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.

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.

Beautiful Bordeaux

When we travel to and from the UK we stop pretty much half way just near Bordeaux. A hotel just off the motorway, a place to rest for the night after about 1200km from Malaga and the pups can stay with us too.

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This time we decided to take a slow trip back and stop for two nights so that we could actually go into Bordeaux and enjoy some of the sights of this stunning city. The weather was amazing, we walked and walked, we enjoyed great food and it was a wonderful way to start to unwind after many months of hard work and a long drive from England.

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Do hope you enjoy the photos, they were only taken on the little camera as I didn’t want to be loaded down, but I think they capture the atmosphere of this beautiful place.

Of course, there was ice cream and we all got to share!

The Weary Travellers Are Home!

Five months after starting on another project, we’re home back Up Our Mountain. Smile. Breathe In. Breathe Out.

Burgos Cathedral By Day
Burgos Cathedral

We took a slow drive home via Bordeaux, Biarritz and Burgos. Seems we only visited places beginning with the letter B! Just playing catch up with life, blogs, family and home. Normal service will be resumed soon, thanks for bearing with me…I’ve missed you all.

Eek – Bad Photo Warning, but Good Food!

So, you’d think I’d have learned by now that if you want a decent photo of food in a restaurant you have to eat at mid day, take a camera, not dig in first and ensure the light is good.

Oh dear, most of our best meals in Jersey were eaten at night, in dimly lit restaurants, with the photos taken on the phone and only after we had started eating and then remembered “ooh, must take a snap of this”!

But…being an honest Chica and wanting to share the experience with you, here are the photos in all their awful glory. Suspend your reaction to the bad photos and imagine the deliciousness of the actual food. Buen provecho!

Oysters featured frequently – and often at mid day with a glass of wine, so this photo is not too bad…

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Mussels in white wine and Jersey cream…

DSCF4251A beautiful carpaccio of beef

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Duck spring rolls in a home-made pastry…

DSCF4237Lamb shank…

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Blueberry creme brulee…

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There was also a wild mushroom and puff pastry tart, a bacon hock with borlotti beans, panna cotta, cheese boards, fish pie, fruits de mer, scallops…but if I tell you that the photos above are the best of a truly bad bunch…well, you get the picture.

So…I’ll leave you with a few more scenic shots and we’ll move on back to the cooking in the next post.

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Home Again – There’s No Place Like It!

When I say home, I mean our Down by the Sea home. This year has not been a great for us when it comes to holidays. We had to cancel all our plans in the summer because of ill-health and death in the family. It’s the way life goes sometimes. We understand that. But thought we’d try just one more time with a few days away for our anniversary and headed to the beautiful island of Jersey.

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Well, I think The Devil (pictured below, he turned up unexpectedly) had a hand in the proceedings.

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We did enjoy some amazing meals and our hotel was lovely…but oh the weather! Rain, wind, cold, more rain, more cold and really strong winds. It’s a teeny tiny island and mostly should be enjoyed outdoors. Luckily the sun broke through every so often for a few minutes and we leapt out of out little hire car to snap a view.

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We ate and drank amazingly well, and I’ll share some of our meals with you later. But for the moment, we’re staying put. If I mention going away on holiday for a while, please slap me round the face with a wet fish and remind me that There’s No Place Like Home.

Tarallucci – Savoury Fennel Biscuits and a little break for Chica and Big Man

I seem to be cooking to an Italian theme right now – no particular reason. Well, I did buy a new (second hand) cookery book, Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo. If you ever get a change to watch the series they made to go with the book, do give it a go – it features some good food from all around Italy and the pair of them behave like a funny old couple who have been married for years! The following recipe comes from the book.

Taralucci (5)

Here’s a bread type recipe which I made recently as they reminded me of nibbles my parents often serve at their home with olives and salted almonds with pre lunch or dinner drinks. The first batch I made came out a little chewy, more like crispy bagels. I cooked the second batch for longer and they were as I remembered – crispy, hard and deliciously aniseedy in flavour.

Ingredients (makes 40-50 but can easily be halved)

  • 200g semolina four
  • 200g plain flour plus extra for dusting (use all plain flour if you don’t have semolina flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 x 7g sachet of fast blend yeast (or 1 sachet of dried yeast dissolved in 150ml lukewarm water)
  • 150ml water (no need to use if you have used it to dissolve your yeast)
  • 100ml of extra virgin olive oil

Add the fennel seeds, salt and pepper to the flours and mix then add the liquids. Knead well for about 5 mins and then leave to rise for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Knead again for another 5 mins and then pat the dough into a flat, rectangular shape. Cut strips about 2cms wide off and cut each strip into 10cm lengths. Wrap each strip around a finger, flattening it slightly and pressing the ends firmly together.

Preheat the oven to 180 degress C or gas Mark 4 and bring a large pot of slightly salted water to the boil.

Drop the dough circles into the water in batches, let then rise to the surface and let them cook for about 3 minutes.

