Mutton Casserole

mutton casserole

Mutton is the name given to meat from grown up sheep, tasting similar to lamb, but with a slightly more prounced flavour and firmer texture, so ideal for stews and casseroles. A sheep’s meat is called lamb up until it’s one year old, then hogget, between 13 months and two years. Mutton is the meat from sheep (castrated males and females) that have grown two permanent icisor teeth – these are generally 3+ years old.

Mutton used to be very popular in the UK and prized for it’s flavour, but in the last 50 years or so it has lost out to lamb, which can be roasted quickly and eaten rare. You may think you’ve never eaten mutton, but it’s very popular on the Indian subcontinent, so if you’ve eaten lamb curry in a restaurant, it will almost certainly have been mutton and I bet it tasted good!

mutton shoulder

I was walking down the street this week, looking in shop windows and came across mutton shoulder at 5.99 per kg! For a second, I thought, “That’s good, but I’ve already got supper arranged for tonight.” A moment later I thought, “Carpe diem!” …and I was straight in there discussing cricket! If you look to the right of the above picture, you’ll see that the mutton leg cost 6.99 per kg which is amazing value for a slow cooked joint of meat, at a time when a leg of lamb (in the supermarket) costs more than double!

chopped mutton

So, driven by the spirit of the Romans, I bought a kilo of mutton shoulder and the butcher obligingly chopped it into bite sized pieces on the bone. Initially I was inclined to cook a chilindrón, but I strayed from my own recipe, relative to having green chilli peppers in the fridge that needed to be used up.

Mutton Casserole recipe (serves 4):

1kg mutton on the bone (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
2 sticks celery (chopped)
2 small green chilli peppers (chopped, seeds removed)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon thyme
a pinch chipotle chilli (or to taste)
2 bay leaves
a large squirt or two anchovy paste (or to taste)
1 pint lamb stock
a glass dry white wine
a splash red wine vinegar
a splash sherry vinegar (or to taste)
a handful fresh coriander (chopped)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper

a little chopped coriander (or parsley) to garnish

mutton browning

Season (with salt and pepper) then brown the meat in hot olive oil – do this in two or three batches or the meat will poach and go sticky.


Remove the mutton to a plate, turn the heat down and cook the onion gently until it goes soft and transluscent.


Mix in the celery, sweet peppers and green chilli peppers.

cumin and coriander seeds

Warm the cumin and coriander seeds until you can smell their aroma, then grind them with coarse sea salt and a few black pepper corns using a mortar and pestle.


Add the ground herbs with a lttle thyme and chipotle chilli .


Return the meat to the casserole.


Pour on the wine and stock, add the bay leaves, red wine vinegar and anchovy paste, then stir well.

chopped coriander

Chop a handful of fresh coriander and mix in. Bring to a simmer, cover with the lid and cook in a pre heated oven at 150º C for 3 hours or until tender. Check the seasoning and add a little sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar). This sweetens and cuts the fattiness of the mutton. It’s a bit like the way in which mint sauce (containing vinegar) regulates the fatty taste with roast lamb and gravy. If you wish, you can allow the stew to cool, at which point the fat will float on the top and can be scooped off with a spoon, though IMHO it’s not necessary.

cacerola de oveja

When ready, sprinkle on a little more chopped coriander to garnish, then serve with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Oveja Tinta Graciano, from Bodegas Fontana in Uclés (Castilla-La Mancha) with the mutton casserole.

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Sopa de Fideos (Pheasant with Noodles)

sopa de fideos

Sopa de Fideos, or often just Fideos, is a Spanish pasta soup, originally cooked with a beef broth and later with chicken, as Sopa de ave con fideos. Fideos were so popular, that it’s the Spanish who took pasta to the New World and not the Italians! Mexican Sopa de Fideo is a basic food staple – I hadn’t realised that fideos were popular in Mexico until I saw a film about a Mexican barbecue chef, quite recently. As I mentioned above, chicken fideos are probably the most common, often made with stock and no meat – on a menú del día in Spain they would say these are vegetarian! However, sopa de fideos made with vegetables and vegetable stock is growing increasingly popular. To add something a little diffent to my sopa de fideos, I used a Faisán (pheasant) and made the stock from scratch.


Pasta is a traditional Spanish food, though most people associate it more with Italy and China. The Chinese were probably the first civilisation to make noodles with rice, perhaps as far back as 200 BC. In Rome, Lagana was first mentioned by Horace, writing in 1st Century AD – these were sheets of fried dough.  A recipe for lagana was recorded by the Greek Athenaeus of Naucratis in 2nd Century AD – sheets of dough made with wheat flour and lettuce juice, which were spiced and fried. The recipe is attributed to Chrysippus of Tyana from 1st Century. By the 5th Century recipes for lagana refer to layers of dough and a meat stuffing, which is probably the origin of lasagne.

Itrium is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud, as a boiled dough popular in Palestine from the 3rd Century AD onwards. This is also documented by Galen a Greek philosopher, physician and surgeon in the 2nd Century AD, as itrion. Pasta in this form was probably eaten in the Levant as far back as 500 BC.

People of the Maghreb were eating couscous by the 11th and 13th Centuries. Couscous is made of  little sun dried drops of durum wheat semolina, rehydrated and cooked in a steamer, over a stew. Some food historians believe that the origin of couscous making, may date back to several millennia earlier.

Marco Polo definitely did not bring pasta to Italy from China in 1295! This is a myth started by the US National Macaroni Manufacturers’ Association, in 1929, to promote pasta in America.

Pasta in the form of lagana, may have arrived in Spain with the Romans and it was most definitely popular after the Moorish conquest. By the 13th Century there were at least 4 types of pasta in Spain: small spindles fidawus, balls al-muhammis, larger balls zabzin and short macaroni aletría. Note the Arabic names – fidawus is almost certainly the origin of fideos (above) also used for making fideuà (Catalan spelling, the Spanish spelling has the accent going the other way – fideuá).

fideuá gallo

I bought the above fideuá from a supermarket in Barcelona – there were several types, made by the same local manufacturer – being in a hurry, I grabbed these. This is the largest version, with a hole in the middle, to maximise absorption of stock. It is not the kind most often used for sopa de fideos, the most common has the thickness of Vermicelli or Angel Hair pastaFideos No 0. You can crunch up vermicelli to make 1 inch (2.5cm) fideos and in America, fideos are available in Mexican shops. I’ve seen some modern recipes where they don’t bother with short pasta and just use Angel Hair straight from the packet.

Pheasant Stock:

1 pheasant
1 large onion (cut in half)
6 cloves garlic (peeled)
1 large carrot (cut into 3)
2 sticks celery (cut in half)
1 large leek top
a few sprigs rosemary, sage and thyme
2 bay leaves
2 pints water
olive oil to brown the pheasant
sea salt and cracked black pepper


Take the pheasant out of the fridge an hour or so before coking and allow to come to room temperature.


Season the bird with salt and pepper, then brown all over in hot olive oil.

haciendo caldo

Add the herbs, stock vegetables and water to the casserole, bring to a simmer, skim off any scum on the surface of the liquid, then remove to a pre heated oven at 150ºC for 60 minutes. Turn the pheasant over half way through cooking.

caldo de faisán

Take the pheasant out of the stock and allow to cool, remove the solid ingredients and put the liquid stock through a sieve. Remove the meat from the bones and chop into bite sized pieces.

Receta de Sopa de Fideos (serves 4):

poached pheasant meat (diced, bones and skin removed)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
2 tomatoes (grated)
1 large carrot (chopped)
2 sticks celery (chopped)
1 leek (sliced)
1 small red pepper (chopped)
1 small green pepper (chopped)
200g fideos (or broken Angel Hair pasta)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera dulce
a large squirt anchovy paste
a glass dry white wine
a splash or two of sherry vinegar
2 pints pheasant sock
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil
a handful parsley (chopped) to serve


Sofreír (poach) the onion in olive oil until it goes soft.


Stir in the garlic and grate on the tomatoes (cut in half, grate the wet side and discard the remaining skin). Allow to cook gently for 5 – 10 minutes.


Mix in all the other chopped vegetables.

verduras en caldo

Pour on the stock, wine and sherry vinegar, then squirt in the anchovy paste.


