Our Spanish Adventure

1f011c47-611e-434c-b4b3-161722a9d40aOh it’s great to escape the British greys skies in winter for the blue skies of Spain. Even when it’s cold here the sun shines and the air is dry. Eating salads instead of soup, sitting outside the cafes for coffee instead of moaning about the weather at home.  You just can’t beat it!

We love space, so when we come to Spain we hire a large villa. The one we are in this year, in Estepona, is HUGE. It can sleep 14! It’s got loads of space inside and out and has the most brilliant kitchen with everything I need to cook. However, I did bring my Magimix though because I could!

The supermarkets here are so good. The variety of fresh fruit, veg, meat, cheese, fresh fish and seafood is immense. A lot of the fish is caught locally. I am going to make it my mission to try some of the fish I have never heard of before.

Today we stocked up and also bought fresh prawns and merluza (hake) which is filleted for you. They even give you the fish heads to make stock. Avocados and tomatoes are plentiful, ripe and full of flavour. There are large bunches of fresh herbs such as parsley and mint at a fraction of the cost at home.

The garden here has oranges, lemons which we can pick and use and there is even an avocado tree with fruits on.

Although we are planning to do lots of walking, we will also be doing lots of cooking with all the local produce. I am planning Tapas Thursdays to replace Curry Friday’s for a while.

Making Christmas Goodies for Gifts

If there is one time of the year that you are allowed to have sugar its Christmas. I like to make things that you should only eat in moderation, at this time of the year. This week I have been making homemade sweets and preserves to give away as gifts. I have been using the Handmade Gifts from the Kitchen by Alison Walker this year. The book has all the things I like to make in the same place. I have had mostly successes but one failure which is bugging the hell out of me….

My Successes 

Hokey Pokey – this is chocolate dipped honeycomb. It’s lovely and crunchy finished with some dark chocolate so it’s not too sweet. 

Peanut Brittle – in my opinion there aren’t enough peanuts in the recipe so I added a few more. It has the desired salty and sweet flavour, but you can’t eat too much before you have to make a trip to the dentist! 

Peanut Butter Fudge – Mark’s new fave! If I want to give this away I have to be quick! Lovely creamy peanut taste. Very moreish. Will definitely have to make some more of this before Christmas.

Coffee and Cardamon Fudge – lovely combination, uses a tin of condensed milk. Has a different texture to the peanut butter fudge and more of a grown up taste. 

Fruits of the Forest Conserve – I used frozen redcurrant and blackberries  from the freezer which needed using up. Lovely colour in a the jar. Taste good too. I would add a dollop to gravy. 

Tiffin – a nutty, biscuit chocolate ‘cake’. Crikey it’s rich. You won’t be able to eat much. It’s easy to make and looks lovely wrapped individually in cellophane. 

Smoky Nuts – we needed something savoury to try! I used a mixture of what I had in the cupboard -brazils and peanuts and cashews. I won’t use the peanuts again but have bought some macadamias to try next week. 

Redcurrant Gin – this is still ‘cooking’. It’s going to be a lovely colour and a present for the person who is cooking my Christmas dinner! I am planning to decant it into a lovely bottle next week. 

The Failure 

Honey and Almond Nougat 

I am doing something wrong but have followed the recipe to the latter. I had to buy a new sugar thermometer so I know that I am cooking it at the right temperature. However, the consistency, colour and taste are wrong. I have had to throw away two lots now and that’s what bugs me. What a waste! I won’t be doing it again.

So next week I have a few more things to try and will let you know how I do. 

Cranks Nut Roast versus Ella’s Nut Roast

I am not a vegetarian as I eat chicken and fish, but I eat vegetarian meals every week. Part of my vegetarian repertoire is the ‘Cranks” nut roast, which I have been making since about 1983. I was given the Cranks Vegetarian book as a gift and have replaced it since then as it fell apart from over use. I first started making the nut roast as a substitute for Sunday meat roasts. Whenever we have family gatherings, I usually make this in addition to a meat roast. Invariably the meat eaters want both!

I do occasionally use other recipes like the Cashew and Parsnip Nut Roast in Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen for festive occasions. That’s a layered version which always looks nice when sliced, but uses cashews which are a bit expensive for everyday. Recently I have tried Ella’s nut roast from Deliciously Ella with Friends and I quite like it.

