Roast love apple soup (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Roast love apple soup. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Something pretty to calm the nerves after all the spooky goings on this week, and also a recipe to help take the chill away – it’s been much colder here since last weekend.  Love apple is a much nicer name for a tomato, and this recipe combines tomatoes with apples, fresh sage and bay leaves to give a refreshing sweet/savoury flavour, and there’s a pinch of hot paprika for some warmth.

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Home-grown love apples. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m all for making life in the kitchen as simple as possible, so the main ingredients are baked in the oven, on a tray, first. This allows you to do the preparation one day and then whizz up the cooked veg to make your soup the next. If you have a glut of tomatoes and apples, the baked mixture freezes fine for soup, so you can keep bags ready-prepared in the freezer.

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Home-grown Flamingo tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I used fresh tomatoes for the recipe because I have so many at the moment. I have made the recipe with canned tomatoes, but as these have already been cooked, you will notice a slightly different flavour and the soup will be more intense in colour. My cooking apples are quite mild, so you may need to play around with the sugar content if you are using a more tart variety. Eating apples work well too, but again, do a taste test to make sure that you don’t overdo the sweetness.

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Heart-shaped tomato. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I made some heart-shaped croutons to serve with my soup. Just pieces of seeded, gluten-free, sliced bread cut out with cookie cutters and shallow-fried in olive oil. Simple but delicious. To add another tangy twist to the soup, try drizzling the top with balsamic glaze (a sweet syrup made from grape juice and balsamic vinegar), or extra virgin olive oil for richness.

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Making heart-shaped gluten-free croutons. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Ingredients

Serves: 4

  • 400g cooking apples
  • 500g ripe tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A few sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp. caster sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • ¾ to 1 tsp hot paprika
  • Balsamic glaze, fresh sage and gluten-free croutons to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C  fan oven, gas 5. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Halve the tomatoes. Peel and slice the onion.
  2. Spread out the prepared fruit and veg on a large baking tray. Drizzle with the oil, poke in the herbs, then sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper. Cover the tray with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, stir and cook for a further 10 minutes, uncovered, until tender and soft At this point, you can leave everything to go cold and then keep refrigerated (or freeze) until ready to cook the soup.

    Baking_tray_of prepared_tomatoes_and_apples_with_sage_and_onion
    Roasting tomatoes and apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. When you’re ready to make the soup, discard the herbs and put the cooked fruit and veg into a blender or food processor along with 150ml stock. Blitz until smooth then pour into a saucepan and add the remaining stock and paprika to taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  4. Heat through gently, stirring, for 4-5 minutes until piping hot. Ladle into warm soup bowls and serve with a drizzle of balsamic glaze, fresh sage and croutons.
    Overhead_image_of_roast_love_apple_soup
    Ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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    Real love apples? Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Green chutney (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Freshly made Green chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s that time of year. Out come the jars, preserving pan and accessories again, yes, it’s chutney-making season! Green tomatoes are not something I usually have many of, but this year, I grew a spcific green variety of tomato thinking that they would make an interesting addition to the salad bowl. As attractive as the tomatoes are, they are not to my taste, but as it turns out, when combined with cooking apples, they have made a delicious chutney.

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Green Zebra tomatoes on the vine and a branch of Lord Derby apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Lord Derby apples and Green Zebra tomatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have eaten green chutneys in the past, and mostly they have been flavoured with cinnamon and mixed spice. As tasty as they were, the colour of the spicy flavourings turned the chutney shades of khaki brown. With this in mind, I set to thinking about flavours that would be interesting and also help preserve the colour.

 

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My green chutney flavourings: onions, garlic, bay and ground fenugreek. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I plumped for ground fenugreek which adds that quintessential “curry powder” flavour but is pale in colour. It has a strong, slightly bitter flavour so use with caution. I suggest just 1 tsp to give a hint of curry. If you prefer a stronger flavour, increase to 1 ½ tsp to 2 tsp.

