Tag Archives: andalucia

Moroccan 7 Vegetable Couscous with Saffron and Moscatel Raisins

29 Sep 7 Vegetable Couscous

Apologies for the extended absence but the computer was being mended so I couldn’t blog or access any of my photos, so frustrating. On a positive note all this spare time afforded me a window of opportunity to join Pinterest.

Oh dear, it’s very addictive, I mean really, if you haven’t already got an account, give it a go. It’s a great way to organise all your favourite things from the internet onto different boards so you never lose or forget about that fantastic recipe, that amazing paint colour or that must-have pair of shoes. The Washer Up is threatening to leave me but said he would have to put it on my Pinterest feed or I wouldn’t even notice. No, really?

So if you want to see what I would like our lounge to look like when he has eventually finished re-rendering all the walls, what food I will be cooking, what food styling and photography inspires me and what shoes and bags I own in my dreams, then why not follow Cook Eat Live on Pinterest here. He just said “or you could try getting a life instead”, so rude!

I said in my previous post for  the Grape & Fennel Seed Focaccia that I have been watching Moscatel grapes turn to raisins on the vine at one of the small farms that I run past with the dog in the mornings. This got me thinking about recipes including raisins.

At the same time one of our friends brought us some beautiful saffron all the way back from Afghanistan. He is another one of those men (like this pink watermelon martini loving guy) who would have to kill me if I told you his name. No, seriously he would. Apparently.

So, raisins and saffron take you in a certain direction gastronomically, and I had been wanting to try out a Moroccan restaurant in Malaga called Al- Yamal for a while. So, with my friend Caroline and my camera, I jumped on the bus and made a day of it. It being eating and drinking of course.

The restaurant is tiny, only about six tables, but comfortable and beautifully decorated so you are immediately transported to a Moroccan souk by the fabrics, lanterns, arches and delicious smells coming from the equally tiny kitchen. We were the only people in there when we arrived apart from the owner reading in the corner, his wife in the kitchen, his father with his grandson on another table and his son taking our order. A proper family business.

The food was lovely as was the service. We had the hummus with homemade pita bread, a roasted red pepper salad and the seven vegetable couscous to share. Caroline also ordered a lamb kebab which she said was delicious. The vegetable couscous comes to the table in a painted terracotta tagine. As the lid is removed you are drawn in by the warm scent of cinnamon, you see the different vegetables and chickpeas piled up the sides of the golden mound of couscous and the plump raisins and toasted almonds on top. You are also given a separate jug full of the spiced stock used to cook the vegetables to pour over as you wish. That was the best bit for me, I really enjoyed the whole dish and decided to try to recreate it when I got home.

Malaga continues to surprise every time I go. There is always something new to discover  food-wise, bar-wise or culture-wise which makes it my favourite city and one of Spain’s best kept secrets.

The seven vegetables you use can be whatever you have and whatever is in season but I would definitely use some root vegetables as they keep their shape with the cooking process. I used carrots, butternut squash, green beans, courgette, leek, green beans and red onion. Parsnips, turnips, potatoes or sweet potatoes would also be lovely.

Moroccan Seven Vegetable Couscous with saffron & raisins

Serves 6, vegan. Adapted from The Vegetarian Times

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, quartered & cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 leek, halved washed and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • a big pinch saffron
  • 1/4 tsp crushed chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 3 tomatoes, cored cut into 8 wedges (or 400ml tin chopped)
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 500 -750 ml water
  • a small bunch parsley & coriander stalks
  • 1 courgette, quartered & cut into 2 inch batons
  • 250 gr carrots, peeled, halved (or quartered) and cut into 2 inch batons
  • 200 gr green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 350 gr butternut squash, peeled cut into 1 – 2 inch chunks
  • 1 tin 400 g cooked chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 100 g raisins (I used Moscatel raisins they are bigger and juicier)
  • 50 gr flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan until golden
  • 1 squidge of honey
  • 300 ml couscous
  • 300ml veg stock or water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a  big pinch of saffron
  • olive oil
  • fresh coriander and parsley, chopped

Cook the onions in the olive oil over a medium heat for about 15 minutes until softened and caramelising. Add the leeks, garlic,and ginger and cook for another 3 minutes. Add a splash of stock if it gets dry. Then add the saffron and the rest of the spices and cook for a few minutes until fragrant, adding a splash of stock if it gets too dry.

