For my first “Forever Nigellachallenge, I knew exactly the dish I wanted to make. Not for nothing it features in Nigella’s Legacy episode of her Nigella Bites series. This month’s theme is “nostalgia” and for me, this dish is full of nostalgic evocations. Granny Lawson’s pie is surprisingly similar to the empanadas that are such common fare in Argentina, where I come from. I have tweaked the recipe a bit to make it just so. I also noticed when watching the video that Nigella is not quite deft at making repulgue (the border which is twisted in order to prevent the filling from leaking) but I forgive her. So I’ve made it my way.

Yak and onion stuffed bread

Yak and onion stuffed bread

Instead of making it square, I’ve made it round, the way I’ve seen it done in the Himalayas (in photos only, don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been there). Really, this dish seems to be universal and with good reason. Bon appétit!

Granny Lawson’s Lunch Dish (source: Food Network)


For the pastry

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, preferable Italian 00
Scant ¼ cup solid vegetable shortening
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
Approximately 4 tablespoons chilled, lightly salted water
1 egg beaten with pinch of salt, for brushing
2 to 3 tomatoes (about 12 ounces) or same amount of drained, chopped, canned ones
2 small onions
2 eggs, hard-boiled
4 ounces pitted black olives
2 tablespoons olive oil, not extra-virgin
9 ounces organic ground beef
Fat pinch allspice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the pastry

Measure the flour into a dish that will fit into the freezer (it doesn’t need to have a lid) and cut the shortening and butter into small – approximately 1/2-inch dice and toss them in the flour. Put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

I tend to make pastry in my stand mixer, but a processor’s fine too. In whatever contraption – fitted with the flat paddle in the one, with the double-bladed knife in the other – mix until you have a mixture that resembles coarse uncooked oatmeal. Now, dribble in the chilled salted water, slowly, with the motor still running, until the dough looks as if it’s about to cohere, but stopped short of its actually clumping totally. Turn out of the processor (though you could still do this in the bowl of the mixer) and squidge together with your hands until all the pastry forms a cohesive ball. Dribble in a little more water if you feel it needs it. Divide into 2 pieces of equal size and form it into fat disks. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. And this can be done a good day or 2 in advance if it helps.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, cover with boiling water from the kettle and leave for 5 minutes. Drain, run under the cold tap, then peel, seed and chop roughly (or use canned tomatoes, chopped and drained). Peel and chop the onions, hard-boiled eggs and olives, too.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Cook the chopped onions until softened and beginning to colour, turning the flame down to low if they look as if they’re sticking. Turn the heat back to medium and add the chopped tomatoes and cook, stirring for a minute or so before adding the beef. Stir well, breaking up the clumps of meat with your wooden spoon as you go, then when the meat’s browned, stir in the chopped eggs and olives and season with the allspice and salt and pepper. Cook over gentle heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Get a baking sheet out, and flour a surface and rolling pin. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and roll out 1 of the disks until you have a thin, but not exaggeratedly so, rough square that will fit on the baking sheet, then place it on the baking sheet. Now roll out the second disk and leave it there while you cover the layer on the baking sheet with the ground beef mixture, leaving a margin of about 1-inch all around. With a bit of cold water and your fingers, dampen this edge. Place the second square of pastry on top and press the edges together to seal. Now, roll these edges back on themselves once or twice, then get a fork and press it, the tines curved side down, against this rolled border. Prong the top of the pastry to make air holes and then beat the egg with a generous sprinkling of salt and brush the top and edges of the pie with it to glaze.

Put it into the preheated oven for 20 minutes, by which time the pastry will be golden and cooked. Slice it into fat oblongs and eat warm with a vegetable or salad, or cold, wrapped in a napkin and without ceremony or cutlery.


My changes: I added the boiled egg and the black olives as I was assembling the pie and not before. I think there’s no need to cook the olives or the egg any more than they already are (plus, you’re going to cook them even further, inside the pastry). I substituted fresh tomatoes with sun-dried tomatoes, simply because that’s what I had. And, as I mentioned before, I did my own repulgue. I also dispensed with the shortening and used just butter for the pastry. Other than that, it’s Nigella’s recipe.


You can also make them as individual empanadas if you feel like it.


Fairy-tale stuff

There is something old-fashioned almost mythical about the fruit known as the golden apple.

