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Category: side dish | appetiser

Sweet Potato, Apple & Fennel Hash – Guest Post by Cinnamon Eats – And Notes on Being an Expat

Being an expat can provide the perfect platform for “once in a lifetime” experiences that are interesting, educational, exciting and fun. It’s a privilege that many of us are lucky to have. I mean, who doesn’t want to be in a foreign country, enjoying it with a tourist mentality (you know that eventually you’ll get to go home, whatever that turns out to be, so anything that goes wrong is only temporary, right?), yet living there as a local and taking advantage of things that tourists can never dream of being able to do? And there’s the added bonus to be able to complain about all the idiosyncrasies of the locals, always a humorous conversation starter with like-minded expats. It’s a great combination, the best of both worlds. But it’s not always an easy one to transition into. In fact, it can be for many people quite daunting.

Usually the couple or family moves because of the job of one of the spouses. So that leaves the other spouse at home without a job, and if they don’t have children or pets, quite alone. Many of us find ourselves in a tough situation to get used to. From the most ordinary and routine chores, such as going grocery shopping, to finding a new doctor, a new hairdresser, where to buy an eraser perhaps?, to getting the children into new schools, finding the right house to live in, purchasing a new car or learning to drive on the wrong side of the car and road, to maybe even having to learn a new language will of course all be very interesting, but will most certainly also be very stressful and frustrating at times.

For the working spouse, who gets to go to the office and maintain a structure and relatively organised schedule, the transition is always easier. Our company prepared us for the first move by putting us in an expat course. And they clearly told us that if the at home spouse was not happy, it could make or break the work experience. So, they (and we) want happy at-home-spouses of course. Talk about pressure!

When we moved to Germany, I didn’t exactly consider myself an expat. I actually felt like I was coming home, back to Europe after several years in the US. And although that was true and I have German ancestry, Germany is not Spain, nor do they speak Spanish natürlich, and I only knew a few basic words and phrases in German that I remembered from my lessons as a child. And although most people can speak some English if they are hard-pressed or want to be nice, it’s a good idea to learn the language.  Therefore, to conquer my first fear and try to integrate, I immediately starting German lessons. (I oftentimes pondered about what life had been like for the immigrants from Spain during the 50s-60s, many without university education, no knowledge of foreign languages, and coming from a precarious economic situation. They were not really expats. Many ended up staying in Germany and made a life there for their children and grandchildren; others returned to Spain because the experience was too much of a hardship and being away from family weighed more than any economic or social opportunities. It’s sadly happening all over again in Spain now; but the difference is that most people today have a higher education and some knowledge of English, which helps. Plus, today we have the internet and Facebook with which to keep in touch. Nonetheless, it’s not necessarily an easier experience than it was for the generation after WWII. I have friends who after 3 years in Bavaria just returned home because they missed their families and Spain too much!)

During my German lessons, I met a lot of interesting people from all around the world, from Afghanistan, Russia, Rumania, Mexico, Bosnia, Czech Republic, the US, and South Korea (most of the Koreans were in Germany to attend classical music training, how cool is that? And one of them was even a well-known opera singer back in South Korea!). Many of those that I met became my friends and we still have contact today, although we have moved away from Frankfurt.

But when my year-long classes ended and I had passed my Mittestuffe Prüfung, I found myself without a daily routine and not knowing many people, especially people with whom I could speak without having to think or get a headache after our conversation in German, which was our common ground. That’s when joining the AWCT (American Women’s Club of the Taunus) came to the rescue. (I did seek some Spanish groups and ironically found none.)

(By the way, if you’re interested, there’s a very witty and accurate article written by Mark Twain about that awful German language. Mark Twain spent about three months in Heidelberg, during which time he also tried to learn the language. It’s hilarious to read, especially if you know German or have ever tried learning it.)

Meeting new people as an expat can prove to be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome to create a healthy and happy expat experience… remember no pressure, right?! Therefore, when we learned we were being transferred to London, I joined the AWCL (American Women’s Club of London) before arriving. The knowledge that this transition was going to be different from the previous one helped me begin meeting people much sooner. For starters, I didn’t have to learn a language (although sometimes it seems like the Brits are speaking something completely foreign), but I also didn’t have the advantage of meeting people via classes. Since my participation in the group in Frankfurt had proven to be so positive, I figured it was a good way to start in this new country that I had visited as a tourist and for work long ago, but was moving to as an expat this time. I have later also joined two Spanish groups, with whom I have a lot of fun and get to converse in Spanish.

