The Saffron Girl » A Paleo-Primal food & travel blog

A Frog in Boiling Water & Lamb Shanks

2014: My Annus Horribilis

I will never forget this year. From the beginning to the end, there has been little respite from health and personal issues. But all in all, I’m grateful that my mom is still with us, improving, albeit slowly, and things are moving forward (although currently she’s still in hospital and still in ICU once again). I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time with my parents than I have in the last 10 years, for which I’m grateful. Yes, unfortunately it’s been under a very stressful, painful and heartbreaking situation, but still I’m thankful to be able to be by their side and be able to help them every day.

This year has also marked the end of my 10-year relationship with an abusive husband. I am somewhat apprehensive and embarrassed to share this because there’s always the stigma attached to these type of relationships, where not only do I blame myself but I believe others think I’ve been blind, stupid and at fault as well. When I finally made the decision and shared my story with family and friends, a number of friends surprised me and told me about their same stories. I’ve come to realise that it was never my fault and that domestic violence doesn’t distinguish between levels of intelligence, education, social-economic status, backgrounds, nationalities, “races” if you will… it can happen to any one of us alike. And we all have one thing in common: we cover it up because it’s viewed in society as something shameful. We may not all be as lucky as Nigella Lawson to have the money with which to get out and reinvent ourselves quickly, but even in her case it would appear her decision also took time. And she’s an intelligent, beautiful, successful woman.

I compare the story of all of us who have endured this scourge of society with the tale of the Frog in Boiling Water. If you place a frog in boiling water, it will instinctively jump out. Naturally, it senses the danger. But if you place a frog in cold water and turn up the heat gradually, by the time the water is boiling, it will be too late for the frog to realise the deadly predicament it is in and it will be unable to jump out. Victims of domestic violence become trapped into these relationships in a complex array of psychological, emotional, and oftentimes financial abuse. The less fortunate also endure physical abuse. I was lucky. He never hit me although he threatened it often…

But that’s history now. I look forward to a new year and a new life, one where I will succeed Deo Volente because I am determined to so do. And this past experience both with my relationship and with my mother’s health situation has only made me stronger, more resilient. I’ve learned that I have a fortitude that I never thought existed or was possible. And I’m going to take advantage of that realisation to keep going forward.

My HERO

Since June, when my mother had her open-heart surgery to replace two valves and repair two arteries, we have been in and out of hospitals in NYC and Connecticut. My mother has endured multiple complications from a near death episode right after her first discharge to pleural effusions to mistakes made with medications to a sternal wound infection, which is now being treated. Throughout the whole thing, she’s been a trouper, showing all of us that her strength is admirable even to the doctors and nurses who care for her. They are constantly telling us this.

My mom was already my hero before this year. She is the most wonderful person I know. Yes, I am biased like most of you are with your parents and children. But my mother is the most selfless, kind, compassionate, empathetic, loving, understanding and honest person I know. (My father comes in a close second ;)). She has endured other hardships in life which could have made her a bitter person, yet she focused that energy in being a good person and ensuring my brother and I grew up in a loving environment never burdened by her previous suffering. For that I am grateful and for that she has my utmost admiration. And for that, she is my hero and always will be.

2015

I welcome this new year with open arms and am hopeful the tides will change for the positive in health and in happiness. I know we are not the only ones suffering for our loved ones. I have a number of friends battling cancer and other problems. I pray for them and for us so that the new year brings us all good health. 

I want to THANK YOU all for being here, for accompanying me on my journey through a Paleo lifestyle, and for not giving up on me when I’ve not been able to interact with you on a regular basis in the past year.

I wish you all a very healthy, happy, prosperous and love-filled New Year 2015!

With love,

Debra xx

PS: I was able to go on one walk in the past months. I now share with you some images of where we are staying in Connecticut and of my parents little buddy, Kiko, who cheers us up every day when we come home from hospital.

*****

In the last few months, I’ve “gone back to basics” in a lot of my cooking because that’s what my parents mostly enjoy. I share with you now a dish that they both love and have asked me to make a number of times.

It couldn’t be easier and simpler to make. It’s takes a little bit of planning to ensure you have 2 to 2 1/2 hours for cooking the meat, but other than that, there’s little else to it. (I’ve actually gotten up early to make this before leaving for the hospital.)

The natural flavours of the lamb, enhanced by the wine and a little bit of rosemary, don’t require more than some sea salt to come out. And the resulting sauce which is turned into a rich gravy is the cherry on the pie. You can swap the vegetables for others that you may like or that are in season.

Roasted Lamb Shanks with Vegetables

Ingredients (for 2-3):

  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 6-7 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grassfed butter or ghee
  • 250ml (1 cup) red wine
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary or 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 liter (4 cups) filtered water
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4-5 medium mushrooms, cut in halves, or 10-12 small button mushrooms whole
  • 1-2 tablespoons tapioca flour/arrowroot powder
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

Rinse the lamb shanks and season on both sides with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside while you prepare the vegetables.

Preheat the oven to 200C (390F).

In a large pot that is ovenproof, place the olive oil, butter/ghee, onions, garlic, carrots, and lamb shanks. Over medium heat, cook stirring frequently until the shanks are golden brown. Make sure to turn them the shanks over a few times. I like to use a spatula-like wooden spoon, so I can scoop from the bottom and not break the vegetables in the process.

Once the shanks are browned, add the red wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes to reduce. Add the rosemary, water and potatoes and give it all a good stir. Place the ovenproof pot in the preheated oven. Roast for 2-2 1/2 hours, checking every once in a while and turning the shanks over a couple of times.

Remove from oven and take the shanks and vegetables out of the pot. Set them aside on serving plates and cover, to retain the heat.