Sprinkle on the Pimentón de la Vera


and add the bay leaves. Allow the alcohol to evaporate for 5 minutes. Check the seasoning and simmer with the lid on for about an hour.


Return the meat to the pot and continue simmering for 30 minutes.


In the meantime, toast the fideos in hot olive oil until they have become golden. The hob temperature should be quite hot and you need to stir constantly or they will burn.


Add the fideos to the soup.

sopa de fideus

Cook until the fideos become al dente 5 – 10 minutes. They will puff up and absorb some of the stock, thickening the soup. Add more sock or water if necessary.


Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread. If you are feeling fancy, you can dress the soup up with a little chopped egg and jamón serrano or grate on vintage Manchego cheese, which is similar (but different) to Parmesan.

I recommend drinking a glass or two of Faisà (pheasant) Merlot Ecològic 2021 from Vins de Taller in the Empordà region of Catalunya with the sopa de fideos.

Other pheasant posts

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Moroccan Liver

moroccan liver

Liver cooked on a skewer (Kouah) and served as a kebab is very common street food in Morocco. This is often calf’s or lamb’s liver (Boulfaf), wrapped in caul fat. The liver can be interspersed with other offal, such as heart. The meat is eaten straight from the skewer or in a flat bread sandwich.

There are many variations on this theme along the Southern Mediterranean coast. You will also find spiced chicken liver served on hummus in the Levant. Note the inclusion of pimentón de la Vera, which has become popular relative to centuries of interaction with Spain and the exodus of Moriscos when they were expelled from Iberia.

Moroccan Liver recipe (serves 4):

500g lamb’s liver
1 small onion (sliced)
a teaspoon cumin seeds (ground)
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 star anise
a large pinch sea salt
a large pinch ground black pepper
a good splash of sherry vinegar
2 dessertspoons extra virgin olive oil

To serve:
fresh coriander (chopped)
a squeeze of lemon juice

lamb’s liver

Clean the liver and removed any tough bits.


Warm the cumin seeds, then grind with a little salt, using a mortar and pestle. Put the liver into a non reactive bowl and sprinkle on the dry ingredients. Don’t crush the star anise unless you want a strong aniseed flavour.


Splash on the liquid and mix well. Cover and leave to marinate for an hour or two in the fridge.


In the meantime, slice the onion and sofreír (poach) on a low heat with plenty of olive oil, until soft and sticky. Allow to cool, then reheat when cooking the liver.

fried liver

Flash fry the liver when it has been marinated,   it’s lamb, so it can be eaten burnt, bloody or pink according to taste.

Serve as a starter with the onions, a sprinkle of chopped coriander and a squirt of lemon juice. Alternately, put the liver onto skewers, grill on a barbecue and serve in pita bread, with fried onion, hummus, lemon, coriander, salad and chilli sauce.

I recommend drinking Domaine de Sahari Gris du Maroc Rosé with the liver – Morocco produces some high quality wines with a tradition of vinification dating back to the Phoenicians and Romans.

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Carne con Tomate

carne con tomate

Carne con Tomate is a classic Andalucian dish made with meat and tomatoes. The meat in question is usually beef or pork. I had some soft ripe tomatoes in the fridge along with leftover roast pork so it seemed like an obvious recipe to cook. You will find this served in many bars and restaurants in the south, usually with fried potatoes or rice. I can’t find any particular story behind the recipe, which is fairly similar from all sources. Cooking with cumin and nutmeg (used in many recipes, but not all) suggests a Moorish origin, though obviously not with pork, plus the green pepper and tomatoes came to Spain from the Americas, after the Fall of Granada in 1492.

Receta de Carne con Tomate (serves 4):

750g pork (diced)
1 large onion (chopped)0
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
6 ripe tomatoes (grated)
2 dessertspoons tomato purée
a squirt anchovy paste
a teaspoon cumin seeds (ground)
a handful fresh coriander (chopped)
2 bay leaves
a large glass dry white wine
a splash sherry vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

a teaspoon chopped coriander (to serve)

If cooking the pork from scratch, cut into bite sized pieces and brown in hot olive oil, before reserving to a plate. My meat had already been roasted, so I started with the onion.


Sofreír (poach) the onion gently in plenty of olive oil until it becomes soft and sticky.


