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Tag: Unique

Sweet Potato Savoury Tart

Sweet potatoes are something I’ve grown to like more since I started with the Paleo lifestyle. I used to equate them with one of my grandmother’s sweet treats. She was a Type II diabetic developing the disease sometime in her late 40s, and attributed acquiring the disease from all the raw honey and sweets she consumed when she lived in Portugal.

She was rail thin, ate like food was going out of style (my father thinks the same of my appetite), and was relatively quite healthy otherwise. She died at the young age of 90. Bless her soul, she was the funniest person I’ve known and had a huge influence on my life… but that’s a story for another day.

Back then, between school and friends and going out, I didn’t pay attention to learning more about how diet affected her illness. I thought it was incurable, one more malady that called for medical treatment. She wasn’t overly strict and only required one small pill of insulin a day to maintain her status quo. But I do recall that she avoided refined sugar, some fruits were off limits such as bananas and the plump, juicy oranges from our orchard, white potatoes were an infrequent side dish for her, and she also limited her intake of bread, picos and regañada (all three which she loved – picos are round breadsticks and regañada is a form of flat bread used to accompany tapas and meals in Spain).

Fortunately for my grandmother, my mother was an excellent home cook, who made sure we ate a traditional Mediterranean diet, which for the most part is very healthy. If my grandmother were alive today, I would be advocating the Paleo lifestyle to her, of course.

I was really into baking as a teenager growing up in Spain, so I used to make desserts without sugar for her. And as she would say, her eyes would go after all the delicious foods she wasn’t supposed to eat. One of her favourite treats was baked sweet potatoes, boniatos, with a drizzle of raw honey and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. I wasn’t particularly fond of this dessert as I found it too rich. Too everything really (my youngest niece seems to share this predilection – she hates sweet potatoes).

Fast forward many years… and they are a staple in my kitchen. Funny how that happens with a lot of foodstuff, no? Nonetheless, I don’t use them that often as I still find them too sweet. But I do see the benefits of consuming them every once in a while.  The other day, I saw a recipe for a sweet potato and apple pie and loved the concept of the dough being made with this vegetable (and no refined sugar), especially since I had three sweet potatoes kind of just hanging around waiting to be used. And we’re clearing out the kitchen since we have to move soon.

So, I created a savoury tart instead with which to better appease my palate. I hope you enjoy! Que aproveches!

Sweet Potato Savoury Tart 

Ingredients, for a large 9×11 tart

1 3/4 cups cooked and mashed sweet potato (about 2 medium)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
2 small leeks, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup extra virgen olive oil
prosciutto
tomato slices
freshly ground pepper

Method

Heat oven to 375F (190C). Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a sheet of parchment. Bake for about one hour or until done. (Check with a fork for tenderness.)

Place another sheet of parchment inside the ovenproof 9×11 tart pan/baking dish.

While the sweet potatoes are baking: In a medium skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onions and leeks and poach until they are translucent. Set aside.

Once the sweet potatoes are baked, scoop out the pulp and mash. Spoon into a food processor. Add the eggs, almond flour, thyme and sea salt. Blend well. The mixture will be thick. Spoon onto the parchment inside the tart pan and spread evenly.

Top the sweet potato base with the onions and leeks. Then add some prosciutto and tomato slices. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and an additional generous pinch of thyme. Bake at 375F (190C) for approximately an hour or until done. (Check with a toothpick; if it comes out clean, it’s ready.)

Makes a delicious side dish for lamb, veal or poultry. We ate ours with lamb steaks.

