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Tag: London

Pimientos Rellenos con Quinoa – Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Yesterday morning, I finally managed to meet up with two ladies from the American Women’s Club to check out some local riding stables. I think we all concurred on one of the two we saw and will be starting with our lessons soon. I just can’t wait to be on a horse again…it’s been too long! We got a tour of the stables, met some of the horses that were around, and learned a few interesting things during our inspection. It’s always intriguing to find out how things are done differently in other countries. In the UK, when riding a horse from a stable or going on lessons, one cannot ride alone and must always have an instructor by the side for insurance purposes, unless the horse belongs to you, of course. (Then you’re allowed to ride alone.) For a beginner or someone who is rusty, like myself, it’s actually comforting to know this, since it takes a while to establish a rapport with a new horse. But I’m sure that for the more experienced rider it could be a nuisance. In Germany, on the other hand, we were allowed to ride on our own. Yet, in Germany and the Netherlands, if you do not have a certificate with your handicap, you are not allowed to play golf! We haven’t gone golfing here yet.. so no idea how things work in that arena! Every country does things differently. That’s part of the fun of living abroad and being an ex-pat, all these quirky things we get to experience.

One of the things I don’t like about ex-pat life is having only one car. Because we are living in a big city, parking is just not practical with two vehicles. Shopping for groceries can prove to be quite an uncomfortable experience (unless one gets delivery). We usually get our bi-weekly shopping done with the car; but in between, we do shop locally, which¬†means carrying the bags home, an ordeal that can be cumbersome. And if it’s raining like yesterday, you have to perform a juggling act between your purse, the bags, and the umbrella or simply get soaked. I opted for the latter and had an interesting hair do by the time I arrived home with all the bags. ūüėČ

But, as I’m preparing a few surprises for my husband’s birthday next week, I decided to grab the things I needed on way home anyway. However¬†once in the store, I got so distracted that I forgot one of the main ingredients for my surprise! My distraction was looming in the vegetable aisle, where the most gorgeous looking bell peppers I’ve seen in a while were so beautifully stacked.

They looked absolutely perfect for stuffing. So, I bought three of each colour and came quickly home to put out the ground meat to thaw. The recipe that follows is inspired by one of my mother’s, but with quite a few changes of my own. It turned out delicious; and my husband helped himself to seconds!

PIMIENTOS RELLENOS CON QUINOA – QUINOA STUFFED PEPPERS

Ingredients, for 6:

  • 6 large bell peppers (I used yellow and green)
  • 500g lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-5 brown mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • sea salt, to taste
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed

Process:

Rinse the bell peppers, and cut the tops off, leaving the stem on them. Remove the seeds. Set aside.

Place the quinoa with 2 cups of water in a pot over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, covered.

Preheat oven to 180C, about 350F.

In the meantime, in a skillet or wok, heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the ground meat and brown, cooking thoroughly. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and spices, and cook about 3-4 minutes. Add the wine and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until the wine evaporates. Mix in the quinoa, and adjust for salt, if necessary.

Place the bell peppers in an oven-proof dish (making sure they fit snugly so they do not tip over) and drizzle the insides with some olive oil. Spoon the meat mixture into each pepper, and cover the peppers with their own tops. Drizzle with additional olive oil over the covered peppers. Place in the middle rack of oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.

We ate our stuffed peppers with a side of sautéed bok choi.

Note: I don’t like to use aluminum foil when cooking. So, the peppers got a little “burnt” on top. If you do use aluminum foil, just place a sheet over the peppers, so they do not burn. ¬†Or perhaps a sheet of parchment paper would also do the trick. I’ll have to try that next time!

