Save water…bath with a friend

Or, you could just install a very large shower. At least, that’s our plan.

Remember this quaint vile bathroom?

Scary, scary, scary...

This how it looks now.

17 Feb 2013 (3)

We’ve cut a hole in the wall up high as it’s an internal room with no natural light, so we’re putting in a long window panel which will give us light from the room next door which leads onto the garden. Clever eh?

It’s all getting very messy, but exciting. More to come soon…

Faggots and Onion Gravy

Faggots are an old fashioned English dish made from offcuts of meat (usually pork) and offal. I remember as a child my grandmother waxing lyrical about them and me turning my nose up in disgust. Of course, now I’m almost grown up, my tastes have changed and having lived in Spain for 7 years, I am used to enjoying every part of the pig, including the oink.

A local butcher in Bexhill on Sea sells home made (or butcher shop made) Faggots for the princely sum of 50p each. That’s less than a euro or a US dollar and I mistakenly bought 6 for Big Man and I to try. Bad plan. Two was plenty for him and I managed one and a half (although I did serve the leftovers cut up cold the next day meatloaf style and the dogs feasted too)!

Faggots & Onion Gravy (5)

This is not a recipe for making them. As I started typing this I thought, I’ll pop over to Mad Dog’s blog, he’ll have something on there about faggots. Of course he did. My method for preparing them to serve was very similar, but different. If you know what I mean.

I cooked my faggots in the oven in a deep oven dish covered tightly with foil for about 40 minutes on a medium heat. I had drizzled them with a little olive oil and a splash of water.

While they were cooking I fried off lots of thinly sliced onions until tender and starting to brown. Then I added the cooking juices from the faggots, some tomato purée and a splash of red wine and seasoning. Then I thickened with a heaped teaspoon of butter mixed with a heaped teaspoon of flour (I’m sure there’s a proper name for this, please enlighten me) which I dropped into the gravy and allowed to cook gently whilst it thickened. Next time (and there will most definitely be a next time) I’ll brown the faggots at the end of cooking while I’m finshing off the gravy so that they don’t look so in need of a week in the sun.

Pre cooking
Pre cooking

We served it with plenty of creamy mashed potato and a good glass (or three) of wine. An economy meal fit for a king. What more can you want on a cold winter’s night?

One Dish, Two Ways. Trout and Prawns Go Asian and Mediterranean.

I have to confess, I’m not a fan of cooking different meals to accommodate different tastes. Maybe I’d have been a horrible mum if I’d had children. I can imagine them all demanding their favourite meals and me refusing point blank and screaming something along the lines of “this is not an a la carte restaurant you know”. But sometimes, just sometimes, I go all contrary and make something different for me and Big Man. As long as it doesn’t involve anything too stressful in terms of extra work.

Asian Style...
Asian Style…

We were in the mood for fish and I had bought some gorgeous trout steaks and langoustines from the fishmonger. Having made a recent trip to a wonderful Chinese Supermarket I had been dreaming all day of oriental flavours. Big Man was coming down with a cold and feeling in need of a taste of home. No problem – this was an easy fix and we would both be happy.

Asian Style Dish

  • 1 trout steak and 2 large langoustines marinated for 30 minutes in a little freshly grated ginger, a large clove of crushed garlic, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a teaspoon of sesame oil and a splash of fish sauce

Mediterranean Style Dish

  • 1 trout steak and 2 large tiger prawns/langoustines marinated for 30 minutes in the grated zest of half a lemon, the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of olive oil

Both dishes

  • Steamed pak choi and sautéed sliced mushrooms

Griddle or grill the trout and langoustines on a high heat until the trout is almost cooked through (I like it a little pink in the middle but cook for longer if you like) and the langoustines turn from black to pink.

Mediterranean Style...
Mediterranean Style…

To serve the Asian Style Dish

Drizzle a little chili oil over the fish and prawns and some oyster sauce over the vegetables and top with finely shredded spring onion.

To serve the Mediterranean Style Dish

Drizzle a little olive oil and lemon juice over the fish, prawns and vegetables.

Easy, healthy, fairly quick to prepare and cook, and everyone is happy!

