Cockle Tempura

Cockle tempura
Inspired the original and utterly wonderful cockled popcorn on a recent visit to No 1 Cromer, I decided to try recreating it at home with successful results! I can’t justify stealing No 1 Cromer’s fabulous name, though, so renamed it the rather more prosaic cockle tempura. If you’re ever in Cromer, visit No 1 Cromer; they make brilliant seafood dishes. I also had a particularly tasty crab salad.

I adapted a tempura recipe from http://glutenfreerecipebox.com/gluten-free-tempura. As the Gluten-free Recipe Box explains, the secret to good tempura is cold ingredients, hence the rather unusual start to the beginning of this recipe. Of course, you can simply plan ahead (which I didn’t) and put the flour and water in the fridge for an hour or so instead.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

50g rice flour

30g cornflour

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

80 ml sparkling water

sunflower oil for deep-fat frying

200g cockles

Method

Mix the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda together, and place in the freezer for 10 minutes, along the water.

When they’re cold, whisk them together. Heat 2 inches of oil in a saucepan to 190°C.

Add the cockles in batches to the batter, because it’s best not to crowd to the pan when you come to cook them (I divided them into three batches).

Mix well, then use a metal slotted spoon to remove them, placing them in a separate bowl (I found this helped me with the next stage).

Drop the battered cockles carefully in the hot oil using the metal slotted spoon, trying to separate them as they go in, otherwise they will clump together.

Fry for 30-60 seconds, then remove them using the slotted spoon and place them on a plate covered with a paper towel.

Tempura cockles

Pisto (Spanish ratatouille)

Pisto (Spanish ratatouille)

We are busy preparing for our annual pop-up tapas bar at the Silk Mill in Frome. Unfortunately, I can’t do all the cooking this year due to recent back sugery – which has also meant less blogging in recent weeks, although I’m now on the mend – but I can still experiment with new dishes for our menu.

I thought I’d try making a pisto because after our tapas bar last year people suggested we add more vegetarian dishes. We were trying to be authentically Spanish as possible in our bar – Spain is a particularly keen meat-eating nation – so subconsciously probably didn’t offer a huge range of vegetarian dishes. 

Pisto is a summer classic and a Spanish version of ratatouille. It’s a great recipe to use up a glut of aubergines, courgettes and peppers. Roasting most of the veg in the oven as I’ve done here makes it far easier than frying all the individual vegetables separately. It also uses less oil, making it cheaper and healthier too. I’ve added cumin seeds to this for a Moorish flavour, along with the more conventional dried oregano.

Pisto is good served at room temperature as part of a tapas spread, or hot with an fried egg on top for brunch. Either way, make sure you have some robust sourdough with which to mop up those lovely oily juices. It’s also great with the deliciously salty mojama, dried tuna which is made in Cádiz province, or a few slices of Manchego, washed down with a chilled manzanilla (my current favourite is La Gitana).

Serves 6 as a tapa

Ingredients

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 aubergines, diced

2 courgettes, thickly sliced

2 large red peppers, diced

2 large onions, sliced

6 cloves of garlic, skin on, lightly smashed with the side of a large knife

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp of dried oregano

1 tsp of coarse sea salt

400g ripe tomatoes, scalded in hot water for 1 minute, then skinned and roughly grated

¼ tsp sherry vinegar (optional)

chopped parsley to serve

Spanish pisto

Method

Heat the oven to 200°C fan (220°C, gas mark 7). Place the oil (reserving 1 tsp), aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions and garlic in a few large trays, making sure the vegetables are in a single layer otherwise they’ll just go soggy. Sprinkle with the cumin, oregano and salt and mix well. Put in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring once, until just starting to caramelise.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tsp of oil in a saucepan on a medium-high heat and add the grated tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until broken down into a sauce.

Mix the roasted veg with the tomatoes and adjust the seasoning. Leave to cool and serve at room temperature.

If you double the recipe, you can use half the roasted veg for a pisto and goat’s cheese tart. Use a sheet of ready rolled puff pastry, spreading sundried tomato pesto on top, followed by the pisto. Dot with some goat’s cheese (I used about 100g of cheese here) and some halved cherry tomatoes. Bake it for about 25 minutes in an oven preheated to 180°C fan (200°C, gas mark 6) and sprinkle some basil on after you take it out.

