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!
Happy Easter everyone. I hope you have a good Easter holiday. I’ve had a busy few weeks so Easter has crept up on me and caught me ill-prepared this year. Even though I am having a quiet one at home, I still wanted to do something to mark the occasion. Having no time to bake afresh, I set to this afternoon and transformed my stored and completely forgotten Christmas cake into a Simnel cake, ready to serve this weekend. And very successful it was to.
If you fancy having a go yourself, this is what I did.
Slice a 20cm gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan fruit cake in half and brush both sides with a little apricot jam. Roll out 200g marzipan to fit the cake and place on one half.
Sandwich together with the other piece of cake. Turn the cake upside down and brush with more jam. Roll out a further 200g marzipan to fit the top. I embossed the top using an engraved rolling pin before laying on top of the cake.
Roll 11 x 15g marzipan balls for the top of the cake and either brown lightly under the grill or with a kitchen blow torch. Arrange on top of the cake and serve decorated with mini eggs and fresh primroses.
Until next time, enjoy the colours and flavours of this wonderful season. See you again soon 🙂
Hello everyone. I hope life is treating you well. Time for a foodie post this week, and something to celebrate the fabulous fruit around at the moment. I picked Victoria plums from the garden last weekend and have been busy making compote and jam, and it won’t be long now until the apples and pears are ripe and ready. One of the most delicious fruits I have eaten recently have been fresh peaches (sadly not homegrown). As well as enjoying them just as they are in all their juicy-sweet deliciousness, I made this bake which I thought to share with you.
The bake will work with other seasonal fruits like plums and greengages – you’ll just need to adjust the sweetness accordingly. As well as adding flaked almonds to the topping, I have added my beloved marzipan but this can be left out and sweeten the topping with sugar instead. If you’re not an almond fan, try pecans or toasted hazelnuts and maple syrup, and add finely grated orange rind or vanilla extract for extra flavour.
I did struggle a bit to remove the stones from the fruit as they were a little bit soft, so slightly less ripe work better for neat slices. I add lemon juice to the slices before sweetening as I find that peaches often discolour when cooked.
6 firm to ripe peaches
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
For the topping:
150g gluten-free plain flour blend
75g dairy-free block margarine (or butter), cut into pieces
A pinch of salt
75g marzipan, grated
50g toasted flaked almonds
15g chopped pistachios
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Wash and pat dry the peaches, then cut in half and remove the stones. Cut into thick slices and place in a baking dish. Toss in the lemon juice to help prevent browning. Set aside.
2. For the topping, put the flour in a bowl and add the margarine and salt. Rub the margarine into the flour until well blended. Stir in the marzipan making sure it is well distributed and then stir in the flaked almonds.
3. Mix the sugar and cornflour (cornstarch) into the peaches and sprinkle the topping over the fruit. Put the dish on a baking tray and bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden. Best served warm, sprinkled with pistachios.
That’s all for another week. I hope enjoy the recipe and I look forward to posting again in a few days time. Until then, take care and stay safe 🙂
Hello again. I hope you have been enjoying some good weather these past few days. At last we are enjoying frost-free nights and blue-sky days. Long may it last!
I have been able to pick my first few stalks of rhubarb. I didn’t force any plants this year, so I was delighted to find 5 stems ready for picking so early on in the season.
The week before this rhubarb was ready, I used up my last bag of frozen rhubarb from last summer. I combined it with some frozen ripe bananas I keep in the freezer for making loaf cakes and made a compote. It’s not the best-looking mixture you’ll come across but it tasted great. The sweetness of the banana helped to reduce the sugar content.
I put 450g frozen rhubarb in a saucepan with 230g frozen very ripe banana and cooked them over a low heat with the lid on for about 30 minutes until they had thawed and become very soft. Mix together until well combined. I added 4 tbsp white sugar gradually. Taste and sweeten in small amounts to keep sugar content to a minimum. Best eaten cold for maximum flavour – it makes a lovely breakfast bowl with homemade coconut granola and coconut yogurt. You could make this with fresh rhubarb and ripe bananas, and simply reduce the cooking time.
