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When life gives you lemons…

17 Jan

Well…you just have to go ahead and pick them. Then you share the lemon love with friends and neighbours and make delicious dishes like Lemon Rice, Chicken with Za’atar and Lemon or even Lemon and Chili Mussels.

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We planted our little tree just over 7 years ago, not long after moving into our Cortijo, or home in the country.  Initially we despaired of ever getting a single lemon from it as, despite the fairly temperate climate all year round, we often get strong winds. Our tiny tree grew but the winds stripped the flowers (which were to be our lemons) and even the leaves from it. Getting 2 puppies a year later who loved to dig also added to the stress for our little tree.

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But, all good things come to those who wait. Just look at it now! We’ve been away for 2 months, and at the end of October it was bare of lemons as we’d given some away and picked the rest to take back to England. It seems our “Limonero Lunero” (a lemon tree which flowers every new moon so that you have lemons all year round) thrives on neglect. It’s been a very dry year, we haven’t been around much, and now it’s groaning with lemons.

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There are still plenty to be picked, but I made a start. Maybe we’ll have Lemon Ravioli this week…

Fideuá de Pescado y Mariscos – Fish and Seafood Noodles

8 Jul

If Paella and Arroz Caldoso are half sisters to the Italian Risotto, then Paella and Fideuá are first cousins. The famous Paella is known to most of us, a delicious rice and seafood (or meat) dish which comes from the Valencia region of North East Spain. Less well known, outside of Spain at least, is its cousin…the Fideuá. It´s very similar to a paella but made with Fideos (short noodles). Fideos come in different sizes in Spain from very thin (called Angel Hair pasta) for dropping into broth right through to almost the thickness of spaghetti. This dish tends to use the ones at the thicker end of the scale, as they need to stand up to a little while cooking in the delicious broth.

Fideua de Mariscos (7)

Amounts used are flexible, use what you have, and play around with the ingredients. Like arroz caldoso, it’s quicker to cook than a paella and is a typical everyday lunch dish, for tucking into with a spoon (a plato de cuchara – a “spoon” dish), with lemon juice squeezed over and plenty of delicious bread. We can’t decide if we prefer arroz caldoso or fideuá caldosa – try them both and let me know what you think! I know Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial enjoys making Arroz Caldoso for her family…Celia, I hope you like this version too!

Approximate Ingredients for 4 people (as a main dish)

  • 250g prawns (less if already peeled) – if they have the shells on peel them and use them to make a fish stock, if not use water or a cube
  • About 250g of mixed fish and shellfish (I used some white fish fillets but when I have mussels or clams I add them in too)
  • Half a red pepper finely chopped
  • A thin green pepper, finely chopped
  • A couple of tablespoons of peas
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large tomato peeled and finely chopped or half a cup of tomato conserva
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
  • 1 teaspoon of sweet pimentón
  • A pinch of saffron
  • Seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • Approx 400g Fideos

Start by making a sofrito or tomato sauce. Lightly fry the garlic until soft then add the peppers and peas. Add the pimentón and saffron, cover the pan and let everything sweat gently until soft then add the tomato. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Fideua de Mariscos (6)

For 4 people (and a soupy fideuá) add about 1.5 litres of stock and simmer for a further 10 minutes. If you have a paella pan, cazuela or a deep frying pan that you can use to serve, transfer the liquid to this. Now add your fideos – about 100g per person, but follow any guidelines on the packet. When they are about half cooked, add the fish (biggest chunks first) then the shellfish. Taste and season as necessary.

For a thick, dryer dish (more the consistency of a paella) you may need to use less liquid or just cook this way and spoon out some of the liquid at the end (save it for a light soup with some thin fideos thrown in!). Equally, if it looks a little dry as you are cooking it, just add a ladleful or two of hot stock.

Serve like paella with lemon juice, crusty bread and wine. A spoonful of alioli is also great with this dish.

Like a paella, you can vary the ingredients to make your fideuá according to what you have available. Make it veggie, or use meat instead of fish. It may not be absolutely authentic, but the influence will be there and the taste will be just as good!

Pasta with Kale (in the absence of Cavolo Nero)

20 Jan

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.

Florentines – Chica Finally Makes Something Sweet

27 May

I know, I know, I can’t remember the last time I posted a recipe for something sweet and a little naughty. We all have to be naughty sometimes don’t we? And these bite sized Florentines really hit the spot and are a perfect gift to take along when you go visiting.

Florentines

I made these recently when we went for lunch with a pal to my parents. We’re not really a family of dessert eaters generally, but a little treat like this with a cup of strong coffee after a perfect lunch is a great way to round things off. And I know my mum has a soft spot for these little almond and chocolate biscuits so that was a good enough reason for me to have a go at making them.

