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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.

Patatas Bravas - Potatoes and Madrid-Style 'Brava' sauce
22 November 2019

Patatas bravas is originally from Madrid, where it was created and then spread throughout the country. Now each region has made their own modifications such as in Valencia where they serve it with garlic mayonnaise and paprika pepper. But one of the most emblematic places to eat Bravas in Madrid with a traditional Brava sauce is Bar Docamar in Calle Alcalá 337. Its sauce is legendary in Madrid and a house secret. This bar goes through literally tons of potatoes every week and customers travel from all over Madrid to enjoy their Potato Bravas and buy their sauce. This classic tapas is basically potatoes cut into irregular chunks of approximately 3-4 cm, fried and dressed in a spicy sauce that is poured over them and served very hot.


When it comes to Patatas bravas' sauce there are two schools of thought: with tomato and without tomato. From my experience of living in Madrid and researching, I would say the more traditional Brava sauce without tomato. It is made with a base of extra virgin olive oil, sauteed onions, garlic, paprika and cayenne pepper, wheat flour and water or chicken stock. However other ingredients are used which are well-guarded secrets by each cook who adds a special something to the recipe.

In Catalonia, the sauce is made with olive oil, chilli, sweet paprika and vinegar. The important thing is that it's spicy, in fact, its name "bravas" makes allusion to this. In the Spanish language, bravo-a means brave or fierce if referring to an animal.

Patatas bravas are typically served in bars in many regions of Spain as tapas or "ración". It's considered one of the cheapest tapas due to its inexpensive ingredients. Should you ever visit Madrid, you'll absolutely have to taste patatas bravas and I highly recommend passing by Bar Docamar.


Here is my take on the 'Madrid' Patatas Bravas - Potatoes and Hot 'Brava' Sauce - Madrid Style
Ingredients - four portions:

4 large potatoes
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
Pepper mix: 1 tsp of Paprika (normal) + 1 tsp of Paprika de la Vera (smoked) + 1 tsp of ground Cayenne pepper (hot) + 1tsp of white pepper
1,5 tbs of flour
1,5 tbs of sherry vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 cup of chicken stock    

Instructions:

1. Par-boil the potatoes. Cut the potatoes to size - uneven chunks of about 3 - 4 cms. Put the potatoes in a pot with water and bring to boil. Let them cook for about 10 minutes.
2. Dice the onion in fine chunks and chop the garlic
3. Heat three tbs of extra virgin olive oil and stir-fry the onion until its transparent.
4. When the onion is ready, add the garlic. When the garlic is browned, remove from the heat and add the pepper mix. Stir well so it mixes properly and put at low heat.
5. Add the flour and stir in well for about a minute. Be careful not to burn the paprika.

6. Add the cup chicken stock and cook for 10 minutes to make sure the flour and paprika are properly cooked. 
7. Add the salt and the sherry vinegar and cook for a further 5 minutes. If it is too thick just add a little more stock or if it is too liquidy just let if reduce further and cook for a little longer. It should be thick but not too thick. The photo should give you an idea of the consistency. But then again, choose the thickness you prefer.
8. Put the sauce in the mixer and blend until there are no lumps or use a hand blender.
9. In a frying pan heat abundant extra virgin olive oil (very important) and fry the potatoes on medium heat and then raise the heat for the last 2 minutes to crisp. Once they are lightly browned put the potatoes on absorbent paper so any excess oil is drained.
10. Put the potatoes in a large bowl and pour the desired amount of sauce.

 


Patatas bravas are simple and cheap to make, and best of all, you can add any spice or herb to your taste, Recipes all over the country are usually modified by each cook. A popular alternative is to add freshly grated tomato instead of chicken stock and flour. They are an excellent tapas and starter to any family meal so if you are thinking of holding a party or inviting friends over for dinner, why not make these for them!

Enjoy!



Like 0        Published at 09:25   Comments (0)


What do Olive Oil and Coffee have in common?
12 November 2019

Coffee and olive oil in Spain have more in common than you might think and unfortunately not for the right reasons.  Both are wonderful products and play such an important role in the Mediterranean lifestyle or diet: Olive oil for its health properties and culinary value and coffee for its social implications.

However, history and social circumstances have led to a general misunderstanding of what is actually good olive oil and what is good coffee and this lack of knowledge and false belief has lead a nation along for generations and only now are people starting to wake up to this misconception. Who would have thought that when a Spaniard working at an olive mill in his local village gave you a few litres of olive oil from the recent harvest, you would have probably received what is now referred to as just "olive oil" - not extra virgin. Certainly, the elder generations and those in their 40’s grew up with low-grade olive oil at home convinced they were consuming the nectar from the sun-blasted olive groves of their precious homeland. But this is through no fault of their own, technology available then was unable to prevent the contamination of residues left on the millstones and knowledge around the needs of the olive tree were no way near as advanced as they are today. So people all over the Mediterranean got used to what they believed was top-quality olive oil but this is one example where technology has actually helped us obtain the best from nature and traditional methods are in fact detrimental to the quality. Nowadays all olives are blended into a pulp and centrifuged not crushed with millstones and then pressed through mats, or at least they should be.

 

These classical traditional techniques that some customers find enchanting and some brands use as a marketing pull are actually a warning sign that you should probably stay well clear of them. It is impossible to achieve the same quality in a “traditional mill” when compared to a modern mill. But what this has created is a palate for poor quality. So what tastes "good" because it is all they know is actually bad olive oil. So much so that many producers centre on this palate of tastes to ensure their sales even though they are capable of producing better quality oils and unfortunately still today the majority of olive oils in supermarkets are of poor quality, especially in the UK. Some regions deliberately produce oil from frozen olives, as it is the local taste that they have become used to over the years. Naturally, the taste is awful for those who know good olive oil. So what we end up with is a leading nation in olive oil production that doesn’t really understand what good olive oil is, or better said if given a bad olive oil would almost definitely say it was good, really anyone can appreciate a good olive oil once given the opportunity to taste it, the fruitiness speaks for itself.

I always have top-quality olive oil at home and when friends and family come round for a meal they will always be served it. Once they smell it and taste it they are always blown away; "wow! It smells so good, what’s in it?” they ask, thinking that it carried some fruit additive or infusion and the simple answer is nothing, it should always smell like that…fruit juice. It should not smell like oil, you should instantly know this came from a fruit. So only time will educate the people as to what real olive oil should taste and smell like and that will be no easy task with bulk producers more interested in making the extra penny, but this is where regulations and quality controls should be stricter. So learn more about olive oil and how you can recognise a real extra virgin.