My second recipe is something I cooked up using the new season’s rhubarb. It is made from a very simple combination of ingredients I had in the fridge and freezer, and is something I was able to put together quickly.
Roll out 300g gluten-free rough puff or puff pastry (or you can use shortcrust if you prefer) to an approximate 25cm square. Trim to neaten the edges, and then keep the trimmings for decoration. Knead and roll 150g natural marzipan to an oblong about 8cm wide and place down the middle of the pastry. Top with 200g chopped fresh rhubarb (cut into 3cm long pieces) and spoon over 100g raspberry jam.
Cut about 10 strips either side of the rhubarb, brush with a little dairy-free milk and fold over the top of the fruit, pressing together gently to seal together. Press the pastry at both ends together in order to seal the marzipan and fruit within.
Transfer to a lined baking tray, brush all over with 1 tbsp dairy-free milk mixed with 1 tbsp maple syrup. Decorate with any trimmings and brush these before baking in a preheated oven at 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6 for about 40 minutes until lightly golden and crisp. Best served warm. Serves: 6
That’s me for another week. I have a busy few days ahead of me now so it will next month before I get to post again. Until then, take care, keep safe, and enjoy the spring sunshine 🙂
Happy Easter! I hope the sun is shining where you are this holiday weekend. I had intended to post this feature a little ahead of the weekend but time has run away with me this week. Actually, to be completely honest, I was ready to post it yesterday until I realised what the date was, and given the unusual ingredient, I thought that my recipe might not be taken seriously. So, here we are at the end of the week, and I’m ready to reveal all 🙂
This is one of the easiest chocolate cake batter recipes you will come across, so even if you don’t have the time to make the chocolate ganache and other finishing touches, do keep the cake batter recipe for trying at a later date with your own icing and decorations. What makes this cake batter a bit alternative is the addition of plain vegan mayonnaise. But, it’s not that weird an addition when you think about it, mayonnaise is just an amalgam of fat and liquid which are 2 of the main ingredients in a cake batter.
However, I must emphasise the word “plain”. Please do check the ingredient list for mustard and/or garlic or anything else highly flavoured i.e. choose a mayonnaise with the least amount of flavouring possible. Taste the mayonnaise before you add it to the other ingredients, just to make sure. If you’re not vegan, a plain egg-based mayonnaise will work as well. The same goes for anyone who is not gluten-free, you can use ordinary plain white wheat flour.
Because it’s Easter and I love marzipan, I have added an additional layer of chocolate marzipan before the ganache gets poured over, and I used some more to make the decorations. If you don’t like marzipan just pour the ganache directly over the cake, and decorate with readymade chocolate decorations. Or you add cocoa powder to ready-to-roll (fondant) white icing in the same way as in the recipe below, and use this to make flowers and eggs instead.
The cake is deliciously rich, moist and flavoursome. It freezes well if you have any left. Once cut, it is best stored in the fridge or at a cool room temperature for up to 5 days. I hope you enjoy it.
140g gluten free plain flour blend
65g cocoa powder plus extra for dusting
17g gluten-free baking powder
¼ tsp xanthan gum (optional but it does help hold the crumb together)
65g ground almonds
175g soft light brown sugar
190g plain vegan mayonnaise
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp smooth apricot jam
250g dairy free dark chocolate (I use 54% cocoa chocolate but use darker if preferred)
125g plant-based block margarine
1. Grease and line a deep 20cm round tin. Put the flour, 50g cocoa, baking powder, xanthan gum and almonds in a bowl and mix together until well blended. Stir in the sugar, and crush any lumps.
2. Make a well in the centre, and add 175ml cold water and the mayonnaise, then beat everything together until smooth and thoroughly blended. Spoon into the tin, smooth the top and put the tin on a baking tray.
3. Bake for about 1hr to 1hr 10 minutes until risen and firm to the touch – test the centre with a skewer, if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Leave for 10 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool completely. The cake may sink slightly in the middle. When the cake is cold, turn it upside down and peel away the lining paper.