For the Gravy:

Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a bubble. Scoop out a few tablespoons of the juices into a glass and add the tapioca/arrowroot flour. Mix well so the flour is completely dissolved. Pour this mixture into the pot and stir well. Add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened and a gravy is formed, about 5-7 minutes. (I used 1 1/2 tablespoons of tapioca flour for a medium thick gravy. Adjust to your liking.) Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Uncover the shanks and the vegetables. Pour some of the gravy with the mushrooms over the lamb shanks and the remaining into a gravy bowl. Garnish with some sprigs of thyme if desired. Serve the shanks and vegetables immediately.

*****

Jarretes de Cordero al Horno con Verduras

Ingredientes (para 2-3):

  • 2 jarretes de cordero
  • 2 cebollas medianas, peladas y cortadas a trozos medianos
  • 6-7 dientes de ajo, enteros sin pelar
  • 3 zanahorias medianas, peladas y cortadas a trozos medianos
  • 60ml aceite de oliva
  • 2 cucharadas (soperas) de mantequilla de vaca o ghee
  • 250ml de vino rojo
  • unas espigas de romero fresco o 1 cucharada (sopera) de romero seco
  • 1 litro de agua
  • 3 patatas medianas, peladas y cortadas a trozos medianos
  • 4-5 champiñones grandecitos, limpios y cortados a cuartos, dejad aparte; o 10-12 champiñones pequeños enteros
  • 1-2 cucharadas (soperas) de harina de tapioca o harina de arrurruz
  • sal marina y pimienta fresca, a gusto

Como hacer los jarretes al horno:

Enjuagamos los jarretes y salpimentamos por ambos lados. Dejamos los jarretes apartados mientras preparamos las verduras.

Precalentamos el horno a 200C.

En una olla grande que se pueda meter al horno (como un Le Creuset por ejemplo), echamos el aceite, la mantequilla o ghee, las cebollas, los ajos, zanahorias y los jarretes. Sobre fuego mediano, salteamos moviendo frecuentemente hasta que los jarretes estén bien dorados.

Un vez que los jarretes estén dorados, agregamos el vino rojo y hervimos a fuego lento unos 2-3 minutos para que se reduzca. Añadimos el romero, el agua y las patatas y removemos bien. Ponemos la olla dentro del horno y asamos todo unas 2 a 2 1/2 horas, dandole la vuelta a los jarretes un par de veces.

Sacamos todo del horno y sacamos los jarretes y las verduras de la olla. Ponemos el jarrete en un plato para servir y las verduras en otro plato. Cubrimos los dos platos para que no se nos enfrie nada.

Para el Gravy/Salsa:

Ahora ponemos la olla sobre la hornilla a fuego mediano hasta que empiece a hervir. Sacamos un poco del jugo y lo echamos en un vaso. Le agregamos la harina de tapioca y removemos hasta que la harina este bien disuelta. Echamos esta mezcla dento de la olla y movemos todo bien. Agregamos los champiñones. Cocemos, removiendo continuamente, hasta que obtengamos una salsa espesa, como gravy. (Yo use 1 1/2 cucharadas-soperas-de harina de tapioca para un gravy de espesor mediano. Ajustad a vuestro gusto.) Salpimentar a gusto.

Destapamos los jarretes y las verduras. Echamos un poco del gravy con los champiñones sobre los jarretes y el restante gravy lo ponemos en una salsera. Decoramos con unas espigas de tomillo fresco, si lo deseamos. Servimos los jarretes y las verduras inmediatamente.

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CeriDecember 31, 2014 - 15:28

A beautiful dish to finish the year on a positive note. I have admired your strength through your adversity this entire year, and wish you and all your family a brighter 2015 and future. I’ve said time and time again, we shall still be here ready to read your blog when you have time to return to it, and in the meantime shall continue to enjoy all of the great dishes you have created thus far. Happy New Year Debra x

The Saffron GirlDecember 31, 2014 - 15:37

Thank you Ceri! I’ve learned from your strengths too… you’ve also been an example for me to see life in a positive light. I wish you all the best, continued good health and success in this New Year. Love, Debra xx

Teresa LorenzoJanuary 2, 2015 - 12:46

Muy bien Debra. Te conozco solo desde hace unos años y reconozco que me ha impresionado tu valentía. Hay muchas mujeres que no dan el paso y acaban a manos de sus temibles maridos. Eres única y sé que seguirás adelante con tus nuevos proyectos. Espero que tu madre se mejore, las dos os lo merecéis. Feliz año nuevo bonita!!

The Saffron GirlJanuary 2, 2015 - 14:53

Gracias guapa!! No sabes cuanto agradezco tus palabras y sobre todo tu amistad. Te quiero <3 Feliz año nuevo para ti y tu familia también!

KrystalJanuary 23, 2015 - 15:20

Debra thank you so much for sharing your story. I am truly touched by all you have endured. I wish you health and happiness in 2015.
Abrazos!

The Saffron GirlJanuary 23, 2015 - 15:22

Thank you Krystal for your kind words and for the following on Instagram. I look forward to becoming friends! Debra xx

Only Count the Happy Hours & Rustic Tomato Soup w/ Seared Scallops

A Particularly Nonfacetious Summer with Musical Houses

Summer has come and gone, and I’ve barely noticed. First, “just the beginning” of the scorching summer heat came upon us in Sevilla from one day to the next. Once that happens, it’s generally hot (by hot I mean 40s and 40+ Celsius) for the rest of the season until the end of September. But I left in June, so I guess that I was lucky to escape the torture. Then, the humid air, fetid odours and exciting rapid lifestyle of NYC I had forgotten about enveloped me on my daily journeys to New York Presbyterian Hospital, all of June and July. And lastly, the serene and peaceful breeze of the Southeastern Connecticut shore, where we have been graced with some gorgeous Indian Summer days in the past few weeks, has finally brought the summer of 2014 to an end.

