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White Grape, Manchego and Fennel Seed Tartlets

16 Jul

Grapes are just coming into season here now. Where we walk with the dog there are vines, heavy with juicy bunches growing along the fences at the side of the paths. Every day they ripen a little more with the intense heat of the sun.

I’ve never cooked with grapes before. At the restaurant we had an Andalucian salad with Manchego cheese, grapes, Serrano ham and a Jerez (sherry) vinegar dressing that sold very well in the summer.

This got me thinking about the grape and Manchego combination. The Washer Up used to make a Manchego & Red Onion Tartlet that was delicious. He cut the puff pastry into triangles a little bigger than the triangle of cheese and made a red onion marmalade to go on the top. It was a very popular starter.

My version just swaps the red onion marmalade for a grape compote. I used elderflower cordial in the compote because it is the very essence of summer but you can use grape juice if you can’t get any. I bought mine in Ikea.

The fennel seeds idea came from a recipe for Grape & Fennel Seed Focaccia in the Ottolenghi Cookbook. I am slightly Ottolenghi obsessed at the moment. The fennel seeds add an interesting flavour and texture, and the Spanish do love their anis so it finished off the dish nicely.

If you strain the compote before it cools you will also have a grape and elderflower syrup to drizzle over the finished dish, but it’s not essential.

Remember to put the frozen puff pastry in the fridge to defrost the night before you need it.

White Grape, Manchego & Fennel Seed Tartlets Recipe

makes about 6 or 7 tartlets, vegetarian

For the Grape, Elderflower & Fennel Seed Compote

  • about 400 gr seedless white grapes, stemmed & halved
  • 50 gr caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp elderflower cordial
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar & pestle

Stir the grapes and sugar in a large saucepan so all the grapes are coated and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the elderflower cordial and half of the crushed fennel seeds. (Keep the rest for sprinkling on the tarts later).

Bring to a boil over a medium high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the syrup thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 20 -25 minutes. Pour the compote into a sieve over a bowl to collect the syrup and let the grapes drain well.

Store the grapes and syrup, covered, separately in the fridge until needed.

For the Tartlets

  • 1 block frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
  • 6 or 7  5mm thick triangular slices of Manchego cheese, rind removed
  • grape compote (see above)
  • the rest of the crushed fennel seeds (see above)

Dust your work surface & rolling-pin with flour and roll out the block of pastry, with the narrowest end facing you, into a long thin rectangle about 2 or 3 mm thick.

See photo above. Place one of the slices of Manchego onto the beginning (nearest you) of the pastry rectangle so it is pointing like an arrow to the right. Cut around the cheese leaving a 5 mm border all the way around. Turn the cheese arrow round so it is pointing to the left above the first triangle and do the same. Continue alternating like this until you have run out of pastry. You should get 6 or 7 triangles.

Score a 5 mm border with sharp knife on each pastry triangle but don’t cut all the way through. Trim the short side of the triangle to make it neat.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 220 C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper and place your pastry triangles on it, spaced apart. Put 1 small teaspoon of grape compote in the middle of each of the triangles and spread it out slightly. Don’t go into the 5mm border.

Brush the pastry borders with egg wash and sprinkle a few of the crushed fennel seeds on the borders too (save some for garnishing the finished tart). Cook for about 12 minutes until browned and risen. Keep an eye on them though.

You can keep them like this until you are ready to serve. Then preheat the oven again if necessary, top each with a slice of Manchego and bake for another 2 minutes, just until the cheese melts.

Top with another teaspoon or so of the compote and sprinkle with a little of the crushed fennel seeds. Serve on a flat plate with a simple green salad and drizzle over the grape and elderflower syrup. If your syrup has set in the fridge just heat it up with a bit more elderflower cordial.

These make a great light lunch or starter but you could also quite easily serve them as a dessert/cheese course. They’ve got that sweet cheesey danish pastry feel that would work for afternoon tea too.

They taste just as good at room temperature and would be perfect for a summer picnic with some sparkling elderflower cordial or a nice bottle of chilled cava.

Buen Provecho!!

Things that made me smile today….

Our new friend the Shetland pony. He likes us because we take him carrots.

The Washer Up calls him “Donkey” (from Shrek), I think it might be the teeth!!

Buen Fin de Semana!

Mixed Vegetable Paella and Stuffed Peppers

6 May

 

This is one of my favourite recipes. It was one of the first recipes I posted on this blog when I started it last September. I have decided to reblog it for those of you who haven’t seen it because it is really versatile and delicious. I make it at least once a week. It is a great way to use up any leftover odd bits of veg you have lying around.

