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“There is no sauce in the world like hunger.”

Miguel de Cervantes

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Monday
Nov052012

Claudia Roden's potaje de garbanzos y espinacas

(Chickpea and spinach stew)

For my birthday my Mum gave me Claudia Roden’s fabulous cookbook, The Food of Spain. I love this book because the recipes are real and unadulterated Spanish food. The other Spanish cookbooks I have are full of extravagant recipes that are difficult or very expensive to source ingredients for in London or which are too fiddly to make for anything other than a special occasion. Roden’s book is full of the kind of recipes Spanish people actually cook and eat regularly.

I have tried to replicate this Spanish staple several times before and, until now, it never tasted quite like it does in Spain. I have a good palate for detecting spices, and got close with that, but I would never have guessed that the key to it’s “rich texture” and “intriguing flavour” comes from a paste made of stale bread fried with garlic blended to a cream with hard-boiled egg yolks and stock.

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Saturday
Oct272012

The Anthropology of Food

At the beginning of October I started a Masters in the Anthropology of Food. I wanted to wait till I had done a few classes before telling you about it. I could say this was because I wanted to give you a taste of what the lectures are about, but actually it’s cause I didn’t really know what to expect.

When you tell people you are going to study the Anthropology of Food, you are either met with a blank stare or an encouraging smile, inevitably followed by the question:

“... and what exactly is that?”

Well, until a few weeks ago I didn’t really know the answer.

“You know what anthropology is?” I’d reply.

“Yep.”

“Well, it’s like that... but related to food.”

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Saturday
Sep292012

Claudia Roden's Tarta de Santiago

“This is a splendid cake which is normally made in a wide cake or tart tin and comes out low, but it is equally good as a thicker cake. I have eaten almond cakes in other parts of Spain but this one is special” says Roden. “Pilgrims and tourists who visit the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, where the relics of the apostle Saint James are believed to be buried, see the cake in all the windows of every pastry shop and restaurant, decorated with the shape of the cross of the Order of Santiago.”

The first time I made this cake I had a bit of a disaster. I was cooking a big Spanish themed meal for friends and family and I was already running quite late. I glanced over the recipe but I didn’t read it properly and instead of putting the sugar in with the egg yolks, I put the almond meal in.

Anyone who has made a cake will know what a stupid oversight this was; if you are putting egg yolks with sugar it is with the intention of creaming them and you certainly can’t cream egg yolks and almond meal. In fact the combination made such a sticky, gluggy mess that I had to kneed them. And there was no ‘folding’ the egg whites into the mixture either, again I had to use my hands. 

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Wednesday
Sep122012

Chez Bruce, a perfect lunch

I am particularly partial to long and languorous lunches, there is something special about eating a fine meal over several hours while the sun is shining, preferably on you, but at least outside. This lunch was made more special by the fact that it was my birthday and so I was being treated.

The lunch was on my Mum, her only prerequisite that she didn't want to go anywhere poncy. I had wanted to go to Chez Bruce for some time and it fit this criterion perfectly. Chez Bruce oozes sophistication and class, without feeling stuffy and formal – a difficult balance to strike. The dining room is stylish but understated. The service is smooth, efficient and knowledgeable with a little bit of charm for good measure.

The waiters could see we were going to be hours and gave us the space to chat, open presents and drink our champagne. This is a mark of good service – being able to tell when a table is ready; the chat tends to stop, menus close or are put down, someone tries to catch your eye. Some tables are more relaxed and need coaxing, but it is always clear if a table has been nattering so much that they haven’t had a chance to look at the menu and they will not welcome the interruption.

I digress…

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Thursday
Sep062012

Huevos Cordoniz

Back at Busot it was my turn to cook for the Lippy Witches. I did a spread of a number of things, including a couple of the tapas dishes from MoVida Rustica that I have posted previously – Pinchos and Alcachofas con Jamon. As always, however, the most popular dish was the simplest – Huevos Cordoniz (literally, quail eggs).

When I was 17 I lived in Granada for 3 months. My friend and I found a little bar near where she lived and it became our local. Granada is one of the few places in Spain where you still get free tapas with every wine or beer and Bar Rios on Calle Socrates is one of the few bars in Granada that gives you a choice of what that will be. We went almost every night to fill up before our night out.

The menu at Bar Rios has just 8 items and is very simple – chorizo on a roll, omelette on a roll, lomo on a roll, morcilla on a roll…  but the produce was good quality and all cooked and seasoned perfectly. My favourite was what they called Huevos Cordoniz, a baguette round with a slice of jamon topped with a fried  quail egg. For my English palette – it was like a mini mouthful of bacon and eggs. So simple but so good. I have made it many times since and everyone always loves it.

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