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Recipe - Gazpacho Manchego - The winter gazpacho...
22 October 2019

With the cold front closing in this week it feels like winter or at least autumn is finally setting in, temperatures have dropped considerably and something warm and hearty should be on the menu and Gazpacho Manchego fits the bill...

Gazpacho Manchego originates in La Mancha, and it is actually mentioned in the book “Don Quijote de la Mancha” with one of its other names "Galiano". It was the shepherds of La Mancha that created this dish, and in fact, Galiano means "glen". This happens to be one of my wife’s favourites dishes, as it reminds her of her roots. 

Even though it carries the name Manchego, it is eaten in many areas, especially the Spanish regions of Madrid, Alicante and Valencia. There are also similar dishes, which are eaten in other countries, including Gaspacho Oranais which is eaten in the North-West of Algeria. 

This is mainly a game meat stew eaten with unleavened bread which happens to be its most peculiar ingredient. Originally the plate for gazpacho manchego was the unleavened bread itself, which is where the popular saying comes from “de los gazpachos se come hasta la cuchara y el plato".

 Unleavened bread was the first type of bread that humanity ever knew and as such it was consumed for thousands of years; prepared with whole wheat flour, it was cooked on stones over the fire or directly on the embers.

In the past Gazpacho Manchego was left on the bread until the bread was soaked and the consistency resembled a tortilla. There's a variation, which is called gazpacho pastor, from Cuenca, which is not allowed to soak, so it's more like a broth. However today the bread is more commonly incorporated directly into the stew during the cooking process.

Also back in the old days, people would often bake their own unleavened bread to use in this soup, and there can be no doubt that this is the best way to make this dish. However, that can be a lot of work and many Spanish supermarkets sell ready-made versions of the bread. 

It is not exactly the lightest of dishes, so avoid any starters before tackling this wholesome winter meal. Nevertheless, if you are a true food lover, Gazpacho Manchego is a must. I still remember my first plate to this very day and they left an everlasting impression. 

These are the ingredients for 6 people:

1/2 rabbit (make sure the liver is there)
1/2 free-range chicken
1 partridge (if you don't like partridge, substitute with another 1/2 of rabbit and chicken)
1 sliced onion 
1 full garlic head
1 red pepper
1 green pepper 
150g mushrooms
300 g grated tomato (without the skin - tinned will also do)
Olive oil
3 Bay leafs
Approx. 3 litres water
300-500g  2-3 Packets of ‘Torta para gazpacho’ (pictured below)

Cut the partridge, the rabbit and the chicken into pieces or ask your butcher to do it for you.
Add all the meat to a pan with a large dash of extra virgin olive oil and start to fry the meat until it is nicely browned. Now add the tomato, the peppers, the onion, the whole garlic (unpeeled), the bay leaves, a sprig of thyme and about 20 peppercorns and fry for a further 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat up the water and when you have finished frying add the water to the pan until it nicely covers all the meat. If you have any left keep it on hold for later just in case. Let it boil for about 30 minutes. After 15 minutes of boiling add the mushrooms and the saffron and test for salt. If the stock runs too low (below the level of the meat) and it starts to dry up just add some more hot water.

When it has finished boiling, remove from the heat. Take the meat out of the pan along with the garlic and let them cool down so that you don’t burn your fingers. Now take the meat off the bones (best to use fingers) and also peel the garlic (it should just pop out of the skin). 

Once it has all been deboned check the Gazpacho for any other small bones that might have been left in the stock and remove them. Most people just leave the bones in, but it so much nicer not having to worry about them. Return all the meat and garlic to the pan and the stock and add the unleavened bread pieces, one bag at a time, depending on your stock level.

The bread will soak up the stock so be careful, we don’t want it to soak up all the stock. Mix them in well and cook for a further 5 minutes and then let it stand for 5 minutes before serving. They go great with a glass of red wine and some crusty bread. I know it doesn't look very appetising but the flavour is out of this world!


Like 1        Published at 18:41   Comments (0)

Mediterranean style tomato soup
17 October 2019


Although tomatoes are around all year their natural season has come to an end so if you grow your own tomatoes or have a load stacked up and are fed up drinking gazpacho every day and eating tomato salads this is a wonderful Mediterranean alternative to a great Heinz classic from my childhood. However the quality of the tomato is key to this recipe, the soup will only be as good as the tomatoes are, so if you can find a local farmer or market they will be far better than the ones you will get in the supermarket which have already experienced refrigerated storerooms, they also tend to be much bigger when homegrown. However we want the tomatoes to be pretty ripe and not too hard, the riper they are the fuller the flavour. This recipe is a particular favourite of my daughter who is incapable of eating raw tomatoes, cooked or tomatoes in any which way or form unless it is in a warm soup, with no bits in it! I like to use large plum tomatoes, as they are full of flavour when ripe.

This recipe couldn’t get any more Mediterranean, all ingredients and herbs used to form the backbone of Mediterranean cooking so if you have tomatoes in your vegetable drawer which are going soft and aren’t up to scratch for the salads, don’t throw them away, this is what you do with them….




