Grow your own salad

Seasonal_leaves_herbs_and_flowers_on_a_plate_with_dressing
May salad of homegrown herbs, flowers and leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope the sun has been shining on you these past few days. It has been glorious here, although we did have some very unseasonal gale-force winds whipping up a storm last weekend. Luckily, no serious damage done.

My post this week is more of a “show and tell” rather than a recipe or garden feature. I’ve never been one for growing much in the way of salad leaves, but this year, with more time on my hands in early spring, I decided to try my hand. With vegetable seeds in high demand, I was limited in choice, but  2 of my favourites were obtainable and that’s how I ended up sowing pea shoots and rocket.

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Easy to grow, pea shoots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Pea shoots are a crop that you can grow all year round indoors. You just need a container and some compost or soil, and watering can on stand by. I planted up a couple of pots and have had them in the conservatory since the end of April. The shoots don’t like direct sunlight, just bright light and warmth. After 3 ½ weeks they are ready to harvest. The seed packet says that you might get a second harvest so I have cut the first few stems just above a pair of leaves about 3cm from the bottom of the stalk, and now I will wait and see if they shoot up again.

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Homegrown rocket. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rocket is a leaf for out-of-doors growing according to the pack, but I have grown the leaves on a windowsill indoors before. I did have the ground space outside but I put my seeds in pots because I was convinced the young seedlings would get eaten by the big fat pigeons that strut around the back garden hoovering up the leftovers from the bird feeders. The pots are easier to protect and keep out of greedy beaks.

I planted a few pots with seeds at the same time as the pea shoots. The seeds are so tiny,  it is impossible to sow them thinly. After 2 weeks or so, they were ready to be thinned out. I was able to replant some of the bigger seedlings but the tinniest ones made excellent peppery sprinkles on a salad. By the way, these are the pretty heart-shaped leaves around the edge of the plate above.

Rocket plants grow in clusters of leaves, so when you harvest, snip leaves sparingly from each plant so that the rest of the plant can regenerate.

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Seasonal salad herbs and flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Around the garden at this time, I found other herbs and flowers to add to my salad plate. Choose young sorrel leaves to eat raw as they are soft in texture and have less of an astringent taste. Salad burnet is one of my favourite herbs. I have had a pot growing in the garden for several years. Although it looks very delicate with it’s soft, bright, serrated-edged leaves, it is a hardy herb and keeps going from year to year without much looking after. The leaves have a mild, fresh cucumber-like flavour.

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Sweet berry vinegar and thyme dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A simple combination of salad ingredients requires just the simplest of accompaniments. A while ago I posted on how to make your own flavoured vinegars. The link to the basic recipe can be found by clicking here . At the bottom of the recipe you will find ideas for other flavourings including berries. The vinegar above was made last year using some of the wild strawberries that grow around the garden and I also added a few sprigs of fresh thyme. A simple salad dressing, no oil nor added sugar required.

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Homegrown salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I will probably be back in the garden next time, until then, take care and enjoy the fine weather.

No-egg omelette with asparagus (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Egg-free omelette with roast asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. A simple recipe for you this week. Perfect for the time of year. It makes a lovely lunch or light supper, and more than anything else, it gives me the opportunity to show you how you really can make an omelette without breaking a single egg 🙂

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Egg-less omelette ingredients. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My chosen filling for the month of May would always be fresh asparagus. This magnificent vegetable has been available here, home-grown in the UK, for about 3 weeks now. And very delicious it is too. I roasted a few stems to eat with my omelette and then let the rest go cold to eat with a salad.

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British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To roast asparagus (I find thicker stems cook better this way), trim off the woody ends and lay out, spaced apart on a large lined baking tray. Brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes at 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6 until tender. Drain and serve hot or cold.

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Preparing and roasting asparagus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. I add chopped fresh herbs to the omelette mixture for colour and flavour. I have tried adding shredded leek and spring onion but found that they added water and changed the texture. A few tablespoons of chopped herbs is fine but anything more and the mixture may become more pancake-like. The aqua fava gives added lightness to the mixture which makes it less like a pancake batter. Leave this out if your prefer. By the way, if you’re not gluten-free, plain white flour can replace the tapioca flour.

