Spanish Tapas & Cocktails

For Christmas my husband gave me some Spanish cazuela dishes that I’ve been drooling over at the Mediterranean Food Warehouse for quite some time. They are terracotta that have been glazed all over except for the base and can be used in the oven, on the stove top and as serving dishes.  I love cookware that needs to be seasoned such as paella pans and cast iron; the ritual of the seasoning process makes the dish seem all the more special.  The cazuelas needed to be soaked in water for 12 hours before rubbing the unglazed base with a garlic clove (a tradition apparently!), rubbing olive oil on the inside of the dish and baking them in a low oven for 1 1/2 hours.  I started this process immediately on Christmas day which meant that they were all ready for their first tapas feast on boxing day.

To start our banquet we had Pinchos (things on skewers) called Gilda…named after Rita Hayworth’s legs according to Sam and Sam Clark who wrote Morito…I have no idea why and they don’t seem to know either! Despite their lack of resemblance to legs (probably a good thing!), they are very tasty.  They consist of a pickled chili, green olive, anchovy fillet and a cocktail onion on a stick…a wonderful combination of flavours – the sharpness of the onion with the saltiness of the anchovy, the slight bitterness from the olive and the heat of the chili…delicious with a Bicicleta cocktail from the same book (a mix of Campari and white wine and we jazzed ours up with a glace cherry on a stick…very fancy!).


The next dish is simply called Marinated Mushrooms from “The Complete Spanish Cookbook” by Pepita Aris.  The mushrooms are marinated in a mix of sherry, onion, garlic and tomato paste and are served cold.  These were very nice on sliced baguette or just popped straight into the mouth.


The “Food of Spain” by Claudia Roden has a lovely recipe for Tomatoes Stuffed with Tuna.  This is a pretty basic recipe which consists of stuffing tomato shells with a mix of cooked onion and garlic, tuna in olive oil and black olives and baking them in the oven for 20 minutes.  Despite the basic ingredients they are very flavoursome and are pretty quick to assemble.


The Complete Spanish Cookbook also had a recipe for Marinated Anchovies which enabled me to use the anchovies that I had in the freezer.  This involved beheading, gutting and removing the bones from each and every anchovy; a much easier process than it sounds (thank goodness!).  The butterflied fish are then marinated in lemon juice and salt for a few hours before being seasoned with garlic, parsley and olive oil.  I was really happy with how well these turned out and they were lovely on a chili oat cracker with a bit of brie.


And finally…”The Food of Northern Spain” by Jenny Chandler has a recipe for Spicy Mussels, another easy but delicious tapas dish.  For the sauce I was able to use the innards from the tomatoes that I stuffed earlier so there was no wastage.  Again, the sauce was very nice to scoop up with some sliced baguette…all very tasty and decadent and a bit tipsy by the time we got to the mussels with a few extra cocktails under our belts!  But hey, what a wonderful way to spend the boxing day evening 🙂



It’s official…I don’t have enough cookbooks!

So we’ve had a brioche in the freezer for quite some time now (ever since I baked some in early February!).  Last weekend I decided to use it to make some french toast for a sustaining Saturday morning breakfast.  I don’t make french toast very often (the last time was probably a few years ago!) so I consulted my Alison Holst cookbook for some basic guidelines and set to it. Usually I would have sweet french toast with bacon, bananas and maple syrup but with this being Easter and there being plenty of other goodies to satisfy my sweet tooth I decided to have a savory version.  We are getting a lot of tomatoes from the garden at the moment so I sprinkled some sliced tomato with salt and left them to sit while I cooked the french toast.  I then cranked up the heat to get the bacon nice and crispy and put the tomatoes on for a quick fry while I dished up.  My husband doesn’t like tomatoes so I was lucky enough to get them all to myself!  Alison Holst suggested only a short soaking for the bread but next time I’ll soak it for a bit longer because it was slightly drier than I would have preferred.  In saying that, the tomatoes added moisture and a lovely sweetness to go with the salty bacon…I also added a little of my courgette pickle which gave it a lovely tang.  All in all a very nice breakfast 🙂

Brioche french toast with bacon and fried tomatoe
Tangy…salty…sweet and eggy…how could you wish for anything more?!

