Archive | July, 2011

Wholemeal Focaccia with Homemade Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil

30 Jul Sundried Day 2

I made my own sun-dried tomatoes this week, very proud. Well you might as well put the sun to good use. It’s out there all day blazing down and generally making a nuisance of itself.

If you’ve never tried it, now is the time (in the northern hemisphere anyway). It’s really easy and it makes you feel like a proper domestic goddess, for about five minutes.

I got the instructions on how to do it from Chica Andaluza, my fellow British food blogger in Andalucia. She grows her own tomatoes as well as many other things and I’m very jealous of her little huerto.

I don’t eat bread very often so when I do it has to be good bread. I’m not wasting my time with that supermarket bouncy fake stuff.

This is my favourite bread recipe and it uses sun-dried tomatoes and the oil they are soaked in.  I couldn’t wait to try it with my own sun-drieds.

If you are scared of making bread, like I am, don’t be sacred of this.  Me and yeast have issues, as in it won’t do its thing for me, ever.

I’ve lost count of how many heavy, dense and thoroughly unrisen loaves I’ve made. And the panettone? Don’t even go there, it was more of a flat tea cake than a light and airy, beautifully risen dome of loveliness.

This however, has never let me down, and I use wholemeal flour which is usually the kiss of death in any bread I’ve ever made. It’s a kind of flatbread so it’s not supposed to rise very much, but it does enough, every time.

You can use whatever herbs you like, rosemary is traditional, but I like basil with my sun-dried tomatoes. Just make sure you use the oil the tomatoes are soaked in. It adds so much more flavour.

Wholemeal Sun-dried Tomato & Basil Focaccia Recipe

makes one 8-10 inch round loaf, vegan

If you want to try making your own sun-dried tomatoes see Chica Andaluza’s recipe here

  • 450 gr wholemeal flour (or plain)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 g sachet dried fast action yeast
  • about 50 gr sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp sun-dried tomato oil (the oil the tomatoes are kept in)
  • 300 ml tepid (warm, not hot) water
  • about 10 basil leaves, rolled up & finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)

Put the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl and stir until well combined. Make a well in the middle and pour in 3 tbsp of the oil, the water and the sun-dried tomatoes.

Using a wooden spoon, mix it all together, then use your hands to make it into a soft sticky dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth & elastic, dusting with a little more flour if necessary but not too much.

Line a baking sheet with baking paper and then rub some olive oil over the paper. Shape the dough into a ball and slap it onto the baking sheet. Push it out with your fingers  to an 8-10 inch round about 2cm thick. Cover with a clean tea towel, tuck the ends under the baking sheet and leave in a warm area for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 230 C. Uncover the bread and pour a little hand-hot water into a cup. Dip your index finger into the water and poke deep holes all over the dough, wet your finger each time.

Brush the remaining 1 tbsp oil over the top of the  dough (some will collect in the holes) and sprinkle with the sea salt and basil. Poke some of the basil into the holes.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden. Then remove from the tray and leave to cool for 15 minutes wrapped in the clean tea towel. Keep wrapped in the tea towel or in a plastic bag in the fridge if you want to keep it longer.

I like to cut it into quarters and then cut off  little slices or wedges to dip into some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Or you can cut it in half widthways, through the middle and fill it like you would a sandwich. Mozzarella, avocado and tomato is nice, especially toasted.

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

Dragonfly Porn… it was a bit windy, they were hanging on for dear life!

Is it me or does she look like she’s saying “What are you looking at?”…..

Curried Aubergine with Tomato and Chickpeas

29 Jul DCIM100MEDIA

The first of the seasons aubergines are starting to peek out from inside their pretty lilac flowers in the fields where I walk the dog.

I have lots of aubergine recipes saved from Spain to China that will make even the most stubborn aubergine haters out there succumb to its deeply, dark and delicious charms.

I can say that because I used to be one of them – a hater I mean, not an aubergine obviously. If they are cooked incorrectly, which they generally are, they can be a spongy, chewy, watery, bland and disgusting disaster. Which is why there are so many haters out there.

