Harira Style Soup

You know when you buy a new cookbook and it´s full of lovely recipes, but the reality is you probably won´t cook that many of them and feel a bit let down? Mmm, yes, we´ve probably all been there. Well, not so with my new Ottolenghi book. In fact, I had intended to leave it in the UK to use when we return in a few weeks to start work on the house renovation. But it kept whispering to me, “take me with you, take me with you”, so back to Spain it came and I have been cooking from it already with plans for many more dishes.

First up was Harira, a Moroccan soup made with chickpeas and lamb. Yes, I´m trying to clear out my freezer a little before we leave, so out came a piece of lamb.  And you know how we love our chickpeas in Andalucía…it was meant to be. Of course, I made a few changes but I am sure Mr O won´t mind.

It´s not quite like other Harira soups I´ve made, but I was very pleased with the results. I think it would also be a very good vegetarian soup if you leave out the meat and use vegetable stock or water. I have also made this soup with rice and lentils also included.  This is a lovely recipe too from Robert Carrier.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

  • 200g dried chickpeas soaked overnight in water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda (I don´t know the quantities for using ready cooked, canned but I would imagine it would be at least double the weight)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion roughly chopped
  • 200g lamb fillet cut into 1cm dice (I used a piece of neck fillet on the bone which I cooked whole then pulled the cooked meat off and stirred into the soup
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I used 1 tsp)
  • 1kg tinned chopped tomatoes (I used about half this amount of my own tomatoes)
  • 1.2 litres of chicken stock or water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • A pinch of Saffron strands (I used a teaspoon of turmeric)
  • I also added 1 tsp each of cinnamon and hot chili powder
  • 100g baby spinach (I used chopped chard from the veggie garden)
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander (didn´t have any, so omitted)
  • 4-6 lemon wedges
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

Cook the chickpeas in plenty of water until completely tender (about an hour or an hour and a half), drain and reserve.

In a large saucepan over a medium heat, gently fry the onion until translucent. Increase the heat and add the lamb and fry until sealed.

At this point I added the spices (Mr O does this later in his version). Now add the tomato purée, and sugar, cook for a couple of minutes then add the chopped tomato, drained chickpeas, liquid and a little seasoning.

Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 35-45 minutes until the meat is tender. Squeeze in a little lemon juice (I didn´t add it all at this stage as per the recipe) and this is where Mr O adds his spices.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. Just before serving, bring the soup back to the boil and add the finely chopped spinach (chard in my case) then remove from the heat. Serve with lemon wedges.

Very delicious, I may even spice it up a little more next time. And yes, the book will be coming with me again to the UK….it likes to travel.

Advertisements

Spring is Sprung – New Life in the Huerto

Spring is sprung,
De grass is riz,
I wonder where dem birdies is?
De little birds is on de wing,
Ain’t dat absurd?
De little wing is on de bird!

Apologies, but I do enjoy nonsense and nursery rhymes! Yesterday at 6.14am, Spring officially began here in Spain.  Unfortunately someone forgot to tell the weather and the warm temperatures we have been experiencing dropped overnight.

No matter, we have been putting some early plants into our veggie patch, but Big Man has been creating mini polytunnels to protect them on cold days and nights.

In about a week we´ll be eating our first broad beans, and the onions are also coming on nicely.

We planted a totally ridiculous 280 cloves of garlic, and are now planting lettuce between the rows.  Big Man will cover them with netting or the little sparrows will think they´ve been invited to a Michelin starred restaurant.

We planted a first “wave” of tomatoes, peppers and chard.

The tomatoes are already producing flowers.

The chard is almost ready to start picking.

But helpers are thin on the ground here. Better to sleep in the warm sun room.

Luna says "Just five more minutes and then I´ll come and help"

Maybe I´ll get up and help.

Did someone mention digging?!

Maybe not, I´ll just put my head down and no one will notice I´m here.

Think I´ll just stay here and wait until my fur grows back after the home haircut Mum & Dad gave me...

And a final piece of “newness”.  John From the Bartolini Kitchens, very kindly sent me a fantastic tutorial on how to insert the Flag Counter I now have right at the very bottom of my blog page. If you scroll down, down, down you will see that it is now starting collect flags from the countries that have visited my blog. Very interesting and a lot of fun to check up on. Maybe one day I´ll get to visit more of them.  Thanks John, my brilliant long lost Italian cousin!

In the Garden – February 2012

It´s been such a long time since I talked about the garden or the vegetable patch. Naturally, it´s still winter, the soil is resting.

But not quite. It´s been an exceptionally mild winter, and while things could still change, there are signs of life.

My cyclamen, bought before Christmas, continues to stun us with its beauty.  I am doubly shocked as I generally manage to kill pot plants within a few days.  What do I do next with it? It currently sits inside our sun room, with the door open all day and sun in the afternoon. It seems very happy.

