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 posted my last garden round-up back on August 9th, only one or two of these beautiful white Japanese anemones were in bloom. Here we are some eight weeks later, and they are looking magnificent in the flower-beds. Having survived the storm of last week, and the breezy weather we have had recently, they continue to flower when most plants around them are dying back.
I have a lot of meadow cranesbill (hardy geranium) in the garden. I love the fragrant bright green foliage which trails over just about every wall. I cut back the first flowers when they started dying back a few weeks ago, and now there are new fresh pink blooms about the flower-beds to keep summery thoughts alive.
However, it is autumn, and these lilac crocus are popping up all over the place to remind me of the change of season. I love these strange, top-heavy flowers that poke out of the bare soil with no leaves and long mauve stalks. The rich, golden stamens smell of saffron, and on a warm day, the aroma is truly delicious.
It’s been a fantastic year for fruit. The old cooking apple tree is laden. I’ve been busy cooking up the wind-falls while the main crop still remains on the tree. I have two miniature eating apple trees in another part of the garden. These rarely produce more than half a dozen apples, but this year, I have enough to fill a large fruit-bowl,
I am particularly pleased with the crop of Concorde pears on a small tree at the top of the garden. I have had the tree for about a decade, and it hasn’t fruited very well until this year. The pears keep very well, so I will be able to enjoy them over the next few weeks. I’m sure there will be a pear recipe posted from me in the next few weeks.
In the same part of the garden, the Autumn-fruiting raspberries are ripening. I never have very many at a time, but a few berries ripen every two to three days, and are just enough to occasionally scatter over my morning granola.
It’s not been a good year for the roses in the garden. Too dry I think. However, there are a few second buds forming now, so if the sunny weather continues a while longer, I may get a few more blooms like this beauty. Until next week, my best wishes to you.
I had planned a garden round-up for this week’s post. However, the long spell of fine weather has finally broken and I haven’t been able to get outside that much this past week. To be honest, the hot spell has left the garden looking a bit sad and lacking in colour. So, instead of a weekend in the garden, I got the jam pan out of the cupboard and made some jelly preserve with the last of my raspberries.
A jelly preserve takes a bit more time to make than most other jams, but if you do find yourself in a preserving mood, I can recommend having a go, as the reward is great and the flavour, intense and rich.
You will need some clean muslin if you don’t have a jelly making bag, but if you are only making a small amount, as per the quantity below, you don’t need any other special equipment, although a sugar thermometer will help take the guess-work out of judging when the jelly has cooked sufficiently. All you need to ensure is that all the equipment and jam-jars you use are very clean; this will enable you to store your preserves for as long as required.
Makes: approx. 650g
450g prepared raspberries, washed
450g prepared rhubarb, washed and chopped into small pieces
Approx. 500g granulated sugar
Approx. 25ml fresh lemon juice
Mash the raspberries to release the juices and place in a saucepan. Stir in the chopped rhubarb and 2 tbsp. water. Heat gently until steaming, then cover and cook for 6-7 minutes until very soft.
2. While the fruit is cooking, set up the muslin or jelly bag ready for straining the juice. I use a tall jug which I can suspend a jelly bag over the top. Otherwise, a large nylon sieve lined with muslin, suspended over a bowl will work well. The volume of liquid produced by following this recipe will not be much greater than 500ml, so you don’t need a massive collecting container. Make sure it is stable so that it can’t tip over when you add the fruit.
3. Carefully spoon the hot fruit and juices into the bag or muslin, and then leave undisturbed for several hours until the fruit stops dripping. Don’t be tempted to press or squeeze the fruit as this will make a cloudy preserve. Discard the pulp. Measure the juice and work out the quantity of sugar and lemon juice required. You need 75g sugar and 5ml lemon juice per 100ml juice.
4. Pour the juice into a large saucepan and heat gently until hot, then stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and continue stirring over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.
5. Raise the heat and bring to the boil, then boil rapidly until setting point is reached – between 104° and 105°C on a sugar thermometer. Skim away any scum that rises to the surface during boiling. Pour into clean, hot jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 6 months, but the preserve is ready to eat as soon as you want! Delish 🙂
It’s peak raspberry season here in central Scotland, and the juicy red fruits are coming thick and fast. I have bags of berries in the freezer already for jam making later on in the year, but right now, I’m enjoying them cooked in a compote with rhubarb on my breakfast granola and as an occasional treat in a fruity dessert.
My recipe this week takes me back to my childhood. We often had jelly for dessert as kids. Using fresh fruit takes a bit of effort but the flavour can’t be beaten. The variety of raspberries I grow are called Glen Ample. They are ideal for cooking because they are very juicy and flavoursome, but they do lack sweetness when eaten fresh. You may need to alter the amount of sugar and water in the recipe if you have a different variety.
