martes, 21 de diciembre de 2010

To fly or not to fly

Every year is the same. I say to myself: "This year you are going to start the Christmas shopping early, in October, or at least star planning what to buy, to who, where, when and were to fly from for spending Christmas in Spain. At the end, everything falls into pieces, my and my plan is ruined because there is always something else, and I rely on the "Mañana, mañana". And, as always, every year, I´m in a hurry, rushing in the shops, sliding in the shopping centres, gasping for air in between (unless I do it all online) and swearing myself that I will NEVER be back to Oxford St on a Saturday in Christmas time (and going back to Oxford St on a saturday in Christmas time) To be honest, I get carried away when I see the Christmas decoration already in early October and I let myself go...At the end, I panic, and everybody ends up with gift vouchers.

So, I have almost everything ready, presents and vouchers, my packed edible Christmas presents ready to pack and the luggage almost almost done. And suddenly we get an incredible, inconvenient and heavy snowfall, and all our plans are on standby. And we are lucky, thousands had their flights canceled and there is chaos everywhere (transport wise) People end up sleeping on the floor of the terminal at Heathrow, the queue at St Pancras station is huge, even the tube has troubles, so, I´m not going out and I keep my fingers crossed for my flight next week, maybe the snow will melt by then. And all this introduction is because I am presenting today my Christmas post. Its a gingerbread cake with cranberries, of course, perfect if you are sick and tired of the traditional Christmas pudding. This gingerbread is not very sweet,and is quite light actually. The icing is sweet enough...I would like to take this opportunity to show off my new dish, which I got as a present over the last days, thank you Girls!

It´s a variation on Dan Lepard´s ginger cake. He really is amazing and we all can enjoy his talent in his lovely books. A well known baker and a food writer for The Guardian (this recipe comes from there) and I have adapted it to become a little more festive. The treacle is an important ingredient but you can use golden syrup, or honey instead. I used fondant icing sugar for the icing, because is a mix that has solid glucose in it and it becomes shiny and spreadable very easily. You can use normal icing sugar if you cant find it. I want to thank everybody who steps here and post their comments, and I wish you all a lovely Christmas, and and may the new year is full of smiles for everyone. Merry Christmas!

50g unsalted butter
100g black treacle
75g muscovado sugar
2 medium eggs
25ml sunflower oil
75ml blended or single malt whisky
50g fresh cranberries
175g plain flour
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
3¼ tsp mixed spice
6 tablespoons apricot glaze

225g fondant icing sugar
6 or 7 tablespoons water

For the candied cranberrries:
1 egg white
10 fresh cranberrries
100g caster sugar

Line the base and sides of a 17cm loaf tin or similar with nonstick paper, and heat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted)/350F/gas mark 4. Melt the butter, remove from the heat and stir in the treacle and sugar until any lumps soften. Beat in the eggs until mixed through evenly, then do the same with the oil and whisky.

Sift into the mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and three teaspoons each of ground ginger and mixed spice, and beat in well. Add the cranberries, mix well and spoon the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted pulls out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin.

For the candied cranberries, lightly beat the egg white and soak the cranberries in it, remove the excess and coat them in the sugar. Leave to dry a bit.

For the icing, first heat the apricot glaze in the microwave and spread the surface of the cold cake with it, then, mix the fondant icing sugar with the water until it becomes spreadable, and quickly spread this over the cake. Decorate with the candied cranberries and some holly leaves. For a nice looking serving plate, sprinkle with mixed spice. Enjoy the evocative smell!

jueves, 2 de diciembre de 2010

Caponata Charlotte for you, for me, but not for "Him"

OK, I admit it. Cooking for a vegetarian can be a little tricky sometimes, and it can become sort of a challenge, a quest. I don't know about the rest of the vegetarians, but "mine" is a bit special when it comes to vegetables. so, sometimes the challenge becomes an odyssey. I must confess that I totally used to rely on mushrooms to feed him, but that has changed as well, so, no more mushrooms from now on. Because of this, every time I find a lovely mouthwatering vegetarian recipe I try it, I observe and make up my mind. This is: I try it by cooking it for him, I observe him whilst eating it and depending on his reaction when tasting it, I make up my mind, so the recipe can be made again and again, or otherwise it's sent to the recycle bin. My post today is one of those mouthwatering ones, a caponata Charlotte with goats cheese, the star ingredient is the lovely aubergine, which is the reason why I never thought of cooking it for "Him", but when I saw the skilled Paul Gayler cooking it on tv, it was love at first sight. I had to cook this, even when I knew that my vegetarian wouldn't even smell it!                                                                                                                                                                                          

