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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!

Spanglish Atrocities - So-called “Spanish Food” in the UK
26 November 2013

For far too long Spanish food has been in the shadow of its Mediterranean neighbours. The French consider the third-world to start at the southern side of the Pyrenees and the Italians consider Spain a poor relation in anything related to food. Try telling a Frenchman that a Ribera del Duero is better than a Bordeaux or an Italian that Serrano ham is better than Prosciutto and you’ll see what I mean! :-)  One of the main reasons is due to the lack of Spanish emigration in the past, which was where the Italians excelled and consequently insisted on consuming Italian products wherever they settled thus building an international culinary empire difficult to compete with. The Spanish, however, preferred to stay at home, contrary to their ancestors, and the wonders of Spanish cuisine have only recently seen the light in comparison. With millions of tourist landing in Spain each year - 55 million just in the first 10 months of this year - it finally seems to have kicked off in the UK, the tapas revolution is on the way, only what you’re getting isn’t Spanish Tapas but British Spanish-style food, and some things I’ve seen and read are shocking, what more, some brands have no problem labelling their products as food “from the heart of the Spanish home cooking”, are they having a laugh? 

“So-called Spanish food” is invading the UK and being sold under the Spanish flag as traditional Spanish gastronomy when in reality what you are getting are culinary atrocities that have no bearing on traditional Spanish recipes at all. Being a Brit myself and knowing Spanish cuisine I find it quite embarrassing as in the past the British have always accused the Americans of Americanising everything especially the pizza - thin & crispy to deep-pan & greasy. When I see what is being done to Spanish food in the UK I can’t help thinking of that US deep-pan greasy pizza that substituted the Neapolitan stone baked masterpiece. 

Recently I read an interesting article that also confirmed my opinion written by a Spanish blogger living in London called Jorge Ruiz from Guirilandia.comI contacted him, as I really wanted to share some of the photos he had taken while doing the tapas trail of London and he very kindly allowed me to use some of his crime scene evidence and share his findings with you.  

Jorge goes on to say: “The brand Spain is present on the majority of the supermarket shelves today. But on many occasions under the title of ‘Spanish food’ authentic atrocities are sold, pigswill which is not even worthy of being called food, let alone Spanish…” And having seen his photos I must say I agree with him. What is it with chorizo? Why on earth do you find it in every Spanish dish outside of Spain? The same thing happens in France, it astonishes me. Who on earth has ever eaten paella with chorizo, in Spain? If you want to, fine, do it, but don’t call it Paella, call it “rice and chorizo” - a Spanglish recipe that will block your arteries. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is the Mediterranean diet of Spain, it isn’t.

 

Jorge found a small market next to St. James Church close to Piccadilly where an Italian, believe it or not, was stirring what apparently was paella; only it had peas and what looked like pepperoni or chorizo throughout. Either he has no idea what he’s cooking or the Italians are on the revenge after the recent interest in Spanish food and would rather kill it off once and for all than let the authentic Spanish food get a foot in the market :-)

His next stop was London’s historic Greenwich Market where he stopped off at ‘Hola Paella’ to try what they describe on their website as their “signature paella”. To his surprise and to everyone else’s I would imagine they were cooking frozen prawns, chorizo, mussels, peppers and carrots just before adding their secret ingredient: a large bag of frozen Chinese egg fried rice! They clearly get away with it otherwise they would be out of business, but how can you use the word Paella in the name of your business and then give that rubbish to your customers? 

The supermarkets and food brands, as Jorge discovered, have no shame either. What appears to be Chinese egg fried rice…again, is boxed and packaged as Paella by Vesta (mind you, we know what to expect from these types of products) and carries two stamps: one that declares it’s a ‘new’ recipe with a Spanish guitar on it and the other which is intended to be a seal of authenticity which says “Seville, Spain” with a flamenco dancer on it! Come on..Paella doesn’t even come from Seville, it comes from Valencia. Are the general public really that gullible? Or is it that the food companies know that the general public doesn’t have a clue and figures that the only Spanish city that evokes authenticity in the eyes of the consumer is Seville, so that’s the way to catch them out and fool them into buying the product? 

