The Huerto, or Vegetable Garden, is doing well. Although we won´t get to enjoy all of it over the summer, we are making the most of our vegetable bounty before we leave for the UK. The long thin peppers are doing well. Typically here they are used in salads or deep fried and served with a good sprinkle of salt.
To try something different, and because I had plenty of Creamy Goat´s Cheese “Paté”, I made this dish recently. Very easy and quick to prepare, and you can add whatever flavours/herbs you have to hand and enjoy.
4 medium long green peppers
200g cream cheese paté (or mix your favourite herbs and spices into a tub of cream cheese)
Blanch the whole peppers in boiling water for about 3 or 4 minutes, drain and leave until cool enough to handle.
Cut a slit down the middle of each pepper to create an opening and then fill with cream cheese. Use a cocktail stick to seal them.
I cooked mine on the griddle pan which I had sprayed with a very little olive oil. This would also work on a barbecue. Start with the uncut side first. When they are done on one side, flip them over and cook the other side which will probably need less time.
Remove from the heat and take out the cocktail stick. Serve either warm or at room temperature with a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of good coarse sea salt.
Finally, I thought it was about time I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) for this classic recipe. I went to a local expert, he´s called “Chef Colorin” and he makes the paellas for all the local fiestas. Be warned, there are LOADS of photos in this post, but I hope you enjoy seeing the process.
Of course, he wasn´t going to just sit down with me over a glass of wine and give me the recipe. Much better than that, I was going to join in with the cooking. Fantastic, I thought, how many are we cooking for then Chef? Oh, not too many he told me, only 420 on Sunday. Get there about 11am he said, and we´ll show you the ropes.
Not one to balk at such a challenge, and I even wore the exceedingly unflattering hat (yes, I´ll show you the photos). It was one of the hottest and windiest days we´ve had for a while, so we couldn´t even put a shelter up for shade. Hey ho, the show must go on, and of course, it did.
We used 3 Paella pans which make 140 portions each. Feel free to adapt for smaller groups! The ingredients below are per 140 person pan.
Start with your base stock which is made in large 50 litre pots, sheltered from the wind today with a clever little device which goes round the base of the gas ring.
Into each pot goes 800g of stock cubes to 50 litres of water (at home, you´d probably use home made chicken or fish stock), 5 bay leaves, 2 tablespoons of sweet pimentón, 200cl of dry white wine, 500g each of chopped peppers and garlic, 1kg of monkfish, assorted fish bones, 400g of chopped tomato and 4 kilos of prawns with their shells on. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 20 minutes or so. Chef added 14 sachets of paella food colouring to the mix but at home we´d use saffron or turmeric.
Strain out the prawns, fish etc.
Then, wearing your glamorous outfit, count out 280 prawns (that´s so that everyone gets at least 2 each) and pull any meaty bits of fish off the bones. First come, first served on any extra prawns!
Is your fire ready to cook? I hope so, we´re going to begin.
Heat 3 litres of olive oil in your pan and add 8 kilos of chopped pork and season with salt to taste. Fry gently for a few minutes.
Now add a couple of heaped tablespoons of sweet pimentón.
Next comes a kilo each of red and green peppers and 250g of chopped garlic. Don´t forget the seafood – 2 kilos of chopped squid.
Stir gently while making silly faces.
Time to add 4 kilos of chopped tomatoes and a kilo of sliced roasted peppers.
Open the bags of rice carefully – 14kg for 140 people, which translates to 100g per person at home.
Add to the pan.
Stir gently into the sofrito with your giant paddle.
Now add30 litres of stock (which is 2 litres of stock per kilo of rice, plus a little extra – at home you would add 200cl plus a dash per 100g of rice…see, not so complicated!).
Keep that rice moving without burning your legs on the fire underneath the pan.
It´s much harder than it looks! (And don´t forget to taste).
Remove from the heat and sprinkle over those prawns and the fish you set aside.
Phew, job done. Time to show off an enormous loaf of bread baked by a local baker.
While we´re eating, you can enjoy a vaguely arty shot of a clean paella pan (don´t forget to oil it after washing up).
PS. Am off to London tomorrow for a week so will try to keep up with all your lovely blogs and comments, but apologies if some have to wait until after 20th June. Hope you enjoyed the paella making as much as I did, sorry it was so long but I really enjoyed putting it together. I do have to admit though, I was quite glad to take my “uniform” off and sit down in the shade of an olive tree with a large glass of tinto de verano.
Spring is sprung,
De grass is riz,
I wonder where dem birdies is?
De little birds is on de wing,
Ain’t dat absurd?
De little wing is on de bird!
Apologies, but I do enjoy nonsense and nursery rhymes! Yesterday at 6.14am, Spring officially began here in Spain. Unfortunately someone forgot to tell the weather and the warm temperatures we have been experiencing dropped overnight.
No matter, we have been putting some early plants into our veggie patch, but Big Man has been creating mini polytunnels to protect them on cold days and nights.
In about a week we´ll be eating our first broad beans, and the onions are also coming on nicely.
We planted a totally ridiculous 280 cloves of garlic, and are now planting lettuce between the rows. Big Man will cover them with netting or the little sparrows will think they´ve been invited to a Michelin starred restaurant.
We planted a first “wave” of tomatoes, peppers and chard.
The tomatoes are already producing flowers.
The chard is almost ready to start picking.
But helpers are thin on the ground here. Better to sleep in the warm sun room.
Maybe I´ll get up and help.
Maybe not, I´ll just put my head down and no one will notice I´m here.
And a final piece of “newness”. John From the Bartolini Kitchens, very kindly sent me a fantastic tutorial on how to insert the Flag Counter I now have right at the very bottom of my blog page. If you scroll down, down, down you will see that it is now starting collect flags from the countries that have visited my blog. Very interesting and a lot of fun to check up on. Maybe one day I´ll get to visit more of them. Thanks John, my brilliant long lost Italian cousin!
It´s been such a long time since I talked about the garden or the vegetable patch. Naturally, it´s still winter, the soil is resting.
But not quite. It´s been an exceptionally mild winter, and while things could still change, there are signs of life.
My cyclamen, bought before Christmas, continues to stun us with its beauty. I am doubly shocked as I generally manage to kill pot plants within a few days. What do I do next with it? It currently sits inside our sun room, with the door open all day and sun in the afternoon. It seems very happy.
Some of our geranium cuttings are already producing little flowers.
Daffodil and narcissus bulbs planted last year (bought back from the UK) are flowering.
My parsley survived the winter outside, this is the first year this has happened.
Broad beans and onions in their little winter shelter. We open the door and let the sun in during the day and we´ll be eating beans again in a few weeks.
Plenty of garlic for the year ahead. I thought it was only a month away from being ready, but wise old Big Man tells me I need to be much more patient. In the background one of our lemons and our artichoke plants which are already producing baby artichokes.
Our other lemon took a battering in the recent high winds, but still has plenty of lemons and produces new flowers with each new moon.
We don´t tend to grow our produce from seeds as many of Big Man´s family do this on a large scale for a living. We are going to risk some early planting. Nothing to lose, we think. Basil, thyme, chard, spinach, frying peppers, bell peppers, some more lettuce and some salad tomatoes.
Winter has been kind to us this year. Fingers crossed it won´t take us by surprise in the next few weeks.
As I was mostly quite a good girl last year, Secret Santa gave me a beautiful cookery book packed full of delicous Tapas recipes. Thanks Giovanna at BlueJellyBeans!
After having a good old read of it, I decided that the first recipe I wanted to make from it was one that I often order in bars or restaurants but had never made at home. The stuffed piquillo peppers (sweet, red and shaped like a little beak which gives them their name) are sold here in tins or jars. If you can´t get hold of them, I won´t tell anyone if you adapt with full sized peppers or perhaps the tips of some long sweet peppers. You´ll need to roast and peel them first though.
I adapted the recipe a little to use up some salt cod (bacalao) that I had left, but the filling is up to you. It could be cream cheese, mashed potato, tuna, vegetables, béchamel sauce….let your imagination go wild!
Ingredients to serve 2 as a starter
4 pimientos del piquillo
Half a cup of mashed potato plus half a cup of cooked, flaked bacalao (or a cup of your preferred filling)
A tablespoon of chopped parsley
Black pepper (no salt with bacalao as it is already very salty)
For the sauce – half a cup of tomato conserva, 2 tablespoons of single cream, 1 tablespoon of tomato purée blended together with an immersion blender and seasoned to taste
Mix the potato, fish and herbs together and season with pepper. Carefully fill the peppers using a small teaspoon. Put them into a small frying pan and cover with a lid. Warm through on a very low heat, turning them over after about 2 minutes. I didn´t use oil but if your pan is not non stick, then use a very small amount. Now pour the sauce over and warm through very gently.
Place the peppers on your serving plate and cover with the creamy, tomatoey sauce. Gorgeous, tasty and really rather cheffy looking!
Fish Man took a week off recently and oh how we missed him! Fortunately, he came back refreshed and with a van packed full of gorgeous things for us to enjoy.
After our enforced fish free week, I went a bit mad, and bought some tiny little crabs and a large fillet of rosada (a firm white fish) for us to enjoy.
The crabs were simple to deal with – a good rinse then plunged into boiling, salted water. You need to be quite heavy handed with the salt as they are usually cooked in sea water. In the absence of this up our mountain, a little extra salt goes a long way. After about two minutes they will turn a darker pink colour, drain them and then put into a bowl of iced water to stop them cooking further. It´s the same process that you would use for cooking prawns.
These were then chilled and served as a starter with alioli and lemons. It looks like a huge portion, but there is not a lot of meat inside these little critters. The fun is in chomping, slurping and licking your fingers!
The rosada was treated equally simply. I sautéed red peppers with onions and courgettes until soft, lay the fish fillets over the top and seasoned everything. After covering the pan with a lid I let them cook through gently for about five minutes (until they were no longer opaque), then squeezed plenty of lemon juice over.
Healthy, light and delicious…all we needed was the sound of the waves lapping against the shore.
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?!
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!
I can´t believe that I´ve been picking veggies and not bragging about it!
Today we finally picked our first red tomatoes…hurrah! We were late planting, but now that they´ve kicked in, there will be no stopping us for quite a few months now. Am planning salads, sauces, sun dried tomatoes and goodness knows what else. My plum tomatoes (or roma) are getting huge, but still frustratingly refuse to turn red.
We planted 18 runner bean plants this year (as opposed to the totally ridiculous 60 last year) and have been picking them almost daily for about 3 weeks now. We´ve still got a way to go with them, but thanks to my nifty runner bean slicer, we´re enjoying beans and freezing them too for later.
The aubergines are ripening and I´ve started to pick them quite small. Later I´ll leave them to get a little larger, but I couldn´t hold back.
Our long thin green peppers which are great for gazpacho are now being picked every couple of days. They´re also wonderful deep fried (stuffed or not) in olive oil and just sprinkled with salt. Our bell peppers are growing well, but need some more time to get bigger and then red.
The dwarf beans we planted a couple of weeks ago are all in flower, so it won´t be long now until they´re producing little bobby beans for us. I´m quite excited as I´ve planted two varieties, one green and one yellow. I´m sure they´ll taste pretty much the same but they´ll look extra pretty!
Our Spanish radishes, which are long as opposed to round, are doing great. We pick a couple each day and they have a good bite to them. We´ll probably plant a few more as they come up from seed so quickly.
And our little Spanish cucumbers are doing well. We grew them from seeds from a cucumber we saved last year. The cucumber had come from plants that our neighbour Diego gave us from seeds of his own – so these are several generations old. It´s good to have a little bit of history in the garden!
Our chard flourishes, I keep giving bunches of it away, but will do something this week with it for us. And our celery is slowly but surely getting bigger.
We have other things going on in the vegetable patch, and I´ll take some pics as the become ready. I do have to mention our little vines. Big Man is very rightly proud of our muscat grapes which are now trained over the kitchen window. They look amazing, we had to remove some as we had so many bunches but they would never have all ripened. Am looking forward to grapes in September and drying some for Christmas too.
I love summer…but I´m off to water the garden soon as it´s very hot here during the day and the plants are thirsty. ¡Hasta luego!
I realised tonight that a month had flown past since we planted our vegetable “plugs” this year. We´re catching up as we´ve has plenty of rain followed by sunshine and a few misty evenings, which the plants seem to love!
Our herbs are doing well, apart from my parsley and cilantro (coriander) which are still looking a bit sad.
I´ve let the sage flower as I think it looks so pretty. I sometimes deep fry the large leaves in very hot olive oil for a few seconds and sprinkle with coarse sea salt as a little nibble with almonds and olive…and wine, of course!
The mint is going crazy…these were the stragglers which I had to pull up later.
I´ve also let the chives go to seed as the flowers are also lovely in salads.
The basil is almost ready for the first batch of pesto.
We´ve got plum tomatoes.
We´ve got a “wild” tomato which has sprung up from a leftover seed from a squashed tomato from last year. It has such a desire to live, we´ve let it do its own thing!
We have some (very) bitter salad leaves and the delicious chard. The celery tucked in there is slow to get going, but we´ll let it take its time.
Tomatoes, beans and the little muscat vines.
We´ve got rocket seedlings (must plant some more though)
The first of the runner beans should be ready to pick in a few days
The onions are doing well too
We´ve got long thin green peppers and large bell peppers – but we can´t remember which are which. We´ll soon find out!
The aubergine flowers are so pretty – wish they´d hurry up as I love aubergines (eggplant!)
Dwarf French beans (yellow and green) which we only planted a week ago
And finally, radish seedlings…not long now!
As I said, we´re a little behind this year because of the very wet spring that we had, but we´re happy with progress so far and already dreaming of grilled vegetables, salads and bunches of grapes. Happy growing to you all!
So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....