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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.

Sea Bass Cooked in Salt - Spanish Style
Friday, April 19, 2024


For those who read my blog regularly, will know that I don't often post fish recipes, seafood is quite common, but fish? Let's say it's not one of my favourite foods. That said, it doesn't mean I don't know how to cook fish...something I had to get to grips with because my wife happens to love fish, so now and again I will eat it or just cook it!

If you were following my blog, in the past you will have read my recipe for "Pollo a la Sal"- Chicken in Salt - well that recipe really originated from this one and as I happened to cook it again recently, I thought I might share it with you.

Cooking sea bass, or any other fish as it happens, in salt produces a rock-hard shell around the fish thus keeping in heat and flavour. It is an extremely old cooking technique believed to have originated from the Dead Sea region and then it extended throughout the Mediterranean. Fishermen would lay the fish on a large stone and cover it with rock salt then they would light a fire beneath the stone, the rising heat would get trapped in the salt 'oven' so to speak and cook the fish evenly. Fortunately, no rocks are needed for this recipe! The technique, although old, is extremely effective and there are many reasons to keep using it and experimenting with different foods.

Despite what you might think, covering the fish with salt does not make the food salty. Being rock salt and bound with egg, it never penetrates the food and simply acts as a made-to-measure oven wall. Because the hard salt shell prevents any moisture from escaping during the cooking process it keeps the meat moist and tender.

The fish effectively cooks in its own juices whilst inside the shell, it does not require any fat or oil. The result is a really healthy fish meal - low in calories and high in nutrients. The egg binder makes the salt wall practically airtight keeping in all the flavour, be it from the meat or fish itself or the added herbs and seasoning - Nothing escapes

   

  


Ingredients for two people:

800 g Seabass – gutted BUT with the scales left on (if you can't find one big one, get two small ones and lay them side by side)
1.5 kg of Coarse sea salt
2 Egg whites
1 tbsp Ground Fennel

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC.
  2. In a big bowl, use your hands and mix the salt, the fennel and the egg whites.
  3. Get an oven tray big enough to place the sea bass on. Lay down a 1 cm-thick layer of salt, covering the entire bottom of the tray or an area more than big enough to sit the seabass on. Remember to avoid scaling the fish as the scales protect the fish from the heat.
  4. Place the sea bass on top and cover it completely with salt except for the tail, which should remain uncovered. This is a little trick to test if the fish is cooked properly. Make sure you pat the salt down until it becomes firm and compact, then mark a line following the silhouette of the fish without penetrating the salt completely. This will help when you break it open after cooking. #See photos above#
  5. Bake in the oven for 18 minutes at 200ºC. Avoid opening the oven during this time.
  6. Remove from the oven. Pull the fishtail and if it comes away easily the fish is ready, if it is doesn't, it needs a little longer.
  7. Use a sharp knife and cut along the line previously marked out before cooking and take off the salt cap in one piece if possible.
  8. Remove the fish skin with care and use a couple of spoons to fillet the fish. Then remove the bones, in one piece, and finally remove the second fillet. It is important not to remove the fish whole from the salt as it will just fall to pieces.
  9. Drizzle with some parsley oil and serve warm together with some salad or grilled vegetables.

Enjoy!



Like 0        Published at 10:18 PM   Comments (1)


Traditional Easter Dishes in Spain: A Culinary Journey Through the Regions
Friday, March 29, 2024

At Easter, Spain comes alive with an array of vibrant traditions, including the culinary delights unique to this time of year. The rich tapestry of Spanish cuisine is on full display during Semana Santa, with each region showcasing its own special dishes that are steeped in history and tradition. From hearty soups to delectable sweets, Easter in Spain is a feast for the senses. Let's embark on a gastronomic tour of some typical dishes enjoyed across the different communities of Spain during this festive period.

 

Sopa de ajo, Castilla y León

Our culinary journey begins in Castilla y León, where the aroma of Sopa de ajo fills the air during Semana Santa. Also known as sopa castellana, this hearty soup is a popular choice, especially after the gruelling processions of Viernes Santo. Made with garlic, paprika, eggs, olive oil, and bread instead of noodles, this dish has its roots in frugality, using leftover bread from previous days. Sopa de ajo is a comforting and flavourful dish that warms both the body and soul.

 

Patatas viudas, La Rioja

Travelling to La Rioja, we encounter another Easter staple, the Patatas viudas. The name, which translates to "widow potatoes," pays homage to the absence of meat in this traditional dish. Made with potatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, paprika, olive oil, salt, and bay leaves, this simple yet delicious recipe captures the essence of La Rioja's culinary heritage.

 

Garbanzos con espinacas, Seville

A trip to Seville during Semana Santa would be incomplete without tasting Garbanzos con espinacas. A popular alternative to the traditional 'potaje', this dish features chickpeas and spinach, creating a flavoursome and hearty meal. Garbanzos con espinacas showcases the culinary diversity of Seville and is a must-try for those exploring the region's gastronomic traditions.

 

Bacalao al pil pil, Basque Country

In the Basque Country, Easter is synonymous with Bacalao al pil pil, a dish that exemplifies the region's love for cod. Made with cod, garlic, olive oil, and a touch of spice from chillies or cayenne pepper, Bacalao al pil pil is a delicacy that tantalises the taste buds. The luscious sauce created from the gelatin released by the fish during cooking adds a richness and depth of flavour to this iconic Basque dish.

