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!
When I was planning what to put on my blog this week, it was snowing, and inevitably my thoughts turned to comfort food. This week’s recipe has a double dose of carbs, guaranteed to satisfy even the most hearty of appetites. It is a fragrant, fruity pilau rice cooked in a pan with thinly sliced potatoes. I ask you, what’s not to like?
The basmati rice is flavoured with the warming spices straight from the souks of Persia: cumin, coriander and cardamom. I always lightly toast cumin and coriander seeds before grinding them in a pestle and mortar; this helps release their inmost aromatic essences. Split the cardamom pods and either leave whole in the rice or pick out the tiny black seed from the green casing and crush into the mixture for a more intense flavour. If you are leaving them whole, remember to warn your fellow diners in case they come across one of the pods when the dish is served. Forewarned is forearmed!
Staying with the Persian theme, I added some dried barberries to the rice. These reddish-orange small dry berries are tart and tanniny – they remind me of rose-hip – and are a classic ingredient in Persian cooking. If you can’t find them, chop some dried cranberries or dried sour cherries to use instead. When combined with sweet, juicy sultanas, you get the perfect balance of sweet and sour to flavour your pilau.
There is a bit of preparation to do before you start cooking, but the dish reheats very well if you want to make it up in advance, and will also freeze too. The pilau cake makes a substantial main meal served with fresh veg or a crisp salad, or serve in smaller wedges as an accompaniment.
Serves: 4 to 6
200g basmati rice
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp each coriander seeds and cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
6 green cardamom pods, split (or seeds removed and finely crushed)
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
10g dried barberries
350g firm-fleshed salad potatoes such as Charlotte, scrubbed
3 tbsp. cold-pressed rapeseed oil (or olive or sunflower oil)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
Fresh coriander to serve
Put the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 2 hours, then drain and rinse well. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the salt and spices and then add the rice. Bring back to the boil and cook uncovered for 2 minutes until the rice is very slightly tender and opaque.
Drain and rinse the rice in cold running water to remove the excess starch. Shake off the excess water and return to the saucepan. Stir in the dried fruit.
Meanwhile, very thinly and evenly slice the potatoes. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a 22cm diameter frying pan and gently fry the potatoes for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring, to coat them in the oil. Remove from the heat and arrange the potatoes in a neat layer over the bottom of the frying pan. Sprinkle with the garlic.
Pack the rice mixture on top. Make indents in the rice using the end of a wooden spoon and drizzle over the remaining oil.
Cover with a layer of foil and then place a lid on top of the pan. Cook over a very low heat, undisturbed, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and foil, check that the rice and potatoes are tender, then raise the heat and cook uncovered for 4-5 minutes to brown the potatoes. Turn off the heat, cover loosely, and stand for 10 minutes.
To serve, place a large serving plate over the frying pan and carefully flip the pan over to turn the contents on to the plate. Leave the pan in place for a couple of minutes before removing to allow the potato and rice to settle. Serve immediately, potato-side up, sprinkled with fresh coriander.
To freeze, turn the cooked rice cake on to a freezer-proof plate or board, allow to cool, wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
To reheat, transfer to a baking tray lined with baking parchment, cover with foil and reheat in a preheated oven at 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4, for about 30 minutes until piping hot. Serve as above.
A comforting winter-warmer recipe for you this week, although the weather is unseasonably mild here at the moment, it seems less appropriate to write that now.
I used to really enjoy eating potato dauphinoise, but the heavy dairy content of the dish just doesn’t agree with me any more. After a few try-outs, this is my deliciously spicy and pleasantly creamy alternative. The recipe is light enough to enjoy at any time of the year. You can use any combination of root vegetables, and it works well with other spice combinations like a Thai curry paste or Chinese curry powder. I simply replaced the cream content with coconut milk.
I chose turnip (swede), sweet potatoes and potatoes for my bake, and opted for a medium curry powder. As with any layered root vegetable dish, make sure you slice up the roots as thinly as possible and arrange them in the dish neatly so that everything cooks evenly. Once the vegetable preparation is out of the way, the rest of the assembly is very simple.
So without further delay, on with the recipe. By the way, it tastes just as good (if not better) reheated the next day, and freezes well too. I hope you enjoy it 🙂
Serves: 4 to 6
75g dairy-free margarine, softened
1kg mixed roots such as turnip (swede), sweet potato, potato, parsnip, carrot, etc.
1 ½ tsp salt
400ml can coconut milk
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3-4 tsp medium curry powder (depending on your taste)
1 tsp black onion seeds
Fresh coriander and chopped chilli to sprinkle
Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 3. Use half of the margarine to thickly smear round the inside of an approx. 1.8l baking dish.
