Mixed Mushrooms with Cinnamon and Lemon

Ok, I promise to stop singing the praises of my new best friend, Mr Yotam Ottolenghi soon, but dammit, he just keeps inspiring me with his lovely recipes. I´m not vegetarian, I couldn´t give up bacon, jamon and a nice blue steak, but his recipes are very vegetable focused and they could almost make you forget how wonderful a crispy roast chicken tastes. Almost.

Another of his recipes featuring mixed mushrooms appealed to me, although I had to use a bag of mixed frozen mushrooms at this time of year. Roll on autumn when I can make this with fresh ones. The method I used to cook them is a little different from the original recipe, I have put the original ingredients in brackets after my version. If you make this with fresh mushrooms I think it will be less “saucy” (it certainly looked drier in the photo in the book) but I rather liked having something to mop up with my bread!

Ingredients (my version serves 2, Ottolenghi version serves 6-8)

  • 450g mixed mushrooms (Otto recipe – 2kg)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (Otto recipe – 160ml)
  • 2 sprigs of thyme (Otto recipe – 30g chopped)
  • 3 crushed garlic cloves (10 cloves)
  • 2 tbs chopped chives (100g chopped flat leaf parsley)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (6 cinnamon sticks)
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt (25g sea salt)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (1 tbsp)
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of half (60ml lemon juice)

In a large pan heat the oil slightly then add the garlic and mushroom, fry gently until they mushrooms release their liquid, add the thyme and cinnamon and turn up the heat. Cook until the liquid has reduced a little, turn off the heat then stir in the chives, lemon zest and juice. Remove the cinnamon stick, taste and season. I served with a chicken breast which I had cut into thin fillets, marinated for 30 minutes in olive oil and lemon juice and quickly cooked in the griddle pan.

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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.

Citrus, Avocado and Radish Salad

We love our citrus fruit here in Andalucía.  Our lemon tree, after 3 years, now keeps us well provided in lemons all year round.  We have planted 3 orange trees too, so in a year or two, we´ll be enjoying our own oranges.

In the meantime, we rely on the kindness of friends and neighbours who keep us well supplied in oranges from about November to March, which is when Andalucía is lit up in the colour orange.  Fields of orange trees are a delight to the eye, and so too are the city streets lined with the trees of bitter oranges which are destined for England and its world famous Orange Marmalade.  But more of marmalade another day.

I was inspired by a stunning recipe from Sawsan over at Chef in Disguise for a beautiful orange and avocado salad. Grilled fish was on the menu for lunch, but sadly I have no idea what it is called in English.  As it´s a fairly oily fish, I thought that the tangy flavours of a citrus salad would complement the fish perfectly.  I was right!

Ingredients for 2 people

  • 1 large pink grapefruit and 1 large orange peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 ripe avocado peeled and cubed
  • Radish – our radishes here are HUGE so I only used one finely sliced, but use however much you like (or not)
  • Dressing:  any juices that run off the fruit as you peel them plus a teaspoon of lemon juice, the juice of an orange and twice the volume (of the citrus juices) of olive oil, a pinch of sugar if your orange is sour, half a teaspoon of mustard powder, a grind of pepper and a pinch of salt.

Mix up the salad ingredients gently or layer onto a plate.  Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and pour over the salad.  Any remaining dressing can be stored in the fridge for use another time.

So pretty, so tasty, and so good for you.

Squid with Garlic, Lemon and Parsley and a “How To”

We´re very lucky Up The Mountain to be able to get hold of fresh fish, even though we live 45km from the coast.  Having said that, I do keep fish in my freezer and cleaned squid is one of those things that keeps well and seems to suffer no ill effects from freezing. We don´t get a visit from Fish Man on Mondays, becuase there is no fishing on Sundays, but this morning he drove up, and this is what we bought.

One of the effects of little Alfi´s run in (literally) with Fish Man´s van is that when he hears him approaching and bipping his horn, he runs and hides under the nearest table, shaking and looking very sorry for himself.  Whilst I don´t like to see him frightened, at least I know he has learned a very important lesson as far as cars and dogs go.

Today I´m going to give you a super easy way of cooking squid, which I know can be quite scary looking. I´m also going to tell you how to clean them if you ever do get lucky enough to get hold of fresh squid for either cooking that day or freezing for another day.

Feeling brave?  Come on then, get those kitchen gloves on and let´s get cracking.

First of all you need to grab hold of that squid like you mean business.

Now pull the legs and anything that comes with them out and put to one side for the moment.

Now pull out the spine which looks like a sliver of clear plastic. Sorry this is a bit blurred – Big Man was in charge of photos and was excited about eating squid!

Rinse the body (including the inside) and go back to the legs which you will pull or snip away from any mucky bits in the middle just below the “eyes”. Still blurry, still excited!

From the centre of the legs (which are really tentacles!) pull out the hard centre core (or beak).

Rinse the legs and contemplate your bowl of lovely clean squid. Well done!

Now you can either cut the squid up or leave it whole.  For battered squid rings (covered in flour and deep fried)  “A La Romana”, you´ll need to slice. Today we´re just going to keep it very simple.

Sprinkle with salt and olive oil and put onto a hot griddle or into a frying pan (no oil needed as you have already put some on the squid). Keep the heat high, they´ll need a couple of minutes on each side depending on their size.  When the flesh is no longer opaque but a good white colour, turn and continue to cook.

Remove from the heat when done and either drizzle with salsa verde and lemon juice, or add some finely chopped parsley, garlic and lemon juice.  Serve with plenty of delicious crusty bread to mop up those amazing juices.

And if you can´t get hold of fresh squid, oriental stores often sell packets of squid tubes frozen which are very good!

Tasty Tabbouleh

Fresh and delicious

When you are lucky enough, as we are, to have a vegetable garden full of tasty summer tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, you are always looking for new ways to serve them. Arriving home from our holiday, we found the veggie garden over run with peppers plus we had a few cucumbers and the first of our new batch of tomatoes turning red.  A neighbour had also left four huge and sweet onions in a bag hanging on our door.  What a great homecoming!

I love tabbouleh, but had forgotten about making it until another kind neighbour bought me round a bag of bulghur wheat.  I have very kind neighbours! It reminded me of how much I enjoy it and what a great use of my summer vegetables it would be.

It´s very easy and quick to prepare and can be made a little in advance of eating so that all the seasoning is absorbed and flavours your salad.

As I was finely chopping a mixture of tomato, cucumber, onion and garlic I realised how similar the base ingredients are to an Andalucían gazpacho, both the blended and the chunky versions.  I also added chopped green and red peppers. I´m not sure how traditional they are but we still have so many, it seemed silly not to.

The wheat had been cooked according to the instructions on the pack, all very simple and straightforward, and when it had cooled a little I added my chopped vegetables, chopped mint and parsley, salt, olive oil and plenty of lemon juice.

And that was it. I left it to chill a little then bought it back to room temperature before eating.  How simple and delicious was that?!

Skate with Lemon and Capers

 
Retro Skate

So, having had a moment of madness slow cooking pork and beans not so long ago, I have reverted to summer style cooking. Phew!

My lovely Fish man, who is soon going to have his own fan club out here in blogland, came up trumps this week with a delicious skate (or ray) for us.  He knows that Big Man and I both love it, so if he can get hold of skate, he always saves me one.

They´re odd looking fish, a bit scary looking too to deal with, but actually quite straightforward when you know how.

The Skate, the whole Skate, and nothing but the Skate

A skate has two very distinct wings and if you get your knife in between the nodule and the “back bone” it just cuts straight off.  

Slip the knife in so...

Voilá, two perfect portions.

Ready to be coated in flour and fried

And the other bits still have a lot of meat on them so pop them into a pot with some water, bay leaves, peppercorns and any vegetables you have to hand and you´ll very soon have a delicious fish stock and lots of bits of delicious skate trimmings to put into a paella or a seafood stew.

I dusted the wings in flour, seasoned them and then fried gently in a huge frying pan in a very little olive oil (although it would be very good with butter).  When the skate was lightly browned on both sides I put them to one side and kept warm, turned up the heat and fried some capers until brown then added a good squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of white wine and reduced until just a few tablespoons of juices were left. I poured these over the skate, poured two good glasses of white wine and we sat back to enjoy.