 

 

Coffee has a similar story. What is known in Spain and other countries as café torrefacto or Café Torrado is a coffee, which has received special toasting, special because it is different, not because it is better. Back in the 40’s there was a huge shortage in coffee and it was extremely expensive so substitute drinks started to appear in households around the country such as chicory root or cereal seeds toasted with sugar and their consumption became widespread. This same technique of toasting with sugar was applied to coffee too as it was believed that the coffee maintained its freshness for longer as the fine coating of sugar was thought by some to delay the aroma escaping from the bean and the oxygen entering the bean, as modern techniques of preservation were obviously not available. But the fact that sugar was involved in the process helped tremendously with its success after many years of sugared chicory root. 

But what was this process of Torrefacto and what results did it achieve? 

Well, a coffee bean acquires its taste and aroma during the toasting process, with Torrefacto café, sugar is added to the beans. In the past up to 20% of the volume but now it is regulated at a maximum of 15%. This sugar is added in the last stage of the toasting process as the temperature is at its highest, approximately 200ºC, the sugar caramelises and forms a shiny film around the coffee bean. The only thing this achieves is a darker coffee in colour and more bitter in taste. The carbonised sugar masks the majority of the coffee's qualities in terms of taste and aroma thus the technique was only really justified when the coffee bean was of very poor quality as the technique provides a certain uniformity and balance to the taste. However, nowadays its consumption is not recommended and it is considered harmful to one’s health.

Firstly because it is much harder for the digestive system to cope with and thus people with ulcers or stomach problems will have difficulty consuming this coffee but more importantly it has been banned in many countries around the world, as it is believed to be carcinogenic. This technique is only known or used in Spain, Argentina, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Mexico, France and Portugal. In the rest of the world, it is unheard of.

Although its use and consumption were perfectly understandable in those days it became a habit and the norm within Spanish society and continued even when economic conditions had improved.  When the coffee sector was opened up in 1980, controlled up to then only by the state, laws changed and a new market was made available for large companies to tap into. Although they were unaware in those days, they took advantage of the widespread torrefacto coffee, which was approved by the state, cheap, balanced and well accepted by the Spanish consumers and started to mass-produce it. This not only convinced the public that coffee should be strong and bitter but it also promoted the habit of adding more milk to the coffee to make it more acceptable and logically limited the size of the servings.

Slowly but surely 100% natural coffee started to make its way in but initially only by means of blends, at first 80% torrefacto -20% natural. As time moved on these percentages started to change but there is still a long road ahead before the Spanish really start to appreciate 100% natural coffee. Today we can still see manufacturers offering especially to bars and restaurants 50/50 blends. However, in the north of Spain it is now far more common to find 100% natural coffee and the further north we go less torrefacto you will find. On the other hand in Andalucía you will find 60/40 (natural/torrefacto) and 50/50 and even in some villages you can still find 100% torrefacto, which is quite incredible nowadays and shouldn’t be allowed quite frankly.


 So, in conclusion, please make sure your olive oil is fruity and your coffee is 100% natural, your body and your palate will thank you for it.

 



Like 3        Published at 17:43   Comments (6)


Really Easy Fideua! - Seafood Paella with Pasta
07 November 2019

Making paella can be a daunting challenge for many, getting the proportion of water to rice right so it doesn’t stick and go soggy, managing to get an intense flavour and so on, but for others it can be just an impossible task because they can’t find the Valencian round rice if they live abroad and you can’t make a paella with any other rice and achieve a good result. So here is the solution - Fideua
 
Fideuá is a very typical Valencian dish made with seafood and pasta, and pasta is so much easier than rice! Anyone can cook pasta. So our only real challenge here is getting an intense flavour, which is really quite simple if you follow a couple of my tricks - tricks I learned from experts, I may add. So how do we make it?
 
Like any paella dish, the key is in the stock, the secret is to make a good fish and seafood stock which isn't difficult but it can be a hassle and this post is titled "Easy Fideua" so we are going to cheat in this area by using a ready-made seafood stock, and with a little help we will make a really tasty fideua with as little effort as possible. Trust me, if you don't tell anyone, they will never know! It's also great as you can have all the ingredients at home in the freezer and the cupboard anytime, always a great meal up your sleeve in case of a surprise visit!

So this is what you'll need:

 
Here are the ingredients you will need to make a Fideuá for 4 adults:

 

Fideuá:

I'm using a Paella Pan measuring 55 cm in diameter (48cm base), you can do it with a  smaller one too, but I prefer to have the pasta spread out and not too thick. You get better results as you can evaporate the stock quicker due to the larger surface area, thus get a more intense flavour before the pasta is cooked.
 

  • 500g of short pasta  - fideo medio here is an example :

  • 2 litres of Seafood Stock - ideally from Mercadona - (Caldo de Marisco para Paella y Fideua) - It has the highest concentration of seafood in it - more than other brands - ANETO is also very good, but more expensive.

        

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 pressed garlic cloves
  • 400g Flat green beans - Judias Planas - these are better fresh, but you can use the frozen ones too.

         

  • 3 ripe plum tomatoes - grated with a cheese grater.
  • 1 large brown onion finely diced
  • 2 tsp of paprika powder - 'Pimenton dulce'
  • A small pinch of Saffron - add this to the stock as it is heating up.
  • 8 large uncooked king size prawns  - "Gambon" - you can buy them frozen in Mercadona. These will cost about €3,5 euros at the most - defrost before cooking. This is what they look like in Mercadona:

          

  • 200 g Peeled King Prawn tails - Frozen -  in Mercadona - defrost before cooking

       

You can add more seafood if you want, but trust me, this is enough. 
 
• TIP: If you don’t like bits in your food remove the tentacles and the legs from the prawns before cooking them otherwise you will be picking them out of your Fideuá while you eat, as they fall off when you cook them.
 
