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Spanish Fish Dishes - Marmitako
28 June 2017


Marmitako is another great fish dish from the Basque Country, whose cuisine is celebrated throughout Spain and the world as being one of the best. Marmitako is a tuna fish stew with potatoes that is not too difficult to make but is extremely tasty and filling.

The name Marmitako comes from the Basque word 'marmita' which means 'pot' or 'casserole' in the Basque language. This is combined with the suffix of the genitive case 'ko' to give Marmitako which literally means 'from the pot'. And that is precisely what this Spanish recipe is, a stew made in a pot. Of course, many dishes in Basque gastronomy are made in pots but clearly someone decided that this dish was deserving of the title.

Marmitako stew originally began life on board the local fishing boats off the Spanish coast, and in many cases, still is. However, it has also been a staple dish of many Basque restaurants, something which you will see when you visit Spain, especially in Summer which is the fishing season for tuna.

There are a number of variations of the dish, which mainly vary due to the type of fish used in the recipe. One of the most popular varieties is the one that uses salmon instead of the traditional salmon. However, tuna tends to be the favoured ingredient as it delicious, widely available and not that expensive!



This tuna fish stew is like a thick soup, which is in mostly due to the potatoes. The traditional method of 'cracking' the potatoes is done as it makes the potatoes release more starch into the stew. This also means that the fish soup is filling and a relatively small amount of ingredients can go a long way - perfect for those lovers of Spanish gastronomy on a budget!

Another great thing about Marmitako is that the main body of the stew can be prepared up to the point when you are about to add the tuna and will keep in a fridge overnight. You can then heat up the stew the next day and add the tuna then. This is what you will need:

Marmitako | Fresh Tuna and Potato Stew

2 dried choriceros or ancho chilli peppers
1 lb fresh tuna fillet
Coarse salt
2 lbs of russet potatoes (around 4 potatoes)
⅓ cup Olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ green bell pepper, seeded and cut into long, thin strips
1 tbsp sweet pimetón or paprika
Serves 6 when eaten as a main course


Put the dried chilli peppers into a heatproof dish and cover with boiling water and leave to stand for about 30 minutes, or until the peppers are soft.

Then drain the chilli peppers, slit them open and scrape out the flesh and put to one side. Get rid of the seeds, skins and stems.

Cut the tuna fillet into small pieces and sprinkle them with the coarse salt and leave to one side.

Peel the potatoes and then 'crack' them by cutting a little way into each potato and then breaking it open the rest of the way. The pieces should be the same size as chestnuts. Leave the pieces of the potatoes to one side.

In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat then add the onion, garlic, bell pepper strips and the chilli pepper flesh. Stir the mixture well and cook for about 5 minutes or until both the onion and green pepper have begun to go soft and all the ingredients are mixed together nicely.

To this mixture, add the potatoes and pimetón and mix well. Season with some salt and add water to cover the ingredients by about 5 centimetres (2 inches). Bring to a boil and then cover. Once covered, reduce the heat to a medium-low heat and then cook for another 30 minutes or until the potatoes feel soft when prodded with a fork.

Add the tuna to the pan and then simmer until the tuna is opaque, around 5 minutes. Remove the stew from the heat and then allow to stand for half an hour before serving.

When you come to serve the stew, reheat it over a low flame to a sufficiently hot temperature. Ladle out into warm bowls and serve straight away.


Like 2        Published at 17:25   Comments (2)

Chicken with a twist - Horchata
13 June 2017

Horchata de Chufa is a wonderful drink made from pressed tiger nuts. Although this drink is normally associated with refreshments or desserts I thought I would show you a rather unusual recipe which uses horchata in a savoury dish with chicken.

For those who are not so familiar with this summer refreshment, It is made from chufa, which in English would be the tiger nut and as a drink it goes back thousands of years. Old civilizations such as the Egyptians left samples of this healthy product in their tombs and sarcophagi. Also, diverse Persian and Arab authors already mentioned in their writings the digestive benefits of the chufa. But it was in the 13th century when the Arabs introduced their crop into the Mediterranean area. 

Valencia was and continues to be the only area in Europe where chufa is grown. Currently it is farmed in 16 towns around the area known as L'Horta Nord (or the Northern fertile land), which surrounds Valencia. About 5.3 million kilograms of tiger nut are produced in this area, of which 90% are covered by the Denomination of Origin.

This recipe is quite different from anything else and I doubt very much that any guests you may have in the future have tried it before, so if you are looking to surprise someone this may be the dish. These are the ingredients you will need for 2 people:


½ Chicken.
4 Mushrooms.
3 Sun dried tomatoes.
50g of Pine nut kernels.
2 Spoonfuls of white rice (basmati) with freshly chopped dill.
500 ml of Horchata.
1 Teaspoonful of refined cornflour.
Olive oil.





First you will need to season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper, put it in a small non stick baking tray and smear it with olive oil. Roast it in pre-heated oven at 180C degrees for one hour and a half approximately. Baste the chicken every ten minutes with a little horchata. When the chicken is golden, remove it from the oven and cut it up into pieces.

Pour the juice from the chicken and the horchata into a frying pan to reduce it and then thicken it slightly with a little refined corn flour that needs to be previously diluted in water. Once the sauce is ready place to one side.

Now cut the mushrooms in julienne and cook them on a low heat in a frying pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste. Lower the heat, add the pine nut kernels and toast them slightly. Once golden in colour add the chopped-up sun dried tomatoes and toss them all together in the pan for a minute

Serve the chicken and place the mushrooms, tomatoes and pine nut kernels garnish on top, next pour over the horchata sauce. Accompany the dish with basmati rice mixed with finely chopped fresh dill. Finally decorate with a sprig of parsley.


Like 1        Published at 14:56   Comments (2)

From the tree to the table....well not quite
06 June 2017


People often think that table olives can come straight off the tree and into a jar with perhaps some seasoning, but this is not the case and far from it. The olive fruit is a drupe. It has a bitter component which is called ‘oleuropein’, a low sugar content from 2.6-6% when compared with other drupes which have on average 12% or more and finally a high oil content from 12-30% depending on the time of year and variety.

Due to these characteristics it makes it a fruit that cannot be consumed directly from the tree and it has to undergo a series of processes that differ considerably from region to region, and which also depend on the variety of olive. Some olives are, however, an exception to this rule because as they ripen they sweeten right on the tree, in most cases this is due to fermentation. One case is the Thrubolea variety in Greece, however this is not common.

Oleuropein, which is distinctive to the olive, has to be removed as it has a really strong bitter taste and those who have eaten an olive straight off the tree know what I am talking about: it is not, however, pernicious to health. It just tastes terrible. Depending on local methods and customs, the fruit is generally treated in sodium or potassium hydroxide, brine or successively rinsed in aerated water.

The olive's suitability for table consumption is a function of its size, which is important to presentation. Olives between 3 and 5g are considered medium-sized, while those weighing over 5 g are large.  The stone should come away easily from the flesh and a ‘flesh:stone’ ratio of 5 to 1 is acceptable; the higher this ratio the better the commercial value of the olives. The skin of the fruit should be fine, yet elastic and resistant to blows and to the action of alkalis and brine.

High sugar content in the flesh is an asset. The lowest acceptable level is 4%, especially in olives that undergo fermentation.
For table olives oil content should be as low as possible because in many cases it impairs the keeping properties and consistency of the processed fruit. Only in certain types of black olives is a medium to high oil content desirable.

In Spain most of the table olives are green olives. These are obtained from olives harvested during the ripening cycle when they have reached normal size, but prior to colour change. They are usually hand picked when there is a slight change in hue from leaf-green to a slightly yellowish green and when the flesh begins to change consistency but before it turns soft. Colour change should not have begun. Trials have been run to machine harvest table olives, but owing to the high percentage of bruised fruit they had to be immersed in a diluted alkaline solution while still in the orchard, this being said table olive are still in their majority harvested by hand. Recently harvested, the olives should be taken to the plant for processing on the same day.



Green olives are processed in two principal ways: with fermentation, which is considered the Spanish style, and without fermentation, which is considered the Picholine or American style. 

In Spain the majority of olives are treated in a diluted lye solution (sodium hydroxide) to eliminate and transform the oleuropein and sugars, to form organic acids that aid in subsequent fermentation, and to increase the permeability of the fruit. The lye concentrations vary from 2% to 3.5%, depending on the ripeness of the olives, the temperature, the variety and the quality of the water. The treatment is performed in containers of varying sizes in which the solution completely covers the fruit. The olives remain in this solution until the lye has penetrated two thirds of the way through the flesh. The lye is then replaced by water, which removes any remaining residue and the process is repeated. Lengthy washing properly eliminates soda particles but also washes away soluble sugars, which are necessary for subsequent fermentation.

Fermentation is carried out in suitable containers in which the olives are covered with brine. Traditionally, this was done in wooden casks. More recently, larger containers have come into use that are inert on the inside. The brine causes the release of the fruit cell juices, forming a culture medium suitable for fermentation. Brine concentrations are 9-10% to begin with, but rapidly drop to 5% owing to the olive's higher content of interchangeable water.

When properly fermented, olives keep for a long time. If they are in casks, the brine level must be topped up. At the time of shipment, the olives have to be classified for the first or second time as the case may be. The original brine is replaced and the olives are packed in barrels and tin or glass containers. Sometimes they are stoned (pitted) or stuffed with anchovies, pimento, etc.

The most commonly used varieties in Spain are Manzanillo and Gordal.

Like 2        Published at 23:45   Comments (4)

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