A few months ago, I started reading Paradise Reclaimed, an Icelandic novel by Halldór Laxness. I have yet to finish it…but today, made me think of the moral behind the tale in Laxness’ novel.
I was thinking about how sometimes we must take a long journey to get us where we want or should be and to give us that depth of palette, that we would not have achieved otherwise and with which we paint our canvas of life. At times for some of us, the road can be tumultuous, full of bumps, twists and turns, and paths that maybe we wished we had not taken but from which we cannot turn around. And then other routes appear that we are afraid or unable to take; and yet, when we actually take the leap and grab the proverbial “bull by the horns”, we are lead down a path to magical places…places we have longed for…places that provide wings for our souls to soar…
The butternut squash had been laying on the counter for a couple of weeks and I kept moving it closer to the preparation area near the sink as a reminder to myself to do something with it. I love pumpkin almost anything, but I really wanted to avoid making another soup.
I’ve been meaning to visit the Barnes Farmer’s Market since we moved near the area, but as it falls on Saturdays, I always seem to have something else better to do instead, like visiting some part of the UK or exploring London… Today, however, I went for a very refreshing walk with a friend of mine, whom I’ve known since our high school years back in Spain, and we ventured into the village, where we bumped into the farmer’s market. Well, in all honesty, we could’ve missed it had I not turned around to look behind me and see it…oftentimes my curiosity pays off! It’s located across the street from the pond in downtown Barnes.
I’ve been somewhat neglecting the blog since before our trip to Spain for the holidays. I’m sorry about that, but sometimes life catches up with us in ways that are unpredictable. And then we have to prioritise. And it’s then that in my case, the blog must be put on the back burner (pun intended) for a while.
Over the holidays, I wrote up a bunch of recipes very excitedly to share with all of you; and I hope I will be able to put those up on the blog soon. I actually did a lot of home cooking with my mother whilst in Sevilla and some of the things we made are very traditional dishes from my childhood, with influences from Spain, of course, and Portugal.
Although I’d love to say the contrary, there are days or evenings that getting into the kitchen to cook a meal is more of a chore than a pleasure. When that’s the case, I want to make something quick and easy, yet still healthy and Paleo.
The other night was one of those evenings, which tend to happen right after a trip. The house is not spic and span, I’m tired and with a million things on my mind, and concentrating on creating a entire feast for dinner is just not going to happen. I want something that can be done in 30 minutes or less… this recipe is great for a situation like this.
Salisbury steaks are a step up from a hamburger (my original idea) and yet they seem more elaborate.
SALISBURY STEAK WITH QUICK & EASY PALEO GRAVY
Ingredients, for 6 steaks:
800g minced beef
3-4 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
butter or fat of preference, for frying
Mix all of the ingredients together by hand until well blended. Form steak-shaped patties and set aside. You should have about 6 medium-sized patties.
When you’re ready to place the steaks into the gravy, melt some butter or fat of preference in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the steaks on each side. Then transfer to the gravy, as per below instructions.
Ingredients for the Gravy:
3 leeks, cleaned and finely sliced – or – 3 medium onions, julienned – or a mixture of the two
2 tablespoons grass-fed butter or fat of choice
3-4 medium mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
sea salt, to taste
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 – 2 cups filtered water
In a skillet over low heat, melt the butter or fat of choice. Add the leeks and/or onions and poach until the leeks/onions are tender. Add the mushrooms and sauté about 1-2 minutes. Add the arrowroot powder and sauté 30 seconds.
Then add the white wine and mix well. Cook for a minute and then add the water, first 1 1/2 cups and increase to 2 cups if necessary. Season to taste.
Now add in the browned steaks and cook, turning a couple of times, about 10 minutes. Serve alone or with your favourite side dish.
“FILETES” SALISBURY CON SALSA GRAVY
Ingredientes, para 6 “filetes”:
800g de carne de ternera picada
3-4 dientes de ajo, picados
1 cucharadita de tomillo
2 cucharaditas de hierbas de la Provenza
1 cucharadita de sal marina, gorda
1/2 cucharadita de nuez moscada
mantequilla o la grasa que prefieras, para freir
Como hacer los “filetes” Salisbury:
Amasa con las manos todos los ingredientes hasta que estén bien mezclados. Con las manos, haz una hamburguesas en forma de “filete”, o sea, no redondas, sino ovaladas y alargadas. Ponlas en un plato hasta que las vayamos a cocinar.
