Gigantes Plakis – Greek Style Giant Baked Beans

23 Jun

So, as you probably can guess, Gigantes refers to the size of the beans! And Plaki (I think) means that it’s something cooked in the oven or baked. Now, I’m not claiming that my version of this dish is authentically Greek. I’ve seen several versions, some which involved a few extra steps in the process, but here’s my interpretation of a delicious vegetarian dish which can be served as is, or as part of a meze. And you don’t even have to stress about it being served piping hot, Greek food is often dished up at room temperature!

Gigantes Plakis (4)

Ingredients (to serve 4)

  • 500g of large white beans (I used butter beans but others that can be used are lima beans) soaked overnight in water with a small pinch of bicarbonate of soda
  • About 500g of a simple tomato sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, some finely chopped celery (if you have it) and some chopped fresh parsley

Rinse the beans, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Fast boil for 10 minutes, skim off any scum and reduce to a simmer for about an hour – you want them almost cooked but not quite.

Heat the oven to medium (about 160 degrees) and make sure your tomato sauce is hot. Drain the beans.

Gigantes Plakis (1)

Stir the beans and the tomato sauce together and put into an ovenproof dish. Bake for about 1 ½ – 2 hours until the beans are tender and a little dry/crispy on top. You may need to add a little water during cooking. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary, add a little extra chopped parsley if you like and sit back and wait for them to cool down a little. Or just eat them piping hot and hope that no one reports you….

Griddled Aubergines with Salsa Verde and Tomatoes

16 Jun

Our recent month in Spain was less of a holiday and more of a race to get through a list of household chores and maintenance, family visits and dealing with banks, bills and bureaucracy. Still, it had to be done, and there were of course a few special times of relaxation and fun with family and friends. Sometimes, though, it was nice just to have a couple of hours at our little cortijo (that’s a house in the country in Spain) and relax with a meal and a bottle of wine.

Berenjenas y Limones 001

The weather was all rather unpredictable going from an initial 40 degrees which knocked us sideways, to down below 20 degrees.  Then it jumped around from lovely to grey and cloudy, rainy and windy, then back to lovely. Honestly, we could have been in England! When we did have a comfortably warm day, we fired up the barbecue and cooked and ate outside. Some days we ate meat, but after a few weeks of a meat heavy diet, we craved vegetables. Luckily we were gifted an awful lot of salad so made a local gazpacho. Sounds weird but it works, trust me!

Big Man is not a fan of aubergines, but he did give this dish a go and grudgingly agreed that it was “comestible” – that’s Spanish for edible! Luckily we also had salmorejo (another variation of the more traditional gazpacho) my very favourite summer soup, to save him from fading away and I feasted on most of the absolutely delicious aubergine.

Ingredients (to serve 2 as a main course)

  • 1 large aubergine sliced into ½ cm slices lengthways and brushed lightly with olive oil on both sides
  • Some salsa verde (Spanish style) or just make up a mix of fresh olive oil with some finely chopped garlic, herbs and a pinch of salt
  • A large tomato, finely chopped
  • A finely chopped chilli (optional)

Fire up the barbecue if the weather permits or heat up a griddle pan. I never salt my aubergines as I really don’t find them bitter. Feel free to do this if you like, but don’t, of course, brush them with oil until you’ve rinsed them.

Berenjenas y Limones 004

Grill lightly on both sides and drizzle over some salsa verde. Cover tightly with foil or cling film so that they sweat slightly, and absorb the dressing at they cool down. Serve at room temperature with the tomato and chilli sprinkled over. That’s it, easy eh?!

For another grilled aubergine dish, take a look here.

Churrasco de Pollo

12 Jun

Churrasco in Spain, Portugal and South America generally refers to meat that has been grilled over an open flame. Often it has also been marinated in something, in Andalucía it’s typically a spice mix used to make Pinchitos Morunos (Moorish Kebabs) little skewers of meat, usually pork. They’re typical fiesta food and very popular.

Churrasco de Pollo 002

At home meat can be rubbed in the spice mix (which is bought ready made) which is made up into a paste with olive oil. Generally about 3 teaspoons of mix to every kilo of meat. The meat is then cooked on a hot griddle pan or over a barbecue. We’re just back in England, so I’ve made sure to bring a supply of spice mix with me to remind me of this dish.

If you can’t get hold of the spice mix (which is almost like a mild curry powder), you can make your own. The meat I used was a 2 boned thighs and drumsticks and it was cooked on the bbq – delicious!


1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic granules
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried yellow mustard
pinch of ground Spanish saffron

Turn your favourite Latino music up to top volume, serve with an ice cold beer and enjoy!

Lunch, Lemons and a Patio – Un Almuerzo, Unos Limones y Un Patio

6 Jun

Our time in Spain is drawing to a close and it’s time to head back to our other life and home in England. It’s been an eventful few weeks running around, sorting out paperwork, bills and bank accounts, we’ve had 2 funerals, 1 first communion, family lunches and dinners, get togethers with friends, gardening, house painting, rubbish clearing and pool cleaning. Although we haven’t had a dip yet…far too cold for us “out of towners”! I’m also going to try and write a little in Spanish as our family and friends here complain that they can’t enjoy my posts properly. It will be appalling, but I’ll give it a go.

Nuestro tiempo en España ya está acabando. Ha llegado la hora de prepararnos para volver a nuestra otra vida, nuestro otro hogar en Inglaterra. Han sido unas semanas llenas – arreglando papeles, pagando facturas y hablando con el banco. Hemos tenido dos entierros y una primera comunión. Comidas con familia y amigos, jardinería, pintando la casa, tirando basura y limpiando la piscina.¡ Aunque estos “forasteros” todavía no se han bañados!

Berenjenas y Limones 007

We picked the lemons off our tree, despite them being still green. They are keeping cool in the garage, but we were also gifted some gorgeous lemons from a friend. If you want some amazing ideas of what to do with a lemon glut, Margot over at Gather and Graze will inspire you. I’ll hopefully be posting some recipes in the weeks to come.

Hemos cogidos los limones de nuestro limonero, aunque están todavía verdes. Están en la cochera, a la sombra. Menos mal que un buen amigo nos ha regalado una bolsa de limones para comer ahora. Si quieres ser inspirada con unas recetas increíbles, vete a ver el blog de Margot aquí. Espero que dentro de unas semanas yo también voy a poner unas recetas usando nuestros limones.

Familia Zorilla 009 Familia Zorilla 010 Familia Zorilla 011 Familia Zorilla 012 Familia Zorilla 014

A recent family get together was held in the garden of one of Big Man’s cousins. It’s an old and beautiful town house in a Pueblo Blanco, behind a huge front door is a stunning house with beams, stone floors, thick walls and an enchanting walled patio garden which is like a little piece of paradise tucked away from the hustle and bustle.

Una reunión reciente con familia tuvo lugar en la casa de un primo de mi “Gran Hombre” y su pareja. La casa está situada en un Pueblo Blanco, y es increíblemente bonito e histórico. Por detrás de la casa hay un patio, casi escondido, como un pequeño y secreto trocito del paraíso.



Of course, there was good food and wine too – well….what else did you expect?!

Por supuesto, había también comida y vino bueno….¡pues, como siempre!




Lemon and Chilli Mussels with Langoustines

2 Jun

Oh it’s so easy to slip comfortably back into our Spanish life. Friends and family keep asking us “which is better, Spain or England?”. We answer, absolutely sincerely, “we love them both, they’re different, you can’t compare, we make the most of each country and enjoy all the good things they each have to offer”.

Mejillones y Langostinos a la Cazuela 003

Fish Man seems to have disappeared from our route, but the supermarkets here have an amazing choice at good prices. Mostly fresh and local (or at least, from Spain) too. The other day I bought a kilo of mussels which came from near Pontevedra in the North of Spain. It’s famous for the mussel beds and we ate plenty on our trip there a few years back.

We ate SO many...the trays full of steamed mussels just kept coming!

We ate SO many…the trays full of steamed mussels just kept coming!


I also bought some fresh langoustines but forgot to ask where they came from. Peppers, tomatoes and onions grown down on the coast and a rosé wine from Rueda were pretty much all the ingredients I needed to make this simple but delicious lunch dish. Oh yes, a lemon from our tree…

Rainy Sunday 24 Mayo 2015 004

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 1kg cleaned mussels
  • 8 langoustines
  • Half a small red and green pepper, finely diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 medium tomato, finely chopped
  • A small glass of wine (whatever colour you like!)
  • Half a lemon cut into small chunks (and I also added half a teaspoon of my lemon myrtle)
  • Half a teaspoon of hot pimentón or chilli powder (or to taste)
  • Olive oil

I used a lidded cazuela to make this dish but a deep frying pan with a lid or a saucepan would also work.

