Thank You!

I was very happy and surprised to find the other day that Olga over at Self Expression http://olgaselfexpression.wordpress.com/ had awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award. Now, before I go any further I have to apologise as I have an enormous problem inserting links.  I have learnt how to do it now, but for some strange reason my laptop won´t let me do it in a “pretty”way. Sorry folks, I´m clearly not as versatile as I should be.

Anyway, back to business.  Olga comes from Ekaterinburg in Russia and teaches English.  I enjoy her blog mainly because it´s so different from many of the others that I read. She is interested in psychology and many of her posts reflect this.  Olga also includes guests blogs and it´s good to read about things which make me sit back and reflect for a while.  I thoroughly recommend that you pop over there and pay her a visit. Thank you Olga for the award, am feeling happy and humble!

So, it seems that I am asked to tell my readers seven things about myself that they may not be aware of.  Presumably something which they will also find interesting…hmmm, that´s a tricky one.

  1. I am left handed.  Perhaps not so fascinating for most people, but any lefties out there will understand the daily struggle  with ordinary things like knives and scissors that we face.
  2. I want to learn to play the guitar.  I have a guitar, I have the books, I even have a little plastic picky thing called a plectrum.  I just can´t seem to settle down and get to it.
  3. I am interested in tracing the history of my family. I got as far back as a 7 times great grandfather who was a humble farm labourer in Gloucestershire in 1787 but have hit a wall.  It´s interesting to look at conditions in the times of our ancestors and to imagine the lives they led and the hardships they, undoubtedbly, endured.  And then to feel grateful for all that we have now.
  4. I have “done” the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk. When my best friend and I turned 40, we went round the world for three months.  What a trip!  A few days after my birthday we treated each other as a gift, to the bridge walk.  We were at the top as the sun went down over the city and the group we were with sang Happy Birthday to us.  One of those amazing, once in a lifetime moments.  I was very lucky. Apart from the awful grey boiler suit I had to wear and the lamp strapped to head.  I looked like a large illuminated sewer pipe.  

    If you look really, really closely you´ll see a group at the top doing the walk!
  5. I am easily distracted, although I like to think of it as being very good at multitasking.  Since starting to write this post I have done a machine load of washing, emptied the dishwasher, made jam, sorted out my car insurance, fed the dogs, and dug out some material I want to turn into a tablecloth.  My life is like this -I love to have several projects on the go at once and am already planning the next before I have finished the one I am working on.
  6. I confess that I don´t really like Flamenco singing.  “What a heathen” my new Spanish family and friends think.  I have tried and tried, and whilst I enjoy the clapping and stamping and dancing, I just can´t learn to love the wailing and sobbing that goes with a “good” fandago.  Sorry, I guess that´s the Brit in me coming out.

    Our beautiful niece Fátima (r) and her friend, also Fátima, ready to dance!
  7. My favourite book of all time, and which I have read over and over again is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  I studied it at the age of 16, fell in love with it, and the passion has endured.  Sigh!

With this award, also comes the pleasure of passing it on to others. Now, I haven´t been blogging for that long, so haven´t yet had the chance of building up a good collection of “Virtual Blogging Pals”.  Also, my dodgy laptop won´t let me be too creative in naming them, but I´ll do my best.  Some of the blogs I love to read have already, understandably been given this award (in some case several times) previously – so an honorouble mention for Greg at Rufus´Food and Spirits Giude http://rufusguide.wordpress.com/ He writes with passion and humour, and damn fine photos, about food and drink.  I think I have already put on a few kilos trying out some of his delicious recipes.  

So, awards are passed on to

Florence over at Florence and Freddie http://florenceandfreddie.wordpress.com/   Florence has a wonderful craft blog and can seem to turn even the most everyday object into a work of beauty.  She takes much of her influence from the Andalucían countryside where she, like me, lives.  I can understand her inspiration, I wish I had her creative talents.

Mandy over at The Complete Cook Book http://thecompletecookbook.wordpress.com/  Mandy has done exactly what her blog says and compiled an amazing collection of recipes from her home country (South Africa) and blended with with recipes, hints and tips from other countries and cultures.  Thanks for making it all look so easy and do-able Mandy.

Trevor over at Wartime Gardening http://wartimegardening.wordpress.com/  Trevor´s blog is a wonderful mixture of gardening tips from a book issued during the second world war to inspire the people of Britain to “Dig for Victory”. He also shows us how he does it himself in his beautiful garden in France and throws in some delicious recipes, using his own or local produce.  This is such a fun blog with loads of inspiration for cooks and gardeners alike.

JamieAnne at A Dash of Domestic http://adashofdomestic.wordpress.com/ She posts great recipes, money saving tips and she´s the kind of person whose blogs always make you smile.  Thanks too JamieAnne for all your lovely comments!

Apparently recipients can do as they wish with the award i.e. accept, ignore, tell us more about themselves..as they wish! I do need to tell them though that they have been awarded it, otherwise this wouldn´t make very much sense.

So, that´s it for now.  Thanks again Olga and now back to the kitchen for me.  Or should I go and do some  gardening, or read a book, or make that tablecloth????!

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Salmorejo Cordobés – Another kind of gazpacho

 

Creamy Salmorejo

As promised, another version of the famed Andalucían gazpachos.  This one originates from the beautiful city of Córdoba, and is my favourite version of all.  It is different in that it uses very few ingredients but can be served three ways – very thick as a dip with small breadsticks (known as Picos), medium thick garnished with chopped hard boiled egg and jamon or tuna as a chilled soup starter, or diluted with water as a refreshing drink.  So…three dishes in one!

Ingredients for this are few and it will serve from 6 (as tapas) to 2 (as a soup) approximately:

  • 2-3 slices of stale bread without the crust (should be a fairly dense bread rather than sliced white from the supermarket)
  • About 500g of tomato, cored and peeled (I had one HUGE tomato as you can see in the photo) but usually the volume of the tomato once in the jug is a little more than the volume of the breadcrumbs
  • A chunk of red pepper (optional)
  • Half a clove of garlic (don´t recommend you use more or it will overpower the taste the taste of the salmorejo)
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Once again, the holy trinity of water, salt and vinegar appear but we´ll use very little water this time.

Dribble a very little amount of water onto the bread which you will have put into a mixing jug, and leave for a minute or two to absorb it.

Start with bread and water

Add the tomato and pepper if you are using it.  The truly authentic recipe doesn´t use red pepper, but after wondering why my salmorejo never looked as red or tasted as sweet as anyone else´s, I was let into the secret of the locals round here – red pepper!

Tomato and Red Pepper

Add your garlic, a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of vinegar and at least two tablespoons of olive oil and start to blend with the hand blender.

Add Vinegar and Salt

You need to get this really smooth, almost like a purée.  The more oil you add, the smoother the mixture will be, although I tend to go easy on it just for the sake of my waistline!  Taste every so often and adjust the salt and vinegar to your liking.  Again, it should be “alegre” or lively in flavour.

Start to blend

When you´re done, leave to chill in the fridge for about an hour.

Get it smooth and thick

Traditionally it´s served in a deep earthenware bowl (to maintain the freshness) with chopped hard-boiled egg and jamon on top.  Some people substitute the jamon for tinned tuna but I guess chopped bacon would also be nice.

It´s also great as a dip or sauce served with little breadsticks (like very short grissini) or croutons.

Not for the fainthearted! Slow Cooked Pig´s Trotters

Slow Cooked Pig´s Trotters

So, are you ready for this?! You may know that in Spain, especially the south, the pig is a highly prized beastie.  We start at the top with the aristocratic pig that is the “Pata Negra” (which translates as the Black Hoof) who is fed on acorns and snuffles round in a life of luxury until he is turned into the most expensive Jamon in the world. At the other end of the scale, after the regular jamones and normal cuts of meat have been consumed and enjoyed, we´re left with all the other bits that most people think would be best consigned to the bin.

Well, not so here, and in many other countries and cultures too.  If they could turn the “oink” of a pig into a soup in Spain, I´m sure there would be a recipe for it.  Pig´s trotters are pretty common place in butchers and supermarkets here.  No need to place a special order as they are often put into stocks and soups, or boiled up with chick peas for their dish “Puchero”.  Sometimes though, they have a starring role all to themselves and this recipe is one which comes from Big Man´s mum, to one of his sisters and on to me.

I was told that this, like many other Andalucían dishes, was the poor folks´ food.  When the Matanza (pig killing) was carried out in the autumn, the “extras” such as the tripe, trotters, tail and ears were given to those who had helped out in payment for their services.  Because there was so little (or no) meat on them, the cooks had to get creative to add flavour and use long, slow cooking to tenderise the food.

I have to confess, I´m not a big fan, but I love the sauce from this dish.  Pig´s trotters, when cooked, are rather gelatinous and involve a lot of chewing and then spitting out of all the little bones.  It doesn´t bother me, but Big Man loves them so much that I make a pot for him every so often to enjoy all to himself whilst I tuck into something like aubergines or curry – which do nothing at all for him.

It´s a slightly long winded, but not complicated process to make this dish as you need to plan several days ahead. Give it 5 to be on the safe side.  Here´s how to do it if you´re feeling adventurous.

For two people as a main course

  • 8 pigs trotters split into halves or quarters (they usually come like this or ask your friendly butcher to help you out)
  • Salt about 6 tablespoons
  • 2 bay leaves
  • About 12 peppercorns
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2-4 small dried chilies

For the sauce

  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled and cut in half lengthways
  • 1 large slice of stale bread
  • A few strands of saffron soaked in water (or use a heaped teaspoon of paella spice mix)
  • Half a teaspoon of hot chili powder (pimentón)
  • Olive oil
  • About 12 peeled almonds
  • Salt to season

On the first day salt the trotters, put into the fridge for 24 hours

Salting the trotters

On the next day and for 48 hours, de salt them by submerging in a pot of fresh water which will need to be changed about 3 times per day

The day before you want to eat them you need to put them into a large pan with a lid, cover with water and add the garlic, bay leaves, chilies and peppercorns.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 2 hours or until really tender.  The trotters will start to fall apart and you need to end up with half the liquid you started with.  You may need to top up the water during cooking.

For the sauce you need to fry the garlic, almonds and bread in a small amount of olive oil until browned and then put into a jug with the saffron and it´s water plus about 2 ladles full of the water from the trotters.  You add the pimentón and then blend with a stick blender until you have a thick purée.

Pour this into the pot with the trotters and simmer again for about half an hour.  Add salt to taste and then cool and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

In the fridge the gelatine will cause the whole thing to solidify.  When you warm it up to eat it, it will all return to a liquid state and you´ll have sauce again.  This isn´t typically served with anything as you have to eat it with your fingers which get incredibly sticky!  I love the sauce though and serve it with plain boiled rice.

This is not a dish that will be to everyone´s liking, but for those of you willing to try it, it has a wonderful flavour. Do let me know if you´re brave enough to give it a go!

“Green” Potato Salad

Getting "Cheffy" with the chives!

It´s been a hectic little morning up our mountain.  A nearby complex which offers rural holiday accommodation – http://www.cortijolasmonjas.com/ – just in case you want to have a look at the same lovely scenery I see every day, ran a four hour workshop on distilling aromatic plants.  More of that later in another post.  I got home so relaxed by the lovely smells of lavender, geranium and melissa, I wasn´t really in the mood for “proper” cooking.  Big Man had been tidying up the vine in the vegetable patch, so he was hungry.  I needed something fast and filling.

Well, not being a girl who is ever likely to be caught with her fridge empty, I pulled together a speedy potato salad.  It´s green because of the avocados that are very much in abundance here at the moment, and because I used a big bunch of chives from our garden.

So, here it is, in all it´s delicious simplicity, for two people.

  • Two large potatoes cooked in their skins then peeled and diced
  • Four rashers of grilled bacon, chopped
  • One large avocado, peeled and diced
  • Half a cup of cooked peas or broad beans (guess what I used!)
  • Half a cup of chopped green olives
  • One grilled red pepper, peeled and chopped
  • Some finely chopped chives (I used about 2 heaped tablespoons)
  • One heaped tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • One small tub of natural yogurt (mixed with the mayo)
  • Pepper – you may not need salt because of the bacon, it´s down to you

Mix up all your ingredients, season and then stir in the mayonnaise and yogurt mixture.  Also good as a side dish, but we just dug in and scoffed the lot!

The Vegetable Garden – El Huerto – A Late Start

5 Days Ago...the story starts

It´s the end of May and we only got round to planting out all those little plant plugs on 21st May, shame on us.  We´re usually at least a few weeks earlier, but never mind.  The weather seems to be turning to summer, and I took a little look around this morning to see how things were doing.  Five days on, and I couldn´t believe my eyes.  Fortunately things catch up quickly here and I know, at least if the weather stays fine, we´ll be eating most of what we´re growing now into November.

The runner beans seem to be growing a few cm each day.  Luckily we have plenty of canes for them. We had to put down some slug pellets, not really in keeping with our organic aims, but there seems to be a plague of slugs and snails this year.

Jack and The Beanstalk...

The broad beans are still in full production, the freezer is also well stocked for when they do die off in a few weeks.

Beans, beans are good for you...!

We´re very excited about our potatoes as we´ve never grown them before. Big Man was reluctant as they do take up a fair amount of space.  However, they´re drying out now and will be ready to dig up soon, then once we´ve dug over the soil and given it whatever (organic) feed it needs, we´re going to put other things in.  I have seeds for dwarf runner beans (including some very funky yellow ones, which I´m quite excited about).  We´ll definitely put some radishes in as they grow so quickly, and then some lettuces as choices here in the shops locally are mainly limited to lettuce hearts or iceberg.

Tired Potato Plants - which is good!

Last year a neighbour gave us some little cucumber plants which he had grown from seeds of his previous year´s crop.  They went crazy and we had loads of delicious little cucumbers all summer long.  We took his advice and saved the seeds from one cucumber which we let grow fat and sad looking.  We planted them 5 days ago, and despite Big Man being convinced that nothing would come of them, this morning we found lots of little sprouts…we´re so proud!

Tiny Cucumber Sprout - Future Gazpacho Ingredient

Our artichokes continue to flourish, but we will put some new plants in this year as the current ones are now three years old and getting tired.

Artichoke leaves, a perfect snack for slugs

Our tomatoes, peppers and aubergines have taken root well. 

Pepper or Pimiento

Big Man hates aubergines (or eggplants) with a passion. I, on the other hand, adore them. Sometimes I sneak them into dishes without telling him and he cant always tell.  I love Melanzane Alla Parmigiana, and make this as a treat all to myself so we have planted a little row of them to keep me happy.

Aubergines. Love ´em or hate ´em?

And our lovely little lemon tree seems to have found its pace and keeps us supplied with juicy fruit for squeezing over grilled meats, making dressings and slicing into our “sun downers”.

Ice and a slice anyone?

And just to prove that it´s not all about veggies, here´s a gratuitous shot of one of our roses…

Roses are red...

Happy growing!!!

Gazpacho Andaluz – Like You Never Knew It

Soup or Salad? So confusing!

Ok, so I say the word Gazpacho, and what do you think of? A bowl of a chilled tomato based soup, with chopped pepper, cucumber and possibly more tomato floating on top?  I´m right, aren´t I?!  Ok, so enough with the questions.  You´d be right of course.  But you´d also be wrong.  Well, not wrong exactly, just probably not aware of the different versions of Gazpacho that exist in Andalucía.  Gazpacho is Andaluz (i.e. from the Andalucían region of Spain) rather than Spanish.  Just as Paella is Valencian and not Spanish.

It´s all getting complicated, so maybe I should start at the beginning.  Andalucía has always traditionally been more reliant on agriculture (farming, olives, goats and pigs) than industry.  Based on hard labour through grafting on the land, or the “campo”.  So what did those hungry labourers do at midday, apart from take a well deserved rest in the shade of an olive tree, that is? Well, they took their lunch, or the makings of it, with them.  Life was, and still is, fairly tough for a lot of people.  Poverty reigned and many of the traditional dishes came about through necessity.  Ask any older person here what the key ingredients of a gazpacho are and they´ll tell you “water, vinegar and salt”.  And it´s true, they go into all the versions.  The reason for this was to make you thirsty.  And therefore drink more water, and thus feel full up.  Your belly was full of liquid and stopped you craving more food.

So, we have our country men with a twist of salt, a bottle of vinegar and a knife.  Water came courtesy of a nearby stream, and the vegetables that went into their gazpacho were those that could be found in the countryside around them.  Sometimes tomatoes, peppers, onions.   Other times wild leaves, oranges or a melon. 

The gazpacho you see above looks, and actually tastes, like a very finely chopped salad in a bowl of iced water.  I won´t lie to you, that´s pretty much what it is!  When I first came here, I admit that I didn´t really “get” it.  Now that time has passed and I´ve endured quite a few very hot summers, it all makes sense.  A chilled bowl of iced salad/soup, with a little tickle of salt and vinegar, the tang of fresh mint and the crunch of all my favourite summer vegetables goes down a treat when you can´t face doing anything more energetic than swatting a fly away and adjusting your sombrero.

Our village prizes this version of Gazpacho so much that it has a three day Fiesta Del Gazpacho dedicated to it every first weekend in August!  All good fun, although we tend to slake our thirst afterwards with a cold beer or a few glasses of wine.  And then, when we´ve cooled down, we all take to the dance floor and Paso Doble until dawn.  Happy days.

If you want to try it, you´ll need (roughly, as the quantities are really down to you) for four bowls:

  • Half a lettuce heart finely shredded and chopped (this is what you will do with all the vegetables)
  • Half a green pepper
  • A medium tomato, peeled
  • Half a sweet onion
  • About a third of a normal cucumber, peeled or one small Spanish cucumber
  • About 15 large mint leaves
  • A handful of broad beans if you have them (optional)
  • White wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Iced Water
  • Some Ice cubes

Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and pour over water so that the vegetables are just covered.  Gradually start to add salt and vinegar to taste (they tend to use a lot of both here, but go steady until you get a flavour you like).  The locals say it should taste “alegre” which is happy or lively! Add a few ice cubes and leave for at least half an hour so that the mint really infuses the water, then ladle into bowls, lower yourself onto a comfy chair in the shade of an olive tree, tilt your sombrero over your eyes and enjoy.

Go one, give it a go, you might like it!  And it´s a wonderful way of getting your “five a day”…

Easy Bread Recipe

Waiting for it to cool...!

Although we live in a fairly isolated hamlet, Bread Man stops by every day except Sunday and we also have another one that comes three times a week.  No problems getting hold of that staple carbohydrate for us.  However, I enjoy making bread, and don´t always fancy the same type every day, so we restrict our deliveries to three times a week and then I make whatever takes our fancy.

This recipe is one that I generally mix up in the bread maker, but cook in the oven.  I do this because I prefer the more rustic shaped loaves I get when I finish them off myself, and because I can cook them with a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven to give them a great crust.

Ingredients go into the bread maker in this order

  • 350 ml of water
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 cups of strong bread flour
  • Half a cup of whole meal flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • 1 sachet of easy blend yeast

This dough can also be made without a bread maker as I used to use this recipe before I bought one.  I made the bread using the all in one method i.e. put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix by hand until they come together, then knead for at least 15 minutes until the dough starts to become silky, leave to rise in a lightly oiled bowl and covered with a floured tea towel.  Leave to double in size, knock back, knead again, leave to rise and then a final knock back and shape into your loaf then leave to rise a final time.

Whichever method you use, put your loaf onto a floured surface which you will be able to use to slide the bread into the oven and onto a heated baking sheet.  I have some flexible chopping boards which work fantastically for this.

When you have shaped your loaf, cut a few slashes in the top and sprinkle the surface with flour. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and put your baking tray inside.  Heat a kettle or saucepan of water and when you are ready to cook, place a deep tin at the bottom of the oven and fill with hot water.  Slide your loaf onto the baking tray and cook for about 45 minutes.  Exact timings will depend on your oven, but it should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool – try to resist cutting into it while it´s still hot, or you´ll end up with lots of crumbs and slices of bread with holes in them!

En joy with your favourite toppings – butter, cheese, jam or with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt “al estilo Español”. Or try this http://wp.me/p1hSAl-12 which is My Favourite Spanish Breakfast! (Sorry. am having huge problems inserting links, so it probably doesn´t look pretty, but it links to another recipe)

Braised Salt Cod with Potatoes and Broad Beans/Bacalao con Papas y Habas

"Poor Man´s" Bacalao

Many years ago, in most Mediterranean countries, salt cod (or Bacalao as it´s called here) was poor man´s food.  Whole cod was salted, then dried in the sun to be stored and used when fresh fish was scarce.  Nowadays, it´s become rather a luxury item, in the same way that offal and bizarre cuts of meat have become trendy around the world.

Fortunately for us, Portugal is only about 4 hours´ drive away, so we get to have a few breaks there every so often throughout the year.  Also fortunate for us is the fact that the Portuguese consume huge amounts of Bacalao and sell it at greatly reduced prices.  The supermarkets there will sell you anything from small flakes of cod to flavour soups and stews, to entire cod which they can chop up into portions with special electric saws.  Before it´s rehydrated, the salt cod is tough but bendy, and it would be virtually impossible to cut it up at home. 

On our last visit we stocked up, as it can be frozen, and have enjoyed many meals with our “Souvenir of Portugal”.  Sadly we´re coming to the end of the supply, but on the plus side, this means we´ll have to plan another little break over there.

When you´re anticipating eating salt cod, you have to plan ahead.  De salting it can take anything from 2 to 5 days, depending on the thickness of the fillets you have.  Of course, you can also use fresh cod, in which case you can just go straight ahead and cook.

Put your fillets in a container which will allow them to be completely covered in water.  If it´s hot, put the container in the fridge, but it´s not necessary if the weather is cooler.  Try to change the water at least 3 times a day and test the cod by holding it up to your lips.  Then lick your lips!  You´ll know when it´s ready when it has lost that strong salty taste, although it will always retain a small trace of it. Just be warned, dried salt cod doesn´t smell too great.  Overcome any revulsion you may feel, the finished dish won´t taste anything like it smells right now!

There are many, many ways of preparing salt cod – deep friend in batter, roasted, grilled, poached in sauce.  This is a simple recipe which, once the cod has been desalted, is relatively quick and easy to prepare.

For 2 people you´ll need

  • 2 large salt cod fillets, desalted
  • 2 large potatoes roughly chopped and boiled for 5 minutes
  • A cup of broad beans (use the pods too if they´re  tender) chopped and blanched for a minute or two
  • An onion finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely sliced
  • About 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • A lemon

If you´re lucky enough to have a terracotta cooking pot, do use this as it seems to add something to the flavour.  If not, don´t worry, a deep frying pan will work just as well.

Put the oil, garlic, onions, potatoes and beans into the frying pan on a very low heat.  You will now slowly braise these in the olive oil until all the vegetables are tender.  You don´t want to brown them, so keep the heat low and half cover with a lid or some foil.  Stir occasionally to get them all covered in your lovely olive oil. Incidentally, this style of cooking potatoes is known in Spain as “a lo pobre” or poor man´s style. Usually they´re done with strips of green peppers though, and not broad beans.

Once the vegetables are ready, lay your cod fillets on top, skin side up.  Cook them gently for about 3 or 4 minutes (without moving or prodding them) or until the underside is no longer opaque.

Flip the fillets over, they´ll now only need a minute or two to finish cooking.

Remove from the heat and serve with plenty of lemon to squeeze over.  I also like an extra drizzle of “raw” olive oil, but if you´re watching the waistline (as I really should be doing) then leave this out.  You probably won´t need to add any salt, but taste it first and decide for yourself. ¡Buen Provecho!

Spring Chicken One Pot

 
Bedding Down for a Slow Braise

Now, before I get going I have to apologise that I haven´t posted a photo of the finished dish!  It´s been a cold, wet rainy day up the mountain after a very stormy night.  Big Man, the two dogs and I were tired and grizzly after a night of no sleep and needed comfort food to fill our bellies and soothe our frazzled nerves.  I can only think that we were so in need of something calming that we were tucking in and sipping a glass of Rioja before I realised that I hadn´t snapped the finished result. Apologies, it was a delicious bowl of braised chicken, spring vegetables and steaming mashed potatoes.

Because we don´t have a machine to pluck our chickens for us, and as I don´t have the patience to pluck chickens “en masse”, they are skinned after dispatch and usually cut up and frozen.  One chicken was kept whole so that I could cook a one pot dish, and today was its day.  I cooked it slowly on the hob in a large tagine that I have, but it can equally well be cooked in a heavy based saucepan with a tight fitting lid (I think they may be called Dutch Ovens in the US) either on the hob or in a very slow oven.

It´s a simple dish with only a little preparation, then you go away and forget about it for a few hours whilst enjoying the smells of slowly braising chicken wafting through your home. 

Here´s how to do it…

  • One whole chicken (with or without skin) or chicken pieces for however many people you are cooking for
  • About 3-4 carrots per person, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • A cup of broad beans per person  (but  feel free to use whatever vegetable is seasonal)
  • Half an onion roughly chopped per person
  • A tablespoon of chopped parsley and of olive oil per person
  • Grated lemon rind to taste and the juice of half a lemon per person
  • Seasoning
  • About 2 medium potatoes per person, peeled and quartered – keep these in a bowl of water until needed
  • Extra olive oil
  • Milk (optional)

Mix the carrots, beans, onion, parsley, lemon zest, juice and olive oil in a bowl.  Season to taste.

Crunchy Spring Vegetables

Put half the vegetable mix at the bottom of your cooking dish then place the chicken on top.  Use the rest of the vegetables to fill the chicken cavity and tuck and the lemon shells in with the chicken.

Rub a little olive oil, salt and pepper over the chicken, put the lid on and place on a low heat.  This needs to cook very slowly for about two hours.  Check every so often and if it looks as though it´s drying out, add about half a glass of water.  If the lid of your pot fits well, you should find that the chicken starts to cook in its own steam.  When the chicken is almost cooked (i.e. it looks cooked on the outside but the juices do not quite run clear when you stab a thigh with a skewer), remove the lemon shells and put the potatoes in on top of the bed of vegetables and around the chicken.

The potatoes will take about another half an hour to cook, by which time the chicken will be cooked.

Remove the potatoes and mash with a little milk or the juice from the chicken and vegetables – it´s your choice!

Serve the chicken with the vegetables and mashed potato.  Now you only have one cooking pot to wash up and, if you have them, you can use any leftovers plus the bones to make a delicious stock for another day.

Chicken, Chive & Sweetcorn Fritters

Don´t Burn Yourself!

Having spent the day rushing around and generally being a busy bee, I wanted something quick and easy for a light supper.  Leftovers from a chargrilled chicken dish made the night before included most of a chicken breast, so I decided to make some fritters and serve them with a big mixed salad.

Here in Andalucía they often make fritters with salt cod (which has been soaked and desalted) and serve them with Molasses (or sugar cane honey as it´s called here) drizzled over. When I was first introduced to this concept, I wasn´t sure it was going to be for me.  The idea of sweet and salty mixed together seemed strange, but then I thought about how in the UK we often eat meats with fruit sauces (pork with apple sauce, turkey with cranberry) and realised that it wasn´t such a weird idea.  I´m so glad I did give it a go as it´s a fantastic combination and works really well with these fritters. 

Beautiful Jar of Miel de Caña

If you just can´t face the thought of Molasses though, a sweet chilli dipping sauce or mayonnaise also tastes great with these little fritters.

Ingredients used (which are approximate) made 14 fritters.

  • 1 x 150g sweetcorn which I blended to make creamed corn (we can´t get it here)
  • Half a large or one small chicken breast, grilled and then finely chopped
  • 4 heaped tablespoons of self raising (or cake) flour
  • About half the empty can full of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped chives
  • 1 egg
  • Seasoning
  • Oil for frying (I used olive oil)

In a bowl add the flour and egg to the sweetcorn and mix well. Gradually add the milk until you get a paste the consistency of a thick porridge. You may not use all the milk, or you may need a little more, it will depend on your flour.  Add the chicken and chives and season to taste.

Heat your oil in a deep frying pan and when ready, drop heaped tablespoons of the mixture in, flattening them out slightly with the back of the spoon. 

Each side will take about a minute to cook, remove, drain and serve.  And if you´re feeling Spanish, you can call them Tortillitas de Pollo, Cebollina y Maiz. Olé!