I use whole grain (brown) rice which takes bit longer to cook but you can use any short grain or risotto rice. For me the essential ingredients are saffron, peppers, tomatoes, peas, rosemary, paprika, parsley and lemon juice. Any veg you want to use is fine just make sure you have red and green in there to stand out against the beautiful saffron gold.

The best thing about making paella is the leftovers. I always make sure I make too much so I have some left for lunch the next day. You can always just reheat it but using it to stuff a pepper is such a quick and easy way to make it a bit more special. Go on spoil yourself. Just slice the pepper in half if it is large (as below) or slice the top off a smaller pepper, take out the seeds and membrane and pile in the paella. Drizzle with some extra virgin and bake for about 25 minutes. You can even grate over some Manchego cheese before it goes in the oven for extra flavour.

Just serve with a simple salad dressed with lemon juice & olive oil and a wedge of lemon to spritz over the paella pepper.

Another way to use up the leftovers is to make paella cakes. You just form the cold paella into little patties and shallow fry or bake them until crispy. The crispy bits are the best. You can see my full instructions for the paella cakes here. Or try stuffing tomatoes with the paella rather than peppers.

Mixed Vegetable Paella Recipe

serves 2 with leftovers, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, halved lengthways, rinsed & sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 small green peppers (the long thin ones) sliced
  • 1/2 big red pepper, chopped
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • a handful of frozen peas
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 1 squirt of tomato paste (tomate frito)
  • 4 handfuls of short wholegrain rice(you can use risotto rice)
  • 1 big pinch of saffron (or an envelope of powdered saffron)
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  •  a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 stalk of rosemary leaves removed & chopped finely, about 1 tsp
  • salt & black pepper
  • a good splash of Spanish sherry(or madeira or wine)
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • some grated Manchego cheese (optional)
  • 1 lemon, half squeezed, half cut into wedges

Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion & leek  with a pinch of salt until translucent (about 3 – 4 minutes)  then add the garlic and cook for another 2 mins.

Add in all the vegetables, stir and cook for 2 or 3 mins. Add in the rice, stir to coat in the oil, then add the herbs (except the parsley) and spices, stir again until well combined. Add in the splash of sherry/wine and the tomato paste, stir to incorporate.

Add the veg stock, season well with salt & black pepper, and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to medium low, put the lid on and cook for 20 – 25 mins (stirring occasionally) until all the liquid has gone and the rice is cooked. Don’t worry if it sticks to the bottom of the pan the crispy bits taste good. Squeeze over the juice of half the lemon and stir in most of the chopped parsley. Taste for seasoning.

Serve sprinkled with grated Manchego cheese (if using), some more chopped parsley and wedges of lemon.

Paella Stuffed Peppers Recipe

serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • leftover paella (see above)
  • 1 large red pepper (or 2 small)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • manchego cheese (optional)
  • mixed salad leaves
  • cherry tomatoes
  • lemon juice
  • salt & black pepper
  • lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Cut your large red pepper in half, or cut the top off of two small red peppers. Remove all seeds and membrane. Stuff the paella in to the peppers and press down. Place on a lined baking sheet. You may have to cut a little bit off the bottom of the small peppers to make them stand up straight. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in the preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes until the peppers are softened and starting to collapse.

Serve with a simple salad of mixed leaves and cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice, salt & black pepper.

Buen Provecho! I hope you enjoy this easy weeknight supper as much as we do. You get two meals for the price of one which is always a bonus!!

Orange Blossom and Almond Soft Oat Cookies

16 Apr

 It’s all about the orange blossom here at the moment. As soon as you walk out of the front door the smell hits you. An exotic floral fragrance that is just synonymous with spring in Andalucia.

These pretty little innocent white flowers give of such a powerful scent. We went for lunch last Sunday at Santiago’s restaurant. To be sat in the beautiful garden surrounded by orange trees and the delicious perfume of the blossom is a real treat. In fact every time the wind blew we were treated to a gentle rain of orange blossom petals. “Una lluvia de flor de azahar” to quote Mery the waitress….

I have to admit that I did have a few spoonfuls of a dessert on Sunday, I couldn’t resist. It was a frozen mango margarita cheesecake I think. Whatever it was, it was delicious. I am doing really well with the detox but I do crave something sweet occasionally. I’ve been wanting to make an oaty biscuit/cookie without flour, butter or added sugar. It’s quite a challenge but I think I’ve cracked it with these. The sweetness comes from some Orange Blossom honey that I bought from a local producer. I used ground almonds instead of flour because I love the flavour and moistness it gives to the biscuit and also because we are surrounded by almond trees.


Orange blossom & almond is a classic combination used in a lot of Middle Eastern desserts and pastries. The orange blossom water I used to flavour the biscuits has an unusual, exotic floral taste that is unlike anything else. It perfectly compliments the almonds, dried apricots and dates that I added to follow on with Moorish theme. Pistachios & rosewater would be lovely too if you can’t get orange blossom water.

The other new ingredient I used instead of butter or milk was Crema de Almendras (Almond cream). I’m not sure if it is called almond cream in English or whether it is almond paste/butter. As you can see from the image below it is a thick creamy almond paste. I bought the diabetic version which is sugar-free but is made with fructose so it is sweet.

The result is a soft, chewy almondy biscuit with a background of orange blossom. Delicious, and great for a healthy snack when you need something sweet.

Orange Blossom & Almond Soft Oat Cookies

makes about 20, vegan, gluten-free

  • 150 gr (2 cups) rolled oats
  • the juice of half an orange
  • 3 tsp orange flower water
  • 120 gr (1/3 cup) orange blossom (or whatever) honey (oil the measure first so that the honey slips out easily)
  • 25 gr (1/3 cup) flaked almonds
  • 175 gr (2/3 cup)crema de almendras (sugar-free almond paste)
  • a few drops of almond extract
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda (or baking soda)
  • 8 dates, stoned and chopped
  • 8 dried apricots, chopped
  • 25 gr (1/4 cup)ground almonds
  • a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Soak the oats in the orange juice and orange blossom water while you prepare the other ingredients. Mix everything together in a large bowl until well combined.

Line a baking sheet (or 2) with baking paper and drop heaped teaspoons of the mixture on the tray(s). You will need two trays or to do it twice. You should have 9 – 12 on each tray. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack if you can wait that long….

Serve under an orange tree or next to some flowers with a pot of mint tea for the full Moorish taste explosion……

Moment of Gratitude or “Things that made me smile today…”

Our Hydrangeas, aren’t they gorgeous…

Our Aloe Vera plants flowering and the shadows on the wall…

Stunning!!

Mediterroccan Tapas Mezze

6 Apr

This is a bit of a mish mash of different mezze & tapas dishes that I wanted to try. I bought a tin of whole roasted peppers after seeing Jamie Oliver stuff them with ground almonds, Manchego cheese and breadcrumbs for one of his 30 Minute Meals. This is a tin of Pimientos del Piquillo.

This is taken from Iberia Nature “Pimientos del piquillo (piquillo peppers) come from Navarra. These small red peppers are charred over wood charcoal or old vines, then peeled by hand, marinated in olive oil with herbs, and eventually eaten either alone, in a salad or stuffed. The flavour of canned or jarred piquillo peppers is so extraordinary Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Ferran Adrià and many other famous chefs use them. Indeed 99% of Spain’s cooks (amateurs or pros) use canned or jarred piquillos. In general, I’d never recommend a canned product over a fresh one, but in this instance I will.  In the case of piquillos, the essential flavour may actually be enhanced by the preservation, and the texture is definitely improved”.

Here in Andalucia one of the most popular ingredients used for stuffing the peppers is Bacalao, (salt cod) mixed with a kind of bechamel sauce. I have been caught out before in tapas bars when we first came here thinking the stuffing was mashed potato because that is what it looks like. Also when you ask most Spanish people if something is vegetarian they say yes even if it contains fish. I have always wanted to make a my own version of this dish as it looks so appealing.  I used some leftover mashed potato mixed with Jamie’s ground almonds, Manchego cheese, breadcrumbs and sherry (Jerez) vinegar to create the stuffing and used a piping bag to fill them. Much easier than trying to do it with a spoon.

Another recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a while is Foul Mdammas. A Middle Eastern dish made with fava beans/broad beans, tomatoes, lemon juice herbs & spices it is a fresh & seasonal salad. The recipe came from the beautiful Orange Blossom Water . I used frozen broad beans for this recipe which I peeled after cooking but you don’t have to. I just prefer the bright green colour and don’t really like the texture of the outer skins. I topped my Foul with some crumbled Feta because I couldn’t resist.

I haven’t made Hummus for a long time which is strange because it used to be my favourite thing. I think I may have OD’d on it slightly. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say it was all that I ate for a long time when we had the restaurant. I didn’t have time to eat properly so I would just grab some crackers and hummus. I, not surprisingly, got sick of it and never wanted to see it again. I think I am now ready to rediscover it’s charms as a delicious, nutritious snack high in protein, fibre and iron.

Of course you need some sort of bread on a mezze / tapas plate. Something to use as a vehicle for all the delicious goodies. A scoop or shovel, if you like, to carry the food to your mouth. I bought some Atta the other day which is a soft wholemeal flour used for making chapattis. This was the perfect excuse to debut the new purchase.

I followed the recipe on the back of the flour packet and added in the flavours from my Leek & Fennel Seed Flatbreads to spice them up a bit. So there you have it, my justification for the fabulous  fusion of flavours on one plate. I’ve said it before, the southern coast of Spain is only eight miles from Morocco at the narrowest point across the Atlantic. Well that’s my excuse anyway….

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers Recipe

serves 2 or 3 as a tapa, vegetarian, adapted from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals

  • 1 jar/tin pimientos del piquillo or whole roasted peppers there are 8 in a 450 gr tin
  • some cold mashed potato (about 2 potatoes worth)
  • about 50 gr Manchego cheese, grated
  • 50 gr ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary plus extra for topping
  • 1/2 tsp sherry (Jerez) vinegar (or balsamic)
  • salt & black pepper
  • wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Put the cold mash, manchego, almonds, chopped rosemary, Jerez vinegar, salt & pepper into a processor or bowl and blend until incorporated. Taste for seasoning.

 Put the mixture into a piping bag (or freezer bag with a corner cut off) and pipe the mixture into the peppers until full. Put in an ovenproof roasting dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, some chopped rosemary and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

Foul Mdammas Recipe

serves 2 or 3 as part of a mezze, vegetarian. Adapted from Orange Blossom Water

  • 200 gr frozen broad beans
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
  • the juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp preserved lemon peel, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • parsley leaves and Feta (optional) for garnish

Cook the beans according to the instructions on the pack, drain under cold water and peel when cool enough to handle. You don’t have to peel them but I think it tastes much fresher. Add the rest of the ingredients apart from the garnish and mix well. Check seasoning and serve garnished with extra parsley leaves & some crumbled Feta if you like.

My Hummus Recipe

makes about 5oo gr, vegan

  • 1 tin/ jar cooked chickpeas, drained, rinsed & dried
  • 2 or 3 tbsp tahini paste
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1  or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon peel (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp yemeni lemon pickle (optional)
  • salt & black pepper
  • sesame seeds
  • chilli oil

Put everything (except sesame seeds & chilli oil) in a food processor or bowl and blend until smooth.  Taste and add more salt/lemon juice/tahini/olive oil if required. Hummus is such a personal thing you need to tailor it to your taste. Blend again and store in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to serve, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and a little chilli oil (or olive oil).

Leek & Fennel Seed Wholemeal Chapattis Recipe

makes 4, vegetarian

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 leeks, cut in half lengthways, rinsed and finely sliced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • 300 gr wholemeal chapatti Atta (or wholemeal bread flour)
  • cold water

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat. Add the fennel seeds and when they start to pop add in the leeks, chilli flakes a pinch of salt and black pepper. Saute for about 3 minutes until the leeks are cooked and slightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Put the flour into a large bowl with 1/2 tsp salt and mix. When cooled stir the leeks through the flour to distribute evenly. Add cold water bit by bit until you have a stiff dough and it stays together in a ball. Knead the dough for 3 or 4 minutes, wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Divide the dough into four balls and roll each ball out on a floured surface to about 2 or 3 mm thick. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and cook the chapattis turning frequently until golden brown. Rub with a little oil or ghee and keep warm under a clean tea towel (or warm oven) while you cook the rest. Serve immediately.

Buen Provecho! 

    

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

8 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serves 4 vegetarian. Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Goat’s Cheese and Pear Salad with toasted almonds and rosemary honey dressing

31 Jan

 

Today while walking the dog I walked past lettuces, Romaine, Lollo Rosso and Cos …

Almond trees with their beautiful barely pink blossom….

A bee on wild rosemary flowers…..

Some unexpected pears amongst the ever present mandarins……..

And some goats which reminded of my visit to the local Goat’s Cheese producer “El Pastor del Valle”….

 This just shows how my mind works and proves that I am thinking about food all the time. While I am walking the inspiration and ideas come from all around me and somehow work themselves out into a finished dish….

This salad can be served for lunch or as a starter. It would also work as a dessert/cheese course after a meal or with drinks. Just arrange the pears, cheese, almonds and honey on a board with some biscuits and let everyone help themselves. The flavour combination of sour sharp goat’s cheese, sweet honey, juicy pears and crunchy almonds is a lovely alternative to the Stilton, Pear & Walnut classic….

Goat’s Cheese & Pear Salad with Toasted Almonds and Rosemary Honey Dressing

serves 2 vegetarian

  • 2 pears, peeled, cored, sliced
  • about 150gr goat’s cheese (I used a hard goat’ cheese but you can use a soft rind) sliced
  • a handful of toasted almonds, plus extra for garnish
  • some mixed lettuce leaves (a big handful each)
  •  about 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  •  1 tbsp sherry (Jerez) vinegar (or balsamic)
  • 2 tbsp rosemary honey (just use normal honey and add about 1/4 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary if you don’t have any)
  • salt & pepper
  • rosemary flowers to garnish (if you can find some) but not too many they are very strong

Wash & pick your salad leaves and put them in a large bowl with the sliced pears, cheese and toasted almonds. Pour the olive oil, vinegar and rosemary honey into a small bowl and whisk together well. Season with salt & pepper and taste, you can add more oil/vinegar/honey to your taste. Pour the dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and toss together with your hands. Pile onto your serving plate(s), add a few rosemary flowers onto the cheese & pears and top with some more toasted almonds…

 It really is that simple, enjoy!!

    

“Goatherd’s” Pie – A lentil bake topped with local goat’s cheese mash

21 Jan

This is my vegetarian version of Shepherd’s Pie. For those of you who don’t know, Shepherd’s Pie is a British dish made with minced lamb (hence the shepherd) and vegetables topped with mashed potato and baked in the oven. It is classic, British, cold weather comfort food.  I have replaced the minced lamb with lentils and put some goat’s cheese through the mash. The idea came from seeing these goats and sheep grazing together while I was walking the dog…..

They like to eat trees….

I remembered that there is a local goat’s & sheep’s cheese producer in Alhaurin, where we live, that I have been meaning to check out for a while.

“The Shepherd of the Valley Cheeses”

I was greeted by this dog as I got out of the car. If by greeting  you mean, barking constantly, following me and trying to bite me as I left. But don’t let that put you off. They have great selection of goat’s and sheep’s cheeses, just ring on the bell…

I bought this hard goat’s cheese (it looks like Manchego) which is delicious. Every goat’s cheese I’ve bought before has been the soft rind kind that is sold in supermarkets. This is quite different and a nice change. It is quite crumbly and the flavour is sharper than a sheep’s or cow’s milk Manchego.

They also have a goat’s Requeson which is a type of ricotta that I am looking forward to trying next time I go. I will try to take some more pictures then and I would like to have a proper tour of the factory when I’m not being chased by a big dog……

“Goatherd’s” Pie Recipe

serves 4-5, vegetarian

  • 5 medium potatoes, peeled & quartered
  • about 75ml goat’s milk
  • 75-100 gr goat’s cheese, grated or crumbled plus extra for topping
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 big, red (or not) onion chopped
  • 3 celery stalks & leaves, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 a large sweet potato (or 2 carrots) diced
  • 5 or 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • a handful of frozen peas
  • about 175 gr (1 cup) uncooked brown lentils
  • 400 ml (2 cups) veg stock
  • 200 ml (1 cup) water
  • 2 or 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 tsp fresh/dried thyme leaves chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 4 tbsp or more of tomato passata (tomate frito)
  • 1 tsp english mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • breadcrumbs (I used toasted garlic breadcrumbs)
  • grated/crumbled goat’s cheese
  • olive oil

Put the potatoes in cold salted water, bring up to the boil, reduce the heat slightly and cook for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are very tender. Drain the potatoes and put them in a large bowl. Heat up the goat’s milk and pour it onto the potatoes. Mash with a potato masher until smooth, stir in the goats cheese and season well with salt, pepper and the nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasoning/add more cheese. Set aside.

Rinse the lentils in a sieve and pick out any stones. Put them in a small pan with the veg stock and water, bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 – 30 minutes until the lentils are cooked but still holding their shape.

Meanwhile heat some olive oil in a deep pan, over a medium heat and throw in the onions, celery, sweet potato/ carrots and season well with salt & black pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions and sweet potato have softened then add the garlic, herbs & spices. Stir everything together until well combined. If it dries out at any stage add a splash of wine or veg stock.  Preheat the oven to 200C. Add the mushroom, peas, tomato passata/frito, Worcestershire sauce & mustard to the vegetables.  Lower the heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring, adding more tomato passata if it’s looking dry. When the lentils are cooked tip them into the veg saucepan, combine everything well, check for seasoning and pour into a baking dish.

Top with the mashed potato, spread it out evenly, sprinkle/crumble over the goat’s cheese, then the breadcrumbs and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 – 35 minutes until the top is browned and the filling is bubbling around the edge..

Serve with a green salad for lunch or for something more substantial steam some broccoli and serve it with some veggie gravy on the side…

Maybe I should take some for that dog next time….

Buen Provecho!

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…

Andalucian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (and a tricolor salad)

8 Dec

We have picked up our bottles of the olive oil we helped to harvest here a few weeks ago and it is amazing. The flavour is so far superior to that of anything I have ever bought, I want to put it on everything. Its viscous, cloudy, golden greenness is a joy to behold. I think  that this olive oil and the bouganvilla flower should become the emblems of Andalucia, they represent the beauty and flavour of the region perfectly..

And I’m going to put it on an Italian salad! Oh well, these are the ingredients I have in my possesion: avocadoes (loads of them -windfalls!), juicy Spanish tomatoes (full of flavour right now), mozzarella cheese & our homegrown basil. What would you do?!

Andalucian Tricolor Salad

serves 2 vegetarian

  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 large spanish tomato, sliced
  • 1 ball mozzarella, sliced
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil (Andalucian preferably!)
  • Jerez- sherry vinegar (or balsamic)
  • salt & black pepper

Alternate the slices of tomato & mozzarella around the plate and top with the avocado slices in the centre. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt & sherry vinegar and tear over some fresh basil leaves. Drizzle the olive oil generously over the salad and crack over some black pepper..

Serve with some rustic toasted bread drizzled with more healthy, fabulous olive oil… Enjoy!!

Mandarin Drizzle Cake

29 Nov

 

This is a very common site here in Andalucia at the moment. The iconic orange trees laden with ripe fruit are everywhere. We took a right where we normally go straight on, on our walk today and came across a gorgeous lush green valley where these mandarin trees were growing. We followed the steep path down to the river bed where the dog had a drink and we had a rest before the the long walk back uphill…

There was a different microclimate down near the river to what we are used to. A different smell of damp leaves and there was even some diamond-like dew on the leaves. I haven’t seen dew since I left England and was really amazed with the diamonds….

Even the flowers are mandarin coloured its like the whole valley is bathed in lush green with highlights of tangerine..

The mandarins are being given away or, even worse, rotting on the ground. We have a mountain of them in our fruit bowl and although they are sweet and delicious as they are I wanted to try a Nigella recipe I had seen for a clementine cake where you boil the whole fruit and then blitz it up with the rest of the ingredients. This recipe uses 4 or 5 clementines/mandarins and as we have many more I wanted to make a mandarin syrup to drizzle over it so it soaks into the cake to make it really moist….

This cake is made using ground almonds rather than flour which makes it even more moist and gluten free.

Mandarin Drizzle Cake

adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe

  • 4 or 5 mandarins/clementines (about 375gr total weight)
  • 6 eggs
  • 225gr sugar
  • 25o gr ground almonds
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder

For the syrup

  • 110gr caster sugar
  • 110 ml mandarin juice

Put the mandarins in a large saucepan and cover with cold water, bring to the boil and cook over a lowish heat for 2 hours. Keep an eye on them and add more water if necessary. (Don’t do what I did and leave the water to dry out while on the computer and burn the bottom of the pan & the mandarins!!)

Drain and leave to cool slightly then cut in half and remove the pips and any green stem bits on the outside. Put the halved mandarins(peel & everything) into a food processor and blitz. You can then add all the other cake ingredients to the food processor and blitz together. Preheat oven to 190 degrees.

Butter a 21 cm springform cake tin and put a circle of greaseproof paper on the bottom. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the preheated oven for an hour. Have a circle of foil ready to cover the top after about 40 minutes to stop it burning. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool for about 10 minutes on a rack.

Meanwhile make your syrup. Put the sugar & mandarin juice in a small saucepan over a low ish heat and cook until the sugar dissolves. Take a cocktail stick or wooden skewer and make lots of holes in the cake that go right to the bottom.

Spoon the syrup, carefully,all over the top of the cake letting it soak in until you have used all of the syrup. When the cake is cold you can remove it from the tin.

This is a deliciously moist cake with an intense mandarin flavour and aroma. Serve, as it is, with coffee or with some ice cream or creme fraiche as a dessert…

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