So, that's life! My post today is the ideal main course for a vegetarian, but not for mine. It's full of flavour with a huge mix of ingredients. Aubergine is the main one, for sure, but the goats cheese combines everything so elegantly that you can tell it comes from a 5 star restaurant, like the one that Paul Gayler is the head chef, the Lanesborough in Hyde Park, from where he has worked hard to become one of the most talented chefs in the UK. His gastronomic delicacies are an inspiration for every food lover, vegetarian or non vegetarian. And if you don't believe me, have a look at any of his amazing books.


2 medium aubergines
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 small courgette, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
3 or 4 slices dried apple, chopped
6 dried apricots, chopped
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
50 g sultanas
50g toasted pine nuts
Fresh thyme
2 tomatoes
4 individual goats cheeses
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Soak the sultanas in the rum for a while, set aside. Turn the oven on and set the temperature to 180. Wash and cut an aubergine and a half, reserve the other half for the filling and slice the rest with the skin on, cut it in half and again into thin slices, lay them in a baking tray and brush them with olive oil, season with salt and pepper an bake for 10 minutes. Grease 4 individual ramekins.

For the caponata:

Crush one garlic clove and puree it with some salt with the back of the knife. Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil and cook for 2 minutes, add the rest of the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes. Add the dried fruit, cook for 2 more minutes. Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and maple syrup, and finally the sultanas and the pine nuts.
For the sauce:

Cut the tomato and blend it, place it in a saucepan and add the garlic clove and some fresh thyme and cook for five minutes, drain it and add some olive oil.

Line the ramekins with the slices of the aubergine making sure that they overlap. This prevents the filling to ooze out and the final presentation is beautiful. Place a couple of spoonfuls of the caponata and place them in the base of the ramekin, add the slice of cheese, (you can use mozzarella if goats cheese is not your cup of tea), and then top with more caponata, pushing down all the time. Fold over the aubergine and secure the filling. Push down again, and place the ramekins in the oven for 10-12 minutes. To serve, demold it and place on a plate, drizzle the dressing around it and decorate with tomato cubes and deep fried aubergine skin.

martes, 2 de noviembre de 2010

Rice pudding from the land of smiles

Rice pudding, I love it. Anyway, any version, from any country. It takes me back to when I was young (er), and it's definitely a flavour from my childhood, so it has became one of my favorite puddings, for good. Later on, while growing, I started discovering new cuisines from around the world and my palate discovered the Thai version of rice pudding. With coconut cream and fresh mango! I remember the first time I ever tried Thai cuisine, it wasn't in Thailand, it was here in London, when i was being "wooed" (by the one who is now my husband, "the vegetarian") and it was a total discovery, so you can imagine what I felt, and how much did I ate when I finally went to Thailand. I didn't miss a thing, the colours of all the variety of foods being sold at the street stalls, the smell of the stir fries, the lovely fruits, and for someone who loves coconut, like me, I felt in paradise.

In my opinion, Thai cuisine is the door to Asia, gastronomically speaking, like a welcoming window overlooking a country of delights. The flavours are delicate, the ingredients offer array of endless possibilities and the final result is aromatic and elegant. Thai food is, like its people, kind and warm, and it tastes as good as it looks. Apart from the flavour, the plates, the china and the golden cutlery (they hardly use chopsticks) are so characteristic and appropriate, that a Thai dinner or lunch becomes a party for all our senses. 

Rice pudding with coconut cream and fresh mango or Khao niao mamuang is a delicacy that surprises and everybody likes (or almost everyone). Glutinous or sticky rice should be used for this recipe, the favorite in the north of Thailand and it's extremely important to soak it overnight or 3 hours before cooking, this wil make its consistency to mix wonderfully well with the coconut cream. The fresh mango give the dish a lovely twist keeping the balance between the two strong flavours. Hope you like it. Kob khun kaa...

Khao niao mamuang


225g sticky rice
300ml coconut cream
100g palm sugar (or caster sugar)
1 teaspoon salt
3 big ripe mangoes

Method for the rice

Soak the rice overnight in cold water or in hot water for three hours. Wrap it in muslin and place it in the steamer, cook for 30 minutes. While the rice is cooking, heat the coconut cream with the sugar and salt. When the rice is done and still warm, pour half of the warm coconut cream over the rice and let it sit until it's cold. Add more sugar according to taste. Peel and ct the mango in thin slices.

