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Tag: Garlic

Lamb Roast with Pumpkin, Apple & Chestnut “Rough” Mash

I’m finding that taking food pictures of dinner in the Autumn and Winter in London is quite a challenge. By 15:45, it starts to get dark and by 16:30, it’s basically nighttime. The early darkness is annoying for our biological clocks, and alters our mood and sleeping habits.

For a food blogger, there’s the added issue of planning or trying to cook a meal around the small window of light hours. I am an awful planner and making dinner at lunch time during the week just to take a picture is not going to happen. However, during the week, many of my more elaborate meals are prepared at night.

Therefore, if I want to share these recipes with my readers, I have to make due with the poor lighting or create fake lighting… this last option, I’m still working on perfecting.

In the meantime, I’m sharing this recipe with pictures from breakfast. Yes, breakfast. I ate leftovers from dinner as my breakfast, something I love to do since going Paleo! It’s a quick and easy way to incorporate some healthy, saturated fats with which to start off my day.

The question today is, what do I make myself for lunch? ūüėČ

LAMB ROAST WITH PUMPKIN, APPLE & CHESTNUT “ROUGH” MASH

Ingredients, for 2:

1 kg leg of lamb
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 800g)
3 medium apples, peeled and cubed
10-12 chestnuts, peeled and halved
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon ground rosemary
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
zest of 1-2 lemons

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C (390F). Toss the cubed pumpkin, apples and chestnuts together. Place them on the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Rinse the leg of lamb and place on top of the pumpkin mixture. With a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic. Add the rosemary, sea salt, pepper, zest and olive oil and mix well. Coat the leg of lamb on both sides with the rosemary mixture. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes for medium done or about 15 minutes longer for less pink. About half way through, take the roast out of the oven, and remove the lamb, carefully to not burn yourself. With a spoon, toss the pumpkin mixture and replace the leg of lamb, with the un-cooked side up. Continue baking until done.

*****

PIERNA DE CORDERO AL HORNO CON BASE DE CALABAZA, MANZANAS Y CASTA√ĎAS

Ingredientes, para 2 comensales:

1 kg pierna de cordero
1/2 calabaza tipo “butternut squash”, como 800g, pelada y cortada a taquitos
3 manzanas medianas, peladas y cortadas a taquitos
10-12 casta√Īas frescas, peladas y cortadas por la mitad
4 dientes de ajo, pelados
1 cucharada grande de romero molido
1 cucharada grande de sal gorda
1 cucharadita de pimienta negra
1/2 taza de aceite de oliva
ralladura de 1 o 2 limones

Como hacer el cordero al horno:

Precalienta el horno a 200C. Mezcla los trozos de calabaza, manzana y las casta√Īas y pon todo en el fondo del recipiente que vaya a ir al horno. Enjuaga la pierna de cordero y coloca la encima de la calabaza. En un mortero, machaca los ajos. A√Īade el romero, la pimienta, la sal, la ralladura de lim√≥n y el aceite de oliva. Mezcla todo bien y embadurna ambos lados de la pierna de cordero con esta mezcla. Hornear como una hora y 15 minutos o una hora y media. A mitad de tiempo, saca el cordero del horno. Retira la pierna del recipiente, con cuidado para no quemarte y ponla en un plato. A continuaci√≥n, con una cuchara de palo, dale la vuelta a la calabaza y dem√°s. Vuelve a incorporar la pierna de cordero en el recipiente, pero esta vez del lado a√ļn no hecho. Termina horneando.

Sweet Potato & Zucchini Soup with Quatre-Epices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bon Appétit!

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

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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‚Ķ

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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‚Ķ

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‚Ķ 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 saut√©ed 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 Argui√Īano, 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¬†Albari√Īo 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 Albari√Īo 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 Albari√Īo 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,¬†¬ęen¬†casa¬†de¬†herrero¬†azad√≥n¬†de¬†palo¬Ľ, 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.

 

Lamb Kefta Tagine with Zucchini, Updated

Update, 2 December 2015

I originally created this recipe for my first and only guest post to-date on another blog in October of 2013. It’s been over two years! And so much has changed in my life, and also in that of Naz’s, the author of Cinnamoneats where this post was originally featured. Back then, we were both living in the UK and now we are both ‘back’ in the US.

Naz is making big changes to her blog, rebranding it and in the process she’s doing away with guest posts. Coincidently, I was looking for this recipe to make again this week and went to her blog only to find it ‘under construction’ (she’s working diligently to have it ready soon!). Thankfully, I had the recipe saved in email and am now adding it to this post so we all have it readily available.

Original post, now with recipe included

Welcome to my first guest post on another blog! Naz, from Cinnamoneats, and I follow each other on Instagram and Facebook and have discovered we have quite a lot in common, aside from both being expats (she’s from Australia) living in the UK and being Paleo bloggers! I love her site and her delicious recipes and interesting posts; so it’s an honour to be featured on her blog today.

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Naz originally asked me to share a traditional Spanish dish, but as I don’t have anything planned in the near future, I didn’t want to keep her waiting indefinitely… Therefore I thought something Moroccan would be suitable, as that’s very close to my heart and culinary interests as well. I’ve spoken about my passion about the Maghreb cuisine and how I have a ton of Moroccan cookery books… and this recipe is adapted from one of those books, which I purchased on my last trip to Spain.

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Cocina Marroqui, by Ghillie Basan, is a great resource for recipes of tagines and couscous, as well as spice blends and tips on how to prepare delectable Moroccan meals. Ghillie even discusses odd bits about the culture and the people of this colourful country.

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(mise en place and the lamb/mouton meat mixture)

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(on the left is the base for the tagine; on the right are the vegetables poaching)

Tagines are very easy to make and usually encompass combinations typical of the local cuisine, such as spicy with fragrant or sweet and savoury. In this particular recipe, ras-el-hanout is the star. Once you take your first whiff of this spice blend, you’ll either be totally enchanted or possibly really dislike it (although I doubt that). The combination of spices and edible flowers plus chili and turmeric make it quite unique and aromatic, as well as healthy.

And although lamb is used in this recipe, you could very well make the tagine with beef or a beef/pork combination. It’s a great dish to make ahead and then heat up on the stove top. In fact, the longer you let it sit, the better it tastes as the flavours really permeate into the meat.

You can accompany the dish with some green vegetables or a fluffy “cauliflower couscous”…

Lamb Kefta Tagine with Zucchini

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10
Cook Time: 30

Ingredients

For the Meatballs/Kefta
500g ground lamb
2 small red onions (finely chop 1 1/2 of the onions; julienne the remaining 1/2 onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
10-12 fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons Ras-el-Hanout
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3 cups filtered water

For the vegetables
2 medium zucchini, roughly peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium aubergine, roughly peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the Tagine:
1 tablespoon ghee
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small red onion, julienne-style
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 to 2 cups water from cooking the meatballs
coarse sea salt, to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt)
fresh mint leaves, chopped, for garnishing

Method

Mix the ground lamb with the onion, garlic, mint leaves, ras-el-hanout, chili powder, and the sea salt. Mix until everything is well incorporated. Scoop out balls with a measuring tablespoon and with your hands create the meatballs. Set them aside on a platter or clean surface.

In a deep, but wide pan, place about 3 cups of filtered water, over medium heat.¬†When it starts to bubble, carefully add the meatballs. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so they¬†cook on all sides and do not stick to the pan or together. (I stir, moving from the bottom of the pot so I¬†don’t break the meatballs.)¬†With a slotted spoon, remove from the water and place on a plate or in a bowl. Set the water aside.

In a large saucepan, over low heat, add the zucchini, olive oil and garlic. Poach uncovered for about 10-12 minutes. Stir frequently. Add the aubergine and cook an additional 7-8 minutes. Stir frequently.

In the meantime, in a tagine (ceramic pot or another saucepan), sauté over low heat the 1/2 julienned onion and the cumin seeds in the ghee and olive oil, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the 1 1/2 cups of water from cooking the meatballs. (Add the remaining water only if necessary.)

