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Tarta de Santiago with Mandarin Orange Compote

4 Jan

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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Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower Soup with Chestnut Dukkah

2 Jan

Moroccan Cauliflower Soup & Chestnut Dukkah

This is another one of the recipes from my party mezze workshop. We served this spicy, warming soup in little cups with teaspoons. You don’t really need a big bowl of soup as part of a buffet/mezze but a little cup is just the right amount to get you started. I put little bowls of the dukkah on the table for people to sprinkle on top of their soup and to dip their bread into.

Spiced Cauliflower Soup & Dukkah

Dukkah (or duqqa) is an Egyptian spice mix traditionally made with ground hazelnuts. I added some ground roasted chestnuts to the blend for a seasonally festive touch but if you can’t get chestnuts don’t worry. They sell roasted chestnuts at the side of the road here at this time of year, on little stalls. They roast them in big pots, you can see the smoke rising and smell them before you see them.

Chestnut Dukkah

There are millions of different recipes for Dukkah, every family has their own but this is a pretty basic version using hazelnuts, cumin and coriander seeds, sesame seeds and black pepper.

The word “Dukkah” is derived from the Arabic word “to pound”. Not surprisingly, all the ingredients are pounded in a mortar & pestle (or processor) into something between a powder and a crumbly paste. It is served as an accompaniment to meals. You dip your bread in some good olive oil (thankfully we have just taken delivery of this season’s harvest of local olive oil which is like liquid gold) then dip it into the dukkah. The spice mix sticks to the oil, then you taste it and you will be instantly addicted.

Andalucian Olive Oil

Sprinkle it over soups, stews salads, hummus, yoghurt, anything really. It’s my new favourite thing. I’m thinking of using it in a dessert for a bit of savoury kick. You could add it into a crumble mix or maybe it would work with this fig & almond fumble. Then you would have a dukkah fig fumble. Try saying that after few sherries. It’s pronounced Doo-kah by the way.

Cauliflower Soup & Dukkah

Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower Soup with Chestnut Dukkah

Serves 4 -6 (or more if you are serving it in little cups). Vegan, Gluten-Free

  • 1 med-large cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 1 leek, cut in half lengthways, rinsed & sliced (or 1 onion chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp harissa paste or chilli flakes (optional)
  • 125 ml water
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 or 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • a handful of chopped fresh coriander (plus extra for garnish)

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Cook the leek/onion with a pinch of salt for 3 or 4 minutes until softened then add the garlic and all the spices stirring to coat and cook for another minute or so.

Add the cauliflower florets and the water and stir to coat in the spices. Pour in the veg stock, the cauliflower should be covered by the stock, if not add some water and season well with salt & black pepper. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, partially cover and simmer for about 12 minutes or until the cauliflower is really tender.

Carefully puree with a stick blender or in a processor, taking care not to splatter hot soup everywhere. When completely smooth add a squeeze of lemon and the fresh coriander and blend again.  Pour the soup back into the pan to reheat, taste for seasoning, add more salt or lemon if required. You may need to add a bit more stock or water to thin it down to the required consistency.

Serve topped with some fresh coriander and the dukkah.

Chestnut/Hazelnut Dukkah Recipe

  • 100 g roasted chestnuts and/or hazelnuts, chopped
  • 6 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt

If not already toasted, roast the chestnuts/hazelnuts in the oven for 5-10 minutes, watching carefully, until golden. Remove some of the skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing them, while still warm, in a clean tea towel and set aside to cool.

If not already toasted, toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan until golden and pour into medium bowl.

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan, shaking occasionally, until fragrant and they start to pop. Pour into a mortar and pestle and grind to a powder. Pour this into the bowl with the sesame seeds.

Put the cooled chestnuts/hazelnuts into a food processor and blend/pulse until finely ground. Stir this into the bowl with the spices and add the salt and black pepper. Mix well. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Moroccan Cauliflower Soup & Chestnut Dukkah

Enjoy!!

