If there’s one place in the world that I could say is on my proverbial ‘bucket list’, that’s Russia, that land that was once prohibited to Westerners, the land shrouded in mystery and spy stories, the land of an intensely resilient people who have survived hardships most of us cannot even imagine, and the land of snowy Siberia.
The mere thought of standing in the famous Red Square in Moscow and seeing St. Basil’s Cathedral with its colourful onion-top domes and Byzantine architecture and being feet away from the Kremlin, I know will one day make me giddy with glee. I will have to pinch myself to believe what my eyes will be seeing.
I’ve been somewhat neglecting the blog since before our trip to Spain for the holidays. I’m sorry about that, but sometimes life catches up with us in ways that are unpredictable. And then we have to prioritise. And it’s then that in my case, the blog must be put on the back burner (pun intended) for a while.
Over the holidays, I wrote up a bunch of recipes very excitedly to share with all of you; and I hope I will be able to put those up on the blog soon. I actually did a lot of home cooking with my mother whilst in Sevilla and some of the things we made are very traditional dishes from my childhood, with influences from Spain, of course, and Portugal.
Although I’d love to say the contrary, there are days or evenings that getting into the kitchen to cook a meal is more of a chore than a pleasure. When that’s the case, I want to make something quick and easy, yet still healthy and Paleo.
The other night was one of those evenings, which tend to happen right after a trip. The house is not spic and span, I’m tired and with a million things on my mind, and concentrating on creating a entire feast for dinner is just not going to happen. I want something that can be done in 30 minutes or less… this recipe is great for a situation like this.
Salisbury steaks are a step up from a hamburger (my original idea) and yet they seem more elaborate.
SALISBURY STEAK WITH QUICK & EASY PALEO GRAVY
Ingredients, for 6 steaks:
800g minced beef
3-4 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
butter or fat of preference, for frying
Mix all of the ingredients together by hand until well blended. Form steak-shaped patties and set aside. You should have about 6 medium-sized patties.
When you’re ready to place the steaks into the gravy, melt some butter or fat of preference in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the steaks on each side. Then transfer to the gravy, as per below instructions.
Ingredients for the Gravy:
3 leeks, cleaned and finely sliced – or – 3 medium onions, julienned – or a mixture of the two
2 tablespoons grass-fed butter or fat of choice
3-4 medium mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
sea salt, to taste
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 – 2 cups filtered water
In a skillet over low heat, melt the butter or fat of choice. Add the leeks and/or onions and poach until the leeks/onions are tender. Add the mushrooms and sauté about 1-2 minutes. Add the arrowroot powder and sauté 30 seconds.
Then add the white wine and mix well. Cook for a minute and then add the water, first 1 1/2 cups and increase to 2 cups if necessary. Season to taste.
Now add in the browned steaks and cook, turning a couple of times, about 10 minutes. Serve alone or with your favourite side dish.
“FILETES” SALISBURY CON SALSA GRAVY
Ingredientes, para 6 “filetes”:
800g de carne de ternera picada
3-4 dientes de ajo, picados
1 cucharadita de tomillo
2 cucharaditas de hierbas de la Provenza
1 cucharadita de sal marina, gorda
1/2 cucharadita de nuez moscada
mantequilla o la grasa que prefieras, para freir
Como hacer los “filetes” Salisbury:
Amasa con las manos todos los ingredientes hasta que estén bien mezclados. Con las manos, haz una hamburguesas en forma de “filete”, o sea, no redondas, sino ovaladas y alargadas. Ponlas en un plato hasta que las vayamos a cocinar.
Cuando la salsa gravy este lista, pon un poco de mantequilla u otra grasa a calentar en una sartén. Doramos los filetes Salisbury por ambos lados y los incorporamos a la salsa gravy, siguiendo las instrucciones de abajo.
Ingredientes para la salsa “gravy”:
3 puerros, limpios y cortados a rodajas finas – o – 3 cebollas, cortadas en juliana
3-4 champiñones medianos, cortados a trozos
2 cucharadas grandes de mantequilla o la grasa que prefieras (como la de pato/ganso/aceite de oliva)
1 cucharada grande de harina de tapioca o arrurruz (tambien se puede usar maicena, pero al ser de maíz es un grano y no es Paleo)
1/4 de cucharadita de pimienta negra, molida
sal, a gusto
1/4 taza (60ml) de vino blanco
1 1/2 – 2 tazas (375ml – 500ml) de agua
Como hacer la salsa:
En una sartén, derrite la mantequilla, y a continuación, pocha los puerros y/o las cebollas hasta que esten tiernos. Añade los champiñones y saltealos unos minutos.
