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.

IMG_20180109_163947

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.

img_20170123_205142_3611
Chicken and prawn curries

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

Advertisements

Caponata – Calabrese Style

When I was young we used to spend summers in Calabria, Southern Italy, where my father is from.  He was the youngest of 9 children, 6 of whom were girls.  His older sisters all used to fight over who we would stay with during our holiday, as most of them had had a hand in bringing him up and treated him almost as a son.  We used to try and divide our time up with the various families, but my happiest memories were of staying with my Zia Santa.

Grazie Zia - ti voglio bene

When I mentioned this once to someone in the UK they asked me if it was strange having an aunt named after Santa Claus.  How bizarre, I thought, it had never once crossed my mind that her name might sound unusual to anyone else.  In Italian Santa is a female saint, or a “blessed one”.  My Zia Santa was indeed a saint, she had a hard life and lived in very basic simplicity for the whole of her married and then widowed life.  But we loved being with her.  She had one bedroom where my parents slept in her huge dark wood framed bed with my younger brother on a fold out bed.  Her bathroom only had a toilet and a sink where she also washed all her clothes.  The only other room was a large living, dining, kitchen area which looked onto the main street of the little village, called Longobardi.  I slept here with my aunt, her on a bed and me on a mattress – and every night we would giggle together like two little schoolgirls rather than an aunt and niece who were separated in age by over 40 years.

There was a small balcony which served as the telephone. If people wanted to give you a message they stood in the street and whoever was nearest the window stood there and took the message.  Likewise, if you wanted to let a neighbour know some news, all you had to do was stand on the balcony and tell a passer-by.  You were in no doubt that the message would reach its recipient almost as instantly as an e-mail or text nowadays.

Zia Santa was an incredible cook.  August was always taken up with drying tomatoes on her flat roof, or bottling tomatoes to go into the huge storage area on the ground floor.  It never struck me as odd that there was this enormous space downstairs that could have been converted into a bathroom, bedroom, laundry room…whatever.  It was more important back then to have a good space to store the cheese, salami, prosciutto, olive oil and tomatoes for winter.

I´m trying to write down all the recipes that Zia Santa taught me, my mother and, some years, my English grandmother to cook.  Today it´s Caponata.  I had to call my mum to ask her what the special ingredient was.  Our family caponata was never the same as any other I´ve tasted.  I´m sure there are thousands of family recipes, each one different from the other.  This is ours.

  • About 1kg of aubergines (eggplant, melanzane) finely chopped and salted, then left to drain for about 30 minutes then rinsed and patted dry
  • Olive oil – plenty for frying
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3 sticks of celery finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (although I used white as that´s what we have here and it was delicious)
  • About 500g of ripe tomatoes peeled and finely chopped
  • Up to 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • About a quarter of a cup each of chopped capers and chopped stoned olives (black or green)
  • Seasoning
  • The grated zest of half an orange – the secret ingredient!

Fry the aubergine chunks (which in all other recipes I´ve seen is left much chunkier).  Zia Santa used to deep fry, I shallow fry.  The choice is yours.  Set them aside when they are browned and soft.

Now add the onion and celery to the pan with more oil if necessary and fry with the lid on until soft and translucent.  Turn up the heat and add the vinegar and allow it to reduce almost completely. Turn the heat back down and add the tomatoes, seasoning and about half the sugar and simmer for about 15 minutes or so or until the celery is tender but still retains a little crunch.  Stir in the aubergines, olives, capers and orange zest and taste.  It should be “agrodolce” sweet and sour – add the rest of the sugar if necessary and allow it to dissolve.

This dish is best served the next day and will sit quite happily in your fridge for several days.  We used to eat it at room temperature as part of the antipasto but it´s also good as a side dish.

And don´t forget, do shout out of the window to let me know if you enjoyed it!

Pickled Courgettes

What do you do when your Big Man comes home with about 15 mammoth courgettes and you´re the only one in the house who really enjoys them?  Well, you have to give a few away to a courgette loving neighbour, and then get creative.

The courgette loving neighbour gave me a recipe for her courgette bread which looks delicious and rather like my Banana Bread recipe.  As soon as I´ve made it I´ll let you know how it goes. Then I made some little courgette pancakes, but more of those another time.  And then I thought it was time to tackle some pickled courgettes.

