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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.

The Classic Chicken in "Pepitoria" - Almond and saffron sauce
23 September 2020

Discover this succulent chicken Pepitoria recipe, cooked in a flavoursome almond, egg yolk and a delicious saffron sauce. A recipe that has survived hundreds of years and is still enjoyed today.

The Pepitoria is a poultry-based recipe that has been a popular part of  Spanish gastronomy several centuries now. Some claim that its origin is French-based on some French recipe books referring to the ‘petit-oie’, which means ‘little-goose’, a bird that was traditionally cooked by the French in almost an identical manner to the way the Pepitoria recipe is prepared nowadays. Others though are convinced that it was the Moors who introduced the recipe to the Spanish Peninsula, which would also make sense if we look closely at the ingredients and the way they are cooked, typical of many traditional Moorish recipes.

Whichever is right, it can not be denied that the Pepitoria recipe has been around the Spanish peninsula long enough to be considered a traditional Spanish recipe in its very own right.

Back in the time, chicken wouldn’t be as broadly available to the masses as it is today. And when it was, it would be affordable to the more affluent classes only. This means that originally the Pepitoria would have been prepared with cheaper and more easily available cuts of meat, such as poultry offals or hen. The Pepitoria method of cooking meat is not restricted to hen or chicken. It is also delicious with rabbit, partridge or turkey to mention just a few. Here are the ingredients for 4 servings:

 

 


Ingredients:

1.6 kg Chicken – approx. 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
2  Brown onion – finely chopped
1  Carrot – finely chopped
2  Egg – boiled
2 cloves Garlic – peel and crushed
2 slices Bread – toasted
1 pinch Saffron – toasted
15  Almonds – toasted
250 ml White wine
250 ml Chicken stock
100 ml Extra virgin olive oil
1  Bay leaf
  Salt to taste
  Freshly ground black pepper - to taste
1 sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley

So, here are the steps you need to take...

1.Cut your chicken into medium-sized pieces. Remove the skin –except for the wings– to avoid excess fat when cooking the chicken. Season and put to one side
2. Brown the chicken in a very hot heavy-bottomed saucepan with a little olive oil until golden-brown all over. Remove from the heat and put to one side.
3. Chop the onions and the carrot. Crush and peel the garlic cloves. Place in the same pan we used for the chicken and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft and transparent, deglazing the pan as you do so.
4. In the meantime, boil the eggs and put the egg yolks to one side. Toast the almonds slightly using a small pan, then the saffron and finally the bread.
With the help of a pestle and mortar, make a paste using the egg yolks, the almonds, the bread and the saffron. This is called typically called a ‘majado’ in Spain
5. Mix in the chicken and the ‘majado’ in the pan with the vegetables. Add the glass of white wine (dry) and cook until the alcohol  has evaporated, 3-4 minutes. Then add the chicken stock, the bay leaf and cook on medium heat for approx. 35-40 minutes or until the chicken is soft and tender.
6. Serve immediately, topped with a mixture of chopped egg white and fresh parsley.

You can pair it with french fries or with some plain steamed rice or just get dunking with a good slice of crunchy bread!

Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 16:36   Comments (0)


How to make Crema Catalana
18 September 2020

 

Crema Catalana or 'Catalan cream' was originally consumed in Catalonia and it is without a doubt this region's most typical dessert. With time it spread throughout Spain and is now a standard on most restaurant menus. However, it is not exactly a Crème Brûlée for those who are unfamiliar with it. 

It Catalunya it is a tradition to prepare this dessert on March 19, when Saint Joseph is commemorated, which also happens to be the last day of Lent. Over this period, orthodox Christians would have been following a strict diet so this tasty creamy dessert would have been a well-earned reward for such sacrifice. Saint Joseph's day is also the Spanish equivalent of Father's day. So if your Dad has a sweet tooth you might want to make him some for next Father's Day.

However, if we go back in time to its beginning, it can be traced back to Jewish food. The Hebrews were very appreciative of the many and great combinations of milk and eggs. We have some references for Crema Catalana in medieval archives, as "illet cuita" (cooked milk). Apparently, it didn't always have the caramel coating.

Today, Crema Catalana is without doubt one of the most famous examples of Catalan desserts and is recognised both nationally and internationally thanks to its simple preparation, originality and taste. Within Spain, the town of Sant Bartomeu del Grau celebrates a Crema Catalana cooking competition on the 4th of March, which forms part of the town's Craft and Commercial fair.

It's a simple recipe with common ingredients, however, its difficulty lies in the sugar that coats it, which is heated on a steel plate or with a cooking blowtorch until it melts leaving a crunchy layer. Originally this was done with a heated rod or a branding iron, however, it is now much more common for this process to be done using a gas burner.

  

The most similar dessert is Crème Brûlée, and they are often confused. The main difference is that crema catalana is made from milk and is then thickened with corn starch and egg, and the French dessert made with thick cream and eggs and cooked in the oven in a water bath, and it has a texture more similar to flan. If you want to watch your calorie intake, you can use skimmed cream, however, it does not produce quite the same results as it does with whole milk.

The taste of crema catalana is so distinctive that it has been used as the basis of many other products in Spain. You can find crema catalana ice cream as well as a nougat-like sweet which is called 'torró'. The flavour has also been copied in several liquors and liqueurs across the country.

If you ever happen to go to Barcelona be sure to try crema catalana, it will be served in most restaurants. But if you can't wait to get to Spain, you could always have a go at making this Spanish dessert at home by following this simple recipe:

1. Bring the milk to the boil with the cinnamon stick and lemon peel.
2. Beat the egg yolk with the sugar in a bowl.
3. Dissolve the cornflour in the milk and add the egg mixture.
4. Cook slowly over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk until the mixture comes to the boil. Remove from the heat immediately.
5. Pour into bowls or individual earthenware dishes and refrigerate.
6. Before serving, sprinkle with sugar and place under a hot grill as close as possible until caramelised, unless you happen to have a blow torch or a branding iron lying around!

Variations:
You can use wheat flour or any other kind of starch, and add it to the egg yolk mixture.
The crema catalana can be eaten without the sugar crust. If this is the case, place a piece of brown paper over the top to prevent a skin forming.
The crema can be eaten with biscuits or carquinyolis (a type of Catalan biscotti).

Eggs - 8 yolks

Milk - 1 l.

Cinnamon - 1 stick

Lemon - 1 piece of lemon peel

Sugar - 200 g.

Cornflour - 40 g.

 

Enjoy!



Like 1        Published at 20:55   Comments (0)


Homemade Spanish Ham Croquetas
10 September 2020

The first-ever homemade Spanish recipe I ever tasted was Serrano Ham Croquetas (croquettes) - I managed to discover these little delights from a school friend who happened to be half Spanish and his mother would make them from time to time and give him a Tupperware full of them to take to school. Naturally, we were best friends! Since them, I must have tried dozens and dozens of different recipes, textures and ingredients but for some reason, I always come back to the original - Spanish cured ham. Traditionally it would be made with serrano ham but I must admit I now prefer to use Iberian acorn ham, which is not as salty and really full of flavour. When I say "traditionally" I am referring to the typical Spanish recipe, but Croquetas aren't, in fact, Spanish by origin, but French. The modern-day recipe was developed by Antonin Careme who introduced this food to the Nobles' tables towards around the mid 18th century. The name originates from the French word "croquer" which means 'to crunch'.

As far as difficulty is concerned, it is a fairly simple recipe so I thought I would share it with you. These are the ingredients you will need for about 30 bite-sized balls or 15 normal sized croquettes.

 

 


Iberian acorn ham or Serrano ham - 150g, chopped into very small pieces
Bay leaf 1

Spring onion 2 - finely chopped
Butter (not margarine) 75g
Plain flour 75g
Whole milk 500ml
Manchego cheese 50g, grated (optional)
Nutmeg 1 grating or a small sprinkle if already ground
Eggs 2, beaten
Panko breadcrumbs or normal breadcrumbs 100g - I prefer Panko
Extra virgin olive oil  for deep frying

 


Instructions:


1. Heat a non-stick pan and fry the ham and bay leaf gently until any fat has melted off the ham, then scoop it out leaving the fat behind.

2. Add the butter to the pan and, when it has melted, stir in the flour to make a thick paste.

3. Gradually stir in the milk until you have a smooth sauce.

4. Add back the bay leaf, spring onion and ham and simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted, then add a good grating of nutmeg and season really well.

5. Scoop into a tray or dish, cool, then chill completely in the fridge. (This can take 2-3 hours, or you could do it the day before.)

6. Scoop out large teaspoonfuls of the mix and roll each into balls about 3cm across.

7. Put the beaten egg on one plate and breadcrumbs on another. Roll the balls in the egg then the crumbs. Repeat so you have a double layer of egg and breadcrumbs. This gives an extra crunch to the croquettes!

8. Fill a pan no more than ⅓ full with oil and heat to 180C (or until a cube of bread browns in around 30 seconds), then deep fry the balls in batches for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden. Scoop out and drain on kitchen paper (you can keep cooked croquetas warm in a very low oven).

 

Enjoy!

 



Like 2        Published at 15:06   Comments (5)


Ridiculous! A Crianza for €2!
04 September 2020

 

I normally write recommendations about wines under two Euros, but in this case, the wine in question deserves to be in a different category. The best-value-for-money wine in the country!  I have been drinking this wine as a 'house' wine at home for about a month or two and I have to say that it surpasses many wines 3 and 4 times as expensive. It really is a no-brainer. Torre Oria Crianza - €2. For the price, I haven't found a red wine that can even get close. Naturally, this price is only possible due to the mass purchasing power of Mercadona, as it is the only place in Spain where you can buy it, but that is all the more reason to pick up a few bottles. Quality wine at an extremely fair price, practically ridiculous when you compare it to other wines and other countries. It is extremely easy to drink, has a full-body flavour and low tannins. You can drink it with a snack, some cheese or a full meal or even alone. It works well at room temperature and also slightly chilled during the summer months. It is very much an all-rounder red wine.

Bodegas Torre Oria is located in the Spanish region of Utiel-Requena (the south-east of Valencia). At the end of the 19th century, the Oria de Rueda family successfully were dedicated to the silk business in Valencia. Years later, the family decided to move their business to the city of Requena, 60 km away. towards inland Valencia. With the decline of the silk trade, they decided to convert their business into the world of wine growing vineyards between 650 and 905 metres above sea level. This unique geographical location has given heir wines a characteristic mark.

If you haven't discovered this wine yet it is about time you bought a bottle. I walked passed it for months and months dismissing it because of its price - "How can a Crianza cost only €2?" (for those who don't know, a Crianza is a red wine that has spent a minimum of 12 months in an oak barrel) I would say to myself... How wrong I was. I have blind tasted this wine with friends who know their wines and they have all valued it well above its real shelf price. I also use this wine when cooking, for once a decent wine for cooking that doesn't make you feel guilty for using it!

Give it a go! I am sure you will enjoy it.

 

 



Like 1        Published at 14:32   Comments (13)


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