Monthly Archives: July 2012

Global Feast 2012, the opening nights

That table…being built

Well, it’s started. Global Feast 2012 is a huge, ambitious underground culinary event that coincides with the Olympic Games and West African raw, vegan chef Chris Massamba got everything off to a flying start this week. Last night was the turn of the Mediterranean cooks. I would have loved to attend had it not been for the fact I had rather a lot of canapes to prepare!

And here we are today. British food night and my turn to feed the world. Along with Aoife Behan of jelly & gin and Kerstin Rogers (Msmarmite lover herself) we will be serving up the best from our shores.

I’m on pudding duty and will be creating a riot of Welsh tastes…with a bit of Kent (the place where I was born) thrown in for good measure.

I will be serving canapes; oak smoked tomato and Snowdon black bomber and Nantmor shiitake mushroom, with thyme and Cotswold gold white truffle oil. Not forgetting the pastry made with Calon Wen butter, Shipton Mill flour and Halen Mon salt.

Pudding consists of Apple and cinnamon tarts, Welsh gingerbread, Bara brith and Penderyn whisky ice cream and Vanilla salted caramel sauce. All served with a shot of Penderyn Whisky to whom I owe a big thank you for sponsoring my dish. The whisky is just the best!

The table is just amazing, the chefs are too…this event is NOT to be missed. There was a real busy of excitement at the press night on Wednesday and a flurry of lovely write ups following. Roll on tonight!!

my favourite canapes of the night by Anna Hansen of the Modern Pantry

Alex Haw of atmos studios introducing the event and talking about that amazing table

BOOK NOW and don’t miss out. There is something to tempt everyone’s palate.

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and this is the sea

Yes I know, this is a food blog not a travel blog, but I had so many beautiful images from around Ireland I just had to share a few….this time all sea related…

 

 

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A trip around West Cork

I’d hoped for something of a gastro tour of Ireland but clearly with a family of four (including a picky teenager and an easily bored nine-year old) and a tight budget it was not the cheapest or easiest option. But really that didn’t matter because we had a never-ending expanse of coastline to explore and plenty to do without actively seeking out foodie experiences and boring the kids to death, we called it ‘stealth foodie-ism’. Armed with some tips from Niamh (eat like a girl) and a few of her twitter followers, plus local knowledge from the in-laws we were able to eat very well and very cheaply.

My in-laws live just outside Clonakilty which is about half an hours drive from Cork city. They’d organised a place for us to stay (two minutes along the lane from them) and filled our fridge with local produce. Clonakilty black and white pudding, local bacon and sausages, eggs from the farm up the road, salad, ham, bread and organic milk. All local, all fantastic. We topped this up with local strawberries and raspberries, Glenilen Farm cream, Gubbeen cheeses and tapas tubs of olives, tapenade and stuffed sweet peppers from the award-winning Scally’s supervalu in Clonakilty. Packed lunches, fruit, plenty of juice and water were the mainstay of our holiday, with a couple of dinners at the in-laws helping keep our costs down.

We hardly ate out at all apart from a couple of trips to the chippy (freshly caught and cooked fish is far superior to the stuff bought at home) and a late lunch at a gorgeous pub on the harbour at Crookhaven. This followed a dramatic, bracing and windswept walk along the cliffs at Mizen Head, the most westerly point in Ireland making the most of the afternoon sun after a drizzly start to the day. Kids generally hate walking but this included just enough adrenaline pumping scenery and plenty of interesting lighthouse facts (Fastnet lighthouse is just visible to the south) to keep them happy.

We finished the afternoon with a pint of Murphy’s, some ham ‘sangwiches’ and Tayto crisps (for the kids) and a gloriously rich and creamy bowl of seafood chowder for me at O’Sullivan’s bar.

We also took a trip to Kinsale. Another undoubtedly pretty harbour town but I found it rather twee in a very touristy kind of way. It wasn’t our cup of tea. It was very anglicised, full of coach parties and the ‘sailing set’ (not that I have anything against those that sail. We had our own afternoon on the sea later in the week) but because of the clientele everything just that bit more expensive. I prefer places off the beaten track where I can live like a local and tucked well away from the very touristy haunts, as do the rest of the family.