Ratatouille and goat's cheese tart

As this dish is made with seasonal veg, I’m entering it for the Simple and in Season June Challenge, hosted by Ren Behan.

Because this pisto recipe is packed with veg, I’m also entering it for June’s Extra Veg hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.

Extra Veg Badge-003

Salpicón de mariscos (Seafood salad)

Spanish seafood saladThis speedy seafood salad recipe is a perfect dish for a sunny day, as part of a tapas spread or a picnic with tortilla (check out my recipe here). It’s one of my favourite tapas on a baking hot summer’s day in Andalucía, with an ice-cold glass (or tubo) of cerveza.

It’s also a popular dish at our annual pop-up tapas bar, Cantina Festival, which will again be open during the Frome Festival in July at Frome’s Silk Mill.

I used to make salpicón de mariscos with freshly cooked squid, mussels and prawns but now for ease I use a pack of either fresh or frozen mixed seafood and it tastes just as good.

Serves 4-6 as a tapa

Ingredients

500g mixed seafood

half a sweet white onion or 3 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 green pepper, diced

250g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp sherry or white wine vinegar

Salt to taste

Method

Simply mix all the ingredients and leave to marinade for a few hours in the fridge. Serve with some chunky slices of sourdough to mop up the delicious juices.

IMG_9840

Sardine empanadillas

Sardine empanadillas

Whilst in Barcelona last week, I discovered a brilliant stall in the the local neighbourhood market, Mercat de Sant Antoni, which sold loads of different tapas dishes by the kilo. I was in heaven! I couldn’t resist stocking up on some of my favourites: espinacas a la Catalana (Catalan spinach), empanadillas de atún (tuna pastries), croquetas de bacalao (salt cod croquettes) and albóndigas de sepia (cuttlefish balls).

I love savoury pastries and I’ve often had empanadas – the bigger version of empanadillas – in Northern Spain, known as empanada Gallega (Galician empanada), usually filled with tuna, octopus or pork. When I make these pastries, I adapt the recipes from two of my best-loved cookbooks: Elizabeth Luard’s The Food of Spain and Portugal and Casa Moro.

When I returned home from Barcelona I was already missing empanadillas so decided to make my own. As I’d been away for the weekend, I had very little in the cupboard except tinned tomatoes and sardines, but those are the main ingredients of this recipe. You can also make these empanadillas with tinned tuna; just make sure it’s MSC-marked and replace the rosemary with thyme. And if you’re pushed for time or not in a pastry-making mood, you can always use shop-bought puff pastry.

Empanadillas are great in lunchboxes, or for picnics, parties or tapas. If I make an empanada, we’ll have it for dinner alongside roasted cubed potatoes with chopped rosemary, which you can cook at the same time as the pastries (although they take twice as long, about 30 minutes).

The slow-cooked tomato sauce that makes up the filling is called a sofrito in Spain and is really versatile, cheap and easy to make. Use it as a pasta sauce with or without the tinned fish, or to go with meatballs or baked white fish.

Ingredients

Pastry

500g strong white bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sweet paprika

2 tsp or 1 sachet of dried yeast

80 ml lukewarm milk

140 ml lukewarm water

100ml olive oil

1 egg, beaten

Polenta

Filling

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 red and 1 green pepper, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tin of tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

¼ tsp salt

pinch of sugar

½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)

250g tinned sardines

Method

Mix all the dry dough ingredients first and then the liquids. Knead to a smooth dough for a few minutes before covering and leaving in a warm place for an hour or so.

Fry the onion and peppers for 10-15 minutes on a medium-low heat.

Empanadilla filling

Heat the oven to 200°C or gas mark 6. Add the garlic and rosemary to the onion and pepper mix and cook for 2 minutes, before adding the tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, sugar and chilli flakes, if using. Simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes. Add the sardines 10 minutes before the end, breaking them up with a wooden spoon.

To make empanadillas, roll the pastry out until it’s quite thin and, using a small bowl or saucer about 10-12cm in diameter, cut out circles. Put a dessert spoon of filling to one side of the centre and, using some of the beaten egg, brush around the edges before folding the pastry over and sticking it, creating a semi-circle.

Empanadilla pastry

You can use a fork to make a pattern along the edges if you like (see the photo below). Brush the top with egg.

Uncooked empanadilla

Lightly sprinkle a baking tray with polenta (or line it with greaseproof paper) and place the empanadillas on it. Bake for 15-20 minutes until light brown.

Cooked sardine empanadillas

As this recipe uses rosemary from the garden, I’m also entering it for the February Cooking with Herbs challenge, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, using winter herbs. 

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

I’m also entering it for the Credit Card Munch, hosted by Elizabeth at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary, developed by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla at Fab Food 4 All as this recipe is good for packed lunches and uses cheap ingredients.

Credit-Crunch-Munch

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Gluten-free muhammara

Muhammara I first had muhammara, a delicious Syrian red pepper and walnut dip, at my favourite restaurant, Frome’s wonderful High Pavement Evening Café. They specialise in Middle Eastern and Spanish dishes; I’ve had many a fine meal there and can recommend it wholeheartedly. (Make sure you sample a manzanilla or oloroso on the brilliant sherry menu too.)

It took me ages to remember the name muhammara but once I did, I became slightly obsessed with recreating its intense flavour. The first time I made it I used Turkish red pepper paste, which I bought in Bristol’s Sweetmart. Last weekend I’d planned a Middle Eastern mezze spread but Bristol is a long way to go from Frome for a jar of pepper paste, so I thought I’d have a go at making it with roasted red peppers. But if you can buy a jar of red pepper paste, it does save time, as does using shelled walnuts, although the flavour isn’t nearly as good.

Unlike the traditional version, which uses breadcrumbs or bulgur wheat, I decided to make a gluten-free muhammara, and serve it with bread on the side for dipping. I made the easy yet delicious Eastern-style focaccia recipe from Sabrina Ghayour’s gorgeous Persiana book, cut into fingers, and za’atar pitta bread triangles (see below). If you can’t get any za’atar you can use a sprinkling of smoked paprika and cumin instead, or just brush the triangles with olive oil. You could also serve it with plain pitta bread, flatbread or sourdough.

Ingredients

Muhammara

10 red peppers

200g walnuts

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tsp chilli flakes (Aleppo ones are the most authentic)

6 tsp cumin

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp salt

Chopped flat-leaf parsley to serve

Za’atar pitta triangles

1 packet of 6 white pitta breads

3 tsp za’atar

150 ml extra-virgin olive oil

Serves 8-10 as part of a mezze spread

Method

Roast the red peppers preferably on an open flame on a gas hob, under a grill or in a hot oven (220ºC, 200ºC fan, gas mark 7) until the skin turns black and blisters. This takes about 20 minutes. If you’re doing them on the hob or under the grill, turn them regularly.

Roast the red peppers preferably on an open flame on a gas hob, or under a grill or in a hot oven (220ºC, 200ºC fan, gas mark 7) until the skin turns black and blisters. Turn them a few times during the 20 minutes or so it takes for them to blister.roasted red peppers

Meanwhile shell the walnuts (if necessary) and roughly chop them.walnuts

Slice open each pitta bread carefully so you have two ovals. Then halve each oval and cut each half into rough triangles. Mix the olive oil with the za’atar and brush onto the triangles, laying them out on to some baking trays so they’re in one layer.pitta bread

pitta bread trianglesWhen the peppers are done take them out and turn the oven down (200ºC, 180ºC fan, gas mark 6). Put the peppers in a sieve or colander with a plate over the top, and place it over a bowl to drain.

Put the pitta triangles into the oven (which should be slightly cooler now) and put a timer on for 10 minutes. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them, remove the seeds and roughly chop them.

Keep an eye on the pitta breads to make sure they don’t burn, giving them a shake after 5 minutes.za'atar pitta triangles

Put everything except the walnuts in a food processor and blend to a rough paste (I prefer muhammara with a bit of texture), or use a blender or stick blender. Add the walnuts and blend again briefly. Taste and add more spices or salt if needed.

Take the pitta breads out when they’re lightly toasted and put on a cooling rack. Sprinkle the chopped parsley on the muhammara.muhummara gluten-free dip

As this recipe is feel-good healthy and has a spicy kick to it, I’m entering it for the current Spice Challenge, with the theme Temple Food.Spice Trail

Easy Spanish tortilla

Spanish tortillaIf you’re looking for something hassle-free to make in the hectic time around Christmas, try this easy tortilla recipe, which was given to me by Catalan friend, Kiki. It’s a great tapas or party recipe, especially if you cut the tortilla into small squares and add toothpicks.

Everyone in Spain has their own method for making tortillas and some may feel it’s sacrilege to use a microwave for the potatoes instead of frying them, but this recipe using considerably less oil, so is healthier and also less hassle. While the potatoes are cooking in the microwave you’re free to grill some red peppers to make the perfect tapas accompaniment: pimientos asados

This tortilla is also incredibly cheap; depending on where you buy the ingredients, it costs around £2.50-3.00 to make.

Ingredients

800g unpeeled waxy potatoes (such as Charlotte)

6 free-range eggs

8 tbsp olive oil

salt

Method

1 Cut the potatoes in halves or quarters lengthways (depending on their size) and then slice, so you have slices as thick as a £1 coin. As you cut them, put them in a bowl of water.

Tortilla de patatas

2 Drain them in a colander and put them in a microwaveable bowl and mix with 3 tbsp of olive oil, then cover with a plate.

3 Put in the microwave for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the 6 eggs in a separate large bowl and add 6 pinches of salt.

4 Drain the potatoes, then return them to the bowl with another 3 tbsp of olive oil, before putting them back in the microwave for 8 minutes.

5 Check the potatoes; they should be slightly soft around the edges. If they are still a bit hard, put them on for another 2-5 minutes. Put a smallish non stick deep frying pan on a medium-high heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil.

6 Drain the potatoes when they’re done, then mix in with the eggs.

7 When the pan is hot, add the egg and potato mix. It’s important at this stage to have the pan hot enough to seal the egg but once they’re in, turn down to a low-medium heat.

8 Depending on how hot your hob is, it should take around 8 mins to cook on the first side. You can tell when it’s done by the smell (once you’ve got some experience!) of cooked but not burnt egg, or you can flip the pan on to a plate to get the tortilla out. If it’s still pale, pop the pan back over the tortilla and flip it round again and put the pan back on the heat.

9 If it is done, put 1 tbsp of oil in the pan again and heat. Then carefully slide the tortilla off the plate and into the pan to cook the other side, for about 7 mins this time, again on a medium-low heat. Again, you can check if it’s done by flipping it on to a plate.

10 Cut it into eights, or small squares (see photo below) with toothpicks for easy sharing.

IMG_1438

As this tortilla is perfect for lunchboxes, for both kids and adults, I’m entering it for this month’s Tea Time Treats, organised by Lavender and Lovage and The Hedgecombers, hosted by Janie, with the theme packed lunches.

Spanish chorizo and lentil stew

Chorizo and lentil stew

When we’re shivering in darkness as the seasons meld from autumn to winter, this easy chorizo and lentil stew hits the spot: intense smoky flavours from the paprika chorizo cut through by the wine (or sherry’s) fresh sharpness. It’s also a great little tapas recipe, otherwise known as chorizo con lentejas, and freezes well too.

This is the chorizo con lentejas recipe we use for our pop-up tapas bar, Cantina Festival, which appears at the Silk Mill during the Frome Festival every July. It’s one of our most popular tapas and no matter how much we make, we always sell out.

The list of ingredients is deceptively simple but the success of the recipe depends on good-quality chorizo. I buy the chorizo in 1kg packs from the brilliant Tapas Lunch Company; if you’re a chorizo fan, it’s worth getting it in bulk and freezing it in small packages as it cooks beautifully and works out far better economically than buying the inferior chorizo sold in supermarkets. Wherever you buy it, make sure you get semi-cured or cooking chorizo, not cured.

Chorizo smoked paprika

Serves 4, or 8 as a tapa

Olive oil

400g semi-cured chorizo, sliced into thick 1cm coins

1 large onion, about 200g, peeled and finely chopped

3 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped

250g puy lentils

150ml dry white wine or dry sherry

1 bay leaf, preferably fresh

1 tbsp smoked paprika

  • Add a glug of olive oil and fry the chorizo on a medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring.
  • Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon.
  • Add the onions, turning the heat down slightly and cook gently for 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes, before mixing in the lentils, strirring for 2 more minutes.
  • Turn the heat up to medium high and add the chorizo and the sherry or wine.
  • Boil the kettle and 1 litre of hot water, enough to just cover the chorizo and lentils.
  • Add the smoked paprika and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but have some shape to them. Add some more water if it looks too dry.
  • Serve with thick slices of sourdough or ciabatta and maybe a rocket or other peppery leaf salad, along with a glass of Rioja.