Gin and tonic shortbread (gluten-free; diary-free; vegan)

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Shortbread bunting. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It is with a happy heart that I publish my post this week. Here in the UK and other Commonwealth countries, we are celebrating the 70 year reign of our Queen Elizabeth II this weekend. For my part, I have been inspired to give one of my favourite bakes a bit of a Platinum Jubilee twist 🙂

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Patriotic shortbread. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This bake has a great combination of flavours for the time of year: lemon, lime and juniper as well as gin and tonic water in the icing. Leave out the gin and tonic if you prefer, and replace them fresh lemon or lime juice instead. If you are Coeliac, make sure the gin you use is gluten-free.

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Shortbread flavourings fit for a queen. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I baked the shortbread in a tin in order to achieve a good shape, but if you don’t have the right size tin, you can simply bake the shortbread round on a baking tray as it is. If it isn’t a jubilee occasion, I would usually decorate the shortbread with a few cake sprinkles or some fresh lemon and lime rind. I have captured a few images of how I made up the Union Jack flag design in case you ever want to make your own version for another occasion.

Makes: 8 pieces

Ingredients

  • 100g lightly salted plant (or dairy) butter, softened
  • 50g caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1tsp each finely grated lemon and lime rind
  • 8-10 juniper berries, finely crushed
  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend

Icing

  • 175g icing sugar
  • 25ml gin and/or tonic water, or fresh lemon or lime juice

1. Beat the butter and sugar together until well blended and creamy. Mix in the salt, citrus rinds and juniper.

2. Add the flour and gradually work into the creamy mixture, then bring together with your hands to make a firm dough.

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Making the shortbread dough. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Lightly flour the work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth. Form into a thick round piece and roll into an approx. 20cm round. If you are not using a tin, roll the mixture to form a 23cm round and neaten the edges.

4. For the tin version, base line a shallow 23cm cake tin and transfer the shortbread round to the tin, then press the dough right to the edge. Prick all over with a fork and chill for 30 minutes. Without a tin, transfer the shortbread round to a baking tray, prick with a fork and chill.

5. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Score the top of the chilled shortbread (about 1/3 the way through the dough) into 8 equal segments and bake for about 30 minutes until lightly golden. Cool for 5 minutes then carefully cut the segments all the way through and leave to cool in the tin or on the tray. Transfer to a wire rack.

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Shaping a shortbread round. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually stir in sufficient gin and tonic or lemon juice to form a smooth, thick, spreading icing.

7. Carefully spread the icing all over the top of each shortbread segment to cover and place on a board. If you prefer a smoother finish, add a little more G&T or juice to the icing so that you can spoon it over and let it drip down the sides of each piece – keep the shortbread on the wire rack for best results.

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Gin and tonic icing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

8. If you are decorating with sprinkles or citrus zest, add the decoration before the icing sets. If you are using ready-to-roll icing to decorate the tops, let the icing set before decorating. Below are a few images of how I created the flag effect on top of the shortbread.

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Making an icing Union Jack. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Whether you are celebrating or not this weekend, I hope you have a good time. Thanks for stopping by and I will hope to see you with my next post later on in the month.

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Melt in the mouth homemade iced shortbread. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Aubergine (egg plant) in spicy tomato sauce (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Aubergine in spicy tomato sauce with green chilli sprinkle. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

With a nod to the widely adopted new name for the first month of the year, Veganuary, I have for you this week a tasty, warming and comforting dish which fits the season very well. Aubergine (egg plant) is one of my favourite vegetables and I especially like eating it in a garlicky tomato or curried sauce. In this recipe, I combine these two flavours in one sauce to make a dish that can be served as a main meal or as a side to go with other spicy foods. It’s tasty cold as a salad as well.

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Up close on spiced aubergine (egg plant). Image: Kathryn Hawkins

November seems like a long time ago now, but that is when I harvested my homegrown aubergines (egg plants). I grew the variety Slim Jim in my greenhouse; just a couple of plants as a trial. They got off to a slow start but by the autumn both plants were doing well, and produced several small and neat, very pretty, lilac-coloured fruits.