Quinces were sacred to Aphrodite. The goddess of love, the most seductive and beautiful of all the Greek goddesses, was always holding a quince.

The Greek law-maker Solon decreed that quinces should be the food served to every newly married couple on their wedding night. Chaucer included them in his tales of courtly love. Slices of quince were even on the menu at the wedding breakfast of the Owl and the Pussycat. The quince was important enough that Gaia, Earth herself, made a gift of a quince tree to Hera upon her marriage to Zeus.

But Aphrodite was always a mischief-maker, and the quince tree too has a double-edged reputation. The tree of golden apples so zealously guarded by the Hesperides, the Daughters of Evening, goddesses of sunsets, may well have been a quince. It was fruit from this tree, thrown under her feet, that caused Atalanta – who had sworn never to marry anybody who could not out-run her – to lose her race against Hippomenes. So distracted was Atalanta with magical allure of the golden quince that she stooped to pick them up and lost the race to her suitor. And it was probably a quince, not an apple, that Paris awarded to Aphrodite, starting the chain of events that led to the Trojan War.

It all started with Eris, the goddess of strife, discord and hatred who was excluded from the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Without an invitation, she was refused. She was so angry that she inscribed a golden quince with the words to the fairest and threw it into the gathering. Three goddesses claimed it and Paris, a Trojan prince, was asked to award the quince to its rightful recipient. Aphrodite was his choice. They say this act is what began the Trojan War.

Even the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil with which Satan tempted Eve is thought now to have been a quince. Without quinces, we might all still be in Paradise.

You can understand the appeal.

The sweet red paste known to us as dulce de membrillo is known as quince paste. You buy it in blocks and for us in Argentina, it is the stuff of dreams too. Most remarkably in that Italian crostata which we wrongly call pastafrola (pastafrola is, technically, just the sweet pastry without the filling) but for us it is the whole combo. We wouldn’t conceive a pastafrola without membrillo. Unless it has, perhaps, a sweet potato filling. (I’m not kidding).

But today I thought I would share a much humbler dessert, what we call queso y dulce. It couldn’t be simpler but the combination is genius, especially if you pair membrillo with a much stronger cheese than the one in the photo, like, for example a mature Cheddar or a Manchego cheese. The saltiness of the cheese combined with the sweetness of the quince is superb. Pair it on crostini, drizzle with olive oil and you’ve got a nice little hors d’oeuvre.

The best shepherd’s pie ever

I know it might just be a question of time before my blog entries and my recipes read like a Jamie Oliver menu.

But to be honest this is easily the best shepherd’s pie I’ve ever eaten.

And, it’s all made with leftovers.

After making the Clark’s potato cakes yesterday, I was left with enough filling and mash for a modest shepherd’s pie. My leaving it overnight in the fridge had a double purpose: I not only could not take another bite after the potato cakes, it also concentrated the flavour beautifully.

Since I’m not giving a recipe today, let me tell you a bit about shepherd’s pie instead.

Shepherd’s pie was first recorded in Victoria’s reign and technically, it is made with lamb. If it’s made with beef it’s called cottage pie but I like to call my dish shepherd’s pie even though I’ll never make it with lamb. They’re just so cute.

One very interesting thing to note is that shepherd’s pie is an absolute staple in Argentinian households where it’s called pastel de papa y carne or for shorts pastel de papas, literally: potato pie. So imagine my surprise when I arrived in London and, eager as I was to learn everything about its culture and its cuisine I was told that one very British dish was shepherd’s pie, aka pastel de papas… the world is indeed small…

The British stayed in Buenos Aires for several years, the trains were British and, until they changed hands, they ran beautifully. Not anymore.

If you know where to look, there is a lot of British influence around from times long gone. Whole areas of Buenos Aires such as Temperley and Hurlingham to name just two have British names. So it’s not surprising that, in a country where the immigrants literally made the city and a lot of the rest of the country, the British had left their mark in our cooking as well.

We, Argentinians are deeply thankful.

A piece of cake





While in Argentina, I had the pleasure of making a birthday cake for a friend´s friend. Although extremely simple, I wanted to record it here. For posterity.

Irene´s Birthday Cake  – © Gabriela R.

