Friday, November 02, 2007

Taste of Spain

In Catalonia the two sauces (recipes following) are each served in a bowl, one alongside the other, so that the two can be mixed together at the table. Both are traditionally as an accompaniment to grilled or boiled fish, meats and shell-fish. Worth making just to taste.
Ali-oli (garlic mayonnaise):
4 - 8 medium cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
good pinch salt
2 - 3 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 egg yolks
half a pint of olive oil
1 - 2 tblsp cold water
Put the garlic, salt and lemon juice in a mortar and work with a pestle or the back of a wooden spoon to a smooth paste. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until the mixture is very thick. Transfer it to a mixing bowl and beat in the oil, a very little at a time using a whisk or electric beater (low speed), making sure each lot of oil has been absorbed before adding more. When about 6 tblsp oil have been added the mixture should be like thick cream. Add the rest of the oil in teaspoons, beating constantly, thinning from time to time with a little water if necessary. The finished sauce should be thick enough to hold its shape in a spoon.

1 1/2oz (35g) toasted almonds
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
half a teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 small tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tblsp red wine vinegar
half a pint of olive oil
Grind the almonds in a blender or use a pestle and mortar. Set to one side. Using a mortar or
processor, crush together the almonds, garlic, cayenne and salt, then add the tomato and vinegar and mash together to make a smooth paste.
Transfer to a mixing bowl and using a rotary or electric whisk as above, beat in the oil a teaspoon at a time making sure each lot of oil is absorbed before addng the next. After 6 tblsp of oil have been absorbed, pour in the remaining oil in a thin stream beating steadily.
As with the first recipe, the finished sauce should be able to hold its shape solidly in a spoon.

This simple appetiser is also popular in the Catalonia area of Spain.
Pa amb Tomaquet (bread and tomato)
Cut some good crusty white country bread into thick slices. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds, then rub each side of the bread with the tomatoes so that each slice is entirely impregnated with the juice. Be over generous. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve with a dribble of olive oil on top. Sometimes eaten topped with a slice of ham, but if you can get any Manchego cheese, even better.

Delicious tapas 'toasts' (pronounced ho-garth-us) are little bites/tapas that can have several different toppings, one being fried chunks of chorizo sausage, but of course that is not essential. Here is a vegetarian version. With Spanish cheese being difficult to obtain, two different types of goat's cheese will be a suitable substitute.
1 rustic loaf/baguette
6 oz (175g) goat's cheese
6 oz (175g) firm creamy cheese (pref. goat's)
1 x 29g tin of anchovies
1 x 100g jar red peppers
handful flat parsley leaves
Slice the bread into approx 16 slices and leave them to dry out slightly at room temperature. Slice the cheeses into 8 slices (some could be wedges) and lay one piece on each of the bread. Top (or wrap) with either an anchovy and a little parsley, or some red pepper.

Escalivada (Roasted Vegetable Salad): serves 6
10 oz (300g) each onion, red peppers, green peppers, aubergines
3 fl.oz (75ml) olive oil
Put the vegetables in a roasting tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about an hour or until very soft and the skins are brown. Put the peppers in a polybag and close it tightly then leave for about 10 minutes to allow the skins to be easily peeled off. When the vegetables are cool enough, peel them all and cut into long thin strips. Dress simply with the oil and salt. Serve hot or cold.

This next recipe is for cinnamon buns which are best served warm or at room temperature and - like muffins - best made the day they are to be eaten.
Mantecadas de Astorga: makes 20 - 24
8 oz (225g) unsalted butter, softened
8 oz (225g) sugar
6 oz (175g) plain flour
6 eggs
2 -3 tsp ground cinnamon
Beat the sugar and butter together with 2 tsp of the flour, preferably using an electric mixer, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift together the flour and the cinnamon and beat this into the batter. Spoon this mixture into paper-lined tartlet tins, filling each one about half-full. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 15 minutes until the tops are golden and firm. Carefully turn out and serve warm or at room temperature.

This Apple Crisp could possibly be made the day before, if kept covered with the foil. Serve at room temperature, preferably with a bowl of whipped cream.
Pastel de Manzana: serves 4
8 oz (225g) sugar
4 oz (100g) plain flour
half a tsp baking powder
1 egg
2 1/2 tsp dried mint leaves
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 medium sized tart apples (2 lb)
Sift together the flour, baking powder and sugar into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Using two knives, mix together until the egg has been asborbed by the flour.
Peel, core and quarter the apples then cut lengthways into 1/4" slices. Stir the mint and cinnamon together and mix into the prepared apples, tossing until the apple slices are coated. Arrange the slices in a buttered baking dish (8" x 8" x 2") and scatter the flour mixture over, pressing it down and making sure the apples are completely covered. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 5 for 45 minutes until the topping is crusty. Remove from oven, cover the dish tightly with foil and leave to cool. Serve at room temperature, with or without whipped cream.

Am offering a recipe for a red wine and fruit cup which - being diluted and drunk in small quantities as a 'taster' - could hardly be called alcoholic. Neither can it be eaten with the fingers, although using a straw might just be admissable. But it is such a Spanish drink that I could hardly leave it out. Only needing to make a small amount means that the best part of the bottle of wine could be drunk later. Read through first then adjust quantities to the amount needed.
Sangria: serves 4 to 6 by the full wineglass
half a lemon, cut into quarter inch slices
half an orange, cut as above
half an apple, cored and cut into wedges
2 - 4 oz of sugar
1 bottle dry red Spanish wine
3 tblsp brandy
ice cubes (optional but will make it go further)
chilled soda-water
Put the fruit into a large jug with 2 oz sugar. Pour in the wine and brandy and stir until well mixed. If you prefer it sweeter, add more sugar.

Put the jug in the fridge until well chilled then, just before serving, pour in chilled soda-water to taste - up to and over a pint if you wish. Stir again and serve in chilled wineglasses, or fill the glasses with ice-cubes before adding the sangria.
Tip: this could be made in a chilled, wide-mouth thermos if needing to be taken any distance from the house.

To end today I leave you with an unusual Portuguese dessert for sweet egg cakes in syrup which uses no flour, great for anyone who keeps chickens and has plenty of eggs, but for a family dessert easily made using half quantities.
Papos de Anjo: serves 8
1 oz (25g) butter, softened
2 egg whites
8 egg yolks
15 fl.oz (435ml) water
1 lb (450g) sugar
few drops vanilla extract
To make these, the oven needs to be at 180C, 350F, gas 4 and 24 tartlet tins need greasing with the softened butter. Each tin should be 2" dia across the top.
Beat the egg whites until firm enough to hold strong peaks when the beaters are lifted. Using the same beaters, beat the yolks in a separate bowl until thick enough to fall back as a ribbon when the beaters are lifted. Add the whites to the yolks and continue beating for about 10 minutes until very smooth and thick, then divide equally amongst the tartlet tins and set in a large shallow roasting tin. Pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the tin and bake for 20 minutes until cooked through. Leave in the tins to cool for about 5 minutes then gently turn out onto a large platter, pricking each one through in several places with a cocktail stick. Leave until lukewarm.
Bring the sugar and water to the boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, boil rapidly for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and pour into an 11" x 7" heatproof shallow baking dish. Place the cakes into the hot syrup, turning gently with a spoon, making sure they are coated evenly. Cover tightly, place in the fridge and leave them to soak for at least three hours before serving. Serve from the baking dish, or remove the cakes to another plate and pour the surplus syrup around them.
Tip: Remember that surplus egg whites can make soft-scoop ice-cream, meringues, and can even be frozen for later use.