This weird spring

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Chionodoxa, Spring’s little gem. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again everyone. I hope you are keeping well. The weather has turned fine these past few days since my last post and it has been a joy to be able to escape into the garden. Whilst the world is in shut-down, Mother Nature is carrying on as usual.

This very week, 16 years ago, I moved to Scotland and took over a much neglected garden. There was not much in flower back in April 2004, but by the following spring, with a little TLC, the first Chionodoxa magically appeared (I didn’t plant them) and have been coming up each spring ever since. They love the sunny flowerbeds and paths and are poking through everywhere at the moment. In contrast, their relation, Scilla, prefer the cooler, damper, shadier part of the garden. In the low light, their bluish-lilac flowers seem to glow with a luminous quality.

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In the shade of a tree, Scilla flowers blooming. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another shade lover, is the primrose. There are 2 varieties in the garden at the moment. The bushy yellow one flowers just for spring whilst the paler variety is in bloom and and off for several months of the year. There are several primrose clumps now; they seed themselves and multiply every year, and really do brighten up a dark corner.

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Scottish primroses. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There were a few tasks to get on with at the weekend. One of which was to prune the bay tree-bush which has got a bit wild. I ended up with a huge trug full of bay leaves – they will keep me going for a very long time!

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Springtime bay pruning. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the first tasks I can remember tackling in the garden that first spring, was to dead-head the Hydrangeas. The papery flower heads act as a natural frost protector for the buds and leaves forming on the stem below. This is one of my most enjoyable annual tasks in the garden mainly because it doesn’t involve too much bending ūüôā

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Bucket of dry Hydrangea flowers. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image this week is of a Ribes Sanguineum or the flowering currant bush. It has been looking a bit sad for the past couple of years, but after a rigorous pruning last Autumn, it has come back to full flower and is looking much healthier. I love the blackcurrant aroma that the flowers have.

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Flowering currant bush. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week or so. Enjoy the outdoors if you are able, and keep safe. Until next time, take care.

 

Spring rhubarb harvest, roasted and poached

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This year’s first and second stems of spring rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are all keeping safe and well. Over the past couple of weeks, with the growing limitations on social interaction and movement, I have felt more grateful than ever before to have my own outside space. Not only are there cheery spring flowers everywhere and the joyful sounds of birds singing, I have been able to pick the first of this year’s home-grown produce.

At the beginning of the month, I had my first taste of this year’s bright pinkish-red, tender stems of forced rhubarb which I covered in early February. The stems weren’t very long because the pot I used wasn’t that tall and it made the stems¬† grow a bit wonky and squat. However, the colour was intensely vibrant and the flavour was fruity and¬† tangy.

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My home-grown forced rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

With more undeveloped stems peaking through, I re-covered the clump and was able to pick a second harvest a fortnight later. I have left the remaining stems to grow naturally. I have covered up another clump which will (hopefully) yield a few more stems ready for another harvest next month.

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Freshly picked and prepared, forced rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I didn’t do anything fancy with the rhubarb this year. I roasted the first batch with vanilla (recipe below), and the second harvest of stems got poached in the juice of my last blood orange of the season (sob) and some of last summer’s frozen raspberries (recipe below). Both very simple serving suggestions, but utterly delicious.

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Roast rhubarb with vanilla. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Roast vanilla rhubarb – I used 200g prepared spring rhubarb stems cut into even thickness pieces, about 8cm long. Put the rhubarb in a small roasting tin and sprinkle with 2 tbsp vanilla sugar and 3 tbsp water. Add a split vanilla pod and bake at 200¬įC, 180¬įC fan oven, gas 6 for 15-20 minutes until just tender. Serve warm or cold.

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Spring rhubarb with orange and raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Rhubarb with raspberries and orange: I used 250g prepared rhubarb stems, cut into 5cm lengths. Put the rhubarb in a frying pan with 300g frozen raspberries and the juice and rind of 1 orange. Sprinkle over 5 tbsp granulated sugar. Heat gently until steaming, then put the lid on the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes until just tender and cooked through. Stand for 10 minutes before serving hot, or allow to cool completely. Discard the orange peel before serving.

I do enjoy eating rhubarb with a crumble topping but I find that spring rhubarb overcooks under a a crust of any kind. I came up with an idea which means you can cook a crumble topping separately and sprinkle it over fruit just before serving.

