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The ultimate tapa for Catalans, pa amb tomaquet or pan con tomate, is the simplest and most beloved of tapas, a lightly grilled bread with tomato, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and sometimes a little garlic flair to it. pa amb tomaquet

Pan con tomate

If you’ve ever set foot in Barcelona or its region, you probably saw this dish on every single tables. Omit ordering it at the restaurant… surely your waiter will ask you if you want some pan con tomate with your meal. It’s simply inconceivable not to order it. Pan con tomate or its Catalan term Pa amb tomàquet is such an integral part of the Catalan culture, identity even. So popular, to the point of having a book written about it, by Leopold Pomés called Teoria i práctica del pa amb tomàquet. You know it’s a serious matter when a whole book is written about a single dish.

History of Pan con tomate

Nèstor Luján wrote about pan con tomate back in 1884 although its origin goes way back to the 16th century. It was a way to revamp dry bread by adding the juice of a tomato on it and let it soak all that delicious tomato flavor. Today, the technique is used also in sandwiches, called Bocadillo (Spanish) or Entrepà (Catalan). Instead of adding mayonnaise or mustard they cover the inside of a baguette bread with tomato pulp and olive oil and fill it with whether, iberic ham, cheese, sausage, sardine, etc.

The rest of Spain also do pan con tomate, although it isn’t as “holy” as in Catalonia. Done sensibly differently and often with a different type of tomato. The Spanish version uses a cheese grater to pick up the pulp from the tomato. There is also other variations like the one in Majorca, where they slice tomatoes, add it to bread and top it with olive oil, vinegar, capers and olives, this one is called Pamboli amb Tomàtiga.

Special hanged tomatoes from Catalonia
tapas of pan con tomate or pa amb tomaquet catalan

The tomato used are typically the ones you’ll see hanging on a string at any Catalan market called ramallet (Catalan). This type of tomato has a thicker skin, therefore it can be conserved way longer, the hanging factor also help to preserve them. The skin loses water and thickens, resulting in a concentrated interior which taste sweeter and bolder than most tomatoes. Plus, it has the perfect texture, once rubbing it on the bread, the pulp just breaks apart easily and evenly leaving the skin behind. It also gives the bread this uniform “tomato topping” without too much “water”, that most tomatoes are filled with. The perfect tomato for this dish! At home, I would suggest an Italian pear style tomato to reproduce this dish or any sweet type of tomato that doesn’t contain crazy amount of water.

pan con tomate

The bread

The two main bread types used in Catalonia for pan con tomate is whether a flat bread or a round loaf. But really… the most important is to use a good “artisanal” type of bread, its form doesn’t ultimately matter. I, personally, prefer the flat bread, and most restaurant do too. It’s crust is crunchy and interior fluffy with lots of holes to trap the pulp in. There are also two ways to toast the bread, whether you do it lightly in the toaster or oven or often used in the Masia, or rural restaurants with the round loaf type of bread, grilled lightly on the BBQ. Remember it was originally made to revamp dry bread, it should not taste like toasted bread so go easy on the toasting, the bread should stay relatively white.

Pan con tomate
Service

This dish is usually consumed with other tapas, but also as an appetizer or side dish to a full dish. In rural restaurants, they’ll bring you the grilled bread, tomato, garlic, olive oil and salt separated at the table and let you make your own pan con tomate. Most times, they offer a garlic clove with it, which you can rub on the bread before adding the tomato, but the big majority of Catalans won’t use it.

So.. let’s make this Catalan ritual going!


Pa amb Tomàquet | Pan con tomate

For this recipe, I’ve made 3 versions of pan con tomate: the “Traditional Catalan way”, the “Spanish way” and the ” The new ‘garlicky’ way”.

Directionspan con tomate
  1. The Traditional Catalan way consist of flat bread or round loaf bread lightly toasted. Than cut a meaty tomato on its length into two and rub it on the bread, add a good extra-virgin olive oil and some salt. Voila!
  2. The new way consist of an added step of scrapping a sliced garlic clove on the bread before rubbing the tomato. Do not over do it, it’s quite powerful. Finish it up the “Catalan way”. Keep the garlic for later use.
  3. The Spanish way consist of lightly toasted bread. Cut the tomato into two and with the help of a cheese grater, collect the pulp of the tomato in a bowl. Add the tomato mixture to the bread with a spoon, topped with some extra-virgin olive oil and salt. (this version has a thicker amount of tomato)

 

Serve with tapas, or any Spanish dish!