Although we’ve had an intense season, not necessarily delightful and recharging as we all would’ve hoped, time has also flown by and I barely noticed the weather most of the time, or better said, I didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy it much. As summers go, mine has been chilly and basically without sunshine. In fact, I’ve been wearing sweaters most of the summer since I was indoors at the hospital taking care of and accompanying my mother, who had open heart surgery in June. After numerous complications, an almost near-death episode, transport in helicopter from New London to Yale, New Haven and then back to NYC, rehab a number of times, and another stint in the hospital in August, she’s finally home in Connecticut with us and doing much better. She’s still convalescing and there are still issues, but she’s thankfully getting stronger with each day.

Connecticut has welcomed us again. It’s like a second home for me, as I’ve spent the most time here after Spain, and my brother and his family live here. And after some house-hopping (truly it’s felt like musical houses) since March for me and since June for my parents who have been living in Florida until now, we are finally in a house which will be their home until next June. They are renting a place on Groton Long Point, where winter rentals come furnished and one can can have the beach to oneself, a luxury which I love since my days growing up in Chipiona, Spain. The seashore in Connecticut is highly sought-after in the summer months and rentals can go for as much as $20,000 a month. Thankfully, in the winter the prices are much more reasonable. This is our third time renting on GLP. The first time we were here, we had just arrived from Spain when my father retired. I decided to join them and look into graduate schools, as well as help my mother get over the sorrow of losing my grandmother. Spanish families are very tight-knit, and in my case, my parents are probably my best friends; and although I’m not an only child, the age difference between my brother and me is big enough to make me feel like one oftentimes. And maybe because I’m the “baby”, I’m also closer to my parents. So, it felt rather natural to accompany them.

I was still living with my parents when they decided to get a bespoke house in Mystic made and once again, we rented during the winter months in GLP while the house was being built. It was on that occasion that I recall witnessing the crazy tradition of the New Year’s dip in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. I discovered that it’s not only the Dutch and Scandinavians who do this, but that there are also brave souls in America who enjoy an icy dip to welcome the new year.

I’m hoping the third time on this peninsula is a charm and brings us all good luck, which we need. I won’t be staying with them the whole time, but for now I’m still here helping my mother recuperate from the operation. She’s finally walking with more confidence, although still with the walker. And she’s also less depressed. This house has a good vibe, with lots of light and open spaces, which afford her the room to exercise.

Rainy Days, Scallops, & Happy Hours 

After the gorgeous Indian Summer, which the locals were cautiously praising, the rains finally arrived.  The day we moved into this house, it was pouring and my mother and I had to wait in the car until it was less intense to be able to maneuver the stairs.  Such ordinary things as a step or stairs are huge obstacles for someone who needs to learn how to walk again. We never thought that the aftermath of the surgery would be so difficult for her and us.

A few days ago on one of our medical outings, we made a small detour and visited Sea Well near Mason’s Island. Mason’s Island is an island on the Mystic River and part of the town of Mystic. It’s an exclusive community, maybe not quite as private as Groton Long Point, but also very beautiful. It’s here that Meryl Streep’s parents had their retirement home. And it wasn’t unusual to see the actress around town, although I never had the pleasure. Mystic is very popular with the NY crowd and one can sometimes spot a famous or well-known person camouflaged amongst the locals. I remember one day walking on Main Street and bumping into the talented Mexican soap opera star Nailea Norvind at one of the shops. She was with her mother, who I learned that day lived in NYC back then, and the two were speaking in English. So in an unusual gesture for me, I approached her to let her know I admired her acting skills.

Sea Well is a local fish and seafood shop. They have two stores, one in Mystic on Mason’s Island Road, and one in Pawcatuck. The seafood is delivered fresh daily from the Stonington docks and the last commercial fishing fleet in Connecticut. My brother and his family are patrons of Sea Well and sometimes even suppliers. My brother’s passion and main hobby is fishing. And he goes out often during the warm months and usually comes back with tons of tuna, some of which in turn he sells to the owners of Sea Well.

So, when my sister-in-law and nieces recommended buying seafood there, I didn’t hesitate. And naturally, we went for local scallops. I could only purchase three quarters of a pound, as that’s all that was left on Wednesday afternoon. And if I hadn’t arrived just in time, the lady who followed me in would’ve snatched them up. She seemed as disappointed as I would’ve been when the shopkeeper told her there were none left, that I had just taken the last bunch. I love scallops. And my parents do too. (By the way, Sea Well has delicious smoked bluefish and salmon that they prepare and smoke themselves. I highly recommend both.)

It has been an ordeal to get my mother enthusiastic about food. She’s been eating only for nourishment and she’s been forcing herself at best. The only food she has requested has been sushi! We’ve therefore had take out from some local restaurants a number of times… the rest of us savouring it as much as she has.

She simply has not been enjoying any of her meals. But with the move to this house, things have started to change in a positive direction and not only with food. The house as I’ve mentioned gives off a good vibe. It’s clean, with lots of white, blue and green furniture in a coastal decor, and tons of light. There are windows everywhere. In fact, at night I’m sure our neighbours are checking us out from their homes, until I remember to put the shades down. The owners have a number of watercolour paintings from local artists and many little wooden signs in pastel colours. Some are rather cute, like the one in the bathroom that says, “If you’re not barefoot, you’re overdressed.” The entrance of the house has a lovely sunroom, surrounded by windows on all three walls, again with the blue, green and white decor, and a bunch of rustic wooden signs, a few stating that life’s better at the beach, another welcomes the visitor and let’s us know we are on the porch, yet another says there’s no vacancy. And then there’s the one over the front door that reads, “Only Count the Happy Hours.” I like that, especially after the rough year we are having. I can’t wait to meet the owners as I already like them from how the house has influenced my mother’s mood.

