Some days you just never know who will be at the door…

Well, we certainly don’t get visitors like this in Bexhill on Sea!

Hay dias cuando nunca se sabe quien va a tocar a la puerta!

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I took these photos just a few minutes ago (15:30) and seeing how dry and washed out the colours of the “campo” already look confirm that it’s going to be a long hot summer here in Andalucia.

The track that runs past our house is the GR7, a long distance footpath that runs from Southern Spain through to Alsace in France. Fortunately for the goats, they were only going a little way to graze under some nearby olive trees.

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Slow Cooked Beef Ribs

Before we set off for Spain and the kingdom of the pig, we had one final beef-feast meal in England. We have a local butcher, a young man called Ben who is passionate about locally sourced, organic meat and providing new and exciting cuts of meat to his customers. We love to shop at his store and make the most of what he recommends.

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs (5)

The other week it was beef ribs, something I hadn’t eaten for years. Put images of the court of Henry VIII out of your mind, with massive roasts supported by half a cow. Something like that just wouldn’t fit in our modern day ovens! I bought six ribs which I asked him to separate into individual ribs, so that I could slow cook them. I had anticipated 2 ribs per person but after our prawn starter, we managed 4 ribs between 3 people – I leave it to you to decide if, like me, “your eyes are greedier than your belly” (as my grandmother used to say)!

It’s not a complicated dish to prepare, the impact of flavour comes from the long, slow cooking which can also be done in a conventional oven.

Ingredients (to feed 4-6 people)

  • 6 beef ribs, separated into individual ribs
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato purée
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • A large sprig of rosemary
  • A glass of red wine (plus one for the cook)
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning
  • Maldon (or kosher) salt

Heat a griddle pan to high and switch your slow cooker on to heat (or switch on the oven to low). Sear the ribs on all sides on a high heat until browned. You will probably need to do this in a couple of batches unless you have a huge griddle pan like me!

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs (1)

While they are being browned, gently heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a deep frying pan. Add the garlic and as soon as it starts to soften, add the tomatoes, the tomato purée and the wine.  Bring to a gentle bubble, season lightly and pop the rosemary in. You are not looking to make a finished sauce at this point, just to get it started and to ensure that it’s hot when it goes into the slow cooker or oven.

Put the ribs into either the slow cooker or an oven dish which you can cover. Sprinkle lightly with Maldon salt and pour the sauce over. Cover the pot/slow cooker and be very, very patient. I cooked mine on low in the slow cooker for about 10 hours, turning them over gently 3 or 4 times during this period until the meat was falling off the bones. In a conventional oven I think 5 or 6 hours should be fine, and if you can make the dish a day ahead, even better.

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs (2)

Gently remove the ribs from the sauce, trying to keep the meat with the bones if (like us) you feel cheated if someone else gets your bone.

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs (6)

Put the sauce into a pan, remove the rosemary and reduce for about 10 minutes on a medium heat. If you want a silky smooth sauce, use a hand blender to sort out those little chunks of tomato. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve the ribs with the sauce on the side so that strange folk like Big Man can eat them without and normal folk like me can smother them. Creamy mashed potato is always a good idea.

If you happen to be in beautiful Bexhill, do pop into London Road Butchers and say hello to Ben!

For more slow cooked dishes, why not try Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks or Mustard and Cider Chicken?

A return to the simple life

Although our time in Spain will be limited to about a month (a long “holiday” some might think, but for us it’s a case of changing one home for another for a short while) we need to make the most of our time here. Sorting out a house and garden that have been looked after but not lived in for many months. Catching up with family and friends. Running around and sorting out paperwork and the dealing with the “officialdom” that invariably comes with it.

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The plan had been to eat out frequently – a menú del día (a daily set menu in many restaurants) is not expensive in Spain – and not to spend hours in the kitchen. So far, I haven’t spent too many hours in the kitchen, but the lure of fresh, local ingredients which are quick and easy to prepare has been irresistible. Add to that the fact that we can also cook outside and it’s mostly quicker to just get cooking while multitasking with the gardening.

We’ve eaten chicken (reared by a pal who gifted us two hefty chicken thighs and drumsticks) cooked in one of our cazuelas with peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil and wine.

Pollo a la Cazuela (1)

And rabbit, marinated in a paste made of thyme and rosemary from the garden with our own olive oil and lemon and a neighbour’s garlic then cooked on the barbecue.

Conejo a la Barbacoa (1)

The weather may have gone from 40 degrees to grey and miserable, but with full bellies and a glass of wine, who can complain?!

Crispy Prawns with Lemon Myrtle – Long Distance Herby Loveliness

I think many of us, regardless of whether we’ve been blogging for months or years, will understand the friendships that can grow up through the connections we’ve made via our blogs. People leave lovely comments, ideas, share in the ups and downs of whatever we choose to discuss on our blogs. Some very kind folk go as far as sharing gifts and giveaways, allowing us the opportunity to try something from their country which we otherwise would never have come across.

Herbs (2)

Recently the lovely Margot over at Gather and Graze hosted a giveaway of some herbs from her home country of Australia, Lemon Myrtle and Wattleseed. Have you heard of them? I certainly hadn’t. Lemon Myrtle is (and I’m quoting from the packet here) “a fragrant Australian native plant which bears leaves with an intense lemon fragrance”. The packet of ground lemon myrtle really does explode with a beautiful refreshing lemony aroma.

The Wattleseed (which is roasted and ground) comes from the seeds of a species of Australian native acacia which have a roasted coffee-like aroma. It works beautifully with chocolate, and I’ll soon be sharing a recipe with you.

If you can’t get hold of Ground Lemon Myrtle (and I’m guessing a lot of you can’t), I’d suggest substituting the same quantity of finely grated lemon zest. I know it won’t be quite the same, but perhaps a good approximation.

Myrtle Prawns (2)

The recipe comes from the packet sent to me (thanks again Margot!) and I served it with a salad and a lemon vinaigrette as a starter. I did change the quantities from the original recipe as I scaled the recipe down a little.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a starter)

  • 16 large peeled and deveined langoustines
  • ½ cup of rice flour (use plain flour otherwise, but the rice flour does give a wonderful crunch)
  • ¾ tablespoon of ground lemon myrtle
  • ¾ teaspoon of smoked paprika (I used pimentón)
  • A pinch of chilli powder
  • Salt
  • ½ cup of cooking oil (I used olive oil)
  • 2 fresh chillies finely chopped

Mix the flour with the spices and toss the prawns in the mixture. Heat the oil over a high heat and cook the prawns quickly (they probably only need a minute or so on each side) until they have turned pink and crispy.

Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt and add the fresh chilli. Enjoy!

To see how Margot used her Lemon Myrtle, hop on over and check out her delicious Australian Apple Crumble recipe!