We had a quick look at fishy fishy, a well-known, award-winning seafood restaurant which was recommended by Niamh, but with four of us it would have proved too costly (plus the teen hates fish). Instead the kids opted for an enormous ice cream from a really lovely ice cream parlour and we headed out-of-town to James Fort for another bracing cliff walk. Far more enjoyable for a nine-year old boy and much more spectacular than a fish dinner in an expensive cafe.

As the weather improved over the week we gravitated towards the sea and beaches more. There were plenty to choose from and we were spoilt for choice. With dramatic rocky coastlines at Dunworly to blue flag beaches at Inchydoney and the Warren at Rosscarbery. The Warren proved a little windy on our first trip, although that didn’t stop our nine-year old stripping off and running for the sea.

On another day we took my father in law’s boat out to sea. It hadn’t been out for a year so it was an opportunity to give it a run and do a bit of fishing. We didn’t catch anything, but sailing with seals was a fantastic experience for the kids. On an earlier trip to Ireland we took a charter trip out from Union Hall (there are plenty of boats going out, but check and book in advance. Easiest to go down to the pier and ask the harbour master or one of the fishermen) to do some sea fishing and look for seals, dolphins and whales. It was a little early for Whales but we saw plenty of seals, who tend to chase the fish into the harbour on the tide. That was a bigger boat. This time our boat was much smaller and the seals swam really close to us.

Friday was our one dedicated foodie day as we headed to the farmers market in Clonakilty. Gubbeen cheese nestled beside home-made cakes, chorizo, preserves and great coffee. Dips, basil hummus, chorizo and mozzarella, plus a bit of salad made a great supper (we’d taken some wraps with us which came in handy). The sunshine, buskers and a throng of people gave it a real festival atmosphere as we sat eating local organic lamb burgers. Later that evening we headed back into the town for the Random Acts of Kindness Festival where our kid got to show off his giant bubbling skills as part of a ‘bubble flash mob’ followed by live music and an absolutely hilarious Ceilih at the famous De Barras folk club. Money raised was for the Clonakilty Flood Relief Campaign.

We spent our last day in scorching sunshine. We followed up a huge lunch with the in-laws at the West Cork hotel (the food wasn’t that much to rave about but again the produce was all local and the meat and fish was delicious) with a trip to Lough Hyne. We sat in the sun looking over the small deserted harbour watching people dive off their boats into a clear warm sea longing for a yacht of our own.

Loch Hyne

Once we’d thoroughly depressed ourselves with our longing for a boat and lack of resources to do anything about it we headed for the beach at Inchydoney.  Here we whiled away an hour or two swimming in gloriously warm sea before taking a last trip to Rosscarbery pier and a bit of fishing (the fish had been elusive so far so this was our last hope).

As high tide approached fishermen lined the sea wall on one side and a gaggle of kids threw themselves off the pier into the sea on the other.

The teen somersaulting into the sea…crazy girl that she is!

Diving into the sea at Rosscarbery pier

Fishing off the sea wall…I didn’t get a pic of the seal

Once again the fish were elusive, this time scared away by the diving kids on one side and seals chasing every fish on the other. It’s not that the fish weren’t there, plenty bit, but it was impossible to land them with Mr. seal lying in wait to grab them off the hook as we reeled them in. In fact the fishing went on longer than anticipated as it became a real battle of wills. Man against seal. Every fish was a fight to the death. Those feckin seals became public enemy number one. We eventually left at 9.30pm tired, hungry and with two tiny pollack, the landing of which received huge cheers all along the pier!

Pollack

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Filed under Eating out with kids, family budget cooking, Food in Ireland, local produce, seasonal food, Travelling with kids, Uncategorized

Keeping it raw

I’ve never been one for food fads although I once did one of those ‘detox’ diets back in the 90’s when they were THE big thing to do. My dad and I embarked on it together; a seven-day programme of toxin free eating to purge our bodies of the impurities of modern life. In all honesty we were rubbish. On day five I found my step-father head in fridge, guiltily stuffing chunks of cheese into his mouth at half past twelve in the morning. Meanwhile I walked around ready to kill, driven crazy by the lack of nicotine entering my system.  We both cracked. Totally unable to cope without our morning shot of caffeine or hefty dose of protein during the day. We decided together that the toxins weren’t that bad after all.