The other day at a meeting of the AWCL, one of the speakers said that the Club’s activities gave us reasons to not stay home in our pjs until midday. The whole room giggled, yes, giggled, at this comment because it rang true to most I think…

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So when I discovered that Naz from Cinnamon Eats is also an expat here in the UK, without even knowing her, we already had some common ground. And things got better when we learned that we are both Paleo bloggers. (Why is it that we always want to find people who think alike? I guess it makes life easier, no?)

Blogging has become an essential part of my daily life. I love what I do and love to share my stories and recipes with my readers. And I have found that this is true for most other food bloggers; in many cases it has changed our lives, even leading to different career paths. For me, it has also enhanced my expat experience in the UK, even though I think it has encouraged an ever growing habit of sitting in front of my computer in my pjs until midday. 😉 (Shhhh… don’t tell my husband.)

As bloggers, we take great care and pride in how we present all of this information to you. Naz just recently did a major overhaul of her blog, and I’m in the midst of doing the same to mine. Today, I have the pleasure of not only reciprocating with Naz after my experience as a first time guest poster on her site, but also bringing to you Naz’s first guest post after her new site has gone live!

I hope you will become a fan of Cinnamon Eats and enjoy reading her stories and cooking with her recipes, like I do. In the meantime, I leave you with this wonderful seasonal dish, which can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Yum!

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Hello to all The Saffron Girl readers! First of I want to say how excited I am to be here sharing my recipe with you all! I met Debra online a couple of months back via Instagram and since then we have connected through our common passions of cooking and eating healthy and delicious paleo foods. We also both live in England so I’m hoping that one of these days we can also meet up in person! Debra also recently shared a guest post over on my blog Cinnamon Eats, you can check out that post here. Thank you Debra for having me!

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Since connecting with Debra I have come to enjoy her recipes and the attention to detail she gives to her blog and the message she shares with her readers and followers. Her recipes prove that eating healthy doesn’t mean eating boring and bland foods, quiet the opposite actually!

The dish I’m sharing with you today is one I made a couple of weeks back and it contains some of my favourite ingredients to cook with… sweet potatoes, apples and fennel, along with warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg make this a great dish for these ever increasingly cold Autumn days.

Sweet Potato, Apple & Fennel Hash – Guest Post by Cinnamon Eats
Author: The Saffron Girl
Ingredients
  • 500gm/1.1lbs grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 small-med apples diced. (I used Jonagold apples)
  • 2-3 small fennel bulbs, cored and diced
  • 1 small red onion diced
  • 2 Tbsp grass-fed butter/ghee, divided
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground clove
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • Sea salt
Instructions
  1. Place a pan on medium heat and add in 1 Tbsp of butter/ghee. Once melted add in your sweet potato. Stir to cook for about 5 mins then sprinkle in some sea salt (the salt will help the sweet potato cook faster). After about 10 minutes check the sweet potato for doneness by pricking a fork into one of the sweet potatoes, you want it to be just cooked through but not so much that it falls apart when you touch it.
  2. Remove the sweet potato to a clean dish and set aside. Heat the other Tbsp of butter/ghee in the pan and add in the onion, sauté until soft and transclucent then add in the ground-beef. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat as it cooks.
  3. When the meat is just about cooked through, season with some sea salt. Add in the diced fennel and stir through, cook for about 5 minutes or so before adding in the apples. Cook on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes then add in your already cooked sweet potato.
  4. Add in the rest of your seasonings (cinnamon, allspice, ground clove, ground nutmeg and ground ginger). Stir everything together, turn the heat to low and let everything cook for another few minutes or until the apples, fennel and sweet potato are tender and the meat is cooked through.
  5. Serve as is and enjoy!

A little about Naz:

nazNazanin or Naz as her friends and family like to call her is an Australian expat living in England. She left Australia in 2011 with her husband Joe to move to Michigan, U.S.A where they stayed for just under 2 years, before they moved to England. Naz started her journey to Paleo eating in 2011 and now runs her own Paleo based food blog at cinnamoneats.com. She loves to create delicious Paleo recipes to share with others. You can also connect with Naz via her Facebook Page, her Instagram or her Twitter.

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.

 

Almond-Crusted Scallops with Apple-Onion Puree

Scallops are a funny thing for me. My oldest niece used to have a severe allergy to them when she was little; and we actually don’t know if she still would have this reaction, since out of fear and for her own protection, she never eats them or anything that even contains their juices. My brother, sister-in-law and my youngest niece, on the other hand indulge in them all the time when they are in season, especially raw.  My brother, although not a fisherman by trade anymore, will be a fisherman at heart until the end of his days. I have no patience for it, but when I lived nearby I loved enjoying his bounty. We always had a continuous stream of seafood from what he caught or from the trades he made with his fisherman friends. Fresh, raw tuna, by the way, literally cut right off the just-caught fish still on the boat, is amazing. Nothing compares to eating raw fish that has just come out of the water. The Japanese have something on us there…

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The Dutch do too. I love raw herrings when we visit The Netherlands. I remember this past summer on two of our visits to Noordwijk, where I simply couldn’t get enough raw herrings with onions, and I believe I ate three in a row (and could’ve continued if not out of fear of getting an upset tummy from my glutony). Of course, as with all fish, you want it to be extra fresh and hopefully not get sick from it, if you eat it raw.