They’re not all that difficult to make, you just have to keep an eye on them at each stage so that you don’t end up with burnt nuts (and nobody wants burnt nuts do they?!). Set aside a couple of hours and put a pot of your favourite coffee on to brew and you’ll enjoy a wonderful, creative afternoon making these sweet treats.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 3 tsp flour
  • 100ml double cream
  • 50g/2oz flaked almonds toasted
  • 20g chopped hazlenuts
  • 100g/4oz dried sour cranberries and glace cherries finely chopped
  • 150g/5oz good quality dark chocolate broken into pieces (I did a few with white chocolate too)

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  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Heat the butter, syrup and flour in a pan over a medium heat, stirring continuously, until the butter has melted
  3. Gradually add the cream, stirring continuously until well combined.
  4. Add the nuts and fruit and mix well until combined.
  5. Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper and place teaspoonfuls of the florentine mixture onto it. Space the teaspoonfuls out at 2.5cm/1in intervals so they don’t merge together when heated.
  6. Transfer the florentines to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden-brown. Keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t burn.
  7. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on the tray, then transfer the florentines to a cooling rack. Be patient here, they need to be cool otherwise they will break easily when still warm and soft.
  8. Bring a little water to a simmer in a pan. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate pieces and stir until smooth and melted.
  9. Turn the florentines so that the flat base is facing upwards. Spread the melted chocolate over the florentine bases and set aside to cool and set. I used a pastry brush to do this.

Although keeping them in the fridge will cause the chocolate to lose its shine, I found that the warmth of my kitchen caused them to soften so I kept them cool. This crisped them up and they tasted great!

Inspired by a BBC Recipe

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

1 Apr

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.

Fideuá with Chorizo and Mushroom

18 Feb

Fideuá? What the heck? It’s a traditional dish from Valencia, Gandía to be more precise, which is very much like a paella but made with short noodles instead of rice. In Spain you can buy bags of noodles of varying thickness from “0” which is very fine up to 5 or 6, I think. For this dish a number 3 or 4 noodle is typically used but if you can’t find them where you are, use broken spaghetti (a thin one) instead.

Fideua de Chorizo (5)

This dish is made with seafood usually, in the same way as a paella, but I made one recently with some Spanish Chorizo. It’s also a good vegetarian dish – use what you like best! It’s quicker and easier to make than paella.  Measurements are a little rough, use as much or as little “filling” as you like. For a dry fideuá (so that it looks like a paella made with noodles) use about twice the volune of liquid to noodles, for a soupier version (which is how we like it), use up to 3 times the liquid.

Phew, that’s the maths over with, here’s how to do it!

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 2 chorizo chopped into small chunks
  • A few slices of finely chopped jamón (or pancetta or bacon)
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • Half a red pepper, finely chopped
  • About 6 mushrooms, finely chopped
  • About half a cup of chopped tomatoes
  • 200g fideos (noodles)
  • About 400ml of vegetable stock (or chicken stock) for a dry dish and 600ml for a soupier version
  • A pinch of powdered saffron
  • A level teaspoon of sweet pimentón
  • A pinch of hot pimentón (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Wedges of lemon and chopped parsley to serve

In a deep frying pan or paella pan gently fry the chorizo, jamón, garlic, celery, pepper, and mushrooms until the chorizo starts to crisp. Add the tomatoes and cook for a minute then add the fideos and stir them into the mix then add the stock, spices and season lightly.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 8 minutes until the fideos are nearly cooked. Add more stock if it gets too dry before it’s cooked.  Turn off the heat, cover with a lid or tea towel and allow to rest for 2 or 3 minutes. Check that the fideos are cooked to your liking and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley and wedges of lemon to squeeze over.

And if you have a few minutes and want to see a master in action, enjoy this video…(it takes a few seconds to start and is in Spanish bu the chef is … er… easy on the eye!)

Stir Fried Kale with Bacon – A Speedy Side Dish or Pasta Topping

4 Feb

Don’t you just love winter greens? So green and vibrant – maybe their colour reminds us of the spring that is on its way, whilst doing us so much good packed full of iron and vitamins.

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Kale is a current favourite, although it can sometimes be a little tough. Not a problem if you like your vegetables really crisp, but easily dealt with by blanching for a few minutes first.

Ingredients to serve 2

  • About a dozen leaves of kale, washed, tough stalks removed and then finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 4 rashers of finely chopped smoked streaky bacon (or use mushrooms for a vegetarian dish)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil for frying

Blanch the chopped leaves for about 3 minutes if they are large and drain. Heat a little oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry the bacon until crispy then add the kale and garlic. Stir fry for a couple of minutes, season and enjoy as a side dish or mixed with pasta (add a little raw olive oil and a few drops of the pasta cooking water).

Bounce around the kitchen as you will be packed full of vitality!

If you’re lucky enough to have access to Baby Kale, check out this beautiful recipe for a Sunshine Salad from our blogging pal Smidge. Or how about Frugal’s Kale with Pasta – delicious!

Crab, Lemon, Chili and Ricotta Ravioli and Mushroom and Tomato Ravioli

24 Jan

That’s a whole lot of ravioli, but as Chgo John will confirm, if you’re going to make ravioli, you may as well make plenty!

Ravioli (7)

A previous ravioli making session confirmed that they’re much easier and more fun to make if you work with friends. A recent Sunday lunch with girlfriends was a hands on affair – cooking first, eating later, but all accompanied with laughter, wine and chatting.

