Saturday, March 3, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Monday, July 25, 2011
I am not sure what that expession means but I have heard it in films. Corn dogging? Don’t sound so nice. I have also heard of corn holing and whilst not compleately certain as to its exact meaning either, I have a fairly good idea of what it might refer to. It is not really the subject for a polite food blog but it does lead me into mentioning that my brother Saul refuses to eat sweet corn on account of its effects in the latrine the next morning. He never misses a chance to advise me to ‘chew well’ when eating sweet corn.
So, corn, yes. Tricky subject. Potenially unpleasant. Funny given how it sustains a good proportion of the world’s population.
Sweetcorn is heaven if it is good. The English boil it, cover it with butter then hopefully eat it, though who knows with the internet these days. The Spanish grill it and spinkle it with sugar. They too then eat it. Both ways are delicious but I would always go with the English way if I were to have to choose. It would be difficult to prove that it was more than just familiarity and longing that makes me feel this way but I am convinced it is nicer. But then butter is just so uttely wonderful.
God knows what the Greeks do with it. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Clam chowder with sweetcorn is pure and unadulterated heaven. Without question it is one of His recipes. Made with Ibiza potatoes and Carril clams the dish becomes a gateway to Nirvana. But don’t forget to chew.
What is not heaven though and has no credibility whatsoever is tinned sweetcorn. Not on pizzas, not in soups, not in salads and absolutely, definitely not as an accompaniament to one of the finest shellfish available to man – the Ibiza Red Prawn. I have gone on about these little mothers at length elsewhere so lets just leave it that they are good. They are also expensive. Very expensive. €120 a kilo in the restaurant we were eating them at the other day. €34 for 4 prawns. Now that’s a lot, but so it should be, as they are heavenly and these were particlularly big mothers. Sadly mine were a little under cooked, the flesh where the tail meets the head was just too translucent and flaccid. But I can forgive this; it is better than them being overcooked. But what I cannot, will not forgive is serving these kingly things with a salad finished with tinned sweetcorn. Putting low grade processed foodstuffs on the same plate with such quality, freshness and excellence is an abomination. The chef should have his fingers cut off and be put in the stocks for the rest of the season. The public should be allowed to throw the unopened tins of corn at him. That might make him think twice.
Why would you do such a thing? It simpy beggars belief.
Its a bit like leaving Ibiza
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Note Number Three
I have been thrashing pop for 100 Catalans. The event was a to celebrate the continuing life of a very old salty sea dog that had been pulled into the depths of cancer hell by a humongous octopus. He had lopped off the tentacles though and had prevailed against this appallingly common disease. A year later he is as fit as a fiddle and wanted to mark the occasion with family and friends by consuming the fear that had embodied itself in the form of an octopus.
Pop is the Catalan name for octopus. It is a nice name but perhaps not so descriptive as its English counterpart. The dish he wanted to eat was similar to the Catalan dish pop amb patatas but there was no way on earth I was going to let on to any of the diners that it had anything to do with a native dish. I had to describe it as a dish from the outer Hebrides that had certain similarities with their version. Had I let on that it was anything to do with the Catatalan version I would have had a fairly unpleasant time of it. If there is one thing that Catalans cannot or will not agree on, it is how to cook any dish, let alone if some jumped up foreign git ie me, was doing it on their turf. No, I had to dissimulate.
The pop had been ordered form a local fisherman a few days previously and when my accomplice went to pick it up, it turned out the fisherman had sold it to others. This meant that we could only get half the required amount from him the next day. The fisherman had obligations to his restaurants. Never mind his obligation to el meu amic. This in turn meant that there was more potato than pop so whilst I was cooking it I had to explain to the sceptical onlookers that the Outer Hebrideans were potato fanatics and the octopus in their version was more of a flavouring than anything else, that the star of the show was the potato. The potato that sucked up and absorbed the stock and tomato sofrito. To confuse my audience still further I explained that the potatoes had flown with me that day from Ibiza. They were agog with admiration. That I had travelled with 10 kilos of Ibiza potatoes as hand luggage earned their respect and they left me in peace a little after that. A little. Fortunately in the glow of there approval I did not relent and tell them I was making pop amb patatas. That would have been fatal.
A word to the wise – if ever you are cooking a paella and there is anyone with a thimble of spanish blood in their veins in the vicinity tell them you are cooking rice. Do not, for God’s sake call it a paella. It will ruin your day.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Note number two:
The grill restaurants will be difficult to leave behind too. Such easy going, no frills quality. My favourites are Cas Pages and Can Pilot. I love Can Pilot. The chuleton, their speciality, varies from ok to really good. You order it for a minimum of two; they slice it off the bone into thick ribbons, season it heavily with rock salt and bring it to the table raw. At the same time a mini bbq is placed in the middle of the table. The charcoal is at exactly the right stage for grilling – glowing red embers beneath a coating of white ash. The waiter tells you to be careful in the same way a he might tell you a plate is hot. The difference is this is so hot you could brand yourself on it. British health and safety inspectors would have a fit.
So there you are, sitting at a table with your own bbq, smoke billowing up into the hesion draped ceiling and then out of the windows filling the village with its wafts of meaty fumes. It is an enjoyable way of eating and because it is potentially dangerous it is a great place to take children.
DIY BBQ is not the only option - the chugletas are excellent; and the baby rabbit, gazapo(?) is unbeatable, its tiny kidney a particular treat; the fried potatoes are superb; I believe they even do fish (quite why I couldn’t tell you). And if the meat is particularly good then you could just forgoe the bbq and eat it raw. I don’t do it much but I do do it often - there is something pleasantly primal about it.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Come in Number 9. Your time is up.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
This is another fully hardcore dish. They say it is the original paella, devised by field hands in the province of Valencia making use of ingredients that were readily available – snails and rabbits. Who knows and frankly, who cares? It is a nice story and that is really all that counts.
Because there is something so full on about these two ingredients being placed together in the same dish I wanted to up the ante and make it really strong. Firstly I chopped loads of garlic and dried chilli and fried them in a nice pool of olive oil till crisp and the garlic golden. The oil was then drained* and used as the base for the sofrito into which I added……..yes, you got it……….loads more chilli and garlic. As soon as it began to sizzle I added masses of rosemary and pimenton, stirred it and added some chopped onion and very small diced carrot. I never add these two ingredients to paellas but I wanted to see what would happen today, more of which later. When all this was good and sweated, I added a tin of tomatoes (another ingredient I rarely add to the paella, generally favouring grated fresh tomato) and cooked it down until reduced to a wet paste consistency.
I now put the paella pan on the ring and heated yet more olive oil. Into this I tipped the seasoned rabbit and fried that segregated mother till golden. When it was good and brown I added the snail, masses more rosemary and a few bay leaves.
Whilst this was going on I asked Lucrezia and Fanny to whip me up an allioli. I allowed them to use my pestle and working together they mounted this thick yellow sauce with great ease.
I added the rice and toasted that until vaguely translucent, then poured in the sofrito. When this was all good and mixed up, I added the stock and 2 dessert spoons of allioli and mixed it up some more. I checked the seasoning, shook it around a bit and cooked it on medium till the liquid had all but evaporated. I now turned up the heat (to 11) and and cooked out the rest of the liquid waiting for that crisp frying sound that indicates 2 things: the rice is ready and the socarrat has been acheived. The socarrat is the slightly blackened, crisp ricey bit stuck to the pan; one of God’s greatest gifts to man.
The result was good. Very good. But very very strong, particularly if eaten with copious allioli. The infused oil added a powerful undertone of heat and potency to the rice but the snails and rabbit themselves were sweet and smokey due to the pimenton. The onion however was a mistake. The rice was too soft and this was due to the excess liquid that the onion brings the party. No good. No more onion. The carrot, strangely, worked really well and I will repeat it at some point. Maybe.
On the whole this dish just added further proof to my iron clad belief that paella is on of the greatest dishes available to mankind. One day it will rise out of the mire of being nothing but a tourist attraction.
*If you have them to hand, toast some almonds in a pan with a bit of olive oil and salt and once cooled add discarded crispy bits. You will be glad you did.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Each day of the week the boys have to take a midmorning snack to school. Monday yoghurt; Tuesday sandwich, Wednesday fruit; Thursday biscuit; Friday dowhatchalike. At a quarter past eight this morning I realised that it was biscuit day and the biscuit tin was empty. I have been promising myself that I would get into the habit of making biscuits and stop giving them the shit that is generally available. One of the primary reasons being I just don’t trust big food corporations to do right by us.
I have also been promising them that we will find a biscuit recipe we like and make them together, become expert at them, be able to make them blind folded. They liked this idea and I have failed to produce the goods for weeks, months probably. But today was different. Today I said NO! Enough! The buck (biscuit) stops here! As I say it was 8.15 and we had to leave at 8.47 at the latest. I grabbed a recipe I know is good and started. 32 minutes later I placed a tray of cooling biscuits in the back of my car. Not just any biscuits either. No. These are biscuits you would not be ashamed to serve to God.
We ate some in the car on the way to school. The cooling biscuits held the still liquid chocolate suspended within it. The outside rim was crunchy and the centre chewy. They were sweet but with that essential undertone of salt. All this in 35 minutes. Boy, was I popular with them kids.
90g brown sugar
45g white sugar
125g of chocolate chopped up
½ tspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ tspoon salt
Get your oven warmed up. 180ºC with fan. Warm that butter and cream it with the sugars. Stir in the chocolate and beat in the egg (we didn’t have an egg so used water). Stir in the flour, salt and bicarb. Bring all together.
Spoon out walnut sized blobs onto baking sheets and bake for 12mins. No matter what you do or what your oven says they will not all cook regularly so just go with it. They are ready when golden on the outside. Remove them and hang around the kitchenette until they have cooled. Then eat them
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Kids love anchovies. Despite all evidence to the contrary - retching, tears, escape – kids really do love anchovies. They just don’t know it yet.
When I refer to anchovies I don’t mean those hairy slithers of brown salt paste baked on to the top of pizzas nor do I mean bog standard supermarket anchovies. No, I mean the real thing. Spanish anchovies from Cantabria or by preference Anchoas de Escala form the Catalan coast. These last ones really are the king of anchovies. You can get them already cleaned, filleted and packed in olive oil or you can buy them whole and packed in salt. Obviously it is far less fiddly to buy the fillets and I am not sure whether the taste and texture benefits outweigh the ease. UNLESS OF COURSE IT IS SUNDAY MORNING. If that is the case then you need:
1 jar of Anchoas de Escala packed in salt
1 packet of salted crisps (not kettle – too crunchy)
Dark vermouth (In order of preference – “vermut” bought from a one eyed hunchback in Barcelona; Punt e Mes; Martini Rosso)
Begin recipe on Saturday night by drinking enough to achieve an appalling hangover. On Sunday start by putting on the KK version of Sunday Morning Coming Down then put ice, lemon and a generous double double measure of Vermouth in a tall glass and top up with soda water. Gulp it down and make another.
Next find a sunny corner and begin the anchovies. Sipping all the while, take them out one by one. Squeeze off head and discard (or give to cat?). Now gently squeeze along the body and separate flesh into 2 fillets leaving the spine in tact. (The spine will make a fantastically other tapa to go along side). Do this to all of them. Put on JC version of SMCD. Wash the fillets under cold water to remove salt, scales and any bones that present themselves to you. Dry on paper towel and lay those mothers out. On a plate. Pour over some very good quality olive oil and leave for a bit.
Meanwhile flour and then fry the anchovy spines in olive oil. Remove and drain on paper towel.
Pour yourself another vermouth and go back to your sunny spot with the anchovies, crisps and spines. Delight in God’s bounty whilst Willie Nelson croons.