home-made fudge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I used peanut butter as the main flavouring, but any nut butter (or tahini) will work just as well. To get the right consistency, you do need to use a butter replacement with a high fat content; I used coconut oil but a solid white vegetable fat like “Trex” would work if you don’t want the extra flavour from using coconut.

As with most traditional sweet making, a sugar thermometer is a vital piece of kit, but if you don’t have one, I’ve included a quick tip which will help determine whether the fudge is ready or not.

Ingredients_for_making_home-made_fudge
Ingredients for making home-made fudge the traditional way. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 25 to 36 pieces

Ingredients

  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt (use less or none if you don’t want the salty flavour)
  • 50g coconut oil or white vegetable fat
  • 150g no added salt or sugar peanut or other nut butter
  • 150ml unsweetened dairy-free milk (I use unsweetened soya milk)
  • 2 tbsp. golden syrup
  • 2 tsp caramel flavour (or vanilla extract to taste if you prefer a different flavour)
  1. Line an ungreased 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment or waxed paper. Put all the ingredients except the flavouring in a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the coconut oil melts.
  2. Bring to the boil and continue boiling for about 5 minutes until a temperature of 116°C is reached on a sugar thermometer. Alternatively, drop a little of the mixture into a cup of cold water. If it forms a soft ball when rolled between your finger and thumb, the cooking is complete. It is important to keep stirring the boiling mixture to prevent it sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan.

    Steps_showing_the_cooking_and_testing_of_fudge_mixture
    Cooking and testing the fudge mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Turn off the heat, add the flavouring and stir well. Keep stirring the mixture occasionally as it cools. After about 20 minutes or so, the mixture will begin to thicken and lose its shine, this is the time to mix thoroughly until the texture becomes grainy and stiffer – this is how the perfect texture is achieved.
  4. Transfer to the prepared tin, smooth off the top and leave to cool for about 30 minutes until almost set. Score the top with a sharp knife into 25 or 36 squares, then leave to cool completely for 2 to 3 hours.

    Steps_showing_fudge_texture_and_setting_in_tin
    Cooling and setting cooked fudge mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Cut through the pieces completely and remove from the tin. Store between sheets of baking parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
    Home-made_salt_and_caramel_nut_butter_fudge_cut_into_sqaures_in_tin
    Ready for sampling. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
    Stack_of_home-made_fudge_pieces
    Traditional home-made fudge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Have a good few days and good luck with all your festive preparations. I have my second festive post to put up before Christmas, so I will be with you again in a few days time 🙂

Burns Night mini chocolate haggis (gluten-free; dairy-free & vegan alternatives)

Mini_haggis-shaped_sweetie_truffles
Mini haggis sweeties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A short post this week, but I wanted to publish a recipe to celebrate Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, whose anniversary falls on January 25th each year. These cute,  haggis-shaped sweet treats are a version of my Chocolate Haggis for a Burns Night supper (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) recipe from last year. You can mix and match ingredients according to the bits and pieces you have to hand. If you don’t like marzipan,  use ivory or cream coloured fondant icing instead.

Makes: 16

Ingredients

  • 50g unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 50g heather honey or golden syrup
  • 75g free-from dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 75g free-from oatcakes, finely crushed
  • 40g toasted fine oatmeal
  • 50g currants
  • 50g toasted flaked almonds, crushed
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • 400g natural marzipan
  1. Put the butter (coconut oil) and honey (golden syrup) in a saucepan with the chocolate, and heat very gently, stirring, until melted.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the crushed oatcakes, oatmeal, currants and almonds. Mix well until thoroughly combined. Leave to cool, then chill for about 30 minutes until firm enough to form into portions.
  3. Divide the mixture into 16 and form each into an oval-shaped sausage. Chill for 30 minutes until firm.
  4. Divide the marzipan into 16 and flatten each into a round – use a little icing sugar if the marzipan is sticky. Wrap a disc of marzipan around each chocolate oat cluster; press the edges to seal and then twist the ends to make a haggis shape.
    Preparing_mini_chocolate_haggis
    Mini chocolate haggis preparation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Store the mini haggis at a cool room temperature until ready to eat. The marzipan will become sticky if refrigerated. Best enjoyed with coffee and a wee dram.  Until next week, I raise a glass to you all and say “Slàinte!” – to your good health 🙂

