Spiced Poached Peaches

Well, it´s peach season here, and mostly my favourite way to eat them is “au naturel”.  Sometimes though, it´s fun to do something a little more exciting with them.

Here´s a simple little recipe for those of you who want to make a light dessert using the best of the season´s fruit. Oh, and wine. Not sure how it would taste using an alternative, grape juice perhaps, but if anyone gives it a go, I´d love to hear how it turns out.

I made the recipe for three, but the spices are enough for about half a dozen pieces of fruit.

Ingredients

  • 1 peeled peach (or nectarine per person) left whole but scored as if you were going to cut it in half
  • About half a dozen red grapes and raspberries per person
  • Red wine
  • Water
  • 3 tsp of sugar per person
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 clove per person
  • 1 vanilla pod, sliced in half lengthways (you can reuse to make vanilla sugar afterwards)
  • A good grind of fresh black pepper

Put the peaches or nectarines and grapes into the snuggest pot they will fit in, then cover completely with half water and half wine. Add the sugar, vanilla and spices (including the black pepper) and bring to the boil. Simmer until tender then remove the fruit.  Taste and add more sugar if necessary or a little squeeze of lemon juice if you prefer it less sweet.

Turn up the heat, and boil it hard until you have a pouring syrup.

Arrange the fruit on a serving plate, strain the syrup over (you don´t want the spices now) and garnish with fresh raspberries (rose petals and mint leaves are optional). Chill and serve as is or with single (pouring) cream.

And if this has set you thinking, check out Greg´s fantastic post which features an amazing range of ideas for using peaches in recipes. Yummy!

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Animal Cruelty in the Name of Sport

Ok, so if you don´t live in Europe and/or you are not a football fan you are probably not desperately interested in Euro 2012, the European Football Tournament that reached the first of the semi final stages tonight.

But, indulge me, and feel my pain. Spain won tonight (on penalties, which is not really a proper win in my book, but there you go) and are through to the final. Yes, “we´re” through to the final!!!

And in celebration, Alfi wholeheartedly joined in the celebrations. See that look of joy on his face? Ok, it´s submission knowing that he´ll get a biscuit.

The pain comes from the Italy-Germany match tomorrow night. I have a Spanish Big Man and an Italian Father and Passport. What happens if/when Italy win and it´s an Italy Spain final on Sunday? Feel my pain and tell me…do I wear my Spain shirt or my Italy shirt?!

Tea Loaf for the Visiting Hordes

First of all, a big thank you to you all for your tremendous support through my “technical glitch”. I know I am not the most techy person in the world, but I don´t think I´m quite a dinosaur yet, so it was a huge pain. Anyway, I think I am almost caught up on my “re-subscribing” but please do remind me if you don´t see me on your blog if you normally do.

So, back to the food!  When you are staying with a pal, especially one who needs to take a lot of naps, you get plenty of time to have a good look through the cookery books that they have and you don´t. You also get to rummage through their cupboards working out if they have the ingredients to hand to make something which has inspired you.

This was one such recipe which came from the book, The Great British Bake Off. The final (optional) step comes from the recovering pal herself who very kindly e-mailed me the recipe as I forgot to write it down before I left for home! I think I was particularly attracted to this recipe as you melt the butter and sugar together rather than cream it, so I think I could adapt this to using olive oil in Spain as butter is harder to buy and keep fresh Up the Mountain.

Ingredients (makes 1 large loaf cake)

  •  175g unsalted butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 400g plain flour
  • Good pinch of salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 300g luxury dried fruit mix (I used half sultanas which I had soaked in a small cup of Earl Grey tea and half dried apricots which I finely chopped)
  • 125ml full-fat or semi-skimmed milk at room temp
  • 2 large eggs at room temp

1 x 900g loaf tin, about 26 x 12.5 x 7.5cm, greased and lined with greaseproof paper.

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.  Put the butter and sugar into a medium sized pan and heat gently, stirring occasionally until the butter has melted.
  2. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a mixing bowl and stir in the dried fruit.  Beat together the milk and eggs until thoroughly combined, then pour into the flour mixture.  Add the melted butter and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and spread evenly.  Bake for about 1 hour or until the top is a good golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Remove the tin from the oven and set on a wire rack.  Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then gently turn out the loaf onto the rack and leave to cool completely.
  4.  Wrap in foil or greaseproof paper and keep for 24 hours before cutting. (We ignored this and tucked right in). It´s lovely sliced and spread with butter.
  5.  Serve to people visiting slightly bemused woman fresh out of hospital wondering what on earth is going on.

Trying to be clever…

Oops! I changed my e-mail address last night on WordPress. And what did it do to me? Well, it deleted all (oh yes, ALL) my subscriptions.

So…over the next few days I will try and visit you all and re-subscribe. If I´m a regular visitor/commenter to your site and I haven´t done this in the next week, I won´t be offended if you drop by and give me a gentle nudge….I don´t want to miss out on anything.

View from a local bar….you can see why we enjoy hanging around on their terrace in the summer!

Grumble, grumble….

Sewing Sunday – Summer Skirt

Remember my Safari Skirt? When I bought it, I also came across another one, in a pretty pale blue pattern.  This was more fitted, made up of panels, but way too small at the waist. It also had a zip.

Here´s how I made it fit (and I can be quite determined when I want to be)!

First I cut the skirt from around the top to give me the length I wanted less 2cm (I was going to add a waistband).

Then I unpicked the zip from the piece I had removed (you may need to do this first if it overlaps into the section of skirt that remains). I unpicked the side of the skirt to the length of the zip and reinserted the zip.

The skirt was now too big around the waist for me, so I added some darts at the front and back to make it fit comfortably.

Then I cut the piece of fabric from the top of the skirt lengthways to make two narrow strips which I joined together to make one long strip (this would become my new waistband, although I would not need it all as it became one very long strip).

This was pinned wrong sides together round the outside of the skirt.

I left a few cm at each zip edge to turn in.

This was stitched down, then the waistband turned over and under on the inside of the skirt and stitched again. I did this by hand because I enjoy hand stitching, but it could be done more quickly with machine stitching.

Finally I tucked in the ends of the waistband to give me a little overlap to add some snap fasteners and I also reinserted the hanging loops which I had recycled from the original waistband.

The finished skirt, which will is cool and comfy…I love soft cotton which is slightly “worn”, perfect for running around in the heat.

Get Shorty!

The photo makes it look very short and “stumpy” – I should have removed the half-finished top from Marilyn, I am sure that would have helped!

 

Sunshine Chicken

Chicken is a great healer, so they say, especially chicken soup. Well, I made soup last week for the sick girl, but fortunately she was at that point of recovery where she was wanting to move on from invalid food and, as we joked, to using a knife and fork!

In London it´s easy to get wonderful vegetables year round and I was inspired by a beautiful little butternut squash that was in the veggie basket. As with most of my dishes, this is simple to put together, then you forget about it for a while, then you eat it and the next day you make another delicious soup. Well, I fancied it, it was raining.

Ingredients for 2 people

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 1 large onion cut into about 8 chunks
  • 1 small head of garlic (all the cloves peeled)
  • 1 small squash, cut into about 10 large chunks (washed but not peeled)
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into quarters lengthways
  • 4 medium potatoes, washed and cut into 8 pieces each
  • Olive oil
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A sprig of lemon thyme (or use ordinary) and a sprig of rosemary
  • Half a teaspoon each of dried cumin and hot chili powder (or use sweet)
  • A small glass of white wine (or water or stock)

Put all the ingredients into an oven tray, pour over a little olive oil and season then sprinkle over the cumin and chili.  Mix it all up to ensure everything is covered with oil and seasoning then pour over the wine/stock and tuck in the herbs.

Cover with foil and cook on a medium heat for about an hour and a quarter. Remove the foil, check that the chicken is cooked through (if not leave for a little longer) then turn the oven up to high and cook for a further 15 minutes until the chicken skin is crispy and the vegetables start to turn brown at the edges. Serve and enjoy!

The next day I peeled what was left of the pumpkin and potatoes, put it all into a pot, added a little more cumin and chilli then covered with water. I bought the dish to a boil and then simmered for about 15 minutes. Then I blended with a stick blender and added about a cup of milk to thin it slightly then warmed through and served.

Cherry and Banana Cake

One of our local villages is famed for its cherries, and even has a fiesta dedicated to this beautiful fruit next weekend. What lucky folk we are! I am back from my trip toLondon where I was spending time with Best Friend Ria who was not long out of hospital. She is on the mend and we spent a week doing things very slowly…always best when you are feeling sore and tired.

On a trip into the village (before leaving for the UK) to buy som of the famed cherries, I was also given half a dozen over-ripe bananas as the fruit lady knew that I used them to make cakes. “Let me know what you do with them” she called, so I made an extra large batch of batter and sent her over some little cup cakes I made with the extra mixture.

To make one large cake though, follow this simple recipe. You won´t regret it!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of chopped cherries soaked in dark rum (or strong black tea) I usually heat this and let it cool while I make the cake
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of self raising flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup oil (I use olive oil)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 small ripe bananas mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Heat the oven to 180ºC and line either a large round or loaf tin or two small ones with greaseproof paper.  Beat the oil and sugar together then beat in the eggs. Add the banana, cherries and vanilla and stir then gradually stir in the flour. Pour into a prepared tin and bake for 1 hour (large tin) or about 45 mins (2 smaller tins).

This recipe is adapted from my banana bread recipe. And if you´re feeling like you need a little drink to go with your cake, why not try a glass of Cherry Brandy or a Cherry and Watermelon Granizada. Don´t you just love summer fruits?!

So…you want to make a Paella?

Finally, I thought it was about time I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) for this classic recipe. I went to a local expert, he´s called “Chef Colorin” and he makes the paellas for all the local fiestas. Be warned, there are LOADS of photos in this post, but I hope you enjoy seeing the process.

Of course, he wasn´t going to just  sit down with me over a glass of wine and give me the recipe. Much better than that, I was going to join in with the cooking. Fantastic, I thought, how many are we cooking for then Chef? Oh, not too many he told me, only 420 on Sunday. Get there about 11am he said, and we´ll show you the ropes.

Not one to balk at such a challenge, and I even wore the exceedingly unflattering hat (yes, I´ll show you the photos). It was one of the hottest and windiest days we´ve had for a while, so we couldn´t even put a shelter up for shade. Hey ho, the show must go on, and of course, it did.

We used 3 Paella pans which make 140 portions each. Feel free to adapt for smaller groups! The ingredients below are per 140 person pan.

Start with your base stock which is made in large 50 litre pots, sheltered from the wind today with a clever little device which goes round the base of the gas ring.

Into each pot goes 800g of stock cubes to 50 litres of water (at home, you´d probably use home made chicken or fish stock), 5 bay leaves, 2 tablespoons of sweet pimentón, 200cl of dry white wine, 500g each of chopped peppers and garlic, 1kg of monkfish, assorted fish bones, 400g of chopped tomato and 4 kilos of prawns with their shells on. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 20 minutes or so. Chef added 14 sachets of paella food colouring to the mix but at home we´d use saffron or turmeric.

Strain out the prawns, fish etc.

Then, wearing your glamorous outfit, count out 280 prawns (that´s so that everyone gets at least 2 each) and pull any meaty bits of fish off the bones. First come, first served on any extra prawns!

Lookin´good Chica, and rockin´that mesh hat look!

Is your fire ready to cook? I hope so, we´re going to begin.

Heat 3 litres of olive oil in your pan and add 8 kilos of chopped pork and season with salt to taste. Fry gently for a few minutes.

Now add a couple of heaped tablespoons of sweet pimentón.

Next comes a kilo each of red and green peppers and 250g of chopped garlic. Don´t forget the seafood – 2 kilos of chopped squid.

Stir gently while making silly faces.

Big Man has a go wearing the “Sherry Server” hat from Jerez!

Time to add 4 kilos of chopped tomatoes and a kilo of sliced roasted peppers.

Open the bags of rice carefully – 14kg for 140 people, which translates to 100g per person at home.

Such concentration – I take my work very seriously!

Add to the pan.

Stir gently into the sofrito with your giant paddle.

Now add30 litres of stock (which is 2 litres of stock per kilo of rice, plus a little extra – at home you would add 200cl plus a dash per 100g of rice…see, not so complicated!).

Keep that rice moving without burning your legs on the fire underneath the pan.

The professionals in action…

It´s much harder than it looks! (And don´t forget to taste).

Rookie cooking….

Remove from the heat and sprinkle over those prawns and the fish you set aside.

Was he trying to sneak one of my carefully counted prawns?!

Phew, job done. Time to show off an enormous loaf of bread baked by a local baker.

While we´re eating, you can enjoy a vaguely arty shot of a clean paella pan (don´t forget to oil it after washing up).

PS. Am off to London tomorrow for a week so will try to keep up with all your lovely blogs and comments, but apologies if some have to wait until after 20th June. Hope you enjoyed the paella making as much as I did, sorry it was so long but I really enjoyed putting it together. I do have to admit though, I was quite glad to take my “uniform” off and sit down in the shade of an olive tree with a large glass of tinto de verano.

Out with the Old and In with the New – Broad Beans, Garlic and Chicken

Things are really shaping up in our huerto, our little vegetable garden. Yesterday the last of the broad beans were harvested and they leave us with a nice patch to fill with something else tasty.

Our garlic, which is a variety from Granada, is now just about ready for harvesting.

As you can see, it´s a small variety, slightly pink, and it tastes very sweet.  Here it is alongside one of our onions which we had expected to be bigger, but no matter…they taste great.

So, we now need to pick our 320 garlic bulbs and dry them out a little. We already have a waiting list of people who want a few, so my worries about how on earth we would use that many are already being addressed.

In order to celebrate the new garlic I made a simple dish of chicken joints, potatoes, small chunks of a whole lemon, a bulb of the fresh garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and some rosemary and oregano from our garden. I was inspired by this lovely simple recipe from Mary Cadogan over on the BBC website, but played around with it – I hope she won´t mind!

Into the oven it went, after having a good slug of local dry sherry poured over, where it sat cooking slowly at a medium heat for about 2 hours.

A little salad of finely chopped tomato with some chopped garlic and the last few fresh broad bean pods was my final tribute to the garden.

Simple, tasty and a perfect pick me up for the Up the Mountain garlic pickers!

Calamares en Salsa de Tomate – Quick Braised Squid in a Garlicky Tomato Sauce

This is a lovely, light dish which looks impressive but is quick and easy to prepare. More so if you have already made some tomato sauce and buy ready cleaned  squid.

If you need some help cleaning your squid, click here.

Ingredients Per Person

  • 3-4 medium squid, cleaned
  • 1 cup of garlicky tomato sauce (To make mine I soften 3 crushed cloves of garlic in olive oil, then add 1 kilo of crushed peeled tomatoes, 2 tablespoon of tomato purée, half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of sugar, plenty of fresh garlic, a glass of red wine and a few stalks of basil leaves. Simmer for about an hour, remove the basil and you´re done. This will give you 6-8 cups of sauce).
  • Seasoning

Simply warm the sauce through then drop in the squid (this can be served whole or cut into smaller chunks. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes or until the squid has turned white. Taste, season, then serve – see, I told you it was easy!