Tartiflette – a dish to warm the soul (but only if you’re not counting the calories)

Reblochon is a delicious soft French cheese which is wonderful eaten “as is” but when cooked in a typical dish of Tartiflette, reaches another level of gorgeousness. Well, if you love soft creamy melted cheese it does!

The weather in England taunted us with its spring like warmth and Big Man decided that it was perfect weather to start painting the outside of our seaside house. Of course, day one was perfect as we prepared. We covered what felt like miles of guttering with newspaper and masking tape. We bought paint and thinner and got our brushes and rollers ready. Day two the painting commenced. And the clouds moved in, the temperature dropped and rain looked ominous. We were working at the back of the house which gets the sun, so at least when there was a break in the clouds we could enjoy a little of its warmth.

Tartiflette (3)

Day three, second coat of paint. The clouds were there to stay. The odd splash of rain (or was it a passing seagull?…I prefer not to dwell on it). But we persevered. Luckily the paint was made for British Weather (oh yes, the word Weather deserves a Capital Letter) and dries in 20 minutes.

Job done but we were chilled through. Time for some hearty Alpine food, and to hell with the calories!

Ingredients (to serve 3-4 people)

  • ½ Reblochon cheese (the original recipe calls for a whole one but we found half to be plenty)
  • About 700g small or medium potatoes in their skins
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, cut into small strips (or use a packet of lardons)
  • About half a glass of dry white wine
  • 100ml cream
  • Black pepper

Boil the potatoes in their skins until just cooked (timing will depend on their size but probably 15-20 mins). Drain and leave to cool slightly before peeling them. These can also be prepared ahead and left to go cold before peeling and slicing not too thinly.

In a frying pan with a little oil, add the bacon, garlic and onions and fry until the bacon starts to go crispy and the onions brown a little at the edges. Pour in the wine and cook until about half the wine has evaporated.

In an ovenproof dish put about half the potatoes, then the bacon and onion mix and then the rest of the potatoes. Now slice your cheese in half so that you have two half moon shapes and lay these on top of the potatoes. Keep the skin on the cheese and if it helps to distribute over the top more evenly, cut into triangles.

Tartiflette (6)

Pour the cream over the whole thing and season with black pepper. Bake at about 200C for around 30 minutes or until the cheese is starting to become golden and the cream is bubbling. Delicious with a simple salad.

And don’t forget to wash your paint brushes or you won’t be able to use them again….

For a vegetarian version of this dish, pop over to Promenade Planting and see Claire’s great version!

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Solomillo Asado con Champiñones y Beicon – Roast Pork Fillet with Mushrooms and Bacon

Finally, back to the cooking. An easy recipe which looks like you´ve put lots of effort in and hours of work! This would also work well with pork loin or chicken breast.

You´ll need for 2 people (with leftovers which is always a good thing)

  • 1 pork fillet
  • A sprig of rosemary (discard after cooking)
  • About 10 mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 2 rashers of bacon finely chopped
  • ½ a medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • Small glass of dry white wine or sherry
  • Seasoning
  • Olive Oil
  • Set the oven to about 180ºC (medium)

Put the pork fillet on a sheet of aluminium and rub in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and season all over with pepper and salt.  Tuck the rosemary spring under the meat and bring the aluminium up to create a basket for the meat, but don´t cover it completely.  This basket will save the cooking juices.

Put the meat onto a baking tray and into the oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes until the juices run clear when you put a skewer into the thickest part.  Remove from the oven, remove the rosemary, wrap the foil tightly round it and keep it warm for about 5 minutes to let it rest a little.

While the meat is cooking, put a few tablespoons of oil into a deep frying pan and cook the onion, garlic and bacon together gently until the onions are soft.  Add the mushrooms and a grind of pepper, stir over the heat until the mushrooms have all absorbed a little oil then add the wine and a few grinds of black pepper (no salt usually needed because of the saltiness of the bacon).  Put a lid on the pan and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked and the liquid has reduced by about half.

Now pour in the meat juices and stir in.  At this point you could add a dash of cream if you fancy a creamy sauce.  Slice the meat and either pour the bacon and mushroom sauce over or serve separately.

Any leftovers of meat can be finely chopped, mixed with the mushrooms and bacon with a little cream and are delicious on pasta!

Apologies to my veggie pals and readers (you know who you are 🙂 ) this is an unashamedly porky plate with little room for adaptation but I hope you will understand and forgive….

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

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.

Kale (3)

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!

Oops we did it again! (Tortellini with a leek and bacon broth)

First of all I am going to have to say lots of “sorries” to people. Sorry for not having posted for a while, sorry for not visiting you all so often, and a very, very big sorry to all the lovely folk who have nominated me for awards over the last few months and who I have not thanked properly. My excuses are many – the house renovations, a dreadful cold and my old laptop almost dying and having bought a new one which I’m trying to get to grips with (but not always successfully). The technical problems mean that the e-mails with the lovely award nominations are no more…along with some photos and documents. My fault entirely. So sorry. Again.

We’ve had some snow here, which was actually quite fun as there wasn’t enough to turn our little world upside down.

