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!
If you’ve read my previous posts at this time of the year, you’ll know that spring is my favourite season. Not just because I love the flowers and the feeling that everything is coming to life, but my favourite vegetable is available right now for a very short period of time, British asparagus.
I rarely do very much with asparagus. I like to savour the tender green stems just as they are. Either a quick flash in a hot frying pan or a blast in a hot oven, to give them a subtle smokiness, and that’s all the extra flavour I need.
This week’s recipe is based on a Japanese dish called Okonomiyaki which caught my eye recently. Originally made with wheat flour and eggs, my version of the pancake is gluten-free and egg-free. There’s a bit of vegetable preparation, but once that’s out of the way, everything else is very straightforward. The pancake makes a lovely lunch or light supper, and is the perfect base for a topping of freshly cooked asparagus.
If you don’t want the hassle of a cooked topping, try sliced avocado and baby spinach or a pile of fresh pea shoots and wild rocket for a salad topping instead. If you have the inclination and the extra ingredients, I recommend making the barbecue dressing that accompanies the pancake. Utterly delicious, simple to make, and far tastier than any barbecue sauce I’ve ever been able to buy. A great finishing touch to any grilled or barbecued food.
2 tbsp. flax seeds
45g white rice flour
50g dry white free-from breadcrumbs
75ml white miso or vegetable stock
75g soft-leaved cabbage, such as Sweet-heart or Hispi, shredded
3 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
150g thin fresh asparagus stems, trimmed
Vegan mayonnaise to serve
For the barbecue dressing:
1 tsp maple syrup
2 tbsp. tomato ketchup
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp gluten-free light soy sauce
½ tsp smoked paprika
Put the flax seeds in a coffee grinder or small food processor and blend until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 6 tbsp. cold water. Leave to soak for 5 minutes by which time the mixture will thicken.
Sift the rice flour on top and mix together with the stock to make a smooth batter.
Add the cabbage, spring onion and breadcrumbs and mix everything together to make a thick, stiff batter – add a little water if the mixture is very dry, but this is not a pourable batter, it is more like a firm cake mixture.
Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a frying pan with a lid and add half the batter. Press the mixture to form a thick round approx. 16cm diameter. Fry over a medium heat with the lid on for 5 minutes. Carefully flip over, and cook on the other side, covered with the lid, for another 5 minutes. Drain and keep warm, whilst you cook the remaining mixture in the same way.
Once the pancakes are cooked, heat the remaining oil in the frying pan until hot and quickly cook the asparagus, turning, for 3-4 minutes until just wilted. Drain and keep warm.
To serve, mix all the dressing ingredients together. Slip the pancakes on to warm serving plates and drizzle with mayonnaise and the barbecue dressing. Top with asparagus and serve immediately.
Until next week, I’ll leave you with another image of my favourite vegetable. Have a good week and I look forward to seeing you next time 🙂
I’ve been back in the kitchen this week, making something deliciously sweet and impressive for the Easter holidays. I’ve come up with a dessert that is very easy to make, inspired by the flavours of Italy, and is everything you want to round off a celebratory Easter meal (but with no chocolate in sight – gasp, shock, horror!).
You can add your own choice of chopped dried or candied fruit and nuts – it’s a great recipe to use up the bits and pieces you have leftover (and you could even add chunks of chocolate if you really want to!). Flavoured with marzipan, mincemeat and Marsala wine, it’s a dessert that would also be right at home on the Christmas table as well.
Here’s what to do:
115g golden marzipan (use plain if you prefer but the golden variety adds a little colour to the semifreddo), chopped
600ml dairy-free single “cream” (I use oat cream, but soya cream or canned coconut milk would also work)
150g vegan mincemeat
100g glacé cherries, chopped
25g pistachio nuts, chopped
3 tbsp. Marsala wine (or use sweet sherry or cherry brandy)
Extra cherries and pistachios to decorate
Line a 1kg loaf tin with a double layer of cling film. Put the marzipan in a saucepan and pour over the dairy-free “cream”. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together.
Remove from the heat, mix well then stir in the remaining ingredients and leave to cool completely.
Transfer to a freezer container at least 1.1l capacity, cover and freeze for 2 to 2½ hours until starting to turn slushy. Mix well then freeze for a further hour or so until icy and stiffened. Mix well to distribute all the pieces and pack into the loaf tin. Freeze for at least 2 hours to firm up enough to slice. For prolonged freezing, fold over the cling film and wrap in foil. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To serve, gently ease the semifreddo from the tin using the cling film. Place on a serving plate and discard the cling film. Scatter with more cherries and pistachios. Slice, serve and enjoy! Happy Easter everyone 🙂
It’s been a glorious week here in central Scotland and I just couldn’t resist posting another series of images of spring flowers. It is my favourite time of the year and this year the garden seems more abundant than ever, bursting with colour in every corner.
