Beans in spicy tomato sauce


, , , ,

As children my sister and I would regularly ‘improve’ the tinned baked beans that we had for tea. Being brought up with Eastern European food with its garlic and spices, plain baked beans were to us…..well just….plain. Nowadays I start with even plainer beans and make a tomato sauce to put them in.

This is a bit of a store cupboard recipe, which means it’s quick to make.

Per person

A tin or jar of beans – I used a jar of butter beans, but use whichever you fancy –  haricot, pinto, flageolet or lentils also work

olive oil

half an onion – finely chopped

a clove of garlic – finely chopped

1 small or half a large green pepper – cut into short slices

a few wild mushrooms – chopped

150ml tomato Frito or passata

1/3 teaspoon marmite

2 tablespoons chilli jam or sweet chilli sauce

freshly ground black pepper

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a shallow pan and add the chopped onions and garlic.

Fry for five minutes until translucent

Add the chopped peppers and fry another five minutes.

For the mushrooms, I had some fried ones left over from a couple of days ago that were already chopped and fried, so I added those with the tomato Frito. If you are adding uncooked mushrooms, do it now and fry for five minutes before adding the frito.

Add the tomato Frito and mix well.

Season with the marmite,  chilli sauce and black pepper.

leave to cook for another five minutes.

Add the drained beans, mix well and then leave to warm through on a very low heat.

Check the seasoning, I’m assuming that the beans and tomato Frito already are salted, so as well as the salt from the marmite that may well be enough.


Red and green salad with quinoa


, , , , , ,


In this salad there is –

60 ml/1/4 cup quinoa per person boiled for about ten minutes in salted water until done. Drain and run cold water through it to cool.

red oak leaved lettuce


radishes cut into wedges

cooked beetroot cut into wedges

alfalfa sprouts

green pumpkin seeds

I made a very light dressing of Pedro Jiménez syrup, a slightly sweeter variation on balsamic syrup, and lemon juice.


Buckwheat galette with artichokes


, , , ,

The tender new season artichokes are now on sale at the market which made me think to cook this dish.

Per person

2 rounded tablespoons buckwheat flour

6 tablespoons vegetable stock

2 artichokes

olive oil



Firstly prepare the artichokes. The tough outer leaves and the stem will need to be trimmed off, but as the artichokes are tender right now you don’t need to take too much off. When I think I have taken enough of the leaves off to get to the tender ones, I take off an extra one and bite into it to see if it is fibrous or not.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Cut the top of the leaves off the artichokes and discard, then slice the artichokes thinly and immediately toss into the frying pan.

Fry the artichokes for about ten minutes, tossing from time to time, until just cooked then turn off the heat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put the oven on at 175 C to warm up.

Make the batter. Add the stock to the buckwheat flour gradually to make a smooth batter.
Season with salt and pepper.

You will need a shallow tray the right size to take the batter in a thin layer.

Put a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the tray and put in the oven to heat up to almost smoking point as you would if you were making Yorkshire pudding.

Once the tray is heated up, remove from the oven and quickly pour in the batter, scatter over the artichokes, and put back in the oven.

Bake for 8 – 12 minutes until light brown and crispy round the edges.

Serve with a mixed salad.

Roast potatoes with chestnuts, wild mushrooms and crispy sage leaves


, , , , ,


Here in arid southern Spain we don’t get the lovely range of autumn wild mushrooms that appear in other parts, but occasionally Rovellones, members of the Cep family will be available in the market. I used these for this dish, any well flavoured mushroom will work.
As mushrooms don’t keep, I washed all of them, cut them into cubes and fried them in a little olive oil the day I bought them, so for this dish they were already precooked.

Per person

40 grams mushrooms

60 grams chestnuts

150-200 grams small new potatoes

12 small sage leaves

olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put the oven to heat up at 175 C

Scrub the potatoes and cut them in half lengthways. Sprinkle some olive oil on an oven tray, add the potatoes, season and put in the oven for 10 minutes.

Cut the chestnuts along the curved top and put on a tray in the oven to roast and open.