Place the meatballs/kefta inside the tagine, along with the poached vegetables. Stir well. Add coarse sea salt, to taste. I used about 1 teaspoon. Cook covered for about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then uncovered and cook an additional 12-15 minutes, or until liquid is partially reduced.

Sprinkle with fresh, chopped mint as garnish.

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.

 

Oven-Baked Red Snapper, Spanish Style (Pargo Rojo al Horno)

We eat a lot of sea creatures in Spain. Yes I said “creatures” and not seafood because we eat almost everything that comes from the ocean. Maybe only Asians beat us in terms of culinary adventurers.

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So this weekend when we visited the Asian food market Loon Fung, I couldn’t resist buying a lot of seafood, including these gorgeous red snappers. And I just knew I had to make them soon…

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(Poaching the potatoes and onions)

My first intention was to bake them inside banana leaves. But both snappers would not fit properly in my oven dish with the banana leaf wrappings. Therefore, I had to resort to the unplanned Plan B, and baked them the regular, traditional Spanish way.

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Baking fish with a bottom layer of vegetables, especially white potatoes, onions and tomatoes is very typical in most homes and restaurants in Spain. The flavours of the fish are soaked up by the vegetables and hardly any spices or herbs are necessary to make this dish taste wonderful.

I did, however, add some choi sum leaves to get some greens into the dish. You can omit these if you like of course. And I also added some Vietnamese basil, which I also had purchased at the Asian market. I just couldn’t resist to use it. But regular basil also works well to add a nice aroma.

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As for poaching the potatoes and onions: the reason for this is that they take a lot longer to bake than the fish does. If you put everything in the oven at the same time, you’ll end up with raw potatoes. However, if instead of poaching you prefer to simply roast it all, place the potatoes and onions with some olive oil in the oven proof dish and bake about 30-35 minutes before adding the fish on top. Most fish are done very quickly, in about 20-25 minutes at the most, so be careful not to overcook it or it will turn out dry.

PS: For those of you who cannot deal with fish eyes starring out at you or looking at the head, simply ask your fish monger to cut the heads off or cut them off yourself at home. Fish heads can make great fish broth, so don’t throw them away and use them for this!

Oven-Baked Red Snapper, Spanish Style (Pargo Rojo al Horno)
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Spanish
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
For 2.
Ingredients
  • 2 red snappers, about 500g/1 pound each
  • some sprigs of Vietnamese basil (optional)
  • lemons slices, halved
  • 4-5 medium white potatoes, thinly sliced (about 2mm thick)
  • 2 small red onions (or equivalent), sliced
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • choi sum leaves, from about about 4 choi sum stalks (optional)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • additional olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons white wine
  • coarse sea salt
Instructions
  1. Rinse and cut off the fins of the fish. (I purchased my fish scaled and gutted.)
  2. Make two or three diagonal cuts on each side of the fish. Set aside.
  3. In a large, shallow pan, add the 1/2 cup of olive oil, the sliced potatoes and sliced onions.
  4. Over low heat, poach the vegetables for about 12-15 minutes, until softened.
  5. Every few minutes, carefully flip over with a spatula, so they cook evenly. Be careful not to mash the potatoes as they cook.
  6. While the potatoes and onions cook, preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
  7. In an oven proof dish, large enough for the vegetables and the fish, layer the choi sum leaves, the poached potatoes and onions, and the tomatoes, starting with the choi sum leaves.
  8. Don’t pour the potatoes and onions into the dish, but instead scoop them out with some of the olive oil, but not all of it.
  9. Sprinkle the garlic and some sea salt over top the layered vegetables. (I didn’t measure the salt, but used about two pinches.)
  10. Place the fish on top.
  11. Place the halved lemon slices inside the cuts in the side of the fish.
  12. And stuff the basil leaves/sprigs into the gut of the fish.
  13. Drizzle with some olive oil and the white wine.
  14. Sprinkle some additional coarse sea salt over top (about another two pinches).
  15. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the fish are done.

