Ravioli Making – Fun on a Hot Summer’s Evening

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.

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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.

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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!

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

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

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

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(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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Spiced Carrot Soup

Soup is generally enjoyed by most people. But there are a few funny folk out there, and I can say this, as the ones I’m going to talk about I love dearly. I have one friend who will only eat blended soup. She says if it’s chunky she doesn’t know whether to eat it or drink it. Big Man, on the other hand, will tolerate blended soup, but prefers chunks in a hearty soup. Maybe it’s a Boy Thing. I, being contrary to everyone, love soup in all forms and think it should be served for breakfast along with all things savoury. Am still working on curry flavoured yogurt (seriously!) but in the meantime, let’s get back to soup.

Spiced Carrot Soup (2)

Big Man had to head back to Spain for a few days, so in addition to catching up on a pile of paperwork, I indulged in curries (not the curry flavoured yogurt though) and blended soups.  A favourite of many people, with everyone giving it their own little twist, here’s my carrot soup recipe.

To serve 2 as a main course

  • 1 litre of water or vegetable stock
  • 8-10 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • A bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped (including the stalks)
  • ½ teaspoon of chili powder
  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 chopped onion

Fry the cumin seeds and coriander powder for a minute in a little olive oil. Now put all the ingredients including the spices and their scented oil (reserving some of the fresh coriander for serving) into a large saucepan, bring to the boil then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes until the  carrots are cooked.  Check and season to taste if necessary then purée with an immersion stick blender or in your regular blender.  Also good with a dollop of creamy natural yogurt.  Serve piping hot, wearing comfy slippers with two pups at your feet (optional).

And do check out another version of this soup I make with split peas. Yum!

It’s is carrot soup time of year I think, as here too are some beautiful recipes posted recently by fellow bloggers Frugal Feeding and Natalie at Cook Eat Live Vegetarian…yum!

And now for some gratuitous house renovation shots (House No 2)

Before

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After (Luna thinks the carpet was put there expressly for her as a back scratcher)

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Lamb with Quince, Pomegranate and Coriander

The 6th January is the Feast of Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of the Three Kings to Bethlehem. In Spain el Día De Los Reyes is a feast Day, and widely anticipated and celebrated by young and old. Traditionally a Roscón de Reyes (a Cake of Kings) is made. Check out my recipe from last year here, or Giovanna´s beautiful creation here.

Although we´re currently in England, we weren´t going to let a celebration pass us by, and the opportunity to celebrate it with best friends and parents was too good to miss.

Lamb with Quince (1)

We may have had to eat off a folding table in a half decorated room with mismatched plates from charity shops, but we were going to eat well.

We started with Jamon y Queso (Ham & Cheese) and Habas con Jamon (Broad Beans with Ham) and a delicious Brandada. Check out Mad Dog´s fantastic post all about this Catalan delicacy.

Our main course was inspired by my Christmas present from Big Man, the beautiful book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. We had bought a couple of quince back from Spain with us, although I didn´t have quite enough so added in chunks of butternut squash (Ottolenghi recommends pear) which worked really well.  Below is how I cooked the recipe with the original recipe also shown.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course)

  • 400g minced lamb
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 red chili, chopped (I used 1 tsp hot pimentón)
  • 20g chopped coriander plus 2tbsp to garnish
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 2 medium onions peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • 4 quince (1.3kg in total) I used 2 quince and a small butternut squash
  • ½ lemon squeezed plus 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp pomegranate molasses (I couldn´t find this so used honey plus the juice of an extra half a lemon)
  • 2 tsp sugar (I left this out)
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Seeds of ½ pomegranate
  • Salt and black pepper

Place the lamb in a bowl with the garlic, chili, coriander, breadcrumbs, allspice, half the ginger, half the onion, egg and seasoning. Mix with your hands and then form small meatballs. The original recipe suggests stuffing halves of quince, Believe me, this is very hard work as quince are very hard to peel and chop, so I went with his other suggestion to chop the quince and cook with the lamb meatballs.

