Chicken Liver Paté (for poorly folk with half a kitchen)

You can’t keep a good woman down, and you can’t stop Chica from interfering in the kitchen. Thank you for all the good wishes for my recuperation from the little gall bladder operation.  All is going well apart from feeling very tired and looking quite pale and interesting. Loved ones felt that I might be a little anaemic and my cravings for dried apricots and green leafy vegetables probably confirm that.

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The kitchen  is progressing slowly but well and the other evening I really wanted to make something from  scratch rather than just heat up a meal I had waiting in the freezer. The fact that I craved liver and still didn’t have a hob was not going to deter me and I  am showing you the grim reality of my current cooking arrangements in the spirit of honesty and to encourage anyone who doesn’t have a super swishy cooker. If you want to do it…you can!

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Slightly lower fat chicken liver paté for the stubborn and determined cook

  • 400g chicken livers trimmed of any sinews and soaked for about 30 minutes in milk to remove any bitterness
  • 100g low fat creme frâiche
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled and grated or crushed
  • 1 shallot peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon each of Port and Brandy
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 40g approx unsalted butter, gently heated and white foam spooned off (clarified butter)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • A sprig of something pretty from your herb garden to decorate

In a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of the oil. Drain and dry the chicken livers well with kitchen paper and cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes each side until browned but still pink in the middle. If you can’t bear bloody meat, go ahead and cook them through thoroughly. It’s your paté,  your choice!

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Remove from the pan to a plate and wipe the pan clean. Add the rest of the oil and gently fry the shallot and garlic until transparent and soft. Add the cooked chicken livers to the pan with the port and brandy and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season lightly with the salt and pepper and allow to cool slightly for a few minutes.

Put the mixture into a blender (I used a stick blender so used the tall container that comes with it) together with the creme frâiche. Blend until smooth, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Spoon into a serving dish and pour over the clarified butter, decorating if you like.  If you prefer to use individual serving dishes you may need more butter. I think thyme is more usual as a decoration, but I used what I had!

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Chill for a few hours or overnight and enjoy. I understand this will keep for at least a week with the butter seal, once you start it though, eat within 2-3 days. Which is not a problem in our house as every time I open the fridge I do a little taste test…

 

 

Three months…

That’s an awfully long time to have been quiet on the blog.  Far too long! Excuses? Oh I have plenty of those! Six weeks in Spain with no Internet access (thank you Iberbanda for a spectacular cock up), then we got back to England and started ripping our own house apart…finally.

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There was very little of great excitement going on in  the kitchen, partly because we don’t really have a kitchen right now and partly because I was on the “dull and boring food” diet prior to having my gall bladder removed on Monday.

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So now I am reclining, not in splendour as our house looks just about as bad as it will ever get, but comfortably.  I am remembering a few days of escape to beautiful Asturias (and you can read more about a previous trip here), and dreaming of the delights I can cook and enjoy once the kitchen  is in and I’m back racing around again in my usual rude health.

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I can’t promise to be back all that soon, but please do wait for me, I  miss your company!

Another House Renovation Finished – Breathe In, Breathe Out…

Oh it’s been a long, long road with this one. But like the very first project we undertook together, we love this house. Little secrets emerged from behind layers of wardrobes, original flooring came back to life and today our lovely new tenants moved in.

For those of you who are interested, I’ll let the photos tell the story of a little 2 bedroomed (it was 3 bed when it was originally built but with only an outside loo and no indoor bathroom) Victorian mid terraced house.

Feb 2014 (19)41 Red Rd Completed 22 Nov 2014 (23)

The previous owners had lived there for 60 years, the lady (her daughter) who sold it to us told us that her parents had originally rented it then managed to buy it with a mortgage. She (the daughter) was born and bought up there, her mother lived out her final years as a widow in  the house and the daughter’s son and his children all had strong memories of spending time with their grandparents (and great grandparents) there.

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Yesterday the previous family came to look over the house before the tenants moved in. I was anxious. We bring properties up to a modern standard (putting in central heating, efficient plumbing and decent kitchens and bathrooms).

Feb 2014 (10)41 Red Rd Completed 22 Nov 2014 (11)

We try to revive old floorboards if we can and replace them if we can’t. We paint our houses white so that whoever buys or rents them can make them their own. But they look very different from when we start and I was worried it might upset the previous family.

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Fortunately there were tears of joy and smiles of relief as they saw fireplaces uncovered and restored that they had previosuly forgotten existed. Admiration for the floors and chuckles at the improved outside loo.

Feb 2014 (5)41 Red Rd Completed 22 Nov 2014 (15)

Time now to rest and focus on ourselves. Time for good food, and sleep and long walks on the beach.

 

Slow Cooked Spiced Lamb Shanks – and some spartan cooking arrangements

So, you know how the cobbler’s children historically had no shoes? Well, the property developing, building and renovating couple currently have a crappy kitchen with no oven in their new home. Can you imagine how that makes me feel? It’s a bit weird though as in Spain I often go the whole summer without turning on the oven, but when you don’t have something all you can think about is that one thing. Here’s a quick glimpse of my current cooking arrangements.

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I am making do for the moment with a small camping sized electric hob, my now well-loved giant slow cooker and an electric plancha. All I want to do is bake cakes and oven roast meat but it’s not to be, for a while at least.

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And just to explain the even more dreadful than usual photos of the finished dish, you can see that I am hardly “blinded by the light” in the kitchen. Boo hoo. But hopefully all this explains why I am posting less recipes than usual!

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A perfect dish to get rid of cooking frustrations is a slow cooked pot of lamb shanks. This can be done just as easily in a low oven, reducing the cooking time to 3-4 hours. You will be rewarded for your patience, whichever method you choose!

Ingredients (serves 2 generously)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp harissa paste
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or black treacle)
  • 4 dried apricots, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to season

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Heat the olive oil in a frying pan (or in an ovenproof dish if you are going to oven cook) and brown the lamb shanks all over, then transfer to your slow cooker (or put onto a plate).

Gently fry the onions and garlic until softened then add the spices and tomato and bring to a simmer. Pour in the stock, add the molasses, apricots and season. When it’s bubbling again pour over the lamb shanks in the slow cooker (or add the lamb shanks to the pot), cover and cook on low for about 10 hours until the meat is tender and falling off the bones.

When you are ready to serve (with mashed potato is a good idea), take the meat out and keep warm, pour the sauce into a pan and reduce on a medium heat until thickened to your liking. Pour over the meat and enjoy!

Any leftover sauce is wonderful served over pasta and easily heated up on your camping stove (but do feel free to use a regular one too)!

(Inspired by a recipe from the BBC Good Food site)

Waving Goodbye for a While…

Tomorrow Big Man and I move home in Bexhill on Sea. We go from a little Edwardian flat to a little (but bigger) Victorian house. It’s not quite such a disaster zone as the projects we usually take on so we’ll be able to live in it and do it up and restore it slowly.

Because we seem to thrive on doing more than one thing at once, we’re heading back to Spain 5 days later by car for a short visit to the family and then heading back to England to finish off a current project before taking a breather, helping my parents move into their new home in Bexhill and then starting work on ours. And hopefully another longer trip back to Spain to enjoy some time Up the Mountain.

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Just to complicate matters further we found out today that we’re going to be without an internet connection for a few weeks so I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will have to have a little break from the world of blogging for a short while. Don’t go away though…I’ll be back!

So…please excuse me if I can’t pop by and say hello very often this month. I’ll miss you all…

Just Walking the Pups … and Knocking Down Walls

Well, I didn’t man to knock down a wall, I was actually stripping wallpaper off it. And a very tricky, sticky job it was too. Then a little crack appeared, so I tapped it and a little hole appeared. So I tapped it. And before I knew it, I really shouldn’t have bothered spending all that time carefull stripping the paper off, as the wall fell down. Well, strictly speaking it fell off, but either way…it’s another job for Big Man.

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At least the pups weren’t bothered by the dust and noise, they just made themselves a little nest of warm sticky wallpaper and bedded down for a snooze.

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Then it was time for a walk and a stunning sunset.

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The waves blew the cobwebs (and house dust) away.

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And there was even time to admire the architecture of The Colonnade, a beautiful listed building dating back to 1911.

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Recipes are thin on the ground this week, we’re eating old favourites but when the dust settles, I’ll be back with the food. Now…where’s that corkscrew?!

Still Here…and wearing my “Lady Builder” hat again!

Yes, we’re back Down by the Sea, and taking on another mad building project. Sorry, we’ve only been here since last weekend and have already settled back into our little home and started work. It’s been manic, but am trying to keep up with you all. Please excuse me if I’ve missed a few posts, or my comments have been a little short. You do know I miss you all…don’t you?

And because I know some of you like to see those “before” and “after” shots….here are a few “oh my god, what on earth are we doing this again for?” shots!

You all know I like a good bathroom challenge…..

A hip bath - always handy for washing your hips!
A hip bath – always handy for washing your hips!

An overgrown garden…bring it on!

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Hey, an original feature….let’s keep that one.

The rubble on the floor is part of the ceiling which has fallen down - hey, you can't have everything!
The rubble on the floor is part of the ceiling which has fallen down – hey, you can’t have everything!

Normal service will be resumed shortly….sort of.

Leaving Home Leftovers, or Fridge Foraging

So…tomorrow we move from house renovation Number 2 into our little second home by the sea. It’s been a long 9 months on and off between England and Spain and in other ways it’s flown by. What an experience, we’re lucky to have had it!