Ravioli (1)

We made half a kilo of pasta (500g of flour with 5 eggs, salt and a splash of olive oil) and two fillings. Weights are approximate, but will make filling for about 25 ravioli per filling and you may find you have enough pasta left over for making a little batch of tagliatelle.

Lemon & Chilli Filling

  • About 200g fresh ricotta
  • Approx 200g cooked crab meat (white and dark)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded (or not!) and very finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together, taste and adjust seasoning and use to fill your ravioli. We served these with melted butter melted butter mixed with a little crème fraiche, lemon zest and fresh rosemary with parmesan.

Ravioli (11)

Mushroom Filling with Tomato Sauce

  • 1 dozen medium sized mushrooms and stalks very finely chopped and fired gently with 2 cloves of crushed garlic and 1 teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary until softened
  • About 125g mascarpone cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon of smoked pimentón
  • ½ ball of mozzarella, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 2 cups of thick homemade tomato sauce
  • Fresh parmesan

Mix together the mushrooms, pimentón, mascarpone and mozzarella to form a paté type paste, season and adjust if necessary. Use to fill your ravioli and serve with tomato sauce and freshly grated or thinly sliced parmesan.

Pasta with Cabbage, Sage and Breadcrumbs

16 Jul

Well, anchovy and garlic too, plus a little parmesan at the end but it’s not such a snappy title that way. Big Man came home from one of his little excursions with a beautiful cabbage. I think in England they are called Spring cabbages, the lighter green ones with very tight leaves.

Pasta With Cabbage & Breadcrumbs (1)

We enjoy it simply shredded and cooked for a few moments until wilted and then served cold with vinaigrette. But this was a whole lot of cabbage and I needed to find other ways to use it. I remembered a lovely Italian pasta dish made with Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Kale) and decided to make something similar.

If you prepare everything before you start cooking it’s quick to pull together, you just need to work methodically and in the time it takes for your pasta to cook (well, dried pasta at least) you’ll have a beautiful meal ready to take to the table.

Ingredients (per person, just multiply per number of diners but don’t worry about being too exact)

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • About 100g finely shredded cabbage
  • About 50g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2-4 tinned anchovies (omit for a vegetarian version)
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Your choice of pasta

Start by putting the water for the pasta on to boil and then blanching the shredded cabbage until it wilts. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and drain, add your pasta to the water and, as long as you have your other ingredients prepared, you can get on with pulling the rest of the dish together.

Heat two thirds of the oil and when it is very hot drop the sage leaves in and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Pasta With Cabbage & Breadcrumbs (4)

Now add your fresh breadcrumbs and with the oil still on high, move them around in the pan (it helps to use a deep frying pan or wok for this dish) until they start to turn golden. Remove from the pan and put them onto a flat dish to cool slightly and crisp up.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and turn the heat down slightly before adding the garlic and anchovies. When the anchovies have “melted” (this won’t take long at all, a minute or so) add the cabbage and turn the heat back up to high. Stir fry for a couple of minutes (you can allow the edges to brown a little if you like) then add most of the breadcrumbs, reserving some to sprinkle over the top of the dish.

Drain the pasta and mix it in with the cabbage. It helps to add a tablespoon or two of the cooking liquid, but don’t overdo it.

Sprinkle over the remaining breadcrumbs and crispy sage leaves and serve with plenty of parmesan. Buon appetito!

Big Man and I are heading west on Saturday with the pups for a week in Portugal, the Eastern Algarve to be precise. I’ll try to post once more before we head off but it’s turning into one of those weeks. I know we won’t have internet coverage where we’re staying, but fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get online at some point. So…if I go quiet for a while it’s because I’m eating seafood or bacalao and sipping Portuguese wines whilst watching the sea. I’m sure you’ll understand!

Ravioli Making – Fun on a Hot Summer’s Evening

11 Jul

Some things are more fun when done with pals. Ravioli making is one of them. Just ask Chgo John.  Luckily my lovely neighbour Denise was willing to give up a few hours of her time and we had an evening of ravioli making and eating in the garden.

Ravioli (1)

We made four kinds of fillings.

Ravioli (5)

Potato with caramelised onion and parmesan, mixed mushrooms with spinach and nutmeg, ricotta with lemon zest and coriander and mascarpone with rocket and sun-dried tomatoes.

Ravioli (22)

No quantities except to say we made pasta with 500g of flour and 5 eggs. This made about 70 ravioli (with some leftover dough too), although we didn’t manage to eat them all. We did give it our best shot though!

Ravioli (23)

We were well lubricated with wine as I believe it is actually illegal to make ravioli without a glass or two to hand.

Ravioli (11)

We served some with tomato sauce and others more simply with olive oil and parmesan.

Ravioli (31)

Summer cooking, summer eating. Everything tastes better eaten outdoors on a hot summer’s night don’t you think?!

Ravioli (32)

(I know they’re not the best shots in the world but they were “working” snaps and it got darker and darker as the evening went on – naturally – I hope you enjoy the atmosphere of the evening as much as we did despite this!)

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