Smoky vegetable kebabs

barbecued vegetables

Made with my favourite marinade, these vegetable kebabs are quick, easy and perfect for barbecues and campfire cooking. You can add or swap the veg for any others you have handy, like aubergine or mushrooms.

I’ve also used the same marinade for fish (I’ve tried it on mackerel and bream, but others would work too) and chicken (for this, I replaced the dried oregano with fresh rosemary). If you haven’t got a barbecue or a fire on the go, you can also cook these under the grill.

When camping, I always take some store cupboard herbs and spices and these include dried oregano, cumin and smoked paprika, making kebabs like these easy to throw together. 

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 courgettes, cut in thick slices

2 red peppers, cut into large dice

1 large onion, cut in quarters lengthways and then each quarter halved

Marinade

100 ml olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

3 cloves of garlic, crushed to a paste with salt

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp of cumin

1 tsp of dried oregano

½ tsp dried chilli flakes

pinch of salt

4 wooden skewers

Method

Soak the wooden skewers in water.

Mix the marinade ingredients thoroughly. If you have a jar with a lid, then you can shake it up in this, otherwise just mix it in a mug with a fork.

Cut the courgette into thick slices and the pepper into fat squares. For the onion, halve it lengthways then cut in half widthways, so you end up with large rough squares.

In a large bowl, tip the vegetables in and mix thoroughly with the marinade. Leave to infuse while you light the barbecue or heat the grill.

Thread the vegetables onto the skewers.

Cook until the vegetables are just tender and slightly charred. 

Pour over any leftover marinade before serving. 

barbecued vegetable kebabs

Caldeirada de lulas (Portuguese squid stew)

Caldeirada de lulasI love Portuguese food, particularly seafood. My favourite dish is sardinhas assadas, preferably served at a rustic seaside bar with a cold Sagres or a glass of Vinho Verde.

I also love the various tiny artisan cheeses, fish pate, chewy sourdough and gorgeous salty olives that come before your starter in restaurants; watch this space for a Portuguese sardine pate recipe.

This summer I had some fantastic squid in both Spain and Portugal, including the relatively unusual albondigas de choco, another recipe that will be featured here sometime soon.

But for the time being, I’ve made a caldeirada de lulas, which I took to my monthly food club this weekend, with Portugal as its theme for September. The key to the delicious rich sauce is to cook the onions until they start to caramelise and to be generous with the wine. I try to get hold of cuttlefish for this recipe as it’s so much cheaper than squid.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 kg squid or cuttlefish, cleaned weight (ask your fishmonger to do this, as this is not a job for the squeamish!)

4 tbsp olive oil

3 onions, finely sliced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 peppers, sliced

2 small glasses of white wine, preferably Vinho Verde

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

2 bay leaves, preferably fresh

500g waxy potatoes, peeled and cut slices as thick as a £1 coin

½ tsp chilli flakes

2 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1 tbsp sea salt

White crusty bread to serve

Method

Preheat the oven to 170ºC fan/325ºC/as mark 3.

Cut the squid or cuttlefish into thick slices of 2 cm by 5 cm.

Heat the oil in a large roomy pan.

Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes on a medium-low heat.

Stir in the peppers, leaving to cook for another 10 minutes, before adding the garlic, and cooking for a further 5 minutes.

Add the wine, tomatoes, bay leaf and potatoes, and bring to the boil.

Stir the squid in the stew.

Once it’s simmering, season to taste and then transfer the stew to a casserole dish and place, covered, in the oven for an hour.

Season, then sprinkle with coriander.

Portuguese squid stew

Pisto (Spanish ratatouille)

Pisto (Spanish ratatouille)

We are busy preparing for our annual pop-up tapas bar at the Silk Mill in Frome. Unfortunately, I can’t do all the cooking this year due to recent back sugery – which has also meant less blogging in recent weeks, although I’m now on the mend – but I can still experiment with new dishes for our menu.

I thought I’d try making a pisto because after our tapas bar last year people suggested we add more vegetarian dishes. We were trying to be authentically Spanish as possible in our bar – Spain is a particularly keen meat-eating nation – so subconsciously probably didn’t offer a huge range of vegetarian dishes. 

Pisto is a summer classic and a Spanish version of ratatouille. It’s a great recipe to use up a glut of aubergines, courgettes and peppers. Roasting most of the veg in the oven as I’ve done here makes it far easier than frying all the individual vegetables separately. It also uses less oil, making it cheaper and healthier too. I’ve added cumin seeds to this for a Moorish flavour, along with the more conventional dried oregano.

Pisto is good served at room temperature as part of a tapas spread, or hot with an fried egg on top for brunch. Either way, make sure you have some robust sourdough with which to mop up those lovely oily juices. It’s also great with the deliciously salty mojama, dried tuna which is made in Cádiz province, or a few slices of Manchego, washed down with a chilled manzanilla (my current favourite is La Gitana).

Serves 6 as a tapa

Ingredients

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 aubergines, diced

2 courgettes, thickly sliced

2 large red peppers, diced

2 large onions, sliced

6 cloves of garlic, skin on, lightly smashed with the side of a large knife

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp of dried oregano

1 tsp of coarse sea salt

400g ripe tomatoes, scalded in hot water for 1 minute, then skinned and roughly grated

¼ tsp sherry vinegar (optional)

chopped parsley to serve

Spanish pisto

Method

Heat the oven to 200°C fan (220°C, gas mark 7). Place the oil (reserving 1 tsp), aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions and garlic in a few large trays, making sure the vegetables are in a single layer otherwise they’ll just go soggy. Sprinkle with the cumin, oregano and salt and mix well. Put in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring once, until just starting to caramelise.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tsp of oil in a saucepan on a medium-high heat and add the grated tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until broken down into a sauce.

Mix the roasted veg with the tomatoes and adjust the seasoning. Leave to cool and serve at room temperature.

If you double the recipe, you can use half the roasted veg for a pisto and goat’s cheese tart. Use a sheet of ready rolled puff pastry, spreading sundried tomato pesto on top, followed by the pisto. Dot with some goat’s cheese (I used about 100g of cheese here) and some halved cherry tomatoes. Bake it for about 25 minutes in an oven preheated to 180°C fan (200°C, gas mark 6) and sprinkle some basil on after you take it out.

Ratatouille and goat's cheese tart

As this dish is made with seasonal veg, I’m entering it for the Simple and in Season June Challenge, hosted by Ren Behan.

Because this pisto recipe is packed with veg, I’m also entering it for June’s Extra Veg hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.

Extra Veg Badge-003

Salpicón de mariscos (Seafood salad)

Spanish seafood saladThis speedy seafood salad recipe is a perfect dish for a sunny day, as part of a tapas spread or a picnic with tortilla (check out my recipe here). It’s one of my favourite tapas on a baking hot summer’s day in Andalucía, with an ice-cold glass (or tubo) of cerveza.

It’s also a popular dish at our annual pop-up tapas bar, Cantina Festival, which will again be open during the Frome Festival in July at Frome’s Silk Mill.

I used to make salpicón de mariscos with freshly cooked squid, mussels and prawns but now for ease I use a pack of either fresh or frozen mixed seafood and it tastes just as good.

Serves 4-6 as a tapa

Ingredients

500g mixed seafood

half a sweet white onion or 3 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 green pepper, diced

250g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp sherry or white wine vinegar

Salt to taste

Method

Simply mix all the ingredients and leave to marinade for a few hours in the fridge. Serve with some chunky slices of sourdough to mop up the delicious juices.

IMG_9840

Sardine empanadillas

Sardine empanadillas

Whilst in Barcelona last week, I discovered a brilliant stall in the the local neighbourhood market, Mercat de Sant Antoni, which sold loads of different tapas dishes by the kilo. I was in heaven! I couldn’t resist stocking up on some of my favourites: espinacas a la Catalana (Catalan spinach), empanadillas de atún (tuna pastries), croquetas de bacalao (salt cod croquettes) and albóndigas de sepia (cuttlefish balls).

I love savoury pastries and I’ve often had empanadas – the bigger version of empanadillas – in Northern Spain, known as empanada Gallega (Galician empanada), usually filled with tuna, octopus or pork. When I make these pastries, I adapt the recipes from two of my best-loved cookbooks: Elizabeth Luard’s The Food of Spain and Portugal and Casa Moro.

When I returned home from Barcelona I was already missing empanadillas so decided to make my own. As I’d been away for the weekend, I had very little in the cupboard except tinned tomatoes and sardines, but those are the main ingredients of this recipe. You can also make these empanadillas with tinned tuna; just make sure it’s MSC-marked and replace the rosemary with thyme. And if you’re pushed for time or not in a pastry-making mood, you can always use shop-bought puff pastry.

Empanadillas are great in lunchboxes, or for picnics, parties or tapas. If I make an empanada, we’ll have it for dinner alongside roasted cubed potatoes with chopped rosemary, which you can cook at the same time as the pastries (although they take twice as long, about 30 minutes).

The slow-cooked tomato sauce that makes up the filling is called a sofrito in Spain and is really versatile, cheap and easy to make. Use it as a pasta sauce with or without the tinned fish, or to go with meatballs or baked white fish.

Ingredients

Pastry

500g strong white bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sweet paprika

2 tsp or 1 sachet of dried yeast

80 ml lukewarm milk

140 ml lukewarm water

100ml olive oil

1 egg, beaten

Polenta

Filling

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 red and 1 green pepper, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tin of tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

¼ tsp salt

pinch of sugar

½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)

250g tinned sardines

Method

Mix all the dry dough ingredients first and then the liquids. Knead to a smooth dough for a few minutes before covering and leaving in a warm place for an hour or so.

Fry the onion and peppers for 10-15 minutes on a medium-low heat.

Empanadilla filling

Heat the oven to 200°C or gas mark 6. Add the garlic and rosemary to the onion and pepper mix and cook for 2 minutes, before adding the tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, sugar and chilli flakes, if using. Simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes. Add the sardines 10 minutes before the end, breaking them up with a wooden spoon.

To make empanadillas, roll the pastry out until it’s quite thin and, using a small bowl or saucer about 10-12cm in diameter, cut out circles. Put a dessert spoon of filling to one side of the centre and, using some of the beaten egg, brush around the edges before folding the pastry over and sticking it, creating a semi-circle.

Empanadilla pastry

You can use a fork to make a pattern along the edges if you like (see the photo below). Brush the top with egg.

Uncooked empanadilla

Lightly sprinkle a baking tray with polenta (or line it with greaseproof paper) and place the empanadillas on it. Bake for 15-20 minutes until light brown.

Cooked sardine empanadillas

As this recipe uses rosemary from the garden, I’m also entering it for the February Cooking with Herbs challenge, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, using winter herbs. 

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

I’m also entering it for the Credit Card Munch, hosted by Elizabeth at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary, developed by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla at Fab Food 4 All as this recipe is good for packed lunches and uses cheap ingredients.

Credit-Crunch-Munch

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Gluten-free muhammara

Muhammara I first had muhammara, a delicious Syrian red pepper and walnut dip, at my favourite restaurant, Frome’s wonderful High Pavement Evening Café. They specialise in Middle Eastern and Spanish dishes; I’ve had many a fine meal there and can recommend it wholeheartedly. (Make sure you sample a manzanilla or oloroso on the brilliant sherry menu too.)

It took me ages to remember the name muhammara but once I did, I became slightly obsessed with recreating its intense flavour. The first time I made it I used Turkish red pepper paste, which I bought in Bristol’s Sweetmart. Last weekend I’d planned a Middle Eastern mezze spread but Bristol is a long way to go from Frome for a jar of pepper paste, so I thought I’d have a go at making it with roasted red peppers. But if you can buy a jar of red pepper paste, it does save time, as does using shelled walnuts, although the flavour isn’t nearly as good.

Unlike the traditional version, which uses breadcrumbs or bulgur wheat, I decided to make a gluten-free muhammara, and serve it with bread on the side for dipping. I made the easy yet delicious Eastern-style focaccia recipe from Sabrina Ghayour’s gorgeous Persiana book, cut into fingers, and za’atar pitta bread triangles (see below). If you can’t get any za’atar you can use a sprinkling of smoked paprika and cumin instead, or just brush the triangles with olive oil. You could also serve it with plain pitta bread, flatbread or sourdough.

Ingredients

Muhammara

10 red peppers

200g walnuts

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tsp chilli flakes (Aleppo ones are the most authentic)

6 tsp cumin

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp salt

Chopped flat-leaf parsley to serve

Za’atar pitta triangles

1 packet of 6 white pitta breads

3 tsp za’atar

150 ml extra-virgin olive oil

Serves 8-10 as part of a mezze spread

Method

Roast the red peppers preferably on an open flame on a gas hob, under a grill or in a hot oven (220ºC, 200ºC fan, gas mark 7) until the skin turns black and blisters. This takes about 20 minutes. If you’re doing them on the hob or under the grill, turn them regularly.

Roast the red peppers preferably on an open flame on a gas hob, or under a grill or in a hot oven (220ºC, 200ºC fan, gas mark 7) until the skin turns black and blisters. Turn them a few times during the 20 minutes or so it takes for them to blister.roasted red peppers

Meanwhile shell the walnuts (if necessary) and roughly chop them.walnuts

Slice open each pitta bread carefully so you have two ovals. Then halve each oval and cut each half into rough triangles. Mix the olive oil with the za’atar and brush onto the triangles, laying them out on to some baking trays so they’re in one layer.pitta bread

pitta bread trianglesWhen the peppers are done take them out and turn the oven down (200ºC, 180ºC fan, gas mark 6). Put the peppers in a sieve or colander with a plate over the top, and place it over a bowl to drain.

Put the pitta triangles into the oven (which should be slightly cooler now) and put a timer on for 10 minutes. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them, remove the seeds and roughly chop them.

Keep an eye on the pitta breads to make sure they don’t burn, giving them a shake after 5 minutes.za'atar pitta triangles

Put everything except the walnuts in a food processor and blend to a rough paste (I prefer muhammara with a bit of texture), or use a blender or stick blender. Add the walnuts and blend again briefly. Taste and add more spices or salt if needed.

Take the pitta breads out when they’re lightly toasted and put on a cooling rack. Sprinkle the chopped parsley on the muhammara.muhummara gluten-free dip

As this recipe is feel-good healthy and has a spicy kick to it, I’m entering it for the current Spice Challenge, with the theme Temple Food.Spice Trail