Preserved Tomatoes – Conserva de Tomates

 
Ready for a winter debut

Well, summer is here and I finally have my first glut of tomatoes.

Forgot to weigh them...

We also picked runner beans last night, although they are coming to an end now.

Run, Fat Bean, Run!

And the first of our bobby or French beans.  I planted two varieties, one green and one yellow, but so far I´m only seeing green ones!

´Allo, I am Claude and zis eez mon ami Bobby...

Because we  don´t use insecticides or nasty sprays, some of our tomatoes look a little quirky, but we don´t mind that.  It makes us love them all the more…

Faces made for the radio

Time to start laying some by in jars for the winter months. Last year I made what seemed like enough for the whole village, but by the end of April we ran out.  I am on a mission this year to make enough to last us until next summer.  It is a little bit of effort, but we have so many tomato plants and have also just done a second planting, that it makes sense to do it and enjoy all our hard work in the colder months.

For a great idea on how to use your tomato sauce, and also the way I make mine, head over to Tales of Ambrosia for a delicious aubergine and tomato sauce dish.

I started by cutting small crosses in my washed tomatoes.

Criss Cross

Then I blanched them for a minute or two in boiling water.

Into the hot tub...

After peeling and coring them I put them into my food mouli (although sometimes when I´m pressed for time I just blitz them with the hand blender). 

Scantily clad tomatoes

The mouli, if that´s the correct word in English, is a hand held vegetable mill and gets rid of any tough bits and seeds.

...and grind...

Every so often you´ll need to empty out the bits you´re left with.  You can either use these in soups or sauces or if you have chickens, like us, they love them as a special treat.

Your chickies will thank you!

You´ll be left with a purée of tomatoes which you can now freeze, use or bottle (can).

Gorgeous tomato pulp

When I am going to bottle or can them, I add half a teaspoon of salt per litre of  tomato and heat gently until just bubbling.

This then goes into sterilized jars which are tightly sealed then left to simmer in a bain marie for about 10 minutes and then left to cool down.

Today, as I had been cutting back my basil which is getting a bit overgrown, I added a spring of basil into each jar too.

Now put the jars away in a cool dark place and on a dull grey day, a few months ahead, you´ll be so glad you invested a little time on a hot summer´s day doing this!

Garlic and Herb Cream Cheese

 
Creamy and Delicious

Not long ago I posted on how I make Greek style yogurt.  Rachel from And Then Make Soup, commented that if I left the yogurt to drain for a little longer, I would end up with a spreadable cream cheese (rather like Philadelphia or Boursin). Thanks for the tip Rachel!

So, in a double experiment, I gave this a go.  It was a double experiment as I didn´t have any fresh milk.  I know this sounds a little odd, but in Spain it´s still quite hard to buy fresh milk, apart from in the larger supermarkets in the bigger towns.  Almost all the milk available here is UHT or Long Life.  It´s not a huge problem as I don´t take milk in my coffee and only really use milk in cooking.

So…with a litre of semi skimmed UHT at my disposal, I made a batch of yogurt to see if it would work.  Nothing ventured, I thought!  To my surprise, the process worked equally well as using fresh milk and tasted the same.

Instead of draining it overnight, I put a weight on it and drained for 48 hours.  I saved the liquid that came off it to make soda bread, but more of that another day.

This is what it looked like after 48 hours, straight out of the mould. 

After draining for 48 hours

I beat it up a little and then added one clove of crushed garlic, a sprinkle of sea salt and about 2 tablespoons of very finely chopped parsley.

Add your favourite herbs

The next morning I spread it on bread for my breakfast, and accompanied it with a very funny looking peach!  They´re called Paraguayas here, they have a whitish flesh inside and are very tasty.

Luckily I was not going anywhere that morning, as I was rather garlicky for a few hours!

Up My Road

Sometimes it´s good to look at the world through another person´s eyes.  Last week my (almost) 16 year old god-daughter Maddy and her mum came to stay.

Apart from sunning ourselves, eating, drinking and chatting, we took time out most evenings to take my two dogs Luna and Alfi for a walk.  No need to get in a car to drive somewhere, just a step outside the front door and the footpath awaits. For any keen walkers out there, the famous GR7 footpath which starts in Tarifa (the southernmost tip of Spain) and finishes in Bulgaria, goes right past our house.  We just tackle a little piece of it, but the views, even just walking a couple of kilometres are spectacular.

I thought you might like to share some of them with me, through Maddy´s eyes.  Enjoy!

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Creamy Mussels with Garlic and Bacon

Delicious!

It was another day for Fish Man to visit and I bought a kilo of mussels.  Such a bargain food, so easy to prepare, and such a wonderful taste.

I have been inspired by some of the recipes posted by Olives and Artichokes here and here and often make a tomato based soup version, as you can see here.

Today, I decided to use up some of my bacon from the UK, although I could have used lardons or jamon instead.

Time for a wash and brush up...

After cleaning my mussels, I lightly fried in olive oil two cloves of crushed garlic, one onion fairly finely chopped and 4 rashers of chopped bacon.

