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Homemade Aloe Vera Moisturising Gel and Some Exciting News!

4 Feb

The aloe vera plants on our roof terrace are out of control. They are in fairly small pots and they seem to produce new leaves overnight. So many leaves that the pots are actually splitting. The Washer Up decided to cut them back today which meant we had carrier bags full of aloe vera leaves.

It seemed such a shame to throw them all away so I did a google search to see how difficult it would be to make some aloe vera moisturiser. After all I buy aloe vera face cream from Mercadona. It turns out that it is really easy (if a little messy). All you do is blend the fresh aloe gel with some sweet almond oil (that you can get from the pharmacy) and there you have it. Your own 100% natural aloe vera  moisturising gel.

It admitedly looks a little bit like snot but disappears into your skin really quickly and leaves it feeling, soft, smooth and nourished. The Washer Up’s hands are reaping the benefits and I can defintely see the difference in my face.

Homemade Aloe Vera Moisturising Gel

Makes 1 jam jar.

  • about 200 gr aloe vera gel  (I used about 4 big leaves)
  • 1 or 2 tsp sweet almond oil
  • a few drops of your favourite essential oil if you want it to be scented (optional)

You  may want to use gloves and protect the worksurface with a plastic bag or something.

The aloe starts to oxidise (turn red) quickly once it is cut so you have to do it straight away.

Split the aloe leaves down the middle, open them out and scrape the slimy gel out onto the scales with a teaspoon.

When you have about 200 gr tip into a bowl or blender with 1 or 2 teaspoons of almond oil and blend until smooth and slimy.

Tip into a sterilised jar and keep in a cool place (my bathroom is freezing) or in the fridge in summer.

This can be used as a face, hand and body moisturiser but it is also excellent for burns, sunburn, skin irritations and mosquito bites.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…….

The almond blossom is really early this year because of the mild weather we have been having up until this weekend which has been freezing cold. I love the candy floss trees with their barely pink delicate blooms. It is one of my favourite things about living here, it signifies that spring is not too far away.

I have some very exciting news to tell you. Next week we will be going to Cape Town. As many of you will already know, my Dad lives there so we are primarily going to see him but also….

We are going for three weeks, during which time I will be travelling around the Cape eating in some of the best and most popular restaurants the region has to offer.

I am a contributor to Getaway Magazine which has won South African Travel Blog of the year for two years running. They recently held an award ceremony of their own in Cape Town (which my dad attended on my behalf) and to my complete surprise I won the award for best food blog!!

I will be compiling a list of the best restaurants for vegetarian food (not vegetarian restaurants) in the area with reviews, recommendations, and a Vegetarian Culinary Journey Route.

We  start the tour in Cape Town then move on to Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Montagu, Robertson, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and then back to Cape Town again.

We have lunch and dinner booked in a different restaurant every day. Such is the quality and choice of fabulous restaurants out there, there are still quite a few that I won’t have time to get to unfortunately.

I will be taking my camera to photograph the restaurants and food and will hopefully be posting a quick photo daily just to let you know where we are and what we’ve eaten.

I have also asked if the chefs in these gorgeous restaurants would be willing to share the recipe for one of  their favourite vegetarian dishes for me to recreate when I return home.

I have already received some fantastic recipes for such delights as, Goats Cheese & Beetroot Lollipops from Peter Tempelhoff, winner of award for Best Chef 2011. Peter is Executive Chef for three of the best restaurants in South Africa including The Greenhouse, winner of the award for Best Restaurant 2011.

As you can probably tell I can’t wait to get started. We leave on Tuesday, arrive on Wednesday morning and have lunch booked at Harbour House at The Waterfront in Cape Town.

For dinner we have reservations at The Mount Nelson Hotel’s restaurant Planet. The Mount Nelson (or Nellies as it is affectionately known) is a local institution famous for their afternoon tea. The Planet chef, Rudi Leibenberg has had the foresight and invention to create a four and six course vegan tasting menu. Yes, a vegan tasting menu! It must be the first one ever.

I will let you know the rest of our itinerary when we get there. But until then I’ve got some ironing and packing to be getting on with…

Rustic Leek and White Bean Soup with Rosemary

25 Jan

They are busy harvesting leeks at the moment where we walk the dog in the morning. I like leeks, they have a milder flavour than onions and they don’t make you cry when you chop them.

