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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.

Spanish Tapas - Zarangollo from Murcia
21 January 2021

It may not look very photogenic, but "Zarangollo" is one of those dishes that makes any Murcian's mouth water. Simple, popular and of humble origin, Zarangollo shares characteristics with so many other recipes from Spanish gastronomy, but it has 'something' that makes it a very special dish.

As is the case with many recipes in Spain, being so simple, every household has it's own particular version as well as accepted variants with different ingredients throughout the Region. It is a typical dish during the Spring Festivities and the September Feria, with close ties to Murcia's tradition of vegetable growing.

The three basic ingredients for Zarangollo are onion, courgette and egg, and it can also include potatoes. The most traditional preparation consists of frying the spring onions ó sweet onions with the vegetables.

Ideally, prepare twice the weight of courgettes to onions. Here the star is the courgette. It is also best to choose medium-sized specimens, which you can either peel or not. Personally, I don peel them. Use a small amount of oil to avoid soaking up too much fat, the only real trick is to let the vegetables cook slowly in their own juices until they are very tender. Don't rush it. Eggs, if possible, should be free-range. They are always thrown in without beating, stirring very gently so that the mixture is smooth. Fancy giving it a go? This is what you'll need for 4 people:

 

1-2 Large sweet brown onions or large spring onions

3-4 medium-sized courgettes / about 1kg

3 Large Free range eggs (add more if they are small)

Extra virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Black Pepper


Steps to take:


Peel the onion and wash the courgettes. Cut the first one into a fine julienne. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and fry the onion with a pinch of salt. Lower the heat and fry until very tender and they start to caramelize a little.

While the onion is cooking, wash and peel the courgette if you wish to do so, I don't peel it though. If you do, be careful not to remove too much flesh. Slice the courgette into thin discs.

Add the courgette to the onion, season lightly and stir well. First cook over high heat stirring constantly, so that the water is released. If all the ingredients don't fit at once, wait until it reduces a little to make room for the rest. It will reduce in size considerably.

When the courgette is slightly cooked, lower the heat and let it cook slowly. This will create a concentrated flavour and also a very smooth texture. Stir from time to time and keep cooking until very tender, about 40-50 minutes.

Finally, crack the eggs directly on top, season them and stir gently, mixing them into the vegetables and breaking the yolks. The idea is that they cook little by little, staying very juicy or almost liquidy, without transforming into scrambled eggs or an omelette.

Cook for a few more minutes over very low heat until the texture is right, they should juicy but not a liquid. Until you give this a go many not know exactly what I am trying to describe! Remove from the heat and let them rest for about 5 minutes and then serve immediately or refrigerate when cool. It can hold very well for several hours in the fridge, so you can make it ahead of time if you need to.

 

 

Zarangollo can be accompanied by salad and, of course, bread to dip. However it doesn't have to be the main meal, you can combine it with almost anything from Pisto to chips or even meat and fish.

So, there you go. Enjoy!



Like 2        Published at 14:02   Comments (0)


Spanish Comfort Food- Iberian Pork and Chorizo Casserole
14 January 2021

When the weather is really cold, as it is at the moment and half of Spain is under a metre of snow, few things are better than a hot slow-cooked stew to satisfy your appetite. The famous Spanish dishes known as "Platos de Cuchara" are on everyone's mind. 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 7        Published at 14:25   Comments (3)


...Another Classic Winter Warmer from La Mancha
07 January 2021

At this time of year, the only thing I really feel like eating is hearty simple homemade food.  As you may have guessed from my previous post, one Spanish region that has had an important influence on me is La Mancha. For those who do not know this region, it is located on an arid but fertile, elevated plateau south of Madrid, spanning the elevated plateau of central Spain from the mountains of Toledo to the western spurs of the hills of Cuenca, and bordered to the South by the Sierra Morena and to the North by the Alcarria region. La Mancha includes portions of the modern provinces of Cuenca, Toledo, and Albacete, and most of the Ciudad Real province.

The name "La Mancha" is probably derived from the Arab word اal-mansha, meaning "the dry land" or "wilderness". The name of the city of Almansa in Albacete also has the same origin. The word Mancha in Spanish literally means spot, stain, or patch, but no apparent link exists between this word and the name of the region.

