Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

How to prepare…

Posted: August 21, 2016 in Seafood, Summer, Uncategorized
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When on holiday in the Mediterranean we all like to feast on deep fried squid rings; sweet and succulent to the bite with a lemon spritz.  For those of us that live on the shores of the Med, we are fortunate enough to dine on this delicious cephalopod as often as the seas allow us.  However, for those of you less fortunate, squid or as it is now trendily referred to on restaurant menus, calamari, is something you can only long for on your summer hols.

If you can’t wait for next year to enjoy delicious calamari rings and those you find in restaurants back home don’t quite measure up, then your only option is to purchase whole squid and turn them into calamari rings yourself.

“Can’t be bothered doing that,” I hear you say, “I’m too squeamish!” scream some, “I don’t want that mess in my kitchen,” justify the others BUT this is a work of mere moments.

All major supermarkets sell fresh squid and those that have a proper fishmongers onsite will clean and prep them for you, should you wish, however cleaning and preparing squid is not daunting.  Follow these simple steps below:

1st: Hold the squid firmly above the eyes and pull the body away from the hood.

2nd: Cut the tentacles off by holding the squid below the eyes.  Take care not to burst the ink sack as this will be very messy. Avoid the beak (mouth) as this will not be pleasant to eat, this can be found inside the head, near the eyes.  Reserve the tentacles and discard the remainder of the body.

3rd: Remove the cartilage from the inside of the hood.

4th: Now thoroughly clean the hood, inside and outside.
Remove the pinkish layer of skin and wings.  These come off easily.
Turn the hood inside out, I find this easiest to do by pushing a chopstick from the tip until the hood has turned inside out.
Give the inside a good scrape with a knife and rinse to get rid of any gritty, slimy traces.

5th: Turn the hood inside out again, taking care not to rupture it, this is now ready to cook.

Slice into rings and pass through seasoned flour before deep frying for delicious calamari rings.  Wedge of lemon on the side.

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Alternatively, open the calamari hood and score the flesh on both sides and grill over hot coals – for a true taste of summer.  I love the way they curl as the heat hits them trapping any salsa / dressing juices that you drizzle over.

CalamariSalad

photo taken from http://www.taste.com.au

 

Like something that Robin might shout at Batman, this summer gave me: Frozen Bananas!

In a bid to rescue my waistline and save me from the evil Dr. Hart E. Tack I’ve been peeling, slicing and freezing bananas since June.  Actually I have also frozen raspberries, blackberries and blueberries throughout the summer.

So what have I been using my frozen fruits for?

My weekday summer breakfast has been an ice-cold smoothie of bananas and summer berries; packed with summer fruits (high in antioxidants) and thickened with porridge oats.

For those of you that haven’t seen through the charade; imagine a bowl of ice cold porridge in drink form!  A smoothie though normally chilled with ice-cubes, this can dilute the smoothie in both taste and consistency; hence substituting this for frozen bananas which become slushy when blitzed.

You can buy packets of frozen summer berries but I prefer to buy punnets of fresh summer fruits and freeze them in bags.  That way I can add more of one kind of berry than the others.  Also remember that our grocery stores do not always stock fresh varieties of summer berries, so purchasing them when they are available and freezing them means you can have a regular supply.  Plus fruits bought in season tend to be cheaper than at other times of the year.  Do not use canned fruit as they are generally disappointing.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler:

  • pour ¾ of a glass of milk into a blender and add a handful of frozen banana slices as well as any other fruit you wish.  Add ¼ cup of porridge oats and blend until smooth.  Pour into a glass and drink!

A nutritious alternative to summer berries is to add a tablespoon of peanut butter which combos perfectly with bananas.

I know that summer will officially come to an end in the next few days but the temperature doesn’t necessarily reflect that – so I can see myself breakfasting on summer berry-banana smoothies for a few more weeks to come.

Blitz away!

 

The beginning of summer heralds tuna from the Atlantic to make their way to the warmer spawning grounds of the Mediterranean.  As they swim along the western coastline of Southern Spain to cross through the Straits of Gibraltar they become ensnared in a maze of nets – the subsequent slaughter; Almadraba is an age old tradition practised in fishing villages from Conil to Tarifa since Phoenician times.