It’s not that I’ve ever had a particularly unhealthy diet. I was, until I started living with my then boyfriend (now husband), a strict vegetarian. I’d even dabbled with veganism for about six months, but that was in my late teens when I wasn’t so keen on vegetables and there just wasn’t the variety of products on the market tailored to vegan living. It was only when my teen was little that I started to eat a bit of fish and occasionally chicken. Back then I shopped in the supermarket and couldn’t afford organic meat so it was easier and cheaper to eat vegetarian most of the time.

My knowledge of raw foodism (is that the correct term?) was pretty sketchy. I’d always imagined raw foodists as a strange sub-group of vegans; pale and unhealthy looking hippy types (yes I’m just going to generalise wildly here so please forgive me) eating salad for breakfast lunch and dinner. These days it seems that more and more people are choosing a raw way of life…and for the most part they look pretty damn good doing it. It’s still not totally mainstream but people like Mike Nash (buff American author of Aggressive Health), David Wolfe (curly-haired ‘rock star’ of superfood) and chef Chris Massamba from Sundia foods (opening night chef at Global Feast 2012) are doing their best to pioneer the trend and tell all about the benefits. If you think it’s just another fad diet I think you would be wrong, it’s a lifestyle (they do all look incredibly wholesome, toned and squeaky clean…which is enough to put me off and make me feel quite grubby). This lifestyle they espouse doesn’t seem to have much room for moments of stodgy cake, booze, cocktails or dare I say it, the odd cigarette but there are plenty of people following suit and lots of websites with recipes and tips on how to do it.

This week I received an invite to Raw Dave’s night of raw food.  A three course raw food dinner with talks and demonstrations. I wasn’t sure what to expect (what with my sweeping generalisations and large chuck of cynicism) but with so few food events (let alone interesting and different food events) cropping up in these parts I knew I’d kick myself if I turned it down. In any case I know the chef, Raw Dave (as he is known locally) so I was genuinely interested in what he had to say and prepare for us.

You’d be forgiven for imagining Raw Dave as a gruff feral man, part Tarzan part Neanderthal, emerging from the undergrowth after an extended forage. In contrast Dave is a gentle, laid back self-effacing guy who clearly loves food, experimenting, preparing and eating. He does have a hint of the clean and glowing about him but  along with his lovely and massively enthusiastic assistant Gill (for whom all of life is AWESOME. Favourite adjective of the night) they managed to enthuse all the guests with the same amounts of bounce and anticipation.

The totally awesome Raw Dave and Gill

The evening was hugely interactive, well planned and I learnt masses. Guests liberally fired questions across the table which Gill and Dave answered with relaxed honesty and openness. It felt like a cross between a supper club (I had that feeling of deja vu witnessing the birth of a new foodie project) and a food lecture. I’d never have guessed that this was the first time they’d run such an event. They were fun, entertaining, enlightening and interesting. I sat with Jules (from the Incredible Edible Hedgerow project) and a couple of her friends, plus Pete who is a veteran supper club guest. The conversation and debate provoked by the food, how we eat, grow, shop and what the effects of eating such a nutrient rich, unusual diet might be on our systems were definitely a highlight of the night.

Clearly there are long-term health benefits to such a diet. Dave explained his own journey. He’d always been fit but a big guy and as he approached his thirties he felt himself becoming lethargic, achey and slowly he piled on the weight. As he topped 23 stone his Mum developed hypertension and his dad had a heart attack. He found he was developing the same symptoms so decided it was time to make a change. He didn’t become a raw foodie over night (in fact Dave strongly advised against doing anything so drastic and so suddenly…as he said it’s not about putting yourself through withdrawal and feeling crap it’s about improving the diet and feeling healthy), he started by drinking green smoothies and slowly replaced unhealthy snacks with healthy ones. Over a three to four year period he became almost totally raw. In the process and without watching what he ate (raw chocolate plays a massive part in his life) his weight dropped to an astounding 12 stone. He looks healthy. He brims with energy and he no longer aches in the morning.