On a low heat, warm the olive oil and add the garlic and peppers. Cover and sweat until soft. Add the tomato, wine and spices and cook for a few minutes. You can now turn this off if you’re not ready to eat and then just warm the sauce up a few minutes beforehand to finish the dish off, or continue to the last stage.

Add the mussels, prawns and fresh lemon, stir and cover. Cook for a few minutes until all the mussels are open. Don’t eat any that won’t open!

Mussels & Prawns (2)

Garnish with some freshly chopped parsley. Unless of course, Big Man has been gardening all morning and cleared all your herbs thinking they were weeds. Oh my, kitchen unexpectedness, I laugh in your face. Pour a glass of wine, and enjoy your lovely lunch with plenty of bread to mop up the juices and perhaps (as we did) a salad of tomatoes, olives, garlic and onion. No herbs though, obviously.

Some days you just never know who will be at the door…

29 May

Well, we certainly don’t get visitors like this in Bexhill on Sea!

Hay dias cuando nunca se sabe quien va a tocar a la puerta!

Cabras 001Cabras 003Cabras 002Cabras 004

I took these photos just a few minutes ago (15:30) and seeing how dry and washed out the colours of the “campo” already look confirm that it’s going to be a long hot summer here in Andalucia.

The track that runs past our house is the GR7, a long distance footpath that runs from Southern Spain through to Alsace in France. Fortunately for the goats, they were only going a little way to graze under some nearby olive trees.

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs

26 May

Before we set off for Spain and the kingdom of the pig, we had one final beef-feast meal in England. We have a local butcher, a young man called Ben who is passionate about locally sourced, organic meat and providing new and exciting cuts of meat to his customers. We love to shop at his store and make the most of what he recommends.

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs (5)

The other week it was beef ribs, something I hadn’t eaten for years. Put images of the court of Henry VIII out of your mind, with massive roasts supported by half a cow. Something like that just wouldn’t fit in our modern day ovens! I bought six ribs which I asked him to separate into individual ribs, so that I could slow cook them. I had anticipated 2 ribs per person but after our prawn starter, we managed 4 ribs between 3 people – I leave it to you to decide if, like me, “your eyes are greedier than your belly” (as my grandmother used to say)!

It’s not a complicated dish to prepare, the impact of flavour comes from the long, slow cooking which can also be done in a conventional oven.

Ingredients (to feed 4-6 people)

  • 6 beef ribs, separated into individual ribs
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato purée
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • A large sprig of rosemary
  • A glass of red wine (plus one for the cook)
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning
  • Maldon (or kosher) salt

Heat a griddle pan to high and switch your slow cooker on to heat (or switch on the oven to low). Sear the ribs on all sides on a high heat until browned. You will probably need to do this in a couple of batches unless you have a huge griddle pan like me!

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs (1)

While they are being browned, gently heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a deep frying pan. Add the garlic and as soon as it starts to soften, add the tomatoes, the tomato purée and the wine.  Bring to a gentle bubble, season lightly and pop the rosemary in. You are not looking to make a finished sauce at this point, just to get it started and to ensure that it’s hot when it goes into the slow cooker or oven.

Put the ribs into either the slow cooker or an oven dish which you can cover. Sprinkle lightly with Maldon salt and pour the sauce over. Cover the pot/slow cooker and be very, very patient. I cooked mine on low in the slow cooker for about 10 hours, turning them over gently 3 or 4 times during this period until the meat was falling off the bones. In a conventional oven I think 5 or 6 hours should be fine, and if you can make the dish a day ahead, even better.

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs (2)

Gently remove the ribs from the sauce, trying to keep the meat with the bones if (like us) you feel cheated if someone else gets your bone.

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs (6)

Put the sauce into a pan, remove the rosemary and reduce for about 10 minutes on a medium heat. If you want a silky smooth sauce, use a hand blender to sort out those little chunks of tomato. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve the ribs with the sauce on the side so that strange folk like Big Man can eat them without and normal folk like me can smother them. Creamy mashed potato is always a good idea.