These remind me of special Italian family meals when I was younger – lots of salamis and pickled vegetables as a big Antipasto.  It´s been years since I made them, and I used mustard powder and turmeric which is not so Italian, I have to confess.

I used a recipe I found on the BBC Good Food Website with a few small tweaks.

500g courgettes, very finely sliced (I used a mandolin slicer)

500ml white wine vinegar

140g brown sugar

1 tsp mustard powder (I used Colemans English Mustard)

1 tsp mustard seeds

4 dried cayenne chilies, crumbled (use less if you like)

1 tsp ground turmeric

Sprinkle the courgette slices with salt and then cover with ice cold water and leave for an hour. Drain and pat dry. Meanwhile put the rest of the ingredients into a saucepan and heat to dissolve the sugar and leave to bubble for a couple of minutes.

While the pickling liquid is cooling down a little, pack the courgettes into two sterilised jars, pour the liquid over and seal tightly.

The recipe says to keep them in the fridge and that they will keep chilled for a couple of months.  I have them in the larder which is cool.  They will taste great in a few days, but I had a few slices that wouldn´t fit into the jars which I covered with a drop of the pickling liquid and ate that evening…and they were delicious!

Up The Mountain Spicy Tomato Ketchup

Getting Saucy In The Garden

When you have lots of tomatoes growing, or you can buy them cheaply, it´s fun to play around with recipes and see what you can come up with.  An excellent book for anyone interested in growing their own (or who just dreams about doing it) and cooking with the “bounty” is The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

One of his recipes that I´ve played around with over the years is the one he gives for tomato ketchup.  The beauty of it is that you can adjust spices and flavourings to suit what you and your loved ones enjoy.  I like my ketchup spicy, so I go heavy on the chili.  Some of the things he mentions in his recipe I don´t always have to hand (like mace or celery seeds) so I have changed things round just a little.

This is the Up the Mountain version, and I can highly recommend it.

3kg ripe tomatoes roughly chopped

3 sliced onions

1 large red pepper, chopped

¼ cup of celery leaves

100g brown sugar

200ml white wine vinegar (he uses cider vinegar)

¼ teaspoon of mustard powder

A stick of cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons of allspice

1 ½ teaspoons whole cloves

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

Some freshly grated nutmeg

4 small hot chilis, roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon of hot smoked pimentón (or paprika)

Sea salt to taste

You´ll need a very sturdy heavy based saucepan for this as you´ll be reducing and reducing the sauce until it gets to the right consistency.

Put tomatoes, onions, peppers, chillis and celery leaves into the pot and simmer until very soft.  Put through a mouli or fine sieve and then back into the pot with the sugar, mustard powder and vinegar.  Put the remaining spices apart from the salt, nutmeg and pimentón into a cloth and tie securely then drop this into the mixture.  Grate a little nutmeg over and if you want more later you can add it nearer the end. 

Cook the sauce slowly until it has reduced to the thickness you require.  If you like you can give it a whizz with the hand blender (don´t forget to remove the spice bag first though!), then season with the salt and pimentón.  You can either put it into sterilised bottles or jars (I use the small juice bottles we get here in Spain) or it will keep well in the fridge for a month or you can freeze it.

Delicious with chips (or French fries for my US pals), burgers, fish, veggies…well, pretty much anything in fact!  And mixed with mayonnaise it makes a wonderful Marie Rose style sauce with a bit of a kick.

Gorgeous Green Gazpacho

Green. Gorgeous. Good.

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!

Gazpacho as we know and love it

In Andalucia we don´t eat tomatoes...we drink them!

So, now we come to the Gazpacho most people are familiar with – the iced tomato and vegetable soup famed the world over (well, almost!).

It is served both as a soup here and as a drink.  In most homes it comes in a glass.  In fact there is a wonderful advert for my favourite Spanish beer, Cruzcampo, which celebrates all things Andalúz.  One line in the voice over says something along the lines of “In Andalucía we don´t eat tomatoes, we drink them!” (If you have time to watch it, it´s worth it, even if you don´t understand Spanish, just to see a few snippets of summer life in Andalucía).

Every housewife will give you a slightly different recipe, adding her own little tweaks (more of this, less of that). Some use stale bread, some don´t. I tend not to unless I want to serve it a little thicker as a soup which can then be garnished with little chopped cubes of the same vegetables that go into it.

So, without further ado, here´s how I make mine.