This method of catching tuna preserves the integrity of the animal’s meat which makes it as soft as butter to eat – hence why it is such a delicacy.

And if slicing this tuna and eating it sashimi style was not delicious enough, Chef Lede at El Capote, showcased 9 exquisite dishes to celebrate this glorious fish.

Atún de la Almadraba

The ideology behind a lot of the food served at these evenings is to challenge your culinary practices – anyone can cook a tuna steak – but can you think outside the box and create something different and innovative that is still a flavoursome tuna dish?

Once again Chef Lede pushed boundaries and broke culinary norms.  There was still an element of Asian influence in some of Chef Lede’s approaches; for example tuna sashimi sprayed with a mist of soya vinaigrette served with an intense spicy tomato relish.  Simple, clean but beautiful.  Or the decadent tuna tataki served with ajo blanco, kimchi and sushi sauce which I have to say was absolutely divine; my favourite dish.

The evening’s entertainment started with Chef Lede going round each table and assembling the first dish of Chicharrones de Atún (Tuna Scratchings) directly onto the centre of the table.  The tuna scratchings were delicious; salty, crispy and puffed in every bite, served with puffed corn crisps on a bed of fried breadcrumbs spiced with pimentón and olive oil caviar.  The creativity in this dish got everyone talking and buzzing with excitement as to what might be coming next.

The next dish was a subtle but savoury macaroon filled with smoked tuna and Manchego cheese.  At first bite the sweetness of the macaroon came through and some people were put off by this – however I found that the sweetness was very subtle and balanced the seasoning well.  I enjoyed this idea but would have liked it served warmer; I thought it could be an excellent dinner party starter – even though as delicate as macaroons are, one would be enough.

I had tried the following ‘tomatillo’ at Calentita where Chef Lede cooked at the Live Kitchen but there were some changes to the execution of this for the better.  Tomatillos de salmorejo con mojama, falsa tierra de migas y polvo de aceitunas (Salmorejo ‘tomatoes’ with salt cured tuna, served on a bed of breadcrumbs and black olive powder).  At Calentita the salmorejo was frozen almost slush-like and very cold; this time round the salmorejo was at room temperature and seductively oozed out of the tomato-shell and mingled with the mojama and the savoury breadcrumb and black olive rubble.  A delicious mouthful.

Tunafest Tuna TartareTuna and green apple tartare served on avocado and lime puree with scorched kimchi sauce was met with mixed reviews.  I personally would have liked the tuna to be minced further and the apple itself being less dominant in the dish – a quick grating of green apple might have achieved this.  I tend to like tartare dishes to have an almost vinegary tang to them and this was achieved mainly from the kimchi sauce rather than the apples themselves – perhaps the apples were not acidic enough?  Maybe some diced cornichons (which are normally served with steak tartare) might have given a more acidic note to the dish.  This however is purely a matter of opinion as the dish was well executed and the theatre of Chef Lede blow torching his way around El Capote was an added bonus.

Michelin starred peasant food at its best!

Callos de Atún followed and this really stumped everyone.  The magic behind this dish was in the fish sausage that was present in slices throughout the dish.  Not just adding flavour that you would normally associate with callos but texture.  The pescetarians as our table were very confused as to whether they would eat it or not and even started picking out the pieces of tuna sausage; however, once reassured that there was no meat in any of the dishes they dived back in, scraping the bowl and wanting more!

 

Ventresa de atún (tuna belly) served with ‘onion rings’ was another piece of theatre as there were two stocks.  The first being the
solid rings of stock placed on the dish, the other served hot in shot glasses where each guest needed to pour over the stock over their dish, melting the ‘onion rings’ and warming the slightly cooked dish.

Tuna belly also known as fatty tuna is the most succulent and flavoursome part of the fish and is seen as a delicacy in Japan.

Galete de atún guisado como un rabo de toro Andaluza surprised me with its rich and intense flavours.  I am assuming that the flesh at the tail end of the tuna was used for this dish and not necessarily that the dish was cooked as you would prepare oxtail; either pressure cooking or slow cooking for many hours.

