Garlic Prawns for New Year's Eve
29 December 2016
Published at 19:09 Comments (1)
As with the majority of Spanish cooking, simplicity is king and the recipes I will share with you are incredibly simple and their success will depend entirely on the quality of the ingredients. This dish is a classic Spanish tapas which is bursting with flavour and especially popular during this Christmas period and New Year when seafood is always on the menu. So if you are short of an idea for the festive holidays this might tickle your fancy.
You will need for this dish, a good quality extra virgin olive oil, as it is a main ingredient and any old olive oil will definitely not give the same result. The best variety for this dish is a Picual or an Hojiblanca as they are high in antioxidants and resist the high temperatures better, they also make a wonderful contrast in flavour with the sweetness of the prawns (about 75ml). Additionally you will also need 10 large prawns, I suggest medium sized king prawns (gambones in Spain), as the smaller prawns or shrimps will reduce in size considerable when cooked and not make for a very appetising bite! They must be raw prawns, preferable fresh, but frozen will work too although the end result is noticeable. If you are looking for a special touch make sure they are fresh. The peeled prawns should be left to marinade for a couple of hours in a little white wine (medium dry). Next you will need 4 cloves of fresh garlic, two whole red dried chillies, salt and paprika and a sliced baguette for dipping. This will serve two people as a starter.
Start by peeling the 10 king prawns and clean them, if you want you can butterfly them by slicing a little groove along the back of the prawn, this will help you get everything out and make the presentation look so much better. Put the langoustine heads to one side, we'll need them later. Cut up the cloves of garlic into slices, do not dice them or crush them and slice up the chillies as well in the same manner, we don’t want the chillies crushed for this dish.
Do not prepare the dish until you are ready to sit down and eat them, this dish must be served immediately and piping hot, sizzling. Any other way is just not the same! So once you are ready, put the olive oil in a small pan or clay-cooking dish, as they use in Spain, along with the prawn heads and two table spoons of the white wine used for the marinade and start to heat up the oil. As the oil is heating up squeeze down on the heads of the langoustines with a fork so that they release all of their juice and cook them for a couple of minutes on high heat.
Once they are slightly browned remove them from the oil and put in all the garlic and the chillies and then a few seconds later pop in the raw langoustines, as soon as the langoustines are turning pink remove them from the heat, sprinkle some paprika over them, season with a little salt, a little diced parsley and let them sit for 1 minute and then serve immediately while they are still piping hot. Enjoy, they are an absolute delight and don’t forget to dip your bread in the richly flavoured olive oil!
Happing eating and a Happy New Year!!
Christmas Lunch in Valencia
20 December 2016
Published at 12:05 Comments (1)
Fancy something different for Christmas lunch this year?
Although nowadays Christmas Eve is probably the most lavish meal of the Christmas holidays in Spain, originally it was Christmas day, much as it is in the UK. It was a day for bringing together the entire family including grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins and any other family member that you may not have seen throughout the year. Depending on the family, each year it would move house and thus the hosting of this enormous event would be shared amongst the family members. Nowadays, still very much a family event though, Christmas Eve and Christmas day is now normally split between the parents and the in-laws, one day with each.
Each region of Spain has its own tradition for the Christmas menu, which is determined mainly by local cuisine, for example on the coast seafood or fish is common and inland, meat plays a more important role such as roasted suckling lamb, however nowadays most regions tend to combine both, especially on Christmas Eve. However Christmas day in the Valencian community is a day for enjoying a rather special typical dish called ‘Puchero de Nadal’ ó ‘Cocido Navideño’. Effectively it is a stew with giant meatballs but it is enjoyed in two stages. It may seem very simple and rustic but it is a very long meal and takes time to digest. It contains almost everything you could possibly imagine putting in a stew. What makes this stew different to the rest of the stews in Spain is the use of local sausages and local vegetables. The Valencian community is well known for its vegetables and this is well portrayed in the Valencian ‘Puchero’.
As with most traditional recipes there is nothing written in stone, except using a giant cauldron! So grab the biggest pot you can find otherwise there is no way all the ingredients will fit in. Remember the stock, the meat and the vegetables can all be frozen afterwards so if you have a lot left over, which you will, ration it out in Tupperware and freeze it for another day or use it for another recipe as mentioned later on.