    Plate_of_mini_chocolate_haggis_and_a_wee_dram_of_whisky
    Mini haggis and a wee dram. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Windfall apple jelly (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

 

Autumnal_garden_collecting_windfall_apples
Collecting windfall cooking apples. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Last weekend, I finally got round to gathering the last of the windfall apples from underneath and around the old apple tree in the garden. There were quite a few; some badly bruised, others almost entirely unscathed. I had picked a good harvest from the tree a couple of weeks previously and have these apples safely stored away in an old fridge for later use. In my kitchen, windfalls are destined for the cooking pot and for making preserves.

Lord_Derby_cooking_apples_growing
Lord Derby apples, just before picking earlier in October. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I find it very satisfying making chutneys, jams and jellies, although jelly making does take a bit of planning and time, and can not be rushed. However, the finished result is very rewarding and worth the wait. This apple variety (Lord Derby) isn’t particularly flavoursome (it is reminiscent of a very large Granny Smith apple), but it is a great cooking apple as it holds its shape and some texture when baked or stewed. It’s not the juiciest for jam making, but as I had so many to use up this year, I decided to get all the jelly making stuff out of the cupboard and get preserving.

Recycling_jam_jars_and_lids_with_Jelly_strainer
Jelly making kit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I always keep a good supply of glass jars on stand-by throughout the year, ready for filling as different fruit and veg comes into season. I give them a good rinse with hot soapy water and then sterilise them along with the lids – I gave up boiling jars to sterilise them, I now use a sterilizing fluid followed by a thorough rinse. I haven’t had any problems with any preserves spoiling since I switched to this less time-consuming method.

The jelly strainer is a piece of kit I’ve had for a few years. The whole contraption stands over a bowl or jug to catch the juice. If you don’t have a purpose-made jelly bag, line a large nylon sieve or strainer with some muslin and suspend over a deep bowl. Make sure you thoroughly clean all the equipment that comes into contact with the fruit or vegetable juice to maximise the keeping qualities for your preserves.

Lord_Derby_cooking_apple_with_jar_of_herb_apple_jelly
Homemade herb apple jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve written a couple of savoury variations on a basic apple jelly recipe I made with my windfalls during the week. Both jellies are delicious with cheeses, barbecue food or roast meats and cold cuts. If you want a plain, sweet apple jelly (the best choice if you have a really tasty apple variety), just follow the recipe for the herb jelly below, and leave out the herbs.

Herb apple jelly

Makes: 1kg

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg prepared cooking apples, roughly chopped  – this is the overall weight once they have been thoroughly washed and all the bad bits taken out
  • Approx. 825g granulated sugar
  • A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and sage
  1. Put the chopped apples (unpeeled, pips and stalks attached!) in a large saucepan. Pour over 1l cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally, until tender.
  2. Carefully ladle into a suspended jelly bag and leave to drip into a clean bowl or jug, in a cool place, lightly covered, overnight. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag, just let it drip through naturally. Jelly making is an excellent test of the patience!
  3. The next day, remove the juice bowl, and cover and chill it. Scoop the pulp back into a large saucepan and add a further 500ml water. Bring to the boil, then strain again as above, for a few hours – there won’t be so much juice the second time around, so 5-6 hours should be long enough.
  4. Measure both juice yield together and calculate the amount of sugar required as 450g per 600ml juice. My yield was 1.1l which needs 825g sugar, but if you have a juicy apple variety you will capture more juice.

    Making_herb_apple_jelly
    Herb apple jelly preparation in pictures. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Rinse and pat dry a large sprig of rosemary and sage. Pour the juice into a preserving pan or large saucepan, add the herbs, and heat until steaming. Stir in the sugar until it is dissolved, then raise the heat and boil rapidly until the temperature reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer – this will take several minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the jars by adding a small sprig of washed rosemary and a sage leaf in each. Remove the jelly from the heat and let the bubbles subside. Skim away any surface residue from the top and discard the cooked herbs. This jelly begins to set quite quickly so ladle it into the jars and seal them while the jelly is piping hot. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months. The jelly is ready for eating right away if you can’t wait! Once opened, store in the fridge for up to a month.