I’ve been reading my “Food of Spain” cookbook quite a lot recently…as a result we bought some salt cod from the Mediterranean Food Warehouse a few weeks ago in anticipation of cooking some Spanish delicacy…I decided that the long weekend was the perfect time to have a go at this so I put it on to soak on Saturday morning (it needs 12 – 48 hours!) while I thought about how I might cook it.  Then on Sunday evening we had a surprise gift of some capsicums from a neighbour…this fit very nicely with my Spanish theme!  After a bit more perusing of my recipe books I decided on two recipes from Claudia Roden’s “The Food of Spain” – Peppers Stuffed with Rice in Tomato Sauce and Salt Cod Croquettes.  These were fairly time-consuming dishes to prepare but the beauty of public holidays is that I can spend as much time in the kitchen as I like!  And the beauty of these recipes is that they can be completely prepared in advance and then finished off just before serving.  This meant that my husband and I could go off for a late afternoon walk to Kennedy’s Bush Track and still have dinner ready not long after we got home.

Stuffed peppers pre oven
Beautiful stuffed peppers sitting in a bath of rich tomato sauce all ready for the oven…yummy…

I was a little bit unsure about deep-frying the croquettes because it always seems slightly scary (I don’t own a deep fryer so I have to do it in a pot).  But I’m pleased that I faced my fears because they fried very successfully and the deep-frying gave them such a beautiful light crispness which contrasted with the lovely soft insides…absolutely heavenly!  I only served myself 2 croquettes to start with and ended up eating 4!  The fish itself doesn’t actually taste salty after all its soaking but it has a firmer texture which holds together well when cooked (although it’s possible that I over-soaked mine so maybe it should taste slightly saltier?).  And the capsicums with their tomato stuffing were amazing as well…a really simple filling with spectacular results!

Stuffed peppers
Looking even more delectable after their roasting!
Salt cod croquettes
Such lovely, crispy, irresistible morsels!

Keeping with the Spanish theme, I’ve also had a beautiful Spanish chorizo in the fridge that I’ve been wanting to use for a while now as well as some dried cannellini beans tempting me on a daily basis.  I had a very particular idea of what I wanted to cook with these ingredients but despite the number of cookbooks I own not a single one of them contained the recipe that I was craving to cook (…I know)!  So I decided to take matters into my own hands…I started with a google search and found a few recipes that were heading in the right direction.  One recipe was almost there from the website What Katie Ate so I decided to use that as my base and I adjusted it using other recipes online and from cookbooks until I had a recipe that suited my needs. The result was a deliciously scented, deeply flavoured and rather attractive bowl of what I call White Fish with Chorizo, Red Capsicum, Tomato and Bean Stew.  (If you would like to see my recipe go to the end of this post!)

Chorizo, fish and white bean stew
Craving definitely satisfied…except…now I want more!

To go with this tasty stew I made a loaf of bread out of my new (yes another new…it was second hand though…I can’t help myself!) cookbook that I had bought just hours earlier…Herbed Parmesan Loaf from “The New Zealand Bread Book” by Simon and Alison Holst.  It’s chock full of fresh basil (luckily we still have some in the garden) and parmesan, is a really quick recipe (only 1 1/2 hours of rising time) and is a lovely soft, flavoursome loaf.  We used it for sandwiches the next day with great success.  One change I made is that I didn’t have any pesto (well I did…but it had things growing in it!) so to make up for that I bumped up the quantity of basil and parmesan and I added some chopped cashews to add a nuttiness that would have come from the pesto…it seemed to work 🙂

Parmesan and herb bread



  • Olive oil
  • 1 chorizo sausage, sliced into thin rounds
  • 6 large tomatoes, halved
  • 2-3 long red peppers/red capsicums, stalk, membrane and seeds removed, cut in half lengthways
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 400g tomatoes pureed in food processor
  • 550g cannellini beans (soaked and rinsed if using dried)
  • 150g Kale
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup dry white wine or stock
  • If not using wine add 1-2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • Handful fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 skinless chunky fish fillets such as cod

For the garnish:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small courgette, peeled into ribbons
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180˚C (350˚F)
  2. Place capsicums and tomatoes cut-side up onto two separate baking trays, drizzle both with a little olive oil, season tomatoes with a little salt and black pepper and roast both items in the oven for 40-50 minutes. Remove from oven and chop both capsicums and tomatoes into large chunks.
  3. In a large heavy-based casserole pot, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add the sliced chorizo and fry until crispy and caramelised around the edges. Using a slotted spoon remove chorizo and drain on paper towel.
  4. Into the chorizo oil remaining in the pot, add the onion, garlic and kale stalks and fry over low-medium heat for 5 minutes before adding the roasted tomatoes, capsicums, pureed tomatoes, beans, kale, paprika and wine or stock and vinegar (if using). Season well withblack pepper then add the chorizo. Stir all together and cook over low-medium heat for 30-40 mins until thickened slightly. If you want, you can add a little water at any stage if you think the mixture is getting too thick.  Check the seasoning and add salt as required.
  5. Add the fish to the pan, leaving the tops of the fillets peeking out of the sauce, then cover with a lid and leave to cook for 3-5 mins or until the flesh flakes easily.
  6. For the garnish, heat oil in a small frying pan and sauté courgette ribbons for a minute until softened and bright green.
  7. Serve warm in bowls with courgette swirls on top and a scattering of chopped fresh parsley.


Fillet of Fish

Yesterday was a momentous occasion…

Yesterday I filleted my very first fish!! I have been wanting to do this for quite a while and so – after a bit of encouragement from my husband – I decided to go to a local fish shop on my way home from work…

There was quite a big selection but the fishmonger helped me to make my choice and he was very impressed that I was going to fillet the fish myself (I have to say that I was rather impressed as well!).  So I left the shop the proud owner of a 2kg blue warehou!  (However I have since learnt that these fish have very low stocks in the ocean so I won’t buy this particular variety again).

My Fish :-) (It looks a bit odd because I forgot to take a photo before I started filleting it!)
My Fish! (It looks a bit odd because I forgot to take a photo before I started filleting it!)

When I got it home I proudly showed my fish to my daughter and promptly started looking up instructions on YouTube.   I watched a few videos but the best two I found were by Jamie Oliver.  One was how to fillet a seabass and the other was how to fillet a salmon or a trout. After watching those I felt slightly more prepared but really the only thing left to do was to give it a go!

I was really happy with the results, it was much easier than I thought it would be.  I certainly didn’t do it perfectly but for a first attempt it worked really well.  It was great to be able to choose the size of the fillets, leave the skin on or off and to have the bones and fish head available for making a stock.

Wow, look at those!
Wow, look at those!
I cut the fillets in half because the pin bones down the centre wouldn't come out
I cut the fillets in half because the pin bones down the centre wouldn’t come out

To accompany the fish I made a lovely beetroot salad from some leftovers (more usey-uppy points!) – I combined chopped roast beetroot, a yoghurt-grapefruit dressing that my husband had made the night before and I chopped half a grapefruit into small wedges and mixed them through.  The idea for adding the grapefruit segments came from a recipe in “Hugh’s Three Good Things” where he puts lemon segments with courgettes and snowpeas; it tasted beautiful. I put some preserved lemon through the couscous which I thought would go nicely with the fish (which it did 🙂 ).

Look at that lovely crispy skin!!
Look at that lovely crispy skin!!

For anyone reading this who hasn’t had a go at filleting a fish yet, I highly recommend it!  It was so satisfying to be able to do this myself and I can’t wait to try it again!