Agrega la harina de tapioca/arrurruz/maicena y frie la unos segundos. Echa le por encima el vino y deja cocer unos minutos. Ahora añade el agua, primero los 375ml, y si hiciera falta, el resto. Mezcla bien y sazona.
Ahora incorporamos los filetes, previamente dorados. Cocemos unos 10 minutos hasta que la salsa espese y los filetes esten hechos por dentro, dando le la vuelta a los filetes de vez en cuando. Se puede servir con puré de patatas, coliflor o la guarnición que nos guste.
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…
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!
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Serve as is and enjoy!
A little about Naz:
Nazanin 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.
I’ve never really like hamburgers. Can you believe that? Well, okay, I’ll admit I love them off a barbecue grill with the right toppings and I especially love them with these spices.
My aunt Virginia, from whom I learned this recipe, makes a version of these, which are truly the only way I’ll eat a hamburger at home. And my husband loves them so much, he ate three the other night! (Mind you, he’s not Paleo and eats his with a burger bun.)
I served these over a bed of wild rocket (arugula), topped them with some avocado and tomato slices, a sprinkling of fresh onions, and accompanied them with some sweet potato chips or crisps.
For the sweet potato chips: simply peel the amount you want to use, slice thinly with a mandolin (careful to not cut yourself, these things are very sharp), sprinkle with some coarse sea salt and toss in a bowl, then fry them in plenty of oil. I used olive oil in a deep pot (I haven’t yet opened up my deep fryer), turning them frequently with a slotted spatula to ensure they didn’t stick to each other and didn’t burn.
I cooked my burgers in lard on a frying pan on the stove. The lard gives them an added flavour, but I imagine on the bbq they are also great.
Spanish Spiced Hamburgers with Sweet Potato Chips
Recipe Type: Main
Author: The Saffron Girl
500g minced (ground) beef
1 medium onion, peeled and very finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon thyme
coarse sea salt, to taste
a sprinkle of turmeric for colour (I used probably about 1-2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons white wine
lard, for cooking
sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced with a mandolin
olive oil, lard or other fat for frying the potatoes
For the hamburgers:
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with hands.
Form hamburger patties of the size you like. (I made 4 medium ones and a tiny one with this amount of meat.)
Melt about 2 tablespoons of lard in a frying pan.
Cook the burgers to your liking.
For the sweet potato chips:
Simply fry them in the grease of preference. I used a slotted spatula and stirred frequently to ensure they did not burn or stick to each other. They fry much quicker than regular white potatoes do.
I found the inspiration for this recipe in a Spanish cookbook my mother has, wrote it down and have made it a number of times in the past. But since I started this blog, I hadn’t revisited this dish.
It has a delicate combination of sweet and savoury flavours, which provide the brisket with depth and delicious aroma, and has an almost exotic feel to it. I’m happy I found the recipe again, as I plan to make it more often.
Beef Brisket Stew with Dates
Recipe Type: Main
Author: The Saffron Girl
1.5kg beef brisket, rinsed and cleaned if necessary
2 medium red onions, cut julienne style
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into medium pieces
3/4 medium green paprika pepper, sliced julienne style
1 cup white wine
2 1/2 cups bone broth (or water, if you don’t have it; however, the taste will be different and you’ll need to adjust for salt)
10-12 dates, pitted
coarse sea salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil (or fat of choice)
Prepare all the vegetables and dates.
Rinse and clean the brisket.
In a deep and large enough pot, place a few tablespoons of olive oil and the brisket.
Over low heat, brown the brisket on both sides.
Add the onions and poach.
Add the carrots, peppers, dates and wine.
Cook about 3-4 minutes.
Then add the bone broth and simmer for 1 hour or until the meat is tender. (Turn the brisket over, every 20 minutes or so.)