I love seafood, but strangely enough since my niece was little, I’ve hardly eaten scallops. I’ve never really given it much thought until recently, when I purchased a bag of large, frozen scallops at the Chinese market we frequent. And I’m back in love with them…

I guess that out of empathy with my niece, I reacted as I did to my horse-back riding. We used to go on weekends together, so she could learn to ride; but it was not just riding. The stables were great because we were allowed to brush the horses, saddle them up, clean them up after riding, and clean up their stalls. It sounds like an awful lot of work, and it is, but for a true horse-lover, it’s pure heaven. The longer you can be with the horses, all the better. Anyway, my poor thing started having severe asthma attacks after some of the riding sessions, one of them landing her in hospital.

So, I quit altogether. And never rode again until many years later.

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I’ve recently started taking up riding again and feel very rusty and slightly out of place… years without doing something will do that to me. I hope I can keep up the hobby as riding is not only fun, but therapeutic and helps relieve stress. Plus, it’s a beautiful way to be out in nature.

But back to the scallops….

Whilst they are lovely just sautéed with some butter or olive oil and a little bit of sea salt, there is just so much more you can do with them. I used some in a delicate soup the other day, which gave the soup just the right touch of gourmet, as well as texture and dose of protein. In Spain, they are called vieiras and are usually eaten inside the shell, stuffed, and are a famous delicacy from Galicia. The Galicians know best how to eat seafood in Spain, or maybe it’s because they have the best seafood.

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Today, I’m sharing with you a recipe that I slightly adapted from Karlos Arguiñano, our own Spanish TV celebrity chef. He’s a delight to watch with his Basque accent and his humorous manner. He has at least one restaurant in the Basque Country and I can’t wait to go back and check it out. Honestly, I don’t know why I haven’t done so yet?!

His recipes are what we call “casero” or homey, but always with his special gourmet touch. I love to watch him on television.

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I ate this all by myself as lunch with some green sprouting broccoli. But you could serve it as an appetiser for two, as well. I wouldn’t omit the Albariño from Galicia (or a fine white wine) as it adds depth to the sauce, which wouldn’t be achieved otherwise, and reduces the sweetness also. But if using wine bothers you as a Paleo person, then by all means do omit.

Almond-Crusted Scallops with Apple-Onion Puree
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1-2
Serves 1-2, depending on accompaniment.
Ingredients
  • 6 scallops
  • 1/4 cup whole almonds
  • zest of two lemons or limes (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (butter will work well too)
  • additional sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons Albariño white wine
  • 2 thin fresh onions, finely sliced
Instructions
  1. I used frozen scallops, so I defrosted first, sprinkled with some coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven on the grill setting.
  3. In a saucepan, pour the olive oil and the finely chopped onion. Poach (on very low heat) for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently so they do not burn or brown too much.
  4. Add the apple pieces and cook an additional 6-8 minutes until tender.
  5. Allow to slightly cool before pouring into an immersion blender cup, food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.
  6. Add the Albariño and sea salt to taste. Stir well and set aside.
  7. Use the same saucepan as you cooked the onions and apples for the almonds. Wipe it clean with a paper towel, but don’t worry about getting all the oil off, just the pieces of onion.
  8. Add the almonds and over low heat, toast until golden. Be careful to not let them burn or they will turn sour. I stir them constantly, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep stirring letting them get a bit more golden.
  9. Pour into a clean immersion blender cup or blender.
  10. Add the garlic and lemon/lime zest. Pulse until very finely chopped.
  11. In an ovenproof dish, place the scallops, drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
  12. Spoon the almond mixture over each scallop (you will have mixture leftover).
  13. Bake under the grill for 5 minutes.
  14. To plate: pour some of the apple-onion sauce on each plate and place the cooked scallops on top.
  15. Sprinkle the fresh onion slices over top.
  16. Serve as an appetiser or a meal with a vegetable as accompaniment, if desired.