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Home-grown Slim Jim aubergines (egg plant). Images: Kathryn Hawkins

You can use any variety of aubergine for this recipe. I always salt before cooking, regardless of variety. I find that drawing out some of the water before cooking helps to soften it so that it cooks to a melting tenderness. By the way, replace the mushrooms with more aubergine if you prefer. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Serves: 2 as a main meal or 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 1tsp each of cumin and coriander seeds
  • ½tsp ground fenugreek
  • ¼tsp ground black pepper
  • 5tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1tsp freshly grated root ginger
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 400g tomatoes, canned or fresh, chopped
  • 2tbsp tomato purée
  • Salt
  • 250g aubergines (egg plant), chopped or sliced
  • 200g brown (chestnut) mushrooms, wiped and quartered
  • 1tsp black onion seeds
  • Chopped green chilli and fresh mango to serve

1. Toast the spice seeds lightly in a small hot, dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden. Cool, then grind finely with the fenugreek and black pepper.

2. Heat 2tbsp oil in a frying pan and stir fry the onion, garlic, ginger and spices with the bay leaf for 1-2 minutes, then cover with a lid and cook gently for 20 minutes until soft.

3. Add the tomatoes, purée and a pinch of salt, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 15 minutes until soft. Leave aside.

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Preparing spiced tomato sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Meanwhile, stand a colander or strainer on a plate or over a bowl. Layer the aubergine, sprinkling generously with salt as you go, and leave to stand for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse very well, then pat dry with kitchen paper.

5. Heat 2tbsp oil in a frying pan until hot and stir fry the aubergine pieces for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Drain on kitchen paper. Heat the remaining oil and cook the mushrooms in the same way. Drain.

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Preparing aubergine (egg plant). Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Add the vegetables to the spiced tomato sauce, mix well and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until tender and cooked through. Turn off the heat, sprinkle with black onion seeds then cover and stand for 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

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Cooking the vegetables in the sauce. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped green chilli and accompanied with fresh mango. Delicious over rice or with naan breads with a sprinkling of roasted cashew nuts for crunch.

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A spicy feast. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I’ll be back towards the end of the month with something suitably Scottish to celebrate Burns Night. Until then, best wishes and keep safe.

Sweet chilli jelly (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Sweet chilli jelly. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. Are you beginning to feel Christmassy yet? We’ve had some snowfall here, not very much but it certainly feels like winter is upon us.

I haven’t had much time for making preserves this year and most of my harvested garden produce is still buried deep in the freezer waiting for me to get cooking. However, I did find some time a few days ago to make one of my favourites. I love the combination of sweet and smoke with a hint of chilli spice in this savoury jelly. It’s one of those preserves that goes with lots of things and makes a great gift for a food lover. It’s also ready to eat immediately or will store for up to a year.

You might want to scale back the recipe to make a smaller quantity but I wanted a few jars for myself as well as a couple to give away. Add more chillies for a spicy-hot jelly or use hot smoked paprika instead.

Makes: approx. 1.4kg

Ingredients

  • Approx. 1.5kg cooking apples, washed and left whole
  • Approx. 750g red (bell) peppers or capsicum, washed and stalks removed
  • 50-100g red chillies, washed and stalks removed
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 large sprigs of fresh sage
  • 5 bay leaves
  • approx. 1.1kg granulated white sugar
  • 175ml cider vinegar
  • 2tsp smoked paprika
  • 1½tsp salt
  • 1-2tsp dried chilli flakes

1. Chop the apples and place in a large preserving pan – seeds, core, skin, everything. Do the same with the peppers and chillies, then add to the pan along with the garlic, sage and bay leaves.

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Main ingredients: apples, peppers, chillies and garlic. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Pour over 1.7l water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, mashing with a spoon occasionally, until everything is soft and pulpy. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.

3. Carefully ladle the pulp into a jelly bag suspended over a bowl and leave in a cool place to drip over night. Discard the pulp and measure the juice.

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Making and straining the cooked fruit and veg. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Pour the juice into a clean preserving pan and heat until hot. Add 450g sugar for every 650ml juice collected – I had 1.6l juice and added 1.1kg sugar. Pour in the vinegar and stir until the sugar dissolves, then raise the heat and boil rapidly until setting point is reached – 105°C on a sugar thermometer. Turn off the heat and stir in the salt, paprika and chillies. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.

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Cooking and flavouring the jelly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Stir the jelly mixture and ladle into sterilized jam jars. Seal tightly while hot, then leave to cool before labelling. Store in a cool, dry, dark cupboard for up to 1 year.