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Chopped green tomatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a very straightforward recipe. Minimum amount of preparation – just peel and roughly chop as necessary, and let a food processor do the rest of the chopping for you. The chutney can be eaten immediately (it’s not too vinegary from the outset) but if you allow it at least a month in storage, the fenugreek flavour will develop further.

Makes: approx. 1.3kg

Ingredients

  • 650g green tomatoes
  • 325g cooking apples, roughly chopped (prepared weight)
  • 325g onions, roughly chopped (prepared weiht)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 425ml cider or white wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 425g granulated sugar
  • 125g sultanas

1. Wash the tomatoes and chop them roughly. Mix with the apples, onion and garlic. Place half in a food processor with half the vinegar and blitz for a few seconds until smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan or preserving pan, then process the other half of the vegetables with the remaining vinegar in the same way and add to the pan.

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Preparing the vegetables for green chutney. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Add the bay leaves, stir well, and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes until softened.

3. Stir in the fenugreek, salt and sugar. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil, and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thick. Turn off the heat, stir in the sultanas, cover and stand for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.

4. Ladle into warm, sterilised jars and seal with non-corrosive lids. Allow to cool then store for 6-8 months in a cool, dark cupboard. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 2 weeks. Delicious with roasted vegetables and cheeses.

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Sealed and labelled. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Spoonful of green chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Warm tomato, sage and caper bruschetta (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Warm tomato, sage and caper bruschetta. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have never been able to pick home-grown tomatoes this early before. Usually, my tomatoes don’t ripen until at least September, and I’m always left wondering whether I will be making pots-loads of green tomato chutney. This year, the tomatoes are ripening at least one month ahead, and I am delighted 🙂

I planted 8 different varieties this year in the greenhouse, and all are doing very well. I’m going to be eating a lot of tomatoes this year!

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Early August tomato harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I enjoy eating tomatoes raw, simply sliced, sprinkled with a little seasoning, and a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness, and topped with a few fresh basil leaves.

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A colourful variety of tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

However, I do cook with them occasionally, and my recipe this week is for a lightly cooked tomato dish which I put on top of gluten-free ciabatta-style bread to eat as a light lunch or quick supper snack. The topping also makes a great sauce to serve over pasta or roast veg. The tomatoes are flavoured with fresh sage, garlic and capers, and for a tangy sweetness, I’ve added a little white balsamic vinegar.

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Rosella tomatoes, fresh sage, and Flamingo tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To enjoy all the flavours of the recipe, leave the mix to cool slightly before serving rather than eating it too hot or fresh out of the saucepan.

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Bruschetta ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 225g small tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • A few leaves fresh sage
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 1 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices of freshly toasted bread
  1. Put the tomatoes, sage, garlic, capers and vinegar in a small saucepan. Season to taste and heat gently until simmering. Cover with a lid, turn down the heat to low and cook the tomatoes very gently for 10 minutes, until soft. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes.

    Tomatoes_capers_fresh_sage_and_gluten-free_ciabatta_bread
    Bruschetta ingredients and preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. To serve, discard the sage leaves. Drizzle freshly toasted bread with olive oil and spoon over the tomato topping. Garnish with fresh sage.

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    Bruschetta, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Home-grown tomatoes – recipe for fresh tomato sauce, a salsa, plus other serving suggestions (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Freshly picked tomatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

With the fine, warm spring weather we had this year, my tomato plants have done very well. The fruit started to ripen earlier than usual, and I have been picking a steady supply tomatoes since the end of July. By this time of the year, I’m usually left with a greenhouse filled with hard, green fruit, wondering how on earth they are all going to ripen as the days shorten and the weather turns.

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Ripe and ready to pick. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Of all the fruit and vegetables you can grow yourself, the tomato has to be in my top 5 as having the most marked difference in flavour compared to most commercially grown varieties, and it is one that I never tire of; I would happily consume a plateful every day if given the opportunity.