Stir in the chopped garlic followed by the grated tomatoes, with a little salt and pepper. The Spanish often use tomate triturado (crushed tomato) in a can or carton when fresh tomatoes are out of season. Allow the sofrito to thicken on a low heat for 10 minutes.

pimiento verde

The chopped green pepper goes in next, or red if you prefer.

semillas de comino

Warm a teaspoon of cumin seeds in a small pan, but don’t cook it or let them burn! When you can smell cumin, grind with a pinch of salt using a mortar and pestle.


Incorporate the diced pork

vino blanco

and pour on the dry white wine with a splash of sherry vinegar. Allow the alcohol to cook off for 5 minutes or so.


Sprinkle on a handful of chopped coriander, mix well along with a squirt of anchovy paste, 2 dessertspoons tomato purée and 2 bay leaves. Check the seasoning, put the lid on the casserole and remove to a pre-heated oven at 150ºC. If using fresh pork, cook for 90 minues to 2 hours, or until tender. My pre-cooked roast pork was looking good at 35 minutes!

cerdo con tomates

Carne con Tomate goes perfectly with boiled potatoes, fried potatoes or rice. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Casa Rojo – Alexander vs. The Ham Factory!

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Estofado de Carne con Patatas

estofado de carne con patatas

Estofado de Carne con Patatas is a meat stew with potatoes, flavoured with saffron. The meat in question is likely to be beef – carne means meat, but in general, recipes with carne contain beef. When buying stock cubes, caldo de carne is beef stock and has a picture of a cow on the packet. This type of stew is typical in the saffron growing regions of Spain, such as La Mancha, where it has a certified D.O.P. – protected designation of origin.


Saffron (azafrán) probably came from Persia originally, but there’s some debate on an alternate origin of Greece, Mesopotamia or Kashmir. The word saffron comes from the Latin safranum, though the Spanish word azafrán comes from the Persian language. Interestingly the Catalan word for saffron is safrà, derived from Latin. Saffron comes from the 3 stamen and 3 styles of the Crocus sativus6 tiny filaments per flower and that’s what makes it the most expensive spice in the world. This would equate to about 150 flowers per gram.

People have been cultivating saffron for at least 3,500 years. The Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans all used the spice in cooking, as a perfume and as a pigment. Saffron has been grown throughout the Mediterranean for several millennia and was definitely grown in Spain while under Roman control. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Spanish cultivation went into decline but was reinvigorated by the Moors. Today, despite the high price (about €10 per gram), saffron is a very important Spanish cooking ingredient.

I first tasted saffron growing up in Cornwall, where saffron cakes and buns are very popular. Legend has it, that Phoenician traders brought the spice to Corwall and traded it for tin and copper. Like mustard, the Romans would definitely have brought saffron to Britain and for a time (most likely after they left) growing saffron in England was big business. The town of Chipping Walden, in Essex, became Saffron Walden by the 1540s, relative to it being the center of English saffron growth and trade.


Receta de Estofado de carne con patatas (serves 4):

500g beef shin (diced)
500g red (Desireé) potatoes (chasqueado/snapped)
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
5 ripe tomatoes (grated)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 yellow or green pepper (chopped)
a handful of fresh coriander (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera picante
1 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera dulce
2 bay leaves
a squirt of anchovy paste
a splash sherry vinegar
a glass of red wine
1/2 pint beef stock
1g saffron
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
save a little chopped coriander for decoration


Season the meat with salt and pepper, then fry in extra virgin olive oil. It’s best to do this in two batches – if you crowd the pan meat tends to poach, which is not what you want. Remove to a plate.


Turn the heat down and sofreír (poach) the onion in the same pan.


When the onion is soft and sticky, stir in the garlic and grate on the tomatoes – cut in half and grate the wet side (discard the skin).


Allow the sofrito to cook and thicken for 5 – 10 minutes before adding the chopped peppers. I had a red and yellow one in the fridge, but green would also be good.


Cook the peppers for 5 minutes before returning the beef to the casserole.


