Monday, 31 October 2011
Doce de Abóbor
1.6kg pumpkin or squash, peeled & cut into 2cm chunks (if you want to make Doce de abóbor com coco you'll need 800g pumpkin & 115g dessicated unsweetened coconut)
450g sugar (I use demerara)
200ml (just shy of 1 cup) water
1 cinnamon quill
Tip the water, pumpkin, sugar & cinnamon into a large pan & slowly bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft. If it needs a little assistance breaking down to a puree, mash with a fork, back of a spoon or potato masher (if using coconut, stir that in now). Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened, but not stiff (think porridge consistency. As ususal). Spoon into clean, sterlised jars & store in the fridge once opened. Not that it'll last long.
The next post will be about something other than pumpkins, promise!
Sunday, 30 October 2011
In the meantime (while I keep tilting at my windmills), this comes pretty close, and I'll be fiddling around with the recipe (replacing the milk with cream cheese). I used cranberries this time, but any dried fruit, chopped pecans, walnuts or plain chocolate chips will work well too.
225g wholemeal flour (I used spelt, but you can use any. You can even use plain flour, which will give you a lighter, fluffier muffin. Not everyone likes chomping on grit!)
200g mashed cooked pumpkin
50ml groundnut or vegetable oil
75g demerara sugar
75g dried cranberries
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 200C/400F. line a muffin tin with paper cups. Mix together egg, pumpkin, oil, milk & sugar. Stir in the spices, cranberries & baking powder. Add the flour & stir until everything is incorporated. Spoon into paper cases & bake 20-25 minutes, or until risen & golden.
Saturday, 29 October 2011
Fruity Pumpkin Scones
250g wholemeal spelt flour (or plain flour, I just use it because I like my scones dense & nutty*)
50g demerara sugar
100g mashed cooked pumpkin
75g dried mixed fruit
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Preheat oven to 200C. Line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper or dust with flour. Combine flour, spices, raising agents & sugar in a bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the pumpkin mixture, and add as much milk as you need to bring it together into soft dough (how much depends on how wet your pumpkin is, you might not even need milk at all). Flop the dough onto a floured surface & roll out 3 or 4cm thick. Cut out shapes (I used a pumpkin cookie cutter, but you can use anything to hand) & arrange on the baking sheet. Brush the tops with a little milk & bake for 20-25 minutes, or until risen & golden on top.
Serve warm or cold with butter, or cottage cheese and a cup of tea.
*Cue I-like-my-women-like-I-like-my-scones jokes (covered in BEES!)
Friday, 28 October 2011
Squash & Barley bake
175g Pearl barley
600ml vegetable stock
1 onion, sliced
2 tbs vegetable oil
450g winter squash, peeled & cut into 2cm-ish chunks
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
200g passata (or fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped)
50g stilton or strong cheddar
1 tbs sage, chopped
salt & pepper
Rinse pearl barley & put in a pan with the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil & simmer for 40 minutes, or until barley is tender. Preheat oven to 180C/350F & grease a large ovenproof dish. Heat the oil in a pan & fry onion until translucent. Add the squash, mushrooms & sage & cook for 5 minutes. Add passata (or chopped tomatoes) & simmer until squash is tender, adding a little water if necessary. Stir in the barley & season. Pour into the ovenproof dish & top with the cheese. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted & golden. Serve with a salad, or if it's too cold for salad some steamed green beans or peas. This was eaten with some roasted beetroot - om nom nom!
*It kept us well fed in the as poor as a mouse that has just had a visit from the We Break Thumbs Collection Agency years.