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Life them out with a slotted spoon and leave them to drain (I did this on greaseproof paper as I found they stuck to kitchen paper).

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet and bake for about 35 minutes until lightly browned and crispy (the original recipe calls for initial cooking for 15 mins at the higher temperature then 10 minutes at a medium temperature). Leave to cool and enjoy with a glass of something lovely.

Tomorrow we’re packing our little cases and heading over to the beautiful island of Jersey. I say beautiful because I hear it is – it will be out first visit. And we’re not worried that rain and gloomy weather are forecast as we’re going to celebrate our anniversary which also (most fortunately) coincides with a food and drink festival. Well, we might do a little sightseeing but hopefully we’ll be back a few kilos heavier and full of exciting ideas for new dishes. See you next week!

Take a walk with me…around Granada

We are very lucky when we are Up the Mountain, to live less than an hour and a half from the amazingly beautiful city of Granada. Home to the stunning Palace of the Alhambra, it’s a city that softly breathes echoes of its mediaeval Moorish past at every corner.

Today I’m going to take you on a little walk from the top of the hill which overlooks the Alhambra, to enjoy the amazing views of the palace from the Mirador (view point) de San Nicolás – probably one of the most photographed views in Granada.

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If you wind your way slowly down the hill you get back to the town centre, walking through narrow streets.

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Not many cars here, only residents, the little bus and taxis can enter.

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Beautiful architecture.

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Busy squares

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Restaurants galore…

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Granada is famed for its tapas – with every drink, something wonderful to taste.

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Peek through windows.

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And fortify yourself with coffee and pastries. These little ones are called Piononos, named after a Pope and made in Santa Fé, a town just outside the city of Granada.

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This past weekend was a huge religious festival with special cakes for “The Virgin” being sold everywhere.

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A stroll around the centre and a chuckle at the Eco Roundabout!

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Photos taken on my phone, so not the greatest quality, but when in Granada, you just have to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the tapas and tea shops, and promise to go back again.

Olive Oil Pastry – So simple, even I couldn’t mess it up….

I love pastry but am mostly too lazy to make it. Except at Christmas, when I make Clara’s Shortcrust Pastry. And sometimes I use it to make quiche.

Perhaps I don’t make it that often because

  1. In Spain, getting hold of butter and keeping it fresh before it reaches my fridge is a saga in itself
  2. In England, I’m either too busy ripping out nasty bathrooms or it’s easier to pop to the supermarket and buy it ready made (oops, did I just admit that in public?!)

Enough of this nonsensical pastry avoidance, Chica. Pull yourself together and make it with olive oil! So of course, I did. And you know what? It’s so easy, and so tasty, and so silky and forgiving should you break it (what, me?!) that I suspect we’ll be eating a lot more of it in the next few months. And also, with only 2 tablespoons of oil in a 4 person serving, it really can’t be bad for you, can it?

Veggie Garden Pie with Olive Oil Pastry

Ingredients to line a 24cm (9.2 inch) flan tin with enough left over to make a few cheese and marmite nibbles (my grandmother always used to make these as a treat with the leftover scraps of pastry), this is what you need:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tbs olive oil (30ml)
  • Up to 4 tbs iced water (60ml)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

I made mine in my food processor, but if making by hand, follow the same steps, it will only take you a couple of minutes longer.

Blend the flour and salt together then add the olive oil and blitz (or rub with your fingers) for a few seconds. Slowly add the water with the motor running but stop as soon as the mixture clumps together.

Press the mixture into a ball and chill (optional) for half an hour wrapped in cling film.

Cheese & Marmite Nibbles

You can roll this pastry out really thinly if you like, it behaves well. Use it to make your favourite quiches and pies. I made a vegetable pie with a filling of sautéed peppers, onions, tomatoes and blanched runner beans which sat on top of a mix of 2 tablespoons of cream cheese with one beaten egg, and topped wth sliced tomato.

And because pastry is rather dull to look at (never start a sentence with the word “and” Chica), I thought I’d show you a lovely photo from New Zealand, taken way too many years ago!

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Can You See What I See?

Yes, it´s my mountain!

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We drove from England to Spain and arrived home late last night after a fairly slow journey through a cold, sleety and snowy France. Brrrr!

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We´re a bit “Up in the Air” (and it´s not just because we´re back Up Our Mountain). We don´t know where we´re going to be for Christmas.

Maybe Spain, or maybe back to the UK to finish off House Number 2 and possibly take on some more work or help my parents out with various jobs.

No matter. We´re here right now. The sun is shining, the garden and the veggie plot have been tidied and prepared for winter.

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The dogs are happy.

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The day started with good coffee, a walk around the garden snapping these quick shots and we´re off out for lunch! We are a happy Chica and Big Man. Well, we´re pretty much happy most of the time, but today we´re extra happy.

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More news as soon as we know ourselves what is happening, and time this week to catch up with some blogging, recipes and nesting back into our Mountain Home. Have a great Sunday everyone.