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!
January 25th is a national celebration here in Scotland. The day commemorates the birthday of the famous Scottish poet, Robert (Rabbie) Burns. All over the country, parties and gatherings will be held in honour of Mr Burns, based around a traditional meal of haggis, neeps (mashed turnip or swede) and tatties (mashed potato), washed down with a wee dram or two of whisky.
I have noticed from the stats on my site, that from the end of December onwards, my tattie scones recipe gets lots of hits from all over the world. I think, in fact, that this is the most popular recipe I have ever posted. The chocolate haggis is a close second.
The recipes for my vegan haggis and my old favourite, shortbread , as well as the aforementioned, can be found by clicking on the (pink) links.
Whatever you’re doing this January 25th, I hope you have a good time. I raise a glass to you and say “Slàinte”.
PS. A recipe for the (naked) gingerbread men will follow shortly 🙂
Happy Burns Night, or Day, depending on when you are reading this!
When I started my blog several months ago, my very first recipe was for an old favourite of mine, shortbread. Looking back recently, I thought that the recipe could do with a bit of an update. Now I have a dairy-free version which I am very happy with and so, I have updated my original recipe, timing it for this year’s January 25th celebration.
On with the recipe. I have given my shortbread rounds a suitably Scottish flourish by embossing them with a thistle on the top. If you don’t have a traditional shortbread mould, then simply roll out the dough and cut out rounds using a plain or fluted edge cookie cutter. Prick the tops and press the edges with the fork before baking.
Here’s the link back to the updated original shortbread recipe – now dairy-free and vegan as well as gluten-free – and if you are using a shortbread mould, there are some step by steps images to help you.
That’s all for this week. I’m off for a wee dram; I’ll be posting again soon. Sláinte!
Hello again. I hope 2019 is going well for you so far. There’s a wee bit of forward planning gone into this week’s recipe. Next Friday, January 25th, is the Scottish feast of Burns Night, which is traditionally celebrated in a very meaty way with the dish of haggis accompanied with the only vegetarian part of the meal: “neeps and tatties” (mashed turnip (swede) and potatoes). I’ve been working on a meat-free version for a while, and finally I think I’ve cracked it this year. The flavour and texture is not that far off the traditional version and much nicer than any commercially made veggie haggis I have tried. I hope I might tempt you into making one for yourself.
You’ll need to allow at least a day in advance before you cook the haggis, but it will keep wrapped up in the fridge for 3 or 4 days before cooking if you want to prepare ahead.
Without going into the grim details of what’s in a traditional haggis, I’ve replaced the meat, etc. with mushrooms, red lentils and pearl barley which give the texture in the dish. Other than that, the bulk of the haggis is made up in the traditional way with toasted oatmeal. For a completely gluten-free version, replace the pearl barley with well-cooked white or brown rice, and use certified free-from oatmeal. I’ve stuck to the traditional haggis seasonings of plenty of black pepper, nutmeg and salt.
Because there is no outer “skin” to contain the vegan haggis mixture, the assembly method is quite long, however the recipe itself is pretty straightforward. I’ve included plenty of step-by-step images to help with the assembly. Let me know how you get on 🙂
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
225g large flat mushrooms. peeled and chopped
100g pinhead oatmeal or groats (use certified gluten-free if Coeliac)
150g cooked, well-drained red lentils
150g cooked, well-drained pearl barley (use well-cooked brown or white rice to make completely gluten-free)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper + extra to serve
A large pinch grated nutmeg
Approx. 4 tbsp. cold vegetable stock
50g vegetable suet
Heat the oil in a lidded frying pan and gently fry the onion with the bay leaf, stirring, for 2 minutes. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms, raise the heat and stir fry for 2 minutes. Cover again, reduce the heat and cook gently for 10 minutes until tender. Leave to cool completely. Discard the bay leaf.
Meanwhile, heat a dry frying pan until hot. Sprinkle over the oatmeal, and cook, stirring the oatmeal over a medium heat, for 7-8 minutes, to “toast”, without over-browning. Leave to cool.
To assemble the haggis, mix the oatmeal, lentils and barley or rice into the cold mushroom mixture. Add the seasoning, and sufficient stock to bind the mixture together without making it too wet – how much you need will depend on how juicy the mushrooms are – then mix in the suet – it is important that everything is cold otherwise the suet will melt.