To serve, place the rice in a bowl, and lay the mango slices on top, or cut it in shapes with a biscuit cutter. Serve with the remaining coconut cream.

jueves, 14 de octubre de 2010

Chicken meatloaf and the clouds of London

I love cold meats, they are ideal for a light lunch or dinner, served with slices of good bread and in good company, who can ask for anything more? And if you are in a picnic, enjoying the sun, surrounded by your friends ans sharing some laughs, then it couldn't get better, could it? But again, here in London, you can think that a picnic, or organizing a picnic can be an intrepid challenge. I love picnics but, as I said, it can be a bit tricky trying to organize one for your friends, and I can honestly say that I have only been to four picnics because of the sun.                   

You can never EVER rely on the weather if you live here in London, but I guess it can always be worse, I could live further north, or even in a Nordic country where you can hardly see the sun light. But then again, I remember when I first moved from Spain, and you can imagine, coming from a Mediterranean country where the sun is up in the sky almost always, and moving here, it was quite a change. But as the weather changed and now temperatures are not so cold anymore, it doesn't rain that much, and we have quite "mild" winters. I remember my first winter here, when my ears for frozen while I was walking through the park and I could hardly feel my feet! But one learns with everything, and now, I ALWAYS carry an extra jacket, you never know! And yes, even in summer, because I firmly believe in the old English saying. "If you don't like the weather, wait for five minutes"                                                               

So, I started talking about cold meats, and here I am now babbling about English weather. Let's go back to some gorgeous food, and a chicken meatloaf that you and your guests will love. It comes from one of Australian Women's weekly, and you can use mince turkey or pork instead of chicken, and the salsa verde can be served with fish as well. 

900g mince chicken
100g drained semidried tomatoes in oil, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 egg
25g stale breadcrumbs
40g roasted pine nuts
40g chopped chives

Salsa Verde
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 chopped chives
1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped coarsely
80ml olive oil
60ml lemon juice
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1 clove garlic crushed

Oven dried tomatoes
500g cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
2 tablespoons sugar
salt and pepper

Cut the tomatoes in half and place them on a metal rack on a baking tray, season with the salt and pepper, and sprinkle the thyme all over. Bake at 100 degrees for three hours. If you lucky enough to live in a hot country you can skip the oven step and just place them on a tray under the sun until they are dried. If you are not going to use them right away, keep them in a glass jar covered with olive oil.

Preheat oven to 180. Grease a medium loaf pan.
Make salsa verde and reserve.
Combine chicken, tomato, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, nuts. and chives in large bowl. Press meatloaf mixture into pan.
Bake 20 minutes.
Serve meatloaves, top side up, with the salsa verde and slices of bread.

martes, 14 de septiembre de 2010

A nice touch

Bye bye summer!

OK, let's get to it.

These delightful bitesize cakes are a beauty and so delicious you won't believe how easy and fun they are to make. They taste of summer, so before winter arrives I give you these little cuties...I would also tell you about what happened one night not so long ago after I made these. Here is the story...

It's so grateful to be rewarded for your work, even more when you least expect it. This is what happened one night, not too long ago. It was quite late, around 8 pm, when my doorbell rang. I opened the door and there was this delivery man handing me a form to sign and with a big long box by his side. I looked at the box and when I saw the Interflora logo, I kindly smiled, (I may have slipped a patronizing sigh (He, my husband, the Vegetarian hasn´t brought me flowers in years!) so I opened my mouth to let him know he got the wrong door, when my eyes saw the addressee name: Mrs B. Wait a minute, that's ME! I signed the form and I almost hugged the man! (he run away of course!) Then, this got me thinking, could it be that my hubbie, the Vegetarian, had the urge for bringing me flowers? They say that if this happens out of the blue, he might have been having an affair! I grabbed the box, closed the door and had a deep breath. 
-"Do you have anything to do with this???" -I shouted. His steps getting closer downstairs...
-"Erm...Noooo?"- (suspicious smile)
So, I opened the box and there it was, a beautiful, colourful and huge orchid plant! The plant pot was the same colour as the flowers, a nice touch. So, the Vegetarian had to break and he spat it all out. His workmates were the ones. I use to send them my culinary creations via the Vegetarian, like the ones from this post, and this was their way of thanking me, along with a nice card with a lovely message. I am more than grateful to these guys, to whom I've never met, for letting me know about their tastes, for helping me out with my experiments and for eating them. So, people from BAA, at Heathrow, Thanks a lot!