Makes 4 small omelettes or 2 medium-sized

Ingredients

  • 75ml chickpea or bean water (aqua fava)
  • 50g tapioca flour
  • 50g gram (chickpea) flour
  • 3g gluten-free baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150ml dairy-free milk (I use oat milk)
  • 2 tbsp each freshly chopped parsley and chives
  • Sunflower oil for cooking
  1. Pour the chickpea water into a bowl and whisk for 2-3 minutes until thick and foamy.
  2. Sieve the flours, baking powder and salt into another bowl. Make a well in the centre and gradually blend in the milk to make a smooth batter.
  3. Scrape the whisked foam on top and add the herbs. Gently fold everything together until well blended.
  4. Brush a small crepe or frying pan (approx. 15cm base) with a little oil and heat until hot. Reduce the heat to low and pour in ¼ of the batter to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook over a medium/low heat for 2-3 minutes until bubbles form on top and the mixture is almost set. The omelette should be lightly golden underneath.
  5. Turn over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until cooked through. Turn onto baking parchment and cover with foil whilst preparing the other omelettes. Best served warm with your favourite filling.
    8_steps_to_preparing_and_cooking_egg-less_vegan_omelettes
    How to make an egg-less omelette. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
    Egg-less_vegan_omelette_filled_with_roasted_British_asparagus
    A perfect May-time lunch. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    I hope you have a good few days ahead. Enjoy the fine weather if you have it and above all else, keep safe.

     

 

This weird spring

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Chionodoxa, Spring’s little gem. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again everyone. I hope you are keeping well. The weather has turned fine these past few days since my last post and it has been a joy to be able to escape into the garden. Whilst the world is in shut-down, Mother Nature is carrying on as usual.

This very week, 16 years ago, I moved to Scotland and took over a much neglected garden. There was not much in flower back in April 2004, but by the following spring, with a little TLC, the first Chionodoxa magically appeared (I didn’t plant them) and have been coming up each spring ever since. They love the sunny flowerbeds and paths and are poking through everywhere at the moment. In contrast, their relation, Scilla, prefer the cooler, damper, shadier part of the garden. In the low light, their bluish-lilac flowers seem to glow with a luminous quality.

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In the shade of a tree, Scilla flowers blooming. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another shade lover, is the primrose. There are 2 varieties in the garden at the moment. The bushy yellow one flowers just for spring whilst the paler variety is in bloom and and off for several months of the year. There are several primrose clumps now; they seed themselves and multiply every year, and really do brighten up a dark corner.

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Scottish primroses. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There were a few tasks to get on with at the weekend. One of which was to prune the bay tree-bush which has got a bit wild. I ended up with a huge trug full of bay leaves – they will keep me going for a very long time!

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Springtime bay pruning. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the first tasks I can remember tackling in the garden that first spring, was to dead-head the Hydrangeas. The papery flower heads act as a natural frost protector for the buds and leaves forming on the stem below. This is one of my most enjoyable annual tasks in the garden mainly because it doesn’t involve too much bending 🙂

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Bucket of dry Hydrangea flowers. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image this week is of a Ribes Sanguineum or the flowering currant bush. It has been looking a bit sad for the past couple of years, but after a rigorous pruning last Autumn, it has come back to full flower and is looking much healthier. I love the blackcurrant aroma that the flowers have.

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Flowering currant bush. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week or so. Enjoy the outdoors if you are able, and keep safe. Until next time, take care.

 

Apple and tomato tart tatin (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Apple and tomato tart tatin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here we are in the bewitching month of October already. Where does the time go? We’ve been enjoying some late season sunshine here in central Scotland which has been very welcome. Not only am I still able to garden and tidy up outside uninhibited by poor weather, the tomatoes are ripening off nicely in the greenhouse, and all the eating apples are ready for picking.

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Flamingo and Ildi tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Miniature eating apple tree (variety unknown). Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s recipe is my twist on the well known French upside-down apple tart. So many tomato varieties are sweet to eat these days, they can easily be eaten as part of a dessert. However, I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you serve this recipe. The tart goes well either served simply dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or is equally as delicious served as a dessert with pouring cream or custard.

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Served warm with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I use freshly grated nutmeg and fresh thyme to flavour the tart as well as salt, pepper and a little sugar. I use a crisp, layered pastry as a base so that it doesn’t crumble when you turn it out. Use readymade, chilled or frozen (gluten-free) puff pastry for convenience, but if you have the time, try my own recipe for a gluten-free rough puff pastry

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Whole nutmeg and fresh thyme. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have made the tart with all tomatoes and, of course, just with apples, but mixing and matching both fruit is my favourite combination 🙂 I hope you think so too.