Fast and Easy Paleo Recipes

Not Quite Icelandic Fish Soup

I have been mesmerised for days in the world of other bloggers and websites. One could almost say I have become obsessed; I’m doing research for changes that I want to make to this blog and the more I look, the more confused and overwhelmed I seem to get. My mind is doing summersaults, I go to bed thinking about layouts and wake up thinking about designs…and then there is the price factor. You have choices from a full-design by a web designer (which can be a lot of money but would save me all the hassle and time) or do-it-yourself options that would give me great satisfaction to produce, but that are not free in most cases, as there’s never a perfect template or platform to accommodate my needs. I want it all! A pretty site, a functional site and one that engages all of us, you and me.

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You may ask why I’m seeking out other sites when I’m also a graphic designer. But as we say in Spain, «en casa de herrero azadón de palo», which translates to “in the house of the metal-worker, a wooden hoe is used” because he either doesn’t have the time to attend to his own matters or doesn’t have the creativity to do so. Well, I’m way too subjective and am having trouble deciding on so many items, that I needed to do the research and also reach out to other designers.

In the midst of all this information overload and what I am sure is driving a number of designers and people crazy with all my questions and indecisions, I  haven’t been taking care of myself in the Paleo way. I feel like an artiste on a mission, who forgets to eat, wash or comb his/her hair… I can just envision myself like a Jack Pollock or a slightly entranced Da Vinci… thankfully, my husband is travelling and not witness to any of this!

However, on this journey through cyberspace, I’ve discovered some blogs that are simply gorgeous. And I don’t just mean their look, but the content. One of these such blogs is Mimi Thorisson’s Manger.  Over the past few days, I’ve come to know Mimi and her life, which is truly enviable. Her stories are enchanting, soothing and have a “je ne sais quoi” about them.. maybe because she’s half-French, is living in Medoc in the countryside, and everything seems so idyllic.

Her husband is a professional photographer and apparently takes all of the photos for the blog. They are impressive and inviting. And her recipes are simply delightful. One in particular caught my eye because of the title: Icelandic Fish Soup. Mimi’s husband is Icelandic.

I have been to Iceland twice, but I think I sort of travelled there before then as a child in my dreams. My father used to go there often because of his job, and brought me back a hand-made cloth viking doll, which I treasured for years. It’s still somewhere to be found at my parent’s house, I’m sure. Reading Mimi’s post brought back childhood memories and real memories of my trips to this island-country.

I always imagined the “land of fire and ice” to be a cold place, up in the northern hemisphere with inhospitable people… but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Well, partially wrong. It is a cold place. But it could be colder actually if it weren’t for the currents of the gulf stream, which bring warmer air from Africa up to Iceland.

The two times I visited were in November; so it was dark most of the day. The sun rises about 10:30 in the morning, although it really never goes far above the horizon, and it goes back down around 3:30 or 4:00pm. The play of light is surreal and magical, just like Iceland itself.

There’s so much I could write and describe about my experience in this intriguing country, one where people do not really have last names. Okay they do, but in order to find them in a phone book, you need to know the father’s first name, then know if the person is a man or a woman which determines the ending of the “last name”, plus they are listed by first names! For example, Thorisson is the son of Thori, but Thori’s daughter’s last name would be Thorisdottir (with a little accent on the “o”). It’s a country to which I’d love to return, this time during the warmer months to see the different colours of summer.

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Whilst reading Mimi’s blog, I came across this recipe for Icelandic fish soup and felt like it was just the right thing to bring me out of my artistic reverie and trance.

Below is my version of the soup, which has warmed up my tummy and brought me back to life….

 

Not Quite Icelandic Fish Soup
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Icelandic
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-6
Serves 4-6
Ingredients
  • 4-5 tablespoons butter (I used Kerrygold)
  • 2 medium red onions, julienned
  • 3 cloves garlic, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 celery stalk, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup moscatel or sherry
  • 6 cups filtered water
  • 2 small tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 parsnips, peeled and chopped (about 1-inch pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron powder or a few sprigs of saffron, plus a few additional sprigs for garnishing
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, or sea salt to taste
  • some freshly ground pepper
  • 6 hake steaks, cubed (I used frozen fish, about 4 cups cubed)
  • thyme for garnishing, optional
Instructions
  1. In a large pot over low heat, melt the butter with the onions, garlic and celery. Poach (cook on very low heat) for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  2. Add the white wine and moscatel/sherry and reduce about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, filtered water, saffron, vinegar and parsnips. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the parsnips are tender.
  4. Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. I added 1 teaspoon of salt, but needed a bit more on my plate later.
  5. With a potato masher, very slightly and roughly squash the soup a bit, so that the parsnip pieces are not whole. But do not puree the soup.
  6. Add the fish pieces and cook 8-10 minutes until the fish is done.
  7. Serve immediately, garnishing with some saffron sprigs and thyme, if desired.

 

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.