The first recipe from my aubergine collection that I am going to share with you is a curry. I chose the curry because my chillis on the roof terrace are turning for green to red very quickly right now and every morning there is a fresh crop of jewel-like peppers twinkling at me from the bush. 

These chillis are just asking to be used, and there are lots of them.

So expect lot of chilli recipes in the next few weeks including: my homemade Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce and some spicy Chickpea Tikka Masala Burgers. It’s going to be a long, hot summer.

This curry is delicious, the aubergine is meltingly soft and the sauce well reduced to create an intensely rich and flavourful dish.

It’s from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey. You can’t go wrong with Rick, he knows good curry. I just added the chickpeas so it was a one pot dish and I didn’t have to make any rice to go with it. Some flatbreads would be nice to scoop it up though.

Rick Stein has a new series about Spain on the BBC at the moment. I saw it for the first time last night and he mentioned that next week he would be in Andalucia. I’m really interested to see where he goes and what he eats. It’s definitely worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s called Rick Stein’s Spain.

Curried Aubergine with Tomato & Chickpeas

Serves 2-3, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey

  • 1 large aubergine
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 red chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tin, 400 gr chopped tomatoes
  • 200 gr (1/2 a jar/tin) cooked chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus leaves for garnish
  • 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • lemon wedges to serve

Cut the aubergine in half across the middle then cut each half in half lengthways. Cut each piece, lengthways into 6 or 8 wedges, place them in a colander, sprinkle over 1/2 tsp salt and toss to coat. Place the colander in the sink to drain for 10 minutes. This draws out some of the water out of the aubergines.

Meanwhile prepare your onions, garlic, ginger and chillies. Heat a large frying pan over a medium high heat without any oil. Pour the olive oil into a shallow dish and brush the aubergine wedges on all sides with the oil. Put them in the frying pan a few at a time and cook for 2 or 3 minutes on each side until well browned. This helps to stop the aubergines absorbing too much oil. Set aside in a heatproof bowl and continue cooking the rest.

Put the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli into a processor or blender with 2 or 3 tbsp water and process to a smooth paste. Heat 2 tbsp of the remaining olive oil in the frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fennel seeds wait until they start to pop then add the onion paste and fry for about 2 minutes. Add the ground coriander and turmeric and fry for a further minute then add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and 3 tbsp water.

 Lower the heat, cover and leave to simmer for about 8 minutes until sauce has reduced and thickened. Add the aubergine wedges back into the pan along with the chickpeas and stir well to coat in the sauce. Simmer for a further 5 minutes until the aubergines are meltingly tender then stir in the fresh coriander & mint. Taste to check seasoning.

Serve garnished with coriander leaves and a wedge of lemon.

Please try this even if you hate aubergine and let me know if you’ve been converted. I was!

Things That made me Smile Today…..

Beautiful squash flowers…

And green baby pumpkins nestled in their shady bed….

A sure sign that autumn is not too far away and along with it relief from this crazy heat!

Slow-Roast Tomato and Quinoa Caprese

25 Jul DCIM100MEDIA

These Roma tomatoes, also known as Plum tomatoes or, here in Spain, tomates Pera (pear tomatoes) are all beginning to ripen here now.

When I am out with Rufus in the morning I see the farmers and their wives with their straw hats and gloves on, picking them from row upon row of tomato plants and storing them in crates.

They are really cheap at the moment so you can buy a lot for very little money. One of my favourite things to do with these tomatoes is to slow-roast them. It intensifies the flavour, you can make a load and keep them covered in oil in the fridge.

All you have to do is cut them in half, put them on a lined baking tray, drizzle them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, salt & pepper and put them in a low oven for 2 hours, or more if you like them more dried.

You can use them in salads, pasta dishes, serve them on burgers, in sandwiches, tortillas, quiches, pizzas or a quick bruschetta. They transform anything ordinary into something a bit special. And it’s so easy.

If you try making these once you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. They’re such a handy thing to have around. And so cheap at the moment, it would be rude not to really.

They’re great for picnics too.

Tomatoes and basil were made for each other. They are what summer is all about. The Caprese salad is one of my “go to” summer dishes because all the ingredients are at their best and it is really quick and easy to make.

