Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Things I will learn to cook in España

One of the greatest benefits about spending the year abroad is the food. Don't get me wrong, I love a good slice of Chicago deep dish pizza, and I am a firm believer in the revival of British cuisine, but being in both France and Spain over the past 7 months has given me the opportunity to taste so much good food. In France it was foie gras, steak frites, gratinée lyonnaise, my favourite ever cheese saint-marcellin and the slightly unique Lyon delicacies of quenelles and andouillette. I collected many recipes during my time there of typical 'French' foods that I planned (and still do plan) to master and use to dazzle friends and family with. I've only tried one of these recipes so far, the fougasse aux olives, a delicious olive bread that I first discovered at Paul's patisserie as a part of their tomate mozzarelle sandwich (by the way, pair that with a bottle of orangina and you've got yourself the best hangover cure ever).

the world's greatest sandwich

Now that I have a kitchen at my disposal, I plan to learn how to cook authentic Spanish food while I'm actually in Spain. Most of the things I feel are relatively simple and I could figure out the recipe without much help. There are of course, a few foods that have me completely stumped and I shall have to consult some experts on how to make those particular yummy things. Anyway, so far I've come up with this list; any suggestions on what to add however would be most welcome!

1. boquerones fritos- I've been in love with these tapas dish ever since I was little. My family used to holiday in the same tiny fishing village in the south east of Spain every summer, and being a picky little eater, these were one of the few things I would eat. Translated as anchovies or whitebait, these fish also come served in vinegar but they're nothing compared to the deep fried version.

2. paella- probably the most iconic Spanish dish out there, and definitely the most known outside of Spain. Although originally a Valencian dish, there are three main varieties of paella: Valencian, seafood, and mixed. This rice dish traditionally contains meat (chorizo), seafood, vegetables and beans, although I've seen so many "everything but the kitchen sink" versions of these I'm pretty sure that anything goes.

3. chorizo al vino- chorizo in wine– sounds simple, right? Not so. The chorizo, once cooked, has to marinate in the wine for a minimum of 8 hours. And once you taste it you can see why. The wine complements the chorizo's smokey flavour oh so well. You'll never want to eat anything else.

4. calamares- another very well-known recipe, another tapas staple. This deep-fried squid is perfect with just a wedge of lemon, and nothing else. Perfect simplicity.

5. salmorejo cordobés- slightly similar to gazpacho, salmorejo actually originated in Córdoba. Made with tomatoes, bread, olive oil, garlic, and vinegar, this thick soup is served cold with diced jamón serrano and hard-boiled egg should you choose (I, personally, will be avoiding the egg). This sounds just perfect for when the renowned Andalucían summer sets in.

6. churros- in this town if you want to enjoy churros outside of your own home, you gotta do it before midday. This is where our flatmates and I are tripping up. Finding it hard to adjust to the Spanish bedtime (either going to bed way too early or way too late) we are only ever up and out of the house before midday if we have a class to go to. This is why I'm determined to master the art of churros con chocolate– something which I'm sure could do a world of good for the soul after a tough class or a night out.

I shall keep you all updated with my progress!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Pea Noodle Soup

This post is dedicated to my friend Kat, who has found herself in a flat in Barcelona without an oven for five months. While despairing to me of her situation, I suggested that she make soup. Delicious, filling, lasts you for ages, and best of all: no oven.

Oh so simple. Oh so comforting.

I love Jamie Oliver. I really do. I think he might be one of my favourite chefs, ever. So perhaps it's only fitting that my first post on here is based on one of his recipes (Altamura Pea Soup, from Jamie's Italy). It was my first time trying the recipe, and– given that I am permanently incapable of following directions exactly– it turned out quite well. I didn't put in as much onion in as JO suggests, mostly because I hate chopping onions, and missing out a half an onion doesn't negatively impact the flavour. In addition to this I threw in a few more handfuls of peas. Next time I'd probably put in a bit more stock than I did, just to give it a bit more broth.

I'm posting the recipe with the changes I made, mainly with more peas and less onions, but if you want to see the original, click the link above to go to Jamie's website.

pea noodle soup


2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-1 1/2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 litre chicken stock
 5 handfuls of frozen peas
250 g dried spaghetti, broken into short lengths
salt and pepper
fresh rosemary
small handful of parsely, chopped

1. Pour 2 tbsp olive oil into a frying pan, add the chopped onions, and fry for 10 mins.
2. Stir in the chicken stock and peas, bring to the boil and let simmer for 10 mins, while you make your pasta. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, and add the broken up pieces of spaghetti (if you wanted you could a smaller pasta like fusilli, but I personally prefer spaghetti). Cook the pasta for 4 minutes, or about half the time it says on the packet. Drain.
3. When the pasta is half cooked and drained, add it to the soup and allow it to finish cooking. Add a little bit of rosemary (if using a sprig, remove before serving). When the pasta has finished cooking, season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Before serving, drizzle the rest of the olive oil and a little bit of parsely over the soup.

My New Kitchen, My New Blog, My New City

I arrived in Córdoba just over a week ago. As a student of French and Spanish, it is an 'integral part of my degree' (or so says my university) to spend this, my third year as a university student in both a French and Spanish-speaking country. The last five months of my life were spent in a hotel in Lyon, France, working as a receptionist. I lived in the hotel, to save time and money finding a flat, and was therefore left WITHOUT a kitchen for those entire five months. As a person who loves to cook this was a stressful situation, but I had friends with kitchens who were all too happy to let me feed them. And, being left without a means to make myself food, I was often left with no choice but to let others make it for me, which in one of the culinary capitals of France was no bad thing.

I am now in Spain with my own brand spankin' new kitchen and three perpetually hungry flatmates who were overjoyed when they heard about my cooking habits. While not necessarily the biggest kitchen in the world, it has all the things that I could need (for the moment) and so I'm hoping cooking in it will be a breeze. My only concern is that everything is new and white; I'm not the tidiest person at the best of times and don't even get me started on how I'm like when I'm cooking– fingers crossed I can keep this place relatively clean for the 5 months that I'll be using it!

My kitchen. Note the dirty mugs in the sink and the empty cava bottles!

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