Coca de ceba

You could call it onion focaccia, you could call it pissaladière… and you would find yourself in the middle of one of those never ending debates about which country invented what. Coca de ceba is but one variant of  a traditional dish found all around the Mediterranean:  flatbread with toppings.
A note on flour………..
Make sure that the plain flour is really plain: it should not contain any raising agents at all. The easiest way is to order organic flour from Home Organics and get it delivered to your door along with the veggies.
The hard way is to run around several supermarkets reading the list of ingredients on the side of the “plain” flour packages: you will be surprised to see that for most brands they are the same as in the self rising flour (one of those mysteries!). Otherwise go to a Polish shop and look for ‘mąka pszenna’ but it will not be organic.
For a 20 cm by 30 cm tray, you will need:

  • 400 g plain flour (white, wholemeal or half each)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bag instant yeast (or 20 g fresh yeast)
  • 200-250  g water
  • 75 g olive oil + some extra for drizzling
  • 400 g chopped onions

Prepare the dough using  your favourite method. I use the Thermomix as it takes only 5 minutes for both the dough and onions. If you do it by hand:

  1. Dissolve the yeast in some of the water and set aside.
  2. Place the flour and the salt in a roomy bowl and push to the sides. In the central cavity, add the yeast mixture, the oil and most of the water.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together and then knead. If you are using half wholemeal flour or more, you will need all the water and maybe a bit extra. The dough should be soft as your ear lobe and not sticky .
  4. Place it on a 20 cm by 30 cm  baking sheet lined with baking paper or a silicon mat. If the sheet is shallow enough, roll out the dough using a rolling pin. If the borders of the sheet pan are too high, roll out the dough on the counter and then transfer it.
  5. Wrap the top of the tray with cling film (not too tight but sealing et well) and leave it to rise at room temperature for 1 hour. If you are in a hurry, place it in the oven at its lowest setting (40 C, keep the door ajar if the lowest setting is 50 or 60 C).
  6. Chop the onion in thin fans and drizzle it with olive oil.
  7. When the dough has risen, peel off the cling film and start heating the oven to 220 C.
  8. Using your fingertips, press the dough against the tray to create little holes all over the surface, without piercing it.
  9. Spread the onion fans over the dough and bake on the lower half of the oven for 20 minutes or until the borders of the dough look done. If the onion starts to brown, cover the coca with baking paper.
  10. Let it cool on a rack and serve warm or cold.

To make it French you will need:

  • 600-800 g of onion instead of 400 g (as they will shrink during the slow cooking step)
  • 2 tins of anchovies (60 g drained weight in total)
  • Black olives

Proceed as for coca but, instead of step 6, slowly cook the onions in the oil from the anchovies until they are soft and golden. Make a paste with half the anchovies and some water and add it to the onions. Once baked, decorate with the remaining anchovies and the black olives.

Serve with rosé wine from Provence and call it pissaladière instead of coca. If any of your friends makes jokes about the name, cut them a smaller part and explain that the name derives from ‘peix salat’, wich is old Catalan/Provençal for salted fish.
To make it Italian you will need:

  • 2 balls of mozzarella
  • Proceed as for coca but top the onions with thin slices of mozzarella before baking.

Call it focaccia alle cipolle or focaccia San Remo.

To make coca de recapte you will need:

  • Escalivada
  • Herrings or anchovies in oil (drained) or canned tuna (from a good brand) or sausages

Use the dough and top it with escalivada and any, or all, of the other ingredients arranged in neat pretty lines.

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Sorry about the last few weeks – I was in Catalonia. First of all we went camping on the Costa Brava in a beautiful place called Cala Llevado and then we were in the thick of it in Barcelona. Years ago I lived there as a strict vegetarian – no meat or fish. This was generally considered to be…..well, completely nuts by most of the natives. They just didn’t get it.  I remember how waiters, having never heard of the concept, would offer me jamon (ham), atun (tuna) because they “aren’t really meat”. Well, I suppose compared to the hunks of lamb, roasted rabbit,  tripe (often the dish of choice for clubbers after a hard night on the tiles eaten on a busy street corner as the rest of the world went to work in the morning),  trotters and sausages they are kind of lightweight but hello????

