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Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup

9 Nov

Much as I enjoy a blue fillet steak or a bacon sandwich,  there are times when it feels good to lay off the meat and enjoy meals without. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavour though.  Hot and Sour Soup is perfect for days like these. Filling, warming, and full of exciting flavours. If you want to add cooked chicken or prawns though,  go ahead. Extra vegetables? Go for it!

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This version was inspired by a recipe from a much used and favoured cookbook, Gok Cooks Chinese. Although my predictive text called him God. He’s good, but not quite THAT good!

Ingredients (to serve 4 generously)

  • 1.5 litres of light, unsalted vegetable stock or use water
  • 50g approx of mushrooms, sliced  (I used chestnut with a few shitake)
  • 1-2 fresh red chillis, finely sliced (or a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes) depending on  how hot you like your soup
  • 50ml light soy sauce
  • Approx 3 heaped tablespoons of thinly sliced bamboo shoots (I used tinned, drained bamboo)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and very finely sliced then diced
  • 5cm piece of fresh ginger peeled and grated (or use frozen chopped ginger)
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and grated or crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons of rice vinegar  (to taste)
  • Optional 2 heaped teaspoons of cornflour dissolved in a little cold water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Finely chopped spring onion or chives to serve

Bring the stock to a gentle boil and add the carrot. Simmer for about 5 minutes then add all the ingredients except the cornflour, vinegar,  egg and spring onion.

Simmer for about 10 minutes then gradually add the vinegar, tasting as you go until it reaches a level of sourness you enjoy.

If you prefer a slightly thickened soup, add two heaped teaspoons of cornflour to about 50mls of cold water and add to the simmering soup. Allow to thicken (this will take a minute or two).

Turn off the heat and add the egg, whisking as you do to create fine ribbons of cooked egg. Serve garnished with the finely sliced spring onion and marvel that it was quicker to prepare than ordering and waiting for a takeaway delivery.

(For a gluten free option use tamari instead of soy sauce and omit the cornflour).

There’s (almost) no such thing as a free lunch….

25 Sep

So, here we are, back in Spain. The sun is shining, the horrible hot wind we get in southern Spain (El Terral) has finally died down and we’ve caught our breath from the long drive.  We’re very lucky to have two lovely homes, but when you get back to a house that has been shut up for a few months, you find that the dust monsters have been to visit. We managed avoidance tactics for a few days with a combination of going out to catch up with people, and staying in feeling grumpy and full of cold (me)/Man Flu (Big Man) germs.

Finally the day came when we couldn’t ignore The Big Clean Up any more and today we made a start. Mrs and Mrs Mop began a vaguely systematic attack on the house and garden and, while there is still plenty more to be done, we felt satisfied that we deserved a nice lunch in the garden. Spring and autumn are perfect for outdoor lunchtime dining. Sometimes you get a lovely warm day in winter or a cool summer day which also permit al fresco lunches…but you definitely make the most of those perfect days.

In Spanish terms, it was almost dangerously vegetarian (well, apart from the seafood and salami). We didn’t worry, the village fiesta is upon us and we know we’ll be eating our own body weight in grilled meat and pinchitos (little kebabs) over the next few days. What did make us smile was the fact that pretty much everything we were eating had been gifted to us by kindly friends and family, or recycled from another meal. It’s good to be a frugal houseperson when the food is this good!

Lunch included:

Salmorejo (my very favourite cold soup) made from stale bread and tomatoes given to us by kindly brother-in-law. These are the ripe and ugly tomatoes which are used for soups and sauces

Almuerzo Sep 2015 (12)

Garnished with hard boiled eggs from kindly neighbour who adopted our chickens and jamon (bought from local butcher)

Salad made with leftover prawns and squid which had been barbecued the night before and avocados from kindly neighbour who also keeps us supplied with oranges later in the year to make marmalade.

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Tomato, mint and onion salad made with “tomates para picar” (tomatoes for chopping up!), again from kindly brother-in-law and mint from our garden.

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Salads dressed with our own olive oil and juice from our lemons

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Cheese and salchichon (salami). Salchichon given to us by kindly local bar owner as a welcome home present.