Peeled Tomatoes, Green Pepper, Red Pepper, Onion (optional) Peeled Cucumber, Salt, Water, Olive Oil, White Wine Vinegar.

It´s difficult to give quantities. If my tomatoes are lovely and red, I use less red pepper. Sometimes I don´t use onion.  But the green pepper and the cucumber do give it that distinctive fresh taste, so try not to leave them out.

A few simple ingredients

Today I used 4 large plum tomatoes, one thin green pepper, a small amount of red pepper and a small chunk of onion and half a small peeled Spanish cucumber.

Put all the vegetables into a jug or the food processor.

Put into your jug or blender

Start with one level teaspoon of salt, 3 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and about half a litre of water.

Add water, vingegar, oil and salt

Now it´s time to start blending.  Add more seasoning, vinegar and water as you go along if you want to.  Today I added another tablespoon of vinegar (you remember they like it “alegre” or lively here right?!) and about another 250ml of water to thin it a little.

...and blend!

Then chill until you need it.  If you have put onion in it´s fine on the day you made it but I find it starts to “ferment” a little if you have any left over.  Also, while standing in the fridge it may start to separate a little with the water at the bottom and the vegetables on top – just give it a stir before serving and it will be fine.

Big Man gets arty with the vegetables

Now, go and put on a straw hat, a paso doble on the cd and lie back in a shady spot and sip on your ice cold Gazpacho.  Or ga-pacho, as they tend to say here! These Andaluces and their habit of dropping the “s” sound….most confusing!

Spicy Tomato Sauce

Delicious Dip or Spicy Sauce?!

Big Man and I are trying to shed a few kilos.  He´s not my Big Man for nothing you know!  He has a very big heart, which is good, the waistlines (his and mine) could do with a little streamlining though.  In Spain, if you go on a diet at this time of year, they call it “Plan Bikini”.  The thought of either us in anything other than a large, stout bathing costume or trunks would be enough to scare anyone, but we´re trying to be sensible.

Being sensible doesn´t have to mean dull though, and I cooked up this delicious (no fat) sauce to go with some grilled fish. It would taste just as good though with grilled meat or vegetables.  Probably not so good with grilled bananas though! I like my sauce quite spicy, but you can make it as hot (or not) as you like.

  • Two cups of peeled,  chopped tomatoes (or used tinned)
  • A teaspoon of salt
  • A good few grinds of black pepper
  • One tablespoon of brown sugar
  • Two tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • A teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • Hot chili powder to taste (I used 2 teaspoons of hit, smoked pimentón)
  • Dried chili flakes to taste (I used two birds eye chilies, crumbled)

Put everything into a saucepan, bring to the boil them simmer for 5 minutes and that´s it.  Serve hot or cold.

Makes enough for several meals and will keep in the fridge for a week, or you can freeze.  Bet it doesn´t last long enough though!

 

Salmorejo Cordobés – Another kind of gazpacho

 

Creamy Salmorejo

As promised, another version of the famed Andalucían gazpachos.  This one originates from the beautiful city of Córdoba, and is my favourite version of all.  It is different in that it uses very few ingredients but can be served three ways – very thick as a dip with small breadsticks (known as Picos), medium thick garnished with chopped hard boiled egg and jamon or tuna as a chilled soup starter, or diluted with water as a refreshing drink.  So…three dishes in one!

Ingredients for this are few and it will serve from 6 (as tapas) to 2 (as a soup) approximately:

  • 2-3 slices of stale bread without the crust (should be a fairly dense bread rather than sliced white from the supermarket)
  • About 500g of tomato, cored and peeled (I had one HUGE tomato as you can see in the photo) but usually the volume of the tomato once in the jug is a little more than the volume of the breadcrumbs
  • A chunk of red pepper (optional)
  • Half a clove of garlic (don´t recommend you use more or it will overpower the taste the taste of the salmorejo)
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Once again, the holy trinity of water, salt and vinegar appear but we´ll use very little water this time.

Dribble a very little amount of water onto the bread which you will have put into a mixing jug, and leave for a minute or two to absorb it.

Start with bread and water

Add the tomato and pepper if you are using it.  The truly authentic recipe doesn´t use red pepper, but after wondering why my salmorejo never looked as red or tasted as sweet as anyone else´s, I was let into the secret of the locals round here – red pepper!

Tomato and Red Pepper

Add your garlic, a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of vinegar and at least two tablespoons of olive oil and start to blend with the hand blender.

Add Vinegar and Salt

You need to get this really smooth, almost like a purée.  The more oil you add, the smoother the mixture will be, although I tend to go easy on it just for the sake of my waistline!  Taste every so often and adjust the salt and vinegar to your liking.  Again, it should be “alegre” or lively in flavour.

Start to blend

When you´re done, leave to chill in the fridge for about an hour.

Get it smooth and thick

Traditionally it´s served in a deep earthenware bowl (to maintain the freshness) with chopped hard-boiled egg and jamon on top.  Some people substitute the jamon for tinned tuna but I guess chopped bacon would also be nice.

It´s also great as a dip or sauce served with little breadsticks (like very short grissini) or croutons.

Gazpacho Andaluz – Like You Never Knew It

Soup or Salad? So confusing!

Ok, so I say the word Gazpacho, and what do you think of? A bowl of a chilled tomato based soup, with chopped pepper, cucumber and possibly more tomato floating on top?  I´m right, aren´t I?!  Ok, so enough with the questions.  You´d be right of course.  But you´d also be wrong.  Well, not wrong exactly, just probably not aware of the different versions of Gazpacho that exist in Andalucía.  Gazpacho is Andaluz (i.e. from the Andalucían region of Spain) rather than Spanish.  Just as Paella is Valencian and not Spanish.

It´s all getting complicated, so maybe I should start at the beginning.  Andalucía has always traditionally been more reliant on agriculture (farming, olives, goats and pigs) than industry.  Based on hard labour through grafting on the land, or the “campo”.  So what did those hungry labourers do at midday, apart from take a well deserved rest in the shade of an olive tree, that is? Well, they took their lunch, or the makings of it, with them.  Life was, and still is, fairly tough for a lot of people.  Poverty reigned and many of the traditional dishes came about through necessity.  Ask any older person here what the key ingredients of a gazpacho are and they´ll tell you “water, vinegar and salt”.  And it´s true, they go into all the versions.  The reason for this was to make you thirsty.  And therefore drink more water, and thus feel full up.  Your belly was full of liquid and stopped you craving more food.

So, we have our country men with a twist of salt, a bottle of vinegar and a knife.  Water came courtesy of a nearby stream, and the vegetables that went into their gazpacho were those that could be found in the countryside around them.  Sometimes tomatoes, peppers, onions.   Other times wild leaves, oranges or a melon. 

The gazpacho you see above looks, and actually tastes, like a very finely chopped salad in a bowl of iced water.  I won´t lie to you, that´s pretty much what it is!  When I first came here, I admit that I didn´t really “get” it.  Now that time has passed and I´ve endured quite a few very hot summers, it all makes sense.  A chilled bowl of iced salad/soup, with a little tickle of salt and vinegar, the tang of fresh mint and the crunch of all my favourite summer vegetables goes down a treat when you can´t face doing anything more energetic than swatting a fly away and adjusting your sombrero.

Our village prizes this version of Gazpacho so much that it has a three day Fiesta Del Gazpacho dedicated to it every first weekend in August!  All good fun, although we tend to slake our thirst afterwards with a cold beer or a few glasses of wine.  And then, when we´ve cooled down, we all take to the dance floor and Paso Doble until dawn.  Happy days.

If you want to try it, you´ll need (roughly, as the quantities are really down to you) for four bowls:

  • Half a lettuce heart finely shredded and chopped (this is what you will do with all the vegetables)
  • Half a green pepper
  • A medium tomato, peeled
  • Half a sweet onion
  • About a third of a normal cucumber, peeled or one small Spanish cucumber
  • About 15 large mint leaves
  • A handful of broad beans if you have them (optional)
  • White wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Iced Water
  • Some Ice cubes

Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and pour over water so that the vegetables are just covered.  Gradually start to add salt and vinegar to taste (they tend to use a lot of both here, but go steady until you get a flavour you like).  The locals say it should taste “alegre” which is happy or lively! Add a few ice cubes and leave for at least half an hour so that the mint really infuses the water, then ladle into bowls, lower yourself onto a comfy chair in the shade of an olive tree, tilt your sombrero over your eyes and enjoy.

Go one, give it a go, you might like it!  And it´s a wonderful way of getting your “five a day”…