Speedy Strawberry Delight

For many of us it´s strawberry season right now. The pleasure of eating a sweet juicy strawberry on its own, or covered in whipped cream is something very special. And of course we can mix them into cakes, turn them into jam…well, the possibilities are almost endless.

Sometimes though you fancy a bowlful of strawberry deliciousness but you need it NOW. Here´s a little dish of strawberries that´s not too naughty and quick to pull together and hit the spot last night when we fancied a little midnight feast (hence the dark shot)!

Per person

  • Half a cup of thick creamy natural yogurt (I used Greek)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar (optional)
  • About half a dozen strawberries, sliced
  • A drizzle of honey
  • A splash of framboise (raspberry) liqueur – optional

Stir the sugar (if using) into the yogurt, pile the strawberries on top, splash on the liqueur, drizzle the honey over then find yourself a nice quiet spot to sit and enjoy a little indulgence and a moment of peace all to yourself.

Roti – Indian Flatbread

When we recently made our Cortijo Curry, we also made a little batch of roti, to accompany the meal.

Roti is an unleavened, flat bread (which does puff up when cooked) and is also known, I believe as chapati (I am prepared to be corrected if they are different, but all my recipes seem to indicate they are pretty much the same thing).

Super simple and quick to make, they´re also great to use as an alternative to tortilla wraps or if you just fancy a change.

Ingredients (to make 6)

  • 200g chapati flour (or finely ground wholemeal flour)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • Water

Add the salt to the flour then mix in the oil. Gradually add drops of water (you won´t need much) until the mixture comes together then knead for about 10 minutes. Leave to rest for 30 minutes if possible.

Divide into 6 portions and roll each one into a ball, then roll the ball flat using a rolling pin.

Heat a non stick frying pan until very hot and place a roti in the pan. Press down on it (I used a spatula) as it cooks. When the underside is speckled brown, flip it over and repeat. As you press on it, it will start to puff up. You can also do this by holding it over a flame once it is cooked. We did try this as well, but found that they puffed up nicely in the frying pan.

Wrap in a tea towel to keep warm and serve immediately – they will lose some of their puffiness as they cool down, but taste delicious!

If you enjoy curries, do check out this lovely recipe from Frugal Feeding as well.

Grafting onto Almonds

I´m sure you´ve heard of the wonderful book Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart? Hopefully my book City Slicka to Spanish Chica, if it ever comes to print, will be an equal success and best seller, but I digress. Well, today we were Grafting onto Almonds.

Local Old Boy Domingo, King of the Fruit Tree Grafters (well, around these parts at least) came round and grafted some apricots and local peaches onto an almond tree we had given up for dead last year.

Big Man cut it right down to see if there was any hope and lo and behold, it sprouted. We have another almond tree which gives us plenty of almonds, so we decided to see if a little hard graft would pay off.

Start by stripping out leaves from branches but leaving the shoots up the branches intact
Nip off the top of the branch you are grafting onto and remove the outer “skin” of the branch

It´s a complicated process, although he made it look easy as you have to find a branch and the piece you graft on of the same size, it can take a few goes.

A tube (rather like a tiny section of a straw) is cut from the plant you will be grafting onto the host tree. It needs to include a little bud. Then it has to be slid off its own branch intact…tricky stuff.
Slide it on…carefully now!
Make sure it´s secure
The End Result…a job well done

Now we have to wait until about August, when we should be able to see which grafts have taken. Fingers crossed for success.

Celi over at The Kitchen´s Garden recently took us round her garden. Inspired by this, and as I had my camera in hand, I thought I´d show you a little more of our olive grove. We only have about 30 olive trees, it´s a piece of land of about 2500sqm but we are slowly planting fruit tress, and this is also where our chickens free range.

View to “my” mountains and the neighbours´ very posh chicken house

The overhead cables are not great, but in the campo it´s the only way to get electricity to the houses.

View out from olives across neighbour´s field to busy downtown!

I´ve realised that the shots are mainly out from the olives, but an olive grove is an olive grove. And here´s a gratuitous shot of the pesky olive flowers that cause so much suffering to people like me with hayfever.

Perhaps I should have asked Big Man to take a shot of me with my big sunglasses on and my Michael Jackson style breathing mask…that would have been quite entertaining!

Cortijo Curry – North Indian Goat (or Lamb) Curry and a Simple Raita

Without further ado, here´s the recipe for the beautiful curry we made recently when Best Buddy came to stay recently.

We adapted the recipe (just a little) from one in Anjum Anand´s book Indian Food Made Easy. She uses lamb, we used goat. We served it with roti, plain boiled basmati rice, tarka dhal, and poppadums. In the excitement I forgot to make a cooling raita to accompany it. As it turned out, the dish was not hot at all (I would add more chili next time, but that is just personal taste). However, this did allow all the beautiful and individual spice flavours to shine through.

Leftovers were to be for me, me, me. Unfortunately Big Man got in on the act and decided that it was really rather a fabulous tasting dish, so they ended up being for us, us us. This time without poppadums or roti, but with raita. Recipes for the tarka dhal, spinach and roti to follow soon.

Ingredients (the recipe says it serves 6-8 but we thought it was for 4, even with all the accompanying dishes we made)

  • 25g fresh ginger, peeled
  • 10 large cloves of garlic, peeled (to weigh about 30g)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 each black and green cardamom pods (we used all green)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 800g lamb cubes with bone in (I used goat with boneless meat from the leg and ribs, chopped into small pieces)
  • 1-2 whole green chilies (the recipe says optional – we used 1 but I would use 2 or 3 next time)
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala (we used a garam masala spice mix made for me which we then ground)
  • Salt, to taste (we found it needed quite a lot)
  • 4 medium tomatoes, puréed (we used conserva)
  • 500ml water
  • Chopped coriander to stir in when dish is cooked

Make a paste of the ginger and garlic, adding a little water to help blend.

Heat the oil in a large non stick pan or pot. Add the whole cardamom pods and bay and stir into the warm oil before adding the onion. Fry until the onion starts to brown, then add the lamb and stir until the meat is sealed. Now add the ginger and garlic paste, the spices and a little salt (you can adjust the salt at the end of cooking). Cook for a few minutes until the pan is dry.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil then simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add the water, bring back to a boil then simmer (covered) for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.  We removed the lid for the last 5 minutes as there was a lot of liquid. When cooked, taste and adjust seasoning and stir in the coriander.

To make a simple raita mix together about 2 tablespoons of finely chopped mint, a finely chopped (small) red or white onion, a finely chopped piece of peeled cucumber (about 10cm long), 2 tbs lemon juice, a good pinch of salt and half a cup of creamy natural yogurt.

Best Friends and Favourite Foods

I am truly blessed when it comes to friends. I have some extra special best girlfriends who have been there for me through the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the youth and the wrinkles. Ria and I met at school, a wonderful convent in South London, and have been best friends ever since.

We laughed through our school days, she sent me stamps to write to her when I went to University as I was poor and she was earning. She also gave me a sewing box as a going away gift and still, to this day, gets me to adjust her clothes and sew on buttons. We even worked at the same company for a few years and mopped up the tears through tough endings to relationships in later years.

She invited me to a weekend with friends in Scotland without telling me we would be walking part of the West Highland Way. She knew I would have refused, but we had fun and I forgave her, eventually.  Then I told her she was doing a run to raise money for Charity and she didn´t complain once.

Hot, sweaty but very happy with what we achieved!

We know and love each other´s families like our own, and also know our way around each other´s kitchens. Very important indeed.

When we both hit 40 within a month of each other (not soooo long ago), we threw a massive party then went off on a Round the World Trip.  I have a lovely photo of us on our last day before we headed back to London. It was taken in Hong Kong on the Kowloon ferry. We don´t look glamorous, or made up. In fact we look exhausted, a little chilly, but happy. We had spent about 3 months in each other´s company 24/7 and not a cross word or row, just fun, laughter and quite a few adventures.

I moved to Spain permanently six years ago, and we had to find a new way to make things work across the miles.  E-mails, phone calls and of course, visits.

So, when your best buddy comes to visit you don´t want to spend too much time in the kitchen as there is talking, laughing, dog walking and wine drinking to be done.

We barbecued squid which we enjoyed in the sunshine.

We ate what we jokingly called a “deconstructed chicken salad sharing platter for friends” – cold cooked chicken, spiced cauliflower, a platter full of delicious vegetables and topped with blanched then grilled asparagus with a lemon dressing and mayonnaise. Perfect for sharing.

And of course, my best friend knows how much I adore curry, so several happy hours were spent in the kitchen cooking up a storm, or the “Cortijo Curry” as we called it. Goat curry, tarka dhal, spinach and tomato curry, poppadums and roti.

I´ll share the recipes with you soon, but now I´m tired, happy and sad, and rather full up, so I´ll leave you with a photo of the perfect dessert for friends who don´t have time to make dessert.

Broad Bean and Potato Soup

So, regular readers of this blog (and I thank you!) will know that here in Andalucía we tend not to waste much when it comes to food. All the unsual bits get used from the meat we eat, and even our broad beans shells, when they´re young and tender, get used in tortillas, scrambled eggs and cooked with jamon.

Another Andalucían dish using broad beans is called Cazulea de Habas which translates as a broad bean stew. As ever, I asked around for recipes and this time I tended to get pretty much the same replies from everyone.  An exceedingly simple and humble dish. Well, a little dull if I´m being truly honest, but that is just my opinion. I asked Big Man if he was sure he wanted me to make it, as it had been his idea in the first place. Well, he said, maybe you can give it a little Chica Andaluza touch to make it more exciting. So I did.

It´s still a simple and humble dish, but with some nice flavours going on and more filling than its ancestor. I also have some suggestions for making it your own, so here goes.

Ingredients to serve 4

  • 500g of thinly sliced tender broad bean shells (save the beautiful beans for something more glamorous)
  • One medium potato per person, peeled and cut into rough 2cm chunks (this is not included in the original recipe)
  • One medium onion finely chopped
  • A large spring of fresh mint and a bay leaf
  • Water
  • Pinch of saffron or half a teaspoon of turmeric (here they use colouring…eek!)
  • ½ teaspoon of sweet pimentón
  • ½ teaspoon of hot pimentón (optional, not in the original recipe, but I used it)
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic peeled and halved lengthways
  • About 10 peeled, raw almonds
  • A large slice of day old bread (something like sourdough or ciabatta)
  • Olive oil for shallow frying
  • Seasoning

Put the bean shells, onion, mint and bay leaf in a pot and cover well with water. Boil until the shells are really tender (this can take about 30 minutes, so be patient). About 20 minutes into the cooking add the potato. Meanwhile fry the garlic and almonds until browned, put into a blender jug. Now fry the slice of bread on both sides until browned and also add to the blender jug. Add the saffron and pimentón and a large ladleful of the cooking water from the beans. Blend (I use a stick blender) until you have a smooth sauce. Add to the beans and season. I found it needed quite a lot of salt.

Now, you´re done! However, you could serve it with a softly poached egg on top or some pieces of grilled chorizo or morcilla (blood pudding), although it will obviously no longer be a vegetarian dish.

It´s a simple dish, but a lovely starter using seasonal vegetables or with a few additions could be a hearty main dish for two.

Big Man approved the changes, and we agreed that the Chica Andaluza version was much more tasty than the original!

San Isidro and a little walk around the village

The 15th May is the Feast of San Isidro Labrador, the Patron Saint of Farmers. He´s also the Patron Saint of Madrid, do pop over to BlueJellyBean´s blog and check out her beautiful recipe in celebration of this feast day.

One of the three village bars (and there are only about 250 inhabitants!)

Summer has arrived like an explosion. No gentle easing into gradually warmer days. It turned overnight from Spring to Summer and temperatures in the 30s just a few days ago.

View from the village

The celebration of San Isidro is one of the first big summer celebrations, and is particularly important in villages like ours.  Most of the inhabitants rely on the land to employ and feed them to some degree or another. Things are tough in Spain right now and work is scarce. Today is symbolic for many of these land workers and planting today hopefully carries a blessing from San Isidro for a good crop. Tonight we finished planting the last of our vegetables garden…well, we´ll take help where we can get it!

Main Street!

The statue of the Saint was blessed in the little village church and processed down through the village to our little sports centre which has a large building used for village gatherings.

It´s a Pueblo Blanco, a white village. Perhaps not the quaintest or prettiest, but it has a certain charm. The streets were quiet today as most people were in the church when we arrived.

Obligatory Old Boys sitting on a bench in the square

Although our village celebrations were scaled down from previous years, there was still time to enjoy a plate of rice together and have a few drinks.

The cooks did a great job!

Oh, and a little dance of course.

Little Dancing Queens!

Coffee, Pear and Almond Cake

Some friends were coming over for “Merienda” which is afternoon tea in Spain, so it was a good opportunity to bake a cake. My Spanish pals do make me smile as when we get together for coffee and cakes, they always mention what a lovely English custom it is. I smile and agree, secretly thinking that I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of occasions I stopped for a proper afternoon tea when I lived in England. Oh well, I am certainly making up for it now.

This is a quick cake to pull together.  Sometimes it takes longer for the oven to warm up than it does for you to prepare the cake batter.

Ingredients (serves 10-12 slices)

  • One large pear, peeled, halved, quartered and then each quarter cut into three or four pieces
  • 1 ½ cups of self raising flour, ½ cup of ground almonds, a pinch of salt, a cup and a half of sugar all mixed together in a bowl
  • 3 large eggs, ½ a cup of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of almond essence, 2 shots of very strong cold espresso, half a cup of natural yogurt beaten together until well blended

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix gently with a wooden spoon. Using a large cake tin (mine was silicone, so no need to line but I sprayed with a little oil) line the base with the pear slices to form a circular pattern.

Pour over the cake better and smooth out the mixture.

Bake at 180ºC for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin. Eat warm or cold. Keeps well for a few days – which is good as it is quite a large cake!

Salmon Spanakopita… Sort Of

The gorgeous dish of Spanakopita hails from beautiful Greece. A delicious spinach pie, filled with feta cheese and egg and then wrapped in filo pastry – it´s a wonderful combination of flavours.

The weather here has turned overnight into summer with temperatures in the early 30s. Although we have used our gas barbecue on and off throughout the winter, we haven´t eaten outside. The weather now is perfect and we are going to make the most of it to eat in the garden, before the tremendous heat of summer drives us back inside to eat in the cool of the house.

I had bought a large salmon fillet (half of a whole salmon) which weighed about 1.5kg to cook for friends. The best laid plans and all that…well, the lunch didn´t happen and I had a massive piece of salmon to cook for two people.

The first lunch we simply cooked the whole thing on the barbecue, sprinkled with salt and served it with lemon juice and home made mayonnaise. We ate about a third of it so I divided the remaining piece into two and froze one piece. In this dish I used about 250g of cooked salmon so still have plenty left over to make a rice dish with prawns and salmon tomorrow.

I fancied making something different from fish cakes and remembered this lovely dish from Greece and set about recreating it, albeit with a few Up the Mountain twists. Or Making Do with what I had available. I realise that the traditional dish doesn´t contain meat or fish, but this is an interpretation rather than a faithful reproduction!

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter)

Please note, the ingredients are approximate, so feel free to add a little more or take a little away it it suits

  • One pack of puff pastry (275g) rolled out thinly (or use filo if you have it)
  • 180g of feta (I used fresh goat´s cheese made by a neighbour). Do check out Chgo John´s amazing method to make feta here.
  • About 250g cooked salmon, flaked
  • 225g Greek yogurt
  • 3 spring onions finely chopped (I used 1 small onion finely chopped)
  • 125g fresh spinach finely chopped and wilted (I put mine in a large metal colander and pour boiling water over it) with all the water squeezed out
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup each of finely chopped dill (I used wild fennel tops which grow round here) and parsley
  • Seasoning

Heat the oven to 180ºC. Place the pastry on a flat baking tray which has been lined with greaseproof paper (or use a small one about half the size of your pastry which is a little deeper).

Mix all the ingredients together and season (you may not need much salt if you use feta).  Put the filling into the middle of the pastry and bring the pastry up and over to cover it, neatening the corners to seal the filling in. Use some water on the edges if necessary to help seal them.

Tastes great even if you didn´t seal the top up properly….

Brush with milk or beaten egg and bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool slightly before eating. Perfect with a salad and a cool glass of wine.

Any ideas for that last piece of cooked salmon in my freezer? Go on, inspire me!

Salteado de Espárragos, Habas y Setas – Sautéed Asparagus, Broad Beans and Mushrooms

This recipe of sautéed (or stir fried as very little oil is used) vegetables is fantastic as it can be used as a vegetable dish, a starter, or served with fried or poached eggs as a light lunch or supper. Add jamon or bacon for non vegetarians (as I did) and it becomes more filling or stir it into scrambled eggs.  See? Lots of options!

Ingredients

  • About 24 thin spears of asparagus, finely chopped (reserve spears)
  • ½ cup of broad beans (no need to skin)
  • 2 or 3 large oyster mushrooms cut into thin strips
  • About 6-8 mushrooms and stalks finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 4 slices of jamon or bacon finely chopped (optional)
  • Olive oil

Start by simmering the asparagus (not the tips) and broad beans for 3-4 minutes in boiling water. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and then cook the tips of the spears for a minute or two until tender, reserving them separately. The stock is good for using as a soup base or for cooking rice.

In a frying pan warm a little oil and gently cook the garlic until it is soft but not brown. Add the mushrooms and stir to coat in oil then cover and cook gently until the mushrooms are soft and giving off a little liquid.

Add the asparagus tips and broad beans, stir and cover and cook for a further 5 minutes. If you like your vegetables very tender, add half a cup of water and cook until it has evaporated. If using bacon or jamon, add, turn the heat up and fry until slightly crispy. Stir in the asparagus tips, season and serve.

Fried for Big Man…I prefer poached…

This would also be lovely used in a risotto or stirred into pasta….or add cream and mix with gnocchi.