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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The Food of Spain: Marquesas

MarquesasSome times life asks you to start with dessert and these little Marquesas on pg 494 called my name as I flipped through ‘The Food of Spain’. I’m sure I’m not the only one who, with a cup a tea and new cook book in hand skips to the back page first, and reads the book in reverse order!

These little marquesas (Almond Cupcakes) are bites of soft almond goodness. It’s a safe bet that if you have nuts and eggs lurking in your pantry, every Spanish dessert that Claudia Roden shares in her book is only a mixing bowl and whisk away from landing in your oven before you can say ‘Barcelona’.

Scented with lemon zest, I’ve adapted this recipe a few ways using coconut sugar (yes!) and increasing the zest. Coconut sugar has distinct caramel undertones, making it a great match with almonds and lemon.  Claudia’s marquesas are served dusted with icing sugar, but once these beauties came out of the oven I topped them with some desiccated coconut & whipped coconut cream.

Marquesas

Makes 30 small or 15 average size cupcakes

3 large eggs, separated

1/4 tsp lemon juice

200g coconut sugar

Another 2 large eggs, separated

grated zest of 2 lemons

50g of cornflour (make sure it’s Gluten Free)

300g ground almonds

2 Tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut

1 can of coconut cream

Extra lemon zest for decorating.

In Advance:

Place the can of coconut cream in the fridge for least 12 hrs before baking. It needs to be properly chilled to make the whipped coconut cream.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180C.

In a large bowl, beat the first three egg whites with 4 tablespoons of coconut sugar and lemon juice, until stiff. Have patience as the coconut sugar takes a while to incorporate to the egg white. It will happen. Keep your beater on high and you will end up with shiny latte’ coloured egg whites, stiff enough that they will hold their shape if you turn the bowl over your head.

In a separate bowl, beat the 5 egg yolks and one of the remaining egg whites with the left over coconut sugar till creamy. (You will have one egg white remaining, put it in the fridge to use later, omelettes are always an easy option). Then add the lemon zest and cornflour to your creamed sugar and beat thoroughly. Mix through the ground almonds until you have a thick paste, it won’t hurt to add a splash of water if the mixture is too dry or crumbly.

Fold the whipped egg whites very gently into the almond base and drop small spoonfuls into paper baking cups. Fill them 3/4 full as the mixture will rise a little. If using mini paper cups, bake for 10-13 minutes. Bake for 20-25 minutes if using average size paper cups, and cover with foil if browning too quickly on top while cooking.

They will be very soft when taken out of the oven but will firm up as they cool.

To decorate, pulse the desiccated coconut in a food processor till powdery and sprinkle over the warm cakes. While cooling make the whipped topping. Open the chilled coconut cream and scoop out the firm layer risen to the top (save the separated coconut water below to add to smoothie). Beat the ‘cream’ with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Dollop spoonfuls of cream onto cooled marquesas and sprinkle with some extra lemon zest.

Enjoy!

Gluten Free/Dairy Free

Back Story

Being a bit of a history buff, when I love a book I also want to know the author….

Follow this link to a fascinating article by Jane Kramer on Claudia Roden.

Feature Book: The Food of Spain

Claudia Roden, how classic – she inspired me to cook when I didn’t even have a kitchen. At the time I was half way through my degree, living in a bungalow where my ‘kitchen’ consisted of a two burner electrical hot-plate that gave me heat options of ‘on’ or off’ and a tiny little toaster oven. My claim to fame was baking muffins in that thing. Needless to say I invested in an oven thermometer and literally sat in front of the toaster playing with the temperature dial to keep a steady 180 C while my mini muffins incubated inside.

On loan from the library I devoured Claudia’s book ‘Arabesque‘ introducing me to Moroccan, Turkish and Lebanese food. Addicted, I managed to scrounge enough loose change to photocopy some recipes and hand wrote out the rest. I never did buy myself a copy of Arabesque, I love my hand written notes too much.

But now I’ve fallen in love again.

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This book! The Food of Spain: A Celebration.

Daydreaming about traveling Spain is my new past time. While I bide my time saving for a one way ticket, I’m getting my taste buds ready, savoring some of Claudia’s recipes. Doesn’t ‘Tarta de Chocolate con Nueces’ just make you wish you spoke Spanish? That’s Chocolate and Walnut Cake for those of us who can’t. Yep, this book has a dangerous amount of gluten free desserts. Hello!

Sweets aside, I’ve stocked up on smoked Spanish paprika and I’m hanging out to share some tapas with you. As always, I won’t share the recipes as they are in the book, (that would be unfair to Roden’s hard work) but I will share my adaptations. I’m going to try and keep the rule that Claudia shares in the first few pages of her book, “… that there should be a balance between the effort of making a dish and pleasure of eating it.”

Salud!

Dipping back into Blogging

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It’s night duty and I’ve got garlic breath. Thankfully my two patients are sleeping, I have no need to lean over their beds, startling them from their sleep with garlic emanating from my pores. With two staff down on sick leave this could be a bad night, but for now the maternity ward is quiet.  I’m propped up with homemade Haydari, a Turkish dip made of strained yogurt, feta cheese and garlic and I’m certain I tucked a pack of mints in my bag.  Dip- check,  pile of crackers- check, olives- check! Thus far the night is smooth sailing and will definitely be vampire free.

Night duty produces strange behaviour, my prime example – happily eating banana and peanut butter for almost every meal, and needing to complete bedtime rituals in a certain order.  I will say no more except that my husband finds ‘Night Shift Laura’ a strange woman indeed. So while in night duty limbo with a family gathering at our place I made not one but three Turkish inspired dips from Silvena Rowe’s book ‘Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume’, which is why a day later I’m at work sharing the leftovers with colleagues, and subsequently sharing my mints.

At the family dinner my niece proceeded to show us how it was done: pick up cracker, shove cracker into dip, eat, repeat. Only just learning how to ‘dip’, Claire in true toddler fashion ate the dip off the cracker and proceeded to double dip. The Pumpkin Za’atar ‘Hummus’ was polished off before all of my large family had arrived. The others, Haydari and Avocado Sumac Whip had strikingly contrasting flavours but worked well together, the avocado being soft with a hint of cinnamon and nutty tahini, while the Haydari was total garlic punch.

All three recipes were uncomplicated and I’d make them again. The Haydari would be easy to adjust as it’s essentially crumbled feta combined with strained yogurt. Silvena’s recipe recommends mixing through mint and garlic, with a sprinkle of sweet paprika, walnuts and olive oil on top. I think it would be grand with za’atar, dukka, olives or any combination of fresh herbs mixed through. Because I made Silvena’s recipes without adjustments I will not post them here but the base of the Haydari is as follows:

Haydari Base:

100g crumbled fetta

300ml strained yoghurt

Follow the link ‘how to strain yoghurt’ to get a quick tutorial and how to.

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Paleo: ‘Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume’

Opening up my blog for the first time in ages yesterday lead me to where I left off, trying out key recipes from Silvena Rowe’s book Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume. So curiosity demanded I pull it off the bookshelf to see if I could find any ‘Laura Suitable Food’ within its pages.

I was pleasantly surprised.

How do these sound?

 

Jerusalem Artichoke Hummus topped with Lamb and Sumac

Damascene Walnut Tarator

Toasted Citrus and Nasturtium Flower Aioli

King Prawn and Blood Orange Charmola Salad

Lamb and Pistachio Kebabs

Spice Scented Spring Lamb with Quince and Mustard Relish

Aleppo Chilli Marinated Chicken Kebabs

Yiahni – Slow-cooked Lamb with Spring Onions, Cherries and Lemon

Sea Bream with Currants and Pistachios and a Blood Orange Sauce

Warm King Prawn Pink Radish and Red Onion

Sweet Roasted Peppers on Smoked Aubergine Puree

Cumin-scented Broth of Celeriac, Summer Squash and Orange

That’s not even all of the recipes that fit the bill, there are many more I haven’t listed and many more that could be tweaked. So perhaps a cook book series is not off the cards in the blogging future.

And yes, I have discovered my bottle of pomegranate molasses is sugar free! Huge sigh of relief!

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!