Pan con tomate

An authentic Sangria Española without sugar, with diced apple, peach and orange, plus a little fizz in the end to make it extra festive!sangria traditional

sangria spanish cocktail

The word Sangria comes from the word “sangre” which means blood, therefore a traditional sangria should be the color of blood. Nowadays there are tons of different variation of sangrias out there, some made with white wine others sparkling wines and all kind of fruits. However the original version is and will always be the ultimate summer drink star!

 [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG6y5vqUjkk&w=560&h=315]

Origins

Sangria’s origin is not clear, some say it was a way to upgrade the lowest grad wines from southern Spain by adding fruits (sugars) it would help balance the sharpness. Others say it was an invention of British sailors, bringing along with them some Spanish wine to the Caribbeans and mixing it up with rum and fruits. Truth be told, no one knows for sure. One thing is certain, it’s a fantastic drink to sip on in the summertime!

Sangria
The golden rules

Here are a few rules to follow if you want to concoct a traditional Sangria:

  • Cut the fruits small enough to be able to get the pieces to slide easily in your mouth when drinking,
  • Cover really well the sangria (airtight) with the plastic wrap, not to let the alcohol evaporate,
  • Make sure to macerate the sangria long enough (minimum of 3 hours in the fridge),
  • Make sure to stir the Sangria before serving,
  • Don’t forget the fizz in the end, it could be a gaz limonade, soda, or simply sparkling water

Simple steps that goes a long way….

Sangria

So let’s make this summer drink!

 


Sangria Española (sugar-free)

Makes 6-8 portions | Difficulty: easy | Preparation: min. 3 hours (overnight maceration needed)

IngredientsSangria
  • 750ml (1 bottle) of red wine (Rioja)
  • 100ml of Spanish Brandy
  • 250ml (1 cup) orange juice
  • 1 apple cut into small dices
  • 1 peach cut into small dices
  • 1 orange sliced
  • cinnamon stick *optional
  • sparkling water / soda or fizzy lemonade to taste
Directions
  1. Start by cutting the apple and peach, add to a pitcher
  2. Add the wine, orange juice and brandy to the pitcher
  3. Add a few slices of orange and a cinnamon stick
  4. Mix up and cover (airtight) with plastic wrap
  5. Let overnight in the fridge (minimum 3 hours)
  6. Stir and serve 3/4 of the glass
  7. Add the fizz; sparkling water / soda or fizzy lemonade and ice cubes to taste

 

¡Salud!

traditional sangria drink

A Spanish Style Salmon fillet on a bed of quinoa and green asparagus topped with a nutty Romesco Sauce is great way to bring a little Mediterranean sun to your plate.romesco sauce Bbq

Salmon on asparagus and romesco

Salmon Fillet on green Asparagus and Quinoa Bed topped with Romesco Sauce the perfect set of Spanish flavors. This gorgeous orange sauce is a rich, slightly nutty and ultra healthy one.  This recipe is suitable for the BBQ or the oven both methods are in the directions below.

Romesco Sauce

Salmon on asparagus and romescoThe idea here was to showcase the Romesco sauce and asparagus together. It could have been a piece of chicken, red meat on top or nothing at all and it would be as delicious. Romesco is Spanish sauce consisting of roasted tomatoes, pepper pulp, paprika and roasted nuts (almonds and hazelnuts) blended with a touch of olive oil and vinegar. Frankly this orange thick sauce bring any grilled meat to another level, plus the nutty touch is simply divine with asparagus. It goes without saying that it’s by far healthier than ketchup or BBQ sauce. So if you want to give your next Salmon fillet a nice sunny touch, go for the Romesco sauce!

 

Let’s start this grilling season with a Spanish twist!

 


Salmon Fillet on Quinoa and Asparagus bed topped with a Romesco Sauce

Makes 2 portions

Salmon on asparagus and romescoIngredients
  • 2 pieces of salmon
  • 20 green asparagus
  • Romesco sauce (check recipe here)
  • 200g white quinoa
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Salt and pepper the salmon, drizzle with olive oil
  2. Cook the salmon for 20 minutes at 180°C (350F) or on the BBQ for about 10 minutes depending on the thickness
  3. Cook the quinoa as instructed with a pinch of salt and a laurel leave
  4. Add the asparagus in the oven 5-7 minutes before the end of the cooking of the salmon or on the grill for 2-3 minutes
  5. Assemble with a drizzle of romesco sauce

 

Enjoy!

