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Category: dairy free

Paleo Takeout {Book Review + Recipe, Plus a Giveaway!}

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I’ve been in a no-cooking rut lately … in all fairness life has been topsy turvy for over a year and especially this summer, where I have been travelling in Europe, and unfortunately it wasn’t for leisure.  During this time I have been playing musical kitchens (and musical countries), and at some points have had no kitchen at all … I’m so eager to be reunited with my kitchen appliances, gadgets and having the freedom to experiment again … but in the meantime, and to use the popular vernacular, I’ve fallen off of the Paleo bandwagon so many times, I have lost count…and probably have a few bruises as proof (for example, my hair has seen much healthier days).

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I’ve eaten bread. Because eating a sandwich has never been my thing but convenience got the better of me. Mea Culpa. Over the summer, I’ve eaten wheat-flour-coated fried seafood in Spain. I actually didn’t have a beer in Germany, but ate a breaded schnitzel. (But these are lesser evils as I was travelling. And that’s a valid excuse.) Mea Culpa. Returning to the US though has thrown me overboard: I’ve engaged in the art of rummaging through kitchen drawers seeking the perfect takeout menu. And worst of all, I’ve ordered and eaten the stuff. And not just once. A few times. Yes. And I had a kitchen, so there was no excuse. Except that takeout is so easy. So convenient … I’ve had pizza, filled with gluten and possibly a myriad of other things I generally avoid. I’ve eaten Chinese takeout (it’s better not to even go there). And Sushi takeout. Yes, I confess with remorse. But like I said, it was easy. It was convenient. And I couldn’t resist. Mea Culpa. I could keep ‘fessing up… but the important thing to take from the lesson that I have learned is that my stomach and digestive system can no longer take all the “junk”, no matter how irresistible the food may be or how lazy I am feeling or how convenient it may seem. I will regret for hours the few moments of pleasure these foods (and experiences) bring me.

Therefore, I must renounce the temptation of convenience in the name of trying to fuel my creative juices to encourage my return to a stable Paleo lifestyle and improved health. The problem is the juices are not really flowing and with a small kitchen, no appliances beyond a coffee maker and a toaster, I’ve been totally uninspired until this past week. The culprit source of inspiration is none other than takeout food!

carnitasWhat? How can this be? …

A couple of weeks ago, Russ Crandall offered his new cookbook Paleo Takeout: Restaurant Favorites Without the Junk for review and I jumped on the opportunity. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into, but I did have a feeling that disappointed I would not be … what I didn’t know was how pleasantly surprised I would be and just what a great inspiration this book truly is! The creative juices are back and with a vengeance!

I have followed Russ, aka The Domestic Man, on Instagram for a couple of years now. I’m not sure how I discovered him, probably through one of the other Paleo/Primal big names, such as Bill and Hayley Staley from Primal Palate or maybe the Paleo Parents or Nom Nom Paleo…the point is that I have always found Russ’ approach to Paleo intriguing – Russ eats white rice; and I believe you will not find a single recipe for a dessert on his blog and definitely there are none in this cookbook! That to me is pretty awesome. (Ironically, I have not been following his blog regularly; something that now I’ve already changed by subscribing to the email list.) Russ is a doyen in his own right and a wealth of information and ideas! He is also what I would call a “common sense eater”.

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I have been Paleo/Primal since the end of 2012; and since then, I’ve learned, altered my template, and have seen a number of changes in the dogma (for example, white potatoes were still vilified when I started and are now widely accepted as a whole food and safe starch). What I love about Russ’ perspective is that it is not pigeonholed in strict theories. It’s an approach personally adapted to fit his health and lifestyle needs and those of his family; and it’s constantly evolving as he’s learning. Russ brings together in his “common sense” approach all of these concepts: Paleo/Primal, The Perfect Health Diet, Weston A. Price Foundation principles, A Whole Foods Approach and JERF – Just Eat Real Foods. As I mentioned, he and his family regularly eat white rice for example and include healthy dairy products. You can learn more about Russ and his philosophy here.

4corners

He goes a step further with a formula he has created called “The Four Corners Plate”. This is described on his website and in Paleo Takeout and is a useful template for those starting off in this healthy and nutritious diet/lifestyle.

Paleo Takeout is Russ’ second cookbook (the first is Ancestral Table) and with which he just made the New York Times Bestseller list! (Congratulations Russ!) Russ’ story is amazing, having suffered a stroke at age 24, and fully recovering and then finding a healing path for his autoimmune condition through the Paleo diet. His blog is full of delicious recipes and health tips, presented in an elegant, no-nonsense fashion with an historical and international approach which makes reading it a pleasure and a learning experience.

And Paleo Takeout: Restaurant Favorites Without the Junk is a cookbook you will want to get now and keep forever! It’s a cookbook every respectable home cook must have. I kid you not. I’m not using a marketing gimmick. I truly and really mean it. It doesn’t matter if you are Paleo or not. This book is amazing. You’re going to want to make every single recipe out of it, and on top of that you’re going to want to experiment with your own ideas (kind of like I did below in the picture).

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Paleo Takeout is like a condensed and very easy to understand cooking course in Asian dishes and other extras. Included are tutorials on how to wrap Asian rolls, how to bread meats and use different batters for frying (all healthy and Paleo-friendly), how to make crispy fried chicken, and how to make Asian meatballs (beef, chicken, pork and fish too!). Essential techniques such as stir-frying, grilling and thickening sauces with starch slurry are explained and demystified. And there are recipes for pizza dough, flatbread and hamburger buns!

Most of the ingredients are readily available in most larger-metropolis supermarkets; and the harder to find ones (such as possibly the Chinese cooking wine, mirin or rice vinegar) can always be ordered on Amazon or via Thrive Market if you’re a member; or if you have access to a local Asian market, I’m sure you can find them there. Once you stock up on the basics, you will not be able to put this book down. Maybe even before stocking up, you’ll experiment with the things you do have on hand inspired by Russ’ scrumptious recipes, like I did last week when I opened the book to page 59 and saw the picture of Chow Mein. I had completely different vegetables in the fridge, but was so determined to eat Chow Mein that night (just like takeout), that I adapted it as you can see on my Instagram feed.

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All the recipes have easy to follow instructions, many of which are accompanied by suggestions for experimenting with more vegetables and different ingredients, encouraging the home chef to expand his/her knowledge and explore away, taking home cooking of our favourite and traditional takeout staples to another level!

And if you’re thinking you’re going to be stuck in the kitchen for hours prepping and cooking, think again! What makes Paleo Takeout even more amazing and a must-have cookbook is that the majority of the recipes can be made in record time! Forty-one (41) of the recipes can be enjoyed “Fridge to Face” in 30 minutes! Another 30+ recipes take between 30-60 minutes to throw together. The marinated dishes, although recommended to plan ahead for more intense flavours, can actually be enjoyed in less time. And lastly, there are about 40 recipes which you can make in batches, freeze and then quickly reheat for instant and very convenient satisfaction! You can’t beat that. Not even with real takeout! And remember, you’ll be cooking with wholesome ingredients, “giving you all the gratification and none of the regret”!

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At the back of the cookbook is the pictorial recipe index, which is captivating and reads like a Asian/American takeout menu that has me salivating for all of the dishes since I opened the book. It is here, in the index, where I am incited to discover the essence of this cookbook and where I find myself …

… transported to Chinatown in NYC about to order a bowl of Singapore Noodles. Or should I first start with a bowl of Hot & Sour Soup? I’m always intrigued by how the flavours are such a contrast between the slightly sour notes and the spiciness. And I rather would like something warm. There’s Egg Drop Soup. Egg Foo Young. General Tso’s Chicken. An American favourite. Moo Goo Gai Pan. Moo Shu Pork …

I flip to the next pages. OMG! Wait. Could it be that I’m back in Hanoi about to eat Pho and bite into a fresh and fragrantly sultry Summer Roll? My eyes are starting to get bigger than my stomach…make that pho, summer rolls and an exotic Green Papaya Salad. Yes, definitely. I’ve even made that one at home after my trip to Vietnam a few years ago. I know that will not disappoint.

Pad Thai. That’s it. I’m having that. I love pad thai. Can you tell I have a penchant for sweet, salty and sour tang?

japarec

My eyes are quick though. I am back in Barnes (my neighbourhood of London) and about to order Chicken Tikka Masala from the little Indian restaurant down the street from my flat.  Or maybe I’ll have the Lamb Vindaloo. There’s Kare Kare too.

