Fake-dukkah dip

I´ve spent the weekend in Galicia, or rather, on the train, which takes all of eight hours to get there, and eight back. Rather cuts into the w/end, and it made us late for the game yesterday, but never mind. Spain won the European football championship, and aren´t we all glad to have passed a pretty sleepless night from all the shouting and singing.

If your team gets to the final (which Spain never had in years and years) you have to see six matches. You´ll probably see some of those with friends, and some will be at their place and some will be at yours. So you´ll be called upon to produce some kind of nibble to quiet the nerves and settle the stomach of the nervous fan.

Here´s a quick dip I made for the semifinals against Russia. I had Greek yogurt and I had cucumber, but no mint, my usual default combo. My dukkah tin has been empty for months, and though I´ve been meaning to mix up a batch, it´s clearly become one of those things I mean to do but never will.
But in the rush to assemble everything before the game began, inspiration struck, and I came up with a quick and pretty tasty alternative.

Fake dukkah dip

Heat up a non-stick pan, and throw in a handful of sesame seeds, some crushed nuts, and a spoonful of a spice mix. I had a tin of Nomu´s
"Moroccan Rub", but I think anything that has cumin and herbs is a pretty safe bet. Toast this until it´s fragrant, then lay aside to cool a little while you grate and squeeze your peeled and deseeded cucumber.
Mix cucumber and spice mix into the yogurt, add salt and pepper to taste (maybe not too much, if you´ll be dipping salty potato chips), and try to enjoy the game.


Strawberry ice tea

Yesterday we had Sunday morning pancakes, a rare occurrence, but one I really love. I make the batter, J makes the cakes, and we take turns to eat them while they´re hot, drenched in maple syrup and lemon juice.
I also tried to make a strawberry sauce to go with them, by boiling down some sorry looking frozen strawberries I had, with a splash of water and a couple of teaspoons of sugar.
But we gobbled up the pancakes very quickly, and the sauce looked rather gross anyway. I tried pressing it trhough a sieve it seemed ok, a syrupy dark red liquid.
I poured two tablespoonfuls of this, later, into some ice tea. And that I am very happy with. Sugar-free Nestea always needs some tricking out, wether a squeeze of lemon juice or a few mint leaves.
This strawberry syrup makes it a little pink, and changes the flavour just enough.
If you put pieces of strawberry in it, it looks so pretty that you feel you have to throw some kind of a tea party, complete with cucumber sandwiches and teddy bears.


Corazón de melón

Here´s another recipe from the blogging of yore (read the original post here).
The heat has finally arrived. I´m taking pains to close my shutters at noon, to top up the bottles of cold water in the fridge, and to plan my walks carefully, so I´m in the shade as much as possible.
Not that it matters, because when it´s hot it´s hot, and that´s that. But melons have arrived, and they´re always a compensation, wether eaten in chunks or served up, retro-style, with cured ham. Or in the chilled-soup version.
A chilled soup is a good thing to have around on 35ºC plus days like these. Especially if you have guests and want to look like you´ve made an effort, when all you have on the table is cheese and bread.
The only important proviso is that you make it with a juicy melon, the kind we call "toad skin". Galias or cantaloupes are not really going to be any use, because what you want is a fruity pulp on which to float your jamón slivers, nothing more.
So anyway, here´s your recipe, perfectly suited for a blistering day, or for that frustrating moment when you realize that the melon you lugged from the market is only so-so.

Cut the melon, blitz in a processor with a pinch of salt, a good sprinkling of lemon juice, and a grind of pepper. Serve in pretty bowls, and dot liberally with shards of serrano ham (the better the better, of course, but it won´t do to waste your prime ibérico on this).
That´s it.


Marmitako, reloaded

Ok, I´m not proud to admit this, but the Blogs of Note mention has gone to my head. I want to post all the time, anything, and keep those stats up.
However, I´m crazily busy. And there´s also the little thing of my fidelity. I don´t want to sound boring, but I tend to make my favourite things over and over, so it´s not like I can post new recipes every day for very long.
I´ve therefore decided to be a little sneaky, and re-post some of the old recipes from the dark ages of this blog, two years ago. But in order not to bore my faithful readers (hi, mum!), the drawings will be new, and everyone´s happy with that, I hope.
This is for marmitako, a beautiful bonito and potato stew from the Basque Country, up north. Now that white tuna´s in season, and hopefully not too expensive, you just have to make it.


1 kg potatoes
1 kg bonito (albacore), cleaned and cut into bite sized chunks
2 tomatoes, grated
2 onions, choppoed
1 red pepper (green is more orthodox, but I like red), choped
1 garlic clove, chopped
Fish stock (1 litre)
olive oil, salt, pepper

Cover the bottom of a heavy pan with olive oil. Sautee the onion and garlic. When they´re slightly transparent, add the pepper, and a couple of minutes later, the tomato, the salt and some sugar (just a little, while nobody´s looking, and maybe a splash of wine).
Leave it to become a pulpy mess, around 15 minutes. Be patient, because it will be much more delicious, and you´ll be peeling the potatoes , anyway.
Cut them into chunks, but don´t cut the whole way. Make a small indentation, and turn the knife so that the potato is torn, not cut. This will make the starch seep into the broth and thicken it.
Put the potatoes into the sofrito, and add the stock. If it doesn´t cover, add water.
Let the potatoes cook. It will take around 20 minutes.
When they´re done, put the salted tuna chunks inside. Cover, and wait 5 minutes. If they´re not too big, they should be cooked to perfection.

If the broth is very liquid, crush a few of the potatoes in a bowl, and put them back.

This,with a green salad and some crusty bread, will serve four hungry people who´ve been out fishing all day. Or six poor citybound souls, if one of them has brought pudding.


Ajoblanco: the other Spanish chilled soup

Ajoblanco literally means "white garlic", but I´ve seen it translated as "white gazpacho" (which it isn´t) and "almond gazpacho" (which it is, kind of). It sounds more chic that way, I guess, and that´s fine by me, because this is one very chic chilled soup, having almonds as a main ingredient, and being served with fruit floating inside. I also happen to think that the colour of ajoblanco is particulary beautiful, being of a very luminous warm white, nothing like the creamy white of a vichyssoise, or the eggshell of horchata.

Gazpacho will always remain the favourite, because you really can´t beat a bowl of gazpacho on a hot day. But ajoblanco makes for a welcome change, being light and refreshing and, well, not gazpacho, which you might appreciate if you´ve been having it for lunch every single day of every summer.

This here recipe is my adaptation of the one in 1080 recetas. Basically, it´s just the same, but with half the oil. The one in Moro has lots more almonds and way less bread, which I daresay is lovely and luxurious, but since at home we´ve always made the 1080 one, and it´s so good, I haven´t bothered to try the Moro way.

The traditional way is to serve this with grapes floating inside, and maybe a drizzle of precious fruity olive oil. I was all out of grapes, or apples or melon (traditional subsitutes too), so we stoned a few cherries, and it was not only a delicious alternative, but very pretty. The fruit juice made pink swirls in the soup. I think I may have stumbled on a new classic.

Ajoblanco con cerezas

150 gr. raw almonds, without skins. You can buy them ready ground, too.
Garlic (one or two cloves, your call. I suggest you start easy and add more as you go)
100 ml. good olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
200 gr. bread, crusts off, stale if you have it but don´t go crazy if you don´t
salt to taste,
cold water
and grapes, cubes of Granny Smith apples, melon or stoned cherries to serve.

Soak the bread in water if it´s stale, and if not then don´t bother.
Throw the almonds into a food processor and grind them as finely as possible. Now add the garlic, bread (squeezed out if it was soaked), salt, olive oil and a bit of water and pulse til you have a paste.
Add iced water and pulse again, and then just add water until you have the consistency you like. I think ajoblanco should be thin and drinkable, like gazpacho, but there is a school of thought that favours the spoonable, slightly thicker stuff.
Add the vinegar, adjust the salt, and chill it thoroughly.

When it´s time to eat, check again for salt and vinegar, since the cold might have numbed their taste. Serve in soup bowls, scatter a few seeded grapes or stoned cherries, and leave the olive oil on the table for the drizzlers.

The image is courtesy of Agitado no batido , advertisers extraordinaire and its legal owners.



Lobstersquad was on Blogs of Note!!!
Very incredible. To celebrate, I´ll tell you about the dessert we had at Oriza last week.
Egaña Oriza is a wonderful restaurant in Sevilla, some say the best in town. The chef is a very good friend of my parents, too, so it´s a special favourite of ours.
Over the years the menu has changed, and my favourite pudding had dissappeared, but we pleaded nicely and it made a comeback, just for us.
The silly thing is that it´s so easy to make, I don´t know why I haven´t had it in millions of years.
All you have to do is fill a big goblet half and half with fresh orange juice and cava (sparkling white wine), and plop a ball of good vanilla ice cream. Bring it to the table with a couple of straws.
It´s really really good, a mix of tangy and sweet and mellow and sharp and bubbly, and a not too heavy ending to what is usually a heavy meal.
Thank you for all your very sweet comments.


Cheese and mayonaise?

I feel strongly about sandwiches. I love them, but most of all I hate to see them badly treated. A bad sanwich is an insult. Pies, soups, sauces- they can be tricky. Anyone might be distracted at a critical moment and overcook pasta, or burn a sausage. But to make a bad sandwich requires truly obscene sloppiness. You don´t even need great ingredients for a great sandwich. A colection of packets and jars from the dingiest corner shop will have you more than ready to play.

I have been raised in a sandwich loving family. Each one of us has our different take on the things, but we all acknowledge that my sister Gadea is The One. She can turn the least promising heap of ingredients into a tower of beauty. Never mind that the chicken was dry, the lettuce limp, the tomato a sorry January specimen. Put it in her hands and it´s instant couture.

My only quibble with her was our cheese/mayonaise-tomato/butter argument. I have always held that a sandwich that holds cheese should never have mayonaise, and that tomato and butter have no place together under a bread blanket. She disagreed.

And you know what? After years and years, yesterday I skipped my rule, tried it her way, and o my. We were so happy with our sandwich that we watched the entire Switzerland-Turkey football match, and really, that takes a lot of blissed out unconsciousness.

Surprisingly good Chicken Sandwich

Heat up the panini grill.
Shred the chicken (roast, boiled, whatever you have), mix it with mayonaise.
Slice some cheese that melts well. I had semi-cured manchego.
Fill two slices of wholemeal plastic bread, crusts off, with chicken mix. Top with cheese slices and grill.
Meanwhile, thinly slice a tomato and some good sweet-sour gherkins.
Once the sandwich is toasted, open it (careful with those fingers, you know it will be hot). Try to ignore the rather disgusting way it looks, with all that melted cheese and mayo goo.
Overlap the tomato slices, salt them slightly, arrange the pickles, and top again.

Bliss. Utter and complete. We also had chips from a bag and some cucumber mint raita on the side, just for kicks.



And, no, since you ask, the livin´ ain´t particulary easy. Or summery. It´s been rainy and cold, and there´s been a lot of work to do. Cherrires have appeared in the market, and it seemed odd to spit the stones while looking out at the grey sky. But nice.
I´m in the throes of a love affair with sardinillas, the little sardines that come in tins, eight dainty darlings nestling in a bath of olive oil until the minute they´re called on to lie on top of toast and tomato.
There has been a lot of drooling since I was given a copy of Martha´s cookie book.
And a certain measure of microwaved popcorn, of the sort that´s made in a normal paper bag, with just corn, olive oil, salt and pepper, zapped on high for two minutes.
I hope the work will slow down, or my energy perk up, but let me tell you, once summer starts for good, and it will, then I´m bound to crawl into the shade and stay there.