Leeks are one of those vegetables that have a strong supporting role in many dishes but hardly ever get to play the lead. Seeing fields full of row after row of them made me think about making them shine.

Leeks and white beans have an affinity. They have a history of working together in such classics as Cassoulet and Tuscan White Bean Soup. Rosemary is often found hanging around in the background with these two, completing the love triangle and it is flowering beautifully at the moment. Shall I stop with the film metaphors now and get on with the recipe?

Rustic Leek & White Bean Soup with Rosemary

Serves 4, Vegan, gluten free

  • Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time 20 mins
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 sticks celery, finely sliced
    • 3 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthways, rinsed and sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
    • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
    • 1 tin/jar (400 gr) cooked white beans, drained & rinsed
    • about 500 ml veg stock
    • salt & black pepper
    • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped

    Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Cook the leeks, celery, rosemary and thyme with a pinch of salt for about 4 minutes until softened but not browned. Then add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.

    Blend half of the drained beans with splash of stock or water to a smooth puree. Add the pureed beans to the pan and stir to combine.  Pour in the veg stock and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the beans.

    Add in the whole beans, lower the heat to a simmer, season with salt & black pepper and cook  for about 10 minutes. Stir in the fresh parsley and taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

    Buen Provecho!!

    As promised here are some more pictures of our visit to the beautiful Alcazaba in Malaga. This is the view from the outside with the amphitheatre in the foreground.

    Inside is a study in  exquisite Moorish archways…..

    Leading through to hidden doorways and secluded patios………….

    Elaborately tiled ceilings…

    And floors….

    There are more pictures to follow on my next post…..

     

Indian Spinach Koftas with Creamy Tomato and Cashew Nut Sauce

19 Jan

Any excuse to get more spinach in my diet and I’m there. It’s not all about the iron you know, here are just some of the health benefits of eating this wonderful green leaf. Popeye wasn’t as stupid as he looked….

One cup of spinach has nearly 20% of the RDA of dietary fibre which aids in digestion, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.

Flavonoids — a phytonutrient with anti-cancer properties abundant in spinach have been shown to slow down the growth of stomach and skin cancer cells. Furthermore, spinach has shown significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.

The vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc and selenium present in spinach all serve as powerful antioxidants that combat the onset of osteoporosis and high blood pressure.

Both antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are especially plentiful in spinach and protect the eye from cataracts and age-related eyesight degeneration.

One cup of spinach contains over 337% of the RDA of vitamin A that not only protects and strengthens “entry points” into the human body, such as mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts, but is also a key component of white blood cells that fight infection.

The high amount of vitamin A in spinach also promotes healthy skin by allowing for proper moisture retention in the epidermis, thus fighting psoriasis, acne and even wrinkles.

This information is taken from healthdiaries. com

Some friends of ours, Nik & Stacey bought us a new cook book called I Love Curry by Anjum Anand on their last trip back to the UK.  On the first flick through this was the recipe that stood out for me, the one that I wanted to make straight away.

The blended cashew nuts in the sauce give it a creamy texture and flavour that is perfect with the light and fluffy spinach koftas. The koftas are made in a similar way to spinach and ricotta gnocchi and then fried. I used goat’s ricotta which gives a very mild goat’s cheese flavour and is so much better for you than cow’s milk. I served it with a spiced turmeric pilaf rice.

Indian Spinach Koftas with Creamy Tomato & Cashew Nut Sauce

Serves 3-4, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from I Love Curry by Anjun Ananad

For the sauce:

  • 2 large tomatoes, quartered & deseeded
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 or 2 tbsp coconut oil (or other vegetable oil)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 50 gr cashew nuts
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 500 ml veg stock (or water)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • a dash of Worcestershire sauce (vegetarian)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves, to serve

For the koftas:

  • 200 gr fresh spinach, washed
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 200 gr ricotta cheese (I used goat’s ricotta)
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying

For the Turmeric Pilaf:

  • 220 gr basmati rice, well washed
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (or butter or ghee)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Blend the tomatoes, garlic and ginger to a paste with a little water to get it going. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and cook the onion for about 5 minutes until lightly browned.

Add in the blended tomatoes, cashew nuts, spices, salt & pepper. Cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Blend until smooth with a little water if necessary then pour it back into the pan, add the stock (or water), tomato puree, sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes until it is the consistency of single cream.

