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Slovenly Strawberry Pie

13 Jul

A pal and commenter, Lynn, asked if I would be posting some strawberry recipes as we are smack bang in the middle of strawberry season….of course, am happy to oblige! Regular readers though will know that I am not much of a dessert maker (the ever expanding waistline does not permit too many treats) so I usually pull together dishes that are quick and easy but delicious enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. Strawberries are also so good right now, they don’t need too much mucking about with.

For anyone who also signed up for the “throw it together and see what happens dessert class”, this one’s for you.

Strwaberry Tart (3)

Ingredients (to serve 4-6)

  • 500g dessert pastry (I cheated and used ready made, but you can always make your own)
  • 600g fresh strawberries halved or quartered if very large
  • 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 level tbsp cornflour
  • Splash of fruit liqueur (I used framboise)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Brown sugar

Mix the strawberries with the icing sugar, cornflour and liqueur and set aside while you roll the pastry out into a circle. Place the pastry onto an oven tray or into a tin, I used a deep paella pan which worked beautifully!

Pile the strawberries into the middle of the pastry circle then fold the extra pastry in over the top to form a bowl shape. Brush the top of the pastry with egg yolk and sprinkle over some brown sugar.

Bake at 180 degrees C for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the strawberries are bubbling. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving – the cornflour will slightly thicken the juices. Serve with ice cream or cream whilst pretending to your impressed loved ones that it was really hard work to prepare.

Chocolate and Amaretto Semifreddo

3 Nov

Now please don’t send the dessert police round if this is not really an authentic semifreddo. I’ve just looked at the Wikipedia definition and it seems like it should have ice cream mixed in with the whipped cream.  Oh dear, Chica taking shortcuts again.

Regular readers of this blog will probably have already noticed that I don’t post a huge number of dessert recipes. Mainly because I’m not very sweet toothed, and secondly because Big Man and I don’t really need to be eating too many naughty treats and generally stick to fruit and yogurt at the end of a meal.

But sometimes, yes sometimes, life calls for pudding and with some new pals round recently for supper, this was such an occasion. Obviously, after a long day of house renovation, I needed a meal which I could prepare in advance so that I could relax and enjoy the food and company.

The main course was Pollo Cacciatore, made the day before. Dessert was made the evening before, inspired by part of a programme presented by Nigella Lawson. I missed the detail of the recipe, so this is my version and it worked out perfectly. I am my own Domestic Goddess.

Semifreddo (4)

Ingredients (serves 6-8….well 4-6 in my house)

  • 600ml of double or whipping cream
  • 100g of your favourite chocolate which you need to put into the fridge for an hour or so
  • 2-3 tablespoons of amaretto (or your favourite liqueur)
  • 4 ready-made meringue nests (or you could be a complete Domestic God or Goddess and make your own)
  • A loaf tin or plastic ice cream tub lined with cling film

Beat the cream until is softly whipped (but not stiff). Finely chop the cold chocolate and add it to the cream with the liqueur then crumble in the meringue (break it up into small pieces). Mix gently with a large spoon until combined and then spoon it into your container. Cover with cling film and freeze until you are ready to serve. Take it out of the freezer a few minutes before you want to eat and slice it (I found it easiest with a bread knife) into portions.

I served mine with fresh raspberries, a raspberry coulis (made with one cup of raspberries and half a cup of icing sugar, cooked then sieved) and some flaked almonds. It’s not the most beautiful photo in the world, I apologise, but it was taken as I served it up after an evening of food and wine conviviality, at about 10pm in an underlit kitchen.

Easy, delicious and very little effort. Perfect!

Autumn Days and Autumn Nights – Apple and Blackberry Pudding

16 Sep

The days are getting shorter, the sun still shines most of the time but not with the intensity of summer. The air smells different, fresher, more invigorating. It’s time to finish off doing things you meant to do in summer and plan for the next few months.

Time to enjoy autumn fruits like prickly pears…

Chumbos (2)

Big Man and I haven’t had the great summer we had hoped for in Spain this year. That’s the way life goes sometimes. You just have to accept it and move on.  We hadn’t had a single chance to go to the beach, so at the end of last week we made it happen. Granted, we didn’t get down there until lunch time, but luck was on our side and a beachfront table at one of our favourite Chiringuitos (beach restaurants) became available as we arrived.

Beach 12 Sep (8)

Perfect, time to relax with a bottle of chilled white wine, a mix of deep fried fish and some peppers and a plate of little pieces of grilled monkfish.

Beach 12 Sep (5)

After a reviving coffee it was time for a gentle snooze down by the sea, listening to the waves and the distant sounds of murmered conversations.

What a difference a day makes, the next day Up the Mountain was grey and misty with low clouds lurking around the house.

