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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!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Skin Care
27 July 2015

Extra virgin olive oil isn’t just good for your “insides” it is also great for your “outsides”! Since ancient times olive oil has been used as a way to moisturise and help rejuvenate damaged skin. In Spain any Spanish “grandmother” will swear by it! 

As we age our skin deteriorates and its inner and outer layers (dermis and epidermis) grow much thinner. The stresses and strains of aging also cause the skin to lose elasticity, which soon becomes noticeable as the ever dreaded wrinkles! Other factors, such as the suns can also speed up the aging process by generating what are called ‘free radicals’. The good news is that it’s possible to reduce the damage done to cells by using ‘inhibitors’ that lower the risk. There are many creams and lotions on the market that can help with this but if you’re looking for a natural ‘inhibitor’, you need look no further than extra virgin olive oil, which has a “lipid” profile very close to that of human skin.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a large proportion of vitamins A, D, and K, as well as vitamin E, which is a key source of protein needed in the fight against free radicals. This makes extra virgin olive oil particularly helpful in the fight against skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, and seborrheic eczemas.

 

More generally, extra virgin olive oil can be used daily to improve the condition of skin in several ways:

As an exfoliator: Mixing olive oil with sea salt and massaging into an affected area helps remove dead skin and enrich the healthier layers below it. Adding oil to a bath also helps moisturize the whole body.

In nail and cuticle care: Extra virgin olive oil is a simple solution for dry nails and cuticles. By rubbing a few drops into the cuticle area and around the nail, cuticles stay moist, and nails respond with a natural shine.

As an eye makeup remover: A drop or two of extra virgin olive oil on a cotton pad helps to gently and effectively remove eye makeup without irritating the delicate skin. Olive oil also helps to smooth wrinkles that can form around the eyes.

 

 

 

 



Like 0        Published at 21:13   Comments (3)


Olive Oil in the Fridge?
14 July 2015

One of the many questions I am asked by family and friends is about freezing olive oil, such as: what are the clouds in my olive oil, will olive oil freeze in the refrigerator, is freezing olive oil good or bad for it, and does the way it freezes say anything about its quality?  So I  will attempt to clarify these doubts. In Spain however, nobody really considers freezing olive oil it is always kept at room temperature but on ocasions in colder climates you may see changes in the appearance of your oil if temperatures drop others may mix olive oil with fresh herbs and then freeze them so the herbs don't deteriorate the oil.

Most manufacturers preset refrigerator temperatures to around 2.5ºC. Chemistry texts list the freezing point of pure oleic acid at around 3.5ºC. Olive oil manufacturers don't generally list a freezing temperature because it is quite variable depending on the olive variety and ripeness of the olive at processing. Unlike the properties of an element or simple compound like water, olive oil is made up of hundreds of chemicals, many of which change with every extraction.

Like most fruit, olives have waxes in and on their epidermis (outer sking) to protect them from insects, desiccation, and the elements. These natural waxes are what allow an apple to be shined, for instance. If an oil is sent to a cold climate, or if it will be used in a product like salad dressing where it will be stored in the refrigerator, it is often "winterised" (chilled and filtered) to remove the waxes and stearates. A standard test to determine if olive oil has been  winterized is to put it in an ice water bath (0ºC) for 5 hours. No clouding or crystals should occur.

Oil that has not been winterised will congeal clump and form needle-like crystals at refrigerator temperatures as the longer chain fats and waxes in the oil congeal, but the oil will not usually harden completely unless chilled further. Some olive varieties form waxes that produce long thin crystals, others form waxes that congeal into rosettes, slimy clumps, clouds, a swirl of egg white like material, or white sediment that the consumer may fear represents spoilage. These visual imperfections also may form outside the refrigerator during the winter when oil is exposed to cold temperatures during transport. The white color in the hardened oil does not indicate spoilage.

Chilling or freezing olive oil does not harm it, and the oil will return to its normal consistency when it is warmed. The ideal temperature to store olive oil to reduce oxidation but to avoid clouding is around 10°C.  However you should only freeze it once, if you have to. Although I don’t recommend it as organoleptic properties will be affected.