Lay 3 large sheets of cling film, approx. 44 x 32cm, on top of each other on a tray or work surface. Pile the haggis mixture in the centre. Fold the longest sides of cling film tightly over the mixture and then twist the ends tightly closed to form a chunky haggis shape, approx. 16cm long. Put in the fridge to firm up overnight.
To cook the haggis, Lay a sheet of foil on a tray or work surface (same size as the cling film) and then place a sheet of baking parchment on top. Carefully unwrap the haggis and carefully place it in the centre of the parchment. It should its hold shape but won’t be completely solid. Fold the parchment over the haggis as you did with the cling film; scrunch the ends gently together and fold the parchment underneath the haggis. Wrap the foil over and twist the ends tightly to retain the haggis shape.
Pour a 1cm depth of water into the bottom of a deep, lidded frying pan or a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, then place the haggis in the water, seam-side up; cover with the lid, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 ¼ hours until piping hot – if you have a food probe, test the centre, it should be at least 75°C to serve.
Carefully drain the haggis and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and place the haggis, still in the parchment, on a warmed serving platter. Open out the parchment and serve straight away, accompanied with mashed turnip and potatoes, and more black pepper if liked.
Note: if you have any haggis leftover, let it cool and chill it down for the next day. Cut into chunky slices and fry for a few minutes on each side until crisp, brown and hot. Serve with tomatoes and oatcakes. This is my favourite way of serving and eating haggis, the oatmeal becomes crunchy and deliciously nutty when fried. Have a good week!
It still feels more wintry than spring-like here in central Scotland. We have had a blue-sky day today, the first for a while, and the temperature is slowly rising. The snow is beginning to thaw slowly, but most of the garden is still covered in a thick, white crust of powdery snow. The snowdrops under the hedge are the first to emerge at long last and I am relieved to see that they have survived their week inside a snow-cave – what robust little flowers they are 🙂
One of my favourite warming breakfast dishes is porridge, and it seems a lot of people agree: porridge has become the super-star amongst breakfast cereals, and the supermarket shelves are stacked out with different varieties and all sorts of flavours.
I like my porridge made the traditional way, which means I prefer to use oatmeal (or groats) rather than rolled oats. However, it’s not an instant breakfast and requires some organisation: the oatmeal requires overnight soaking before it can be cooked. But if you have a slow-cooker, you can cut down on the preparation: just mix everything up in the slow-cooker the night before and leave it on a low setting until the next morning, by which time it’s ready to eat as soon as you want it.
The oatmeal in the picture above is a local Scottish brand and is not guaranteed gluten-free. As you will know, oats themselves don’t contain gluten, but there is a contamination risk from other grains during processing, so if you do have a serious gluten allergy, you should seek out gluten-free oatmeal.
If you don’t fancy leaving your slow-cooker on overnight, slow-cook the porridge as you like, and once cooked and cooled, the porridge will keep in the fridge for a few days. You can take out a portion and reheat it with you favourite soya, rice, nut or oat milk when you’re ready. Just pop a portion in a microwave-proof bowl, mash it with a fork and stir in some milk, then reheat on High for about 1 ½ minutes. Alternatively, you can reheat the porridge in a saucepan, with milk, in the same way.
The following quantity will make 4 to 6 servings: pour 1.1litre water into your slow-cooker and stir in 175g pinhead oatmeal. Add a pinch of salt and mix well. Cover with the lid and switch the cooker on to the Low setting. Leave to cook, undisturbed, overnight (for 8-10 hours), until thick and soft. To serve, stir well and serve with hot, non-dairy milk mixed in. Add sugar or syrup to sweeten if you like, and top with sliced banana, fresh berries, grated apple, dried fruit etc.
For an extra nutritious start to the day, I like to stir a heaped tablespoon of ground seeds into my bowl porridge and top with some summer berry compote.
For the seed mix, grind 3 tbsp. flax seeds with 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp. chia seeds and 1 tbsp. sesame seeds – I use a coffee grinder to do this. Stir in 1 to 2 tbsp. ground almonds, pecans or Brazil nuts. Store in the fridge in an airtight container and use to sprinkle over anything you like for some extra nutritious nuttiness!
The berry compote is made from my freezer supply of home-grown raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. I simply put a quantity, still frozen, in a saucepan with the lid on and sit the pan over a very low heat until the berries soften and cook. I add a little vanilla sugar once the berries are cooked. Delicious eaten hot or cold.
The hardiest of all the Brassica family, and probably the closest to wild cabbage, kale (or kail) is one of the most traditional of Scottish vegetables. The robust leaves withstand harsh frosts and snow, and are said to taste all the better for it. In the past, kale was dismissed as animal fodder, but today it is one of the most trendy vegetables on the menu.
Kale is one of my favourite greens. I love the strong flavour, it is bursting with vitality in every bite, and it is one of the few vegetables tasty enough to stand its own on a plate with other bold flavours.
As with all leafy vegetables, cook as soon as possible after purchase. Choose firm stalks with fresh, dark or bright green leaves. If you do want to keep them for a couple of days, arrange the stems in a bowl or large jug of water as you would a bunch of flowers, then put in the fridge. I find kale is one of a few vegetables that doesn’t freeze very well – it loses texture and flavour, and becomes a bit slimy when cooked.
Simple to prepare, just rinse kale well in cold, running water to flush out any trapped earth caught in the tight, curling leaves, and then shake off the excess water. Pull off the lower, frilly leaves and keep to one side – these softer leaves are perfect for eating raw in winter salads. Slice out the central stem, and then shred the leaves into the desired size.
If you are steaming kale, pack the wet leaves into a steamer and cook for 10-15 minutes until tender. Alternatively, pack the wet leaves into a saucepan, turn on the heat and when the contents begin to steam, put the lid on, reduce the heat to medium and cook with the lid on, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes – don’t have the heat too high otherwise the leaves will dry and burn. Drain well and chop finely.
For baking and deep-frying, rinse the leaves then make sure you dry them as much as possible in order to cook them to a crisp. Blotting them between layers of absorbent kitchen paper is a good way. If the leaves are too damp, you will end up steaming them in the oven rather than drying them out. In hot oil, the contents will spit and hiss if water still clings to the leaves.
Recipe ideas and serving suggestions
Shredded kale makes fantastic “crispy seaweed”: deep-fry in hot vegetable oil for a few seconds, then drain well and toss in a little salt and white sugar. Season with Szechuan pepper or Chinese 5 spice.
Toss raw, small, tender kale leaves with finely shredded raw leek and grated apple in a lemon vinaigrette and season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve as a crunchy, bold winter salad sprinkled with toasted walnuts.
Steamed kale is delicious, finely chopped, tossed in butter or good quality olive oil and seasoned with black pepper and ground nutmeg. An ideal accompaniment to a bold, red wine gravy based game, meat or bean stew.
Mix finely chopped, steamed kale with cooked brown rice or pearl barley, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan (or Vegan cheese) and use as a filling for baked Portobello mushrooms.
Tray-baked kale leaves make a healthy sprinkle for salads, soups, rice and pasta dishes. Here’s what to do: preheat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan oven, gas mark 2). Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Prepare 200g kale leaves as above, then rinse and dry thoroughly. Roughly chop the leaves and place in a large bowl. Toss in no more than 2 tbsp. sunflower oil and arrange over the trays – too much oil will make the leaves go soggy. Mix 1 teasp smoked salt, ½ teasp ground black pepper and 1 teasp ground cumin together and sprinkle over the oily kale.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until crisp. Drain well, leave to cool, then pack into air-tight containers or jars to store. The baked kale will keep and stay crisp in this way for up to 2 weeks.
A short post this week, but I wanted to publish a recipe to celebrate Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, whose anniversary falls on January 25th each year. These cute, haggis-shaped sweet treats are a version of my Chocolate Haggis for a Burns Night supper (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) recipe from last year. You can mix and match ingredients according to the bits and pieces you have to hand. If you don’t like marzipan, use ivory or cream coloured fondant icing instead.
50g unsalted butter or coconut oil
50g heather honey or golden syrup
75g free-from dark chocolate, broken into pieces
75g free-from oatcakes, finely crushed
40g toasted fine oatmeal
50g toasted flaked almonds, crushed
Icing sugar to dust
400g natural marzipan
Put the butter (coconut oil) and honey (golden syrup) in a saucepan with the chocolate, and heat very gently, stirring, until melted.
Remove from the heat and stir in the crushed oatcakes, oatmeal, currants and almonds. Mix well until thoroughly combined. Leave to cool, then chill for about 30 minutes until firm enough to form into portions.
Divide the mixture into 16 and form each into an oval-shaped sausage. Chill for 30 minutes until firm.
Divide the marzipan into 16 and flatten each into a round – use a little icing sugar if the marzipan is sticky. Wrap a disc of marzipan around each chocolate oat cluster; press the edges to seal and then twist the ends to make a haggis shape.
Store the mini haggis at a cool room temperature until ready to eat. The marzipan will become sticky if refrigerated. Best enjoyed with coffee and a wee dram. Until next week, I raise a glass to you all and say “Slàinte!” – to your good health 🙂
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.
I’ve had a busy few days with my work, and subsequently only had time for one quick baking session this week. I turned to an old favourite of mine, shortbread. Easy to make and lovely to eat, and open to so many variations. This time, I had a break with tradition and made a super rich seeded version and replaced some of the fat with tahini.
I often replace a portion of the flour in cakes and bakes with ground almonds, and, if I don’t have enough ready-ground, I blitz up my own in a coffee grinder. If you use the non-blanched almonds, you’ll find the ground meal gives a more earthy to your bakes.
These tasty shortbreads have a soft, crumbly texture, and a rich, nutty flavour; they are delicious with a cup of coffee and keep well for a few days in an airtight tin. I find them impossible to resist. I’m away to eat the last one after I finish typing this!
150g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
65g icing sugar
75g ground almonds
25g toasted sesame seeds
85g tahini (sesame seed paste)
50g very soft dairy-free margarine (or butter if you eat it)
1 tbsp. each of chia seeds, toasted sesame seeds and Demerara sugar, mixed, for the topping
Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds and toasted sesame seeds.
Mix the tahini and margarine together until well blended, then stir into the dry ingredients until well mixed.
Bring the ingredients together using your hands, then turn out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead gently to form a smooth dough. Divide into 18 portions and form each into a ball.
Arrange on the baking tray, press down lightly to make chunky rounds and sprinkle lightly with the sugary seed mix. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven), gas 4. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Bake the shortbreads for about 25 minutes until lightly brown and crisp. Leave to cool on the tray.
Over the past year or so, I have been trying to include as many different seeds in my diet as I am able. Seeds are crammed full of protein, minerals and fibre, and unusually for such a worthy food, I find them utterly delicious and a pleasure to eat.
I have been making flapjack since my school days; it’s a real family favourite. Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe to include flavours and ingredients that take my fancy, and for the last few weeks, I’ve been packing this much-loved bake with tiny seeds.
In order to benefit from as many of the nutrients in seeds as possible, it is important to make sure you chew them thoroughly. A bake like flapjack is a perfect recipe to make this happen naturally because the oats help increase the chewy texture. If you pre-grind seeds that have a more slippery texture in the mouth, like linseed and flax, you’ll help yourself to more nutrition with ease. I pop a handful in an electric coffee grinder and blitz them for a short while before I put them in the mix.
Sesame seeds are a real gold mine of nutrients and a valuable source of calcium for anyone on a dairy-free diet. I love their intense nutty flavour which I enhance by toasting them lightly in a dry, hot frying pan before adding them to a recipe. Keep an eye on them and keep them moving around the pan, as they brown very quickly once they reach a certain temperature.
My flapjack recipe makes a large quantity, perfect for batch baking, but you can easily educe the quantity by half and press into an 18cm square tin instead.
175g mixed small seeds such as chia seeds, linseeds, flax seeds and toasted sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line a 20 x 30cm oblong cake tin. Put the margarine, sugar, syrup and nut butter in a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until melted.
Remove from the heat and stir in the oats and seeds until well mixed. Press evenly into the prepared tin and bake for about 25 minutes until lightly golden all over.
Whilst the bake is hot, gently score the top into 24 squares and then leave to cool in the tin. Once cold, cut through the squares completely and remove from the tin. Store in a air-tight container for up to a week. Flapjack freezes well too!
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.