    Small_tin_of_hot_smoked_paprika_spice_with_2_jars_of_homemade_apple_and_hot_red_pepper_jelly
    Apple and hot red pepper jelly flavoured with hot smoked paprika. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Apple and hot red pepper jelly

Makes: 900g

Ingredients

  • 1.25g prepared, chopped cooking apples (see above)
  • 500g prepared weight chopped red peppers (capsicum) (approx. 4 medium peppers), seeds and stalks removed
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 60ml cider or white wine vinegar
  • Approx. 675g granulated sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
  1. Put the chopped apples, peppers and garlic in a large saucepan and pour over 1l cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, mashing occasionally, until tender.
  2. Carefully ladle into a suspended jelly bag and let the mixture drip into a bowl or jug underneath. Leave in a cool place, covered lightly, overnight.
  3. The next day, put the pulp to on side and measure the collected juice. You will need 450g sugar per 600ml juice. Pour the juice into a preserving pan or large saucepan and add the vinegar and bay leaves. Heat until steaming hot and then stir in the sugar until dissolved.
    Preparation_steps_for_making_apple_and_hot_red_pepper_jelly
    Making apple and hot red pepper jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  4. Bring the juice to the boil and boil rapidly until the temperature reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer. While the juice is boiling, pick out 50g of the cooked pepper and garlic, rinse, pat dry and chop finely – discard the rest of the pulp. Divide the chopped vegetables between your prepared jam jars.
  5. Once the jelly has reached the correct temperature, turn off the heat, discard the bay leaves and stir in the salt and smoked paprika. Divide between the jars – for even distribution of the vegetable pieces, wait for about 10 minutes before sealing the jars, then give them a quick stir with a teaspoon to suspend the vegetable pieces throughout the jelly before putting the lids on tightly. Cool, label and store as above. Best left for a month to mature before eating.

I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy heat in my food, so, although I call this “hot”, it’s pretty mild. However, if you can stand the heat, this is a good recipe to add as much chopped red chilli to suit your taste. Just cook the prepared chilli with the apples and peppers at the beginning of the recipe – leave the chilli seeds in as well if you like!

 

 

Raspberry jam – 3 methods (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan)

3_jars_homemade_raspberry_jam
Homemade raspberry jam x 3. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Raspberries love the Scottish climate (lots of rain!). The plump, juicy berries carry on ripening even on the most dreary of summer days. I have been picking my raspberries since the end of last month. Sadly, it looks like the end is nearly nigh; the supply is dwindling, but there are still enough to bag up for the freezer for later in the year, and then I will leave the rest for the blackbirds!

Basket_of_freshly_picked_homegrown_fresh_raspberries
Freshly picked Scottish home-grown raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The bushes in the garden are now in their twelfth year, and have given me a good harvest every season. However, I think this autumn, it will be the time to plant some new canes. The variety I chose to grow is Glen Ample; selected for the large-sized fruit, and as the label said at the time, “perfect for cooking and jam-making”. And, they have certainly proven to be.

Homegrown_Scottish_raspberries
Glen Ample raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you’ve never made jam before, raspberry jam is the easiest to make. It practically sets as soon as the fruit and sugar boils. Frozen raspberries work equally as well for jam-making; whilst other fruit loses pectin (the natural setting agent found in many fruits) after freezing, I have found little difference in setting jam made with the frozen berries.

I have 3 methods for making my raspberry jam, depending on how much fruit I have picked, and how much time is available. The first method, is the traditional saucepan method, great if you have a large amount of fruit and a bit of time. This method works well with frozen berries – just let them thaw out in the saucepan you’re going to use to cook them in so that none of the juices are wasted.

Jars_of_homemade_Scottish_raspberry_jam
Traditional homemade Scottish raspberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Traditional raspberry jam – use equal amounts of prepared fresh (or frozen) raspberries to granulated sugar. The yield is approximately the same as the weight of the 2 ingredients combined, so 500g raspberries and 500g sugar should give you 1kg of jam.