Cuando la salsa gravy este lista, pon un poco de mantequilla u otra grasa a calentar en una sartén. Doramos los filetes Salisbury por ambos lados y los incorporamos a la salsa gravy, siguiendo las instrucciones de abajo.
Ingredientes para la salsa “gravy”:
3 puerros, limpios y cortados a rodajas finas – o – 3 cebollas, cortadas en juliana
3-4 champiñones medianos, cortados a trozos
2 cucharadas grandes de mantequilla o la grasa que prefieras (como la de pato/ganso/aceite de oliva)
1 cucharada grande de harina de tapioca o arrurruz (tambien se puede usar maicena, pero al ser de maíz es un grano y no es Paleo)
1/4 de cucharadita de pimienta negra, molida
sal, a gusto
1/4 taza (60ml) de vino blanco
1 1/2 – 2 tazas (375ml – 500ml) de agua
Como hacer la salsa:
En una sartén, derrite la mantequilla, y a continuación, pocha los puerros y/o las cebollas hasta que esten tiernos. Añade los champiñones y saltealos unos minutos.
Agrega la harina de tapioca/arrurruz/maicena y frie la unos segundos. Echa le por encima el vino y deja cocer unos minutos. Ahora añade el agua, primero los 375ml, y si hiciera falta, el resto. Mezcla bien y sazona.
Ahora incorporamos los filetes, previamente dorados. Cocemos unos 10 minutos hasta que la salsa espese y los filetes esten hechos por dentro, dando le la vuelta a los filetes de vez en cuando. Se puede servir con puré de patatas, coliflor o la guarnición que nos guste.
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.
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
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.
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? 😉
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
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 CASTAÑAS
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 castañas 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 castañas 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. Añade el romero, la pimienta, la sal, la ralladura de limón 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 continuación, con una cuchara de palo, dale la vuelta a la calabaza y demás. Vuelve a incorporar la pierna de cordero en el recipiente, pero esta vez del lado aún no hecho. Termina horneando.
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
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.
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!
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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!
Sweet Potato & Zucchini Soup with Quatre-Epices
Author: The Saffron Girl
Makes about 10 servings.
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
Place the duck fat, onion and leek in a large pot. Poach over low heat, about 8 minutes until the onion is almost translucent.
Add the garlic, zucchini pieces, and the spices and stir well.
Cook about 2-3 minutes.
Add the sweet potatoes and 4 cups of filtered water or stock.
Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool, enough to handle safely.
With an immersion blender, puree until smooth.
Add 3-4 cups of additional filtered water.
Add sea salt, adjusting to taste.
Add chili powder, if desired.
Heat through over low heat to warm enough to serve, about 5-7 minutes.
Garnish with hard-boiled egg, jamon serrano and chives, if desired.
Being an expat can provide the perfect platform for “once in a lifetime” experiences that are interesting, educational, exciting and fun. It’s a privilege that many of us are lucky to have. I mean, who doesn’t want to be in a foreign country, enjoying it with a tourist mentality (you know that eventually you’ll get to go home, whatever that turns out to be, so anything that goes wrong is only temporary, right?), yet living there as a local and taking advantage of things that tourists can never dream of being able to do? And there’s the added bonus to be able to complain about all the idiosyncrasies of the locals, always a humorous conversation starter with like-minded expats. It’s a great combination, the best of both worlds. But it’s not always an easy one to transition into. In fact, it can be for many people quite daunting.
Usually the couple or family moves because of the job of one of the spouses. So that leaves the other spouse at home without a job, and if they don’t have children or pets, quite alone. Many of us find ourselves in a tough situation to get used to. From the most ordinary and routine chores, such as going grocery shopping, to finding a new doctor, a new hairdresser, where to buy an eraser perhaps?, to getting the children into new schools, finding the right house to live in, purchasing a new car or learning to drive on the wrong side of the car and road, to maybe even having to learn a new language will of course all be very interesting, but will most certainly also be very stressful and frustrating at times.
For the working spouse, who gets to go to the office and maintain a structure and relatively organised schedule, the transition is always easier. Our company prepared us for the first move by putting us in an expat course. And they clearly told us that if the at home spouse was not happy, it could make or break the work experience. So, they (and we) want happy at-home-spouses of course. Talk about pressure!
