Gingerbread cupcakes and cookies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Gingerbread cupcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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 ūüôā

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.

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Just waiting to be eaten. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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!

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Mini homemade gingerbread men cookies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipes. They are remarkably similar in ingredients and straightforward to make so I hope you enjoy making them ūüôā

Gingerbread men cookies

Makes: approx. 25

Ingredients:

  • 75g plain gluten-free flour blend (such as Doves’ Farm) + extra for dusting
  • ¬ľ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ¬Ĺ 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)
  1. 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.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the syrup, then mix everything together well to make a softish, smooth dough.
  3. 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.
  4. Preheat the oven to 190¬įC, 170¬įC fan oven, gas 5 and bake the cookies for about 10 minutes until firm and lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  5. 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.
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    Making, baking and decorating gingerbread men cookies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

Gingerbread cupcakes

Makes: 12

Ingredients

  • 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
  • ¬Ĺ tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 tbsp ginger wine or the syrup from stem ginger jar if using (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180¬įC, 160¬įC 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.
  2. 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.

    Ingredients_and_cake_batter_preparation_for_gingerbread_cupcakes
    Gingerbread cupcake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
    4_images_showing_baking_and_decorating_gingerbread_cupcakes
    Baking and decorating gingerbread cupcakes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    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!

    Bite-out_of_gingerbread_cupcake_with_mini_gingerbread_man
    Love at first bite. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Winter garden round-up

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A splash of much-appreciated Winter colour, early Rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Earlier this week. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Snow-covered apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Yellow crocus, snow-covered and snow-survivors. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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New rhubarb shoots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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 ūüôā

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New season snowdrops. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Indian-style rice and peas (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Indian-style rice and peas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Tray of spices and flavourings for basmati rice and chana dal. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Preparing the spice mix. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Ready to serve, Indian-style rice and peas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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).

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Rice and pea flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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All mixed up and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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A spoonful of rice and peas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins.

Serves: 3 to 4 as a main dish, or 4 to 6 as an accompaniment

Ingredients

  • 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
  • ¬ľ tsp crushed black peppercorns
  • Seeds of 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • Fresh coriander and cashew nuts to serve
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

    4_stages_to_cooking_the_chana_dal_and_onion_layer
    Preparing the chana dal and onion layer. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Preheat the oven to 180¬įC, 160¬įC 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.
  5. 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.

    4_steps_to_layering_Indian-style_rice_and_peas
    Layering the rice and peas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. 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.

    Indian-style_rice_and_peas_just_out_of_the_oven
    Out of the oven and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy Hogmanay 2019 (and New Year 2020!)

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The last frosty morning of the year. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Frost-covered lawn and Foxglove. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Hogmanay afternoon. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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!

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Happy New Year 2020. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Curried root vegetable dauphinoise (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spiced up roots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Comfort in a spoonful. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Turnip, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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 ūüôā

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 75g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 1kg mixed roots such as turnip (swede), sweet potato, potato, parsnip, carrot, etc.
  • 1 ¬Ĺ 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
  1. Preheat the oven to 170¬įC, 150¬įC fan oven, gas 3. Use half of the margarine to thickly smear round the inside of an approx. 1.8l baking dish.
  2. 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.

    Layering_sliced_root_vegetables_for_dauphinoise
    Layering the roots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Mix the coconut milk, garlic and curry powder together and pour over the vegetables.
  4. 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.

    Pre-baking_and_after_baking_root_vegetable_dauphinoise
    Ready, steady, baked. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. 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¬įC, 160¬įC fan oven, gas 4 for 25-35 minutes depending on portion size, until piping hot.

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    Curried root vegetable dauphinoise. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Bare trees and blue skies

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Small pear and cherry trees in winter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Copper beech in winter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Icy sunrise. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Early 2019 snowdrops and golden crocus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The first Hellebore of the year has now been joined by a couple of other blooms, but other varieties are still firmly in bud.

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Hellebore trio. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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A winter bug’s next meal. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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.

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Pink winter heather in full bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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 ūüôā

 

 

Hogmanay in the garden

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Welcoming in 2019. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A very happy new year to you all. I wish you good health and every success in the year ahead. I hope that you have had a good Christmas holiday, and now we wait to see what 2019 brings to us all.

My Christmas holiday has been very peaceful and relaxed. The weather has been mild considering the time of year and has given me the opportunity to get out in the garden and tackle a few jobs like pruning the old apple tree.

