Semolina Crusted Plaice with Roasted Peppers

Blogging has taken a back seat recently.  At least from the point of writing up recipes and posting them. Life has been hectic with family visiting from Spain and some express house renovations on a new investment property.  Good weather has allowed us to get out into our little garden and give it a good tidy up, and May has been a good month for birthdays with both Big Man and my mum celebrating.

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Of course, we’ve been cooking and enjoying good food, a lot of which has been old favourites which we’ve already shared with you. Sometimes though, we’ve tried something new but with all that’s been going on, it’s been simple yet delicious food.

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Dogs inspecting nasty purple carpet

Our local fishmonger recently had some beautiful plaice fillets for sale, so I snapped them up and scampered home with them (ok, so you know I didn’t really scamper, it was more of a quick,  happy march). The plan was to do what I  pretty much usually do with fish, and to grill them. However, someone, somewhere must have wanted to send me a message from above, or from the high shelf of a kitchen  cupboard, and when the packet of semolina I usually use to dust my sourdough loaves with fell on my head, I  changed the plan. Sometimes you need a knock on the head to shake things up a little!

Serves 2 (easy to scale up for more)

  • 2 cleaned plaice or other flat fish
  • About 2 tablespoons of semolina, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
  • 1 egg lightly beaten (you’ll probably not need it all but it’s difficult to use any less!)
  • Olive oil for shallow frying
  • One roasted pepper, peeled, chopped and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil (or use some from a jar prepared for using as an antipasto)

Coat the fish in the egg then the seasoned semolina. Heat the oil on a medium/high heat in a large frying goan.  You may need to keep the first fillet warm while you cook the second one if your pan is not large enough to take both.

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Luna and Alfi approve stripped, waxed floorboards

Cook for about 3 minutes on one side until the crust is browned and crispy. Flip the fillet over and continue to fry. The second side will probably only take about two minutes. Use your discretion if the fillets are particularly large or thick.

Serve with the dressed roasted peppers and a salad.

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Chicken with Za’atar and Lemon – and a “Thank You and Welcome”!

I’ve been reluctant to embrace Facebook or Twitter. I did set up a Facebook account but can’t figure out how to link it to my WordPress blog and vice versa. People have suggested I do this to increase readership and subscribers to the blog. But despite this, and ever so quietly, over the last few months, so many lovely new folk have been joining us either Down by the Sea or Up the Mountain. It’s been wonderful to see new comments and to hear new “voices” as well as those of old friends on the blog. So I say, thank you to you all for sticking with me and welcome to all our new friends. And any advice on the Facebook button would be gratefully accepted….

So, back to the food today.  It’s been a while since my good friend Mr Ottolenghi made an appearance (at least, recipe wise) in my kitchen. A freezer full of chicken breasts (our least favourite part of the bird and what always seems to be left until last from our chicken despatch sessions) needs to be dealt with.  “Flavour, flavour and more flavour”, I say and this easy recipe (which I adapted a little due to lack of ingredients) really did the job.

Lemon Zaatar Chicken (4)

I have given both my version and Mr O’s version below.

Ingredients (to serve 2)

  • 2 chicken breasts cut into bite sized chunks (he uses a whole chicken, jointed)
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced (2 red onions in original recipe)
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • About 2 tbsp olive oil (4 tbsp in original recipe)
  • ½ tsp all spice (1 ½ tsp in original recipe)
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon (1 tsp in original recipe)
  • 1 tbsp sumac (I didn’t have this so put ½ tsp of hot pimentón which is not at all similar but worked well – you could use lemon juice or zest for the lemony flavour of sumac)
  • 1 lemon, halved and thinly sliced
  • 200ml chicken stock or water
  • Pinch salt (1 ½ tsp in original recipe)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp za’atar (2 tbsp in original)

Mix the chicken with all the ingredients and leave to marinate for a few hours (which I did) or overnight. Bring to room temperature and cook in a hot oven in a dish which allows you to spread everything out. Mine took about 40 minutes to cook, allow longer for a whole chicken.

In the original recipe, the za’atar is sprinkled over just before cooking and it is served sprinkled with pine nuts fried in butter and chopped parsley.

Lemon Zaatar Chicken (2)

I served it with rice cooked with pepper and peas and the taste was beautiful, the chicken juicy and very similar in taste to a Spanish “pinchito” or little kebab and the lemon was sweet and caramelised. Definitely a dish to make again!

Cherry Sourdough Cake

Yes, the sourdough madness continues. I hate to throw food away and whilst I can’t always use my sourdough starter, especially when I have to remove half to feed it, I am now finding ways to bring it into other recipes.

We’ve had bread, and pizza, so now it’s time for something sweet. I’ve noticed too that there’s not too much fat used in these recipes, and I tend to use olive oil rather than butter, so I’m finding lower fat alternatives which has been a bonus.

As I was playing around with my cake recipe, the lovely Teleri at Olives & Artichokes, very kindly weighed, measured, baked and posted a gorgeous almond cherry cake made with olive oil (I’d asked her about her baking!). Thanks Teleri, this one is being baked today Up the Mountain!

Cherry Sourdough Cake (2)

I found several recipes for cakes on line and decided to be brave and adapt, mix and match. What was the worst that could happen? The chickies would have had cake for breakfast. Luckily for us, and unluckily for them, my first attempt worked well, so no Cherry Chickie Cake this time.

The texture of the finished cake was somewhere between a sponge cake and a scone (US biscuit). We ate it cold and it was lovely, not dry at all and not heavy (which I was concerned about). I think this would also be good warmed slightly and served with cream or ice cream. Or both.

Ingredients (cake serves 8-10 slices)

  • 1 cup of sourdough starter
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • ¾ cup sugar                          
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 cup of chopped, stoned cherries

Mix together the starter, the oil and the egg. Add the dry ingredients and mix in well and then add the cherries.

Put into a greased and floured cake time and bake for about 45 minutes at 180 degrees (until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is lightly browned).

Cherry Sourdough Cake (3)

This cake doesn’t rise much, but my next experiment will be to make the batter with self raising flour and then leave it to rise to see how the texture of the cake varies. Oh the things I do for you….

For more cherry recipes, click here or here.

Almost Arroz a a Cubana

It sounds so exotic doesn’t it…Cuban Style Rice? Well, sorry to disappoint, but it’s not at all! Arroz a la Cubana is a store cupboard, go-to dish. Often served in restaurants as part of the mid day “menu” and eaten by impoverished students all over Spain. What is it? Simply rice with tomato sauce and a fried egg on top.

As with many simple dishes, they can be comforting and filling. And they can be dressed up too, if this is what takes your fancy.

I almost always have some home made tomato sauce in the fridge. In the summer our little huerto provides me with tomatoes to see me through most of the year, and even though we missed the end of the summer in Spain, I managed to freeze plenty of tomatoes which will keep me going for a month or so until this season’s vegetables are available to me.

Solomillo con arroz a la cubana (5)

There may be a different way of making Arroz a la Cubana, this is my method which gives you a slightly soupy textured rice, almost like a risotto.

Ingredients (for two as a main course)

  • 1 cup Spanish paella rice
  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce (sofrito) Recipe below
  • Salt and pepper

Start by bringing the rice and (salted) water to the boil, reduce the heat and continue to cook slowly until most of the water has evaporated. Now add the tomato sauce, check for seasoning and continue to cook for a few minutes more until the rice is almost done. Turn off the heat, cover the rice and leave to stand for 5 minutes, by which time the rice will be done.

Typically served with a fried egg on top, a great veggie meal, I added some cooked green beans and topped the rice with griddled loin of pork. Delicious with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Chica’s Quick Tomato Sauce

  • About 5 fat cloves of crushed garlic
  • 500g of crushed tomatoes
  • A tablespoon of tomato purée
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh basil or oregano (stalks and leaves, not chopped)
  • A glass of red wine
  • About half a teaspoon of sugar

Put the garlic into a few tablespoons of olive oil (do not heat the oil first, we don’t want the garlic to brown) and cook slowly for a few minutes until it starts to soften. Now add the tomatoes, the tomato purée, the wine and the herbs. Season lightly and simmer for about 30 minutes until thickened. Check for seasoning and if it is a little sharp, add the sugar (this is not always necessary). Cook for a few minutes more, remove the herbs and you’re done.