The Food of Spain…

Last night I cooked from my new Spanish cookbook “The Food of Spain” by Claudia Roden.  It was a very simple, but beautiful, freshly flavoured dish called Pan-Grilled Fish with Garlic and Chilli Dressing (pescado a la bilbaina).  It was officially supposed to use fish fillets with the skin on but unfortunately we weren’t able to get those.  One of my goals for this year (in fact maybe I should make it my goal for next month!) is to buy a whole fish and learn to fillet it myself.  Then I can have so much more control over the fish I use for cooking!  But I digress…

…the fish is pan fried and served with a lovely dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, chilli and garlic.  When I first tasted the dressing I was surprised that there wasn’t a stronger flavour of vinegar but when it was served with the fish it gave it a lovely subtle sweetness while the chilli gave it a nice heat.

So simple but so delicious
So simple but so delicious

But I have to admit that I was slightly lazy with this meal…the photo in the recipe book had it served with new potatoes and nothing else, so I followed suit because I couldn’t be bothered cooking any more veges!  As a result, an hour later …we were a bit hungry…

However I was still feeling lazy and I couldn’t be bothered making a dessert despite several requests from the family…so I made a cheats dessert which turned out to be amazing!  During the weekend my husband Andrew had made a beautiful courgette loaf from our book “Harbour Kitchens” (yes, we are putting courgettes into everything!) so I toasted some slices of loaf and served it with fresh berries from the garden and runny cream…OMG, yum!!  Will definitely do that again for a quick pudding fix 🙂


5/1/2015 – This Salmon is Smokin’!

Yesterday I spent a happy half hour browsing through my recipe books looking for ideas for using the smoked salmon we had sitting in the fridge.  I found a few options, most of them flans/frittatas/quiches/omelettes/tarts and the odd pasta recipe thrown in…but the final choice came from my friend “Peter Gordon Everyday” in the form of “Smoked Fish, Potato, Feta and Broccoli Tart”.  As an added bonus it also used up a few other ingredients that I had that needed using.

We actually smoked the salmon ourselves on our lovely new Weber barbecue which we bought as a post-Christmas treat/impulse buy!  It wasn’t strongly smoked in flavour because we were experimenting to see how it would taste when cooked over the charcoal…the answer is – absolutely delicious!!  Next time I’m keen to try smoking it properly with manuka wood chips (that we just happened to have in the pantry even before we bought the Weber!).

Not the Salmon…but a very nice picture of our BBQ!

But back to the  tart…

It took me longer to make than I thought it would…this is a common trait with my cooking but I do partially blame the number of aphids I had to remove from the kale that I needed for my side dish (more on that later!).  It was, however, a very easy recipe; it used puff pastry from the freezer so I didn’t need to make my own (short crust that is…I haven’t attempted to make puff pastry yet!).  Another freezer item I had on hand was thanks to watching Save with Jamie (and also buying the cookbook of course!).  Since watching this program I now put cheese into the freezer if it’s getting close to its use by date, so I had a good chunk of goats feta in the freezer that I was able to use in this.

There is very little egg in the mixture and I wondered if there would be enough to hold it together but it turned out beautifully.  The kids (aged 13, 15, 15 and 17) were very impressed with the lattice work on the top and were hoping for leftovers…unfortunately…there were none.

My beautiful tart!

But more on the side dish…

The other recipe I made to go with this tart is from “River Cottage Everyday” and is called “Leeks with greens”.  Nothing too complicated…for this I was able to use some of our winter leeks from the freezer and some kale from the garden.  I forgot to take a photo of this but it looks as you would imagine…green!  I think next time I make it I will add a bit more butter and season it a bit more.  I also served the tart with a nice leafy salad with veg from the garden.  On a side note…I’ve started grating my radishes sometimes rather than slicing them and it creates a lovely subtle flavour.

Happy cooking 🙂