Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup

Much as I enjoy a blue fillet steak or a bacon sandwich,  there are times when it feels good to lay off the meat and enjoy meals without. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavour though.  Hot and Sour Soup is perfect for days like these. Filling, warming, and full of exciting flavours. If you want to add cooked chicken or prawns though,  go ahead. Extra vegetables? Go for it!

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This version was inspired by a recipe from a much used and favoured cookbook, Gok Cooks Chinese. Although my predictive text called him God. He’s good, but not quite THAT good!

Ingredients (to serve 4 generously)

  • 1.5 litres of light, unsalted vegetable stock or use water
  • 50g approx of mushrooms, sliced  (I used chestnut with a few shitake)
  • 1-2 fresh red chillis, finely sliced (or a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes) depending on  how hot you like your soup
  • 50ml light soy sauce
  • Approx 3 heaped tablespoons of thinly sliced bamboo shoots (I used tinned, drained bamboo)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and very finely sliced then diced
  • 5cm piece of fresh ginger peeled and grated (or use frozen chopped ginger)
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and grated or crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons of rice vinegar  (to taste)
  • Optional 2 heaped teaspoons of cornflour dissolved in a little cold water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Finely chopped spring onion or chives to serve

Bring the stock to a gentle boil and add the carrot. Simmer for about 5 minutes then add all the ingredients except the cornflour, vinegar,  egg and spring onion.

Simmer for about 10 minutes then gradually add the vinegar, tasting as you go until it reaches a level of sourness you enjoy.

If you prefer a slightly thickened soup, add two heaped teaspoons of cornflour to about 50mls of cold water and add to the simmering soup. Allow to thicken (this will take a minute or two).

Turn off the heat and add the egg, whisking as you do to create fine ribbons of cooked egg. Serve garnished with the finely sliced spring onion and marvel that it was quicker to prepare than ordering and waiting for a takeaway delivery.

(For a gluten free option use tamari instead of soy sauce and omit the cornflour).

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Semolina Crusted Plaice with Roasted Peppers

Blogging has taken a back seat recently.  At least from the point of writing up recipes and posting them. Life has been hectic with family visiting from Spain and some express house renovations on a new investment property.  Good weather has allowed us to get out into our little garden and give it a good tidy up, and May has been a good month for birthdays with both Big Man and my mum celebrating.

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Of course, we’ve been cooking and enjoying good food, a lot of which has been old favourites which we’ve already shared with you. Sometimes though, we’ve tried something new but with all that’s been going on, it’s been simple yet delicious food.

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Dogs inspecting nasty purple carpet

Our local fishmonger recently had some beautiful plaice fillets for sale, so I snapped them up and scampered home with them (ok, so you know I didn’t really scamper, it was more of a quick,  happy march). The plan was to do what I  pretty much usually do with fish, and to grill them. However, someone, somewhere must have wanted to send me a message from above, or from the high shelf of a kitchen  cupboard, and when the packet of semolina I usually use to dust my sourdough loaves with fell on my head, I  changed the plan. Sometimes you need a knock on the head to shake things up a little!

Serves 2 (easy to scale up for more)

  • 2 cleaned plaice or other flat fish
  • About 2 tablespoons of semolina, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
  • 1 egg lightly beaten (you’ll probably not need it all but it’s difficult to use any less!)
  • Olive oil for shallow frying
  • One roasted pepper, peeled, chopped and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil (or use some from a jar prepared for using as an antipasto)

Coat the fish in the egg then the seasoned semolina. Heat the oil on a medium/high heat in a large frying goan.  You may need to keep the first fillet warm while you cook the second one if your pan is not large enough to take both.

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Luna and Alfi approve stripped, waxed floorboards

Cook for about 3 minutes on one side until the crust is browned and crispy. Flip the fillet over and continue to fry. The second side will probably only take about two minutes. Use your discretion if the fillets are particularly large or thick.

Serve with the dressed roasted peppers and a salad.

Lemon and Chilli Mussels with Langoustines

Oh it’s so easy to slip comfortably back into our Spanish life. Friends and family keep asking us “which is better, Spain or England?”. We answer, absolutely sincerely, “we love them both, they’re different, you can’t compare, we make the most of each country and enjoy all the good things they each have to offer”.

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Fish Man seems to have disappeared from our route, but the supermarkets here have an amazing choice at good prices. Mostly fresh and local (or at least, from Spain) too. The other day I bought a kilo of mussels which came from near Pontevedra in the North of Spain. It’s famous for the mussel beds and we ate plenty on our trip there a few years back.

We ate SO many...the trays full of steamed mussels just kept coming!
We ate SO many…the trays full of steamed mussels just kept coming!

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I also bought some fresh langoustines but forgot to ask where they came from. Peppers, tomatoes and onions grown down on the coast and a rosé wine from Rueda were pretty much all the ingredients I needed to make this simple but delicious lunch dish. Oh yes, a lemon from our tree…

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Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 1kg cleaned mussels
  • 8 langoustines
  • Half a small red and green pepper, finely diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 medium tomato, finely chopped
  • A small glass of wine (whatever colour you like!)
  • Half a lemon cut into small chunks (and I also added half a teaspoon of my lemon myrtle)
  • Half a teaspoon of hot pimentón or chilli powder (or to taste)
  • Olive oil

I used a lidded cazuela to make this dish but a deep frying pan with a lid or a saucepan would also work.

On a low heat, warm the olive oil and add the garlic and peppers. Cover and sweat until soft. Add the tomato, wine and spices and cook for a few minutes. You can now turn this off if you’re not ready to eat and then just warm the sauce up a few minutes beforehand to finish the dish off, or continue to the last stage.

Add the mussels, prawns and fresh lemon, stir and cover. Cook for a few minutes until all the mussels are open. Don’t eat any that won’t open!

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Garnish with some freshly chopped parsley. Unless of course, Big Man has been gardening all morning and cleared all your herbs thinking they were weeds. Oh my, kitchen unexpectedness, I laugh in your face. Pour a glass of wine, and enjoy your lovely lunch with plenty of bread to mop up the juices and perhaps (as we did) a salad of tomatoes, olives, garlic and onion. No herbs though, obviously.

Crispy Prawns with Lemon Myrtle – Long Distance Herby Loveliness

I think many of us, regardless of whether we’ve been blogging for months or years, will understand the friendships that can grow up through the connections we’ve made via our blogs. People leave lovely comments, ideas, share in the ups and downs of whatever we choose to discuss on our blogs. Some very kind folk go as far as sharing gifts and giveaways, allowing us the opportunity to try something from their country which we otherwise would never have come across.

Herbs (2)

Recently the lovely Margot over at Gather and Graze hosted a giveaway of some herbs from her home country of Australia, Lemon Myrtle and Wattleseed. Have you heard of them? I certainly hadn’t. Lemon Myrtle is (and I’m quoting from the packet here) “a fragrant Australian native plant which bears leaves with an intense lemon fragrance”. The packet of ground lemon myrtle really does explode with a beautiful refreshing lemony aroma.

The Wattleseed (which is roasted and ground) comes from the seeds of a species of Australian native acacia which have a roasted coffee-like aroma. It works beautifully with chocolate, and I’ll soon be sharing a recipe with you.

If you can’t get hold of Ground Lemon Myrtle (and I’m guessing a lot of you can’t), I’d suggest substituting the same quantity of finely grated lemon zest. I know it won’t be quite the same, but perhaps a good approximation.

Myrtle Prawns (2)

The recipe comes from the packet sent to me (thanks again Margot!) and I served it with a salad and a lemon vinaigrette as a starter. I did change the quantities from the original recipe as I scaled the recipe down a little.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a starter)

  • 16 large peeled and deveined langoustines
  • ½ cup of rice flour (use plain flour otherwise, but the rice flour does give a wonderful crunch)
  • ¾ tablespoon of ground lemon myrtle
  • ¾ teaspoon of smoked paprika (I used pimentón)
  • A pinch of chilli powder
  • Salt
  • ½ cup of cooking oil (I used olive oil)
  • 2 fresh chillies finely chopped

Mix the flour with the spices and toss the prawns in the mixture. Heat the oil over a high heat and cook the prawns quickly (they probably only need a minute or so on each side) until they have turned pink and crispy.

Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt and add the fresh chilli. Enjoy!

To see how Margot used her Lemon Myrtle, hop on over and check out her delicious Australian Apple Crumble recipe!

Sesame Crusted Tuna Steaks

I have to confess to a love of tinned tuna. In salads especially. But I had only ever had indifferent experiences of fresh tuna – probably frozen for a long time and then cooked for too long resulting in dry, tasteless fish. My lovely fishmonger had some beautiful looking tuna steaks in recently and I decided to give it another chance.

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I looked at recipes online and came to the conclusion that simple was probably better. It’s not a cheap fish to buy, and because I had been assured the flavour would be amazing, I wanted to let it shine through. Having a fancy for something with an Asian twist, I packed some zingy flavours into the salad I served with it. What a great decision. The only problem is now I need to win the lottery to fund my (ethically caught) tuna habit!

Ingredients to serve 2

  • 2 tuna steaks
  • About 4 tablespoons of sesame seeds
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • Salt & Pepper
  • A little oil for frying
  • For the salad – some roughly chopped cucumber, avocado, spring onion and coriander
  • For the dressing – mix together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of fish sauce, ½ teaspoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of light soy sauce, ½ teaspoon of white sugar and the juice of half a lime. Adjust the salt (with the soy sauce), sugar and lime to taste.

Season the tuna steaks or fillets with salt & pepper and dip them first in the egg white then in the sesame seeds to coat evenly.

Heat a very little oil in the pan – you don’t want it searingly hot or the sesame seeds will burn. The length of cooking time will depend very much on personal taste and the thickness of your fish. Bear in mind that it will continue to cook gently from the residual heat once it is served. My steaks took about 2 minutes on the first side and a minute on the second. It’s a very quick dish to prepare.

Toss the salad ingredients with the dressing and serve the tuna steak on top.

Pasta with Kale (in the absence of Cavolo Nero)

January is a dark, gloomy month for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. For many of us it is a month of tightening the financial belt and loosening the trouser belt (whilst making plans to get fit) after the excesses of Christmas.

This is a dish which ticks all those resolution boxes – healthy, economical and it looks like Spring in a bowl, which is no bad thing. The garlic will ward away germs (or so my old Italian aunties always told me), it’s quick to prepare and you’ll feel comfortably full but without the feelings of guilt after eating this. Sounds good to me!

Even looking at it fills you with vitamins!
Even looking at it fills you with vitamins!

This dish was food for the poor folk…simple ingredients (although if you can afford to use your best olive oil, I’d highly recommend it) and no fuss to make.

Quantities are easily halved or doubled, I used regular kale as I didn’t have cavolo nero (also known as black leaf kale), and it was delicious. The colour was a more vibrant green than the almost black-green you get with cavolo nero.

Ingredients (to serve 2 people very generously)

  • 200g of kale leaves
  • Approx 100ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Maldon (or coarse) sea salt and black pepper
  • Grated parmesan to serve (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the kale and 2 of the garlic cloves for about 5 minutes until soft. It needs to be slightly more than wilted, but not soggy. Drain and put into a food processor.

As you start processing the kale, add slugs of olive oil to the mix until you have a slightly sloppy paste – rather like pesto.

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Crush the remaining clove of garlic with a teaspoon of rough salt and add 2 teaspoons of olive oil then stir this into the kale mixture. Taste and season with extra salt and black pepper if necessary and then stir into your favourite pasta, making sure you keep a little of the cooking water to loosen up the pasta if necessary once you have added the kale.

To serve, add grated parmesan if liked and some folk even add a little extra drizzle of olive oil. Go on, I won’t tell anyone!

If you’d like to see how we make our olive oil in Spain, click here.

French beans, asparagus and mangetout with chopped almonds and lime

Another Ottolenghi inspired recipe – his calls for roasted chopped hazlenuts and orange. Hey, you do what you can with what you have on hand and “wow” it was so good!

This was a dish I took along to a barbecue but with a little grilled meat or some hard boiled eggs (for a vegetarian meal) would make a very delicious and satisfying light lunch or supper dish.

Ottolenghi Beans (1)

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 400g of trimmed French beans chopped and lightly boiled
  • 400g mangetout lightly boiled
  • 1 bunch asparagus chopped and lightly boiled
  • 70g chopped or flaked almonds, dry toasted in a frying pan
  • 2 limes – zested and the juice squeezed out
  • 20g chopped parsley
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Simply mix together the lime zest, juice, olive oil and seasoning and add to the beans and mangetout. Sprinkle over the almonds, mix, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve at room temperature.

 

Dover Sole with Scallops, Prawns and Samphire

Special occasion food should be all about what you love most, shared with the people you love most. And sometimes it’s also about spending time with those loved ones enjoying the occasion and not spending too long in the kitchen preparing the food and being away from your guests. Don’t misunderstand me, I love spending hours and even days preparing a special meal, but this is one for when you don’t want to be in the kitchen for too long.

Dover Sole with Scallops, Prawns and Samphire (1)

Ingredients (per person)

  • 1 small Dover Sole (or other small flat fish)
  • 4 large prawns (peeled and the heads removed but the tails left on to make eating them with your fingers much easier!)
  • 2 scallops
  • About 2 tablespoons of fresh samphire (or use a few stalks of fresh, blanched asparagus chopped into smaller pieces)
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt & Pepper

Warm a little olive oil and butter in a large frying pan and heat. When the oil is hot, put the fish in, skin side down and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes until the skin starts to become crispy.

Turn the heat down to medium and turn the fish over. Add the scallops and prawns and cook them on each side for about a minute or two (the prawns will turn pink and the scallops will lose their opacity).

Remove the fish, prawns and scallops to a serving plate (keeping the oil in the pan). Squeeze in a little lemon juice to taste and add the samphire. Stir fry on a high heat for less than a minute, just to heat it through and spoon the samphire and juices over the fish. Season to taste (it probably won’t need much salt) and serve with a small wedge of lemon.

Pour glasses of wine for you and your loved ones and enjoy the moment.

Griddled Scallops with Lemon and Rocket and a Fish Sauce Dressing

Back in England and Scallops are very much back on the menu for us. This is a simple but luxurious starter or a light lunch or supper. I also served the scallops with some excellent smoked salmon I happened to have but it would have been just as good without.

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

  • 12 scallops
  • Some finely chopped rocket mixed with the finely chopped zest of a lemon (unwaxed)
  • Some finely chopped coriander to sprinkle over

For the dressing

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, half a crushed clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon, a little honey (to taste), salt and pepper.

Mix or shake up all the ingredients for the dressing, tasting and adjusting as you go

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Heat the griddle pan until it is smoking hot and quickly sear the scallops on each side (about a minute is all they’ll need) then plate them up. Pour the dressing over the hot scallops, and sprinkle over the rocket and lemon mix.

Fast food doesn’t get much better than this!

For more scallop inspired recipes, take a look at this or this.

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.