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!
We’ve certainly had a lot of weather here in central Scotland since my last post. Sunshine, strong winds, heavy rain, snow and frosts. Yet I am happy to report that the garden is slowly coming to life; the birds are feeding constantly and singing ever louder, and at times it does feel that spring is on its way.
This is the month when the first proper spring flowers appear in the garden, the snowdrops. There are a few clumps here and there already, but towards the end of the month is when they will really takeover. At the moment, many are still in bud, with just one or two opened up to see the tiny green markings on the inside petals. So pretty and delicate, yet strong enough to stand up to all sorts of weather.
Another sign of spring for me is when the crocus appear. I just managed to capture these beauties before they got crushed by a heavy downpour of rain. I hope they bounce back again.
The winter heathers started flowering at the very end of last year and are now looking very healthy, adding splashes of pink and white to the flower beds.
The first Hellebore is fully open now with others not far behind. The Hebe that started flowering in December is still producing blooms. I am delighted to see the first bright red shoots of rhubarb up and coming, promising delicious rewards later in the year, and the deep pink Rhododendron is slowly opening up – a bit later than in other years.
There are more storms and wintry weather on the horizon for the UK in the week ahead so perhaps it is just as well that the garden isn’t too far advanced at the moment. Until next time, thanks for stopping by and my best wishes to you.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Greetings from snowy Scotland. I hope you are keeping well and warm. The weather hasn’t changed since my last post. Snow has been lying on the ground for a while and there have been intermittent snowy showers almost every day. Fortunately it’s not lying very deep and right now it is raining.
The garden is quiet at this time of year and having a bit of a rest, but I have found a few signs of life. I’ve been taking photos for the past couple of weeks but nothing has really changed. I was hoping that the snowdrops would have opened out by now but the petals are still clamped closed.
Usually the Cotoneaster hedge at the front of the house is untouched by the birds. It’s bright orange-red berries offer some colour when there is nothing much else around. This year the hedge has been stripped by pigeons. I did find a smaller plant that still has its berries. Perhaps it is too awkward for the birds to get to.
Just round the corner from the now barren hedge is the white Hydrangea bush that flowered so abundantly last summer and autumn. I always leave the faded blooms on the plant until the weather warms up. This is believed to help preserve the new leaf buds. The dried blooms have caught a light dusting of snow which makes them look quite pretty.
The Hellebores seem to be taking forever to show this year. I can see the flower buds forming at the bases of the plants but only one plant has produced stems so far. It’s been in bud for a couple of weeks now. I think it’s only going to be tempted into bloom if the weather warms up by several degrees 🙂
Just a brief post from me this week. I’m heading into the kitchen again at the weekend, so there will be a recipe post from me next time. Until then, stay well and have a good few days.
Hello everyone. I hope you are well and have enjoyed whatever the festive season brought your way. Like so many, I had a quiet one at home, unable to travel to see my family. Hogmanay and New Year celebrations are also cancelled. There has been plenty of time to reflect on what has happened this year, and also to think about new projects for the year ahead.
We have been treated to some bright, crisp days here in central Scotland this year end, with some spectacular sunrises, and the first snow of the winter falling a couple of days after Christmas.
It seems like a long time ago since I was able to take a rest on my favourite seat and enjoy the peace, quiet and colours of a spring and summer garden, but even now there are some signs of new growth to gladden the soul. I took these images on Boxing Day of a primrose and one of my rhubarb plants. The poor things must have had a bit of a shock waking up the next day to a covering of snow.
Back in September, once the cucumbers had ceased fruiting, I cleared some space in one of the greenhouse beds and planted 6 seed potatoes. It was an experiment to see if I could harvest fresh new potatoes for Christmas. I’m delighted with the results. All 6 plants produced, and I was able to enjoy freshly dug Maris Peer potatoes over Christmas, with a second harvest for the new year. At the same time, I sowed some carrot seeds, but these are much slower to grow, and I am beginning to doubt that they will ever root properly, but you never know. I will report back if they do develop to an edible size.
There were lots of berries in the garden over Autumn and early Winter this year, but by now, most of them have been eaten by the birds. However, our feathered friends never seems to dine out on Cotoneaster or Skimmia berries, so I am grateful to be left with these festive colours to admire.
