Regardless of where we are, Up the Mountain or Down by the Sea, we have access to fantastic seafood. Like many other folk we want to take a few weeks of eating menus that are a little lighter, and going down the fish and vegetable route works for us. We already enjoy pulses, so many meals are meat free, like our much loved lentils (minus the chorizo, or maybe just a little as we’re not being super strict, just making an effort!).
New Year’s Eve was a very luxurious lobster and prawn platter with bubbles. Grapes and cava, Spanish style at 11pm to ring in the Spanish midnight and champagne and fireworks from London’s South Bank at midnight.
Skate with prawns, capers and lemons featured another night (we just combined two favourite ways of cooking it…skate with capers and skate with prawns). Absolutely delicious and so quick and easy.
Tonight was a version of a Spanish dish of prawns with mushrooms with plenty of garlic. Gambas y setas con ajos (setas are oyster mushrooms, but I used chestnut mushrooms this time). Chop your favourite mushrooms into bite sized pieces and stir fry quickly in some olive oil (I cooked in my wok) when they are just turning brown add some peeled, sliced garlic and a little chopped fresh parsley. When the garlic starts to take on some colour, add some raw, peeled prawns. As soon as they have turned pink, season with coarse sea salt and a little pimentón and add a splash of white wine. Another 30 seconds in the hot pan and you are ready to dish up. Sprinkle with more parsley and serve with some lovely crusty bread to mop up the delicious juices.
Whatever your plans for this month are, be happy! Don’t be hard on yourself if you break those resolutions made in a moment of madness, better still…throw them out the window and celebrate the fact that we’ve made it into another year…and let’s see what it brings. Happy New Year to you all.
Big Man was lucky to have been given a mincer/sausage maker at Christmas. Ideal for producing sausages for the family and we hoped that it would give us the chance to make fresh chorizo to eat while in England. Occasionally we come across a very authentic version (in Lidl of all places) otherwise those produced by our local butcher are good but just not quite the same.
When you buy fresh chorizo in Andalucía (typically from the butcher) you’ll be offered freshly made ones which are designed for frying, cooking on the plancha or barbecue and are for immediate consumption. You will also be asked if you want some for drying. These will have been made a few days previously and you take them home, hang them up somewhere cool and dry and leave them to dry out to the texture of what we know as salami. Depending on the weather and time of year this can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Asking our friends and family (including a pal who is a butcher) what spices we needed, everyone looked at us as if we were mad foreigners and said “you buy a packet of Chorizol and follow the instructions”! Hmph.
So, on our last trip this is what we did, but this packet mix contains preservatives which we’re not keen on using or consuming. As an aside, this word in Spanish is “conservativo” as a “preservativo” is a condom….. definitely NOT what you will be using for your sausage making! I digress. I’ll give the instructions for making up an equivalent spice mix per kilo of meat but feel free to play around until you get your perfect flavour combination.
Ingredients per kilo of meat
1kg of pork which should be about 30% fat to meat. We used pork shoulder meat and pork belly strips. The meat should be coarsely minced.
60g of spice mix per kilo of meat. To make this you need about 35g sweet pimentón, 15g smoked pimentón, 5g salt (add more salt to the meat mix at the end for taste if you prefer) 5g garlic powder. You can also add a little grated nutmeg (a pinch) and a pinch of finely ground dried oregano.
A splash of wine (red or white)
Add your spice mix to the ground/minced meat, together with a splash of wine. Mix thoroughly with your hands (I recommend wearing gloves or you will have very stained hands from the pimentón for a few days ). Add a splash more wine if necessary to make a slightly moist mix.
The meat should already start to smell like the chorizo we know and love but to be sure, break off a small piece and dry fry it for a minute or two on each side. Taste and add any further seasoning. We added about a teaspoon of hot chili powder to ours which gave a little heat.
Cook and taste a little again if necessary and then move on to the highly entertaining part of filling your sausage casings. This is most definitely a job for two people! Ours were not uniform in thickness or length and we found it easier to make long sausages then tie them into shorter lengths when we were done.
Hang your sausages up in a cool dry place (if this is practical for you) for 24 hours. This allows the skins to dry out a little and helps them not to burst when cooking. Now you can cook, freeze, dry, share enjoy your chorizo….happy chorizo making!
Chorizo in Spain is not like the chorizo you used to be able to buy in England – it was the hard, dry variety, rather like a little salami. In Spain chorizo is sold fresh – it looks like a bright red sausage and if you buy it at the butchers it’s sold in strings. You will be asked if you want it “fresco o seco” “fresh or dry”. The fresh variety is like a recently made sausage and is for cooking on the “plancha” or in a pan. The drier will have been made a few days or weeks previously and can be sliced and eaten as it is, in the same way as a salami.
It’s typical to buy a good supply and then hang some up for eating later and cook the fresh chorizo. I’ve noticed that in England, in some butchers at least, they are coming up with some wonderful and authentic tasting varieties of fresh chorizo, but if you can’t get hold of any, use your favourite sausage and add a little spicy pimentón to give it a warm Spanish taste.
This is a very typical dish served as tapas, with or without the addition of the onions. As we were still working our way through the onion glut, I did it with onions!
Ingredients (to serve as many as you like)
For every chorizo you cook, you’ll need about half a medium onion finely chopped and a splash of medium dry Spanish sherry
Slice each chorizo into 4-6 pieces and fry in a little olive oil until the outside is slightly charred. If you are lucky enough to have a terracotta cooking pot, use this as it really does add something special to the flavour.
Remove the chorizo and put to one side. Add the onions to the olive oil (and the chorizo will also have released some oil) and if you are using it, add a little pimentón. Fry the onions until they start to soften, but not caramelize and then add the wine. Cook until the liquid has almost completely disappeared and the onions are soft and coloured from the juices. Add the chorizo back into the dish and cook for a couple of minutes more until warmed through. Normally you won’t need any seasoning as the chorizo is highly spiced and salted, but check to taste and adjust if necessary. Serve with a glass of ice cold fino and plenty of delicious bread.
Fideuá? What the heck? It’s a traditional dish from Valencia, Gandía to be more precise, which is very much like a paella but made with short noodles instead of rice. In Spain you can buy bags of noodles of varying thickness from “0” which is very fine up to 5 or 6, I think. For this dish a number 3 or 4 noodle is typically used but if you can’t find them where you are, use broken spaghetti (a thin one) instead.
This dish is made with seafood usually, in the same way as a paella, but I made one recently with some Spanish Chorizo. It’s also a good vegetarian dish – use what you like best! It’s quicker and easier to make than paella. Measurements are a little rough, use as much or as little “filling” as you like. For a dry fideuá (so that it looks like a paella made with noodles) use about twice the volune of liquid to noodles, for a soupier version (which is how we like it), use up to 3 times the liquid.
Phew, that’s the maths over with, here’s how to do it!
Ingredients (for 2 people)
2 chorizo chopped into small chunks
A few slices of finely chopped jamón (or pancetta or bacon)
4 fat cloves of garlic crushed
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
Half a red pepper, finely chopped
About 6 mushrooms, finely chopped
About half a cup of chopped tomatoes
200g fideos (noodles)
About 400ml of vegetable stock (or chicken stock) for a dry dish and 600ml for a soupier version
A pinch of powdered saffron
A level teaspoon of sweet pimentón
A pinch of hot pimentón (optional)
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil for frying
Wedges of lemon and chopped parsley to serve
In a deep frying pan or paella pan gently fry the chorizo, jamón, garlic, celery, pepper, and mushrooms until the chorizo starts to crisp. Add the tomatoes and cook for a minute then add the fideos and stir them into the mix then add the stock, spices and season lightly.
Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 8 minutes until the fideos are nearly cooked. Add more stock if it gets too dry before it’s cooked. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid or tea towel and allow to rest for 2 or 3 minutes. Check that the fideos are cooked to your liking and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley and wedges of lemon to squeeze over.
And if you have a few minutes and want to see a master in action, enjoy this video…(it takes a few seconds to start and is in Spanish bu the chef is … er… easy on the eye!)
A week, so it is said, is a long time in politics and an extended absence from the mountain is a long time in terms of what arrives at our doorstep. Bread Man was a bit all over the place for the first few days, but we seem to have settled back into a routine. I’m also getting going with my sourdough starter, using Sawsan’s brilliant tutorial, so I’ll let you know how my adventures in sourdough bread making go once I’m ready.
Fish deliveries continue but Fish Man has been replaced by a very jolly young lady who hails from Big Man’s home town, so she can clearly be trusted to bring us nothing but the best (according to Big Man). Yesterday she had some beautiful mussels, and for once they didn’t need too much scrubbing to get them ready for the pot.
A simple, hearty lunch of mussels with chorizo was made in minutes, and thanks to Bread Man, we were able to mop up any juices that had escaped our slurping.
Ingredients (for 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter)
1kg cleaned mussels (discard any broken or open shells)
4 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced
2 fresh chorizo sausages (or about 30cm of dried chorizo) sliced
A small glass of white wine
Freshly chopped parsley and lemon wedges to serve
Simply sauté the chorizo until it starts to brown (no olive oil needed usually as chorizo is quite fatty) then add the garlic. Stir into the oil for a minute or so until it starts to soften then add the mussels and wine (or a glass of water if you don’t like to cook with alcohol). Cover with a lid and continue to cook for a few more minutes until all the shells are open.
Serve with all the juices poured over, sprinkle over the parsley and let each person add lemon juice to taste. ¡Buen provecho!
Ok, I know this is going to sound quite off putting for many people. Tripe is a scary old thing. But fear not, although the word “Callos” translates as tripe, I don´t actually put any into this dish (although you could). Confused eh?
Well, let me explain. The first time I ever ate this dish was at a Feria in a nearby hamlet. It´s tiny, probably only a dozen houses, but it belongs to our “Municipio” and puts on an amazing fiesta every year. One of the first of the summer in fact. They always seem to attract a good flamenco singer, they do a fantastic paella at lunchtime, and they always have plenty of good food apart from the usual pinchitos (kebabs) and montaditos (fillets of pork on bread). Hundreds of people attend, it´s a great event apart from the winds which whip down the mountain and make hairstyles, skirts, old people and small children blow all over the place.
So, Big Man ordered me a portion of Callos which was essentially a chick pea stew with tiny chunks of meat, chorizo and morcilla in it. I loved it and looked up the word when I got home and though “oh lord, I´ve been eating tripe”! During the almost six years I´ve lived here, I´ve only eaten it a couple of times a year as not many people make it anymore – it´s not complicated to make, but it takes time.
Of course, I recently decided that I wasn´t prepared to wait until next summer for my fix, I´d make my own. This is where the fun started. I asked the butcher to prepare me whatever I needed for this dish (meat wise) and that´s when I found out that her version would not include tripe.
Strange, I thought, but let´s crack on. She (yes, we have two butchers locally, and one is a woman who looks exactly like a lady butcher should look – big and jolly with fingers like sausages) got things ready. The goodie bag included (per four person serving):
Two pigs trotters split down the middle
Some finely chopped pork tongue
A finely chopped pigs ear
Some chopped pancetta or pork belly
Some finely chopped cooked pigs blood
See – not so scary after all (well, maybe apart from the blood)! I also had to buy some chorizo and morcilla and chick peas. I´m not giving measurements here as it´s a kind of “make it up as you go along” dish. I then asked about 20 different people how they made Callos. Half had never made it so were of no help at al. The others gave me 10 different ways of making it, each with their own little “twist”.
This is what I eventually came up with, and I have to say it tasted as good as the Fiesta version, and Big Man thought it was better…modesty prevented me from saying that myself of course!
Soak the chick peas overnight and the next day cook slowly for a couple of hours with a few bay leaves, 4 cloves, and a dried chilli until completely tender. Don´t rush this, you´ll have plenty to be getting on with while they cook.
In a separate pot blanch the all the pork products, drain and put into fresh water. Now cook slowly for a couple of hours until really tender and drain again. Get those kitchen gloves on and pull all the tender meat off the trotters and discard the bones (or give them to your dog who will love you forever). Now add the chunks of meat to the cooked chick peas (still in their water). Add about 5 or 6 whole cloves of raw or roasted garlic, some saffron dissolved in water, ½ a teaspoon of sweet or hot pimentón, the whole chorizo and morcilla (which you will slice before serving) and cook for about 30 minutes. Leave to stand for at least 15 minutes before serving (but it´s even better prepared the day before) and remove the cloves, bay leaves and dried chilli.
Make sure you have a table full of very hungry people, don´t tell them what´s in it if they´re a bit squeamish, and enjoy. Now go for a lie down…you´ll need it!
So, 5th January, the night before our celebration of Los Reyes or The Three Kings. Big Man and I sit quietly contemplating the last few celebrations that lie ahead over the weekend.
A family get together at our house the next day. Yes, we´re ready for that. Saturday a lunch with 10 friends in a nearby restaurant. Oh yes, we´re definitely ready for that. No cooking, no clearing up, and hopefully a lift there and back so we can kick back and relax. And then Sunday, a meal with 10 other friends in one of their Cortijos in the Campo. Cooking a celebratory goat. It should be fun, the host is a butcher and a grower of grapes and producer of wines. A recipe for a thoroughly good lunch.
Big Man gives our butcher pal a call to finalise the arrangements for Sunday and I can tell by his face and the conversation that something is amiss. He gets off the phone and says “you know we thought we were going to Rafael´s Cortijo…” Mmm, yes I think, where is this going? “Well, it seems everyone thinks they´re coming here”.
Oh dear. Oh well. Here we go again. Big Man does a mad dash on Saturday morning for the extras we need, I crank up the oven and get baking, and it all turned out fine in the end.
No recipes today, more of those in a later post, but I thought you might like to share a little in the celebration…and our exhaustion today.
We enjoyed a lovely ham and cheese board with Spanish curado and semi curado cheeses, tetilla (do click on the link if you share my childish sense of humour), a gorgeous stinky stilton my parents bought over, and an amazing hard cheese (rather like a fresh parmesan) which is rolled in rosemary.
We ate home cured olives which the Spaniards were most impressed with. They thought Big Man had made them as they didn´t think a “guiri” or foreigner could make them taste so good…huh!
A chicory (or endive) salad with walnuts and blue cheese dressing lightened things up a bit.
Our butcher pal, Rafael, got to work in the garden doing his job. He looks fierce, but he´s really a gentle giant.
Look at the size of his hands – he couldn´t have been anything BUT a butcher!
Jointing the meat.
Working on the ribs.
Another pal took charge of frying the goat pieces in olive oil, bay leaves, chillies, peppercorns, garlic and white wine.
Another “Plato de Cuchara” or spoon dish – we like our pulses here in Spain. Many of these dishes were traditional as you could feed large families with few ingredients which were not costly. Meats are typically added at the end (usually pork products) so the beauty is that they can be vegetarian dishes too, if you prefer.
Lentils are great, as apart from being cheap, they cook fairly quickly and only need rinsing but not presoaking.
For four people as a main dish or six as a starter you´ll need
About 500g of lentils – we have the flat green ones here
Water to cover
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered
Half each of a red and green pepper, chopped into bite sized chunks
Two tomatoes cut into bite sized chunks
1 bay leaf
A couple of carrots peeled and finely diced
A stick of celery plus the leaves (if it has leaves). Finely dice the celery but not the leaves.
4 or 5 whole fat cloves of garlic
2 medium potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes (keep these in a bowl of water separately)
Sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary if you have it
¼ teaspoon each of pimentón and paprika
Salt to taste (at end of cooking)
Optional – a couple of chorizo and/or morcilla or your favourite sausages
Rinse the lentils then add all the vegetables and spices apart from the salt to a large cooking pot. Cover well with water, add the oil and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly but don´t let them come off the boil while cooking as this will make the lentils hard. They will probably take about 45 minutes or so.
When the lentils are soft, add the potato and meats (if using) and continue cooking until the potatoes are cooked. Remove the bay leaf and celery leaves and add salt (and pepper too if you like) to taste and you´re ready to serve. Slice the sausages into smaller pieces before serving. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon over the top really lifts the flavour, but that´s just the way I like it!
When we travelled to the distant north of Spain, we bought back some foodie memories with us. Well, a little more than memories, we bought back beans and smoked meats to make the famous Fabada.
It´s one of those dishes which needs the authentic smoked blood sausage (morcilla), chorizo and pork to achieve the “real” taste, but it also lends itself to “making do” depending on the ingredients you have to hand.
The ingredients given below can be interpreted fairly loosely to make a lovely bean, ham and sausage stew if you can´t get hold of the Asturian versions. I also like to be lighter with the meat than some people, so feel free to add more. This recipe will serve six as a main course, but it does keep well for about 5 days in the fridge.
1kg of Fabes (or any large dried white beans)
1 small blood sausage
1 or 2 chorizo (depending on the size)
About 100g piece of smoked or unsmoked or salted pancetta or pork belly (or use chunky lardons)
½ teaspoon of saffron or add a teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika or pimentón instead
2 bay leaves
This dish really improves by making it the day before you want to eat it, although it´s not essential, and if you have an earthenware bowl to cook it in, even better! The day before making the dish put your beans into soak in plenty of water. In a separate bowl of water soak any smoked or salted meats.
Using the water you soaked the beans in, put them in your cooking pot with about a depth of 3cm of water above them. Bring to the boil then skim off the froth which will appear. Dissolve the saffron in a little water and add to the beans (or add your pimentón or paprika directly to the water). Now add the pork belly or pancetta, bring to the boil and skim and then repeat with the chorizo and morcilla.
Add the bay leaves, make sure all the meat is pushed to the bottom and then cook very slowly for about 2 or 3 hours. Try not to stir as this will break the beans, shake the pot if necessary and top up with boiling water if needed.
You should be left with thick creamy beans which still hold their shape. I like to thinly slice the meats and sausages so they can easily be eaten with a spoon. This is a “plato de cuchara” or a “spoon dish” as they call it here.
Serve with a good robust red wine, plenty of bread and I like a tomato and garlic salad on the side. ¡Buen Provecho!
So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....