Vegan Raspberry Swirl Coffee Morning Cake

The raspberries have finally begun to ripen, and it’s time to put the fruit to good use. Although I could easily make some raspberry jam (and probably will), I wanted to be a little more creative with the zingy, tart fruits.

raspberry cake vegan

 

As I’ve been working like a loon lately, I asked my Mum to scour her recipe books and come up with some cakey goodness. She found a recipe in Chloe Coscarelli’s book Chloe’s Vegan Desserts and adapted slightly – we often find American recipes a little too heavy on the sugar. But with Mum’s adaptions (hazelnut milk, suggested adding of hazelnuts to the pecans), the cake was gorgeously crumbly but moist.

The coffee gives it a little edge but the raspberries, hazelnut milk and dash of apple cider vinegar give the fruit an almost yoghurty, smooth edge and the pecans and crumble-like streusal topping add a nutty bite and crunch. It’s technically a cake to be eaten in the morning with your morning cuppa, but I’m of the opinion that cake is good at any time of day!

Vegan raspberry swirl coffe cake

Planning the Pond – The Challenges We Face

There are two major projects that I really want to get stuck into this year. The first I have already mentioned – the polytunnel. The second is a wildlife pond and wooded area. The problem with this project, is that the area that I want to develop into a wildlife woodland and pond currently looks like this:

Moppy and Ozzy surveying the site where my wildlife pond will go

Moppy and Ozzy surveying the site where my wildlife pond will go

The path to the sloe bushes is covering over again and it’s a constant battle to make the area accessible. So we need to take matters in hand. Nettles are great for wildlife and I don’t want to wipe them out completely, but this is totally unmanageable… and year by year it’s getting bigger! So the plan is to come in and “gently” attack from the sides and gradually reduce the nettled area until the early winter. The nettle roots will need to be dug out (massive, horrible job) and it also gives any residents time to relocate if necessary.

The woodland path looking overgrown, leading to my elderberry and sloe bushes

The woodland path looking overgrown, leading to my elderberry and sloe bushes

My plan is to create an area that has plenty of places for frogs, toads, hedgehogs and other small mammals to live and hibernate, with a pond at the centre to attract even more wildlife in. At the side, as mentioned we already have sloe bushes growing (hello sloe gin!) and a couple of elderberries (great for birds).

Sloe - blackthorn bush

The sloe (blackthorn) bush with our biggest sloe crop yet… hello sloe gin!

There is an existing large woodpile in the corner that will remain and we also want to put in a series of silver and paper birch trees to lightly screen us from the houses that overlook The Smallest Smallholding… but the location of the trees and pond will be important as we don’t want to end up with a pond full of mouldy leaves in Autumn. I’ve been doing my research and am currently creating a mood board on Pinterest to help me landscape the area:

Pinterest

We want the pond to be a decent size, but as it’s primarily a wildlife pond it’ll need to be landscaped with shallow sides – safety first for the wildlife. We were umming and ahhing about whether to go for a pre-formed pond but I haven’t been able to find one that’s shallow enough at the sides. Hedgehogs and friends need shallow ‘shelves’ to safely drink from, so that they don’t fall into the deeper parts of the pond and can’t climb out.

So the only solution then is to dig out the pond ourselves and use a pond liner – they are durable, stretchy and using the pond liner means we can dictate the size and shape of the pond and make it work best for us and our needs. If we were on clay soil, it wouldn’t be so much of an issue, but our sandy soil means that moisture is never retained and drains away fast. I imagine we’ll be looking at around 3 x 3m area for our pond size (including some boggy bits around the sides), and possible a kidney shaped design. And the more we discuss it, the more we think we will have to save up and hire a mini digger for a day or two. So before we even thinking about pond planting, between us we have quite a few pennies to save before early winter and the ground gets too hard to work with.

So as you can imagine, I have a lot of work ahead of me this year. Have you ever dug out your own wildlife pond? Got any top tips for me?

Friends with Gluts

Veggies

I know a few people that grow their own veg either at home or at the allotment, and it seems that having a network of friends that grow their own really does have its benefits. Namely, gluts and wanting to get rid of them.

My friend Cheryl took on an allotment last year, and this year has been doing phenomenally well with her growing. So much so that I got a Facebook message virtually pleading me to come pick up some spaghetti squash from four plants she’s been madly harvesting. I arrived on her doorstep and was presented with two good sized squash, and a couple of fat beetroot. “You want some beans?!” Cheryl asked (implored). She led me to her kitchen, where she had a bag stuffed full of yellow wax beans. “We’ve had four bags like this, this week,” she said, clearly unsure of what you can do with four bags of yellow wax beans. “Here, have some. Take them!”

Earlier that day, my mum had also sent me home with a freshly picked pointed cabbage, so between my ‘free’ hauls I have amassed a load of meals in the making. I’m not a massive fan of boiled beetroot, so I may have a go at pickling it (adversely, I LOVE it pickled) or maybe grating it to make into some kind of beetroot and root vegetable-based veggie burger. One of the spaghetti squash is in the oven as I type, and the cabbage was already put to good use in our weekly Sunday Roast last night. And I’ve already rooted out a recipe for the wax beans which will make the most of my soon-to-be-harvested Cristo garlic.

Walking home with a bag of fresh produce really got me thinking… what if I knew even more people who had gluts and food to share? When my crops harvest, I only hope I am able to share out some of the goodies, although with the relatively small amount we have growing this year, I’m not sure I will. Mum has already got her eye on my raspberries for her baking. But friends (and family) with fruit and vegetable gluts are just so willing to palm off their excess, and it really helps save the pennies and the pounds. If there were more of us in the local area who grew lots of different varieties of vegetables (no more courgettes, thanks), then the sharing and swapping of the gluts would mean that everybody could benefit without having to give a penny to the greedy supermarkets.

It would be a great way to live, and to relieve some of our reliance on the supermarkets. I guess it works that way in micro-networks like allotment holders anyway, but imagine it working on a local scale, or even regionally… not a penny spent, just produce swapped and we all walk away with freshly grown seasonal veg and many meals to plan.