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!
Hello everyone. I hope you well and that the sun has been shining wherever you are. It’s been a mixed bag here. Some sunshine, some rain, but warmer temperatures on the whole.
I have a very simple post this week. Several plants in the garden are about 2 weeks behind this year, and this has enabled me to put together a post I have wanted to do for a while but have not, until now, had the selection of colours to make it work.
Below is a compilation of flowering plants from my garden photographed this week from Midsummer’s Day on Monday through to this morning. All the colours of the rainbow plus a couple more. I hope you enjoy them.
I’m heading back to the kitchen for my next post. I will see again in a few days. Until then, take care and keep safe 🙂
Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. As I sit down to compile this week’s post, it is very wet and dull outside. In fact it has been raining just about all week and there is very little end in sight. During the very few brief dry spells, I have been outside to capture some of the bright colours that are on show in the garden at the moment. One positive thing about the low light levels is that natural colours do seem to stand out all the more.
The rain rather than the wind has driven many leaves from the trees this year. The colour of the Japanese maple is stunning – so many shades of pink, orange and red from just one tree.
In the rockery in the back garden, the foliage is mostly fading green or dying back now, but the Nerines are standing proud, bright and bold.
Just along the border from the Nerines, is my old faithful rose bush and true to form, it is in flower once again. The heads are heavy and drooping with the weight of rain drops but the perfume is just as sweet and fragrant.
In between the rockery and the rose are my runner bean plants. Still going strong and still providing me with beans. This latest basketful weighed just under 500g. We have had neither very cold weather nor strong winds so far this autumn and these factors seem to have given the beans an extended lease of life.
The Autumn raspberry canes are still fruiting well. Another wee basket picked ready for my morning granola.
The white Japanese anemones are still going strong, and now the garden has a new addition to the collection, this pink hybrid anemone called Pamina. Lots of pointed pink petals. I hope it does well in its new home.
I gave the Rose of Sharon Hypericum a big “hair-cut” early last month. It had flowered very well but had become too large for the flower-bed. I am amazed to see that it is flowering again already.
As you can see, it wasn’t raining when I captured these delicate little saffron crocus. To be honest, is was over a week ago when I took the pictures. Sadly, they haven’t survived the rain battering this week. I love the shadows of the saffron-scented stamens just visible through the petals.
It’s been a very good year for Borage and I have had a continuous supply of bold star-shaped flowers since early summer. Long may they continue adding their vibrant splash of electric blue colour.
I’m returning to the Japanese Maple for my last image. As I was capturing the leading image for my post, I noticed that the small conifer next to the tree was covered in red leaves giving it a rather festive look 🙂
That’s all from me this week. I will be back in the kitchen and recipe posting again soon. Until then, take care and keep safe 🙂
Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. It’s been a busy month for me which has meant that I haven’t had much spare time to put a post together. Now as the season feels like it is shifting, I thought I would take a look back on what’s been happening out of doors this past month.
The garden is showing signs of Autumn now with leaves changing colour and a crop of pale lilac crocus appearing in a shady border. Earlier in the month I went to visit my family in Sussex. The weather was very warm and we spent most of our time together out of doors. On one walk, I was delighted to find some blackberries untouched in a hedgerow and was able to carry my precious cargo of black jewels all the way back home to Scotland to make into a compote with apples from my tree. Delicious.
As you can see, it’s another good year for apples. I’ve only picked a few so far, but I think with the weather turning cooler this weekend and a predicted frost,, I will be picking the remainder in the next few days. I’ve also harvested a lot of potatoes, and put many more in storage. I’m feeling pleased with myself, after years of giving up on carrot growing, I’ve had a fair crop this year. The variety was called “Rainbow” and I had high hopes of a multi-coloured batch, but in the end, they were mostly yellow. No matter, they tasted fresh and spicy, just as homegrown carrots should do.
I’m over-run with tomatoes too. Dehydration for the small ones, and tomato sauce for the larger ones. I haven’t started my annual chutney making ritual, but once the apples are picked, the preserving with begin.
Back in the garden, my lovely scented rose bush is back in flower, and the orange lupin is flowering for the third time – I didn’t know this was possible! Another splash of orange in the garden comes from the carnations I planted a few years ago. Back in the spring, I moved them to a different spot, in a raised bed by a sunny wall, and they are thriving.
I’m pretty sure that I mentioned the Japanese anemones in my last garden post back in August. They have gone from strength to strength, and I think this year is the first time they have grown en masse to create such an impactful display under the apple tree.