As a veggie I ate unbelievable amounts of tortilla de patata (spanish potato omelette) which thankfully, I loved and still do and tons of  Escalivada  perhaps the most quintessential of Catalan dishes but one which is pretty much unknown outside the region. It’s a salad of roast aubergine, onion and peppers. Like most Catalan dishes it’s very, very simple . Roasted vegetables generously doused with top class olive oil and maybe a little vinegar. That’s it – no herbs, spices or sauces. It doesn’t need it – the ingredients are seasonal and local so at their very best. It’s often served with salted anchovies which I find a bit too hardcore or goats’ cheese which I prefer.

Escalivada is generally served as a starter or as part of a what’s called a “pica pica” (I don’t think I need to translate) which has to be  my favourite way to eat – small amounts of lots of things. So, you might serve it alongside a potato omelette (maybe with some courgette thrown in as we are so overrun with them at the moment), olives, a green salad, some pan-fried sardines or octopus a la romana (dipped in batter and fried), a nice local goat’s cheese (there are loads in Catalunya) or a lovely creamy Tetilla (literally translated nipple!) cheese from Galicia (available in Sheridan’s from time to time if you’re interested),  a chickpea salad and pa amb tomaquet – country-style bread rubbed with garlic, tomato then generously drizzled with olive oil. Dessert might be a perfectly ripe peach or one of this week’s plums.

 

Escalivada – Roasted Aubergines, Peppers and Onions

The quantities for this can totally vary depending on what you have. The amounts below are a guide only

You’ll need:

2 aubergines

2 sweet red peppers – yellow will also do fine

1 Onion – red or yellow

Olive oil

Red wine vinegar

Salted anchovies and/or goat’s cheese

The veg is roasted whole without oil so just put them on a baking tray and roast in a medium oven (Gas mark 6)  for 1 hour or until all the veg are tender. Let them cool down then peel and chop them. The aubergines I half and then cut into eighths, the pepper I cut into chunky strips and the onions can be halved then cut into eighths. Traditionally the veg are laid out on a plate separately but feel free to mix them together if you prefer. Generously drizzle with your best olive oil and a little vinegar (a lot of Catalans don’t bother with this so, again, it’s up to you). Serve as I said, with anchovies and a piece of goat’s cheese.

This keeps well in the fridge and can be made in advance

Pa amb tomaquet (bread with tomato)

You’ll need:

A round of country-style white bread (baguette or sliced pan will not do!!!!)

1-2 cloves of garlic peeled and cut down the middle

1-2 tomatoes cut horizontally in the middle

Olive Oil

Salt

Toast the slices of bread  then rub on one side with the garlic. The crispiness of the bread will break down the garlic and make it stick to the bread. Follow this with a rub of tomato. As a rule 1 tomato will do 2 or 3 large slices of toasts and leave you with little more than the tomato skin when you’re finished. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil and sprinkle with a little fine salt.

Serve with cheeses, cured meats, tortilla…… anything really. Kids often have it as a snack in the afternoon when they come home from school. Mine were reluctant at first (what??!! no butter?) but are coming around. The garlic isn’t always used so you may want to try it without but given the winter is coming I reckon as much of this stuff raw as possible is what’s needed to ward off the sniffles.

Have a great weekend,

Sarah

It’s winter!!!!!!!! My fuschia was getting ready to flower again and suddenly it’s all about how many jumpers you can  wear at the same time (it ain’t half chilly up here at chez organic, good for the veggies bad bad bad for anyone sitting in front of a computer screen all day). To combat the cold I’ve been making hearty fare this week and a veggie stew/soup I made on Tuesday went down especially well. It’s kind of a version of minestrone  but faster and it’s vegan! As usual I used plenty of onions and garlic (great for combating colds and flus), then carrots, tinned tomatoes and some pinto beans I had left over in the fridge (you can use whatever you have – chickpeas, butterbeans whatever). I cooked all these up (and warmed up the kitchen and myself aswell) and just before serving I tossed some shredded spinach in a pan with garlic and olive oil then stirred it in at the end for an extra garlic hit. It’s quick, very tasty and keeps very well so you can make double quantities and freeze or have for lunch the next day. I served mine with brown rice but couscous, quinoa or pasta would all work well…..

A hearty veggie stew

You’ll need the following but it really is a moveable feast so feel free to use whatever you have:

4 medium carrots

2 onions

olive oil

6-8 cloves garlic

2 tins chopped tomatoes

1 scant teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 red chilli (take out the seeds if you don’t want too much heat)

1 tin beans

1/2 litre vegetable stock – as always I use Marigold

200gr greens (spinach, cabbage, kale etc) destemmed and shredded

Begin by chopping the onions and get them gently frying in olive oil while you scrub and chop the carrots. I did them in quarters about 1cm thick but to be honest it doesn’t make too much difference so it’s up to you. When the onions have softened and are beginning to change colour you can chop 4 cloves of garlic and throw them in along with chilli (finely chopped). Let them soften (about 2-3 minutes) then add the tinned tomatoes, oregano, salt and a pinch of sugar (gets rid of any bitterness the tomatoes have). Allow the tomatoes to cook down by at least a third then throw in the carrots and stock. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes. Rinse the beans well then throw them in, stir well and add more seasoning  if necessary. Finally, heat some olive oil on a frying pan, add the rest of the garlic then the greens and toss until they’ve wilted (if you’re using spinach this will take no time at all while things like cabbage and kale will take longer). Add the greens to the soup mix everything together and serve.

You’ve probably noticed that your cauliflower is an unusual colour (orange, purple or green). I know they look like some food colouring was added to their water but they are completely natural. I just thought it might be nice to try something different. Like all Cauliflowers these guys are especially high in vitamin C as well as lots of other good stuff. Cauliflower was supposed to be the star of a vegan curry with coconut milk and tofu but um, it just didn’t really work out. I mean it was ok but just not worth sharing – must try harder!! In the meantime, I suggest the following non-vegan idea of tossing it on the pan with lots of garlic, chilli , lemon juice and then topping with a little Parmesan. Vegans can leave out the Parmesan and it’s still yummy……….

Pan-fried Cauliflower florets with Chilli, Garlic and Parmesan

You’ll need:

1 Cauliflower

2 cloves garlic (minced)

a little minced red chilli

1 Lemon

Some freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and Pepper

Olive Oil

To prepare the cauliflower, remove the leaves and the stems then cut the cauliflower into tiny florets about the size of marbles (Dan’s going through a phase so they are everywhere I look in our house these days). Rinse in plenty of cold water, drain and set aside. Heat a generous dash of olive oil on the pan, add the chilli, cauliflower and a sprinkling of fine salt  then toss over a medium heat until the florets are golden brown which should take about 6-7 minutes adding the garlic in the last minute. Turn off the heat and squeeze the lemon over the cauliflower, mix well then add salt and pepper and finally the Parmesan. Give everything a good toss and serve.

Hope you enjoy these recipe,

Have a great weekend,

Sarah

Hi everyone,

Spring has sprung! ……. or at least it’s trying, last night’s freezing temperatures did make me wonder. I made soup with this week’s Cabbage and it was perfect. This recipe has beans which makes it almost like a stew so it’s almost a meal in itself…..

green cabbage

green cabbage

Tuscan style Vegetable and Bean Soup

You’ll need:

1 head Cabbage

4 Carrots

4 Spuds 2 Cloves Garlic

2 Medium Onions

1 Dried Chilli

1 Tin of chopped Tomatoes

1 Tin White Beans (Fagioli)

Start by chopping the Onions and begin sautéing over a low-medium heat with a generous glug of Olive Oil until they start to change colour stirring occasionally to stop things burning. This should take about 15 minutes enough time for you to prepare the other veg. Wash and roughly shred the Cabbage. Scrub the carrots and cut into 1 cm half rounds. Peel the spuds and chop into bitesize pieces. Finally, chop the garlic and chilli and if the onions are done add to the pot, stir for a minute before adding the rest of the veg including the tomatoes (but not the Beans) along with a teaspoon of Maldon Salt. Stir well then cover the pot and leave for about 15 minutes over a lowish heat then add 2 litres of weak vegetable stock (as usual I’d use Marigold and halve the quantity indicated on the packet so it’s not too strong). Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and cook for another hour. After an hour add the beans, stir well and continue to cook uncovered for a further 10-15 minutes. To serve (and this is what really makes it) take a piece of stale Bread (ideally Ciabatta or sourdough), toast it then rub the toast with a halved clove of garlic. Place the garlic toast at the bottom of your serving bowl and add the soup. Top with a drizzle of your finest Olive Oil and some freshly grated Parmesan (if you like – this is optional and some would say not necessary).

Keep the faith that summer really will come this year by having a Blood Orange salad for pud. Peel a couple of oranges removing the pith as you go then finely slice them and scatter with some mint leaves. Do this ahead of time and all the flavours will mingle. A serving of vanilla or chocolate (Butlers do the best I’ve had) ice-cream would be lovely too…..

Hope you enjoy the recipes,

Have a great weekend,

Sarah