Archive | November, 2010

The Day We Helped With The Olive Harvesting

16 Nov

Our friends Andrew & Margarita have an olive grove. Some of the trees are really old and some of them they have planted themselves 10 years ago “to fill in the gaps”. About this time every year they ask for volunteers to help with the olive harvesting and in return you receive a bottle of gorgeous green, organic, first press olive oil that you helped to harvest. How fabulous is that!

This is one of the older trees, isn’t it beautiful? Apparently you can tell the age of an olive tree by counting the number of people who can stand around its base holding hands. Its 100 years for every person. Some of these trees are over 500 years old. You can understand the great sense of privilege & responsibility Andrew & Margarita feel to be looking after these trees. Most of the trees they have are of the “Manzanilla” variety.

This is our friend Chris and Rufus walking down to the olive grove. Look at the view, and we had perfect weather for it, such a beautiful day..

There are two main ways to harvest the olives. The first way we used for the trees with less olives was with a kind of bib/basket hanging round your neck to catch the olives as you pick them with your hands.

Here I am with Rufus modelling the olive catcher..!!

This is The Washer Up, Chris & Ole demonstrating the other method, for trees with more olives. A large net is placed on the ground around the trunk of the olive tree to catch all the olives as you rake them off the branches.

The olives fall onto the net and, when the whole tree has been harvested, the net is collected up, so that the olives are all in one area.

This is The Washer Up with Andrew picking out any twigs and leaves from the olives..

The olives are then tipped into crates. I love the colours, you just don’t expect olives to be so bright and candy coloured..

The Washer Up, up the tree to get the highest olives down with the little rake.

At 2 pm Margarita prepared a lovely lunch for everyone which included an Olive Tapenade aperitivo which was delicious. I don’t usually like tapenade (or olives!) but this was really good, it tasted  more like a pesto because of all the fresh herbs she used in it.

Margarita always serves a jug of water with fresh mint from their garden which I think is a beautiful idea, one I will be using in the future definitely!

Margaritas Black Olive Tapenade

  • prepared black olives
  • garlic
  • lots of fresh herbs (margarita used basil and sage I think)
  • fish sauce (or salt)
  • really good olive oil

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or use a stick blender and pulse until smooth- ish. I haven’t included measurements for this recipe as I don’t know them and anyway I think that tapenade, like pesto, is one of those recipes that you feel & taste as you go along and create to your own taste.

Here is Margarita and the rest of  “The Olive Harvesters” enjoying a fabulous lunch on the sunny terrace. As well as the tapenade Margarita cooked a lovely Pumpkin, Chickpea & Acelgas Stew using the pumpkin & acelgas (chard) from their vegetable plot. The pumpkin she used was a variety called “Onion” beacuse that’s what it looks like. It has a bright orange flesh and delicious texture and flavour when cooked. She added a little pimenton picante (hot paprika) to spice it up a little which was perfect.

For dessert we had some fresh Moscatel grapes from the vine. The grapes have been covered in newspaper to protect them from flies etc.

The grapes were sweet and delicious, the perfect end to a lovely lunch and a brilliant day, thanks Andrew & Margarita. I can’t wait to try the olive oil that we helped to harvest, expect lots of dishes using extra virgin olive oil coming up ..!

Wild Fig and Mandarin Muffins

13 Nov

Tomorrow morning we are going to help pick olives at a friends finca and Margarita, the hostess, is making lunch for everyone, so I thought I would make something sweet to keep the sugar levels up mid morning. We picked some figs yesterday on our walk and the restaurant has orange and mandarin trees in the garden so that was the inspiration. I’ve made orange & cranberry muffins before so it was just a matter of replacing the cranberries with figs…

Wild Fig & Mandarin. Sounds like a Jo Malone fragrance doesn’t it, and if it isn’t it should be. They smell really good..

Wild Fig & Mandarin Muffins Recipe

Makes about 10 vegetarian

  • 200 gr self raising flour (I used wholemeal)
  • 125 gr caster sugar
  • 100 gr brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 large mandarins
  • 200 gr fresh figs roughly chopped
  • 250 ml greek yoghurt
  • 50 gr butter, softened
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl then stir in the sugars and cinnamon. Grate the zest of the mandarins into another bowl then beat in the greek yoghurt, butter and egg until smooth. Add to the dry ingredients and fold in gently. Peel the mandarins, remove as much of the white pith as you have the patience for, then cut the segments in half longways. Add the figs and mandarin segments to the mixture and fold in gently using as few strokes as possible. Do not over beat, the mix should be slightly streaky. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with 10 paper muffin cases and spoon the mixture into the cases to about 3/4 full. Bake for 35 minutes until golden and firm.

Eat warm, straight from the oven, or if you can wait for them to cool, make a mandarin icing glaze to drizzle over them. This increases the mandarin flavour and makes them even more moist and scrumptious….

Orange Icing Glaze Recipe

  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • about 3 or 4 tsp freshly squeezed mandarin juice

Put the icing sugar in a bowl and slowly whisk in the mandarin juice a teaspoon at a time until you have a thick drizzling consistency. When the muffins have cooled completely take a teaspoon of the icing, hold it over the muffin and drizzle it artistically over the top. Leave it to soak in a bit if you can wait, if not just enjoy straight away with the icing all over your fingers..

Perfect for afternoon tea or a mid morning snack, to keep you going until lunch, maybe!………

Shitake “Tom Yum” Soup

12 Nov

Tom Yum Soup has got to be one of the most well known Thai dishes. Usually served with prawns it is a hot and sour broth known for its restorative qualities. Ginger, chilli, lemongrass and lime leaves are the main ingredients used to flavour this soup all of which are known to help relieve colds, sore throats and fever symptoms. Apart from the health benefits of this soup it also tastes amazing, not for the faint hearted chilli wise, but so virtuous, virtually fat free and invigorating…

Shitake Mushroom Tom Yum Soup Recipe

Serves 3 or 4 Vegan

  • about 6 dried shitake mushrooms
  • a handful of fresh shitake mushrooms sliced(or other interesting mushrooms)
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 1 tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste/concentrate
  • 1 tbsp minced lemongrass (or 1 stick chopped finely)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 or 2 red chillies deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 3 lime leaves finely shredded
  • 1 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 or 2 tbsp lime juice
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves

First of all soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water for about 25 minutes. Reserve the mushroom soaking liquid for later and slice the rehydrated mushrooms very finely. 

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok over a medium high heat and fry the rehydrated mushrooms for a few minutes. Add the mushroom soaking liquid and the curry paste, bring to a boil, stirring then add the veg stock and bring back to the boil. Add the tamarind, lemongrass, turmeric, chilli, ginger, lime leaves and sugar and boil for 2 minutes stirring. Reduce the heat slightly, add the  fresh mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in fish sauce and lime juice. Serve in warmed bowls topped with lots of fresh coriander.

Tom Yum- Yum!!

Enjoy and feel those sinuses clearing………….

Caramelized Shallot and Goat’s Cheese Tarte Tatin

10 Nov

I wanted to use some of the wild thyme we picked yesterday while walking the dog. All the wild herbs are in flower at the moment here, very pretty..

Look at these basil flowers, aren’t they beautiful? I have never seen a basil plant flower like this. We have normal basil and a purple basil plant on our roof terrace but neither of them have flowered like this. This was in someone’s garden so we couldn’t pick any, such a shame, can you imagine how lovely they would look on a Caprese salad…. maybe another day.

This thyme was growing wild at the side of the road so we picked some..

I had a couple of little bags of shallots in the fridge so I thought I’d have a go at a tarte tatin. A tarte tatin is an upside down tart normally made with puff pastry. You make the filling in a caramel (apples are the classic filling) then top it with puff pastry, bake and turn it out the right way up to serve. The sweet caramelized shallots contrast really well with the sour, sharp goat’s cheese and the thyme adds a classic herbal flavour.

Caramelized Shallot & Goat’s Cheese Tarte Tatin Recipe

Serves 2 Vegetarian

Adapted from a James Martin recipe

  • about 500 gr shallots
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight, it has to be cold when you use it )
  • 5 slices of a small log of goat’s cheese (about 1/2 cm slices)
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1 oz butter
  • fresh thyme sprigs & flowers
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Put the unpeeled shallots on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper, scatter over some thyme leaves, toss together with you hands to coat evenly and roast for 20 minutes. (You can peel them first, but I find it easier to peel them when they are cooked).

When they are cool enough to handle peel the shallots by squeezing them out of their skins, spirinkle with a few more thyme leaves and a pinch of salt. Melt the sugar over a highish heat in a saucpan until you have a caramel. Don’t stir it, swirl it. Add the butter and stir it to melt it in. As soon as the butter has melted into the sugar pour it into an 8 inch/20 cm round baking dish and quickly tumble over the shallots in so they fit tightly and in one layer. The sugar will start to harden (don’t touch the sugar its really hot!).

Roll out the pastry if necessary to about 2 or 3 mm thick. Then cut out a circle about 1 inch bigger than the dish. Put the pastry on top of the shallots and tuck it in around the edge in between the shallots and the inside of the dish.

Bake in the 2oo degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the pastry is cooked. Take the tart out of the oven and leave it for 1 or 2 minutes to stop bubbling. (Don’t do it straight away or leave it any longer because the sugar will harden and you won’t be able to get it out). Turn the grill onto high. Put an ovenproof plate on top of the tart dish, hold it tightly over and flip the tart dish over quickly and carefully so the tart plops out onto the plate. Leave it for a second to let any stray shallots fall down then remove the baking dish. Put the slices of goat’s cheese, one in each quarter and one in the centre, sprinkle with a few more thyme leaves and put it under the grill for a few minutes or until the cheese melts.

Garnish with thyme flowers and serve with a rocket salad dressed with olive oil & balsamic vinegar, or some thyme buttered new potatoes.

Delicious!!

Guacamole and Soft Boiled Egg Salad

9 Nov

 

This will be the first of many avocado recipes now that they are in season. I love avocado. We collected some windfalls this morning while walking the dog. We both had a real fruitarian moment!

When my Dad lived in Spain a lovely girl called Patricia who was a fruitarian used to teach him Spanish. Her and a group of her friends lived in tents along the river, it was a sort of hippy commune really. Anyway they were all fruitarians which meant that they only ate fruit & nuts that had fallen naturally from the tree. 

They also did odd jobs for people. Her boyfriend built a rabbit run with two separate hutches in my Dad’s garden when we first moved to Spain 10 years ago. We brought our two rabbits (Prada & Gucci) from England with us. We flew Easyjet and they flew British Airways the day before so my dad had to pick them up from the airport in Malaga. He said that the airport staff couldn’t believe what he was doing when they came out in their little carry cases on the baggage reclaim belt! The Spanish don’t have rabbits as pets they are food. They all had a good laugh at him anyway.

So Patricia’s boyfriend Xema had to build two separate rabbit  runs beacuse Prada & Gucci were brothers and would fight all the time if we didn’t keep them apart. They thought we were mad.

Patricia rode her bike everywhere in a handmade straw hat. She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever met, she always looked healthy and glowing. One day my dad offered her a drink of something (probably wine!) and she declined saying “solo agua como un flor” which means” just water like a flower”. And she was a beautiful flower….

So back to our windfallen avocados. A quick, easy and tasty salad was on the menu as we were both starving and a bit windbeaten after our walk.

Guacamole & Soft Boiled Egg Salad

serves 2 vegetarian

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 eggs
  • some mixed salad leaves (watercress or rocket is good)
  • a small amount of red onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic & chilli
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 a lime
  • 1 or 2 tbsp mayonnaise 
  • salt & black pepper
  • olive oil
  •  breadcrumbs (Fried in olive oil with salt, pepper & chilli flakes)
  • fresh chives or coriander

First put a small pan of water on to boil. When the water is boiling carefully lower in the eggs, on a large spoon, into the water. Turn the heat down to medium high and boil for 6/7 minutes.