That’s me for another month. I wish you well over the coming days, and look forward to sharing a recipe with you next time around. Until then, my best wishes to you.
Hello everyone. We’re almost at the end of another month; how time flies. I’ve been taking some time off work and my blog this month but I found some time to capture some of the flowery and fruity delights that have come and gone these past 4 weeks.
The wonderfully prickly specimen below appeared in the garden last year courtesy of the birds. It didn’t flower, but produced some magnificent spiky leaves. This year it has gone from strength to strength and this month it really took off. Sadly it was a victim of its own success and toppled over under its own weight. Most of the blooms are growing at all angles but upwards apart from this one.
Something a little bit more delicate are the charming and dainty Campanulas which flower at the beginning and middle of the month. The flower-heads seemed a lot bigger this year. And in the picture below them, my beautiful, very fragrant and very old rose bush. It did me proud again this year and was laden with blooms. Sadly now finished, but I am ever hopeful for a second blooming later in the year.
The garden has been alive with bees and butterflies this summer. Lots of different varieties of bees all over the tiny petals of the Scabious (or Pincushion) flowers, it seems to be one of their favourite blooms. And here is a Scarlet Lady butterfly bathing on a very fragrant sun-bed of lavender.
Aside from the delicate and fragrant, the brash and bold flowers have also been abundant. The Hydrangeas seem more colourful than ever this year, and the poppies are springing up everywhere to add bright splashes of colour to the borders and beds.
It’s also been another good year for the outdoor soft fruit. The small espalier Morello cherry produced ¾kg cherries (all bottled and stored) and the raspberry bushes, now in their 14th year, have produced another mega-harvest of berries which I have frozen for making into jam later in the year. The dishful of berries in the picture were cooked with freshly picked rhubarb and made into a “crump”, one of my favourite desserts from my blog a couple of years ago. Here’s the link: Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)Very tasty it was too 🙂
That’s all from me for now. I look forward to sharing more recipes and garden posts in a short while.
The weather has been perfect for spending time in the garden this past week. Fresh and breezy, with the sun shining most days. There are leaves everywhere, and plenty of tidying up to do before the weather changes.
This time last year, I had 3 beautiful Nerine bulbs in bloom. Sadly the snails ate the shoots from the other 2 a few weeks ago, but this beauty survived. It looks like a plant that should be out in late spring or early summer, but at this time of year, it is very welcome and a stunning splash of colour.
Another favourite with the slugs and snails is the Perennial primrose, which also looks out-of-place in Autumn. I was lucky to capture such a perfect bloom for my photograph before the beasties started their lunch.
On the whole, there is not much going on in the garden in Autumn, just leaves tumbling everywhere. However, there are a few plants having one last hoorah before the winter weather begins. All round the walls of the garden, creeping Campanula grows from spring and throughout the summer. This little patch of greenery on a sunny part of wall has just burst into flower again this past week.
Back in July, the cotton lavender was ablaze with tufty yellow flowers. After cutting it back to remove the dead heads at the end of summer, there is still plenty of fragrant, silvery foliage to enjoy when the sun shines on it. Here we are a few weeks later, and the plant has bloomed again, but this time, with just one solitary flower.
I think I mentioned in my last garden round-up that I was hoping for more rose blooms this Autumn. The heat and the dry weather didn’t seem to suit them earlier in the year and the petals faded very quickly. I was delighted to see fresh buds on my very fragrant favourite rose, and now the blooms are fully open, the garden around them is smelling sweet and aromatic again.
There are several Hebes around the garden. It was a good year for blooms, and like the cotton lavender, these 3 bushes have started flowering again this past week, each with only a few small clusters of flowers.
These eye-catching seeds or berries are all that’s left of the native Iris (Iris foetidissima) apart from the green, spear-like foliage. I don’t recall that many flowers this year, but the seed pods develop and open out to form the exact same pattern of the Iris flower-heads. You can see that there are quite a few pods, so I must have missed a lot of flowers.
To round off my post this week, something suitably spooky for the end of October. With Hallowe’en just round the corner, this image fits the season perfectly. This small espalier Comice pear tree only produced 4 pears this year. The small ones fell off a couple of weeks ago, but the largest one has been clinging on ever since. Now all the leaves have blown away from the tree, the bare branches made an eerie shadow against the wall this sunny afternoon. Have a good week.
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.
