Cranberry Beef Stew

Finally! It seems the autumn is actually starting to take root in my city and I can finally switch my electric fan for my radiator. Autumns here are not like those I used to enjoy back in the UK where you could actually tell the season had changed and you could roll around in piles of crispy golden leaves, here it just means that there may actually be some rainfall for a nice change.

The best thing about the autumn has to be its food. Apart from the bountiful harvest of amazing fruits and vegetables you can also look forward to hearty comforting soups and stews, much like this one which also incorporates lush cranberries into the mix to make what would normally be a run-of-the-mill (for my standards, anyways) stew into something a bit more special.

Ingredients

600g stewing beef

3 Tbsp. spiced flour (plain flour mixed with pimenton, black pepper, mixed herbs and cumin)

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 turnip, diced

1 leek, sliced

1 celery, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 Tbsp. ajo y perejil

1 ripe tomato, grated

2 potatoes, cut into chunks

2 tsp. pimenton (or paprika)

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. cumin

5 Tbsp. dried cranberries

3 cups cranberry juice

2 Tbsp. honey

Handful green pitted olives (optional)

Salt, to taste

Method

1 Add spiced flour and beef chunks into a ziplock plastic bag, close and shake to evenly coat each beef chunk.

2 Fry beef in a casserole dish til golden brown on each side. Remove and reserve.
DSC04688_Fotor_Collage
3 In this same oil, fry onion and leek til translucent. Add ajo y perejil, carrots, turnip, celery, red pepper, cinnamon and cumin. Fry for 2 – 3 minutes.

4 Add pimenton for a few seconds before adding the grated tomatoes. Mix well and cook for 5 minutes.
DSC04688_Fotor_Collage2
5 Return the beef to the pan and add cranberries. Mix well and add cranberry juice, honey, salt and enough water to fully cover everything. Bring to boil and simmer on low for 1 hour 15 minutes. Check on it every once in a while to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan or running dry, if so add more water.
DSC04689_Fotor_Collage
6 Check seasoning and adjust to your preference. Add potatoes and olives and cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are done.
DSC04704_Fotor

Advertisements

Lentejas (Spanish Style Lentils)

I used to absolutely despise lentils to death! My mum used to make them nearly every Wednesday when I was a teenager as she knew I would come back home starving to death as after “normal” school I then had to go to Spanish School. I clearly remember going to bed and seeing the lentils soaking in a bowl the night before and already dreading it. The sauce it was cooked in and the meat itself was nice but I just couldn’t stomach the lentils themselves. I also have bad memories of being forced to eat them and not being allowed to leave the table till I had finished them. My technique was to “play” with the lentils till my parents had finished and then wait until I was forced to stay at the table while the rest of the family had retired to the sitting room. At this point, I would fish the lentils out of the bowl, wrap in lots and lots of kitchen towel and put them at the bottom of the rubbish bin. My mum would then come back to check on progress and let me leave. She never did find out about hiding them at the bottom of the bin!

Anyways, I was back at my parents house last year and my mum had made lentils. I decided to try them and give them a chance and to my utter surprise I actually liked them! Tastes really do change! Since then, I asked my mum to show me her recipe and now I eat them often.

This is a great recipe to make when supplies are running low at home. You can make it with any vegetables you have at hand and use whatever protein you like, or skip it entirely. Heck, you can even make it when you have no vegetables or any protein at home! I normally like to use onion, carrot and celery but will use anything I have in the fridge. I especially like throwing in some spinach, kale or lamb’s lettuce at the end, if there is any at home. Protein wise, my mum would traditionally use chorizo and pork ribs but anything goes such as chicken or fish. Also, my mum sometimes throws in a handful of rice but I prefer to skip that part.

I always use Pardina lentils which do not need to be soaked overnight and cook quite fast. Depending on the type of lentils you use, refer to the cooking instructions on the packet. Some need to be soaked and also take longer to cook.

The cups used in this recipes is just any old cup you have at hand, it isn’t the American measuring cup method.

Ingredients

2 cups pardina lentils, washed

6 cups cold water (it needs to fully cover the lentils by circa 3cm)

1 carrot, halved

2 celery sticks, cut in chunks

1 onion, quartered

1 red pepper, cut in chunks

2 cooking chorizos

3 garlic cloves, medium sliced

2 dried cayenne chillies (or any other type of chilli)

1 Tbsp. sweet pimenton (or paprika)

2 Tbsp. plain flour

2 tsps cumin powder

4 Tbsp olive oil

Method

In a pan add lentils, vegetables and meat and cover with water. The water should fully cover the ingredients by at least 3cm otherwise the water will completely evaporate. Bring to a boil.

