the spanish table

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Last weekend, I traveled to the coast of Andalucia. Well, at least in a culinary sense. The air was crisp and cool, the table strewn with colourful plates, glasses and embroidered fabric. I feasted on unctuous pork belly, spicy chorizo, smoky chicken wings, crisp broad beans and fried potatoes in spicy tomato sauce… tapas plates, all in aid of the second installment of what’s becoming a bi-monthly ‘feast’ tradition between myself, Jemima (Feed Your Soul, Perth) and Matt (Inspired Food).

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If you missed the first installment of the series, take a look at our Moroccan Table feast here. It was a night of giant proportions; incredible food, delicate cocktails, compulsive photo taking and great conversation. We had so much fun that we and our significant others (Aaron, Jemima’s sister Lexi and Matt’s girlfriend Alyssa) decided that we just had to do it all again. So last Saturday, we arrived at the same venue, readily equipped for a second round of cooking and feasting. That brings me back to my introductory point, tapas plates.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, tapas is the Spanish term for small, snack-style grazing plates that are served alongside beverages with ample conversation. I can’t quite remember how we decided on the the tapas theme. It was most likely the joint realization of three ambitious cooks who had just produced enough food to feed an army.

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Back to last Saturday afternoon. We arrived at Jemima and Lexi’s house in the late afternoon with ingredients, enthusiasm and multiple glazed dishes (presentation is everything, right?). We started eating at around 4.30pm and finished up about five hours later. Yes, five hours of eating. But to be fair, there was a lot of cooking, drinking and conversation in-between.

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Here’s the menu:

Chorizo and olives in cider sauce
Marinated peppers with fresh herbs and goats cheese

Spiced cauliflower with chilli yoghurt dressing
Patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce)
Broad beans with chorizo and lemon
Paprika chicken wings
Cider braised pork belly with apple and fennel puree
Cheese and chorizo croquettes
Churros with warm chocolate sauce
Snickers brownie with chilli chocolate sauce
Dulce de leche ice cream

Yes, there were only six of us, and by the end of the night we were in literal food comas. That brought on a fair whack of delirium… and the byproduct, a mini-series pitch for ‘The Adventures of Gherkin Girl’. By the end of the night, we had decided on 1) Aaron as lead animator and 2) Mr Suave Potato Head as a love interest. Both neither agreed nor disagreed. Watch this space.

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Anyway, we’ve decided that the second and third installments of our ‘feast’ series will be Indian and Mexican respectively, so get ready for more epic posts over the next few months. But in the meantime, please scroll down for three of my four recipes from our Spanish Table. The fourth recipe, marinated bell peppers with herbs and goats cheese, is available here (for reasons which may become obvious as you keep scrolling).

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Patatas Bravas

Adapted from this recipe by Mary Cadogan, BBC Good Food

Serves 8 as a tapas dish

For the spiced tomato sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red (Spanish) onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped (remove the seeds if you’d like less heat)
  • 1 pinch raw sugar
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • chopped fresh Italian parsley and finely grated lemon zest, to serve
  • Manchego Viejo (aged Spanish sheep milk cheese), to serve (optional; substitute Parmesan)

For the potatoes:

  • 900g blue or red potatoes (I used Royal Blue)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed slightly (leave skins on)
  • fresh herbs (optional as this is non-traditional, I used sage, rosemary and thyme)
  • smoked sea salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, for frying

For the spiced tomato sauce: Heat the oil in a large pan or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add in the garlic and chopped chilli, fry for another minute before adding the tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock, smoked paprika, sugar and salt. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until reduced and fragrant. Season to taste. Set aside for up to 24 hours for the flavours to develop.

For the potatoes: Fill a large saucepan with water, then place over high heat. Cut the potatoes into 2x2cm cubes, add to the water with a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until just cooked through. Drain well in a colander for 10-15 minutes (or until still warm but dry on the outside).
Heat the 2 tbsp of oil in a large heavy-based pan over medium-high heat with the garlic and herbs. When sizzling, toss in the potatoes and sprinkle with smoked sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Fry, turning regularly until the potatoes are crisp and golden on all sides. Drain on paper towels before tipping the potatoes into a serving dish.

Reheat your tomato sauce if necessary. Serve, either atop the potatoes or in a separate serving dish, sprinkled with the parsley, cheese (if using) and lemon rind.

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beans

Broad Beans with Chorizo and Lemon

Serves 8 as a tapas dish
  • 250g frozen or fresh double podded broad beans
  • 1 chorizo sausage, skinned and roughly chopped (I like to crumble mine into rough chunks by hand)
  • 1/2 long red chilli, finely sliced (remove seeds if you wish)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • finely grated zest from 1 lemon
  • a dash of sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • handful of fresh parsley, washed, leaves picked
  • lemon wedges, to serve

Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oil starts to separate and the meat starts to crisp up. Add in the crushed garlic, chilli and broad beans. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broad beans are slightly golden and crisp.

