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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.

Clams for starters!
07 July 2020

 

Although Clams in 'Salsa Verde' (green sauce) are traditionally eaten as a special dish up north in Galicia for Christmas, they are eaten throughout the year and are a wonderful starter to share with friends and family any time of the year. As is the case with most traditional recipes the quality of the ingredients is the key to a fantastic result.

This is a quick and easy dish to make and will take no more than  20 minutes to prepare if your clams are already clean and free of sand. The ingredients are easy to find but it is essential to use fresh parsley, a good dry and fruity white wine and of course fresh clams not frozen. If you are able to find them Galician clams are the best. I highly recommend using an Albariño white wine or a Ribeiro, both work wonderfully with this dish.

Ingredients to make Clams in Salsa Verde ( 2 people) :  

500 grams of clean clams

125 ml  of white wine (Albariño Rias Baixes ó Ribeiro, preferably)

2 cloves garlic large

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon of wheat flour

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper

(some like to add 1 small crushed dried chilli – optional)

Before you begin, make sure the clams are clean and have no sand in them. If you bought them already cleaned, great, but if not you will have to clean them. There is nothing worse than chewing on a gritty clam!

So you will need to let them soak in water with salt for 2 hours, changing the water two or three times during that time. Once the clams are clean we can start with the recipe. Peel two cloves of garlic, mince and remove the heart of the garlic. Put them in a frying pan with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and bay leaf. Before they have browned add a tablespoon of flour and stir well. Let the flour brown a little but not burn.

 Now add the wine, clams, a pinch of salt (half dessert spoon), a little pepper and sprinkle with two tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley. Cover the pan and leave on medium heat for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes remove the lid and see which clams have opened and remove them from the pan. Once they have all opened and been removed, check if the green sauce needs salt.

Now let the sauce simmer a little more without the lid and the clams, we want to reduce the sauce so it becomes slightly thicker.

We must ensure that the sauce is well blended, so don't remove it from the heat until the sauce is nice and thick, we also want to make sure all the alcohol has evaporated. When the sauce is ready put the clams back in and mix well with the sauce. This will heat the clams up again and then serve immediately. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with the remaining parsley and accompany it with a wedge of lemon. Some prefer that acidic touch to the sauce that the lemon gives, but I prefer it just as it is. What I will do from time to time is add a dried chili or two depending on the number of clams. This gives it a wonderful kick! You can add the chilli right at the beginning with the garlic, that way it will flavour the olive oil directly.

 

 

The last thing you must remember is to have plenty of crusty bread because once you have finished the clams there will be loads of delicious sauce to soak up!!

Enjoy!



Like 0        Published at 21:26   Comments (0)


Perfecting Paella Making
02 July 2020

It's not the first time I have written about cooking paella, but I think, if you are really interested in making paella this might just be the most useful article I have written. Since my last article, I  have practised a fair bit and learned a significant amount through trial and error and testing other people’s recommendations.

I have learned one fundamental thing, always use the same size paella pan until you are consistently producing perfect paellas every time. That means understanding your pan-to-water-to-rice measurements, meat and vegetable quantities and heat control. All play a vital role in pulling off the perfect paella. 

As I never managed to find any articles or anyone who ever really committed to the exact proportions or advice that was actually applicable in the home. You always needed to adjust for your situation ie. your pan was smaller or larger, your burner was less powerful, or you would never cook a paella that big ever and you would need to adjust everything! 

Some would say 1 part rice to 3 parts water others would say 1 part rice to 2.5 parts water, 1 part rice to 4 parts water! ...and then you would need to make sure you are using the right variety of rice as each one absorbs more or less water.  You see, so many things affect the result of a paella. What looks like is a simple dish is an absolute nightmare to get right! How much rice you put in the paella pan is key - the depth of the rice in the pan directly influences the amount of water (or stock if it is a seafood paella) and the cooking time so unless you have the same pan size and the same measurements etc your paella will never be the same. I have learnt a considerable amount over the years and I have come to the conclusion that the best-sized paella pan is 60 cm in diameter (unless you are consistently making paella for 9 -12 people at a time, in that case, it would be a 70cm pan.) But I think a 60 cm pan will serve the majority of households. 

On the sticker of the 60 cm pan, it will say it is good for 20 servings. What this really means is that you can feed 20 people if you fill the pan to the brim with rice. But that is never done and should never be done as the rice is never cooked evenly when so deep. I have always had a wide range of paella pans in size at home, meaning I have kept changing pan sizes depending on numbers and I had never really mastered any one of them in particular. So fi you are serious about learning how to cook paella and to do it properly I suggest sticking to one size until you master it and adjust the amounts of rice accordingly. The bigger the pan the less influence the extra rice has on the cooking time. But if you go too big, controlling the heat and the even depth of the rice throughout the paella becomes an issue, but this tends to be the case when the pan is bigger than 100cm. Any bigger though and the quality of the paella is very difficult, if not impossible to, maintain at a high standard.

