Mejillones en Escabeche

mejillones en escabeche

Mejillones en Escabeche is a very popular Spanish tapa of mussels pickled in vinegar, olive oil and pimentón. You will find these delicious molluscs in most bars, usually served straight from a tin, with lots of bread to dip into the sauce. The Spanish, along with the French and Portuguese have turned canning fish into an art form, something the English don’t quite understand. There are some canned products, especially sardines which improve considerably with age and usually command a higher price relative to quality and flavour.

Escabeche sauce predates canning and relates to a method of food preservation, using vinegar (and sometimes citrus juice), invented by the Persians several millennia ago. The word escabeche is derived from the Persian word sikbaj, meaning cooked in vinegar – al-sikbaj. Both the Greeks and Romans used vinegar as a preservative (the Romans used it to preserve fried fish and added it to their popular fish sauce Garum), so escabeche probably reached Spain long before the the Moorish conquest of Iberia. The Spanish added an extra taste dimension to escabeche when they discovered the Americas and brought pimentón (paprika) back to Europe.

Cooking and immersing food in a vinegar mixture with a pH value of 4 or lower stops food putrefaction, but it’s the time spent in the jar, post cooking, which really brings out the flavours of the ingredients. It’s common to find many foods preserved in escabeche, such as partridge, quail, mackerel, tuna and vegetables like aubergine (berenjenas), throughout the Spanish speaking world and beyond. In Argentina they even preserve the vizcacha a raccoon sized rodent in escabeche sauce. Like many old techniques for food conservation, the cooking and pickling process imparts a deliciously distinctive flavour and has therefore survived the invention of refrigeration.

mejillones

Mejillones en Escabeche receta:

The Mussels:

1 kilo mussels
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
a little ground black pepper

Debeard and rinse the muscles, under a tap, just before cooking – don’t soak them in water beforehand, it kills them! Heat the wine, water and pepper, in a large saucepan until boiling. Simmer the mussels (with the lid on the saucepan) for 3 – 4 minutes, until they have opened. Remove the mussels to a colander and allow to cool. Strain and reserve the liquor.

aceite

The Escabeche:

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 of an onion (julienned)
1/4 carrot (julienned)
4 cloves garlic (bruised)
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
1 cup of strained mussel liquor
1 dessertspoon of sherry vinegar

Poach the carrot, garlic and onion with bay leaves in the olive oil for 5 minutes or until tender.

vinagre

Add the pimentón with the black peppercorns and stir in with the vinegar. Simmer for a few minutes and allow to cool. Cooling can be facilitated by pouring the escabeche into a glass jug and standing it in cold water or ice. When cool, stir in a cup of the strained mussel liquor. In general, mussels are naturally salty and there should be sufficient salt in the liquor – you will probably not need any additional salt. Taste the liquor to be sure and adjust the escabeche seasoning if necessary. I added half the mussel liquor and tasted the escabeche before adding the whole cup (relative to salinity). Finally, I stirred in a dessertspoon of sherry vinegar. Some people may prefer to use a different flavoured vinegar or 100% dulce pimentón and enjoy the inclusion of a slice of lemon, pimiento, cloves, etc. Escabeche is open to customisation, so each to his or her own.

mussels

Remove the mussels from their shells and put them in a glass Kilner or jam jar/s, along with the poached vegetables and bay leaves.

pickled

Pour on the escabeche, through a sieve, muslin or coffee filter. The mussels can be eaten within 24 hours and the flavour will be enhanced over several days if kept refrigerated.

enfrascado

Make sure the mussels are completely covered by liquid and agitate the jar to get any air bubbles out. In theory escabeche should last for some time, but do follow basic food preserving recommendations if you intend to keep the escabeche longer than a week. Claudia Roden suggests that sardines in escabeche will keep for two weeks in the fridge, using an escabeche of dry white wine, vinegar and olive oil in equal proportions, so mussels should last for a similar time.