Whilst the sky has been blue and the temperature relatively warm during the day, the nights have been chilly, and only this morning the lawn was covered with frost.
There is plenty of blossom forming on the fruit trees, and the sprigs nearest the walls are already in bloom and sweet-smelling. The bees will be smiling.
I have been in and out of the garden all week keeping my eye on the progress of the bluebells because they are exceptionally early this year. In the sunny spots, the stems are getting longer and the buds bluer, and today I discovered one wee bell-shaped flower fully open in amongst a thicket of twigs, and here it is, my first bluebell of 2019 🙂
One of the most prolific plants in the garden is Euphorbia. This time of the year the flowers are lime-green and yellowy and look stunning in the sunlight. They really brighten up the dullest parts of the garden and make an eye-catching display with the fading pink and white hellebores in the background.
My last images of my post this week are of a beautiful pink Persian Buttercup (Ranunculus) with its many layers of delicate petals. I don’t seem to be able to grow them in big clusters, just the odd one comes up here and there. The other is a very “early bird” in the garden this year, a single Mountain Cornflower (Centaureamontana). Usually these thistle-like flowers grow in abundance from early summer and onwards throughout the autumn, but this fellow has popped up several weeks ahead of the others.
That’s all for this week. Have a good few days – enjoy the sunshine if you have it. I’ll be back in the kitchen with an Eastery recipe for next week’s post.
For this week’s post, I have made a slight departure from my usual offerings. I have just returned from a few days down in the south of England celebrating Mothering Sunday with my family.
The county of Sussex is where I grew up and I remember the bluebell woods especially well. Carpets of fragrant blue flowers lined these particular woods in Slindon, most usually from mid to late April onwards. With the early onset of spring this year, I had a feeling that there might be some out in flower and I wasn’t disappointed. There were quite a few of the delicate, sweet-selling blue blooms alongside many other wild flowers.
It was a glorious day in these woods. The sun was warm and the sky was blue. The flowers seemed to almost glow in the bright light, and with the combination of good weather and the untimely blooming of these wild flowers, it was hard to remember exactly what month it actually was.
Not only were there flowers to enjoy in the woods, but the hedgerows and trees around and about were full of life too. Several species of butterfly were darting around from flower to flower (too quick for me to capture), and the bees buzzing and busy collecting pollen. It’s going to be a bumper year for hedgerow fruits if these blossom-laden Blackthorn trees are anything to go by.
My final image this week is of a Sussex pastoral scene and a tree that encompasses this time of year so well, the Salix Discolor, or Pussy Willow, with its fuzzy pollen-laden stamens so tempting to the bees and flying insects.
I hope you have enjoyed the visit to Sussex this week. I will be back with you next week with something equally seasonal. Until then, have a good week and enjoy Spring 🙂
It’s time for a rhubarb recipe this week on my blog. Spring is well under way now and rhubarb is plentiful. In the garden at the moment, my own early rhubarb plant is coming along nicely and looks very healthy. Not quite ready for picking just yet, but I don’t think it will be long.
This week’s post is a dense-textured, delicious rhubarb cake that can also be served warm as a pudding. You do need a fair bit of rhubarb to make the cake – 600g. Cut the rhubarb stalks to the same thickness for even cooking during the first part of the recipe, and take care not to over-cook in order to retain some texture in the finished bake.
The orange adds a subtle flavour to the cake, but leave it out if you prefer. Bake the rhubarb with a little water instead of the juice. For a spicy twist, replace the orange rind in the cake mix with ground ginger and/or mixed spice.
600g fresh rhubarb stalks
1 medium orange
3 tbsp. caster sugar
For the streusel mix:
85g gluten-free self raising flour
75g jumbo oats
50g dairy-free margarine, softened
For the cake:
200g dairy-free margarine, softened
200g caster sugar
Finely grated rind 1 orange
200g plain dairy-free yogurt (I used plain soya yogurt)
100g ground almonds
100g gluten-free self raising flour
To decorate (optional):
100g icing sugar
Fresh orange zest
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Trim the rhubarb and cut into even thickness pieces, 3-4cm long. Place in a roasting tray. Pare the rind from the orange using a vegetable peeler, and extract the juice. Stir both into the rhubarb and sprinkle over the sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until just tender, then leave to cool in the tin.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin. For the streusel, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and rub in the margarine. Set aside.
