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!
So far this year, Mother Nature has provided 4 seasons in 1 month. There have been several mild days; a few blue-sky, frosty days; a couple of snow-laden days, and in between, grey skies, rain and gusty winds. The poor bulbs and bushes don’t know whether they are on the way up or whether they should still be hibernating.
The snow has now gone, and the temperature has gone up several degrees. I’m happy to say that plants and bulbs that were covered at the beginning of the week, have survived and are blooming again. The crocus were a couple of weeks early this year, so they must have had one hell of a shock on Monday night when the weather changed. The rhubarb shoots have begun to unfurl since the snow melted. I think I will pop a large pot over this clump at the weekend, and force a few stems for spring.
At the beginning of the week, all the snowdrops in the garden were still tightly closed, but as the thaw took hold and the temperature rose again, many of the buds have opened. These are such pretty, dainty little flowers, and are a sure sign that spring isn’t too far away. Have a good few days whatever the weather brings with it 🙂
January 25th is a national celebration here in Scotland. The day commemorates the birthday of the famous Scottish poet, Robert (Rabbie) Burns. All over the country, parties and gatherings will be held in honour of Mr Burns, based around a traditional meal of haggis, neeps (mashed turnip or swede) and tatties (mashed potato), washed down with a wee dram or two of whisky.
I have noticed from the stats on my site, that from the end of December onwards, my tattie scones recipe gets lots of hits from all over the world. I think, in fact, that this is the most popular recipe I have ever posted. The chocolate haggis is a close second.
The recipes for my vegan haggis and my old favourite, shortbread , as well as the aforementioned, can be found by clicking on the (pink) links.
Whatever you’re doing this January 25th, I hope you have a good time. I raise a glass to you and say “Slàinte”.
PS. A recipe for the (naked) gingerbread men will follow shortly 🙂
Seville orange marmalade-making comes but once a year, and that time is now. The bitter Spanish oranges are only in the shops between January and mid February. They are the best citrus fruit to achieve a classic tartly-flavoured orange marmalade, the favourite preserve of one Paddington Bear 🙂
There’s no getting away from it, making marmalade is labour-intensive if you make it the traditional way, but I enjoy it, and to me, the reward is greater than the effort involved. I have 2 versions of the same recipe to post this week. The first is the traditional, bright orange, softly set breakfast staple that we’re all familiar with. The second is a dark version which includes dark brown sugar to give a treacly flavour; it is also my personal favourite – delicious over porridge or rice pudding. However, it doesn’t photograph that well in the jar as you may imagine, so I am only posting “selective” images!
How you prepare the peel is up to you. I like chunky (which is easier to prepare!). Get yourself organised and soak the peel overnight as this helps soften it, and make sure you cook it properly before adding the sugar to the pan – once the sugar is added, the peel won’t soften any more.
On with the recipe, and happy marmalade making if you fancy having a go 🙂
Makes: approx. 3kg
750g Seville oranges (approx. 5 large fruit), washed
2.5 litres cold water
2kg granulated sugar
100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
The day before, juice the oranges, keeping all the pips and membrane that remain on the juicer. Cover the juice and refrigerate.
I use a serrated grapefruit spoon to scrape out the fleshy bits that remain inside the orange shells, leaving just the skin and pith of the oranges ready for slicing.
Pile all the pips, membrane and scrapings from inside the orange shells onto a large piece of clean muslin, and tie in a bundle securely with string. Put to one side. Halve the orange shells and slice as thinly and as small as you like.
Place the sliced orange in a large bowl, pour over the water and add the muslin bag. Cover loosely, put in a cool place and leave to soak overnight.
The next day, carefully transfer the contents of the bowl into a large preserving pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer the peel gently until very soft. This takes around 45 – 55 minutes depending on how thick you cut the peel.
Carefully remove the muslin bag and place in a sieve over a jug. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can, and pour back into the saucepan. Discard the bag.
Pour the orange juice into the saucepan and stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Mix well and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and let the mixture come to a rapid boil, then cook the marmalade for about 20 minutes until the temperature reaches 105-106°C – spoon a little on to a cold plate from time to time as the temperature rises to check setting point is reached; once it cools, the pool of marmalade should wrinkle when pushed gently with your finger.
