Category Archives: Food/Wine

Chicken Paella

Chicken Paella Recipe with Iberian Ham

Spanish Chicken Paella Recipe
This is a delicious, filling paella perfect for lazy afternoons and an even lazier cook. Okay, making a paella isn’t like making a toasted sandwich, but it’s very easy to do for a meal with so many ingredients.

You’ll be making a meal fit for four people, with plenty of rice, chicken and jamon iberica (Iberian ham), and a flavour that will leave your taste buds begging for more.

Paella has a mixed history, and the most common recipes require seafood (see our traditional paella recipe), however this isn’t to everyone’s taste, and inland Spain has adapted the paella with other ingredients. The renowned British chef Jamie Oliver also has his own chicken paella recipe.

By the way, paella is usually served during the day, and many Spaniards will think you’re a bit strange if you eat paella for dinner. Heavy foods with rice or pasta are not usually eaten by the spanish before bedtime.

Chicken Paella Ingredients (serves 4)

2 cups of arborio rice (white short grain)
4 cups of chicken broth or chicken stock
2 onions thinly sliced
6-7 cloves of chopped or pressed garlic
2 cups of pale dry sherry (fino)
1/2 a cup of chopped red pepper (pimento)
1/2 a cup of garlic stalks or substitute with scallions
2 large chicken breasts diced (skin on is preferred by Spaniards)
1/4 cup of diced Iberian Ham (or substitute with bacon)
Large pinch of saffron threads (or fine grade powdered saffron)
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Lemon Wedges
Parsley

How to Make your Chicken Paella

We first need to prepare our saffron, place the saffron in a small dish, and add a tablespoon of boiling over it. Heat some oil in a 10 inch paella pan or skillet, and sauté the onion till soft and translucent. Add the garlic and stir well, then remove both.

Top up the oil in the pan, and saute the chicken till lightly browned, then add the ham. If you wish, you can also add some slices of chorizo. Remove the chicken and ham, and add to the previously cooked onion and garlic.

With a little more oil, add the rice and cook till it starts to change colour. Add the chicken, ham, onion, and garlic to the rice, stir, then add the chicken broth, saffron, and paprika.

Bring the paella to a boil and stir well. Now add the sherry, the garlic stalks, and the pimienta. Return to the boil for a few minutes, stirring well.

Season with salt if needed, and simmer covered for another 30 minutes, with occasional stirring. The only ingredient that may cause any problems will be the rice. Stir to avoid sticking, and if need be, add more broth. Once the rice is soft, the paella is ready to serve.

Garnish with parsley.

Many other tasty ingredients can be added if desired, for example chopped mushrooms, or the more traditional seafood such as prawns, mussels, and baby squid.

Torrijas with Honey

Recipe for Torrijas, an Easter Treat in Spain

Every Easter, kown as Semana Santa in Spain, local bakeries and patisseries will make up special Easter desserts, and in Ronda the pick of the bunch is called Torrijas, a sweet treat made with bread as the base, filled with custard, and drowned in honey or sugar and served on a plate to be eaten with a knife and fork.

Of course as is typical of the Spanish, every region will have their own variation, so the recipe I’m going to share with you may not be exactly how your Spanish friends would make it, so be careful you don’t offend them by saying this recipe is the best, instead nod knowingly when they tell you what is missing, or how they’d make it, and then when their back is turned choose the recipe you prefer.

Torrijas (Br Eng: Bread Pudding – Am Eng: French Toast) originated right here in Andalucia and is eaten during the 40 days of lent, originally prepared by nuns in their convents that they would sell or keep for their own after work treats. Back in the 15th century when the recipe was first created bread would go stale quickly, and torrijas came about as a means to reusing day old bread, which for many is the only food permitted to be eaten during lent.

Ingredients:
1 loaf of bread
1 packet of Royal custard powder
1 litre of milk
8 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup if sweet Anise
6 eggs
Sunflower oil
sugar and cinnamon (for dipping)
honey (for coating)

Preparation:
First, prepare the custard and allow it to cool, you might want to use a higher ratio of custard powder than you’d normally when making custard. We want it be custard cream, rather than poring dessert.

Add the milk and anise together in a flat bowl, then soak the bread in it. If you don’t have day old bread you can lightly toast the bread so that it absorbs the milk.

Spread some of the custard between two slices of the bread, and then dip in a bowl with the eggs beaten.

Fry the bread/custard sandwiches over a hot even temperature until golden brown.

