Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
~ Nelson Mandela
It’s very hard to “walk in another man’s shoes”, to truly understand what it feels to grow up in poverty, without access to many things people in other countries take for granted, such as having food on the table for every meal, having shoes to wear or having more than one pair, having access to healthcare, modern infrastructure, the opportunity to go to school, the possibility to have real chances to change your life for the better…
I remember growing up in Spain during a time when ETA, the Basque terrorist group, was in its full apogee and bomb scares were happening almost every week at our school. Every time we were told that classes were postponed for later in the day or cancelled, I always felt a pang in my heart and remember thinking that I much preferred to have to go to school every single day of the year than getting time off because of bomb threats. I also remember many kids being ecstatic about not having to go to classes; in fact, some of these kids who are obviously now adults, have admitted to calling in many of the threats that resulted to be fake.
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.
I originally created this recipe for my first and only guest post to-date on another blog in October of 2013. It’s been over two years! And so much has changed in my life, and also in that of Naz’s, the author of Cinnamoneats where this post was originally featured. Back then, we were both living in the UK and now we are both ‘back’ in the US.
Naz is making big changes to her blog, rebranding it and in the process she’s doing away with guest posts. Coincidently, I was looking for this recipe to make again this week and went to her blog only to find it ‘under construction’ (she’s working diligently to have it ready soon!). Thankfully, I had the recipe saved in email and am now adding it to this post so we all have it readily available.
Original post, now with recipe included
Welcome to my first guest post on another blog! Naz, from Cinnamoneats, and I follow each other on Instagram and Facebook and have discovered we have quite a lot in common, aside from both being expats (she’s from Australia) living in the UK and being Paleo bloggers! I love her site and her delicious recipes and interesting posts; so it’s an honour to be featured on her blog today.
Naz originally asked me to share a traditional Spanish dish, but as I don’t have anything planned in the near future, I didn’t want to keep her waiting indefinitely… Therefore I thought something Moroccan would be suitable, as that’s very close to my heart and culinary interests as well. I’ve spoken about my passion about the Maghreb cuisine and how I have a ton of Moroccan cookery books… and this recipe is adapted from one of those books, which I purchased on my last trip to Spain.
Cocina Marroqui, by Ghillie Basan, is a great resource for recipes of tagines and couscous, as well as spice blends and tips on how to prepare delectable Moroccan meals. Ghillie even discusses odd bits about the culture and the people of this colourful country.
(mise en place and the lamb/mouton meat mixture)
(on the left is the base for the tagine; on the right are the vegetables poaching)
Tagines are very easy to make and usually encompass combinations typical of the local cuisine, such as spicy with fragrant or sweet and savoury. In this particular recipe, ras-el-hanout is the star. Once you take your first whiff of this spice blend, you’ll either be totally enchanted or possibly really dislike it (although I doubt that). The combination of spices and edible flowers plus chili and turmeric make it quite unique and aromatic, as well as healthy.
And although lamb is used in this recipe, you could very well make the tagine with beef or a beef/pork combination. It’s a great dish to make ahead and then heat up on the stove top. In fact, the longer you let it sit, the better it tastes as the flavours really permeate into the meat.
You can accompany the dish with some green vegetables or a fluffy “cauliflower couscous”…
Lamb Kefta Tagine with Zucchini
Serves: 4 Prep Time: 10 Cook Time: 30
For the Meatballs/Kefta
500g ground lamb
2 small red onions (finely chop 1 1/2 of the onions; julienne the remaining 1/2 onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
10-12 fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons Ras-el-Hanout
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3 cups filtered water
For the vegetables
2 medium zucchini, roughly peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium aubergine, roughly peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the Tagine:
1 tablespoon ghee
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small red onion, julienne-style
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 to 2 cups water from cooking the meatballs
coarse sea salt, to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt)
fresh mint leaves, chopped, for garnishing
Mix the ground lamb with the onion, garlic, mint leaves, ras-el-hanout, chili powder, and the sea salt. Mix until everything is well incorporated. Scoop out balls with a measuring tablespoon and with your hands create the meatballs. Set them aside on a platter or clean surface.