Now feel free to just use these tomatoes in a “normal” Caprese with some soft, milky buffalo mozzarella and lots of  torn basil leaves if that is all you can manage in this heat. I wouldn’t blame you at all.

But I couldn’t really call that a recipe could I? I’d feel like I was cheating you somehow.

I used quinoa in this recipe but you could just as easily use cooked rice, couscous, orzo or even pasta as the base.

Quinoa is so good for you, an amazing source of protein if you are vegetarian or vegan and it’s gluten-free. If you’ve never tried cooking with it before you should give it a go. Don’t be scared, it’s easy to work with, really versatile and is nice to eat. It absorbs flavours really well too. I cook mine in veg stock rather than water which makes it even tastier.

Slow Roast Tomato & Quinoa Caprese Recipe

serves 4, vegetarian, gluten-free

For the tomatoes:

  • 8 large , ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & black pepper

Preheat the oven to 150C and line a baking tray with baking paper.  Cut the tomatoes in half, lengthways and place them, cut side up on the tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar then sprinkle with the sugar and season with salt & pepper. Put in the oven for 2 hours, or longer until they have started to dry out.

Leave to cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge with any juices until half an hour before you need them. Bring them back to room temperature before serving to get the most out of the flavour. If you want to store them for  longer than a few days, cover them with some olive oil. But I doubt they’ll last that long.

For the Quinoa Caprese:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 400 gr quinoa
  •  about 1 litre veg stock
  • 40gr pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • a big handful of basil leaves
  • 3 sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 or 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 200 gr mozzarella
  • 6-8 slow-roast tomato halves (see above)
  • salt & black pepper
  • chilli oil (optional)

Cook the quinoa by putting it into boiling veg stock, lower the heat slightly and simmer for 12 -14 minutes until you can see the curlicues in every grain and it has absorbed all, or most, of the stock. Add some boiling water if dries out. Drain, if necessary, and leave to cool.

Meanwhile  fry the onions in the olive oil over a medium high heat for about 5-8 minutes until softened and caramelised.

Fluff up the quinoa with a fork to separate the grains and stir through the onions and any oil from the pan. Tip in any tomato juices, the sundried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Tear or finely julienne the basil and add half to the quinoa and season with salt & black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. You can refrigerate it at this point, just bring it back to room temperature before serving.

To serve, pile the quinoa onto a large serving dish or into individual bowls and arrange the slow-roast tomatoes on top. Tear off  bite size pieces of mozzarella, scatter it around the tomatoes and top it off with the rest of the basil. Drizzle over some chilli oil or olive oil at the table.

Enjoy the taste of summer in a bowl!

Things That made Me Smile Today…..

Rufus cooling off in the spring…

Giving our plants on the terrace a quick shower…

Stay cool!!

Alhambra Inspired Chargrilled Nectarine Fattoush Salad

22 Jul DCIM100MEDIA

The Washer Up’s dad came to stay for a few days and we decided to take him to the Alhambra in Granada.

In 40 degree heat.

 Alhambra translates as The Red Fortress. Its palaces were built in the middle of the 14th century for the last Moorish kings of Spain and their court.  It is a World Heritage site and a unique and beautiful example of Muslim art and architecture.

The majority of the palace buildings are built in the same style, with all the rooms opening out on to a central courtyard.

The Alhambra was extended by the different Muslim rulers who lived there but each new section followed the theme of “Paradise on Earth” by using column arcades, elaborately decorated archways, fountains with running water and reflecting pools.

Blue, red and a golden-yellow, all somewhat faded with time are the main colours used for tiles and decoration.

 The Alhambra was made into a  city, complete with an irrigation system composed of acequias (water channels) for the gardens of the Generalife located outside the fortress.  These acequias are still used today throughout Andalucia for irrigation.

 Generalife means Gardens of the Architect. The Palacio de Generalife is a villa dating from the beginning of the 14th century. Whilst fountains and flowing water are a common feature around the Alhambra, they are particularly prevalent in the Palacio de Generalife.