But its not just Vesta the list is endless and even Marks & Spencer play the same tricks as do Lidl and many others.  Spanish Omelette is a classic and copied all over the world but to say that a Chorizo and Piquillo pepper tortilla is from the heart of the Spanish home cooking is a bit much …”tender chicken marinated in a classic Mediterranean style with….chorizo…again and Piquillo peppers… again”…that’s so funny! Who writes this and who chooses those recipes when there are so many authentic recipes available that will knock your socks off. Have they not discovered any other ingredients or do they just buy up 3 or 4 ingredients in bulk and remix them over and over again giving them different names and packaging? 

 

The tortilla which is vacuum packed in Lidl surprisingly comes with bacon and not chorizo, what a relief! But nonetheless just as unauthentic in spite of the convincing ‘España’ logo and text in Spanish. That said they did have a tortilla with…..yes you guessed it, Piquillo peppers! Jorge swears that they were just as plastic on the inside as they were on the outside. But the following Spanish omelette really takes the biscuit. It was served up in a buffet restaurant in the City, those who understand Spanish omelettes will be just as horrified as I was when I saw the photo. Jorge says he still has nightmares about the white powder that was sprinkled over the top…. need I say more. His final stop was Waitrose, which was stocking a soup and we all know how much we Brits love our soups only this flavour I have never tried before…yes you guessed it Chorizo Soup. It appears that ‘Spanish’ soups are in fashion as the New Covent Garden Soup Co.  offers one too…guess what the flavour? “Spanish Patatas Bravas” with chorizo! - Of course! … there is nothing more Spanish! But in a soup? That’s a first. I’m starting to get the sensation that more chorizo is consumed in the UK than in Spain, in whatever shape or form. 

Jorge also shares another photo, which was sent to him by another Spaniard in London, Álvaro, who had decided to attend his craving for Spanish food by visiting ‘Café España’ in Soho only to be greatly disappointed by being served some ridiculous meatballs in a tinned tomato sauce, not exactly a traditional recipe and certainly not worthy of the brand “Spain”.

You may say I’m being a bit harsh and I am sure that there are some places that serve decent Spanish food or at least try to follow traditional recipes but it seems that the Spanish culinary education that the general British public are receiving is way off track and has no resemblance to real Spanish food.  I just hope that there are real Spanish restaurants out there that can proudly raise the Spanish flag and say this is the real McCoy without having to hide behind Spanglish inventions that quite honestly make me cringe. It’s not difficult to do it properly; in fact I think it’s harder to do what they’re doing. Quality Spanish cuisine has had a tremendous success and led the way internationally over the recent years. Spain now has 171 Michelin-starred restaurants, of which 22 were awarded their first star this year, showing a growing trend. The vast selection of recipes available is enough to keep any chef busy for a lifetime so I sincerely hope that restaurants carrying a Spanish name do the brand ‘Spain’ the justice it deserves. I understand that supermarket chains have to mass produce and move with the trends but that is still no excuse for not producing authentic dishes, there is no need to modify any Spanish dish for the British palate, we enjoy the food when in Spain, so why not give it to us when we are in the UK?

 

Other popular articles by Ian Mackay © 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT OLIVE OIL

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Introduction-Part 1

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil- Olive Oil Categories-Part 2

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - How to recognise an authentic extra virgin olive oil - Part 3

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Olive Oil Tasting - Part 4

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - True Virginity - Part 5

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - The perfect Crime Scene - Part 6

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Harvesting Olives - Part 7

Go to article: Can I fry with Oilve Oil?

 

 

 



Like 3        Published at 11:14   Comments (25)


Mediterranean Diet feeds the Brain
21 November 2013

Several studies have pointed to the Mediterranean diet as having a protective effect against decline of cognitive function that often comes with aging, however, until just recently, there was no systematic review of the research.

A group of researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School analyzed twelve studies that examined the relationship between cognitive function and the Mediterranean diet. The review published in the July issue of the journal Epidemiology, showed that in nine out of the twelve studies, higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with better cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous studies have shown that the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants such as olive oil, fruit, vegetables and nuts are associated with better cognitive performance. This effect is seen with a Mediterranean diet pattern as a whole, but also for specific foods independently. For example walnuts have been found to be associated with better working memory and olive oil with immediate verbal memory, so if you're learning a language....you'll want olive oil in your diet! :-)
The researchers of this particular review noted that while observational studies provide suggestive evidence, randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm whether or not adherence to a Mediterranean diet protects against dementia.

