Skate with Lemon and Capers

 
Retro Skate

So, having had a moment of madness slow cooking pork and beans not so long ago, I have reverted to summer style cooking. Phew!

My lovely Fish man, who is soon going to have his own fan club out here in blogland, came up trumps this week with a delicious skate (or ray) for us.  He knows that Big Man and I both love it, so if he can get hold of skate, he always saves me one.

They´re odd looking fish, a bit scary looking too to deal with, but actually quite straightforward when you know how.

The Skate, the whole Skate, and nothing but the Skate

A skate has two very distinct wings and if you get your knife in between the nodule and the “back bone” it just cuts straight off.  

Slip the knife in so...

Voilá, two perfect portions.

Ready to be coated in flour and fried

And the other bits still have a lot of meat on them so pop them into a pot with some water, bay leaves, peppercorns and any vegetables you have to hand and you´ll very soon have a delicious fish stock and lots of bits of delicious skate trimmings to put into a paella or a seafood stew.

I dusted the wings in flour, seasoned them and then fried gently in a huge frying pan in a very little olive oil (although it would be very good with butter).  When the skate was lightly browned on both sides I put them to one side and kept warm, turned up the heat and fried some capers until brown then added a good squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of white wine and reduced until just a few tablespoons of juices were left. I poured these over the skate, poured two good glasses of white wine and we sat back to enjoy.

When I was very young my parents both worked in the catering trade, but Sunday lunch we sometimes managed to spend time together.  My father´s idea of a relaxing Sunday lunch was to go on a busman´s holiday and check out his pals´ restaurants.  This meant I got to visit some really quite nice restaurants in central London from a very early age.  No concession was made (quite rightly I still feel) to children by preparing “kids meals”, we all got whatever the chef or manager thought was his best dish of the day.  I loved it when we got served skate as the meat slides easily off the bone and there are no tricky bits to get lodge in a small person´s throat.  Memories of this dish take me back to Soho, London circa 1975 – hence my retro photo!

If you like this, check out Tandy´s delicious Hake with Olives, Anchovy Butter and Caper Berries over at Lavender and Lime.

Salsa Verde Spanish Style

Shake before serving...

Well, it´s not exactly Italian salsa verde in that there are no capers or anchovies…but, it´s a green sauce so that most definitely makes it a salsa verde!

Restaurants round where I live have good, simple food.  It can sometimes get a little repetitive, and often there´s no menu as they all serve pretty much the same selection of grilled meats (usually pork cuts) and some grilled or fried fish.  What you get though is fresh, well cooked and tasty food.  Often the meat or fish will come drizzled with a delicious garlic and parsley mixture blended with olive oil.

One of our regular local restaurants moves everything outside onto the “summer terrace” during the hot months.  This includes the cooking, so you can sit at your table and almost within an arm´s reach you have Luis at the bar, his partner Sonia in the kitchen area and the mountain views.  I noticed that Sonia makes her sauce up and keeps it in a squeezy bottle which she then uses to dispense the delicious mixture over the cooked food as it leaves the kitchen and is delivered to us by Luis.

All she does is finely chop parsley and garlic and blend with a season of salt and local extra virgin olive oil.  I make mine up in the food processor or in a small jug using the hand stick blender.  I have now taken to keeping a bottle of this in my fridge.  Sometimes I add the zest of a lemon, and squirt it over simple grilled dishes (including vegetables) to liven them up.

Sadly, no waiter service at home, so we dished up ourselves!

Do give it a go, it´s handy to have around and apart from looking pretty, tastes wonderful. Probably best not to eat it if you´re going out on a hot first date though!

Dukkah Cream Cheese Balls

 
Delicious Dukkah and Beautiful Bottle

Since discovering you can make yogurt and cream cheese from UHT (long life) milk, my life has changed!  I´m making them both all the time now and enjoying experimenting with flavours and textures.