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Dessert was figs from our tree and apple sorbet made with apples from kindly cousin. Inspired by Rosemary’s ice cream making, I dug out my own ice-cream maker. To serve 2 people – 500g apples (peeled and cored), cooked with 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice then blended, cooled and churned in my machine. Maybe I should make more Apple Roses – I certainly have enough fruit!

Almuerzo Sep 2015 (17)

I drank a glass (or two) of Spanish wine, but Big Man was clearly feeling a bit nostalgic for England and opened a bottle of English beer.

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I thought we’d bought those beers with us as gifts for kindly friends and family. Ooops!

Almuerzo Sep 2015 (8)

PS. You know we hate waste here….the prawn shells are now bubbling away to make stock…maybe we’ll have an “arroz caldoso” in the next few days…

Spicy Pumpkin and Pear Soup…and a little sewing

17 Oct

So, remember our pear tree? Yes, the one with an awful lot of pears on it. We’ve been really enjoying eating them in crumbles, purées, stewed but mainly au naturel and sometimes with cheese. Delicious. But they don’t store. I know, I tried it out. I spent ages wrapping a load up in newspaper and storing them somewhere cool and dark only to find a horrible, stinky mush a few days ago. Nasty.

Luckily we really did make the most of them and one of the dishes I made was a hearty soup using some of the crisper, under ripe pears left at the very end.

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Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course)

  • About 1kg of pumpkin or squash (peeled, seeded and cut into cubes)
  • 3 medium pears (peeled and cut into cubes)
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 1 level teaspoon of hot chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
  • 1 tin (400g) coconut milk
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Smoked pimenton to serve

(Inspired by a recipe from the book Economy Gastronomy)

Heat the oil and add the pumpkin. Fry on a medium heat until it starts to colour a little (you may need to do this in batches) then add the spices and garlic. Cook for a minute then add the pear, coconut milk and stock. Simmer for about 30 minutes, blend to a texture you enjoy (I used a stick blender) season to taste and serve with a sprinkle of smoked pimenton.

For any of you who are wondering what the heck I’ve been up to in the absence of great cooking facilities (and apart from house renovations), I decided to set myself up with a little winter project. I am hand making a patchwork quilt, following (sort of) a design pattern.

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Am really enjoying making the quilt top but may back out of hand quilting it myself. We’ll see.  Perhaps next year I’ll be eating this soup snuggled under my quilt!

Smoked Haddock and Prawn Chowder

24 Mar

Oh the deliciousness of a beautiful piece of perfectly smoked fish, haddock in this case, a dish I cooked in England before we headed back to Spain. Simple, quick to cook and oh so satisfying.

Smoked Haddock & Prawn Chowder (3)

Ingredients (to serve 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 600ml milk
  • 400ml fish stock (can be made with 1 Fish Stock cube)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and finely diced
  • 450g traditionally smoked haddock fillet, skinned
  • 225g raw peeled prawns
  • About a cup of creamed sweetcorn (I used tinned corn which I blended with the stick blender)
  • Lemon juice, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a large heavy pan. Add the onion and cook gently for 10 minutes until soft. Add the milk and stock and bring to simmering point.

Add the potatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes or until they are soft. Keep the heat gentle as you do this.

Cut the haddock into bite-sized pieces and add to the pan. Cook very gently for 2 minutes, then add the prawns, creamed corn, lemon juice and pepper. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, taste and season, stir in the parsley and serve.

If you enjoy chowder, take a look at my Smoked Prawn and Bacon Chowder recipe.

Smoked Prawn and Smoked Bacon Chowder and a Down by the Sea Salad

26 Nov

I’ve just tried something new for the first time – it’s quite exciting at my age to do that! Nothing saucy or involving dressing up in latex…I’m talking food here of course. What else?!

Smoked prawns are what have got me all excited and giddy. Am I just late to the party or is this something new? I came across them in our little Down by the Sea fishmonger’s the other day and they are sold in the traditional measure for cooked prawns here – by the pint.

Of course, I had to try them and along with two cooked and dressed crabs I had a delicious salad in mind for supper. It was utterly delicious and with some homemade mayonnaise for the crab (some of which I turned into a Marie Rose sauce for dipping) and a balsamic vinaigrette for the salad and some new potatoes drizzled with olive oil it was a wonderful meal. But not really a recipe to impress you with.

