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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!

'Spanish Tigers' - Mussel & Prawn Croquettes
31 May 2016

 

This recipe is a version of the classic Spanish “Tigre”, a mussel and prawn croquette served in the mussel’s shell, which I tasted in Santiago de Compostela many years ago at a friend’s house. It is a very simple recipe and ever so rewarding, a definite hit for any dinner table as a starter. The creaminess of the béchamel (white sauce) and the taste of the sea from the Galician mussels with a touch of garlic and white wine make such a great combination. I must stress that the fresher the mussels the better the result. 

As with most recipes in Spain each region has its unique touch, the recipe I am going to share with you is the typical recipe from Galicia, the home of the Spanish mussels. 

However if you wish to jazz it up feel free! There are some who have them spicy or very spicy, known as “Angry Tigers” by adding a lot more cayenne pepper and chili. But let’s crack on with the traditional recipe and don’t forget to put a bottle of Albariño white wine from Rias Baixas in the freezer to chill off until serving!


Ingredients Filling:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
2 Onions
1 green pepper
1 glasses of white wine
300 grams of peeled prawns
1 kg of Mussels
3 Garlic cloves
1 Ripe peeled tomato (put it in boiling water for a minute and then the skin comes off easily)
1 large Bay leaf
Parsley
1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper 
2 Eggs
Flour
Breadcrumbs

 

To make the Bechamel:

700 ml full fat Milk
80g of Flour
70ml of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

 

Let's crack on :

Wash the mussels really well in cold water and remove all the algae and dirt from the shell and rinse well. 

Heat a glass of white wine in the pan, when the wine begins to boil add a bay leaf , a few sprigs of parsley and then the mussels.  Put the lid on and shake a little until all the mussels are open. Once all the mussels have opened remove them from the pan.  Wait a few minutes and then remove all the mussels from the shells with a spoon. Let them cool on a plate. Reserve the liquid in the pan for later (wine with mussel juice). If you want, just pour the liquid into a glass and keep it to one side.

Now we need to finely chop up the mussels and keep to one side.

Thoroughly wash and scrub the empty shells because we are going to use them to hold the filling the and thus put them in our mouths! 

I usually buy prawns already peeled but uncooked, so all I have to do is chop them into small pieces. So chop them up and put them to one side too.

Now you need to chop the onions, garlic cloves, peeled tomato and pepper into very small pieces. Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil to a frying pan and fry the garlic first for about half a minute, then the onions and green pepper, then cook over low heat for about 10 minutes until it is all soft, it should not be crunchy at all. Taste and season the mixture with salt and pepper. 

Now add the chopped mussels and prawns followed by a glass of the ‘mussel and wine broth’ we put aside earlier! 

Add the chopped tomato and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Let it all simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes until the liquid has pretty much evaporated. Stir with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes and then remove the pan from the heat.

To make the bechamel, add the extra virgin olive oil to a pan, add the flour, and lightly cook on low heat for a minute or so and then slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly. Then  add  salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes over a low heat, stirring it from time to time.

The next step is to mix the bechamel with the mussel and prawn filling and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should be of a very thick consistency. Let it cool down a bit.

Finally fill the mussel shells with the filling and leave them in the fridge for a couple of hours so they have completey cooled down.

   

 

    

 

Now we need to dip one in flour, then dip it in egg and finally dip it in breadcrumbs. Make sure the breadcrumbs completely cover the filling. Put to one side and repeat for all the rest.

The last stage is to fry them in Extra Virgin Oilve Oil.  Heat the oil, use a piece of bread to judge the temperature. First place them face down in the pan until they are Golden and crisp, the turn them over  for a minute and then remove from the pan and set aside to serve with a glass of nicely chilled Albariño White wine. 

Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 12:52   Comments (1)


You shouldn't fry with olive oil - MYTH!
16 May 2016

Can we really fry with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?   Should we?   Is it not just a waste of money?   Should we be frying food full stop? 

I wrote about this subject a few years back but I still get numerous questions and comments on my blog related to frying with olive oil. There are still many many people who have the understanding that you shouldn't fry with olive oil because "it is said" to be carcinogenic. This is is totally unfounded, so I thought I might clear up many doubts surrounding this subject with the hope that people will spread the word; Olive Oil is good for everything! Frying is one of the oldest forms of cooking common to all of the Mediterranean Basin: Europe, Asia and Africa. In short the homeland for the Olive Tree. As a method of cooking it is dominant in all cultures and religions scattered throughout the region.


Recent investigations have shown that frying is actually beneficial to the organism, particularly from the physiological point of view contrary to general opinion. “But fried food is fatty and can’t be digested properly and it gives me a heavy stomach” is an all too common remark. Whether the food that is fried is digested easily or weighs down your stomach depends to a great extent on the type of oil used, the temperature of the oil and the manner in which the food was fried. Yes even frying has its art form!