Mediterranean style Tomato Soup - 4 servings

1.25 kg. Ripe Tomatoes

1 Medium Yellow Onion

3 Garlic Cloves

1 tsp. Sea Salt

Fresh Ground Pepper

Dried Thyme and Rosemary

1 tsp. Paprika

1 tbsp. Chopped Parsley

1 Medium-sized carrot

1 Stick of celery

500ml Vegetable Stock (or chicken)

1 tbsp. Concentrated Tomato Paste

1 tbsp. Heavy Cream  (optional)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Recommended: Oro Bailén “Reserva Familiar” - Picual)

Fresh Oregano & Basil for garnish


Firstly, prepare your vegetables. You need 1.25kg of ripe tomatoes. If the tomatoes are on their vines, pull them off and wash the tomatoes. Now cut each tomato into quarters and slice off any hard cores (they don't soften during cooking and you'd get hard bits in the soup at the end). Peel 1 medium onion and 1 carrot and chop them up into pieces. Chop 1 celery stick roughly the same size. Take 3 cloves of garlic but do not peel them, just chop of the stem root tip, the skin will prevent them from burning but they will still release their flavour. The garlic will go all soft and oozy inside the skin with a rich roasted flavour. Finely chop up 1 tbsp of fresh parsley.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Spread all the ingredients on a rimmed non-stick baking tray. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (preferably Picual). I mentioned the brand “Oro de Bailén” as it has a wonderful fruity-green tomato flavour and aroma, which is ideal for this dish and is available in Carrefour. Sprinkle on the salt, ground pepper, thyme, rosemary, paprika and the chopped parsley. Roast on the middle rack for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and reduced to about half their size and the onions are partially caramelised.

Remove and cool slightly. Warm the vegetable stock and stir in the tomato paste to dissolve. Now find the garlic cloves and remove their skin, they will just fall off in your hand. Add all of the ingredients from the roasting pan into the stock and let it gently simmer for 5-10 minutes, make sure every drip of that rich olive oil goes in too! Use a blender to puree the soup in the pan. The soup should be smooth, with some texture. If you don't like any texture at all, just run it through a fine sieve.

Return it back to the pot, and add some cream to taste, if you want it creamy that is, otherwise it is ready to eat. Taste for salt and pepper and serve with some thick toasted bread grilled with manchego cheese. garnish with fresh chopped basil and oregano. Listo! Enjoy!





Like 1        Published at 17:29   Comments (0)

Barbecued Níscalos, it's that time of year
04 October 2019

After a classic summer and the recent heavy rainfalls, Spain's forests are giving birth to the autumn season of wild mushrooms or Níscalos as they are called here, and they are popping up all over the country.

Any pine forest around the country should have Níscalos, but at least two intense rainfalls within a maximum period of 40 days is necessary to bring them to the surface and get them growing. The wild mushrooms need around 21 days to grow to a reasonable size so you will need to keep an eye on the weather.

Mushrooms will normally pop up in open sunny areas if they have received abundant rainfall, but if they haven’t they will be more likely to appear in the shaded damp areas of the forests. However, I strongly recommend if you go out one day to collect these wild mushrooms, you do it with someone who understands what is what and which ones are still edible and which ones aren’t as there are poisonous Níscalos too which are similar in shape and colour. I also recommend you check for local restrictions, as there are regional bylaws sometimes which limit the amount, and when, you are allowed to collect mushrooms.

Mushroom picking can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. I for one have been fortunate enough to go Níscalo  (called Rebollónes here in Valencia) picking in Valencia, Castellon and the Sierra of Madrid accompanied by experimented “mushroom hunters” as they humorously referred to themselves as “Cazadores de Setas”! There is a skill in identifying where these mushrooms hide, as they are not always visible to the eye at first and it is necessary to separate the loose pine needles and grass on the forest floor to discover them and then dig them out. If you have the chance to go I highly recommend it as it is a great day out to get some fresh air and at the end of the day you will have a wonderfully tasty reward.

The grill or the BBQ are the perfect pieces of equipment for cooking mushrooms. Because mushrooms contain a high percentage of water they remain moist under high, direct heat. As they lose moisture the flavour of the mushroom (and anything you've put on them) is intensified. Purists will tell you that you shouldn’t wash your mushrooms in water. Mushrooms should be gently brushed off any remaining dirt or debris, washing should be a last resort as it will affect the final flavour. If you do wash them make sure you dry them straight away with a kitchen towel and wash them quickly. A small paintbrush or even a toothbrush are ideal for cleaning them, but admittedly it can be time-consuming.

No matter where I have picked Níscalos I have pretty much always ended up eating them the same way. Grilled on the barbecue with a dressing made from fresh parsley, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. This is very easy, dice up a few garlic cloves making sure you remove the heart (root) of the garlic and then chop up some fresh parsley. Next. mix them in a bowl with extra virgin olive oil, a fruity Picual is ideal. Blend it all together to make the dressing. You can also blend this in a blender if you don’t want any bits but I prefer it slightly more rustic. Place the mushrooms on the barbecue upside down and with a teaspoon just pour the dressing over the mushrooms, season with a little salt and cook until they are ready. There is no need to turn them over. Once ready just eat them and they are divine!



Another variant is to bake and grill them. Place all the mushrooms upside down on the baking tray sprinkle chopped parsley and chopped garlic over the mushrooms and then sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top of each mushroom. Finally drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the top, season with a little salt and put them in a pre-heated oven (top and bottom) at around 200ºC for about 20-30 min (depending on the size of the mushrooms) until the breadcrumbs have gone golden and the mushrooms are cooked. Remove them and squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the mushrooms and serve.  

If you can’t find them in the wild they will soon be available in the shops so there is no excuse for not trying this wonderful seasonal appetiser. Whichever way you prepare them I am sure you will get hooked on them.


Like 1        Published at 19:37   Comments (1)

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