Pre-Birthday Balcony Party

For the first time in a very long while, I organized a little pre birthday get together for a small group of girlfriends. We haven’t gotten together in quite some time, so it felt amazing to just eat some canapes, have girl talk and enjoy a little bubbly. It’s my birthday next week, so this time around I love to organize a little celebration. It was an amazing sunny day, so we spent the majority of the time enjoying the heat on the balcony amongst all my growing flowers.  Apple trees are in full blossom, lilacs are starting to bloom and peonies are looking their best. We have officially opened rosé season and summer is at it’s best. Spending time with these ladies is always amazing, but especially now after much isolation, getting together felt even more special.

Smoked salmon on a small “blini” with a sage cream cheese topping

How to make mini blinis

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • About 1 cup milk

Mix everything together until it forms a thick batter. Cook “tablespoons” of batter on a non-stick pan over medium heat until the surface starts to bubble. Flip over and voilá, little blinis are formed! Let them cool before adding the toppings. If the batter looks too thin, add more milk and if it looks too thin, add more flour.

Blini Toppings

  • 1 packet cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon pesto
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • Smoked salmon slices

For the topping, make a cream cheese filling. Basically, mix together some cream cheese, finely chopped sage and a tablespoon of pesto from the jar. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Add a slice of smoked salmon on top and garnish with baby arugula and black pepper.

Gratinated mussels with a garlic chili butter

Puff pastry shrimp cocktail

To make the puff pastry:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400F)

On a lightly floured surface, place the (defrosted) sheet of puff pastry om top. I used a rectangular shape puff pastry sheet (that has many sheets in the packet) that needs no rolling. 1 rectangle sheet makes 1 puff pastry.

You need 2 cookie cutters (one larger, one smaller). Using the larger one, cut out circles from your puff pastry. Using a smaller cookie cutter gently mark half of the pastry circles making sure not to cut all the way through. Brush the unmarked pastry circles with a beaten egg. Place the marked circles on top of unmarked circles and brush again with an egg. Place on a baking tray and bake for 20 – 23 minutes until the puff pastry has risen and turned golden. Using a tip of a sharp knife, gently cut out caps from the pastry and dig out a little bit of pastry to make some room for the filling.

For the filling:

  • 1 cup chopped shrimps
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • Pinch of Salt/pepper
  • Garnish: baby arugula and seaweed/ fish roe

Mix everything in a bowl and add a generous spoonful into each puff pastry as they have cooled down. Garnish with black pepper, baby arugula leaves and a spoonful of seaweed roe.

Gone for hors d’oeuvres in Nice

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Nice, France

One of my absolute favourite things to do on a holiday, is to stop for a glass or two of rosé (well … a bottle really!) and have a little something to nibble on while awakening your taste buds. I love to watch the people around me, see the passion in their eyes and take in the lifestyle and culture presented to us.  Observing & learning from others, is a richness in traveling. I don’t remember the name of this particular restaurant, but it is in the old town, opposite of the restaurant Le Petit Maison that is located on 11 Rue Saint-François de Paule. We sit in a lovely secluded terrace that had olive trees around us, yet we were in the middle of the lively street with a lot of hassle around us.

Let me take you back to that moment: The evening is warm and the sun is slowly beginning to set, our skin slightly kissed looking fresh while we listen to french conversations around us. The language is beautiful and passionate very romantic in itself. There is an occasional cigar smell coming from my left but the vibrant pinch of lemon spreads in the air as I squeeze some on our garlic clams. We also share a plate of cold cuts with delicious terrine and pate on it.  I tear a piece of hot bread from the rustic paper bag, smear a dollop of blackcurrant jam on it with a slice of pate on it and take a mouthful. The taste is too good to even describe and combined with a sip of delicate rosé, allowed the flavours to burst in my mouth! Just heavenly!