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Recently pruned gnarly old apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The holidays started on a very chilly note with a heavy frost on Christmas Eve which made everything look very festive and sparkly in the sunshine and crisp, fresh air. Frosted_Hydrangea_lawn_paths_and_greenhouse_glass

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Frosty garden on Christmas Eve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Out in the garden today, things were looking a little different from a week ago. No frost, just mild, breezy air and patches of blue in a heavily clouded sky. 2018 has certainly given us some unusual weather and I think this is having an impact on the garden now. Several plants are much more advanced than usual: the snowdrops are almost out in flower; the buds on the early spring flowering rhododendron are breaking open, and one Hellebore is already in full bloom. The usual oddities are around too: a solitary stalk of fresh flowers on a very sad-looking, bedraggled lavender bush, and a few new red-fringed orange carnation buds are about to open for a second flowering. Snowdrops_in_bud_and_a_white_hellebore_in_bloom

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Hogmanay flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ll sign off this post with an image of some “lucky” white winter-flowering¬†heather to bring us all good fortune over the next 12 months ūüôā

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Hogmanay white heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Mince pie crumbles (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Mince pie crumbles. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I love a good mince pie, and this recipe is one of easiest and tastiest you can make. No rolling pin or tart tins required, just a square cake tin and a pair of (clean) hands.

You can use homemade or readymade mincemeat for the filling and any combination of dried fruit or nuts you have –¬†it’s¬†a good way to use up leftover bits and pieces. Grated apple also works well added to the mincemeat. Add a splash of your favourite tipple and you have something very festive indeed!

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Mincemeat and fruit filling with a splash of cherry brandy. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The crumbles keep well for up to a week when stored in an airtight container – they will become softer and more cake-like¬†a time goes by, but the flavour intensifies – and they also freeze well. Enjoy them warm, straight out of the tin, as a hot pudding, or let them cool and serve as a delicious bake. Here’s what to do:

Makes: 16

Ingredients

  • 115g solid white vegetable fat (such as Trex or coconut oil), softened
  • 115g dairy-free margarine or spread
  • 115g soft light brown sugar
  • ¬Ĺ¬†tsp salt
  • 1 tsp good quality almond extract, optional¬†(or use 1 tsp ground cinnamon or mixed spice to flavour)
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 250g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Doves Farm)
  • 10g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 500g vegan mincemeat
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 100g chopped dried apricots
  • 2 tbsp. cherry brandy or your favourite tipple
  • 50g golden marzipan (optional)
  • 1 tsp icing sugar, to dust
  1. Preheat the oven to 180¬įC, 160¬įC fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a deep 21cm square cake tin. In a mixing bowl, beat together the fat. margarine, sugar and salt¬†until well blended. Stir in the ground almonds and extract or spice, if using.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder on top and mix everything together to form a soft, crumbly mixture. Press 350g of the mix into the base of the tin РI find using a floured back of spoon is a good way to achieve a smooth, thick base. Prick all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden and firm.
  3. Mix the mincemeat, cranberries, apricots and brandy together and spread over the base. Sprinkle the remaining crumble on top, gently packing it down but making sure you retain the crumbly texture.
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then slice into 16 squares. Leave in the tin to cool completely before removing and arranging the pieces on a board or tray.

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    Making mince pie crumbles. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To decorate, roll out the marzipan thinly and cut out as many stars or festive shapes as you are able, re-rolling the marzipan as necessary. Arrange the stars on the squares and dust lightly with icing sugar.
    Serving_of_a_single_square_of_mince_pie_crumbles
    Ready for the eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

    This is my last post for 2018. I’d like to thank all of you who have stopped by my blog and read my posts. It is a pleasure to write my posts and receive such lovely feedback.

    It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas as the song says, we had our first snowfall last night and I woke to the garden transformed into Narnia. On this wintry note, I’d like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and new year when it comes. I will be back up and running in a few weeks.

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    Festive snowfall. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Early winter garden

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Just a few apples left for the birds. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I think it’s safe to say that Autumn is over now, at least it is here in central Scotland. A couple of weeks ago it was still mild and dry, but last week¬†it¬†felt like there was¬†a definite season change.¬†The last of¬†the leaves¬†came off the trees in heavy rain, the temperature dropped, and the daylight hours¬†have dwindled significantly. The garden looks¬†quite sad now. All things told, it certainly feels¬†like December is just round the corner.

