30 August 2013

BBQ Ribs

The other day we realized we haven't had time for beach barbecues this summer, which is surprising considering that is what you could find us doing last summer so often. When it wasn't raining, of course. If you are like me, and are planning on defying the start of the autumn by squeezing in a few barbecues still and fancy doing something to mark the occasion, try these ribs. You may need a bigger barbecue than a small bucket one though.  Things are about to get seriously meaty for this post, so, vegetarians- please look away now. Feeling the Jamie love again, we followed one of his recipes and since he knows what he's doing, here you go:


2 long racks of pork belly
fresh apple juice

Dry rub

2 tablespoons of fennel seeds
5 cloves
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
a few grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons of smoked paprika
fresh thyme
fresh rosemary
3 cloves of garlic

BBQ sauce

120 ml tomato ketchup
a few drops of Tabasco
2-4 tablespoons of runny honey
3 tablespoons of apple juice
a swig of Worcestershire sauce
a swig of balsamic vinegar
1 finely grated clove of garlic

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees . Prepare the dry rub by putting all your dry ingredients in a pestle and mortar and grind. Add the fresh herbs and grind some more.

Rub the paste into your racks of ribs and place in a large baking tray. Pour the apple juice on the bottom of the tray and cover tightly with tin foil. Cook in oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

While the ribs are cooking in the oven, mix all the BBQ sauce ingredients in a bowl. To help things along, put it on heat for a little while.

When the ribs are ready, cut them into pairs of ribs and smother the BBQ sauce all over them. Finish the ribs off on the barbecue, brushing the ribs with any left over BBQ sauce, turning around once in a while until dark brown and sticky.

The recipe for the BBQ chicken can be found here.

Mrs V x

25 August 2013

Pick-Me-Up Artichokes

You know those days, when you're home alone, the weather is miserable and you feel like you need a little pick-me-up. Last time I had one of those days, I thought what could be better to cheer me up than globe artichokes. This time it did not mean a walk to the allotment to admire the artichoke plants, but enjoying some artichokes with a glass of white wine. I couldn't make up my mind whether to go all Mediterranean with a herby olive sauce or naughty with a butter sauce (from the archives of BBC Good Food with little tweaking) so decided to whip up both.

Artichokes for Two with Two Sauces

2 globe artichokes
1 halved lemon

Cut the stalk off the artichokes and discard. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil with the lemon halves. Drop the artichokes into the water and boil for 40-45 minutes until the base feels tender when the tip of a knife is inserted.

Butter Sauce

Juice of 1/2 lemon
100 g chilled butter
1/2 glass (about 50 ml) dry white wine
15g Parmesan or vegetarian alternative

Dice the butter. Pour the wine into a pan, reduce by half, reduce heat and whisk in the butter one small piece at a time. Whisk in the Parmesan and lemon juice.

Olive sauce

Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbso good- quality olive oil
10 pitted and roughly chopped olives
4 finely chopped cherry tomatoes
small bunches of mint and parsley, finely chopped

Mix the lemon juice, oil, olives, tomato and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

To eat, pull of the leaves, dip the the bottom end into sauce and scrape the tender meat from the bottom of the leaf with your teeth. Discard the tips of the leaves. When you get to the middle, scrape out the hairy choke and eat the artichoke heart.

Mrs V x

13 August 2013

Life After Tropical Heat Wave

When the tropical heath wave came to stay for couple of weeks, we were truly working our biceps with watering the allotment every evening. Then the rain came and everything just grew astronomically and with a good mix of rain and sunshine recently things have been good at the allotment. But after the heat wave, we have been sort of stuck in this 'oh my goodness how everything is growing' mode. This has meant that being at the allotment has consisted mostly of enthusiastically observing and marvelling at nature's delights.

Butternut squashes
I mean, this mode would be the dreamy scene of the movie, where the film has been slowed down,  the last sun rays are falling on a garden, and there are two people jumping like gazelles across that garden with a little bit of idiotic smiles on their faces. French music at the background, of course. I bet you're wondering what sort of movies I watch now. Well, anyways, the time when we realised we had to do something else too came and action had to be taken. That day was Sunday.


You know those important life lessons you get from your parents? Well, I'm about to share one of my mum's with you: If you have a feeling something is going to be bit boring, jazz it up a little e.g. if you're studying a tiresome subject, make sure your notebook covers have the most awesome print on them. When she broke her foot last year and had to wear a long cast for weeks on end, she had her toe nails done in the same colour as her crutches. Moral of the story? I got these butterfly patterned gloves for weeding. And oh boy, I was weeding like a mad man.

Let's talk vegetables and allotment then. We transplanted our little leeks to their own little holes. In August? I hear you wonder. Yep, they have been extremely slow this year and have only just reached the size of a pencil! Other tasks included adding support to the tall sun flowers, getting serious about fighting powdery mildew, carried on tackling the black fly problem and gave the gorgeous pumpkins some nutrients. The never ending tasks list still consist (at least) of weeding and weeding some more, transplanting beetroots (they have been slow too) and catching strawberry runners.

To snip or not to snip? The flower heads should be removed in the first year as the plants need to put all of their energy to establishing themselves, so sadly, I think their time has come and it's time for the snip.

Indeed, it was a good session at allotment and the rewards we went home with weren't bad either:

The rewards, this and few potatoes. 

Mrs V x

10 August 2013

Pumpkin Watch Vol 4

The pumpkin patch has gone bit mad. The more growing tips we snip, the more new ones the plants seem to produce. Some of the plants have spread out to the extent that it has come bit of a challenge to tell the vines apart, although there are plenty of space between the plants.  
Right, let's have a look at some of the bad boys then.
Crown Princes
This is the biggest Crown Prince (from Haakon) we have going at the moment and it has really bulked up since the last Pumpkin Watch. I can't but admire its gorgeous shape.
One of the Crown Princes' vines has travelled to the maize field and is growing a second pumpkin there.
These are looking like they could be ready! They are orange all round, the stems are dark green and the skins have gotten very tough over the last week. There I was tapping the Charmants, one after another (some might have confused it with me playing bongos there) looking for that hollow sound. I didn't get the feeling they were quite ripe yet and as it is very early days still, we decided to leave these pumpkins on the plants for little bit longer.
What's that, I hear you say.
It is one monster Hooligan plant growing in our compost bin!
Hope you are all enjoying your weekends!
Mrs V x

6 August 2013

Touch the Sky

Mr V- allotment shed - sunflowers.
Tall - taller - tallest. 

Mrs V x

4 August 2013

Tortilla Española

My love affair with Tortilla Española started while living in the home of pintxos, the Basque country, some time ago. Mr V became a huge fan too and after returning home, it became all about finding the perfect receipe for home made tortilla. After going through varied attempts, we ended up with a trusted recipe that delivers tasty results everytime. Although the tortilla is quite labour intensive, it does show off great produce very well which is why I think it is such a great dish. We used our first earliers, Pentland Javelins, as to very much to my surprise this variety seem to act like a main crop potato rather than a new one. Yesterday we pulled our onions up and of course, we had to test one or two straight away.

So here's how to prepare a delicious Tortilla Española:
For 8 to 10 slices you will need:

150 ml good quality olive oil
600 g peeled and thinly sliced potatoes
1 big thinly sliced onion
6 large eggs
salt and black pepper
parsley to decorate

To me, the secret to a great tortilla is not only having good quality ingredients but also getting the ratio of the ingredients right, so I make sure I have the quantities pretty much as above.

Slice your potatoes and onion. I normally use a cheese slicer to get the potatoes to the right thickness. Trying to speed things along, I used a food processor once or twice but it made the slices far too thin making the end result all mushy. You could use a mandoline, but please mind your fingers!

After all the chopping, heat a non-stick frying pan (diameter approx. 25 cm). Add the olive oil and when hot, the potatoes and onion will follow. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Collect the extra oil by straining the potatoes and onions in a sieve to a heat proof dish.

Whisk the eggs in a big bowl and add a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. Carefully mix the potatoes and onions with the eggs and leave for at least 10 minutes.

If there are any bits stuck to the frying pan, discard them.

Add 3 tablespoon of the oil you have kept to the frying pan and heat at medium heat. Add the egg mixture to the pan and press it down to form an even layer.

Let the tortilla to cook for around 5 minutes giving it a shake once in a while until the bottom of the tortilla has set. Make sure the tortilla is not stuck to the pan by moving a spatula underneath the tortilla.

Place a big plate on top of the frying pan and turn it around.  (If you don't fancy turning the tortilla, you can always finish cooking it under a grill until the egg mixture has set. However, you won't get the characteristic round edge for your tortilla this way.)

Add a tablespoon of the oil to the frying pan. Carefully slide the tortilla back to the pan with the cooked side up. 'Turn down' the edges of the tortilla by running a spatula at the outside of the tortilla.

Carry on cooking for around 3 more minutes until the mixture has set and the bottom of the tortilla is golden brown.  If it feels little wobbly in the middle, do not worry, as it will carry on cooking as it cools.

Slide your tortilla to a serving plate. Leave to rest for at least 5 minutes as the hottest you want to eat this is room temperature. Decorate with parsley and serve.

Psst.. Due to lack of parsley I decorated mine with mint.

Mrs V x

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