VIstas 13 Sep (10)

A day that made me wish the blackberries here were still going strong, as they had been in England. A little bag of about 2 cups of blackberries had been picked on a seaside walk in England Down by the Sea and turned into a delicious autumn pudding.

Blackberry & Apple Pudding (3)

Apple and Blackberry Pudding

  • 2 cups of blackberries (approx.) washed, two small apples peeled and thinly sliced and both fruits mixed together and sprinkled with about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of self raising flour, a pinch of salt and quarter of a cup of sugar mixed together in one bowl
  • 1 large egg, a teaspoon of vanilla essence, a quarter of a cup of oil and a quarter of a cup of natural yogurt beaten together until well mixed.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well, if the mixture is very stiff, add a tablespoon full of milk.

Mix the cake mix into the fruit and pour into an ovenproof dish. Bake at 180º for about 30 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre of the pudding comes out clean and the top is slightly browned.

Blackberry & Apple Pudding (1)

Serve with cream and/or ice cream whilst making sure your dog does not sneak up on you and pinch a mouthful.

Cherry Sourdough Cake

16 Jun

Yes, the sourdough madness continues. I hate to throw food away and whilst I can’t always use my sourdough starter, especially when I have to remove half to feed it, I am now finding ways to bring it into other recipes.

We’ve had bread, and pizza, so now it’s time for something sweet. I’ve noticed too that there’s not too much fat used in these recipes, and I tend to use olive oil rather than butter, so I’m finding lower fat alternatives which has been a bonus.

As I was playing around with my cake recipe, the lovely Teleri at Olives & Artichokes, very kindly weighed, measured, baked and posted a gorgeous almond cherry cake made with olive oil (I’d asked her about her baking!). Thanks Teleri, this one is being baked today Up the Mountain!

Cherry Sourdough Cake (2)

I found several recipes for cakes on line and decided to be brave and adapt, mix and match. What was the worst that could happen? The chickies would have had cake for breakfast. Luckily for us, and unluckily for them, my first attempt worked well, so no Cherry Chickie Cake this time.

The texture of the finished cake was somewhere between a sponge cake and a scone (US biscuit). We ate it cold and it was lovely, not dry at all and not heavy (which I was concerned about). I think this would also be good warmed slightly and served with cream or ice cream. Or both.

Ingredients (cake serves 8-10 slices)

  • 1 cup of sourdough starter
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • ¾ cup sugar                          
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 cup of chopped, stoned cherries

Mix together the starter, the oil and the egg. Add the dry ingredients and mix in well and then add the cherries.

Put into a greased and floured cake time and bake for about 45 minutes at 180 degrees (until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is lightly browned).

Cherry Sourdough Cake (3)

This cake doesn’t rise much, but my next experiment will be to make the batter with self raising flour and then leave it to rise to see how the texture of the cake varies. Oh the things I do for you….

For more cherry recipes, click here or here.

Baked Sardines with Oranges and Mint

1 Jun

Summer keeps taunting us here Up the Mountain. And then the grey and dismal part of Spring rears its head again. A bit like me, the weather has been neither here nor there.

DSC_0001

Time for some summer cooking, we dragged out the barbecue ready to grill some sardines and pretend we were on the beach. Of course, in typical English weather fashion, the wind whipped up, the grey clouds sailed overhead and it all went pear shaped. Oh well, we turned on the oven which also took the chill off the house and all was well.

Ingredients to serve 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

  • About half a kilo of sardines, descaled and gutted
  • One orange halved and thinly sliced
  • Sprigs of mint
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Smoked Pimentón

Simply place your sardines (or you could use herring or mackerel) in an ovenproof dish and place slices of orange and sprigs of mint between them. You could stuff them if you prefer.  Sprinkle with salt and pimentón, drizzle a little oil over and any juices from the orange.

DSC_0004

Bake on high for about 15 minutes until the juices from the sardines run clear. And at least you won’t have to worry about sand in your shoes….

Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey

30 Mar

Muttabaq (2)

Well, not just for Big Man, but for some dear friends who came to visit recently. Time for desserts, sitting around after a meal chatting until the candles burn down, sipping coffee and eating “just one more little piece” even though the waistband is straining a little.

To be honest, most of my girlfriends are not big dessert eaters. Not for any health or diet reasons, we’re just more fans of all things savoury. A good compromise was found once more in the pages of Jerusalem, the cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I decided to make Muttabaq, a delicious dessert made with layers of buttery filo pastry and filled with creamy cheese.

