Florentines – Chica Finally Makes Something Sweet

27 May

I know, I know, I can’t remember the last time I posted a recipe for something sweet and a little naughty. We all have to be naughty sometimes don’t we? And these bite sized Florentines really hit the spot and are a perfect gift to take along when you go visiting.

Florentines

I made these recently when we went for lunch with a pal to my parents. We’re not really a family of dessert eaters generally, but a little treat like this with a cup of strong coffee after a perfect lunch is a great way to round things off. And I know my mum has a soft spot for these little almond and chocolate biscuits so that was a good enough reason for me to have a go at making them.

They’re not all that difficult to make, you just have to keep an eye on them at each stage so that you don’t end up with burnt nuts (and nobody wants burnt nuts do they?!). Set aside a couple of hours and put a pot of your favourite coffee on to brew and you’ll enjoy a wonderful, creative afternoon making these sweet treats.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 3 tsp flour
  • 100ml double cream
  • 50g/2oz flaked almonds toasted
  • 20g chopped hazlenuts
  • 100g/4oz dried sour cranberries and glace cherries finely chopped
  • 150g/5oz good quality dark chocolate broken into pieces (I did a few with white chocolate too)

Varios 016

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Heat the butter, syrup and flour in a pan over a medium heat, stirring continuously, until the butter has melted
  3. Gradually add the cream, stirring continuously until well combined.
  4. Add the nuts and fruit and mix well until combined.
  5. Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper and place teaspoonfuls of the florentine mixture onto it. Space the teaspoonfuls out at 2.5cm/1in intervals so they don’t merge together when heated.
  6. Transfer the florentines to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden-brown. Keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t burn.
  7. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on the tray, then transfer the florentines to a cooling rack. Be patient here, they need to be cool otherwise they will break easily when still warm and soft.
  8. Bring a little water to a simmer in a pan. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate pieces and stir until smooth and melted.
  9. Turn the florentines so that the flat base is facing upwards. Spread the melted chocolate over the florentine bases and set aside to cool and set. I used a pastry brush to do this.

Although keeping them in the fridge will cause the chocolate to lose its shine, I found that the warmth of my kitchen caused them to soften so I kept them cool. This crisped them up and they tasted great!

Inspired by a BBC Recipe

What I did on my holiday….

23 May

Do you remember those essays you had to write after the holidays at school? I used to love them and then you could draw pictures and stick things into your exercise book too. No exercise books anymore in my life, but the joy of sharing via the blog.  Here’s a quick tour of our recent time out with friends and family from Spain to celebrate Big Man’s and my Mum’s birthdays.

May Day in Hastings with (Not So) Traditional Morris Dancing

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Hastings Fisherman’s Huts

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They’re Changing Guard At Buckingham Palace….

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Time for a Reviving Beer

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View from The London Eye

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South Coast of England (East Sussex) Countryside and Beach – all in one!

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Climbing Mermaid Street in Historic Rye

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Classic Motorbikes

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You can’t have birthdays without cake (I know it looks like we were celebrating a 706th Birthday, but the shop only had one “0″ so we had to adapt for a 70th and a 60th!)

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And we couldn’t not have a dodgy  “selfie” of Chica and Big Man on his special birthday at Windsor

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Exhausting but fun….hope you enjoyed the tour with us!

 

Carrots with Cumin and Garlic Dressing

19 May

Well, the party’s over, the “Spanishes” have all gone home and fortunately Big Man and I walked miles and miles doing touristy things which helped burn off the excessive drinking/partying/eating calories which have been consumed over the last few weeks. I’ll share some photos of places we visited once I’m a bit more organised but for the moment it’s noses to the grindstone and back to renovations and a bit of healthy eating needs to be done.

Here’s another lovely, and very simple, recipe from the Moro Cookbook. In their version it´s billed as a salad and has coriander sprinkled over. I didn´t have coriander, so I made do! The dressing was fabulous and as I only made enough carrots for the two of us, there was plenty left over to dress a salad the next day.