 

Pa torrat, Alicante

Journeying to the province of Alicante, we discover Pa torrat, a traditional dish that has been enjoyed by locals for centuries. Consisting of bread drizzled with olive oil, garlic, and cod, Pa torrat has its origins in the 19th century when it became a popular choice for the faithful looking to refuel during Viernes Santo. Pa torrat continues to be a cherished dish during Easter, often complemented with other ingredients to suit individual tastes.

 

Hornazo, Zamora

In Zamora, particularly in Salamanca, Hornazo takes centre stage as a savoury treat enjoyed during the post-Easter festivities known as Lunes de Aguas. This empanada-style dish is filled with a medley of ingredients such as chorizo, pork loin, bacon, and boiled eggs, creating a symphony of flavours that delight the palate. Hornazo is a gastronomic tradition that celebrates the end of Lent and the return to indulging in meat once again.

 

Tortillas de camarón, Cádiz

Heading south to Cádiz, we encounter Tortillas de camarón, a popular choice of appetiser during Semana Santa. These crispy prawn fritters are a delightful accompaniment to the festivities, crafted from prawns, chickpea flour, onions, parsley, and a hint of spice. Tortillas de camarón showcase the culinary ingenuity of Cádiz and are a true testament to the region's seafood heritage.

 

Monas de pascua, Mediterranean region

As Easter approaches, the allure of sweet treats takes centre stage across Spain. Monas de pascua, a traditional Easter pastry, is a beloved delicacy in various regions such as Murcia, Valencia, Catalonia, and Castilla-La Mancha. This round bread-like pastry with a central egg, whether boiled or chocolate, symbolises new beginnings and abundance, making it a cherished Easter tradition for families and communities.

 

Pestiños, Andalusia

Delving into the world of sweet delights, we discover Pestiños, a Moorish-inspired treat that captivates the taste buds of those in Andalusia. These square-shaped pastries are crafted from flour, lard, white wine, aniseed, and citrus zest, offering a perfect balance of textures and flavours. Pestiños are often drizzled with sugar or honey, adding a touch of sweetness to this iconic Easter indulgence.

 

Leche frita, Palencia

Hailing from Palencia in the north of Spain, Leche frita is a popular dessert beloved for its creamy texture and comforting aroma. This delectable sweet is made from milk, flour, and sugar, cooked until thickened to create a velvety custard. It is often served with a sprinkling of cinnamon, sugar, chocolate, coconut, lemon zest, or caramel, adding a delightful twist to this classic Easter treat.

 

Torrijas and Buñuelos

No Easter feast in Spain would be complete without the presence of Torrijas and Buñuelos, two ubiquitous desserts that have stood the test of time. Torrijas, made from bread soaked in milk, cinnamon, egg, and sugar, offer a decadent and indulgent treat. Meanwhile, Buñuelos, a staple in Madrid, are delectable fritters that boast a light and airy texture, perfect for satisfying sweet cravings during the Easter celebrations.

Semana Santa in Spain is not only a time of reflection and spirituality but also a time to indulge in the country's diverse culinary landscape. From savoury delights to sweet temptations, the traditional dishes of Easter in Spain offer a glimpse into the rich tapestry of flavours that define the nation's gastronomy. So, as you immerse yourself in the Easter festivities, remember to savour these unique and time-honoured dishes that exemplify the essence of Spanish culinary heritage



Like 2        Published at 11:59 AM   Comments (7)


Iberian Pork and Chorizo Casserole
Saturday, March 23, 2024

When the weather is really cold, as it happens to be at the moment in England, few things are better than a hot slow-cooked stew to satisfy your appetite. Something wholesome to warm the body. Today I bring you another interesting recipe made with typically Spanish ingredients. A beautifully rich and flavoursome braised pork and chorizo stew. If you have never tried it, it is well worth a go! Who doesn't like chorizo? Unless you are vegetarian of course. It is a recipe I love to accompany with mashed potatoes, not particularly Spanish though!

Although this is not a traditional recipe as such, the result couldn't be more Spanish. Although now isn't an ideal time for getting families together around a table, it is a recipe that will work wonders when feeding numbers. I love how the combination of pork shoulder and chorizo is complemented by the tanginess of the black olives and the sweetness from the paprika to create a tastebud bomb of a recipe which will definitely be a hit.

So why not give it a go and try out this delicious braised pork and chorizo stew. Don't forget the secret to a fantastic result is patience and slow cooking. It takes the time it takes, you just can't rush it. For six people you will need the following - if it is too much, you can always freeze the extra.

INGREDIENTS:

225g chorizo fresh cooking sausage  - at most semi-cured 
4 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
1 kg of lean Iberian pork shoulder, cut into large 3 cm cubes
180 ml of red wine - Crianza is ideal - Mercadona sell a great Crianza for €2,2 (Torre Oria)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
2 tablespoons tomato puree
400g of ripe chopped, skinned plum tomatoes - you can also use tinned
400ml fresh chicken stock - or ready-made stock from the supermarket if you don't have any.
4 springs of thyme, leaves only
2 tablespoons of fresh oregano, chopped
4 bay leaves
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
salt & pepper
2 teaspoons of caster sugar
110g pitted black olives

 


INSTRUCTIONS

 

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan.

2. Skin and thickly slice the chorizo, add to the heated frying pan and fry on medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the chorizo is lightly browned.

3. Using a slotted spatula, put the chorizo into a large, casserole pot, I use my old faithful Le Creuset pot. Try to keep as much of the oil as possible in the frying pan.

4. Add another tablespoon oil to the frying pan if necessary and brown the pork in batches before adding to the casserole pot.

