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IAN & SPAIN

WELCOME TO MY BLOG. HAVING LIVED IN SPAIN FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS I HAVE TRULY MANAGED TO IMMERSE MYSELF IN THE LOCAL CULTURE AND FEEL TOTALLY INTEGRATED. I WILL BE WRITING ABOUT MY PASSION FOR SPANISH FOOD AND DRINK AS WELL AS ITS CULTURE, PEOPLE AND PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A COMMENT.

The Supermarket Olive Oils to Avoid!
Thursday, April 28, 2022

Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most valued foods by many consumers, especially myself. The food that some call liquid gold is certainly not lacking in most households, especially in Spain. And every time we go to the supermarket we come across more and more brands. Hence, institutions such as the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) periodically prepare lists with the best oils that can be found in establishments.

However, we are not here to review the oils best valued by the OCU, quite the contrary. Below we will see some of the worst valued extra virgin olive oils by the OCU experts that should be left on the shelf and as far away as possible from your shopping basket.

To prepare the list, the OCU took into account the labelling, the authenticity (that it does not contain other oils), the level of acidity, the quality of the fruit and the organoleptic qualities - sensory analysis.

So here we go:

 

1. Olisone (Lidl) Extra virgin olive oil

 

It is the worst rated. According to the OCU, it is the worst quality oil that can be found on the market. It obtains a score of less than 32 out of 100 due to labelling, conservation parameters and sensory analysis. Each 0.75-litre bottle costs 3.69 euros. I can also testify to this. It is really awful. I bought it once and never again.

 

2. La Española Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

This again gets a score of 32 out of 100 and is not actually considered an 'extra virgin'. It is considered a product of very poor quality, although it should be noted that it is the only product from La Española that has such a low score. It can be found for 4.96 euros per container.

 

3. Olisone (Lidl) Extra virgin olive oil

 

It is for sale at Lidl and its price is €3.89. The reason why the OCU considers it a lousy oil is its sensory analysis, one of the requirements considered essential to be able to classify an oil EVOO.

 

4. Guillén Extra virgin olive oil

 

This oil is an extra virgin, but it is extremely poor quality. The worst factor here is the labelling and the conservation parameters. It has good scores in terms of acidity, however, its authenticity is the key reason why this oil has failed so badly and also its sensory score. That is why it also gets a 32 out of 100.

 

5. Olearia del Olivar (Aldi) Extra virgin olive oil

 

You can find it in Aldi supermarkets. In the sensory part, it only gets 2 out of five stars, while the labelling is only 3 out of 5.  Although its conservation is good, its labelling has very little information, which is why it also gets 32 points out of 100. Not good either! Its price is 3.89 euros.

 

6. La Masía Extra virgin olive oil excellence

 

This is not considered an extra virgin, despite the fact that the label indicates it. In the sensory section, it gets two out of five stars, and despite the fact that it has the highest score in the acidity section, this is not enough to save it from a score of  32 out of 100. And its price is 4.49 euros.

 

 

7. DIA Extra virgin olive oil, glass

 

The list is completed by three Dia oils, unfortunately for this supermarket chain. The first is this, which does not exceed 32 points out of 100 and the OCU says that it does not meet the requirements to be classified as an extra virgin, since it does not conclusively pass the sensory analysis tests like many others in this list. Its price is 3.32 euros.

 

8. DIA Fruity extra virgin olive oil

 

This oil obtains a score of 32 out of 100 and is not considered an extra virgin either for its organoleptic qualities. An oil that the OCU bluntly refers to as a "bad quality oil" and that has a price of 3.63 euros. 

 

9. DAY Extra virgin olive oil

 

Its price is 3.63 euros and it gets the same score as the previous ones. The olives with which it is made remain at 4 stars out of 5 but it fails in the sensory analysis. It is the oil that closes this list, one of which no oil would want to be part of, and in the words of the OCU itself, would not advise you to buy.

So, if you have been using any of these oils, I highly recommend you start looking elsewhere and really discover what an EVOO should taste like. I have published many recommendations in my blog but here is a safe bet on sale in Mercadona

 



Like 2        Published at 8:24 PM   Comments (1)


The Best Tortilla in Spain, and how to make it.
Friday, April 22, 2022

 

Talking about potato omelette is opening a debate in which everyone can give their opinion. For better or for worse, you may be more or less of a fan of this popular dish, but on occasions, I am certain you have tried it.

Being a flagship dish of Spanish gastronomy has always put the tortilla in the spotlight, being a source of permanent debate due to its ingredients or its method of preparation. 