We started our meal with one of his famous green smoothies. A dark green high chlorophyll (which makes you feel buzzy and uplifted) concoction of 1 juiced apple, 1 juiced pear, a hand full of spinach and a stick of celery juiced, spirulina, sea algae (high in Omega 3), agave nectar.

It was more tasty than it might seem, although Dave had put plenty of Agave nectar in it to make it more palatable. The apple and pear flavours were strongly in evidence and not over powered by the celery and spinach at all. We were also treated to some raw chocolate bites to go with it. High in phenathlamine (among other things!) they offer a natural high and topped with dried fruit (I can’t remember what Dave said the dried fruit was on top, something like kumquat I think) they were very nice.

raw chocolate: coconut oil, raw cacao powder with a dried kumquat like fruit on top

One of the purported benefits of eating raw is that it boosts your energy levels. With the high nutrient content, added Omega 3 (spirulina), natural ‘good’ bacteria in algae, natural caffeine and chemicals in the raw chocolate I certainly felt quite buzzy and high after the chocolate and smoothie appetizer.

We moved on to starter; a mixed leaf, herb, flower salad with mixed seeds and Green Dragon dressing.  Leaves and flowers were harvested from the on iste permaculture garden and the dressing made from half a scotch bonnet chilli (which apparently helps to open up the cells inside us, replacing the bad stuff-toxins, with good stuff), half an onion, a handful of coriander (good for the detox of heavy metals), 7 fl oz tamari soy sauce (a wheat free variety), a couple of dropper full of flax oil (Omega 3 rich, it’s very good for reversing a deficiency but if used too much can cause an imbalance), nine fl oz apple cider vinegar (lower in ascetic acid than balsamic vinegar), good olive oil and pink Himalayan salt (the purist kind and most contaminant free apparently). These were all blitzed in a blender.

The dressing had real punch (from the chilli) but was also slightly sweet and sour. The sweet came from a drop of agave nectar (from the blue agave plant; the same thing they make tequila from…something else I learned that night).

Main course was courgette spaghetti with a marinari sauce and raw pesto. To make the courgette spaghetti Dave used a spiraliser, a Japanese gadget, that Gill demonstrated (after bouncing up and down saying “can I do it, can I, can I” )

Gill using the spiraliser (not the best picture sorry)

This was my most coveted piece of kit for the night. I have to get one of them!

Courgette spagetti with marinari sauce and raw pesto

I don’t think I was paying attention when the demonstration was going on as I didn’t make a note of the ingredients. I think we were too busy being excited by the spiraliser and passing round vegan parmesan substitute. Made by Marigold it looks a bit like fish food and has a yeasty kind of taste, but isn’t unpleasant. It comes into its own when it’s added to dishes. Dave used it in the pesto, which was very nice.

Pete’s extrodinarily long piece of courgette pasta

Although it is supposed to be summer, the sauce would have benefitted from lightly warming as it wasn’t the warmest evening, although this did not detract from the taste; perfectly flavoured and seasoned.

Dessert was raw tiffin with mint sauce. The ‘biscuit’ part (which can also be used as a cheesecake base) was a combination of walnut halves, dates and pink Himalayan salt, blitzed together in a blender until it begins to hold together.

Next coconut oil warmed in a bain marie was mixed with melted raw cacao powder and what we arrived at was, in the words of Gill

“chocolatey joy in a bowl”

Thank you Gill, that is exactly what it was. Once set they cut the tiffin into chucks and served it with a simple pureed minty sauce and a strip of strawberry fruit leather. I’m rarely defeated by dessert but this was so rich half of it made me feel like I’d over eaten!

During the evening my dinner companions and I came up with two questions. Would we be able to sleep after so much buzzy food and would we feel full at the end of the meal? I asked one more silent question of myself. What would it do to my insides? This seems a strange question to ask, but I’m not used to eating solely raw food. As Dave said, “you’re not just getting five a day, you’re getting twenty-five a day”.

Question two was answered easily. Yes we all agreed we felt full and I continued to feel full for a long time afterwards.

The first question was answered later…no I couldn’t sleep. Apparently Sean listened to me talking at him in an over elated fashion while we lay in bed. He listened for a while before he finally fell asleep. He was sure I carried on even then.