Lamb with Quince (2)

Peel and chop the quince/squash into large chunks and finely chop about a quarter of the chunks. Leave the larger pieces in a pot of water with the juice of half a lemon to stop the quince turning too brown. Or don´t bother – it will still look and taste good when cooked!

Heat the oil and add the finely chopped quince/squash, onions, ginger and cardamom pods. Cook (covered) until softened then add the molasses and lemon juice (or honey and lemon juice), sugar (if using), stock and seasoning. Now add the quince/squash and meatballs and cook gently for about an hour (covered) or until the fruit is soft. Remove the lid and turn up the heat and cook for a further few minutes until the sauce is thick and pulpy, check for seasoning and sprinkle with the pomegranate and fresh coriander before serving. I also added an extra squeeze of lemon juice.

Tastes even better if made the day before (just don´t add the coriander and pomegranate). I served it with basmati rice into which I stirred browned onions and cumin seeds (toasted and crushed with a pestle and mortar).

Fruit Platter (1)

Phew – a lovely meal with friends which was rounded off with singing and dancing (of the silly variety), Roscón and a fruit platter which went some way to convincing us that we hadn´t consumed any calories at all over Christmas and New Year.

One Pot Beef Burger with Caramelised Red Onions and Coriander …and “Fries”

Cooking “Under Fire”, or in difficult conditions brings a special set of challenges. You don´t have your usual array of pots and pan available to you. You also don´t have your usual stock cupboard with its range of flavours and spices at your fingertips. But you do have a good appetite at the end of a busy day, and you have tasty ingredients available to you which are not so easy to get hold of back home in Spain. So…you adapt. You work around the “problems” and enjoy the opportunity of a challenge.

I bought a large, deep frying pan with me which can be used for deep or shallow frying, braising and boiling and searing meat at a high heat. Here in the UK there are beautiful little waxy potatoes and superb beef from my new best friend the local butcher. I have learnt to cook more than I need when I get the chance, then to use leftovers the next day in another dish to save time.

Having made a delicious Ensalada Cateta (Orange and Potato Salad) for a taste of home, I made sure to cook double the amount of potatoes. Of course, I didn´t weigh them so I can´t give you exact amounts, but you´ll know how many you can eat!

Ingredients

For the burgers

  • 300g ground beef approx
  • One large red onion finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar or honey
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • A little olive oil for frying
  • One tablespoon of very finely chopped fresh coriander
  • Salt and Pepper

For the “Fries”

  • Potatoes cooked in their skins (new, or small if possible) and peeled (or not) and quartered lengthways
  • About a dozen mushrooms (I used brown) thickly sliced
  • Half a white onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of sliced garlic
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Oil for shallow frying
  • One tablespoon of very finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

To make the burgers, fry the red onion very slowly until tender then add the sugar and garlic and continue cooking very slowly until the onions start to caramelise. Season lightly with salt and pepper and allow to cool. Add the onion mixture to the minced/ground beef, then the coriander, and salt and pepper to taste. Form into two large of four small burgers/patties and chill until required (but do bring them up to room temperature before cooking).

Add a little oil to a large non stick pan and add the potato pieces. At a high temperature cook the potatoes until browned (you could also use raw potatoes, but it will take a little longer). Turn the heat down and add the onions, garlic and mushrooms and cook gently until the onions start to soften and release their liquid. Now add the burgers, continuing to cook slowly to ensure they are cooked through. Turn over to cook on both sides. Just before you are ready to serve, turn the heat up and brown the burgers on both sides and to cook off any liquid in the pan. Add the chopped parsley and serve.

Not quite burger and fries as most of us know, but very delicious and a great one pot dish.

PS. Think of me tomorrow and keep everything crossed – fingers, toes and eyes. We´re hopefully having our internet connection installed and I´ll be able to start reading and commenting again – yay!

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!