For the cake mix, put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk everything together until well blended.
Drain the rhubarb well, reserving the cooking juices, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Put half the cake mix in the tin, spread smoothly, sprinkle over half the streusel mix and top with half the rhubarb.
Spoon over the remaining cake mix and spread smoothly. Sprinkle over half the remaining streusel mix and arrange the remaining rhubarb on top.
Finally, sprinkle the rhubarb with the remaining streusel, stand the cake tin on a baking tray and bake for about 1 ¾ hours, covering with foil after an hour or so to prevent over-browning. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin to serve cold as a cake, or stand for about 30 minutes to firm up before removing from the tin to serve warm as a pudding with dairy-free custard and the reserved juices spooned over if liked.
To decorate and serve as a cake, carefully remove from the tin and place on a wire rack. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in about 4 tsp of the reserved cooking juices to make a soft, dripping icing. Drizzle over the top of the cake using a teaspoon and scatter with orange zest. Leave for about 30 minutes to firm up before slicing to serve.
I keep the cake in the fridge and bring to room temperature for a few minutes before serving. You can also heat up a slice in the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off. The cake freezes well without the icing. Have a good week 🙂
Every year at this time my local river bank becomes swathed in lush greenery and develops a distinctive oniony aroma. A walk on a sunny afternoon can make you feel very hungry indeed.
On a bright afternoon at the end of last week, I went on a foraging expedition and picked a small bag of the fresh, lush wild garlic leaves, also known as Ramsons (Allium ursinum). As with any wild food, only ever pick if in abundance. Take leaves from several plants rather than stripping leaves from just one or two. Pick the vibrant green, broad leaves (shaped rather like those of the tulip) when young and before the delicate white star-shaped flowers bloom to enjoy them at their sweetest.
For safetys sake, take extra care to make that sure you are only picking the leaves of wild garlic. Wash very well before using. I usually put the leaves in a colander and dunk several times in a bowl of cold water before shaking dry.
As with most soft herbs, wild garlic is best used within 24 hours of picking, but once rinsed and shaken dry, I find it well for a few days sealed in a plastic bag in the fridge.
My recipe this week combines the wild garlic leaves with baby kale leaves (or kalettes) and leek in a stir fry. It is delicious served as a vegetable dish in its own right, but is also makes a delicious stirred to a mushroom risotto.
For the stir fry:
1 medium leek
30g wild garlic, washed
175g baby kale (or kalettes)
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the risotto:
1l vegetable stock
2 tbsp. olive oil
250g chestnut mushrooms, wiped and chopped
400g Arborio rice
200ml dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g wild garlic, washed and finely shredded
Trim the leek. Split lengthways and rinse well to remove any trapped earth. Shake well to remove excess water, then shred finely.
Shred the wild garlic leaves. Strip the leaves of baby kale from the central stalks. Mix all the vegetables together.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, add the greens and stir fry for 2 minutes. Season well, reduce the heat to low, and cover and cook gently for 4-5 minutes until tender. Serve immediately as a vegetable accompaniment, or put to one side whilst preparing the risotto.
For the risotto, pour the stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a very gentle simmer. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until everything is well mixed.
Pour in half the wine and cook gently, stirring, until absorbed. Add the remaining wine along with a ladleful of stock. Cook gently until absorbed.
Continue adding the stock in this way, until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is thick, creamy and tender. This will take about 25 minutes and should not be hurried. Keep the heat moderate throughout the cooking.
Season the risotto to taste, stir in all but a few shreds of wild garlic, and cook for a further minute until the garlic has wilted. To serve, reheat the spring greens and gently mix into the risotto, then serve sprinkled with the remaining wild garlic.
I’ve been working away from home since my last post. When I arrived back at the weekend (a gloriously sunny one), I was delighted to see the garden so full of colour, and the tulips looking particularly magnificent. The extended winter/late spring has done wonders for the flowering bulbs this year. All of them have emerged strong and bold, and are lasting longer than usual.
Tulips have been a favourite flower of mine for many years. I love their simplicity. Whilst I have few words to share with you this week, I have some colourful images of these lovely, elegant blooms. I’ll be back in the kitchen again this weekend, getting ready for my next post in a few days time. Until then, have a good week.