Courgetti {Zucchini Noodles} Without the Need of a Spiraliser

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

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

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

My mother loved vegetables to the point that she could’ve almost been a vegetarian had she also not had an intense passion for all edible sea creatures. There’s a funny story my grandmother used to tell us about how my mother developed this taste for all seafood… something I shared with her and took a step further, having tried whale meat in Iceland. Granted that’s a mammal. I found it to be delicious by the way, a deep dark red meat, with an intense, yet well-balanced flavour of the sea, and a watery-like texture, resembling raw liver. One has a hard time discerning whether one’s eating fish or meat. But either way, it’s a delectable dish. Iceland’s relationship with whales is a long, historical and complex one, where whaling was once a small part of a sustainable fishing industry that helped maintain the population in this harsh land. Today, however and unfortunately, Iceland’s whaling industry is commercialised with many nations partaking, even though there’s a moratorium on whale fishing since 1986. When I tried whale meat in 2004 on my first trip to Iceland, I was not as conscientious (or informed) as I am today about achieving and maintaining a sustainable food industry both on land and from the sea. Therefore, I hope to not offend any sensibilities with the telling of my experience. (Although, I think I may have wounded more than just sensibilities with my parallelism of whale meat to raw liver. I may have grossed out enough of you so much so that we need not worry about moratoriums or sustainable fishing practices regarding whales…)

And on that note, I’ll simply dive into my grandmother’s funny anecdote about how my mother developed her appetite for all things seafood.

As the tale goes, my grandmother ate cat meat when she was pregnant with my mother. It was during the years preceding the Spanish Civil War and the economic situation in Spain was rather dismal with few resources available to the general population. Many people engaged in estraperlo (illegal commercial activities) and oftentimes certain things that one would normally not consume ended up in bars and restaurants and in one’s kitchen. Cats are one example. My grandmother was a seamstress, and a very good one I may add, having trained in the confection of menswear (where the money was according to her mom – my great-grandmother not being a great futurist as you, I’m sure, have guessed) and she had little interest in anything related to cooking. To make matters worse, she was an extremely picky eater as well and anything that remotely sounded like a mortar and pestle had been used made her stop in her tracks and turn around, going back to her workshop without lunch. (Traditional Spanish guisos – stews and “spoon dishes” like lentils, garbanzos, and pottages – generally use some form of ground up spices or garlic in a mortar. And although my grandmother liked spices and garlic, she detested stews. She was very un-Spanish-like in her tastes and actually one could argue a precursor to Paleo!)

However, all of her sisters – she had three of them and two brothers – were great home cooks and one sister in particular was renowned for her hand in the kitchen. It was this sister, the eldest, who set up a little tapas bar in Huelva, that had great acceptance, and which my grandmother used to frequent with full confidence in the cook of course. On a number of these occasions, she ate a variety of conejo dishes, or rather what she thought was conejo… but instead was really cat. Those in the know say that cat meat  has a similar taste and texture to rabbit (conejo). I’ve never tried it and don’t think I ever will, at least not with full consciousness, but I do know that rabbit is exquisite and can just imagine how much my grandmother enjoyed these dishes. During her pregnancy, she ate cat meat quite often unbeknownst to her and when she eventually found out, stopped immediately. In fact, she got violently sick when she discovered what she had been consuming. I’m surprised she didn’t have a miscarriage. On the contrary and notwithstanding the revulsion she experienced, it appears that all that cat meat had some interesting effects on the baby, my mom, whose love for seafood is unsurpassed in our family except for maybe by my brother, who is a fisherman in his spare time (spare translating to any time he can muster up an excuse to go fishing).

Throughout the past year during my mother’s illness, I’ve been the cook at home both for her (when she was still with us) and my father. And when she was in hospital, I got up every day very early to make whatever meals she had requested the day before. She was not happy eating hospital food and I wanted to bring some joy to her daily routine. Amongst all the seafood and vegetables she wanted more often were these courgetti. She really liked them. She loved all things novel and apparently this intrigued her as well as delighted her palate. She was not a picky eater like her mom, but definitely a sybarite in her preferences, liking simple yet delicious and well-made meals.

