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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!

Valencian Rice Stew... quite a spectacle!
29 November 2016

‘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 12:39   Comments (5)


My Wine Recommendation Nº 5 - For under €10
08 November 2016

 

Many years back a good friend of the family invited us to a bottle of Emilio Moro Malleolus Sanchomartín at over €100 a bottle. Needless to say it was spectacular and ever since the brand Emilio Moro has been engraved in my mind. Although they do offer cheaper wines (and more expensive) the cheapest offering was around €20, still an expensive wine to drink regularly, at least until a few years ago when they launched Finca Resalso which you can buy for around €8. Yes it is a young wine, but it is fantastic. 

The story of the Moro family began in 1932, when Emilio Moro Sr. was born. It is now a project carried out by three generations with roots in the Ribera del Duero, who have spent their lives discovering the characteristics of its terroir and to this day produce intense and unique wines.

Finca Resalso is elaborated with 5 to 15 year-old vines, it bears the name of their most emblematic vineyard, planted in 1932. Although it is the vineyard’s youngest wine, it is well structured and has a strong personality that can be perceived in its color, on the nose and on the palate.

It has an intense cherry color with purple hints due to it being a young wine. On the nose it is intense and fragrant, with primary aromas to blueberries, licorice and black fruits. On the mouth it is round, expressive, intense and very easy to drink. It is made from 100% Tinto Fino grapes. The wine is aged for four months in French and American oak barrels until bottling.

This wine won Gold Medal in 'Selections Mondiales des Vins Canada' and It was also recognized by the book “Superwines of 2015”, the most prestigious Spanish wine guide, as one of the best wines on sale for less than 10 euros. Which I am sure it is!

The vineyard itself offers around ten different packages for wine tourism if you happen to be in the area. The basic offering is a fun one-hour visit that will allow you to explore the winery. You will find out everything there is to know about the elaboration process, and finish the visit with a wine tasting of ‘Finca Resalso’ and ‘Emilio Moro’. A more complete  package would be a full tour of the vineyards including a traditional Castillian lunch with paired wines (Malleolus Sanchomartín is one of them!). The experience ends with a visit to the facilities and barrel room workshop where you will learn the secrets of barrel aging and be able to taste the wines directly from the barrel.

[I find this wine readily available in the Corte Ingles Supermarket.]

 



Like 0        Published at 10:42   Comments (2)


Spanish Suckling Lamb
04 November 2016

When I first arrived in Spain, it wasn’t long before some good friends of mine insisted on taking me to restaurant on the outskirts of Madrid to enjoy a regional classic; Lechazo de Churra roasted in a clay oven with wood. I have to admit that that meal made an impression on me and has become one of my favourite dishes, the crispiness of the skin and the tender juicy meat was just out of this world. It is such a simple dish and one wonders how it could have so much flavour. Originally used to the typical roast lamb and mint sauce back in the UK, this was a completely different approach and an unforgettable experience. For those who have tried this, know what I am talking about. This nationwide dish which originated in the region of  “Castilla y Leon”, has become a classic especially at Christmas in Spain. Many households around the country will be celebrating the seasonal festivities with a lamb on the dining room table as opposed to a turkey these coming festivities.

The region of Castilla-Leon was also the place that gave birth to this breed of Sheep. The "Churra" breed of sheep goes as far back as the Celtic invasion of Spain starting around 1000BC when the Celts crossbred their sheep with the local breed. Since then this breed has been the predominant breed in Spain and was also the breed that the Spanish introduced to the Americas. Nowadays it is considered the breed of choice for traditional “Lechazo Asado” (also know as Lechal) or Roasted Suckling Lamb. However there are certain parameters that need to be addressed to get the perfect result. The main one is the age of the lamb, as it names suggest it must still be a lamb that is being fed only on breast milk which means it must not be older than 6 weeks when slaughtered or weigh more than 12kg. Specialist chefs in the field consider 3 weeks to be the maximum age, that way you achieve the maximum succulence possible and the meat is even richer in proteins, iron, phosphorous, Zinc and Sodium as well as vitamins B2 and B12. This makes for a very healthy meal, particularly low in fat. As this young animal has still very little fat on it special considerations need to be taken when cooking it too, which I will go into very shortly.


This dish although it is at its best cooked slowly in a clay oven with wood,it can still be enjoyed at home using a conventional oven, clearly the taste of wood is not present but we can simulate that rustic country taste with fresh herbs. Most importantly you need to buy good quality suckling lamb, any breed will do but if you can find “Churra” that is better. I am going to explain the few easy steps to create a perfect Spanish suckling lamb roast and it is as easy as 1,2,3. You can either buy the meat fresh or frozen, although fresh is always better but is you do buy frozen make sure it is slowly defrosted in the fridge before hand.


For 4 people you will need the following:


2 front-quarters of Suckling Lamb (my favourite cut - paletilla)
2 garlic cloves unpeeled
200g of lard or 100ml of Extra Virgin Olive Oil if you want to avoid adding animal fat.
1-2 glasses of water (around 150-200ml)
1 large sprig of fresh Rosemary
1 large sprig of fresh Thyme
Rock Salt
4 potatoes for the garnish

 
Traditionally this dish is cooked in a clay dish however you can obviously use a baking tray but it does taste better in a clay dish, still not sure why though. Simply place the hindquarters skin side down in the baking dish pop in the two garlic cloves and the herb sprigs and roughly spread the lard over the top of the lamb. Add the water to the bottom of the dish (don’t pour it over the meat) and season all over with a sprinkle of rock salt.  As the lamb has very little fat we need the lard, not only to enhance the flavour but also to maintain the stock while roasting, so you can also use olive oil but for the authentic taste I recommend lard. This one of the few times I would actually recommend lard over Olive Oil!  The oven should be pre-heated to 165ºC and then pop it in the oven for 1 hour. After an hour take it out of the oven and turn the lamb over and baste with the juices. Season with a little more rock salt and place it back in the oven for another 45 – 60 minutes depending on the size of the meat. What we want is the skin to go nice and crispy with a golden to brown colour. This roast takes it time; if you rush it by bumping up the heat it will dry out.

 


 
We need to make sure that there is always some water in the bottom of the dish, this is to provide constant humidity to the meat and keeps it succulent, so check on it from time to time and if there is no water, add some more. You might be thinking, when do I add the potatoes or can I add the potatoes to the same dish as the meat and cook everything at once? The answer is no. The potatoes will need to be cooked separately. There are two reasons for this, one that the potatoes will give the meat a slightly different taste if cooked in the same oven and two they will steal part of the humidity from the meat meaning the lamb with dry up quicker. So traditionally the potatoes are always cut into thin slices and fried for a few minutes in extra virgin olive oil until they are half cooked. They are then removed and dried on a kitchen towe.

Next, place them in a baking tray on top of some tinfoil or in a different clay dish if you happen to have one. Once the lamb is ready remove the lamb and quickly pop in the potatoes for about 5 minutes at 200ºC just to crisp them and finish them off. Serve together and there you have it. There are other variations using white wine and vinegar and so on, which are great, but the traditional Lechazo de Castilla-Leon is as simple as that, let the quality of the meat and the oven do the work. An ideal wine would be a crianza from the Castilla y leon region such as "Yllera", a fantastic and reasonably priced wine which I highly recommend, but make sure it is at room temperature before drinking it.



Like 4        Published at 19:06   Comments (9)


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