Popping Home Pimentón Pork Pot

Yes, I mentioned the “H” word. Home! Big Man and I arrived back Up our beloved Mountain in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Only for a week mind you. This weekend is our village fiesta, and it was time to touch base with family and friends and to pick up some warmer clothes for the English autumn weather.

Our last night in very rainy Bexhill was spent pulling staples out of floorboards, hammering in nails and preparing the floor downstairs in House Number One to be sanded and varnished in our absence. Well, it was easier than trying to varnish around two excited pups (who are staying with my parents this week and creating havoc in their home). We had also spent time at House Number Two knocking down an outside loo, dealing with most of the kitchen ceiling falling in and leaving things ready for the plasterer to do his stuff while we are in Spain. Hectic times.

Before the ceiling fell in…

To get us in the mood for being home again I cooked a delicious one pot (what else) pork dish, reminiscent of Spain with the flavours of smoky pimentón, olives and peppers. I made sure to make double so that when we get back, tired and hungry (as we inevitably are after a day of travelling) we´ll have dinner sorted.

Ingredients (to serve 4)

  • 500g of cubed pork shoulder
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of smoked pimentón/paprika
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Approx 150g olives (I used anchovy stuffed olives) sliced or halved
  • 1 ½ cups of your favourite or home made tomato sauce (yes, I made it!)
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
  • A glass of red wine (optional, but of course I added!)
  • Water
  • Olive oil for shallow frying
  • Salt and pepper

Start by frying the pork until browned and remove from the pan. Then add the onions, garlic and pepper and cook gently until softened. Add the pork back into the pan and sprinkle over the pimentón. Now stir in the olives, the tomato sauce, the purée and the wine and season lightly. Bring to a simmer, cover (or half cover) with a lid and cook gently for about 45 minutes while you continue to pull staples out of floorboards (the stapling bit is optional).

If it starts to dry out too much, add a little water, depending on how saucy you like your dish.

When the sauce is rich and thick, and the pork tender and delicious, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve with rice or boiled potatoes or simply crusty bread. Pour yourself a glass of wine from that bottle you opened, pull the staple out that has embedded itself in your knee and relax.

And what did we do with our first day back? Take it easy? Heck no!

We dealt with the last tomatoes in our Huerto.

We met up with a cousin of Big Man´s to pick plums.

Then we went to a wine tasting last night.

Today we planned to attack our very overgrown garden and enjoy some sunshine, but it´s not to be. The weather here is as cold and rainy as Bexhill on Sea.

Time to dig out the winter woolies I think.

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Prawn and Mushroom Quiche

Now, I know quiche isn´t remotely Spanish, but just think of it as a tortilla in a pastry case!  I have introduced Big Man to quiche over the last few years and it has become a big favourite.

It´s also an easy dish for me to prepare right now with just a few pots and pans at my disposal and (yes, I confess) I used ready made pastry this time.

Remember Clara´s Pastry for my mince pies? Well, here it is again, it´s a very versatile and tasty pastry. And when I´m not being so lazy or covered in dust, I´ll make my own again!

Ingredients for the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 50g each of cold butter and lard
  • One egg, beaten
  • Milk

Rub the fat into the flour and salt until it resembles fine breadcrumbs or pulse in a food processor.  Using a broad knife, work the egg into the flour.  Start to gently bring the pastry together with your hands.  You will probably need to add a very little milk but add drops rather than slugs.  Do not knead or overwork the pastry.

Now wrap in plastic and leave to rest in the fridge until you are ready to use it, but bring it up to room temperature first.

Roll it out on a well floured surface and place into your tin, prick the base with a fork and then fill with baking beans or pulses placed on top of greaseproof paper. Trim off any excess and bake at 180ºC for 15 minutes, or until it just starts to brown.

For the filling

  • 5 eggs and 100 ml of single cream beaten together
  • A cup of peeled cooked prawns
  • A cup of thinly sliced mushrooms (lightly sautéed first)
  • Seasoning

Mix all the ingredients together, if your tin is particularly large, add a drop more cream or milk.  Pour into the pastry base and bake for about 25 minutes at 180ºC or until the centre is set.

Remove from oven and eat hot or cold.

Sometimes Life Isn´t Too Short to Stuff a Mushroom

Now that I have some semblance of normality cooking back into my cooking life, it´s fun to start enjoying foods that are not so readily available to us in Spain. Stilton cheese (that beautiful, pungent English blue cheese) for one. And bizarrely flat mushrooms – we don´t get much mushroom choice available locally Up the Mountain unless we go foraging.

