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Category: spring

(Re)Discovering Rota, Spain & Costa Ballena {Arranque Roteño}

If someone would’ve told me years ago that Rota was worthy of being considered an international tourist destination, I probably would’ve looked at them with incredulity. It never occurred to me during all those years going to school on the Rota Naval Base that Rota was anything more than a little, sleepy agricultural and fishing town, situated in a strategic location for the Spanish and American military and the neighbour of my little Chipiona. Of course, I knew there was some sort of history there seeped in the stones of the old castle, in the walls of the main church, and in the rocks of the corrales. But from kindergarten through high school, I never really gave it much thought.

Rota for me, like for many other kids who grew up with me, was a beach playground and a place to go bar-hopping and disco dancing with friends. (Yes, I actually said disco.) And Costa Ballena, now a golf and residential resort, was where I used to hang out on a farm that belonged to family friends. A large portion of the land used for the golf course and the resort belonged to a cousin of the former King of Spain from the House of Orleans-Borbón. The rest of the land belonged to this family, who are our friends. On these grounds, I used to go horse-back riding, play in the hay stacks, and catch erizos de mar (sea urchins), which we would cut up right there on the beach and eat raw with a squirt of lemon juice.

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The Rekindled Friendship of A Dreamer in Paris {And Blanquette de Poulet à l’Ancienne}

Foreword, from La La Land

My aunt used to live in Paris
 
I remember, she used to come home and tell us these stories about being abroad

And I remember she told us that she jumped into the river once, barefoot

She smiled
Leapt, without looking
And tumbled into the Seine

The water was freezing
She spent a month sneezing

But said she would do it again
Here’s to the ones who dream

Foolish as they may seem
A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see

Prologue, A Visit 13-Years in the Making 

Sometime in 2016…

“We’ve had twelve years of foreplay; it’s about time we see each other, don’t you think?”

Months later …

“Happy new year to you too. I wish you a happier 2017 than 2016. I also wish you the opportunity to travel to Paris!”

Some days later …

“Are you free on the weekend of …. ?”

“I am no longer free because you are coming?” (Isn’t that just the most perfect line for a story?…)

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Lemon Honey-Mustard Chicken Thighs

Inspiration can come from anything. Anything at all.

I’m such a reluctant planner, and oftentimes I have hardly any patience in the kitchen. I want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Sort of contradictory, as I love to cook and it relaxes me and makes me lose myself in creative thought.

But lately, with everything that we have going on, including an imminent move, it’s hard to concentrate for too long. Plus, I’m trying to prove to my father that he too can make all these dishes I’m making for us. They really are that easy and simple to make. We’ll see if I am actually successful in my endeavours and he’ll cook for himself…

So the other day, I made this chicken dish which couldn’t be easier to put together and make. I had leftover dressing from a salad (which I’ll share soon) and decided that was the going to be the flavour of the day! Instant inspiration! It includes a slight modification from the salad dressing with the addition of butter and honey to add a little bit of depth. And it uses ingredients that probably most of you regularly have on hand.

Simple. Easy. Quick. Delicious. Father Approved! No planning required. Keeper!

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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.

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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.

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Revivals… {Pan-Seared Scallops with Nectarines and Balsamic-Honey-Mustard Reduction + Broccoli Rabe with Golden Garlic}

I drove into town the other day specifically to buy more yarn for the snood I‘m making just finished for myself. The woman at the yarn store said I would have enough with one skein, but well obviously I didn’t quite follow her instructions….

I’ve become completely obsessed enamored with the beautifully produced television series Outlander and its costume design. The Starz original (I sound like an advert) is very truthful to the books – I’ve read five of the eight already – and quite possibly better! While the executive producer Ron Moore is fastidious about keeping all the details from Diana Gabaldon’s novels, he’s also very astute and perceptive by incorporating the personality of the actors and making small modifications, as he did in one of the last episodes where Caitriona Balfe does a singing and dance performance to the tune of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, which was a very popular 1940s song. Apparently Cait does a lot of humming and singing when off the set and Ron thought it was a perfect way to include her own personality to enhance the drama. In the books, one knows what Claire is thinking because she’s narrating most of the story. But in the television series, there’s a lot less of that. So, by adding these scenes, we get to experience what it feels like for Claire to be caught between her two worlds, post WWII and the mid-18th century. In my opinion, the result is an improvement on this seductive and mystical story.

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Courgetti {Zucchini Noodles} Without the Need of a Spiraliser

Courgetti! What a cool sounding term. One of those neologisms that simply clicks from the moment one hears it. Paleo (and the culinary world) has a lot of them, since many recipes have been adapted or paleolised (that being a newly invented word in itself).

I first heard the expression coined by my friend Ceri, who is a natural chef and the author of the Natural Kitchen Adventures blog and I just couldn’t get over how easily it rolled off the tongue. Why hadn’t I thought of it? I kept calling them courgette noodles or zucchini spaghetti. How dull and uninventive. Coincidently, Ceri just celebrated her fourth year of blogging by sharing a courgetti recipe!

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe for some time now, but every time I’ve made it I’ve not been able to photograph the dish. My mother requested it often; and I love how easy and simple it is. It can be whipped up in literally less than ten minutes from start to finish. And it always comes out perfect; so it’s a great side dish or something really quick to make in the mornings for breakfast with eggs!

