Monday, November 24, 2014

Quick salmon ‘n’ salsa






I have been looking for a reason to start writing this blog again and at the suggestion of a friend  have plumbed for recipes that can get men who dont usually cook.......to cook. I am aiming at capable, busy men who are being forced by modern times to take on more of a role at home. Men who for one reason or another havent cooked since they began cohabiting with a woman. I am not naturally organised nor ordered but crave both. Many men naturally are or at least like to see it so the recipes are written with that in mind - careful measurements and timings; timesaving methods; ideas for further uses where applicable, how to store and for how long etc. So here goes......

Salmon ‘n’ salsa. 
I put in the ‘n’ because I think food always tastes nicer if you think it is American.

The following recipe is super simple and very agreeable to all but the most irritating diners. It takes half an hour if you don’t know what you are doing and about 20 mins if you do. Do it 5 times and you will get it done in 15
I will not go into the provenance  of ingredients. I need to leave that to others.  I loathe shopping with a passion but it has to be done. The below is all bought in a supermarket.  Needless to say you will be closer to God (ie further away from the Devil) if you buy it from the likes of Tony Archer. 

Serves 4
4 fillets of salmon (most supermarkets have them already cut and if not the monger will cut you the weight you need)
1 level tea mug of basmati rice
200g spinach
1 small ripe mango
½ small red onion (70g +/-)
1 lime (give it a squeeze to see it is juicy)
1 chilli
½ a small bunch of coriander (40g +/-)

1. Cook rice - Choose a high sided pan that is is about 6 times bigger than the mug. Pour the mug of rice into the pan, add just under double the quantity of water and a pinch of salt. Put heat on full volume, stir a bit and cover. Keep and eye or an ear open for when it comes to the boil. When it does switch it down to minimum and turn off 10 mins later. Leave it with its lid on to steam and fluff up. (see note 1)

2. Wash spinach – Open bag (presumably it comes in a bag) with scissors, place the opening under the tap and fill with water. Sluice it around a bit, leave of a few mins, sluice and leave again then lift out the spinach into a colander and let it drain.

3 Make salsa - Squeeze lime juice into bowl big enough to take all ingredients.
Peel and chop red onion into fine dice (see note 2) and put into bowl.
Peel the mango with a potato peeler then cut into slices a similar thickness to an iPhone. Then dice the slice. Add to bowl.
Cut stem off the chilli and have a lick. That will indicate its potency. Roll the chilli between your finger and thumb squeezing out the seeds. Then chop the chilli into tiny ringlets. Add the quantity you know you and your diners can deal with (and a tiny bit more) to bowl.
Chop coriander leaves and stems nice and fine. Add to bowl
Give it a stir and place stylishly on your Ercol dining table.

4. Cook salmon – put fish skin side up and season with salt and course ground black pepper. Choose a wide low-sided pan that will fit all the pieces with a little room spare on each side. if they sit too close together the salmon steams rather than sears.
Get the pan hot  and switch on extraction. Lay the pieces evenly spaced in the pan skin side down. No oil is needed (see note 3). Turn the heat down to ¾ volume & leave it to sizzle, hiss and sear for 4 mins.
Using a palette knife or similar (see photo) send the tip in between the pan and skin of the first piece. It should lift with only the slightlest restistence. Keeping the fillet between the palette knife and your finger on the flesh side, flip it over. If the skin does not want to move without making a mess then it needs a little more time (the more it is cooked, the easier it comes away from the pan). Repeat with other 3 and cover with a lid. 4 mins later the fish should be cooked. You will know this because it should look as if it is beginning to sweat. If you are unsure, lift one out and break it open with your fingers to see if it is cooked inside. It should have changed from the uncooked reddish pink  to whitish pink. Be careful not to leave it too long. If you do you will recognize this because the sweat will be milky to the eye and th flesh dry to the tongue.
5. Cook spinach – in the time it takes from flipping the salmon over you can cook the spinach. Heat a pan that would fit all the spinach in it were you to squash it all in. Again no oil needed here; the residual water from washing the spinach is plenty for it to cook in. Add a handful of spinach into the pan and stir. Once it begins to wilt, add another handful and so on till all the spinach is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the liquid that comes out into a little glass and gulp down that delicious spinach consomme yourself.

Put the rice on the plate with some spinach next to it and the salmon on top. Spoon some salsa next to it, call the prandialists and glow.



Notes
- This is an ultra simple rice recipe, there is no mystique involved, no “oh but isnt rice difficult to cook?” Nix.
- For the best way to peel and chop and onion see J.O. link here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQZtCVkypAo
The only thing I would add is that if you don’t cut off the actual root at all you will cry less. If you do not relish slicing and dicing (which I do, it's legal) then get an alligator (see photo)
- Minimise mess and washing up – eg use packaging as a surface for seasoning fish. Wash and wipe as you go.
- Salmon has copious quantities of its own fat. They start seeping the moment the skin hits the hot pan. If you add oil yourself your it will burn in the pan.
- Use your common sense throughout.

Monday, January 6, 2014




Nothing can prepare you for eating at Noma. Having fallen asleep in the departures lounge and nearly missed the flight, we had flown into Copenhagen for what we thought was going to be lunch but turned out to be a mind boggling journey into a culinary fairytale. The aptly named Redzepi is the triumphant product of Hansel and Gretels' wild coupling on the forest floor. It is said he worked in el Bulli and in the French Laundry but I believe this was just part of his fevered imaginings there in the woods with elves and pixies as his guides and mentors. His early years were spent picking the fruits of the forest and preparing them in fantastical new ways until he walked out of woods fully formed – a nature boy, naked to the world and ready to set up a kind of cooking unshackled by any precepts or preordained code of cuisine.
The menu too, which they do not allow you to choose from nor even see until the end (and only then if you are slightly insistent) unfolds like a long slow meander through a fable. You begin by eating a twig that has been sitting right in front of you, hiding in plain view in a plant pot. But the twig is not a twig, it is a malt flat bread with juniper – crispy, crunchy, with a dark musty flavour. Next you are looking at the forest floor. On a plate. Grasses, twigs, leaves, moss. "Eat the moss" urges the waiter. It is white and fragile, dusted with desiccated cep. In the mouth the moss collapses and dissolves leaving you feeling as though are actually in the forest. It is unthinkable. Incredible. The story continues over a bridge of pork skin and blackcurrant leather and onward through the rest of the 12…......amuse bouche…..? I hesitate to use terminology already recognised in the world of food. It is too mundane.


The waiter has explained at the beginning that the ethos is to steer away from the rather slow and solemn serving of amuse bouche in some of the more stuffy restaurants and that these glimpses of another kind of food will come thick and fast, and they do. One after another after another. On the way through passes a mussel on an edible shell. The rich creamy goo that is the filling of this strange sandwich is reminiscent of the Phat Duck’s crab risotto and crab ice cream in its richness, intensity and depth of flavour. But it was a fleeting glimpse of a remembered world and then it was gone. Back to entirely new textures and flavours, back to the likes of radishes in hazelnut soil. Back to what looked like a cutting from Rapunzel's plait gone fluorescent orange. It was in fact a desiccated carrot on a bed of ash. On and on they went. The room was filled with a handful seated dinners, a regiment of waiters and a brigade of chefs explaining each dish as they served it. The joy and pride in being involved in such an sylvan adventure was palpable in each and every one of the staff. It is a rare atmosphere for a restaurant of this calibre.
By now I was concerned that after so many dishes the story would be over too soon so asked the waiter what percentage of the meal we had consumed so far. 15% he informed me. I wept with joy. We had been eating solidly for an hour.
The beautiful plates were removed (beneath them I noticed felt discs cushioning the table) and we were asked what we would like to drink with the rest of the food. Until now we had been drinking champagne and water - champagne and water that seemed to never run dry. We went for wine pairing and juice pairing, 2 of each. And so began the next part of the journey. Wines that ranged from a grower with only one hectare, to a grower who had only started 3 years previously, to a wine that had been in production for over a thousand years. The juices were deep sorrel greens, pale apple greens, blood dark reds, pale elderflower whites. Refreshing, pungent, light, heavy. All all. Sourdough arrived with sour butter and pork dripping. (The bread came in felt baskets - so, they even had Rumpelstiltskin out the back).
The starters and mains, eight in all, were neither thing; just a seamless parade of textures and flavours, combining and contrasting in a merry dance across our table, up into our mouths and down our gullets. Douglas fir, beech nuts, unripe sloe berries, pine, pike perch, verbena, beech and malt. Not your average nouns on a menu. One dish, simply described as 'pickled vegetables' was the prettiest thing I have ever seen on a plate, multicoloured tubes of vegetables ribbons holding 16 different types of herbs. Beside these magical stepping stones lay three lozenges of bone marrow. The contrast was startling but so……right.


This chapter also now drew to a close and I began weeping again, though this time in sadness. I knew now that our waiter had lied and his 15% was closer to 30%. We waved the plates farewell and were now into the last quarter. The woe was short-lived though as a pear dessert was brought before us. There were a few delicate peary things on the plate and an enormous piece of light green sponge. Aha! I thought, gotcha – this was something that looked liked it belonged to someone else. Ferran Adria’s brother Albert to be precise. How wrong could I be? This piece of sponge was not sponge at all but a parfait that had been vacuum sealed, sucking the contents into a matrix of peary strands. It was then frozen. As I bit into it, it dissolved on my tongue. Quite simply sublime.


Finally came 14 discs of varying red sat upright in a syrup of sloe berries. The second most beautiful dish I had ever seen. The dish was apparently brown cheese (“sort of like your marmite,” my Nordic godmother said, “you either love it or you hate it”). I loved it – soft and creamy with an underlying dark strength. The other frozen discs were once berries and again melted away until they were no more than faintly remembered dreams.
But this now was the end. We were politely asked to leave our table and take our coffee in the bar. It was 4 o’clock and they needed to get ready for evening service. As we sat with our coffee (wrong) and herbal infusions (right) they brought us a little something in case we were still hungry. Bone marrow. Only this time it wasn’t marrow but salt caramel thickened not with butter as is usual but with the marrow itself. Chewy, gooey, naughty, delicious.


Then lastly, and it really was the last thing this time, came what I can best describe as a walnut whip. But what a walnut whip. The finest milk chocolate swirled up into a cone filled with some sort of creamy, airy fondant and sitting on a nutty biscuit. I bit the bottom off it, turned it upside down, nibbled away the point of the cone and begun sucking out the cream. As I did this I could swear I saw out of the corner of my eye three girls skipping off towards the woodlands on the outskirts of town. The girls were strangely familiar even from behind – one with unfeasibly long hair trailing behind her, one wearing a red hood and one with two golden plaits, holding the paw of a baby bear. No, I must have imagined it, it can’t have been. As I came back to the here and now I felt my shoulder being shaken vigorously and I snapped awake to the tannoy calling “Final call for Mr. Van Winkle. Mr. Rip Van Winkle, your gate is closing……….”

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Rovellones

Now is the season of this content:

click on it to magnify


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Once Upon A Time.......




Nothing can prepare you for eating at Noma. Having fallen asleep in the departures lounge and nearly missed the flight, we had flown into Copenhagen for what we thought was going to be lunch but turned out to be a mind boggling journey into a culinary fairytale. The aptly named Redzepi is the triumphant product of Hansel and Gretels' wild coupling on the forest floor. It is said he worked in el Bulli and in the French Laundry but I believe this was just part of his fevered imaginings there in the woods with elves and pixies as his guides and mentors. His early years were spent picking the fruits of the forest and preparing them in fantastical new ways until he walked out of woods fully formed – a nature boy, naked to the world and ready to set up a kind of cooking unshackled by any precepts or preordained code of cuisine.
The menu too, which they do not allow you to choose from nor even see until the end (and only then if you are slightly insistent) unfolds like a long slow meander through a fable. You begin by eating a twig that has been sitting right in front of you, hiding in plain view in a plant pot. But the twig is not a twig, it is a malt flat bread with juniper – crispy, crunchy, with a dark musty flavour. Next you are looking at the forest floor. On a plate. Grasses, twigs, leaves, moss. "Eat the moss" urges the waiter. It is white and fragile, dusted with desiccated cep. In the mouth the moss collapses and dissolves leaving you feeling as though are actually in the forest. It is unthinkable. Incredible. The story continues over a bridge of pork skin and blackcurrant leather and onward through the rest of the 12…......amuse bouche…..? I hesitate to use terminology already recognised in the world of food. It is too mundane.


The waiter has explained at the beginning that the ethos is to steer away from the rather slow and solemn serving of amuse bouche in some of the more stuffy restaurants and that these glimpses of another kind of food will come thick and fast, and they do. One after another after another. On the way through passes a mussel on an edible shell. The rich creamy goo that is the filling of this strange sandwich is reminiscent of the Phat Duck’s crab risotto and crab ice cream in its richness, intensity and depth of flavour. But it was a fleeting glimpse of a remembered world and then it was gone. Back to entirely new textures and flavours, back to the likes of radishes in hazelnut soil. Back to what looked like a cutting from Rapunzel's plait gone fluorescent orange. It was in fact a desiccated carrot on a bed of ash. On and on they went. The room was filled with a handful seated dinners, a regiment of waiters and a brigade of chefs explaining each dish as they served it. The joy and pride in being involved in such an sylvan adventure was palpable in each and every one of the staff. It is a rare atmosphere for a restaurant of this calibre.
By now I was concerned that after so many dishes the story would be over too soon so asked the waiter what percentage of the meal we had consumed so far. 15% he informed me. I wept with joy. We had been eating solidly for an hour.
The beautiful plates were removed (beneath them I noticed felt discs cushioning the table) and we were asked what we would like to drink with the rest of the food. Until now we had been drinking champagne and water - champagne and water that seemed to never run dry. We went for wine pairing and juice pairing, 2 of each. And so began the next part of the journey. Wines that ranged from a grower with only one hectare, to a grower who had only started 3 years previously, to a wine that had been in production for over a thousand years. The juices were deep sorrel greens, pale apple greens, blood dark reds, pale elderflower whites. Refreshing, pungent, light, heavy. All all. Sourdough arrived with sour butter and pork dripping. (The bread came in felt baskets - so, they even had Rumpelstiltskin out the back).
The starters and mains, eight in all, were neither thing; just a seamless parade of textures and flavours, combining and contrasting in a merry dance across our table, up into our mouths and down our gullets. Douglas fir, beech nuts, unripe sloe berries, pine, pike perch, verbena, beech and malt. Not your average nouns on a menu. One dish, simply described as 'pickled vegetables' was the prettiest thing I have ever seen on a plate, multicoloured tubes of vegetables ribbons holding 16 different types of herbs. Beside these magical stepping stones lay three lozenges of bone marrow. The contrast was startling but so……right.


This chapter also now drew to a close and I began weeping again, though this time in sadness. I knew now that our waiter had lied and his 15% was closer to 30%. We waved the plates farewell and were now into the last quarter. The woe was short-lived though as a pear dessert was brought before us. There were a few delicate peary things on the plate and an enormous piece of light green sponge. Aha! I thought, gotcha – this was something that looked liked it belonged to someone else. Ferran Adria’s brother Albert to be precise. How wrong could I be? This piece of sponge was not sponge at all but a parfait that had been vacuum sealed, sucking the contents into a matrix of peary strands. It was then frozen. As I bit into it, it dissolved on my tongue. Quite simply sublime.


Finally came 14 discs of varying red sat upright in a syrup of sloe berries. The second most beautiful dish I had ever seen. The dish was apparently brown cheese (“sort of like your marmite,” my Nordic godmother said, “you either love it or you hate it”). I loved it – soft and creamy with an underlying dark strength. The other frozen discs were once berries and again melted away until they were no more than faintly remembered dreams.
But this now was the end. We were politely asked to leave our table and take our coffee in the bar. It was 4 o’clock and they needed to get ready for evening service. As we sat with our coffee (wrong) and herbal infusions (right) they brought us a little something in case we were still hungry. Bone marrow. Only this time it wasn’t marrow but salt caramel thickened not with butter as is usual but with the marrow itself. Chewy, gooey, naughty, delicious.


Then lastly, and it really was the last thing this time, came what I can best describe as a walnut whip. But what a walnut whip. The finest milk chocolate swirled up into a cone filled with some sort of creamy, airy fondant and sitting on a nutty biscuit. I bit the bottom off it, turned it upside down, nibbled away the point of the cone and begun sucking out the cream. As I did this I could swear I saw out of the corner of my eye three girls skipping off towards the woodlands on the outskirts of town. The girls were strangely familiar even from behind – one with unfeasibly long hair trailing behind her, one wearing a red hood and one with two golden plaits, holding the paw of a baby bear. No, I must have imagined it, it can’t have been. As I came back to the here and now I felt my shoulder being shaken vigorously and I snapped awake to the tannoy calling “Final call for Mr. Van Winkle. Mr. Rip Van Winkle, your gate is closing……….”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Deep Sea Troupers



Food blog, March 2011
February is a really good time for fish in Ibiza. The market belies this, as half the stalls are closed up for holidays but the fish that is available from the ones left open is cheaper and fresher than in the summer. I had to do a tasting for some clients who wanted to try four different fish starters for their wedding in July. I also had to make a fish stew for a dinner party that was to be filmed with yours truly as Mutfak le Chef. So it was to the market I went.
And there I did see: Shimmering little red mullets with black shiny eyes, vicious scorpion fish looking poisonous mean, sleek mackerel with rainbows on their backs, biblical John Dorys, long meaty monkfish tails weighing upwards of four kilos, blah blah blah, mucho pescado. In short, the stalls that were open were piled high with God’s bounty of the sea.
When I am making fish stew I like to use heavy boned, firm fleshed fish and the market is a jolly good place to go for them. I bought a mix of ready cut John Dory, grouper and monkfish and then went looking for something for the stock. You don’t really have to make a stock if you have this type of fish but it inevitably makes it richer and deeper in flavour if you do. So I usually make a stock with the readily available monkfish heads. I take these fabulously ugly mothers and boil them for a fully verboten 45 minutes to an hour. This does make for a cloudy stock yes, but it also makes it stupendously luscious.
The stew itself can be wonderfully simple – fry the fish a bit and remove, then sweat some onion, garlic and herbs until soft, put the fish back in, burn off some brandy over them and then cook out a little white wine before adding the stock and cooking the fish till just done. There are a thousand things you could do as well but this will be damn good as is. Spoon too much proper allioli over it and you will have a good day.
As I was saying, I had to do a tasting for some clients so got some other fish for a ceviche – dorada, prawns and tuna. Ceviche is, as far as I know, a Mexican dish and one of the few things I enjoyed eating when I had the pleasure of nearly dying there several years ago. Gun toting police and thieves make that one scary country but eating a ceviche on a long sandy pacific beach at sunset provided a much needed and delicious respite from the ever-present ominous atmosphere
Wanting to recreate that moment of tranquility I cubed the tuna; shelled, split and de-veined the prawns; filleted, skinned and sliced the dorada. I put them in a bowl, squeezed lime juice and poured masses of olive oil over them. I then threw in some cucumber, chilli, cherry tomatoes, finely sliced spring onion and copious coriander. I seasoned it heavily, mixed it all up and served it. Dem some lucky clients.
Food Blog, March 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Leaving Ibiza




Corn Dogging

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

thrashing pop

video

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

Leaving Ibiza

video

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

Leaving Sa Nansa


Come in Number 9. Your time is up.
Shit. We have been here for 10 years and it is time to get along. The years have been good. Really good, but we only meant to stay for 2. Now we are leaving so I gotta take note.

Note Number One
This might be the thing I find most difficult of all to leave behind - long, lazy, late sunday lunches.
Going out for lunch in Ibiza at 3 oclock is hard to beat and will be impossible to replicate in UK. The only places that will be open at that time will be all you can eat student/tourist troughs - grey, cold and drizzly affairs to mirror the weather. Gone the espardenyas, gone the gamba roja, gone the rice, the whole baked Zeus Faber, the patatas a lo pobre. Shit.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rabbit and snail paella



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.