Meanwhile make the dumplings. Wilt the spinach in a pan with a tbsp water, a pinch salt and 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg. When cool enough to handle squeeze out the excess water (in a clean tea towel) and blend to a puree with a stick blender. Then add the cornflour and ricotta and mix together well. Taste and season with salt & black pepper as required.

Heat about 5cm vegetable oil in a deep frying pan or wok over a medium high heat. To test if the oil is hot enough drop a tiny amount of the spinach mix into the oil, it should sizzle immediately but not brown straight away.

Drop heaped teaspoons full of the spinach mix into the oil. You will need to do it in batches. I got 16 out of this mixture.

Cook the koftas, turning occasionally with a metal spoon, so they cook evenly. They should take 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

To serve, add a squeeze of lemon to the sauce. You can add the koftas into the sauce to reheat them or serve them straight way with the hot sauce poured over and some fresh coriander leaves to garnish.

For the Rice Pilaf:

Tip the rice into a large bowl, cover with water and leave to soak. Heat the coconut oil/ghee in a saucepan over a medium heat then add the cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cardamom pods and cloves and leave to sizzle and pop for about 20 seconds. Add the onion and cook for about 4 minutes until turning golden.

Drain the rice and add it to the pan with the turmeric, salt & black pepper and cook, stirring for a minute. Add 400 ml water, taste the water and add more salt if necessary.

Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to its lowest setting, cover and leave to cook for 12-13 minutes without stirring. Check the rice it should be cooked. Remove from the heat and serve when ready.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…………..

Today we visited the Alcazaba (Moorish fortress) in Malaga. It’s the first time we’ve been and I was really surprised at how beautiful it is. Everyone goes to the Alhambra but I doubt many people even know there is a smaller much less touristy version in Malaga. It’s practically deserted. Apart from the robins that is….

I have obviously taken a whole load more photographs that I will share with you over the next few posts, this is just a teaser….

Alhambra Inspired Chargrilled Nectarine Fattoush Salad

22 Jul

The Washer Up’s dad came to stay for a few days and we decided to take him to the Alhambra in Granada.

In 40 degree heat.

 Alhambra translates as The Red Fortress. Its palaces were built in the middle of the 14th century for the last Moorish kings of Spain and their court.  It is a World Heritage site and a unique and beautiful example of Muslim art and architecture.

The majority of the palace buildings are built in the same style, with all the rooms opening out on to a central courtyard.

The Alhambra was extended by the different Muslim rulers who lived there but each new section followed the theme of “Paradise on Earth” by using column arcades, elaborately decorated archways, fountains with running water and reflecting pools.

Blue, red and a golden-yellow, all somewhat faded with time are the main colours used for tiles and decoration.

 The Alhambra was made into a  city, complete with an irrigation system composed of acequias (water channels) for the gardens of the Generalife located outside the fortress.  These acequias are still used today throughout Andalucia for irrigation.

 Generalife means Gardens of the Architect. The Palacio de Generalife is a villa dating from the beginning of the 14th century. Whilst fountains and flowing water are a common feature around the Alhambra, they are particularly prevalent in the Palacio de Generalife.

The gardens of Generalife were definitely my favourite part of the Alhambra. It may have something to do with all the running water cooling the air and the shade created by the trees. The flowers were beautiful too.

You can actually imagine Arabian princesses running around giggling and hiding behind trees from handsome princes. As you can probably tell I read a book before going: Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving. 

It was published in 1832 and immediately attracted pilgrims to Granada from all over the world. He was an American diplomat, historian & traveller who actually lived in the Alhambra for a while.

It paints a romantic, colourful impression of local legends and traditions as well as telling enchanting tales of Moorish  princesses, towers, love and war. I would definitely recommend reading it if you are thinking of visiting or are interested in the history of Moorish Spain.

The picture below is of the Washer Up’s dad, Jim Burns. He is a published poet and writer and a recognised authority on 1930’s -1950’s Beats & Bebop Jazz. He is also an expert on the Spanish Civil War and 19th Century European art and history.

He is 75 and fared better than us on this exceedingly long, hot day. We walked around the Alhambra for around 6 hours in the blazing sun.

He didn’t even fall asleep in the car on the way home. We were listening to Miles Davies though.

Like father like son. The Washer Up loves his music too. He’s more into early punk than jazz but his dad bought him the first Sex Pistols record Anarchy in the UK when it was released in 1976. He was 13.