     
 

Preparing the Fideuá:
 

  • Heat the stock and keep it warm until you need it - add the saffron to the stock
  • Add the olive oil to the paella pan - if it is level it will form a circle in the middle - keep adding until it is about a hands width from the edge of the pan about  11-12 cm
  • Heat the pan - if you are using a paella burner, just use just the centre gas ring at this stage.
  • When the oil is hot - not smoking - add all the prawns. Gently fry them on both sides for a few minutes. Remove the peeled prawns once they have changed colour and put to one side
  • Squash the heads of all the king prawns so they release their juice. Make sure it has all come out - this is key to a getting a good result.
  • Remove the king prawns and put to one side.
  • Add the green beans (chopped into approx 1-2 inch pieces) and saute the beans in the oil until they are starting to go soft and browned slightly - then push them out the edge of the pan.
  • Add the onions to the oil and gently fry them until they go transparent and slightly browned. Take your time, the slower they cook the more intense the flavour will be.
  • Push the onions to the outer edge of the paella pan with the beans so they won't cook any further.
  • Add the grated tomato to the centre of the pan and fry it. You can raise the heat a little - we want to evaporate the water from the tomato.
  • TIP - Once the water has evaporated from the tomato and we just have pulp add a little water to the tomato pulp and repeat the process. Do this a minimum of three times. This will help get a really intense fried tomato. During the second evaporation add the crushed garlic to the tomato pulp and during the last evaporation add the paprika to the tomato and garlic pulp.
  • Once the last evaporation is complete add all the pasta to the pan and fry the pasta in with the onions and the tomato. Do this for a minute or so and then add a couple of ladles of hot stock - make sure the stock is hot before you add it to the paella pan and the all the gas rings have been turned on and on medium heat.
  • Spread the pasta out evenly across the pan and make sure you have enough stock in the pan to reach the edges and so that all the pasta is in stock - but not being totally covered by it. 
  • We will be adding the stock little by little to ensure we don't overcook the pasta. Our aim is to use all the stock - 2 litres - so at the beginning, you will want a high heat to evaporate the stock quickly before it cooks all the pasta - this way the flavours will be more intense - the more stock evaporated, the stronger the flavour.
  • Keep adding the stock and evaporating until you feel you can add all of what is left - make sure that the past is not sticking to the bottom of the pan yet - if it is, it is too hot. We want that to happen towards the end.
  • If you notice the pasta is almost cooked, place the king prawns and the peeled prawns back into the paella pan in a decorative circle, crank up the heat to evaporate the remaining stock quickly - this will be a bit of trial and error until you work out your temperatures with the burner - but its not difficult.
  • When all the stock has evaporated lower the heat and let it toast the bottom of the pasta be careful not to burn it. You can test this with a fork. Stick a fork in and touch the bottom of the pan push back and forth gently to see if the past moves - if it doesn't it is toasting and creating a delicious crust.
  • Once a crust has been made across all of the pan turn off the gas. Make sure you don’t burn it - keep smelling it - you will smell the pasta burning if you have gone too far.

All that is left to now is let it sit for a few minutes and serve!

Hopefully, it will look something like this... Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 



Like 1        Published at 11:55   Comments (3)


Recipe - Gazpacho Manchego - The winter gazpacho...
22 October 2019

With the cold front closing in this week it feels like winter or at least autumn is finally setting in, temperatures have dropped considerably and something warm and hearty should be on the menu and Gazpacho Manchego fits the bill...

Gazpacho Manchego originates in La Mancha, and it is actually mentioned in the book “Don Quijote de la Mancha” with one of its other names "Galiano". It was the shepherds of La Mancha that created this dish, and in fact, Galiano means "glen". This happens to be one of my wife’s favourites dishes, as it reminds her of her roots. 

Even though it carries the name Manchego, it is eaten in many areas, especially the Spanish regions of Madrid, Alicante and Valencia. There are also similar dishes, which are eaten in other countries, including Gaspacho Oranais which is eaten in the North-West of Algeria. 

This is mainly a game meat stew eaten with unleavened bread which happens to be its most peculiar ingredient. Originally the plate for gazpacho manchego was the unleavened bread itself, which is where the popular saying comes from “de los gazpachos se come hasta la cuchara y el plato".

 Unleavened bread was the first type of bread that humanity ever knew and as such it was consumed for thousands of years; prepared with whole wheat flour, it was cooked on stones over the fire or directly on the embers.

In the past Gazpacho Manchego was left on the bread until the bread was soaked and the consistency resembled a tortilla. There's a variation, which is called gazpacho pastor, from Cuenca, which is not allowed to soak, so it's more like a broth. However today the bread is more commonly incorporated directly into the stew during the cooking process.

Also back in the old days, people would often bake their own unleavened bread to use in this soup, and there can be no doubt that this is the best way to make this dish. However, that can be a lot of work and many Spanish supermarkets sell ready-made versions of the bread. 

It is not exactly the lightest of dishes, so avoid any starters before tackling this wholesome winter meal. Nevertheless, if you are a true food lover, Gazpacho Manchego is a must. I still remember my first plate to this very day and they left an everlasting impression. 


These are the ingredients for 6 people:

1/2 rabbit (make sure the liver is there)
1/2 free-range chicken
1 partridge (if you don't like partridge, substitute with another 1/2 of rabbit and chicken)
1 sliced onion 
1 full garlic head
1 red pepper
1 green pepper 
150g mushrooms
300 g grated tomato (without the skin - tinned will also do)
Olive oil
Saffron
Salt
Peppercorns
3 Bay leafs
Thyme
Approx. 3 litres water
300-500g  2-3 Packets of ‘Torta para gazpacho’ (pictured below)

Cut the partridge, the rabbit and the chicken into pieces or ask your butcher to do it for you.
Add all the meat to a pan with a large dash of extra virgin olive oil and start to fry the meat until it is nicely browned. Now add the tomato, the peppers, the onion, the whole garlic (unpeeled), the bay leaves, a sprig of thyme and about 20 peppercorns and fry for a further 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat up the water and when you have finished frying add the water to the pan until it nicely covers all the meat. If you have any left keep it on hold for later just in case. Let it boil for about 30 minutes. After 15 minutes of boiling add the mushrooms and the saffron and test for salt. If the stock runs too low (below the level of the meat) and it starts to dry up just add some more hot water.

When it has finished boiling, remove from the heat. Take the meat out of the pan along with the garlic and let them cool down so that you don’t burn your fingers. Now take the meat off the bones (best to use fingers) and also peel the garlic (it should just pop out of the skin). 

Once it has all been deboned check the Gazpacho for any other small bones that might have been left in the stock and remove them. Most people just leave the bones in, but it so much nicer not having to worry about them. Return all the meat and garlic to the pan and the stock and add the unleavened bread pieces, one bag at a time, depending on your stock level.

The bread will soak up the stock so be careful, we don’t want it to soak up all the stock. Mix them in well and cook for a further 5 minutes and then let it stand for 5 minutes before serving. They go great with a glass of red wine and some crusty bread. I know it doesn't look very appetising but the flavour is out of this world!

Enjoy!



Like 0        Published at 18:41   Comments (0)


Mediterranean style tomato soup
17 October 2019

         

Although tomatoes are around all year their natural season has come to an end so if you grow your own tomatoes or have a load stacked up and are fed up drinking gazpacho every day and eating tomato salads this is a wonderful Mediterranean alternative to a great Heinz classic from my childhood. However the quality of the tomato is key to this recipe, the soup will only be as good as the tomatoes are, so if you can find a local farmer or market they will be far better than the ones you will get in the supermarket which have already experienced refrigerated storerooms, they also tend to be much bigger when homegrown. However we want the tomatoes to be pretty ripe and not too hard, the riper they are the fuller the flavour. This recipe is a particular favourite of my daughter who is incapable of eating raw tomatoes, cooked or tomatoes in any which way or form unless it is in a warm soup, with no bits in it! I like to use large plum tomatoes, as they are full of flavour when ripe.

This recipe couldn’t get any more Mediterranean, all ingredients and herbs used to form the backbone of Mediterranean cooking so if you have tomatoes in your vegetable drawer which are going soft and aren’t up to scratch for the salads, don’t throw them away, this is what you do with them….

 

 

 

Mediterranean style Tomato Soup - 4 servings

1.25 kg. Ripe Tomatoes

1 Medium Yellow Onion


3 Garlic Cloves

1 tsp. Sea Salt

Fresh Ground Pepper


Dried Thyme and Rosemary

1 tsp. Paprika

1 tbsp. Chopped Parsley


1 Medium-sized carrot

1 Stick of celery

500ml Vegetable Stock (or chicken)


1 tbsp. Concentrated Tomato Paste


1 tbsp. Heavy Cream  (optional)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Recommended: Oro Bailén “Reserva Familiar” - Picual)

Fresh Oregano & Basil for garnish

 

Firstly, prepare your vegetables. You need 1.25kg of ripe tomatoes. If the tomatoes are on their vines, pull them off and wash the tomatoes. Now cut each tomato into quarters and slice off any hard cores (they don't soften during cooking and you'd get hard bits in the soup at the end). Peel 1 medium onion and 1 carrot and chop them up into pieces. Chop 1 celery stick roughly the same size. Take 3 cloves of garlic but do not peel them, just chop of the stem root tip, the skin will prevent them from burning but they will still release their flavour. The garlic will go all soft and oozy inside the skin with a rich roasted flavour. Finely chop up 1 tbsp of fresh parsley.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Spread all the ingredients on a rimmed non-stick baking tray. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (preferably Picual). I mentioned the brand “Oro de Bailén” as it has a wonderful fruity-green tomato flavour and aroma, which is ideal for this dish and is available in Carrefour. Sprinkle on the salt, ground pepper, thyme, rosemary, paprika and the chopped parsley. Roast on the middle rack for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and reduced to about half their size and the onions are partially caramelised.

Remove and cool slightly. Warm the vegetable stock and stir in the tomato paste to dissolve. Now find the garlic cloves and remove their skin, they will just fall off in your hand. Add all of the ingredients from the roasting pan into the stock and let it gently simmer for 5-10 minutes, make sure every drip of that rich olive oil goes in too! Use a blender to puree the soup in the pan. The soup should be smooth, with some texture. If you don't like any texture at all, just run it through a fine sieve.

Return it back to the pot, and add some cream to taste, if you want it creamy that is, otherwise it is ready to eat. Taste for salt and pepper and serve with some thick toasted bread grilled with manchego cheese. garnish with fresh chopped basil and oregano. Listo! Enjoy!

 

          

     

 



Like 1        Published at 17:29   Comments (0)


Barbecued Níscalos, it's that time of year
04 October 2019

After a classic summer and the recent heavy rainfalls, Spain's forests are giving birth to the autumn season of wild mushrooms or Níscalos as they are called here, and they are popping up all over the country.

Any pine forest around the country should have Níscalos, but at least two intense rainfalls within a maximum period of 40 days is necessary to bring them to the surface and get them growing. The wild mushrooms need around 21 days to grow to a reasonable size so you will need to keep an eye on the weather.

Mushrooms will normally pop up in open sunny areas if they have received abundant rainfall, but if they haven’t they will be more likely to appear in the shaded damp areas of the forests. However, I strongly recommend if you go out one day to collect these wild mushrooms, you do it with someone who understands what is what and which ones are still edible and which ones aren’t as there are poisonous Níscalos too which are similar in shape and colour. I also recommend you check for local restrictions, as there are regional bylaws sometimes which limit the amount, and when, you are allowed to collect mushrooms.

Mushroom picking can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. I for one have been fortunate enough to go Níscalo  (called Rebollónes here in Valencia) picking in Valencia, Castellon and the Sierra of Madrid accompanied by experimented “mushroom hunters” as they humorously referred to themselves as “Cazadores de Setas”! There is a skill in identifying where these mushrooms hide, as they are not always visible to the eye at first and it is necessary to separate the loose pine needles and grass on the forest floor to discover them and then dig them out. If you have the chance to go I highly recommend it as it is a great day out to get some fresh air and at the end of the day you will have a wonderfully tasty reward.

The grill or the BBQ are the perfect pieces of equipment for cooking mushrooms. Because mushrooms contain a high percentage of water they remain moist under high, direct heat. As they lose moisture the flavour of the mushroom (and anything you've put on them) is intensified. Purists will tell you that you shouldn’t wash your mushrooms in water. Mushrooms should be gently brushed off any remaining dirt or debris, washing should be a last resort as it will affect the final flavour. If you do wash them make sure you dry them straight away with a kitchen towel and wash them quickly. A small paintbrush or even a toothbrush are ideal for cleaning them, but admittedly it can be time-consuming.

No matter where I have picked Níscalos I have pretty much always ended up eating them the same way. Grilled on the barbecue with a dressing made from fresh parsley, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. This is very easy, dice up a few garlic cloves making sure you remove the heart (root) of the garlic and then chop up some fresh parsley. Next. mix them in a bowl with extra virgin olive oil, a fruity Picual is ideal. Blend it all together to make the dressing. You can also blend this in a blender if you don’t want any bits but I prefer it slightly more rustic. Place the mushrooms on the barbecue upside down and with a teaspoon just pour the dressing over the mushrooms, season with a little salt and cook until they are ready. There is no need to turn them over. Once ready just eat them and they are divine!

 

 

Another variant is to bake and grill them. Place all the mushrooms upside down on the baking tray sprinkle chopped parsley and chopped garlic over the mushrooms and then sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top of each mushroom. Finally drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the top, season with a little salt and put them in a pre-heated oven (top and bottom) at around 200ºC for about 20-30 min (depending on the size of the mushrooms) until the breadcrumbs have gone golden and the mushrooms are cooked. Remove them and squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the mushrooms and serve.  

If you can’t find them in the wild they will soon be available in the shops so there is no excuse for not trying this wonderful seasonal appetiser. Whichever way you prepare them I am sure you will get hooked on them.

Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 19:37   Comments (1)


Artichokes will soon be in season...
23 September 2019

 

Artichokes will be coming into season very shortly, at the beginning of October, and they are by far one of my favourite vegetables, however, I am rather fussy. I am a sucker for the artichoke hearts and try to avoid the leaves at all cost. There are some who love to suck and chew on them in a stew and squeeze them of their very last ounce of goodness but I much say I prefer the tender and flavoursome centres, less effort and more flavour.

There are many ways to reap the amazing health benefits of artichokes. Unfortunately for me, it is the leaves that contain many of the artichoke's powerful health benefits. There are ways to cook an artichoke, such as steaming or braising, so that the entire bulb, stem and all, can be consumed. However, even eating just the heart of the artichoke will provide benefits.

Ingredients in artichokes have been shown to reduce cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase (enzyme). They raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL). One large artichoke contains a quarter of the recommended daily intake of fibre. To give you an idea a medium artichoke has more fibre than a cup of prunes.

A study done by the USDA found that artichokes have more antioxidants than any other vegetable and they ranked seventh in a study of the antioxidant levels of 1,000 different foods. Some of the powerful antioxidants in artichokes are quercertin, rutin, anthocyanins, cynarin, luteolin, and silymarin. The pulp of artichoke leaves contains a polyphenol antioxidant called cynarin which increases bile flow.

They are good for the liver thanks to the cynarin and another antioxidant, silymarin. Studies have found they may even regenerate liver tissue. Artichokes have long been used in folk and alternative medicine as a treatment for liver ailments and the scientific studies are now proving them to be correct. So really they share many health properties with extra virgin olive oil and should become a staple vegetable in our diet.

Additionally, artichokes help the digestive system. They are a natural diuretic and they aid digestion, improve gallbladder function. Thanks to their positive effects on the liver, many people swear by artichokes as a hangover treatment! So I am going to show you a fantastic hangover recipe!

The dish I am going to share with you is fairly simple but can be a bit tedious if you don’t like peeling fresh artichokes, especially removing the hearts, which are what we want. However if you find this a pain and too time-consuming you can buy artichoke hearts already peeled in jars in most supermarkets across Spain, but as they have been preserved in liquid they do maintain a slight aftertaste. So if you want the authentic experience get fresh artichokes from the market. When buying artichokes there are a few things to take into consideration. If the artichokes are fresh they will be completely closed and the leaves will be packed tight and the artichoke will be firm and feel heavier than its size would lead to believe. The tips of the leaves should also be comfortable to touch if they are spikey and piercing the artichoke is no longer fresh. So take this into consideration when purchasing, the fresher they are the more flavour they have, simple.  Today’s recipe is a Spanish classic and is often on menus around the country as a starter or a garnish for main dishes. I on many occasions just enjoy this as a main meal with a glass of wine and some bread; flavoursome, light and extremely healthy.

The ingredients we will need for 4 servings are the following:

12 medium artichokes

300g mushrooms with the stems removed.

150 - 200 gr of Iberian ham thickly cut (Serrano will work too but it is a bit saltier)

2 lemons

2 eggs

3 cloves of garlic

1 small dried chilli

2 tbsp. of freshly chopped parsley

2 whole stems of parsley

Salt and pepper

1 large freezer bag

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, of course!

 

The first step is to remove the hearts from the artichokes and this can be a bit fiddly if you haven’t done it before and very lengthy to explain so I found a video which demonstrates two techniques extremely well, it is in Spanish but just from watching it you will clearly get the idea of what you have to do.

 

 

Artichokes discolour very quickly, within a minute they are turning brown so to avoid this we need a bowl of water with lemon juice, to place the hearts in while we are still preparing the rest of the ingredients. The lemons in the ingredients list are only for this purpose. It is also a good idea to wipe your cutting knife with a lemon to avoid further discolouring.

Once the hearts are ready we need to cook the hearts in boiling water with a large pinch of salt for approximately 20-25minutes until they are tender. Place a few stems of parsley with their leaves in the water to avoid further discolouring. Once they are ready drain the artichoke hearts in a sieve and let them cool down, drying them with kitchen towel to remove any excess water.

While they are cooling down we need to remove the fat from the Iberian ham and then chop up the ham into small chunks. It is best that the slices of ham are thickly cut this way the ham will not overcook when we fry it. This is especially the case if you use Serrano ham, as the thinner it is the saltier it will get when you cook it in the pan and we don’t want it too salty. This is partly why I prefer to use Iberian ham as it is firstly, better for you and also it is not a salty ham. However, both will taste great! Slice up the garlic cloves, do not chop them, they need to be in slices or they will dominate the dish.

Beat the two eggs on a plate, as if it were for an omelette.  The next step is to grab the large transparent freezer bag, pour inside enough flour to comfortably coat the artichoke hearts, 4 tbsp. should be enough. Place the artichokes inside the bag and seal of the top leaving air inside so the artichokes can freely move. Shake the bag so the artichokes are well covered and empty out the artichokes onto a plate.  Start heating up the frying pan, and cover the pan evenly with extra virgin olive oil so we can shallow fry them. Make sure the oil is hot otherwise it will soak up the oil and not crisp properly. (To test the heat of the oil drop a small piece of bread in, if it sizzles and browns straight away it is ready, the oil should not smoke) Pass the floured hearts through the egg and place them in the oil until they are golden and crisp, turning them frequently. Then place them on a plate with a kitchen towel to soak up any extra oil. This is olive oil so don’t be scared of the fat, it is good for you!

 

 

 ** If you would rather not batter them you can jump this stage and move directly to the final stir-fry adding the artichokes as they are after boiling.**

Remove the excess oil from the pan, leaving just a little for the mushrooms, ham and garlic. Heat the pan and add the garlic and the chilli, make sure it is not too hot or you will burn the garlic, on medium to low heat is best. Add the fat that you previously cut off the ham into the oil and simmer for a minute or so and then remove it along with the chilli. Next add the small cured ham chunks, fry for a couple of minutes and add the mushrooms, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. The mushrooms you can put in whole or cut in half, but we want them in large pieces, not chopped. Add salt and pepper to taste and once the mushrooms are cooked, which shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes, add the battered artichokes and the freshly chopped parsley, stir-fry it all together for a few minutes, serve immediately and prepare yourself for an amazingly tasty meal!