You may prefer it more or less cooked, with or without onion, with breakfast or dinner... but when you find your favourite place to have an omelette, it doesn't matter what time of day it is, because any time is good enough to enjoy it.

"Without potatoes and baked": this is the recipe for the first tortilla that dates back to 1798. But, if there is someone who knows about tortillas - and a lot - it is Ciri González, in charge of La Encina, a restaurant in Palencia whose tortillas are among the most sought after in the country.

When you are good at making tortillas, you are good at it, and there is no more discussion, and that is the case of Ciri Gónzalez, who has won no less than four times the recognition for the best tortilla in Spain.

La Encina is the only restaurant that has won the award for the best omelette in Spain four times at the Best of Gastronomy Congress (2000, 2002, 2008 and 2021). They pride themselves on their recipe and technique.

The acclaimed tortilla at this Palencia restaurant is made with simple ingredients and a lot of love, where Ciri González adds the necessary touches of experience.

But how do they differentiate themselves? To prepare this recipe, at La Encina they use potatoes from La Ojeda in Palencia, a small amount of onion from Palenzuela, extra virgin olive oil, plenty of eggs, a pinch of salt and the grandmother's special frying pan. The result is a delicacy for the senses. Cooked on the outside but moist and slightly runny on the inside enabling that perfect transfer of flavours to the palette, delicate flavours which are totally lost when the tortilla is completely cooked through. 

 

 

In addition to tortillas, at La Encina, you can find a wide variety of traditional dishes in a cosy dining room where we can enjoy an informal snack or a classy meal. One of their specialities is crispy roast leg of lamb.

If you are not fortunate enough to visit Valencia and taste this unbelievable tortilla for just €2,50.

 

 

This is the recipe for the best Spanish Potato Tortilla that is served to their guests:

 

Ingredients:

 

500 grams of Ojeda Potatoes (a local variety of New Potato)

8 Eggs

¼ Palenzuela onion (a local variety)

Olive oil

Salt

 

Recipe:

First, we peel and cut the Ojeda potatoes (a variety of New Potato) into uneven slices and finely chop a quarter of the Palenzuela onion. Once ready, we season the potatoes before starting to fry them in plenty of olive oil.

To fry the potato, place the pan with olive oil over high heat. You start with a lot of heat but gradually lower the temperature. The objective is that the potato is fried and not cooked. We will have the potato over the heat for more or less 20 minutes. Once the temperature of the oil has dropped slightly we can add the onion. Test the oil with a small piece of onion first to make sure it doesn't burn the onion. After the first ten minutes, turn over the potatoes so that they are golden brown on both sides. Once fried, they are removed and put in a colander to release the oil.

Now, the eggs must be beaten at room temperature. Once beaten, it is mixed with the potato and the fried onion, and it is left to macerate for a few minutes.

Finally, put a frying pan over high heat with a few drops of oil and pour in the mixture. After a few moments, just enough for the tortilla to brown, turn it over and remove the tortilla from the pan. Again, they are poured back into the pan with a few drops of oil to make the tortilla on the other side. In the same way, it is left over the heat for a few moments, in this way the potato omelette will develop a cooked outer shell so to speak but will be moist and slightly runny on the inside. Be careful not to cook it all the way through. It will take practice to hit the sweet spot!

 

 



Like 4        Published at 2:51 PM   Comments (3)


Spanish Pork in Tomato Sauce - Magro en Tomate
Monday, April 11, 2022

 

 

Pork in tomato sauce is one of the many traditional dishes of Spanish cuisine that is made throughout the length and breadth of the territory. With a few very cheap ingredients, you can enjoy this dish either at home, or at the bar as an appetizer or tapa, and always, of course, with a good piece of crusty bread to dip in the sauce.

Preparing it is very easy since it basically involves cooking the meat with a decent amount of tomato. The quality of the latter is important though. 

It is important to get some very ripe tomatoes or a very good tomato preserve. During cooking, the sauce is concentrated and reduced while it is impregnated with the juices of the meat, giving it that characteristic flavour that is so popular. In addition, this is one of those stews which tastes even better if you let it rest for a whole day.

 

To accompany it, you can have white rice for example or even a portion of good chips. Other accompaniments that are common, especially when eaten as a main dish, are fried eggs and fried green peppers, which help to fill out the meal.

Getting hungry?

