Onion Bhajis

Friday 13th March was the day that we escaped back to the cortijo from the coast. Little did we know then that a state of alarm would be declared the next day forbidding the movement of people and only allowing food shops and pharmacies to open. We had suspected that it might happen and so had already stocked up on some basic staples.

Normally, we would have volunteers to come and stay to hep us with the planting, harvesting, etc. but out of necessity, we’ve decided to go more self-sufficient.

On Tuesday 16th March, I harvested the remaining onions and prepared them for the freezer or fridge. There were white and red onions, of all different shapes and sizes. I thinly sliced some and used them for these onion bhajis.

Onion Bhajis
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Ingredients
  1. onions, thinly sliced
  2. 150g gram flour
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 teaspoon garam masala
  5. 1/2 teaspoon chill powder
  6. 1 teaspoon cumin
  7. 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
  8. water
Instructions
  1. Combine the onions, gram flour and spices in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  2. Add enough water to form a moist batter, using your hands to bring the mixture together.
  3. Heat some sunflower oil in a wok or pan.
  4. Using a couple of dessert spoons, shape the onion mix into balls.
  5. Slide the balls into the oil.
  6. Cook for a couple of minutes on both sides until lightly golden.
  7. Transfer to a plate with some kitchen paper.
  8. Turn up the heat under the oil until quite hot.
  9. Refry the onion bhajis for 30 seconds on each side.
  10. Serve.
Notes
  1. This recipe was made slightly more complicated by the fact that we didn't have any gram flour. There was nothing for it but to make our own. We found the best way was to first smash the dried chickpeas with a mallet before grinding in a spice grinder. We then sieved them to remove the coarser particles and reground these.
Cortijo de la Plata https://cortijoblog.com/

Is our olive oil organic?

Nonnie Picking Olives

Nonnie Picking Olives

For people who can’t be bothered to read this page.  Just read this one line.
Is your olive oil organic? Yes, it is probably the most organic oil you will ever taste.

Why  our olive oil is not officially organic.

Products which are organic generally have a higher price because being organic has higher costs. We decided it would be a good idea to get organic certification so that we could sell our olive oil at a higher price. We paid our 160 euros for the first year to the certification entity. Around 5 months later the man who came to inspect the land came to visit us in a big gas guzzling Land Rover. He said it was not necessary to even look over our land. He said that he would never come unexpectedly to our farm, he would never jump over the fence to take a soil sample. He could give no advice about organic fertilizers and where to obtain certifies organic fertilizer. Basically as long I as I keep paying the fees I will get organic certification. 
To me this is a system open to fraud and the organic certification does not certify anything. If you buy organic produce you just have to trust the producer.  For this reason I gave up the idea of becoming certified as officially organic.

Why  our olive oil is actually organic

Our olive oil is actually super organic we are vastly more organic than most organic olive oil. Here are the reasons why: 

Non mechanical  picking. 

We pick olives by hand  there are no noisy petrol driven picking machines. 

Organic Fertilizers. 
We only use organically certified fertilizers based on animal manure. 

No Pesticides. 
We do not use any pesticide whatsoever.

Bee friendly meadow system. 
We don’t plough around the trees. In the spring the olive grove is ablaze with wild flowers which attract bees and butterflies and many insects. We do not use any weedkiller. 

No burning of prunings  

From time to time you may have to put up with a neighbour burning tree branches after fruit trees are pruned. This releases Co2 into the atmosphere and the smoke is a pollutant. Here we use a wood chipper which creates several tons of mulching material which we use on the vegetable garden.  Most of the carbon is incorporated into the soil. In addition to saving water, improving soil, combating pests and stopping weeds, wood mulch actually reduces the release of a nitrous oxide which is a  greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Several website explain the many advantages of mulching: Link 1 Link 2

Italian-style Grilled Vegetables

Italian-style Grilled Vegetables


Previously, I had only ever thought of grilling courgettes, but thanks to Manuela (a professional cook who was recently staying with us), I have learned a whole lot more about how to grill vegetables and the flavourings and flavours that can go with them. We have experimented with vegetables such as butternut squashes and aubergines, things that I would never thought of grilling before. The secret is to thinly slice the vegetables lengthways and then sear in the flavour with a griddle pan before adding flavours such as garlic, chilli, lemon or vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

This page includes recipes for three grilled vegetable dishes: aubergine, courgette and butternut squash.

It has sparked a whole new interest in grilling things, and in the future I want to experiment not just with other vegetables but also seafood and shellfish. In preparation, we have resurrected an old griddle pan which had gone completely rusty. Here it is after the restoration work:

For all of the three recipes, you need to thinly slice the vegetables lengthways. It is then important to get the griddle pan really hot before adding the sliced vegetables. Cook for 3 minutes before turning. Then turn again, rotating through 90º so that the grilled lines cross and then flip and cook for another 3 minutes (12 minutes in total).

Once the sliced vegetables have cooked, transfer them to a flat serving dish and sprinkle with salt.

Here are some suggestions for how to dress the vegetables:

You can make up some chilli-garlic olive oil in a small container: add a couple of cloves of garlic, some sliced chilli and olive oil and blend well with a stick blender. Brush the sliced vegetable with the oil mixture and keep it in the fridge until you next need it.

PUMPKIN: finely chop some garlic cloves and parsley and sprinkle over the vegetables. Mix together some balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar and olive oil and dress the vegetables.

AUBERGINE: finely chop some garlic cloves, chilli and oregano or mint and sprinkle over the vegetables. Dress with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

COURGETTES: finely chop some garlic cloves and sprinkle over the vegetables. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice.

Review of GeoTech PCS70 BS Shredder

I decided to buy a shredder or a wood chipper.  When we prune the olives and other trees we have a lot of waste  branches that are too small for firewood. We normally burn them. Olive branches have a lot of oil and they make a massive very hot fire. It is a shame that all the carbon that has been captured from the atmosphere is returned  so quickly as carbon dioxide which is a green house gas. The idea of buying a shredder is so that  the waste wood is turned into useful compost and mulch. The shredded output of the shredder is ideal for spreading around the garden to suppress weeds, keep the moisture in and keep the worms happy.

 

The shredder is quite good. So far we have used it with olive prunings and poplar branches with a diameter of up to about 3cm. The shredder comes with a small metal bar in the middle of the exit chute. I think this is due to safety to stop anyone putting their hand down. It caused a lot of blockages because once a small twig had been blocked it rapidly stops any more material from being ejected. Once I had removed this small metal bar the blockages were less frequent. At the end of this video there is actually a blockage caused by pine needles. When there is a blockage it takes a couple of minutes to unscrew the 13 milimetre bolts, unscrew the expulsion chute and clear the blockage. Blockages happen when too many leaves or pine needles are put in at the same time. This machine is not designed for lots of small leaves it, prefers long straight branches.

 

Tuna and Egg Empanada Gallega

Tuna and Egg Empanada

Empanada is a Spanish pie which is typical of Galicia in the north of Spanish and is also called Empanada Gallega. The empanada is traditionally filled with meat, tuna, vegetables, and seafood or shellfish and usually is served cold. It is a great way to feed lots of people and also good for picnics.

You can make the pastry from scratch or you can buy a packet of pre-prepared dough which has already been rolled out.

It’s also a great recipe to prepare in the wood-fired bread oven after you have cooked pizzas for lunch and the oven has been left to cool down a bit. If you prepare some larger amounts of the pizza toppings (e.g. onion, green pepper, red pepper), then you already have your vegetables prepared for when you are going to cook it later.

Tuna and Egg Empanada Gallega
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Ingredients
  1. 1 onion, finely chopped
  2. 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  3. 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  4. 240g tinned tuna
  5. 4 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
  6. 1 egg, beaten
  7. 200ml tomato sauce
  8. extra virgin olive oil
  9. salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion, green pepper and red pepper until soft.
  2. Add the tomato sauce and continuing frying until the mixture is quite dry.
  3. Flake in the tuna and the hard-boiled eggs and stir well.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Leave to cool.
  6. Meanwhile, unwrap the pastry and place the greasproof paper on a large baking tray.
  7. Place one of sheets of pastry on top of the paper.
  8. Spread out the filling to within an inch of the edges.
  9. Put the other sheet of pastry on top, matching up the edges.
  10. Using your fingers, create a rope-like effect by rolling over the edges.
  11. Brush the top with the beaten egg.
  12. Bake in a 180ºC oven for 4 minutes until the top is golden.
  13. Leave to cool before serving.
Cortijo de la Plata https://cortijoblog.com/