Cook & Learn about the World: Albania: Leek Pie & Leek & Rice Bake

Things as usual have been very hectic and I haven´t got round to blogging these delicious Albanian dishes, depite making them months ago. The first is Leek Pie, which is a tasty and usual vegetarian leek pie. I say unusual because the filling is very different, kind of like a custard. I  have actually made this pie twice now because it´s so good. The first time I made it the filling leaked out of the pie.The second time the filling also leaked out a little....I don´t know if this is because I put an airhole in the pie even though the recipe doesn´t tell you to do this or just because the pie was overfull. Although all the grown ups enjoyed it, I couldn´t persuade my kids to even try it but I know it is a recipe that I will repeat. I followed the following recipe from Global Table Adventure and hardly altered it although I
think I halved the amounts or put 4 eggs instead of 6....I can´t remember very well now!!!                   
I also made Leek and Rice Bake following the recipe from the blog,My Albanian Food. The only changes I made to the recipe was to use cubed leg of lamb as it´s difficult to buy lamb mince here and instead of using lamb stock, I used chicken or beef stock. Unfortunately this dish wasn´t a hit with either my husband or my children although I thought it was tasty. My husband blames the type of lamb here in Spain and that it isn´t good for cooking in this way. We didn´t learn much more about Albania unfortunately as I couldn´t find much.


Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge E: Eggplant: Eggplant Parmigiana

 Why when you can´t sleep at night, words come easily for a new blog post but when you actually sit down to write it, you can´t even remember what you were going to put or even think of anything to write. Zero,nada, zilch! A big fat nothing!

I had an aubergine lurking in my fridge, about to go bad, waiting to be used and I came across a recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana...or aubergine as it´s known as to us Brits, in my trusty American Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. Every recipe that I cook from that book turns out delicious and it is one of my most used and well-thumbed, tatty,falling apart and spattered cookbooks. I decided to make it for me and my other half´s dinner as I wasn´t sure if the kids would even try it,despite the fact that one of my aims in doing this Eat More Variety Challenge is to get us all eating more variety. This dish was definitely a winner and I think the kids might even like it,if I can manage to get past the first stumbling block of getting them to at least try it, as it´s reminiscent of pizza. However, my daughter can even be fussy with pizza as she doesn´t like it with cheese...who doesn´t like cheese on pizza?...so she might not like the cheesey aspect of this dish.So with out further ado, on to the recipe.

Ingredients (Serves 2)
 1 small eggplant
  1 beaten egg
1/4 cup plain flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup meatless spaghetti sauce or bolognese sauce
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1.Wash and peel the aubergine and cut into thin slices.
2.Combine egg and 1 tbsp water,then dip aubergine slices in egg, then flour to coat
3.Fry aubergine in hot oil  for 4 to 6 mins until golden on both sides, drain on kitchen roll.
4.Place aubergine in a single layer in a baking dish about 30x 19x 4.5cm,then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, then add the spaghetti sauce and finally sprinkle the Mozzarella over the top.
5.Bake for 10-12 mins in a 200ºC oven until cheese has melted.

...and there you have it!Easy peasy! Enjoy on it´s own or with a salad and some crusty bread.


Cook & Learn about the World: Albania Part 1 Albanian Shendetlie or Honey & Nut Cake

 Although I haven´t been doing much blogging lately, I have been trying out plenty of recipes, especially for this Cook & Learn about the World post,in which we´re taking a trip to Albania. Although I don´t really know much about Albania or it´s cuisine, it seems like it´s food is made of simple ingredients that can be found easily in any supermarket or kitchen cupboards! Unfortunately,many of the recipes have eluded me and I haven´t been pleased enough with the results in order to make it worthwhile publishing them. I tried Lamb in Yoghurt but it ended up tasting very strong mutton-maybe it was the cut I used- in scrambled egg, then I made a yoghurt drink, which ended up being thrown away as I didn´t like the salty taste of it.

However, some success was finally achieved when I made the simple Albanian dessert or cake, Shendetlie or Honey & Nut cakes.When it is first baked, the Honey & Nut cake seems more biscuit-like in texture and appearance but after it soaks up the sugar syrup, it takes on a more cake-like consistency. Those who don´t have a sweet tooth may find them a bit too sweet but me and my daughter loved them even though I´m not too keen on nuts. I followed this recipe from the blog My Albanian food, only tweaking it a little,for example making only half the amount of the recipe given and cooking it around 10 degrees less than the temperature given in the recipe so at 170 degrees instead of 180 degrees. I made my Shendetlie with whole walnuts which I roughly chopped although you can also used ground walnuts. Dicovering delicious treats like this is a great way to find out about a country´s culture and cuisine.

Although we are still in the middle of cooking and learning about Albania, here is a link to a page where you can find activities to do with your children so they can find out more about Albania: http://www.wartgames.com/themes/countries/albania.html and also : http://dinolingo.com/blog/2012/11/14/albanian-culture-food-festivals-clothes-and-so-much-more/.So far I have only read my daughter the folk story about Rozafa Castle, although I was surprised that it was a story for children! However, I would like to do some other activities with her to teach her more about this country and as I myself also know very little about it!


Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge E: Eggplant: Stuffed Eggplant

It´s the start of a New Year and with it brings new promises, many of which I try to keep and often fail. One of those promises is to try and blog more,something which I have very little time for these days but somehow I´m going to have to find it, and the other is to eat healthier and attempt to get my kids to eat healthier and eat more variety of food.So I have returned to my Eat More Variety Challenge after my long absence to continue from where I left off,with the letter E. After brainstorming ingredients beginning with E, I decided to choose eggplant,even though it really begins with A if you´re from the UK like me! Eggplant is the American English word for aubergine and although I like it,it´s not something we eat a lot of and getting the kids to eat it is a whole other ball game!

