2300 km later and we´re in the UK. The sun is shining, we almost thought we´d arrived in the wrong country!
A blissfully uneventful journey, Big Man drove all the way (what a star) as I was suffering from a nasty bout of tonsillitis and feeling dreadful (but am on the mend now).
We drove past windmills in Castilla and La Mancha.
Spanish Bulls across the country.
Sunflowers in France.
And then the first drops of rain as we said goodbye to France in Calais.
Finally a big hello to England and the famous White Cliffs of Dover.
After a day of recovery and a look at the house we decided that we´re going to take advantage of my parents´ good will and a nearby holiday place they have and stay in their lovely flat for a little while as the house is a bit of a disaster zone right now.
A typical English Sunday was decided on. A long walk with the dogs to reward them for being so good. This is the beautiful Pevensey Castle.
Some delicious British Sirloin, cooked simply on the griddle.
So, this is it (click there if you want to hear a good old wartime song)! All the waiting to sort out legal documents for the house purchase is done. The ferry crossing is booked from Calais in Northern France to Dover on the south Coast of England. The dogs have seen the vet and have more documents than we do. The car is packed with tools, wine, beer and other essentials. The picnic is being made. The passports are in my bag.
We´re off! The trip to the UK to renovate a little Victorian house in the seaside town of Bexhill on Sea starts tomorrow, very early in the morning. I should point out that this is a Property Development project, our grown up “job” (for now at least). We will be back to Spain and Up Our Mountain as soon as the property is fit to live in and looking nice and hopefully some lovely people will rent it for a year or so and be very happy in it!
We´ll drive across Spain, skirting around Madrid and then up to the border with France at Irun/Bayonne at the edge of the Pyrenees. By tomorrow night we hope we´ll have reached Bordeaux where we´ll stop in a motel for the night. No time for anything glamorous as we´ll be up early the next day and heading up and across to the North coast of France via the edge of Le Mans then skirting east of Paris and finally the Port of Calais.
A quick hour and half ferry crossing later and we´ll be spotting the White Cliffs of Dover, then a left turn along the coast to our destination. About 2200 km, or 1300 miles in total in 2 days. Phew.
But don´t worry, we won´t starve. We have cool bags packed with ice blocks and plenty to eat. Tortilla, of course. And an Empanada. Baked Scotch Eggs are being made later today and tomorrow night when we stop I´ll make an Ensalada Cateta as that´s an easy one and will make a change from picnic food.
We have some lovely chicken wings (they´re huge as they´re from our own chickens) which I rubbed in crushed garlic and smoked paprika then left them in a little bath of chicken stock and white wine for half an hour before seasoning then roasting them for 45 minutes in a medium oven.
Bacon butties for tomorrow morning and then on Friday I am sure we´ll stop in France to buy some lovely hot coffee and buttery croissants to start our day.
It will take us a few days to get settled, and fingers crossed that the internet I have sorted out will work. Apologies in advance for possibly not being able to keep up and comment as much as usual, but I´ll do my best as I would miss you all too much.
Hopefully I can keep you updated on our progress with some “Cooking Under Fire” thrown in. The kitchen is being pulled out this week and the new one won´t go in for a week or so, but I do have an oven, a sink and a table. Honestly, what more do I need?!
So, wish me well, we´ll drive carefully and I´ll see you all again soon. Maybe we can all share an extra-large portion of Fish & Chips on the beach?
I wish I had a “taste-o-blog” or a “screen-sniff” option, because the photo of this dish really doesn´t do it justice.
During Operation Clear Out The Freezer, I came across a piece of stewing beef. It´s not really casserole weather here right now, but I knew I´d need to give it a long slow cook. Inspired by the success of the flavours in my Pork Belly dish, I decided to head to the Orient for my ingredients. Adapted from a BBC Good Food Recipe, this is a beautiful, prepare ahead dish which is even better the next day and would work really well too with pork. I served it simply with basmati rice and steamed runner beans.
Ingredients (to serve 4)
3 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
Beef for slow cooking (my piece weighed about 1 kilo) cut into bite sized chunks
1 large onion
50g peeled fresh ginger
6 cloves of fresh garlic
2 heaped tsp Chinese five spice powder
4 whole star anise
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
80g brown sugar
50ml soy sauce
50ml of dry sherry (or use rice wine or water)
2 tbsp tomato purée
About half a cup of chicken stock (or beef if you have it, otherwise water)
Heat the oil in an ovenproof dish and seal the meat on all sides (in batches if necessary). Remove the meat and reserve in a separate bowl.
Blitz the onion, garlic and ginger to a paste with a little water in a food processor then fry gently in the same pan you used for the meat until it has softened. Add the five spice, star anise and ground pepper then after a minute add the sugar, soy sauce, wine and tomato purée. Add the beef to the pan with any juices then add just enough stock to cover the meat.
Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer then cook either very slowly on the stove top for a couple of hours or on the lowest oven setting for about 3 hours.
