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Prawn Curry

You’ve probably noticed that I like prawns. Alot. I would say that we have them at least weekly if not twice a week. They’re so tasty and so quick to cook and are perfect for something speedy and healthy after work. I also love Indian food so a prawn curry is a real treat. Some people don’t like to make curries from scratch because they think that working with the spices is an ordeal, but all you need to do is bung all of the spices in a pestle and mortar and grind them before adding them to the pot. It couldn’t be easier.

This recipe is based on one that I found online – Caril de tomato, a goan prawn, tomato and coconut curry. I have adapted it to my taste and to suit the ingredients available to me. It’s an old favourite and requires about an hour in total for prep and cooking and once you’ve sorted out your spices it’s relatively painless. I buy my prawns with their shells removed and deveined to save time and effort.[Read more]

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Tagliatelle with chanterelles

One of my favourite food shops in London is near where I work. It’s an old school Italian deli that’s been in the area over 40 years. It’s there to serve the local Italian community and has the best produce at great prices. It’s run by an elderly Italian couple who run it with style – no pressure, no rush, if you want to be served you’ll wait your turn, but, when it is your turn they’ll take their time with you and get what you ask & make suggestions if you want them. They’ll grind coffee for you, slice meats, make sandwiches with what’s in the fridge – there’s no menu, whatever’s your fancy. There’s a stool in the shop that’s frequently occupied by one of the owners friends for a chat, or, one of the Italian builders working across the road who has stopped off to eat his lunch. It’s a little slice of Italy in London, an escape from the chaos outside the door.

Sometimes they have random produce, like today when I spotted a punnet of chanterelles in the fridge. I love when there are mushrooms from this guy. Every year in Autumn they have punnets of porcini and in the spring St Georges mushrooms. A friend of his harvests them and had harvested these on a recent foray. He was selling them for £2.50 a portion and had 16 punnets originally. There was only one left when I got there, I had to have it! I was unsure what to do with these, I already had several recipes in my head – frittata, bruschetta, pasta so I also purchased a selection of goodies, including: tagliatelle, speck, pinenuts. Within 5 minutes of leaving the shop I settled on a tagliatelle with chanterelles in a cream and white wine sauce with cheese shavings. I had forgotten to get parmesan/pecorino and we’re clean out so we used some manchego left over from our Spanish trip. It worked perfectly.

You can substitute any mushrooms you want for the chanterelles although I would suggest that if you are going to use ordinary mushrooms that you mix in some dried porcini to bolster the flavour. The more mushrooms the better for me!

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Prawns with chilli, garlic & parsley in cava

I am calling this a tapa but, in truth, I didn’t have something like this in Spain. But, Spain inspired me to make it. And, I am using cava. Can I get away with that? It seems like something you would get in Spain, perhaps with less chilli? Anyway, here it is.

I love prawns. We eat them really often, preferably from raw. I don’t like buying the precooked ones – they’re too tough and overcooked. I can be quite lazy and frequently buy the ones that are uncooked but have been deshelled & deveined for you to save time. We usually have them in a curry or in pasta with the occasional breakout to piri piri or a fish pie. This time they’re cooked briefly in cava with chilli, garlic & parsley and served on toast.[Read more]

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Broad beans with ham & lemon

I am still on a Spanish buzz! I just can’t get enough of tapas. This dish was inspired by habas con jamon (broad beans with ham) that we had in Spain but using what I had to hand – bacon. We had it twice in Spain. The first time was very disappointing in Plaza Nueva in Granada, in a bodegas which looked great but unfortunately wasn’t. This, incidentally appears to be very rare in Andalucia! The beans were overcooked and I couldn’t even see any ham. However, we had it again and it was delicious, nice bright fresh broad beans amidst chunks of serrano ham, one for the notebook to try and recreate when I got back to London.

It’s broad bean season so I had no problem getting these fresh. At this stage they’re quite large but still tender. To get the best from the broad beans be sure to double pod them. This takes a while but it is worth removing the rubbery skin, especially from larger ones (you can leave it on smaller ones).

Broad beans and ham are a great combination and the lemon lifts it and makes it really summery. It’s a very nice snack with a glass of cava. I will stress that this is my interpretation of the dish and not a traditional spanish recipe. I do intend to dig out the traditional one though and will post the results here.[Read more]

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All’s quiet on the photography front

Woe is me! My camera is dead! Please excuse me while over the coming days I post crappy photos to accompany my food. I am lost without it. It came to what I hope was a near fatal end on the hard stone floor of a moorish fortress in Almeria. Some feral cats took me by surprise at the water machine and the rest, as they say, is history. Sigh. Someone has kindly loaned me a camera until I get it fixed/replaced but I am still getting used to it and the results are not up to speed yet.

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Eating in Granada: Taberna el 22

We landed in Granada on our first night a little weary following our delayed flight and very hungry! We had arranged to rent an apartment in the old Medina facing the Alhambra. I called our new landlord, Pedro, a really lovely guy, who gave me the briefest of Spanish courses advising how to pronounce Aljibe de los Tomasas in the Albaicin, our new address, a beautiful old moorish quarter set in a hillside facing the alhambra. Despite repeating it 14 times for him on the bus, I was not in the least confident (nor was he!), however, the taxi driver understood me and off we sped up the labyrinthine streets. It was midnight at this stage and Pedro advised that not many places would be open for food but we could try the place at the foot of the medina opposite the 16th-century Iglesia de San Gregorio church, I must find out the address but unfortunately I was too absorbed in my eating and drinking to think of it! Unfortunately, we were too late for tapas so we only had drinks, but, we came back the following night with some friends for more.

There’s a great Andalucian tradition of providing free tapas with drinks. We didn’t go explicitly for food but were hopeful we’d get some nibbles. Over four rounds of drinks we were given four tapas: a lovely rice dish, some cracked wheat with dried fruit and other bits, jamon on bread with green olives, and spinach and pine kernals on bread. Delicious and all free with very reasonably priced drinks. The bar itself has alot of character, it’s very small but has a large terrace where most people sit. If you’re ever in Granada I would advise a visit.

Some pics of the food follow, I will attempt to recreate in the coming weeks![Read more]

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Tapas for tea

We had to do something to lift our spirits! The harsh reality of leaving our little Spanish seaside town and returning to the urban jungle that is London was a little hard to bear. Especially as it was raining. I love London but that contrast is too extreme and sudden. So, we decided we’d have a little Spanish night. We got home a little late so we didn’t have alot of time and limited it to two tapas and some Spanish rioja that we had brought back with us. We settled on a a Tortilla Española (or Tortilla de Patatas, Spanish Omelette) and Chorizo cooked in cider.

I have been making tortilla for years, it’s one of my favourite dishes, it takes a little time but you can squeeze it in after work, it’s a relatively low maintenance dish. Chorizo with cider is new, we had chorizo with cider in Andalucia and it was the first time I tried it. It was delicious, the sweetness of the cider combined with the intensity and sharpness of the chorizo. I have cooked it in red wine before so figured it can’t be much different and went with that. Easy peasy, slice the chorizo, fry it in olive oil, add approx. 150 ml cider and a bay leaf or two and braise for 10 minutes or so.

The tortilla requires a little more explanation. In Spain, they cook the potatoes and onion (otional) in about half a litre of olive oil. I haven’t done it that way yet but will soon. For those worried about the grease, don’t worry, they drain it off before adding the eggs :-)[Read more]

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A taste of Spain

Pic: Tapas in Granada, from top left: Jamon Serrano, Queso Manchego, Chorizo in cider, Artichokes with anchovies, Tortilla.

Ah, Andalucia! London seems so grim by comparison. It’s a wonderful part of the world: sunshine, sea, fabulous food, beautiful wine, lots of cheese & lovely people. We went to Granada for 3 nights, then, headed east to Agua Amarga on the coast for a weeks relaxation and a friends wedding. It was a great experience on many fronts, very relaxing, great & very reasonable food and wine, lots to see, cultural things to do, lots of friends about and a great wedding to finish it all off with.

I haven’t had a chance to get into the kitchen yet but I intend to this evening. I have lots of Spanish treats to tuck into: chorizo, morcilla, manchego, luscious olive oil, rioja and more. I did cook quite a bit in Spain though and will leave you with this quick and very tasty bite.

One evening we wanted something quick to snack on with wine. We had a fridge full of goodies, you’d think were there for a month with a family of ten! So, we pulled out a fresh loaf of bread, the jamon iberico, chorizo iberico, a big juicy tomato and a fine wedge of queso manchego. Jamon Iberico is a cured ham made from the black iberian pig (or cerdo negro) and made only in Spain. These pigs feed mainly on acorns in southern Spain. There are different grades of the ham but the best, bellota, comes from pigs that are only fed acorns after an inital few weeks fattening with barley and corn. The meat is flecked with fat and is delicious. Chorizo iberico is also made from iberico pork. It’s very expensive outside of Spain so we made the most of the cheaper prices in Spain. Queso Manchego (manchego cheese) is a sheeps milk cheese from La Mancha. It’s aged for approximately 3 months – the older the better for me, I love it when it gets a crumbly crystalline texture.

Bread with jamon iberico, chorizo, tomato and manchego
(Excuse my photo, my camera broke so this is taken with another one)

This is so simple. It relies on good quality ingredients so be sure to get the best you can.

Ingredients (for 4 people snacking):

Chorizo (Iberico if you can) sliced,
and/or
Jamon (Iberico if you can but serrano is also very good), sliced
a big juicy tomato, sliced
a loaf of crusty bread, sliced
Manchego cheese or similar, sliced
a good extra virgin olive oil

Method:

It couldn’t be simpler, put a slice of cheese, one of the meats and tomato on the bread and drizzle with generous amounts of a good extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy with a glass of rioja or whatever your tipple is.

I am off to the kitchen now to indulge. I’ll post some recipes over the coming days.

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Leon – healthy fast food disappointment in Carnaby St

Leon should be a good place to eat. When it first opened it won the Observer Food Monthly Newcomer of the Year Award. Lots of people were talking about it. Fresh healthy food that isn’t overpriced and is very quick. Sounds like my cup of tea! We had to try it. We first went about a year ago and it was a bitterly disappointing experience – the food was just warm, the bowls it was served in were chipped, the service was haphazard and it wasn’t all that cheap in reality. We thought we’d try it again, perhaps it was an off day? They were expanding and maybe they’d sent some experienced staff to start up a new branch? Plus, everyone else seems to like Leon. So, we went yesterday evening to the the Carnaby St branch for a bite.[Read more]

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Roast butternut squash, coconut & chilli soup

This isn’t a quick dish like my normal Monday-Friday dishes. It takes a little time as I like to roast the butternut squash. Roasting intensifies the flavour and leaves a beautiful sweet syrup on the roasting tray which I put in my soup. I also add chilli and herbs when roasting it which on it’s own makes a lovely side dish. Any pumpkin/squash will do, I just happened to have a butternut squash. The smaller the better, the smaller ones have a better flavour, large pumpkins tend to have more water. We cooked a giant pumpkin some years ago and while it was great fun and a challenge to use all of it, it just didn’t have that lovely sweet flavour of the smaller ones. I would love another one though. A friends neighbour grows them on his allotment. It was so big it had to be delivered in an old cement bag, it wouldn’t fit in a normal refuse sack. And we only got a quarter of the pumpkin that time.

This is a very comforting and warming soup. I made it up using what I had to hand so think I’ll tweak it in future iterations. I think some lemongrass would work well for example…

Roasting the butternut squash

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Santa plum tomato, avocado & manchego toasts

Santa plum tomato, avocado & manchego toasts

This isn’t exactly complicated but it was so pretty and easy I thought I’d blog it :-)

On a recent trip to the market I spotted beautiful baby santa plum tomatoes. I bought a pound of them with the intention of making a tomato, basil and mozarella salad. But, I forgot to buy the mozarella. So, I quickly threw these toasts together instead:

Chop half the tomatoes & 1 avocado. Season, then add some fresh lemon juice to taste. Toast the bread on one side and lightly toast the second side until slightly crisp but not brown (this ensures they won’t go too soggy when you add the avocado/tomato). Add your tomato and avocado mixture and sprinkle some grated manchego on top. Grill until the cheese is melted. Eat![Read more]

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Pasta with potato, red lentil and pumpkin

Pasta with potato, red lentil and pumpkin

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted anything but I’ve got a few things to post from the weekend. I’ll start with a pasta dish that I made yesterday, one of my comfort food favourites. I tend to make this by eye and by tastebud, adjusting it as I go so feel free to be flexible with the recipe. My mood also affects it, sometimes I like it very soup-y with alot of stock, other times I prefer the pasta to be the star of the show. Yesterday was a pasta day!

I got the idea for it many years ago when I visited Italy with some friends, one of whom was a local. I got many ideas that holiday, we had some wonderful food, much of it cooked by my friends boyfriends Dad whom we were staying with. It was my first time having homemade pumpkin gnocchi and proper neapolitan mozarella di bufala. It was out of this world. You just don’t get that mozarella anywhere else and I have tried very hard to find one that matches it. The shopkeeper that sold it used to travel to the farm at 4am every morning and if I remember right used to sell out by lunch time. The slices of mozarella were like big, juicy mozarella steaks. It was also my first time having pasta e patate, which was a revelation! It’s now one of my favourite dishes much to everyones amusement, me being irish and the dish consisting mainly of potatoes, sigh. It’s a favourite for sick days and hangovers especially, it’s like eating a cushion for your stomach :)[Read more]