Pork Vindail

After the Christmas period I find myself once more craving warm and spicy foods. You can’t keep a curry fan down, and I turned to my Rick Stein book, India, for inspiration. The author explains that the word Vindail refers to the fact that it contains vinegar, although I expect it dates back further to the Portuguese “vin d’alho “ which is the origin of the word Vindaloo and refers to the wine (which was then substituted for vinegar in Goan cuisine) and garlic used to make the dish.

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The ingredients for the sauce are meant to serve 4 although I made the dish for 2 people.  I  played around with the quantities but have given details of the original recipe in brackets. The sauce is not too hot,  but of course you can add extra chilli if you like, with a pleasing tang of vinegar which is tempered with the addition of a small amount of sugar.

INGREDIENTS (to serve 2 or 4)

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves (1 clove)
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (2 medium onions)
  • 5 cloves of chopped garlic (10 cloves)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (or use your usual hot chilli powder)
  • ½ teaspoon ground fenugreek (toasted ground fenugreek)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 200g chopped tinned tomatoes plus 1 medium fresh tomato, chopped (500g tomatoes roughly sliced)
  • 2 pork fillets (1kg chicken thighs and drumsticks, on the bone, skinned)
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and add the cinnamon, cloves and star anise. Fry gently for a minute until fragrant then add the onions. Fry until golden brown but not burnt (about 10-15 minutes). Add the garlic and cumin and fry for a couple of minutes. I added a drop of water as it started to stick. Now add the rest of the spices, fry for a few seconds then add the tomatoes. Once they have started to soften and break down (about 5 minutes) add the meat, stir and cover.

The pork cooked quite quickly, about 10 minutes, so I removed it from the pan and kept it warm then continued to cook the sauce for another 30 minutes. If you’re using chicken, leave it in the sauce to continue cooking. When the sauce has reduced and thickened and the meat is cooked (if using chicken), add the vinegar and sugar and if you’ve used pork fillets or steaks, add them back into the sauce. Cook for a further 5 minutes and you’re ready to serve.

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Chicken and prawn curries

If you prefer a more traditional chicken  curry, take a look at one of my favourite recipes.

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Summer Runner Beans With Tomatoes

I’m a person who thinks that most vegetables, especially those which have just been picked from the garden, don’t need too much messing around with. There are few vegetables that don’t respond well to blanching or steaming, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemons. But let’s be honest, sometimes we fancy a change.

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Any of you who grow your own vegetables will be faced at some point with a glut. While we are in England we are only managing to grow a few things. The tomatoes are STILL green and with only 3 runner bean plants, we’re not exactly dealing with kilos of them.

Runner Beans (1)

However, lovely fresh and sweet tomatoes from the next door county of Kent are being devoured daily and I decided to make a quick and fresh summer vegetable dish. Delicious as a side dish, or serve it at room temperature with some cheese and salamis, plenty of crusty bread and (of course) a chilled glass of wine.

Ingredients

  • About 200g runner beans, shredded or cut into chunks and blanched in salted, boiling water for about 3 minutes
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped or crushed
  • A few generous glugs of olive oil
  • About 4 ripe tomatoes (peeled or not, you decide), finely chopped, puréed or grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of smoked pimentón
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary (optional)

Slowly warm your olive oil in a small deep pan (if you have an earthenware cazuela, even better) into which you have put the chopped garlic. Once the garlic has softened, but not browned, and your kitchen is filled with wonderful warm garlicky smells, add the tomato, a little seasoning, the rosemary and the pimentón.

Continue to cook gently for two or three minutes until it all starts to come together, then add the blanched beans. Cook for a further couple of minutes to allow the beans to soften a little more, but not lose their colour.

Leave to cool down slightly, best served at room temperature.

And now a cloud shot from the other day – I just thought it was so weird and beautiful. I’m sure there is a special name for this kind of cloud formation, please do enlighten me if you know!

Clouds (2)

If you enjoy runner beans, why not try runner beans with garlic and bacon or perhaps with prawns and potatoes?

