Recipe: Cuban Flan

Knocking this one out quick for my pal Lori, who finds herself stuck with 1 can evaporated milk & 1 can sweetened condensed, and unsure how to use. This is the BEST way, so easy, but definitely not one for people avoiding sugar.


Equipment: 1 quart round casserole AND 1 ovenproof dish or baking pan that the casserole will fit into; whisk, spatula, sauce pan.


  1. Pre-heat oven to 175c/350f
  2. Caramel: Add water to sugar in a small heavy-based pot, I prefer nonstick. Simmer over medium-low heat under the sugar melts into a golden brown liquid caramel, then remove from heat and immediately pour into your dish. Pro-tips: do not over-stir, keep stirring to a minimum or it will crystallise; be patient, and do NOT walk away. Caramel burns fast. It is easy to make, and easy to ruin. If you’ve never done it I recommend YouTube and a little practice.
  3. Custard: In a clean bowl, whisk the 1 whole egg and 5 egg yolks together. Add the evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk to the eggs and mix together. Add the vanilla extract, either 1/2 teaspoon or 1 teaspoon depending on what strength you prefer. Pour the custard mixture casserole dish over the caramel, which will have cooled. Cover with foil or lid.
  4. Put your flan into the ovenproof dish or baking pan and fill with hot water to about half-way up the sides, or as high as you can go and still move the thing without spilling hot water on yourself or into the flan.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and let set for another 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and the water-bath and let cool. One cool you can refrigerate to plate later, but like revenge, this is a dish that must be served cold.
  7. Plating: Run a butter-knife around the outside edge of the flan. Place a plate large enough to handle the liquid caramel over the flan and invert. This can take a couple tries to be honest, also patience. Chill the flan for at least an hour before serving.

Basic for this recipe found all over the internet but this one adapted from Minathebrat.

Recipe: Picadillo & Pastelitos

Two of the most amazing Cuban staples, easy to make, and my ‘go to’ things when I want a little bit of Miami. These are two different recipes really: picadillo is a comforting bowl of seasoned ground beef that you serve over rice, and it is a little but saucy. But if you make a drier version (just cook a bit longer uncovered to let liquid evaporate), then it is perfect filling for pastelitos! I tend to only make these around Christmas because they are addictive and that’s a lot of puff pastry to eat. Or I try to keep it to that.

Here is the problem with my sharing this recipe though – I really don’t do well on measurements here. Everything is ‘to taste’, and that taste should be bold – taste as you go to correct seasonings! So I’ll try to offer as a guide, but you do you.

This picadillo recipe makes a LOT, and in fact you will have enough left after you make pastelitos to just enjoy it on its own. But it also freezes well for future meals, or pastries! UK versions of recipes here, too, cause that’s how I think now.


Amazing with tostones – smashed and fried plantains topped with garlic & lime
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, OR garlic infused olive oil (my personal choice)
  • 750g mince (beef is traditional but you can use turkey thigh, to a mix of both, too – it works great)
  • Ground Cumin, approx 2 tbs
  • 1 tsp or so ground sweet cinnamon
  • 1 tsp or so allspice
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tin tomatoes (omit if doing this for pastelitos as it adds a lot of liquid
  • 3 tbs tomato puree; or 4-5 if not using tin tomatoes
  • 75 mls red wine – whatever you have sitting around
  • 1 small (~340g) jar Pimento-stuffed green olives, drained of brine and for pastelitos, finely chopped to make about 1/2 cup
  • A couple handfuls or so sultanas
  1. Chop onion and sauté in olive oil a couple minutes in a large pan/skillet until starting to become translucent; then add your meat.
  2. Brown meat and season generously with spices (note on salt – I add a pinch or two at this stage, but then correct at the end after olives are added, since they are salty); mix and add tomatoes, puree, and wine.
  3. Olives: for picadillo, I like to leave these whole, but you could chop them up a bit. If you are doing pastelitos though, you want to finely chop these – I recommend a mini chopper of food processor, just be careful not to make tapenade! Add these next.
  4. Scatter with a couple handfuls of the sultanas. For picadillo, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or so. For pastelitos, simmer uncovered until liquid has evaporated.
  5. TASTE, correct seasonings if needed.
  6. Picadillo – serve over steamed white rice, like basmati. Pastelitos – set aside to cool.