Peel all the root vegetables and slice very thinly. Either mix all the vegetables together and arrange neatly in the dish, or arrange in individual layers, sprinkling with salt as you go.
Mix the coconut milk, garlic and curry powder together and pour over the vegetables.
Dot the top with the remaining margarine, place the dish on a baking tray and cover with foil. Bake for 2 hours. Remove the foil and continue to cook for a further 30 minutes until golden and all the vegetables are meltingly tender.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the black onion seeds. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving sprinkled with coriander and fresh chilli. To freeze, omit the coriander and chilli sprinkle. Allow the dauphinoise to cool completely, and then either freeze whole (if the dish is freezer-proof) or divide into portions. Wrap well, label and freeze for up to 6 months. To reheat, defrost in the fridge overnight, then cook, covered in foil, at 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4 for 25-35 minutes depending on portion size, until piping hot.
I’m feeling a bit pleased with myself this week. I have just dug up the first couple of sweet potato plants and harvested a reasonable crop. I planted the “slips” back in early June in my unheated greenhouse, and with the wonderful summer we had this year along with plenty of watering, the plants flourished.
To be honest, the sweet potatoes did better than the regular potatoes I planted outside. I grew my favourite variety, Pink Fir, which have knobbly pink skins and a delicious flaky texture inside. I had a fair crop, but I think the lack of natural rain water did inhibit their growth.
This week’s recipe combines the two varieties to make one of my favourite Italian meals, the floury potato dumplings known as gnocchi. Adding sweet potato in the mix gives the dumplings a light golden colour, and subtle sweet flavour.
Choose a dry textured white potato to mix with the sweet potato, and you’ll have the perfect textured gnocchi. Because my sweet potatoes were home-grown, they were quite small in comparison to ones I can buy. To make the perfect gnocchi, you cook the potato whole, in the skin, so you may need to cut up the potatoes if they are very large to make sure both varieties cook evenly and in a reasonable time.
Once the dumplings are cooked through, I like to pop them in a heated pan with some melted dairy-free margarine and olive oil, and stir fry them for a few minutes to crisp up the outsides. The more traditional way of serving gnocchi is simply freshly boiled, seasoned, and then accompanied with the dressing of your choice – I like to dress freshly cooked gnocchi with extra virgin olive oil, some fresh basil and wild rocket leaves. I hope you enjoy the recipe.
Serves: 3 to 4
450g same-size sweet and white potatoes, scrubbed
Approx. 100g gluten-free plain flour blend (I use Dove’s Farm)
25ml good quality olive oil
Put the whole potatoes, unpeeled, in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender – mine took about 15 minutes. Drain well, and leave to cool for about 10 minutes until just cool enough to handle, then slip off the skins.
For perfectly smooth gnocchi, process the cooked potatoes by pushing through a ricer or wide meshed metal sieve, directly on to the work top, then work in sufficient flour, along with ½ tsp salt and the olive oil to make a smooth, firm dough.
Leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes on the work top, then divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into long rolls about 2cm thick, and cut each roll into 2cm wide chunks. You should be able to make about 50 pieces in total.
To achieve the distinctive shape of the dumplings, roll the potato pieces into a balls and gently press your finger into the centre of each to make an indent, then roll onto the prongs of a fork to make the pattern. Spread out the prepared gnocchi on a clean floured tea-towel.
To cook, bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the dumplings gently, in 2 batches, for 2-3 minutes until they float to the surface, then remove from the saucepan using a slotted spoon and place them in a warm serving dish. Cover and keep warm while you prepare the remaining gnocchi in the same way. Serve immediately with your favourite accompaniment. Buon Appetito!
I like all root vegetables, but sadly I struggle to grow anything other than potatoes. Fortunately, I am able to buy a good variety from local farm shops and this feels like the next best thing to growing them myself. This week’s recipe can be made with any root you have to hand. The cooking method bakes the different vegetable layers to a melting-tenderness and is a perfect choice if you want a vegetable dish suitable for preparing ahead. Once the basic layering and baking is done, the cooked vegetables will sit quite happily in the fridge for a couple of days before baking again to serve. You can scale the recipe up easily if you’re feeding a crowd and mix and match the vegetables you use.
My version makes an 18cm square layer which cuts neatly into 9 portions and uses sweet potatoes, turnip (or swede, depending on where you come from) and potatoes, but carrots, parsnips and celeriac work fine as well, and you can also use just 1kg of your favourite root, if you prefer. The most important things to remember are to slice the vegetables thinly and evenly (preferably use a food processor or mandolin) and make sure you cook the vegetables until completely tender during the first baking – test with a skewer to be completely sure.