 

BASIC INFO:

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients  for 4 people

800g  lean pork meat, chopped

Salt

Ground black pepper

1 large onion

1 Italian green pepper (optional)

4 cloves of garlic

800 g of very ripe natural tomato or canned

4 tablespoons olive oil

150 ml of white wine

1 or 2 bay leaves

parsley (optional)

Sugar (optional)

 

STEPS:

To prepare this fantastic recipe, we need 800 g of lean pork meat, chopped and ready to cook. However, first, we are going to check it to remove any excess fat that has remained. Generously season with salt and pepper and let it stand while we prepare the vegetables.

 

 

Take 1 large onion, peel it and chop it finely. Optionally, in season, we can add 1 Italian pepper. In this case, we remove the stem, open it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. We chop it very finely. We also need 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped. Finally, we crush 800 g of tomatoes, which can be natural or good quality canned tomatoes. In the first case, we will make sure that they are fully ripe, wash them and remove the stem. To remove the remains of the skins and seeds, pass the tomato through a chinois or fine sieve, pushing with a mortar pestle or with the back of a spoon

 

 

Heat a large skillet or pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When it is very hot, but not smoking, brown the meat over medium-high heat, until browned on all sides. We will do it in two batches because if we put everything in at once the pan will fall in temperature and it will take longer to cook and brown the meat. As the pieces of meat brown, we remove them and put them to one side.

We lower the heat and finish adding the other 3 tablespoons of oil we need. In it we are going to fry the onion with the pepper over medium-low heat, stirring frequently so that it does not burn. We want it to be very poached so we will cook it for about 10 minutes or so.

Once they are very soft and transparent, add the garlic and mix. Let it cook for about 1 minute. At that time, we put the meat back in the pan or pot, along with any of the juices that it may have released, and soak it with 150 ml of white wine, I like to use a Verdejo. Next, we turn up the heat and let it cook so that the alcohol in the wine evaporates. It will take a few minutes.

Cover the meat with the blended tomato. Also add one or two bay leaves, which will give the sauce a very rich flavour. Let it heat up until it starts to bubble. At that moment and before it starts to spit, lower the heat and let it simmer for between 30 and 45 minutes until the tomato has thickened and the meat is tender. To avoid the tomato spitting everywhere, cover the pot with a fine mesh cover, which also allows the sauce to evaporate.

 

Finally, taste the sauce and rectify with salt and pepper if necessary. We can also add a little finely chopped parsley. Optionally, you can reduce the acidity of the tomato sauce with a little sugar during the cooking stage but check this halfway through. However, if very ripe tomatoes are used and the onion is well poached, it may not be necessary to add any sugar.

 

Good Luck



Like 1        Published at 5:00 PM   Comments (3)


Fig & Duck Pastries - Hojaldre de Pato e Higos
Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Duck is one of my favourites and has always been the protagonist of some of the legendary dishes from countries such as France or China. However, duck also has its place in Spanish cuisine, although it may not be one of the great protagonists. It is very popular in the region of  Murcia where it is cooked with mushrooms, garlic or onion sauce and is often included in Paellas in the southern part of Valencia.

However, the recipe I want to share with you today is not traditionally Spanish by any means, but it was a Spaniard who showed me it and I just had to share it with you. One, because it is pretty simple and two because it’s just so incredibly tasty and it will make you into a star cook at any dinner party! This recipe can be the main course if you make large pastries or a starter if you prepare smaller pastries, either way, you are assured to conquer both family and guests. 

 

Duck & Fig Pastries

Ingredients: 2 portions - starter - 4 small pastries

Duck Pastry:
1 duck confit (thigh)
4 sheets of Brick pastry
1/2 onion
1-tablespoon butter
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons sugar
Pepper, salt and rosemary

Fig sauce:
4 fresh figs
1 large glass Tawny Port
Salt and pepper

Plate dressing: 
Assorted lettuces
2 cherry tomatoes
2 figs
Oil and balsamic vinegar

 

 

Preparation:

Step 1:

Clean the fat off the duck confit and put it in a baking dish with the orange juice and a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary. Leave it in the oven at 180 ° C, skin side up for about 15 minutes or until the skin is brown and crispy. Remove and let it cool down. Save the juice, which has been released.

Step 2:

In a small saucepan, we place 4 fresh figs (straight from the tree!), cut them into small pieces, add the port, add salt and pepper to taste and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, blend it thoroughly and pass it through a medium grain sieve. Put to one side.

Step 3:

Cut the onion into thin strips and brown with a little butter in a pan when it turns transparent when we add 2 teaspoons of sugar, braise and add half a glass of water. Leave it for ten minutes at medium heat or until the liquid has evaporated. Place to one side.

