Smoked sardines in olive oil

I´m preparing a big post about empanada gallega, which has been something of an obsession lately. While I write it up, you can check out Pille´s version, which looks great and has the best possible and least Galician name: Galiitsia tuunikalapirukas.

This is just a quick Sunday evening post to highlight an ingredient I´m totally in love with: smoked sardines. You can buy these at the market if there´s a good stall with olives, boquerones, tuna and all the rest of the gang.
They are just sardine filets in oil, with a faint smokey taste. They are rich but not oily, and the taste is strong, but not overwhelming like it can be with anchovies. They are quite expensive, for sardines, but very cheap when compared with something truly expensive like wild salmon.

If you don´t want to take them home, Fide in c/Ponzano does a beautiful canapé that is just to die for several times over when paired with their classic Madrid-style beer caña.


Drop in and decorate

Just a little reminder to go and check out Lydia´s great job making cookies for donation. And if you don´t know the blog, then you´re in for a treat of browsing all the back archives.
I´m off to Santander for a book launch, hoping to eat some amazing fish. Back tomorrow.


Ugly, thrifty, wonderful fish soup

If you call something or someone "morralla", you are doubtless referring to "scum" or "bilge". It´s an insult. But actually what morralla means is the heap of fish and shellfish left at the bottom of the net, too small or too damaged to sell, and often used by fishermen in soups and broths. And that´s not so bad, surely?

I´d never had access to it because Madrid is far from the sea, and the fish that arrives, while plentiful, tends to be of the good-looking, important type. But yesterday I scored a handful of morralla, a beautiful, slightly scary looking lot of tiny sea monsters.

With the economy so bad and everything so glum, it´s great to know that you can feed four people with this hearty soup, and not feel deprived at all. It´s reasonably sophisticated, and tastes great. Which of course it might, since it´s served with Gruyere and rouille toasts, and frankly, what doesn´t taste amazing with that? Mind you, it starts out so ugly that you might think I´ve gone crazy, but trust me, this works.

It´s a very simple soup that starts, as so many good things, with a sofrito (and to be truly Provençal you should use fennel, and orange peel and saffron. But I don´t like fennel and had no oranges on hand, so I used leeks, and oregano and lemon peel, and vermouth instead of Pernod).
Then the whole fish and water to cover are added, and left to simmer for 40 minutes, until everything is falling apart.
Now comes the weird part: you puree it, bones and all. If it was ugly before, now it looks like an untidy sludge you wouldn´t feed your cat, but, patience. Strain it through a chinois and you´re left with a creamy thick soup.
I add a slug of sherry because I can´t help thinking it brightens up every soup.
Serve with grated cheese, toast and rouille.

If you can´t find morralla (and today already there was none at the market) then just do it with whole fish, cut in big chunks. Or buy a couple of whole fish and ask for them to be boned and filleted, and simply make a broth with the bones from your fish and any others the fishmonger may give you, and do this less alarming version.



Delicooks is a new food website in Spanish, and it´s beautiful, stylish, fun and helpful.
Also, there is an interview with yours truly, not in English so you´ll have to take my word for it that it´s perfectly fascinating.


Oven baked breaded fish

I love crispy crusty breaded fish, but since I don´t fry, I´d assumed it was something I´d never eat at home and that was that.
This is done in the oven, and is falling off a log easy, takes just a few minutes and comes out just great. There is no greasy fug around the house, and even though it pains me to point this out, it is a much lighter and healthier way of cooking.

Tamasin´s Kitchen Bible
, the book it´s from, is rather bossy in its insistence on fresh produce and seasonal stuff and what not. I agree in principle, but I hate to be told what to buy by cookbook authours, and it makes me hopping mad when they write "feel free to change an ingredient". Well,of course I feel free. It´s a cookbook, not Stalinist Russia. Are these people totally nuts or what?

All this is just to say that the fish I´ve used is some doubtless highly reprehensible frozen white fillet, and it was still delicious.

The recipe: preheat the oven to 180ªC, dredge the white fish in flour, then dip it in beaten egg, then in breadcrumbs mixed with parsley and lemon zest. It´s much better with home made, coarsely grated breadcrumbs.
Lay the fish on an oiled tray or baking dish and bake until golden, about ten minutes, but do check. It´s usually ten minutes per inch of thickness, but ovens vary, etc. That´s it. Easy easy, and plenty of time while it bakes to dress a salad and doll up some bottled mayonaise with lemon juice and olive oil.


Julie & Julia

Can you beleive it´s taken all these months for Julie&Julia to finally be released here? I haven´t waited so breathlessly for a movie since Return of the Jedi.
I loved it, of course, but I feel I must warn all viewers in Spain to watch it in English, because the voice over is a bit of a massacre. And also to watch a video of the real Julia Child (totally unknown in Spain before the movie), or they will come away thinking that Meryl Streep was on something stronger than butter.
And the bonus? This is the video I watched, and I tried the method tonight and got it perfect straight away. Magic omelette. Viva Julia.


Polenta in the rice cooker

The one thing I hadn´t tried in that Gourmet article about rice cookers  I go on and on about was the polenta. It seemed too good to be true, but I needen´t have been so mistrusting. It works a treat. You put the cornmeal and the water and a bit of salt and in a short while there is a creamy mush inside, beckoning with its promise of bland comfort.

I don´t adore polenta, so I wouldn´t be making vast batchces of these, except that I´ve discovered that my baby loves it. This is great because I can plug the thing when we get back from our evening walk and it´s ready by the time P comes out of the bath, hungry.

But even more wonderful, she is just as happy to be fed it the next day. Now, if I am to eat old polenta, it has to be grilled to a crisp and dusted with Parmesan, but P, bless her, knows no better, and is perfectly happy to it wolf down, barely warmed in the microwave. She finds it very easy to spear with a fork and eat it on her own, so it´s all win-win.

Therefore, even at the risk of being a complete bore, I will rework my mantra and say it this way : "parents of toddlers, get yourselves a rice cooker, NOW!" 

Seriously. I have always enjoyed the idea of food that cooks itself, but when there is a young varmint in the house who has just learnt the trick of climbing onto chairs and diving off them, it becomes a necessity.