Tag Archives: Spanish food

Food Fiesta {Spain-Part II}

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Falling in love with Spain is a quick and easy affair. It sweeps you off your feet as soon as you touch the ground and have a few moments to take in all the beauty and aromas of the land. Coming from busy and fast-paced London it is not surprising we were enchanted by the locals’ charm and their leisurely lifestyle. And then there is Spanish food because that’s why you are really here, right?
I have loads of pictures for you some taken with my Canon and some with my iPhone, that big camera gets so heavy after a while!Breakfast in Spain
We started our journey in Valencia, the birthplace of the famous Paella which became known to the rest of the world as Paella Valenciana-a colourful rice dish filled with a mixture of chicken and seafood, flavoured with saffron, to this day, a spice more expensive than gold.
Here is my take on the traditional dish cooked with all the local ingredients. If you are interested in the recipe you can find it in one of my previous posts.Paella Valenciana
If you asked me to describe Spanish food, the words of one of my co-workers, who spent years teaching in Spain, come to mind. He described their cuisine as this, “Spanish food is either yellow, orange or red and very simple.” Simple but by no means plain!

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When a waiter asked if I wanted my Sangria “grande” or “pequeño” what do you think I chose? _MG_2311

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Spanish food is vibrant in both taste and appearance and although you might expect some similarities with Mexican food, I know we did, it’s nothing like it. The most famous and the most used ingredient in Spanish cuisine is chorizo. We quickly learned that if you cook with it you don’t need to add any more spices, it delivers quite a flavour punch on its own! My absolute favourite Spanish delicacy is Jamón serrano or Serrano Ham, which is very similar to Italian Prosciutto Crudo. My kids love it as well which made Spain an easy country to travel with kids. Serrano Ham Here is Mitchell having his second breakfast of bread and Serrano Ham with a simple tomato dip. _MG_2334
Spanish diet is Mediterranean, heavy on fruit, salads, fish and olive oil. Spain has the highest life expectancy in Europe. Despite the apparent economic crisis and high unemployment rate Spaniards seem to know how to sort out their priorities and enjoy life despite the circumstances.

A typical breakfast. Coffee and a croissant.Breakfast in Spain

Can you believe a family of 4 left all this mess?Breakfast in Spain
Then comes lunch, the biggest meal of the day in Spain. It is usually eaten between 2-4 in the afternoon, slowly and with mucho enjoyment. Here is the lunch we had on our last day. It comes in 2 courses.
First. Paella. Garlic Rice with Shrimp. My giant mojito. Paella
Second. Lamb Sirloin with Parmesan Potatoes. Panfried Fish with grilled zucchini and eggplant slices and charred padron peppers.lunch in Valencia And our very adventurous children went for a giant cheeseburger. Oh well, they had a lot of foreign food so I guess they came to their end. 🙂IMG_2082_2
A midday merienda. (A variety of macarons sold at McDonald’s. I know crazy stuff!)
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And one of many suppers. Traditionally, supper in Spain is much lighter than lunch and eaten quite late around 9-11 in the evening. It’s not unusual to have a salad or a sandwich or a variety of tapas. We loved having a selection of cured meats, Manchego cheese, olives and sliced tomatoes and peppers drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. When vegetables taste as good as they do in Spain all you need for a dressing is that-lemon juice and olive oil!
Spanish cured meats and cheesesSpanish cured meats and cheeses

A common sight.  Tapas bar in Valencia.Tapas bar in Valencia

As much as I love cured meats and cheeses I went absolutely mad for all the tasty vegetables and fruit. Oh how I love the land where orange trees grow along the sidewalks and restaurant owners use their fruit as paper weight to keep napkins from being blown away by a light breeze. Orange Tree
where the landscapes look like this._MG_2693
and we are forced to slow down and enjoy each other and delicious ice cream.Valencia, Spain
Spain definitely charmed its way into our hearts  and will  be back.IMG_1952

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Spanish Hash {Patatas Bravas+Eggs}

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Spanish Hash (Patatas Bravas and Eggs)
This recipe got created by accident which happens here A LOT. The night before Brad went on his trip we had a tapa night. I guess we were still in Spain in our spirits.  Stay-in dates are great when it’s impossible to get a babysitter plus we can make any food we love for a fraction of the price at a restaurant. I love tapas but what I love even more is that we usually cook them together.  It’s such a great way to start a date! Drinking wine while juggling multiple pots and pans and hot plates tends to infuse an everyday activity like cooking with much hilarity. Try it for yourself if you don’t believe me.  ( But be safe. Seriously.)

Patatas Bravas is one of the tapas that is “a must” for us. Fried potatoes served with spicy tomato sauce. Brilliant. “Bravas” means “fierce” in Spanish, apparently. How can you NOT love a dish that is fierce?!!!

Spanish Hash was born out of leftovers but it turned out to be such a  beautiful and satisfying breakfast dish I decided it deserved a life of its own.  I am definitely reserving this for weekend breakfasts and brunches. It would take just a few minutes to throw together if you have potatoes boiled and sauce made the night before.

Ingredients:

( For the bravas sauce)

  • Olive Oil- 1 tbs.
  • Onion (chopped) -1
  • Garlic – 4 cloves, sliced
  • Red Chilli- 1, minced
  • Carrot- 1 medium, finely chopped
  • Fresh thyme- 2-3 sprigs ( you can also use dried thyme)
  • Chopped Tomatoes- 1 tin (400gr)
  • Red Wine Vinegar- 1tbsp.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Note: The sauce recipe makes about 1 cup but you will only need 1/4 cup for the breakfast hash. Reserve the rest to make “patatas bravas” or serve it with your favourite pasta. 

Ingredients for the Hash: (Serves 2 but you can easily double or triple it)

  • Potatoes (boiled and cubed)- 2 medium
  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Eggs- 1-2  per person ( I used 3 because I eat 1 and Brad eats 2)
  • Goat Cheese (crumbled)- 1 tbs. (or use whatever cheese you like)
  • Parsley- 1-2 sprigs

Method:

As I mentioned earlier you can cook potatoes and the sauce the night before. This way your morning will be much smoother. If you are doing everything in one go here is what you need to do.

Half your potatoes and bring them to a boil in a pot full of water, then cook them for 6-8 minutes longer until soft but not falling apart. Drain and cool the potatoes.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and cook your chopped onion and sliced garlic over low heat for 5 minutes, then add minced chilli, chopped carrot and thyme (leaves only) and cook for 5 minutes longer.  Then pour in your canned tomatoes, vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper, turn the heat up and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes until it’s thick.  When you are satisfied with the thickness of the sauce take it off the heat, pour it in a food processor or a blender and blend until smooth. Scoop 1/4 cup out and reserve the rest for a later use.

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C

Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a frying pan and add your cubed potatoes into it, cook them until they are golden brown, then add 1/4 cup of the bravas sauce. Make little wells in the sauce and potatoes and carefully crack your eggs into them and put the pan in the preheated oven for 6-8 minutes depending on how soft or firm you like your egg yolks.  Once the the eggs are set, take them out, sprinkle them with crumbled goat cheese and chopped parsley.

I can’t tell you enough how wonderful the bravas sauce is! It’s like the most flavourful ketchup with a bit of a kick to it. I am absolutely in love with it and am currently adding it to everything. Enjoy!

Spanish Hash {Patatas Bravas+Eggs}
Note: The bravas sauce recipe was adapted from “Jamie Does Spain”.

Paella Valencia and More Memories of Days Past

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Paella Valencia
How often do you look at your life and feel contemplative about the course it’s taken- decisions made, places visited and lived and food eaten? I seem to find myself reminiscing quite often as our life keeps charging forward with so many changes which leave me feeling desperate to hold on to every fun memory we’ve ever had. Those moments, of course, were often created around a meal. If the memories are really special wouldn’t you want to re-create them?

This post is about one of those great memories which incidentally includes our good friend Paella Valencia. Although it is a friend now and shows up regularly for dinner at our house 10 years ago when Brad and I decided to go for a little getaway for our 2nd wedding anniversary neither of us ever heard of Paella. Here we were really excited to have a proper mini-holiday like two grown-ups, the feeling we promptly lost upon our check-in into a beautiful Victorian mansion Bed and Breakfast. Our first and definitely last stay in a B&B. We just couldn’t escape the feeling like two teenagers staying at their spinster aunt house but also paying handsomely for it.  For the duration of our stay we were trying to avoid the all hearing ears of our eccentric and ever so curious hostess but alas we were lacking much needed ninja finesse to be successful. Venturing out to a fancy restaurant we had a voucher for made us feel even younger and more out of place. After surveying the menu for a couple of minutes we quickly realised that the place was far out of our price range even with the discount we were clutching in our hands. Well the decisions was made quickly. We simply ordered the  only item we could afford-the foreign sounding Paella Valencia and tap water.

That was my first introduction to the Spanish staple. It was delicious yet simple and achievable at home. No wonder it’s been the country’s hero among the peasants for generations and many consider paella the national dish of Spain. It gets its beautiful yellow colour from saffron, the world’s most precious and expensive spice. The dish is as tasty as it is gorgeous- vibrant yellow rice punctuated with the colourful bits of red chorizo, pink shrimp, black mussels and green peas!

Paella Valencia
Ingredients:

  • Paella Rice- 2 cups/500 gr
  • Olive Oil-1 tbsp.
  • Saffron- a pinch
  • Onion-1 medium
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • Flat Leaf Parsley- half a bunch
  • Chicken Stock (homemade or prepared)-4 1/2 cups/1.2 litres
  • Chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)-4
  • Prawns- 1 cup/250 gr
  • Mussels- 1lbs/450gr
  • Chorizo- 250 gr
  • Frozen Peas- 1/2 cup
  • Lemon-1
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Paella ingredients
Method:

I find it helpful to dice and slice everything that needs to be diced and sliced before we start our paella because once the heat is on you will be throwing things in quickly and won’t have the time to do the prep. Chop up your parsley, slice chorizo and dice chicken into bite sized chunks. Also, dice the onion and finely mince the garlic. Heat the chicken stock.

Set a large pan over medium heat and put in the olive oil. Add the chicken, chorizo and parsley and stir everything together. Cook until the chicken is cooked, then add onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add rice, a pinch of salt and saffron and stir everything making sure the rice in coated in olive oil, cook for 3 minutes. I once watched Antonio Banderas cook paella on TV and he said that frying of the rice is what makes paella. Don’t know about you but I trust the man with silky voice and charming Spanish accent.

Now pour in your hot chicken stock and bring everything to a boil, cover the pan with a lid and lower the heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes. When the rice is almost done but still a bit chewy add the prawns, mussels and frozen peas. Cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally so the paella is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice of one lemon and grind some fresh pepper over the paella before serving. Taste to make sure there is enough salt, add more if necessary.

Paella Valencia

Serve with some crusty bread and robust Spanish wine.

Paella Valencia
Paella Valenciana
Note: This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie Does Spain”.