  • 2 packs ready-roll puff pastry
  • Picadillo – you would probably only use about 1/3 of the above recipe, so you could always make less.
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  1. Take pastry from fridge 20-30 minutes before use
  2. Place 1/2 cup sugar in small pan with 1/2 cup water; simmer until sugar dissolves and you have a simple syrup, set aside to cool
  3. Unroll pastry and either cut into an even number round circles, or be lazy and use a knife to cut into squares – I lay them on top with the baking paper between, then cut into thirds the long way, then into 6 across to make 18 rectangles.
  4. Place about 2 teaspoons of meat onto half of the pastry shapes – be a bit generous, but not some much that you don’t have an edge.
  5. Place the other half of pastry over the top of each. Ideally you would be patient and lightly wet the edges of each and seal with a fork maybe? But honestly I just pressed them down, then carefully picked up and pinched them closed because I am impatient to eat them and rustic is fun.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes at 200/180 fan, or until they are puffed and golden. Take out and brush with the syrup immediately, then let cool as long as you can stand it, but eat a couple hot! These will keep at room temperature a couple days, if they last that long. They won’t!

Recipe: Peanut Butter Oat & White Chocolate Chip Cookies

My partner is a bit of a cookie connoisseur – so I was shocked and appalled to learn he’d never had a peanut butter cookie (or biscuit as we say this side of the pond). I’ve adapted this one from the recipe at Sally’s Baking Addiction, doing white chocolate (his fave) and half light/ half brown sugar a blend of sweet/rich caramel flavour. The recipe says to let cool completely, but that is so not the right way. Eat some of them warm at least, perhaps 5-10 minutes out of the oven. The other great thing about this recipe is that it keeps in the fridge for several days, so you can bake them in small batches and pace yourself.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks; 235g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup each (50g) packed light & dark brown sugar (or 1/2 cup of either)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (260g) creamy peanut butter (see notes)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (180g) old-fashioned whole rolled oats
  • 1cup (200g) white chocolate chips
  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, peanut butter, and vanilla and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. With the mixer running on low speed, add the oats. Once combined, beat in the chocolate chips. Dough will be thick and sticky. Cover and chill the dough for at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator (and up to 4 days). If chilling for longer than 1 hour, allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before rolling and baking because the dough will be quite hard.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
  5. Scoop balls of dough, 2 Tablespoons of dough per cookie, and arrange 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned on the sides. The centers will look very soft.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.


  1. Make Ahead Instructions: You can make the cookie dough and chill it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Allow to come to room temperature then continue with step 4. Baked cookies freeze well for up to 3 months. Unbaked cookie dough balls freeze well for up to 3 months. Bake frozen cookie dough balls for an extra minute, no need to thaw. 
  2. Peanut Butter: Use a non-natural peanut butter like Jif creamy or Skippy creamy. I do not suggest using natural style or oily peanut butter as both produce crumbly, fragile, and sandy tasting cookies. (Try this flourless peanut butter oatmeal cookie if you want to use natural!) Crunchy peanut butter is OK, but I find the cookies taste a little dry with it.

Recipe: Pumpkin Cookies

These are SO MUCH BETTER than pumpkin pie! It’s an American thing, so you’ll see it is in both N. American and UK baking language. One of the small shop pumpkins (not the tinies pictured!) made exactly 1.5 cups, perfect. Also, in case you don’t know – don’t ever try to eat a carving pumpkin, they are bland and stringy. Get the baking/culinary/sugar variety. And can easily be made vegan (I often just make them with nuts and no chocolate), or gluten free, but I’m no expert on that.

