Category Archives: Mediterranean

Broad Bean Paté

Oh, we are so remiss in posting here! But I just made up a little recipe I had to share…

I was pretty excited to see a new little grass roots ‘hippy’ food shop, Locavore, open directly across the street from me. After living in Oregon for 10 years, one of the (few) things I’ve missed in the UK was the availability of fresh, local – and affordable – farm produce and meat. I mean, of course it is here, but it is often rather spendy, and the whole local/slow food thing has really only caught on in the more ‘twee’ classes.

In any case, this shop is tiny, but they get a regular supply of things grown locally (including my actual neighbourhood – they’ve been working with the community to build urban gardens). But in addition, they sell wonderful Scottish products like rapeseed oil, oatcakes, highland cheeses, farm-fresh eggs, and perhaps my favourite, delicious local pork and beef sausages, and lamb.

They have also recently started a veg subscription service, another thing I used to partake of in the Pacific NW. For just £5, I get a wee bag of fresh veg every Friday. This is my second week, and I barely dipped into last weeks. Here is the haul from this week – check out the size of the courgette!

That pork & apple sausage snuck into the picture too, jealous? £5 for all that!

I have about double the amount of those massive broad beans adding in last week’s bag, so I decided I might turn them into a hummus-like paté – what a good idea that was! It was very easy too, so here is my narrative-style recipe, as usual without solid measurements:

I split open the pods, then blanched the beans in boiling water for about 5 minutes – it yielded about 2 cups. Rinsed them in cool water, then through them in my food processor with a few leaves from the basil plant I’ve managed to not murder, a heaping teaspoon dijon mustard, the juice of half a lemon, and two big pinches of sea salt.


I pulsed this a bit, then I poured in some garlic flavoured cold-pressed rapeseed oil I got at the shop. It is really nice and rather potent, but if I didn’t have this I would simply use fresh garlic (probably 2 cloves) and olive oil. So the next bit is a process of blending, scraping, and drizzling in oil until you get a nice creamy consistency as you like. Because that rapeseed oil is very garlicky, I switched to olive oil after about 2 tablespoons. In all I think it has about 4ish tbs of oil.

When it was as I liked, I scooped it into a bowl and added a bit more salt, pepper, lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, and mixed it in. How you eat it is up to you, it would be lovely with pita, crudite, tortilla chips… but I spread mine on some lovely fresh walnut bread I had, toasted just to warm.

And oh, hey, look at me, this recipe is VEGAN. Crazy. And it is every bit as good as it looks!

3 Comments

Filed under Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Mediterranean, Quick, Summer, Vegan, Vegetarian

Lamb & Date Tagine with Saffron Almond Couscous

I find that this recipe works equally well for a celebratory feast with guests as it does as a comforting meal with the family.  I’d not call this an easy recipe, but neither is it complex.  It is, however, rather time-consuming. This recipe was originally shared with me by my friend, Chef Pippa Calland, and now I am pleased to share it with you.

Lamb and Date Tagine

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boned lamb shoulder (bones reserved), cut into cubes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, finely diced
  • 1 thick slice (or two) of fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon
  • cayenne pepper
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade or low sodium
  • 4 oz. sliced, dried dates, preferably Medjool
  • 1 bunch cilantro, picked, stems reserved, washed, dried and sliced
  • 1 bunch parsley (flat), picked, washed, dried and sliced

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F; when it is hot, place the reserved lamb bones in a cast iron skillet (or other heavy-duty pan or tray) and drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil.  Roast until boned become golden and caramelized.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
Season the lamb cubes abundantly with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat a large skillet on medium flame.  When the pan is warm, add a scant amount of olive oil to the pan and allow to heat.  When the oil is warm add the lamb to the pan to brown.  Be careful not to overcrowd the pan (or the meat will steam rather than sear). Repeat as needed until all the lamb has been browned.  Pour off the oil and discard. Put the pan back on the flame and add a scant amount of fresh oil to the pan and heat gently.  Add the chopped onions to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any caramelized meat juices combining them with the onions.  Cook the onions over a low flame until the just begin to brown and then remove them from the pan.
Heat the chicken broth to a simmer.  Place the lamb, lamb bones, onions, and ginger in a cazuela (a clay cooking pot, Spanish in origin) or tagine pan* and sprinkle with the freshly ground cinnamon and cayenne to taste. Add reserved cilantro stems and enough warm chicken broth to cover the lamb.  Simmer, covered tightly, until the lamb is completely tender, about an hour and a half, adding more chicken stock and turning as needed.
When the meat is cooked, add the dates. Cook the tagine for an additional 15 minutes.  Reduce the sauce to the desired consistency. Add reserved cinnamon to taste and garnish with parsley and cilantro.
Serve with couscous and a big fruit-forward Greek or Lebanese red wine.
Saffron Almond Couscous
Ingredients:
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, simmered
  • 6 threads saffron
  • unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup oil-toasted, salted, blanched almonds
  • cilantro and parsley, washed, dried, and sliced