The way I make these zucchini noodles (or courgetti) is very simple, and anyone can make them at home even if you don’t have one of those fancy vegetable spiralisers. I’ve been keen on getting one to be honest, but the price puts me off since courgette is the only vegetable from which I make spirals. So, instead, I’ve been rather resourceful, a quality I express often in the kitchen and even more frequently in life. I first started making spirals with a little rudimentary, yet very practical, contraption that was gifted to me in Vietnam. And in the winter rental where we are staying, I’ve resorted to using a potato peeler. The courgetti don’t come out as pretty and thin as with the Vietnamese tool (or a spiraliser) with which I’ve made a number of recipes here, here and here.  But for those of you wanting a different look and texture, or if you’re like me and won’t invest in another kitchen tool that will be used infrequently and only take up storage space (plus have the added advantage of less cleaning to do), then this is great method to use – and the dish is quite tasty too! I hope you enjoy!

Stir-Fried Courgetti

Ingredients, for 4

4 medium organic* courgettes (for a side dish, I use one per person)
3-4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgen olive oil
coconut aminos, about 2-3 tablespoons (coconut aminos are a soy replacement)
optional additions: mushrooms, peppers, chopped nuts

Method

Rinse the courgettes and cut off the ends and any ugly markings. Using a potato peeler, create flat zucchini pasta. Set aside on a plate. In a large saucepan or wok, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced garlic, stirring constantly.  Just as they are starting to get golden, add the courgetti and stir fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring almost constantly until the courgetti starts to soften, but is still very much al-dente. If you’re using mushrooms like I did, add them at the same time as the courgetti.

Immediately drizzle with coconut aminos enough to coat all of the courgetti and reduce the heat to low. Simmer covered for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently until the courgetti reach the tenderness you desire. I like them soft but still crunchy. (I never measure the coconut aminos, instead sprinkling directly from the bottle. So use an amount that you find palatable. Coconut aminos are not salty, but instead slightly sweet. So feel free to add sea salt should you desire. Also the courgette – and mushrooms – will release some water when cooking. This combined with the olive oil and the aminos creates a nice sauce.)

*Note: There are certain produce on the dirty dozen list and one of them is zucchini. When consuming this vegetable, I stick to organic to ensure I’m not eating any GMOs.

*****

Para hacer pasta de calabacín no hace falta un artilugio especial. Con un pelador de patatas también podemos conseguir una pasta que nos da unos resultados muy agradables con una textura diferente. 

Courgetti (Pasta de Calabacines) Salteados

Ingredientes, para 4

4 calabacines medianos orgánicos* (para hacer como guarnición, yo uso un calabacín por persona)
3-4 dientes de ajos, en láminas
2 cucharadas soperas de aceite de oliva extra virgen
2-3 cucharadas soperas de aminos de coco (sustituto de la salsa de soja)
opcional: champiñones, pimientos o frutos secos

Método

Enjuagamos los calabacines y les cortamos las puntas y les quitamos cualquier imperfección que nos resulte fea. Con un pelador de patatas, creamos pasta plana de los calabacines. Ponemos la pasta sobre un plato o recipiente y lo dejamos de lado mientras calentamos el aceite.

En un wok o sartén onda, calentamos el aceite de oliva a fuego medio-alto. Añadimos los ajos y removemos continuamente hasta que se empiecen a dorar. Agregamos inmediatamente los calabacines y salteamos unos 2 a 3 minutos moviendo constantemente hasta que estén blandos pero aún al-dentes. Si vamos a usar champiñones también como hice yo, pues se incorporan al mismo tiempo que los calabacines.

Inmediatamente, le echamos por encima los aminos de coco y bajamos el fuego a lento. Tapamos el wok o la sartén y cocinamos la pasta, moviendo frecuentemente, unos 2 a 3 minutos hasta conseguir la textura deseada. A mi me gusta que estén tiernos pero aun crujientes. (Yo no mido la cantidad exacta de aminos, sino lo calculo a ojo. Echo una cantidad para que la pasta quede bien cubierta. Pero hay que tener en cuenta que el amino de coco es mas bien dulce, no salado. Así que quizás os haga falta agregar un poco de sal marina, dependiendo de vuestros gustos. También hay que tener en cuenta que tanto el calabacín como el champiñón – si se utiliza – sueltan agua al cocerlos. Este agua combinado con los aminos y el aceite de oliva resulta en una salsa muy agradable.)

