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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!

My Wine Recommendation - Nº2 - For under €10
31 March 2016

The UK was not the only country to fall in love with chardonnay. By the mid-90s, chardonnay had become the second most widely planted white grape in the world, as growers in every wine-producing country (apart from Spain) ripped out local varieties to make room for it. 

By and large they were attempting to make wines in the same style as the Australians and Californians who had done so well out of the variety, creating a ripe tropical fruity and oaky wine (either from barrels or the addition of oak chips) with buttery notes. 

For many people this style has come to represent what chardonnay is. But that profile no longer fits with  current wine tastes. According to the market researchers, sales of chardonnay have stagnated. We now spend more on the livelier, or at least unoaked, sauvignon blanc, or the neutral pinot grigio, growing at a remarkable 18% a year.

However it is important to know that the stereotypical chardonnay is largely a thing of the past. Chardonnay producers around the world are now much more likely to emphasise freshness and use oak with a lot more restraint or not at all.  Producers have moved towards fresher, lighter, more "zippy" styles of white wines and chardonnays have adjusted accordingly.

Indeed, chardonnay – the ingredient of white burgundy and an important part of the blend of most champagnes – is responsible for a disproportionate amount of the world's finest whites and it's time to give this great grape  another chance – you may be pleasantly suprised....

Now, “Spanish chardonnay?” you might be saying….. Well, it’s true it is not very common, but why not when it's as exuberantly fresh, fruity and zippy as this one I recently discovered in the Corte Inglés supermarket. It is totally unoaked and centered on its fruity flavours with notes of guava, melon and peach. Perfect for any time of day and especially good with rice, seafood and fish or just as a drink for your evening party. I recommend you drink it very cold at around 6ºC, it’s just so much better, and for the price of €2,95 the quality is astounding.

Hope you enjoy it!

You can buy it online here:

http://ansamagourmet.com/vinos-y-licores/otros/vino-de-la-tierra/veranza-blanco-chardonnay/#.Vv0OEzZa5nZ

UPDATE -  Veranza Tinto €3,13

Veranza also have a wonderful young red which I have to say for the price is absolutely fantastic. Fresh and fruity and packed full of ripe red fruit alongside faint undertones of toasty wood, reminscent of light ageing. it is low in tannins and an extremely easy wine to drink with or without food. You must give it a go! At just over €3 euros it is a so good for the price. I would happily pay double for it. Give it a go. Available now in the Corte Ingles supermarket. The ‘Veranza’ wines are produced at Finca San Miguel in Valle del Cinca (Huesca). The estate has a total of 435.5 hectares of vineyards and is owned by the Codorníu Group of Spain, one of the oldest and largest winemaking companies in the world (The same family has owned Codorniu since 1551). 

 



Like 1        Published at 13:45   Comments (5)


Celebrity Chefs Destroy Paella
24 March 2016

A while back I wrote an article on how traditional Spanish food was being converted into culinary atrocities for the British palate by restaurants, market stalls and fresh food supermarkets, something that I have never understood. Millions of Brits travel to Spain every year and enjoy the local cuisine. Whatever makes one think that they can improve on a recipe that has been tried and tested over centuries. I am all for creating new recipes but don’t give it a traditional name like Paella and make people think they are eating Spanish food.

Anyway, It was only recently that I came across one of the most disappointing cooking videos I think I have ever seen, well that’s not entirely true, because I saw another one shortly after and that was just as bad and embarrassing. I am referring to a video recipe by Gordon Ramsey, who needs no presentation (believe it or not I am a fan, hence the disappointment), and another one by John Torode, who is a celebrity chef  restaurateur and host of UK Master Chef.

Both, highly acclaimed chefs decided to ‘teach’ us how to make Paella. Now I am not sure I have ever seen a recipe so far from the original or cooking techniques that can only destroy the end result. As far as Spanish ‘culinary religion’ is concerned this was outright blasphemy and a one way ticket to hell.

We all play around with international recipes at home and do horrible things to wonderful dishes, mainly because we don’t have the time or all the necessary ingredients at hand to reproduce the authentic dish, and that’s fine, be creative and enjoy yourself in the kitchen. That’s what cooking is all about; enjoying food.

But when a chef with 14 Michelin stars, numerous TV programmes and influences millions of homes worldwide decides to teach an Englishwomen how to make Paella, one would be led to believe that he knows what he’s doing. That is certainly what he appears to believe in his video.

Well, as a Brit living in Valencia: the home of the Paella, I can assure you it made me cringe! It was truly a Kitchen Nightmare! His choice of ingredients showed no respect for the dish at all and totally undermined his knowledge of ingredients and flavours. I wrote about it before and I’ll repeat it again, what is it with chorizo?!! Why does everyone put chorizo into everything?! What is wrong with you Gordon? Since when can you mix chorizo with shrimps … chicken with squid…and then ‘jazz it all up’ with chilli and sherry in a wok with wet rice and call it paella? Are you serious? ...Obviously you are, otherwise you wouldn’t have posted such a video.

But I can’t for one minute believe that a professional chef like Gordon Ramsey  doesn’t know the authentic recipe, so how can you have the audacity to call it Paella? Call it ‘Mediterranean Rice’ or ‘Rice with Stuff-in-it’ I don’t care, but don’t call it Paella - PLEASE!

Gordon Ramsey, please let me humbly give you one piece of advice when it comes to cooking rice for paella…if you need a ladle to serve it you know straight away that you have seriously cocked it up.

There are many professionals that are fighting on a daily basis to preserve and maintain the traditional recipe and promote Spanish cuisine to the rest of the world and then ‘celebrity chefs’ like Ramsey and Torode completely destroy it. Here is the video of Ramsey’s paella and a link to my article on Paella and how to make the real deal , as I was fed up of people mutilating the authentic recipe. Please decide for yourself...

 

 

Now if that wasn’t enough, John Torode figures he can completely re-invent the wheel when it comes to cooking paella by cooking the rice in one pan and the seafood in another! Incredible, I have never seen anything like that before. Obviously the seafood magically flavours the rice when they are mixed on the plate and wins the battle against the overpowering turmeric (which is about as Spanish as a poppadum). Must learn that trick!

Torode, the Master Chef host in his video wants to explain the secret to ‘great rice’. Are you kidding me?

But in all fairness, Torode should be credited for using more or less the right ingredients for seafood paella, except for; the turmeric, the cod, the black pepper, the broad beans and the runner beans… But the funniest thing is that he prepares all the ingredients separately in different pans and then unites them victoriously in a proper paella pan for serving. Why don’t you just prepare it all together in one paella pan.....? You clearly have one. 

“This my friends is what you call Paella” were the words that just rang in my head after watching the video.

This is what people, who have no idea, will naively think is how paella is made and what it should be. After all who wouldn’t trust the host of Master Chef. If you would like to taste wet mushy curried rice with a topping of seafood and fish, I suggest you watch the following video. But please don’t call it Paella...

 

 

There are many more videos out there by Celebrity chefs making Gazpazcho, Spanish Omelette and what have you, which are all sacrilege. So I will make a plead to all celebrity chefs attempting to teach the world Spanish recipes. Please teach the world the real recipes or at least say that this is ‘your take’ on a Spanish recipe so not to mislead the world and discredit Spanish culinary traditions. If you really think you know how to make real Paella I challenge you to come to Valencia and be put to the test by the locals, and if you don't know, I challenge you to come and be taught by the Pros and then share with the world this wonderful dish....properly.

 



Like 3        Published at 14:25   Comments (9)


How to taste Olive Oil
04 March 2016

It's only recently that Olive Oil has come to be considered a gourmet product. The varieties of this essential element of Mediterranean cuisine are constantly increasing. The type of olive, the climate of the place where the olives are cultivated, the time of harvest, the extraction method; these are only some of the factors that influence the flavour and quality of the oil, but how do we identify the qualities of each variety? 

STEP 1. Essential elements

For this type of tasting we need: an olive oil tasting glass, which consists of a small round glass with a somewhat closed opening and blue so we don't see its interior (since the color of the oil doesn't influence its properties. If you can't find one a small cognac glass will do); a glass lid or a napkin to cover the glass; an apple; water; and some bread to change the flavour between tastings, and the form to write down the different sensations perceived while trying each variety. The objective of the tasting is to pick out as many organoleptic qualities of the product as possible; that is to say, the characteristics of its flavour, texture, smell. This is why it's recommended that the tastings be in the early morning when our senses are more acute. It's also important that the ambient temperature at the tasting be around 28 °C (82 °F) which guarantees the best environment for both the oils and our senses.

 

 

STEP 2. The power of scent

The scent is one of the determining factors with oil as its intensity and complexity are synonymous with quality. To appreciate the aroma in its entirety we should follow some simple steps. After pouring the sample in the glass, we should cover it with a napkin or glass lid. Next, we should lightly rub the bottom of the glass to heat the oil and intensify the scent of the sample (for just a few seconds). When uncovering it, we should take in the aroma with slow, deep breaths. Our sense of smell begins to pick out all the nuances: fruit, almond, walnut, spice, tomato, or even fresh cut grass can come to mind. The more intense and varied the aroma is, the more indicative it is of the oil's quality.


STEP 3. The complexity of the flavour

For an oil to be considered virgin, it must be natural olive juice, and for it to be extra virgin, it has to be judged by a panel of experts. There are hundreds of distinct varieties that meet this requirement. To sense how fruity each variety is - the characteristic aroma and flavour - we should breathe in its scent and, around thirty seconds later, take a small sip of the sample. The oil must be distributed through the whole mouth to sense not only its flavour but its texture as well. It's important that it hits the tongue and the throat to stimulate our senses as much as possible. Sweet, sour, spicy... cross our palate in distinct proportions. A trick to intensify the senses is to breathe a little air between our teeth while tasting each oil. Before trying a new sample, we should eat a piece of apple and drink water or eat some bread to eliminate all traces of flavour.

 

 

STEP 4. What have we sensed?

All perceived sensations must be noted on the evaluation chart by the scale that each tasting panel establishes. Here the aroma, texture, flavour and also the presentation are judged, as the product's bottle is important. When analysing our perceptions of the oil we should note the exquisite and complex flavours and aromas as well as the small imperfections it may have, if it is excessively bitter, too flat or even if it has fermented during the harvesting process, before entering the oil press.

It's important to keep in mind, for tastings as well as home consumption, that contrary to wine, oil is best consumed as soon as possible after production. Once it gives off a rancid smell, it's best to throw it out since it has not only lost its properties but can be bad for the health. On the other hand, oils that seem murky or that are dense in the cold should not necessarily be thrown out.

 

If you would like to know more please read  my more in depth article on Olive Tasting. and see the lists of :

Bad Attributes  &  Good Attributes

Please download this  SIMPLE Olive Oil Profile sheet to keep a record of the oils you taste:

 

 



Like 1        Published at 15:58   Comments (2)


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