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Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Crunchy Nut Topping

8 Jan Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake

Romanesco Rigatoni & Cheese Bake

Romanesco is a fabulously freaky looking thing that tastes like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. If broccoli florets look like little oak trees then romanesco florets are definitely mini Christmas trees.

Romanesco

This is basically a fusion of two iconic dishes. Macaroni Cheese (Mac & Cheese) and Cauliflower Cheese, which is cauliflower coated in a cheesy white sauce if you didn’t already know. Sometimes gratinated sometimes not. I think it’s a British thing. It’s good to get some extra vegetables in with all that cheeesy carbness so I added some spinach too. Good for the guilt I find.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake

This dish is great for using up all the little bits of different cheeses that you might have leftover especially at this time of year. I used some feta, goat’s cheese and grated Manchego. Clear out the fridge food is always satisfying.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake

The topping is actually the Hazelnut & Chestnut Dukkah that I made to go on my Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower Soup. The spicy Egyptian nutty crumble give this an extra kick of flavour but you could use breadcrumbs mixed with grated cheese and some spices if you like. The nuts give a nice crunch though. Worth the extra effort definitely.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Dukkah Topping

Serves 3-4, vegetarian

You can substitute the cheeses for whatever bits you have around; Stilton, Gruyère, gorgonzola, mozzarella….

  • 1/2 large romanesco (or cauliflower/broccoli), chopped into small florets
  • 300 g wholemeal rigatoni
  • 2 Tbsp flour (I used wholemeal spelt)
  • 2 Tbsp dairy free spread or butter
  • about 300 ml oat milk (or other milk)
  • a good handful of grated manchego (or cheddar/parmesan..)
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • salt & black pepper
  • a big handful of fresh spinach leaves, chopped (about 100 g)
  • 75 – 100 g Greek feta
  • 75 – 100 g goats cheese
  • about 50 g hazelnut dukkah (recipe here) or use breadcrumbs and grated cheese
  • olive oil and breadcrumbs/flour

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet in a large pan with lots of boiling salted water. About 4 or 5 minutes before it is cooked throw in the florets too. Cauliflower takes longer to cook than broccoli and romanesco so adjust accordingly. When the pasta is cooked and romanesco tender, drain the whole lot in a colander.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter/spread in a small pan over a medium heat. When it has melted add the flour, all in one go, and stir for a minute or so. It will form a thick paste, you need to cook the rawness out of the flour.

Add in the milk, stirring continuously, until incorporated, then continue stirring until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes depending. When thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese, rosemary, nutmeg, chilli flakes and season well with salt & black pepper. Set aside.

Pour the drained pasta and florets back into the large pan over a gentle heat and pour over the cheese sauce, stirring to combine.  Add in the chopped spinach, stirring to wilt in the warm pasta then crumble (or grate) in the rest of the cheeses (I saved some feta for the top). Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Preheat oven to 200C.

Prepare one large or 3-4 individual ovenproof gratin dishes by rubbing the insides with oil and then dusting with flour or breadcrumbs. Pour the mixture into the dish(es), top with the reserved feta, a generous sprinkling of the dukkah (or grated cheese & breadcrumbs), drizzle with olive oil and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake

You can serve this on its own or with a bitter leaf salad to cut through the richness of the cheese. A mix of raddichio and rocket is nice with some olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar.

Enjoy!!

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Tarta de Santiago with Mandarin Orange Compote

4 Jan Tarta de Santiago

Tarta de Santiago

Some of the almond blossom are out early this year. The almond trees don’t normally sprout their barely pink candy floss blooms for another few weeks at least but the mild weather we had over Christmas has tricked them into thinking it is nearly Spring.

Almond Blossom

They are so pretty and decorate a fairly bare landscape at this time of year. Not much is happening on the vegetable front either at the moment where I run with the dog. There are few lettuces, cabbages and some chard. What there are plenty of however, at this time of year, is oranges. They are everywhere, like the bright sunny reminders of where we live. We live in Andalucia, land of oranges and mandarins.

