Mojo Picón

Last night we (anafmora & cataspanglish) went for dinner with Ande Gregson, Kate PickeringSara Bonjoch & Olivier Schulbaum after the #media140 conference. One of the dishes was papas arrugadas with mojo picön which everybody loved & reordered. I promised everybody my receipe which Ana eats by the mortar-load every time I make it. Lo prometido es deuda as they say, so here it is, based on the recipe from the brilliant book by Janet Mendel, “Cooking in Spain” (this is the best book I’ve found about Spanish cooking, & I’ve tested many of the recipes on Ana’s very “authentic” mama. Buy it!)

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic

1 chilli

paprika (to taste – I put about 2 tsp)

cumin (to taste – I put about 1tsp)

oregano

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp vinegar

1oo ml water

salt & pepper

Put the garlic & chilli in the the mortar & grind them with the pestle. Add the paprika, cumin, oregano, oil & vinegar and keep mixing. Mix in the water and season with salt & pepper.

Spoon it over anything – fish, spuds, chicken, veg, meat etc. and scoff

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The Flavour of the Origins

 

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Yes, it’s been a long time and it’s a long story but…

A few months ago I asked my mate Simpson to write about menu’s del dia for Spanish Sauce, but he declined saying he was no longer a menu man. Although it seems I have been living here forever, when I first arrived I met Simpson and he turned my menu del dia hobby into a passion. The menu del dia is the fixed-price lunchtime menu offered by eateries all over Spain. If you are on any sort of a budget you HAVE to take advantage, but this great institution comes in all shapes, sizes and flavours and Simpson is blessed with a veritable Sherlock Holmesian ability to sniff out the worthy ones from amongst the flotsam and jetsam of midday culinary offerings.

Now me and Simpson bicker constantly about everything, but I’m not the only menu lover who takes note when the maestro allows us mere mortals to share The Knowledge. There are many of us who are happy to traipse from one side of Barcelona to another when the man announces that “today is Thursday and toca codillos al horno in the Najera.”Don’t get in our way, because we have appetite and are going to get there By Any Means Necessary.

Beacuse another of Simpson’s abillities is Instant Menu Memory – you can consult him on where to get the best lentejas on a Monday, where the best portions are served and the best place to go depending on where you are. He led me on a merry trail around BCN as my midriff widened and plans were hatched to somehow fund a project called “Pinchen and Simpson Eat Spain”.

Yesterday, out of the blue as is his wont, he called and asked if I was interested in a piece for this blog. It arrived at 1:57 this morning and I read it on the iPhone in bed. As I started putting the post together I checked out the restaurant on Google and realised that it was the kind of place that I would have dismissed instantly, the kind of place that only my trust in Simpson would make me eat in. It is with great pleasure then that I present what will hopefully be the first of many posts by the menu Man. Bugger the Michelin Guide, this is the Simpson guide:

Look, this might take a while………..
Is this a review for a restaurant, a way of eating, how to choose an eaterie…..? Nationalism & cookery, discuss!

This is a tricky time of the year to select what to buy, what to knock up, where to eat and indeed what to choose once you get there.
Autumn, the fall, great time for ingredients and even greater time for getting into a quandry with a sweaty menu in your mitts.
It’s the middle of one season, but it’s unseasonable weather………. do i go hot, do i go cold, is it time to opt for soups, or are salad days back again?
You tell me, ‘cos i don’t know.      

There we were, perusing the menus placed outside Barcelona’s eateries, i was already rueing my – is it conservative or liberal? – choice of layers (when it’s warm & you’ve put on too many, i mean) which didn’t exactly endear me to any of the places that had soups, habas a la Catalana (broad-beans in a sauce and a winter staple in my book) and salads all vying for a place in the list of starters.

Is there not a halfway house? That is to say, some autumnal or spring dishes which could help get punters out of said menu quandry.

There are plenty of seasonal ingedients that abound at the minute: squash, pumpkin, sweet-potato, chestnuts. But do they make it onto a bog-standard Barcelonan menu? Do they buggery. You see, that’s what i want, a bog-standard 10-12 euro menu with seasonal stuff that’s good and plentiful, at the moment, and reasonably-priced.

Then, right in the ultra-touristy and uber-trendy Borne i clapped eyes on a place that i’ve seen reviewed somewhere, no-smoking inside – buttons were already getting pressed – and on its list of seasonal starters was a pumpkin & date soup. La Llavor dels Origens was packed, but there was table available in 5-10 minutes, and the waitress whose accent was heavy French was friendly.
That gave my pregnant lunching-companion and i time to visit the church opposite – her choice not mine – but it was shut –  the priest’s choice not ours, i bet he was tucking into something seasonal as well. This actually played into our hands as while walking around we picked up a summer food-magazine placed outside by the restaurant for people to take, and clocked that there are two sections to the place. (One of them where they keep the bottles, and very nice it looked too).

We were seated in the part which looks out onto the Passeig del Borne and the church, more natural light but the decor was no great shakes. That hardly mattered as the place-mats contain details of the seasonal dishes while the magazine is in fact a menu containing all of the information you might require about their food, drinks and Catalan cuisine en general.

All dishes are well-described, with information on its origin and ingredients, with much, much more besides. If only more places could do such a thing, it would certainly make solo-dining a less boring experience. As the “Tardor” edition was their 11th number, at four editions per calendar-year, that tells me even with my sketchy mathematical knowledge that “Origens” (it’s the biggest word of the name printed on the mag’s frontpage) is one season off its third birthday.
Another foible i have – it’s a long list as anyone who has eaten out with me can attest – is where starters end and main courses begin. I’m a man who likes to mix & match; and again the place obliges so that all dishes are more-or-less the same size and are served, at least in our case, at the same time.      

This is what we had:
She: A spinach-dish (medieval) with bacon, raisins, pinenuts, cottage-cheese and almond-dust; A stuffed-apple of minced pork and beef, lemon-peel, sugar, cinnamon, a touch of egg and a “carquinyoli” biscuit-powder (Empordà).
He/i: Vegetable-stuffed aubergine (general Catalan); lamb in honey & rosemary sauce. i was also pleased that my favourite local-beer (A K Damm) is stocked, i cannot comment on the wines but a lot of variety was stocked and there is a mound of info on them in the magazine.

My companion’s apple dish was one of the best things i’ve ever eaten and consequently was tithed extensively by my greedy fork & remnants of bread. i told the waitress so, who told the Head-Chef which resulted in a conversation via the serving-hatch, which i am wont to do when so moved – i even moaned about my main dish, that it lacked a little something! That little something was probably just of simple solution like being hotter or just more, or maybe it was just that i was sore as SHE had got the best dish.

Total price, 35 euros, and i shall recommend it to anyone who is trapped in the tourist-hinterland of the gothic quarter. i like the idea of a place espousing local traditions and dishes in the nightmare of the false ethnic, cod pizza & pasta and ubiquitous Basque tapas-bars that abound wherever tourist and his & her money abound.  

Give me nationalism over that any time, at least it has a connection to the soil and its food. 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Fried anchovies – not for the squeamish

WARNING – IF YOU DON’T LIKE PHOTOS WITH BLOOD AND GUTS PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS POST

I often get the impression that people don’t eat fish more because they are not sure how to prepare them, so here we are going to show a step by step method for preparing anchovies to be shallow fried.

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First wash your fish and pat them dry

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Now cut off the heads and pull out the innards

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Spinkle with a light layer of salt to absorb moisture, dip them in flour & shallow fry in olive oil

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Serve with a slice of lemon, some lettuce, bread and a glass of white wine. Simple and great food.

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Faves a la Catalana

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This is Mediterranean cooking at its simple best. Fresh, seasonal ingredients and good quality olive oil – nothing more, nothing less. This is the meatless version of the classical Catalan dish that I usually make. The traditional dish usually has slices of botifarra (Catalan blood sausage) and maybe botifarra blanca (white Catalan sausage). The most important thing about this recipe, and all seasonal cooking, is that the ingredients are as fresh as possible.

Ingredients

500g broad beans (preferably in their pods)
small onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 ripe tomotoes
sprig of fresh mint
sprig of fresh thyme
half a bay leaf
glass of anis
salt & black pepper

Shell the broad beans (if you’ve got kids, get them to do this and they are more likely to eat the dish). Finely chop the onion and slOOwly sweat in a heavy-bottomed frying pan with the diced garlic. Add the herbs and then the tomatoes – without skin or pips (to remove the skin, make a cross in the bottom of the tomatoes, put them in boiling water and in water with ice cubes. The skin will then come off easily.)

When the liquid from the tomotoes has evaporated, add the beans, a little water and the anis. Season and cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes. If using sausage, add after 15 minutes and cook around 5 minutes .

Serve with bread to mop up the juices.

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Spanish food event in Johannesburg

The Slow Food Johannesburg Convivium are holding a Spanish food event on May 6th with Spanish food, wines and exhibitions.
For all the details and an excellent summary of Spanish cuisine, check out the event page here

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Lentejas

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Lentejas is one of those classic Spanish dishes that really has no translation (literally lentils) – it just is. A staple of the good old menu del día, usually to be found steaming onto restaurant tables on Mondays, lentejas should not be confused with ensalada de lentejas, or lentejas con… – no, lentejas is simply lentejas.

At its most basic this dish is just the pulse cooked in a pot with garlic, maybe a bit of bacon, ham and/or chorizo, and a bay leaf or two. No two cooks do it the same and my recipe is an adaptation of the magnificent lentils served up in the Bar Fayon here in my village in Huesca. The señora in the Fayon basically gets the lentils cooking, makes a sofrito and then adds the two together after pushing the sofrito through what in Spain is called a chino (see photo below). This is great because it means that you can use ingredients that your kids probably wouldn’t eat if they could see them.

Ingredients

250g lentils (pardina)
Half a head of garlic (or less or more to taste)
Half a leek
A couple of carrots
Tomatoes (a large tin if you don’t have fresh)
Small green or red pepper
A chorizo
Wine
Cumin
Paprika
Bay leaf
Parsley
Salt & black pepper

Rinse and check lentils for stones then cover with plenty of water. Throw in the bay leaf and bring almost to the boil. Cover and simmer. Get the sofrito on the go – heat some oil in a heavy bottomed pan and slowly brown the chorizo and sweat the garlic.

Roughly chop the rest of the vegetables into small pieces and add them, the ones with longest cooking times first.

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If using chorizo, try to get the juices really flowing, turning the colour of the oil. When the vegetables have softened, turn the heat up add the white wine and let reduce. Then add the tomatoes, reduce heat and simmer.

When the carrots can be mashed with a fork, remove the chorizo and pass the sofrito through the chino strainer, or blend it and add to the lentils which should be cooked. Add the cumin, paprika, parsley, salt and pepper. Simmer for around 10 minutes. In Spain everybody likes lentils in their own way with more or less liquid. If you have too much, turn the heat up and let it evaporate. Serve the lentils in a bowl and top with slices of the chorizo. For a vegetarian/vegan version just leave out the spicy sausage

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