Sprinkle on the Pimentón.

vino tinto

Pour on a glass of red wine with a splash of sherry vinegar and give everything a good stir. Turn the heat up and allow the alcohol to burn off for a few minutes.

patatas y caldo

Put the potatoes in next, along with 1/2 pint of beef stock, 2 bay leaves and a squirt of anchovy paste. Cut the peeled potatoes roughly, insert a small knife and snap (chasquear) pieces of potato off – this allows more starch to escape and thicken the sauce).


Chop the coriander and add that too. Cover the casserole with a lid and remove to a warm oven at 150ºC for an hour.


After an hour grind the saffron with a mortar and pestle and pour in a splash of boiling water. Stir this into the stew and check the seasoning. 1g may seem like a lot of saffron, but it is worth it for the taste! Cover again and return to the oven. Turn the heat down to 120º and cook for 2 hours more. The estofado is ready when the meat is tender.

dos horas

Decorate with a little more chopped coriander then serve with seasonal vegetables (such as cauliflower and green beans) and some crusty bread. I recommend a glass or two of Venta las Vacas (Cow Sale), a Tempranillo from D.O. Ribera del Duero. This is distributed by a company called Uvas Felices – Happy Grapes!

Spanish saffron harvest

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Garbanzos con Espinacas

garbanzos, espinacas y huevo

Garbanzos con Espinacas (chickpeas with spinach) is a very popular Spanish tapa, thought to have originated in Andalucia, which is the home of tapas. Spinach was first cultivated in ancient Persia (Iran) and probably arrived in Spain with the Moors. Chickpeas originally came from South East Turkey and were domesticated around 7000 BC. It is probable that chickpeas came to Spain with the Phoenicians or Greeks – they have been a Mediterranean staple for many millennia. Both the Moors and Jews would have eaten dishes like Garbanzos con Espinacas in the kindom of Al-Andalus and very similar recipies can be found in Indian cooking, namely Chana Saag. There are many shared dishes in Indian and Persian cuisines.

Garbanzos con Espinacas also bears distinct similarities to Potaje de Vigilia – a fasting soup containing bacalao, chickpeas and spinach, very popular during Lent. Whilst this is undoubtedly an Old World dish, the inclusion of Pimentón would definitely have happened after the discovery of the Americas.

Receta de Garbanzos con Espinacas:

200g dry chickpeas
250g spinach
a splash of the spinach cooking liquid
a slice of stale bread
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera dulce
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera picante
2 dessertspoons sherry vinegar
coarse sea salt and black peppercorns
extra virgin olive oil

1 hard boiled egg (to garnish)

garbanzos secos

Soak the chickpeas in cold water overnight.

garbanzos remojados

Simmer for about two hours (or until tender) in water (to cover) with 2 bay leaves or for 25 minutes in a pressure cooker. The garbanzos should double in size and weight. Discard the bay leaves.

pan frito

In the meantime, fry a slice of stale bread in extra virgin olive oil, until it becomes golden brown.


Chop up 6 cloves garlic and poach in the same pan and oil used for the bread. There’s no need to overly brown it.

cilantro y comino

Warm the cumin and coriander in a dry pan. When you can smell them, take the pan off the heat.


Grind the cumin, coriander, a pinch of course sea salt and a few black peppercorns with a mortar and pestle. Add 2 dessertspoons of sherry vinegar and a dessertspoon of extra virgin olive oil and the fried bread (broken up into pieces) to make a thick paste. Sprinkle on the pimentón and mix it in.

garbanzos con pasta

Stir the paste into the drained chickpeas in a frying pan on a low heat, with a little more olive oil.


Put the spinach into a saucepan of simmering salted water (about a pint), put the lid on and cook for 4 – 5 minutes, until it wilts. Drain the spinach and save 1/2 pint of the cooking liquid (you probably won’t need that much).

garbanzos y espinacas

Stir the spinach into the chickpeas, with a splash of spinach water. Use the liquid sparingly, the Garbanzos con Espinacas should be sticky but not wet! If you add too much liquid the dish will practically become Potaje de Vigilia which is a soup/stew. The Garbanzos con Espinacas will take a little bit of stirring to help the spinach break down and spread out (as opposed to being a big clump) – 5 minutes or so should give a good consistency. Do check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

garbanzos con espinacas

Serve warm and cut a boiled egg into 4 pieces to go on top. Alternately, chop the egg up and sprinkle it on. If you wish to push the boat out, fried quail eggs or a little diced jamón serrano will add a jewel to your crown. While this is normally a tapa, it also makes a great side dish with fish or meat. I recomend drinking a glass of chilled Fino with the Garbanzos con Espinacas.