London 2012 Olympic Games, and Holland Heineken House

It’s an amazing time to have the opportunity to be in London. Twenty-twelve has been full of excitement so far: the Diamond Jubilee and now the 2012 Olympic Games.
 Tower Bridge with the Olympic Rings

 Another view of the Tower Bridge, from the Tower of London
Penultimate Day of the Torch Relay
Since we moved here in January, we thought it would be tremendously hard to achieve tickets for the games, however, it hasn’t been at all. In fact, there are still tickets available to many events and for sale through the official website and also via the National Olympic Committee houses, such as the Holland Heineken House.
The Holland Heineken House is amazing! We attended the days events there yesterday and I couldn’t have been more impressed. The Dutch are fascinating people, who at the drop of a penny will dress up in orange, head to toe, if necessary, to show their support for their countrymen and patriotism. The Holland Heineken House is the “traditional meeting place for the various echelons of the Dutch sports world during the Olympic Games. It is the official, national house of the Netherlands where NOC*NSF (Netherlands Olympic Committee) is the host and where Heineken facilitates and organises the venue. Holland Heineken House started during Barcelona 1992.” Therefore this year, it celebrates 20 years of existence and support for the Dutch athletes, their families and countrymen.
NOS Live from the Holland Heineken House

At the venue, one can find not only Heineken, but other Dutch companies with booths, engaging the public and selling their merchandise, as well as a restaurant, food and drink kiosks, a music and dance hall, facilities for national television (RTL and NOS) and radio stations, reception rooms for sponsors and athletes, and a plethora of fun! During the day, we could watch the games live on big TV screens, enjoyed the excitement shared by everyone in the venue and even were surprised by the visit of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Crown Princess Maxima, who walked around and greeted the crowd.
Excited crowd, when Prince Willem-Alexander & Maxima arrive at the HHH
I’m not Dutch, but my husband is. And I must say I’m impressed by many things that the Netherlands does, and this is one of them on my long list.
 Holland Heineken House, at Alexandar Palace
 
Maxima & Willem-Alexander
An athlete signing autographs

Dutch spirit at the Holland Heineken House
Dutch RTL commentator, getting ready for the live show, in which we were lucky enough to participate 
The day before, Saturday, we attended our first Olympic event: Women’s Foil Fencing. We had never watched fencing in person, so it was very interesting and exciting to learn about the sport, its history, and how the competition takes place. From our seats, we were fortunate to view the previous Gold Medal fencer, the Italian Valentina Vezzali, who this year took Bronze.
We were impressed by the participant from Tunisia, Ines Bourbakri, who played a quarterfinal match against V. Vezzali and lost 7 to 8. What a way to show skill and training.
The way that the fencing competition works is three rounds of 3 minutes each, with the participant with the highest score wining, or whoever reaches 15 points first. We watched the first half of the day, which concluded with the quarterfinals.
China vs. Poland
Fencing has been present at the Olympic Games since 1896, the year of the first modern Olympic Games. From the London 2012 website, “Although sword fighting dates back thousands of years, fencing as we now understand it really came of age as a sport in the 19th century. A tense, compelling battle of wits and technique, the sport is one of the few to have featured at every modern Olympic Games”.
In today’s fencing, the participants have suits, helmets, and swords, which are electronically wired, so that it’s easier for the referees to distinguish between foiled and real attacks. The platform upon which they perform is also wired, so that the public can view which player wins a point. It’s a bit annoying to listen to all the beeps going on back and forth during the hours of matches. But it’s also very informative to be able to see what is really going on in front of us.
We had an exhausting, but electrifying (no pun intended ;0) half day at the fencing event!
And on Sunday, the Women’s Cycling competition literally swooshed nearby our house. So, we went to see it and take really quick pictures. The participant from the Netherlands, Marianne Vos, won the Gold Medal for her country. (We later helped celebrate this at our afternoon at the Holland Heineken House.)
 Part of the peloton
The arm of Marianne Vos, who won the Gold Medal
We are fortunate to be able to join in these historical celebrations and look forward to the rest of the Games! There are a number of side events, exhibitions, and festivities taking place as well, all part of London Festival 2012.
If you are in London or are coming to the city for the Games, don’t forget to check out everything the city is offering now!

