Tag Archives: Alhaurin

Piccolo Tesoro Goat’s Cheese, Fig and Rocket Spelt Pizza

29 Apr

This is my adaptation of a really excellent pizza we had at Piccolo Tesoro in Montagu. Montagu is a picturesque village  about 200 km outside Cape Town on Route 62. We stayed in a pretty little hotel called Four Oaks Guest House.

We had an excellent evening meal there and the breakfasts were lovely too. Piccolo was also the name of  the really cute chihuahua who stole the show at the hotel.

 After breakfast we had a walk around the village. We saw ibises nesting, weaver birds’ nests hanging over the river and some beautiful flowers.

Traditional architecture, churches and quaint cottages surrounded by white roses.

 We wandered around the Saturday morning market with people selling  homemade jams, chutneys, breads, cakes, pestos and freshly made take-away foods, but we couldn’t stay long.

We were booked on a river boat cruise at Viljoensdrift before lunch. We had a lovely bottle of the Viljoensdrift rose while drifting down the river enjoying the views. You can also order a picnic but we had lunch already booked at the beautiful Reuben’s in Robertson. You can see my full review of lunch here.

We were very full after our fabulous lunch so we had a lie down and went out quite late for a light dinner. Pizza seemed like the best option as we had gone gourmet for lunch. Arriving at Piccolo Tesoro it seemed like everyone else had the same idea. It was packed, they had actually run out of chairs. My dad had to sit on a stool for the first half hour until somebody left!!

 To be honest we were only expecting a quick pizza and a beer. Isn’t it sometimes the way, that when you are least expecting it a little gem (or piccolo tesoro) turns up out of the blue.

We did have to wait a while because they were so busy and we were the last table but we didn’t mind at all. We had enjoyed an enormous lunch remember and The Washer Up discovered his new favourite beer while we were waiting thanks to our friend Paul. Jack Black is the best South African beer now according to him.

The pizzas were excellent, some of the best I have ever had actually. The “Sophia” was my favourite, it was topped with Gorgonzola, green fig preserve and rocket. The bases were thin and crispy and not overloaded with toppings, which is exactly how I like them. Green fig preserve is used a lot in South Africa, we also had it at our picinic at Bramon Wine Estate with the baked camembert. It is made with unripe figs.

My version of this fantastic pizza is made with a spelt flour dough. I have just found a new supplier of spelt flour actually in Alhaurin (where we live). El Amasadero supplies all different types of flour including spelt, quinoa, oat, wholemeal and strong bread flour. He also supplies baking accessories and utensils, including pizza stones which I could definitely do with. He ships all over Spain and Europe or you can buy from him directly in his office/warehouse in Alhaurin just in front of the Policia Local.

He can also get Teff flour, which I am really excited about because I have been trying to get hold of  it for ages. It is used to make the Ethiopian flatbread Injera.  Injera is a flatbread made with yeast and the runny batter is poured into a hot pan and cooked a bit like a thick crepe. I have made it before with spelt flour and have been quite happy with the results. Now I can try it with the proper flour I will be posting an Ethiopian recipe soon.

Unfortunately figs aren’t in season here yet and we don’t have the green fig preserve so I used dried figs soaked in boiling water to soften them up a bit. Gorgonzola is also quite difficult to get hold of here so I used goat’s cheese instead, you could also use a blue cheese if you like.

Goat’s Cheese, Fig & Rocket Spelt Flour Pizza

Makes 2-3 pizzas, vegetarian, Dough recipe adapted from vegrecipesofindia

Prep time 25 mins (plus 1-2 hours resting) Cooking time 5 -10 mins

For the dough:   

  • 375g – 450 gr (2.5 to 3 cups)  spelt flour (or plain)
  • 220 ml (1 cup) warm water
  • 25gr fresh yeast, finely chopped or 1 sachet quick action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • olive oil for brushing
  • polenta/cornmeal for rolling

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • a pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tin (400 gr) chopped tomatoes     
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • a squeeze of honey
  • 1/2 tsp basil pesto
  •  1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:       

  • 100-150 gr goat’s cheese/gorgonzola/blue cheese
  • 10-12 dried figs halved (or 4-5 fresh figs, sliced) or some green fig preserve       
  • 3 handfuls of grated mozzarella or other cheese 
  •  fresh rocket leaves to garnish

Dough…

Whisk the honey into the warm water until it dissolves then add the yeast, whisk again and leave for 10-15 minutes to become frothy.

Add 150 gr (1 cup) flour, salt and olive oil to a large bowl, stir together then add the frothy yeast mixture. Stir again and add another 150 gr (cup) of flour until combined.  Add another 75 gr (1/2 cup) flour and combine. It should be quite a sticky dough.