Broad Beans with Griddled Pork Belly

Reading a beautiful recipe over at Cooking in Sens which involved broad beans stimulated a craving for those little green beauties. Back home in Andalucía right now I would normally just pop out into our veggie garden and pick me a basket full.  I haven’t seen any here in England yet but they do have excellent frozen broad bean pods.

Broad beans with pork belly (3)

I decided to make a little dish with echoes of home as a pretty substantial tapas which we enjoyed with some lovely crusty bread from my dad’s Italian baker pal, wine from a recent jaunt over the channel to France, juice from some of our lemons that Big Man bought back recently and locally reared pork. You can’t say we don’t embrace all that is available to us!

Ingredients as a main course for one or starters for two

  • 1 cup of broad beans cooked until tender and drained
  • 2 thin slices of pork belly cooked on the griddle until browned and cut into small pieces (or use bacon or lardons, or mushrooms for a vegetarian version)
  • 1 avocado cut into small chunks
  • Olive oil
  • The grated rind of one lemon and the juice of half
  • Sweet pimentón
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Chopped parsley to finish (I didn’t have any but I think it would be perfect)

Mix together the still warm beans, pork and avocado. Add the lemon rind, about 2 tablespoons of olive oil (more if necessary) and the lemon juice. Season with the pimentón, salt and pepper and mix again. That’s it. Tricky wasn’t it?!

Something Old, Something New – Melokhia

Don’t you just love it when you discover a new ingredient, something you’ve never come across before that just leaps out at out and says…buy me, try me, taste me! Or is it just me?  No, I didn’t think so.

Melokhia Soup (1)

The other day I popped in to see my new chum at the Caribbean shop and he had bunches of something green and leafy. It looked similar to bunches of basil which has sprouted a bit too high. It was, he informed me, Melokhia (there are many variations on the spelling) and was used a lot in Arab cooking. If you don’t like the texture of okra, he said, don’t buy it. Well, I do like okra, so I did buy it, and to be honest, I didn’t find anything slimey or slippery about it at all, it adds texture to a simple soup.

I got straight onto the phone to my oracle of Arab recipes, my mum, and she knew immediately what I was talking about and told me that she had bought it dried and made a recipe from Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. I jotted down the details to make it, and then promptly ordered the book together with another of hers Arabesque which I am now devouring slowly.

Ms Roden tells us “Melokhia is one of Egypt’s National dishes, an ancient peasant soup”. As I like to embrace my inner ancient peasant, I knew this was for me. Fear not if you can’t get hold of it, use spinach or some delicate green leafed vegetable.  I was thinking of something old, something new as this is essentially a chicken or vegetable soup recipe with the added new ingredient.  Sorry the photos don’t look that exciting, it’s not a looker, but it really wins points on flavour.

Ingredients (these are my scaled down version, the recipe calls for double)

  • 1.25 litres of chicken (or meat stock, but I think vegetable would be good too) reserve the meat if using
  • 500g of melokhia (leaves only), washed and chopped (or 60g of dried melokhia crushed and saked in hot water until doubled in size)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon of ground coriander
  • Cayenne pepper (I used pimenton)

Bring the stock to the boil and add the fresh or reconstituted melokhia and boil for 10 (fresh) or 30 (dried) minutes. Prepare a garlic sauce  by frying crushed garlic and a little salt in a small amount of oil. When the garlic is golden add the coriander and cayenne, mix to a paste and fry for a few moments longer.

Add the paste to the soup and simmer for a few minutes more.

This can be served as is or with rice. I added in the vegetables and chicken from my stock. The flavour is delicate from the Melokhia, and it was exciting to be discovering a new ingredient and rediscovering the wonderful recipes of Claudia Roden.

Edwardian Style Standard Lamp

Isn’t it always the same…when you’re looking to buy something you can never find it in quite the right style, shape colour? And then, when you least expect it, something perfect throws itself at your feet?!

Ugly sofa too - don't worry, it's not permament!
Ugly sofa too – don’t worry, it’s not permament!

