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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!

My Wine Recommendation Nº 7 - For under €10
16 January 2018

Here I have a new wine for you all which I discovered just last week. It was quite a pleasant surprise after various failed attempts at discovering something 'good' at a reasonable price. Although slightly more expensive than I was really looking for, at €7,50 a bottle, I'm pretty sure you can get it a little cheaper if you shop around. Nonetheless, everyone at the table thoroughly enjoyed it. 

San Millan is a fairly recent brand as far as wines go and only goes back 10 years or so. It is a line of wine that is produced at the Legaris cellar near Peñafiel in the Ribera del Duero region, a project by the Cordoniu Group.  

It was in late 1998 that the Codorníu Group materialised its presence in the Ribera del Duero D.O. with the purchase of 90 hectares of land in the municipalities of Curiel de Duero (Valladolid) and San Martín de Rubiales (Burgos).
Just months later, in the spring of 1999, the first vineyards were planted, and in April of 2000, the construction of the future Legaris cellar was started. The first wines of the winery, harvested from selected vineyards, were Crianza and Reserva wines that were launched to the market for the first time in early 2003.

The two Legaris vineyards have been planted with Tinta Fina (Tempranillo) grapes, although it is expected that in some time, 20% of the lands will be used for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard is located at an altitude of between 700 and 850 meters above sea level in loose soil which is rich in limestone and poor in iron.

However the wine in question today was named after San Millan de la Corolla, whose monasteries are now UNESCO world heritage.

San Millan Roble 2014

The cellars state that it is

"...made with the best grapes from Ribera del Duero, hand-picked by over one thousand cherubs, San Millán is a wine from Heaven to be enjoyed on Earth” 

I wouldn't go that far, but it is quite good! Especially if you drink it at around 17-18ºC which I think was just ideal.

The 2014 harvest was carried out from September 27th to October 20th. The grapes were gently destemmed and poured into tanks where they underwent alcoholic fermentation at 22-24ºC to preserve the varietal aromas.

Alcoholic fermentation and subsequent maceration lasted 10-12 days all in all. The wine then underwent malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks. A gentle clarification and final filtration were carried out to refine the wine before bottling.Once completed, the wine was poured into barrels of American oak where it remained for just 3 months before bottling.

This wine is ready to be enjoyed now. But according to the cellars, it may, however, evolve favourably over the next year.


Aspect: Deep purplish red with bluish hues.

Nose: Prominent notes of fresh red fruit –which reflect the wine’s typicity- that are interlaced with notes of vanilla from its ageing in barrels.

Mouth: Rich, balanced and rounded.


Food matching: White meats, pasta, tapas and fresh cheeses.

 

Enjoy!

 

Here is a link :

https://www.elcorteingles.es/supermercado/0110118742701149-san-millan-vino-tinto-roble-do-ribera-del-duero-botella-75-cl/

 

 



Like 2        Published at 13:21   Comments (2)


Lentils on New Year's Eve
27 December 2017

At this time of year, there is nothing more warming and hearty than a hot plate of lentils with chorizo. In Italy, on New Year's Eve, it is a traditional meal with pigs trotters where they consider it to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. So if that isn't a good enough reason to try this dish I don't know what is! Even if you aren't in Italy, luck is luck and prosperity is prosperity!

This is one of my favourite winter dishes accompanied with some crusty bread and butter (that’s the British influence in me) and it is much easier to make than you might think. If you make a little extra it will last in the fridge for a few days, however, they don’t freeze well so it is always best to make them fresh.

‘Lentejas con Chorizo’ is a traditional dish which has spanned the Iberian peninsula, it is a dish that allows for some flexibility when it comes to ingredients as recipes vary slightly from region to region where different vegetables are added but chorizo is always the reigning ingredient for flavour. Rich in proteins, minerals and carbohydrates, lentils have been a part of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years. 