Instructions:

Place a large, heavy gauge skillet on the stove and heat until warm.  Add enough oil to abundantly cover the bottom of the pan and heat gently.  When the skillet is warm, add the chopped onion and sweat it over a low flame until soft and opaque – about 15 minutes.  When the onion is ready, turn up the flame and add the couscous.  Toast the couscous over a high flame, stirring continuously, until it is a homogenous golden color and well-toasted.

Add the saffron to the couscous and ladle in enough warm chicken stock to cover by 1/4 inch. Season with salt and pepper.  Stir to ensure the couscous doesn’t stick to the bottom.  Turn the flame to low.  Cover the pan with a lid or parchment and cook until the stock has been completely absorbed.  Add more stock until the couscous becomes completely tender and then remove from the heat.

Add butter to moisten and season the couscous.  Check the seasonings and correct as needed.  Just before serving, add the almonds, cilantro and parsley.  Stir gently to combine.  Enjoy!!

 

*cook’s note – Sadly I have no clay cooking pots, but my heavy Calphalon skillet proves to work very well.

Leave a comment

Filed under Difficulty - Sous Chef, Dinner, Lamb, Mediterranean

Noche Buena!

Feliz Noche Buena!

You can take the girl out of Miami, but you can’t take the Miami out of the girl.

Even though I now reside ‘across the pond’, in the lands of my ancestry, my cultural heritage is more than a little Cuban. One of the traditions I picked up that I still love is Noche Buena – the Cuban Christmas Eve, which is filled with friends, great music, dancing, and some of the best food you’ll ever taste.

The typical British Christmas dinner involves a turkey, which for me of course is Thanksgiving food. So I like to do the Noche Buena, then join friends for their Christmas Day meal and avoid a second round of turkey leftovers (though I have been known to make a lovely Drambuie soaked roast beef – I’ll do that one for New Years this year). Instead, my leftovers will be lechon (roast pork marinaded in mojo), moros y cristianos (black beans & rice), yuca con mojo (boiled cassava root topped with a garlicky sauce) tostones (fried green plantains), maduros (fried sweet plantains). Que rica!

So, as my little Christmas treat, I decided to put all these recipes here, which I’ve gathered from various sources, mostly of the friend (or friend’s old Cuban Abuela) variety. And this Cuban feast isn’t just for the holidays, but can be made at ANY time of the year. Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: I don’t measure. I’ll give rough ideas for things though!

Essentials: lots of garlic, lots of onions, cumin, orange juice, lime, olive oil salt & pepper. Everything uses some variation on this.

Mojo: What the heck is this? Well it is the essential Cuban marinade. You can buy it bottled if you are in the right part of the country, but homemade is best. There are various recipes on the net, but it is basically made from naranja agria, or sour orange (if you don’t have this available in your neck of the woods, you can made it by combining orange juice with a bit of lime juice). Mix this with lots of garlic (chopped or pressed), olive oil, chopped onion, oregano, and cumin. Why not make a whole bottle of it and store it in the fridge? For these recipes, though, I tend to mix it up for each thing I make, as needed.

Now, on to the recipes…

LECHON

Ok, the first important thing to know is that a REAL Christmas lechon is made by digging a pit in the back yard and slow roasting a whole suckling pig. And yes, it is amazing. However, not entirely necessary for a huge gathering. And the alternative is REALLY easy.

You want:

  • A fatty cut or pork for roasting – butt is recommended (and then you can snicker), but I usually find shoulder is more often available.
  • Stuff for mojo.
  • More onions.

Cook it:

Marinade that pork at least overnight in mojo. I tend to stab the pork all over (it falls apart when it cooks, so you don’t have to worry about it being pretty – plus it’s good for letting out Christmas frustration!), then rub it down with pressed garlic and olive oil, cumin, oregano (you can make a paste of this if you want, but I just go for it), salt & pepper. If you have a Adobo spice available at your local store, you can use this too, but I like fresh! Then, put it in a large ziplock bag, and add your juice. Now, this is where I personally mix up my recipe a bit – instead of the naranja agria, I use some kind of tropical juice, like orange & mango, or a blend that includes pineapple. Always Tropicana! Be generous with your marinade, you want to have plenty left for roasting too. Marinate for at least 12 hours, but the longer the better!

