Posts Tagged ‘Gibraltar’

Patagőnĭca

Posted: September 19, 2016 in Gibraltar, Restaurant Review
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patagonica-2

Whilst thousands of tourists, off our numerous cruise ships flock to Casemates Square, locals prefer to keep out of the heat and stick to the side-streets and back alleys that branch off Main Street. Recently, Chatham Counterguard and Parliament Lane have gone through a renaissance with new restaurants and eateries taking root, catering for those that work in the centre of town and its surrounding areas.

One such place benefiting from the rejuvenation of this district is Hacienda Patagőnĭca; found at the end of Parliament Lane.

Upon its sign going up, which was visible from Line Wall Road as you drove by; there was a buzz of excitement that a very good Argentinean Grill, of a reputable chain, was coming to Gibraltar. Everyone was looking forward to it, as many had experienced the same product in La Linea at the Patagőnĭa restaurant or either of the Patagőnĭca tapas bars.

Unfortunately, its official opening was somewhat veiled in obscurity and considering it has been open since May or even before, there aren’t many people who seem to have heard of its opening or have eaten there, however, it does seem to have its lunchtime regulars.
patagonica

Hacienda Patagőnĭca can be found behind “The Office” at the end of Parliament Lane. Its terrace, that greets you on arrival, is covered in a green astroturf lawn. There are approximately 10 tables, all with vivid red, yellow or green watering cans holding steak knives and forks, as well as, decorating window sills surrounding the terrace. A redundant staircase that leads nowhere sits on the back wall. There are fewer tables inside with the decor leaning more towards Frida Kahlo’s mexican terracotta, however, the result is friendly, comforting and homely.

The menu, a meat lover’s delight.

I would recommend always starting your meal with a spicy meat empanadilla and a provolone grilled cheese (provoleta) to share, maybe even ordering this with your drinks order to expedite matters should you need to get back to your desk.

For the uninitiated into the world of Argentinean grills, I suggest ordering a Patagonia Grill (Parrillada Patagonia); a mouth-watering, tantalising platter of various cuts of meat including beef tenderloin, veal ribs, skirt, entrecote, black pudding and Creole sausage seasoned to perfection. Order it to be cooked medium rare (a su punto) as you can always have it cooked more should you wish. Please note, this is a feast for four people – 6 could eat comfortably from this portion, especially if you’ve had the empanadilla and provolone.

parrillada-patagonica

Photo taken from Samuel Stocker/Facebook

If you are of a squeamish disposition or vegetarian, turn away now…

…I prefer my meat cooked rare and swimming in bloody meat juices, I then take the baked potato and mash it into this glorious puddle #foodporn.

Once you’ve tried the different cuts of meat the Parrillada has to offer, you can then decide how you wish to proceed the next time you go – because there will be a next time – would you order the same mixed platter or select a specific cut of meat to feast on? I always order the ubiquitous Argentinean empanadilla and grilled cheese followed by specific dishes so as to get a larger portion of my favourite cuts drizzled with chimichurri.


If you are a vegetarian, I doubt that this would have been your first choice of restaurant but there are a few veggie options such as: roasted peppers, stuffed aubergines/mushrooms/courgettes, fried provolone triangles, Swiss potatoes, baked potatoes, as well as, provolone grilled cheese (provoleta) and a mixed salad, which are also delicious – or so I have been told.

watering-cans
Having been there on several occasions, I have found that service always seems to be better at lunchtime. On busier summer evenings, service can sometimes be erratic or slow. I can only put this inconsistency down to the fact that management have been unprepared for events such as Summer Nights. Admittedly, our waiter was very apologetic for not being able to give us a better service and offered us a drink on the house to make up for it.
Frustratingly, even with its redundant staircase, there is no access from Line Wall Road to Hacienda Patagőnĭca. People have to make their way round Chatham Counterguard probably stopping at one of the establishments along the way.

Nevertheless, as smoke billows up from its wood fired grill, peppering the air with delicious meat smells, its chimney acts as a beacon to hungry stomachs throughout the town, making Hacienda Patagőnĭca a great place for a quick or leisurely lunch and evening meal in the centre of town.

Meat sweats imminent…

as published on www.yourgibraltartv.com on 7th September 2016

“Wagamama, Gibraltar was faring the best across Europe!”  Rumoured the naughty child.

And after shifting 1 month’s worth of duck and beer in 3 days I can see why!

Wagamama_logo (2)

When I first came across Wagamama in London in the late 90’s, I nostalgically remember it as the perfect antidote to a night of student revelling London-style (stylie).  We’d wake up and trundle down to the nearest Wagamamas and cluster around their long tables and immediately get a vitamin boost from their super green, super fresh, body cleansing, high antioxidant smoothies followed by a bowl of something spicy with plenty of carbs – if my mind goes that far back, I think my dish of choice was always a Pad Thai.  It would beat going to Maccy-Ds any day!

Flash-forward over 20 years and in June 2016, after a social media frenzy of freebie tickets, £5 sittings and press evenings, we are treated to our very own Wagamama here in Gibraltar.  With the stunning setting that Ocean Village provides, Wagamama, with its roots in Japanese-inspired cuisine, fits right in amongst the palm trees and ferns that line the promenade.

long tablesUpon arrival everything seems to be at one with nature –chairs are large wooden blocks with simple metal legs, rattan chairs out on the terrace; long wooden-topped tables (ideal for families) presented in a minimalist Japanese canteen style with spotlights aimed along the centre of these.   Fully opening glass doors bringing the sea into the room.  The 3 large mirrors at the back of the room creating  a sense of depth, reflecting images of staff whizzing from station to table.  And last but not least, its vast open kitchen and prep area with its denizen of chefs glancing from screens to chopping boards to woks to plates.

The menu is not organised as ‘starters and mains’ but as: Sides – to order with your main dish or to share; Gyoza – either steamed or fried dumplings filled with goodness; Ramen – a bowl of hot soup filled with noodles; toppings and garnishes; Curry – fresh curries served over rice; Teppanyaki – sizzling soft noodles with crunchy veg/meat/prawns; Omakase – 4 different Chef Specials; Donburi – a big bowl of steamed rice and stir fired meats/veg; Salads -2 stir fry salads and Extras – miso soup, Japanese pickles, ‘century’ egg, kimchee, chillies or rice/noodles.

I found the exemplary waiting staff to be very cheerful and friendly at all times.  Their knowledge of the menu evident as they would translate dish numbers into dish names; scribbling your order onto your placemat.  Before leaving our table, the waiter asked us if we’d been to Wagamama before so as to clarify how our food would arrive.

For the uninitiated: as your dish is created it is served – regardless of whether there are 2, 4 or 6 of you dining; there is no procession of courses.

Fried duck gyoza

fried duck gyoza


Steamed pulled pork gyoza

steamed pulled pork gyoza

We ordered some Gyoza to see how they fared against authentic Japanese gyoza, which are dry-fried on the base and then steamed to perfection.  As the menu advertised either fried or steamed gyoza we tried the fried duck gyoza (99) – delicious, deep decadent duck meat in a deep fried gyoza, however, not what we were expecting.  Preferring a steamed gyoza we ended up stopping the waiter to order some steamed pulled pork gyoza (105) which were much more authentic in flavour and texture and upon reading the menu a second time realising that the steamed gyoza are served grilled!

Omakase – entrust the chefteriyaki lamb

Trying to avoid my Pad Thai Wagamama staple, I decided to let the chef recommend me one of its four Omakase (Japanese for ‘to entrust the chef’).  The grilled Teriyaki lamb served on a bed of soba noodles in a pea and wasabi dressing with grilled asparagus, kale, mushrooms and mangetout – simply scrumptious; grilled teriyaki lamb, grilled veggies, soba noodles.

Since then I’ve been again and had the chilli squid (107) crispy fried squid dusted with shichimi, served with a chilli/coriander dipping sauce – tongue tantalisingly tingly and the pork ramen (30) which even though I slurped my way through, could have been hotter – both in temp and spice, and saltier; however, I suppose that’s why there is soy sauce and chilli oil on every table!

banana katsuAs part of the ‘harmony, balance and chilli’ mantra that Wagamama is legendary for, ending your spicy meal with Banana Katsu (142) – banana covered in panko bread crumbs and deep fried with salted caramel ice-cream equals perfection.  I’ve asked for the mochi balls (124) and the sweet onigiri (135) but unfortunately they still haven’t received them from the Uk.

I suppose that if we are dependent on Uk deliveries for the food to be franchise-exact we will, on occasion, have this wait-time on certain dishes when items expire.  Next time I go I know I’m going to try the prawn itame curry (39) and here’s hoping that they’ve got the pork ribs (97) in stock!

But all is good with the world when you end your meal with jasmine flower tea…

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Little Bay5

Whilst the refurbishment took place through the long drawn out winter months, the team at Little Bay made sure to keep tantalising people with morsels of information about their warming exotic food menu, enticing cocktails and ultra modern decor.  When they finally opened in April 2016 people were intrigued and couldn’t wait to sample Little Bay’s alluring Eastern delights as presented to us through social media.

“Cumin, cardamon and clove.”

I eventually made it down there one Thursday evening in mid-May and the place was buzzing: groups of friends, individuals, couples – of all ages.  I think we may have even been the second or even third sitting that evening!

“Comfortable decadence.”

Little Bay1

Dominating the centre of the restaurant is the heart of Little Bay – its circular bar.  The bar staff shimmering between the glinting glassware and beaten copper water jugs, mixing enticing cocktails.  Guests are encouraged to sit at the bar on plush stone coloured velvet bar stools studded with metal rings hanging off the backs whilst waiting for their tables to be set.  Masala Mules being everyone’s cocktail of choice.

The menu is varied but not extensive; 14 starters and 16 main dishes – a good balance of chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian options, as well as the ubiquitous rice dishes, naans and sides.

My menu choices were as follows:

Little Bay2Starter – Chicken 65 (Chilli Chicken)
Marinated pieces of chicken breast, stir fried and tossed in spring onions, chillies and coriander.  This was a very generous starter.  Succulent chicken pieces, fresh zingy ginger coming through the heat of the chillies.  Like popcorn chicken – but grown up; delicious.  With some rice or a naan this could have been a very decent lunch.  I would have liked to have been encouraged by the waiter to have perhaps ordered some raita to go with, not because it needed to be tempered but just as another texture/sensation on the tongue; hot chicken pieces, fridge cold raita.

Main – Keema MattarLittle Bay4
On the menu there is a “Little Bay recommends” next to this dish and I was not disappointed.  Spiced, minced lamb cooked in a tomato and spice infused sauce, freshened up with vibrant green peas. Rich and full of body, this dish was perfectly accompanied by a plain naan and steamed basmati rice.  Any other flavours would have conflicted with the musty-heavy scent of cumin, cardamom and clove.

We decided to forgo dessert as I didn’t really want chocolate cake, carrot cake or pecan pie after a delicious Indian meal.  What happened to the Indian desserts normally served in Indian restaurants?  Mango kulfi? Mango Lassi? Kheer (milky rice pudding)?

Gibraltar desperately needed a proper Indian Restaurant in the leisure areas.  Since Masai Grill, Viceroy and then Laziz shut down, we’ve had to succumb to the Indian takeaway.  Little Bay, which I can’t help but feel, should be called, The Bay Leaf, is a high end Indian Restaurant with high quality food.  A restaurant that wouldn’t be out of place next to London’s The Cinnamon Club or The Red Fort.  Its Directors have worked hard to create an image of comfortable decadence.   Their dynamic team of managers, exciting bar staff and committed waiters making the place buzz with youthful exuberance.

There is an Indian tapas menu which has many dishes from the a la carte menu so that guests may discover the menu, however, I would like to see more “Little Bay recommends” next to different dishes to encourage diners to choose something delicious but unfamiliar.  All tables should be offered a copper pot of poppadums and accompanying chutney whilst diners peruse the menu – we weren’t.

Little Bay6

Masala Mule

I, for one, can’t wait to return.  Promises of exotic spice and Eastern delights did not disappoint.  Next time though, I’d make sure it was in a large group so that I could try lots of different dishes!  And I’d make sure that I tried one of those Masala bad boys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0010(1)Lunch at The Hendrix was a Purple Haze for me. Psychedelic sweet chilli prawns sat proudly on cubes of cider-marinated pork belly served with a pineapple and lettuce salad followed by a deconstructed banoffee pie with banana parfait, dulce de leche and flambéd banana AND a gorgeous lemongrass and basil infused creamy posset, served with vanilla mascarpone and summer fruits…deliciously dreamy.

At The Hendix, classic combos are given the Ariel Guivi treatment. Under Ariel’s mantra of ‘soul food’ there is plenty to fill your belly and indeed feed the soul. There is a good balance of dishes on the menu to cater for all such as: mushroom linguine served with wild mushrooms collected from the Campo area, homemade burgers; served medium, fire-roasted aubergines drizzled in tahini, beef skirt with chimichurri, warm goats cheese salad, classic fish and chips with homemade tartare sauce served with mushy peas, as well as Ariel’s classic hummus with toasted pine nuts served with warm pitta bread – a dish Ariel created in his days working at a previous local establishment. And for those nights watching the game or those mornings after, there is a plethora of deep fried breaded bar snacks to choose from too.

The food is delicious but there is no mistaking, this is not a restaurant but a pub; a gastropub, with very good food. Ariel is passionate about his menu and the quality of his product which he insists should be fresh such as the wild mushrooms in his linguine (cutting this dish from the menu should he not be able to source these). He is very aware of what he wants to achieve for The Hendrix and is keen to raise the bar of pub grub in Gibraltar. His previous experience under the tutorship of Matt Birtwistle and now as his own boss with his own team are the ingredients to make a successful gastropub of The Hendrix.

The waitresses were very pleasant and provided a very good service with attention to detail. The drinks menu with its cocktails and fancy lemonades sounded as if this might be the sort of place you’d want to sit at on a summer evening, or even after work! Instead of walking past it, pop in. Having read some previous diner reviews, the majority of people would be very happy to return and eat there again. Those that wouldn’t, I’d say give it another go and try something else.

I have to admit, I was originally tempted by Miss Piggy but settled on a Hendrix Purple Haze (same same but different!)

…I guess I’ll just have to visit again!

 

AbdesalemWe all have our memories of The Moroccan Restaurant and its owner, chef, maitre-d, waiter and great Gibraltarian character that was Abdesalam.

Sadly, the surly-comic character that was Abdesalam passed away this week and since hearing of his passing, many turned to social media to pay their respects and proclaim his pinchitos to be “the best in town!”

For those that knew where his establishment was hidden, it was a little jewel tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Main Street, in humble Turnbull’s Lane.  With only a few tables inside; 6 could sit comfortably, 8 would be a squeeze as no-one wanted to sit infront of the sliding door that unveiled the toilet!

In summer, Abdesalam would set up a couple of tables outside and even though this extended his restaurant he wouldn’t necessarily want the demand.  As Abdesalam’s approach was not that of a multi-tasking chef catering for several tables at a time.  His was a methodical table-by-table approach.  Pre-ordering was an advantage known only to some, otherwise, when you arrived he would take your order and start prepping and cooking especially for you; whoever arrived after you would have to wait until your table’s order was complete!

Not the sort of place to go to in a rush.

When at The Moroccan Restaurant it was like being stuck in a time machine where everything ran on Abdesalam-time – and everyone was the happier for it.

I remember once pre-ordering several pinchitos for a group of 6 of us (approx 30 pinchitos) and a family arrived off a cruiseHeiniken
ship and ordered chicken tagines and cous-cous.  They were on a tight schedule; we were having a leisurely lunch with the endless supply of green Heineken bottles from the self-service fridge!  The more anxious they became, the more thorough he seemed to stoke the BBQ to get the perfect white-hot charcoals to cook on. Thankfully they had been to Gibraltar before and had done all the tourist sites previously!

Several people have recalled Abdesalam’s mantra, “Para gente de familia, no borrachos!” (A family restaurant not for drunkards) and, “Esto es un restaurante, no un bar.” (This is a restaurant not a bar.)  As one of his pet peeves was people sitting at his tables drinking the cold drinks he was chilling for his clients.

pinchitosAbdesalam took great pride in providing you with his taste of Morocco whether it was a tagine (chicken or lamb), pinchitos (beef or chicken), cous-cous or even a simple tomato and onion salad.  He would tell me that the reason why his beef pinchitos were the best was because he would buy good quality beef (carne de calidad amigo!) and then meticulously trim off the excess fat before marinating in his ‘secret’ spice rub.

Not to everyone’s tastes; the decor with its chintzy relics of Morocco, dusty souvenirs of the red fez, babouche slippers and mint teapot variety adorning the cobwebbed shelves above the bar, the sliding door for the toilet that hung on a hinge and the service that ran on Abdeslam-time but I liked it, as did many.

I am sad to say that I will miss being sat outside on Turnbull’s Lane with a green bottle in my hand, watching Abdeslam stood in the archway to The Moroccan Restaurant,  fanning the flames of his pinchito bbq with his raffia fan, wafting the smoke over in my direction as if sat around a tuareg campfire in the Sahara, salivating at the smell of meat caramelising on hot coals…

Gastrorob

My article as it appeared in Calentita! press.

There is always a buzz of excitement and anticipation at El Capote’s food and wine evenings.  The regulars know the format of the evening, but it is always great to hear Ian remind us all (as if we need validation) that it is an evening of, “Great food, great wine and great company!”

Chef Lede, a very talented chef who uses techniques in molecular gastronomy made famous by chefs such as Ferran Adrià at elBulli and Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck, creates tantalising and imaginative dishes that play with your mind and leave you wanting more.  Each dish a work of gastronomic art – 30 identical looking covers per course is no mean feat when catering for a group of people let alone when presenting a 13 course menú degustación!

13 courses X 30 covers = 390 dishes

But for me it’s not just about the taste; it’s the theatrical performance that Lede with his assistants execute for us as they plate up; it is delicious to watch!

“Great Food, Great Wine, Great Company”

The 13 course taster menu comprised three sections all involving seasonal produce with most of the key ingredients sourced from the Campo Area.

The Menu

  • Ajoblanco de Naranja
  • Naranja-Bacon
  • Esferas de payoyo con tostas de hierbas y polvo de ibérico
  • Bollo de huevo con jamón ibérico de bellota

Snack marino

  • Flash cooking de gamba blanca de huelva con yuzu y sesamo
  • Carabinero con especias en su fondo marino con huevas de su americana
  • Papas con choco: Raviolis de Wonton rellenos de guiso de choco, crema de patata, caviar de guisantes y aire de mar

Snack terrestre

  • Falso tomate de Foie, garrapiñados y reducción de Pedro Ximenez
  • Steak tartare de solomillo de ternera con anguilas ahumadas y nieve de Foie
  • Homenaje al cerdo ibérico (3 dishes): Carrilleras con panceta de cerdo, caldo texturizado de jamón, migas y chicharrones aéreos
  • Sopa fria de chocolate blanco, frutos rojas y granizado de mora

Where I would normally go through the menu and describe each dish, there were far to many to describe in detail – however, I have been informed by Ian that Chef Lede is going to be repeating the menu with one major change: At the Christmas Special we were treated to different Sherrys to match the food.  Not everyone’s favourite tipple!  This meant that we couldn’t quaff throughout the meals but more especially the intermissions.  So wines will be available for those of you interested in going.

My favourites were: the Bollo de huevo con jamón ibérico de bellota, Carabinero con especias en su fondo marino con huevas de su americana and el Homenaje al cerdo ibérico (3 dishes): Carrilleras con panceta de cerdo, caldo texturizado de jamón, migas y chicharrones aéreos.

In future – if I were to have the Homenaje al cerdo ibérico – I think it would be more effective to have the three constituent parts on the same plate to truly appreciate the deconstructive nature of molecular gastronomy. However I am aware of of kitchen constraints and why this was executed as so.

If anyone is tempted by any of these dishes, or if the thought of having a test tube shot appeals to you, then I recommend you get yourself down to El Capote when they next advertise as they tend to fill up places fast!

When it comes to food, Gibraltar should be very proud of herself.  Not only do we have a celebratory food festival “Calentita” in June where we celebrate food from the different backgrounds that make up our unique heritage but now we can add Rock Chef to our food culture.

“Passion for food, fierce competition, a unique challenge, fun and a race against time: Just some of the ingredients for ROCK CHEF”

Is the Facebook information given about the competition.  The most important fact though is not included and that is that this is a competition for amateur cooks.  So after weaning out those that have had professional experience and then setting a level for the competition the GFSB picked 12 contestants to appear on the TV show produced by GibMedia.

rockchef

taken from the Facebook page “RockChef” GibMedia (c) 2013

Having then to complete several challenges such as working service at local restaurants, three contestants made it through to the semi-final.

Semi-Final

I was present at the Caleta Hotel for the semi-final and all I can say about the three courses without giving anything away is that we were treated to superior home cooking with one dish in particular delivering aspects of fine dining.  When you watch the dishes on TV you will see what I mean by this.  We then had to decide which course we thought was the best created dish based on creativity, technical ability, how it complimented the overall menu as well as flavour.

“superior home cooking”

The person with the least votes would be eliminated.  We were not informed of the outcome of this; even though we all had our suspicions based on the question and answer session that followed.

IMG_2355Final

The final was held at the Mons-Calpe Suite at the Cable Car Top Station.  May I just say that this venue was incredible.  We arrived around 7pm and the sun was still shining with the surroundings being lit up in gold.  The Mediterranean Sea to one side and the Atlantic Ocean to the other.  A truly magical venue for a finals dinner.

I was invited to attend by Gemma Arias, President of the GFSB, to whom I am eternally grateful.  My luck however, didn’t end there, as I was sat at the centre table surrounded by some of the contestants who had been knocked out in the previous rounds.

“sheer passion for food”

Their company was fantastic!  I marvelled at the anecdotes about the competition itself but ultimately it was their sheer passion for food that impressed me the most.  Listening to them tell the rest of us stories about their home cooking (suckling pig, dishes with height and architecture, chocolate fondants) had me salivating before the cameras started rolling!

2 Menus

So with two finalists cooking their winning 3 course meal for us, how were we going to award the title of Rock Chef?  On this occasion we were not responsible for picking a winner.  A famous celebrity chef was given that daunting task.  And no we were not going to eat 2 x 3 course meals either!  Out of the two menus, we were meant to pick which we wanted to try.  At our table we collaborated and thought we’d share all the courses to get the best impression of who we thought should win.

12 contestants, 3 semi-finalists, 2 finalists, 1 winner!

And the winner is….

So as not to give you any clues as to the finalists and dishes that were created I’ve not included food photos but will upload a photo gallery after the TV series has aired.

Think you’ve got what it takes?  

Why not compete next year for the title of Rock Chef!

The Neanderthal in me; challenged as I strategically pile the charcoal around the fire lighters, comforted as I watch the sunset-red flames dance around the coals, rapturous as I fan the fire to make sure the black coals are turning white. BBQ season is upon us. And in my household (i.e. me!) it means being as adventurous grilling as it does cooking in my kitchen.

Yes, grilling. Not barbecuing. In much of the English-speaking world, “barbecuing” and “grilling” are used interchangeably. However, in USA’s South “barbecue” describes a cooking method in which food is cooked slowly over the indirect heat and smoke from a charcoal or hardwood fire. The food is never placed over the hot coals hence closing the lid helps to create an oven-like environment to retain the heat.

Whether you have a large family-sized terrace, garden or 2m x 1m balcony, cooking over a live fire is neither a weekend ritual nor a professional technique. Everyone can do it. And in Gibraltar, during the Summer months, everyone does. As you walk around the different housing estates, you can smell the characteristic chemical smell produced by firelighters or alternatives and burning charcoal. But if you’re really lucky you also get to smell the delicious offerings the grilled meats and fish fill the stifling, summer evening air with.

“Pinchitos, burgers, sausages, steaks, ribs, lamb kebabs, seafood…”

BBQ Rack of Maple-Glazed Ribs

1st: Once the flames have died down on the barbecue, place a saucepan onto the grill and add butter, maple syrup and dark muscovado sugar. Mix together.

2nd: Rub olive oil, salt and pepper onto the rack of ribs and place onto the grill. If your bbq set has a lid on it then you can choose to “barbecue” it. Make sure to place the ribs on the coal-free area as you are cooking indirectly.

3rd: Regularly baste the rack with the maple syrup glaze.

4th: Once the ribs are cooked, it is always a good idea to split the individual ribs to give it one final basting on all sides.

Fork test: stick a large fork into whatever you’re cooking and try to pick it up. If the fork slides out of the meat without grabbing onto it, it’s done; otherwise, keep cooking.”

Essential Grilling Tools

Having the right tools will undoubtedly make the task easier. A pair of heavy-duty, long-handled, spring-loaded tongs are the undisputed number one grill tool. Like an extra hand that doesn’t get burned, they are ideal for placing food on the grill, moving it around whilst it’s cooking, picking it up to check for doneness, and taking it off the grill. Don’t buy those cheap supermarket barbecue kits with tongs & spatula as they are both disastrous to use!

Convenience is the order of the day, especially if there are guests. Use disposable skewers for pinchitos and kebabs and disposable foil trays. Foil trays have many uses other than being disposable. Whilst grilling, they are ideal for covering thick cuts of meat or bone-in chicken that’s not quite done but that you don’t want to burn to a crisp. Without the use of a lid you can create a mini-oven.

Next to tongs, your favourite beverage, may be the most indispensable grilling tool. It helps keep you calm and collected while you’re tending the fire – a key to success.

So why not relish in the near-mythic social ritual that is the barbecue and stand, like Homer Simpson, with tongs in one hand and beer in the other.

Do it alone, invite people round, keep it cheap or go crazy at the supermarket – either way light the fire, open a beer and grill away… come on…unleash your inner caveman!

“Good company, good food and good wine!”

That was the welcome and introduction that we received at El Capote’s 5th wine and food matching held Thursday 7th June.

The theme for this evening’s dining experience was Italian.  As pretty much everyone had already been to at least one of the previous four evenings, they knew the ritual that we were about to partake in.  And a most enjoyable ritual it was!  From the familiar board advertising the wines and food we were to enjoy to the charismatic interaction from Ian Gareze (and ourselves) about the sumptuous offerings we were about to be treated to.

To get our Mediterranean pallets going we were welcomed to an aperitif of sweet mosto (Manilva).  We all know this was not Italian but it most certainly got everyone in the mood for a great night of delicious food and wine, and we were proved right, once again.

1) Prosecco Teresa Rizzi with Gambones Frito and a Pesto Dip

The Prosecco, light, floral and fruity was very well suited to the gambones.  Admittedly I could drink sparkling wine as if it were water!  However, they were very well matched.  The Prosecco’s citrus notes cutting through the fried gambones almost cleansing the pallet with each sip (glug!).

The homemade pesto was delicate but heady with basil; bringing out the Prosecco’s floral notes.  I would have perhaps added more olive oil to slacken this and it would have gone a lot further, leaving it on the table to accompany several of the other dishes.

The gambones (King Prawns) were beautifully cooked.  Crispy on the outside but ever so delicate in the centre.  Every mouthful a feast!  The only downside of this was that there were only two gambones per person.  My voracious appetite desperately wanted more but the next course was nothing to be sneered at.

“Every mouthful a feast!”

2) Santi Pinot Grigio de Venezie with Calamares a la Plancha served with a tomato and olive salad

Simple; the natural culinary beauty and taste of this dish’s only ingredient was sublime.  Fresh, succulent and beautiful; to top it off caught be a local fisherman!

What an exultation of a dish – calamares a la plancha (grilled squid).  From cooking to tasting this dish was delicious.  The smell of grilled squid permeating every corner of El Capote; arousing the senses as we chatted and even attracting passers-by to venture inside to marvel at the delicious spectacle.

When it finally arrived to the table, with everyone in the room salivating like Pavlovian dogs, it was heralded by a metaphorical sounding of trumpets.

The calamares were so good the wine had no choice but to know that it was not the star of the show – hence keeping a very low profile throughout this pairing.  After discussing this dish with the other diners at my table – the tomato and olive salad, although fresh and light, also went severely unnoticed.  When considering the time spent on food preparation as part of the whole evening’s menu, the calamares a la plancha needed nothing else to make this a triumphant dish, therefore tumbling some lemon wedges around the dish would have been the way to say,

“Calamares a la plancha – enjoy!”

3) Melini Sangiovese, Toscana 2006 served with Sarde a Beccafacio & Caponata

A good unobtrusive red wine to be complimented with fish.  There is much wine snobbery that fish should only be matched with white wine.  Whilst the command is ridiculous, the sentiment is not.  Reds tend to be slightly more full bodied and overpowering than white hence its partnership with fish needs to be carefully monitored.

The food served to complement this red was rolled sardine fillets with a pine nut stuffing.  Never having heard of this before I discussed its origin with Ian (who having done his homework) explained that it was a Sicilian dish and were meant to represent birds.  Were they served with mouths pointing upwards and gaping at the diner?  No.  My research explained that warblers (beccafacio) were hunted in ancient time from Sicilian nobles and cooked with their own entrails. Common people began to copy this luxury dish adapting it with sardines and swapped the entrails with the filling that is currently used.

I thoroughly enjoyed this but would have preferred this served with the pesto as it would have matched the sardines’ pine nut filling, with its lemon backnotes cutting through the richness of the sardines.

Many of the other diners were raving about the Caponata.  I have to say, whenever I make Caponata, I take the easy way out and plonk all the veg into a saucepan and let it reduce gently until I’m happy that it’s the consistency that I like.  Ian, I could tell, followed the stages properly.  The aubergine was fried before being added to the onion and tomato mixture.  There were also acidic tones to this so I imagine that vinegar must have been used to help this dish develop the depth of flavour that is required of its simplicity.  However, what we were all in agreement with was that the Caponata was a dish in itself.  It just needed some bread sticks or Italian crostinis.

“This was a double-dish.”

4) Prunotto Dolcetto D’Alba, Piemonte (2005) served with Polpete al Forno

What wasn’t to like in this pairing?!  Meatballs in tomato sauce with penne pasta and finished in the oven with a soft, fruity red to go with.

Sadly we were all so full by this stage many of us could not eat another bite.  Everyone would have been happy to have finished on the previous course and go straight to the last pairing.  The noise levels in the room dropped a bit whilst everyone considered how full they were and realistically how much more they were going to be able to eat.

Nonetheless people did manage to eat and drink their way through this course.  Myself included!

I dare say that as a result of us taking a bit too long on the previous courses this overcooked in the oven.  I say this as I found the meatballs on the dry side of cooked.  Oh and some grated parmesan at the table would have earned some brownie points, but considering the veritable banquet we had just gorged ourselves with this was an error we were all more that willing to forgive.

5) Antinori Peppoli, Chianti Classico (2007) served with Roasted Rack of Cerdo Iberico and Patatas a lo Pobre

As I watched Ian bring this joint of meat out and carve it infront of us I was once again taken over by greed.  I immediately forgot how full-up I was.  I also pushed to the back of my mind how Spanish this part of the menu sounded!

The pork was succulent and flavoursome.  Rubbed and sealed with herbs and seasoned well.

I could imagine this dish served as a main course at a wedding.

The Chianti; rich, fruity with vanilla on the nose was a beautiful wine to drink in support of this dish.

6) Limoncello and Biscotti

My first comment to Ian as this came to the table was that these were not biscotti!  In fact they were clearly amaretti biscuits as the smell of amaretto filled the air and was present in every bite of these delicious biscuits.

Traditionally, biscotti are oblong shaped almond studded biscuits and dry from being baked twice in the oven.  Limoncello is served with the biscotti as they absorb the alcohol without it changing the flavour of the biscotti.

Indeed it was a shame that they were amaretti biscuits as I do have a fondness for biscotti, and ending the evening dunking my biscotti into a glass of chilled limoncello would truly have been Italian bliss.

Not that I didn’t drop several of these into my glass and sip the limoncello whilst having them bobbing around my upper lip!  Delicious!!

“Less really is more.”

As always, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening at El Capote.  Ian once again outdid himself with the food he cooked for us and the whole evening was great fun but I have to be honest; there was too much food.  I can’t believe I’ve just said that.  The polpete al forno was one dish too many.  In reality the Sarde a Beccafacio should have been served independently from the Caponata as these were two dishes which were tasty, delicious and could have stood proudly by themselves.

Not very often but sometimes, less really is more.

Well done to Ian Gareze and everyone at the Capote who made the evening possible.  I honestly can’t wait for the next one.

In the current political climate with Monarchs abandoning luncheon, frontier queues exceeding 3 hours due to fishing related debates, and with Calentita (Gibraltar’s Food Festival) fast approaching, I thought it was only appropriate that I embraced Gibraltarianism and confirmed my patriotism – even if only in the kitchen!

So what makes a recipe quintessentially Gibraltarian?

Gibraltarian cuisine is the result of 300 years of British rule combined with the coming together of immigrants from a variety of Mediterranean countries. It is a combination of British (from the different regiments stationed on the Rock) Maltese, Genoese, Italian, Menorcan, Moroccan and Spanish cuisines.

This marriage of tastes has resulted in a peculiar cuisine where some dishes are made as in the country of origin, whereas others have been adapted for various reasons such as: lack of produce (due to the many sieges Gibraltar has endured) and family adaptations. As few people could read and write these recipes were passed down, from generation to generation, by word of mouth. These ‘mistakes’ became family traditions. And to this day, these recipes are still passed by word of mouth with each individual or family personalising each dish.

“I remember whilst at university, phoning my Gran and asking her how to make her rice pudding. After all with “un puñado” ( a handful) of this and all measured “a calculo” (by eye) I didn’t have a recipe to follow. I was on the phone to her for approx an hour whilst I stirred the rice pudding mixture on the hob; describing it’s texture to her, until she was confident that I had made it as she would have.”

There are not many purely Gibraltarian dishes, but those that do exist are cooked frequently and abundantly. Dishes such as Rosto, Calentita, Minestra, Torta de Acelgas, Fideos al horno, Rolitos and desserts such as Pan Dulce, Rosquitos, Bollos de Hornazo, hojuelas and pudín de pan.

Wanting to capture the essence of the Gibraltarian kitchen, I have decided to try and recreate some of these recipes. Please note that the following versions are my family’s recipes

“passed from generation to generation, by word of mouth”

Alternative versions are not wrong.  Fundamentally, they embrace Gibraltarianism!

Rosto

1st: Chop a medium onion and add to a saucepan with olive oil.  Sweat the onions down.  Crush in some garlic.

2nd: Peel and chop some carrots and add them to the saucepan.

3rd: Cut pork loin slices into strips and add to the saucepan.

4th: Once the pork is cooked add a can of tomato purée.  Rinse the can with water and add this to the saucepan.

5th: Season with salt and pepper and add a pinch of sugar to the saucepan.  Sprinkle with oregano.

6th: Whilst this is cooking in another saucepan boil your pasta (traditionally either macaroni or penne) until aldente.

7th: Once the carrots are soft, drain the pasta and mix everything together.

8th: Serve with grated cheese – traditionally this is “queso de bola” Edam (Dutch).

Enjoy! Que aproveche!