Like so many, I am looking forward to a fresh start in a brand new year. I am ever hopeful that we will be able to return to some semblance of normality in the not too distant future. Until then, thank you for following my blog for another year, and I send you my very best wishes for the year ahead. Stay safe and healthy, and a Happy New Year to you all 🙂
Hello everyone. I have two lighthearted recipes for you this week. One for cake and one for cookies, and if you choose to, you can make either or both 🙂
I don’t think there are many people who can resist a gingerbread man cookie. They look so cute for one thing and then there is the sweetness and the mellow spiciness of gingerbread itself. It is a perfect bake for this time of year with its warming and comforting aroma and flavour.
The gingerbread men cookies keep very well in an airtight container for over a week, and also freeze well. The cakes are best eaten within 24 hours, so you may want to ice a few at a time. After 24 hours, I find that the cake dries. The cake batter has a relatively low fat content compared to other cake recipes so the keeping qualities are reduced. No matter, the cakes and the frosting freeze fine too. By the way, the uniced cakes can be served warm as a pudding, just pop in the microwave for a few seconds and voila!
On with the recipes. They are remarkably similar in ingredients and straightforward to make so I hope you enjoy making them 🙂
Gingerbread men cookies
Makes: approx. 25
75g plain gluten-free flour blend (such as Doves’ Farm) + extra for dusting
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground mixed spice
25g dairy-free margarine
40g soft dark brown sugar
25g golden or corn syrup
1 tbsp white icing for decorating (I make mine simply with 2 tbsp icing sugar and a few drops of water)
Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the spices into a bowl and rub in the margarine with your fingertips until well blended. Stir in the sugar.
Make a well in the centre and add the syrup, then mix everything together well to make a softish, smooth dough.
Lightly dust the work surface with a little more flour and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3mm. Use a small gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes, gathering and re-rolling the trimmings as necessary. My cutter is 6cm tall, and I made 25 cookies. Transfer to the baking trays and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5 and bake the cookies for about 10 minutes until firm and lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
When cool, put the icing in a piping bag (no nozzle necessary). Snip off a tiny piece from the end and pipe features on each cookie. Leave for a few minutes to dry before storing in an airtight container.
300g plain gluten-free flour blend
20g gluten-free baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground mixed spice
190g soft dark brown sugar
2 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped (optional)
75ml vegetable oil
225ml plant-based milk (I used oat milk)
Lightly spiced frosting
100g dairy-free margarine, softened
200g icing sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground mixed spice
1 tbsp ginger wine or the syrup from stem ginger jar if using (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Line 12 muffin or cupcake tins with paper cases. Sieve the flour, baking powder and spices into a bowl. Add the sugar and stem ginger if using. Mix everything together.
Make a well in the centre and add the oil and milk. Gradually work the dry ingredients into the liquid and continue mixing until all the ingredients are well blended and make a smooth, thick batter.
Divide between the cases and bake for about 30 minutes until just firm to the touch – they do sink a little bit so don’t worry. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
For the frosting, put the margarine in a bowl and beat to make it smooth and glossy, then gradually sieve over the icing sugar, in small batches, mixing it in well after each addition, to make a smooth, soft and fluffy icing. Stir in the spices and ginger wine or syrup if using.
Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small closed star nozzle, and pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake. If you don’t fancy piping, simply smooth some frosting on top using a small palette knife.
Just before serving, pop a gingerbread man cookie on top of each cupcake. The cookies will go soft if left on top of the cakes for more than half an hour, so best leave the arranging until the last minute to eat them at their crisp best.
Have a good few days. Until next time, happy baking!
So far this year, Mother Nature has provided 4 seasons in 1 month. There have been several mild days; a few blue-sky, frosty days; a couple of snow-laden days, and in between, grey skies, rain and gusty winds. The poor bulbs and bushes don’t know whether they are on the way up or whether they should still be hibernating.