My mother is walking on her own (albeit with the walker) and is more engaged in her rehab exercises. She’s talking more. And she’s been helping me peel and cut things in the kitchen. She’s a keen and excellent cook from whom I’ve learned most of what I know; and she keeps wondering out loud when she’ll be able to make meals for my father and herself again.  Thus her voluntary (and enthusiastic) involvement with the preparation of our meals is a good sign in her continued recovery.

She is also finally taking pleasure in eating and she’s cleaning off her plates! We had the scallops we bought at Sea Well yesterday. I dry-pan seared them and served them with oven-roasted rosemary and garlic potatoes (I must share the recipe when I make them again) and some broccoli. And today, I used up the remaining scallops with a light, tomato soup which was very appropriate for the wet and chilly day. My mother cleaned off her bowl and kept saying how delicious it was, which very pleasantly surprised my father and me. We are taking one day at a time, or maybe even one hour at a time, and counting only the happy ones…and relishing in each other’s company, sharing healthy and delicious meals and sobremesa (after-meal) conversations.

*A few days after writing this post, my mother had to go back to the hospital due to complications with her medications. Thankfully, after only a week this time, she’s back home and much stronger.

*****

With all the attention my mother needs and all the stress I’m going through right now, I cannot concentrate on one of my dearest hobbies, reading books, and I have a few new ones patiently waiting for me to pick them up and immerse myself in their stories. Instead, I’ve been able to muster just enough patience to read food magazines. This recipe is inspired by one in the August 2014 issue of Bon Appétit. My sister-in-law and nieces swear by this magazine and the owners of the house had a copy laying around. So, I am putting it to good use.

I like roasting vegetables and fruits, as the flavour is intensified and it gives any dish a rustic feel. For the recipe today, I roasted tomatoes, which I especially love to do for soups and sauces. When one adds roasted garlic, it becomes even more delectable. And if my mother wanted seconds, I think you will too…

This soup is very easy to make and can even be made ahead of time. It’s light enough for a starter yet filling enough for a main course, depending on how many scallops (or fish) you want to add.

RUSTIC ROASTED TOMATO SOUP & PAN-SEARED SCALLOPS

Ingredients:

(serves 4)

16 small scallops (4 pp, or more or less according to your preference)
4 medium organic tomatoes, cut in quarters
8-10 garlic cloves, unpeeled
4-6 fresh basil leaves for roasting, plus 4-5 additional for the soup and garnishing if desired
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
sea salt & pepper, to taste
1 ñora (or other dried, sweet pepper), soaked in water for about 20 minutes
olive oil, about 3-4 tablespoons, plus more for drizzle
2 cups water
raw milk goat’s cheese, crumbled

Method:

For the soup:

Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).

Place the tomatoes, drained ñora, and garlic cloves on an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with dried basil and add 4-6  fresh basil leaves, season with salt and pepper, and pour olive oil over top. Mix with hands so everything is well coated. Bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from oven and discard the ñora. Separate the garlic cloves and peel; this is easily done by holding down one end and with a fork pushing the clove out of the peel. Transfer the peeled garlic cloves and the remaining ingredients including the juices into a pot. Add two cups of water. With a potato masher, mash to crush the tomatoes and cloves a bit further but not too much. Add additional 4-5 fresh basil leaves. Over medium heat, bring to a slight bubble, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and season with further salt and pepper, if necessary.

For the scallops:

Rinse the scallops and pat dry them with a paper towel. Sprinkle some sea salt and freshly ground pepper over the scallops.

While the soup cooks, heat over medium-high heat an iron pan. Grease the bottom with olive oil and a paper towel, and sear the scallops briefly on each side, about 1-2 minutes. Set aside. The scallops can also be made in advance.

To assemble:

Pour the soup into four bowls. Add 4 scallops to each bowl and sprinkle with crumbled goat’s cheese. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and some freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.

*****

SOPA RUSTICA DE TOMATES HORNEADOS CON VIEIRAS A LA SARTEN

Ingredientes:

(para 4)

16 vieiras pequeñas (4 por persona, o mas o menos según guste)
4 tomates orgánicos, cortados a cuartos
8-10 dientes de ajo, sin pelar
4-6 hojas de albahaca fresca para hornear, mas unas cuantas adicionales para la sopa
1/2 cucharada sopera de albahaca seca
sal marina & pimienta fresca, a gusto
1 ñora, puesta en remojo unos 20 minutos
aceite de oliva, unas 3-4 cucharadas soperas, y un poco mas para rociar la sopa
500ml de agua
un poco de queso de cabra, desmoronado

Metodo:

Para la sopa:

Precalentamos el horno a 200C.

Ponemos los tomates, la ñora, los dientes de ajo, y las hojas de albahaca en un recipiente para el horno. Espolvoreamos con la albahaca seca, salpimentamos y echamos el aceite de oliva por encima. Removemos con las manos para que todo quede bien cubierto. Horneamos unos 30-35 minutos, removiendo unas cuantas veces.

