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!
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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!
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:
115g solid white vegetable fat (such as Trex or coconut oil), softened
115g dairy-free margarine or spread
115g soft light brown sugar
½ 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
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C 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.
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 – I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The late flowering heather is just coming into bloom. Such a pretty colour and delicate flower for this time of year.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂
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.
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.
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 ½ minutes. Alternatively, you can reheat the porridge in a saucepan, with milk, in the same way.
The following quantity will make about 8 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.
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 – I 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.
A bit of a departure from my usual gluten-free cookery this week. It’s been Real Bread week here in the UK and my thoughts turned to one of my old favourite loaves made from wholemeal spelt flour. Incidentally, it’s also been a week of “Real Snow” here as well – we are currently in the throes of a snow-storm coming across our shores from Siberia. Bread-making is a perfect excuse to enjoy some baking time.
I first started using spelt flour in my cookery about 20 years ago. Whilst I am intolerant to traditional wheat flours, the lower gluten content of the ancient spelt wheat grain is easier on my digestion, and providing I don’t over-indulge, every now and then it is a real treat to include this flour in my baking.
For this loaf, I used the wholemeal variety of spelt flour, but you’ll also find it as white flour as well which is good for cakes where a lighter coloured sponge is required. Other than the flour, my bread recipe is a very standard dough with a blend of my favourite seeds added (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, fax, linseed and chia). The loaf works just as well without the seeds or you can add chopped nuts and dried fruit instead if you prefer something sweeter. Because spelt flour is lower in gluten, the resulting bread is denser and more cake-like in texture, but it still has the familiar chewy texture of real bread. The flavour is slightly sweet, earthy and nutty.
Makes 1 x 700g loaf
450g wholemeal spelt flour (I use Dove’s Farm)
1 ½ level teasp easy-blend dried yeast
1 tbsp. light Muscovado sugar
100g mixed seeds
1 level teasp salt
275ml tepid water
2 tbsp. olive oil
Put the flour in a bowl and stir in the yeast, sugar, 75g seeds and salt. Make a well in the centre and gradually pour and mix in the water along with 1 tbsp. oil, to make a softish, mixture. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and slightly elastic – about 10 minutes. Note: to save time when bread-making, I often put the dough in my electric bread-maker to mix together and prove while I get on with other things. I then do the shaping, final rise and baking by conventional means.
Put the dough in a large, lightly floured glass, china or plastic bowl and cover the bowl with a clean tea-towel. Leave at a coolish room temperature for a couple of hours until doubled in size.
Once risen, turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently (or “knock back”). Shape into a ball and let the dough rest for 5 minutes before shaping into an oval shape about 25cm long. Transfer to a lightly floured baking tray, cover with a large sheet of oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for about an hour until well risen.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6). Remove the cling film. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal slashes in the top of the loaf. Brush with the remaining oil and sprinkle with the remaining seeds. Bake for about 45 minutes until golden and crisp – the loaf should sound hollow when tapped underneath. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
I’d like to have brought you up to date with my garden this week but all the newly sprung snowdrops and crocus are buried under several centimetres of snow. This glorious hyacinth stands proud on my kitchen window-sill just now, and is a reminder of things to come. Until next week……. 🙂