Category Archives: Postcards from abroad

Split-pea and cumin soup from Marrakech

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Today I take you to Marrakech, the red city of the desert, the Mother of all oasis! We went to the fruit and veg’ souk to choose the ingredients for a very typical Marrocan soup in the warm colours of the flag.

Diced vegetables for a stunning mix of colours

Diced vegetables for a stunning mix of colours

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Ingredients list:

  • Split-peas, one cup
  • Water, 5 cups
  • Carrots, 2 diced
  • Red onions, 2 diced
  • Cumin, 3 Tbsp
  • Parsley , chopped to taste
  • Lemon, ½ squeezed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bay leaves, 2

 

First wash and chop all the vegetables.

Then melt the onions in a pan (with lid) and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook until brownish.

Add the well rinsed split-peas, the diced carrots and churn all into the hot oil for a few minutes.

Add the cumin and the bay leaf with the 5 cups of water.

Season with pepper and a little salt ( I prefer to add the rest of the salt at the end).

Leave on a medium heat for 45 min to one hour. Remove the bay leaves. Check the tenderness of the split-peas and carrots. Serve with parsley and lemon juice . Add salt or water if necessary.

Good food is a journey in itself, it bears a story, it stirs your soul. It takes you away and back…

Enjoy !

 

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Beet hummous with fresh mint

Love the colour!

Love the summer colours!

This is a perfect holiday recipe: healthy vibrant colour and gorgeous taste for a minimum of efforts…

I used mint from the wonderful herb garden that comes with the villa we are staying in here in Crete and I would encourage you to grow a pot of mint wherever you can as it is such an uplifting smell and it grows really fast in pots, on windowsills or balconies in pretty much any climate.

Ingredient list:

  • 1/2 tin of chick pea
  • 1 cooked beetrout
  • 1 spoonful of Tahini
  • Virgin cold pressed Olive oil 100ml
  • Lemon juice of 1 and 1/2 lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 spoonful of ground cumin
  • a small handful of crushed mint leaves

Blitz all ingredients in a food processor (I use a standing blender); adding a bit of olive oil or even water too make it lighter if the consistency is too thick. But I never puree it to finely as I enjoy a bit of texture.

Beetroot is great for joints and particularly important for runners or anybody who wishes to take care of their knees. I love it also for its happy colour !

“Ajo Blanco”, star soup of the Med Diet!

My Spanish born great grand-mother on my maternal side had a wonderful family recipe for “Ajo Blanco”, or so I am told because alas nobody recorded it and therefore nobody can recall its details… So, to complete my family recipe archives, I can only try to recreate this recipe with voices others than hers… Why does it seem so important to me to do so? Because Ajo Blanco is a bit of an iconic Andalucian soup and because it happens to be at the same time a very healthy and rejuvenating combination of almond meal and garlic. Popular and traditional cuisine often combine the qualities of being at once tasty and healthy and this very ancient recipe proves the point with its elegant simplicity.

I am just back from a long week end in Seville where summer was already warm and dry and the beautiful gardens of the Mudejar palaces where full of the most generous and fragrant blossoms. The photos below were taken inside the Casa de Pilatos in Seville Old quarter. But Seville is full of secret gardens that you can visit or sometimes just glimpse, past a patio of azulejos opening onto the heat scorched street… IMG_4397 IMG_4401

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Ingredients list

  • Raw peeled almonds ,200 gr
  • Garlic cloves,2
  • Olive oil, 70 ml
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Bread, 100 gr 70 gr de aceite de oliva virgen extra
  • Jerez or wine vinegar, 50ml
  • Water, 1L
  • Grapes or cucumber chunks to serve

This is a Thermomix adapted recipe but any good blender will do.

A fresh and crisp taste

A fresh and crisp taste for this “white garlic” soup

Soak the almond and bread in water separately for a few hours, if possible. Remove and do not use this water,

Mix the garlic, salt and almonds for 30 sec at speed 5. Add the chopped bread (no crust) and mix another 15 sec. You should get a sort of thick paste.