Cuando saquemos la bandeja del horno, nos deshacemos de la ñora y pelamos los dientes de ajos. Pasamos los ajos pelados y los demás ingredientes, incluyendo el jugo, a una olla. Agregamos el agua y con un machacador de patatas, machacamos para deshacer un poco mas los tomatoes y los ajos. Agregamos unas hojas de albahaca fresca. Sobre fuego medio, llegamos a una ebullición, bajamos la lumbre y cocinamos unos 5 minutos a fuego lento. Probamos el caldo y salpimentamos de nuevo si fuera necesario.

Para las vieiras:

Enjuagamos las vieiras y las secamos con un papel de cocina. Salpimentamos.

Ponemos una sartén de hierro a calentar sobre fuego medio-alto. Cuando este bien caliente, engrasamos el fondo con un papel de cocina y un poco de aceite de oliva. Doramos las vieiras, 1-2 minutos por cada lado. Apartamos las vieiras y las conservamos en un plato, sin tapar, hasta servir con la sopa.

Para presentar:

Dividimos la sopa en cuatro porciones. Colocamos 4 vieiras por persona en cada plato sopero, y espolvoreamos con los trozos  del queso de cabra. Rociamos cada plato con un poco de aceite de oliva, y echamos un poquito de pimienta fresca a cada plato. Servimos la sopa inmediatamente.

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KimNovember 8, 2014 - 00:08

Hi Debra…
SO good to see you back here again!! I love your blog.. your photos.. your overall zest for life!!

I hope all goes well with your Mother!!

The Saffron GirlNovember 10, 2014 - 13:30

Thank you Kim! <3

Lust for Life Reclaimed & Honey-Roasted Rosemary Pork Chops

A few months ago, I started reading Paradise Reclaimed, an Icelandic novel by Halldór Laxness.  I have yet to finish it…but today, made me think of the moral behind the tale in Laxness’ novel.

I was thinking about how sometimes we must take a long journey to get us where we want or should be and to give us that depth of palette, that we would not have achieved otherwise and with which we paint our canvas of life.  At times for some of us, the road can be tumultuous, full of bumps, twists and turns, and paths that maybe we wished we had not taken but from which we cannot turn around. And then other routes appear that we are afraid or unable to take; and yet, when we actually take the leap and grab the proverbial “bull by the horns”, we are lead down a path to magical places…places we have longed for…places that provide wings for our souls to soar…

I haven’t written on the blog since 14 February. Since then and some time towards the end of 2013, I have lived through some intense experiences and mixed emotions, which finally propelled me to take a decision that I should have taken long ago. But as we say in Spain, “agua pasada no mueve molinos” (water past does not move the mill), so regretting the past will lead me nowhere useful.

Today, I write from my lovely Seville, the city where my mother grew up, where many of my aunts, uncles and cousins live, where I am rekindling old friendships, and rediscovering wonderful treasures.  I have been here since the beginning of March, when my cousins went to London to bring me home to ensure I would be in a safe and protected environment.

At first, I experienced some culture shock. Yes! Truly! It’s a strange sensation feeling like an ex-pat in the country that saw me grow up. Plus my mind and body were fighting the idea of being forced into a situation that I had not planned. But slowly, just like the heat of the sun has warmed up my skin, the comfort and warmth of my family and friends have let the light shine in my soul anew. And I have fallen in love with life all over again. I’ve found the lust for life, which long ago dissipated and slipped through my hands, slowly, like the melting snow in the Spring sun.

I’m getting divorced.

I cannot and will not go into why now. Maybe one day I will be able to; and when that day comes, I know that I will be able to assist other women who are in similar situations to the one I have endured. In fact, I am thinking of setting up a foundation.

But for now, all I can say is that the path in front of me, although filled with uncertainties and a few more foreseeable twists and turns, as well as bumps, is also filled with enchanting and magical surprises and a lot of life’s little pleasures.

And maybe it’s very possible that Sevilla has been the perfect medicine for me! I guess things do happen for a reason…

And speaking of Sevilla, I am trying my utmost best to don the glasses of a tourist here. It may seem like an easy task.. but it’s actually a daunting one for me. And maybe it’s my state of mind and emotions. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that it’s hard to incorporate a freshness to my view that is only really attainable when something is new and untapped. Either way… I’m on a mission to rediscover old places and discover those I’ve yet to experience.

One of my new discoveries is El Mercado de los Jueves, on Calle Feria. It’s not a new market. In fact, it’s the oldest running market in Sevilla, dating from the 1400s. My mother was very excited when I shared with her that I intended to go. She used to work as a teenager on Calle Correduria and made a point every Thursday after work to head that way and explore the market. But I had never been. And now, I’ve been twice. And I’m beginning to feel an addiction…

And quite possibly, I don’t exaggerate (exaggeration is a very typical Andalusian trait by the way). As the fact is that I plan on going back again. The market is full of interesting, and oftentimes valuable, antiques, handmade crafts, books, old flamenca dresses, collectible items, and embroidered linens. There’s also a spattering of quite a bit of junk from the 1980s and 1990s. But if you skip over that (unless that’s your thing), there are some good finds to be had.

On my second visit, I went with two friends from high school who are revisiting Spain after many years. So, we toured the market together and even bought some antique goblets and a primitive coal iron (for only 8 euros!) from a sleek but rather nice gypsy and some pan de oro mirrors (although these I think were just painted instead of made with gold leaf as we kept being told) from two artisan brothers who were arguing that they couldn’t offer us a deal on three mirrors because each brother sells his own wares, although they display them together. Sometimes Spaniards are as square-minded as Germans are known to be!;)

We also saw quite impressive Meissen plates (the dealer said they dated from the late 1800s, but unless you’re an expert, who knows?), antique pieces from church altarpieces, old wooden picture frames, silver and alpaca ware…and the vendors are just as colourful as what they sell. There are gypsies, Portuguese art collectors, some hippies, a few pijos, and a lot of bohemians…you may even get a whiff of some hashish around a few of the stands! Overall, it’s a really fun and interesting way to spend a Thursday morning in the city.

