Sunday, December 6, 2009

Maximus Porcus Pius

A few weeks ago I was going on about the satisfaction that making terrines gives and that making pork pies produces a similar feeling of wellbeing. 3 years ago I got into making pork pies and loved it. Soooo satisfying. Last week the opportunity to sell some pies arose so I got myself together to make some. As I got to try and make money out of it, this requires doing larger than domestic quantities so requires more money and more consideration. Also I gotta get the time taken/quantity produced equation right or my family will die of starvation.

I went through my files and found no record of “how to make 10 pork pies before Doomsday” so had to poke around in my memory. It took me two days before I could remember. Lots was easy to remember but there were vagaries - the pins and the baking parchment? Where the hell do they come into the process? 

The measurements I give are for 2 pork pies the size of the ones in the photos. There are lots of stages which can be done over a couple of days or all together but they are all simple and very satisfying.

I put a couple of split pigs trotters into a good chicken stock and set it to simmer for a few hours. The trotters will have completed their job only when they fall to pieces when you try to pick them up. When it is at this point, strain it and allow it to cool.

The hot water pastry is lovely to make. It is quick, easy and forgiving and you end up with a lovely warm dough that would make a nice bed. If only you were a pixie. Heat 200ml water and 200g lard until lard melts. Pour it into 550g flour with a good pinch of salt and break an egg into it. Work it till it comes together into a dough. Split the pastry into 2 pieces. One 2/3 size and one 1/3 size. Squash them flat and cover with film. Leave them to cool a bit.

Next you make the meat mix. Pork is well suited cos of its high fat content and ability to stand up to long cooking – the hot water crust takes a while to cook. Game pies are good but tend to be dry I find. So I got 500g pork shoulder cut into small cubes, 250g belly minced fine and 125g of good bacon. I added ground juniper, thyme, nutmeg, pepper, a little ground clove and a lot of salt and I mixed it. If you got some sort of Kenwood or other mixer, use it. Not only does make the mixing easier but I think it does something good to the finished texture. Same with sausages.

Take a bit out, fry it and try it to test for seasoning. Adjust as necessary.

Now roll out the bigger piece to normal pastry thickness and then lay it over a mould. This can be an upturned glass, pan, flowerpot or something. It has to have high sides. You are going to mould the pie case by hand to a shape and size that will fit all the meat in. You start off this process with your upturned receptacle that is about the right size. Think about the finished product and what you want to achieve – you want something that looks like a pork pie, not an apple pie nor a stovepi(p)e hat. 

Once you have laid the pastry over the mould, press the pastry against the side and flatten any overlap with your fingers. Squish the sides to the right height and ease it from the mould onto a floured surface. You should have a piece of pastry casing the shape of a cup that looks a bit like it might melt. Don’t worry, it will hold its form.

Quickly roll out the lid piece to just bigger than the rim of the casing. Make a little hole in the top. It is through this hole that the stock will be poured later on. Put the meat into the casing and push it down and into the corners. It should go out to the sides and rise up to the rim. Then wet the rims of both pastry pieces with water and put the lid on. Crimp the edges together between your two first fingers and thumb making sure it is sealed all the way round. Pin a baking parchment collar around it to help it stay upright whilst it cooks.

Put it in the oven at 180ºC without fan (140 with) and cook for 40 minutes. Remove the collar, glaze it with a brush of milk and cook for a further 20. When the meat juices bubble through the aperture in the lid, it will be done. If you want to make sure, poke a skewer into its middle and test against your lip. Be careful. It will be hot. If it aint, cook it some more.

Let it cool and contract, a good hour or so, and then pour in the stock. Let it cool properly so the stock becomes lubberly jelly and then eat it. It will last for a couple of weeks like this but if you can manage to get the cooking, contracting and jelling bit done in one day, you will eat a pork pie unlike any you have had before.

This really is a product you can hold in your hand and contemplate as a thing of beauty. When I was making them before loved them so much I would carry one around with me in a cool bag, as well as a small chopping board and long switch blade so whenever I came across a likely taker I could cut them a slice.

I reckon pork pies must have come into existence for two reasons. The first that it is a self contained piece of delicious sustenance and the second that it has good longevity, an important consideration pre-refrigerators. The jelly in the finished pie stops the air, and thus bacteria, getting to the meat. This increases its shelf life considerably.

A good pork piece is a piece of perfection.

200 lard
550 flour
1 egg
500g pork shoulder cut into small cubes
250g belly minced fine
1/2 tspoon ground juniper
1 tspoon thyme
1/4 tspoon nutmeg
ground black pepper
1/4 tspoon ground clove
a good tspoon of salt

Friday, November 20, 2009

I got my eye on you

I walked into the Notso Eroski supermarket and saw the above fish looking at me from the ice slab. I had to buy it. I had never seen one before and if clearness of eye is a sign of freshness, then this brother was still alive.

It is very similar to Rotxa (aka rascasse, scorpion fish) but is easily distinguised by two simple differences – its head is elongated and it costs half the price. And that it is called capracho also helps I suppose.

I cooked it exactly as rotxa but the flesh turned out not to have the meatiness of its snubnosed counterpart so it took half the time. Whilst it was perfectly fine, it just didn’t have the fullness that rotxa has. I guess it is the same with many fish – they command the price and reputation they do because they deserve it. These are the real VIPs (Very Important Pescados) unlike the scum that washes to the top of Ibiza’s bip lists.

I left the UK before the eating of pollack over cod became an issue. Again, whilst I am sure pollack is perfectly nice (I have yet to try it) I am certain it has nothing on cod. Its all in the flesh I guess. Slip sole aint got nothing on dover sole, pollock aint got nothing on cod (I bet) and capracho aint got nothing on rotxa.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Scrambled eggs

The secret to scrambled eggs is butter and then more butter. Just when you think you have put in rather too much butter, put in a little more. If you want to live a reasonably long life don not eat scrambled eggs too often or it will kill you. Some people add milk – VERBOTEN. Totally and utterly verboten. Do that and no one will love you, you will be cast out. Cream is admissable, just, but nothing really does the job like butter.

Start by cutting nobs of butter into the egg mix and then whisk it with a fork. Melt yet more butter, and some thyme if you feel like it, into a pan. Pour in the mix and turn up the heat to medium. Now you have to keep stirring and stirring as the butter melts. After a minute or two the eggs will start to cook and stick to the spoon. The butter will melt into the mixture and help give the eggs the correct creamy texture as they cook.

Draw the spoon across the bottom of and sides of the pan folding ribbons of cooked egg back into the mix. Keep cooking and stirring and scraping until you get the texture you like – which should be soft. . If you don’t like soft eggs, you should. In the same way that if you dont like your steak rare, you should. If you don’t, you must teach yourself to like it. You will be happier for it.

An interesting aside – scrambled eggs were invented during the Battle of Britain. Michael Caine is making eggs in the mess hall. He is about to make an Ipcress Omelette when the order to scramble come down the lines. He realises he must hurry now and quickly ‘scrambles’ his eggs.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rossejat de Fideus

It is 11 november and I went swimming today. I jumped into a crystal clear sea that was more like a lake than a sea so flat it was. But I didn’t go to the beach to swim, that was a by-product. I went to the beach cos I had discovered a b.log that I liked. I liked a lot. Discovering a good b.log doesn’t generally mean that I have to rush to the sea but in this case the weather was so good, the recipe looked perfect and I had all the ingredients, so off to the beach I went to make Rossejat de Fideus – a catalan toasted noodle dish. A dish I have heard about, read about, but never eaten.

To my delight I discover that the blog is catalan based, the photography is good and most imortantly – the recipe I first came across is Allioli EXACTLY as I make it. So it had to be good. That sounds big headed cos it is, but I can be forgiven cos the stuff that I see being passed off as allioli is so shit that it beggars belief.

