Manuela’s sunshine recipes from Malaga: porra and ajoblanco

Manuela is our garden mentor at the Maxwell, she plans and coordinates what grows in our community garden and our outreach programme to make sure many different people can enjoy the benefits of growing, learning and creating in a safe and beautiful environment.

My journey

I arrived to Scotland from Cadiz in 2015 with my partner Stephen, who is French, and our three children who couldn’t speak a word of the language but now laugh at my “Peppa Pig English” accent (I was born in London but moved to Spain when I was 9).

We spent 3 wonderful years on the Isle of Arran, where I managed communications and interpretation for the Community of Arran Seabed Trust and helped set up the new visitor centre. It was the perfect place for snorkelling (which I LOVE), walking and being connected with nature and community. We decided to move to Dundee when Stephen was offered to teach technology here as they needed teachers.

Now happily based in the Hilltown, we are enjoying life in creative and sunny Dundee. From the start we found everyone was very open and friendly but I was shocked to see how many people here are going through really difficult times and the impact this has on local children. This really moved me and motivated me to work in a place where I could make a little difference; then the Maxwell community garden job opportunity arose after volunteering and I feel really lucky to work in a place that I love . I think something special about Dundee is how good people and organisations are at helping each other out, putting egos aside to make things work. At least in the creative and community services sector which I am more familiar with.

Plants and recipes

I’d like to share a couple of Andalusian recipes that you could say are half made of sunshine as the ingredients are all sun-loving plants but they all grow in Dundee (although getting a decent crop of almonds or olives to make your oil may be tricky, but we do have them in our community garden).

I would say garlic is probably my favourite vegetable (of the month- I find it hard to pick just one!). The plant itself, from the allium family, is beautiful, especially if left to flower! I love how it needs a cold winter in the ground to properly form all its cloves and get its strong unique flavour. Its also a really easy plant to grow at home and if you have an organic, local variety you just need to save a couple of heads each year and each clove will give you a new plant…magic!

Garlic has extraordinary properties, there is no plant quite like it. Keeping away vampires may be a myth but it certainly helps keep away diseases, pests and boosts your immune system.

In Spain garlic is used in nearly every dish, from Catalan pan tomaca (raw garlic rubbed on toast and grated raw tomato) to paella, from papas alioli to albondigas en salsa.

I’d like to share two gorgeous cold, summer soup recipes from Malaga, where I grew up. I learnt these recipes from my abuela Carmen (grandmother) and my tita Charo (aunt). You can serve these as a starter or soup either in a small bowl or in a pretty glass, alternating around the table if you make both (one is pink the other is white so they look very pretty!). They have a thick consistency so a spoon will be needed and it is essential that they are very cool when served. They go best with a sunny day in the garden, at the park or by your window!

PORRA ANTEQUERANA (serves 4-6 people)

INGREDIENTS

2 kg Tomato (beefsteak or a similar red, fleshy variety will work best)

4 Garlic cloves

200 gr Dry bread

50ml Oil

Salt to taste

Optional – Sherry vinegar (Jerez)

Garnish – Cubed boiled egg and Spanish ham

Vegetarian garnish – pipirrana  (smally dice tomato, pepper, onion and cucumber)

METHOD

Leave the dry bread in water to soften (add a little drop of vinegar too if you have it) and throw away the crust or any part that doesn’t go soggy, squish the bread to remove as much water as you can.

Preferably peel tomatoes and remove seeds from the inside

Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and blend (you can start with the garlic and “rinsed” soggy bread to make sure the garlic is well blended)

Keep in fridge until served and add garnish to each bowl or glass

AJOBLANCO (serves 4-6 people)

INGREDIENTS

200 g Whole peeled almonds

6 Garlic cloves

50ml Oil

200g Bread (Dry baguette or sourdough)

Serve with grapes (preferably muscatel which are very sweet but small grapes like the ones we grow in the Maxwell garden will also do or any you can get your hands on, cut in half if they are big)

METHOD

Leave the almonds to soak overnight if you can

Leave the dry bread in water to soften and throw away the crust or any part that doesn’t go soggy, squish the bread to remove as much water as you can.

Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and blend (you can start with the garlic and “rinsed” soggy bread to make sure the garlic is well blended)

Keep in fridge until served and add garnish to each bowl or glass

Published by manuelagrows

Community garden mentor at the Maxwell Centre

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