Use some of the remaining flour to dust the board and knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic adding more of the flour as necessary if it sticks. Put the dough in a bowl and rub some olive oil over it. Cover and leave in a warm place for up to 2 hours or until doubled in size. 

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce….

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over a medium high heat and cook the onion, herbs and chilli flakes with a pinch of salt for about 4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Tip in the tinned tomatoes, add the tomato paste, honey and pesto. Season with salt & black pepper, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until reduced.  Taste and adjust seasoning. Leave to cool. You could puree it if you like but I left mine chunky.

To cook:

Preheat the oven to its highest setting, with the baking tray (or pizza stone) in there too. Make sure the oven is clean or you will have a smoking kitchen (just saying).

Punch the dough down and divide it into 2 or 3 equal balls. You can refrigerate it at this point if you like. Sprinkle some polenta (or flour) on your worksurface and start to roll or push out your dough to a kind of circle about 3-5 mm thick.

This stage is optional but this is what Piccolo Tesoro do to keep the dough crispy. They put it in the oven for one minute before they put the toppings on. That’s what I did and it worked, no soggy base.

Take it out after 1 minute and smear some of the tomato sauce on the pizza (not too much) then add your goat’s cheese slices (or chunks), your chopped/sliced figs and cover with a layer of grated cheese. Put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes (depending on heat of oven) but keep an eye on it and take it out when you are happy.

Scatter over some fresh rocket leaves and serve immediately, with a Jack Black if you can get one…

 Enjoy!!

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“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!

Keralan Soft Boiled Egg and Aubergine Curry

4 Dec

Kerala is one of those places I dream of visiting. An Ayurvedic retreat specialising in vegetarian food near the tea & cardamom plantations would be perfect. A place to rejuvenate mind, body and soul, somewhere like this…

Until that time comes I am happy to cook my own versions of Keralan dishes from home and use my walking as a means of rejuvenation. Today we walked to the top of a hill  I had been intrigued by for a while. It has some trees and what looks like a retreat or chapel at the top and I wanted to walk up there..

We had to walk up hill through the pine forest to get to the fire break, which is what looks like the path from down below.

When we got out of the forest about half way up we could see Alhaurin(the town where we live) and the snow on the mountains in the distance.Nearer the top we could see over the other side down to the coast and the sea. This is the Costa del Sol seen from the other side. The side that most tourists never see….

At the top was a deserted building that looks like it  is used for observation or maybe a forest warden’s office.

Whatever its use is, it is now our own private hilltop retreat! It’s free and the views are priceless…

It’s not Kerala but we can walk there in an hour and stay as long as we like….

I think this will be the first of many times that we will find ourselves at this sheltered hilltop retreat, but next time we will take a picnic, we were starving by the time we  had walked home. Definitely in the mood for a Keralan curry…

 Keralan Egg & Aubergine Curry Recipe

serves 2 or 3  vegetarian

  • 1 large aubergine cut into quarters, lengthways and chopped into 2 cm chunks
  • 2 or 3 large eggs (1 egg per person)
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1 big tomato chopped
  • 1 green chilli, chopped
  • oil for frying (coconut oil would be good)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp punch pooran*
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  •  2 cardamom pods (crush and use the seeds)
  • 250ml -500ml veg stock
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp vinegar (I used balsamic)
  • 2 tsp brown sugar (or jaggery)
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt & black pepper

*Punch pooran is a spice mix made with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, onion seeds. fennel seeds & fenugreek seeds. You can get it from Indian supermarkets or from East End Foods.

Heat some oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the onion & spices. Cook for a few minutes until the onion softens then add the chilli, ginger & garlic. Mix everything together adding a little veg stock to stop it drying out. Add the aubergine chunks, stir to coat them in the spice paste and cook for about 5 minutes until the aubergines begin to soften & brown slightly. Season well with salt & black pepper. Add the chopped tomato, vinegar, tamarind & sugar, stir and add about 250 ml of the veg stock. Cook gently for about 15 – 20 minutes until the aubergines are really tender and the sauce has reduced. You can add more veg stock if it seems too dry. Stir in fresh coriander and check seasoning.

Meanwhile put a small pan of water on to boil. When the water is boiling turn it down slightly and cook the eggs in the boiling water for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes drain the water out of the pan and run the eggs under cold water until cool enough to handle. Peel the eggs and cut in half lengthwys.

Serve the aubergine curry topped with the soft boiled eggs and some extra chopped coriander.

I served this curry with some onion seed flatbreads see recipe here and a dollop of  Greek yoghurt mixed with fresh mint & lemon juice. Some coconut and cardamom infused rice would be lovely too.

The combination of the sweet, spicy aubergines with the texture of the perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg is so lovely, you wonder why you have never tried it before. It may sound strange but it is really delicious.. Enjoy!!

While Walking in the Forest Today….

28 Oct

I decided to take Rufus on a different walk today. From our roof terrace you can see the pine forests on the mountain. The beautiful bright green trees seem to invite you in. So we went ….

The Washer Up on the roof. When he is not washing up he paints things. Last year we had so much rain that the whole house leaked so he is trying to seal & paint everyting so we don’t get any leaks or damp this year. Last year the damp got into our wardrobe and green mould started growing on my shoes! This year I’m not taking any chances I have taken a little tip from my mother and put all my shoes in see-through plastic shoe boxes. They won’t get damp again and also I can see all my shoes, some of which I have never worn, its fantastic!!

It it wrong that this makes me happy? That’s just the high heels by the way the flat shoes are still in their cardboard boxes. These get special treatment….

Anyway back to the walking, its a bit of a steep climb to get up there but the view and the smell of pine when you do, brings your breathing back to normal!

I just love the contrast of the trees. Seen from above they are green, alive, soft & duvet like, then from underneath they are silvery grey, dry and bare.

This is the view down one of the firebreaks between the trees, towards the town with beeehives in the middle. There is strange mixture of the noises of  bees buzzing and the electric pylon crackling…

I love this picture of Rufus looking very regal on a carpet of yellow flowers……..

It is really difficult to get your dog to stay still for a nice photo together. We both have scrunched faces..

He won’t look at the camera..

Usually when I am walking I get inspiration from what I see growing. Recipes suggest themselves to me. Today we saw lots of wild mushrooms growing in the forest. They really are amazing things to look at..

Don’t worry I’m not going to cook with these as I have absolutely no idea what they are, they look great though..

I Love Mushrooms…

A Heart Shaped Mushroom!

The idea for a Wild Mushroom & Goat’s Cheese Lasagne is forming in my brain. Must be the stinky goat shack….

I am thinking of homemade wholemeal lasgane layered with wild mushrooms cooked with onion, thyme & parsley and a goats cheese bechamel sauce. Its a shame I can’t work the honey from the beehives in there as well. Or maybe I can..

See tomorrow’s post for the finished recipe …

Walking To The Waterfall

21 Oct

This is the stunning waterfall that we eventually found in an area of our town called Barranco Blanco which translates as White Ravine. I have been there before with our Spanish waitress Meri and thought it would be a good idea to show The Washer Up as he has never been. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember exactly where it was but I knew the general area, a bit like when I can’t remember where I’ve parked the car!

Apparently this is the waterfall used in the Timotei adverts in the eighties. I don’t know how they got all their equipment down there beacause we found it hard enough on our own just with the dog.

Crossing The Stream

The dog makes it look easy doesn’t he. Well this was one of the detours we took whilst trying to find the waterfall, it turned out we were going the wrong way anyway but it was quite an adventure…

Action Shot!

The thing is you can hear it but you can’t work out how to get there, I remember it being slightly diificult to get to but not this bad. Eventually we make it after several attempts and the dog falling in…

We Made It

It was definitely worth the effort though, it is beautiful and most people don’t know that it’s there, which is kind of nice you get it all to yourself especially at this time of year.

I couldn’t tell you how to get there though…. I think finding it is part of the adventure and what makes it so special.

This tree marks the spot…………

The Land of Abandoned Towers

21 Sep

The Water Tower

This is a view from where we begin our walks with the dog. This mysteriously abandoned folly has never been inhabited & isn’t very old. Apparently it was used in the soap Eldorado as the setting for the kidnapped Pilar in one of the final episodes. There are quite a few stories as to why it was built, the most popular being that some developers wanted to build an urbanization in the area behind known as La Mota. The Ayuntamiento (town hall) would only grant permission if they built a water tower that blended in with the local area. The Water Tower made it but the Urbanization still hasn’t been built. There is a huge amount local opposition who disagree with the proposed housing estate & another unnecessary golf course being built in an area of natural beauty. We just don’t have the resources & infrastructure to cope with what we have now let alone more housing & golf greens which use up scarce water supplies. 

Anyway enough ranting the resulting water tower is now a local landmark visible from most areas around including our roof terrace. I think it’s rather imposing! 

Torre De Hurique

The Torre de Hurique is a 12th Century farmhouse tower built by the moors who ruled in Andalucia for nearly eight centuries. They are known for introducing trade, agriculture, irrigation & hydraulic systems to the area. The function of the tower was to announce  enemies & to provide protection & shelter to the people of the area. The tower itself now stands empty but there are numerous farm houses attached to it with small holdings around the area still using the irrigation systems. 

Torre Hurique surrounded by small farms

Rufus's Friends Who Live Next Door to Torre Hurique

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