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern salad made with toasted or fried pieces of pita bread, fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables. Fattoush belongs to the family of dishes known as fatta which means crushed. Stale flatbreads are used up by crushing or crumbling them into the dish, a lot like the Italian Panzanella salad. 

This is a salad we served at the restaurant. Instead of using stale pita we cut soft flour tortillas into triangles, deep-fried them and sprinkled them with sumac and cumin while still warm. This way you get crispy, spicy crackers to eat with your salad and it also makes for a more dramatic presentation. You just arrange them pointy side up around the serving bowl.

They are also great for dipping in hummus.

The basic ingredients for a fattoush salad are: salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, radish, mint, parsley, sumac, fried bread, olive oil and lemon juice.

With that as your starting point you can add whatever else you like: feta, olives, dates, peppers, garlic, pomegranate seeds, the list goes on….

I like to add a little sweetness to counteract the sour lemon juice and sumac. Chopped dates are lovely but I had a fruit bowl full of gorgeous looking nectarines just desperate to be included.

I remembered seeing a recipe in the Ottolenghi Cookbook (I know, I’m obsessed) for a chargrilled peach salad with speck and orange blossom.  I didn’t need any more encouragement than that. Any excuse too use my new griddle pan and I’m happy.

Chargrilled Nectarine Fattoush Salad

serves 2, vegan

  • 2 nectarines, stoned & sliced into wedges (not too soft, firm but ripe is best for grilling)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon rind (optional)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 big beef tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cucumber, halved, deseeded & cubed
  • 2 spring onions (or half a Spanish spring onion), sliced diagonally
  • 2 or 3 radishes, thinly sliced (I didn’t have any)
  • 1 bag mixed salad leaves, or a mixture of rocket and cos lettuce, chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 5 or 6 mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
  • 1 soft flour tortilla, cut into eighths (or some stale pita, torn into pieces)
  • sunflower oil for deep-frying
  • sumac & cumin for sprinkling
  • salt & black pepper

 Toss the nectarine wedges with some olive oil, salt & pepper in a bowl. Heat up your griddle pan and cook the nectarines for a minute or so on each side until they get some nice charcoal lines all over. Remove to a bowl and cook the rest, if necessary then sprinkle over the orange blossom water and leave to cool.

Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium high heat. You can tell when it’s hot enough by sticking a corner of tortilla in and seeing if it sizzles. Carefully put the tortilla triangles (2 batches will be best you don’t want to overcrowd the pan) into the hot oil and cook for 10-20 seconds or until they are a golden colour. Be careful they burn quickly.

Remove to a bowl lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle over some salt, cumin and sumac. Do the same with the rest and leave to cool. Once cooled they can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.

Put the garlic, salt, lemon juice, preserved lemon and olive oil into a large bowl with the tomatoes, sumac and cumin and stir together well.

Just before serving add the cucumber, spring onions, radishes, salad leaves, fresh herbs and any other ingredients (except the nectarines) to the bowl and toss everything together. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

Either serve in one big bowl/ serving dish or in individual dishes. Arrange the chargrilled nectarines on top and place the tortilla crackers around the edge of the plate so it looks like a crown. Sprinkle over a little sumac and take to the table.

It’s a royal looking salad fit for the last Moorish King of Spain.

A word of advice, if you are thinking about going to the Alhambra, I wouldn’t recommend going in the summer, May or October would be nice. I’ll try and remember that next time!

Homemade Granola with Sunflower Seeds

1 Jul

As promised, I have finally got around to posting more photos and a recipe inspired by our recent trip to Vejer de la Frontera.

My lasting memory of Vejer will be the fields and fields of sunflowers that you can see wherever you go. I made “The Washer Up” stop the car on numerous occasions so that I could jump out like a mad woman and take some photos.

Their unpretentious lanky beauty and smiley faces spread a joy that is so infectious you just have to get amongst them. I wanted to share that with you.

My other lasting memory will be of the gorgeous breakfasts we ate every morning at the hotel we stayed in, Casa La Siesta. It started off with granola with yoghurt and fruit….

Followed by homemade bread with tomato and avocado…..

Maybe just a little piece of  banana bread….

And then a lie down to recover, it’s so difficult to say no when it’s all there in front of you!

I knew my first Vejer inspired recipe when I came home would have to be something with sunflower seeds. Just so I could post all my sunflower pictures. Either the sunflower seed bread crackers(above) we had at Castilleria (one of our two favourite restaurants in Vejer) or making my own granola. The granola won, I had to get back to being gluten-free after overdosing on holiday and also because it uses sunflower oil as well as the seeds.