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Freshly cooked sweet chilli jelly in the jar and on the spoon. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. One more recipe post before the holidays. I’ll see you again in a few days. All the best until then 🙂

Sweet and sour red cabbage (naturally gluten-free and vegan)

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Sweet and sour red cabbage. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. I hope you are well and enjoying Autumn. With the days getting shorter and the temperature dropping a few degrees here in the UK, my thoughts have turned to comfort food. There are some deliciously leafy seasonal vegetables around just now which make an ideal accompaniment to an autumnal stew or roast. I have a tasty red cabbage dish to share with you this week which is perfect for batch cooking as it freezes very well.

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Fresh red cabbage. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Most often, I braise red cabbage slowly with fresh apple or pear and some vinegar, sugar and cinnamon, but to ring the changes this time I have used a different combination of sweet and sour flavours.

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Sweet and sour flavours: sumac, raspberry vinegar, barberries and plum cheese. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For the sour flavours, I used sumac powder with its tart astringent flavour, reminiscent of lemon juice; dried barberries, another tartly flavoured ingredient which add a sharp tang to the dish (chopped dried unsweetened cranberries would also work), and homemade raspberry vinegar. For sweetness, I added some of the plum cheese I made about a month ago – Plum, sloe and apple cheese (naturally gluten-free and vegan) or you can use plum jam if you prefer. To add a splash of sparkle, juiciness and texture, I sprinkled over one of my favourite ingredients, fresh pomegranate seeds, to finish. All in all, a delicious flavour combination which tastes as good as it looks. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • ½ red cabbage
  • 1 large red onion
  • 25g plant butter
  • 2tbsp raspberry vinegar (or balsamic if you prefer)
  • 2tbsp plum cheese or jam (or redcurrant jelly works well)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1tbsp dried barberries (or finely chopped unsweetened cranberries
  • Sumac to taste
  • Pomegranate seeds to sprinkle

1. Cut out the cabbage stump, then finely shred or slice the remainder of the cabbage. If you slice everything finely, you can use up the tougher stems of the cabbage as well. I ended up with about 400g prepared cabbage. Peel and thinly slice the onion.

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Red cabbage and onion preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Melt the plant butter in a large deep frying pan or saucepan and gently fry the cabbage and onion, stirring, for about 5 minutes until well coated in the butter.

3. Add the vinegar, plum cheese or jam and plenty of seasoning. Mix well, lower the heat, then cover and simmer gently for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender. Stir in the barberries and sumac to taste. Turn off the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

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Cooking sweet and sour red cabbage. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. To serve, spoon into a warm serving dish and sprinkle the top with extra sumac and pomegranate seeds if liked.

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Red cabbage close-up. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a glorious day here in central Scotland today. Perfect weather for enjoying the autumnal colours. I hope you have a good few days until my next post. All the best for now 🙂

Homegrown coriander (cilantro) seeds

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Harvested coriander (cilantro) seed. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. Well it’s certainly feeling much more autumnal since my last post. After a few bright and sunny days, the weather has turned much cooler and, as I type this, it is pouring with rain.

Towards the end of last month, I harvested my first crop of coriander (cilantro) seed. When I sowed the herb seeds back in late spring, my only intention was to grow the herb for its leaves for use in salads, curries and salsas. However, once the seedlings appeared, I never quite got round to thinning out the crop. I kept them all in the same pot, in the greenhouse, just picking off a few leaves here and there, and never quite finding the time to separate them and plant them outside.

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Coriander (cilantro) flowers. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

After a while, the individual plants became leggy and formed flower stalks. I enjoyed the flowers for their aroma and the splash of brightness they offered. The leaves had started to become coarser in texture and had a bronze edge, and weren’t quite so appealing to eat. In early August, I decided it was time to get rid of them altogether as the flowers had dried and were falling. However, on closer inspection, the fallen petals had left behind bright green “berries”.

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Bright green seeds. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

After a bit of research and a quick change of plan, I decided to keep the plants with the hope of being able to harvest the seeds. You can pick the green fruit and use it in cooking, but they don’t store well. I tried one or two, the flavour was mild, fresh and slightly sweet, and would be good chopped up in a salad or added to a relish. The green berries can be pickled as well.

However, I read that if you leave the fruit on the stems long enough, the berries will dry naturally and can be harvested for longer storing, and used as the familiar fragrant spice.

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Beginning to dry out. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

By the end of August the seeds had turned light gold, and in another month, they had dried out completely. At the time, we were blessed with some dry weather so I think this helped with the drying process. I guess that a damp atmosphere could cause the seeds to turn mouldy.

