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?!

Bean meaning to mention…..

Beans! Well, not just beans but Winter salads.  Winter doesn´t have to mean an end to fresh delicious salads, but the colder weather means we probably want something a little more robust but no less fresh and delicious to eat as a light meal or to accompany grilled meats, fish or whatever takes your fancy.

Especially after Christmas, and all that heavy food, these are welcome light meals to ease the strain on the waistband. And talking of Christmas, belated greetings to you all and apologies for the silence. Almost regular service will be resumed this week, and I hope that you all had a wonderful time with your loved ones, I will be slowly catching up with your blog posts over the next week or so.

Anyway, back to the food.  We´ve been trying to support local shops as much as possible and to buy locally grown, seasonal vegetables in the absence of our own veggie garden or store cupboard. Sometimes though, you just have to give into cravings and buy things that are out of season or grown elsewhere. Green beans seem to be everywhere in the supermarkets now, along with mange tout and runner beans. Maybe it´s my body craving something fresh and crunchy that makes me respond to the vibrant green colour. Who knows, but the beans were delicious!

Ingredients are flexible in these two tasty dishes, they´re just meant to inspire you, not dictate to you. Use what you have available, enjoy the fresh flavours.

Bean & asparagus salad (1)

Green Bean and Asparagus Salad

  • Blanch green beans and asparagus until just tender, then run under cold water to stop them cooking further. Chop into bite sized pieces, add halved cherry tomatoes, a chopped avocado and some hard boiled egg. Sprinkle over some sliced jamon or grilled bacon (leave out for a veggie version) and dress a mix of with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, English mustard, a pinch of sugar and seasoning.

 Potato, bean & caper salad (4)

Potato, Roasted Red Pepper, Bean and Caper Salad

  • Mix together cubed boiled potatoes, strips of roasted red peppers, green beans and halved caper berries.  Make a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and zest and salt and pepper. Mix the salad gently. As a little added luxury, drizzle over some truffle oil.

Couscous – Two Ways

Now that the heat seems to have arrived (and looks to stay), we make the shift to summer food. Fast cooking, not so much time spent in the kitchen, and a lot of cooking on the barbecue…as long as we can find a shady spot for it.

Couscous ticks a lot of the boxes as it´s so quick and easy to prepare, and provides a blank canvas to work with. I´m sure many of you have your favourite ways of preparing it, and I´d love to hear what they are. Here are a couple of ways I´ve served it recently. Both versions serve 4 as a side dish and were made with 1 cup of cous cous prepared according to the packet instructions and served chilled.

Couscous with Mushrooms and Courgettes

  • 1 medium onion, 1 cup mushrooms and 1 medium  courgette all finely chopped and sautéed until soft.
  • Mix with the cous cous, season and dress with olive oil, lemon juice and some finely chopped parsley.

Couscous with “Gazpacho”

  • Inspired by our summer favourite, I mixed the cous cous with finely chopped red onion, tomato, cucumber, green pepper and mint and dressed it (after seasoning) with olive oil, white wine vinegar and some finely chopped mint.

Two simple dishes to inspire and feed you.

A Cake To Take Visiting – Orange, Almond and Raisin Cake

Wrapped Up and Ready to Travel!

Customs vary immensely the world over, but some are the same regardless of where you are. When visiting friends for a meal, a little gift is customary. If it´s home made, so much the better, especially if it´s edible.

My mum passed a recipe on to me when I was last in London. She thought it would appeal because the finished cake is not too sweet (she knows I don´t have a hugely sweet tooth), uses oil instead of butter (so much easier here where butter is rarely used) and contains ingredients which are local to Andalucía – oranges, almonds and raisins. Perfect, all I needed was a chance to make it.

Easter weekend was a mix of quiet and hectic for us. Saturday found us heading across the “frontier” from Málaga province to Granada, to a remote area to join some friends in their Cortijo for lunch and a walk.  More of the walk another day as I got rather carried away taking photos.

The cake was made the night before and was a huge hit. It´s very moist and is a cross between a cake and a dessert and would also be perfect served with whipped cream, crème fraîche or ice cream.

Ingredients

  • 150g raisins soaked in 50ml of amaretto (warm the amaretto and leave the raisins in soak for at least an hour) If you don´t want to use alchohol, a delicate tea would also be perfect for soaking.
  • 2 oranges (as bitter as you can find)
  • 4 eggs
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 150g ground almonds (I left mine quite coarse, it´s up to you how fine you grind them, this cake the cake a nutty texture and a rougher look on the top)
  • 150g self raising flour (or plain flour with 2 tsp baking powder)
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 2 tsp icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4 and line a 24cm springform tin.

Place the whole oranges in a saucepan of water and ensure they are covered. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until tender. Blitz 1½ oranges until finely chopped, reserve.  Squeeze the juice from the remaining half orange then set the juice aside.

Whisk the eggs until light and fluffy then whisk in the sugar.  Fold in the almonds and olive oil then sieve in the flour then fold in.  Gently stir in the pulped oranges and half the raisins and pour the mixture into the tin, spooning the remaining raisins over the top of the cake.

Bake for about 60 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven but keep in the tin. Place the juice of half the orange and the icing sugar in a pan and dissolve the sugar.  Pierce the cake all over with a skewer and pour the orange syrup over.  Leave in the tin to cool then remove and enjoy.

PS. I think this would also be great made with polenta!

Gambas al Pil Pil – Sizzling Spicy Prawns

This is a hugely popular and typically Andalucían tapas dish or starter.  I have tried to find out the origin of the words Pil Pil and some say that it comes from an Arabic word felfel (I don´t speak Arabic so assume it has something to do with spice or chili).  Others say it comes from the sound the prawns make sizzling in the hot oil. I don´t know if either are true – I like both stories, almost as much as I enjoy making and eating Gambas al Pil Pil.

If you can get hold of good prawns (or shrimp) then this is a very easy yet impressive dish to serve to your guests. If you have a terracotta dish to cook them in, well that´s even better as it does add something special to the taste and the prawns stay hot and sizzling for a few minutes as you bring the dish to the table.

Per person for a good tapas serving you will need

  • 100g peeled prawns (defrosted if frozen)
  • 1 dried hot chili and/or half a teaspoon of hot pimentón – this is down to personal taste – crumbled
  • A fat clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • A good pinch of salt

About 2 tablespoons of olive oil (if you are doing a large serving, just use enough oil to half cover the prawns)

Start by putting everything apart from the prawns into a frying pan or terracotta pot. Turn up the heat and cook until the garlic begins to turn brown at the edges.

When you want to serve your dish add the prawns and cook at a lower heat until the prawns are cooked through then turn up the heat until they begin to sizzle.

Serve with plenty of bread to mop up the delicious chili oil. If served in a large pot or pan, it is traditionally served as a sharing dish. Everyone has their own fork and “prongs” their bread into the juices.

Serve with an ice cold beer, a chilled manzanilla or a crisp cool white wine.  ¡Buen provecho!

PS. No fear of me running out of chillis this coming year…the harvest is now safely stored and drying in the shed!

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?!

Pesto – with an Andalucían twist

All lined up for a Family Portrait

Basil grows like crazy here.  Well, it does if the slugs don´t get the first batch that you put into the ground in Spring.  After replanting, I finally got my usual lovely crop of basil which I was using for salads, soups, seasoning and many other things beginning with the letter “s”.

There comes a point when you have to cut it back, as it starts to want to flower and the stalks begin to get a little tough and woody.  This is one bit of greenery my chickens are not going to enjoy as a treat…it´s going to become my annual batch of pesto.  I always make plenty (and I´ll probably make at least one more batch) as something mysterious always seems to happen to my little jars of pesto.

It works like this….visitors come from the UK.  They discover my despensa (that´s a walk in larder) and start to disappear for longer and longer.  When they leave to go home, their suitcases are strangely heavy.  I go into the despensa and find greatly reduced stocks of marmalade, jams and pesto!  It´s a funny thing…. I still haven´t worked out what is happening in there.

Anyway, as to exact measurements, it´s hard to say as much will depend on the strength of your garlic, the pungency of your cheese, the fruitiness of your olive oil.  The little twist to my pesto is nothing that exotic or mysterious…but it´s hard (and expensive) to buy pine nuts here, and as we have a couple of almond trees in our little olive grove, I just substitute almonds for pine nuts.

My food processor seems to have worn down its blade slightly, so this year´s pesto was a little chunkier than usual as I couldn´t grind the almonds down to a fine powder.  That said, it tastes amazing, and a day after taking the photos the sauce is a beautiful vivid green colour.

You´ll need basil leaves, salt, a hard cheese such as parmesan (I also used some hard sheep´s milk cheese as the parmesan I had was nothing too special) which you need to grate, olive oil, and garlic.

For about 8 cups of basil I used 3 large cloves of garlic, about 3 cups of grated cheese, 2 cups of ground almonds, 3 teaspoons of sea salt and 1 litre of olive oil.  This gave me just over one and a half litres of pesto.

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You can make it in a food processor, although I had to switch to doing smaller batches with my hand blender because of my ineffective blade.  Taste and add….more salt, go for it….now more cheese….too thick, add more oil.  You get the picture.

Put into sterilised jars when you are done, it will keep for a year.  But only if you put a lock on the larder door.

Gorgeous Green Gazpacho

Green. Gorgeous. Good.

Who says Gazpacho has to be red?  Well, if you promise not to tell the Andalucían gazpacho Police…I say it doesn´t!

In the vegetable garden at the moment, our cup overfloweth. Some things just can´t be canned or frozen – like cucumbers.  And those little green thin skinned Spanish peppers are best eaten fresh in salad, stuffed or fried.