To preserve the flavour, avoid putting tomatoes in the fridge as this seems to destroy a lot of the taste – the unique fragrance also seems to disappear. I try to pick only what I need for eating or cooking that day, but if there are a lot that are ripe, I store them in a cool place in the kitchen and use within a couple of days.

Last month I made a batch of my favourite tomato preserve: Smoky Tomato Jam (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) and semi-dried a batch which I have preserved in olive oil – Preserving the Summer (Semi-cuit tomatoes – gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) If preserving isn’t your thing, and you have too many ripe tomatoes to eat, you can freeze them whole in bags for use in sauces and soups later on. Making a batch of tomato sauce is a good way to use them up too, and it also freezes well. Homemade tomato sauce makes a deliciously intense flavoured base for soups and pasta dishes, or as a tasty pouring sauce for meat, fish and vegetables.

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Homemade tomato sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To make about 450ml fresh tomato sauce: simply wash and pat dry 1 kg tomatoes; cut in half and place in a large lidded frying pan or saucepan. Try and keep them in a single layer if possible, for even cooking. Season lightly with salt and pepper and add a bunch of fresh herbs – I use rosemary, thyme, oregano and a bay leaf. Place over a low heat until beginning to steam, then cover with a lid and continue to cook very gently for about 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the tomatoes, until soft and collapsed. Cool for 10 minutes, then discard the herbs and push the tomatoes through a nylon sieve to make a pulpy juice.

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Preparing tomato sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Pour into a clean saucepan, add 25g butter or vegan margarine, 1 tbsp. good quality olive oil, and 1 tsp caster sugar. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Heat gently until the butter or margarine melts, then raise the heat and simmer steadily for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened, but still thin enough to pour. Use as per recipe or allow to cool completely, then cover and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Freeze in sealable containers for up to 6 months. Note: you can add garlic to the tomatoes before cooking – peeled, whole cloves work fine and will cook into a pulp with the tomatoes. I prefer to keep the sauce plain and add my garlic when I use the sauce in a recipe.

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Homemade tomato sauce, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here are a few other ideas for serving up fresh tomatoes:

  • Dress a plate of sliced fresh tomatoes by simply seasoning with a light dusting of white sugar, a little salt, freshly ground pepper and a few toasted and crushed cumin seeds.
  • For a quick “chutney”, gently fry 2 finely sliced red onions with a crushed clove of garlic in olive oil. Add a pinch or 2 of chilli flakes and cook until very soft. Add 225g chopped fresh tomatoes, 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp. caster sugar. Season and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until thick. Leave to cool, then store in the fridge for up to a week. Lovely with barbecued meat, vegetables and as an accompaniment to cheeses.
  • Roughly chop a few ripe tomatoes. Blitz in a blender; push through a nylon sieve into a jug. Season with Tabasco sauce and/or Worcestershire sauce. Put ice in a tumbler, add a slug of vodka and pour over the seasoned juice.
  • Bake halves of tomato, side by side in a shallow dish, in a moderate oven with a topping of fresh breadcrumbs, capers, slivers of garlic and a drizzle of olive oil, until tender. Serve scattered with lots of freshly chopped parsley.
  • Small pieces of sweet tomato make and interesting addition to a citrusy fruit salad. Pour over a plain sugar syrup and scatter with chopped, fresh mint to serve.
  • For a delicious salsa to go with Indian food: combine chopped tomatoes, cucumber, and fresh mango with a little finely chopped red onion. Sprinkle with black onion seeds and toss in a little white balsamic vinegar. Serve at room temperature for the best flavour.
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Tomato and mango salsa Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

August in a Scottish garden

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August flower border with Ox-eye daisies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Since the end of last month, it has felt like summer has left us here in central Scotland. There have even been a couple of chilly nights when it’s felt like Autumn is on the way. Whilst there has been some warm sunshine, the blue sky days have been peppered with heavy rain showers, and the poor plants, flowers and shrubs have been taking a battering.