The 9 tuna dishes presented to us were of a very high standard and each one delicious in its own right.  I felt that this year Chef Lede and Ian managed the serving of courses much better than they did at their previous tuna event and it is very impressive to think that in little old El Capote 320 plates were served over the course of the evening to an appreciative crowd.

Dessert will remain unmentioned as there was no tuna in it!

If there is anyone who would have liked to have attended a tuna inspired evening as above, let myself or El Capote know as there are only a few more weeks available of Atún de la Almadraba.

Tuna that cuts like butter!

 

 

 

taste, flavour, snack, relish

As the hazy, orange sun sets over these lazy summer evenings and the insects clumsily fly through the shimmering evening heat, the scents and flavours that I want to immerse myself in are those of the Eastern Mediterranean.  However, it’s not just the food that I’m after, even though that would be no great loss (!) but the whole culinary, cultural approach.  No procession of courses, eating with your hands; food to get stuck into.  I envisage a multitude of different delicious dishes along a table that encourages conversation, sharing, food passed around and the tearing of bread.  To me, this can only mean one thing – mezze.

“Mezze are an integral part of life in much of the Muslim Mediterranean and are considered to be one of the most civilised and exciting ways to eat.”

Mezze: the word is found in all the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and comes from the Turkish meze meaning, “taste, flavour, snack, relish.”

At home, creating a mezze spread of eight to ten dishes is unrealistic, but creating individual pieces of a mezze every now and again can be fun.

Traditional mezze dishes include:  fattoush (bread and vegetable salad), hummus (chickpea dip), falafel (deep-fried chickpea balls), köfte (minced lamb meatballs), mutabbal (aubergine salad), souvlaki (lamb kebabs), tabbouleh (bulgar wheat salad) and olives.  There are several more dishes that can be seen on a mezze table with each region of the Mediterranean creating alternatives and variations.

And with BBQ season in full swing why not try to create your version of a classic mutabbal?

Whether you know it as mutabbal, aubergine salad, poor man’s caviar or baba ganoush, this smoky aubergine dip is the grown up version of the ubiquitous hummus and is a classic part of any mezze.

Levantine in origin, it comes up under a variety of names from Turkey to Egypt and can be presented in different guises: a dip, a salad, a vegetable side dish.  It can be served loose and smooth to be scooped up by your flatbread or served chunky needing a fork to assist but no matter which variation you choose it will still be exceptionally good.

Gastrorob’s Baba Ganoush

The principal ingredients are:

The only strict rule that I insist you adhere to is that the aubergines must be blackened on open flame – too many versions fail to recognise the importance of this.  It is this process which gives this dish its distinctive, smoky taste.  Cooking them in a smoking hot oven will not give you the depth of flavour you require here – a grill set to max would work but it will smoke out the entire house. Those who have gas hobs can blacken the skins on the actual hob but this will make a mess!  Basically, a BBQ is the most effective and convenient method to achieve aubergines as desired.  Understandably, this is not the best dish to try to recreate in winter!

Ottolenghi, chars his directly over a gas flame, where Lebovitz chars them over a flame before baking in the oven until they have collapsed all the way through

My method borrows from both, I tend to cut into the aubergine creating a few incisions (face up) along the length of the vegetable, drizzle oil over and place into the hottest oven for 20mins and then grill on open flame until scorched and black.

Recipe:

Remove the scorched aubergine from the flames and then scoop all the flesh and juices into a blender (or bowl and use a fork).  Add the juice of half a lemon, one table spoon of tahini paste, a garlic clove per aubergine and a good drizzle of olive oil to slacken the mixture.  Season to taste.  Add chopped fresh mint and coriander.  Taste your baba ganoush and tweak the flavours to suit your palate.

Some recipes include tomatoes, after all it is sometimes referred to as an aubergine salad with tomatoes or a tomato salad with aubergine depending on which side of the Mediterranean you come from, but I find this just dilutes the intense smoky flavour that you want from your Baba Ganoush.

Drizzle olive oil in a dark green ribbon around the dish and if you’re in an extravagant mood rain over pomegranate seeds for that jewel-like touch of decadence that inspired this dish.

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NB: You lit up your BBQ to cook something other than aubergines on it!  Pinchitos (our beef versions of lamb souvlaki kebabs) is a perfect accompaniment to baba ganoush; serve with some BBQ-warmed pita/tortillas/flatbreads/naan bread and fresh coriander and mint sprinkled over.

از غذا لذت ببرید!

 

BBQ3Even though the first day of summer is officially 21st June, here in Gibraltar, dusting off the grill and serving up a platter of barbequed delights anytime between April/May is a good indication that summer is on its way.

The question is always: who is going to be brave enough to be the first to strike up the BBQ?

Waking up from our winter/spring hibernation-state brought on by the dark, cold and rainy season. The extended hours of daylight means we leave the comforts of the home and spend more time outdoors.  We start to alter our eating habits: food becomes lighter and fresher during the day and we tend to eat later in the evening.  As the weather gets progressively warmer we move out of the house to cook on open flame; all strategies designed to help combat the summer heat.

Cooking on open flame can only mean one thing – barbeque.

And nothing beats the taste of BBQ!

Succulent meats flame-licked to tender perfection, grilled veggies scorched into savoury crispness, flaking off the bone ribs and sumptuous seafood designed to be cooked over charcoal.

The joy of BBQ food is that you can make it as cheap or extravagant as you want; you can cater for one or one hundred.  Children tend to gravitate towards the quintessential BBQ staples: sausages, burgers and corn on the cob.  Those of more diverse palate can taste grilled seafood, choice cuts of meat and even ask for these to be cooked to their liking.

But as delicious as BBQ food is, the main reason why we love a good BBQ is the social aspect of the event.  These get-togethers are intimate, laid back affairs.  There is no procession of courses – the way the food is eaten and served is informal.  People will generally dispense with cutlery, eat standing up whilst mingling, locating drinks or foraging for food.  There is no meal time constraint; food comes as and when it is ready – meats are not cooked at the same time to provide a self service style buffet; service is relaxed and dependent on whether your guests could have, “another little bite!”  This can sometimes go on for several hours should the conditions be right.

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BBQ role-reversal etiquette dictates that the man of the household does the cooking. Mum probably cooks all year round, slaving in the kitchen, to provide food for her family but come BBQ season, cooking becomes man’s domain.  Subsequently any of the male guests will congregate around the fire and make noises of approval/disapproval as to how well food is being cooked.

Females bring salads.

Ultimately, BBQ’s are very convenient.  We can use disposable BBQ sets, self igniting charcoal bags as well as disposable cups, cutlery and plates.  Creating minimal washing up after the event.

BBQ’s are usually celebrated with close friends and family and have the same cathartic effect on us as other major celebrations.  Everyone feels good at BBQ’s.

So whether you do it in your patios, gardens, balconies or at the beach (getting appropriate permissions) light a fire, skewer some meat or seafood, rinse out your beach towels and get grilling.  Let’s enjoy the summer.

As published in Calentita Press 2014

Gastrorob

 

 

bbb

Ingredients:

  • 500g beef mince
  • Red onion (small)
  • Cheese for grating
  • Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Egg
  • Worcester Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Butter (for frying)

Method:

1st: Dice the red onion and gently fry until translucent.  Set aside to cool.

2nd: Mix the beef mince, a handful of grated cheese (I used Edam but Parmesan would work just as well – take care when seasoning as Parmesan can be salty) and breadcrumbs, a beaten egg, a dash of Worcester Sauce and seasoning.  Once the onion has cooled mix this into the rest of the ingredients.  Using your hands is best as this ensures that everything mixes properly.

3rd: Divide the mixture into four and shape them into cricket ball sized burgers.  Leaving them round shows that they are not shop bought but flatten them slightly should you wish.  Place onto an oiled tray and place in the fridge to firm up.

4th: After approx 20mins remove them from the fridge and fry in butter for 3mins per side.  Should you like them more well-done cook them for longer or cook them further in the oven.

5th: Put them into a toasted bap of your choice with salad leaved, onion rings and your favourite sauce.

I made a spiced mayo to go with my burger using mayonnaise, ketchup, lemon juice, tabasco sauce and cayenne pepper.  Make this as spicy as you wish.

Lip-smacking, finger-licking good!

 

 

 

 

Having established a benchmark of food and drink at my parties a few years ago, what could I pull out of the bag to feed my 20+ guests this party round?  After all I can no longer get away with several bags of doritos and assorted dips!

Do I provide my standard party medly of spiced nuts, cranberry glazed cocktail sausages and pesto palmiers?  Surely that’s a more wintry repertoire.  With the weather nearing the cusp of summer a lighter menu would be more appropriate.

So when thinking of summer food what do we recall to mind?  For me it’s things like chilled gazpacho, salads, fruit and veg and bbq meat!  How could I go about trying to incorporate these ideas into my repertoire of party food?

Summer Party Menu:

strawberry cocktail

taken from youtube.com

Strawberry Champagne Cocktail

In a blender blitz strawberries, lemon juice and icing sugar until you form a strawberry puree.  Pour this into the bottom of champagne glasses and top up with the fizzy wine of your choice.

After much deliberation the following is the menu I decided on:

Ajo Blanco (aka white gazpacho), Roast vegetable cous cous salad, Cauliflower cake and Beef carpaccio with parmesan shavings.  For dessert homemade limoncello and biscotti.

Ajo BlancoAjo blanco

I followed a Sam and Sam Clark Moro recipe (having even asked them which bread to use via Twitter!) but looking online there are several sites that have similar if identical recipes.

Literally combine almonds, garlic, stale bread, olive oil, sherry vinegar and iced water in a blender and blitz until it forms a smooth-like liquid with the consistency of cream.  Chill and serve with white grape cheeks.  This needs to be served ice cold – so either put into the freezer for a while before serving or pour over ice.

Top Tip: beware the volume of liquid you put into your processor as you don’t want it pouring out of the central post as mine did!!

Roast Vegetable Cous Cous SaladRoasted-Veg-Couscous

This couldn’t be easier; roast the veggies you wish – peppers, red onions and courgettes give the best flavour for this but I also used some leftover asparagus.  Aubergine is a great veg to use in this as it is a meaty vegetable providing texture as well as colour.

When you’re ready to assemble, pour boiling water or stock over the cous cous making sure to just cover in liquid.  Cover in cling film and leave until the cous cous has absorbed all the water.  Mix the veg through and add chopped herbs – parsely, corriander and mint work best.

Cauliflower CakeCauliflower Cake

A recipe from Foodat52 from my Foodie Weekend but a quick online search has given me the exact same recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi  (Follow the Yotam hyperlink to take you to the recipe) at the Guardian online.

I’ve followed this cauliflower cake recipe several times now.  The 10 eggs in the batter make the cake soufflé in the tin.  It is decadent, delicious, moreish and full of flavour.  Ideal as a light lunch.  You could almost replace the ubiquitous lunchtime quiche with this golden cauliflower delight.

decadent, delicious, moreish

The great thing about the cauliflower cake is that it is even better the following day!

Beef CarpaccioBeef Carpaccio

As all my other dishes were unintentionally vegetarian I decided to pull out all the stops with a prime fillet of beef for the carnivores amongst us.

Make sure that the fillet is at room temperature before attempting to cook it.

Roll the prime fillet in sea salt, crushed black pepper, finely chopped rosemary and thyme (no oil).  Once the griddle is smoking hot, sear the fillet for a minute all the way round.

Then take off the heat and leave to rest.  Once the meat has rested for anything from 5 – 10mins, slice it as thinly as you can AND with the back of the knife flatten each slice as much as possible without grinding the fillet into a mush on your board.

Top Tip: Know your audience!  As there are many people attending the party who would not like to eat their meat carpaccio-style, put the end of meat into the oven.  Leave to rest and then carve this in thin slices/strips.

Lay the slices of carpaccio onto a dish and shave parmesan over.  Sprinkle with some fresh thyme and drizzle with a simple dressing of olive oil, mustard and sherry vinegar.  If serving this as a main meal accompany the carpaccio with peppery rocket leaves.

Limoncello and Biscotti

click on the hyperlink to direct you to the recipes.

If there is one recipe from the ones mentioned above that you MUST try and recreate it has to be Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower Cake.  I’m off to scrounge in the fridge for leftovers!

Enjoy the summer everyone.