This legume fuelled roman legions and it’s not surprising given that about 30% of their calories come from proteins. Lentils have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp. They also contain dietary fibre, folate, vitamin B1, and minerals. The low levels of Readily Digestible Starch (RDS) 5%, and high levels of Slowly Digested Starch (SDS) 30%, make lentils of great food for people with diabetes but more so they are a good source of iron, having over half of a person's daily iron allowance in a 100g serving.            

To make this dish we will need the following ingredients for 6 people :

500gr Pardina Lentils “Extra” (a Spanish variety but readily available)
1 Green pepper - diced
4 large carrots – chopped into slices (not too thin)
2 large cloves of garlic – finely chopped
2 large onions - diced
2 bay leaves
1 Tsp. Paprika
Salt & Pepper – to taste
4 Tbsp.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large mature tomatoes – peeled and diced

3/4 chorizos – approx. 250g 
180g of diced Serrano ham (optional)
1 morcilla (optional)
1 piece of Serrano ham bone (optional)
1 piece of beef marrow bone(optional)

  

 

  

 

 

   
If you include all the ingredients you are in for a feast but you may not have all those ingredients readily available so if you can only get chorizo that will be sufficient to get a good result, the rest of the meat ingredients are optional. If you can’t find ham or bones, you could substitute them for 200g of Pancetta (unsmoked bacon) cut into large thick pieces, which is more readily available in the UK and actually more traditional than the chopped ham, it's just, I find that the pancetta adds, even more, fat to the dish whereas the ham doesn't. 

The first thing you need to take into consideration is the class of lentil. Pardina lentils are used for this recipe and it is best to use the ones classed as “extra” as they don’t need to be soaked in water before cooking them. However, if you can’t find these you will need to soak the lentils in water for about 6-8 hours, so best to do it before going to bed and in the morning they’ll be perfect. You can, however, soak the “extra” lentils too and it will reduce the cooking by 30 minutes. That is up to you. I normally do it anyway and in the morning you will see that some lentils are floating on top of the water, these need to be scooped up and thrown away as they are not suitable for cooking. Whatever you decide, the lentils must be washed before using to remove any impurities. Once we have our lentils ready, put them aside until we need them. This recipe contemplates the lentils being soaked.

 Get a stew pot and add the extra virgin olive oil and heat it up. Then add the onions and garlic and fry for about 10 minutes. Then add the green pepper, tomatoes, carrots and bay leaves and fry for a further 3 minutes.

Add the bones to the pot and a generous teaspoon of paprika. Quickly stir the paprika and then add the lentils and the Serrano ham. Be careful not to burn the paprika, this will make the dish go bitter, a few seconds is sufficient before adding the lentils. Stir in the lentils and the ham so all the ingredients are well mixed in and then add the cold water straight away. For 500g of lentils, you will need 1,5L of water approx. The water should comfortably cover all the ingredients, as there are still ingredients to add. Depending on how you prefer your lentils you can adjust the water to have more stock or less stock at the end. If you see your lentils are running out of water before they are ready you can add more boiling water during the cooking process if necessary but it must be boiling so not to interrupt the cooking process. Slowly bring to the boil, when it is boiling some foam will appear on the surface of the water, scoop it off. These are impurities from the bones and we don’t want it in the stock. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes and taste for salt and pepper. You may not need to add any as the ham does add salt to the stock.

Now add the chorizo, you can either add it whole or chopped up into large pieces, I prefer it chopped up as it releases more flavour.  You can now also add the whole morcilla if you have decided to use it (don’t chop it up otherwise it will disintegrate). Reduce to a medium heat for another 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. Now you can remove the bones. For another 15-30 minutes cook on a low heat checking the texture of the lentils until they are perfectly cooked. Be careful not to cook them for too long or get distracted otherwise they will turn to mush. Once ready, remove from the heat and serve in a bowl with a side of crusty bread and butter. A little trick to jazz them up and give them a little kick from time to time is to dress the bowl with a couple of Basque chillis in vinegar, alternatively if you don't like chilli a little squirt of white wine vinegar gives it a great aftertaste, this was my father in law's favourite way of eating lentils.