No… stop, there’s Pancit and Lumpia! I haven’t had those in ages! I used to eat them regularly when I was growing up in Spain and had what seemed like a gazillion Filipino friends. I remember learning how to wrap the rolls and selling the lumpia for our senior year fundraisers.

Alas! The takeout menu pages continue. Aren’t all takeout menus like being presented with a bunch of snippets of your favourite novels? There are more mouth-watering dishes. I can’t decide if I want to be American tonight. A bunch of crispy and juicy Fried Chicken in a Basket would be so delicious right now. Or maybe I could go for a pizza with extra garlic and a bunch of cool toppings like we get in Mystic… with this pizza I know I wouldn’t have a stomach ache afterward. Maybe I’ll have a Burger Party for two instead. And indulge in some Tzatziki Sauce to go with my burgers.

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No that’s for another occasion. I’m doing Mexican tonight. The succulent cilantro-topped Pork Carnitas with a flatbread that looks just like soft corn tortilla shells look divine. Ummm…but I think I saw something a couple of pages back that was more irresistible.

I flip backwards because that’s what I always do with a menu, especially a takeout one. I read through it once and then I go back through it again. I must make sure that I get the best meal. There’s so much from which to choose… and I’m not sure what tickles my fancy today, right now, because takeout is like that: I can have whatever I want. And tomorrow I can pick and choose something new, exotic and different. And I’m losing patience with myself as I’m getting hungry. And everything is enticing.

Paleo Takeout is like no other takeout though. What makes it unique is that you know the ingredients of this takeout are not going to upset your tummy. You won’t have heartburn. You can eat gluten-, chemical- and guilt-free. And your health will thank you for it….

I’ve never been to Japan or Korea. Sure, I eat sushi all the time. I’ve made kimchi. But there are more intriguing dishes on this menu in this cookbook. The Haemul Pajeon or Korean Seafood Scallion Pancake looks beautiful. The ingredients sound fascinating together. There’s Dashi too. Ramen and Miso. Gyudon and something called Okonomiyaki! Yes, let’s grab the chopsticks Russ the publishing house so graciously included and take a bite … but I have to go back to the first page again. There was something there that is calling me …

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I just landed on Gerrard Street and the neighbouring blocks. London’s Chinatown is boisterous and crowded, yet elegant and much cleaner than its NYC counterpart. Here one can find a range of very authentic Chinese, Korean and Thai food. I see myself walking toward the red arches and then my eyes stop at some crispy Spring Rolls. I love spring rolls. And there’s the Chow Mein that inspired my dinner last week. And there’s Vegetables in White Sauce. Honey Sesame Chicken. Szechuan Beef and Bam Bam Shrimp. Love that name. Oh my! There’s more…

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. Now that I have never tried. “They say” it’s a Chinese-American dish and a takeout favourite. Lobster sauce. Are there lobster pieces in that? Or maybe some sort of lobster seasoning? Chinese soups and sauces are mysterious to me. How can there possibly be such sophisticated combinations of flavours in those sauces that are almost translucent yet so precisely thickened? … I’m having that. I could never replicate that at home, right? That makes it more tantalising.

But wait! I’m not on Gerrard Street. And I’m actually privy to the secret behind the sauce enigma. Shhh… you can be too… and you can make it tonight instead of having takeout! And you can’t beat the timing on this one. Twenty minutes from fridge to fork (and no lobster required)!

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Russ is letting me share with you a taste of what you can find in this amazing cookbook. Below you can find the recipe for Shrimp with Lobster sauce, which we’ve enjoyed now a couple of times and I’m sure you will too.

But wait, it gets better. You can be the proud owner of your own Paleo Takeout: Restaurant Favorites Without the Junk by entering my very first giveaway. However as there will only be one lucky winner, I would urge you to buy this cookbook as it will become a reference in your kitchen and you will never, ever want to rummage through your drawers again in search for a takeout menu, much less order from one!

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce

“To be honest, I had never heard of this dish until my family moved to the East Coast in 2008. I first ordered it out of curiosity; what the heck is lobster sauce, and why are they selling it for so cheap? … Turns out that lobster is a Cantonese-inspired dish made with broth and eggs, similar to other sauces that are poured over lobster dishes (there’s the connection!).”

~ Russ Crandall, The Domestic Man

Ingredients, for 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

For the Slurry:

  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot starch (tapioca starch can also work)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

For the Sauce:

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine
  • 2 teaspoons tamari
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 pounds (c. 1 kilo) raw shrimp, peeled and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, rinsed in cool water and drained
  • 3 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 green onions, sliced

Method

Stir together the arrowroot starch and cold water to create a slurry, then set aside.

In a stockpot, combine the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the sauce is simmering, add half of the arrowroot starch slurry and stir until thickened, about 1 minute, adding more slurry if needed. Add the shrimp, carrots, peas and mushrooms, return to a simmer, and simmer until the shrimp are just pink, about 1 minute.

Slowly pour the eggs though a fork into the sauce. Whisk gently with a fork to prevent the eggs from clumping, then allow to cook through, about 30 seconds. Stir in the green onions and serve.

Note: Dried shiitake mushrooms can be used in this dish; just soak them in warm water for 30 minutes before slicing.

Note from The Saffron Girl: I don’t like peas and I didn’t have shiitake mushrooms available. Instead, I used some leftover fresh cabbage that I had, slicing it julienne style and thinly sliced some brown button mushrooms. Because the cabbage is a bit tougher than the peas, I first allowed it to cook in the sauce’s liquid ingredients until almost tender (about 7 minutes). I then added the slurry and continued with Russ’ instructions. Also, I didn’t have Chinese cooking wine, and instead used half the amount stated in the recipe of regular (light) red cooking wine; hence the slightly darker colour. To compensate for the change of flavours, I added a bit more tamari than Russ calls for. 

This dish is really tasty and versatile. I used the leftovers as a sauce over some pork chops, as you can see in one of the pictures above. Delicious!

*****

G I V E A W A Y

To win your copy of Paleo Takeout: Restaurant Favorites Without the Junk, please follow these instructions:

  1. Sign up to receive The Saffron Girl newsletter (Email subscription).
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Please use Rafflecopter to log your entries and unlock extra bonus entries!

A Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: No purchase is necessary to win. This giveaway is open to everyone worldwide. However, it is void where prohibited by law. There are 3 mandatory entries and 4 optional/bonus entry opportunities. The giveaway will be open from Thursday, 3 September 12:00am until Saturday, 19 September 12:00am. 

A winner will be chosen randomly through Rafflecopter. I will announce the lucky winner on Monday, 21 September. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me with his/her full name, complete postal address and phone number (please include the country code). Please make sure to check your spam folder in case the email should go there. The email will be coming from thesaffrongirl [at] gmail.com. Should the winner not respond within this timeframe, a new winner will be chosen at random. The winner’s contact information will be forwarded to Victory Belt Publishing to send out the prize. The Saffron Girl is not responsible for lost, stolen or misplaced prize.

Good luck!

Sweet Potato Savoury Tart

Sweet potatoes are something I’ve grown to like more since I started with the Paleo lifestyle. I used to equate them with one of my grandmother’s sweet treats. She was a Type II diabetic developing the disease sometime in her late 40s, and attributed acquiring the disease from all the raw honey and sweets she consumed when she lived in Portugal.

She was rail thin, ate like food was going out of style (my father thinks the same of my appetite), and was relatively quite healthy otherwise. She died at the young age of 90. Bless her soul, she was the funniest person I’ve known and had a huge influence on my life… but that’s a story for another day.

Back then, between school and friends and going out, I didn’t pay attention to learning more about how diet affected her illness. I thought it was incurable, one more malady that called for medical treatment. She wasn’t overly strict and only required one small pill of insulin a day to maintain her status quo. But I do recall that she avoided refined sugar, some fruits were off limits such as bananas and the plump, juicy oranges from our orchard, white potatoes were an infrequent side dish for her, and she also limited her intake of bread, picos and regañada (all three which she loved – picos are round breadsticks and regañada is a form of flat bread used to accompany tapas and meals in Spain).

Fortunately for my grandmother, my mother was an excellent home cook, who made sure we ate a traditional Mediterranean diet, which for the most part is very healthy. If my grandmother were alive today, I would be advocating the Paleo lifestyle to her, of course.

