We went to a friend’s house on New Year’s Eve, rather than pay loads of money to eat out somewhere. I supplied the bubbles and a starter, whilst she made the main course. I also took this ridiculously easy-to-make chocolate fudge, which was a big hit.
It’s very simple to make and literally takes five minutes.
Here’s what you’ll need:
I cup chopped chocolate (I chopped up 1 x 150g bar of supermarket brand, milk chocolate – but use dark or white chocolate if you prefer)
170g tube of condensed milk
1/8 cup butter
1/8 cup peanut butter (if you don’t like peanut butter – make it 1/4 cup butter instead)
I also added a handful each of roughly chopped almonds and currants, but you can just as easily leave these out.
Here’s what you do:
Put the condensed milk, chopped chocolate, butter and peanut butter into a bowl and microwave at 800W for 2 minutes.
Take out, give it a good stir and put back into the microwave for a further 1 minute.
In the meantime, roughly chop the almonds and currants.
When the microwave pings, add the fruit and nuts to the mixture and give a final stir.
Line a plastic sandwich box (mine was 20 x 13 cms) with greaseproof paper and pour the thick mixture into it. Spread out into the corners and allow to cool slightly before putting into the fridge for an hour to chill.
Cut up into squares and ENJOY!
What’s your favourite recipe that is quick and easy to make?
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Last month, I started a new feature called Let’s Talk About Tapas, when I gave you a general overview of what to expect if you want to eat tapas in Spain.
Each month I will be telling you about different tapas, and often I will include a recipe so you can make them at home for yourself.
So, what are tapas and how did they originate?
Well, it’s thought that originally in the wine-making regions of Andalucía, a cover in the form of a small plate or lid was placed over glasses of wine to keep fruit flies away. Titbits of food were later placed on the lid to be eaten with the wine. Remember too, that the word “tapar” in Spanish means “to cover”, which is where we get the word “tapas” from.
Let’s get started with one of my favourite tapas – Boquerones en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar).
You can buy boquerones from fish merchants or any supermarket with a fish counter such as Mercadona, where a kilo costs around €3.
They are not very difficult to prepare and are absolutely delicious! When we first arrived to live in Spain and rented a house for the first twelve months in Frigiliana, my Spanish next door neighbour showed me how she prepared them.
First you need to head and gut the fish. Do this by holding each fish using two hands – with the tail in one hand and the head in the other. Squeeze behind the head and pull it off. Split open the fish with your fingers and take out the guts, backbone and pull off tail.
Rinse in cold water until the water runs clear and place the filleted fish white-side up into dish.
Sprinkle with salt and cover with white wine vinegar. Depending on how many fish you have, you can arrange them into layers – making sure you perform this same task with each layer. The top layer of fish needs to be covered with vinegar.
The boquerones will start to turn white almost immediately as they “cook” in the vinegar.
I usually cover the dish with clingfilm and pop it into the fridge overnight to marinade.
Next morning, drain the salty vinegar away and cover the boquerones with extra-virgin olive oil, lots of chopped garlic and a little freshly chopped parsley – and by lunchtime they will be ready to eat with freshly baked bread.
Eat your boquerones with a glass of chilled white wine or manzanilla (dry fino sherry).
What are your favourite tapas?
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Following on from my rather sombre post yesterday, I thought I’d cheer everyone up again – by feeding you!
I’ve made this dish for just about everybody who has ever visited us in Spain, and it’s been a winner every time. I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for some time, but for one reason or other I haven’t got round to it, but I’m not going to selfishly keep it to myself any longer. This is for you, Cathy – as promised!
The beauty of this dish is that you can do the preparation in advance, so that when your guests arrive, you’ll have plenty of time to relax with them, (enjoying a glass of wine), before you knock their socks off with a delicious dinner!
I love cooking and make most of my meals from scratch. For me, this dish is made all the sweeter by using lemons, oranges, almonds and mint growing in the garden. I’m pretty confident that you’ll love it, too – even if you don’t have your own orange tree to hand! :)
Let’s get cooking!
To make this tangy, lip-smacking, taste-bud-tingling treat for two people, you’ll need:
2 medium chicken breasts (skinned and cut into bite-sized pieces)
I medium onion (peeled and chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
2 large oranges (juiced – I also use any bits of crushed fruit)
1 large lemon (juiced – I also use any bits of crushed fruit)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons of chopped dates (take out the stone and cut into thirds)
1 tablespoon of almond nuts (chopped in half, if you prefer)
1 level teaspoon of ground cinnamon spice
Up to ¼ teaspoon of hot chilli powder (according to taste)
Handful of fresh mint leaves (chopped)
A few whole black peppercorns (optional)
Here’s what you do:
Put the diced chicken pieces and the chopped onion into a shallow dish.
In a plastic measuring jug, juice the oranges and lemon, adding any bits of crushed fruit. Stir in the crushed garlic, olive oil, cinnamon, chilli powder and half of the chopped mint, to combine the ingredients together. You should end up with between 300-400 mls of liquid.