Pour over a little sherry vinegar and sprinkle over the parsley leaves and lemon zest. Mix well and season to taste.

Transfer into a serving dish and top with the lemon wedges. I like to eat these broad beans with a squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the rich oil of the chorizo.

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icecream

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Adapted from this recipe by Mariana Crespo, Epicurious

Makes 1.5 litres

  • 2 cups full-cream milk
  • 1 cup pure cream (not whipping cream)
  • 350g dulce de leche (Argentinean caramel, I used El Asador brand)
  • 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract

Add the milk and cream to a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Allow to boil, then immediately remove from the heat. Add the dulce de leche and whisk continuously until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla. Taste and add a little salt if desired. Transfer into a bowl or airtight container, then refrigerate for 3 hours or preferably overnight.

When completely chilled, pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any lumps. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to directions. Transfer into an airtight container and place in the freezer until ready to serve.

We served this ice cream alongside warm churros, brownies, plentiful chocolate sauce and peanut praline. Absolute bliss.

brownies dipThanks again to Jemima, Lexi, Matt, Alyssa and Aaron for being wonderful cooking, drinking, cleaning, inventing and dancing buddies over the past two feast nights. It’s been grand.

Check out Matt’s photos from the feast night and his and Alyssa’s recipes for chorizo and olives in cider, paprika chicken wings and churros with chocolate sauce here.

Follow this link to see Jemima’s post and her and Lexi’s recipes for spiced cauliflower, cider-braised pork belly, croquettes and snickers brownies with chilli chocolate sauce.

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asparagus with soft-poached eggs, broad beans, lemon and chilli

yolklsFresh local asparagus is a wonderful thing; sweet, earthy, crisp and succulent. During peak season, it needs little more than a quick toss on the grill, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a speckling of flaked sea salt. Perfect in its simplicity.

For most of the year, Western Australians like myself only have access to imported asparagus; namely, cultivated crops from China, Thailand and Peru. Despite my commitment to locally grown food, I reluctantly admit that the short Western Australian asparagus season (from September to November) has led to desperate purchases of imported asparagus on a number of occasions this year. It feels terrible; the only redeeming thought is that I’ve possibly contributed towards a peasant’s wage somewhere in rural Asia. Idealism, I know.

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However, this week marked the arrival of fresh Torbay asparagus at my local farmer’s market. When I saw the fat green spears amongst the locally grown kale and lettuces this morning, my heart jumped in locavore joy. Grown near the port city of Albany in the state’s south west, this asparagus is sweet, robust and earthy in flavour.

I squirreled home a bucketful, with fresh broad bean pods, shiny aubergines and a dozen of Ellah’s fresh, free-range eggs.

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As per usual, my stomach rumbles as soon as I’ve visited the markets. After podding the broad beans, I trimmed the asparagus and quickly grilled the spears with a splash of good olive oil, some sea salt and chilli flakes. Topped with a runny, soft-poached egg, fragrant lemon zest and some grated Parmesan, we were soon in fresh asparagus heaven.

This dish is almost too simple for a ‘recipe’, however I’ve included a few of my cooking notes below for your reference. For a more substantial breakfast or lunch, I’d suggest adding some buttered, wholegrain toast and a sprinkling of hot-smoked salmon.

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Asparagus with Soft-poached Eggs, Broad Beans, Lemon and Chilli

Serves 2

  • 8-12 asparagus spears (4-6 per person, depending upon size)
  • 1/4 cup podded, shelled broad beans
  • 2 free-range eggs (or 4, if you’d like 2 each)
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • finely grated rind of one lemon
  • freshly grated Parmesan
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Italian flat-leaf parsley to serve, if desired
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar (for poaching the eggs)

Fill a medium saucepan with cold water. Cover, and place over medium heat whilst you prepare your vegetables.

Wash the asparagus spears, then snap off any woody ends (you will feel the shoot naturally ‘bend’ at the point where the spear is tender). Discard the ends, then scrape the outer surface near the end of the spear slightly to ensure that it cooks evenly.

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Heat a fry or grill pan over medium heat. Add in a splash of good olive oil, then toss in your asparagus spears. Agitate the pan, ensuring that the spears rotate, until their colour becomes vibrant green. Add in the shelled broad beans, some chilli flakes and sea salt. Fry or grill until the vegetables are tender and bright green with the slightest of grill marks from the pan.

Plate your asparagus and broad beans as desired, season with some salt and sprinkle over a little of the lemon zest. Set aside whilst you poach your eggs.

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By now, your water should be boiling rapidly. Add in the 2 tbsp white wine vinegar (this helps hold the protein in the egg white together), then carefully lower each egg into the water, one at a time (Note: I don’t bother with the ‘whirlpool’ technique as I find it ineffective; if you’re concerned about poaching eggs and require a visual reference, you can follow Curtis Stone’s instructions on YouTube). The eggs will probably take about 2 minutes to cook with a perfectly runny yolk.

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Carefully place your eggs upon the asparagus and broad bean mix. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle over your remaining lemon zest, a little Italian parsley (if desired) and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Optional extras: as above, this dish would go beautifully with some toasted wholegrain bread, hot smoked salmon, cured gravlax (yum!) or free-range bacon. You can also add some toasted flaked almonds or hazelnuts.

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broad bean salad with lemon, mint and goats cheese

mixedIt’s been seven long years since my first trip to the sunny northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Despite the passage of time, I remember each detail with a clarity that only survives the best of holidays: the warm gust of air as I exited Barcelona-El Prat and boarded the shuttle bus to the city centre; the vibrant, glossy mosaics lining the terrace in Park Güell; the salty crunch of chorizo wrapped in bread from a smiling street vendor. One visit was enough to stimulate a lifelong love of Spanish culture, food and tradition.

beanbowlmontBarcelona is a beautiful city; a vibrant tumble of old and new, poor and affluent, traditional and modern. Gothic streets juxtapose against modern vehicles like an unintended social statement. Cracked pavements gleam with hidden mosaic tiles. Barcelona is art, embodied, endlessly evolving, complex and raw.

rindIf you’ve traveled to Spain, you may understand my persistent infatuation with Spanish cuisine. Crisp, hot, deliciously fragrant, quickly devoured in shades of blackened crimson, vivid green and soft white. My first meal upon landing was white fish ceviche, delicately opaque, dripping with fresh lemon and good olive oil. Despite eating dinner at 11.00pm (the Spanish way) my taste buds awakened to crisp red peppers, delicate herbs and succulent fish tinged with acid. I’ve never forgotten one bite of that meal, despite being amply lubricated with my first tastes of Spanish sangria; crimson, sweet and lingering. Each bite was a glimpse of culinary heaven.

I fell in love that night. Not with a man, but with the cultural richness, generosity of flavour and reckless abandon embedded in Spanish cuisine. It travelled back with me, from Barcelona’s urban landscape to the dusty red soil of my Australian hometown, Perth.

As soon as I arrived home, I began an endless quest to recreate some of the meals that I enjoyed in Spain, specifically tapas fare: snack-style grazing plates found in every bar and cafe around Barcelona city. As the years have passed, my collection of ceramic tapas dishes has slowly grown to occupy an entire shelf in the kitchen cupboard, interrupted only by a wine decanter that I use to make summer sangria.

cheesemintBeing a diasporic child, it’s safe to say that I incorporate ‘fusion’ in many of my tapas dishes, an example being today’s recipe for broad bean salad. Though broad beans are very popular in Spain, they’re mostly eaten raw or in meaty dishes such as habas con jamon (broad beans with ham). This lemon-infused, chilli flecked concoction is entirely my own, designed to be a fresh, vibrant accompaniment to jamon serrano, crisp pescaito frito, patatas bravas and other tapas staples.

If you can’t find fresh broad beans, frozen will do; just ensure that you handle them carefully whilst peeling their resilient skins. Serve this dish warm or at room temperature, slicked in fruity extra virgin olive oil and accompanied by warm, crusty bread.

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Broad Bean Salad with Lemon, Mint and Goats Cheese

Serves 4 as part of a tapas meal or 2 as a side dish

  • 1 cup (170g) podded fresh broad beans (habas, or fava beans)
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil (or lemon-infused extra virgin olive oil, if you can find it)
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 small handful mint, washed and chopped
  • 50-70g firm organic goats cheese, crumbled
  • sea salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • lemon wedges, to serve (optional)

Blanch the broad beans (still in their papery skins) in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Carefully slip the broad beans out of their skins and into a medium sized bowl, then set aside.

beanmontPlace the crushed garlic, lemon rind, chilli flakes and olive oil into a small bowl. Mix carefully, then add to the broad beans with the mint, goats cheese, salt and pepper. Gently toss together.

tablecloserTransfer the salad into a serving dish. Drizzle over a little more olive oil. Serve with lemon wedges (to squeeze over the salad as desired), warm crusty bread and other tapas accompaniments.

saladtop2*Note: In response to several requests from blog followers, I’ve finally established a facebook page for Laura’s Mess: https://www.facebook.com/laurasmessblog. With one extra click, you’ll find all of my recipe links, daily musings, foodie scribbles and snapshots for your enjoyment. Feel free to drop me a line on facebook if you have any day to day questions, recipe links and tips. It’ll take me a while to connect myself with other bloggers on facebook, so if you have your own page, please let me know about it. I’m excited to finally be a part of the facebook food blogger’s community!

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