Rick Stein in my Spanish kitchen

Not really 🙂 Watching Rick Stein travel from Venice to Istanbul is making us dribble a bit though. It should be marked as unsuitable viewing for greedy folk prior to lunchtime.

So, after he conjured up this bean dish under the Greek sun the other day, via the Beeb, we practically ran to the kitchen to replicate it. The next day, we did it again for a lunch party of 6 friends, adding those little bits of Jamon tacos into the recipe – so this is a Spanish version – but it’s just as nice and flavoursome without.

Called Gigante something or other, because of the big beans I guess. Basically, it’s quick, easy, filling and cheap. It’s also really, really tasty.

Fry some garlic and onion in lots of olive oil. Season. (if you are choosing to add bacon or jamon then do it now).


Wilt half a bag of fresh spinach. He added fresh, skinned, chopped tomatoes. You might add a tin, but remember it should be quite dry. We used some previously roasted cherry tomatoes which we had be given 🙂

(I roast them slowly, with balsamic, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary)

So when the spinach has wilted (30 seconds or so) mix in a jar of those big butter beans, or whatever beans are in the store cupboard. I added them earlier to the pan in error, it didn’t make any difference.


Transfer the lot to the oven, and bake until it’s all combined and hot. Take out and crumble feta cheese over the top and serve. (Lidl have just had the Greek promo on, but if you needed to then any similar cheese would be great). Serve in tapas dishes.


There’ll be nothing left over!




Oui Oui to Cassoulet

When you’ve put 3 meals a day on the table for 2 kids for almost 2 decades, a lunch out at someone else’s table is always welcome! Doffing the apron, we set out on Sunday for the long road to Lynne and Lester’s cortijo. Actually, it’s a mere twist of the Alpujarran mountain to get there, but their vertigo-inducing track would turn the thinnest milk to double cream… if you remember, it’s the one where Stan attempted to increase my fitness last New Year and almost managed to do me in instead. Hey, was that a plan? 

So we took our time as the jalopy doesn’t need anything else to fall off the bottom of it – and really, the place is totally reachable in 5 minutes, and so entrenched in birdsong and total peace when you get there it’s worth it. It’s the site of an ancient watermill in huge swathes of it’s own land. You can buy it if you like, read all about it here.

Even nicer was the dish of the day – Cassoulet –  of course, a recipe from France.

Stew. It’s one of those dishes where every country has their own lovely version, and I guess the closest Spain would come to this one is Fabada from Asturias. Here’s a recipe for Fabada.

Lynne’s version of Cassoulet is pretty authentic – and I had a warming glass of Pastis too to complete the true taste – a perfect combination for a cold day, guaranteed to impart a red glow Rudolph would be proud of.

Here it is, do try it, and let us know what you thought 🙂 The layering of ingredients is pretty, the end result was trés tasty!


1 tin of duck confit, 600 grammes of dried white haricot beans, 100 grammes jamon, 4 slices of streaky bacon, 400 grammes of good quality sausage, 500 grammes of carrots, 2 sticks celery, 1 large tin of tomatoes, an onion, cloves of garlic to taste, breadcrumbs and chopped parsley to garnish
The night before put the beans to soak in plenty of cold water. Next day drain off and discard the water. Put the beans to cook in fresh water for about an hour. Meanwhile chop the carrots in rings and chop the celery. Par-boil them. Chop the jamon into small pieces. Remove the duck from its grease and remove its skin. ( traditionally the skin and some grease is left on, but it is less healthy!) Chop the onion and peel and crush the garlic. Cut the sausages into pieces.
Line the bottom of a large casserole with the streaky bacon. Drain the beans. Put half of the beans into the casserole. On top of them add the duck, the jamon, the sausages, the carrots, the celery, the onion, the garlic and the chopped up tomatoes. Cover with the remaining beans. Pour on the tomato juice and about 250-300 ml of water. Cover the top with as many breadcrumbs as needed. Cover with a lid.
Cook at gas mark 4-5 for approximately 2 hours. If it browns too quickly turn down the heat.

Á votre santé!


Cortijo – Farmhouse or country house.

Fabada – Asturian stew with beans.

Jamon – air dried ham from Spain.



Getting Arty-farty

Neighbours in for an unplanned drink? Don’t panic….quick tapas are the best tapas, what’s in season? Tomatoes right now…here’s how to make them arty farty in 2 minutes!

By the way, the balsamic reduction can be made in half an hour over the stove, or by popping to Lidl like me – it’s with the ketchup!

3 arty blobs of balsamic reduction


draw a sharp point of a knife quickly down

With chopped Tomatoes, crushed garlic and olive oil. ¿Quieres Tapas?


Okay, so not Tapas, not even Spanish, but hey, I like it!

What I really like is using leftovers, I am the leftover Queen.  All those years in the Eighties starving in London…well, usually a toss-up between a meal or going for a drink with friends, the beer won out every time!

So you’ve slow roasted some tomatoes, with garlic and sea salt, a splash of balsamic, a sprinkle of sugar, blitz it up and add it to whatever – lots of bolognaise left over means Lasagne, a little cayenne and chocolate and we have Chili, or this week…Calzone.

The kids call it Foldyoverpizza – I guess it is – and with the addition of some dough from the breadmaker, a meal. Here it is in pictures!

Leaving the dough to double in size

Add the bolognaise, sprinkle on cheese

fold over, seal and egg wash (yolk and water)

bake for 25mins at 200ºC

serve with a quick salad...

...Mmmm, tasty!