Thursday, 26 April 2012

Full Flower Moon and Beltane 2012

Another Full Moon is on it's way, May 6th, the Flower Moon in Scorpio....... very.interesting indeed

Full Flower Moon – In most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time. Thus, the name of this Moon. Other names include the Full Corn Planting Moon, or the Milk Moon.

What is Beltane/Bel-teine ? 
An ancient Celtic festival celebrated on May Day.

Again, going back to my ancestral roots, I'm.totally at one when it comes to do with anything regarding the Celts and Mother Earth. I feel that the festival of Beltane flows straight through my bloodline.So for the uninitiated here is a brief outline about this special, mystical festival..

Beltane honours Life. It represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. All of life is bursting with potent fertility and at this point in the Wheel of the Year, the potential becomes conception. On May Eve the sexuality of life and the earth is at its peak. Abundant fertility, on all levels, is the central theme. The Maiden goddess has reached her fullness. She is the manifestation of growth and renewal, Flora, the Goddess of Spring, the May Queen, the May Bride. The Young Oak King, as Jack-In-The-Green, as the Green Man, falls in love with her and wins her hand. The union is consummated and the May Queen becomes pregnant. Together the May Queen and the May King are symbols of the Sacred Marriage (or Heiros Gamos), the union of Earth and Sky, and this union has merrily been re-enacted by humans throughout the centuries. For this is the night of the Greenwood Marriage. It is about sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality and joy. And about conception. A brilliant moment in the Wheel of the Year to bring ideas, hopes and dreams into action. And have some fun.....

Traditions of Beltane

Beltane is a Fire Festival. The word 'Beltane' originates from the Celtic God 'Bel', meaning 'the bright one' and the Gaelic word 'teine' meaning fire. Together they make 'Bright Fire', or 'Goodly Fire' and traditionally bonfires were lit to honour the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun's light to nurture the emerging future harvest and protect the community. Bel had to be won over through human effort. Traditionally all fires in the community were put out and a special fire was kindled for Beltane. "This was the Tein-eigen, the need fire. People jumped the fire to purify, cleanse and to bring fertility. Couples jumped the fire together to pledge themselves to each other. Cattle and other animals were driven through the smoke as a protection from disease and to bring fertility. At the end of the evening, the villagers would take some of the Teineigen to start their fires anew."

The largest Beltane celebrations in the UK are usually held in Edinburgh. Fires are lit at night and festivities carry on until dawn. All around the UK fires are lit and private celebrations are held amongst covens and groves (groups of Pagans) to mark the start of the summer. However, you can celebrate the Fire Festival on May 6th, at Thornborough Henge near Ripon in North Yorkshire.

 Beltane - Fire festival 

Friday, 20 April 2012

Green Olive Crusted Chicken with homemade green olive tapenade

 I LOVE olives !!! and this - I think, has been firmly demonstrated on my blog. Such a shame that on the British Isles there isn't the same selection and variety of olives, that can be found in the Mediterranean . The versatile olive fruit can be eaten as an appetiser, either on its own or stuffed, or  often used as a cooking ingredient especially in the Med.

Raw olives are incredibly bitter, so once harvested they are cured and then usually preserved in salt or brine. The small, oval olive fruit has a flavour ranging from salty to mild and sweet. It can be harvested at any stage – the immature fruit is green; it turns red-brown and then black when fully ripened – which accounts in part for the variation in flavour.

The Original Tapenade

The original tapenade is a purée that stems from Provence, France and is used as a spread. The word tapenade comes from the Provençal word tapèno, meaning “capers,” which are a common ingredient, but some people think of tapenade as basically “olive paste.” It is considered a gourmet condiment.
There are several sets of ingredients that tapenade may contain, with more variations introduced as time goes on. The original spread contained capers, black olives, and anchovies, all of which were pureed along with olive oil. Other ingredients mentioned include lemon juice, seasonings such as fresh herbs, and garlic. Some recipes specify the type of black olive to be used, such as kalamata, nicoise, or gaeta olives, and some call for mustard, liquor such as cognac or brandy, and red wine vinegar. They differ in whether they use anchovy paste or fillets.