Allow the mussels to come to room temperature before serving and eat them with good quality bread to mop up the sauce. They go very well with a pre-supper fino sherry. Alternately, warm up the mejillones en escbache and stir into some spaghetti.

See here for my Paloma en Escabeche recipe.

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Estofado de Congrio

congrio

The European Conger Eel is a grey black, snake like fish that lives for about 15 years and can grow as long as 6 meters, though on average they are about 1.5 meters. The conger is common to the Eastern Atlantic Ocean but when it reaches maturity, it returns to the Mediterranean to spawn. These fish can be quite aggressive when caught, they will attack and bite (quite savagely) any unwitting fisherman who lands one. The conger eel is not a sought after fish, as there is little or no demand for them.

steve hatt

I was delighted to find that my local and excellent fishmonger, Steve Hatt, is open for business in these dark times. They have made a table of used fish boxes to close off the front door and customers queue outside – which works well since all the fish are displayed in the window. I was very impressed by a notice stuck to the glass, stating that the fishmongers will deliver to anyone local person who can’t get out.  While waiting for mussels, I spotted a large conger eel in the window and wondered what it tastes like? Conger’s cheap, so I bought a 3/4lb (340g) steak to try it.

conger eel

The conger eel has a thick fatty skin, so most recipes suggest removing it before frying. However, I like the fattiness in Japanese eel sashimi and came across a few Spanish and Portuguese recipes which keep the skin on, so I left my fish intact. I used the two linked recipes as inspiration, but relative to the contents of my fridge, I made up a Catalan influenced conger eel stew, thickened with a picada.

Estofado de Congrio receta (serves 2):

3/4lb conger eel
1/4 hot chorizo ring (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 medium Desirée potatoes (cubed)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 orange pepper or other capsicum (chopped)
4 medium tomatoes (grated)
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
1 dessertspoon fresh coriander (chopped)
2 bay leaves
1 pint fish stock
a splash extra dry vermouth
extra virgin olive oil (for frying)

Before cooking any white fish, do sprinkle on a little salt, an hour or so before cooking – as recommended by Jane Grigson.

cebolla

First and foremost in Catalan cooking, is the sofregit, commencing with gently fried onions in lots of olive oil, which are cooked until soft and sticky.

chorizo

I added a quarter of a hot cured chorizo ring (chopped) after the onion had become soft – not strictly speaking in keeping with the rules of making a sofregit, but a small amount of chorizo is often used in fish stew, generally in a single piece, along with the stock.

tomates

Grate in 4 tomatoes – cut them in half and shred the wet side. Throw away the skins or use them late in stock.

pimienta naranja

Typically one would add a red or green capsicum pepper, but since I had an orange one, that’s what I used – chopped.

pimentón

Sprinkle on a teaspoon of pimentón de la Vera dulce – sweet smoked paprika.

cilantro

Stir in a dessertspoon of fresh chopped coriander.

patatas

Add 2 medium peeled and cubed red potatoes, such as Desirée.

conger conga

Rinse the eel and make a well for it in the middle of the pot.

caldo

Pour on one pint of fish stock, add two bay leaves and stir gently.

bubbling

Bring the heat up to almost boiling, cover with a lid

simmering

and allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the fish is tender.

almendras

When the eel is nearly ready, mix up the ingredients for the picada.

Picada recipe:

1 dessertspoon fresh coriander (chopped)
1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
10 blanched peeled almonds (toasted)
a small piece of stale bread (torn)
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
3 dessertspoons of the conga broth

Toast 10 blanched peeled almonds in a dry frying pan.

picada

Grind the almonds with a mortar and pestle, along with a chopped clove of garlic, a dessertspoon fresh coriander (cilantro) and a small piece of torn up stale bread. Pour on 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar and when the fish is done, 3 dessertspoons fish stew broth, to make a thick paste.

thickening

Stir the picada (paste) into the conger stew to thicken and flavour it.

estofado de congrio

Cook for a couple of minutes more, check the seasoning, sprinkle with cracked black pepper and serve with toasted sourdough bread and a glass of Mar Salada vino blanco.

