Back Up the Mountain

7 Sep

Short and sweet. We’re here and it feels like heaven! Sundowners yesterday evening after a 2300 km drive. It felt like we’d really earned them…

image

Waving Goodbye for a While…

30 Aug

Tomorrow Big Man and I move home in Bexhill on Sea. We go from a little Edwardian flat to a little (but bigger) Victorian house. It’s not quite such a disaster zone as the projects we usually take on so we’ll be able to live in it and do it up and restore it slowly.

Because we seem to thrive on doing more than one thing at once, we’re heading back to Spain 5 days later by car for a short visit to the family and then heading back to England to finish off a current project before taking a breather, helping my parents move into their new home in Bexhill and then starting work on ours. And hopefully another longer trip back to Spain to enjoy some time Up the Mountain.

DSCF4304

Just to complicate matters further we found out today that we’re going to be without an internet connection for a few weeks so I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will have to have a little break from the world of blogging for a short while. Don’t go away though…I’ll be back!

So…please excuse me if I can’t pop by and say hello very often this month. I’ll miss you all…

Rosewater Biscuits

28 Aug

Some days are just meant for baking biscuits. This was one of those days and I had just made summer fruits ice cream, using a mix of berries in place of coffee from my coffee ice cream recipe. I thought biscuits lightly scented with rosewater might work well with it. They did, but they also went perfectly with a little cup of very strong coffee.

Rosewater Biscuits (1)

Ingredients

  • 125 g plain flour, sifted
  • 15 g cornflour
  • 100 g diced butter
  • 50 g icing sugar, plus extra for rolling out and dusting
  • 20 ml rose water

Put the flour, cornflour and butter into a food processor. Blend until combined.

If making by hand, rub the butter into the flour and cornflour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the icing sugar and rosewater and blend briefly (or mix gently with a palette knife).  Knead the dough gently into a sausage, (dust your worktop with icing sugar if necessary) wrap in cling film and chill for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180 Fan/gas 6. Cut the dough into discs the thickness of a £1 Coin (that’s about the same as a Euro!) Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper.

Bake in the oven for about 8 minutes until pale gold. Remove, allow to firm slightly, cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. Or you could just dust them with icing sugar and enjoy them as soon as possible!

Summer Seafood Salad

20 Aug

As a child celebrations were always marked with great big meals for friends and family. Starters were a giant “antipasto” – the dish before the main meal. This became more elaborate the bigger the crowd and the grander the celebration.

Of course, the temptation was to fill up on the antipasti and then bemoan the fact that we were too full to enjoy the pasta, the meat, the fish, the cheese and salad and the desserts that followed. A lucky predicament to be in.

Seafood Salad (1)

My mum was great at pickling and grilling vegetables, a mainstay on the Italian table. But for me the highlight was always her seafood salad. Back in the day it wasn’t as easy to buy affordable, fresh seafood as it is nowadays. And to be honest, even now it’s still a luxury and for many people, living far from the coast, it’s not always available. This great thing about this dish is that, as you’re packing it full of so many fresh and zingy flavours, frozen seafood is fine. Yes, you heard it here, don’t be ashamed of making your seafood salad with frozen seafood – just be sure you defrost and cook with care and store chilled until serving. No one will be any the wiser!

Another great thing about this dish is that quantities are not important. If you can’t get squid, add octopus, if you can’t find mussels, leave them out or add a few more prawns. It’s up to you, so this is not really a recipe, just an inspiration for you to mix it up your way. What is important is to make it ahead, at least a few hours, or even overnight to allow the dressing to soak into the seafood and the flavours to develop.

Ingredients

  • For the seafood mix, use peeled king prawns, small prawns, sliced squid or baby squid and mussels. Ensure all the fish is cleaned and defrosted and well drained if necessary. Chop up a couple of cloves of garlic and reserve.
  • For the dressing make up a vinaigrette with two thirds extra virgin olive oil, one third acid (I use part lemon juice and part white wine vinegar), a sprinkle of sugar, half a teaspoon of made up mustard (or ¼ teaspoon of dried mustard powder) and salt and pepper. Put it all into a jar and shake it up well.
  • As a main course for 2 people, one tin of drained cannellini beans and two sticks of celery finely chopped.
  • For the salad a mix of finely chopped lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, red onions, and flat leaf parsley. For garnish and flavour at the end, some finely sliced hot chilli pepper and the zest of a lemon.