The gardens of Generalife were definitely my favourite part of the Alhambra. It may have something to do with all the running water cooling the air and the shade created by the trees. The flowers were beautiful too.

You can actually imagine Arabian princesses running around giggling and hiding behind trees from handsome princes. As you can probably tell I read a book before going: Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving. 

It was published in 1832 and immediately attracted pilgrims to Granada from all over the world. He was an American diplomat, historian & traveller who actually lived in the Alhambra for a while.

It paints a romantic, colourful impression of local legends and traditions as well as telling enchanting tales of Moorish  princesses, towers, love and war. I would definitely recommend reading it if you are thinking of visiting or are interested in the history of Moorish Spain.

The picture below is of the Washer Up’s dad, Jim Burns. He is a published poet and writer and a recognised authority on 1930’s -1950’s Beats & Bebop Jazz. He is also an expert on the Spanish Civil War and 19th Century European art and history.

He is 75 and fared better than us on this exceedingly long, hot day. We walked around the Alhambra for around 6 hours in the blazing sun.

He didn’t even fall asleep in the car on the way home. We were listening to Miles Davies though.

Like father like son. The Washer Up loves his music too. He’s more into early punk than jazz but his dad bought him the first Sex Pistols record Anarchy in the UK when it was released in 1976. He was 13.

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern salad made with toasted or fried pieces of pita bread, fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables. Fattoush belongs to the family of dishes known as fatta which means crushed. Stale flatbreads are used up by crushing or crumbling them into the dish, a lot like the Italian Panzanella salad. 

This is a salad we served at the restaurant. Instead of using stale pita we cut soft flour tortillas into triangles, deep-fried them and sprinkled them with sumac and cumin while still warm. This way you get crispy, spicy crackers to eat with your salad and it also makes for a more dramatic presentation. You just arrange them pointy side up around the serving bowl.

They are also great for dipping in hummus.

The basic ingredients for a fattoush salad are: salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, radish, mint, parsley, sumac, fried bread, olive oil and lemon juice.

With that as your starting point you can add whatever else you like: feta, olives, dates, peppers, garlic, pomegranate seeds, the list goes on….

I like to add a little sweetness to counteract the sour lemon juice and sumac. Chopped dates are lovely but I had a fruit bowl full of gorgeous looking nectarines just desperate to be included.

I remembered seeing a recipe in the Ottolenghi Cookbook (I know, I’m obsessed) for a chargrilled peach salad with speck and orange blossom.  I didn’t need any more encouragement than that. Any excuse too use my new griddle pan and I’m happy.

Chargrilled Nectarine Fattoush Salad

serves 2, vegan

  • 2 nectarines, stoned & sliced into wedges (not too soft, firm but ripe is best for grilling)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon rind (optional)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 big beef tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cucumber, halved, deseeded & cubed
  • 2 spring onions (or half a Spanish spring onion), sliced diagonally
  • 2 or 3 radishes, thinly sliced (I didn’t have any)
  • 1 bag mixed salad leaves, or a mixture of rocket and cos lettuce, chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 5 or 6 mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
  • 1 soft flour tortilla, cut into eighths (or some stale pita, torn into pieces)
  • sunflower oil for deep-frying
  • sumac & cumin for sprinkling
  • salt & black pepper

 Toss the nectarine wedges with some olive oil, salt & pepper in a bowl. Heat up your griddle pan and cook the nectarines for a minute or so on each side until they get some nice charcoal lines all over. Remove to a bowl and cook the rest, if necessary then sprinkle over the orange blossom water and leave to cool.

Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium high heat. You can tell when it’s hot enough by sticking a corner of tortilla in and seeing if it sizzles. Carefully put the tortilla triangles (2 batches will be best you don’t want to overcrowd the pan) into the hot oil and cook for 10-20 seconds or until they are a golden colour. Be careful they burn quickly.

Remove to a bowl lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle over some salt, cumin and sumac. Do the same with the rest and leave to cool. Once cooled they can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.

Put the garlic, salt, lemon juice, preserved lemon and olive oil into a large bowl with the tomatoes, sumac and cumin and stir together well.