Makes 9 portions
300g sweet potatoes
300g turnip (swede)
400g main crop potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Piper
75ml vegetable stock
3 tbsp. olive oil
40g dairy-free margarine (or butter if you eat it)
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line a straight-sided, deep 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment.
Peel and thinly slice all the vegetables – I use a food processor for this. Either layer in the tin individually or mix all the vegetables together and arrange evenly in the tin.
Pour over the stock and drizzle with the oil. Cover the top of the tin with foil and bake for at least an hour until completely tender. Remove the foil and leave to cool completely.
Cut a square of firm cardboard the same size as the inside of the tin and wrap in a layer of foil. Place a sheet of baking parchment over the vegetables and sit the foil-wrapped board on top. Weigh down the vegetables evenly using 3 or 4 same-weight cans or jars and chill overnight or for up to 2 days before serving.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6). Remove the weights, foil board and baking parchment and carefully remove the pressed vegetable square from the tin.
Cut into 9 squares and arrange on a lined baking tray. Melt the margarine (or butter) and mix in the garlic and seasoning. Brush the mixture generously over the vegetable squares.
Bake the squares for about 30 minutes until golden and hot. Serve immediately sprinkled with chopped parsley. A great accompaniment to any kind of roast.
Great name for a recipe eh? What’s more, I haven’t made it up. This is a Scottish classic, and I’ve chosen to post it now for 2 reasons. It’s been very cold here this week and this is fabulous comfort food, and also with the festive season nearly upon us, it is an excellent recipe for using up leftovers. It uses 2 of my favourite vegetables, potatoes and kale (or cabbage).
I love kale. So much flavour and texture, I think it out-strips cabbage and other greens in every way. Up until a couple of years ago, Cavelo Nero, Italian black kale, was my favourite variety, but then along came mini kale and my mind was changed. Very quick to cook, simple to prepare, with a milder, slightly sweet and nutty flavour, it looks very pretty too. The small leaves are also excellent raw in winter salads.
So on with the recipe. Traditionally, this is a very simple combination of leftover cooked potatoes and cabbage fried with onion and then grilled with cheese on top. What’s not to like? The name, by the way, is believed to come from the combination of the “thumping” sound associated with mashing potato and the mixing together of the ingredients (a “rumble”). Here’s my version.
Serves: 3 to 4 as a side dish
150g mini kale, kale, cabbage or other greens (if you have leftovers, you’re halfway there with the recipe already)
500g cooked potatoes (I had some boiled small potatoes with skins on to use up)
25g butter or dairy-free margarine
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 leek, trimmed and shredded (or use thinly sliced onion if you prefer)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g grated Scottish Cheddar or dairy-free/vegan grated cheese
If you are starting from scratch, prepare the greens and cook them in lightly salted water for 3-5 minutes until just tender. Drain well.
Put the potatoes in a bowl and mash them to crush slightly.
In a large frying pan, melt the butter with the oil and gently fry the leek for 3-4 minutes until softened (if you’re using onion, cook it gently for longer, until tender).
Stir in the potatoes and greens, and stir fry the vegetables gently together for 5-6 minutes until thoroughly heated. Season well and transfer to a heatproof dish.
Preheat the grill to medium/hot. Sprinkle the vegetables with grated cheese and grill for about 5 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.
The best things in life are often the simplest. These wise words certainly apply to my recipe this week. There aren’t many dishes more straightforward than a tattie scone. Just 3 ingredients, plus some oil to cook them in, and that’s it.
The tattie (potato) scone is synonymous with Scotland. Just about every self-respecting baker makes his or her own, and no supermarket bakery aisle is complete without them. The scones are a good way of using up leftover boiled potato which is mashed and bound with wheat flour, but gluten-free works fine. Tattie scones are usually quite thin, but I make mine a bit thicker (about 1cm) as I find the mixture easier to work with. Eat them warm as part of a savoury meal (often served as part of a hearty breakfast) or as a snack spread with butter and jam. The scones make a great alternative to bread as an accompaniment to a soup or stew as they are perfect for mopping up gravy or a sauce.
I dug up the last of my home-grown potatoes this week, and decided that there was no better way to enjoy them, than by making up a batch of my own scones. I’ve been growing the same main crop variety (Pink Fir Apple) for a few years now, and haven’t found any other to rival it in texture or flavour. The potatoes are pink-skinned and can be very knobbly indeed. The flesh is creamy-yellow in colour, sometimes flecked or ringed with pink, and when cooked, it becomes dry and floury in texture. The flavour is slightly sweet and earthy. Pink Fir Apples potatoes are perfect for crushed or mashed potato. and also roast well. They can be cooked and eaten peeled or unpeeled.
Here’s my recipe.