When we moved to Germany, I didn’t exactly consider myself an expat. I actually felt like I was coming home, back to Europe after several years in the US. And although that was true and I have German ancestry, Germany is not Spain, nor do they speak Spanish natürlich, and I only knew a few basic words and phrases in German that I remembered from my lessons as a child. And although most people can speak some English if they are hard-pressed or want to be nice, it’s a good idea to learn the language. Therefore, to conquer my first fear and try to integrate, I immediately starting German lessons. (I oftentimes pondered about what life had been like for the immigrants from Spain during the 50s-60s, many without university education, no knowledge of foreign languages, and coming from a precarious economic situation. They were not really expats. Many ended up staying in Germany and made a life there for their children and grandchildren; others returned to Spain because the experience was too much of a hardship and being away from family weighed more than any economic or social opportunities. It’s sadly happening all over again in Spain now; but the difference is that most people today have a higher education and some knowledge of English, which helps. Plus, today we have the internet and Facebook with which to keep in touch. Nonetheless, it’s not necessarily an easier experience than it was for the generation after WWII. I have friends who after 3 years in Bavaria just returned home because they missed their families and Spain too much!)
During my German lessons, I met a lot of interesting people from all around the world, from Afghanistan, Russia, Rumania, Mexico, Bosnia, Czech Republic, the US, and South Korea (most of the Koreans were in Germany to attend classical music training, how cool is that? And one of them was even a well-known opera singer back in South Korea!). Many of those that I met became my friends and we still have contact today, although we have moved away from Frankfurt.
But when my year-long classes ended and I had passed my Mittestuffe Prüfung, I found myself without a daily routine and not knowing many people, especially people with whom I could speak without having to think or get a headache after our conversation in German, which was our common ground. That’s when joining the AWCT (American Women’s Club of the Taunus) came to the rescue. (I did seek some Spanish groups and ironically found none.)
(By the way, if you’re interested, there’s a very witty and accurate article written by Mark Twain about that awful German language. Mark Twain spent about three months in Heidelberg, during which time he also tried to learn the language. It’s hilarious to read, especially if you know German or have ever tried learning it.)
Meeting new people as an expat can prove to be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome to create a healthy and happy expat experience… remember no pressure, right?! Therefore, when we learned we were being transferred to London, I joined the AWCL (American Women’s Club of London) before arriving. The knowledge that this transition was going to be different from the previous one helped me begin meeting people much sooner. For starters, I didn’t have to learn a language (although sometimes it seems like the Brits are speaking something completely foreign), but I also didn’t have the advantage of meeting people via classes. Since my participation in the group in Frankfurt had proven to be so positive, I figured it was a good way to start in this new country that I had visited as a tourist and for work long ago, but was moving to as an expat this time. I have later also joined two Spanish groups, with whom I have a lot of fun and get to converse in Spanish.
The other day at a meeting of the AWCL, one of the speakers said that the Club’s activities gave us reasons to not stay home in our pjs until midday. The whole room giggled, yes, giggled,at this comment because it rang true to most I think…
So when I discovered that Naz from Cinnamon Eats is also an expat here in the UK, without even knowing her, we already had some common ground. And things got better when we learned that we are both Paleo bloggers. (Why is it that we always want to find people who think alike? I guess it makes life easier, no?)
Blogging has become an essential part of my daily life. I love what I do and love to share my stories and recipes with my readers. And I have found that this is true for most other food bloggers; in many cases it has changed our lives, even leading to different career paths. For me, it has also enhanced my expat experience in the UK, even though I think it has encouraged an ever growing habit of sitting in front of my computer in my pjs until midday. 😉 (Shhhh… don’t tell my husband.)
As bloggers, we take great care and pride in how we present all of this information to you. Naz just recently did a major overhaul of her blog, and I’m in the midst of doing the same to mine. Today, I have the pleasure of not only reciprocating with Naz after my experience as a first time guest poster on her site, but also bringing to you Naz’s first guest post after her new site has gone live!
I hope you will become a fan of Cinnamon Eats and enjoy reading her stories and cooking with her recipes, like I do. In the meantime, I leave you with this wonderful seasonal dish, which can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Yum!
Hello to all The Saffron Girl readers! First of I want to say how excited I am to be here sharing my recipe with you all! I met Debra online a couple of months back via Instagram and since then we have connected through our common passions of cooking and eating healthy and delicious paleo foods. We also both live in England so I’m hoping that one of these days we can also meet up in person! Debra also recently shared a guest post over on my blog Cinnamon Eats, you can check out that post here. Thank you Debra for having me!