In a deep, but wide pan, place about 3 cups of filtered water, over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, carefully add the meatballs. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so they cook on all sides and do not stick to the pan or together. (I stir, moving from the bottom of the pot so I don’t break the meatballs.) With a slotted spoon, remove from the water and place on a plate or in a bowl. Set the water aside.
In a large saucepan, over low heat, add the zucchini, olive oil and garlic. Poach uncovered for about 10-12 minutes. Stir frequently. Add the aubergine and cook an additional 7-8 minutes. Stir frequently.
In the meantime, in a tagine (ceramic pot or another saucepan), sauté over low heat the 1/2 julienned onion and the cumin seeds in the ghee and olive oil, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the 1 1/2 cups of water from cooking the meatballs. (Add the remaining water only if necessary.)
Place the meatballs/kefta inside the tagine, along with the poached vegetables. Stir well. Add coarse sea salt, to taste. I used about 1 teaspoon. Cook covered for about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then uncovered and cook an additional 12-15 minutes, or until liquid is partially reduced.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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. ;(
(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
Author: The Saffron Girl
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
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons dried, salted anchovies or dried shrimp, fried
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.
Add the sliced green onions, the minced garlic, the Vietnamese chili, cilantro leaves, and pomegranate seeds. Toss and set aside.
In a pan, add about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over low heat.
Fry the cashews until golden brown. Scoop them out and place on a plate with paper towels to soak up any extra fat.
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.
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.
In a medium bowl, coat the sliced onion pieces with the arrowroot powder. Dust off any extra arrowroot powder with your hands.
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.
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.)
Scoop out of the pan and place on another plate with paper towels. Set aside and turn the oil off.
In a mortar, place the fried anchovies/shrimp and grind with the pestle.
Add the lime juice and coconut sugar and mix well. Set aside.
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.
When you’re ready to serve the salad:
Toss the papaya mixture with the dressing and cashew pieces.
Serve in individual plates or a large bowl and top with the fried onion pieces.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The recipe below is an adaptation from the one in Cocina Marroqui by Ghillie Basan.
Ras-el-Hanout Spice Mix
Recipe Type: Spice Mix
Author: The Saffron Girl
Makes about 1 cup.
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
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.
(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.)
Add the lavender flowers and crushed rose petals to the mixture and blend well.
Place into an airtight container for storage.
This can last for 6 months with the adequate room temperature, although I always use it up way before that time period!
I am not passionate about the Indian cuisine; in fact, there are only a few dishes that I truly enjoy, and mostly have to be without much chili. Of course, I opine like this without ever having set foot on the Indian sub-continent… maybe a trip to India would change my mind and taste buds… In the meantime, tikka masala or chicken masala is one dish that I do like to order when going out. And it so happens that this dish is almost considered part of the national British cuisine! When eating out however, I’m always weary of the sauce and what is used to thicken it. Additionally, it’s invariably served with rice.
So when I saw a version by The Urban Poser for a masala side dish, I knew I had to try it. What I’ve created below is an adaptation of Jenni’s recipe.
The unique component is the method of cooking the cauliflower “rice”, which makes the vegetable crunchy instead of mushy. My husband is not a fan of cauliflower “rice” and the only way I’ve enjoyed it before is as fried “rice”. However, after eating this, my husband was very complimentary and said he had not even noticed it was cauliflower at all!
That’s quite a positive comment coming from his very critical palate!
I created my own mixture of Garam Masala spices, based primarily on the recipe Jenni recommends, and added a few other spices of my own. You can, of course, simply substitute for a ready-made Garam Masala mix. The chili, I added separately in order to control the spiciness to my preference. Feel free to add more or less chili, depending on your taste.
Also, I would recommend using dark chicken meat instead for a tastier and more moist version of this dish. I just didn’t have any on hand.
(These last photos are the progression of the cauliflower cooking, so you can see the colour transformation.)
