Alubias Blancas con Butifarra

alubias blancas con butifarra

The Catalans have a classic dish of Botifarra del País con Judías Blanc y Alioli – country sausage with white beans and allioliBotifarra (butifarra in Spanish) sausages date back to the time of the Romans and this dish became popular in small Catalan inns (seises) during the 19th Century. The recipe appears in the 1830 Catalan cook book – Nou Manual de Cuinar amb tota perfeccio. Note that Judías means Jews, who are synonymous with beans in Spain – see my explanation here. The white beans served are usually mongetes, a local strain of haricot beans and they are cooked to be fairly dry. I came across two recipes recently for a Tuscan white bean and sausage stew and a Gascon saucisses aux haricots et tomates, both of which inspired me to make a different Spanish version of sausages with beans.


Ideally the sausages for this recipe should be Catalan Botifarra sausages which are probably related to Linguiça Calabresa and Cumberland sausages. Butifarra, are not so easy to come by outside of Spain, so the nearest equivalents would be sausages with a similar pedigree and style, made without bread or rusk. Toulouse would also make a good substitute. All the above are probably decendents of the Ancient Roman Lucanica sausage. Botifarres come in a ring (traditionally), just like Cumberland, Toulouse and Lucanica, but they are also available as individual sausages.

Alubias Blancas con Butifarra (serves 4):

400g dried alubias blancasnavy (haricot) beans
6 butifarra (or other good quality sausages)
100g jamón serrano (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 medium tomatoes (grated)
1 stick celery (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
100g cavolo nero (chopped)
2 squirts anchovy paste
1 squirt tomato purée
2 teaspoons ground rosemary, sage and thyme
4 bay leaves
a large glass red wine
a splash red wine vinegar
1 pint chicken stock
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil

alubias blancas

I prefer to use dried beans, the texture is better than tinned, but if using the canned variety, you will need two cans (dried beans double in size when reconstituted). Ideally soak dry beans overnight in cold water or for one hour in boiling water and then cook in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes, with a couple of bay leaves.


Brown the botifarres in a little hot olive oil and then remove to a plate.


Using the same casserole and oil sofreír (gently poach) the onion until it becomes soft and sticky.


Add the chpped garlic and grate on the tomatoes (cut them in half and grate the wet side – dispose of the leftover skins).

apio y pimiento rojo

Stir in the celery and red pepper.


Grind the rosemary, sage and thyme, with a little coarse sea salt and 6 black pepper corns, with a mortar and pestle.


Sprinkle on the herbs and mix in the anchovy paste and tomato purée.


Pour on the chicken stock, wine and red wine vinegar. Allow the alcohol to evaporate for 5 minutes or so.

butifarras en salsa

Add the white beans and sausages.


Bring to a simmer, put the lid on and remove to a preheated oven at 120ºC for and hour.

jamón serrano

Sprinkle on the jamón serrano and submerge – it’s best added towards the end or it becomes chewy.

cavolo nero

Chop the cavolo nero (or regular cabbage) and cover the top of the casserole with it. Put the lid back on and return to the oven until the black cabbage wilts.

black cabbage

Stir in the cavolo nero and serve with crusty bread. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Enemigo Mio (My Enemy – refuring to wild boar, who eats the grapes) a Garnacha from Casa Rojo in Murcia.


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Cajun Macaroni Cheese

cajun mac and cheese

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Mac and Cheese was a north American dish, considering it’s popularity and especially since Kraft Dinner is (probably) Canada’s national dish (much like the popularity of Heinz Baked Beans in Britain), but you’d be wrong. Macaroni Cheese gets it’s first recorded mention in the Liber de Coquina, a 14th century, Italian cook book and in the English Forme of Cury from the same century. Macaroni and Cheese could go back a long way, since pasta (Lagana) was mentioned by Horace, writing in 1st Century AD –  sheets of fried dough, thought to be the origin of lasagne, which is layers of pasta with a meat and cheese sauces. I came across an interesting fact recently, regarding the origin of the word milk, or rather, lact, latte, lait, and leche – the milky juice of the lettuce (lactuca), which the Greeks and Romans used as liquid for making pasta. It seems pertinent to mention this, with regard to a pasta dish and a milky cheese sauce recipe.

I’ve never eaten Kraft Dinner, but fondly remember Macaroni Cheese from my childhood and have had a yearning for this comfort food for quite some time. I vaguely remember that Heinz used to sell Macaroni Cheese in a tin. I recently posted a recipe for Sopa de Fideos, a Spanish pasta soup, where my brand of fideos swelled up quite considerably and I wondered about a Spanish Fideos con Queso. I did some research, but the Spanish dish is quite similar to all others. However, I got lucky and found some Cajun Mac and Cheese versions which really took things up to 11!

Cheese Sauce:

1 1/2 pints of milk
100g plain flour
100g butter
700g grated cheddar
6 black peppercorns
a sprinkle of ground mace (or a blade of mace)
a little grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf
a slice of onion
a piece of garlic (squashed and peeled)
a carrot peeling
a teaspoon English Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera dulce
cracked black pepper (to taste)


Before doing anything else, put the milk into a saucepan with the peppercorns, mace, nutmeg, bay leaf, slice of onion, garlic and a carrot peeling. Gently heat the saucepan until you see the milk start to bubble, then switch it off and leave it for an hour to infuse. Do not let it boil! This enthuses or imparts flavour and makes for a superior cheese sauce.


Melt the butter and make a roux with the four. Slowly pour on the milk while stirring.


Turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Add the mustard, followed by handfulls of grated cheese, stirring all the time to prevent lumps. When you have a thick cheese sauce, sprinkle on the pimentón and cracked black pepper (to taste). Cheese combined with Béchamel is called a Mornay sauce.

Cajun Mac and Cheese (serves 6):

1 1/2 points Mornay sauce
500g fideuá or macaroni
2 andouille or other smoked garlic sausage (sliced)
220g red shrimp or king prawns
1 small onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 small red pepper (chopped)
1 small green pepper (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning: (1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1 teaspoon mustard powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, a pinch of fennel seeds and 2 teaspoons pimentón de la Vera (picante) – all mixed together)
a teaspoon chopped parsley
a dessertspoon breadcrumbs
a dessertspoon or two grated parmesan cheese
a small knob of butter (to grease the oven dish)
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

cajun shrimp

Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of cajun seasoning and a teaspoon of chopped parsley onto the shrimp 2 hours or so before you start cooking. You can make your own seasoning, as per my proportions above, or buy it ready mixed in supermarkets.


Weigh out 500g fideós or other pasta, ideally with a hole in the middle.


Slice the andouille and brown on each side in a little olive oil. Reserve to a plate. Note, this is Louisianna style andouille and not French. When German sausage makers arrived in New Orleans, the sausage ingredients moved towards smoked pork and garlic and away from French tripe. Use a smoked German or Polish sausages in Europe if you can’t find ingredients from the Big Easy.


Using the same skillet, gently fry the chopped onion, peppers and celery – refered to as a trinity.


When the vegetables are soft, stir in the garlic – the trinity becomes a holy.


Cook the fideuá or pasta of your choice in salted boiling water for about 10 minutes or so, until al dente. Drain.

shrimp mornay

Combine the pasta, sausage, vegetables, shrimp and cheese sauce in the pasta pan. The shrimp don’t need to be cooked beforehand if baking straight away (they will thank you for it). However, if you are preparing this ahead of time, cook the shrimp – it’s not safe to have them sitting in warm sauce for several hours.

ready to bake

Rub butter into a baking dish (to stop sticking) and pour in the mac and cheese mixture.


Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and grated parmesan cheese.


Bake in a preheated oven at 200ºC for 30 minutes, or until golden.


Watch the cheese bubbling away.

macaroni cheese

Allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

mac and cheese

Sprinkle on a little chopped parsley (for decoration) and serve with a green salad and a Abita Beer. The mac and cheese had a fabulous crunchy gratin, the peppers were still pleasantly crispy and it all had a delicious smokey flavour. I ate a rather large portion, started watching the Big Easy and promptly fell asleep for two hours while dreaming of the bayou!

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Conejo con Patatas

conejo con patatas

Conejo con Patatas is a very popular Aragonese dish, where rabbit is cooked in a simple sauce and served with fried potatoes. I saw a version in The Spanish Woman’s Kitchen where chip/fry shaped raw potatoes are pushed into the sauce to cook, once the rabbit is tender. As the French Fry (supposedly invented in Belgium, though frying sliced potatoes almost certainly originated in Spain) is a relatively modern way of cooking potatoes, I adapted the sauce and went for the traditional Spanish chasquiado (snapped or torn) style, which helps release potato starch into the sauce as a thickener.


Rabbit is very much considered meat in Spain, unlike the UK where most people (these days) see it as a pet. It is said that the Carthaginians, arriving in Spain (around 300 BC), named the region Ispania (from Sphan meaning rabbit), land of rabbits. When the Romans arrived (during the Second Punic Wars, around 218 BC), they named the peninsular Hispania (after the Phoenician ispanihad) isle of rabbits. The European Wild Rabbit, is thought to have originated in Iberia, around 4,000 years ago.

Note the yellow fat on my rabbit – this comes from eating lush green grass. There’s very little fat on a rabbit and it is said that one expends more calories eating it than one gains!

Receta de Conejo con Patatas (serves 4):

1 wild rabbit (jointed)
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 medium tomatoes (grated)
750g Desirée potatoes (chasquiado/snapped)
a squirt tomato purée
2 large squirts anchovy paste
a large glass red wine
a splash red wine vinegar
3 dessertspoons sherry brandy
1/2 pint chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
sea salt and cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

chopped coriander (to serve)

conejo picado

Cut up the rabbit and marinate in sherry brandy and a splash of red wine vinegar for a couple of hours.

conejo frito

When ready, brown the rabbit pieces in extra virgin olive oil. Do keep the brandy marinade for later! Remove the rabbit to a plate.


Sofreír (gently fry) the chopped onion in the same frying pan – do add plently of oil so the onion doesn’t burn.


Stir in the garlic and then grate on 4 tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half and grate the wet side until you are left with a disk of tomato skin in your hand. Dispose of the skin or save it for stock.


Sprinkle on some thyme, mix in the anchovy paste and tomato purée.

la salsa

Pour on the wine and marinade along with the bay leaves. Cook for 5 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Add a little salt and pepper.

conejo en salsa

Put the sauce, rabbit pieces and 1/2 pint of home made chicken stock into an oven proof cazuela or casserole.

conejo guisado

Cover with foil or a lid and remove to a preheated oven at 180ºC for an hour, or until the rabbit is tender.


Peel the potatoes, then cut and tear (chascar) them with a small knife to make rough edges. Push the potatoes down into the sauce. Cook for another 30 minutes with the foil or lid on and then a further 10 minutes uncovered.

conill amb patates

Check the seasoning, then sprinkle the Conejo con Patatas with chopped coriander or parsley to serve. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Vino Tinto Piedra Crianza, a blend of Garnacha and Tinta de toro from Castilla y León and Toro.

Other Rabbit posts

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Hígado Asturiano

hígado asturiano

Asturias is situated on the northern Atlantic coast of Spain. Being mountainous and next to the sea, the region has lush green pastures and you will find fresh milk in Spanish shops with a Central Lechera Asturiana brand, along with pictures of cows. Milk goes hand in hand with butter and cheese – this is the land of dairy and you’ll find some people cooking with butter instead of olive oil – ¡Madre mía!  Hígado Asturiano is a dish of liver cooked with bacon, onions and tomato – there’s a simpler Hígado Encebollado (liver with onions) cooked all over Spain (sometimes with pig’s liver), not dissimilar to something you might find elsewhere in Europe.

Receta de Hígado Asturiano (serves 4):

500g ox liver, or any other liver (sinews removed and cut into bite sized pieces)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 medium tomatoes (grated)
a large handful coriander or parsely (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (ground)
a squirt of anchovy paste
a dessertspoon tomato purée
a glass dry white wine (or cider)
a splash sherry vinegar
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
a knob of butter
extra virgin olive oil

a teaspoon chopped coriander or parsely as a dressing

hígado de buey

Chop the liver into bite sized pieces.


Similarly chop the streaky bacon up and brown with a splash of olive oil in a large metal casserole or terracotta cazuela.


Warm half a teaspoon of cumin seeds and grind up with a pinch of coarse sea salt.

hígado y beicon

Add a knob of butter to the pan along with a glug of olive oil, turn the heat up a bit and brown the liver quickly, then reserve to a plate. Sprinkle on the cumin, along with salt and pepper, while cooking. The butter adds a little sweetness to the liver and the oil stops the butter burning.


Using the same casserole, pour on more olive oil and sofreír (gently poach) the chopped onion, until it becomes soft.


Mix in the garlic and grate on 4 medium tomatoes – cut in half and grate the wet side. Dispose of the skin.

hígado y verduras

Return the liver and bacon to the pan.

cilantro y vino

Mix in the white wine, sherry vinegar, anchovy paste, tomato purée and a handful of chopped coriander (or parsley).


Cook for 30 minutes with the lid on.


Meanwhile, toast a dozen blanched peeled almonds in a dry pan.

Almond milk:

12 blanched peeled almonds (scorched)
1 clove of garlic (chopped)
1 cup of water

leche de almendras

Grind up the toasted almonds and garlic, using a mortar and pestle, adding water slowly to make a milk. Allow this to sit while the liver cooks.

con leche

Stir in the almond milk and cook for another 30 minutes on low.

hígado encebollado

Serve with fried potatoes, or as a tapa with triangles of toast. Drink a glass or two of Sidra Natural Nietos de Asturias (a natural local cider) with the liver. Astrurian cider should be poured from above the shoulder, with the glass held quite low – this aereates the drink!

This is probably the most delicate liver dish I’ve ever eaten!

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Sukalki is a beef, pepper and potato dish from Pais Vasco, a region which spans the South West of France and the North West of Spain. The Basque people are quite unique, their language (Euskera) bears no relation to Latin based languages, Celtic, Greek, Egyptian ..and in fact no other human languages at all, though modern words (from Romance languages) have been adopted into Euskera. There’s also a Basque language influence on Aragonese and Gascon and to a lesser extent Catalan – it’s thought that the Basques may have (at one time) occupied the entire Pyrenees region, if not Iberia. Not only is the Basque language special, the people themselves carry a distinctive gene which could make them “the oldest inhabitants of Europe”. History aside, the Baques are well known for their gastronomic prowess and Pais Vasco has one the largest concentrations of Michelin starred restaurants in the world!

choiceros secos

In Pais Vasco cooking competitions are very popular and the town of Mungia holds one specifically for Sukalki. The recipe for this dish is realtively simple, aside from the addition of pimientos choriceros, which can be difficult to find – even in Barcelona, where dried ñora peppers are a more common ingredient in stews and sauces (particulalry romesco), but be aware that one should not be substituted for the other!

carne de pimientos choriceros

You can find choricero peppers internationally in some Spanish delis but more commonly you will find carne de pimientos choriceros (the “meat” of choricero peppers) in jars, in shops and online.

pimientos choriceros

Pimientos choriceros can be rehydrated quickly by soaking in boiling water for an hour, but you will get much better results using cold water overnight, where the peppers will rise from the dead to resume their former shape and texture (well almost!). Poke a couple of holes in the peppers and put something on top of them to hold them down in the water. I used a bowl slightly smaller than the one above, onatop. You will be surprised by how much they expand! When reconstituted, choriceros taste like an earthy bitter sweet version of the common red pepper. Save some of the choricero soaking water – it has a lot of flavour and a splash or two can be added to the stew to keep it moist.

Receta de Sukalki (serves 3):

500g beef shank
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
1 small red onion (chopped)
1kg small red potatoes (peeled)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 large leek (finely chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
4 medium tomatoes (grated)
2 choricero peppers
a small glass brandy (ideally Spanish sherry brandy)
a glass dry white wine (ideally Txakoli)
a dessertspoon tomato purée
2 large squirts anchovy paste
1 pint beef stock
a handfull of peas per person
olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper

espinilla de res

Season the beef shin and brown in plenty of olive oil. Remove to a plate.


Using the same oil, though you will need to add more, gently fry the onions until they become soft.


Add the garlic, sweet peppers, carrot and leek.


Grate on the tomatoes – cut in half and grate the wet side. Dispose of the skin.

carne de pimientos choriceros

Remove the the seeds and stems from the choriceros, chop them up and stir them in too.

flaming brandy

Warm a small glass of brandy, set light to it and pour over the vegetables, along with half a pint of home made beef stock and a glass of dry white wine.

carne y pimientos

Mix in the anchovy paste and tomato purée. Check the seasoning and return the beef to the casserole.


Cover and cook the Sukalki in a preheated oven (or on the hob, but don’t let it burn) at 120ºC electric fan or 140ºC gas.


After 2 – 3 hours and when the beef shin is tender, remove it from the pan and blend the vegetables in the sauce, using a stick blender or liquidiser. The old school method is to use a Mouli. Return the meat to the thick rich sauce and add the potatoes. Do add stock or choricero liquid if the sauce is too thick – I used nearly all the remaining beef stock along with about 1/4 pint of choricero soaking liquid – use your own judgement.

carne y patatas

Small round red potatoes are ideal – I couldn’t find a kilo of perfectly sized ones, so made do with slightly larger Desirée, which I cut to size. Make sure you use a floury potato that will soften properly in a stew, over the course of 30 minutes – if in doubt, parboil the potatoes first, because waxy potatoes will take a long time!

Return to the oven and cook for at least 30 minutes or until the potatoes are done. Don’t stir the stew from this point onwards. The Basque technique is to turn the pan from side to side with the handles to agitate and mix in the starch from the potatoes. Stirring can stop the thickening process.


At this point add a handful of peas (per person) to the Sukalki and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving. Howevr, if you cook the peas separately they will retain a brighter green colour and the Sukalki can be served immediately.

Serve with crusty bread and a glass or two of Txakoli Urdaibai (or similar).

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Albóndigas con Alubias Blancas

albóndigas con alubias blancas

I came across an Italian style recipe for meatballs with cannellini beans and Cavolo Nero last week, which had me looking at similar Spanish recipes …and of course there were lots of them for Albóndigas con Alubias Blancas! So, having the inspiration, I made up my own meatballs and sauce, using Tuscan Kale, which is one of my favourite winter greens.

cavolo nero

Cavolo Nero (black cabbage) is an Italian Kale, particulalry popular in Tuscan cooking. It has a bitter savoury taste that goes well with rich soups and stews. Cavolo Nero is relatively cheap and available at most farmer’s markets and supermarkets.

Las Albóndigas (serves 3 or 4):

500g of beef chuck, brisket or shoulder (minced)
250g of pork belly (minced)
1/2 a large onion
6 cloves garlic
a handful of fresh coriander (chopped) or parsley if you prefer
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera dulce
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (ground)
1/2 teaspoon of ground mixed herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme)
1 egg
a splash of milk
3 dessertspoons diced stale sourdough bread
2 dessertspoons flour
sea salt cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil for frying
save a teaspoon of coriander/parsley (chopped) for serving


Ideally mince the meat yourself, though I have noticed that supermarkets sell a mixture of beef and pork with all the work done for you. I recommend making your own meatballs – they taste fantastic with herbs and spices, making shop bought ones seem very bland indeed! Put the meat through the mincer twice along with the onion, garlic and bread (soak the bread in a little milk 10 minutes beforehand). If you don’t have a mincer, put the onion, garlic and bread into a food processor or liquidiser and mix it into shop bought mince, by hand.


Warm half a teaspoon of cumin (which revitalises the original taste and aroma), then grind it up with rosemary, sage and thyme, a pinch of coarse sea salt and a few black peppercorns using a mortar and pestle.


Chop a handful of coriander or parsley if you prefer. Combine the herbs with the mince mixture.

huevo y pimentón

Make a well in the combined meat and add a raw egg, along with the pimentón. Sprinkle on a generous amount of sea salt and cracked black pepper, but do so with caution – once it’s in, it can’t come out!


Get your hands dirty again and you should end up with a large ball like the above.


Pinch off a small nugget and fry it in hot olive oil. This way you can get the seasoning right before making the albóndigas. You may have to do this 2 or 3 times to get the perfect amount of salt and pepper, but it’s worth it!


Put 2 dessertspoons of plain flour into a bowl, then roll the meatballs in the palm of your hand. Drop the albóndigas into the flour to cover. When done, chill the meatballs in the fridge for 30 minutes or more. This firms them up and holds them together when frying.

La Salsa:

1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
1 sweet red pepper (chopped)
1 sweet green pepper (chopped)
250g dried navy beans (haricot blanc)
100g cavolo nero sliced
2 squirts of anchovy paste
a large squirt tomato purée
a pinch thyme
a dessertspoon fresh coriander or parsley (chopped)
a piece of cheese rind (optional)
1 glass of red wine
1/2 pint home made beef stock
a splash of sherry vinegar
2 bay leaves
sea salt cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil

alubias blancas

In the meantime, soak the beans for 1 hour in boiling water, then cook for 8 minutes in a pressure cooker (or soak overnight). 250g dried beans should double in size, so if using tinned, a large can (probably about 400g) should be sufficient.


Sofreír (gently poach) the chopped onion in lots of olive oil. Keep the heat low and stir often. The onion should become soft and sticky without going brown.


Stir in the garlic and grate on the tomatoes, cut in half and grate the wet side. You will be left with a circle of skin, which can be disposed of, or used in stock. Allow to thicken for 10 minutes or so.

apio y zanhorias

Squirt in the tomato purée and anchovy paste before adding the chopped tomato and carrot.


Next, stir in the chopped peppers. If you have cheese rind, leftover from parmesan, stilton, etc. it makes a great savoury optional addition to soups and stews. Chop it up and put it in now. Be sure not to use waxed cheese rind that comes on cheeses like manchego and gouda! I used leftover rind from Christmas Cropwell Bishop. Cheese rind will keep for several months in the fridge or freezer.


The liquids go in now – wine, stock vinegar, along with the bay leaves and thyme.

alubias y cilantro

Stir in the beans and some chopped coriander. Season to taste. Put a lid on the casserole and remove to a preheated oven, at about 120º C.

albóndigas friendo

Next, brown the meatballs in hot olive oil. Do this in batches or they will stick together and poach without becoming a nice golden colour.

albóndigas en salsa

When all the albóndigas have been scorched, submerge them gently into the swamp – they should just about fit! Deglaze the fryingpan with some red wine. Scrape up any burnt bits and add the lot to the casserole – I did it twice! Put the lid back on and return the casserole to the oven for 30 minutes.

col rizada

Slice the caviolo nero crossways – discard the tough stem at the bottom (the last 2 or 3 cm). Cover the top of the casserole with the greens.


Put the lid back on and return to the oven for 10 minutes, or until the caviolo nero has wilted and is tender.

albóndigas con col rizada

Stir the softened black cabbage into the sauce. Check the seasoning, add a splash of sherry vinegar (if nessary) and sprinkle on a little more corriander before dishing up. Serve with a green salad, crusty bread and a glass or two of Cojón de Gato, a Merlot from Aragón.

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Empanada de Pavo

empanada de pavo

The week before Christmas, I cooked a seasonal lunch for 30 people, with my friend Petra. Relative to high turkey prices (due to bird flu) we cooked four 9lb bronze, free range turkeys, in four ovens, with home made stuffing, gravy and all the trimmings. The original idea had been to cook a single 32lb turkey, but the price became prohibitive. On the 25th, my goose was cooked and my appetite for big birds was sated!  Now, one month later, I finally fancied dealing with the leftover turkey in the freezer (…or some of it – more on that later). My initial idea was to make a pie, which morphed into a much better idea – Empanada de Pavo!

Empanadas are pies that come from Galicia in the North West of Spain. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, which means to wrap in bread. These pies can be quite large, cooked in a rectangular tray, round on a flat sheet or small and half moon shaped, sometimes baked and sometimes fried. Empanadas have become so popular that they can be found throughout the Spanish speaking world and Portugal (which is just below Galicia). Large baked fish empanadas are very popular in Galicia, but there are many variations, such as; cheese, clams, spicy beef or chicken with chilli, chorizo, eel, ham, lamprey, octopus, sardines, tuna and many types with fruit or other sweet fillings for dessert.


Galician Empanada Pastry recipe:

2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder (fresh yeast is also common)
125ml olive oil
125ml crisp dry white wine or dry cider (I used Albariño, Galician white wine)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
375g plain flour

In a large bowl, beat 1 egg and the baking powder with a fork. When this is mixed together add the olive oil, wine and salt, before slowly working in the flour to make a dough. Knead the dough with both hands in/over the bowl. Sprinkle on a little more flour if it is too wet (it should be slightly tacky from the olive oil). Let the dough rest at room temperature in the bowl (covered) for one hour. This pastry is easy to make and stays elastic. Save the second egg for brushing the pastry when baking.

Empanada de Pavo filling:

200g leftover turkey (or a fresh leg/breast as preferred)
4 slices smoked streaky bacon (cut in half)
2 pimientos rojos (blackened and skinned red peppers)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 tomatoes (grated)
10 Kalamata olives (sliced)
2 hard boiled eggs (chopped)
a shot glass of dry white wine (I used Albariño, Galician white wine)
2 splashes sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
a dessertspoon chopped parsley
2 squirts anchovy paste (or to taste)
cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil

First of all, blacken 2 small (or 1 large) sweet red peppers (capsicum) on top of a gas ring, on a barbecue, or under the grill (broiler). When the skin is suitably burnt, place the peppers in covered bowl, a paper bag or a tuppaware, so that the inside can steam in the residual heat. Leave for an hour or so.


Chop the onion and sofeír (poach) in plenty of olive oil, over a low heat. Stir often, the onions should become soft and sticky without any brown bits. Do not cover as you will end up with cooked onion in onion juice.


After half an hour or so, the onion will have released it liquid and become soft. Stir in the chopped garlic and grate on 4 tomatoes – cut them in half and grate the wet side then dispose of the skins.


Mix in the pimentón, thyme, anchovy paste, black pepper, sherry vinegar and a splash of dry white wine. Allow the sofrito to reduce on a low heat for 30 minutes or so.


When the sauce has thickened, add the olives,


two chopped, hard boiled eggs


and a dessertspoon of chopped parsely. Give everything a good stir and remove from the heat. Allow to cool before building the empanada. Hot food melts uncooked pastry.


Divide the pastry in half and roll out a circle about 30cm across – use an upturned large mixing bowl to cut out the pastry. With pastry made from olive oil you don’t need to flour the the work surface. In Galicia, some of the abuelas (grandmothers) don’t use a rolling pin, instead they push out the pastry with their knuckles. When making large empanadas they use several pieces of pastry. This type of olive oil pasta (dough) is quite stretchy and will stick easily to another piece. Place it on a baking sheet and prick it all over with a fork. Brush with the beaten white of the second raw egg, saving the yolk for the top. Bake the base blind for about 10 minutes at 180ºC (until it looks biscuity in colour) – this ensures that it’s crispy when the whole empanada is cooked. I recommend keeping an eye on it and pushing down any bubbles that pop up with the back of a fork, while baking.


Make a layer of sofrito on the pastry base, leaving a 1cm gap all the way round, for the top to stick to.


Put a layer of roast turkey on top – the above was mostly leg meat, which has more flavour.


Cover the turkey with 4 slices of streaky bacon (cut in half).

pimientos rojos

Remove the blackened skin from the pimientos, along with the seeds and stalks. Cut into slices and put these on top of the bacon.

sofrito dos

Finally, add another layer of sofrito to the pie.


Roll out the second piece of pastry, slightly larger than the base (about 32cm across). Beat the egg yolk with a little cold water, Brush the lower, outer pastry lip with beaten egg before covering the empanada with the pastry tapa (lid). Push the pastry firmly together round the edges to seal the pie. Make a hole and chimney in the middle for heat to escape. Decorate with strips of leftover pastry. Brush the pie with beaten egg yolk – this will give it a golden colour when cooked. Bake in a preheated oven at 200ºC (or 180ºC if using a fan oven) for about 40 minutes, or until golden. I was highly amused and delighted to see steam and bubbles coming out of the chimney while the pie cooked.


Serve hot or cold with a salad and a glass or two of Albariño.

Journey to the center of the Galician empanada (in Spanish).

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Roast Potatoes with ‘Nduja

potatoes with ‘nduja

I came across a recipe last week for Fried Potatoes with Sobrasada and I thought, “I’ve got ‘nduja in the fridge, I can go one better!”


‘Nuduja (pronounced ‘nduya) is an Italian pork salumi (cured sausage), made with  roasted red chilli peppers and spices. The mixture is squeezed into a pig’s intestine, which is tied up and smoked then left to cure for up to 2 years. ‘Nduja comes from Calabria in the south of Italy and takes it’s name from French Andouille and the Angevins who ruled the region in the 13th Century. Later, probably when Calabria was ruled by the Crown of Aragon, chilli peppers were brought back to Europe, and the Calabrians added them to their ‘nduja, which became a unique salumi in it’s own right.


‘Nduja keeps for months in the fridge and a small slice works wonders in sauces, stews and even on pizza. You will find ‘nduja in good butchers shops, Italian delicatessen and even some supermarkets (albeit in jars).

Roast Potatoes with ‘Nduja recipe:

good roasting potatoes (as many as required) – I used désirée from Perry Court Farm
a 1 cm slice of ‘nduja (this is sufficient for quite a few potatoes – to serve at least 4 or 5 people)
goose fat (or olive oil)
a sprig or two of rosemary
sea salt

bashed potatoes

Peel the potatoes and cut into a serveable size.  Put the tubers into salted water and bring to a boil. Turn the hob off and let the potatoes sit in the water for about 5 minutes. In the meantime heat a couple of spoonfuls of goose fat or olive oil in a preheated oven at 180ºC. Drain the water and with the lid on, shake the saucepan to bruise the potatoes – this gives a good surface for roasting. Désirée bash quite well, but I have found that some other potatoes require more time in boiling water. Use the roasting method you are used to!

potatoes in goose fat

Add the potatoes to the hot fat and roll them around to get them well coated.


I recommend cooking a pheasant or chicken while you have the oven on – both go very well with ‘nduja roasted potatoes!

roast potatoes

Roast for an hour or so, basting or turning every 10 – 20 minutes for an even gold colour and crunchy texture.

‘nduja and rosemary

When the potatoes are nearly done, break up the ‘nduja into small chunks and add it to the pan, with a sprig or two of rosemary.

coated potatoes

Cook for another 20 minutes, turning the potatoes occasionally to coat them in the melted ‘nduja.


Mix a spoonfull of the ‘nduja (from the potatoes) into home made gravy. Save any remianing ‘nduja in the pan to mix with boiled potatoes (in place of butter) later in the week.

seasonal vegetables

Serve the pheasant and ‘nduja potatoes with seasonal vegetables and gravy. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Faisà ’18 with the roast, it’s an organic Merlot, from the Empordà region of Catalunya.

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Bones Festes 2022

Like the Tió de Nadal, el Caganer (the shitter – no kidding!) is symbolic of a Catalan Christmas. The Caganer is so important that he has become part of the Nativity scene, albeit normally tucked away at the back and you’ll even find him in the cathedral.

It’s thought that el Caganer dates back to the 17th or 18th Century and has been a feature in the Nativity since that time. He wears traditional Catalan peasant clothes, including a barretina (red hat). Whilst this may seem blasphemic, el Caganer is seen to represent fertility and is tolerated by the Catholic church.

fira de santa llúcia

I first came across el Caganer 30 years ago in the Barcelona Fira de Santa Llúcia (Christmas Market), in front of the cathedral. The traders there had neat little rows of Nativity figures of varying quality and next to Mary, Jesus, Joseph and the animals, was the Caganer above. I was pleasantly surprised …and these days there are Caganer representations of the Pope, Madonna, the President (Spanish and American), Boris Johnson, Queen Elizabeth II (and now King Charles), Batman, R2D2, Gollum and most types of trades person – the list is endless, but you haven’t “arrived” unless you are on it! In 2010, I was amazed to find a 19 foot Caganer in the Maremagnum Shopping Centre in the port of Barcelona and during the Covid pandemic, many of the Caganers wore masks!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Menja bé, caga fort i no tinguis por a la mort – Eat well, shit hard and don’t fear death!

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Mutton Casserole

mutton casserole

Mutton is the name given to meat from grown up sheep, tasting similar to lamb, but with a slightly more prounced flavour and firmer texture, so ideal for stews and casseroles. A sheep’s meat is called lamb up until it’s one year old, then hogget, between 13 months and two years. Mutton is the meat from sheep (castrated males and females) that have grown two permanent icisor teeth – these are generally 3+ years old.

Mutton used to be very popular in the UK and prized for it’s flavour, but in the last 50 years or so it has lost out to lamb, which can be roasted quickly and eaten rare. You may think you’ve never eaten mutton, but it’s very popular on the Indian subcontinent, so if you’ve eaten lamb curry in a restaurant, it will almost certainly have been mutton and I bet it tasted good!

mutton shoulder

I was walking down the street this week, looking in shop windows and came across mutton shoulder at 5.99 per kg! For a second, I thought, “That’s good, but I’ve already got supper arranged for tonight.” A moment later I thought, “Carpe diem!” …and I was straight in there discussing cricket! If you look to the right of the above picture, you’ll see that the mutton leg cost 6.99 per kg which is amazing value for a slow cooked joint of meat, at a time when a leg of lamb (in the supermarket) costs more than double!

chopped mutton

So, driven by the spirit of the Romans, I bought a kilo of mutton shoulder and the butcher obligingly chopped it into bite sized pieces on the bone. Initially I was inclined to cook a chilindrón, but I strayed from my own recipe, relative to having green chilli peppers in the fridge that needed to be used up.

Mutton Casserole recipe (serves 4):

1kg mutton on the bone (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
2 sticks celery (chopped)
2 small green chilli peppers (chopped, seeds removed)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon thyme
a pinch chipotle chilli (or to taste)
2 bay leaves
a large squirt or two anchovy paste (or to taste)
1 pint lamb stock
a glass dry white wine
a splash red wine vinegar
a splash sherry vinegar (or to taste)
a handful fresh coriander (chopped)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper

a little chopped coriander (or parsley) to garnish

mutton browning

Season (with salt and pepper) then brown the meat in hot olive oil – do this in two or three batches or the meat will poach and go sticky.


Remove the mutton to a plate, turn the heat down and cook the onion gently until it goes soft and transluscent.


Mix in the celery, sweet peppers and green chilli peppers.

cumin and coriander seeds

Warm the cumin and coriander seeds until you can smell their aroma, then grind them with coarse sea salt and a few black pepper corns using a mortar and pestle.


Add the ground herbs with a lttle thyme and chipotle chilli .


Return the meat to the casserole.


Pour on the wine and stock, add the bay leaves, red wine vinegar and anchovy paste, then stir well.

chopped coriander

Chop a handful of fresh coriander and mix in. Bring to a simmer, cover with the lid and cook in a pre heated oven at 150º C for 3 hours or until tender. Check the seasoning and add a little sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar). This sweetens and cuts the fattiness of the mutton. It’s a bit like the way in which mint sauce (containing vinegar) regulates the fatty taste with roast lamb and gravy. If you wish, you can allow the stew to cool, at which point the fat will float on the top and can be scooped off with a spoon, though IMHO it’s not necessary.

cacerola de oveja

When ready, sprinkle on a little more chopped coriander to garnish, then serve with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Oveja Tinta Graciano, from Bodegas Fontana in Uclés (Castilla-La Mancha) with the mutton casserole.

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