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! 💨😍
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!
This is a very traditional winter stew from the Serra de Mariola area—a crossroads of mountain ranges on the edge between Valencia and Alicante provinces.
Not even a century ago, this area was not very well communicated: picture uphill and downhill winding roads perched on the deep cut carved by a seasonal river over centuries, or a really strenuous hike uphill to then downhill and uphill and downhill again, a few times (if you didn’t like the other road, per chance).
So the natives of this particular corner of Spain developed very unique and distinctive signature dishes. It’s quite unusual for many of them to be featured in restaurants outside of their birthplace, let alone international restaurants which are more keen on popular dishes such as paella or tapas.
But they are so tasty, comforting… and cheap!
This recipe is adapted from the recipe in the “La cuina de la serra de Mariola” book (by Mila Valls and Ana Valls), which is a fantastic collection of local recipes and anecdotes.
Ingredients (for two people)
Four cloves of garlic
A medium sized potato
A red pepper (or dry pepper if you can find it)
~100 gr of fresh cod
A good bunch of Swiss chard (or spinach, up to your preferences and availability-the traditional is Spinach)
This dish is very easy to make: we will slice and chop ingredients, add them to a deep pot. Then we will add water and bring it to a boil. But let’s not anticipate…
Chop the onion somewhat finely:
And same for the pepper. Actually, the tradition is to use dried red pepper, of the sort you would use to preserve the summer harvest so you could use it when the cold weather came, but funnily I haven’t been able to find them yet in London (I have a hunch they might sell them in Spanish deli shops). Maybe ‘sweet chilli’ could work, but I haven’t chanced the risk of making my borreta taste Mexican! So I’m just using sweet red pepper.
Then peel the garlic cloves. I didn’t slice them because I wanted their flavour in the stew, but I didn’t want to eat them. So the idea is to remove them once cooked, but before serving (except if you forget like me and end up serving your spouse a bowl with three garlic cloves 😅).
Peel the potato and dice it. Not too big not too thin either… somehow like cubes, so they don’t break too much when cooking.
Wash the chard—wash it a lot! They often have so much soil on it!
The best way I have found to clean the chard well is to submerge it in water in a bowl and let it dissolve the soil and etc, then give it a good shake, drain, and wash again (maybe a few times, until you see no soil or sand come off).
Then wash and add a tiny little bit of cod to the pot. This is a 100g fillet:
This fillet came with skin (on the other side, which is why you can’t see it). I tried removing it before cooking but it’s impossible–it’s just too attached. The solution is to cook it with the skin, and remove it with something sort of blunt, like a spoon, when it starts to come off. Then it might break down further, giving the soup a great ‘fishy’ taste.
Once all the above ingredients are in the pot, add enough water to cover all of them and then a bit more, depending on how much you like soups. This is meant to be a soupy stew. Add a dash of olive oil. Cover with a lid, and bring to a boil.
When it starts boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Sometime around 15 minutes is a good time to check if the fish skin is coming off, as described above.
When things are pretty cooked: potato pieces are breaking down nicely, the fish is visually hard to spot, etc, it’s time to do two more things:
check for salt, correcting if needed, and the…
add the eggs!
Crack one egg per person, and carefully place it over the stew. Perhaps bring the heat up to boil them faster! Here they are right after being placed on the stew:
And here they are after cooking and setting. The food is ready!
To serve, use deep bowls. Take the eggs first, then “top up” with as much stew as you want.
Borreta means ‘fluff’. I want to think it is because of the fish being dissolved and adding some ‘fluff’ to the dish.
Each time I ask for fillets like this at the fishmongers they ask me something along the lines of “is this ALL you wanted?” or “this is just A SMALL FILLET, you know?”. Yes, yes, I know. I just want a tiny bit of flavour on my dish, thank you very much, judgmental fishmonger 🙄
The original recipe calls for dry salted cod, which I have, again, been unable to find in London. I haven’t really tried very hard, to be honest. Possibly a Portuguese deli would set me up pretty quickly, but for now, I’m happy with the fresh cod! If you use dry salted cod you need to de-salt it first by rehydrating it in water, and changing the water a few times. It’s a bit tricky in that way…
Shops selling dry fish and other dried goods used to be a very common sight in my town about 30 years ago. They were named “salazones” (“salted goods”) or “ultramarinos” (“from overseas”, because they also sold exotic products from far away… like big fish!). I really dreaded walking past one of them, as the smell was SO ABSOLUTELY INTENSE I could barely withstand it. Often I’d devise plans such as holding the breath, or sticking my nose inside my clothes, or covering my nose with my hands… and nothing would work as the smell was just unbeatable.
