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IAN & SPAIN

WELCOME TO MY BLOG. I WILL BE WRITING ABOUT SPANISH FOOD AND DRINK AND IN PARTICULAR MY OBSESSION FOR OLIVE OIL, ONE OF SPAIN'S MAJOR ASSETS AND GREATLY MISUNDERSTOOD BY THE MAJORITY OF CONSUMERS WORLDWIDE. I WILL ENDEAVOR TO PROVIDE YOU WITH ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO ENJOY THE WORLD OF OLIVE OIL WITHOUT BEING TAKEN FOR A RIDE! HOPE YOU ENJOY IT AND PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS!

Tomato Madness!
17 August 2017

La Tomatina is just a round the corner and it is one of the Spanish festivities that has still eluded me after so many years and I have it pretty much on my doorstep. However this year I will be rather close by so I think I might just pop by as a spectator! This festivity is relatively recent compared to other Spanish festivities and has become the second most popular festivity outside of Spanish borders and has even been replicated in major cities around the world. Such countries as China, India, Costa Rica, Colombia, United States, Chile and others all hold their annual tomato battle, so it's not the just the Spanish who are a bit crazy, this tomato fever is incredibly contagious. But just how did this unusual festivity come about? I can assure you it has nothing to do with harvests or religious rituals!

It all started on the last Wednesday of August in 1945 when some young people spent the time in the town square to attend the “Giants” and “Big-Heads” figures parade, a traditional festivity in the region. The young boys decided they wanted to take part in the parade with musicians, and the locals dressed up as giants. 
The exaggerated enthusiasm of these young boys caused one of them to be kicked out of the parade. The participant flew into a fit of rage and started to hit everything in his path and the crowd started to get angry. There was a market stall of vegetables nearby that fell victim to the event and people started to pelt each other with tomatoes until the local forces ended the vegetable battle.

The following year, the young people picked a fight by their own decision but this time brought the tomatoes from home. Although the police broke up the early tradition in the following years, the young boys had made history without being conscious of it. La Tomatina was banned in the early 50s, which was not a problem for the participants, even those that were arrested. But the people spoke out in defence of the Tomatina and the festivity was again allowed with more participants and a more frenetic atmosphere than ever.
The festivity was again cancelled till 1957 when, as a sign of protest, the “tomato burial” was held. It was a demonstration in which the residents carried a coffin with a huge tomato inside. A band that played funeral marches accompanied the parade and it was incredibly successful. La Tomatina Festival was finally allowed and became an official festivity. As a result of the report by Javier Basilio, broadcasted on Spanish Television Program Informe Semanal, the festivity started to become known in the rest of Spain and consequently the rest of the world, as it is probably one of the most insane festivities you will ever come across.

The actual festivity kicks off at around 10 AM on the last Wednesday of August with the first event of the Tomatina: The "Palo Jabón". This is basically a tall pole that has been smothered in grease. The goal is to climb to the top of the greased pole and recover a Spanish Leg of Ham which is hanging from the top. As this happens, the crowd work into a frenzy of singing and dancing while being showered with water by hoses. Once someone has managed to recover the ham from the pole, the start signal for the tomato fight is given by firing a large water shot in the air and trucks full of tomatoes make their entry. 

 

Several trucks empty 1000’s of kilos of tomatoes in the middle of the village Plaza. The tomatoes actually come from Extremadura, where they are much cheaper and are grown specifically for the festivity, being of inferior quality and taste. The tomatoes must be crushed before being thrown so as to reduce the risk of injury and participants are recommended to use of goggles and gloves. The estimated number of tomatoes used are around 150,000kg. After exactly one hour, the fight ends with the firing of the second shot, announcing the end. 

 

 

In a question of 60 minutes the whole town square is coloured red and rivers of tomato juice flow deep through the streets. Fire Trucks hose down the streets and participants use hoses that locals provide to remove the tomato paste from their bodies and their front doors!. It is popular for participants go to the pool of “los peñones” to wash off. After the cleaning, the village cobblestone streets are pristine clean due to the acidity of the tomato disinfecting and thoroughly cleaning the surfaces.