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Spring with Kiko {Chicken a l’Orange + Patatas a lo Pobre}

“Hi little guy. Are you walking your mistress?” asked our friendly neighbour who was raking leaves and preparing his garden for the summer season ahead. Kiko and I were walking by, with the little guy rather dragging me down the hill behind him. (By the way being called mistress was fairly enchanting especially since I’ve been reading the Outlander series, whose story takes place in the 18th century.)

Kiko is my parent’s mini schnauzer. He’s a very affable little thing, although quite prone to being fearful of people. On the other hand, he loves other dogs. Being rather small doesn’t stop him from wanting to greet, sniff and play with all the hounds we encounter on our walks, no matter how large they are. And while he’s generally fun and loving, he is also stubborn. When he digs in his hind legs, there’s no budging him until he gets what he wants, which in most cases is just a stop for him to bury his nose in the ground and mark his territory. Marking his territory takes place what seems like every two seconds though.

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A Day of Fennel

At the risk of publicly seeming a bit unstable and disorganised, I’ve decided to split the post about my mother in two separate entries. For the inconvenience, I apologise.

I was feeling a heaviness and a certain weight about including recipes with a post about my mom, but this is a food blog and I didn’t want to separate the two, especially since my mother has been my greatest influence in my life and in my cooking.

But she deserves her own space. I struggled with myself about sharing everything I did, yet not writing about her, not sharing with all of you such a huge part of my life, was in many ways not acknowledging her and her life. We are living a fragile time… there are days it’s unfathomable to believe and understand cognitively that she’s gone. And then there are those brief moments when I question myself how could she exist and not be here now.

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Lust for Life Reclaimed & Honey-Roasted Rosemary Pork Chops

A few months ago, I started reading Paradise Reclaimed, an Icelandic novel by Halldór Laxness.  I have yet to finish it…but today, made me think of the moral behind the tale in Laxness’ novel.

I was thinking about how sometimes we must take a long journey to get us where we want or should be and to give us that depth of palette, that we would not have achieved otherwise and with which we paint our canvas of life.  At times for some of us, the road can be tumultuous, full of bumps, twists and turns, and paths that maybe we wished we had not taken but from which we cannot turn around. And then other routes appear that we are afraid or unable to take; and yet, when we actually take the leap and grab the proverbial “bull by the horns”, we are lead down a path to magical places…places we have longed for…places that provide wings for our souls to soar…

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Balsamic Pepper Rumb Steak

These steaks are delicious and juicy, and are perfect for any occasion, on the stovetop or BBQ. Prepare the night before for extra succulent results or the morning of using the steaks.

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There’s no need to add any grease in the pan when cooking, simply pour the marinade over the steaks and cook to your liking.

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Balsamic Pepper Rumb Steak
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
Serves 2.
Ingredients
  • 2 rump steaks (or beef cut of choice), rinsed
  • For the marinade:
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons whole, black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. You’ll get better results by marinating the night before or at least 4-5 hours before cooking.
  2. For the marinade:
  3. In a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic.
  4. Add the peppercorns and crack.
  5. Add the rosemary and sea salt and grind to mix well.
  6. Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and mix well.
  7. Pour the marinade into a plastic bag or sealable container.
  8. Place the rinsed rump steaks in the marinade and seal the bag/container.
  9. Allow to marinade either overnight or at least 4-5 hours before using.
  10. Cook the rump steaks with all the sauce on the stovetop or BBQ until your liking.

 

Rhubarb Soup

Rhubarb is currently in season, and we’ve bought it a few times in a row now. I love experimenting with fruits and vegetables, as they become available seasonally where I live. In Germany, during the Spring, the hot ticket item is white asparagus. One can find it everywhere and on every menu. But this year, as we are in London, our options vary…

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I’ve already shared with you a few ideas for using rhubarb: Chicken aux Herbes de Provence with Savoury Rhubarb, Rhubarb-Orange Frangipane Tart, and Rhubarb Chipotle Goat’s Cheese Paleo Pizza.

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And now, I bring to you a soup, that can be served warm or chilled, as a first course or an “amuse-bouche”. Rhubarb pairs well with a sweet fruit to contrast with its natural tart flavour. I think that’s why there are so many strawberry-rhubarb combinations. For my recent recipes, I’ve added orange and orange juice to make the rhubarb less tangy and add some sweetness. But apples and pears are also a good option. And so are grapes.

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For these amuse-bouche, I roasted some grapes in the oven and used them as a garnish, as well as a complement to the rhubarb.

I hope you enjoy!

Rhubarb Soup
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-12
Makes about 4 cups.
Ingredients
  • 800g rhubarb stalks (about 8-10 stalks), rinsed and cut into large pieces
  • 2 medium red onions, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 beetroots, precooked (if you purchase them raw, simply roast in the oven or steam in water until tender)
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeesed orange juice
  • coarse sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • grapes, oven roasted for garnish and contrast
Instructions
  1. In a pot, over medium heat, poach the onions and garlic in the olive oil, until tender.
  2. Add the rhubarb and the water.
  3. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is cooked.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Once cool, place into an electric blender or with an immersion blender, and puree with the beetroots.
  6. Return to the pot.
  7. Add the orange juice and season to taste.
  8. For the oven-roasted grapes: Place in an oven proof dish, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 5-8 minutes at 180C (350F). Be careful not to burn. Once the grapes get warm, the sugar starts to come out and they burn quickly. Allow to cool, before using.
  9. To serve: spoon some rhubarb soup into your serving dishes and garnish with the grapes and some freshly ground pepper.
  10. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
  11. NOTE: This is a great soup to make a day or two in advance, and by doing do, the flavours also blend more.
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