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My favourite combination. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • Gluten-free flour for dusting
  • 175g gluten-free puff or rough puff pastry
  • 35g vegan margarine
  • 1 tbsp. caster sugar
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • A few fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 small eating apples
  • 4 large plum tomatoes
  • 6 cherry or other small variety of tomatoes
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Fresh thyme to garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line a 20cm round cake tin with baking parchment and lightly grease the sides.
  2. Lightly flour the work top with gluten-free flour and roll out the pastry to a square slightly bigger than the tin. Using the tin as a template, cut a circle 1cm larger than the tin – keep the pastry trimmings for baking as croutons or use small tart bases – then chill the pastry circle until ready to use.
  3. Dot the margarine all over the bottom of the tin, and sprinkle with sugar, seasonings and thyme leaves.
  4. Peel, core and thickly slice the apples; halve the large tomatoes and leave the small ones whole. Arrange over the tin base in a decorative pattern.6_steps_for_making_apple_and_tomato_tart_tatin

    Prepration_of_apple_and_tomato_tart_tatin_in_9_steps
    9 steps to the perfect apple and tomato tart tatin. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Carefully arrange the pastry circle over the fruit and press the pastry edges to the side of the tin to seal. Brush with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Bake for about 25 minutes until crisp and golden. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before inverting on to a warm serving plate. Spoon over any juices that remain in the tin. Best served hot or warm, garnished with fresh thyme sprigs if liked.

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    As pretty as a picture. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Cucumber and quinoa tabbouleh (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Gluten-free tabbouleh. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve had a great crop of home-grown cucumbers this year, and have been enjoying them since July. I’ve been growing 2 varieties in the greenhouse, a small green one called Mini Munch, and a pale yellow, more rounded variety, called Crystal Apple. The Mini Munch have almost finished now, but there are still a few more Crystal Apple come.

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Mini Munch and Crystal Apple cucumbers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

So to celebrate my cucumber-filled summer, this week’s recipe is my very simple, gluten-free version of the classic Middle Eastern salad, tabbouleh, and for good measure, to go with it, my favourite accompaniment, a super-speedy hummus recipe. You can add any combination of soft-leaved herbs to flavour your grains. The herb patch was looking a bit shabby at the weekend and I needed to pick off a few stalks of mint and chives to help rejuvenate the plants again. I also added some of the delicate zig-zag-edged herb salad burnet which has it’s own mild cucumber flavour, but parsley and coriander make good substitutes if you prefer.

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Salad Burnet close-up. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There are no set rules to this recipe. It is very simple. I cheat and use a ready-cooked pack of red and white quinoa grains. Very convenient and a perfect quantity for a couple of hearty portions. If you like, add tomato for extra colour and moisture to the salad, and spring onions will add a tasty, oniony bite. I hope you enjoy the fresh flavours.

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Home-grown cucumber, mint chives and salad burnet. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients

Tabbouleh

  • 250g cucumber, washed
  • 250g cooked quinoa
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 20g chives, chopped
  • 7g mint leaves, chopped
  • A handful of salad burnet leaves (parsley or coriander)
  • Lemon wedges and extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Male cucumber flowers to garnish

Hummus (serves 3-4)

  • 400g can chickpeas
  • 40g tahini
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Paprika to dust
  1. For the tabbouleh, cut the cucumber into small pieces. Put the quinoa in a bowl and mix in the cucumber, herbs and salt. Cover and chill for an hour to allow the flavours to mingle. Stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

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    Making gluten-free tabbouleh. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. For the hummus, open the can of chickpeas and drain the canning liquid into a jug. Pop the chickpeas in a blender or food processor along with the other ingredients and 3 tbsp. of the reserved liquid. Blitz for a few seconds until smooth. I like my hummus to have the consistency of thick porridge, but if you prefer something softer, just add a bit more canning liquid. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Don’t forget to keep the rest of the canning liquid for using as an egg white substitute – it freezes very well.
    Blending_the_ingredients_to_make_hummus
    Making hummus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Serve the tabbouleh decorated with cucumber flowers; dress with a squeeze of fresh lemon and extra virgin olive oil to taste, and accompany with toasted seeds, home-made hummus (dusted with paprika if liked)  and warm, gluten-free, toasted pitta breads. Perfect 🙂

    Overhead_view_of_home-made_cucumber_and_quinoa_salad
    A fresh and healthy salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Cucumber_and_quinoa_tabbouleh_served_on_warm_gluten-free_pitta_bread_with_hummus
    Ready to eat, quinoa tabbouleh with toasted seeds, home-made hummus and a squeeze of lemon. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Roast love apple soup (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Roast love apple soup. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Something pretty to calm the nerves after all the spooky goings on this week, and also a recipe to help take the chill away – it’s been much colder here since last weekend.  Love apple is a much nicer name for a tomato, and this recipe combines tomatoes with apples, fresh sage and bay leaves to give a refreshing sweet/savoury flavour, and there’s a pinch of hot paprika for some warmth.