Recipe Type: Main
Author: The Saffron Girl
500g chicken breasts, washed and cut into bite-size pieces (if you prefer to use dark meat, it’s tastier)
1 large red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons green paprika pepper, chopped or julienne
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium zucchini, partially peeled and chopped
3 teaspoons Garam Masala, from the mixture below*
coarse sea salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 cup water
1 medium head cauliflower
For the Garam Masala:
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Mix the spices for the Garam Masala and set aside.
Clean the cauliflower and cut into large florets. “Rice” with a food processor. Set aside.
In a wok or large shallow pan, melt about 2 tablespoons of lard.
Cook the chicken pieces until done, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to brown on all sides. Remove from pan when done and set aside.
In the same pan over high heat, melt about 2 tablespoons of butter or oil of preference.
Immediately add the “riced” cauliflower and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.
Allow the cauliflower to fry until it starts to brown a bit, then stir it around, again spreading into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Repeat a few times until the cauliflower starts to get brown and with slightly black flecks all over it. Remove from heat and transfer to a separate dish. Set aside.
Again in the same pan, add another tablespoon or a bit more of butter and melt over low heat.
Add the onion, garlic and pepper and sauté until the onion pieces are translucent.
Add the carrots and zucchini and stir fry until “al-dente” or to your liking.
Add 3 teaspoons of the Garam Masala mix, sea salt (to taste) and the chili powder. Stir well and cook about 1 minute.
Add the chicken pieces and mix well.
Add the 1/3 cup water and mix well. Cook until the water has evaporated, but a bit of sauce is left.
Turn off the heat and add the “riced” cauliflower. Mix well.
Serve immediately and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.
I made up this rub the other day for some pork ribs and forgot to post the recipe. Today, I’ve used it again for the pork belly tacos and we loved the combination of the flavours with the pineapple-avocado salsa.
Cinnamon Chili Dry Rub for Meats
Recipe Type: Spices
Cuisine: Spice Mix
Author: The Saffron Girl
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/8 cup garam masala
1/8 cup chili powder
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Mix all the ingredients together and use when ready.
I store mine in a glass spice jar with my other spices.
The traditional way to have this dish is in individual oven proof clay dishes. However, I don’t have any at home. I must remember to buy them on my next trip to Spain.
You can however, of course make this on the stovetop in a regular frying/saucepan, like I did today.
Gambas al Ajillo is a dish, typical from the region of Andalucia (Southern Spain) but that is widely eaten in other areas of the country, as well. It’s easy, quick to make and delicious. You only need five ingredients: shrimp, olive oil, garlic, and guindillas (cayenne peppers), and some sea salt.
Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp), Spanish Style
Recipe Type: Main
Author: The Saffron Girl
1 kilo medium to small shrimp, peeled (with tail on is ok)
1 large head garlic, cut the cloves in lengthwise slices
3-4 guindillas (dried cayenne peppers, more or less to taste, of course), sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
coarse sea salt, to taste
a bunch of parsley or cilantro, chopped (I prefer cilantro)
In a large frying pan, heat up the oil over low heat with the garlic and guindillas.
Sauté until the garlic is toasted and starting to change colour, but do not burn or they will go sour.
Add the shrimp and sea salt.
Turn up the heat to medium and sauté the shrimp until they are done. I like mine about 1 minute past turning pink. Longer makes them hard and dry.
Drizzle with chopped cilantro or parsley and serve immediately.
If you prefer to make them in individual bowls:
Follow all the steps, but do not cook the shrimp in the pan. Sauté them about a minute, then pour them into individual oven proof dishes.
Bake on the top rack at 200C (400F) just until they turn pink. Stir if necessary.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately with another plate underneath. (This is the traditional way to have gambas al ajillo in Spain, in individual pottery dishes.)
Seriously I don’t know why I’ve missed out on this dish up until now. I’ve seen the idea pop up here and there on other Paleo blogs, but for some reason it didn’t really appeal to me.
But today, talking with my parents over Facetime, both of them told me about the “popcorn” cauliflower my sister-in-law had made the other day. When they rave, you know it’s good! 😉
So, I took the idea, added spices, and it was part of our lunch today! I also envision these as a great “tapa” or appetiser for parties (although you may want to hold off on the turmeric in that case, if you make it a finger food).
