To impress your guests when hosting a dinner party, you need to either cook something they’ve never had before, or cook a familiar dish that is better than any they’ve tried. If you follow the instructions given in this post you will likely cook something that will impress everyone.
Note: If you just want the recipe, skip to the final paragraph.
Making my own haggis had been on my bucket list ever since I arrived in Scotland. In the weeks before I left, I finally got it done.
Leftover herbs. It’s hard to know what to do with them and I hate to see them go to waste. Parsley butter is a great way to use them and it gives an elegant twist to many simple dishes which can be served on the side, or as separate courses. For example:
Over lowish heat: sauté mushrooms in parsley butter until juices have been released and evaporated. Adjust seasoning and acidity (lemon, S&P). Serve.
An alternative to the above is to cook the mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil first and then add some parsley butter within the last couple of minutes of cooking. The flavour is quite different. The following can also be fried in parsley butter with good results: diced carrots (low heat for 30 or 40 minutes), potatoes (chopped to 1cm cubes, though in this case I would suggest cooking them in oil first), whole asparagus tips, or whole green beans.
Fideos a la cazuela con costilla de cerdo y salchichas
Since I’ve been so enthusigasmic about my new cazuela de barro, I’ve been on the lookout for new recipes to try. When I was in San Sebastián I bought myself Las Mejores Recetas De Mi Madre by Joan Roca. Or, The Best Recipes Of My Mother as the English title would be if there was one. Joan Roca is the head chef at the three Michelin star restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Catalonia. He is quite famous in Spain and has a new book out called Cocina con Joan Roca.
The title of the recipe loosely translates to Casserole style spaghetti noodles with pork ribs and mini pork sausages. In Spain it’s quite common to cook with individual ribs chopped into 1-2″ chunks. The butcher prepares them this way when you buy them. If I wasn’t able to get ribs prepared like this, I probably would’ve substituted pork belly. Salchichas are small sausages about the size of a large man’s finger. You can substitute any good quality pork sausage, but if you buy large sausages, chop them into chunks and adjust cooking times accordingly. Fideos are basically 1″ segments of spaghetti. Substitute any small form of pasta if you can’t find them. This recipe also calls for vino rancio which I’ve referred to as “old wine”. It is a special type of wine from Catalonia which has been left out to age in the sun. I have no idea what it tastes like but I’m guessing it’s acidic so I substituted the juice of half a lemon. Don’t forget, when cooking from a cazuela, always bring it up to temperature slowly. The recipe says to keep simmering for about 10 minutes once the ribs have been reintroduced to soften them. I did this, but they were still quite tough. Next time I cook this, I will extend this cooking time to try and soften the meat more.
Here’s the recipe to serve 1 person:
In a cazuela de barro with extra virgin olive oil: brown 1 pork rib cut into 1-2″ chunks, remove. Brown 3 small sausages, remove. Add more olive oil if necessary, fry 1 diced onion ~ soft & golden, add one grated tomato (halve the tomato, grate the flesh and seeds, discard the skin), and cook over low heat ≈ 5-10mins. Add a dash of old wine, continue cooking until it has reduced to the consistency of jam. Return the ribs to the cazuela, add ≈ 1/2 a cup of stock, continue cooking ≈ 10mins to soften the rib meat. Return the sausages, add pasta to fill in the gaps between the chunks of meat. Cook ~ pasta is almost done (you may need to add more stock if it’s looking dry). Off heat, stir through 1 small clove of garlic and 2 or 3 sprigs of parsley (both finely chopped), then leave to rest a few minutes. Serve in the cazuela, along with a nice salad.
Glossary of Symbols
I’ve recently been introduced to a fantastic little piece of equipment that no one but the Spanish seem to know about. This is probably common all over the world for all I know, but I’d never seen it until a few months ago when I walked into my favorite mexitesence in Edinburgh.
A cazuela de barro is an earthenware pot that is glazed on the inside. I’m not sure where it originally came from, could’ve been France, but the Spanish seem to have taken full advantage of its beauty. The best thing about the cazuela de barro is that you can do anything to it. It can go on gas or electric stove tops, in the microwave or convection oven, dishwasher, fridge, and freezer. The only requirement is that it doesn’t change temperature too quickly – always start on a low heat and allow it to cool before fridge/freezing.
They come in all sizes too. Large ones can be used like a casserole dish to serve the whole family. Then there’s the normal size which will hold a main meal for one person, and then the smaller Cazuelita de Barro that’s perfect for serving tapas.
Although it’s amazing to cook and serve a family meal in a cazuela, it is most valuable for a single person or couple as it minimises washing up. You can literally serve a perfectly good meal and have nothing left to wash except the Cazuela de Barro and a fork. Naturally I bought myself one of these the first day I settled into my new flat in Spain.
Since this is my new favorite thing in the world, I’ll be cooking out of it constantly for at least the next couple of days until I get distracted by something else. So keep a look out for recipes to come. If you don’t have a cazuela de barro but still want to follow the recipes, just use a frying pan and transfer to a casserole dish if it needs to go into the oven. Click on Cazuela de Barro under the Food menu at the top of the page to see related blog posts.
Rob has been keeping an account of our trips through GARMIN connect which goes with his GPS. Unfortunately the GPS tends not to direct us along bike paths so we usually just use it to record our trip data.
Day 1 – Edinburgh to Dunbar
Left Edinburgh at 3:30 PM, slightly later than our anticipated 11:00 AM departure. Weather was pretty shit but not too much wind. Fog set in later in the day and there was a mist that made everything pretty moist. Stayed with a bloke named Mark James who is a warmshowers.org member. We camped in his backyard and he gave us heaps of cycling tips and advice as well as lots of good organic food and showed us around Dunbar. We went to the local community garden which is at the hospital and planted a few Hazel trees. We cooked a meal on our little burner – macaroni and tuna stir through with a wild lettuce that Mark gave us. Cold night in the tent as both tent and sleeping bags are meant for… well… not Scotland in April. But that’s okay, we are still alive.
Part of our lateness was due to my phone deciding to break on the morning of our departure. To fix it I had to wipe it and reinstall everything. This was taking way too long so I had to just stop it half way through, then put my computer in my bag and send it to Spain. Now I’m riding with only about a third of my music collection and half an audio book. I guess I’m going to be listening to a lot of podcasts…
Here is the recipe for the one pot meal we cooked. It’s easy, delicious and there’s minimal washing up. The only hard part is knowing how much water to add so that you end up with the right consistency when the pasta is al dente. I suggest keeping a close eye on it and adding water little by little as required.
Fry onion, carrot in tin tuna oil ~ soft. + pimenton, thyme, bay leaf ~ 2-3mins. + tuna~2mins. +tin tomatoes, stock cube, and enough water so it’s a bit watery. Simmer covered for as long as you can/want. Add pasta, boil ~ pasta is cooked. Adjust seasoning (including acidity with lemon or lime). Serve over lettuce leaves (spinach is preferable) with lots of cheese on top.
Edit (15 April 2014): I lost interest in the paelo diet and abandoned this post about half way through the experiment. I was doing some reading online and came across some interesting articles. This blog post talks about how grains are historically part of the human diet and references this article which summarises a study from the University of Utah. It seems that whatever you choose to believe regarding the human diet, you can find resources to support those beliefs. Classic confirmation bias.
Regardless of whether humans have evolved to eat grains or not, doing the paleo diet (or any diet for that matter) is a great exercise because it puts constrictions on your cooking and forces you to get creative and try new things. One of the biggest takeaways from this paleo exercise was the recipe for vegetables slowly cooked in butter. I regularly cook this now and it has become my go to meal when I don’t know what else to do. It is also a delicious way to eat vegetables and so is perfect for anyone who doesn’t get enough of them. I know that Rob gained an appreciation for brussels sprouts cooked this way. I think I’ll do a separate blog post on this recipe.
“This land is cursed; the animals hop not run, birds run, not fly and the swans are black not white”.SO WROTE one of the first Europeans to set foot on Australia, Dirk Hartog, as he sailed away from the west coast in 1688.
I can’t wait to get home and embrace the native foods of my home country, something I hardly did when I lived in Australia. I recently found this PDF floating around the internet and it looks like it’s got some pretty interesting recipes. It’s mostly fusion food, but exciting none the less.
To me the poached egg has always been the most delicious, but also most annoying form of the egg. I like the egg whites to be only just cooked so they are still soft, and the egg yolk to be just runny enough for me to spread it over my toast like soft butter. The only problem with poached eggs is that they are a pain to cook. There is a downside to every recipe, and good advice on cooking a poached egg is hard to find.
Everyone knows that olive oil is good for you, but no one actually seems to believe it. I hear a lot of people comment on the amount of olive oil I use (think Jamie Oliver).
The reason olive oil – extra virgin olive oil in particular – is said to be good for you is because it increases HDL (“good” cholesterol). But, it turns out that saturated fats increase HDL more than LDL (“bad” cholesterol). Maybe saturated fats aren’t as bad as most people think. I don’t want to turn into a science bozo, so I’ll just skip to the point, where I quote Nathan Myhrvold1 in Modernist Cuisine:
A meta-analysis of all prospective cohort studies published before 2009 finds no significant evidence linking saturated fat consumption to cardiovascular disease.