Anchovy pizza

Summer=hot=kitchen off limits. Or something to that effect, no? I seem to remember having lived like that, once, before moving to the northernmost reaches of human habitation.

Ordering pizza in summer makes sense, not just because you don´t want to go into the kitchen but also because you have a higher chance of it arriving still hot.

Just be smart and order the margherita, then trick it out yourself. Our favorite lately is this simple and this good:

Crush a garlic clove, mix it with the olive oil from a tin of anchovies, add chopped parsley and cracked pepper (no salt). Drizzle this over the pizza, lay the anchovies on it.
Now, for the most important step: put the pizza on a wooden tray, or board. Give everyone tea towels if you don´t have cloth napkins. Serve with ice cold beer or good wine, and you´ll be laughing.


Chickpea and stuffed pasta salad

A great salad, easily made from ingredients from the pantry, and long lasting fridge goodies. You can see my own (far from perfect, of course) pantry in Lydia´s blog, which features a section called "Other people´s pantries".

This has become my get out of jail free card. Whenever I have to make a meal for the four of us in five minutes, counting from putting my key in the door to sitting down at the table, this is it.
I know purists scoff at supermarket fresh pasta, and yes, I know it´s nowhere nearly as good as home made fresh pasta, and lacks the toothy character of good dried pasta. But that doesn´t matter here; what matters is speed. Provided you boil the water in an electric kettle, the dish is done in three minutes flat. You have time to lay the table, but only just.

The only non-negotiable ingredients are a packet of stuffed fresh pasta, whatever you like, and a tin of chickpeas. One packet is too mean, but two means waiting a long time for the water to come to the boil, and anyway the mixture of grain and bean is a winner.

While the pasta boils, open the tin, drain it, put it in a big bowl and begin the dressing. By far the easiest and tastiest is pesto, which you should always try to have on hand, as it´s a lifesaver. If you don´t, mix garlic, oil and whatever herb you have. Cooked broccoli or spinach, or jarred sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, olives...all these things would not be out of place, but be restrained. People tend to let their imaginations run away with them in pasta salads, and anyway you only have literally two minutes to do this.

Drain the pasta, toss, serve with more olive oil and a hunk of parmesan to grate at table.

I works well with beans, too, can be made ahead and doesn´t suffer much in transport, which screams "picnic".


Broccoli cheese sauce

My mother, of course, knows best. And she told me, loud and clear, "don´t have children". But I did.

And now I have to feed them, which I never thought would be too hard. Ha.

I know the first rule is "don´t take it personally", and I try not to. And they look pretty robust, so I´m not worried. It´s just annoying that they refuse meatballs and pizza, with scorn I used to reserve for liver or limp cabbage.

But anyway, this sauce passed muster yesterday, so I´m sticking with it for a while. My ennervating kids don´t mind the taste of broccoli, but at some point a colour bar was raised, and they look on anything green with straight out loathing. Luckily, broccoli stalks are white, and so, here goes:

Sneaky broccoli cheese sauce for toddlers

Steam a couple of head of broccoli; the florets like that, the stalks peeled and diced roughly.

Once tender, blend the stalks with some cheese until you have a cheesy, whiteish, surprisingly tasty sauce.

Pour over pasta, hope for the best.


Spanish Rice, pressure cooked

Mystery solved. Laura of Hip pressure cooking asked me for a recipe for Spanish rice, and I was flummoxed. There´s no such thing as Spanish rice in Spain, I said, and gave her a recipe for arroz caldoso, which is Spanish, and rice, and very good.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I started to cook a rice that I call Emma´s rice, and then I understood. Emma is from Ecuador, so to me this is a recipe from far, far away, but in the USA Ecuador and Spain are just as Spanish. So we have a winner; a simple, winsome rice-and-chicken dish, easy to make and, in the pressure cooker, lightning quick.

And very much by the way, I have finally succumbed and opened a Twitter account, since two children, a job, a husband and two blogs weren´t enough of a drain on my time. You can find me as @Marujapolar.

Spanish rice

Chop onion, red pepper, garlic small and sautee them until the onion is transparent.
Next, turn some chicken pieces, the size of a walnut, in this mix. You can brown them if you like but I don´t bother. Pour a glug of Sherry or white wine and let it bubble away.
When this is ready, add two cups of washed and drained long grain rice and let it soak up this goodness.
Now you can put in a few saffron threads and some turmeric, or nothing at all if you don´t want a yellow colour.
Add two cups of broth, close the lid.
Give it three minutes under pressure and let it come down for seven more.
Open the lid, fluff the rice, throw in some frozen peas that you´ve microwaved for a minute, and voilá, Spanish rice.

Serve with hot sauce and plantain chips, or plain corn chips and salsa.


French toast

French toast is so easy to make that probably nobody needs a recipe, but then again, somebody makes French toast for the first time some day, and you won´t want it to catch you at a bad time, like Dustin Hoffmann in Kramer vs Kramer.

My children love this, so I make it for dinner rather than breakfast. It goes just as well with cheese and broccoli as it does with maple syrup and bacon.

