Mussels in Spicy Sauce

Mussels in Spicy SauceI love mussels. When we lived in Cornwall, we used to collect our own from the rocks at low tide. Here in Spain, the fish counters are heaving with them, and they’re very cheap. This is a nice recipe with a spicy sauce which makes a tasty change from traditional mussels in garlic and white wine.
Some people worry about getting food poisoning from mussels, but there are 3 foolproof methods of ensuring you don’t eat ‘bad’ mussels. If any of your mussels are open when you get them home, tap the shell with the handle of a knife. If the shell closes, the mussel is alive and therefore safe to eat. Bin any that don’t close. When you wash the mussels, discard any that bob around on the surface of the water. Finally, any mussels which don’t open after about 5 minutes should also be discarded.
A word about cebolletas, which are mentioned in the recipe. Cebolletas are like English spring onions, but with enormous bulbs. They are not so strongly flavoured as ordinary onions, and you can use the tender green shoots as well. If you can’t get cebolletas, shallots will do nicely. Buen Provecho!

Ingredients (for 2 people as a light lunch or 4 as starters)
  • 1 kg mussels
  • 1 glass white wine
  • 1 chilli pepper, chopped. (or 2 if you prefer the sauce really spicy)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 2 cebolletas or shallots, finely chopped
  • 500g large ripe tomatoes, grated
  • Freshly milled black pepper (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of freeze dried parsley
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Wash mussels well in plenty of cold water and scrub the shells to remove debris. Pull out ‘beards.’
Heat wine in a large lidded pan, then cook mussels until most of them are open (5 minutes aproximately). Be careful not to overcook, and discard any mussels which fail to open.
Remove mussels with a slotted spoon and set aside. Strain liquid through a kitchen towel in a strainer to remove any bits of sand or grit. Return liquid to pan and boil until reduced by half.
Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add cebollettas or shallots, garlic and chilli peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Now add the mussel liquid and grated tomatoes and heat thoroughly. Allow to stand for a few minutes to allow flavours to blend. Taste and season with pepper if necessary.
Remove the empty half of the shell from each mussel, then stir them into the sauce until coated. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with fresh crusty bread.


GazpachoGazpacho is a cold tomato soup, originally from Andalucia. Nobody knows where the name came from, but it may originate from the Latin for ‘crumbs,’ as true gazpacho is based on bread soaked in olive oil, garlic, vinegar and salt. These days, gazpacho has gourmet connotations, but originally it was a dish for the poor, based on bread and vegetables. Some may say gazpacho is not a soup, as it doesn’t have a stock base and is not cooked; in fact, gazpacho has been called ‘liquid salad.’ But it looks like a soup, and has the consistency of soup, so let’s call it that, as it’s so much easier on my keyboard fingers!
Gazpacho can be served as a starter for a Spanish themed dinner, or, when the temperatures are in the 30’s and you don’t feel like eating anything much, enjoy it on its own. It’s one of the few traditional Spanish recipes that caters for vegetarians, and should be made with quality fresh ingredients for best results. Use a hand held electric blender to make easy work of this typically Spanish dish. This recipe for traditional gazpacho

  • 5 slices stale white bread (at least 3 or 4 days old for best results)
  • 900 g ripe tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice or wine vinegar
  • 120 ml ice cold water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pinch of paprika
  • 2 slices bread, toasted or fried in olive oil and cut into croutons
  • 1 hard boiled egg, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ½ red pepper and ½ green pepper, chopped
  • ½ pepino (small outdoor cucumber) chopped. (If you’re not preparing this in Spain, use a 3” piece of ordinary cucumber)
Serves 4 – 6 people
Soak the bread in cold water for about 15 minutes, then squeeze out water and blend bread with garlic until smooth. Deseed and chop the tomatoes. Blend everything together and add salt and paprika. Drizzle in olive oil, then lemon juice or vinegar, keeping the blender running. Add water, using a little more or less to obtain the consistency you want. If you want your gazpacho really smooth, whizz it in a food processor, but I think it’s nice to have a little texture.
Chill your gazpacho until ready to serve. Serve garnishes separately for your guests to help themselves. Buen Apetito!

Hot Chocolate

Hot ChocolateI don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing I really enjoy on a cold day – and we do get them here in Spain – it’s a nice hot chocolate. Most bars serve Cola Cao, which is a chocolate powder which can be mixed with hot or cold milk. It’s pretty good when the milk is frothed up in the espresso machine, but for real comfort food and decadence, there’s nothing to beat a nice Castilian Hot Chocolate. It’s thick, dark and glossy, and you expect it to be sickly, but it isn’t. It’s a real taste sensation. If only we could make it at home, life would be just perfect!
Well, now you can. I’ve tracked down a recipe for traditional Castilian chocolate which is really easy to make. However, you need to be sure you’re free from distractions for about 15 minutes, as the chocolate needs to be stirred continuously to achieve the characteristic smooth, glossy appearance. Make with full cream milk for best results – this is no time to be thinking low fat. Or you can use diluted evaporated milk if you prefer. For a real treat, whisk in some brandy just before serving. Heaven in a mug!