Our hors d’oeuvres moment was what holiday is all about, we enjoyed great conversations and laughed until we had tears in our eyes! Chateau Minuty Cotes de Provence Rose et Or became one our favourite rosé wines on the trip because of its refined freshness and subtle elegance. It really goes with anything and is just perfect on a warm summer evening. After our tapas we continued to walk around the maze like streets enjoying Nice come to life. We headed for dinner at 10pm, just as the locals did. To sum it all up, food and traveling go hand in hand, the flavours of Southern France brought miles of joy to our trip!

xxx

Tapas Style Steamed Mussels with Garlic

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Tapas style Steamed mussels

Mussels are something that I overdose whenever in Spain or Italy, I just love them! I usually eat them in the traditional form of a soup, so I wanted to try something new today and create an eye-catching tapas dish. These Mediterranean tapas mussels are the perfect weekend getaway for a relaxing modern evening. They taste delicious with the slices of garlic and chili while the lovely green leaves add a degree of freshness. The plate looks quite spectacular without being pretentious and too fancy & has a gorgeous mixture of colours and a true feeling of seaside. This makes a great light lunch with a glass of chilled white wine or rosé especially if you are sitting by the sea in the summer! This dish also works as an amuse bouche at a cocktail party or just a cozy evening at home with your family and friends. The recipe is quick and easy, no fuss while it is all about the presentation.

How to make the steamed mussels?

In a heavy saucepan, melt some butter and add the onion and garlic and stir around for a couple of minutes until softened. Add some white wine & a bit of water and bring to boil. Add the mussels and cover the lid and cook over high heat until the mussels open, for about 8 minutes. Stir around once in a while. Discard any mussels that do not open. Ready to plate.

Open the mussels properly and arrange them beautifully on a plate. Add some baby arugula leaves on top, finely chopped chili that is mildly spicy and lots of fresh parsley. I made sure there was just a little bit of the broth on each mussel and bits of garlic and onion. Enjoy with rustic bread that is grilled in a bit of olive oil.

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Jamón ibérico & Melon

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‘Whats for dinner honey?’

As the holiday’s are upon us, I thought I would share this appetizer that works well for a dinner party. After feasting on heavy meals during the Christmas days, it may be nice to have something fresh in between. This would make a lovely New Years starter or just if you’re having friends over for a glass of champagne. Simple but significant. We received a special delivery from my family (who were just in Spain), a Jamón ibérico (aka pata negra) that tastes so delicious. The flavour immediately  takes me back to the Spanish tapas bars, where the food simply speaks for itself.  Jamón ibérico is made from black Iberian pigs that live off acorns giving the meat that special nutty aftertaste.

My version of jamon & melon is a bit of a twist from the traditional one, but nevertheless you can make it look your own. I sliced some cantaloupe melon on top of each other and added thin slices of the jamon in between. I added some radish, almonds and spring onions. I’ve also made a horseradish/mascarpone paste to the dish. For the paste you simply mix, sour cream, mascarpone, grated horseradish, and a pinch of sugar, salt and black pepper. You can also add a bit of lemon zest. In the end I’ve drizzled a bit of olive oil, black pepper and drops of thick fig balsamic vinegar.

Bon Appétit!

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Creamy Mussels with Smokey Bacon & Cider

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… Jamie Oliver style.

When we saw Jamie cooking this recipe on TV, we knew we had to give it a go! These mussels are juicy, soft and so delicious and so easy to make. A perfect Saturday lunch with a bunch of friends or family in between eating all this Easter lamb.  Happy Easter lovely readers xx

ingredients

  • Smoked Bacon
  • Olive Oil
  • 150ml Dry Cider
  • 1 Garlic Clove Finely Sliced
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche
  • Fresh Tarragon
  • Fresh Parsley
  • 1 kg Mussels

Toast

  • Thinly Sliced Rustic bread
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved
  • Extra virgin olive oil

* Place the bread into a hot oven that has rubbed garlic on it and a drizzle of olive oil

Directions

Add a generous amount of olive oil on a large pan on a high heat. Add the sliced bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon out of the pan, leaving the juices behind.

Time for the mussels. Remove the beard and throw away any bad ones (check to see if any of them are open just give them a little tap and they should close; if they don’t they’re no good to eat). Add the mussels to the hot pan with the garlic, cider and more olive oil. Close the lid and leave to steam for  about 3 minutes until they have opened. Shake the pan occasionally.

Next transfer the mussels to a large platter, leaving the juices behind in the pan. If any of the mussels have remained closed, throw those away. Now add in the crème fraîche and let it come to the boil and bubble away for a couple of minutes. Add the herbs and a little of the bacon and white pepper. Pour the sauce over your mussels and sprinkle the remaining herbs and bacon. Lay your toasts around the edge of the platter.

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Rustic Oxtail Stew

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oxtail stew in the making…

Do not let its rustic appearance scare you away, it may not look like anything special, but trust me.. it does wonders in the mouth. Slow roasted oxtail brings back some childhood memories of dining out in Spain. The way they do it is simple and brilliant but ever so messy. All you want to do is eat it with your hands and suck the juices of each bone as the locals demonstrate it. Yum Yum!

