Thursday, 8 May 2014

Scallops with crispy bacon and white wine sauce and "Giro Grande Partenza" from Belfast!

Friday starts the Giro d' Italia. Although I am not passionate about cycling, -certainly I am not a huge fan at all, I used to follow cycling competitions in Spain. But the news this year is that the Giro starts here in Belfast. As strange as it sounded the first time I heard about it (several months ago I thought they were joking when I was told it for the first time) now I got used to the idea. I think of it now as the most natural thing in the world, after weeks in which the city has been getting covered in pink, I am even getting used to a new form of excitement from kids and adults alike over this event, absolutely new for the place. 

I'm still amazed at how surreal the whole thing is, but I am finding lovely all the excitement that surrounds me, and the pride of local people wanting to take the opportunity to show the world how beautiful their home is. It is mixed, however, with  my concern over the tremendously chilly weather that awaits  the poor runners, who in the end are the real stars of the show, (although sometimes all the showbiz style of this things makes it really difficult to remember that, in the end, this was supposed to be an sport event). 

So if any of you follows the Giro “Grande Partenza”, you will almost certainly have a look at the same streets I walk through every morning on my way to work. You might take a glimpse at the impressive University building right close to my office, or see the equally impressive Titanic building (which, by the way, is another of those things that make me smile. You will agree with me that there is some dark sense of humor in making such a tribute to the most famous shipwreck in history. Although, as they say here: “she was perfect when it left here").

If the weather is generous enough and you are lucky, you might also have a spectacular view of astonishing green landscapes, wild seaside and rock cliffs, as wild as they can only be thanks to the wind and constant rain that waters tirelessly this part of the world. And with a bit of luck, just for once, all those good feelings and all those desires of looking forward to the future will be the only news that would come out from here. 

So with all this just around the corner what I want is to prepare a colorful , fast , tasty seafood dish as this one that I prepared today.

 This is the simplest thing you can do, but it is one of those showstopper starters you will use once and again.

Scallops with crispy bacon and white wine sauce

Ingredients (for 2 people)

8 -10 beautiful scallops without coral (frozen if you cannot get them fresh)
80 grams of bacon or pancetta into small dices
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 glass of white wine ( the better the wine, the better the sauce, so go for the best you can afford)
20 grams of butter
Freshly ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
Some sprouts for garnish ( optional)
Olive oil


Prepare a light b├ęchamel. Start by melting butter. Add flour and cook it slightly before adding the wine. If necessary, add some more wine, until having a creamy light texture. Add a hit of nutmeg, salt and pepper (not too much as bacon will be already salty).
In a large skillet, sautee the bacon in a little olive oil, until crispy, but not dry. Remove and let drain on kitchen paper. In the same pan, at medium heat, fry the scallops lightly. Add a bit of salt and pepper, and serve immediately putting some sauce, scallops and bacon in the dish, and garnishing with sprouts.

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

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

Preheat oven at 180┬║. 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


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

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.