My first experience of allioli in Ibiza was through the ‘chef’ at Sol d’en Serra years ago when I first arrived. That place is now as far removed from what it was then as the allioli she showed me how to make is from real allioli. If someone was to have asked me what I thought was in the pot she put on the table in front of me I would have said without hesitation – Dulux White Emulsion. “Mais madame, qu’est que c’est this shit you put in front of me?” I asked her how on earth she made it and she took me into the kitchen. She put two cloves of peeled garlic, a pinch of salt and ¼ a litre of milk. (YES MILK!!!!!!!!!!!! GODDAMIT MILK), into a whizzer jug and then started pouring VEGETABLE OIL, I SWEAR, VEGETABLE OIL in to make the emulsion. The result? Dulux.

I have almost certainly written about this fiasco before but it pisses me off so much that every time I think about it I start flipping out. Going to a restaurant with yours truly on this island is a depressing thing cos I am invariably in a foul mood before I have even ordered – “ah look, here come some paying customers. Lets piss them of by serving them this travesty.” I go on and on about is cos it is fundamental.

Enough. Sorry. But I mean really….ok ok.

Anyway this b.log does it right. I start to look at other recipes and come across this Arrosejat and think “aha, so that’s how you make it.” I gather the ingredients and the photographer and take off for my favourite beach.

The beach is deserted. We get butt nekkid, set up and start cooking.

300g No2 Fideus – El Gallo brand, this is spanish pasta like broken spaghetti
800 ml fish stock (this is double the volume of the fideus)
4 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
2 medium tomatoes chopped
1 chilli
a nice amount of chopped parsley
A goodly amount of olive oil

Firstly and weirdly, toast the fideus in plenty of olive oil. They will become translucent and go reddish brown. Add the garlic, tomato and parsley and fry till the tomato softens. I say weirdly before cos I would ordinarily make the sofrito first then add the fideus. Add the boiling stock and cook as quickly as possible. Once the liquid has been absorbed keep on cooking it until the pan is making the most enticing crackling sound and you are convinced that if you leave it one second longer it will burn. What you are trying to achieve is soccarat. Soccarat again? What is this goddam soccarat? Hmmm. Socarrat like a little bit of crispy heaven. Yeah.

Take it off the heat and let it rest for five minutes whilst you make the allioli. Properly.

This was good but I gonna try it different next time. Next time gonna make the sofrito primero.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

San Martin continued…….blackout

I am appalled to say that all the rest of the day is a bit of a blur. What I can remember is a lot of sausage making.

Sausage making is odd. The sausage machine is like an enormous syringe. The meat goes into a long cylinder and is then pushed into a long nozzle. The intestine’s length has been rolled onto the nozzle and as the meat is pushed through the nozzle it goes directly into the sausage skin. So far all well and good BUT getting the skin onto the nozzle is like putting on an very lengthy condom. That is still fairly ok but when the plunger forces the meat through the nozzle and into the skin you have to help feed it with your hand and THAT feels like you are helping someone take a crap into a 12ft condom.

In Ibiza 12 inch lengths of intestine are cut and fed onto the nozzle and each one is filled and then tied individually. To my mind it is an excruciatingly painstaking method. If they were to sit down and ponder the most time consuming method of sausage stuffing, then this is what they would have come up with. But that is my northern European hurry-hurry-hurrry-lets-have-sandwiches-for-lunch-instead-of-sitting-down-and-breaking-bread-with-our-companions-and-drinking-some-wine-whilst-we-are-at-it mentality and I realise as I think of how it could be done quicker that it aint about doing it quicker. Its about sharing time together, doing something together.

As I think of this I take yet another long messy gurgle from the porron and pass out on the floor.

I am awoken later to find the job complete – 20 kilos of black pudding and 160 foot long sobrasadas and everyone sitting down to eat the Arroz de Matanzas. It is now dark, especially inside my head.

Monday, November 9, 2009

San Martin continued.…Blowing and Shaving with the Russian Mafia

So here is this dead pig. What next? One of the guys ambles up with a butane bottle and a blow torch. Another comes up with two very old rusty knives. I go get mine and they tell me no, it cant be a sharp blade or it with cut through the skin. The guy lights the blow torch and starts to scorch the hair off the pig. This is frightful. The skin bubbles and bursts and the smell aint pleasant. We get to work scraping all the hair off the pig. The hair seems to only be part of a top layer and left underneath is the skin we are all familiar with. The skin that becomes crackling. This preliminary scraping gets rid of most of the hair but a more thorough cleansing is necessary. A hose is turned on and we are all handed pumice stones with which we scour the skin. It takes off any final hairs and leaves our departed friend smooth.

One of the guys is in charge of the ears and the hoofs. The ears are doused with water and fairly liquid and then wiped and brushed clean. The hoofs are more gruesome. The big black cloven hoof is yanked off revealing a second pinkish hoof beneath. The removed black outer hoofs look like some kind of weird discarded lids lying in the mud. There is something scary about this bit.

The pig is now ready for butchering. We lift the pig onto another table (the third – I am not sure why we keep changing tables) and carry it into the shed where she will be cut up; her bones, flesh, fat and innards all being consigned to one use or another. The first process is the removal of its trotters. I cant help but think of the Russian mafia. Bizarrely this is followed by another their trademark calling cards – the removal of the face. The legs are tucked under its body and it is pushed into an upright prone position a la sphinx. Jesus then cuts the creatures face away in one piece. Very, very full on.

We now set about cutting away its back fat. This is done by sending a knife down to its spine and then along the entire length of its backbone finishing on either side of its tail. The pig, well known for having a lot of fat, does not dispel the notion. Including the skin, the fat is 3 inches deep. When removed we have two pieces about 4 foot long and 1 foot wide.

Next the legs and shoulders are loosened and pushed flat against the table. So far this is going completely opposite to how I expected it to go. The animals intestines are still inside and it is lying down on all fours. I expected it to be hanging and the intestines the first thing to be removed. I also expected boning knives to be used. Not one is present. Jesus comes forward with his tools – a mallet and a hatchet. He places the hatchet on the rib furthest down its back and with one deft blow, chops through it. He does this all up one side and then repeats it with the other side. This now leaves the entire spine separate from the carcasse except for its tail. He very carefully cuts between the anus and the tail and the spine comes away. It is removed and salted to be later served as boiled bones with cabbage. This is what will happen with all the bones.

Jesus carries on with the butchery. It appears to be all him. I am told that the matador, ie the killer, ie Jesus, is in charge of the kill, the butchery, the seasoning of the sobrasada and black pudding and the cooking of lunch and dinner. He is most veritably The Man.

The ribs are pulled open revealing the liver and a hell of a lot of fat. The liver is removed and placed on the table where all the innards will go. The innards and anything that has blood or has come into contact with blood, will all go into black pudding or either of the 2 meals that will be cooked that day – the Frito de Matanzas and the Arroz de Matanza. The Frito is a fry up with potatoes and the Arroz is a stew with rice.

Jesus is a very skilled man and he knows his way around the inside of a pig. He pinpoints exactly the various pieces to be removed, all invisible under a mass of still warm and wobbling fat. He makes a little nick in what looks to me like nothing but blubber and out pops a kidney. He does this again and again.

Eventually everything has been removed except for the bowels and intestines. This he removes, deftly again and gives them to me in a bowl. “Where?” I look. “To the women” he replies. With a smile.

I go out of the shed and walk over to the 3 old women who are washing intestines from another pig (the ibicencos make SO MUCH sobrasada that more that one pig’s miles of intestines is required). There is a blackened, steaming cauldron for cooking the black pudding (morcilla) near them and they are all elbow deep in intestines. Macbeth, I think. I give them the bucket and retreat.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

San Martin continued…..The Knife

8 am and it is already warm. It shouldnt really be so warm but today is the day and that is that. We will just have to work quickly. I arrive and am greeted warmly by some and with open mistrust by others. “What the hell is he doing here? And why the hell has he got a camera?” They got a point but hey….

The shed has been cleared and the preparation tables set out. I was wrong about the chocolate and bunuelos coming as the blood drained. They are first. Nobody does nothing till they full of chocolate and aniseed doughnuts. There is wine circulating but to my surprise it is taken up only moderately. There is a subdued feel to everything perhaps because of what is about to take place. Perhaps, but I doubt it.

