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IAN & SPAIN

WELCOME TO MY BLOG. HAVING LIVED IN SPAIN FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS I HAVE TRULY MANAGED TO IMMERSE MYSELF IN THE LOCAL CULTURE AND FEEL TOTALLY INTEGRATED. I WILL BE WRITING ABOUT MY PASSION FOR SPANISH FOOD AND DRINK AS WELL AS ITS CULTURE, PEOPLE AND PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A COMMENT.

Summer Clams Starter
27 June 2019

 

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!!

Enjoy!



Like 0        Published at 23:00   Comments (0)


Calamares - The perfect tapas and how to prepare them.
16 June 2019

I don't know about you, but I am really picky with my Calamares, and I mean really picky. I won't eat them if they are battered, greasy, soggy or tough. In fact, unless they are spot on, I won't eat them. My wife gets all anxious every time I order Calamares (deep fried squid rings) in a bar because she knows the score. As soon as they are placed on the table she can see in my face if I'm going to eat them or not. Basically, if they are battered or reflect the light, I'm not eating them. 

I´m a huge fan of Spanish tapas and Calamares are one of my favourites. But I must admit it took several years to get round to eating them as my first few experiences with Calamares was absolutely terrible; tough, greasy and tasteless. So I pretty much scrapped them from my menu. But it was in a restaurant in Valencia where I developed almost an addiction for Calamares. I tried them again and I was hooked once and for all. They were perfect and became my benchmark Calamares. The restaurant was Marisqueria Cervera and everything about them was ideal. They were not battered but fried in flour. They were dry and incredibly crispy but not at all heavy. The coating was perfect and of course, they were about as tender as they can be. The perfect tapas. If you ever happen to be in Valencia you must pay them a visit.  http://www.marisqueriascivera.com 

Once you have tried Calamares this good it makes it difficult to enjoy Calamares in other establishments, but I never give up. They are my tapas of choice with a cold beer before lunch. If you have read any of my other posts you will know I like cooking, so naturally, I went on a quest to learn how to make the perfect Calamares and that is exactly what I am going to share with you.

To be quite honest it is really simple but as always the fresher the calamari/squid the better. However, it is not always possible to get really fresh squid so a lot of the time you will not be impressed by the result as they turn out tough and chewy. That said there is a trick of the trade that is used by many restaurants to ensure their calamares are tender to the bite. And lone behold it is milk.

Milk has long been used as a tenderiser for meats but it also works wonders with squid, only, it is essential to add salt to the milk so that the squid absorbs the milk and thus softens the texture and collagen.  The amount of salt is approximately half a teaspoon for every 400ml of whole fat milk. The amount of milk necessary will be half the weight of the calamari. So if you have 800 grams of calamari - 400 ml of whole fat milk and 1/2 teaspoon of salt - once mixed place them in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight. If you can get them fresh from the fish market, great you can jump this step, but in the supermarket, they are almost all defrosted squid. When you have your squid, clean them, discard the head and the innards and remove the spinal bone, which just slides out.  Then cut up the squid into rings about 1cm in width.  The add them to the milk.

Once tenderised, drain the milk and let them sit in a sieve for about 30 minutes until they have completely drained and come up to room temperature. Dry them with kitchen paper towels to remove excess liquid and then cover them with wheat flour - 'harina de trigo' which is special for frying - it is not as fine as other flours.  The one I use is HARIN. Make sure they are covered in abundant flour, so don't put too many in the flour at once. 

 

Make sure you have a deep fat fryer or a deep frying pan with abundant extra virgin olive oil. When it is at 170ºC or on the point of smoking you are ready to go - you can use bread to test the temperature - drop in a little bit and observe the colour it turns - it should go golden very quickly.

 

 

Just before you put them in, squeeze the squid and the flour firmly with your hands and then place in the hot oil. Don't put too many in at once, make sure they have room to move around and aren't on top of each other. Let them go golden crisp and take them out, let then drain properly and then place them on kitchen paper to dry.  Ideally, a frying basket is the best tool for this job.  Once dry they are ready to eat. Either as they are or with lemon or mayonnaise. Perhaps even in a crusty roll if you want to make more of a meal out of it. Absolutely delicious too.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Like 1        Published at 13:29   Comments (2)


Antioxidant benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
14 June 2019

First of all, what is  'Oxidation'? It is a process that occurs not only when oil is being produced, but also inside our own bodies. Reactions occur continually inside the body, giving rise to the formation of free radicals (peroxidants). As a rule, free radicals do not cause severe damage thanks to the protection provided by antioxidants, which help to keep a balance up to a point. If the balance is spoiled, however, "oxidative stress" occurs, leading to deterioration of normal cell functions and even cell death.

Oxidation is a complex, fundamental phenomenon in the process of cell ageing. Lipid or fat peroxidation tends to be proportional to the number of double bonds in a compound, explaining why oleic acid shows little susceptibility to oxidation.

Cell membranes contain a large amount of fat and cholesterol and their composition depends on diet. When the diet contains a lot of olive oil, the cells are more resistant to oxidation, they do not deteriorate as much and ageing is slower.

Approximately 1.5% of olive oil is made up of the unsaponifiable fraction, which contains antioxidants. Virgin olive oil contains the largest quantities of these substances and other minor components.

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), carotenoids and phenolic compounds (simple phenols such as hydroxytyrosol and complex phenols such as oleuropein) are all antioxidants whose activity has been demonstrated in vitro and recently in vivo, revealing further advantages in the prevention of certain diseases and also of ageing.

The phenolic content of olive oils varies according to the climatic conditions in the producing area, when the olives are harvested and how ripe they are when picked. Oil production and storage methods also have an influence. Phenols have countless biological properties, for instance hydroxytyrosol  is anti-inflammatory and oleuropein encourages the formation of nitric acid, which is a powerful vasodilator and exerts a strong anti-bacterial effect.

Oxidised LDLs are known to be atherogenic, which is where olive oil steps in because it has a beneficial, protective effect against LDL oxidation. Moreover, it also strengthens other cells in the body against the toxic effects of oxidants.

The high antioxidant content of the Mediterranean diet appears to contribute significantly to its effect on longevity.

These antioxidants are found in fresh fruit and vegetables. Because it is the only oil to be obtained from a fruit, olive oil retains a host of substances, antioxidants and vitamins that give it added nutritional value.

The explanation behind this high content of antioxidants is probably that because the olive is a fruit that is exposed to the air, it has to defend itself from oxygen. It therefore synthesises a larger amount of antioxidants, which pass through to the oil.

Virgin olive oil, i.e. olive oil that has not been refined or industrially treated, is particularly rich in these substances and it has a strong antioxidant effect, protecting against damage from free radicals (scavenger activity) and against the formation of cancer.


 



Like 0        Published at 22:33   Comments (1)


It's Gazpacho time again.. but with a twist!
07 June 2019

With all my recipes I attempt to share the raw essence of Spanish cuisine, the simple basic recipes that have become the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. They are not necessarily flamboyant dishes and certainly don’t need expert hands to make them, but they have all passed the test of time and are still classics to this very day. 

 
Almond Cream Gazpacho is similar to a normal Gazpacho but much more filling and creamier in texture more like a Salmorejo, personally, I prefer it and depending on how you prepare it can be a meal in its own right. Whereas with the original Gazpacho you would need a second course to accompany it. This recipe is basically a combination of the two, through trial an error, I finally found the consistency and flavour that was ideal for me. What I am going to share with you is not strictly a Gazpacho or a Salmorejo but a variation of the both and it is absolutely fantastic! My mouth is watering as I write! It’s an all-time favourite with all my family.
 
It is cheap, easy and quick to make and as it’s main ingredients are tomato and olive oil, so you can’t go wrong! Anyone who loves a salad will adore this recipe. All you need is a blender, a fine sieve and a pestle and mortar.
 
These are the ingredients you will need for 8 servings, as it keeps in the fridge for a couple of days I always tend to make more than I will need for one sitting.
 
 
For 8 servings 
 
1 kilo of mature tomatoes, peeled and with the seeds removed
30 g of peeled almonds 
2 cloves of garlic (removing the inner root so you don’t have that taste of garlic repeating all day!)
3 slices of stale country loaf bread approx 300g from the day before (without the crust, not baguette)
100 ml of white wine vinegar 
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 large spring onion (just the onion, not the Green sprouts but the size of a normal onion)
1 cucumber ( about 20 cm)
150 ml extra virgin olive oil
10g Salt – or to taste
 
Toppings:
 
8 slices of Serrano Ham
8 boiled Eggs
Baguette Croutons fried in Extra Virgin Olive Oil
 
 
 The first step is to scald the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute and then place them in cold water straight away and remove the skin. Then we dice up the bread and add the vinegar to the stale bread. Grind the almonds and the garlic cloves in the mortar. Once you have a paste add the bread and vinegar and keep grinding until they have all blended together nicely.
 
 We remove the skin from the cucumber using a potato peeler and chop it up along with the tomatoes, spring onion and peppers. Now place all the ingredients in the blender all together along with the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I use Arbequina variety olive oil for this recipe but really you can use any good extra virgin olive oil: Picual; Hojiblanca; Royal. Just make sure it isn’t too pungent. Blend them all together until you have an even mixture. Variations may occur depending on the type of bread you have used, so if it is not thick enough just add more bread to the recipe. If it has turned out too thick, you can correct the mixture with a little water. Salt to taste and then pass the entire mixture through the sieve to remove all the seeds from the tomatoes and the cucumbers.
 
 
At this point, the Almond Cream Gazpacho is finished. The mixture is certainly not written in stone, so some may prefer it with less vinegar or more vinegar, or more almond or fewer almonds. It is a question of finding your balance. All you need to do is adjust the proportions until you find your ideal flavour. The texture should be a like a thick creamy soup.
 
Next, we need to prepare the toppings. I place the Serrano ham in the microwave for 1 minute until it is nice and crispy, once out of the microwave place the ham on a piece of kitchen paper so it cools down and soaks up the fat that has been released. We don’t want that fat in the gazpacho.
 
        
 
This is not traditionally Spanish, but I’m not so keen on chewing cured ham in my soup, I prefer that on its own with a bit of cheese and wine. So now we chop up the crispy ham and the boiled eggs and put them to one side.
 
 
Finally the croutons, you cut up a baguette into small pieces including the crust. Get a frying pan and pour in a healthy amount of extra virgin olive oil. Heat up the olive oil and make sure it is hot before putting the bread in that way the bread won’t soak up the oil but toast it almost instantly. It is very fast so be prepared to take them out quickly before they get too toasted. Let them cool down and dry on a piece of kitchen paper.
 
      
 
 
When it comes to serving, serve the Almond Cream Gazpacho in a bowl and sprinkle a chopped egg over the top, one chopped slice of crispy ham and a handful of croutons. Listo! Ready to eat.
 
ENJOY! 
 
 



Like 3        Published at 10:59   Comments (1)


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