Pork Ribs with A Sauce of Pomegranate Molasses

Back in Andalucía, the pig is King, and all things porky  were very much back on the menu when we were there recently.

Ribs looked particularly good at the butcher’s and they sell half racks – a length of ribs but cut in half lengthwise, so they become short ribs.

Confession time – our favourite way to eat ribs is rubbed with some coarse sea salt and simply cooked on the barbecue. However, despite being sunny, there was a Big Wind Up the Mountain so a barbecue was out. Time to switch on the oven and cook them another way.

Ribs with Pomegranate Molasses (2)

Amongst the ingredients that came back with us from England was a bottle of Pomegranate Molasses, used a lot in Ottolenghi’s recipes and a big feature in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. This dish is both boiled then oven cooked, but if you’re in a hurry you could skip the first step and simply oven cook the ribs. Boiling them first does make them very tender and juicy and you also end up with a wonderful stock which you can use later for soup…the choice is yours.

For 2 people

  • About 800g ribs

For the first stage (optional)

  • The juice of an orange, 2 cloves of peeled garlic, 2 bay leaves, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper and enough water to cover the ribs in a saucepan

For the Sauce

  • 8 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato purée
  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
  • 8 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
  • 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • half a teaspoon of hot pimentón or chilli powder
  • 4 tablespoons of molasses (or honey)
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce

If you are going to boil the ribs first, put all the ingredients in a pot, bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour. Remove the ribs from the stock and when they are cool enough to handle (or you can prepare them ahead to this stage) move on to the next stage.

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and pour over the ribs. I put them into an ovenproof dish lined with plenty of foil. Make sure the ribs are well coated in the sauce, wrap them in the foil to form a tent and bake in a medium oven for about an hour and a half.

Serve with plenty of napkins to clean those sticky fingers and faces and enjoy!

Beef Massaman Curry

When I was in England last time I was able to stock up on some ingredients which are harder for me to find in Spain.  I took them back to make sure I was able to cook up a curry when the urge struck. It tends to strike quite often but sometimes I just can’t do anything about satisfying it if I don’t have the ingredients to hand.  This means that curry pastes are the best way for me to sort out the curry craving as the spices often linger unloved in the cupboard. Yes, I admit it.

Beef Curry (4)

The Caribbean Food store in Bexhill is run by a jolly character who sells a range of curry pastes (and I really should have taken note of the brand name) which contain no artificial nasties – perfect for someone who loves to cook but feels a little guilty that she is not blending her own spice mixes. I was not familiar with Massaman Curry – a Thai curry which gives a gentle heat, sweet, sour, spicy and is utterly delicious.

Beef Curry (1)

The recipe comes from the BBC Good Food site with just a few little tweaks, but I have given details here too. I omitted the peanuts because I didn’t have any, but I expect they add a delicious crunch to the finished dish.

Ingredients to serve 4

  • 85g unsalted peanuts
  • 400ml can coconut cream
  • 4 tbsp massaman curry paste
  • 600g stewing beef steak, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 450g waxy potatoes, cut into 2½ cm chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp palm or soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced, and chopped fresh coriander to serve

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6, then roast the peanuts on a baking tray for 5 mins until golden brown. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop. Reduce oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Heat 2 tbsp coconut cream in a large casserole dish with a lid. Add the curry paste and fry for 1 min, then stir in the beef and fry until well coated and sealed. Stir in the rest of the coconut with half a can of water, the potatoes, onion, lime leaves, cinnamon, tamarind, sugar, fish sauce and most of the peanuts. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 2 hours in the oven until the beef is tender.

Sprinkle with sliced chilli and the remaining peanuts, then serve straight from the dish with rice.

If you are a curry fan too, how about this one? Or this vegetarian curry? Or nip on over to Soup Guru’s great blog and check out this gorgeous Indian Minced Beef Curry….

Fennel Scented Cauliflower with Griddled Sea Bream

No sooner did we get here than it’s time to head back to England. I’ll be sad to leave our beloved mountains again but work beckons and excitingly we’ll also be renovating a property for my parents close by.  We’ll all be round the corner from each other like one big Italian/Spanish family! My dad will even have space to store his beloved Vespa and to continue the family tradition of making their wine for the year with grapes imported from Italy. We have a celebration ahead with both my mum and Big Man reaching special birthdays within days of each other. Friends from Spain will be flying over to England to join us, so I’ll be able to share that with you.

Don't worry - we'll all be travelling in more comfort than this!
Don’t worry – we’ll all be travelling in more comfort than this!

The packing up of the car starts today and we head off on Thursday morning to drive through Spain, right up the middle past Madrid then over the border at Irun and – all going well – resting for the night in Bordeaux. The next day we continue up through France and cross from Calais to Dover by ferry and then a couple of hours later we’ll be in Bexhill. Just over 2200km – loaded with paella burners and pans for pals, cheeses, wines, sausages and of course Luna and Alfi. We definitely don’t travel light!