Step 4:

Debone duck thigh, which should be cold, and shred the skin and flesh into four lots that make up the filling for the pastries. Place each pile on a sheet of brick (filo) pastry with a spoonful of caramelized onions and close it as you wish, I did triangles, more or less... Fry them in very hot oil, just enough time so that the pastry goes golden brown and crisp.  (Test the oil with a little bread before popping in the pastries; the bread should sizzle quickly) Let them stand for one minute on absorbent kitchen paper before serving.

Step 5:

To serve, place two duck pastries per dish with a little fig sauce. Add a selection of lettuce and a cherry tomato with a fig cut in half. Dress with a little dripping from the roasting tray, and drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the lettuce. Serve warm in a bowl with the remaining sauce.


Finally, open a good fruity Ribera del Duero Crianza, and enjoy…



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A couple of easy Spanish potato recipes...
Friday, April 1, 2022

The potato is one of the most appreciated products due to its low price, versatility, variety and flavour. It is also one of our favourite foods, very present in Spanish gastronomy in which we find countless dishes in which the potato is the protagonist. Among all of these potato recipes, today we will be looking at two very popular cold tapas or ‘portions’ (ración) that you can enjoy as a snack or even a meal at home. 

In first place today we have Alioli Potatoes, effectively a  potato salad with garlic mayonnaise.    

 

 

Ingredients for four people: 2 potatoes, 1 egg, 1 clove of garlic, 150 g of sunflower oil, a few sprigs of parsley, salt and a few drops of lemon juice.

 

Preparation: 

  • Cook the unpeeled potatoes -well washed- in a saucepan with salted water and remove them after 20 minutes, when they are well cooked. 
  • Then we peel them and cut them into irregular pieces, leaving them in a bowl to cool well. 
  • We can prepare the alioli or all-i-oli following the traditional recipe and making it only with garlic and oil, without eggs and in a mortar, or we can do it, like most bars, a simpler version, making mayonnaise with garlic. Here is a link on how to make real Alioli and also a way to cheat. You decide!

HOW TO MAKE IT AND HOW TO CHEAT

 

  •  When the potatoes are cold, we add our Alioli sauce and slowly stir it in trying not to break them up. It is better to add the aioli little by little, so as not to overdo it with the quantity.
  • Lastly, finely chop a handful of parsley and add it to the Alioli potatoes, and slowly stir it in. Reserve a little more to sprinkle on top when serving and a sprig to decorate.
  • We keep the potatoes covered with transparent kitchen film in the fridge for 30 minutes so that they are chilled when we are ready to eat them.

 

 

The next fantastic potato dish is Country salad or Ensalada Campera, a great dish for a warm day.

 

 

Ingredients for two people:

400 g of potatoes, 1 spring onion, 3 plum tomatoes, 1 green Italian pepper, 1 red pepper, 2 eggs, 1 can of tuna in oil or natural (or bonito), 10 green or black olives, 60 ml of extra virgin olive oil, 15 ml of sherry or white wine vinegar, 5 ml of lemon juice, salt and ground black pepper.

Preparation: 

  • The first, and almost the only "complex" step, is to cook the potatoes and eggs. 
  • To do this, you have to wash the first ones before putting them to cook in a pot or casserole with plenty of salted water, although they can also be steamed. Boiling is more practical because we can take advantage of it to cook the eggs at the same time. 
  • After about 9-12 minutes of cooking, remove the eggs and allow to cool slightly before peeling. 
  • Continue cooking the potatoes until they can be pierced with a knife without difficulty. The important thing is that they are not raw or very hard, although, again, you can adjust the texture as you like. 
  • Drain and let cool until we can peel them without burning ourselves. 
  • Wash the peppers well, open and remove the seeds. Cut into small cubes or strips. 
  • Finely chop the onion and also chop the tomatoes. 
  • Combine all the ingredients in a bowl adding the sliced olives, the potatoes, season lightly and mix.
  • Prepare the vinaigrette by emulsifying the oil with the vinegar, lemon juice and seasoning to taste. Serve with a drained can of tuna or Bonito del Norte (my favourite), spread it on top, add the peeled and cut eggs and dress as desired.
  •  We can also simply mix the tuna and the egg with everything else, although the presentation is a little less elegant!

 

Enjoy!



Like 2        Published at 11:55 AM   Comments (0)


One Calimocho please!
Wednesday, March 23, 2022

                                  
 
A Calimocho (also spelt Kalimotxo) is a 50/50 mixture of red wine and Coca-Cola — yes I know what you are thinking, I thought exactly the same thing when I saw it for the first time. Favoured by Spanish youth looking for a sweet, cheap buzz, teenagers will sometimes mix the wine and Coke by swishing them in a plastic grocery bag for distributing at "botellones", makeshift parties held in parks and other public spaces.
 
