So the time and space for blogging has been a bit thin on the ground recently, and I think it’s going to get a whole heap worse before it gets any better. It’s all well and good planning your ideal kitchen but somehow I underestimated the preceding chaos. And that’s saying something considering the background chaos that we’re used to dealing with around here, believe me. So for the next couple of weeks or so (fingers crossed) simple is the name of the game. Don’t even ask about the couple of weeks after that.
There is just something about this time of year that makes me want to keep serving up steaming pots of stews and casseroles. Preferably with loads of autumnal veg and definitely my fair share of carbs. I’m not sure why really. It hasn’t even got that cold yet but I for one am all about some comfort food right now. I could eat it all day; the only problem is finding the time to make it all. But that’s where this recipe comes in.
Physalis, that tiny paper covered cousin of the tomato is back. If you like a tart little treat you’ll be relishing them just as they are, minus their papery cases (that goes without saying) but if you’re like me, you’ll be looking at them, sitting there looking more than reminiscent of their Mexican cousin the tomatillo, thinking they must have so much more to offer other than the traditional pies and flans. And as there’s nothing like putting a good theory to the test, that’s just what I did.
They started slowly it’s true. The first few early birds serving as an advance party to warn of the impending invasion. But, as is the way every October, my kitchen is suddenly inundated with squashes. I’m not complaining but I’m quite convinced that if I could eat them morning, noon and night I’d still not make much headway so I’m always trying out new ways to enjoy them. And of course, (somewhat more challenging) for the kids to enjoy them. If left to them they’d veg eternally in their soup/ curry/ cake loop but I get bored and feel obliged to mix things up a bit. A change is as good as a break after all, and surely we all need one of them.
Well it’s that time of year again when we should all be donning our hunter wellies and skipping off around the fields filling every vessel we can lay our hands on with blackberries and other fruits of the hedgerows. I don’t know about you but I love it. Trouble is some years it seems harder than others to find the time. That’s when my back up plan comes in handy. I send the boys and accept the fact that not so many blackberries come back. But luckily usually just enough for some hedgerow jelly and this gorgeous autumnal stew.
I’m not really that particular when it comes to good food. I like most of it and I like a lot of most of it (moderation is a work in progress for me; serving sizes have never been my strong point) so perhaps it will surprise you to know that I also love lovely little plates of tapas. Possibly because it represents as good a reason as any to sample most of what the menu has to offer but that’s by the by. I’d find it hard though to condense down though to one or two of my favourite dishes; Spanish cooking always seems so undeservedly underrated to me. From the garlicky prawns to the Serrano hams served with various cheeses all the way through to the octopus salads, simple tortillas, anchovies, olives or padron peppers the choices are almost infinite. And hidden in there comes this dish. I couldn’t even dream of claiming this as one of my own as one of my own; even the briefest trip through Spain will reveal hundreds of variations on the theme but this is my take on it. So good that if you don’t fancy preparing the other bits or bobs for a true tapas feast you can serve a soup bowl full of it up rustic style with a hunk of crusty bread on the side. Make it in advance if you’re that organized and let the flavours develop then serve it a bit warmer than room temperature or stick it in an ovenproof dish and crack a couple of eggs into a couple of wells you made for just that purpose and bake for a different version of heuvos rancheros. Your choice. However you serve it it won’t matter. It’s always delicious.
There’s nothing like a summer holiday for making me feel like my body is a temple (and no, not to Bacchus). Who knows, perhaps you feel like that constantly if you live in a tropical paradise. Perhaps the urge to hunker down and survive off stews and stodgy puddings never comes. And conversely perhaps if you hail from colder climes lighter fare such as today’s fruity salad are an anathema to you. But the point is, I don’t. And I rather like the way the seasons change where I’m from (sometimes as much as all in one day in the UK but that’s beside the point) bringing with them endless opportunities to mess around with meals.
If you’re not Mexican or from the U.S. I suppose you could be forgiven for not knowing anything about the tomatillo. To be fair until I’d lived over there I’d lived a long and happy life not knowing anything of their existence. But times they are a changin’ and tomatillos are becoming far more wide spread and although you possibly won’t be able to pick them up on the shelves of your local supermarket once you know what you’re looking for you’ll be amazed at how much more often you’ll see them cropping up.
So I’m afraid I’m not done with those Sicilian flavours yet. If I’m being honest with I’m not sure I ever will be I just love the way that the flavours of everything you see growing there pervade everything you eat. If you’ve never sampled the food think almonds, raisins, oranges, lemons, garlic, olives and capers and you’ll get the idea. There isn’t much that wouldn’t be improved upon given this treatment with the possible exception of chocolate.
I do love barbecue season. Bear in mind I live in the UK so the novelty doesn’t really wear off; sadly it can be perilously short. This, coupled with the fact that my husband takes a very hands on approach to cooking when faced with an outside grill or fire (move the grill into the kitchen and you wouldn’t see him for dust) means that I like to enjoy a good barbecue as much as possible. And I know I’m not alone, although perhaps others not for the same reasons as me (do all the prep, let someone else finish off whilst I relax with a Pimms) judging by what I see on the supermarket shelves in the run up to the weekend.