So, why 60cm? let me explain why this is an ideal size. Firstly, this size is ideal for 5 to 8 servings, but if necessary you can also stretch it to 10 on the odd occasion without the paella getting too deep. Secondly, it enables you to include sufficient amounts of meat and vegetables to obtain a decent stock and leave enough space for the rice, as the base of the pan measures 52,5cm in diameter.  Most importantly, whether you make a paella for 5 or 8 people, your paella will never be more than 1 cm in depth. This is the key!

If you go to a restaurant your paella will always be thin, at most 1,5cm deep. This is fundamental if you want all the rice to be cooked evenly. The deeper the rice the more cooked it will at the bottom and possibly undercooked at the top As a maximum, you never really want to go any deeper than 2cm of rice. Ideally, aim for up to 1,5cm in the middle of the pan and up to 1 cm on the outer edge. Now you see why we need such a big pan for so few people. By doing this we will guarantee that the rice is cooked evenly and you will be able to control without too much trouble “el punto del arroz” - which is the equivalent of the “al dente” with pasta. If the rice is any deeper, this is realistically impossible, especially if you let the paella sit for a while before serving. As some varieties will continue to cook after being removed from the heat such as Senia - J Sendra, whereas other such as Bomba or Albufera will withstand the resting period before serving. If you don’t know the differences there are three main types of Valencian rice with the denomination of origin. They are as follows:
 

J.SENDRA ROUND RICE (from the Senia variety)

This rice originated in Valencia, cultivated in the Albufera under the seal of the Denomination of Origin Rice of Valencia. Its grains have a great capacity to absorb the flavours and aromas from all the ingredients. It is the rice that is most used to make Valencian paella due to its creamier texture and ability to maintain its humidity on the surface without sticking. This creamier texture makes for a more intense transfer of flavours from the rice grain to the mouth. However, this variety takes no prisoners, or you get it right or your paella turns to a mushy nasty mess. The grain is prone to splitting if you cook it too long and it will continue to cook for about 2 to 4 minutes after turning off the heat. Something that you need to take into consideration. This is my prefered variety for paella.

Cooking time 13 - 15 minutes.

 

BOMBA RICE

This rice has a much higher amylose (a starch polymer)  content than J Sendra. This means that the grain has a reduced surface humidity resulting in the grains not sticking during cooking. It also has a very high resistance to overcooking which is great for the novice and also restaurants that might have the paella waiting a short time before serving. The downside is that, although it does absorb a lot of stock, that transfer of flavour is not as high as with J Sendra due to the lack of surface humidity and the toughness of the grain. It lacks that creamier texture. It is a dryer paella compared to J Sendra. Personally, I prefer this variety for rice stews - “caldosos” as they are called here.

Optimum cooking: 16-18 min
 

ALBUFERA RICE

This rice is the result of crossing the Bomba and Senia/J Sendra varieties. It has an excellent capacity for absorbing flavours and aromas, close to J Sendra but with the resistance not so much to overcooking but to withstanding the resting time after cooking. So it does give some forgiveness with the cooking times.

Optimum cooking: 14-16 min

Now we have looked into the varieties, let’s continue...

Recently, I just invested in a completely new set up for my paella cooking, which I am going to share with you. I bought a 60cm professional thickness paella pan -  this means it will never warp and should become a family heirloom. Additionally, I bought a 46cm paella burner (alta gama) by Flames VLC with the gas attachment and adjustable legs. It all came to about €120 including postage, so pretty reasonable if you ask me. This setup will do you for life and will probably cover 95% of the paella requirements you will ever have.

I bought mine here - https://paellerosypaelleras.com/)

  

                                  

 

Allow me to share the measurements and instructions for this size pan, in case you decide to buy one.

For a 60cm pan, the minimum amount of rice would be 500g and I would say the maximum amount for a lovely thin paella would be 800g, but you could perfectly stretch it to 1kg if it was really necessary and it would still be fairly thin. I calculate 100g per person, which is a standard serving at any restaurant if you are serving starters. If you are not serving starters you might want to calculate 125g per person. So, even if you are two at home 500g is basically four healthy servings and it will keep in the fridge for a day without any problems.  Realistically cooking any less at home is a bit pointless as the meat and vegetable quantities will be so small you won’t get a good stock. Anything between 500 and 800g is very similar to cook, you just adjust the water, but the cooking times are similar and with such a  big pan it much easier to adjust accordingly. 

The water ratio to rice for this pan and these amounts will be 4 to 1 :  4 parts water to 1 part rice.  400ml of water for every 100g of rice.

Why so much water compared to other recipes? Well, basically because the surface area of the paella pan is much larger than normal and therefore the capacity for evaporation is much greater. So much more water will evaporate than if the pan were smaller and the rice deeper.

 

Let’s make it! - Valencian Paella

 The authentic “Paella Valenciana” has it’s Denominación de origin, which identifies the 10 basic ingredients that it must have :

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

 

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

So here we go, I’m going to include artichokes, paprika and rosemary to the base recipe. remember we are using a 60cm pan and a 46cm gas burner.

  1. 500g rice variety - J Sendra  (but you can choose which one you prefer)

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

  3. 500g Chopped up Rabbit,

  4. 400 g of  Ferraura (also known as bajoqueta) large thick flat green beans.