*Nota: Yo suelo utilizar calabacín orgánico solamente pues esta verdura esta en la lista de los “dirty dozen” transgénicos. 

Roasted Pumpkin Vegetable Potage

We are currently travelling through parts of Europe. My husband has to be in Austria a few days and asked me to come along so we could visit family and friends and maybe squeese in a day of early-season skiing as well. (The snow conditions in Austria are supposed to be perfect for skiing… we’ll see.)

So, once again, we are on one of our crazy road-trips, which always turn out to be a lot of fun and which we love. We usually end up seeing a number of cities and sometimes even can fit in a visit to a museum or a tourist site. On this trip thus far, we visited family in Maasland and managed to see a lovely museum. Maasland is a village in the province of South Holland and it has a long history, since about 925AD. It was also an important area, where Willem van Oranje, in 1574, finally defeated the Spaniards with an interesting strategy of flooding the lands. Most of the Netherlands is below sea level, and this area in particular is very low. One can see the old dikes and polders, part of the engineering system of sea and water management for which the Netherlands is famous.

The museum in the center of town is an old farmer’s house with 19th century period furniture. The house has a storefront filled with replicas of lots of traditional stock of Dutch candies, cacao, cigarettes, pharmaceutical drugs, cleaning utensils, cooking oils, and canned foodstuffs. They still sell some varieties of sugary sweets by weight and there were a number of children lining up to get their few euros worth of treats. I remembered my youth in Sevilla with my cousins where we used to go the corner kiosk to buy a handful of candies and chewing gums for only 5 pesetas!

The house also has a cellar, where the original family made homemade butter, buttermilk and cheeses. It’s very interesting to see all of the wooden and iron equipment used for the process of making these dairy products. What a lot of work all that was, but how healthy to make it at home! There are still many farmers who make and sell their own dairy products. In fact, our family shared with us some farmer’s cheese they had purchased especially for our visit. The taste and texture are unique and so wonderful.

My favourite part of the house was the kitchen of course. It was stocked with all kinds of beautiful enamelware.. all of which I wanted to take home! There were the traditional Dutch ovens, which can be stacked on top of each other, ladles and spoons, pots and pans, a poffertjes pan (something like “full” pancakes), teapot, coffeepot…

As we continue our trip, we are having a short break today so my husband can visit his dentist and I’m taking advantage of this time to write this post and share the recipe with you.

On Friday, the day we left London, I made this soup with some leftover roasted pumpkin from this recipe, so we could have something warm in our tummies for lunch and to hold us over until we arrived in France for dinner. It’s very easy to make and is a nice soup to serve as a starter for a full meal. You can use other vegetables, depending on your taste and what you may have on hand.

Enjoy!

ROASTED PUMPKIN VEGETABLE POTAGE

Ingredients, makes about 5 cups:

2 cups roasted pumpkin meat (I used butternut squash at roasted in the oven at 180C (350F) for about 40 minutes)
3 cups filtered water
2 leeks, finely sliced
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 medium red onions, julienne or chopped
4 stalks celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
3-4 tablespoons duck fat
bacon bits or jamón serrano bits

Method:

In a pot over low heat, melt the duck fat and poach the onions until soft, about 6-8 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables, excluding the pumpkin, and the spices. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Add one cup of the filtered water and the pumpkin meat and mix well. Add the remaining two cups of water, mix well, and season with sea salt and pepper, to taste. Warm and serve with pieces of bacon or jamón serrano.