Heat the fruit by itself in a clean, large saucepan, stirring, until it steams and starts to break down. Mash it a little with a wooden spoon, reduce the heat and stir in the sugar. Heat, gently, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved, then raise the heat, bring the jam to a rapid boil, and stop stirring. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jam settle for about 5 minutes. Stir, and then transfer to clean, sterilised jars whilst still very hot. Seal immediately. Cool and label. In a cool, dark, dry cupboard, this jam will keep unopened for up to 12 months. Store in the fridge once opened, and eat within a month.

Homemade_microwave_raspberry_jam
Microwave raspberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Microwave raspberry jam – super-speedy; hassle free; the perfect jam method for smaller amounts of fresh berries (I haven’t tried this with frozen berries but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work). Use finer, caster sugar for this jam as it heats and dissolves more quickly. The jam has a good set, and I find the colour is brighter than the traditional method; the flavour is much the same. My microwave is 900W so you may need to adjust timings accordingly.

Wash and pat dry 250g prepared fresh raspberries and mash with a fork in a large, perfectly clean microwave-proof bowl ( the mixture needs room to boil in the microwave, so choose a good size to prevent the mixture boiling over).

Put 250g caster sugar in a microwave-proof bowl and cook on Medium for 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The temperature of the sugar should be around 80°C (I use a food probe to check). Carefully pour the sugar over the mashed raspberries and stir well – the mixture will be very sloppy at this stage.

Put back in the microwave, and cook on High for 3 minutes to reach boiling point, then boil for 2 minutes. The jam is now ready to put in jars and seal as above. The jam has the same keeping qualities as with the traditionally made jam above.

Microwave_raspberry_jam_preparation
Steps to making microwave raspberry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My third method for making jam is probably the most delicious and it involves no cooking of the raspberries at all. You do need to select the perfect, unblemished, fresh specimens for best results, and wash the berries well before using. Use caster sugar for speedier heating and dissolving.

This fresh jam has a much softer texture than the other 2. You need to store it in the fridge – I find it keeps well for 4 to 6 weeks. It also freezes so you can keep it for longer  and then take out small portions as and when you fancy. If you haven’t got a microwave, you can heat the sugar in a saucepan – just keep the heat very low and keep stirring the sugar so that it doesn’t melt or burn.

Homemade_fresh_raspberry_jam
Fresh raspberry jam Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Fresh (uncooked) raspberry jam – wash and pat dry 250g prepared, unblemished, very fresh raspberries and mash with a fork in a large, perfectly clean, heat-proof bowl. Sit the bowl on a clean tea-towel.

Put 250g caster sugar in a microwave-proof bowl and cook on Medium for 15 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The temperature of the sugar should be around 120°C (I use a food probe to check). Carefully pour the hot sugar over the mashed raspberries and stir well – it will hiss and steam. Cover loosely and leave to cool completely, then spoon into clean, sterilised jars or containers. Seal and label, and store in the fridge or freezer.

Step_by_step_o_making_fresh_raspberry_jam
Fresh raspberry jam preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For more recipes using fresh raspberries, see my posts Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) and Rose and raspberry vodka (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Still-life_Glen_Ample_raspberries_and_leaf
Up close and personal: freshly picked Glen Ample raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Cooking with rose petals – make your own rosewater, rose petal syrup and dried rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

 

Freshly_picked_homegrown_rose_petals
Trug of freshly picked fragrant rose heads. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It is pleasantly fragrant in the garden at the moment, thanks mostly to two highly scented rose bushes. One variety is very old, a Felicia rose, with gnarled, stooped stems. However old it is, the foliage is vibrant green and  healthy-looking  and the bush produces an abundant supply of pale pink, Turkish Delight-scented flowers from late spring through to late summer. The other, a Gertrude Jekyll, I planted last year. The flowers are larger, deeper pink in colour and the fragrance slightly sweeter and more aromatic. Both roses have lots of petals per head, and are perfect for use in the kitchen.