Ingredients for 6 generous servings   
  • 55g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 150 – 180g sugar
  • 7tsps cornflour
  • 150ml water
  • 1 litre milk, or 650mls evaporated milk, made up to a litre with water.
  • Brandy and grated chocolate (optional)
Place cocoa and sugar in a saucepan.
Mix cornflour and water in a jug, then gradually add to cocoa and sugar, using a balloon whisk to blend to a smooth paste. Take this slowly, as you don’t want any solid lumps.
Heat the mixture over a medium heat, stirring continuously. Gradually add the milk, but keep stirring. It may be easier to ask someone else to add the milk while you employ the whisk.
When all the milk is added, turn up the heat until your chocolate is simmering gently. Don’t allow to boil, as this will spoil the flavour.
Simmer for 10 minutes. When your chocolate is thick, smooth and glossy, it’s ready to serve. Pour into mugs or thick glasses, adding brandy if required. Grate a little plain or white chocolate on top, if you like. Enjoy!

Tostada Con Tomate

pantostada.jpgTostada con Tomate is everything that Spanish food should be - good quality ingredients which are simply prepared to provide a delicious taste of Spain. It's a Spanish breakfast favourite which can also be enjoyed at any time of the day. The Spanish don't really do breakfasts, as they tend have very late suppers. Lunch is generally the main meal of the day. If the Spanish breakfast at all, they have biscuits, pastries or tostada with fruit juice and coffee. Tostada con Tomate is toasted baguette with olive oil and tomatoes - the Spanish don't do butter either! If you buy a toaster in Spain, you'll find the slots are just the right size to toast a baguette which has been cut through the middle, then halved lengthwise. This is a great way to use up day old bread, which would otherwise be fed to the birds or consigned to the bin. In these Credit Crunch times, Tostada con Tomate is a cheap, healthy and filling breakfast or snack which is really easy to make. It can also be served as an appetiser at any time of the day. When we have friends around for a barbecue, I always serve Tostada con Tomate, olives and banderillas while the food is cooking. This fills a gap while Tony does his barbecue thing without ruining everyone's appetite for the main event. When we have visitors from England, Tostada con Tomate makes a quick but satisfying breakfast on those mornings when we want to make an early start for sightseeing or a day on the beach. It's also a healthy snack for children and teenagers who are always hungry. Try it out on your family, and you'll wonder how you ever managed without it!

Serves 4 for breakfast or 6 - 8 as tapas
  •     1 standard baguette
  •     1 large or 2 medium ripe tomatoes
  •     1 - 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  •     Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Trim rounded ends from baguette and discard - or crumble for the birds! Cut bread in half, then slice each half lengthwise. Toast lightly. When bread is toasted, prick surface with a fork, then drizzle olive oil over it. Start with the smaller amount, as you don't want the bread to be too oily. It's easier to add more oil than remove it! Grate tomato into a bowl, then spread over the bread. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve. If you serve your Tostada at lunch or in the evening, you may like to cut a clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side over the bread before spreading with the tomato.

Quick and Easy Brownies

Makes 20

400g caster sugar
225g butter, melted
60g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
225g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
60g walnut halves

1.Mix all ingredients in the order given.
2.Bake at 180 C / Gas mark 4 for 20 - 25 minutes in a rectangular 23x33cm greased baking tin.
3.Cool, and slice into equal square portions.

Pears with Chocolate Sauce

Serves 4

250g caster sugar
4 dessert pears
Juice of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod
100ml single cream
100g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
2 tbsp Grand Marnier or brandy (optional)

1.Put the sugar in a large, deep saucepan with 1 litre of water and dissolve over a low heat, stirring.
2.Peel the pears and remove the cores by cutting in through the base using a paring knife. Leave the stalk attached to the fruit. Sprinkle lemon juice over the pears as soon as they are peeled, to prevent them from browning.
3.Split the vanilla pod in half, scrape out the pulp into the sugar syrup and add the pod. Bring the syrup to the boil and add the pears. Reduce heat and poach the pears gently for 15 minutes or until they are just tender. Leave to cool in the syrup.
4.Shortly before serving, put the cream in a heatproof bowl with the chocolate and liqueur, if using, and heat over a pan of simmering water, stirring from time to time, until the chocolate has melted. (Alternatively, heat gently in the microwave.)
5.Divide the hot sauce among serving bowls and sit a pear in each one. Serve immediately.

Roast Chicken

Roast ChickenThe Spanish love a good roast just as much as we English do, although they prepare it differently. Any time you see ‘Asado’ on the menu, that means the meat is roasted. When you go to the markets in Spain, you’ll see stalls with a cabinet full of spits, roasting chickens – ‘Pollo Asado.’ They cost about 5 euros each, and are great for a quick, easy lunch.
If you fancy trying Spanish style roast at home, here’s an easy recipe to try. The Spanish don’t cook roast potatoes as we do – roasted around the meat. To accompany the chicken, they serve a mixture of roasted vegetables such as aubergines, carrots, courgettes, red onions, garlic cloves and potatoes. These are tossed in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper and roasted in a large square dish for about 30 – 40 minutes on a high heat.
You don’t need gravy with this dish, as the vegetables and meat are very moist, but if you can’t face a roast without gravy, go ahead and make some with the giblets. Buen Provecho!