The drink was supposedly created — or at least named — at a festival in Algorta (Basque Country) in 1972 when some young entrepreneurs discovered that the wine they had planned to sell tasted not just bad but toxic and added Coca-Cola-and ice to mask the flavour. It was an improbable hit. Automatically people see wine and Coke together and they think, ooh, that’s going to taste bad. However, it doesn’t, though the taste is one that could be considered “acquired”. Like the teenage years themselves, it’s simple-minded but mystifying.
 
It’s an affront to the wine only if you’re using the wrong wine. Actually, it's no different than making a whisky with coke, you wouldn't use a Single Malt, would you? Wine used for Calimocho should be “strong and dry”  or, if you wish to follow botellón tradition, the cheaper the better. The kind of wine that begs for a little helping hand.
 
One measure of a cocktail’s drinkability is its universality, and here the Calimocho scores big. In Chile and Argentina, a red-wine-and-Coke combination is known as a Jote; in Croatia, it’s a Bambus; in Germany, a Kora or Korea. Go ahead and grimace, if you like. But the world will keep on drinking.
 
In New York, they have given it a sophisticated touch by adding freshly squeezed lemon juice and a slice to garnish the glass. They are not that sophisticated here.. the chances are you will only be able to buy a Calimocho in a bar in Spain served in a 1 or 2-liter plastic cup to share. As a refreshment, it isn't that different to sangria and a lot less hassle but if you do use a cheap wine don't drink too much because it won't let you forget it that easily. Nonetheless, it is an easy drink to jazz up and create your own version. Some add a dash of rum or a dash of lime and if you don't like Coke, try 7up! 
 
 


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Frying with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Monday, March 14, 2022

Can we really fry with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?   Should we?   Is it not just a waste of money?   Should we be frying food full stop? 

I wrote about this subject a few years back but I still get numerous questions and comments related to frying with olive oil. There are still many many people who have the understanding that you shouldn't fry with olive oil because "it is said" to be carcinogenic. This is is totally unfounded, so I thought I might clear up many doubts surrounding this subject with the hope that people will spread the word; Olive Oil is good for everything! Frying is one of the oldest forms of cooking common to all of the Mediterranean Basin: Europe, Asia and Africa. In short the homeland for the Olive Tree. As a method of cooking it is dominant in all cultures and religions scattered throughout the region.


Investigations have shown that frying is actually beneficial to the organism, particularly from the physiological point of view contrary to general opinion. “But fried food is fatty and can’t be digested properly and it gives me a heavy stomach” is an all too common remark. Whether the food that is fried is digested easily or weighs down your stomach depends to a great extent on the type of oil used, the temperature of the oil and the manner in which the food was fried. Yes, even frying has its art form!

 

Studies undertaken on healthy subjects and patients with gastro-duodenal problems (gastritis, ulcer, liver and biliary complaints) have shown that there is no relationship between food fried in olive oil and these illnesses.

 

It all comes down to how edible oils deteriorate when heated. All oils will eventually suffer an alteration in their chemical structure when exposed to high temperatures. The alteration undergone by vegetable oils when heated for frying is far quicker, creating far more fatty acids, particularly from seed oils and more so if the initial acidity of the oil was already high. It will always be more stable if it has a high content of natural antioxidants - vitamin E - polyphenols. This alteration also varies according to temperature and the length of time heated, the number of times the oil is used and the manner of frying, if it is continuous frying it changes less and the type of food being fried is also a determining factor when using vegetable oils. Frying fish, especially oily fish, increases the polyunsaturated acid content of the oil, facilitating its rapid decomposition. So you better hope your local fish & chips shop changes their oil regularly if they use sunflower oil.

 

 

This is where the real benefits of extra virgin olive oil come to light. Extra virgin olive oil is ideal for frying. In proper temperature conditions, without over-heating, it undergoes no substantial structural change at all and keeps its nutritional value far better than other oils, not only because of the antioxidants but also due to its high levels of oleic acid (good fatty acids). It has a very high smoking point of 210ºC which is substantially higher than the ideal temperature for frying food which any cook will tell you is around 180-185ºC. Those fats with lower critical points, such as corn and butter, break down at this temperature and form toxic products. I highly recommend purchasing a kitchen thermometer, you can find them on Amazon for less than 10 euros.