Just before serving add the cucumber, spring onions, radishes, salad leaves, fresh herbs and any other ingredients (except the nectarines) to the bowl and toss everything together. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Either serve in one big bowl/ serving dish or in individual dishes. Arrange the chargrilled nectarines on top and place the tortilla crackers around the edge of the plate so it looks like a crown. Sprinkle over a little sumac and take to the table.

It’s a royal looking salad fit for the last Moorish King of Spain.

A word of advice, if you are thinking about going to the Alhambra, I wouldn’t recommend going in the summer, May or October would be nice. I’ll try and remember that next time!

A Watermelon Martini Granita for a Mysterious Friend

20 Jul Watermelon Granita

I’ve been watching these watermelons grow from a distance. Every morning I walk past them with the dog and look down on them. I walk on the road that goes around the top of the field, and have been taking photos from there but I wasn’t happy with them, they were too far away. I wanted to get closer so I had to scramble down quite a steep bank and quickly take some shots before anyone saw me and thought I was stealing.

Don’t you think they look strange just lying there, on the ground?

Kind of like stray, abandoned footballs, hidden in the long grass of your neighbour’s garden, that you are too afraid to ask for back.

The first thing that I think of when I see watermelon is a cocktail we used to serve at the restaurant called a Watermelon Martini. It was a beautiful pale pink colour (there was a lot of vodka in it) and it was served in a martini glass with a pink straw.

A proper girl’s drink, or so I thought.

This pretty pink drink became “The Usual” of one of our best customers who soon became a friend. I can’t mention his name (yes it’s a he) because he might have to kill me.

No seriously, he would have to kill me.

Let’s just say, he works away a lot. I don’t know what he does or where he does it. What I do know is that when he comes home he likes a nice cocktail.

 A nice pink, girly cocktail.

Now this guy is big. As in big, strong and slightly intimidating (if you don’t know him). He has a dangerous job and you’d definitely want him on your side in a fight.

To see him sitting at my bar with a baby pink martini cocktail in his (very large) hands would always completely crack me up. It still does now, and I miss it.

 So, for old times sake, you know who you are. This one’s for you. xx

I wanted to make a granita because Sawsan from Chef in Diguise and Tiffany from Como Water keep tempting me with them.  Tiffany also gave me the idea for the sugar-coated mint leaves as a garnish. The bouganvilla is from our roof terrace and is just the perfect colour to go with this.

Watermelon Martini Granita Recipe

Makes about a litre tub, 4-6 martini size glasses.

Adapted from Como Water & Alcoholic Drink Recipes

  • about 600 gr cubed watermelon, without rind
  • 2 tsp fresh lime/lemon juice
  • 55 gr (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 55 ml (1/4 cup) vodka, or more to taste
  • fresh mint leaves
  • sugar
  • a wedge of watermelon to decorate the glass

Remove as many seeds from the watermelon as possible, cut into cubes and put in a food proccessor or bowl with the lime/lemon juice and sugar and blend well until smooth.

Strain the puree through a sieve into a shallow pyrex dish or metal tin. Press the pulp through the sieve with a spatula to squeeze as much juice out as possible. Mix the vodka into the juice and taste. Add more vodka , sugar or lime juice to taste.

Freeze for about an hour until the edges start to freeze. Fold the frozen bits into the middle with a fork. Do this every half an hour for about 4 hours. (I know it sounds time consuming, but it’s so worth it, and you don’t have to sit there waiting for it, just set the timer and get on with something else).

Meanwhile make the sugar-coated mint leaves. Tip some sugar onto a small plate, wash the mint leaves then dip the top side into the sugar. Put these on plate and freeze.

The granita mixture is ready when it forms ice crystals. Rake it with the fork and serve in chilled glasses garnished with the sugar-coated mint leaves and a wedge of watermelon.

Salud!

Things that made me smile today……..

 

Our hibiscus plants in full bloom….

With a watermelon martini granita in one hand and an hibiscus flower behind my ear, the world is a happy place!

White Grape, Manchego and Fennel Seed Tartlets

16 Jul DCIM100MEDIA

Grapes are just coming into season here now. Where we walk with the dog there are vines, heavy with juicy bunches growing along the fences at the side of the paths. Every day they ripen a little more with the intense heat of the sun.

