Thursday, 27 May 2010

Dorada a la sal

In my house in Chicago there are two framed watercolours hanging on our sitting room wall. One is of the house that my family stays in near a tiny fishing village in Almería– incidentally one of my most favourite places in the world– and the other is of a Dorada skeleton. This is something my dad painted on Christmas Day, 1999. We had decided to ring in the new millennium in Spain, and so spent Christmas there as well. Deciding to go the more untraditional route with regards to Christmas lunch, we had dorada, baked in salt.

Dorada. image from M Stevens and Son

Dorada literally translated into English (according to is Gilt-head Bream. Sound familiar? I reckon even as a native Engish speaker you'd have to know a whole lot about fish to be able to identify one just from that title. Actually, dorada is very common in Spain, and in Portugal. It's a fresh-tasting, white fish similar to cod. Baking it in salt is probably one of the best ways to cook it (and I say baking it, you don't eat the salt with the fish, it all gets removed before serving). It creates a sort of kiln that allows it to be cooked almost perfectly. It also looks rather fancy so if making it for a dinner party or what have you you can make a show of removing the salt before you eat it.

The dorada in its salt shell

Dorada a la sal

2 Dorada, gutted, scales on, gills out
4 cups/2 lbs/1 kg rock salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp cold water
1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to full heat. In a large bowl, mix together the salt, eggs, water, and grated lemon rind into a thick mixture. Place about a half of this mixture onto a baking tray and form a bed for your fish.

2. Place the fish on your salt bed, then cover with the remaining salt mixture. This should create a nice shell all around the dorada, about 1-2 cm thick. Make sure that the fish is completely covered by the salt. Place in the oven for 15 minutes.

3. To check whether or not the fish is cooked, stick a knife into the fish and then gently press it against your lips. If the knife is hot, then the fish is cooked. Do not take off the salt until the fish is cooked. Leave to sit for 10-15 minutes.

4. Get ready– this is the fun part! With the back of a spoon, firmly tap the salt casing of the fish. If you do it right, the hardened salt casing should crack nicely and all the pieces will begin to fall off the fish. If not, gently remove them with the teaspoon, making sure not to let any salt touch the flesh of the fish. With a sharp knife, cut along the spine of the dorada, then remove off the head. The dorada should open up nicely, and you'll be able to remove all of the bones pretty easily. Serve with a big wedge of lemon.

serves 2-3.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Chorizo al vino

Sorry for my absence folks. Been a busy gal. But I'm back, with some good stuff.

Another 'I will learn to cook this in Spain' dish out of the way. Chorizo al vino is one of the easiest things in the world to prepare, it just takes time. And, because it lasts for quite a while, it's totally worth making a lot at a time, using one or two chorizos in each batch. Perrrfect for tapas.

Chorizo al vino

2 chorizos, as picante as you want them
1 bottle bog standard red wine (the wine's going to be bubbling away for ages, there's not much point splashing out on a nice one)

1. Using a fork, prick holes all over the two chorizos. This will allow them to absorb the wine more easily. Place them in a saucepan that has just enough room for both of them. Pour the entire bottle of wine over the chorizos. The wine should just cover both of them. Bring to a boil and let simmer gently for 20 minutes.

2. Remove the pan from the heat. Place a lid on the saucepan and set it aside overnight to allow the flavours to really blend together.

3. When you're ready to eat your chorizo, remove them from the pan, being sure to conserve the wine. Cut the chorizo into thick slices. Place into a pan with half of the wine mix that you marinated the chorizo in. Fry, turning frequently, until the slices are nice and crispy and the wine, mixed with the juices from the chorizo, have reduced to 2-3 tbsp. Serve immediately.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Fougasse aux olives

I've already talked before about my love of the french bread, fougasse, particularly when it's aux olives. I found about above my love for this particular bread when I first visited a Paul's patisserie during my stay in Lyon. There they do a tomato mozzarella sandwich on the olive fougasse which is to die for. For serious. I've tried once before to recreate said bread so as to have a proper tomate mozza at home (you can do it with regular bread but it's just not the same) and while the results have been edible, they've not been nearly close enough to Paul's version.

So, I set about recreating it, again. I figured I should use a different recipe, one that was more... authentic. I therefore decided that the best thing to do would be to find a French recipe, and translate. A daunting task for several reasons: 1) I have been in Spain for the past 3 months, had my mind focused on speaking Spanish, and have not spoken any French; 2) I hate written translations, I'm no good at them; and 3) I've never translated a recipe before, and the French are so particular about their cooking ways!

But I did it. And the results were again edible. Still not quite like Paul's but I'm getting a hell of a lot closer. And I had one great tomate mozza for my supper yesterday. Mmmmmm.

Fougasse aux olives (translated and adapted from this recipe from

5 cups/17 oz/500g bread flour
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups/10 fl oz/300 ml mix of 1/2 water 1/2 milk
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100 g of black olives, without stones, sliced
1 tbsp Provençal herbs
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Sift all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, salt) together into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the mix, then add the olive oil and the water/milk mix. Mix well until the mixture starts to form a ball. Draw into a ball with your hands (NOTE: If it is too dry to handle add the tiniest bit of water; if it is too sticky, add a tiny bit more flour).

2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface for about 5 minutes. Lightly coat a bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to sit for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

3. Knead the air out of the dough, and then add the olives and herbs. Mix until well incorporated.

4. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface. Roll it into an oval shape and make scores in the dough with a pastry cutter or knife. Transfer the dough to a greased baking tray. Cover with a tea towel and leave to sit for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 475ºF/250ºC/Gas mark 9.

5. Brush the dough with the remaining 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes is up, lower the temperature to 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6 and cook for a further 20 minutes.

6. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Moroccan Chicken with Tzatziki

A really good spicy chicken marinade, served with a cooling cucumber yoghurt dip.

Moroccan Chicken with Tzatziki

1/2 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 cup chopped coriander/cilantro
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 medium cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
salt and pepper

1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and cover or put the marinade and chicken pieces into a ziploc bag. Chill for 6 hours.
2. Heat a teensy bit of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Fry the chicken breasts for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through.
3. Mix together the cucumber and yoghurt gently in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste

Monday, 3 May 2010

Iced Tea Pops

It has been hot here lately. Hot hot hot. Even though it is only April and what Córdoba's residents insist is 'Spring', temperatures have reached the mid 30s (that's about 90-95ºF for all you fahrenheiters) and I have melted a few times. We're resorting to all measures to keep cool, without turning on the air conditioning that is.

It is this obscenely hot weather that has made me oh so thankful for my new favourite purchase. While perusing one of our local markets I managed to find ice lolly moulds... in the shape of umbrellas! OH how cute! And for €2 no less! These are something you could fill with juice or a soft drink, but I personally prefer to fill them with tea. So far only herbal tea– more specifically a great strawberry-kiwi-hibiscus blend that my wonderful pal Kate got me for my birthday– but I'm experimenting with more interesting things. What's great about this is you can monitor how sweet or how strong you make it, depending on your taste. I seriously recommend trying it.

I appreciate that I am an ENGLISH person using UMBRELLA ice lolly moulds and filling them with TEA. I'm experimenting with Earl Grey and milk ones. I'll keep you posted.
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