Thursday, December 13, 2012

Paella (simple)

Spanish Paella (simple)
Paella is one of the most well known Spanish dishes. It truly can be one of the most simple, friendly, budget-friendly main courses :) Foreigners identify paella as a variety of seafood cooked over yellow rice with sometimes cheek peas and chiken pieces; however this dish has many variants and elements (black paella made with squid ink, chicken or vegetable paella) it all depends on what part of Spain you are in! (Or what is available in your kitchen cabinets).

In my family we generally eat paella on Sundays (like most families in Asturias, my region) because it is a kind of food that you share and gather around. The other occasion in which we like to have paella is cooked in one of those black huge pans over a beach fire in summer :)

This recipe comes from my grandmother, it is extremely simple, healthy and budget-friendly (as I realize most of her recipes are). The key to getting paella to tasting authentic is getting authentic Spanish ingredients, particularly the olives! (trust me.. those organic Wholefoods' olives that you love are gonna make your paella taste like rubbish.. been there..).
Paella (simple):
 - 1 cup Rice (preferably Calrose type)
 - 1 can Tuna (in olive oil)
 - 1 small can Baby cheek peas
 - 1/2 can Spanish Olives (manzanilla type)
 - 1/2 Avecrem/chicken stock cube
  - 3 stems Saffron
 - Olive oil
Fried/browned rice

Take the cup that you used to measure the rice and fill it with water. Place the saffron strands (or powder) and let dissolve.

Place a deep pan over medium heat (3 or 4/6), introduce a splash of olive oil & the rice. Stir until rice turns brownish (yes you are sort of pre-frying it, so it won't be sticky later).

Ready to cook/boil
Add the saffron water, plus an additional 2 cups of water. Continue by adding the chicken stock, cheek peas, tuna, olives and salt. Mix into the rice. Place the pepper stripes as decoration over the rice mixture, and let cook.

Once all the water has been absorbed/evaporated you are done! The rice should be soft and edible (if it's hard just add more water and let cook further. You are done! :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bazella (Lebanese peas & carrot, beef)

- 500 gr Frozen peas & carrots (diced)
- 400 gr Frozen minced beef
- 1 medium Onion (chopped med/small; not tiny)
- 3 Tbsp Tomato paste
- 4 cups Water
- 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 1 Tbsp All Spice
- 1/2 Tbsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 Tbsp Black Pepper
- 1 Tbsp Salt
- 1 Lemon (juiced)

Put the vegetable oil in a deep pot over medium/high heat (4-5/6), when hot add the onion and sweat for 2 min. 

Add the frozen minced beef and turn for the meat to break in small pieces; Add spices to the mix (Salt, cinnamon, all spice, black pepper). Stir until meat cooked :)

Prepare 3 Tbsp of tomato paste mixed with 4 cups of water; add into the meat mixture. Let raise to the boil, then lower the heat (2/6) and let simmer for 35 minutes.

Once done, add the lemon juice & serve!

** This dish is normally served with Lebanese rice. First layering the rice in the bottom of the plate, then this in the center :) Enjoy!**

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Albondigas (Spanish meatballs)

Albondigas - Spanish meatballs

Albondigas - Spanish meatballs:
- 1/2 cup Parsley
- 1 Onion (medium)
- 1 clove Garlic
- 0.5 to 1 Kg Minced Meat
- 2 Eggs
- 3 pinches Salt
- Flour
- White Wine/Bier
- Avecrem

Finely chop the onion, garlic and parsley. Beat separate 1 1/2 eggs on a bowl, and 1/2 egg.
Mix minced meat & chopped onion mix, add 1/2 of a beaten egg.

Roll into balls > Roll over beaten egg > Roll into Flour

In the meantime heat a pan at high heat (5/6) with olive oil (2mm).
Fry meatballs in hot olive oil until golden.

Once done, add a spoon of flour to the used oil and fry until flour is golden color. Add Avecrem, white wine & water until achieving the desired consistency. Put meatballs in gravy and let simmer for some minutes.

Croquetas (Spanish croquettes)

- 1 tbsp Butter
- 2 tbsp Flour
- 2 glass Milk
- 2 Eggs
- Cheese pieces / Cooked meat / Ham
- Bread crumbs

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat, add butter and cook until golden.
Add milk & keep stirring under low (2-3/6) heat, preferably with a whip, until desired consistency. Mix should be lifting off the pan, sticking together.

Once done, immediately add cheese or desired mix, and a lightly beaten egg.
Spread over a large tray to let cool. In the meantime prepare 1 plate with beaten egg, and 1 plate with bread crumbs.

Once bechamel mixture has cooled down, roll into balls/cilinders, pass through egg, then into bread crumbs. *At this point the croquetas can be put in the freezer until needed. You must let them unfreeze prior to frying them (or you will have icy centers :P )*

Heat pan with frying oil until hot (6/6), fry croquetas turning them to achieve a nice golden brown color. Remove and set over a plate covered with kitchen towel paper (to absorve the excess oil). Serve hot :)

Lebanese rice (white rice & vermicelli)

Lebanese rice

Lebanese rice:
- 2 Tbsp Vermicelli
- 1/2 cup White rice (Calrose)
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- 1 1/2 cup Water
- 1 Tbsp Salt
- 1/4 tablet Chicken stock (Maggie)

Put oil in a pot over med/high heat (5/6) add the vermicelli. Stir the same until light brown.

Add in the rice, stir a couple of times; then add the water, salt and chicken stock.
Cover the pot with lid, and let cook until water is done (about 10-15 min).