When I was very young my parents both worked in the catering trade, but Sunday lunch we sometimes managed to spend time together.  My father´s idea of a relaxing Sunday lunch was to go on a busman´s holiday and check out his pals´ restaurants.  This meant I got to visit some really quite nice restaurants in central London from a very early age.  No concession was made (quite rightly I still feel) to children by preparing “kids meals”, we all got whatever the chef or manager thought was his best dish of the day.  I loved it when we got served skate as the meat slides easily off the bone and there are no tricky bits to get lodge in a small person´s throat.  Memories of this dish take me back to Soho, London circa 1975 – hence my retro photo!

If you like this, check out Tandy´s delicious Hake with Olives, Anchovy Butter and Caper Berries over at Lavender and Lime.

Barbecued Shoulder of Goat with Za´atar

 
So tasty!

When my pals came over from the UK recently they came bearing gifts, just like the wise men.  One package was from my lovely mother and she had made up Za´atar and Dukkah for me.  What a lovely mum I have!  We can´t get them or all the ingredients to make them up here.  At least, I can´t seem to track them down, and it´s always lovely to have a gift like this as every time you use it, you think of the person who gave it to you.

We had a very small shoulder of goat in the freezer (enough for two hungry people or two regular appetites with enough left over for sandwiches) and I thought I´d do it on the barbecue.

It was very easy to pull together and quick to cook.  I made a package with a double layer of foil to put the meat in the seasoned the meat with salt before sprinkling over and rubbing in the Za´atar.

Give it a little massage...

I wrapped it up and put it onto the barbecue at a low heat for about 40 minutes and that was it.

Oh go on then....just one more slice!

We ate it with lemon juice squeezed over, a big salad and some cold runner beans from the garden dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.  Oh, and a glass of wine of course!

Cheers – It´s 4th July!

Cheers!

Cherry Brandy & Ginger Beer

Being the sort of girl who needs no excuse to raise a glass, here´s a big “Cheers” to all my new blogging pals celebrating the 4th July. Hope it´s a great day for you all.

As you know, it´s cherry season here up the mountain and after stoning far too many kilos for jam making, I decided to ring the changes and make something gorgeous for the cooler months.  I came across a wonderful recipe over on Olive and Artichokes for a cherry liqueur they have made with Eau de Vie.  We can´t get that here, at least, I´ve never come across it…but I didn´t let this stand in my way!

I bought a bottle of Spanish Brandy, not one of the rough ones might I add, and got my sugar, cherries and bottles ready.

Not many ingredients...

I followed the instructions given in the recipe, that is layering cherries and sugar and then filling the containers with liqueur. 

Get Layering...

Hopefully in a few months time I´ll have a delicious cherry flavoured brandy and some brandy flavoured cherries.  Can´t wait!

Fill....and wait!

Just over three weeks ago I started to make some alcoholic ginger beer.  If you want to give it a go, you´ll find the recipe here.

It´s very simple, all you need is a sachet of yeast, a jar of powdered ginger, sugar and a jar or jug you can loosely cover.

This is what you´ll need

After a week of adding yeast and sugar to your initial mixture (see the recipe) you´ll add water, lemon juice and more sugar to make about 7 litres of ginger flavoured drink.

Get Squeeeeeezing...

You need to leave some space in your plastic bottles for expansion, so only fill them about three quarters and then squeeze some of the air out before sealing them. If you don´t do this you´ll have exploding ginger beer all over the place and it´s very sticky.  I know this from experience!

Not long to wait now!

Once you´ve been patient you will be rewarded with gorgeous sparkling, lemony, gingery Ginger Beer.  I don´t know exactly how alcoholic it is, although it does get stronger the longer you leave it.  After about 3 months it starts to taste acidic, but I don´t suppose you´ll have it for that long as it´s delicious. And if you can´t wait 3 weeks, wait a week and mix it up with soda or water for a refreshing, non alcoholic drink.

So good, even Alfi wants to get in on the act!

Happy Independence Day!