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Preparing oaty crumble topping. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Oaty crumble topping (serves 4): in a saucepan, melt 110g dairy-free margarine with 25g golden syrup and 25g Demerara sugar. Remove from the heat and stir in 150g gluten-free jumbo oats and 50g gluten-free plain flour blend. Spread out thinly over a lined baking tray and bake at 190¬įC, 170¬įC fan oven, gas 5 for about 15 minutes until merged together. Break up the mixture into clusters and return to the oven to bake for a further 7-8 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve hot or cold. Once cold, the mixture will keep in an air-tight container for several days, and it freezes well too.

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Roast rhubarb with oaty crumble. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for this month. I look forward to posting in April. Until then, keep well and stay safe ūüôā

 

 

Springtime isolation and a spot of wild garlic foraging

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A peaceful place for wild garlic foraging, River Lednock, Perthshire. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. What a weird and surreal spring this is turning out to be. In many ways life goes on as usual: the spring flowers are blossoming; the birds are chirping and calling to each other; the days are drawing out, and the weather is brightening up. Yet, we humans are having to behave very differently.

I hope you are all getting along ok. It seems we’re affected by the spread of the virus throughout the world, and we’re all having to do our bit to keep it at bay. In the UK, we have been asked to keep our distance from each other, to stay at home as much as possible, and to only go out for exercise and essential shopping. At the weekend, I was able to find a quiet spot and combine a spot of foraging along with a walk along a nearby riverbank and woodland.

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River bank lush with wild garlic. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The air was warm and heavy with the scent of the garlic leaves. It was a joy to be out of doors and away from the troubles of the world, hearing only the water bubbling and the birds singing. I picked a few leaves here and there from the river bank. The garlic seems to be very abundant this year.

If you are able to go foraging, always forage responsibly by taking one or two leaves from a plant rather than stripping a whole one bare. And, wash the leaves thoroughly before cooking.

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Freshly picked and washed my harvest of wild garlic leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Back at home, I used some of the leaves to make a version of  my favourite mash recipe using seasoned 500g mashed potato, 50g chopped wild garlic leaves and 50ml olive oil. I spread this on top of a creamy vegetable sauce and drizzled with more olive oil before baking.

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Wild garlic and olive oil mash. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The next day, I cooked up more leaves with spring greens and leeks – deliciously tasty with pasta or over rice. A version of this recipe can be found here.

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Wild garlic, leeks and spring greens. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This time I used 100g shredded cabbage with 75g each wild garlic and leek. Season and stir fry in 20ml olive oil for 2-3 minutes, then lower the heat, put the lid on and cook gently for about 10 minutes until wilted down. Simple but delicious.

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Wild garlic and spring greens. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I wish you well over the next few days. Until next time, keep safe, and enjoy spring as best you can ūüôā

Amaryllis – no one year wonder

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Amaryllis Picotee in spring last year. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been compiling this week’s post for a while, and I have been in a bit of a dilemma as to the best time to go public with it.

Often given as Christmas presents, Hippeastrum hybrida, commonly known as Amaryllis, will begin to grow soon into the new year if they have sufficient warmth and light, but where I am in the north of the UK, I find it a challenge to get the bulbs started much before late spring. I do love their big voluptuous blooms, so flamboyant for something that grows in such a confined space. I’ve purchased many a variety over the years but it’s only recently that I have realised that you can keep the bulbs from one year to the next, and have them flower again. So while I wait for mine to start shooting, I thought I would post this week for the benefit of anyone who has been enjoying their Amaryllis already this year and who wants to do so again.

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Amaryllis first and second time around. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When I first planted the Amaryllis bulb back in 2017, the following spring, I was delighted to see 2 strong stems of flowers forming, I ended up with 4 blooms on each stem and they lasted in succession for several weeks. Once the flower buds form, move the plant to a cooler spot, still in the light as too much warmth and mean that the flowers will go over quickly.

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When the floral show is over. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When the final flower has faded, cut off the stalk but leave the plant in the light and¬† warmth, and continue to water and feed as usual. You need to encourage the plant to grow foliage so that it can photosynthesize and build itself up for next year. These plants are best left indoors; they are not very robust and can’t tolerate variable climates.

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Green foliage and the dormant season. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In late summer, you will notice that the foliage will begin to die back. Stop watering at this point and allow the foliage to dry and shrivel. Store the bulb, still in its pot, in a cool place, unwatered, so that it can become dormant over the Autumn and into winter. Leave it like this for at least 6 weeks, and don’t let the temperature get below 10¬įC.