Albertine_and_Gertrude_Jekyll_roses
Pale pink, Felicia rose, and the deeper pink, Gertrude Jekyll rose. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The preparation for any recipe using rose petals is the same. Choose fragrant roses with undamaged petals; they need to be free from pests and chemical sprays. Rose heads are best picked when almost fully open and still fresh. Cut the stems in the morning before the sun becomes too hot – this helps preserve colour and fragrance. Carefully pull the petals from the head, keeping them as whole as possible, weigh them, and then place in a colander or strainer. Fill a bowl with cold water and dip the colander in the water to submerge the petals. Swirl gently the colander and then lift out. Shake gently to drain and shake further to remove the excess water.

The petals are fine to use damp for rosewater, syrup and any recipe where they are cooked in liquid, but if you want to dry them, spread them out carefully on sheets of absorbent kitchen paper or a clean tea towel and pat them dry with more paper or  clean cloth. Leave to dry naturally, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour or until they feel dry to the touch.

Homemade_rosewater_preparation
Making homemade rosewater. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rosewater – makes approx. 250ml

  • 25g fragrant rose petals – approx. 4 full heads of rose petals
  • 250ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp vodka (optional) – this helps preserve the rosewater for slightly longer
  1. Prepare and rinse the rose petals as described above. Place in a sterilised, clean preserving jar or heatproof jug, and pour over the boiling water.
  2. Cover the top with a piece of muslin or kitchen paper and leave to steep until completely cold.
  3. Strain through muslin into a sterilised, clean jug and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible. Mix in the vodka if using.
  4. Decant into a sterilised, screw-top bottle or jam jar. Seal, label and store in the fridge. Use within 4 to 6 weeks.

Note: homemade rosewater is weaker in dilution that the distilled rosewater you can buy ready-made, so you will probably need to use more in your recipes.

Preparation_for_making_homemade_rose_petal_syrup
How to make homemade rose petal syrup. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rose petal syrup – makes 350ml

  • 85g fragrant rose petals – approx. 9 full heads of rose petals
  • 450ml cold water
  • 265g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  1. Prepare and rinse rose petals as above, then place in a clean, large stainless steel saucepan. Pour over the cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 20 minutes – all the colour will come out of the petals. Strain through muslin into a jug, and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible.
  3. Return the liquid to the saucepan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir well over a low heat to dissolve the sugar – the liquid should now be, magically, very pink.
  4. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until lightly syrupy. Pour into sterilised bottles or jars and seal well. Label and cool. The syrup will keep unopened for 6 months, once opened keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Rose petal syrup is perfect for fruit salads; adding to cocktails; diluting with sparkling water for a refreshing summer cooler; for pouring over pancakes or for drizzling over freshly baked cakes.

How_to_dry_fresh_rose_petals
Drying rose petals. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Dried rose petals – prepare rose petals as described above and dry thoroughly. Spread out across the layers of a dehydrator, making sure they are well spaced out, keeping them in as much of a single layer as possible. Cover and dry at 40°C for 1 ½ to 2 hours, swapping the trays around every 30 minutes, until the petals are dry and parched. Leave to cool then place in a clear screw-top jar and store in a dark, dry place. Petals will fade after a few months, and are best used within 4 to 6 weeks. Sprinkle over salads, fruit desserts or use as a natural cake decoration.

Homemade_rosewater_dried_rose_petals_and_rose_petal_syup
Homemade rosewater, dried rose petals and rose petal syrup. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My next post will be very rosy and will use all 3 rose recipes. See you in a few days!

For other recipes using rose petals see my previous posts Rose and raspberry vodka (gluten-free, dairy-free) and Sugared rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free

Freagrant_roses_and_petals

 

Cherry almond amarettis (Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Cherry_almond_vegan_amaretti_cookies
Vegan cherry almond amaretti cookies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For several weeks, every now and again, I have been trying to make eggless meringues. The meringues I prefer are the large, pillow-like ones made with brown sugar and lots of chopped nuts and a drizzle of dark chocolate, and not the plain white, dainty variety. Sadly, I haven’t been successful so far. However, my experimentation has led me to find other uses for vegan “egg white”, hence, I come to this week’s post.