It’s not exactly cold in London right now, but it’s also not warm. I guess one could call this a traditional English summer, where we have a warm day or two here or there amongst many other that are less than acceptable.
However, I’m very excited, as tomorrow we are headed to the races at Royal Ascot for the second time since we’ve moved to the UK! Going to Ascot was very high on my list when we knew we were being sent to London. And we are hoping for sunny skies and warm temperatures…
But today, the menacing clouds were calling out for soup. I saw this great recipe on Swiss Paleo and the thought of putting meatballs and cabbage in a soup somehow appealed to me. So, I just had to make it! I did adapt it a bit though giving it a Mexican flare with some spiciness and cilantro.
For my usual recipe for meatballs, try this one, which I borrowed from my mother’s repertoire.
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican Paleo
Author: The Saffron Girl
For the meatballs:
750g ground beef (or a mixture of beef and pork)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
For the soup:
3-4 tablespoons of lard
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2-3 leeks, sliced (I used 3 because they were small)
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 can (400g) tomatoes
1/2 head small red cabbage, chopped
3-4 cups water
1 teaspoon pimenton (or paprika)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
coarse sea salt (I used 2 teaspoons)
lime juice (optional)
extra cilantro, for garnishing
For the meatballs:
Mix all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl with your hands.
Form small balls, about 1 1/2 inch in diameter. I made 28 balls.
For the soup:
In a soup pot, place the lard, leeks, carrots and celery. Heat over low heat until the vegetables are slightly soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and spices and cook about 1 minute.
Add the water and cabbage.
Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the meatballs, placing them carefully into the sauce. Cover.
Allow them to cook about 10 minutes, before stirring.
Cook for a total of 35-40 minutes. Add the additional cup of water, if necessary.
Cook the last 10 minutes uncovered.
Garnish with cilantro and a drizzle of lime juice, if desired.
My husband went shopping again and this time brought home a beef joint perfecting for roasting. I took it out in the morning to thaw, precisely the day that I had plans to meet some friends for lunch.. I wan’t quite thinking straight or could remember exactly how long it required to be done to perfection. So, on my way home from our luncheon, I was panicking a bit and needed some reassurance.
I checked out Jamie Oliver’s recipe, which helped with the times, and in addition offered inspiration for accompaniments, that I had not even thought of! duh… how can you have a beef roast, especially in England, without the traditional gravy and Yorkshire pudding!
Of course, pudding in England is not exactly what one would expect across the pond… and in all honesty, I’ve only had it once in a restaurant and didn’t like it, and that’s not even mentioning it’s was not Paleo. I think the culprit for not falling in love with this English tradition were that my expectations were along the lines of the cream-like dish the Americans call pudding, instead of the bread-like English version.
But either way, I was determined that my not-so-traditional Beef Roast must be accompanied by some version of “Yorkshire pudding”, one that soaked up the juices and the gravy….so, I used the following recipe for a basis, and took it from there. Purists will gawk at my recipe for sure, but the results were so nice for my palate, that I’ve created a bread! (So it pays to experiment in the kitchen for sure… ;-))
The gravy I made from the drippings of the beef roast, which since it included apples, has a unique flavour that is quite delightful!
PALEO “YORKSHIRE PUDDING”
2 eggs, which equal about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup chestnut flour
1/4 cup ground arrowroot
1/4 cup ground almonds
1 tablespoon coconut flour
pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
If you make these alongside the roast beef, the oven should already be at 200C (approximately 390F). If not, then preheat the oven to that temperature.
In a bowl, beat the eggs, milk and a pinch of salt. Add the flours and baking soda and mix well. Allow to sit for about 5-7 minutes until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency.
Pour into paper muffin holders or a greased muffin tin, and bake for about 12 minutes.
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
drippings from the roast beef, as much as possible
In a saucepan over medium to low heat, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until tender. Reduce heat to low.
Add about 1 tablespoon (adjust to the amount of liquid you will be adding) of arrowroot. Mix well.
Immediately add the liquid drippings of the roast beef.
Stir until the gravy is thick.