Summer Breeze

This summer finds us at our home in Bexhill on Sea. Which according to our family in Spain, is a good thing. They are all decidedly fed up of the 40 degree plus temperatures that are the norm there right now, rather than the exception. We are getting used to four seasons in one day. Loving the sunshine when we have it and racing outside to enjoy it. Joining in the with locals when it rains saying “oh well, it’s good for the garden”!

I haven’t managed to grow basil outdoors in England yet, so am sticking with my pot on the kitchen window sill.

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Outside in our little garden though, we’re making the most of every tiny bit of space and growing a few vegetables for the pleasure of seeing them grow. Green beans are happy climbing up against the wall and the first teeny tiny beans are starting to appear. Big Man is very entertained by the fact that the flowers in England are red. In Spain they’re white and he never believed me until this year that they are different. Oh he of little faith.

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We planted tomatoes which are starting to produce strange shaped fruit – we can’t remember what we planted – so we’re just waiting to see if they’ll turn red or we’ll be eating a lot of tomato chutney or fried green tomatoes this year.

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Various chilli plants also went in, but the little sticks telling us which were which were “reorganised” by the dogs at the time of planting so we have no idea what we’re going to end up with. We do have a very beautiful black chilli which is ready to be picked, so fingers crossed it’s a hot one!

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The parsley and rosemary are doing well, and the chives are happy doing their own thing.

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We also bought some mint roots from Spain (it seems to have a more delicate leaf than the plant we bought in England and is lovely in salads and infusions). The plants (grown in a recycled strawberry planter) are just starting to really get going.

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Of course, there’s room for flowers too, most of which were already here, I love the strong colours we’ve got. The white geraniums were grown from cuttings from a plant we had in a small pot.

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The pears continue to grow, hopefully we’ll get a lovely crop in the early autumn.

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And the dogs, naturally, are always on hand to offer advice, help with the digging and showing us the sunniest spots when we need to take a little breather.

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Sorry about the picture overload but the light was so lovely today…it made me happy to think how much you can do with just a little outdoor space.

 

And when she got there, the cupboard was bare … Almost Panzanella

You know what it’s like when you get back from a holiday and there’s nothing in the fridge apart from a sad carrot and a stinky piece of cheese you thought might just last until you got back? Yes? I thought so! Well, imagine how little there was at home for us after an absence of almost 5 months. A deeply sad situation. Thank god for the local bar/restaurant where we were welcomed with open arms on our first night and sent home with bread, tomatoes and onions to see us through the next morning.

After my favourite Spanish breakfast I got to thinking about how inventive we can all be when we have very little to play around with. Every country has a dish for leftover bread and the Italian bread and tomato salad called Panzanella came to mind.

Sunshine is a glorious extra!
Sunshine is a glorious extra!

We have litres and litres of our very own beautiful olive oil which was milled just a few weeks ago and our lemon tree is loaded with lemons. I added a tin of tuna from the larder (not very authentic but what the heck) and a handful of parsley from the garden. Honestly, I should leave the fridge bare more often so that I can remember to enjoy dishes like this.

Ingredients (you choose the quantities)

  • Stale bread cut into small cubes
  • Roughly chopped tomato and onion
  • Chopped parsley (basil is more authentic though)
  • A finely chopped clove of garlic
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Lashings of olive oil and plenty of lemon juice or wine vinegar
  • Add some chopped cucumber if your fridge is being kind to you
  • Optional – a tin of tuna (omit to keep it vegetarian)

Put all the ingredients (except the seasoning and dressing) in a bowl and mix with your hands. Dress lavishly with oil, add lemon or vinegar to taste and season. Mix again with your hands, squishing the tomato a little so that the juices run out. Leave it for at least 10 minutes so that it can absorb all those wonderful flavours and enjoy!

And when she got there, the cupboard was bare….Olive Oil Tortillas

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
To get her poor dog a bone
When she got there, the cupboard was bare
And so the poor dog had none*

Olive Oil Tortillas (3)

Our little break Down by the Sea is over and yesterday we got back to Spain and are now back Up the Mountain. Today is Sunday, and of course in our rural area pretty much everything is closed.

We could have gone out for lunch but we are exhausted. Time to dig around in the freezer and the store cupboard and become an inventive Chica.

On opening my fridge I actually screamed with shock and slammed the door shut again. Big Man came running thinking I’d left something in there that had grown gills while we were away. But no, it was 3 weeks of tomatoes kindly picked and stored by our neighbours. Here’s a photo of about half of them…

There's still the salad basket below which is packed too!
There’s still the salad basket below which is packed too!

Well, there was definitely going to be a tomato salad on the menu. Every day for a long time.

The freezer kindly delivered up an Ottolenghi Chicken and Hazelnut dish and all I needed was bread. Did you know that most Mediterranean folk I know won’t even consider a meal complete unless there is a basket of bread on the table? In fact, I think if there was nothing on the menu in a restaurant they’d order bread with bread.

With not enough time or patience to make a loaf, I thought of tortilla wraps and headed over to check out Tandy’s brilliant recipe at Lavender and Lime. Of course, I had no butter but in the land of olive oil, a substitution was possible, and gave great results.

Olive Oil Tortillas

  • 180g plain flour
  • 30g olive oil (yes, I did this by weight and not volume!)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Up to 100ml water

Add the sugar and salt to the flour and mix then pour in the olive oil. Rub the oil into the flour until small lumps form and then rub for a moment or two more to break the little lumps down. Gradually add the water and knead for a few minutes until you have a smooth dough.

Rest the dough for 30 minutes (I just left it on the counter) and divide into four equal pieces. Roll out into thin rounds and dry fry in a very hot frying pan, pressing down with a spatula to stop air bubbles forming. Cook on both sides until lightly browned and keep warm by wrapping them in a tea towel.

Olive Oil Tortillas (1)

Enjoy your tortillas whilst asking your other half where all your glass jars with lids are for your tomato bottling session, only to find out he has thrown them all in the recycling.

*Rest assured that no dogs or even humans ever went hungry in our house!

For a delicious gluten free bread/wrap, take a look at my Socca recipe.

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.

Almost Arroz a a Cubana

It sounds so exotic doesn’t it…Cuban Style Rice? Well, sorry to disappoint, but it’s not at all! Arroz a la Cubana is a store cupboard, go-to dish. Often served in restaurants as part of the mid day “menu” and eaten by impoverished students all over Spain. What is it? Simply rice with tomato sauce and a fried egg on top.

As with many simple dishes, they can be comforting and filling. And they can be dressed up too, if this is what takes your fancy.

I almost always have some home made tomato sauce in the fridge. In the summer our little huerto provides me with tomatoes to see me through most of the year, and even though we missed the end of the summer in Spain, I managed to freeze plenty of tomatoes which will keep me going for a month or so until this season’s vegetables are available to me.

Solomillo con arroz a la cubana (5)

There may be a different way of making Arroz a la Cubana, this is my method which gives you a slightly soupy textured rice, almost like a risotto.

Ingredients (for two as a main course)

  • 1 cup Spanish paella rice
  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce (sofrito) Recipe below
  • Salt and pepper

Start by bringing the rice and (salted) water to the boil, reduce the heat and continue to cook slowly until most of the water has evaporated. Now add the tomato sauce, check for seasoning and continue to cook for a few minutes more until the rice is almost done. Turn off the heat, cover the rice and leave to stand for 5 minutes, by which time the rice will be done.

Typically served with a fried egg on top, a great veggie meal, I added some cooked green beans and topped the rice with griddled loin of pork. Delicious with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Chica’s Quick Tomato Sauce

  • About 5 fat cloves of crushed garlic
  • 500g of crushed tomatoes
  • A tablespoon of tomato purée
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh basil or oregano (stalks and leaves, not chopped)
  • A glass of red wine
  • About half a teaspoon of sugar

Put the garlic into a few tablespoons of olive oil (do not heat the oil first, we don’t want the garlic to brown) and cook slowly for a few minutes until it starts to soften. Now add the tomatoes, the tomato purée, the wine and the herbs. Season lightly and simmer for about 30 minutes until thickened. Check for seasoning and if it is a little sharp, add the sugar (this is not always necessary). Cook for a few minutes more, remove the herbs and you’re done.

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!

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?!