When I was about 3 years old my family spent 3 months in Granada in the south of Spain. My dad was on a sabbatical with work and my mum was still on maternity leave after my little brother and sister had been born. Some of my earliest memories are from our time in Spain – vague, fuzzy recollections of eating jamón sliced off the bone on the balcony of our apartment, rows of kids lined up on the floor for our afternoon siestas at my nursery school and the very specific way that my nursery teacher used to peel fresh oranges (still known to this day as “The Mercedes Way” in our household). To help with all the children at home we had a live-in au-pair, a Spanish woman called Coco, and this is one of her recipes. It’s a rich, hearty stew and despite its peasant origins the dish has bags and bags (and bags) of flavour.
To get the depth of flavour in this dish you really need to get the right bit of Serrano ham – not the light meat which is sliced into thin slivers for eating, but the tough, dark meat right next to the bone usually used for stocks. Of course, if you’re living in Spain then getting your hands on this is easy, but it’s a slightly trickier task in the UK. Try Spanish or Mexican (or other) delis or even the deli counter at your local supermarket – they might do you a nice deal on this part of the ham. In my area of Edinburgh I was struggling to find the meat when I struck the jackpot at the tapas restaurant Tápame. The lovely chef there very kindly gave me a whole Serrano ham bone, which not only had plenty of dark meat on it but also added the most delicious, decadent flavour to the stew. You don’t need to add a bone to the stew – it isn’t included in Coco’s original recipe – but lucky you if you can find one! Be careful about adding salt if you use a bone – you probably won’t need to add any extra salt at all. If you can’t find any dark meat at all, then you can still use slices of the lighter ham, but the flavour won’t be quite the same.
Broad beans are in season right now, and won’t last much longer than the month, so get out to your local green grocers and get cooking!
One year ago:
– Mini puff pastry apple pies
Ingredients (serves two as a main course, or more as part of a spread of tapas) 150-200g dark serrano ham (or a 500g bone, with meat) 1.5-2kg fresh broad beans still in their pods (about 500-600g once podded) 6-8 large Spanish spring onions or 1 white onion 2 garlic cloves Extra virgin olive oil Small glass of white wine Freshly ground black pepper and salt
Optional to serve: fresh bread and poached eggs
Method 1. If you have managed to get your mitts on a gorgeous serrano ham bone then remove as much of the tough, dark meat as possible. You will need a small, very sharp knife to do this – I actually used my Swiss Army pen knife. If you have bought a chunk of meat then simply chop into small pieces.
If you’ve never eaten a chilled soup before, you’re going to just have to go with me on this one. It might seem very strange, or even off-putting, to those who have never tried it before, but believe me when I say that you are missing out and need to rectify that ASAP. Gazpacho, a southern Spanish tomato soup, is probably the most famous of the chilled soup family and it is one of my all-time favourite recipes. There are slight variations in ingredients and methods between the recipes available (some including peppers or bread, some soaking the ingredients overnight before blending, some adding stock or basil at the end), but this simple recipe is the one that my family has always used, passed down from my mum’s mum, and it is the best there is (unbiased family opinion).
Gazpacho makes use of the fresh, young allium produce that are available during the late summer. If you can’t get your hands on any young red onions or “green” garlic, as it is sometimes called, then you can use the regular varieties though you may want slightly reduce the quantity you add to the soup as it will be stronger and sharper in flavour. Err on the side of caution, since you can always add more in after the first blend, but you can’t take it back out at the end! This is the perfect seasonal recipe for a light lunch or supper, or to serve as a starter at a summer dinner party. However, I can also highly recommend having a large bowl of the soup the day after a night of excess – it’s zingy and refreshing, is reminiscent of comfort-food-hero hot tomato soup, has a high water content and is packed with vitamins.
One year ago:
– Refreshing watermelon salad
Ingredients (makes 4-6 servings) 450g ripe tomatoes ½ a cucumber 1 medium young red onion 3 cloves young garlic 450ml tomato juice 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp white wine vinegar Salt and pepper
Green bell pepper and breadsticks or croutons to serve
Method 1. Begin by peeling and deseeding the tomatoes. The easiest way to do this is to plunge the tomatoes into a pan of boiling water for 30 seconds.
Remove and drain – the skin may already have started to blister – and leave to cool for a few minutes.
The skin should now very easily peel away, and then the tomatoes can be cut in half and the seeds either cut or scraped out.
2. Roughly chop the cucumber (including the peel and seeds), red onion and garlic and place in a large bowl.
3. Add the peeled and deseeded tomatoes to the bowl, roughly chopped.
4. Pour in the tomato juice, and add the olive oil, white wine vinegar and a generous season of salt and pepper.
5. Use a hand blender to blend the ingredients together. I like to keep the soup just a little bit chunky, but you can blend until you have the consistency you want – for a very smooth texture you will need to pass the mixture through a sieve. Taste the soup for seasoning (including vinegar, onion and garlic, not just salt and pepper) and adjust if necessary.
6. Chill the soup for at least 2 or 3 hours – this step is very important, so don’t skip it unless you are incredibly short on time, in which case having the tomato juice already chilled in the fridge is a top tip from my mum.
Serve the soup chilled, in chilled bowls if you’re feeling extra fancy. Top with diced green pepper and, traditionally, homemade croutons either baked or fried in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. At home we always just broke up breadsticks to scatter over the soup, which is far less effort and a little healthier too. This time we spotted a box of olive oil crostini at the shops, which worked perfectly too.
This soup will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 or 6 days, the flavours mingling and only improving with time.
Have you eaten chilled soups before, and if so what is your favourite type? Do you have your own gazpacho recipe? – I’d love to hear about it below!…
Following on from the sangria recipe in my last blog post, I have another Spanish-themed recipe for you. This would actually be a perfect dish to serve with a big jug of chilled sangria, either by itself as a main course or alongside a feast of other tapas dishes like tortilla, calamari or patatas bravas.
This is a simple recipe, with ingredients that work together like a dream. The chorizo is salty and spicy, but doesn’t overpower the sweet prawns. The lemon and white wine (or, even better, sherry) add the acidity that the prawns need, and the parsley brings everything together. This dish is best made with raw, unpeeled prawns, but I couldn’t get my hands on any raw ones this time. Using cooked prawns is fine, but reduce the cooking time accordingly – add the prawns and alcohol at the same time, rather than waiting for the prawns to colour first. If you’re not on board with peeling your own prawns then feel free to use ready-peeled ones, but the shells add extra seafood flavour and there’s nothing better than an interactive dinner. Who doesn’t like to play with their food?
Ingredients (serves 1 as a generous main, or 2-3 as a starter or tapas dish) 150g chorizo 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 150g prawns with the shell on 1 small glass (about 150ml) of white wine or sherry 1 lemon
1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
Method 1. Slice the chorizo into small bite-sized chunks.
2. Heat a non-stick frying pan and add the chorizo – you won’t need any extra oil as the chorizo will release a lot of its own as it fries. Fry for a few minutes until just starting to brown.
3. Add the garlic and mix well in the chorizo oil. Fry for 30 seconds.
4. Toss the prawns in the chorizo and garlic. If you are using raw prawns then let them cook like this for 2 minutes until opaque, but if you’re using cooked prawns then add the white wine straight away. Allow to bubble for a few minutes until the alcohol has cooked off and the liquid has thickened slightly.
5. Turn the heat off, squeeze over half the lemon and sprinkle with parsley.
Make sure to serve this with lots of nice bread to soak up all the juices, and an extra-chilled wine is essential. You can pile this up on an attractive serving platter and top with more chopped parsley and lemon wedges. Or, if you’re home alone as I was, eat it straight from the pan in your pyjamas. Heaven.
Last week was named Salad Week and we had different summer salads from sweetcorn salsa to refreshing watermelon to raw fennel. All delicious, healthy dishes, packed with strong flavours and perfect for summer eating. However, in the interest of balance this week will be all about booze and frying.
In our house, sangria means New Year (or Hogmanay as we call it here). A slightly odd combination, I’m not actually sure where it came from, but it’s now a firm family tradition. Sangria is one of my favourite alcoholic cocktails, and when I’m in Spain I can drink it by the bucket load with a bowl of olives and be happy with the world. It’s the perfect drink to make for a barbecue during the summer, or for any occasion that involves lots of people, as you can multiply up the quantities to serve as many as you like – just make sure you have a jug big enough!
This recipe is based on one from Katie Stewart’s Cookbook (our cooking bible, as I mentioned before), with a little extra booze and fruit thrown in for good measure. You can follow this exact recipe to start with, but adapt it to your own taste as you learn what works for you. I’ve had some sangrias in Spain that have enough liquor to get you under the table after just a couple of glasses (I remember one particular concoction at a beach bar which included nearly every spirit in the bar – actually very delicious, but totally deadly) so experiment with different spirits if that’s up your street. If you have a particularly sweet tooth then use lemonade instead of soda water, but personally I find this too much. As for the fruit, basically anything goes. We added peach in to this batch and it worked a treat, as would nectarine. Melon is a great addition to sangria, though some people don’t like the taste. I should probably tell you to get a half decent wine to use, and in fact a Rioja is a perfect option if you find a nice bottle, but really this is a great opportunity to use a cheaper wine. Once the fruit, spirits and soda have gone in, no one will be any wiser. Even more true after a couple of glasses have been quaffed.
Ingredients 1 orange 2 lemons Any other fruit you like e.g. apple, peach, melon 1 tbsp sugar 1 tbsp brandy 1 tbsp cointreau 70cl bottle of red wine, chilled
350ml soda water, chilled
Method 1. Chop the fruit into similarly sized pieces. Remove any pips from the lemons and orange, but leave the skin on.
2. Place the fruit into a large jug and pour over the sugar and spirits. Mix well and leave to marinade for at least an hour.
3. Add the chilled red wine to the jug and leave for at least another half hour.
4. When ready to serve top the sangria up with soda water. You can alter the quantities of soda water to your taste, depending on whether you like the sangria weaker or stronger.
5. Fill glasses with ice and pour over the sangria with some fruit pieces.
Serve as a punch at a party, with the main course of a Spanish meal or as an aperitif with olives, some sliced Manchego cheese and serrano ham or just some fresh crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Close your eyes as you sip and you could nearly be on the beaches of Spain.