Other ingredients that can be used as a base for tapenades are :
portabella mushrooms
sun dried tomatoes
green olives
roasted garlic

Tapenade can be served with vegetables, fish, or meat, and is sometimes used as a stuffing. It is often simply spread on artisan bread, pita, crostini, or crackers for use as an hors d’oeuvre. Some use it as a sandwich spread, while others use it to top baked potatoes or toss it with pasta.
Homemade tapenade can be prepared using a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Tightly covered, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Tapenade butter is created by combining classic tapenade ingredients with butter to make a paste. It is used as a meat garnish or inserted under a chicken’s skin before roasting, and it is sometimes used to create a sauce. Tapenade butter can also be formed into a log, wrapped in plastic wrap, chilled, and served in slices.

My green olive Tapenade

2 cups Spanish green olives (olives stuffed with jalepeno peppers will give this a kick)
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons capers
7 fresh Spanish marinated anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon lemon juice
6 tbs olive oil

Place the olives, capers, anchovies, parsley and garlic into a food processor (or use a mortar and pestle for a more authentic paste) . Cover and process until the mixture is finely chopped. Add 6 tablespoons oil and the lemon juice and process just until combined. Do not over process to puree the mixture.

Green Olive Crusted Chicken

Homemade green olive tapenade (enough to spread over 4 chicken breasts)
50g breadcrumbs
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 tbsp grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
4 chicken breasts (about 500g)

Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4. Mix together the tapenade, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and cheese. Press firmly onto each chicken breast to coat. Place on an oiled baking tray and cook in the middle of the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through, the juices run clear and there is no pink meat.

Serve wth seasonal roasted vegetables

Friday, 6 April 2012

Spanish Roast Lamb - an Easter treat

The roast lamb that many eat on Easter Sunday goes back earlier than Easter to the first Passover of the Jewish people. The sacrificial lamb was roasted and eaten, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs  in hopes that the angel of God would pass over their homes and bring no harm. As Hebrews converted to Christianity, they naturally brought along their traditions with them. The Christians often refer to Jesus as The Lamb of God. Thus, the traditions merged.

As per usual, I've opted for a Spanish recipe because Spanish-seasoned leg of lamb is a very special dish. The key ingredients are in the seasonings: Cumin and paprika are the perfect compliments to this tender and juicy lamb. If you are a lamb lover, you simply have to try this recipe. Spanish oven potatoes topped with manchego cheese is a must compliment for this scrumptious dish...........however an Easter cocktail maybe in order first.

How about a French Martini ?
 vodka, Chambord  (black and red raspberry liqueur) and pineapple juice

 or maybe a jug of the very popular - Mojito?

Roast Lamb (Cordero Asado)

2 1/2 lbs. of leg of lamb
4 cloves chopped garlic
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a handful of chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
a sprig of fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves
2 large onion (halved)
salt and pepper to taste
1 bottle of Spanish red wine

Salt and pepper the leg of lamb on both sides generously. Mix all spices, herbs (except the bay leaves) and garlic together and add  2 tablespoons of olive oil to make a pasty texture.

Marinate at room temperature for an at least an hour. You could do this rub the night before and keep it refrigerated until an hour before you prepare it. Letting meat rest at room temperature before cooking it will keep the meat tender.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In large saute pan add remaining olive oil. Sear lamb on both sides. Remove lamb and place in an oven-proof dish. De-glaze the pan with a 1/2 a bottle of red wine and reduce for 5 minutes. Pour over the lamb. Reduce oven temp accordingly. Put lamb into the oven - adding the halved onions and bay leaves to the de-glazed sauce and roast slowly. Baste often and use a little more red wine if needed. Roast for 20 minutes per pound.

Serves 6 to 8