Tag Archives: spain

Wholemeal Spelt Flour Soda Bread Recipe

12 Dec

Spelt Flour Soda Bread

First of all I am sorry for my lack of posts recently. It’s not that I don’t have anything to share with you it’s that I haven’t had the time. I have been busy writing, testing and perfecting recipes for my cookery workshops. I have one this Saturday which is a Festive Vegetarian Middle Eastern Menu, some of the recipes from which I will share with you soon.

Spelt Flour Soda Bread

We have also just finalised the timetable of workshops for the first three months of 2013. As well as my Vegetarian Mezze Course (the next one being on Sun. 20th Jan 10-2 pm) and my  Healthy Baking Workshop savoury and sweet (the next one is on Sun 3rd Feb 10-2pm), I have also introduced two new ones.

The first new workshop is the second in the series of Healthy Baking courses; Healthy Baking with Chocolate . The first of which is being held on Sat. 2nd March 5 – 9pm.

Splel Flour Soda Bread

The second new workshop I have introduced is called Soups of the World. The first one is on Sat. 26th Jan 5 – 9pm. After all the Christmas excess everyone’s thoughts turn towards lighter and healthier food (and bodies!)

Soups are one of my favourite things to make and eat especially in winter. In this workshop you will learn how to make your own veg stock then we embark on a culinary journey through Thailand, Turkey, Italy & France taking some of the most exciting flavour combinations in the world and converting them into delicious soups, some classics and some more unusual.

Thai Squash Wonton Soup

an aromatic Thai style broth with floating delicate wontons filled with sweet roasted squash, herbs & spices

Turkish Ezogelin Corbasi

a hearty red lentil soup with rice & bulgur flavoured with fresh mint and sumac (with a tragic love story behind it)

Italian Winter Minestrone

the classic “big one” a rustic bowl of goodness topped with a delicious homemade basil pesto

French Onion Soup

deep, dark & sweet caramelised onions with a touch of sherry topped with toasted melting Gruyère croutons

Wholemeal Spelt Flour Soda Bread

So what do you need to go with all those soups? Bread of course.

Some of you who have been following this blog for a while may already know about my irrational fear of yeast. I can’t make it work properly, ever. Whether it is my well-known impatience, hot hands or even the altitude (We live up a mountain and apparently that can affect the “rise”) I don’t know. And I don’t care anymore because I have found the “get out” that is this soda bread.

Made with soda (obvs) instead of yeast, you have no waiting, no kneading and no disappointment. It’s just dry ingredients, wet ingredients, mix and bake. Hooray.

Wholemeal Spelt Flour Soda Bread

Wholemeal Spelt Flour Soda Bread Recipe

Makes 1 small loaf, vegan, wheat-free. Adapted from The Healthy Chef

  • 250 g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 25 g (4 Tbsp) flax meal (ground flax seeds) if not add 25 g more flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda (or baking soda)
  • 220 ml (1 cup) oat milk (or soy/rice/almond)
  • 1/2 Tbsp honey (or molasses/miel de cana/agave syrup)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • sunflower seeds/flax seeds/sesame seeds for topping
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Mix the flour, flaxmeal, salt and soda in one bowl. In another bowl, whisk the honey, olive oil, lemon juice and milk until well combined.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix it all together with your fingers or a whisk. It should be quite sticky like a scone dough. Bring it together and tip it out onto a floured surface and form into a round or oval loaf shape.
Transfer to the lined baking sheet, cut a small cross in the top of the bread with a sharp knife, brush with a little extra milk and scatter over your seeds.
Bake for about 25 minutes then lower the heat to 160C and bake for another 10-15 minutes until browned and cooked.
Cool for at least 10 minutes. It slices better if it is completely cool.
Spelt Soda Bread
This is a lovely, soft and quite crumbly nutty bread that is also gorgeous toasted. If you want to try a fruitier version which is brilliant for breakfast try my Flax Seed Raisin & Date Breakfast Loaf too.
Enjoy!!
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My Weekend Inspiration….

21 May

A lot of people ask where I get my inspiration and ideas from. It’s usually the first thing they ask me if they know about my blog. Apart from being influenced by all the amazing restaurants we visited in Cape Town recently, I get inspiration every day when I go out running with Rufus (the dog) and occasionally The Washer Up comes too.

It’s when I get time to think about ideas and things come together somehow. I’ll try to explain: on Saturday I saw this apricot on the ground as I was running past a field that normally has a Shetland pony in it. The pony is not there anymore but we always look to see if he’s come back.  I noticed that there were two apricot trees laden with fruit that were just about ripe. One had fallen on the ground so I took some pictures of it. I wanted to take some more close up pictures of the tree with the fruit on it but I am a bit short and would have to climb on a fence to get the shots. A job for The Washer Up definitely.  He was coming running with us on Sunday, I would have to wait.