The conger eel turned out to be absolutely delicious. It was perfectly suited to cooking in a stew and the skin became quite soft with a thin layer of unctuous fat underneath. For anyone not having access to conger, hake would make a good substitute.

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Rabbit en Confit

rabbit confit

The word confit comes from the French verb confire, to preserve, which in turn is from the Latin conficere, to complete, do, finish, make or prepare. Most foods can be preserved as a confit by cooking at a low temperature for a long time in oil, fat or sugar water. Meat is normally seasoned and salted first and after the cooking (between 160–230 °C), cooled and submerged in the fat or oil to preserve it. Something conserved in this manner can keep for months in a cool dark place – the salting and cooking kills live bacteria and the lack of oxygen inhibits it’s regrowth.

The most common examples of confit meat are duck and goose legs cooked in their fat. This is typical of the Occitan (South West of France) where the meat is used in the regional cassoulet, a stew of pork, duck/goose, sausages and white beans. In Provence, food is more likely to be preserved in olive oil. In Spain, pork is often preserved in pig fat and in Cataluña they even cook pig trotters en confit – know as peus de ministre, minister’s feet! Vegetables can be treated in the same manner. Whole or sliced fruit can be cooked in syrup (sugar water) and taking the process a step further there’s jam, which is called confiture in French.

In France, confit is synonymous with preserved duck and goose – chicken or other meats preserved in goose fat are called, en confit – in confit. A feature of the confit process, is that meat can be flavoured with herbs during salting and the slow cooking softens muscle and connective tissue, with collagen being broken down to form gelatin.  This makes the meat quite tender.  Since preservation in fat, oil and or vinegar was known to the Romans, one would imagine that this method of conservation dates back at least several thousand years.

rabbit reclining

Rabbit en Confit recipe (serves 2):

1 wild rabbit (jointed)
20 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
5 sprigs rosemary
250ml extra virgin olive oil
2 dessertspoons plain flour
300ml dry white wine
sea salt and cracked black pepper
the juice of half a lemon
chopped parsley

jointed rabbit

Joint the rabbit and sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Leave out of the fridge for a couple of hours to come to room temperature (half that in late spring or summer). Since I was cooking this with regard to eating it when done, I didn’t cover it in salt, as per preserved duck legs.

browned rabbit

Dredge the rabbit in flour and brown in hot olive oil. Do this in a couple of batches, so as not to crowd the cooking pot.

garlic

When the rabbit is browned, put it back into the cooking pot with 20 unpeeled cloves of garlic,

garlic, olive oil and rosemary

all the remaining olive oil, wine and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.

poaching

Bring the heat up slowly.

bubbling

Poach the rabbit gently for 2 1/2 to 3 hours (with the lid partially on),

confit

or until the meat is just about falling off the bone. The liquid should have reduced considerably.

rabbit en confit

Pour off any excess oil, which can be used to cook some sliced potatoes, or roast potatoes on Sunday. Check the seasoning, squeeze on the juice of half a lemon and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with the sliced potatoes and allioli.

I recommend a glass of Jané Ventura Roses to go with this – a vi rosat from Cataluña.

Other Rabbit posts

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Lamb Testicles

lamb fries

I was walking past a local butcher, this week, and spotted Lamb Fries, a colloquialism for lamb testicles. They were selling at £4.49 per kilo, so I bought 6 for £2.95!

lamb’s testicles with head and brains

Lamb testicles are fairly unusual in this country today, but if you visit butcher’s shops and markets in other parts of the world, you’ll find that they are still a common sight. Above is a picture of heads, testicle and brains in the Boqueria, Barcelona. You may recall a post I wrote a few years ago, on Prairie Oysters and seeing the ovine equivalent, reminded me that I wanted to do a taste comparison.

cojones

Testicles, as I assume most people know, are part of the male reproductive system. Their main function is to produce sperm and testosterone – for this reason, it is said that testicles are an aphrodisiac. Most domesticated male animals are castrated, because otherwise testosterone naturally makes them somewhat frisky and aggressive. Intact prize winning bulls, rams and boars are often kept in isolation, but are frequently called upon to provide a service for females of their species.

The name testicle is derived from the Latin, testis, which also means witness and is relative to the word testimony. This seems to be an odd double meaning, but according to classicist Joshua Katz, “the original Indo-European form of testis was trito-sth2-i meaning “a third person standing,” i.e. a third person standing by in order to witness some event (sth2, the second part of the IE form, is related to the Latin word sto, stare to stand).” This in turn relates to Near Eastern men holding the genitals of another, in order to swear an oath (as mentioned in the Bible, Jacob’s instruction to Joseph, his son, “If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh, and promise to deal loyally and truly with me.” Genesis 47.29). Katz suggests that early Romans may have done the same.

Katz goes on to relate holding an urfeta (a disk or ball) during Umbrian bull sacrifice (to Jupiter), was an example of swearing a solemn oath, while holding the animal’s testicles. I’m reminded of a documentary I saw, some time ago, which stated that Mussolini used to touch his testicles to ward off evil spirits. This is still practiced by superstitious men in Italy today, so connected or not to the Bible and Rome, it makes the idea of swearing an oath while touching one’s genitals somewhat easier to believe.

Lamb Fries recipe (serves 2):

6 lamb testicles
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain flour
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Extra virgin olive for frying

huevos

Back to cooking. Rinse your testicles in cold water for half an hour, or soak them in salty water for an hour (like I did).

skinning

Rinse and dry the washed lamb fries and then using a very sharp knife (I recommend a scalpel), slice off the bulbous end and cut along the seam. Pry the skin back, like removing the tissue from a raw chicken. It’s more difficult skinning a testicle, but after the first one, it gets easier. Once the skin is cut open, push your fingers in between it and the flesh, then drag forwards using a regular knife to scrape the solid meat away in one piece.

sliced

Cut the testicle meat into slices of about 1/4 inch (1cm) thick. Dredge the lamb fries in seasoned flour, dip them in beaten seasoned egg and coat them in a mixture of the cornmeal and breadcrumbs. I mixed breadcrumbs with cornmeal for added crunch, but breadcrumbs alone, would be very good.

breadcrumbs

I made the breadcrumbs from stale brown sourdough bread. Cut the bread up into cubes and put it into an oven dish. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle on mixed herbs and chopped garlic. My herbs were dried rosemary, sage and thyme, ground in mortar and pestle with a pinch of coarse seas salt and black peppercorns. The bread was toasted in the oven at 140º C for about 40 minutes. The resulting croutons were ground – again using  a mortar and pestle. Any leftover croutons or unused breadcrumbs will keep for a week or two in the fridge or indefinitely in the freezer. I do this on a regular basis and eat the croutons as a savoury snack.

huevos fritos

Heat some olive oil until on the verge of smoking and fry the coated testicle slices in batches.

ragú

Serve with hot sauce or a squeeze of lemon. I had some ‘nduja in the fridge and whipped up a ragú, while the testicles soaked in salty water.

‘Nduja Ragu recipe:

6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
6 medium tomatoes (grated)
1/4 inch slice of ’nduja (broken up into the sauce)
a heaped dessertspoon tomato purée
a squirt anchovy paste
a pinch crushed chilli
8 Kalamata olives (sliced)
8 basil leaves (torn)
cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

cholula

The Lamb Fries were fantastic – they have a lovely soft fluffy texture, somewhat like calf’s brains, with a hint of lamb – that combined with a crunchy outer layer makes them very moreish, especially when served with the above ragú and a variety of hot sauces for comparison. The crunchy balls go particularly well with the Cholula Chipotle (above) and Sriracha, but even just a squirt of lemon was pretty good. In my humble opinion, lamb fries are far superior to prairie oysters.

