Saturday, October 18, 2008

Spicy cauliflower and green bean salad

Cauliflower really benefits from some spice, otherwise it can be a bit bland. It was also quite satisfying to be able to use my homemade minced ginger, minced chilli and garlic puree for this. (Fresh ginger and chilli are hard to come by in Cadiz, so when I find them I tend to bulk buy and then preserve.)

Ingredients1 cauliflower
500g of green beans
vegetable oil
2 teaspoons of chopped ginger
2 teaspoons of chopped garlic
1teaspoon of minced red chilli
3 tablespoons of fish sauce

  1. Chop the cauliflower into small pieces, top and tail the beans and chop into shortish sections.
  2. In a large pan, heat a little oil with the ginger, garlic and chillies. Add the cauliflower and beans, mix well, add the fish sauce and a little water, bring to the boil, turn heat to minimum and cover. Cook slowly until the vegetables are tender. (About 15 minutes. I don't think this dish benefits from having 'crunchy' vegetables - they are better slightly overcooked.)

Ginger biscuits

This is adapted from a recipe from the web described as being "From Mrs Guthridge's kitchen". Who is Mrs Guthridge? We may never know.

170g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
70g margarine
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
70g sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
115g honey

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Put flour and salt in a bowl and rub in margarine until it forms fine breadcrumbs. Add sugar, ginger and bicarbonate of soda and mix together.
  2. Add honey and stir all together, then knead until the dough holds together in a smooth ball, then chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease a baking tray. Make small balls with the mixture (they will spread a long way, so do not make balls too big), flatten them slightly, cut them into shapes if you want to, and space them well on tray.
  4. Bake in moderate oven, 160°C for about 15 minutes, or until they are nice and brown. They will puff up about halfway through the cooking time, but don't be alarmed - they flatten back down to a more normal shape by the end. Also, when they come out of the oven they will still be quite soft, but will crisp up quickly. Cool on wire rack.

Chocolate muffins

Gemma is usually the muffin mistress in our house. (I've always had a liking for alliteration.) However, in the re-run of Carmela's birthday I got the job. This recipe is adapted from Muffins: Fast and fantastic.

250g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
110g caster sugar
1 egg
225 ml milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
30 ml vegetable oil
100 g of dark chocolate

  1. Prepare your muffin cases, and heat the oven to 190oC. (This recipe makes 20 small muffins, and 12 larger ones.) In a large bowl, Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bain mairie.
  2. Beat the egg, and add the milk, vanilla and oil. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, mix well and add the melted chocolate.
  3. Fill the muffin cases about three-quarters full and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes before removing from the cases.
The photo below has nothing to do with chocolate muffins (other than being taken from my balcony while waiting for the muffins to cool). However, it's not often that a Colombian man dressed as a parrot and wearing stilts skates down my street, and that seemed like a good enough reason to include him here. (Yes, stilts AND skates.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Thick, roasted sweet potato soup

Sweet potatoes are one of those things I buy then never know quite what to do with. This thick soup works very well, as they are mixed with other vegetables, and you can offset the sweetness with a bit of salt and vinegar.

Ingredients500g sweet potatoes
500g of potatoes
125 g of carrots
1 leeks
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1.2 teaspoon of oregano
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
freshly ground pepper
500 ml vegetable or chicken stock (or water)

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes, the potatoes and the carrots, and chop them into largeish chunks. Spread across a large baking tray, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar and plenty of olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt and oregano. Roast in a medium oven (200 C) until they are cooked (about 45 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, chop the leeks and saute in a large saucepan until they are nearly cooked, then add the garlic and fry for another minute or two.
  3. Add the roasted vegetables to the saucepan with the leeks and garlic, top up with the stock, and add the mustard. Blend the soup with a stick blender or in a liquidiser, add a little more stock if it is too thick, taste, adjust the seasonings and simmer gently for another 5 minutes.

Soup versus puree
This would be called a 'puree' in Spain, not a soup. (And the recipe above produces something which is thicker than anything that would be described as soup in the UK.) Soup, in Britain, is often intended as a light first course, and even the heartier soups tend to combine chunks with a lighter broth.

In Spain, a puree would tend be served either as a nourishing first course, to be followed by some more or less unaccompanied meat or fish, so the puree is doing the job of the 'two veg' in a typical British main course. An alternative to soup would be a plate of lentils. This approach reaches its logical conclusion in a cocido or stew, where the meat, veg and pulses are cooked together, but the veg and pulses are served as the first course, with the meat served separately as the second.

Bubelach: matzah meal pancakes

I remember my grandma making these for my grandpa, Sam, and for my brother, Mark, and me. I had a bit of trouble tracking down a recipe, as we always called them 'egg latkes'. As far as I can tell, the proper name is 'bubelah' (or the plural 'bubelach', as there are always several of them), which means 'darling' in Yiddish.

I can't easily get matzah meal in Spain, so I used breadcrumbs instead. It's sold in bags and comes in varying degrees of fineness, so makes a good substitute.

3 eggs
175 ml water
80g matzah meal
1/4 tsp salt

  1. Separate the eggs, and add the water to the egg yolks. Beat lightly, add the matzah meal and salt, and mix well. (This step can be done the night before and left in the fridge overnight.)
  2. Beat the whites to stiff peaks and fold into the yolk, water and matzah meal mixture.
  3. Heat some vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan. When it is hot add as many tablespoonfuls of the mixture as will easily fit into the pan, and fry until golden brown on each side. Avoid turning more than once.
These are really best if cooked in plenty of oil, as that way they puff up. However, I wasn't really up for frying this morning, so I just did them with a little oil to prevent them from sticking, which produces something which looks more like a light Scotch pancake than a little fritter.