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Home-grown love apples. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m all for making life in the kitchen as simple as possible, so the main ingredients are baked in the oven, on a tray, first. This allows you to do the preparation one day and then whizz up the cooked veg to make your soup the next. If you have a glut of tomatoes and apples, the baked mixture freezes fine for soup, so you can keep bags ready-prepared in the freezer.

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Home-grown Flamingo tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I used fresh tomatoes for the recipe because I have so many at the moment. I have made the recipe with canned tomatoes, but as these have already been cooked, you will notice a slightly different flavour and the soup will be more intense in colour. My cooking apples are quite mild, so you may need to play around with the sugar content if you are using a more tart variety. Eating apples work well too, but again, do a taste test to make sure that you don’t overdo the sweetness.

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Heart-shaped tomato. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I made some heart-shaped croutons to serve with my soup. Just pieces of seeded, gluten-free, sliced bread cut out with cookie cutters and shallow-fried in olive oil. Simple but delicious. To add another tangy twist to the soup, try drizzling the top with balsamic glaze (a sweet syrup made from grape juice and balsamic vinegar), or extra virgin olive oil for richness.

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Making heart-shaped gluten-free croutons. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Ingredients

Serves: 4

  • 400g cooking apples
  • 500g ripe tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A few sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp. caster sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • ¾ to 1 tsp hot paprika
  • Balsamic glaze, fresh sage and gluten-free croutons to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C  fan oven, gas 5. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Halve the tomatoes. Peel and slice the onion.
  2. Spread out the prepared fruit and veg on a large baking tray. Drizzle with the oil, poke in the herbs, then sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper. Cover the tray with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, stir and cook for a further 10 minutes, uncovered, until tender and soft At this point, you can leave everything to go cold and then keep refrigerated (or freeze) until ready to cook the soup.

    Baking_tray_of prepared_tomatoes_and_apples_with_sage_and_onion
    Roasting tomatoes and apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. When you’re ready to make the soup, discard the herbs and put the cooked fruit and veg into a blender or food processor along with 150ml stock. Blitz until smooth then pour into a saucepan and add the remaining stock and paprika to taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  4. Heat through gently, stirring, for 4-5 minutes until piping hot. Ladle into warm soup bowls and serve with a drizzle of balsamic glaze, fresh sage and croutons.
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    Ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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    Real love apples? Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Mushroom barley risotto (dairy-free; vegan)

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Mushroom barley risotto Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It feels like the right time of year for a mushroom dish. This is one of my favourites. I usually make it with just fresh mushrooms, but I had a pack of dried porcini mushrooms in the cupboard and this seemed like the perfect dish to add them to. They were a present from my Mum who went to northern Italy this summer, for a holiday. Porcini mushrooms do add an extra rich flavour to the dish but if you don’t have them, just use a few more fresh mushrooms and more vegetable stock.

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Dried porcini mushrooms. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The fresh mushrooms I used were small Portobello mushrooms which have a firm texture and good, nutty flavour. I find them ideal for longer cooking techniques as they hold their shape and texture well. Brown chestnut mushrooms work well too.

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Portobello mushrooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To flavour the dish, I added garlic, a splash of wine, and some sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme – strong, woody aromatics that go well with earthy mushroom flavours.

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Home-grown fresh rosemary and thyme. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In terms of making the dish, if you’ve ever made a risotto with Arborio rice, then it’s the same technique of adding the liquid to the grain, little by little, to ensure an even cooking. It’s take a bit of time, but the effort is worthwhile, and I find it strangely therapeutic, especially if accompanied with a glass of wine!

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A hearty autumnal supper. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves:4

Ingredients

  • 35g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Large sprig of rosemary
  • A few sprigs thyme
  • 300g Portobello mushrooms, wiped and sliced
  • 300g pearl barley, rinsed
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • Approx. 750ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly chopped parsley
  1. Put the dried mushrooms in a heatproof dish and pour over 350ml boiling water. Leave to soak for at least 30 minutes until tender, then drain well, reserving the soaking liquid, and slice.