 

Butternut Squash, Fig & Serrano Hash

I have to admit that this was impromptu decision to make this recipe… I had promised my readers to once again tackle the pumpkin fudge brownies, which I’m working to perfect. But sometimes I really am not into sweets; and making them means eating them and I still have a bunch of the first batch left. By the way, they are very fudgey, not cakey, which I’m really liking. Nonetheless, the pumpkin layer needs work to intensify the flavour. So I will make it again, but possibly not until next week…

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In the meantime, I’ve used up my butternut squash for this hash recipe! We bought some deliciously ripe figs the other day and aside from eating them, I just wanted to create a recipe. This hash can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I ate it as accompaniment to lamb chops… but the flavours go well with red meat, game and eggs of course!

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I still have more figs… maybe I will indulge in a sweet treat after all.. hmm it’s tempting for the challenge alone! Freezing is always on option I suppose. 😉

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(part of my mise en place)

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(lamb chops with the pumpkin hash)

Fig, Jamon Serrano, & Butternut Squash Hash
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2-3
Serves 2-3
Ingredients
  • 1 small (800g/approx 1.7 lbs) butternut squash
  • 2 ripe figs, quartered or cut in eighths if large
  • 2 medium leeks, sliced
  • 2-3 tablespoons lard
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
  • 1/3 cup jamon serrano, diced (bacon bits can be used instead)
  • freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
  2. Peel and cube the butternut squash. Spread out evenly onto an ovenproof dish.
  3. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, no longer. Set aside.
  4. In a skillet over low heat, melt the lard with the pumpkin pieces already in the pan.
  5. Cook about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. But be careful as the pumpkin cooks not too mash it.
  6. Add the leeks, figs, rosemary and thyme, and cook for 1 minute, then add the jamon serrano pieces.
  7. Cook for 2 minutes longer and turn off heat. Allow to sit about a few minutes so the flavours become more intense.
  8. If needed, adjust for salt. (I didn’t add any because the jamon serrano can result saltier when cooked.)
  9. Sprinkle with a few turns of the pepper grinder and serve.

 

Green Papaya Salad (Nom Xoai Xanh)

We visited Vietnam last year. I think it’s one of those places that does not leave you indifferent on many levels. The clash of modernisation with colonial vestiges from Chinese, French and even American influences and the native culture are sometimes perplexing. One example is that we were driven from the Hanoi airport to our hotel in a car that had wifi onboard, while on the side of the main highway, we drove past people with traditional clothing – and yes, the Vietnamese hat – working on the rice fields, had to avoid cattle crossing the road, and nearly missed a few accidents with mopeds carrying two, three people and sometimes even a whole dining room table! To see a glimpse of our time in this beautiful country, please view my travel log on Vietnam.

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This incredible experience, from which I learned a lot about human history and how things are perceived depending on whose perspective we are looking upon something (French and Americans are called invaders in northern Vietnam, and the Chinese are also considered such but on a different level) left me with a lasting impression and a need to return that I hope to fulfill one day.

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Part of the richness of our adventurous time in Vietnam was trying all the delicious food available and visiting the markets. Breakfast in the Asian countries I’ve visited consists mostly of a warm soup, such as Vietnamese Pho. Hanoi came to life each day we were there with everyone preparing and eating Pho or some other form of street food, while the shops slowly but energetically opened up, women balancing baskets on their shoulders headed to the market or were selling their wares on the street, and the silence of the night was thoroughly disrupted by an incessant noise that lasts until very late in the evening.

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(grating the green papaya with the kitchen utensil that the Hanoi Cooking Centre gave me)

(Vietnam, although a one-party Communist country, is one of Asia’s fastest growing economies. In fact, if you were unaware of the political regime, you would think you are in a Capitalist nation, since it seems that everyone owns their own shop. Stores occupy the bottom part of almost every building in Hanoi and even in many areas of the countryside.)

Pho is one thing I need to make at home, but haven’t yet because I need to find a butcher that will sell me really good quality, grass-fed beef and have it very thinly sliced. I plan a visit to the London Borough Market soon… so I’ll be shopping for my ingredients, making Pho and sharing the recipe with all of you.

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Ah.. the recipe! Well, while in Hanoi, I took a cookery course with the Hanoi Cooking Centre. I had just started my blog and had never done anything like this, while on vacation. So, the idea was exciting and intriguing. I took a taxi to the school from our hotel, thinking I couldn’t manage the streets… one must cross the street through traffic! It turns out it’s not as hard as it first seems, although a bit nerve-wracking for the newcomer, and I ended up walking back to my hotel after the course.

The course I took was called “Street Food”. And since taking it, I’ve had on my agenda making all of the recipes.. but haven’t gotten around to it until now. However, I’ve made great use of the grater the school so kindly gave me!

