Tag Archives: Tapas

Preserved Red Peppers

Preserved Red Peppers

Sunshine in a jar ready for you whenever you feel the need of a little burst of flavour.

Preserved Red Peppers:

It’s time for the next round in the red pepper relay!  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, I got a bit carried away recently with a great deal on red peppers and ended up buying 10 kilos of them.  The good news is not only that I got a bargain, but lots of new recipes.  I’ve been consulting cookbooks, friends and letting my imagination run around with this ingredient and have come up with some really tasty ideas.

In the past, I’ve bought countless jars of preserved red peppers, but have always been disappointed.  There was something about the flavour that jarred with me – I think maybe it’s to do with vinegar levels, of which there is none in this recipe.  Here, I’ve concentrated on bringing out the sweetness of the pepper and I reckon I’ve succeeded.  This simple recipe has hit the right note for me.  The sun dried tomatoes add a depth and a bit of zing whilst the garlic pushes flavour from behind the scenes.

They’ve become unmissable, I’ve been adding them to sauces, salads, pastas, and am going absolutely crazy for them over goat’s cheese.  When I made the peppers I have to admit to thinking maybe I’d made too much, but, now down to my last half jar I’ve hidden it in the cupboard to keep them to myself.

Preserved Red Peppers

Place the sun dried tomatoes on top of the garlic to protect it from burning during roasting.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooling Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

You’ll need some sterilised jars for this recipe.

Ingredients

8 x red peppers, seeds and stalk removed and cut length ways into thirds or quarters depending on the size.
8 to 10 large garlic cloves sliced thinly
150gr / 5.3 oz sundried tomatoes (in oil) chopped finely
3 x tbsps of olive oil to cook the peppers
Around 500ml / 1pt. US / 0.8pt. UK  olive oil cover the peppers in their jars – the amount will depend on the size of the jars and how densely you pack your peppers.
Salt

Preserved Red Peppers

Served on crispy toasted slices of baguette.

Method 

  1. Heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F.
  2. Place the peppers in a roasting tray, skin side down then put one or two slices of garlic on each and about half a teaspoon of sundried tomato. Drizzle over the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and put in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes or until they are soft and have taken some colour here and there.  Be careful not to burn the garlic, you can place the tomato on top to protect it.
  3. Remove the peppers from the oven and sprinkle with some salt, allow to cool and layer them in your jars. Cover the peppers with oil and seal.

Tips and Variations

  • Serve as tapas or antipasto. Or, as a topping for bruschetta and I really like to chop them roughly and sprinkle over salads.
  • You can add the peppers to soups and sauces.
  • The peppers will keep for quite some time, certainly a couple of months. I prefer to store them outside the fridge as the cold makes the olive oil solid.
Preserved Red Peppers

Serve with tapas or antipasti.

 

White Asparagus Parmesan Crisps

White Asparagus Parmesan Crisps

White Asparagus Parmesan Crisps:

Huge confession, I’m not really into white asparagus.  Eek!  I know, that makes me almost an outcast in the Netherlands – the Dutch are obsessed with it, but well, I can take it or leave it.  But, I don’t hate it and I’m always up for a challenge so when the short season comes around I normally have a go preparing and cooking it in a different way.  One of this years successes has been these little crisps – it’s a really tasty combination, but make sure you get a bit of both ingredients in every bite for maximum effect.

They’re a really nice canapé idea for any gathering, especially if you are going the whole hog and preparing a celebratory white asparagus menu.  Serve with a nice glass of Pinot auxerrois, a little sweet with a little bubble from the Alsace.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes
Cooking Time: 7 minutes

Serves 4  to 6
6 x white asparagus, cleaned, peeled and the first 2.5cm/1in of the stalk removed (the woodiest part).
100gr /  3.5 oz. parmesan cheese, finely grated.
Some freshly ground black pepper.

Method

  1. Using the fine side of a box grater, grate the asparagus. Squeeze out excess liquid.  The best way to do this is to squeeze it through a clean tea towel.
  2. Heat your oven to 180°C/360°F.
  3. Combine the asparagus and the parmesan in a bowl – use a fork, with a spoon the mix will ball and clump.
  4. Line a large roasting tray or trays with baking paper.
  5. Place spoonfuls (about a tbsp) of the mix at about 2.5cm/1in apart on the tray.
  6. Give each little mound a sprinkle of pepper and place in the oven for about 7 minutes. Check after 5.  They are ready when the cheese is bubbling and melted and has taken a little colour.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before taking the crisps off the tray.

Tips and Variations

  • It is important to combine the asparagus and the cheese evenly so that each crisp tastes of both ingredients.
  • The crisps don’t keep very well, they will go soggy and so are best served within a couple of hours of being made.

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White Asparagus Parmesan Crisps

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

Canapé Recipe: Roast Pepper with Halloumi Cheese

HalloumiPepper

I always do this, get myself lulled into a false sense of security by a little bit of January sunlight.  It gets me in the mood for spring evenings, more light, and some great snacks and drinks to share with friends.  So, I have decided I don’t care if it’s still winter, I’m going to make some sunny canapés!

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

 Ingredients for about 6 to 8 servings
2 x large red peppers, de-seeded and chopped into squares of about 5cm /2 in.  x 3 cm / 1.5 in.
1 x packet of halloumi cheese (about 250gr / ½ lb.) sliced quite thinly from the smallest edge
About 2 x tsps of dried chili flakes
About 2 x tsp of honey
1  tbsp of olive oil

Method

  1. Set your oven to heat to 200°C/400°F °C.
  2. Place the pieces of red pepper in a roasting tray and drizzle with the olive oil.
  3. When the oven has reached temperature, place your tray with the peppers in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Check after about 12 minutes, you want the peppers to have softened, the edges to have browned a little but for them to still retain a little bite.
  4. Whilst the peppers are cooking, place a griddle on the heat.  Once the pan is hot, place the slices of cheese in the pan.  Let them cook until you get those characteristic barbeque style stripes on each side.  You will have to do this on a hot heat otherwise it will not work.
  5. Remove the peppers from the oven, place them on your serving plate, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with chili flakes.  Serve immediately.

 Tips and Variations

  • This is great served as a snack with drinks or part of a tapas menu.
  • These are best served warm so that the cheese is crispy.  This means that you need to get your timing right with regards the peppers and the cheese being ready at the same time.  I would recommend giving yourself about 10 minutes to get the cheese ready.
  • Adjust the amount of honey and chili to suit your taste.  Fresh chili works too.

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.