The snow has now gone, and the temperature has gone up several degrees. I’m happy to say that plants and bulbs that were covered at the beginning of the week, have survived and are blooming again. The crocus were a couple of weeks early this year, so they must have had one hell of a shock on Monday night when the weather changed. The rhubarb shoots have begun to unfurl since the snow melted. I think I will pop a large pot over this clump at the weekend, and force a few stems for spring.
At the beginning of the week, all the snowdrops in the garden were still tightly closed, but as the thaw took hold and the temperature rose again, many of the buds have opened. These are such pretty, dainty little flowers, and are a sure sign that spring isn’t too far away. Have a good few days whatever the weather brings with it 🙂
Welcome to my first recipe post of the year. I hope you’ve all had good Christmas and New Year celebrations. It has seemed like a good long holiday this year. Not only have I had plenty of time to recharge my batteries, but the longer holiday gave me the opportunity to spend time in the kitchen experimenting with different ingredients.
I have noticed that many of the blogs I follow have started the year with spicy offerings. Something about this time of the year usually gets me delving into the spice cupboard too, in search of different flavours to liven up my repertoire of recipes.
My recipe this week is based around 2 basic and ordinary ingredients: rice and dried peas. But cooking with some spices, onion and other flavours, they can be transformed into something quite sensational.
The combination of spices I have used in this dish are more fragrant and comforting than spicy. You may want to add something with heat to give it more of a kick if you prefer e.g cayenne pepper or dried red chilli. To mellow the flavour, toast the whole spices first in a dry frying pan, just for a couple of minutes, and then cool and grind them up before using. If you don’t have the time to make your own spice mix, use 2-3 tsp curry powder or garam masala.
The combination of spiced chana dal (yellow-split peas) and fragrant basmati rice makes this a very tasty accompaniment to serve with a vegetable curry sauce, or you can sprinkle it with roasted cashew nuts or almonds to make a deliciously comforting meal. It freezes well too, so is worth making up as a batch-bake and then portioning up for the freezer, ready to serve at a later date. The recipe takes a bit of time to organise but being able to make it for the freezer is a good incentive to have a go.
The dish is made up of 2 layers of basmati rice, top and bottom, with an onion, garlic and ginger chana dal layer in the middle, enriched with coconut yogurt. To finish the dish, the spice mix is sprinkled on top along with lemon juice, coconut milk, green chilli and butter (or coconut oil or dairy-free margarine).
Once the dish is baked, leave it to stand for a short while, then stir it up before serving so that all the wonderful flavours mingle together.
Serves: 3 to 4 as a main dish, or 4 to 6 as an accompaniment
100g chana dal (yellow split peas)
350g basmati rice
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves. peeled and finely chopped
25g root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried bay leaf
5 tbsp dairy-free coconut yogurt
1 tsp salt
40g butter or ghee if you eat it, or use coconut oil or dairy-free margarine instead
Juice 1 small lemon
3 tbsp coconut milk
1 or 2 large mild green chillies, deseeded and sliced
1 tsp each cumin and coriander seeds, toasted and ground
¼ tsp crushed black peppercorns
Seeds of 4 cardamom pods, crushed
Fresh coriander and cashew nuts to serve
Rinse the chana dal in cold running water. Place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 45 minutes. Then drain, rinse and place in a saucepan. Cover with fresh water, bring to the boil and cook in simmering water for 25 minutes until tender but not mushy. Drain well.
Rinse the rice in cold running water. Place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Drain and rinse the rice and then add to the water. Bring back to the boil and cook for 5 minutes only. Drain, rinse and leave to one side.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger with the bay leaves for 5 minutes over a medium heat until lightly golden. Add the yogurt 1 tbsp at a time, stirring the mixture in between additions, until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the salt and cooked chana dal. Leave aside. Discard bay leaves if preferred.
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Spoon half the rice into an ovenproof dish and spread to form an even layer. Top with the oniony chana dal mixture and then the remaining rice. Pat down gently.
Dot the top with butter, ghee, coconut oil or margarine, and drizzle with lemon juice and coconut milk. Sprinkle with sliced chilli to taste. Mix the spices together and sprinkle over the top of the rice. Cover the dish tightly with aluminium foil.
