Spaghetti with Anchovies & Onions

Spaghetti with Anchovies & Onions

This is another perfect lockdown larder recipe. If you love anchovies, you’ll definitely have a tin or a jar or two of these in your cupboard, and everything else is pretty standard stuff standard stuff which most people will have in. It’s a Nigella Lawson recipe, which I did adapt slightly as I didn;’t have absolutely everything, but it turned out fine.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4-6 so adapt accordingly)

  • 2 large onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon soft light brown sugar
  • 12 anchovies (or 1 x 60g / 2oz can in olive oil)
  • 15 grams butter
  • tiniest pinch of ground cloves – didn’t have cloves so omitted these
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 125 millilitres full fat milk
  • 500 grams linguine (bigoli, bucatini, perciatelli or other robust pasta) – just normal, bog-standard dried spaghetti
  • 1 bunch freshly chopped fresh flatleaf parsley – no fresh parsley, unfortunately, the one thing I think it could have benefitted from
  • Salt & pepper

It’s another very easy recipe. We did follow it to the letter, but I’m sure you could do it even quicker by just mixing the onions, garlic and anchovies into the cooked spaghetti, but the creamy sauce did make all of the difference and elevated it a little from just a pasta dish, to one with a bit of a wow.

METHOD

  • Finely chop the onions & garlic and cook, in a little oil until soft, then add the brown sugar and cook for a further 10 minutes
  • Chop the anchovies into very small pieces and add to the onion/garlic mix, until they start to disintegrate, then stir in the butter (and the pinch of ground cloves at this stage), followed by a tablespoonful of water
  • When it is all combined, gradually stir in the milk, and when it is a puree, take the pan off the heat
  • Cook the spaghetti and when done drain, then tip the anchovy & onion sauce into the pasta, mixing it round so that the strands are coated
  • Season according to taste
  • Mix the roughly chopped parsley into the pasta, keeping some aside
  • Serve in warm bowls and sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top

 

Stinky Baked Cheese

Stinky Baked Cheese

There’s nothing more mouth-watering than a strong baked cheese, served with warm crusty bread. It always seems a very decadent way to eat, but in reality, it’s not – it’s just hot cheese. What makes it decadent is what you do with it, and the kind of cheese you use. I think the stinkier the better – we’ve used some cheeses that are so overpowering, they’ve had to sit outside until we’re ready to bake them. But, a good old fashioned brie or camembert is as good as any, especially as these are so widely available.

How We Do Our Stinky Cheese

It’s so simple. The cheese (with rind) is baked in its wooden box – this should ensure no spillage, but just to be on the safe side, you could wrap the box in foil. The oven temperature should be 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4 (fan oven 160C) – no higher. Score across the rind on the top of the cheese and push in sliced garlic (or small cloves) and small sprigs of rosemary. Splash white wine over the top, and if you fancy it with a bit of a kick, add a sprinke of chilli flakes.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, by which time you will have a gooey, oozy cheese, packed full of flavour. My favourite way to eat this is dunking in warm crusty bread, accompanied by a dry, white wine. Super delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

Ipša Wine Bar, Oprtalj, Istria

Ipša Wine Bar, Oprtalj, Istria

Ipša, in their own words, is

…a family estate which has been producing extra virgin olive oil and wine for many years…situated in Ipši, a small hamlet surrounded by olive groves in the vicinity of Oprtalj, a picturesque medieval village in north western Istria…

We’re very lucky to live somewhere so close to somewhere that produces consistently award winning olive oils and wines – and even luckier now, because they have recently opened a wine bar in Oprtalj.

Oprtalj is beautiful – a fortified, walled town, high up in the hills, full of cobbled streets, ancient dwellings, some inhabited, some being renovated and some crumbling and returning to nature. Until recently, it only had two restaurants and a couple of shops, facilities wise, so the addition of a very unpretentious, but exquisitely styled wine bar, is fantastic.