From there, we ventured off into the Mercado de la Calle Feria, the street’s namesake food market, where one can purchase fresh, daily local produce, meats, seafood from Huelva and Cádiz, and specialty items.

As we exited the market through the back entrance, we were greeted by the beautiful mudéjar (Moorish) casa-palacio from the Marquess of La Algaba. The entrance is free, so we ventured in.

It was constructed during the XV and XVI centuries and although it’s gone through various owners and some periods of decadence, it is now fully restored to its original splendor and houses the Center for Mudéjar Art. As with all moorish palaces, the sensation of peace and tranquility, as well as exquisite quality of life, transpire through the pores of the ancient stone walls and sun-drenched interior gardens, offering a magical oasis to the visitor.

In Andalucía, the influence of Islamic and posterior Mudéjar and Mozarabe art, architecture, and culture still permeate today in our way of life, our food and even our language…. it creates that allure, the enchantment, and the duende that we all have a hard time describing, but which captures us all upon our first experiences. And it has recaptured me now and given me back that lust for life long gone.

Of course, my family and friends have been a huge catapult and essential part for reclaiming that joie de vivre too.

And anyway, today I wanted to share with you the reason why I have been absent, the current course of my life and to let you know that Inshallah – God willing, Ganesha willing, Santa Angela & San Nicholas willing ;), I’m here (whether that is London or Sevilla or another location only time will tell) to stay and will soon be sharing more Paleo recipes with all of you…

…the black cloud lingering over my head is not entirely gone yet, although the winds of change have started to blow it away and allow some rays of light to shine on me.

I’m going through a metamorphosis, which I hope and pray will allow me to come alive again with more strength, new ideas and above all, a much happier and healthier state of mind and body that will all positively influence my work and the things I share with all of you.

In the meantime, please bare with me, have a little patience, and don’t give up on The Saffron Girl…;)

Love, Debra

PS: The following recipe is inspired by my Andalucía, and it’s equally good or even better made with lamb.

HONEY ROASTED ROSEMARY PORK CHOPS WITH OVEN BAKED POTATOES, A 30-MINUTE MEAL

Ingredients, for 2:

4 pork chops or more, if using lamb chops instead
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil, about 1/2 tablespoon
rosemary, about 1 1/2 teaspoons
raw honey, about 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons
coarse sea salt, to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). In an oven proof dish, place the rinsed pork chops.

With your hands, add a few dollops of raw honey to each pork chop. Sprinkle with rosemary, the minced garlic and sea salt. Add the potatoes to the dish and drizzle olive oil over everything. Add some additional sea salt over the potatoes, as well as a sprinkling of additional rosemary.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve with another vegetable if desired.

*****

CHULETAS DE CERDO, AL HORNO CON MIEL Y ROMERO, Y PATATAS, UN PLATO HECHO EN 30 MINUTOS

Ingredientes, para 2:

4 chuletas de cerdo
3-4 patatas medianas, peladas y cortadas a gajos
2 dientes de ajos, picados
aceite de oliva, como 1/2 cucharada grande
romero, como 1 cucharadita y media
miel cruda, como 1 cucharadita y media a 2 cucharaditas
sal marina, a gusto

Como hacer las chuletas al horno:

Precalentamos el horno a 180C. En un recipiente para el horno, ponemos las chuletas, ya enjuagadas. Con las manos, le echamos unas gotitas de miel cruda por encima de cada chuleta. Espolvoreamos con un poco de romero, le echamos un poco de sal y los dientes de ajos, previamente picados.

Agregamos las patatas al recipiente y echamos un chorreón de aceite de oliva por encima de las patatas y las chuletas. Espolvoreamos con un poco mas de romero y sal por encima de las patatas.

Horneamos unos 25 a 30 minutos. Se puede servir con otra verdura, si lo deseamos.

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KimMay 11, 2014 - 02:41

I have never commented on a blog before. I have been reading yours for quite some time now and LOVE what you write about. It is my deepest wish to go to Spain some day ( I live in the northern part of Canada- One day I hope to walk the Camino de Santiago!).. I was divorced 1 year ago and I know how it hurts. Dreams/expectations shattered.. your sense of identity altered. I know. BUT.. you will get through it – cliché, I know, but true. Your true friends and blog followers are here for you! Take your time.. breathe for yourself. The sun will come out again.. trust me!

The Saffron GirlMay 11, 2014 - 17:02

Hi Kim,

Thank you so much for commenting and for your words of support and encouragement. I really, really appreciate it! I’m glad to know that you are “through” this and on your way to a better life too. And I truly hope that you will come to Spain soon for the camino and to see other things and enjoy our food and culture. You won’t be disappointed. ;) Debra xx
PS: And the “real” sun shines here almost every day. ;) <3

AngelaJuly 19, 2014 - 23:31

Hi Kim, I came upon your website, while looking for a paleo churro recibe, going to try them out now. But as I read some of your posts, I got really excited!! I just had the amazing opportunity with my daughter to visit Spain a few weeks ago. We visited Sevilla on two of the 10 days we were there, and let me tell you! I fell in Love with it all. hope to be able to visit again one day, especially EL mercado de los Jueves!! Gracias!!

The Saffron GirlJuly 19, 2014 - 23:51

Hi Angela, thank you for reading! I hope you do visit again; it’s a lovely city and the region is beautiful too. Hope you liked the churro recipe as well. Debra xx

nina ferrellJuly 30, 2014 - 16:22

I came upon your blog by accident. I read every word with delight.You write with grace and honesty.