Some of the ingredients are not easy to find, such as good quality green papaya or banana blossom. I bought a banana blossom sometime last year at an Indian store, but was thoroughly disappointed when I cut into it and it was rotting. ;(

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(these are the dried, salted anchovies that I used)

But on our excursion to the Asian market this past week, we found green papaya and a whole plethora of other goodies! Therefore the first recipe I share with you from our Vietnamese adventure is Green Papaya Salad. I made a few alterations to keep it Paleo (no sugar and no peanuts) and added a couple of ingredients of my own, such as pomegranate seeds and created my own “fish sauce”.

I hope you enjoy!

Green Papaya Salad (Nom Xoai Xanh)
Recipe Type: Salad
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • For Salad:
  • 1 green papaya (pawpaw), peeled and grated or spiralised
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced julienne style
  • 1 long Vietnamese chili, seeds removed and finely chopped (be careful they are very hot, so it’s wise to use some sort of gloves)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or cut julienne style
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • seeds of one pomegranate
  • 3 tablespoons cashews, roasted and crushed*
  • 1 small red onion, very finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • olive oil or other fat for frying
  • Dressing:
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons dried, salted anchovies or dried shrimp, fried
Instructions
  1. Peel the green papaya and with a spiraliser or grater, grate all of it until you’re getting close to the seeds. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Add the sliced green onions, the minced garlic, the Vietnamese chili, cilantro leaves, and pomegranate seeds. Toss and set aside.
  3. In a pan, add about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over low heat.
  4. Fry the cashews until golden brown. Scoop them out and place on a plate with paper towels to soak up any extra fat.
  5. In the same remaining oil, fry the dried anchovies or shrimp. Scoop them out and also place on a plate with paper towels to soak up the extra fat and stay crispy.
  6. Clean the pan, when slightly cooled, with a paper towel and add new coconut oil or olive oil, enough to “deep fry” the sliced onion. Heat over medium heat.
  7. In a medium bowl, coat the sliced onion pieces with the arrowroot powder. Dust off any extra arrowroot powder with your hands.
  8. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the floured onions into the pan. Make sure to separate them before putting them in, or they’ll clump up.
  9. Allow to fry on one side before stirring/flipping to fry on the other side. (If you have a deep fryer, it’s easier to use that than a pan.)
  10. Scoop out of the pan and place on another plate with paper towels. Set aside and turn the oil off.
  11. In a mortar, place the fried anchovies/shrimp and grind with the pestle.
  12. Add the lime juice and coconut sugar and mix well. Set aside.
  13. Place the cashews on a flat surface, such as your counter top, and with the back side of a bowl, press into them, breaking them up into pieces. Scoop them up and place into a bowl. Set aside.
  14. When you’re ready to serve the salad:
  15. Toss the papaya mixture with the dressing and cashew pieces.
  16. Serve in individual plates or a large bowl and top with the fried onion pieces.

 

Baby Calamari with Garlic

This is one of my favourite dishes from Spain, which is usually served as a tapa or a second course at lunch. I don’t eat it frequently to be honest, just because I’ve found it hard to find fresh squid/calamari where I live.

But I always have it while in Spain; and while visiting with my parents, my mother prepared this dish, which I now share with you.

My mother and father love fish and seafood, as much as my husband and I do, and have found a little place nearby at which they get really good quality and fresh seafood.. lucky them, as we’ve found that it’s also not an easy task in the US! 😉

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You can make this a bit simpler by cooking the squid with the garlic all at once, but you can risk burning the garlic. Also, make sure the calamari are completely dry; if not, they will release a lot of water and you’ll end up cooking them instead of sautéing.

Baby Calamari with Garlic
Cuisine: Spanish
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2-3
Serves 2-3.
Ingredients
  • 500g (about 1 1/2 pounds) baby squid/calamari with heads, cleaned and pat-dried
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste
  • guindilla or red pepper flakes, to taste
  • cilantro or parsley, for garnishing
Instructions
  1. Over medium heat, sauté the calamari (and calamari heads) with the olive oil in a pan, about 5-7 minutes, turning over a few times.
  2. Add the garlic and pepper and cook a couple of minutes longer, until the garlic are golden.
  3. Add sea salt, to taste.
  4. Garnish with cilantro or parsley and serve immediately.

 

Roasted Pumpkin-Carrot Soup

What happens to pumpkin that is about 1 month old? not much really.. it’s still usable and edible! At least mine was. Before our USA/Mexico trips, I had cleaned out the fridge and frozen some vegetables in preparation. But some other things I had left out, like the butternut squash on the counter and carrots in the fridge. The carrots were limp, but still good enough for making soup. So, that’s what I did.