If you have never made your own granola before (like me), you will be surprised at how easy it is and how much better it tastes than the store-bought stuff. It is also much better for you, no refined sugar just honey and maple syrup (or miel de cana) for sweetness. Adapt it to suit your taste by using whatever nuts, seeds and dried fruit you like.

Homemade Granola with Sunflowers Seeds Recipe

Makes a lot, gluten-free, vegetarian. Adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

  • 60 gr hazelnuts
  • 40 gr brazil nuts
  • 40 gr walnuts
  • 300 gr rolled oats
  • 60 gr flaked almonds
  • 60 gr sunflower seeds (unsalted)
  • 100 gr dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 60 gr dried cranberries
  • 60 gr moscatel raisins

For the Syrup

  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 120 ml maple syrup or miel de cana
  • 120 ml honey

Preheat the oven to 140 C. Roughly chop the nuts and put in a large bowl with the seeds and oats. Mix well.

Mix the syrup ingredients together in a small pan and stir over a low heat until warmed through. Pour this over the seeds, nuts and oats and stir well with a wooden spoon until evenly coated.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the granola over it evenly. It should be in a layer no more than 1cm thick. Use two baking sheets if necessary.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning and mixing the granola 2 or 3 times. It should be a dark honey colour when it’s ready. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly. Don’t worry if it’s soft it will be crunchy when it cools.

Stir the dried fruit through the granola while it is still warm (not hot). Leave to cool completely on the tray and then transfer to an airtight container. Try not to eat it all off of the tray. It should keep for up to 2 weeks.

I kept some of the granola back without mixing it with the fruit because I want to use it as a crumble topping for a Fig & Almond Granola Crumble. I will be posting the recipe soon. In the meantime enjoy your granola mixed with yoghurt or sprinkled on top of some fresh fruit for breakfast.

Imagine that you are back in your favourite hotel….

Hasta Luego….

We’ve Been Away…..

12 Jun

Eating, drinking and sleeping……

In Vejer de la Frontera….

We stayed here….

Ate breakfast here…

Went to the beach…

Had sundowners here…

And after dinner drinks at the hotel here…

I will be posting  more photos and recipes inspired by our trip to Vejer in the coming weeks…..Hasta luego xx

Flowers on Friday and My First Guest Post

20 May

I don’t have the time to post a recipe today as I have my cousin Michelle staying with me and we have been busy sunbathing and hiking to a waterfall!  I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some photos of flowers that I’ve taken this week. Who knows it might become a regular spot. So here is the first Flowers on Friday selection…

And the waterfall…..

Today is my first ever guest post over at Veggie Grettie. Gretchen has an extremely informative blog full of interesting articles and recipes about nutrtition and a vegetarian/vegan diet. This is what she says..

“I believe food is the ultimate  medicine.  I am a Certified Nutrition Specialist with Certification in Plant Based Nutrition through Cornell University.  All of my research has led me to the  conclusion that a plant based diet is optimal.

At a young age I experienced health problems.  Despite numerous doctor appointments and numerous tests, no one had any answers as to why I was so ill.  Unfortunately I also experienced health issues in high school and college which at times were debilitating.  Toward the end of college after having been to many specialists and receiving many wrong diagnosis’ (along with suggestions that my health problems were psychosematic) my parents convinced me to try one last specialist,  Dr. Arnold Kresch of Stanford University.  Dr. Kresch finally had a diagnoses for me; endometriosis.  After performing surgery to remove my lesions, Dr. Kresch encouraged me to research nutrition and how it could be a powerful force in my quest for health.

For the past 15 years I have been able to manage my endometriosis through diet and exercise.  I have personally experienced the healing powers of nutrition have been able to nurse myself back to even better health than before through a plant based diet.  I am passionate about sharing my nutrition knowledge with others and can be found doing so through Veggie Grettie, as a Columnist for Chic Vegan, a freelance writer, and a Brand Ambassador for NEXT by Athena.” 

If you have a chance please check out her blog Veggie Grettie and have good look around. I would like to say a big thank you to Gretchen for featuring my recipe for Ezogelin Corbasi (A Turkish Red Lentil Soup) and am really happy that all the family enjoyed it so much!!