Do not stop.

Nina Ferrell

The Saffron GirlAugust 1, 2014 - 22:57

Thank you Nina for your kind words of encouragement!

Cream of Pumpkin Soup aux Herbes de Provence

The butternut squash had been laying on the counter for a couple of weeks and I kept moving it closer to the preparation area near the sink as a reminder to myself to do something with it. I love pumpkin almost anything, but I really wanted to avoid making another soup.

As I’ve not been too inspired lately or have been blogging frequently enough, I wanted to create something special… but I ended up surprising myself with soup. Sometimes the quick and easy wins over; and as it was so tasty, I decided it’s worthy of sharing.

Hope you enjoy!

CREAM OF PUMPKIN SOUP AUX HERBES DE PROVENCE

Ingredients, for 4:

1/2 large butternut squash (the whole squash was about 750g), roasted
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, julienned
1/4 cup butter (I used Kerrygold)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups filtered water
1 tablespoons herbes de Provence
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste if desired

Method:

I roasted the pumpkin split in half, shell side facing up, for almost 50 minutes at 180C (350F). You can do this in advance to have ready for the soup or other recipes. With the shell facing upwards, you avoid browning the flesh and have better tasting pumpkin meat.

Place the butter and olive oil in a large pot and melt over low heat. Add the garlic, onion, and celery and poach for about 8-10 minutes until tender. Add the tomatoes and cook an additional 3 minutes so the flavours blend. Add the meat of 1/2 pumpkin and give it a good stir to blend well.

Add the coconut milk and stir well. Remove from heat and with an immersion blender, puree all the ingredients. You can do this directly in the pot. Return the pot to the stove and add the filtered water.  Add the herbes de Provence and sea salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and allow to warm through on low heat.

If desired you can serve with pieces of hard-boiled egg, sautéed shrimp or other seafood.

*****

SOPA DE CALABAZA A LAS HIERBAS DE LA PROVENZA

Ingredientes, para 4:

1/2 calabaza (tipo butternut squash de unos 750g entera), horneada
3 dientes de ajo, cortados
3 pencas de apio, cortadas finamente
3 tomates medianos, pelados y cortados a cuartos
1 cebolla mediana, cortada en juliana
1/4 de la taza de mantequilla (como unos 30g, yo use de la marca Kerrygold)
2 cucharadas soperas, o un poquito mas, de aceite de oliva
250ml de leche de coco
500ml de agua
sal y pimienta a gusto

Como hacer la sopa:

Hornea la calabaza a 180C unos 50 minutos. Yo la puse en la fuente con el lado de la piel hacia arriba, así se hornea sin quemar la pulpa y tiene mejor sabor.

En un olla onda, ponemos la mantequilla y el aceite de oliva a derretir sobre fuego lento. Agregamos los ajos, el apio y la cebolla y pochamos unos 8-10 minutos hasta que esten tiernos. Añadimos los tomatoes y pochamos unos 3 minutos mas para que se mezclen los sabores.

A continuación, echamos la pulpa o carne de la media calabaza dentro de la olla. Le damos una vuelta con una cuchara de madera para mezclar bien. Añadimos la leche de coco y volvemos a mover bien.

Retiramos del fuego y con una mini-pimer hacemos un puré. Esto se puede hacer dentro de la misma olla. Volvemos a poner sobre fuego lento y agregamos el agua, la hierbas de la Provenza, y salpimentamos a gusto. Dejamos que se caliente bien para servir.

Podemos acompañar la sopa con algo de guarnición, como un huevo duro picado, unas gambas salteadas o algún otro marisco.

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PEDROFebruary 14, 2014 - 23:15

La verdad, es que solo como calabaza cuando hago cocido de calabazas y habichuelas, aunque me gusta bastante. Tengo ademas una lata de leche de coco que compre y no utilice, asi que matare 2 pajaros de un tiro.
ya te contare. Un saludo

The Saffron GirlFebruary 15, 2014 - 23:21

Hola Pedro,
Yo la utilizo mucho de varias maneras y me gusta bastante ya que es muy versátil la calabaza (porque se puede usar tanto en salado como en dulce). Ya me dirás como te sale la sopa. Besos, Debra

Garage GymsFebruary 17, 2014 - 18:00

Recipes in two languages! That’s really cool and thoughtful. Nice work! I’m not a huge squash fan but the pictures make it look so tasty… tempted to try this.

The Saffron GirlFebruary 18, 2014 - 06:29

Thank you! I hope you like it and I’m happy to know people are pleased with the recipes in Spanish and English. Debra xx

PEDROMarch 14, 2014 - 13:26
The Saffron GirlMarch 14, 2014 - 16:08

Ole, ole, y ole! Ademas me encanta lo que has escrito tan lindo Pedro y me alegra que os haya gustado. Gracias por probar la receta y muchos besitos! Muacks!

Heide M.March 24, 2014 - 17:06

Sounds wonderful and hearty, perfect for a Michigan spring.

A Saturday Pork Roast & A Farmer’s Market

I’ve been meaning to visit the Barnes Farmer’s Market since we moved near the area, but as it falls on Saturdays, I always seem to have something else better to do instead, like visiting some part of the UK or exploring London… Today, however, I went for a very refreshing walk with a friend of mine, whom I’ve known since our high school years back in Spain, and we ventured into the village, where we bumped into the farmer’s market. Well, in all honesty, we could’ve missed it had I not turned around to look behind me and see it…oftentimes my curiosity pays off! It’s located across the street from the pond in downtown Barnes.