If you are in a rush you can always use a pressure cooker, which will reduce the cooking time to about 25 minutes depending on your cooker. If you are looking for a slightly healthier version of this dish you can remove the meat ingredients and add potatoes and leeks to the stock resulting in a fantastic vegetarian dish. 

I really hope you give this a go, it well works the effort and to be honest once you have chopped up all the ingredients it cooks on its own. 

 


Enjoy!

 



Like 1        Published at 15:41   Comments (1)


The Largest Nativity in Spain
21 December 2017

The Monumental Nativity scene in Xátiva has been declared the largest in Spain. When Christmas arrives, this Valencian city really takes the tradition to another level.

Each year the ‘Monumental Nativity’ grows a little more to show and interpret all the scenes from the Birth of the Messiah. It is such wonderful creation and even if you are not particularly religious it is still a worthy way to spend the afternoon or the evening. If you have children in the family they are sure to love it. This unique spectacle in Spain has become a tourist attraction of the first order bringing tens of thousands of visitors every year.

However, if you do decide to visit there is some important information about this particular Nativity scene that makes it rather special, and you should know:

• Ecological: Throughout the year, City Council workers collect materials that will later be used to assemble the nativity scene. In addition, some of the tools used are of an ethnological character and are yielded by the locals to build the necessary scenes.

• Live animals: One of the great attractions is that in the scene there are live animals: ducks, geese, bulls, sheep, donkeys and turkeys among others. These animals are under veterinary control that care, at all times, for their welfare.

 

• Solidarity: The fruits and vegetables used and which are usually donated by local businesses are later donated on to charities that work with the needy in the local area. Visitors also throw coins in the fountains and once the event is over, all is collected and allocated to local NGOs.

Falleros Artists: The majority of the figures are life-size and have been elaborated by traditional Fallas artists, making this nativity scene a genuinely Valencian one. At nightfall, the nativity acquires a special magic with bespoke lighting throughout.

If you happen to be in or near Xativa this Christmas, visiting the nativity scene is really a must.

 



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Fancy something different for Christmas lunch this Year?
15 December 2017

 

Although nowadays Christmas Eve is probably the most lavish meal of the Christmas holidays in Spain, originally it was Christmas day, much as it is in the UK. It was a day for bringing together the entire family including grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins and any other family member that you may not have seen throughout the year. Depending on the family, each year it would move house and thus the hosting of this enormous event would be shared amongst the family members. Nowadays, still very much a family event though, Christmas Eve and Christmas day is now normally split between the parents and the in-laws, one day with each.  

Each region of Spain has its own tradition for the Christmas menu, which is determined mainly by local cuisine, for example on the coast seafood or fish is common and inland, meat plays a more important role such as roasted suckling lamb, however nowadays most regions tend to combine both, especially on Christmas Eve. However Christmas day in the Valencian community is a day for enjoying a rather special typical dish called ‘Puchero de Nadal’ ó ‘Cocido Navideño’.  Effectively it is a stew with giant meatballs but it is enjoyed in two stages. It may seem very simple and rustic but it is a very long meal and takes time to digest. It contains almost everything you could possibly imagine putting in a stew. What makes this stew different to the rest of the stews in Spain is the use of local sausages and local vegetables. The Valencian community is well known for its vegetables and this is well portrayed in the Valencian ‘Puchero’.

As with most traditional recipes there is nothing written in stone, except using a giant cauldron!  So grab the biggest pot you can find otherwise there is no way all the ingredients will fit in. Remember the stock, the meat and the vegetables can all be frozen afterwards so if you have a lot left over, which you will, ration it out in Tupperware and freeze it for another day or use it for another recipe as mentioned later on.

