Category Archives: A love of food

A courgette and halloumi feast

This is a vegetarian meal worthy of guests, a feast, a celebration. It explodes with flavours and textures. Nothing is shy. Mint. Garlic. Basil. Beetroot. Lemon. If I was served this in a vegetarian restaurant, I would be delighted. There are four separate elements to the meal, which alone means it is probably best served as a celebration dinner rather than a mid-week meal. My favourite element? I’m hard-pressed to choose between the courgette and halloumi mixture, and the hazelnut pesto. Sadly I can’t tell you the cook responsible for the recipe, other than that it was featured in The Times Magazine. I plucked it from a pile of torn-out recipes because I fancied making something with halloumi.

Serves 8
For the courgettes and halloumi:-
5 tbsp olive oil
juice and zest of 4 lemons
3 garlic cloves, peeled
8 courgettes, cut into 5mm slices
1.2kg halloumi, cut into 5mm slices
a bunch of mint, leaves roughly chopped at the last minute
freshly ground black pepper
For the beetroot:-
16 small raw beetroots, unpeeled, washed and leaves trimmed to 3cm [1.6kg total weight]
olive oil, for brushing
freshly ground black pepper
Leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme
For the hazelnut pesto:-
200 whole hazelnuts
100g basil leaves
100g parmesan, roughly grated
zest and juice of 2 lemons
400ml extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
For the chickpeas:-
4 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tbsp olive oil, for roasting
4 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tsp garlic powder [optional, I did not use]
2 tbsp soft brown sugar [optional, I did not use]

Preheat the oven to 200°C / Gas 6. First, put the whole beetroots into a large roasting tin. Brush or roll them in olive oil so they are well covered. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until they are soft and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Once they are cooled, remove the skins using a sharp knife and fork. It is better not to touch them as beetroot juice can stain anything it touches. Cut away the root and stalks, then chop the beets into 5cm chunks. Set aside until ready to serve. This can be prepared the day before.

Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C / gas 5.

If you prefer to eat your nuts with skins, omit this next stage. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 7-10 minutes until the skins have darkened and the nuts are golden underneath. Rub the nuts between clean tea towels to loosen the skins.

To assemble the pesto, put the nuts and other pesto ingredients into a food processor. Blitz to your preferred texture, I like some crunchiness. Put into a storage box and set aside until serving. This can be prepared the day before.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then dry between two layers of kitchen towel. Put them into a bowl and toss with olive oil. Add the remaining ingredients and stir so everything is coated. Tip the chickpeas onto a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes or until just starting to turn golden and crispy. Sprinkle with extra chopped rosemary, and set aside. This can be prepared the day before.

Prepare the flavoured oil for griddling the courgettes and halloumi. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat, add the lemon zest and garlic. Bring to a simmer then remove from the heat and set aside so the flavours infuse into the oil.

When you are ready to griddle, remove the garlic and zest from the oil, add the lemon juice.

Preheat a griddle pan until really hot. Now griddle the slices of courgette and halloumi, brushing each first with the lemony oil. Do not put the oil into the griddle pan. Resist the temptation to move things around in the pan, otherwise the pieces will not gain the distinctive brown stripes. Each piece will need cooking for only about 2-3 minutes, until charred and tender. Sprinkle with fresh mint.

Serve the courgette and halloumi salad with the chickpeas, roasted beetroot and hazelnut pesto. What would I do differently next time:-
Griddle the courgettes and halloumi using plain olive oil, to save time
Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the griddled courgettes
Serve with a large amount of fresh mint leaves
Don’t worry about the size of the beetroots you use, large ones work just as well

Note: I have omitted sea salt from the ingredient lists as I find halloumi contributes enough salt to the overall combination of flavours.

5 to remember
una celebración– a celebration
explota – it explodes
carbonizado y tierno – charred and tender
para ganar tiempo – to save time
la combinación general de sabores – the overall combination of flavours

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
A fresh cherry cake
Harissa salmon salad
Sweet potatoes + coconut + ginger

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A courgette & halloumi feast #Spain #recipe https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2lw via @Spanish_Valley

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Easy gluten-free bread

This is my favourite gluten-free bread, much nicer than any shop-bought bread and with endless variations. I change the combination of seeds used, but always add pumpkin seeds as I enjoy the crunch. You can also add flavour by adding chopped fresh rosemary, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, or Marmite. I can’t speak for the success of the latter as I detest the stuff. The flour used is gram or chickpea, harina de garbanzo, which the Spanish use for deep frying and is easily available.

A word on organisation. The bread freezes well. As I am the only person in our household eating it, I cut it into slices before freezing so it is easy to take out one slice and pop it in the toaster. It needs toasting longer than conventional bread in order to go brown. If you add flavourings, be sure to label your freezer bag: orange marmalade on rosemary bread might be a bit of a shock.

For a different, more intense flavour, make the mix the night before, cover and place in the fridge then bake the next day. This is exceptionally easy to make, no kneading, and takes strong flavours well.

Makes 1 loaf
1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250g gram flour
100g ground almonds
50g linseeds, or milled linseeds
100g mixed seeds eg. Chia, poppy, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame
4 large eggs
Optional:-
3 tsp Marmite
4-5 sun-dried tomatoes
spring of fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 190degC/375degF/Gas 5. Line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper.

Fill a jug with 375ml lukewarm water, add the dried yeast and oil. Mix with a fork until combined and leave aside for five minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, almonds, all the seeds and a pinch of sea salt, and make a well in the middle. If adding additional flavours, chop your rosemary or sun-dried tomatoes now. Add to the flour mixture.

Crack the eggs in a small bowl and whisk. If you are using your own eggs, it’s best to break them separately into a bowl one at a time to check for freshness. If using Marmite, add it to the eggs and mix. Now pour the eggs into the yeast mixture and whisk.

Stir the liquid into the flour, gradually stirring in the flour from the outside of the bowl until it is all combined. You will have a batter-like mixture, not a dough. If you want to bake the bread later, set it aside now. Otherwise, pour into the prepared tin, give the tin a sharp tap on the worktop to eliminate bubbles. Place in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes or until risen, golden and cooked through.  Test with a skewer which should come out clean.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

If you like this, try:-
Sweet and sticky tomato and onion bake
Blue cheese coleslaw
Portobello Mushrooms with double cheese topping 

5 to remember
la levadura– the yeast
la harina de garbanzo– the gram/chickpea flour
mucho mejor que – much nicer than
para eliminar – to eliminate
la masa– the dough

 

This recipe is from ‘Everyday Superfood’ by Jamie Oliver [Michael Joseph]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Easy gluten-free bread #Spain #Recipe by @JamieOliver https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2lT via @Spanish_Valley

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Herby baked halloumi with tapenade

Halloumi, that oddly squeaky Greek cheese, works well when stuffed with intense flavours. So this recipe is a bit of a hit in our house. It takes a little preparation time, but makes a really tasty lunch. Excessive amounts of herbs, lemon and olives are used, but it’s worth it. Oh, and there’s a bit of parcelling up too. Serves 4
For the halloumi:-
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Handful of flat leaf parsley
2 sprigs fresh oregano
Grated rind and juice of a lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 x 250g block halloumi
Freshly ground black pepper
For the tapenade:-
200g pitted black olives [we used Kalamata]
1 clove of garlic [we used two]
2 salted anchovy fillets in oil [we used half a tin]
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 fresh rosemary sprig, roughly chopped
50ml olive oil
For the tomato salad:-
3 vine-ripened tomatoes
2 tsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
A handful of fresh basil leaves

Mix the main halloumi ingredients together in a bowl until it forms a paste [I used a large lemon which made the mixture quite runny, but this didn’t make any difference to the baked cheese]. Smear the paste all over the halloumi and season with pepper [there is no need to add salt to this dish, as both the halloumi and anchovies are salty enough]. Cover the bowl with cling film and put into the fridge for a minimum of two hours, overnight is better.

Put all the tapenade ingredients together in a small food processor, and blend together to your preferred texture. There is no need to discard thin parsley leaves as they chop well and add a lot of flavour. Cover and set aside in the fridge.

Heat the oven to 200°C. On a metal baking sheet, lay two sheets of baking paper. Place the halloumi and its marinade in the centre of the paper, then fold up the paper so it closes around the top like an envelope. Secure with staples to create an airtight package, so the cheese will steam inside.

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. When it’s done, remove from the oven and set aside for a few moments to cool. Meanwhile make the salad: slice the tomatoes and lay them on a plate. Season as preferred, drizzle with oil and vinegar, decorate with a scattering of basil leaves.

Serve the three dishes on one plate with a lemon wedge. We ate this with crusty sourdough bread, if we were really hungry we would eat it with a dish of roasted sweet potatoes. 5 to remember
el halloumi – the halloumi
chirriador – squeaky
de masa fermentada – sourdough
crujiente – crusty
una cuña de limón – a lemon wedge

 

This recipe is from ‘Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite’ by Gizzi Erskine [UK: Mitchell Beazley]

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
Little squash cakes with a kick
Yogurt & roasted butternut salad
A gift of leeks

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Herby baked halloumi with tapenade #Spain #Recipe by @GizziErskine https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2om via @Spanish_Valley

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Picking wild fennel seeds

We use a lot of fennel seeds in our house, they add a subtle layer of fragrance without being a dominant flavour. So this summer I decided to become a forager and gather our own from the hillside. This turned out to be such a simple process, I’m kicking myself for not doing it earlier. In Spain, the seeds dry on the wild plant so it’s a matter of judging the right time to collect them before any rain. Or before the birds get them.

Wild fennel is the same plant as the domesticated variety, except it doesn’t set a bulb, can grow very tall, has smaller seeds, and in places grows like a weed. The beautiful yellow globes are a familiar sight around here. How to forage:-
When your chosen day arrives, go for a walk with a pair of scissors and a paper bag. Find your plant and check each seed head – some will have already been eaten by birds, some just don’t set seed. Look for the seed heads with the largest seeds, cut them off and put them in your bag. If I don’t have time to deal with them straight away, I will lay them out in the sun to dry. Alternatively, I tie the bag with string and hang it in the pantry. The seed should separate itself from the seed head within a couple of weeks.

Shake the contents of the bag onto some clean paper. Take one seed head at a time and remove the seeds with your thumb and forefinger, dropping them into a dish. Pick through the seeds and remove any twigs, dust and debris. Put your seeds into a jar, seal it and freeze for a week. After that, it’s ready to use. 

How to dry inside:-
Strip the seeds from the stalks and scatter on a baking tray.
Place in the oven at a low temperature for 30 mins or until they feel dry.
Now they can be stored whole in a sealed jar, or ground to powder in a coffee grinder [I recommend keeping a grinder specifically for spices].

5 to remember
un proceso simple – a simple process
inmediatamente – straight away
un globo – a globe
un molinillo de café – a coffee grinder
yo recomiendo – I recommend

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Picking wild fennel seeds #foraging #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2p3 via @Spanish_Valley

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Banana & berry ice-cream

This is the smoothest, creamiest ice-cream I have tasted and it doesn’t have a drop of cream in it. Bananas and berries. It really is that simple. The possible variations are endless. Ella Mills, whose recipe it is, suggest three versions: this one, plain banana, and caramel featuring banana and dates. Don’t just save it for a hot Spanish summer day. It’s a great way of using up over-ripe bananas and the ice-cream keeps well in the freezer if you can’t eat it all at once.

Serves 4
8 very ripe, large bananas [1.3kg]
100g frozen blueberries or mixed berries

Peel the bananas, chop into thin slices. Place the slices into a bowl and freeze for at least six hours. When you are ready to make your ice-cream, remove the banana slices from the freezer and allow them to warm-up for about five minutes. Then put them into a food processor and blend for a minute or two until the mixture is smooth. Add the berries and blend again.

That’s it. For the caramel version, make the ice-cream in exactly the same way but instead of berries, substitute 12 pitted and chopped Medjool dates and 5 tbsp almond butter then blend.

If you like this, try:-
Chocolate Flapjack
Peanut Butter Biscuits
Baked Rice Pudding

5 to remember
más suave – smoothest
cremoso – creamiest
las posibles variaciones – the possible variations
interminable – endless
por un minuto o dos – for a minute or two

 

This recipe is Ella Mills, find more of her recipes here.
‘Deliciously Ella’ by Ella Mills [UK: Yellow Kite]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Banana ice-cream, with berries #Recipe by @DeliciouslyElla via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2at

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Broccoli and avocado salad

Yes, this is a healthy salad, but it also tastes great. If you have never eaten broccoli in a salad before, I urge you to try it. It is excellent, but only if you pre-cook your broccoli so it is slightly crunchy – over-cooked limp broccoli does not work in a salad! I added toasted walnuts for protein, you can simply omit these or substitute with your favourite nuts.

Serves 4
For the salad:-
1 ½ heads of broccoli
3 ripe avocadoes
a handful of fresh coriander [I used parsley]
a handful of walnuts
For the dressing:-
Juice of 3 limes [about 30ml of juice]
2 tbsp tahini
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp honey or maple syrup [I used maple syrup]
a sprinkling of salt

First prepare the veggies. Cut the broccoli into small florets, bite-sized pieces. Steam them in a steamer for about 7 minutes until cooked but a little crunchy. Alternatively you can boil them, but watch over them so they do not over-cook. Drain, cool in cold water, drain again and set aside.

Slice the avocados in half, remove the stone and peel. Cut the flesh into small cubes

Chop the coriander into tiny pieces.

Mix all three ingredients together in a large salad bowl.

If using nuts, heat a small frying pan over a high heat then add your nuts and dry-toast them [doing this without oil helps to release the nuts’ natural oils and enhances the flavour]. Add the nuts to the salad bowl.

To prepare the dressing:-
Squeeze the limes into a bowl, then add the other dressing ingredients. Stir well, then drizzle over the salad.

If you are hungry, serve with a side dish of roasted sweet potatoes. Simple peel and cut the sweet potatoes into wedges, put onto a baking tray, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil, toss the veggies to mix, then roast in a hot oven [about 180°C] for around half an hour until the sweet potatoes are going brown around the edges. I check them halfway through and stir. Be sure to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the baking tray.

If you like this, try:-
A Mustardy Leeks Vinaigrette
A Sweet Creamy Frittata
Asparagus and Lemon Risotto

5 to remember
saludable – healthy
sobrecocido/a – over-cooked
si tienes hambre – if you are hungry
las patatas dulces – the sweet potatoes
a medio camino – halfway through

 

This recipe is from Deliciously Ella by Ella Mills [UK: Yellow Kite]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A healthy broccoli & avocado salad #Spain #Recipe by @DeliciouslyElla via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-25x

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A side-effect of asparagus

The season is with us when everyone wandering around the countryside here seems to be carrying a bag. They are foraging for wild asparagus. But there is one side-effect which is never spoken of. Some people, between 22%-50% of us – are prone to smelly urine after eating asparagus.

Why? It is believed that during digestion the vegetable’s sulphurous compound called mercaptan (which is also found in rotten eggs, onions and garlic) breaks down into smelly chemical components. Because those components are volatile, ie. airborne, the odour wafts upward as the urine leaves the body. This unusual scent is evident quickly, as soon as 15 minutes after eating. Not everyone’s body experiences this process, and not everyone is able to smell it.

Try these recipes featuring asparagus:-
Asparagus and lemon risotto
Roasted asparagus
Wild asparagus and scrambled eggs for lunch

5 to remember
un efecto secundario – a side-effect
nunca se habla de – never spoken of
la orina – the urine
el olor – the odour
tan pronto como – as soon as

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A side-effect of asparagus #Food in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2ju via @Spanish_Valley