4. While the cake is cooling, make the marzipan. Knead the marzipan a few times to soften it. Flatten slightly then add 1tsp of the remaining cocoa powder. Fold the marzipan over the cocoa and keep kneading until the cocoa is distributed evenly in the marzipan. Repeat the process, adding the cocoa gradually, until it is used up.
5. Cut off a 75g piece and put to one side. Lightly dust the work top with more cocoa powder and roll out the remaining marzipan to fit the top of the cake. I use the tin base as a template to cut out a neat circle.
6. Brush the cake with apricot jam and sit the marzipan circle on top. Any marzipan trimmings can be added to the reserved piece and used to make decorations.
7. For the ganache, break up the chocolate and place in a saucepan with the margarine and 50ml water. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together. Remove from the heat, stir well, then leave to cool for about 20-30 minutes. You want the mixture to thicken sufficiently so that it doesn’t run straight off the cake when you pour it over.
8. Once thickened, sit the cake and wire rack over a tray or board. Slowly pour the ganache over the top of the cake from the middle, in a thin stream. If you want a completely smooth finish, continue pouring so that the ganache floods down the sides of the cake to coat them. Alternatively, pour and spread for a more textured appearance. Any ganache that sets on the tray underneath can be scooped up and remelted.
Once the cake is covered, the ganache will set quite firmly if chilled, then you can prise the cake from the rack. If you have a cool kitchen, leave the cake to set naturally; the ganache will be slightly softer and it will be easier to remove it from the rack. Make the decorations while the cake is setting and then all you have to do is decorate the cake, serve it up and take in all the praise 🙂
Hello everyone. I hope you are keeping well. I’ve had a busy few days since my last post. There seems to be lots to do in the garden and kitchen at the moment. Plenty of tidying up (and weeding!) in the garden, and the much anticipated home-grown fruit and veg is ripe and ready so lots to cook up and freeze as well.
This week’s post is an homage to my Glen Ample raspberry canes which have produced a phenomenal 6.3kg of berries this year. Rather forlornly, I picked the last few berries this week.
The canes are now having a well-earned rest and enjoying some sunshine – they had been covered with fleece for over a month as the birds took a fancy to the berries early on.
As you can imagine, I’ve had a lot of berries to play with but a combination of jam, vinegar, compote and a couple of large bags for the freezer has seen them all used up. By the way, compote makes the dish sound a bit grander, I literally cooked them with a bit of sugar to eat with my morning porridge!
Links to all my other raspberry recipes can be found by clicking on the key-words below:
On with this week’s recipe. Another reinvention of a crumble-topped cake – they are so easy to make, and taste delicious, I just can’t resist making them! Leave out the pistachios or replace with almonds or hazelnuts if you prefer, and the marzipan layer is optional (I realise it’s not to everyone’s taste) but you may want to add some sugar to the raspberry mixture if you don’t use it.
180g dairy-free margarine, softened
100g vanilla or plain caster sugar
100g ground almonds
260g gluten free plain flour blend (such as Doves Farm)
50g unsalted pistachio nuts, finely chopped + extra pistachios to decorate
150g marzipan, grated (optional)
300g fresh raspberries
1 tbsp cornflour
Icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a deep 20cm round cake tin – I used a spring-clip tin for ease. In a mixing bowl, beat together the margarine and sugar until creamy, then stir in the almonds, flour and pistachios to make a crumbly mixture.
Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the tin, prick with a fork and put the in on a baking tray. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly golden round the edge. Sprinkle the marzipan all over the cooked base if using and put to one side.
Mash the raspberries with a fork and add the cornflour – if you are not using marzipan add 2 tbsp caster sugar to the raspberry mix as well. Spoon over the marzipan layer and spread out evenly.
Sprinkle over the remaining crumble mixture, pat down lightly with the back of a spoon and bake for about 40 minutes until lightly golden. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before releasing and transferring to a serving plate to serve warm, or leave to cool completely in the tin to serve cold.
Serve this cake warm as a dessert with cream, yogurt or custard or cold as a delicious and indulgent slice to accompany a cup of coffee.