Lechon marinaded and ready for the oven.

When you are ready to roast (more on how long in a sec), coat your pan in a little olive oil, and layer sliced onions all over the bottom. Lay your lechon on top of that, all spread out. Pour the remaining marinade all over, sprinkle the fat cap with some more salt (important for making chicharrones later!), then cover with aluminium foil, with a tight seal.

I’m going to quote a friend for roasting instructions here: ‘Low and slow until you can’t stand to smell it and not be eating it.’ The idea is that this becomes so tender it just falls apart (which is why you want to make sure there is some extra marinade in the pan). You can broil it for about 10 minutes at the end so the top get crispy – chicharrones baby! No one ever said this was a heart healthy dish… but then again, you’ve got the wonderfully healthy black beans to go with it!

Lechon! Fat cap removed and pulled apart into the marinade. It was awesome.

Moros y Cristianos

Yes, that does in fact mean Moors & Christians. Black beans, white rice, get it? It’s all about the multi-cultural love, baby.

So, if that lechon was easy, the Moros (as we can say for short) is even easier. Especially with a crock pot! You want:

  • Bag of black beans
  • onions
  • green peppers
  • honey(!)
  • bacon (optional)
  • cumin, salt, pepper, garlic.. you get the drill

The night before, soak your beans in twice the water it takes to cover them. I throw in half an onion and half a pepper too. Now, some say to discard the water and add fresh to start cooking, but as I’ve already rinsed my beans and picked out the stones (oops, I forgot to say, do that first), I see no need. In fact, I’ve been known to turn on the pot low from the start and just go to sleep. But because we’ll be eating late, I soaked, then turned the pot on early this morning. Then left them alone. For hours.

Peppers and onions smells so good in olive oil and garlic!

So, here’s how you finish them. First, once they’ve softened up, I add salt, pepper, cumin and… the secret ingredient… about a tablespoon of honey to the pot. Then just keep em cooking over low. Can you overcook them? Sorta… but soupy beans are yummy. About an hour or so before you want to eat, sautee the following in a couple tablespoons of olive oil: a chopped onion, a chopped green pepper, about 4-6 cloves of chopped garlic, and some cumin. You can also include bacon or pancetta here, but I’ve found it is just as good without, and makes this a bit healthier AND vegetarian for your more high maintenance friends. Add that sautee to the pot, let it simmer for a while. Later, season to taste.

Black beans simmering.

Cook some long grain white rice. I’m going to tell you how, because I’ve seen more people boil and strain rice like pasta, and it makes me mental. No matter what anyone (or any box) tells you, ever, here is how to make rice. 2 cups water, boil, add 1 cup rice. Or 3 cups water, 1.5 cups rice. ALWAYS 2:1. Boil the water, add the rice, cover, turn heat to lowest setting, and WALK AWAY and do not lift the lid for 20 minutes. That’s the basics. Now, you can do things like add some butter or olive oil, or spice, or substitute half the water for stock or white wine. You also want to be aware of your stove (for instance my burners stay so hot I need to turn mine OFF rather than low). But that’s the basics on how to cook rice. You’re welcome.

Serve up a scoop of rice, and drown it in some beans. YUM! Leftovers? Put your beans and rice in skillet and cook ’em together! Yes, you can even add lechon! DOUBLE YUM! Also, you can add your raw rice to your beans at the cooking stage, but that’s a bit crazy for beginners, so try it the separate way first.

Yuca con mojo

Cassava root is ugly. It is a long, brown, waxy thing that look inedible. But when you peel it, it reveals a lovely white flesh, which you chop into large chunks and boil like a potato (just boil until soft when tested with a fork). In fact, that’s kind of what it tastes like – a starchier, stringy potato. Some don’t like it because of the stringy bits (which is found at the centre, but you can remove the larger ones, it isn’t as bad as it sounds). But here is what makes Yucca REALLY yum: the mojo, of course!

Cassava. Not pretty.

Now I make mine a little differently for this: I slice an onion (half then slice so you get half rings), and simmer it in about a cup or so of olive oil (yes, that’s right, a cup or so! maybe even 2 cups!) with garlic, a LITTLE cumin, and some lime juice. You are basically making a hot, tangy infused olive oil. Simmer til the onions are soft, and try not to burn the garlic.