*****

SOPA/POTAJE DE CALABAZA AL HORNO CON VERDURAS

Ingredientes, hace como 5 tazas de caldo :

2 tazas, como unos 500ml de carne de calabaza previamente hecha al horno (a 180C unos 40 minutos)
750ml de agua
2 puerros, cortados en rodajas finas
6-8 tomates cherry, cortados por la mitad
3 cebollas medianas, rojas, cortadas en juliana
4 pencas de apio, en rodajas finas
3 dientes de ajo, en rodajas a lo largo
1 cucharadita de hierbas de la Provenza
1/2 cucharadita de cúrcuma
salt y pimienta negra, a gusto
3-4 cucharadas grandes de grasa de pato
taquitos de beicon o jamón serrano, de guarnición

Como hacer la sopa:

En una olla sobre fuego lento, derrite la grasa de pato y pocha las cebollas, como unos 6-8 minutos, hasta que esten tiernas. Añade el resto de las verduras, excepto la calabaza, y las especias. Cuece hasta que esten las verduras tiernas. Agrega una taza de agua (250ml) y la calabaza y remueve bien. Ahora agregale el resto del agua, mezclando todo bien, y sazona a gusto con sal y pimienta negra. Calienta la sopa y sirve la con taquitos de beicon o jamón.

Chicken with Plums

No, not the movie, but a real dish. It’s been a few days since I’ve posted a recipe and that’s due to the changes I’ve been making to the blog. It’s been quite an ordeal, but I hope this new format makes it nicer for all of you, and me too!

I’m sharing a dish, which I made last night for dinner and made a little extra for lunch for me today. Unfortunately, I ate rather late today and the sun is gone.. hence no natural light for pictures. It’s hard fitting in a time window with good lighting during the autumn and winter in London. It’s dark by about 16:30.

I hope you give this a try and enjoy! By the way, it’s made with duck fat, my new favourite fat.

CHICKEN WITH PLUMS

Ingredients, for 4:

2 kg chicken pieces (I used half legs, half thighs)
10 plums, halved and pitted
3 medium red onions, julienne
3 cloves garlic, sliced
4-5 sprigs thyme
1/3 heaping cup of Groningen, wholegrain mustard (the brand I used contains no sugar or additives)
1/3 cup duck fat, plus some extra for dabbing chicken pieces
1/3 cup white wine
1-2 tablespoons raw honey
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Season the chicken with sea salt and pepper. Use a dish for the stovetop that can go to the oven as well, or use a pan, for the following. Over medium heat, melt the duck fat and brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Add the onions and garlic to the duck fat and poach until the onions are tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the thyme, raw honey and mustard and mix well. Cook until the honey has become liquid, just a couple of minutes. Pour the mixture over the chicken pieces and mix to coat well. Place the chicken pieces into an ovenproof dish. Pour the wine over top. Place the halved plums around the chicken pieces. And add a few dabs of duck fat on top of the chicken. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the chicken is done, turning the chicken pieces over around half time, and coating with the sauce.

*****

POLLO CON CIRUELAS

Ingredientes, para 4 comensales:

2 kg de piezas de pollo (yo utilicé muslos y contra-muslos)
10 ciruelas frescas, cortadas por la mitad y sin hueso
3 cebollas medianas, rojas, cortadas en juliana
3 dientes de ajo, cortados
tomillo fresco, unas 4-5 ramitas
3-4 cucharadas grandes de mostaza con semillas de mostaza
3 cucharadas grandes de grasa de pato, y poco extra para poner por encima del pollo
1-2 cucharadas grandes de miel cruda
75ml de vino blanco
sal y pimienta, a gusto

Como hacer el pollo con ciruelas:

Precalienta el horno a 180C. Salpimienta el pollo. El siguiente paso lo puedes hacer en el mismo recipiente que vaya a ir al horno si sirve para la hornilla también, sino en una sartén grande. Derrite la grasa de pato, sobre fuego medio. Agrega las piezas de pollo y dora las por ambos lados. Retira el pollo de la sartén (sin grasa) y dejar a un lado en un bol o recipiente hondo. Pocha las cebollas y ajos en la misma sartén con la restante grasa de pato, unos 5-7 minutos. Añade el tomillo, la miel y la mostaza. Cuece unos minutos hasta que la miel se haga líquida. Vierte la mezcla de miel sobre las piezas de pollo y remueve hasta cubrir bien. Pasa el pollo y la salsa a un recipiente para el horno. Échale por encima el vino y  coloca las mitades de ciruela entre las piezas de pollo. Hornea durante unos 35-40 minutos o hasta que el pollo este bien hecho, dandole la vuelta a mitad de tiempo.

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 Neufchâtel. 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 (Neufchâtel, 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-épices. 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.

 

Chicken Liver Adobo – Guest Post by Adobo Down Under

I grew up in the south of Spain and had the privilege of attending a DOD school, on the Rota Naval Base. I say privilege because although my father was not military, my brother and I were allowed to go to school on the Base, and most importantly we had the opportunity to experience many things American that we wouldn’t have otherwise, since we both grew up in Spain. (Plus thanks to this, I have a perfect American accent when speaking English! ;))

One of the most important aspects of going to a Department of Defense school, aside from the quality education, is the diversity amongst the students and teachers. There are literally children from everywhere in the world, with mixed backgrounds, mixed races, different religions, and different languages and cultures. So, it’s a beautiful way to grow up without preconceived prejudices. I had friends of all nationalities…and some of my best friends still to this day are Filipino or half-Filipino.

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I remember learning how to make lumpia, eating pancit, longaniza and many other traditional Filipino dishes that I still enjoy today, although less frequently since going Paleo. For me these dishes are part of my teenage years and bring back very fond memories. I even learned some Tagalog, which I have mostly forgotten now, except for some “loanwords” that come from the Spanish language, such as “mesa”.

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Spain has a long history with the Philippines and probably not always a good one, although the Spanish culture seems to have permeated into a number of aspects of the Filipino culture, language and life and vice versa. In Spain, our famous “manton de Manila”, which we claim to be traditional Spanish is something the Spanish conquistadores brought back from the Philippines, just like our “abanico” was brought back possibly from another part of Asia. My great-grandfather fought in the Spanish-American War, and I remember my grandmother telling me stories about his “adventures”.

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So, when I discovered Anna, from Adobo Down Under, in the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, I was delighted to see that she’s from the Philippines and her blog’s main focus is traditional Filipino food. And although Adobo’s blog is not Paleo, many of her savoury recipes are, and her other recipes can be easily Paleolised. I love to get inspiration from other cuisines around the world and I thought sharing Filipino food from a true Filipino would be inspiring to all of us to try something new, if you are not already familiar with this cuisine.

I’ve mentioned Adobo before on my blog, and how we follow each other on social media. We’ve become blogger buddies and I truly enjoy being witness to and learning from her life musings through what she shares on Instagram and Facebook. It’s always interesting to see how the seasons change in Australia, where Anna and her family live, and how beautiful it must be over there. I have many countries on my wish list, but I’m definitely partial now to visiting Australia and The Philippines… I hope one day I will be that lucky.

In the meantime, I will continue to follow and learn from Anna… and I hope you will too. She has a lovely blog, with beautiful stories, “musings” as she calls them, delicious recipes (which can be easily made into Paleo), and pretty photography.

But I’m sure you’re eager to see an example of her dishes, so without further ado, I leave you with her recipe for today’s post, which is the first guest post on my blog! (We had been planning this for months actually, but Anna has been studying a culinary course, so we had to wait until she was finished and could dedicate time to a post. It’s a true honour to finally be able to feature one of Adobo’s recipes by Anna herself, aside from this one I shared the other day and Paleolised.)

Ah, one last thing…please don’t forget to check her out and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

*********

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First of all, let me say G’day mate and Mabuhay!

I am Anna – writer, cook, baker and photographer behind the blog Adobo Down Under.  My blog contains musings on parenting, on learning to be Australian and basically engaging my readers into my world –  Filipino raising a family in Sydney Australia.

I’d like to thank The Saffron Girl for the invitation to guest post.  I have never done anything like this, and it has made me excited so much that I could not decide on what Filipino dish to share, considering Debra’s dishes are mostly Paleo.    It had to be something “adobo” as it is a classic in Filipino homes, and I think chicken liver adobo will be perfect.

If you are familiar with the Filipino cuisine, you would know our meals are always served, if not, made with rice.  From breakfast to dinner, from morning tea and snacks to desserts.  This particular dish is usually served with rice.   When I made this and took a photo of the cooked chicken liver adobo, no matter how many garnish, it still looked very unappealing. So I thought reinventing the dish into a simple pate would be the best option.  I hope you like it.

*Note from The Saffron Girl: you can use gluten-free soy sauce in this recipe, of course.

Chicken Liver Adobo – Guest Post by Adobo Down Under
Author: The Saffron Girl
Ingredients
  • 500g chicken liver, washed and trimmed of sinews
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • ½ cup soy sauce (light or dark does not matter, but it will affect the colour of the dish)
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a skillet or pan, heat the oil and cook the garlic until soft. Do not brown or burn as it will make the dish bitter.
  2. Add the chicken livers. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the vinegar, soy sauce and bay leaves and bring to a boil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down heat. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  5. You can already eat this chicken liver adobo with some rice; or butter some crusty bread slices and serve with some chopped parsley.
  6. To make a simple pate, cool the cooked chicken livers at room temperature.
  7. Process until smooth in a food processor.
  8. Spoon into small bowls or containers and drizzle with olive oil.
  9. Spread the pate on bread slices and serve with chopped parsley.
  10. Best eaten on the day, but can keep in the fridge for 2 days. Just add more olive oil to cover, then wrapped with cling film.
  11. ***
  12. Tips regarding chicken livers:
  13. When buying chicken livers, make sure you buy them fresh. They will be moist with a shiny flesh.
  14. When cleaning chicken livers, make sure to remove white sinews. Remove patches that appear greenish as they will make the dish bitter
  15. Gently rinse in a colander using cold running water
  16. Pat dry with a kitchen towel

 

Not Quite Icelandic Fish Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Cream of Swede (Rutabaga) & Turnip Soup with Kale-Cashew Pesto & Scallops

Living in the United Kingdom gives me the possibility of exploring the countries which are part of it, enjoy the unique opportunity of experiencing London as a local, and also have the chance to try what for me are new vegetables and fruits… quite a comparison contrast, but all three are high up on my list.

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For me, trying new food is always interesting and fun. Such has been the case with the swede, or rutabaga. Before arriving in England, I believe I had never even seen or heard of it. In fact, I remember the first time my husband, who many times does the shopping, brought it home. I had to take a picture of it and send it to a friend, who had already been living here longer and is an avid gardener and foodie, to see if she knew what this strange white and purplish thing sitting on my counter was!

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The inspiration for this recipe came to me last night, as I was trying to fall asleep… I am starting to feel slightly obsessed! 😉 This actually has an explanation that is more logical: the turnips were starting to go soft and I needed to use them. So what better than a creamy soup for a chilly and wet day?

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I purposely kept the soup’s flavour a bit neutral, not adding too many spices so that it would pair well with the kale-cashew pesto I had planned. The addition of the scallops came a bit later to me, as I wanted to include some protein in my dish.

I’m in love with the combination and hope you will be too! If not, I hope you are at least inspired to come up with your own mix.

