Archive | March, 2011

Lavender, Lemon and Honey Soft Oat Bars

9 Mar

We have a beautiful lavender on our roof terrace. I sometimes pick some to use as table settings. I wrap 3 or 4 stems with natural garden raffia and put it on a white serviette.

I store these in a draw with the serviettes so they always smell nice. After a while they do dry out, which isn’t a problem, but it got me thinking about cooking with lavender. When we had the restaurant we had a lamb dish on the menu with Lavender, Honey and Garlic. It always sold really well for an unusual dish.

I saw a recipe for Lavender and Lemon Pound Cake on Kitchen Operas which caught my eye. It looked beautiful and I have a huge bowl of lemons on my kitchen table. This was definitely the direction I wanted to go in but I didn’t feel like making a cake. The Washer Up likes to take sweet things to work to share with the others so when I saw a recipe for Honey Lavender Oatmeal Squares at The Bee & the Fruit in the Kitchen I decided to combine the lemon into that recipe and see how it turned out.

Lavender, Lemon & Honey Oat Bars

makes 9 – 12 mini bars/squares, vegetarian, sugar-free. Adapted from The Bee & The Fruit in the Kitchen & Tartelette

  • 75 gr wholemeal flour
  • 60 gr rolled oats
  • 50 gr almonds, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried lavender buds (make sure they are untreated)
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 55ml greek yogurt
  • 115 gr honey
  • the zest of 1 lemon (washed)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • a few drops of almond extract (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 180C and line a small baking tin with baking paper. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a jug and pour into the dry ingredients. Mix together well with a wooden spoon. Tip the mixture into the lined baking tin and pat it down so it is even. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until lightly golden and leave to cool on a wire rack before cutting into 9 or 12 mini bars.

As you can see there is no butter or sugar in this recipe. The sweetness comes from the honey which makes this a healthy, not overly sweet, treat. The lemon & lavender work really well together as a flavour and aroma combination making these perfect for a grab & go breakfast or a mid afternoon pick me up snack.


The Washer Up said he prefers his snacks with sugar in but the other guys weren’t complaining. It’s funny to think of a group of builders snacking on healthy Lavender & Lemon Oat Bars with their afternoon cup of tea………….

These oat bars are featured in a sweet treats round up hosted by Lisa at Sweet as Sugar Cookies. Just click on the Sweets for a Saturday badge above and have a look around at some of the most delicious sweet things posted this week.

Fennel and Orange Risotto with spring onion, goat’s ricotta and chilli

8 Mar

The fennel plant we are growing in a pot on our roof terrace is ready to harvest. Is ready the right word? I’m not sure.

Some of the spring onions are looking good too. Spring onions (cebolletas) in Spain are huge. They are completely different to the spring onions/scallions you get in the UK or US. So when I say use 1 spring onion it’s probably equivalent to 4 or 5 scallions.

I have been looking for suitable fennel recipes for a while now. Something to really showcase our first and only fennel. It had to be something special.  The classic Fennel & Orange Salad sounded lovely and fresh but it is raining here at the moment so I didn’t really feel like a salad. I wanted something warm and comforting. I came across a recipe for Orzotto with Sausage, Fennel & Rosemary on The Culinary Taste. Orzotto is a barley risotto. This was exactly the kind of thing I had been looking for. Minus the sausage, obviously. Rita said she was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe for Fennel Risotto so I asked her what other ingredients he had added. His recipe was for Fennel Risotto with Ricotta & Dried Chilli.

Jamie’s recipe used the zest & juice of a lemon as well. This got me thinking back to the classic fennel & orange salad combo and I decided (living in Andalucia) to use orange instead of lemon and our beautiful spring onions were the natural substitute for normal onions.

local cheese producer makes a goat’s ricotta (requeson in Spanish) which I had been wanting to try for a while. So, I had all the ingredients for the perfect, seasonal, locally produced, homegrown dish. Exciting!