We finish our stuff and go out. Jesus, the main man, has got his crook/garrotte to put over the pigs head so he can be pulled. The thing is a stainless steel tube with a handle at one end and a heavy wire snare at the other. Another of the guys takes a grapple. They go round to the pen accompanied by the farmer and his wife. Next thing I know they are coming back round the corner pushing and dragging an enormous and screaming pig. “Quick, hide” says Toni, my friend who invited me and son of the farmer. Everybody retreats into the shed. “It makes him nervous if he sees lots of people.” So everyone is in the shed but we’re all peering round the corner to get a glimpse. I don’t reckon that 14 people stealing glimses calms the pig down in any way. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if it made it worse. You could hear the other one flipping out in the pen round the corner. It too knew exactly what was going on. Both are fully aware that San Martin is in the house. Toni reads my thoughts and says that the pig that is left alive is so traumatised that it wont eat for days. I cant help thinking that perhaps it might have been nicer to send Survivor Pig on a little holiday that day.

Anyway. I can confirm that pigs scream loudly as they are about to die. I don’t think they sound in anyway human but maybe it was just me that made that bit up anyway.

Animal husbandry by its nature has its brutal moments and seeing the pig dragged to its slaughter table is one of them. The guy with the grapple stepped forward and shoved the hook through the pig’s nose increasing its discomfort and distress. He then started pulling with all his might.

Now there was all commotion with the men getting the pig first alongside its death bed and then onto it. To do this the table is lifted up sideways, the pig brought alongside then pushed and pulled onto the table. The table is then righted again. The pig is then tied down, screaming all the while. It is loud and not madly pleasant.

Jesus offers me the knife to kill it but not knowing really how to do it effectively nor wanting to step on anyones tows, I decline. He smiles. If it was right, I would do it. I am a believer in ‘if you gonna eat it, you gotta be able to kill it.’

Jesus slaps the pig’s neck a few times to be sure of his mark and inserts the knife into its neck. He does not slice, cut nor go from ear to ear. He simply sticks the knife into its jugular at a 45º angle and then removes it leaving a neat 3 inch wound. The blood starts to gush forth into the wide plastic washing tubs the women are sticking under the crimson spurt. Crimson? No, burgundy more like. The women immediately start stirring and squeezing the blood in the bucket. There appears to be some sort of fibrous stuff in their hands. I ask what this is and am told it is the nerves within the blood. I had no idea that one could squeeze blood and get fibres out of it. Maybe I just misheard.

The pig is now dead, its huge head hanging off the edge of the table, its huge tongue hanging out of its mouth. These days I can go for weeks, months without anything happening but now as I am stand looking at the dead pig I am in no doubt that something has just happened. Something I have been the benefactor of many times but never witnessed.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Smoking Dutch

Edam is the perfect smoking cheese because it is so bland that it takes on the smoke completely.

My father used to smoke edam when I was young. I have very fond memories of it and now I have smoked some myself. It took me straight back to the hotel where I grew up: The Kings Head, circa 1977 - punk, jubilee, the Yorkishire Ripper.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Todos Los Cerdos Tienen Su San Martin

Transliterated it means all pigs have their San Martin. Translated it means that your misdeeds will be revisited on you and it refers to pig slaughter.

In Spain San Martin is traditionally the day the family pig is slaughtered, butchered and turned into hams and other forms of charcuterie. Falling on 11 November it marks the coming of winter and the need to hoard. An Ibicenco told me that when he was growing up (Franco era), it was also the only day of the year when you KNEW you were gonna get enough to eat.

In 2 days time I am going to a Matanza – a Pig Killing. I made a preliminary visit to the farmer this week and there was a lot of winking and nudging going on. He was getting visibly excited at the prospect of a day’s sausage making and more importantly, I get the impression, drinking and eating. He introduced me to the pig. Man, that pig is big. 180 kilos.

The actual killing is to take place at 8am on Saturday morning followed by chocolate and buñuelos (aniseed doughnuts) whilst the blood drains. Then it is a day of butchery and sausage making with unending porrones* of local wine and culminating in a massive Arroz de Matanzas – huge rice dish using some of the best cuts from the departed beast.

A friend of mine used to have nightmares cos of all the screaming of pigs she would hear at this time of year. Apparently their screams are chilling. Once again the comparison between pigs and humans is drawn. Lindsey Anderson got it so right

So anyway, 8am sharp Saturday. With camara and knife.

*A porron is that mad glass jug with a pointy spout that the spanish drink out of. They take great pride pulling it further and further away from their lips without spilling a drop. I am useless at this so will enjoy being the laughing stock again.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I’ve started smoking again

And what a joy it is, though it has been trickier than before. Having only used Sabina (very hardwood coniferous, something to do with Juniper) up to this point I have had no problems with keeping the sawdust alight as it has such high oil content. But I have kind of given up on trying to find sabina dust as the wood yards keeps telling me they never have a pure supply, that it is always cut with pine or other unsuitable woods. Annoying, when they had sold me stuff before, but there you go.

So I had to find a supply of hardwood chipping/sawdust unmixed with any resinous woods. A carpinter friend of mine (not Jesus) made a deal with me. If he supplied me with the right stuff I would supply him with my finished product. Wicked. I go round to his workshop and there are 6 big black bin bags bulging bonza bonus beech. Nice.

I take the bags home and excitedly drag the smoker out of the bushes and set it up. I get some 400g salmon trout fillets and salt them for 45 mins by rubbing rock salt into them. Then I wash them and dry them. I pour the beech shavings into my paella smoke pan and light it. Goddam it if it don’t just flare up and burn. Entirely hopeless. I soak the salmon fillets an hour, fry them and eat them.

I tell the carpinter. The carpinter tells me he got some oak sawdust so I go over and pick it up. I try again, this time without any fillets or anything, just to see what will happen with the sawdust. I torch it and it smoulders. Excellent. Then it goes out. Crap.

Both the beech and the oak have low oil content so cannot keep themselves alight without help. I know now that if I am gonna have any luck then I am going to have to get some sort of heat under the chippings and this will have to be in a separate chamber to the item to be smoked or it will cook said item. Annoying cos before I just lit the sabina, stuck it in the bottom of the smoker and that was that

I got a 25 litre paint tin, cut a hole in the top and shoved a pipe in the hole feeding it then into the smoker several feet away. The tin fitted exactly over the paella pan. I put a gas ring under the pan and lit it. A minute or two later the the dust began to smoulder. Dig it. I put in a piece of Edam cheese. Smoked Edam c’est bon.

It worked well except it melted the pipe. Next move - chimney flue pipe. I found it easily enough but they only had stuff that was twice the diametre. What the fuck. It’ll be fine. This time I bought 7 pieces of Edam (the first was excellent). I fuelled up and lit it and then, as is my wont on experiements, left the house to do something else. I came back a while later to find a yellow red gooey mess where the cheese had once been. The dust had caught fire the same as the shaving because of the increased air flow.

By this point I was getting irritated but managed to remain cool and not break my tow by kicking the oil drum smoker. I crimped the end of the flue and tried again. This time with one piece of cheese and by remaining close by to see what happened. I smoked it for 2 hours and it worked tip top. Now I just gotta figure out how to slow it down even more so I can smoke overnight leaving it unmanned

Friday, October 30, 2009


Shit, I don’t know. Maybe that’s why the Spanish call paellas just “rice” sometimes cos it is so impossible to define what it is. One thing Paella does not mean though is “for her” (para ella). Anyone that tells you it does should be mistrusted. Paella refers to the pan it is cooked in, and the variations are INFINITE, no two cooks ever doing it the same way.

They say the first paellas were of snails and rabbit and cooked on olive tree cuttings. I have yet to do this but one day I will and it will make me happy. It will be a good day.

Paellas are supreme if done right. Unfortunately it is difficult to find good ones. I went to a food show here in Ibiza when I first arrived and thought “aha, now I can ask a chef if they use saffron in paellas here” Until that point I had been unable to detect either saffron or quality in any of the ones I had tried. You know what the fucker replied? He said “No. People don’t like saffron.” What a bastard. No, people have now gotten used to food colouring and artifical flavourings thanks to you, you fat lazy bastard. Jesus.

Not all paellas take saffron by any means but none should have this enhancer so many use. It is sort of like the stuff in the sachets in those really high quality chinese noodle packets. Like all good flavour enhancers you actually think it tastes good. It is only after you realise that everything you eat tastes the same that their novelty wears off. The lowest common demoninator shouldn’t ever really be embraced in a kitchen and particularly when in it involves ones national dish.

Anyway, all that is rather by the by. For lunch today I made a discovery. Nothing major but sure was a nice change for using up leftover stew. I had made a jolly nice chicken, chorizo and roast pepper stew a couple of days before. Everyone had eaten their fill a few times and it was now time to use up the last of it. I put it into a paella pan with some extra water and a couple of handfuls of la bomba rice (about 3 times the liquid to rice volume). I cooked it fast until the liquid evaporated and man oh man, did I have me a nice lunch. 12 minutes start to finish + 4 for resting. The socarrat was amazing. Socarrat? Socarrat? What the hell is socarrat? Well, socarrat is the defining factor of a perfect paella. Of which more another time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dream Terrine

One of the great things about terrines has got to be their seeming impossibility to the non initiated. This is useful cos when lay folk start to think that you are not only a good cook but some sort of magician then it can only really work in your favour. People start to fear you. Then they start to do your will. Think of the advantages.

Another really groovy thing about making terrines is it is awful satisfying. There is something good, something right, about being able to hold in your hands the fruit of your labours. Making soups is great. Grilling steak is great. But this goes further. Perhaps it is the feeling of having made something artesian that it gives you. Bread is the same. So are pork pies.

You can put all sorts of things in terrines just so long as there is enough fat in the general mix to hold it all together. Forget Fear is the Key - Fat is the key.

When I first arrived in Ibiza I went to Clodenis in San Rafael. I didn’t know anything about Ibiza and was completely blown away by this restaurant. The restaurant was the owners home, inside in the winter and in the garden in the summer. Outdoors and under the stars, it was truly magical. The food was superb – roast duck, suckling pig, the trademark lentil salad, everything everything. But above all was a rabbit terrine that I will remember till my dying day.
The terrine was multi-layered and had not been pressed hard so was more crumbly than expected. It was wrapped in smoked bacon and served with its jelly. And what jelly. Oh my god. So clear, so clean, so concentrated. The rabbit gave the impression it had been confited so flaky AND moist was it. I find rabbit difficult to discern if it is mixed with other things but this was clearly rabbit even when spread on toast along with way too much butter and some sharp cornichons.

Tis a goddam shame that Denis, the owner and consummate restaurateur, died. I still have yet to have a meal as good on Ibiza.

Rabbit Terrine

1 rabbit, boned – get your butcher to do this or DIY if you enjoy the knife work
250g minced pork belly
250g diced pork shoulder
250g poultry liver (plus the liver, heart, kidneys from rabbit) blitzed to a puree
250g rindless smoked steaky bacon

4 cloves of crushed garlic
zest from ½ orange zest
6 juniper berries
1/8 nutmeg grated fine
4 cloves
2 tsp of fresh thyme leaves
1 glass of wine
1 nice glug of brandy or port or both

Cut the rabbit into strips. This will be layered throughout the terrine. Chop up any bits that wont come under the strip definition. Set aside the strips and add the bits to a big mixing bowl that will hold all the ingredients. Add the porks and blitzed livers.

Whizz the juniper, nutmeg and cloves together and add to the big bowl along with the garlic, zest, thyme, alcohol, salt and pepper. The most important thing here is the salt. You could leave out all the rest and still end up with a reasonably good terrine. Under season it and you might as well take it out the oven and throw it straight in the bin. Fry a bit in a pan and try it. The cooking will dampen down the spice and salt effect so make sure they have good presence in your palate. If under seasoned add more, if over, don’t worry about it.

Now comes the getting together

Get some baking parchment and fold it in two. Place a couple of bits of bacon between the sheets (thank you Homer) and roll out with a rolling pin. The bacon will flatten out to about half its length and width again. Perhaps more.

Place a bay leaf in the middle of the chosen receptacle i.e. terrine (this could be a bread tin, terracotta dish – anything that will hold the ingredients and is able to be baked) and then start laying out the bacon strips from one side fo the dish to the other. Repeat this until the terrine is lined. Add the mix, layering the rabbit strips throughout and then pull bacon over the top until you have what looks like a bacon parcel. If this is a bit messy then don’t worry as the finished terrine will be turned out upside down anyway showing off the bayleaf.

Wrap it in baking parchment, cover it with tin foil and put it in a pan with hot water. Do not overfill the pan, halfway up will do. Bake it in the oven at 180ºC + fan (210ºC without) for 2 hours. Remove and test with a skewer. If juices run clear then it is ready. Chuck out liquid (or do something with it if you like) and place terrine, still wrapped, in the fridge with something on top to weigh it down. Let it cool overnight.

Next day, remove, unwrap, slice, marvel.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Man’s Meat

I had a really good ‘living here is wicked’ moment the other day. I was shopping for a dinner I was having in order to get two people who make wine here on the island to meet each other. I wanted lamb shoulder cos I was too tired to do anything but stick something in the oven and let time and low heat do the work.

All the shops were closed cos it was the afternoon. Siesta time. Jesus dies every afternoon round about 3.30. The only shops open are the appalling Eroski (what a name – love, winter sports and supermarket hell all in one word) and the ever excellent Spar. The meat counter in Notso Eroski is generally full of prepacked cuts of nearly off meat. The Spar has a proper butcher counter so I went there. When all the shops are open Jesus boasts five butchery outlets and 2 more with meat counters. That is a lot meat for a town no longer than 250 metres from start to finish.

Anyway I went up to the counter in the spar and asked for a shoulder of lamb. The ladybutcher pointed at a leg. All we got, she says. She’s lying. I know she is. I tell her to open up the meat locker and see if there are any inside. She opens and there hanging is a lovely whole lamb.” Aha,” I say. “So you do have lamb.”” Yes we do but I don’t know how to cut it up.” “Then let me assist you gentle butcherladywoman." She says yes, so round the counter I go and pick out the least blunt knife I can find. I flash my finest smile at her and she, as they always do, weakens at the knee. The lamb is still hanging in the cold room - long, dry and bloodless. I cut in to it around the scapula and then up and then down and then off. Bizarre. Lamb, along with rabbits do not have their shoulders attached to their bodies by ball and socket joints. The are simply attached. Not that unlikely in a rabbit given that all it has to do with its cuddly paws is eat lettuce and be lucky. But a lamb? Man that thing gotta stand on them legs. How do they do it?

So any way, le recipe:

If shoulder is frozen, remove it from freezer, kill someone you don’t like or who is causing you trouble by beating them repeatedly over the head, defrost it, then:

Rub shoulder of lamb with garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and rosemary. Splash that mother with wine. Lay it in a tray on a pile of sliced potatoes with a finger’s depth of water and bake it at 100ºC without fan for 6 hours.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Little Red Courvette

It does all seem to be about vegetables these days. Each time I think I am going to write about flesh some vegetable comes along and demands my attention. This time its courgettes. Little yellow courgettes.

Over the last few years the courgettes available here have improved. They are now closer to courgettes than marrows. I have a hatred of marrows. They are entirely worthless unless a necesssity through starvation. I have an image locked in my brain from childhood of some cook in my parents’ hotel endlessly peeling and coring marrows that he could then stuff them with mince and bechamel. Mince and bechamel works, that is understood – lasagne, moussaka. But mince and watery, pulpy marrow? No thanks.

Anyway the courgettes on the island generally seem to be coming down in size rather than increasing which is a good thing. But now the vegetables at Can Riera have come into season and there are perfect courgettes. Small and firm, tasty and crisp. And yellow. Anne from Can Riera specialises in unusual strains of common vegetables and herbs – purple basil, heirloom tomatoes and yellow courgettes being a few. These courgettes can be eaten raw which is nicish but grilling them or frying them is the way to kill with excellence.

I sliced a yellow courgette thin and fried the little discs in a bit olive oil. I tossed them with mint and goats cheese and let them sit. I grilled a slice of white bread from Juanto’s bakery and rubbed that mother with garlic. I oiled the toast with Estornell olive oil and salted it with Maldon. I sliced a big phat heirloom tomato and laid a couple of the slices on the toast. I put a handful of Anne’s baby salad leaves on the toast and oiled them too. Dripped some sherry vinegar over them to sharpen them up. I put the courgette mix on top and I sat down.

Recently I have had the good fortune to go to several ibiza restaurants to review them. These experiences have made me re-evaluate the food available in restaurants here. There is truly good food out there now. Be that as it may this courgette toasty thingy was the best thing I have eaten this year. It completely blew me away. I aint cos I cooked it. Its cos of what I had available to use. Food on Ibiza is on an upward march.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Ghost of Garcia Lorca

The day is boiling and Talamanca Bay is like a lake again. Totally flat, not a ripple. I’ve forgotten my sunglasses so am squinting to such a degree that it is giving me a headache. The sun is beginning to descend but hasn’t hit the water yet.

I walk over the rocks and down to the shack.
“Have you got a table?”
“Yes I have.”
“Good, then I’m going for a swim”

I dive in to the crystal clear water and take a moment down there to let the water that has flooded over my body, flood over my senses. It is cool and it is quiet. Up there it is often quiet but rarely cool. Unless you want air conditioning, which I don’t. I come up for air and go straight back under doing somersalts towards the sun with my eyes open whilst blowing the air out through my nose. The sunlight is dazzling underwater but has the quality of being looked at through a telescope backwards.

My 2 minutes of exercise completed, I get out of the water pulling myself out with the steps and boat bars that someone has cemented in place years ago to aid people’s otherwise tricky exit from the water. The useful stainless steel tubes are arch infringers of Costas' 50 metre moratorium and will no doubt be removed. Along with so many excellent chiringuitos along Ibiza’s coastline. Apparently the removal of the chiringuitos is an improvement. Fuck that. Apparently it is Spain's coming of European age. So what? A sanitised Spain is a poor mans Spain. Might as well go to Portugal.

I look up at my favourite joint on the island and know its days are numbered. Men in suits want this place gone. Probably so they can build a bypass to nowhere or an apartment building to hang pretty fluorescent orange for sale signs in.

The Coca-Cola umbrellas are jammed in the places that the awning don’t cover. The table are red and so are the bench seats. The place is humming. It always is. Opens at midday and closes after dark. Always full. But of course it is fucking full. It is right on the waters edge, the food is simple but excellent, there is a feeling of escape. This is Spain. Of course it is full. Some otherwise intelligent person said to me once that the place was unsanitary. Firstly, what the fuck does that mean? How does he reckon the human race survived up to the invention Unilevers cleaning products? And secondly, who gives a fuck? THE PLACE IS EXCELLENT. ALWAYS HAS BEEN. So what if they don’t have running water. Congratufuckinglations is what these people deserve for pulling off such a groovy thing in such difficult circumstances. So what if it does have a toilet? Piss in the sea.

Over at the end there is a family cajoling their two children to eat and then wisely giving up and getting stuck in to their own food and wine. They are sharing a table with a bunch of sextagenarians Deutches who are drunk, loud and have been sitting here since they moved to the sun, the sea, cheap booze and fags 25 years ago. I don’t understand German but I know those blasts of laughter are ignited by humour in its purest form.

On the next table are a bunch of really good looking young Spaniards who have probably not been to bed in 3 days and have an awful lot of sex. The Spanish can really do that party thing. It is as if after Franco’s peaceful death each child was born with a birth rite have a ball. They do it with such panache. I lived near Space for a short horrendous season and marvelled at the difference between my native countrymen and those from my adopted home. The English looked bad at the beginning of the evening anyway but by morning were dribbling, vomiting, trouser wetting shit stains. The Spaniards on the other hand would be smart, still drinking cubatas out the back of their cars, grooving to some noise coming out their car speaker. About to have loads of sex no doubt. Fuckkers.

Next is a table of middle aged spics just enjoying lunch in the way that these people can just enjoy lunch. There is no hurry. There is no agenda. There is just lunch and the sea. The order is taken slowly. The food prepared slowly and then eaten slowly. There is wine throughout. Then coffee and tobacco. Then chupitos and more tobacco. The art of now is being practised.

I'm on the next table and behind me are a couple of really drunk blokes. I think they are Spanish but it is hard to tell they are so drunk. But they are laughing. The are having fun. There is no atmosphere of ‘shit, this could go wrong at any moment.’

A jetski passes by and then starts to do those anything but irritating, must be a right laugh, exhibition circles for our benefit. I catch the owners eye who nods his permission. I open up my brief case and quickly assemble my AK47, take aim and blow his fucking head off. I don’t really. But it’s a nice thought. So, still alive, the squirt fucks off and the waters become calm again. The shack is just over the headland so has constant wave motion, unlike the bay itself but it is still way calm. The waves are more ripples than waves.

Carlos comes over and goes through the list that has not changed in the hundred times I have been here. Seabass, dorade, squid, cuttlefish, tuna, grouper, swordfish, sardines, prawns. Oh yeah and the ever incongruous steak or lamb chops that I have seen people actually order. I order the cuttlefish. It is not the first time and it wont be the last. Hmmmm, but for how long? The cuttlefish will come golden and crisp from the plancha with its, I hesitate to call it, flesh, perfectly cooked and perfectly fresh. They get through so much stuff here, it is always fresh. Everything comes off the plancha. And it always comes perfect. That old woman in there knows her shit. There is something so completely beguiling about white fish flesh glimpsed through the scores made in the now golden skin. The skin of the dorade and lubina is crisp and tasty, almost as good as chicken.

I order a beer which comes with olives, bread and some Dulux with garlic in it. The beer goes down easily of course. And I look out to the bay again. No windsurfers today so of course no kite surfers. No wind. From round the cliffs of Botafoc suddenly emerges the enormous Denia ferry. It ploughs through the tranquil sea with a speed that is breathtaking. It is so big it seems almost impossible that it can go that fast. But it does , its bows cutting a huge wake. Within seconds it has disappeared out of view. I reckon that the boat builders brief was ‘build the biggest Sunseeker you can.” I don’t think the word ferry ever entered their heads so unlike a normal ferry it is.

My sepia arrives crisp and golden as always with its never changing salad. Tomato, onion, lettuce, green pepper and potato. Never varies and is never anything but excellent. You just know that the stuff comes from their cousin or brother or uncle or grandfather and you know it was pulled out the ground about fifteen minutes ago. Round the back there is an old woman peeling potatoes. Continuously. Whenever I walk past there she is, peeling potatoes. The Ibicencos boil them in their skins, the potatoes that is, not the old women, and then peel them. In doing so all the starchy waxiness stays in the potato and is not boiled out into the water. The potato is then dressed in oil and salt and left for us to enjoy. They say simple food is best and they, whoever they may be, are right.

Just as I am about to cut some sepia a huge swell crashes against the rocks. Then another and another. After a few moments the swell that has come out of nowhere dies down and the sea is placid again.

“What the fuck was that?” I said to myself.

One of the really drunk Spaniards sitting over from me says “That, my friend, was the ghost of Garcia Lorca.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Strawberries. Past Perfect.

Strawberries are in the shops in full force, the ones from the island sweeter, redder, better than those from the Costa Plastica (an immense tract of land somewhere in the south of Spain covered in enormous greenhouses). I was in the veg shack outside Sta Gertrudis de la Fruitera yesterday and they has huge quantities of these little mothers.

There are so many places you can stick strawberries. Jams, smoothies, cakes, icecreams, sorbets. Mashed up with a yoghurt. You gotta wash ‘em though, before you start sticking them places. They absorb any kind of deterrent sprayed on them so you gots to wash them. Add a banana and some strawberries to your morning juice every day until the season is over. The juice will taste nicer, you will be happier and you will probably live for longer too.

Strawberries now are different from when I was a little girl. I remember them to be much smaller and also remember you could always pull the stalk right out. The green stalk would lead onto a tiny white coned stem that you could remove easily. Now that variety just doesn’t seem to be around. You have to cut out the stalk and any white bit of the fruit that may be there where the stalk meets the stem. Apparently the strawberry itself will taste sweeter if eaten without this white bit. Apparently. I had the most extraordinary strawberry in La Paloma a while back and it was one of the sweetest things I have put in my mouth in some time. It had a stalk that came right out and was tiny and sweet like in days of old and it took me straight back to my childhood summers in Dorset. A bit like the madeleine in Remembrance of Things Past. Except without the words.

A lot of people have started adding savoury stuff such as Balsamic vinegar (not that savoury I guess) and black pepper. I would say I hold no store by this kind of chefwankery but it wouldn’t be true cos I have it as a canape on some of my menus in the form of a granita and it is tres popular and I actually quite like it myself. Up to a point. It still grates with me – the messing around with foodstuffs that just don’t need to be messed with. Best leave it to the boffins such as Heston Blumenthal or Ferran Adria. Those who have the time and resources to do such messing. But I like to have one rule for me and one for everyone

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Big Grill?

No. Big Rip Off. Actually outrageous rip off.

I was completely and utterly dumbfounded when I was cheerfully charged €54 for:
1 plate of disgusting lowest grade possible chorizo that bounced around your mouth like one of those rubber balls that boing uncontrollably all over the place.
1 plate ribs that we still raw at the edges.
1 thimble of the vinegar posing as wine
1 thimble of white wine posing as urine or vice versa
2 of the cheapest waters on the market

Fiftyfuckingfourfuckingeuros for absolute crap.

I said to the owner that really if they were going to rip everyone of so blatantly surely Jose Publico should at least have a menu board to peruse so they can decide whether they want to be fleeced or not. She looked at me as if I was mad and pointed out the 30cm x 60cm menu board standing some 15metres away on the other side of the stall. It is the red thing in the opposite corner of the last picture. If you look there is someone taking a photo of it. No doubt incredulous of the marketeers scorn and and wanting a memento. "Look kids, this is the reason you couldnt have a crepe or a coke later on. Cos these people wanted all our money"

I was thrilled to see that the owners of the 'eatery' were saving themselves on any wastage by using undefrosted frozen meat. This was skillfully cut out of its plastic bag and lumped on the grill with all the other shit that was thawing and grilling at the same time. The bitch who owned it told me that by law they were obliged to only cook frozen meat without prior defrosting.

This was at the Medieval Festival in the old town. Good thing was they all we medieval costumes. Man what I wouldn't give to use that grill as a stocks, stick them in it and beat them round the head with their frozen crap.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Killing Thyme

I’m sitting on my terrace looking at all the things growing in the pots and flower beds. I have basil, coriander, parsley, mint, sage, rosemary and thyme. Having these things growing is not only great for the kitchen but them is awful pleasing on the eye too. Particularly when they flower and particularly the thyme.

Tiny mauve buds open into white petals with just the vaguest hint of violet. Because it is new growth the leaves are a light green and their texture has not become too dry yet. The stalk is all soft too. At this time (thyme, ha ha, how hilarious) of year I add it to sauces such as salsa verde and mix into salads. As the season goes on I find it dries out too much so aint that nice just raw. It aint bad, don’t get me wrong, its just not so nice.

Women make infusions with it and say it tastes nice. It is distinctly good for you. You could add it to (the) lemonade (you have been conscientiously making since my last entry). You can add it to just about everything you eat at the moment. It has a particular affinity with white fish, chicken, tomatoes. It goes jolly nice with goats cheese salad.

Thyme grows wild here so you if you wanted some for free you could go for a walk and dig some up. Alternatively you could just drive to a garden centre and buy some. Or get someone else to.

Beyond my pots and flower beds the field opposite has now become baked sand colour and will stay that way till September/October next year. Until now it has been a kaleidoscope of colour. It seems to change from week to week from that bright yellow citrusy stuff to the bluey purple of the borage to the blood red of the poppies. There are also white rocket flowers and my favourite of all, the pink garlic flowers - of which more another thyme.

Goats Cheese Salad

- ½ a tomato per person roasted with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Maldon salt, black pepper and thyme (do this slowly so the tomato dehydrates intensifying the flavour and sweetness)

- The nicest leaves you can get hold of (there are some superb mixes of organic leaves at the moment, many of them coming from Farmer Rene ‘s Organic Garden Can Riera)

- Toasted pinenuts

- A vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, garlic and olive oil

Toss all these together and add on top

- 1 slice of goats cheese per person grilled till golden and bubblying on
1 slice of Juanitos white bread toasted and rubbed with garlic (not optional)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You great big lemon.

Citrus fruits are glorious fruits and all of them have their place in the kitchen. But king of the kitchen would have to be the lemon. So versatile, so uplifting, so……yellow. Here in Ibiza, as with almost all of the indigenous produce, the lemons are hard to beat. Big, sweet but sharp and with good thick pith and skin, I have had lemons here that are pure sherbet. The lemon season starts in December but I reckon it is around now that they really come into their own. Nobody who knows anything about lemons agrees with me on this but I reckon that they are a bit like grapes – the longer they stay on the vine/branch, the sweeter they become.

In the kitchen they are a must in so many dishes, particularly the zest. The zest gets into just about every salad I make during the summer leaving me with a fridge full of zested but unsqeezed lemons. They get stored in the fridge once they are zested cos otherwise they deteriorate quickly but the juice always gets used up pronto; into dressings, over fish, over lamb, into sauces, into sorbets and icecreams and most excellently into lemonade. Homemade lemonade. It is enough to make you weep it is so good. Below is a recipe that once tried will be tried again and again.

When you are zesting lemons make sure that you don’t dig into the pith as it gives an acrid aftertaste. The two best ways of removing the zest that I know of is by grating it (see below) or by shaving it with a potato peeler and then cutting off any pith you may have shaved of with the skin.

An aside -There is an unbelievably excellent grater that has come on the market in the last few years and is unsurpassable for fine zesting lemons (and creating snowlike grated parmesan). It is called a Microplane and was invented by a carpenter cum home chef. He was making spaghettis for his kids and couldn’t find the grater so went to his workshop and brought back a wood plane and Voilá – the best addition to Kitchen Paraphernalia in recent years was born. If you don’t got one – get one

Perfect this and you will never be lonely

250g sugar
500 ml lemon juice
1.75l water
(7 good sized lemons make around 500ml)

Zest the lemons (you can forego this is you have a fridge full of zested lemons)
Squeeze the lemons
Add juice, zest and sugar together and dissolve over slow heat
Sieve out zest.

At this point you have cordial and this will keep in your fridge till hell freezes over.

When needed pour ½ of it into a jug and fill with crushed ice, mint and slices of lemon and orange and then pour in around a litre of water. If you wanna really get them going fill with fizzy water.


Monday, April 20, 2009

patatas a lo pobre - poor man's potatoes

This is an Andalucian dish, or more like it the Andalucian name for it. It is served all over Spain and here it is the typical accompaniment when you have baked fish. God, what a delight. Fried potatoes that are then baked alongside really big, ugly, firm fleshed rock fish like rotxa or John Dory. Why is it I wonder that the more ugly the fish the tastier it is?

The better fish restaurants take these fish and do almost nothing to them but bake them with a bit of wine and these potatoes. The potatoes are prepared first because despite these big boned mothers being able to handle a some fairly hot baking they can’t stay in the oven long enough to cook a potato from scratch.

You can also eat patatas a lo pobre deliciously next to chicken, rabbit, pork chops etc. Think unctuous potatoes next to golden meat.

To make them you need to heat up some olive oil and put in half a baker’s dozen of unpeeled whole garlic cloves. As they are gently frying, gently sautéing, peel and slice 1/2 kilo of red Ibiza potatoes. DO NOT SETTLE FOR LESS – IBIZA RED POTATOES OR NOTHING (unless of course you cant get them, in which case get the best waxy potatoes you can get and don’t settle for less the next time). Put them into the oil with the garlic. Peel an onion and slice it into fingernail moons and add to the pan. Rip up the pepper discarding the seeds and stalk and add to the pan. Once everything is in, turn the heat up to medium and stir occasionally till it is cooked.

This is one of those dishes that can be prepared as you are cooking it i.e.
whilst the garlic is frying, you are peeling the potatoes, whilst the potatoes are frying you can peel the onion etc. You can also prepare this ahead of time and reheat later.

If you are doing it with a rock fish, get your monger to gut that mother, season it with salt and pepper, splash him with wine, add the cooked potatoes and bake it all in a hot oven (180 with fan, 210 without) until its done (Sorry, timings impossible - when skin breaks and flesh comes away from the bone, it is done. You may have to take it out, look at it and put it back a couple of times. Its head should look like something from a horror film with all the flesh coming away and its eyes popping out)

When deciding how much oil to put in always veer on the side of recklessness and know that with olive oil, more is best.

Olive oil
1 head of garlic
½ k potatoes
1 super crisp long Italian green pepper

Fry unpeeled garlic
Fry peeled, sliced potatoes
Fry peeled chopped garlic
Fry sliced onion
Fry deseeded ripped up green peppers

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

easter bunnies

I saw a jolly hunter

A poem by Charles Causley

I saw a jolly hunter
with a jolly gun
Walking in the country
In the jolly sun

In the jolly meadow 

sat a jolly hare

saw the jolly hunter

took jolly care

Hunter jolly eager

sight of jolly prey

forgot gun pointing 

wrong jolly way(!)

Jolly hunter jolly head

over heels gone

jolly old safety catch
not jolly on!

Bang! went the jolly gun

Hunter jolly dead

Jolly Hare got clean away

Jolly good I said

Goddam shame I say cos they taste awful good.

Easter is associated with spring lamb and last year I grilled a whole milk fed lamb in my garden which was more difficult than I had imagined it would be. Mind you, putting any kind of meat on a charcoal grill the size of a bed and walking off for 20 minutes is never a good idea. Especially if you are drunk and haven’t never grilled a whole lamb before. It turned out ok which is outrageous cos it should have been beyond compare.

Anyway, this year was different. We had to bypass the easter eggs as they got confiscated at passport control back in febrary. Easter is also associated with Bunnies so I thought I would kill two birds with one stone. We had rabbit with chocolate. This may sound weird and indeed it is. BUT it is good. Rabbits are only really for those who love food as for some reason many people cant bear the idea of eating a cuddlywuddly luverly likkle wabbit. Eat a cow, oh yeah sure, no problem. But not a little bunny. Jesus.

The Ibicencos aren’t so sentimental. They eat rabbits all the time. A popular dish here is rabbit with almonds which is basically what we had but with the addition of chocolate stirred in at the end. I say basically cos it was crossed with a similar but much more spicy dish from Mexico (Lindo) called Mole. (This has nothing to do with short sighted subterranean rodents, it just happens to be the name of the dish. However when I was there it did make me smile every time I saw the billboard signs announcing AQUI HAY MOLE. Something very Monty Python about it.)

The recipe is quite long winded but I have it if you want it.
It entails lots of searing, sweating, toasting and pulverising so you know its gotta be good.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ibiza Covered

My first experience of Spanish covered markets was when I was drinking in Barcelona in the 80’s. I lived just across the Ramblas from the incomparably wicked La Boqueria. Very few markets in the world can compare. The covered markets here aint chic Ibiza but they are excellent nonetheless. I think there are only three – Ibiza Town, San An and Sta. Eulalia. Sadly, none of these markets are surviving at full potential. All the markets on the island have empty stalls. Visible reminders that the times they are a changing.

The fish stalls are my favourites. This seems to be the best time of year for fish. There is a wider variety, the fish seem fresher and the price is better. For example John Dory is down from €28 per kilo to twenty. I have no idea where the name John Dory comes from but I do know it is also known as St Peter’s fish, Gallo San Pedro in Spanish, cos when Jesus told Saint Peter he would be a fisher of men they were out boating on the sea of Galilee. On a Sunseeker no doubt, He told Peter to put his hand in the water. Peter did so and pulled out a John Dory leaving his thumbprint on its back which we can still see today. Another really cool thing about this fish’s name is that it is Zeus Faber in Latin. How cool is that? If I ever write me a book, my pen name will be Zeus Faber

I have hardly anything to do with the market in San An. Only been there once in fact. Buying shellfish with a conspiracy theorising tattoo artist who showed me how to cook paella for 120.

Santa Eulalia is the easiest to use and has the best vegetable stand on the island to my mind. Maria she is called and she feels each piece of fruit before selling it. Her husband grows most of the stuff that they sell. Not unusual here. Just up the hall is (another) Maria. I used to buy stuff from her farm directly where a box of peppers would cost what 2 peppers would cost on her stall in the market. She sold everything to me from under what she claims to be the oldest Carob tree on the island. It wouldn’t surprise me. It is enormous and ancient. Many of its branches are held up by makeshift crutches. I am certain that this is where Dali got his idea for all those crutches in his paintings.

These markets are well worth a visit. The best one for the ‘experience’ is Saturday morning in Ibiza New market in town. The place is buzzing with señoras buying stuff for the weekend, the younger marketeers nursing hangovers, the cafes alive with punters ordering beer, wine and cognac for breakfast accompanying them with tapas of tripe, kidneys and tongue. Best of all are the gypsies (not pikeys, gypsies). There is a constant coming and going as they sit at the terrace bars, their gold jewellery bright against their dark skin. Once in a while you see one with blue eyes and you just know that that boy is trouble. You will see the fantastically dapper Juan in his waistcoat, Stetson and cane. He has a moustache that Zapata would have been jealous of. And I definitely am jealous of.

There used to be a covered market in the old town but that, whilst undeniably the nicest architecturally, is now derelict and used only as a lock up for a few stalls selling vegetables opposite the Croissant Show (show what? I ask myself). Incidentally one of these stalls this is where the wonderful organic Sa Fruteria (699348590 they deliver) is located. There is not a single one in the main market and I have a feeling the one in Santa Doolalia has gone out of business. Organic is here but it is struggling. Perhaps when and if it does take hold it will mark a strengthening in the covered markets. I hope so.

All this talk of markets has got me thinking. About supermarkets………

Supermarkets here are SO different than those in uk. There seem to be two sorts – the small family run ones that are just some sort of flexible franchise and the ever appalling SYP (Eroski) style ones.

Most the small ones are fairly regular but the good ones are really good, stocking high quality products alongside unusual products (for example see

The larger ones on the other hand are something else. These are the pits. The few things they do stock are impossible to find cos they change the layout weekly. When you do find what you are looking for you cant get it cos they are restocking shelves and blocking the ailes. If you finally manage to get the thing you need it takes forever to pay for it cos all the staff are restocking the shelves and blocking the aisles. Try asking them if they wouldn’t mind opening another checkout cos theres a queue of 50 people for the only one open. All of a sudden the shelf stacker turns into sulky teenager, rolls their eyes and slouches of in a huff as if they have been sent to their room. Its hilarious. They really take offense at being asked anything by a customer.

All this said, I love it that supermakets don’t really work here. However infuriating it may be.The autonomon feel of the uk supers is a scary reminder of just how much we are Valued Customers instead of people doing their shopping. Sandwich and supermarket culture in the uk is not to be emulated however convenient and well priced it may be.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Juanito in the 21st Century

If Jesus had been born in Ibiza , the inn with no crib for a bed would most certainly have been Juanitos. It is an ancient place run forever by the legenday Juanito and famous for its excellent lamb in cooked in what looks the cauldron that Obelix fell into as a baby. It is the penultimate eatery on the San Juan road. This road, know as restaurant road, starts with with the newer expat imports of Bambuddha, Ocho and Aura and ends with with a cluster of prehistoric ultra Ibicenco grill restaurants.

And into this ultra Ibicenco scene steps Matt Jones, founder of London’s organic Flour Power City and brought to the island to give his ever expanding family room to grow. Using an interesting new marketing technique called “Shhhh, Don’t Tell Anyone We’re Open” he reopened Juanito’s this week. The secrecy technique failed however and the restaurant was full, the bar was full and so was the terrace. Juanito himself, unable to keep away, supervised the concotion of his famous ultra authentic Allioli. It remains the same – garlic, olive oil, salt - also as eye watering as ever.

Matt had made only a puy lentil stew/soup that was really just in case anyone happened to turn up. That of course was gone within minutes. Not surprising given how delicious it was and the quality of the bread that was served alongside it, but it left the problem of how to feed the rest of the people who had turned up just to see what was going on. Whilst my back was turned Matt made a chopped Imam Bayaldi (a Turkish spiced aubergine dish that translates as the Priest Fainted, cos he did when his cook first served it to him) that was so fresh, so subtle and so delightful all the women started crying.

This was again served with the bread with which Matt has made his name in London. This is now the best bread on the island. This stuff is killer. There is the white and the 75% rye. Both are big, country style loaves that are what bread are supposed to be – doughy but not dense, heavy without it weighing in your stomach, ever so slightly sour but with a delicious freshness. This is real bread and it makes real toast.

Once all the women had stopped crying they were served oranges in vanilla caramel and an orange sorbet made 8 minutes before it was served, the ingredients which were nothing but orange and icing sugar (the syrup bypassed so as not to water down the flavour). For those who wanted chocolate there was brownie.

Since Matt wasn’t expecting anyone the menu was by no means complete. When it is complete Juanitos in the 21st Century will remain essentially the same, adding just a few new touches – grilled meats accompanied by pepperonata instead of a slice of vaguely grilled pepper. Lemon sorbet made in the kitchen instead of some industrial plant on the outskirts of Barcelona. That sort of thing.

Oh yes, and the bakery. Matt was trying to keep his croissants etc (which are also going to be baked daily) a secret as well, but I broke into the bakery and got hold of the best pain au chocolat I have ever had. All this stuff from the ovens will be available for sale over the counter. I have a feeling that Matt’s secrecy plan is going to fail and once again heaven on earth is going to be present here on Ibiza.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Little Place I Know.....

Apparently the objective of just about all people who write about food on the internet is to get noticed so they can then become restaurant reviewers (and spend their lives reviewing places like El Bulli or Gordon Ramsey's latest sales pitch, no doubt).

There is a restaurant reviewer in New York who goes to restaurants in disguise cos she knows that she will be treated differently if she is recognised (Ruth Reichl - Garlic and Sapphires (who the hell came up with that name?) The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise). She has done tests even. Going to the same restaurant as her public persona and as Ethel from Illinois. That sort of thing. She says the two experiences just dont compare. So what is the point of her reviewing restaurants if they are turning on the charm just for certain individuals? Its gonna happen. Of course it is. But it is shit.

I liked her idea. It must be interesting to go out to eat as someone else and get paid for it. Anyway it got me to thinking of other interesting ways of reviewing restaurants. And this is what I have come up with - I review a restaurant and the reader has to guess which restaurant I am writing about. Genius.

So here goes

Garlic and Sardines - the Secret Life of Restaurants in Disguise.

Review No 1

The streets around Ibiza Town get really quiet at lunch time. Proof that Spain's excellent siesta tradition is still going strong. Thank Christ. The last thing I want to see in Spain are really successful sandwich chains garroting the lunchtime restaurant trade. Next thing you know we'll have people smoking outside their office buildings.

Anyway, the streets are sleepy and there arent many people around cos they are all having lunch. The restaurant I am looking for is a workers' restaurant on the first floor of an apartment building somewhere near the New Market. I heard about it years ago when I first arrived and have only just got round to finding its whereabouts. There is an Estrella Damm blackboard outside advertising its 5 Starters, 14 (yes 14) main courses and 5 desserts. The menu is priced at €9.50 and includes bread and wine. Nowadays that is a very good price but if you convert it into pesetas and then it into pounds it is actually laughable. It has increased by 50% in just 7 years.

You go up its narrow and inevitably marbled staircase to find a restaurant much like the India Club on the Strand, not only in its decor but in its oldworldliness. You seem to really be stepping back in time. The furniture is of course brown varnished wood. There is a waiter that can't weigh any less that 16 stone and can't measure any more that 5 foot three. He is sweaty and out of breath. Not surprising given his proportions. The restaurant is only half full suggesting that 'el Crisis' has hit the Spaniards stomach. A good sign really cos in a battle between a Spaniard's stomach and el Crisis I know who my money is on and it aint gonna take that long to decide it.

I order the garlic soup which is no more than yellow water with bread mush in it. Revolting. The Spanish obsession with yellow food colouring is really quite worrying. And bread has never been their strong point. Especially when it has been sitting in lukewarm yellow liquid for a few hours. Then comes the main course. Bingo. Deep fried sardines with homemade chips. The sardines are little ones no bigger than my middle finger. They are gutted and scaled, floured and deep fried. and there are lots of them. They are fresh and their flesh is sweet. The chips are sparcer but that is probably a good thing anyway as one likes to acheive a balance, doesnt one? One doesnt want to overdo the fried food, what?

The only down side of this course is the stray uncooked chip which seems to always come my way. I love it that restaurants cook their own chips. Frozen chips in a hamburger joint is only right and proper but a restaurant should be closed down for serving them. Especially if they are those fat and flat monstrosities that turned up in refectories and other low eateries a couple of decades ago. WHO ACTUALLY LIKES THOSE THINGS? I defy anyone to actually consider this kind of "chip" and come out in favour of it.

Anyway, dessert. God. Some appalling flan (creme caramel) from a packet. The baked apple looked good and I was an idiot not to choose it given that I knew what the flan would be. The Spanish are not fantastic when it comes to most desserts (tarta de santiago and flao, please remain seated) and it is my experience that they skimp in this area. I worked with a bloke who called himself a chef in San Carlos. He told me his secret for making the perfect flan - add 25% more milk to the concoction than the packet recommended. And he was the head chef in a 120 cover restaurant.

I could have chosen the fresh apple that they bring on a plate with a knife. This is one of the many things I love about Spain. An apple is a perfectly legitimate dessert on a menu del dia. You see these people sit and peel the apple at their leisure and then eat it chunk by chunk. There is something correct, organic about this. I dont know why but I have always loved watching diners do this. To an Englishman it is so OTHER.

Friday, February 6, 2009


The weather may be crap.........but

This is my lunch. That in my hand is an organic (somehow that word is is beginning to piss me off) avocado with a mayonnaise made from eggs from down the road, ginger, superlative Ibiza lemon juice & it's zest, vegetable oil & a sip of walnut oil.

And right there in the background is Formentera.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Get at them beans

These have to be one of the best reasons to live on ibiza. Broad beans in season in January and picked before they have turned into those marrowbone monstrosities I remember for childhood. Just look at the little darlings

An experiement

There is not a great deal of smoking that goes on in Spain and none that I know of in Ibiza (with the exception of myself). This is almost certainly because the climate is to warm. So they stick to salting and curing* . There are only a few months of the year that I am able to smoke as for a lot of the time the ambient temperature is higher that the ideal 28ºC needed for cold smoking.

I discovered a way of smoking with Sabina which is indigenous to the island. Sabina is resinous therefore not suitable for smoking as it leaves and acrid taste. Nonetheless I wanted to use Sabina because it is SO “of the island” and has such a wonderful aroma and I gave myself a gold star for figuring out a way to do it. This has led me on to wondering about other fuels that might be interesting.

I was out fishing on a beach last week as standing on a matt of seaweed that must have been half a metre high. The sea washes it in in the winter and the JCBs take it away in the summer (which is apparently terrible for the enviroment – upsetting the natural order of things blahblahblah). It occurred to me that it would be interesting to try smoking with it. To that end I have 2 salmon trout fillets being salted in preparation for smoking. Gonna cold smoke one and hot smoke the other.

The above was written a bit ago. The cold smoke didnt work cos I havent got a system with a burner set up to keep it alight (sabina and other woods dont need it). I hot smoked the salmon trout and was VERY HAPPY the results. I was so drunk in celebration its taken a while to get this down on iPaper. It really was excellent.

* there is a town in the Alpujarras in the south of Spain where they hang all the hams cos the climate perfect. High. Dry. And with sea breezes blowing up from the Mediterranean. The town is absolutely rammed with hams and you see them hanging EVERYWHERE. I aint gonna say where the town is cos when (not if) this blog goes viral there will be a million japonese and other tourists snapping away the charm.