Last weekend in the garden, at times, it was a little hard to believe that it was actually the beginning of November. There was a biting wind to remind me, but the sun was out, the sky was blue and in just about every corner of the garden, there were flowers in bloom. The dainty, pale-pink cranesbill above with the rose-bush in the background, are plants on their second flowering of the year. The darker pink flowers are Nerines, a glamorous, lily-like autumn flowering bulb, which I planted in late spring and have been flowering since the end of September.
It’s not only pink flowers. There are bright yellow Welsh poppies here and there, and a seasonal reality check: the first flowers of Winter Jasmine are just opening out.
Flowers aside, there are also various berries adding splashes of colour. The holly trees are stacked out with berries this year – both red and yellow berried varieties – and the native iris, Foedissima, which flowered so prolifically a few months ago has now become laden down with bright orange berries. It looks very curious indeed, the berries are bursting out of pods which open out to match the exact formation of the iris petals earlier in the year. With all the berries around, there is clearly going to be plenty of food for the birds this winter.
And finally, one more berry to report: it looks like I may have another crop of strawberries this year. I’m not getting my hopes up on the jam-making front, but I am curious to see if they do actually ripen.
When I lived in London, a trip to the Edgware Road meant I could get my fix of my favourite Middle Eastern pastries. Full of chopped almonds and pistachios, the crisp, buttery, layers of filo pastry soaked in rose and lemon flavoured syrup were so sweet, my whole mouth “jangled” with the sensation of a sugar-overload.
Those days are long past me now, but this cake combines the flavours and some of the textures I love so much. In my post last week Cooking with rose petals – make your own rosewater, rose petal syrup and dried rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) you’ll find all the rose-scented recipes you need if you want to make this very floral cake from scratch. However, I realise that rose isn’t to everyone’s taste so if you fancy the cake without the floral flavours, it works very well with the grated rind of a lemon added to mixture instead of vanilla, and make the icing made up with freshly squeezed lemon juice instead of rosewater. It is utterly delicious however you flavour it, I guarantee!
150g ground almonds
100g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
8g arrowroot (optional, but I add it to gluten-free cake mixes to help bind the textures together)
2 level teasp gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
100g finely chopped unsalted pistachio nuts
175g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
175g silken tofu
175ml sunflower oil
2 teasp good quality vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp rose petal syrup (optional)
115g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp homemade rosewater
A few drops natural pink food colouring
Dried rose petals
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre.
Blend the tofu, oil and vanilla extract together in a food processor or blender for a few seconds until smooth. Spoon the mixture into the centre of the dry ingredients and gradually combine all the ingredients together until well blended.
Spoon into the prepared loaf tin, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes, or until golden, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then if using rose petal syrup, skewer the top in several places and spoon over the syrup. Leave to cool completely, then remove from the tin, wrap and store for 24 hours to allow the flavours to develop.
To decorate. sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add sufficient rosewater to taste (Note: if you’re using distilled or shop-bought rose water, you will need to add less than homemade) then add a few drops of warm water and pink food colouring to make a smooth, spreadable icing.
Spread the icing on top of the cake and sprinkle with dried rose petals. Leave for a few minutes to allow the icing to set before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
It is pleasantly fragrant in the garden at the moment, thanks mostly to two highly scented rose bushes. One variety is very old, a Felicia rose, with gnarled, stooped stems. However old it is, the foliage is vibrant green and healthy-looking and the bush produces an abundant supply of pale pink, Turkish Delight-scented flowers from late spring through to late summer. The other, a Gertrude Jekyll, I planted last year. The flowers are larger, deeper pink in colour and the fragrance slightly sweeter and more aromatic. Both roses have lots of petals per head, and are perfect for use in the kitchen.
The preparation for any recipe using rose petals is the same. Choose fragrant roses with undamaged petals; they need to be free from pests and chemical sprays. Rose heads are best picked when almost fully open and still fresh. Cut the stems in the morning before the sun becomes too hot – this helps preserve colour and fragrance. Carefully pull the petals from the head, keeping them as whole as possible, weigh them, and then place in a colander or strainer. Fill a bowl with cold water and dip the colander in the water to submerge the petals. Swirl gently the colander and then lift out. Shake gently to drain and shake further to remove the excess water.
The petals are fine to use damp for rosewater, syrup and any recipe where they are cooked in liquid, but if you want to dry them, spread them out carefully on sheets of absorbent kitchen paper or a clean tea towel and pat them dry with more paper or clean cloth. Leave to dry naturally, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour or until they feel dry to the touch.
Rosewater – makes approx. 250ml
25g fragrant rose petals – approx. 4 full heads of rose petals
250ml boiling water
1 tsp vodka (optional) – this helps preserve the rosewater for slightly longer
Prepare and rinse the rose petals as described above. Place in a sterilised, clean preserving jar or heatproof jug, and pour over the boiling water.