Snow 15 Enero 2013 (1)21 Jan 2013 (6)

We bought another place to do up – but this time it’s for us to use as our UK holiday place. Er yes, you did hear that right. Last one, I promise. But it was so sad and sorry looking and is part of an Edwardian House that needs to be loved again, we couldn’t just leave it there to get sadder could we? And when it’s done we may even let loved ones come and stay…so if you’re ever in the area…

Eek - that's all got to go!
Eek – that’s all got to go!

Walled garden - lots of potential once the rubbish has gone

But we’ve eaten too. Hearty dishes to keep out the cold, and glamorous dishes to celebrate the sea. I did cook an amazing monkfish tail with prawns and a champagne sauce. But guess what? The photos seem to have been lost in transit from one laptop to another.  Too much renovating and not enough backing up I hear you say.

Not a recipe as such for you today, but a bowl of hearty pasta and broth to chase away the snow, winter colds and house renovation madness.

Tortelloni with Leek & Bacon Broth (2)

For the two of us, I took one leek and finely sliced it, stir fried it with some finely chopped bacon (but you could use mushrooms if you wanted a veggie version), added in a packet of ricotta and spinach tortellini (or you could be fabulous like my pal ChgoJohn and make some ravioli) and covered with broth (stock). I used the broth from boiling a gammon but chicken or vegetable stock would also be good. Then I just simmered for a few minutes until the tortellini were cooked, and voila, a speedy supper. Be healthy and eat it as it is, or do like me and smother it in grated parmesan. Buon appetito!

Now you see me…. now you don´t – Oven Baked Risotto

Oh dear, where have the last 10 days or so gone to? It´s busy, busy, busy here and while we are still (of course) working, cooking and eating, there has been very little activity on the blog. I do miss you all, and I am sorry that I haven´t had time to get over and comment.  House Number One is finished. Yes, you read that right!  Well, apart from 6 door handles that need to be put on. We even have a lovely tenant waiting to move in as soon as we move out.

So you can imagine that things have moved on apace in House Number 2 (I am sitting in a bare room while the kitchen floor is being grouted and windows are being replaced upstairs and the plumbers are doing things with copper pipes).

Photos to come, but in the meantime, back to the food. Best pal Ria sent me the recipe for her oven baked risotto which is given below. Believe me, if you ever thought you fancied risotto but didn´t have time to stand over the pot and stir, this is a fantastic way to do it.  I made extra (of course) and turned the remains into something else the next day and I would strongly suggest you do the same.  I have given Maria´s version and then afterwards my adaptation according to what I had available in my fridge. Perfect comfort food.

Maria’s world famous baked haddock & cabbage risotto

Serves 4 (easily halved or doubled – it’s very forgiving)

Prep 5 mins, Cooks in 35 mins

Dead easy and delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1  tbsp olive oil
  • 1  onion chopped
  • 300g/10oz  risotto rice
  • 1  litre vegetable stock (you can use vegetable bouillon powder)
  • 280g wedge savoy cabbage, thickly sliced (Tanya – I used about a dozen thinly sliced mushrooms and half a dozen rashers of finely chopped smoked streaky bacon instead of the cabbage and haddock)
  • 400g/14oz skinless smoked haddock (preferably go for the undyed sort and ask the nice fishmonger to skin it for you – but if you can only get with skin on it’s very easy to slip off after it’s been cooked, before you flake it)
  • 3 tbsp crème fraiche
  • 50g freshly grated parmesan

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

  1. Heat oil in a 2 litre casserole dish, then soften the onion over a medium heat for about 5 mins.
  2. Tip in the rice and cook for 2 mins, stirring well.
  3. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, then add the cabbage.
  4. Cover and bake in oven for 20 mins
  5. Remove the dish from the oven and give the rice a stir.  Place the fish on top of the rice, replace the lid, then bake for 5 mins.
  6. Flake the fish into large chunks and stir into the rice with the crème fraiche and half the parmesan.  Season with freshly ground pepper, then sprinkle with the remaining parmesan to serve.
  7. Eat and enjoy.
  8. Don’t forget to pretend it was really difficult to make!

So, there it is, the secret is out…you can make a great risotto in the oven and have time to nip upstairs for a shower, pour yourself a glass of wine and take a deep breath before dinner.

Gardens and Puff Pastry with a Side Order of Steak and Chips

Bushy Garden Oct 2011

It´s that time of year here when you need to “put the garden to bed”.  Before you tuck it in for the winter, you can hack back the summer growth and give it a little room to breathe.

The interent and phone were down most of Sunday and all day Monday.  Frustrating but being “incomunicado” forces you to get up off your nether region and do something!  Gardening was the answer.

After a morning of hard work in the garden, we needed something to reward ourselves with – what better than steak and chips?  Steak is a rare treat for us, so we tend not to mess around with it too much.  A little massage with olive oil and seasoning, and onto the grill pan.  Chunky potatoes cooked in olive oil, and a little English mustard mixed with mayonnaise do it for me.

I had some leftovers from making my Chicken, Mushroom and Bacon Pie (recipe to follow another day) , so decided to make an easy dish to go with the steak and chips.

