Roast Chicken

20 Oct

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!!

Sunday Roast 007

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…

Spicy Pumpkin and Pear Soup…and a little sewing

17 Oct

So, remember our pear tree? Yes, the one with an awful lot of pears on it. We’ve been really enjoying eating them in crumbles, purées, stewed but mainly au naturel and sometimes with cheese. Delicious. But they don’t store. I know, I tried it out. I spent ages wrapping a load up in newspaper and storing them somewhere cool and dark only to find a horrible, stinky mush a few days ago. Nasty.

Luckily we really did make the most of them and one of the dishes I made was a hearty soup using some of the crisper, under ripe pears left at the very end.

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Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course)

  • About 1kg of pumpkin or squash (peeled, seeded and cut into cubes)
  • 3 medium pears (peeled and cut into cubes)
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 1 level teaspoon of hot chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
  • 1 tin (400g) coconut milk
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Smoked pimenton to serve

(Inspired by a recipe from the book Economy Gastronomy)

Heat the oil and add the pumpkin. Fry on a medium heat until it starts to colour a little (you may need to do this in batches) then add the spices and garlic. Cook for a minute then add the pear, coconut milk and stock. Simmer for about 30 minutes, blend to a texture you enjoy (I used a stick blender) season to taste and serve with a sprinkle of smoked pimenton.

For any of you who are wondering what the heck I’ve been up to in the absence of great cooking facilities (and apart from house renovations), I decided to set myself up with a little winter project. I am hand making a patchwork quilt, following (sort of) a design pattern.

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Am really enjoying making the quilt top but may back out of hand quilting it myself. We’ll see.  Perhaps next year I’ll be eating this soup snuggled under my quilt!

A Juicy Pear

6 Oct

After the doom and gloom of our dismal cooking arrangements, I wanted to reassure you that all is not quite so bad Chez Chica and Big Man.

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We have inherited a beautiful pear tree in our new home. Well, it’s in the garden of course, not growing in the middle of the sitting room. Which would make day to day life a little awkward.

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It’s a tiny Victorian back garden but we still have the original wall and it’s south west facing, so it’s warm and sunny.

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Obviously, being without an oven, pies and crumbles have been out of the question but we’ve enjoyed sharing them, eating them with cheese, cooked and served with thick cream and some have been cooked and frozen for a rainy day. It’s raining today, I think we might be eating pears…

(For those of you with proper kitchens, pop over to Roger’s blog and be inspired by this beautiful recipe.)

Slow Cooked Spiced Lamb Shanks – and some spartan cooking arrangements

2 Oct

So, you know how the cobbler’s children historically had no shoes? Well, the property developing, building and renovating couple currently have a crappy kitchen with no oven in their new home. Can you imagine how that makes me feel? It’s a bit weird though as in Spain I often go the whole summer without turning on the oven, but when you don’t have something all you can think about is that one thing. Here’s a quick glimpse of my current cooking arrangements.

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I am making do for the moment with a small camping sized electric hob, my now well-loved giant slow cooker and an electric plancha. All I want to do is bake cakes and oven roast meat but it’s not to be, for a while at least.

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And just to explain the even more dreadful than usual photos of the finished dish, you can see that I am hardly “blinded by the light” in the kitchen. Boo hoo. But hopefully all this explains why I am posting less recipes than usual!

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A perfect dish to get rid of cooking frustrations is a slow cooked pot of lamb shanks. This can be done just as easily in a low oven, reducing the cooking time to 3-4 hours. You will be rewarded for your patience, whichever method you choose!

Ingredients (serves 2 generously)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp harissa paste
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or black treacle)
  • 4 dried apricots, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to season

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Heat the olive oil in a frying pan (or in an ovenproof dish if you are going to oven cook) and brown the lamb shanks all over, then transfer to your slow cooker (or put onto a plate).

Gently fry the onions and garlic until softened then add the spices and tomato and bring to a simmer. Pour in the stock, add the molasses, apricots and season. When it’s bubbling again pour over the lamb shanks in the slow cooker (or add the lamb shanks to the pot), cover and cook on low for about 10 hours until the meat is tender and falling off the bones.

When you are ready to serve (with mashed potato is a good idea), take the meat out and keep warm, pour the sauce into a pan and reduce on a medium heat until thickened to your liking. Pour over the meat and enjoy!

Any leftover sauce is wonderful served over pasta and easily heated up on your camping stove (but do feel free to use a regular one too)!

(Inspired by a recipe from the BBC Good Food site)

Very Slow Cooked Lamb Breast with Onions, Anchovies and Potatoes

23 Sep

Big Man and I are addicted to Car Boot Sales. They are (I think) a curiously English phenomenon, like caravanning and Morris dancing. Neither of which are our thing, but each to his own I say.

Basically it’s a good chance for a clear out of all your old rubbish/unwanted gifts/unwise purchases and fashion horrors. You then load these into your car, rock up to a local leisure centre or field (weather depending and also it helps to have the farmer’s permission and the participation of other car booters or you might get whisked away by the local police for fly tipping or bonkers behaviour) and sell your stuff out of the car boot. If, like me, you love to recycle and reuse and you think someone else’s unwanted stuff could possibly be your treasure and live in hope of coming across a Lalique Vase or Fabergé Egg for pennies which you will then sell for an enormous fortune, then car booting is for you. If the thought of rummaging through someone else’s rubbish turns your stomach….perhaps not.

Recently I bought the world’s most enormous slow cooker for a few pounds at a Car Boot Sale. Result! I’ve wanted one for ages but as nouvelle cuisine sized portions are not my thing (I’m more an Army Catering sort of Chica) I’ve struggled to find one that will let me cook up a good sized pot of food with plenty for dinner then leftovers.

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My first experiment was a chick pea dish, even though it was a hot, hot day. Delicious, the chick peas were melt in your mouth tender, although it was more a dish for a cold winter’s night.

Flushed with the success of my chick peas I thought I’d try cooking a piece of meat and a rolled lamb breast in the freezer beckoned to me. To be honest, it wasn’t that huge, but made plenty for two good meals for both of us.

Probably not the most photogenic meal in the world, but so tasty, the anchovies melt and just give a depth of flavour to the vegetables (not fishy at all) and can be easily cooked in a regular oven on low/medium for about 3-4 hours.

Ingredients (to serve 4)

  • 1 boned rolled lamb breast (about 800g)
  • 8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 4 medium onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced (I used both red and white)
  • 1 head of garlic, the cloves separated but not peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 tin of anchovies in oil
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A glass of white wine

Mix all the ingredients (except the lamb, salt & pepper and wine), together and put into the bottom of the slow cooker or a deep ovenproof dish. Place the lamb on top, season well and pour the wine over. Cover with a lid and cook in the slow cooker for about 10 hours on low or in the oven (as explained above).

When cooked, slice the meat and serve over the potatoes which will be cooked but still holding their shape, and the onions which will be melted and tender. Pour over the juices and congratulate yourself on how fabulous you are at making something so tasty with so little effort. Or is it just me that does that?!

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…..

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