 

[source : olive oil times]



Like 0        Published at 11:50   Comments (0)


NEW LAW : Olive oil must be served in original labelled bottles starting next year
16 November 2013

"BARS and restaurants will no longer be able to use glass olive-oil bottles from January 1 next year as a result of a new law brought out by the Spanish government.

The Council of Ministers has decided that all olive oil served up must be in labelled containers to show its origin and brand, in a bid to stimulate competition across the European Union among producers.

Restaurants, catering firms and cafés must ensure all bottles have a mechanism preventing their being refilled so as to prevent them from succumbing to the temptation of filling empty bottles that previously held top-quality oil with cheaper, mass-produced types.

To prevent owners of eateries from having to throw away oil they already have in stock which is unlabelled, they will be given until February 28, 2014 to use it up.

After this date, only bottles with the brand name, origin and nutritional information may be served to the public. ....." Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 

In my opinion this is a law that has been long awaited and has taken its time in coming. This is the only way that customers will be better protected from fraud. If you can't serve wine in refillable containers why should you be able to serve olive oil? Both are protected products and require certain standards for each quality category, something that has been ignored in the hospitality business for so long. I do not remember the last time I tasted a decent olive oil in a bar or restaurant, to be honest it is quite disgraceful what you find in the vast majority of places, even areas renowned for their oil. Oxidated, rancid, fermented oils that most people associate with good oils due to lack of knowledge so nobody protests.The business owners don't know any better or don't care or don't want to spend the money and get away with buying bulk and filling up often dirty refillable oil pourers, mixing old oils with new oils and God knows what else. It is just a shame that the EU knocked back this law as a Pan-European law for fear of the business owners in northern Europe, originally they had agreed to it but a week later they changed their mind. Maybe at some point in the future... I hope.



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Adding just two tablespoons of olive oil each day can improve blood vessel function.
12 November 2013

The addition of a small amount of olive oil to the diet appears to improve endothelial function according to a new study by U.S. and Italian researchers.

The endothelium is a group of cells that line the interior of blood vessels. When these cells are not functioning properly, it may lead to atherosclerosis-hardening of the arteries.

Researchers from the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases of Mayo Clinic and College of Medicine and the Dipartimento di Scienze Farmaceutiche of Florence examined whether the addition of olive oil to the diet would affect the function of the endothelium. For the study, 88 patients with early atherosclerosis (endothelial dysfunction was present) were recruited. Fifty two completed the 4 month double-blind, randomized trial.

The original aim of the study was to compare the effect of a daily intake of 30 ml of simple olive oil, with 30 ml of EGCG (a type of antioxidant) supplemented olive oil, on endothelial function.

After 4 months, both groups had improved endothelial function, but there were no differences between the 2 groups. In other words, the plain olive oil was as effective as the EGCG supplemented olive oil.

The researchers noted that supplementation with olive oil seems reasonably easy and relatively cheap dietary measure to improve endothelial function and perhaps alter the progression of atherosclerotic disease.

Well not only easy and cheap, but also a good-tasting one.

 

 

Source - Olive Oil Times



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Chorizo - Spanish through and through
01 November 2013

From time immemorial the people of Spain have used salt, spices and fresh air to preserve sausages. Over the centuries these skills have been honed to an art, creating a myriad of unique chorizos, salchichones, morcillas and more. Smoked paprika, garlic, cayenne pepper and salt - simple ingredients that, when mixed with pork, create the spectacular Spanish sausages and there is no sausage that is more Spanish than the Chorizo. Although they may seem complicated they are in fact very simple to make yourself at home. Chorizo has always been one of my favourites, especially the hot spicy ones that combine perfectly with a slice of cured manchego cheese and a glass of red wine, an authentic Spanish titbit. Cured meats throughout the Mediterranean were being produced ever since the discovery of salt approximately 3000 years before Christ. However Chorizo was probably one of the latest in arriving. Chrorizo is chorizo thanks to the smoked Paprika, and this ingredient didn’t reach Spain until the XVI century after the Spanish discovered America, up until that time all cured meats were pale in colour or black if they had blood in them. So successful was this spice that it quickly spread all over Europe and Chorizo became one of the most popular cured sausages of the time and still is today.

Chorizo is a typical Spanish sausage cured either by smoke or air, obviously smoking is more complicated at home unless you happen to have a smoking house in your back yard, but fresh air is more than sufficient. They made with minced meat marinated in spices, of which the most popular is paprika, which gives it a red colour.  The traditional season for homemade chorizo has arrived as the cold weather helps the drying of the sausages.

Homemade Spanish chorizo is normally made with the same ingredients in all provinces with the only difference being in the blend of spices used, which can vary from region to region, the main ingredients for chorizo are determined by the amount of lean pork used. These are guidelines as there must be hundreds of recipes for chorizo around the country and proportions can vary and so can your tastes and preferences.

So as a guide, for each kilo of lean pork we will need to add:

300g of pancetta / uncured bacon

20g of salt

1 clove of garlic – crushed

20g of Paprika

8g Cayenne Pepper (if you want it spicier increase the cayenne pepper and reduce the paprika proportionally to reach 28 grams combined or vice versa)

Pig intestine (available from butchers or some supermarkets)

Cotton string to tie the ends

Optional:

200ml dry white wine

1 tsp. dried Oregano

Other additions can be parsley, cumin, bay leaf and thyme.

During the chorizo elaboration process at an industrial level other ingredients are added: ascorbic acid is added to accelerate colouration and to prevent the fat from oxidizing and maturation regulators are added as sweeteners to promote the maturation of the chorizo and speed up the whole process. So if you make it at home at least you know it is completely natural with no additives or preservatives. All you need is patience.

Chorizo can be encased in a wide intestine (chorizo cular) or in a narrow intestine. Its form can vary being straight, “chorizo de vela” or like a horseshoe – “chorizo sarta”, the latter being the most popular form used traditionally.

To prepare chorizo at home you need lean pork such as pork shoulder or a “Boston butt” cut which the high part of the shoulder, the blade shoulder of the pig. The first thing you need to do when making chorizo is mix the meat thoroughly together with the fatty pancetta/uncured bacon. So this needs to cut up and coarsely minced. You can either get you butcher to do this or you can do it at home with a manual meat mincer. You must bear in mind that the meat to make chorizo needs to be below 4ºC so the consistency is firm and you are able to cut it with a knife; it should also be checked that the temperature of the pancetta/bacon fat is between -2ºC and 2ºC to avoid melting during the mincing, leave the fat in the freezer for approximately 2 hours should be sufficient.

Secondly, when making the sausage at home, add the garlic, previously crushed in a mortar or a garlic crusher, add the salt and paprika/cayenne papper; you can also incorporate a glass of dry white wine to help to mix and bind everything in together and make sure the mixture is as even as possible, so use you hands to do this. The chorizo mix must be left to stand for 24 hours in a cool place, which is why it's advisable to cover the mixing bowl with cling film or cotton cloths and put it in the fridge until the following day; then, with the help of a sausage filler or just a funnel, fill the intestines with the marinated mixture, trying not to leave air pockets and then tie them off at both ends with thick cotton string.

Finally, the chorizos must be pricked all over with a needle or a similar to remove possible air pockets that could have formed and then they are hung in a cool, dry and airy place leaving enough space between them that the air can reach the whole surface area and they will dry out properly in about three months; after this curing time the weight of the chorizo will have dropped by about 20% of its original weight. An ideal place would be an airy garage where you can hang them from a beam.

It is important to have in mind that the chorizos that are made at home do not contain preservatives, therefore it is important to control the curing of these sausages; the ideal drying conditions are areas with low humidity and cold temperatures, conditions that are perfect for curing meats. If the temperature and the humidity are too high they will not cure. In which case if you do live in a climate that is not very appropriate, you can just cure them for a week in cool dry place and cook them on the barbecue or grill them. So as you can see its no more difficult than preparing a homemade beef burger. Give it a go!

 



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