It really was a glorious day today. After a few April showers this morning, it was a sunshiny blue-sky afternoon. It was very pleasant to take a stroll, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the sunshine. Out of the sun, it is still chilly, and the night-time temperature is low, but the spring flowers are at their best right now, and I couldn’t resist another post showing how the garden is looking at this very colourful and fragrant time of year. The scent from some of the flowers is intoxicating, I only wish there was some way of posting the aromatics as well as the images!
I’m in the throes of a very busy period with my work and subsequently, I have had little time to spend trying new recipes in the kitchen. I will have a recipe post ready for next week though, so in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the glorious multi-colours of my Scottish spring garden. See you next week.
For the first time in a while, I didn’t have a clump of rhubarb to put under a forcer pot back in January. I had transplanted all my rhubarb crowns to a new bed at the end of last year, and I decided that I would be sensible and let them recover and leave them to grow in the open for a harvest later in the year. Now, of course, I regret not having the lovely pink, tender stems to cook, but, never mind, I look forward to a home-grown harvest whenever it is ready. Actually, the clumps are doing very well, so I don’t think it will be too long before I get to pull my first stems of the year.
In the meantime, I bought some rhubarb from the local farm shop this week and baked up a batch of muffins. Serve them hot with extra stewed rhubarb and custard as a pudding, or enjoy them slightly warm for a spring-time breakfast or tea. Best eaten on the day they are made, although they will freeze, and can be reheated successfully in the microwave for a few seconds.
I made my own tulip-style paper cases, which make large “coffee shop” sized muffins. You will need 15cm squares of baking parchment and a jar or glass the same size as a muffin tin, and then it’s just a case of pressing the paper into the tins to make the case shape. If you prefer, divide the mixture between 12 ready-made paper muffin/cupcake cases and cook for slightly less time.
Makes 7 large muffins (or 12 traditional size)
For the crumble top:
85g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
2g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
55g dairy-free margarine, softened
55g caster sugar
For the muffin mix:
225g gluten-free plain flour blend
8g arrowroot (optional, but I find it does help bind the ingredients together and gives a chewier texture)
10g gluten-free baking powder
115g caster sugar (or half caster and half vanilla sugar)
60g dairy-free plain or coconut yogurt
115g dairy-free margarine, melted
150ml soya milk
2 teasp good quality vanilla extract
175g rhubarb, trimmed and finely chopped
150ml free-from custard
First make the crumble top. Put the flour and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the margarine until well blended. Stir in the sugar and mix until it all clumps together. Cover and chill until required.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6). Line a muffin tin with 7 large tulip-style paper cases or 12 traditional sized cases. For the muffin batter, sift the flour, arrowroot and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre.
Mix the yogurt, melted margarine, non-dairy milk and vanilla extract together in a jug. Gradually pour into the dry ingredients, mixing well to blend everything together. Stir in the chopped rhubarb.
Spoon half of the mixture equally between the paper cases, and spoon a dollop of custard on top, then cover the custard with the remaining muffin batter. Sprinkle the tops generously with the prepared crumble mixture.
Bake for about 35 minutes for large muffins, and 25-30 minutes for the smaller size. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Best served warm and eaten on day of baking.
The recipe works well with chopped apple or pear (add a little cocoa powder to your custard for a chocolate filling), or you can add fresh small berries like raspberries, blueberries or cherries. Until next week…….happy cooking!
We had a lovely, blue-sky Easter weekend here in central Scotland; I was able to spend several hours working outside (without a coat!) and taking my images for this week’s post. However, come Easter Monday, the temperature dipped again, it snowed, and just about everything I photographed disappeared under a layer of white slush.
I will never tire of these vibrant blue, star-shaped spring flowers. In the sun-light, they dazzle with vibrancy, and in the gloom, they take on an almost iridescent quality. They seem quite hardy and I can see that they haven’t been crushed by the weight of the snow.
It’s been a marvellous year for crocus. I have never known so many come into flower. Apart from the ones I transplanted into a wooden barrel last year, there are small clumps all over the garden which seemed to have appeared from nowhere. I think the Crocus fairies were busy planting when my back was turned.
Most of the spring flowers in my garden are shades of blue, yellow and white, but these tulips fellow are an exception. Always the first to flower, long before the rest of the tulips, and this year, ahead of the daffodils.
To round off my flowery post this week, I have a wonderful display of Hellebores again this year. They have been slow to open up, but are now in full bloom and glory. They are quite magnificent, and because they grow in the sheltered parts of the garden, they are not snow-bound 🙂 Have a good week.