I was really into baking as a teenager growing up in Spain, so I used to make desserts without sugar for her. And as she would say, her eyes would go after all the delicious foods she wasn’t supposed to eat. One of her favourite treats was baked sweet potatoes, boniatos, with a drizzle of raw honey and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. I wasn’t particularly fond of this dessert as I found it too rich. Too everything really (my youngest niece seems to share this predilection – she hates sweet potatoes).

Fast forward many years… and they are a staple in my kitchen. Funny how that happens with a lot of foodstuff, no? Nonetheless, I don’t use them that often as I still find them too sweet. But I do see the benefits of consuming them every once in a while.  The other day, I saw a recipe for a sweet potato and apple pie and loved the concept of the dough being made with this vegetable (and no refined sugar), especially since I had three sweet potatoes kind of just hanging around waiting to be used. And we’re clearing out the kitchen since we have to move soon.

So, I created a savoury tart instead with which to better appease my palate. I hope you enjoy! Que aproveches!

Sweet Potato Savoury Tart 

Ingredients, for a large 9×11 tart

1 3/4 cups cooked and mashed sweet potato (about 2 medium)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
2 small leeks, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup extra virgen olive oil
prosciutto
tomato slices
freshly ground pepper

Method

Heat oven to 375F (190C). Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a sheet of parchment. Bake for about one hour or until done. (Check with a fork for tenderness.)

Place another sheet of parchment inside the ovenproof 9×11 tart pan/baking dish.

While the sweet potatoes are baking: In a medium skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onions and leeks and poach until they are translucent. Set aside.

Once the sweet potatoes are baked, scoop out the pulp and mash. Spoon into a food processor. Add the eggs, almond flour, thyme and sea salt. Blend well. The mixture will be thick. Spoon onto the parchment inside the tart pan and spread evenly.

Top the sweet potato base with the onions and leeks. Then add some prosciutto and tomato slices. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and an additional generous pinch of thyme. Bake at 375F (190C) for approximately an hour or until done. (Check with a toothpick; if it comes out clean, it’s ready.)

Makes a delicious side dish for lamb, veal or poultry. We ate ours with lamb steaks.

Coconut Milk or Basic Flan Recipe

There are times that one forgets how the simple things in life are the best. Flan is one of the easiest desserts to make and always tastes good and looks impressive on a plate.

We were invited to lunch by my parent’s friends the other day and my father accustomed to my mother’s cooking and social habits, suggested that I make a flan. A custard as our English friend told us. In the US, whenever we had parties or social gatherings, my mother was known for her delicious flan, paella and other traditional Spanish dishes. My sister-in-law’s is also renown for her culinary talents amongst our friends. And oftentimes, flan is her star dish.

So, I acquiesced and indulged my father with a flan, albeit dairy-free, which didn’t make him too happy. (He much prefers regular milk flan.) Our friends enjoyed it too and because I was feeling guilty, I made it again yesterday, this time with cow’s milk just for him.

Whenever a recipe calls for just a few ingredients, you know that what is important is the quality of such ingredients. Pasture-raised, organic eggs and the best quality milk and honey make this dessert a special treat that is not only delicious, but also very healthy.

I personally love the flavour of coconut flan, but for a more neutral flan, I would suggest using cow’s milk. I’ve tried using almond milk in the past, and find the texture too granular, granted it was homemade. Also, you can be creative and add some fruit or other flavourings and come up with your own special recipe! Like I did here.

This is the basic recipe for flan; and it can be made with any type of milk you prefer, although remember it should always be full-fat for better results and taste.

Coconut Milk Flan

Ingredients

6 large eggs
750ml coconut milk (preferably canned)
1/2 cup raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup raw honey
1 tablespoon water

Method

You’ll need a large ovenproof dish in which you can place another ovenproof dish or bowl or individual molds for baking the flan au bain marie.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).

On the stovetop, in a medium pan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat the 1/3 cup raw honey and 1 tablespoon water. Cook, stirring constantly until caramelised but still liquid, about 4 minutes. The mixture will bubble up quite a bit and also turn brown as you cook. Do not over cook, however, or you’ll end up with hard caramel in the pan. Pour into the flan mold/s and coat the bottom. Set aside. Place the pot immediately in the sink and fill with warm water. I do this to make it easier to clean later.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and raw honey. Once they are well blended, add the coconut milk and vanilla extract and mix well. Pour into the mold/s. Place the mold inside the ovenproof dish, large enough to hold the flan mold and be filled with water. Fill the outside glass dish to about 1/2 of the side of the flan mold. Do not over-fill, or the water can boil over inside the egg mixture and ruin the flan.

For a large mold (one flan), bake for 55 minutes or until an inserted sharp knife comes out clean. For individual molds adjust the baking time (less).

Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature until the mold/s are cool enough to place in the fridge. Cool completely in the fridge before serving. When ready to serve, with a sharp knife cut away the edges of the flan from the mold. Place the serving plate on top and quickly turn over, giving it a jiggle if necessary. The flan should come out easily and look pretty on the plate.

Top with fruit, mint or edible flowers if desired.

 *****

Flan de Leche de Coco

Ingredientes

6 huevos grandes
750ml leche de coco (preferiblemente de lata)
125 ml miel cruda
1 cucharadita de las de te de extracto de vanilla
80ml miel cruda
1 cucharada grande (de las de sopa) de agua

Metódo

Nos hará falta un recipiente para el horno lo suficientemente grande para poder poner otro dentro o varios moldes/flaneras dentro al baño maria.

Precalentamos el horno a 180 grados.

Sobre la hornilla a fuego medio-alto, calentamos en una cazuela medianita 80ml de miel cruda y la cucharada de agua para hacer el caramelo líquido. Removiendo continuamente tarderemos unos 4 minutos en conseguir la textura y color deseados. Vertimos el caramelo dentro del molde/flaneras que vayamos a usar. Ponemos la cazuela dentro del fregadero y la llenamos de agua tibia para que luego nos sea mas fácil de limpiar.

En un bol, batimos los huevos y la miel. Cuando estén bien incorporados, agregamos la leche y batimos otra vez. Vertimos todo dentro del molde/flanera. Echamos agua dentro del recipiente grande, siempre teniendo en cuenta que queremos que sobre unos dedos sin agua para que cuando este en el horno no rebose al molde o la flanera estropeando el flan. Para un flan grande, horneamos unos 55 minutos o hasta que este hecho. Yo lo compruebo con un cuchillo afilado en el centro del flan.

Sacamos del  horno y del baño maria y dejamos que el flan se enfrie a temperatura ambiente hasta que podamos ponerlo en la nevera para enfriar del todo. Para servir, utilizamos un cuchillo afilado para desprender los filos del flan del molde. Le ponemos un plato por encima y le damos rapidamente la vuelta.

Se puede servir con fruta fresca, menta o incluso flores comestibles si deseamos.

Cream of Pumpkin Soup aux Herbes de Provence

The butternut squash had been laying on the counter for a couple of weeks and I kept moving it closer to the preparation area near the sink as a reminder to myself to do something with it. I love pumpkin almost anything, but I really wanted to avoid making another soup.

As I’ve not been too inspired lately or have been blogging frequently enough, I wanted to create something special… but I ended up surprising myself with soup. Sometimes the quick and easy wins over; and as it was so tasty, I decided it’s worthy of sharing.

Hope you enjoy!

CREAM OF PUMPKIN SOUP AUX HERBES DE PROVENCE

Ingredients, for 4:

1/2 large butternut squash (the whole squash was about 750g), roasted
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, julienned
1/4 cup butter (I used Kerrygold)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups filtered water
1 tablespoons herbes de Provence
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste if desired

Method:

I roasted the pumpkin split in half, shell side facing up, for almost 50 minutes at 180C (350F). You can do this in advance to have ready for the soup or other recipes. With the shell facing upwards, you avoid browning the flesh and have better tasting pumpkin meat.

Place the butter and olive oil in a large pot and melt over low heat. Add the garlic, onion, and celery and poach for about 8-10 minutes until tender. Add the tomatoes and cook an additional 3 minutes so the flavours blend. Add the meat of 1/2 pumpkin and give it a good stir to blend well.

Add the coconut milk and stir well. Remove from heat and with an immersion blender, puree all the ingredients. You can do this directly in the pot. Return the pot to the stove and add the filtered water.  Add the herbes de Provence and sea salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and allow to warm through on low heat.

If desired you can serve with pieces of hard-boiled egg, sautéed shrimp or other seafood.

*****

SOPA DE CALABAZA A LAS HIERBAS DE LA PROVENZA

Ingredientes, para 4:

1/2 calabaza (tipo butternut squash de unos 750g entera), horneada
3 dientes de ajo, cortados
3 pencas de apio, cortadas finamente
3 tomates medianos, pelados y cortados a cuartos
1 cebolla mediana, cortada en juliana
1/4 de la taza de mantequilla (como unos 30g, yo use de la marca Kerrygold)
2 cucharadas soperas, o un poquito mas, de aceite de oliva
250ml de leche de coco
500ml de agua
sal y pimienta a gusto

Como hacer la sopa:

Hornea la calabaza a 180C unos 50 minutos. Yo la puse en la fuente con el lado de la piel hacia arriba, así se hornea sin quemar la pulpa y tiene mejor sabor.

En un olla onda, ponemos la mantequilla y el aceite de oliva a derretir sobre fuego lento. Agregamos los ajos, el apio y la cebolla y pochamos unos 8-10 minutos hasta que esten tiernos. Añadimos los tomatoes y pochamos unos 3 minutos mas para que se mezclen los sabores.

A continuación, echamos la pulpa o carne de la media calabaza dentro de la olla. Le damos una vuelta con una cuchara de madera para mezclar bien. Añadimos la leche de coco y volvemos a mover bien.

Retiramos del fuego y con una mini-pimer hacemos un puré. Esto se puede hacer dentro de la misma olla. Volvemos a poner sobre fuego lento y agregamos el agua, la hierbas de la Provenza, y salpimentamos a gusto. Dejamos que se caliente bien para servir.

Podemos acompañar la sopa con algo de guarnición, como un huevo duro picado, unas gambas salteadas o algún otro marisco.

Paleo Dutch Pannenkoeken

If you have ever tried a Dutch pannenkoek, you know how much fun they are to make and eat. Dutch pancakes are a watered-down version of the American pancake, with both sweet and savoury toppings. The Dutch eat them for lunch and dinner, instead of breakfast.

In fact, my Dutch husband won’t eat a pannenkoek or any pancake before lunchtime…he keeps telling me he’s Dutch, not American, remember? I have to smile of course because he loves sweet pastries after his savoury first meal of the day.. but not the pannenkoek. 😉

We used to buy the flour mix from Koopmans every time we visited the Netherlands; but since going Paleo, I haven’t made any pannenkoek and much less from a box. This past weekend, however, I was simply in a mood for one and decided it was time to tackle the project.

I made these regular, basic almond-flour pancakes the other day and they served as the basis for the pancake dough. I simply literally watered them down and added my favourite toppings, apples and ham. I swirled some maple syrup and sprinkled some ground cinnamon over top and had a hearty first meal of the day, in a very un-Dutchable way.

You can top your pannenkoek with all sorts of things, from Gouda cheese (very typical), bacon pieces, fresh fruit, to even nuts and maybe thinly sliced vegetables, such as mushrooms (although personally, I’ve never tried it with veggies…it is a thought).

PALEO DUTCH PANNENKOEKEN

Ingredients, makes 2 large pannenkoeken:

4 eggs
1 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup filtered water
butter, coconut oil or fat of choice for frying
toppings: anything you like, but I used 1 apple, peeled and cored and sliced, and pieces of ham
maple syrup and ground cinnamon, if desired

Method:

Heat a skillet over low heat. Lightly beat the eggs with a hand whisk or fork.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Add the butter to the skillet and melt. Pour half the pancake mixture onto the skillet, making sure you cover the entire bottom of the pan (keep it as a thin layer though; you do not want a thick American pancake). Place your toppings on top of the mixture, and allow it to start bubbling before flipping over.

To flip over, I found it easy to do it like I do a Spanish tortilla: place a plate over the skillet, flip the skillet onto the plate, and then slide the pancake (cooked side on top) back into the skillet. Cook on the other side until done, a few minutes. You can also use a large spatula to flip, if you are handier than I am.

To serve, flip again, so you have the toppings on top. Drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

*****

TORTAS “PANNENKOEKEN” HOLANDESAS

Ingredientes, para como 2 pannenkoeken:

4 huevos
1 taza (250ml) almendras molidas (muy finamente molidas, lo que se llama harina de almendras)
2 cucharaditas de zumo de limón
1/2 cuchardita de bicarbonato de soda
una pizca de sal marina
1/4 taza (60ml) de agua
toppings: se le puede poner lo que a uno le guste, pero yo utilicé algo muy típico y que me gusta mucho: una manzana, pelada y cortada, y algo de jamón cocido
mantequilla, aceite de coco o la grasa que prefieras, para hacer las tortitas

Como hacer los pannenkoeken holandeses:

Calienta una sartén sobre fuego lento.  Bate un poco los huevos con un tenedor o una batidora de mano. Añade los demás ingredientes y mezcla todo bien. Pon un poco de mantequilla o aceite de coco sobre la sartén hasta que se derrita. Echa la mitad de la masa en la sartén, cubriendo bien el fondo. Agrega los toppings, a gusto.

Cuando empiece la masa a formar burbujitas, ya se le puede dar la vuelta. Yo lo hice como una tortilla española, poniendo un plato encima de la sartén y dandole la vuelta. Se vuelve a incorporar el pannenkoek con la parte hecha hacia arriba en la sartén. Se cuece unos minutos mas hasta que el otro lado también este hecho.

Para servir, se le vuelve a dar la vuelta para que queden los toppings hacia arriba. Se puede servir con sirope de arce y un poco de canela molida, si se desea.

San Nicolas and Chestnut & Drunken Raisins Muffins

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

…are synonymous with wintery days and nights and the Yuletide season that’s upon us. For me, roasting chestnuts also brings back memories of growing up in Chipiona and my Spanish grandmother, whom we all called Tita Paca. She was one of the biggest influences in my life and someone that continues to be very important.

Today, which is the holiday of San Nicolás (Saint Nicholas), I remember her even more than other days. For Tita Paca, San Nicolás was very special. We used to do the traditional 3-Monday journey many times during the year, and on December 6th especially, we’d always try to go to church to visit him.

I’m not a very religious person, and in many ways, neither was my grandmother. Yet, she truly believed in Saint Nicholas and how he had helped many people during his lifetime, and as a saint, also helped our family steer away from harm…

Leovigildo used to travel the country roads on his horse-carriage from town to town in the provinces of Sevilla and Huelva, taking with him important items, money and foodstuff during the late 1800s. During those times, there were a lot of bandoleros – robbers – on horseback on the country roads. They were always waiting for the right moment to attack travellers and steal what they could. 

Leovigildo grew up in the town of Castilleja del Campo, in a humble home, where his mother used to have the portrait of an old man, with a white beard and a bishop’s hat on the wall. Leovigildo would ask his mother who that old man was, and she would always say, “just a saint… carry on”. And Leovigildo did, carry on. He wasn’t a religious man, in fact more of a republican and non-believer, but always an honourable and good person, never doing harm to anyone and always being just and kind. He was the father of one of my grandmother’s best friends, Carmelita. 

After Leovigildo married and already had a few children, he continued with his business. His wife used to always tell him to not travel at night and be careful, since the bandoleros were always a menace and he was always in danger of being assaulted. But Leovigildo had little choice if he wanted to keep his family afloat.

One night, whilst travelling the country roads, in darkness and all alone, he heard voices and noises… and then he saw a bright light ahead of him on the road. He thought of turning back, but couldn’t because the carriage couldn’t turn around. He used to boast that he was not scared of anything…but on this particular night, he feared for his life. He knew the bandoleros were many and very prepared, with lights and all… so he braced himself and carried on. 

Not being a religious man, he didn’t pray or ask God to help him. 

As he entered the bright lights, he saw an old man with a white beard sitting on the side of the road…and just then, Leovigildo turned to the man and said, “I know you! You’re the man in the painting that my mother has always had.” Just as he pronounced those words, the old man with a beard disappeared and so did the bright lights. 

He made his way home on that evening and many others, never, ever being assaulted or harmed…and never once telling anyone about this incident. Years later, when he was very old and agonising for days – the doctors kept saying that each day was to be his last – he found the strength to tell his granddaughter, Violeta, and my mother, who was also like a granddaughter to him, about the story. He still couldn’t really understand why that old man, Saint Nicholas, had chosen to appear to him on that dark night so long ago.. but he thought he owed him being safe all those years and wanted someone to know. 

