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My Wine Recommendation Nº 6 - For under €10
16 May 2017


Here I have a new wine for you that I discovered recently. Quite a pleasent surprise actually. The wine comes from Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro, which is a classic producer of traditional wines in Rioja, spanning a variety of wines representative of the region. But today I'm recommending a red, a 'Reserva 100% tempranillo', which is probably no surprise as its one of my favourite varieties here in Spain. 

This reserva comes from the region of the Rioja Sonsierra, which is in the heart of the area covered by the DOCa Rioja, inside the Rioja Alta. As its name suggests, “Sonsierra” is at the foot of a mountain range on the south side of the Toloño Mountains, which is part of a larger mountain range called Sierra de Cantabria. The mountains on the north and the River Ebro on the south make it one of the most favourable areas to make wine.

The microclimate, together with its special geographical features, makes it a perfect place for vineyards. On the one hand, the level of humidity is adequate with more rainfall in winter than any other season of the year, which is perfect for vines. Mostly moderate and some strong winds flow along the River Ebro from the southeast (solano in Spanish) or the northeast (cierzo) as well as fresh air come down the Toloño mountain range. These wind flows are key for maintaining a health vine.

The area’s orography is very uneven with a series of valleys that drop from the mountain range to the river, providing the land with many slopes and terraces of limestone-clay soils that have good drainage and therefore yielding the best Tempranillo grapes. These exceptional conditions for growing vines have generated a wine-producing tradition that is still alive in the entire area and has combined perfectly with the modern times.

'Bodega Classica Lopez de Haro' has been designed and built strategically on top of a hill so it can benefit from a natural climate control, as it is mostly built underground, and even the vats have been chosen with different sizes to make wine from different plots of land and with large mouths to imitate the traditional winemaking method of “lagos abiertos”, where whole grapes are deposited in open vats and carbonic maceration takes place. The bodega has around 5,000 barrels in stock, mainly in French oak.

This wine is a medium-high depth wine andruby red in colour. It is powerful on the nose with aromas of ripe fruit accompanied by complex spicy and balsamic notes. It is very balanced on the palate, with ripe and sweet tannins, providing the wine with a long aftertaste. It is a very elegant Rioja classic and highly recommendable for the price of €8,90. I found it in the Corte Ingles but it is also available online. 




Like 2        Published at 12:03   Comments (3)

Spanish Fish Dishes - Tuna Steak with Onion
10 May 2017


I am not a great fish eater to be honest, it’s not really something I enjoy much so I don’t tend to cook it very often but tuna is an exception and  I can’t get enough of it!  Whether it is raw or cooked, doesn't bother me, I love it both ways. 

“Atun Encebollado” (Tuna with an onion reduction) is one of those recipes that can get you out of trouble on any occasion and saved me when I had to prepare a sudden dinner not so long ago. It is a quick fish recipe that we can enjoy either hot or cold and it is ever so easy to prepare. It is a really classic dish in Andalucía and especially in Barbate (the province of Cadiz). If you happen to pass through Barbate you must pay a visit to El Campero, one of the best restaurants in the area and one of the reasons I fell in love with “fresh tuna” many years ago. Never having been a fish eater, my tuna experience up to then was limited entirely to tinned tuna, believe it or not. If you like tinned tuna you will love fresh tuna, so you must give this recipe a go.


Tuna & Onion ingredients for 4 people:

4 thick tuna steaks (cut into rectangular blocks)
3 Onions
2 garlic cloves
Extra virgin olive oil
150 ml of white wine
100 ml fish stock
2 tsp. Paprika de Vera
1 Bay leaf
1 tsp. Oregano
1 tbsp  Sherry Vinegar.

Steps to take:

1. Peel and cut into thin slices the onions and garlic.
2. Add 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a saucepan.

3. Quickly seal the tuna steaks in the frying pan, just so they go white on the outside, don’t cook them. Remove straight away and put to one side.

4. Now add the onion and garlic and let them simmer on a low heat, stirring occasionally for about ten minutes.

5. When the onion is whitish and very soft, add the paprika de Vera and stir in quickly.

6. Almost immediately add the fish broth and then the wine and finally the bay leaf and the oregano.

7. Half cover the pan with the lid and cook on medium-low heat for another 15 minutes. After 5 minutes of cooking add the sherry vinegar and stir in.

