Signs of spring

In the depths of winter our chickens stop laying and we go without homegrown eggs. Some time in March when daylight increases enough and we start to see hints of spring, we’re delighted to find eggs once more. The red sex link hens are the first to lay, but this year the Americaunas started contributing their smaller, pretty green-blue eggs shortly after. This is surely the earliest sign of spring for us, and in many ways the most welcome.

Basket of chicken ggs

Gluten free clafoutis with raspberries

Gluten free clafoutis with raspberries

As hoped, we seem to be experiencing a second wave of raspberries on our land – not as abundant as round one, but there is something so perfect about stepping outside after supper and finding just enough berries to make dessert. There isn’t always time for this kind of thing, but tonight the dog was happy to sniff around while we gathered a few hands full of berries for a clafoutis. A gluten free clafoutis, which I promised to share here recently.

I can still remember being unnerved and unsettled at the idea of baking without wheat gluten; I had spent years getting very comfortable with wheat-based baking, and I was afraid to resign myself and my family to a life without delicious baked goods. But that fear was never realized. It turned out that so many years of traditional baking made it remarkably easy to switch to different baking methods, and to question anything that I didn’t like the sound of.  Flours empty of nutritional value are something I really don’t like to use, and I spend time on any new or unfamiliar recipe figuring out how to get the most nutrition and flavour into the flour base before proceeding.

Clafoutis, a traditional French dish from the Limousin region, is essentially a baked custard with fruit (cherries, in fact – the appearance of any other fruit actually transforms it into a ‘Flaugarde’). It is easily made into a gluten free treat, as many versions make use of ground almonds, a very nutrient dense ‘flour’. Almond flour happens to be one of my favourites, along with sorghum, another nutrient rich flour. These two flours form the basis of the simple batter for my take on gluten free clafoutis:

Gluten free clafoutis with raspberries

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups – 2 cups of raspberries (the original Limousin version uses cherries, but it’s possible to make a delicious clafoutis with stone fruits and berries, as well as pears)
75 grams ground almonds / almond ‘flour’
2 tbs sorghum flour
5 tbs golden or brown sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
250 ml table cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:
Butter a baking or shallow gratin dish. Scatter with washed fruit. Combine remaining ingredients in a blender or mix rapidly by hand taking care to mix liquid into dry ingredients slowly so as to avoid clumping. Pour batter over fruit and bake in a 375F oven for approx 25-30 minutes or until the clafoutis has risen and browned lightly. Serve warm sprinkled with icing sugar.

There are many recipes for clafoutis that I consulted when putting together my own, but the BBC’s Fruit & Almond Clafoutis most closely resembles the final recipe.

Earlier this summer we had so many raspberries that we managed to freeze some and put them away for future enjoyment. Definitely one of the real gifts of summer.

Raspberries for the freezer
Raspberries for the freezer

Summer’s swift passage

Coriander: the harvest that can wait

Bowl of coriander seeds

Pulled from the garden at the end of the season and left to dry out fully for a good few weeks, our coriander has finally arrived on the kitchen island for final harvesting. I know it would be far easier to find a large bag and leave the plants suspended inside of it, but it’s surprisingly relaxing to pluck the small, dried seeds and drop them into a bowl. My husband started the process a while back, and I was reminded to pick up the task again when it came time to close our screened in porch for the season.

I wasn’t organized enough to save any of the leaves of these plants, known as cilantro (or Chinese parsley), but I did season many meals with them during the summer months. Cilantro is one of my favourite fresh herbs, and coriander is definitely a favourite store cupboard choice. I love that they come from the same plant, one that is delightfully easy to grow.
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Firing up the Ironheart: The first woodstove meal of the year

Beef stew with Guinness

It’s official, Ironheart weather is here (that’s woodstove weather, if you’re not familiar with this particular British export). We’ve had a couple of burns already this year, and yesterday I cooked our first meal of the season in the stove.

Jamie Oliver’s Beef & Ale Stew, which lends itself beautifully to a slow cook in the Ironheart, stretched over about three hours. A 350-degree conventional oven works fine too (and is what Oliver created his recipe for).

The recipe calls for stout or Guinness, and I’ve always used Guinness and love its particular flavour. The only modification I make is to add some spuds, as I can’t imagine a beef stew without potatoes (though Oliver seems particularly inclined to beef stews which include everything but).
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