There are two choices for finishing the recipe, either heavily sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixed together making sure to cover both sides, or pour heated honey (mixed with water in a 50/50 mixture) over the torrijas.

This recipe makes a spectacular sweet treat for breakfast with a cup of hot strong coffee, or leave to cool and serve as a dessert with pieces of fruit on top.

Moros y Cristianos (Beans and Rice)

Here’s a nice little vegetarian dish with a hint of spice and more than a whiff of history to it. Let’s get the food cooking, then we’ll have the history lesson!

Ingredients (serves four)
400 grams (14 oz) of black beans
2 litres (4 pints) of water
1 onion
1 stalk of celery
1 carrot
1 onion
1 orange
1 head of garlic, peeled
300 grams (10 oz) of rice
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of paprika
3 tablespoons of olive oil
salt & pepper
1 pinch of cayenne pepper

Adornos (garnish)
parsley
onion slices
orange slices
hard-boiled eggs

If bought in their dried state, the black beans will need to be left to soak overnight. Fill a pan with water, quarter the onion and throw it in. Chop up the carrot and drop that in, too. Do the same with the stick of celery. Add a bay leaf, crush the garlic and put it in. When the water comes to the boil, skim off the froth, turn down the heat, cover the pan and let the beans simmer. It will take about an hour for them to turn soft.

In the year 711 AD (1,300 years ago), Arabic armies poured into Spain from the south, where the crossing from Africa is very narrow. It did not take them long to conquer the whole Iberian peninsula, as far north as the French border. The “Moros” (so-called because they hailed from Morocco) were dark-skinned Muslims and they quickly converted Spain into an Islamic land. In fact, rather than a united country, Moorish Spain was a patchwork of little local kingdoms.

By the eleventh century AD, the Christians had made up their minds to fight back. Starting in the north, and re-conquering Spain virtually village by village, the Christians gradually pushed their way south. It took them 400 years! If you’ve ever wondered why towns like Jerez and Arcos have “de la frontera” tacked onto their names, it is because at some point, probably in the 13th century, they were on the front line between the Christians and the Moors.

Finally, in the year 1492, Granada city, the last Arabic stronghold in Spain fell to the Christians. Spain was once more united under a Christian monarch. Even today there are plenty of villages (mostly over Alicante way) who celebrate an annual festival of “Moros y Cristianos”, to commemorate the freeing of Spain from its 700-year bondage to Islam. The locals dress up in medieval costume and indulge in a riotous free-for-all punch-up.

The dish we’re preparing today gets its name from the contrast in colours between the black beans (“moros”) and the white rice (“cristianos”). Perhaps not very politically correct, but there you have it, that’s history for you.

Back to the recipe. While the beans are simmering, we make a mixture of the oil, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne, then add this to the beans, finishing off with the juice of the fresh orange. Once the beans are tender, turn off the heat and let the whole lot stand for fifteen minutes.

Now boil the rice with just a dash of salt and the bay leaf. Prepare a bowl for each person, smeared inside with butter, and when the rice is ready, stuff it into the bowls (which can now stand for a few minutes).

To serve, give each of your diners a generous ladling of black beans, then overturn a bowl of rice onto each plate, making a mound of conquering “cristianos” over each plate of “moros”. Garnish with slices of onion and orange, chopped parsley and if you feel so inclined, some diced hard-boiled egg.

¡Buen provecho!

Cruzcampo Gran Reserva

Cruzcampo Gran Reserva, a Premium Spanish Lager

Back in 2009 Cruzcampo’s premium product, the Gran Reserva won gold at the awards for the World’s Best Strong Lager, and whilst the beer is available for sale internationally there can be no doubt enjoying an ice cold glass in Spain is preferable.

Even in winter if the sun is shining you’ll see connoisseurs of fine lagers sipping the Gran Reserva appreciatively with a plate of Jamon Iberica and Queso Curado in front of them. Ronda’s Plaza del Socorro, the Plaza Alameda, or Calle Comandante Salvador Carrasco are three of the best locations for enjoying the sun all year round.

Cruzcampo Gran Reserva (6.4% alcohol) is served chilled, the bottle recommends temperatures between 5 degrees down to -7 degrees celsius, and will be brought to your table in an ie bucket as if it were the finest Cava or Champagne. Most likely your glasses will be chilled as well. Beer in Spain is generally served ice cold.

The bottle describes the Gran Reserva as “A bright amber color, stylish foam, compact and creamy. A pleasant aroma derived from roasting the malt.”

A first taste suggests the lager is slightly sweet, reminiscent of a subtle touch of a mousse with hints of dried fruit, honey and a little licorice.

The aftertaste is long and bitter, all in all an excellent combination of aromatic hops and a selection of the best malt species with an intense flavor and balanced body. Cruzcampo Gran Reserva is the result of a long and traditional maturation in the beer cellars of Cruzcampo.

Tortilla Española

Before we proceed to making this simple and delicious dish, let’s clear up a couple of confusing points. Here in Spain, a “tortilla” is an omelette. It has nothing to do with thin wraps of unleavened bread. Those are Mexican tortillas.

Secondly, an omelette pure and simple, consisting of nothing more than beaten eggs, is known as a “French omelette” (tortilla francesa). Much more substantial, with chunks of potato, is the meal we are about to prepare – the Spanish omelette, or “tortilla española”.

This filling dish is nothing if not versatile. It is delicious hot from the frying-pan, but can also be kept and eaten cold. A “wedge” of tortilla española makes an ideal snack or starter, and it can be complemented with salad, fish or just about anything.

Ingredients (serves four)
1 kilo (35 oz) potatoes
5 eggs
30 grams (1 oz) chopped onions (optional)
salt
half a litre (just under 1 pint) olive oil

Peel the potatoes and dice them into cubes (this is very much the traditional way to prepare them). Get the olive oil very hot, then add the potato cubes and the onion. It is important to make sure that the potato pieces are completely sealed by the oil. Reduce the heat slightly, and cook the potato until the cubes turn golden. This should take about fifteen minutes.

Once the potato cubes are soft and cooked through, drain off the oil, save it, and place the potato in a bowl. Now beat the eggs, adding salt, and when they are evenly mixed, add this to the potato cubes and stir thoroughly.

The retained oil can now go back into the frying-pan. Heat it up again, then add the mixture of potato and egg. Really, you are making a standard omelette now, so do as you would normally do – keep freeing the outer edge of your mixture, using a spatula, and ease any uncooked mixture towards the outer edges, where it will get more heat. Don’t let the omelette brown too quickly.

Now comes the fun part. The upper half of your tortilla española is not cooking as rapidly as the underside, so you now have to turn it over. When you’re sure that it is no longer too runny, place a plate over the frying-pan and (holding the plate, of course!) flip the whole thing upside-down.

If you’ve done it reasonably deftly, the omelette will pop neatly onto the plate. It’s a simple matter now of sliding it back into the frying-pan; with the well-cooked side on top! Return it to the heat, and very soon the whole tortilla española will be evenly cooked, and ready to serve.

¡Buen provecho!

Natillas, a tasty Andalucian dessert

To say that natillas is custard is rather like saying that champagne is only wine. This dessert has a fresh delicacy and a charm which makes good old English custard seem dull and heavy in comparison. Nothing completes a delightful family meal on a summer afternoon than a “pudding” of natillas!

Ingredients (serves four)
half a litre of milk
the whites of 2 eggs
1 stick of cinnamon
150 grams (5 oz) sugar
4 egg yolks
lemon juice
lemon peel
bizcocho soletilla (ladyfinger biscuits)
vanilla bean
cornflour
salt
butter

Place the milk in a saucepan, add the cinnamon, vanilla and lemon peel, and bring slowly to the boil. Once it reaches that point, take it off the heat and let it cool a little before you strain off the peel.

Fold the egg yolks and sugar together and place the mixture in the top section of a double-boiler (also known as a “bain-marie”). Hold back a tiny amount of the milk (three or four tablespoons). Whip up the yolks as you add the warm milk.

Using the held-back milk, dissolve the cornflour and then work this into the larger mixture. Heat this custard mix over boiling water for about ten minutes, stirring constantly, until the custard has thickened up. When it has reached the consistency you desire, take it off the heat.

Place one of the ladyfinger biscuits in each of four dessert bowls. Pour the custard evenly over each, and then place the bowls in the fridge to cool.

Whisk the two egg-whites until the liquid is quite stiff. Stir in the sugar, a pinch of salt and some lemon juice.

Butter an oven tin, and put the meringue in, creating four separate portions. Dust them lightly with cinnamon, and give the lot ten minutes in a medium oven, taking the tin out when the meringues have started to turn golden.

Cut the heat, and let the meringues cool to room temperature inside the oven before placing them on top of the four custard portions.

¡Buen provecho!

pisto-andaluz-ratatouille

Pisto Andaluz, Traditional Vegetarian Stew

One of the most popular dishes prepared around Spain, the pisto is basically a vegetable stew or ratatouille, and forms a popular base into which cured meats can be added, although one of the most famous versions of this recipe also adds egg (it looks like fried eggs sitting on top of the pisto).

Pisto can be a vegetarian meal meal on its own, or it can be served as an accompaniment to meat. Pisto also makes a great small tapas serving, or a side dish. It also makes a great base for adding other ingredients to completely change the the entire menu. Replacing some of the ingredients doesn’t require any more thought than simply adding them. If you don’t like zucchini, no problem, try eggplant. In fact it is one of the most versatile Spanish recipes and this is why it is so universally loved around Spain.

Originally made in La Mancha, which is why the most well-known version of the dish is called Pisto Manchego, it is contrary to some opinions not a cheese dish. Queso Manchego comes from the same place, but please don’t confuse the two; queso is cheese, pisto is a cooked vegetable dish.

By the way, many visitors to Spain complain that vegetarian or vegan food isn’t readily available, but a good (non-egg, non-meat) pisto recipe like this one should be suitable. For a delicious meat stew, add cubed beef.

This recipe serves 6.

Pisto Andaluz Ingredients

  • 2 onions
  • 2 green peppers
  • 1 red pepper
  • 4 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • a teaspoon of sugar
  • salt

Pisto Andaluz Preparation

We start by preparing our vegetables prior to putting them all in a large flat skillet. Blanch the tomatoes then remove the skin and cut into cubes. Peel and dice the onions and the zucchini, and slice the peppers.

Place a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in the pan and fry the garlic and onion over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Then add the peppers and cook together for another 5 minutes making sure to stir so none of it burns in the bottom of the pan.

Now add the zucchini for 2-3 minutes, and finally add the tomato, letting the mixture simmer for a further 15 minutes.

Add the sugar and salt, and quickly bring to the boil then remove from the heat. If your pan has too much tomato juice, let it boil away whilst stirring to avoid burning. Fresh basil or oregano are often added to give the pisto a pleasant herby taste.

Serve hot in small terracotta tapas dishes for that authentic feel, or place on the side of a plate with some fish or even a fresh salad. This pisto andaluz goes down very well with a glass of La Rioja red wine, or if you can get it, one of many excellent Ronda red wines.

DSC00334

Lifting the lid on Tapas

The original Tapa was a small dish that the camarero (barman) would place over your drink – hence the name: lid. The reason for this practice is unclear: perhaps it was to keep the flies off; perhaps it was the combination of poverty and heat, which made eating a large meal impractical. Either way, the important thing was that the snack was free!

Nowadays, tapas have evolved from those humble beginnings to become practically an art form in Seville and Granada. In some cities (Granada and Jaen for example) you will often automatically be given a tapa whenever you order a drink; in most other places except to pay a couple of euros for most tapas.

There are four basic sizes of tapa:
pincho – mouthful
tapa – saucerful
media-racion – half a plateful
racion – plateful

The tapas list will be displayed on a menu at the bar, or a board on the wall, or, most likely, you just take your pick of what you fancy from trays under a glass counter. If you eat at the bar, you’ll pay the price on the menu; if you eat at a table or outside on the terraza, you’ll end up paying double about 25 per cent more. Settle the bill once you have finished eating, rather than when you order.

Classic Tapas
Aceitunas (rellenos) – Olives (stuffed)
Albondigas – Meatballs
Almendras saladas – Salted almonds
Boquerones en vinagre – Fresh anchovies in vinegar
Calamares rellenos – Stuffed baby squid
Calamares a la Romana – Fried battered squid rings
Calamares en su tinta – Squid cooked in its ink
Chanquetes – Whitebait
Chorizo al Vino – Spicy sausage in red wine
Croquetas – Croquettes
Empanadas – Flat pies
Empanadilla – Small fried pasties
Ensaladilla de Rusa – Russian salad
Flamenquines – Ham and pork rolls
Fritura de pescado – Flash fried fish
Gambas al ajillo – Prawns in garlic
Huevos rellenos – Stuffed hard boiled eggs
Jamon serrano – Cured ham
Mejillones al vapor – Steamed muscles
Pan con tomate – Bread rubbed with fresh tomatoes
Patatas ali oil – Potatoes in garlic mayonnaise
Patatas Bravas – Potatoes in a spicy sauce
Pimientas de Padrón – Fried hot small green peppers
Pincho moruno – Grilled meat brochette
Pisto manchego – Ratatouille wtih meat
Pollo al ajillo – Garlic chicken
Revuelto – Scrambled eggs
Riñones al Jerez – Kidneys in sherry
Sobrassada – Soft Mallorcan paprika sausage
Tortilla Española – Spanish Omelette

Albondigas Claras

Albóndigas Claras (“Pale” Meatballs)

Pork is a staple of the Andalucian diet, and has been so for six hundred years. In the times of religious intolerance, when Jewish and Arabic people were being expelled from Spain, the Andalucians made a point of cultivating a cuisine which would be offensive to those “infidels” who chose to stay! We live in far more tolerant circumstances today, and we can enjoy our culinary heritage with easy consciences.

Albóndigas are a quick and convenient way of using up the remains of a family joint. In modern times we simply ask the butcher for minced pork, but in the days before refrigeration (not so long ago here in Andalucia – my childhood was spent in total ignorance of such luxuries!) and when strict religious observance forbade the eating of meat on certain days, there had to be a swift way of cooking up the last of the leg of pork – and albóndigas was that way!

Many are the forms albóndigas can take, including meatballs made of cod, but by far the most common are albóndigas oscuras (“dark” meatballs, simmered in tomato sauce) and albóndigas claras (“pale” albóndigas, prepared with a light almond sauce). We shall be making the latter today. (By the way, the name “albóndigas” is pronounced with the stress on the “bon”, so it’s al-BON-digas.)

Albóndigas Claras

This recipe will make sufficient meatballs for 6 servings

Meatball Ingredients

  • 500 grams (18 oz) of minced pork
  • 50 grams (2 oz) of bread
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of finely-chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons of finely-chopped parsley
  • flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • nutmeg
  • olive oil

Sauce Ingredients

  • 25 almonds, blanched and skinned
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of caldo (ie, stock)
  • 10 peppercorns
  • olive oil
  • half a teaspoon of saffron
  • salt
  • 1 small glass of white wine
  • milk

Preparation

Put the minced pork in a bowl. Soak the bread in milk, then squeeze off the excess and place it in with the pork. Crush the garlic and add it, also blending in the onion, parsley, salt, nutmeg, pepper and the beaten egg. Mix it thoroughly, so that an even paste is achieved.

Taking pieces of the paste, and with flour on your hands, roll them into spheres about the size of golf balls. The balls can now be fried on a gentle heat until they are cooked through. When brown on all sides, they can be taken off the heat.

Fry the almonds in oil, together with the bread and garlic. Blend the peppercorns and saffron, using a little salt, then add the almond mixture to this. Work in the wine, so that you end up with a smooth paste. This can now go back into the hot oil, to which the caldo is now added. This will need only a few minutes to form a delicious sauce.

The meatballs can now be added to the sauce, and heated gently for about 20 minutes. If the sauce starts to turn viscous, add a little more caldo or water.

¡Buen provecho!

Recipe for Albondigas Spanish Meatballs

Albondigas – Spanish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Albondigas can be found in almost every tapas bar in Spain throughout the year, and are typically served piping hot, but cool down remarkably quickly outside of the pot. Most bars will have their own slightly different recipe so visitors to Spain shouldn’t be afraid to order this tapa as they bar hop and sample local cuisine.

Generally there are two types of sauce the meatballs are cooked in, the rich red tomato sauce, and the gravy style pale garlic sauce albondigas clarasthough this is rarer and in most bars will not be served at all. It is important to realise that the wors ‘tomato sauce’ do not do justice to the flavour of the sauce, this is not ketchup, it is a delicious tomato and olive oil based sauce that is quite unique to this recipe.

This Albondigas recipe will make 12 meatballs.

Ingredients
Meatballs:

  • 250g minced beef
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons of grated manchego cheese (substitute parmesan)
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • 2 finely chopped green onions (shallots)
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cups of plum tomatos
  • 2 tablespoons of rioja (Spanish red wine)
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped basil
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped rosemary

 

Preparation
These meatballs are very easy to make, simply mix all of the meatball ingredients (minced beef, breadcrumbs, manchego cheese, tomato paste, garlic, green onions, thyme, turmeric, salt and pepper) together in a bowl using a large spoon or fork.

Split the mixture into 12 chunks and roll into balls. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil till it sizzles (not boiling), and add the meatballs till they are brown all over.

Next add the tomato sauce ingredients (plum tomatos, rioja, basil, rosemary) and cook for 20 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve 2-3 meatballs in small tapas dishes with sauce and bread.

To make this dish extra special, garnish the tapas with dried basil leaves. You can also experiment and add preserved red chillis to the sauce ingredients.

Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Level of Difficulty: Easy