Green Vegetable Minestrone with Toasted Pine Nuts

4 May

May Day here is known as Dia de la Cruz “Day of the Cross”. It is also Dia de los Verdes “Day of the Greens”. In Alhaurin there are two main churches known as The Greens & The Purples (the colours of the Andalucian flag). For the whole long weekend and Tuesday the Green Church known asVera Cruz have processions, marching bands and let off rockets very early in the morning and very late at night.

Thankfully it stopped raining long enough to get out and take some photos this week.

I can’t pretend to know what it’s all about but they seem to enjoy it and it brings the community (well one half of it anyway) together. Rows of different types of chairs are tied together all along the procession route so no one can steal a precious front row seat.

After the processions everyone congregates at the church.

Everyone is wearing green. Purple is a definite faux-pas. Unless you are our friend Miguel, who was over from England with his girlfriend Lindsey for the Bank Holiday. He decide to rock it in lilac jeans, despite all the funny looks, classic Miguel, hilarious….!!

So in keeping with this green weekend and to atone slightly for the purple jeans incident I have made a Green Vegetable Minestrone. This is my favourite soup that we served at the restaurant. I got it from a Cape Town cookbook my Dad gave to me. It is really fresh tasting and more Springy than a classic Minestrone. You can use whatever green veg you like just make sure you give it loads of fresh basil…

I kept it vegan & gluten-free by using rice vermicelli. You can use any pasta you like but keep it tiny. Freshly shaved parmesan on top is the authentic addition that I replaced with toasted pine nuts. Either way it’s a deliciously healthy bowl of goodness that leaves you feeling all virtuous inside…

Green Vegetable Minestrone with Toasted Pine Nuts

serves 6 , vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Cape Town Food by Phillippa Cheifitz

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 big Spanish spring onion (or 4 or 5 scallions)
  • 1 leek, halved lengthways, rinsed & finely sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 small cabbage, cored & finely shredded
  • 125 gr green beans, 2 cm diagonal slices
  • 1 courgette, diced
  •  bundle of asparagus, woody ends snapped off, 2cm diagonal slices
  • 100 gr frozen peas
  • 50 gr rice vermicelli (or other tiny pasta) 
  • 150 gr rocket (or spinach/watercress)
  • 1+ 1/2 litres veg stock
  • salt & black pepper
  • a big bunch of basil, leaves torn or sliced when served
  • 25 gr pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • shaved parmesan (unless vegan)

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over a medium heat, add in the spring onions, leeks & celery with a pinch of salt and cook until starting to soften about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic & parsley and cook for another minute or two.

Add in the cabbage and cook gently for about 10 minutes (you don’t want it to brown) add a splash of stock if dry. Then add in the rest of the vegetables, except the rocket and basil, and cook for another 5 minutes. Season well with salt & black pepper, pour over the stock, bring to the boil, cover, lower the heat & simmer for about 25 minutes.

Stir in the pasta and rocket and cook until tender about 5 minutes. Check seasoning and add more stock if you want it more soupy than stewy.

Ladle into warm bowls and sprinkle over lots of freshly torn basil, the toasted pine nuts and shaved parmesan (if using). Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin.

I think Los Verdes would approve don’t you?

Honey, Apple, Date and Walnut Olive Oil Cake

1 Apr

There are so many bees around at the moment busy collecting pollen. They reminded me of a visit I made to a local honey producer about a month ago that I haven’t blogged about yet. I have been waiting for the perfect honey recipe to come along which is deserving enough to feature the delicious honey that I bought, and this is definitely THE one. More about that later, first the visit then the recipe…

You had to drive through a river to get there but I doubt all that water is still there now with all the hot weather we have been having. It looks worse than it is….

Miel is “honey” in Spanish and Fuente del Sol means “Fountain (or Source) of Sun”.

There is a slightly unattractive warehouse and a very well hidden little shop with a small sign outside….

Inside the shop they sell lots of different types of honey. There’s orange blossom, rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus and wild flower honey and they sell it in the squeezy non-drip bottles as well as glass jars. They also sell pollen and royal jelly products as well as a range of  natural soaps and cosmetics made using aloe vera and olive oil. 

I bought some thyme honey which is really lovely. I have been having it on toast for breakfast with my local goat’s ricotta (requeson) it’s so good. If you’ve never tried ricotta and honey on toast you should, and so much better when they are both local. You could even make your own ricotta, it is really easy unless you’re my dad, but that’s another story…..He had a bit of a drama making my spinach & ricotta gnocchi!

