Category Archives: A love of food

Sweet Carrot Salad

This is a lovely sweet salad. A large bowlful is a main course, but it also works as a side salad and travels well in a plastic box for picnics. Carrots are naturally sweet and are a traditional combination with oranges, but what makes this a little different is the addition of ground cumin and plump raisins.

Serves 4
4 carrots
200g raisins
5 oranges
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp date syrup or maple syrup
200 raw cashews
180g pitted olives, green, black or a mixture
salt and pepper

Top and tail the carrots, then peel off the outer skin and discard. Peel the rest of the carrots into thin slivers and place in a large bowl big enough for mixing. Turn the carrot as you peel, to ensure your strips are thin and less uniform. carrots, peeled, in dishNext, put the raisins in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside while you prepare everything else.

Peel four of the oranges and chop into segments, removing as much of the pith as possible. Place into a small saucepan with the ground cumin and the date syrup.

Sauté on a medium heat for about five minutes or until they are soft. Pour the fruit and all the juice over the carrots.

Now add the cashews to the same pan. Cook over a medium heat for about three minutes, so they soak up the orange flavour and brown a little. Add to the carrots.

Squeeze the juice of the final orange onto the salad, then add the olives. green olivesDrain the raisins, add to the salad with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss well, and serve. plateful5 to remember
una caja de plastico – a plastic box
un picnic – a picnic
un dátil – a date [fruit]
el jarabe – the syrup
deshuesado/a – pitted

Looking for other salads?
A pimped-up version of a Delia salad… griddled courgette & feta salad
Aubergine & herb salad
Mustardy salmon salad

Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward 1-5-15


This recipe is from Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward [UK: Hodder & Stoughton]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Sweet carrot salad: what’s not to like? #recipe by @DeliciouslyElla via @Spanish_Valley

A stew with fresh thyme

When we cleared the rockery bed of old thyme, straggly and past its best, I set aside a bunch for cooking. I had this stew in mind, full of rainbow vegetables, the sort that tastes better the next day after a night in the fridge for the flavours to develop. thyme, just pickedcourgette, sliceServes 4, if eaten with chunky bread
2 large onions, thinly sliced
Olive oil
1 large red pepper, de-seeded and cut into chunks
2 large courgettes, sliced into slices as wide as a Euro coin
400g jar chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Large bunch of fresh thyme
Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp capers
2 cloves garlic, chopped in the pan, onions & red pepperGently warm a couple of tbsp. of olive oil in large deep frying pan, and add the onions and red pepper. Allow to soften over the moderate heat. in the pan, add courgettesAdd the courgette slices, two sploshes of balsamic vinegar, freshly ground black pepper, garlic, capers and thyme. in the pan, add thyme, capers & balsamicTuck the thyme down into the vegetables. If you think it is necessary, add more olive oil. Cook for 15-20 minutes.

Add the chickpeas, check the seasoning. At this stage, Nigel Slater [for this is one of his recipes] adds 8 basil leaves – I didn’t because I didn’t have any]. Cook through until warm. Check the seasoning, and add more pepper or vinegar as you prefer.

Serve in a deep bowl with crusty bread, we eat it with Mercadona’s gluten-free baguettes. plateful, close-up5 to remember
ralo/a – straggly
las alcaparras – the capers
un recipiente profundo –  a deep bowl
el pan crujiente – the crusty bread
un baguette – a baguette

Got enough room for pudding? Make this:-
Canela apple cake
Crispy pear crumble
Plum and pecan crumble

a year of good eating by nigel slater


Recipe adapted from A Year of Good Eating by Nigel Slater [UK: Fourth Estate]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A stew with fresh thyme #recipe by @NigelSlater via @Spanish_Valley

White chocolate and cranberry flapjack

I have a weak spot. Flapjack.

The goody-two-shoes in me likes the oats and the fruit, so I tend to ignore the [enormous amounts of sugar]. A treat is good, isn’t it, once in a while. So when I saw this recipe for Fruity Flapjacks by TV chef Nadiya Hussain, I made them the same day. Easy, as is all flapjack, just don’t leave the sugar and butter mix on the heat for too long or it turns into caramel and you will have Flapjack Brittle. platefulMakes 12
225g unsalted butter
75g light brown sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
350g porridge oats
1 tsp mixed spice
100g dried cranberries [Nadiya chops hers, I left mine whole]
50g hazelnuts
200g white chocolate chips [I used a 150g bar and chopped it roughly]

Grease and line the base and sides of a 9in square baking tin.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.