Next time you open a can of cooked white beans or chickpeas in water, keep the canning liquid, for this is vegan “egg white”. Amazing as it sounds, the liquid whips up into a thick foam and can be used (with care) as a substitute for fresh egg whites. You may find it referred to as aqua fava for after all, that is what it is: bean water!

Vegan_egg_white_(aqua_fava)
Bowls of butter bean and chickpea canning water. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The drained liquid content of a 400g can is approx. 140ml which equates to 3 medium egg whites. It freezes well so you don’t need to use all of it in one recipe – an ice cube tray is perfect for individual egg-sized amounts, but don’t forget to label it otherwise your G&T may taste a little strange! As with fresh egg white, place in a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk in the same way. I add a pinch of cream of tartar to assist the volume when whisking up.

Freshly_whsked_vegan_egg_white_(aqua_fava)
Whipped butter bean and chickpea canning water. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Once I have cracked a decent meringue recipe and got my sugar and nut quantities correct, I look forward to sharing it with you. Until then, here is my recipe for Italian amaretti cookies. These are the soft variety, and are truly delicious (and very moreish). They make a lovely gift too.

Makes: 18

  • A few sheets of gluten-free edible paper (optional)
  • 45ml chickpea or white bean canning water
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 225g ground almonds
  • 100g glacé cherries, chopped
  • 125g + 2 tsp icing sugar
  • 2 tsp natural almond extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Using a 4cm diameter round cookie cutter, trace and cut out 18 rounds of edible paper if using, and place on the trays, spaced a little apart.
  2. Put the canning water in a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk until softly foaming. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking until the beaters leave an impression in the foam – this takes about 3-4 minutes of whisking.
  3. Put the almonds and cherries in a bowl. Sift 125g icing sugar on top. Mix well and then add the almond extract and whisked foam. Carefully mix together to make a softish dough.
  4. Divide into 18 portions and form each into a ball. Place one on top of each paper circle and press down gently to flatten slightly – if you’re not using the paper, just space them out directly on the lined trays.

    Edible_paper,_amaretti_dough_and_shaped_cookies
    Amaretti making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The biscuits will store for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. Serve lightly dusted with icing sugar.
Board_of_cherry_amarettis_duted_with_icing_sugar
Sugar-dusted cherry amarettis. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For gifting, wrap each amaretti cookie in a small, clean square of tissue paper, and twist the ends on each side to seal the wrapping. Arrange in a shallow box and tie with ribbon to present. Perfect for serving with coffee.

Cherry_almond_amarettis_individually_wrapped_in_tissue_paper
Gift-wrapped amarettis. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate, rosemary and orange muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Gluten-free_vegan_chocolate_rosemary_and_orange_muffins
Chocolate, rosemary and orange muffins. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On the shortest day of the year, here’s a little something baked to brighten up the barely light hours. I picked rather too much rosemary the other day, and spent a few days pondering on how best to use it up. It doesn’t freeze very well and I’m not a fan of the dried stuff. After admiring the stems as a herbal arrangement in my kitchen for a while, I decided to do some flavour experimentation, and these muffins are the result.

I wasn’t really intending them to be so festive looking, but the sprigs reminded me of tiny pine trees and then my mind started going into creative mode. I hope you enjoy them. The flavour is really rich and perfect for the time of year. You only need to use the leaves for this recipe – the stems are too tough – and try to chop the leaves as small as possible for the best flavour and better eating.

Fresh_rosemary_sprigs_and_leaves
Fresh rosemary. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 10