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Soft pink Astilbe. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

This baby pink-coloured Astilbe reminds me of candy-floss. The tiny, soft flowers bunch together to give a fluffy-looking display which seems to bounce back even after the heaviest of showers. Just as pink and delicate-looking (and able to withstand the rain!) are the Japanese anemones which grow in a cluster at the base of one of the trees in the back garden. I also have a white variety but this year, the pinks are well ahead of the whites.

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Pale pink Japanese anemones. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On the opposite flowerbed to the anemones is where the wispy Scabious grow. I tie the wiry floral stems in loose bunches, supported with canes, to keep them from falling over and splaying all over the place. The blooms form small white globes, tinged with pale blue-lilac petals; they are so pretty, and the bees love them!

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Wispy Scabious blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There are lots of flamboyant red and mauve poppies growing alongside the fruit bushes at the moment, but sadly, each one is only surviving no longer than a single day. These beauties are just too fragile to withstand the heavy rain drops. I managed to enjoy this one for a few hours this week, but sadly the next morning, all the petals had fallen.

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Rain splattered mauve poppy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m glad of some longer lasting colour in the garden from my ever-faithful Hydrangeas. All the bushes are in flower now and they will continue to bloom for several weeks, subtly changing colour as time goes on. At the moment, the colours are soft and muted, but as Autumn draws nearer, the petals will deepen in colour and become more intense.

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Fresh in bloom, assorted Hydrangeas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To finish my garden round-up for this month, the greenhouse is pretty colourful at the moment as well. I’ve been picking cucumbers and tomatoes for a few days now, and it looks like I am going to have plenty of produce for the weeks to come. So, until next month, I bid you: happy gardening!

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In the greenhouse, cucumber and Tigerella tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Smoky Tomato Jam (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Homegrown early Autumn tomatoes. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

This is the time of year when I often get very busy with my work and have little time to spend in the garden or the kitchen (outside work hours). However, making preserves is something I try to find time for no matter what else needs to be done. There is so much produce around at the moment, practically begging to be put in the pot and made into jam or chutney, I can’t ignore it.

One of my most popular preserves is, thankfully, one of the easiest to make, so this weekend I got the large preserving pan out of the cupboard and set about cooking up this year’s first batch of Smoky Tomato Jam. It’s really a smooth chutney, but the texture lends itself better to being called jam. One of the best thing about this particular preserve is that it’s ready to be eaten immediately, as well as being a good “keeper”.

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Ingredients for tomato jam making. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 5 x 325ml jars

  • 700g fresh prepared ripe, but firm, tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 350g prepared red onion, roughly chopped
  • 550g prepared cooking apples, roughly chopped
  • 350ml red wine or cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large sprigs rosemary
  • 275g granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp each of salt, ground cumin and smoked paprika
  1. Put the tomatoes and onion in a food processor and blitz for a few seconds until well chopped and pulpy. Transfer to a large saucepan.
  2. Put the apples in the food processor with half the vinegar and blitz for a few seconds until well chopped. Transfer to the saucepan containing the tomato and onion mixture.
  3. Pour over the remaining vinegar and add the bay leaves and rosemary. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, and then simmer gently for 10 minutes until softened.
  4. Stir in the sugar over a low heat, until dissolved, then raise the heat and simmer steadily for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the consistency of thick jam. Turn off the heat, discard the herbs and stir in the salt and spices.
  5. Ladle into warm, sterilised jars and seal with non-corrosive lids. Allow to cool and store for 6-8 months in a cool, dark cupboard. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 2 weeks. Delicious with all cured meats, smoked fish, and cheese dishes.
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Jars of freshly made Smoky Tomato Jam. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Preserving the Summer (Semi-cuit tomatoes – gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Home-grown tomatoes ready for the dryer. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been picking tomatoes from my greenhouse for over a month now, and there are still plenty to ripen. Whilst I am enjoying them fresh, I do like to make preserves, and first up this year is to steep a few tomatoes in olive oil. A couple of years ago I bought myself a dehydrator, and  I have been drying various homegrown produce ever since. Semi-cuit (semi-dry) tomatoes make a sweet, indulgent and delicious out-of-season treat for later in the year, so these wee treasures are heading for the dehydrator right away.