Place a medium-sized pan on a medium heat. Add the butter, sugar and golden syrup. Warm the mixture gently until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Stir to blend thoroughly. Do not overheat.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the oats, mixed spice, cranberries and hazelnuts. Mix so all the oats are coated and sticky. Pile the mixture into the baking tin, evenly so the surface is level. Pat the mixture all over with the back of a wooden spoon to make it compact [and less crumbly once baked].

Bake in the oven on a middle shelf for 25-30 minutes [I took mine out after 30]. It is baked when it is golden around the edges.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the white chocolate chips. Leave in the tin for 15 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, cut into portions. Leave the flapjack to cool in the tin until completely cold. Once cold, remove from the tin, take off the paper strips, and cut again through your knife marks. on-cooling-rackRecipe by Nadiya Hussain.

Fancy a sweet treat? Try these:-
Plum clafoutis
Lemon & thyme cake
Apple cake

5 to remember
las avellanas – the hazelnuts
las virutas de chocolate blanco – the white chocolate chips
completamente –completely
las tiras de papel – the paper strips
las marcas de cuchillo – the knife marks

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
White chocolate & cranberry flapjack #recipe by @BegumNadiya via @Spanish_Valley

An apple and cinnamon cake

Wanting cake one day and not much caring what type, I made this with what we had. This was principally a large bag of eating apples which needed eating up. It’s a Mary Berry recipe, and so I knew it would work. It tasted good too. This is my gluten-free version with a few substitutions for Spanish availabilities. The dark brown colour of the finished cake is due to the dark brown sugar I used which added a deep caramel sweetness. apple-peel1piece-of-cake225g soft margarine
225g light muscovado sugar [in Spain I used dark brown sugar which gave the cake a rich brown colour]
3 extra large eggs [I used 4 large eggs from Pablo which always vary in size]
100g walnut pieces, chopped
100g sultanas
225g gluten-free flour [I use the Beiker brand bought at Mercadona]
4 tsp gluten-free baking powder [if you are using conventional flour, use 2 tsp ordinary baking powder]
400g apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 tsp ground cinnamon
For the topping:-
Sugar for sprinkling [the same sort you put into the cake mixture]
Extra chopped walnuts
Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Lightly grease and base line a 9in [23cm] deep round cake tin, with greased greaseproof paper. cake-tin-linedapple-peel2Prepare the grated apple and cinnamon mixture.

Measure the margarine, sugar, eggs, chopped walnuts, sultanas, flour and baking powder into a large bowl and beat well for about two minutes until mixed.

Spoon half the mixture into the prepared tin, then spread the apple mixture across the top. Mary says to do this in an even layer which I found difficult, better to add small teaspoons evenly across the top. Then spread the remaining cake mixture on top, level the surface. I bang the cake tin on the table to eliminate bubbles. cake-tin-top-layerSprinkle the top generously with your choice of sugar and walnuts. ready-to-go-into-the-ovenBake in the oven for about 1¼ – 1½ hours or until the cake is well risen and golden brown. Mine cooked quicker, it was done after an hour, and I put a piece of foil over the top after 30 minutes to protect from burning.

Test with a skewer to see if the cake is cooked, when the skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out. Leave to cool completely on a cake rack. just-out-of-the-ovenDust with icing sugar and eat. cake-sprinkled-with-icing-sugarapple-half5 to remember
una bolsa grande de – a large bag of
algunas sustituciones – a few substitutions
Mary dice – Mary says
un pincho – a skewer
para proteger de – to protect from

Fancy another cake? Try making these:-
Chocolate and pear cake
Fruit bowl cake
An Italian cake of Spanish apples

mary berry's ultimate cake book 20-1-14


This recipe is from ‘Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book’ by Mary Berry [UK: BBC Books]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Apple & cinnamon #cake #recipe via @Spanish_Valley

A fresh salad for winter

Eaten too much of something too heavy, creamy or cheesy? Then try this winter salad which uses Brussels sprouts, one of my favourites. If you haven’t eaten sprouts raw, you are in for a discovery. They are crunchy, full of flavour and the dressing sits in all the crinkles. A million miles away from boiled sprouts, honest.

It is a Brussels sprout take on the classic Waldorf salad: mayonnaise, lemon juice, apples, celery, walnuts, lettuce. This winter version is lighter and, I think, more interesting. This is the first recipe I’ve tried by food writer Gizzi Erskine. Watch out for more of her salad options. bowlful

Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 for lunch
300g shredded Brussels sprouts
100g halved, seedless green grapes
1 sliced apple
60g walnut halves
A handful of freshly chopped tarragon
For the dressing:-
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp natural yogurt
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, mix all the dressing ingredients together in a large bowl. brussels-sprouts-shreddedShred your sprouts through the shredder/slicer attachment of your food processor, or slice them thinly by hand using a knife. If you are brave and don’t mind slicing your fingers too, you could try a mandolin. I used a knife.

Add the sprouts to the dressing, stir and leave to macerate for 15 minutes. add-apple-tarragon-walnuts-grapes-to-saladThen add the grapes, walnuts, apple and tarragon. Stir, and serve.

Now fancy cake? Try this:-
Canela apple cake
A cake to make on a cool afternoon
A sweet and sour cranberry cake

5 to remember
las coles de Bruselas – the Brussels sprouts
las arrugas – the crinkles
un descubrimiento – a discovery
a mano – by hand
el estragón – the tarragon

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A fresh salad for winter in #Spain: a Brussels sprout #recipe by @GizziErskine via @Spanish_Valley

Mushrooms + wine + butternut

Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries III is an instant classic in our house. We saw this recipe first on Slater’s hypnotic television programme and decided to try it. We are limited here by the type of fresh mushrooms available, but with a little adaptation and the help of a handful of dried porcini, it turned out marvellous. Just what is needed on a chilly winter day. the mashermushroom, whiteporcini, close-upServes 4
For the marinade:-
750g assorted fresh mushrooms [Nigel used brown chestnut, king oyster and button. We used 500g button & a handful of dried porcini, soaked in a splash of boiling water]
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
250ml red wine [we of course used Spanish]
For the sauce:-
4 large onions [we can’t get shallots, but if you can use 2 onions & 8 small shallots]
3 garlic cloves
2 small carrots
2 tsp tomato paste
2 tbsp plain flour
250ml vegetable stock
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
For the mash:-
2 butternut squash
50g butter

Slice the largest mushrooms into pieces the thickness of a pound coin, and put them in a large mixing bowl. Quarter the chestnut mushrooms and halve the button mushrooms [if they are small, leave whole], add to the bowl. If using dried porcini, add now with the soaking water.

Crack the coriander seeds and peppercorns using a pestle and mortar, or grind coarsely in a spice/coffee grinder. Tuck the bay leaves, thyme and rosemary among the mushrooms, add the coriander/pepper mixture. Pour the red wine over the mushrooms and cover. Leave to marinate for an hour. wine corkPeel the onions and cut in half, then slice each half into six segments. Put a couple of tbsp of olive oil into a deep, heavy-based casserole, add the onions, and cook over a moderate heat. Stir occasionally. In 15-20 minutes they will be soft and golden.

Peel and thinly slice the garlic, add to the onions. Scrub the carrots, cut into small dice, add to the onions. If using shallots, peel, leave them whole and add to the onions. Add the tomato paste and leave to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Drain the mushrooms [reserving the wine] and add to the onions, leave to cook. When done, the mixture will be gold and brown. Scatter the flour over the mushroom mixture, stir in, and allow to cook for a couple of minutes before adding the red wine and stock. Mix gently, avoid breaking up the mushrooms, then bring to the boil. bubbling in the panSeason with salt and pepper and leave to simmer gently for 20 minutes till it is dark, rich and woodsy. Check the seasoning, if needed add a tsp of balsamic vinegar. butternut, peeledTo make the mash, peel and roughly chop the butternut squash and steam over boiling water for 20 minutes until tender. Add the butter and crush using a potato masher.

Serve the mushrooms with the mash. We ate it with fresh asparagus, a gift from a neighbour who have their own field. This asparagus was picked that morning by their children.platefulA note: when we saw this made on television, Nigel recommended steaming the butternut rather than boiling it in a pan. We did the latter, and our mash was rather wet. Next time, we will steam it.

Fancy pudding? Try this:-
Peachy granola crumble
Chocolate and pear cake
Easy-peasy cheesecake

5 to remember
instante – instant
un clásico – a classic
el adobo – the marinade
surtido – assorted
recomendó – recommended

a year of good eating by nigel slater


Recipe adapted from A Year of Good Eating by Nigel Slater [UK: Fourth Estate]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Mushroom & butternut stew: a #recipe for winter by @NigelSlater via @Spanish_Valley

Warming chilli, not burning

I am not a hot hot chilli lover, I like background warmth but value the ability of my tongue to taste flavours. So this pasta recipe by Jamie Oliver fits the bill. Aubergines, yes. Chilli, red, yes. Tomatoes, yes. The flavour is deep and rich, thanks to the burbling time which intensifies the tomatoey-ness [sorry, that doesn’t look like a real word but I hope you know what I mean]. However, this is not a pasta sauce to knock together in ten minutes when you need to eat quickly. There is a lot going on, so make it at the weekend when you have time to bumble around the kitchen, perhaps leaf through some recipe books and choose a cake to make, while the sauce burbles and the aubergines steam. platefulbasil leaf, close-upServes 4
2 aubergines
1-2 fresh red chillis, de-seeded and finely chopped
40g pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
30g fresh basil
olive oil
2 x 400g tins of whole plum tomatoes
your pasta of choice
200g ricotta cheese [I used cottage cheese]
10g Parmesan

To prepare the aubergines, cut off the stalk and halve lengthways. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, and place a steaming basket over the top [either bamboo, or the folding metal type]. Place the aubergine halves in the steamer, skin side up, and replace the lid. Steam for 25 minutes or until the aubergine is soft and tender. Drain, and set aside. Once the aubergine has cooled slightly, chop it into 1cm cubes.aubergine, in the steameraubergine, steamed & choppedPrepare the toppings. Lightly toast the pine nuts in a large casserole pan over a medium heat. When browned, tip them into a pestle and mortar, crush, then set aside. Sort the basil, remove the stalks, chop, and save. Save a handful of the prettiest leaves for garnish, keep the rest to be added to the sauce. add garlic & basil stalks to oilTo make the sauce, first peel and finely slice the garlic. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the casserole pan, and heat over a medium flame. Add the garlic and basil stalks, cook gently until pale golden. Add the chopped chillis and tinned tomatoes, breaking up with a spoon. tomato sauce, water addedtomato sauce, 1st simmerFill one tin with water and add to the casserole [top]. Season to taste. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes [above]. Add the aubergine and fresh basil [below] and cook for a further 10 minutes until rich and thick. tomato sauce, aubergine addedtomato sauce, thickMeanwhile, cook your chosen pasta. Drain. Once the pasta sauce is rich and thick [above], add the pasta and ricotta cheese. cottage cheese, spoonfulpine nuts, toasted & bashedServe with the pine nuts and remaining basil leaves scattered over the top, and a grating of Parmesan.

When I make this again, I will do two things differently:-

  • instead of steaming the chilli, I will simply remove the seeds, chop it, and add it to the tomatoes;
  • I added one tin of water to the tomato sauce, not two as Jamie’s recipe states.

aubergines & red chilli5 to remember
el fondo – the background
la capacidad de – the ability of
mi lengua – my tongue
se intensifica – it intensifies
sin embargo – however

Got a big hunger to fill? Try these:-
A squashy lasagne… butternut, tomatoes & balsamic
Pasta for a spring day… asparagus, lemon & garlic
Double tomato and bean stew

Everyday Super Food by Jamie Oliver


This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Everday Super Food’ [UK: Michael Joseph]


And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A gentle aubergine chilli #recipe by @jamieoliver via @Spanish_Valley