Broad Beans with Griddled Pork Belly

Reading a beautiful recipe over at Cooking in Sens which involved broad beans stimulated a craving for those little green beauties. Back home in Andalucía right now I would normally just pop out into our veggie garden and pick me a basket full.  I haven’t seen any here in England yet but they do have excellent frozen broad bean pods.

Broad beans with pork belly (3)

I decided to make a little dish with echoes of home as a pretty substantial tapas which we enjoyed with some lovely crusty bread from my dad’s Italian baker pal, wine from a recent jaunt over the channel to France, juice from some of our lemons that Big Man bought back recently and locally reared pork. You can’t say we don’t embrace all that is available to us!

Ingredients as a main course for one or starters for two

  • 1 cup of broad beans cooked until tender and drained
  • 2 thin slices of pork belly cooked on the griddle until browned and cut into small pieces (or use bacon or lardons, or mushrooms for a vegetarian version)
  • 1 avocado cut into small chunks
  • Olive oil
  • The grated rind of one lemon and the juice of half
  • Sweet pimentón
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Chopped parsley to finish (I didn’t have any but I think it would be perfect)

Mix together the still warm beans, pork and avocado. Add the lemon rind, about 2 tablespoons of olive oil (more if necessary) and the lemon juice. Season with the pimentón, salt and pepper and mix again. That’s it. Tricky wasn’t it?!

Veggie Garden Eggs

Well, we´ve been home a week and, as expected, it´s been a week of running around seeing folk, catching up with all that awaits you after a 2 month absence and lots of eating and drinking!

Veggie Garden Eggs (10)

When I first used to visit Big Man before I lived in Spain, he was puzzled as to why I used to complain at the lack of vegetables in our diet. Spain has beautiful vegetables pretty much all year round. The problem is, when you live in the mountains and are eating in restaurants, the focus is on heavy mountain dishes – predominantly meat. Of course, this week, he´s come to understand what I was talking about and started groaning that he couldn´t face another meat heavy meal.

No problem, the little bit of veggie gardening we managed to do this year was tucked happily in our freezer and our lovely hens were happy to oblige with delicious free range eggs.  The result? A delicious, home cooked, not too heavy, but satisfying meal made entirely from home grown ingredients.

It´s similar to a Spanish dish called Huevos a la Flamenca, which I´ll show you another time, but today it was less about the jamon and the chorizo, and all about the vegetables. Leave out the eggs and you have a vegan meal, add them in and it´s vegetarian.

Ingredients for 2 people as a main course

  • 1 sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of crushed tomatoes
  • 3 mixed peppers, cut into thick slices
  • About a cup of a favourite green vegetables (I used our runner beans, thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato purée
  • A sprig each of oregano and rosemary
  • A glass of wine (or water) Salt & Pepper
  • Olive oil

Start by gently frying the onions and garlic in a little oil until they start to soften then add in the peppers. Cover with a lid and when the peppers start to soften add the rest of the ingredients. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer gently for about 20-30 minutes until the peppers have broken down and are very soft.  Taste and adjust the seasoning and if too liquid, cook for a minute or two to reduce the sauce and remove the herbs.

Veggie Garden Eggs (2)

Transfer into individual (heat proof) serving dishes if you like, then crack two eggs into each portion. You can either pop the dishes into the oven on a medium heat for about 10 minutes until the eggs are set, or continue to cook on the stove top (this is what I did). If you like a soft yolk, using a chop stick or the “wrong” end of a spoon, gently stir the white into the vegetables as it cooks, avoiding the yolk. The white will “scramble” into the vegetables and the yolk will stay soft.

A foggy morning Up the Mountain
A foggy morning Up the Mountain

Eat with plenty of crusty bread and listen to your body thanking you for giving it a welcome hit of Vitamin C. A glass of wine also helps, but then it´s made of grapes and grapes are fruit…right?!

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.

Out with the Old and In with the New – Broad Beans, Garlic and Chicken

Things are really shaping up in our huerto, our little vegetable garden. Yesterday the last of the broad beans were harvested and they leave us with a nice patch to fill with something else tasty.

Our garlic, which is a variety from Granada, is now just about ready for harvesting.

As you can see, it´s a small variety, slightly pink, and it tastes very sweet.  Here it is alongside one of our onions which we had expected to be bigger, but no matter…they taste great.

So, we now need to pick our 320 garlic bulbs and dry them out a little. We already have a waiting list of people who want a few, so my worries about how on earth we would use that many are already being addressed.

In order to celebrate the new garlic I made a simple dish of chicken joints, potatoes, small chunks of a whole lemon, a bulb of the fresh garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and some rosemary and oregano from our garden. I was inspired by this lovely simple recipe from Mary Cadogan over on the BBC website, but played around with it – I hope she won´t mind!

Into the oven it went, after having a good slug of local dry sherry poured over, where it sat cooking slowly at a medium heat for about 2 hours.

A little salad of finely chopped tomato with some chopped garlic and the last few fresh broad bean pods was my final tribute to the garden.

Simple, tasty and a perfect pick me up for the Up the Mountain garlic pickers!

Roti – Indian Flatbread

When we recently made our Cortijo Curry, we also made a little batch of roti, to accompany the meal.

Roti is an unleavened, flat bread (which does puff up when cooked) and is also known, I believe as chapati (I am prepared to be corrected if they are different, but all my recipes seem to indicate they are pretty much the same thing).

Super simple and quick to make, they´re also great to use as an alternative to tortilla wraps or if you just fancy a change.

Ingredients (to make 6)

  • 200g chapati flour (or finely ground wholemeal flour)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • Water

Add the salt to the flour then mix in the oil. Gradually add drops of water (you won´t need much) until the mixture comes together then knead for about 10 minutes. Leave to rest for 30 minutes if possible.

Divide into 6 portions and roll each one into a ball, then roll the ball flat using a rolling pin.

Heat a non stick frying pan until very hot and place a roti in the pan. Press down on it (I used a spatula) as it cooks. When the underside is speckled brown, flip it over and repeat. As you press on it, it will start to puff up. You can also do this by holding it over a flame once it is cooked. We did try this as well, but found that they puffed up nicely in the frying pan.

Wrap in a tea towel to keep warm and serve immediately – they will lose some of their puffiness as they cool down, but taste delicious!

If you enjoy curries, do check out this lovely recipe from Frugal Feeding as well.

Coffee, Pear and Almond Cake

Some friends were coming over for “Merienda” which is afternoon tea in Spain, so it was a good opportunity to bake a cake. My Spanish pals do make me smile as when we get together for coffee and cakes, they always mention what a lovely English custom it is. I smile and agree, secretly thinking that I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of occasions I stopped for a proper afternoon tea when I lived in England. Oh well, I am certainly making up for it now.

This is a quick cake to pull together.  Sometimes it takes longer for the oven to warm up than it does for you to prepare the cake batter.

Ingredients (serves 10-12 slices)

  • One large pear, peeled, halved, quartered and then each quarter cut into three or four pieces
  • 1 ½ cups of self raising flour, ½ cup of ground almonds, a pinch of salt, a cup and a half of sugar all mixed together in a bowl
  • 3 large eggs, ½ a cup of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of almond essence, 2 shots of very strong cold espresso, half a cup of natural yogurt beaten together until well blended

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix gently with a wooden spoon. Using a large cake tin (mine was silicone, so no need to line but I sprayed with a little oil) line the base with the pear slices to form a circular pattern.

Pour over the cake better and smooth out the mixture.

Bake at 180ºC for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin. Eat warm or cold. Keeps well for a few days – which is good as it is quite a large cake!