One regional dish I would like to share with you is Pisto Manchego. Similar to the French ratatouille, Pisto Manchego is a mixture of slowly fried regional vegetables. It is ever so easy to make and conserves well in the fridge so there is no problem making a little extra for the cold days ahead. It is great as a main dish served with a couple of fried eggs or as an accompaniment to poultry, meat, sausages or even rice. I like to serve it with fried eggs and with toasted “glass bread” topped with olive oil, basil leaves and mature manchego cheese, just divine. “Glass bread” (Pan de cristal)  is a relatively recent creation as far as I know and is spreading across Spain as a premium bread, but it is available in some supermarkets too, I buy it regularly from Consum and Mercadona. With its extremely fine crust and almost zero dough density, its appearance and texture is a revelation. What makes this bread different is that it is translucent, almost transparent. The air bubbles in its dough are enormous and they give it a unique lightness and crispiness. Its taste is very gentle and neutral, and it will bring out the flavours in any good olive oil. A deluxe accompaniment for this very rustic and traditional dish…


So this is what you’ll need to make enough for 4 :

2 Medium courgettes. 
3 Green peppers. 
1 Red pepper
1 Medium aubergine 
1 Large onion. 
1 Kg ripe plum tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of Paprika de la Vera
Sal. 
Brown sugar. 
Extra virgin olive oil - #Suggestion# - Oro de Bailén Reserva Familiar or Casa Juncal from Mercadona (considerably cheaper but still good)

 

  

 

 

Preparation: 

The first step is to cut up the peppers, courgettes and aubergine into small pieces, diced is fine. 

We start frying the diced peppers in a frying pan with a little oil. Once fried, we put them in a pot and put them to one side.
 
It is very important to drain all excess oil well after frying; the pisto should not be full of oil and greasy. 

Do the same with the courgette and aubergine and add them to the peppers in the pot.

Next chop up the onion and fry it also separately. When the onion is almost cooked make an opening in the centre and add the garlic, cook for a minute or so and then add the paprika, stir the paprika into the oil quickly for about 30 seconds and then mix in with the onion and garlic. Remove from the heat, drain it and add to the pot with the other vegetables.

Now you need to add the tomatoes to the pan. So first you will need to scald them in boiling water to remove their skin and then chop them up finely, also removing the part of the stem so there are no tough bits left in. Add the tomato with a little olive oil, 1-teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of sugar to remove the acid and fry for about 40 minutes over medium-low heat.  If your tomatoes are not particularly good in flavour, and nowadays that’s quite common, you may want to add a tablespoon of tomato concentrate or half a brick of “tomate frito”, whichever you can get your hands on. Hopefully, you have great tomatoes in your area and you won’t need it. Now add in all the vegetables and simmer for another 15-20 minutes or so until all the water from the tomato has reduced and you have a thick consistency. That’s it.

 

 

 

 

Serve hot with a couple of fried eggs, fried in abundant extra virgin olive oil to crisp up the edges and a plate of toasted "Pan de cristal" (glass bread) drizzled with olive oil, a couple of fresh basil leaves and a thin slice of cured manchego cheese.  To finish it off, a glass of Tempranillo red wine from Valdepeñas and you have a meal fit for a king!  

Enjoy!



Like 3        Published at 19:36   Comments (5)


A Classic Winter Warmer
31 December 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


These are the ingredients for 6 people:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!



Like 3        Published at 15:01   Comments (2)


Gambas al Ajillo - King Prawns at Christmas
24 December 2020

                                     

As with the majority of Spanish cooking, simplicity is king and their success will depend entirely on the quality of the ingredients. This dish is a classic Spanish tapas which is bursting with flavour. So if you are short of an idea for next gathering this might tickle your fancy.

 

You will need for this dish, a good quality extra virgin olive oil, as it is the main ingredient and any old olive oil will definitely not give the same result. The best variety for this dish is a Picual or an Hojiblanca as they are high in antioxidants and resist the high temperatures better, they also make a wonderful contrast in flavour with the sweetness of the prawns (about 75ml). Additionally, you will also need 10 large prawns, I suggest medium-sized king prawns (gambones in Spain), as the smaller prawns or shrimps will reduce in size considerably when cooked and not make for a very appetising bite! They must be raw prawns, preferable fresh, but frozen will work too although the end result is noticeable. If you are looking for a special touch make sure they are fresh. The peeled prawns should be left to marinate for a couple of hours in a little white wine (medium dry). Next, you will need 4 cloves of fresh garlic, two whole red dried chillies, salt and paprika and a sliced baguette for dipping.

 

 

This will serve two people as a starter.

 

Start by peeling the 10-15 king prawns and clean them, if you want you can butterfly them, as I did, just slice a little groove along the back of the prawn, this will help you get everything out and make the presentation look so much better. (I was preparing for four people)

 

 

 

 

Put the langoustine heads to one side, we'll need them later. Cut up the cloves of garlic into slices, do not dice them or crush them and slice up the chillies as well in the same manner, we don’t want the chillies crushed for this dish.

