Melting Spiced Pork with Aubergine

Not quite a curry, but with just a few fragrant spices and a gentle cook in the oven, you’ll be rewarded with a pot of melting meat and aubergine which will make you oh so happy! And for non meat eaters, read on to the end for a vegetarian alternative.

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Ingredients, to serve four with rice

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 750g pork cut into bite sized chunks (I used skinless pork belly strips)
  • 2 aubergines cut into bite sized chunks
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 onions, peeled and very finely diced
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander (separate stems and leaves and finely chop both)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • Juice of a lime

Heat oven to 200C/180C Fan Oven/Gas 6. Heat the oil in an ovenproof pan that has a lid and fry the meat until browned (you may need to do this in batches), remove from the pan.

Add the aubergine and brown (you may need a little extra oil), remove from the pan and put with the pork.

Now add the sugar to the pan and allow to caramelise slightly, then return  the meat and aubergine to the pan with the cinnamon and star anise.

Put the onions, ginger, most of the chili (reserving a little for garnishing) and the chopped coriander stalks into the pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the fish sauce and enough water to cover the mixture completely.

Cover and place in the oven for an hour. Remove, stir in most of the coriander and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Garnish with any remaining coriander and chili and serve with boiled rice and vegetables.

For a vegetarian version, omit the pork, and replace with a mixture of robust mushrooms such as brown chestnut and shitake. Substitute the fish sauce with a light soy sauce.

 
Inspired by a BBC Good Food recipe

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Morrete de Setas – Mushrooms with Potatoes

If like me, you are the sort of person who is not put off by strange translations into your native tongue of a dish you encounter on your travels, this one is for you. Coming across this dish in a small local restaurant near our mountains in Southern Spain, you’d probably read something like “Mushrooms to the wild, cooking with soft potatoes of the saffron dressing up in vinegar”. Or some such bizarre description.

It doesn’t even look that pretty, as the end dish is indeed “with soft potatoes” and has rather a look of mush about it. What you would be served with, however, is a dish with simple ingredients combined in a way you’ve probably never tasted before, and a flavour that makes you say “ooh, that’s so good…I really didn’t expect that”!

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Around our neck of the woods (or Up Our Mountain), the most commonly eaten mushrooms are Oyster mushrooms. We have grown them ourselves in the past and Big Man would often come home with a crate of them for me to turn into dishes like Mixed Mushrooms with Cinnamon and Lemon or Braised Mushrooms. This dish is made across Andalucía but is probably known by other names outside of the radius of our local villages. Here’s our local version, the simplicity of the ingredients hides a wonderful combination of flavours. It is vegetarian/vegan and can be served alone as a tapa or starter, or alongside other dishes as part of a meal. A poached or fried egg is a wonderful accompaniment.

Ingredients (to serve 6-8 as a tapa, 4 as a starter or 2 as a hearty main course)

  • 1 kg peeled and cubed potatoes (cut into small cubes)
  • About 600g of thickly sliced mushrooms (I used a mix of Shitake, Chestnut and Forestiere Mushrooms)
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 1 level teaspoon of sweet pimentón
  • ½ level teaspoon of hot pimentón
  • A pinch of saffron or turmeric (in Spain though you find they usually use food colouring)
  • About 60g of stale bread
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • About 240ml water
  • About 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

You will need 2 frying pans (or you will need to cook the potatoes and mushrooms separately. In one pan with about ½ cm of oil to cover the bottom, slowly cook the potatoes until they are soft and just starting to brown at the edges. Mix occasionally as they cook. You don’t want them to be crispy like chips.

In another pan, add a little oil, the mushrooms and some salt and cover with a lid. Slowly braise the mushrooms until soft and releasing their juices. The potatoes and mushrooms both take about 20 minutes to cook.

Meanwhile, put the bread, water, garlic, spices and 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a blender jug and blend (I use a hand blender) until you get a mix which resembles slightly runny porridge.

Drain the potatoes from the oil and add to the mushrooms and pour in the bread/water mix. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until it all thickens up (you may need to add a splash more water). Just before serving, taste and season and add a further tablespoon of white wine vinegar. Think of the resulting taste in the same way that you would use lemon juice to “lift” a dish.

Serve with plenty of crusty bread and if you’re feeling a bit cheffy, some chopped parsley on top makes it look pretty. But don’t tell the local village ladies I said that as they’d be horrified at any such nonsense.

A Vegetarian Feast – Mushroom Risotto with Asparagus

We love risotto and I make it often. Some folk are nervous about it, thinking it will be a pain to stand and stir, and worrying if the rice will be over cooked or undercooked. Relax, pour yourself a lovely glass of wine and just enjoy about half an hour of gently attending to your dish while your mind sorts out the worries of the day. The diners will eat when the risotto is ready. No sooner, no later. And if you don’t like your rice too “al dente”…well you’re in charge, you can cook it for longer.

It’s a great dish too for using up whatever you have to hand. Personally I’m not so keen on meat risottos so this is a good option for us on the days when we choose not to eat meat or fish. To make this vegan you’d need to use vegan cheese and leave out the splosh of cream at the end – it will still taste amazing, I promise.

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Ingredients to serve 6 as a starter, 4 as a main

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g carnaroli or arborio rice
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 2 peeled and crushed cloves of garlic
  • About 10g of dried porcini mushrooms soaked in boiling water, drain and finely chop the mushrooms and reserve the liquid. Make the liquid up to 1.5 litres with vegetable stock and keep it hot
  • About 300g chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced or finely chopped
  • A tablespoon of butter
  • Fresh parmesan
  • A good splosh of cream

Start by warming the oil in a deep frying pan and sweating the onions and garlic until soft. Add fresh mushrooms and cook gently until they are also soft then add the rice. Stir the rice in the pan to make sure all the grains are coated in oil then add the chopped reconstituted dried mushrooms.

Slowly add the hot stock, a couple of ladles full at a time, stir into the rice and when it has been absorbed, add more liquid. When the rice is almost cooked to your liking, turn the heat off and stir in the butter and cream, cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

Serve with griddled asparagus and large mushrooms (brush them with olive oil and season before cooking on a hot griddle) for a filling main course. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan as you serve if that takes your fancy.

Solomillo Asado con Champiñones y Beicon – Roast Pork Fillet with Mushrooms and Bacon

Finally, back to the cooking. An easy recipe which looks like you´ve put lots of effort in and hours of work! This would also work well with pork loin or chicken breast.

You´ll need for 2 people (with leftovers which is always a good thing)

  • 1 pork fillet
  • A sprig of rosemary (discard after cooking)
  • About 10 mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 2 rashers of bacon finely chopped
  • ½ a medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • Small glass of dry white wine or sherry
  • Seasoning
  • Olive Oil
  • Set the oven to about 180ºC (medium)

Put the pork fillet on a sheet of aluminium and rub in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and season all over with pepper and salt.  Tuck the rosemary spring under the meat and bring the aluminium up to create a basket for the meat, but don´t cover it completely.  This basket will save the cooking juices.

Put the meat onto a baking tray and into the oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes until the juices run clear when you put a skewer into the thickest part.  Remove from the oven, remove the rosemary, wrap the foil tightly round it and keep it warm for about 5 minutes to let it rest a little.

While the meat is cooking, put a few tablespoons of oil into a deep frying pan and cook the onion, garlic and bacon together gently until the onions are soft.  Add the mushrooms and a grind of pepper, stir over the heat until the mushrooms have all absorbed a little oil then add the wine and a few grinds of black pepper (no salt usually needed because of the saltiness of the bacon).  Put a lid on the pan and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked and the liquid has reduced by about half.

Now pour in the meat juices and stir in.  At this point you could add a dash of cream if you fancy a creamy sauce.  Slice the meat and either pour the bacon and mushroom sauce over or serve separately.

Any leftovers of meat can be finely chopped, mixed with the mushrooms and bacon with a little cream and are delicious on pasta!

Apologies to my veggie pals and readers (you know who you are 🙂 ) this is an unashamedly porky plate with little room for adaptation but I hope you will understand and forgive….

Crab, Lemon, Chili and Ricotta Ravioli and Mushroom and Tomato Ravioli

That’s a whole lot of ravioli, but as Chgo John will confirm, if you’re going to make ravioli, you may as well make plenty!

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A previous ravioli making session confirmed that they’re much easier and more fun to make if you work with friends. A recent Sunday lunch with girlfriends was a hands on affair – cooking first, eating later, but all accompanied with laughter, wine and chatting.

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We made half a kilo of pasta (500g of flour with 5 eggs, salt and a splash of olive oil) and two fillings. Weights are approximate, but will make filling for about 25 ravioli per filling and you may find you have enough pasta left over for making a little batch of tagliatelle.

Lemon & Chilli Filling

  • About 200g fresh ricotta
  • Approx 200g cooked crab meat (white and dark)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded (or not!) and very finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together, taste and adjust seasoning and use to fill your ravioli. We served these with melted butter melted butter mixed with a little crème fraiche, lemon zest and fresh rosemary with parmesan.

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Mushroom Filling with Tomato Sauce

  • 1 dozen medium sized mushrooms and stalks very finely chopped and fired gently with 2 cloves of crushed garlic and 1 teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary until softened
  • About 125g mascarpone cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon of smoked pimentón
  • ½ ball of mozzarella, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 2 cups of thick homemade tomato sauce
  • Fresh parmesan

Mix together the mushrooms, pimentón, mascarpone and mozzarella to form a paté type paste, season and adjust if necessary. Use to fill your ravioli and serve with tomato sauce and freshly grated or thinly sliced parmesan.

Seared Scallops with Spinach in Black Bean Sauce

Quick doesn’t have to be boring – especially when it comes to food. Top quality ingredients will give you amazing tasting food, and you don’t always have to spend hours preparing it with a long list of ingredients. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy making complex meals too, but here’s a fast food experience that will be ready in less time than it takes to wait for a food delivery.

Scallops with Spinach & Blackbean Sauce (2)

Ingredients per person

  • 4-6 fresh scallops
  • 2 cups of washed spinach (roughly chopped)
  • About 6 mushrooms, sliced not too thinly
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • A little oil for frying
  • 1 tablespoon of black bean sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Lemon or lime juice

Start by gently frying the mushrooms in a little oil and when they start to soften, add the garlic and spinach and cook until the spinach wilts.

On a hot griddle or under a hot grill, quickly cook the scallops on both sides (this can take less than a minute per side).

Stir the black bean sauce and about a teaspoon of soy sauce into the spinach and mushrooms. Serve the scallops on top of the vegetables with a little squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

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.

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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!)

Oops we did it again! (Tortellini with a leek and bacon broth)

First of all I am going to have to say lots of “sorries” to people. Sorry for not having posted for a while, sorry for not visiting you all so often, and a very, very big sorry to all the lovely folk who have nominated me for awards over the last few months and who I have not thanked properly. My excuses are many – the house renovations, a dreadful cold and my old laptop almost dying and having bought a new one which I’m trying to get to grips with (but not always successfully). The technical problems mean that the e-mails with the lovely award nominations are no more…along with some photos and documents. My fault entirely. So sorry. Again.

We’ve had some snow here, which was actually quite fun as there wasn’t enough to turn our little world upside down.

Snow 15 Enero 2013 (1)21 Jan 2013 (6)

We bought another place to do up – but this time it’s for us to use as our UK holiday place. Er yes, you did hear that right. Last one, I promise. But it was so sad and sorry looking and is part of an Edwardian House that needs to be loved again, we couldn’t just leave it there to get sadder could we? And when it’s done we may even let loved ones come and stay…so if you’re ever in the area…

Eek - that's all got to go!
Eek – that’s all got to go!

Walled garden - lots of potential once the rubbish has gone

But we’ve eaten too. Hearty dishes to keep out the cold, and glamorous dishes to celebrate the sea. I did cook an amazing monkfish tail with prawns and a champagne sauce. But guess what? The photos seem to have been lost in transit from one laptop to another.  Too much renovating and not enough backing up I hear you say.

Not a recipe as such for you today, but a bowl of hearty pasta and broth to chase away the snow, winter colds and house renovation madness.

Tortelloni with Leek & Bacon Broth (2)

For the two of us, I took one leek and finely sliced it, stir fried it with some finely chopped bacon (but you could use mushrooms if you wanted a veggie version), added in a packet of ricotta and spinach tortellini (or you could be fabulous like my pal ChgoJohn and make some ravioli) and covered with broth (stock). I used the broth from boiling a gammon but chicken or vegetable stock would also be good. Then I just simmered for a few minutes until the tortellini were cooked, and voila, a speedy supper. Be healthy and eat it as it is, or do like me and smother it in grated parmesan. Buon appetito!

