Tag Archives: Spanish Food

Spanish Food Secrets

CarmonaView

I’ve loved all things Spanish for some years now.  This is thanks to a good friend who introduced me to the country.  Stupidly, I thought that Spain was all about the worst of northern European tourists and their rather restricted diets!  How wrong could I be – there is so much more to the country and its culinary heritage than the worst elements of the tourist industry.

Every time I visit Spain (I try to get there at least once a year), I love to visit a new Parador.  The Paradors are authentic Spanish hotels, which are situated in the most fantastic locations.  The hotels are very often converted monestaries or other historic buildings.  The great thing is that they are often located in places that I would never consider visiting, so, over the years I have discovered some real gems.

CarmonaParador

The latest of these discoveries is the Parador in Carmona, a real Spanish town, only 30km from the city of Seville and 23 km from Seville airport.  As with all Paradors, the menu’s reflect the local cuisine, but, as good as they are, there is nothing like getting out and about and tasting it for yourself.  For me, Carmona is all about the tapas.  If you ever get there, head for the main square and take your pick.  Every bar has it’s own speciality.  Some are more meat based and some more fish.  The local speciality is a tapa or ‘racione’ (larger portion) made with chickpeas, spinach and spices.  This definitely has a taste of Northern Africa so often found in the food of Andalusia.  The city walls were not the only thing the Moors left behind, their influence on the food is obvious too.

TapasSpinachChick

Apart from tapas, there is another simple aspect of Spanish food life that I really enjoy.  I like to find a local café, one that is buzzing.  I head there around 10:30 each morning for a coffee and tostada con tomate.  You could be forgiven for thinking that this is nothing special, but, this simple morning snack of toasted bread with butter or olive oil and some puréed tomatoes is something much more to me.  It is the essence of Spanish food and life.  Simple, good ingredients, respect for food,  pride in giving good service, friends, family, life, love……Spain.

TomatoBread2

Recipe for Lentil Soup with Chorizo

LentilChorizoSoup

A variation on a theme, I suppose you could call this.  After a winter of making big broths based on lentils, I still had a lot of the little dried beads in my store cupboard.  I know, you can keep lentils for ages, years probably.  Thing is, I felt them looking at me, challenging me.  I couldn’t shake it.  The feeling of finding a recipe to bring my winter lentil soups into the spring.  Then it dawned on me.  Chorizo! Of course, that would do it.  Chorizo would give a that burst of sunshine I was looking for!

Preparation Time: less than 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 25 to 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6
1 x tbsp of sunflower (or other flavourless oil)
1.2 liter / 2.5pt US / 2.1pt UK of chicken stock
2 x shallots chopped finely
2 x large cloves of garlic chopped finely
200gr / 7 oz. chorizo chopped into small cubes.  (I use ready cooked, but you can use raw too.)
2 x tsp of tomato purée
2 x tsp of smoked paprika powder (if you can’t find it, just use normal paprika powder)
1 x tbsp fresh thyme leaves
200gr / 7oz. yellow lentils (or red)
Salt and pepper
Optional – some fresh chives chopped finely to dress

LentilChorizIngred

 Method

  1. In a large pan, heavy bottomed pan heat the oil on a medium high heat and add the shallot and garlic.  Fry for a minute or so allowing the shallot and garlic to soften.
  2. Add the chorizo and stir through giving it about 30 seconds to give off its colour and flavour.  If you are using raw chorizo you may wish to give it a little bit more time here.  Remember though, it will have enough time to cook through later.
  3. Add the thyme, tomato purée, paprika powder and lentils.  Stir the lentils though and then add the stock.
  4. Add a little bit of salt and some black pepper.  Cover your soup and allow it to simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and softened to your taste.
  5. Check for seasoning and serve.

LentilChorizoPan

 Tips and Variations

  • If you leave the soup to stand for a while or overnight (which makes the flavour even better), you may find that it becomes thicker.  Just add a little water and stir through before heating up.  Be careful not to add so much water that you dilute the flavour as well as the consistency.

 

Tasty Tapas!

TapasWine

Whether it goes by the name of tapas, mezze, canapé, antipasti  or any other, there is nothing better in my book than a great snack to enjoy with your pre-dinner drinks.

All these geographic and cultural variations on a theme, just goes to show that I am not the only one who thinks so.

Although,  if you pushed me to choose a favourite  (not that hard though), my personal top of the list would have to be the Spanish snacks which go under the collective name of tapas.

The tapa had very humble, and practical beginnings.  The story goes that somebody, some very clever Spanish person to whom I am eternally thankful, decided it would be a good idea to cover their drink with some bread to prevent flies and other insects from getting at it before you did.  They also decided that the dry bread was a bit boring and so added some tasty toppings.  From this, came the seemingly never ending list of tapas options with regional variations and specialities from the whole country.

There’s lots about tapas that I love.  Of course as I mentioned above,  the fact that they are so varied and are served with your drinks is in itself great.  However, there are a couple of things that make tapas jump out for me above the offerings from other cultures.

Firstly, I feel that Spanish food, in general, is totally (and very unfairly) under rated.  We hear so much about the great food of its European neighbours in Italy and in France,  but Spain is often left out of this foodie group.   Since I have been lucky enough to travel through Spain on a few occasions, I cannot imagine why their food is not held in the high regard of other European countries.  The only reason I can think of is that so many tourists head for the costas and of course for the cuisine of their home countries, which, is pretty poor, and give the real Spanish food a wide berth, so don’t know what it is.  I also have a sneaking suspicion that it has something to do with the Spanish culture itself.  I find the Spanish to be slightly more reserved  than their Italian cousins and not as boastful as their French friends when it comes to showing off and promoting their food culture.  I am not saying that the French and Italians have no grounds to be proud of their cuisines, but more than the Spanish have just as much right.  The strange thing is though, that the Spanish, amongst themselves celebrate food like nobody’s business.  If you take the time to move away from the typical Spanish holiday resort, it seems like every village has its own speciality, which every villager can tell you about with passionate flair and a sense of seriousness that it seems as though their life almost depends on the delicacy.  Which, probably at one time it did.

Having said that, I love the feeling that when in Spain there is always something new to discover,  that I am the first person to travel to that area and eat their tapas.

I also love the variety.  Spain being a large country has huge regional variations in its food and this is reflected in the tapas.

And of course tapas is very often made with leftovers.  There is something that really appeals to me about using every piece of food, and I have a real admiration for those who treat even the smallest of scraps with respect and give them a second life by turning each morsel into a tasy tapa.

 

Tapas: Tomato Bread with Anchovies

TapasTomAnchovy

In my opinion, the simplest and the best!

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: none

 Ingredients for 6 tapas
300gr/10.5oz. ripe tomatoes
1 x large clove of garlic, peeled and halved.
12 slices of a baguette style bread (ciabatta works too)
About one tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
12 good quality anchovies
Salt to taste (if you need it, the anchovies will provide quite a bit of salt)

Method

  1. Quarter the tomatoes and place them in food processor (or liquidize) and blitz them until they are smooth.
  2. Toast your bread, either in your toaster, under the grill or in a grill pan if you prefer.
  3. Whilst still warm, rub each slice of toasted bread on one side with the cut side of your garlic.
  4. On each slice of spoon over the puréed tomato, then lay an anchovy over each slice, then drizzle some olive oil over each tapa and add salt if you wish.

Tips and Variations

  • If you have any puréed tomato left over, keep it in some Tupperware in the fridge.  I like to eat it on toasted bread without the anchovy or garlic.  This is a version you will see very often being served in bars and cafés in Spain as a sort of elevensies style snack.  Or of course you can add it to any tomato sauce you may make.

Tapas: Chorizo and Potatoes

TapasChorizoPots

Ok, so not all my tapas is authentic, but I try and be creative with authentic ingredients and match them to what I can get at home.  This is a tapa that I would make with left over potatoes.  I always have some peas in the freezer and some chorizo in the fridge (I highly recommend this!), so am ready to go.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes (includes time to cook the potatoes)

Cooking Time: 7 minutes

Ingredients for 6 tapas
2 x tsp olive oil
75gr chorizo, chopped into small cubes (I used the cooked version of chorizo for this recipe)
250gr boiled potatoes, cut into cubes of about 1.5cm
75gr frozen peas (you can defrost them if you like, but easiest is to use them straight from the freezer)
2 x spring onions chopped finely
1 x tsp of smoked paprika powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan, add the spring onions and cook, stirring around, for about a minute, then add the chorizo, stir through, allowing the chorizo to release its oils and flavours for about 30 seconds.  Do this on a medium heat.
  2. Add the peas, stir through until they cook a little, this will only take a minute or two.
  3. Add the paprika powder, stir through, then add the potatoes, stirring them so that they are covered in the coloured oil.
  4. Add salt and taste, serve hot or cold.

Tips and Variations

  • This is ideal to use up some left over potatoes, however, if you are cooking potatoes especially for this dish, the best way to do that is to place your potatoes (I  like to leave the skin on) in a pan in cold, salted water, cover and bring to the boil.  Cut your potatoes to about 2.5cm squares.  Once the water is boiling, remove the lid and gently boil until the potato gives no resistance to a sharp knife tip.  Drain, place the colander in which you drained your potatoes on top of the pan in which they were cooked and set aside for a minute.  This allows them to dry and gets rid of all the water.
  • You can also use chorizo which has not been cooked for this recipe.  Should you do this, you will need to cook it through and so when you add it to the onions and oil in the pan, this stage will take a few minutes longer.