Keep the seafood separated out (each item takes a slightly different time to cook). In a wok or large frying pan add some olive oil and the garlic. Heat the oil gently and add the king prawns. Cook until the prawns have turned pink and the garlic is just starting to turn brown. Spoon out the prawns and garlic into a large bowl. Add more oil if necessary (no more garlic) and stir fry each of the seafood ingredients and add to the bowl. Mix the seafood together and allow to cool. Don’t worry if you are left with some lovely fish flavoured juices at the bottom of the bowl, these will add flavour to the dressing. If you are using pre cooked seafood, just mix it all together and move onto the next stage.

Seafood Salad (3)

After the seafood has cooled down, add the celery and beans and pour over the dressing. Mix well and chill for a few hours or overnight.

When you are ready to eat, bring the seafood and beans back to almost room temperature and add your salad ingredients. Mix, taste and adjust the seasoning. Plate up and garnish with the chilli and lemon zest.

Perfect as a filling main course, a special starter or as part of a celebration antipasto. Buon appetito!

Chorizo and Green Olive Scones (made with Goose Fat)

14 Aug

I’m a person who moves house often. I don’t know why it’s been that way – sometimes work, sometimes love, sometimes just for the heck of it. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve moved (well, I suppose I could work it out if I sat down for long enough) and my pals are forever crossing out my details and adding new ones in their address books. Heck, Big Man and I are selling the little flat we bought in Bexhill (well, it was only ever meant to be a temporary arrangement whilst we did the house renovations) and are buying a little house nearby for ourselves. It’s only temporary though you understand.

Chorizo & Olive Scones 009

If we were to up sticks and move, say, to Sydney, we’d zoom in on Celia from Fig Jam & Lime Cordial’s neighbourhood. That’s a lie, we’d stalk her and move in next door so that we could enjoy all her cooking, baking and garden experiments. She’d be rewarded with the fact that we’d probably not stay long and she could get back to normal again when Big Man and Chica relocated to the Cook Islands…

For the moment, it’s mainly Bexhill-on-Sea with the occasional trip back to our Mountain Top Home. Home is wherever the heart is and luckily for us we both feel the same.

As we can’t actually move in next door to Celia, we’ll do the next best thing and join in her invitation to celebrate International Scone Week. Yay! Love an excuse for a Food Fiesta. I do have to confess right here that my very favourite scones are from another Celia, she of The Kitchen’s Garden, and I’ve been making them ever since she told us about them. Smothered with butter, jam AND cream – sigh, they’re the best. But in the spirit of adventure and because Celia (of FJ&LC) and I have been exchanging messages about cooking with lard and pimentón, I give you my savoury scones, based on Celia of TKG recipe. They are actually made with goose fat as this is what I had in the fridge, and not lard, but let’s not quibble or I might buy a house next door to you.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of self raising flour (or use plain flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of cornflour
  • 75g goose fat (or lard)
  • 2 level teaspoons of smoked pimentón
  • A pinch of salt and about 10 good grinds of black pepper
  • A piece of cured chorizo about 10cm long cut into tiny dice
  • 10 green (or black) olives, stoned and cut into tiny dice
  • 1/3 cup of milk mixed with a 1/3 cup of iced water

Heat the oven to the highest setting and put a baking tray inside to heat up.

Mix the flour with the cornflour, pimentón and salt and pepper. Mix the fat in lightly with your fingertips until it looks like small breadcrumbs then stir in the pimentón and olives. Gradually add the liquid until the dough comes together. It shouldn’t be too wet or dry and try not to overwork it.

Chorizo & Olive Scones 001

Pat the dough into a round on a floured surface and cut out rounds. Mine made 6 very rustic looking (for “rustic”, read “not perfectly smooth”) large scones but it would be great for mini cocktail sized scones.

Put the scones onto the heated baking tray and bake for 6-10 minutes depending on their size until lightly browned. Serve warm (not hot) or cold, delicious on their own or with cheese.

Happy International Scone Week my Blogging Friends and next time you see a “For Sale” sign go up in your neighbourhood…be very afraid…..

Honey, Ginger and Soy Glazed Salmon

10 Aug

It’s summer and some days the weather turns warmer, hurrah!  Lighter, quicker to prepare dishes are firmly on the menu.

This is not an unusual dish, I am sure we all have variations of something similar in our repertoire, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded of ways of preparing dishes that we’ve loved and then forgotten.

Sticky Soy Salmon (3)

Ingredients (per person)

  • 1 salmon fillet (sustainably farmed if you can find it)
  • ½ teaspoon runny honey
  • 1 teaspoon of light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon finely chopped ginger (or grated)
  • ½ clove of crushed garlic

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and leave the salmon in it for at least 15 minutes but up to a few hours if you have time (remember to turn it over occasionally).

Drain then fry the fillets in a non stick pan (you won’t need any oil) for a couple of minutes each side until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and pour in any remaining marinade and cook quickly until it bubbles, pour this over the fish. I served this over a green salad packed full of gorgeous things like rocket and asparagus. A cheeky glass of white wine is most definitely recommended!

 

Vaguely Vietnamese Summer Rolls

4 Aug

I know, I know…late for the train again. I seem to be a few steps behind at the moment when it comes to food fashion, but I get there in the end. And then, like the woman who still thinks shoulder pads should come with t-shirts (what…me with the sloping shoulders?!) I’ll keep trotting out my “new food discovery” for years to come!

Vietnamese Summer Rolls 005

Summer, even in England this year, makes us want lighter more refreshing foods and a trip round the local Caribbean/Asian store rummaging for new foodstuffs resulted in the purchase of some rice paper wrappers. Summer Rolls – enjoyed from time to time in restaurants but never made – it seemed like an obvious choice.

When I decide to make something, I behave in the same way as I do if I have made the purchase of a new gadget or a pair of shoes. I have to use/wear them straight away. All the recipes for Vietnamese Summer rolls seemed to call for minced pork or prawns. Which would have been lovely if I’d had them, but I had avocado so I went for an (almost) vegetarian/vegan version. They would have been properly veggie/vegan if I’d left out the fish sauce.

Most of the recipes did seem to agree that you can pretty much do what you like and were rather loose on quantities. I just boiled up some fine rice noodles, finely sliced an avocado and made up a batch of finely sliced vegetables then kept rolling until I ran out – 9 rolls later.

Ingredients

  • Rice paper wrappers
  • Finely sliced vegetables (I used a piece of red pepper, half a large carrot, one spring onion, 2 leaves of Chinese cabbage and about a third of a courgette) mixed with some finely chopped mint, coriander and basil and a splash of fish sauce and the juice of half a lime
  • Rice noodles soaked in hot water until soft (I used one block which gave me about a cup and a half)

For the peanut dipping sauce

  • 2 heaped teaspoons of smooth peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons of warm water
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of fish sauce
  • The juice of half a lime
  • A pinch of sugar

Get a little production line ready with a bowl of warm water big enough to hold your rice wrappers, a plate with a folded tea towel on top, your various filling ingredients, a clean plate to put the finished rolls onto and a few pieces of wet kitchen paper (or a damp cloth) to cover the rolls with to stop them drying out.

Dip a wrapper in the water and gently rub until it is transparent and soft (mine took less than 30 seconds). They are fragile but not overly so. Lay the wrapper on the plate with the clean tea towel.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls 001

Place your various fillings in the centre of the wrapper, piled on top of each other) then roll the top of the wrapper over the fillings, fold in the sides to seal and then roll the bottom half of the wrapper up. As the wrapper is still wet it will seal and keep the filling in. Place the completed roll on the serving plate and cover with a damp cloth or kitchen paper.

To make the dipping sauce, simply mix all the ingredients together. I also served the rolls with some sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Fiddly, but not too challenging, and fun to make. Healthy, delicious and surprisingly filling. Result all round!

Ottolenghi Inspired Stuffed Peppers

29 Jul

Yes, the love affair with Mr O continues. Today the recipe is inspired by one from his book Jerusalem, and is, in turn, one of his own mother’s recipes. Momma knows best, we all know that.

As ever, I used what I had to hand, the original ingredients are in brackets following my version. It makes a stunning main course accompanied by a salad packed full of all your favourite leaves, or an excellent starter if you use smaller peppers and restrain yourself to eating only a half. Tough choice.

Stuffed Peppers (4)

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course or 8 as a starter – easily halved, or even doubled for a party)

  • 4 red bell peppers (which I halved and blanched in boiling water for about 3 minutes) (8 romano peppers, no need to blanch)
  • 2 cups of homemade tomato sauce or (1 large tomato roughly chopped, 2 medium onions roughly chopped, about 500ml vegetable stock)

Stuffing

  • 140g basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp Allspice (1 ½ tbsp baharat)
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 400g minced pork (400g minced lamb)
  • 2 ½ tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint (2 tbsp chopped dill, 1 ½ tbs chopped dried mint)
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
  • Salt and black pepper

Put the rice in a saucepan and cover with lightly salted water. Boil for 4 minutes, drain, rinse and set aside.

Dry fry the spices, add the olive oil and onion and fry until the onion is soft. Pour this and the stuffing ingredients into a large bowl and mix). Season.

Stuff either the half peppers or if using the romanos cut a slit lengthways without cutting in half completely and stuff each pepper.

If not using previously made tomato sauce, place the chopped tomato and onion into a large pan with a tight fitting lid (or pour your sauce in). Sit the peppers on top, cover with a lid and either simmer on the stove top on a low heat for about an hour or cook in a medium oven until the peppers are tender. If using the stove top, make sure the sauce does not dry out by adding a little water if necessary.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

French beans, asparagus and mangetout with chopped almonds and lime

24 Jul

Another Ottolenghi inspired recipe – his calls for roasted chopped hazlenuts and orange. Hey, you do what you can with what you have on hand and “wow” it was so good!

This was a dish I took along to a barbecue but with a little grilled meat or some hard boiled eggs (for a vegetarian meal) would make a very delicious and satisfying light lunch or supper dish.

Ottolenghi Beans (1)

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 400g of trimmed French beans chopped and lightly boiled
  • 400g mangetout lightly boiled
  • 1 bunch asparagus chopped and lightly boiled
  • 70g chopped or flaked almonds, dry toasted in a frying pan
  • 2 limes – zested and the juice squeezed out
  • 20g chopped parsley
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Simply mix together the lime zest, juice, olive oil and seasoning and add to the beans and mangetout. Sprinkle over the almonds, mix, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve at room temperature.

 

Ham Hock Persillade

19 Jul

Some neighbours of ours in England recently moved from Bexhill on Sea to the wilds of Bonny Scotland. As with most house moves, it was a chance for them to de-clutter. Fortunately for me Mr Neighbour managed a local bookstore and as a result of this had a house packed full of a wide variety of books. I assume these had been come by through honest means and he didn’t shove a book down his trousers each night as he went home. It would have been churlish to ask as I was the lucky recipient of an eclectic collection of books.

One of them was Gordon Ramsay’s Sunday Lunch. I have to confess that in the past I have had no f*****g time for him, he swears too much…Jokes aside (yes, that was a little joke) I just hadn’t ever bought any of his books or watched any of his programmes so I was a little reluctant to even read the book, let alone use it. I’m so glad I did delve into its pages…a lot of very uncomplicated recipes and menus, dishes that I actually wanted to cook. Sorry Mr Ramsay, you bl**dy surprised me!

Persillade (1)

A local butcher regularly sells cooked ham hocks. It’s the knee basically, cooked and then sold with the gelatine (formed by the cooking liquid) for a bargain price of less than £3 (that’s about the same in Euro and a few US dollars more). I often buy them as the ham picked off the bones is great in sandwiches or soup and the dogs love the bones which keep them entertained in the garden for hours. Result all round.

I came across a recipe in the book, very grandly titled Ham Hock Persillade which reminded me of the delicious brawn my mum makes. The recipe called for cooking the ham and reducing the stock with gelatine to solidify it. No need for that, my hock was already cooked and covered in the delicious stuff. I halved his recipe which he says serves 6-8. Even my halved version (using pickled garlic instead of gherkins as I didn’t have any) would easily have fed 8 as a starter, probably with a little left over. I served it as a starter (for 5 people) thickly sliced on top of a salad of spinach and watercress and also as canapés (there were 6 of us for drinks and nibbles), cut into little cubes and served with some very retro cocktail sticks!

Persillade (6)

Ingredients

  • 1 large cooked ham hock and its gelatine
  • 2 tbsp large capers, cut into slices
  • 2 tbsp pickled garlic, thinly sliced
  • Handful of flat leaf parsley finely chopped

You will need a loaf tin or a deep plastic container.

Remove the gelatine and skin from the hock and place into a saucepan with about half a cup of water.

Pull the meat off the bones (the bones will now also go into the saucepan) and shred it. Set the meat aside.

Boil the skin, bones etc for about 7 or 8 minutes then drain the liquid and leave it to cool slightly.

Mix the shredded meat with the capers, garlic (or use gherkins), parsley and some freshly ground pepper. You probably won’t need salt as ham hocks tend to be quite salty. Put this mixture into a loaf tin or plastic tub lined with cling film then pour the liquid over until the mix is completely covered. Tap the tin or terrine gently to get rid of any air bubbles, cover with cling film and place a weight on top. Chill overnight or until it has set.

Persillade (10)

When you are ready to serve, peel off the cling film on the top and invert the container onto a serving plate. It should slide out easily, then you can peel the remaining film off. Serve cut into thick slices (Mr Ramsay serves his with piccalilli which I imagine must be very good). A really impressive but not too tricky to make dish. Would be great for a picnic too as it’s very portable when still in its mould.

Thanks Mr Ramsay, a flippin’ marvellous recipe!

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