Salmon on asparagus and romesco

Eggplant Fries with Honey is a fairly common tapas in Spain. Nice crunchy eggplants sticks deep fried in olive oil and finished up with a sprinkle of salt and good quality honey.vegetarian spanish tapas eggplant honey

Eggplant fries with honey

Ever wondered about nice authentic vegetarian tapas ? This crunchy Eggplant topped with honey tapa is what you are looking for! Called Berenjena con miel in Spanish this tapas originates from the south of Spain although nowadays you’ll find it in about every tapas bar in Spain. It’s usually served with a nice honey or a darker molasse (cane syrup) and a nice sprinkle of salt. A great sweet and salty dish!

 

Golden rule of deep frying

deep frying olive oilKnowing the common eggplants contains lots of water which makes them often saggy once cooked, the only way to make them relatively firm and crisp is by coating them in a light flour and breadcrumb layer and fry them up at high temperature. An important element to deep fry successfully the eggplant is to assure yourself the oil is hot enough, this way it won’t get absorb the oil and get saggy. Also be careful not to add too many pieces at the same time you’ll end up cooling the olive oil and finish up with sad greasy and soft fries. So make sure to keep the temperature of the oil between 180-190°C (300-350f) this way the eggplant won’t absorb much oil and will just get the top layer of the fries crisp.

Oh! and if you are one of those sceptic about deep frying with olive oil, don’t be! Olive oil is one of the most stable and resistant to long cooking periods, it loses less volatile compounds than most oils and doesn’t alter the taste of anything like many believe. Without saying, it’s the base of Spanish gastronomy, it’s everywhere and they are second on the list of country where people live the longest… just saying. They fry and deep fry everything in olive oil in Spain so olive oil must not be that bad… As long as you don’t reach the smoke point over 190°C (350F) it’s perfectly safe if not better than any other oil.

Eggplant fries with honey

Bitterness

Eggplant fries with honeySome people found eggplant have a bitter taste but personally I’ve never had a problem with bitterness. This unpleasant taste is mostly happening when the eggplant is too mature. Do not worry… there is a way to fix this problem. Soaking them in a salty bath for 30 minutes before you cook this purple vegetable is the way to eliminate the unwelcomed bitterness. This step is also giving an extra taste to the eggplant but if you do not feel like waiting for an extra 30 minutes, just omit this step and go right to the deep frying.

 

Honey or Cane syrup

This tapa in Spain is often served with a darker thicker syrup made out of cane sugar (molasse), it’s not an actual honey but they still call the dish “eggplants with honey”… But for this particular recipe I brought out my top notch honey and drizzled it over the eggplants with a sprinkle of salt. There is nothing like a nice sweet and salty combination!

So let’s get those fries going!


Eggplant Fries with Honey

Makes 4-6 tapas portions | Preparation: 45 minutes | Difficulty: easy

Eggplant fries with honeyIngredients
  • 2 big eggplants
  • 3 tbsp of flour
  • 3 tbsp of breadcrumbs
  • honey (as much as you like)
  • olive oil
  • salt (fleur de sel)
Directions
  1. Start by cutting the eggplant into thick (1cm) sticks (with the skin) and let it soak in salty (2tbsp salt) water for 30 minutes (add a plate over to immerse them completely)
  2. Heat up a good amount of olive oil to soak the fries completely in a deep enough pan and heat it up to 180°C to 190°C (350°F to 370°F) degrees
  3. Pat dry the eggplants sticks with a paper towel and add to a bowl
  4. Add the flour and bread crumbs to the bowl containing the fries, cover and shake the fries to cover them up with the mix
  5. Add a fry to test the heat, it need to make lots of bubble right away or check the temperature with a thermometer
  6. Add a few eggplant at the time not to cool down the oil, (don’t over fill) and let it fry for about 3 to 4 minutes until golden and crisp
  7. Take out the fries with a slotted spoon, sprinkle a little (fleur de sel) salt on them and reserve on a paper towel while you cook an other batch
  8. Just before serving, add a good quality honey or molasses on top.

 

Enjoy!