For the stew you will need the following :

½ medium sized Chicken (approx. 1,25kg of meat)
2 large meatballs (recipe as follows)
1 piece of bone marrow
1 piece of knee bone
150 grams of beef 
1 Blanquet sausage 
1 Onion Morcilla sausage 
100 grams of pork fat
300 grams of chickpeas (soaked in water over night)
Saffron
1 stick of Celery, 1 stick of Cardoon, 1 sweet potato, 1 white turnip, 1 yellow turnip, 1 parsnip, 3 potatoes, 3 carrots, 1 leek, 5 runner beans and ¼ cabbage. (As far as the vegetables go, you can chuck in what ever you have at hand, but this is the standard recipe in Valencia)

So, to make the stew it is as easy as cleaning and peeling the vegetables and placing them all in the pot with the meat and the meatballs, except for the carrots, potatoes, runner beans and the morcilla. These need to be held back for later as they cook more quickly. Cover with water and slowly bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a low heat and let it simmer for 90 minutes. Remember to skim off the foam that rises to the top. After 90 minutes pop in the rest of the ingredients that were held back and then simmer for another 90 minutes. To make the meatballs all you will need are the following ingredients:

2 eggs.
150g lean minced beef
150g minced pork.
1 sausage (with skin removed)
200g Breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. Fresh chopped parsley 
50g Pine nuts
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon powder
10ml fresh Lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Stew net for binding
Cabbage leaves for wrapping up the meatballs.   

                   

If you feel like saving some time you can always make the balls the day before. Mix the meat, salt, pepper, parsley, cinnamon, eggs and pine nuts to taste. Pour the breadcrumbs in and knead it all together until it forms a thick mass. Add the lemon juice and knead it all together again. Separate the meat mass into two parts and then roll into two large balls. Once you have made the balls wrap each ball in cabbage leaves and then place inside the stewing net and tie up tight and add to the rest of the meat for the stew.

Once the stew is ready it is customary to first enjoy a bowl soup from the stock cooked either with rice or noodles. Some may add a piece of the meatball to the soup and  others may add a bit of everything and then move onto the rest of the meat and vegetables, the choice is yours. It would also be customary to make an oven baked rice the following day with the left overs. So there you have it, a very hearty meal from the heart of Valencia and ideal for this time of year, it may not look very sophisticated but it tastes incredible! 

 

 

    Enjoy!

 

 
 


Like 2        Published at 09:27   Comments (1)


Alioli or Garlic Mayonaise?
30 November 2017

‘Ali Oli’ or ‘Ajo Aceite’, as we call it in Valencia, is probably the simplest and one of the hardest recipes you will ever try to make. Simple, because traditionally it only has two ingredients and hard because it will make you break out in sweat, especially if you make it in summer! Ali Oli is often translated as garlic mayonnaise but in fact it is not mayonnaise at all, its not far off mayonnaise but it isn’t a mayonnaise. This is probably the recipe where your choice of olive oil is most important as it is the main ingredient and is pretty much 90% of the final product. So you need to find a very good quality extra virgin olive oil, which is fruity but not too bitter and not very pungent. The variety Arbequina is by far the best due to its high quantity of linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid) that favours the cohesion of emulsions and sauces. However any good extra virgin will do. Cornicabra is very popular as is Serrana de Espadán here in Valencia. However if you can’t find these varieties look for an Extra Virgin ‘Suave’. I have read many recipes throughout the net suggesting sunflower oil and refined oils for this recipe. Please do not use these types of oils as they will definitely not give you the same result and are far less healthy.

The recipe I am going to share with you is the authentic one, the one passed on from generation to generation, not the popular garlic mayonnaises being offered around most of Spain (However I will also tell you how to make that towards the end of the post). It is a recipe that dates back thousands of years and has spread all over the Mediterranean so I can assure you it was never made with refined olive oil or sunflower oil. Basically, Ali Oli is an emulsion of olive oil, garlic and salt, nothing else. The secret to the recipe is in the technique, which does take a bit of practice. This is not a mayonnaise, a traditional recipe that originated from Mahon in Menorca, as it does not use egg yolk or lemon.  In the case of mayonnaise, it is the egg that acts as the emulsifying agent and with Ali Oli, it is the garlic that has the emulsion-producing properties.

 

Ingredients

 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic

& Rock Salt

 

How do we make it?