Venison Chops with Creamed Spinach and Mushrooms

Venison Chops with Creamed Mushrooms & Spinach (2)

I have spoken a few times about our lovely local butcher, London Road Butcher of Bexhill (just in case any locals are interested – but he does need a website!). Funnily enough, he was bought up in the same road as House Number One. Small world.

We recently saw a programme about cooking with traditional ingredients that are falling out of fashion, and venison was mentioned. I hadn’t eaten if for years and Big Man didn´t know if he had ever tasted it. In a timely fashion, the butcher had venison chops (which looked more like smaller versions of T-Bone steaks) for sale, so how could I say no?

The chops were cooked very simply – salted, rubbed with a little olive oil and cooked on a very hot griddle pan.  To go with them I made creamed spinach and mushrooms which I have since made again and served simply with rice. A great vegetarian dish (but obviously not when you have a slab of Bambi´s mother on the plate next to it). Quantities are flexible, the process is simple.

Venison Chops with Creamed Mushrooms & Spinach (1)

Ingredients (to serve 2 people)

  •  About 10 chestnut mushrooms, cut into medium slices
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • About 4-6 cups of washed spinach leaves
  • A splash of white wine
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of full fat crème fraîche (don´t use the low fat version for this, it will split and be very runny)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Gently fry the mushrooms and garlic in a little oil with the lid on the pan until the mushrooms start to release some of their juices. Add a splash of white wine and the spinach and cover again. When the spinach has wilted, removed the lid, season and turn the heat up so that most of the liquid evaporates.  Turn the heat down low, stir in the crème fraîche, add a final grind of pepper and serve.

When life gives you cold rice…you make Arancini

So…look away now if you fear deep frying, or just don´t do it for health reasons. I understand, really I do. It´s just that I do deep fry from time to time. Once, in a little experiment to see just how much oil is used when making “proper” chips, I measured the oil (half vegetable, half olive oil) before and after making them and was pleasantly surprised to find that just a couple of tablespoons had been used in the whole process. So now, whilst I don´t advocate eating deep fried food daily, or even weekly, I don´t feel guilty when I do make chips, or deep fried peppers, or croquetas…I do it with joy in the anticipation of how good they´ll taste when they´re hot out the pan.

However, if you do want a healthier, and non fried version, check out this great baked recipe from Natalie at Cook Eat Live Vegetarian.

So, on with the deep frying. Ingredients are few for delicious arancini, but you do need to have some leftover risotto from the day before. Don´t even think about making it fresh to use the same day. Magic happens overnight in your fridge and those little grains of rice continue to absorb any liquid as they cool down and become extra stodgy sticky and perfect for molding into those little balls of ricey, cheesey goodness.

Arancini, as I am sure many of you know, are named after the Italian word for “Little Oranges” because of their shape and beautiful colour. When I was a child on holiday in Southern Italy with my family, sometimes the aunties would agree to a night off of cooking. This meant either a visit to a local restaurant or a trip to the local shop which provided all sorts of delicious “ready meals” to take home and heat up. Nothing like fast food of today, of course. Proper food, made by the Mamma or Papá of the shop – pasta, roasted peppers, hot and cold meats…well, a whole menu full of delicious food to take home and enjoy. I would always offer to go along with the uncles to collect this as I was rewarded with a piping hot “arancino” to eat on the way home. God forbid I should pass out with hunger on the way.

Just in case you fancy doing something different, arancini can also be made with minced meat as a filling – it´s up to you.

Ingredients

  • Leftover, cold risotto, at room temperature
  • Mozzarella cut into small cubes
  • Dried breadcrumbs (I used panko, as I have just “discovered” them in the UK – have never come across them in Spain – but use whatever kind you like)
  • Oil for deep frying

Take about a tablespoon of cold risotto and put it into the palm of your hand (wet your hands first, this stops things from getting too messy. Place a little cube of cheese into the centre and mold the rice into a ball then roll it in the breadrcumbs.

Deep fry the arancini in very hot oil for about 2 minutes or until they are a beautiful deep golden colour.

Drain on kitchen roll and have a cold glass of wine to hand because you will probably need to taste one to check it´s done, burn your lips and need to cool them down.