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Fennel Sausage with ‘Nduja

fennel sausage and ‘nduja

I saw a recipe for whole Italian sausages with white beans and an ‘nduja sauce recently, which inspired me to create a dish of fennel sausage meatballs with ‘nduja and tomatoes. I often have ‘nduja in the fridge and I’m surprised I haven’t thought of doing this before!

fennel sausages

Napoli sausages are perfect for this, they are flavoured with fennel and black pepper, otherwise any good fennel and pork sausage will suffice. Failing that, use good pork sausages and add a little fennel pollen to the sauce.


‘Nuduja (pronounced ‘nduya) is an Calabrian pork salumi (cured sausage), made with pig’s head (but not cheeks – they are use for guanciale), shoulder and belly, plus salt, roasted red chilli peppers and spices. The mixture is squeezed into a pig’s intestine, which is tied up and smoked then left to cure for up to 2 years. This can be bought whole from good butchers and Italian delicatessen shops or in jars from some supermarkets. I think a deli will sell ‘nduja by the slice, but to be honest it keeps for months and tastes great in many sauces (and especially on a pizza), so a whole 450g salumi is a worthwile buy.

Fennel Sausage with ‘Nduja recipe (serves 3 or 4):

6 Italian fennel sausages
a thick slice of ‘nuduja salumi
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
6 ripe tomatoes (grated)
a handful basil leaves (torn)
a splash red wine vinegar
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
lashings extra virgin olive oil

grated parmesan cheese
casarecce pasta
a little chopped basil

fennel sausages

Run a knife down the length of the sausages and remove the skins.

sausage balls

Shape the sausage meat into little balls.

browned balls

Brown the sausage balls in plenty of extra virgin olive oil – it’s a good idea to do this in two batches. If you crowd the pan, meat tends to poach instead of brown. Reserve to a plate.


Fry the chopped garlic in the same pan, until it takes a little colour – be careful not to burn it.

grated tomato

Grate the tomatoes into a dish or straight into the frying pan – cut them in half and grate the wet side. Dispose of the skins.

garlic and tomato

Cook for 5 minutes or so, then add a splash of red wine vinegar plus sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.

tomato and ‘nduja

Break up a slice of ‘nduja into the sauce – this will dissolve. If you can’t get hold of ‘nduja some medium heat chopped smoked chill (like chipotle) would be a good substitute.


Tear up a handful of basil leaves and stir them in.

huevos en salsa

Return the sausage meatballs to the pan and cook on low for about 20 minutes, agitate occasionally.


Cook some casarecce pasta (or pasta of your choice) until al dente. Save a little of the cooking liquid and mix it with the pasta into the sauce, cooking gently for another minute or two. Casarecce means homemade and comes originally from Sicily. It is made with rolled out pieces of dough wrapped around a small metal rod called a ferro. The indentation left behind in the pasta, traps the sauce. The Italian word ferro, means iron, coming from the Latin ferrum, from which we can deduce that this was originally an iron rod, though probably made of stainless steel these days. I would imagine that one could make fresh pasta in this style with a thin wooden skewer or perhaps a meat trussing needle.

casarecce with fennel sausage and ‘nduja

Serve the fennel sausage and ‘nduja pasta with a sprinkle of chopped basil and grated parmesan cheese. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Dragone Edizione Oro vino rosso from Calabria, made with a blend of Merlot and local Magliocco Canino grapes (which have been brought back from the verge of extinction).


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Paletilla de Cabrito con Alubias Blancas

paletilla de cabrito

Paletilla de Cabrito con Alubias Blancas (goat shoulder with white beans) is a very common Southern European dish, interchangeable with lamb and cooked with the leg or shoulder. In France L’Agneau aux Haricots Blancs is often served for Sunday lunch with a mirepoix in the beans. In Italy (and Provence) goat is likely to be cooked with fenel and a touch of lemon, while in Greece, it may come with a honey and pomegranite glaze. In Spain goat and lamb are more often roasted on a bed of potatoes or cooked together in a stew. Wanting French crossed with Spanish, I thought of Moorish flavours avec les haricots blancs (with the white beans).