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Fruity Pumpkin Loaf
200g finely grated pumpkin
200g demerara sugar
100g ground almonds
200g spelt flour (preferably wholemeal, but if that's a bit heavy for you, half spelt & plain flour will also work. It won't be quite as deliciously sweet & nutty flavoured)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
a grating of fresh nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 170C/350F/Gs. Grease a 1lb loaf tin. Divide the eggs & put the whites in a clean, grease free bowl for later. Whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar until pale & creamy (it'll take a couple of minutes). Stir in the almonds, pumpkin & dried fruit. Add the flour & spices & stir. Remember the egg whites? Beat them until they form soft peaks. This won't take too long. If the house is empty, sing the daftest song you know to keep yourself going ('Tinker of Rye' by Christopher Lee). If the house is occupied, sing anyway, and threaten those who berate your singing with a long and cakeless existence. Using a metal spoon, stir a spoonful of the whisked egg white into the cake mix. This will loosen it up and make folding in the rest of the egg much easier. be gentle when adding the rest of the egg white, and pour into the loaf tin, getting everything nice & level.
Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer prodded in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so before turning out. serve with a cup of tea, or a smidge of jam and always say yes to a second slice.
Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Porotos Granados (serves 4)
750g winter squash (preferably a good, flavoursome variety like crown prince or kabocha, or good old butternut) peeled, deseeded & cut into 2cm-ish chunks
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
400g can of chickpeas (or 100g dried beans soaked overnight)
200g french beans, cut into short lengths
1 tsp smoked paprika
a handful of fresh oregano, chopped
salt & pepper
Heat the oil in a large pan & fry the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, pumpkin, paprika & half the oregano. Add the vegetable stock & simmer for 10 minutes. Add the beans, chickpeas & sweetcorn & simmer until pumpkin is tender (5 minutes or so). Season & stir in the rest of the oregano. Leave to stand a few minutes & serve.
Om nom nom!
Right-o, off to make some Doce de abóbora!
*Because cephalopodic gods forbid that I abandon a recipe just because the ingredients aren't available in this country!
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Pastel de Choclo (serves 4)
500g winter squash (I like butternut or crown prince), peeled, deseeded & cut into 1cm-ish chunks
2 onions, finely chopped
1 carrot, sliced
2 tbs vegetable oil
400g (1 can) chickpeas
2 tbs raisins
handful of sliced green olives
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp oregano
salt & pepper
3 cups sweetcorn (thawed if frozen)
3 tbs cornflour
100ml milk (or non dairy milk to keep it vegan)
1 tsp basil
Preheat oven to 200C/400F. If you have a good sized cazuela, use it. If not, a deep ovenproof dish works fine too. You can also divide it into 4 individual dishes too.
Heat the oil in a large pan & fry the onion until translucent. Add the carrot & squash & cook for 5 minutes. Add the herbs, chickpeas, passata, olives, raisins & cook until the squash is tender. Season & pour into the baking dish.
To make the sweetcorn topping, put all the ingredients into a blender & pulse until you get a coarse mix that's somewhere between hummus & porridge. Spoon over the squash mixture, making sure to seal all the edges & bake for 45 minutes, or until the sweetcorn topping is golden & the tomato sauce bubbling up around the edges.
If you must serve it with something, fried plantains & green beans are happy companions.
Once you've tried it, experiment with different fillings! Mushrooms & beans in a mole sauce is pretty heavenly, as is seitan & pinto beans. A few chopped hard boiled eggs in there will go down well too.
Om nom nom!
Monday, 24 October 2011
There are pumpkins piles on perilous perches, squashes stacked on spare shelves, curcubits clumsily cast... well, you get the idea. The spare bed is currently unavailable to guests (sorry folks, unless you're okay with sharing!)
So it must be Pumpkin Week!
Every year around All Hallows Eve I post pumpkin recipes, for the next week I'll be posting recipes for squashes & pumpkins (though you can still check out recipes from previous years by casting your gaze to the right & clicking on 'Pumpkins'). So lets start with something simple, a recipe from my Ma-in-Law that we never tire of eating.