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Roasted Beetroot Hummus with Toasted Flatbread Crackers

1 Jan

Roasted Beetroot Hummus

Happy New Year Hummus!

Surprisingly, my most popular (or most visited) post of 2012 was this traditional hummus recipe. I don’t know why but if you search for Hummus or Hummus recipe in Google it’s right up there on the first page. Consequently I get loads of traffic from search engines. I should really learn how this all works. Maybe that should be my New Year’s resolution.

Baby Beetroot

The trouble is I’m too busy doing what I enjoy doing, which is cooking, to want to spend more time on the computer. So it’s probably not going to happen, but you never know. If someone had told me at the start of 2012 that by the end of the year I would be teaching Vegetarian Cookery Workshops at a cookery school in Spanish I would laughed in their face.

Roasting Beetroot

Speaking of which, this beautifully sweet, deliciously deep magenta coloured dip, is one of the dishes from the Middle Eastern inspired Christmas party menu workshop that I hosted in December. It formed part of a festive jewel coloured mezze that we all devoured with a glass of pink cava after everything was prepared. I will be sharing more of those recipes with you over the next few weeks.

Roasted Beet Hummus

I bought some little organic baby beets from the market which roasted in about 30-35 minutes but if you can only get larger ones, cut them in half or quarters and roast until they are tender all the way through. This could take up to an hour depending on their size. Use gloves when you rub the skins off, if you don’t want fuchsia fingers.

Roasted Beetroot Hummus Recipe

Serves 6-8 as a dip. Vegan, Gluten-Free

  • about 600 g beetroot
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • thyme

Trim off the leaves, leaving about 2 inches of stalk attached and leave the root on. Cut into halves or quarters if large. Preheat the oven to 200 C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Lay the beets on the tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt & black pepper and some fresh or dried thyme leaves. Roast until tender all the way through. 30 mins to an hour depending on size. Leave to cool then cut off the stalks and roots and rub the skins off with kitchen paper.

  • 400 g cooked chickpeas (1 tin/jar) drained & rinsed
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp tahini
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 small cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • salt & black pepper
  • sesame seeds & fresh dill for garnish (optional)

Roughly chop the beetroot and put half of it along with half of the chickpeas in a food processor and blend until finely chopped, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the rest of the beetroot (saving some finely chopped for garnish) and the rest of the chickpeas and blend again to a paste, scraping down the sides.

Add the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, salt & black pepper and blend to a smooth paste. Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Serve topped with some finely chopped beetroot, sesame seeds, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprig of fresh dill, if using.

Beetroot Hummus

Toasted Flatbread Crackers Recipe

vegan

  • lavash flatbread or soft flour tortillas
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • cumin
  • sumac (if available)

Preheat the oven to 125 C. Brush your lavash or tortillas with olive oil, sprinkle over some cumin, sumac (if using), salt & black pepper.

Using scissors, cut the lavash/tortillas into triangles and place on the baking tray(s). Cook for 10-15 mins until slightly golden and crispy, keep an eye on them. Leave to cool slightly (they will crisp up a bit more) and serve immediately with the hummus.

These crackers are also great served with Baba Ghanoush, Muhammara or even Guacamole.

Beet Hummus & Flatbread Chips

Happy New Year Everyone!!

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“French” Onion Soup with Gruyere Croutons

2 Dec

French Onion Soup with Gruyere Crouton

It has turned really cold here now so soup is what I want for lunch every day and this is one of our favourites. I have actually managed to get the “caramelising onions” time down from the usual 90 minutes in most recipes to a much more realistic 30 minutes. I am always too hungry to wait that long and this way works perfectly for me.

OnionsPeeling and chopping onions is not the nicest of jobs but I have found that cutting off the root end of an onion and putting it on your head like a little hat stops you from crying so much. It looks really stupid and the top of your head smells of onion but much less mascara wastage I find. This tip was given to me by The Washer Up’s nephew Callum and it actually works. I think he spent a day of child slave labour in a Spanish kitchen peeling onions and that is what he learnt.

French Onion Soup

I should really call this Spanish Onion Soup as the only thing that is French about it is the Gruyère cheese on the crouton. That can easily be replaced by a nice mature Manchego which is what we normally do to be honest. The onions are local, organic, Spanish onions, the olive oil is local too and the sherry I use to deglaze the pan is as Spanish as you can get.

Gruyere Crouton“French” Onion Soup with Gruyere Croutons Recipe

Serves 4-6 Vegetarian/Vegan without the cheese

  • 1 1/2 k onions, peeled & finely sliced into half moons
  • 2 0r 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 4 Tbsp sweet sherry
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1500 ml veg stock &/or water (I use 1 litre stock 1/2 litre water)
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp (vegetarian) Worcestershire sauce
  • baguette sliced
  • olive oil, salt & pepper
  • grated Gruyère (or manchego) cheese
  • thyme

Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a large pot. Add the onions, salt, sugar & bay leaves, stir to coat the onions in the oil, cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes until softened.

Remove the lid and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes, scraping the bottom to remove the brown bits until the onions are a deep dark golden brown colour.

Then add the flour, sherry and thyme. Scrape the bottom of the pan again to remove all the caramelised sweet bits and cook the sherry for a few minutes. Add the stock and water, season with salt & pepper, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, taste and adjust the seasoning. Does it need more salt, more sugar or even more Worcestershire sauce?

Brush the baguette slices with olive oil, season with a little salt & pepper and toast under a hot grill until lightly browned. Top with a generous handful of grated cheese, a little thyme and put back under the grill to melt and brown slightly. If you have ovenproof soup dishes you could put the croutons topped with grated cheese directly in the soup, add another handful of cheese and put the whole lot back under the grill.

The Washer Up would not be impressed with that though, it makes a right mess of the bowls so we go for the safer option…

Serve the soup in warmed bowls with the melted cheesey croutons on top.

French Onion Soup with Gruyere Croutons

Enjoy and Stay Warm!

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Fesenjan – A Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Stew

11 Nov

I have been wanting to make a vegetarian version of the savoury and sweet Persian celebration dish, Fesanjan for a long time. It is normally made with chicken or lamb but I have used aubergine and sweet potato as the meat replacements. Pumpkin or squash would also be lovely in this or maybe even some meaty mushrooms.

The reason that I have been desperate to make this is because I love pomegranates. There are hundreds of pomegranate trees were we walk with the dog and The Washer Up is always screaming at me to stop taking photos of them, but I can’t.

“Not another bloody picture of a pomegranate” he says “How many do you need?” he asks impatiently  “You must have thousands already, along with all the pictures of blooming oranges”.

“It’s what I do!” I reply.

This is the perfect dish to showcase the beautiful pomegranates that are plentiful and cheap here at the moment. I use their ruby jewels a lot as a final garnish, like on this Lebanese Lentil Salad where their sweet and sourness pops in your mouth, livens up the whole dish and, of course, they look lovely. I have also topped this Savoury Feta Cheesecake with a generous glistening pile of them for an impressively dramatic but surprisingly easy to prepare dinner party dish.

In this dish though it’s the juice that gets to take a leading role. Traditionally pomegranate molasses (a reduced thickened pomegranate syrup) would be used but I can’t seem to find any here. I used the juice of four pomegranates and some veg stock as the liquid in which the vegetables are cooked. Along with the ground walnuts that thicken the stew while it cooks, these are the two most important ingredients in the recipe. They give it colour, texture and flavour.

You can obviously buy pomegranate juice in a carton if you like, but I wanted to try it with my beloved pomegranates. Juicing a pomegranate is quite a mission but you get used to it. I did most of it on my normal hand orange juicer, bursting any jewels left in the top of the juicer and squishing the juice out with my fingers. I then squeezed what was left in the fruit directly into the pot by hand. I got about 500 ml of juice from four big pomegranates.

Fesanjan – Persian Pomegranate & Walnut Stew Recipe

Serves 4. Vegan, Gluten-free.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 large aubergine 300 g, cut in 1-2 cm cubes
  • 1 large sweet potato 400 g, scrubbed, cut into 1-2 cm chunks
  • salt & black pepper
  • 200 g walnuts, finely ground in a processor plus some chopped for garnish
  • the juice of four pomegranates (about 500 ml) reserve some jewels for garnish
  • 500 ml stock
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp honey or sugar
  • fresh parsley leaves to serve

Heat the oil, in a large pot, over a medium heat and cook the onion with a pinch of salt for about 4 mins until softened, then add the spices, cook for a minute or so (add a splash of stock if it’s dry), then add the ground walnuts, aubergine & sweet potato. Stir to coat in the spices then add the pomegranate juice and stock.

Bring to the boil then lower the heat, partially cover and simmer for 15 mins. Remove the lid then simmer again for 25-30 mins until the sauce is thickened, it shouldn’t be liquidy.

Taste for seasoning, it should be quite sweet and a little sour. Add more salt, lemon or honey/sugar until you are happy. Serve garnished with pomegranate jewels, chopped walnuts and a few parsley leaves. This isn’t authentic but it isn’t the prettiest of dishes otherwise, it’s very brown so the pomegranate seeds brighten it up a bit.

Serve with some plain rice and a herby green salad like the ones we served the lovely Iranian family that we cooked for over the summer. They use herb leaves whole as a salad leaf rather than as a garnish. I topped it with pomegranate seeds obviously, but then I am obsessed. Apparently.

I hope they approve of my vegetarian version of Fesenjan!

Spiced Beetroot Soup with Herb Spiked Feta on Rye Crostini

7 Nov

Beetroot is one of those vegetables that I used to hate. It’s because of that nasty pickled stuff in the jars that leaks pink juice over everything else on your plate, contaminating it with cerise vinegaryness. Or is that just me?

It turns out that unpickled freshly cooked beetroot is sweet, earthy and delicious when roasted or made into purees or soups. It is also an amazingly deep, dark burgundy colour that turns a fabulous shade of fuchsia when mixed with anything white. Like white cheese, yoghurt or sour cream. Or clean white tablecloths.

It’s close relationship with white cheese isn’t only about colour mixing, it’s about flavour mixing too. You could just swirl a dollop of sour cream or Greek yoghurt on top of this soup and still be treated to the sweet-sour, spicy-cool, hot-cold taste sensations that you get from every mouthful of this simple soup.

But adding the extra crunch that you get from a toasted slice of rye bread topped with creamy feta mixed with fresh herbs, green chilli and spring onions that you then put under a hot grill to melt, bubble and brown slightly, takes this humble soup to a whole new level.

You could also use pre-cooked beetroot to save time. It comes shrink wrapped in plastic. Don’t buy the pickled stuff in jars for this. That would be a disaster.

Spiced Beetroot Soup Recipe

Serves 3-4, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 whole medium-sized beetroot (apple sized ish), peeled, cut into small dice (wear gloves)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 750 ml veg stock
  • 200 g tomato passata/tomate frito/tomato puree (not paste)

Heat the oil in a large pot and cook the onion over a medium heat for about 4 minutes until softened then add the garlic, thyme, cumin & chilli flakes and cook for another minute or two.

Add the diced beetroot and the stock and season with salt & black pepper. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 10-20 minutes (depending on the size of your dice) until the beetroot is cooked and tender. Add the tomate frito and heat through.

Blend carefully with a stick blender (cover the pot with an old tea towel if you don’t want pink soup everywhere) or puree in a blender or processor until very smooth. Add more stock or water if you need to, to get the desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.

