Self isolation, week 6: masterful repetition

Mona de Pascua

Although local shops are starting to stock things again, they are still quite unpredictable, plus going to them is really unnerving, what with people not respecting any distance or being considerate of others, etc. So we have been trying a bunch of different grocers that do home deliveries; the quality is also higher than what we get in the nearest shops, and we seem to be finding who our favourites are in terms of speed, quality and reliability.

It’s good to be able to establish some sort of predictability after all these weeks of uncertainty.

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Self isolation, week 3: anything goes!

Pumpkin, cauliflower and korean bacon ramen

We used to do most of our grocery shopping in the shops in the area, but since the ‘outbreak’ and the ‘lockdown’, it all has been really messed up, with shops packed with people but devoid of food.

Now that most of our fresh food shopping comes from erratic and unpredictable home deliveries, and is complemented with whatever we can find when we venture onto the shops once a week, we’ve had to “change our paradigm”.

Or in other words, instead of going from recipe to ingredients, we’re now going the other way: here’s the ingredients, what can you do with them?

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Bocadillo de hígado con picada (livers with green sauce sandwich)

Bocadillo de hígado con picada

This is the home-cooked version of a classic tapa or bar food. Normally you either snack from the livers drenched in this brutal green garlicky sauce, or have them on a ‘sandwich’ which has also been generously drenched in the sauce.

I’d warn that this is not something you want to bring to your office, unless you really hate your coworkers, because the garlic is STRONG in here.

Ingredients

  • Livers (I used chicken livers, but it’s traditionally made with pork liver)
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Fresh parsley

You’ll also need a mortar and pestle, or a blender.

Preparation

First slice the livers into bite sized pieces. Put on a hot pan with oil, and fry them until they are nicely browned.

Stir frying livers
Stir frying livers

In the meantime, wash and chop off the rough ends on the parsley, and peel as many cloves as you feel you can handle in your sauce. This is what I went for:

Now you have two options, depending on whether you’re using a mortar or a blender:

1) If you’re using a mortar, place the cloves on it, add a pinch of salt and start mashing carefully (the cloves have a tendency to slip away… like a banana peel). Once they’re a bit of a paste, start adding pieces of parsley (it helps to cut them a bit with scissors or your hands so it’s not the whole twig sticking out of the mortar), and keep mashing and smashing and adding bits of oil as you need to keep it paste like but not too liquid that things slip away from you.

2) If you’re using a blender, you can be lazy like I was and stick everything on the blender jar and blend it down to a paste. You’ll need to add lots more oil though.

You can make a bigger batch that way and store it in the fridge for a few days. It’s either the copious amounts of oil or the very strong GARLIC but it won’t go off.

Back to the livers, once they’re browned, you can choose between adding a good amount of the green sauce to them and stir while they’re still on the pan, or maybe toasting some bread, adding the sauce and then the livers. ¡Buen provecho! (and don’t forget some napkins… as it’s going to be messy!)

Other uses of the sauce (and leftover livers)

This sauce is used as accompaniment to lots other dishes, normally things that you stir-fry:

  • mushrooms,
  • squid (cut in squares or fried whole)
  • steaks

Sometimes it’s also combined with tomato sauce, specially in sandwiches: one “side” has green sauce and the other one has a red sauce made with mashed tomato. The contrast is divine!

Other ideas, if you have left-over livers:

  • use them as topping for pasta. Cook the pasta as usual, drain almost all the water from the pot, and then add some oil or green sauce, and the livers, and stir and mix everything together.
  • or as topping for an “Arroz a la cubana” – cook some tomato sauce with the livers and thinly sliced onion and garlic, then serve with nicely cooked white rice.

On sandwich and sandwich bread

I used quotes around ‘sandwich’ because in Spain you would use a stout piece of stick bread, a sort of wider relative of the French baguette, and not square sandwich bread that has been baked on a tin. You need something that can hold everything together and contain the copious amounts of oil, and frankly, flimsy sandwich bread won’t cut it.

Even more, we refer to sandwiches as those made with baked tin loaves, and those loaves are called ‘sandwich bread’ (pan de sandwich).

Why this?

Last December in Valencia, I was excitedly telling my mum that we going to a “bar de bocatas” that is famous for having lots of different bocadillos on the menu, and my mum wondered if they would have one of her favourites, hígado con picada? They didn’t, but it made me want it, and so I took note to cook it when I came back.

This is a bit complicated because WHY ARE SHOPS NOT SELLING LIVERS? I just don’t get it. We’re trying to go all anti food-waste and then shops only sell some parts of animals. What are they doing with the rest? Nonsense.

Anyway. This was my mum’s idea!

Puchero

Fideos soup (sopa de fideos)

Whenever we feel under the weather or just in search of some comfort, I channel my inner grandmother and cook a traditional Spanish stew: puchero.

Puchero in the pressure cooker
Puchero in the pressure cooker

This is a traditional “value for money” dish, as it’s easy to cook, relatively cheap, and the leftovers are also used for other dishes. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving ?

A classic on Sundays pretty much all year long (except when it gets hot!).

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Paella (traditional Valencian style)

Valencian Paella
Valencian Paella

Paella is a very simple dish that Valencian peasants would cook using cheap, fresh and widely available ingredients. Yet despite its innate simplicity, people repeatedly misunderstand and complicate it, causing us Valencians a great deal of stress in the process, because we know it could be so much better and yet people keep insisting on bastardising our national dish in every possible way! ?

Also if you, like me, do not live in Valencia and hence do not have access to some of the “niche” local ingredients, I will also provide acceptable replacements that follow the original spirit. I live in the UK, so my suggestions will reflect what I can find in local markets and supermarkets. If it’s not in my list, it quite probably is not acceptable, so don’t add it ?

Hope you enjoy it!
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