Some of our geranium cuttings are already producing little flowers.

Daffodil and narcissus bulbs planted last year (bought back from the UK) are flowering.

My parsley survived the winter outside, this is the first year this has happened.

Broad beans and onions in their little winter shelter.  We open the door and let the sun in during the day and we´ll be eating beans again in a few weeks.

Plenty of garlic for the year ahead. I thought it was only a month away from being ready, but wise old Big Man tells me I need to be much more patient. In the background one of our lemons and our artichoke plants which are already producing baby artichokes.

Our other lemon took a battering in the recent high winds, but still has plenty of lemons and produces new flowers with each new moon.

We don´t tend to grow our produce from seeds as many of Big Man´s family do this on a large scale for a living. We are going to risk some early planting. Nothing to lose, we think. Basil, thyme, chard, spinach, frying peppers, bell peppers, some more lettuce and some salad tomatoes.

Winter has been kind to us this year. Fingers crossed it won´t take us by surprise in the next few weeks.

Split Pea & Squash Curry

Now that we seem to have caught up (vegetable-availability-wise) with everyone who was posting squash and pumpkin recipes back in the autumn, I am finally cooking lots of warming winter dishes which include this fantastic ingredient. Having said that, it´s not actually very cold here at the moment, but it is Janaury, so I feel justified in making wintery food.

Although we didn´t put on any extra kilos over Christmas, no one could ever accuse either me or Big Man of being under weight, so recipes which are healthier and packed with vegetables are perfect for us.

A mild flavoured curry was on my list – Big Man doesn´t like them hot, and I can always add a little dried chilli at the end to turn up the heat in my own portion.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a hearty soup or more as a side dish)

  • 200g split yellow peas (the last of a stash bought over by visitors…so sad)
  • 500g squash peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 cup of tomato conserva or chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 1 onion peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
  • 1 head of garlic (you will be roasting this and only using half)
  • 2-3 cups of vegetable stock or water
  • 3 heaped teaspoons of your favourite curry mix (I usually make mine with ground turmeric, chilli, cumin, dried coriander, black pepper and cardamom seeds and then add a little fresh grated ginger when I cook)
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1 dried chilli crumbled (optional)
  • Oil for frying

Turn the oven onto a high setting and place the squash on a tray lined with foil. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle a little oil over.  Roast for about 30 minutes until soft and brown at the edges.  Put the garlic in at the same time, wrapped loosely in foil.

Start by dry frying the mustard seeds until they pop. Remove them from the pan. Add a little oil to your pan and fry the onion and garlic until they are soft, then add your curry powder and mustard seeds and fry until the lovely aromas start to come out, then add the split peas (or you could use lentils).  Now add the tomato conserva and 2 cups of the stock or water plus the crumbled chilli if using.

Cook gently until the split peas are almost soft (you may need to add more liquid, just keep an eye on them). Remove the squash and garlic from the oven and cut the squash into smaller bite sized chunks.  Add these to the split peas.  Pop half of the garlic cloves out of their skins and add to the curry. Mash the other half and cover with a little oil, it will keep for at least a week in the fridge and can be used in other dishes or dips.

Add a drop more liquid to the vegetables if necessary, cooking the curry for about 10 more minutes until everything is soft and cooked through.  You can mash some of the squash, garlic and split peas with the back of a wooden spoon, leaving some chunky.  Add salt, you´ll probably find it can take quite a lot, but the choice is yours. Eat as a thick soup or a side dish and it´s lovely served with rice or naan bread.

Delicious with a squeeze of lime juice and chopped coriander, but I didn´t have either of them so I just used lemon juice. If you like it even milder and more creamy, stir in a couple of big spoonfuls of thick creamy yogurt.

We had some leftovers, so the next day I added some more stock, yogurt and some finely chopped chard (you could use spinach, kale, cabbage) and warmed it through to make a delicious soup – I´m not sure which version I liked best!

Roasted Tomato Tart with Chard and Home Made Curd Cheese

Beware the Giant Fork!

The great thing about writing a blog and reading other blogs is that inspiration comes from all around you.  Not so long ago I got into a dialogue with ChgoJohn over at From The Bartolini Kitchens about cheese.  He makes all sorts of cheeses and has posted a fantastic recipe for ricotta.  It reminded me that I hadn´t done this for quite some time, although my version doesn´t use cream.  Unfortunately we just can´t get anything other than UHT whipping cream or a chemical mix which masquerades as single or cooking cream here.  A shame, but that´s how it is.

A freezer clear out to make room for all my lovely beans that are growing, rewarded me with a packet of filo pastry.  Time to get making something tasty.

Here´s how I made my curd cheese.