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New shoots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As the coolness of winter approaches, bring the bulb back into the warm and start watering and feeding again, and soon the shoots will appear. Don’t over-water otherwise the bulb will rot, but make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely. In the second year, my Amaryllis produced one flower stem with five blooms attached.

After the second year of flowering, you might want to re-pot the bulb when the flowers have died down. They don’t like too much space, so only upsize if really necessary and then only transfer to a pot one size up from the original. Take care with the roots, they don’t like root disturbance either.

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A stunning floral display, 2 years running, Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It looks like my bulb is a long way from doing anything at the moment. The weather is too cold and dull for it to get it started. But I am looking forward to it’s splendid display in a couple of months time. Until my next post, I wish you well and hope you have a good few days ahead.

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Amaryllis with 5 blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Spring vegetable pancake (Gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spring vegetable pancake with new season asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Fresh British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Fresh asparagus in a hot pan. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Spring-vegetables for pancake making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Home-made barbecue dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 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
  • ¬Ĺ tsp smoked paprika
  1. 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.
  2. Sift the rice flour on top and mix together with the stock to make a smooth batter.

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    Making the pancake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Add the cabbage, spring onion and breadcrumbs and mix everything together to make a thick, stiff batter Рadd a little water if the mixture is very dry, but this is not a pourable batter, it is more like a firm cake mixture.
  4. 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.

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    Cooking spring vegetable pancake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
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    Asparagus-topped spring vegetable pancake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    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 ūüôā

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    Early May British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Tutti frutti semifreddo (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Easter dessert. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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!).

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Iced tutti frutti loaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Easter semifreddo ingredients. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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A spoonful of semifreddo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here’s what to do:

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 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 glac√© cherries, chopped
  • 25g pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 3¬†tbsp. Marsala wine (or use sweet sherry or cherry brandy)
  • Extra cherries and pistachios to decorate
  1. 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.

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    Cling film lined load tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Remove from the heat, mix well then stir in the remaining ingredients and leave to cool completely.
  3. Transfer to a freezer container at least 1.1l capacity, cover and freeze for 2 to 2¬Ĺ 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.

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    Freezing semifreddo. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. 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 ūüôā

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    Sliced and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Spring in full swing

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Raised bed of spring flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Muscari and Snakeshead fritillary. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Victoria Plum, Morello Cherry and Doyenne de Comice Pear blossoms. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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 ūüôā

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My first bluebells of 2019. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Euphorbia with hellebores. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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 (Centaurea montana). 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.

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Persian buttercup and a Mountain cornflower. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

A springtime woodland walk

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End of March, Bluebells. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Wood anemones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Wild primroses. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Lady’s Smock (Cuckoo flower), Celandine and Herb Robert. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Blackthorn against a blue sky. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Pussy Willow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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 ūüôā

 

Rhubarb and orange streusel cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Rhubarb and orange streusel cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Early variety home-grown rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Spring rhubarb stalks. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Rhubarb streusel cake with a hint of orange. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

  • 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 cornflour
  • 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
  1. Preheat the oven to¬†200¬įC, 180¬įC 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.

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    Roasting rhubarb. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Reduce the oven temperature¬†to 180¬įC, 160¬įC 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.
  3. For the cake mix, put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk everything together until well blended.
  4. 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.
  5. Spoon over the remaining cake mix and spread smoothly. Sprinkle over half the remaining streusel mix and arrange the remaining rhubarb on top.
  6. Finally, sprinkle the rhubarb with the remaining streusel, stand the cake¬†tin on a baking tray and bake for about 1 ¬ĺ 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. Assembling_rhubarb_and_orange_streusel_cake

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    Assembling the streusel cake ready for baking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. 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.
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    Decorating the streusel cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins.
    Overhead_image_of_iced_and_decorated_rhubarb_and_orange_streusel_cake
    Streusel cake, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    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 ūüôā

     

 

Spring green risotto with wild garlic (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spring green risotto. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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River-side wild garlic. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Fresh Ramsons leaves. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Washing wild garlic. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Spring greens. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

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
  1. Trim the leek. Split lengthways and rinse well to remove any trapped earth. Shake well to remove excess water, then shred finely.
  2. Shred the wild garlic leaves. Strip the leaves of baby kale from the central stalks. Mix all the vegetables together.

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    Preparing spring greens. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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    Making risotto. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. 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.

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    Variegated wild garlic leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins