Lamb Shanks

lamb shanks

lamb shanks

I went to the butchers to buy a cornfed chicken and immediately noticed a pile of lamb shanks in the window, priced £1.50 each. Steve the butcher said, “At thirty bob – we’re going pre-decimal this week.” I laughed and bought four. Lamb shanks used to be a cheap cut before the TV chefs started banging on about them – now they can cost about £4.50 each, so these were a complete bargain.

For anyone unsure about what a lamb shank is, it’s the joint below the knee – underneath the leg or shoulder. The shoulder is at the front and leg is at the back. Out of interest I weighed these shanks when I got home and they were roughly 1 lb in weight each. If only I’d had room in the freezer for a dozen!

Pot roasted Lamb Shank recipe (serves two):

2 lamb shanks
2 slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
1 large stick of celery (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of ground rosemary, sage and thyme (with sea salt and a few black peppercorns)
a large squirt of anchovy paste
a dessertspoonful of tomato purée
1 pint of lamb or chicken stock
a glass of red wine
a dessertspoon of red wine vinegar
a dessertspoon of mushroom ketchup
a heaped dessertspoon of plain flour
a splash of olive oil
a knob of goose fat

browning

browning

Start by browning the lamb shanks in a mixture of very hot olive oil and goose fat. This caramelises sugars on the surface of the meat and adds to the flavour. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Once browned the shanks can be removed and set aside.

mirepoix

mirepoix

Using the same pan (ideally a cast iron casserole with lid), turn the heat down and fry the onion until it’s translucent, followed by the bacon, celery, carrots and garlic. When the vegetables have been cooked for a few minutes and are coated in oil, sprinkle on the ground herbs and a heaped dessertspoonful of plain flour. Give this a good stir – it will start to clump together and get messy – this is the base for your roux.

roux

roux

Slowly stir in half the stock to create a thick sauce. Squeeze in the tomato purée and anchovy paste and pour on the wine and red wine vinegar. Allow this to bubble for a few minutes, to burn off the alcohol in the wine before tasting. It will mellow considerably over time, but should have a nice savoury taste. If it tastes deficient in any way add a little more of the taste you think is missing. Don’t overdo it, you can always add more, but it’s hard to take taste away, particularly saltiness.

swimming shanks

swimming shanks

Put the lamb shanks back in the pot. At this stage you don’t want the sauce to be too thick, it will thicken over time. You can add more stock as required. Get the sauce to simmering and put the lid on. Remove the casserole from the hob to a preheated oven at about 150º C. This will need to cook slowly for about 3 hours to tenderise the meat. The shanks start off being a little tough, but slow cooking will make them melt in the mouth tender.

cooked shanks

cooked shanks

You can leave the casserole in the oven to bubble away for the duration, but I like to check it every 45 minutes or so, for flavour and consistency. I did add a little more red wine vinegar and anchovy paste. Towards the end I thought the sauce needed a little extra savoury and poured in a dessertspoonful of Geo Watkins Mushroom Ketchup. I always keep mushroom ketchup in the cupboard, it comes in handy on occasions, where you want a little extra savouriness – it’s somewhere in between soy sauce and Worcestershire Sauce. The ketchup is a black liquid and not at all like a thick red tomato ketchup.

The lamb shanks are done when the meat is falling off the bone and feels tender to the fork. Serve with mashed potato and a robust red wine.

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Black Bean Stew

black beans

black beans

Black Turtle Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are thought to have originated in Southern Mexico and Central America, where they have been used in cooking for about 7,000 years. The beans have an almost meaty texture and contain a lot of flavour – they are quite filling and nutritional. Commonly black beans are cooked as soups and stews or refried (slow cooked, mashed and then fried with garlic, chilli, lard, etc.) as a side dish or rolled in a tortilla to make a burrito.

cazuela

cazuela

This week I received a terracotta cazuela with lid, direct from Andalucia (many thanks to Chica Andaluza). I was reminded of living in Barcelona, 25 years ago, where one of my flatmates (Juan Carlos, from Ecuador) had a pot just like this and cooked black beans two or three times a week. I went straight out and bought a pound of beans!
As an aside, I was in the Museum of London last week, where they had Roman terracotta, 2,000 years old and almost identical to these cazuelas, still very much in use all over Spain today.

Black Bean stew (serves 3):

1lb dried black beans
2 slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
half a red pepper (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
a small bunch of coriander (chopped)
1 teaspoon of cumin (ground)
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
black pepper
2 bay leaves
a large squirt of anchovy paste
1 pint of chicken stock
a dessertspoon of sherry vinegar
a splash of olive oil

soaking

soaking

Black beans need to be soaked overnight (for about 8 hours), which suited me because the cazuela also needed a soaking to season it (see my post here for seasoning terracotta). They should be covered by at least 1 inch of water and topped up if necessary.

black beans

black beans

Before cooking, the beans should be drained and thoroughly rinsed with cold water.

cilantro

cilantro

I start by making a sofrito – a base of chopped onion fried in olive oil, with garlic, smoked streaky bacon, red pepper, freshly chopped coriander (cilantro), oregano and black pepper. The bean stew is ideally cooked in a pot with a lid – cast iron casseroles are excellent for this too. I used a diffuser under the cazuela which is good for heat distribution, but it also helps to stop the ingredients sticking to the pot.

cumin

cumin

While the vegetables and bacon are frying, warm a teaspoon of cumin seeds in a frying pan until their natural aroma increases. This takes a coupe of minutes – don’t cook or burn them. When the smell of cumin becomes pervasive, grind the seeds up with a mortar and pestle and add them to the sofrito along with 2 bay leaves.

beans cooking

beans cooking

When the sofrito has softened and become coated in oil, stir in the black beans and a pint of home made chicken stock. If a pint is not sufficient, add some water. Simmer the beans for several hours with the lid on. Do add a little more water if necessary, but do not add salt, vinegar or any other acid ingredients until the beans become tender – apparently salty acidic ingredients inhibit the cooking process and therefore should be used towards the end of cooking.

cooked beans

cooked beans

After about 2 hours of simmering the beans should start to soften and from then on the sauce will thicken and seasoning can be added to taste. I used  anchovy paste instead of salt and sherry vinegar for sour flavouring (once stirred in, give the vinegar about 15 minutes to cook in) . In Cuba this would be about the right consistency for black bean soup served with rice, chopped onion, sour cream etc.

bean stew

bean stew

From 2 hours onwards, regular stirring is important to stop the beans sticking and burning. I cooked the stew for a further hour, until it became thick and sticky. At this point the beans were starting to fall apart, turning into refried beans without the frying. I ate my stew with sour cream and grated cheddar – a large bowl was enough, they were so filling!

Additional info:

Black Bean Soup
Refried Beans
Moros y Christianos
Alubias de Tolosa

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Lamb and Broad Bean Stew

harissa

harissa

Lamb and Broad Bean Stew with Harissa

I had some leftover British Lamb from the weekend and lots of seasonal vegetables from Perry Court Farm, so I thought I’d combine them with harissa and preserved lemons to make a Moorish stew. For the uninitiated, harissa is a hot red paste (associated with Tunisia, Libya and Algeria) of roasted red peppers, Baklouti pepper, serrano pepper and hot chilli pepper, combined with herbs, spices, garlic paste, etc. Interestingly, while the Moors strongly influenced Spanish cuisine, it’s the Spanish who brought back chilli pepper from the Americas to the Mediterranean.

broad beans

broad beans

I recently posted a recipe for a dried broad bean and chorizo stew, but since fava beans (broad beans) are in season I thought I’d use fresh. The broad bean is of particular relevance to a Moorish stew, since it predates the use of white beans (from the Americas) around the Mediterranean by many millennia.

Lamb and Broad Bean Stew recipe (serves 3 greedy people):
I used a Spanish cazuela to cook my stew, but a cast iron casserole or large frying pan would be equally good.

1lb roast lamb (chopped)
3 slices or jamón serrano or streaky bacon (chopped) – to keep the Inquisition at bay
a small piece of chorizo (chopped)
1 pint of homemade lamb stock
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
3 small courgettes (chopped)
1lb tomatoes blanched and peeled
1lb broad beans (shelled)
1 preserved lemon – pips removed and quartered
a handful of olives
a 1 inch piece of ginger (grated)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon hot smoked pimentón
1 dessertspoon tomato purée
2 dessertspoons harissa
a squirt of anchovy paste
a couple of big splashes of sherry vinegar (to taste)
a heaped dessertspoon of plain flour

baby courgettes

baby courgettes

First fry the onion and add the chopped ham and chorizo, when it has turned translucent. Chorizo isn’t a feature of the stew – it’s actually to add flavour and commonly used this way in Spanish cuisine. When the meat has taken some colour the courgettes, green pepper and garlic can go in, followed by the broad beans.

turmeric vegetables

turmeric vegetables

Stir the vegetables for a few minutes while heating the cumin and coriander seeds in a small frying pan on a low heat. When the seeds start to give off an aroma grind them with a mortar and pestle – they can go into the vegetables along with a teaspoon of turmeric powder. The entire dish will take on a distinct turmeric yellow colour (as above).

tomatoes

tomatoes

Blanch the tomatoes beforehand and pour some cold water over them in a colander. That way you can squeeze them into the cazuela without burning your hands.  I save the skins and use them in stock later. Next add the chopped lamb and stir in the tomato purée, a squirt of anchovy paste and half a pint of stock.

ginger

ginger

Grate a piece of ginger into the stew (I broke off and used the finger on the right). Splash in a little sherry vinegar, sprinkle on the pimentón and squeeze in about a dessertspoon of harissa. Give this all a good stir and taste. Always add a little seasoning at a time – you can add more, but you can’t take any away. Harissa starts off hot but seems to dissipate over time. I take a tip from the Moroccan food stalls in Goldborne Road where they have harissa in a bowl and people stir a spoonful of it into their food before eating – so I add a little harissa to the cooking and put more in at the end, just before serving.

preserved lemons

preserved lemons

I keep thinking that I should make my own preserved lemons, but they are far cheaper to buy than fresh ones and the liquid they come in seems to be reasonably natural (water, salt and citric acid).

lemon quarter

lemon quarter

When the stew looks about right, in terms of liquid, chop a preserved lemon into four, remove the pips and stir in the quarters along with a handful of olives. I used some good mixed olives preserved in olive oil. Liquid will come out of the vegetables as they cook, so I don’t pour all the stock in to start with. Generally I find that a stew will get very wet and some plain flour is needed (stirred in) to thicken it a bit. As the cooking proceeds some of the liquid will evaporate and then more stock will need to be added.

lamb, favas and harissa

lamb, favas and harissa

Cook the stew on low (covered), for two hours or so, until the broad beans are tender. Check the seasoning every 30 minutes and stir to stop it sticking. Serve with couscous, rice or boiled potatoes. It’s very tempting to put it in a bowl and eat it with good sourdough bread and a drizzled of olive oil.

I drank a glass of chilled Carta Roja, Monastrell Gran Reserva with my stew – it’s not unusual to drink cold red wine in Spain, especially when the weather is hot!

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Cocido de Habas y Chorizo

habas y chorizo

habas y chorizo

Broad Bean and Chorizo Stew

Broad Beans are a particular favourite of mine and since the season for them in England is quite short (June – September) I tend to buy a kilo per week during the summer, from Perry Court Farm, at the Islington Farmers’ Market.

broad beans

broad beans

The broad bean (also known as faba, fava, faves, haba, etc.) has been cultivated around the Mediterranean for at least 8,000 years, where the growing season is considerably longer than three or four months. Back in February, I noticed fresh broad beans alongside tomatoes and courgettes on the stalls of the local farmers in Barcelona’s Boqueria Market. In places where these beans have a longer growing season, leading to a surplus, they are often dried, in a similar manner to white beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, etc.

queviures antolin

queviures antolin

I was looking around Queviures Antolin (on the left hand side of the Boqueria, as you enter from the Ramblas) and came across some large dried habas (broad beans).

pulses

pulses

I used to come here to buy rice and lentils back in the 90s – the shop is another of the Barcelona “tin shops“, selling canned fish, wine, pulses, etc. Having never tried dried habas before, I couldn’t resist buying a kilo. I loved the fact that the beans are weighed out by the person who serves you and then you take them to a cashier for payment.

faves

faves

Inspired by Fabada Asturiana, an Asturian white bean and sausage stew, I decided to cook the dried broad beans with chorizo and ham stock.

broad beans and chorizo

broad beans and chorizo

Cocido de Habas y Chorizo recipe (serves 2 greedy people):

6 cooking chorizo (about 500g) – these are soft and uncured (available from good butchers and most large UK supermarkets)
300g dried broad beans (or fresh if in season)
4 slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 courgette (chopped)
4 large tomatoes (blanched, peeled and chopped) or 1 tin
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 large tsp hot smoked pimentón
2 bay leaves
1/2 pint of homemade ham stock
black pepper
a splash of sherry vinegar
olive oil (as required)
a large piece of Stilton rind (optional)

First of all, this can be made in any kind of cooking pot, something cast iron would be ideal – I used a traditional Spanish terracotta cazuela (thanks to Chica Andaluza, who brought it back from Andalucía for me). I owned several cazuelas when I lived in Barcelona and they are a joy to cook with. They hold the heat well and can be used on a gas or electric hob, open fire and in an oven. They are made of clay, so must be heated up gently and treated with respect. Never add cold things to a hot dish or it will crack! These cazuelas are remarkably cheap in Spain (though quite expensive abroad) – the smallest are less than a Euro and large ones cost €4 – €5, (honestly!). The important factor here is to always season a new cazuela before use. If done properly the dish should last for years.

To season a cazuela:

1. Soak overnight in cold water.
2. Dry thoroughly.
3. Rub the underside with a piece of raw garlic (optional, but it’s what all the old ladies suggest).
4. Fill almost to the brim with cold water and heat very gently on the hob, turning the heat up slowly until the water bubbles.
5. Allow the water to evaporate over a couple of hours, until almost gone.
6. Allow the cazuela to cool – then it’s ready for use.

dried beans

dried beans

Dried beans require overnight soaking and 45 – 90 minutes cooking …or done the easy way, 1 hour soaking in boiling water and 12 minutes cooking in a pressure cooker. Prepare these beforehand.

Brown the cooking chorizo in olive oil – if using a cazuela add plenty of oil when the dish is cold and heat up slowly with the sausages in the pot. The chorizo will brown like cooking in a frying pan, once the cazuela has heated up (this keeps the flavour of the chorizo in the cooking oil, which won’t happen if cooked separately). When the chorizo are browned, remove them to a plate and fry the onions and bacon. Next add the garlic, followed by the red pepper and courgette. When the vegetables have been coated with oil and softened slightly, stir in the chopped tomatoes. Sprinkle on the pimentón, some black pepper and mix in the anchovy paste, tomato purée and a splash of sherry vinegar. Let this bubble for a few minutes before tasting – more seasoning can be added during the cooking process, as required.

When the seasoning is about right add the precooked broad beans and half the ham stock (warmed beforehand if using a cazuela). More stock can be added during cooking, as necessary. Now return the chorizo to the pot, along with the bay leaves. Cover the dish and simmer for a couple of hours. The sauce should reduce and thicken while the beans absorb the smokey paprika flavour. I was inspired to add a large piece of Colston Basset Stilton rind, left languishing in the fridge. Unwaxed natural cheese rind can be a great addition to a casserole or soup – it helps to thicken and impart a little umami flavour. Leftover Parmesan rind is always worth saving for a rainy day. This Stilton really held its own with the chorizo and pimentón, making the dish quite special.

Serve with a robust Spanish red wine, such as Era Costana Crianza Rioja.

N.B. Ham stock can be a great way to get more out of a ham bone – they do contain lots of flavour. See my stock post for instructions. This leg wouldn’t fit in the pressure cooker and I don’t possess a cleaver large enough to chop it up, so I left the top off and covered it with foil. It was gently simmered for about 4 hours. Don’t add salt when making ham stock, it contains enough already.

a bit of leg

a bit of leg

I was reminded of the murder weapon in Pedro Almodóvar’s ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto? while cooking this – I think he got the idea from Roald Dahl.

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Llamber

llamber

llamber

I’ve wanted to visit Llamber ever since I tried their fantastic crab ball with beans at the Vi Nouvelle wine festival back in November. The restaurant is in the same square as Mercat del Borne, handily close to La Ribera, where we’d just been shopping. Llamber has been open for  just over 3 years and is a partnership of Eva Arbonés Tomás (interior design, front of the house and cellar manager) and Francisco Heras (Asturian head chef who previously worked in many top restaurants including the legendary, El Bulli). The food here is perhaps a mixture or Asturian and Catalan cuisine fused with the magic of Ferran Adria.  To quote from their website, Llamber is a gastronomic tavern focusing on fresh seasonal products as well as friendly and attentive service.

menú de medio día

menú de medio día

For €15.50 one gets everything on the Menú de Medio Dia (above). That’s 5 courses with water, bread, wine or beer and coffee!

canelon de calabacin

canelon de calabacin

The first dish was canelon de calabacin – little cannelloni made from shaved courgette, stuffed with chopped tomato.

papas arrugadas

papas arrugadas

The second course of papas arrugadas con mojo picon is a dish from the Canary Isles, where their tiny new potatoes are very early in comparison to Northern Europe. These potatoes are cooked so their skins wrinkle and are served in a spicy garlic sauce.

arroz con bacalao

arroz con bacalao

Third came arroz con bacalao, a savoury fish risotto dish with a perfectly cooked piece of bacalao (salt cod) on top. Traditionally a small amount of salt cod is shredded into arroz con bacalao to make an economical family meal.

