Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fried green peppers

This isn’t really a recipe, but I’ve put it on here because they taste so good and are so easy to make. In Spain, the best peppers to use for this are the little pimientos de padrón (about the size of a jalapeño pepper). However, these are not always easy to get hold of in Cadiz (they are grown in Galicia and are, anyway, often snapped up by the catering trade). Alternatively, slightly bigger, thin peppers can be used. These are sold as ‘pimientos para freir’ and are the ones shown in the photo. The nearest thing in the UK are the long thin peppers you can get in Asian stores (although make sure you don’t buy green chillies by mistake).

500g of green peppers
plenty of olive oil for frying
coarse sea salt

Heat plenty of oil in a deep fryer or large, high-sided frying pan. When it is quite hot (but not smoking), fry the peppers in batches, turning after a minute or so. Remove to a plate and sprinkle with plenty of coarse sea salt.

Shepherd's pie with calf’s tongue

Don’t allow your prejudices to put you off. Tongue is lean and very tender, and tastes just like any other cut of beef you would use for making a stew. (The flavour is, if anything, slightly milder.) I’m not sure why the standard recipes all involving pressing and pickling rather than simple stewing. This seems to imply an irreducible toughness and strong flavour, neither of which could be further from the truth.

I bought this tongue from my butcher, Antonio, the other day. He kindly peeled it for me. You can do it yourself with care and a good sharp knife – you will lose a little meat in the process, but don’t worry about that. Or simply plunge the whole thing into boil water, take it out again and the skin will slip off easily (or so I’m told).

1 calf’s tongue, peeled (see above)
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
½ bottle of red wine
4 bay leaves
2 kg of potatoes
4 tsps dijon mustard

  1. Chop the onion, put in a good-sized saucepan with some olive oil, and fry gently. Once the onion is translucent, add the chopped garlic cloves and fry for another minute or so.
  2. Cut the tongue into good sized chunks, add to the saucepan, and brown. Then add the wine, bay leaves, season with salt and pepper and add some water so that the meat is covered.
  3. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to minimum and simmer gently with the lid off for the first 15 minutes (to allow the alcohol to evaporate) and then with the lid on for another 1½ hours or so. Check the liquid levels from time to time and top up if the meat starts to dry out. When done, the dish should have plenty of sauce and the meat should be very tender.
  4. Peel the potatoes, cut them into smallish chunks (quarters or eighths, depending on the potato) and steam until well done. Set aside the steaming liquid and use as a vegetable stock.
  5. Put the steamed potatoes in a large bowl, add plenty of milk and butter, mustard, salt and pepper, and mash until fairly smooth, adding more milk and butter if required. (As everyone in my house is lactose-intolerant, I tend to use the steaming liquid and olive oil as a dairy-free alternative.)
  6. Put the stewed tongue in the bottom of a ceramic oven dish, cover with mashed potato, and cook in an oven preheated to 190°C until the potato begins to go brown and crispy on top.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Stuffed squid with tomato sauce

Small tender squid seem to have been designed for the purpose of being stuffed. You just chop of the head, tentacles and fins, pull out the inside bits, wash them under the tap and you have nature’s perfect stuffing container.

8 small squid (or 4 larger ones)
Plenty of homemade tomato sauce
2 slices of good white bread
olive oil
1 glass of red wine

  1. Remove and discard the squid’s purple external membrane. Chop off the tentacles and fins, and set them aside. Chop off the head, discard, and remove the insides, including the fibrous quill. Wash well, then pat dry with kitchen paper.
  2. Remove the crusts from the bread, break into small pieces, mix with some of the tomato sauce and whizz in a food processor. Chop the tentacles and fins, and mix in with the breadcrumb and sauce mixture.
  3. Fill the squid bodies with the sauce and breadcrumb mixture, then seal with a wooden toothpick. (See picture below.) Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, fry the squid for a minute or so until browned.
  4. In a saucepan, simmer the squid in the rest of the tomato sauce, to which you have added a glass of red wine. Leave the lid off for first 10 minutes or so, to allow the alcohol to evaporate from the wine, then cover and continue simmering until done. (Around 20 minutes if your squid are small, 30-40 minutes if they are larger.)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Clams with paprika and sherry (almejas a la marinera)

My mother-in-law, Isabel, makes this dish of clams seasoned with paprika. (This is a standard way of cooking clams in Cadiz, and I imagine elsewhere in Spain, too). I’m not sure if she uses sherry or not – I shall have to ask her. If you don’t have a bottle of sherry to hand, just use some dry white wine instead.

1 kg of clams, washed
6 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons of sweet paprika
1 small glass of dry sherry (fino or manzanilla)
olive oil

Slice the garlic thinly, and heat it gently in a saucepan with plenty of olive oil. After a couple of minutes, add the paprika, stir well and continue to fry for 10 seconds or so, then add the clams, the sherry and a little salt. Cover the pan with a lid, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until all the clams have opened. Serve with plenty of good crusty bread, to dip into the sauce.

Shrimp pancakes (tortillas de camarón)

These crispy little shrimp pancakes are a Cadiz speciality. They’re very easy to make (and the homemade versions are much better than anything you can buy in a restaurant). They’re made with tiny live shrimps, which are sold by the cupful from a wooden crate by old-timers in the market. You put the shrimps whole into the batter mix, where they wriggle around for a bit before slowly expiring (and what better way to go). If you can’t get hold of live shrimps, then substitute them with small peeled prawns.

250 g chickpea flour
200 g plain flour
6 spring onions
water (about 500 ml)
250 g of live shrimps (or small peeled prawns)
olive oil for frying

  1. Mix the flour in a large bowl, season with salt, a handful of chopped parsley, and the finely chopped spring onions. Add water until you have a smooth batter – neither too runny nor too thick. Add the shrimps and mix.
  2. Heat a good quantity of oil in a large frying pan (the oil should be about 1 cm deep). When the oil is hot (but not smoking), add large spoonfuls of the mixture. (The mixture should spread to form a roundish pancake; if it breaks up, then the mixture is too runny; if it fails to spread properly, then it is too thick.) Fry the pancakes for about 30 seconds, then turn carefully and cook for another 30 seconds before removing from the oil.
Don't play with your food

Street food
As far as I can tell, Spain (or at least Andalucia) doesn't have a big tradition of street food. I'm not sure why this is. Anyway, one exception in Cadiz is el Media Barba and his shrimp pancake cart, which appears in the centre of town on Sundays and during Carnival. To see how the pancakes are made (and why he is called Media Barba [Half Beard]) click on this video link.