Town Hall of Buñol decided on limiting the fight to 20,000 participants, broken down as follows: 5,000 for locals of the town of Buñol and 15,000 for foreigners and there will be an entry fee for participants of 10€ per person. Booking must be made online at their site and you must print a "budget airline" style ticket and take it to Buñol with your passport on the morning to exchange it for a wristband. So if you’re up for it, might see you there!! (30th August 2017)



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Pica-Pica por favor!
11 August 2017

Ponche Caballero is unique, a genuine Spanish liqueur made from a secret recipe over 180 years old. Amber and bright in colour. Aromas of orange and vanilla, with hints of spice and almond notes. A sweet and intense flavour… makes Ponche Caballero a unique and delightful liquor. It was one of the first drinks I discovered when I landed in Spain. At the time the local craze was to mix 70% Ponche Caballero with 30% lime cordial in a  shot glass, and I must admit they went down very well. The wonderful blend of sweet and bitter with spices and sour lime created an explosion of flavour which was quite addictive. They used to call it ‘Pica-Pica’. 

Ponche Caballero is made with natural products imported traditionally through El Puerto de Santa María from all over the world. Ingredients from Andalusia to Mexico, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Madagascar combine to make up the key botanicals that form the secret recipe of this iconic Spanish drink:


Orange peel
The peel of the best Andalusian oranges gives us the perfect combination of sweetness and refreshing acidity.


Cinammon
Collected in Sri Lanka, its sweet and heady fragrance made it as esteemed as gold in ancient China.


Vanilla
Arriving from Mexico since the beginning of the sixteenth century when discovered by the Spanish conquerors, vanilla offers a subtle flavour and an unmistakable aroma.

Clove
Original from Madagascar, cloves contribute to a pleasant aroma and slightly spicy flavour.


Nutmeg
This spicy and aphrodisiac fruit is imported from the Moluccas Islands (Indonesia), adding a sweet and mild flavour.

 

Ponche, which is the Spanish word for Punch, is original from ancient Persia, where a similar drink was elaborated. It was called “panj” – meaning five – in reference to the number of ingredients used: brandy, sugar, lemon, water and tea.

Through India the Punch then got into the hands of the East India Company, who introduced it to the British colonies in the early seventeenth century.

 

 

During the eighteenth century Punch consumption spread throughout the Western world and its recipe was adjusted to local tastes in each country, varying the type of alcohol and spices used in its elaboration. Punch quickly established itself as a drink for celebrations and special occasions.

In 1830 Ponche Caballero was born. José Caballero, coming from Galicia, started to blend the traditional northern “queimadas” (a homemade liqueur using maceration of botanicals) with liquors from southern Spain in El Puerto de Santa María, developing the secret recipe that is maintained until today.

In 1917 the punch of the Caballero family was becoming well known, despite that in the beginning it was only conceived for family and friends. They soon started to bottle small quantities to meet local demand.

From 1943 Ponche Caballero started to spread throughout the Spanish geography. The bottles are wrapped manually in silver paper, as a tribute to the traditional silver punch bowls, the reason why the bottle is still silver to this day.

 

 

In 1969 Ponche Caballero introduced the first metallic spirit bottle in the world, a technological and industrial process that was never seen before and that has been imitated since by many others. The Ponche Caballero silver bottle has become an icon in Spain.

By 1990 Ponche Caballero had become the best-selling liqueur in Spain and ranked amongst the Top 10 worldwide. Today Ponche Caballero is enjoyed in over 30 countries 

On the rocks with a slice of orange, combined with soft drinks or in the form of sophisticated cocktails, there are so many combinations to choose from. Why not discover yours…? Whatever you do, you can always start with a  Pica Pica…



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One of Spain's finest wineries
31 July 2017

In 1927,  the love a group of local vine growers felt for the land achieved the union of their best efforts, creating a winery, now a symbol of the Ribera region. A project that has continously grown and multiplies year by year, taking its name proudly to the highest international levels. Protos, which comes from the Greek word for "FIRST" is without a doubt one of the great wines from what is now known as 'Ribera del Duero'. The 30s represented its definite settlement at the international level. The 1929 World Exposition in Barcelona gave a particularly strong impulse, awarding Gold Medals to its red wines and establishing it as a benchmark for the region.

The company's rapid growth brought about the problem of lack of space for the first time and the winery began its expansion throughout the region. The construction of a wine-aging cellar began in the heart of the mountain, literally beneath the Castle of Peñafiel.

 

The quality and prestige this winery acquired in the eighties led a highly recognised vine-growing area to take on its own name, Ribera del Duero, to identify the D.O. Control Board that watches over the quality of area wines. In 1995, the wine-aging cellar was enlarged and the winery succeeded in the international winemaking panorama.

The project continues growing: In the town of Anguix (Burgos), Protos has acquired a winery that has the latest cutting-edge technology. It can produce up to three million kilos of grapes, of which 1.5 million kilos go through the sorting table.

It is in Peñafiel, a Valladolid town held together by the Duero River, where this gift of the land is born. Protos has the privilege of having been engendered in the heart of one of the most important fortresses in the area – Peñafiel Castle –. This castle is a landmark for the Castilla y León region since the wine museum is housed in it.

The new winery  is an architectural jewel that has already become a symbol of the Ribera del Duero D.O.- and the area's interesting culture and gastronomy have placed Protos at the centre of a new trend known as "Wine-Related Tourism".

 

Tradition and vanguard were combined in the designing of the new winery where guided visits and special events can also be arranged. Only few can resist the temptation to discover the Duero's Heart, an incredibly beautiful place.

 The new Protos winery facility is located at an interesting historical crossroads: the extension of the Camino de las Eras and the San Pedro sheep drove road, an ancient Roman road. It is on the edge of a low-lying area that, in the past, was partially covered by a small pond fed by waters from the nearby Botijas stream. It is also located quite near the existing winery facilities, connected to them via an underground link, and buried into the Peñafiel Castle hill.

The project was conceived as a contemporary reinterpretation of traditional wine cellar construction in the region. On the one hand, the base of the building is excavated into the land, reminiscent of wine cellar construction methods that have been used since time immemorial in the Peñafiel Castle hillside. With this reference in mind, and for practical reasons that are commonplace to vernacular architecture in relation to making the best use of the lower temperatures underground, most of the facilities used in the preparation and aging of wine are buried underground.

On the other hand, the aboveground structure, technically known as the “light structure”, is a reinterpretation of vault-shaped winery construction methods. This structure is made of parabolic arches of laminated wood. The shape and materials were chosen because they are structurally efficient and appropriate for the production process, as traditional winery construction has shown.

The roof is the most noteworthy visual feature of the outside of the winery. This is the result of the exceptional location of the winery at the foot of the castle. In the project concept, the roof was considered as yet another façade, to be viewed from the privileged position afforded by the castle.

Therefore, it was designed with the five vaulted bays oriented towards the Castle. In the treatment of the roof materials and construction, using large format terracotta pieces, it represents a contemporary reinterpretation of typical vernacular roofs. In effect, seen from the Castle, Peñafiel offers muted red tones that range from orange to brown, typical of traditional tile roofs. This is the colour that is also used for the winery.

Protos allows you to visit its two wineries: the oldest that extends through the interior of the mountain, and the new one that was designed by the architect Richard Rogers. All visits include a tour of the two wineries and a wine tasting at the end of the tour which is higly recommended. Visits must be arranged in advance by calling +34 659 843 463 or by sending an e-mail to: enoturismo@bodegasprotos.com.

Visits are 1.5 hours long on average, including a tasting of one Verdejo white wine and one crianza red wine. Please note that our tours are available upon demand for individuals or groups and visits require a minimum of 8 people.

Protos does not produce any bad wines at all. They are all fantastic so it will be your budget that determines which wines you will want to try. They are all great but I will stick my neck out for the Protos Crianza a wonderfully velvety smoot red which is not too oaky. It is great with meats and cheeses alike and should cost more than €13. 

PROTOS CRIANZA:

GRAPE VARIETY : Tempranillo 100 %

VINEYARDS : More than 25 years old.

FEATURES : Hand-picking harvest in 20 kg crates. Sorting table. Skin contact maceration and fermentation for 21 days at 28 ºC.

AGEING : 14 months in French (2/3) and American (1/3) oak barrels and 12 months in bottle.

COLOUR : cherry colour with garnet rim, bright and intense.

NOSE : red fruit expression, powerful, elegant, dry stone, coca bean, creamy oak, hints of spices.

