Merluza en salsa verde: hake in parsley sauce.

Merluza en salsa verde is hake in green sauce, but Spanish green sauce is nothing like Italian green sauce. Same words, wildly different concept. Theirs is punchy and zingy and bright, ours is sedate and quiet to the point of dullness. You can add clams and shrimp as much as you like, it´s not an exciting dish.

It´s old fashioned , but the ingredients are too expensive for it to have peasant cachet. We are deep in bourgeois cuisine, and to make things worse, the sauce is thickened by flour. Beyond the pale, really.

Comfort food doesn´t not come more comforting than this, though. White fish, poached in a parsley sauce, over white rice, is perfect for frazzled minds or recovering stomachs. It´s very easy to make, and quick, and so soothing and calming that it might very well put you on the way to recovery so fast that you´ll be wanting that brash Italian salsa verde next.

The classic fish to use is hake, but any white fillet you can find will do, and if it´s more sustainable, so much the better. I have qualms when I buy hake, but here it´s a cheap, unwanted fish, which is weird and I just can´t pass it up.

So anyway: coat the bottom of a skillet with oil, add some chopped garlic and when it dances, chopped parsley. You can add a bit of butter and some shallot and it will be inauthentic but wonderful.
Now a spoonful of flour. Once it dissappears, begin adding stock little by little. It should be fish stock, but vegetable or light chicken or even water is fine. It will thicken, you will stir, add more stock, thicken again, and so on until it will not thicken more, and you will have a thin but recognizably saucy sauce. Now let it cook for a couple of minutes, add your fish, cover and wait until it´s cooked through.

If you have clams then add them with the fish, but remember they hold a lot of liquid so do a thicker sauce.

Serve over rice, plain steamed white rice. Nothing else. An orange afterwards, at most, and maybe some mint tea. This is a quiet, serene meal.


Boiled beef tongue

Here´s the thing: if you mean to be a responsible meat eater, you have to eat offal. That´s all there is to it. 
I only eat meat three or four times a week, and it´s all good stuff, from the best sources I can find. It´s healthy, and it´s farily green. I don´t spend huge amounts on it because, lucky me, I actually prefer saucy beef shin braises and chicken thighs on the bone, and slow roast pork shoulder, and sausages and short ribs, and oxtail soup and bacon sandwiches and all them lovely things. 

But nose to tail is where it´s at. You can dabble in chicken livers and marrow bones, daintily, but if you´re really into respecting the animals, etc, etc, then you have to brave the nasty bits.

I don´t like chewy things, so tripe, a favourite dish from my home town, is out. But tongue has a reputation of being tasty and tender, so there I was on  a Saturday afternoon, looking at that great ugly thing on my counter, wondering what on earth had possesed me that morning at the butcher´s.

Turns out my fears had been unfounded. Yes, tongue is a mental leap because it looks entirely like, well, a tongue, yours or mine, and it´s big and you can´t not think of that tongue inside an actual mouth. Well, get over it. It only needs salting (a day in advance, if you can) and boiling with some aromatics until tender. I used a pressure cooker, for fifty minutes. Once it´s cooled a little, peel away the skin, which comes off easily, and you´re left with a stringy piece of beef that might be from anywhere else. Tender, flavourful boiled beef, perfect for sandwiches or tacos or salads. It only needs a sharp, piquant sauce to make it zing (no pun intended).

Because it´s muscle meat it doesn´t taste at all offaly, just beefy, so if there are squeamish eaters around, all you have to do is shred it, or cut it up small, and they´ll never know.

And, as a bonus, you have a big pot of beef stock to play with afterwards. I made onion soup, and it was lovely.

Consider it the gateway variety meat, and see if it leads you down the road to pig´s head terrine.


How to store parsley

If I ever write a memoir, the chapter dedicated to living in Scotland would be titled "paying for parsley". Parsley in Spain is free as the wind; greengrocers give it away, a bundle of sprigs tucked on top of your purchases. It´s just there, always, and if it wilts in the fridge you simply throw it in the stockpot, knowing you will get some more tomorrow with your oranges and potatoes.

It´s easy to take it for granted, because it is granted. But here, of course you pay for parsley, and through the nose, at that. Throwing leaves away is annoying.

If you use it quickly it´s nice to put it in a glass with water, like a bunch of flowers. But if not, the fridge is your best bet. I used to keep it, just like that, in a plastic container, but my new favourite book has a better way: trim the leaves, save the stems for stock, and put the leaves in plastic bag or box in the fridge. They last for many days like that, and because it´s prepped, you are likely to use it more, just as you are more likely to draw if you carry a sketchbook in your bag.

It can be the main ingredient in a salad to go with marrow bones, but a  few chopped leaves is all it takes to liven up many things, like home-made soupsauteed mushrooms, roast tomatoes, baked fish, octopus salad or takeaway pizza, so bear it in mind.



Back when I started this blog, almost six years ago, it was pretty easy to keep track of what was going on in other food blogs. There were not all that many about, and only a few dozen were very good. Now, of course, dozens of blogs are created every minute, and so many are so good, and have such amazing photos that it´s hard to keep up.

So let us all rejoice at the appearance of Blogeats. It´s a blog about food blogs, written and curated by the editorial director of the Harvard Common Press, Dan Rosenberg. You can read a much better description on their own site, here.

I would happily write lines and lines about the quality and interest and overall awsomeness of the content, except that modesty gets in the way: one of the recent posts is about lobstersquad, and says all sorts of lovely things, as well as including an old favorite recipe, pisto.

It´s already a favourite site, and one that I look forward to checking frequently.


Lazy borscht

It´s business as usual here in the north of Scotland, but for you poor folks frozen in fear at the Siberian winds, here´s a warming soup.
I learnt to make borscht from a Ukrainian. She had been eating it since infancy and making it since childhood and was full of knowledge on the subject, obviously. But also prejudice, because that is how things go. She had things to say on the borscht served in Poland and Russia that would make you readers blush.
Therefore I offer this recipe for lazy borscht safe in the knowledge that there is no such thing as the ur-borscht, unless it be the one made by your mother. My Ukrainian friend´s version, make with pork ribs and thick with several vegetables, is probably very controversial somewhere between Kiev and Vladivostok.
I, on the other hand, come from Spain, where the jury is still out on wether beets are an actual food, or simply the main ingredient in Coca-Cola; I can do what I want, and offend no ancestors.

Which is just to say: pressure cook (or boil) ox tails and whole beets, well salted, with an onion and a carrot and a stick of celery and a bay leaf. 50 minutes under pressure will do the trick.
Let the pressure come down naturally and strain the broth. Throw away the onion, carrot and celery.
Chop the beets into small pieces. Shred the meat, set aside and discard the bones.

Now season the broth, which will probably need more salt, Sherry vinegar and a glug of Sherry.

Then decide:

You can do a cocido madrileño game plan and serve the broth first, followed by the meat and beets, with bread and butter and dill pickles.

Or you can boil potatoes and cabbage in the broth, and mix it all in a big bumper bowl of vegetable goodness. Sour cream and chives welcomed.

You can also set aside some or all of the meat and veg and use them to fill some piroshki, little turnovers that you fry or bake (I bake).

Or you can serve the all together mix first, and then strain the leftovers. Have the consommé as is, with perhaps a little lemon juice, more Sherry and lots of black pepper, or, if it´s summer, serve it as fuchsia jelly. And toss the meat and beets and cabbage with boiled potatoes, dill pickles and parsley or chives for a gorgeous potato salad.

A win-win soup.