Category Archives: A love of food

A salad, involving melons

This is one of those salads that sounds so simple that you wonder ‘what’s the point?’

The point is to use the very freshest ingredients, in season: melon, tomato, cucumber. The cucumber is important. If you can, use Spanish pepinos, the short fat warty-skinned variety which put English cucumbers into the shade. This is a Rick Stein recipe which he made in France. Spanish ingredients do the job just as well.
The only change I made was to add handfuls of fresh baby mint leaves, and use sherry vinegar for the dressing.

Serves lunch for 2 hungry people, with crusty bread and butter
½ ripe piel de sapo melon
pepino or ½ English cucumber
225g tomatoes, skinned
100g firm, crumbly goat’s cheese
Handful of fresh mint, rinsed
For the dressing:-
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Jerez sherry vinegar
Pinch of caster sugar
Sea salt flakes, and coarsely ground black pepper

Make the dressing first by combining the ingredients with a whisk. Set aside.

Cut the melon into four wedges, scooped out the seeds with a spoon. Slice the flesh away from the skin and cut each wedge into long thin slices. pepino, slicedPeel the cucumber and slice on the diagonal into 3mm-thick slices. Slice the tomatoes. Arrange the melon on the base of a large serving plate, cover with the cucumber and tomato slices.

Crumble the cheese in small pieces on top, then scatter with the mint. Spoon over the dressing and serve straight away with bread and butter. crusty bread & butterFor more about Rick Stein, visit his website.

Three more salads to try:-
Hot hot chickpea salad
A gooey creamy salad
Spanish tuna and tomato salad

5 to remember
incluso – involving/including
la más frescos – the very freshest
en estación – in season
la diagonal – the diagonal
esparcir – to scatter

French Odyssey by Rick Stein


‘French Odyssey’ by Rick Stein [UK: BBC Books]


And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A French salad made with Spanish melons #recipe by @Rick_Stein via @Spanish_Valley

A simple, classic Madeira cake

Who knew a combination of butter, eggs and lemon could be divine. This is the type of plain cake I used to think boring when I was a child. Now, I know differently. Made with a lot of unsalted butter and a hint of lemon, it is a creamy, silky mouthful which I never tire of. It also makes a lovely pudding with sliced fresh fruit and a spoonful of Greek yogurt.

240g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
a little extra caster sugar for sprinkling [we used Demerara]
grated zest and rind of a lemon
3 large eggs
210g self-raising flour
90g plain flour

Butter and line a 23x13x17 loaf tin.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas 3.

Cream the butter and sugar, and add the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time, with a tablespoon of the flour for each. Then gently fold in the rest of the flour. Finally, add the lemon juice.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin, and lightly sprinkle the top with sugar. About 2 tbsp should be enough.

Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.Remove to a wire rack. Allow to cool in the tin before turning out.

Our cake is a gluten-free version of this recipe so instead of the self-raising flour and plain flour, we substituted 300g gluten-free plain flour and 1½ tsp of gluten-free baking powder.

If you like this, try:-
An apple and cinnamon cake
Cherry cake
An easy iced apricot and cherry cake

5 to remember
precalentar – to preheat
uno a la vez – one at a time
limpio – clean
debería ser suficiente – should be enough
sustituimos – we substituted

This recipe is from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson [UK: Chatto & Windus]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Madeira cake: who can resist this most classic of cakes? #Spain #recipe via @Spanish_Valley

Thin lemon and pistachio biscuits

These biscuits are easy to make on impulse from store cupboard and fridge ingredients. And because the recipe is by Mary Berry, it is easy to do. They are very more-ish and it is easy to four at one sitting as they are quite small. And, despite Mary Berry’s description as shortbread, they did not seem that way to me. Makes 20 biscuits
175g butter, softened
75g caster sugar
175g plain flour plus extra for dusting
75g semolina
finely grated zest of a lemon
25g pistachio nuts, shelled and finely chopped.

Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. However if your oven, like ours, tends to be on the hot side, set the temperature a little lower. Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Measure the softened butter, sugar, flour and semolina into a food processor. Add the lemon zest and whizz until combined. Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth. Split the dough into half and roll each piece into a long sausage shape, about 15cm long. Scatter the chopped pistachios on a plate and roll each dough sausage in the nuts to coat. Cover the plate with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Slice each roll into 10 even-side discs. Arrange on the baking sheets, spaced well apart as they will spread slightly during cooking.

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until tinged golden and almost firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you like this, try these:-
Oh so sticky chocolate flapjack
White chocolate and cranberry flapjack
A silky dense chocolate cake

5 to remember
un bizcocho – a biscuit
enharinado/a – floured
matizado/a – tinged
la masa – the dough
una salchicha – a sausage

This recipe is from Mary Berry’s Everyday cookbook [UK: BBC]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Thin lemon & pistachio #biscuits Recipe by #MaryBerry #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

Smoky spring onions and asparagus with lime

I love the smoky flavour you get when grilling or griddling vegetables. It works best with slim English-style spring onions but if you are in Spain and can only get the fat continental style ones, simply slice them lengthways; not so pretty but just as tasty.

Quantities are per person with an ordinary appetite, so if you are starving double-up the quantities. If you make too much, use later in a salad. This is nice for breakfast, or lunch with crusty bread and butter.

4 fat spring onions or very thin baby leeks
4 asparagus spears, trimmed
olive or sunflower oil
wedges of lime
coarse sea salt

Turn the grill on high. Brush the spring onions and asparagus with oil, and grill.

Do not leave, keep turning until evenly browned. Serve drizzled with lime juice and sea salt. That’s it. Simples. If you like this, try:-
Mustardy Salmon Salad
Punchy Leeks on Toast
Roasted Cauliflower Salad

5 to remember
una lima – a lime
ahumado/a – smoky
delgado/a – slim
gordo/a – fat
longitudinalmente – lengthways


Recipe from ‘Eat Your Greens’ by Sophie Grigson

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Lime + asparagus + spring onions #Spain #recipe by #SophieGrigson via @Spanish_Valley

A silky, dense chocolate cake

An admission. The photos of this cake are actually of two cakes made on different days. Why? Because the first time we used a too-small cake tin and the contents oozed [that’s the only word] over the baking tray. So two lessons learned: use the right size cake tin, and don’t forget the baking tray. Incidentally, the cake looked messy but tasted brilliant for pudding with strawberries and Greek yogurt!

225g soft unsalted butter
375g dark muscovado sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g best chocolate, gently melted and allowed to cool slightly
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250ml boiling water

Pre-heat the oven to 190°/Gas 5 and put in a baking sheet.

Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin, 23x13x7cm. Line the tin fully, or you will never be able to remove this sticky cake in one piece.

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla. Beat well.

Now add the slightly cooled, melted chocolate. Take care to blend it well, but do not overbeat. The ingredients should be combined, you don’t want a mass of bubbles.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Now, alternating, add two spoonfuls of flour to the chocolate mix followed by two spoonfuls of water. Be sure to mix in each spoonful before adding the next, otherwise the mixture will be lumpy. At the end, you will have a smooth, fairly liquid batter.

Pour the batter into the lined loaf tin and place the tin in the oven on top of the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 170°/Gas 3 and continue to bake for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be squidgy inside, so a skewer will not come out completely clean.

Remove from the oven and place the tin on a rack. Leave until completely cold before turning out of the tin. It is a dense, dark cake and so may sink slightly in the middle.

Our cake is a gluten-free version of this recipe so instead of the self-raising flour and plain flour, we substituted 200g gluten-free plain flour. There is no need for baking powder in this recipe as the bicarbonate of soda acts as the raising agent.

If you like this, try:-
Chocolate flapjack
Peanut butter biscuits
An Italian cake of Spanish apples 5 to remember
sedoso/a – silky
denso/a – dense [texture]
squidgy – squidgy
en el medio – in the middle
hundirse – to sink


This recipe is from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson [UK: Chatto & Windus]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Chocolate cake: dense, silky, chocolatey #Spain #recipe by @Nigella_Lawson via @Spanish_Valley

Best when the broad beans are babies

This is best made when the broad beans are ripe and there is a glut to deal with. Any small space on our freezer shelves are crammed with small bags of habas, they are a delight to eat in winter added to a dish of gambas al ajillo. But this pasta dish demands tiny broad beans as big as my little fingernail, just popped from the pod. If we eat it with bigger broad beans, we par-cook them first and slip them out of their skins before adding them to the onion mixture. This makes enough sauce for 2 hungry people, served with the pasta of your choice.

400g podded broad beans
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
250ml hot water
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g parmesan, freshly grated
pasta of your choice

In a large heavy saucepan, cook the onion, garlic and parsley slowly in the oil for 5 minutes or until very soft. Add the broad beans and stir for several minutes. Add the water and cook until the beans are tender. Add salt and pepper. Put half of the beans in a food processor and pulse-chop to a coarse puree. Return to the saucepan and mix with the whole beans.

Cook your preferred pasta. Drain, then add to the sauce and stir. Check seasoning, and serve with the parmesan. 5 to remember
la haba – the broad bean
el perejil – the parsley
el robot de cocina – the food processor
preferido/a – preferred
el condimento – the seasoning

This is our adaption of a River Café recipe, reliable as always.
‘River Café Cook Book Two’ by Rose Gray and Ruth Rodgers [UK: Ebury Press]

If you feel hungry, try these recipes:-
Carrot, Olive and Orange Salad
Cheesy Nutty Herby Mushrooms
Courgette Flower Frittata

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Best when the broad beans are babies #Spain #Recipe by @RiverCafeLondon via @Spanish_Valley

Roasted asparagus

This is a recipe by American cook, Ina Garten. It is so unbelievably easy a child could do it. Eat it hot as a side, or cold as a tapas. It’s also great as part of a buffet supper.

Serves 8
2 lb asparagus
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus. If the stalks are thick, peel them. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Using your fingers, toss the asparagus so each piece is evenly coated with oil.

Spread the asparagus in a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast for 25 minutes, until tender but crisp.

That’s it. Couldn’t be easier.

Try these other asparagus recipes:-
A heavenly soup for asparagus season
Asparagus and lemon risotto
Wild asparagus and scrambled eggs for lunch

5 to remember
increíblemente – unbelievably
un niño – a child
parte de – part of
duro/a – tough
eso es – that’s it

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Roasted asparagus, the easy way #food #Spain via @Spanish_Valley