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Coriander seed dried and ready for harvesting. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I found it easier to pull the stems from the soil and pick off the seeds into a small bowl. I left them in the greenhouse for a few more days to finish ripening naturally in the sunshine.

It was a very small harvest, accidental by nature but rewarding all the same. Now the seeds are in a tiny jam jar in my spice cupboard waiting for the right recipe to include them in.

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Precious seed harvest ready for storing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Until next time, take care, my best wishes to you, and thank you for stopping by again 🙂

Baked spiced golden carrots (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spiced golden carrots with carrot top and coriander dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. It’s another “golden” post from me this week, all be it a recipe-led one rather than one from my garden. To be honest, I had intended this to be a “rainbow carrot” feature but Mother Nature stepped in and things turned out a little different to what I was expecting. Let me explain.

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Rainbow carrot seeds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in September last year, I decided to experiment by sowing some carrots seeds as a late crop. All being well, I should end up with baby carrots in the early winter. I chose a rainbow mix, and planted them in 2 trench-style containers in the (unheated) greenhouse. I was delighted when they started growing, but as the daylight hours dwindled, and the temperature cooled, the seedlings, unsurprisingly, stopped growing.

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From December 2020 through to April and June 2021, overwintering carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I decided to leave them alone and allowed them to overwinter in the same spot in the greenhouse. Nothing much happened until the weather warmed up in March this year when the seedlings started growing again. By April they were thriving so I put the pots outside. With the benefit of hindsight, the carrots were probably ready for pulling about a month ago, but nevertheless, this month, I finally enjoyed a bunch of homegrown carrots with fine flavour, all be they with a distinct lack of rainbow 🙂

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Golden carrot harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Only white and yellow carrots grew, although there was one orange one which didn’t quite make the grade for this recipe. It had split and grown in a very strange shape, much like a crossed pair of legs. It went in a salad instead and tasted delicious.

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One wee wonky carrot. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the carrot recipe which uses up all parts of the vegetable. I peeled the carrots because they were a little hairy, but ideally homegrown carrots are best left unpeeled. I also wanted an excuse to make crispy carrot peelings which I love. I used some of the carrot tops in a dressing and the rest I am working my way through as a sprinkling over salads and soups. I keep them in a jug of water in the fridge; they last for several days if you change the water regularly. If you have carrots without the tops, you can make the dressing with all coriander instead. Give all parts of the carrot a good wash to remove grit, dust and soil from the ground.

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Carrot preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients

  • 350g carrots, washed and peeled if preferred (don’t forget to keep the peelings!)
  • 1 tsp each coriander and cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup + a little extra if you are going to cook the peelings
  • 4 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil (I chose this for the nutty flavour and golden colour, but any vegetable oil is fine) + a little extra for cooking the peelings
  • Sea salt
  • 15g carrot top leaves, washed (use the leafy fronds rather than the stalks which can be tough) + a few extra for garnish
  • 15g coriander leaves, washed
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ¼ tsp ground fenugreek (use a mild curry powder if this is unavailable)

1. Preheat oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. If the carrots are different sizes, cut them into even sized pieces. My carrots were about 10cm long, and I simply cut them in half. Put in a roasting tin and sprinkle with half the toasted seeds.

2. Mix the maple syrup and 1 tbsp oil together and toss into the carrots. Season with salt, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

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Toasting and grinding spices for baking carrots with maple syrup and rapeseed oil. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Remove the foil, mix the carrots in the pan juices and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, this time uncovered, until tender and lightly golden.

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Baked carrots straight out of the oven. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

4. While the carrots are cooking, make the dressing. Put the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and with the remaining toasted seeds and oil, and blitz until well blended. Season with salt to taste. Cover and leave at room temperature for the best flavour.

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Making carrot top and coriander dressing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. If you want to cook the peelings, mix them with a drizzle of maple syrup and oil, then spread them out on a baking tray, season and bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

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Roasting carrot peelings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. To serve, drain the carrots and arrange on a warm serving plate. Sprinkle with chopped carrot tops and serve with the dressing and crispy peelings.

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Carrots with dressing and crispy sprinkles. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have chosen to grow a purple variety of carrot this year, and the first seedlings are quite well advanced already. If all goes to plan you may well see another carrot-led post from me in a few weeks.