 

 

“My chips were all greasy and full of oil!” Well, they were probably fried with vegetable oil (as seen in the picture). Apart from it being healthier, one of the best reasons for using extra virgin olive oil for frying is that it forms a crust on the surface of the food that impedes the penetration of oil and improves its flavour. Food fried in extra virgin olive oil has a much lower fat content than food fried in other oils, making extra virgin far more suitable for weight control. Extra virgin olive oil, is the most suitable, the lightest and the tastiest medium for frying.

 

It is an oil that goes much further than other oils, and not only can it be re-used more often than others, it also increases in volume when reheated, so less is required for cooking and frying. This is one major fact to take on board when evaluating the cost. You won’t need to waste as much oil. There is no problem in re-heating extra virgin olive oil even up to 3 or 4 times and in some cases more, although I doubt anyone would actually do it! The higher the polyphenol content in the extra virgin the longer it will last and it is the polyphenols that protect the oil from the heat. Picual varieties tend to be very high in polyphenols, so medium to a robust extra virgin is ideal.

 

The digestibility of heated extra virgin olive oil does not change even when re-used for frying several times. The only thing that will be altered is that it will adopt the flavour, as will any oil, of what you previously fried in it. But if you use a certain amount just for chips/potatoes you can re-use it over and over in your deep fat fryer, something that is not so advisable for vegetable oils and nonetheless everyone still does it. Extra Virgin Olive oil should not be mixed with other fats or vegetable oils and should not generally be used more than four or five times. The oil used for frying should always be hot; if it is cold the food will soak up the oil, no matter what oil it is. It needs to be hot to form a sealed crust. 

 

Don't forget 185º is my sweet spot and be careful not to put too much food in the oil especially if it is frozen.

 

 

 



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A Fantastic Olive Oil Hits The Shelves of Mercadona
Friday, March 4, 2022

A new variety of Extra Virgin Olive Oil has hit the shelves of Mercadona supermarkets, to accompany the other variety already on sale by Casa Juncal and which I wrote about when it was first released. Casa Juncal is a sub-brand of Oro Bailén (One of the best olive oil producers in Spain), which has provided the chain with one of its most awarded products: Casa Juncal Early Harvest Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), winner of a gold medal prize in both the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) and the London International Olive Oil Competitions (London IOOC).

 

The new Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) added to the range is Arbequina Early Harvest, in reference to the olive variety from which it is made. Native to Catalonia - it takes its name from the castle of Arbeca in Lleida, where the Duke of Medinaceli cultivated it. today it is widely cultivated across the Iberian Peninsula. It is characterised by being an oil with a sweet and fruity flavour -  a distinctive tropical scent of banana skin can be detected and it is an oil that is not peppery at all and does not have a bitter aftertaste either, which may be more to the liking of people who prefer it to dress salads or pour on toasted bread.

One of the best Arbequina oils I have ever tried was an organic one called Abbae de Queiles produced in Navarra. That was an award-winning Arbequina and this oil from Casa Juncal is not far behind for just a fifth of the price.

 

The best-known component of extra virgin olive oil is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat whose consumption has been associated with a decrease in bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides. This is present in all extra virgin olive oils but the polyphenols which are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds are present in a much lower quantity in Arbequina olive oils than other varieties. These antioxidants would be much higher in the Picual variety also on sale. That's not to say it isn't healthy, it is. You just can't have the polyphenols without modifying the taste.

 

 

 

 

If you taste these oils side by side you will clearly distinguish one from the other. And if you are keen to learn a little more about olive oil tasting take a look at my Olive Oil Tasting Guide.

As always, if you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments sections. I highly recommend you go out and get a sample of each, for the price they are the best oils on the market.



Like 2        Published at 7:28 PM   Comments (2)


The Perfect Fried Egg - The Spanish Way
Friday, February 25, 2022

While there are a number of ways to fry an egg, from sunny-side-up to over-easy, one method, in particular, is in my opinion, the very best way to go about it.

It’s the way it's done in Spain, and it’s something you should try immediately if you haven't already!

Spanish fried eggs - huevos fritos, are as decadent as fried eggs come. It’s an egg fried very quickly in very, very hot olive oil. Instead of using just a little bit of olive oil or just a non-stick pan, they’re fried in a very generous amount of olive oil (extra virgin please) — and they’re basted in the oil while they cook. The result is a fried egg with a seriously crispy yet delicate white that crunches, with lacy edges and a perfectly just-set yolk that practically melts in your mouth. Perfection. It turns egg frying into an art form.