Whats the difference?

The Cranks recipe has fewer ingredients and uses  wholemeal breadcrumbs and lots of mixed nuts. It uses dried herbs, onions and yeast extract for flavouring. I tend to use a mixture of whatever nuts I have most of in the cupboard. It’s very quick to put together. I also use gluten free breadcrumbs these days and it works just as well. The consistency is crispy and crunchy on top with a softer centre. It has a very savoury taste.

The Ella recipe uses mushrooms, celery and carrots and herbs for flavouring and doesn’t have any bread in it – which is great for me. The consistency of the loaf is creamy which is due to the butternut squash and cashews and pine nuts. I like the  texture and flavour but the Cranks recipe is favoured by the other half.

I will probably continue to make both but I can make the Cranks one with my eyes closed so thats what we’ll have when I’m in a hurry. I usually have some GF breadcrumbs in the freezer.

Here’s the recipes so you can try both :

Cranks Nut Roast 

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Cranks Nut Roast

Ingredients 

  • I med onion
  • 25g butter
  • 225g mixed nuts
  • 100g bread or breadcrumbs
  • 300ml hot water or stock with 2 tsp yeast extract stirred in
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Chop the onion and sauté in butter till transparent
  2. Grind the nuts and bread together until quite fine
  3. Combine all the ingredients together
  4. Turn into a greased shallow baking dish and bake at 180 for 30 mins .
  5. Serve with proper home-made gravy – see below

Gravy

  • I onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 50 g butter
  • I shake Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbls mushroom ketchup
  • 1 heaped tsp redcurrant jelly
  • Glass red wine
  • 1 pint stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cornflour

Sauté the onion and celery in butter very slowly until the onion turns brown but not burnt – this may take 20 mins or so

Add wine and reduce by half

Add stock and mushroom ketchup, Worcester sauce and redcurrant jelly and season to taste. Simmer for 30 mins.

Mix the cornflour with some water to make a paste. Add to the gravy when you are ready to serve.

Ella’s Herbed Nut Roast

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Ella Nut Roast

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts
  • generous ½ cup of cashews
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 7 ounces butternut squash, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  • A few good gratings of nutmeg
  • 5 tablespoons rolled oats
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon brown rice flour
  • ½ tablespoon ground chia seeds

Method

  1. Pre Heat the oven to 190 degrees Grease or line a 9″ x 5″ loaf tin
  2. Toast the pine nuts for 10 mins
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil and sauté celery, squash and carrot – when the celery is translucent add the garlic and salt and pepper
  4. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 mins
  5. Add nutmeg and herbs
  6. Place half the nuts in a food processor with the oats and whiz up as fine as they will go.
  7. Coarsely chop the remaining nuts, so they aren’t too chunky, then add these and the ground nut mixture to the pan. Add the flour and chia seeds and mix well.
  8. Press into the prepared loaf pan, cover with foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Take the foil off and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a cool rack for 15 minutes
  9. Cut into slices. Serve with gravy

How to make a gift of Florentines

It’s lovely to give or receive a home made gift. These little florentine biscuits wrapped in a cellophane bag and tied with a bow, make a perfect, quick to make present for a friend, neighbour or relative. They are a rich, delicious and perfect with a cup of coffee.

Ingredients

60g butter

50g caster sugar

2 tbls double cream

25 g dried cranberries

40 g flaked almonds

25 g mixed peel

25 g stem ginger – chopped

25g pine nuts

15g plain flour

100g plain chocolate

Making

Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease 2 baking trays or I use silicone sheets

Melt the butter and sugar in a small pan. Heat gently and bring  to boil. Off the heat, add the cream

Add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the chocolate

Spoon small teaspoons of the mixture onto the baking tray spaced out as they will spread

Cook for approx 8 mins – take out and using a 5 cm cutter make them into a circle

Put back into oven for 2-3 mins till dark golden

Remove from the oven and cool on the tray for a few mins before gently lifting them onto the cooling tray

Melt the chocolate and coat the back of the florentines – drag a fork across the chocolate to create a wavy pattern

Share with people you like!

 

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Home cooked meals and food shopping

IMG_0857You know by now that I like to be organised. Some people might think I have a mild dose of a compulsive disorder, but I just like things neat and tidy. I know it must be annoying to  live with me but I make up for it by making lovely food 😀

Part  of my organised life means planning meals in advanced and shopping for these. I have a whiteboard in the kitchen and add any items I need to shop for as I run out of them. Next to the list is a rough list of what our main meals are going to be for a week so I also add items to the shopping list that I know I will need for the recipes/meals. Having these side by side lists helps me to make sure I only buy what I need. I said helps! It helps the budget too-hahah we don’t really have a real budget for food. Where I come from ‘food is love’ and so we tend to eat what we fancy or what is cheap or in season that week.

Having said that, I tend to be a bit ‘thrifty’, so my first shop of the week always starts at Lidl . It’s one of their small stores and I prefer that these days. They don’t sell everything I need or use, so I have to go to another supermarket to get the rest. It’s usually Asda. I don’t really like shopping there but the prices are right. I also buy some of the more hard to find ingredients,  in bulk, like linseeds, potato starch and gluten free oats from Wholefoods Online . 

I cook meals from scratch every day. As I don’t eat gluten, we hardly ever go out for meals now. It’s too much of a faff to ask about what’s in the food. I have guessed things would be ok on a couple of occasions and ended up with stomach ache, so now we don’t bother much. We find that we often are disappointed with the meals we get served in restaurants. As we are both good cooks, we think our food tastes better! Its curry Friday again and I’m off to cook. It’s chana masala/chick pea curry (26 Grains) today with dhal (Curry Easy) and rice.

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My 10 favourite pieces of kitchen equipment

savingPNGAsk anyone who knows me where I spend the most amount of time. They will all tell you its the kitchen. Whether its cooking, making, cleaning or organising, that’s where you’ll find me a lot of the time. When it’s clean and tidy I am happy. When its messy and needs cleaning I am not happy. The other thing they will tell you is that I like to do everything quickly. I can’t help it – that’s just the way I’m made.

In order to help me cook and clean and organise I have some great pieces of equipment. I have pickled out my top 10 favourites. They have mostly made the list if they speed things up!

  1. The steam cleaner – I simply would not be without it. I use it for sterilising toilets and sinks, cleaning floor and wall tiles, cleaning carpets and cleaning the hob. I have a Karcher one which cost about £100 but it’s well worth the investment. I rarely buy chemical kitchen cleaning fluids.
  2. The Magimix – or food processor if you want. This is a recent newbie to my kitchen helpers. over the years I have made do with cheaper substitutions but now I have the best. When I invested in ti I told Mark I would use it everyday and I do. One of my favourite ways of using it is to make nut butters. Just roast almond or cashews nuts for 10 mins and out in the Magimix for about 10 miss with some salt for the best nut butters. Stuff it into medjool dates and devour frequently.bet you can’t eat just one!
  3. The Zester – I use this for grating citrus fruit, garlic, ginger, nutmeg and anything else that needs fine grating. Easy to handle but a bit fiddly to wash but goes in the dishwasher.
  4. The stick blender – although I have the Magimix, it’s a whole lot more washing up than this. So if I am in a bit of a hurry, it’s better to use the stick blender particularly for soups and hummus.
  5. The kitchen knives – I have a set and a few more, Robert Welch knives – they are simply the best, in my opinion.
  6. The warming drawer – I use this for raising and resting dough mixtures, warming serving dishes and plates and defrosting. It’s a great place to put food you want at room temperature but not on the worktop and great for when you are doing a big family roast and want to serve all the veg in separate warmed dishes.
  7. The dishwasher – who in their right mind would not have a dishwasher? I know you need the space to have one but I would forgo a cupboard for it. It keeps the kitchen free of dirty dishes – if you can train your other half to put them in their instead of on the side!
  8. The electric scales – as I mentioned I like to do things quickly and the electronic scales are a great help. Bowls can go on it and ingredients can be added one by one straight into the bowl. You can change from metric to imperial (there are some recipes that I still do in pounds and ounces as I can’t be bothered to convert them) and also measure fluids too, so more time saving!
  9. The electric spice grinder – I prefer to buy whole spices and grind them as I need them – for example cumin, cardamon, coriander and cinnamon. The spice grinder I use is actually a coffee grinder but it works a treat and grinds spices in seconds.
  10. The coffee machine – where would I be without my bean to cup coffee machine? A present from Mark for my 60th birthday – probably so he didn’t have to keep making me coffee in the cafetière – a messy business at any time!

 

 

 

 

 

How to get a gluten free crunch

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One of the things I miss most about not eating gluten products is the crunch you get from eating a lovely crusty loaf of bread. A lot of baked gluten free recipes taste nice but are missing a crunch. I have found that lining a loaf tin with linseeds or sesame seeds before baking gives you a crunchy crust even if the bread is a bit cakey.

But I also have found a recipe from the 26 Grains  (written by Alex Hely-Hutchinson) book which helps with the fix. The recipe is for Caraway, Oat and Seed Crispbreads. They are full of nutricous  goodies and are very easy to make.

Ingredients

270g gluten free rolled oats

315g mixed seeds – sunflower, linseed, sesame, pumpkin etc

2 tablespoons of caraway seeds

2 tablespoons of chia seeds

1 teaspoon garlic salt or flakes

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons of coconut oil – melted

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Method 

Preheat  oven to 180 degrees

Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper or a silicone sheet

Blitz 120g of the rolled oats to a coarse flour.

Add the oat flour to the rest of the dry ingredients

Mix together the wet ingredients in a jug with 375 mls of water

Divide the mixture in 2 and spread over the baking paper or silicone sheets.

Flatten it out as much as you can by putting a piece of baking paper over the top and rolling or pressing it with your hands

Bake for 15-20 mins until the edges start to brown

Remove from the oven and turn it over – it will fall to pieces but thats ok

Cook for another 15 mins until it’s dried out.

Leave to cool and break into pieces and keep in an airtight container.

Ginger Cake

This is the best ginger cake you will ever make. I promise. This recipe is from BAKE by Lorraine Pascal. It’s gorgeous and verified by my partner Mark and many of my family and friends.  Yesterday I thought I would see how it turned out using GF flour using a flour mix in the Phil Vickery – Essential Gluten Free  I am using Flour Mix B 

500g (50%) GF brown rice flour

300g  (30%) ine maize meal

200g (20%) cornflour 

As you can see the GF cake (top) didn’t look as pretty as the wheat flour one. Its a lot more crumbly, but tastes just as good. I have now cut it into slices and frozen most of it as GF cakes tend to go stale quicker. Also it means I can’t eat it all in one go. Needless to say the other one will be gobbled up by the other half over the next few days. Ginger cake

How to make delicious gluten free granola

76073906-601C-4CE7-A889-43BFB5A3F184.jpegI like to make my own breakfast granola instead of buying pre-packed, sugar laden rubbish. I know exactly what goes in my granola and can be almost sure that it doesn’t contain any gluten or additives. I vary the recipe depending on what I have in my cupboard. The basic recipe originally comes from Deliciously Ella book but I vary it depending on what I have and what I crave. All the ingredients can be bought in the supermarket or online. I buy maple syrup by the litre from Amazon as it’s much cheaper. I buy nuts mostly from Lidl.

Dry ingredients 

180g pecan nuts

100g almonds 

240g rolled oats – I use gluten free 

175 pumpkin seeds 

175g sunflower seeds 

100g flaxseeds

200g raisins 

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Wet Ingredients 

3 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons of coconut oil -melted

Simply mix all the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients (except the raisins) and spread onto a large baking tray covered with baking parchment or a silicone mat and put into the oven 160 degrees  for 30 mins. Turn  it every 10 mins so that it cooks evenly. Don’t make the same mistake that I have done, by adding the raisins before it goes into the oven as you will have lots of chewy black bullets! 

When it’s cooled, add the raisins and transfer it to a glass storage jar. It lasts about a month, but I have usually finished it before then. I make a batch about every 3 weeks. 

I usually have mine with a some sliced banana and almond milk but you could add any fruit and use any milk. You can also use it to make flap jacks, sprinkle it on top of yoghurt or just eat it  straight for the jar when you fancy something sweet. Yum! 

 

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