We had friends visiting from Didsbury last week and so decided that this was the perfect opportunity to do our first recce of the newly opened wine bar. Housed in what used to be an antique shop, it has the perfect vantage. The little outdoor terrace looks out onto the rolling Istrian hills and vineyards, across to the shimmering Adriatic. To the side of the terrace, are Istrian stone wall seats, adding a little more space, and looking across to the stunning coral pinky/terracotta medieval loggia. Inside is very contemporary – cool minty green walls, light blond wooden shelving, braced with industrial metal. Artworks featuring Istrian farm tools – original tools, mounted into frames. Bottles of wines and olive oils line the shelving. Handpicked flowers from the fields around decorate small handmade tables. And superb music. It’s actually quite unusual to hear music in Istrian bars, but La Musica della Mafia was just so right in the surroundings. Attention to detail is the key here – everything is on point and has been clearly well thought out. The logo (above) is beautiful, and the information brochure, really well designed. Ticked all of our design boxes 🙂

But, what of the wine, because this is after all why we came here? With a very limited selection – the only wines are from Ipša themselves – it doesn’t take too long to choose. We opted for a bottle of the white Malvasia, which was delicious. Honey coloured and crisp and dry, it was the perfect accompaniment to the late afternoon sunshine. We also opted for a plate of cheeses and cured meats and olives – perfect. In fact, the cheese was so good, we headed off a few days later to the supplier – Latus Dairy – to bag some for ourselves 😉

Wines are a little more expensive here than other places nearby, BUT – and this is a very important but – much, much less expensive than you would pay for a very decent bottle of wine back in the UK. Ours was around the £15 mark, but the quality was very evident. Local house wines are excellent, but sometimes, it’s nice to pay that little bit more and get a little bit more.

All in all, we think the wine bar is a fab addition to Oprtalj – our first visiting friends were hugely impressed! As great as Burton Rd, in West Didsbury is, you can’t beat a great bottle of wine, in hot sunshine, looking out to The Adriatic. And this, just across the road…

This is not a paid or sponsored post – and we paid for everything when we visited. We just wanted to do a tiny bit to help spread the word about a fantastic new venture, run by lovely people in a beautiful town 🙂

Lockdown Larder : Oaty Apple & Cinnamon Crumble

Lockdown Larder : Oaty Apple & Cinnamon Crumble

I am not a baker. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I can cook. I can follow a recipe, sometimes go a bit off-piste, and I’m definitely OK with one-pot stews and soups and casseroles. But, baking. As in cakes that go in the oven – I prefer to leave these to these experts, as they always just seem so complicated and so full of ingredients, which, in their raw state, leave me a bit puzzled. Too many kinds of flour and sugar and too many ways to mix mixtures. Especially when you are trying to buy in either an Italian or a Croatian supermarket and re reliant on translation apps for the ingredients.

But that was until we were given this as a present…

…a book, full of recipes, all of which are done in one tin. One roasting tin. Utterly genius! A fair few have been tried and tested but I’ve tended to avoid the back section – the cakes and desserts. These pages in any recipe book I own, rarely have splogdes of cooking evidence on them as I don’t venture near the back of the books. But I decided to be brave and tackle what looked looked like a fairly easy recipe – an apple crumble. With all ingredients sourced – and not easy, I can tell you, when buying in a Croatian or an Italian supermarket – I set about Operation Crumble.

Pre-heat oven to 180 (fan) / 200 / gas mark 6

Ingredients for the cake:

3 apples core and sliced
Juice of half a lemon
225g softened, unsalted butter
225g soft, light brown sugar
4 free range eggs
225g self-raising flour
half teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of ground all-spice
1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon (or, if you’re like me, a very heaped tsp)

Ingredients for the crumble topping:

25g demerara sugar (soft brown sugar can be used as an alternative)
25g unsalted softened butter
25g plain flour
25g oats

I find it easier to get all of the ingredients measured out first, so that I’m not continually stopping and starting and so that I can keep the work top – which isn’t massive in size – as clutter free as possible. The process is pretty simple and straightforward – I use an electric whisk too, to mix everything, as even with softened butter, it is a bit tedious doing it all by hand. So, whisk the butter and sugar until smooth and then whisk in the eggs one by one. Gradually stir in the flour, spices and baking powder until all combined.