For the uninitiated, kid goat tastes almost identical to lamb and the older ones are similar to mutton. There was no goaty smell to my shoulder and if you consume goats milk and cheese (which can have a strong taste and odour), you should think about eating the meat because it’s the unneeded young male offspring which end up in the butcher’s shop. If that doesn’t convince you, do try the recipe with lamb! Goat is particularly suited to long slow cooking in order to make it tender, where connective tissues (collagen) break over time and turn to gelatin.  Lamb should be tender to start with and can be roasted in an hour or so, in order to be served pink.

Receta de Paletilla de Cabrito con Alubias Blancas (serves 4):

The Meat:
1 kid goat shoulder (about 1.5 kg)
1 head garlic
several branches rosemary

The Adobo rub:
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera dulce
a large pinch coarse sea salt
10 black peppercorns
2 dessertspoons extra virgin olive oil

Las Alubias Blancas:
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
1 head garlic (peeled)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 glass dry white wine
300g dried navy/haricot beans
a handful Santa tomatoes (or similar)
a handful Kalamata olives
a dessertspoon chopped coriander (cilantro)
2 bay leaves
2 large squirts anchovy paste
a dessertspoon plain flour
a splash of red wine vinegar
half a pint of home made goat/lamb/chicken stock


Stud the goat with garlic and rosemary – cut and poke 25 or so (in total) pieces each into either side.

aceite, comino y pimentón

Grind up some cumin seeds (warmed first) with black pepper and sea salt, then mix with pimentón and olive oil to make a thin paste.


Rub the mixture all over the goat and refridgerate for a couple of hours. Allow the shoulder to come to room temperature before cooking.

cebolla y zanahoria

Sofreir (poach) the onion and when it become soft add the carrot.

cabrito en la cacerola

Put the goat shoulder on top and pour a glass of white wine over it.


Allow the alcohol to burn off for 5 minutes then cover with 2 sheets baking paper and put the lid on the casserole. If using an oven dish, cover the parchment with two layers of thick foil.

dos horas

Remove to a preheated oven at 225ºC. Immediately turn the heat down to 140ºC. Braise for 2 hours.

judías blancas

In the meantime, soak the beans for 1 hour in boiling water, then cook for 8 minutes in a pressure cooker – or soak overnight …and of course you can buy tins of cooked beans. Butter or Cannellini beans would also be good in this dish.

alubias, aceitunas, cilantro y tomates

When 2 hours have elapsed, remove the goat and stir in a dessertspoon of flour (to thicken), followed by half a pint of stock. Cook for a few minutes, then add the beans, tomatoes, olives, garlic, coriander (save a little to garnish the cooked beast), bay leaves, red wine vinegar and anchovy paste. Check the seasoning and return the goat. Baste with the sauce. Dispense with the cartouche.

paletilla de cabrito con alubias blancas

Return to the oven for an hour, or until tender. As long as the heat is kept low, this can be cooked for several hours more and will become increasingly succulent. If you plan to cook it for an extended period of time, reduce the heat to 120º C.

alubias blancas

Rest the goat shoulder for 20 minutes while you thicken the bean stew on the stove top.

Serve the paletilla de cabrito on top of the beans with a sprinkle of chopped coriander and crusty bread. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Emendis Cabró! Negre (red goat) from the Penedès in Catalunya.

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Pollo Al Horno

pollo dorado

I was looking for Spanish roast chicken recipes, when I came across a fabulous Mexican Pollo al Horno (chicken from the oven). Jauja Cocina Mexicana (Juaja the Mexican cook) grinds up a fabulous marinade and rubs it on and under the chicken’s skin before roasting it in the oven. I’ve changed a couple of things and turned the marinade into an adobo, by adding chillis, but all credit goes to the lovely Juaja!