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Carrot top and coriander dressing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have a good few days ahead. Until my next post, take care and keep safe 🙂

Clootie dumpling (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Clootie dumpling. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well and safe, and if you are in a cooler part of the world right now, I hope it’s not too cold at the moment. It’s certainly been chilly here in central Scotland. As I type, the garden is very snow-laden and there is not much sign of it melting for the time being.

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Snowy January 2021. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I am, therefore, still feeling the need for comfort food. My recipe post this week is a traditional Scottish pudding that definitely falls into the aforementioned category. This coming Monday marks the annual celebration of Burns Night on the calendar, when the birth of Scotland’s national poet, Robert (Rabbie) Burns, is remembered. Usually a chance to meet up with friends and family and enjoy a dram of whisky or two, this year will inevitably be a much quieter affair.

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The serving of the pudding. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe gets its name from the way this pudding is cooked. The fruity, oaty mixture is wrapped in a floured cloth or cloot and boiled. The perfect dumpling should have a firm texture on the outside with a soft, fruity and mildly spiced interior, so when the pudding has been boiled, it is popped in the oven to dry out for a few minutes and thus a shiny coating or skin forms on the outside.

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Clootie dumpling with custard and a wee dram on the side. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serve the dumpling with custard and enjoy it hot with a wee nip of whisky or ginger wine to wash it down. Delicious. Here’s the recipe if you fancy giving it a go.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 125g gluten-free self raising flour (such as Doves Farm) + extra for dusting
  • 75g vegetable suet
  • 50g oatmeal (do check that this is certified gluten-free if you are Coeliac)
  • 50g dark soft brown sugar
  • ¾ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125g mixed dried fruit (currants, sultanas and raisins)
  • 1 tbsp treacle
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 45ml cold water (flax egg)
  • 90ml dairy-free milk (I used oat milk)

1. First prepare the cloth. You’ll need a large square of cheesecloth or muslin for this – or you could use a clean tea towel. My cloth is 42cm square. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and scald the cloth in the water for a few seconds. Drain well – I use tongs and a colander to help with this – and when cool enough to handle, wring out the excess water.

2. Lay the damp cloth flat on a tray or directly on the work surface and lightly dust all over with flour – about 25g will be sufficient. Use a sieve to keep the flour evenly sprinkled in order to achieve a smooth finish on the dumpling. Cut a length of string to tie it up, and put to one side along with the prepared cloth.

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Preparing the cloth or cloot. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the suet, oatmeal, sugar, spices and salt, and mix together. Stir in the fruit and treacle, and then bind everything together with the flax egg and milk to make a softish batter mix.

4. Spoon the mixture on to the centre of the cloth. Draw up the sides and tie together securely with the string. Don’t tie the cloth too tightly around the mixture, keep it baggy to allow the dumpling to expand during cooking.

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Preparing and assembling the dumpling. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Place an upturned saucer or trivet in the bottom of a saucepan – choose a pan that neatly fits the saucer or trivet so that the dumpling doesn’t move around too much during cooking. Sit the dumpling on top and fill the pan with boiling water to come about halfway up the sides of the dumpling. Bring to the boil, then cover with a tight fitting lid and simmer gently for 2 horrs. You may need to top up the water during cooking.

6. Towards the end of the cooking time, half fill a bowl with cold water, and preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. When the dumpling is cooked, carefully lift it out and dip in the cold water for 10 seconds – this helps you to remove the cloth more cleanly.

7. Drain the dumpling in a colander and open out the cloth. Put a heatproof dish over the bowl and carefully flip the dumpling on to the dish. Gently peel away the cloth, keeping the outer edge intact, and bake for 15 minutes to dry off. Serve the dumpling as soon as possible after cooking, and accompany with custard. You can reheat any leftovers in the microwave, or leave to cool and then wrap and freeze.

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Cooking the dumpling. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Clootie dumpling close-up. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. Until my next post, enjoy Burns Night if you are celebrating. Take care and keep safe 🙂

Almond-topped, spiced mince pies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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My almond-topped mince pies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So here we are, almost at the end of another year, and what a year! I hope you are all well and staying safe at this time. For my final post of the year, I thought it was high time for some festive cheer, and settled on a seasonal treat that I find utterly delicious and hope you will too.