Mojo for yucca

When this is done, put your strained yucca in a bowl, use tongs to top with the onions, then spoon a lot of that olive oil over the top, but don’t DROWN the yucca in oil. Reserve the oil that is left, you’ll use it!

Tostones y Maduros

Plantains are like big, hard bananas, but do NOT eat them raw. They are starchy and yuck. Also unlike bananas, they are best cooked unripe (green) and overripe (black). The yellow is just an inbetween stage.

Tostones

Green plantains are for tostones, crispy savory fried plantains. Peel the plantain by trimming each end then gutting a long slice down the skin. These are tougher to peel than bananas. Once you’ve peeled, then cut them into about 1.5 inch chunks. Heat some canola oil in a pot or pan, you want about 3 inches or so. Fry each piece til it is just turning golden on each side, turned if the oil doesn’t cover it. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dish with paper towel to soak up the oil.

Let them cool (remove the oil from heat and set aside). Once they have cooled enough for you to handle them, you want to smash them into disks. There are special devices you can buy for this, and if you live in Miami you might have one. But it is just as easy to do with a mallet (place them on a cutting board and cover with cling film), or I simply place it on the board and press with a bottom of a cereal bowl. They will be soft inside now from the cooking. This part can be done in advance.

First fry of plantains. I didn't get a picture of the finished ones as we ate them too fast.

You want to serve these hot, so finish them right before you want to eat (they can accompany the meal, but I like them as a starter). You are now going to fry the smashed discs again til they are golden. Drain on a plate (fresh towel!) and salt them. When they are all fried, transfer them to a dish and top with some of that leftover garlic oil from the yucca, and squeeze some lime over them. DIVINE.

Maduros

These are sweet, and make a great side dish for your lechon y moros. Instead of slicing these plantains in straight chunks (you’ll notice they are more ripe, too), slice them at an angle so you get nice, long, thin pieces. Shallow fry these in some FRESH vegetable oil, 2 or 3 minutes per side til the get tinged in dark but not burnt. Some recipes will tell you to coat them in sugar first, but they are sweet enough on their own I think!

There you have it, your Cuban feast! Flan makes an excellent desert, btw. But I think we’ll be too full for that!

2 Comments

Filed under Cuban, Difficulty - Sous Chef, Dinner, Long but worth it!, Meat, Mediterranean, Spanish, Winter

Lunch: Herbed Chicken Sandwich with Tarragon Mustard

I’m a mustard slut.

I’ve noticed that these days, when I travel about (and lucky me, living and working in Europe!), I am bringing back foodie delights for my souvenirs, mostly condiments. And mostly mustard.

Partridge's Royal Warrent. Posh!

I had a gorgeous herbed mustard that I brought back from Paris last summer, and I tried to make it last, but alas. So on my recent sojourn to London, after spending the afternoon in the Saachti Gallery with a friend, I discovered the divine Partridge’s in posh Sloan Square. (My life isn’t always so glamourous, so I have to mark these moments as they come!) I think part of the reason I have been buying nice mustard is it doesn’t take a huge outlay of cash to buy something really nice that can doctor up a boring sandwich or flavour an ordinary dish. I said in an earlier post, nice condiments can alleviate feelings of ‘not eating well’ when your wallet is thin.

So today, I made a chicken sandwich – simply sauteed the breast in some Olive Oil, seasoned salt, and herbes de provence – then on a whim, threw some garlic stuffed olives in the pan and fried them too. This softened them a bit, but also really brought out the salt, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a salt-lover. I then toasted a whole grain roll I picked up at the local deli, and spread on a layer of  divine tarragon mustard from La Moutarderie Fallot.

Et voila!

Herbed Chicken Sandwich with Tarragon Mustard and Fried Garlic Olives

Bon appétit!

Rowan

Leave a comment

Filed under Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, French, Lunch, Mediterranean

Simple Things: Pasta with Spinach, Bacon & Sun-dried Tomatoes

In my younger days, I used to go through a lot of effort to make perfect pasta sauces… long-simmering marinaras, or alfredos that were quietly and slowly heated to perfection. And while those are still worthy chores, in my harried existence now, I much prefer fast and fresh. Most of my pasta dishes now are of the ‘toss together’ variety – pick a few ingredients, boil the pasta, toss it all together.

And ingredients are in fact key. I know I am not alone in feeling the economic crunch these days. But I find if I ‘invest’ in a few really nice ingredients here and there, it goes a long way to making me feel like things aren’t quite so dire. For example, spending an extra £/$ or two on a lovely flavoured Dijon that I can then use to season my sauces and salads is for me a worthwhile expenditure. And as a condiment, it goes a lot further than splurging on a dinner out, or even a really choice cut of steak (Alas!).

So, with that! I popped in the lovely little deli on my street, and picked up some nice imported pasta (egg pappardale) and a little wedge of parmigiana to make with some things I already had: sun-dried tomatoes, capers, good olive oil… and everyone’s favourite: bacon!  Oh, and spinach.  You know, to be healthy.

Step 1: Cut up some bacon (I used 3 strips of back bacon) and cook in a non-stick skillet over medium-high until starting to brown.

Step 2: Toss a whole big bag of spinach in on top, cover, and wait a couple minutes for it to wilt.

 

Step 3: Uncover, stir, add a dash of olive oil, the tomatoes (and their oil!), a tablespoon or so of capers, stir... cover and remove from heat.

Meanwhile… boil the pasta of your choice – Al Dente, always!!

Pasta done? Toss in a nice big bowl (see top pic), drizzle with olive oil, top with the yummy mixture. TOSS! Add fresh grated parmigiana. TOSS!  “Plate up”, top with a bit more cheese, then serve with a bottle of San Pellegrino, a vanilla scented candle, and two 19th century volumes of Dante!

Bon appétit!

Rowan

PS – I should say that you should obviously mix this one up however; not everyone likes capers (I love ’em!) and the tomatoes and bacon are perhaps salty enough. I’ve also been known to make this with baby roma or grape tomatoes, sliced in half and cooked in some olive oil and garlic with the capers tossed in at the end; then with slices of prosciutto torn up (not cooked) and tossed into the pasta.

1 Comment

Filed under Bacon!!!, Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner, Italian, Mediterranean, Quick

Lamb & Couscous with Minted Yoghurt

So for my first recipe, just a little something I whipped up. I tend not to measure when I cook, I wing it a lot, so this recipe will be a bit conversational – more art than science.

Here is what you need:

  • Some lamb (I used lamb leg steaks, cut up into cubes)
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon
  • Mint
  • Red wine
  • Honey
  • Garlic
  • Couscous
  • Raisins
  • Onion
  • Chicken stock cube (or a cup of chicken broth with another 1.5 cups water)
  • Greek yoghurt

Put your lamb into a bowl, and then sprinkle liberally with salt (I have sea salt in a grinder) and fresh cracked pepper, then add to marinate: about 2 tbs olive oil, juice of half a lemon, some chopped mint, and about a tablespoon or so of honey. Oh yeah, and chopped garlic!  Very important. And some red wine! Ok, let it sit at least 15 minutes (the longer the better, I say). Notice there is enough here for lots! You could use some for this dinner, then cook the rest tomorrow as kebabs. Or cook it all an enjoy leftovers for a while. Or invite friends!

Meanwhile, take some more mint,chop it up, and add it to about 1 1/2 cups of greek yoghurt with a quarter of lemon, salt and pepper. Set it aside.

When you are ready to cook your lamb, add some olive oil to a non-stick skillet (or, if you like, a nice cast-iron pan), and add half the onion. Sautee for a few minutes, then add the lamb, trying to hold back on the marinade (but reserve it!).  Simmer the lamb over medium high, but pour off any liquid (back into the marinade) that builds up. You want to sautee your lamb, not boil it.

Meanwhile…

In a pot with a tightfitting lid, sautee the rest of the onion in some olive oil, along with about a quarter cup of raisins (golden is preferred, but I used Sunmaid California and it was delicious!). Cook for a few minutes, then add 2 cups couscous and stir to coat. Add 2.5 cups water and a chicken stock cube (make sure it dissolves!). Bring to a boil, stir, cover, and remove from heat.

You’ve been watching your lamb, right? Is it getting nice and golden? Great! Pour the liquid back in, and let it simmer down til it caramelises, it should only take a minute or so. Serve the lamb over the couscous with a nice dollop of that yoghurt-mint sauce (which, btw, also makes a lovely dressing for a spinach & tomato salad).

Bon appétit!

Rowan

2 Comments

Filed under Difficulty - Sous Chef, Dinner, Grains, Greek, Lamb, Mediterranean, Spring, Summer