  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 150g silken tofu
  • 45g cocoa powder
  • 2 level tsp gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 1 level tbsp ground arrowroot (I often add this to help bind gluten-free cake mixtures together)
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 75g polenta
  • Finely grated rind 1 unwaxed orange
  • 2 level tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125g icing sugar + extra to dust
  • Approx. 40ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 10 tsp Chia or poppy seeds
  • 10 small sprigs of fresh rosemary
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Line a muffin tin with 10 paper cases. Put the oil, sugar and tofu in a bowl and whisk together with an electric mixer until well blended and thick.
  2. Sieve 25g cocoa, baking powder and the arrowroot on top. Add the almonds, polenta, orange rind, chopped rosemary and salt. Mix all the ingredients together until thoroughly combined.
  3. Divide the mixture equally between the cases. Smooth the tops and bake for about 35 minutes until just firm to the touch – the cakes may look slightly sunk in the middle. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To decorate, sieve the icing sugar and remaining cocoa powder into a small bowl and mix together with sufficient orange juice to make and smooth, spreadable icing. Spoon sufficient icing on top of each muffin and spread to cover the top completely.
  5. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with 1 tsp seeds. Leave for a few minutes to set before adding the finishing touches.
    Icing_and_topping_muffins_with Chia_seeds
    Decorating the muffins. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Just before serving, carefully put the muffins into small flower pots. Push a sprig of rosemary into the top of each and if liked, dust the rosemary lightly with a little icing sugar for a frosted look.

    The muffins freeze well once iced and seeded, and will also keep for 4-5 days in an airtight tin once decorated. Simply decorate with fresh rosemary and icing sugar just before serving.

    Chocolate_and_rosemary_muffin_dusted_with_icing_sugar
    Frosty-looking chocolate, rosemary and orange muffin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Gluten-free_vegan_baking:_chocolate_and_rosemary_muffin
    Gluten-free and vegan, a deliciously dark and tasty chocolate, rosemary and orange muffin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Festive Floretines (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Edible_gift:_gluten-free_and_vegan_Florentines
Festive Florentines. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m spoilt for choice at this time of year as to what sweet treats and edible goodies to make, but Florentines have to be up there in my Top 10 of all time favourites. These thin, crisp, Italian, chocolate-spread morsels are jammed packed with fruit and nuts, and they are just as delicious served with a spoonful of your favourite ice cream or sorbet, as they are with a cup of coffee.

I have chosen to use a combination of candied green fruits, seeds and nuts, but you can use any dried or candied fruit, and any unsalted, roasted nuts and seeds – in fact these biscuits are one of the best ways to use up any bits and pieces of dried fruit, nuts and seeds you have leftover. They will also work with all fruit or all nuts and seeds, so you can make up your own combinations to suit your personal preference.

Traditionally, Florentine biscuits are spread with melted dark chocolate on the back, but they are good left as they are. Cover the backs with 90% extra dark chocolate for a less sweet finish, and, if you can bring yourself to give them away, they make a lovely gift.

Main_ingredients_for_Florentine_cookies
Angelica, green-coloured cherries, pistachio nuts and pumpkin seeds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 20

  • 75g coconut oil or vegan margarine
  • 75g golden syrup
  • 50g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 60g pumpkin seeds
  • 60g unsalted shelled pistachio nuts, lightly crushed
  • 100g green glacé cherries, roughly chopped
  • 25g angelica, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp good quality natural almond or vanilla extract (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 200g milk free, vegan white “chocolate”
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Melt the oil or margarine with the syrup in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients except the white “chocolate”.
  2. Drop 20 heaped teaspoonfuls, spaced well apart on to the prepared trays, and flatten each mound slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes until flattened and lightly golden. Leave to cool for 10 minutes on the trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.Preparation_of_mixture_for_baking_Florentines
  3. To cover the biscuits with chocolate, put just over half the amount of chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Line a large board with baking parchment.
  4. Working on one biscuit at a time, carefully dip and roll the edge of the biscuit all the way round in chocolate and place on the lined board. Leave to set.

    Covering_gluten-free_Florentines_with_vegan_white_"chocolate"
    Covering the sides and backs of Florentines in melted white “chocolate”. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Once all the biscuits are dipped and set, melt the remaining chocolate as above. Turn the biscuits over and spread a little chocolate thinly over the backs. Leave to set. Note: If you can leave them alone, these biscuits will store well in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Gluten-free,_vegan_Florentine_cookie
Vegan, gluten-free, chocolate-dipped Florentine biscuit. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Cranberries & Cranberry Jam recipe (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Cranberry_plant_and_berries
Cranberry plant with fruit. Plant images: Stuart MacGregor. Berry image: Kathryn Hawkins

In my humble opinion, there is no fruit nor vegetable that looks more festive than the cranberry. The fresh berries have just started arriving on the greengrocer’s shelves these past few days. The season for fresh cranberries in the UK is quite short, so I’m stocking up my freezer for a year round supply.