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Sugar and spice and all things nice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I love mince pies, and if you make your own pastry, they taste even better. I use readymade mincemeat but you can put your own spin on the recipe by using your own or just a selection of minced dried fruit – soak in some booze or fruit juice so that it stays juicy during cooking. I like to add a little mixed spice or pudding spice to the mincemeat to give it a really Christmassy flavour. This year I used some homemade chai masala – recipe here – which works very well. The topping is an old favourite of mine, almond frangipane, a rich, crumbly sponge flavoured with almond extract. Delicious 🙂

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Pastry snowflake decoration. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The pastry trimmings can be used to make a finishing touch decoration for the pies if you like, and my recipe allows for extra pastry to do this. If you want to make sufficient pastry to make the cases only, reduce the recipe by one third, or for convenience, use 300g readymade shortcrust pastry (450g if you want to make the decorations on top).

The pies will keep in a sealed container for 3-4 days (if you can leave them alone!), and they freeze well too.

Makes: 12

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 75g white vegetable fat, softened
  • 60g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 260g gluten-free plain flour blend such as Dove’s Farm
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (not essential but it does make the pastry easier to work with and slightly crisper)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling and topping:

  • 200g vegan mincemeat
  • 1 tsp chai masala or mixed spice
  • 80g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 80g ground almonds
  • 15g gluten-free plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 15g ground linseeds
  • Icing sugar to dust
  1. First make the pastry. Beat together the fats until smooth and creamy, then whisk in the sugar until well blended. Add the remaining pastry ingredients and carefully stir everything together to make a crumbly mixture.
  2. Bring the crumble together with your hands and knead gently to make a smooth, firm ball of dough. Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. This pastry doesn’t firm up very much but it is easier to handle if you do refrigerate it before rolling out.
  3. Lightly dust the work surface with more flour and roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/2 cm – any thinner and the pastry tears easily. Cut out 12 x 8cm rounds, re-rolling the dough as necessary.
  4. Lightly grease a 12-cup jam tart tin (approx. 7cm x 2cm cups), and gently press a circle of pastry into each, remoulding if it cracks. Chill for 30 minutes whilst making the filling and topping.
  5. Gather up the trimmings if you want to make the decoration, and roll out to the same thickness as the pastry cases. Use a 7cm diameter snowflake or star cutter to stamp out 12 decorations. Arrange on a lined baking tray and chill for 30 minutes.
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Making the pastry, cases and decorations. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. Mix the mincemeat and spice together. In another bowl, mix the margarine, sugar, almonds, flour and almond extract together until well blended. Mix the linseeds with 45ml cold water and stand for 5-10 minutes until thickened, then mix into the almond mixture.

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Making the almond topping. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

7. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5. Divide the mincemeat between the pastry cases and top with the almond mixture. Smooth the topping to seal in the mincemeat and bake for about 40 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Bake the pastry decorations for about 15 minutes and leave to cool on the baking tray.

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Assembling the pies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

8. Leave the pies to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then carefully loosen them. Leave them for a further 10-15 minutes to firm up before removing from the tins and placing on a wire rack to cool. Just before serving, dust with icing sugar and top with a sugar dusted pastry decoration.

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Crumbly and fruit-filled with a hint of spice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Thank you for following my blog for another year and for all your lovely comments. I send you my best wishes for a happy, healthy and safe Christmas, and I look forward to returning to my blog in the new year.

Spiced spinach tattie scones (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Lightly spiced spinach and potato scones served with mango chutney. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope all is well with you this week. With tighter restrictions entering many of our lives for the foreseeable future, I have turned to another comforting recipe this week. I am revisiting a Scottish classic, and also the most popular recipe on my blog to date, the humble tattie (or potato) scone.

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Freshly cooked and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can read my original recipe here but this time I have given the basic ingredients a spicy twist, inspired by one of my favourite Indian dishes, Saag aloo.

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Classic combination, spinach and potatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have grown a lot of potatoes this year. At the beginning of lockdown back in March, I struggled to find any seed potatoes to buy, and ended up with a variety called Nicola which has turned out to be a very tasty and very high-yielding potato. I planted mostly in pots and the old barrel below. I am storing the leftover crop in dry soil in the greenhouse for winter use.

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Freshly dug Nicola potatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The recipe is very simple, with just a few ingredients. I have a couple of tips for guaranteed success: use a dry-textured potato for good results and also drain and dry off the cooked spinach as much as possible to avoid soggy scones. When you cook the scones, only brush the pan with oil so that you give them a little colour without making them crispy.

I use a garam masala spice blend for a mild, fragrant spiciness, but try using your favourite curry powder if you prefer something more defined.