Carrots with Cumin (3)

The Moro version cooks the carrots whole and then chops them when cooled but mine were too big to fit into the pan whole so I peeled and chopped them first.

Ingredients to serve 4

  • 450g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2/3 teaspoon cumin seeds, dry fried
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Juice of ¾ lemon
  • Sea salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Some roughly chopped coriander

 

Cook the carrots in boiling salted water until tender, drain and leave to cool.

Pound the cumin in a mortar then add the garlic and ½ teaspoon of salt and continue to pound. Add the lemon juice, sugar and olive oil and mix before dressing the carrots with this delicious smokey, tangy dressing.

This recipe is made thinking especially of a wonderful fellow blogger, Fran, aka narf7 over at Serendipity Farm. With her husband Steve and beautiful dogs Earl and Bezial they are based in Tasmania and living a life which is as self-sufficient as possible. Miss narf is vegan and I’m not, but she makes wonderful comments on my posts (even those pork and beef laden ones!) and makes me laugh with her brilliant sense of humour. Do take the time to pay her a visit, you won’t regret it!

Pollo al Ajillo – Chicken with Garlic

11 May

Well, it’s been quiet around the blog for the last week or so. But for good reason. We’re in England with family visiting from Spain and we’ve been having a wonderful time doing family and tourist things, walking our feet off, talking our heads off and eating and drinking far more than is probably necessary…but such fun!  As a little reminder of Spain, here’s a Spanish dish which is equally good for an informal meal or a special event, Chicken with Garlic.

Ajo (the “j” is pronounced like the “ch” in the Scottish word Loch) means garlic and ajillo translates as “little garlic” which is ironic as this dish contains plenty of garlic! It’s a simple cooking technique which is used with various meats in Spain and is served as both a main dish and as a tapas (usually with the meat cut into bite sized pieces). Don’t let the simplicity of this dish trick you into believing it doesn’t taste special, it packs a lot of flavour and because it can be prepared ahead and in large quantities, it’s a fantastic dish for entertaining.

 

Pollo al Ajillo (1)

To serve 6 people

  • 1 whole chicken cut into joints (or use individual joints)
  • 1 head of garlic, about a third of the cloves peeled and cut into thin slices, the rest left in their paper skins
  • Olive oil
  • A glass of fino or white wine
  • A few sprigs of rosemary (optional)
  • Seasoning

Pollo al Ajillo (3)

Season the chicken then fry in a little oil until browned all over. Now add all the garlic, the rosemary and the wine, reduce to a gentle bubble and cover with a lid. Cook for about an hour (turning a couple of times during cooking) until the chicken is cooked through). Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve with plenty of bread to mop up the juices.

For another, more elaborate, chicken dish, why not take a look at my recipe for Pollo en Pepitoria?

Pork Ribs with A Sauce of Pomegranate Molasses

29 Apr

Back in Andalucía, the pig is King, and all things porky  were very much back on the menu when we were there recently.

Ribs looked particularly good at the butcher’s and they sell half racks – a length of ribs but cut in half lengthwise, so they become short ribs.

Confession time – our favourite way to eat ribs is rubbed with some coarse sea salt and simply cooked on the barbecue. However, despite being sunny, there was a Big Wind Up the Mountain so a barbecue was out. Time to switch on the oven and cook them another way.

Ribs with Pomegranate Molasses (2)

Amongst the ingredients that came back with us from England was a bottle of Pomegranate Molasses, used a lot in Ottolenghi’s recipes and a big feature in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. This dish is both boiled then oven cooked, but if you’re in a hurry you could skip the first step and simply oven cook the ribs. Boiling them first does make them very tender and juicy and you also end up with a wonderful stock which you can use later for soup…the choice is yours.