To set jellies, I use the Dr Oetker product ‘Vege-Gel’, which is a gelling powder made from Carrageenan. It gives a lovely silky, smooth soft texture. You’ll need to alter the preparation instructions if you prefer to use another setting agent.
To finish the jellies off, I made a free-from white ‘chocolate’ and coconut ganache to top the jellies for an extra special indulgence. Use dark chocolate if you prefer something less sweet.
450g fresh raspberries
100g caster sugar (or amount to taste)
6.5g sachet Vege-Gel (Dr Oetker)
100g free-from white ‘chocolate’
50g dairy-free coconut milk yogurt
Fresh raspberries and raspberry leaves to decorate
Rinse the raspberries and shake off the excess water. Put in a saucepan with the sugar and 75ml water. Heat gently, stirring occasionally and carefully, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes without stirring. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Place a nylon sieve over a heatproof jug and strain the raspberry mixture through. Leave to cool completely then discard the pulp. Try to avoid squeezing the raspberry mixture in the sieve as this will make the jelly cloudy.
Pour 200ml cold water into a bowl and sprinkle over the Vege-Gel powder. Whisk until completely dissolved. Pour into a saucepan and add the raspberry juice. Heat the mixture to boiling point and then leave to cool for about 30 minutes. As the liquid cools, the mixture begins to set, so keep an eye on it to avoid it setting completely in the saucepan.
Divide the mixture between tumblers or heatproof glasses – the glasses need to be at least 150ml capacity. Leave to cool completely, then chill for an hour until firm.
For the topping, melt the free-from chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then stir in the yogurt. Spoon on top of each jelly and return to the fridge for a further hour to set. Decorate, serve and enjoy 🙂
Raspberries love the Scottish climate (lots of rain!). The plump, juicy berries carry on ripening even on the most dreary of summer days. I have been picking my raspberries since the end of last month. Sadly, it looks like the end is nearly nigh; the supply is dwindling, but there are still enough to bag up for the freezer for later in the year, and then I will leave the rest for the blackbirds!
The bushes in the garden are now in their twelfth year, and have given me a good harvest every season. However, I think this autumn, it will be the time to plant some new canes. The variety I chose to grow is Glen Ample; selected for the large-sized fruit, and as the label said at the time, “perfect for cooking and jam-making”. And, they have certainly proven to be.
If you’ve never made jam before, raspberry jam is the easiest to make. It practically sets as soon as the fruit and sugar boils. Frozen raspberries work equally as well for jam-making; whilst other fruit loses pectin (the natural setting agent found in many fruits) after freezing, I have found little difference in setting jam made with the frozen berries.
I have 3 methods for making my raspberry jam, depending on how much fruit I have picked, and how much time is available. The first method, is the traditional saucepan method, great if you have a large amount of fruit and a bit of time. This method works well with frozen berries – just let them thaw out in the saucepan you’re going to use to cook them in so that none of the juices are wasted.
Traditional raspberry jam – use equal amounts of prepared fresh (or frozen) raspberries to granulated sugar. The yield is approximately the same as the weight of the 2 ingredients combined, so 500g raspberries and 500g sugar should give you 1kg of jam.
Heat the fruit by itself in a clean, large saucepan, stirring, until it steams and starts to break down. Mash it a little with a wooden spoon, reduce the heat and stir in the sugar. Heat, gently, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved, then raise the heat, bring the jam to a rapid boil, and stop stirring. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jam settle for about 5 minutes. Stir, and then transfer to clean, sterilised jars whilst still very hot. Seal immediately. Cool and label. In a cool, dark, dry cupboard, this jam will keep unopened for up to 12 months. Store in the fridge once opened, and eat within a month.
Microwave raspberry jam – super-speedy; hassle free; the perfect jam method for smaller amounts of fresh berries (I haven’t tried this with frozen berries but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work). Use finer, caster sugar for this jam as it heats and dissolves more quickly. The jam has a good set, and I find the colour is brighter than the traditional method; the flavour is much the same. My microwave is 900W so you may need to adjust timings accordingly.
Wash and pat dry 250g prepared fresh raspberries and mash with a fork in a large, perfectly clean microwave-proof bowl ( the mixture needs room to boil in the microwave, so choose a good size to prevent the mixture boiling over).
Put 250g caster sugar in a microwave-proof bowl and cook on Medium for 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The temperature of the sugar should be around 80°C (I use a food probe to check). Carefully pour the sugar over the mashed raspberries and stir well – the mixture will be very sloppy at this stage.
Put back in the microwave, and cook on High for 3 minutes to reach boiling point, then boil for 2 minutes. The jam is now ready to put in jars and seal as above. The jam has the same keeping qualities as with the traditionally made jam above.