I’ve never cooked with grapes before. At the restaurant we had an Andalucian salad with Manchego cheese, grapes, Serrano ham and a Jerez (sherry) vinegar dressing that sold very well in the summer.

This got me thinking about the grape and Manchego combination. The Washer Up used to make a Manchego & Red Onion Tartlet that was delicious. He cut the puff pastry into triangles a little bigger than the triangle of cheese and made a red onion marmalade to go on the top. It was a very popular starter.

My version just swaps the red onion marmalade for a grape compote. I used elderflower cordial in the compote because it is the very essence of summer but you can use grape juice if you can’t get any. I bought mine in Ikea.

The fennel seeds idea came from a recipe for Grape & Fennel Seed Focaccia in the Ottolenghi Cookbook. I am slightly Ottolenghi obsessed at the moment. The fennel seeds add an interesting flavour and texture, and the Spanish do love their anis so it finished off the dish nicely.

If you strain the compote before it cools you will also have a grape and elderflower syrup to drizzle over the finished dish, but it’s not essential.

Remember to put the frozen puff pastry in the fridge to defrost the night before you need it.

White Grape, Manchego & Fennel Seed Tartlets Recipe

makes about 6 or 7 tartlets, vegetarian

For the Grape, Elderflower & Fennel Seed Compote

  • about 400 gr seedless white grapes, stemmed & halved
  • 50 gr caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp elderflower cordial
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar & pestle

Stir the grapes and sugar in a large saucepan so all the grapes are coated and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the elderflower cordial and half of the crushed fennel seeds. (Keep the rest for sprinkling on the tarts later).

Bring to a boil over a medium high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the syrup thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 20 -25 minutes. Pour the compote into a sieve over a bowl to collect the syrup and let the grapes drain well.

Store the grapes and syrup, covered, separately in the fridge until needed.

For the Tartlets

  • 1 block frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
  • 6 or 7  5mm thick triangular slices of Manchego cheese, rind removed
  • grape compote (see above)
  • the rest of the crushed fennel seeds (see above)

Dust your work surface & rolling-pin with flour and roll out the block of pastry, with the narrowest end facing you, into a long thin rectangle about 2 or 3 mm thick.

See photo above. Place one of the slices of Manchego onto the beginning (nearest you) of the pastry rectangle so it is pointing like an arrow to the right. Cut around the cheese leaving a 5 mm border all the way around. Turn the cheese arrow round so it is pointing to the left above the first triangle and do the same. Continue alternating like this until you have run out of pastry. You should get 6 or 7 triangles.

Score a 5 mm border with sharp knife on each pastry triangle but don’t cut all the way through. Trim the short side of the triangle to make it neat.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 220 C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper and place your pastry triangles on it, spaced apart. Put 1 small teaspoon of grape compote in the middle of each of the triangles and spread it out slightly. Don’t go into the 5mm border.

Brush the pastry borders with egg wash and sprinkle a few of the crushed fennel seeds on the borders too (save some for garnishing the finished tart). Cook for about 12 minutes until browned and risen. Keep an eye on them though.

You can keep them like this until you are ready to serve. Then preheat the oven again if necessary, top each with a slice of Manchego and bake for another 2 minutes, just until the cheese melts.

Top with another teaspoon or so of the compote and sprinkle with a little of the crushed fennel seeds. Serve on a flat plate with a simple green salad and drizzle over the grape and elderflower syrup. If your syrup has set in the fridge just heat it up with a bit more elderflower cordial.

These make a great light lunch or starter but you could also quite easily serve them as a dessert/cheese course. They’ve got that sweet cheesey danish pastry feel that would work for afternoon tea too.

They taste just as good at room temperature and would be perfect for a summer picnic with some sparkling elderflower cordial or a nice bottle of chilled cava.

Buen Provecho!!

Things that made me smile today….

Our new friend the Shetland pony. He likes us because we take him carrots.

The Washer Up calls him “Donkey” (from Shrek), I think it might be the teeth!!