Receta de Pollo Al Horno:

a medium free range chicken (about 3lbs/1.5kg)

6 cloves garlic
10 black peppercorns
2 allspice berries
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon oregano
a pinch chipotle chilli flakes
a pinch ancho chilli flakes
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
2 dessertspoons cider vinegar
3 dessertspoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 an onion
1/2 pint home made chicken stock
a glass of dry white wine

ajo, comino y cilantro

Grind up the garlic, pepper, allspice, corriander, cumin, oregano, chillies and salt with a mortar and pestle. You will get more flavour from the allspice, corriander and cumin if you warm them up a little before grinding, but don’t cook or burn them!


When the garlic mixture has been ground, sprinkle on the pimentón and mix in the cider vinegar with the pestle, followed by the olive oil to make a thick paste.

pollo en adobo

Gently lift the skin of the chicken (breast and back), by working your fingers inside. Be careful not to tear it – see Juaja’s video for visual instruction, if you haven’t done this before (it’s quite common to lift the skin of a turkey and add butter at Christmas, to keep the bird moiste). Spread the adobo evenly under the skin and on the outside of the bird, saving a teaspoonful for the cavity. Refridgerate the chicken for a couple fof hours to allow the meat to absorbe all the flavour. Do allow the bird to come to room temperature before cooking.

Heat the oven to 220ºC, put half a large onion inside the cavity, pour on half a pint of home made chicken stock and a glass of dry white wine. Cover the top of the bird loosely with a layer of thick aluminium foil and remove to the oven. Turn the heat down to 180ºC  then cook for 90 minutes basting occasionally. Let the bird out of the cage for the last 20 minutes to brown the skin! You can tell that a chicken is cooked when the legs become loose and the juices run clear, but if you want to be exact, the internal temperature (thigh and breast) should have reached 75ºC.

salsa picante

When golden brown, rest the chicken in foil for 20 – 30 minutes while you make gravy with the juices. Serve with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a glass of Petit Forlong, a tinto from Cádiz.

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Late August Barbecue


On Monday Catie invited me round to cook an end of summer barbecue and of course I said yes!
First on the grill were some delicious sardines. Bridget brought them marinated in half a teaspoon of pimentón, lots of garlic, olive oil and chopped parsley.

atún y caballa

Next up came mackerel fillets, above left with crispy skin, simply prepared with salt and pepper, plus a squirt of lemon juice on each side. On the right are tuna steaks, again from Bridget, marinated with ground cumin seeds, a dried hot chilli, half a clove of garlic, lots of fresh basil, flat leaf parsley, olive oil and lemon juice.


I’d pre prepared fresh allioli to go with the fish and noticed that a lot of it disappeared on chunks of bread.

tempura de calabacín

Catie picked some baby courgettes from the garden, complete with flowers. Bridget whipped up a simple tempura batter of plain flour, iced sparkling water, salt and pepper. The flowers were dipped into the batter and fried in sunflower oil until crisp and golden. Tempura (from the Latin tempora, for time period) came originally from Iberia, the name refers to Lenten and other fasting days, where fish and vegetables were eaten instead of meat. Portuguese missionaries took the tempura cooking technique of dipping fish and vegetables in batter (before frying them in lard) to Japan in the 16th Century.


The courgettes themselves, were fried in olive oil on the barbecue.

gambas al ajillo

I cooked gambas al ajillo (prawns with garlic), again on the grill. This is a classic Spanish tapa which can be made in 10 minutes or so. Devein fresh prawns (heads on or off) and fry in hot olive oil. Flip over when the prawns start to turn pink and throw on chopped garlic and chilli flakes – I used chipotle for a smoky flavour. Squeeze on the juice of half a lemon and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Serve while hot and dip in allioli.


Willy made a beautiful salad of roasted cherry tomatoes, avocado and buffalo mozzarella with basil, loads of olive oil and some lemon.


Shalina cooked a stunning fritatta with potatoes and red peppers, which would easily pass muster in any Italian trattoria or deli.

“salchichas” de guisantes y pimentón

Last on the barbecue were some odd pea sausages flavoured with pimentón and a lump of cassava wrapped in bananna leaves. Neither proved to be exciting!

In the meantime, Catie prepared salads, which were consumed while I was barbecuing fish, so escaped my camera. Similarly a mountain of cheeses and excellent bread were lost in time.

We consumed large quantities of cava from Sant Sadurní, along with red, white and rosado wines. Everyone left happy!

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