TASTE : Powerful, flavourful, fruity, good acidity, smoky aftertaste, toasty, long finish.

SERVING TEMPERATURE 15 - 18 ºC.



Like 1        Published at 13:37   Comments (2)


Spanish Fish Dishes - Bacalao a la Vizcaina
26 July 2017

Bacalao a la vizacaina is yet another example of the very tasty yet very simple dishes that come from the northern Spanish region of the Basque Country. The main ingredient of Bacalao a la vizacaina is codfish. Cod is perhaps one of the most consumed fish in Spain, although historically this fish was mostly a product eaten during Lent. It is also a fish that is easily fished around the coasts of Spain, of which there is a lot!

Originally from the Basque Country, Vizcaina sauce on the other hand, is a sauce that is extremely versatile and is used in a number of dishes from the region. It is often used for many stews and products such as the pork dish called 'Manos de cerdo con salsa vizcaína'. In some parts of the Basque Country, they even use the sauce in an escargot recipe. However most people will associate the sauce immediately with cod. Nowadays it is a rather polemic recipe - as is the case with most traditional recipes - the argument whether tomatoes should be one of it's ingredients or not is a very alive debate among gourmets and cooks, though many say that the red ingredient is pepper. Either way, the sauce is a rich red colour and is tasty with either ingredients. So when you come to make this dish, the choice is up to you!

The pepper theory seems historically more plausible, as tomatoes were not used as food in Spain even 200 years after they were imported; first they were used as ornamental plants. Perhaps, pepper was used originally and then, once the tomato became more commonly used in Spanish cooking, the sauce was adapated. But it doesn't really matter, in truth there are many formulas to prepare this sauce, and despite how much people may argue about it's historical accuracy, they are delicious anyway.

You might find that certain people use a type of Spanish biscuit, often a 'galleta maria', when they are making the sauce. These biscuits are used to help thicken the sauce, but it can often make it much sweeter. The sauce may be thick or runny, depending on your personal taste. If you don't want to use biscuits to thicken your sauce, you could always use plain or corn flour instead, which I prefer.

One of the great things about vizcaina sauce is that it is fairly simple to make and generally uses common and inexpensive ingredients. This means that it is a great option for those people who love Spanish gastronomy, but want to enjoy it on a budget!

 


Bacalao a la Vizcaina | Cod Bizcaine Style

Ingredients:

1 large salted cod loin (or fresh cod loin)
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
2 roasted peppers (preferably chorizo peppers
1 tomato
1 tbs of flour
Extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  • Soak the cod loin in water for 24 hours, changing the water every 8 hours to get rid of some of the salt.
  • Then put the cod loin in a pan with cold water and heat. Remove from the heat when it begins to boil.
  • Cover the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil. Stir fry the diced onion until it begins to brown, then add the garlic cloves, peppers and tomato.
  • When all the ingredients are lightly fried add the flour, you need to cook it a little.
  • Add some of the broth in which the cod was cooked (two teacups) and let it boil at low heat. This broth has the flavor and jelly of the cod.
  • When the sauce gets a good thick consistency add the cod and keep on a low heat, only enough time to heat up the cod and then serve!

Enjoy!



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Spanish Names for Fish - Really confusing
10 July 2017

I’ve been in Spain for quite some time now and there has always been an area of language that has always caused me problems and still does today, and that is fish. I have real difficulty sometimes translating the names of fish. The funny thing is my knowledge of fish and seafood before I came to Spain was already pretty limited and when I say limited I mean at most I had eaten Cod, Haddock, Lemon Sole, Trout and Plaice maybe a few others and my seafood was limited to Scampi, Mussels and Prawn, so my fish vocab was not extensive.  We were never big fish eaters in my family so when I came to Spain it wasn’t really high on the agenda of things to learn. However over the years I have come to love many varieties of seafood and fish, the majority of which I have discovered here in Spain and consequently learnt the Spanish name first, it wasn’t until a relative came to visit and asked what we were eating that I even thought about the English translation and that happened so rarely that the English names never really sunk in and I still get confused to this day with a few.  Now, I’m not sure if this is something unique to me but just in case other readers are having difficulty with fish and seafood names, I finally decided to put together a list of the most common varieties you will come across in Spain along with their English equivalent, hope you find it useful!  

I could have done with it a long time a go!! 

 

                         FISH   

 

Anchoa/Boquerón

Anchov

Anguila Eel
Arenque Herring
Atun Tuna
Bacalao Cod
Bonito Bonito
Caballa Mackerel
Calamar Squid
Carpa Carp
Caviar Caviar
Dorada Gilt Head Bream
Eglefino Haddock
Fletan Halibut
Galupe / Mujol Mullet
Lenguado Sole
Merluza Hake
Mero Grouper
Perca Perch
Pez Espada Marlin/Swordfish
Platija Flounder
Solla Plaice
Pulpo Octopus
Rape Monkfish
Raya Ray / Skate
Rodaballo Turbot
Salmon Salmon
Salmonete Red Mullet
Sardina Sardine
Sepia Cuttlefish
Lubina Sea Bass
Trucha Trout

 

 

 

 

                    SEAFOOD

Almejas Clam
Berberechos Cockle
Bogavante Lobster
Buey de Mar Edible / Brown Crab
Cangrejo de Rio Crawfish
Carabineros Scarlet Prawn
Centollo Spider Crab
Cigalas Scampi
Erizos de Mar Sea Urchin
Gambas Prawn 
Langosta Spiny Lobster
Langostinos Prawn (large)
Mejillones Mussels
Navajas Razor Clam
Nécoras Small crab
Ostras Oysters
Percebes Gooseneck Barnacles
Pulpo Octopus
Tellinas/ Coquinas Bean Clams
Vieiras Scallop


Like 2        Published at 21:22   Comments (11)


Galician Octopus - quick and easy!
03 July 2017

 

Pulpo a la gallega - Galician style octopus - takes us back many centuries, not because the recipe was the same, but because octopus has been consumed in this autonomous region for longer than we can count.

Octopus was one of the few types of seafood that was transported from the coasts to the interior towns and in fact it was far more appreciated in these towns than near the sea, as those had other products such as lobster, king crab and a great variety of fish.

When America was discovered many products appeared in the Spanish markets, including a fake spice obtained from some crushed red chiles, in Spanish they call it pimentón, in English: paprika.
Not only does paprika give a tempting copperish tinge, but it's also great for preserving food in those time before frozen products and easy land transportation. Now it would be possible to preserve the meat and fish products without problems of rotting, molds or even worse. 

But it wasn't until a few years later that pulpo a la gallega became and actual dish. Some 125 years ago, when muleteers went to cattle fairs, they bought large amounts of octopus and then they'd prepare it with olive oil and paprika. Quite simple.

The name in galician for pulpo a la gallega is "pulpo a feira" (fair style octopus) for a very simple reason. During the cattle fairs the farmers would buy or sell cattle, sell their farm products, etc, and buy groceries such as salt, sugar and other products they didn't have daily access to.

The trip to the town where the fair took place took a long time and most people would stay for lunch or dinner. Those who stayed near the fair venue could eat octopus (as we've mentioned before, it was a very typical dish in fairs).

The "pulpeiras" (specialized in octopus) would cook the animal in copper cauldrons and serve the octopi on wooden plates. It is said that the copper pot gives it an incomparable taste that it's impossible to obtain with any other material.

 

 

Today the story is a little different, we don't need paprika to preserve food, but in Galicia, which is still a largely rural region, it's possible to go to cattle fairs and eat pulpo a la gallega and watch the preparation process which has it's own special magic. The good news, it's also possible to prepare it at home. This is what you 'll need to do...

 

 

Pulpo a la Gallega | Galician Style Octopus

Ingredients (four portions):
1 octopus of 2 kilos
500 grams of potatoes
Paprika
Spicy paprika
Salt
Olive oil

Preparation:
If it's a fresh octopus first we must soften the octopus, there are two ways to this, you can either beat it with a wooden rolling pin until its texture softens or freeze it for two days and defrost it the day before cooking it in the fridge (put it in a bowl because it will release a lot of liquid)

Dice the onion and add it to a pan with water. When it begins to boil is time to add the octopus. Grab it's head and dip it in the pan three times. After the third time you put it in and take it out add to the pan permanently. Cook for 50 minutes

Once cooked remove the pan from the fire and let it cool for 15 minutes.

Using the same water in which the octopus was cooked, cook the potatoes (previously peeled and diced). While they boil dice the octopus in medium sized slices.

When the potatoes are cooked remove from water and add to a platter. We add the octopus slices on top.

The final touch is adding the olive oil and paprika and abundant coarse salt. 

So, pulpo a la Gallega doesn't present many problems and it always tastes great, however, it is said that all food is better when tasted in its source of origin. Should you ever decide to travel to Northern Spain, ask the locals for the best Galician style octopus in town.

 



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Spanish Fish Dishes - Marmitako
28 June 2017

 

Marmitako is another great fish dish from the Basque Country, whose cuisine is celebrated throughout Spain and the world as being one of the best. Marmitako is a tuna fish stew with potatoes that is not too difficult to make but is extremely tasty and filling.

The name Marmitako comes from the Basque word 'marmita' which means 'pot' or 'casserole' in the Basque language. This is combined with the suffix of the genitive case 'ko' to give Marmitako which literally means 'from the pot'. And that is precisely what this Spanish recipe is, a stew made in a pot. Of course, many dishes in Basque gastronomy are made in pots but clearly someone decided that this dish was deserving of the title.

Marmitako stew originally began life on board the local fishing boats off the Spanish coast, and in many cases, still is. However, it has also been a staple dish of many Basque restaurants, something which you will see when you visit Spain, especially in Summer which is the fishing season for tuna.

There are a number of variations of the dish, which mainly vary due to the type of fish used in the recipe. One of the most popular varieties is the one that uses salmon instead of the traditional salmon. However, tuna tends to be the favoured ingredient as it delicious, widely available and not that expensive!

 

 

This tuna fish stew is like a thick soup, which is in mostly due to the potatoes. The traditional method of 'cracking' the potatoes is done as it makes the potatoes release more starch into the stew. This also means that the fish soup is filling and a relatively small amount of ingredients can go a long way - perfect for those lovers of Spanish gastronomy on a budget!

Another great thing about Marmitako is that the main body of the stew can be prepared up to the point when you are about to add the tuna and will keep in a fridge overnight. You can then heat up the stew the next day and add the tuna then. This is what you will need:


Marmitako | Fresh Tuna and Potato Stew


Ingredients:
2 dried choriceros or ancho chilli peppers
1 lb fresh tuna fillet
Coarse salt
2 lbs of russet potatoes (around 4 potatoes)
⅓ cup Olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ green bell pepper, seeded and cut into long, thin strips
1 tbsp sweet pimetón or paprika
Serves 6 when eaten as a main course


Preparation:

Put the dried chilli peppers into a heatproof dish and cover with boiling water and leave to stand for about 30 minutes, or until the peppers are soft.

Then drain the chilli peppers, slit them open and scrape out the flesh and put to one side. Get rid of the seeds, skins and stems.

Cut the tuna fillet into small pieces and sprinkle them with the coarse salt and leave to one side.

Peel the potatoes and then 'crack' them by cutting a little way into each potato and then breaking it open the rest of the way. The pieces should be the same size as chestnuts. Leave the pieces of the potatoes to one side.

In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat then add the onion, garlic, bell pepper strips and the chilli pepper flesh. Stir the mixture well and cook for about 5 minutes or until both the onion and green pepper have begun to go soft and all the ingredients are mixed together nicely.

To this mixture, add the potatoes and pimetón and mix well. Season with some salt and add water to cover the ingredients by about 5 centimetres (2 inches). Bring to a boil and then cover. Once covered, reduce the heat to a medium-low heat and then cook for another 30 minutes or until the potatoes feel soft when prodded with a fork.

Add the tuna to the pan and then simmer until the tuna is opaque, around 5 minutes. Remove the stew from the heat and then allow to stand for half an hour before serving.

When you come to serve the stew, reheat it over a low flame to a sufficiently hot temperature. Ladle out into warm bowls and serve straight away.

Enjoy!



Like 2        Published at 17:25   Comments (2)


Chicken with a twist - Horchata
13 June 2017

Horchata de Chufa is a wonderful drink made from pressed tiger nuts. Although this drink is normally associated with refreshments or desserts I thought I would show you a rather unusual recipe which uses horchata in a savoury dish with chicken.

For those who are not so familiar with this summer refreshment, It is made from chufa, which in English would be the tiger nut and as a drink it goes back thousands of years. Old civilizations such as the Egyptians left samples of this healthy product in their tombs and sarcophagi. Also, diverse Persian and Arab authors already mentioned in their writings the digestive benefits of the chufa. But it was in the 13th century when the Arabs introduced their crop into the Mediterranean area. 

Valencia was and continues to be the only area in Europe where chufa is grown. Currently it is farmed in 16 towns around the area known as L'Horta Nord (or the Northern fertile land), which surrounds Valencia. About 5.3 million kilograms of tiger nut are produced in this area, of which 90% are covered by the Denomination of Origin.

This recipe is quite different from anything else and I doubt very much that any guests you may have in the future have tried it before, so if you are looking to surprise someone this may be the dish. These are the ingredients you will need for 2 people:

 

½ Chicken.
4 Mushrooms.
3 Sun dried tomatoes.
50g of Pine nut kernels.
2 Spoonfuls of white rice (basmati) with freshly chopped dill.
500 ml of Horchata.
1 Teaspoonful of refined cornflour.
Olive oil.
Salt.
Pepper.

 

 

 

 

First you will need to season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper, put it in a small non stick baking tray and smear it with olive oil. Roast it in pre-heated oven at 180C degrees for one hour and a half approximately. Baste the chicken every ten minutes with a little horchata. When the chicken is golden, remove it from the oven and cut it up into pieces.

Pour the juice from the chicken and the horchata into a frying pan to reduce it and then thicken it slightly with a little refined corn flour that needs to be previously diluted in water. Once the sauce is ready place to one side.

Now cut the mushrooms in julienne and cook them on a low heat in a frying pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste. Lower the heat, add the pine nut kernels and toast them slightly. Once golden in colour add the chopped-up sun dried tomatoes and toss them all together in the pan for a minute

Serve the chicken and place the mushrooms, tomatoes and pine nut kernels garnish on top, next pour over the horchata sauce. Accompany the dish with basmati rice mixed with finely chopped fresh dill. Finally decorate with a sprig of parsley.

Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 14:56   Comments (2)


From the tree to the table....well not quite
06 June 2017

 

People often think that table olives can come straight off the tree and into a jar with perhaps some seasoning, but this is not the case and far from it. The olive fruit is a drupe. It has a bitter component which is called ‘oleuropein’, a low sugar content from 2.6-6% when compared with other drupes which have on average 12% or more and finally a high oil content from 12-30% depending on the time of year and variety.

Due to these characteristics it makes it a fruit that cannot be consumed directly from the tree and it has to undergo a series of processes that differ considerably from region to region, and which also depend on the variety of olive. Some olives are, however, an exception to this rule because as they ripen they sweeten right on the tree, in most cases this is due to fermentation. One case is the Thrubolea variety in Greece, however this is not common.

Oleuropein, which is distinctive to the olive, has to be removed as it has a really strong bitter taste and those who have eaten an olive straight off the tree know what I am talking about: it is not, however, pernicious to health. It just tastes terrible. Depending on local methods and customs, the fruit is generally treated in sodium or potassium hydroxide, brine or successively rinsed in aerated water.

The olive's suitability for table consumption is a function of its size, which is important to presentation. Olives between 3 and 5g are considered medium-sized, while those weighing over 5 g are large.  The stone should come away easily from the flesh and a ‘flesh:stone’ ratio of 5 to 1 is acceptable; the higher this ratio the better the commercial value of the olives. The skin of the fruit should be fine, yet elastic and resistant to blows and to the action of alkalis and brine.

High sugar content in the flesh is an asset. The lowest acceptable level is 4%, especially in olives that undergo fermentation.
 
For table olives oil content should be as low as possible because in many cases it impairs the keeping properties and consistency of the processed fruit. Only in certain types of black olives is a medium to high oil content desirable.

In Spain most of the table olives are green olives. These are obtained from olives harvested during the ripening cycle when they have reached normal size, but prior to colour change. They are usually hand picked when there is a slight change in hue from leaf-green to a slightly yellowish green and when the flesh begins to change consistency but before it turns soft. Colour change should not have begun. Trials have been run to machine harvest table olives, but owing to the high percentage of bruised fruit they had to be immersed in a diluted alkaline solution while still in the orchard, this being said table olive are still in their majority harvested by hand. Recently harvested, the olives should be taken to the plant for processing on the same day.

 

 

Green olives are processed in two principal ways: with fermentation, which is considered the Spanish style, and without fermentation, which is considered the Picholine or American style. 

In Spain the majority of olives are treated in a diluted lye solution (sodium hydroxide) to eliminate and transform the oleuropein and sugars, to form organic acids that aid in subsequent fermentation, and to increase the permeability of the fruit. The lye concentrations vary from 2% to 3.5%, depending on the ripeness of the olives, the temperature, the variety and the quality of the water. The treatment is performed in containers of varying sizes in which the solution completely covers the fruit. The olives remain in this solution until the lye has penetrated two thirds of the way through the flesh. The lye is then replaced by water, which removes any remaining residue and the process is repeated. Lengthy washing properly eliminates soda particles but also washes away soluble sugars, which are necessary for subsequent fermentation.

Fermentation is carried out in suitable containers in which the olives are covered with brine. Traditionally, this was done in wooden casks. More recently, larger containers have come into use that are inert on the inside. The brine causes the release of the fruit cell juices, forming a culture medium suitable for fermentation. Brine concentrations are 9-10% to begin with, but rapidly drop to 5% owing to the olive's higher content of interchangeable water.

When properly fermented, olives keep for a long time. If they are in casks, the brine level must be topped up. At the time of shipment, the olives have to be classified for the first or second time as the case may be. The original brine is replaced and the olives are packed in barrels and tin or glass containers. Sometimes they are stoned (pitted) or stuffed with anchovies, pimento, etc.

The most commonly used varieties in Spain are Manzanillo and Gordal.



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My Wine Recommendation Nº 6 - For under €10
16 May 2017

 

Here I have a new wine for you that I discovered recently. Quite a pleasent surprise actually. The wine comes from Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro, which is a classic producer of traditional wines in Rioja, spanning a variety of wines representative of the region. But today I'm recommending a red, a 'Reserva 100% tempranillo', which is probably no surprise as its one of my favourite varieties here in Spain. 

This reserva comes from the region of the Rioja Sonsierra, which is in the heart of the area covered by the DOCa Rioja, inside the Rioja Alta. As its name suggests, “Sonsierra” is at the foot of a mountain range on the south side of the Toloño Mountains, which is part of a larger mountain range called Sierra de Cantabria. The mountains on the north and the River Ebro on the south make it one of the most favourable areas to make wine.

The microclimate, together with its special geographical features, makes it a perfect place for vineyards. On the one hand, the level of humidity is adequate with more rainfall in winter than any other season of the year, which is perfect for vines. Mostly moderate and some strong winds flow along the River Ebro from the southeast (solano in Spanish) or the northeast (cierzo) as well as fresh air come down the Toloño mountain range. These wind flows are key for maintaining a health vine.

The area’s orography is very uneven with a series of valleys that drop from the mountain range to the river, providing the land with many slopes and terraces of limestone-clay soils that have good drainage and therefore yielding the best Tempranillo grapes. These exceptional conditions for growing vines have generated a wine-producing tradition that is still alive in the entire area and has combined perfectly with the modern times.

'Bodega Classica Lopez de Haro' has been designed and built strategically on top of a hill so it can benefit from a natural climate control, as it is mostly built underground, and even the vats have been chosen with different sizes to make wine from different plots of land and with large mouths to imitate the traditional winemaking method of “lagos abiertos”, where whole grapes are deposited in open vats and carbonic maceration takes place. The bodega has around 5,000 barrels in stock, mainly in French oak.

This wine is a medium-high depth wine andruby red in colour. It is powerful on the nose with aromas of ripe fruit accompanied by complex spicy and balsamic notes. It is very balanced on the palate, with ripe and sweet tannins, providing the wine with a long aftertaste. It is a very elegant Rioja classic and highly recommendable for the price of €8,90. I found it in the Corte Ingles but it is also available online. 

(https://www.bodeboca.com/vino/hacienda-lopez-haro-reserva-2011). 

Enjoy

 



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