If you want a look at the original version, hope over to see how Chaise Longue of Olives and Artichokes made it.  I decided to add a little Chica twist of my own.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of filo pastry
  • 100g melted butter (the original recipe calls for about 50g more but I found I didn’t need it all)
  • 2 x 250g packs of ricotta (Check out Chgo John’s method if you want to make you own)
  • 1 x 250g pack of mascarpone (the original recipe calls for goat’s cheese but I have a goat’s cheese hating pal)
  • A large handful of chopped pistachios

Then my additions

  • About a dozen fresh dates, finely chopped
  • About half a cup of chopped walnuts
  • The grated rind of an orange
  • A tablespoon of icing or caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Using half the packet of filo, place layers of pastry in a deep baking dish brushing with melted butter between layers. Cut off any edges that curl up the side of the dish. Mix together the cheese, orange rind and sugar and spread over the pastry. Sprinkle over the dates and walnuts and then place the remaining pastry over the top in layers, brushing again with butter as you go. Tuck the outside edges of the top pastry section under the bottom half, brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle over the pistachios. Cut into squares, without cutting right through to the bottom

Muttabaq Pistachios (1)

Bake for25 mins approx. at 225 degrees (or a hot oven) until golden brown. Meanwhile make up a lemon sugar syrup using 250g sugar, 90mls of water and the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.

When the pastry comes out of the oven, pour over the sugar syrup (it seems like a lot but just keep going). Serve just warm but it’s also good cold.

To accompany the Muttabaq I made a Moroccan inspired dish of sliced oranges sprinkled with chopped mint, pomegranate seeds, rosewater, sugar and cinnamon. Very pretty and fresh.

Oranges & Rosewater (1)

We talked for hours, we reminisced, we laughed…now that’s what I call a perfect evening. And now I wish all of you and your loved ones peace and joy over Easter and I hope you all get to enjoy some wonderful food, time and laughter together.

Apricot Stuffed Pork Loin

18 Jan

Apricot Stuffed Pork (1)

Rest assured that despite the hard work, rubble and paint that is our life right now, we never go hungry!  In fact, we even manage to do a little small scale entertaining and this dish was one I made when Best Pal Ria and her brother-in-law came to visit and see what we had been up to.

I was inspired to cook this dish after having seen a beautiful recipe from ChgoJohn, take a look at this beautiful Roast Loin of Pork with Fig Preserves.

It was a great dish as it can be prepared ahead and served hot or cold, leaving you time to catch up with your guests.

Ingredients

  • A loin of pork (or a boned shoulder) mine weighed about 1.75kg 8 (which serves 6-8 people)
  • 10 finely chopped dried apricots soaked overnight in orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon of harissa paste
  • 2-3 tablespoons of pine nuts dried fried until toasted (or you can do this in the oven)
  • Salt and pepper
  • A glass of white wine (or chicken stock)
  • Olive oil

Use a long sharp knife to cut a slit through the middle of the pork loin (think of a hollow tube) so that you can then fill this with “stuffing”. Mix together the apricots and the juices, the pine nuts, the harissa and about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Season the mixture and use it to fill the pork loin.

Season the outside of the loin and rub a couple of teaspoons of oil into it. Place the meat into a deep dish, cover with a lid or tightly with foil and cook at a medium low heat for about 3-4 hours. Remove the meat from the juices (which you will save) and chill the meat. Don´t skip this step, it makes serving so much easier!

The next day, thinly slice the meat into rounds. Warm the sauce and reduce a little. If you want to serve the meat cold, serve the sauce separately. If you want to serve it warm, pour about a third of the sauce over the meat, cover with foil and put into a medium oven for about 20 minutes and serve the rest of the sauce on the side.

I served mine with cous cous with mint, lemon zest, pomegranate and pine nuts but we ate if before we remembered to take a photo!

Lamb with Quince, Pomegranate and Coriander

9 Jan

The 6th January is the Feast of Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of the Three Kings to Bethlehem. In Spain el Día De Los Reyes is a feast Day, and widely anticipated and celebrated by young and old. Traditionally a Roscón de Reyes (a Cake of Kings) is made. Check out my recipe from last year here, or Giovanna´s beautiful creation here.

Although we´re currently in England, we weren´t going to let a celebration pass us by, and the opportunity to celebrate it with best friends and parents was too good to miss.

Lamb with Quince (1)

We may have had to eat off a folding table in a half decorated room with mismatched plates from charity shops, but we were going to eat well.

We started with Jamon y Queso (Ham & Cheese) and Habas con Jamon (Broad Beans with Ham) and a delicious Brandada. Check out Mad Dog´s fantastic post all about this Catalan delicacy.

