When my pals came over from the UK recently they came bearing gifts, just like the wise men. One package was from my lovely mother and she had made up Za´atar and Dukkah for me. What a lovely mum I have! We can´t get them or all the ingredients to make them up here. At least, I can´t seem to track them down, and it´s always lovely to have a gift like this as every time you use it, you think of the person who gave it to you.
We had a very small shoulder of goat in the freezer (enough for two hungry people or two regular appetites with enough left over for sandwiches) and I thought I´d do it on the barbecue.
It was very easy to pull together and quick to cook. I made a package with a double layer of foil to put the meat in the seasoned the meat with salt before sprinkling over and rubbing in the Za´atar.
I wrapped it up and put it onto the barbecue at a low heat for about 40 minutes and that was it.
We ate it with lemon juice squeezed over, a big salad and some cold runner beans from the garden dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Oh, and a glass of wine of course!
I love Indian food. If I had to choose a favourite cuisine, I think Indian would be it. We do have a few Indian restaurants not too far away from us (i.e. about half an hour´s drive) but I usually get my curry fix when I go to London. I was lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood that was predominantly Indian and African, so I was spoilt for choice in wonderful ethnic restaurants.
Sometimes, however, my cravings get the better of me and I have to make curry at home. Big Man hasn´t ever really “had” the full curry experience, so doesn´t really understand my need for curry, but on the occasions I´ve made something “currified”, he´s enjoyed it.
We currently have a lot of chard growing and usually eat it wilted with oil and lemon juice but I decided to substitute the spinach in a Saag Aloo (that´s a Spinach and Potato curry) for chard, and see how it worked. Fortunately it was a perfect substitution and Big Man adored it. I think he´s starting to become a curry monster like me!
I lay no claims to the authenticity of the spices I use in relation to a real Indian Saag Aloo, but the combination worked well and had good spicy (but not too hot) flavour.
3 teaspoons of Garam Masala mix (you can buy ready made or make your own). I used a mix bought over by a friend which a chef friend of hers makes up and I then grind as I need it. I don´t know the exact mix but I picked out coriander seeds, curry leaves, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon and coriander.
1 or 2 teaspoons of hot chili powder (or use mild) according to taste
1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
Half a teaspoon of mustard seeds
Two medium potatoes (mine were ready cooked as it´s what I had in the fridge but you can use raw) cubed
About 3 cups of uncooked (or just wilted in its own steam), chopped spinach or chard, otherwise you can use frozen
About half a cup of chopped tomatoes
3 cloves of crushed garlic
Oil for frying (something with little flavour, not olive oil)
Start by frying the potatoes until lightly browned then remove them from the pan and drain off most of the oil.
Fry the spices until they start to release the most wonderful smells and then add the garlic and fry until it softens.
Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes then add your spinach or chard.
Put a lid on the pan and simmer for another 5 minutes or so then add the potatoes.
Add salt, Indian food can take (and usually needs) a heavy hand with the salt, but use low sodium if you can´t use regular.
Simmer, uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated but all of the vegetables are coated in the tomato and spice sauce.
I like this served with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.
Can be served as a side dish or a main (vegetarian) dish with plain boiled basmati rice. Now, where are my popadoms?!
So, now we come to the Gazpacho most people are familiar with – the iced tomato and vegetable soup famed the world over (well, almost!).
It is served both as a soup here and as a drink. In most homes it comes in a glass. In fact there is a wonderful advert for my favourite Spanish beer, Cruzcampo, which celebrates all things Andalúz. One line in the voice over says something along the lines of “In Andalucía we don´t eat tomatoes, we drink them!” (If you have time to watch it, it´s worth it, even if you don´t understand Spanish, just to see a few snippets of summer life in Andalucía).
Every housewife will give you a slightly different recipe, adding her own little tweaks (more of this, less of that). Some use stale bread, some don´t. I tend not to unless I want to serve it a little thicker as a soup which can then be garnished with little chopped cubes of the same vegetables that go into it.
So, without further ado, here´s how I make mine.