Pumpkin & Coconut Soup
750g Squash or pumpkin (butternut works well), peeled & cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red chillies, finely chopped
3 tbs vegetable oil
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
400ml can coconut milk
500ml vegetable stock
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper
handful of fresh coriander leaves
Heat the oil in a large pan & fry the onion until soft. Add the ginger, chillies & garlic & stir for a minute or so. Add the pumpkin & stock, stir & simmer for 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk & cook another 5 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. Add lime juice & whizz up in a blender. If it's too thick for you (I like thick soups!) add more vegetable stock or water. Season & stir in the coriander leaves, leaving a few for garnish.
Ma-in-Law also stirs in a cupful of cooked white rice, rice noodles or cellophane noodles after the soup has been blended, which gives a it a nice bit of texture. You could also top it with a drizzle of chilli sauce.
Om nom nom!
The shop was run by a very lovely gentleman who was extremely patient with me and my terrible Spanish. The shop is a herbalists dream - wooden drawers & jars filled with bundles of dried herbs, bottles of oils, tinctures & herbal wines & piles of hand made soaps & lozenges. In the center is a statue of Linnaeus, the smutty minded botanist who gave us Binomial nomenclature, without whom the lovely gentleman & myself would have had a much harder time communicating with each other. As we both know our botanical names we quickly understood each other, and MikeyFox watched with amusement as I sniffed and snuffed and nibbled my way through handfuls of herbs, and managed to discuss medicinal properties & flavours in a clumsy mix of English, Spanish & French.
I left with a bundle of soaps, teas, honey throat lozenges & bundles of hierba luisa (Lemon Verbena), tilo (Linden) & menta (mint).
A simply wonderful place, and the closest I'll get to what it feels like to step outside of the tardis and into another century.
Wednesday, 19 October 2011
While in Barcelona, we went down to Port Vell, which until not too long ago was a run-down area of empty warehouses & factories but was given an overhaul for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. We avoided the shopping centre, IMAX cinema & blistering heat and headed for the Aquàrium de Barcelona (well, you know how I feel about aquariums, right?). 1.5 million gallons of sea water, 8,000 fish and 21 tanks displaying the various marine life of the Mediterranean. I was a happy little fox!
The tanks were arranged in ways that were really interesting & informative. You got a close look at life in shallow coastal waters, underwater caves, coral reefs & atolls (to name a few!). I could have spent all day staring at the shoals of grouper & bream. It was also fascinating to watch moray eels & sea anemones going about their business. And it was quite sweet to see lots of children clustered around the tropical tanks looking for Nemo & Dory (and yes, I was looking for them too!)
And there were Rays, yay! Rays are actually closely related to sharks, though you wouldn't think it to look at them. They have no bones, their skeletons being made of cartilage. Having no ribcage means that if a large one ever got out of water the weight of their own bodies would crush their internal organs before they could suffocate. Ouch. But it does give them the ability to move efficiently & beautifully through water. Rays mostly eat crustaceans, snails & small fish, the manta ray prefers plankton.
The most spectacular feature of the aquarium is the tunnel - an 80 meter long glass tunnel that curves across the bottom of the Oceanarium, giving you the sensation of walking along the sea bed (but without the stressing over oxygen supplies or being gnawed at by one of the Sand Tiger sharks). The first half of the tunnel curves along one edge of the Oceanarium, so isn't too unsettling. The way the light plays on the wall opposite was too lovely to ignore too.
The second half of the glass tunnel is breathtaking, taking you right underneath the Oceanarium (and the 1.5 million gallons of sea water. Did I mention that?). There is also a moving walkway in the tunnel, so you can drift along with the fish. I found it a little too disorientating, so stayed on solid ground (less likely to fall over when a shark swims overhead that way). It was an unforgettable experience, and deeply soothing, while being utterly terrifying.
Of all the creatures that we encountered, I fell in love with this one - Mola mola, the Ocean Sunfish (though the Spanish name translates as Moonfish, as sailors used to mistake them for the reflection of the moon on the water. Their shimmery silver colour makes me think Moonfish is a much better name for them) probably the weirdest creature I will ever see. Mola is Latin for Millstone, describing its rough textured skin & rounded body (yes, that is a body, it's not just a floating head with fins - the German name for it is Schwimmender Kopf - swimming head). They can grow up to 3 meters in length, and can swim surprisingly fast. They are docile & friendly, and this one followed me all the way around the the Oceanarium, occasionally bumping into the glass (clearly we are kindred spirits). I felt very privileged to spend time with it, there are very few Sunfish in captivity (the only other examples being in Japan & Portugal).
So if you find yourself in Barcelona, go visit the aquarium, you won't be disappointed!
Sunday, 16 October 2011
Kilner jars are rubber sealed screw-top glass jars first made by the Kilner family in Yorkshire. The real trick to them is their two-part lid - a metal screw band & separate rubber-bottomed metal lid. This ingenious little system means that air can escape when processing, but not get in (bringing its friends bacteria & micro-organisms). You can process all sorts of fruits in syrup or brine using kilner jars, but vegetables are a bit more complicated. The biggest concern when dealing with tomatoes is the dread botulism, but if you're careful with keeping things sterile & clean, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. Acid prevents botulism spores from developing, so adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar (red wine or balsamic really brings out the flavour of tomatoes) should solve any problems. Bringing the passata to the boil for 10 minutes when using will also kill off anything nasty (and, of course, not eating anything from a jar that is bubbling or fermenting, turned a funny colour, gone mouldy or is attempting to communicate with you is also a smart move).
There are two methods of preserving in kilner jars - the Water Bath method & the Oven Method. Both methods need clean, sterilised jars (and work with screw top & clip top jars) filled with hot passata leaving a 2cm gap at the top, but you already know that.
The Water Bath is the most common method. For this you need a pan deep enough to keep your jars completely submerged, a large preserving pan works well. You'll also need a thermometer. Place a folded tea towel on the base to protect the jars from the direct heat(they will crack otherwise). Fill the jars with hot passata (about 60C) and srew on the lids, loosening by a quarter-turn (to give steam a chance to escape). Place the jars in the pan & cover with warm water. Slowly bring to a simmer (I mean slowly. Take about 20-30 minutes over it. You don't want a pan of watery tomato & glass shard soup) & simmer at 88C for 40 minutes. Remove from the heat & stand on a wooden board or folded towel, tighten up the screw bands & leave to cool overnight. In the morning check the seal (the dimple in the top of the jar should have depressed, and alarmed you at some point in the evening with a loud pop!). If there is no seal, either use up immediately or process again.
Te Oven Method takes longer, and can get a bit messy, as the passata will bubble & spit while its in the oven, but doesn't require a big preserving pan. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/G2. Fill the jars & place on a thick pad of newspaper, or a folded tea towel in a baking tray filled with 3cm of water (to disperse the heat, and prevent any distressing breakages. Place the jar lids on top, but don't fasten with screw bands. Leave in the oven for 60 minutes, then carefully remove, clean off any tomato that has escaped & put on the screw bands tightly. Leave to cool overnight & check the seal. Store in a cool, dark place (i.e. a cupboard) for up to a year.
Sunday, 9 October 2011
So MikeyFox & I, people who abandoned life in a big damn city due to our aversions to a, people and b, all the things that go with people decided to go on an impromptu trip to Barcelona, the most populous city in Catalonia, with a population of over 1.6 million folks and 2nd largest city in Spain. During an unseasonal heatwave. A daft idea? Probably, but I was holding onto what shreds of sanity I still have like the last slip of soap in the bath, and MikeyFox really needed a break from work.
We were lucky enough to find a cheap place to stay in the l'Eixample (Catalan for 'the extension', where Barcelona expanded into surrounding towns due to the increase in the population), where the streets are arranged in regimented blocks with chamfered corners (which makes crossing the road a bit strange). many of the buildings in the area were designed by Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi was not only an architect, he was also a skilled craftsman adept at ceramics, stained glass, ironmongery & carpentry. He also pioneered Trencadís - making mosaics with broken tiles & shards of ceramic. His mosaic works are scattered all over Barcelona. He was heavily influenced by nature, and his buildings are undulating, surreal & beautiful. Everyone will tell you to visit the Sagrada Familia, his still unfinished magnum opus, but I'd recommend the Casa Milà, also known as La Pedera (Catalan for 'the Quarry', though it looks more like Neptunes Summerhouse). Built 1905-1912, it's a breathtaking piece of architecture, with it's curves like lapping waves & balconies like tangled seaweed.
Barcelona is one of those places that will give you a crick in the neck. Everywhere you look there are mosaics on fountains, buildings & pavements, elegant ironwork on doorways & balconies, stone carvings on buildings & things that make your breath catch in your throat. Even the pavement beneath your feet is richly decorated. Everything from giddy swirls, block prints of flowers or hexagonal tiles that fit together to create seascapes of corals & starfish.
You could spend weeks just walking around, and never tire of what you saw. It's a wonder we did anything but stumble through the streets, open mouthed. But we also visited museums, galleries & the delightful l'Aquarium de Barcelona (which I'll save for another post, along with the Herboristeria del Rei). We explored tiny little streets & alleys, and I dragged MikeyFox into far too many little herbalists & tearooms, while he shepherded me into vegetarian restaurants & tavernas, and nearly lost sight of me forever in the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (locally known as la Boqueria)
There have been street markets in Barcelona since 1217, but la Boqueria was built in 1840-1853 (the plans being constantly modified & adapted). If you want to eat it, la Boqueria has it for sale. There are stalls piled high with beautiful fresh fruit & vegetables (some I've never seen before), candied whole fruits, nuts, strings of chillies, spices, herbs, cakes, breads, pastries, tapas, meat, fish (and benthic horrors that were too much for MikeyFox, who retreated to a juice bar for some aguas frescas).
Eventually I was tempted out of the market (albeit with an armful of xerimoya, kaki, tamarillo & kiwano) with some horchata. Horchata is everywhere in Barcelona, a refreshing iced drink made with almonds, sesame seeds or most commonly tigernuts. It is an unusual drink, milky but without containing milk, with a sweet nutty flavour & a slightly gritty texture. There are many stories as to how it got it's name, my favourite being the story of when James the 1st of Aragon (calm down, not that Aragon, the one that's in north-eastern Spain) first tried is, he exclaimed 'Açò és or, xata!" ('That's gold, darling')
Fear not, dear readers, there will be more horchata, as I have recipes!
As usual, I haven't returned with the usual sort of souvenirs. My case was crammed full of dried herbs, chocolates, chia, polvorón (a crumbly shortbread), tea, dulce de membrillo (quince paste), herbal soaps, black rice, artichoke pate & all sorts of little bits & pieces, many of which will be making their way to friends over the next few weeks
Until next time!
Sunday, 2 October 2011
There was an impressive range of locally produced preserves, cakes, breads, fruity booze, chocolates & beer. And samples of plum bread, marmalade's & alcohol that were nibbled & sipped. Well, it would be rude not to. As well as stalls promoting recycling, local produce, reducing food waste & even cookery demonstrations.
The whole event was held at the Pink Pig, a working farm run by the lovely Sally Jackson & her family. There is an adventure trail where you can get up close & personal with the chickens, pigs, goats & turkeys, a cafe where you can relax & enjoy a slice of home made cake or scones with a nice cuppa, and the incomparable farm shop, where you can purchase Pink Pigs own produced sausages & bacon (if you're into such things), home made preserves & salad dressing, vegetables, eggs, cakes & milk, as well as local cheeses, breads, chocolates, beers, cider & all manner of delicious bits & bobs. If you're ever in the area, do pop in and say hello. And have a slice of the coffee cake.
I'll not be blogging for the next week (yes, yes. You all fell over with shock, I know), as I'll be in Barcelona, subjecting the good people of Catalonia to my terrible Spanish, and gawping at architecture without getting in the way too much. Hopefully upon my return I will be slightly less mad, slightly less skinny, and have shaken the unnerving conviction that Martin Freeman is made of kittens.