Oranges

Oranges and almonds are a classic combination that complement each other perfectly in cooking. I have used them together before in this Mandarin Almond Drizzle Cake, these deliciously light Ricciarelli Biscuits and in this Butterbean Tagine with Quinoa & Halloumi

Mandarins

These organic mandarins were 60 cents a kilo at the market consequently I have quite a few. So apart from using a lot to decorate the lounge and kitchen over the holidays and snacking on them in the afternoon, I needed to find a recipe that used a few of them up.

My friend Caroline also has a tree on her terrace heavy with navel oranges so that every time I see her I leave with a huge carrier bag full of them. They are brilliant for juicing, The Washer Up has two, freshly squeezed, with his breakfast every morning, but I still needed to use some, to make room in the kitchen apart from anything else.

Tarta de Santiago.

Tarta de Santiago is a deliciously moist almond cake from Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Pilgrims and tourists visit the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where the relics of the apostle Saint James (Santiago in Spanish) are thought to be buried. They also probably all eat some of this cake as it is in every bakery window, dusted with icing sugar and decorated with the shape of the cross of the Order of Saint James.

Tarts de Santiago with Orange Compote

This was one of the first desserts on our menu at the restaurant when we opened it 11 years ago. The bakery down the hill made it for us, this was before The Washer Up had perfected his pastry skills and made all of them himself. We served it warm with a hot cherry sauce which was also gorgeous if you can get hold of some cherries where you are.

This version of the cake is beautifully light because the egg whites are whisked (to a meringue basically) and folded in separately. It is gluten-free as it is made using ground almonds and dairy-free because there is no butter or milk added. The mandarin orange compote is made with honey instead of sugar and can be served warm or cold.

Tarta de Santiago

Tarta de Santiago with Mandarin Orange Compote

Serves 8, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free. Adapted from Time for a little Something

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • a pinch of salt
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • large pinch of ground cinnamon
  • the zest of one orange
  • a few drops of almond extract
  • 250 g ground almonds
  • icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°. Prepare a 24-cm springform cake tin by roughly cutting a circle of baking paper a little bigger than the loose base of the tin, and put this over the base before clipping the tin back together. Rub the base & sides with a little oil.

Whisk the egg whites and salt in a large clean bowl until soft peaks form. Then whisk in half the caster sugar (100 g) a tablespoon at a time, until you have a glossy meringue texture.

In another large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the caster sugar, orange zest, almond extract and cinnamon. Beat until thick and increased in volume.

Now fold in just a little of the egg white mixture into the yolks to loosen it then fold in the rest gently, taking care not to deflate the mix too much. Then gently fold the ground almonds in too.

Spoon/pour  the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 45 minutes. Check it after about 30-35 minutes – if it is browning too quickly, put a piece of baking paper over the top of the tin so the cake can still cook but not brown any more. Once the cake is golden and springy, remove it from the oven and let it cool in its tin for 10 minutes

When it is cool, run a knife around the edge, turn it out onto a plate, remove the baking paper from the base and serve upside down. Dust it with icing sugar just before serving. You can make a template of the traditional St James Cross/Sword and put that in the middle of the whole tart before dusting with icing sugar which is how it is usually served.

Or I used a cross from a necklace that my dad bought me and used that on each piece of cake!! Thanks Dad xx

Tarta de Santiago

Mandarin Orange Compote

  • 500 g oranges & mandarins
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)

Cut the top and bottom off the oranges then cut down around following the line of the peel to remove it all.

Using a sharp knife, cut in-between each membrane to remove a segment of orange into a small sauce pan. When all segments are removed squeeze juice into pan too.

Peel mandarins and remove as much white pith as possible and any pips.

Put all ingredients in small pan, bring to boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 15 mins or until soft and jammy. Puree, taste and adjust honey to your liking. Leave to cool or serve warm with the cake.

Tarta de Santiago

This cake can be served as a lovely light dessert perfect for this time of year or with your afternoon tea.

Have a Lovely Weekend! Feliz Reyes!

