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IAN & SPAIN

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

'Allioli'- How to make it...and how to cheat!
14 March 2019

‘All-i-Oli’ or ‘Ajo Aceite’ in Castillian Spanish, is probably the simplest and one of the hardest recipes you will ever try to make. Simple, because traditionally it only has three ingredients and hard because it will make you break out in a sweat, especially if you make it in summer! All-i-Oli is often translated and served as garlic mayonnaise but in fact, it is not mayonnaise at all, it's not far off mayonnaise but it isn’t mayonnaise.

This is probably the recipe where your choice of olive oil is most important as it is the main ingredient and is pretty much 90% of the final product. So if you want to make it you need to find a very good quality extra virgin olive oil, which is fruity but not too bitter and not very pungent. The variety Arbequina is by far the best due to its high quantity of linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid) that favours the cohesion of emulsions and sauces. However, any good extra virgin will do. Cornicabra is very popular as is Serrana de Espadán here in Valencia. But if you can’t find these varieties look for an Extra Virgin ‘Suave’. I have read many recipes throughout the net suggesting sunflower oil and refined oils for this recipe. Please do not use these types of oils as they will definitely not give you the same result and are far less healthy.

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

 

Ingredients

 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic

& Rock Salt

 

How do we make it the tradicional way?

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

For this recipe, we will use 100ml of olive oil and 3-4 large cloves of garlic. Depending on how strong you like it you can add more or fewer cloves to the recipe. As this involves a substantial amount of garlic it is a good idea to remove the roots of the cloves before starting. This means slicing it down the middle, lengthways and taking out the core of the garlic, this will help reduce the characteristic bad breath and the taste of garlic coming back up throughout the day. It the root of the garlic that our stomach finds so hard to digest and it just seems to linger around for most of the day!

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

GARLIC MAYONNAISE.....and cheating

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

 

No time? Don't mind cheating a little?....

Although this may be cheating I know dozens of restaurants on the Balearic islands which use this quick method for their popular 'Pan y All-i-Oli' (one of them told me about it) and it goes down a treat, I use it too and to be honest and I have grown to love it!. Sometimes I just find All-i-Oli too strong and this is just perfect. All you will need is the following:

   

1. Tub of fresh All-i-Oli from the supermarket

2. Hellman's Mayonnaise (Do not substitute for a different mayonnaise)

3. Finely ground Black Pepper

Quite simply add equal parts of Allioli and Hellman's mayonnaise to a bowl and sprinkle in some black pepper. Mix well until completely blended, sprinkle a little chopped parsley on top and serve with some crispy bread.

 

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

A very traditional dish is simply Potato All-i-Oli, which is a boiled potato salad eaten cold but made with All-i-Oli (normally with egg yolk), absolutely delicious with cold meats and salads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Like 1        Published at 14:29   Comments (4)


My Wine Recommendation Nº 9 - For under €10
08 March 2019

Here we have another great wine for under €10. It is one I have been enjoying for years and I recently had a bottle and realised I hadn’t written a review of it yet.

This winery has been one of my favourites for a long time, always producing top class wines but most of them are well over the €10 mark (for their reds) but this one, fortunately, falls into the budget at €7.50 and I can assure you it is worth every Euro. 

Most of the Protos vineyards are planted on south-facing hillsides, beckoning the rays of sunlight needed for optimal ripening. They range in elevation from those located on plateaus to elevations of up to 900 metres, with some located in valleys at 750 to 800 metres above sea level.

The climate in this region has a great influence on the vineyards, which can be seen clearly in the life cycle of the vines and plays an important role in plant development and grape ripening, giving the Tempranillo variety from this region its very special quality. 

It really is a surprisingly balanced wine for a 100% Tempranillo.

 

Wine data Protos Roble :


GRAPE VARIETY Tempranillo 100 %
VINEYARDS Less than 25 years old.
FEATURES Hand-picking harvest in 20 kg crates. Sorting table. Skin contact maceration and fermentation for 15 days at 24 ºC.
AGEING 6 months in American and French oak barrels and 6 months in bottle.
COLOUR Bright cherry colour with purple rim, bright and clean.
NOSE Very expressive, powerful, complex, fresh fruit, sweet spices, creamy oak, red berry notes.
TASTE Flavourful, fruity, toasty with round tannins and good finish.
SERVING TEMPERATURE 12 - 16 ºC.


Food pairing ideas:


• Meat: oven-baked suckling lamb, fried lamb chops, roast lamb, veal tongue in a sauce, sweetbreads, oxtail, etc.
• Game: quails sautéed or in sauce, garlic rabbit, roast pheasant, hare served with potatoes and rice, venison loin, stewed partridge.
• Cereals and pastas: rice with partridge, chicken or rabbit, spaghetti bolognese, beef lasagne, macaroni with chorizo, tagliatelle bolognese.
• Cold meats: cured ham, wild boar pate, chistorra (spicy sausage), chorizo, foie gras, fuet (catalonian sausage), shoulder of pork, black pudding, morcón (large blood sausage).
• Eggs: in any of their varieties or as an omelette.
• Pulses: haricot beans with chorizo, fabada (asturian bean stew), pinto beans and all kinds of stews.
• Cheeses: the wine matches very well with any semi-aged cheese.
• Soups
• Vegetables

 

ENJOY!

Where to buy Protos

 

A little history about Protos

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 



Like 1        Published at 19:51   Comments (4)


Tortilla Española - Spain's national treasure - So simple, yet so disputed. But can you make it?
28 February 2019

One of the easiest Spanish recipes and probably the most travelled of them all is the Spanish potato omelette. But when such a simple dish has become an important part of a staple diet it tends to convert into an art form in Spain. There are over 40 million people in Spain and probably 20 million different ways of making a Spanish omelette.

Everyone has there own personal touch that makes it slightly different. This is very similar to a fried egg, simple in essence but believe me a simple fried or poached egg can be a raving success or a disaster. There is a fine line between culinary heaven and mundane foodstuff. Exactly the same thing goes for the Tortilla Española. Having so few ingredients each must be prepared to perfection and the main trick lies in the timing.

Eggs are eggs and potatoes are potatoes pretty much anywhere in the world so finding decent ingredients won’t be a problem here. I have eaten hundreds of Spanish omelettes and I imagine most that are reading my blog have done so too. I’ve eaten really thick ones, really thin ones, ones loaded with potato, ones with hardly any potato, but the vast majority are really dry and overcooked meaning it’s almost compulsory to add a bit of mayonnaise so your mouth doesn’t dry up! But every now and again you come across a tortilla that takes you by surprise and you say WOW! What is it that is different about this omelette? For me it’s a “tortilla” that isn’t too thick or too thin, is nicely browned but isn’t dry in the middle giving it moisture and thus there is no need to add anything else. I also prefer it with onion as it gives it that extra edge of flavour, a sweeter touch.

Maintaining that moisture is quite complicated as eggs are so easily overcooked and when you take it off the pan it keeps cooking on the inside so really it’s a question of practice makes perfect as the eggs are never the same size and nor are the potatoes so giving exact cooking times is a bit pointless. However I am going to share some guidelines that I learnt from a “Master Tortilla Maker”, as I call her, but she is more commonly known and Maribel! Our good friend’s mother, who is now 77 going on 27 with a heart of gold and a love for life, has been making omelettes every week for as long as she can remember, well over 60 years, so I would say she is an expert on the subject. Not a week goes by without making one and Maribel is a Spanish food encyclopaedia and still spends most of her life in the kitchen working, although fortunately for her she really enjoys it. 

Last Sunday we paid her a visit and lone behold she was making a tortilla...again, so I thought “perfect!” this is the opportunity to share her secrets with you all and take a few photos to help in the process. I’m not bad at it myself but she makes it look so effortless, the way she finely chips the potatoes directly into the oiled pan without even looking with a small knife and at a speed akin to nimble young women. No chopping board, no potato peeler, nothing, just a small sharp knife and a pair of hands, chipping away at a rate of knots and before you have realised it she had three chipped and in the frying pan only to be followed by an onion which was also chopped up in a blink of an eye. I had to tell old Maribel to slow down otherwise I’d miss out on interesting photos! But she said, “You speed up, you’re the young one!” so that put me in my place and I quickly managed to grab some photos to share with you. Maribel said “It’s just an omelette what’s all the fuss about? But Maribel’s omelette isn’t just any omelette.  So what is Maribel’s secret? Well, it’s quite simple, so I will run you through the steps.  

For a normal Spanish omelette, you’ll need three medium-sized potatoes, one large onion, 4 large free-range eggs, salt and some good extra virgin olive oil. This will serve 4 adults as part of a main meal or 8 as a light tapas. If you want to make it bigger and thicker just multiply the ingredients accordingly.

If you don’t think you're as nimble as Maribel then you should chop up the potato and the onion before heating the pan, because if you are too slow the first potato chips will cook faster than the last ones. So to be on the safe side you need to chip the potatoes before. I don’t mean cut them into slices or chip shapes but cut away at the potato with a knife as if you were carving a wooden sculpture and cutting off large uneven chips of wood. The pieces of potato shouldn’t really be much bigger than a 50p coin and no thicker than say two 50p coins if you get what I mean…we don’t want them very thick not too thin but it doesn’t matter if some parts are thicker than others and that every chip is different, this helps them to hold together better and the omelette has less chance of breaking up and it is also easier to cook all the potato uniformly. Chopping them unevenly also means some parts of the potato chips brown slightly giving the tortilla more flavour. There is nothing worse than having cooked and undercooked potato together in an omelette so be careful not to cut really thick pieces of potato. Cut the onion into quarters and then slice it up but not too finely. Some people fry the potatoes and the onions separately but here we are going to do it together. If you do them separately make sure the onions go really soft and don't burn.

At this point, we are going to need two deep frying pans, one to cook the potatoes and then one to make the omelette. We aren’t going to use the same pan. We need a wider frying pan to evenly cook the potatoes and onion and then a smaller frying pan to get the thickness for the omelette.

Pour some extra virgin olive oil into the pan being careful not to pour too much, we are not deep frying the potatoes so just cover the pan all over leaving about 1 mm of oil across the pan and put it on medium heat, let the oil heat up and then reduce to a low heat straight away. At this point, we need to add the potato and the onion and season with salt. Cook the onions and the potato on a low heat for about 20 minutes until they are well cooked, remember we are not frying them so we don’t want to brown them too much or make them go crispy, towards the end they will slightly brown in parts and that is fine but if they brown too quickly your heat is too high and if they go crispy you have too much oil in the pan too. If they absorb all the olive oil and it looks like they are drying up don’t be afraid to add a little more olive oil while cooking.

Once they are cooked you need to beat the four eggs together. Maribel has a great little trick but takes a little practice; she beats her eggs on a plate and not in a bowl helping to air the egg mixture making it lighter and spongier. Another trick is to beat the egg whites first and then the yolks. Once beaten the eggs should have air bubbles all over the surface of the egg mix, season with salt and put to one side. Wait for the potatoes to cool down a bit and pour a little olive oil in the smaller non-stick frying pan and add the potatoes. 

   

Next, we add the beaten eggs, let them sit for about 10 minutes so the egg mixture has well and truly settled amongst the potato and filled every nook and cranny, shake the frying pan to help evenly spread out the potatoes. Now you can put the frying pan on low heat and start cooking the omelette.

Once the eggs have set grab a plate which is larger than the diameter of the pan and place on top of the frying pan to turn the omelette over, slide the omelette back into the pan and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Turn the omelette over again cook for another 30-40 seconds then turn it over again until both sides are slightly browned but not too much. Remove from the pan and place on a serving plate. It is now ready to eat. There are millions of ideas as to what the perfect tortilla is but for me it is one that is nicely cooked on the outside but still moist and slightly liquid in the centre, so it is not cooked all the way through, this timing takes practice but when you get the balance right it is a real delight. What would otherwise be a heavy dry omelette becomes a fantastic culinary masterpiece that needs nothing added except for a slice of thick crusty bread, to clean the plate!  Enjoy!

 

 

  

 

 



Like 4        Published at 13:40   Comments (1)


Europe's biggest covered market is in Spain
15 February 2019

Markets are no longer what they were. Following in the wake of the culinary revolution forged in restaurants, they too have chosen to reinvent themselves. Madrid and Barcelona have some of the most significant examples of this new trend, although other cities, such as Valencia and Bilbao, are not far behind. We're no longer talking about a place to sell food, but of spaces for gastronomic experiences. Without renouncing their vocation as traditional markets, they now also include restaurants, book stores and even exhibition spaces.

 

 

Ribera Market, located beside the river estuary in Bilbao, is a reference in terms of shopping for the whole of Biscay. One of its many merits is to have been recognized in 1990 as the most complete municipal food market by the Guinness Book of Records, at that time being the largest in terms of traders and stalls and the biggest covered market as regards space in the whole of Europe, with a surface area of 10,000 square metres. Refurbishment work began en mid-2009 aimed at renewing its structure, stalls and services in order to remain a reference for shoppers in the 21st century. Not in vain, life and business have never stopped in this space where more than 60 merchants manage to provide customers with the finest produce at the best price: meat, fruit, shellfish, cheeses, cooked meats, frozen food, mushrooms and fungi...

 

 

A complex of stands and the arcades of the lower levels of the buildings served as a market in the Ribera of Bilbao for centuries, when this area was an urban centre, with City Hall and the Consulate, right in front of San Antón. A metal market pavilion was built at the end of the 19th Century. It was an example of what was called ‘cast-iron architecture’, in use up through the mid 1920s.

After several proposals, in which even covering the Estuary was proposed, an ambitious project was developed to substitute the old market, then quite rundown. The project by Pedro Ispizua, Municipal Technician, was enlarged and improved from the time of its drawing in 1927 up to its construction in 1930. Issues such as monumentality derived from its representational character are combined with functional aspects and hygienic concerns. Ispizua takes on a nearly rationalist language in this project, in accordance with the functional needs of the buildings and construction issues. His plans include similarities with central-European architecture, more or less moving away from earlier somewhat regionalist views.

A voluminous, modern market with clearly monumental and representative ideals was built to replace the old ‘cast-iron’ market from the end of the 19th Century. Concrete replaced cast-iron to form a grand vessel with ample interior space for all of the stands. With its marked personality (volume, form, details…) the building has become an integral part of the image of this historic enclave along the Estuary.



Like 1        Published at 23:18   Comments (1)


Cod Pil-Pil - A fish dish worth trying!
01 February 2019

Bacalao (cod) al pil-pil is a recipe originally from the Basque country. It may be more myth than history, but there's a story that claims this Spanish dish was created during the 2nd Carlist war, when a merchant ordered 20 or 22 specimens of cod before the siege of Bilbao began. Instead of 20 or 22 fish, he was delivered 20,022.

The legend says that the merchant tried to sell most of the excess cod he had received in towns within the Cantabric region but then the second siege of Bilbao began. It was in fact a fortunate mistake, as there was an important shortage of food due ti the siege, and luckily there was enough olive oil as well. These two key factors helped soften the famine in Bilbao.

The story says that this merchant  went on to become a rich man and one of the most important business men in the city. This dish was particularly popular during Lent, as fish was the only meat source people were allowed to consume. However this is one version of history. There are other theories that claim that bacalao al pil-pil was the natural evolution of a dish called Bacalao a la Provenza or similar cod dishes.

Anyhow, despite it's dubious origin, what makes bacalao al pil pil such a successful dish? I believe it lies in the simplicity of its ingredients: cod, olive oil and chili. If you happen to visit Spain, most bars and restaurants in Spain will serve it so make sure you give it a try.

There is however some debate surrounding this seemingly simple cod recipe as there tends to be with most classic Spanish dishes. That debate concerns the way that the cod should be cooked. Some people believe that the cod should first be cooking skinside up for five minutes, before being flipped over and then performing the pil pil process. Meanwhile others say that the cod should be cooked skinside down first, and should be skinside up during the pil pil process. Both sides claim that theirs is the best way for releasing the gelatine from the fish to make the sauce. Maybe you should try both and decide yourselves. I personally tend to cook it skinside up for the first few minutes then skinside down for the pil-pil process.

Bacalao al pil pil is a little tricky and does require a little technique in order to make the pil pil sauce just right. However don't be put off as even the most novice chef, with a little patience, can produce an excellent example of the dish. To make sure you get it right, here are a few quick tips. Only use olive oil as other oils and fats do not produce the same emulsion effect and make sure the temperature of the oil is quite low. You can use fresh cod or salted cod, traditonally it is made with salted cod which you need to 'de-salt'  in clean water for about 24-48 hours (depending on the thickness), changing the water every 8 hours. Most claim that this is the best way but both syles of cod work.

The key is to create a good emulsion sauce with the oil and the gelatine that the cod releases. To do it the traditonal way by swirling the pan is very difficult and time consuming but the quickest way to get a good thick emulsion is once the cod is cooked you let the oil and cod gelatine mix in the pan cool down until it is warm, then transfer it to a sauce pan. The next step is to get a sieve and a ladel. Ladel a little of the oil and gelatine mix into the frying pan (no heat) and stir backwards and forwards with the sieve, basically whisk it with the bottom of the sieve in the frying pan, this will help to emulsify the oil. Add a little more and repeat. Do this until you have enough sauce. Remember it is impossible to emulsify the oil if it is still very hot.

 

  


Ingredients for 4 people:


    •    8 pieces of fresh or desalted cod loins
    •    300 cc of olive oil
    •    5 thickly chopped garlic cloves
    •    1 chopped chili (5 pieces more or less)
    •    Salt to taste


Preparation:

1. Desalt the cod if necessary, remove any fish bones.

2. Add the olive oil to a sauce pan at medium heat.

3. Add the garlic and brown them slowly.

4. Remove the garlic and add the chopped chili to the oil.

5. Place the cod loins skinside up in the oil (medium heat) for 2 minutes and then turn over for another 2 minutes, this should be enough to cook them through. (Remember you are not deep frying the fish. If it is sizzling a lot then oil is too hot and won't release its gelatine)

5. Remove the cod loins and place them on a dish, also remove the chillis.

6. Let the oil mixture cool down and then create the emulsion as explained earlier with the sieve.

7. Serve as displayed in the photo.

8. You can accompany this dish with runner beans and boiled  new potatoes if you wish.

 

 



Like 0        Published at 21:20   Comments (2)


Finger Licking Good!.... It's Calçot Season.
22 January 2019

The Calçot season has arrived (pronounced calsot) and those who don’t know what I’m talking about are in for a mouth-watering and extremely fun surprise! Calçots are a typical dish from the Catalonia region of Tarragona, specifically from the town of Valls however their popularity is spreading all over Spain and is also common in the Valencia rural region. If you have never experienced a “Calçotada”, the name given to the entire lunch ceremony you will now have a new excuse for inviting your friends over, as this is a dish that should be enjoyed in numbers as it can get very messy and first-timers beware, Calçots leave their ‘mark’ in every sense of the word! There is a saying in Catalan that clearly defines the best time to eat Calçots:

“ In January for the peasant farmers, In February for the Master and in March for the servants” so we are clearly entering the right month for trying this fantastic dish.

So what exactly am I talking about? Calçots are a type of onion, something between a spring onion and a leeK, with no bulb. The origin of the variety is disputed, but the most commonly accepted version of its history is that they were developed by Xat de Benaiges, a peasant farmer from Valls at the turn of the 20th century. He is said to have been the first to plant the sprouts of garden onions, covering them with earth so a longer portion of the stems remained white and edible. This technique is known Catalan as calçar, a Catalan agricultural term which means to cover the trunk of a plant or vegetable with soil. As the plant grows, soil is continuously added and replanted until it reaches a certain length, hence the name calçot. 

The Calçots are chargrilled on an open wood fire or a barbecue with a high flame. You can also cook them in the oven but the result is not the same. So I highly recommend this dish as a starter for a barbecue. It may not be ideal weather back home for a barbecue but in Spain the weather right now isn’t too bad! ( At least in Valencia...today!) In Catalunya this is a massive family event and many villages celebrate the season’s harvest by organising street barbecues for the inhabitants.

                

It symbolises the renewal of friendships as the entire event is carried out around a bonfire making for a long day of eating and talking. However, the most important part of this dish is the thick sauce that you dip the Calçots in called Salvitxada.

Traditionally Calçots are served on a clay roof tile to keep them warm and are eaten standing up, once the Calçots are ready their outer skin will have hardened and turned black, totally charred. You hold the Calçot by the green leaves and remove with the other hand the charred outer skin, and the tender sweet white onion is revealed. This is dipped in the sauce and then raised up, leaning your head back, you lower the Calçot into your mouth.

 

It can get very messy as the sauce drips and your hands will go black, so be very careful not to scratch your nose! The first time I ended up pushing my hair out of my eyes, rubbing my eyes due to the smoke and I can assure you I wasn’t a pretty site. I looked as if I had been down a mine all day! It is customary to wear a bib when eating Calçots, yes a bib, even the adults. If you ever go to a restaurant to eat Calçots you will automatically be given a bib and the day you try it you will almost certainly appreciate it!

The star of this recipe is the sauce so I am going to share with you the traditional recipe. As with many Spanish recipes, there are slight changes depending on the region and then every family adds their special touch. The same thing happens with the Paella and Gazpacho and a number of other well-known dishes. However, this is the standard recipe the majority work with. Once again it is greatly dependant on olive oil and local Mediterranean ingredients, so it is very healthy and finger-licking delicious.

If you are a knife and fork person and a prisoner to creature comforts, this dish is not for you!

 

 For the Claçot sauce this is what you will need:

·         150ml Aceite de Olive Extra virgin – Arbequina variety if possible

·         1 whole head of garlic unpeeled

·         100g of peeled almonds

·         100g of peeled hazelnuts

·         5 slices of one-day old baguette bread

·         1 Ñora pepper or Choricero pepper

·         4 ripe tomatoes

·         Red Wine vinegar

·         Salt

·         Pepper

·         Paprika

 

If you made the Ali Oli the other day you can go and get out your pestle and mortar again! However, if you are in a rush you can use your blender with this recipe.

The first step is to soak the Ñora pepper in lukewarm water for at least 12 hours. So do this the night before, as they are sold sun-dried. The Ñora pepper is like a cherry red pepper in size but it is hot, not as much as a chilli but has a very distinct flavour.

They are not easy to find in the UK as they are typically from the Murcia region in Spain. If you can’t find one use a normal red pepper or a choricero pepper and add a couple of small dried chillis to the recipe. Once the Ñora had swollen with the water remove it and scrape away the pulp from the skin and keep to one side.

 

 

 [choricero pepper]

If you are using a barbecue place the 4 tomatoes and the head of garlic on the barbecue until they are charred all over. The garlic will take slightly longer. The cloves will be soft inside when they are ready. You should slice the bottom of the head of garlic so the heat can penetrate more quickly and so you can also control when the cloves are ready. When ready remove them from the grill and peel the tomatoes and the garlic cloves and place to one side. If you are not using a barbecue you can grill them or use a hot plate grill to char them. The next step is to brown the almonds and the hazelnuts in a pan with a dash of olive oil. We don’t want them dark brown, just slightly golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and add a little more olive oil, place the stale bread slices I the pan and toast them slightly until they are golden brown too and then put them to one side. Now we have all our ingredients ready, we can start blending.

 Initially, we will grind the nuts in the pestle and mortar, you can use a blender but we don’t want a powder so be careful not to blend them too finely. They need to be small but not so small as we can’t see them in the sauce. This will help give consistency to the sauce and help it stick to the Calçot. Then we add the peeled tomatoes and at least 3 cloves of grilled garlic along with a healthy dash of extra virgin olive oil. Blend slowly or manually using the pestle and mortar. The next step is to add the Ñora pulp and the fried bread. Break the bread up into little pieces and put it into the blender/mortar. Season the mixture with salt and black pepper, a dash of red wine vinegar and a small teaspoon of paprika. At this point you can add more cloves of garlic if you feel you would like it to be stronger in flavour, this is a personal question of taste, some like it very strong and even chuck in a raw clove of garlic to spice it up a little, I don’t think it is necessary. Finally blend it all together in the blender or the mortar and slowly add extra virgin olive oil to the mixture until you reach a thick consistency, taste and adjust, as you feel necessary. You may find you want a little more vinegar or little more salt, practice will make perfect.

If you don’t have a barbecue you can char the Calçots over a gas flame until they turn black using a grill rack, then quickly wrap them totally in tinfoil and place them in the oven at 200ºC for about 10-15 minutes in an earthenware dish. If you weren’t able to barbecue the tomatoes or the garlic, grill them slightly until they have charred slightly and then place them in the oven until they soften along with Calçots.

 

Now you are ready to eat your Calçots, just slide off the outer skin, it comes away without any problems then dip the Calçot in the sauce and eat! No knives and forks here! It’s time to get messy! Don’t forget your bib!

If you have decided to use a barbecue then the ceremony doesn’t end here, traditionally the meal would continue with chargrilled sausages and meats all washed down with Cava!

 

 

 

Enjoy your next Calçotada!

 



Like 2        Published at 15:46   Comments (4)


A Winter Warmer from Valencia
15 January 2019

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

 

 

In Valencian villages such as El Puig and those between Rivera, La Safor or La Marina, cooking this rice dish in the town square has become a yearly tradition. Usually cooked over a log fire made with orange tree wood, it is custom to prepare this on the day of the villages’ patron saint and a plate handed out to anyone who wants one. It is not unusual to see Falleros preparing it during the Fallas festivities too.

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

This rice broth or ‘arroz caldoso’ as we would call it is without a doubt the most widely established dish in the Valencian Community especially this time of year. It is, after the paella, probably the most popular rice dish for the locals and still greatly unknown by foreigners but the ritual behind this recipe does stir up a lot of curiosity.

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

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

Here is the basic recipe for 6 people : 

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it. Serve up in a bowl or deep plate with a mixed salad and fresh crusty bread with a glass of red wine. It is also customary to eat this with raw sweet onion cut into pieces and sprinkled onto the plate.

 

 

ENJOY!



Like 1        Published at 13:56   Comments (1)


Breakfast with Extra Virgin Olive Oil reduces inflammation
10 January 2019

Studies published in 'Food Chemistry' show that adding phenol-rich olive oil to breakfast successfully lowers the inflammation linked to 'metabolic syndrome'.

Inflammation is associated with metabolic syndrome, an increasingly common condition characterised by the presence of three of the following pathologies in an individual: obesity (particularly abdominal fat), high blood pressure, a low level of “good” HDL cholesterol, high fasting blood sugar and a high level of triglycerides. Left untreated, metabolic syndrome can trigger diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

The studies brought together forty-nine patients with metabolic syndrome added 40 ml of high-, medium- or low-phenol virgin olive oil to their breakfast. The high-phenol olive oil (398 parts per million) breakfast neutralised pro-inflammatory gene expression in patients while reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines in blood plasma. The result was an overall lower level of post-meal inflammation.

Phenols — phytochemicals found in plant-based foods such as olives, coffee, tea, and chocolate — have been enjoying the nutritional limelight as an increasing number of health-related benefits are revealed. While the lion’s share of studies to date focus on their anti-oxidant benefits, growing evidence shows that phenols also reduce inflammation.

Chronic low-grade inflammation precedes and predicts the onset of diabetes in adults with metabolic syndrome and researchers believe it plays a similar role in cardiovascular disease. It is estimated that over 30 percent of all adults in the USA have metabolic syndrome, a phenomenon seen in another western countries and quickly spreading to developing countries including India, China and Brazil.

These studies add valuable information on understanding how phenols reduce inflammation by modulating cell signaling pathways and suggests that a breakfast that includes phenol-rich olive oil helps alleviate inflammation associated with metabolic syndrome and related diseases.

One way of knowing that your olive oil is high in Phenols is its taste. Phenols give olive oil its bitter taste, so the bitterer it is the more phenols it has. Examples of varieties that are high in phenols are Picual, Cornicabra, Hojiblanca and Empeltre. In supermarkets you will more readily find Picual, Hojiblanca and Cornicabra.



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Midnight Shopping with Chocolate & Churros
04 January 2019

Tomorrow, on the eve of the Three Kings or the Three Wise Men, however you wish to call them, we'll follow the family tradition and go out to the “Reyes” market in the Cabañal. The Cabañal market is very well known in Valencia and it is at night when parents leave their kids at home asleep (with a relative watching over) and escape to buy a few last presents and give a helping hand to the overworked kings. Even though most presents have already been bought, a wonder around the market in the early hours of the morning is a must, especially with my wife and my sister in law. Both from the neighbourhood, and after years of frequenting the market at Christmas, they know every trick in the book on how to get a bargain and if you are prepared to hang around, they know the right time to really push the bartering into fifth gear and walk away with ridiculous bargains, normally around 4:00am. At that time the sellers are tired after a long days work, their opportunity to sell has come to an end, within a matter of minutes no one will have any reason to buy any presents at all and above all toys. This is when the toy prices plummet by over 50% so you can whip up some great presents for next to nothing. Although we enjoy wondering around the market and picking up a few stocking fillers, the real reason we head down there every year is to feel the Christmassy atmosphere that is in the air and enjoy our seasonal ‘churros and hot chocolate’, normally the first of the winter season.

On a chilly night, at 2:30 in the morning a hot cup of chocolate and freshly made churros is pretty much unbeatable, just what you need to get you through to the end of the market! However it’s not all about shopping, the number of people you bump into is unbelievable and this makes progress sometimes painstakingly slow especially for me at least, as I am not much of a fan of crowded places so I get a bit irritable and would rather take a quick detour to the local coffee shop and wait for the women there!

  I must admit I quite like this market though, its full of junk mostly but still its fun and if you look hard you can come across some nice stuff and if you are cheeky enough you’ll get a decent price. But it’s this night that kicks me into “pudding” mode and I start to cook sweets at home, normally during the summer and autumn I don’t bother but when the cold arrives and the smell of churros is in the air, I can’t help myself. So I thought I would share a recipe for churros, you can’t always find them when you want them and honestly, they are not difficult to make. So here is a recipe I was taught and I hope you find it useful too.  Remember the chocolate is the easy part, you can buy that in powder format in any supermarket, I normally buy the powder made by ‘Chocolates Valor’, which is really very good. Remember it must be thick!

 

The ingredients you will need for approximately 4 servings of churros is the following:

300gr Flour
400ml water
(300ml if you want the churros slightly heavier, a question of taste)
1 tsp. of yeast/bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp. fine table salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

First you will need to heat up the water and add the salt. If you are using tap water drop a slice of lemon peel in, this will help get rid of that tap-water taste. Once boiling, remove the water from the heat and let it cool slightly. When you can pop your finger in without burning yourself, add the flour that you have previously mixed with the yeast (brand ‘Royal’ is ok) or bicarbonate of soda. Mix in the flour and yeast mix bit by bit until it has become an even mass without any lumps. It shouldn’t be a very thick mix (unless you’ve reduced the water, it will be thicker). Once ready, let it sit for an hour or so. It’s important not to use too much yeast otherwise they will swell up too much and absorb a lot of oil and become indigestible. 

                          

Now fill an icing syringe or bag with a wide nozzle and squeeze out about 15cm of churros mix, cut with scissors at the nozzle tip and let it drop into abundant hot olive oil, careful it doesn’t splash the oil! Let it cook until golden and repeat the process until all the churros are cooked. When you remove them from the oil place them on a kitchen towel to soak up excess oil and sprinkle with sugar. One trick is not to cook too many churros at the same time, the more in the oil the quicker the temperature will drop and for the churros to be crispy and not soak up oil, the oil must be very hot throughout the entire cooking process.

 

So as you see they are no more difficult than pancakes so give it a go and start dunking churros with a cup of thick hot chocolate!

 



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Lentils for New Year's Eve
24 December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

 

  

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Enjoy!

 



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