Robyne’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip/Pecan cookies

1 1/2 cups (330g) mashed pumpkin*
1 cup (200g) sugar (I use golden granulated)
3/4 cup (145 ml) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg

3 cups (400g) all-purpose flour + 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1 baking soda (bicarb)
3 cups (400g) self-raising flour + 1 tsp baking powder 

3 teaspoons cinnamon (or combo of cinnamon and mixed spice/pumpkin pie spice) – I am heavy-handed with this cause I love it, adjust as needed.
1 teaspoon salt (omit or cut down if using self-raising flour with salt added)
1 cup (100g) quality milk or dark chocolate chips and/or crushed pecans or walnuts. 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F /175 C
  2. Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla and egg. 
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon/spice, and salt.
  4. Add flour mixture to pumpkin about a third at a time and mix well. (This is an easy dough so I do it with a wooden spoon, not bothering with electric mixer).
  5. Add your mix-ins (chocolate and/or nuts)
  6. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F/175 degrees C for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm (will vary according to your oven and the size of cookie).
  7. EAT UP!

*While canned pumpkin will work, it is harder to find in the UK and, admittedly, not quite as tasty as fresh, so I stopped using it years ago. Most groceries sell small culinary pumpkins in the Autumn, and they are fairly easy to cook. Simply cut in half, scoop out the seeds (rinse them, toss them in yummy herbed salt or curry powder, and toast them!), then cut up into chunks, brush with a little oil, roast at 180C for about 40 minutes, then let cool, scoop out flesh and mash up with a fork! If mix is very wet, strain it over cheesecloth or ghetto-style like me with a paper towel and a sieve. You’ll end likely up with 2-3 cups of fresh pumpkin, which freezes well. Can also be made with butternut squash, but will make a slightly flatter cookie!

Recipe: Lemony Saffron Chicken Pilaf

I absolutely love Nigella. She cooks like I do – like someone who just loves food. It’s earthy and rustic, only precise when baking and even then she is a bit free and loose. She doesn’t count calories and celebrates richness and flavour.

But I need be counting calories.

So, I’ve taken her wonderful Saffron Scented Chicken Pilaf and lightened it up a bit. I’ve used a bit less chicken (418g cause that’s the awkward Waitrose pack size) and rice (400g) since there is just two of us; but I’ve also increased the serving size, so it makes 4 servings instead of 6, for a big hearty bowl. I’ve kept the nuts the same amount because I love them, but these could probably be reduced in the end to cut more calories, since that’s where a lot of them come from; and I cut back to 1 tbs oil instead of 3. I also added an onion, based on some of the user comments that this was a bit bland; and then was heavy-handed with some sumac to increase the lemony zing. Finally, I marinated the chicken in 50g low fat Greek yoghurt, instead the 200g regular she uses – since you discard the marinade anyway, it seems a waste to have the chicken swim in it, and unneeded calories. I also only calculated 30g in the final dish, since most of it was tossed.

So in the end, I knocked a couple hundred calories off, woohoo! The original recipe was 682cal/6 servings; and 1023cal/4 servings; mine is 530cal/6 servings; and 795cal/4 servings. That probably still sounds like a lot, but I do count cals and tend to have the bulk of mine for dinner. You could definitely have this as 6 servings and add a nice veg side, but I couldn’t be arsed tonight!

My favourite part is it was delicious – in flavour, it was very close to my beloved Chicken Almandine, a dish I NEVER want to calorie count. I just want to enjoy it on the odd special occasion.


  • 418ish grams chicken breasts (cut into 2 x 1cm / ¼ inch cubes)
  • 50 grams greek yoghurt
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (I forgot this!)
  • ½ teaspoon saffron strands
  • 800ml chicken stock (made from 2 Knorr stock pots)
  • 15 grams unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut oil, divided
  • 400 grams basmati rice
  • 4 cardamom pods (bruised)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 50 grams cashew nuts
  • 50 grams flaked almonds
  • 25 grams pinenuts
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios (shelled)
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley (chopped) (I also forgot this!)


COPIED FROM NIGELLA with my edits in italics.