Meanwhile scoop out the avocado flesh, put it into a bowl with some lime juice (about 1/4 lime) and mash it with a fork. Add the onion, chilli, garlic, cumin, mayonnaise and season well with salt and pepper. Mix together well.

After 6/7 minutes of cooking tip the boiling water out of the pan and run the cold water tap  into the pan to cool down the eggs. Roll the eggs on a surface to break the shells and then peel them. Cut into quarters.

Put the salad leaves on a plate, dress with olive oil, a squeeze of lime juice, salt & pepper. Put a couple of spoonfuls of the  guacamole in the centre and place the eggs around it. Top with chopped chives and toasted breadcrumbs.

Serve with some nice bread or maybe some warmed tortillas. Watch out for the wasps, can you spot it?!

Sweet Potato Curry with leek and fennel seed flatbreads

8 Nov

This curry ticks all the right boxes for me. Seasonal, spicy & satisfyingly stodgy. It’s what you need right now, easy to make and tastes amazing. You can substitute different onions and spices into the flatbreads, why not try, red onion & cumin seeds or spring onion & coriander seeds (make sure you crush them first). I like the combination of the sweet leeks with the aniseedy fennel seeds but use whatever you like or have in the house, experiment and enjoy..

Sweet Potato Curry Recipe

Serves 3 -4 Vegetarian 

  • 2 large sweet potatoes scrubbed & cut into 2cm chunks
  • 1 large red onion finely chopped
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 1 or 2 tbsp tomato paste or passata
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 red chillis (depending on you & the chilli) finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp onion seeds/mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • about 750 ml veg stock
  • a handful of chopped coriander plus leaves for garnish
  • salt & black pepper

Heat some veg oil in a large frying pan or wok over a medium heat. Add the seeds and cook until they start to sputter then add the onion and stir to coat in the spices. Cook  for about 2 minutes until softened then add the garlic, chilli, ginger and the rest of the powdered spices. Cook for another minute then add the chopped tomato, tomato paste/passata and stir again.

Throw in the sweet potato, season with salt & pepper, stir to coat then add half the lemon juice and the veg stock. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down to medium low and cook for about 35 – 40 minutes or until the sweet potato is really soft and the sauce is thickened. When you are ready to serve squeeze over the rest of the lemon juice, sprinkle with chopped coriander and mix well.

While the curry is cooking make your flatbreads and coriander lemon yoghurt raita. You can also make the flatbread dough beforehand and leave it to rest in a bowl covered with cling film at room temperature until you are ready to use it.

Leek & Fennel Seed Flatbreads Recipe

Makes 4 Vegetarian

Adapted from Flavour by Vicky Bhogal

  • 1 leek, halved lengthways, rinsed & thinly sliced
  • about 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp mild olive oil , plus 1 tsp for frying leek
  • 255gr strong bread flour
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • salt & pepper
  • 125 ml hot water from the kettle

Heat the tsp of oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat and fry the leek, fennel seeds, chilli flakes & black pepper for about 3 minutes then set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl mix the sifted flour, olive oil and leek together with a metal spoon add a few pinches of salt pressing out any lumps then add the hot water and bring everything together into ball of dough. Flour your hands and the surface and knead for a few minutes until soft and elastic, you may need more flour it should be quite smooth. Put it back in the bowl cover with cling film and leave for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Divide the dough into 4 equal balls and, using flour to prevent sticking, roll them out to about 2 or 3 mm thick. (An uneven oval/circle is good!). Preheat a non stick frying pan  until hot. Dry fry them , one at a time over a medium heat (not too hot or they will blister outside before the inside is cooked) for about 2 minutes on each side until crispy and browned in places. Put them on a plate covered with a tea towel to keep warm while you cook the rest..

For the Coriander, Lemon Yoghurt

  • 1 pot greek yoghurt 125 ml
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a handful of chopped coriander plus leaves for garnish
  • salt & black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together in the yoghurt pot, taste for seasoning then tip into a small bowl for the table garnished with coriander leaves.

Or just heap a generous spoonful directly onto the curry… Yum!

This dish is fantastic for entertaining, you can make it ahead, even the day before it will only get better, and just heat it up when you are ready. Serve it in a gorgeous dish on the table with the coriander lemon yoghurt and the warm, delicious flatbreads.

Everyone is always really impressed when you make your own bread!!!

Homity Pie – The Ultimate Comfort Food!

7 Nov

There used to be a vegetarian restaurant in Covent Garden called Cranks. Cranks was my saviour when I was working in London. In my job as a visual merchandiser for Aceessorize/Monsoon I had to get to the shops really early in the morning, at about 6.30 – 7am, so we could merchandise the store before it opened. This meant getting up at 4.30am!  Anyone that knows me would understand how difficult that was. I am not a morning person. They used to call us “pit ponies” because we would arrive at the shop when it was still dark and then leave after the sun had gone down. We never saw the sunshine and it was usually freezing cold or raining.

Anyway, one of the saving graces about working in the Covent Garden store (one of the highest turnover stores in the company, but one of the oldest and smallest – always a nightmare!) was that it was practically next door to Cranks who served the best remedy for stress/ exhaustion known to man (well me anyway).

Homity Pie is a sort of vegetarian equivalent of Shepherd’s Pie I suppose but so much better. The main ingredient is mashed potato which is the number one comfort food, add to that a crispy cheddar cheese topping, peas, onions & tomatoes and you get the general idea. I have also added some wilted spinach which only makes it better. This is heaven… make it when you need cheering up, it’s raining outside and nobody understands you, I promise you will feel better…

Homity Pie Recipe

Serves 3-4 Vegetarian

  • 2 very large potatoes about 650 gr peeled
  • 30 gr butter for mash plus 15 gr for spinach
  • 2oo ml sour cream or creme fraiche
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 100 grams frozen peas (petit pois)
  • 1 small onion chopped finely
  • 1 bag fresh spinach about 300 gr
  • 3 medium tomatoes (2 chopped 1 sliced)
  • breadcrumbs
  • 75 gr mature cheddar cheese grated
  • freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp
  • dried oregano
  • salt & pepper

Cut the peeled potatoes in equal sized chunks and place them in a pan of cold salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. In a large pan over a medium heat add the 15 gr butter and 2 of the crushed garlic cloves, when the butter has melted dump in the bag of spinach, stir, add the freshly grated nutmeg, salt & pepper and cover with a lid.Cook for a few minuites, stirring occasionally, until the spinach has wilted, remove from the heat, cover and set aside.

Meanwhile bring a separate small pan of salted water to the boil, add the peas, cook for about 3 or 4 minutes drain and set aside. When the potatoes are soft, drain and add the butter, cream, oil, the rest of the garlic, salt & pepper and mash well with a potato masher. Add the peas and chopped onion to the mash and mix well.

Butter an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Spread the wilted spinach in the bottom of the dish with a slotted spoon (you don’t want the green liquid that has come out of the spinach). Then put a layer of chopped tomato on top of the spinach, add a little salt and 1/2 tsp dried oregano.

Top with the mashed potato mixture then the sliced tomato, sprinkle over the grated cheese and some breadcrumbs to make the crispy topping. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until golden brown.

You can eat it as it is, straight out of the dish in front of the TV….

Or serve it with some rocket if you feel like it dressing it up. Whatever you decide, take a big forkful, feel the day disappearing and exhale……

Chinese Mushroom, Pak Choi and Sesame Soba Noodles

6 Nov

We went to the chinese supermarket in Fuengirola yesterday to buy some noodles. Obviously we ended up buying loads more stuff. I love it there, there’s always something new and exciting to try- something you just have to have ! I love the packaging as well I am such a sucker for nice packaging it doesn’t matter what it is. I am always inspired by what is on offer and have to go home straight away to cook with it.

Yesterday we bought some lovely japanese buckwheat noodles in a gorgeous jade green packet.

We also bought an enormous pak choi, some dried shitake mushrooms & some fresh little oyster mushrooms.

This was the biggest pak choi I had ever seen, I just had to have it. They are normally small and slightly wilted looking and a bit disappointing really but this looked delicious. I think pak choi must be part of the Acelgas family because when I was walking Rufus this morning the acelgas growing looked really good as well, they must be near to harvesting them now. The Spanish call pak choi Acelgas Chinas which translates as Chinese Chard.

The Spanish cook the white stalks of the acelgas in butter first until tender and then add the leaves to wilt, which is how I am going to treat this huge pak choi but without the butter!

We also bought some fermented chilli bean paste which is one of my favourite asian ingredients. It gives a really spicy, savoury flavour to loads of dishes, essential store cupboard ingredient..

The other bottle is Shaoxing rice wine, another storecupboard favourite, it gives great authentic flavour but you can use sherry if you can’t get any. We also bought some new props for photos like the chopsticks, little rice bowl & spoon and a red painted white bowl. Asian supermarkets are great for props. They are cheap and look great in photos. Needless to say The Washer Up had to drag me out before I bought more stuff, I do get a bit carried away and excited…..

So those are the ingredients that inspired this dish, here’s how they come together..

Chinese Mushroom & Pak Choi Sesame Soba Noodles

Serves 2-3 Vegetarian

  • about 6 dried shitake mushrooms (or whatever dried mushrooms you can find)
  •  150-200gr oyster mushrooms
  • 1 large pak choi or 3 small
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped finely
  • 1/2 large spanish spring onion chopped finely (or 3 or 4 scallions)
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • a handful of fresh coriander including stalks
  • freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 or 3 tsp chilli bean paste (depending how hot you like it)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce (I use kecap manis its sweeter & less salty)
  • 1tsp brown sugar
  •  2tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2oo gr japanese buckwheat soba noodles (or your favourite noodles)
  • sesame seeds

First of all put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover them. Leave to rehydrate for about 20 mins. Meanwhile put the noodles in a pan of boiling salted water and cook according to packet instructions (about 4 or 5 minutes), drain, rinse under cold water and set aside.

Pull away the pak choi leaves from the root and wash if necessary. Cut the green parts away from the white and set aside then chop the white parts into 1 cm slices. Slice the oyster mushrooms if they are big (I left mine whole as they where mini), then finely slice the rehydrated dried mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid to add to the dish when cooking.

Finely chop the coriander stalks and keep them separate from the leaves. Heat about a tbsp of veg oil in a wok or large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the spring onions, garlic, coriander stalks and ginger paste then grind over some white pepper stirring constantly. Add the chilli bean paste, mushrooms and the white parts of the pak choi. Stir fry for 1 minute then add the soy sauce (or kecap manis), the sugar, rice wine, sesame oil and 2 spoonfuls of the reserved mushroom liquid. Stir fry for another minute before adding in the cooked noodles(a handful at a time), the green leaves of the pak choi and the chopped coriander leaves. Stir fry again to heat through then taste for seasoning you may need salt or more soy sauce.

Serve in warmed bowls sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds & coriander leaves.

Enjoy in your new asian bowls!!

Cauliflower, Parmesan and Rosemary Risotto with Spice Toasted Breadcrumbs

4 Nov

I don’t actually like cauliflower I think I had a disgusting cauliflower cheese once and that put me off for life. The Washer Up is always going on about how delicious it is so I thought I’d give it another chance but there is no way I’m doing cauliflower cheese..

I found a fabulous recipe for cauliflower risotto where the cauliflower melts into the dish so you don’t actually know it’s there. The flavour is amazing with the parmesan & rosemary really rustic, comforting, warm and delicious especially with the spice toasted breadcrumbs to give it that extra texture and heat. You really should have a go at this it is now my favourite risotto and, as I said, I hate(d) cauliflower!…

Cauliflower, Parmesan & Rosemary Risotto with Spice Toasted Breadcrumbs

Serves 4 Vegetarian

Adapted from Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver

  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1 slice of wholemeal rustic bread toasted
  • a pinch or 2 of dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • About 1.5 litres veg stock (You may need more if you are using brown rice)
  • about 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 400 gr arborio rice or I used brown shortgrain rice
  • 25oml white wine or vermouth
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 120gr freshly grated parmesan plus extra for garnish
  • salt & black pepper
    Put the toasted bread in a food processor or alternatively chop finely with a knife, then add about 1 tbsp of the olive oil, the chilli flakes, salt & pepper, stir to combine and set aside.
    Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large saucepan. Meanwhile prepare the cauliflower by tearing off the green leaves and cutting out the stalk. Chop the stalk very finely and cut the florets into 1 inch pieces. Drop the florets in the simmering stock put the lid on and leave to boil away gently.
    In another large saucepan, heat about 2 tbsp butter & 1 tbsp olive oil over a medium heat then add the onion, garlic and chopped cauliflower stalk and cook for about 15 minutes until very tender. Add the rice, stirring to coat it with the oil for about a minute then add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed. Add a ladleful of the hot stock, the chopped rosemary and a good pinch of salt and stir until the liquid has been absorbed, then add another ladleful of stock. Continue adding the stock a ladleful at a time until the rice is half-cooked. By now the florets should be really soft ( if they are not take the rice off the heat for a bit). Start adding the florets to the rice with the stock, crushing them into the rice as you go. Continue until all the cauliflower has been added and the rice is cooked. This should take about 20 minutes depending on the rice. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked add some boiling water. It should be a pourable consistency.
    When the rice is cooked turn off the heat, stir in the parmesan and some butter, cover with a lid and leave for 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning, add salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately in warmed bowls topped with the crunchy breadcrumbs and extra parmesan.
    Enjoy and try to keep your dog from eating it!!

Rufus was licking his lips and so were we…

Braised Quince with Grilled Manchego Cheese

3 Nov

Manchego & quince is a typically Spanish combination. The contrast of the sharp, cured sheep’s cheese with the jelly like sweet fruit paste called Dulce de Membrillo is a classic tapas dish. Served with triangles of the quince paste on top of triangles of Manchego or even on cocktail sticks a la cheese & pineapple.

To be honest I find the Dulce far to dulce (sweet) and the grainy texture offputting. So when we saw some quince growing I decided to buy one and see if there is another way to prepare it. Speaking to the senora in the market, I asked how you know when they are ripe. She said that you cannot eat them raw and they have to be cooked for along time and then she started talking about, muslin & hanging for days at which point I switched off, I don’t have the patience for that, but I bought one anyway.

Searching the internet for easier ways of preparing quince I came across a gorgeous blog called The Traveler’s Lunchbox which had a fantastically simple recipe for braised quince, which I just had to try..

Braised Quince

Serves 2 – 4 with cheese

  • 1 large quince
  • about 250 ml water
  • 50 gr sugar
  • the zest of 1/2 lemon

First heat the oven to 160degrees. Wash and dry the quince then halve them or cut into wedges. Place in a baking tray and pour the water on top and sprinkle over the sugar and lemon zest. Cover the tray tightly with aluminium foil and roast in the oven for around three hours.

You will know it’s ready when the quince is completely soft and the cooking syrup is a deep ruby-pink – leave them in the oven a bit longer if necessary. Take the tray out of the oven, remove the cooked fruit and strain the syrup into a jar. I didn’t have a lot of syrup as I only roasted one quince but if you do more you can use the syrup as a quince cordial to serve with chilled cava or champagne as an unusual cocktail or in make a jug of the cordial mixed with sparkling water & ice.

To eat the quince, simply remove the papery peel and cut the soft fruit from the core. Serve slivers of the quince on slices of cured Manchego or other strong, sharp cheese. The combination is lovely and the braised fruit is so much easier and tastes fresher and less sweet than the paste/jelly.

For a delicious lunch I drizzled some olive oil over a halfed baguette, added slices of Manchego and the braised quince slivers and put it under a hot grill for a few minutes to melt the cheese. I love finding new ingredients especially when they’re beautiful like this. If you see some in the market buy them and become a fan….

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