Soap Making

The aim of this blogpost is to chart, document and record my attempts at soap making.

There are hundreds of videos online but I found Everyday Elly’s ones (for sourdough and soap) particularly helpful for general information about soapmaking, and how to calculate quantities, store and cure soap, etc. Here is a link to her YouTube channel: Elly’s Everyday.

Soap made from pure olive oil is called Jabón de Castilla or Castile Soap. Years ago, when we lived in the Sacromonte area of Granada, Consuelo our neighbour would sit in the street outside her house stirring a large vat of leftover oil mixed with caustic soda. Any oil would do she told me and it would make a pure soap that you could use on your skin or clothes. 

The second time, I made soap I used the proportions suggested in Elly’s Everyday for Castile Soap:

600g olive oil
109g water
79g caustic soda

The important thing is to add the LYE to the water and wear safety goggles, mask and gloves while making the soap. 

The total weight of the soap made was 788g and this was enough for 7.8 bars of soap made in the silicone moulds.

The percentages for each ingredient are:
76.14% olive oil
13.83% water
10.03% caustic soda

I have calculated that each mould holds 105g so the quantities for one bar would be:
80g olive oil
14.5g water
10.5g caustic soda

The quantities for 4 bars would be:
320g olive oil
58g water
42g caustic soda

The first time I made soap with this method, I placed boards below and on top of the mould and wrapped it all up in a large towel. This supposedly helps the saponification process and ensures that the bars saponify evenly.

I took the bars out of the moulds on the morning of the third day after I had made it. They were all OK except for one so in the future, I will remove them from their moulds after 3 days. 

 

Butternut Squash Bhajis

We grow a lot of butternut squashes. As long as they are undamaged, they usually store well in crates so that we can use them throughout the year. One of my favourite ways to cook them is to cut them into 1/4 or 1/6 lengthways and roast them in the oven with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and possibly some spices. When we are at the farm, however, it is not always feasible to light the bread oven and so I have been looking for stovetop recipes and experimenting with different recipes and ways of cooking them. I though that a potato rosti might work but without the starch that potatoes have, it was too difficult to flip. And so my quest began for more recipes. This recipe is based on one for onion bhajis.

 

BUTTERNUT SQUASH BHAJIS

butternut bhajis


INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups coarsely grated butternut squash
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons self-raising flour
  • sunflower oil
  • 1/3 cup water

METHOD

  1. Whisk the egg in a bowl and add the flour, water, spices and salt.
  2. Stir in the butternut squash.
  3. Heat some sunflower oil in a frying pan.
  4. Form quenelles using two dessertspoons.
  5. Gently put into the oil.
  6. Cover the pan and fry for 3 minutes on each side on a medium flame.
  7. Remove the lid and continue to fry, turning every two minutes until they are golden and crispy and cooked all the way through.

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
Write a review
Print
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/

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.