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I roasted both the squash and the carrots together; and I used half the squash to make waffles (a recipe I want to remake before I share) and used the other half for the soup.

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The curry mix can be used for any of your favourite recipes, and if you don’t like the seasoning, simply use your preferred spices to add flavour to this soup.

Enjoy!

Roasted Pumpkin-Carrot Soup
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Ingredients
  • 1/2 smallish butternut squash (or 1 heaping cup roasted pumpkin meat)
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups filtered water (or 3 cups water and no milk)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons curry mix*
  • cooked bacon bits or jamon serrano pieces
  • cooked asparagus tips
  • drizzle of olive oil for garnishing
  • For the Curry Spice Mix:
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
  2. Cut the butternut squash in half and place in cut-side up in an oven proof dish.
  3. Rinse the carrots, and without peeling, place next to the squash.
  4. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until squash is tender.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to be able to handle.
  6. Remove seeds from the squash and remove the meat. For the soup, you’ll need 1 heaping cup of pumpkin meat (or a little more if you prefer).
  7. Peel the roasted carrots by carefully tearing off the skin with a knife. Cut both tips off, as well.
  8. Place the pumpkin meat, carrots and 1 cup coconut milk in a blender or food processor (or you can puree using an immersion blender as well).
  9. Puree until smooth. Add 2 cups of water and mix well.
  10. Add the seasoning and spice mix and stir until all is well incorporated.
  11. Place the soup in a pan and warm up over low to medium heat.
  12. In the meantime, cook some bacon / pork back rashers. Cut them into pieces. (If using jamon serrano, simply cut up some pieces, enough for the number of servings.)
  13. To plate: pour the soup in the bowls, sprinkle with some bacon bits/jamon serrano pieces and the asparagus tips, and drizzle with olive oil.
  14. For the Curry Mix:
  15. If your spices are “whole”, simply grind them up in a coffee grinder.
  16. Mix all the spices together for the curry.

 

Asparagus Quiche with Spaghetti Squash Crust

The other day for breakfast, I made a similar quiche with smoked salmon and grated yuca as a crust, but the pictures I took were really bad. So, I didn’t think that I could create this post, while still in the US. (The light quality in Florida is surprisingly not good compared to my own kitchen in London. Who would’ve thought?! So the pictures are still not great, but okay enough I hope.)

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Today, we went to repeat the quiche again with yuca, but when we cut the yuca, we noticed sadly it was rotting inside. So instead, my mother and I decided that we would do a spaghetti squash crust, as we both love this vegetable.

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Growing up in Spain, I used to eat it every once in a while as “cabello de angel”, which is a candied spaghetti squash or “cidra” squash. But since then, I had not tried it again until last Christmas when we visited my parents. I absolutely love it, especially in savoury cooking. But I have not been able to find it in London yet… so whenever I’m at home with my parents, it becomes a special treat to eat spaghetti squash!

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I wish I could say I’ll be repeating this at home, but mostly likely not unless I find the squash in London… however, I’ll be making the yuca crust quiche again as soon as I can! I’ll be sharing the recipe too.. so stay tuned. 😉

Asparagus Quiche with Spaghetti Squash Crust
Recipe Type: Main
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-6
Serves 4-6 or one 10-inch quiche.
Ingredients
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (use about 2 1/2 – 3 cups of the meat for this recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 5 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup coconut milk/almond milk/dairy milk (I used almond milk, as that’s all that we had left)
  • a bunch of thin asparagus (about 2 cups), cut in halves or large pieces
  • 1 medium tomato, cut in thin slices and then halve the slices
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
  2. Carefully split the spaghetti squash in half. (It can also be baked whole, but it will take longer.)
  3. Remove the seeds and sprouts, if any, with hands.
  4. Place cut-side down on a baking pan.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender.
  6. In the meantime, poach the asparagus in some water, until just tender. Remove from water and set aside.
  7. Allow the spaghetti squash to cool a bit before removing the meat with a fork.
  8. Mix about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of the meat with 2 tablespoons of butter and mix well.
  9. Add sea salt and pepper, to taste. (Remember that the egg mixture will also contain seasoning, so don’t go overboard.)
  10. Pat the squash into a quiche form, covering the sides and bottom.
  11. Bake at 400F (200C) for about 5-8 minutes, until golden and slightly crispy. Remove from oven and set aside.
  12. In a saucepan, over medium heat, cook the leek slices with the 3 tablespoons butter, until tender.
  13. Allow to slightly cool before pouring into the beaten eggs.
  14. Add the milk, nutmeg, sea salt and pepper to taste.
  15. Place the poached asparagus pieces on top of the spaghetti squash crust.
  16. Pour the beaten eggs and leeks over top, covering the asparagus evenly.
  17. Place the tomato pieces on top.
  18. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

 

Leek Salad

This salad is usually served as a side dish at our home. But it can be eaten as a main meal or even breakfast, if desired.