 

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! ūüėČ

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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 saut√©ing.

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.

 

Quick Breakfast Mofongo with Calamari

Sometimes I get bored of eating eggs for breakfast. And although I have read that we can eat as many eggs as we want every day, a little voice in the back of my mind keeps telling me that too much of anything is probably not a good idea…

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I tend to eat leftovers from dinner or create a quick breakfast like I did today with things I have on hand. Breakfast for me is no longer the typical “bread with something”. It hasn’t been for a long time; and I feel much healthier, my internal system works much better, and I am satiated for much longer during the day. Breakfast has become my most important meal of the day, and one I actually look forward to each morning, especially at home.

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To make this mofongo, I used ripe plantains, so it resulted in a sweet-savoury mix. However, to make a real mofongo, use green plantains instead.

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I’ll be posting a “real” mofongo recipe soon, once I am in my London kitchen. ūüėČ

Quick Breakfast Mofongo with Calamari
Recipe Type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Latin American
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1
Serves 1.
Ingredients
  • 1 medium ripe plantain (or green plantain)
  • 4-5 baby squids/calamari, cleaned and pat-dried
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • olive oil or fat of choice
  • sea salt, to taste
  • cilantro or parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Peel and cut the plantain into slices.
  2. Add some olive oil or fat of choice to a pan over medium heat.
  3. Saute the plantain pieces until golden brown on each side.
  4. Place the cooked plantain pieces into a mortar, and with the pestle roughly grind them up with 2 minced garlic cloves.
  5. Place the mixture into a small bowl or mould, creating a “hole” in the middle in which the squid will later be placed.
  6. In the same pan as before, add a bit more olive oil (or fat of choice) and stir-fry the squid with the remaining garlic clove, until tender.
  7. Add sea salt and pepper, to taste.
  8. On a cutting board, cut the squid into bite-sized pieces and spoon over top the mofongo bowl.
  9. Garnish with cilantro or parsley.
  10. Eat immediately and enjoy!

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 ‚Äď and¬†blogging¬†‚ÄĒ 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 ‚Äď 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.

 

Quail Egg Stuffed Mushrooms

I find quail eggs simply adorable. Not only are they pretty, but they are fun to use in recipes, such as appetisers, garnish or as I used in this breakfast dish.

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This recipe is for 1 serving for a meal. It doesn’t take too much work and it’s healthy, nutritious and something different.

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(Beautiful quail egg shells.)

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(All my ingredients, chopped and ready to start cooking.)

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(Mushrooms with the stuffing.)

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(Mushrooms, stuffed and with the quail eggs on top, now ready for the oven.)

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(Ready to eat and served with the remaining stuffing sautéed with some kale, as a side.)

I hope you enjoy!

Quail Egg Stuffed Mushrooms
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves 1.
Ingredients
  • 6 medium sized button mushrooms (large enough to hold some stuffing and an egg on top)
  • 6 quail eggs
  • 2 slices of back rashers, cooked and minced (can be substituted for cooked bacon or raw jamon serrano pieces)
  • 1 small red onion, very finely diced
  • 1/2 stalk celery, very finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 mushroom stems, diced
  • a pinch of ground cumin
  • a pinch of ground rosemary
  • coarse sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • butter or fat of choice
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), while you prepare the ingredients.
  2. In a pan, place the butter, onion and celery. Over low heat, cook until the onion is tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, mushroom stems, back rashers, spices and seasoning (if desired) and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Place the washed and de-stemmed mushrooms in an oven proof dish, with the inside facing up.
  5. Spoon some of the stuffing into each mushroom.
  6. Break the quail eggs individually into a small glass bowl and carefully pour one egg on top of each stuffed mushroom.
  7. Bake for 7-8 minutes.
  8. If you have leftover stuffing, as I did, you can sauté with some kale, for example and serve as a side to the stuffed mushrooms.
  9. Garnish with freshly cut parsley or cilantro, if desired.
  10. These also work well as an appetiser for parties.

 

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