2 When you see the water is just starting to boil, get a small frying pan and fry garlic slices and cayenne chillies in plenty of olive oil. Add pimenton for a few seconds and then mix in the flour. Take off the heat and pour directly into the pan with lentils. It will sizzle, but it’s normal.DSC04156_Fotor_Collage
Simmer on a low heat for ten minutes.

4 Season with salt and 1 tsp cumin powder. Stir to make sure the lentils to not stick to the bottom of the pan and simmer for a further ten minutes or until they are cooked. Cooking times will vary depending on the type of lentils you use. Check the seasoning and add 1tsp of cumin powder right at the end.

At this point, you can also stir in some spinach if you have any at hand.

DSC04789

100% Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is addictive. By the time I want to use it in a recipe I’ve already eaten the whole pot using a spoon…oops!

However, store bought peanut butter is laden with unnecessary hydrogenated fats, salt, sugar and lots of other things that are unpronounceable, which can’t be good! So, I’ve embarked on making my own peanut butter from scratch; gotta make good use of my food processor after all!

Most recipes I’ve seen online add olive oil or other “healthy” oils, salt, honey or agave (or some kind of other “healthy” sweetness) but you really do NOT need any of these! Feel free to use them yourself if you wish but peanuts already have plenty of oil in them so there is no need to add more to the mix and also peanuts already taste good so why add saltiness or sweetness?

This recipe is made from 100% peanuts and nothing else, well…except patience. I used whole raw peanuts with their skins still attached as they are cheaper but if you can/want buy roasted shelled peanuts or any other peanuts your prefer; honey roasted would be nice but would most probably be laden with undesirable ingredients which kind of defeats the purpose of making homemade healthy-ish peanut butter!

You can use this same technique for any other “nut” (peanuts are actually legumes but hey-ho) butter such as almond, cashew, pistachio, pecan, macadamia etc.

Ingredients

400g whole raw peanuts (fills a 250g jar)

Method

1 Preheat oven to 150ºC

2 Spread the peanuts on a baking tray in an even single layer. Roast in oven for 10 – 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them and turn the peanuts every once in a while to prevent burning.

3 Let peanuts cool. Transfer to a sieve and scrunch the peanuts together to release them from their skins. Toss them in the sieve to separate the nut from the thrash. As the skins are lighter than the nut they will “float” out of the sieve. If not, pick out the nuts and transfer to food processor.DSC04747_Fotor_Collage
4 Add all peanuts to the food processor and pulse a few times to crumble. Then process.

Patience is required at this stage but fear not. At first the peanuts will turn into something akin to sawdust but with persistence the natural oils will be released and the mixture will turn into a clump. At this stage process further and like magic it will eventually break down and turn into peanut butter. At this point it depends on your preference if you want thick or smooth peanut butter. I prefer smooth so I processed it till it was smooth and silky. If you like chunky you can add some whole peanuts and pulse a few times.

And that’s really it! No need to add oil to “help” it to break down!DSC04747_Fotor_Collage2
5 Transfer to an airtight jar and store in the fridge. Will keep for at least 2 months but do you really think I am going to give it time to expire?
DSC04759_Fotor

Ajoaceite (Spanish Garlic Mayonnaise)

Depending on where in the Mediterranean you find yourself, you are most likely to know this sauce under a plethora of different names such as ajoaceite, alioli, allioli or as it is most commonly known in the United Kingdom under its French name of aïoli. Its name literally translates as garlic and oil (from Latin allium + oleum)  and it is just that, an emulsion of both these ingredients much like a mayonnaise. It goes great with meat, fish, vegetables and in Valencia it is traditional to eat it with some rice dishes or fideua like this one.  

There are many purists out there that will argue to death that the ONLY way to make authentic ajoaceite is by using the pestle and mortar method but times have changed and we now have electricity. If our ancestors, who worked themselves to the bone, knew about electricity I really doubt they would be that adamant about using their own elbow grease! I think most purists prefer to make it with a pestle and mortar to cling on to the old ways as they believe it is more “authentic”. I, on the other hand think that if there has been a technological advance that can help you do do something with greater ease than before then why heavens not take full advantage of it? You don’t see many people going to the river to wash their clothes anymore, do you?

My tried and tested method to make ajoaceite is by using a hand immersion blender. It is the only way that I can achieve perfect ajoaceite every single time without it ever splitting.

Talking about splitting, there is a weird Spanish superstition that if you are a female and you are on your period, the ajoaceite will split when making it. I’ve had to come to the rescue on many occasions to cater our ajoaceite needs when someone has been in this position. My mother (who can’t use that excuse anymore) and female cousins all swear that this is true but I have a funny feeling they just use it as a good excuse to get away with slaving away: kudos to them if this is really the case!

Alternatively, you can make this ajoaceite by swapping the egg for milk. Use 1 part milk (room temperature), 2 parts vegetable oil and follow the same recipe as below.

Ingredients

1 egg, whole

1 garlic clove

Pinch rock salt (or table salt)

1 glass vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil as it is too strong)

Lemon juice, a few drops

Method

1 Put garlic clove and salt into a container and blitz with a hand immersion blender.

2 Add lemon juice, vegetable oil and egg.

DSC04701_Fotor_Fotor_Collage

The trick is to insert the hand blender right to the bottom of the container and start to blitz without stopping or moving the blender. You should start to see the mixture emulsifying at the bottom of the container. It is best to use a container where the blender fits snugly instead of having a large surface area.

Once most is emulsified you can start to lift the blender to incorporate the rest of the oil and start to move the blender up and down, slowly and gently. Once most oil has emulsified you can move the blender up and down faster until you get it to the thickness that you desire.

DSC04701_Fotor

Egg-free Ajoaceite

Ajo Aceite de leche

Asian – Style Steamed Seabass

I know a lot of people like to eat their fish in fillets without evidence that it did once have bones and a head but I prefer eating fish whole. You could make this recipe with fillets but for those who are not squeamish, I’d definitely recommend using the whole fish.

I normally eat seabass mediterranean style with lots of garlic, parsley and lemon but I wanted to shake things up today and have been in an Asian mood. Thus this seabass was born. Hope you enjoy as much as I did.

I wanted to use my Thai-stacked steamer for this recipe but the fish was so massive that it didn’t fit so I had to settle for using a baking tray and covering it with aluminium foil instead.

Ingredients

1 whole seabass, gutted and scaled

5cm piece ginger, cut into strips

1 – 2 spring onions, cut lengthwise into strips

1 red chilli

1 Tbsp ajo y perejil (or sliced garlic)

1 Tbsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp light soy sauce

1 Tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice

2 Tbsp Shaoxing Rice Wine

Dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in cold water

Shiitake Dashi (water from rehydrating the shiitake mushrooms)

Garnish:

1/2 spring onion, cut lenghwise into stips

1cm fresh ginger, cut lenghwise into stips

1/2 red chilli, cut lenghwise into stips

Method

1 Place the whole fish on a bed of ginger and spring onions to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the baking tray and also to give it that all important fragrance. Make incisions all along the fish and then massage on some ajo y perejil into all the nooks and crannies.

2 Dress ginger, red chilli and spring onions with garlic, sesame oil, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Chinese 5 spice and Shaoxing rice wine. Insert this mixture into the incisions and then pour over the sauce. Throw in some shiitake mushrooms into the pan and top with shiitake dashi to allow steam to be created inside the tray.
DSC04719_Fotor_Collage1
3 Cover with aluminium foil and steam in the oven for 10 – 15 mins, depending on the size of the fish. To check if it is ready make sure the skin and flesh pull away easily from the bone.

4 Garnish with fresh ginger, chilli and spring onions.
DSC04736
Serve with Shiitake and Wakame Rice

Shiitake & Wakame Rice

I’ve always wanted to experiment with seaweed so I went down to my local Asian Supermarket and finally located wakame seaweed; all other seaweeds I found were just labelled “seaweed” and to be honest I didn’t really trust them till I found the words wakame written on the package.

For those readers in Valencia (Spain) there are 3 main Asian Supermarkets I go to: Yuen Tong (Calle Pelayo, 30), Zhong Hua (Calle Convento de Jerusalén, 12) and Supermercado Diario (Calle Convento de Jerusalén, 37). I bought this particular wakame in Supermercado Diario; in all the others I couldn’t figure out what particular seaweed was in the package.

The way I normally cook rice is rather unconventional so feel free to use which ever method you prefer. I use a microwave as it keeps the washing-up to a minimum and is easy as pie.

Take into account that before embarking on this recipe you’ll need to rehydrate the dried shiitake mushroom. To do this wash the mushrooms and soak them in a jug of cold water, preferably overnight. Do not throw away the water they have been soaked in as this can be used as the liquid to cook the rice. This byproduct of soaking the shiitake is known in Japanese as dashi.

Ingredients

10 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced

3 Tbsp dried wakame seaweed, rehydrated

2 cups rice

4 cups liquid (shiitake dashi + extra water if needed)

Method

1 Wash and rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms in a jug of cold water overnight.

2 Pour rice and shiitake slices into a microwave resistant bowl and top up with the liquid (dashi) from soaking the mushrooms plus extra normal water if necessary. Make sure the rice is fully covered.

3 Microwave for 15 minutes or until rice is cooked through.

4 Meanwhile rehydrate the wakame seaweed in hot water for 5 minutes. Plunge into cold water immediately and drain excess liquid. Set aside.
DSC04719_Fotor_Collage
5 When rice is ready add the wakame. Mix thoroughly. Season with light soy sauce if necessary. Take into account that the seaweed is already quite salty.
DSC04732