Voila! :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bûche de Noël - Yule Log (French Xmass log)

Buche de Noel
The Bûche de Noël (or Yule/Christmas Log) is a traditional French Christmas dessert originated back in 1800s (when the cake replaced the tradition of burning an actual wooden log on Christmas Eve). The bûche consists of a generally rolled yellow sponge caked over chocolate butter-cream frosting, that is also frosted on the outside to resemble a log; and commonly decorated with Christmas/Winter figurines (small pine trees, icemen, skiers, Santa, etc.).

It is less complicated than it may seem :) This said, the key is to truly be attentive with the preparation of the sponge cake (having no flour, it is light and almost moussey). Now let's get down to the baking!

Chocolate sponge cake:
- 1/4 cup & 2 Tbsp White Sugar
- 6 Eggs (separated yolks from whites)
- 1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract
- 110 grms Chocolate semi-sweet (small pieces)
- 3/4 Tsp Cream de Tartar
Chocolate whipped cream (filling):
Raspberry Whipped Cream (alternative):
- 1 cup Whipping cream
 - 1 cup Whipping cream
- 1/2 Tsp Vanilla - 1/2 Tsp Vanilla
- 3 Tbsp White Sugar
 - 1 Tbsp White Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder (unsweetened) - 1/3 cup Jam (Peach/Berry/etc.)

1) Sponge Cake:
Preheat oven at 180C (top & bottom).
Butter & flour a baking pan (regular Tefal) > line with partchment paper > butter & flour over paper.

Mix ready for oven
Separate the eggs (egg whites vs. yolks) and let reach room temperature in separate bowls. (It is much easier to separate the eggs when they are cold :) and takes about 30 min to come from the fridge to room temperature).

Melt the chocolate at low heat (2/6) in a pan (technically this should be done 'bain marie' ina heatproof bowl... however I take a simplistic approach.. as long as the heat is very low and you stirr it then and again it will not burn).
Once fully melted > put in a bowl to let cool to room temperature. (I spread it over the walls of the bowl, and re-spread it after 5 min to have it air & cool as fast as possible).

In a bowl place the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar, whisk it for about 5 min until light and fluffy (slowly falling in ribbons). Add & beat in the vanilla extract; then the chocolate.

In an sneaky-clean bowl put the egg whites, whisk until foamy (some small bubbles but runny). Add the Creme de Tartar and beat at medium speed until soft peaks form (peaks that are slightly runny). Gradually add the 2 Tbsp of sugar, beat until hard peaks form (peaks do not deflate and remain stiff).

Back to the chocolate-yolk mixture, using a squeaky-clean spatula, add about 1/2 cup of the egg white mixture and mix in (this should make the mix be a bit more runny, and easier to fold over the remaining egg white mix). Gradually add the egg white mix: place into the chocolate bowl, and folding the mix over.
It is crucial not to stir or over-mix it all because the air bubbles wil break and you will end up with a flat cake.. It is perfectly OK to have small streaks of white.

Pour batter into the prepared baking tray and spread evenly throughout the pan. Tap the pan 2-3 times to have it set evenly, then place in the oven for 15 min. The cake will be ready when it's puffed, will spring slightly to the touch; the top will not be shiny.

Remove from the oven, cover cake surface in full with a moist (not damp!) kitchen towel, and let cool.
(If im afraid the towel is too dry I put some moistened kitchen paper on top of the towel. Make sure you cover the edged too to prevent it from drying and crakign while rolling).

2) Filling:
In a bowl combine all ingredients (cream, sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder). The cooler the ingredients are the better (so you can put it in the freezer for 5 min, along with the whisk). Beat it until you get stiff peaks.

Rolled & dusted Buche de Noel
3) Rolling:
Once cake is cool, remove from pan & peel away the lateral sides of  the partchment. Spread evenly the filling over the cake. Then slowly start rolling the cake from the top inwards, carefully peeling the parchment paper as you roll it. Towards the end place it on your platter, then remove the last bit of paper.
I find that you can retain the shiny layer outside if you roll slowly and peel the parchment paper carefully :)

Ready to serve
4) Decoration:
Dust some cocoa powder over it, or make extra whipped chocolate (white or dark) cream and cover the outside (can do woody stripe patterns), or put little christmas figurines/trees/etc., or cover in chocolate shavings, and you are done!

So far this recipe has never failed to impress ;) It is light, airy, moist, and chocolate-y! Even my harshest non-sweets lover critic had 2nd servings :)

Flan (Spanish vanilla egg custard)

Flan - Spanish egg custard
One of my mother's favorite dessert is 'flan', know as 'crème caramel renversée', is really the Spanish version of vanilla egg custard.

Flan is served inversed (as is cooked), and has a nice syrup-y caramel sauce :) This dessert is extremely easy to make & can stay refrigerated for a few days!

Flan - Spanish egg custard:
- 1 can Condensed Milk
- 2 cans Whole Milk
- 3 Eggs (whole)
- Sugar (to coat mold base)

Pre-heat the oven (top & bottom) at 180 C.

Put sugar inside the chosen mold (so that it is enough to cover the bottom thinly); hold over a stove at medium heat so all the sugar caramelizes (turns light brown & liquid). Make sure it covers the entirety of the mold's base. Place on the side and let cool.

Add all ingredients in a bowl, mix at medium speed (using an electric mixer).
Pour mix in the mold (should be cool by now, and the caramel completely hardened).

Introduce into the oven until flan is set (knife comes clean). Once done, let cool down.

When cool, flip onto a tray and serve :)

**You can also cook this recipe on a flan bowl (lid closed) bain marie.. I personally prefer to just throw it in the oven, no headaches ;)**