 

 

Do not prepare the dish until you are ready to sit down and eat them, this dish must be served immediately and piping hot, sizzling. Any other way is just not the same! So once you are ready, put the olive oil in a small pan or clay-cooking dish, as they use in Spain, along with the prawn heads and two tablespoons of the white wine used for the marinade and start to heat up the oil. As the oil is heating up squeeze down on the heads of the langoustines with a fork so that they release all of their juice and cook them for a couple of minutes on high heat.

 

 

Once they are slightly browned remove them from the oil and put in all the garlic and the chillies and then a few seconds later pop in the raw langoustines, as soon as the langoustines are turning pink remove them from the heat, sprinkle some paprika over them, season with a little salt, a little diced parsley and let them sit for 1 minute and then serve immediately while they are still piping hot. Enjoy, they are an absolute delight and don’t forget to dip your bread in the richly flavoured olive oil!

 

 
Enjoy!
                                                          
 
 
 


Like 2        Published at 16:38   Comments (4)


The standard by which all hams are measured.
17 December 2020

It's not the first time I’ve decided to talk about Spanish ham. But the other day I was fortunate enough to try again what many consider to be the best Spanish ham in the world and I must admit it was spectacular, just as I had remembered it.

Whether or not it is the best in the world or not, I will leave up to the experts but what I can say is that you will not be disappointed in the slightest.

Ibérico cured ham from the free-range, acorn-fed Ibérico pig has always been a hallmark of Spanish cuisine and enjoyed all over the country. But now it is making its mark all over the world and one brand stands out for the quality of its product: “Joselito”, the one I was fortunate enough to try the other day, cut by a professional may I add. At the end of this post, I have added a video on how to cut a Spanish ham because it is an art form and takes quite a bit of practice. A good cut can make a mediocre ham good and a bad cut can make a good ham mediocre. Cutting ham is actually a profession in Spain and takes many years to perfect. However, if you are patient and practise a little you shouldn’t have any problems cutting a ham by yourself to a respectable standard. I’m pretty fussy when it comes to ham and I do not like thick-cut slices so to enjoy a professional cut the other day was just divine.

 

 

A certain mystique has grown around Spanish cured ham and, among the experts, the town of Guijuelo in Salamanca province (Castile-Leon) has acquired a reputation for producing the finest examples. In fact, while the hams are cured here, the pigs are to be found largely in the Extremadura region in the west of the country where tens of thousands of pigs roam over endless pastures, gorging on the abundant acorns from the thousands of oak trees. Of all the ham producers in the country, none enjoys greater prestige than the family-run business “Joselito”, which now exports its products to 48 countries.

Hams from Joselito, among the most expensive on the market and worth every penny, have won acclaim from leading chefs. According to Basque maestro Juan Mari Arzak and Ferran Adría (considered world’s best chef), ‘Joselito’ is "the best ham in the world."

At first sight, Guijuelo with a population of 6,000 is a discrete sort of place. But, thanks to its flourishing business in pork products, it is one of Spain's most prosperous communities, with relatively few unemployed. At 1,000 m (3,280 ft) above sea level, the town enjoys an ideal climate for curing pork: chilly in winter, hot in summer. As it is a brand with such an established reputation I thought I would research the reasons behind its success.

 

( photos by 'Joselito Ham' )

 

The first requirement for a superior-quality ham is a superior breed of pig, the native cerdo ibérico (Ibérico pig). Hams are also distinguished by the way pigs are reared. Many pigs spend little or no time on the open range and are fed mostly on authorised meal. In contrast, the jamón ibérico de bellota comes from free-range animals, feeding on natural herbs and, most importantly, acorns.

Joselito's cerdos ibéricos de bellota roam over more than 100,000 ha (247,105 acres) of wooded scrublands called Dehesas much of it the company's property and the rest rented, in the Extremadura and Andalusia regions, Salamanca province and Portugal. As part of a 30-year reforestation plan, every year the company plants 70 to 80 thousand trees, mostly holm oaks (Quercus ilex) and cork oaks (Quercus suber). The company's efforts were rewarded this year with a management certificate from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a non-governmental organization promoting responsible forest management worldwide. It is the first time a business of this type has been selected anywhere in the world.

A key aspect in producing quality hams is the animals' freedom to roam. Each pig forages for food and water over 2 to 4 ha (4.9 to 9.8 acres) of pasture. This keeps them in shape, which contributes to the particular texture of their flesh. During "la montanera", the months between October and February, each pig eats about 15 kg (33 lb) of acorns a day.

When the two-year-old pigs weigh about 180 kg (396 lb), around 40,000 are transported to Guijuelo to be slaughtered. The hams are stored in sea salt for a week or so, then washed and hung in the "secaderos", with immaculately maintained, carefully ventilated chambers. In the summer heat, the hams sweat and the outer fat melts and penetrates the muscular fibres, a process vital to making the meat tender and aromatic.

For further maturing the hams are stored in dark bodegas at temperatures between 14 and 18ºC (57.2 and 64.4ºF) and humidity between 60 and 80%. More than 400,000 hams, from the years 2004 to 2011, hang in Joselito's installations. Hams from the paleta, or shoulder, are cured for a minimum of two years, and hind-leg hams, known as the Gran Reserva, for at least three years. A select number, vintage hams known as the Colección Premium, is matured for more than 82 months. 

The succulent meat in Joselito's hams is purple-red and marbled with veins of pinkish fat. It is, claims the firm, a healthy product, containing oleic acid, vitamins and natural antioxidants which help reduce cholesterol and the risk of arteriosclerosis. Joselito backs this up with the results of scientific surveys and points out that 100 g (3.5 oz) of their ham contains fewer calories than a plateful of rice of the same weight. To improve quality, a staff of 15 in Joselito's research and development department analyzes everything, from the pig's diet to the final product. Joselito also markets pork loin and various varieties of pork sausage, chorizo, salchichón and longaniza (spiced with pepper, salt and garlic), all from free-range Iberico pigs and naturally cured.

Spain exports annually around 20,000 tons (40 million lb) of cured leg and shoulder hams, from all breeds, representing sales worth more than €170 million. 0nly 10% of Spanish cured ham comes from the Ibérico breed, but it is this product which sets the standard and reinforces the country's prestige in foreign markets.

In the words of Ferran Adrià: "Hams like those of Joselito are the standard-bearer of a sector which the whole world can enjoy." So if you have the opportunity to get your hands on some don't let it go by!

 

 

 

 



Like 3        Published at 20:55   Comments (2)


Cider Chorizo - A Simple Classic
10 December 2020

There aren't many recipes that encapsulate the essence of traditional Spanish cuisine like this one. Cider Chorizo from the northern region of Asturias is a much loved classic. Extremely simple to cook but reliant upon the quality of the ingredients, this incredibly tasty recipe is am absolute star winner at any tapas get together.


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. It couldn't be easier, but you will need to find the right ingredients and I promise you if you haven't tried it before, you are in for a treat! 

** If you have trouble finding dry Asturian cider in the UK it is available on Amazon - "Trabanco" dry Spanish Cider. Asturian fresh chorizo is also available online at the Tapas Lunch Company in the UK **

 In Spain, all ingredients are readily available in all supermarkets. For example in Mercadona you can find the following:

  

 

Ingredients:

4  Cooking chorizo – fresh, non-cured (semi-cured at most) and smoked if possible - not "picante" - spicy.
1 bottle dry apple cider – from Asturias. Alternatively a natural dry cider with no added gas. Sweet cider will not work!
2  Bay leaves
2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

 


1. Prick the chorizos with a fork. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a small saucepan and cook them for around 2 minutes until brown on the outside.
2. Pour the cider into the saucepan. The chorizos should be completely covered by the cider. 
4. Stir in the bay leaves.
3. Cook over medium heat for around 25 minutes. The liquid should reduce until it starts thickening.
4. Take the chorizos out. Slice them up thickly and then put them back into the pan to be cooked for a further 5 minutes. They should be tender not tough, if they are still a little tough cook for a further 5 minutes. Depending on the type of chorizo you buy they will take more or less time.

 

Serve immediately with crusty bread.



Like 4        Published at 17:55   Comments (2)


Menu del Día - Meatballs in Vegetable sauce
03 December 2020

Meatballs are one of those fantastic dishes for large numbers. It is easy to make in a large batch, it freezes well and who doesn't like them? In Spain, they are normally served with a vegetable sauce and frequently called  "Albondigas a la jardinera". They are one of my staple dishes at home and I thought I would share with you the classic Spanish recipe. Of course,  there are many variations and you can modify the recipe as you wish, but this is the standard version you will probably find on a "Menu del dia" this time of year. So, let's crack on...

 


Ingredients for 4 people

For the meatball mix: 

750 g. minced meat (pork, beef)
2 medium eggs
150 g. crustless sliced bread and 5 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley plus a little more for sprinkling
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion
Salt, nutmeg, and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Flour to coat the meatballs
Extra virgin olive oil

For the sauce:

1  onion
2 carrots
1/2 red pepper
100 g. peas
400 g. of potatoes
2 cloves of garlic
125 ml of white wine, 1/2 l of chicken broth and water (if necessary)
A few strands of saffron, salt, black pepper and 1 bay leaf
Mild extra virgin olive oil

 

When it comes to meatballs I always like to mix 50% pork and 50% beef mince. I like to buy my meat at the butcher's and then mince it at home, but any decent mince will do, to be honest. First, we are going to make the meatballs:

1. Season the minced meat, both veal and pork, in a large bowl. and mix together. Crack open the 2 eggs and add them together with the nutmeg, the fresh parsley and the slices of bread without the crust that we have previously soaked in milk for a few minutes. 
2. Let the mixture rest.
3. Laminate the garlic and finely chop the onion. Add some water to a pan and poach the onion and garlic for a few minutes. This will help the onion to soften and thus our meatballs will have a more homogeneous texture. It will also slightly reduce the strength of the garlic and the onion.
4. Once poached after a couple of minutes, drain and cool with cold water before adding it to the meat mixture, season with salt and pepper.
5.  Add a dessert spoon of extra virgin olive oil to the mixture and mix everything well with our hands until the ingredients are evenly mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for an hour in the fridge.
6. . After the resting time, remove the meat from the refrigerator and start making small balls with the meat mix. If you keep your hands wet while you do this, the meat won't stick to your fingers. I normally have a finger bowl with water next to me when I make them.
6. Pour the flour onto a plate and then pass the meatballs through the flour so they have a thin coating all over.
7. Put the floured meatballs to one side on a clean plate. Shake them a little to remove excess flour.
8. Fry the meatballs in hot extra virgin olive oil, for about three minutes is enough. The idea is to seal them and lightly brown them, then put to one side. They don't need to be cooked all the way through at this stage.

 


Now for the sauce:


1. Wash and dice the onion. Laminate the garlic clove and place in a wide deep pan. Add a dash of virgin olive oil and poach the onion and garlic in a little water for about 3-5 minutes until it has almost evaporated completely.
2. Cut the carrots and the red pepper into small pieces. 
3. When the onion has gone transparent, add the rest of the carrots and red pepper and sauté them all together. 
4. After a minute or so,  add a heaped teaspoon of flour to the pan and toast the flour for a minute, stirring well.
5. Let the ingredients release all their liquids for about 5 minutes. When it has reduced, pour in the white wine and let it cook over high heat to cook off the alcohol and  until the wine has reduced a little - about 10 min
6. Now add the meatballs to the pan. Don't put them on top of each other. Try and use a wide pan so they all have their own space.
7. Add the saffron and the bay leaf.
8. Add the chicken stock and the peas and let them cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. If the stock is too thick you can rectify by adding more water. Make sure the water is boiling so it doesn't stop cooking.
9. Once the sauce has reduced to the right consistency season and taste for salt.
10. Let the meatballs rest for about 5 minutes and serve with fried potato slices, chips, mashed potatoes or even white rice. Or you could just eat them as they are with some crusty bread.

 


Serve and enjoy!



Like 3        Published at 18:24   Comments (0)


A Mediterranean Thistle
12 November 2020


 The artichoke is a thistle from the daisy family - so effectively a wildflower. And what a flower! Chefs around the world love this herbaceous plant that goes by the scientific name of Cynara scolymus. Cultivated since ancient times, it originally comes from the western Mediterranean. Then naturally it reached many other territories; for example, the Spanish took it to California among other places. With about 220,000 tons per year, Spain is one of the most important countries that cultivate artichokes, second only to Italy in Europe.

The arrival of autumn marks the beginning of the main artichoke harvest season and its consumption (although we can enjoy it all year round thanks to its frozen and bottled version). But fresh is undoubtedly how the extraordinary flavour of this unique plant is most appreciated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 medium artichokes

300g mushrooms with the stems removed.

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

2 lemons

2 eggs

3 cloves of garlic

1 small dried chilli

2 tbsp. of freshly chopped parsley

2 whole stems of parsley

Salt and pepper

1 large freezer bag

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, of course!

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

ENJOY!

 

 



Like 3        Published at 18:44   Comments (2)


"Platos de Cuchara" - Fabada Asturiana
05 November 2020

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 3        Published at 17:52   Comments (6)


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