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I still had half a pint of prawns left (25 of them to be precise) so the next day I decided to make a kind for chowder for lunch. I don’t claim this to be a completely authentic chowder as I didn’t have any corn, so it’s more a cross between a chowder and the lovely soup from Scotland, Cullen Skink. Strange name, great soup.

Ingredients (to serve 2)

  • About 24 peeled prawns (smoked or plain)
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
  • Half an onion finely chopped
  • 2 small sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of plain flour
  • Half a litre of liquid (I used a mix of milk and fish stock made with the prawn shells)
  • 1 tablespoon of crème fraiche
  • A finely chopped spring onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Smoked Prawn & Bacon Chowder (2)

Gently fry the onion and celery in a little olive oil until it starts to soften then add the bacon and fry until it starts to crisp. Add the prawns and plain flour and cook gently for a few minutes. Add the stock/milk and bring slowly to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, it will thicken. Taste and season if necessary. To serve stir in the crème fraiche and sprinkle over the spring onion.

Sopa de Bacalao – Cod and Spinach Soup

24 Sep

If you do an internet search for a typical Spanish soup called Sopa de Bacalao, you’ll find many versions of a firm favourite. I don’t lay claim to my version being authentic, especially as it uses a very non Spanish ingredient – Ras El Hanout – but as the spice mix comes from North Africa and there are such very strong connections between Africa and Andalucía, I feel no one will be up in arms.

The ingredient list is short and simple, the preparation too. But the taste, oh the taste, your friends and family will think you’ve spent hours reducing stock to achieve the intensity of flavour.

Sopa de Bacalao (3)

Ingredients (to serve 2-4 as a main or starter)

  • 1 large cod fillet, skinned and cut into bite sized chunks (use either fresh cod or desalted salt cod)
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
  • About 2 cups of chopped fresh spinach
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon of Ras El Hanout
  • About 1.25l of either fish stock or water (if you use a cube to make your stock, I won’t tell!)
  • A little olive oil

Start by sweating the onion and garlic until softened then add the potatoes. Toss them around in the oil until they are all coated in oil then add the Ras El Hanout and mix in. Pour over the stock and cook until the potatoes are almost done.

Add the cod and cook for a minute or two until the fish is cooked. Taste and season if necessary and then add the spinach. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and wait for the spinach to wilt before serving with plenty of fresh lemon to squeeze over.

Old Favourites and Favourite Gadgets

28 May

When we were in England, people asked us what we missed about Spain. Mostly it was the light, which sounds odd, I think people expected us to say “the sun”.  We missed family and friends of course, we missed the gatherings and fiestas. But we knew we’d be back and we were having fun too.

I missed being able to cook “properly”, I didn’t have all my gadgets with me, so being back in my fully equipped kitchen with my hand blender, my food processor and my terracotta bowls has allowed me to make some old favourites.

Salmorejo (do click on the link for the recipe and a “how to) is a summer favourite, and now that I can buy tomatoes without taking out a mortgage to do so, this will be made every few days.

Salmorejo (2)

Of course, I was able to make pil pil while in England, but it does taste so much better when cooked in the traditional terracotta bowl. And just to prove that you can “pil pil” so many different things, this week I did clams.

Almejas al Pil Pil (3)

And sewing…oh sewing. How I missed my sewing machine. We’ve only been back a week but that wasn’t going to stop me getting my hands on some fabric gifted to me, and a beautiful pattern from the very talented Steph over at 3 Hours Past and making up her wonderful Tiramisu dress pattern. If you fancy making the wonderful dessert instead of the dress, do head over to Karen’s fabulous post which tells you how!

Flowers (2)

Steph designs and makes patterns for real women – curvy ones, slim ones, straight up and down ones.

Flowers (3)

The designs and patterns are beautiful with excellent instructions and I’m thrilled with my new summer dress.

Flowers (4)

My sourdough starter, courtesy of Sawsan’s “how to”, is bubbling away nicely, so at the weekend the mixer with the dough hook will be put to work and I think I’ll really feel like I’ve settled back in again properly.