 

 

To prepare this Spanish delight, pour about 1/4-inch (deep) of olive oil into a small, but deep frying pan. Heat it over medium-high heat until it’s extremely hot about 185ºC use a thermometer if you can. Crack 1 egg into a small saucer or small bowl. When the oil is hot, carefully slip the egg in and reduce the heat to medium. Then spoon some of the oil over the egg as it cooks, either with a spoon or a slotted spoon. This will help to speed up the cooking of the egg white on the upper side without having to wait and overcook the yolk as a result. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon after no more than 1 1/2 minutes (when the white puffs up and becomes crispy and golden-brown around the edges, and when the yolk is still wobbly).  Be very careful that the slotted spoon doesn't stick to the egg and ruin everything! To avoid this soak the spoon in the hot oil before adding the egg this will even out the temperature between the spoon and the egg. When ready, serve immediately,  sprinkle with a bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. And of course, always serve with a side of bread. It is unthinkable to serve eggs without bread in Spain. It just simply isn’t done.

 

 

Here is a video I found that demonstrates it very well!

 

Enjoy!

 



Like 5        Published at 3:21 PM   Comments (6)


Understanding The Main Olive Varieties
Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Olive tree farming originated in the Middle East over 5,000 years ago and spread to the West throughout the Mediterranean basin. From the wild olive trees that grew spontaneously, the first farmers began to choose those that had the best characteristics depending on the areas, productivity, adaptation to the soils, yield, etc... The olive trees in the Iberian peninsula are now, therefore, really hardy trees that can withstand diverse climatic conditions.

Spain is a country with diverse and complex landscapes, as well as a great variety of rich soils. These geographic conditions, together with the numerous olive varieties used in making olive oils, mean that Spain can offer a wide range of aromas and flavours that are unrivalled by any other producing country. Oils with a very sweet and mild flavour can be found alongside others with great body and character, with a pleasant bitter or peppery flavour of varied intensities. Spanish extra virgin oils generally have an intense fruity aroma.

In Spain alone, there are 260 olive tree varieties. These are a few of the most important ones :

 

PICUAL 

This is the most important variety in the world, representing 50% of Spain's olives and trees and, therefore, approximately 20% worldwide. Its geographic location is clearly linked to Andalusia, the main producing region in the world, and specifically to the provinces of Jaen, Cordoba and Granada. This variety is given different names depending on the producing area, but its main name, Picual (from the Spanish root "pico", meaning "peak"), comes from the shape of the fruit, as it is like a swollen teat ending in a point. 

The oil. 

From a physical-chemical point of view, it is excellent due to its fatty acid composition and the number of natural antioxidants it contains. Its high content of monounsaturated oleic acid, important to avoid cardiovascular diseases, and its low content of linoleic acid (an essential acid for the human diet, but if there are excessive quantities, the oil starts to oxidise and free radicals, which are harmful to certain organs in the human body, are formed) as well as its high content of polyphenols, make it the most stable oil in the world, with a long shelf life and it performs excellently when heated for cooking. From an organoleptic point of view, we have to differentiate between the plains and the mountains, as their organoleptic profiles are very different. Oils from the plains have great body, are normally bitter, with a certain flavour/aroma of fresh green tomato or freshly cut grass. Oils from the mountains are usually sweeter, although they still have a "fresh fruity" and pleasant flavour. This oil is best used in frying, although it is equally good for salads and gazpacho. It happens to be one of my favourites.

 

CORNICABRA

This cultivar is the second in importance in the number of cultivated hectares, but the third in production. It originated in Mora de Toledo, and its cultivation area covers the provinces of Toledo and Ciudad Real in the Community of Castilla la Mancha. Its name ("one-horned goat") comes from the characteristic horn shape of its fruit. 

The oil.

It is golden yellow with touches of light green indicating its fruitiness. When it is obtained from riper olives, at the end of the harvest, there are normally different flavours and textures that remind us of exotic fruit, like avocados. Cornicabra oils are fruity and have a noticeable balance between sweet at first, the bitterness of green leaves and a medium-intense peppery flavour. Their texture is smooth and velvety. They are stable oils because of their high content in monounsaturated fatty acids. The balanced composition of essential fatty acids, high content in oleic acid and minor components, which produce excellent aromas and flavours, make it especially appropriate for dietary purposes. The oils from this variety are perfect for warm salads, stewed vegetables, and for making sauces such as mayonnaise.