5. Pour the wine into the frying pan and let it to come to a simmer, deglazing any of the caramelised meat juices stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol and then pour into the casserole pot.

6. Lower the heat, add the remaining oil and chopped onions to the frying pan and fry gently for 10 minutes or until soft, adding a little more oil if necessary. Add the chopped garlic to the onions and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.

7. Stir in the paprika and then add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes, chicken stock and herbs. Cook for a couple of minutes and then pour it all over the chorizo and pork in the casserole pot and mix it up well. Season with salt and pepper.

8. Bring the casserole pan to a quick simmer, turn the heat right down to a minimum and cover. Cook for at least 1 hour, stirring from time to time. 

9. In a small pan, boil the sherry vinegar and caster sugar until it has reduced to about a teaspoon. Then stir it into the casserole with the black pitted olives.

10. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until the pork is really tender. 

 

Serve with mashed potatoes or rice or simply eat it on its own with some crusty bread.

Enjoy!



Like 2        Published at 1:18 PM   Comments (0)


Arroz Negro from Valencia - Black Paella
Saturday, March 9, 2024

Spain, known for its vibrant culture, beautiful architecture, and rich history, is also home to a culinary treasure trove that's deserving of as much recognition and adulation - Spanish cuisine. At the heart of this gastronomic feast, is the delicious, tantalizing, and ever so unique 'Arroz Negro' or Black Rice.

 

 

This dish, despite its slightly ominous name, is a party of flavours and textures. It is a canvas on which the cook paints with luminous sepia ink, a rich seafood broth and a medley of fragrant spices. In short, this is a recipe that encapsulates the zest and charm of Spanish coastal gastronomy.

 

 

Arroz Negro, or black rice, hails from the beautiful seaside territories of Valencia. Predominantly a rice- and seafood-based dish, black rice earns its moniker not from the hue of the rice, but from the use of squid or cuttlefish ink, which lends the dish its characteristic dark colour. This delightful gastronomic marvel is primarily found along the coastal regions of Spain, but has quickly found itself adorning plates and pleasing palates globally.

 

Ingredients

To embark on this recipe to create Arroz Negro, the following ingredients are needed:

  • 300g of Bomba rice.

  • 200g of cleaned baby squid and 150g of peeled king prawns

  • 1 litre of fish or shellfish stock/fumet - I prefer shellfish (You can buy ready-made or make it fresh)

  • 2 sachets of squid ink

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped   

  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

  • Spanish olive oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste

This recipe serves approximately 4 people.

 

A Friendly Note:

While squid ink is a key ingredient in this recipe and imparts a truly unique flavour, it can be difficult to find in local markets outside Spain. You could explore online options or speciality stores for availability. However, in Spain, you will find it in the frozen fish section of most supermarkets, at least in Valencia.

 

 

Step by Step Instructions

Heat a wide, flat-bottomed pan, ideally a paella pan, and add some Spanish extra virgin olive oil. Once heated, add the finely chopped onion and red bell pepper, and sauté until they soften.

Next, stir in the minced garlic and cook until everything is beautifully golden and aromatic. Add the chopped tomatoes, and continue to cook until the tomatoes are softened. Once the tomatoes have reduced, add some water and reduce once again. Repeat this three times.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat the shellfish stock until it's simmering. You will need this warmed later.

Returning to your sauteé, it's now time to add your cleaned squid. Cook it for a few minutes until it changes colour. Next, stir in the squid ink, ensuring that it's mixed in thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients. The pan will now showcase a symphony of dark hues.

Now, add the rice to the pan, and stir well to distribute the squid ink evenly. Pour over your simmering shellfish stock, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, on high heat for 5 minutes then reduce to lower heat for a further 13 minutes until the rice is cooked and all the stock has evaporated, but it should still retain a bite - almost al dente.

During the last 8 minutes or so add the raw prawns to the paella - make sure you still have some stock above the surface of the rice. 

Let the dish rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving, this allows all the flavours to meld together and for the rice to finish cooking through. It does take a bit of practice so if it doesn't work out the first time, keep trying! Try to use Arroz Bomba, it will be more forgiving on the cooking times!

This hearty dish, although distinct and layered with complex flavours, is fairly simple to create. It encapsulates the beauty of Spanish cooking – the use of straightforward yet flavourful ingredients to create something memorable.

Whether you're a seasoned chef or a home cook, there is always a joy that comes with the unveiling of a dish like Arroz Negro. Cooking, after all, is not just about feeding our bodies, but also wowing our senses. 

Arroz Nego is served with Allioli - garlic mayonnaise - click here to learn how to make it.

 

 

Pair it with a glass of white Spanish Albariño white wine for a truly ethereal gastronomic exploration!

Enjoy your culinary journey, and remember — the beauty of cooking lies as much in the process as it does in the final dish!

¡Buen Provecho!"



Like 1        Published at 9:50 AM   Comments (1)


Cider Chorizo - Spanish Tapas
Saturday, February 24, 2024

Asturias is a breathtaking part of Spain and is mainly known for its impressive landscapes of stunning natural beauty. The high mountains roll down to meet the sea and form a dramatic coastline. However, Asturias is also well known for its vast orchards and its centenary expertise in making some of the world’s best cider. One of the main ingredients in this recipe. The cider from Asturias is natural, bubble-free, cloudy and above all dry. It is an apple cider that goes magnificently well with the local fresh "non-cured" smoked chorizo (at most semi-cured) to bring this Spanish masterpiece to life, a treat for anyone's palate. 

Chorizo a la Sidra, is a simple yet delectable delicacy that has won over palates both locally and across the globe. The dish's charm lies in its simplicity: chorizo sausage cooked in cider, combining the meaty, spicy flavours of the sausage with the sweet, tangy essence of cider. It's a perfect example of how a handful of quality ingredients can create a dish far greater than the sum of its parts. Whether you're in Spain or on the opposite side of the world, this recipe will help you bring a taste of Asturias into your home using ingredients that are locally sourced wherever possible.

 

 

Ingredients

  • Chorizo: In Spain, fresh chorizo is widely available, seasoned with garlic and pimentón (Spanish paprika) which gives it its characteristic flavour and colour. Ideally, use Asturian Chorizo which offers the best texture and flavour for this dish (readily available in Mercadona and Consum). For those outside of Spain, look for a fresh Spanish-style chorizo at speciality stores, or choose a fresh, spicy sausage available in your local market as a substitute.

  • Cider: Asturian cider, known as 'sidra', is traditionally used in this dish. It's a still, natural cider that's less sweet and more acidic than most commercial ciders available internationally. Outside of Spain, seek out a dry, natural cider to come closest to the traditional taste. Avoid overly sweet or flavoured ciders as they can alter the authentic flavour of the dish.

  • Bay Leaf: A common herb used in various cuisines that adds depth to the cider broth.

  • Garlic: two smashed garlic cloves - don't chop them. Just smash them with the side of a knife.

Instructions

  1. Gather Your Ingredients: Purchase fresh chorizo and natural Asturian cider from your local market. A couple of bay leaves are also necessary to round off the flavours with the garlic.

  2. Prepare the Chorizo: Prick the chorizo sausages with a fork. This allows the cider to penetrate the sausage and mix with its fats and spices. Don't chop it up!

  3. Cook the Chorizo: In a large saucepan or earthenware dish, add the chorizos and enough cider to cover them. Add the bay leaves and the garlic. Simmer over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the sausages occasionally to ensure they cook evenly.

  4. Making the sauce: Once the chorizos are cooked, remove them and place to one side.  Then reduce the liquid in the saucepan until you are left with a thin sauce, but be careful not to reduce it too much or you will just be left with the fat released from the chorizo.

  5. Serve Warm: Once the chorizo is cooked through and the cider broth has reduced, creating a flavourful sauce, it's time to serve. Slice the chorizo into bite-sized pieces, place in an earthenware dish and pour over the sauce. Accompany with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the delicious cider sauce.

Here is a video that shows the steps perfectly :

 

Serving Suggestions

Chorizo a la Sidra is traditionally enjoyed as a "tapas" dish, served in small portions that are perfect for sharing. It pairs wonderfully with a glass of crisp, cool cider, echoing the flavours used in cooking. A side of Spanish tortilla or a simple salad can round out the meal for those seeking a fuller dining experience.

Chorizo a la Sidra is a testament to the power of simple Spanish cooking, demonstrating that quality ingredients, treated with respect, can create a dish that transcends borders.

Whether you're cooking in Spain with the luxury of local Asturian ingredients or adapting the dish to suit your local market abroad, the essence of this Asturian favourite can be captured and savoured. So, gather your ingredients and give it a go!



Like 2        Published at 11:09 AM   Comments (4)


The Perfect Fried Egg
Saturday, February 17, 2024

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 1        Published at 1:07 PM   Comments (1)


Platos de Cuchara - Lentejas con Chorizo
Saturday, February 3, 2024

Spain's rich culinary landscape has been attracting food enthusiasts from around the globe for generations. Among the variety of traditional dishes that grace the Spanish table, Lentejas con Chorizo, a delightful combination of lentils and chorizo sausage, reigns supreme. It is undoubtedly one of the easiest 'platos de cuchara' you can make. 

This dish, with its humble origins and bold flavour, is a testament to the Spanish approach to cooking: simple quality ingredients, resulting in dishes that are greater than the sum of their parts. If you’ve never cooked Spanish food before, Lentejas con Chorizo is a great place to start. All ingredients are readily available in most supermarkets in the UK and of course, in Spain, there are no issues. If you can't find the brown Pardina Spanish lentils, you can also use small green lentils.

 

 

The Origins of Lentajas Con Chorizo

The hearty meal of Lentajas con Chorizo finds its core origins in Spanish rural cuisine. As with many traditional dishes worldwide, it began as a way for peasants to prepare something nutritious and tasty with the few ingredients they had at their disposal.

Lentils were an integral part of the Spanish diet due to their high nutritional value and long shelf life. Similarly, chorizo, a Spanish sausage known for its rich, smoky flavour and striking red colour from the local smoked paprika or 'pimentón', was a staple food item in many Spanish households. Over generations, these simple, accessible ingredients were married together to create the hearty, flavourful dish that we enjoy today. 

Gathering the Ingredients

Before you get started, it's essential to gather all the necessary ingredients. Here is what you'll need:

  • 2 cups of lentils (soaked overnight) 

  • 1 large brown onion, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 200g chorizo, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

  • 100g pancetta diced

  • 1 bell pepper, diced

  • 2 carrots, diced

  • 1 large tomato, diced

  • 2 potatoes, diced

  • 4 cups chicken stock 

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • EV Olive oil for sautéing

Add a glass of red Spanish wine and crusty bread on the side for serving, and you have a veritable feast awaiting you.

Cooking Step-by-Step

Step 1: Prepare Your Ingredients

Begin by preparing your ingredients. Make sure all your vegetables are diced, the garlic minced, and the chorizo sliced. Easy access to pre-prepped ingredients makes the cooking process smoother.

Step 2: Begin Sautéing

In a large pot, heat up some olive oil over medium heat. Once heated, toss in your diced onion and minced garlic. Stir often until they become fragrant and the onion turns translucent.

Step 3: Add the Chorizo and the pancetta

Add the pancetta first and fry for a minute or so until cooked. Next, it's time for the highlight of the dish - the chorizo. Add your sliced sausages to the pot, cooking them briefly until they start releasing their flavorful oils.

Step 4: The Vegetable Medley

Then, introduce the bell pepper, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes to your sauté. Continue to cook these for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 5: Lentils and Spices

Now, add the star of the show - the lentils. Also, add the bay leaves, paprika, and chicken stock or water. Stir until everything is well mixed.

Step 6: Let It Simmer

Lower the heat, cover your pot, and let it simmer for about 40-45 minutes, or until the lentils and potatoes are cooked to your preferred tenderness. Remember to stir occasionally, and add more stock or water if needed.

Step 7: Season and Serve

Finally, season your dish with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves, ladle your Lentajas con Chorizo into bowls, and serve hot with your Spanish wine and crusty bread.

With these step-by-step instructions, you can bring the taste and tradition of Spain into your kitchen. Whether you're a seasoned cook looking to expand your repertoire or a beginner eager to delve into Spanish cuisine, Lentajas con Chorizo is a simple fool-proof dish for anyone to master.

Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 10:03 AM   Comments (0)


Platos de Cuchara - Fabada
Saturday, January 27, 2024

The Spanish love their "platos de cuchara". It is a fundamental part of the national gastronomy wherever you are in the country and a way of eating that defines real homemade hearty food in Spain.

During the autumn and winter seasons, it will dominate the first course of any "menu del dia".  Lentils and chorizo, Cocido (chicken, meat and vegetable stew), Chickpeas and Spinach, meat stews, rice soups and the recipe we will be looking at today, Fabada, are some of the dishes that will be appearing on menus across the country.

Basically, when they say "Plato de Cuchara" they are referring to the fact that you will need a spoon to eat it and bread to dunk in it! So, the season is here and the temperatures are dropping and a hot, filling dish is more appetising than ever, as is dunking crusty bread into a delicious broth.

Fabada Asturiana or simply fabada as it is more commonly known was logically from the northern Spanish region of Asturias. However, like many other dishes, it soon spread all over Spain and is recognised as one of the classic Spanish dishes. 

Fabada is made with "fabes" (white beans in Asturian), several types of sausage and pork (chorizo, black pudding, bacon), as well as spices such as saffron and bay leaves occasionally. These extra ingredients are often referred to as the 'compango'. 

Records referring to "fabes" go back as far as the 16th century, though its consumption was probably earlier than that. Like many other examples of Spanish food, fabada asturiana has rather humble origins as it was the poorer people who would mix fabes with any meat leftovers that they had from other dishes. 

Some historians claim that the fabada recipe already existed in the 17th century, however, there are no documents that confirm this theory. Even though fabes is mainly a rural ingredient, and was cultivated in large quantities, it is believed that the dish itself was actually established in the poorer city neighbourhoods.

Some say it is similar to cassoulet from Languedoc in France that likely entered Spain thanks to the French who took the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James) during the middle ages when french pilgrims stayed at cities and towns along the way possibly sharing their recipes. However, the first written references for Fabada date back to 1884.  Whatever the origin, it won't affect how you are going to love this dish.

Fabada is really easy to make, it's cheap and all the ingredients are readily available in all Spanish supermarkets. It is an ideal meal for large family gatherings.... even though they aren't possible right now due to the current coronavirus. Really, it only requires one major skill - patience.....So let's crack on and see how to prepare it...



Ingredients (4-5 portions):

500 grams of large white beans (dried)
250 of cured pancetta or streaky bacon
2 chorizos from Asturias
2 morcilla from Asturias - blood sausages
200 grams of cured ham bone - "hueso de jamon"
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
3 strands of saffron...more or less
Water
Salt

 

1. Wash the beans under running cold water and let them drain. Soak them in a bowl of water (they should be completely covered) the night before. Ideally, they should be hydrating for at least 12 hours.

2. Some use the same water to cook the beans, but ideally, I would drain them completely and use freshwater. In a wide casserole pot, add the beans and water until they are well covered, leaving at least 2-3 fingers of water on top.

3. Put the pot over high heat and bring it to a boil. When that happens, you will see that a lot of foam rise to the surface, drain all that water and refill with fresh water. This simple trick of changing the water will not only help the flavour but it will also help to reduce what is referred to as the "music of the fabada"  - that is, the possible subsequent flatulence, which although we do not like to talk about it, is always an inconvenience.

4. Put the pot back over the heat and let it continue to froth (removing the foam every time it appears). When it starts to boil again with finally no froth appearing, add the "compango": the black pudding, the bacon/pancetta and the chorizo. 

5. Add the garlic and the peeled onion and reduce the heat almost to a minimum and simmer. Stir them gently from time to time, better with a wooden spoon, and be careful not to break the beans. Now is also the time to add the saffron - add the strands to a tablespoon of boiling water and stir it well before adding it to the broth.

6. When it has been cooking for an hour, you should "scare" the beans - this is an Asturian expression which means pouring half a glass of cold water over the beans to quickly bring down the temperature helping them cook further without overdoing it. Repeat the same process after they have been cooking for 2 hours.

7. Add a little salt and taste the broth. Try not to overdo it, as the sausages will slowly give off flavour, and you can always rectify with salt at the last minute.
After 3 hours of cooking, they should be ready. Taste a bean to make sure it is tender, and add salt if necessary. Don't be in a hurry, if it needs more cooking time, take it, your palate will thank you for it.

8. Once they are ready, remove the pan from the heat. Of course, the resting time is very important. Let them rest for at least an hour, although there are those who traditionally let them rest from one day to the next (let it cool down and then place in the fridge overnight). This will make the broth even creamier and tastier, a real treat to your senses. If you can, I do recommend it.

9. If you don't have much time to let them rest or if the broth has become too liquid, you can drain off a few beans, crush them and put them back in to give it more consistency, this way the starch will help thicken up the broth.

10. Remove the compango and place it on a separate plate or platter, and cut it so that there is one piece of each type for each person. Serve the beans in a deep dish and cover completely with broth, and add to each plate a piece of bacon, a piece of blood sausage and a piece of chorizo. The onion is normally not served, although if someone wants to eat it, go ahead!

 

 

11. Serve them warm and enjoy that creamy broth, but above all, do not forget to dunk your bread!

Enjoy!



Like 4        Published at 10:44 AM   Comments (1)


Visit El Puig on 28th January - Fiesta Sant Pere
Saturday, January 13, 2024

‘L’arròs amb fesols i naps’ is a well-known Valencian dish also known as “Caldera”, ‘Olla de San Antón’ ò “Olla Pobre” (poor man’s pot). Whichever way you call it, it is a fantastic dish, which is ever so easy to make. Commonly made all around the Valencian Community during village festivities it is on a par with Paella when it comes to feeding large crowds. Traditionally made in tall cauldron pots, it can be just as easily made at home in a large casserole pot.

 

 

In the Valencian village of El Puig de Santa Maria, cooking rice in the town square has become a yearly tradition as it marks one of the highlights of their patron saint festivities - feeding the village. San Pere is a rather unusual festivities with numerous spectacles - apart from enjoying a hot plate of hearty rustic food - they also have the rather unusual tradition of throwing rats around the town square, yes! Rats! Fortunately, it is not on the same day so there is no chance of a stray rodent flying into the cooking pots! San Pere is celebrated on the last Sunday of January each year, this year it falls on the 28th.

Usually cooked over a log fire made with orange tree wood, it is custom to prepare this on the day of the villages’ patron saint and a plate is handed out to anyone who wants one. It is not unusual to see Falleros preparing it during the Fallas festivities too.

In English, we would call it ‘Rice with beans and swede’ although it does have some meat in it as well. The basic ingredients include pork (ear, snout, trotters, nowadays some lean pork is included and sometimes bacon), white sausage, onion morcillas, white beans, swedes (also known as yellow turnip), and edible cardoon, round Valencian rice, paprika and salt. As with many dishes born out of poverty, this one is no different, nowadays it isn’t unusual to find versions which substitute some of the cheaper cuts of pork for beef or lamb which also reduces the fat content and calorie count! Additionally, other areas such as L’Horta near the camp de Turia will substitute the white beans for garrafón, the large flat bean used in paellas. However, in all cases the essential ingredient that always characterises the flavour of this dish is swede, which gives a lovely sweet touch to the broth.

This rice broth or ‘arroz caldoso’ as we would call it is without a doubt the most widely established dish in the Valencian Community especially this time of year. It is, after the paella, probably the most popular rice dish for the locals and still greatly unknown by foreigners but the ritual behind this recipe does stir up a lot of curiosity. It is enjoyed throughout the L'Horta Nord (the northern region of Valencia famous for its vegetable fields)

In Vinalesa, a village in L’horta Nord they prepare their version of this dish on the 13 and 14 of October during their annual festivities. It is a recipe that is traditionally cooked by men, as with paella, in fact in Spain, men normally prepare any recipe that involves firewood. It’s sort of like the caveman syndrome. If it needs fire it’s a man’s job if it needs sweat, it for the women, that’s why the women the day before have to peel all the vegetables and are known as the ‘peladores’ or ‘the peelers’ while the men cut up the meat and prepare the wood. It’s kind of like a barbecue back home; it’s a man’s thing isn’t it? Nonetheless, all are happy and a huge quantity of food is prepared and given out to all the village.

In Godella, the Clavarios de San Antonio prepare this rice dish, en Masalfasar they also make this dish for the day of San Anton which has just past and they call it Poorman’s Pot: ‘Olla Pobre’. In Almàssera they call it ‘Caldera’, en Estivella they prepare it for the day of San Blas, en Alaquas they celebrate ‘El Porrat’ en honour of San Francisco de Paula on the 23rd of March and hand out this dish to anyone who happens to pass by. In Foios, Villarmarxante, Olocao and practically every other village in the community will have a special day for preparing this rice broth. It is unique and well worth trying. After the paella, it doesn’t get much more Valencian.

Here is the basic recipe for 6 people : 

300g Round Rice from Valencia
300g White Beans (soaked in water overnight)
300g Pork pieces (ears & snout)
300g Lean Beef in 3 large pieces
1 Pig’s tail cut into pieces
3 Pigs trotters cut into pieces
200g Pork Pancetta / un-smoked bacon
2 Onion Morcilla
1 Large White sausage – Blanquet
3 Medium-sized swedes
2 sticks of edible cardoon
3 medium-sized Potatoes
2 tsp. Paprika (de la Vera)
Saffron
Salt
           

  

The process is really very simple. Fill a large deep stew pot with 3 litres of water. It should fill the pot to about ¾’s of its maximum volume. Start to heat up the water on a medium heat with a large pinch of salt.