Further on I saw these roses and had to stop to photograph them. The coral one is so beautiful I can still smell it now when I look at the picture, can you?

These apricot roses caught my eye aswell. It must be an apricot thing. So now we have apricots and roses, in my head I mean, not physically. I didn’t steal them, honest.

Next I noticed that the almond trees have started to bear fruit (or nut) and you can see little furry green pods all over the branches. These protect the young green almond inside. So almonds join the apricots and roses in my head. What does apricot, rose and almond say to you? To me it says, Moroccan, Middle Eastern exotic, floral, sweet pastries. Or even slow-cooked fragrant tagines sweetened with dried fruits and topped with crisp, toasted almonds. Or lightly aromatic Tabbouleh or couscous salads studded with jewel coloured fruits and crunchy nuts and flecked with bright green fresh herbs. So that is where my mind is going on that one. Watch this space, I am getting apricots in my organic veg box this week.

Oh and he got the apricot tree shots by the way….

Sunday was all about photographing baby fruits and getting excited about future summer recipes. The creative process begins now. There are baby persimmons to think about.

Watching pomegranate flowers turning into fruit before your eyes.

Baby quince with their furry skin just beginning to show.

And tiny little bunches of grapes peeking out from under the vine leaves. Lots to think about.

We also saw a farmer harvesting his red potato crop on the way round.

Very exciting, we had been watching them grow for a while but had no idea that they were red until now. Aren’t they lovely? He also had some enormous spring onions growing next to the potatoes. So I’ve now opened a new file in my head that contains red potatoes and spring onions.

There are also some beautifully vibrant green lettuces that are desperate to be included somewhere too.

On the way back home we went to a new organic farmers market that is held every Sunday morning in Coin. My friend Judi had told me about it, so we went to have a look. It’s a local initiative to encourage people to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from their neighbours rather than supermarkets. All the stallholders live in Coin and have private small holdings. Some are organic and some are not but it is all clearly marked.

And guess what the first organic stall we came across was selling?

Oh yes, red new potatoes. It’s the little things that make you happy isn’t it. We bought a kilo, I have no idea what I am going to do with a kilo of new potatoes but they were 50 cents, so I couldn’t ask for half could I?

They also had some young garlic at the back there. So this file now contains, baby new red potatoes, spring onions and spring garlic. It has got to be a potato salad with those ingredients. But not a rich mayonnaise heavy potato salad, I’m thinking more of a light wine and stock cooked potato salad with olive oil, herbs, spring onions and garlic. It’s a French thing, I’ve seen it on Barefoot Contessa. I may have to try roasting some too as I have bought so many….

It’s only a small market but there was a local potter doing his thing and we also bought some of these deliciously sweet little organic strawberries.

They have a special destiny in a separate mental folder that I will share with you tomorrow…….

Fig, Date and Hazelnut Cardamom Spelt Scones

2 May

The Washer Up demanded scones yesterday. Yes, actually demanded I make scones. He pouted and said “I want scones” in a little boy stamping feet type way. Very strange behaviour indeed.

I obliged but decided I would try to veganize the recipe as he would only eat one and then I would be left staring at the rest, trying not to eat them. Veganizing scones is a little bit strange, I know. The whole point of scones is that they are buttery, and stuffed with cream and jam. These are a little bit different. They have roots in moorish Andalucia rather than a Devonshire tea room. That’s my excuse anyway.

I went to the weekly market in Alhaurin last Thursday with my friend Caroline. She told me about the amazing Frutos Secos stand there. They sell all sorts of dried fruits, nuts, seeds and herbs for reasonable prices. I wanted to get some dried figs for this pizza and needed some more pine nuts for our weekly favourite, this recipe.  I couldn’t resist taking a picture of these beautiful fresh garlic on the veg stall next door too.

I bought, figs, dates, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and Moscatel raisins. They also sell this lovely local fig bread/cake (below left) that we used to serve at the restaurant with the  chicken liver pate.

You can see where I am going with this now can’t you. I had some figs left over from the pizza recipe as well as the dates and hazelnuts. Cardamom seemed to go well with all those flavours but it could have just as easily been cinnamon. The Moscatel raisins would have been nice too.

A lot of the vegan scone recipes I looked at used olive oil or a butter replacement. I would definitely like to try it with olive oil next time, maybe in a savoury version of the scone with some fresh rosemary but I wanted this to be sweet. I went with coconut oil as my choice of fat as it has a slightly sweet coconut flavour and a buttery texture when it’s cold out of the jar. I wanted to see how it behaved in baking too. It turned out really well. You don’t miss the butter at all.

Fig, Date & Hazelnut Cardamom Spelt Scones

Makes 6 (easily doubled), vegan, wheat-free

Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time 15-20 mins

  • 220 gr wholemeal spelt flour (or any flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  •  1/4 tsp salt
  •  1 tsp ground cardamom (or cinnamon)
  • 4 tbsp cold coconut oil (or very cold butter/ replacement, diced or olive oil)
  • about 75 g-100 gr dried figs & dates roughly chopped
  • 30 gr hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • the zest of half an orange
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave syrup
  • 115 ml oat milk (or other milk)
  • 1/2 tsp cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 200 C and line a baking tray with parchment.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, cardamom and baking powder. Rub the coconut oil/butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles crumble mix. Then stir through the dried fruit, nuts and orange zest.

In a small bowl whisk together the honey, oat milk and cider vinegar and add this to the flour bowl. Stir together until just combined and clumps start to form, don’t over work  it or the scones will be tough.  Bring this together with your hands to make a ball.

Flour your worksurface and tip the dough out. Using you hands, pat this into a disc about 2 or 3 cm thick. Cut out circles using a floured cutter and place gently on the baking sheet. Do not push down or flatten. You will have to remould the excess dough into a 2-3 cm thick disc a few times to cut out all the scones.

If you like you can gently brush the tops with some oat milk and a sprinkling of sugar. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 15-18  minutes until golden brown and cooked all the way through.

Leave to cool slightly then serve warm or at room temperature with some butter/replacement.

These would be nice with my Arabian Fig Jam too, if only we hadn’t eaten it all. Roll on summer and the glut of fresh figs, I can’t believe I don’t have any jam!

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!!

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!

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…

Christmas Carbicide and Boxing Day Bubble…

29 Dec

On Christmas Eve we walked up to these rocks….

Then the Washer Up made his amazing vegeatble sushi rolls stuffed with omelette, carrot, spring onion & spinach which we served with sushi ginger, wasabi paste & soy sauce… yum!

Followed by a spicy miso noodle broth with pak choi & shitake mushrooms..

And then we played cards..with the cat!

On Christmas morning we walked up to our favourite hilltop retreat and ate mince pies..

From there we could see this waterfall on the mountain over the other side of the valley and decided to walk there on Boxing day… more of that “adventure” later…!

Our Christmas Dinner was “Potatoes Four Ways” also known as “Christmas Carbicide!”..

This consisted of (clockwise from bottom right) Dauphinoise Potatoes, Potato Fondant, Roasted Garlic & Parmesan Mash & Polenta Encrusted Roast Potatoes. As you can imagine I have only just emerged from my carb induced coma.. The stuffing on top is Sage & Onion. I think my favourite was the Potato Fondant which is a disc of potato cooked slowly in butter & stock.  We served this with roasted shallots, peas & green beans with garlic & ground almonds..

This was all covered with “purple” gravy (don’t ask- it was red onion gravy but I blitzed it so it was purple!) nice…
We had red wine with dinner which was probably not a good idea, the Washer Up is not good on red wine…

So it was with a hangover on Boxing Day morning that we embarked on our trip to the faraway waterfall…. We parked at Barranco Blanco and took some pictures of the lovely waterfall there….

We couldn’t get down to the bottom because of all the water but you can see some more pictures I took there earlier in the year here.

We set off on the path around the valley and looked back at our favourite hilltop, where we walked to on Christmas day..

We passed another small waterfall on the mountain path before we went “off road”….

So, The Washer Up said it would only take us about 20 minutes off the path to reach the waterfall. Needless to say we ended up on a steep incline head height in thorn bushes with no idea how to get out! It was impossible to reach the waterfall through all the spikey bush but we got near enough to take this photo. There were three levels of waterfall..

It was pretty scary trying to find our way back to the path, but we haven’t given up. Next time we are going to go along the river bed at the bottom and see if we can reach it from that direction….

By the time we arrived back at home we had been out for about 3 1/2 hours so we were starving. What was in the fridge? Leftover potatoes and veg from our Christmas dinner. So it had to be Bubble & Squeak with a Fried Egg…

Put all of your leftover potatoes (mash & roasts) in to a bowl with the leftover veg and stuffing and mash with a potato masher. Shape into a ball and place a slice/chunk of goat’s cheese in the middle roll it up again to seal it and shape into patties.
Sprinkle some flour/breadcrumbs/polenta on a plate and lightly coat the patties to give it a nice crust. Fry in hot butter & olive oil over a medium high heat for about 5 minutes on each side (turn them over when browned). When they are nearly cooked crack two egs into the same pan and cook until just set.
Serve the Bubble & Squeak straight away topped with the fried egg (and some HP sauce!). The addition of the goat’s cheese is a Nigel Slater idea. I’ve never tried it before. It’s lovely when you cut into the Bubble & Squeak and the cheese oozes out. With that and the soft egg yolk …..heaven!!
Hope you enjoyed your Christmas too xx

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