 

 

ENJOY!

 

 



Like 1        Published at 12:29   Comments (0)


World Paella Day - 20th September - Can you cook it?
20 September 2019

 

Today, 20th of September is the second edition of World Paella Day. This day is in recognition of the most universal dish Spanish gastronomy has given to the world. A day in which the Valencians share their great invention with everyone around the globe, putting aside differences and disputes with techniques or ingredients. World Paella Day simply put, celebrates a meal of humble Valencian origin that has transcended all borders. With millions and millions of yearly searches on the internet and its global consumption, according to the organisers and tasteatlas.com amongst other sources, it has scaled the ranks to become the fourth most important dish on the planet, only beaten by Sushi, Ramen and Tacos. Today being World Paella Day, all 'versions' of the Paella are accepted whatever ingredients you use, but tomorrow or the day when you happen to read this article, I can assure you they won't. The Spanish or the Valencians will return to their defensive position of protecting the original Paella - The Paella Valenciana.

There are hundreds of recipes for paella but I am amazed at how many just give the wrong ingredients and techniques and have probably just posted the recipe without even trying it first.

Yes, this is a dish that appears simple and straightforward but has its complications, as I am sure those who have tried making one for the first time quickly found out: “It hasn’t got much flavour” or “The rice is all sticky” or “is that the right colour?” or maybe all of them. I have seen dozens of recipes for paellas on the internet and I am amazed at how few follow the traditional recipe and don’t even give straightforward instructions. I’ve eaten a lot of paellas in and outside of Valencia and I can assure you the story changes when you leave Valencia. People start getting creative and putting ingredients in that a Valencian wouldn’t dream of using, not even on World Paella Day, like peas, chorizo, sausage or onion! This is not the traditional dish and therefore cannot be called a Paella! It is simply a Valencian would call it "Rice with Things" - "Arroz con Cosas..."

It is just not done like that in Valencia and let’s not forget, Valencia is the home of the Paella. The recipe has been around for well over 500 years and yet many still consider the “Paella Mixta” (mixed paella: meat and seafood and God knows what else) to be traditional Paella. The Mixta was a recent creation for the foreign tourists and started back in the ’60s with the tourist boom, it’s not very clear why it started but probably Mum and Dad couldn’t agree on which paella they wanted; “meat or seafood?” and asked for a mixed one! Who knows? But this “version” is only really served in tourist regions and is very popular in the Balearic isles, precisely for this reason; the tourists. So it is very rare to see a Spaniard and definitely not a Valencian ordering a Paella Mixta and you’ll be hard fetched to find a restaurant that serves one in Valencia.

So all this said, if you consider entertaining Spanish people with Paella, do not serve a Mixta! Surf'n Turf doesn't work with this dish.

 

 

 

I am going to start with the traditional recipe: La Paella Valenciana (chicken and rabbit). I’ve eaten so many I’ve lost count, and have had the opportunity to see many great local cooks prepare it and they all have a trick or two up their sleeves. It took me quite a few efforts to get it right too and even after a hundred it can still go wrong from time to time, so every paella is an occasion, everyone anxiously waiting around the table to see 'how it turned out!'

I will start by saying until you feel comfortable with the preparation process stick to the same sized paella pan because when you change sizes all hell can break loose if you don’t consider all the changes you have to make. So a  minimum size is a paella pan that measures 34/36cm in diameter, which is pretty much the biggest pan size you can handle with a large standard gas ring at home. To move up to a larger pan (which I prefer) you will need a paella burner adapter for your gas ring or buy a paella burner tripod to be used with a bottle of camping gas, but this is always to be used outside, never in the house. If you really want to practice cooking paella you will need a paella burner, they aren't expensive and you can buy them online, the reason being anything smaller than a paella for 4 people will not get you a great result as there won't be enough ingredients to get a decent stock fro the rice. My recommendation, to begin with, is a pan measuring 38-40cm.

You really need to consider your heat source and that will limit you to the size of the pan. Always go for the largest pan that will fit your heat source, as the more thinly spread the rice is the tastier it will be. Gas is always the best option while you are learning as it is precise and you can control the heat quickly, once you’re more expert, the ultimate paella is made over a wood fire, and preferably orange tree wood, but any will do. It is very common to use wood planks from pallets because they give a very even flame and get up to temperature quickly.

 

So what ingredients do you need? The authentic “Paella Valenciana” has a seal of guarantee of origin and quality (Denominación de origin), which identifies the 10 basic ingredients that it must have :

Olive Oil, Chicken, Rabbit, Ferraura (wide green runner beans), Garrafon (local large white bean),Tomato, Water , Salt, Saffron and Rice (Valencian round rice).

 

 

These are the basic ingredients for the orthodox paella, nothing else. However, some local variations are admitted under the name “Paella Valenciana”, which have come from local areas within Valencia, such as Benicarló where they historically add artichokes. Duck is used as well as other ingredients in the L’Albufera, snail, sweet paprika and rosemary are also admitted but nothing else.

So here we go, I’m going to include artichokes, paprika and rosemary to the base recipe and even though this recipe is for 4, I will use a paella pan sized for about 7/ 8 people approx. 38-40 cm.

That way the ingredients are not too cramped and the paella will be thinner and have a much fuller flavour.

 

  1. 500g (about 125g per person for a healthy serving) de Valencian round rice - variety Bomba if possible. Valencian Bomba rice will be more forgiving when cooking, it also absorbs much more stock meaning it holds more flavour. Do not use long-grain rice, it does not absorb nearly as much stock as the Valencian round rice and hence will not hold the flavour, which is the secret behind the paella.

  2. 800 g Chopped up chicken, including the liver.

  3. 500g Chopped up Rabbit, even if you don't eat it, add it for flavour.

  4. 400 g of  Ferraura (also known as bajoqueta) - large thick flat green beans - try and buy fresh.

  5. 200g of   Garrofon – large white bean. Supermarkets in Spain sell these two vegetables together in frozen packs for paella: "Verduras para Paella". Easier but better if you can buy them fresh.

  6. 200g Grated tomato (without the skin)

  7. 4 Artichokes – once cut up into 4 parts each, keep them in water with a little lemon, that way they won’t turn the paella a dark colour. 

  8. 150ml Extra virgin olive oil (more or less) depending on the pan. The pool of oil in the pan centre should not surpass approximately 4 fingers distance from the edge of the pan.