Our main course was inspired by my Christmas present from Big Man, the beautiful book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. We had bought a couple of quince back from Spain with us, although I didn´t have quite enough so added in chunks of butternut squash (Ottolenghi recommends pear) which worked really well.  Below is how I cooked the recipe with the original recipe also shown.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course)

  • 400g minced lamb
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 red chili, chopped (I used 1 tsp hot pimentón)
  • 20g chopped coriander plus 2tbsp to garnish
  • 50 breadcrumbs
  • 1tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 2 medium onions peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • 4 quince (1.3kg in total) I used 2 quince and a small butternut squash
  • ½ lemon squeezed plus 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp pomegranate molasses (I couldn´t find this so used honey plus the juice of an extra half a lemon)
  • 2 tsp sugar (I left this out)
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Seeds of ½ pomegranate
  • Salt and black pepper

Place the lamb in a bowl with the garlic, chili, coriander, breadcrumbs, allspice, half the ginger, half the onion, egg and seasoning. Mix with your hands and then form small meatballs. The original recipe suggests stuffing halves of quince, Believe me, this is very hard work as quince are very hard to peel and chop, so I went with his other suggestion to chop the quince and cook with the lamb meatballs.

Lamb with Quince (2)

Peel and chop the quince/squash into large chunks and finely chop about a quarter of the chunks. Leave the larger pieces in a pot of water with the juice of half a lemon to stop the quince turning too brown. Or don´t bother – it will still look and taste good when cooked!

Heat the oil and add the finely chopped quince/squash, onions, ginger and cardamom pods. Cook (covered) until softened then add the molasses and lemon juice (or honey and lemon juice), sugar (if using), stock and seasoning. Now add the quince/squash and meatballs and cook gently for about an hour (covered) or until the fruit is soft. Remove the lid and turn up the heat and cook for a further few minutes until the sauce is thick and pulpy, check for seasoning and sprinkle with the pomegranate and fresh coriander before serving. I also added an extra squeeze of lemon juice.

Tastes even better if made the day before (just don´t add the coriander and pomegranate). I served it with basmati rice into which I stirred browned onions and cumin seeds (toasted and crushed with a pestle and mortar).

Fruit Platter (1)

Phew – a lovely meal with friends which was rounded off with singing and dancing (of the silly variety), Roscón and a fruit platter which went some way to convincing us that we hadn´t consumed any calories at all over Christmas and New Year.

Spiced Poached Peaches

30 Jun

Well, it´s peach season here, and mostly my favourite way to eat them is “au naturel”.  Sometimes though, it´s fun to do something a little more exciting with them.

Here´s a simple little recipe for those of you who want to make a light dessert using the best of the season´s fruit. Oh, and wine. Not sure how it would taste using an alternative, grape juice perhaps, but if anyone gives it a go, I´d love to hear how it turns out.

I made the recipe for three, but the spices are enough for about half a dozen pieces of fruit.

Ingredients

  • 1 peeled peach (or nectarine per person) left whole but scored as if you were going to cut it in half
  • About half a dozen red grapes and raspberries per person
  • Red wine
  • Water
  • 3 tsp of sugar per person
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 clove per person
  • 1 vanilla pod, sliced in half lengthways (you can reuse to make vanilla sugar afterwards)
  • A good grind of fresh black pepper

Put the peaches or nectarines and grapes into the snuggest pot they will fit in, then cover completely with half water and half wine. Add the sugar, vanilla and spices (including the black pepper) and bring to the boil. Simmer until tender then remove the fruit.  Taste and add more sugar if necessary or a little squeeze of lemon juice if you prefer it less sweet.

Turn up the heat, and boil it hard until you have a pouring syrup.

Arrange the fruit on a serving plate, strain the syrup over (you don´t want the spices now) and garnish with fresh raspberries (rose petals and mint leaves are optional). Chill and serve as is or with single (pouring) cream.

And if this has set you thinking, check out Greg´s fantastic post which features an amazing range of ideas for using peaches in recipes. Yummy!

Cherry and Banana Cake

21 Jun

One of our local villages is famed for its cherries, and even has a fiesta dedicated to this beautiful fruit next weekend. What lucky folk we are! I am back from my trip toLondon where I was spending time with Best Friend Ria who was not long out of hospital. She is on the mend and we spent a week doing things very slowly…always best when you are feeling sore and tired.

On a trip into the village (before leaving for the UK) to buy som of the famed cherries, I was also given half a dozen over-ripe bananas as the fruit lady knew that I used them to make cakes. “Let me know what you do with them” she called, so I made an extra large batch of batter and sent her over some little cup cakes I made with the extra mixture.

To make one large cake though, follow this simple recipe. You won´t regret it!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of chopped cherries soaked in dark rum (or strong black tea) I usually heat this and let it cool while I make the cake
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of self raising flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup oil (I use olive oil)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 small ripe bananas mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Heat the oven to 180ºC and line either a large round or loaf tin or two small ones with greaseproof paper.  Beat the oil and sugar together then beat in the eggs. Add the banana, cherries and vanilla and stir then gradually stir in the flour. Pour into a prepared tin and bake for 1 hour (large tin) or about 45 mins (2 smaller tins).

This recipe is adapted from my banana bread recipe. And if you´re feeling like you need a little drink to go with your cake, why not try a glass of Cherry Brandy or a Cherry and Watermelon Granizada. Don´t you just love summer fruits?!

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