One of the exciting things about our new project here in Bexhill is that we get to furnish it too! When we set up our home in Spain it was relatively easy as we both already had furniture and we merged, purged and started making new memories. Here we had nothing. Starting from scratch is fun. Not starting anew though as we are both agreed that we like buying second hand, preloved, vintage, antique and car boot bargains. Clearly car boot bargains cost less than antiques, but they give us just as much pleasure. Half the fun is restoring, cleaning, seeing the potential.

Grubby Feet
Grubby Feet

The property is part of what would have been an Edwardian Family “Villa”. This means it was built around 1903, from what we can tell, and whilst we don’t intend to live in the past completely….we need a decent oven, tv and internet for goodness sake…some older touches will also work well.

Dashing around the other day I popped into a local shop which deals with House Clearances. Some of the stuff they have is junk, some is clearly high quality and very much loved (and priced) antique furniture. And some of it falls between the two. I spotted a wrought iron standard lamp with a very ugly pink lampshade. It spoke to me. Really, it did. I could hear a most refined Edwardian Lady reclining in the bay window of her drawing room on a chaise longue saying “Pray, take this lamp stand home. Clean it, love it and it will add some much needed elegance to your home. Oh, and your hair could do with a brush…standards are slipping”.

Clean Feet!
Clean Feet!

So we haggled a little and the bemused owner helped me put it into the car with the back window down so that it would fit and off to House Number 2 I drove where Big Man was impatiently waiting for me to arrive with a bag of masonry nails.

Looking much better now
Looking much better now

It was dingy brown and I had planned to clean it and paint it black and then buy a new lampshade. So I cleaned it and underneath all the grease and grime it was a beautiful cream colour. Then I popped out to the supermarket and was waylaid in another House Clearance shop (I know now where all the good ones are) and found a perfect sized lampshade in a gold colour and once more turned up at House Number 2 with nothing for dinner but an unexpected  bargain that I wore on my head for extra effect.

Dressed to impress
Dressed to impress

Then I rummaged in a bag of goodies given to me my Best Friend’s sister who is downsizing and used to make costumes for shows, curtains, clothes and found some beautiful lace and a strip of beading. Two evenings later it was done and I heard my Edwardian Lady murmur in approval “Beautiful my dear, very elegant indeed. But your hair could still do with a good brush”.

Spiced Carrot Soup

Soup is generally enjoyed by most people. But there are a few funny folk out there, and I can say this, as the ones I’m going to talk about I love dearly. I have one friend who will only eat blended soup. She says if it’s chunky she doesn’t know whether to eat it or drink it. Big Man, on the other hand, will tolerate blended soup, but prefers chunks in a hearty soup. Maybe it’s a Boy Thing. I, being contrary to everyone, love soup in all forms and think it should be served for breakfast along with all things savoury. Am still working on curry flavoured yogurt (seriously!) but in the meantime, let’s get back to soup.

Spiced Carrot Soup (2)

Big Man had to head back to Spain for a few days, so in addition to catching up on a pile of paperwork, I indulged in curries (not the curry flavoured yogurt though) and blended soups.  A favourite of many people, with everyone giving it their own little twist, here’s my carrot soup recipe.

To serve 2 as a main course

  • 1 litre of water or vegetable stock
  • 8-10 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • A bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped (including the stalks)
  • ½ teaspoon of chili powder
  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 chopped onion

Fry the cumin seeds and coriander powder for a minute in a little olive oil. Now put all the ingredients including the spices and their scented oil (reserving some of the fresh coriander for serving) into a large saucepan, bring to the boil then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes until the  carrots are cooked.  Check and season to taste if necessary then purée with an immersion stick blender or in your regular blender.  Also good with a dollop of creamy natural yogurt.  Serve piping hot, wearing comfy slippers with two pups at your feet (optional).

And do check out another version of this soup I make with split peas. Yum!

It’s is carrot soup time of year I think, as here too are some beautiful recipes posted recently by fellow bloggers Frugal Feeding and Natalie at Cook Eat Live Vegetarian…yum!

And now for some gratuitous house renovation shots (House No 2)

Before

DSC_0009

After (Luna thinks the carpet was put there expressly for her as a back scratcher)

DSC_0081