To start with we need a pestle and mortar, not a blender or a mixer, this is a traditional recipe and must be done by hand to achieve the best results.

For this recipe, we will use ½ a litre of olive oil and 4 large cloves of garlic. Depending on how strong you like it you can add more or fewer cloves to the recipe. As this involves a substantial amount of garlic it is a good idea to remove the roots of the cloves before starting. This means slicing it down the middle, lengthways and taking out the core of the garlic, this will help reduce the characteristic bad breath and the taste of garlic coming back up throughout the day. It the root of the garlic that our stomach finds so hard to digest and it just seems to linger around for most of the day!

 Once the garlic is peeled and the cores removed place them in the mortar with a pinch of rock salt and start grinding them. Once we have a lumpy paste we need to start adding the olive oil. It is very important not to add too much or too quickly. Patience is a virtue with this recipe. Start by adding the oil drop by drop and move the pestle in a circular action from left to right following the hands of the clock. Once you have started this action you should not stop until the Ali Oli is ready.

This is when it gets a bit tiring, as you need to apply force as well and keep the pestle moving at a constant speed to draw out the juice from the garlic. Slowly you start adding more olive oil, little by little but always waiting until the previous dose has blended with the emulsion. This continues until you end up with a thick sauce/paste or find the consistency that you prefer. The whole process can take up to 15 minutes. You will probably have problems along the way to achieve an emulsion, it takes practice and isn’t as easy as it sounds but it is really worth the effort! Here is a video that might help ...

 

 

 

For those of you who find it too difficult there are a couple of tricks that help to keep the garlic moist and facilitate the cohesion of the emulsion, one is adding 3 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the mortar at the same time you add the garlic and the salt. This will help you keep the emulsion stable and also reduce a little bit more the pungency of the garlic.

Finally, if you prefer a garlic mayonnaise, which isn't as strong, the only thing you have to add is an egg yolk (no egg white) to the garlic with the lemon juice before you start adding the olive oil. Another trick which works with either recipe is making a little ball of dough from a loaf of sliced bread and wetting it with water. You add this dough ball when you add the egg or just before adding the oil and grind it into the mixture, this will help create the emulsion and stop it from separating!

Once finished it is common to garnish the Ali Oli with a bit of fresh parsley and Listo! Ready to eat.

In Valencia, it is particularly common to eat Ali Oli with anything from fried potatoes seasoned with paprika or Black rice which is a dish which uses the ink from squids. It is very versatile and fantastic with vegetables, fish and meats so use it to accompany anything you want.

A very traditional dish is simply Potato Ali Oli, which is a boiled potato salad eaten cold but made with Ali Oli (with or without the egg yolk) instead of mayonnaise, absolutely delicious with cold meats and salads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Like 2        Published at 13:49   Comments (2)


Fancy a change from 'Jamon'?
23 November 2017

Although Spain is famous for its "Jamón" or cured ham, which in my opinion is the best in the world, there is also another cured meat speciality which is not as well known and as equally exquisite.
 
"Cecina" from León can be defined as a smoked dried and salted beef, which in a similar way to ham is taken from the the hind leg. The outer part of the Cecina has a toasted brownish colour which is caused by part of the elaboration process. It is similar to the Italian Bresaola.
 
 
 
 
The Cecina is a delicacy with a millennial tradition and even though it is a product which is very well known in Northern Spain, there are endless written references about Cecina going right back to it's origin. The word “Cecina” comes from the latin "siccus", which means "dry". Even in the IV century before Christ, in the Agricultural Treaty 55 by Lucio Julio Moderato Columela, a friend of Seneca, there is a description of the manufacturing process of the dried beef “Cecina”, which recommends that it should be cured during the last quarter of the moon, especially during the winter solstice. In the XVI century, "El lazarillo de Tormes" is published, a picaresque novel, where there is also a reference to the dried beef Cecina. It was also present in the discovery of America, since it was on the list of the supplies taken aboard the caravel Santa María, together with other salted meats.
 