To determine the actual freezing temperature, Dr. John Deane put several oils in the freezer with a thermometer. At 4.5°, most of the oils had not hardened or formed any crystals. At 1.5°C, most were firm enough that they could not be poured but were as soft as butter at room temperature. As the temperature lowered, more components of the oil solidified. At -12ºC, the oils were hard enough that a fork could not penetrate them. Determining at what point to call the oil "frozen" is a matter of semantics. This slow increase in hardening as the temperature is lowered is in sharp contrast to a pure substance such as water that switches from a liquid to solid phase at an exact temperature.

 There is a rumor that true extra virgin olive oil, placed in a small quantity in a glass bowl and refrigerated for a while, would go cloudy and solidify in crystals, proving it to be extra virgin. A chemically refined olive oil, with a Little extra virgin however, would stay clear and eventually solidify into a solid block.

 

This is not a valid observation. While refined or pomace oils will usually be stripped of their waxes, thus making them more likely to form a block at very low temperatures and stay crystalline clear, and while it is more common for a refined oil to be winterised to be used in a cheap dressing, many excellent extra virgin oils do not form "crystals". Many premium oils will form a solid block when frozen. Unfortunately, detecting fraud is more difficult than just freezing the oil. It will depend on the variety and the wax content of the oil. It might give an orientation to the fact that it isn’t refined, if it goes cloudy but it will not detetermine that it is EXTRA VIRGIN, lampante oilve oil turns cloudy and aswell and that’s the oil that needs to be refined. So this is not a conclusive test by any means.

Many also think that the Fact that Olive Oil hardens in the refrigerator means that it is saturated.
Olive oil is not a saturated fat. All fats will harden if they get cold enough, whether they are saturated or not. As we saw above, olive oil often hardens, but not because it is saturated. It has not been refined as seed oils have been, to remove waxes. The presence of waxes does not make the olive oil saturated or unhealthy, it just means it is a natural product.

As a general rule, the more saturated the fat, the more likely it will be hard at room temperature. Beef and pork lard, margarine, butter, and the saturated tropical fats in cookies, packaged foods, and snack foods are all solid at room temperature. This improves their shelf life, makes packaging easier, and improves "mouth feel" but is not necessarily good for your health.

So my word of advice is, if for what ever reason you have to freeze olive oil (I can’t imagine why) only do it once, do not re-freeze it as it will affect the oil and deteriorate. 

 



Like 1        Published at 17:21   Comments (8)


A Northern Delicacy…not from a pig.
08 July 2015

                                        
 
Although Spain is famous for its "Jamón" or cured ham, which in my opinion is the best in the world, there is also another cured meat speciality which is not as well known and as equally exquisite.
 
"Cecina" from León can be defined as a smoked dried and salted beef, which in a similar way to ham is taken from the the hind leg. The outer part of the Cecina has a toasted brownish colour which is caused by part of the elaboration process. It is similar to the Italian Bresaola.
 
 
 
 
The Cecina is a delicacy with a millennial tradition and even though it is a product which is very well known in Northern Spain, there are endless written references about Cecina going right back to it's origin. The word “Cecina” comes from the latin "siccus", which means "dry". Even in the IV century before Christ, in the Agricultural Treaty 55 by Lucio Julio Moderato Columela, a friend of Seneca, there is a description of the manufacturing process of the dried beef “Cecina”, which recommends that it should be cured during the last quarter of the moon, especially during the winter solstice. In the XVI century, "El lazarillo de Tormes" is published, a picaresque novel, where there is also a reference to the dried beef Cecina. It was also present in the discovery of America, since it was on the list of the supplies taken aboard the caravel Santa María, together with other salted meats.
 
Cecina, when it is cut, is a cherry-maroon colour, increasingly getting darker towards the edges as the maturing process advances. Similar to Iberian Ham, and if it should present some light fatty embedded seams running through the meat, which gives the Cecina that juicy flavour. It´s a meat with a characteristic flavour, lightly salted and with a fine fibrous consistency. 
 
 
 
Every piece  of meat is identified individually and is perfectly controlled at all times throughout the processing. When the meat is received it is weighed and analysed and if the weight, fat and other essential requirements are met following the guidelines of the Ruling Council, the meat will be labeled and stamped with the Designation of Protected Origin to guarantee it's quality before being sent off for curing.
 
After a minimum time of seven months, required for the whole manufacturing process, each piece of meat must pass the organoleptic and physical-chemical controls carried out by the Regulating Council before it can be finally certified and given the definitive quality label of guarantee.
 
If the product is put into circulation in portions or in slices which are vacuum-packed, the quality label will be visible on the packing together with a reference number which will inform you from which piece those portions or slices come from.
 
Cecina from León, as its name clarifies, can only be manufactured by producers within the province of León. The average altitude of the province of León (1500 m) together with a mediterranean continental climate and long winters with an average temperature of 2ºC and relatively low humidity followed by springs and autumns with a lot of rain, bring together the ideal climatic conditions for manufacturing Cecina.
 
The climate makes possible the slow process of drying out the meat, helping to get that peculiar aroma and taste that is characteristic. Only free-grazing local breeds are used to make this cured meat.
 
The process of manufacturing Cecina consists of a  highly controlled process of transformation from the original cut to the final product.  The aromatic and flavour characteristics will mature thanks to a biochemical and microbiological processes which occurs inside the meat. The processing is made up of different stages:
 
Shaping: the cuts are given the correct shape
 
Salting: the cuts are covered with coarse grain sea salt. This helps with the dehydration, the development of the aroma and perfect preservation. The time spent salting lasts approximately 12 hours per kg of meat and it´s done at 2-5 ºC and with a relative humidity of 85%.
 
Washing: The cuts are washed with luke-warm or tepid drinking water in order to eliminate all excess salt..
Resting: It usually rests from 30 to 45 days. This eliminates excess water and makes the salt penetrate equally helping to develop the characteristic microflora.
 
Smoking: Oak and Holm oak wood is used. This phase lasts between 12 and 16 days.
 
Drying and hardening/curing: This takes place in natural drying rooms or areas until the maturing is complete; the temperature (close to 11ºC) as well as the humidity (75-80%) is always regulated and controlled.
 
Cecina can be eaten as any other cured meat, on its own or with a drizzle of olive oil and shaved "Viejo Manchego" cheese as you would a carpaccio with parmasan. You can use it as an ingredient in a whole list of recipes, it is absolutely divine and a wonderful alternative to Serrano or Iberian Ham if you fancy a change, for example you can use it to make a Pan Catalana or better said a Pan Leonese.
 
I thought I would share this wonderfully simple and tasty recipe with you, a classic but with a taste of León. Similar to the traditional bacon and eggs but with a Mediterranean touch and lot less fat!
 
 
//  Poached egg with crispy smoked Cecina from Leon and EVOO-Fried bread //
 
              
 
The first step is to make the crispy Cecina. Cut the Cecina into strips the size of streaky bacon and then crisp them. This can be done either in the oven at 180ºC for about 12 minutes or in the microwave (1000W) for about 2 minutes.
 
The next step is to prepare the poached egg and the EVOO-Fried Bread.  Fill a pot with water and heat it up until boiling,  now we want to prepare the eggs. A way I love to prepare poached eggs is by using "cling film", it makes for an almost perfectly shaped egg and avoids loosing flavour and egg white because of the water. Take a square of cling film and stretch it out on the work top, brush the inner surface of it with a little olive oil and introduce the cling film into a small glass (as in the photo),
 
     
 
 
now just pop in the egg, season with a little pepper and close the cling film and tie it up tightly into a little sack with a piece of string. Now it is ready to pop into the water.
 
But before that start heating up a non- stick frying pan, take a slice of country bread or the bottom slice of a baguette (cutting horizontally) and generously baste both side with a good fruity extra virgin olive oil. 
 
Make sure the the water is boiling and the pan is hot, pop the egg into the water for 3 minutes, while the egg is cooking pop the bread into the frying pan and toast it in the pan on both side pressing down the bread with a spatula to remove the air in the bread. You will be left with a lovely crunchy fried olive oil bread, yes fried bread, but a healthy one!
 
After 3 minutes remove the egg sack from the water and carefully open it up, it should look like the egg in the photo! The white should be cooked but the yolk should be totally liquid.
 
 
 
 
Place the bread on a plate, create a Cecina lattice with the crispy strips on top of the bread and then finally place the egg on top. Listo and ready to serve. Enjoy!


Like 0        Published at 11:33   Comments (2)


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