For 2 people

  • About 800g ribs

For the first stage (optional)

  • The juice of an orange, 2 cloves of peeled garlic, 2 bay leaves, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper and enough water to cover the ribs in a saucepan

For the Sauce

  • 8 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato purée
  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
  • 8 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
  • 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • half a teaspoon of hot pimentón or chilli powder
  • 4 tablespoons of molasses (or honey)
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce

If you are going to boil the ribs first, put all the ingredients in a pot, bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour. Remove the ribs from the stock and when they are cool enough to handle (or you can prepare them ahead to this stage) move on to the next stage.

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and pour over the ribs. I put them into an ovenproof dish lined with plenty of foil. Make sure the ribs are well coated in the sauce, wrap them in the foil to form a tent and bake in a medium oven for about an hour and a half.

Serve with plenty of napkins to clean those sticky fingers and faces and enjoy!

Beef Massaman Curry

23 Apr

When I was in England last time I was able to stock up on some ingredients which are harder for me to find in Spain.  I took them back to make sure I was able to cook up a curry when the urge struck. It tends to strike quite often but sometimes I just can’t do anything about satisfying it if I don’t have the ingredients to hand.  This means that curry pastes are the best way for me to sort out the curry craving as the spices often linger unloved in the cupboard. Yes, I admit it.

Beef Curry (4)

The Caribbean Food store in Bexhill is run by a jolly character who sells a range of curry pastes (and I really should have taken note of the brand name) which contain no artificial nasties – perfect for someone who loves to cook but feels a little guilty that she is not blending her own spice mixes. I was not familiar with Massaman Curry – a Thai curry which gives a gentle heat, sweet, sour, spicy and is utterly delicious.

Beef Curry (1)

The recipe comes from the BBC Good Food site with just a few little tweaks, but I have given details here too. I omitted the peanuts because I didn’t have any, but I expect they add a delicious crunch to the finished dish.

Ingredients to serve 4

  • 85g unsalted peanuts
  • 400ml can coconut cream
  • 4 tbsp massaman curry paste
  • 600g stewing beef steak, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 450g waxy potatoes, cut into 2½ cm chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp palm or soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced, and chopped fresh coriander to serve

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6, then roast the peanuts on a baking tray for 5 mins until golden brown. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop. Reduce oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Heat 2 tbsp coconut cream in a large casserole dish with a lid. Add the curry paste and fry for 1 min, then stir in the beef and fry until well coated and sealed. Stir in the rest of the coconut with half a can of water, the potatoes, onion, lime leaves, cinnamon, tamarind, sugar, fish sauce and most of the peanuts. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 2 hours in the oven until the beef is tender.

Sprinkle with sliced chilli and the remaining peanuts, then serve straight from the dish with rice.

If you are a curry fan too, how about this one? Ot this vegetarian curry? Or nip on over to Soup Guru’s great blog and check out this gorgeous Indian Minced Beef Curry….

Fennel Scented Cauliflower with Griddled Sea Bream

15 Apr

No sooner did we get here than it’s time to head back to England. I’ll be sad to leave our beloved mountains again but work beckons and excitingly we’ll also be renovating a property for my parents close by.  We’ll all be round the corner from each other like one big Italian/Spanish family! My dad will even have space to store his beloved Vespa and to continue the family tradition of making their wine for the year with grapes imported from Italy. We have a celebration ahead with both my mum and Big Man reaching special birthdays within days of each other. Friends from Spain will be flying over to England to join us, so I’ll be able to share that with you.

Don't worry - we'll all be travelling in more comfort than this!

Don’t worry – we’ll all be travelling in more comfort than this!

The packing up of the car starts today and we head off on Thursday morning to drive through Spain, right up the middle past Madrid then over the border at Irun and – all going well – resting for the night in Bordeaux. The next day we continue up through France and cross from Calais to Dover by ferry and then a couple of hours later we’ll be in Bexhill. Just over 2200km – loaded with paella burners and pans for pals, cheeses, wines, sausages and of course Luna and Alfi. We definitely don’t travel light!

We'll miss the view from the patio of one of our favourite local bars. And the dogs love it there too!