To go with an amazing T-Bone steak for Big Man (what else) and a fillet steak for me, I made some delicious mushrooms stuffed with spring onion, stilton and dolcelatte. Another simple dish, but oh so good with the beautiful local beef available here in East Sussex.

Ingredients (to stuff 2-4 flat mushrooms, depending on the size of your mushrooms)

  • About half a cup of coarse, fresh breadcrumbs (I made mine from day old ciabatta)
  • The finely chopped stems of the mushrooms
  • About 75g of cheese (I used a mixture of stilton and dolcelatte)
  • 2 medium spring onions finely sliced
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Start by drizzling a little olive oil into each mushroom. Mix all the other ingredients together, season to taste and divide it between the mushrooms. Press the filling down a little and then drizzle a little more oil over the top.

Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and the stuffing starts to crisp. Delicious as a side dish or a starter.

And for anyone feeling brave..take a look at the old kitchen/bathroom in house number two. Eek!

Vegetable Fajitas with Soft Goat´s Cheese

Easy, nourishing dishes that are quick to prepare are still very much the order of the day here. To make a change from sandwiches, I decided to make fajitas this week. I did have to buy my tortillas, but for a fabulous recipe for home made ones (I can vouch for it, I made them in Spain) take a look at Tandy´s recipe.

Quantities are flexible, and use your favourite veggies or whatever you have to hand. We ate 2 tortillas each for lunch.

Ingredients

  • Finely chopped savoy cabbage
  • Finely shredded carrots, red peppers, onion
  • Finely Sliced Mushrooms
  • A handful of fresh beansprouts
  • Olive oil for stir frying
  • 1 teaspoon of tamarind sauce per person (pinched from my mum´s store cupboard – thanks Mamma!)
  • Pinch of dried chili flakes (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cumin per person
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 small log of soft goat´s cheese
  • Creamy Natural Yogurt
  • Tortillas for wrapping

Simply stir fry all the vegetables until they start to soften. Add the cumin, chili (if using) and tamarind and cover the pan. Continue to cook until the vegetables are cooked to your liking. Remove the lid if you prefer no juice.

Spoon the vegetables over warmed tortillas which you can spread with yogurt, place a few slices of creamy goat´s cheese on top, roll up and enjoy!

And finally, a totally gratuitous dog shot…at least someone can enjoy the rare bursts of sunshine this week…

Dogs among the rubble

Pan Fried Fillets of Sea Bream with Cauliflower and Samphire

Living temporarily on the south coast of England gives us access to super fresh fish, and to varieties which are not always available to us in Spain. The local fishmonger had beautiful Sea Bream the other day, we usually eat Sea Bass. The flavour is very similar but the bream is a softer, creamier fish.

Unlike Fish Man, who delivers fish to us out of the back of his refrigerated van, this is sold in a shop with all the facilities to clean and prepare the fish for its customers, so I took advantage of this and head the two bream I bought scaled, gutted, de boned and butterflied. What luxury! Also in stock was Samphire, which I had only ever eaten before in a restaurant, so I was curious to try it at home.

I came across a few recipes and discovered that it pretty much only needs warming through and can be replaced by fine asparagus (which would need to be blanched first). The taste was also reminiscent of wild asparagus with the salty tang of the sea. Very nice indeed.

Ingredients (for 2-4 depending on the size of your fish)

  • 2 cleaned sea bream (or any other white fish)
  • About half a small cauliflower, cooked to your liking and then cut into small florets
  • About half a cup of samphire (I removed the “leaves” from the tougher middle stalk) or use a small bunch of fine asparagus cut into small pieces and blanched for a few minutes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Lemon
  • Olive oil and butter for shallow frying (I used a mixture of the two)

Start by heating the oil (but don´t let it smoke), sprinkle a little salt over your fish and fry the flesh side of the fillets first. When they are nicely browned (a couple of minutes), turn them over to cook the other side. Remove to a warmed plate when ready and turn the heat up high. Quickly sauté the cauliflower for a minute or two until the edges start to turn brown, add the samphire and stir fry for another minute.

Serve the vegetables with the fish and plenty of lemon juice squeezed over. A fresh, light taste of the sea made quickly and simply.

Internet Update – I have my modem and have been promised my line will be connected before midnight. Fingers still crossed that tomorrow I´ll be surfing like before!

One Pot Beef Burger with Caramelised Red Onions and Coriander …and “Fries”

Cooking “Under Fire”, or in difficult conditions brings a special set of challenges. You don´t have your usual array of pots and pan available to you. You also don´t have your usual stock cupboard with its range of flavours and spices at your fingertips. But you do have a good appetite at the end of a busy day, and you have tasty ingredients available to you which are not so easy to get hold of back home in Spain. So…you adapt. You work around the “problems” and enjoy the opportunity of a challenge.

I bought a large, deep frying pan with me which can be used for deep or shallow frying, braising and boiling and searing meat at a high heat. Here in the UK there are beautiful little waxy potatoes and superb beef from my new best friend the local butcher. I have learnt to cook more than I need when I get the chance, then to use leftovers the next day in another dish to save time.

Having made a delicious Ensalada Cateta (Orange and Potato Salad) for a taste of home, I made sure to cook double the amount of potatoes. Of course, I didn´t weigh them so I can´t give you exact amounts, but you´ll know how many you can eat!

Ingredients

For the burgers

  • 300g ground beef approx
  • One large red onion finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar or honey
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • A little olive oil for frying
  • One tablespoon of very finely chopped fresh coriander
  • Salt and Pepper

For the “Fries”

  • Potatoes cooked in their skins (new, or small if possible) and peeled (or not) and quartered lengthways
  • About a dozen mushrooms (I used brown) thickly sliced
  • Half a white onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of sliced garlic
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Oil for shallow frying
  • One tablespoon of very finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

To make the burgers, fry the red onion very slowly until tender then add the sugar and garlic and continue cooking very slowly until the onions start to caramelise. Season lightly with salt and pepper and allow to cool. Add the onion mixture to the minced/ground beef, then the coriander, and salt and pepper to taste. Form into two large of four small burgers/patties and chill until required (but do bring them up to room temperature before cooking).

Add a little oil to a large non stick pan and add the potato pieces. At a high temperature cook the potatoes until browned (you could also use raw potatoes, but it will take a little longer). Turn the heat down and add the onions, garlic and mushrooms and cook gently until the onions start to soften and release their liquid. Now add the burgers, continuing to cook slowly to ensure they are cooked through. Turn over to cook on both sides. Just before you are ready to serve, turn the heat up and brown the burgers on both sides and to cook off any liquid in the pan. Add the chopped parsley and serve.

Not quite burger and fries as most of us know, but very delicious and a great one pot dish.

PS. Think of me tomorrow and keep everything crossed – fingers, toes and eyes. We´re hopefully having our internet connection installed and I´ll be able to start reading and commenting again – yay!

Making progress…Making Food

It´s been a while, I´ve missed you all. Lots of news to update you with though.

Work has been going well, the kitchen has now moved on from this…

To this…

Just the final touches to the units (handles, skirting boards), then the wall units to follow. There´s still wall tiling to go but … pah…easy peasy compared to some of the things we´ve been doing.

Of course, when you have a hob and an oven (as of yesterday) you can COOK!! Oh what joy to have a relatively dust free area to prepare meals that are not sandwiches filled with cement or fried eggs lightly dusted with sawdust.

Supper was a simple meal of grilled lamb chops sprinkled with Malvern sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, with rice mixed with garlic mushrooms. It was nothing complicated but with a good glass of wine it tasted like the food of the gods.

Lunch today was a sharing platter (we have a lot of those as it means less washing up, very important when you´ve had to wash up with cold water in a bucket!). Good old tortilla, a leftover corn cob and some salami from home with a little salad made with sweet juicy local tomatoes.

Hopefully soon I´ll be able to get a little more adventurous in the kitchen, and we´re not talking about power tools here.  So…a little more news which may leave some of you wondering if we both need to get our heads examined. Things have gone so well, and we have learned so much…we´re going to do it all over again when we´ve finished this house. Yes, you heard right. Just around the corner from this house was another one crying out for some love and attention. It has a very similar scary carpet but we´ve learnt not to fear the shag pile.

It´s been more recently modernized…we´re talking some time during the late 1970s as opposed to the early 1960s in the current house, so a little less work. But not much.

No…your eyes do not deceive you…that´s a downstairs bathroom coming off the “oh so modern” kitchen.

We´re getting the internet installed though, so cross your fingers, toes and eyes for us and hopefully in about a week I´ll be chatting away to you all in my usual fashion and hopefully doing a bit more talking about cooking and a little less about house renovating. But I´m not making any rash promises!