TORTILLA ESPANOLA

 TORTILLA ESPANOLA (SPANISH OMELET)

Spanish Tortilla

I have a soft spot for anything Spanish having lived in Madrid for a number of years and this Tortilla Espanola was one of my favourite ‘tapas’. Cut up into squares and served with cocktail sticks it is served to accompany a drink. Many bars serve a selection of tapas: slices of salty Serrano ham, cubes of Manchego cheese, hot and garlicky prawns and…….I’m right back there now. Little tapas were originally served free but nowadays you are likely to be charged for them. You can also ask for larger portions and go from bar to bar ordering their speciality tapa. There is even a verb ‘tapear’ which means to have tapas!

This tortilla is a simple peasant dish of potatoes and eggs, quick to prepare and very cheap to make -it is a good standby meal as you will probably have all the ingredients already. I apologise to my Spanish friends in advance but I usually don’t make it in the traditional way but in a microwave -yikes, that’s almost committing treason tampering with a national dish.

Also, I have a nifty trick for turning the tortilla over using two plates rather than the precarious putting the plate on top of it and inverting the frying pan -it can end up with a clatter of pan and plate and …..a mess of tortilla on the worktop or worse. You be the judge you may enjoy the drama of the traditional method -you could even exclaim a flamboyant  ‘ole’! as you do it!

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PUMPKIN SOUP WITH CHILLI CROUTONS

Spicy pumpkin soup with chilli croutons topped with crispy onions is perfect for Halloween, Bonfire night or any other wintery cold night -it will warm the cockles of your heart! Serve it up with a hot toddy of cider, orange juice, rum, sugar and a little freshly grated nutmeg-delicious

Spicy pumpkin soup

I loved Halloween as a child despite being completely terrified. I anxiously peered around every corner expecting witches & ghosts (or worse) to appear. I used to try walking backwards to keep a look out but it never really worked out. My heart rate has just gone up just remembering about the spooky parties we used to have and…………I’m still frightened of the dark!  

The bright orange pumpkin was the centrepiece so I have used the flesh to make this creamy, silky soup. You can make it as spicy hot as you like or just omit the chilli. I have also added red lentils to make it more nutritious so you could serve it as part of a meal for those that prefer not to eat meat . The homemade croutons make all the difference and I make them a lot with all sorts of soups. Once you have tried homemade ones you will never break a tooth again on the hard, oily ones you can buy. You can leave the chilli out if you wish and just have them cheesy.  I make various sorts of croutons depending on the sort of soup I make flavouring them with eg ground coriander, garlic or fennel seeds -just partner them with some sort of strong cheese. Frizzled onions too are a delicious topping-I’m never keen on bought caramelized onions as they are usually too sweet but these are lovely.

I have to admit it is an enormous fiddle to serve the soup in a pumpkin but it looked great in the photo and I have always wanted to try it! If you want to do that you really need a second pumpkin so that you can carve it out more carefully. Make sure that you leave thicker sides to make it more sturdy.

There is something very satisfying about making homemade soup so have a go at this seasonal favourite and don’t turn your back for too long…….

 SPICED PUMPKIN SOUP WITH CHILLI CROUTONS AND FRIZZLED ONIONS

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SAUSAGE & EGG PICNIC PIES

 

 

 

 

Sausage & Egg Picnic Pies

 

School holidays and sunshine (well it is here in the West, sorry East but it is usually us in the rain and cold!). Time to head out for a picnic-these portable, Sausage & Egg Picnic Pies are scrumptious. They are  a bit more of a fiddle to make than a cheese sandwich but they don’t curl up around the edges when you leave them out in the sun and……………they are delicious. If you can get hold of a nice, meaty, sausage rather than a more processed one that is better.

So head off in to the great outdoors or just down to the bottom of the garden or local park and have fun in the sun! Toodle pip

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NIBBLES FOR A NEW YEAR PARTY!

 

Nibbles for a New Year party

Hello, if you are reading this then you made it through the culinary maelstrom of Christmas, I hope you had a lovely time.  I’m just planning some nibbles to have at a New year party or just to have with friends and a glass of something-in my case, preferably champagne or something with bubbles. I’m not sure why this makes you feel celebratory but it does!

It’s all a question of tops and bottoms with a garnish on top if you are feeling artistic.

The GREAT advantage of these nibbles is that they don’t spoil before your guests have got their coats off-the tomatoes can be made well in advance and kept in the fridge and the toasted bread bases mean they don’t go soggy when assembled. You can make the bases in advance and keep them in a tin until you are ready.

Actually, skip the party etc I am very happy to have these at anytime and eating ‘bitesize’ means you can try lots of different ones in one ‘meal’. Win win I think. Happy New Year to you all.