…and to drink with the Lamb Fries, I recommend El Cordero y Las Virgenes (The Lamb and The Virgins), a Monastrell blend from Valencia.

For further reading, there is a cook book dedicated to cooking with balls, The Testicle Cookbook, by Ljubomir Erovic.

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Alubias Blancas con Carne de Ternera

alubias blancas con carne de ternera

This is a fairly typical Spanish stew/casserole of beef with white beans. Most people have a family recipe for the dish, with variations on vegetables (according to season), along with a preference for the type of beans, herbs, spices, etc.

alubias blancas

I have been meaning to mention an unusual naming convention for Spanish beans (alubias) for some time. Back in 1991, when I was quite new to Spain and cooking a stew, my Valencian (non English speaking) flatmate asked me if I was cooking judías blancas? I replied, confused, that I was cooking alubias blancas. To which he said, that judías and alubias are the same thing. Confused further, I said that I thought judías were Jews. He said that was indeed true. Toni had no explanation for why beans are sometimes called Jews, in Spanish, but said that it has always been that way.

I have been asking people for years about alubias and judías, but have never found a satisfactory answer. Claudia Roden mentions judías and alubias in her book, the Food of Spain, attributing this anomaly either to the Arab word for black-eyed beans, lubia, which the Jews historically cooked in Spain at New Year, or to broad beans, which they cooked to celebrate Passover.

I’m not entirely convinced by the argument that the word lubia might have changed to judía over time and to add to the mystery, most beans arrived in Europe after Columbus discovered America in 1492, the same year that the Jews were expelled from Spain! However, I did come across an interesting Spanish text yesterday, on the etymology of judía. It states that there’s no written historical explanation, but there is a precedent relating to the Moorish occupation of Spain. It goes on to say that many of the foods specific to Jewish cuisine in the Levant, were prefixed Jewish in al-Andalus (Mooorish Spain), such as Jewish thistle, Jewish vegetable, etc. This naming convention also applied to foods of other ethnic groups, such as Carthaginian, Kurdish, Persian, etc. It has been discovered that broad beans were originally domesticated in Israel, 10,000 years ago, which probably predates the farming of wheat and barley!

I have long thought that calling beans, judías, probably related to slow cooked Sabbath foods, such as Hamin (the Sephardic version of Cholent). These days hamin (from the Hebrew word for hot) contains any kosher beans, like this one with white beans, beef cheeks and pimentón, but in a Pre-Columbian Europe there would have been broad beans or chickpeas.  Dried beans and pulses work perfectly in Sabbath dishes, because of the long cooking time. In 1492 a considerable number of Jews (and Moors) chose to convert to Christianity rather than be expelled. Instead of disappearing, Jewish foods have been assimilated into Spanish cuisine – many of Spain’s regional stews (cocidos) are a variation on adafina, probably from addafína, meaning buried or hidden, as in cooked under hot coals. Even the famous Galician Torta de Santiago (the very Christian, St. James’ tart) is really a Passover cake! New beans brought back from South America quickly became popular and have found their way into traditional recipes, including the Jewish ones.

carne de ternera

Alubias Blancas con Carne de Ternera receta (serves 4):

1 1/2 b beef shin (cubed)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 large red pepper (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
2 tomatoes (grated)
1lb cooked judías blancas (white navy or haricot beans)
3/4 pint beef stock
1 glass red wine
a splash sherry vinegar
a squirt tomato purée
a squirt anchovy paste
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
2 bay leaves
2 heaped dessertspoon fresh parsley (chopped)
2 dessertspoons seasoned flour
extra virgin olive oil for frying

I used dried alubias blancas (navy/haricot beans), soaked for 1 hour in boiling water and then cooked for 8 minutes, using fresh water, in a pressure cooker. Otherwise, soak the beans overnight or use 2 tins of beans. As long as the bean have been soaked, it is possible to cook this recipe entirely in a pressure cooker, cutting the time by several hours, however, I prefer the dish cooked slowly, where it becomes thicker, relative to evaporation.