Welcome with Fideua

Wow! London is so inviting when the sun shines and it’s warm out. I went out for a walk to take advantage of this rarity, in a city, which is typically grey and wet. And on the walk, I made the decision to create this blog to share my experiences, discoveries and photographs of my travels and to have a place to compile recipes, which I find in my search and passion for new foods and challenges.
Gorgeous sunshine during my walk today.


I am half-Spanish, half-American and grew up in the south of Spain. I’ve travelled around the world since the prime age of 3 months…and hope to never stop discovering new places and revisiting old ones!¬†

Now, I live in London with my husband, and we moved here about 6 months ago. Adjusting to the weather has been a challenge, although we were relocated from Germany, which does not necessarily have 360 days under the sun, as Spain proclaims. But London has a lot to offer otherwise and it’s an amazing place to explore.

Yet, every once in a while, there is a need to get away and soak up some Vitamin D au naturel, in Spain for example.


During my recent visit to Sevilla, not only did I procure a healthy tan, but also enjoyed a number of my favourite dishes. One of them is a typical dish from Valencia, called Fideua, which my aunt made for me.

Valencia is the region of Spain, south of Catalonia, on the Mediterranean coast. It’s famous for producing Valencia oranges, Marcona almonds, rice, and has an extensive repertoire of seafood dishes; one of the most famous is the paella.

The Fideua is similar to the paella, but is made with noodles instead of rice.


Fideua de Gandia, adapted from Evarist Miralles, Best Chef Spain 2011. 

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 400 g of Fideua noodles (number 3 in Spain)¬†
  • 250 g of monkfish, clean and cut up in chunks
  • 12 large shrimp, with skin and heads
  • 1 teaspoon of pimenton (or paprika)
  • 1 calamar or sepia (squid), cleaned and cut up in slices and pieces
  • 2-3 large spoonfuls of tomato sauce with chunks or homemade tomato sauce
  • “majada de ajo”: 2-3 cloves of garlic and parsley, crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • 1 litre of fish broth*
  • 1/2 cup of white cooking wine
  • sea salt to taste
Fish broth: in a pot, bring to boil and simmer, the following ingredients: 2-2.5 litres of water, one whole fish (scaled and clean), one large onion, 2 carrots (cut into large pieces), and 2 celery sticks. Cook for about 30 minutes, and leave to rest for about 20 minutes, so the flavours integrate. 

Process
In a large skillet or paella pan (for 6 persons), heat the olive oil, enough to cover about half of the bottom of the pan. Once the olive oil is warm, add a few pinches of sea salt and stir. Add the shrimp and saute, enough for the shrimp to turn pink. Remove the shrimp from the pan. 

In the same oil, saute the monkfish and remove from pan. Again in the same oil, saute the calamar/sepia. Add the pimenton to the calamar, frying just a bit and moving both the calamar and pimenton together. Do not over-fry the pimenton, or it will turn sour. Add the tomato sauce and stir well. Then add a few spoonfuls of the majada and 1/2 cup of white wine. Cook for 1-2 minutes. 

Add the fideua noodles, stir and cook about 1 minute. Add the fish broth (generally 1.5 times of broth per unit of noodles). The broth should be thin and clear, for a better fideua. Cook 5-7 minutes. 

Place the monkfish and shrimp on top of the noodles and cook an additional 4 minutes, or until the pasta is “al dente”. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

And to really bring out the flavours of the seafood in this dish, we generally pair it with a chilled Albari√Īo, the Spanish white wine from Galicia, in northeastern Spain. Buen provecho!


Note: In the version pictured, as I didn’t have monkfish or calamar at home, I used a small whiting and clams instead. I used the fish head and the clams to make the broth, removing the clams as they opened, to not overcook. I sauteed the whiting, in large chunks, just as the recipes says to do with the monkfish. Then added the fish, with the clams, at the same time as the shrimp.¬†

As you can see, you can substitute a variety of seafood, depending on your taste and what you may have available in your kitchen. I tend to do that a lot, so I don’t have to go out shopping at the last minute. ūüėČ
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