I cut what remained of the puff pastry into two rectangles and lightly cut (but not all the way through) another rectangle about one cm inside the outer edges of the pastry.  I brushed the pastry with milk and baked at 200ºC for about 15 minutes until puffed up and golden. When the pastry had cooled down I pushed in the middle section of the rectangle to leave a hollow space.

Save on the washing up and have a starter and main on the same plate

With very little oil I fried 4 thinly sliced mushrooms with 2 crushed cloves of garlic until soft then added 2 heaped tablespoons of chopped bacon.  I then added 1 heaped tablespoon of plan flour and stirred until it was cooked through.  I gradually added splashes of milk (about 5 or 6 in total), stirring all the time until I had a thick sauce and then filled the pastry cases with this.  I put them back into the oven on a low heat until I was ready to dish up the rest of the meal.

Bald Garden Nov 2011

A lovely glass of El Coto Rioja went down well with this and we sat outside for 15 minutes in the last of the afternoon´s sunshine admiring out work and drinking a good strong coffee.  It was a good day.

Runner Beans with Bacon and Garlic

It´s good to have a bean slicing gadget!

A few days ago Big Man came back from a trip to Granada raving about a different kind of tapas he had eaten that day in a bar.  First of all I need to explain all about Granada and tapas.  Granada (the entire province, not just the city) is famed for and rightly proud of its tapas culture.  In most other regions you are asked if you´d like a tapas to accompany your drink and offered a choice.  This can simply be cheese, jamon or olives or quite sophisticated grilled or fried fish, fillets of meat, or potato or seafood salad.

In Granada you don´t get offered, you just get given.  Most bars will have their own specialities and generally their first tapas will be x, the second y and so on.  Of course, if they serve you something you don´t want or like, you can ask for something different.  They even have a word for going out and moving from bar to bar sampling the best they have to offer.  It´s called “tapear”…isn´t that wonderful?  Sounds so much nicer than going on a pub or bar crawl! It also helps with not ending up with a sore head if you drink alcohol as you are eating as you go along.

So, back to the tapas he ate.  Apparently it was runner beans with bacon.  It sounds simple, and it was, but he said it was delicious and fresh and made a lovely change from the usual fare.  After cross questioning him under a spotlight (ok, I made that last bit up) he told me that he thought the beans had been cooked a little first in water, then stir fried with little cubes of bacon.  Then he thought there might have been garlic and couldn´t make his mind up if there had been tomato, but probably not.  What a great way to use up some of my runner bean glut and to get my super marvelous bean shredder out again!

So that was pretty much it.  I sliced my beans finely (I used about 2 cups) and boiled them for a few minutes then drained them.  I diced a couple of slices of smoked streaky bacon which I fried until slightly brown at the edges, threw in two cloves of crushed garlic and the beans and stir fried them for a few minutes more.

Big Man pronounced them even better than the ones in the bar, mainly because I had used some of my precious stock of lovely English bacon supplied by my pals.  And I´m happy as we have a new quick and tasty dish to use up some of our runner beans which we´re currently picking at a rate of about a kilo a day.

Chicken, Egg and Bacon Salad

Shame there were no leftovers...

I´m not sure that this one can exactly count as a recipe, as it´s more a “chuck it together and enjoy” kind of dish.   Here in Spain the main meal of the day tends to be at lunch time.  Even in cities where people work in shops and offices, there is still a tradition to shut at 2pm and then re open at 5pm.  Lunch is taken very seriously!  The evening meal is rarely eaten before 10pm, which was a bit of a struggle for me at first, even though I usually ate at about 8pm in the UK.  Over time I´ve got used to it, especially now that I´ve realised that the evening meal is generally something very light.  A soup, or salad perhaps.

Of course, there are times when the evening meal is something more elaborate, but that tends to be related to an event, in which case you wouldn´t go to bed early (that´s around midnight here!) but more like somewhere between 3am and 7am…crazy hours.  Of course, that gives you time to digest dinner, dance it off, and perhaps even indulge in a breakfast of hot chocolate and churros before going to bed to sleep off the festivities.

Last night was just a regular night.  We fancied something light but filling, so I made one of our favourites –  Chicken, Egg and Bacon Salad.

Ingredients are rather approximate – use what you have to hand.  We used:

  • One lettuce heart roughly chopped
  • Two small-ish potatoes (boiled in their skins then peeled and roughly chopped)
  • Two hard boiled eggs, quartered
  • One large chicken breast, griddled
  • 4 rashers of streaky bacon (griddled)
  • 1 small packet of anchovies in olive oil
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Seasoning

I also made an extra dressing, which make enough for another salad

  • Half a small tub of natural yogurt (half a 125 tub)
  • The same quantity of mayonnaise
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • A tablespoon of milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

There´s no method to this, just combine the salad ingredients, season and dress very lightly with olive oil and lemon juice.  You can leave this out if you like lashings of the yogurt and mayonnaise dressing.  It´s entirely up to you.  For the dressing, just put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix until you´ve got a smooth, fairly runny sauce and drizzle over the salad.

Other ingredients which are good in this salad, which I guess has a touch of the “Chicken Caesar” about it, are avocado, croutons, grated hard cheese….go on, give it a go!