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A Merry Christmas with Mince Pies

24 Dec Mince Pies

Mince Pies

Just a quick hello before I go out to the post office, supermarket, Moroccan shop, forest for more cones and make more of these mince pies. The list is actually a lot longer than that but I am out of bed before 10 am (unheard of) and am not going to get stressed about anything today. I have promised myself. And breathe…

Mince Pies

This is my recipe for mince pies and I have to say that, in my opinion, they beat any shop bought ones by a mile. They are better because: number one they contain Amaretto almond liqueur and anything tastes better with Amaretto in it. They also contain chopped toasted almonds for a bit of crunch, dried cranberries, mandarin zest and, the special ingredient, crystallised ginger. Make these and you’ll never go back to shop bought I promise. Even if you have an ever-increasing list of things to do….

Mince Pie

In the pictures and the recipe below I have used shop bought puff pastry but I have also made a lovely batch with this spelt flour pastry recipe adding a teaspoon of mixed spice to the flour. If you don’t have all the different dried fruits you can just  use the more traditional, raisins and sultanas.

Marvelous Mince Pies Recipe

Makes 12- 16 pies, vegetarian

  • 1 pack frozen puff pastry (defrosted)
  • 4 Tbsp molasses/miel de cana/maple syrup
  • 75 ml sweet sherry or port
  • 250 g moscatel raisins
  • 50 g dried figs
  • 50 g dried apricots, chopped
  • 50 g medjool dates without stones
  • 50 gr dried cranberries
  • 50 g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 mandarin, zest first & then juice
  • about 50ml Amaretto (or Cointreau is nice)you may need to add more
  • a few drops of almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • about 100 -150 gr chopped toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • olive oil for brushing
  • icing sugar for dusting

In a large pan, dissolve the molasses/miel de cana in the sherry over a gentle heat. Then add the dried fruits, crystallised ginger, spices, zest and  juice of the mandarin and the Amaretto. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about 15 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed stirring occasionally. You may need to add more amaretto if it is absorbed quickly.

Add the almond & vanilla extracts, honey and the nuts. Stir well to combine everything and leave the mixture to cool in a bowl.

When the mixture is cool (very important or the pastry won’t work), preheat the oven to 200 degrees and oil & flour your muffin tins.

Roll out your first piece of puff pastry to a thickness of 2mm (leave the other piece in the fridge). Cut out 6 circles of about 9 or 10 cm diameter and 6 tops of about 7 cm diameter, you may have to re roll the pastry and may get a few more than 6 if you do. Push the larger circles into the muffin tins and fill each pastry case with a dessertspoonful of the mixture. Brush the edges of the pastry base with a little oil and then top with the smaller circles. Push the edges together to seal.

Make a little slit in the top of each with a sharp knife and brush with a little olive oil (or egg wash) and bake for about 15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and puffy. Keep an eye on them they cook quickly. Leave to cool for a few minutes then take them out of the tin. Leave the tin to cool down completely before rolling out your next batch.

Dust with icing sugar just before serving. You can serve hot, warm or room temperature with cream, ice cream or a glass of Amaretto on the side….

MInce Pies

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Felices Fiestas!

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Persian Quince Jam with Cardamom and Rosewater For Breakfast

27 Oct Persian Quince Jam

Quince are  large yellow knobbly apple-shaped fruits that have a slightly floral flavour and ripen in the Autumn. On the tree they have a white furry layer over their skin that will probably be rubbed off if you see them for sale. You see old Spanish ladies buying  bags full at the market. They will be boiling up huge pots of them to make Carne de Membrillo, a sweet quince paste that is traditionally served with a nice cured Manchego cheese. Chica Andaluza has the recipe if you are interested.

I fancied making something a little different with my very modest single kilo of the fragrant fruit. It’s a very similar thing but comes via Persia to this table.

As I have mentioned before, in the summer we were cooking lunch for an Iranian family for a few weeks. We used to arrive every morning at about 11am  after shopping for the day’s food. As we were unpacking the shopping they would still be finishing off their breakfast. Breakfast was a long and luxurious family occasion that I found fascinating. The table was generously laid with breads, cheeses, fresh fruit, dried fruits, nuts, honey, yoghurt, tahini and cinnamon pancakes that one of the husbands made every day. A bowl of Bran Flakes and a quick cup of coffee it was not.

The family live in different cities all over the world but meet up once a year for a holiday together. On the first night, the Grandma arrived from Paris on a very late flight carrying a huge jar (like 5 litres) of something that looked like homemade chutney or jam. How on earth did she get that through customs? The daughters and granddaughters were very pleased though, it was obviously a family favourite that no holiday would be complete without.

I found out the next morning, when they let me taste some, that it was a very special quince jam that their Grandma had always made that they all loved. It took pride of place every morning on that amazing breakfast table. A perfect match for the cheese, like our very own Dulce de Membrillo.

She didn’t speak any English and my French is very rusty but I managed to get that there was cardamom in there, I could see the little black seeds too. The recipe is obviously a very closely guarded family secret because she always very politely managed to avoid telling me anything more. It was delicious, I can see why she was so protective of it.

So this is a recipe I found on the internet, it tastes very similar but not as good as Grandma’s obviously. The quince flesh turns from a very pale yellow when raw to a bright coral or even a rich ruby-red when cooked. It depends how long you cook it for and how often you open the lid. If you cover the pot with a tea towel and then put on the lid while cooking (and don’t peek) it goes darker like mine. I may have overdone it slightly I think.

Persian Quince Jam Recipe

Makes about 1 large jar, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Turmeric & Saffron

  • I used 4 quince (about 900 g), washed, cored & cubed or sliced (you can peel it too if you like)
  • 250 g sugar
  • 500 ml water
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 cardamom pods, bashed to open them
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 or 2 tbsp rosewater

Remove any dark bits in the fruit and squeeze half the lemon over the chopped pieces to stop discolouration.

Put the water and sugar in a large saucepan, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered for 5-7 minutes.  Add a splash more water if it is drying out.

Add the ground cardamom, the bashed cardamom pods and the quince to the sugar syrup, stir well, bring back to the boil and add 2 tbsp lemon juice. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the top with a tea towel then put on the lid. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until reduced and jam-like. Check it very occasionally and stir gently.

Add a tablespoon of rosewater and simmer for another few minutes. Carefully taste and add more rosewater if you like.

Pour or spoon the hot jam into sterilised jars, seal and leave to cool. When cool store in the fridge.

Serve for breakfast with a creamy smooth cheese or yoghurt on toasted bread. Or go for the whole breakfast feast and fill the table with fresh fruit, gorgeous breads, a selection of cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, honey, yoghurt and cinnamon pancakes.

Take the time to sit down and enjoy a long leisurely weekend breakfast.

Rosemary and Garlic Baked Camembert with Honey Glazed Pear and Almonds

17 Apr Baked Camembert & Honey Glazed Pears

This dish was inspired by a picnic lunch we enjoyed at the Bramon Wine Estate just outside Plettenberg Bay. Bramon Wine Estate is a boutique vineyard and it is the first and only Estate that far East of the Western Cape.

Their flagship Sauvignon Blanc wine is called The Crags which is the name of the “town” where the Wine Estate is situated. You couldn’t really call it a town though. It consists of a petrol station and a shop. Which is why it is such a pleasant surprise to find this beautiful place just off the main road. They also have two sparkling Sauvignon Blanc Cap Classiques. I went for the 2008 sparkling ” a  refreshingly clean palate with vibrant mousse and an exciting, limey, zesty lingering finish”. It was one of the best sparkling wines I have tried in a long time.

So I had another glass. As you do.

In the summer they offer a picnic lunch amongst the vines. It is a really special feeling to be drinking the wine that is growing all around you. It is a relaxed, informal dining experience (in a really good way). You order your drinks and then get a list of the foods available. You trick the boxes next to what you would like to order and then give it back to the very capable waiting staff. Sit back relax, enjoy your drink and the beautiful surroundings while your picnic is freshly prepared for you.