I’ve been trying recently to use olive oil instead of butter whenever possible in my cooking. The delicious extra virgin olive oil in the picture above we helped to harvest back in November and I’ve used it to make some banana & coconut muffins that tasted great.  We store it in empty wine bottles because plastic bottles are not good – for your health or the health of the oil.  I’ve seen quite a few Italian recipes for olive oil cakes and wanted to give it a try. I was thinking local olive oil and local honey it’s got to be good. I wasn’t wrong….

Honey, Apple, Date & Walnut Olive Oil Cake

makes 16 squares, vegetarian

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 130 gr brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 165 ml good olive oil
  • 260 gr runny honey (coat the measure with a little olive oil so the honey slips out easily)
  • 375 gr wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 – 2 apples, peeled,cored and roughly diced. I used 1 1/2 large fuji apples you need something crisp.
  • 100 gr walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 100 gr dates, stoned and roughly chopped, plus a few extra for garnish
  • a small tub of mascarpone/creme fraiche
  • extra honey

Preheat the oven to 180 C and line a 9×13 inch cake/roasting tin with baking paper, base & sides. Beat the eggs, brown sugar & vanilla (if using)in a large bowl with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes until light & fluffy. Slowly add in the honey and oil bit by bit, beating until well blended.

Into another bowl sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt then tip in the whole-wheat bits left in the sieve as well. Stir to combine. Add the flour mixture, apples, walnuts and dates to the wet ingredients and fold together gently until just blended (Don’t overmix you will get a tough cake).

Pour the mixture in to the lined baking tin and spread out evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until the top is firm and golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin.

Cut into 16 squares and serve with coffee and a pot of mascarpone drizzled with more honey and some more dates or walnuts for the top.

Spoon some of the honey mascarpone on top of your piece of cake and top with a date half. It was all looking quite healthy up until then wasn’t it. Oh well it’s only a suggestion…..

This cake is so moist and delicious with the apples, honey and olive oil, you need to make it and then invite people round for an afternoon tea or coffee. Otherwise you might just have to eat it all. It keeps really well too, if it should last that long…..Enjoy!

Spring Lettuce, Pea and Mint Soup

31 Mar

I see these beautiful lettuces every day and take photos of them because I love the neat and tidy rows and the way they kind of look like big green roses. Sort of…

I wanted a recipe using lettuces for something other than a salad to test their versatility. I’ve heard of lettuce soup but never tried it so I had no idea how it would taste. It seems an odd thing, to cook a lettuce but together with the peas and fresh mint it makes a really fresh springy soup perfect for this time of year when the weather really can’t make up it’s mind.

It has the lightness of a salad but with the warmth of a soup.  The spring fresh flavours are a taster of what’s just around the corner if you are suffering with the weather where you are. This soup really brightens your day, and it’s healthy too.

Cos (or Romaine) lettuce contains more beta carotene and iron than most other lettuces and peas are rich in fibre, iron & vitamin C. Add to that the fact that mint is an excellent aid to digestion and you have the perfect meal in a bowl.

 And it tastes great too…

Lettuce, Pea & Mint Soup

serves 4 – 6, vegetarian or vegan, without yoghurt swirl

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or butter)
  • 1 leek, sliced in half lengthways, rinsed & sliced finely
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small Cos/Romaine lettuce, cored & shredded
  • 45o gr frozen peas
  • 750 ml + veg stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 3 or 4 sprigs fresh mint leaves, chopped. Keep the stalks.
  • a small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • creme fraiche or greek yoghurt for swirling (optional)
  • mint tops for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Sweat leeks & shallot for 3 or 4 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add in the peas, lettuce, mint stalks (tied together in a knot so they are easier to fish out later), 750 ml veg stock, salt, pepper & sugar.

Bring to a boil and then simmer, uncovered for 6 -8 minutes or until the peas are tender. Take out the mint stalks, add in the parsley and mint leaves and remove from the heat.

Blend carefully with a stick blender for 2 or 3 minutes until very smooth. Add more veg stock to get required consistency if necessary, check the seasoning and reheat to serve. Serve in warmed bowls garnished with a swirl of creme fraiche and the mint tops.

If Spring is not happening where you are then bring it yourself with this bowl of soup. I’ll leave you with some more images of the beautiful Spring in Andalucia that I have taken this week while walking the dog….

Disfruta de la Naturaleza!!

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