 

Studies undertaken on healthy subjects and patients with gastro-duodenal problems (gastritis, ulcer, liver and biliary complaints) have shown that there is no relationship between food fried in olive oil and these illnesses.

 

It all comes down to how edible oils deteriorate when heated. All oils will eventually suffer an alteration in their chemical structure when exposed to high temperatures. The alteration undergone by vegetable oils when heated for frying is far quicker, creating far more fatty acids particularly from seed oils and more so if the initial acidity of the oil was already high. It will always be more stable if it has a high content of natural antioxidants - vitamin E - polyphenols. This alteration also varies according to temperature and the length of time heated, number of times the oil is used and the manner of frying, if it is continuous frying it changes less and the type of food being fried is also a determining factor when using vegetable oils. Frying fish, especially oily fish, increases the polyunsaturated acid content of the oil, facilitating its rapid decomposition. So you better hope your local fish & chips shop changes their oil regularly if they use sunflower oil.

 

 

This is where the real benefits of extra virgin olive oil come to light. Extra virgin olive oil is ideal for frying. In proper temperature conditions, without over-heating, it undergoes no substantial structural change at all and keeps its nutritional value far better than other oils, not only because of the antioxidants but also due to its high levels of oleic acid (good fatty acids). It has a very high smoking point of 210ºC which is substantially higher than the ideal temperature for frying food which any cook will tell you is around 180ºC. Those fats with lower critical points, such as corn and butter, break down at this temperature and form toxic products.

 

 

“My chips were all greasy and full of oil!” Well, they were probably fried with vegetable oil (as seen in the picture). Apart from it being healthier, one of the best reasons for using extra virgin olive oil for frying is that it forms a crust on the surface of the food that impedes the penetration of oil and improves its flavour. Food fried in extra virgin olive oil has a much lower fat content than food fried in other oils, making extra virgin far more suitable for weight control. Extra virgin olive oil, is the most suitable, the lightest and the tastiest medium for frying.

 

It is an oil that goes much further than other oils, and not only can it be re-used more often than others, it also increases in volume when reheated, so less is required for cooking and frying. This is one major fact to take on board when evaluating the cost. You won’t need to waste as much oil. Where as no one would advise you to re-heat sunflower oil, there is no problem in re-heating extra virgin olive oil even up to 3 or 4 times and in some cases more, although I doubt any one would actually do it! The higher the polyphenol content in the extra virgin the longer it will last and it is the polyphenols that protect the oil from the heat. Picual varieties tend to very high in polyphenols, so medium to robust extra virgin is ideal.

 

The digestibility of heated extra virgin olive oil does not change even when re-used for frying several times. The only thing that will be altered is that it will adopt the flavour, as will any oil, of what you previously fried in it. But if you use a certain amount just for chips/potatoes you can re-use it over and over in your deep fat fryer, something that is not advisable for vegetable oils and nonetheless everyone still does it. Extra Virgin Olive oil should not be mixed with other fats or vegetable oils and should not generally be used more than four or five times. The oil used for frying should always be hot; if it is cold the food will soak up the oil, no matter what oil it is. It needs to be hot to form a sealed crust. 

 

 

 

 

If you have never tried a fried egg in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, I highly recommend it. Make sure you have a fair amount of olive oil in the pan, say 1cm in depth, heat the oil and pop in the egg, it will start to float in the oil and then with a spoon you ladle the hot oil over the top of the egg. The egg white will start to bubble a little and it will get a crispy edge to it. Once cooked to taste, remove and season. You will notice the difference straight away. It doesn’t taste greasy or fatty and is just divine! It is so simple and so much healthier. Spain is renowned for its fried eggs and there are world-famous restaurants in Madrid that are famous for one one simple dish - their fried eggs. Give it a go, here's a video to give you an idea:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other popular articles by Ian Mackay ©

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

 



Like 3        Published at 12:13   Comments (14)


When 'good' is actually 'bad' - Discover what Olive Oil and Coffee have in common
04 May 2016

It is not normal to see an article with coffee and olive oil side by side but in Spain they have more in common than you would think and unfortunately not for the right reasons.  Both are wonderful products and play such an important role in the Mediterranean lifestyle or diet: Olive oil for its health properties and culinary value and coffee for its social implications.

However history and social circumstances have led to a general misunderstanding of what is actually good olive oil and what is good coffee and this lack of knowledge and false belief has lead a nation along for generations and only now are people starting to wake up to this misconception. Who would have thought that when a Spaniard working at an olive mill in his local village gave you a few litres of olive oil from the recent harvest, you would have probably received what is known as lampante olive oil. Certainly the elder generations and those in their 40’s grew up with low grade olive oil at home convinced they were consuming the nectar from the sun-blasted olive groves of their precious homeland. But this is through no fault of their own, technology available then was unable to prevent the contamination of residues left on the mill stones and knowledge around the needs of the olive tree were no way near as advanced as they are today. So people all over the Mediterranean got used to what they believed was top quality olive oil but this is one example where technology has actually helped us obtain the best from nature. Nowadays all olives are blended into pulp and centrifuged not crushed with mill stones and then pressed, or at least they should be.

 

These classical traditional techniques that some customers fined enchanting and some brands use as a marketing pull are actually a warning sign that you should probably stay well clear of them. It is impossible to achieve the same quality in a “traditional mill” when compared to a modern mill. But what this has created is a palate for poor quality. So what tastes good because it is all they know is actually bad olive oil. So much so that many producers centre on this palate of tastes to assure their sales even though they are capable of producing better quality oils and unfortunately still today the majority of olive oils in supermarkets are rubbish. As I have mentioned in other articles some regions deliberately produce oil from frozen olives, as it is the local taste that they have become used to over the years. Naturally the taste is awful for those who know good olive oil. So what we end up with is a leading nation in olive oil production that doesn’t really understand what good olive oil is, or better said if given a bad olive oil would almost definitely say it was good, really anyone can appreciate a good olive oil once given the opportunity to taste it, the fruitiness speaks for itself.

I always have top quality olive oil at home and when friends and family come round for a meal they will always be served it. Once they smell it and taste it they are always blown away; "wow! It smells so good, what’s in it?” they ask, thinking that it carried some fruit additive or infusion and the simple answer is nothing, it should always smell like that…fruit juice. It should not smell like oil, you should instantly know this came from a fruit. So only time will educate the people as to what real olive oil should taste like and that will be no easy task with bulk producers more interested in making the extra penny, but this is where regulations and quality controls should be stricter. So learn more about olive oil and how you can recognise a real extra virgin.

 

 

Coffee has a similar story. What is known in Spain and other countries as café torrefacto or Café torrado is a coffee, which has received a special toasting, special because it is different, not because it is better. Back in the 40’s there was a huge shortage in coffee and it was extremely expensive so substitute drinks started to appear in households around the country such as chicory root or cereal seeds toasted with sugar and their consumption became widespread. This same technique of toasting with sugar was applied to coffee too as it was believed that the coffee maintained its freshness for longer as the fine coating of sugar was thought by some to delay the aroma escaping from the bean and the oxygen entering the bean, as modern techniques of preservation were obviously not available. But the fact that sugar was involved in the process helped tremendously with its success after many years of sugared chicory root. 

But what was this process of Torrefacto and what results did it achieve? 

Well a coffee bean acquires its taste and aroma during the toasting process, with Torrefacto café, sugar is added to the beans. In the past up to 20% of volume but now it is regulated at a maximum of 15%. This sugar is added in the last stage of the toasting process as the temperature is at its highest, approximately 200ºC, the sugar caramelises and forms a shiny film around the coffee bean. The only thing this achieves is a darker coffee in colour and more bitter in taste. The carbonised sugar masks the majority of the coffees qualities in terms of taste and aroma thus the technique was only really justified when the coffee bean was of very poor quality as the technique provides a certain uniformity and balance to the taste. However nowadays its consumption is not recommended and it is considered harmful to one’s health.

Firstly because it is much harder for the digestive system to cope with and thus people with ulcers or stomach problems will have difficulty consuming this coffee but more importantly it has been banned in many countries around the world, as it is believed to be carcinogenic. This technique is only known or used in Spain, Argentina, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Mexico, France and Portugal. In the rest of the world it is unheard of.

Although its use and consumption was perfectly understandable in those days it became a habit and the norm within Spanish society and continued even when economic conditions had improved.  When the coffee sector was opened up in 1980, controlled up to then only by the state, laws changed and a new market was made available for large companies to tap into. Although they were unaware in those days, they took advantage of the widespread torrefacto coffee, which was approved by the state, cheap, balanced and well accepted by the Spanish consumers and started to mass-produce it. This not only convinced the public that coffee should be strong and bitter but it also promoted the habit of adding more milk to the coffee to make it more acceptable and logically limited the size of the servings.

Slowly but surely 100% natural coffee started to make it way in but initially only by means of blends, at first 80% torrefacto -20% natural. As time moved on these percentages started to change but there is still a long road ahead before the Spanish really start to appreciate 100% natural coffee. Today we can still see manufacturers offering especially to bars and restaurants 50/50 blends. However in the north of Spain it is now far more common to find 100% natural coffee and the further north we go less torrefacto you will find. On the other hand in Andalucía you will find 60/40 (natural/torrefacto) and 50/50 and even in some villages you can still find 100% torrefacto, which is quite incredible nowadays and shouldn’t be allowed quite frankly.


 So in conclusion please make sure your olive oil is fruity and your coffee is 100% natural, your body and your palate will thank you for it.

 



Like 2        Published at 13:24   Comments (10)


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