We chose the mini baked camembert with honey figs and nuts, a beautiful plaited bread with rosemary and sea salt, green fig preserve, avocado and parmesan crisp salad, fresh pesto with mixed herbs and almonds, sundried tomatoes and a creamy hummus.

There is a monkey park and a bird sanctuary very near to the Wine Estate, so in a very organised fashion we went to Bramon in the morning to book a nice table in the vines for lunch at 1pm and then went off to Monkeyland for the rest of the morning. You get a guided walking tour around the forest that is very informative for kids and adults. More than 450 primates live and free-roam around the forest. It is an amazing feeling to be that close to so many different types of monkeys and lemurs that are living in a natural habitat. 

After lunch we went to Birds of Eden which is the largest free flight bird aviary in the world. It is a great way to spend a a couple of hours, there are 3500 birds out in the open. You walk up wooden walkways that snake their way through ruins and waterfalls up into the canopy of the trees. It is a stunning place.

And again you get so close to them.

Monkeyland and Birds of Eden are next to each other so you can buy combination tickets for both, which is what we did. With an excellent lunch at Bramon in between of course. Which brings me back to the food.

I contacted Bramon to get the recipes for the baked camembert and the rosemary plaited bread. The gave me the camembert but then told me that the bread recipe was a secret! I can understand it of course, it was very good.

So I made my own version of the bread using spelt flour which I flavoured with roasted garlic and rosemary. It was lovely, especially dipped into the oozing  baked camembert.

I will give you the bread recipe in my next post but for now here’s the baked camembert. I used pears rather than figs because figs aren’t in season here yet and I had some in my fruit bowl.

 I also studded the cheese with sliced garlic and rosemary sprigs before baking it because we used to serve it like that when it was on the menu at the restaurant. It’s something I saw Jamie Oliver do somewhere that makes such a difference to the flavour.

Rosemary & Garlic Baked Camembert with Honey Glazed Pear & Almonds

serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free

Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 30-35 mins

  • 1 boxed camembert (250 gr) wooden box is best but card is fine
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • a few tops of fresh rosemary
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C, remove the paper wrapping from around the cheese and put it back in the box. Make little slits all over the top of the cheese with a sharp knife and push in the slices of garlic and rosemary tops.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for 30-35 minutes until soft and melting inside. Meanwhile make the honeyed pear and almonds.

Honey Glazed Pear & Almonds

serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 1 pear, cored and sliced into 12 wedges
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • a handful of whole toasted almonds (I used salted)
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 1 tbsp honey (rosemary honey if possible)

Toss all the ingredients apart from the honey together in a small bowl until evenly coated. Heat up a small frying pan over a medium high heat and throw in the pear & almond mix. Brown/caramelise slightly on both sides before adding the honey and stir to coat the pears.

Cook until the pears are soft but not mushy and remove from the heat.

Serve the warm honey glazed pear and almonds with the baked camembert and a nice bread for dipping. Or wait for my Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Braided Spelt Loaf in my next post…

For more information about the Bramon Wine Estate visit their webste here.

Enjoy!!

Fresh Cranberry and Chestnut Gingerbread Scones

30 Dec Cranberry Gingerbread Scones

These are gorgeous. I had to share them with you quickly before the festive season is over and they are kind of irrelevant.

I bought a punnet of fresh cranberries just before Christmas because I had never seen or tried fresh ones before. When I got them home I was sort of unsure about what to do with them. Cranberry sauce was too boring, I wanted something where you can taste the cranberry in its natural state and feel the texture.

Continue reading

Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

23 Dec Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

As this is probably my last post before the big day I thought I would share something Christmassy with you. This fudge is really easy to make and makes great gifts. Just wrap it in cellophane and tie up with a ribbon.

It’s actually one of Nigella’s Christmas Recipes. I do love Nigella even though she does come out with the cheesiest waffle sometimes. I’m saving up for her hips, not long to go now, especially after picking at this fudge. You have to trim the edges to get them nice and straight you see. You can’t waste it. Continue reading

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