Turn off the heat and leave the contents of the pan to stand for about 15 minutes – this enables the mixture to thicken a little and helps keep the citrus peel evenly suspended in the jelly when transferred to the jars.
Stir the marmalade well before spooning into clean jars whilst hot, and seal well. Leave to cool, then label and store in the usual way.
For the dark version, replace 500g of the granulated sugar with dark brown sugar and cook as above. If you use a very dark Muscovado sugar you may find the setting point more difficult to achieve (as I did this year!). I added a 250ml bottle of liquid pectin to the mixture to help things along, and a good set was achieved. I have no idea why this happened, the same recipe worked fine last year, the only change was a darker variety of sugar. One of life’s little mysteries…..Have a good week 🙂
Happy Burns Night, or Day, depending on when you are reading this!
When I started my blog several months ago, my very first recipe was for an old favourite of mine, shortbread. Looking back recently, I thought that the recipe could do with a bit of an update. Now I have a dairy-free version which I am very happy with and so, I have updated my original recipe, timing it for this year’s January 25th celebration.
On with the recipe. I have given my shortbread rounds a suitably Scottish flourish by embossing them with a thistle on the top. If you don’t have a traditional shortbread mould, then simply roll out the dough and cut out rounds using a plain or fluted edge cookie cutter. Prick the tops and press the edges with the fork before baking.
Here’s the link back to the updated original shortbread recipe – now dairy-free and vegan as well as gluten-free – and if you are using a shortbread mould, there are some step by steps images to help you.
That’s all for this week. I’m off for a wee dram; I’ll be posting again soon. Sláinte!
Hello again. I hope 2019 is going well for you so far. There’s a wee bit of forward planning gone into this week’s recipe. Next Friday, January 25th, is the Scottish feast of Burns Night, which is traditionally celebrated in a very meaty way with the dish of haggis accompanied with the only vegetarian part of the meal: “neeps and tatties” (mashed turnip (swede) and potatoes). I’ve been working on a meat-free version for a while, and finally I think I’ve cracked it this year. The flavour and texture is not that far off the traditional version and much nicer than any commercially made veggie haggis I have tried. I hope I might tempt you into making one for yourself.
You’ll need to allow at least a day in advance before you cook the haggis, but it will keep wrapped up in the fridge for 3 or 4 days before cooking if you want to prepare ahead.
Without going into the grim details of what’s in a traditional haggis, I’ve replaced the meat, etc. with mushrooms, red lentils and pearl barley which give the texture in the dish. Other than that, the bulk of the haggis is made up in the traditional way with toasted oatmeal. For a completely gluten-free version, replace the pearl barley with well-cooked white or brown rice, and use certified free-from oatmeal. I’ve stuck to the traditional haggis seasonings of plenty of black pepper, nutmeg and salt.
Because there is no outer “skin” to contain the vegan haggis mixture, the assembly method is quite long, however the recipe itself is pretty straightforward. I’ve included plenty of step-by-step images to help with the assembly. Let me know how you get on 🙂
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
225g large flat mushrooms. peeled and chopped
100g pinhead oatmeal or groats (use certified gluten-free if Coeliac)
150g cooked, well-drained red lentils
150g cooked, well-drained pearl barley (use well-cooked brown or white rice to make completely gluten-free)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper + extra to serve
A large pinch grated nutmeg
Approx. 4 tbsp. cold vegetable stock
50g vegetable suet
Heat the oil in a lidded frying pan and gently fry the onion with the bay leaf, stirring, for 2 minutes. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms, raise the heat and stir fry for 2 minutes. Cover again, reduce the heat and cook gently for 10 minutes until tender. Leave to cool completely. Discard the bay leaf.
Meanwhile, heat a dry frying pan until hot. Sprinkle over the oatmeal, and cook, stirring the oatmeal over a medium heat, for 7-8 minutes, to “toast”, without over-browning. Leave to cool.
