Monday, 6 January 2014

Spicy roasted vegetables soup




I do not know about you, but I am desperate right now for being on a diet of vegetables and fruit, for a week at least. It is not that I have had too much during the holidays, really. It is more the fact of just having so much food around, all the time, for so much time that made me so full of everything!
The whole family came back home a couple of days ago, and even though tomorrow it is not a bank holiday here, I could not resist the tradition of preparing a Roscon de Reyes (you can see my traditional recipe here), sharing it with some friends while the girls watched the Parade from Madrid on the computer, and be able to, finally, say goodbye to Christmas Holidays.




Right now I feel like having fresh, clean, simple food which do not leave me with a sad stomach. If you love food, you know that some foods leave your stomach kind of sad. You know the food is fine, but you do not feel full, it leaves you with a feeling of emptiness, even knowing that you had enough food. It is not always the same kind of food, it is not even a matter of portion size. It is only that sometimes you need some comforting food, something nice, nutritious, healthy but delicious, that allows you to go back to normal.
Form me, that kind of food is always a soup. I always feel like having soup. Summer, winter, no matter what. You can put into this one nearly anything you have at hand, and you will hardly get wrong. The difference from other soup recipes is that for this one I have roasted the vegetables first with a pinch of harissa. It gaves a wonderful and special taste to the final soup. The result is a simple, fresh, delicious one. Just like the promise of a whole new year full of new recipes that we will devour one mouthful at a time. 

Spicy roasted vegetables soup

Ingredients
1 small onion
2 small potatoes
2 carrots
1 small leek (just the white part)
1 red pepper
1 teaspoon of harissa (o ras el hanout, grounded)
Olive oil
1 spoonful of natural yogurt, to serve (optional)
Black pepper, grounded


Directions
Preheat oven at 180º. Peel, clean and cut the vegetables into similar portions. Put them on an oven tray, covered with oven paper. Add some olive oil and the harissa, and mix well to cover the vegetables.  Put them into the oven for 20 minutes. Once the vegetables are roasted, put them in a saucepan with enough water just to cover them, and cook them for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender. Blend the soup into a silky texture, and serve with a dollop of natural yogurt, some olive oil and a pinch of freshly grounded black pepper.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Tortilla de patatas




I guess tortilla is in Spain what Pizza is in Italy. It is a very inexpensive dish, easy to do, with the same ingredients (well, if you skip the debate over onion, which I will address in a minute) but it tastes differently in each home. For Spaniards, mum´s tortilla is more or less like Mamma´s pasta o pizza for Italians. Some other would prefer the corner´s bar tortilla on top of a slice of fresh bread around noon, also known as pincho de tortilla. But no matter what, we love it, we cook it, we enjoy it, and we share it whenever we have the opportunity.
No matter which one you prefer, this is really comfort food for us. And for me, it has all what it is needed to be a winner dish time and again: the simplest pantry ingredients, an easy to follow cooking technique and a bit of practice. That is all you will need to master this traditional but timeless dish.
You will only need some potato, eggs, and a generous amount of olive oil (do not worry, you can use it afterwards for other dishes and it will be perfect). I consider onions the other mandatory ingredient, as for me tortilla without them, is simply a good idea badly executed. It is the final addition to make this dish perfect, but for many people in Spain onion is a no-no in tortilla. My advice: try once each, and then stick to your favorite. No one will ever accuse you of not doing a proper one just because of the onions.
 And, no matter what, you should try this at home at least once. Results will be really satisfying every time, you can feed a crowd with minimum effort, and if there are leftovers, (I really doubt it), they  will be a perfect breakfast the following morning. Actually, I save a portion for breakfast, as for as much as I love tortilla fresh, I even enjoy it more the following morning, with a generous serve of fresh bread. And if you have never tried before, try to put your tortilla between two slices of sourdough  bread, and you will embrace a real Spanish meal on the go: bocadillo de tortilla. Although, to be true, we will never have it on the go. We rather stop for having it with a really chilled beer. And as simple as that, you will be absolutely happy for a while.


Tortilla de patatas

Ingredients

8 egss
1 kg potatoes
400 grams onion
500 ml olive oil
Salt

Preparation
Peel off your potatoes and slice them as thin as you possibly can.
If there is only a good reason for having a proper working mandolin, it is for preparing potatoes for tortilla. I strongly recommend you to use one, but if you do not own one and are unsure about buying it, you can simply use a very sharp knife. (Some people cut potatoes into small cubes. If you are going to give me only a bit of credit, please, cut them into slices. Tortilla needs the potatoes that way to deserve be called tortilla).
Put them into a large bowl of cold water to prevent them to get brown while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Cut the onions in slices as thin as your potatoes.
In a large anti adherent frying pan, put the olive oil at medium- high and wait until hot but not smoking. Use a dry slice of potato to test temperature. When it is hot enough, put the dry potato and onion slices inside and turn down heat to low. The objective is for the potatoes and onions to cook slowly in the oil, not to get fried and burnt very quickly. Add salt, and move evenly so that they cook slowly, and do not get burn.  It should take 20 to 30 minutes for them to cook. Try them. By now, potatoes might be broken into pieces, and onion should be transparent and well cooked. Remove the pan from the stove, and separate the potatoes and onion form the oil and put them into a large bowl. Reserve the olive oil, as you can use it for frying other dishes. Simply, use it for cooking, not to toss any salad.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, salt slightly and add them to the potato onion mix. Put the frying pan again on the stove and add two generous tablespoons of the reserved oil. Turn heat to high and add the mixture of potatoes, onions and eggs. With a wooden spoon, mix well while the eggs get settled, and after 3 or 4 minutes, just move the pan in circular movements, so that you allow the tortilla to settle and the eggs to cook and create a coat for the mixture. Keep it like that of another 4 or 5 minutes. Put a large dish on top of the pan and in a single movement, turn it downside up. The plate should be the exact size of the frying pan to allow you to turn it properly, so you can decide to use a smaller pan for this last step and fry two smaller tortillas instead.  Now you should have the cooked side of your tortilla facing you on the plate. Add another two table spoons of oil to the pan, and smoothly but securely slide the tortilla into the pan. The cooked part should now be on top, so that the uncooked will be done in this step. Allow it to settle for 4 to 5 minutes, moving the pan in circles, so that the tortilla does not get burnt, but evenly cooked and settle. Remove from the heat, put into a plate and enjoy it warm, or at room temperature, preferably with a generous serve of fresh bread.
Once you are familiar with the technique (it is not really rocket science, you will only need some practice), you can add other ingredients to this basic recipe. I enjoy particularly adding some green peppers and courgettes. Slice them as with the potatoes, and your tortilla will be packed with different flavors and more veggies.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Gazpacho with basil cream cheese ice cream bites


Well, after moving from Majorca to Belfast a few weeks ago,  I am just trying to settle in here. Specially in the cooking and food front. 

House is up and running, job seems ok, the children are finding a really welcoming environment -as well as the adults: I can only say I have felt so warmly welcomed so far- .... BUT when you are a food blogger (yes, I had been blogging for a while in Spanish at Tengo un horno y sé cómo usarlo) you  need to go on blogging, cooking, testing, writing about food, taking photos and so on.  However, I am finding it a bit tricky right now.

When you move from one country to another, you realize that there are a lot of little tiny things from your everyday life that you take for granted. It is not that you now live in a different language, use a different currency, or that your new car will have the wheel on the other side (by the way: I warn you. I am about to drive in here, babies!). Actually, I was prepared for all that stuff and, probably because I expected it, it has not been bad or difficult at all. 
However, I had not realized how used I was to have my cooking stuff readily avalaible. It is weird to realize you need any ingredient and not knowing automatically where to find it, what the best brand for a particular dish is, or the like. 
It has only been a couple of weeks, so I am more than sure that in another couple or so, I will have discovered a lot of those and I will have "my suppliers" identified again. It is only that it is an awkard feeling. 
By the way, if you can give me some advice on any sites (online or brick & mortar) for baking/cooking ingredients that you know and feel like recomending, I will be really grateful. 

It has been a really hot summer this year. So, for my first weeks here it is a good idea to recover one this I prepared last summer in Spain, in the middle of a torrid Majorcan summer. This is the recipe I am now sharing with you.

This is one of my discoveries from last summer. It is perfect in a hot day, but also in a not so hot one if you like soup and want to give it a Spanish twist.
 It is simple, but so worth sharing! Simply adding some small bites of basil cheese ice cream and a traditional and popular cold soup becomes a really special treat. Really simple, but with a refreshing and unexpected touch on the traditional Spanish gazpacho.

Being one of the most traditional dishes in the South of Spain, gazpacho is a tricky one. For some people, it should be done only in the most traditional way. Personally, I prefer to play and adapt any dish to my preferences, tastes, mood, or even to what's available in my fridge. If the result is ok, I do not worry whether it is "the real thing".
Besides, I only learned to prepare and get used to have gazpacho recently. It has never been a dish I had while growing up, as my parents'  live up north and they never prepared it at home. So I will not go into disputes about the best recipe, the tricks for having a "real" gazpacho or any of the like. I simply share a recipe that works for me, and hopefully, also for you, as it is so easy and delicious that once you prepare it for the first time, you will also introduce your own preferencies until making it yours. 
If you feel a bit intimidated by the cheese basil ice cream bites, you can go only for the gazpacho. However, they will take you only a couple of minutes to prepare and you will get that "Wow" effect for sure. 
   
Use herbs of your choice and change it to your liking. In any case, it is simple, fast, and you'll have a great result.
Sure!



Gazpacho
Ingredients (4 servings approximately)

1 kilo of ripe tomatoes
1 green pepper
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cucumber, peeled
1 small white onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Wash vegetables, clean and diced them. Place in the bowl of the mixer tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onion and cucumber and mix everything well until smooth. Add the oil, vinegar and salt to taste. Whisk, taste and adjust, if necessary, salt, pepper or vinegar. You can add cold water if you prefer it more liquid, or left as is, to taste. I prefer to have mine sieved for a silky texture.  Put into the fridge in a closed container until ready to serve, chilled.


Basil cream cheese  ice cream bites

Ingredients (for about 10-12 bites)

2 tablespoons cream cheese (mascarpone or other cream cheese you like)
Two portions of spreadable cheese (like smailing cow)
Some chopped fresh basil leaves or a little dried basil

Preparation
Put both cheeses in a bowl with the finely chopped basil leaves and mix them with a fork until you integrate all the ingredients. Take portions of dough and shape into balls with a couple of teaspoons, or with your wet hands if you find it easier. Place the balls on a small kitchen table. Once you have formed all the bites put the table with the balls on it in a freezer bag, to prevent them from sticking while freezing. After three to four hours, when they get frozen,  you can remove the table and leave them in the closed bag until use.

To serve,  stir well the gazpacho with a spoon, and put it as cold as you can in a bowl, topped with two or three balls of ice cream, and some fresh basil leaves.