Gorgeous Green Gazpacho

Green. Gorgeous. Good.

Who says Gazpacho has to be red?  Well, if you promise not to tell the Andalucían gazpacho Police…I say it doesn´t!

In the vegetable garden at the moment, our cup overfloweth. Some things just can´t be canned or frozen – like cucumbers.  And those little green thin skinned Spanish peppers are best eaten fresh in salad, stuffed or fried.

I wanted to find a new way of using up some of my “greenery” and came up with this version of gazpacho.  It´s a stunning colour, tastes rather like juiced vegetables and I´m sure must be amazingly good for you and packed with vitamins.  Probably an excellent pick me up for the morning after the night before too.  We just drank it chilled as a pre lunch appetizer.

Here´s what I used, but if you do decide to give it a go I´m thinking celery, avocado and lime juice might also be great additions.

Two thin green peppers, one small cucumber (peeled), a small clove of garlic, a small bunch of parsley, 4 large leaves of raw chard (or spinach).

In a blender mix the vegetables with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, white wine vinegar and salt (to taste) and a litre of ice cold water.

Blend until smooth, add a few ice cubes and chill until needed.  Looking as gorgeous as it does, it just has to be good for you!

Not for the fainthearted! Slow Cooked Pig´s Trotters

Slow Cooked Pig´s Trotters

So, are you ready for this?! You may know that in Spain, especially the south, the pig is a highly prized beastie.  We start at the top with the aristocratic pig that is the “Pata Negra” (which translates as the Black Hoof) who is fed on acorns and snuffles round in a life of luxury until he is turned into the most expensive Jamon in the world. At the other end of the scale, after the regular jamones and normal cuts of meat have been consumed and enjoyed, we´re left with all the other bits that most people think would be best consigned to the bin.

Well, not so here, and in many other countries and cultures too.  If they could turn the “oink” of a pig into a soup in Spain, I´m sure there would be a recipe for it.  Pig´s trotters are pretty common place in butchers and supermarkets here.  No need to place a special order as they are often put into stocks and soups, or boiled up with chick peas for their dish “Puchero”.  Sometimes though, they have a starring role all to themselves and this recipe is one which comes from Big Man´s mum, to one of his sisters and on to me.

I was told that this, like many other Andalucían dishes, was the poor folks´ food.  When the Matanza (pig killing) was carried out in the autumn, the “extras” such as the tripe, trotters, tail and ears were given to those who had helped out in payment for their services.  Because there was so little (or no) meat on them, the cooks had to get creative to add flavour and use long, slow cooking to tenderise the food.

I have to confess, I´m not a big fan, but I love the sauce from this dish.  Pig´s trotters, when cooked, are rather gelatinous and involve a lot of chewing and then spitting out of all the little bones.  It doesn´t bother me, but Big Man loves them so much that I make a pot for him every so often to enjoy all to himself whilst I tuck into something like aubergines or curry – which do nothing at all for him.

It´s a slightly long winded, but not complicated process to make this dish as you need to plan several days ahead. Give it 5 to be on the safe side.  Here´s how to do it if you´re feeling adventurous.

For two people as a main course

  • 8 pigs trotters split into halves or quarters (they usually come like this or ask your friendly butcher to help you out)
  • Salt about 6 tablespoons
  • 2 bay leaves
  • About 12 peppercorns
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2-4 small dried chilies

For the sauce

  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled and cut in half lengthways
  • 1 large slice of stale bread
  • A few strands of saffron soaked in water (or use a heaped teaspoon of paella spice mix)
  • Half a teaspoon of hot chili powder (pimentón)
  • Olive oil
  • About 12 peeled almonds
  • Salt to season

On the first day salt the trotters, put into the fridge for 24 hours

Salting the trotters

On the next day and for 48 hours, de salt them by submerging in a pot of fresh water which will need to be changed about 3 times per day

The day before you want to eat them you need to put them into a large pan with a lid, cover with water and add the garlic, bay leaves, chilies and peppercorns.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 2 hours or until really tender.  The trotters will start to fall apart and you need to end up with half the liquid you started with.  You may need to top up the water during cooking.