8. Next place the tuna steaks back in and cook for a further 5 minutes.  The sauce should be thickening so the stock and wine should have reduced more or less by this point but not dried out. If you see it starting to dry out remove from the heat straight away or add a drop of fish stock and continue, but only if you want the tuna well cooked. These last 5 minutes will depend on your preferences, experiment! I like my tuna raw in the middle.
 (If the source is still too liquid then you could thicken it with a little flour, but brown the flour in a separate saucepan first and add a little stock from the onions, stir and blend in the saucepan and then pour it into the other pan)

9. Now just serve and enjoy.

If you are interested in the tuna traditions associated with Cadiz then you might find this other article of mine interesting: Red Tuna of Almadraba





Like 2        Published at 15:48   Comments (2)

Spanish Fish Dishes - Cod Pil-Pil
04 May 2017

Bacalao (cod) al pil-pil is a recipe originally from the Basque country. It may be more myth than history, but there's a story that claims this Spanish dish was created during the 2nd Carlist war, when a merchant ordered 20 or 22 specimens of cod before the siege of Bilbao began. Instead of 20 or 22 fish, he was delivered 20,022.

The legend says that the merchant tried to sell most of the excess cod he had received in towns within the Cantabric region but then the second siege of Bilbao began. It was in fact a fortunate mistake, as there was an important shortage of food due ti the siege, and luckily there was enough olive oil as well. These two key factors helped soften the famine in Bilbao.

The story says that this merchant  went on to become a rich man and one of the most important business men in the city. This dish was particularly popular during Lent, as fish was the only meat source people were allowed to consume. However this is one version of history. There are other theories that claim that bacalao al pil-pil was the natural evolution of a dish called Bacalao a la Provenza or similar cod dishes.

Anyhow, despite it's dubious origin, what makes bacalao al pil pil such a successful dish? I believe it lies in the simplicity of its ingredients: cod, olive oil and chili. If you happen to visit Spain, most bars and restaurants in Spain will serve it so make sure you give it a try.

There is however some debate surrounding this seemingly simple cod recipe as there tends to be with most classic Spanish dishes. That debate concerns the way that the cod should be cooked. Some people believe that the cod should first be cooking skinside up for five minutes, before being flipped over and then performing the pil pil process. Meanwhile others say that the cod should be cooked skinside down first, and should be skinside up during the pil pil process. Both sides claim that theirs is the best way for releasing the gelatine from the fish to make the sauce. Maybe you should try both and decide yourselves. I personally tend to cook it skinside up for the first few minutes then skinside down for the pil-pil process.

Bacalao al pil pil is a little tricky and does require a little technique in order to make the pil pil sauce just right. However don't be put off as even the most novice chef, with a little patience, can produce an excellent example of the dish. To make sure you get it right, here are a few quick tips. Only use olive oil as other oils and fats do not produce the same emulsion effect and make sure the temperature of the oil is quite low. You can use fresh cod or salted cod, traditonally it is made with salted cod which you need to 'de-salt'  in clean water for about 24-48 hours (depending on the thickness), changing the water every 8 hours. Most claim that this is the best way but both syles of cod work.

The key is to create a good emulsion sauce with the oil and the gelatine that the cod releases. To do it the traditonal way by swirling the pan is very difficult and time consuming but the quickest way to get a good thick emulsion is once the cod is cooked you let the oil and cod gelatine mix in the pan cool down until it is warm, then transfer it to a sauce pan. The next step is to get a sieve and a ladel. Ladel a little of the oil and gelatine mix into the frying pan (no heat) and stir backwards and forwards with the sieve, basically whisk it with the bottom of the sieve in the frying pan, this will help to emulsify the oil. Add a little more and repeat. Do this until you have enough sauce. Remember it is impossible to emulsify the oil if it is still very hot.



Ingredients for 4 people:

    •    8 pieces of fresh or desalted cod loins
    •    300 cc of olive oil
    •    5 thickly chopped garlic cloves
    •    1 chopped chili (5 pieces more or less)
    •    Salt to taste


1. Desalt the cod if necessary, remove any fish bones.

2. Add the olive oil to a sauce pan at medium heat.

3. Add the garlic and brown them slowly.

4. Remove the garlic and add the chopped chili to the oil.

5. Place the cod loins skinside up in the oil (medium heat) for 2 minutes and then turn over for another 2 minutes, this should be enough to cook them through. (Remember you are not deep frying the fish. If it is sizzling a lot then oil is too hot and won't release its gelatine)

5. Remove the cod loins and place them on a dish, also remove the chillis.

6. Let the oil mixture cool down and then create the emulsion as explained earlier with the sieve.

7. Serve as displayed in the photo.

8. You can accompany this dish with runner beans and boiled  new potatoes if you wish.



Like 3        Published at 11:23   Comments (1)

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