Cut the beef into bite sized pieces, dust with seasoned flour and (using a cast iron casserole) brown in hot olive oil. Do this in two or more batches and reserve to a plate.

tocino y cebolla

Using the same pan and oil, cook the onion and bacon until the onion goes translucent. Bacon and other pork products became common to recipes of Jewish origin in Spain – the food was then seen as Christian, protecting against persecution from the Inquisition.

tomate

Grate in the tomato.

verduras

Stir the tomato in along with the vegetables.

carne

Put the meat back into the casserole, along with all the other ingredients, except the wine, stock, beans and 1 dessertspoon of parsley (which is used for the garnish).

caldo

Stir the ingredients and pour on the wine and beef stock.

judías blancas

Mix in the beans, put the lid on the pot and place in a preheated oven at 160º C.

cocido a fuego lento

Cook for 2 – 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the beef is tender. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

beef casserole

Sprinkle with the remaining chopped parsley – serve with toasted sourdough bread and a glass or two of La Flor del Flor (flower of the flower) Samsó, which is kosher!

…and to throw a fly into the ointment, broad beans are called habas in Spanish, relative to their Latin name fava or faba. In Asturias, they make the very well known Fabada Asturiana, a stew of white beans, pork and chorizo which dates back to at least 718. Just from the name, you can surmise that the dish was originally made with broad beans – white beans, along with the pimentón (the main flavouring for chorizo) did not exist in Europe until some time after 1492! Fabada Asturiana is almost certainly descended from Hamin and is a likely cousin to cassoulet.

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Pork and Mushroom Pie

pork and mushroom pie

I cooked a joint of pork shoulder last Sunday (like this recipe) and had about 1lb left in the fridge, along with some mushrooms. This week the weather forecast went from rain to sleet and snow, so my thoughts turned to comfort food – something hot and spicy with cream.

Make the pastry first – it’s always best if it’s been in the fridge resting before use. I thoroughly recommend making your own pastry – it tastes incredible in comparison to the cardboard with palm oil and preservatives that they sell in supermarkets. If you have a food processor, it only takes about 2 minutes to make – it’s very easy!

onion

Pork and Mushroom Pie recipe (serves 4):

1lb roast pork (chopped into bit sized pieces)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
1/2 lb mushrooms (chopped)
a dessertspoon tomato purée
2 squirts anchovy paste (to taste)
a heaped dessertspoon plain flour
1/2 pint home made stock
a splash red wine vinegar
a splash Geo Watkins mushroom ketchup (optional)
a level teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
a level teaspoon pimenton de la Vera dulce
2 bay leaves
the leaves of a couple of sprigs of thyme
a pinch of chopped chipotle chilli
a pinch of chopped ancho chilli
Extra virgin olive oil (for frying)
crème fraîche
milk (to brush the pastry)

For the filling (using a cast iron casserole), start by frying the chopped onion in olive oil until it goes translucent.

mirepoix

Stir in the chopped carrot, celery and garlic,

mushrooms

followed by the mushrooms after a minute or two.

chopped pork

When the mushrooms start to release some moisture the pork can go into the pot.

roux

Mix in the anchovy paste, tomato purée, thyme, pimentón, chilli and the plain flour – stir to make a roux.

stock

Pour on 1/2 pint of stock (pork is ideal, but chicken would be very good), plus the red wine vinegar and bay leaves. I included a little splash of mushroom ketchup, which boosts the mushroom flavour, but it’s not essential.

braised

Bring the casserole to a simmer, put the lid on and remove to a preheated oven at 160ºC, for 1 hour. When done, check the seasoning and allow to cool.

crème fraîche

Stir in some cream – I like crème fraîche for it’s acidic flavour and in the words of Delia Smith, ” the supreme virtue of crème fraîche is that when you use it in cooking, it never curdles and separates – you can bubble and boil it and never be afraid.” But be aware, this only applies to full fat crème fraîche!