 

HOJIBLANCA

The name (from the Spanish for "hoja", leaf, and "blanca", white) comes from the colour of the leaf's backside, making the tree look bright, and, from a distance, silver. It is found in Andalusia, to be precise in the east of the province of Seville, the south of Cordoba and all of the north of the province of Malaga. It accounts for about 16% of the Andalusian olive groves. It is used both for black table olives, due to the firm texture of its flesh, and for oil production. 

The oil. 

From a physical-chemical point of view, it has a very balanced composition of fatty acids, with saturated acids that are relatively lower than in the rest of the oils of other varieties. Its composition is ideal for dietary purposes. As its stability is not very high and it oxidises easily, this oil should be kept out of the light and stored without excessive oxygenation. From an organoleptic point of view, it has an enormous range of flavours, but the most common are sweet at the beginning of the tasting, with a fresh grassy fruity aroma, a slightly bitter flavour of green fruit and other fruits that sometimes recall a fruit cocktail, slightly peppery in the throat and a final almondy aftertaste. Recommended for frying, this oil is also ideal for making bread, pasta and pastries, due to the perfect consistency it gives to the dough. 

 

ARBEQUINA

This is one of the best known Spanish varieties. Although it has been planted in the provinces of Zaragoza and Huesca in the community of Aragon, it originated in the locality of Arbeca (Lerida), where the name comes from, and it is widespread in the provinces of Tarragona and Lerida, in Catalonia. The tree is found in olive groves or mixed with other crops, mainly vines, and sometimes grows on the edges of plots. 

The oil.

These oils have an exquisite flavour with traces of tomatoes and vegetable gardens, and the aroma reminds us of fresh artichokes. They are also fruity with a certain exotic aroma. A fresh apple smell, accompanied by a certain mildness and sweetness, identifies the oils, with a final aftertaste of green almonds. They are also very fresh and young oils which, because of their composition, are a little more delicate than other varieties as far as oxidation is concerned, which is why they must be kept in the dark at a low temperature enabling you to keep them for a longer period of time, but they won’t last much more than a year. These oils have been appreciated for their quality for centuries, even though their production usually fluctuates greatly due to climatic conditions. Extra Virgin olive oils of the arbequina variety are dense and pour well and vary greatly from one area to another, as well as within the same area, in successive years. When harvesting is started, the olives are very green and this characteristic is reflected in the organoleptic properties of the oils. The olives are not normally left to become completely ripe. To describe the average characteristics of these oils, we could say that they are fruity, slightly green and more or less bitter, peppery and sweet. They are, therefore, very balanced oils, with greener flavours (leaf), bitter and peppery at the beginning of the harvesting season, and sweeter at the end. We should also mention the almondy (green almond) aroma and flavour and the way they pour smoothly, which is a very pleasant sensation when tasting them. This oil is best used uncooked, since its aromatic substances are very volatile. It is an oil that combines perfectly with vegetables, fresh or cooked, and grilled fish. 

 

EMPELTRE

The Empeltre variety is characteristic of the community of Aragon, originating in the locality of Pedrola (in the province of Zaragoza). It is cultivated in an area that extends from the provinces of Logroño and Teruel through the Ebro Valley to the province of Tarragona, and can even be found on the Balearic Islands.

The oil.

The oils are a pale yellow colour in the majority of the cases, which is not due to harvesting when the olives are overripe. The oils have a mild fruity aroma and are very pleasant and very sweet tasting. They are never bitter or peppery and usually leave an aftertaste of almonds. As it is mild, it is ideal for blending. 

In general, virgin olive oils are not recommended for making mayonnaise because the flavour is too strong; however, the oils of this variety make delicious mayonnaise. They are also ideal oils in sauces, marinades, vinaigrettes, or to add a special touch to boiled or steamed dishes.

 

PICUDO 

The olive is called Picudo (which means "prominent peak") because of the shape of the fruit with a pointed and curved end and a noticeable teat. It has many other names, but the one it is given in Luque, a town in the south-east of Cordoba, where it is called "pajarero" (bird trapper) is curious because according to legend, the oil is so sweet, when it is ripe, the birds peck at the fruit. This variety is widespread in the provinces of Cordoba, Granada, Malaga and Jaen, with the most plantations in the area of the Designation of Origin Baena, in the south-east of Cordoba.

The oil.

As far as oxidation is concerned, the oils are included in the delicate range. Its organoleptic characteristics are very good, with unbeatable balance and sweetness, with no hard flavours and they pour very smoothly and are light, sometimes reminding us slightly of exotic fruits and apples. These olives are excellent as table olives, green and black. The oils they produce are ideal in warm salads, gazpachos, and pastries.

 

 



Like 3        Published at 11:25 PM   Comments (2)


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