Salad week

I realised my salads tended to use always the same ingredients, so I was getting a bit bored of that. Plus my tendency to use lettuce resulted in lunch boxes full of lettuce and little space for anything else… which left me a bit hungry!

Solution? Try out new salad recipes!

To avoid spending too much time on the internet trying to source the best recipes, and inspired by my recent visit to two Ottolenghi’s restaurants last week, I decided to systematically go through the salads section in Ottolenghi’s “The cookbook”, and make one each night. Then either we’ll end up with some favourites, or at least we’ll have learnt a new trick or two for combining flavours that we did not know about.

  1. Peaches and ham salad
  2. Figs and cheese salad
  3. Radish and beans salad

A trick to flip omelettes without special accessories

I cook a lot of omelettes, and when I add lots of fillings they get hard to flip. I do not have an special accessory to flip omelettes because our kitchen is very small and we have to be selective about gadgets. But the fact is… you can make do without special accessories here. All you need is an additional dish!

  • Set the flat, wide dish aside. Oil it evenly, so it becomes a non-adherent dish. We’ll use it to flip the omelette!
  • When the omelette looks mostly cooked in one side, use a spatula to separate the omelette from the sides of the pan.
  • Lift the pan from the heat, hover it over the oiled dish and quickly flip with a confident wrist movement, it so the top bit is underneath now
  • Lightly oil the pan again.
  • Using the spatula to kindly push if it gets stuck, slide the omelette off the dish and back to the pan.
  • Grab the pan handle, and give it a horizontal shake so the omelette stays flat and contents are nicely distributed. Sometimes they can fold… so carefully unfold the omelette using the spatula. Sometimes it will just be a folded omelette, and it might look ugly in one side, but pretty on the other. So simply serve it with the pretty side up 😀
  • You might need to flip the omelette a couple more times, just make sure it doesn’t get TOO dry

A good trick to ensure it is still moist inside is to cook with a reasonably high heat. So it will seal the outside, but keep the inside a bit moist still. If you cook this on a very low heat, you’ll dry out the whole mixture (and it’ll take forever too). If you cook it on a very high heat, you might end up with a burned omelette. So keep an eye on the temperature.

 

A very misleading chorizo package

Chorizo for cooking

I was casually browsing the aisles of deli meats yesterday, when my eyes noticed the “Discovered in Catalunya” sentence. I was like “wait, what?” 🤔

I was in a rush, so I did not look at the label in the package to find out if the producer is based in Catalunya. The product page in Waitrose’s website doesn’t specify where the product is coming from either.

The entire packaging is very misleading, and I have so many objections about it… exactly four.

ONE: the cured meats most commonly associated with Catalunya are not chorizo, but items such as botifarres, saltxitxes, or fuet.

Chorizo is something I’d associate with the west of Spain instead, i.e. the area adjacent to Portugal.

A quick look at the Spanish Wikipedia page for chorizo confirmed my hunch: this type of cured meat started when paprika was imported from America and established in La Vera, where it is still grown to date. (I mentioned using this type of paprika in my courghetti with tomato and onion sauce recipe).

The weather is ideal to produce chorizos, as it’s very dry and cold, and so the meat is cured nicely, and can be preserved for long, which was very important when people did not have fridges, let alone electricity.

Street in Candelario
Candelario is a town in Salamanca, famous for its cured meats

Some anecdotal evidence: when we visited our family in West Spain, we were treated to some heavy chorizo meat dishes (the chorizo mix, without the ‘skin’). We also had the chance to try out hornazo, which is a sort of cake filled with chorizo. You can see it’s truly a traditional product of the area. I’ve never seen anything like that in Catalunya!

TWO: you would not normally bake the chorizo, but grill it.

If you don’t have a grill or gridle, you would “fry” it in a pan. You normally don’t need to add oil because chorizo to cook has a lot of fat already, and it will melt with the heat.

THREE: YOU DO NOT ADD CHORIZO TO PAELLA.

Let me  repeat:

YOU DO NOT ADD CHORIZO TO PAELLA.

It’s gross, inadequate, disgusting, in bad taste, and also absolutely wrong, because paella is a dish of multiple subtle flavours. And chorizo is many things, but it is not “subtle”. The smokiness and fattiness of chorizo would take over the entire spectrum of flavours, and result in “chorizo with rice”. That is not paella.

FOUR: What is wrong with the way you cook chicken that makes you need to add chorizo to it?

I disagree that “chorizo is a must for chicken”. What happened to your taste buds? My only guess is that if you add chorizo to everything (as you seem to be trying really hard to do) you eventually have no taste buds left.

My advice is that you limit your chorizo cooking to what it is traditionally used: stews! migas! Etc.

And give your taste buds a break. You’ll thank me.

Flatafels, falapatties, frifels, falatters, frittatela, frittafels…

A mountain of falafels

Ingredients

  • 1 onion peeled
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled
  • 500g soaked chickpeas (from 250 dried)
  • 6 sprigs of parsley, picked
  • a bunch of coriander (leaves and top part of stem)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp gram flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Preparation

  1. Soak chickpeas overnight or 8+ hours with plenty of water (they might double in weight)
  2. Roughly chop the onion, garlic, and herbs on a food processor

    Before chopping garlic, coriander, etc
    Before chopping garlic, coriander, etc
  3. Add chickpeas and chop them too
  4. Tip the mix to a large bowl
  5. Mix in the spices, sesame seeds, salt, flour and baking powder. Combine all well together.
  6. Add oil to a pan and bring to a high heat
  7. Now, you can use damp hands to shape bits of the mix into balls or patties, or you can use two wooden spoons which is what I did, using one to scoop the mix out and the other one to flatten it a bit before placing it on the pan. Once it’s in the pan and it has settled a bit, I delicately flatten it further using the spoon.
  8. After a while, you will want to delicately turn them around, once they’re browned on one side.  Be careful not to do it too early or they might crumb and break!
    Four falafel fritters, browning
  9. When they are browned on both sides, take them out of the pan.
  10. You might want to add a bit more oil for the next batch.
  11. Repeat until you’re done with all the mix!

Background

I had a really disappointing experience with some supermarket-bought falafel recently. It was dry and crumbly, had no taste or kick whatsoever, and all in all, it was utterly dissatisfying. I should have known better, I know. I guess I was just very hopeful that day 😜

“Of course”, I thought, “it can’t be that hard to make falafel myself, as chickpeas are basically foolproof”.

So I searched for a falafel recipe. I found lots from US based writers which used ingredient names I’m not familiar with and I was quite suspicious of, and I was starting to feel a bit disappointed, until I had an illumination, and searched for “falafel honey and co”.

And my wish for a trustworthy looking recipe was fulfilled: Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer —or essentially, the “heads” of Honey & Co— went to Women’s Hour in BBC Radio 4, and shared their falafel recipe there.

BUT I do not have a fryer, and I didn’t want to use a lot of oil to fry the falafels. So I ended up flattening them; I figured that would increase the surface that was exposed to the heat. Which turned them into flat falafels. Or like chickpea fritters. Or patties. Or… any combination of the above. You can’t say cooking isn’t creative…

The end result isn’t the prettiest, but the taste was really good, and that’s even if I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter: I forgot to add a green chilli, and I doubled the amount of other ingredients so I could have a larger batch… except for baking powder and spices, which I wasn’t quite confident about (specially baking powder-it’s got a great ability to ruin things if you add too much of it). Also, their recipe doesn’t mention sesame seeds in the list of ingredients, but then it does when it asks you to add sesame seeds to the mix. And you’re left wondering: “WHICH sesame seeds?!”

The fantastic garlic kick reminded me a bit to the cod croquettes which my grandma used to make (except you can’t find fishbones, yay!). It even made me think that maybe it could also work if adding pine nuts, like in my grandma’s recipe. After all, there are very few things in the world that will not be improved by adding pine nuts to them.

They combined well with salad, as they can be a bit dry on their own.

Falafel with salad

Maybe a yoghurt and cucumber sauce could work too, but we didn’t have any on the fridge. Instead, I tried making a very purist allioli, with just garlic and olive oil, but it didn’t work, mostly because I was using a blender instead of a pestle and mortar. Something to experiment with some other day. That said, the garlic and oil sauce was great anyway—and we felt very confident that no vampire would get close to our household, haha!

Honey & co don’t recommend reheating, but I did warm them slightly on the microwave the next day before placing them on top of my salad and they were still very nice.

A final warning: this dish is a bit laborious; chopping the ingredients can be tiring if your blender decides to get temperamental (as mine did), and you might need to do it in small batches so it takes longer than it should. I’d personally advise making this on a day where you can take your time and not fall asleep over the bowl. Or getting a mega food processor and blitzing through the chickpeas in two nanoseconds (so to speak!) 🙂