We'll miss the view from the patio of one of our favourite local bars. And the dogs love it there too!
We’ll miss the view from the patio of one of our favourite local bars. And the dogs love it there too!

But today I have just a little time to look back on the last month in Spain and share another simple recipe which, for me, is full of one of the flavours of Andalucia- anis.

I’m one of those funny folk who love fennel and dill but can’t stand drinks like anis, pernod or raki. Use it in cooking though and it’s a whole other matter.

Anis is a popular drink here (sweet or dry) and is served with or without ice, or if you add a little slosh of it to coffee in the morning, it becomes a “Carajillo de Anis”. Most popular with all the old boys in the local bars to start their day! We always have a bottle of it at home but it’s one of those bottles that lurks around for ages getting a bit dusty.

After resuming my mountain walks with the pups I have found plenty of wild fennel to pick – here it’s mostly the feathery fronds that are enjoyed, but you can also use the young stems in the same way you would use fennel. This recipe uses whatever veggies you have to hand, it’s all about the delicate aniseed flavours. We enjoyed ours with a whole bream stuffed with wild fennel which we cooked on the cast iron griddle and drizzled with a few drops of anis once it was cooked.

Sea Bream with Cauliflower (4)

Ingredients (to serve 2 as a side dish)

  • Half a cooked cauliflower chopped into small pieces
  • A leek, cleaned and cut into thin slices
  • A mix of red and green pepper, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • Half an onion finely chopped
  • About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fennel and fronds
  • A tablespoon of anis flavoured liqueur
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a deep frying pan or wok and add the onions and peppers.  Fry gently until they are very soft (this will take about 20 mins) then add the leeks, garlic, fennel and cauliflower. Continue to cook until the leeks have softened, season and add the liqueur. Cook for a further minute and serve.

This would also be delicious served as a vegetarian main course on it’s own or stirred through rice or pasta.

Potato Topped Pizza and a Walk Up the Mountain

If, like me, you don’t fear the carbs (although realy I should), this is a tasty and economical pizza to feed a crowd. And then you take the crowd out for a walk to burn off the carbs!

Potato & Spring Onion Pizza (1)

Ingredients

  • One Quanity of Pizza Dough
  • About 2 cups of chopped tomatoes or your favourite pasta sauce
  • 1 large potato, boiled in its skin then peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 ball of mozzarella, chopped into bite sized chunks
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • Half a cup of grated cheese (I used a mix of parmesan and emmental)
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tin anchovies in olive oil (optional) omit for a vegetarian version

Turn the oven onto the highest setting while you prepare the pizza.  Put the tin or tray you will be using into the oven to heat up

Roll out your dough to fit the tin and place it on some greaseproof or baking paper. Cover with the tomato sauce. Mix the potato, cheeses, spring onion and garlic together in a bowl and spread this mixture over the pizza. Lay the anchovies over the top and pour over any oil from the tin.

Slide the pizza onto the hot tray (with or without the baking paper) and bake for about 12-15 minutes until the cheese starts to brown and the pizza is crispy.

Hope you enjoy the walk, click on the photos to see them in more detail.

Know Your Onions – Onions Braised in Wine and Balsamic Vinegar

What a funny expression that is. I struggled to find a decent explanation for it, although we use the expression to mean “knowing a lot about a subject”. If anyone can enlighten me, I’d love to know more!

Over on the beautiful prairies of the Midwest of America, our very dear friend Celia goes along each year to a big swapping fiesta. She usually comes home with some exotic and adorable creature like a white peacock or beautiful Boo the dog. Here, swapping is rife but generally restricted to gluts of fruit and vegetables and also poultry and eggs. As we’re not around so much right now, we can’t offer much but our dear friends and neighbours are busy keeping us supplied with delicious goodies.

Yesterday Big Man said he was popping out to see a man about some onions, as you do, and this is what he came home with.

Cebollas (3)

A lot of onions. And we’re due to be heading back to England in about a week, so there’s no way we can pack them into the car…we’d be asphyxiated by onion fumes. Time to get creative with onion recipes. Well, there’s Up the Mountain Onion Soup, of course. And maybe a caramelised onion tart. How about something different? Memories of my godmother, who came from the north of Italy, near Venice, and her method of cooking tiny onions in balsamic vinegar inspired me. I’m not sure if it’s exactly her recipe, but the taste was very similar and definitely worth buying onions to make specially.

Ingredients

  • Onions
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • White or red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few stems of a hardy herb like oregano (or you could use thyme or rosemary)

Chop the tops and bottoms off the onions so that they will sit flat in a deep frying pan or saucepan. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle over the balsamic vinegar (I used about 2 tablespoons for approximately a dozen onions), the same quantity of olive oil and pour over a glass of wine. I used Vino del Terreno (this translates as Wine of the Earth or Terrain) which is a wine many of our neighbours produce, a little rough and slightly sweet but oh so good with salty food. Scatter over the herbs and cover tightly with a lid or foil.

Cebollas (7)

Bring the pot to boiling point and then reduce to the lowest heat possible and cook gently, turning the onions once or twice, for about an hour. Just before serving, remove the lid and turn up the heat to reduce the delicious cooking liquid slightly. We ate these onions hot as a side dish but they would be delicious served at room temperature as a tapas or starter.

And just in case you don’t like wine but do like dogs (clearly not braised in wine and balsamic vinegar) here is a completely gratuitous shot of my pups Luna and Alfi hoping I don’t notice they are hogging the sofa.

No Dogs On The Sofa Please
No Dogs On The Sofa Please

 

Calamares Rellenos – Stuffed Squid

When you´re away from home, although now we seem to have two homes (and how very lucky and blessed we are to be in this position) there are things that you miss. Of course, the most obvious is loved ones, but with technology, keeping in touch, even face to face phone calls and cheap flights make the distance shorter.

Other things like a special pillow, or a favourite garment which was left behind sometimes make you feel nostalgic. For me though it’s all about the kitchens. If I could combine the contents of both kitchens and magically transport them with me backwards and forwards….but well, that’s just silly. Although I can look up favourite and remembered recipes on the internet, it’s not quite the same as flicking through a well loved cookery book, often late at night propped up in bed with that comfy old pillow.

Calamares Rellenos (1)

Getting back to Spain allowed me to become reacquainted with some old ‘friends’. Most recently it has been Moro, the Cookbook by the husband and wife team, Sam and Sam Clark. Must get confusing in their house when someone rings up.

The first recipe for the moment was inspired by one of theirs for stuffed squid – of course, I made a few changes based on what I had available, here’s my version. This is a fabulous dish for entertaining (although easy to prepare for an everyday meal) as you can prepare it ahead up until the final griddling of the squid, which only takes about 5 minutes.

Calamares Rellenos (6)

To serve four as a main course

  • 8 medium squid (no larger than about 30cm) I used to enormous ones to serve 2. These should be cleaned and the tentacles and wings separated from the body
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I crushed)
  • ½ red pepper finely diced (not in the original recipe)
  • 2 fresh bay leaves (or use dried)
  • 200ml fino sherry (or a dry white wine)
  • 1 large buch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon of hot pimentón (not in original recipe)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Finely chop the squid wings and tentacles (I kept the tentacles whole and cooked them on the side).

Gently fry the onions and peppers (if using) for about 15 minutes until soft and the onion is starting to turn brown. Add the bay, garlic and chopped squid and cook for about 3 minutes then add the seasoning, half the parsley and the fino. Cook for a further couple of minutes until the wine has almost evaporated then remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the chopped egg and most of the rest of the parsley, check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Use this mixture to stuff the squid, securing with a cocktail stick to keep the filling in. When you are ready to eat, heat a griddle pan until it is smoking hot and cook the squid for about 5 minutes, turning to ensure that it is charred all round.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a piece of lemon and the rest of the parsley sprinkled over.

Pasta with Smoked Pork Belly and Black Olives and Breakfast in Biarritz

Driving through France on our little road trip we bought a few foodie souvenirs to remind us of Bordeaux. Some delicious wines, a piece of deliciously pungent cheese which we ate as part of a picnic and some wonderful cured pork belly. It was sold in a market from a butcher’s stall and was in the section with the salamis and cured meats. My French is a little rusty now but I think the lady who ran the stall was telling me that they cured it themselves and sold two versions – one smoked and one salted and peppered. Of course, we bought both!

I was too busy chatting to the butcher to take a snap, so here's one of the fish stall!
I was too busy chatting to the butcher to take a snap, so here’s one of the fish stall!

After leaving Bordeaux we stopped off for breakfast in Biarritz – it’s somewhere I had often hoped to visit and imagined the glamour of bygone days. It really was a quick pit stop but enough time to enjoy the beautiful coastal views and breakfast!

Le Petit Dejeuner
Le Petit Dejeuner

Back to the Pork Belly….It’s delicious cut into tiny pieces and enjoyed as a nibble with a glass of ice cold rosé wine. It’s equally wonderful when heated, in the same way you would use lardons. I made a quick, fresh tasting  pasta sauce to bring out the smokey flavour of this wonderful cut of meat and if you ever come across it…do buy some!

Pasta with Smoked Pork Belly (2)

Pasta Sauce to serve 2 people

  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 ripe tomatoes cut into small pieces (save the juices too)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of tomato purée
  • About half a cup of chopped smoked pork belly (or use bacon or lardons)
  • Half a cup of chopped black olives
  • A good splash of white wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Put the water for your pasta on to boil and then start your sauce. Gently fry the garlic for a minute or two, until it starts to soften then add the tomatoes with their juices and cook for a couple of minutes until they start to break down. By now it’s probably time to put your pasta into the water, so go ahead, the rest of the sauce doesn’t take long.

Add the rest of the ingredients  and continue to simmer while the pasta cooks. Check and adjust the seasoning, drain the pasta and add the pasta to the sauce. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your speedy and delicious meal.