Peeled Tomatoes, Green Pepper, Red Pepper, Onion (optional) Peeled Cucumber, Salt, Water, Olive Oil, White Wine Vinegar.
It´s difficult to give quantities. If my tomatoes are lovely and red, I use less red pepper. Sometimes I don´t use onion. But the green pepper and the cucumber do give it that distinctive fresh taste, so try not to leave them out.
Today I used 4 large plum tomatoes, one thin green pepper, a small amount of red pepper and a small chunk of onion and half a small peeled Spanish cucumber.
Put all the vegetables into a jug or the food processor.
Start with one level teaspoon of salt, 3 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and about half a litre of water.
Now it´s time to start blending. Add more seasoning, vinegar and water as you go along if you want to. Today I added another tablespoon of vinegar (you remember they like it “alegre” or lively here right?!) and about another 250ml of water to thin it a little.
Then chill until you need it. If you have put onion in it´s fine on the day you made it but I find it starts to “ferment” a little if you have any left over. Also, while standing in the fridge it may start to separate a little with the water at the bottom and the vegetables on top – just give it a stir before serving and it will be fine.
Now, go and put on a straw hat, a paso doble on the cd and lie back in a shady spot and sip on your ice cold Gazpacho. Or ga-pacho, as they tend to say here! These Andaluces and their habit of dropping the “s” sound….most confusing!
Over at Lavender and Lime, Tandy has set a Weekly Food Challenge to cook using citrus fruits. Anyone who pops over to my blog regularly will probably have noticed that I use a lot of oranges in my cooking, particularly salads, so I felt inspired to take part in my first ever challenge!
I´m not sure if you´re allowed to submit two recipes, but I recently put up a post for one of my very favourite salads, Ensalada Cateta, so I´m putting that one forward too!
However, I also thought I´d like to try something different and as I´m in jam making mode this week, I had a little play around with ingredients. After the visit from my friends from the UK last week I had a few limes left over from a Mojito session, so I took it from there.
I love pears, but tend to either eat them as they are, or with cheese, or poached in wine. How about trying a chunky, spicy preserve instead? I could eat it on bread or toast, or serve it, almost like a soft quince jelly with cheese or, finally, as a sweet option drizzled over creamy vanilla ice cream.
In the end I decided to marry the pears with lime juice and fresh ginger, and I have to say I was thrilled with the results. Just a hint of the tang of lime and the warmth of the ginger combined with the fresh taste of the pears. Pears contain a lot of water so I cooked the preserve for about half an hour for the quantities given below on a gentle boil. The final result left me with soft pear chunks which still held their shape and a jelly like syrup.
I used the following:
500g of pears (peeled weight) chopped into small chunks
A piece of fresh ginger (about 3cm in length) peeled and grated
The juice of two limes
For the method I used, please see either my Ruby Jewel Jam recipe or my Summer Cherry Jam recipe. This quantity gave me two medium jars of preserve. I do hope you enjoy it, it has an almost autumnal taste to it – I think it must be the ginger!
Being the sort of girl who needs no excuse to raise a glass, here´s a big “Cheers” to all my new blogging pals celebrating the 4th July. Hope it´s a great day for you all.
As you know, it´s cherry season here up the mountain and after stoning far too many kilos for jam making, I decided to ring the changes and make something gorgeous for the cooler months. I came across a wonderful recipe over on Olive and Artichokes for a cherry liqueur they have made with Eau de Vie. We can´t get that here, at least, I´ve never come across it…but I didn´t let this stand in my way!
I bought a bottle of Spanish Brandy, not one of the rough ones might I add, and got my sugar, cherries and bottles ready.
I followed the instructions given in the recipe, that is layering cherries and sugar and then filling the containers with liqueur.
Hopefully in a few months time I´ll have a delicious cherry flavoured brandy and some brandy flavoured cherries. Can´t wait!
Just over three weeks ago I started to make some alcoholic ginger beer. If you want to give it a go, you´ll find the recipe here.
It´s very simple, all you need is a sachet of yeast, a jar of powdered ginger, sugar and a jar or jug you can loosely cover.