To assemble the haggis, mix the oatmeal, lentils and barley or rice into the cold mushroom mixture. Add the seasoning, and sufficient stock to bind the mixture together without making it too wet – how much you need will depend on how juicy the mushrooms are – then mix in the suet – it is important that everything is cold otherwise the suet will melt.
Lay 3 large sheets of cling film, approx. 44 x 32cm, on top of each other on a tray or work surface. Pile the haggis mixture in the centre. Fold the longest sides of cling film tightly over the mixture and then twist the ends tightly closed to form a chunky haggis shape, approx. 16cm long. Put in the fridge to firm up overnight.
To cook the haggis, Lay a sheet of foil on a tray or work surface (same size as the cling film) and then place a sheet of baking parchment on top. Carefully unwrap the haggis and carefully place it in the centre of the parchment. It should its hold shape but won’t be completely solid. Fold the parchment over the haggis as you did with the cling film; scrunch the ends gently together and fold the parchment underneath the haggis. Wrap the foil over and twist the ends tightly to retain the haggis shape.
Pour a 1cm depth of water into the bottom of a deep, lidded frying pan or a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, then place the haggis in the water, seam-side up; cover with the lid, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 ¼ hours until piping hot – if you have a food probe, test the centre, it should be at least 75°C to serve.
Carefully drain the haggis and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and place the haggis, still in the parchment, on a warmed serving platter. Open out the parchment and serve straight away, accompanied with mashed turnip and potatoes, and more black pepper if liked.
Note: if you have any haggis leftover, let it cool and chill it down for the next day. Cut into chunky slices and fry for a few minutes on each side until crisp, brown and hot. Serve with tomatoes and oatcakes. This is my favourite way of serving and eating haggis, the oatmeal becomes crunchy and deliciously nutty when fried. Have a good week!
I had planned that my first recipe post of the year would be a recipe bursting with nutrition and vitality – new year, fresh start, etc. However, it’s been so cold these past few days, when it came to it, I simply couldn’t face anything too healthy. Instead, I’ve been in the kitchen keeping warm by baking, and thus, my first recipe of 2018 is one of my favourite cakes.
I took this shot of the garden from an open window about 9am yesterday morning, just as the sun was rising. The image below is the window adjacent to the one I opened – the beautiful ice pattern is on the inside!
So, in my books, cold weather is enough justification for cake, and I start my new year blog posts with one of my “desert island” cakes: a coffee one.
I’ve been using a heritage brand of coffee and chicory essence as a coffee flavouring in baking for as long as I can remember. It was our “turn to” flavouring long before decent barista-style instant coffee and espresso shots came to British shores. Sadly, the glass bottle packaging of old has been replaced by a plastic version (making it look less authentic), but the old-fashioned label is practically unchanged in design and the product within tastes just as good as always. I haven’t found anything that comes close to the concentrated flavour it offers in baking. In summer, I use it to make a base for a deliciously smooth and well-rounded iced coffee, ice-creams and chilled custards.
The sweet, nutty flavour of pecans goes particularly well with coffee. You can use walnuts if you prefer, but I find them a bit overpowering if you really want the taste of coffee to dominate your bake. For this recipe, grind up some of the pecans very finely to make a “flour” for a better formed cake crumb, and then add the remainder as finely chopped pieces for extra nutty texture. I add a little arrowroot to help bind the mixture but you can leave it out if you prefer. I hope you enjoy the flavours as much as I do 🙂
225g pecan halves
125g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
2 level teaspoons gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
175g light brown soft sugar
3 large eggs (or, for a vegan cake, use 180g silken tofu)
175ml sunflower oil
4 tsp Camp coffee essence or similar
50g Demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. Put 125g pecans in a blender or food processor and blitz until very finely ground. Chop the remaining pecan nuts finely.
Sift the flour and arrowroot into a bowl and stir in both lots of pecans along with the sugar. Beat the eggs (or tofu) with the oil until well blended, and then thoroughly mix into the dry ingredients.
Transfer to the prepared tin. Smooth the top and put the tin on a baking tray. Scatter the top of the cake with the Demerara sugar. Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes until risen, lightly cracked, and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when the cake is cooked. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap and store for 24 hours for better flavour and texture.
Happy new year to you all. My very best wishes to my blogging friends for a happy, healthy and peaceful year ahead.
It’s been a quiet start to the year. After a milder, rain-soaked, grey morning, the afternoon brought with it much calmer and brighter weather, with a glorious blue sky, sunshine, and crisp, fresh air.
Enjoy the rest of the holiday. I look forward to starting my regular posts again soon 🙂
January 25th is a Scottish celebration day, commemorating the birth of Scotland’s National poet, Robert Burns. Not wanting to offend my non meat-eating friends, I thought better of posting anything about the traditional savoury supper served on this day, and instead turned my thoughts to something I devised a few years ago, the Chocolate haggis. Much more appealing to all, I think, and perhaps, a wee bit more fun.
My recipe is simply a twist on the classic biscuit or refrigerator cake. You can add any combination of biscuit, fruit and nuts that you fancy. I use Scottish heather honey for the sweetness and flavour, but golden syrup or maple syrup will work just as well for my vegan friends. If you eat butter, you can use this instead of coconut oil. It’s a very versatile mix. Adding a wee tot of whisky is for the celebration; it’s fine without, so I’ll leave that up to you! By the way, I love marzipan, but if it’s not for you, you can achieve a similar effect by using an ivory coloured fondant icing.
Makes 1 haggis – 12 generous slices
125g free from plain chocolate
75g coconut oil (or butter)
2 tbsp golden or maple syrup (or heather honey)
150g free from plain granola or coarse oatcakes, crushed
150g free from shortbread or plain biscuits, crushed
2 tbsp whisky (optional)
Icing sugar to dust
250g natural marzipan
1. Break the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and add the coconut oil and syrup. Sit the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water until melted. Remove from the water and cool for 10 minutes.
2. Mix the granola, shortbread and currants into the melted chocolate and stir in the whisky, if using. Leave in a cool place for about 45 minutes to firm up, but not set completely.
3. Line the work top with a large, double-thickness, square of cling film and pile the chocolate mixture into the centre. Mound it up it to form a fat oval shape about 12cm long. Wrap the cling film round the mix tightly and twist the ends to seal, making a fat sausage shape. Chill for at least 2 hours until very firm.
4. Lightly dust the work surface with icing sugar. Roll out the marzipan to a rectangle approx. 18 x 28cm, and neaten the edges. Unwrap the chocolate haggis and place in the centre of the marzipan. Fold the marzipan over the top to cover the chocolate haggis completely, and then pinch at either end to make the distinct haggis shape. Tie the ends with twine if liked.
5. Cover loosely with cling film and leave at room temperature for about an hour before slicing to serve, accompanied with a wee dram or two. Slàinte!
Happy New Year everyone! Hope you’ve all had a good holiday, and are looking forward to the year ahead. Let’s hope it’s a good one for us all. It’s been a sunny, blue-sky start to the year here in central Scotland – a very uplifting day.
I have had a good, relaxing festive break at home. The weather’s been quite kind and I’ve managed to get outside every now and then. We did have a little snow on Boxing Day, but it cleared by the end of the day, and didn’t cause any damage. On the whole, the garden’s looking a wee bit dull at the moment but there are signs of new life about if you look lard enough. Lots of bulbs are pushing their way through the soil, and the rhubarb plants are shooting up. I have put a large pot over the top of one clump, with the hope of getting some fine pink shoots next month.
For me, the late December holiday is a good time to do some cutting back and pruning, and if the weather permits, I undertake my annual attempt at getting the old apple tree back in shape, ready for the year ahead. I had a good crop of fruit last year; I am keeping everything crossed so that the tree does just as well in 2017.
On the floral front, the Winter jasmine is lovely and vibrant and has a delightful sweet smell; there are also a couple of hebes in flower. One much-treasured little gem, is a perennial primrose which is in bloom for most of the year. I didn’t plant it, it appeared a couple of years ago in a shady, damp part of the garden. The delicate blooms and foliage add some welcome colour and interest through all the mulch and undergrowth that surrounds them.