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Summer Starters from Spain - Clams in Green Sauce
23 August 2016


Although Clams in 'Salsa Verde' (green sauce) are traditionally eaten as a special dish up north in Galicia for Christmas, they are eaten throughout the year and are a wonderful starter to share with friends and family any time of the year. As is the case with most traditional recipes the quality of the ingredients is the key to a fantastic result.

This is a quick and easy dish to make and will take no more than  20 minutes to prepare if your clams are already clean and free of sand. The ingredients are easy to find but it is essential to use fresh parsley, a good dry and fruity white wine and of course fresh clams not frozen. If you are able to find them Galician clams are the best. I highly recommend using an Albariño white wine or a Ribeiro, both work wonderfully with this dish.

Ingredients to make Clams in Salsa Verde ( 2 people) :  

500 grams of clean clams

125 ml  of white wine (Albariño Rias Baixes ó Ribeiro, preferably)

2 cloves garlic large

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon of wheat flour

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper

(some like to add 1 small crushed dried chilli – optional)

Before you begin, if you have make sure the clams are clean and have no sand in them. If you bought them already cleaned, great, but if not you will have to clean them. There is nothing worse than chewing on a gritty clam!

So you will need to let them soak in water with salt for 2 hours, changing the water two or three times during that time. Once the clams are clean we can start with the recipe. Peel two cloves of garlic, mince and remove the heart of the garlic . Put them in a frying pan with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and bay leaf . Before they have browned add a tablespoon of flour and stir well . Let the flour brown  a little but not burn.

 Now add the wine , clams , a pinch of salt (half dessert spoon), a little pepper and sprinkle with two tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley. Cover the pan and leave on medium heat for 5 minutes . After 5 minutes remove the lid and see which  clams have opened and remove them from the pan. Once they have all opened and been removed, check if the green sauce needs salt.

Now let the sauce simmer a little more without the lid and the clams, we want to reduce the sauce so it becomes slightly thicker.

We must ensure that the sauce is well blended , so don't remove it from the heat until the sauce is nice and thick, we also want to make sure all the alcohol has evaporated. When the sauce is ready put the clams back in and mix well with the sauce. This will heat the clams up again and them serve immediately. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with the remaining parsley and accompany it with a wedge off lemon. Some prefer that acidic touch to the sauce that the lemon gives, but I prefer it just as it is. What I will do from time to time is add a dried chili or two depending on the quantity of clams. This gives it a wonderful kick! You can add the chili right at the beginning with the garlic, that way it will flavour the olive oil directly.



The last thing you must remember is to have plenty of crusty bread because once you have finished the clams there will be loads of delicious sauce to soak up!!


Like 1        Published at 16:29   Comments (1)

Summer Starters from Spain - Avocado Gazpacho
17 August 2016


This week I thought I would share with you another summer recipe as the heat is now seriously upon us, and a refreshing starter is ideal for any meal. Although most cold soups in Spain are based around the tomato such as Gazpacho Andaluz or Salmorejo, this one is based primarily on avocados. It is wonderfully refreshing and delicate in flavour. Ideal as a starter for any meal, be it fish, meat or rice... so a great addition to the recipes I posted last week.

The avocado is a product originally from the American continent, where the Aztecs believed it had aphrodisiac properties. Since pre-Columbian times it has been cultivated in Mexico and the rest of Central America under the name "ahuacatl".

In the seventeenth century the Spaniards, who named it  the Indian Pear because of its similarity to the national pear, was taken by them to the West Indies, while the Portuguese took it to Brazil.

In the eighteenth century the Spanish adventurers introduced it into the Canary Islands via the Botanical Garden of Orotava, where it jumped to the Peninsula.  Now it is generally cultivated in the Mediterranean area, from Murcia down to Andalucía.

It is such a simple recipe to make and healthy at the same time, so I hope you enjoy it.

The Ingredients you will need for 4-6 people are the following:

4 large ripe avocados
2 large chicken carcasses for stock ( or ready made chicken stock, enough for 4-6 servings)
1 cup evaporated milk (approx. 200ml)
1 sweet potato
1 lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (preferably a good Picual – ej. Oro Bailén)
Salt, Pepper



Put the chicken carcasses in a pressure cooker with water (covering the carcasses), two sprigs of parsley and a pinch of salt. Close the cooker and cook on mark 2 for 5 minutes once the safety valve has risen. Once cooked, sieve and let it cool down.

Cut 3 avocados in half and scoop out the flesh into to a bowl. Add the juice of half a lemon. Blend with and electric mixer. Pour part of the chicken broth and continue blending, it should have a light consistency. Add the evaporated milk and continue blending. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Peel the sweet potato and cut into very thin strips “Julienne” style, effectively we want potato straws, so nice and thin. Fry in a pan with hot olive oil. Remove to a plate with kitchen towel to remove excess fat.

Peel the last avocado, scoop out the flesh and dice it up into bite size cubes and place to one side. 

Serve the soup in bowl and place in the centre a little chopped avocado and fried sweet potato on top. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and you’re ready to go.

You may want to accompany this starter with some toasted bead topped with Iberian ham and olive oil, it accompanies the avocado really well.

The sweet potato is a potato-like tropical tuber. They differ in that this potato has a thicker skin and a more elongated shape, but more so in the flavour, which is sweet thus adding a wonderful touch to the dish.

This dish is highly recommended for all children, youth, adults, athletes, pregnant women, nursing mothers and elderly.

It high contribution of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats makes it a recommended dish especially for those with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Monounsaturated fats have the property of reducing the rates of total blood cholesterol, because they elevate the so-called "good cholesterol".

As for the vitamin content of this recipe, there are three that deserve more attention for their antioxidant capabilities: vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin E.

Furthermore, due to its richness in magnesium and potassium, and its low sodium level, this recipe is highly recommended for those who suffer from hypertension or heart conditions.



If you fancy a more traditional gazpacho here is the link to the The best gazpacho recipe ever




Like 1        Published at 13:27   Comments (2)

Summer Starters from Spain - Chilled Soups
09 August 2016

Cold soups, like salads, are starters we crave for in the warmer months, so here are a few proposals that are slightly different from your standard gazpacho or vichyssoise. They are really easy to make so you can easily make them in advance and cool them in the fridge for later. 


1. //   This first recipe might surprise you because of its ingredients but its taste will also surprise you. Roasted peppers, watermelon and basil make a wonderful blend; the fruit brings a unique freshness to the dish. It is garnished with crispy croutons and boiled egg. You could also add Serrano ham or even ‘mojama’; salted fish. Roasted peppers and basil marry together perfectly but make sure the basil is fresh and the watermelon is flavoursome.


Roasted Peppers, Watermelon & Basil



To make the soup you will need:

Ingredients (4 servings) 
400 grams of roasted peppers (red bell peppers), 
200 grams of roasted pepper juice
250 grams of watermelon 
2 cloves garlic, 
Fresh basil,
Extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper

Garnish :

4 eggs, croutons, extra virgin olive oil, champagne vinegar (optional). 

Make sure you have enough time to roast the peppers and let them cool down before making the recipe. To roast them, clean them inside and out but leave them whole and place them on a tray covered with tin foil and roast them at 200ºC for about an hour or until they are tender, turning them over half way through the cooking time.

Turn off the oven and leave them until they are cool then peel them, remove any seeds and recover the juice that that has been released by the peppers, this will help lighten the soup but maintain its flavour. Place the peppers and half of the juice in the blender. 

Cut the watermelon into cubes, remove the skin and seeds and add it to the peppers in the blender. Peel the garlic cloves, cut them length ways and remove the central roots and add them the blender along with several basil leaves, the amount depends on how much you like the flavour of this aromatic plant. So blend and taste.

Blend until it is creamy and add a trickle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Blend again to emulsify.  Now you can add the rest of the roasted pepper juice depending on how thick you want the soup to be. Add and blend until you get the consistency you want. Taste for salt and pepper and then store in the refrigerator. 

Make 4 hard-boiled eggs; cool them off in cold water. Peel the eggs and separate yolks and whites, grate the yolks and dice the whites to sprinkle on top of the soup.

Season the croutons with a little extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of vinegar for a touch of acidity. Finally add a few leaves of basil before serving and a slight drizzle of Picual extra virgin olive oil.


2. //  This next soup is a Spanish classic; The Ajoblanco, which is like gazpacho or Salmorejo in that every cook has their own proportions and their slight differences but is unique in flavour and always a favourite. I like Ajoblanco with a slight thick and creamy texture, and that is how I am going to share it with you today.  This soup is believed to have originated with the Romans and I can assure you any garlic lover will be asking for seconds so make plenty of it.




Here are Ingredients (4 servings):

 ½ Litre mineral water
250 grams of peeled almonds (to peel them scald them in boiling water)
2 cloves garlic (not too large)
A piece of bread from the previous day (the amount needed will depend on the texture you want)
Sherry vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil  - Arbequina 

Again this a recipe that creates hardly any work and if you have a half decent blender you’ll get a velvety texture, however the real Ajoblanco was made with pestle and mortar, only to be done if you fancy a tough workout.

So to save time introduced into the blender the water, the bread, the peeled almonds and garlic, blend them and then emulsify with olive oil, adding it little by little. Finally add the sherry vinegar and salt. 
Taste and rectify accordingly if necessary and then pass the soup through a fine sieve. Cool in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 

Usually you can accompany the Ajoblanco with grapes or melon, however you can also garnish with anchovies or ham, eggs and a few drops of sesame oil, tomatoes or just with fish roe and a sprig of parsley. There is nothing written in stone so here you can leave your mark.


3. //  The last soup today is another recipe that uses melon. Melon goes very well with nuts and also with mint and peppermint, and if we add a touch of flavour with the crispy Serrano ham you can imagine that the combination becomes very interesting. So you must try this recipe soon while the summer is still here. 


      Melon, Almonds & Mint



Ingredients (4-6 servings)
 900 grams of Galia Melon
 120 grams of almonds (can be whole, chopped or ground)
 2 cloves garlic
 6 mint leaves (10-12 spearmint)
 Black pepper
 40 grams of extra virgin olive oil



 Melon balls, cherry tomatoes, crispy Serrano ham bits, small mint leaves, extra virgin olive oil. 


Thoroughly wash the melon, dry it, cut it in half and remove the seeds. Make some melon balls using a Parisian spoon and put to one side. Next remove the skin and place the melon fruit, chopped up, into the blender. Peel the garlic, remove the central root inside and add to the blender, add the peeled almonds and mint leaves and finally salt and pepper. Blend into a fine and homogeneous soup. 

Add the extra virgin olive oil and blend into an emulsion. Keep the melon soup in a glass covered container until it has chilled.  When ready to serve add a cherry tomato and one or two melon balls a couple of mint leaves. Serve melon soup and garnish with almonds, a cherry tomato and one or two balls of melon, a few mint leaves, a sprinkle of crispy ham and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

Well that’s it and I hope you enjoy these refreshing starters.


Like 0        Published at 11:48   Comments (0)

Summer Starters from Spain - Crispy Baby Squid - 'Puntilla'
03 August 2016

The summer is here and the season for paella at the beach is full steam ahead, so I thought I would introduce you to one of my favourite starters, a classic and one that always gets ordered whenever we have a paella away from home: ‘Puntilla de Calamar’, unbelievably tasty, moreish and easy to prepare. The reason we love it so much, is not just because of its taste but also because it is a light starter that doesn't kill your appetite before a paella, which can often be quite a heavy meal.

‘Puntillas de Calamar’ are effectively ‘baby squid’ and are eaten all over Spain as a starter but mainly on the coast and normally they accompany rice dishes, as they are light and flavoursome. They are effectively like seafood popcorn and I just can’t put them down when I get going! With or without  a little squeezed lemon, they are just fantastic. 


You will need for 4 people :

800gr Young Squid – “Puntilla de Calamar” (they reduce in size by around 50% when cooked)
Wheat flour - Tempura 
Bread crumbs (optional) 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

They are extremely easy to prepare and a few details need to be addressed to achieve the best results. Firstly you will need to clean and prepare the ‘puntilla’. This means removing the eyes, which we will then dispose of, and removing the the transparent tough membrane that goes along the inner body, effectively like a back bone and it just slides out when you pull on it. Then we thoroughly wash and dry the puntilla.  This is the first of the key points that need to be addressed. If the puntilla are not dry the flour with go all stodgy and cause a real mess. So before we flour the squid make sure it is completely dry.  

Now to flour the squid: You can use a sieve or a plastic bag, which ever you find easier. So place the squid in a bag or a sieve, salt them lightly and cover with flour and shake repeatedly, ‘tempura flour’ is best but any wheat flour will work. Hear comes another trick, although it is not always done and using just flour will work just fine, a good trick to get a nice and crunchy squid is to blend the flour with bread crumbs in a 50/50 mix. This will give them that crunchy edge which I love. Notice we are not adding egg here, we don’t want a batter, of any sort. Once the squid is completely covered with the flour mix we need to deep fry.

At this point we need to fry the floured baby squid ‘puntilla’. Lastly it is very important to make sure the olive oil is very hot, but not smoking. You can test the temperature with a small piece of bread, if it browns fairly quickly, its ready. The oil needs to be hot so the squid doesn’t soak up any oil and the flour crisps properly, so if you are doing a large batch be careful how many you put in the pan or the fryer as the temperature will drop if you place too many in at once so do them smaller batches and make sure you have abundant olive oil in the pan, so they can float. Once they are golden in colour, remove them and place them on kitchen towel. Dry them and serve immediately with a few lemon quarters.



So there you are, an extremely easy starter. Now this same technique can be used for many types of seafood such as Large squid rings – Calamari or even large prawns for dipping.


Like 1        Published at 14:38   Comments (3)

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