The plan is to head back to Spain in about 2 weeks and take a very long rest until we head back to England late autumn and do it all over again. Of course, now it’s become a joint enterprise/job for us and we plan to continue this way for another year or two. Who would have thought this City Slicka turned Chica Andaluza would now become a Lady Builder (as one of my neighbours calls me)?!

I was a sad Chica becuase all the windows and doors were rotten and had to come out
I was a sad Chica because all the windows and doors were rotten and had to come out

Moving on from one home to another, even if it was only a temporary one, still involves packing up belongings that have accumulated (mostly in the kitchen, I confess) and the little flat is starting to look like home as the furniture goes in.

Coming to terms with the new French Doors
Coming to terms with the new French Doors

And in the same way as a major move, or before the start of a holiday you have to clean the fridge out. Well, you have to eat the contents first before you clean and for people like Chgo John who makes Frittata, this is a challenge which is risen to with pleasure. As we have no chickies here to feed, there were vegetable delights to be made.  Here are a few ideas, not exactly recipes, for those days when you need to go shopping but still have a few things to finish off, or you’re eating the contents of your fridge before a holiday or a house move!

Finally...loving the light in our new kitchen!
Finally…loving the light in our new kitchen!

First up was a salad using up cold boiled potatoes, an avocado which wouldn’t last another day, a bag of spinach and a handful of mushrooms. The potatoes were lightly sautéed then the sliced mushrooms added until they were cooked. The spinach was chopped then added and a lid put over the pan until it wilted. Chopped avocado was stirred in and the whole things was dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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The next day leftover cooked green beans were stir fried with mushrooms and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice while still warm and the zest of a lemon grated over for extra “oomph”.

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Finally, a few rashers of grilled bacon made a light supper salad dish with rocket, raw spinach, avocado, baby plum tomatoes and chunks of fresh parmesan and a dressing made with mustard. On the side we ate grilled ciabatta rubbed with a clove of garlic and then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with rock salt.

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I suspect tomorrow may well have to be a take away…well, the fridge is empty!

Chinese Spiced Aubergines & Cast Iron Excitement

Don’t you just love it when something you want falls into your lap? Well, sort of. Best buddy Ria had been raving about a book she had recently bought by Gok Wan. It seems he makes programmes about making women look and feel good about themselves but as I had not been in the UK (previously at least) and seen his programmes, he was unknown to me. Then, it seems, he bought out a cookbook. As you do. I was very doubtful about the whole thing but got to look at her book which he had written based on his experiences as a young man working in his father’s Chinese Take Away Restaurant. Home cooking made speedy, and Ria had successfully cooked and  thoroughly enjoyed several recipes so I threw away my scepticism.

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A few days later I was wandering round a Car Boot Sale, a particularly British institution I think, and someone was selling a brand new copy of the book for a couple of pounds. Cleary a sceptic like me (but unconverted) so I snapped it up. Well…I’ve already cooked several recipes from this book and every one has been tasty and easy. Even Big Man, who is not a particular fan of Chinese Food, has commented on the wonderful flavours each dish has. A result!

Here’s a vegetable dish that I made (inspired by a recipe for Braised Aubergine with Pork from the book) and served with noodles, no meat needed, the texture of the aubergines is wonderful and filling too.

Ingredients (per person as a main course or for two as a side dish)

  • 1 aubergine cut into cubes
  • Half a pepper, cut into slices
  • Half an onion sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice
  • Water (about 200ml)
  • Sesame or vegetable oil for frying
  • Fresh chili (optional) I used dried as that’s what I had available
  • Finely sliced spring onion to garnish

Add a little oil to a wok or large frying pan and fry the onions on a medium heat until softened then add the aubergine, peppers and garlic. Turn up the heat and cook until the aubergines start to char at the edges.  Add the 5 spice, soy sauces (and chili if using) and then pour over water until the vegetables are about half covered. Stir gently, turn the heat down, cover with a lid or foil and simmer until the aubergines start to turn pulpy and the peppers are soft. Stir once or twice during cooking (about 10 minutes). Most of the liquid will evaporate and the sauce will be slightly sticky.

Sprinkle the spring onion over the aubergines to serve.  Wonderful with rice or noodles. Who needs a book to tell you how to dress to feel good about yourself when you can eat food like this and feel amazing?!

If you’re still craving Asian aubergine dishes, take a look at Rosemary’s beautiful Spicy Aubergine with Beef.

And before I wish you all a beautiful rest of the weekend, what do you think of the fabulous cast iron fire surround some pals gave to us? They of the lace and fabric are now giving us an amazing Victorian original which came out of their home during a refurb. Love that we’re using so much beautiful “preloved” stuff in our Down By The Sea Home.

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Finally, a gratuitous pup shot. Well…it is the weekend.

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