Cecina, when it is cut, is a cherry-maroon colour, increasingly getting darker towards the edges as the maturing process advances. Similar to Iberian Ham, and if it should present some light fatty embedded seams running through the meat, which gives the Cecina that juicy flavour. It´s a meat with a characteristic flavour, lightly salted and with a fine fibrous consistency. 
 
 
 
Every piece  of meat is identified individually and is perfectly controlled at all times throughout the processing. When the meat is received it is weighed and analysed and if the weight, fat and other essential requirements are met following the guidelines of the Ruling Council, the meat will be labeled and stamped with the Designation of Protected Origin to guarantee it's quality before being sent off for curing.
 
After a minimum time of seven months, required for the whole manufacturing process, each piece of meat must pass the organoleptic and physical-chemical controls carried out by the Regulating Council before it can be finally certified and given the definitive quality label of guarantee.
 
If the product is put into circulation in portions or in slices which are vacuum-packed, the quality label will be visible on the packing together with a reference number which will inform you from which piece those portions or slices come from.
 
Cecina from León, as its name clarifies, can only be manufactured by producers within the province of León. The average altitude of the province of León (1500 m) together with a mediterranean continental climate and long winters with an average temperature of 2ºC and relatively low humidity followed by springs and autumns with a lot of rain, bring together the ideal climatic conditions for manufacturing Cecina.
 
The climate makes possible the slow process of drying out the meat, helping to get that peculiar aroma and taste that is characteristic. Only free-grazing local breeds are used to make this cured meat.
 
The process of manufacturing Cecina consists of a  highly controlled process of transformation from the original cut to the final product.  The aromatic and flavour characteristics will mature thanks to a biochemical and microbiological processes which occurs inside the meat. The processing is made up of different stages:
 
Shaping: the cuts are given the correct shape
 
Salting: the cuts are covered with coarse grain sea salt. This helps with the dehydration, the development of the aroma and perfect preservation. The time spent salting lasts approximately 12 hours per kg of meat and it´s done at 2-5 ºC and with a relative humidity of 85%.
 
Washing: The cuts are washed with luke-warm or tepid drinking water in order to eliminate all excess salt..
Resting: It usually rests from 30 to 45 days. This eliminates excess water and makes the salt penetrate equally helping to develop the characteristic microflora.
 
Smoking: Oak and Holm oak wood is used. This phase lasts between 12 and 16 days.
 
Drying and hardening/curing: This takes place in natural drying rooms or areas until the maturing is complete; the temperature (close to 11ºC) as well as the humidity (75-80%) is always regulated and controlled.
 
Cecina can be eaten as any other cured meat, on its own or with a drizzle of olive oil and shaved "Viejo Manchego" cheese as you would a carpaccio with parmasan. You can use it as an ingredient in a whole list of recipes, it is absolutely divine and a wonderful alternative to Serrano or Iberian Ham if you fancy a change, for example you can use it to make a Pan Catalana or better said a Pan Leonese.
 
I thought I would share this wonderfully simple and tasty recipe with you, a classic but with a taste of León. Similar to the traditional bacon and eggs but with a Mediterranean touch and lot less fat!
 
 
//  Poached egg with crispy smoked Cecina from Leon and EVOO-Fried bread //
 
              
 
The first step is to make the crispy Cecina. Cut the Cecina into strips the size of streaky bacon and then crisp them. This can be done either in the oven at 180ºC for about 12 minutes or in the microwave (1000W) for about 2 minutes.
 
The next step is to prepare the poached egg and the EVOO-Fried Bread.  Fill a pot with water and heat it up until boiling,  now we want to prepare the eggs. A way I love to prepare poached eggs is by using "cling film", it makes for an almost perfectly shaped egg and avoids loosing flavour and egg white because of the water. Take a square of cling film and stretch it out on the work top, brush the inner surface of it with a little olive oil and introduce the cling film into a small glass (as in the photo),
 
     
 
 
now just pop in the egg, season with a little pepper and close the cling film and tie it up tightly into a little sack with a piece of string. Now it is ready to pop into the water.
 
But before that start heating up a non- stick frying pan, take a slice of country bread or the bottom slice of a baguette (cutting horizontally) and generously baste both side with a good fruity extra virgin olive oil. 
 
Make sure the the water is boiling and the pan is hot, pop the egg into the water for 3 minutes, while the egg is cooking pop the bread into the frying pan and toast it in the pan on both side pressing down the bread with a spatula to remove the air in the bread. You will be left with a lovely crunchy fried olive oil bread, yes fried bread, but a healthy one!
 
After 3 minutes remove the egg sack from the water and carefully open it up, it should look like the egg in the photo! The white should be cooked but the yolk should be totally liquid.
 
 
 
 
Place the bread on a plate, create a Cecina lattice with the crispy strips on top of the bread and then finally place the egg on top. Listo and ready to serve. Enjoy!
 


Like 2        Published at 09:35   Comments (4)


9 October - The Day of the Valencian Community
10 October 2017

 

The Day of the Valencian Community (Día de la Comunidad Valenciana) marks the anniversary of King James I of Aragon's re-conquering of the city of Valencia from Moorish forces in 1238. It is also the Day of Saint Dionysius, a traditional festival for lovers, the Valencian “Valentine’s day”.

The custom on this day is to give the  person you love the ‘mocadorà or mocaorà ‘which consists of a knotted silk scarf with miniature marzipan candies in the shapes of fruits and vegetables inside.

The most widespread version of the origin of this tradition is that Jaume I and his wife, Violante of Hungary, on their triumphal entry into the city of Valencia, after defeating the Muslims on October 9, 1238, they were met by their inhabitants with gifts of fruits and vegetables from the local orchard and farms, wrapped in silk handkerchiefs.

 

 

From 1331 this date was established to commemorate the founding of the Kingdom of Valencia, which over time became a celebration of marked festivity in which the worldly pleasures were given free rein.

Unfortunately, with the abolition of the regional code of law by Felipe V in 1707, the celebrations of the 9th of October were also banned.  However, all was not lost, and with the intention of  the 9th October not losing its festive character, the guild of bakers and confectioners of the city of Valencia impelled the celebration of Saint Dionysius (Sant Donís) as the "day of the lovers".

To this day, the Valencian bakeries prepare themselves thoroughly for the 9th October and cook thousands of marzipan miniatures; it is estimated that more than 80,000 kilos of marzipan are used to make about 250,000 "mocadoràs". In addition, the Guild of Bakers and Confectioners of Valencia convenes the Sant Donís Contest, to choose the best "mocadorà" and is the best showcase opportunity fro the bakeries and pastry shops through out the city of Valencia. This year’s winner  of the 36th Edition was El Forn de Latzer. You can see some examples here and perhaps pay it a visit if you are in the area :

 

 



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Time To Go Mushroom Picking!
04 October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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



Like 1        Published at 15:28   Comments (3)


Spanish....Baked Beans & Sausages!
20 September 2017


During my student days one of my all time favourite meals was beans and sausages on toast, although I must admit it they were the Heinz tinned baked beams and sausages, God I loved those sausages, absolutely no goodness to them, but I just loved them all the same. To be honest, healthiness never even crossed my mind. But now time has moved on and fortunately I have discovered wonderful dishes in my time here in Spain. But you have no idea how pleased I was when I discovered a natural and flavoursome Spanish version of my all time student favourite! So I thought I would share it with you today, as it is this time of year that something warm and hearty should be on the dinner table for all to enjoy.  It really is quite a simple recipe so you must give it a go!

 

Spanish beans and sausages: Ingredients for 4 people:

400 gr. white beans
8 fresh sausages
200 gr. pumpkin
1 spring onion (Spanish style, or a small onion)
1 leek
2 cloves of garlic
Water
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Parsley


The first thing you need to do is peel the garlic, leek and chives and let them simmer in a pressure cooker (without the lid on) with a little extra virgin olive oil. Chop up the pumpkin and add it in too. Season with salt and cook it all together for about 7- 8 minutes. Remove the vegetables and place them in a blender, pour in a little water and blend it to a puree.

   

 

 

 

Pour the puree back into the pressure cooker, add the beans (which should have been in water over night if they were dried white beans), cover with water and add a pinch of salt. 

 

 

Close the pressure cooker and cook for 10-12 minutes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can still cook them but they will take a little longer (45 minutes) to cook, but keep an eye on the water so they don’t dry out too much.  

Another option is if you are in a rush is to buy the beans that are already cooked in a glass jar. If you do this, you only need to add a very little water and cook them on a slow heat for about 8-10 minutes. 

 

Now for the sausages… Brown the sausages on a griddle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Cut them in half and add them to the pot. Stir in on low heat for a couple of minutes and sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley over the top and mix in well. 

 

 

Now serve with a nice piece of crusty bread and a glass of red wine!

 Enjoy.



Like 1        Published at 15:39   Comments (6)


Jazzing Up Salmorejo
14 September 2017

Believe it or not but ‘Salmorjeo from Cordoba’ has its own culinary guild which aims to make this traditional recipe become the ambassador of the city, its culture and cuisine, so each year they organise an event to promote this wonderfully cersatile dish. For two days, lectures, panel discussions, cooking demonstrations, tastings are conducted in the city in order to help disseminate the authentic salmorejo recipe to the rest of the world.

The guild is conducting an initiative that aims to turn this star dish into a Universal Salmorejo so standardizing the recipe and ingredients as it has many variations. They want to spread a traditional protected recipe, which will become an emblem. A panel of expert tasters approved the recipe after researching the most common proportions between ingredients and rounding them off to a standard.  So I thought I would share this recipe with you all and I hope you do the same.


Ingredients:
1 kg of ripe  tomates
200 gr.  Telera Cordobesa Bread (this is a bread with a thick, heavy dough. Better if it is a day old too)
100 gr. de Extra Virgen Olive Oil
1 ‘Montalban garlic’ clove from Cordoba
10 gr. de Sal

    

 

Version Nº 1  - Traditional Preparation:

Wash, scald in boiling water and then place in cold water to separate the skin from the flesh of the tomato. Peel the tomatoes and blend them in a food blender, pass the liquidised tomato through a sieve to remove the seeds then pour it back into the blender and start blending again, while at the same time adding the bread, olive oil, garlic and salt until you have a homogenous mixture which is thicker much thicker than gazpacho. Finally sprinkle chopped boiled egg and finely diced Serrano ham over the top and serve.


Version Nº 2 -  With Tuna tartar and Mango


Here is an alternative to jazz up this dish and create a bit of variety during the hot weather. All you need to do is reduce 50gr of bread and replace the boiled egg and Serrano ham with a fresh tuna tartar. It is fantastic and a lovely light alternative and it is so easy to make.

For the Salmorejo follow the instruction above, only remove 50gr of bread, this will make it slightly lighter and not as thick.  You will need:


300 gr of raw red tuna steak
100gr of diced Mango
A few sprigs of diced chives
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Arbequina)
A pinch of wasabi (optional)


Quite simply dice it all up and mix it well in a bowl and leave it in the fridge for 45min before serving. Serve the Salmorejo with a healthy serving of tartar in the centre.


Version Nº 3 -  Buffalo Mozzarella  and Crispy ham 

This version is a real winner with everyone and another fun way to give salmorejo a fresh twist. All you will need apart from the Salmorejo (this time with the original recipe, not reducing the bread) are 4 buffalo mozzarella balls, 4 slices of Serrano ham, a few sprigs of fresh basil and of course extra virgin olive oil. To prepare quite simple finely chop up the Serrano ham and crisp it in the microwave for a minute or so.  Then place the mozzarella ball in the centre of the Salmorejo with the crispy Serrano ham sprinkled over the top with the fresh basil leaves.  Salt and Drizzle some Picual olive oil over it all and serve immediately.

 

ENJOY!



Like 2        Published at 20:37   Comments (1)


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