Line the tin with greaseproof baking paper and spoon in the mixture. I leave coring and slicing the apples until this point so that they don’t start to turn to brown and overlap them on top of the mixture, adding the dash of lemon juice to again prevent browning.

Now beat the demerara (or soft light brown) sugar and butter together, then stir in the flour and oats and work together with your fingertips into a rough crumble. Scatter over the apples.

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Leave it to cool on a wire rack and the serve as you prefer – with a cup of tea, a dollop of cream or creme fraiche, or as we did because we had it in the freezer, a nice big spoonful of Bailey’s ice-cream.

 

Seriously The Best Lentil Shepherd’s Pie…

Seriously The Best Lentil Shepherd’s Pie…

…so claimed the author of the recipe on the website. And as we were craving a Shepherd’s Pie – we don’t eat minced meat and had no Quorn mince left – we decided to test out this rather bold claim and give this vegan option a whirl. It was easy to make, if a bit more time consuming than our usual efforts, but well worth every second of preparation.

The onions, carrots, mushrooms, garlic and herbs were gently sauteed first, in a skillet with the potatoes boiling away in another pan. The veggies were taken off the heat when they started to soften and brown, and the potatoes were mashed. Into the mash went four cloves of crushed garlic (I know, but we are self-isolating!), a tin of coconut milk and a cup of rice milk and seasoned. This was then put to one side – and I defy you not to take sneaky spoonfuls! – and a tin of lentils were cooked in a bouillon stock for about half an hour.

The vegetables which had previously been sauteed, were added to the lentil mix with peas and a splash of soy sauce, and simmered until most of the stock had gone. The mashed potatoes were scooped on top, flattened out with a fork, and popped in the oven for about 30 minutes.

I can honestly say, it was one of the best Shepherd’s Pies we’ve ever made. If you’re a meat-eater, you might baulk at the idea of lentils instead of minced meat, but the flavours are so intense, I think even an ardent carnivore would be impressed. However, the best part it is the garlic coconut mashed potato. I always need to have my mashed potato layered through with different cheeses to give it more flavour, and with a good sprinkling of either very strong cheddar or parmesan for the crust, and I did wonder how I’d cope without my cheese fix. However, I barely missed the cheese – this mashed potato really is the king of mashed potatoes! Creamy and garlicky and rich – and still with a crust.

So, yes, that bold claim is quite correct – this is seriously the best lentil shepherd’s pie. Give it a try – you will not be disappointed! The original recipe can be found here – and I’m already trawling the website for the next meal inspiration…

The recipe is on an American website, so measurements & quantities are slightly different – we just went with what we thought would work and didn’t pay too much attention to the measurements. All worked out well in the end 😉

 

 

The Honey House, Ljubljana

The Honey House, Ljubljana

The lovely story of The Honey House in Ljubljana…

A respectful attitude towards nature allows us to maintain the harmony of life. We are proud to offer you a piece of nature that has been prepared with the utmost care, immersed in tradition and knowledge, which has been transmitted from generation to generation. Our grandfather had kept bees since childhood. As an 11 year-old boy, with straw basket in hand, he asked a neighboring beekeeper for a swarm of bees. The number of hives grew over the years and stayed with him throughout his life. While observing the life of bees and other animals on the farm, he built a respectful attitude towards nature and life. He carried-over his attitude and knowledge to the family with great enthusiasm, and raised the next generation of beekeepers. Thus, our father also lovingly cared for bees. In a more stressful and fast-paced life, he found pleasure, tranquility and contact with nature though beekeeping. He “infected” the entire family with his dedication and love for bees, and invited us all to participate in beekeeping. A small beekeeper thus slowly grew into the Krevs family beekeepers.