This is fun to make (spiralising things is so much fun), and fairly quick to prepare. Plus it’s quite filling AND lightweight – courgettes are basically water!
You will need a spiraliser, or you can buy pre-made courghetti, although I’ve never tried those and I’ve no idea how bad or good they are!
Ingredients (for two people)
Two medium sized courgettes (about 15 cm length)
3 or 4 garlic cloves
One 400g tomato tin
Optional: Parmesan cheese and butter (leave out if vegan)
Start by washing and spiralising the courgettes. I make one pile per courgette, as it makes it easier to separate the portions later
Peel and chop the onion and garlic cloves
Put oil on a pan, and start frying the onion and garlic
In parallel, wash and chop the parsley, and add it to the pan as well
Once the onion is pretty soft, move everything to one side, like in the picture
Add some more oil, and set to a very high heat
When the pan is very hot, add the contents of the tomato tin to it, and fry on a very high heat for about 1-2 minutes or until you think things are going to burn! Stir frequently during this time. The goal is to get the tomato to lose its acidity
Now reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes
Optional: add a dash of butter now to get a deeper body. Mix it well until it dissolves.
Slowly add about 200ml of warm water to compensate for the evaporation.
Add a tablespoon of paprika, and mix well
About 10 minutes in the simmering, try a bit of the sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste, mix well and try the sauce again. It might still be a bit acidic, but don’t add sugar – just wait for longer!
Depending on the quality of the tomatoes, you might need to wait for longer. It usually pays off to wait as the flavour gets more developed and interesting. So you might need more than 20 minutes.
Once the sauce is ‘done’, turn the heat off.
To cook the courghetti, add some oil to another pan, and set on a very high heat.
When the pan is very hot, add a ‘pile’ of courghetti, and stir continuously. We don’t want anything to get stuck, and we want the cooking to be homogeneous. We also don’t want the courghettis to get too soft, so that’s why we need the heat to be very high, so they cook outside but not too much inside. If the heat is too low, they will start releasing water, and the result will be too “liquidy”.
Once one pile is cooked, place on a deep bowl, and go to step 15 to cook the next, until all have been cooked.
Pour the sauce on top of the cooked courghetti
Optional: add a good dose of grated Parmesan cheese
Add some pepper
Optional: add a dash of the best olive oil you have
Tricks and tips
I used this smoked paprika my mum brought me from Extremadura, a region in West Spain, renowned by the quality of their paprika!
If you have the chance to shop at a Spanish grocers, “Pimentón de la Vera” is the type of paprika you want to look for.
Also, depending on your spiraliser, you might get very long ‘courghetti’ so it might be interesting to cut the piles a few times with scissors before cooking them, so they’re not like 3 meters long and impossible to eat with a fork.
This morning, I was wondering what to have for breakfast when I remembered I had a bunch of chickpeas leftover from yesterday’s dish: rice with Swiss chard. And I had an idea: why not have a chickpea omelette?
Like that dish, this is also a very economical dish, and quite easy to make. The hardest skill required is to know how to flip the omelette without breaking it, although I gave some tips for that on the herb omelette recipe.
Ingredients (for 2-3 portions)
1 garlic clove
Half a 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
Takes about 45 minutes.
Mash the chickpeas using a fork or a mashing accessory
Peel and thinly chop the onion
And the garlic clove
Place some olive oil on a pan, set on a high heat and start frying the onion and garlic
Crack the eggs and pour them on a bowl, and whisk them
Wash and chop the parsley, add to the bowl
Add a touch of salt
Add the chickpeas to the bowl and mix everything vigorously so there are no lumps of chickpea paste – this is how it’d look like:
When the onion and garlic are fried (onion soft, garlic golden), add a touch more oil to the pan and then add the egg, chickpea and parsley mixture to the pan, and mix everything together
Set to a high heat, and cook the first half
Then using the tricks on this post, flip the omelette and cook the other side
Serve and enjoy!
This is a dish which is often cooked with the leftovers of a popular stew called “cocido”, instead of using tinned chickpeas or specifically cooked chickpeas. That makes the omelette even tastier, as the veggies have all the flavour from the stew! Plus also the tinned chickpeas are a bit too hard for this dish and it takes longer to mash them.
When using stew leftover, you end up with a more colourful dish as it might contain all sorts of vegetables: potato, carrot, green beans, cauliflower, cabbage… and it’s fairly common to actually make vegetable croquettes with these.
It just occurred to me that this could also work very nicely with a touch of spice on it to add some ‘heat’ – perhaps some red chilli.
The other great thing about this dish is its versatility: you can have it for breakfast, or in your lunch box (as it keeps and warms up nicely), or even for dinner – it’s a very common Monday dinner (as you might have had the stew on Sunday).