Maybe not the real soda bread, but still a very good version it. Actually, perfect to eat with a bowl of soup or with some salad.
Buckwheat cheddar soda bread (adapted from Dan Lepard’s column in the Guardian).
- Makes one large loaf
- 300g buckwheat flour
- 50g potato flour (potato starch; i used potato mash flakes)
- 50g unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
- 3 tsp mustard powder or curry powder
- 125g strong cheddar, coarsely grated
- 2 medium eggs
- 50g low-fat yoghurt
- 200ml cold milk
Put the buckwheat and potato flours into a bowl and then rub in the butter. Add the baking powder, mustard powder and cheddar and toss through well.
Beat the eggs, yoghurt and milk together , then pour the mix on the dry ingredients and stir well to a soft dough. Line a baking tray with nonstick paper and spoon the mixture on as one big lump in the middle. Dust the top with buckwheat flour then pat it into a rectangle about 3cm high.
Cover the top with more grated cheese and poppy seeds, cut with a knife into 8-12 pieces, then bake at 220C/200C fan/425F/gas mark 7 for about 20 minutes until the cheese on top begins to brown. Remove from the tray and paper and leave to cool on a wire rack before serving.
- 3 bleached garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 onions peeled and chopped in big chunks
- 60g cucumber peeled and chopped in big chunks
- 75g red bell peppers seeded and sliced
- 1Kg rip red tomatoes, chopped in big chunks
- 30g of white rustic bread, without crust, torn into pieces
- 120ml cup water
- 6 tablespoons of olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
First, peel the garlic cloves and drop in small saucepan with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. When the water begins to boil, take out the garlic out of the water and put into a bowl of ice water to quickly cool it. Repeat twice, always starting with cold water.
Peel and cut the vegetables into large chunks and put them into a large bowl. Add the tomatoes into large wedges and put in a bowl with the onions, cucumbers, and bell peppers. Add the bread, torn into pieces, then pour over the water. Process everything together using a hand-held blender, about 5 min until is well combined. Add the olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper and blend the soup until smooth and creamy. Chill in the fridge before serving (at least 2 hours). Serve the gazpacho with a plus an extra drizzle of olive oil. If you want, you can add cured ham, finely chopped egg, tuna, croutons, chopped pepper…..
Fly-in-fly-out to Barcelona… A little less than 11 hours in town, which allowed to fit in enough time to do my thing, touch the Mediterranean and buy proper ham at the airport free shop. And, by proper ham, I mean jamón ibérico de bellota [acorn Iberian ham], the dark red meat marbled with veins of fat which only the free range black Iberian pigs who feast on acorns can have. It is only the finest of cured hams and is considered one of the best delicacies in the world. Well, let’s make it clear – it actually is. I have seen otherwise serious gown up almost shed a tear when they tasted. As M. eloquently put it “the kind of thing that makes worthwhile years of studying just to be able to afford it”. And, if I may add, instrumental to cope with endless hours of corporate drama.
In any case, once the precious ham was acquired, carefully transported into Switzerland and put to rest in the fridge, I still had to figure out how to serve it. It was not just a question of dropping it in a hot plate… This ham deserved the best ingredient to compliment its nutty rich flavor and bring the best out of it. Since I had just been in Barcelona, it seemed totally logical to serve it with tomato bread, a combination of flavors made in heaven, known in Catalonia as pa amb tomàquet. It is said to be the most popular dish of their cuisine, and you may find different versions and lines of thought. Toasted or fresh bread? Garlic, or no garlic? Rub the tomato or use a pre-made mixture? Grate the tomato or puree it? I just avoided all the metaphysical question by resorting to my ex-Spanish Mother-in-Law strong recommendations.
Iberian ham and tomato bread (pa amb tomàquet amb pernil, Pan con tomate y jamón)
- Finely sliced cured ham
- 1 garlic teeth, peeled and cut in half
- Slices of toasted rustic bread
- Tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes, as they taste of something. When in Spain, I would have probably used regular grape tomatoes.
- Olive oil to taste
1. Grate the tomatoes into a bowl.
1. Toast the bread for a few minutes, until is warm and slightly crusty
2. Rub with the half garlic.
4. Drizzle with olive oil
5.Spread the grated tomato paste to taste
6. Put the ham slices on top
Pain perdu literally means “lost bread” in French. As in the bread which you cannot eat while french and becomes stale. Probably during Roman times, a resourceful cook realized that if the bread was softened by dipping it in milk and/or eggs and then fried, it could be converted it into a delicious dish apt for all tastes. I grew up in Portugal eating it, as fatias douradas [golden slices] over Christmas, generously sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. When I moved to Spain, I learnt their name was in fact torrijas and it would make its appearance later down the year during Lent. I am pretty sure if I bring this topic up in the office, Swiss and the Germans would claim to have their own variety of the dish. But, that belongs to another post… To close the debate, it might be worthwhile mentioning there is a considerable difference between fatias douradas, torrijas and pain perdu. The iberian varieties are deep fried, while the French opt for browning them with butter.
In any case, when I found an ancient panettone in the back of the cupboard, I remembered this recipe I had seen ages ago in a Gordon Ramsay’s book. It also had been a while ever since I used this book, and in fact, I even had a perfect group of [s]suffering guests[/s] testers coming home for brunch. Perfect occasion, perfect ingredients, perfect guests… As every Gordon’s recipe, if you follow the instructions to the letter, you will get exactly what you are supposed to get. Probably due to the differences in the ingredients, the raspberry mix got a bit messy, but nothing a pair of experienced hands couldn’t fix to the right consistency and taste. All in all, in almost less time than it took to cook it, not only I managed to get rid of old panettone but also had a very happy and satisfied crowd. Definitely calories worthwhile taking.
Pain perdu with raspberries and ricotta (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food: Recipes from The F Word)
- 125g ricotta cheese drained
- 125g mascarpone
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 200g raspberries
- 25g butter
- 4 slices of panettone
- 3 large eggs beaten
1. Put the ricotta, mascarpone, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix until it is smooth. Fold half the raspberries and mix softly.
2. Put 1 slice of panettone in the egg mix and let it soak for a couple of minutes.
3. Fry the slice on both sides until golden brown (about a couple of minutes). Take it out of the pan and put it in a serving plate.
4. Repeat (2-4).
5. Put a generous spoon of the raspberry mix on top of the warm slices of fried panettone, and finish with the remaining raspberries.
2. Melt the butter in a non stick pan until it begins to foam.
In a literal manner, tapa means a cover or lid in Spanish. But, if you are talking about food, a tapa refers to a range of fine appetizers and nibbles that are served in bars and pubs to accompany a glass of wine or beer. Over the years, tapas have evolved into a completely new concept, being now a synonym of miniature dishes – sometimes very sophisticated – which are put together to form a meal. In any case, tapas, or its closely related pintxos and raciones, are the center of informal meals and allow you to focus on chatting and socializing rather than scoffing a full blown dinner.
Even risking sounding a bit pedantic, the dish I am doing today is a pintxo. Traditionally, this combination with anchovies is ubiquitous in the Basque Country. And, you simply are not not served tapas in the Basque Country. Up the there, the pieces of bread with something on top are called pintxos. Incidentally, unlike other parts of the country, you also have to pay for them. In case you wonder, about.com does a excellent job on explaining with great detail and accuracy what is one or the other, and the difference between them.
As of late, I have been kind of missing this sort of flavors from home… A poker night presented itself like the perfect opportunity to give it a go. After googling a bit, I ended up finding this Spanish blogger from Bilbao, whom had a recipe that looked very much like the pintxos de anchoa you can find all over the Basque Country.
Anchovy, hard boiled egg and caper on toast (pintxo de anchoas)
- 150 grs. of cream cheese, like Philadelphia
- 2 tins of salted anchovies
- Sliced bread (I use the equivalent of a French bagette, cut diagonally).
- 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped very finely.
- Capers or sliced gurken
- Olive oil
Put the cheesed and the anchovies (plus its olive oil). Mix well with a blender until you obtain a homogenous mix. Reserve.
Cut the bread crust out, and cut each slice in half so you can obtain 2 rectangles. Fry in a generous quantity of olive oil. Be careful to not let the olive oil overheat to avoid the bread to burn. I was on a hurry this day, and simply toasted the bread until it was crunchy. This version is also less caloric.
Spread a generous quantity of anchovy mix so you obtain a thick layer on top of the bread. Cover with the egg and put a couple of cappers on top of it.
An Israeli chef gives his interpretation of an Iraqi dish, topped with an Yemenite green chilli sauce. And, a pretty damn good it was, just ideal for this sort of weather…. The recipe was brought to the Guardian (here), by the hand of Yotam Ottonleghi. You know the drill: kilometric list of ingredients and several elements to put together at the end. But, it is worthwhile the effort – the combination of flavors and textures is delicate and at the same time exciting. Each one has its place and none is over-powering. It can be cooked in large batches and stored in the fridge to be eaten ad hoc.
Sabih, tahini sauce, zhoug and salad
For the sabih
- 2 large aubergines
- About 300ml sunflower oil
- 4 slices rustic white bread, toasted
- 4 free-range eggs, hard-boiled and cut into 1cm-thick slices
- Salt and black pepper
For the tahini sauce
- 100g tahini paste
- 80ml water
- 20ml lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
For the salad
- 2 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1cm dice
- 2 mini cucumbers, cut into 1cm dice
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 1½ tbsp chopped parsley
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
For the zhoug
- For the zhoug
- 35g coriander
- 20g parsley
- 2 green chillies
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- ⅛ tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp water
Using a vegetable peeler, peel off strips of aubergine skin from top to bottom, so they end up like a zebra, with alternating black-and-white stripes. Cut both aubergines widthways into 2.5cm-thick slices.
Heat the sunflower oil in a wide pan. Carefully – the oil spits – fry the aubergine in batches until nice and dark, turning once, for six to eight minutes; add oil if needed as you cook the batches. When done, the aubergine should be completely tender in the centre. Remove from the pan, leave to drain on kitchen paper, then sprinkle with salt.
To make the zhoug, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. For the tahini sauce, put the tahini paste, water, lemon juice, garlic and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Mix well, and add a little more water, if needed, so its consistency is slightly runnier than honey. Make the salad by mixing the tomato, cucumber, spring onion, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, place a slice of bread on each plate. Spoon a tablespoon of tahini sauce over each, then arrange overlapping slices of aubergine on top. Drizzle over some more tahini, without completely covering the aubergines. Season each egg slice, and lay on top of the aubergine. Drizzle more tahini on top and spoon over as much zhoug as you like – be careful, it’s hot! Serve the salad on the side; spoon a little on top of each sabih, too, if you like. Store any leftover zhoug in a sealed container in the fridge – it will keep for a week at least.