Roast Beef, Gravy and Paleo “Yorkshire Pudding”
Author: The Saffron Girl
2 kilo roasting beef joint
4-5 carrots, cut in large chunks
3 medium red onions, quartered
4 celery stalks, cut in large pieces
cherry tomatoes, about 20 small
4 apples, peeled and cut into large pieces
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
coarse sea salt
freshly ground pepper
freshly ground rosemary
Preheat the oven to 240C (460F).
Rinse and prepare the vegetables and the apples.
Place in an oven proof dish and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle some sea salt and pepper over top. Mix well.
Rinse the beef and place on top of the bed of vegetables and apples. Drizzle with olive oil and season with the salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary.
Reduce the oven temperature to 200C (390F).
Bake for 1 hour, for a medium-well roast beef, turning over after 30 minutes.
Bake about 15 longer for medium-slightly pink. (Adjust according to the weight of the beef, of course.)
Serve with “yorkshire pudding” and gravy over the beef and vegetables, if desired.
Yesterday was one of those days, where you take something to thaw out in the morning and then want to make something completely different with it than originally planned. I put out some minced meat, thinking it would be easy to make some meatballs or hamburgers, since I’m working all day on some design projects, which are soon due.
Well, I ended up spending most of the day in the kitchen instead, making a cauliflower and kale soup, some chicken liver pate, and this incredibly easy and tasteful dish! The British are not particularly known for their cuisine… but this is a twist on a classic recipe.
Cottage Pie or Shepherd’s Pie (when it’s made with lamb instead of beef) has been known since the late 1700s, when the potato was introduced as an edible crop, which was affordable to the poor. Traditionally, the pie is made to use leftover roasted meats, and there are variations in most European countries. Historically, mashed potatoes were used to line the pie dish and as a pie crust to the meat mixture inside. Interestingly, the first mention of “cottage-pye” in the UK was in 1791, when the Reverend James Woodford refers to eating it with “rost beef” for dinner.
Our culinary cultures are strongly influenced by our history, what is locally available, what a conqueror or invader brings to our land, what our ancestors brought back from other lands, and how we prepare and eat our food…for me, it’s always so interesting and so much fun to learn from other countries and enjoy foods from around the world. I hope you enjoy that I also share this passion with you in my culinary adventures!
1 large butternut squash, about 1.5 kilos* (another delicious alternative: 1 small cauliflower + 1 small swede + 5-6 roasted garlic cloves)**
750g minced beef
2 large leeks, using the white and light green parts only, sliced
3 stalks celery, deveined and sliced
4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, unpeeled, cubed or diced
5 white mushrooms, cubed
2 smoked bacon back rashers, or about 1/4 cup bacon, cut into squares (preferably nitrate free)
2 teaspoons ground thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
450ml filtered water + 100ml filtered water
4 teaspoons arrowroot powder
Preheat oven to 180C. Cut the butternut squash in half and place in an oven proof dish.
Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until done.
In the meantime, clean and prepare the vegetables.
Cut the bacon back rashers into small squares.
In a large frying pan, soften the leeks in some butter (I used about 1 tablespoon).
Add the bacon back rashers and cook thoroughly without burning.
Add the celery, carrots, and zucchini. Sauté until al-dente, about 4 minutes.
Add the minced meat and cook until brown.
Add the mushrooms.
Now add the sea salt, thyme and pepper to taste, and about 350ml of filtered water.
Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the arrowroot powder (dissolved in some broth) with the remaining water and simmer an additional 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally.
Once the meat and sauce are done, set aside.
Scoop out the meat from the squash with a spoon. In a bowl, mash the butternut squash with a potato masher and some butter to taste. (I used about 1 tablespoon.)
In an oven proof dish, pour the meat sauce and spread evenly. (Make sure the dish is not too large that you don’t have enough mashed squash to cover all of the meat, or that the layer of meat ends up too “thin”.)
Top with the mashed butternut squash. Pull a fork or spoon across the surface to create peaks.
Sprinkle with some ground thyme.
Bake at 180C, for 40 minutes until the top is crisp.
*If you prefer potatoes, use the same amount and mash them with butter, as well. Other options are turnip and parsnip mash, but this may be a bit sweeter.