Cream of Swede & Turnip Soup with Kale-Cashew Pesto & Scallops
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Soup serves 6.
Ingredients
  • For the soup:
  • 1 swede/rutabaga, about 600g (1.3lbs), peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 turnips, about 400g together (1lb), peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 large leek, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 3 cups filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups filtered water
  • 2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seeds
  • For the pesto:
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • For the scallops:
  • 2 scallops (or more if desired), per bowl
  • olive oil
  • fresh thyme sprigs, as garnish
Instructions
  1. For the soup:
  2. In a large pot, place the swede, turnip and leek pieces with 3 cups of filtered water.
  3. Cook over low heat, for about 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Set aside to slightly cool.
  5. With an immersion blender, puree until smooth.
  6. Add 3 cups of filtered water (or more if too thick for your taste) and stir well.
  7. Add the salt, turmeric and mustard and place over low heat to warm up.
  8. In the meantime, make the pesto:
  9. Roast the cashews in a dry skillet until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Stir frequently so they do not burn.
  10. Combine the cashews and garlic in the food processor and process until very finely ground.
  11. Add the kale leaves, sea salt and pepper and process again until well chopped.
  12. Continuing processing, while adding the olive oil in a steady stream, until you have a creamy paste. (You can refrigerate or freeze, if not using all of it.)
  13. For the scallops:
  14. Place about 1 tablespoon of olive oil per 4 scallops, in a pan. Over medium heat, cook the scallops, until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes each side.
  15. For serving:
  16. Pour two ladles of soup into each bowl.
  17. Drizzle with the kale-cashew pesto (the amount desired) and place two (or more) scallops into each bowl on top of the pesto.
  18. Finish with a sprig of thyme for each bowl.

 

Butternut Squash, Fig & Serrano Hash

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

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

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

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(part of my mise en place)

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(lamb chops with the pumpkin hash)

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

 

Green Papaya Salad (Nom Xoai Xanh)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy!

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

 

Ras-el-Hanout Spice Blend

Have you walked through a spice market in the Middle East or a spice souk in Morocco? If you have, you know how your senses go into a whirlwind and don’t know what to focus on. First it’s the wide array of colours, and then the fragrant aromas start to hit you… all at once.

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I personally have to make a halt to control myself from plunging into each sack of spices. When I open a jar of Ras-el-Hanout, I am automatically transported to a spice souk… it’s like all the spices come together in a perfect medley, which is intoxicating and delectable altogether.

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What is Ras-el-Hanout? It’s a delicious and aromatic blend of spices, typically used in the Moroccan cuisine, especially in tagines. You can purchase it ready-made in many supermarkets or online, but nothing will beat a homemade version, with which you can tinker and adjust to your particular palate. Additionally on the plus side of making it at home is that the spices will not loose their intensity, as you can control the amount you want to make based on how often you will use it.

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Ras-el-Hanout encompasses a powerful bouquet of aromas from India, such as cinnamon, cloves and ginger, with native African flavours, and the delicate perfume of lavender and rose petals. It’s a poetic combination, which will add a very unique character to your dishes.

As I use this spice mix quite frequently, I have made enough to last me a few months. Also, I’ve made it a bit less piquant so I have room to expand on the level of heat when cooking. One word of advice: use the freshest of spices you have available, as that will create the most pungent mix.

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The recipe below is an adaptation from the one in Cocina Marroqui by Ghillie Basan.

Ras-el-Hanout Spice Mix
Recipe Type: Spice Mix
Cuisine: Moroccan
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Total time:
Makes about 1 cup.
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon anis seeds
  • 1 tablespoon nigella seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 20 fresh mint leaves, toasted about 5 minutes in the oven at 180C (350F)
  • 2 small guindilla peppers
  • 1 tablespoon edible, dried lavender flowers
  • 20 edible, dried rose petals, crushed
Instructions
  1. Grind all of the ingredients, except the lavender flowers and rose petals, until fine. Depending on your method, the mixture could turn out a bit more coarse or fine.
  2. (I ground my spices in the food processor bowl of my immersion blender. A coffee grinder will probably also work just as well, although you’ll have to do it in batches. A regular food processor may also work. In the worse case scenario, you can hand grind the spices in a mortar and pestle.)
  3. Add the lavender flowers and crushed rose petals to the mixture and blend well.
  4. Place into an airtight container for storage.
  5. This can last for 6 months with the adequate room temperature, although I always use it up way before that time period!

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