Down By The Sea Soda Bread

It’s been years (really, it has!) since I gave you a soda bread recipe. It doesn’t mean I’ve stopped baking soda bread, but mostly we’re a sourdough household right now.

Best friend Ria baked herself a loaf recently, so jumping on her soda bread bandwagon, I baked one too. I used the whey from curd cheese making, once again, but the recipe usually calls for buttermilk. This recipe is different from my Up The Mountain Soda Bread as it does not include oats or butter. Try both and see which one you prefer!

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Ingredients to make one loaf (keeps well for about 4 days)

  • 250g plain flour
  • 250 wholemeal or granary flour (I used granary which gives it a slightly sweeter, nuttier taste and a slightly chewy texture)
  • About 400ml of buttermilk or whey (if you don’t have either, squeeze half a tablespoon of lemon juice into milk, stir and leave it to stand for 30 minutes at room temperature and then it will be ready to use)
  • 1 teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Mix the flours together with the salt and bicarbonate. Gradually stir in the liquid with a wooden spoon or your fingers. You may find you don’t need it all, but you want to end up with a slightly sticky mixture.

Dust your worktop with flour and shape the mix into a round. Try not to knead too much, it just needs to come together.

Place the loaf onto a baking tin lined with greaseproof (or baking) paper. Cut a deep cross into the loaf, almost all the way through. This will allow the heat to penetrate and the alkaline of the bicarbonate and the acid of the buttermilk will work together to make your loaf rise. I’m afraid I’m no great scientist, so apologies if my explanation of the bread magic is somewhat simple!

Dust the loaf with flour, cover with a clean tea towel and leave, if possible, for 30 minutes, You can bake immediately if you choose but this extra 30 minutes really seems to allow the acid and alkaline to start doing their thing so that the loaf is raring to go when it reaches the heat of the oven. Don’t expect it to rise before baking like a regular loaf.

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Heat your oven to 200 degrees and when you are ready, bake the loaf for about 30 minutes. It should be browned on the top and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Leave to cool, if you can resist, and enjoy in the same way as a regular bread.

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Sopa de Bacalao – Cod and Spinach Soup

If you do an internet search for a typical Spanish soup called Sopa de Bacalao, you’ll find many versions of a firm favourite. I don’t lay claim to my version being authentic, especially as it uses a very non Spanish ingredient – Ras El Hanout – but as the spice mix comes from North Africa and there are such very strong connections between Africa and Andalucía, I feel no one will be up in arms.

The ingredient list is short and simple, the preparation too. But the taste, oh the taste, your friends and family will think you’ve spent hours reducing stock to achieve the intensity of flavour.

Sopa de Bacalao (3)

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

  • 1 large cod fillet, skinned and cut into bite sized chunks (use either fresh cod or desalted salt cod)
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
  • About 2 cups of chopped fresh spinach
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon of Ras El Hanout
  • About 1.25l of either fish stock or water (if you use a cube to make your stock, I won’t tell!)
  • A little olive oil

Start by sweating the onion and garlic until softened then add the potatoes. Toss them around in the oil until they are all coated in oil then add the Ras El Hanout and mix in. Pour over the stock and cook until the potatoes are almost done.

Add the cod and cook for a minute or two until the fish is cooked. Taste and season if necessary and then add the spinach. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and wait for the spinach to wilt before serving with plenty of fresh lemon to squeeze over.

Chargrilled Aubergines in Tomato Sauce

Our little veggie garden is reduced this year, we planted only peppers, aubergines and tomatoes as we were too late back from England to plant much more and we will head off to the cooler shores of the English South Coast again before all the vegetables have been harvested.

Chargrilled Aubergines in Tomato (7)

Never mind, we are still trading with neighbours and this year we have an impressive crop of aubergines (eggplants). Interesting for me as a cook as Big Man has never been a huge fan, but he knows I love them. It makes me think about different ways of serving them to see if I can convert him. I don’t think he’ll be signing up for Aubergine Weekly yet (if such a magazine existed), but he’s eaten everything I’ve made so far without that look on his face. You know, the one children do when they are about to put a sprout/piece of liver/most hated food into their mouth!

Today’s dish was a quick one as it was so hot. We ate it with Socca, but more of that another day.

Ingredients (to serve 2 as a main dish)

  • One large aubergine thickly sliced and cooked on the griddle or barbecue on both sides until lightly charred (no need to salt and don’t brush with oil if doing on the bbq as you’ll only end up setting fire to them)
  • About two cups of tomato sauce (this was prepared in advance) Soften 3 crushed cloves of garlic in olive oil, then add 1 kilo of crushed peeled tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato purée, half a teaspoon of salt, a few good grinds of black pepper, half a teaspoon of sugar (if required), a glass of red wine and a few stalks of basil leaves. Simmer for about an hour, remove the basil and it’s ready. This will give you about 6-8 cups of sauce

Chargrilled Aubergines in Tomato (4)

Cut the grilled aubergines into bite sized pieces and simmer in the sauce for about 10 minutes and you’re done! This is also wonderful cold and great over pasta.