My third method for making jam is probably the most delicious and it involves no cooking of the raspberries at all. You do need to select the perfect, unblemished, fresh specimens for best results, and wash the berries well before using. Use caster sugar for speedier heating and dissolving.
This fresh jam has a much softer texture than the other 2. You need to store it in the fridge – I find it keeps well for 4 to 6 weeks. It also freezes so you can keep it for longer and then take out small portions as and when you fancy. If you haven’t got a microwave, you can heat the sugar in a saucepan – just keep the heat very low and keep stirring the sugar so that it doesn’t melt or burn.
Fresh (uncooked) raspberry jam – wash and pat dry 250g prepared, unblemished, very fresh raspberries and mash with a fork in a large, perfectly clean, heat-proof bowl. Sit the bowl on a clean tea-towel.
Put 250g caster sugar in a microwave-proof bowl and cook on Medium for 15 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The temperature of the sugar should be around 120°C (I use a food probe to check). Carefully pour the hot sugar over the mashed raspberries and stir well – it will hiss and steam. Cover loosely and leave to cool completely, then spoon into clean, sterilised jars or containers. Seal and label, and store in the fridge or freezer.
After my post on Fresh globe beetroot a couple of weeks ago, I finally got round to a spot of beetroot-baking with the fine specimens I took pictures of. This is a great tasting recipe which makes the most of how naturally colourful the vegetable is.
You’ll find plenty of recipes for brownies and blondies, so now, here’s one for “pinkies”. For all intents and purposes, it is a blondie recipe with cooked beetroot added to it. I used natural raspberry extract to flavour my recipe but a good quality vanilla extract or freshly grated orange rind would work just as well. As with the more traditional blondie (and brownie) recipes, this one is better the day after baking. By the way, if you cook beetroot from raw, the cooking water turns very pink. I used a little of this to make the icing. The pinkies also freeze well. By the way, the recipe also works with cooked carrot instead of beetroot.
Makes: 9 pieces
100g white chocolate drops (or dairy-free alternative)
75g butter (or dairy-free alternative)
75g caster sugar
75g silken tofu
115g cooked, peeled beetroot in natural juice
75g gluten-free self raising flour
75g ground almonds
¼- ½ tsp natural raspberry extract
150g icing sugar
2-3 tsp beetroot cooking water or water and natural pink food colouring
Freeze-dried raspberry pieces, to decorate
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160° fan oven, 350° F, gas mark 4). Grease and line an 18cm square cake tin. Put the chocolate chips, butter and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently to melt together. Cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend the tofu and beetroot together to make a purée.
Sieve the flour into a bowl. Add the ground almonds, beetroot purée and melted chocolate mixture. Add the extract and mix well to make a smooth batter.
Spoon into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes until lightly crusted but slightly soft underneath. Cool for 20 minutes then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in greaseproof paper and foil and store for 24 hours to allow the texture and flavour together.
To decorate. remove the wrappings and cut the cake into 9 equal squares. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in a little beetroot or tap water to make a smooth, spreadable icing. Add pink colouring if using.
Spoon a dollop of icing of over each piece of cake and spread to cover the tops, allowing it to drip down the sides. Sprinkle with freeze-dried raspberries. Leave to set for about 30 minutes before serving.
For me, one of the signs that Spring is on its way is the first harvest of my forced rhubarb. I love the rich colour of the stalks, their tenderness when cooked and the mild astringent, tartness of flavour that really packs a punch on the palate. Sadly, my rhubarb is not ready for picking just yet as you can see below, but I couldn’t resist the fresh stalks I saw in the local farm shop this week.
One of my favourite pairings with rhubarb is raspberry. Whilst it seems like a long time ago I had raspberries ripening in the garden, I have a few packs in the freezer, and this recipe is the perfect opportunity to delve into my supplies.
I love the name of this dish. I assume it comes from the hybridisation of the pudding called “slump” and the one called “crumble”. The recipe works fine with any cooked fruit baked underneath the glorious, melt-in-the-mouth topping. The custard is a recent addition to my recipe and brings an extra spoonful of comfort at this time of the year.
350g fresh rhubarb, trimmed
50g vanilla sugar (or you can use plain caster if you prefer)
175g frozen raspberries
115g dairy free margarine (or butter if you eat it), very soft
75g caster sugar
175g gluten-free plain flour blend (I use Doves Farm)
5ml good quality vanilla extract
500ml gluten-free, dairy-free custard
Trim the rhubarb and cut into 5cm lengths. If you have thin and wider stalks, cut the stalks down so that they are all roughly the same width – this helps the rhubarb cook more evenly.
Arrange neatly in a large, lidded shallow pan. Spoon over 2 tbsp water and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar. Heat until steaming, then cover with the lid and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes until just tender but still holding shape.