Serves a lot!

chocolate cake made with brownie recipe x 2 using self-raising flour or plain flour and baking powder 

dulce de leche (shop-bought like in this case or home-made)  500g

crushed meringues, as needed

fresh strawberries, as needed

Make brownie dough as usual and bake the cake. Cover with a generous layer of dulce de leche (I used the whole jar) cover with crushed meringues and finish the top with fresh strawberries. To give it a snowy effect, pulverize some meringues and dust the top of the cake using a small sieve.

Note: This will also work extremely well using plain flour and doing little squares as when making brownies.

Jam session



Another post that went bonkers…


I have committed an act of disappearance again.

This time due to a long-due, much needed break to go back home.

The holiday was great, it was a highlight all the way through.

The only thing I regret about it was that it was too short. I’ll keep you posted as to my wanderings over there, not necessarily in chronological order.

It was great to see my friends and do a bit of local cooking.I hadn’t been there for ages in the summer and it was lovely to be able to wear sleeveless T-shirts and see the sun at 8 pm still high up in the sky.

Of the many wonderful moments I had, for today’s post I rescue my friend’s birthday, which she celebrated with a “mateada”. 

Mateada is a wonderful custom we have back home. We all drink mate through a sort of metal straw and we take turns in the round. There are many cebadores, the people who re-fill the mate for drinking. It’s a skill, it’s not that easy and I have to say, I can’t do it!


But it’s wonderful because it creates that friendly atmosphere which is so unique of the pampas. To be fair, there were many wonderful things to eat on that occasion, including warm ham and cheese croissants to die for. My contribution to it were bizcochitos for the mate (a must!) and as a bonus, prune jam. 





Being back home I also took advantage of the time to make some home-made dulce de leche as a gift to friends and family. My friends were delighted (or so they said) as they are not so keen on the industrialized version. I have to say it takes a bit of time (I started it, left it to watch “Mujeres Asesinas”, an excellent Pol-ka production, and went back to it to finish it) but it’s definitely worth it. 

I hope you try making the jams and enjoy them as much as everybody did back home.  






Prune Jam – from La Cocina Divertida” by Blanca Cotta  




Prunes, 2 cups

Apples, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces, as needed

Sugar, as needed

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Beetroot (raw) peeled and grated, 1






How to make:

1.        Place the prunes in a small pan, cover with water and leave them to soak overnight.

2.        Boil them until they are tender. Rinse them and core them. (Do not discard the cooking liquid).

3.        Mash them with a fork until you have pureed them.

4.        Measure the puree in cups and place it in a pan.

5.        Add the same amount of cut apples, same volume of cooking liquid (and water if necessary) and same volume of sugar.  

6.        Cook over low heat, stirring ocassionally, until it thickens. Add the juice and zest of lemon and the grated beetroot.

7.        Boil until it thickens like jam.   











Dulce de leche – adapted from La Cocina Divertida by Blanca Cotta



Milk, 4 litres

Sugar, 1 kg

Vanilla pod, 1

Bicarbonate of soda, 1 teaspoon





How to make: 


1.        Boil the four litres of milk, sieve it and pass it to another pan because the milk, as it boils, almost always leaves solids behind. To do it, choose a VERY BIG pan because dulce de leche, as it boils, climbs up like a thief on the run…

2.        Add the sugar, the vanilla pod and the bicarbonate to the milk. The bicarbonate is added so that the dulce de leche doesn’t split and also to give it a dark colour.

3.        Boil over high heat all the time. Beware because at the beginning there will be a lot of bicarbonate-induced foam. This is why I suggested a BIG pan.

4.        As soon as it boils, dulce de leche will begin to thicken, just as it happens when you make syrup. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, so that the dulce de leche doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

5.        When the dulce de leche thickens like a light bechamel sauce, take the pan off the heat, place it in the sink previously filled with cold water and stir all the time with a wooden spoon until it cools down. Place it in sterilized jars and give it away as a present!  










Bizcochitos for the mate – adapted from a recipe by Blanca Cotta in Viva magazine


200 ml cream (either single or double)

2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Self-raising flour, as needed

Salt and pepper to taste 


1.      Place the cream and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix with a fork as you add the flour. You should add as much as you need to form a soft dough.

2.      Place on the workplace, sprinkle it with flour knead. Do this as many times as you need to get a dough that is not too sticky. Roll it out and cut it into small rounds.  