For the sauce you need to fry the garlic, almonds and bread in a small amount of olive oil until browned and then put into a jug with the saffron and it´s water plus about 2 ladles full of the water from the trotters.  You add the pimentón and then blend with a stick blender until you have a thick purée.

Pour this into the pot with the trotters and simmer again for about half an hour.  Add salt to taste and then cool and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

In the fridge the gelatine will cause the whole thing to solidify.  When you warm it up to eat it, it will all return to a liquid state and you´ll have sauce again.  This isn´t typically served with anything as you have to eat it with your fingers which get incredibly sticky!  I love the sauce though and serve it with plain boiled rice.

This is not a dish that will be to everyone´s liking, but for those of you willing to try it, it has a wonderful flavour. Do let me know if you´re brave enough to give it a go!

Gazpacho Andaluz – Like You Never Knew It

Soup or Salad? So confusing!

Ok, so I say the word Gazpacho, and what do you think of? A bowl of a chilled tomato based soup, with chopped pepper, cucumber and possibly more tomato floating on top?  I´m right, aren´t I?!  Ok, so enough with the questions.  You´d be right of course.  But you´d also be wrong.  Well, not wrong exactly, just probably not aware of the different versions of Gazpacho that exist in Andalucía.  Gazpacho is Andaluz (i.e. from the Andalucían region of Spain) rather than Spanish.  Just as Paella is Valencian and not Spanish.

It´s all getting complicated, so maybe I should start at the beginning.  Andalucía has always traditionally been more reliant on agriculture (farming, olives, goats and pigs) than industry.  Based on hard labour through grafting on the land, or the “campo”.  So what did those hungry labourers do at midday, apart from take a well deserved rest in the shade of an olive tree, that is? Well, they took their lunch, or the makings of it, with them.  Life was, and still is, fairly tough for a lot of people.  Poverty reigned and many of the traditional dishes came about through necessity.  Ask any older person here what the key ingredients of a gazpacho are and they´ll tell you “water, vinegar and salt”.  And it´s true, they go into all the versions.  The reason for this was to make you thirsty.  And therefore drink more water, and thus feel full up.  Your belly was full of liquid and stopped you craving more food.

So, we have our country men with a twist of salt, a bottle of vinegar and a knife.  Water came courtesy of a nearby stream, and the vegetables that went into their gazpacho were those that could be found in the countryside around them.  Sometimes tomatoes, peppers, onions.   Other times wild leaves, oranges or a melon. 

The gazpacho you see above looks, and actually tastes, like a very finely chopped salad in a bowl of iced water.  I won´t lie to you, that´s pretty much what it is!  When I first came here, I admit that I didn´t really “get” it.  Now that time has passed and I´ve endured quite a few very hot summers, it all makes sense.  A chilled bowl of iced salad/soup, with a little tickle of salt and vinegar, the tang of fresh mint and the crunch of all my favourite summer vegetables goes down a treat when you can´t face doing anything more energetic than swatting a fly away and adjusting your sombrero.

Our village prizes this version of Gazpacho so much that it has a three day Fiesta Del Gazpacho dedicated to it every first weekend in August!  All good fun, although we tend to slake our thirst afterwards with a cold beer or a few glasses of wine.  And then, when we´ve cooled down, we all take to the dance floor and Paso Doble until dawn.  Happy days.

If you want to try it, you´ll need (roughly, as the quantities are really down to you) for four bowls:

  • Half a lettuce heart finely shredded and chopped (this is what you will do with all the vegetables)
  • Half a green pepper
  • A medium tomato, peeled
  • Half a sweet onion
  • About a third of a normal cucumber, peeled or one small Spanish cucumber
  • About 15 large mint leaves
  • A handful of broad beans if you have them (optional)
  • White wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Iced Water
  • Some Ice cubes

Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and pour over water so that the vegetables are just covered.  Gradually start to add salt and vinegar to taste (they tend to use a lot of both here, but go steady until you get a flavour you like).  The locals say it should taste “alegre” which is happy or lively! Add a few ice cubes and leave for at least half an hour so that the mint really infuses the water, then ladle into bowls, lower yourself onto a comfy chair in the shade of an olive tree, tilt your sombrero over your eyes and enjoy.

Go one, give it a go, you might like it!  And it´s a wonderful way of getting your “five a day”…