Since connecting with Debra I have come to enjoy her recipes and the attention to detail she gives to her blog and the message she shares with her readers and followers. Her recipes prove that eating healthy doesn’t mean eating boring and bland foods, quiet the opposite actually!
The dish I’m sharing with you today is one I made a couple of weeks back and it contains some of my favourite ingredients to cook with… sweet potatoes, apples and fennel, along with warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg make this a great dish for these ever increasingly cold Autumn days.
Sweet Potato, Apple & Fennel Hash – Guest Post by Cinnamon Eats
Author: The Saffron Girl
500gm/1.1lbs grass-fed ground beef
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
3 small-med apples diced. (I used Jonagold apples)
2-3 small fennel bulbs, cored and diced
1 small red onion diced
2 Tbsp grass-fed butter/ghee, divided
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
Place a pan on medium heat and add in 1 Tbsp of butter/ghee. Once melted add in your sweet potato. Stir to cook for about 5 mins then sprinkle in some sea salt (the salt will help the sweet potato cook faster). After about 10 minutes check the sweet potato for doneness by pricking a fork into one of the sweet potatoes, you want it to be just cooked through but not so much that it falls apart when you touch it.
Remove the sweet potato to a clean dish and set aside. Heat the other Tbsp of butter/ghee in the pan and add in the onion, sauté until soft and transclucent then add in the ground-beef. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat as it cooks.
When the meat is just about cooked through, season with some sea salt. Add in the diced fennel and stir through, cook for about 5 minutes or so before adding in the apples. Cook on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes then add in your already cooked sweet potato.
Add in the rest of your seasonings (cinnamon, allspice, ground clove, ground nutmeg and ground ginger). Stir everything together, turn the heat to low and let everything cook for another few minutes or until the apples, fennel and sweet potato are tender and the meat is cooked through.
Serve as is and enjoy!
A little about Naz:
Nazanin or Naz as her friends and family like to call her is an Australian expat living in England. She left Australia in 2011 with her husband Joe to move to Michigan, U.S.A where they stayed for just under 2 years, before they moved to England. Naz started her journey to Paleo eating in 2011 and now runs her own Paleo based food blog at cinnamoneats.com. She loves to create delicious Paleo recipes to share with others. You can also connect with Naz via her Facebook Page, her Instagram or her Twitter.
I 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.
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.
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
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)
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.
In a pot over low heat, poach the onions, garlic and celery with the olive oil or fat of choice, about 5 minutes.
Add the limoncello or white wine and reduce, about 3 minutes.
Add the pumpkin meat, giving it a good stir.
Pour in the filtered water, and cook about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, and with an immersion blender, very roughly blend to puree a bit, but leaving chunks of the celery and other vegetables.
(Alternatively you could puree the pumpkin with the water first and leave the rest of the vegetables whole.)
Return to the stove and heat until warm to eat.
Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.
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.
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…
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…
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.
I’ve recently started taking up riding again and feel very rusty and slightly out of place… 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 sautéed 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.
Today, I’m sharing with you a recipe that I slightly adapted from Karlos Arguiñano, 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.
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 Albariño 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
Serves 1-2, depending on accompaniment.
1/4 cup whole almonds
zest of two lemons or limes (about 1 tablespoon)
4 cloves garlic
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 Albariño white wine
2 thin fresh onions, finely sliced
I used frozen scallops, so I defrosted first, sprinkled with some coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper and set aside.
Preheat the oven on the grill setting.
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.
Add the apple pieces and cook an additional 6-8 minutes until tender.
Allow to slightly cool before pouring into an immersion blender cup, food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.
Add the Albariño and sea salt to taste. Stir well and set aside.
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.
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.
Pour into a clean immersion blender cup or blender.
Add the garlic and lemon/lime zest. Pulse until very finely chopped.
In an ovenproof dish, place the scallops, drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
Spoon the almond mixture over each scallop (you will have mixture leftover).
Bake under the grill for 5 minutes.
To plate: pour some of the apple-onion sauce on each plate and place the cooked scallops on top.
Sprinkle the fresh onion slices over top.
Serve as an appetiser or a meal with a vegetable as accompaniment, if desired.