Once the water is hot, add all the meat to the water, cut it up previous into manageable pieces, but not too small so they are easy to remove afterwards if you don’t want to eat them. I am not a great fan of ears, snout or trotters, so I just use them for flavour and separate them afterwards. I prefer the beef and pancetta with the morcillas and the white sausage. It is important to remember to create a cross on either end of the morcillas with toothpicks otherwise they will disintegrate in the broth. Once all the meat is in, let it cook for an hour or so. 

Now you will need to add the swedes and the cardoon. Don’t chop the swedes up too small; they should be in medium-sized chunks/pieces. Let it cook on low heat for another hour. 

Now we will add a pinch of saffron and the paprika. Remember we should always cook the paprika before adding it to any dish, so get a small frying pan and add a little extra virgin olive oil, heat up the oil and add the paprika, stir it and fry it for a few seconds and then add a ladle of stock to the pan from the pot, stir around and pour it all back into the stew pot and mix in. 

Now we need to add the potatoes and the beans. Cut the potatoes into medium-sized chunks. After 10 minutes we will need to add the rice but check for salt before doing so. Once the rice has been added stir in and cook(simmer) for a further 15 minutes and then remove from the heat. If the rice is still a little tough it will continue cooking in the stock so don’t worry.

That’s it. Serve up in a bowl or deep plate with a mixed salad and fresh crusty bread with a glass of red wine. It is also customary to eat this with raw sweet onion cut into pieces and sprinkled onto the plate. Then again if you find this too complicated and happen to be within driving distance of El Puig, why not pop along on Sunday  29th and get a plate from the experts?

 

ENJOY!

                                               http://www.elpuigturistico.net/puig/Web_php/index.php



Like 2        Published at 9:26 AM   Comments (0)


Lobster Rice Caldoso - Just in time for Christmas
Thursday, December 21, 2023

Christmas is almost here and seafood will undoubtedly be on the menu in Spain, so if you fancy preparing something a little different “ arroz caldoso de Bogavante” could be a special alternative.

To be honest it is quite confusing to give a decent translation for this dish, yes, it is Lobster Rice but it is not dry like paella is, it is cooked so that the lobster and the rice are left with a reasonable amount of broth or seafood stock making it almost soupy without being a soup! It is in essence a rice stew: a combination of solid food ingredients (lobster and rice) that have been cooked in liquid (seafood fumée) and served in the resultant gravy - according to the dictionary! However, one thing I can assure you is that this is one special stew!

 

I’ve cooked many rice dishes over the years and untold “calderetas” (stews) so the techniques are straightforward, it has always been the fact that I knew I would have to kill the lobster while it is still alive that always held me back. However, I figured it was time to tackle this dish once and for all. 

 

When making a Lobster Stew you need to chop up the lobster while it is still alive so the meat doesn’t toughen. So be prepared for this! In reality, it is a very easy dish to make but the real secret is in the seafood stock, which must be prepared beforehand. It is the same stock you would use for seafood paella, so that was one of my specialities. In fact, the recipe is exactly the same for a Lobster paella only we would use less stock and let it dry out.

 

So, off I went to stock up on ingredients and there are quite a few, even though it is a rather simple recipe, the one I made was for 4 hungry adults, so adjusted the ingredients accordingly. (five could eat easily from this recipe, though). I might add that if you decide to go ahead and try the dish you could buy the ingredients frozen ahead of time as prices will soar the closer it gets to Christmas. The results will still be very good, although live lobster is always much better. You decide...

 

For the Seafood Fumée (stock) you will need the following:

 

400g of small raw unpeeled prawns/shrimps (Gambas arroceras or Gamba blanca)

500g of raw unpeeled “langoustine/scampi/Norway lobster/Dublin Bay prawn” (whatever you want to call it! In Spanish: Cigalas)

400g of Mantis Shrimps that look like aliens but are just for flavour! (Galeras)

4 large Scarlet (Cardinal) prawns - (Carabineros in Spain) – these are quite pricey so you can omit them if you want, but if you want a no-holds-barred stock, I highly recommend them, they are intense in flavour.

600g of white fish bones with head, such as hake or monkfish which are very flavourful.

2 tbsp Fresh chopped parsley

1 large onion chopped into quarters

2 peeled cloves of garlic (whole)

100ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Picual variety

50ml Brandy ó Cognac (sherry will do as well)

50ml White wine (preferably Albariño)

1 tbsp Paprika

2,5 litres of water approx.

Salt

 

 

  

Scampi / Cigalas

 

Carabineros /  Scarlet or Cardinal Prawns

 

 

The first thing we do is peel the prawns, langoustines and carabineros, putting the meat from the tail to one side and reserving the heads and the shells. The meat we will add with the lobster, later. It is a waste to use it in the stock as the real flavour comes from the heads and the shells. I don’t peel the mantis prawns because it’s such an ordeal and they don’t tend to have much meat in them.

Then we place all the heads, shells and mantis prawns in a large deep saucepan on high heat, as this is where we will make the stock. Pour in the olive oil, I recommend using a Picual variety as we are heating to high temperatures at first and this will withstand the heat better. When I made this recipe I used “Oro Bailen” which is available in most supermarkets and a very good olive oil for the price. 

 

     

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

We cook the shells and heads for about five minutes until they have all changed colour and start to brown a very little, you will experience a fantastic smell as you are doing this, of sweet seafood.  Then we add the cognac or brandy, and flambé the shells, to burn off the alcohol. If you use Brandy you can’t flambé it, so don’t worry the alcohol will evaporate as the cooking proceeds.

 

Add the wine and stir for about 2 minutes then add the paprika, stir it around and add half a litre of water immediately so the paprika doesn’t burn. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Next, we need to get a hand blender and blend in all the heads and shells with the stock. Do this in short actions, we don’t want all the shells to disintegrate into tiny pieces we just want to break them all up into small pieces so that they release every ounce of their flavour, we’ll pass it through a sieve later. Now drop in the quartered onion, the cloves of garlic and the fresh parsley, add the fish head and bones and add the rest of the water.

 

We want to end up with 1,5 litres of concentrated stock at the end of all this so, add a litre first and that will give you a guide as to the minimum amount we will need once we’ve reduced the stock. Let the stock simmer for a minimum of 1 hour until all the fish bones have separated and any meat that was there has fallen off, skim the foam off the top as needed.

 

Now we pass all the stock through a sieve to remove the bones and the broken shells. I suggest you pass it through the sieve twice to make sure you remove everything. Now the last step is to salt for taste and slowly reduce the stock to the required amount so it is lovely and concentrated. As I mentioned, we want a minimum of 1,5 litres for this recipe which will be used for 500g of rice, It is always best to leave a little in reserve just in case.

 

Once the stock is ready put it to one side. You can make the stock the day before if you want, it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.

 

Now the next step! These are the ingredients you will need for Lobster rice, as I mentioned it serves 4 hungry adults!

 

2 medium-sized lobsters ( approx 500-600 g each)

The peeled seafood from earlier

500g  Round Valencian Rice ( If possible Bomba), the same rice you would use for a paella.

4 sundried Spanish Ñoras (dried capsicums)

3 mature medium sized plum tomatoes

1 medium-sized red onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 tsp. paprika

0,2g ground saffron

50ml Brandy

50ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fresh parsley

Salt

 

Now we are at the moment of truth. Time to kill! But just before that, we need to get everything ready. Capsicums always come dried, well they do here in Spain at least, so they need to be soaked in water overnight so they can soften.

 

Once softened, we remove the pulp from the capsicums with a teaspoon and place it in a bowl, discarding the tough outer skin. We scald the plum tomatoes in boiling water and then immediately place them under cold water to easily peel off the skin and then finely dice it. Chop the onion and garlic cloves up finely too. Mix it all these ingredients together; capsicum pulp, onion, tomatoes and garlic, now we are ready to move on.

 

Make sure the stock is hot and keep it hot, as we must add it hot to the pan. For this you will need a deep wide pan, in Spain we use a pan similar to a wok only that it has a larger base. 

 

The lobsters' time is now up, say a prayer, give them a blessing and ask them for forgiveness, as they are about to serve you very well indeed! A lobster will stay alive for just over a day in the fridge if you keep it moist, so a good trick is to get two kitchen cloths, soak them in water and a place one on the base of the vegetable drawer inside the fridge, lay the lobster on top of the cloth and place another wet cloth over them. When you buy them make sure they are healthy, a good telltale sign is asking for them to be held up in front of you once they are taken out of the tank, they should hold their claws up high as if surrendering, if their claws are sagging down towards their body, they are weak and I would reject them. 

                                 

There are many ways to chop up a lobster but I quickly learnt my first mistake, not pulling the claws off first. If you don’t, it is much harder to take them off once you’ve cut it in half. So hold the lobster firmly by the head and twist the claw firmly at the base where it is joined to the body, it should just pop off. Remove both of them, hit them with a rolling pin to slightly break the shell (don’t bash them!) in each part of the arm and claw and then put them to one side, you can take the elastic bands off now.  Next, we need to separate the tail from the head and cut it in half lengthways, you will need a large sharp knife for this. Finally cut the head in half lengthways and we are done. The last thing you will need to do is remove the stomach, it is right at the tip of the head and is a small sack, sometimes with sand in it. Take it out and throw it away. You needn’t remove anything else, the green innards that look like brains, aren’t in fact brains and will add to the flavour, but if you find that a bit sickly, wash it out, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t include it. Heat the pan and add the olive oil (Picual) and then place the lobster pieces shell down in the pan and fry them until the shell goes pink turn them over and seal the meat briefly and let it release the juices, fry for a few minutes, we just want to flavour the oil. Remove the lobster and put it to one side.

 

Then we add to the pan the tomato-onion-garlic-capsicum mix and stir fry it in the oil for about 5/6 minutes until it is nicely cooked. Add the brandy and stir, let it simmer for a minute or so and then add the paprika, stir it in and almost immediately add all the rice. Stir in the rice so it soaks up all the ingredients in the pan and keep stirring it for a couple of minutes then we add the stock. Add 1.5 litres of stock, stir it in and put the lobster and the peeled seafood which we reserved earlier, back in. Add the saffron and some chopped parsley to the pan, slowly stir it in and taste for salt. Add if necessary. Now we just wait for approximately 20 minutes until the rice is cooked. The pan should not run out of stock, if you see the stock going below the rice level, add a little more, but make sure it is always very hot. Remove from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes. It is now ready to serve! It is truly a fantastically special dish! I hope you enjoy it!

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 



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