Pasta with Cabbage, Sage and Breadcrumbs

Well, anchovy and garlic too, plus a little parmesan at the end but it’s not such a snappy title that way. Big Man came home from one of his little excursions with a beautiful cabbage. I think in England they are called Spring cabbages, the lighter green ones with very tight leaves.

Pasta With Cabbage & Breadcrumbs (1)

We enjoy it simply shredded and cooked for a few moments until wilted and then served cold with vinaigrette. But this was a whole lot of cabbage and I needed to find other ways to use it. I remembered a lovely Italian pasta dish made with Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Kale) and decided to make something similar.

If you prepare everything before you start cooking it’s quick to pull together, you just need to work methodically and in the time it takes for your pasta to cook (well, dried pasta at least) you’ll have a beautiful meal ready to take to the table.

Ingredients (per person, just multiply per number of diners but don’t worry about being too exact)

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • About 100g finely shredded cabbage
  • About 50g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2-4 tinned anchovies (omit for a vegetarian version)
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Your choice of pasta

Start by putting the water for the pasta on to boil and then blanching the shredded cabbage until it wilts. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and drain, add your pasta to the water and, as long as you have your other ingredients prepared, you can get on with pulling the rest of the dish together.

Heat two thirds of the oil and when it is very hot drop the sage leaves in and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Pasta With Cabbage & Breadcrumbs (4)

Now add your fresh breadcrumbs and with the oil still on high, move them around in the pan (it helps to use a deep frying pan or wok for this dish) until they start to turn golden. Remove from the pan and put them onto a flat dish to cool slightly and crisp up.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and turn the heat down slightly before adding the garlic and anchovies. When the anchovies have “melted” (this won’t take long at all, a minute or so) add the cabbage and turn the heat back up to high. Stir fry for a couple of minutes (you can allow the edges to brown a little if you like) then add most of the breadcrumbs, reserving some to sprinkle over the top of the dish.

Drain the pasta and mix it in with the cabbage. It helps to add a tablespoon or two of the cooking liquid, but don’t overdo it.

Sprinkle over the remaining breadcrumbs and crispy sage leaves and serve with plenty of parmesan. Buon appetito!

Big Man and I are heading west on Saturday with the pups for a week in Portugal, the Eastern Algarve to be precise. I’ll try to post once more before we head off but it’s turning into one of those weeks. I know we won’t have internet coverage where we’re staying, but fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get online at some point. So…if I go quiet for a while it’s because I’m eating seafood or bacalao and sipping Portuguese wines whilst watching the sea. I’m sure you’ll understand!

Baked Sardines with Oranges and Mint

Summer keeps taunting us here Up the Mountain. And then the grey and dismal part of Spring rears its head again. A bit like me, the weather has been neither here nor there.

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Time for some summer cooking, we dragged out the barbecue ready to grill some sardines and pretend we were on the beach. Of course, in typical English weather fashion, the wind whipped up, the grey clouds sailed overhead and it all went pear shaped. Oh well, we turned on the oven which also took the chill off the house and all was well.

Ingredients to serve 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

  • About half a kilo of sardines, descaled and gutted
  • One orange halved and thinly sliced
  • Sprigs of mint
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Smoked Pimentón

Simply place your sardines (or you could use herring or mackerel) in an ovenproof dish and place slices of orange and sprigs of mint between them. You could stuff them if you prefer.  Sprinkle with salt and pimentón, drizzle a little oil over and any juices from the orange.

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Bake on high for about 15 minutes until the juices from the sardines run clear. And at least you won’t have to worry about sand in your shoes….

Pan Fried Sea Bream with Asian Style Noodles

Is it because it’s Lent, or I’m Down By the Sea, or because Spring keeps teasing me that I am cooking and enjoying lots of gorgeous fish? Who knows, who cares….!

The recipe is more for preparing the noodles than the fish which was simply lightly pan-fried in olive oil and sprinkled in sea salt and then drizzled with a little extra olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. I haven’t given many details for quantities, you know how much you can eat!

Sea Bream & Asian Noodles (3)

Ingredients

  • Fresh or dry noodles
  • A mixture of chopped, sliced, slithered veg….I used chopped broccoli, sliced peppers, finely chopped spinach leaves and thin slithers of carrot (I used my peeler)
  • About a teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 or 3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Half a teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder
  • A few splashes of fish sauce (go easy, it’s strong)
  • Soy sauce to taste
  • Sesame oil for stir frying
  • A couple of fresh chillies, thinly sliced

This is a three pot cooking session, sorry, but it’s quick! Put the water on for your noodles and heat the oil for the fish in a large frying pan. Now add a little sesame oil (you may want to do half vegetable or sunflower oil as it has a strong taste) in a wok or frying pan.

Using all three of your hands and arms, drop the noodles into the boiling water and cook until almost done. Turn the heat off at this point and give one of your arms a rest. At the same time fry the bream lightly on both sides and stir fry the veg, spice, garlic and ginger for about 4-5 minutes. It all comes together at once.

Sea Bream & Asian Noodles (1)

Drain the noodles and add to the vegetables, adding the fish sauce and soy sauce and stir fry for another minute. Plate the noodles and vegetables up, artistically place your fish on top and sprinkle with chilli if using. Use two hands for your cutlery and your third for drinking wine and dabbing genteelly at your mouth.  Or you could just give yourself a pat on the back.

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?!

Skating on Thin Ice – Skate Wing with Prawns

Well, with my track record of falling into holes, walking into lamp posts and generally bumping into things, it´s probably a good thing that there are no local ice rinks for me to run amok in!

Skate with prawns (2)

Best to stick to Skate (ray) of the edible variety.  Here´s a super simple dish, which is quick to cook if the skate is already prepared. If not, check out this “how to” post. Aside from using the biggest frying pan you can get your hands on, it´s all plain sailing. Or skating…

Ingredients (per person)

  • 1 whole skate wing (or half if it´s as enormous as the one I bought)
  • Half a cup of raw peeled prawns (or you can use cooked)
  • Flour for dusting
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Lemon
  • One clove of crushed garlic
  • Olive oil and butter for frying (or you can use just oil)

Dust the skate wing in seasoned flour and fry gently on both sides until lightly browned. Remove and keep warm while you fry the garlic and prawns until the prawns are cooked through and pink (if raw) or just warmed through if already cooked.

Squeeze a little lemon juice into the pan with the prawns and garlic and the oil/butter then pour over the skate to serve. Easier than a triple salchow. Whatever that is.

If, like me, you prefer a walk in the bright Winter sunshine to skating, hope you enjoy this shot of the beach at Bexhill on New Year´s Day morning where we walked with the dogs. Yes….we´re back in England to finish of the last bits of work in House No 2!

1 Enero 2013 (1)

Prawn and Mushroom Quiche

Now, I know quiche isn´t remotely Spanish, but just think of it as a tortilla in a pastry case!  I have introduced Big Man to quiche over the last few years and it has become a big favourite.

It´s also an easy dish for me to prepare right now with just a few pots and pans at my disposal and (yes, I confess) I used ready made pastry this time.

Remember Clara´s Pastry for my mince pies? Well, here it is again, it´s a very versatile and tasty pastry. And when I´m not being so lazy or covered in dust, I´ll make my own again!

Ingredients for the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 50g each of cold butter and lard
  • One egg, beaten
  • Milk

Rub the fat into the flour and salt until it resembles fine breadcrumbs or pulse in a food processor.  Using a broad knife, work the egg into the flour.  Start to gently bring the pastry together with your hands.  You will probably need to add a very little milk but add drops rather than slugs.  Do not knead or overwork the pastry.

Now wrap in plastic and leave to rest in the fridge until you are ready to use it, but bring it up to room temperature first.

Roll it out on a well floured surface and place into your tin, prick the base with a fork and then fill with baking beans or pulses placed on top of greaseproof paper. Trim off any excess and bake at 180ºC for 15 minutes, or until it just starts to brown.

For the filling

  • 5 eggs and 100 ml of single cream beaten together
  • A cup of peeled cooked prawns
  • A cup of thinly sliced mushrooms (lightly sautéed first)
  • Seasoning

Mix all the ingredients together, if your tin is particularly large, add a drop more cream or milk.  Pour into the pastry base and bake for about 25 minutes at 180ºC or until the centre is set.

Remove from oven and eat hot or cold.

Another way with runner beans – Spicy Beans with Prawns and Potatoes

Yes, it´s that runner bean time of year here Up the Mountain. We´re picking them daily, freezing some, giving some away and of course, eating plenty.

This was a light supper dish that was quickly pulled together as I had already blanched the beans and had some cooked potatoes in the fridge (a staple in our house for potato based salads) and some cooked prawns. If you don´t have these ready though, it´s not the work of hours to blanch some beans and boil some potatoes before throwing in raw prawns to cook through at the end.

Ingredients (Serves 2 as a light meal)

  • About 500g of sliced, blanched runner beans
  • 2 medium cooked and peeled potatoes, cut into small chunks
  • About a cup of cooked, peeled prawns
  • 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
  • 2 fat cloves of crushed garlic
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ½-1 teaspoon of hot or sweet pimentón (or chili powder)
  • Olive (or vegetable) oil
  • Salt

Into a deep, heavy frying pan pour a few tablespoons of oil for frying and quickly fry the potatoes until they start to brown over a high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and add the ginger, garlic, cumin and pimentón and fry gently until the garlic and ginger have softened.  Now add the beans and continue to fry gently until they have cooked through.  Add the prawns (I chopped mine as they were quite large) and taste. Add salt if necessary. This would be great with some finely chopped coriander but I didn´t have any. Serve hot with crusty bread or try this beautiful recipe for pita bread from Tandy over at Lavender and Lime.