Until next time, thanks for stopping by. Take care. I will be posting again soon 🙂
Well, I admit, not quite “icing” on top of my Christmas cake this year, but a delicious layer of marzipan instead. If you’re not a fan of almond paste, then a layer of ready-to-roll white icing will do the trick just as well.
This is the sugar and spice fruit cake I made back in November – recipe here. It’s turned out ok and smells divine. I can’t wait to tuck in.
If you want to marzipan or ice the top of a cake, it’s quite straightforward. For an 18cm round cake like this one, you’ll need 250g marzipan or ready-to-roll icing for a reasonably thick layer. Knead it gently to soften a little (this will make it easier to roll), then dust the work top lightly with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan or icing to form a rough 19cm circle. Use the base of the tin that you cooked your cake in as a template to cut yourself a neat round.
Unwrap your cake, turn it upside down to give a smooth surface and brush with some smooth apricot jam – I like to add a splash of rum to the jam for an extra kick. Carefully transfer the marzipan or icing circle to the top of the cake and smooth it in place.
Now your cake is ready to decorate and tie with ribbon for a finishing touch. I have used glacé cherries with fresh bay leaves and rosemary sprigs for a very simple yet festive decoration, but I’m sure you will have your own ideas.
This is my last post before Christmas. Thank you all for stopping by over the past 12 months and for your lovely comments. I hope you have a good time over the holidays and I send you my best wishes for a happy and healthy festive time. I look forward to posting again in the new year.
I’ve been back in the kitchen this week, making something deliciously sweet and impressive for the Easter holidays. I’ve come up with a dessert that is very easy to make, inspired by the flavours of Italy, and is everything you want to round off a celebratory Easter meal (but with no chocolate in sight – gasp, shock, horror!).
You can add your own choice of chopped dried or candied fruit and nuts – it’s a great recipe to use up the bits and pieces you have leftover (and you could even add chunks of chocolate if you really want to!). Flavoured with marzipan, mincemeat and Marsala wine, it’s a dessert that would also be right at home on the Christmas table as well.
Here’s what to do:
115g golden marzipan (use plain if you prefer but the golden variety adds a little colour to the semifreddo), chopped
600ml dairy-free single “cream” (I use oat cream, but soya cream or canned coconut milk would also work)
150g vegan mincemeat
100g glacé cherries, chopped
25g pistachio nuts, chopped
3 tbsp. Marsala wine (or use sweet sherry or cherry brandy)
Extra cherries and pistachios to decorate
Line a 1kg loaf tin with a double layer of cling film. Put the marzipan in a saucepan and pour over the dairy-free “cream”. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together.
Remove from the heat, mix well then stir in the remaining ingredients and leave to cool completely.
Transfer to a freezer container at least 1.1l capacity, cover and freeze for 2 to 2½ hours until starting to turn slushy. Mix well then freeze for a further hour or so until icy and stiffened. Mix well to distribute all the pieces and pack into the loaf tin. Freeze for at least 2 hours to firm up enough to slice. For prolonged freezing, fold over the cling film and wrap in foil. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To serve, gently ease the semifreddo from the tin using the cling film. Place on a serving plate and discard the cling film. Scatter with more cherries and pistachios. Slice, serve and enjoy! Happy Easter everyone 🙂
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!
The garden’s taken a bit of a battering this week. It’s been very windy since the weekend and yesterday the remnants of the recent US Hurricane blew through. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to have been too much damage, but any plums that I left on the tree are no longer.
I had been picking the Victoria plums since the beginning of last week, and thankfully harvested the majority of what was left at the weekend. I’ve been busy making jam, and freezing a few in bags for later use. The tree is only small, but it has done very well this year in spite of the dry summer, although some of the plums are smaller than usual.
Stoned fruit like plums, apricots and peaches go very well with the flavour of almond. If you crack the stones open, the inner part of the kernel has a strong almond aroma – I always add the kernels, in a muslin bag, to jam as it cooks, to give it more flavour. I realise marzipan isn’t to everyone’s taste, but is one of my favourite ingredients and in my mind, is perfect for eating with plums. This week’s recipe will work fine without it, the cake will be lighter in texture and will cook slightly quicker.
