Rainbow Birthday Cake

Somewhere Over the Rainbow...

There are some occasions in life when only cake will do.  This weekend was no exception, Big Man´s Granddaughter was celebrating her 7th Birthday, so cake was most definitely needed. No comments please about me being a Step Granny…!

I have seen various versions of rainbow coloured cakes around for a while, from mini cupcakes, to regular sized ones with splodges of different colours, to multi tiered cakes.  For a beautifully elegant grown up cake, do pop over to see what Smidge did for her birthday.

Obviously, when you´re 7 years old, you´re not looking for elegance or sophistication (phew!), so I thought that the 7 colours of the rainbow and the 7 tiers of the cake would tie in perfectly.

The cake mix I used is very simple and is not a whipped, butter version.  The benefit of this is that as I only have two Victoria sandwich tins (which are 7” or 18cm in diameter and 1” or 2.5cm high), and the mixture makes enough for 3 cakes, it can stand around quite happily while waiting for the first cakes to cook.  I had initially only planned on making 6 colours, but I forgot to line the bases of the tins for the first two, and they wouldn´t come out without crumbling into a thousand pieces. Eventually I made a third batch of mixture and ended up with 7 colours.

I have to warn you that there is a little “waste” as I needed to cut the tops off the cakes where they rose and were browned (you don´t need to worry about cutting the sides off) but these crumbs could be used to make cake pops, or just eaten as is….I mean, who throws cake away?!

Apologies for the photos, the cake was assembled late at night and the decorating was undertaken by the Birthday Girl, who had great fun, and these final photos were the snaps we took.

For 3 cakes (make two batches of this mixture)

  • 2 cups of self raising flour, a pinch of salt and a cup and half of sugar mixed together in one bowl
  • 3 large eggs, half a cup of vegetable oil and half a cup of natural yogurt beaten together until well mixed.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well, if the mixture is very stiff, add a tablespoon full of milk.

Divide the mixture into up to 3 bowls and add food colouring to each. You will repeat this with the second batch of mixture.

Pour into your base lined tins and bake at 180º for about 30 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from tins, when cool slice off the raised top with a bread knife. Eat crumbs with a cup of coffee whilst making the other cakes.

For the cake filling (to sandwich between the layers)

  • 300g cream cheese mixed with 50g of soft butter and a cup of sieved icing sugar. Tablespoon of milk (optional)

Beat well and add a little milk if the mxture is too stiff to spread easily. Put a small dot of the mixture on your serving plate and place the first player of cake on top. Spread the mixture thinly over the top of the cake and continue to repeat with all your layers, but don´t ice the top of the final layer.

For the icing (makes enough to cover a 7 layer cake).

  • In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water put 2 egg whites, 350g (12oz) of white sugar, 3 tablespoons of hot water and half a teaspoon of cream of tartar (optional, but it does help to maintain the firmness of the meringue if you make it ahead).  Add a few drops of food colouring if required.

Now, with your electric beater (or by hand if you are feeling super energetic), mix for about 5-7 minutes until thick and fairly stiff.

Apply immediately and find a small child to help you with decorations.

PS. I don´t advocate feeding children enormous amounts of food colouring every day, but once a year should be fine.  Work off excess energy chasing small dogs round the garden until it is time to go home.

Citrus, Avocado and Radish Salad

We love our citrus fruit here in Andalucía.  Our lemon tree, after 3 years, now keeps us well provided in lemons all year round.  We have planted 3 orange trees too, so in a year or two, we´ll be enjoying our own oranges.

In the meantime, we rely on the kindness of friends and neighbours who keep us well supplied in oranges from about November to March, which is when Andalucía is lit up in the colour orange.  Fields of orange trees are a delight to the eye, and so too are the city streets lined with the trees of bitter oranges which are destined for England and its world famous Orange Marmalade.  But more of marmalade another day.

I was inspired by a stunning recipe from Sawsan over at Chef in Disguise for a beautiful orange and avocado salad. Grilled fish was on the menu for lunch, but sadly I have no idea what it is called in English.  As it´s a fairly oily fish, I thought that the tangy flavours of a citrus salad would complement the fish perfectly.  I was right!

Ingredients for 2 people

  • 1 large pink grapefruit and 1 large orange peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 ripe avocado peeled and cubed
  • Radish – our radishes here are HUGE so I only used one finely sliced, but use however much you like (or not)
  • Dressing:  any juices that run off the fruit as you peel them plus a teaspoon of lemon juice, the juice of an orange and twice the volume (of the citrus juices) of olive oil, a pinch of sugar if your orange is sour, half a teaspoon of mustard powder, a grind of pepper and a pinch of salt.

Mix up the salad ingredients gently or layer onto a plate.  Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and pour over the salad.  Any remaining dressing can be stored in the fridge for use another time.

So pretty, so tasty, and so good for you.

Split Pea & Squash Curry

Now that we seem to have caught up (vegetable-availability-wise) with everyone who was posting squash and pumpkin recipes back in the autumn, I am finally cooking lots of warming winter dishes which include this fantastic ingredient. Having said that, it´s not actually very cold here at the moment, but it is Janaury, so I feel justified in making wintery food.

Although we didn´t put on any extra kilos over Christmas, no one could ever accuse either me or Big Man of being under weight, so recipes which are healthier and packed with vegetables are perfect for us.

A mild flavoured curry was on my list – Big Man doesn´t like them hot, and I can always add a little dried chilli at the end to turn up the heat in my own portion.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a hearty soup or more as a side dish)

  • 200g split yellow peas (the last of a stash bought over by visitors…so sad)
  • 500g squash peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 cup of tomato conserva or chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 1 onion peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
  • 1 head of garlic (you will be roasting this and only using half)
  • 2-3 cups of vegetable stock or water
  • 3 heaped teaspoons of your favourite curry mix (I usually make mine with ground turmeric, chilli, cumin, dried coriander, black pepper and cardamom seeds and then add a little fresh grated ginger when I cook)
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1 dried chilli crumbled (optional)
  • Oil for frying

Turn the oven onto a high setting and place the squash on a tray lined with foil. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle a little oil over.  Roast for about 30 minutes until soft and brown at the edges.  Put the garlic in at the same time, wrapped loosely in foil.

Start by dry frying the mustard seeds until they pop. Remove them from the pan. Add a little oil to your pan and fry the onion and garlic until they are soft, then add your curry powder and mustard seeds and fry until the lovely aromas start to come out, then add the split peas (or you could use lentils).  Now add the tomato conserva and 2 cups of the stock or water plus the crumbled chilli if using.

Cook gently until the split peas are almost soft (you may need to add more liquid, just keep an eye on them). Remove the squash and garlic from the oven and cut the squash into smaller bite sized chunks.  Add these to the split peas.  Pop half of the garlic cloves out of their skins and add to the curry. Mash the other half and cover with a little oil, it will keep for at least a week in the fridge and can be used in other dishes or dips.

Add a drop more liquid to the vegetables if necessary, cooking the curry for about 10 more minutes until everything is soft and cooked through.  You can mash some of the squash, garlic and split peas with the back of a wooden spoon, leaving some chunky.  Add salt, you´ll probably find it can take quite a lot, but the choice is yours. Eat as a thick soup or a side dish and it´s lovely served with rice or naan bread.

Delicious with a squeeze of lime juice and chopped coriander, but I didn´t have either of them so I just used lemon juice. If you like it even milder and more creamy, stir in a couple of big spoonfuls of thick creamy yogurt.

We had some leftovers, so the next day I added some more stock, yogurt and some finely chopped chard (you could use spinach, kale, cabbage) and warmed it through to make a delicious soup – I´m not sure which version I liked best!

Chocolate Refrigerator Cake

The Spanish love sweet things.  I don´t think I´m making too much of a generalization with that statement.  Not that they´re greedy, but a little cake or biscuit is always most welcomed with a strong cup of coffee at the end of a meal, or a big bowl of milky coffee if it´s the start of the day.

Dealing with preparations for our unexpected lunch for 12, I was lucky that I had already made some of Spree´s gorgeous Mexican Wedding Cookies for an earlier family meal. The recipe makes plenty, and they were hugely popular. The only change I made to these, as I was in a rush, was to grind all the nuts (I used almonds and walnuts) and not chop half of them.  Lovely, lovely little biscuits and I´ll definitely be making them again.

Another quick recipe which came to mind was for Chocolate Refrigerator cake.  I made this the night before our lunch party and cut the cake into small squares the next morning.  These went down well too, and it´s a good recipe to make with little children as you only need a (supervised) heat source for melting.

Here´s the way I made it, although you can chop and change (or even omit) the fruit/nut filling.

250g crushed digestive biscuits (graham crackers)
100g butter
2 tablespoons of golden syrup or honey
3 level tablespoons of cocoa powder
About half a cup of “filling” – I used the last of my drained boozy fruits and added the grated zest of one lemon and one orange

Melt the butter with the golden syrup and cocoa then add to the crushed biscuits and filling.  Mix well until everything is well coated. If you leave some large chunks of biscuit/cracker, you will have some pretty speckles in the finished “cake”.

Pour into a tin lined with cling film, flatten and press it with your finger tips then cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight until firm.

Cut into squares – it´s very rich so I tend to do “bite sized”. And that´s it. Doesn´t get much quicker or easier does it?!

Callos a la Andaluza – Andalucían Tripe Stew – or Everything But The Oink

Watch out for those mountain winds

Ok, I know this is going to sound quite off putting for many people.  Tripe is a scary old thing.  But fear not, although the word “Callos” translates as tripe, I don´t actually put any into this dish (although you could).  Confused eh?

Well, let me explain.  The first time I ever ate this dish was at a Feria in a nearby hamlet.  It´s tiny, probably only a dozen houses, but it belongs to our “Municipio” and puts on an amazing fiesta every year.  One of the first of the summer in fact. They always seem to attract a good flamenco singer, they do a fantastic paella at lunchtime, and they always have plenty of good food apart from the usual pinchitos (kebabs) and montaditos (fillets of pork on bread).  Hundreds of people attend, it´s a great event apart from the winds which whip down the mountain and make hairstyles, skirts, old people and small children blow all over the place.

So, Big Man ordered me a portion of Callos which was essentially a chick pea stew with tiny chunks of meat, chorizo and morcilla in it.  I loved it and looked up the word when I got home and though “oh lord, I´ve been eating tripe”! During the almost six years I´ve lived here, I´ve only eaten it a couple of times a year as not many people make it anymore – it´s not complicated to make, but it takes time.

Of course, I recently decided that I wasn´t prepared to wait until next summer for my fix, I´d make my own.  This is where the fun started.  I asked the butcher to prepare me whatever I needed for this dish (meat wise) and that´s when I found out that her version would not include tripe.

Strange, I thought, but let´s crack on. She (yes, we have two butchers locally, and one is a woman who looks exactly like a lady butcher should look – big and jolly with fingers like sausages) got things ready.  The goodie bag included (per four person serving):

  • Two pigs trotters split down the middle
  • Some finely chopped pork tongue
  • A finely chopped pigs ear
  • Some chopped pancetta or pork belly
  • Some finely chopped cooked pigs blood

See – not so scary after all (well, maybe apart from the blood)!  I also had to buy some chorizo and morcilla and chick peas.  I´m not giving measurements here as it´s a kind of “make it up as you go along” dish.  I then asked about 20 different people how they made Callos.  Half had never made it so were of no help at al.  The others gave me 10 different ways of making it, each with their own little “twist”.

This is what I eventually came up with, and I have to say it tasted as good as the Fiesta version, and Big Man thought it was better…modesty prevented me from saying that myself of course!

Soak the chick peas overnight and the next day cook slowly for a couple of hours with a few bay leaves, 4 cloves, and a dried chilli until completely tender.  Don´t rush this, you´ll have plenty to be getting on with while they cook.

In a separate pot blanch the all the pork products, drain and put into fresh water.  Now cook slowly for a couple of hours until really tender and drain again.  Get those kitchen gloves on and pull all the tender meat off the trotters and discard the bones (or give them to your dog who will love you forever).  Now add the chunks of meat to the cooked chick peas (still in their water).  Add about 5 or 6 whole cloves of raw or roasted garlic, some saffron dissolved in water, ½ a teaspoon of sweet or hot pimentón, the whole chorizo and morcilla (which you will slice before serving) and cook for about 30 minutes.  Leave to stand for at least 15 minutes before serving (but it´s even better prepared the day before) and remove the cloves, bay leaves and dried chilli.

Make sure you have a table full of very hungry people, don´t tell them what´s in it if they´re a bit squeamish, and enjoy.  Now go for a lie down…you´ll need it!

Food Bloggers Unplugged

Well, who´da thunk it?! The lovely Betsy from Bits & Breadcrumbs passed this fabulous award on to me. In true Blogging style I have to answer a few questions and pass the baton on. Thanks Betsy, I´d be honoured!

1.   What, or who inspired you to start a blog?
It was two things.  First of all my lovely crafty friend Florence over at Florence and Freddie started blogging on WordPress and encouraged me to go for it.  Secondly, I had just finished writing City Slicka to Spanish Chica and wanted to try it out on a wider audience.  Still unpublished, but oh what fun to write.  And now I can say I have written a book, so I´m quite proud of that even though it needs a good edit.  Anyone know any editors….?

2.   Who is your foodie inspiration?
Lots of people, but I guess it started at home.  My beloved grandmother was the queen of cakes and taught me how to bake.  My mum was a 19 year old English girl who married an Italian and had to learn pretty damn quick.  My parents still laugh that the first meal she made him when he visited his future in laws was severely over cooked Spaghetti with tomato ketchup on it.  Fortunately she´s an amazing cook now and even ran her own catering company for many years.  Chef wise I love Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and finally I am now inspired daily by my fellow food bloggers.

My beautiful grandmother aged 26

3.   Your greasiest, batter – splattered food/drink book is?
It´s not a book, it´s a folder filled with recipes torn out of magazines, scribbled notes, print outs of recipes. I love it, but maybe I should get myself a new folder (ideally wipe clean) as it´s falling apart.

4.   Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
Oh, that´s hard, I´ve travelled a lot and eaten some amazing (and some revolting) meals. Freshly grilled fish on the beach in Bali, a papaya for breakfast in the Cook Islands, an amazing Seafood Feast in Watson´s Bay Australia, my auntie´s pasta in Calabria, an incredible Japanese meal at Nobu in Paris, fresh bread out of the village oven in Morocco….sorry, can´t make my mind up on that one.

Beautiful Bali

5.   Another food bloggers table you’d like to eat at is?
Can I go to a few please? How about something amazing and vegetarian with Natalie over at Cook Eat Live Vegetarian, of course, cocktails with Greg & Katherine at Rufus Food & Spirits Guide, a long night of pasta and cards with Chgo John From the Bartolini Kitchens, tea, scones and a walk round the Farmy with Celi from the Kitchens Garden, a visit to pick supper from Claire´s allotment over at Promenade Plantings and shopping at Mad Dog´s butcher followed by dinner.  Oh dear, I seem to have taken myself off round the world again!

6.   What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
Well, Christmas is long gone but ready for December 2012  I´d like to ask for something quite simple….an immersion blender. I have a knack of breaking things and this is probably one of the gadgets I use most in my kitchen. I´ve been in Spain 6 years and I think this is blender number 7 or 8 and is held together with Big Man´s electrical tape.  Mind you, we now don´t have a handle on the fridge door and the oven doesn´t work well and I´ve always fancied a wine fridge….

7.   Who taught you how to cook?
I´d love to say my mum and grandmother, and I suppose they did teach me the basics, but I am very much self taught. As soon as I left home I was off and experimenting (my poor friends) but I had great fun and built up my confidence to a point that I even taught a cookery class for a while.

My mum teaching Big Man how to cook a suckling pig...

8.   I’m coming to you for dinner what’s your signature dish?
Oh, that´s tough too. I guess it would depend on what time of year you came as I´d try to use as much of our own produce from the vegetable garden, our own eggs, perhaps our own chickens. Ok, as we´re in Spain I´ll do a lovely seafood platter to start, a chicken paella cooked outdoors, you can digest, take a walk or a dip then we´ll have whatever fresh fruit is in season with honey and almond ice cream, little cups of coffee and some of my cantuccini biscuits.

9.   What is your guilty food pleasure?
Now that one is easy.  Walkers Cheese & Onion Crisps.  And no, if you buy me some, I won´t share!

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I´m a trained and practising Psychometric Profiler as well as a (sort of ex) Human Resources Consultant. I think I used to scare people off (especially potential suitors) as they thought I was analyzing their every word or gesture.  And I probably was a lot of the time!
Finally…tag 5 other food bloggers with these questions…like a hot baked potato…pass it on.
I think many of the people I have already mentioned have already been tagged, but I´d like to mention a few new (to me) discoveries, the lovely blogs over at Ang Sarap, IamSimplyTia, FrugalFeeding, PeasePudding and SimpleSpeedySnacks.  They should all feel free to join in or not….but I do enjoy reading their blogs and hopefully you will too.

One Year On…Pollo en Pepitoria – Chicken in a Saffron and Almond Sauce

Pepitoria – what a great word!  However, I couldn´t find a decent translation for it.  The dictionary comes up with “hodge podge” or “fricassée”.  I don´t think either of those translations suit the sophistication of this beautiful looking, wonderful tasting but oh so easy to prepare dish.

It´s often cooked for celebratory meals – probably because of the luxury of the ingredients (saffron and almonds) and the fact that it can be prepared for a large number of people in advance. It seems that it´s a year since I published my first post here on WordPress.  Wow, what a journey it´s been!  From no readers 😦 to a lovely group of new blogging pals who comment, support, encourage and inspire.  I thank you all, it´s great to have you along for the ride.

So, back to the food.  Don´t be put off by the word “luxury”, it´s actually luxurious in terms of quality and not cost.  Most recipes suggest using free range chicken or even an old hen or cockerel for long slow cooking and an amazing taste.  I used our old black cockerel who was no longer doing it for my lady hens…he had a great life, fathered many little chicks and was treated splendidly after his demise in this gorgeous dish.  Ok, on with the cooking.

You´ll need (for approx 6 people depending on the size of your chicken)

  • 1 large chicken cut into portions and floured
  • Olive oil
  • About 20 blanched almonds
  • 1 thick slice of day old bread
  • 6 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced in half lengthways
  • About 1 heaped tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • ½ teaspoon of saffron stamens (or you can use ground turmeric which will add a little flavour of a different kind, but it´s a good substitute)
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
  • Fresh black pepper for grinding and salt (I used Maldon)
  • About ½ litre of chicken stock
  • 2 large glasses of dry white whine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 hard boiled eggs

Start by putting a few good slugs of olive oil in the bottom of a heavy based pan that has a lid.  Brown the almonds and garlic and remove. Now fry the bread until browned and remove.  Put the bread, almonds, garlic, parsley and saffron in a jug with about half a cup of stock and blend until you have a thick smooth mixture.

Fry your chicken pieces in the same oil (add more if necessary) until browned on both sides then pour over the almond and saffron mixture,  one glass of white wine, enough stock to cover the meat,  the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.  Pour yourself the other glass of wine and drink while waiting for the pot to come up to a gentle boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook gently for at least an hour and a half.  I cooked mine for three hours as it was an old cockerel (bless him) and check every so often that the meat is covered with liquid.  If not, add a little water or chicken stock.

When the meat is tender, remove from the sauce and turn up the heat to reduce slightly.  Check for seasoning and add the mashed yolks of the 2 hard boiled eggs to further thicken the sauce.  Once it has reached the consistency of a thick pouring sauce, put the chicken back into the pot (or pour the sauce over your chicken if you are going to use a serving platter) and sprinkle with the chopped whites of the hard boiled egg and finely chopped parsley.  Serve with fresh lemon to squeeze over, rice, fried or mashed potatoes and ¡Buen Provecho!

It was a Crafty Christmas

Now that it´s all over and presents have been unwrapped and are being enjoyed, I can show you some of the things I made for friends and family without spoiling the surprise.

First up was a simple apron…I know Ria my best friend will be reading this, but I know she won´t mind me sharing (and learning) the fact that the fabric came from a pillow case I found in a shop that seemed to have come loose from its partner and was being sold in the bargain bin. I unpicked it, washed and ironed it. It´s amazing how much fabric is used in a simple pillow case.  I just loved the fabric and thought “I can do something with that”. So I did!

I roughly copied the shape of an apron I have and added a pocket.  You can´t have an apron without a pocket, can you? Then I ran a matching bias binding round the outside and also used it to make the ties.

I had enough fabric to also make a matching oven glove – here´s how I did it.

I cut out two outer shapes (from my existing oven glove) and two the same in white fabric for the inside, plus two pieces of wadding so that it can be used by a left or right handed person (that´s for when I visit her!).

Then I machined round each 3 layer “sandwich” and zig zagged round the edges.

I added bias binding round the wrist edge and a tag to hang it up. I realised after I had finished I should have put the tag so that it stuck into the reversed glove so that it would be outside when it needs to be hung up. Oh well, we learn by our little mistakes.

Then I joined the 2 “sandwiches” together and then turned the glove the right way out. Next time I´ll remember about the tag and perhaps put a double layer of wadding.

Ria´s final gift was something she had mentioned to me that she had thought about buying – fabric bunting. As, like mostly anyone who sews, I have a stash of fabric remnants at home, I decided I´d give this a go.  And what fun it was!
I found this incredible tutorial on how to make bunting…if you want to give bunting making a go, I can highly recommend it. There´s lots of other really great stuff on there too!

OK, more updates to come soon on things I have made, but in the meantime I´m off to make soup…

Just Taggin´Along…

Walking towards home with the dogs Jan 2012

When I was a child in primary school (that´s ages 5-12 in the UK) playground games were boisterous, energetic and quite often a little violent.  Most of us arrived home at least once a week with grazed knees and scuffed shoes.  Bloody noses and bruises were also fairly normal and I personally did seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in the local hospital´s casualty department getting various bits of my body stitched up or covered in some serious bandaging.  Nothing much has changed over the years for me, I have to say!

So, recently I was reminded of a game we particularly enjoyed which was called British Bulldog.  The rules were flexible and tended to change depending on the players but essentially you had to get from point A to point B in the playground without being “tagged” by the Bulldog.  As the game went on, more and more people became “Bulldogs” and joined a chain of people trying to catch or “tag” the remaining folk who were still busily rushing between the two points.  All good fun it was too and worth the bruises and bloody noses.

Recently I was tagged by ChgoJohn From the Bartolini Kitchens and Spree from Cooking Spree to join in the 10 Questions Tag Game that is going round. With pleasure I thought…and I was also quite relieved that I wouldn´t have to run around the garden screaming at the top of my voice and enduring cuts and bruises as I went.

So, here goes, and watch out…because you might be “it” next!

1.  Describe yourself in seven words.
Only seven? Passionate (in pretty much all that I do). Faithful (to friends and loved ones). Optimistic (the glass is pretty much always half full unless it contains wine, in which case I´ll have another little top up please). Creative (well, I´m left handed, so I have to be). Caring (sometimes overly so, but I can live with that). Impatient (short attention span, always wanting to try that thing, that way, that road). Inquisitive….well, you never stop learning, do you?

2.  What keeps you up at night?
Thoughts about things I want to do, write, make, say…now I just get up and either do them, write them or jot them down ready for the next day.

3. Who would you like to be?
At the grand old age of 46 years and 50 weeks I have now accepted that I am who I am and no one else.  Having said that, I wouldn´t mind being the Biggest Super World Leader for a day and getting all the other Super World Leaders together in a room (which would be very cold and uncomfortable) and knocking all their heads together and telling them to sort things out pronto for the rest of the world and to start behaving nicely.

Priego de Cordoba May 2011

4.  What are you wearing now?
Well, a scarlet Schiaparelli evening gown, diamonds and really long satin evening gloves…isn´t that compulsory for blogging? Ok, jeans, a polo neck and two dogs lying on my feet.

5.  What scares you?

Losing people I love, or them getting sick and suffering.

6.  What are the best and worst things about blogging?
I think my answers are the same as everyone elses.  The people I have “met”, the kindness I have come across, the unexpected joy of a few special words from a new blogging pal.  Also, the fact that I am inspired by others to learn more and create more.

The downside is time…never enough of it to work properly at developing and maintaining these new friendships, never enough to cook the recipes that inspire me, or to make the things I want to make…

7.  What was the last website you looked at?
Trip Advisor – we booked a hotel for the night of my birthday and since reading the reviews have cancelled it…

8.  If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
What, apart from losing a third of my body weight? Well, I´d like to learn to be less of a Butterfly i.e. moving between about 20 projects at once (although I do typically see them through to the end) and focusing on one or two at a time.

9.  Slankets, yes or no?
Ok, am going to be radical and admit that Yes, I do have one.  There you go, I´m out of that closet!  It was a gift two Christmases ago and seemed like an ok idea at the time. It wasn´t.  I am now much more happy when cosied up under my enormous Orange Granny Blanket which I made at the end of last year.  Here it is being beautifully modeled by Young Master Alfi.

Just keeping your spot warm...

10. Tell us something about the person who tagged you.
Oooh – this is nice!  ChgoJohn is a long lost Italian cousin of mine…at least it feels like that to me.  He is an amazing cook with strong love of his family and the heritage that was passed down to him through his parents and extended family. He kindly shares his little family secrets with us and we get to feel al little bit of Italian family love through each recipe.

Spree is a newer blogging pal of mine, who really has the very beautiful name of Antoinette.  She takes amazing photos which leave me breathless and really does “put love on the table” with her gorgeous recipes and has already inspired me to make bread in a whole new way.

Thanks to you both for tagging me!

Of course, the tradition of the game requires me to tag a few folk…so look below, “you´re it”, feel free to tag along or not.

Fired Up Cooking – bringing us incredible meals from the campfire or Braai.  Who knew you could bake on a barbie?
I heart Mondegreens – a beautiful US expat with her lovely Spanish D Man, finding her way around through work, homesickness, recipes and laughter in Spain.
Fati´s Recipes – from Down Under, this girl is amazing.  She studies, she cooks, she entertains and she just leaves you wanting more!

Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos – Stuffed “Piquillo” Peppers

As I was mostly quite a good girl last year, Secret Santa gave me a beautiful cookery book packed full of delicous Tapas recipes. Thanks Giovanna at BlueJellyBeans!

After having a good old read of it, I decided that the first recipe I wanted to make from it was one that I often order in bars or restaurants but had never made at home.  The stuffed piquillo peppers (sweet, red and shaped like a little beak which gives them their name) are sold here in tins or jars. If you can´t get hold of them, I won´t tell anyone if you adapt with full sized peppers or perhaps the tips of some long sweet peppers.  You´ll need to roast and peel them first though.

I adapted the recipe a little to use up some salt cod (bacalao) that I had left, but the filling is up to you.  It could be cream cheese, mashed potato, tuna, vegetables, béchamel sauce….let your imagination go wild!

Ingredients to serve 2 as a starter

  • 4 pimientos del piquillo
  • Half a cup of mashed potato plus half a cup of cooked, flaked bacalao (or a cup of your preferred filling)
  • A tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • Black pepper (no salt with bacalao as it is already very salty)

For the sauce – half a cup of tomato conserva, 2 tablespoons of single cream, 1 tablespoon of tomato purée blended together with an immersion blender and seasoned to taste

Mix the potato, fish and herbs together and season with pepper.  Carefully fill the peppers using a small teaspoon.  Put them into a small frying pan and cover with a lid.  Warm through on a very low heat, turning them over after about 2 minutes.  I didn´t use oil but if your pan is not non stick, then use a very small amount. Now pour the sauce over and warm through very gently.

Place the peppers on your serving plate and cover with the creamy, tomatoey sauce.  Gorgeous, tasty and really rather cheffy looking!