IMG_1681

Romesco Sauce is a polyvalent sauce that goes well with any grilled meat, fish or vegetable. It’s main ingredients are roasted tomatoes, garlic, hazelnut, almond, a red pepper pulp with a touch of paprika. A perfect condiment for BBQ season!romesco salsa

Romesco Sauce

A Catalan ritual

The orange and nutty sauce originates from Tarragona, about an hour south of Barcelona, Spain. The chances are… if you come visit and try any restaurant in the outskirts of the city you’ll end up with romesco sauce in your plate. It’s especially eaten with grilled meat, fish or veggies but also on their famous papas bravas with some aioli. The Catalan rural houses often have a grilling spot in their backyard where in the winter month they do calçotadas. The equivalent of a sunday brunch… for Catalans though, the ritual consist of grilling those special green onions they call calçots which resembles leeks (but taste nothing like it) and then grill some meats and veggies while sipping on good wine all afternoon long. This special onion appetizer is eaten with romesco sauce or a similar sauce called salvitxada (more liquid by adding tomatoes and less pepper pulp). 

 

Calçots technique

calcotada catalanThose laborious to grow onions are the pride of Catalans and with reason! The technique consist of dumping the onions directly over the fire and burning them completely and don’t think about cleaning them up before…. no! no! no! they need this layer of dirt to protect them from the flame and keep the inside moist. Once the calçots blackened, they envelope them in a few layers of newspapers and let them rest for about 30 minutes to let the residual heat do the rest of the work. You end up with a delectable tender and melting core but to get there… you’ll need to use your hand to pull down the burned layer and then dump the onion directly in the romesco sauce. After all those steps you’ll get the reward you deserve a tender and delicious onion with a nutty romesco sauce that brings it to another level. The whole process is quite a messy one… meaning your hands are going to get dirty and if you are lucky you won’t stain anything else… On a personal note… my first calçotada was on my wedding day… white is definitely not the best color to wear at those events guys!

 

A great alternative

Romesco SauceThis nutty and rich sauce is the ketchup of the Catalans, they put it on everything and believe me I’ve converted too. I personally love it with green asparagus, or you could give it a try as your new ketchup in a burger. (Check my Spanish Burger recipe here). This romesco recipe version is adapted for anyone, meaning you won’t need that special pepper from Spain to make it, although I recommend to search it up because it does give the sauce a special flair. For those worried about the whole head of garlic in there…don’t!  It’s a roasted garlic that will melt like butter and become sweet, it won’t give you this bad breath so.. No worries!

So let’s get those veggies roasted!


Romesco Sauce

Ingredients
  • Romesco Sauce5 riped tomatoes
  • ±150ml of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 80g almonds (roasted and skinless)
  • 50g hazelnuts (roasted and skinless)
  • 1 garlic head
  • 1 small sweet red pepper or 2 ñoras pulp (or 1 tbsp of pasta de ñora or choricero)
  • 50ml of white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp of sweet and/or spicy paprika
  • 1 small slice of dry bread
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Start by cutting the garlic head into two (see picture below) and fold it in aluminium paper, add the tomatoes and pepper in the oven to max temperature and cook for 20 minutes, turning mid-way
  2. Leave the garlic head in the oven for an extra 10-15 minutes while the tomato and pepper chill
  3. During that time, blend the nuts and the dry bread in a food processor, add in a bowl and reserve
  4. Discard the skin and the stem from the tomatoes and add them to the blended nuts bowl
  5. With the help of a knife, scrape the inside of the pepper, discard the skin, stem and seeds and add the pulp to the mix
  6. By now the garlic is tender so unwrap it and let it cool a few minutes before squeezing it with your hands into the mix (see picture above)
  7. Add the salt, pepper, paprika, and the olive oil
  8. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth
  9. Add the vinegar (to taste) and more olive oil until right consistency
  10. Check the seasonning and serve (conserve in the fridge for a few days)

 

Enjoy!

Romesco Sauce

A burger with Spanish flavors starting by a chorizo style meat pattie of paprika, parsley and garlic topped by a typical roasted pepper and a nutty homemade romesco sauce and aioli to give this burger an “Olé” touch!paprika patties cheeseburger

Spanish Burger

It’s a first on the blog… a burger! With summer coming up it’s time to bring out the BBQ! I wanted to give it a personal touch since I’m living abroad in Spain… So I’ve done a Spanish version and it turned out into a truly tasty discovery!

The meat patties

Spanish BurgerFirst of all the meat patties are a mix of pork and beef which I happen to believe is a winning combination for any burger.  Adding pork to your patties also helps to keep the patties juicy, plus pork is the meat of choice in Spain making this combination a perfect one for this Spanish version Burger! The seasonning of the meat is pretty much what they do for chorizo sausages… (solely pork) which contains usually sweet and/or spicy paprika and garlic. Nothing too complex and I’ve added a tad of finely chopped flat leave parsley to the mix to give it a fresh touch.

The sauces

As for the sauces I’ve used another favorite from Spaniards which they use for their famous “french fries” dish called papas bravas... Well more precisely it’s the Catalan combination they use for papas bravas being aioli and romesco sauce which I thought would work great in this burger. The Romesco sauce is a “nutty” and healthier version of ketchup; its contains tomato, the pulp from a special sweet pepper (ñora), roasted garlic, vinegar,Romesco Sauce olive oil, roasted hazelnut and almond. I’ve done a homemade version with a normal red pepper instead of the “special” one.  (recipe here) The result is quite similar and it’s easy to make.  If you are lucky enough some of you might find the ñora or choricero paste or even the dried pepper hidden somewhere in some European specialized stores. The second sauce is aioli which is simply a garlic mayonnaise, if done the right way it shouldn’t have any eggs in there; the fresh garlic contain a natural emulsifier, but we’ll keep it simple for now and just use a premade aioli or if you prefer simply make a homemade mayonnaise and add a garlic clove to it and voila… Aioli! Yes… that simple!

So let’s start this BBQ season with Spanish flavors!

 


Spanish Style Burger

Makes 4 burgers

Spanish BurgerIngredients
  • 600g of ground meat (half pork – half beef)
  • 4 burgers buns
  • 2 small red bell peppers
  • lettuce
  • aioli
  • romesco sauce (check recipe here)
  • *caperberries or pickles for the side dish
Patties seasoning
  • 1 tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp of (*smokey paprika de la Vera) spicy paprika
  • 1 garlic clove finely minced
  • 2 tbsp of flat leave parsley finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

* optional

Directions
Step 1 The roasted pepper

The flame technique (faster): Add the clean peppers directly on top of a flame (BBQ or gas stove flame) and burn on all sides, until totally black and cover with aluminium foil and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

The oven technique: Add the pepper in the oven on the top level to broil for about 20 minutes (turn mid-way) until black on each side, cover in aluminium foil and let rest 10-15 minutes.

  • Take aluminium out and cut the extremities carefully (hot juice coming out) and with the help of a paper towel wipe off the blacken skin of the pepper
  • Cut each pepper into 2 or 3 squares and reserve
Step 2 the burgers
  1. Start by adding all the seasoning except the salt to the meat patties without overworking the meat, mix and form 4 nicely compressed patties
  2. Once the patties are formed add salt on them
  3. On a grilling pan or BBQ (check here for different techniques to cook burgers from Saveur magazine) bring to medium-high heat add the patties for 4 minutes minimum before flipping them (check the side of the pattie to see the cooking line)
  4. Add the cheese 1 minute before the end of cooking
  5. Cook the meat to your favorite doneness
  6. Warm up the bread a bit before making the burgers

 

Serve with caperberries. Que disfrutéis!

Spanish Burger

Those Galician Scallops are exquisite with a smooth white wine bechamel and a crunchy iberic ham to top them! Surf and Turf at it’s best!Those Galician Scallops are exquisite with a smooth white wine bechamel and a crunchy iberic ham to top them! Surf and Turf at it’s best!

iberic variegated scallop

The Variegated Scallops or Zamburiñas are a small variety of Galician scallops about twice or three times smaller than normal scallops. Check the picture below to see the difference. Those mollusks are changing sex many times during their lifetime to end up male. Which I find strange/funny because shell “concha” in Spanish means “the lady part” in South America… Well, let’s leave it to that! In Spain the coral (roe) is also eaten, especially with this smaller variety of scallops, the coral results more tender than the usual scallops. If you make the recipe with normal sized scallops, you should avoid leaving them in, they are quite rough to eat, I suggest to cut them into really small dices and add them to the bechamel if you want to make good use of the coral.

iberic variegated scallop

The region where you’ll find those Zamburiñas is north west of Spain in Galicia, which is the land of many other great dishes for example; the Galician octopus called pulpo a la gallega or the galician cod (Bacalao a la gallega), they even make a pie with the Zamburiñas, etc. The shell from this particular variety of scallops is the symbol of the famous route of Santiago de Compostela. Back in the days, having one of those shells would mean that you have done it! the whole Christian pilgrimage to the Tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela. Many paths exist to reach Santiago de Compostela just like its shell symbol with its many lines meeting in one point, a perfect symbol for the pilgrimage.

 

Let’s talk taste

iberic variegated scallopIn Spain, the common belief is that the small scallops taste better… although, personally I didn’t find a big difference if any…February is the peak of the scallops season, right now they are affordable (in Spain) and are great to serve as an appetizers or tapas. Spanish people often serve their scallops with a touch of iberic ham, sometimes with a garlic-onion sauce,  a simple parsley, lemon and olive oil drizzle, or spicy tomato sauce, etc. For this batch I wanted to try scallops the surf and turf way with the cured ham. I’ve made the scallops with a tad white wine bechamel and topped it with a few pieces of iberic ham (or any cured ham) enveloped in bread crumbs. Then in the oven the bechamel will lightly get golden and smooth things up while the iberic ham will become crispier for a nicely textured and flavorful tapa!

The recipe is suitable for normal sized scallops. So let’s get to it!

 


Iberic Variegated Scallops (Zamburiñas)

Makes 10 Zamburiñas or 4 scallops | Preparation: 15 minutes | Difficulty: easy

Ingredients
  • 10 Zamburiñas or 4 scallops with shell
  • 100g of iberic ham (any cured ham), cut into small cubes
  • 2 tbsp of breadcrumbs *optional for extra crunch
iberic variegated scallopBechamel sauce
  • 2 tbsp of flour
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 50ml of white wine
  • 150 ml of milk or cream
  • flat leave parsley, finely chopped
  • pinch of nutmeg *optional
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Start by taking the frozen scallops out of the freezer, leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes before the cooking starts
  2. In a small sauce pan, add the butter and flour, medium-high heat and let the flour cook for a minute or two until it start to smell nutty
  3. Add the splash of white wine then the milk and the spices and whisk until it becomes thick
  4. Add the breadcrumbs to the ham and mix
  5. Add the bechamel sauce on top of the scallops with the pieces of cured ham
  6. Preheat the oven to the max, broil the scallops for about 4 minutes (for the small ones) or 5-6 minutes (normal sized scallops)
  7. Serve

Enjoy!

iberic variegated scallop

 

Coca of eggplant, pepper and goat cheese (Catalan Pizza)“Coca” is a Catalan, or northern Mediterranean coast of Spain, traditional dish. In other words, it’s a Catalan Pizza made with a touch of olive oil resulting into a crusty soft bread sometimes thick and other times thin and crunchy. They do all kind of “Cocas” in Catalonia, from sweet to savoury, minis to long and large, thin to thick and most of the time into rectangular form. One of my favorite is the “Coca de recapte” which means “leftovers coca” and mainly it is an eggplant, onion and pepper in escalivada (smoky, roasted veggie) but it could also contain meat, etc. because its name says it… it’s “a leftovers” coca. This version of coca, I’ve posted here, is a similar one although I’ve added a touch of goat cheese (my leftovers of the day) and let go of the whole roasting part. Cutting the cooking time by 1 hour. You could also add anchovy to this coca which is common to see in Spain. Surprisingly, they do not use much cheese on their “Catalan pizza”, most are with a meaty touch, like lard, rabbit or sausages or seafood like sardines, anchovies, tuna, etc. and veggies.cocapin

Coca of eggplant, pepper and goat cheese (Catalan Pizza)If you ever come visit Barcelona, you’ll see those cocas in many bakeries around town but my own personal favorite was the one in Bar del Pla, in the Born district. This small and charming Tapas Bar has some crunchy sardine version irresistibly addictive and also, try the “calamari in its ink croquetas”, they are fabulous. A great tapas bar if you ever visit. Okay… let’s go back to our coca… so if you buy it on the street in a bakery, the chances are they will serve it cold, that’s because they eat their coca this way in Catalonia. That’s simply how they do it but you could always ask for “calentar” warm up the piece if it bothers you.

It’s common to see Cocas with names of religious connotation, for example; the San Joan Coca (St-John the Baptist), the Easter Coca, the Christmas Coca or even the 3 three kings Coca. It seems like there is one for every occasion. So let’s make this an occasion and create this coca.

 


Eggplant, pepper and goat cheese Coca (Catalan Pizza)

Ingredients
Coca of eggplant, pepper and goat cheese (Catalan Pizza)The dough
  • 400g of flour
  • 200ml of warm water
  • 9g of powder yeast or 2 tbsp of fresh yeast
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 of sugar
The toppings
  • 1/4 of an Eggplant finely sliced (3mm thick)
  • 1 Tomato finely slices (2mm thick)
  • 1/4 of a Red bell pepper sliced
  • Goat cheese to taste
  • Basil leaves (top in the end)
  • *optional anchovies
Directions

Preheat the oven at 180°C (350F)

  1. Add the warm water, sugar and yeast in a bowl and let it work its magic for 10 minutes
  2. Add the salt and olive oil to the flour and the yeast/water and mix
  3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes
  4. Leave the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic of towel near a warm place for an 30-1 hour.
  5. For the Coca base with the hand of a kitchen rolling pin
  6. Add to floured wood to slide onto the oven stone or add to a baking sheet on the baking tray
  7. Add the tomatoes, eggplant and pepper topped with goat cheese and a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper
  8. Cook about 35-40 minutes or until golden

Serve with a few fresh basil leaves. Enjoy!

Coca of eggplant, pepper and goat cheese (Catalan Pizza)

Vegetarian Paella

This vegetarian paella is filled with mediterranean vegetables; zucchinis, onion, garlic, bell pepper and the famous smokey paprika from Spain (pimentón de la Vera). Paella is a great dish, you can make it with whatever you feel like, the base though usually stays the same, the sofrito, which is fried onion in olive oil and garlic and the pulp from a tomato, you let it reduce and this is the main base for any paella.vegpaellapin

Vegetarian PaellaIn Spain, they say 1 out of 100 paellas are made with saffron… because of it’s price, instead they use paprika, coloring powder or the paste of dried capsicums (ñora, choricero and piquillo). Those four dried peppers are the base to the famous paprika (pimentón), the ñora and choricero are sweet and quite similar in taste, the Mediterranean coast uses more the ñora, which is rounder, while the west uses the choricero, a long and sweet pepper. The Piquillo is a mildly spicy one, and the guindilla is the spicy one which gives the spicy touch to some types of paprika.

When I first moved to Spain, I thought their food, especially paprika, would be spicy and I’ve realised rapidly that isn’t the case. Spaniards aren’t big fan of spicy things, their traditional food is filled with paprika, but even if they use the spiciest of their paprika, you won’t feel much heat from it. They like the smoked paprika though, this smokey flavor is quite present in their cuisine. This special “smokey paprika” is called ” pimentón de la Vera, a D.O. denomination of originVegetarian Paella in the region of Extremadura and it’s a whole new type of spice from the previous one (paprika). The normal pimentón (paprika) is dried in the sun, while this “pimentón de la Vera” dried in a smoke house with oak and acorn wood. The process must be done really slowly, from 10 to 15 days, and it’s done with different peppers from the normal paprika, also 3 categories; dulce, agridulce, picante (sweet- bittersweet- spicy). So the paprika world is a whole world of it’s own in Spain, and I highly recommend you to try out the famous “pimentón de la Vera” for your paellas. It give this distinct flavour to it, as if it would have been done on a campfire (like the original paella). 

Just as a side note… I’ve done the zucchini separately because in the broth it would just become soft and unpleasant, this way (frying it at first), you get the crunch and full flavor of the zucchini.

Let’s make this vegetarian paella!


Vegetarian paella

Makes 4 portions

Ingredients
  • Vegetarian Paella400g of bomba rice
  • 800ml of vegetable broth (warm)
  • 1 zucchini cut into long sticks
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 tomato cut into 2
  • 1 tbsp of pimenton de la Vera (paprika) the type you prefer, I like the agridulce one
  • 100ml of white wine *optional
  • olive oil
  • little rosemary branch *optional
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Vegetarian PaellaStart by frying up in olive oil the zucchini in the pan, high heat, add salt and pepper and reserve
  2. Lower the heat to low and add more olive oil, the finely chopped onion and salt
  3. Let the onion soften, for a few minutes (5 minutes, no need to make them totally soft)Vegetarian Paella
  4. Add the garlic and grate the inside of the tomato (check picture)
  5. Let the tomato juice become paste then make a well in the center, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the rice and mix
  6. Add the warm broth to cover about 1 cm over the rice (keep some broth in case it dries up), rosemary Vegetarian Paellabranch, salt and paprika (pimenton de la Vera), mix for a last time
  7. Add the bell pepper and let simmer strongly, medium high heat for the first 8 minutes
  8. Then add the zucchini on top and the wine, lower the heat to low and let simmer another 10 minutes without Vegetarian Paellatouching it
  9. When the liquid evaporated, check the coccion of the rice, add broth if needed
  10. Take off the fire and cover with a clean kitchen towel for a minute or 2, to let the rice absorb all that liquid
  11. Serve

Enjoy!

Vegetarian Paella

Monkfish in saffron-sherry-almond sauce

Monkfish in saffron-sherry sauce and dried tomatoes is a dish inspired by a southern Spanish dish called Cazón en amarillo. Cazón is a small shark (school shark), a traditional dish from Andalusia, but since those are becoming hard to come by, I’ve exchange it for monkfish or as they call it in Spain “chicken of the sea”. The recipe is usually served with fried potato in a stew style terra cotta pot. My personal touch is the dried tomatoes, which give that dish some extra color and also a welcomed salty touch that contrast good the wheaty saffron flavor.saffronmonkpin

Monkfish in saffron-sherry-almond sauceThe base of the sauce is the most important part here, it’s a “tipico Spanish” base sauce, which is called sofrito. It consist mainly of softening a finely chopped onion, garlic in olive oil and reduce the juice of a grated tomato to a paste, then you add whatever liquid to it like; wine, broth, water,etc. this right there is the base of many of Spain’s best dishes. It takes some patience to wait for the liquid to evaporate, but it’s so rewarding. Especially, those days, where under 30 minutes recipes are considered the ultimate recipes… I believe to take your time will always give a more adequate result. No offense, I do understand the need for those under 30 minutes meals, with those job-family balancing lifestyles but once in a while to take the time to make a great sauce, or dish is worth the effort.

Saffron is a great spice, it colors your meal into this rich golden color and taste fantastic like no other spices. It can be quite a powerful spice and needs to be used in small amounts, cause it can become overwhelming, most recipe you’ll see with it contains no more than 1 pinch or max 2. A good saffron looks not dry, is vivid red and usually come in really small packs, some have yellow stigmas in them, which result in a slightly lower quality. No need to say, it’s terribly expensive to buy this spice, it’s the priciest of them all but to understand why it’s so costly check this video from Discovery.

Monkfish in saffron-sherry-almond sauce
This version is with asparagus instead of clams

One cooking tip about saffron would be to never boil it, if you add it to a meal, try not to boil it, simmering is fine but it will loose a lot of it’s flavor if you cook it too heavily. I, usually, let it 15 minutes into a warm bowl of water to release it’s flavor and color and add it toward the end of coccion. Also, keep your saffron in a dark, cool place if you want to preserve it longer.

So let’s make those Andalusian flavors going!


Monkfish in a Saffron-Almond sauce and dried tomatoes

Makes 2 portions

Ingredients
  • 400g of Monkfish pieces
  • 100ml of warm water
  • 50ml of Sherry or white wine
  • 1 onion cut into fine dices
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 tomato cut into 2
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 laurel leaf
  • 40g of almond powder (blend some skinless almond)
  • few clams 
  • 50ml of the clam juice leftover or fish stock
  • olive oil
  • dried tomatoes cut finely
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Start by making the sofrito, add the finely chopped onion to a pan on medium-low heat and let the onion soften, become slightly colored into the olive oil (takes about 20-25 minutes)
  2. Add the pinch of saffron into the warm water and reserve
  3. When the onions are soften, add the garlic and cook an extra minute
  4. With a cheese grater, grate the inside of each half of tomato until the skin, add the juice directly into the onion
  5. Let the tomato water evaporate completely, about 5-10 minutes
  6. Deglaze by adding the sherry or wine
  7. Add the laurel leaf and the water that contains the saffron, let simmer for a 5 minutes
  8. In a separate pot, cook the clams into a bit of water or wine, olive oil and thyme *extra and cover to let them open up
  9. When the clams are open, reserve them and add 50 ml of the clam juice to the simmering saffron sauce.
  10. In a mortar or blender make powder out of skinless almonds (this will thickens the sauce) and add to the saffron sauce about 30g and reserve the rest
  11. Take the laurel leaf out
  12. Blend the saffron sauce
  13. Pass through a sieve to make it smooth (push with a spoon down to get every last drops of juice)
  14. Reserve the saffron sauce
  15. Add salt and pepper to the pieces of Monkfish
  16. In a hot pan, add olive oil
  17. Cook in the pan medium-high heat the monkfish, depending how thick the pieces are, about 5 to 10 minutes until cooked through (if thick pieces, you can add a little clam juice, helps the fish to cook through)
  18. Serve with rice, clams, the finely chopped dried tomatoes and a touch of the almond powder.

Enjoy!

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