  5. 200g of Garrofon – large white beans.  Try to buy all the veg fresh not frozen.

  6. 200g Grated tomato (without the skin)

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

  8. 150ml Extra virgin olive oil (more or less)

  9. Saffron threads

  10. Table Salt

  11. 1 Dessert spoon of paprika (sweet)

  12. Rosemary still on the branch if possible. I don’t recommend dried rosemary, it is easy to put too much in and ruin the paella. With the branch it is easy to remove it as soon as the right level of taste is acquired.

  13. Water:  2 Litres + 1 Litre to create the stock - this will evaporate before we put the rice in.

 

Instructions

First make sure that the paella pan is perfectly horizontal, if it isn’t it won’t cook properly. You can test this by adding the olive oil to the pan and it should all stay in the centre. If it doesn’t adjust until it does. I also have a spirit level for this, a little quicker!

Turn on the gas to a medium heat.  

Sprinkle some  salt around the edge of the pan  

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

Fry the chicken and the rabbit for at least 20 minutes at medium to low heat. You don’t want it burnt but you do want it a deep rich golden brown colour on all sides. This is one of the main tricks behind a good paella. Most people do not cook the meat enough during the preparation stage. It will not end up tough, later with the water it will soften up the meat.  

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

Add the green beans first and fry them for about 5 minutes.

Then add the white beans and fry for a couple of minutes.

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

Add the tomato and fry for about 3-4 minutes. Once all the water from the tomatoes has evaporated, add a little water back into the tomato (this is just a couple of tablespoons or so) and fry it again until it evaporates again completely. Do this three times and you will have a fantastic fried tomato. The little water you have added just to the tomato will evaporate completely so it is not contemplated in the water for the rice.

Leaving the tomato in the centre, we now add the paprika. Now, this is a critical point. We must have the water ready and at hand when we do this and move to a low heat. For about 30-45 seconds max. we cook the paprika with the tomato. If you cook it for too long it will make the paella bitter. The water will stop the paprika from cooking any further.

Now we add the water. Add ONLY the first measurement of 2 litres of water and take note where the water level has reached in the pan – I use a metallic ruler and simply place it in the middle of the pan and take a reading to the mm. Remember it and then add the extra litre of water.

Raise the heat to medium-to-high and start boiling the stock for at least 25 minutes.

If the water level reaches the first measurement of the 2 litres before time just add more water until the stock has a strong, rich and very slightly salty taste. The rice will absorb the salt. After about 20 minutes of boiling test for salt 

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

Add the saffron until we achieve a nice rich golden colour. Be careful not to put too much in, you don’t want an orange paella.  What I do is take out two or three spoons of stock and pour them into a pestle and mortar with the saffron and then grind it all together and pour it back in.

After this point, we will not touch the rice or move it around. 

Cook on high heat for 7 minutes, until the rice starts to appear through the stock. 

Then drop to a low heat and cook for 5 minutes. It is important to drop the heat because we then avoid the burning of the starch that has come out of the rice and thickened the stock.

At this point add the rosemary branch. After about 3-4 minutes you can remove it, this is done by taste and smell. If it is becoming overpowering remove it straight away. 

During the 5 minutes keep tasting the rice grains. By the end of the 5 minutes it should be slightly “al dente” but not hard. The last stage of the cooking will be done without the heat. The last minute or so, when there is now no stock left, you can raise the heat quickly to caramelize the bottom of the rice to the pan, but not burn it. It will go crispy with an intense flavour. This is called Socarrat. Use the back of a spoon to check that the rice is sticking to the pan, but smell it also to make sure you are not burning it. After a little practice, this will be easy, trust me.

 

We will not cook the rice for more than 12/13 minutes (Senia variety) unless we are not at sea level, as is Valencia. Altitude affects the cooking of rice; the higher up you are the longer it will take. So if you are up in the hills say 700m above sea level you will need a couple more minutes to cook the rice! 

Remove from heat and let it sit for at least 5 minutes. The stock should have evaporated completely and this will complete the cooking process of the rice. 

If the rice is still a little tough  (you evaporated it too quickly) you can cover it with a damp kitchen cloth or tin foil while it is sitting for 5 minutes.

The rice should be roundish, in one piece, not broken or too sticky. You should be able to separate the grains easily, but they should also have a creamy texture.

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

 

Get practising!

 

 

 



Like 1        Published at 20:30   Comments (7)


Stuffed Mussels Tapas
26 June 2020

 

This recipe is a version of the classic Spanish “Tigre”, a mussel and prawn croquette served in the mussel’s shell, which I tasted in Santiago de Compostela many years ago at a friend’s house. It is a very simple recipe and ever so rewarding, a definite hit for any dinner table as a starter. The creaminess of the béchamel (white sauce) and the taste of the sea from the Galician mussels with a touch of garlic and white wine make such a great combination. I must stress that the fresher the mussels the better the result. 

As with most recipes in Spain each region has its unique touch, the recipe I am going to share with you is the typical recipe from Galicia, the home of the Spanish mussels. 