  1. Marinate the chicken pieces in the yoghurt, lemon and cinnamon for about an hour. I did 3. Soak the saffron threads in the chicken stock. I did this later when I made stock while cooking onion.
  2. In a dry pan – the one you will use for your rice – toast your nuts as in step 5, then set aside.
  3. Over medium heat, in a large pan with a lid, melt the butter along with 1/2 tablespoon oil and onion and sauté until translucent, then add the rice, stirring it to coat until glossy. Pour in the saffron and chicken stock, add the cardamom pods, lemon juice and zest and bring the pan to the boil, then clamp on a lid and turn the heat down to very low; a heat diffuser, if you’ve got one, would be good here. I mean really. Cook like this for about 10-15 minutes, by which time the rice should have absorbed the liquid and be cooked through.
  4. While the rice is cooking, shake the excess yoghurt marinade off the chicken using a sieve. Then fry the meat in a hot pan with the remaining spoonful or so of oil, and a couple teaspoons of sumac if you have it, and do this in batches so that the chicken colours rather than just pallidly stews to cookedness. I think if you drain the chicken and your pan is hot enough you can do it all in one, I did.
  5. When the rice is cooked, take it off the heat and fork through the pan-bronzed chicken pieces. Toast all the nuts except the pistachios, by simply shaking them in an oil-less frying-pan over a medium heat until they colour and begin to give off their waxy scent [you did this above because you are efficient], and then add them to the pilaf along with the chopped parsley. Pile everything on to a plate and add a fabulously green sprinkling of slivered or roughly chopped pistachios.

Recipe: Strawberry Scones

Living in the land of the scone, I’ve learned two things:

  1. They are pronounced skon. Not skohn. And if you mean the Scottish castle, it is pronounced Skoon. So you can have a skon in skoon but never a skohn in skoon.
  2. They come in 3 flavours only: plain, fruit (which means dried raising/sultanas/currant/an apricot if really lucky), cheese (cheddar, sometimes fancy with chive).

They can of course be delicious, and the best scones I’ve ever had were in England (at the Watts Gallery Cafe to be precise). But for variety, I love the American version of these. The kind you get in your local cafe, cut in wedges and available in all kinds of flavours: blueberry, lemon, ginger, walnut, cinnamon, and in the Autumn, pumpkin of course! They are often made with buttermilk too, and usually eaten on the go with no butter/cream/jam. That probably sounds more like a drawback, but Americans usually reserve that indulgence for a treat when you go somewhere for proper ‘High Tea’ as the Anglophiles like to call it.

Today I was faced with some lockdown dilemmas though – no buttermilk, and also, would my lovely Scottish co-isolater be down with a triangular scone filled with strawberries, the seasonal (and actual) fruit we had to hand? Sometimes things do need to be done a certain way that my crass American background falls short of. Potatoes are never breakfast food, for example, unless made into a potato scone – and entirely different kind of scone that what is discussed here, of course. So I tentatively explained, but was pleased to find that he was intrigued.

And he was rewarded, because these were AMAZING. I’ve never made a strawberry scone (blueberry is my go-to), so I was unsure. But these have a crisp flaky surface while soft inside, with just the right amount of sweet-tart strawberry. And in a nod to our mixed heritage, we did slather just a bit of cream over them (though I did mine on top while he was slightly outraged I didn’t spread it on ‘the bum’). Because strawberries and cream. I mean…

Btw, I made these because we have the most GORGEOUS strawberries in Scotland, best I’ve ever tasted. But I wouldn’t make these if they were overly ripe, I think they would just turn to mush in baking. Do this with really firm, fresh ones. If you get the massive punnets we have around this time of year then you’ll have plenty anyway, this recipe only takes about 6 or 7 medium size ones.

Finally, here is the pro-tip which most will already know if you’ve googled scones (or American biscuits) even once: DO NOT OVERMIX. That’s the trick. As little mixing as possible just to bring the dough together. And they will be lovely. Also – freeze your butter ahead, no less that 30 minutes, and then grate it into your flour at the last possible minute. Even if your recipe says to ‘rub it in’, don’t – your fingers are too warm, and cold butter is they key to light flakiness. I do this all the time now, and even stick things back in the fridge in other recipes (like crusts) if needed to keep the butter cold.

Enough rambling…

Strawberry Scones

Based on this Martha Stewart recipe for Blueberry-buttermilk scones. I also measured it out with the Imperial measurements, but on my scale and took notes to convert, so this is the right conversion for metric.


