December 2019

Illustration

When there’s nothing much in the garden to paint, it’s always useful to have the miniature items on my museum shelves. Inspired by the image I put together for Just a Card‘s Indie Week in November, I’ve been spending these dark and wet days in my studio happily immersed in the details of these tiny mementoes. I’ll be pulling these together to make up a postcard design in the new year.

Also in the new year I’m hoping to publish my latest little concertina book ‘Seashells’. I produced all the artwork much earlier this year but I’ve been a little lackadaisical in getting it printed. Again, the shells were the perfect subject for when the weather was wet and grey – which seemed like pretty much all of the Autumn.

Gardening

At this time of the year the garden is very reliant on structure – the lines of the lawn, the rounded shapes of topiary and reliable evergreens. However, less solid structures like grasses make beautiful outlines during the winter months, especially when coated with frost. The first of the bulbs are beginning to poke through the soil and I’m looking forward to the emergence of the snowdrops next month.

Recipes

This recipe is quick and easy to make – indeed, I’d go so far as to claim that it’s child’s play.  Yet the resulting cookies are surprising decadent with a rich chocolatey flavour and a lovely slightly squidgy centre – rather like individually baked chocolate brownies. 

I’ve adapted the recipe to make a gluten-free version using Hodemedod’s British grown and milled green pea flour. And if you’re thinking “pea flour?!” I have to say that no-one, to date, has guessed that they are made with pea rather than wheat flour. 

I was inspired to add the pistachios when making the gluten free version because of the beautiful colour of the green pea flour but these cookies are wonderfully adaptable, so add 50g of roughly chopped nuts to the non-GF version, or give either a whirl with hazelnuts and white chocolate, or substitute glacé cherries or dried apricots for the nuts.

Delicious with a cup of tea or coffee you could also serve them for pudding – slightly warm from the oven with a scoop of ice-cream – gluten-free or otherwise!

Chocolate Cookies

Makes 9 generous cookies  

Ingredients
125g unsalted butter, softened
100g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
I medium egg
100g self-raising flour
100g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
25g desiccated coconut
75g dark chocolate, chopped

You will need
1 baking sheet
non-stick liner

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas 3 and line the baking with a non-stick liner.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract together until pale and fluffy using either an electric hand mixer or a wooden spoon.  Add the egg and beat well.
  3. Sift the flours and cocoa into the bowl and add the coconut and chocolate.  Use the back of a wooden spoon to work the mixture until all the ingredients are combined.  (Initially it will seem too dry but persevere and the ingredients will come together.)
  4. Use two dessert spoons to place 9 equal portions of the mixture onto the baking sheet, spaced well apart.  Use the side of a spoon to flatten the mixture slightly.
  5. Bake on the middle shelf for about 15 minutes.  The biscuits are cooked when the edges are baked but the centre still looks a little soft and under-done.
  6. Leave the biscuits to firm up on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring with a palette to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cookies

Makes 12 generous cookies  

125g unsalted butter, softened
100g soft light brown sugar
I medium egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract200g Hodemdod’s green pea flour
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
25g cocoa powder
50g pistachios, roughly chopped 
75g gluten-free dark chocolate, chopped

You will need
1 baking sheet
non-stick liner

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas 3 and line a large baking sheet with a non-stick liner.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy using either an electric hand mixer or a wooden spoon. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa into the bowl and add the pistachios and chocolate.  Use the back of a wooden spoon to work the mixture until all the ingredients are combined.  (Initially it will seem too dry but persevere and the ingredients will come together.)
  4. Use two dessert spoons to place 12 equal portions of the mixture onto the baking sheet, spaced well apart. Use the side of one spoon to flatten the mixture slightly.
  5. Bake on the middle shelf for about 12-15 minutes.  The cookies are cooked when the edges are baked but the centre still looks a little soft and under-done.
  6. Leave the cookies to firm up on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring with a palette knife to a wire rack to cool completely. 

All best wishes for the New Year – see you in 2020…

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