Archive | September, 2011

Andalucian Stuffed Vine Leaves with Spinach, Raisins and Almonds

4 Sep

I’ve been watching these grapes drying on the vine and turning into raisins. Every day I walk past them and wonder if they are going to pick them today or whether they are just leaving them to rot.

There’s a traditional Andaluz dish called Espinacas con Pasas y Almendras which is Spinach with Raisins & Almonds. I wanted to use this as a filling for stuffed vine leaves because it is similar to the Greek/Middle Eastern filling except they usually contain rice. I wanted to do and Andalucian version but I couldn’t find vine leaves anywhere, they just don’t sell them.

So I decided to pick some and use them, well I got The Washer Up to pick them actually. I read about how to prepare them here. Basically you just wash them, blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water, drain them, leave them to dry and then store them in the fridge or freezer.

Or you could just buy them in a jar and rinse them before using.

When you’ve made the filling you pile a heaped teaspoon onto the vine leaf at the bottom where the stalk has been removed. Then you fold the bottom leaves up over the filling, fold the sides in and roll up like a spring roll.

I only cooked mine for 15 minutes because my filling didn’t contain rice. Most recipes I looked at were cooked over a low heat for about 45 minutes to cook the rice. This is much quicker.

This makes quite a lot of filling and I didn’t have that many vine leaves (as I had picked them off somebody elses vine) so I used the rest of the filling to make some empanadas which were lovely too. You can buy ready to use round empanada sheets or make you own pastry from my recipe here.

Just pile  a heaped tablespoon of the filling on one side of the circle, fold the other side over to make a semi-circle and seal the edges with a fork. Brush with olive oil or beaten egg and cook at 200 C for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your pastry.

Andalucian Stuffed Vine Leaves with Spinach, Raisins & Almonds

makes 24-36 stuffed vine leaves, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500 gr frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded & finely chopped (optional)
  • 75 gr whole toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 50 gr raisins
  • freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp)
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped plus extra for garnish
  • salt & black pepper
  • 50 gr manchego cheese, grated (or crumbled feta)
  •  a squeeze of lemon juice
  • vine leaves (rinsed if in brine) see how to prepare vine leaves here

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute.

Add in the nuts, spinach, raisins and nutmeg, season with salt & pepper and cook for another few minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and the grated cheese. Taste for seasoning and drain away any excess liquid from the spinach. transfer to a bowl to cool.

Lay out your rinsed or blanched vine leaves (cut away any stalks) on a clean surface veiny side up. Pile a heaped teaspoon of the filling onto the bottom part of the leaf where the stalk was (see picture above) then fold the bottom leaves up and over the filling. Fold both sides of the leaf in and over the filling, then roll it up like a mini spring roll.

Place all the rolled vine leaves seam side down in a saucepan, squash them together so there’s no gaps. Drizzle with olive oil and then cover with water to about and inch over the vine leaves. Cover them with a heatproof plate (to stop them floating up), bring to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer, cover with lid and cook for about 15 minutes (if your filling doesn’t contain uncooked rice). Keep an eye on them though and try not to burn the bottom of the pan. I may or may not have done this!

Remove with tongs to a plate and leave to cool.

Serve at room temperature sprinkled with fresh parsley and a Greek yoghurt dip. I just mixed some Greek yoghurt with chopped fresh parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…….

My beautiful, if slightly mental cats……

The gorgeous and terribly aloof Anouschka. Also known as Moomin Mamma (If you don’t know what a Moomin is, they have big staring eyes).

The beautiful Biba, bonkers but very attentive….

And the baby Tallulah, looks evil, scared of everything but loves to be loved….

This is her favourite spot….

Tempura Green Peppers with Dipping Sauce

2 Sep

First of all, sorry for my lack of posts recently. I’ve had some sort of virus and I couldn’t eat. I know, it was awful. Everything made me feel sick, even the smell of food was repulsive. I haven’t cooked anything for a week. The Washer Up has been surviving on pasta (and beer obviously) and is now desperate for something different.

This has been on my “to make” list ever since these beautiful long emerald peppers first made an appearance in the fields where we walk the dog about  a month ago. They are known as frying peppers here and are used in a typically Andaluz dish called Pimientos Fritos (fried peppers) where they are simply fried in lots of good olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

This Spanish/Japanese fusion came to me because I wanted to do something a little different from the usual fried peppers and I saw Nami’s recipe for Shrimp Tempura. She also posted a video of a Japanese chef making proper tempura and I was intrigued. It looked light, airy, crispy and delicate. A million miles away from the doughy excuses you get for tempura in most places.

They are not perfect but I’m really pleased with my first attempt at making tempura. They are light, crispy and gorgeous with the dipping sauce. It’s not as hard as I thought. The kitchen’s a bit of  a state though, better clean that up before The Washer Up gets home…

I’d definitely recommend heading over to Nami’s blog and watching the video if you are going to have a go at this. It’s amazing to watch and so much easier than me trying to explain it!

Green Pepper Tempura with Dipping Sauce Recipe

Serves 2, vegan. Adapted from Just One Cookbook

  • 4 medium long green peppers (frying peppers)
  • 2 or 3 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch, maizena)
  • 100 gr (3/4 cup) flour. I’m going to try it with rice flour next time.
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 200 ml iced water
  • oil for deep-frying

For the dipping sauce:

  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) water
  • 1/2 tsp dashi flakes/powder (I used ajishima no dashi)
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine or sake
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • a pinch of shichimi (a Japanese 7 spice chilli pepper mix)
  • salt & shichimi to serve

First make the dipping sauce. Heat all the ingredients in a small sauce pan over a medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the dashi. When boiling remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Cut your peppers in half lengthways, through the stalk so that both sides has a bit of stalk to pick them up with. Lay them on a plate and sieve over the cornflour. Turn the peppers in the cornflour until evenly coated. Heat up your oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium high heat, 170 C.

Sieve the flour, baking powder & salt into a bowl and whisk in the ice-cold water until just combined to make a batter. Don’t over whisk. 

Dip your peppers into the batter and coat them well (you will need to do it in two batches). Carefully lower them into the hot oil and sprinkle over some more batter from a height with your fingers. This gives it that extra light crispy coating. Use a metal slotted spoon or chopsticks to move the peppers onto the bits of batter (watch the video it explains it so much better) and cook for 2 or 3 minutes turning once to cook on both sides.

Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm while you cook the rest.

To serve, pile up the peppers sprinkle with sea salt and shichimi pepper and pour some of the dipping sauce into a bowl.

 Buen Provecho!!

Things That Made Me Smile Today……..

I’ve been trying to get a shot of this for ages. There’s a pair of them in the spring where Rufus likes to cool down. They look like a cross between a dragonfly and a butterfly. The Washer Up got the shot in the end, he was more patient then me and willing to balance on a rock in the stream while trying not to fall in.

He also spotted this one through a gap in a fence….

I love that you can see it’s cute little face…

Have a great weekend…

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