  • 1 1/2 cups or 200g plain flour
  • 1/2 cup or 70g strong white bread flour
  • 3 tbs granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz (one stick) or 114g cold (from freezer) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup strawberries (not too ripe!) cut into blueberry size bites (you could also use blueberries of course, or any other berry, but not too wet.
  • 1/2 cup (110g) low-fat buttermilk; or 1/2 cup (110g) semi-skim milk + 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Caster sugar and 1 tbs milk for glazing and sprinkling
  1. Freeze butter at least 30 minutes ahead, but preferably a few hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 375f / 190c. Line a sheet with baking paper.
  3. If you don’t have buttermilk, measure out your milk and add lemon to it, and set aside to curdle (about 5 minutes or so is needed). Add a few drops more juice if it doesn’t seem to be turning a little bit textured.
  4. Prep your strawberries if needed.
  5. Whisk together buttermilk, 1 egg and the vanilla in a small bowl or measuring glass, set aside.
  6. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  7. Grate your butter directly into the flour. I set my bowl on a kitchen scale so I know when to stop. Stir this lightly with a fork, as gently as possible, until it looks like a crumble.
  8. Add strawberries and stir with fork to coat.
  9. Drizzle all of the liquid over the mixture, then again use fork to combine. Stir until it just seems to come together for the most part, with just a bit of crumbly flour in a bowl.
  10. Turn this out onto a clean surface, and using your (clean) hands, pat this all together, kneading gently once or twice (but no more!) to bring it together. Remember you want to mix as little as possible, and your hands are warm. Pat into a 1 inch high round, then cut into 8 wedges.
  11. Use a turner to pick up each wedge and put on baking tray. Brush each with a little milk (you can also use egg but I think its a waste of an egg since you won’t use it all – pandemic times!), and sprinkle with caster sugar.
  12. Bake 20 minutes or until just turning golden brown on top.

Eat warm! Serve with gorgeous tea, treat yo self! Delicious plain but you’ll be forgiven for slathering some extra thick or clotted cream on them if you have them. These keep wonderfully though for a couple days in a sealed container, if they last that long.

Recipe: Chorizo & Chicken Spanish Rice

It’s not Paella. And it is not Arroz con Pollo. It’s what happens when you grow up in Miami then move elsewhere and concoct something inspired by Cuban-Spanish flavours and live nearer to Spain (Scotland is technically closer). Paella purists will tell you it will never have chorizo. And anyone from the Caribbean will insist your arroz con pollo be made with peas, Sazon spice mix, and include that magic secret ingredient Bijol (which is just annato powder to give colour and substitute expensive saffron). Unless of course you are cheating with that South Florida diet staple Vigo yellow rice (I miss it!).

What this is, is a regular at my table, as any of my friends who visit frequently can tell you. Once you get the knack it’s super easy, super fast, and can feed you for days, depending on size and hunger of your co-habitants.


  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (I like yellow, orange or red for this)
  • garlic (a few cloves chopped)
  • 500-ish grams chicken*
  • 240-ish grams milder chorizo ring
  • 500g Arborio rice (paella rice)
  • Spices: smoked paprika, turmeric, thyme
  • 1 chicken stock pot (I like Knorr) or 1/2 litre chicken stock
  • 200ml white wine
  • saffron
  • Pimiento-stuffed green olives

*Note on chicken: use what you want with the following in mind: breast is healthiest but will dry out and isn’t as nice reheated (you WILL have leftovers); boneless thigh works very well here and reheats well; thigh on the bone also stays lovely and moist, tastiest fresh, but a bit messier to eat – this is most like traditional arroz con pollo though! If you do on the bone, cut it off the bone to store leftovers.