Bring one litre of milk (I used semi skimmed) almost to the boil (when little bubbles start to appear round the edges).

Bubbly milk

Turn off the heat then add citric acid, lemon juice or white wine vinegar (about 2 – 3 tablespoons but add it gradually) whilst stirring with a wooden spoon.  Once curds start to form, put a lid on the pot and leave to stand for about 10 minutes.

Beautiful Curds

Drain and leave for a few hours or overnight. 

The Waiting Game

Stir in salt to taste and you´re done! Don´t forget to save that whey for making soda bread.

Lovely Curd Cheese

To make the tart I lined a loose bottomed tart tin with four sheets of filo which I brushed with olive oil (but you could also use butter).

I put in a layer of chopped, wilted chard (with all the water squeezed out) which I had mixed with two beaten eggs, 3 tablespoons of grated parmesan and seasoning. You could substitute the chard with spinach or beets.

 Then I added a layer of curd cheese and then a layer of halved roasted tomatoes.  You could also use thinly sliced raw tomatoes.  Finally I folded over the filo sheets and added two more to the top, brushed the whole thing with a little more oil and baked for 30 minutes at 180ºC.

Lots of flaky, crispy crumbs!

It was delicious warm, but just as tasty (although not quite so crunchy) cold the next day.

Breakfast On The Beach

Better than a Breakast Bap!

Big Man and I decided that we would have a little day away from mountain and head down to the beach.  We would go for lunch in a local restaurant we know near the spot we like, but decided to have breakfast on the beach.

For once, we were organised, and made this plan the night before, so I decided to prepare something ready for the morning.

I defrosted a sheet of puff pastry and folded the edges over to create a little rim.  I baked this in a hot oven for about 10 minutes until it was just starting to turn brown.

For a filling I beat two of our free range eggs with two tablespoon of milk, seasoning and a cup full of chopped wilted chard (just the green part) with the excess water squeezed out.

I poured this into the pastry “case” and baked for another 10 minutes or so until it was set.  It looked lovely when it came out of the oven, but I didn´t take the snap until the next morning when it looked a little less crusty and flaky.  Nonetheless, it was delicious cold and we didn´t even get any sand in it!

PS. Bet you´re glad I spared you a photo of us eating it on the beach…

The Vegetable Patch – 9 Weeks On

This evening´s harvest

I can´t believe that I´ve been picking veggies and not bragging about it!

Today we finally picked our first red tomatoes…hurrah!  We were late planting, but now that they´ve kicked in, there will be no stopping us for quite a few months now.  Am planning salads, sauces, sun dried tomatoes and goodness knows what else.  My plum tomatoes (or roma) are getting huge, but still frustratingly refuse to turn red.

Please do the decent thing and turn red soon!

We planted 18 runner bean plants this year (as opposed to the totally ridiculous 60 last year) and have been picking them almost daily for about 3 weeks now.  We´ve still got a way to go with them, but thanks to my nifty runner bean slicer, we´re enjoying beans and freezing them too for later.

The aubergines are ripening and I´ve started to pick them quite small.  Later I´ll leave them to get a little larger, but I couldn´t hold back.

Our long thin green peppers which are great for gazpacho are now being picked every couple of days.  They´re also wonderful deep fried (stuffed or not) in olive oil and just sprinkled with salt.  Our bell peppers are growing well, but need some more time to get bigger and then red.

The dwarf beans we planted a couple of weeks ago are all in flower, so it won´t be long now until they´re producing little bobby beans for us.  I´m quite excited as I´ve planted two varieties, one green and one yellow.  I´m sure they´ll taste pretty much the same but they´ll look extra pretty!

Our little bobby beans...

Our Spanish radishes, which are long as opposed to round, are doing great.  We pick a couple each day and they have a good bite to them.  We´ll probably plant a few more as they come up from seed so quickly.

And our little Spanish cucumbers are doing well.  We grew them from seeds from a cucumber we saved last year.  The cucumber had come from plants that our neighbour Diego gave us from seeds of his own – so these are several generations old.  It´s good to have a little bit of history in the garden!

Our chard flourishes, I keep giving bunches of it away, but will do something this week with it for us.  And our celery is slowly but surely getting bigger.

Very Happy Chard

We have other things going on in the vegetable patch, and I´ll take some pics as the become ready.  I do have to mention our little vines.  Big Man is very rightly proud of our muscat grapes which are now trained over the kitchen window.  They look amazing, we had to remove some as we had so many bunches but they would never have all ripened.   Am looking forward to grapes in September and drying some for Christmas too.

Gorgeous Grapes

I love summer…but I´m off to water the garden soon as it´s very hot here during the day and the plants are thirsty.  ¡Hasta luego!

Sort of Saag Aloo

Yummy curry...