STUFFED MINI TOMATOES WITH SWEET CHILLI MAYONNAISE AND RAREBIT BITES WITH SPICED CHUTNEY

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CHICKEN LIVER PATÉ

 

Delicious Christmas PatéNow Christmas is snapping at my heels and there is a vague feeling of panic about all the cooking, buying, wrapping, celebrating etc that has to be done in the next few weeks…my top tip for this week is make a PLAN. I love having visitors to stay over, and I have quite a few, but don’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen. I love the idea of floating around with  glass in hand eating beautiful delicious nibbles and cocktails or sitting by the log fire and enjoying time my friends and family. I love beautiful decorations too that make everyone’s stay feel special. I do manage some of this even though I say it myself! How do you do this? Well it’s all about planning the food well in advance and now is the time to get a wriggle on and make some lovely festive dishes that will sit very happily in your freezer waiting to be whipped out at the last minute.

Christmas day isn’t really the problem it’s the days before and the days after that complicate things especially if you have friends and family, like mine, that need to stay over for a few days – I make a sketchy plan for all the meals and even sketchier shopping lists. Ok, it’s a bit anal but if I do this then I can, truly, enjoy the holiday with out burning out on Christmas Eve and having a major melt down.

Here is an old favourite of mine that is already sitting in my freezer and will make an appearance on Christmas Eve so there is no last minute cooking and I can enjoy that glass of champagne!

CREAMY CHICKEN LIVER PATE

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HOMEMADE TOMATO SOUP

 

Tomato soup

 Br…rr it’s cold outside and I want something to warm me up on this cold, blustery day in the Lake District.

Homemade soup is a joy to eat and never fails to raise the spirit-not to mention keeping you warm inside. You can easily add a a few soups to your favourite list of foods; leek and lentil, creamy onion with bubbling cheesy toasts,  chunky spiced vegetable. or what about beef soup with dumplings.  Tomato soup is the stuff of childhood but this soup is nothing like the sweet, creamy, canned version I used to have. Homemade it has a bright and fresh flavour. You could add torn basil leaves and  spice it up with a little chilli powder. For a more substantial meal try these homemade croutons. They transform any soup.

This soup is lovely to eat, keeps you warm and is cheap to make………..a win win situation. Here is my homemade soup made with love for you…

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FRUIT LEATHERS!

 

5 fruity strips hanging on the line..

Now what can these be? I have had a few tentative guesses…….Christmas decorations, fly papers, raspberry and meringue strips…actually they are fruit leathers! Deliciously chewy and fruity snacks, they are fun to make and children will love them. There are some similar sweets you can buy for children but they are very sweet  and come in very violent colours which are unlikely to have come from any fruit known to man. I made these from windfall apples and foraged blackberries (I had some in the freezer as you are always reluctant to stop picking once you start-generally there are some here) and so they cost next to nothing to make. Here are the recipes for Apple leather an also some Apple with Bramble leather. I’m going to experiment with some of the more exotic fruits that you can buy tinned ie mango and apricots. Just buy the ones in fruit juice and not in syrup which would be quite sweet. Liqudise them using just enough of the juice and then pour into your tray. If you over do the water heat the puree up and cook until the water evaporates. Later in the year I’m going to use my redcurrants and blackcurrants to make more ‘tangy’ versions-like the brambles  you would need to put the fruit through a sieve first to remove the pips

Fruity strips make a lovely little present if you can stop yourself eating them
Fruity strips make a lovely little present if you can stop yourself eating them

 

APPLE LEATHER

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PANINI PIZZA

Just back from the Italian Dolomites the skiing was lacking in style and quite scary but the pizzas were fantastic. Thin and crispy, with just a little topping, we watched as the pizza dough was twirled in the air to get the required thinness and then cooked quickly in a proper wood oven they were on the table in a trice before I had time to recover from the exertion of hurtling down the piste. There was a bewildering choice of toppings ( I wish that I hadn’t left the phrase book on the hall table at home..) from sausages and ham, eggs, rocket, tuna, seafood, pineapple, mushrooms, etc. My favourite was the plain and simple tomato with cheese and garlic. It had a stronger cheese for flavour (not sure which) and the lovely soft mozzarella that stretches between pizza and mouth alarmingly.  It doesn’t let go until you can manage the quick twist and flick of the chin. No doubt the tomato base was lovingly made by hand, gently simmering fresh tomatos with fragrant basil and then reducing it until it is thick enough to spread. I will try to make this properly sometime but in the meantime-

Let’s not kid ourselves sometimes a quick and easy dish using the really GOOD convenience ingredients available are just perfect for a ‘coming home for work don’t have time to cook’ sort of meal or,indeed for any day of the week. You can rustle these up in 20 minutes or less

Panini pizza for an easy supper dish or snack-pronto

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