Add in the tomatoes, stock, 500 ml water and herb stalks. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the hard vegetables (carrots and  squash) and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the courgettes, beans, chickpeas, raisins and honey, season well with salt & black pepper and cook for 10 minutes more or until all vegetables are tender, you can some more water if you think it is too dry. Taste and add more honey, salt or even some lemon juice if required

Meanwhile make the couscous. Measure 300ml couscous into a measuring jug and then tip it into a large bowl. Measure the same amount of stock or water and heat it in a saucepan with the pinch of saffron and the ground cinnamon. When boiling, pour this over the couscous, season with salt & pepper, drizzle with some olive oil and quickly mix it in with a fork, not a spoon. Cover with clingfilm and leave to absorb for 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, fluff the couscous up to separate the grains again, with a fork and taste for seasoning. Pile a mound of couscous onto each plate (or a large serving dish/tagine) and make a well in the middle. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to the well and arrange some around the edge of the couscous too. Ladle some of the cooking stock left in the pan over the dish and transfer the rest into a jug to serve alongside for everyone to help themselves to.

Top with some toasted almonds, chopped fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Buen Provecho!!

Lemon Polenta Olive Oil Cake

31 Jan Lemon Polenta Cake

Lemons are everywhere here at the moment. I use lemons a lot in my cooking to brighten up soups, curries, salads and dips. Most of my dishes are finished of with a squeeze of lemon before serving. It just highlights all the other flavours and brings the dish to life.

I saw Nigella make a lemon polenta cake that looked delicious. Hers had quite a bit of butter in it so I thought I’d try to make it with olive oil instead. I have some amazing first press newly harvested local stuff to play with and I’m always looking for excuses to use it in anything.

You should always keep olive oil (or anything really) in glass bottles if you can. Plastic affects the chemical make up of things especially when heated.  Like you should never use cling film when microwaving things. Or drink water out of a plastic bottle that has been in the sun. Microwaves are nasty anyway. Ours broke a few years ago and we have never replaced it. I honestly don’t miss it at all.

Most recipes also use a mixture of polenta, plain flour and ground almonds. I wanted to make a gluten-free, dairy-free version so I tried it without the flour. It works…

Lemon Polenta Olive Oil Cake

Makes a 24cm/9 inch cake, serves 12. Dairy-free, gluten-free.

Adapted from A Meandering Mango

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 45 mins

  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 160 gr (3/4 cup) brown sugar (or raw sugar)
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • 2 large lemons, zested & juiced
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 190 gr polenta (cornmeal)
  • 75 gr (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 150 C and oil a 24 cm loose bottomed cake tin.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until light and creamy (about 4 mins). Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, continuing to whisk until all the oil is combined. Whisk in the lemon zest and vanilla.

In another bowl, stir together the polenta, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Sieve this mixture over the eggs and sugar in 3 batches, alternating with the lemon juice, folding until just combined.

Pour into the oiled cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve with a light dusting of icing sugar. You can also make a lemon syrup to drizzle over if you think it needs it. Heat up some lemon juice and icing sugar in a pan until the sugar dissolves. Use a cocktail stick or piece of dried spaghetti (authentic Italian version) to make holes all over the top of the cake. Pour the syrup slowly over the top of the cake letting the syrup sink in.

Buen Provecho!!

In my next post I will be making an exciting announcement about what I will be getting up to over the next month…

Stay Tuned!!

White Grape Gazpacho with Ajo Blanco Cream

13 Aug IMG_0239

This is a fusion of two of the most well-known Spanish summer soups: Gazpacho and Ajo Blanco. Gazpacho is traditionally a tomato based chilled vegetable soup and Ajo Blanco is a white version, also served chilled, made with almonds, garlic and olive oil.

They have their roots in southern Andalucia from around Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada and Malaga and they are both believed to have originated with the Moors.

I was looking for white grape recipes because I walk by these bunches of Moscatel grapes every morning watching them grow sweeter and darker with the heat of the sun.

I found a recipe for White Grape Gazpacho which I really liked the idea of. I have to admit that I am not all that fond of cold soup, in fact I never eat it. I realise that this is sacrilege coming from the birthplace of Gazpacho but I can’t help it, I’ve tried and I’m just not feeling it. I don’t like olives either, I know, por dios!

For some strange reason the fact that it was a cold soup with fruit, rather than vegetables, made it more appealing to me. It may have been to do with the soaring temperatures and the inability to think about eating anything even the slightest bit warm. Whatever the explanation, I was happy to try it.

I’m so glad I did, this is a really refreshing soup. It has to be really cold though, I mean ice-cold, and you have to eat it quickly before it starts to get warm.

The Ajo Blanco cream came to me because I thought it needed a swirl of something on top. You could use creme fraiche but it’s a bit French and I saw Rick Stein making (well he was actually watching someone else making) Ajo Blanco on his new series, A Taste of Spain. The traditional garnish is some Moscatel grapes. So I decided to turn the tables and use Ajo Blanco as my garnish on the White Grape Gazpacho. The two work so well together.

This would make a really elegant summer starter/appetizer for entertaining. It looks impressive but is surprisingly easy. Just chill and serve.

White Grape Gazpacho with Ajo Blanco Cream

Serves 2-3, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Honey Flow Farm & Spain Recipes

For the White Grape Gazpacho:

  • 350 gr white grapes (moscatel would be lovely, deseeded) I used seedless. Plus extra for garnish, halved
  • 10/12 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • a small handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber (1 Spanish pepino) peeled and diced
  • 2 or 3 spring onions (1 small cebolleta), finely chopped
  • 220 ml (1 cup) veg stock
  • 220 ml (1 cup) iced water (I use 3 ice cubes crushed, and water)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix all the ingredients apart from the stock and water together in a bowl and season with the salt and pepper. Remove three-quarters of the mix to a food processor, pulse a few times then add the stock and iced water and process until it liquid but still with some texture. Then add in the rest of the ingredients from the bowl and pulse once more. Taste for seasoning and chill for at least 2 hours. Put your serving bowls in the freezer to chill too.

For the Ajo Blanco Cream:

  • 75 gr (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgen olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 50-75 ml (1/2-3/4 cup) cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan for garnish

Put the ground almonds, garlic and sherry vinegar in a food processor and blend. Then add the olive oil and blend to a smooth paste. Add the water, a bit at a time until you reach the consistency of thick pouring cream. Season with the salt, taste, cover and chill for 2 hours.

To serve, ladle the cold Grape Gazpacho soup into the frozen bowls and top with a generous swirl of the Ajo Blanco cream. Top with a few halved grapes and some of the toasted flaked almonds.

Buen Provecho!

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

A lone goat wandering down the middle of the road. We stopped the car to say hello, she was very friendly!

Rufus looking very serious, “Stop taking pictures of me!”

Have a great weekend,

Ensalada de Tomate y Ajo

10 Aug IMG_0143

Antonia, the lady that does the washing up at the restaurant, gave us a tub full of her homegrown cherry tomatoes yesterday.

I thought about roasting them but I really did not want to put the oven on today. It’s far too hot for all that so I made my favourite summer salad instead, Ensalada de Tomate y Ajo (Tomato and garlic salad).

I first had this salad in Bar Sardina, a restaurant/tapas bar in Alhaurin that has been around for 92 years, apparently. They are well-known for their fresh seafood especially the Conchas Finas which are like a cross between a scallop (they have a coral) and a clam. They are indigenous to Malaga and are traditionally served raw, with a glass of Fino (dry sherry).

Being a vegetarian, it is normally quite difficult to find something to eat if you go out to typically Spanish restaurants . Fortunately Bar Sardina has three dishes that I can order, all of them being fantastic. This salad is so simple but so delicious, which is what for me, sums up Spanish cuisine. It’s all about the ingredients and letting them do what they do best.

The best, in season, sweet tomatoes are mixed with lots of fresh garlic, drizzled with Andalucian extra virgin olive oil, good Jerez (sherry) vinegar and seasoned with sea salt, black pepper and some fresh parsley. That’s it.

Ensalada de Tomate y Ajo Recipe

serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 400 gr ripe tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 tbsp extra virgen olive oil
  • 2 or 3 tsp good Jerez (sherry) vinegar
  • sea salt & black pepper

Wash the tomatoes and cut them into halves or quarters for cherry tomatoes or into wedges for normal tomatoes. Mix them with the garlic and parsley in a bowl and drizzle them generously with olive oil, then add the sherry vinegar.

Leave to marinate for a while if you can and then season well with the sea salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust vinegar/seasoning.

Tip into a serving dish, garnish with a little more parsley and serve as part of a meal like the Spanish do.

Or you can do like I did and eat it with some of my sundried tomato & basil focaccia (or any nice bread) to soak up the gorgeous garlicky, tomatoey juices.

This is the perfect simple summer salad, enjoy this right now when tomatoes are at their best.

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

The pomegranate flowers turning into the fruit…

Another sure sign that Autumn is just around the corner.

I’m so looking forward to the cooler weather….!

Flowers on Friday and My First Guest Post

20 May DCIM100MEDIA

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 Green Minestrone Top

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?

Orange Blossom and Almond Soft Oat Cookies

16 Apr Uncooked Biscuits

 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!!

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