pie filling

Grease the pie dish with butter, before pouring in the filling.

pastry

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll it out on a clean dry surface. A smooth piece of marble or granite is ideal, but a bread board or worktop will be equally good. Sprinkle plain flour onto the board and rolling pin to stop it sticking. When the pastry is roughly the right size (slightly bigger is best), roll it around the rolling pin, lift it onto the pie dish and roll it back out. Trim the dough to fit the dish and use the tines of a fork to make a nice crimped edge. Poke a couple of holes into the top to allow hot air to escape. Decorate with any leftover pastry. Paint the top with milk which aids in browning.

pig pie

Bake for 30 – 45 minutes (until golden) in a preheated oven at 200ºC.

The end result was a deliciously creamy, mellow chilli pork and mushroom pie – a perfect antidote to the cold weather. Serve with seasonal vegetables and a glass of Gran Cerdo (Big Pig) Tempranillo.

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Rabbit with Anchovies and Capers

submerged rabbit

I found an interesting rabbit, anchovy and caper recipe attributed to Jennifer Paterson which seems to contain elements of contrasting origins. The first part, is somewhat like an uncooked jugged hare marinade and the final part with the anchovies and capers reminds me of a Catalan picada. I can find nothing else like it and therefore assume it unique. I have made a couple of small changes, but nothing much, since everything I’ve cooked previously, by either of the sadly missed, Two Fat Ladies, has been fantastic.

jointed rabbit

Rabbit marinade:

1 wild rabbit (jointed)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
1 pint dry white wine
4 dessertspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon (the juice)
2 bay leaves
leaves from 2 sprigs rosemary, 10 black peppercorns, 6 juniper berries (ground with a mortar and pestle)
a dessertspoon chopped parsley

vegetable marinade

Mix up the vegetables and liquids for the marinade.

marinated

Joint the rabbit and submerge it in the liquid for at least 24 hours in the fridge.

browning rabbit

Cooking the rabbit (serves 4):

the rabbit and marinade
a good splash of extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of ground chilli
3 dessertspoons seasoned plain flour
1/4 pint game stock (chicken will suffice)

Wipe the rabbit pieces dry and dust them with plain flour, seasoned with a little sea salt and cracked black pepper. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron casserole and brown the meat with a pinch of ground chilli – remove to a plate when done.

marinade

Pour the marinade into the cast iron casserole along with the stock.

simmering

Bring the liquid to a simmer.

sunken rabbit

Return the rabbit to the pot, put the lid on and cook in a preheated oven at 170ºC for about an hour. Pierce the rabbit with a sharp knife to check that it is tender. Don’t be tempted to add salt until the end – both the anchovies and capers contain significant amounts of sodium chloride.

casseroled rabbit

When the rabbit is ready, remove about 1/4 pint of the liquid to a small saucepan.

Anchovy and Caper Picada:

1/4 pint rabbit cooking liquid
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
a small tin of anchovies (drained and finely chopped)
a jar of non-pareil capers (about 60g, drained and finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

anchovies and capers

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a genuine picada, because it doesn’t contain nuts or dry bread, but it functions very much like one, in that it thickens the sauce while adding a huge flavour boost.

picada

Chop up the garlic, anchovies and capers. Warm the rabbit sauce in the saucepan and stir in the solid ingredients. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

rabbit anchovies and capers

Stir the picada back into the rabbit casserole before serving. Check the seasoning, but I doubt you’ll need any salt.

rabbit blood

Optionally, if your rabbit comes with blood (and the thought of it doesn’t make you squeamish), save it (refrigerated) in a bowl with a little red or white wine vinegar – this stops it coagulating. Stir the rabbit blood into the sauce for additional thickening just before serving. It is the traditional thing to do with coq au vin, hare and rabbit dishes.

This is quite possibly the very best rabbit recipe I’ve ever eaten!  Serve with mashed potatoes and a glass of Nauta Catalunya, a white Xarel-lo.

Other Rabbit posts

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