Friday, 31 May 2013

What´s happening?


 Things that happened since my last post:

The Iron Lady was not iron made and died.
A new case of corruption found in Spain.
It rains in London.
Historical Record unemployment in Spain.
Hot in London.
Chavez turns into a "bird" and he appears in a dream to his cloned successor.
Shooting at a school in Connecticut, USA. 27 dead.
Raining in London.
Armstrong drops his medals.
Increased cases of corruption  in Spain.
Obama gets rid of eviction and renews contract.
The pope goes and here comes the first Argentine. They drink mate in the Vatican.
A ray of sunshine in London. False alarm, it was raining.
Terrorist atack in the Boston marathon.
Two demons armed with knives killed a soldier on the street.
Kate has a bun in the oven.
It rained in London.


 Just a sample of what happens in a few months, in the world, from our screens, in our lives. And between news and news the new season Of Mad Men finally arrived, one of  my favourite series and I finally got hooked on The Walking Dead, a very well-designed and better performed series where zombies are necessary to the plot. Television series have changed a lot, with time, as the news. Now the series are designed to transport us to decades as wonderful as the sixties, in Mad Men or to hypothetical apocalypses full of hungry for guts walking dead. The television series (some, not all) have a team of talented writers with ideas that often seem out of dreams or even nightmares. Maybe that's we rarely get to see a good movie in the cinema. Good writers work in the production series.



Speaking of starving, here is my recipe for today. Salmon cakes are perfect for a starter or even for  a main dish with a salad. They are very popular in the UK, and you can find them already made in most supermarkets. You can fill them with any fish or filling , and  there are even vegetarian versions with cheese and onions, a very popular flavour here. The salmon is not my favourite fish, I find it very greasy and bland, but here in London is the most popular fish and it's not overly expensive. I prefer the smoked version, but in this case, the fish cakes and fresh salmon are coated with Panko, Japanese breadcrumbs that gives the fishcakes a more crisp and colourful coating(you can find Panko in Oriental food stores), you can also use normal breadcrumbs. They are served along with a refreshing and cool cucumber salsa. The original recipe is with canned salmon, mine has steamed salmon. The recipe is from the soporific  Delia Smith.



 Ingredients

For the fishcakes:
 500g of fresh salmon or 1 x 418 g tin red salmon
 10 oz (275 g) Desirée or King Edward potatoes (weighed before peeling), peeled and cut into large chunks
 2 level tablespoons mayonnaise (see Related Recipe below)
 2 heaped tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
 2 heaped tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
 6 cornichons (pickled gherkins), drained and chopped
 2 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped small
 1 level dessertspoon anchovy paste or 4 anchovies, mashed up
 2 tablespoons lemon juice
 ¼ level teaspoon powdered mace
 ¼ level teaspoon cayenne pepper
 salt and freshly milled black pepper


For the coating and frying:
 1 large egg, beaten
 3 oz (75 g) matzo meal or fresh white breadcrumbs
 2 tablespoons groundnut or grapeseed oil
 ½ oz (10 g) butter


For the cucumber and dill sauce:
 1 lb (450 g) cucumber
 1 level tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
 1 oz (25 g) butter
 2½ fl oz (65 ml) crème fraîche
 1 dessertspoon lemon juice
 salt and freshly milled black pepper


To garnish:
 sprigs of dill
 lemon wedges



 Method

Steam the salmon if you are using the fresh one, for 15 minutes, let it cool and flake it. Keep aside.


Boil the potatoes in salted water for about 25 minutes or until they are absolutely tender when tested with a skewer. (Be careful, though – if they are not tender you will get lumps.) Then drain the potatoes and mash them to a purée with the mayonnaise using an electric hand whisk, season. .
In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients for the fishcakes together. Mix and season if necessary, cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator, giving it about 2 hours to chill and become firm.