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My Stockli dehydrator and prepared tomatoes. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Dehydrating is a very straightforward process. Wash and pat dry the tomatoes; if they are small to medium size, cut them in half – you may want to slice larger tomatoes or just “cook” them for longer. My dehydrator has 3 shelves; I divide up the tomatoes between the shelves, making sure there is some air space between them, pop the lid on and set the temperature to 70°C (158°F). This batch of 650g will take 6-7 hours to dry down so that they are still a bit fleshy and not too leathery. The final yield will be about 150g.

Once the tomatoes have cooled, I will pack them into a sterilised jam jar with a screw top lid, and add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, bay and thyme from the garden. Pour over good quality extra virgin olive oil to cover the tomatoes completely and screw on the lid tightly. Stored in a cool, dark, dry cupboard, they will keep for about 6 months – so perfect for festive eatings. Once opened, store them in the fridge for up to 6 weeks – the oil will turn cloudy and clumpy when chilled, but becomes liquid again at room temperature. Roll on Christmas!

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Semi-cuit tomatoes with olive oil and rosemary. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

End of July harvest

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Home-grown rhubarb, tomatoes, runner beans, cucumber, raspberries, Morello cherries, yellow courgettes and red gooseberries, all harvested in the past fortnight.

Time for a recap on what’s been happening in my fruit and veg garden. It’s been a mixed bag of weather this month, although it doesn’t seem to have affected anything I’ve been growing for the kitchen. In fact, even though the sun hasn’t been shining as often as I’d have liked, I have never had tomatoes ripen so early in the year – it’s usually September before I get my first taste!

Home-grown tomatoes, above all else, are the best produce to grow for flavour and sweetness, and remain unrivalled by any tomatoes you can buy. I grow them in my unheated greenhouse, planted in grow-bags. I never put the picked fruit in the fridge, I store them in a cool part of the kitchen and eat them as soon as possible after picking. Served simply with some fresh pot basil, a little salt and pepper, and drizzle of balsamic vinegar, this is one of my greatest foodie pleasures.

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My first harvest of Gardener’s Delight tomatoes with fresh pot basil leaves. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

I have been picking runner beans for a couple of weeks now and, with lots of flowers still blooming, I hope to be enjoying them for a few weeks longer. I don’t usually do much with them, other than chop them up, cook them lightly, and enjoy them as a vegetable in their own right. Occasionally, I make a frittata with any leftover cooked veg and combine runner beans with cooked potato, onion – sometimes a little bacon if I have any – some seasoning and chopped fresh thyme. Delicious served warm or cold with salad.

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Runner bean and potato frittata (gluten free). Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Most of the fruit I grow gets made into jams and jellies, or I freeze it for cooking later in the year. The cherries were made into a compote – I didn’t have enough for jam this year. Rhubarb is cooked in muffins, stewed as a simple dessert, or cooked as pie filling. I have just made rhubarb and custard ice lollies for the first time, so it will be interesting to see how they turn out.

The yellow courgette plants are growing like triffids in the greenhouse. Thank goodness I only planted 2! They are both producing heavily, so it looks like I will have to get creative with my courgette cookery. I prefer the yellow variety as I find the flesh firmer and there is slightly more of an earthy flavour to them. I also love the colour. I have been chopping them and simply frying them in butter with smoked bacon and black pepper, and then stirring in a little bit of maple syrup before serving. Very tasty with just about anything.

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Pan-cooked yellow courgette with bacon and maple syrup (gluten and dairy free). Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins