Wishing the Peace and Joy of Christmas to you and all your loved ones
…and Health and Happiness from our home to yours for 2015
See you in the New Year!
We love risotto and I make it often. Some folk are nervous about it, thinking it will be a pain to stand and stir, and worrying if the rice will be over cooked or undercooked. Relax, pour yourself a lovely glass of wine and just enjoy about half an hour of gently attending to your dish while your mind sorts out the worries of the day. The diners will eat when the risotto is ready. No sooner, no later. And if you don’t like your rice too “al dente”…well you’re in charge, you can cook it for longer.
It’s a great dish too for using up whatever you have to hand. Personally I’m not so keen on meat risottos so this is a good option for us on the days when we choose not to eat meat or fish. To make this vegan you’d need to use vegan cheese and leave out the splosh of cream at the end – it will still taste amazing, I promise.
Ingredients to serve 6 as a starter, 4 as a main
Start by warming the oil in a deep frying pan and sweating the onions and garlic until soft. Add fresh mushrooms and cook gently until they are also soft then add the rice. Stir the rice in the pan to make sure all the grains are coated in oil then add the chopped reconstituted dried mushrooms.
Slowly add the hot stock, a couple of ladles full at a time, stir into the rice and when it has been absorbed, add more liquid. When the rice is almost cooked to your liking, turn the heat off and stir in the butter and cream, cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Serve with griddled asparagus and large mushrooms (brush them with olive oil and season before cooking on a hot griddle) for a filling main course. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan as you serve if that takes your fancy.
Cranberries are not just for cranberry sauce and cranberry juice! And we all know they’re good for us, don’t we?! I love that sour taste of Cranberries, Big Man…less so. Oh dear. But he loves cake, so a perfect compromise is to make cake with cranberries in it. I do love a Win/Win cooking situation.
This is a cake for people who are not very good with measuring ingredients as they can find the scales but not the old fashioned weights that go with it. It’s good for folk who have trouble finding the mixer or the electric whisk, who then accidentally turn the oven off for 5 minutes while baking a cake thinking they’ve turned the hob off, then open the oven door to see why the light in the oven seems to have stopped working. Yes, that was me, but this cake is like the hardiest Marine in the Cake Corps – nothing can defeat it, it WILL turn out fine no matter how badly you treat it. You can even half drop the tin as you’re turning the cake out – oh yes, I did that too – but it’s probably going to be prettier if you leave that bit out.
Ingredients for one large cake (serves about 12 – 14 slices)
Grease and flour a large baking tin. I used an 11” bundt tin, but a 9” square tin would also work well. Set the oven to 175 degrees C.
Mix together the sugar, orange juice, eggs, yogurt and oil. If you can find your electric whisk, go ahead. If not, use a hand whisk with a bit of fury until all the ingredients are well blended.
Add the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon, then stir in the fruit and zest. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until the cake is pulling away from the sides of the tin, is browned on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
If you want to top it, mix 8 heaped teaspoons of sifted icing sugar with about 2-3 teaspoons of orange juice (add gradually) until you have a thick pouring paste, and drizzle over.
Make a pot of coffee, cut yourself a good slice of cake, put your feet up and relax…
For another olive oil cake recipe, take a look at my orange and raisin cake.
Beautiful Bexhill on Sea (ok, I’m biased!) has a wonderful library, housed in a very lovely Victorian Building which, I understand, was once a school.
Bexhill Library (I came across this photo on the internet – happy to acknowledge if it’s yours!)
We have access to books in Spanish for Big Man, books about Quilting for me, novels, internet, and pretty much everything you’d expect from a good library. We have a particularly good section of cookery books which allows me to try out ones I’m thinking of buying and to check out ones I’d never previously come across.
Because of my recent new love affair with my slow cooker, The Slow Cook Book caught my eye. What I like about this book is that apart from some really good recipe ideas (soups, stews, casseroles, tagines and curries) it details two ways to cook each recipe – both in the slow cooker or in the oven or stove top if you don’t have a slow cooker. What a great idea!
Most slow cook recipes are pretty flexible and forgiving, so you don’t need to follow them slavishly. The main thing to remember is that slow cookers don’t need quite as much liquid as conventional cooking as this cooking method tends to conserve most of the liquid.
A mustard chicken casserole caught my eye and as Big Man is a fan of English cider, I thought I’d add that in as the flavours would work well together. It was a simple dish to pull together, with a little preparation before putting it into cook and then forgetting about it for a few hours. It tastes even better made a day ahead.
Mix the mustards and honey, season the chicken thighs and smother them with the mustard mixture. Leave for at least 30 minutes (or prepare ahead and leave overnight).
If cooking in the oven, preheat to 160C/325F or Gas 3. Heat half the oil in a frying pan and on a medium heat, fry the chicken in batches until it is browned all over. Put the chicken pieces in the slow cooker or a casserole dish.
Add the remaining oil and fry the onion and garlic until the onion starts to turn brown, Add this with all the sticky bits from the pan and any marinade that remains from the chicken, plus the hot liquid to the slow cooker/casserole dish. Add the time and stir everything gently before covering and cooking in the slow cooker on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours or in the oven for 2 hours.
When prepared, taste and adjust the seasoning and serve with mashed or boiled potatoes and steamed or lightly boiled greens.
Oh it’s been a long, long road with this one. But like the very first project we undertook together, we love this house. Little secrets emerged from behind layers of wardrobes, original flooring came back to life and today our lovely new tenants moved in.
For those of you who are interested, I’ll let the photos tell the story of a little 2 bedroomed (it was 3 bed when it was originally built but with only an outside loo and no indoor bathroom) Victorian mid terraced house.
The previous owners had lived there for 60 years, the lady (her daughter) who sold it to us told us that her parents had originally rented it then managed to buy it with a mortgage. She (the daughter) was born and bought up there, her mother lived out her final years as a widow in the house and the daughter’s son and his children all had strong memories of spending time with their grandparents (and great grandparents) there.
Yesterday the previous family came to look over the house before the tenants moved in. I was anxious. We bring properties up to a modern standard (putting in central heating, efficient plumbing and decent kitchens and bathrooms).
We try to revive old floorboards if we can and replace them if we can’t. We paint our houses white so that whoever buys or rents them can make them their own. But they look very different from when we start and I was worried it might upset the previous family.
Fortunately there were tears of joy and smiles of relief as they saw fireplaces uncovered and restored that they had previosuly forgotten existed. Admiration for the floors and chuckles at the improved outside loo.
Time now to rest and focus on ourselves. Time for good food, and sleep and long walks on the beach.
Finally, back to the cooking. An easy recipe which looks like you´ve put lots of effort in and hours of work! This would also work well with pork loin or chicken breast.
You´ll need for 2 people (with leftovers which is always a good thing)
Put the pork fillet on a sheet of aluminium and rub in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and season all over with pepper and salt. Tuck the rosemary spring under the meat and bring the aluminium up to create a basket for the meat, but don´t cover it completely. This basket will save the cooking juices.
Put the meat onto a baking tray and into the oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes until the juices run clear when you put a skewer into the thickest part. Remove from the oven, remove the rosemary, wrap the foil tightly round it and keep it warm for about 5 minutes to let it rest a little.
While the meat is cooking, put a few tablespoons of oil into a deep frying pan and cook the onion, garlic and bacon together gently until the onions are soft. Add the mushrooms and a grind of pepper, stir over the heat until the mushrooms have all absorbed a little oil then add the wine and a few grinds of black pepper (no salt usually needed because of the saltiness of the bacon). Put a lid on the pan and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked and the liquid has reduced by about half.
Any leftovers of meat can be finely chopped, mixed with the mushrooms and bacon with a little cream and are delicious on pasta!
Apologies to my veggie pals and readers (you know who you are :) ) this is an unashamedly porky plate with little room for adaptation but I hope you will understand and forgive….
I apologise for the lack of cooking and recipe posts recently. I have made some new dishes, a wonderful beef casserole a few days ago but the photos – not so good…
Anyway, some of you know that I am a crafty Chica (of the creative rather than sly kind) when I’m not cooking or renovating. My latest project is a patchwork quilt, which almost follows a pattern and is being made by hand. Time for a big thank you to a new blogging pal, Kate over at talltalesfromchiconia, who has an amazing blog full of beautiful projects and a lot of quilts! She has been giving me, a humble novice quilter, some really great tips – thanks Kate!
So, just to give some “technical” details for anyone interested, the pattern is based on one called Garden Walk from the book Jelly Roll Dreams compiled by Pam and Nicky Lintott. I used a Moda Jelly Roll (I think the colour was called Holly Wishes which turned out to be quite Christmassy!) plus extra fabric.
The blocks are now completed but I want to make the quilt wider to properly cover our King Size bed, so will be adding a contrast of sashes vertically between the rows of four blocks.
The next step is to assemble the quilt block and then make the quilt “sandwich” and start hand quilting…
When in England we get to enjoy a wide variety of different foods that we wouldn’t normally have access to in Spain. Sometimes though, we long for the taste of our other home. If we lived in London, it would be easier to get hold of some of the more authentic ingredients to recreate certain dishes, outside of London it’s a bit trickier. Sometimes, London or not, you can’t get hold of them at all.
Our beloved Fabada, from the north of Spain, is one dish that it’s particularly tricky to replicate exactly without the traditional beans and smoked meats. No matter, we make do and end up with a delicious variation of the original. Fusion cooking? No….we’re not that trendy! Make do and mend? You bet!
This is a dish you need to plan in advance (especially if you are going to use dried beans which will need soaking overnight). It tastes even better the day after you’ve made it, so is a great one to prepare ahead, or use the slow cooker.
In Spain, this style of dish using dried beans is called a Potaje (pronounced po-tah-heh) which is similar to the French word Potage and the old English word Pottage. All three dishes seem to have much in common with each other as well as the name – do check out the links if you have time.
Ingredients (to serve 6 as a main course)
Cover the soaked beans with plenty of cold water and bring to a fast boil. Boil hard for 10 minutes, skimming off any froth that appears on the surface.
Now add the rest of the ingredients except the salt, and bring back to the boil. You can now either put the whole thing into a slow cooker and cook on low for about 8-10 hours, simmer on the stove top for about 2 hours or cook on low in the oven for 4 hours. Make sure you use a dish which has a lid.
When the cooking time is up, test the beans. They should be soft and creamy, even a little mushy. Season to taste. When you are about to serve, put the pot back onto the stove top (transfer to another pot if you used the slow cooker) and return to a fast boil for about 5 minutes. The liquid will turn from a clearer state to cloudy, and thicken at the same time.
Slice the pork belly and black pudding into smaller pieces and serve each person with beans, a chorizo and some pork belly and black pudding. A final drizzle of fresh, fruity olive oil over each dish will really lift the flavour. A perfect dish for a hearty lunch on a cold day.
If you like this kind of dish, why not check out this dish of Pork Shanks with Giant Beans
Yes, a delicious chicken rubbed in za’atar, stuffed with a lemon and roasted with onion and perfect potatoes cooked in goose fat. So what? I hear you say, nothing special about that. Well, a roast chicken can mean only one thing – AN OVEN!!
Yes, although the full refurb of our new home is still only in the planning stages, the dismal cooking arrangements have moved into the slightly more modern era with the purchase of a very nice, temporary, second-hand oven.
Hurrah, almost normal service will be resumed. If I don’t smoke us out (no extractor) in the meantime…
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