I love a good farmer’s market, and who doesn’t I suppose? All that beautiful, fresh produce, meats, fish, specialty stands… it’s better than “being in a candy shop” for me. When we lived in Germany, I visited the weekly market in Frankfurt and also the one in our town of Bad Homburg. And whenever we’ve been in the Netherlands on a weekend, we have found it hard not to visit one, usually in the city center near the church plaza. The markets in Deventer and Arnhem are especially nice. France, of course, also has great farmer’s markets. Spain for some strange reason, which I think should be changed, isn’t really known for these types of markets. Okay, yes, there are weekly markets called mercadillos or los gitanos, but they stand nowhere close to the ones in middle Europe in my opinion.

Barnes farmers put on a good show with some delectable and tempting selections. We had a taste of a few cheeses, including a truffle brie-like variety, which I ended up bringing home. I mean who can resist the delicate aroma of truffle anything? There was a curious stand with Spanish specialties, including saffron and pimentón, ready-to-eat empanada gallega and Argentinean empanadas too. The owner, who was preparing the paella pan to make the dish, told us he had lived in Argentina, where his father had been a diplomat, until the Falklands, when they were evacuated home to England. I would’ve lingered to learn a bit more about his interesting experience, but across the way there was a stand that offered a large variety of olives.

Spanish, Greek and Italian olives and other sorts of goodies beckoned us and called for our attention. Raw honey at another stand seemed a bit expensive… and then what surprised me the most were the meat stands. The meat was displayed without refrigeration, like in the old times. Maybe today’s 6 degrees Celsius is considered safe enough for the meat to stand out? Everything looked very fresh and beautiful, so I would’ve indulged in some shopping had we not needed to still walk all the way home.

On the way home, incidentally, we again bumped into something intriguing and inviting: Gail’s bread shop and cafe. I very rarely eat bread these days, not even in Spain this last Christmas was I tempted. However, today I did indulge in a little sourdough that was served under my mushroom, egg and spinach breakfast.

The decor of the shop is eclectic, with mix-matched chairs and stools and distressed-wood tables and the ambience was relaxed and jovial, although the place was buzzing with breakfast eaters and people buying baguettes. While we ate, it rained and rained a bit more. But we ignored it until it was time to go home.

The morning had started off with sunshine and the afternoon turned windy and wet. So, I decided that a pork roast, slowly cooked in the oven, would be a nice reason to stay indoors and eat a healthy lunch.

PORK SHOULDER ROAST WITH VEGETABLES

Ingredients, for 2:

  • 1 pork shoulder, about 3.5 kilos with crackling
  • 4-5 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 head of garlic, separated but not peeled
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of herbes de Provence

Method:

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F).

Place the vegetables and cloves of garlic on the bottom of an ovenproof tray. Rinse the pork shoulder and make cuts into the skin, if necessary (mine came with the cuts ready made).

Sprinkle some salt and freshly ground pepper over the vegetables and part of the herbes de Provence. Place the pork shoulder, crackling side up, on top of the vegetables and season.

Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180C (350F) and cook another 30 minutes. Take the dish out of the oven and remove the pork shoulder. Spoon the vegetables out into a bowl, cover and set aside.

Return the pork shoulder to the ovenproof dish and bake for 2 to 2.5 hours, turning over every hour. In the last 20 minutes of cooking, remove again from the oven and add the vegetables back into the dish, placing the shoulder on top. I actually switched to a clean dish because the original one was full with some burnt fat and I didn’t want that to ruin the flavours in the vegetables.

*****

HOMBRO (ó PALETA) DE CERDO CON VERDURAS AL HORNO

Ingredientes, para 2:

  • 1 hombro de cerdo de unos 3,5 kilos
  • 4-5 patatas, peladas y cortadas en cubitos
  • 5 zanahorias, peladas y cortadas en cubitos
  • 2 chirivías, peladas y cortadas en cubitos
  • 1 cabeza de ajo, separamos los dientes pero no los pelamos
  • sal y pimienta a gusto
  • 1 cucharada sopera de hierbas de la provenza

Como hacer el hombro/paleta de cerdo con verduras:

Precalentamos el horno a 220C.

Ponemos las verduras y los dientes de ajo en el fondo de un recipiente para ir al horno. Salpimentamos las verduras y le echamos como la mitad de las hierbas.

Enjuagamos el cerdo y le hacemos unos cortes en la piel, si fuera necesario. El mio venia con los cortes ya hechos. Ponemos el hombro de cerdo sobre las verduras y salpimentamos y le echamos el resto de las hierbas.

Horneamos unos 30 minutos, y reducimos la temperatura a 180C y horneamos otros 30 minutos. Sacamos todo del horno, poniendo el hombro de cerdo sobre un plato o bandeja. Con una cuchara, retiramos las verduras del recipiente del horno y las ponemos en un bol. Las tapamos con un papel y las dejamos de lado.

Ponemos el hombro de cerdo otra vez en el recipiente y seguimos horneando unas 2 horas a 2 horas y media. En los últimos 20 minutos, lo sacamos del horno y le agregamos las verduras poniéndolas en el fondo. Yo cambie de recipiente pues estaba lleno de grasa quemada y no queria que eso estropeara el sabor de las verduras.

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Teresa LorenzoFebruary 10, 2014 - 17:34

As I said on another occasion, too bad live so far from London to have enjoyed this delicious recipe. As for what you say about the markets, it’s a shame that in Spain we do not have such markets, I called a lot of attention the first time I visited France. A greeting!

The Saffron GirlFebruary 13, 2014 - 07:19

Hola Teresa! Thank you for writing in English. And I would love to live close to you… quizas un dia de estos! ;) And yes, I wish Spain had markets like in the northern parts of Europe… maybe we could do something about that?! xo Debra

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