Crispy Pork Belly with Stir Fried Cabbage and Mushrooms

13 Apr

Another easy recipe from my Gok Wan Cookbook. You do need to plan ahead, just to make sure the pork is good and dry before cooking, but other than that, it’s a doddle.

Crispy Pork with Chinese Spiced Cabbage (1)

Ingredients

  • 1 pork belly (or piece, mine weighed about .75kg)
  • 1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • Sea (kosher) salt

For the vegetables (a Chica recipe!)

  • About half a savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 6-8 mushrooms, finely sliced
  • Soy Sauce
  • A teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • Light soy sauce

Dry the pork belly well with kitchen paper, prick the skin all over with a fork and score the meat and skin with cuts about 5cm apart.

Rub the skin with the vinegar and lemon juice and rub the neat with the Chinese Five Spice powder, the pepper and some salt. Rub the skin with salt and leave overnight (uncovered) on a grill tray with an oven tray underneath in the fridge or a cool place.

Return the pork to room temperature before cooking (about 2 hours in the kitchen). Heat the oven to 170 degrees C/325 F/Gas 3 and cook for about 40 minutes on its rack. Turn the oven up to high and cook for a further 25 minutes until the skin is crispy. Leave to rest for about 15 minutes before slicing. As you can see, mine didn’t crisp all over and I recommend popping it under a hot grill to sort this out. Or just eat and enjoy!

For the veggies, heat a little oil in a wok (I used a mixture of sesame and sunflower) and put the garlic, ginger, cabbage and mushrooms in and stir fry over a high heat until the cabbage starts to wilt.  If you like the cabbage softer, add a tablespoon or two of water and cover and cook gently for a few minutes.  Add a few dashes of soy sauce to taste and serve.

Chinese Leftovers Soup (1)

Leftover veggies can be added to stock, throw in a handful of noodles (I used angel hair vermicelli), spice it up with chili sauce and serve as a delicious next day leftovers soup. Add any leftover pork if you have it and don’t want a vegetarian soup, your choice.  Two meals for the price of one!

Smoked Cod & Butterbean Stew

11 Mar

Lent is a time in Catholic countries of preparation for the celebration of Easter. Believer or not, it also means a few changes to diet in Andalucía with a reduction in meat heavy meals and a focus on vegetables, pulses and fish. A typical dish during this period is Potaje de Semana Santa, Holy Week Stew, which is typically made with chick peas (or a mix of chick peas and giant white beans) and salt cod. I was sure I had previously given you a recipe for this, but alas I have been remiss. Fortunately, Giovanna over at Blue Jellybeans, has done the honours, do check it out!

Smoked  Cod & Butterbean Stew (4)

As we’re still in the UK, and the weather has turned icy again, it was time to reinterpret this classic dish using ingredients available locally to me here.  We were pleased with the results and it’s definitely a dish that can be eaten any time of year, not just Lent.

The ingredient list is simple, but the slow cooking turns this into a beautifully flavoured dish.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course)

  • 2 cups of dried butterbeans
  • 1 head of garlic
  • A bay leaf
  • 1 large fillet of fresh cod (I used smoked but unsmoked would also be good) flaked into chunks
  • 2 cups approx. of finely chopped fresh spinach or kale
  • A pinch of saffron (or half a teaspoon of turmeric)
  • 3 cloves (optional)

Start by soaking the beans in water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda overnight. The next day drain them, cover well with water, add all the ingredients except the fish and spinach and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for a couple of hours (or cook in a low heat in the oven for about 4 hous as I do) until the beans are really tender. Just before serving remove the garlic, bay leaf and cloves (if using), add the cod and spinach and cook on a medium heat. Stir a little to break up some of the beans and thicken the soup. Season with salt to taste.

Smoked  Cod & Butterbean Stew (1)

Serve with a drizzle of fresh olive oil.

If you want more Lenten recipes, take a look at Chgo John gorgeous Grilled Salted Cod recipe or my Parpuchas (Salt Cod Fritters) from last year.

PS. I have jsut come across a company that supplies (in the UK) some Spanish ingredients. Here’s the link (they haven’t paid me for this) but have just ordered the ingredients for Fabada Asturiana from them, so am hoping they’ll be good.

Something Old, Something New – Melokhia

11 Feb

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.

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