To make the sauce:  peel of the cucumber with a potato peeler, as thinly as possible as the green bit just beneath the surface of the peel is important for the colour of the sauce. Then cut the cucumber in half lengthways and remove the seeds, using a teaspoon to scoop them out. Now cut the cucumber into ¼ inch (5 mm) dice.
Next, heat the butter in a smallish pan over a very low heat, add the diced cucumber and some salt and toss it around in the butter. Then put a lid on and, keeping the heat as low as possible, let the cucumber sweat gently for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time to make sure none of it catches on the base. As soon as the pieces of cucumber are just tender (but still retaining some bite), stir in the crème fraîche, dill and a little lemon juice. Season with more salt and pepper.


Now tip half the sauce into a liquidiser or food processor, whizz until it's smooth, then mix together with the rest of the sauce and set aside. When you are ready to cook the fishcakes, lightly flour a working surface, then turn the fish mixture on to it and, using your hands, pat and shape it into a long roll, 2-2½ inches (5-6 cm) in diameter. 


Cut the roll into 12 round fishcakes – pat each one into a neat, flat shape and then dip them one by one first into beaten egg and then into breadcrumbs, making sure they get a nice even coating all round.Now, in a large frying pan heat the oil and butter over a high heat, and when it is really hot, add half the fishcakes to the pan then turn the heat down to medium and give them 4 minutes shallow frying on each side. Then repeat with the other half, draining them on crumpled greaseproof paper.

Serve immediately.



Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The woman in Red




Monarchies have changed a lot since the past. They now marry journalists, lawyers and writers, including handball players that eventually become frogs.  Fascination about kings and queens in the past can be compared to some of the singers and actors today. Now the Kings are human, they make mistakes, they go on an elephant hunting trip and then apologize.
After a busy summer working on the Olympic and Paralympic Games and living a unique experience,  I am ready to resume my posts, and I will try to publish a bit  more often than before, so, let's get back to the subject of today's post. The London Borough of Greenwich was declared Royal in a small ceremony that took place last February, apart from the beauty  of the area the Royals showed once again their preference for this lovely borough with a great maritime and historical past. Here's where the body of  Admiral Horatio Nelson rested, here is where  Henry VIII was born, and this was where he and Anne Boleyn used to meet, right there on the slopes of Greenwich Park, before she lost her head. And many, many years later, another monarch made her royal  appearance in the neighborhood, this time to inaugurate the most awaited new  Cutty Sark, the vessel which used to carry tea from Asia to Europe. After it caught fire back in 2007, it has taken a multimillion pound renovation. The Duke of Edinburgh is  the official Patron of the Society for the Preservation of the Cutty Sark and both he and his distinguished wife profess a special love for this beautiful borough. 



The Queen showed up that day, with her husband. The weather was not nice at all, rainy and cold. But since nothing depends on the weather the Official act went ahead so, I decided to stay, you don;t get to see the Queen of England every day. It carried on raining when  the escort arrived, we all heard the trumpets announcing Her arrival and Her royal head appeared under a red hat, matching Her coat. People cheered, children screamed and clapped and then it stopped raining! The woman in red stopped the traffic and the rain in Greenwich. Gifts  were given and the curtain was opened by her royal hands to  officially inaugurate the new Cutty Sark. The queen went back to her palace and I went back  to my house for a nice cuppa.


And all this takes us to  the present and today's  recipe. I don't know if her Majesty likes  Middle Eastern cuisine, but  I do love it. Dolmades and Fatayer, two representatives from the delicious  food of the  Middle Eastern. The dolmades are vine leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables, cooked in a pan with patience. They can be found in the cuisines of Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon and  Russia and even in some areas of Southeast Asia. Fatayer are like the middle eastern empanadas, typical of the area and can be filled with spinach, ground beef or cheese and they are delicious as a snack or as a starter, they can be eaten either hot or cold. Very easy to make and eat and difficult to forget. Sumac is a berry that grows in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, before the arrival of the lemons, the Romans used sumac acid agent for their meals. It has a nice purple color and a unique flavor, lemon juice can used as a substitute.Here are the recipes ...

For the Dolmades (Anissa Helou's recipe)


A package of vine leaves (in middle eastern shops)
140g short grain rice
300g diced tomatoes
1/2 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
100g chopped parsley
50g chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons sumac or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
salt
150 ml extra virgin olive oil
A medium potato, peeled and sliced
A large tomato sliced




 Preparation
Wash the rice until the water runs clear and drain. Place in a large bowl. Add chopped tomatoes, onions, parsley and mint, followed by sumac or lemon juice, olive oil and spices. Mix well.
Spread leaves on work surface and put a bit of the filling. Roll up like a spring roll. Place the potato and tomato in layers covering the base of a  casserole dish or a wide pot, then place the  rolled vine leaves with the loose ends down . When the bowl of the filling is empty, add some water and swirl it around so it takes the rest of the filling, and pour this water over the leaves, almost covering them. Add salt and pepper, and cover with a heat proof plate.




Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cook for one hour. After this time it better to try one of the sheets to see if the rice is cooked. If so, turn off heat and let stand a few minutes.
Plate and serve accompanied by lemon wedges. The potato slices and tomato are completely optional.


Fatayer
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
For the dough
300 g organic plain flour, plus extra for kneading and shaping
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ cup extra virgin oil
(fatayer)
For the filling:
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
Fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sumac
400 g spinach, cut in very thin strips
2 tablespoons pine nuts
juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Method
Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the oil to the well and with the tip of your fingers, work into the flour until well incorporated.
Gradually add 125 ml warm water and mix until you have a rough dough. Remove the dough onto your lightly floured work surface. Knead for 2-3 minutes, then roll into a ball. Invert the bowl over the dough and let sit for 15 minutes. Knead for a few more minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide in two equal pieces. Shape into balls. Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rest while you make the filling.






Put the chopped onion in a small mixing bowl. Add a little salt, the pepper and sumac and, with your fingers, rub the seasonings into the onion to soften it.
Put the chopped spinach in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with a little salt and rub the salt in with your fingers until the spinach is wilted. Squeeze the spinach very dry. Transfer to a clean mixing bowl. Separate the leaves.


Add the onion to the spinach, together with the pine nuts, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary -- the filling should be quite strongly flavoured to offset the rather bland dough. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside.


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Roll out one ball of dough as thinly as you can, just under 1/10 inch thin. With a pastry cutter, cut out 3 inch disks. Place 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons filling in the middle of each disk. Lift 2 sides of the disk, each about one third of the diametre, and pinch together to start forming a triangle. Lift the bottom third and pinch with the loose ends to form an inverted Y. Like this:





Transfer to an oiled baking sheet and brush the triangles with oil. Knead the cut-outs together and let rest while you roll out the other ball of dough and make more triangles. Transfer to the baking sheet and brush with oil. Use the cut-outs to make the remaining triangles. Brush with oil.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 15-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.







Thursday, 2 August 2012

I'm working here!

        No posts for the moment. I'm working as a chef in the Olimpic Stadium. An unforgettable experience.

                                  Pity in the kitchen, an Olimpic chef. Will I get a medal?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

A night to remember





It was a clear night.. One could hear from the deck,the laughter of the passengers enjoying a quiet evening, music was in the air. Many already slept. It was 11:40 and the name of the ship was about to become eternal and world famous. On the fifth night of its maiden voyage the Titanic ceased to be just a ship and became immortal.

What is it about Titanic that gets so much fascination? Maybe for the fact that her first trip became the last, or because of all the souls that went down with her, or because of the many legends, like the orchestra playing in one of the decks as passengers ran from one side to another trying to find a place in the few lifeboats, the courage of many, the cowardice of a few, and the ladies with their hats and dresses in the fashion of the early twentieth century, leaving their husbands behind, many were already widows without knowing it. It was a clear night, and it was the end of Titanic.

On the night of April 14th 1912, the dinner in the first class dining room consisted of a ten-course menu. Oysters, soup, vegetables, fillet mignon, lamb, carrots, asparagus vinaigrette, salmon, duck, veal, chicken, pigeon and several desserts. This post t recreates some of the menu, my version of two of the dishes last night of the Titanic:

Chicken lyonnaise with vegetables

Chocolate and vanilla eclairs
Waldorf pudding



Chicken Lyonnaise

Ingredients for two:
A boneless chicken breast with skin
Four tablespoons of fresh thyme
Two onions finely chopped
A clove of garlic
One tablespoon of tomato puree
100 g flour
Salt and pepper
Two tablespoons of olive oil
A cup of chicken stock
Half cup of white wine
A pinch of sugar

Fry the onion in a frying pan with olive oil, until it begins to brown, then add garlic, a little thyme, cook a few minutes over a high heat and add wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent paste, reduce for a minute and add tomato puree, stock and sugar, cook for two minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken. At this point you can add the sliced ​​chicken or plate it with the sauce all over.

Method:
Spread chicken skin on a board and open the breast so that it covers the skin, spread the meat, if necessary flatten it a bit, season the meat and sprinkle half the thyme. Roll up and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate half an hour .. In a bowl mix the flour with more thyme, salt and pepper, remove chicken from refrigerator and cut into slices. Roll in flour and fry in oil. Leave in the oven at medium-low heat while preparing the sauce.



The vegetables:
Carrots
Cumin
Fennel
Butter
Salt and pepper
Preparation:
Place the fennel in a saucepan and cover with water, season and boil until the water begins to evaporate, at this point add a tablespoon of butter and cook until browned. Keep aside.
For the carrots, follow the same procedure as with the fennel, but adding the cumin together with the butter.


Waldorf pudding

Ingredients:
A golden apple, peeled and diced
200g sponge crumbs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

In a saucepan mix the apple, lemon, and butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar and cook until the apples begin to caramelize.
In another saucepan combine the milk with the remaining sugar and vanilla, when it starts to bubble,in another bowl mix four or five tablespoons of the milk with the yolks, then add this mixture to the milk and vanilla and stir constantly with a spoon stick until it begins to thicken slightly.




At this point, you can do two things:

Spread the apple mixture in a oven safe bowl or in individual ramekins and cover with the cream, top with the crums and bake at 180 degrees on a Bain Marie for 30 to 40 minutes or until the custard is set. Cool 5 minutes, run a knife around the edges, invert on a serving plate and serve.

In individual ramekins alternate layers of apple, cream and the crumbs. Refrigerate.


Chocolate and vanilla eclairs

Ingredients:
Choux pastry:
1/4 litre of water
100g butter
150 g sifted plain flour
5 eggs
15 g sugar
3 g salt



For the pastry cream:
1/2 litre of milk
4 egg yolks
45g cornflour
100g sugar
A vanilla pod split open
the rind of half a lemon
For the ganache:
200 g dark chocolate
Single cream 50 dl
For the vanilla glace:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 or 3 tablespoons water


Method for the eclairs:
Put water, butter, salt and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and add the flour stirring, cook for a few minutes. Remove from heat and add eggs, one by one. Form eclairs with a piping bag in a greased baking tray. Cookfor about 15 minutes at 180, then another 5 with the oven door ajar. Cool on wire rack.


The pastry cream:
Mix the cornstarch with half a cup of the milk and the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Bring the remaining milk to a boil with the sugar, lemon peel and vanilla .. When it boils, mix the egg yolk mixture and cornstarch,place back in the saucepan and keep stirring with a wooden spoon .. Remove from heat when it begins to thicken , remove the skin of the lemon and vanilla. (vanilla is washed under running water and dried, and can be used to make vanilla sugar). Cover with plastic film to prevent the formation of the skin layer. Once at room temperature, refrigerate.
For the ganache:
In a saucepan heat the cream and mix the chocolate until is completely melted. Cool.
For the vanilla frosting:
Sift the icing sugar and mix with the vanilla extract and water until it forms a paste ..
Filling and icing:
Once the custard is cooled, fill the eclairs using a pastry bag, and coat them with the warm ganache.
Fill the chocolate eclairs with the cold ganache and coat with the vanilla glaze.





Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Brotherhood of Men




The Golden Globes, the Baftas, and now the Oscars are coming! I'm so excited, always been so interested in cinema, and I love watching the nominated movies of the year(if Ican) so in the night of the event I know what are they talking about. I have only managed to watch three of the nominated ones this year: The Artist, and my favorite, a sublime ode dedicated to the golden Hollywood era, a delicious comedy filled with good sense of humour and tenderness at the same time. You get out of the cinema with a smile in your face, and in love with Jean Dujardin, the handsome Frenchman, owner of one of the most captivating smiles in actual cinema. His charming melts the screen and you as well. Get ready...He has already won the Golden Globe, the Bafta, and fingers crossed, we'll see what happens next Sunday at the Oscars. The other movie is Midnight in Paris, a wonderful chronicle about Paris and travel in time, this one is Woody Allen at his best and those of you who love him will love this movie. The third movie I have watched was The descendants, and after all the noise about it, well, nah. You know, it;s George Clooney, a good actor, we all know that, his role surely saves the whole movie, which lacks strength and motivation. Good sense of humour though. Well done George.



So, good luck to all the nominees, (go get it Jean Dujardin!), Brad Pitt, (I'm not very fond of sport movies, though I think this one is quite good) His mate George, the talented Gary Oldman, and of course, Demián Bichir, the first Mexican to be nominated as a best actor. About the women, Meryl Streep of course, who can forget her shoe affair with Colin Firth when she got her Bafta. The Iron lady and The king who needed speech therapy.

Today my post is a cheesecake, not an ordinary one, but a one called The Brotherhood of Men, because it suits it, and because I like it. The round biscuits hugging each other gives it a dramatic touch. The topping is made with marshmallows and it´s sticky and velvety. I wish this hug made out of biscuits would set an example to forget all the violence and bad mood.





Brotherhood of Men Cheesecake


Ingredients:
for the base: one packet of digestives or rich tea biscuits
100grs softened butter
for the first layer:
3 or 4 tubs of Philadelphia (depending on how thick you want it)
4 big medium eggs or 3 big ones
the juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup caster sugar


Method:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
The base is the same as every cheesecake, crush the biscuits and mix them with the softened butter, and coat this mixture over a 24cms cake tin. Keep in the fridge whilst you prepare the filling.
For the filling, mix all the ingredients and pour over the biscuits mixture. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for 40 minutes, or until the cake is set. Cool.


For the topping:

2 cups mini marshmallows or large marshmallows cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream

Method:

Mix marshmallows and milk in a saucepan over low heat until marshmallows are melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Cool marshmallow mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Add sour cream to marshmallow mixture; fold gently just to blend. Pour topping over cheesecake and spread evenly, leaving 1/2 inch uncovered around edges. Chill to set topping, at least 1 hour. Cheesecake can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.


For the biscuits

Ingredients
225g unsalted butter at room temperature
225g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
450g plain flour, sifted plus extra for dusting
Method
Mix the butter and the sugar until creamy and white. Add the salt, the vanilla and the beaten egg. Mix well.
Add the flour little by little until everything is incorporated, form into a disc and cover with cling film. Rest in the fridge for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut with the chosen biscuit cutter. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Leave to cool in the trays and then transfer to a cooling rack.
Finally, place the biscuits all around the edge of the cheesecake, use a bit of egg white if it helps.



Saturday, 24 December 2011

The killer Paella


Time flies! You don't realize and suddenly its another month and another one...
This city is already all dressed up for the holidays. Xmas has come this year very soon, I started seen Christmas cards in the shops in late September, and the decorations in October. I love this city, and its ability of opening its arms to everyone, sometimes it seems that it is elastic. It holds everybody who comes here and the city population grows and grows. And counting! London is an excellent city, a megacity. It's innovating, extremely tolerant, traditional and modern at the same time. Strolling along its streets you can tell that History is another Londoner who breaths and lives. We are able to coexist with the past and at the same time, witness the birth and growth of what will be the tallest building in Europe. In my opinion, diversity is one of the best qualities of this exciting city. not only because of its wide array of nationalities but because of its gastronomy. I love that you can visit the world enjoying international food in London. Delicatessen and all kinds of shops, there are few things you can't find here in London. And as everybody, I have have my favorite places, which I love to show everyone who comes to London. and this is exactly what I've been up to lately. Christmas atmosphere everywhere you go, cold weather one day, mild one the next, a walk along the riverbank is something not to be missed and the many ice rinks cheer everybody up. Many churches host Carols concerts, like the one I attended at
Temple Church, the gorgeous and so difficult to find medieval building where you can see the graves and effigies of some templars. A must see.




Borough Market is another place not to be missed, and these days it's busy and very lively. It's a wonderful market which unfortunately has become a tourist attraction, and a massive food court, not everybody buys food there, most of the visitors are there just to look and take photos, and grab a bite, which can be a bit annoying for the people like me, who loves going there and buy my ingredients. I try to go early on a Saturday, or very late. There is one stall where they serve what I call "The killer paella", a mix of rice (if it's like the one in Greenwich the rice and veg are frozen) and they keep on stirring and stirring (you DON'T stir paella one the rice is cooking) and the only thing I can do is write about it here. This "paella" is surrounded with what it seems to be cooked prawns. another no-no, but the people who buys this as a quick lunch, the don't seem to care. It may be nice, I don't know, and I will never know because I will never have the courage to try it.


I've seen more "culinary offenses" like this one, regarding to what is one of my favorite dishes. E.g, skinless and boneless chicken is added to the paella, and balsamic vinegar and white wine! (Gordon Ramsay, yes, the man himself) and of course lots of chorizo..Someone asked for ketchup when I cooked Paella at work. And I saw John Torode, one of Masterchef judges, his vertion of Paella, he added precooked rice to the pan. Rick Stein, in and episode of his newest television series about Spanish cuisine he of course, gave his personal touch, emptying a can of peppers. Another incredible new product I saw in the well known Marks&Spencer food hall, Paella soup....I had to look twice. And rude and ill-mannered Jeremy CLarkson made a joke of the dish emptying the leftovers from the tin in the paella pan. Finally, I was told about a couple who at the Spanish shop in Borough Market, a couple asked about what was the cheese you use in the paella!


One has to see and hear many, many culinary sins, and is even more outrageous when is something close to your heart, like Paella. I think, that the correct thing after all this is to keep on honoring our Gastronomy and cooking as always, and hoping that one day, someone stops putting balsamic vinegar and cheese to the pan ...
Today's entry, and coinciding with the holidays, is a delicious and elegant starter, very easy to make and very impressive. Perfect for serving it before a meal with a toast. The recipe is an adaptation from mighty Martha Stewart's. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish each and everyone a very Merry Christmas and let's hope that next year is not as bad as many predict.



Crown of Camembert

Ingredients

One Camembert cheese
A ripe pear, peeled and diced
A handful of chopped walnuts
fresh thyme
Two cloves of garlic
Two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
One tablespoon of honey
Olive oil
One tablespoon of butter
Toast or bread sticks


Preparation

Cut the cheese in half crosswise and set aside. Melt the butter in a pan and slightly fry the pear for about three minutes, add the thyme and remove from heat. Put some cheese on the serving plate, cover the surface with half of the pear mixture.

In a small saucepan mix the honey and balsamic vinegar and heat until it forms a syrup. Cool for five minutes. Cover the cheese with half the syrup and cover with another layer of cheese, put more syrup on top and cover with the remaining pear mixture. Decorate with chopped nuts and more fresh thyme.

Serve with toast, toast or bread sticks.





Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Ferran Adriá and Me


Trying to describe another person´s philosophy can be a bit tricky, but if the person is willing to share with you his/her feelings, experiences and thoughts, then you are more than happy, and if this person is one of the Best Cooks in the World, then you are in for a treat. I had the honour to be part of the audience of what was called "An evening with Ferran Adriá, which took place at Vinopolis last Monday, where I spent a wonderful time looking at the Master, listening to his thoughts, his ideas and inspirational projects. I was seating there, waiting for him to show up on the stage, and I was feeling like a little girl who is about to meet Father Christmas. And he showed up, and the whole room was quiet. Everybody knew how important was to be there, to be given a lesson from a genius. A New Nouvelle Cuisine lesson. He stood there on the stage, humble as always, and this makes you admire him even more. He started teaching us gastronomy concepts, ideas and showed us some videos. The translator wasn't always fast enough and couldn't keep up, the Man was excited and nothing was going to stop him. He talked about cuisine evolution, about Alicia, the foundation you could tell how proud he is, and about evolution of El Bulli, the restaurant he is redeveloping into a something very big. It's now closed, but everybody can have a glimpse of what was it, at Tickets, his new place in Barcelona. I've been lucky enough to go there twice and there is so much to say, but that is another story and another post...



He talked about EL Bulli not as something that was, but as something that will be. He showed us all the projects around it, all the Experiences pavilions (olive, seaweed, magma, nest), the tunnel of knowledge, a brainstorming room and cinema, and energy and marine scenery (there will be an El Bulli spiral, which will be inspired in the Maya Cenotes, I love this). All these will be up in Cala Montjoi, a sustainable and Zero emissions area. When you are listening to all these plans, you have to feel infected by his excitement and vitality, and I had to congratulate myself for being in this Foodies world, because it's the one I've chosen and it's the one I like. Same as him...





Ferran Adriá came to London to present his new book, The family Meal, 280 pages of knowledge and everyday recipes. It has a very interesting introduction, where he leads you to his pantry and opens his chef´s heart to you. The way of presenting the ingredients is also noticeable, you can cook for either 2, 6, 20 or 75 people, which is the number os people they cookf for the staff at El Bulli. The recipes are simple and delicious, from a Caesar salad, to a Thai beef curry, not forgetting the desserts, like the light and fluffy Tarta de Santiago, chocolate cakes or caramel pudding. Buying the book was optional, but how could I say no if at the end of the conference you had the chance to chat a bit with him and have the book signed. The conference was two and a half hours long, but time flew. The room was heated up with applause, lots of them. But the most energetic? Mine!





Some of Ferran Adriá´s quotes:




"You eat well if you think well."




"You need a lot of humility to talk about food."




"Salad is a concept."




"You can consider yourself a great cook when you create, elaborate, make concepts and uses technic."




"You need to cook with the minimum risk."




"A whole grapefruit is more exciting than a thousand kilos of potatoes."




And my favorite:




"You feed your soul by eating well.






To sum up, at El Bulli Foundation, him and his colleagues will be doing the same thing they have been doing in the past years:




To create.




And as promised, this post is dedicated to you, Ferran, and architect of flavours, a creator of illusions, a Master...





This is a velvety chocolate cake, with a final extraordinary splash of extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkled with salt flakes, a wonderful combination. This recipe comes from The Family Meal, Ferran Adriá´s new book. To be honest, I have put two recipes together, his chocolate cake, and his bread and chocolate, so the cake has the final touch of the latter. The combination is really a pleasant surprise, and it will shock you. Please be adventurous and try it with the olive oil and the salt, at least just a corner, then let me know....




Chocolate cake with olive oil and salt





For six people




Ingredients.




175g dark chocolate 60% solids


90g softened butter


4 egg whites


2 tablespoons sugar


15g egg yolks (1 egg and 1/2)




A splash of extra virgin olive oil


Fleur de sal or Maldon






Method





Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Grease and flour a 22cm round cake tin or a 24cm square tin. You can also bake them in muffin whole tins.




Melt the chocolate in the microwave or on top of saucepan with boiling water. Dice the butter and mix into the chocolate, mix with a wooden spoon.




Mix the egg whites and the sugar and whip it up with an electric mixer until you get a soft meringue.




In another bowl, beat the yolks and add to the meringue mix. Then, add this mix to the chocolate and mix again very carefully. If you are using the Muffin tins, fill a pipping bag with the mixture and pipe it into the wholes, otherwise pour the mixture into the cake tin.






For a muffin tin, bake for 12 minutes. And for a cake tin, bake for 20-25 minutes.




Rest in the tins for five minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.




Serve with the olive oil and the salt aside. The gold dust is optional.









Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Colourful Bruschette in between riots


This is quite a summer. After spending some weeks in my beloved Barcelona, going to the beach, of course, and returning tanned and happy (because I cannot go to the beach here, that's for sure) I find myself ready to take what the rest of the summer gives. It's not really really bad, weather wise, although there was only four or five days when I didn't need a jacket. Many things had happened since my last post. Not only in my life, but in the world in general. Lots of new, most of them bad, very bad news. We witness a pacific country mourning the loss of innocent people, killed by a demon. A country where normally nothing happens (nothing bad, that is) but it attracted all the attention because everything happened in one day. How many hells must a man go through to become such a beast? I think that nobody is safe from criminals like that one, there are so many of those. And we don't know if destiny is setting up a meeting with one, around the corner, so the best, in my opinion, is get the most of our lived, and enjoy every day, every hour, every minute.





Another bad news, the death of Amy Winehouse. Something that got many of us sad, but not surprised. In a way, it was the news we knew was going to happen sooner or later. It's a shame to lose such a talented woman. Her career and powerful voice could have taken her so far in music history. She and Francis must be performing a wonderful duet, wherever they are now...

And apart from these, bad news keep on coming. Riots in London (pretty scary, it looks like we are at war), unhappy youngsters in Spain, demonstrating everywhere, world poverty and hunger always in the headlines, the credit crunch that came to stay, and in the middle of all of these, us, mere mortals trying to keep on with our lives, wondering if there will ever be a little bit of quiet and safer times. Must we learn to live with these bad news? Is this the world our children are getting from us? Since I don't have the answers to these questions, I better do what I enjoy doing, cooking that is! Let's get the most of our lives, and eat and try new recipes. Some are good, some are better. So far, and since we are still in summer, though the temperature is currently 17 degrees, (which is not that bad) my post today is a colorful starter, fresh and full of flavour. It's a vegetarian one as well, and I am glad to say that THIS one I DID share it with my other half (the Vegetarian).





Bruschetta: A slice of bread, usually toasted on the grill, rubbed with garlic and topped with different toppings, i.e. parma ham, pecorino, pesto and olives, avocado and tomato, mushroom ragu, grilled vegetables, etc. One of the fillings came out from the wonderful site "The Kitchn", and the other one is a tomato and Parmesan one. The bread is gorgeous when you grilled or broil it. It retains much more flavour. Then the topping and that's it, a wonderful starter!


Two Bruschette

Ingredients for the Broad beans one:

1 pound fresh broad beans, shelled
2-3 medium radishes, julienned (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds or dill
salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 (1/2-inch-thick, 3-to-4-inch-long) focaccia slices
1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled



Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook broad beans for 2 minutes. Drain and transfer beans to a large bowl of ice water. Let cool and then drain. Slip the outer skin off each bean and discard the skin. Place the beans in a large bowl and coarsely mash with a fork leaving some beans whole or in chunks.

Combine the beans, radishes, lemon zest, lemon juice, mint leaves, and fennel fronds . Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Brush olive oil over both sides of the focaccia slices and grill or broil. Rub toasts with garlic and then spoon the broad bean mixture on top. Sprinkle a little extra salt on top and serve.




Tomato and Parmesan Bruschetta

Ingredients:

1 focaccia cut into slices
1 garlic clove
8 or 9 cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup Parmesan shavings
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Method:
Cut the tomatoes very thinly, season. Rub the bread with the garlic and brush both sides with the olive oil. Grill or broil and top with the tomato and the Parmesan, decorate with basil. Serve at once.