Orange Marmalade

February is traditionally marmalade making month.  I´m a little behind this year, and hope this recipe doesn´t reach those of you, who want to give it a try, too late.

First of all though, I´d like to say a big thank you to two fellow bloggers who very kindly nominated me for awards.  Waterfalls and Caribous chronicles the adventures of a young couple travelling the world.  They´re currently in South Korea, and if, like me, you have never been to a Love Motel (it´s not rude, I promise!), click here. Thanks guys for the Versatile Blogger Award, and here´s my previous post on that if you want to check it out.

The lovely Alli over at Pease Pudding very kindly awarded me the Liebster Blog Award. If you haven´t visited this great blog yet, do pop over, it´s written by a lass from Northern England now living in beautiful New Zealand. Thanks Alli, and if you missed it, here´s where I share the love.

Last year I posted a more traditional way of making it, this year I´m using a slightly quicker method (no hand chopping and a quicker set), although marmalade making from scratch is a fairly lengthy, but rewarding process.

For the other method, click here.

Ingredients

  • For every kilo (or just over) of oranges, two kilos of sugar and 1.25 litres of water and one lemon
  • The biggest, heavy based, saucepan you have
  • A wooden spoon
  • A couple of large jugs or bowls and a fine sieve
  • About 6 regular sized jams jars and lids per kilo of oranges

Start by washing and drying the oranges, and lemons and putting them in the biggest saucepan you have and covering them with water.  You will now bring to the boil and cook gently until softened.  Unless they are tightly packed they will probably float, so just turn them around in the water every so often. This will take about an hour and they are ready when you can easily pierce them with a skewer.

Remove the oranges from the liquid (don´t discard it) and when they are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh, pips and pith and place into the reserved liquid.  You will also probably need to cuts the skins into quarters and with a knife or spoon, scrape off as much of the white pith which still clings to it.  This is important as it will give you that precious pectin which will make your jam set. Put the two halves of each lemon in with the pulp.

Now bring the liquid with all the pulp and pith to a boil and using a potato masher, press down on the pulp as it boils. Leave it boiling gently for about 10 minutes and press the pulp a couple of times during this period.

As this is boiling you can process the skin – either by hand into fine shreds, or in a food processor into tiny chunks.

Now strain the liquid from the pulp and keep pressing as you pass it through the sieve to get any last drops of pectin out.

Put the liquid back into the pot, add the sugar and the chopped orange skin and cook gently until the sugar has dissolved.  Now bring up to a quicker boil until it reaches setting point.  You´ll find this happens quite quickly with this method, and if you like a thicker set marmalade, cook for a few minutes longer.  Personally I like a softer texture – the choice is yours.

Once it is ready, leave to cool slightly for about 10-15 minutes and to allow the shreds to settle, then pour into sterilised jars, seal and wait for them to cool before labeling (if you do this). Now enjoy the wonderful smells of oranges which will still fill your house and cut yourself a lovely slice of bread to enjoy the fruits of your labours.

Spree has also made the most of the lovely oranges around at this time of year. Check out her beautiful rhubarb and orange jam.

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Lomo en Manteca – Confit of Loin of Pork

So, I translated this dish as confit, as it sounds so much more appetizing than “slow cooked in lard”.  Let me tell you how I come to be posting about this delicious dish.  Do you find that you´ve struck up friendships through your blog? I bet the answer is yes.

Someone forgot to tell the ladies it was Singles Day at the local bar...

Well, a blogging pal of mine, Mad Dog, has a bit of a passion for many things Spanish, due to having worked in Barcelona.  We exchange e-mails and ideas from time to time and for some very strange reason recently, we were talking about lard and how it has fallen out of fashion.  He sent me info about it and I was amazed to learn that weight for weight, it has less cholesterol than butter.

Anyway, I´ll leave it to him to tell you more another day, I´ll move on to the fact that lard most definitely has not fallen out of fashion in Spanish cooking. Round here, if you´re not using olive oil, it´s lard.  Even in cakes.  Many of the more traditional dishes use lard and it was very common to preserve pork in lard for the winter months, after the matanza, or pig killing.  Back in those days the meat was stored in big earthenware pots and slabs of pork were dug out and used as needed.

Pork loin, slowly cooked in lard is a common dish still and is served cold and thinly sliced as a tapa, or warmed through or refried for a “plato de los montes” (a mountain dish) with egg, fried potatoes, fried peppers and chorizo and morcilla for an immensely filling meal.

To recreate this dish nowadays is very simple. Quantities are not that important as it will all depend on how much meat you are using.  Nowadays people tend to cook it frequently and store it in the fridge – so no need for mountains of lard to cover kilos of meat.

An optional but highly recommended stage is to take your piece of boneless pork and the night before cooking rub it with a large garlic clove, sprinkle some salt over, add a small amount of white wine and chopped thyme and forget about it until the next day.

You will need enough pure lard which, when melted, will cover the pork when it is in a container.  Cut the pork into thick slices (about 10cm wide), remove any garlic and thyme clinging to it and put in a pan with the lard on a very low hear.  Cook very slowly until the meat is cooked through but not browned. Some people mix a little olive oil in with the lard, that´s up to you.

Now either leave the meat in the cooking pot if you do happen to have a nice earthenware one or transfer it to a storage container and leave to cool. The lard will revert to solid form and cover the meat.  When you want to serve it, remove the meat from the fat, covering over any pieces that become exposed.  This will keep for several weeks at least, but if you plan on storing it for longer (which is probably unlikely), don´t salt it before cooking.

As a tapa, slice thinly and serve with a chilled glass of your favourite wine or beer, a little slice of bread and a few tangy olives.  Old men in flat caps are optional.

Boulangère Potatoes

I have a rather too close relationship with potatoes. Damn Christopher Columbus or whoever it was who bought them back from the Americas.  I particularly like them smothered in butter if they are baked in their jackets, or cooked in olive oil when roasted.  Or how about butter, cream and cheese if they are mashed? Oh dear, I can´t always have naughty potatoes and sometimes plain boiled with a drizzle of olive oil just doesn´t do it for me.

Boulangère Potatoes are a good option if you are trying to be a little sensible with the calories, or if you just want to go mad with the dessert. They´re also wonderful when you are entertaining, as apart from tasting fantastic, they can sit quite happily in a warm oven for quite a while and come to no significant harm. Boulangère is the French word for Baker.  Many families in the past did not have ovens in their own homes.  They would take a dish of these down to the village baker who would kindly pop them in to cook in his still warm oven when the bread baking was done. What nice people bakers are.

To serve four people you´ll need about 1kg of potatoes peeled and thinly sliced (I used a mandolin slicer but you can also do this by hand or in a food processor), 2 medium onions thinly sliced, olive oil, seasoning and about half a litre of vegetable or chicken stock.  If you have it, some fresh thyme is also good but right now I´m in a bit of a huff with Big Man as he dug all mine up a while back thinking it was a weed! Rosemary also works well with this dish.

Lightly oil the base of an oven proof dish and start making layers of potato, onion, herbs and seasoning. Finish with a layer of potatoes, season and then pour over stock to completely cover.

Cover the dish with foil and bake in a at 200ºC/Gas 6 for about 45 minutes, then take off the foil.  The potatoes and onion will be soft now and most of the liquid will have disappeared.  Continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until the liquid has all gone and the potatoes have browned.  If you find it has cooked through but the potatoes are still a little pale, put under the grill for a few minutes.

Either serve immediately or leave at the bottom of a low oven until you are ready to eat.

Crafty Catch Up

No food today (well, I will be eating some of course!), so click away now if you´re not interested in crochet, knitting or sewing.

Now that you´ve received the Up the Mountain “Reader´s Warning”, on with the update…

Winter means cooler weather and I can get out my scraps of wool, find out who is expecting a baby (there are usually quite a few in the family who are “in the family way”) and get knitting and crocheting.

We have a niece expecting twins and one of my best pals Donna is about to become a great aunt.  Sshh, I´m not allowed to call her that!

I´ve made baby blankets…

And a funky coat/jacket for one of the babies (we know she´s going to be a girl) when she reaches a few months of age…

Just needs a couple of bright buttons...

Lots of the men in my life got a beanie for Christmas…thanks to Mandy at The Complete Cookbook for the instructions.

I made myself a little bag…

Then lined it with some pretty fabric I had, which will also make it stronger and less liable to stretch too much.

I made a pinny for Donna (she´s a lucky girl) who moves house next week from London to Lewes. I thought she could run around with a feather duster looking like a 1950´s housewife in this. Recognise the fabric?!

And of course, the enormous orange blanket which the dogs, Luna and Alfi, are On No Account Allowed To Lie On!

Up the Mountain Chicken in a Pot – Poule au Pot

My understanding is that King Henry IV of France hoped that, as a wealthy nation, all his people could eat stew (or a chicken) once a week.  Poule au Pot became a favourite dish, and the fact that it is so simple to produce and tasty to eat makes me understand its popularity.

I cannot attest to the authenticity of this recipe, I didn´t set out to cook the famous French dish, but when I took it to the table, wafting delicious chicken and vegetable smells, Big Man asked me what we were eating and I told him “Chicken in a Pot”. Et voilà!

Ingredients for 4-6 people depending on the size of your chicken

  • 1 free range chicken
  • 1 large potato per person, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery and a leek per person (peel and roughly chop)
  • A few pieces of fresh thyme and some fresh parsley
  • 2 lemons cut into quarters
  • A large head of garlic, broken up a little but not peeled I used two small ones)
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning
  • A glass of white wine
  • A large ovenproof pot with a lid (big enough to take all the ingredients)

Set the oven to low before assembling the dish. Rub the chicken inside and out with olive oil and season and stuff half the lemon, half the thyme and half the garlic inside.

Place into the pot, scatter the vegetables around, add the remaining garlic, lemon, parsley and thyme and season. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and pour a glass of wine over. Put the lid on and then place the dish in the oven on low for 2-3 hours depending on the size of your chicken.  Check that the juices run clear before serving. A wonderful tasting, easy meal all cooked in one pot.

For some other fantastic chicken in a pot dishes, check out Food Photography and France (it´s also a very funny read), Savoring Every Bite (for a romantic recipe) and Fired Up Cooking (if you´re planning on some outdoor entertaining) to see their delicious recipes.

In the Garden – February 2012

It´s been such a long time since I talked about the garden or the vegetable patch. Naturally, it´s still winter, the soil is resting.

But not quite. It´s been an exceptionally mild winter, and while things could still change, there are signs of life.

My cyclamen, bought before Christmas, continues to stun us with its beauty.  I am doubly shocked as I generally manage to kill pot plants within a few days.  What do I do next with it? It currently sits inside our sun room, with the door open all day and sun in the afternoon. It seems very happy.

Some of our geranium cuttings are already producing little flowers.

Daffodil and narcissus bulbs planted last year (bought back from the UK) are flowering.

My parsley survived the winter outside, this is the first year this has happened.

Broad beans and onions in their little winter shelter.  We open the door and let the sun in during the day and we´ll be eating beans again in a few weeks.

Plenty of garlic for the year ahead. I thought it was only a month away from being ready, but wise old Big Man tells me I need to be much more patient. In the background one of our lemons and our artichoke plants which are already producing baby artichokes.

Our other lemon took a battering in the recent high winds, but still has plenty of lemons and produces new flowers with each new moon.

We don´t tend to grow our produce from seeds as many of Big Man´s family do this on a large scale for a living. We are going to risk some early planting. Nothing to lose, we think. Basil, thyme, chard, spinach, frying peppers, bell peppers, some more lettuce and some salad tomatoes.

Winter has been kind to us this year. Fingers crossed it won´t take us by surprise in the next few weeks.

Baked Chicken Breast with Cream Cheese Stuffing and Tomato Sauce

When you breed chickens for eating, you´re going to have to deal with the chicken, the whole chicken, and nothing but the chicken.

Most of our Fat Boys end up being cut up into individual portions with the skin off – they´re easier to store in the freezer that way and you don´t have to pluck them.  Chicken Breast has always been my least favourite part…typically it can be a little dry and bland.  Now that we get to eat our own chickens, I can at least say that the breasts are neither dry nor bland and taste great just done on the griddle with olive oil and salt and a squeeze of lemon juice at the end.

Some of our chickens are real monsters though – and with no artificial feed.  Just corn, wheat and a long-ish life (at least in terms of chickens for eating) pecking around our olives.  One chicken breast can weigh about 500g and is plenty to feed two.  Sometimes it´s nice to jazz it up a little, and this is a firm favourite.

  • One monster chicken breast or two regular
  • Two tablespoons of cream cheese mixed with one crushed clove of garlic, a sprinkle of salt and a tablespoon of your favourite herb finely chopped (I like basil or chives with this)
  • About four tablespoons of tomato sauce (i.e. made from fresh or tinned tomatoes)
  • Grated cheese
  • Seasoning
  • Olive oil

Split the chicken breast in two without cutting all the way through.  Fill with the cream cheese and close.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle a little olive oil over, massaging it in all over.

Put into a baking dish and pour over the tomato sauce.  Bake on medium for about 30 minutes.  Check that it is done by piercing it – if the juices run clear, you´re done.  If not, cook for a further 10 mins, check and repeat if necessary.  When cooked, grate cheese over the top, pop it under a hot grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling, and serve.

This is a great prepare ahead dish (up to the stage before you start to cook) and if the breast is large, serve cut into slices with a little extra tomato sauce on the side for your loved ones who prefer things saucy!

Huevos Revueltos con Gambas y Setas – Scrambled Eggs with Prawns and Mushrooms

This is a bit of a “non recipe” recipe, as scrambled eggs are not really so tricky to do.  And as for my photos of the end result – well, not so appealing.  I know that many of you out there can make them look creamy and gorgeous but it was a case of “snap ´em quick as we don´t want to eat cold, dried out scrambled eggs”. Sorry.

Funnily enough, these are such highly prized dishes here that scrambled eggs (in different variations) often appear on restaurant menus as starters and top chefs demonstrate the art of cooking them on TV cooking programmes.  I do find that a little odd, as scrambled eggs was the first thing I was “taught” to cook by Sister Sylvia in my convent school cookery lessons.  I had already been baking and making meals at home so was a little insulted when a tiny chain smoking nun who wore high heels and a very elaborate hair do told me off for not getting into the corners of the pan with my wooden spoon.

When I told her that round saucepans don´t have corners (and between us convent girls we all knew she bought cigarettes and sherry with our cookery money) a wary truce was established but, much to my family´s surprise, I loathed cookery lessons at school. I was quite a bratty and opnionated 13 year old as you can see…

So, I digress.  Back to a quick and tasty and very Spanish supper dish for two.

Ingredients

  • About a cup and half of mixed mushrooms (they sell very good bags of mixed frozen mushrooms here which, when defrosted, are perfect for this and other dishes)
  • A cup of peeled prawns (shrimp) – or keep it vegetarian by leaving these out
  • One clove of crushed garlic
  • Four eggs (free range if possible)
  • A splash of milk
  • Seasoning
  • Olive oil or butter for frying (we use oil and I sometimes stir in a knob of butter to the eggs at the end)
  • A heaped tablespoon of finely chopped parsley,

Beat the eggs, milk and seasoning together and put to one side.  Now slowly fry the garlic and mushrooms until the mushrooms have given off their juices and are tender. How long this takes will depend on your mushrooms. Now turn the heat up, add the prawns and stir fry until pink.

Keeping the heat at medium, add the eggs and scramble to your liking (don´t forget the corners!). When they are a few seconds away from being done, stir in the parsley and serve with crusty bread or toast and a glass of something gorgeous.

Osso Buco – Braised Veal (or Pork) Shank

When I was little my dad used to go crazy for Osso Buco, which translates from Italian as bone with a hole in.  I just didn´t “get” it but I enjoyed dipping my bread in the sauce.  My, how times have changed.  I go crazy for it now as my dad did.  Like many dishes, it used to be a poor person´s meal, made from the sliced shank bone of a young (or otherwise) cow.  Of course, it´s now a rather grand restaurant dish and veal is more typically used. It´s not found that often on menus as it is a long, slow cooked recipe. It´s also often made with white wine and no tomato and served with a gremolata.  Naturally, I ignored all this and did it my way!

When I saw in our local supermarket that they were selling sliced pork shank bones, I snapped up two packs (there were four in each) and decided to give making this delicious dish a go.  If you´ve ever cooked oxtail, the process is pretty much the same.  I also found that it was best made a day ahead to allow the flavours to really develop and to also be able to remove any fat from the top of the dish before heating and serving.

Ingredients

  • To serve four people I used two fairly meaty slices of shank per person
  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • Four carrots, peeled
  • 2 large sticks of celery cleaned and tough “strings” removed
  • Four fat cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of crushed tomato
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato purée or concentrate
  • ½  a bottle of red wine
  • A bay leaf and about 5 whole peppercorns
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Flour for coating the meat
  • Seasoning

You will also need a deep heavy based (preferably oven proof) dish with a lid

Start by dealing with the vegetables. You can either finely chop or process.  I chose the latter as I wanted the vegetables to cook down to a thick sauce, but the choice is yours.

Season the flour and coat the pieces of meat in it, reserving any that is left over.  Cover the base of your cooking pot with oil and at a high heat, brown the meat on all sides and remove to a plate. Turn the heat down and add all the vegetables, make sure they are coated in oil then put the lid on and let them sweat gently until soft for about 10 minutes. Now stir in up to a heaped tablespoon of any left over flour, cook for a minute or two then add the crushed tomato, the concentrate and the wine.  Bring it up to a bubble and have a little glass of wine while you are waiting.

When it is bubbling away nicely, add the meat back into the pot, season lightly with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the bay leaf and peppercorns.  Cover the pot and either cook very slowly on the hob for about 2-3 hours or in the oven at the lowest setting for about 5 hours.  I prefer to use the oven as there is no chance of anything sticking to the bottom of the pot and I think the longer, slower cooking really does add something to the flavour.

The dish is done when the meat is making only a token gesture to hold on to its delicious centre bone.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

This is a real winter warmer dish and is perfect served with mashed or boiled potatoes or plain boiled rice or wet polenta.  Recommend you eat it with a fork and spoon as you won´t need a knife and you won´t want to miss any of that rich sauce. Fingers of course, are obligatory for sucking on the bones.

Saint Valentine…don´t you mean San Jacobo?

I have a work project on at the moment which is keeping me busy, so at home we´ve got a week or so of quicker to cook dishes coming up, or slow cooked dishes that I can put in the oven and then forget about for a few hours.

This speedy light lunch or supper is often served as a “child friendly” dish here in Spain. Sometimes you just don´t fancy “fancy” food. Something simple and speedy, and just a little naughty is required.  Deep fried ham and cheese coated in breadcrumbs hits the spot.  And if you serve it up with a dollop of ketchup and a fried egg with a runny yolk – well I won´t tell anyone that you´re not 9 years old!

Per person you´ll need

  • 2 large slices of your favourite ham
  • Enough thin slices of cheese to almost cover the ham (choose one that melts like cheddar, mozzarella etc)
  • A beaten egg plus 2 tablespoons of milk (this is enough for 4 slices of ham)
  • Dried breadcrumbs to coat the ham
  • Hot oil for frying

Place the cheese on the ham and either roll it up or fold it over to make a “sandwich”. Use a toothpick if necessary to keep your San Jacobo closed, but don´t forget to remove before eating…!

Dip the ham in the egg then the breadcrumbs and then repeat. This will give you a good seal so that the cheese doesn´t ooze out as it melts when it cooks, and a super crispy coating.

Get your oil very hot and fry (you can deep or shallow fry – your decision). Remove when browned and serve immediately.

I tried to find out why these little fried ham parcels are called “Saint Jacobs” but no one seems to know.  At least it makes the meal sound a little more gourmet than it actually is.  Make sure you have a cold beer to hand as a medical aid in case you burn your tongue on that lovely melted cheese.

PS. Happy Valentine´s Day to you all – young. old, single or happily with someone, it´s all about love…so go on, go out today and hug someone!