When the time is up, remove the meat from the sauce then turn up the heat and reduce the sauce to your preferred consistency.
When you are ready to serve (and even better if you can make this a day ahead) pour the sauce over the meat and enjoy.
The Huerto, or Vegetable Garden, is doing well. Although we won´t get to enjoy all of it over the summer, we are making the most of our vegetable bounty before we leave for the UK. The long thin peppers are doing well. Typically here they are used in salads or deep fried and served with a good sprinkle of salt.
To try something different, and because I had plenty of Creamy Goat´s Cheese “Paté”, I made this dish recently. Very easy and quick to prepare, and you can add whatever flavours/herbs you have to hand and enjoy.
4 medium long green peppers
200g cream cheese paté (or mix your favourite herbs and spices into a tub of cream cheese)
Blanch the whole peppers in boiling water for about 3 or 4 minutes, drain and leave until cool enough to handle.
Cut a slit down the middle of each pepper to create an opening and then fill with cream cheese. Use a cocktail stick to seal them.
I cooked mine on the griddle pan which I had sprayed with a very little olive oil. This would also work on a barbecue. Start with the uncut side first. When they are done on one side, flip them over and cook the other side which will probably need less time.
Remove from the heat and take out the cocktail stick. Serve either warm or at room temperature with a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of good coarse sea salt.
Ok, I promise to stop singing the praises of my new best friend, Mr Yotam Ottolenghi soon, but dammit, he just keeps inspiring me with his lovely recipes. I´m not vegetarian, I couldn´t give up bacon, jamon and a nice blue steak, but his recipes are very vegetable focused and they could almost make you forget how wonderful a crispy roast chicken tastes. Almost.
Another of his recipes featuring mixed mushrooms appealed to me, although I had to use a bag of mixed frozen mushrooms at this time of year. Roll on autumn when I can make this with fresh ones. The method I used to cook them is a little different from the original recipe, I have put the original ingredients in brackets after my version. If you make this with fresh mushrooms I think it will be less “saucy” (it certainly looked drier in the photo in the book) but I rather liked having something to mop up with my bread!
Ingredients (my version serves 2, Ottolenghi version serves 6-8)
Grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of half (60ml lemon juice)
In a large pan heat the oil slightly then add the garlic and mushroom, fry gently until they mushrooms release their liquid, add the thyme and cinnamon and turn up the heat. Cook until the liquid has reduced a little, turn off the heat then stir in the chives, lemon zest and juice. Remove the cinnamon stick, taste and season. I served with a chicken breast which I had cut into thin fillets, marinated for 30 minutes in olive oil and lemon juice and quickly cooked in the griddle pan.
Our friendly local goatherd bought round some milk for us the other day, so I turned it into yogurt and then cream cheese. So very tasty!
I made plenty, so to change things up a little I made a little “paté” which was delicious served with fresh crusty bread and then the next day on griddled bread (like little crostini) and with bread sticks.
Summer time means sweet juicy fruit. And fruit isn´t just for jams or desserts you know. Oh no, mixed with peppery salad leaves and a citrusy sweet dressing it´s a perfect summer starter.
We have two seasons of figs here in Andalucía, early summer Brevas (usually the dark, black-skinned figs) and late summer Higos (the green variety). How lucky are we?!
Big Man came home yesterday with four juicy figs that had somehow fallen into his pocket off someone´s tree. At least, that´s what he told me and who am I not to believe him?!
Not enough for dessert, but just enough for a little salad.
Not so much a recipe as an inspiration to make a version yourself. I mixed some chopped lettuce with basil and rocket then over the top I put the four stolen precious figs, one peeled chopped peach and about 2 tablespoons of chopped semi cured goat´s cheese.
To make the dressing I mixed 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Salt and pepper were added then it was all shaken up then poured over.
Ah, “stolen” fruit always seems to taste that much sweeter!
The vegetable garden is now delivering well and we are trying to make the most of it before we have to walk away from it for at least a month. We´re both really sad about this, and I don´t imagine I´ll get too much bottled or frozen this year.
However, some lovely neighbours will be coming in and keeping an eye on things and looking after our chickies. They don´t have a veggie patch of their own, so they are going to enjoy what we´ve planted, so we´re very happy that it won´t go to waste.
In the meantime though, we´re enjoying what we have and last night we enjoyed a pizza with a difference. No tomato sauce!
It´s a sort of Pizza Bianca, in that it´s white, with some lovely fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden – red onion, courgette and rosemary. I seem finally to have cracked making a thinner, crispier dough, so if you fancy a change, give this one a go. It serves two hungry people or 3-4 regular folk if you have a salad with it.
For the dough
250g strong white flour
1 teaspoon of easy blend yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of olive oil
125ml of water
For the topping
125g cream cheese blended with 3 tablespoons of milk to make a thick paste
75g blue cheese (I used gorgonzola) crumbled or chopped
1 medium red onion halved and finely sliced
Half a large courgette very thinly sliced
About 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (pull the leaves from the centre stems)
Freshly ground black pepper
To make the dough mix all the ingredients together either in a bread maker or by hand and knead for about 10 minutes then set aside to rest for about 45 minutes. Roll out thinly and place onto a sheet of greaseproof paper placed on a baking tray or flat board. Leave for about 30 minutes.
When you are ready to make the pizza, turn the oven to high and leave to warm for at least 10 minutes and make sure you place the baking tray you will use for the pizza (not the one it´s sitting on right now) in there to heat up. If you have a pizza stone, all the better!
Spread the cream cheese over the dough, then add the courgettes and onions and sprinkle over the blue cheese and rosemary. Finish with a good grind of black pepper and then remove the hot baking tray from the oven.
Slide the pizza (you can leave it on the greaseproof paper) onto the hot baking tray and pop it back into the oven for about 10 minutes or until the dough is starting to brown.
Cut yourself a big slice of pizza and enjoy…
PS. If you fancy a thicker based pizza, take a look at this recipe.
You know when you buy a new cookbook and it´s full of lovely recipes, but the reality is you probably won´t cook that many of them and feel a bit let down? Mmm, yes, we´ve probably all been there. Well, not so with my new Ottolenghi book. In fact, I had intended to leave it in the UK to use when we return in a few weeks to start work on the house renovation. But it kept whispering to me, “take me with you, take me with you”, so back to Spain it came and I have been cooking from it already with plans for many more dishes.
First up was Harira, a Moroccan soup made with chickpeas and lamb. Yes, I´m trying to clear out my freezer a little before we leave, so out came a piece of lamb. And you know how we love our chickpeas in Andalucía…it was meant to be. Of course, I made a few changes but I am sure Mr O won´t mind.
It´s not quite like other Harira soups I´ve made, but I was very pleased with the results. I think it would also be a very good vegetarian soup if you leave out the meat and use vegetable stock or water. I have also made this soup with rice and lentils also included. This is a lovely recipe too from Robert Carrier.
Ingredients to serve 4-6
200g dried chickpeas soaked overnight in water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda (I don´t know the quantities for using ready cooked, canned but I would imagine it would be at least double the weight)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion roughly chopped
200g lamb fillet cut into 1cm dice (I used a piece of neck fillet on the bone which I cooked whole then pulled the cooked meat off and stirred into the soup
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp sugar (I used 1 tsp)
1kg tinned chopped tomatoes (I used about half this amount of my own tomatoes)
1.2 litres of chicken stock or water
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
A pinch of Saffron strands (I used a teaspoon of turmeric)
I also added 1 tsp each of cinnamon and hot chili powder
100g baby spinach (I used chopped chard from the veggie garden)
4 tbsp chopped coriander (didn´t have any, so omitted)
4-6 lemon wedges
Salt and Pepper
Cook the chickpeas in plenty of water until completely tender (about an hour or an hour and a half), drain and reserve.
In a large saucepan over a medium heat, gently fry the onion until translucent. Increase the heat and add the lamb and fry until sealed.
At this point I added the spices (Mr O does this later in his version). Now add the tomato purée, and sugar, cook for a couple of minutes then add the chopped tomato, drained chickpeas, liquid and a little seasoning.
Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 35-45 minutes until the meat is tender. Squeeze in a little lemon juice (I didn´t add it all at this stage as per the recipe) and this is where Mr O adds his spices.
Taste and adjust the seasoning. Just before serving, bring the soup back to the boil and add the finely chopped spinach (chard in my case) then remove from the heat. Serve with lemon wedges.
Very delicious, I may even spice it up a little more next time. And yes, the book will be coming with me again to the UK….it likes to travel.
Yes, it´s that runner bean time of year here Up the Mountain. We´re picking them daily, freezing some, giving some away and of course, eating plenty.
This was a light supper dish that was quickly pulled together as I had already blanched the beans and had some cooked potatoes in the fridge (a staple in our house for potato based salads) and some cooked prawns. If you don´t have these ready though, it´s not the work of hours to blanch some beans and boil some potatoes before throwing in raw prawns to cook through at the end.
Ingredients (Serves 2 as a light meal)
About 500g of sliced, blanched runner beans
2 medium cooked and peeled potatoes, cut into small chunks
About a cup of cooked, peeled prawns
1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
2 fat cloves of crushed garlic
½ teaspoon of ground cumin
½-1 teaspoon of hot or sweet pimentón (or chili powder)
Olive (or vegetable) oil
Into a deep, heavy frying pan pour a few tablespoons of oil for frying and quickly fry the potatoes until they start to brown over a high heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the ginger, garlic, cumin and pimentón and fry gently until the garlic and ginger have softened. Now add the beans and continue to fry gently until they have cooked through. Add the prawns (I chopped mine as they were quite large) and taste. Add salt if necessary. This would be great with some finely chopped coriander but I didn´t have any. Serve hot with crusty bread or try this beautiful recipe for pita bread from Tandy over at Lavender and Lime.
So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....