My own question was answered the following day. The over abundance of vegetable made me feel quite bloated. The following day my stomach spoke to me in gurgles. Now, without getting too grim about the details, suffice it to say I couldn’t have felt more purged if I’d had a colonic irrigation. Despite this I didn’t feel ill, I felt rather light and energetic until I started getting a headache and a craving for a really big ham roll. Sorry Dave, my toxins rule my body.

Lizzy Hawley and the girls behind the newly revamped Hendre Hall Arts Cafe and Permaculture Garden hosted the evening. It’s a fab place which is now being used as a base for lots of local craft people as well as a venue for weddings, special events and a monthly local produce market. If you would like to attend future events they are mostly advertised through Facebook or word of mouth, so its worth checking their page for news.

Thank you to lovely Lizzy, resplendent in Green taffeta, and the rest of her glamorous assistants for all their hard work and of course to Gill and Dave who were truly AWESOME!

 

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Filed under British food, cookery courses, eating out, Pop-up cafe, raw food, Recipes, salads, seasonal food, secret supper, Uncategorized, vegan cookery

Global Feast 2012

When Kerstin Rogers (aka msmarmitelover) emailed me last week to ask how my supper club was doing, were we still up and running? I thought it was just a polite inquiry. The next minute she was asking me if I would be a guest chef at Global Feast 2012’s British food night!

Excited is an understatement. When I took a look at the other contributors ( list at the bottom of those confirmed) many of whom I have followed and admired from the depths of the Welsh mountains, you will get an understanding of just how excited I am and how amazing it will be. I’m brimming with more than a little nervous anticipation of what promises to be a busy, but superb twenty days.

Global Feast 2012 coincides with the Olympics and is the brainchild of Latitudinal Cuisine (started by Alex Haw, whose team at atmos also designed the central table…more on that in a sec!), a collective culinary project bringing people together to create and enjoy great global food and local conversation and curated by Kerstin Rodgers (msmarmite lover from The Underground Restaurant).
Between Wednesday 25th July and Monday 13th August guests will be invited to take a journey into the world of food. They will  travel through the cultures and cuisines of the entire world, tasting a different specialty each night lovingly prepared and cooked by the best local supper club cooks and chefs from the UK. The diverse culture of London and the UK will be there for all to see as will the quality and variety of the British and local produce used to create the dishes.
Lets get it right; this is not a night for the corporate, the glitterati or the feted….this is a night for those with a taste for the underground; those who like something a bit more creative, different, real.  With that in mind you can guarantee this talented group of Londoners (as well as a few of us that do not have a Londoncentric life), proper food lovers, artists and entertainers will be loving the opportunity to create a unique and unforgettable experience. If this isn’t enough in itself, guests will sit at Worldscape – part architectural masterpiece, part art installation-which is apparently the tallest table in the world, made from its contours and designed by atmos.
picture courtsey of atmosstudio

Dinners will take place in the covered courtyard of the Old Town Hall in Stratford (pretty much next door to the Olympic venue) and the schedule is as follows…

18:00 Bar opens
18:30 Welcome cocktail and canapés
19:30 Starter
20:00 Entertainment begins
20:30 Main Course
21:30 Dessert
02:00 Bar closes (4am on Friday/Saturday)

 

I will be cooking Welsh inspired dishes on British food night (Friday 27th July) and will be bringing in as many of my favourite suppliers (and products) as possible…there are so many to choose from!…

These are some of our glorious Welsh producers…but the list is endless….Welsh lamb from my mountain, Welsh black beef …so many growers within a mile of my home…Halen Mon salt are on my doorstep….Welsh cheese (how many varieties?)…we also have the best goats cheese dairy ever!….a smokery (fantastic smoked Brie and paprika)…amazing Welsh grown shiitake mushrooms…so many food orgasms without having to travel more than 20 miles!! Of course these are very Northcentric… but there are many fantastic South Wales producers too….Calon Wen cream and butter, Rachel’s Organics, Perl Wen and Perl Las cheese, Trealy Farm, Caws Cenarth….I could go on forever!! Not all will focus in my dishes, but I’m damn sure I will wedge in as many as I can!