Eggplants,or aubergines, have many nutritional and health benefits. They contain anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid which fuction as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds as well as containing fibre,potassium,Vitamin C,Vitamin B6 and phytonutrient so can help with heart health, blood cholesterol,cancer, cognitive function, weight mangement and liver health.

I discovered this recipe for Stuffed Aubergines when I was browsing my cookery books and thought it sounded yummy and it certainly didn´t disappoint. I made this for supper for my husband and I, thinking that maybe the kids might be persuaded to try it but I should´ve known better, despite the fact that they thought it looked a little like pizza, they wouldn´t even try a tiny forkful!!Another good thing was that it didn´t take me as much time to prepare as I had expected.

Stuffed  Eggplant orAubergine, based on the recipe in The Dairy Book of Home Cookery(Serves2)

2 medium sized eggplants/aubergines
1/2 medium onion
2 slices of bacon (think I´d increase this to 4)
1/2 green pepper
1/2 can of tinned tomatoes(around 200g)
25g butter
50g sliced mushrooms
50g white breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
50g Cheddar cheese,grated

1. Halve eggplants lengthways and scoop out the pulp, leaving 1/2cm thick shells.
2.Chop pulp and place in a saucepan.
3.Chop onion, green pepper and bacon
4.Add to aubergine pulp along with the butter and simmer gently till pulp is tender.
5.Add tinned tomatoes and stir in mushrooms.
6.Remove from heat and add breadcrumbs to thicken,season with salt & pepper.
7. Stuff eggplant shells with the mixture and spinkle with grated cheese.
8. Cook in preheated oven at between 200ºC/400ºF for 15 '20 minutes.


Cooking Spain Region by Region: Asturias: Casadielles (Walnut Pastries)

These have been on my to try list since I started cooking Spain region by region and arrived at Asturias and after trying the real deal while I was on holiday in Asturias, I knew I definitely had to recreate these delicious pastries.

These pastries are stuffed with a walnut paste with warming aniseed spice and served warm...they are a definite delicacy. In Asturias they were served to us in a rectangular shape'however I opted to make them in a pasty form although this might not be the usual traditional shape. I combined two different recipes and the end result turned out to be pretty similar to the ones I tried in Asturias. This recipe makes a lot of Casadielles...in fact I ran out of pastry and to save time I cheated and ended up buying some pastry squares or obleas to use up all the filling!!!Here´s the recipe: 

1 sheet or half a kg of shortcrust pastry
150g walnuts
150g sugar
1 teaspoon of aniseed
1 teaspoon of water

1. Prepare the filling by chopping or blitzing the walnuts in a food processor and mix with the sugar.
2. Add aniseed and water and mix to form a dense paste.
3. Roll out the pastry and cut into small circles, fill with nut paste and fold over to make a pasty shape. Don´t overfill as pasty won´t shut properly and filling will ooze out.
4. Press down with a fork on the edges.
5.Place in a preheated oven at around 180 to 170 degreest C for about 20minutes or until golden.
6. Serve warm.


Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge: D: D for Date: Pork & Date skewers

Things have been really busy lately what with birthday parties, end of school ballet shows, graduations, courses and kids that seem to be going to bed later and later. Add all that to the fact that the limited free time I have, I prefer to relax and watch a couple of TV programmes....namely Great British Bake Off  with professionals and Poldark,which hasn´t left me much time for blogging. I decided to make these Pork & Date Skewers from BBC Food recipes awhile ago but haven´t got around to blogging about them until now.

They were fairly quick and easy to make and made a tasty change. We cooked them on the electric griddle and I don´t know if it´s because I bought the wrong cut of meat or I cut the meat too thick but as you can see the outer layer of the pork got a little charred. I also doubled the quantity of dates as 5 didn´t appear too be many so maybe the sugars in the dates also contributed to the charring. Unfortunately these weren´t a hit with my toddler,who usually eats everything, and my daughter(no surprises there though!) so I haven´t succeeded in getting her to try or eat any dates yet!!In the recipe given, the pork and date skewers were served with a couscous salad but I decided to serve it with a version of Nasi Goreng.


Biergarten Spanien, Ciudad Real Restaurant Review

 I´ve decided to resurrect my restaurant reviews although in the past this has almost seemed to spell the kiss of death to the restaurant as they ended up closing!!!However, I hope this isn´t the case this time.

The Biergarten Spanien is a fairly new restaurant and which is decorated and made to look like a German beer tent similar as to what you might find in the Oktoberfest. I love the central streamers and sign post that almost looks like a maypole. You can find German beer of course but it also sells Spanish and other beer....I´m not a beer lover myself so couldn´t really comment about the beer but you get a free tapa with your beer-ours was tiny sausages but a fairly generous portion).

My parents and I opted for the pork knuckle,sauerkraut and chips or mashed potatoes while my husband chose spare ribs with chips and my daughter had a children´s portion,of chicken nuggets and chips,which was huge. I hadn´t expected the food to be the best due to the low prices and I thought that it was probably a chain restaurant and sometimes chain restaurants aren´t as good  but I was pleasantly surprized as they served decent-sized portions, the food was hot and it was really tasty. Our pork knuckle was really tender and just fell off the bone. We then had a dessert for 2.50 euros. My husband,mum and daughter tucked into a brownie with a fruit coulis and ice cream but I decided to go for something more typically German and had the apple strudel with  fruit coulis.It was also supposed to come with a vanilla cream or custard like sauce but I didn´t see any evidence of it. However, it was still delicious.

There is also a little area for children to play although it is very small and consists of only a table or two and some chairs, where they can sit and colour.

All in all I enjoyed this new restaurant where you can try some German cuisine and would definitely reccommend it. It´s good food at a reasonable price.  We will definitely be going again!!

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