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    Soaking porcini mushrooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, lidded frying pan and gently fry the onion for 10 minutes with the lid on, until tender. Stir in the garlic, herbs and Portobello mushrooms and stir fry for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the sliced porcinis and pearl barley, mix everything well, then pour over the wine. Bring to simmering point, and cook gently until the wine has reduced by half, stirring occasionally.
    Enamel_dish_of_pearl_barley
    Pearl barley. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  4. Pour the mushroom soaking liquid into a jug and make up to 1l with vegetable stock, then pour into a saucepan and heat until hot. Keep on a low heat.
  5. Add one ladleful of hot stock to the barley and mushrooms, and simmer gently, stirring, until the stock has been absorbed before you add in another. Continue the ladling and simmering until all the stock is used up – this will take about 40 minutes – by which time the barley should be perfectly tender. Turn off the heat, season, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes for the last of the stock to be absorbed.
  6. To serve, discard the rosemary and thyme and sprinkle with parsley. Delicious topped with handfuls of rocket or watercress.
    Spoonful_of_barley_and_mushroom_risotto
    Ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

 

 

 

Plum and bay membrillo (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Plum and bay membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I hadn’t intended to write another post about plums this week, but after making several pots of jam with the largest, juiciest plums, I was down to my last kilo of the smallest fruit. Flicking through an old book on preserves, I happened upon a recipe for making damson “cheese”, and I decided to have a go. It turned out to be very similar to Spanish quince paste, so I’m calling it membrillo. And very delicious it is too 🙂

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Sliced and ready for tasting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It takes a bit of time to make plum membrillo because you need to keep stirring the fruit mixture to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan, and it can’t be rushed otherwise you will end up burning the mixture. Other than this, there are just 3 ingredients and a little water. I like the herbal aroma of bay with stoned fruit, but cinnamon would work well, or you could omit the extra flavour altogether for maximum fruitiness.

The flavour is intense and fruity. It is very rich so serve in slices as a sweet treat or as an accompaniment to cheese and cold meats as you would quince paste. It needs to be stored in the fridge, but will keep for a month in a sealed container, or it can be sliced, wrapped and frozen. It would make a nice gift for a foodie friend – wrap in waxed paper for keeping at it’s best.

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Wrapping membrillo in waxed paper. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I also cut a couple of slices into small cubes and rolled in granulated sugar to make melt-in-the-mouth home-made fruit pastilles.

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Home-made plum fruit pastilles. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 8 slices

Ingredients

  • 1kg small plums (damsons or apricots would also work)
  • 4 fresh bay leaves or 2 dried
  • Approx. 500g granulated sugar
  1. Line a 500g loaf tin with baking parchment. Wash the plums and place in a large saucepan (there is no need to stone them). Pour over 200ml water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until very soft. Cool for 10 minutes, then rub though a nylon sieve to extract as much pulp as possible – I ended up with about 1l of pulp.

    Cooking_and_sieving_plums_to_make_membrillo
    Cooking plums for membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Pour the pulp back into the saucepan, add the bay leaves, and bring to the boil. Simmer gently, stirring to prevent sticking, for about 15 minutes, until reduced by half. I find a spatula is good for stirring preserves because it enables you to scrape the pan more thoroughly. Cool for 10 minutes, then discard the bay leaves.
  3. Measure the pulp and pour back into saucepan. Add the equivalent amount of pulp in sugar – I had 500ml reduced pulp and added 500g sugar. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved completely.
  4. Turn up the heat and cook the mixture until it becomes very thick – about 30 minutes – until the spatula leaves a clear line across the bottom of the pan. If you prefer, it needs to reach 105°C on a sugar thermometer. You need to keep stirring the mixture which will be very hot, so do take care. I find it easier to wear a long rubber glove when stirring, because the mixture can spit.

    Measuring_plum_pulp_and_cooking_with_sugar_to_make_membrillo
    Cooking the sugary plum pulp for making membrillo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Scrape the thick, pulpy mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top and leave too cool completely. It will set firm as it cools. Chill until required.
  6. When ready to serve, remove the lining parchment, and slice the membrillo with a sharp knife – a warmed blade should make for easier slicing. Wrap and store in the fridge for up to a month, or freeze for later use.
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Fresh bay leaves with Victoria plums. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Courgette and leek bhajis (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Courgette and leek bhajis with cucumber and coconut raita. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It has reached the time of year that sees the end of my supply of home-grown courgettes. The three plants I sowed from seed have been growing happily, side by side, in a grow-bag, in my greenhouse over the past few weeks. The plants have given me a good, steady and tasty crop of yellow and green globe-shaped fruits. I am sad to see their demise.

