The Food of Spain: Tortilla Español

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Tortilla Español (Spanish omelette) comes in as many varieties as the regions of Spain, no doubt every Spanish aunt and grandmother argues over the ‘perfect’ recipe.  To pay homage to the infamous tortilla, Claudia’s book ‘The Food of Spain’ dances delicately around the issue by containing three recipes, each with a slightly different cooking method and a list of variations. A little bit of jamón, smoked cod, onions poached in olive oil, or vegetable of choice – it truly is one of those dishes you can make your own. Even better, it’s the perfect way to use that lonely capsicum looking reproachfully at you every time you rummage through the vegetable draw at the bottom of your fridge.

Scavenging through my kitchen at the end of the day wondering what to cook, I found: baby potatoes, asparagus, parsley, and some leftover cooked rice. My tortilla was born.

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With four cooking methods listed, I chose the safe option: baking. The other methods involved flipping and grilling. Call me ‘chicken’ but I was hanging out to eat the thing, not clean it off the floor. So without further fuss…

Tortilla de Patatas con Espárragos /Potato and Asparagus Omelette

Inspired by Claudia Roden

4 baby potatoes cut into small cubes

½ c of cooked rice (omit and increase volume of potato if desired)

1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed, sliced on the diagonal

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 large bunch of parsley, stalks removed, cut finely

1 crushed clove of garlic

Zest of one lemon

½ tsp smoked sweet paprika

9 eggs

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 160˚C.

Combine the potato, rice, asparagus, spring onion, parsley, garlic, zest and paprika in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl whisk the eggs together and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the eggs into the potatoes and vegetables, stirring well. Turn the tortilla mixture into a large oiled dish and bake for 45-60 minutes, making sure to check on your little tortilla friend at 30 minutes and cover with foil if browning too quickly.

Eat large slices hot or cold.

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Um… I have dietary requirements!

Tim I went out for dinner last night before catching some James Bond in the new Skyfall. Nothing fancy just the Greek place next to the cinema.

And as I perused the menu I did feel some what guilty trying to find something to match the food template I’ve set in place.  Why guilty? Perhaps it’s because I don’t have any actual food allergies that I know of. I’m not one of those people who will eat a piece of bread and then spend three days in bed. I’m making these choices to feel like I’m doing something that could help my thyroid. Otherwise, all I do is take a tablet first thing in the morning, and that doesn’t exactly scream “PROACTIVE” to me.

Then the waiter came around.

He took Tim’s order first.

Then it was my turn: “I’d like to have the Lamb Gyros thanks!……… Is it possible to get some extra vegetables or salad on the side? Unfortunately I can’t eat the bread it comes with.”

There was a slight look of horror on our waiter’s face, “Um… I don’t know if we can change it, I don’t think they cook vegetables on their own.”

I summoned a smile and persistence.

“There’s green beans on the menu as a side dish… could you check with the chef  if they could put some on instead of bread, that would be great!

He left.

Our plates come out, mine had Green beans! And gosh that lamb was good!

Thinking about eating out is one of the scary things for me as I make food changes. Tim and I go out often. I don’t mean we get takeaway, I mean we go to a restaurant  and order good food, or even the degustation menu. The most recent highlight a few months ago was The Commoner in Johnston St, Fitzroy. Seriously check out the link- the site is just so beautiful! Jo who owns the place served us, and to say we were well cared for is an understatement. We asked her about the ‘Simply Feed Me’ option on the menu, and when we found it was a collection of dishes picked by the chef tailored to us we could not say no. I had my first taste of black pudding!  The stand out for me was desert: Brown Ale Pudding with Abbotsford Stout and Salted Caramel.

Jo had a conversation with us that gives me hope for going out to a good restaurant again. As we decided on the ‘Simply Feed Me’ option Jo checked if we had any specific food requirements. At the time I laughed and said, “No, we’re not those sorts of people!”  But I remember hearing the sincerity in her voice, and I know I could have said gluten free or grain free and she would have bent over backwards to try produce something that I could enjoy.

I think a visit to The Commoner might be in order soon!

Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume: 1

My first attempt from Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume by Silvena Rowe: Pomegranate Glazed Kebabs with Spiced Pomegranate Chutney, became more of a “cut & paste” creation rather than a carefully followed recipe.  In fact, the whole kebab notion went out the window when I decided to slow cook the meat in my tagine. Talk about deviation!

And I confess… I didn’t make the chutney. BUT I did combine part of the chutney recipe into the stewing sauce for the meat.

Silvena’s original calls for marinated, quickly cooked kebabs, glazed with pomegranate sauce, served with a fresh and spicy, uncooked citrus chutney.  My original became a marinated, slow cooked lamb dish with a sticky, spicy pomegranate sauce.

It ended up looking like this:

Combine:

4 garlic cloves, crushed

200ml pomegranate juice (which I didn’t have so I watered down apple juice)

3 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

4 juniper berries, crushed

10 peppercorns (ideally pink… I used black)

1 teaspoon Ras-el-Hanout

Marinade 500-800g lamb fillet, cut into 2.5cm cubes in the above mixture for at least 2 hrs (over night would be perfect). When ready, brown meat in the base of a tagine over high heat with 2 Tablespoons of oil, for a few minutes till seared, reserving the marinade for later.

Add to the marinade:

The juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp of lemon rind

1 Tbsp honey

2 tsp freshly grated orange rind

1 dried red chilli, finely cut

Pour over the meat. Throw in a handful of coarsely chopped onion. Pour over enough boiling water to cover the meat, Seal with the tagine lid and simmer on low for 1.5 hrs.

Then add:

2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

Taste for seasoning, add further boiling water till the potatoes are almost submerged. Seal tagine and cook a further 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender and meat falling apart with a nice thick sauce.

I ate this with couscous, mixed through cucumber and mint, with a dollop of natural yogurt on the side.  The stand out flavour for me came from the juniper berries. Having never tasted them before, I loved how their smell made me think of Gin and Tonic in bite sized form. They have an amazing herbal/medicinal undertone, very difficult to describe, but perfect for lamb. I’ll be keeping my packet of juniper berries very carefully for next time!

Tonight: Basil

A beautiful bush of basil is growing rampant in my garden.

To stop it from going to seed I’ve been pinching out the heads each day.  The constant supply of basil leaves has called for a lot of spur of the moment basil creations. I’ve been wanting to bake basil with chicken and lemon but struggling to work out how to do it without completely killing the intense basil aroma with the high heat of  the oven. So I decided to experiment today and see what resulted.

Searing chicken breasts till just browned, I sliced them open, filled them with basil leaves, strips of lemon rind and gently fried garlic slivers and closed them back up to bake them in the oven on a layer of soft onions I’d fried up earlier with the garlic. While the chicken cooked I created a basting syrup of lemon and orange juice (unfortunately my verjuice had died or I would have sloshed some in), olive oil, sweet orange marmalade and lemon and orange rind. It made a nice shiny glaze after a few applications.

The basil seemed protected enough inside the chicken that it didn’t fade away and with a few fresh leaves on the side it lifted the whole thing. Basil win! Just when I thought basil couldn’t get better  my house-mate mentioned she’d been out for lunch/desert and basil scented panacotta was on the menu….