  9. Saffron threads

  10. Table Salt

  11. 1 Dessert spoon of paprika (sweet)

  12. Fresh Rosemary still on the branch. Do not use dried rosemary, it is far too easy to put too much in. With the branch it is easy to remove it as soon as the right level of taste is acquired. Rosemary is not meant to stay in the paella, it is only there to flavour the stock. If you use dried chopped rosemary it will be impossible to remove and probably ruin the whole paella.

  13. Water - 2,375L: 1,125L which will evaporate to make the stock + 1,25L to cook the rice. (Remember as a guideline for Bomba Rice 1 Kg of rice = 2,5 L of water)

 

Instructions

# First make sure that the paella pan is perfectly horizontal, if it isn’t it won’t cook properly. You can test this by adding the olive oil to the pan and it should all stay in the centre. If it doesn’t adjust until it does.

# Turn on the gas to low heat.  Always start with low heat or you will warp your paella pan and it will never recover its original form. Then gradually move up to medium heat.

# When the oil is hot, add the chicken and the rabbit. 

# Fry the chicken and the rabbit for at least 25-30 minutes at medium heat. You don’t want it burnt but you do want it a deep rich golden brown colour on all sides. This is one of the main tricks behind a good paella. Most people do not cook the meat enough during the preparation stage. It will not end up tough, later with the water it will soften up the meat. You will see that small parts of the meat/skin start to stick to the bottom of the pan as you fry it giving it a golden brown coating in areas, this is exactly what you want, without it you will not get a good paella stock.

 

# Once you have achieved the colour of the meat, spread out the meat to the edge of the pan to make room in the centre for the vegetables.  

# Add all the vegetables and fry them for about 5 - 7 minutes until the green beans have softened and are slightly browned in parts.

# Spread the vegetables out to the edge of the meat and make room in the centre for the tomato  

# Add the tomato and fry for about 3-4 minutes  

# Leaving the tomato in the centre, we now add the paprika. Now, this is a critical point. We must have the water ready and at hand when we do this and move to low heat. For about 1 minute max. we cook the paprika with the tomato. If you cook it for too long it will make the paella bitter. When you add the water it will stop the paprika cooking any further.

# Now we add the water. There are many tricks etc with the water measurements and really this is the key to success. Some measure it by the rivets on the pan and so on, but until you really control the paella it is better to follow these basic rules. The rules are based on the water from Valencia, which is a very hard water so if you have soft water you may need to adjust slightly. The basic rule for Bomba rice is 1 kg of Rice – 2 ½ Litres of water. Now, this is the amount of water you will need to have in the pan just before you put the rice in. So you will need more water to make the stock about 50% more than that required for the rice. So you will need approx. 1,125 litres more to make the stock on this rule, this will of course evaporate.

# Add the first measurement of 1½ litres of water and make a note of where the water level has reached in the pan - you can use the handle of a wooden spoon and mark the spoon at the water level  – then add the rest of the water.

# Raise the heat to medium heat and start boiling the stock for at least 25-30 minutes, add salt to taste.

# If the water level reaches the first measurement of the 1½ litres before time just add more water until the stock has a strong, rich and very slightly salty taste. The rice will absorb the salt. After about 20 minutes of boiling test for salt and add the rosemary branch. After about 5-6 minutes you can remove it, this is done by taste and smell if it is becoming overpowering remove it straight away. 

# Once we have a good stock flavour and have reached the first water level mark we add the rice. Just spread it out around the pan, as you have measured it, it is not necessary to do a cross or a line as many people do, these techniques come from judgement and practise. Just make sure all the rice is evenly distributed and all the grains are covered by the stock.

# Add the saffron until we achieve a nice rich golden colour. Be careful not to put too much in, you don’t want an orange paella.  

# After this point, you must not touch the rice or move it around. This is really important. If you do, you will cause the rice to release its starch and break and then all the grains will stick together.

# Cook on high heat for 8 minutes, until the rice starts to appear through the stock. 

# Then drop to low heat and cook for 6 minutes. It is important to drop the heat because we then avoid the sticking and burning of the starch that has come out of the rice and thickened the stock.

# The last 4 minutes or so will be on low heat or possibly a higher heat depending on how much stock you still have. That will depend on the water hardness. 

# We will not cook the rice for more than 20 minutes (Bomba variety) unless we are not at sea level, as is Valencia. Altitude affects the cooking of rice; the higher up you are the longer it will take. So if you are up in the hills say 700m above sea level you will need a couple more minutes to cook the rice! 

# At this point you should be checking for the Socarrat, this is the thin crispy bottom to the rice, not burnt I may add, but crispy and golden brown. To test, use a spoon. Push to the bottom of the rice and see if the rice moves or if it has stuck to the pan. If it doesn't move and it doesn't smell burnt, you have achieved that crispy finish. If it does smell burnt you will need to remove it from the heat immediately and place the paella pan on a very wet cloth to stop the cooking process and hopefully save the paella. If all is going well remove it from heat and let it sit for at least 5 minutes. The stock should have evaporated completely. If you are using wood, traditionally one would let the paella sit directly on top of the embers for a minute or so to finish off the socarrat. You could also raise the heat of the gas to the max for around 30 seconds or so until it starts to stick, but be careful not to burn it.

# If the rice is still a little hard  (evaporated too quickly) you can cover the rice with a damp kitchen cloth or tin foil if it is still quite hard. This will help finish off the rice. Let it stand for 5 minutes or until it is ready.

 

 

 

The rice should be roundish, in one piece, not broken or sticky. You should be able to separate the grains easily.

Paella is often decorated with lemon quarters but honestly, it should just be decoration, the Valencians say "lemon is only used on a bad paella" ....to give it some flavour. So, NO lemon! and remember a traditional paella is best savoured using a wooden spoon, don't ask me why, but it is true. It just tastes better!

 

Enjoy!!!!!!!  

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

If you don't have time to make it yourself, or would rather simply try the Real Deal here are a few of my recommendations if you happen to be in the Valencia area, all range from 20-40 euros / per person depending on wine, but these aren't just restaurants, they are wonderful places to spend the afternoon and enjoy a lazy long lunch in good company.

These first two restaurants are run by the Rafael Soler Orient so share the same philosophy. He is the son of the founders of La Genuina in Pinedo, also listed below and considered one of the classic restaurants in Valencia, all are fantasic restaurants.