Here's the lovely plant.

Añadir imagen

And here's the recipe, passion fruit mini bites and bites size cherry cakes. They're so simple to make and the result is impressive.

Mini passion fruit cakes


2 tablespoon passion fruit pulp
60g softened butter
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1/4 cup (55g) sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup (75g) self raising flour
1/4 cup (60ml) buttermilk

1/2 cup (80g) icing sugar
1 teaspoong milk

Preheat oven to 180. Grease two 12 hole mini muffin tins
Strain passion fruit pulp over small bowl, reserve seeds and juice separately.
Beat butter, rind and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, add flour, passion fruit juice and buttermilk. Spoon mixture into muffin tin holes. 
Bake cakes about 20 minutes. Stand them 5 minutes. Turn, top side up, onto a cooling rack.
Meanwhile, stir icing sugar and milk, add the reserved seeds and mix until combined. Top cakes with icing.

Cherry bites


115g self raising flour
Pinch of salt
100g sugar
115g softened butter
3 eggs
50g ground almonds


Preheat the oven to 180. Grease the muffins tin.
Sift the flour and add a pinch of salt, and stir in the sugar.

Melt the butter and leave to cool. Lightly beat the eggs and mix them into the sugar and flour, then add the cooled butter and ground almonds. Cover and chill for an hour at least. Fill the tin three quarters full.
Top with a cherry (you can substitute with any other fruit) and bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Leave to cool then turn out to a cooling rack.

martes, 3 de agosto de 2010

Okonomiyaki, what I want and what I like.

There are certain places that you are always willing to go back, then, they become part of a group of memories that you just wish to live again. We would even consider moving there for good or for at least a couple of years. I have travelled enough to select a couple of places where I could just move tomorrow, or even to have them as my "second residence" Many of you may know by now about my love for Mexico, and the idea of living there is with me ever since I came back (in this life or maybe in the next one) and someting similar hapened to me with Japan. Such a different country, I would never hesitate to move over there, the people, the culture, the scenery, the temples, the way they treat the elderly people (almost worship) the transports (I love you, bullet train) but above all, and of course, the food...
I can honestly say that, since we arrived we were treated wonderfully well, I was lucky enough to feel gastronomically spoiled by trying (devouring) the incredibly, tasty and tender Kobe beef cooked in a wonderful dish called Sukiyaki on the night of our arrival. Of course it melts in your mouth, after being spoiled and very well looked after by their carers, with massages and taking sake showers! On top of that, they make them drink beer to stimulate their apetite.

So, walking around Osaka, we had a lovely guide Noriko who took us to a very special restaurant. The tables had a grill in the middle and she told us that we were going to try something "special" and very very popular. OKONOMIYAKI something like the japanese pizza. Ok, so, you sit on the table, you choose the ingredients you want and you cook it yourelf at your table. That was a good plan and the result? Well, nothing like a pizza, more like a pancake, with a bunch of different flavours, dried seaweed, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and the special okonomiyaki sauce (you can find all these ingredients in your local oriental supermarket) and on top of all that, mayonaise! I use Kewpie (japanese) but any other will do. The flour is a special one, it has tiny dried shrimps and seafood flavour but you can use self raising flour. There are hundreds of Okonomiyaki recipes, one in each region. It's part of a family meal and in fact, OKONOMIYAKI is japanese for "what you want" or "what you like". The Hiroshima version is made with chinese noodles! I used squid and prawns in this version, befcause is my favorite and I always follow Noriko's recipe, but you can use whatever you have at home, pork, chicken, beef, vegetables or seafood...easy as pie!
I want to be a Kobe beef i my next life...

For the batter
250 g okonomiyaki or self raising flour
2 small eggs
125 ml water
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

The filling:

1 medium squid, diced
6 peeled and raw prawns
4 cabbage leaves finely sliced
2 spring onions finely sliced or chives

For the topping

Okonomiyaki sauce
Dried seaweed (ao nori)
Pickled ginger (beni shoga)
Dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi)

Mix the ingredients of the dough in a bowl, until it has the consistency of double cream, you can add more water of flour, depending of what it needs. Add the filling ingredients and mix well. Heat a no stick frying pan and add the oil, then the mix when the oil is very hot, and lower the heat to medium. When the pancake starts bubbling and setting turn it over and cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes, depending of how thick is your pancake. Place it on the serving dish and drizle with mayonaise, the okonomiyaki sauce, then the seaweed and the ginger and finally the dried bonito flakes. Serve hot.


domingo, 18 de julio de 2010

Humble cake

There are certain smells which embrace us when they travel from our kitchens right straight to our senses. Smells and aromas which provide us with wonderful and comforting sensations. The aroma of a freshly baked apple pie or sponge is one of these. There´s something weird with me and the apples, I just can´t seem to eat them raw, I rather wait and cook them, caramelize them, roast them, bake them and enjoy them like that. being part of the inside of a cake, o crowning a spongy sponge and filling my mouth with all these sensations and making me even more happier...

These apple rectangles are ideal as they are individuals and they are coated in a lovely and velvety brandy Butterscotch sauce, which make them irresistible. You need to let the sponges rest once they are baked, just for a while, and then serve them warm. You can as well use this recipe for a normal cake or muffins.

Here comes the recipe


125 g softened butter

½ cup (110g) sugar

2 eggs

150 g plain four

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon milk

3 granny smith or golden delicious apples

½ cup (160g) warm apricot jam

Brandy butterscotch sauce

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup thickened cream

100g butter, chopped

2 tablespoons brandy


Preheat oven to 180. Grease the tin or tray you are using.

Beat butter and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, stir in sifted flour and baking powder then add the milk, spread mixture into prepared pans.

Peel, core and halve apples, slice thinly and push gently into surface of cake mixture. Brush apple with the warm apricot jam and bake for 40 minutes. Stand cakes 10 minutes before turning, top-side up onto a wire rack to cool slightly.

For the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan, stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer uncovered without stirring for about 3 minutes or until it thickens slightly.

Serve warm drizzled with the brandy butterscotch sauce and double cream.

lunes, 14 de junio de 2010

Tagine, a tasty mirage in my oasis.

Moroccan food is exotic, aromatic and full of colour. Its amazing array of ingredients is a pleasure for all of our senses. There's no doubt about it, Moroccan cuisine is full of quality, plus,  the variety of sweets, very sweet, the combination of spices, and the mix of the sweet and sour, makes this unique gastronomy one of the best in the world. Moroccan cuisine is a mix of cultures, and one of its star dishes is the lovely Tagine. It can be made with chicken, lamb, fish or vegetables. 

 This is an excellent recipe by Claudia Roden, and from her book Arabesque. The tagine is the name of the dish the food is cooked in. The conic shape helps the steam flowing and cooking the interior of the dish giving the food its distinctive flavour. If we add the preserved lemons, one of the most essential ingredients the Moroccan cuisine, then the colour of the dish becomes amazing and the flavour explodes in your mouth. You must prepare the lemons a month in advance. 

You can find the preserved lemons in selected stores, but they are so easy to prepare that it seems to me a waste of money, for they are quite expensive to buy and so much cheap to prepare at home. For this dish you only use the skin of the lemons. If you decide to go ahead and prepare the tagine, you only need to remember to preserve the lemons four weeks before.

Preserved lemons


5 or 6 big unwaxed lemons
rock salt ( quite a lot)
The juice of three lemons


Wash the lemons and cut them from the stem end into quarters almost through the base. Insert one tablespoon rock salt into each lemon, close it up and place in the sterilized jar. Repeat until the jar is filled, sprinkling 1 tablespoon salt between the layers. Pack the lemons into the jar as tightly as possible. Add a bay leaf an a few peppercorns is you want. Add the lemon juice and fill with slightly cool boiled water.

Seal the jar and store in a cool dark place for 4 weeks. Shake the jar daily for the first week in order to dissolve the salt. Once it´s opened store in the fridge. Before adding to the recipe, you need to rinse the lemon with water and discard the pulp.

Chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons


3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 onions finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 chicken cut into pieces (I used a poussin)
salt and black pepper
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Peel of 1 large preserved lemons
12-16 green olives
300mil chicken stock or water


In a tagine or a wide caserole dish, heat the oil and add the oinions, saute until they are soft then stir in the garlic, ginger and saffron.
Put in the chicken pieces season with salt and pepper and por in abut 300ml chicken stock or water. Simmer, covered. turning the pieces over a few times, and adding a little more water if it becomes too dry.

Stir in the lemon juice, the chopped coriander and parsley, the preserved lemon peel cut into strips and the olives. Cook uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced and thick. Serve the chicken with the olives and lemon strips on top of the meat. You can serve it along with an almond and pistachio couscous. And don't be surprised when the chicken melts in your mouth.