Hello everyone! This is going to be a bit of an essay entry as I have a lot of catching up to do after spending the last week holidaying in Spain, moving to London and starting my new job! I’m writing this entry from my bed, feeling a little bit homesick after a very tiring first day in my new job, with a bowl of 5-a-day-cous cous that I eventually managed to cook in my new kitchen, which happens to contain the worlds slowest ever hob (but that’s a different story all together)…
So first I thought I would share a few of my foodie snaps from Spain, as the food out there in the Costa Brava was simply delicious, and tasted even better than it looks!
1. Ensalada Verde
2. Paella Mariscos
3. Mejillones Marinera
4. Crema Catalana (too tasty for me to resist!)
Okay, now on to the main attraction. As a few of you may already know, I graduated from uni this summer and as a graduation present my mum bought me Claudia Roden’s ‘Food of Spain’ cookbook and WOW, this book is amazing! The stories and pictures alone make the book a brill read so with the recipes added in there as well it is a cookbook that I would definitely recommend (plus it looks great on the bookshelf).
Spain is one of my favourite places to visit, and I love how the food varies from one region to another. Last summer I travelled to Madrid and worked as an au-pair for 2 months out there and was fortunate enough to live with a family that had a Bolivian chef and the meals she cooked were AMAZING. From chicken croquettes to tuna empanadillas and gazpacho she really gave me a true taste of Spain and I’m so grateful for that!
I can’t wait to work through the recipes in this book and be taken back to the places I have visited and all the gorgeous foods I’ve tried.
Anyway, on to my mini Spanish kitchen adventure:
Firstly: the stuffed aubergines. My dad has a habit of buying aubergines (with every intention of cooking them I’m sure) and then leaving them to go soft and unusable in the fridge, so after deciding I was going to cook up a Spanish meal for the family this Saturday, I thought I would finally put these versatile veg to good use! There were quite a few aubergine recipes featured in this book, but the majority of these were more of a main meal (stuffed with meat, served with béchamel sauce etc.) and as I wanted this dish to be more of a side dish, I decided to go for the ‘Aubergines Stuffed with Almonds’ recipe. As I’m not a fan of aubergines myself, I did not try this dish, but I was told in good faith by my parents that it tasted really nice, and that despite the limited ingredients it had a very good flavour. I can vouch that this was so easy to make, definitely one to try out!
Ingredients (Serves 2)
1 Medium-Sized Aubergine
½ Tsp Sugar
½ Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ Large Onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Breadcrumbs
25g Ground Almonds
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
Pinch of Salt & Pepper, to season
Parsley, to decorate
– Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
Add the water, sugar, vinegar and 1 tbsp of the olive oil into a large, deep frying pan that has a lid. Stir this around and put to the side for a minute
Trim the ends of the aubergines off, cut them in half lengthways and add them to the frying pan – cut side up – before putting the lid on the pan and turning on the heat. Bring to a boil on a medium heat before reducing the hear and cooking the aubergines in the steam for about 10 minutes (no more than this), until the aubergines have softened but still hold their shape. Once they have reached this stage, remove the pan from the heat.
When the aubergines are cool enough to touch, hollow out the flesh with a pointed spoon (I had to use a sharp knife and a dessert spoon together), making sure you leave just enough pulp so that the wall of the aubergine will still hold.
Now, transfer the hollowed aubergines to a baking dish along with any remaining liquid from the frying pan, and chop up the aubergine flesh into small chunks.
Add the onion and the remaining oil to the now empty frying pan, and fry over a medium heat until the onions are soft and turning slightly brown. Add the chopped aubergine flesh and cook over a medium heat, stirring and mashing with a fork, until the mix is very soft and all liquid has evaporated.
Now you can add the breadcrumbs, ground almonds, egg, salt and pepper to the mix, giving it all a good stir and making sure it is seasoned well.
Fill the hollow aubergines with this pulpy mixture and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, until the stuffing has slightly puffed up (it will collapse when you take it from the oven – don’t worry if this happens). Serve it when it is warm with a sprinkling of parsley on the top!
* I prepared this dish about 4 hours before serving it. Just keep the aubergines in the fridge once you have removed them from the oven and they have cooled down, and reheat them in the oven at the same temperature for about 20 minutes.
Then the paella! The go-to Spanish crowd pleaser, and the fact it’s not massively difficult to make definitely helps! There are obviously a variety of paellas in the Spanish cuisine, but I decided to go for the traditional seafood paella (also featured in this book are ‘Paella Valenciana’ which contains rabbit, chicken and Mediterranean vegetables in the place of fish & seafood) as I’m a massive fan of fish. I used a frozen seafood mix as I found the thought of preparing fresh seafood a bit daunting, and this worked fine (and I managed to avoid any cases of food poisoning – always a bonus ;)), so I have adjusted the recipe accordingly. I don’t necessarily think this is a meal for any beginners, but if you follow this recipe exactly you shouldn’t go wrong, so good luck and enjoy!
(Ramble officially over)
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1 Onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 Beef Tomato, peeled and finely chopped
Pinch of Saffron Threads
1 Tsp Sweet Paprika (Paprika Dulce)
250g Risotto or Paella Rice
500ml Fish Stock
125ml Dry White Wine
150g Frozen Peas
400g Frozen Seafood (Squid, Prawns, Mussels, Scallops etc.)
Salt and Pepper, to season
1 Lemon, quartered, for serving
Chopped Parsley, for serving
In a large frying pan, heat a small amount of oil and the frozen seafood, cooking on a medium heat for around 10 minutes, until all the food is completely cooked and piping hot throughout. When you are sure the seafood is cooked, remove from the heat and put to one side.
In a small sauce pan, add the frozen peas to boiling water and cook on a medium heat for about 7 minutes, until the peas are soft and cooked. Once the peas are done, drain and leave to one side.
Add the oil to a large paella pan (about 40cm) and fry the onions, stirring often, until they are soft. Stir in the garlic and fry with the onions for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes and a little salt. Cook all this over a medium heat until the oil is beginning to sizzle and the sauce is thickening up slightly.
Now add the saffron, sweet paprika and rice, giving it all a gentle stir so that the rice gets coated with the sauce.
In a separate pan, bring the stock and the wine to the boil and pour over the rice, adding the peas and a large sprinkle of salt at the same time and giving the paella a good stir, so that the rice is evenly spread throughout the pan.
* Do not stir the rice again during the cooking of the paella!
Bring the mixture to the boil and cook over a high heat for around 4 minutes, before reducing the heat to low and cooking for another 10 minutes.
If the paella becomes too dry too quickly, add a little more boiling water. Once all the stock has been absorbed by the rice, add the cooked seafood to the top of the paella and cover with foil before resting for 5 – 10 minutes, so the seafood can warm with the paella.
Serve as soon as these 10 minutes are up with lemon quarters, sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!