butifarra "esparracada"

butifarra “esparracada”

Fourth was a dish of butifarra “esparracada” – ragged butifarra, a typical Catalan sausage, cut into pieces and cooked in an unctuous stew.

pa

pa

Even the bread here, which I assume is baked in the kitchen, is excellent!

momento dulce

momento dulce

Our pudding was aptly called momento dulce – sweet moment, a rice pudding with caramelised sugar on top – it almost took me back to childhood and my grandmother’s house on a Sunday afternoon.

rosado

rosado

The included glass of wine wasn’t quite enough, so we ordered a bottle of the excellent Quatro Pasos rosado, from Bierzo.

carajillo

carajillo

…and of course, I finished with a carajillo.

The addition of a bottle of wine cost €15 on top of the €15.50 each for the menú. The food was exceptional here and the waiters were attentive without being intrusive. We even had a little light entertainment from two heavily tattooed punk buskers singing about the joy of death! They were very funny and much better than the average street musician.

Llamber is at: Carrer de la Fusina 5, 08003, Barcelona.

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La Ribera (venda a l’engròs)

la ribera

la ribera

We headed over to El Born for lunch at Llamber today. We had to wait 10 minutes for a table, so we did a little shopping to pass the time.

mercat del born

mercat del born

Both Llamber and La Ribera (top picture) are in the square that houses the Mercat del Born, once a public market and apparently the largest covered square in Europe. The commercial market closed in 1971. The building was scheduled for restoration in order to house the Biblioteca Provincial de Barcelona (the Barcelona provincial library), but when medieval remains of the city were found underneath, it was restored and turned into a museum.

la ribera counter

la ribera counter

La Ribera is a wholesale food company for restaurants, dating back to 1941. No doubt there were businesses like this all round the old market until a few years ago. Fortunately they are not exclusively wholesale and are happy to sell to the general public. Note that La Ribera is named after the area it’s in – Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera de Ciutat Vella, the lower part of which is referred to as El Born these days.

olivas

olivas

La Ribera sells more than 30 types of olive,

pescados

pescados

10 or so different cuts of bacalao and tinned fish,

herbs and spices

herbs and spices

large containers of herbs and spices (including curry powder from London), wines, hams, cured sausages, vinegars and olive oils.

caixa

caixa

I really loved the old fashioned shopping method of taking an item to the counter for  ticket, which one then takes to the cashier’s window (caixa) in order to pay. Oli bought some artichoke purée and a tub of herbs.

La Ribera S.A. is at: Plaça Comercial 11, 08003, Barcelona.

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Iposa (la fórmula)

bar iposa

bar iposa

I wrote a post on tapas in Iposa (at nighttime) about 5 years ago. It’s a small restaurant bar just behind the Boqueria, with a decent chef and menu, plus exceptionally charming staff. One evening, a few years ago, after visiting the Cavatast in Sant Sadurni, we stopped at Iposa for a glass of rosado on the way home. Our friendly waitress suggested that we buy a bottle, to save money, rather than a glass each, knowing that one is never enough. Oli asked what would happen to the bottle if we didn’t finish and our hostess said she’d get us a cork so we could take it home. We were sold and drank the bottle plus another glass each!

la fórmula

la fórmula

Iposa’s menú del dia is a formula neatly displayed on a blackboard outside. It works like this – you get soup for the first course, followed by two tapas (left) or one of the chef’s specials (right) for €9 including bread, a glass of wine or beer and a coffee.

sopa

sopa de verduras

The soup was thick vegetable and I almost thought chicken, but in actual fact it contained lots of sage, which I normally put inside a roast chicken and therefore associate the two flavours.

tartar de buey

tartar de buey

The tartar de buey (steak tartar) is excellent here – I’ve had it before. The tartar comes with a salad and lots of mustard, plus even more bread, which is from a good bakery. I’m with Anthony Bourdain, who believes in giving customers decent bread and not being mean about it – it makes us come back!

vi rosat

vi rosat

I had a second glass of the excellent local house rosado from the Penedès. If I remember correctly it cost an additional €2, which is very reasonable.

carajillo

carajillo

The addition of brandy to my coffee (a carajillo, to toast Amanda) was on the house.

I sat at a barrel – left in the top photograph. There are three additional tables outside and opposite the restaurant. Inside there’s seating for about 30 people. We come here a lot and recommend it without reservation.

Iposa is at: C/ Floristes de la Rambla 14, 08001 Barcelona

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