400g main crop potatoes
1 tsp salt
40g gluten-free self-raising flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
Vegetable oil for frying
Peel the potatoes thinly, cut into small pieces, and place in a saucepan. Cover with water and add half the salt. Bring to the boil and cook for 8-10 minutes or until completely tender. Drain well through a colander or strainer, and leave to air-dry for 10 minutes.
Return the potatoes to the saucepan and mash finely with a potato masher. If you have a ricer, use this to achieve a super-smooth texture.
While the mash is still fairly hot, add the remaining salt and sift the flour on top. Gently work the ingredients together to make a pliable dough.
Turn the dough on to a lightly floured work surface and roll to form a round about 18cm diameter – roll to 20cm for slightly thinner scones. Cut into 6 triangular wedges.
Brush a large frying pan or flat griddle pan generously with oil and heat until hot. Cook the scones for 2-3 minutes on each side until lightly golden. Drain and serve warm. You can reheat the scones successfully, by either popping them in the frying pan again or under the grill to lightly toast them.
It’s been a cold week all over the UK; the first snow of the year settled in the garden a few days ago, transforming it into a “Winter Wonderland” overnight. As soon as a chill sets in, my thoughts immediately turn to comfort food.
I am a huge potato fan and this week seemed like the perfect excuse to make my favourite mash potato recipe. Perfectly cooked potatoes, a generous handful of chopped parley, lashings of good quality olive oil, a good pinch of sea salt and some fresh garlic. It’s a delicious that mash seems to go with everything.
For the best result, you need to choose a potato that mashes well. My preference is King Edward, it’s got good flavour and a dry, floury texture when cooked. Cook the prepared potatoes until they are completely tender. Drain well and then give them a good thump with a potato masher. If you don’t mind a few lumps, leave it at that, but if I’ve got the time, I like to press the mash through a ricer for the smoothest, silkiest texture possible. It’s up to you how much garlic, parsley and seasoning you add, but do use a really tasty olive oil. A good quality extra virgin (cold pressed is even better) oil will not only add flavour and colour, but will add to the indulgence of the finished mash. Only warm the oil, never heat it beyond warm, otherwise the health and flavour benefits will be lost.
900g main crop potatoes, such as King Edward or Maris Piper
4 plump garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp sunflower oil
Large handful of fresh curly parsley, washed, thick stalks removed, and finely chopped (I like to add about 25g chopped parsley to this quantity of potato)
6 tbsp good quality, extra virgin cold pressed olive oil + extra for serving, if liked
Thinly peel the potatoes. Cut into chunky pieces and rinse in cold water. Place in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Add a pinch of salt, bring to the boil and cook until completely tender (12-15 minutes, depending on how thick you’ve cut them up). Drain well through a strainer, and leave to air dry for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the sunflower oil in a small saucepan and very gently fry the garlic for 1-2 minutes until tender but not browned. Remove from the heat.
Return the potatoes to the saucepan and mash well. If you’re not using a ricer, stir in the parsley and cover. If you are ricing the mash, press the potato into a warm bowl, stir in the parsley, and cover the whole bowl with foil.
Stir the olive oil into the cooked garlic and place the saucepan over a very low heat for 2-3 minutes to gently warm the oil.
Stir the warm oil into the parsley mash. Taste and season. Pile into a warm serving dish. Drizzle with more olive oil if liked, and serve immediately. Mmmm…mmmmm.
Today has been my first opportunity to get into the garden for a while. Work has got in the way, and the weather has been pretty grim, so I seized the opportunity this morning and spent a couple of hours getting some fresh air and taking stock.
I was delighted to pick a bowl of late ripening raspberries – a delicious breakfast treat for tomorrow morning. I had expected that the birds would have been tucking in during my absence, but they are obviously feeding elsewhere.
We have had an unusually mild September, and it’s really only been these past couple of weeks that the temperature has gone down a few degrees, but we have yet to have a frost. As a result, my runner beans flowered again, and tonight I will be enjoying freshly picked, homegrown beans with my supper – a first for me at this time of year.
Scotland has an ideal climate for growing potatoes, and the Pink Fir variety I planted this year have done very well. Not usually a high yielding potato, I have been pleasantly surprised by how many potatoes the plants have produced so far, and I have plenty more to dig. Their cream coloured flesh is flaky and dry, and the pink, knobbly skin adds nuttiness to the flavour; they boil and roast well.
Last year, I didn’t get the chance to try any eating apples from the garden. One of my trees produced no fruit at all, and the apples from on other tree were enjoyed by the birds before I got a look in! I have victory over my feathered friends this year, although I did leave a few of the really wee ones on the tree for the colder weather, when the birds do finally get peckish. I am looking forward to trying the apples; they are quite small but look very enticing with their shiny scarlet blush.