After a week of adding yeast and sugar to your initial mixture (see the recipe) you´ll add water, lemon juice and more sugar to make about 7 litres of ginger flavoured drink.
You need to leave some space in your plastic bottles for expansion, so only fill them about three quarters and then squeeze some of the air out before sealing them. If you don´t do this you´ll have exploding ginger beer all over the place and it´s very sticky. I know this from experience!
Once you´ve been patient you will be rewarded with gorgeous sparkling, lemony, gingery Ginger Beer. I don´t know exactly how alcoholic it is, although it does get stronger the longer you leave it. After about 3 months it starts to taste acidic, but I don´t suppose you´ll have it for that long as it´s delicious. And if you can´t wait 3 weeks, wait a week and mix it up with soda or water for a refreshing, non alcoholic drink.
Yes, it´s back to jam again today. You may, or may not, recall that a nearby village is famed for its cherries. We had a very, very long and wet winter which meant that a lot of the blossom this year was lost from the cherry trees. Such a shame for those whose livelihoods depends greatly on selling their crop, a shame for the cherry fiesta which is coming up next weekend, and a shame for all the customers who were hoping for a bumper crop.
We were very lucky in that a friend gave us a kilo the other day. We tried a few and they were delicious, but I wanted to make my first cherries into jam, to capture a special moment at the start of summer. Cherries are quite hard to get to set (at least, these were!), so in this jam I used a sachet of pectin powder, the setting agent which occurs naturally in some fruit like apples and citrus fruits. If you can´t get hold of it (or the liquid pectin) don´t worry, a little grated apple or the pith of a lemon plus a few minutes extra boiling should do the trick.
After pitting the cherries (that´s a messy job!) I ended up with 600g of fruit to which I added 400g of sugar and the juice of 2 lemons. Feel free to vary these quantities a little if you like your jam less tart and more sugary.
As with most recipes for jam, start it off at a low temperature until the sugar has dissolved. This is when I added the pectin powder and then turned the heat up and got it bubbling
Keep it bubbling away for about 10 minutes. Don´t get distracted or walk away! If you have a jam thermometer, do use it, it saves having to reboil the jam later if it doesn´t set. Otherwise you can drop a spoonful of jam onto a saucer which you have previously placed in the freezer. When the jam cools on the saucer you push it slightly – if it wrinkles, it´s at setting point. If not, boil a little longer then repeat.
Leave the jam to cool down a little for 5-10 minutes so that when you pour it into still warm, sterilized jars (I run mine through the dishwasher to do this), the fruit will not float to the top.
Seal the jars while they are still hot and this will keep for at least a year. It´s delicious on bread but also fantastic on ice cream, especially if you warm it a little first.
Sorry, I only took a photo of it in the jars, and they are already earmarked to wing their way back to the UK with my friends! Luckily Big Man came home with several cartons of cherries this morning, so tomorrow I´ll be busy stoning cherries again for the next batch.
Yes, the planting is starting to deliver! Great excitement this week with my two best friends visiting, with lots of talking, laughing eating and drinking going on.
The vegetable patch gave us its first little crop of runner beans this week, and a second picking a few days later. Big Man, despite being the largest of the family group this week, was given the honour of squeezing in between the bean canes and picking those precious runners, making sure not to knock any of the delicate flowers (or future beans) off.
When I was last in the UK I bought a little gadget for cutting runner beans. You snip the ends off with a little blade then run them through a hole with several blades. Result? Long thin strings of spaghetti like bean strips. This means you can cook them quickly and still retain colour and flavour.
I won´t say it´s quicker than doing it the old fashioned way with a sharp knife, but you can see how pretty they look with this simple bowl of boiled beans lurking behind some barbecued hake with alioli. We served them just warm with olive oil and lemon juice.
Inspired by a delicious recipe over at Fati´s Recipes, I also cooked some up later in the week with mushrooms and a simple tomato sauce.
I lightly fried some sliced mushrooms.
Then I added some blanched beans (which I had chopped into little squares this time).
Finally I poured over some home made tomato sauce, a little water, seasoning and simmered until ready.
So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....