However if you wish to jazz it up feel free! There are some who have them spicy or very spicy, known as “Angry Tigers” by adding a lot more cayenne pepper and chili. But let’s crack on with the traditional recipe and don’t forget to put a bottle of Albariño white wine from Rias Baixas in the freezer to chill off until serving!


Ingredients Filling:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
2 Onions
1 green pepper
1 glasses of white wine
300 grams of peeled prawns
1 kg of Mussels
3 Garlic cloves
1 Ripe peeled tomato (put it in boiling water for a minute and then the skin comes off easily)
1 large Bay leaf
Parsley
1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper 
2 Eggs
Flour
Breadcrumbs

 

To make the Bechamel:

700 ml full fat Milk
80g of Flour
70ml of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

 

Let's crack on :

Wash the mussels really well in cold water and remove all the algae and dirt from the shell and rinse well. 

Heat a glass of white wine in the pan, when the wine begins to boil add a bay leaf , a few sprigs of parsley and then the mussels.  Put the lid on and shake a little until all the mussels are open. Once all the mussels have opened remove them from the pan.  Wait a few minutes and then remove all the mussels from the shells with a spoon. Let them cool on a plate. Reserve the liquid in the pan for later (wine with mussel juice). If you want, just pour the liquid into a glass and keep it to one side.

Now we need to finely chop up the mussels and keep to one side.

Thoroughly wash and scrub the empty shells because we are going to use them to hold the filling the and thus put them in our mouths! 

I usually buy prawns already peeled but uncooked, so all I have to do is chop them into small pieces. So chop them up and put them to one side too.

Now you need to chop the onions, garlic cloves, peeled tomato and pepper into very small pieces. Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil to a frying pan and fry the garlic first for about half a minute, then the onions and green pepper, then cook over low heat for about 10 minutes until it is all soft, it should not be crunchy at all. Taste and season the mixture with salt and pepper. 

Now add the chopped mussels and prawns followed by a glass of the ‘mussel and wine broth’ we put aside earlier! 

Add the chopped tomato and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Let it all simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes until the liquid has pretty much evaporated. Stir with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes and then remove the pan from the heat.

To make the bechamel, add the extra virgin olive oil to a pan, add the flour, and lightly cook on low heat for a minute or so and then slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly. Then  add  salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes over a low heat, stirring it from time to time.

The next step is to mix the bechamel with the mussel and prawn filling and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should be of a very thick consistency. Let it cool down a bit.

Finally fill the mussel shells with the filling and leave them in the fridge for a couple of hours so they have completey cooled down.

   

 

    

 

Now we need to dip one in flour, then dip it in egg and finally dip it in breadcrumbs. Make sure the breadcrumbs completely cover the filling. Put to one side and repeat for all the rest.

The last stage is to fry them in Extra Virgin Oilve Oil.  Heat the oil, use a piece of bread to judge the temperature. First place them face down in the pan until they are Golden and crisp, the turn them over  for a minute and then remove from the pan and set aside to serve with a glass of nicely chilled Albariño White wine. 

Enjoy!



Like 0        Published at 13:32   Comments (2)


Chicken in Salt- "Pollo a la Sal"
19 June 2020

 When I was in Spain during my student days there was this recipe that I saw a friend’s mother do and I must be honest I was initially blown away by it, thinking ‘Wow! That’s different, I’ve never seen that before.’  More than a recipe it was really a technique and I have no idea if this technique is traditionally used in the UK or not, I have never seen it being used nor had I ever heard of it being used so when I was 22 it was a real novelty for me and I expect it may well still be a novelty for many people even today. What I am referring to is chicken cooked in rock salt. Those who have been in Spain for a few years may have seen fish cooked in rock salt, it is quite common. 

However, this technique is not exclusive to fish but can be used with pretty much any meat. I first saw it being done with chicken. Initially, my thoughts were that the chicken or fish had to be really salty after being in contact with so much salt. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. As the salt is rock salt and bound with egg white, the meat never absorbs it. You may even find yourself salting the meat on the plate once served. The salt merely serves as a hand-made oven, made-to-measure. And it is quite ingenious and ever so simple. Forget about tinfoil or other ideas to keep your chicken moist and succulent, instead encase it in salt and slowly roast it. It is an infallible technique.

The meat falls off the bone and the legs fall away from the body with the slightest tug. Effectively what you are doing is creating a mould of salt, which hardens as it is roasted sealing off the chicken inside. This means all the juices stay inside and the chicken doesn’t dry out. It also enables you to concentrate different flavours and herbs inside as all the aromas stay inside the hard salt shell and impregnate the meat. Once the cooking time is overall you have to do is crack open the salt and pull out the chicken and serve. You can cook the chicken in salt either in a baking tray or in a casserole pot whichever is more comfortable.

This time I used a casserole pot, but I do recommend lining the pot or tray with tinfoil before. This is something I normally always do with the baking tray, but this time I didn’t do it with the pot and it did take me a while to clean it well and get all the salt out with hot water. If you line it with tin foil, it all just pops out in one piece after cooking, a lot easier! I haven't got round to it yet but my intention is perhaps this year roast a turkey in rock salt and sees the results. If I manage to do it I'll post the results!

Although I didn't do it with this recipe, there is so much more you can do to give the chicken an extra kick. You can stuff it with a sliced clementine or lemon and add bay leaves, rosemary sprigs and thyme, or parsley and garlic with chopped onion or whatever combination tickles your fancy. You can also cover the chicken in bacon strips if you like that, to keep it extra moist. But the results are still great without it. If you stuff the chicken with traditional stuffing mix, you will need to adjust cooking times.

 

So to roast an average chicken (mine was 2,2kg which is good for 4 adults) you will need the following: 

 

2kg rock salt
3 egg whites
4 crushed garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
Black Pepper
1 tbsp Oregano
1 tbsp Rosemary 
1 tbsp Smoked Paprika


 

Step 1: Prepare the salt – place all the salt into a big bowl. Add the oregano, rosemary and paprika to the salt along with the three egg white and stir it all in.

 

  

 

Step 2: Line the bottom of the casserole pot with about 1cm of salt.

Step 3: Stuff the chicken with the 4 crushed garlic cloves and the bay leaves

Step 4: Place the chicken in the pot and sprinkle some paprika, oregano, rosemary and black pepper over it.

 

 

Step 5: Cover the chicken with salt, patting it down so that it is totally encapsulated.

 

 

Step 6: Place it in a preheated oven at 140ºC for 2 hours 30 min. Let it stand for 10 minutes before cracking it open. Once you have cracked it open remove the chicken and let it stand for another 45 minutes. If you are doing a turkey I would let it stand for much longer, at least an hour or more (depending on size) so it reabsorbs all its juices. And then serve. (Use a large serving spoon to help you crack open the salt) .

 

  

  

 

A juicy bird! Enjoy!

 

 



Like 2        Published at 14:07   Comments (6)


My Wine Recommendation Nº 13 - Ribera del Duero in Mercadona
12 June 2020

A stretch of the Duero river basin about 115 kilometres long and 35 wide located at the confluence of the provinces of Soria, Burgos, Segovia and Valladolid is, according to many experts, one of the best Spanish regions for the production of wines, and up there with the best in the world. It is the Ribera del Duero region, catalogued as Denomination of Origin since 1979 and where just over three hundred wineries make their highly demanded red wines. Of these, only one, Bodegas Ontañón, provides all the Ribera de Duero wines to Mercadona.

This winery, from La Rioja origin, is headquartered in Ribera de Duero in the Burgos town of Fuentecen and supplies the supermarket chain with seven millions of bottles annually. Bodegas Ontañón was just a quarter of a century ago a small family business in La Rioja that made good red wines. Its commercial agreement with Mercadona to sell its wines has made it a giant. If we only take into consideration  D.O. Ribera de Duero y Rueda wines,  it sells seven million bottles each year through Mercadona. 

I have selected three wines from this region that are, for the money, great value:

 

Abadia Mantrús Roble

Abadía Mantrús is Mecadona's most economical offering from the region. Abadía Mantrús Roble is a young wine made from grapes of the Tinta Fina variety. Visually you can see the youth though the violet nuances. On the nose, it presents a good aromatic intensity with fresh aromas of wild fruits such as currants and blackberries. On the palate, it is fruity and intense but without losing freshness, and at 16ºC it pairs well with rice and pasta dishes with meat, vegetables, poultry, sausages and cheeses, of course.  €3,15

 

Condado de Teon Roble

Made with Tempranillo grapes from the family vineyards in the Fuentecén area (Burgos), matured with a temperature difference of 20 degrees between day and night, Condado de Teón is the better quality wine that Mercadona offers from this region. Its swift but necessary passage through American oak barrels gives it the elegance and aromatic complexity typical of D.O. Ribera del Duero. It pairs especially well with red meat, pasta, game, stews, cheese and cured ham. €4,95

 

Condado de Teón Crianza

"Honesty" is the term which winemakers use to describe wines that do not deceive, that offer what they promise and that although they may not be classified as excellent, are without doubt good wines. That is how best you could describe Condado de Teón Crianza, which after spending 12 months in oak barrels is pleasant in the mouth and is easily drunk. Visually it has a ruby ​​colour with violet reflections. The nose has a lot of fruit and aromas from the ageing, which is repeated in the mouth. Quite simple an "honest" wine, which, when compared with other similar references from the D.O. Ribera del Duero for value for money, make it a very recommendable choice. €6,50

 

 



Like 0        Published at 17:56   Comments (3)


How to make Salmorejo from Cordoba
05 June 2020

Believe it or not but ‘Salmorjeo from Cordoba has its own culinary guild which works to make this traditional recipe the ambassador of the city, its culture and cuisine, so each year they organise an event to promote this wonderfully versatile 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 conducted an initiative that turned this star dish into a 'Universal Salmorejo' and thus standardised the recipe and ingredients. As you probably know, it has many variations and every household adds its own personal touch. They wanted to establish a traditional protected recipe, which would become an emblem for the region. 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 hope you can enjoy yet another refreshing meal during the scorching heat of Spain's imminent summer.

 


Ingredients:

  • 1 kg of ripe  plum tomatoes
  • 200 gr.  Telera Cordobesa Bread (this is a bread with a thick, heavy dough. Better if it is a day old too) 'Pan de Hogaza' in Spanish supermarkets, if you are not in the region!
  • 100 gr. de Extra Virgen Olive Oil 
  • 1 ‘Montalban garlic’ clove from Cordoba - but any garlic clove will do if you can't find the original!
  • 10 gr. de Sal

 

    

 

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 garlic, then the bread, olive oil and salt until you have a homogenous mixture which is thicker much thicker than gazpacho, similar to a thick puree. Depending on the density of your bread dough you may need to add more or less, also the water content of your tomatoes will also influence the result so you may need to add more or less bread accordingly for whichever reason. Make sure you don't add all the bread at once, add it bit by bit and test for consistency as you go.

Finally, sprinkle chopped boiled egg and finely diced Serrano ham over the top and serve. Personally, I like to put my serrano ham in the microwave for 1 minute to crisp it up! It gives it that extra dimension and a little salty kick, which I love. It really is a simple, but delicious meal.

Enjoy!

 



Like 2        Published at 08:57   Comments (4)


Pipirrana Salad - From the Heart of the Mancha
28 May 2020

To be absolutely honest,  with the heat lurking around the corner I only feel like eating cold soups and salads, which can quickly get quite monotonous. So, I thought I might share another local "salad" from the Mancha. A salad, which is also enjoyed in Andalucia and no doubt has many variations the further south you go. It is called Pipirrana. Now, I have no idea why but I do know that it was able to keep a man alive for almost 50 years. My father in law lived off it literally every day. In fact, I don't really have memories of him ever eating anything else. It was his staple for as long as I knew him. He passed away many years ago but the tradition carries on in our household from time to time. One thing is for sure, it is a balanced meal.

If you read my "Lemon Salad" article last week, don't worry this one if considerably more "filling"! Let's get to work! This is what you will need:

 

Ingredients to make Pipirrana 2-3 servings:

Very ripe tomatoes - best plum tomatoes  750 g
Green pepper -  1/2
Boiled eggs - 3 large or 4 medium
Garlic - 1 small clove without the germ/root
Coarse salt -  1/2 teaspoon
Picual or Hojiblanca extra virgin olive oil -
50 ml (if you don't have either, any EVOO will do)
Tuna in olive oil -  1 medium-sized can
White wine Vinegar - 2 tsp - but best add to taste - little by little. I like it quite strong so I tend to add more.

 

Steps:

1. Peel the tomatoes by scalding them in boiling water (all you need to do is cut a cross into each end of the tomato and then leave them in boiling water for a couple of minutes). Then we cut them into small cubes/chunks taking care to collect all the juice released. This is one of the secrets to a great Pipirrana. So the easiest thing is to actually cut them up in the actual bowl you are going to use for mixing all the ingredients.

2. In a mortar, we put the garlic clove, the coarse salt - you can use fine salt, but in the mortar, the coarse salt helps the blending -, a small handful of the chopped green pepper and the yolks from the 3 or 4 eggs. We grind and mash everything together and then finally add the oil, which we will add little by little until it is emulsified. You can do this in a food processor too if necessary.

 

3. We add the rest of the chopped pepper and the chopped egg whites to the tomatoes and pour over the dressing. Add the vinegar and slowly blend in to taste. You may want to add more salt at this point if necessary.

4. Add the drained tuna to the bowl and mix well, cover with a plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving. The best thing is to prepare it at lunchtime and let it rest until dinner, or do it overnight.

 

 

Naturally, this recipe is open to manipulation so you can add to it whatever tickles your fancy. When you are ready to serve, just get some fresh crusty bread and start eating and soaking up that wonderfully rich dressing.

I warn you, it is extremely refreshing and extremely moreish!

Enjoy!

 

 

 



Like 2        Published at 19:05   Comments (1)


Lemon Salad - From the heart of "La Mancha"
19 May 2020

Ever since I met my wife, she has been addicted to this "refreshing" salad. Now my daughter is a devout follower too. 'Ensaladilla de limon' it is called and it is something of a tradition in the family and the region from where her family are from - La Mancha.  This unusual "salad", if you can really call it a salad, is based on six simple ingredients - Lemon, garlic, paprika, salt, olive oil and cold water. The result of this concoction is surprisingly tasty and moreish. It was a traditional refreshment that the women would take to their husbands during harvest time to calm the relentless heat of the summer. A salad that was designed for dunking bread, with a strong flavour and a strong aroma. I suppose it is the simplest kind of soup/salad you can possibly make. There are variations with tomato and cucumber but the lemon salad is by far the most popular.

It is said to be digestive and commonly believed to have high cleansing properties, so they say back in the village, helping to detoxify the body. Any experts in nutrition will be able to clarify if this is in fact true or not. Either way, it is enjoyable and refreshing when you get the balance right. It is a recipe that you will have tweek and play around with until you reach the balance you like given that these are intense flavours. Obviously, to enjoy this salad you need two prerequisites - you need to like lemon and garlic. 

If you do, crack on and give it a go!

Instructions for two people:


1.  Remove the skin from two lemons with a knife and cut them in half.
2.  Squeeze them with your hand into a bowl and then chop them up into small pieces and add to the bowl.
3.  Finely chop 1 large garlic clove and add to the bowl.
4.  Add half a teaspoon of sweet paprika - Pimenton de la Vera is best. - You may add more to taste if you want but it can get bitter so be careful, best to wait until the end.
5.  Add a sprinkling of salt.
6.  Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil - and then blend everything together with a whisk
7.  Add 1/2 litre of ice-cold water -  add half, and taste and then add the other half. If you feel it is too strong add more water.
8.  You can add more oil or paprika at this point to adjust for your liking.
9. If you feel like it, add a couple of ice cubes to keep it cool.

10. Let it sit for a few minutes to "brew", so to speak.

Alternatives - you can also add (or substitute the garlic with) finely chopped spring onion if you fancy that.

All that is left to do now is get dunking with some fresh crunchy bread!

 



Like 3        Published at 12:32   Comments (2)


Virtual Wine Tasting During Lockdown
14 May 2020

Looking for something to keep you occupied? Why not try some wine tasting? To enjoy a perfect wine tasting session at home during lockdown, you don't have to be an expert. All you need is a bottle of wine or two, or even three! Make sure it is at its proper temperature, you have a good wine glass and take your time.

Here are a few tips to help with the experience:

 

1. DO A BLIND TASTING
As much as possible, try to taste the wine without the influence of labels or prices, you will be more open-minded and allow yourself to be carried away only by the sensations. Close your eyes, smell, savour and enjoy.

2. USE A DIFFERENT GLASS FOR EACH WINE
If you are going to taste several wines, change your glass. Prepare a different glass for each wine; this way you will not mix flavours. You also need to cleanse your palette. If you don’t cleanse your palette you will have remnants of the previous wine when you go to taste the next wine. That taints the flavour and you won’t be able to accurately taste the notes and flavours in the wine. When you taste a wide variety of wine your palette can become fatigued and overwhelmed, especially if you are new to drinking wine. Cleanse your palette correctly and you will discover tastes and flavours that you never imagined. High-quality white bread is the very best food for cleansing the palette when wine tasting. Plain white bread or French bread are both ideal. Don’t put anything on it, including butter or oil. Plain crackers are acceptable as well. The reason that bread works so well is that it has an extremely neutral flavour. Professionals in the field always use plain bread and wash it down with water to cleanse their palettes.

3. LOOK BEFORE YOU TRY IT
Before tasting it, observe the colours of the wine, it will help you understand a lot about the grape. For example with white wines from the D.O. Rueda, you will discover dozens of shades: pale, straw yellow, gold ... The greenish-yellow colour, for example, makes the Verdejo grape variety unmistakable. On the other hand, using a white surface (a simple sheet of paper is sufficient) helps to better appreciate the colours of any wine and allows you to see if it is shiny or if there is any sediment - particles in suspension. This doesn't mean the wine is bad, I may add, it is a completely natural occurrence.

4. HOLD THE GLASS BY THE STEM
The reason is very simple: doing so will avoid heating the wine with your hands. Gently rotate the cup from the base in small circles an in both directions. With this slight movement, you will be able to observe, on the one hand, how the 'tears' of the wine fall (at a lower rate of fall, higher density and, therefore, more alcoholic strength) and, on the other, how the aromas come out when oxygenating the wine.

5. SMELL IT SEVERAL TIMES
Although at first glance it may be somewhat strange to smell the wine before tasting it, it is the key to appreciating it to the fullest, since smell has a sensory capacity superior to any other sense, including taste. When you first start smelling wine, think big to small. Are there fruits? Think of broad categories first, i.e. citrus, orchard, or tropical fruits in whites or, when tasting reds, red fruits, blue fruits, or black fruits. Getting too specific or looking for one particular note can lead to frustration. Broadly, you can divide the nose of a wine into three primary categories:

Primary Aromas are grape-derivative and include fruits, herbs, and floral notes.

Secondary Aromas come from winemaking practices. The most common aromas are yeast-derivative and are most easy to spot in white wines: cheese rind, nut husk (almond, peanut), or stale beer.

Tertiary Aromas come from ageing, usually in the bottle, or possibly in oak. These aromas are mostly savoury: roasted nuts, baking spices, vanilla, autumn leaves, old tobacco, cured leather, cedar, and even coconut.

You should smell the wine in a still glass and also straight after swirling the glass in circles since in both cases different smells and sensations emerge: floral, spiced, fruit, vegetables, balsamic, chemicals ... Our advice is not to wear strong perfumes and avoid external odours so that your capacity to smell is not influenced or weakened.

6. AND NOW, TASTE IT...
The time has finally come to enjoy it! In this phase, we find many characteristics that will make our wine a unique wine: the temperature, the texture, the persistence in the mouth once we have drunk it, the balance between sweetness and acidity ... Always remember that a wine is not good or bad per se; the best wine will always be the one you like best, so this is what you will need to recognise. What is it that you like about a particular wine?

Taste is how we use our tongues to observe the wine, but also, once you swallow the wine, the aromas may change because you’re receiving them retro-nasally. A few things you want to keep in mind are the following:

Taste: Our tongues can detect salty, sour, sweet, or bitter. All wines are going to have some sour, because grapes all inherently have some acid. This varies with climate and grape type. Some varieties are known for their bitterness (i.e. Pinot Grigio), and it manifests as a sort of light, pleasant tonic-water-type flavour. Some white table wines have a small portion of their grape sugars retained, and this adds natural sweetness. You can’t ever smell sweetness though since only your tongue can detect it. Lastly, very few wines have a salty quality, but in some rare instances, salty reds and whites exist.

Texture: Your tongue can “touch” the wine and perceive its texture. Texture in wine is related to a few factors, but an increase in texture almost always happens in a higher-alcohol, riper wine. Ethanol gives a wine texture because we perceive it as “richer” than water. We also can detect the presence of tannins with our tongue, which is that sand-paper or tongue-depressor drying sensation found in red wines.

Length: The taste of wine is also time-based, there is a beginning, middle (mid-palate) and end (finish). Ask yourself, how long it takes until the wine isn’t with you anymore?

Think: Did the wine taste balanced or out of balance (i.e. too acidic, too alcoholic, too tannic)? Did you like the wine? Was this wine unique or unmemorable? Were there any characteristics that shined through and impressed you?

 

 

7. DO THE TASTING IN GOOD COMPANY

The best way to taste wine is with other people, either in person (if you share the same household of course) or via video call, so that each person shares their perceptions!

Always remember that the same wine is perceived differently in each individual palette. 

So why not organise a wine tasting session with your friends or family. It is something that you can do together via ZOOM or SKYPE and is a great reason to get together online!

Just simply organise to buy the same wines and then set a date and a time and have some fun!

 



Like 0        Published at 17:06   Comments (0)


How to make - Avocado Gazpacho
12 May 2020

 

This week I thought I would share with you a summer recipe as temperatures seem to be warming up, and a refreshing starter is ideal for any meal. Although most cold soups in Spain are based around the tomato such as Gazpacho Andaluz or Salmorejo, this one is based primarily on avocados. It is wonderfully refreshing and delicate in flavour. Ideal as a starter for any meal, be it fish, meat or rice. Avocados are readily available right now too.

The avocado is a product originally from the American continent, where the Aztecs believed it had aphrodisiac properties. Since pre-Columbian times it has been cultivated in Mexico and the rest of Central America under the name "ahuacatl".

In the seventeenth century the Spaniards, who named it the Indian Pear because of its similarity to the national pear, was taken by them to the West Indies, while the Portuguese took it to Brazil.

In the eighteenth century, the Spanish adventurers introduced it into the Canary Islands via the Botanical Garden of Orotava, where it jumped to the Peninsula.  Now it is generally cultivated in the Mediterranean area, from Murcia down to Andalucía.

It is such a simple recipe to make and healthy at the same time, so I hope you enjoy it.


The Ingredients you will need for 4-6 people are the following:

4 large ripe avocados - make sure they are ripe and not hard.
2 large chicken carcasses for stock ( or ready-made chicken stock, enough for 4-6 servings)
1 cup evaporated milk (approx. 200ml)
1 sweet potato
1 lemon
Water
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (preferably a good Picual – eg. Oro Bailén)
Salt, Pepper
Parsley

 

  


Put the chicken carcasses in a pressure cooker with water (covering the carcasses), two sprigs of parsley and a pinch of salt. Close the cooker and cook on mark 2 for 5 minutes once the safety valve has risen. Once cooked, sieve and let it cool down.

Cut 3 avocados in half and scoop out the flesh into to a bowl. Add the juice of half a lemon. Blend with and electric mixer. Pour part of the chicken broth and continue blending, it should have a light consistency. Add the evaporated milk and continue blending. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Peel the sweet potato and cut into very thin strips “Julienne” style, effectively we want potato straws, so nice and thin. Fry in a pan with hot olive oil. Remove to a plate with some kitchen towel in order to remove excess fat.

Peel the last avocado, scoop out the flesh and dice it up into bite-size cubes and place to one side. 

Serve the soup in bowl and place in the centre a little chopped avocado and fried sweet potato on top. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and you’re ready to go.

You may want to accompany this starter with some toasted bread topped with Iberian ham and olive oil, it accompanies the avocado really well.

The sweet potato is a potato-like tropical tuber. They differ in that this potato has a thicker skin and a more elongated shape, but more so in the flavour, which is sweet thus adding a wonderful touch to the dish.

This dish is highly recommended for all children, youth, adults, athletes, pregnant women, nursing mothers and the elderly.

It high contribution of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats makes it a recommended dish especially for those with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Monounsaturated fats have the property of reducing the rates of total blood cholesterol because they elevate the so-called "good cholesterol".

As for the vitamin content of this recipe, there are three that deserve more attention for their antioxidant capabilities: vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin E.

Furthermore, due to its richness in magnesium and potassium, and its low sodium level, this recipe is highly recommended for those who suffer from hypertension or heart conditions.

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!

 



Like 0        Published at 16:20   Comments (0)


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