3.      Place them onto buttered and floured oven trays. Fork them and cook them until dry.       



Bank Holiday



As you have probably guessed from the title, it was a bank holiday in Argentina yesterday, but because it fell on a Sunday, they moved it to today. Lucky devils! 


This being the case, I wanted to celebrate it by posting another recipe typical from my country.


This time it is alfajores.  And yes, I absolutely love my alfajores de maicena (the recipe for which I will be posting later, sometime) but, this time I decided to go for something else.


But I have a confession to make.


These alfajores look way, way better than they tasted.


You see, that’s the problem with being adventurous. Sometimes… it’s not quite right.


I have loads of reliable recipes for alfajores but, daring as I am, I wanted to try something new… and different. And while they were not that bad, I thought they were a bit bland. But there you go. If you decide to try them (it is probably one of the few recipes by Blanca Cotta that did not turn out spectacularly well) let me know whether you agree with me… or perhaps not?






Mini-alfajorcitos from Viva magazine by Blanca Cotta 


4 egg yolks

1 tbsp. butter, soft
flour, as needed
dulce de leche, as needed
prune jam, as needed


1 cup icing sugar

hot water, as needed


Place 1 cup flour on the worktop.

Make a well in the centre.

Place the yolks and the soft butter in the centre of the well.

Bind the ingredients together until you have a dough which is not sticky.

Add a little more flour or a little more water, if necessary.

Work the dough on the worktop, which will be dusted with very little flour. Do this until the dough is soft and pliable.

Roll it out to a thickness of about 2 cm.

Take it off the worktop with a palette knife.

Cut it into little rounds (about 3 cm diameter more or less).

Join the leftover dough and cut out more rounds.

Place them on greased trays and make holes in the centre with a fork.

Bake them in a hot oven until dry and pale golden.

Take them out of the oven and leave them to cool really well.

Once cold, join them in two with dulce de leche or prune jam.

Once assembled, cover them with a frosting made with the hot water and icing sugar.




Note: To make the dulce de leche more special, I added a dash of cognac and some chopped nuts (a treat!). For these type of alfajores we normally use what is called dulce de leche de repostería. If you can’t get it, just dissolve 1 tbsp. cornflour in some hot milk (just a little bit) and to the dulce de leche which you would have heated in a pan. When it cools down, the dulce de leche will be thicker and much harder to  spill out, you get the idea.




Today the anniversary of the revolution is celebrated in Argentina.

True, I was not very interested in it as a child or when I was made to study it for school but when you’ve been living abroad for as long as I have you tend to become nostalgic about things that never caught your interested before.

So to celebrate it I am posting a recipe from my country which I made a while ago but which I have been saving for just this occasion.

In my opinion there are few things that trigger my memory as much as Bifes a la Criolla. So much so, that being the translator that I am, I refuse to even translate the title. The term criollo was used to refer to a person born in the Spanish colonies who had “cleanliness of blood” in respect of an individual’s purity of Iberian ancestry.  By default it now means “local” so cocina criolla is the local cuisine. Bifes are steaks and I don’t think there is anything more local than this.

This recipe is another of my staples at home and I am adding it to the blog purely for egotistical and convenience reasons. Enjoy!




Bifes a la criolla from El libro de Doña Petrona by Petrona C. de Gandulfo

¾ kg veal steaks

1 kg potatoes

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

2 tomatoes

1 red pepper

1 onion

½ cup oil



1 ladle spoon stock  or water

2 eggs (I completely forgot about them this time!)


Season the meat with salt and pepper.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into slightly thick slices.

Cut the tomatoes, the pepper and the onion into slices.

Heat the oil in a deep pan. Once it’s hot, take off the heat.

Start with a layer of steaks. On top of this put a layer of potato slices, then a layer of tomatoes, then a layer of onions and peppers and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

On top of this place another layer of schnitzels, another of potatoes and so on until the pan is full.

Season again, add the stock and leave on high heat for 10 minutes or so. Then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are cooked and the sauce has reduced.

Now is the time to whisk the eggs and add them to the pan. Leave for a few more minutes and serve hot.



Make a marinade with 4 cloves garlic, ½ tsp. chilli flakes, ½ tbsp. paprika, salt to taste, 1 cup vegetable oil and ½ cup vinegar. Marinade the steaks for at least an hour before cooking the dish.