We’ll miss the view from the patio of one of our favourite local bars. And the dogs love it there too!

But today I have just a little time to look back on the last month in Spain and share another simple recipe which, for me, is full of one of the flavours of Andalucia- anis.

I’m one of those funny folk who love fennel and dill but can’t stand drinks like anis, pernod or raki. Use it in cooking though and it’s a whole other matter.

Anis is a popular drink here (sweet or dry) and is served with or without ice, or if you add a little slosh of it to coffee in the morning, it becomes a “Carajillo de Anis”. Most popular with all the old boys in the local bars to start their day! We always have a bottle of it at home but it’s one of those bottles that lurks around for ages getting a bit dusty.

After resuming my mountain walks with the pups I have found plenty of wild fennel to pick – here it’s mostly the feathery fronds that are enjoyed, but you can also use the young stems in the same way you would use fennel. This recipe uses whatever veggies you have to hand, it’s all about the delicate aniseed flavours. We enjoyed ours with a whole bream stuffed with wild fennel which we cooked on the cast iron griddle and drizzled with a few drops of anis once it was cooked.

Sea Bream with Cauliflower (4)

Ingredients (to serve 2 as a side dish)

  • Half a cooked cauliflower chopped into small pieces
  • A leek, cleaned and cut into thin slices
  • A mix of red and green pepper, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • Half an onion finely chopped
  • About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fennel and fronds
  • A tablespoon of anis flavoured liqueur
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a deep frying pan or wok and add the onions and peppers.  Fry gently until they are very soft (this will take about 20 mins) then add the leeks, garlic, fennel and cauliflower. Continue to cook until the leeks have softened, season and add the liqueur. Cook for a further minute and serve.

This would also be delicious served as a vegetarian main course on it’s own or stirred through rice or pasta.

Potato Topped Pizza and a Walk Up the Mountain

12 Apr

If, like me, you don’t fear the carbs (although realy I should), this is a tasty and economical pizza to feed a crowd. And then you take the crowd out for a walk to burn off the carbs!

Potato & Spring Onion Pizza (1)

Ingredients

  • One Quanity of Pizza Dough
  • About 2 cups of chopped tomatoes or your favourite pasta sauce
  • 1 large potato, boiled in its skin then peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 ball of mozzarella, chopped into bite sized chunks
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • Half a cup of grated cheese (I used a mix of parmesan and emmental)
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tin anchovies in olive oil (optional) omit for a vegetarian version

Turn the oven onto the highest setting while you prepare the pizza.  Put the tin or tray you will be using into the oven to heat up

Roll out your dough to fit the tin and place it on some greaseproof or baking paper. Cover with the tomato sauce. Mix the potato, cheeses, spring onion and garlic together in a bowl and spread this mixture over the pizza. Lay the anchovies over the top and pour over any oil from the tin.

Slide the pizza onto the hot tray (with or without the baking paper) and bake for about 12-15 minutes until the cheese starts to brown and the pizza is crispy.

Hope you enjoy the walk, click on the photos to see them in more detail.

Know Your Onions – Onions Braised in Wine and Balsamic Vinegar

9 Apr

What a funny expression that is. I struggled to find a decent explanation for it, although we use the expression to mean “knowing a lot about a subject”. If anyone can enlighten me, I’d love to know more!

Over on the beautiful prairies of the Midwest of America, our very dear friend Celia goes along each year to a big swapping fiesta. She usually comes home with some exotic and adorable creature like a white peacock or beautiful Boo the dog. Here, swapping is rife but generally restricted to gluts of fruit and vegetables and also poultry and eggs. As we’re not around so much right now, we can’t offer much but our dear friends and neighbours are busy keeping us supplied with delicious goodies.

Yesterday Big Man said he was popping out to see a man about some onions, as you do, and this is what he came home with.

