Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Sunshine on a plate

Why not bring a little sunshine indoors on these wet and windy days we're having lately ?
Tapas always remind me of holidays - sun and fun. Here's a few I'll be making this weekend - Ham Croquettes, Gazpacho shots and the famous spanish Albongigas.....yummy.

Croquetas de jamon - Ham Croquettes

The jamon serrano in this recipe could be replaced with chopped hard-boiled eggs, shredded salt cod, chopped prawns, chopped chorizo, cheese, or just about any vegetable. Start the preparation the previous day to allow the béchamel time to set. It will make the mixture easier to handle when shaping the croquetas.

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for deep-frying
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated
3 ounces jamón serrano or other dry-cured ham, finely chopped
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
2 tablespoons fine dried bread crumbs
Lightly oil a shallow 8-inch square dish.

In a saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and, using a wooden spoon or whisk, mix well. Continue to stir or whisk for about 2 minutes, or until the flour is well blended.

Add 1/2 cup of the milk and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the remaining cup of milk and nutmeg. Cook, stirring constantly with the spoon or whisk, for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken. Decrease the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming, for about 10 minutes, or until thickened.

Add the jamon serrano, season lightly with salt (remember, the ham is already salty), and stir until evenly distributed. Cook for 1 minute longer and then pour the contents of the pan into the prepared dish. Spread the mixture evenly. Let cool down for a bit and then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight to allow the mixture to set.

Break the eggs into a bowl and beat ligthly until blended. Spread the bread crumbs on a dinner plate. With 2 spoons, shape the béchamel-ham mixture into walnut-sized croquettes. Roll each croquette in the bread crumbs, shaking off any excess crumbs, and then dip into the beaten egg. Lift each croquette from the egg and roll it again in the bread crumbs, coating it evenly. Lay the croquettes in a single layer on a platter. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before frying.

Pour the olive oil to a depth of about 2 inches into a wide, deep, heavy pot and heat over high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, slip 5 or 6 croquettes into the oil, pressing on them gently with a slotted spoon to submerge them, and fry, turning them gently, for about 2 minutes, or until they are golden on all sides. Using the slotted spoon, lift out the croquettes, holding them briefly over the pot to allow the excess oil to drain, and transfer to an ovenproof platter lined with paper towels to drain further. Keep the croquettes warm in a low oven. Fry the rest of the croquettes in the same way, always making sure the oil is very hot before adding more croquettes.

I like to eat mine with a side order of ajoaceite ( all-i-oli)......Buen provecho!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Potty for Potaje ?

There are many Spanish dishes that I’ve fallen in love with since living in Spain, and Spanish potaje is one of my favourites.

Potage has its origins in the medieval cuisine of Northern France (from Old French pottage; "potted dish") European cottage gardens often contained a variety of crops grown together. These were called potage gardens by the French, as the harvest from that garden was used to make potage.

Potaje refers to the base of the stew which usually is always made with water, onion, garlic and garbanzos (chickpeas).  Often this dish is called “potaje de garbanzos” or even “potaje de vigilia” (meaning potaje of abstinence or vigil) as it is typically made without meat and during lent to be eaten on Fridays – a time when the Catholics do not eat meat. The Spanish potaje is varied, depending on the region, so there are different versions of this soup all over Spain. Chorizo,(paprika pork sausage),Morcilla (black pudding), lentils and Bacalao (salted cod) are all typical ingredients used in it.
It’s a hardy, healthy dish that is especially perfect for the cold days of winter (and apparently the cold, early days of Spring as well!). Even better, like most all stews, it keeps well and tastes more delicious with each day!

 Potaje de garbanzos y Espinacas
Chickpea and Spinach soup

250 grams of dried chickpeas
1 onion, spiked with 1 bay leaf and 2 cloves.
2 carrots, peeled.
500 grams of baby spinach.
1 onion, finely chopped.
2 tablespoons of olive oil.
1 teaspoon mild paprika.
2 slices of white bread.
4 eggs. (optional)
Salt and pepper.

Soak the chickpeas overnight in plenty of water. On the next day add some salt, the spiked onion and the carrots to the soaking water. Pour on enough water to cover all the ingredients. Bring to a boil and leave to simmer for 40 minutes.

Sweat the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Sprinkle on the paprika add the pre-washed spinach and cook for a short time. Remove the onion and carrots from the chickpeas and take out the cloves and bay leaf. Mash the carrots and onion in a mortar with the white bread.

Combine with the chickpeas and add the spinach mixture. Continue to cook for 10-15 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the soup between four oven safe dishes. If you fancy the egg version, break an egg into each soup and leave to set in a preheated oven at 200 celsius.

If you are planning a casual gathering, it also works well served in small bowls as a tapas.