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 thought it was time to deliver a little treat. This week, I’ve broken into the chocolate to make something deliciously decadent. Still feeling inspired by my culinary adventure with Sicilian red oranges in last week’s post, I used some to flavour this rich Italian confection which is traditionally served at the end of a meal with coffee and liqueurs, or in my case, Marsala wine.
I was watching a travel programme about Sicily over the festive holidays. It really does seem like a food and drink paradise, and I hope to pay a visit some day. In the meantime, I tracked down some of the island’s Modica chocolate which is so very different from any other chocolate I have eaten or cooked with. It is naturally vegan as it is made with just cocoa, sugar and vanilla. The texture is grainy and slightly crunchy, with a flavour that is rich and intense. Modica chocolate is very like the chocolate the Aztecs would have been familiar with; it was introduced to Europe in the 16th century by the Spanish, and I’m delighted to have finally made its acquaintance.
You can add any flavourings you fancy to the basic salami recipe. I opted for all things Italian and went with pistachios, marzipan and the red orange. Candied peel is often added but I’m not a huge fan. Because I had the fresh red oranges to hand, I made my own non-candied peel which is much softer and much more zesty than the preserved variety. However, feel free to use the more traditional candied peel if you like it.
I put some red orange juice in the salami mixture as well. If you fancy something with more oomph, you can use 2 tbsp. liqueur instead. I used a dairy-free margarine which has a lower fat content than a solid fat. The combination of the margarine and the added liquid gives a more fudgy texture to the salami. If you prefer a firmer set then leave out the liquid altogether and use something like coconut oil (or unsalted butter if you eat it) which will give a much firmer set.
Makes 16 slices
2 medium oranges, red or other variety
100g 50% cocoa Modica or similar free-from plain chocolate
75g dairy-free margarine
150g free-from ginger biscuits, lightly crushed (or use your favourite variety)
50g natural pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
75g natural marzipan, finely chopped
15g each ground almonds and icing sugar
First prepare the orange rind. Using a vegetable peeler, pare off the orange rind thinly. You need about 40g rind to achieve a rich orange flavour.
Slice the pared rind into thin strips. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the strips for 4-5 minutes until soft. Drain and cool under cold running water, then drain well and pat dry, before chopping finely. Extract 2 tbsp. juice from one of the oranges – and enjoy the rest of the juice at your leisure 🙂
Break up the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Add the dairy-free margarine and place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and leave until melted. Remove from the water and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Put the biscuits, pistachios, marzipan, chopped orange rind and juice in a bowl and mix together, then stir in the melted chocolate. Leave in a cool place for about 30 minutes to firm up but not set completely.
Line the work top with a large double layer of cling film and pile the chocolate mixture in the centre to form a rough rectangular shape about 24cm long.
Fold over the cling film and twist the ends closed to make a fat sausage-like shape with slightly tapering ends. Chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight until firm.
To decorate, place a large sheet of baking parchment on the work top and sift the ground almonds and icing sugar down the centre to cover an area the same length as the salami.
Carefully unwrap the salami and roll evenly in the sweet almond mixture to coat it lightly. Slice and serve. Store any remaining chocolate salami in the fridge – the sugary almond coating will start to dissolve in the fridge but this doesn’t affect the flavour or texture of the salami. Buon appetite!
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.
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!
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.
Makes: 25 to 36 pieces
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂
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.
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.
Makes: 8 slices
1kg small plums (damsons or apricots would also work)
4 fresh bay leaves or 2 dried
Approx. 500g granulated sugar
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 toasted flaked almonds, crushed
Icing sugar to dust
400g natural marzipan
Put the butter (coconut oil) and honey (golden syrup) in a saucepan with the chocolate, and heat very gently, stirring, until melted.
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.
Divide the mixture into 16 and form each into an oval-shaped sausage. Chill for 30 minutes until firm.
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.
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 🙂
One of my favourite flavours married with a much loved sweetie are a match made in heaven in this recipe. Some shop-bought marshmallow can be a bit on the chewy side to my taste, so my version may be a bit different to what you’ve come to expect. This recipe makes a lighter, fluffier marshmallow, but if you want a firmer texture, it is worth experimenting by adding more gelatine.
If you can make meringue, then marshmallow is just one step on. You will need a sugar thermometer to take away the guesswork when making a sugar syrup. Other than that, the most important thing I can say before you get started, is to get yourself organised and have everything lined up and ready to go.
Makes 1 x 18cm square of marshmallow which cuts into 9 chunky pieces
5 leaves good quality gelatine
2 medium egg whites or 2 single egg sachets dried egg white powder
100g granulated sugar
50g liquid glucose
Pink food colour gel
Good quality rose water (I use Nielsen Massey)
Sugared rose petals to decorate
Line a deepish 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment. Cut up the gelatine into small pieces and place in a small heatproof bowl. Add 75ml cold water and leave to soak for 5 minutes, then place in the microwave and cook on High for 30-40 seconds until dissolved – microwave in 10 second blasts to avoid overheating, and do not boil. Leave aside.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites or powder in a large, grease-free, heatproof bowl until very stiff.
Put the sugar in a small saucepan with the glucose and 50ml cold water. Heat gently, stirring, until melted, then raise the heat and let the mixture bubble until it becomes clear and syrupy and reaches 118ºC on a sugar thermometer.
Remove the syrup from the heat. Start whisking the egg whites again and gently pour over the hot syrup in a slow and steady stream. Keep whisking as you pour in the liquid gelatine.
Continue to whisk to form a thick and glossy meringue-like mixture – this may take up to 5 minutes depending on how much heat I retained.
Working quickly before the mixture begins to set add sufficient food colour gel and rose water to taste.
Scrape the marshmallow into the lined tin and smooth over the top as best you can. Leave to cool, then put in a cool place (not the fridge) for 3-4 hours until completely set and firm to the touch.
To finish, dust a tray with the cornflour and turn the marshmallow on to it. Peel away the parchment. Using a large bladed knife, cut into 9 squares and toss in the cornflour to coat lightly. The marshmallow is ready to eat, or it will store, layered on pieces of baking parchment in an airtight container, in a cool place for up to 2 weeks. Note: homemade marshmallow does not like the fridge and will start to dissolve in damp conditions.
For an extra rose flavour, top each piece with a sugared rose petal – I gave a recipe for these in my July 19th 2016 post.