Take one egg per person, add the same volume of milk, more or less, beat it well and dunk sliced bread. It has to soak up the liquid but not turn soggy, so it´s best to use old bread, from a good loaf (the guys from the bag above make the best in Aberdeen).

Toast in a pan you´ve brushed with oil or butter and that´s it. Easy.

And, as a little Friday bonus, a link to a beautiful short film by Maira Kalman.Guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and tighten your heart, all at the same time.



Guests, originally uploaded by Lobstersquad.

Having friends over for a few days means not just company and good times; it´s also a prime opportunity for pigging out, and feeling like a gracious hostess rather than a pig.

I give my visitors things they won´t find in Spain. Prime British pork sausages, elderflower lemonade, smoked mackerel and trout, granary malted bread and punnet after punnet of Scottish raspberries, with thick yogurt or with meringues and cream. Good stuff.

Now that they´ve gone, we go back to normal. Lunch today will be steamed broccoli and poached eggs, with the last of the raspberries. No crumbles, chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, mountains of chips or jugs of Pimm´s turning up after meals.

Until we go back to Spain in a few weeks, and become guests ourselves, that is.


Poached eggs

I was listening to a KCRW Good Food podcast. Russ Parsons came on, started talking about eggs, and said that he considered poaching a fuss. That he admired people who poached but that it was a step too far for weekday cooking.
I shook my head in incomprehension.
And then next time I made poached eggs it came to mind, and I wondered afresh, how someone as great as Russ can possibly find poaching eggs too much.
Hubris led me to crack an egg too quickly, and drop it from too high, and it broke.
But apart from that, poaching eggs is a cinch, and I will write down the method below, and entreat you all to poach away. It´s simple, really.

Put a pan on the fire with an inch of water and bring it to the boil. No vinegar, no nothin´. It can be a frying pan, which makes it easier to take the eggs out, but anything is fine.

When it´s boiling, crack an egg into the water. No swirling, no putting the egg in a bowl, no nothin´. Fresh eggs poach more neatly, as the whites spread out less, but who cares?

Add all the eggs you want, but no more than four at a time for a 20 cm wide pan. Be sensible.

Turn the fire down, cover the pot and leave for a minute or so, until the white is cooked.

Now take the eggs out with a strainer, drain on a kitchen towel and serve. If you are very much into presentation, trim any straggly white bigs so it looks round and concise.

Or, and this is my favourite thing about poached eggs, put them in a bowl of cold water. They will keep there for days, in the fridge, if need be. Makes brunch preparations all the easier, but is also handy if you are given some very fresh wonderful farm fresh eggs. Cook them at once and enjoy them over the next few days.

Seriously, it´s that simple.


The Perfect Pantry

Lydia, Prueba, originally uploaded by Lobstersquad.

Another blog that has recently had a spruce up is Lydia's The Perfect Pantry, an old time favourite. This is a blog that has all the warm and open tone we like to read, cemented on a rock solid foundation of information and great recipes. If you don't know it yet, go and have a look.
Lydia was kind enough to ask me to do an illustration for the header. I wish all jobs were as fun.
The drawing is one of the preliminaries I did at the beginning of the process.

My pantry, though far from perfect, is bulging with good things, which come in very useful now that I don't have access to my dear Barceló market and all the little shops around it. Brit supermarkets are well stocked but I hate having to drive to them.

Tonight we've had empanada gallega, an impressive looking dish made all from pantry ingredients. This one was filled with onions, from and Eazy can, three tins of sardines, some oregano and a handful of raisins.


At last, change!

As ever with these things, I´d been dreading it and putting it off, and lo and behold, it was very easy and now I wish I´d done it earlier. Here you have it, with bells on: clean, fresh tags, all the followers there looking beautiful, and most important, the share buttons so you can tweet and like to your heart´s content.
Here´s to five years (and a few months) of blogging, a Lobstersquad iPad app in the works, and all the rest.


Extremely crunchy chicken wings

I made these wings yesterday, inspired by a recipe from Mad Hungry. Since I had no breadcrumbs I substituted oatmeal and polenta and oh, wow. Serious crunch, serious flavour. I´m sold, particullary as the type of breadcrumbs found here look like day-glo orange fish food.

I also roasted a head of cauliflower alongside, and made some hummus. It was a very simple meal, all finger food, great with cold beer, easy to serve outside. The perfect menu for watching a Wimbledon semifinal?

heat the oven to 225ºC

Take one kg of chicken wings (that´s about ten, with the tips off).
Salt them, then mix in a bowl a heaping spoonful of flour, half a cup of oatmeal and a quarter cup of polenta and a quarter cup of sesame seeds. You can add crushed garlic and cayenne pepper to this, if you like.

Now beat one egg in another bowl and put the wings in there, making sure they´re all coated in egg. You may need two but then will surely have egg left over and that´s annoying.

Coat the wings in the floury mixture, put them on a greased baking sheet and into the oven for 45 minutes or so, until golden and oh, shatteringly crunchy.

Serve with something to dip them in. My favorite is Thai sweet chili sauce mixed with Dijon mustard.

Feeds two as a main dish, more as an appetizer, though there will be fights for the last piece.