Morrete de Setas – Mushrooms with Potatoes

If like me, you are the sort of person who is not put off by strange translations into your native tongue of a dish you encounter on your travels, this one is for you. Coming across this dish in a small local restaurant near our mountains in Southern Spain, you’d probably read something like “Mushrooms to the wild, cooking with soft potatoes of the saffron dressing up in vinegar”. Or some such bizarre description.

It doesn’t even look that pretty, as the end dish is indeed “with soft potatoes” and has rather a look of mush about it. What you would be served with, however, is a dish with simple ingredients combined in a way you’ve probably never tasted before, and a flavour that makes you say “ooh, that’s so good…I really didn’t expect that”!

Morrete de Setas 004

Around our neck of the woods (or Up Our Mountain), the most commonly eaten mushrooms are Oyster mushrooms. We have grown them ourselves in the past and Big Man would often come home with a crate of them for me to turn into dishes like Mixed Mushrooms with Cinnamon and Lemon or Braised Mushrooms. This dish is made across Andalucía but is probably known by other names outside of the radius of our local villages. Here’s our local version, the simplicity of the ingredients hides a wonderful combination of flavours. It is vegetarian/vegan and can be served alone as a tapa or starter, or alongside other dishes as part of a meal. A poached or fried egg is a wonderful accompaniment.

Ingredients (to serve 6-8 as a tapa, 4 as a starter or 2 as a hearty main course)

  • 1 kg peeled and cubed potatoes (cut into small cubes)
  • About 600g of thickly sliced mushrooms (I used a mix of Shitake, Chestnut and Forestiere Mushrooms)
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 1 level teaspoon of sweet pimentón
  • ½ level teaspoon of hot pimentón
  • A pinch of saffron or turmeric (in Spain though you find they usually use food colouring)
  • About 60g of stale bread
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • About 240ml water
  • About 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

You will need 2 frying pans (or you will need to cook the potatoes and mushrooms separately. In one pan with about ½ cm of oil to cover the bottom, slowly cook the potatoes until they are soft and just starting to brown at the edges. Mix occasionally as they cook. You don’t want them to be crispy like chips.

In another pan, add a little oil, the mushrooms and some salt and cover with a lid. Slowly braise the mushrooms until soft and releasing their juices. The potatoes and mushrooms both take about 20 minutes to cook.

Meanwhile, put the bread, water, garlic, spices and 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a blender jug and blend (I use a hand blender) until you get a mix which resembles slightly runny porridge.

Drain the potatoes from the oil and add to the mushrooms and pour in the bread/water mix. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until it all thickens up (you may need to add a splash more water). Just before serving, taste and season and add a further tablespoon of white wine vinegar. Think of the resulting taste in the same way that you would use lemon juice to “lift” a dish.

Serve with plenty of crusty bread and if you’re feeling a bit cheffy, some chopped parsley on top makes it look pretty. But don’t tell the local village ladies I said that as they’d be horrified at any such nonsense.

Pasta with Kale (in the absence of Cavolo Nero)

January is a dark, gloomy month for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. For many of us it is a month of tightening the financial belt and loosening the trouser belt (whilst making plans to get fit) after the excesses of Christmas.

This is a dish which ticks all those resolution boxes – healthy, economical and it looks like Spring in a bowl, which is no bad thing. The garlic will ward away germs (or so my old Italian aunties always told me), it’s quick to prepare and you’ll feel comfortably full but without the feelings of guilt after eating this. Sounds good to me!

Even looking at it fills you with vitamins!
Even looking at it fills you with vitamins!

This dish was food for the poor folk…simple ingredients (although if you can afford to use your best olive oil, I’d highly recommend it) and no fuss to make.

Quantities are easily halved or doubled, I used regular kale as I didn’t have cavolo nero (also known as black leaf kale), and it was delicious. The colour was a more vibrant green than the almost black-green you get with cavolo nero.

Ingredients (to serve 2 people very generously)

  • 200g of kale leaves
  • Approx 100ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Maldon (or coarse) sea salt and black pepper
  • Grated parmesan to serve (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the kale and 2 of the garlic cloves for about 5 minutes until soft. It needs to be slightly more than wilted, but not soggy. Drain and put into a food processor.

As you start processing the kale, add slugs of olive oil to the mix until you have a slightly sloppy paste – rather like pesto.

Pasta with Cavolo Nero (1)

Crush the remaining clove of garlic with a teaspoon of rough salt and add 2 teaspoons of olive oil then stir this into the kale mixture. Taste and season with extra salt and black pepper if necessary and then stir into your favourite pasta, making sure you keep a little of the cooking water to loosen up the pasta if necessary once you have added the kale.

To serve, add grated parmesan if liked and some folk even add a little extra drizzle of olive oil. Go on, I won’t tell anyone!

If you’d like to see how we make our olive oil in Spain, click here.

No cooking…but some patchworking and quilting

So, the quilt was completed the day before Christmas Eve. A special present to me and Big Man made by my own fair hands. And the terrible thing is that now I’m hooked!

The Road to Health Quilt (5)

It was made entirely by hand apart from the strips I added to widen it and the first run round of the binding.

The Road to Health Quilt (11)
The strips are green, not blue as they look in the photo – and just look at that binding…thanks Kate!

 

Ok, so it’s not perfect and I had to restitch the initial quilting as it was so awful. But I did keep one line of it in, next to the final attempt to show myself that practice makes better (but not yet perfect!).

 

Dodgy Big Stitches next to slightly less dodgy and a bit smaller stitches...
Dodgy Big Stitches next to slightly less dodgy and a bit smaller stitches…

There are plenty of wonky lines, but hey, that adds to the charm. And I’m sticking with that (wonky) line.

The Road to Health Quilt (10)

For details of the quilt pattern and fabric, take a look here and here.

And now that I’m hooked, I just couldn’t help myself when these fabrics on sale called out to me…was it Oscar Wilde who said “I can resist everything except temptation”?!

The Road to Health Quilt (1)

A big thank you to both Kate from talltalesfromchiconia (especially her quilt binding tutorial) and Evie  (check out the link for her Chateau Quilt) over at Pendle Stitches for their advice and encouragement, especially when I started the hand quilting of the quilt top – I was all set to give up, but thanks to their kind words I pushed on and gradually became addicted…

Syrian Style Roast Leg of Lamb

I was very lucky to have been given some fabulous cookbooks by my best buddy Ria. Ah she knows me so well! One is titled Almond Bar, written by Sharon Salloum, co-owner and chef of Almond Bar restaurant in Sydney, who was bought up in a traditional Syrian household. Ooh I’d love to go and eat there! Her recipes are based on family traditions, but adapted for the modern kitchen.

Syrian Lamb

As soon as I saw her recipe for roast leg of lamb, I knew I would make it for New Year’s Eve. We had family visiting from Spain and were going to have a fairly typical Spanish Family Celebration meal – masses of seafood and shellfish to start, lamb for main course, flan (or crème caramel to us!), fruit, Spanish biscuits, turrón and 12 grapes at midnight. The lamb was not typically Spanish because of the spices, but it was a big hit with everyone. The meat is cooked on high to start with then slowly cooked to tender perfection. Don’t wait until next New Year’s Eve to try this, I know I won’t be waiting that long!

(Apologies for the photo, it’s a cropped section of a family snap which also featured the lamb…)

Serves 8-10 (but you can scale it down for a smaller leg of lamb)

  • 2.5kg leg of lamb, bone in
  • 60ml olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 8 cloves crushed with a pestle and mortar
  • 3 teaspoons salt flakes
  • 6 cloves of sliced garlic
  • About 10 small sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 glass of white wine (not in the original recipe)

Preheat the oven to 200C (fan)/425F/Gas 7

Mix the oil with the spices, salt and pepper in a bowl. Rub the mix all over the leg of lamb then cut small incisions all over the lamb with a sharp pointed knife. Push the garlic and rosemary sprigs into the incisions.

Place the lamb in a deep oven dish and bake on high for an hour, turning after 30 minutes to brown on both sides. Pour the wine over the meat, cover the dish with foil to make a tent and reduce the oven temperature to 170C (fan)/375F/Gas 5 and return to the oven. Cook for another 2 ½ – 3 hours, basting every 20 minutes (but don’t stress if you do it a little less).

When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven, keep it warm (I wrap it in foil and a couple of towels) and leave to rest for 15-30 minutes and serve with all the beautiful juices you will have left in the pan.