 

ALQUERIA DEL BROSQUIL - Castellar, Valencia (Next to Pinedo)

http://www.restaurantealqueriadelbrosquil.com/index.html

Trip Advisor comments

 

 

ALQUERIA DEL POU -  Valencia capital (Next to the Science and Arts Museum)

http://alqueriadelpou.com

Trip Advisor comments

 

 

LA GENUINA - Pinedo (Next to Valencia : 10 min)

They don't have a website

Trip Advisor comments

 

 

CASA SALVADOR - Cullera (40 km south of Valencia on the coast)

Must order table on the terrace. It's preferable to avoid Sundays here, it gets ever so busy and can be slow.

http://www.casasalvador.com

Trip Advisor comments



Like 1        Published at 18:35   Comments (2)


How Olive Oil can help Cardiovascular disease
13 September 2019

Cardiovascular diseases are the top cause of death in the industrialised world. A host of studies have documented that arteriosclerosis is closely linked to eating habits, lifestyle and some aspects of economic development. The progression of arteriosclerosis depends on many factors: the most important ones are high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and cigarette smoking.

"… The lowest rates of death from coronary heart disease are currently recorded in the countries where olive oil is virtually the only fat consumed." Professor Francisco Grande Covián
 
WHAT IS ARTERIOSCLEROSIS?

Arteriosclerosis is the condition in which cholesterol-rich patches (known as atheromas) deposit on the walls of the arteries. This stops blood from reaching the tissues and obstructs the functioning of vital organs, such as the heart and brain.

WHAT ARE ITS CONSEQUENCES?

When the heart is affected, arteriosclerosis causes angina and heart attack and it increases the risk of sudden cardiac death. When the brain is attacked, cerebral thrombosis occurs, leading to muscular paralysis, loss of cognitive capacity and the risk of dementia. The aorta and leg arteries may also be damaged, causing pain and difficulty in walking and the risk of necrosis and gangrene.

When a fatty patch burst, for instance, because of a rise in blood pressure, the small arteries in the patch also burst. This triggers a response where certain cells found in blood, known as platelets or thrombocytes, join together to form a thrombus or blood clot.

The blood clot travels through the arteries, but when it is larger than the vessel it causes a blockage. Because blood cannot get through, the tissue or organ dies.

OLIVE OIL AND ARTERIOSCLEROSIS

It has been demonstrated that olive oil has an effect in preventing the formation of blood clots and platelet aggregation. It has been observed that by avoiding excessive blood coagulation, olive-oil-rich diets can attenuate the effect of fatty foods in encouraging blood clot formation, thus contributing to the low incidence of heart failure in countries where olive oil is the principal fat consumed.

WHAT IS CHOLESTEROL?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance contained in foods of animal origin. Diets containing a large amount of animal fats raise blood cholesterol level, which is one of the chief risk factors of cardiovascular disease.

Fats (triglycerides) and cholesterol are transported in the blood by lipoproteins. The cholesterol bound to low-density lipoproteins [very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL)] is atherogenic, damaging the vessel walls. In subsequent stages, this may lead to acute heart attack. Such cholesterol is known as "bad cholesterol". In contrast, the cholesterol bound to high-density lipoproteins (known as HDL-cholesterol) is called "good cholesterol" because it provides protection against the onset of cardiovascular diseases. The high-density lipoproteins remove free cholesterol from the cells, then esterifying it and transporting it to the liver where it is eliminated with bile.

OLIVE OIL AND CHOLESTEROL

Olive oil lowers the levels of total blood cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides. At the same time it does not alter the levels of HDL-cholesterol (and may even raise them), which plays a protective role and prevents the formation of fatty patches, thus stimulating the elimination of the low-density lipoproteins.

The beneficial effect of olive oil consumption with regard to cardiovascular disease has been demonstrated in primary prevention, where it reduces the risk of developing the disease, and in secondary prevention, where it prevents recurrence after a first coronary event.

At present, research is revealing the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet in the prevention of secondary coronary events and the positive influence of olive oil on the depression associated with such events and on mood. These findings are very important in view of the high incidence of depression in the modern-day world and the great risk it poses in recurrent heart disease.



Like 2        Published at 14:36   Comments (1)


Whatever you call them...they're GREAT!
20 August 2019

Tellinas or Coquinas, depending on where you live, are commonly known as beach wedge clams and very popular in Spain. They are a species of bivalve mollusc, similar to a clam only smaller, that can be found on the coasts of western Europe and north-western Africa. It usually inhabits the shallowest two meters of coastline and is commercially harvested for food. It is a suspension feeder, which means that it is a consumer feeding on suspended particles in seawater. The shell can be found in colours ranging from olive, through chestnut, to yellow-white and is normally up to an inch wide. In Spain, they are harvested especially in the area of Cadiz and Huelva, but also in some cities along the Mediterranean coast such as Valencia, where we call them 'tellinas'.

This shellfish is simple and quick to prepare and I am yet to find somebody that doesn’t like them, they are fun to eat and my wife refers to them as ‘pipas del mar’ (sunflower seeds from the sea) because they are so moreish like the ever-popular ‘pipas’ en Spain. Once you start eating, it’s difficult to stop.  Fortunately, they are very easy to prepare so they are ideal as a starter especially if you are going to have a heavy second course, such as paella. There are many ways to prepare ‘Tellinas’ but I prefer the simplest way with garlic and lemon.

You will need to calculate half a kilo for say 3-4 people. That should give you a decent starter. But if you do more I wouldn’t worry, they’ll be eaten!

 

Ingredients:

500 gr of fresh Tellinas - wedge clams - (frozen are terrible, so please don't use them)
5 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of fresh parsley
½ lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Plenty of water
Dash of vinegar

 

 

To make sure they are clean and rid of any grit or sand, leave the Tellinas in a bowl of water with a little salt and a dash of vinegar. You will need to keep them in the water for at least 2 hours, changing the water every 30 minutes or so, this will remove any impurities. If you jump this stage or cut it short, you will end up chewing on sand rather than a succulent tasty mollusc and I can assure you it's not very nice.

 

 

Peel and chop the garlic cloves and brown them in a pan with olive oil at medium heat. When the garlic begins to turn brown add the lemon, which should be chopped into small wedges, stir a few times and then add the tellinas and raise the heat to maximum and they will open as a result of heat. To help them open, stir them occasionally letting them knock against each other. This should take no more than two minutes, if they haven’t opened before that time, they won’t and should be discarded. Careful, they cook very quickly and hence dry out very quickly. The secret is in the timing. That is it. Sprinkle the chopped parsley into the pan, shake the pan a couple of times and serve immediately. One final piece of advice is to make sure that the tellinas have plenty of space in the pan to move around and open. Make sure your pan isn’t too small or do them in two batches. 

Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 17:32   Comments (1)


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