Our very first blog entry commemorates Rasha’s 26th birthday. We decided to go on an 11 mile hike and thought a lovely spanish picnic would make all the exercise go down easier. The spanish tapas recipes come from The Book of Tapas by Simone and Ines Ortega.
Ham Croquettes (Croquetas de Jamon de York)
2 tbsp sunflour oil
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
175g bread crumbs
vegetable-oil for deep frying
fresh or fried parsley
200g Yorkshire ham, very finely chopped
When I was making the bechamel sauce, I consulted The Cook’s Book. It turns out there are two different kinds of bechamel sauce, one which takes a lot longer than the other. The first involves heating the milk with some aromatics to add some extra flavours before adding the milk to the rest of the sauce. The type I made was the shorter version, as suggested by the Ortegas. Heat the oil and then add the butter. The oil prevents the butter from burning too quickly. When the butter is melted, stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Gradually stir in the milk and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. We added a bay leaf to the milk while stirring the sauce. Once all the milk has been added to the pan, it should take about 10 minutes for the sauce to thicken to heavier bechamel.
You can either use serrano ham or Yorkshire ham, but I thought I would go local and choose the Yorkshire ham. Stir the ham into the bechamel sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. It’s better to do the seasoning after the ham is added than to season the sauce by itself so the mixture doesn’t get too salty.
Pour the mixture into a large baking dish. We had about 2cm of mixture in the bottom of our dish. Cover it with cling-film and pop it in the fridge for at least 2 hours for it to set.
Set up your workspace while you are waiting for the mixture to cool. You will need a shallow dish with the beaten eggs in it, and another to put the bread crumbs in. Take out the cool mixture, and using two tablespoons, begin shaping the croquette mixture into quenelles.
As you make each quenelle, scoop it up into your hand and roll it in the breadcrumbs. Try and make sure the bread crumbs cover the entire surface, which make it easier to handle. Then roll the croquettes in the beaten eggs, and then again in the bread crumbs. The pointed shape of the quennelle will naturally soften into a barrel shape. You can finish off the barrel shape with your fingers.
Try to clean off your fingers periodically through the process so the croquettes don’t get messy in your hands while rolling them.
Don’t start off with all the bread crumbs in the bread crumb dish, or the will start to get lumpy as you work. Top it up periodically so you don’t end up with a soggy lump of breadcrumbs.
Have a plate ready to put the croquettes on. It takes some patience and practice, but soon they will start to look like legible shapes.
And then the frying. Heat the vegetable oil to about 180-190 degrees C, or until a piece of white bread browns in 30 seconds. Watch out for spitting oil, and add the croquettes into the oil in batches off about 6 at a time. Cook them until the outside is brown and crispy. Transfer them to a plate covered with paper towels to soak up any excess oil, and put the plate into a warm oven while you cook the rest of the croquettes.
Before each batch, do the bread cube test to make sure the oil is still at the right temperature. You can serve immediately and garnish with fresh or fried parsley, but we let ours cool,, put them in tupperwares and had them the next day for lunch. They were yummy.
Spicy Chorizo and Gherkin Pinchos (Pinchos de Chorizo Picante y Pepinillo)
The pinchos are an endurance trial. The anchovies and onions are slippery, and the toothpicks start to dull after the 3rd ingredient. But the flavour combination was something unusual that we wanted to try, so we persisted and made about 20 of them.
Deli-counter anchovy fillets (they crumble less easy than canned and are much less salty)
175g sliced spicy chorizo (the Ortegas say to remove the casing, but we found this to turn into a smushy mess, so left them on)
about 20 cornichons (you can use any kind of pickled gherkin, but cornichons are easier and cuter)
about 20 pickled onions (the smaller the better)
1 fresh red chilli, seeded and cut into slices (we used green)
about 20 cocktail sticks.
The method here is quite self-evident, see below, just remember to roll the anchovies!
Spanish Tortilla (Tortilla de Patatas a la Espanola)
500 ml olive oil for frying
750g potatoes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (so you get half-moon shapes)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
100g gruyere cheese
1 cup roughly chopped spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
As this was a birthday meal, we opted for the classic fried Spanish tortilla. In this recipe, you pan fry the onions and potatoes, rather than a healthier method, so you may want to look around for something healthier if you aren’t interested in flavour. Ours is a variation on the Ortegas’ recipe, though they fry theirs too.
First, heat the 500 ml of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the potato slices and onion, and stir until softened and golden brown. Tip: If all the potato and onion mixture does not fit into your frying pan, do it in batches. Season with salt and drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add the potato and onions to the eggs, and then add the cheese and spinach and stir with a fork. Heat the 2 tbsp olive oil in the skillet, and then add the mixture. Do NOT Stir! Cook until the bottom is set and lightly brown. Then flip it over. It may seem cruel for me to glibly suggest you just flip over this hot heavy tortilla like it was a playing card, but that is what you have to do, and if you break it, shame will follow you for the rest of your days. The method for this is to put a plate over the frying pan. If the plate is smaller than the circumference of the pan, it will slip inside and you will burn your fingers. If the plate is larger, the plate will probably slip as you flip, and shatter into a thousand pieces. Needless to say, it is a difficult and frustrating thing to try to do. If you can achieve this subtle art of the flipped tortilla, you then slide it from the plate back onto the frying pan and cook it until the other side is golden brown. Then you can slide it back onto the plate and serve like a pie or omelette.
You can put pretty much what ever you want into a tortilla. We added the spinach and cheese, which was excellent. They also travel well.
Olive caviar (Caviar de Aceitunas)
Easy and delicious.
150g black olives (pitted, to save yourself the effort of pitting them yourself, unlike me)
4 canned anchovy fillets in oil (not 4 cans, 4 fillets) drained
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
oaties or crusty bread (Nairns, obv.)
Blend the olives, anchovies and capers in a blender until grainy like caviar (you can do this in two batches). Stir in the olive oil. Spread on the oaties and jam it in your mouth. You won’t be able to stop.
So that is our first post. Thanks to Kate, Jo, and Sama for coming up to Yorkshire for Rasha’s birthday! Stay tuned for more!