I feel oxtail is an underestimated cut (perhaps as it was associated as peasant food in the past) even though it has a fine taste where the meat simply falls off the bone and literally melts in the mouth… it almost tastes like the bone marrow in osso bucco…that just happens to be my favourite part! This stew recipe cannot go wrong and tastes just as good every single time. Of course what made this dish extra special was the fact that it was cooked in a stone oven for about 4-5 hours that added a taste of perfection that cannot be replicated in a regular oven. Oxtail is a typical tapas in Spain and tastes almost better the next day when reheated.

Heavenly Broth

… and it is so very important to make a broth from the juices as this adds extra flavour in future dishes. We made a roasted chicken the following day and the broth made a heavenly sauce to it.

This is basically done by saving all the liquid and vegetables from the stew, blend or sieve them into a smooth silky paste. Then you let the liquid reduce on a hot stove until it thickens. At this point you can freeze some of the heavenly juices or refrigerate it for upcoming dishes. When you use the broth, all you do is add a little cream to it and check for seasoning. Superb!

Stew ingredients

  • About 10 oxtails  (medium/large sized)
  • 1 Large carrot
  • 2 Celeries
  • 5 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Turnip
  • 2 Onions
  • 2-3 dl Red WIne
  • 3 Bayleaves
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Juniper Berries
  • 2-3 dl Tomato Puree
  • 2-3 dl Chicken/Vegetable Stock
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Pepper/Salt
  • 1 Chili

Directions

Preheat oven to 200 C. Chop all the vegetable in a large stewpan (carrot, celery, garlic, turnip, onion, chili) Then in a hot pan, sear the sides of each oxtail in butter so they gain a bit of colour. Place the oxtail on top of the vegetable. Pour the buttery juices off the pan into the stewpan. Add in the herbs, berries, a drizzle of olive oil, puree and red wine.  Add enough stock so the oxtails are covered. Add Seasalt and ground black pepper. Close the lid and place into oven for 4-5 hours.  Drop the temperature after 2 hours to 180 C. Check on them midway and give a good stir.

When they are done, serve the oxtail with a pinch of finger salt and sprinkled thyme or parsley. Remember to make the broth for the future. The oxtails taste so good just like this because they have been soaking up all the lovely flavours, we did not even use the broth for this.

Aubergine Mess with a full bodied wine.

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This social platter is best eaten with a group of friends or a romantic starter for two with forks digging directly in! This platter is relaxed, effortless and calls for a glass of good wine from a rustic glass. It was love at first sight when I came across this perfect plump purple and white stripped aubergine… I knew I had to buy it because it was too darling to leave behind, so this antipasto mess inspires from this perfect eggplant.

This platter calls to be nibbled on. It builds from a variety of flavours and fresh summer ingredeients. The strong, sweet-caramel taste of the roquefort combined with the smoky aubergine intensifies with a sip of tempranillo from Spain. The flavours merry and explode in my mouth and leave an elegant long aftertaste that just makes me crave for more.

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Fresh and so sweet baby Peas directly from my pea sprout on the balcony. Some of the peas have a beautiful white flower attached to them.

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Ingredients

  • 1 Eggplant
  • Baby Green Peas
  • Red Chili
  • Parsley
  • Black pepper/ Finger Salt
  • Strawberries
  • Plums
  • Avocado Oil
  • Watercress Leaves
  • Lime Juice
  • Blue Cheese (Roquefort)

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Directions

Begin to marinate the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in thin long slices. Place them on a plate and soak them in avocado oil, chopped parsley and black pepper for about half an hour.

Begin cooking the eggplant either on a grill or on a gas stove with a grill pan to get those beautiful imprints.  I used the latter and cooked the slices on a hot pan for about 3 minutes on both sides until golden brown. Remove to the side and leave to cool.

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Begin preparing the platter. Roughly place the eggplants on a chopping board. Add a pinch of finger salt on each one. On top, add sliced strawberries and crumble some blue cheese. Then add a finely sliced (half) chili and the watercress leaves. Add chopped parsley, plums and baby peas. Grind fresh black pepper and give it a good squeeze of lime in the end. Here you have it, a delicious mess of summer flavours.