Ingredients for 4 people
  • I chicken, about 1.5kg, with giblets removed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2tbsps olive oil
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp freeze dried parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g plum cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium red pepper, cut into rough chunks
  • 100g chorizo sausage, cut into 1” slices
  • 600g tin of butter beans, drained
  • 4 – 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
Wash chicken thoroughly and dry with kitchen paper. Cover with olive oil and seasonings, making sure some seasoning goes inside the cavity of the chicken to allow the flavours to penetrate thoroughly. Roast in a 180 degree oven for an hour, loosely covered with foil so the chicken doesn’t dry out.
Remove chicken from roasting tin and pour meat juices into a jug. Now add tomatoes, pepper, garlic chorizos and butter beans to the roasting tin. Place chicken on top and baste with some of the meat juices. Don’t use too much, or the vegetables and chorizo mixture will become greasy, and you need it for later. Don’t replace the foil.
Cook for another 40 minutes to an hour, until the juices from the chicken run clear when you pierce the thigh with a skewer. Check every 20 minutes in case chicken needs basting again.
When the chicken is cooked, remove from oven and allow to rest while you mash the tomatoes, butter beans, pepper and garlic. Now you know why I didn’t want you to get them too greasy!
Serve chicken with vegetable mash, chorizo slices and roasted vegetables.

Frozen Orange Dessert With Licor 43

frozenoranges.jpgThis is a fabulous and unusual dessert recipe. The thin skinned oranges we get on the Costa Blanca are ideal to use for this dessert, as they look really attractive on the plate. This recipe calls for Licor 43, or as the Spanish know it, 'Cuaranta y Tres.' Licor 43 is made in Cartagena to a secret recipe containing 43 ingredients, all originating in the Mediterranean area. According to legend, it has been in existence for almost 2000 years. Since 1924 it has been produced by the Diego Zamora Company. Licor 43 is a sweet, citrus and vanilla liqueur, and is widely available in Spain. It lends itself to many dessert recipes, and could have even been designed for this one. Frozen oranges with Licor 43 is ideal to round off a special dinner, yet it is deceptively easy to make. If you want to make more than you need, the oranges will keep for several weeks in the freezer. However, if you're not going to use them within a few days, I suggest you wrap them in cling film to avoid the possibility of freezer burn. Buen Provecho!

  •     8 large oranges
  •     1 litre approx. vanilla ice cream
  •     4 - 6 tablespoons Licor 43
  •     A few dried apricots, chopped, and a handful of raisins or sultanas
  •     1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •     fresh mint

Cut a very thin slice from the base of each orange so that it will stand upright. Try not to cut into the pulp. Cut off the upper third of each orange with a very sharp knife and scoop out the orange pulp. Remove membranes from the pulp. Combine orange pulp with ice cream, apricots, raisins and Licor 43. Fill each orange shell with the mixture and freeze. Before serving, sprinkle each orange with cinnamon, then garnish with a sprig of mint.

Bananas a la creme

Serves 4

2 bananas
200ml cream, lightly whipped
1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon honey, slightly warmed

1. Peel 2 bananas and cut into slices.
2. In separate bowl, stir whipped cream, sugar and slightly warm honey until well-mixed.
3. Fold in bananas and serve.

Fresh Pineapple with Strawberry Sauce

Serves 4

1 small pineapple
250g strawberries
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 scoops vanilla ice-cream
pineapple leaves to decorate (optional)

1.Remove the leafy top and base of the pineapple, using a large knife. Cut away the skin, collecting the juice into a bowl. Cut the pineapple widthways into six thick slices. Remove the fibrous core, then cut the slices in half and put in a shallow dish. Set aside in a cool place.
2.Pureé the strawberries, with the reserved pineapple juice, in a blender or food processor. Then pass the strawberry purée through a sieve to remove the tiny pips, if preferred smooth.
3.Put the sugar in a small pan with 2 tbsp of water and dissolve over a low heat. Bring to the boil, then stir occasionally until the caramel mixture turns a pale amber colour. Remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice and strawberry purée, taking care that the caramel does not splash. Stir until all the caramel is incorporated, then leave to cool.
4.When ready to serve, arrange three half slices of pineapple on each plate and place a scoop of ice-cream on top. Pour over the strawberry sauce, decorate with pineapple leaves, if liked, and serve immediately.

Spanish Braised Pork

Serves 4


2 cloves crushed garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 boneless pork loin roast
1 tablespoon olive oil
275ml (10 fl oz) white wine
275ml (10 fl oz) chicken stock

1.Rub garlic, salt and pepper into the pork on all sides.
2.Heat oil in a large frying pan and brown the pork. Add wine and stock and bring all to the boil.
3.Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until internal temperature of pork has reached 70 C. Cut pork and serve it in the cooking liquid.

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