Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spanish tapas and some fish

There wasn't a cloud in the sky yesterday.
Nor was there an aeroplane transporting me to London as planned!
Just blueness for miles around ...

So with all this time on my hands, I set to work planning a Spanish meal to celebrate my husband's birthday. The menu at Wheeler & Company last night was ...

Jamon Iberico
Hot chorizo salad with tomatoes, butter beans and radish
Patas Bravas
Hake with clams and peas in a salsa verde

For the Tapas
It is worth getting the best quality ingredients as you possibly can for tapas as they are mostly eaten alone. Good delis will sell both cooking chorizo, but also a selection of sliced meats which look attractive spread on a plate and taste delicious. I got all my ingredients yesterday from the ever wonderful Fallon & Byrne. Their cheese and meat counter is extensive and has most of the components for wonderful tapas and antipasti.

The Jamon Iberico is a very special cured ham only produced in Spain. It must have at least 75% black Iberian pig in the breeding and it is cured for 36 months. The finest ham is called Jamon Iberico di Bellotta which is from free-range Iberian pigs roaming through oak forests on the Spanish-Portugese border eating acorns. It is cut in small bite size pieces and should be served on a warm plate - this will soften the fats in the meat and present the best flavour.

Boquerones are small white anchovies marinated in oil and vinegar and are a staple of the tapas plate. These taste great stuffed with a parsley leaf, rolled and put on a cocktail stick with a caperberry. Eat in one bite - they look great and are delicious.

It is also worth making your own hummus as you can tailor the flavours and texture to suit yourself. I prefer a coarser hummus than you would normally get from pre-made tub. It is quick and easy to make.

For four:
1 tin chickpeas (or 200g soaked over night, boiled in 2L of water for 2 hours or until tender)
2-3 cloves of garlic
3 tlbsps Tahini
Squeeze of lemon juice, to taste
Large splash of olive oil
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until you have a coarse mixture. The key to making this just how you want it is to taste it regularly through the process adding more garlic, tahini lemon juice and oil until you get the balance of flavours just right. It keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge. After that, I think that that the garlic goes slightly stale. So make small batches, often.

Hot Chorizo Salad
The hot chorizo salad is easy to make in advance and tastes absolutely amazing. This would make a wonderful summer lunch with a glass of wine and some bread.

For four, as a starter, you will need:
12 ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
4 radishes, finely sliced
1 small red onion, finely sliced
100g of best quality butter beans
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1-2 chorizo sausages, (or as much as you like!) chopped into bite size pieces
For the Vinaigrette
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
1 tblsp lemon juice
4 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, ground to a pulp
Salt and pepper

First make the vinaigrette. Add the vinegar, lemon juice and garlic to a bowl and gradually whisk in the olive oil until it is all combined. Season to taste.

Place all the salad ingredients in a bowl and mix gently together. Pour over a little of the vinaigrette and let it rest while you fry the chorizo pieces. In a hot pan with a small drop of olive oil, fry the chorizo for two minutes on each size until they are juicy and golden. Add these to the salad and turn it gently to mix it through. Serve and enjoy ...

Patatas Bravas
This is a classic Spanish tapas of fried cubes of potato in a piquant tomato sauce.

For four, you will need:
12 small waxy potatoes, I used charlotte, peeled cubed and salted
Light olive oil
For the tomato sauce:
2 tins of peeled plum tomatoes
1 green pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves
2 small red chillies, dried and chopped
100ml dry white wine
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp hot Spanish paprika
sea salt and black pepper

In a bowl, take any skin and hard bits off the tomatoes and chop them up a bit.
In a saucepan fry the sliced garlic and chilli in 2 tblsps olive oil. When the garlic had turned golden, add the tomatoes and leave on a low bubble to reduce.
In another saucepan, fry the onion and green pepper in a knob of butter and some olive oil.

When the onion has softened and caramelised slightly, add in the wine and bring to the boil. Add the tomatoes, sugar and paprika and season to taste.
My version of the potatoes is a slightly healthier version that the traditional Spanish variety, in that they are not deep fried. I parboiled the cubed potatoes for 5 minutes, dried them and placed them in a large flat oven proof dish. I covered them with a light olive oil and tossed them around in it. Place them in an oven at 180 degrees until they have a golden brown skin.
Serve on a large dish and pour over the tomato sauce.

Moro's Hake with Salsa Verde
This is an easy dish and the addition of the clams really liven up the flavours.

For four, you will need:
4 large meaty hake fillets, in seasoned flour, saving some flour
1 large handful of clams
3 tblsps olive oil
large knob of butter
75g peas, podded or good-quality frozen
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
100ml dry white wine
150ml hot fish stock
Salt & black pepper

First fry the hake fillets in the olive oil and butter on both sides for a few minutes until a golden brown crust has sealed in the flavour. Set these aside and make the salsa verde.

In the same pan, fry the garlic and fennel seeds until they have a warm golden colour. Then add the chopped parsley, keeping some for decoration. When the parsley has turned a slightly darker colour, turn down the heat and add the reserved flour. Cook for a minute or so and then gradually add the fish stock and wine, whisking until a nice sauce has formed. Return the fish to the pan, skin side down, nestling each fillet into the juices. Add the peas and the clams and cover over until the fish is cooked and the clams have opened.
Serve sprinkled with the remainder of the chopped parsley.

Some notes on this :

This is a lovely dish but I do think that you could increase the quantities of liquids which go in to make the sauce, as quite a lot of it evaporated during cooking (although with hindsight, perhaps my lid was not on tight enough). The reduction did produce a flavoursome sauce which delicately compliments the fish.

I was also unsure about frying the fish on both sides first, as I would tend normally to just fry the skin side and protect the flesh from direct heat. However, the hake fillets were very thick, but the sealed top meant that juices and heat are trapped inside, thus cooking the fish through quite quickly. The firm surface also prevents the fish from breaking up in the pan.

In all, a quick and simple supper where the flavours of the fish are not lost.

ps. I made the lemon tart for the birthday boy .. and using double cream this time, the tart appeared from the oven, yellow, lemony and delicious....served with raspberry coulis (raspberries, sugar and a drop of australian honey liqueur whizzed up), it was a light end to a delicious meal.


  1. Elizabeth you are a wonder.. this looks amazing and makes me think who needs restaurant Moro when we could go to yours and eat this! By the way we dined on Friday courtesy of my friend Morwenna all delicious and from the Otto Langenghi book, check it out you'd love it!

  2. There is a new Ottolenghi cookbook out on 29th April called Plenty...its on my wishlist!
    And I have eaten in his Islington restaurant... its wonderful!
    Its a pity you couldn't make Friday but hey what a choice - Moro or Ottolenghi on a Friday night!
    Maybe if I make Sussex Pond Pudding next time you guys will visit!