For the stew you will need the following :
½ medium sized Chicken (approx. 1,25kg of meat)
2 large meatballs (recipe as follows)
1 piece of bone marrow
1 piece of knee bone
150 grams of beef
1 Blanquet sausage
1 Onion Morcilla sausage
100 grams of pork fat
300 grams of chickpeas (soaked in water over night)
1 stick of Celery, 1 stick of Cardoon, 1 sweet potato, 1 white turnip, 1 yellow turnip, 1 parsnip, 3 potatoes, 3 carrots, 1 leek, 5 runner beans and ¼ cabbage. (As far as the vegetables go, you can chuck in what ever you have at hand, but this is the standard recipe in Valencia)
So, to make the stew it is as easy as cleaning and peeling the vegetables and placing them all in the pot with the meat and the meatballs, except for the carrots, potatoes, runner beans and the morcilla. These need to be held back for later as they cook more quickly. Cover with water and slowly bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a low heat and let it simmer for 90 minutes. Remember to skim off the foam that rises to the top. After 90 minutes pop in the rest of the ingredients that were held back and then simmer for another 90 minutes. To make the meatballs all you will need are the following ingredients:
150g lean minced beef
150g minced pork.
1 sausage (with skin removed)
1 tbsp. Fresh chopped parsley
50g Pine nuts
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon powder
10ml fresh Lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Stew net for binding
Cabbage leaves for wrapping up the meatballs.
If you feel like saving some time you can always make the balls the day before. Mix the meat, salt, pepper, parsley, cinnamon, eggs and pine nuts to taste. Pour the breadcrumbs in and knead it all together until it forms a thick mass. Add the lemon juice and knead it all together again. Separate the meat mass into two parts and then roll into two large balls. Once you have made the balls wrap each ball in cabbage leaves and then place inside the stewing net and tie up tight and add to the rest of the meat for the stew.
Once the stew is ready it is customary to first enjoy a bowl soup from the stock cooked either with rice or noodles. Some may add a piece of the meatball to the soup and others may add a bit of everything and then move onto the rest of the meat and vegetables, the choice is yours. It would also be customary to make an oven baked rice the following day with the left overs. So there you have it, a very hearty meal from the heart of Valencia and ideal for this time of year, it may not look very sophisticated but it tastes incredible!
The Perfect Roast Chicken
14 December 2016
Published at 10:47 Comments (5)
When I was in Spain during my student days there was this recipe that I saw a friend’s mother do and I must be honest I was initially blown away by it, thinking ‘Wow! That’s different, I’ve never seen that before.’ More than a recipe it was really a technique and I have no idea if this technique is traditionally used in the UK or not, I have never seen it being used nor had I ever heard of it being used so when I was 22 it was a real novelty for me and I expect it may well still be a novelty for many people even today. What I am referring to is chicken cooked in rock salt. Those who have been in Spain for a few years may have seen fish cooked in rock salt, it is quite common.
However this technique is not exclusive to fish but can be used with pretty much any meat. I first saw it being done with chicken. Initially my thoughts were that the chicken or fish had to be really salty after being in contact with so much salt. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. As the salt is rock salt and bound with egg white, the meat never absorbs it. You may even find yourself salting the meat on the plate once served. The salt merely serves as a hand-made oven, made-to-measure. And it is quite ingenious and ever so simple. Forget about tinfoil or other ideas to keep your chicken moist and succulent, instead encase it in salt and slowly roast it. It is an infallible technique.
The meat falls of the bone and the legs fall away from the body with the slightest tug. Effectively what you are doing is creating a mould of salt, which hardens as it is roasted sealing off the chicken inside. This means all the juices stay inside and the chicken doesn’t dry out. It also enables you to concentrate different flavours and herbs inside as all the aromas stay inside the hard salt shell and impregnate the meat. Once the cooking time is over all you have to do is crack open the salt and pull out the chicken and serve. You can cook the chicken in salt either in a baking tray or in a casserole pot which ever is more comfortable.