Buen Fin de Semana!

Grandad’s Pickled Onions

14 Jul Grandad's Recipe

My grandad is 92. He still grows most of his own veg in his back garden and his front garden is always full of flowers. I remember when I was little we used to go round at the weekend and he would take me outside to show me the vegetables.  When I was little the only vegetable I would eat was sweetcorn. I remember him picking the fresh corn cob off the plant and giving to me to eat raw. I can still taste it now. It was the sweetest sweetcorn I’ve ever tasted.

He also had pheasants & partridges hanging from the ceiling of the garden shed that you had to walk under to use the ouside toilet. Not so nice.

My grandad has 9 children, my dad being one of them, as well as 14 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and 1 great, great grandchild. When I was younger the whole family would descend on my grandparents every Boxing Day. The kids would open all their presents and play together and the parents would eat, drink and get drunk, generally.

One of the best things about Boxing Day at Nan & Grandad’s was the buffet. The table in the back room was filled with cold roast meats leftover from Christmas Day as well as the obligatory sausage rolls, chicken drumsticks and the cheese board. Next to the cheeseboard there was always a big jar of grandad’s homemade pickled onions.

When I was younger I remember being  terrified of these pickled onions. I could see the whole red chillies floating around in the jar. That and the fact that the adults would dare each other to eat them and laugh when someone started coughing and going red in the face, stopped me from going near them until I was much older. Probably about 16.

Once I tried one there was no going back. They are fiery (depending on how long they’ve been left to mature) but also totally addictive. Just make sure you’re amongst family when you eat them. I wouldn’t eat them before a hot date or job interview. Not a good idea.

When we first moved to Spain ten years ago and opened the restaurant, my grandad came to visit with my uncle David. As usual, they asked if there was anything we needed from England, thinking we’d say Marmite or tea bags. I asked him to bring some of his pickled onions, half joking.  And he did.

Can you imagine the look on the faces of the security at the airport? This was in the days before the 100 ml liquids rule obviously. I was very pleased, as you can imagine.

 One of our very good customers at the time, Tim, always ordered the cheese plate instead of a dessert. We used to serve fresh fruit with the cheese, grapes or figs, whatever was in season.

One evening we didn’t have any fruit left to serve with the cheese so I explained this to Tim when he ordered his usual. He asked me if we had any pickled onions instead. I explained that all we had was a jar of my grandad’s homemade. He said that would be perfect. 

Of course I obliged, warning him beforehand of their special potency, and he loved them! Every time Tim and Tony came for dinner from then on, Tim would order his cheese plate with grandad’s pickles on the side.

The funny thing is that Tim and Tony ended up being our best friends over here and 2 years ago they bought the restaurant from us. I like to think that it is all down to grandad’s pickled onions!

This year my auntie Pat came over with my mum and asked if we wanted anything. I couldn’t ask her to bring grandad’s pickled onions because of the no liquids rule and also because I knew she would be up to her luggage limit (It’s a woman thing!) So instead I asked her to bring the recipe so I could make them myself. That and some sumac, vanilla extract and allspice. There’s always something I can’t get here.

So here is the secret recipe for Grandad’s Pickled Onions. I’m only sharing it with you because you deserve it. Don’t go telling everyone about it though…..

Grandad’s Pickled Onions Recipe

makes 1 big jar, vegan, gluten-free

  • 5oogr small onions/shallots, peeled
  • 1 pint (550 ml) malt vinegar
  • 2 large tbsp black treacle (I used miel de cana) or brown sugar
  • 2 red chillies

Put the peeled onions in a bowl of cold salted water and leave for about an hour. Drain and leave to dry.

Put 1/2 pint (275 ml) of the vinegar in a saucepan with the treacle/brown sugar. Bring to the boil stirring continuously until dissolved and then set aside to cool.

Put the onions in your jar and pour over the cold vinegar and treacle mix. Top up with the rest of the malt vinegar, it needs to cover the onions. Cut the chillis in half lengthways and push them down inside the jar. Seal with a lid and store in a cool dry place for about a month before opening.

Thanks Grandad,

Lots of Love,

Natalie xx

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