If you happen to be in beautiful Bexhill, do pop into London Road Butchers and say hello to Ben!

For more slow cooked dishes, why not try Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks or Mustard and Cider Chicken?

A return to the simple life

20 May

Although our time in Spain will be limited to about a month (a long “holiday” some might think, but for us it’s a case of changing one home for another for a short while) we need to make the most of our time here. Sorting out a house and garden that have been looked after but not lived in for many months. Catching up with family and friends. Running around and sorting out paperwork and the dealing with the “officialdom” that invariably comes with it.

Mayo 2015 010

The plan had been to eat out frequently – a menú del día (a daily set menu in many restaurants) is not expensive in Spain – and not to spend hours in the kitchen. So far, I haven’t spent too many hours in the kitchen, but the lure of fresh, local ingredients which are quick and easy to prepare has been irresistible. Add to that the fact that we can also cook outside and it’s mostly quicker to just get cooking while multitasking with the gardening.

We’ve eaten chicken (reared by a pal who gifted us two hefty chicken thighs and drumsticks) cooked in one of our cazuelas with peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil and wine.

Pollo a la Cazuela (1)

And rabbit, marinated in a paste made of thyme and rosemary from the garden with our own olive oil and lemon and a neighbour’s garlic then cooked on the barbecue.

Conejo a la Barbacoa (1)

The weather may have gone from 40 degrees to grey and miserable, but with full bellies and a glass of wine, who can complain?!

Crispy Prawns with Lemon Myrtle – Long Distance Herby Loveliness

18 May

I think many of us, regardless of whether we’ve been blogging for months or years, will understand the friendships that can grow up through the connections we’ve made via our blogs. People leave lovely comments, ideas, share in the ups and downs of whatever we choose to discuss on our blogs. Some very kind folk go as far as sharing gifts and giveaways, allowing us the opportunity to try something from their country which we otherwise would never have come across.

Herbs (2)

Recently the lovely Margot over at Gather and Graze hosted a giveaway of some herbs from her home country of Australia, Lemon Myrtle and Wattleseed. Have you heard of them? I certainly hadn’t. Lemon Myrtle is (and I’m quoting from the packet here) “a fragrant Australian native plant which bears leaves with an intense lemon fragrance”. The packet of ground lemon myrtle really does explode with a beautiful refreshing lemony aroma.

The Wattleseed (which is roasted and ground) comes from the seeds of a species of Australian native acacia which have a roasted coffee-like aroma. It works beautifully with chocolate, and I’ll soon be sharing a recipe with you.

If you can’t get hold of Ground Lemon Myrtle (and I’m guessing a lot of you can’t), I’d suggest substituting the same quantity of finely grated lemon zest. I know it won’t be quite the same, but perhaps a good approximation.

Myrtle Prawns (2)

The recipe comes from the packet sent to me (thanks again Margot!) and I served it with a salad and a lemon vinaigrette as a starter. I did change the quantities from the original recipe as I scaled the recipe down a little.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a starter)

  • 16 large peeled and deveined langoustines
  • ½ cup of rice flour (use plain flour otherwise, but the rice flour does give a wonderful crunch)
  • ¾ tablespoon of ground lemon myrtle
  • ¾ teaspoon of smoked paprika (I used pimentón)
  • A pinch of chilli powder
  • Salt
  • ½ cup of cooking oil (I used olive oil)
  • 2 fresh chillies finely chopped

Mix the flour with the spices and toss the prawns in the mixture. Heat the oil over a high heat and cook the prawns quickly (they probably only need a minute or so on each side) until they have turned pink and crispy.

Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt and add the fresh chilli. Enjoy!

To see how Margot used her Lemon Myrtle, hop on over and check out her delicious Australian Apple Crumble recipe!

Early one morning….

14 May

Despite a long, 2-day, 2,200km drive….we’re back at our home in beautiful Andalucia. Our mountain is still here, waiting for us. It feels oh so very good.

Montana 044 Montana 045

Temperatures right now are at about 40 degrees, we’re all taking it slowly to acclimatise. If things go to plan, we’ll be here about 4 weeks. Sigh….

Montana 049

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