This time I used a casserole pot, but I do recommend lining the pot or tray with tinfoil before. This is something I normally always do with the baking tray, but this time I didn’t do it with the pot and it did take me a while to clean it well and get all the salt out with hot water. If you line it with tinfoil, it all just pops out in one piece after cooking, a lot easier! I haven't got round to it yet but my intention is perhaps this year roast a turkey in rock salt and see the results. If I manage to do it I'll post the results!
Although I didn't do it with this recipe, there is so much more you can do to give the chicken an extra kick. You can stuff it with a sliced clementine or lemon and add bay leaves, rosemary sprigs and thyme, or parsley and garlic with a chopped onion or what ever combination tickles your fancy. You can also cover the chicken in bacon strips if you like that, to keep it extra moist. But the results are still great without it. If you stuff the chicken with traditional stuffing mix, you will need to adjust cooking times.
So to roast an average chicken (mine was 2,2kg which is good for 4 adults) you will need the following:
2kg rock salt
3 egg whites
4 crushed garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp Oregano
1 tbsp Rosemary
1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
Step 1: Prepare the salt – place all the salt into a big bowl. Add the oregano, rosemary and paprika to the salt along with the three egg white and stir it all in.
Step 2: Line the bottom of the casserole pot with about 1cm of salt.
Step 3: Stuff the chicken with the 4 crushed garlic cloves and the bay leaves
Step 4: Place the chicken in the pot and sprinkle some paprika, oregano, rosemary and black pepper over it.
Step 5: Cover the chicken with salt, patting it down so that it is totally encapsulated.
Step 6: Place it in a preheated oven at 140ºC for 2 hours 30 min. Let it stand for 10 minutes before cracking it open. Once you ahve cracked it open remove the chicken and let it stand for another 45 minutes. If you are doing a turkey I would let it stand for much longer, at least an hour or more (depending on size) so it reabsorbs all its jucies. And then serve. (Use a large serving spoon to help you crack open the salt) .
A juicy bird! Enjoy!
(Please forgive the quality of the photos, I had to use my mobile!)
Calimocho - Spain's other Sangria...
09 December 2016
Published at 19:05 Comments (3)
A Calimocho (also spelt Kalimotxo) is a 50/50 mixture of red wine and Coca-Cola — yes i know what you are thinking, I thought exactly the same thing when I saw it for the first time. Favored by Spanish youth looking for a sweet, cheap buzz, teenagers will sometimes mix the wine and Coke by swishing them in a plastic grocery bag for distributing at "botellones", makeshift parties held in parks and other public spaces.
The drink was supposedly created — or at least named — at a festival in Algorta, Spain, in 1972, when some young entrepreneurs discovered that the wine they had planned to sell tasted not just bad but toxic, and added Coca-Cola-and ice to mask the flavor. It was an improbable hit. Automatically people see wine and Coke together and they think, ooh, that’s going to taste bad. However, it doesn’t, though the taste is one that could be considered “acquired”. Like the teenage years themselves, it’s simple-minded but mystifying.
It’s an affront to the wine only if you’re using the wrong wine. Actually it's no different than making a whiskey with coke, you wouldn't use a Single Malt would you? Wine used for Calimocho should be “strong and dry” or, if you wish to follow botellón tradition, the cheaper the better. The kind of wine that begs for a little helping hand.
One measure of a cocktail’s drinkability is its universality, and here the Calimocho scores big. In Chile and Argentina, a red-wine-and-Coke combination is known as a jote; in Croatia, it’s a bambus; in Germany, a kora or korea. Go ahead and grimace, if you like. But the world will keep on drinking.
In New York they have given it a sophisticated touch by adding freshly squeezed lemon juice and a slice to garnish the glass. They are not that sophisticated here.. the chances are you will only be able to buy a Calimocho in a bar in Spain served in a 1 or 2 liter plastic cup to share. As a refreshment it isn't that different to sangria and a lot less hassle but if you do use a cheap wine don't drink too much because it won't let you forget it that easily. Nonetheless it is an easy drink to jazz up and create your own version. Some add a dash of rum or a dash of lime and if you don't like Coke, try 7up!
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