We love this shop and its products. The honey is absolutely exquisite, and comes in a variety of flavours – acacia, chestnut, flower, forest and fir. We’ve sampled them all and bought a few, but the stand out favourites are forest and fir. They smell divine – woody, and foresty and intense and deep, but are much lighter than you’d imagine to taste. The Forest Honey always go quickly. We can’t wait to get back to Ljubljana to stock up, as we have none of this left and are sparingly using our last jar of Fir Honey. If you close your eyes and inhale it, you are transported to the mountains…

But it’s not just the honey we’re fans of. On our last trip before Christmas, we also purchased some intensive, hydrating cream – not knowing how valuable this little pump action bottle would be! Now that vigorous and regular washing of hands is the order of every day, we’re finding that hands are a little drier than usual – and this nutrient packed cream is amazing. Made with beeswax, aloe vera, shea butter, propolis and honey, only a small amount is needed to re-hydrate dry skin. If only we’d been able to see into the future and realise how much we’d be using it, we’d have bought a few more pots of it. However, it can be purchased online, so as we’re fairly sure we’re not going to be getting to Ljubljana any time soon, I’ll definitely be placing an order for delivery.

This is not a promotional blog and we paid full price for the products. Just wanted to share some lovely products…

Always a Way…

Always a Way…

Renovating a property can be very expensive. Even though things out here are often less expensive than back in the UK, we don’t have a bottomless money pit and so sometimes, rather than splashing the cash, we look for alternatives. And, currently, spray paint is proving to be worth its weight in gold. Quite literally…

Rather than continually buying new *things*, we’re starting to give new leases of life to things we already have. And, we’re particularly delighted with the new look we’ve given to the (unused) vintage French woodburner. Once a blue ceramic woodburner, this has been sitting outside for quite a long time. The enamel was fading, the metal work rusting and it was just looking a bit sorry for itself. But, a couple of gans of gold spray paint – and just look at her now!The Hektar floorlamp from IKEA was fine in the brushed anthracite finish, but with a can in my hand, I couldn’t resist a spray. It’s totally transformed the little corner of the living room where I have my desk set up. All of a sudden, working from home seems a tiny bit more glamorous!

So many new looks for so few pennies.

Since we finished renovating our kitchen, one thing has really niggled me. The walls are painted in gorgeous Hague Blue and the units are concrete style. We’ve tried to keep accessories to a minimum, so as to avoid the usual cluttered look we usually have in a kitchen, and what we have is either copper or burnt orange. Consequently, the silvery stainless steel microwave, has bugged me as it just didn’t match with anything. I’ve looked and looked, trying to source one – but no luck. Baby blue, powder blue – yes. Navy blue – no.

So, there was ever really only one answer – take it into our own hands!

Probably a bit mad, but as I had exactly the colour I wanted in a spray can, it was worth a go! And do you know what? For just under four euros I have the microwave that I’d visioned, which would fit perfectly in the new kitchen…

As they say, where there’s a will, there’s *always* a way ?

Lockdown Larder

Lockdown Larder

We’re currently in proper lockdown here in Istria. As of last week, a permit has to be applied for if you want to travel to a different municipality. Borders are closed so we can’t – and at the moment, definitely don’t want to – hop across to Italy to stock up on our favourite parmesan and proscuitto and so we’re driving over to Umag, on the coast, to shop at Lidl and Spar. Although obtaining a permit is relatively easy – we have residency here and so just need to email the appropriate office – we’re much happier not being out and about, preferring to live a much more self-sufficient lifestyle, at the moment. Rather than multiple weekly trips to a supermarket, we’ve decided that once a week, at most – less, if we can be very organised – is the best way forward. This also means we are finally getting to the back of our kitchen cupboards and rationalising the many packets and tins and bags of foodstuff we’ve accumulated. Rice, pasta, pulses – all there, and because a lot of it is at the back, and we can’t see it, more of the same stuff has been bought over time. So, now seems to be the right time, to actually start using it.

Coconut & Lentil Dahl

With a glut of tins of lentils, it was decided that a dahl was on the cards. I found this recipe from Deliciously Ella and liked it because a) most of the ingredients were available and b) a bit of coconut flavour is always welcome. It also looked easy -peasy – which it was – and appealed to my liking of chuck-everything-in-the-one-pot kind of cooking.