The cranberry plant is low growing and creeping in habit, and likes damp, acidic soil; it is a member of the heather family. A few years ago, I grew my own plant in a deep pot. Once it was established, it made a lovely trailing plant in a hanging basket for a while, until I forgot to water it (!) and sadly, it met a very sorry, shrivelled, end. I hope to try again this spring if I can track down a suitable mature plant.

The waxy-looking, scarlet berries are rich in Vitamin C and a staple of the Thanksgiving and Christmas menu. I’ve just made a batch of jam to serve with the Christmas roast; very easy to make and much nicer than anything you can buy in a jar. Add finely grated orange rind for a zesty flavour, and/or a few spoonfuls of Port at the end of cooking for a richer taste. I put the jam into small jars which then makes it ideal for gifting.

Jars_of_homemade_cranberry_jam
Jars of my freshly made cranberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 5 x 200ml jars

  • 500g fresh cranberries – the recipe will also work fine using frozen berries
  • 175ml water
  • 600g granulated sugar
  1. Put the berries and water into a preserving pan or large saucepan. Put a lid over the pan and begin heating – the berries will start “popping” and may jump a bit as they warm up.
  2. Bring the contents of the saucepan to simmering point and cook gently for about 10 minutes until the berries are soft and pulpy.
  3. Stir in the sugar over a low heat until dissolved, then boil rapidly for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and the liquid has reduced. Cranberries have lots of pectin so this mixture will set readily without having to test that a setting point has been achieved.
  4. Spoon whilst hot into warm sterilised jars and seal immediately. Once cool, label and cover the jar lids if preferred. Store in a dry, cool, dark cupboard; as with most preserves, cranberry jam will keep for several months.

    Cranberry_sauce_serving_suggestion
    Homemade cranberry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Smoky Tomato Jam (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Late_ripening_homegrown_tomatoes
Homegrown early Autumn tomatoes. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

This is the time of year when I often get very busy with my work and have little time to spend in the garden or the kitchen (outside work hours). However, making preserves is something I try to find time for no matter what else needs to be done. There is so much produce around at the moment, practically begging to be put in the pot and made into jam or chutney, I can’t ignore it.

One of my most popular preserves is, thankfully, one of the easiest to make, so this weekend I got the large preserving pan out of the cupboard and set about cooking up this year’s first batch of Smoky Tomato Jam. It’s really a smooth chutney, but the texture lends itself better to being called jam. One of the best thing about this particular preserve is that it’s ready to be eaten immediately, as well as being a good “keeper”.

Fresh_fruit_and_vegetables_for_jam_making
Ingredients for tomato jam making. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 5 x 325ml jars

  • 700g fresh prepared ripe, but firm, tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 350g prepared red onion, roughly chopped
  • 550g prepared cooking apples, roughly chopped
  • 350ml red wine or cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large sprigs rosemary
  • 275g granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp each of salt, ground cumin and smoked paprika
  1. Put the tomatoes and onion in a food processor and blitz for a few seconds until well chopped and pulpy. Transfer to a large saucepan.
  2. Put the apples in the food processor with half the vinegar and blitz for a few seconds until well chopped. Transfer to the saucepan containing the tomato and onion mixture.
  3. Pour over the remaining vinegar and add the bay leaves and rosemary. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, and then simmer gently for 10 minutes until softened.
  4. Stir in the sugar over a low heat, until dissolved, then raise the heat and simmer steadily for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the consistency of thick jam. Turn off the heat, discard the herbs and stir in the salt and spices.
  5. Ladle into warm, sterilised jars and seal with non-corrosive lids. Allow to cool and store for 6-8 months in a cool, dark cupboard. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 2 weeks. Delicious with all cured meats, smoked fish, and cheese dishes.
Homemade_tomato_preserve
Jars of freshly made Smoky Tomato Jam. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins