Friday, 6 February 2015

Spaghetti Putanesca

This tasty Pasta Dish from Southern Italy can be easily made with ingredients from the store cupboard.


This is my version. Quantities can be changed to your liking and I'm only using fresh tomatoes because I have too many of them right now. Tinned will be great too.

Ingredients:
2 tbs Olive Oil
3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1 long red Chilli Pepper, deseeded and chopped
4 Anchovy fillets, chopped
2 tbs Capers ( if using the salted variety, rinse the salt off)
About 10-12 black olives, I like mine whole, but pitted is fine of course
A whole bunch of Cherry Tomatoes, halved (or chopped tinned tomatoes)


I'm starting with the olive oil, garlic, chilli and capers in a large high sided chef pan, that will eventually hold the whole dish, including the pasta.


Turn the heat on high and sizzle everything until fragrant. This only takes a minute or two.


Next add the tomatoes. Mine are quite tart, so I'm adding a little sprinkle of sugar to balance them out, but if they are nice and sweet or from a tin, then no sugar is needed.


After the tomatoes have softened a little throw in the olives. Just warm them through, don't cook for too long or I find the dish gets too much bitter olive flavour.


Now the sauce is ready for the pasta. So cook yours as instructed on the packaging and toss it straight into the sauce. Also add a splash of the pasta cooking water, this will give the sauce a nice consistency and marry everything together.


There we are, ready to serve. If I had some fresh Parsley I would sprinkle some as I serve, but it's winter and my herb garden is not providing any.
So a grinding of fresh Pepper will do!
Bon Apetit!












Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Delhi Style Harlequin Squash

This pretty Squash makes a great side dish for an Indian Curry Night.
I really like the gentle sweetness and delicious Indian spiciness in this dish.


Ingredients
1 Harlequin Squash (or other Pumpkin/Squash)
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/2 tsp Nigella Seeds
1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds
1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns
1/2 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
5 dried Red Chillies
1tbs Coconut Oil
1 tsp Sea salt
1/2 tsp Amchur Powder


In a wide non stick heat the Oil and add the whole Spices, 
stir for minute then add the diced Squash and sprinkle with the Salt.
Mix well with the Spices then cover and turn the heat to very low. 
Cook until the Squash is nice and soft, stirring every now and then.


When the Squash is done squish some of the pieces and leave some for texture. Stir in the Amchur Powder to balance the sweetness. Lemon juice maybe used instead of Amchur.
The skin now has a nice chewy quality and the flesh is lovely and soft.


I'm not sure it will last until the rest of the Curries are ready,
I could eat it just as it is, right now!



Sunday, 1 June 2014

Tapas, Pulpo alla Gallega

Now that the sun has come out to play again, I feel like socializing outside and gathering my friends around for a Tapas Party. 


I made a variety of Tapas, but the one I would like to share with you is the Pulpo alla Gallega. Otherwise known as Octopus Gallega style.
I first had this dish in Madrid, in our usual Tapas bar and loved it then. It's not often you come across Octopus in a shop here in the UK, so when I saw one in the freezer of an Asian supermarket, I had to have it.
Here is how I prepared it. 
This octopus was frozen, but if it is fresh it must be frozen first for a day, then defrosted. This helps the tenderising process.
Ingredients:
1 Octopus (Pulpo)
1 Onion
3 Bayleafes
Water
Sea Salt
Spanish smolked Paprika
A good Spanish Olive Oil

Place a large pot with Water onto stove, add 3 Bayleafes and a halved Onion and bring to a rolling boil. Salt will be sprinkled on the finished dish, so NO salt in the Water.
Rinse the octopus, then using kitchen tongues grap it by the head cavity and lover into the boiling water for 5 seconds. Take it back out for 5 seconds, lower again for 5 seconds. Repeat 3 times. This closes the pores and helps it keep the skin tight. (Or something like that... It's what they do in Gallega and that's this recipe, so just do it! :-)
After the 3rd time leave it in the water, bring back to simmering point then simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. At that point check with a small sharp knife at a thick part of the Pulpo, if it feels tender. The same way you would check if a potato is cooked. If it does, turn off the heat and leave to cool in the water. If it's still very tough carry on simmering for 10 minutes and check again. Keep doing it that way until it has reached the tender point. Cooking it for too long can make it toughen up again.
Finally take the octopus out and slice into bite sized pieces. Arrange on a platter or better still on a round wooden board. Sprinkle over the Sea Salt, Paprika and drizzle the olive oil. A final sprinkle of Paprika and serve. Room themperature is best.


My guests and especially my spanish friends loved it, so it was a winner for me.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Maafushi, Budget holiday for Tee Totals

There it is again, the old wise man's saying; 'If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.'
Well I do have nice things to say about Maafushi, a local island in the Maldives, that since 2010 opened it's guesthouse doors to tourists for very reasonable prices. 


First of all I like that the government changed it's mind about letting the locals make their own money from tourism rather then giving it all to the big hotel chains. Secondly the locals are doing a wonderful job, being some of the most welcoming, friendly and gently beautiful hosts I've encountered on my travels.


All of the Guest houses are very new and built to a high standard. Even better than expected for the price. A funny thing I noticed is that the menus have all exactly the same dishes. You'll find out what is actually available when you try to order something. Likelihood is that they don't have it. Though I'm feeling quite enchanted by that, and think it is only normal for an island like this, relying on daily incoming goods by boat. The food I did have was nicely prepared. 


In fact the seafood soup I liked so much, I will crave it forever after. I wish I had ask them for the recipe.


The excursions on offer are nice looking days trips to picnic islands, snorkeling, diving, fishing and all manner of water sports, and not at all dear. The guesthouses have their own boats and they charge the same prices, so no need to shop around. Definitely something I would recommend doing. In fact, do one excursion every day!

Unfortunately that's pretty much where it ends with the 'nice' things. 
On this occasion, and just because I think it's fair, here I will list some of the things I didn't like about Maafushi. 
First, there is still great need for development and cleaning up the shores from debris and floating water bottles. 
Then with the influx of money I can only hope that many of the local buildings will be made to appear more pleasing rather then being eyesores as they are now.


Also Maafushi's beach now allows tourists to wear bikinis. This is a good thing, I wouldn't really like to sit on a beach fully dressed, would you? The beach, by the way, for Maldivian standards, is pretty average when it comes to looks.
Finally my biggest bugbear however has to be the imposed alcohol absence.
Holiday I associate with having fun. On my usual holiday I will definitely have a drink at sunset, sometimes 2 or 3 and occasionally loose count. For someone to forbid me to have a glass of wine with my dinner or otherwise is just plain unacceptable. I realise it's a Muslim country, I respect the religion and will never question what they do or don't do. But I am not Muslim not even while I am on my holiday. I'm paying you my money to stay on your island and then I'm told that I can't do what is perfectly normal for me?
Not being able to have a drink, I associate with work, being in hospital or being imprisoned. Not with being on holiday. The sad truth is, I felt a little bit imprisoned on Maafushi.


One more thing that really needs to be improved is the acces to the island. One scheduled boat from Male at 1500, taking 1 1/2 to 2 hours, and one going to Male at 0730 is not enough. Who in their right mind wants to get up before the cockerel on their holiday or get to your destination at sunset, missing half of the day? 
Yes. My Rant is now over, you'll be glad to hear.
Will I return? Yes, provided the transport is better and I can have my glass of wine to accompany the stunningly beautiful sunsets.


Meanwhile I will miss the wonderful locals and staff with their warm smiles and friendly chats.



Saturday, 28 December 2013

City Garden, Male, Maldives

Now here is a lovely spot I have until now, not discovered yet. I just cannot understand how this happened. City Garden is just about the finest location on this island to sit and eat or have a coffe while watching the ongoings in the Marina.
It always amazes me how so many boats can manoeuvre around each other with such graceful ease. Being a boat owner myself, it makes me want to spend more time sailing it, rather then just being moored up in our Marina.


So the view is perfect, of course, given you get a seat on the terrace balcony, like I have today.
The food and choice of dishes on the menu are also really tempting. I have had a recommendation that the Chiili Prawns are to die for. But I chose a fish dish from the Thai Menu and some Water Spinach as a side today. 


Both were lovely as was the Lavazza Coffee afterwards. A wonderful thing in a place where no alcohol is served is that everyone drinks Tea or Coffee, so it's bound to be the finest.


I must also mention that as soon as I walked in I was warmly welcomed by the waiter, who had a friendly smile throughout. As a woman in a Muslim country, eating out alone, this was very comforting sight. City Garden is definitely top of list of restaurants in Male from now on.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Pissaladiere

This Southern French pastry is a bit like a pizza as it does have a pizza base, but there is no cheese or tomato in sight. Just packed full of flavourful sweet onions topped with savoury olives and anchovies.
I discovered it while in Nice at the Cote Azure, in a Supermarket. I bought it, tried it and was smitten with it. Here is my easy recipe.


Ingredients:
2 ready mix Pizza Base mixtures
About 1kg Onions, sliced
2 Garlic Cloves, sliced
About 10 good black Olives, pitted and halved
1 small tin of Anchovies, oil discarded and filets sliced in half lengthways
A generous glug of Olive Oil
Fresh Thyme, Salt, Sugar and Pepper


Prepare the ready make Pizza dough as the instructions tell you on the packet. That's the easy part. You can of course make one from scratch if you like.
While the dough is proving, start to sautee the Onions and Garlic in the olive oil. Use a large enough pan on a medium heat. This process should take about half an hour. Keep tossing the onions every now and then and be patient. Season with a little Salt, Pepper and Sugar.


Once the dough has proven roll it into a large rectangle and shape it onto a baking tray pushing the edges up a little at the sides.
Fill this base with the sautéed onions, sprinkle with the fresh Thyme and garnish with the Anchovies and Olives.


Now of course it is ready for the oven. Bake the Pissaladiere at a fairly high heat (200C) for about 20 minutes or until the base has turned lovely and golden on the sides and it looks deliciously ready.
Cut into squares and enjoy hot, warm or cold.


Friday, 29 November 2013

Sichuan Palace Male, Maldives

This fine Chinese restaurant has an interesting menu and great service. The price does reflect this, as main dishes are around 120-850 MVR, that's about $8 and upwards. But let's see if the food is worth it. 
The service is definitely great. As soon as I revealed my iPhone, the waiter appeared with a little note containing the wifi code. I liked that.


This is the second time I am here. At first it seems very quiet but it can suddenly fill up with large groups sitting on the round tables with the fantastic spinning plate called 'Lazy Susan'.


I always find myself a little envious as I can only choose 2 dishes from the menu while they can share 10 different delights. This is of course a downside of a lone traveller.

Tonight I'm drinking a Chinese green tea and I am pleasantly surprised by the loose tea leaves in the pot. It's a delicate flavour with a subtle earthiness that you'd expect from a good chinese tea.
The dishes I chose are Kang Kung with Shrimp Sauce, that's water spinach to you and me.


And also Steamed Noodles with minced Chicken on Sichuan Sauce. 


It's all very good. But as suspected I realise a chinese meal should be eaten in a group. Just 2 dishes leave me wanting more. Not in quantity as there is plenty on my plates, but variety. I just love the whole sharing many dishes kind of eating. Don't you?


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