If you do an internet search for a typical Spanish soup called Sopa de Bacalao, you’ll find many versions of a firm favourite. I don’t lay claim to my version being authentic, especially as it uses a very non Spanish ingredient – Ras El Hanout – but as the spice mix comes from North Africa and there are such very strong connections between Africa and Andalucía, I feel no one will be up in arms.
The ingredient list is short and simple, the preparation too. But the taste, oh the taste, your friends and family will think you’ve spent hours reducing stock to achieve the intensity of flavour.
Ingredients (to serve 2-4 as a main or starter)
1 large cod fillet, skinned and cut into bite sized chunks (use either fresh cod or desalted salt cod)
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
About 2 cups of chopped fresh spinach
1 teaspoon of Ras El Hanout
About 1.25l of either fish stock or water (if you use a cube to make your stock, I won’t tell!)
A little olive oil
Start by sweating the onion and garlic until softened then add the potatoes. Toss them around in the oil until they are all coated in oil then add the Ras El Hanout and mix in. Pour over the stock and cook until the potatoes are almost done.
Add the cod and cook for a minute or two until the fish is cooked. Taste and season if necessary and then add the spinach. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and wait for the spinach to wilt before serving with plenty of fresh lemon to squeeze over.
Pinchos, or Pinchitos, are Spain´s answer to Kebabs. Despite their “Moorish” (i.e. Arabic) origins, they are usually made of pork, but you can also find them made of chicken. This is typical Feria food, cooked in front of you at the bar, speared with a slice of bread, and if they use metal skewers, you just hand them back when you´ve finished eating!
The spices which the cubes of meat are rubbed in can vary slightly, shops and butchers sell their own mixes. Typically though it´s a mix which is like Ras el hanout, which is used widely in North Africa, from which Andalucía receives many food influences.
When we went to Morocco earlier this year, we bought a supply of spices to see us through a few months and because it´s so good, I didn´t want to just save it for kebabs.
Here´s an easy salad, which (if you have any kind of spice mix you like to use on meat) you can pull together from store cupboard ingredients. This recipe made a light supper for two.
For the salad
Two chicken thighs deboned, cubed and rubbed in 1 heaped tablespoon of spice mix and seasoned with salt. These are then cooked on the griddle (plancha) with a small amount of olive oil and left to cool
6 rashers of streaky bacon cooked for 6 minutes in the microwave then left to cool and roughly chopped
2 medium cooked potatoes, peeled and cubed
Half a cos lettuce finely chopped
Half a cup of pitted black olives, roughly chopped
One small green pepper, finely sliced
For the dressing
Half a cup of mayonnaise
Two tablespoons of milk
An additional teaspoon of spice mix
A squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and Pepper
Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl then in a jar shake together all the dressing ingredients. Pour over the salad and toss well to get all the dressing into the leaves. Would also be good with some croutons.
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.....