Category Archives: Spain

Churros

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This recipe is as recent as it gets: we finally made churros at home. This week. It was messy, the kitchen has never seen such chaos I think, and even though I will not attempt this again very soon, I can say that every minute was worth both the long wait (I’ve been wanting to try this ever since Ms. Lawson signed my book) as well as the mess. The company was great too – we asked our lovely neighbour to come over for a taste and we gobbled everything up in one sitting. That’s the way it should be. Good food is meant to be shared and after a busy few days we needed a pick-me-up.

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January was such a boring month. There was a sort-of-sweet-ban in this house for a few weeks, mainly due to the overeating done during Christmas. This month, and hopefully the rest of the year, will be about balance. I hope, that is. What a way to start the month, I hear you say! And you may be right, but this recipe is too good to let it percolate for long in my folder. Try this, at least once…(yeah, right.)

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Before I go on though, make sure you are not distracted when you cook with these quantities of oil. Concentrate and you will be safe. And take any photos at your own risk – I did and boy it was hard!

For the coating:

  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

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For the chocolate dipping sauce:

  • 100g good quality dark chocolate, cut into chunks
  • 30g milk chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) golden syrup
  • 150ml double cream

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For the dough:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) olive oil
  • approx. 210ml freshly boiled water

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For the oil quantities:

  • This really depends on what you’re using. For a fryer, we used around 3 litres of vegetable/rapeseed oil. If you are using a pan, aim for around 500ml to a litre, depending on the size. J was in charge of this, thank goodness.

*You will also need a bowl or plate with some kitchen towels on it, to drain the churros.*

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Mix the caster sugar and ground cinnamon together in a small bowl, and place these in a shallow dish or plate. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate ingredients in a small bowl over simmering water. (I prefer this method over using the microwave or heating directly in a pan on the stove.) When everything has just melted, remove from the heat and set aside in a warm place. Give it a stir once in a while. Don’t worry. It will not harden again.

For the dough, place the plain flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil. Now pour the boiling water slowly onto the flour. Don’t pour the whole amount at once; you risk the dough turning into a soup. Once you have a thick-ish, warm, sticky mixture. Leave it to rest for around 10 to 15 minutes.

In a heavy-based saucepan, or a deep-fat fryer, pour and heat the oil to 170C. Use a thermometer if using a pan. **Always pay the utmost attention when cooking with oil.** In the meantime pour the sticky dough into a piping bag with a large nozzle attached to the bottom of it. Spoon the sticky dough in the bag and slowly push the dough into the pan. Cut the dough into any length you want. We tried long ones and short stubby shapes. Both were good!

As each piece of dough turns golden brown, use tongs to take it out of the oil and place it on some kitchen towels. When drained, place the churros on the sugar and cinnamon plate. Shake and/or sprinkle the sugary mixture on the churros. Coat them well.

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Serve with the chocolate dipping sauce. Delicious.

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Enjoy! These are messy, as you can see from the photos, but as this is not a fancy cookbook, I took the pics as everything was. I do bother with neatness most of the time, but this was not one of those moments.

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, Chatto & Windus, 2010.)

**This is NOT a sponsored post.**

Runner beans

Rainbow-Trout-with-Runner-Bean-and-Chorizo-Salad-(6295)

A few weeks ago a very kind friend gave me some runner beans. Shame on me I didn’t know exactly what they were! I know it’s stupid. I can see you rolling your eyes. In my defense though, I never really seen them, or ate them, neither here nor in Malta. (I could have been living on Mars…) On the rock (what we *Maltese*, not *Maltesers* please, sometimes affectionately call our little island) you can get broad beans, known as ful, almost everywhere. Many like to eat them raw, shelled of course, with their outer coating removed. There’s something therapeutic about doing all this while watching your favourite tv show. (Like CSI perhaps?) In Malta you can find them cooked in minestra (a variant of the Italian minestrone), simply cooked with garlic and tomatoes, or in our famous bigilla, a tasty concoction which has cooked beans as the base ingredient, crushed, to which you add olive oil, garlic, chilli if you like spice and any herb you fancy. Anne and Helen Caruana Galizia suggest using either marjoram or mint – the latter grows like you wouldn’t believe in Malta. (See The Food and Cookery of Malta, Pax, 1999.)

We were talking about runner beans…? Yes. So I didn’t know what to do with them. J kept telling me that they don’t need to be shelled, but I would’t listen. I did eventually though and after doing some quiet research (quiet because he didn’t see me, ha!) I simply washed them, sliced them diagonally, sort of diamond-shaped, finally chopped an onion, squashed two cloves of garlic, chopped some chorizo and some fresh parsley, lightly cooked everything up in a pan and bam, it’s ready.

In the meantime I had a couple of rainbow trout in the oven and there you have a great meal on the table in 30 minutes. The same method and ingredients can also be used with any kind of green vegetable. Kale is fantastic and full of good things, and broccoli too. You won’t have any excuse not to eat your veg or 5-a-day. Enjoy!

Rob x

Paella

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When Rick Stein published his latest book, and was coming over to Guildford for a book signing, I had the flu. Typical. When J saw that I just couldn’t make it, he went to the venue for me with my copy, making sure I wouldn’t miss the autograph part. I would have like to say hello to Mr. Stein myself, but that’s how life is sometimes.

I have not been able to cook much from Rick Stein’s book Spain, but I have found a recipe which inspired me to make a version of his Paella Valenciana. I have changed a few things here and there primarily because I didn’t have some of the ingredients. So I raided the fridge to see what I could find. It was a bit touch and go; I wasn’t confident that this would work, so I asked J for some advice. If you decide to try this make sure to read the recipe before. It’s really simple mind you, but the steps are very important.

Paella is ideal for a supper party. With these quantities you will have enough for 6 people with some left-overs. This dish is very easy to make; it just requires a bit of looking after…

Before I go on I would just like to say something about paella in general. Although it is not a risotto, so no continuous stirring is needed, you still need to check that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. So make sure to stir and scrape the rice from the bottom of the pan once in a while. Thus ended my rant. You will need:

  • 500g boneless chicken thighs, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 500g paella rice (available in supermarkets)
  • 1 large onion, chopped in large dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1.25 litres chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 teaspoons saffron, steeped in warm water and sieved*
  • 240g dried chickpeas, cooked (or 410g can drained and washed under cold water)
  • 400g polpa di pomodoro (or large can whole tomatoes cut in chunks)
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (Do not use too much or it *will* taste so soapy!)
  1. Place the chicken in a bowl and season it well with a little salt and as much pepper (approximately ½ a teaspoon each is ok) as you like. Mix well. When you think you have enough seasoning, heat a large ovenproof pan. I use a large cast-iron one – a favourite of mine. Using a tablespoon or so of olive oil (not extra virgin), brown the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and wrap these in some kitchen foil to keep warm. Set aside until needed.
  2. If see the need add another tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and tip in the onion, garlic and paprika, and stir. After 5 minutes or so add the polpa di pomodoro. Let the bottom of the pan de-glaze for a few more minutes. Now add the green pepper, cooked chickpeas, frozen peas. Mix everything together, add the stock, rosemary and the saffron infused water.* You just need the water here; that’s where the flavour is.
  3. It’s time to add the rice, and stir this into the stock. Scatter the browned chicken pieces onto the rice and leave it be. Simmer on a medium/high heat for around 5 minutes, then turn the heat low and leave it for another 15 minutes or so, that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  4. When you see that the rice has absorbed the stock, turn off the heat and cover the pan with a clean dish cloth for a few moments. At this point it’s ok if your guests turn up a bit late! Fluff up the rice with a fork before serving.

Please note that the above photo was taken before any fluffing occurred, in case you’re asking. Enjoy.

R.

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