If you wish to come along to any of the evenings (see the website for a full list of events and more information about the project) you can buy the Global Feast tickets by clicking on the link below.

http://www.globalfeast2012.com/#Book/

Those who already make up the all-star parade of guest chefs from the very best supper clubs are as follows….

Arno Maasdorp of the  SaltounSupper club (representing South Africa)

Aoife Behan of My Home supper club and Jelly and Gin (representing Scotland and Ireland)

Moel Faban supper club (representing Wales)

Plus Six Five supper club (representing Singapore)

Sabrina Ghayour supper club (representing Persia)

Uyen Luu of Leluu supper club (representing Vietnam)

Lee Sylvester of Tan Rosie supper club (representing the Caribbean)

Martin Morales of Ceviche restaurant and pop ups (representing Peru)

Carina of Russian Revels supper club (representing Russia)

Chris Massamba of Full House supper club (representing West Africa)

Caroline Hobkinson (representing Poland)

Pistachio Rose (representing Indian desserts)

As a last thought…if anyone would like to comment on or suggest their favourite Welsh dishes and desserts please I would welcome it!

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Filed under British food, eating out, event catering, home cooking, living room restaurant, London Restaurants, Pop-up cafe, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

Fabada Asturiana (Spanish pork and bean stew)

** Just to begin…I composed this post last week when the household was fully engrossed in a nightly dose of European football. My internet crashed on Tuesday evening and I have been without access to the cyber world since. Of course the European Championships have now come and gone (for those not watching the final was last night) but the post was written and awaiting publication so here it is…

I know football isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I’ve enjoyed watching the European Championships, especially some sexy football from some equally sexy players (yes cliché I know, but I’m a sucker for a man with strong thighs and dark-eyes…all those Mediterranean Lothario’s win me over any time!). So to celebrate some sexy Spanish football, here is a recipe for one of the most popular dishes served at supper club over the Spring. Fabada Asturiana is a traditional Spanish pork and bean stew (Fabada typically large white beans and Asturian region where it originates).

It’s simple, but still strong, robust, full of depth, authentic and very tasty (like a Spanish footballer perhaps!). Despite its simplicity it’s not a shy retiring stew; it really is full of meaty oomph! Served as a smaller starter or as a main course it is definitely not for the vegetarian; it’s a real celebration of all things pork. To recreate this great dish, which I didn’t get to take a picture of (but I will add one next time I make it) I used the very best local ingredients from some of my favourite suppliers.

Ingredients:

450g dried haricot or cannellini beans (soaked over night), olive oil, 150g dry cure smoked bacon cut into cubes, 2 cooking chorizo cut into small chunks, 1 morcilla (a Spanish type of black pudding, but I used a locally made black pudding instead), 700g lean pork fillet, cut into small chunks, 1 large red onion finely chopped,  4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or crushed, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 2 bay leaves, a good pinch of chilli flakes, pinch of saffron, 200g shredded swiss chard, spring cabbage or spinach

The day before, place the beans in bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak over night.

The next day rinse the beans and place in a pan with cold water. Bring to the boil and then immediately drain and rinse with cold water again. Do this again then leave to drain.

In a large clean pan heat the olive oil then add the onion, bacon lardon, pork fillet and chorizo. Fry for a few minutes until beginning to brown then add the garlic, chilli, bay leaves and paprika. Stir fry again for another couple of minutes then tip in the drained beans saffron and about a litre and a half of water (or light vegetable stock). Bring to the boil then turn the heat down low to simmer.

Keep the heat very low so the ingredients can simmer gently, for anything between one and a half (the length of the average football match) to three to four hours (if it goes to extra time and penalties!). You want to make sure the beans are cooked and the stew is nicely thickened but basically you can leave it as long as you need to.

When the beans are almost done add the morcilla and let it simmer for about fifteen minutes more, then add the swiss chard or spinach. Once this has wilted down you are done! Check the seasoning (you may need a little more sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste) and serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices.

This is great on a cold damp day (we’ve had a few of those lately!) but it is also good served along with a fresh summery salad and a glass of Spanish red wine or traditional Asturian Cider.

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Filed under family budget cooking, home cooking, local produce, pork, Recipes, seasonal food, Spanish food, Uncategorized