Stand the dish on a baking tray and cook for 45-50 minutes until piping hot. Leave the covering in place and allow to stand for 10 minutes before removing the foil and gently mixing everything together. Serve with fresh coriander and cashew nuts.
Happy Hogmanay! I hope you’ve all had a good Christmas. And now it’s the end of another year. Where has the past 12 months gone?
Much like last New Year’s Eve here in central Scotland, it has been a chilly day with bright sun and a cloudless blue sky. In spite of the sunshine, most parts of the garden remained covered in a thick crisp, frosty coating.
To end this short post, I photographed some “lucky” white heather out in the garden today with the hope that it would set us all on a good path for the year ahead. Whatever you’re up to this evening, I hope you have a good time. All my best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous year ahead. Happy New Year 2020!
A comforting winter-warmer recipe for you this week, although the weather is unseasonably mild here at the moment, it seems less appropriate to write that now.
I used to really enjoy eating potato dauphinoise, but the heavy dairy content of the dish just doesn’t agree with me any more. After a few try-outs, this is my deliciously spicy and pleasantly creamy alternative. The recipe is light enough to enjoy at any time of the year. You can use any combination of root vegetables, and it works well with other spice combinations like a Thai curry paste or Chinese curry powder. I simply replaced the cream content with coconut milk.
I chose turnip (swede), sweet potatoes and potatoes for my bake, and opted for a medium curry powder. As with any layered root vegetable dish, make sure you slice up the roots as thinly as possible and arrange them in the dish neatly so that everything cooks evenly. Once the vegetable preparation is out of the way, the rest of the assembly is very simple.
So without further delay, on with the recipe. By the way, it tastes just as good (if not better) reheated the next day, and freezes well too. I hope you enjoy it 🙂
Serves: 4 to 6
75g dairy-free margarine, softened
1kg mixed roots such as turnip (swede), sweet potato, potato, parsnip, carrot, etc.
1 ½ tsp salt
400ml can coconut milk
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3-4 tsp medium curry powder (depending on your taste)
1 tsp black onion seeds
Fresh coriander and chopped chilli to sprinkle
Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 3. Use half of the margarine to thickly smear round the inside of an approx. 1.8l baking dish.
Peel all the root vegetables and slice very thinly. Either mix all the vegetables together and arrange neatly in the dish, or arrange in individual layers, sprinkling with salt as you go.
Mix the coconut milk, garlic and curry powder together and pour over the vegetables.
Dot the top with the remaining margarine, place the dish on a baking tray and cover with foil. Bake for 2 hours. Remove the foil and continue to cook for a further 30 minutes until golden and all the vegetables are meltingly tender.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the black onion seeds. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving sprinkled with coriander and fresh chilli. To freeze, omit the coriander and chilli sprinkle. Allow the dauphinoise to cool completely, and then either freeze whole (if the dish is freezer-proof) or divide into portions. Wrap well, label and freeze for up to 6 months. To reheat, defrost in the fridge overnight, then cook, covered in foil, at 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4 for 25-35 minutes depending on portion size, until piping hot.
Happy February everyone! Any thoughts I had of an early spring have gone out the window these past couple of weeks as temperatures in the UK have plummeted. So far, there has been little snow to speak of, but there have been many a frost-laden night and day. The saving grace amongst all the chilliness is a beautiful blue-sky and bright sunshine we have been blessed with most days.
So, on with my quick round-up of what’s going on in the garden right now. The snowdrops and crocus have been in flower for a couple of weeks and seem to be coping well with the sunny days and freezing nights.
The first Hellebore of the year has now been joined by a couple of other blooms, but other varieties are still firmly in bud.
Most of the winter pansies have been chewed. Each flower head lasts about 24 hours once it opens before some wee beasty makes a meal of it. I managed to capture this pansy’s delicate, pretty petals before it becomes part of another insect supper.
It’s been a good season for the winter heathers. This pink heather is full of blooms. There aren’t so many pink flowers around at this time of year, so this one is a welcome burst of colour. Sadly the early flower heads of the pink rhododendron I photographed at Hogmanay have inevitably perished in the frost.
Perhaps my next garden post will be more spring-like – who knows? So until then, wrap up warm and keep cosy. Have a good few days 🙂