I love Indian food.  If I had to choose a favourite cuisine, I think Indian would be it.  We do have a few Indian restaurants not too far away from us (i.e. about half an hour´s drive) but I usually get my curry fix when I go to London.  I was lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood that was predominantly Indian and African, so I was spoilt for choice in wonderful ethnic restaurants.

Sometimes, however, my cravings get the better of me and I have to make curry at home. Big Man hasn´t ever really “had” the full curry experience, so doesn´t really understand my need for curry, but on the occasions I´ve made something  “currified”, he´s enjoyed it.

We currently have a lot of chard growing and usually eat it wilted with oil and lemon juice but I decided to substitute the spinach in a Saag Aloo (that´s a Spinach and Potato curry) for chard, and see how it worked.  Fortunately it was a perfect substitution and Big Man adored it.  I think he´s starting to become a curry monster like me!

Freshly picked but not yet cleaned

I lay no claims to the authenticity of the spices I use in relation to a real Indian Saag Aloo, but the combination worked well and had good spicy (but not too hot) flavour.

Ingredients used:

Smells wonderful even before cooking

3 teaspoons of Garam Masala mix (you can buy ready made or make your own). I used a mix bought over by a friend which a chef friend of hers makes up and I then grind as I need it.  I don´t know the exact mix but I picked out coriander seeds, curry leaves, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon and coriander.

1 or 2 teaspoons of hot chili powder (or use mild) according to taste

1 teaspoon of ground turmeric

Half a teaspoon of mustard seeds

Two medium potatoes (mine were ready cooked as it´s what I had in the fridge but you can use raw) cubed

About 3 cups of uncooked (or just wilted in its own steam), chopped spinach or chard, otherwise you can use frozen

About half a cup of chopped tomatoes

3 cloves of crushed garlic

Oil for frying (something with little flavour, not olive oil)

Salt

Lemon

Start by frying the potatoes until lightly browned then remove them from the pan and drain off most of the oil.

Fry your potatoes

Fry the spices until they start to release the most wonderful  smells and then add the garlic and fry until it softens.

Breathe deeply and enjoy the wonderful spicy scents

Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes then add your spinach or chard.

Add your spinach or chard to the tomato

Put a lid on the pan and simmer for another 5 minutes or so then add the potatoes.

Add salt, Indian food can take (and usually needs) a heavy hand with the salt, but use low sodium if you can´t use regular.

Simmer, uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated but all of the vegetables are coated in the tomato and spice sauce.

I like this served with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Can be served as a side dish or a main (vegetarian) dish with plain boiled basmati rice.  Now, where are my popadoms?!

The Vegetable Garden – One Month On

I realised tonight that a month had flown past since we planted our vegetable “plugs” this year.  We´re catching up as we´ve has plenty of rain followed by sunshine and a few misty evenings, which the plants seem to love!

Our herbs are doing well, apart from my parsley and cilantro (coriander) which are still looking a bit sad.

I´ve let the sage flower as I think it looks so pretty.  I sometimes deep fry the large leaves in very hot olive oil for a few seconds and sprinkle with coarse sea salt as a little nibble with almonds and olive…and wine, of course!

Sage flowers

The mint is going crazy…these were the stragglers which I had to pull up later.

Rampaging Mint

I´ve also let the chives go to seed as the flowers are also lovely in salads.

Delicious chives...great for potato salad

The basil is almost ready for the first batch of pesto.

Fragrant Basil

We´ve got plum tomatoes.

A Future Sun Dried Tomato

We´ve got a “wild” tomato which has sprung up from a leftover seed from a squashed tomato from last year.  It has such a desire to live, we´ve let it do its own thing!

Born to be wild....!

We have some (very) bitter salad leaves and the delicious chard.  The celery tucked in there is slow to get going, but we´ll let it take its time.

Green Leaves and Bitter Leaves

Tomatoes, beans and the little muscat vines.

View down to my kitchen window

We´ve got rocket seedlings (must plant some more though)

Aaah....less than a week old

The first of the runner beans should be ready to pick in a few days

Teeny, tiny beans

The onions are doing well too

Onions in neat rows!

We´ve got long thin green peppers and large bell peppers – but we can´t remember which are which.  We´ll soon find out!

Which one are you then?

Cucumber flowers

Grown from last year´s seeds

The aubergine flowers are so pretty – wish they´d hurry up as I love aubergines (eggplant!)

Hurry Up! Hurry Up!

Dwarf French beans (yellow and green) which we only planted a week ago

Not quite Jack & The Beanstalk, but working on it!

And finally, radish seedlings…not long now!

Peppery and Pretty!

As I said, we´re a little behind this year because of the very wet spring that we had, but we´re happy with progress so far and already dreaming of grilled vegetables, salads and bunches of grapes.  Happy growing to you all!