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.