Carne en salsa – Pork with peppers and potatoes

In Andalucía many restaurants will offer, as part of their menu, a dish called “carne en salsa”. Literally translated this is “meat in sauce”. In Andalucía this will be, pretty much without exception, pork. The dish will be served as a tapa in tiny terracotta dishes with a small piece of crusty bread, or you can order a media ración  (a half portion) or a ración  (a full portion). Full and half portions would most likely be served with chips (fries) or perhaps potatoes or rice and main dishes are usually shared with several different dishes ordered and everyone digging in.

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This is a loose interpretation of the dish, it wouldn’t usually have potatoes or chorizo included when it’s cooked, so leave them out if you want to be more authentic. If you have an earthenware dish to cook it in, go for it. The gentle cooking in these pots does something good special to the flavour. I used my slow cooker (then warmed it through in my Cazuela to serve), but this can be cooked on the stovetop or in the oven if you prefer.

Ingredients (to serve 4-6 as a main course)

  • 1kg pork shoulder diced into bite sized cubes
  • 2 fresh chorizo sausages, sliced
  • About 500g potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 peppers (any colour) diced
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • A pinch of saffron threads or half a teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet pimentón
  • ½ teaspoon of hot pimentón  (optional)
  • About 10 sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large tablespoons of tomato purée
  • A glass of red or white wine (about 125ml)
  • A good slug of dry sherry (optional)
  • 125ml approx of chicken stock (extra if you cook in a conventional oven or stovetop)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of cornflour  (optional)
  • Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped, to garnish

Put the pork, chorizo, potato, onion, garlic, pepper, tomatoes, saffron (or turmeric), pimentón,  thyme and bay leaf into your cooking pot or slow cooker. Season with the salt and pepper and mix.

Mix the tomato purée with the wine, stock and sherry and pour over the pork and vegetables. In the slow cooker cook on  high for about 4 hours until the meat is very tender. On the stovetop bring to a gentle simmer and cook, half covered for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender for about 2 hours. Check frequently, you may need to add a little extra stock.  In the oven, cook at a medium low heat for about 3 hours, covered, until the meat is tender. Check every 45 minutes and add extra liquid if needed.

When you’re almost ready to serve, if the liquid is too runny for your liking, add two heaped teaspoons of cornflour to a little cold water and stir in. Return the dish to the heat for about 20 minutes (slow cooker or oven) and 5 minutes (stove top) until thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, garnish and serve with plenty of lovely crusty bread.

Ottolenghi Inspired Stuffed Peppers

Yes, the love affair with Mr O continues. Today the recipe is inspired by one from his book Jerusalem, and is, in turn, one of his own mother’s recipes. Momma knows best, we all know that.

As ever, I used what I had to hand, the original ingredients are in brackets following my version. It makes a stunning main course accompanied by a salad packed full of all your favourite leaves, or an excellent starter if you use smaller peppers and restrain yourself to eating only a half. Tough choice.

Stuffed Peppers (4)

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course or 8 as a starter – easily halved, or even doubled for a party)

  • 4 red bell peppers (which I halved and blanched in boiling water for about 3 minutes) (8 romano peppers, no need to blanch)
  • 2 cups of homemade tomato sauce or (1 large tomato roughly chopped, 2 medium onions roughly chopped, about 500ml vegetable stock)

Stuffing

  • 140g basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp Allspice (1 ½ tbsp baharat)
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 400g minced pork (400g minced lamb)
  • 2 ½ tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint (2 tbsp chopped dill, 1 ½ tbs chopped dried mint)
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
  • Salt and black pepper

Put the rice in a saucepan and cover with lightly salted water. Boil for 4 minutes, drain, rinse and set aside.

Dry fry the spices, add the olive oil and onion and fry until the onion is soft. Pour this and the stuffing ingredients into a large bowl and mix). Season.

Stuff either the half peppers or if using the romanos cut a slit lengthways without cutting in half completely and stuff each pepper.

If not using previously made tomato sauce, place the chopped tomato and onion into a large pan with a tight fitting lid (or pour your sauce in). Sit the peppers on top, cover with a lid and either simmer on the stove top on a low heat for about an hour or cook in a medium oven until the peppers are tender. If using the stove top, make sure the sauce does not dry out by adding a little water if necessary.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Take One Bag of Flour

I don’t know who discovered that by grinding grains, flour could be produced. And whoever then went on to figure out that by adding simple ingredients like water and air, you could end up with a delicious loaf of sourdough bread. As for pasta, whoever had that great idea of adding an egg and a pinch of salt to make a beautiful silky dough….well, I raise my glass of wine to them.

Not really much of a recipe today, more an acknowledgement that good food doesn’t need to be complicated or sophisticated. Ingredients, as long as they are fresh and good can produce the most incredible tasting meals with just a little effort and time invested. Oh yes, and love. Good food needs to be made with love.

Pasta with Tomato and anchovy sauce (4)

Lunch the other day was a homage to simple ingredients. Home made pappardelle (thick pasta as opposed to thin as the pasta cutting attachment on my machine has died, so I had to cut by hand) served with a (home grown vegetables) tomato and vegetable sauce with anchovies. Home made bread, dipped in our own olive oil and a glass of not home made wine. I’ll leave that to the experts!

Slow Cooked Vegetable Sauce with Anchovies (serves 2-4)

  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • Half a courgette (zucchini) coarsely grated
  • One carrot peeled and coarsely grated
  • One stick of celery, finely chopped
  • Half a red pepper thinly sliced
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato purée
  • 1 cup (or can) or chopped tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning
  • Herbs (I used basil)
  • A small glass of red wine
  • About 4-6 fillets of salted anchovies

Hand Cut Pasta

Start by slowly braising the garlic, courgette, celery, carrot and pepper (but don’t brown them) until they start to soften. Add the tomatoes, the purée, the wine and the herbs and bring to a gentle simmer. Season lightly and cook slowly for about an hour (or longer). If the sauce becomes too thick, add a splash of water. When nearly ready, remove the herbs if you have kept them whole and stir in the anchovies (leave these out if you want a vegetarian dish). Check for seasoning (you probably won’t need more salt) and serve.

Pasta with Tomato and anchovy sauce (3)

Home Made Pasta

I use (per person as a main course) 100g strong plain flour, 1 egg, a tiny splash of olive oil and a tiny pinch of salt. Mix together by hand or in a machine and knead for a few minutes until the dough becomes soft and silky. Leave to rest for 30 minutes. Check out Chgo John’s excellent recipe for more tips and help.

Olive Oil Pastry – So simple, even I couldn’t mess it up….

I love pastry but am mostly too lazy to make it. Except at Christmas, when I make Clara’s Shortcrust Pastry. And sometimes I use it to make quiche.

Perhaps I don’t make it that often because

  1. In Spain, getting hold of butter and keeping it fresh before it reaches my fridge is a saga in itself
  2. In England, I’m either too busy ripping out nasty bathrooms or it’s easier to pop to the supermarket and buy it ready made (oops, did I just admit that in public?!)

Enough of this nonsensical pastry avoidance, Chica. Pull yourself together and make it with olive oil! So of course, I did. And you know what? It’s so easy, and so tasty, and so silky and forgiving should you break it (what, me?!) that I suspect we’ll be eating a lot more of it in the next few months. And also, with only 2 tablespoons of oil in a 4 person serving, it really can’t be bad for you, can it?

Veggie Garden Pie with Olive Oil Pastry

Ingredients to line a 24cm (9.2 inch) flan tin with enough left over to make a few cheese and marmite nibbles (my grandmother always used to make these as a treat with the leftover scraps of pastry), this is what you need:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tbs olive oil (30ml)
  • Up to 4 tbs iced water (60ml)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

I made mine in my food processor, but if making by hand, follow the same steps, it will only take you a couple of minutes longer.

Blend the flour and salt together then add the olive oil and blitz (or rub with your fingers) for a few seconds. Slowly add the water with the motor running but stop as soon as the mixture clumps together.

Press the mixture into a ball and chill (optional) for half an hour wrapped in cling film.

Cheese & Marmite Nibbles

You can roll this pastry out really thinly if you like, it behaves well. Use it to make your favourite quiches and pies. I made a vegetable pie with a filling of sautéed peppers, onions, tomatoes and blanched runner beans which sat on top of a mix of 2 tablespoons of cream cheese with one beaten egg, and topped wth sliced tomato.