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This salad served 4, as a side dish.

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Leek Salad
Recipe Type: Salad
Cuisine: Spanish
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Ingredients
  • 2 large leeks, washed and with some of the top layers taken off (if necessary) and cut into 2-in pieces
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, diced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper and sea salt, to taste
  • herbs for garnishing
Instructions
  1. Steam the leeks until tender.
  2. Drain the water over a colander.
  3. Place the leeks on a serving plate and sprinkle the tomato and egg pieces over top.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and seasonings.
  5. Garnish with herbs, as desired.
  6. This salad can be eaten warm or cold.

 

Sweet Spinach Pie with Basic Paleo Almond Crust

I found an interesting article the other day, “Three Ways Cooking Has Changed Over the Last 300 Years,” which I posted on my Facebook page.

“With help from food historian Annie Gray, Finnamore has been cooking – and blogging — her way through The Unknown Ladies Cookbook, a 300-year-old British compendium of family recipes. Jotted down by hand by several different women between 1690 and 1830, the recipes provide insights into the cooking habits of the Georgian and Regency periods. They also tell us quite a bit about how much culinary craft has changed over the centuries.” ~exert from “Three Ways Cooking Has Changed Over the Last 300 Years”.

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The article intrigued me, and even more captivating were the use of some ingredients, such as spinach in a sweet pie. Yes, I know we use vegetables in many sweet versions, especially zucchini, carrots, potatoes… But somehow, I hadn’t thought of spinach as something for a dessert. However, having said that, this dish was not considered a dessert, but a second course! 

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‘To Make a Spineage Tort:’ Sweet spinach tart – a surprising combination of sweet and savory ingredients. This recipe has been largely forgotten in Britain, but a very similar dish is still made in a parts of Provence during the Christmas celebrations. This would be served as a second course.

“Take 6 eggs, yolks & whites. Beat them well with a pint of sweet cream, a qr of a pd of crums of bread, a good handfull of spinage cut small, half a qr of currons, half a qr of almonds pounded wth a little rose water, half a nutmeg, half a pd of white sugar. Half a pound of drawn butter, 3 spoonfulls of brandy. Mix all well together. Lay paist thin at the bottom & sides of the dish & cross bar at top. 3 qrs of an hour bakes it.”

 I loved the sound of this and therefore have made my own version of sweet “spineage” tort, which I have found delicious.

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My version is of course Paleo and Primal. The crust is a basic almond-coconut crust, of which I only made enough for a 6-inch pie. If you plan on making a larger pie, you may want to double up the crust recipe.

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As for the filling: I also followed the basics of spinach, almonds, and eggs, added a bit of coconut flour for more of a baked-goods texture, and included the rosewater (the secret ingredient I’ve been mentioning on Instagram and Facebook). I know the rosewater can be overpowering for some, but personally I wouldn’t omit it. It adds depth and an exotic taste to the pie, and actually brings out a nice flavour in the spinach.

For a slightly less sweet version, reduce the coconut sugar to 3/4 cup.

Enjoy!

Sweet Spinach Pie with Basic Paleo Almond Crust
Cuisine: Old English
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
One 6-inch pie.
Ingredients
  • For the pie crust:
  • 1 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of sea salt
  • For the spinach filling:
  • 300g fresh spinach leaves (1 cup cooked)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater
  • pinch of sea salt
Instructions
  1. For the crust:
  2. In a mixing bowl, knead all the ingredients together until a dough is formed.
  3. With your hands, press the dough into a pie plate, bottom and sides (I used a 6-inch round plate).
  4. Set aside.
  5. For the spinach filling:
  6. In a medium-sized pot, place the spinach and about 1 cup of water. At medium heat, bring to a boil, and cook about 5 minutes.
  7. Reduce the heat to low and cook an additional 5 minutes.
  8. Turn heat off and allow to cool in the pot with water.
  9. Once the spinach is cool, drain into a colander and press the spinach to remove all of the water. I pressed it with the back of a spoon.
  10. Put the spinach, egg yolks, rosewater and sea salt into a food processor. Pulse until a a puree is formed, about 1 minute.
  11. Add the almond four, coconut flour and sugar and pulse again until everything is well incorporated.
  12. Pour the dough into a mixing bowl.
  13. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  14. Fold the egg whites into the spinach mixture. Mix well until no white is visible.
  15. Pour the spinach filling into the pie crust.
  16. Bake at 180C (350F) for 35-45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out dry.

 

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