I wanted to find a new way of using up some of my “greenery” and came up with this version of gazpacho.  It´s a stunning colour, tastes rather like juiced vegetables and I´m sure must be amazingly good for you and packed with vitamins.  Probably an excellent pick me up for the morning after the night before too.  We just drank it chilled as a pre lunch appetizer.

Here´s what I used, but if you do decide to give it a go I´m thinking celery, avocado and lime juice might also be great additions.

Two thin green peppers, one small cucumber (peeled), a small clove of garlic, a small bunch of parsley, 4 large leaves of raw chard (or spinach).

In a blender mix the vegetables with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, white wine vinegar and salt (to taste) and a litre of ice cold water.

Blend until smooth, add a few ice cubes and chill until needed.  Looking as gorgeous as it does, it just has to be good for you!

Salsa Verde Spanish Style

Shake before serving...

Well, it´s not exactly Italian salsa verde in that there are no capers or anchovies…but, it´s a green sauce so that most definitely makes it a salsa verde!

Restaurants round where I live have good, simple food.  It can sometimes get a little repetitive, and often there´s no menu as they all serve pretty much the same selection of grilled meats (usually pork cuts) and some grilled or fried fish.  What you get though is fresh, well cooked and tasty food.  Often the meat or fish will come drizzled with a delicious garlic and parsley mixture blended with olive oil.

One of our regular local restaurants moves everything outside onto the “summer terrace” during the hot months.  This includes the cooking, so you can sit at your table and almost within an arm´s reach you have Luis at the bar, his partner Sonia in the kitchen area and the mountain views.  I noticed that Sonia makes her sauce up and keeps it in a squeezy bottle which she then uses to dispense the delicious mixture over the cooked food as it leaves the kitchen and is delivered to us by Luis.

All she does is finely chop parsley and garlic and blend with a season of salt and local extra virgin olive oil.  I make mine up in the food processor or in a small jug using the hand stick blender.  I have now taken to keeping a bottle of this in my fridge.  Sometimes I add the zest of a lemon, and squirt it over simple grilled dishes (including vegetables) to liven them up.

Sadly, no waiter service at home, so we dished up ourselves!

Do give it a go, it´s handy to have around and apart from looking pretty, tastes wonderful. Probably best not to eat it if you´re going out on a hot first date though!

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Bottled Sunshine

Well, summer is finally here and with it comes gorgeous red and juicy tomatoes.  Soon we´ll have so many it will be time to set some by for the months when tomatoes are sadder and greener.

One of the ways I like to store tomatoes is by sun drying them.  Of course, if you live in a country that has less sun, or it´s winter right now, you can use your oven instead.  I have never dried tomatoes this way but understand that as long as you wedge the oven door open slightly with a skewer or similar, then they´ll dry out nicely rather than steam.

This is the way that I do it, it does take a little time but I like to think that the final taste includes a little warmth of the Andalucían sun.

Wash and dry your ripe but not squashy tomatoes – this time I had plum tomatoes (also known as Roma or Pear tomatoes in Spain).

Big Man chose well...

Cut into halves and then sixths or eights (or smaller depending on the size of your tomatoes). Don´t remove the centre core or seeds.

and cut!

Lay them out on a large tray lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle them fairly heavily with salt.  The salt will help to draw the liquid out of the tomatoes and they won´t taste super salty, I promise.  Use coarse salt (or kosher salt) if you can.

Now leave them in a sunny but sheltered spot.  If there is risk of wind or flies, cover them with a muslin cloth or net and take them in at night if you have humidity.

This batch took just over 48 hours.

After one hour of sunshine

After one hour

Sunbathing without protection...naughty!

After four hours

Day two...

Next day

A Blustery Day Three

Final day (after a windy morning!)

When they´re as dry as you want them (you may decide to leave them a little “juicy” for sun blush tomatoes) you are ready to put them in a sterilised jar (or canning them).

Sterilise your jar in the dishwasher or give them a good wash in very hot water then dry them out in a low oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Now pack your tomatoes into a warm jar.  Can you believe nearly 3kg of tomatoes fit into this jar?

Pack ´em in!

You can layer with basil, thyme or oregano if you want.

The you will fill the jar with olive oil.  I know it seems like an awful lot of oil, but in a few months time when you´ve eaten the last of the tomatoes in that jar you can use the oil for salads, drizzling over pizza, making pasta sauce….

As a final security measure, I put my jar into a deep pot of simmering water so that it´s almost covered and leave it in there for about 10 minutes.  This will ensure a good seal and that your tomatoes run no risk of fermenting.

Now, what will you do with your sun dried tomatoes?  Maybe some canapés, or crostini, or chop them up in a salad or sauce, or maybe serve them with a little flaked fresh parmesan and olives….the choice is yours!