Ready Steady Cook 3: Shakshuka

Ready Steady Cook Viral Antidote 3 is for Sheila Horner.  Oh Sheila, how we wish we were sitting on your terrace staring at the Sierra de la Contraviesa!!  I’ve cooked this – and variations of it – many times in your kitchen.

Sheila asked what can she do with a tin of tuna, a tin of chick peas and tomato puree.  Well you live in Spain girl, the answer is in your kitchen!

Shakshuka is a smoky mix of onions, red pepper and eggs.  Today I am adding tuna and chick peas.

In a wide shallow pan,  gently fry onions and chopped garlic in lots of olive oil.  When soft, add 2 sliced red peppers, a good heaped teaspoon of hot smoked paprika, four large or six small fresh tomatoes, a tin of chick peas with its liquid, a generous tablespoon of tomato puree. Mix it all together an add another 150ml water, salt, black pepper. Clamp on the lid and simmer away for 10 minutes then remove the lid, stir and simmer for 20 more.  The aim is to reduce the liquid by half but still leave juice in the pan. Now chop a generous handful of parsley and some fresh coriander add a desert spoon of brown sugar and stir the sugar and the herbs into the pan.  Check the seasoning. It should be deeply tomatoey, slightly sweet and thick but not runny. Drain the tuna and dot the chunks over the surface, pushing them down slightly.  Now make four indentations in the mixture and drop an egg into each indentation.  Lightly sprinkle the eggs with hot smoked paprika. Put the lid on again and cook gently for about 10 minutes. If you want your eggs runny cook it for about 5 minutes. Always with the lid on.  Take off the heat, remove the lid and leave for 5 minutes.  Serve with crispy bread and salad.

Best eaten on Sheila and Jack’s terrace about 21.30 with a bottle of rough musto from Pampaniera! I dare you not to finish it.

Candied citrus peel


Candied Peel image imageOne of the first things you notice in rural Spain is the number of fallen oranges and lemons splattered on the roads, squashed by vehicles. Spain is the leading exporter of citrus fruits to the world. Andalucia exports only 8% of the total Spanish market, whilst Valencia exports 81%. Most of the fallen oranges around here are not grown on commercial farms, but in and around the grounds of small fincas, casas and casitas. They combine with lemons, pomegranates, almonds, olives, custard apples and the ubiquitous fig. The shape of the trees characterise the landscape. That, and the mountains.

As an English woman in love with Spain, the citrus fruit entrances me. Walking out into the garden and reaching up to pick a fruit that is twice as big as my hand, with thick skin and warm fragrant flesh and to peel its thick skin and dive into the juicy innards is a simple yet memorable pleasure. One to be drawn on in the dark winter months.

This visit I have made litres of lemonade. And loads of candied citrus peel. The oils in the flesh are so pungent that eating just one candied stick is sufficient to leave the flavour lingering in the mouth for half a day.

If you are in the UK, try and buy thick skinned fruit. Nothing will match the fruit picked from the tree, however! Peel the skin of your oranges and lemons with a sharp knife, leaving some of the pith on the back of the peel. If you prefer your candied peel more crispy, don’t include as much pith.  Peel downwards, not around and then slice the peel lengthways.  Make a syrup from 750ml water and 200g sugar then add all the peel you have. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the peel is soft.  Remove the poached peel from the syrup and lay out to drain on a cake rack placed over a baking tray.  Leave somewhere cool and airy (over here that is impossible, so I turned on the floor-standing fan and placed it near them). When they are dry to the touch, coat with caster sugar and then put in an oven set to 50C and leave them in there for about 8 hours.  By then they should be crisp and stiff. If not, leave in for longer.

Store in an airtight tin. Coat the ends in chocolate if you like. Gorgeous with a strong coffee. Share with a friend if you must. Impossible to resist if you are in the house on your own!

And don’t discard the syrup – poach orange slices in it and eat with thick yogurt for breakfast. or use as a base for lemon/orangeade, or soak an almond and orange cake with it. Or add to brandy and zoozh up with soda… The possibilities are endless.

If you are making this in Spain you will know for sure, that clearing up after you is essential. Last night after a little too much San Miguel I failed to do so. Consequently, bleary eyed and in need to coffee, my first task was to massacre all the ants in Christendom this morning that were lapping up spilled syrup on the floor. Bad, bad Karma.