And because pastry is rather dull to look at (never start a sentence with the word “and” Chica), I thought I’d show you a lovely photo from New Zealand, taken way too many years ago!

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Groundhog Day Peperonata

If you haven’t seen the film Groundhog Day, you won’t know what I’m talking about. In summary, it’s about a man who wakes up each morning and experiences the same day over and over and over again. Of course, he learns from his experiences and it all ends well.

When we got back Up the Mountain we were dreaming of months of rest and long lazy days which did not involve DIY, house repairs or anything to do with a paintbrush. There was a slightly damp smell in the house which we put down to the very wet winter which Andalucía has experienced and the fact that our house has been unheated and unlived in for quite some time.

Alas, we were deluding ourselves and some damage caused a few years back by a leak in the roof plus the wet winter has caused a significant amount of damp, particularly in my beloved “despensa” or larder.  Today we had to remove everything, including the shelving, from the despensa.

Groundhog Day (2)

The house is in chaos and we are climbing over things to get from one place to another. It will all be put right soon, I know, but I think we both had a moment or two today of wanting to run away and hide from it all.

Groundhog Day (3)

Salvation lay in the freezer and with the arrival of Fish Man with fresh calamares.  Last summer’s produce was tucked into the freezer and there it awaits us.  I cooked a quick peperonata (for which there are quite possibly as many recipes as there are Italian Mammas) and served it with calamares cooked on the griddle pan and drizzled with our olive oil and some sweet balsamic vinegar.

Ingredients for the Peperonata (serves 4) Serve hot or cold

  • About 500g of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large onion finely sliced
  • About 4-6 large peppers (use a mix of colours if you can) cut into bite sized chunks
  • 2-3 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • A small glass of red wine (optional)
  • Fresh herbs (I used oregano but basil is also good)
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning

Peperonata (3)

Simmer the garlic and onions in a little oil until soft, then add the peppers. Turn up the heat and fry until the edges of the peppers start to turn brown.  Add the tomatoes, herbs and wine (if using) season lightly and simmer for about 30 minutes until reduced and the sauce thick and the peppers starting to melt.

Squid with Balsamic (1)

Taste and adjust the seasoning and remove any large pieces of herbs. Great too stirred into pasta but I love it best eaten cold with a little squeeze of lemon juice and plenty of crusty bread.

For a quick lesson on how to clean squid (calamares) if you can’t find it ready prepared, take a look here.

Ok, lunch break over, back to work Chica!

Speedy Suppers – Smokey Pork with Pimentón and Peppers

I do love alliteration don´t you?! Even more I enjoy a speedy supper dish which tastes amazing and looks pretty too.

Smoky pork & peppers (1)

If you don´t eat pork, this would be delicious too with chicken. It just wouldn´t be so alliterative.

Ingredients (to serve 2)

  • 1 pork fillet cut into small strips (or use a small piece of pork loin)
  • 1 pepper, sliced (I used an orange one)
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced quite thickly
  • About 6 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of smoked pimentón
  • A small glass of white wine
  • 2 tablespoons of crème fraiche (or use full fat yogurt)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive oil

Start by browning the little strips of meat in a tablespoon or so of olive oil. When they are browned, remove from the pan and set aside. Now add the onions, garlic,  peppers and mushrooms into the same pan and cook gently until softened then turn up the heat slightly to give some colour to the onions.

Add the meat back into the pan and sprinkle over the pimentón and season.  Fry gently for a minute then add the wine. Turn the heat down and continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes then turn the heat up for a minute or so just to reduce a little of the liquid.

Check to taste the seasoning, turn off the heat and stir in the crème fraiche. Delicious served with plain boiled rice and some green vegetables.

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.

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?!

Roasted Vegetable & Tuna Salad – For when you´ve been having waaaaay too much fun

Our time back Up the Mountain seems to be flying past so quickly, but we are managing to catch up with family and friends, but less so on rest and sleep. Oh well, it´s all about the Fiesta this week in our village and we´re making the most of things.

Tonight though we are at home. After almost a week of eating out our bodies need a rest before a little farewell party tomorrow night in a local bar. Fiesta food is heavy on the meat and protein as it´s all cooked over coals as you wait. Delicious grilled fillets of pork sprinkled with a type of salsa verde, pinchitos (little pork kebabs), jamon and cheese, braised goat and some grilled prawns. Of course, on Sunday we had the village paella.

It was time to balance things out and stock up on veggies and our little abandoned vegetable patch came up with the goods. Today I picked about 10 kgs of peppers, both green and red and a few aubergines. Most of the peppers were sliced and frozen or braised with olive oil and then frozen for the coming months. A few though were roasted and turned into a delicious, filling salad dish for a meat free supper.

While the peppers were roasting I picked my Chinese Lantern plants which have gone wild in our absence. Tomorrow I´ll pick the lanterns off the plants and use them to decorate the house later in the year. Very autumnal.

The cases are being packed (yes, I managed to get a whole jamon into one) with things to remind us of home for the next month or so. The dogs have been bathed (Luna) and clipped (Alfi) while they stay with my parents. And we have had time to recharge our batteries. Well, sort of. We are counting our blessings that that we avoided any damage from the terrible rains here in Spain and spare a thought for the less lucky ones.  Life is hectic, life is full, life is good.

Ingredients (to serve 2 as a main dish or 4 as a starter or salad)

  • 4 large peppers (green and red)
  • 2 large aubergines
  • 2 small tins of tuna
  • 1 medium onion finely sliced
  • A large handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
  • About 150g of chopped olives
  • Olive Oil and Lemon juice
  • The grated rind of a lemon
  • Salt and Pepper

Roast the peppers and aubergines until charred, leave to cool slightly and then peel. Slice the peppers and scoop the flesh from the aubergines and cut into chunks.

Mix the vegetables with the tuna, olives, onions, mint and grated lemon and dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Taste, season, enjoy.

Popping Home Pimentón Pork Pot

Yes, I mentioned the “H” word. Home! Big Man and I arrived back Up our beloved Mountain in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Only for a week mind you. This weekend is our village fiesta, and it was time to touch base with family and friends and to pick up some warmer clothes for the English autumn weather.

Our last night in very rainy Bexhill was spent pulling staples out of floorboards, hammering in nails and preparing the floor downstairs in House Number One to be sanded and varnished in our absence. Well, it was easier than trying to varnish around two excited pups (who are staying with my parents this week and creating havoc in their home). We had also spent time at House Number Two knocking down an outside loo, dealing with most of the kitchen ceiling falling in and leaving things ready for the plasterer to do his stuff while we are in Spain. Hectic times.

Before the ceiling fell in…

To get us in the mood for being home again I cooked a delicious one pot (what else) pork dish, reminiscent of Spain with the flavours of smoky pimentón, olives and peppers. I made sure to make double so that when we get back, tired and hungry (as we inevitably are after a day of travelling) we´ll have dinner sorted.

Ingredients (to serve 4)

  • 500g of cubed pork shoulder
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of smoked pimentón/paprika
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Approx 150g olives (I used anchovy stuffed olives) sliced or halved
  • 1 ½ cups of your favourite or home made tomato sauce (yes, I made it!)
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
  • A glass of red wine (optional, but of course I added!)
  • Water
  • Olive oil for shallow frying
  • Salt and pepper

Start by frying the pork until browned and remove from the pan. Then add the onions, garlic and pepper and cook gently until softened. Add the pork back into the pan and sprinkle over the pimentón. Now stir in the olives, the tomato sauce, the purée and the wine and season lightly. Bring to a simmer, cover (or half cover) with a lid and cook gently for about 45 minutes while you continue to pull staples out of floorboards (the stapling bit is optional).

If it starts to dry out too much, add a little water, depending on how saucy you like your dish.

When the sauce is rich and thick, and the pork tender and delicious, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve with rice or boiled potatoes or simply crusty bread. Pour yourself a glass of wine from that bottle you opened, pull the staple out that has embedded itself in your knee and relax.

And what did we do with our first day back? Take it easy? Heck no!

We dealt with the last tomatoes in our Huerto.

We met up with a cousin of Big Man´s to pick plums.

Then we went to a wine tasting last night.

Today we planned to attack our very overgrown garden and enjoy some sunshine, but it´s not to be. The weather here is as cold and rainy as Bexhill on Sea.

Time to dig out the winter woolies I think.