Fennel & Orange Risotto with Spring Onion, Goat’s Ricotta & Chilli

Serves 4 vegetarian. Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter plus 1 tbsp for finishing
  • 1 fennel, finely chopped fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1 stick celery finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 large Spanish spring onion or 4 or 5 small, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • a splash of white wine/vermouth
  • about 300 gr risotto rice (I used brown)
  • about 1 litre of veg stock
  • about 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 4 tbsp goats requeson (ricotta), normal ricotta or soft goat’s cheese
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • about 50 gr grated parmesan

Put the veg stock in a small pan over a low heat. Heat the oil and 1 tbsp butter in a large pan over a medium heat and add the fennel seeds, spring onions, celery, and chopped fennel. Cook for a few minutes until softened and translucent then add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add in the rice and stir to coat in the oil and butter. When the rice starts to turn translucent add in the wine and cook until it evaporates.

Add a ladle of the hot stock and season well with salt & black pepper. When all the liquid has been absorbed add another ladle of stock, stir or swirl the rice, wait for it to be absorbed and repeat until the rice is cooked. This should take about 18 minutes with white rice and longer with brown.

When the rice is cooked remove the pan from the heat, add the tbsp butter, parmesan, orange zest, half the orange juice and crumble over the ricotta. Stir, put the lid on and leave for 2 minutes.

Taste and add more orange juice if you think it needs it. Serve in warmed bowls garnished with a pinch of dried chilli flakes and the fennel fronds. Have a bowl of the ricotta and Parmesan on the table for people to help themselves to.

The flavour combination of the fennel and orange is really bright, slightly sweet & fresh. Together with the creaminess of the ricotta it is a deliciously rich dish, unusually reminiscent of a dessert in some ways. But don’t let that put you off. Serve it as a starter or lunch dish rather than a main course to people who appreciate different flavours and they will be left wanting more….

Battered Halloumi with Mashy Peas, Tartare Sauce and Spicy Lemon Pickle

6 Mar

 This recipe came from a new book The Washer Up bought for me called Terre A Terre. Terre A Terre is a vegetarian restaurant in Brighton and the book has some amazingly creative, unusual recipes for dishes that you will have never seen anywhere else. Their aim is to challenge the image of vegetarian food and push the boundaries of conventional perceptions by creating gourmet vegetarian cuisine.

This recipe caught my eye mainly because of the Halloumi cheese. In case you didn’t know I love Halloumi. Halloumi is a Cypriot sheep’s milk cheese that is special because it cooks rather than melts. Because of this you can grill it or fry it and it doesn’t lose it’s shape. I usually cook my Halloumi slices in a dry pan and then marinade them in olive oil, lemon juice, fresh herbs & spices. You can see the full recipe here.

This recipe is a vegetarian play on the traditional English Friday night take-away dish: Battered Fish with Mushy Peas & Tartare Sauce you would get from the local fish & chip shop.  They had me at battered Halloumi, but the addition of minty mushy peas really sealed it for me. The tartare sauce recipe is mine. I don’t like capers or gherkins (cornichons) so I substituted them for pickled onions, which I love, and it worked! I also added some coriander as well as parsley. The result is better than any tartare sauce you’ve ever tried, I promise. The addition of the nori seaweed is from the book and is, I have to say, genius. Nori seaweed is what you use make sushi rolls and the flavour of the sea it gives to the sauce is so spot on, once you’ve tried it you’ll wonder why you’ve never done it before.

The “mashy peas” came about by happy accident. I halved the recipe for the minty pea puree from the book which was for 6 people but forgot to halve the butter. This resulted in a very buttery puree (above). To resolve this (I didn’t have any more peas to add) I decided to add some mashed potato to the puree. I had seen Jamie Oliver do something similar with broccoli and peas in mash. Any excuse to include mash really.

The spicy lemon pickle (they call it “Yemeni Lemony Pickle” which is such a cool name) is just the right mix of sweet, spicy and sour and is a fabulous alternate dip for the Halloumi with the creamy tartare sauce. You could always just serve this with a wedge of lemon instead if you’re not up for making the pickle as well. I made it because I had a large fruit bowl full of lemons and was making some preserved lemons as well. I will post the recipe for the preserved lemons when they are ready.

The original dish in the book also serves pickled quail’s eggs and vodka grape tomatoes with this. As fantastic as they sound it would be a lot of work if you were to make everything. I was really happy with it as it was but am intrigued about the pickled quail’s eggs!  This book makes you appreciate and understand how much work goes into each component part of each dish at this restaurant and definitely makes me want to go the next time I am in Brighton.

Each recipe has 4 or 5 different elements to it but you can pick and choose as to how many you do, like I did. It is really inspiring and aspirational.

The Halloumi is soaked in buttermilk for several hours or overnight so do this in the morning or the night before.

Battered Halloumi with Minty Mashy Peas, Tartare Sauce & Yemeni Lemony Pickle Recipe

Serves 2 -3, vegetarian.  Adapted from Terre A Terre by Amanda Powley & Phillip Naylor

For the Halloumi

  • 1 pack 250 gr Halloumi cheese
  • 250 ml buttermilk or 125 ml yoghurt mixed with 125 ml milk
  • plain flour for coating
  • sunflower oil to deep fry

For the Batter

  • 75 gr plain flour
  •  35 gr self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 120 ml cold water
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • salt & black pepper

Cut the Halloumi in to thin slices (less than 1/2 cm) then cut them into triangles (See photo above). Cut the triangles with the natural break of the Halloumi. Put the buttermilk or yoghurt/milk mixture in to a dish (I used an empty1 litre ice cream tub) and submerge the Halloumi in the liquid to soak, overnight or, for several hours in the fridge.

To make the batter whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl to make a batter the consistency of double cream. Adjust water/flour if necessary. Cover with cling film and keep in the fridge until you are ready to cook the Halloumi.

Just before serving heat the oil in a wok or deep fryer to hot (180 C).  Put some plain flour in a shallow dish and remove the Halloumi & batter from the fridge. Lift the Halloumi pieces, one at a time, out of the buttermilk and let it drip off slightly. Put it in the flour and flip it to coat, then put it in the batter. Open a window unless you want your whole house to smell of deep-frying. When the oil has reached temperature, lift the Halloumi out of the batter and carefully drop it into the hot oil. Fry two triangles at a time. It should puff up and start to turn golden straight away. If not your oil is not hot enough. Turn the halloumi with a slotted spoon to cook on both sides. This should only take a minute or two to be crisp & golden on both sides. Remove with the slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

For the Mashy Peas

  • 200 gr frozen peas
  • a big handful of mint, keep the stalks & chop the leaves
  • a big handful of parsley, keep the stalks & chop the leaves
  • 50 gr unsalted butter
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled, quartered and put in a pan of cold salted water
  • salt & black pepper

Bring the pan of salted water with the peeled quartered potatoes to the boil, turn down slightly and cook for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender all the way through.

Meanwhile, in a small pan of boiling, salted water, cook the peas with the herb stalks until tender (about 3 minutes).  Drain the cooked peas and throw away the stalks. Blend the peas with the butter and chopped herbs, season with salt & pepper and taste.

Drain the potatoes and mash them well in the pan. Heat up the pea puree and add this to the mashed potatoes, stirring well with a wooden spoon. Add more salt & pepper & taste again. Just heat through in a pan when ready to serve.

For the Tartare Sauce

  • 1 nori seaweed sheet
  • a handful of coriander & parsley, chopped
  • about 4 heaped tbsp good mayonnaise
  •  1 or 2 pickled onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • fresh lemon juice about 2 tbsp
  • salt & black pepper

Put the nori sheet under the grill for a few seconds on each side to crisp up. Keep an eye on it, it burns! Crumble or chop the nori into the processor with the rest of the ingredients and blend until incorporated but still a bit chunky. Season with a little salt (the seaweed is salty) and pepper stir in and taste. You may want to add more lemon juice or pickled onion. It’s up to your taste buds. Store in the fridge.

For the Yemeni Chilli Paste (for the lemon pickle)

makes 1 small jar

  • 4 red chillis, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • a big handful of fresh coriander, leaves & stalks
  • salt
  • olive oil

Blend all the ingredients together, drizzling in olive oil until a paste consistency is reached. Pour into a clean jar and cover the top with olive oil. Will keep in the fridge for at least a month.

For the Lemon Pickle (makes 1 jar)

  • 4 lemons, segmented
  • 100 ml fresh lemon juice
  • peel from 3 preserved lemons (I didn’t have any but I have made some now)!
  • 150 gr caster sugar
  • 3 or 4 tsp yemen paste, recipe above, or more if you dare
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

Segment the lemons by cutting off the peel & white pith, from top to bottom all the way around (See photo above). Then cut out the lemon segments in between each membrane. Put the lemon segments from 3 of the lemons into a blender and reserve the segments of the fourth for later. Add the lemon juice, peel from preserved lemons if using, to the blender and liquidize until smooth. Put this in a small pan with the sugar and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Boil rapidly for two minutes then stir in your Yemeni chilli paste. Put in the fridge to cool. When cool stir in the reserved lemon segments and chopped mint. This is now ready to serve. Store in the fridge. This would be a great sauce or baste for grilled fish or chicken as well.

 To serve, warm your plates and put your lemon pickle (or lemon wedge if you are going for the easier option) and tartare sauce in their dishes on the plate ready. Heat the frying oil. Heat the mashy peas over a low heat with a little veg stock to loosen if necessary. Keep an eye on it while you fry off the Halloumi. Drain the halloumi on kitchen paper and pile them on the plates with a big spoon (or quinelle) of the mashy peas.

This may sound like a lot of work  but it’s so worth it. Soaking the Halloumi really brings out the flavour and softens the texture. The mashy peas are to die for and the lemony pickle is perfect if you can be bothered. The Washer Up said the Halloumi was better than battered fish! I will definitely be trying some more recipes from this book in the future and would recommend it to any creative, confident cooks out there who are looking for something different, delicious, challenging and inspiring. I’m going to have a go at the pickled quail’s eggs next time, I promise!!

Caramelized Onion Tart with Feta and Thyme

4 Mar

I thought I’d show you some pictures today to prove that the weather is not always perfect here.  It still looks beautiful though. Rufus and I walked to the top of this hill yesterday and the weather was on the verge of changing.

By the time we reached the top there was definitely something in the air. Something about the shadows and the clouds.

Rufus knew there was something going on, he could sense it.

You could see the storm clouds moving in above our heads…

So we decided to head home for lunch….

On Monday we went for dinner at our friends Joan & Terry. She made a lovely spiced ginger, carrot & coriander soup followed by a beautiful red onion and goat’s cheese risotto and a delicious apple and almond tart with an Amaretti biscuit base for dessert. I am always really grateful when people who are not vegetarian cook a full vegetarian meal for us. I know how difficult it is if you are not used to it. So thank you again, it was all gorgeous and we really appreciate it.

As we were leaving they gave us a crate (yes a crate) of food to take away with us as they were going back to England in a day or two. Part of the contents of this “food crate” was a bag of onions and some puff pastry.

Caramelized onions are one of my favourite things. Their sweet, savouriness enhances the hell out of  plain cheese sandwich transforming it into something gourmet. Add some veg (or beef) stock, sherry or brandy and cook for 10 minutes and you have an amazing French/Spanish onion soup to top with cheesy croutes. They add a grown up edge to pizzas and can be made into a fantastic caramelized onion dip that I found on Happy When Not Hungry.

My favourite thing to make with caramelized onions though is a tart. It is so easy and tastes lovely. The sweetness of the onions on the thin, crispy, flaky pastry base with a crumbling of some sharp sour cheese is delicious. Add a scattering of fresh herbs and you have an elegant starter or lunch dish. You can even make a big rectangular one to serve four, or cut it into squares or slices for a buffet. It is really versatile you can use whatever cheese and herbs you like. Why not try smoked mozzarella & basil or halloumi, mint & oregano, or try red onions with goat’s cheese & rosemary…..

Caramelized Onion Tarts with Feta & Thyme

serves 4 – 6, vegetarian

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 kg onions, halved, peeled & finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves chopped, or dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 375 gr (1 block or sheet)puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight
  • 25 gr finely grated Parmesan or Manchego
  • 150 gr Greek Feta cheese
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves to scatter

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add in the onions, thyme and chilli flakes. cover with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes. Add in the sugar, vinegar, salt & pepper and cook for another 5 minutes until the onion is soft and caramelized. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 220 C. Roll out the pastry, if necessary, to about 2 or 3 mm thick. Cut into a large rectangle with a ruler or cut around some side plates or saucers if you want individual round tarts. You can reroll the off cuts to make more if necessary. Score a 1cm border around the edge of the pastry but don’t cut all the way through. Prick the base inside the scored edges with a fork (see photo above) and sprinkle over the grated parmesan inside the circle too.

Put the caramelized onion on top of the parmesan leaving the border clear. Bake in the preheated oven for 15- 25 minutes depending on the size of your tart/s. Remove from the oven when the pastry is puffed & golden brown.  Crumble over the feta and scatter over some fresh thyme leaves.

Serve with a green salad dressed with olive oil & lemon juice. Depending on how many tarts you make you may have some of the caramelized onions left. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.  If they last that long……….

Mini Orange and Almond Wholemeal Bread Cakes

1 Mar

The inspiration for this recipe came from Denise at Bread Expectations. She made cute little sweet bread cakes using Panko breadcrumbs rather than flour and topped them with berries and sugar. This idea really appealed to me as I had just made a huge amount of wholemeal breadcrumbs in my new food processor. I save the ends of the wholemeal bread that I buy and freeze them. My food processor broke ages ago and I have only just replaced it so I had a huge bag full of bread waiting to made into breadcrumbs.

So what do you do with three, one litre ice cream tubs worth of wholemeal breadcrumbs? Well, I used some to make my Veggie Burgers, froze a load and I just had to try these breadcrumb cakes. It seemed like fate. I didn’t have any berries to use but what I do have is oranges. At times it seems like I have the whole of Andalucia’s orange harvest in my kitchen. Not that I’m complaining…..

The trees are beautiful to walk past every day and the oranges I have at the moment that were given to me by Rhian are so sweet and delicious. I want to make the most of them. The other trees that always seem to be growing side by side with the oranges are almonds. They obviously like to be around each other so I need no more inspiration than that……

Also Denise’s recipe called for vanilla extract. I have run out and you have no idea how difficult it is to get vanilla here. You can’t even buy that nasty vanilla essence. So I used almond extract instead and added in some ground almonds for good measure.

These little cakes are made with yeast. Now, me and yeast have issues. As in, it never does it’s thing for me. I called these cakes “mini” because they didn’t rise but I still wanted to share them with you because they are really moist, light & delicious. Denise thinks it may be because of the wholemeal breadcrumbs having less gluten than the white Panko. So, feel free to use panko or homemade white breadcrumbs if you want a rise. (Not the fine store bought kind). Whether they rise for you or not these little sweet bread cakes are definitely worth the risk…..

Mini Orange & Almond Breadcrumb Cakes

makes 12, vegetarian. Adapted from a Bread Expectations recipe

  • 1oo gr soft butter
  • 100 gr caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 oranges
  •  a few drops of almond extract
  • 100 gr wholemeal breadcrumbs (or Panko)
  • 50 gr ground almonds
  • 1 packet dried yeast 7 gr
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp ground ginger

Butter/oil a muffin tray or use muffin cases. Zest 1 orange. Segment both oranges over a small bowl to catch any juices. First peel the oranges with a knife on a board by cutting off the peel & pith from top to bottom all the way around. Hold the orange over the small bowl and segment the orange by cutting out each segment  in between the membranes. When you have cut out all your segments  and set them aside, squeeze the remaining membranes to release the juice into the bowl.

Add the yeast to the orange juice (there should be about 6 tbsp juice) stir it around and leave for 10 minutes to froth. Cream the softened butter, caster sugar and salt together until light & creamy then beat in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated each time. Add a few drops of almond extract, 3/4 of the orange zest, the breadcrumbs, ground almonds and the yeast mixture when it’s had 10 minutes. Mix everything together well until you have a sticky, porridge like batter.

Half fill the 12 muffin cups with the mixture, top each with 2 orange segments and sprinkle over the brown sugar and ginger mix. Finally put some of the remaining orange zest on top. Leave the muffin tray in a warm place for an hour or until almost doubled in volume (Hopefully)!

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Bake for 15 -20 minutes until golden.

Leave to cool slightly then remove from the muffin tin and cool on a wire rack.  These little cakes are perfect for afternoon tea. So get out your best china tea set dust them with icing sugar and invite your friends round for a chat..

You can ask them how they get on with yeast……..!

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