  1. Prep: Boil some water and add your stock pot to a small pitcher, pour in about 600ml water and saffron, crushing the threads in your fingers. A little saffron goes a long way, I suggest about 5-6 threads but use what you like/can spare. Set aside to steep while you get on with veg prep. Chop onion & pepper; slice chorizo into small coins; chop chicken into large chunks (if using boneless). I keep them large so they don’t dry out – about the size that if you cut it in half it will be two bites.
  2. Sautée onions and peppers in some olive oil until soft, then add garlic. Feel free to add more garlic if you want, but I tend to keep it mild for this dish (especially if I’ve made up some garlicky guacamole for friends to start). Season it at this point too – add a generous amount of smoked paprika (1-2 tbs) and about 2 tsps of turmeric, and 1 tsp dried thyme. I NEVER measure though. You could use a paella spice mix, or Adobo for the Americanos, but they often have additives I like to skip in favour of the pure stuff. Give it a good stir, it should look a lovely orangey-yellow.
  3. Add chicken, and a bit more seasoning (paprika especially). If using on the bone, add skin-side down and leave til it gets nice and brown, then turn over. Otherwise, just allow the outside of each piece to cook – you don’t want it to be cooked through yet.
  4. When chicken is cooked a bit on outside, add chorizo and stir so it begins to cook a bit. Let it visit the bottom of the pan.
  5. When chorizo begin to look like it is starting to be cooked (just a couple minutes really), add your paella rice and give everything a nice stir, so your rice gets coated in all the oil and spice released in the pan. Add more spices if you need.
  6. Add your prepared stock, then ‘rinse’ the pitcher with 200ml white wine and 200ml more water. Add to pan and stir.
  7. Now add about 3-4 heaping spoons of the olives. You want a good balance between plenty and whoa that’s too many. DOn’t worry if brine splashes in, that’s tasty and part of your salt. Speaking of…
  8. You’ll note I haven’t added any salt. Don’t. The chorizo, olives, and stock pot have plenty, and you can salt to taste when you eat it if needed.
  9. Bring this to a bubble, then cover and turn all the way down to simmer for about 20 minutes, until rice is cooked through. If you find it still seems a bit wet, you can crank the heat and cook uncovered a few minutes at the end. It should be a rather wet but tasty mix anyway, a bit like risotto but a lot less effort.
  10. Give it a good stir before serving up in big warm comforting bowls.

Leftovers: Unless you are feeding 4-6 hungry friends, you’ll have plenty leftover. I usually just microwave it in bowls (not all at once), and it’s still pretty good. Might be better reheated in a pan though, with a splash of water if needed. And yes British friends, YOU CAN REHEAT RICE. Most of the world does this, and I’ve never heard you couldn’t till I moved here. Stop it.

Recipe update: Cuban pork, Black Beans & Rice (Lechon y Moros)

I’ve already posted these recipes in the epic Noche Buena post from waaay back in 2011, but I wanted to update the pork & beans parts as I think I’ve got better methods now. But for beans in the crock pot and plantains 101, please click back to that post.

Cuban Pork

Pork shoulder roast
2 large onions
1 head garlic
Cumin (lots)
Dried Oregano (lots)
2 oranges & 2 limes juiced, or 2 cups of a tropical juice blend

The day before, unroll your pork shoulder and trim off the rind (sorry, no crackling for this!). Crush 10 or so cloves of garlic and rube all over pork, tucking pieces in the meat where you can. Rub all over with cumin and oregano – be generous – and salt (be as generous as your health allows). Thinly slice one of the onions crush and juice the lemons and oranges, and add these to a plastic ziplock bag (juice and rinds). Add pork, more cumin & oregano, more garlic if you want, and then seal and squeeze so pork is nicely coated. You can also use a covered dish our storage container but then you will want to open it and turn the pork. Refrigerate overnight (your fridge is going to smell amazing).

The cooking time really depends on the size of your roast, but I would plan for 4-6 hours. After years of just throwing this in a roasting tin, I now it is a cast iron/ceramic Dutch oven (Le Creuset style, but mine is a cheaper knock off that works great). Pre-heat your oven to about 180C. Remove your meat from the marinade and brown in the pot in some olive oil, then set aside in a tin that will catch any juices that escape. Now add a little more oil and slice the other onion and sauté it (just so you have some fresh onion flavour too). Once these are getting nice and cooked, you can add in the onions from the marinade. Sweat a bit longer, then return the pork to to the pot and pour over the marinade. I also like to add a couple of the orange and lemon rinds for flavour, but not all of them as they can break down and be a pain. Add about a litre of water to the pot and bring to a simmer.

Place in oven and turn heat down to about 150-165 depending on how hot and efficient your oven is. You want to roast it now for several hours, not opening the pot for at least 2 or so. The pork will tighten up, then loosen. Cook it until it easily pulls apart with a fork. You DO want to check after a while to make sure it hasn’t dried out. If the liquid is low, add more. I usually end up adding another few cups along the way.

