Tiger Prawns with Chilli Oil, Garlic and Lemon

Prawns with Lemon

I have just got back from a very spontaneous trip to Portugal. So spontaneous that I didn’t know I was going until about three days before I went. One of the nice things about this is that it avoids all the pre-holiday anticipation, which inevitably peaks just before you go, leaving the actual arrival slightly anti-climactic. In this case, I was boarding the plane from a satisfyingly rainy Bristol before I knew it.

Montage

Usually, I at least try and learn a few words of the language before I go abroad – as it irritates me when some British people insist on speaking English everywhere (‘ham, egg and chips please, mate’) without the slightest consideration of the local culture. Not having time to learn much Portuguese beforehand, I had to hastily cram in the essentials on the plane ride over. ‘Por favor’, ‘Obrigada’, and ‘Desculpe’ (please, thank you and sorry) seemed to suffice in most situations.

Prawns

We stayed on a beach hut, actually on the beach (they weren’t lying), which was a mere five minutes drive from Faro Airport. The beach is essentially an island in itself, separated from the mainland by a bridge, and contains a smattering of restaurants, one shop, and lots of beach huts dotted along it. It seemed to be a top spot for kite-surfing (you can just about see them in the bottom picture) so we had a very impressive display at just about Prosecco time every evening. We found a particularly good beach café bar, that was so good we returned every day. One of the main reasons for our frequent visits was the ‘gambas’: shell- on prawns swimming in fiery olive oil. They are always accompanied by mountains of bread, which increased in quality with each of our visits, to dunk in the bright red oil.

Prawns on Plate

So the minute I got back, suffering twinges of withdrawal from not having had gambas in over twelve hours, I set about recreating them. I had bought back some chilli oil (piri-piri, just like in Nando’s, although slightly more authentic) and some peppery olive oil. I got some raw prawns from the local fishmonger and I was good to go. Using raw prawns definitely helps, although I find them slightly intimidating, as they produce a lovely juice that mingles with the olive oil. Not quite the same as when eaten on a Portuguese beach, but they’re still pretty delicious.

beach

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Vegessential: Quinoa Porridge with Roasted Beetroot, Apple and Ginger

Quinoa Porridge

My friend Paris has started a food and lifestyle website called Avocado Please. She writes interesting and informative articles on all manner of topics, from muesli to nail varnish. We decided to ‘collaborate’ by writing some recipes together, then making, styling and eating the food. I have recently started trying to incorporate much more veg into my diet, and have therefore been thinking more outside the box when it comes to using vegetables in a variety of different ways. The idea is to make vegetables a more essential part of our diets, hence Paris coining the genius ‘vegessential’ to describe our project. We decided to focus on one ingredient and experiment with how it can be used in a variety of dishes, both savoury and sweet. After much deliberation, considering among others avocados, sweet potatoes and kale, we eventually settled on beetroot. It’s pretty versatile, and has been reliably tested in cakes. It’s also cheap, and, as anyone whose ever grated a raw beetroot will testify, seems to go on forever.

beetroot montage

The idea is to demonstrate how you can get more out of one ingredient- focusing on how it can be used throughout the week, to reduce waste and get us all thinking more creatively about using vegetables. Beetroot usually comes elastic-banded together in a group of at least 4, and just grating them into salads can get a bit tedious. So, beetroot on your porridge anyone? Quinoa porridge, made by cooking the grain slowly in milk, is something that I’ve heard of on the grapevine (and seen on Instagram) but never tried. Something that might cause a frown among the less open minded of cooks. But I was prepared to go in with an open mind. We also added stewed apple and fresh ginger, to liven the proceedings up a bit.

Ingredients montage

Quinoa. However it’s pronounced – my Dad still insists on ‘keenoya’, even though I repeatedly insist that it’s ‘keenwa’ – it seems to be taking the health food world by storm. Usually the preserve of salads and the like, but rarely used in sweet dishes. The result, despite trying to go in with the aforementioned open mind, was…interesting. Pleasantly creamy and nutty, which was helped by the almond milk. But it was oddly savoury – maybe because quinoa is a taste and texture that I associate with savoury food. I think my mouth was slightly confused at being presented with quinoa and having to process that it was sweet. We roasted the beetroot in rice syrup, adding to the sweetness, but overall the dish was still too savoury for my liking. After all, I’m not one of those strange individuals who puts salt on their porridge – for me it’s got to be a sweet thing.  We could have equally made these ingredients into a salad, omitting the almond milk. A worthwhile experiment, but I think I might add more sugar next time.

Porridge

 

For the recipe and riveting beetroot-related facts, visit www.avocadoplease.com.

Blood Orange, Almond and Honey Cake

 

Blood Orange Cake

Blood oranges, for some reason, are so much more exciting than regular oranges. I always find the vermilion flesh a surprise – somehow I’m never really expecting it to be so bright. Blood oranges live up to their name by spurting out copious amounts of red liquid when squeezed. They have a pleasant grapefruit-like tartness, and seem to deserve much more of a fanfare than the common orange.

Montage

Sometimes I get a real hankering for cake. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I need to do something. What I love about syrupy drizzle cakes like this one is that there’s no tedious wait for the cake to cool: you can just tip the syrup over and dig in. There might be people who would suggest waiting until even this cake has cooled before you eat it, but i’m going to choose to ignore them, in favour of the nirvana that is oven-warm cake. Luckily, I had some willing volunteers to help me eat it, so I didn’t end up eating the whole thing myself, which would have been entirely possible.

Whole Cake

I decided to go down the same route as lemon drizzle, but with blood oranges and honey,  simmering down a syrup of blood orange juice and honey to pour over the warm cake. I added an extra sliced orange to the syrup, which goes marmalade-y and sweet when simmered with the honey. Using ground almonds in the cake as well as plain flour helps the cake soak up the flood of syrup that is poured over it.

Cake

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Butternut Squash Spread with Date Syrup

butternut squash dip

I’ve recently had two of my housemates from university come to visit. Food is one of the things that cements our friendship, having run a student food blog together (www.chocolatebudget.wordpress.com, if you’re interested). We had something of a dip extravaganza, making several different ones including baba ganoush, guacamole and this butternut squash one. All accompanied by pitta bread, olives and a great deal of reminiscing.

butternut

This spread is something of a revelation. It’s from one of my favourite cookbooks – ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. If you haven’t heard of Ottolenghi then please get to know him. Amy first introduced his recipes to me while we were at uni, and I promptly bought a copy of ‘Ottolenghi: The Cookbook’ for myself and several others. His first cookbook details the salads, pastries and other amazing things sold at his London based delis, incorporating his influences from all over the world. Whereas Jerusalem does what you’d expect: focuses on Middle Eastern food. I’d recommend getting both.

date syrup

One of the things that pops up a lot in Ottolenghi’s recipes is date syrup. Although it’s usually quite expensive, I’ve found a cheap source of it in my local Middle Eastern food shop. Other delights that they stock include massive tubs of tahini, pomegranate molasses, fig jam and dried sour cherries. The date syrup is not essential for this dish, but makes it a sublime experience, rather than merely an intensely pleasurable one.

with spoon

There is a lengthy description about how this dip should be served, something about spreading it onto a plate, making swirls in it with your knife and drizzling over the date syrup. The suggested amount is 2 teaspoons, bearing in mind that the dip is already very sweet just from the squash, but I found it difficult to be so restrained and drenched the whole lot in something approaching 2 tablespoons.

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