Cebollas (3)

A lot of onions. And we’re due to be heading back to England in about a week, so there’s no way we can pack them into the car…we’d be asphyxiated by onion fumes. Time to get creative with onion recipes. Well, there’s Up the Mountain Onion Soup, of course. And maybe a caramelised onion tart. How about something different? Memories of my godmother, who came from the north of Italy, near Venice, and her method of cooking tiny onions in balsamic vinegar inspired me. I’m not sure if it’s exactly her recipe, but the taste was very similar and definitely worth buying onions to make specially.

Ingredients

  • Onions
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • White or red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few stems of a hardy herb like oregano (or you could use thyme or rosemary)

Chop the tops and bottoms off the onions so that they will sit flat in a deep frying pan or saucepan. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle over the balsamic vinegar (I used about 2 tablespoons for approximately a dozen onions), the same quantity of olive oil and pour over a glass of wine. I used Vino del Terreno (this translates as Wine of the Earth or Terrain) which is a wine many of our neighbours produce, a little rough and slightly sweet but oh so good with salty food. Scatter over the herbs and cover tightly with a lid or foil.

Cebollas (7)

Bring the pot to boiling point and then reduce to the lowest heat possible and cook gently, turning the onions once or twice, for about an hour. Just before serving, remove the lid and turn up the heat to reduce the delicious cooking liquid slightly. We ate these onions hot as a side dish but they would be delicious served at room temperature as a tapas or starter.

And just in case you don’t like wine but do like dogs (clearly not braised in wine and balsamic vinegar) here is a completely gratuitous shot of my pups Luna and Alfi hoping I don’t notice they are hogging the sofa.

No Dogs On The Sofa Please

No Dogs On The Sofa Please

 

Calamares Rellenos – Stuffed Squid

7 Apr

When you´re away from home, although now we seem to have two homes (and how very lucky and blessed we are to be in this position) there are things that you miss. Of course, the most obvious is loved ones, but with technology, keeping in touch, even face to face phone calls and cheap flights make the distance shorter.

Other things like a special pillow, or a favourite garment which was left behind sometimes make you feel nostalgic. For me though it’s all about the kitchens. If I could combine the contents of both kitchens and magically transport them with me backwards and forwards….but well, that’s just silly. Although I can look up favourite and remembered recipes on the internet, it’s not quite the same as flicking through a well loved cookery book, often late at night propped up in bed with that comfy old pillow.

Calamares Rellenos (1)

Getting back to Spain allowed me to become reacquainted with some old ‘friends’. Most recently it has been Moro, the Cookbook by the husband and wife team, Sam and Sam Clark. Must get confusing in their house when someone rings up.

The first recipe for the moment was inspired by one of theirs for stuffed squid – of course, I made a few changes based on what I had available, here’s my version. This is a fabulous dish for entertaining (although easy to prepare for an everyday meal) as you can prepare it ahead up until the final griddling of the squid, which only takes about 5 minutes.

Calamares Rellenos (6)

To serve four as a main course

  • 8 medium squid (no larger than about 30cm) I used to enormous ones to serve 2. These should be cleaned and the tentacles and wings separated from the body
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I crushed)
  • ½ red pepper finely diced (not in the original recipe)
  • 2 fresh bay leaves (or use dried)
  • 200ml fino sherry (or a dry white wine)
  • 1 large buch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon of hot pimentón (not in original recipe)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Finely chop the squid wings and tentacles (I kept the tentacles whole and cooked them on the side).

Gently fry the onions and peppers (if using) for about 15 minutes until soft and the onion is starting to turn brown. Add the bay, garlic and chopped squid and cook for about 3 minutes then add the seasoning, half the parsley and the fino. Cook for a further couple of minutes until the wine has almost evaporated then remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the chopped egg and most of the rest of the parsley, check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Use this mixture to stuff the squid, securing with a cocktail stick to keep the filling in. When you are ready to eat, heat a griddle pan until it is smoking hot and cook the squid for about 5 minutes, turning to ensure that it is charred all round.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a piece of lemon and the rest of the parsley sprinkled over.

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