Let it rest for about 15 minutes, then remove the fruit rinds and pull apart into the oniony mixture. Serve with black beans & rice; use leftovers for amazing things as below.

Cuban Black Beans

1 500g dried black (turtle) beans (you can use half if you want, a whole back will make a huge amount but they freeze wonderfully)
1-ish onion
1-ish green pepper
Bay leaves
Cumin (lots)
Sea Salt

The process is simple: simmer the beans and about 45 mins before they are done, you make sofrito and add to pot. Now, here are the caveats…

SOAK OR NOT? The internet is soooo divided. I used to always soak them then cook in a pot. Then I started using my crock pot, and I would soak them. Then I started doing a ‘quick soak’ by boiling them then letting them cool, draining water, then cooking them. Then I didn’t soak at all. NONE of these are incorrect. But I’ve finally decided the following method is best:

  1. Soak them about 8 hours – put in a pot or a bowl (and they always say pick through for stones but I have never in all my life found one), and cover with double the amount of water. Soak at least 6 hours, not more than 12. And if you are like me and soak ‘overnight’, make sure to drain them – reserving the water – rather than let them sit there until the late afternoon when you cook them, because…
  2. Soaking drastically reduces cooking time. If you don’t soak, you could simmer them for like 6-8 hours. But if you soak you can be energy efficient and cook them in like an hour tops. Also…
  3. Cook them in the soaking liquid. The whole ‘don’t soak’ camp is down to soaking leeching nutrients and FLAVOUR. So there is an easy solution – use the water to cook them too! You’ll need to add more.
  4. So to cook them, turn on your stove, make sure they are again covered with double the water, thrown in some bay leaves and salt, and bring to a boil. You can throw in the ‘ish’ onion and pepper (if you have any spare parts or even want to cut a bit off, just for longer flavour). Cover, turn down to simmer, and walk away for about 45 minutes.
  5. Now take a pan and sauté a chopped onion, a chopped pepper, and chopped garlic (in that order) in the same pan, in a generous glug of olive oil, throwing in some cumin. Don’t let it brown. Simmer until so so fragrant and you can’t stand it. Tip this into the beans, and let simmer another 30 minutes or until beans are tender. Try not to overcook and let them get too much – but also, if they are too watery, you can simmer uncovered and/or take out some of the beans and mash them to thicken it up.
  6. Cook some plain rice, basmati is great. I won’t argue with you about how you cook your rice, but if you are one of those people who boil it in a bunch of water then drain it like pasta, please don’t ever tell me so we can stay friends.


The best thing about this really – and the easiest, just throw some rice, beans, pork into a pan and fry up, delish! Also of course a Cuban sandwich if you have the right stuff. And makes lovely tacos, burritos, etc, even though those are not Cuban and if you ever see them on a menu for a ‘Cuban’ restaurant just leave.

Recipe: Herb Mayonnaise

I made mayo. It is straightforward and delicious. And yet, I have a really long story to go with it.

I hated mayo most of my life. Hypocritically, I loved it when it was disguised as, or called, something else: aioli, tartar sauce, hollandaise, etc. But I think my problem was that in the USA, mayo was usually that gloopy, greasy Miracle Whip (salad creme for the UK), often folded heavily into places it didn’t belong (that disgusting mid-century jello salad thing?), or with canned tuna, also a hate.

Yes, that is celery floating in jello, topped with Miracle Whip with marshmallows in it.

But in the UK, mayo is almost unavoidable, at the heart of nearly every lunch sandwich you will find. I quickly learned though that it wasn’t usually that gloopy mess, but a much richer, buttery spread, inherited from our proximity to France. I began to experiment, and have learned to love the stuff – which is probably not great since it was one of the few fatty foods I could claim to avoid.

