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Food corner

"Like all foods, bread is a nexus of economic, political, aesthetic, social, symbolic, and health concerns. As traditionally the most important food in the Sardinian diet, bread is a particularly sensitive indicator of change."

Carole M Counihan

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Wednesday
Jul132011

Empanadas that make you open your legs in Córdoba

It is official, I am a strumpet! I have been opening my legs all over Córdoba for the meatiest, juiciest, most tempting and delicious empanadas that Argentina has to give. Sweet or salty, baked or fried – I’ll take ’em anyway they come or all at once if the mood takes me.

For those of you who did not read my post on BA – where I was keeping my legs firmly shut – or who did but were not curious enough about this provocative choice of words to click on the link, Chris Moss writes that a chef once told him “that a good meat empanada always makes a diner open his or her legs. The reason: because the juice should drip out when you sink your teeth in.”

I have since been told that the secret to a juicy empanada is to make the filling with lard, let it cool so that the lard sets and then fill the pastry with the cold mixture. If the filling is cold it will be easy to handle and won’t run everywhere, but when the empanada is cooked the lard will melt and cause this sort of a mess on your plate:

(or between your legs)

So if Córdoba has the best empanadas, where are the best of the best? I met up with some Córdobeses, Nati and Mariano, who I met through couchsurfing and they took me to one of Nati’s favourite local restaurants for regional cuisine.

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Thursday
Jul072011

Things are looking up in Puerto Iguazú

Little Puerto Iguazú sits at the confluence of the Ríos Paraná and Iguazú and looks across to Brazil and Paraguay. It doesn’t really feel like Argentina any more. There’s no center and little feeling of community – everyone is here to see the falls or to make a buck out of them.

This is the inspiring introduction to the Lonely Planet Argentina’s chapter on Puerto Iguazú so, as you might imagine, I was not expecting great things on the food front. Well, one should never judge a book by its cover, so they say. Or perhaps more fittingly in this case, one should never judge a town by a book. Actually if I had bothered to read beyond this rather offputting introduction I would have discovered, as I have just now, that it later says that there are “many excellent places to stay and eat.

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Tuesday
Jun282011

BA BA MOO

So I am finally in BA. First impressions are cold but sunny, familiar but intimidating, colourful and vibrant… and from a culinary perspective there are a lot of dead cows.

Dad, are you reading this? For your benefit I am going to risk my life (the Argentines are very passionate about all things Argentinean) and say that BA is not the culinary highlight that you anticipated it would be, well not after Madrid anyway.

Now I have only been here a few days, so it is probably unfair to reach this conclusion so early on, but I am well informed from a gastronomic perspective, both through my Dad’s extensive research into the food here (after months of reading up on all that BA has to offer poor Dad never made it on account of the volcano in Chile) and, more importantly, via recommendations from the locals I have met.

Thanks to Heather, a local who a friend of the family put me in touch with, I have had one exceptionally good steak. Heather took me to her favourite parilla (the Argentine word for steakhouse, which literally means grill), Don Julio, in the Palermo district.

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Monday
Jun202011

Madrid; an unexpected culinary adventure

My next post was supposed to be about steak. And lots of it. You see, I am supposed to be in Buenos Aires, but the volcano in Chile has disrupted my travel plans and I am in Madrid. It turns out this is not such a bad place to be stuck and, hey, it means I can continue with the tapas theme.

I was so busy with all the arrangements for my trip that I didn't get a chance to put up all the tapas recipes I wanted, but at least now I am in Madrid (which some, namely the Madrileños, would argue is the heart of tapas) I can write a bit about the tapas I am eating, even if I cannot provide the recipes.

My experience started off a bit hit and miss, but this is typical for a tourist discovering a new city. I have also been ripped off, but this too goes with the territory. I found this place called the Museo de Jamón which, at first glance, looked like it had a lot of potential:

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Monday
Jun132011

Tapas no.5: Two tortillas

 

As you may have gathered, I am loving the Movida Rustica book, but one thing I have found is that it tends towards more obscure recipes using unusual or ‘fancy’ ingredients which, apart from being difficult to source, are not fully representative of the type of food one finds in a typical Spanish restaurant. I was surprised, for example, that there is no recipe for tortilla de patatas  or Spanish omelette, a dish that you would have to go very far out of your way to avoid when dining out in Spain, or at least in Andalucia. Fortunately, my host Mum in Seville taught me the tricks of the trade and, although I have still never made one as good as hers, I am getting closer with each try.

The first recipe below is for a traditional Spanish tortilla based on Carmen’s recipe. I asked Carmen why my tortilla was never as good, I talked her through my recipe and at the first step we discovered my main problem; I was cooking the garlic. Carmen puts her garlic in raw, or at least some of it, and WOW does it make a difference. In addition to parboiling her potatoes, Carmen also deep fries them. However, I don’t think this makes a significant difference to the flavour and given this is already a high calorie dish it seems a bit like overkill.

The second recipe is from Movida Rustica, a spinach and white bean tortilla in saffron sauce. I have made this several times now, sometimes substituting asparagus for spinach. I have to admit to being a bit of a traditionalist and still favouring tortilla de patatas, but this is great if you are hosting a tapas themed dinner party and want to impress with something more exotic. 

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