Cover the top with a piece of muslin or kitchen paper and leave to steep until completely cold.
Strain through muslin into a sterilised, clean jug and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible. Mix in the vodka if using.
Decant into a sterilised, screw-top bottle or jam jar. Seal, label and store in the fridge. Use within 4 to 6 weeks.
Note: homemade rosewater is weaker in dilution that the distilled rosewater you can buy ready-made, so you will probably need to use more in your recipes.
Rose petal syrup – makes 350ml
85g fragrant rose petals – approx. 9 full heads of rose petals
450ml cold water
265g caster sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Prepare and rinse rose petals as above, then place in a clean, large stainless steel saucepan. Pour over the cold water.
Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 20 minutes – all the colour will come out of the petals. Strain through muslin into a jug, and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible.
Return the liquid to the saucepan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir well over a low heat to dissolve the sugar – the liquid should now be, magically, very pink.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until lightly syrupy. Pour into sterilised bottles or jars and seal well. Label and cool. The syrup will keep unopened for 6 months, once opened keep in the fridge for up to a month.
Rose petal syrup is perfect for fruit salads; adding to cocktails; diluting with sparkling water for a refreshing summer cooler; for pouring over pancakes or for drizzling over freshly baked cakes.
Dried rose petals – prepare rose petals as described above and dry thoroughly. Spread out across the layers of a dehydrator, making sure they are well spaced out, keeping them in as much of a single layer as possible. Cover and dry at 40°C for 1 ½ to 2 hours, swapping the trays around every 30 minutes, until the petals are dry and parched. Leave to cool then place in a clear screw-top jar and store in a dark, dry place. Petals will fade after a few months, and are best used within 4 to 6 weeks. Sprinkle over salads, fruit desserts or use as a natural cake decoration.
My next post will be very rosy and will use all 3 rose recipes. See you in a few days!
One of my favourite flavours married with a much loved sweetie are a match made in heaven in this recipe. Some shop-bought marshmallow can be a bit on the chewy side to my taste, so my version may be a bit different to what you’ve come to expect. This recipe makes a lighter, fluffier marshmallow, but if you want a firmer texture, it is worth experimenting by adding more gelatine.
If you can make meringue, then marshmallow is just one step on. You will need a sugar thermometer to take away the guesswork when making a sugar syrup. Other than that, the most important thing I can say before you get started, is to get yourself organised and have everything lined up and ready to go.
Makes 1 x 18cm square of marshmallow which cuts into 9 chunky pieces
5 leaves good quality gelatine
2 medium egg whites or 2 single egg sachets dried egg white powder
100g granulated sugar
50g liquid glucose
Pink food colour gel
Good quality rose water (I use Nielsen Massey)
Sugared rose petals to decorate
Line a deepish 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment. Cut up the gelatine into small pieces and place in a small heatproof bowl. Add 75ml cold water and leave to soak for 5 minutes, then place in the microwave and cook on High for 30-40 seconds until dissolved – microwave in 10 second blasts to avoid overheating, and do not boil. Leave aside.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites or powder in a large, grease-free, heatproof bowl until very stiff.
Put the sugar in a small saucepan with the glucose and 50ml cold water. Heat gently, stirring, until melted, then raise the heat and let the mixture bubble until it becomes clear and syrupy and reaches 118ºC on a sugar thermometer.
Remove the syrup from the heat. Start whisking the egg whites again and gently pour over the hot syrup in a slow and steady stream. Keep whisking as you pour in the liquid gelatine.
Continue to whisk to form a thick and glossy meringue-like mixture – this may take up to 5 minutes depending on how much heat I retained.
Working quickly before the mixture begins to set add sufficient food colour gel and rose water to taste.
Scrape the marshmallow into the lined tin and smooth over the top as best you can. Leave to cool, then put in a cool place (not the fridge) for 3-4 hours until completely set and firm to the touch.
To finish, dust a tray with the cornflour and turn the marshmallow on to it. Peel away the parchment. Using a large bladed knife, cut into 9 squares and toss in the cornflour to coat lightly. The marshmallow is ready to eat, or it will store, layered on pieces of baking parchment in an airtight container, in a cool place for up to 2 weeks. Note: homemade marshmallow does not like the fridge and will start to dissolve in damp conditions.
For an extra rose flavour, top each piece with a sugared rose petal – I gave a recipe for these in my July 19th 2016 post.