Now, pour the juice mixture over the chicken and onions, add the chopped dates, nuts and whole black peppercorns.
Cover the dish with cling-film, pop in the fridge and leave the chicken to marinate for anything from 10 minutes to a couple of hours.
When you’re ready to start cooking, pick out the individual pieces of chicken with a pair on tongs, and gently fry them on a medium heat in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. (Make sure you have picked out every last piece of chicken from the marinade). Turn the chicken pieces and when they are just starting to brown slightly, add all the citrus liquid mixture to the frying pan.
Your dinner is now less than ten minutes from being ready!
Turn up the heat under the pan, and bring the mixture to the boil. Allow to simmer and as it does so, the mixture will begin to thicken, making the most delicious tangy sauce. If you need to thicken the sauce a little more, just turn up the heat.
Stir in the remainder of the fresh chopped mint and serve immediately.
I usually serve Moroccan chicken with brown rice, but it’s just as delicious if you team it up with cous-cous. There will be enough for two people using this quantity of ingredients. I tend to use one medium chicken breast per person and adjust the amount of ingredients to personal taste. It’s always best to have a spare orange or lemon to add to the juice mix, just in case you need a bit more liquid. If you love dates, put a few more in – they go wonderfully sticky. If you don’t have dates you can use sultanas instead. When cooking for more than two people, I’ve been known to use the juice of a couple of limes, as well.
The main thing is, have the confidence to alter this dish to suit yourself.
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Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
~ William Shakespeare ~
Most of us are familiar with at least the opening lines of Sonnet 18 by English playwright and poet, William Shakespeare, in which he compares his beloved Fair Youth to that of an English summer’s day.
suffered endured experienced many cool and rainy summer days in England over the years, when the BBQ I had planned for friends has been a total washout, or no-one could sleep at night because it was too humid, despite being only 17 Celsius.
Of course, it’s not always like that in England but, here in southern Spain, the weather, whilst retaining distinct seasons, is much more reliable.
The outdoor lifestyle was one of the main influencing factors for our move here, eight years ago.
So, what is a summer’s day in July or August like – east of Málaga?
We would typically expect the temperature to be between 30C – 35 Celcius (that’s 86 – 95 Fahrenheit) during the day, with overnight temperatures rarely dropping below 21C (70 degrees Fahrenheit). Clear blue skies are virtually guaranteed, with little or no rainfall and low humidity.
During August, the thermometer can sometimes touch 40C in the shade, so it’s vital to adapt your lifestyle accordingly. August days often see me wandering around the house and garden in a swim suit and loose-fitting sarong, with my hair tied up, wearing no make-up.
And, because we live in the countryside a few kilometres from the coast, days often go by without seeing another soul – and that suits me just fine.
Not only do many northern European tourists head down this way for their annual vacation, but the rest of the population of Spain seems to end up around these parts, too. So, we tend to stay at home, out of the way of the crowded restaurants and the lack of parking spaces, only venturing out when we need to buy groceries or if we choose to stroll along the promenade on a Saturday evening, before visiting a local chiringuito (fish restaurant).
I’m an early riser, so the first thing I do when I get out of bed is to throw all the windows and doors open, allowing the cool morning air into the house. Any chores that need doing are always completed well before 11am, by which time, the windows are closed to keep the warm air out.
As the sun continues it’s journey around the house, various blinds are pulled down over the windows to stop the heat from penetrating.
My days are spent writing, wandering nearby taking photographs, sipping cool drinks, trying to catch up with my list of books to be read, or simply taking a dip in the pool when I get a bit overheated. We have several cool, shady terraces where I choose to to locate my “office” for the morning.
Today’s lunch will be fillet of salmon with patatas a lo pobre, prepared earlier this morning, and made all the tastier knowing that the onions and green peppers have been grown in our vegetable patch. I’m pretty sure that we’ll have a chilled glass of wine with lunch, too. :)
This afternoon, there could be a siesta, another swim or time to catch up reading blogs I enjoy. I might even plan more of our next trip (to Portugal in October) or chat to friends around the world on the internet.
After sunset, the windows are once again thrown open, and it’s a delight to feel the cool evening air, as the delicious perfume of the night-scented jasmine pervades the surroundings.
One thing I love about hot, summer nights is the chance to have a swim after dark before hopping into bed. I always make sure that there are no outside lights shining from the house and, because we live in the countryside, there is virtually no light pollution. It´s quite surreal floating about in the pool on your back on an airbed watching the stars twinkling overhead.
Sleep comes easily after such a carefree day, with the open window and overhead ceiling fan keeping me cool.
So, east of Málaga, shall I compare thee to a summer’s day in England?
NO, I’ll just enjoy every day spent in this beautiful country I have adopted as my home, and take English summers as, and when, I choose to find them.
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