Give this a try… I think you’ll love it, even if you’re not a huge cauliflower fan. The texture is really nice and the flavours make the veggie less bland. But go ahead and experiment with other spices for other variations. (I can just imagine making them with cinnamon and cumin for a Moroccan touch…hmm…)
Recipe Type: Side
Author: The Saffron Girl
For 2 persons
1 small head of cauliflower
1/3 cup melted lard
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon chili (more or less to your taste, however)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Preheat oven to 200C (400F).
Cut the cauliflower into small florets.
Place on a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Drizzle with the melted lard to ensure all the pieces are coated.
Mix the spices together and drizzle over the cauliflower, ensuring that the pieces are well coated.
This past Sunday was actually splendid in London. It was sunny and perfect Spring weather with temperatures reaching 17C. Londoners, or Brits for that matter, immediately start to wear flip flops and short sleeves and act like it’s Summer, something that still startles me somewhat, especially since 17C is still Winter weather in the south of Spain! But it doesn’t seem to get too much warmer on the British Isles, so we have to take what we get and enjoy the most of it, especially the rare sun rays!
So, we spent a lot of time outdoors on Sunday soaking up as much Vitamin D as we could. And with no plans and no real thought about lunch, I found myself needing to make something quickly before we could head back outside again…
This dish is so easy to make, it’s ridiculous to say… but it’s so delectable that it’s actually post worthy and perfect for Spring or Summer!
Mango Chili Coconut Shrimp
Author: The Saffron Girl
1/2 kilo (1 lb) peeled and deveined shrimp, raw or frozen (if frozen, thaw out first)
1 medium onion, cut julienne style or chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium mango, diced
2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (or more, to taste)
1 teaspoon dried sage or 3-4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
coarse sea salt, to taste
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
a few tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, for garnish and flavour
a squeese of lime juice, if desired
Over low to medium heat, melt the coconut oil in a frying pan.
Add the onion and cook until softened.
Add the garlic and shrimp and cook until the shrimp are pink, but not overdone.
Add the sage, chili powder and mix well.
Add the mango pieces and sauté a bit to warm up the mango.
Add the desiccated coconut and mix well.
Remove from heat and serve.
Garnish with cilantro and a squeese of lime juice, if desired.
Serve with your favourite rice or cauliflower “rice”.
Ever since I first heard of this dish, whilst watching a number of Mexican soap operas on Univision (yes, I’m actually admitting to this!), I wanted to try it. I eventually did on my first of many trips to Mexico. And it was even more delicious than I had imagined.
The Mexican culture, albeit not the cuisine, is very similar to the Spanish one. We share a language, of course, but also a lot of customs, historical phrases and similarities that unite us more than may seem possible at first glance. And although our cuisines are not alike, we do share a lot of ingredients, as does most of the civilised world, thanks to the Spaniards who brought them back to the Old World. One of these ingredients is the “jitomate” or tomato, and it’s the base for the chilaquiles sauce.
You can make the sauce with either red or green “jitomates”. In this case, I made it with red tomatoes and paprika and chili peppers, another ingredient originating in the Americas.
This dish should be spicy, however, as I do not tolerate spicy foods very well, please adjust this to your liking.
And to make this dish Paleo-friendly, I made it with Paleo Tortillas/Crepes, which are delicious, easy to make and great to have on hand to use in Mexican dishes, as a crepe or even in the German Pancake soup, something I’ll be trying next with the extra tortillas/crepes that I have in the freezer!
Mexican Chilaquiles with Paleo Tortillas
Author: The Saffron Girl
12 red or green tomatoes, cut in half
2 paprika peppers, rinsed and remove the stem and seeds
2 garlic cloves
2 small guindillas, or dried chili peppers
filtered water, if necessary
2 Mexican tortillas, cut into triangular pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-1 1/2 cups of chopped cilantro, plus some extra for garnishing
White Mexican cheese or goat’s cheese
1 medium, ripe avocado, diced
Preheat oven to 200C (approx. 390F).
Place the tomatoes (cut side down) and the paprika peppers in an oven proof dish.
Roast on the upper tray for about 40 minutes, turning over the peppers, about half way through.
(If your dish is not large enough, like mine is not, you’ll have to do this in two times.)
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Peel the tomatoes and peppers and place the pulp into the electric blender or food processor.
Add the garlic cloves, cilantro and the guindillas/chili peppers and blend until smooth.
Add some filtered water if the paste is too thick. You want to achieve a smooth tomato sauce that is not liquid, however.
In a frying pan, heat about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Saute the tortilla pieces, just long enough to warm up and stiffen a bit.
Add the tomato sauce over top and mix well.
Crack the eggs over the mixture and cook over medium heat, until the eggs are done to your liking.
Serve onto plates.
Garnish with chopped onion, more cilantro, Mexican white cheese (or goat’s cheese), and diced avocado and a drizzle of lime juice.
I call this dish a “pseudo” bastila, since it’s made with lamb and it has no phyllo dough. It’s probably more aptly called a Moroccan inspired pie… but the concept is that of a traditional Chicken Bastila with the meat and egg sauce filling, roasted almonds and spices.
Yet, however you want to call it, it tastes good and it’s Paleo! I absolutely adore Moroccan and Lebanese cuisine and one of the hardest things since going Paleo is avoiding dishes like this one or the delicious baklava! And although I’m sure a purist would not completely agree with my recipe, this is a keeper for me. Next time, I’ll be making it with chicken (the “proper” way) and maybe changing the crust using a different vegetable, like cauliflower, which is more neutral.
For the carrot crust that I used with this pie, please click here.
A couple of notes: I usually don’t measure my ingredients when making savoury dishes. This recipe is definitely the rule rather than the exception. So, for the spices, adjust according to your taste, especially with the ground cinnamon and ground cumin. There is a traditional Moroccan spice mix, called ras el hanout, which is a blend of spices that is typically used for bastila and other Moroccan dishes, and varies from kitchen to kitchen and even by vendor. The most frequent ingredients found in it are cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, clove, coriander, nutmeg, pepper and turmeric. If you can find ras el hanout, I recommend using it. (Here’s my recipe for this spice blend.)
I decided not to go too crazy on the spices as the lamb meat has a strong flavour and I didn’t want to compete with that. However, when using chicken meat, it’s easier to be more generous with the spice mix.
Additionally, rose water can be added to the roasted almonds, along with the cinnamon. I also opted not to add the rose water since my crust was flavourful enough. If you’re making the “real” bastila with phyllo dough, feel free to add this in, as it does give the dish a unique aroma.
PALEO LAMB BASTILA/PIE
Ingredients, for 4-6
6 mini lamp chops, or about 1 1/2 cups of lamb meat
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
1 aubergine, partially peeled and cut into cubes
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon (adjust to taste, as desired though)
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (adjust to taste, as desired)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
a pinch or a sprinkle of ground cardamom
sea salt, to taste
2 handfuls of raisins
2 eggs, beaten
almonds, about 2 handfuls, plus additional ground cinnamon
In a saucepan over medium to low heat, add some butter and brown the lamb chops. Cook until most or all of the blood is gone. Set aside to cool. Once they are cool, cut the meat into small pieces. Set aside.
Wash and prepare the vegetables.
In the same saucepan used to brown the lamb, add a bit more butter and sauté the sweet potato, until almost tender.
Add the celery, aubergine, and garlic and sauté until tender.
Add the meat, the raisins and some water to cover all of it. Add the spices and mix well.
Cook until the meat is fully cooked and the sauce starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add more water as needed, so the sauce stays thick and doesn’t dry out.
Then make a hole in the middle of the mixture and add the beaten eggs. Allow to cook slightly before stirring and scrambling into the rest of the sauce. Cook 2-3 minutes longer and set aside.
In the meantime, in another saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil, over medium heat, lightly brown the almonds. Set aside and sprinkle with ground cinnamon (about 2 teaspoons). Once the almonds are cool, place them in a food processor or blender and chop roughly.
Place the meat mixture into the carrot crust and top with the ground almonds.
Bake at 180C (350F) for 25 minutes on the lower rack of the oven to avoid burning. (You can also cover it with some parchment paper if the almonds begin to burn.)
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