Fingers Crossed

Fingers Crossed…

So, I am typing away in the dusty, and as yet untouched, sitting room of our Victorian House in Bexhill. I´ve missed you all and I´m sorry I can´t comment on your blogs. Internet access here is via a dongle and after about 5 days I was told that I had “exceeded my data allowance”. Oh dear, naughty Chica. This may mean that I won´t be able to download some photos I want to show you of what we have been doing.

The kitchen was ripped out.

A damp proof course was put in, the floor was leveled and a quick coat of paint followed, although it will eventually be tiled.

Then Big Man put down some oak flooring. It was meant to be a cheaper floor, but it was a bargain and we couldn´t resist.

Next up is fitting the kitchen, the appliances and tiling. But hopefully more of that next week.

And the dogs? Of course, they still manage to find a quiet spot amid the chaos and are enjoying long walks on the beach when the working day is over.

I´ll stop now as I don´t want the internet police hauling me in for further “excesses”, but I do send you all the best from a wet, grey and rainy Bexhill on Sea (well, it is a Bank Holiday Weekend here in the UK, so it´s to be expected!) and cross your fingers that this works!

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Cooking Under Fire – Minced Beef Pasty/Empanada Thingies

When your bathroom looks like this…

And your dogs are moved from pillar to post in a bed that gets dustier by the day…

You buy minced beef. Well, of course you do.  For a start it´s hard to buy in Andalucía, and then the beef tastes soooo good in England it would be a crime not to. I have discovered a lovely “proper” butcher in Bexhill, and have already made friends with him. He has free range eggs too which are nearly as good as ours. But not quite.

I bought half a kilo (or a pound as my new butcher friend said…he can´t forget those imperial measurements) and turned it into two “cook ahead” meals for us. First up, a simple pasty (but it´s not a Cornish Pasty as it contains carrot and no potato) or empanada (but not really) which I made ahead then warmed up for lunch. I also made another dish for supper later in the week, but more of that later.

Apologies for the photos, my “good” camera is sitting safely in its little rucksack as it doesn´t much like the huge quantities of dust we are currently dealing with on a daily basis.

Ingredients for 2 large thingies

  • 250g short crust pastry (I confess, I bought it)
  • 1 large carrot peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium leek, halved and finely sliced
  • ½ red pepper finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ½ wine glass of beef stock (I used a cube…I´m Cooking Under Fire you know!)
  • ½ wine glass of red wine (please make sure to drink the other half if you are using wine)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 500g of minced beef (you will only use about 200g of it, so use less if you don´t want to make another dish, or you could make 4 thingies instead)
  • Olive oil
  • One beaten egg

Start by slowly frying the onions, garlic and leek until softened then add the carrots and peppers. Cover the pan with a lid and continue cooking gently until the vegetables are all softened. Add the minced (ground) beef, the paprika and cumin and cook on a medium heat until the mince is cooked. Add the beef stock and wine, reduce the heat and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, taste and season.

Leave to cool slightly while you roll out the pastry. Cut it into two halves and if you´re feeling fancy you can cut out circles. Lay some minced meat filling down the centre of each piece (you´ll probably use less than half of what you have cooked if you used 500g of meat), fold the pastry over to make a parcel and brush with the beaten egg (I had to miss this step out as I had no eggs and I´m Cooking Under Fire you know!) Or have I mentioned that already?

Bake in a medium oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown or as near to golden brown as you can get your pastry without burning it because you didn´t have an egg in the house to brush on top even though you new butcher friend sells them. Phew, lunch (that isn´t a sandwich)…sorted!

Cooking Under Fire – Creamy Crab and Brandy Soup

This so very nearly wasn´t a recipe. I treated us to two Dressed Crabs which we had planned to eat with a crispy salad and some beautiful new potatoes dripping with butter.

In my flustered and tired state I left them in the fridge in the house we are renovating and we got home to face an entirely different supper. I rescued the crabs the next day, but as they weren´t as super fresh as on the day they had been dressed, I decided to turn them into a luxurious soup. This wasn´t really Cooking Under Fire either as I used my parents´ kitchen in their holiday home, but I did still have to rummage around to find the Brandy…so there was some small element of hardship involved in the process…

Serves 2 as a hearty main course or 4-6 as a starter

  • 2 dressed crabs (white and dark meat)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 2 tablespoons of brandy
  • About 150ml of single cream
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dried chili
  • Half an onion
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 2 or 3 pieces
  • Water

Remove the meat from the crab shells and reserve. Break up the shells a little with a rolling pin and put into a saucepan then cover with about 1 litre of water. Add the onion, ginger, bay leaf and dried chili. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 mins, drain and reserve the stock.

Add the crab meat and potato to the stock and simmer (uncovered) until the potatoes are tender and the stock has reduced a little. Stir in the cream and brandy, taste and season with salt if necessary and pepper (I used white pepper). Mash the mixture gently so that the soup thickens but there are still chunks of crab meat and potatoes. If you prefer a smoother, silky texture, blitz in the blender or with an immersion blender stick. Warm through gently before serving and remind yourself that sometimes being forgetful can be a good thing.

Well…things are sort of working….

We are already five working days into our refurbishment project and things are moving on quickly. I seem to have spent every day talking to builders and workmen, negotiating prices, booking in days for them to work and translating impossible sounding things from English to Spanish and vice versa. I am learning a lot of new words!

The dogs are behaving beautifully and napping wherever they can.

Little original features are emerging from behind layers of paint.

And yes, that carpet has gone!

Meals are still fairly scratch, no great cooking has been happening, but I hope you understand.

On the downside, the (dingle, dangle) dongle I have bought to connect to the internet allows me to pick up e-mails, go to my blogging home page, post and reply to comments. However, it only lets me go to one or two other blogs and blocks many of them telling me they have adult content. Now, I don´t imagine for one moment that you have all decided en masse to start posting saucy recipes or racy photos, and think I´ll just have to accept that for a while I won´t be able to read all your lovely blogs. I´m sorry, I do miss this, but I hope you´ll understand.

I´ll go and stand in the naughty corner for a while if it would help.

But then I couldn´t finish clearing the garden which is already looking so much better.