Tag Archives: andalucia

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!!

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

22 Mar



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

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

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

Soft Boiled Duck Egg & Grilled Asparagus Brunch

serves 1, vegetarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rufus in the Spring…!!

Our lily at home….

 Ya es Primavera!!

Father’s Day Florentines with Chocolate, Ginger and Cranberries

19 Mar

Today is Father’s Day in Spain. Even though I live in Spain and my Dad lives in Cape Town I still do the British father’s day in June for some reason. My Dad loves Florentines and I found this recipe with some beautiful photos here this week and just had to have a go at them.

Today we went to see our friends Andrew & Rafa. It was Andrew’s birthday this week so I took him some of these Florentines as a gift. I think they really liked them because we managed to eat them all and he posted a photo of them on Facebook.  Andrew writes a blog called Manana- The Andalucia Diary which is  a really informative insider’s guide to Andalucia and beyond. It includes loads of invaluable information about, where to stay, where to eat and places to visit as well as information about living and working in Southern Spain.

So Dad, here is your virtual Spanish Father’s Day gift, you would have really enjoyed them, but we ate them all sorry. I don’t think they would travel very well but you will be pleased to know that I was thinking of you as we were shoving them down our necks….!!

I have adapted the original recipe to include dried cranberries rather than dried cherries and I used crystallised ginger instead of candied peel as that was what I had (and my dad loves ginger). I used greek yoghurt rather than whipping cream, because I didn’t have any, and wholemeal rather than plain Italian 00 flour.

Florentines with Chocolate, Ginger & Cranberries

makes about 24, vegetarian. Adapted from Catalina Bakes

  • 50 gr butter
  • 65 ml whipping cream (I used greek yoghurt)
  • 115 gr sugar
  • 55 gr honey
  • 120 gr flaked almonds
  • 60 gr dried cranberries (or dried cherries, quartered)
  • 30 gr crystallised ginger chopped finely(or candied peel)
  • 40 gr wholemeal (or plain) flour
  • about 250 gr good quality dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Soak the cranberries in boiling water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile put the butter, cream/yoghurt, sugar & honey in a  small saucepan over a low heat and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 – 7 minutes, stirring constantly until a light golden butterscotch colour. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond flakes, chopped ginger and the soaked cranberries that have been dried with a clean tea towel.  Mix well then stir in the flour. You should have a sticky batter.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and drop teaspoons full of the mix on the sheets about 7 cm apart (They spread a lot).  Flatten them out a little with a spatula.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes until the edges are turning golden brown (the top sheet will cook quicker than the bottom sheet) then turn the oven down to 150C and bake for a further 4 or 5 minutes until the centre is golden as well (Don’t let the edges burn). Remove the top sheet of Florentines from the oven and swap the bottom sheet to the top if they need to brown a bit more but keep an eye on them.

Move the cooked Florentines on their baking paper to cool completely on a wire rack while you repeat with the rest of the mix.

When all the Florentines are cooked & cooled. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering (not boiling) water. Spoon a tablespoon of chocolate on the flat back of each Florentine and spread it out to reach the edges.  Leave to cool chocolate side up while you do the rest. After a few minutes make wavy patterns in the chocolate with a fork and leave to cool completely.

Feliz Dia del Padre Dad! I promise I’ll make you some when I come over…..xx

Mini Orange and Almond Wholemeal Bread Cakes

1 Mar

The inspiration for this recipe came from Denise at Bread Expectations. She made cute little sweet bread cakes using Panko breadcrumbs rather than flour and topped them with berries and sugar. This idea really appealed to me as I had just made a huge amount of wholemeal breadcrumbs in my new food processor. I save the ends of the wholemeal bread that I buy and freeze them. My food processor broke ages ago and I have only just replaced it so I had a huge bag full of bread waiting to made into breadcrumbs.

So what do you do with three, one litre ice cream tubs worth of wholemeal breadcrumbs? Well, I used some to make my Veggie Burgers, froze a load and I just had to try these breadcrumb cakes. It seemed like fate. I didn’t have any berries to use but what I do have is oranges. At times it seems like I have the whole of Andalucia’s orange harvest in my kitchen. Not that I’m complaining…..

The trees are beautiful to walk past every day and the oranges I have at the moment that were given to me by Rhian are so sweet and delicious. I want to make the most of them. The other trees that always seem to be growing side by side with the oranges are almonds. They obviously like to be around each other so I need no more inspiration than that……

Also Denise’s recipe called for vanilla extract. I have run out and you have no idea how difficult it is to get vanilla here. You can’t even buy that nasty vanilla essence. So I used almond extract instead and added in some ground almonds for good measure.

These little cakes are made with yeast. Now, me and yeast have issues. As in, it never does it’s thing for me. I called these cakes “mini” because they didn’t rise but I still wanted to share them with you because they are really moist, light & delicious. Denise thinks it may be because of the wholemeal breadcrumbs having less gluten than the white Panko. So, feel free to use panko or homemade white breadcrumbs if you want a rise. (Not the fine store bought kind). Whether they rise for you or not these little sweet bread cakes are definitely worth the risk…..

Mini Orange & Almond Breadcrumb Cakes

makes 12, vegetarian. Adapted from a Bread Expectations recipe

  • 1oo gr soft butter
  • 100 gr caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 oranges
  •  a few drops of almond extract
  • 100 gr wholemeal breadcrumbs (or Panko)
  • 50 gr ground almonds
  • 1 packet dried yeast 7 gr
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp ground ginger

Butter/oil a muffin tray or use muffin cases. Zest 1 orange. Segment both oranges over a small bowl to catch any juices. First peel the oranges with a knife on a board by cutting off the peel & pith from top to bottom all the way around. Hold the orange over the small bowl and segment the orange by cutting out each segment  in between the membranes. When you have cut out all your segments  and set them aside, squeeze the remaining membranes to release the juice into the bowl.

Add the yeast to the orange juice (there should be about 6 tbsp juice) stir it around and leave for 10 minutes to froth. Cream the softened butter, caster sugar and salt together until light & creamy then beat in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated each time. Add a few drops of almond extract, 3/4 of the orange zest, the breadcrumbs, ground almonds and the yeast mixture when it’s had 10 minutes. Mix everything together well until you have a sticky, porridge like batter.

Half fill the 12 muffin cups with the mixture, top each with 2 orange segments and sprinkle over the brown sugar and ginger mix. Finally put some of the remaining orange zest on top. Leave the muffin tray in a warm place for an hour or until almost doubled in volume (Hopefully)!

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Bake for 15 -20 minutes until golden.

Leave to cool slightly then remove from the muffin tin and cool on a wire rack.  These little cakes are perfect for afternoon tea. So get out your best china tea set dust them with icing sugar and invite your friends round for a chat..

You can ask them how they get on with yeast……..!

Wholemeal Chocolate Chunk and Hazelnut Cookies at The Lakes

21 Feb

Wholemeal cookies taste really good and they are healthier. Don’t kid yourself though there’s still butter and sugar in there but chocolate is an antioxidant so that makes up for it – sort of!!  These were part of a picnic we took the lakes at El Chorro yesterday.

 Half an hour away at  Malaga Airport, millions of tourists arrive every year and get on a coach to Marbella or Fuengirola to spend a week or two on the Costa del Sol and fly home again completely unaware that this exists. Whether this is a great oversight by the Andalucian Tourist Board or whether they are purposefully keeping it a secret I don’t know. I wouldn’t blame them. At this time of year it is all but deserted except at the weekends when a few Malaguenos bring a picnic or some meat to barbeque.

It does get busier in the summer when we all escape the heat of the city or towns to swim in these freshwater lakes. There are campsites, picnic areas, public barbeques, canoeing, pedalos, and fantastic walks. It is great for kids and adults alike there’s something for everyone. Whether you like to do a lot or very little,  you can find your perfect spot here……

The colours are amazing. The bright turquoise of the lakes contrasting with the dusky pink terracotta soil and green patchwork landscape take your breath away every time you come. You never quite believe it’s real. 

The geology is stunning too. The Washer Up tells me this is sandstone (he studied Geology at university). Is it just me or does this (above) remind you of the Gaudi buildings in Barcelona? You know the curved balconies?

The thing is they are not actually lakes. They are man-made reservoirs. Franco flooded the whole area, including some villages, to create the water reservoirs for Malaga. How something so beautiful can be man-made doesn’t make sense to me. Especially made by that man. It must have been the best thing he ever did…..

Anyway we found our picnic table with a view (above) and sat down to make our egg salad sandwiches…

If you want to know how to make a perfectly soft-boiled egg see my instructions here…..

Then we shared a cookie before going for walk around the lake and finding a sheltered sunny spot to read the paper. Does a Sunday get any better than that? I don’t think so, the cookies are pretty near perfect too….

Wholemeal Chocolate Chunk & Hazelnut Cookies

makes 18 – 24, vegetarian.  Adapted from a Culinate recipe

  • 380 gr wholemeal flour (I used self-raising because that was all I had and 1 tsp baking powder)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 225 gr cold unsalted butter, chopped
  • 140 gr brown sugar
  • 200 gr caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125 gr plain chocolate (70%) roughly chopped into 1 cm chunks
  • 100 gr hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 175 C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sieve the flour, baking powders and salt into a large bowl. In another large bowl or food processor on low whisk/mix together the butter & sugars until blended, about 2 minutes. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl to get it all combined. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each one is combined. Mix in the vanilla, then slowly add the flour mixture until just combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides again.

Add 3/4 of the chopped chocolate & hazelnuts to the mix saving the rest for the tops. Mix until evenly distributed.  Take a heaped tablespoon of the batter and put it onto the lined baking sheet, pressing it down slightly. Leave about a 3 inch gap between each cookie, they spread like mad. You should only have about 6 cookies per sheet or they will all blend into each other. Sprinkle a little of the leftover chocolate & hazelnuts on top of each cookie and press in lightly. Put one sheet in the top third of the oven and the other in the bottom third. Bake for 10 minutes then swap the baking sheets around (top to bottom etc) and cook for another 10 minutes or until the cookies are a deep golden brown colour. Remove from the oven & leave to cool on a rack on the baking paper. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

These cookies are deliciously special enough to serve as a dessert, warm and chewy, straight out of the oven with a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream melting on top. Or leave to cool, store in an airtight container and they will firm up to a more crunchy everyday cookie.

Share them with friends or do like the Andalucian Tourist Board and make them your best kept secret……

Buen Provecho!

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!

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