Leovigildo died a few days later… on December 6th, the day of Saint Nicholas. 

This is a true story. One that my grandmother would tell me and my mother has told me over and over. And one that gives me goosebumps every time I remember it. San Nicolás also “gave signs” to my grandmother…and she believed that he answered all her questions that she would pose during the 3-Monday walks to see him at the Santuario de Regla, in Chipiona.

I have to admit I believe in him too, although maybe not quite the same way my grandmother did…and what I truly believe in, is his message of goodness and protection of those in need.

Today, on the day of Saint Nicholas, we should all – kids from one to ninety-two – be believers… believers in dreams and doing good to others.

I love this time of year that is approaching with the festive atmosphere, the lights, the decorations, the gathering of our family and friends, and yes, the roasting of chestnuts… the ones you find on street corners from London to Sevilla.

My grandmother is no longer with us, but her soul lingers and I remember her especially today and know that San Nicolás is somehow protecting all of us.

I remember her child-like excitement whilst opening packages on Christmas, her enthusiasm for everything in life, even the smallest things like roasting chestnuts in our fireplace.

I didn’t roast the chestnuts for this recipe, but rather cooked them on the stovetop to make them moist and supple. The muffins are a delicious combination of the seasonal flavours. I hope you enjoy and dream a little today…

CHESTNUT & DRUNKEN RAISINS MUFFINS

Ingredients, makes 9 large muffins:

350g chestnuts (about 50 chestnuts, plus some extra; I put in about 5 more)*
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup moscatel or brandy**
4 yolks
4 egg whites + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup raw honey
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup almond flour

Method:

Cook the chestnuts in a large pot of boiling water, about 50 minutes. Make sure you add more water, if necessary, so the chestnuts do not burn. In the meantime, place the raisins in a bowl and cover with the moscatel.

Before the next steps, preheat oven to 180C (350F).  Prepare a large muffin tin with paper holders.

When the chestnuts are done, allow to cool before handling. Peel and purée in a food processor. Drain the raisins, reserving 2 tablespoons of moscatel. Set the raisins aside.

Add the 2 tablespoons of moscatel to the chestnuts and continue puréeing. Add the egg yolks, butter, and coconut milk and blend until smooth. Add the raw honey, orange zest, baking soda and sea salt. Pulse again until well blended.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Fold the chestnut mixture, almond flour and raisins into the egg whites until just blended.

Pour by spoonfuls into the muffin holders, about 2 spoonfuls per muffin. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and muffins are golden brown. Allow to cool before serving.

*Tip: Since you are cooking the chestnuts without peeling, add a few extra in case they are rotten or not nice on the inside. I used about 5 extra and I ended up discarding about 6 chestnuts after peeling because they were not right inside.

**If you prefer to make the recipe without alcohol, simply soak the raisins in water, orange juice or orange blossom water to make them soft.

 *****

 MUFFINS DE CASTAÑAS Y UVAS PASAS BORRACHAS

Ingredientes, para 9 muffins grandes:

350g castañas (son como unas 50, aparte yo puse unas 5 de demás)*
1/2 vaso uvas pasas
1/2 vaso moscatel o brandy**
4 yemas
4 claras + 1/2 cucharadita crema de tartar
1/3 vaso mantequilla
1/2 vaso leche de coco
1/2 cucharadita de bicarbonato de soda
1/8 cucharadita de sal fina, como una pizca
1/4 vaso de miel cruda
1 cucharada sopera de ralladura de naranja
1 vaso de harina de almendras/almendras molidas muy finas

Como hacer los muffins:

Cuece las castañas en una olla grande de agua hirviendo, como unos 50 minutos. Si hiciera falta, añade mas agua.  Entretanto, pon las uvas pasas en un bol y tapa las con el moscatel.

Antes de empezar con los siguientes pasos, precalienta el horno a 180C. Y prepara un molde de muffins grandes con su correspondientes fundas de papel.

Cuando las castañas esten listas, deja que se enfríen antes de pelar las. Pela las y haz un puré con el robot de cocina. Escure las uvas pasas, reservando 2 cucharadas de moscatel. Añade el moscatel al puré de castañas. Agrega las yemas, la mantequilla, la leche de coco y pulsa hasta que obtengas una masa suave.

Ahora incorpora la miel, la ralladura de naranja, el bicarbonato y la sal. Vuelve a pulsar hasta que este todo bien mezclado.

En un bol aparte, bate las claras de huevo con la crema tartar hasta punto de nieve. Con una espátula, pasa la crema de castañas al bol de las claras montadas. Añade la harina de almendras (almendras molidas) y las uvas pasas. Mezcla todo bien con las espátula, pero sin batir la masa. Queremos que quede con aire, pero que no se vean las claras montadas.

Echa como dos cucharadas soperas de la masa en cada molde de muffin. Hornea durante unos 35-40 minutos hasta que esten los muffins dorados y hechos. Se puede comprobar con un palillo de dientes. Deja que se enfríen antes de servir.

*Nota: Al utilizar castañas frescas sin pelar, siempre es bueno incluir unas cuantas demás por si nos sale alguna mala por dentro. Yo puse unas 5 demás, y tire como 6 después de cocer las.

**Si no quieres utilizar alcohol, en vez de moscatel, usa agua, zumo de naranja o agua de azahar para poner las pasas en remojo.

Basic Paleo Almond Flour Pancakes With Plums and a Quick Euro Trip

Last week Tuesday, I was wandering around the streets of Frankfurt, our former home, while my husband was at work nearby. That evening we drove to Austria for a workshop of his. I tagged along for this trip, as I do on others, especially when he travels by car.

I simply love a road trip particularly anywhere in Europe, where it’s easy to see a few countries within a week. Plus, it’s a great way for us to spend some quality time together and talk. Our road trips may sound a little crazy, as we pack in a lot of events, essentially work for my husband and meetings in different cities, and sometimes countries, and we also try to include some fun time. For me the journeys always mean some sightseeing on my own and lots of local food!

On this trip, we drove from London, crossing the Channel via train, and sleeping the first night in Gent, Belgium. Over the weekend, we were in the Netherlands visiting family and friends, and I even had the opportunity to write a post and share a recipe. I usually don’t take my laptop with me, but I knew I would have some free time and wanted to make sure I would get the recipe to you before returning home. I also picked up the Allerhande form “Apie Heijn” from which I plan to make a few dishes. The supermarket, really named Albert Heijn, is probably my favourite in Europe, and has the prettiest produce, meats and dairy products. They also have a lot of bio (organic) products; and it’s always a delight to shop at them in the Netherlands.

On Monday, we were near Groningen, where my husband had a dentist appointment and we later drove to Frankfurt that evening. It feels like coming home in many ways when we are in Germany, at least it does for me. And this time of year is even more special, as the Christmas markets are starting to pop up everywhere. So while my husband worked, I wandered around the city, visiting my favourite shops, enjoyed a delicious Paleo breakfast at the Hauptwache Cafe and later a Thai lunch at Coa in the Zeil Shopping Center. If you’ve been to Frankfurt, you know this building is incredibly cool. The façade is made of glass plaques, as is the ceiling and parts of the interior.

The architecture in the center of Frankfurt is an interesting mixture of renovated old buildings and very modern structures, such as this one, and the Jumeirah Hotel behind it. The city is known as “Mainhattan” as it’s probably the closest thing to Manhattan in Europe, being a financial business center with many skyscrapers. (Main is for the River Main.) By the way, when we lived here and visited the city museum, we learned that over 60% of Frankfurt was bombed and destroyed during World War II. So many of those old buildings that look like they were built in centuries past are actually rather new.

From the center of Germany, we drove to Seewalchen, in Austria, where my husband had a meeting the following day. We had been to the Salzkammergut area before, visiting Gmunden on the Traunsee, so I knew that we were headed to beautiful scenery and landscapes. And I wasn’t disappointed. Seewalchen is right on the northern tip of Attersee, a beautiful lake surrounded by the Austrian Alpes. The water is crystal clear and drinkable!

So, on Wednesday, I enjoyed a day to myself and explored the neighbouring villages and a visit to the Gustav Klimt Center in Schörfling am Attersee.

Klimt is one of my favourite artists. When I worked in NYC at a private bank, my team and I processed the loan for the famous Adele Bloch-Bauer painting, which now hangs at the Neue Gallerie in NYC. Since seeing that painting in person, I was hooked on anything Klimt. Yet visiting the Center on Attersee helped me learn a lot more about the artist himself and his lifestyle. He was a very interesting and bohemian person, designing women’s clothing and even wearing many of the gowns himself (oftentimes without undergarments!). Many of these gowns, designed by Klimt and created by Emilie Flöge, his lifetime partner of sorts,  “show up” in his illustrations and portraits of women.

Gustav Klimt, along with number of Austrian artists such as Egon Schiele, was one of the most important spokespersons and artists of the Jugendstil art movement in Austria. He spent many summers at Attersee, where he mostly painted landscapes, including the Schloss Kammer.

Walking in Klimt’s footsteps in the towns of Attersee am Attersee, Schörfling and Weyregg and bringing to life many of his paintings was an incredible experience for me. Unfortunately the Center doesn’t have any original works on display; due to conservations reasons, the illustrations are all lithographs. To see the fascinating originals and especially the works of his “golden phase”, one must visit museums or be lucky enough to see a special exhibit or have the money to purchase pieces of his oeuvre…

The day after my excursion through the summers of Klimt, we drove off early in the morning to squeeze in a little bit of skiing at Obertauern in the Austrian Alps. There was fresh snow with some ice patches and chilling temperatures of -12C, but we managed to go down the slopes a few times. Well, my husband did. I went up and down once, as it was a bit too cold for me and the “bunny slope”, where I like to start off only offered a T-bar lift, which I hate.

We spent the evening and night in Nürnberg, where we walked around the Christmas market, had some Nürnberger sausages, a glass of Glühwein, and dinner at the Barfüßer Bräuhaus. We ate a very typical German fare of Schweinehaxe (pork knuckle) and suckling pig accompanied by Kloß (called Knödel in other parts of Germany) and red cabbage. Needless to say, we were satiated after dinner. 😉

Friday morning we took off early in the morning again, so that my husband and a colleague could be in time for a meeting near Mannheim. And I strolled around along the Planken, the main shopping street, and the Christmas market. It had been around 20 years since I was last in Mannheim, back then for work with Elizabeth Arden. I didn’t recognise a thing…

On Saturday, we once again were in the Netherlands, where we visited family in Arnhem and ate the best and most fresh, raw herrings at Gamba, a beautiful fishmonger, which is quickly becoming our favourite and a ritual. I indulged in two harings, one right after the other, whilst my husband also enjoyed some kibbling, deep fried cod. Dinner was very traditional Dutch for this time of year: some hutspot (boiled potatoes, carrots and onions with bacon bits of course) and boerenkool met worst (boiled potatoes and kale with Dutch sausage), which my husband’s cousin made for us. It was delicious. We used to make it often at home, and both are the first Dutch dishes that I learned to make after meeting my husband. They are hearty and perfect for a cold winter evening. I promise to make them at home soon and share the recipes with you.

We returned to the island on Sunday, with a short detour on our way to London via the Cliffs of Dover. When we were relocated to the UK in January of 2012, our first trip over with our car was onboard a ferry from Calais to Dover. I was very apprehensive of the Chunnel back then and figured that a boat crossing would be much safer than going inside a train that’s inside a tunnel that is below the earth that is below the water…since then, we’ve used only the Chunnel for making the road trip back to Continental Europe, and I must say that I love it. Well, love may be too strong of a description… more like I tolerate it with more pleasure than originally thought since it’s a very quick journey of about 35 minutes in that train that is inside a tunnel under the earth that’s under the water… (it’s best not to think about all that).

The Chunnel takes off from Folkestone; so, we had not been back to Dover since our first crossing. And after this excursion, we have promised ourselves to return as there is so much more to see than we thought. I hope to make a weekend out of it and see the surrounding area as well.

On our detour, we had time to walk on top of the cliffs, where there are a number of paths through beautiful fields filled with rabbit holes, some sheep in the distance, and the gorgeous and grey North Sea just below the White Cliffs. The scenery is magnificent; and although one walks almost on the edge of the cliffs at times, it’s actually not even scary, but rather peaceful and energising. If you do go, remember to wear proper footwear, as it can be muddy. I was wearing clogs (not the right footwear) and slipped on our way back to the parking lot and ended up with muddy pants, shoes and hands. 😉

Coincidently, we ate lunch at the same hotel where we spent the first night in the UK, the Dover Marina. They were serving a Sunday roast carvery lunch and were all primped up for Christmas… just the perfect ending to a perfect trip just before the holidays.

On Monday, it was back to reality of an almost empty fridge and longing for someone else to prepare my breakfast. Fortunately, we still had eggs left (I checked them in water before using them) and plenty of almond flour. So, I invented these pancakes on the spot. I guess you could call them a basic recipe, since you can add more ingredients to them and experiment with different toppings.

Hope you enjoy!

BASIC PALEO ALMOND FLOUR PANCAKES, WITH PLUMS

Ingredients, makes 8 medium-sized pancakes:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 4 plums, peeled and cut into slices or chunks (optional)
  • butter, coconut oil or fat of choice for frying

Method:

Heat a skillet over low heat. Lightly beat the eggs with a hand whisk or fork.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Add the butter to the skillet and melt. Pour the pancake mixture by spoonfuls onto the skillet. Cook until the pancakes start to bubble, then flip over and cook all the way through, about a few minutes on each side. Serve with maple syrup, if desired.

*****

TORTITAS AMERICANAS, TIPO PALEO CON ALMENDRAS MOLIDAS Y CIRUELAS FRESCAS

Ingredientes, para como 8 tortitas americanas:

  • 4 huevos
  • 1 taza (250ml) almendras molidas (muy finamente molidas, lo que se llama harina de almendras)
  • 2 cucharaditas de zumo de limón
  • 1/2 cuchardita de bicarbonato de soda
  • una pizca de sal marina
  • 4 ciruelas, peladas y cortadas a lascas o pedacitos (opcional)
  • mantequilla, aceite de coco o la grasa que prefieras, para hacer las tortitas

Como hacer las tortitas americanas:

Calienta una sartén sobre fuego lento.  Bate un poco los huevos con un tenedor o una batidora de mano. Añade los demás ingredientes y mezcla todo bien. Pon un poco de mantequilla o aceite de coco sobre la sartén hasta que se derrita. Pon una cucharada y media (de las grandes) de masa por cada tortita. Deja que la masa empiece a hacer burbujas y entonces dale la vuelta. Se fríe o cuece unos minutos por cada lado. Se sirve con sirope de arce, si se desea.

Sweet Potato & Zucchini Soup with Quatre-Epices

Since moving back to Europe, we make a point of doing an annual road trip to Sevilla, Spain usually in the summer or autumn. We have three important reasons for driving so many kilometers each year: one, we get to enjoy a lot of quality time together and see many beautiful things along the way, both in France and in Spain; and two, we have the opportunity of seeing family and friends, whom we wouldn’t see otherwise because of where they live, Bayonne and Vitoria; and three, we stock up on Spanish goodies, such as various 5-liter olive oil bottles, whole legs of jamon serrano, and other things we miss, that we couldn’t possibly pack into a suitcase. On the last trip, we even brought back some delicious salted cod!

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Now that we live in London, we are in France more often than when we lived in Germany. Now, we must cross the north of France every time we visit the Benelux and Germany. Consequently, we have gotten to know Calais and the surrounding region quite well. During the summer months when we arrive around lunchtime, our first stop in France is always for moules frites in Gravelines at Le 116. Gravelines is a rather sleepy little town on the River Aa; but it does have a beautiful beach, and the historical, hexagonal-shaped bastion, Grand Fort Philippe, is worth visiting. The area can be confusing for the first-time visitor as the culture, the landscape and even the names of towns are a mixture of French and Dutch. The area was part of Flanders and still has many similarities with Belgium and The Netherlands. (By the way, another very interesting and beautiful hexagonal fort town is Bourtange, near Groningen in The Netherlands.)

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Eating in France can be a hit or miss experience, we’ve discovered. Arguably one could say that can happen in every country; but when eating in France, we’ve come to expect top quality and cuisine, and it’s not always the case. Aside from our moules frites passion, we have stopped for every meal during one trip or another, and have had varying degrees of satisfaction. And some of the best meals have been when and where we least expected them.

We once had a delightful breakfast in Neufchâtel. We arrived in town just as the farmers’ market was opening; in fact, it was still slightly dark out and the morning air was quite brisk, adding a very pleasant atmosphere with which to start our day. At the market, we purchased some pungent local cheeses (Neufchâtel, of course!) from a very helpful cheesemonger and a large baguette at the nearby boulangerie (France and Spain are the only two countries in which I make an exception to eat bread, and only occasionally), which we consumed with a cafe au lait, before continuing our journey. I love visiting farmers’ markets, and I’ve found the best ones in France, The Netherlands and Germany. The only downside of travelling and visiting markets is not being able to purchase all the fresh seafood, meats and produce!

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Another memorable meal was our stop in Conty for dinner. The area is famous for le Tour de France going through it and the little restaurant at which we ate had a number of cycling memorabilia. But the best part of dinner was the cookery book, Cuisine d’Hiver, laying on a shelf behind me. I took a gazillion pictures of the recipes with my iPhone and later saved them on my computer to never look at them again. I do this a lot. In fact, I take pictures of menus with the intention of using the ideas for inspiration and later always forget to revisit them.

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So, when my duck fat arrived in the mail the other day, for some reason I thought of France. And no, I still haven’t used any of the recipes from the cookery book in Conty, although I’ve placed them all in a folder to have them printed. That’s a step in the right direction, I think. In the meantime, I came up with this French-inspired soup recipe to use up the sweet potatoes I had on hand.

I went to grab some quatre-épices and found out I was out of the spice mix. This is another food item I tend to purchase when travelling through France, that and herbes de Provence. The spice mix usually includes pepper (white, black or both), ginger, nutmeg and cloves. For the soup, I created my own combination by using equal parts of black pepper, nutmeg and cloves and adding some freshly grated ginger.

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To add some kick, which my husband tends to appreciate, I included some chili powder, as well. And I added turmeric for the health benefits and for a more intense colour.

As the duck fat was not enough fat for my interpretation of a healthy meal, I garnished the soup with some chopped, hard-boiled eggs and pieces of jamon serrano, along with some chopped chives for additional flavour. You can omit these, but if you want a more well-balanced dish, I wouldn’t. (Of course, bacon or ham can be substituted for the jamon serrano.)

The sweet potato and zucchini soup is my homage to our trips through France… if I can’t be in France on a daily basis, I can bring a little bit of France to me by way of the very healthy and delicious duck fat and quatre-épices. I hope you will also enjoy!

Bon Appétit!

Sweet Potato & Zucchini Soup with Quatre-Epices
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Makes about 10 servings.
Ingredients
  • 900g (just shy of 2lbs) sweet potato, peeled and roughly cubed
  • 2 medium zucchini, partially peeled and roughly cubed
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 medium leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 cup duck fat
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 7-8 cups filtered water, or if you have chicken or duck broth, much better
  • 3 teaspoons coarse sea salt (adjust salt if you use broth and/or to taste, of course)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, optional
  • For garnish, if desired:
  • hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • jamon serrano or bacon pieces
  • chopped chives
Instructions
  1. Place the duck fat, onion and leek in a large pot. Poach over low heat, about 8 minutes until the onion is almost translucent.
  2. Add the garlic, zucchini pieces, and the spices and stir well.
  3. Cook about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes and 4 cups of filtered water or stock.
  5. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool, enough to handle safely.
  7. With an immersion blender, puree until smooth.
  8. Add 3-4 cups of additional filtered water.
  9. Add sea salt, adjusting to taste.
  10. Add chili powder, if desired.
  11. Stir well.
  12. Heat through over low heat to warm enough to serve, about 5-7 minutes.
  13. Garnish with hard-boiled egg, jamon serrano and chives, if desired.
  14. (The soup freezes well for later use.)

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Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes

I woke up this morning with a mission in mind: to finally recreate the pumpkin fudge brownie recipe I have promised my readers. So, the first thing I did was cut up one of my gorgeous and rather large butternut squash and bake it, while I organised things a bit. I used to be one of those people who had to immediately eat breakfast after getting up, especially when I was working in NYC. But since going Paleo, I actually prefer to wait about an hour or more before eating anything. Most days, I first prepare and drink my warm water with freshly squeesed lemon juice, and then after that’s settled, I start thinking about what to make for breakfast.

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As I’m working from home now (I am a freelance graphic designer), I tend to catch up on news during this time and settle in to tackle work after I’ve eaten.

Today, since I knew I would have too much pumpkin meat leftover after making the fudge brownies, a thought came to mind: why not have pumpkin pancakes or waffles for breakfast too?! I’m not really crazy about sweet things for breakfast, much preferring savoury dishes with lots of healthy fats to keep me going for hours on end.

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But as it’s Sunday, I made an exception. I was planning to use one of my own recipes as guidance, but my computer decided it needed a software update today and I couldn’t access the internet until that update was installed. Frustration was about to set in, when I decided to simply invent a new recipe…

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I’m embarrassed to “toot my own horn”, but these are quite good, fluffly, light and delicious. Plus the flavours make it a perfect treat for an Autumn morning. And if you eat them as I did, with some melt-in-your-mouth Kerrygold butter and maple syrup, all the better. 😉

Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes
Author: The Saffron Girl
Serves: 10
Makes about 10 pancakes, 2 1/2-in diameter
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cooked pumpkin meat
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, blend until smooth the egg, pumpkin meat, spices, sea salt and baking soda.
  2. Add the almond flour and pulse to mix well.
  3. Add the coconut flour and pulse again to mix well.
  4. Add the maple syrup, if desired and blend well.
  5. Heat a frying pan over low heat and grease with some coconut oil.
  6. Pour the pancake batter by spoonfuls onto the pan. I poured 2 spoonfuls per pancake.
  7. Allow to cook through until the batter starts to bubble. Immediately turn over and cook on other side.
  8. Serve with butter and maple syrup, if desired.

 

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Limoncello Pumpkin Soup

I love it when the lack of ingredients provokes a stroke of creativity. This happened to me when making this soup. I was looking for my white wine, of which I didn’t have any left, and saw the limoncello. And it just seemed like a cool flavour to add to this soup. Some friends of ours, who used to live in Italy, brought over a couple of bottles of limoncello when they visited us in Germany. We obviously are not drinkers (since that was over two years ago), and much less of liquors, so both bottles are almost intact.

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We keep the pretty bottles in the fridge, as it’s supposed to be served chilled. I sort of see them every day, and they are almost like a decoration inside my fridge. The limoncello is made from lemons and has a beautiful, sunny yellow colour that seems unreal. When opened, the aroma that permeates from the liqour is both refreshing and delicate; but don’t be fooled, it has quite a punch when you drink it straight.

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However, in the soup is was undetectable, although I think it may have enhanced the overall flavour, since it turned out delicious. Of course, you can substitute with a white wine, which was my original idea.

It’s very easy to make, especially if you’re in a hurry. Just make sure you either roast the pumpkin first; or I guess canned pumpkin could also work. I garnished it with some finely sliced spring onions and crumbled Stilton cheese; however a little bit of lemon zest would probably bring out the limoncello flavours and be a nice contrast to the pumpkin.

Limoncello Pumpkin Soup
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 3-4
Serves 3-4.
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted pumpkin meat
  • 2 small red onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil, butter or fat of preference
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup limoncello, or white wine
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • spring onions, finely sliced, for garnishing
  • Stilton cheese, crumbled, for garnishing and extra flavour (optional, but very tasty)
Instructions
  1. Roast your pumpkin in the oven for about 45 minutes at 180C (350F). I split mine in half and place them in an ovenproof dish. Facing up or down really doesn’t matter much.
  2. In a pot over low heat, poach the onions, garlic and celery with the olive oil or fat of choice, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the limoncello or white wine and reduce, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the pumpkin meat, giving it a good stir.
  5. Pour in the filtered water, and cook about 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, and with an immersion blender, very roughly blend to puree a bit, but leaving chunks of the celery and other vegetables.
  7. (Alternatively you could puree the pumpkin with the water first and leave the rest of the vegetables whole.)
  8. Return to the stove and heat until warm to eat.
  9. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.
  10. To serve, garnish with spring onions, Stitlon cheese or whatever you desire. The cheese, if you do dairy, adds a delicious flavour, as does the spring onion.

 

Chicken Liver Adobo – Guest Post by Adobo Down Under

I grew up in the south of Spain and had the privilege of attending a DOD school, on the Rota Naval Base. I say privilege because although my father was not military, my brother and I were allowed to go to school on the Base, and most importantly we had the opportunity to experience many things American that we wouldn’t have otherwise, since we both grew up in Spain. (Plus thanks to this, I have a perfect American accent when speaking English! ;))

One of the most important aspects of going to a Department of Defense school, aside from the quality education, is the diversity amongst the students and teachers. There are literally children from everywhere in the world, with mixed backgrounds, mixed races, different religions, and different languages and cultures. So, it’s a beautiful way to grow up without preconceived prejudices. I had friends of all nationalities…and some of my best friends still to this day are Filipino or half-Filipino.

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I remember learning how to make lumpia, eating pancit, longaniza and many other traditional Filipino dishes that I still enjoy today, although less frequently since going Paleo. For me these dishes are part of my teenage years and bring back very fond memories. I even learned some Tagalog, which I have mostly forgotten now, except for some “loanwords” that come from the Spanish language, such as “mesa”.

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Spain has a long history with the Philippines and probably not always a good one, although the Spanish culture seems to have permeated into a number of aspects of the Filipino culture, language and life and vice versa. In Spain, our famous “manton de Manila”, which we claim to be traditional Spanish is something the Spanish conquistadores brought back from the Philippines, just like our “abanico” was brought back possibly from another part of Asia. My great-grandfather fought in the Spanish-American War, and I remember my grandmother telling me stories about his “adventures”.

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So, when I discovered Anna, from Adobo Down Under, in the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, I was delighted to see that she’s from the Philippines and her blog’s main focus is traditional Filipino food. And although Adobo’s blog is not Paleo, many of her savoury recipes are, and her other recipes can be easily Paleolised. I love to get inspiration from other cuisines around the world and I thought sharing Filipino food from a true Filipino would be inspiring to all of us to try something new, if you are not already familiar with this cuisine.

I’ve mentioned Adobo before on my blog, and how we follow each other on social media. We’ve become blogger buddies and I truly enjoy being witness to and learning from her life musings through what she shares on Instagram and Facebook. It’s always interesting to see how the seasons change in Australia, where Anna and her family live, and how beautiful it must be over there. I have many countries on my wish list, but I’m definitely partial now to visiting Australia and The Philippines… I hope one day I will be that lucky.

In the meantime, I will continue to follow and learn from Anna… and I hope you will too. She has a lovely blog, with beautiful stories, “musings” as she calls them, delicious recipes (which can be easily made into Paleo), and pretty photography.

But I’m sure you’re eager to see an example of her dishes, so without further ado, I leave you with her recipe for today’s post, which is the first guest post on my blog! (We had been planning this for months actually, but Anna has been studying a culinary course, so we had to wait until she was finished and could dedicate time to a post. It’s a true honour to finally be able to feature one of Adobo’s recipes by Anna herself, aside from this one I shared the other day and Paleolised.)

Ah, one last thing…please don’t forget to check her out and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

*********

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First of all, let me say G’day mate and Mabuhay!

I am Anna – writer, cook, baker and photographer behind the blog Adobo Down Under.  My blog contains musings on parenting, on learning to be Australian and basically engaging my readers into my world –  Filipino raising a family in Sydney Australia.

I’d like to thank The Saffron Girl for the invitation to guest post.  I have never done anything like this, and it has made me excited so much that I could not decide on what Filipino dish to share, considering Debra’s dishes are mostly Paleo.    It had to be something “adobo” as it is a classic in Filipino homes, and I think chicken liver adobo will be perfect.

If you are familiar with the Filipino cuisine, you would know our meals are always served, if not, made with rice.  From breakfast to dinner, from morning tea and snacks to desserts.  This particular dish is usually served with rice.   When I made this and took a photo of the cooked chicken liver adobo, no matter how many garnish, it still looked very unappealing. So I thought reinventing the dish into a simple pate would be the best option.  I hope you like it.

*Note from The Saffron Girl: you can use gluten-free soy sauce in this recipe, of course.

Chicken Liver Adobo – Guest Post by Adobo Down Under
Author: The Saffron Girl
Ingredients
  • 500g chicken liver, washed and trimmed of sinews
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • ½ cup soy sauce (light or dark does not matter, but it will affect the colour of the dish)
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a skillet or pan, heat the oil and cook the garlic until soft. Do not brown or burn as it will make the dish bitter.
  2. Add the chicken livers. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the vinegar, soy sauce and bay leaves and bring to a boil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down heat. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  5. You can already eat this chicken liver adobo with some rice; or butter some crusty bread slices and serve with some chopped parsley.
  6. To make a simple pate, cool the cooked chicken livers at room temperature.
  7. Process until smooth in a food processor.
  8. Spoon into small bowls or containers and drizzle with olive oil.
  9. Spread the pate on bread slices and serve with chopped parsley.
  10. Best eaten on the day, but can keep in the fridge for 2 days. Just add more olive oil to cover, then wrapped with cling film.
  11. ***
  12. Tips regarding chicken livers:
  13. When buying chicken livers, make sure you buy them fresh. They will be moist with a shiny flesh.
  14. When cleaning chicken livers, make sure to remove white sinews. Remove patches that appear greenish as they will make the dish bitter
  15. Gently rinse in a colander using cold running water
  16. Pat dry with a kitchen towel

 

Cream of Swede (Rutabaga) & Turnip Soup with Kale-Cashew Pesto & Scallops

Living in the United Kingdom gives me the possibility of exploring the countries which are part of it, enjoy the unique opportunity of experiencing London as a local, and also have the chance to try what for me are new vegetables and fruits… quite a comparison contrast, but all three are high up on my list.

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For me, trying new food is always interesting and fun. Such has been the case with the swede, or rutabaga. Before arriving in England, I believe I had never even seen or heard of it. In fact, I remember the first time my husband, who many times does the shopping, brought it home. I had to take a picture of it and send it to a friend, who had already been living here longer and is an avid gardener and foodie, to see if she knew what this strange white and purplish thing sitting on my counter was!

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The inspiration for this recipe came to me last night, as I was trying to fall asleep… I am starting to feel slightly obsessed! 😉 This actually has an explanation that is more logical: the turnips were starting to go soft and I needed to use them. So what better than a creamy soup for a chilly and wet day?

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I purposely kept the soup’s flavour a bit neutral, not adding too many spices so that it would pair well with the kale-cashew pesto I had planned. The addition of the scallops came a bit later to me, as I wanted to include some protein in my dish.

I’m in love with the combination and hope you will be too! If not, I hope you are at least inspired to come up with your own mix.

Cream of Swede & Turnip Soup with Kale-Cashew Pesto & Scallops
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Soup serves 6.
Ingredients
  • For the soup:
  • 1 swede/rutabaga, about 600g (1.3lbs), peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 turnips, about 400g together (1lb), peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 large leek, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 3 cups filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups filtered water
  • 2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seeds
  • For the pesto:
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • For the scallops:
  • 2 scallops (or more if desired), per bowl
  • olive oil
  • fresh thyme sprigs, as garnish
Instructions
  1. For the soup:
  2. In a large pot, place the swede, turnip and leek pieces with 3 cups of filtered water.
  3. Cook over low heat, for about 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Set aside to slightly cool.
  5. With an immersion blender, puree until smooth.
  6. Add 3 cups of filtered water (or more if too thick for your taste) and stir well.
  7. Add the salt, turmeric and mustard and place over low heat to warm up.
  8. In the meantime, make the pesto:
  9. Roast the cashews in a dry skillet until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Stir frequently so they do not burn.
  10. Combine the cashews and garlic in the food processor and process until very finely ground.
  11. Add the kale leaves, sea salt and pepper and process again until well chopped.
  12. Continuing processing, while adding the olive oil in a steady stream, until you have a creamy paste. (You can refrigerate or freeze, if not using all of it.)
  13. For the scallops:
  14. Place about 1 tablespoon of olive oil per 4 scallops, in a pan. Over medium heat, cook the scallops, until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes each side.
  15. For serving:
  16. Pour two ladles of soup into each bowl.
  17. Drizzle with the kale-cashew pesto (the amount desired) and place two (or more) scallops into each bowl on top of the pesto.
  18. Finish with a sprig of thyme for each bowl.

 

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