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A frosty November morning. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are signs of life amongst the fading foliage and fallen leaves. Spring bulbs are shooting up everywhere: in containers, borders and flowerbeds; they seem more advanced than usual.

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Sprouting bulbs. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The late flowering heather is just coming into bloom. Such a pretty colour and delicate flower for this time of year.

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Just beginning to flower, Winter flowering heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As a reminder of the forthcoming festivities less than a month away (I can hardly believe it!), the Santa-red Skimmia berries and the glacial-white snowberry, give seasonal cheer.

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Seasonal berries, Skimmia and Snowberry

And, here is the most regular visitor to the garden at the moment. He seems to appear whenever I go outside, and chirps away from first light. This is his regular perch, in the hollow of a large conifer, not too far from the back door.

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Master of all he surveys. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

And so to my final image. This Salvia was planted back in late spring and has been in flower ever since. A truly great value plant. Have a good week ūüôā

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Still blooming in late November, Salvia. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Overnight seed and berry porridge (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Oatmeal and seed porridge with berry compote. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It still feels more¬†wintry than spring-like¬†here in central Scotland. We have had a blue-sky day today, the first for a while, and the temperature is slowly rising. The snow is beginning to thaw slowly, but most of the garden is still covered in a thick, white crust of powdery snow. The snowdrops under the hedge¬†are the first to¬†emerge at long last and I am relieved¬†to see that they have survived their week inside a snow-cave¬†– what robust little flowers they are ūüôā

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After-the-snow snowdrops. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

One of my favourite warming breakfast dishes is porridge, and it seems a lot of people agree: porridge has become the super-star amongst breakfast cereals, and the supermarket shelves are stacked out with different varieties and all sorts of flavours.

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Pinhead oatmeal for “proper” porridge”. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I like¬†my porridge made the traditional way,¬†which means¬†I¬†prefer to use¬†oatmeal (or groats)¬†rather than¬†rolled oats. However, it’s not an instant breakfast and requires some organisation: the oatmeal requires overnight soaking¬†before it can be cooked. But if you have a slow-cooker, you can cut down on the preparation: just mix everything up in the slow-cooker the night before¬†and leave it on¬†a low setting until the next morning, by which time it’s ready to eat as soon as you want it.

The oatmeal in the picture above¬†is a local Scottish brand and is not guaranteed gluten-free. As you will know, oats themselves don’t contain gluten, but there is a contamination risk from other grains during processing, so if you do have a serious gluten allergy, you¬†should seek out gluten-free oatmeal.

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Slow-cooker porridge: oatmeal, water and salt. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you don’t fancy leaving your slow-cooker on overnight, slow-cook the porridge¬†as you like, and once cooked and cooled, the porridge will keep in the fridge for a few days. You can take out a portion and reheat it with you favourite soya, rice, nut or oat milk when you’re ready. Just pop a portion in a microwave-proof bowl, mash it with a fork and stir in some milk, then¬†reheat on High for about 1 ¬Ĺ minutes. Alternatively, you can reheat¬†the porridge¬†in a saucepan, with milk,¬†in the same way.

The following quantity will make 4 to 6 servings: pour 1.1litre water into your slow-cooker and stir in 175g pinhead oatmeal. Add a pinch of salt and mix well. Cover with the lid and switch the cooker on to the Low setting. Leave to cook, undisturbed, overnight (for 8-10 hours), until thick and soft. To serve, stir well and serve with hot, non-dairy milk mixed in. Add sugar or syrup to sweeten if you like, and top with sliced banana, fresh berries, grated apple, dried fruit etc.

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Homemade seed mix and my frozen summer berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For an extra nutritious start to the day, I like to stir a heaped tablespoon of ground seeds into my bowl porridge and top with some summer berry compote.

For the seed mix, grind 3 tbsp. flax seeds with 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp. chia seeds and 1 tbsp. sesame seeds РI use a coffee grinder to do this. Stir in 1 to 2 tbsp. ground almonds, pecans or Brazil nuts. Store in the fridge in an airtight container and use to sprinkle over anything you like for some extra nutritious nuttiness!

The berry compote is made from my freezer supply of home-grown raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. I simply put a quantity, still frozen, in a saucepan with the lid on and sit the pan over a very low heat until the berries soften and cook. I add a little vanilla sugar once the berries are cooked. Delicious eaten hot or cold.

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A spoonful of my favourite oatmeal porridge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins