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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.

How Olive Oil can help Cardiovascular disease
13 September 2019

Cardiovascular diseases are the top cause of death in the industrialised world. A host of studies have documented that arteriosclerosis is closely linked to eating habits, lifestyle and some aspects of economic development. The progression of arteriosclerosis depends on many factors: the most important ones are high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and cigarette smoking.

"… The lowest rates of death from coronary heart disease are currently recorded in the countries where olive oil is virtually the only fat consumed." Professor Francisco Grande Covián
 
WHAT IS ARTERIOSCLEROSIS?

Arteriosclerosis is the condition in which cholesterol-rich patches (known as atheromas) deposit on the walls of the arteries. This stops blood from reaching the tissues and obstructs the functioning of vital organs, such as the heart and brain.

WHAT ARE ITS CONSEQUENCES?

When the heart is affected, arteriosclerosis causes angina and heart attack and it increases the risk of sudden cardiac death. When the brain is attacked, cerebral thrombosis occurs, leading to muscular paralysis, loss of cognitive capacity and the risk of dementia. The aorta and leg arteries may also be damaged, causing pain and difficulty in walking and the risk of necrosis and gangrene.

When a fatty patch burst, for instance, because of a rise in blood pressure, the small arteries in the patch also burst. This triggers a response where certain cells found in blood, known as platelets or thrombocytes, join together to form a thrombus or blood clot.

The blood clot travels through the arteries, but when it is larger than the vessel it causes a blockage. Because blood cannot get through, the tissue or organ dies.

OLIVE OIL AND ARTERIOSCLEROSIS

It has been demonstrated that olive oil has an effect in preventing the formation of blood clots and platelet aggregation. It has been observed that by avoiding excessive blood coagulation, olive-oil-rich diets can attenuate the effect of fatty foods in encouraging blood clot formation, thus contributing to the low incidence of heart failure in countries where olive oil is the principal fat consumed.

WHAT IS CHOLESTEROL?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance contained in foods of animal origin. Diets containing a large amount of animal fats raise blood cholesterol level, which is one of the chief risk factors of cardiovascular disease.

Fats (triglycerides) and cholesterol are transported in the blood by lipoproteins. The cholesterol bound to low-density lipoproteins [very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL)] is atherogenic, damaging the vessel walls. In subsequent stages, this may lead to acute heart attack. Such cholesterol is known as "bad cholesterol". In contrast, the cholesterol bound to high-density lipoproteins (known as HDL-cholesterol) is called "good cholesterol" because it provides protection against the onset of cardiovascular diseases. The high-density lipoproteins remove free cholesterol from the cells, then esterifying it and transporting it to the liver where it is eliminated with bile.

OLIVE OIL AND CHOLESTEROL

Olive oil lowers the levels of total blood cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides. At the same time it does not alter the levels of HDL-cholesterol (and may even raise them), which plays a protective role and prevents the formation of fatty patches, thus stimulating the elimination of the low-density lipoproteins.

The beneficial effect of olive oil consumption with regard to cardiovascular disease has been demonstrated in primary prevention, where it reduces the risk of developing the disease, and in secondary prevention, where it prevents recurrence after a first coronary event.

At present, research is revealing the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet in the prevention of secondary coronary events and the positive influence of olive oil on the depression associated with such events and on mood. These findings are very important in view of the high incidence of depression in the modern-day world and the great risk it poses in recurrent heart disease.



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Whatever you call them...they're GREAT!
20 August 2019

Tellinas or Coquinas, depending on where you live, are commonly known as beach wedge clams and very popular in Spain. They are a species of bivalve mollusc, similar to a clam only smaller, that can be found on the coasts of western Europe and north-western Africa. It usually inhabits the shallowest two meters of coastline and is commercially harvested for food. It is a suspension feeder, which means that it is a consumer feeding on suspended particles in seawater. The shell can be found in colours ranging from olive, through chestnut, to yellow-white and is normally up to an inch wide. In Spain, they are harvested especially in the area of Cadiz and Huelva, but also in some cities along the Mediterranean coast such as Valencia, where we call them 'tellinas'.

This shellfish is simple and quick to prepare and I am yet to find somebody that doesn’t like them, they are fun to eat and my wife refers to them as ‘pipas del mar’ (sunflower seeds from the sea) because they are so moreish like the ever-popular ‘pipas’ en Spain. Once you start eating, it’s difficult to stop.  Fortunately, they are very easy to prepare so they are ideal as a starter especially if you are going to have a heavy second course, such as paella. There are many ways to prepare ‘Tellinas’ but I prefer the simplest way with garlic and lemon.

You will need to calculate half a kilo for say 3-4 people. That should give you a decent starter. But if you do more I wouldn’t worry, they’ll be eaten!

 

Ingredients:

500 gr of fresh Tellinas - wedge clams - (frozen are terrible, so please don't use them)
5 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of fresh parsley
½ lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Plenty of water
Dash of vinegar

 

 

To make sure they are clean and rid of any grit or sand, leave the Tellinas in a bowl of water with a little salt and a dash of vinegar. You will need to keep them in the water for at least 2 hours, changing the water every 30 minutes or so, this will remove any impurities. If you jump this stage or cut it short, you will end up chewing on sand rather than a succulent tasty mollusc and I can assure you it's not very nice.

 

 

Peel and chop the garlic cloves and brown them in a pan with olive oil at medium heat. When the garlic begins to turn brown add the lemon, which should be chopped into small wedges, stir a few times and then add the tellinas and raise the heat to maximum and they will open as a result of heat. To help them open, stir them occasionally letting them knock against each other. This should take no more than two minutes, if they haven’t opened before that time, they won’t and should be discarded. Careful, they cook very quickly and hence dry out very quickly. The secret is in the timing. That is it. Sprinkle the chopped parsley into the pan, shake the pan a couple of times and serve immediately. One final piece of advice is to make sure that the tellinas have plenty of space in the pan to move around and open. Make sure your pan isn’t too small or do them in two batches. 

Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 17:32   Comments (1)


Pyrotechnic Madness
13 August 2019

If you have been to Valencia in Fallas you may think that you have seen the ultimate pyrotechnic spectacle but I can assure you, you haven’t. Some call it madness, some call it stupidity but the locals call it good fun!

On Sunday 25th August in Paterna the annual celebration of 'La Cordá' will take place. This unusual celebration takes pyrotechnic spectacles to another level.

 

This crazy “fiesta” happened by accident just as the Tomatina in Buñol did. In 1898 a group of friends were having dinner in the street and this pleasant summer evening ended up in a battle of gunpowder rockets. Paterna in those days was famous for its development of the Valencian “Traca” a long length of rockets tied together which once lit would produce a chain reaction of explosions. This battle developed into an annual event until it became what it is known today as, La Cordá.

 

For those who have no idea what I am talking about, every year in Paterna near Valencia, a cage, which is 125m long and 8m wide is built along the Calle Mayor in the village. This cage is designed to hold approximately 200 experienced “rocket throwers”. The rocket throwers are each given their position inside the cage and allocated their series of rockets to set off. Following the commands of the Master Rocket thrower, a symphony of explosions and fire start to fill the cage around the 200 participants held inside it. The act lasts for about 20 - 25 minutes and a minimum of 50,000 rockets are released at a rate of 2000 rockets a minute!

 

 

 

Last year they set off 55,000 rockets in about 20 minutes! What looks like complete anarchy is actually planned and programmed to the second. There are three types of rockets used in the cage, one that is designed to fly along the ground rebounding off the walls and the participants, others that are designed to jump into mid-air and rebound off the bodies and walls and others that are designed to fly up over their heads and fill the air with trails of fire and sparks, all are capable of taking you hand clean off!

 

 

It is an extremely dangerous event, even though the locals don’t seem to be too worried about the dangers. Imagine 55,000 rockets being let off in a cage rebounding off the walls, the ground and the ceiling and you in the middle of it! That is The Cordá! Naturally, all participants aren’t suicidal and take same precautions wearing protective clothing and facemasks that are similar to fencing helmets to avoid major injuries but every year there are injuries and last year there were “only” 21 and not serious according to the local press, no one needed to be taken to hospital. So if you happen to be near Valencia on the last Sunday of August this year, pass by Paterna and take a look at this insane spectacle!

 

 



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La Tomatina is nearly here...
07 August 2019

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

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

The following year, the young people picked a fight by their own decision but this time brought the tomatoes from home. Although the police broke up the early tradition in the following years, the young boys had made history without being conscious of it. La Tomatina was banned in the early 50s, which was not a problem for the participants, even those that were arrested. But the people spoke out in defence of the Tomatina and the festivity was again allowed with more participants and a more frenetic atmosphere than ever.

The festivity was again cancelled till 1957 when, as a sign of protest, the “tomato burial” was held. It was a demonstration in which the residents carried a coffin with a huge tomato inside. A band that played funeral marches accompanied the parade and it was incredibly successful. La Tomatina Festival was finally allowed and became an official festivity. As a result of the report by Javier Basilio, broadcasted on Spanish Television Program Informe Semanal, the festivity started to become known in the rest of Spain and consequently the rest of the world, as it is probably one of the most insane festivities you will ever come across.

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

 

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

 

 

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

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



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Priego de Cordoba and its treasured asset...
30 July 2019

 

 

            

 

In the south of the province of Cordoba lies the National Park Sierras Subbéticas. The steeply sloping terrain rises up above beautiful narrow valleys and looking over the valleys is the idyllic Andalucian town called Priego de Cordoba. Nowadays Priego de Cordoba could easily be considered “The Mecca” of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The proportion of premium olive oil producers working in this region is unlike any other in the world, so much so that it is renowned worldwide for it’s quality.

 

“D.O Priego de Cordoba” is a “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO) that guarantees top quality olive oil and prides itself in producing exceptional oils and maintaining very strict levels of control. The protected region spans 29,600 hectares encompassing four municipalities Almedinilla, Carcabuey, Fuente Tójar y Priego de Córdoba. The certified D.O Priego de Cordoba extra virgin olive oils from this region have amassed over 400 prizes across the globe. In recent years the oils from Priego de Cordoba have been in all the top ten lists, awards and competitions worldwide and not surprisingly the town hosts “ The World Congress for Olive Oil Sensory Analysis” where you will find the finest olive oil experts from around the world, amongst them my friend Juan Ramon Izquierdo, head of the Tasting Panel for the Ministry of Agriculture here in Spain, an authentic “guru” and leader in his field.

 

The town is slightly off the beaten track but it is easily reached, as it is just a one-hour drive from Granada, Cordoba, Malaga or Jaen. So for those of you that live in Andalucia I highly recommend a trip there to do some Olive Oil tourism and stock up with some of the finest olive oil Spain has to offer, it’s on your doorstep! Many of the Almazaras (mills) offer guided tours and tasting sessions for groups so if you can get a group together I would waste any more time! Three of my favourite producers from the region are Manuel Montes Marin who produces the brand “Portico de la Villa” which is exceptional, Mueloliva which I discovered after they produced an outstanding oil in the harvest of 2011/12 under their brand "Venta del Baron" which I have written about on many occasions (available in Carrefour) and lastly but not least, by any means, Almazaras Subbética which produce “Rincon de la Subbética” declared the best extra virgin olive oil in the world 2011-12 due to the vast amounts of accolades it accumulated over that season. However, all three oils have continued to win prizes and produce great harvests year in and year out.

 

Portico de Villa                                              Venta del Baron                                         Rincon de la Subbetica

 

 

To be honest you will be hard fetched to find a “normal” olive oil in this region. If it carries this logo on the back of the bottle :

 

 

You can be sure it will be a great olive oil. The Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O.) of Priego de Cordoba exclusively covers extra virgin olive oils made with the Hojiblanca, Picudo and Picual varieties. These oils have multiple culinary uses as they are high in polyphenols and thus have a longer shelf life, meaning their flavour (organoleptic qualities) will also last much longer, so if you are buying olive oil from the previous seasons harvest, which is what you will still find in the supermarkets, I would suggest these varieties, as opposed to Arbequina for example, which will have lost most of it’s “notes” after maybe eight months of being bottled. These varieties are especially indicated for dressing salads, fried food, roasts, baking and confectionary, pretty much anything apart from sauces, as they are particularly fruity and herbaceous in flavour.

 

The rugged and mountainous terrain of the Sierras Subbéticas national park enjoys a unique microclimate between 700m and 1000m above sea level, characterised by high rainfall and large temperature variations. It is in this setting that, through a combination of natural selection and traditional methods, the legendary olive trees have developed a peculiar hardiness and resistance to icy temperatures enabling them to withstand the passage of time and bear quality fruits year in and year out.

 

          

 

     

 

 

The unique setting of rolling hills and olive tree mountains gives the town of Priego de Cordoba a very special feel and is quite simply a charming tourist destination. Priego de Córdoba has an abundance of monuments and sights: exploring its hidden corners you will be seduced by the charm and delight of this wonderful Andalusian town, the cradle of Spanish baroque in forms of fountains, churches and palaces. As well as an Arabic fortress Priego de Cordoba is home to one of the most idyllic historic towns in all of Andalucía, el “Barrio de la Villa” which was given the official title of Historic Centre of Priego in 1972. Its roots go back directly to medieval and Moorish times, and it is part of the “family” of the most typically Andalucian “barrios” which include the Albaicín in Granada or the Judería in Córdoba.

 

   

 

 

 

  

 

 

The narrow winding whitewashed streets offer a perfect blend of peace and beauty; a picture of tranquillity, painted with sunlight, flowers and stone. The town if peppered with beautiful stately homes and buildings. One which particularly stand outs is the Carnicierías Reales (Royal Butchers) which is a renaissance building from the XVI century open to the public. This was the slaughterhouse and meat market in the sixteenth century, designed by Francisco del Castillo. The entrance is built in a Mannerist style with an Italian influence. So what can I say, even if olive oil isn’t up your street, Priego de Cordoba is well worth a visit and who knows if you try the olive oil straight off the press, I’m sure you’ll be hooked for ever.

 

 

 


 

 



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Jazzing up Salmorejo
23 July 2019

Believe it or not but ‘Salmorjeo from Cordoba has its own culinary guild which aims to make this traditional recipe become the ambassador of the city, its culture and cuisine, so each year they organise an event to promote this wonderfully 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 is conducting an initiative that aims to turn this star dish into a Universal Salmorejo so standardizing the recipe and ingredients as it has many variations. They want to spread a traditional protected recipe, which will become an emblem. A panel of expert tasters approved the recipe after researching the most common proportions between ingredients and rounding them off to a standard.  So I thought I would share this recipe with you all and I hope you do the same.


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

    

 

Version Nº 1  - Traditional Preparation:

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


Version Nº 2 -  With Tuna tartar and Mango


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

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


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


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


Version Nº 3 -  Buffalo Mozzarella  and Crispy ham 

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

 

ENJOY!



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It's Barbecue time! Try something different...
09 July 2019

Summer is here and it's time to start making plans for grilling, cold drinks, and good company. Whether on a terrace in the city centre, in the country or in an authorised picnic area outdoors, a barbecue is an event that always manages to gather people together. I just love the smell of a barbecue!

Today I want to share a recipe, or should I say, a version of a recipe that I first discovered in Madrid and then later rediscovered in Buenos Aires. OK, it’s not a Spanish recipe as such because the honours belong to Argentina, although there is cause to believe that it originated in the Basque country. But anyway who cares? It’s a recipe that is simple and the star of any barbecue.

When I first landed in Spain, I rented an apartment in the centre of Madrid next to Plaza de Isabel II and on the corner was a restaurant called La Vaca Argentina, in those days fat and calories weren’t on my worry list and I would visit the restaurant several times a week to have a glass of cold beer and a tapas of grilled chorizo sausage with chimichurri. I had already fallen in love with chorizo but it was the chimichurri that was amazing. This fresh, tart and tangy concoction of herbs, garlic, oil and vinegar had me totally won over. 

However it wasn’t until I went to Argentina one year that I learnt how to make it, but as is the case with most staple recipes every household has their own variation and depending on what you have available to you. This ‘sauce’ is ideal for grilled meats of all kinds, sausages, pastries, and you can even drizzle it over a margarita pizza giving it a really special touch. It just about jazzes up any meal. The great thing about it is that you can make a decent quantity and it will keep in the fridge for at least a week to 10 days. 

The Spanish connection goes back over a century. In the 19th Century many Basques settled in Argentina and the name of the sauce probably comes from the Basque word ‘tximitxurri’ that loosely translates as "a mixture of several things in no particular order". That is effectively what it is, a concoction of herbs and oil where the order or the recipe doesn’t really matter. However there is one step that will speed up the final result and that is adding the hot water to all the dehydrated ingredients before mixing with everything else. You should let them sit for about 30 minutes until all the water has been absorbed and the dried herbs have totally softened. From that point on you can mix and match as you wish the rest of the ingredients. This is not a purist’s chimichurri recipe but my take on it, and if you don’t mind me saying say so, it is really tasty!

 

You will need the following:

 

 

1 Cup of chopped fresh parsley 

2 Tablespoons of dried oregano                                        

2 Finely Chopped dried Ñora peppers

1 Tablespoon of crushed dried chilli flakes

1 Tablespoon of dried basil

4 or 5 Freshly peeled garlic cloves, finely minced (or put through a garlic press)

¼  Cup of red wine vinegar

½  Freshly squeezed lemon (juice only)

5 Chopped sun dried tomatoes

¼ Cup hot water

½ - ¾   Cup of mild olive oil (add to taste – if vinegar is too strong)

1 Teaspoon black pepper

1 Teaspoon sweet Paprika

 

 

 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix and then fill a sterilized jam jar with all the mixture and let it macerate in the fridge over night before using it. It is always best after about 6-8 hours. Then just drizzle it over what ever you want! I highly recommend what is called a ‘Choripan’; a grilled chorizo sandwich with chimichurri sauce.

 

 

 

Absolutely incredible! Enjoy!



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Summer Clams Starter
27 June 2019

 

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, if you have 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 them serve immediately. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with the remaining parsley and accompany it with a wedge off 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 quantity of clams. This gives it a wonderful kick! You can add the chili 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!



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Calamares - The perfect tapas and how to prepare them.
16 June 2019

I don't know about you, but I am really picky with my Calamares, and I mean really picky. I won't eat them if they are battered, greasy, soggy or tough. In fact, unless they are spot on, I won't eat them. My wife gets all anxious every time I order Calamares (deep fried squid rings) in a bar because she knows the score. As soon as they are placed on the table she can see in my face if I'm going to eat them or not. Basically, if they are battered or reflect the light, I'm not eating them. 

I´m a huge fan of Spanish tapas and Calamares are one of my favourites. But I must admit it took several years to get round to eating them as my first few experiences with Calamares was absolutely terrible; tough, greasy and tasteless. So I pretty much scrapped them from my menu. But it was in a restaurant in Valencia where I developed almost an addiction for Calamares. I tried them again and I was hooked once and for all. They were perfect and became my benchmark Calamares. The restaurant was Marisqueria Cervera and everything about them was ideal. They were not battered but fried in flour. They were dry and incredibly crispy but not at all heavy. The coating was perfect and of course, they were about as tender as they can be. The perfect tapas. If you ever happen to be in Valencia you must pay them a visit.  http://www.marisqueriascivera.com 

Once you have tried Calamares this good it makes it difficult to enjoy Calamares in other establishments, but I never give up. They are my tapas of choice with a cold beer before lunch. If you have read any of my other posts you will know I like cooking, so naturally, I went on a quest to learn how to make the perfect Calamares and that is exactly what I am going to share with you.

To be quite honest it is really simple but as always the fresher the calamari/squid the better. However, it is not always possible to get really fresh squid so a lot of the time you will not be impressed by the result as they turn out tough and chewy. That said there is a trick of the trade that is used by many restaurants to ensure their calamares are tender to the bite. And lone behold it is milk.

Milk has long been used as a tenderiser for meats but it also works wonders with squid, only, it is essential to add salt to the milk so that the squid absorbs the milk and thus softens the texture and collagen.  The amount of salt is approximately half a teaspoon for every 400ml of whole fat milk. The amount of milk necessary will be half the weight of the calamari. So if you have 800 grams of calamari - 400 ml of whole fat milk and 1/2 teaspoon of salt - once mixed place them in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight. If you can get them fresh from the fish market, great you can jump this step, but in the supermarket, they are almost all defrosted squid. When you have your squid, clean them, discard the head and the innards and remove the spinal bone, which just slides out.  Then cut up the squid into rings about 1cm in width.  The add them to the milk.

Once tenderised, drain the milk and let them sit in a sieve for about 30 minutes until they have completely drained and come up to room temperature. Dry them with kitchen paper towels to remove excess liquid and then cover them with wheat flour - 'harina de trigo' which is special for frying - it is not as fine as other flours.  The one I use is HARIN. Make sure they are covered in abundant flour, so don't put too many in the flour at once. 

 

Make sure you have a deep fat fryer or a deep frying pan with abundant extra virgin olive oil. When it is at 170ºC or on the point of smoking you are ready to go - you can use bread to test the temperature - drop in a little bit and observe the colour it turns - it should go golden very quickly.

 

 

Just before you put them in, squeeze the squid and the flour firmly with your hands and then place in the hot oil. Don't put too many in at once, make sure they have room to move around and aren't on top of each other. Let them go golden crisp and take them out, let then drain properly and then place them on kitchen paper to dry.  Ideally, a frying basket is the best tool for this job.  Once dry they are ready to eat. Either as they are or with lemon or mayonnaise. Perhaps even in a crusty roll if you want to make more of a meal out of it. Absolutely delicious too.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Like 1        Published at 13:29   Comments (2)


Antioxidant benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
14 June 2019

First of all, what is  'Oxidation'? It is a process that occurs not only when oil is being produced, but also inside our own bodies. Reactions occur continually inside the body, giving rise to the formation of free radicals (peroxidants). As a rule, free radicals do not cause severe damage thanks to the protection provided by antioxidants, which help to keep a balance up to a point. If the balance is spoiled, however, "oxidative stress" occurs, leading to deterioration of normal cell functions and even cell death.

Oxidation is a complex, fundamental phenomenon in the process of cell ageing. Lipid or fat peroxidation tends to be proportional to the number of double bonds in a compound, explaining why oleic acid shows little susceptibility to oxidation.

Cell membranes contain a large amount of fat and cholesterol and their composition depends on diet. When the diet contains a lot of olive oil, the cells are more resistant to oxidation, they do not deteriorate as much and ageing is slower.

Approximately 1.5% of olive oil is made up of the unsaponifiable fraction, which contains antioxidants. Virgin olive oil contains the largest quantities of these substances and other minor components.

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), carotenoids and phenolic compounds (simple phenols such as hydroxytyrosol and complex phenols such as oleuropein) are all antioxidants whose activity has been demonstrated in vitro and recently in vivo, revealing further advantages in the prevention of certain diseases and also of ageing.

The phenolic content of olive oils varies according to the climatic conditions in the producing area, when the olives are harvested and how ripe they are when picked. Oil production and storage methods also have an influence. Phenols have countless biological properties, for instance hydroxytyrosol  is anti-inflammatory and oleuropein encourages the formation of nitric acid, which is a powerful vasodilator and exerts a strong anti-bacterial effect.

Oxidised LDLs are known to be atherogenic, which is where olive oil steps in because it has a beneficial, protective effect against LDL oxidation. Moreover, it also strengthens other cells in the body against the toxic effects of oxidants.

The high antioxidant content of the Mediterranean diet appears to contribute significantly to its effect on longevity.

These antioxidants are found in fresh fruit and vegetables. Because it is the only oil to be obtained from a fruit, olive oil retains a host of substances, antioxidants and vitamins that give it added nutritional value.

The explanation behind this high content of antioxidants is probably that because the olive is a fruit that is exposed to the air, it has to defend itself from oxygen. It therefore synthesises a larger amount of antioxidants, which pass through to the oil.

Virgin olive oil, i.e. olive oil that has not been refined or industrially treated, is particularly rich in these substances and it has a strong antioxidant effect, protecting against damage from free radicals (scavenger activity) and against the formation of cancer.


 



Like 0        Published at 22:33   Comments (1)


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