Tag Archives: Cheese

Asparagus and Sour Cream Tart

13 Apr

There’s something about asparagus that makes me happy. Well, a few things really. It tastes wonderful, it looks pretty and has an amazing colour which screams “spring”! It also feels like a luxury ingredient, which it most certainly used to be, but in reality is one which is now readily available and easily affordable. Mind you, in a few weeks when we have the start of the wonderful English asparagus season, we may pay a little more but oh it will be worth it for the flavour!

Asparagus & Sour Cream Tart (4)

Blogging too makes me happy, it allows me to keep a record of dishes I enjoy cooking and eating, it allows me to share my passions with like-minded folk and it has introduced me to new pals around the globe. New cuisines are available at the click of my mouse and one such cuisine which I am gradually learning more about comes from Germany. A wonderful blogger, Ginger, shares her recipes and memories over at Ginger and Bread. A German, with a Chilean partner living in London. Do pop over if you get the chance. She recently shared a recipe for a traditional onion quiche and I was intrigued by the use of sour cream in there with the rest of the more familiar ingredients. Time to buy a carton of sour cream and give this style of quiche a go!

Ingredients (to serve 6)

  • 1 packet of puff pastry (I used puff as this is what I had to hand, use short crust, or make your own – you decide)
  • 1 bunch of Asparagus
  • 3 eggs
  • 300ml of sour cream
  • 100ml milk
  • About 50g grated cheese (I used smoked gouda)
  • Salt & Pepper

Start by snapping off the woody ends of the asparagus and blanching the spears in lightly salted boiling water for about 3 minutes. If you don’t have a wide enough saucepan to take the spears whole, use a deep frying pan filled with water. Drain, rinse in cold water and put to one side.

Turn the oven on to medium (180C in my fan oven)

Line a tin with greaseproof paper (optional) and lay the pastry inside. If you use a flan tin with a loose bottom you don’t need to line – it just makes life easier when it comes to lifting the tart out when it’s cooked if your tin does not have a loose bottom.

Trim the pastry to fit and prick lightly with a fork.

Beat the remaining ingredients (except the asparagus) together and season. Pour into the pastry case then lay the spears gently on top.  Bake for about 45 minutes until lightly puffed up and just starting to turn golden.

Delicious hot or cold, but leave it to cool down slightly for at least 5 minutes before cutting. The addition of sour cream gives you a soft, fluffy filling, almost mousse like. Lovely with a simple dressed salad and great too for picnics.

Tartiflette – a dish to warm the soul (but only if you’re not counting the calories)

24 Mar

Reblochon is a delicious soft French cheese which is wonderful eaten “as is” but when cooked in a typical dish of Tartiflette, reaches another level of gorgeousness. Well, if you love soft creamy melted cheese it does!

The weather in England taunted us with its spring like warmth and Big Man decided that it was perfect weather to start painting the outside of our seaside house. Of course, day one was perfect as we prepared. We covered what felt like miles of guttering with newspaper and masking tape. We bought paint and thinner and got our brushes and rollers ready. Day two the painting commenced. And the clouds moved in, the temperature dropped and rain looked ominous. We were working at the back of the house which gets the sun, so at least when there was a break in the clouds we could enjoy a little of its warmth.

Tartiflette (3)

Day three, second coat of paint. The clouds were there to stay. The odd splash of rain (or was it a passing seagull?…I prefer not to dwell on it). But we persevered. Luckily the paint was made for British Weather (oh yes, the word Weather deserves a Capital Letter) and dries in 20 minutes.

Job done but we were chilled through. Time for some hearty Alpine food, and to hell with the calories!

Ingredients (to serve 3-4 people)

  • ½ Reblochon cheese (the original recipe calls for a whole one but we found half to be plenty)
  • About 700g small or medium potatoes in their skins
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, cut into small strips (or use a packet of lardons)
  • About half a glass of dry white wine
  • 100ml cream
  • Black pepper

Boil the potatoes in their skins until just cooked (timing will depend on their size but probably 15-20 mins). Drain and leave to cool slightly before peeling them. These can also be prepared ahead and left to go cold before peeling and slicing not too thinly.

In a frying pan with a little oil, add the bacon, garlic and onions and fry until the bacon starts to go crispy and the onions brown a little at the edges. Pour in the wine and cook until about half the wine has evaporated.

In an ovenproof dish put about half the potatoes, then the bacon and onion mix and then the rest of the potatoes. Now slice your cheese in half so that you have two half moon shapes and lay these on top of the potatoes. Keep the skin on the cheese and if it helps to distribute over the top more evenly, cut into triangles.

Tartiflette (6)

Pour the cream over the whole thing and season with black pepper. Bake at about 200C for around 30 minutes or until the cheese is starting to become golden and the cream is bubbling. Delicious with a simple salad.

And don’t forget to wash your paint brushes or you won’t be able to use them again….

For a vegetarian version of this dish, pop over to Promenade Planting and see Claire’s great version!

Sometimes Life Isn´t Too Short to Stuff a Mushroom

17 Sep

Now that I have some semblance of normality cooking back into my cooking life, it´s fun to start enjoying foods that are not so readily available to us in Spain. Stilton cheese (that beautiful, pungent English blue cheese) for one. And bizarrely flat mushrooms – we don´t get much mushroom choice available locally Up the Mountain unless we go foraging.

To go with an amazing T-Bone steak for Big Man (what else) and a fillet steak for me, I made some delicious mushrooms stuffed with spring onion, stilton and dolcelatte. Another simple dish, but oh so good with the beautiful local beef available here in East Sussex.

Ingredients (to stuff 2-4 flat mushrooms, depending on the size of your mushrooms)

  • About half a cup of coarse, fresh breadcrumbs (I made mine from day old ciabatta)
  • The finely chopped stems of the mushrooms
  • About 75g of cheese (I used a mixture of stilton and dolcelatte)
  • 2 medium spring onions finely sliced
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Start by drizzling a little olive oil into each mushroom. Mix all the other ingredients together, season to taste and divide it between the mushrooms. Press the filling down a little and then drizzle a little more oil over the top.

Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and the stuffing starts to crisp. Delicious as a side dish or a starter.

And for anyone feeling brave..take a look at the old kitchen/bathroom in house number two. Eek!

Salmon Spanakopita… Sort Of

11 May

The gorgeous dish of Spanakopita hails from beautiful Greece. A delicious spinach pie, filled with feta cheese and egg and then wrapped in filo pastry – it´s a wonderful combination of flavours.

The weather here has turned overnight into summer with temperatures in the early 30s. Although we have used our gas barbecue on and off throughout the winter, we haven´t eaten outside. The weather now is perfect and we are going to make the most of it to eat in the garden, before the tremendous heat of summer drives us back inside to eat in the cool of the house.

I had bought a large salmon fillet (half of a whole salmon) which weighed about 1.5kg to cook for friends. The best laid plans and all that…well, the lunch didn´t happen and I had a massive piece of salmon to cook for two people.

The first lunch we simply cooked the whole thing on the barbecue, sprinkled with salt and served it with lemon juice and home made mayonnaise. We ate about a third of it so I divided the remaining piece into two and froze one piece. In this dish I used about 250g of cooked salmon so still have plenty left over to make a rice dish with prawns and salmon tomorrow.

I fancied making something different from fish cakes and remembered this lovely dish from Greece and set about recreating it, albeit with a few Up the Mountain twists. Or Making Do with what I had available. I realise that the traditional dish doesn´t contain meat or fish, but this is an interpretation rather than a faithful reproduction!

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter)

Please note, the ingredients are approximate, so feel free to add a little more or take a little away it it suits

  • One pack of puff pastry (275g) rolled out thinly (or use filo if you have it)
  • 180g of feta (I used fresh goat´s cheese made by a neighbour). Do check out Chgo John´s amazing method to make feta here.
  • About 250g cooked salmon, flaked
  • 225g Greek yogurt
  • 3 spring onions finely chopped (I used 1 small onion finely chopped)
  • 125g fresh spinach finely chopped and wilted (I put mine in a large metal colander and pour boiling water over it) with all the water squeezed out
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup each of finely chopped dill (I used wild fennel tops which grow round here) and parsley
  • Seasoning

Heat the oven to 180ºC. Place the pastry on a flat baking tray which has been lined with greaseproof paper (or use a small one about half the size of your pastry which is a little deeper).

Mix all the ingredients together and season (you may not need much salt if you use feta).  Put the filling into the middle of the pastry and bring the pastry up and over to cover it, neatening the corners to seal the filling in. Use some water on the edges if necessary to help seal them.

Tastes great even if you didn´t seal the top up properly….

Brush with milk or beaten egg and bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool slightly before eating. Perfect with a salad and a cool glass of wine.

Any ideas for that last piece of cooked salmon in my freezer? Go on, inspire me!

A Walk on the Wild Side

11 Apr

Andalucía is a region of contrasts. Magnificent cities, historic monuments, skiing, countryside and the famous Costa del Sol.  It´s all there and usually not more than a couple of hours away from wherever you are.

At the weekend we drove slightly north from where we live, over the border from Malaga province into Granada province, Big Man´s heartland and into some wild and rugged scenery.

Near his home town of Ventas de Zafarraya is an area of fertile plains.  A huge amount of vegetables are cultivated and grown there and this provides much needed employment for many people.

Moving north again you come to the beautiful town of Alhama de Granada and between these two towns are a series of lush green plains divided by area of rough, rocky, almost lunar landscapes.

Water comes up through the rocks and provides irrigation and drinking water for plants, animals and Cortijo dwellers.

Some Cortijos sadly remain abandoned, mainly due to the inheritance laws here in Spain which pretty much oblige you to leave your property to your offspring. When families have 10 or more children, it´s understandable that families were often unable to come to an agreement regarding whether to sell, divide or buy each other out.

After a magnificent lunch of goat cooked over an open fire we set off to walk to a local goat farm and buy cheese.

There were plenty of goats…

….and it was milking time.

Some of the group also bought milk, luckily I had been given some that morning by one of our local goatherds.

Posh Milk Bottles!

There were one and two week old kids….adorable!

A family of strange looking turkeys were keeping everyone in line out in the yard.

Our walk took us past a tree which the locals called a Millennium tree, because of its supposed age.

It took five women to get their arms around it….and sometimes it´s good to hug a tree!

And finally a walk back to the Cortijo for coffee and cake.  Sometimes the simple things in life are just what you need.

Gnocchi in a Creamy Asparagus Sauce

5 Mar

I have previously mentioned my love of potatoes, and being a big fan of carbs, a plate of gnocchi really hits the spot.  Today we´ll be using a packet of ready made gnocchi, as this is a speedy dish that looks gourmet, and we all like those.

Would Madam like a lifejacket with her sauce?

The sauce is enough for four.  Of course, rather than save half for another day, we used it all and had our gnocchi swimming in a delicious creamy sauce.  Shame on us.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet gnocchi
  • 200ml of pouring or single cream
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons of soft blue cheese (optional but highly recommended)
  • Fresh parmesan for grating
  • Some chopped cooked lardons, bacon or jamon for sprinkling over the finished dish (or leave these out if you want to keep it vegetarian)
  • Seasoning

Start by finely chopping the asparagus, leaving the aside the tips.  Cook in salted water (not the tips) until tender and remove with a slotted spoon. Now cook the tips, drain and set aside, keeping warm if possible. You can always save the cooking liquid to add to vegetable stick or soup.

In a blender jug put the cream, milk, blue cheese (if using), asparagus (again, not those tips!) and plenty of black pepper.  Blitz until you have a smooth thick cream and put into a small saucepan.

Boil the water for your gnocchi, add salt, and cook until they float to the top.  While they are cooking, gently warm the cream sauce, taste and add salt if necessary.

When the gnocchi are done, drain and mix the cream sauce in, place into warmed serving dishes. Sprinkle over the asparagus tips and jamon or bacon (if using) and grate over some fresh parmesan.  Speedy, luxurious, delicious.

For some other wonderful suggestions of what to do with asparagus, check out RaeDi´s Pizza recipe here and Greg´s Lemon Asparagus here.

On Thursday Big Man and I are heading to London for a week to catch up with family, friends and food. My parents are probably one of the few families on the planet who don´t have internet, so although I may post again before Thursday, I won´t be able to read blogs or comment from Wednesday evening until we get back when I will do a big “catch up”.  Hopefully we´ll come home with lots of lovely foodie goodies and some good eating experiences to share with you all.

Update – I have added this recipe to Greenslove´s recipes, check out Linda´s link here at Savoring Every Bite for more info

Baked Chicken Breast with Cream Cheese Stuffing and Tomato Sauce

20 Feb

When you breed chickens for eating, you´re going to have to deal with the chicken, the whole chicken, and nothing but the chicken.

Most of our Fat Boys end up being cut up into individual portions with the skin off – they´re easier to store in the freezer that way and you don´t have to pluck them.  Chicken Breast has always been my least favourite part…typically it can be a little dry and bland.  Now that we get to eat our own chickens, I can at least say that the breasts are neither dry nor bland and taste great just done on the griddle with olive oil and salt and a squeeze of lemon juice at the end.

Some of our chickens are real monsters though – and with no artificial feed.  Just corn, wheat and a long-ish life (at least in terms of chickens for eating) pecking around our olives.  One chicken breast can weigh about 500g and is plenty to feed two.  Sometimes it´s nice to jazz it up a little, and this is a firm favourite.

  • One monster chicken breast or two regular
  • Two tablespoons of cream cheese mixed with one crushed clove of garlic, a sprinkle of salt and a tablespoon of your favourite herb finely chopped (I like basil or chives with this)
  • About four tablespoons of tomato sauce (i.e. made from fresh or tinned tomatoes)
  • Grated cheese
  • Seasoning
  • Olive oil

Split the chicken breast in two without cutting all the way through.  Fill with the cream cheese and close.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle a little olive oil over, massaging it in all over.

Put into a baking dish and pour over the tomato sauce.  Bake on medium for about 30 minutes.  Check that it is done by piercing it – if the juices run clear, you´re done.  If not, cook for a further 10 mins, check and repeat if necessary.  When cooked, grate cheese over the top, pop it under a hot grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling, and serve.

This is a great prepare ahead dish (up to the stage before you start to cook) and if the breast is large, serve cut into slices with a little extra tomato sauce on the side for your loved ones who prefer things saucy!

Saint Valentine…don´t you mean San Jacobo?

14 Feb

I have a work project on at the moment which is keeping me busy, so at home we´ve got a week or so of quicker to cook dishes coming up, or slow cooked dishes that I can put in the oven and then forget about for a few hours.

This speedy light lunch or supper is often served as a “child friendly” dish here in Spain. Sometimes you just don´t fancy “fancy” food. Something simple and speedy, and just a little naughty is required.  Deep fried ham and cheese coated in breadcrumbs hits the spot.  And if you serve it up with a dollop of ketchup and a fried egg with a runny yolk – well I won´t tell anyone that you´re not 9 years old!

Per person you´ll need

  • 2 large slices of your favourite ham
  • Enough thin slices of cheese to almost cover the ham (choose one that melts like cheddar, mozzarella etc)
  • A beaten egg plus 2 tablespoons of milk (this is enough for 4 slices of ham)
  • Dried breadcrumbs to coat the ham
  • Hot oil for frying

Place the cheese on the ham and either roll it up or fold it over to make a “sandwich”. Use a toothpick if necessary to keep your San Jacobo closed, but don´t forget to remove before eating…!

Dip the ham in the egg then the breadcrumbs and then repeat. This will give you a good seal so that the cheese doesn´t ooze out as it melts when it cooks, and a super crispy coating.

Get your oil very hot and fry (you can deep or shallow fry – your decision). Remove when browned and serve immediately.

I tried to find out why these little fried ham parcels are called “Saint Jacobs” but no one seems to know.  At least it makes the meal sound a little more gourmet than it actually is.  Make sure you have a cold beer to hand as a medical aid in case you burn your tongue on that lovely melted cheese.

PS. Happy Valentine´s Day to you all – young. old, single or happily with someone, it´s all about love…so go on, go out today and hug someone!

Secret Santa and Stinky Baked Camembert

16 Dec

You know that Christmas really is upon you when you decide to Get Organised.  I put that in capital letters to help motivate me.  And then when you decide to Get Organised, Things Go Horribly Wrong. I think you get the idea.

With my parents arriving shortly I sorted out our spare room for them this morning with my best linen, plenty of coat hangers and a few little tasteful decorations.  The bedspread is a gorgeous mulberry colour and I have some lovely purple Christmas lights that I wanted to drape around. Do you think I could find them? Like heck I could.

Then I decided to remove all my nice table linen from the chest in the spare bedroom so that I don´t have to go disturbing my parents.  What did I find? Well, the linen was where it was meant to be but I also found the remains of an enormous red wine stain on my lovely tablecloth.  It´s not even in the middle where it could have been hidden by plates or candles…damn, that´s now doing its third round in the washing machine.

Finally, the dishwasher made a very rude noise and appeared to have given up on me mid cycle.  I foolishly opened the door to give it a good talking to, and out flooded a sea of dirty and very hot water.  One of those days, you see.

But all was not bad.  In the midst of all this mayhem, sorry…Festive Fun… Big Man came in bearing a beautiful poinsettia for me and a parcel from Secret Santa. I also saw that Nia awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award, so a huge thank you to the lovely Nia.  For my responses to this in a previous post, check this out.

Tandy over at Lavender and Lime kindly organised this fun exchange of gifts, so thanks so much Tandy! My Secret Santa (you can´t hide your details from the Spanish Postal system!) is a lovely Blue Jellybean from Madrid – thanks Jellybean, I´m so pleased with my gifts!  Look at my gorgeous book of Tapas recipes – there are some old favourites in there plus a load of new and inspiring ideas for me to try out next year.  I´ve only managed to get a quick flick through it as I had to wrestle it off Big Man who was deciding what “we” (for “we”, read “me”) should try first.  I also received some gorgeous decorations…which are very special as I ask Christmas visitors to buy me a new decoration for us to keep and remember them by.  So perfect…my first gifts and I am a very, very lucky Chica indeed.

Of course, while things were exploding and flooding all around me, I did have time to make a little bite to eat.  Inspired by some Baked Brie recipes From the Bartolini Kitchens and Rufus´Food and Spirits Guide, I decided to do a simplified version with a Camembert which was so ripe it was about to take a walk all on its own!  I unwrapped the very stinky camembert from its box and separated the plastic paper from the waxed paper which I wrapped around the cheese again.  I put it back into the base of the box and baked for about 20mins in a hot oven.

We ate it with bread sticks, and I put a few spoons of my plum compote in the top of the cheese.  The strong taste of the cheese worked well with the cinnamon and vanilla notes in the plum and we quietly sipped a glass of vino Rosado whilst the dishwasher groaned and breathed its last breath.  Guess what Santa might be buying tomorrow?!

Galicia and Asturias – Where You Could Never Go Hungry!

19 Sep

Oporto - still beautiful in the drizzle

We´re back from an incredible 8 day, 3500km trip to the north of Spain.  We drove west from Malaga then north through Portugal, stopping off briefly in Porto then to our first base of Sanxenxo in the Rias Baixas in Galicia. After three days in Galicia we headed east and based ourselves for four days in Ribadesella in Asturias and then finally headed back south, stopping off in León and then staying the night in beautiful Salamanca.  Our final leg of the journey home allowed for two quick stops in Caseres and Mérida….phew, what a trip!

I thought I´d do a few posts on this trip over the next few weeks, and share some of the experiences we had…food, drink, sights.  I do hope you enjoy them.

Galicia is very famous for its Pulpo a la Gallega, so we enjoyed this several times.  A particularly good one was eaten in the beautiful town of O Grove.

Pulpo a la Gallega - in Galicia

We took a boat trip, which was fun despite the rain, to look at the Rias (which are estuaries) and to see where the oysters, mussels and scallops are cultivated.  We were fed freshly caught mussels, steamed open and served with a young, local white wine.  Perfect.

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

In Santiago De Compostela, which is the destination for pilgrims and walkers on the Camino De Santiago (a mediaeval pilgrimage route), we admired the incredible cathedral and enjoyed a slice of their local cake (made with almonds and adorned with the symbol of Santiago – or Saint James – the Patron Saint of Spain).

Delicious with a strong cup of coffee

We also enjoyed several empanadas during our time in Galicia – which are made with both meat and fish.  Very tasty snacks indeed.

Hard to resist...so we didn´t!

In a very pretty fishing village called Cudillero, where the houses appear to be stacked one on top of another, we ate our first Fabas.  Galicia and Asturias have a great culture of soup type dishes made with their local white beans and served in different ways.  Another tradition is to put a huge tureen of the dish on the table and you just keep serving yourself until you can´t eat any more.  What a fabulous idea!

Go on..you can manage a few more!

These were served with local clams, which are bigger than the ones we typically see in Andalucía and the dish is called Fabas con Almejas.

HUGE and delicious clams

One day we went to Covadonga, which is a beautiful mountain top Sanctuary and took a picnic to eat further up at the lakes. The weather was so bad that when we got there we could only see fog so we drove back down to the River (the Sella) and enjoyed our Bollos Preñaos (which translates literally as pregnant rolls!) and Empanadas by the river.

Gives a whole new meaning to "a bun in the oven"!

The delicious rolls are made with bread wrapped round chorizo and baked as a ready made snack.

Empanadas with a river view

Dinner one evening was a delicious salad made with mushrooms and bacon and served with a delicious rosé wine.

Messy Mushrooms

Alongside this we tried a variety of local Asturian cheeses.  The most famous is Cabrales, a pungent blue cheese which we really enjoyed.  Our car was a bit stinky when we got home as we bought some back!

Gorgeous stinky cheeses!

We also ate an amazing rice and lobster dish, Asturian Pote (a vegetable stew with pulses), beautiful beef and ribs….but we were obviously hungry or greedy and never got to take photos of these.

A beautiful mediaeval town in Cantabria is Santillana Del Mar, and we found an amazing bar that did a huge selection of Pinxos (like larger sized tapas).

Decisions, decisions....

We managed to work our way through a few of them with no problems. Well…it was raining and we were waiting for the downpour to stop!

I´ll have one of those, ooh...and one of those...ooh and...

Our final night in Ribadesella we ate a wonderful Hake and Prawn casserole – but only remembered to snap it as we had almost finished.

Sorry...but we were hungry after a busy day of sightseeing

Near Leon we ate another incredible bean dish.  This one was made with what they called “Cinnamon Beans” (because of their beautiful colour) and was cooked with smoked pancetta.

Cinnamon coloured beans...so tasty

And finally, our last night in a very lively Salamanca was spent wandering around the city by night looking at the beautiful buildings and enjoying a variety of tapas.  These were Callos (tripe with chick peas) and Albóndigas (pork and jamon meatballs).

Tapeando en Salamanca por la noche - Nightime Tapas in Salamanca

So, it´s back to reality for us, but with happy memories, full stomachs and lots of ideas for new recipes in the months to come.  Hope you enjoyed sharing a little of our holiday with us.  Of course, it wasn´t all eating and drinking….next time I´ll show you some of the beautiful sights.  ¡Hasta luego for now!

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