After 10 minutes turn the potatoes over and add the prepared mushrooms. Put back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

As soon as the chestnuts are open and soft, check them after they have been in the oven for 15 minutes, remove them from the oven and let them cool. As soon as they are cool enough remove the chestnuts from their shells and take off the brown skin.

Heat oil in a small frying pan and when hot add the sage leaves. Cook for about 3 minutes until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a piece of kitchen roll.

Add the chestnuts to the potatoes, scatter over the sage leaves and put back in the oven for a couple of minutes to warm through.

Serve with a green salad.



Linguini with Fresh & Sundried Tomatoes, Green Olives & Basil


, , , ,

I was inspired by the tomato pasta of my last post to cook something similarly fresh tasting. So this quick to prepare dish is the result, using ingredients that I already had in the store cupboard. I give you the recipe exactly as I did it, but of course if you don’t have Aliolli and/or Chilli Jam in your cupboard, change for fresh garlic and chilli to taste.

A perfect lunch for one or a light colourful starter if you halve the amounts per person.



Per person –

30 gms linguini

10 ml olive oil

1 large tomato

3 sundried tomatoes

6 green olives

1.25 ml aliolli

2,5 ml chilli jam

Fresh basil leaves

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Get a pan of water heating up for the pasta. Add to it 5 ml of the olive oil and half a teaspoon of salt.

When the water is boiling, add the sundried tomatoes to the water and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Scoop out and leave to cool.

Add the linguini to the water and leave to cook at a medium simmer.

Put the other 5ml of olive oil in a shallow pan. Add the aliolli and chilli jam.

Slice the sundried tomatoes and add to the pan.

Remove stones from the olives and cut each olive in half. Add to the pan.

Halve the tomato across its equator and using a fine grater grate the pulp into a bowl until you are left with just the skin in your hand. If the grater is fine enough it should sift out the majority of the seeds. If the odd seed makes it into the sauce, it is not the end of the world.

Add the fresh tomato pulp to the shallow pan.

Roughly chop the basil leaves.

When the pasta is two or three minutes from the al dente stage of crookedness, slowly heat the sauce stirring to mix all the ingredients.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the sauce. Mix well to coat the pasta with the sauce. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and two thirds of the basil leaves. Turn again to mix in.

Turn into a pasta bowl and garnish with the rest of the basil leaves.


Al Fresco, Via Savona, 50, Milano


, , , , , , , , , ,

I was recently in Milan on a mainly art viewing trip, but of course one also has to eat. We managed to find a couple of restaurants with not only verdant gardens in which to enjoy the cool of the evening after a hard days gallerying, but amazing food too. Al Fresco was our favourite.

Al Fresco 2

To start we had a couple of dishes to share.

Bruschetta topped with Ricotta Cheese, Anchovies and Sweet Onions pickled in Raspberry Vinegar.

A plate of the most tender Parma Ham served with Polenta Crispbread and pickled courgettes.

IMG_1754 IMG_1755

Then I had as a main course –

Potato Gnocchi with Baby Lamb Ragout, Pecorino Cheese and Black Truffle



………Jeanne had –

Pork Fillet cooked with Marsala Wine, Spinach, Pine-nut Cream, Pantelleria Raising and Lambrusco Vinegar…….


……….and Simon –

Maccheroni Pasta with Raw Tomatoes, Olives, Capers, Basil Cream and Buffalo Stracciatella Cheese


I will leave it to you to formulate and experiment with recipes for these dishes. Should I have a go myself and achieve success, you will be the first to know.

Two Cabbage Salads – My Coleslaw & Bavarian Cabbage Salad


, , , , , ,

I have always made Coleslaw for myself with the oil and vinegar dressing as in the recipe below. For me the mayonnaise masks the flavour of the vegetables, while the French dressing brings it out. Having recently converted a couple of friends to this style of Coleslaw, including my sister who I had assumed made it this way already, I thought you, reader or two, would like the recipe too.

The Bavarian Cabbage Salad may not be Bavarian at all, but the making of it was demonstrated to me by a friend from that region, so that is what it is called in my recipe book. I had eaten it at her house several times and loved it so had to have the recipe.



Quarter of a medium sized white cabbage

1 red apple

2 medium carrots – peeled

30 grams peanuts – dry roasted

50 grams small raisins

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Remove the outer tough leaves from the cabbage and discard.

Cut the cabbage into very fine slices, and put into a largish salad bowl.

Finely grate the carrots and add to the cabbage.

Quarter the apple, remove the cores, cut each wedge in half lengthways, then into thin slices.

Add to the cabbage and carrots.

Add the nuts and raisins, then the oil and vinegar. Mix well.

Season to taste.

If eating the same day, leave for at least two hours at room temperature for the flavours to meld.

This salad will keep for two or three days in the fridge.



Quarter of a medium sized white cabbage

100 ml stock

Quarter of a teaspoon of caraway seeds

50 grams finely cut bacon lardons – can be smoked or not

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Finely slice the cabbage and put into a salad bowl.

Put the stock into a small saucepan with the caraway and heat until boiling.

Pour over the cabbage and mix with a spoon, then with your hands mix and squeeze the cabbage to break it a bit and help it absorb the stock a little.

Fry the lardons in the olive oil until nicely lightly browned.

Add to the cabbage and mix well.

Add the vinegar and seasoning. Mix well again.

Again if you are eating the salad the same day, leave covered at room temperature for at least two hours for the flavours to meld.

If you store the salad in the fridge for any length of time, let it come back to room temperature before eating.



A Mid-Week Dinner – Continued


, , , , , , , , , ,

For the – probably one of you – who has been waiting for the rest of the recipes for this dinner, here at last they are. IMG_1518 SPINACH WITH PINE NUTS AND RAISINS

For 4

25 grams pine nuts

A good bunch of fresh tender spinach

Olive oil 25 grams small golden raisins

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Firstly toast the pine nuts until a golden brown in a thick based pan over a low heat. Shake the pan from time to time to turn the nuts.

Wash and drain the spinach.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a shallow pan. Add the spinach, cover and let wilt for a couple of minutes over a low heat.

Add the pine nuts and raisins and stir to mix.

Season then cover the pan again and leave to cook for about five minutes.

Serve on hot plates.


For 4

20 medium sized peeled prawns

1 large clove garlic

Olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Chopped flat leaved parsley

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a frying pan.

Add the chopped garlic and fry until light brown.

Add the prawns and cook quickly on a high heat until opaque and slightly browned.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir to collect any brownings at the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle in the parsley and serve immediately on a hot dish.



The only remotely complicated thing about this recipe is remembering to cook the custards early enough that they can cool completely. You can of course cook them the day before they are needed.

I will point out also that it is not an error that the custard does not have sugar added to it. There is enough sweetness in the caramelised fig to balance the less sweet custard.

4 tablespoons caramelised fig jam

Butter for greasing your pots

2 eggs

200 ml full fat milk

Few drops vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 140C

To cook this you will need individual ovenproof pots for the custard. Most crockery is oven proof provided you don’t heat or cool it too rapidly. I used some glass coffee cups to cook my custards.

Grease the pots with butter and then put a tablespoon of the fig jam in the bottom of each.

Break the eggs into a jug and whisk lightly to mix.

Add the milk and vanilla essence and whisk a bit more to mix this.

Pouring through a sieve to remove any solid bits in the egg, pour the custard into the pots.

Put the pots into a deep baking dish and add boiling water to the dish to come about 2cm up the pots. This prevents the custards getting too hot and burning on their bases.

Put in the oven and leave to cook for about an hour until the custards are just set.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.

To serve slide a thin knife around the edge of the custard, put a small plate on top of the pot and invert the whole lot. You may have to give the custard and encouraging shake. If any of the jam stays in the pot, simply spoon neatly on top of the custard.


100 grams plain flour

40 grams fine semolina

Quarter teaspoon ground cardamoms

30 grams sugar

100 grams butter

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix.

Cut the butter into small pieces into the flour mix and rub in.

Bring the mix together in a firm dough.

On a floured surface roll the dough out to just under a centimetre thick.

If you have a very small round cutter – ideally about 3cm diameter – then cut into small biscuits. Otherwise cut into small squares or lozenges.

Bake at 150C for about an hour until pale golden.

A Mid-Week Dinner


, , , , , , , ,




This didn’t seem like a complicated meal for mid-week when I cooked it the other week, but now that I am writing about it, there is quite a lot of work. I must have been in one of those Zen cooking moods.

Much of it is done in advance, which makes it feel less work. The oxtail stew is cooked the evening before and left to very slowly cool in the oven overnight, which lets it cook long and slow and so develop a rich flavour. I cooked enough stew so that there was enough not only for this meal, but also for making Fresh Pasta with Beef Ragout for my sisters the following weekend.


I have jars of Caramelised Fig Jam, made from fruit from the farm last summer. So for the dessert, I only needed to mix an egg custard, put that in pots on top of the Fig Jam and then put the pots in the oven to cook and set.

But then I got into biscuit making mood. The custards are perfectly fine without the biscuits. But I had that yearning in my minds stomach for buttery, crunchy, sweetness with the gorgeous fragrance of cardamoms…..


I am giving you the stew recipe today. You will get the starters and dessert tomorrow.


Serves 6

6 pieces oxtail

2-3 tablespoons flour

salt and freshly ground black pepper

olive oil

4 cloves garlic – finely chopped

1 large onion – finely chopped

2 red peppers – cut into strips

2 large tomatoes – skinned and roughly chopped

half a bottle of full bodied red Spanish wine

1 clove

5allspice berries

Small piece of cinnamon bark


freshly ground black pepper

Gremolata – finely chopped fresh garlic, flat leaved parsley and the finely grated zest of one lemon

Put the flour in a shallow dish and season very generously with salt and black pepper.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a thick based casserole.

Coat the oxtail pieces in the seasoned flour and fry on a medium heat, turning each side until browned all over.

This may have to be done in two batches. The meat pieces will brown more easily if they are not crowded in the pan.

Add more oil as you go along if needed.

Remove the meat from the pan and put to one side.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the peppers and continue cooking for about ten minutes until the onions are slightly browned.

Add the tomatoes and cook for a further five minutes scraping any flour stuck to the base of the pan into the sauce as it is moistened.

Put the meat back in the pan.

Add the wine. It should just come up to the top of the meat.

Heat to a simmer.

Put the clove and allspice berries into a thick based dry pan and heat slowly for five minutes or so to toast and bring out the flavour.

Grind to a powder with a pestle and mortar.

Add this to the stew with the piece of cinnamon.

Cover the casserole and put in a low oven, you want the sauce to be showing an occasional bubble but no more. For my oven this is 120C.

Leave to cook for 6 hours. Turn the oven off and leave to slowly cool.

Reheat at 180C the next day to serve.

Serve with plain boiled potatoes and gremolata sprinkled on top.



Baby Squid with Garlic & Chilli


Whenever I go to look at the fresh fish at my local market, everything is so fresh and glistening that I just want to buy it all. This week I limited myself to some small and tender squid and the last of the crabs. The crabs that we get here are small but very tasty, so will make a fantastic soup.

The squid was quickly fried with garlic and chilli for lunch.


This is so simple it is almost not a recipe.

For 2 as a main course, for 4 as a starter

500 grams small squid
Olive oil
3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
Fresh red chilli – to taste
Small bunch flat leaved parsley – roughly chopped
Juice of half a lemon

The cleaning of the squid is the most time consuming job in preparing this dish.

Cut the tentacles off just above the squid’s eyes, and then remove the sharp beak type mouth in the centre of the tentacles. Pull the innards out of the squid and discard. A cat will love you if you send these their way.


Put the empty bodies and tentacles into a colander and wash thoroughly.

Leave to drain while you chop the garlic, chilli and parsley.

Heat the oil in a shallow pan and add the garlic and chilli. Fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the squid and keep frying on a medium heat, turning from time to time.

The squid are cooked once they are opaque and a bit pink, which should take about 7 minutes. Add the parsley and lemon juice. Stir to blend and to moisten the tasty bits at the bottom of the pan.


That’s it!

Serve with a simple tomato salad and some fresh bread.