Mushroom and butternut lasagne

This recipe is the result of not shopping properly. I thought I had bought everything needed to make this vegetable lasagne recipe from the Cranks recipe book, but it turned out I was missing a couple of key things. Sheets of lasagne. Crème fraiche. So I improvised and added a couple of extra things I happened to have. This is the result. It demonstrates that being flexible can often be a nice surprise. Whatever you change, always include the roasted butternut squash slices in pesto, that’s lovely!As with a lot of ‘vegetarian’ recipes, I find them sadly lacking in protein. So I added a tin of haricot beans which I had in the cupboard. It would work with any type of tinned bean.

Serves 4
900g butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into long thin slices
olive oil
1 tbsp basil pesto [I used about 4 tbsp]
600g mushrooms, any combination, wiped with dry kitchen towel
6 lasagne sheets [I used gluten-free penne instead]
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp tamari/soy sauce
8 tbsp crème fraiche [I used fat free natural yogurt]
600g spinach
30g Parmesan, grated
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
60 Gruyere or other hard cheese, grated [I used more Parmesan]
tin haricot beans, drained [optional]
packet fresh basil [optional]

The separate elements for the lasagne can be prepared in advance, and assembled just before eating. Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas 8. Place the slices of butternut squash in a bowl and toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, season to taste. Spread in a single layer on two baking trays and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes until soft when checked with a knife, and going brown around the edges. Put into a bowl to cool slightly, add the basil pesto and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the lasagne sheets or your own preferred pasta. Drain and set aside. Slice the cleaned mushrooms. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil, two chopped garlic cloves and the tamari in a wide frying pan. Add the mushrooms and cook gently until they begin to release their juices. Add 1 tbsp crème fraiche, turn the heat down and simmer until the juices begin to reduce. Set aside.

Put the spinach, and fresh basil if using, into a saucepan with a splash of water. Cook with the lid on over a gentle heat so the leaves wilt. Drain in a sieve and press out the excess liquid using the back of a large spoon. Chop on a board then put into a bowl. Add 30g grated Parmesan, 1 clove chopped garlic, nutmeg, salt, pepper and 4 tbsp crème fraiche. Set aside. If cooking straight away:-
Turn the oven down to 190°C/375°F/gas 5.

Layer the vegetables and pasta in a large ovenproof casserole dish, finishing with a creamy spinach layer and the remaining crème fraiche. Sprinkle the top with the grated Gruyere or hard cheese.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden. If cooking later:-
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Assemble the dish as above.

Bake in the oven with a lid on the casserole, or cover with a layer of foil, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to bake for a further 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden. Test with a fork to make sure the vegetables at the bottom of the dish are hot. What would I do differently next time?
Add more yogurt
Stir the haricot beans into the spinach and yogurt sauce
Substitute courgette for the spinach, sliced thinly and fried lightly in a little olive oil If you like this, try:-
Mushrooms + wine + butternut
Cheesy nutty herby mushrooms
A cassoulet of aubergines

5 to remember
un par de cosas clave – a couple of key things
la nuez moscada – the nutmeg
la cazuela – the casserole dish
prueba con un tenedor – test with a fork
las alubias – the haricot beans

 

This recipe is from ‘The Cranks Bible’ by Nadine Abensur [Weidenfeld & Nicolson]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Mushroom and butternut lasagne #Spain #vegetarianfood https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2vD via @Spanish_Valley

Fifty Shades of White #8

White vinca, growing wild and clambering up the hillside. February 11, 2015

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
White vinca, growing wild & flowering #Gardening #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2c2

Salmon and new potato traybake

This is a versatile supper dish that, with a few seasonal amendments, works well throughout the year. And it is very tasty! In spring add asparagus, in the winter use leeks and frozen peas, add baby broad beans in the summer and in the autumn try Brussels sprouts. If you can get lightly smoked salmon fillets, they work well too.

Serves 4
2 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil
750g baby new potatoes
3 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves [I used a combination of tarragon and dill]
juice and zest of a lemon, plus lemon wedges to serve
175g leeks, trimmed
2 tsp Dijon mustard
6 tbsp crème fraiche or natural yogurt
1 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
4 fillets salmon
200g frozen peas, gently defrosted

Preheat the oven to 220°C/ 200°C fan/ gas mark 7. Pour the oil into a large roasting tin and out in the oven to preheat.

Cut the potatoes into evenly sized quarters and out into the heated tin. Add 1 tbsp tarragon and half the lemon zest. Season well and toss well to coat in oil. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the leeks in a bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. Set aside for 10 minutes, then drain. 

For the dressing, whisk together the mustard, crème fraiche, capers, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1tbsp tarragon and 1 tbsp water (to loosen the mixture). Season to taste. After 15 minutes, remove the potatoes from the oven and test. They should be almost tender; if they’re not put back into the oven for another five minutes. If they are almost tender, add the drained leeks, toss briefly with the oil then place the salmon fillets on top. Over the top sprinkle the remaining tarragon and lemon zest, check the seasoning.

Scatter frozen peas on top then return to the oven for a further 8-10 minutes until the salmon is cooked through.

To serve, drizzle with the dressing and squeeze the lemon wedges. From a recipe in Good Housekeeping magazine.

If you like this, try:-
Mint, lime & lentil salad
Punchy leeks on toast
Roasted cauliflower salad

5 to remember
el estragón – the tarragon
un filete de pescado – a fillet (of fish)
agotado – drained
a lloviznar – to drizzle
un trozo – a wedge

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Salmon & potato traybake: a versatile supper dish that works well throughout the year #Spain #Recipe by @GHmagazine https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2mk  via @Spanish_Valley

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Bird song: Nightjar

I know someone who once saw a Nightjar in Spain at dusk in the summer.

[photo: Mull Birds & Jim Bevan]

I have never seen one, but I have heard them sing. Such a strange, haunting song ‘churr-churr’ which can vary from a soft purr to a harder wooden rattle. It flies at dusk and dawn, on the hunt for moths and insects, with its mouth wide open.

Actually, I may have seen a Nightjar but thought it was a Cuckoo or Kestrel. It is similar-sized and shaped, with pointed wings and a long tail. All sorts of ancient myths exist about Nightjars, principally that they steal milk from goats. The latter belief led to the Nightjar’s nickname ‘goatsucker’.

Listen to the Nightjar’s song at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
tal vez lo he visto – I may have seen
de tamaño semejante – similar-sized
de forma semejante – similar-shaped
último – latter
la creencia – the belief

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Red-Legged Partridge
Wren
Woodpigeon

 

Our most used bird book?
Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe [UK: Collins]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Nightjar? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2aI

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Moorish rice with saffron braised carrots

I hesitate to call this dish a pilaf as that is an Indian term, but whatever the correct name is this is delicious. And it has limitless variations which makes it a great store cupboard meal. Served with carrots braised in a delicious saffron sauce, both dishes are quick and easy to make for a supper dos juntos or for a cozy supper with friends. The pilaf can be prepared in advance and reheated in a large frying pan.

Serves 4
For the pilaf:-
250g basmati rice [I used brown]
200g frozen broad beans
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 large shallots, finely sliced [I used 2 red onions]
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp raisins
30g flaked almonds, dry toasted until pale golden
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the carrots:-
500g carrots, baby carrots if possible, washed and cut into batons
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tso cumin seeds
150ml water
generous pinch of saffron
½ tsp Marigold bouillon powder, or ½ crushed vegetable stock cube
4 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
a dash of Tabasco
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
To serve:-
A couple of generous tbsp of natural unsweetened yogurt
Juice of a lemon

Prepare the pilaf ingredients:-
Put the rice in a saucepan and cover with its volume in water. Leave the lid on at all times, the only exception being if you need to add a splash of extra water [as I did]. Bring the water to the boil and immediately reduce the heat to a very low simmer for 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to stand with the lid on for another 8 minutes. This method produces dry rice suitable for the frying to follow.

Meanwhile, cook the frozen broad beans, drain and set aside. Dry toast the almonds in a frying pan without oil, set aside. If, like me, you plan to eat this as a vegetarian main meal rather than a side dish, cook your puy lentils, drain and set aside until you are ready to eat. For the carrots:-
Place the carrots in a large saucepan [I used a deep, wide frying pan with lid] with the olive oil, ground cumin, cumin seeds, water, saffron, bouillon, garlic and Tabasco. Add seasoning as preferred. Toss well so the carrots are well covered with oil, and lay them flat in one layer. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 20 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and then. Try not to lift the lid unless it looks as if it is sticking, if it is just give it a quick stir and replace the lid. If it looks a little dry, add a splash of water. Test with a knife to see if the carrots are ready, they should be covered in the sticky saffron sauce.

Assemble the pilaf:-
In a large wide frying pan, add the olive oil and heat gently. Fry the shallots for about 3 minutes and add the garlic, stirring until they are pale golden. When the shallots are almost cooked, add the cumin seeds [if you forget, as I did, they are fine if added with the rice]. Now, add the cooked rice, broad beans, raisins and lentils [if using]. Return to a gentle heat and stir to combine until thoroughly heated through. This process will take as long as it takes for the carrots to cook.

Serve the rice with the flaked almonds sprinkled on top, with a side of carrots and lemon-flavoured yogurt. What would I do differently next time?
Substitute frozen peas for the frozen broad beans
Stir fresh spinach into the hot rice and allow it to wilt
Substitute chopped dried apricots or dates for the raisins
Substitute a tin of chickpeas for the cooked puy lentils
Serve with braised green beans, cooked in the same way as the carrots
Serve with roasted aubergine, sliced and tossed with olive oil and roasted on a tray in the oven

If you like this, try:-
A courgette and halloumi feast
A cassoulet of aubergines
Asparagus and lemon risotto

5 to remember
dos juntos– two together
un batido– a shake
si parece un poco seco– if it looks a little dry
las semillas de comino – the cumin seeds
sabor a limón– lemon-flavoured

 

This recipe is from ‘The Cranks Bible’ by Nadine Abensur [Weidenfeld & Nicolson]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Moorish rice with saffron braised carrots #Spain #vegetarianfood https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2vi via @Spanish_Valley

#Christmas is coming… give someone a signed paperback

Are you planning your Christmas present list yet? If you know an avid reader who loves the touch and smell of real books, why not give them a signed paperback copy of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ or ‘Connectedness’? ChristmasSimply click the link below to order at my website. Payment is quick and secure by PayPal and you can specify your personalised dedication.

It couldn’t be easier! Available in the UK only.

Order ‘Ignoring Gravity’
Order ‘Connectedness’

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Give a signed copy of IGNORING GRAVITY or CONNECTEDNESS as a #Christmasgift https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2wF via @Spanish_Valley

Fifty Shades of Gold #41

Giant seedhead of the century plant. July 1, 2014

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Giant seedhead of the century plant #Countryside in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2bX