  • 400g green lentils, washed and drained
  • 2x 400g cans coconut milk
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon hot chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes, optional

In the end, I only used one tin of coconut milk, because I used a jar of passata instead of chopped tomatoes and so there was quite a lot of excess liquid to cook off. I also used more of the spices, than in the recipe – probably double the quantities as we like our food to be flavoursome and spicy. The onions, when first sauteed in oilve oil, were also quite heavily seasoned with black pepper from the grinder.

It really is the easiest thing to make – taking the recipe from Deliciously Ella (linked to above), I did adapt things slightly. I added a packet of black puy lentils to give it a bit more texture, and with hindsight, I maybe used too much passata, so that the final colour was more orangey than the usual yellowy-mustard colour of dahl. The chopped tomatoes, as suggested in the original recipe, would probably be better if you didn’t want it to be over-tomatoey. Last night’s was served with roasted new potatoes, which were cooked in a mixture of olive oil, spicy paprika and chilli flakes. We also had some cooling natural yoghurt on the side, although our herbs haven’t been planted up yet, and so sadly, no coriander as a garnish. That’s our next project – an old IKEA CD cabinet, which has been sprayed anthracite, and which is about to be planted up with herb seeds. Perfect compartments to keep them organised.

Because there is so much left over, it’s going to be the base of tonight’s dinner. In the fridge, there is a lovely Italian chorizo which will be fried off with a bit more spice and added to the dahl – and this time, I’m going to add a fair few sprinkles of turmeric to try and achieve that yellow colour. Nice to see the kitchen cupboard staples actually finally being used…

 

Very Little Stir Risotto

Very Little Stir Risotto

With our lovely new kitchen, we are trying to be more organised, have food in, take advantage of our new cooking facilities and eat more at home. We love risotto and have been meaning to try out the Three Cheese Baked Risotto spotted in a Donna Hay cookery book – bought primarily for the beautiful design, so it’s been a bonus to find that the recipes are really, really good!

No Stir Risotto Recipe by Donna Hay

The best thing about this baked risotto is that it’s baked. No standing stirring. Just shove it in the oven – and if you spend a teeny bit extra on the parmesan and prosciutto, I promise you, it is delicious. You’ll never stand, continuously stirring a risotto, again ?

SERVES TWO

  • 1 cup (200g) arborio rice
  • 2.5 cups (625 ml) stock (we used vegetable stock, but Donna Hay suggests chicken)
  • 1 leek, very finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of chopped oregano leaves
  • 30g butter
  • grated parmesan (as much as you like!)
  • salt & pepper
  • creamy blue cheese, roughly sliced
  • 150g fresh ricotta
  • 4 slices of prosciutto

Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Place rice, stock, oregano leaves & butter in a baking dish and cover tightly with a lid or piece of foil. Bake for 40 minutes or until the rice is soft. Stir in the parmesan, salt & pepper and continue to stir for 4-5 mins or until the risotto is creamy and the remaining stock has been absorbed. Divide the risotto between serving plates and top with blue cheese, ricotta, chopped prosciutto and remaining parmesan.

First Impressions

First Impressions

A simple bar of soap, but packaged so exquisitely, that I *had* to buy not one, but three bars. The design is simple and quite retro, with a brown paper wrapper, reinforcing the idea that you are purchasing something good. Something that could have been made on an Italian agriturismo, using natural products from the land. Of course, it wasn’t – it was probably mass prouduced in a factory, but the design suggests handmade by independent artisans…

Saponette al Miele

The chosen fonts are beautiful – simple, but suggesting this is a product you can rely on. Harking back to a simpler time. We’re not often fans of all capitalisation, but it works here. And being a sucker for all things Italian, the description, for me, is just very alluring…

Saponette al Miele

“Vegetable honey soap enriched with natural bee production extracts…”

First impressions do count. They have to count, because in a world where we have images & messages rammed in our faces constantly, you don’t often get that second chance…