Remove from the heat, sprinkle the frozen raspberries on top and leave to cool completely. Transfer to an ovenproof baking dish, about 1.2l capacity. If the fruit is very juicy, drain off a few spoonfuls and keep as a separate serving syrup.
For the topping, put the margarine (or butter) in a bowl and beat in the caster sugar until smooth and creamy. Mix in the flour and vanilla to make a lumpy, sticky mixture, resembling a soft cookie dough. Cover and chill for 30 minutes until firm.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas mark 6). Spoon over about half of the custard in small dollops. Break up the chilled topping into clumps and scatter over the top, covering the fruit and custard as much as possible. Stand the dish on a baking tray and bake for about 35 minutes until lightly golden, bubbling and the topping has merged together. Serve hot or warm with the remaining custard and the fruit syrup.
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.
Time for a recap on what’s been happening in my fruit and veg garden. It’s been a mixed bag of weather this month, although it doesn’t seem to have affected anything I’ve been growing for the kitchen. In fact, even though the sun hasn’t been shining as often as I’d have liked, I have never had tomatoes ripen so early in the year – it’s usually September before I get my first taste!
Home-grown tomatoes, above all else, are the best produce to grow for flavour and sweetness, and remain unrivalled by any tomatoes you can buy. I grow them in my unheated greenhouse, planted in grow-bags. I never put the picked fruit in the fridge, I store them in a cool part of the kitchen and eat them as soon as possible after picking. Served simply with some fresh pot basil, a little salt and pepper, and drizzle of balsamic vinegar, this is one of my greatest foodie pleasures.
I have been picking runner beans for a couple of weeks now and, with lots of flowers still blooming, I hope to be enjoying them for a few weeks longer. I don’t usually do much with them, other than chop them up, cook them lightly, and enjoy them as a vegetable in their own right. Occasionally, I make a frittata with any leftover cooked veg and combine runner beans with cooked potato, onion – sometimes a little bacon if I have any – some seasoning and chopped fresh thyme. Delicious served warm or cold with salad.
Most of the fruit I grow gets made into jams and jellies, or I freeze it for cooking later in the year. The cherries were made into a compote – I didn’t have enough for jam this year. Rhubarb is cooked in muffins, stewed as a simple dessert, or cooked as pie filling. I have just made rhubarb and custard ice lollies for the first time, so it will be interesting to see how they turn out.
The yellow courgette plants are growing like triffids in the greenhouse. Thank goodness I only planted 2! They are both producing heavily, so it looks like I will have to get creative with my courgette cookery. I prefer the yellow variety as I find the flesh firmer and there is slightly more of an earthy flavour to them. I also love the colour. I have been chopping them and simply frying them in butter with smoked bacon and black pepper, and then stirring in a little bit of maple syrup before serving. Very tasty with just about anything.
Raspberries grow very well here in central Scotland. They love all the rain we have! Unlike other species of berries I grow, raspberries seem to ripen without the sunshine, and I am always taken aback to see how quickly they turn from pale pink to rich pinkish red, even during the dullest days of the Summer.
The first plants I bought for the garden when I moved here were 6 raspberry canes. That was Autumn 2004, and here we are some 11 ½ years later, still enjoying their produce. The variety is Glen Ample; I chose this raspberry because the fruits are large and juicy, perfect for jam making. I have been picking the berries for about 3 weeks now, and already, I have packed away over 5kg in the freezer. I rarely have time to make jam in the summer, so I do my preserving from the frozen berries later in the year. Raspberries are one of the most successful frozen fruits for jam making, they lose little of their flavour or setting properties through freezing.
Apart from enjoying the raspberries fresh and in jam, I do like to put some in sweet vinegar for salad dressings, and I also make flavoured tipples for a festive drink. This is one of my favourites.
4 small fragrant rose heads
A large handful of fresh raspberries
70cl bottle gluten-free vodka (such as Smirnoff – look for a vodka that is made distilled from corn, potatoes or grapes)
Carefully rinse and pat dry the rose petals and raspberries, taking care not to bruise or crush them.
Break up the petals and put them in the bottom of a large sterilised, sealable glass jar along with the raspberries.
Pour over the vodka, seal and label. Gently swirl the contents every day for 2 weeks.
After 3 weeks or so, taste the vodka and see whether it is to your taste. If the vodka is flavoured sufficiently, strain completely and rebottle in a clean, sterilised bottle. For more flavour, strain and add fresh petals and/or raspberries, then continue to store as above. Store in a cool, cupboard to preserve the flavour and colour. You’ll notice that after a few days, the colour quickly fades from the petals and berries and begins to colour and flavour the vodka.
Enjoy the vodka chilled over ice, or use as a base for punches and longer drinks. For a sweeter drink, add 25-50g caster sugar to the mix along with the petals and fruit.