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Yellow and green globe courgettes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To use up the last of the crop, this week’s recipe is for a mildly spiced, Indian-style fritter, based on a classic takeaway favourite, the onion bhaji. The flour used is chickpea (or gram/besan) flour which very is earthy and nutty in flavour, and the flavourings used are fragrant rather than over-powering: cumin, fenugreek, black onion seeds and toasted sesame seeds. Add some minced green chilli or chopped fresh coriander for some zesty freshness if you like.

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Gram flour, ground fenugreek, ground cumin and toasted sesame seeds with black onion seeds. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serve the bhajis as a starter with wedges of lemon to squeeze over, some fresh coriander, and a traditional cucumber and yogurt salad.

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Bhajis sprinkled with fresh coriander and accompanied with lemon wedges and a coconut yogurt and cucumber salad.

Makes: 15

Ingredients

  • 190g chickpea (gram or besan) flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200g courgette, trimmed and coarsely grated
  • 1 small leek, trimmed and shredded
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp black onion seeds
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • Sunflower oil for deep-frying
  • Fresh coriander and lemon to serve

For the cucumber salad

  • 150g cucumber, trimmed and chopped
  • Small bunch fresh chives, chopped
  • A few sprigs fresh mint, leaves chopped
  • 100g free-from coconut yogurt
  • Salt to taste
  1. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the courgette, leek, spices and seeds. Mix well. Put to one side. Heat the oil for deep-frying to 180°C, then mix 75ml cold water into the spiced vegetables to make a thick batter. Add the water just before cooking to make sure it stays thick.

    Steps_to_making_courgette_and_leek_bhaji_batter
    Preparing the bhaji batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Use 2 dessert spoons to form scoops of batter and gently drop into the oil – cook 7-8 scoops at a time for 7-8 minutes, turning in the oil, until golden and crisp. Don’t make the bhajis too big otherwise they won’t cook all the way through. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm while you prepare the other remaining batter.

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    Courgette and leek bhajis in the fryer. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. For the cucumber salad, mix all the ingredients together and season to taste.
  4. Serve the bhajis while they are warm, sprinkled with fresh coriander and accompanied with lemon wedges and the cucumber salad.

    Freshly_cooked_home-made_courgette_and_leek_bhajis
    Ready to serve, freshly cooked courgette bhaji. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Warm tomato, sage and caper bruschetta (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Warm tomato, sage and caper bruschetta. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have never been able to pick home-grown tomatoes this early before. Usually, my tomatoes don’t ripen until at least September, and I’m always left wondering whether I will be making pots-loads of green tomato chutney. This year, the tomatoes are ripening at least one month ahead, and I am delighted 🙂

I planted 8 different varieties this year in the greenhouse, and all are doing very well. I’m going to be eating a lot of tomatoes this year!

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Early August tomato harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I enjoy eating tomatoes raw, simply sliced, sprinkled with a little seasoning, and a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness, and topped with a few fresh basil leaves.

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A colourful variety of tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

However, I do cook with them occasionally, and my recipe this week is for a lightly cooked tomato dish which I put on top of gluten-free ciabatta-style bread to eat as a light lunch or quick supper snack. The topping also makes a great sauce to serve over pasta or roast veg. The tomatoes are flavoured with fresh sage, garlic and capers, and for a tangy sweetness, I’ve added a little white balsamic vinegar.

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Rosella tomatoes, fresh sage, and Flamingo tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To enjoy all the flavours of the recipe, leave the mix to cool slightly before serving rather than eating it too hot or fresh out of the saucepan.

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Bruschetta ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 225g small tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • A few leaves fresh sage
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 1 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices of freshly toasted bread
  1. Put the tomatoes, sage, garlic, capers and vinegar in a small saucepan. Season to taste and heat gently until simmering. Cover with a lid, turn down the heat to low and cook the tomatoes very gently for 10 minutes, until soft. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes.

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    Bruschetta ingredients and preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. To serve, discard the sage leaves. Drizzle freshly toasted bread with olive oil and spoon over the tomato topping. Garnish with fresh sage.

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    Bruschetta, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins