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The First Days of Spring: Grilled Asparagus and Soft Boiled Duck Egg Brunch

22 Mar



Nothing says “Spring” more to me than asparagus. The fresh green spears make an appearance a lot earlier here in Spain than in the UK but I still wait until Spring to buy them.  I bought some this week for the first time this year and wanted the first of many asparagus dishes to be a simple celebration of this unique, delicious vegetable.

The Washer Up is working with someone who keeps ducks & chickens at the moment and he, very kindly, gave us some duck eggs to try. I have eaten a duck egg once before, it was on top of a salad I ordered in the restaurant in Harvey Nichols in Leeds (those were the days)!  They have a slightly richer, creamier flavour than a normal egg but nothing to be scared off.  I’ve never cooked with duck eggs before so I thought a simple soft-boiled duck egg would sit very happily on top of my grilled asparagus.  Eggs also represent Spring, rebirth and new beginnings so perfect for my first days of Spring brunch.

I really can’t call this a recipe but here is what I did:

Soft Boiled Duck Egg & Grilled Asparagus Brunch

serves 1, vegetarian

  • 1 bundle of fresh asparagus
  • 1 duck egg
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt & pepper
  • shaved manchego or parmesan
  • toasted brown bread (if you like)

Carefully put the duck egg into boiling water and then turn the heat down to medium high. Boil for 6 or 7 minutes depending on the size of your duck egg. Cut off the woody ends of the asparagus and put into the boiling water with the egg for 2 or 3 minutes.

Preheat your grill to hot and place the blanched asparagus on a sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper, roll to coat evenly then put under the grill for a few minutes to brown slightly. Rolling to cook the other side half way through.

Toast your bread if using. After 6 or 7 minutes drain the water out of the pan and run the cold tap over the egg in the pan until cool enough to handle. Roll the egg gently on your counter to break the shell and peel the egg.

Transfer the asparagus to a plate with a slotted spoon, drizzle with little more olive oil, squeeze over some lemon juice and place the egg on top. With a knife cut into your egg to reveal the soft centre, season the egg with salt &  pepper and then finish off the dish by shaving over some manchego or parmesan. Butter your toast and serve on the side.

Enjoy the first days of Spring in pictures taken while walking the dog…

Rufus in the Spring…!!

Our lily at home….

 Ya es Primavera!!

Spanish Onion Soup On The Beach

5 Jan

This is my Spanish interpretation of  a French Onion Soup using Andalucian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Spanish Sherry, (Jerez) Vinegar, Saffron & Paprika. It is served with grilled Manchego cheese croutons. We woke up this morning and decided to take the dog to the beach so we packed our Spanish Onion Soup & Manchego Croutons in a rucksack and drove down to Malaga.

The beach we go to is called Los Alamos. It is between Malaga & Torremolinos, near the airport. Hence the low flying planes. I love this beach it’s so quiet at this time of year. I can’t believe its only January – the weather is beautiful and the planes don’t bother me…

Rufus loves this beach too. He gets to dig and run. We were watching the fishing boats..

And the horses walking along the shore…

We walked quite a long way and came across this sign – fortunately it was deserted…

We walked back along the shoreline, the light today was so gorgeous…

We ate our lunch at some picnic benches overlooking the sea….

Spanish Onion Soup with Toasted Manchego Cheese Croutons

serves 4-6 vegetarian

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4  onions, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  •  a couple of pinches of sugar
  • 4 tbsp Spanish sherry (Malaga Virgen or Pedro Jimenez would be good) you could use wine.
  • 2 tbsp Sherry (Jerez) vinegar (substitute balsamic if you don’t have it)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 litres veg stock (you can use chicken or beef)
  •  1 tsp fresh thyme leaves chopped (dried is fine)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a good pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt & black pepper
  • some sliced rustic bread
  • cured Manchego cheese, grated
  • a sprinkle of paprika to garnish

Saute the onions & sugar in the olive oil over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until softened & translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, vinegar & black pepper. Cover and cook fairly gently for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Deglaze the pan with the sherry/wine, stir to loosen any sticky bits off the bottom of the pan then add the saffron, paprika & stock. Season with plenty of salt, bring to the boil, cover and cook on medium for another 20 -30 minutes.

When you are ready to serve your soup. Put a generous amount of grated Manchego on each slice of bread and put it under the grill for a minute or so until the cheese is bubbling and the bread is golden. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, top with the cheesy croutons and sprinkle a little paprika over the cheese.

I can see this becoming a regular thing now, picnics on the beach. It makes a change from the mountains. We really are very lucky to live in such a beautifully diverse area. We haven’t been up to the Sierra Nevada yet this year either. Sun and snow can’t wait!!

Hasta Luego…

The Art of the Tart-ine!

24 Nov

It’s a posh word for an open sandwich but it makes all the difference in the world to your lunch break if you can take that sandwich to another level by making it look and taste really beautiful.

The thing is, it is really easy, all you have to do is look in your fridge, come up with a theme and fire up your grill. At the moment, here in Spain, we have a mountain of  ripe tomatoes and avocados both in the height of season, flavourful and well priced.

That’s where my inspiration came from for this Tartine Tricolore. My favourite Italian salad as a toasted sandwich…

 It all starts with the bread, buy some nice bread. Italian would be good to follow the theme. A nice Ciabatta or even Focaccia.

Tartine Tricolore

Serves 2 Vegetarian

  • 1 small ciabatta about 18 – 20 cm
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut in half, scooped out and sliced
  • 1 ball mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 large tomato(or 2 small plum tomatoes) sliced
  • mayonnaise
  • basil pesto
  • fresh basil leaves
  • olive oil
  • rocket
  • salt & black pepper

Slice the ciabatta in half lengthways so you have flat sides to pile your filling on. Preheat the grill to high and line a baking sheet with foil. Spread each side with some mayonnaise then spread a small amount of pesto on top of the mayo. Place your avocado slices on each half, then the tomato slices, season with a little salt then top with the mozzarella slices. Drizzle with olive oil then add some freshly cracked black pepper and put the open sandwiches on the baking sheet under the grill for about 2 or 3 minutes until the cheese is melting nicely. To serve scatter some fresh basil leaves & rocket over the top and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. This is the kind of sandwich you need a knife and fork for either that or a very large napkin!!

This next idea started when our friends Terry & Joan kindly brought us some Lancashire Crumbly cheese over from England. The Washer Up is a Lancashire lad and he has cravings for it occasionally. It is a creamy, mild but sharp, crumbly cheese that is really delicious served with something sweet & fruity. This got me thinking about a proper old English lunch called The Ploughman’s. A 60’s/70’s thing served in pubs which consisted of a big wedge of cheese (normally Cheddar), pickled onions, Branston pickle and some sort of scary salad.

I decided to take the Cheese & Pickle thing and bring it up to date by serving the Lancashire Crumbly topped with two types of chutney and watercress…

 Start with the bread again, it should really be something English and crusty, like a Bloomer or something similar. We can’t get that sort of thing here so I used a baguette (sacrilege, I know)! You can use whichever chutney you have around but this combination of Mango & Fig was heaven…

Posh Cheese & 2 Pickle Tartines

Serves 2 Vegetarian

Preheat the grill to high and line a baking tray with foil. Get your four slices of bread or baguette sliced lengthways drizzle with a little olive oil, layer over some generous slices of the cheese and top with a couple of spoonfuls of chutney. I like the contrast of using 2 different types, it stops you getting bored half way through. Stick it under the grill for few minutes until the cheese melts then scatter over some watercress…

The Washer Up says this should be enjoyed with a nice hand pulled pint of warm bitter….mmm. I’d go for a nice chilled glass of Albarino myself.

The next version uses Halloumi, a Cypriot Sheep’s milk cheese that is totally addictive. If you have never tried Halloumi give this a try, I promise you, you will be hooked…

Marinaded Halloumi Tartine 

serves 2 or 3 vegetarian

  • some nice bread, maybe pita or a flatbread (I used a baguette because that’s what I had)
  • 1 pack halloumi, thinly sliced about 1/2 cm
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 80ml olive oil
  • fresh mint, parsley & coriander, chopped
  • the juice of 1 lime or lemon
  • 1 red chilli deseeded & finely chopped or 1/2 tsp of chilli flakes
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sumac* (optional)

*Sumac is a crushed dried berry sold in flakes which is used a lot in Middle Eastern dishes it has a smoky, lemony flavour which is fantastic with the Halloumi.

In a shallow dish large enough to fit in all the Halloumi slices, mix together the olive oil, lime juice, chopped herbs, spices, black pepper and chilli and set aside.

Dry fry the Halloumi slices in a hot pan for about 2 minutes on each side until browned and crispy(you will probably need to do it in 2 batches). When each batch is done place in the oil & lime juice marinade and toss to coat on both sides.

Meanwhile preheat the grill to hot, drizzle your bread with olive oil, place the sliced tomatoes on the bread, season with salt, pepper & olive oil and put under the grill for a minute or so to toast the bread and warm the tomatoes.

When the bread & tomatoes are toasted, layer over the cooked, marinaded Halloumi and pour over some of the herby marinade.

This really is an amazing sandwich, the combination of the salty Halloumi with the fresh herbs, chilli & lime juice is fingerlicking good! If a little messy…. Prepare to feed your Halloumi addiction!

From Tree To Table

19 Sep

 

Pomegranate Tree

  This morning, while walking the dog, we picked a few early pomegranates which are just beginning to ripen.  Already starting to think about lunch and how we could incorporate them.   

Then while walking past the goats & getting that unmistakable smell it reminded me of a goats cheese, pomegranate & hazelnut salad I had seen in the Flavour book by Vicky Bhogal. The only thing was that this salad had a blueberry dressing & blueberries are really difficult to get hold of here.   

Rufus on his Walk

Those Smelly Goats

Freshly Picked Pomegranates

So the only other fruit I had in my fridge was some papaguayos which are  a similar to a peach & really juicy. I was happy with the pomegranate, goats cheese & peach combo as it had that Arabian flavour I was looking for so I decided to add some orange flower water to the dressing along with black pepper & fresh coriander…    

Grilled Goats Cheese & Pomegranate Salad Recipe  

Serves 2 Vegetarian 

  • 1 small roll goats cheese (with rind)
  • 1 Pomegranate
  • 2 Peaches chopped
  • 2 handfuls rocket
  • 1 handful hazelnuts (toasted in a dry pan)
  • 4 slices of country bread (or ciabatta) sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 shallot chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic chopped
  • 2 or 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp  sherry vinegar
  • 2 tsp soft brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander 
  • 1 tsp orange flower water
  • 1 dsp miel de cana * (or honey)
  • salt & lots of black pepper
  • handful of fresh coriander chopped ( Plus extra sprigs for garnish) 

*Miel de Cana is a cane sugar honey produced in Malaga. It has a flavour similar to maple syrup & is great in salad dressings & drizzled over fried aubergines. 

  1. Put the shallot in the pan with 1 tbsp olive oil and the crushed garlic, stir & fry for a minute or so to soften.
  2. Tumble in the peaches (keep a handful back to put through the salad) with the vinegar, sugar, flower water, miel de cana, ground coriander & ground black pepper.
  3. Stir & leave to stew on a low heat for about 10 mins.
  4. Cut the pomegranate in half horizontally through the middle, hold the cut side over a bowl & hit the back of it with a wooden spoon until all the jewel like seeds tumble out. (Half may be enough for 2 people).
  5. Put the grill on to heat up & toast the pieces of ciabatta on 1 side
  6. Cut the goats cheese into 8 slices & place them on the untoasted side of the bread(2 slices per piece of bread).
  7. Meanwhile blitz the peach mixture with a stick blender adding olive oil to achieve the required consistency.(It should be like runny jam).
  8. Then add salt, more black pepper & fresh coriander, blitz again.
  9. Put the goats cheese toasts under the grill for about 3 minutes until bubbling & brown.
  10. Dress the rocket & chopped peaches with olive oil & sherry vinegar, salt & pepper.
  11. Put the toasts on top of the rocket, spoon over some of the peach dressing, sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts & finally rain on the pomegranate seeds.

Eat & enjoy the flavours & textures in this exotic salad!! 

Grilled Goats Cheese & Pomegranate Salad

        

Fiery Fig Chutney Recipe

18 Sep

Fig Tree

At the moment we have a mountain of delicious gooey green figs picked on our morning walks with the dog. They are fab for breakfast & in salads with goats cheese but having exhausted all these recipes I thought I would use up a load at once by making a spicy chutney to eat with some Manchego cheese. Manchego is a hard, Spanish, cured sheeps cheese which would be perfect with these figs. This chutney is also great  to serve with a cheese board or with cheddar cheese on toast yum!

Fig Chutney

 

Fiery Fig Chutney
Vegan

 makes 1 Jam Jar

  • About 10-12 small green figs chopped into rough quarters
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp onion seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp punch pooran*
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 4 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 4tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 red chilli deseeded & chopped finely (use more or less depending on strength of chilli)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  •  salt & black pepper to taste

*Punch pooran is a whole spice mix made up from cumin, fennel, fenugreek, black mustard & onion seeds. It gives a great rounded flavour to any indian dishes & is available from East End Foods.

1. Heat the oil in a large pan and put in the onion, sugar, spices, chilli, ginger & vinegar. Cook over a medium low heat until the onion is completely softened

2. Add the fig quarters/chunks and cook on low for a further 10-15 mins untill you have a sticky chutney consistencey.

3. Pour into a hot sterilized chutney/jam jar, seal & leave to cool. Then refrigerate for as long as you can wait.

It gets better the longer you leave it!

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