I’m still a snob about it though (like I am with most food, let’s face it). I try not to buy it, but lately I’ve kept a jar of Maille Mayo with a hint of Mustard in the fridge, mostly to use in place of richer hollandaise for a poached egg brunch. But I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find (Brexit? Plague?). So I woke up this morning, Easter Sunday, and having luckily made a gorgeous Nigella’s Carrot Walnut Ginger Cake last night, found I had the creative kitchen energies to make my own mayo for some brunch. For advice, I turned to Samin…

If you haven’t yet seen Samin Nosrat’s ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat‘ on Netflix, do it! It is tantalising and quietly, wonderfully, feminist (and even a little decolonised – nearly all the experts she consults are women, from all over the world). Her accompanying book is also fascinating, a well-written scientific bible on how cooking works (and the illustrations by Wendy MacNoughton are delightful, as above). Even as a fairly knowledgable home cook, I learn something new every time I pick it up. Understanding the ‘why’ of how things brown, emulsify, etc. has made me a better cook. I won’t say Samin has quite surpassed Julia Child in my Kitchen Hero category, but she is getting rather close. Give her a few years.

Anyway – her recipe is simple, and she says the golden ratio is one egg yolk to 175ml oil. I confess, I stopped at about 100ml, for two reasons. First, I was nervous it was going to split and I would ruin my efforts. Second, I lack patience (which is why I’m not a professional cook), and it was looking really good as it was. I don’t know what would have happened if I kept going – would the oil have all just been incorporated for more volume? It was getting rather stiff too, as I was using my lovely Kitchen Aid hand mixer (cause I’m a weakling for beating, and also, any excuse to use it). The lemon juice made it creamier, and I stopped when it all just seemed delicious. I added about 1.5 tbs of lemon juice (a generous pinch of salt dissolved in this as per recipe), and chopped fresh parsley, thyme and chives. Oh! And I combined about 10ml of garlic infused rapeseed oil with 165ml olive oil, but in the end only used about 120ml overall.

All done to the tunes of Django Reinhart for that French feeling.

Recipe: Broad Bean Paté

Written back when our local grass roots veg delivery place was a brand new thing.

I just made up a little recipe I had to share…

I was pretty excited to see a new little grass roots ‘hippy’ food shop, Locavore, open directly across the street from me. After living in Oregon for 10 years, one of the (few) things I’ve missed in the UK was the availability of fresh, local – and affordable – farm produce and meat. I mean, of course it is here, but it is often rather spendy, and the whole local/slow food thing has really only caught on in the more ‘twee’ classes.

In any case, this shop is tiny, but they get a regular supply of things grown locally (including my actual neighbourhood – they’ve been working with the community to build urban gardens). But in addition, they sell wonderful Scottish products like rapeseed oil, oatcakes, highland cheeses, farm-fresh eggs, and perhaps my favourite, delicious local pork and beef sausages, and lamb.

They have also recently started a veg subscription service, another thing I used to partake of in the Pacific NW. For just £5, I get a wee bag of fresh veg every Friday. This is my second week, and I barely dipped into last weeks. Here is the haul from this week – check out the size of the courgette!

That pork & apple sausage snuck into the picture too, jealous? £5 for all that!

I have about double the amount of those massive broad beans adding in last week’s bag, so I decided I might turn them into a hummus-like paté – what a good idea that was! It was very easy too, so here is my narrative-style recipe, as usual without solid measurements:

I split open the pods, then blanched the beans in boiling water for about 5 minutes – it yielded about 2 cups. Rinsed them in cool water, then through them in my food processor with a few leaves from the basil plant I’ve managed to not murder, a heaping teaspoon dijon mustard, the juice of half a lemon, and two big pinches of sea salt.

I pulsed this a bit, then I poured in some garlic flavoured cold-pressed rapeseed oil I got at the shop. It is really nice and rather potent, but if I didn’t have this I would simply use fresh garlic (probably 2 cloves) and olive oil. So the next bit is a process of blending, scraping, and drizzling in oil until you get a nice creamy consistency as you like. Because that rapeseed oil is very garlicky, I switched to olive oil after about 2 tablespoons. In all I think it has about 4ish tbs of oil.

When it was as I liked, I scooped it into a bowl and added a bit more salt, pepper, lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, and mixed it in. How you eat it is up to you, it would be lovely with pita, crudite, tortilla chips… but I spread mine on some lovely fresh walnut bread I had, toasted just to warm.

And oh, hey, look at me, this recipe is VEGAN. Crazy. And it is every bit as good as it looks!