I was in Spain for a few days last week. On the way in I flew with hand baggage only. But the way back involved checking in my previously almost empty bag (I pack very lightly), as it had been loaded with a (figurative) ton of local-ish produce:
sobrasada! and four different cheeses from various parts in Spain
spelt based spaghetti with spirulina and other sea weeds (I love trying out new things)
Organic Spanish Marcona almonds
three bottles of Antoñita La Moderna, a locally brewed beer which I had just tried and liked, so my beerofiliac spouse can try it
a bottle of herbero – a drink made out of a sweet aniseed digestive base with added local herbs from the Serra de Mariola mountains
sweet chamomile, elder, mate (to brew)
And since this is the season of colds: locally sourced thyme (to brew) and eucalyptus (to inhale)
I couldn’t stop thinking this was quite a funny bag, and also hoping the bottles would not be smashed despite my best packing efforts. I normally don’t take liquids with me so I don’t have to check them in, because then I’m all worried they’re going to be smashed when loaded/unloaded. Stupid airport security procedures… 🙄
Since I came back we’ve been enjoying all manners of unusual culinary combinations; let’s call them fusion cuisine:
And some not-so-weird: thyme infusion, or thyme tree – perfect to soothe sore throats, or just to enjoy its fragrant smells:
We also tried the elder infusion; I had never had that one before. I fell like a baby afterwards, not sure if it’s related or not, but there you go!
This is authentic Team Work™: my partner prepared and cooked the leeks and potatoes, and I puréed them and prepared the croutons! 😜
Butter, olive oil or coconut oil
Peel the potatoes, trim off the ugly bits in the leeks and possibly remove the outer leaf, as it tends to be quite sad looking. Wash everything thoroughly, to remove soil.
Slice everything in quite small pieces—the smaller, the faster they’ll cook.
Put in a pot with water and lots of pepper.
Bring pot to a boil, and leave to simmer for about 45 minutes or an hour (until the potatoes start to break apart).
For the croutons, I used dry bread left overs. Instead of throwing it away, I diced it and saved it in a box. So when I need croutons, I just put them in the pan with a bit of oil, salt and pepper, and fry them, tossing them in the pan until they’ve absorbed the oil (this also makes them not be hard like rocks anymore).
I used a blender to purée the potatoes and leeks, but if you’d prefer a bit more of texture you could use a fork or a potato masher accessory to roughly mash them.
Add butter (or your substitution of choice) to taste, mix well, and correct for salt after the butter is well mixed–specially if the butter is salted! Don’t add salt before. Adding some fat is essential because otherwise this soup can feel quite thin and insipid.
Finally, serve with the croutons. And enjoy!
This is so good for cold days 😃
You can make this vegan if you choose a vegetal oil instead of butter.
It might be interesting to experiment with other spices instead of just pepper: perhaps nutmeg? some moderately hot chilli?
My partner was really excited to experiment with the rice cooker, because it has a soup-making function, so we used that instead. With this method, it takes way longer to cook the soup: 2 hours! and that’s even if we added hot water to start with. But it can be programmed in advance and it has a “keep warm” setting, so it’s nice to find the soup waiting for you when you arrive home.
The fastest option would be to use a pressure cooker, in which case we would be done in about 15 minutes. You’d put everything on the cooker, add water to cover, close the lid, bring to pressure, reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, then turn the heat off, wait for the pressure to come down (or release it manually, depending on how hungry you are) so you can open the lid, and then continue from step 5. I so love pressure cookers! 💨😍
I cooked these loosely following this recipe from Felicity Cloake.
Except for the fact that I halved the amounts for the batter, changed the types of flour, and also didn’t use the suggested savoury fillings. Hence the bastardisation 😂
Ingredients (for 3 very generous portions)
For the batter:
50 g strong wholemeal flour
50 g semolina flour (I wanted to get rid of it)
125 g oats, both rolled and whole mixed (I didn’t bother grinding them)
125 ml milk
100 ml almond milk
225 ml water
5 g yeast
Coconut oil (for frying)
For the filling and garnishing:
Preparation (30 min preparing + overnight + 30 min cooking)
Mix the flours and oats together in a bowl
Add the milks and water to a pot and warm it up “to blood temperature”. I used a thermometer to make sure it wouldn’t go past 35 C, as I’m too scared to tip my finger into the pot
Then take a bit of liquid aside into a small container, and mix the yeast there, cover and wait until it gets bubbly when the yeast starts working
Then tip the yeast mix into the pot, dissolve well into the liquid
Pour the liquid into the flours bowl, and mix well
Cover it with cling film, and leave the bowl outside for an hour so the yeast can do its bubbly thing before putting it in the fridge overnight, or put it in the fridge straight away. I actually left it outside for about 4 hours because I was curious as to what would happen.
Next morning the batter will be beautifully bubbly. But we’ll gently mix it before we fry it, to make sure all the oats are distributed evenly.
Thinly slice the fruits we’ll use for the filling. I used a banana and an apple.
Put oil on a pan (I am terrible, so I used coconut oil) and bring to a high heat.
When it’s hot, pour enough batter to form a not-super-thick pancake. Also add a few fruits in.
I feel this batter is quite unlike normal pancake batter, it is less liquid and it gets quite bubbly, which I enjoyed witnessing.
When it looks as if the underneath side is pretty cooked, carefully fold the pancake in half (be careful with the filling not being in the way—it helps if you make sure they’re all in one side only) and lightly squeeze it with the spatula to make sure the batter is well distributed.
You might want to flip the folded oatcake a couple of times until it looks done (magically, they don’t seem to burn as easily as pancakes).
Then remove to a dish, and move on to the next oatcake, until all the batter has been consumed.
I garnished them with some cinnamon, coconut flakes and agave syrup (I’m really terrible, yes).
Sorry to all Staffordshire natives I might have terrorised with this recipe, but we just didn’t have any bacon at home this morning and the shops opened at 12 as it’s a Sunday 💁🏻
But to be quite honest, they were great and they worked nicely with the cold brewed coffee that my partner prepared, so I have zero regrets 😜
We sourced a few good looking artichokes at Natoora and I couldn’t resist turning them into a lightweight dinner! This style of dinner is very common around my home area as it won’t have you digesting heavy stuff for hours, and so you can sleep well.
First chop their stems, and also a few of the outside leaves (as they’re hard, have spiky bits and that’s not nice). Then cut them in halves:
Put them all on a pan, add some oil and salt, and set them to a high heat
Wait until they got some colour in one side. Then turn them around and brown them on that side too. If they’re cooking too fast and you fear they’ll burn, reduce the heat!
Add some water – about a centimeter tall, cover, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let the artichokes soften in the water
Once the water has evaporated, check the artichokes are soft (I just “lightly” punch them with a fork). If not, you can either add a bit more water and repeat the process, or keep them on a very low heat for longer.
Done! Ready to eat!
In this case I served them with some escarole salad, tomatoes and cucumber, and just a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It is way more filling that you’d imagine, because the artichokes are so full of flavour, and the other vegetables were really high quality so it was a really sensational dish 🙂
Other ways to serve them:
with toasted bread and olive oil. I would prefer wholemeal baguette style bread, but any good bread could work.
with an omelette (possibly a simple egg one)
with pan fried chicken breasts
Escaroles seem quite uncommon in the UK, but I grew up eating them during winter months, and I miss them, so I was very excited that Puntarelle & co had them in stock. The taste is quite different from your every day lettuce: peppery, spicy, a bit sour. I figured liking them is certainly an acquired taste because my very English partner didn’t like them at all! 😆
In the same vein, finding good artichokes in London’s markets is quite the challenge. Forget supermarkets—I’ve never, ever, been able to find artichokes which were not weeeeell past their best times.
But it’s hard to tell from the outside because to know for sure you’d need to slice open the artichoke and see if it is still a bud, all green and undeveloped, and it has not started to turn into the bloom before the flower (which is what artichokes are, after all).
One way to test this is to gently squeeze the artichokes and see how they respond. They should be flexible; if they’re stiff it’s too late. But sometimes it’s hard to say…
Another way of testing is to use your nose: fresh artichokes have a very ‘green’ and characteristic smell. But this doesn’t work with supermarkets because the produce has been in a fridge for so long it just doesn’t smell of anything anymore. And shops tend to be cold as well, which doesn’t help with releasing aromas. So you could only use this in fresh markets.
When the flower develops, the “core” of the artichoke turns into stems and it’s absolutely vile to eat because it’s like eating spiky hairs that make a ball at the end of your throat. Urghhh. It’s also incredibly difficult to slice, as it hardens. I’ve lost count of the amount of artichokes I’ve had to throw away after I tried to salvage some of their contents 😱
It is a complex problem that feeds itself:
They are still a ‘weird’ vegetable and the demand is pretty low, so the food chain doesn’t prioritise getting good quality artichokes fast to the UK. And then they spend way too long in the shelves
When people buy them and find a disgusting vile old artichoke they never buy them again, and so the demand keeps being low
Back to step one 😭
Still, I keep trying to find decent ones, because they can be so delicious!
Amusingly enough in Spain you can not only easily find artichokes, but even the stalks of the plant, called pencas, which are eaten in stews and salads. Nothing goes to waste!
I’ve been here a couple of times and it has never disappointed me. Very tasty food, great presentation and my favourite aspect: their bento and omasake selections are varied enough that you don’t have to think and also you don’t regret trusting their chefs to ‘order for you’.
Last Friday, we had the omasake dinner–the small version. There was a bigger version with two or three more dishes but we already were super full with this, so I don’t even want to imagine what it would have happened if we had gone for the ‘mega’ version!
This was the starter. It was really yummy. Here’s a close up so you can see the actually edible thing:
It was such a delicious combination of flavours – the fish, the subtle dressing, the radish, the crispy herbs…!
Then we had one of their (as always) beautiful bento boxes. Sauces on the bottom right, various things in the different compartments. It was all so yummy and fresh. And we were already starting to feel a touch full…
But we had yet to get to the main course!
It was a steak on a VERY hot, sizzling stone, plus salad, rice and miso soup. You could still turn the veggies and steak around to cook to your liking, if you wanted to.
We went for a classic companion drink: Asahi beers! Although the staff kept pouring them in a brutal way that built up a lot of foam and I was getting very annoyed by that 😠
This was fantastic and great value for money in Central London—albeit SO BUSY! Forget any idea of ‘quiet romantic date restaurant’… at least not on a Friday night! 😝