**For another alternative: use 1 small head of cauliflower and 1 small swede. Clean, cut both vegetables and steam until soft. You’ll have to steam the swede longer than the cauliflower. Mash with a potato masher or in a food processor the cauliflower and swede, together with 1-2 tablespoons of butter plus 5-6 roasted cloves of garlic. Season with sea salt before placing over the ground meat mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Before leaving on our trip, I made sure our fridge was clean and mostly empty, except for a few vegetables that I knew would still be fresh when we returned. One of these vegetables is butternut squash, which I actually didn’t leave in the fridge and with which I cook a lot during the fall and winter months, as one can see in previous recipes.
Our vacation was a lot of fun and spent in the best company, my parents. 😉 Okay, I’m a bit biased, but we did have a great time. We enjoyed mostly warm and sunny weather in Florida and even had the opportunity to include some sports, beach and sightseeing. So, arriving on Monday to a chillier and very grey London was somewhat depressing. But one of the things that makes me happy is my kitchen and cooking… so I’m at it already.
Yesterday, I baked some “sourdough” grainfree bread, which is totally amazing (click here for the recipe) and made this stew for dinner.
BEEF & BUTTERNUT SQUASH STEW
Ingredients, for 4
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 kilo stewing beef, cut into 5cm (1inch) chunks
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
4 cups water
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
3 sprigs of Chinese spinach (optional)
2 celery stalks (branch, not full bunch), chopped
1/2 large butternut squash (approx 600-700g), cut into 1 inch chunks
3 medium carrots, cut into chunks
a handful of fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground rosemary
1 teaspoon pimenton (or paprika)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
sea salt and black ground pepper, to taste
12-15 “canned” artichoke hearts (we buy ours in Spain, and they come in a glass jar, not a can), cut in halves
zest of one lemon
In a large pot, add the olive oil, garlic and onions. Over medium heat, cook until the onion starts to become transparent, but not loose its colour. Add the meat and brown on all sides. Add the white wine and cook for 3 minutes. Add water and remaining vegetables and spices. Simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until the meat and squash are tender. (If you want a thicker sauce, add 3 cups of water instead.)
Remove from heat. Add the artichoke hearts and lemon zest and allow to sit 5-7 minutes before serving.
I like different. I love chocolate. And I’m feeling inspired….even if the weather is not exactly appropriate for stew right now. It’s boiling hot in London! I love it, although I think it’s a bit uncomfortable with the humidity factor. But I’m not complaining; it’s a rarity to see the sun around here…so, I’ll take it in any form it comes!
This is an easy dish to make and it’s delicious and slightly exotic as well. It’s very typical to add chocolate to game, usually to compliment the stronger flavours of the meat. In Spain, growing up, a dear friend of the family’s would regularly go hunting for wild boar, venison and pheasant. My father went along a number of times. And we kids would also join in on the field trip, which entailed going into the sierra to spend the day in nature, running through the fields, climbing acorn oaks, and jumping in haystacks. And of course, one of the best parts of the adventure was the end of the day when we got to enjoy some of the meat on an open wood-fire, with the noises of the night and the moon and the stars as our companions.
I’m not keen about hunting; in fact, I hardly eat game anymore, although I do admit that the flavour is incomparable to farm-grown animals. However, today I indulged in my passion of chocolate with a beef stew.
Chocolate Beef Stew – Estofado de Ternera al Chocolate
Ingredients, for 4
1 kilo of a tender cut of beef, diced for stew
3 large onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
100g of pure cocoa powder
1 cup of vinegar (I used balsamic as it’s sweeter, but you can use wine vinegar too)
4-5 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large squares
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
fresh ground nutmeg, to taste (I used about 3 teaspoons)
sea salt, to taste
Rinse the beef and pat dry. In a pressure cooker, place enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot. Over medium heat, brown the beef. Add the onions and garlic and saute about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar, cocoa powder, and nutmeg. Mix well and saute about 1 minute. Add the potatoes and carrots, and enough water to cover, or according to the instructions of your pressure cooker. Cover and seal the cooker; cook for 25 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow for the steam from the cooker to be released. Open the pot when there is no steam left. Check the meat for tenderness. Add the salt and cook a bit longer, with no cover, to reduce the sauce, about 5-10 minutes or longer if necessary.
I like to add a teaspoon of honey or raw maple syrup over my plate and mix it in with the stew. It adds just a touch of sweetness that makes the dish all that more delicious.