When these had all softened I added a glass of white wine and simmered for about 5 minutes before adding the mussels and a couple of tablespoons of chopped parsley and putting the lid on.

A few minutes later the mussels had all opened, so I took the pot off the heat, stirred in 100ml of single or pouring cream and that was it.

I served it in big bowls with spoons and crusty bread to soak up all the garlicky, creamy juices.  ¡Muy rico!

Cherry and Watermelon Granizada

So pretty, so good....

A granizada in Spain is rather like a granita in Italy, or a water ice elsewhere.  This drink was probably more the texture of a slushy sorbet, so didn´t know what to call it!

We had friends from the UK to stay for a week, and whilst eating and drinking we tried to balance out some of the inevitable excesses with plenty of fruit and salad.

To make this drink I whizzed up (with my stick blender in a jug) about 6 large ices cubes made from the slightly cooked pitted cherries I had prepared a couple of weeks ago for Cherry Jam with a large chunk of sweet watermelon (about a quarter of a small one) and a few leaves of mint.

Guess what colour my favourite summer tablecloth is?!

So easy, so fresh, and next time I´ll add a little cava as inspired by spicegirlfla and her Chilled Mixed Berry and Prosecco Soup.  Cheers!!

Runner Beans with Bacon and Garlic

It´s good to have a bean slicing gadget!

A few days ago Big Man came back from a trip to Granada raving about a different kind of tapas he had eaten that day in a bar.  First of all I need to explain all about Granada and tapas.  Granada (the entire province, not just the city) is famed for and rightly proud of its tapas culture.  In most other regions you are asked if you´d like a tapas to accompany your drink and offered a choice.  This can simply be cheese, jamon or olives or quite sophisticated grilled or fried fish, fillets of meat, or potato or seafood salad.

In Granada you don´t get offered, you just get given.  Most bars will have their own specialities and generally their first tapas will be x, the second y and so on.  Of course, if they serve you something you don´t want or like, you can ask for something different.  They even have a word for going out and moving from bar to bar sampling the best they have to offer.  It´s called “tapear”…isn´t that wonderful?  Sounds so much nicer than going on a pub or bar crawl! It also helps with not ending up with a sore head if you drink alcohol as you are eating as you go along.

So, back to the tapas he ate.  Apparently it was runner beans with bacon.  It sounds simple, and it was, but he said it was delicious and fresh and made a lovely change from the usual fare.  After cross questioning him under a spotlight (ok, I made that last bit up) he told me that he thought the beans had been cooked a little first in water, then stir fried with little cubes of bacon.  Then he thought there might have been garlic and couldn´t make his mind up if there had been tomato, but probably not.  What a great way to use up some of my runner bean glut and to get my super marvelous bean shredder out again!

So that was pretty much it.  I sliced my beans finely (I used about 2 cups) and boiled them for a few minutes then drained them.  I diced a couple of slices of smoked streaky bacon which I fried until slightly brown at the edges, threw in two cloves of crushed garlic and the beans and stir fried them for a few minutes more.

Big Man pronounced them even better than the ones in the bar, mainly because I had used some of my precious stock of lovely English bacon supplied by my pals.  And I´m happy as we have a new quick and tasty dish to use up some of our runner beans which we´re currently picking at a rate of about a kilo a day.

Breakfast On The Beach

Better than a Breakast Bap!

Big Man and I decided that we would have a little day away from mountain and head down to the beach.  We would go for lunch in a local restaurant we know near the spot we like, but decided to have breakfast on the beach.

For once, we were organised, and made this plan the night before, so I decided to prepare something ready for the morning.

I defrosted a sheet of puff pastry and folded the edges over to create a little rim.  I baked this in a hot oven for about 10 minutes until it was just starting to turn brown.

For a filling I beat two of our free range eggs with two tablespoon of milk, seasoning and a cup full of chopped wilted chard (just the green part) with the excess water squeezed out.

I poured this into the pastry “case” and baked for another 10 minutes or so until it was set.  It looked lovely when it came out of the oven, but I didn´t take the snap until the next morning when it looked a little less crusty and flaky.  Nonetheless, it was delicious cold and we didn´t even get any sand in it!

PS. Bet you´re glad I spared you a photo of us eating it on the beach…

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Bottled Sunshine

Well, summer is finally here and with it comes gorgeous red and juicy tomatoes.  Soon we´ll have so many it will be time to set some by for the months when tomatoes are sadder and greener.

One of the ways I like to store tomatoes is by sun drying them.  Of course, if you live in a country that has less sun, or it´s winter right now, you can use your oven instead.  I have never dried tomatoes this way but understand that as long as you wedge the oven door open slightly with a skewer or similar, then they´ll dry out nicely rather than steam.

This is the way that I do it, it does take a little time but I like to think that the final taste includes a little warmth of the Andalucían sun.

Wash and dry your ripe but not squashy tomatoes – this time I had plum tomatoes (also known as Roma or Pear tomatoes in Spain).

Big Man chose well...