Sawsan over at Chef in Disguise commented that in the Middle East they would strain the cream cheese for even longer then roll it in zaatar and drizzle with olive oil.  I decided to give this a go but inadvertently used dukkah instead.  A lucky mistake!

The cheese was drained for 3 days and was pretty firm and easy to handle.  I added salt to it and then made balls about the size of small walnuts and rolled them in the dukkah. Having said that, they look the size of tennis balls in the photo!

I served them with a delicious chilled Manzanilla which comes from the area which produces most of Spain´s dry “sherries” (as we would know them), around Jerez and Cadiz.  The gorgeous bottle which you see in the photo comes from a town called Sanlúcar de Barrameda which is famous for hosting horse races on its long sandy beach during August over two weekends.  The very low tide which happens at this time of year allows the horses to thunder down the beach over a couple of evenings.

Horses racing along the shore line

Big Man and I went last year for the first time.  It´s all very exciting and the best bit for me was to see all the young children on the beach in makeshift huts which they decorate themselves, taking bets!  I´m sure it wouldn´t be allowed anywhere else, but it´s all good fun with plenty of eating and drinking going on all day before the races, and long into the night afterwards.

Kiddies taking bets!

We didn´t make a fortune, in fact we lost, but we had a fantastic time.  The photos aren´t great as it all happens so very quickly, but you get an idea of the atmosphere.

If you can´t make it to Sanlúcar, make yourself some of these tasty little appetisers, pour a glass of something cool and delicious and put the horse racing on the tv!

It´s Chumbo time – Prickly Pears are here!

 

For anyone not in the know about prickly pears, or chumbos as they are called here, check out my chapter Swimming Pools and Prickly Pears…you´ll be enlightened.

We love prickly pears, such a delicious fruit with a super short season of about 6 weeks. Collecting them probably classifies as a dangerous sport, and the old men seem to be the experts as this.  Finding the ideal patch of prickly pears can be as closely guarded a secret as where to find truffles.

I guess they are an acquired taste, but if you do ever find them (ready prepared or not) I can highly recommend them.

Big Man and I count the days until the first sighting of prickly pears which are turning from green to a blush pink.  An early morning start is recommended, as the prickles are less “prickly” having been softened in the cool of the night.

A good brush in the dirt first with a plant that grows near the chumberos, called altabaca, then a hose down and another roughing up with a broom…and you´re ready to peel. 

Speedy peeling

Two people are needed for this part.  One to peel and the other to lift the chumbos off the skin and put them into a container.

Mind the prickles

What a relief when you get to the end of the bucket of chumbos as you can put the fruit in the fridge to chill nicely and then get your tweezers out to remove those pesky little spines which, inevitably, will have found their way into your fingers.

Nearly done...

Then you can either just gorge on them straight from the fridge or have a little tapas session with some jamon, cheese and cold melon….oh, and wine of course!

Up The Mountain Soda Bread

Time to get the butter out of the fridge...

When Big Man and I went to Dublin at the end of last year, one of the things we really enjoyed eating was Soda Bread.  It´s a staple they serve with bowls of fish soup (and lots of other things too), it really filled you up on what was a very wet and windy November weekend.

This morning, bread man let me down, but I didn´t mind too much as I had been looking for a reason to use up the whey (or maybe it´s called something else) which came off the yogurt and cream cheese I had made the day before.

I turned to the BBC Good Food Website for a recipe.  I like this site because people like you and me cook the recipes and then give their feedback about what worked and what didn´t.  They´re usually pretty reliable recipes too, and the first one that popped up had 5 stars, so I thought I´d give it a go.

Ingredients called for were:

250g plain flour

250g whole meal flour

100g oats

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

25g butter

500 ml of buttermilk

I substituted my whey for the buttermilk and found that I only needed about 400ml, so add your liquid gradually – much will depend on the absorbency of your flour.