Feta & Herb Crostini

Makes 2, vegetarian

  • 2 thick slices rye bread (I used a rye bread roll cut in half)
  • olive oil
  • about 75 g Greek feta cheese
  • 1 small green chilli, deseeded & finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves, (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano/parsley leaves, (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • black pepper

Preheat the grill to hot and brush both sides of the rye bread with a little olive oil. Mix the feta and a drizzle of olive oil with the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl, mashing it together with a fork.

Toast the bread slices under the grill, on one side then lightly on the other. Pile most of the herby feta on each lightly toasted side, (leaving a little to top the soups) pushing out evenly with a fork then put back under the grill until golden and bubbling.

Reheat the soup and serve in warmed bowls topped with a little of the herby feta and the toasted rye crostini on the side.

Buen Provecho!!

Keralan Vegetable and Coconut Sambar Recipe

2 Nov

Kerala is right at the top of my list of places I want to visit. It is located on the Malabar coast of south-west India and is known for having some of the best and most delicious vegetarian food in the whole of India. That and its beautiful beaches, backwaters, tropical forests and luxury Ayurvedic retreats and you can see why I am so keen to get there.

Until that day arrives I am happy to continue on my culinary journey around my kitchen and be transported by the flavours and smells unique to that area. Sambar is a typical southern Indian vegetable stew made with lots of vegetables and pigeon peas (or lentils) in a tamarind broth. The sambar is the spice mix or paste which has variations from state to state in the south.

Coconuts grow along the coast in Kerala and most of their signature dishes feature it in some form. This Keralan Sambar powder  is made by toasting coconut along with the spices and grinding it to create a paste that is used to flavour the stew. The sambar is finished or tempered with a garnish of mustard seeds, chilli and spices cooked in coconut oil that is poured over just before serving.

In the original recipe the pigeon peas or lentils are cooked separately with some turmeric and chilli powder until soft and mushy. They are then added to the vegetables cooked in the tamarind & stock to thicken the stew towards the end. I used dried quick cooking yellow lentils that cook in the same amount of time as the vegetables so I cooked it all together. Less washing up too.

The vegetables I used are just what I had in the fridge. You could use pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, aubergine, courgettes, okra…..

Keralan Vegetable & Coconut Sambar Recipe

Serves 4 with rice. Vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from The Mistress of Spices & Sankeerthanam

  • 75-100 g dried yellow lentils
  • 300 g sweet potato, scrubbed & cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 300 g cauliflower florets
  • 300 g (1 very large) tomato, chopped
  • 200 g green beans, trimmed & halved
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 1 or 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • salt
  • about 1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar or honey

For the tempering:

  •  2 tsp  coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 dried red chilli whole (I used fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • curry leaves (if you can get them)

Put the veg stock and tamarind in large pot with the turmeric, chilli flakes, lentils, sweet potato and cauliflower. Bring to the boil, season with salt then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until the potatoes & lentils are cooked. Meanwhile make the sambar paste.

For the sambar paste

  • 4 Tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 dry red chilli (I used fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • salt

Toast everything in a dry frying pan until fragrant and toasty. The onions wont be cooked. Blend to a paste adding some salt and water as necessary.

Stir the sambar paste into the vegetable pot then add the softer vegetables, the beans and tomatoes. Bring to the boil again, lower the heat, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or longer, until the lentils have broken down and you have a thicker stew consistency.  Add the jaggery/sugar or honey and taste for seasoning. Does it need more salt or sugar?

When ready to serve, heat the coconut oil in pan over a medium high heat and add the tempering spices, chilli and curry leaves (if using). When the seeds start to splutter tip the contents of the pan over the stew and serve with rice or flatbreads.

Things That Made Me Smile Today….

The oranges are coming. They are turning from green to a yellowy orange. Getting more orange every day. Which means it’s not long till Christmas.

Which means I need to get busy making Grandad’s Pickled Onions if I want them to be ready in time for Christmas. They need at least a month to mature into the spicy perfect beasts that everyone adores.

What Christmas treats are you planning to make this year?

Have a great weekend!

Persian Quince Jam with Cardamom and Rosewater For Breakfast

27 Oct

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.

Warm Roasted Beetroot, Carrot, Lentil and Goats Cheese Salad with Dill Hazelnut Pesto

25 Oct

This salad started with these beautiful organic beetroot & carrots from the market.

It’s the colours that I love, and their rusticness or is that rusticity? I couldn’t resist them anyway and wanted them both to star in something lovely. Something where they were roasted to bring out their natural sweetness.

The warm mellow sweetness of beetroot is always perfectly enhanced by the cool sharpness of a mature goat’s cheese. Enter an extremely mature goats cheese that a friend of mine Jeanne bought when we went to the Luna Mora festival in Guaro this September.

She very kindly gave me a huge wedge of it to try a few days later. I think she just wanted to get it out of her fridge to be honest, it is very stinky, but very good.

Luna Mora is held every September in the small Andalucian village of Guaro.

The festival of Luna Mora which translates as The Festival of the Moorish Moon is a celebration of Andalucia’s Muslim, Christian and Jewish history. There are colourful performance artists and hundreds of stalls line the narrow streets giving it a souk vibe. Tourists and locals flock to enjoy the spectacle and ambience.

The festival is held over two weekends and when night falls, the streets are illuminated by over 20,00 candles and lantern. It really is an unforgettable sight that creates an extremely special atmosphere and explains why nearly 50,000 people visit this festival every year.

For more information on The Festival of Luna Mora, and other things to do and places to visit in the spectacular province of Andalucia have a look at The Andalucia Diary. Andrew knows all there is to know about what to do and where to stay as well as having a beautiful holiday cottage to rent in the village of Guaro itself with breathtaking views of the Sierra de las Nieves.

So back to the food and the smelly goats cheese. This is actually two recipes merged together. Warm Roasted Vegetable & Lentil Salad from Alli at Pease Pudding and Puy Lentil Salad with Goats Cheese, Beetroot & Dill Vinaigrette from My Little Paris Kitchen.

Dill and beetroot are another classic combination that works so well. Even if you think you don’t like dill you have to try this. Dill is now my new favourite herb. I used to loathe it. But since working over the summer with an Iranian family I learnt a lot of new Persian dishes that I will be sharing shortly. And they put dill in everything, I love it.

I changed the dill vinaigrette to a pesto to make it a bit more robust and less of a salad really. It’s beautiful with hazelnuts, quite sweet but you could use walnuts or almonds, whatever you like.

Warm Roasted Beetroot & Lentil Salad with Goats Cheese & Dill Hazelnut Pesto

Serves 2-3, vegetarian, gluten-free.

  • 200 g beetroot, peeled & cut into small wedges
  • 200 g carrots, peeled & cut into batons/wedges
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the prepared vegetables on two lined baking sheets (keep the carrots separate from the beetroot or they will turn pink too) drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper & thyme leaves, toss to coat and roast for about 25 minutes or until soft to the point of a knife. Depending on the size, the carrots may be cooked before the beetroot.

  • 250 g dried Puy lentils (they hold their shape when cooked and taste delicious)
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  1 sprig of thyme
  • 500 ml veg stock
  • salt & black pepper

Wash the lentils under cold water then put them in a sauce pan with the stock, bay leaf, thyme, salt & black pepper.  Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, partially covered, or until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Then drain and discard the bay leaf & thyme. Meanwhile make the dill pesto.

  • a handful of fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • a small handful of toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • a squeeze of honey (1 /2 tsp to start with)
  •  a squeeze of lemon
  • salt & black pepper
  • olive oil
  • about 150 g goats cheese

Blend the  dill, vinegar, hazelnuts, lemon juice, honey, salt & pepper with a good glug of olive oil until you get a chunky pesto consistency. Taste and add more salt, honey, lemon juice as required. I like it quite sweet , it works nicely with the dill.

Pile some warm lentils on a plate and top with the warm roasted vegetables, pieces of goats cheese and drizzle over the dill pesto. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a few sprigs of dill.

Buen Provecho!!

Ethiopian Sweet Potato and Lentil Wat with Injera Flatbread

22 Oct

A wat or wot (what?) is an Ethiopian stew. I first read about Ethiopian cuisine on The Taste Space and I knew I had to try it out for myself. It is spicy, which I love as you might have guessed and is great for vegetarian or vegan food lovers. The flavour comes mainly from an Ethiopian spice mix called Berbere. Berbere has as many different variations as I have shoes but the one I have chosen to make includes: red chilli flakes, turmeric, paprika, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice & clove.

I decided to make it with sweet potatoes and yellow lentils (or split peas) because the sweet potatoes are at their peak here at the moment which means delicious and cheap. You could also use pumpkin and chickpeas or any other vegetables you need to use up. Just add a legume to the pot to make it authentic and nutritionally balanced.

The traditional accompaniment to any Ethiopian meal are Injera flatbreads. Injera are slightly spongy crepe or pancake-like flatbreads made with a yeasted dough batter made from Teff flour. Teff is an ancient grain believed to have been cultivated in Ethiopia and Eritrea since 4000 BC.

I have a brilliant flour supplier in Alhaurin, Andres from El Amasadero who can get hold of these unusual flours. He also holds bread making workshops which I am threatening to attend one day.  Fortunately you don’t have to make these with Teff flour you can use spelt or normal flour instead. It’s actually fun to do. Or you could just buy some Indian or Middle Eastern flatbreads if you’re short of time (or patience).

Ethiopian Sweet Potato & Lentil Wat Recipe

Serves 3-4, vegan, gluten-free.  Adapted from The Taste Space

For the Berbere spice mix:

Makes 1 small jar. You only need 1 Tbsp for this recipe

  • 4 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Grind the fenugreek seeds, red chilli flakes & sea salt in a mortar & pestle or spice grinder until you have a powder then mix with the rest of the ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a dry place.

Sweet Potato & Lentil Wat Recipe

  • 2 sweet potatoes (about 600g), scrubbed and cut into 1-2 cm chunks
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp Berbere spice mix (see above)
  • 1 cup dried yellow lentils (or split peas)
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/4 cabbage (250 g), shredded
  • 1 large tomato, roughly chopped
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • fresh coriander to serve

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat and cook the onions, with a pinch of salt, for about 4 minutes until translucent. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook for a minute or two more. If it gets dry add a little splash of stock. Add the 1 tbsp Berbere spice mix, cabbage, tomato and season with salt & black pepper.

Add the lentils, sweet potatoes and veg stock, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20-25 minutes until the sweet potato is soft and the lentils are cooked. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes more with the lid off. Add the fresh coriander just before serving and check seasoning.

Injera Flatbread Recipe

Serves 3-4, vegan. Needs an hour rising time

  • 110 g wholemeal, spelt or teff flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast (or 15 g fresh)
  • 155 ml warm (not hot) water

Mix everything together in a large bowl to form a batter. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour or longer until well risen.

When ready to cook, stir the batter then tip into a blender with about 110 ml (1/2 cup) water and blend. The batter will be quite thin.

Heat a large non stick frying pan over a medium high heat without any oil and pour about 1/2 cup of the batter into the pan, swirl or spread it about with a spatula until it covers the base of the pan evenly like a crepe/pancake. Cook until little bubbles or cracks appear all over the top. You do not need to turn it over to cook the other side. Keep warm on a plate covered with a tea towel while you cook the rest.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…..

Rufus posing in the autumn sun.

Pink Roses & Acorns, there’s got to be a recipe in there somewhere….

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Chica Andaluza

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