Cut into halves and then sixths or eights (or smaller depending on the size of your tomatoes). Don´t remove the centre core or seeds.

and cut!

Lay them out on a large tray lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle them fairly heavily with salt.  The salt will help to draw the liquid out of the tomatoes and they won´t taste super salty, I promise.  Use coarse salt (or kosher salt) if you can.

Now leave them in a sunny but sheltered spot.  If there is risk of wind or flies, cover them with a muslin cloth or net and take them in at night if you have humidity.

This batch took just over 48 hours.

After one hour of sunshine

After one hour

Sunbathing without protection...naughty!

After four hours

Day two...

Next day

A Blustery Day Three

Final day (after a windy morning!)

When they´re as dry as you want them (you may decide to leave them a little “juicy” for sun blush tomatoes) you are ready to put them in a sterilised jar (or canning them).

Sterilise your jar in the dishwasher or give them a good wash in very hot water then dry them out in a low oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Now pack your tomatoes into a warm jar.  Can you believe nearly 3kg of tomatoes fit into this jar?

Pack ´em in!

You can layer with basil, thyme or oregano if you want.

The you will fill the jar with olive oil.  I know it seems like an awful lot of oil, but in a few months time when you´ve eaten the last of the tomatoes in that jar you can use the oil for salads, drizzling over pizza, making pasta sauce….

As a final security measure, I put my jar into a deep pot of simmering water so that it´s almost covered and leave it in there for about 10 minutes.  This will ensure a good seal and that your tomatoes run no risk of fermenting.

Now, what will you do with your sun dried tomatoes?  Maybe some canapés, or crostini, or chop them up in a salad or sauce, or maybe serve them with a little flaked fresh parmesan and olives….the choice is yours!

Mediterranean Vegetable Stack

 
My Humble Homage to the Beautiful Berenjena

I adore aubergines, so when my first two aubergines were ripe for picking, I decided to treat them with the love that they deserved.

My two little purple beauties

It was a very simple dish, especially if you already have some tomato sauce made.  If not, fry up a little garlic, add some chopped tomatoes, a slug of red wine and some basil then season and simmer.

I sliced my aubergines (eggplant) and grilled them on the barbecue until smoky and tender.  Then I put them on an oven tray and layered them with pesto, cheese, tomato sauce and basil leaves.

Then I popped it all into a hot oven for about 10 minutes until the cheese had softened (it was a very hard goat´s cheese, so it didn´t really melt!). 

Finally I drizzled some basil oil over, poured myself a glass of rosé and sat back to pay homage to my first little purple beauties of the summer.

The Vegetable Patch – 9 Weeks On

This evening´s harvest

I can´t believe that I´ve been picking veggies and not bragging about it!

Today we finally picked our first red tomatoes…hurrah!  We were late planting, but now that they´ve kicked in, there will be no stopping us for quite a few months now.  Am planning salads, sauces, sun dried tomatoes and goodness knows what else.  My plum tomatoes (or roma) are getting huge, but still frustratingly refuse to turn red.

Please do the decent thing and turn red soon!

We planted 18 runner bean plants this year (as opposed to the totally ridiculous 60 last year) and have been picking them almost daily for about 3 weeks now.  We´ve still got a way to go with them, but thanks to my nifty runner bean slicer, we´re enjoying beans and freezing them too for later.

The aubergines are ripening and I´ve started to pick them quite small.  Later I´ll leave them to get a little larger, but I couldn´t hold back.

Our long thin green peppers which are great for gazpacho are now being picked every couple of days.  They´re also wonderful deep fried (stuffed or not) in olive oil and just sprinkled with salt.  Our bell peppers are growing well, but need some more time to get bigger and then red.

The dwarf beans we planted a couple of weeks ago are all in flower, so it won´t be long now until they´re producing little bobby beans for us.  I´m quite excited as I´ve planted two varieties, one green and one yellow.  I´m sure they´ll taste pretty much the same but they´ll look extra pretty!

Our little bobby beans...

Our Spanish radishes, which are long as opposed to round, are doing great.  We pick a couple each day and they have a good bite to them.  We´ll probably plant a few more as they come up from seed so quickly.

And our little Spanish cucumbers are doing well.  We grew them from seeds from a cucumber we saved last year.  The cucumber had come from plants that our neighbour Diego gave us from seeds of his own – so these are several generations old.  It´s good to have a little bit of history in the garden!

Our chard flourishes, I keep giving bunches of it away, but will do something this week with it for us.  And our celery is slowly but surely getting bigger.

Very Happy Chard

We have other things going on in the vegetable patch, and I´ll take some pics as the become ready.  I do have to mention our little vines.  Big Man is very rightly proud of our muscat grapes which are now trained over the kitchen window.  They look amazing, we had to remove some as we had so many bunches but they would never have all ripened.   Am looking forward to grapes in September and drying some for Christmas too.

Gorgeous Grapes

I love summer…but I´m off to water the garden soon as it´s very hot here during the day and the plants are thirsty.  ¡Hasta luego!