Makes: 8

Ingredients

  • 425g potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • Salt
  • 5 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 4 tsp garam masala
  • 300g baby spinach
  • 60g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

1. Put the potatoes in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Cover with water, bring to the boil and cook for 7-10 minutes until completely tender. Drain well; leave to air dry, then push through a ricer to make smooth. Leave to cool.

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Boiled potatoes put through a ricer. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a small frying pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and spices for 2-3 minutes. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat and leave to cook gently in its own steam for about 15 minutes until very soft. Leave to cool.

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Cooking down the onion and spices. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Rinse the spinach and pack into a saucepan whilst wet. Heat until steaming, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and cook for about 5 minutes until wilted. Drain well, pressing against the sides of the colander or strainer to remove as much excess water as possible. Leave to cool.

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Preparing the spinach. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. Once the spinach is cold, chop it up and then blot well with kitchen paper to remove any excess water that remains in the mix.

5. To make the dough, put the potatoes, onion and spinach in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder and some salt. Mix together to form a ball, and roll out on a lightly floured work top to a thickness of about 1cm. Use an 8-9cm round cutter to make 8 scones, re-rolling the dough as necessary. Cover and chill until required.

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Making the scone dough. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

6. When you are ready to cook, brush a frying pan lightly with oil, heat until hot then cook the scones gently for about 3 minutes on each side until lightly golden. Drain and keep warm. If you want to store them, cool them on a wire rack, then cover and chill. They will keep for about 5 days in the fridge and also freeze well.

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Cooking spiced spinach tattie scones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To reheat, either give them a quick blast in the microwave for a few seconds, or gently toast on a dry frying pan for a a couple of minutes on each side.

They make a delicious accompaniment to a bowl of soup just as they are, or spread with butter or margarine and topped with mango chutney 🙂

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Buttered-up and ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. Until next time, take care and keep safe.

Gujerati-inspired spiced vegetable cake

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Spiced vegetable cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. It feels like a while since I posted a recipe. To be honest, I have been busy with work projects and haven’t had so much time to set aside for my blog. But I about to  rectify that now with this week’s recipe, inspired by a Gujerati dish called “Handvo”. This is a savoury cake made with spices, grated vegetables and a flour made from rice and lentil or dahl. It reminds me of a savoury carrot cake.

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Lightly spiced and full of flavour. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The cake is best eaten hot with a salad and some fruity chutney. I have eaten it cold, at room temperature, and it was still very tasty but the texture was a little drier. Something different for a picnic or packed lunch perhaps? You need to start the recipe the day before baking because you need to soak the flour and yogurt mixture overnight. After that, it’s all pretty straightforward.

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Vegetables and flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The vegetable ingredients can be changed to suit personal preference. Carrots and ordinary potato work instead of sweet potato; chard or spring greens would make a good alternative to spinach; use pea instead of sweetcorn and leek instead of spring onion. The spices I use give a mellow flavour, so you may want experiment with others if you prefer something more robust. For a shortcut, you could replace the lot with a general purpose curry powder.

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A slice of savoury cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 115g gram flour
  • 115g white rice flour
  • 150g plant-based yogurt (I used coconut)
  • 115g grated raw sweet potato
  • 75g cooked sweetcorn kernels
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 50g raw spinach, chopped
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander plus more for serving
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • ¼ tsp asafoetida
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 75ml sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp each cumin and black onion seeds
  • 4 tsp sesame seeds
  1. Sieve the flours into a bowl and mix in the yogurt along with 100ml luke warm water until well blended and the consistency of thick batter. Cover and leave in a cool room temperature for about 12 hours.

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    Soaking the flours in yogurt and water. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. The next day, preheat the oven to 240°C, 220°C fan oven, gas 9. Grease and line a 20cm spring-clip or loose-based cake tin.
  3. Add the vegetables, coriander, chilli, asafoetida, garlic, salt and sugar to the soaked cake batter and mix thoroughly.
  4. Heat the oil and fry the spice seeds gently until starting to pop then add to the cake mixture and mix well.
  5. Spoon into the prepared tin, smooth the top and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6, and cook for a further 35-40 minutes until firm to the touch and golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin. Serve hot or cold with more coriander and salad.

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    Making and baking the cake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    I hope you enjoy the recipe. Have a good few days. It’s beginning to feel a little more spring-like here, but I expect I’ve put a damper on things now I’ve said that! See you again soon 🙂

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    A savoury cake with a texture a bit like carrot cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins