Fruit butter (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free, and vegan)

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Homemade fruit butter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy New Year! I hope you have had a good holiday. We find ourselves at the beginning of a brand new year, wondering what 2023 has instore for us all. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

It’s been a chilly, frosty and snowy end of year here in central Scotland. I didn’t venture very far. I have been in the kitchen keeping cosy and have been trying new ways of using up what remains of the stored fruit from last Autumn. This week’s post is the result of one of my experiments, slow-cooked fruit butter. It keeps for about a week in the fridge but can be frozen for use later in the year.

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In the jar. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Fruit butter has nothing to do with dairy butter. In fact, it is completely fat free. I guess it gets its name from the fact that it is silky smooth in texture. It tastes delicious and is very easy (and moreish!) to eat. You can use it like jam, spread on toast, or as a filling for pancakes, pastry cases and sponge cakes, or as a dessert with yogurt. It is delicious served with rice pudding, granola, porridge or as a topping for a cheesecake.

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Fruit butter with coconut yogurt and on griddle scones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The sugar content is much lower than jam so you do need to keep it in the fridge. It freezes very well with no alteration in texture, colour or flavour. If you portion the butter up in small containers, it will defrost quickly and can be used up in a few days.

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Ripe fruit and flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I used a combination of quince, cooking pears and small cooking apples, but you can use the same method for a single fruit butter, although you may need to adjust the sugar content. And when it comes to flavouring, you can use whatever you fancy. For speed, ground spices are the easiest option because it saves time at the end of cooking. You can simply blitz the fruit and store. I prefer whole spices along with lemon rind, and as long as you know how many pieces you have added, then you know how many bits you need to fish out before your start blending. Cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger and orange would all work very nicely, it’s just personal preference.

On with the recipe. All the work is in the preparation of the fruit, then it’s a case of letting the slow-cooker do the rest of the work.

Makes: approx. 1.6kg

Ingredients

  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 2kg quince, cooking or firm pears, and cooking apples (dessert apples will also work, just adjust the sugar quantity accordingly)
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 6 to 8 cadamom pods, split

1. Pare the lemon rind in thick strips using a vegetable peeler, and extract the juice. Put the spent lemon shells in a large bowl, pour over the juice and top up with cold water to half fill the bowl. Keep the pared rind for the slow cooker.

2. Peel and core all the fruit, and cut into pieces – apple and pear will cook more quickly than quince if you are using a combination. Simply cut the quince (or any firmer pieces of fruit) into small pieces for even cooking. As you prepare the fruit, put it in the lemony water to reduce the deterioration of colour.

3. When you have prepared all the fruit, use a draining spoon to ladle it into your slow cooker. There is no need to drain the fruit too much as a little of the lemony water will help create steam as the fruit cooks. Discard the lemon shells.

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Preparing fruit for slow cooking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Add the sugar, pared lemon rind and your other chosen flavourings and mix everything together, then cover with the lid and set the cooker to High for 5 to 6 hours, or Low for 10-12 hours. The exact cooking time will depend on how ripe the fruit is. After a couple of hours, give the fruit a stir then re-cover, and stir again after a further 2 hours. Continue cooking until the fruit is very soft.

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Before and after cooking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Switch off the cooker and leave the fruit, covered with the lid, to go cold. Remove the rind and whole spices if using and either use a stick blender to blitz the fruit or transfer to a standing blender. The fruit butter should be thick and beautifully smooth.

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The final step to perfect fruit butter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Once you have your butter, either spoon it into clean, sealable jars or containers for keeping in the fridge, or pack it into cartons for freezing.

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Ready for freezing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have enjoyed my post this week. I will be back with another recipe in a couple of weeks. Until then, take care and keep well. I will see you again soon ūüôā

Rise and shine oatmeal porridge (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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A super sunny start to the day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone! I have something bright and cheerful for you this week. Given all the doom and gloom in the news, this tasty and super-charged breakfast will get your day off to a bright and cheerful start. It’s a seasonal update on a recipe I posted a couple of years ago.

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Blood orange slices. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

No sooner has the bitter marmalade orange season finished, the next citrus beauties are on the horizon, coming into the shops and markets in mid-February. Actually, the season is coming to an end but I’ve been enjoying the ruby-red fleshed oranges for a couple of weeks already. This orange seems to have had a name change, and is now, rather boringly, called red orange, but I will always think of them as the blood orange or Sanguinelli. The flavour is sweet and tart at the same time. They are very juicy and you never quite know how red the flesh will be until you start peeling.

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Perfect peeling. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For the past few days the weather has been decidedly chilly here; it’s been the kind of temperature that calls for porridge. My recipe for an overnight oatmeal porridge which cooks in the slow-cooker means it is ready for you to enjoy the next morning without any fuss. The oatmeal is cooked the traditional Scottish way in just water with some salt to season. Everything else is added afterwards. I posted the original recipe back in March 2018 – you can find it here.

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Slow-cooker + water + salt + oatmeal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To make 6 hearty servings, put 150g pinhead oatmeal in your slow-cooker. Add a generous pinch of salt and pour over 950ml cold water. Cover with the lid and switch on to the low setting. Leave for 8 hours (up to 10). After the cooking time, the surface of the porridge will form a light skin, but give it a good stir and the creaminess of the cooked oats will be appear. Once I’ve got my portion in my cereal bowl, I mix in oat milk (I love the Barista versions for extra richness) to loosen up the texture. Once the porridge has cooled it will solidify. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week, and reheats very well in the microwave – just mash with a fork, mix in some milk and reheat.

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Slow-cooker oatmeal porridge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So with the cooking taken care of, you just need to make up your mind what to eat with it. To prepare the orange slices, slice the top and bottom off an orange and then remove the peel by slicing downwards with a sharp knife, trying to take only the skin and white pith away. Slice into rounds or chop smaller.

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Homemade marmalade for extra citrus flavour. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in January, I posted my recipe for Seville orange marmalade. I’ve been putting my stocks to good use this week. It makes a great addition to a bowl of porridge, adding some sweetness and also more orange-flavour. All in all, this is a seriously citrusy and sunshiny breakfast bowl, with a few pecans sprinkled over for some crunch. I’m looking forward to my breakfast already ūüôā Until next time, I hope you have a good few days and stay healthy.

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A breakfast bowl of sunshine, Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Slow-cooker bean and vegetable hash (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Rise and shine, bean and vegetable hash with fresh toast. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Welcome to my first post of the new year. On the menu this week is a hearty (and healthy)¬†breakfast/supper dish cooked in the slow-cooker, perfect for the time of year and for Veganuary, as this month has become known ūüôā

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A hearty, healthy start to the day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe takes next to no time to prepare, and once it’s all mixed up and in the cooker, you’ve got 9 hours to get on with your life.¬†The hash is¬†a simple combination of vegetables that slow-cook well, some cooked beans and a mix of spices to pep things up.

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Hash vegetables. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Cooked borlotti beans. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Hash seasoning. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So with no more blurb from me, here’s what to do……

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 225g sweet potato
  • 225g general purpose potatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 each yellow and red pepper
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 350g ripe tomatoes
  • 240g cooked pinto, kidney¬†or borlotti beans
  • 1 tsp each ground cumin and smoked paprika
  • ¬Ĺ¬†tsp dried chilli flakes
  • ¬Ĺ tsp smoked or regular salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly chopped parsley
  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into approx. 0.75cm thick pieces. Peel and slice the onion. Deseed and slice the peppers.

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    Prepared hash vegetables. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and stir fry the prepared vegetables for 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker dish.
  3. Quarter the tomatoes and mix into the vegetables along with the beans, spices and seasonings.

    Preparing_and_cooking_vegetables and beans_for_hash
    Hash preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Cover with the lid. switch the slow-cooker on to the Low setting and leave to cook undisturbed overnight or up to 9 hours, until the vegetables are meltingly tender.

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    My slow cooker. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To serve, stir the mixture well. Pile on to warm serving plates and sprinkle with parsley. For breakfast, some freshly grilled toast is all the extras you need; for supper, the hash is great spooned over rice or pasta.

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    Ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Overnight seed and berry porridge (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Oatmeal and seed porridge with berry compote. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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 ūüôā

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After-the-snow snowdrops. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Pinhead oatmeal for “proper” porridge”. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Slow-cooker porridge: oatmeal, water and salt. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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 ¬Ĺ minutes. Alternatively, you can reheat¬†the porridge¬†in a saucepan, with milk,¬†in the same way.

The following quantity will make about 8 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.

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Homemade seed mix and my frozen summer berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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 РI 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.

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A spoonful of my favourite oatmeal porridge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

 

Sticky toffee Christmas pudding (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Sticky toffee Christmas pudding. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Just a few days to go before the festive feasts begin, and what could be more appropriate for my last post before Christmas, than a delicious alternative Christmas pudding. I do¬†enjoy a¬†traditional, steamed¬†fruit pudding, but¬†this year I fancied a change, and¬†have developed¬†an alternative recipe.¬†This pudding¬†is fruity, but¬†a little wee bit lighter¬†in texture,¬†and with the emphasis on¬†toffee flavour rather than spice; I guarantee,¬†it is utterly divine ūüôā

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Cherries, apricots, sultanas and currants. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe makes 2 x 250ml puddings, which I think serve between 2¬†and 4 people, depending on how large an appetite you have. If you prefer,¬† put the mixture in a 500ml basin and cook it for about an hour longer. I usually¬†steam puddings in a slow cooker, this way I can forget about them and don’t end up with a steamy kitchen. If you prefer, put the puddings on a trivet, in a saucepan or in a steamer compartment, cover tightly with a lid, and then¬†cook in the steam¬†for about 1 1/2 to 2¬†hours. You can use any combination of fruit (or nuts)¬†you have to make up the weight in the ingredients list, it’s a great pudding to use up any odds and ends you have.

Makes 2 x 250ml puddings

Ingredients

  • 75g dried dates
  • 50g dairy-free margarine
  • 50g light Muscovado sugar
  • 50g silken tofu
  • 65g self-raising gluten-free flour
  • ¬Ĺ teasp bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g mixed dried fruit

For the sauce:

  • 85g light Muscovado sugar
  • 30g dairy-free margarine
  • 110ml canned coconut milk
  • ¬Ĺ teasp good quality vanilla extract
  1. Grease and flour 2 x 250ml pudding basins. Put the dates in a small saucepan with 75ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes until very soft. Beat well with a wooden spoon until smooth, then leave to cool completely.
  2. When you are ready to mix up the puddings, put the slow cooker on High and leave to preheat for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the margarine, sugar and tofu in a bowl. Add the cold date mixture and whisk everything together until smooth and creamy.

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    Preparing the date mixture and blending the ingredients. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda on top. Add the fruit and gently mix all the ingredients together. Divide between the 2 basins and smooth the tops.

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    Preparing the puddings for steaming. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Cover the puddings with a layer of baking parchment, and then foil, and tie securely with string. Put the basins in the slow cooker, side by side, pour in sufficient hot water to come halfway up the sides of the basins, cover and leave to cook for 2 hours. A skewer inserted into the centre of each pudding will come out clean when the puddings are ready.
  5. For the sauce, put the sugar, margarine and half the coconut milk in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together, then raise the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until richly golden and caramelised. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining coconut milk and vanilla extract.

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    Making the toffee sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  6. When the puddings are ready, remove them from the slow cooker and leave them to stand for 5 minutes. Remove the wrappings and turn out on to warm serving plates. Pour over sauce and serve immediately.

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    Ready to eat, sticky toffee Christmas pudding. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    That just leaves me to pass on my very best wishes to you for a happy, healthy and enjoyable Christmas holiday. Happy festive feasting!