Keep at speed 5 and add the olive oil, followed by the vinegar and the water. Mix for 1 min at speed 7 to 8.

Season with a little salt and serve cold with the chopped cucumber or grapes to decorate and give a nice biting texture.

I like to serve this in glasses decorated with a mini skewer with fresh grapes and to sprinkle a few flaked almonds and some fried toast on top.

This is a strengthening, wholesome,  cold soup; a godsend in summer and a little miracle of health…

Favourite gardens in Seville:

  • Parque Maria Louisa – I had a beautiful morning run there, but you can take a horse carriage to it if you are no runner!
  • Los Jardines del Real Alcazar – The beautiful gardens of the moors kings… A treasure!
  • Gardens and patios of the Museo de Bellas Artes
  • Gardens of Casa de Pilatos – see pictures above.
  • And many more!!!

Valentine chocolates – gifts of love and health!

Winter bloom and chocolate

Winter bloom and chocolate

Valentine day approaching and the shops are tempting us with a cornucopia of very sweet and colourful confectionary – but if you are still sticking to your healthy New Year resolutions, the choice can be quite daunting… So here I give you a more virtuous but deliciously indulgent version.

These delicate chocolate flowers are made with raw chocolate, non dairy ingredients and they are still big in flavour and satisfaction…

Ingredients list:

  • Dates, 250g
  • 100g of 100% cocoa chocolate (Check out Chocolat Rabot in Borough Market)
  • Raisins, 150g
  • Vanilla bean, 1
  • Crystalised ginger, a few pieces, but only optional!

Cut the chocolate in squares, cut up the dates.

Than put all in your best chopper (I use my Thermomix for the smoothest result) and mix at high speed for a few minutes until you get a glossy paste. DO NOT overwork it or the chocolate will melt !

Put in silicone moulds for individual chocolates (as above) or just roll bite size chunks in your palms and present them in a nice box or sachet to your Valentine with his Valentine day coffee. Garantie to score brownie points with any health-conscious foodie!

No need to be vegan either to appreciate the soft and creamy result – But take the best chocolate for the best taste, as always… My writing buddies loved them so much that I dedicate this recipe to our blue-stocking group – and their Valentines!

HAPPY VALENTINE DAY EVERYONE! This year it falls on a sunday so plan to take him to a spa, an art gallery or just a favourite place / corner of the world- like Venice?!!!

Promise Venice and chocolate this year!

One of my handprinted Valentine cards/original print.

 

Cold gaspacho of melon, cucumber and mint – as fresh as a kiss!

A sweet and savoury soup as cool and healthy as a salty kiss, the kind you get when you are flirting in the waves! Try it!

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Ingredients list:

  • Honeydew melon, 1 small
  • Cucumber, seeded, 1/2
  • Grape, one small bunch  (if the melon is not sweet enough)
  • Yogurt, 150g
  • Chopped sweet shallots, 2  small ones
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon juice, 1 lemon
  • Olive oil, 50 ml
  • Mint, small bunch plus sprigs to decorate

    A peek at the mix!

    A peek at the mix!

Scoop out the melon’s flesh, peel the cucumber and take the seeds out.

Peel the garlic and took out the inner shoot if green.

Chop and mix all of the above ingredients then blitz into a blender (or Thermomix). Add the chopped mint and blitz again. Keep a few sprigs aside.

Reserve and chill until ready to eat.

Decorate with fresh  mint and a little stick with fruit on it. Add a few ice cubes when serving.

Freshly made

Freshly made

We had this in a little “chiringuito” in El Palmar, not far from the Roche beach that I have pictured above. I fell in love with the sweetness and coolness of this perfect summer combination. Soups are a great summer dish – a welcome alternative to the salads… The beauty of cold soup is that they are choking-full of watery fruit and veg and therefore so hydrating and refreshing in the heat. Plus the extra shot of vitamins will leave you radiant when returning from the beach.

This is the second in my series of Spanish themed soups for summer goodness. Hope you are loving them as much as I do! Third one soon on it’s way and it is the famous and mysterious “Ajo Blanco”…