Heat the oven to 180ºC and flour a flat baking tray. Mix the dry ingredients together and then gradually add the liquid until you have a soft and not too wet dough.

Shape it into a round and put in the baking tray then cut a cross in the top. Supposedly this is to let the fairies out (so sweet) but actually helps rising.  And leaves you with lots of little good spirits flying round your kitchen of course!

All the fairies have been let out...

Bake for about 30-35 minutes until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped then leave to cool on a baking tray.  I confess, I love this smothered in creamy butter (I don´t eat it very often here, so I feel justified) but it´s just as delicious on its own.

When we were in Ireland, we were also told that if you see a lone tree in the middle of a field, it´s very magical, a fairy tree and brings good fortune.  If I stand on my roof terrace and look across to the field next to our house, we have a fairy tree all our own…so here´s a snap of it.  Am surrounded by the little people today it seems!

Away with the fairies today....!

Pork ´n´ Beans – Slow Cooked Pork Shank with Borlotti Beans

Just what you need when it´s 32 degrees hot outside!

Ok, so I know it´s summer here and hot, hot, hot…but I just fancied it!  Our local “Big” Supermarket (ie. a 50km drive away) has started selling pork shanks.  It´s a cheap cut of meat but oh so tasty.  I bought two to cook, but in the end we still have one portion of this dish in the freezer as there was so much meat on each shank.

It´s a slow cook dish, you can be a bit cavalier with the ingredients depending on how saucy you like your finished dish.  It was so tender by the time it was done, the meat fell off the bones as I served it.  This makes for a less artistic food photo, but two very happy pups!

To make the dish I used:

  • About a cup and a half of borlotti beans which I soaked overnight (but you could use tinned)
  • Two cups of tomato sauce (crushed tomatoes cooked slowly with garlic, red wine, seasoning and rosemary until thickened)
  • Two pork shanks
  • Two large sprigs of rosemary
  • A large dried chili
  • Approx two cups of water (enough to cover the pork and beans)
  • Four slices of smoked bacon, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Three large cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole

To finish the dish

  • Half a cup of finely chopped bobby beans
  • Four small potatoes, diced

Put all the first list of ingredients into a large pot with a lid and cook very slowly for about four hours (or longer) in a low oven.  If you have time, it´s best left overnight before eating to allow the flavours to really develop. When I was ready to serve I heated the dish up and simmered for about 20 minutes to allow it to thicken a little then I added the beans and potato and cooked them until tender.

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Definitely a dish to eat with a lovely glass of red wine, lots of crusty bread and a big spoon.  Have a sofa handy for reclining afterwards, a siesta is now in order!

Almost Tomato Tarte Tatin

Make it a big slice for me please!

Yes, tomatoes are now officially ripening at a rapid speed in our Huerto, and apart from drying and preserving, we are eating them too!

If you head over to Cook, Eat, Live Vegetarian you´ll find a wonderful tomato and quinoa recipe which shows you how to slow roast the delicious summer tomatoes we have in Andalucía at the moment.  The other night we were heading out for dinner, so on the way out I popped a couple of trays of tomatoes into the oven set at the lowest temperature, and when we got back about four and a half hours later I had perfect roasted tomatoes.  The house smelt wonderful too!

The next morning I braved the heat of the oven and decided to make a tomato tart.  You can also find another wonderful version over here at Sweet Pea´s Kitchen made with Heirloom Tomatoes.

I put greaseproof paper at the base of a loose bottomed tart tin (that always makes me giggle, it sounds a bit saucy!) and put the tomatoes in, cut side down.

Then I mixed 200 grams of my garlic and herb cream cheese with one egg and spread this over the tomatoes.  Finally I covered the whole thing with a sheet of puff pastry and tucked all the edges in.

I cooked it at 180ºC for about 50 minutes, left it to cool slightly in the tin for 10 minutes then turned it out on a plate.  You get a few lovely juices dripping out and it´s best served at room temperature.