You can make this cake with most fruit, just be aware that if a fruit is very juicy, the bottom of the cake will be quite sticky and may not completely cook through. The cake also makes a great pudding served warm with custard. I use spelt flour, the white variety, for this cake, but use gluten-free plain if you’re intolerant to wheat, and ordinary plain white flour if you don’t have spelt.
300g golden caster sugar
175g dairy-free margarine
175g non-dairy yogurt (coconut or soya work well)
175ml unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used soya)
190g white spelt flour (or gluten-free plain flour)
12g gluten-free baking powder
175g ground almonds
175g marzipan, cut into small pieces
20g flaked almonds, toasted
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a deep, 23cm round cake tin. Sprinkle the base of the tin with 2 tbsp. sugar and put to one side.
Halve the plums and remove the stones, then arrange in the bottom of the tin to cover it completely. If you have any plums left over, chop them and sprinkle them over the layer of plums.
Put the margarine in a bowl with the remaining sugar and whisk together for 3-4 minutes until creamy and light in texture and colour. Gently whisk in the yogurt and dairy-free milk with half the flour until well blended. Sieve the remaining flour and baking powder on top; add the ground almonds and marzipan, and mix everything together until thoroughly blended.
Spoon the cake mixture on top of the plums and smooth over the top. Put the tin on a baking tray and bake for about 1 ½ hours until richly golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool for at least 30 minutes in the tin before serving warm, or leave to cool completely in the tin if serving as a cake.
To serve, turn the cake out on to a serving plate and sprinkle with flaked almonds to serve.
I pulled my first stems of rhubarb at the weekend. The 3 crowns I re-planted back in the Autumn are doing well in their new patch (watched over by 2 stone rabbits), and it is looking likely that there will be plenty more stems before the summer is over.
To celebrate my first harvest, I have a simple rhubarb recipe to share this week. It’s a pastry classic, and gets its name from a slatted louvre window because it has thin slits cut across its top which give a glimpse of the filling inside. I’ve combined the tartness of the fresh rhubarb with the sweet, richness of marzipan, but I realise this is an ingredient not to everyone’s taste, so if you’re not a marzipan fan, simply leave it out altogether or make a thick vanilla custard instead and spread this across the pastry instead.
Serve this delicious pastry warm as a dessert with custard or leave to go cold and enjoy a slice as a pastry with a cup of coffee.
300g fresh rhubarb
40g caster or vanilla sugar
325g gluten-free, vegan puff pastry (such as Silly Yak)
125g natural marzipan, coarsely grated
A little dairy-free milk, optional
50g icing sugar
A few drops almond extract
A few toasted flaked almonds
Trim the rhubarb and cut into short, even-thickness lengths. Place in a frying pan, sprinkle over the sugar and heat gently until steaming. Cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes until tender. Leave to cool completely. Cooking rhubarb this way means you will have little juice which is important in this recipe in order to keep the pastry crisp.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan oven, gas 7). Line a large flat baking tray with baking parchment. Divide the pastry into 2 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of pastry to make a rectangle 28 x 15cm.
Sprinkle over the marzipan, leaving about 2cm pastry showing all round the edge, and spread the rhubarb on top. Brush the pastry edge with water or little dairy-free milk if preferred.
Roll the other piece of pastry to a rectangle slightly larger than the bottom piece and carefully lay the pastry on top. Press down the edges well to seal them together and slice off any ragged pastry to neaten the edge.
Using a sharp knife, cut thin slashes through the top of the pastry to make the slatted effect. Carefully transfer the pastry to the baking tray, brush with dairy-free milk if liked and bake for about 30 minutes until browned. Leave on the tray to cool for 30 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool further.
To decorate, sieve the icing sugar into a small bowl and mix in a few drops of almond extract and about 2 teasp warm water to make a smooth, drizzling icing. Use a teaspoon to drip the icing all over the top of the warm or cold pastry and then scatter with almonds. Transfer to a serving plate or board to slice and serve.