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A fresh squueze of lime on top brings good acidity and lightens up the platter

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Wine Paring: 2004 Altos de Tamaron Ribera del Duero Reserva Fuego & Hielo

The aubergine platter has a mixture of strong flavours and the evening was rather chilly and dark so we decided to open a bottle of red wine with a lavish palate. My family adores this one and brings crates directly from Spain specifically due to its full-bodied flavour and refined long aftertaste.

It is a 2004 Altos de Tamaron Ribera del Duero Reserva Fuego & Hielo. This smooth tannin wine is a tempranillo (tinto fino or tinta del país) from Spain. It is a deep cherry red colour and works beautifully with roasts, lamb and dry crumbly manchego and jamón serrano. Ribera del Duero is a leading red wine region with Rioja and Priorat where large vineyards of tempranillo exists. As I take a piece of my aubergine mess and a sip of tamaron, the flavours unite and bring forth something new and aromatic. I taste intense fruit, spicy wood and a plush finish that lingers in the back of my mouth for quite some time.

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Malaga Tip: Mesón Iberico

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Address: Calle San Lorenzo, 27, 29001 Málaga, Spain

In the midst of Malaga Old town exists a local tapas bar called Mesón Ibérico. The place is packed with locals, which is always a good sign and the food is delicious. Many years ago, our local friend recommended this to us and we have been coming back ever since. Do not let the rough interior fool you, take a stand on the bar and start ordering tapas while sipping on a tinto de verano. We ordered off the menu, from the list and from the counter. My all time favourite favourite is the chili saffron scallops.

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Spanish Style Tapas Meatballs

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Juicy Spanish style Albondigas Meatballs make the perfect tapas. I’ve had these countless times in the crowded tapas bars of Spain and they always taste just as good. These are best reheated as the sauce begins to intensify in flavour as it sits and marinades for a while.  So, this is a convenient tapas if you have friends coming over as everything can be done in advance. for serving, all you need is a fresh baguette to scrape the succulent tomato juices of the plate.

The deep red colour erodes from the smoked paprika and chorizo that also adds a numerous amount of Spanish style flavours. I’ve added the chorizo and chili as extra components (non traditional to the recipe) but I feel it adds a good spicy kick to the mixture.

Alternatively, you can serve these as a main course with pasta.

Meatball Ingredients

  • 700 g Lean Ground Beef (or a mixture of pork and beef)
  • Butter
  • 2 Eggs
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Dried Parsley
  • 1 whole Chili
  • 1 Onion
  • Handful of Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Garlic Gloves
  • Smoked Paprika Spice
  • Salt/ Black Pepper
  • Sour cream or Water (optional)

Tomato Sauce Ingredients

  • Butter
  • 1 Large Carrot
  • 1 Celery
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 5 Tomatoes
  • Generous pinch of Saffron
  • Fresh thyme / Rosemary/ Parsley & Basil
  • Bay Leaves
  • Tomato Puree
  • Salt / Black Pepper
  • 1 dl Meat or Chicken stock
  • 1 dl Red wine
  • 2 tsp Sugar
  • Optional: Small handful of Chorizo Sausage

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Directions

In a large bowl: crack 2 eggs, add the lean ground beef (or mixture of pork/beef), breadcrumbs, finely chopped chili/onion and a handful of parmesan. Grate in a couple of garlic cloves. Mix this well and season with salt, pepper, parsley and smoked paprika. The mixture should be moist but not too moist so it falls apart. If the texture is too dry, add a bit of sour cream. Roll the meatballs on a plate and prepare the tomato sauce.

In a sauce pan, add a generous amount of butter and finely chopped carrots, onion, garlic, celery and tomatoes and chorizo. Grate in the garlic cloves. Let this simmer (lid on) for about 10 minutes on low heat and add in fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary and basil. Add a couple of bay leaves, saffron, the sugar and thick tomato puree. Add the stock and wine and let the sauce thicken and simmer for about 30 minutes. Puree the mixture so it becomes a bit smoother and leave it on low heat as you begin preparing the meatballs.

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Preheat the oven to 180 C. Begin frying the meatballs in a saucepan (medium heat) with some butter. Add salt and pepper. Fry on all sides so they become golden brown and place on an oiled oven dish.  Pour the tomato sauce on top and the buttery juices of the pan and place into oven. After 7 minutes drop the heat to 150 and let it cook for about 20 minutes.

Serve with fresh herbs, such as parsley and thyme and ground black pepper. Indulge the juices with a slice of fresh rustic bread.

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