Sous-Vide Barbecue

sous-vide

Oli had some new cooking toys, so we decided to use them for a barbecue on Saturday, however, the forecast said rain, so Sunday became a better option. The main piece of equipment, was a sous-vide immersion circulator – a stick the size of a rolling pin (above) which can be programmed for constant temperature with water circulation and timer. It’s a bit like a fish tank pump with thermostatic heater.

sous-vide pork belly

So what is sous-vide cooking? Sous-vide is French for “under vacuum” – it’s a cooking method where food is sealed in a plastic bag and all the air is sucked out (you can buy relatively cheap machines to do this). Next the food is cooked in water at a constant low temperature. Where meat is concerned, the collagen breaks down without toughening up the flesh, in fact the  meat becomes tender without overcooking. Sous-vide cooking has become very popular with restaurants, where meat, fish and vegetables can be cooked perfectly and because they are in a vacuum, they keep for several weeks in the fridge. This food can be served perfectly, almost at the drop of a hat, where beforehand, things were kept warm for several hours in a salamander – there was a lot of wastage. This isn’t just convenient, the food actually tastes better! With steak, for example, every piece will be perfect and can be finished off (scorched) on the grill (for the Maillard reaction) before serving.

A word on food hygiene: food that is served within 4 hours of cooking is considered safe, but botulism can grow in a vacuum, so meat cooked over a long time for tenderisation, must reach a temperature of at least 55ºC within 4 hours to avoid the risk of poisoning. The temperature of 55ºC over time, kills botulism, but, if keeping the meat in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, it must be plunged into ice cold water and kept at 3ºC to prevent botulism spores from surviving and growing. In essence, there is a similar risk with all improperly prepared meat and this is no more complicated than cooking a chicken at 200ºC for 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 20 minutes, to ensure it’s cooked properly. See here for a basic guide to sous-vide cooking temperatures.

carns serrano

Once we’d set the date and bought a plastic storage container (our water bath) with lid (to keep the heat in), we went shopping for meat. There’s a popular cheap beef cut that’s very tasty, but quite tough, called churrasco.

raw churrasco

Churrasco often means grilled beef or meat, but on a Barcelona menú del día and in the market, it’s beef ribs cut across the bone. We thought churrasco would work perfectly sous-vide – it would tenderise over several days and taste brilliant burnt (briefly) on the barbecue. We went to Carns Serrano (country meat) in the Boqueria, where they sell churrasco at €4.50 per kilo (on Wednesdays) and bought 4 kilos.

Back in Oli’s flat, we had a great time, cutting the big strips of meat into manageable pieces and vacuum sealing them in bags with herbs and seasoning. We put warm water into the sous-vide bath (at about 49ºC), so that the machine would reach our required temperature of 55.5º C as quickly as possible. We submerged all the churrasco in the water, turned the machine on and it promptly went off! There were no instructions in the box and none that we could find for this particular model online, so for an hour things were quite stressful. I started thinking we’d have to take the meat out and marinade it in red wine, vinegar, herbs, etc. Then while playing with the machine, it miraculously came back on and we set the temperature and a cooking time of 72 hours. Oli later discovered that holding the “on button”, while plugging the machine in, seems to make it work – phew!

rooftop fiesta

We didn’t get the sunny Sunday that we’d hoped for, but in spite of locals in coats, the temperature was about 15ºC and there were some bursts of sunshine later on. I think we had about 40 or 50 people during the afternoon and evening.

churrasco sous-vide

The churrasco came out of the sous-vide on Friday and some pork belly went in, along with an ox tongue. Above, you can see the churrasco in vacuum bags, ready for the barbecue.

barbecue churrasco

The sous-vide meat required minimal barbecue time – just a couple of minutes per side. The churrasco came out of the water bath medium rare and extremely tender. It was a great success and disappeared in minutes.

chef kai

I had some excellent help from Julia’s son, chef Kai who is very keen on calçots.

calçots

Calçots are a Catalan invention – they are a forced onions, traditionally cooked over a fire of vine cuttings until blackened. The process is a bit slower on a barbecue, but it seems to work well enough. When the calçots are burnt on the outside, they are wrapped in newspaper for about 20 mines, so that they steam until tender.

romesco sauce

When ready, one pinches the blackened end of a calçot and pulls the green end and the burnt part comes away and can be discarded. Calçots are commonly served dipped in Romesco Sauce.

Here’s Anthony Bourdain visiting a Calçotada with Albert Adrià – you can see how calçots are grown, at 17:55 minutes in.

mixed negroni

Oli had mixed up a large quantity of Negroni to start the party with a buzz.

negroni

A Negroni is an Italian cocktail made with on part gin, one part vermouth rosso and one part Campari – normally this is finished with a little orange peel, but I noticed a few sprigs of Rosemary in the bottle. It went a long way to keeping the smoke off of my taste buds. Our guests were quite generous with the booze they brought. I noticed lots of cava, vermut, vodka and Bourbon, amongst the wine and beer. Richard put a lot of effort into mixing batches of Whiskey Sour, which went down very nicely.

fire starters

At this point the heat from the charcoal had died down somewhat, so Jonas and Jorge replenished it and with the help of a very large blow torch, got the new batch going in record time.

silvia and gaia

Silvia and Gaia bringing sunshine to the rooftop.

raw mackerel

We got some cleaned and butterflied mackerel (thanks to the fishmonger in the Boqueria) into the other new toy – a smoker.

smoked mackerel

Mackerel take about 20 minutes to smoke – if in doubt, check how firm the flesh has become and use a food thermometer.

sous-vide ox tongue

Oli was busy in the kitchen while I was burning the meat. He produced a fantastic Julienne of celeriac, cornichons, thinly sliced radishes, lemon juice and mustard, which my camera missed. Above is sous-vide ox tongue, which I managed to snap before it was devoured by wolves. We bought the tongue and a pork belly on Friday, which went into the sous-vide for 2 days, after the churrasco was done. Oli cooked the tongue sous-vide for a day, then took it out and removed the membrane (skin), before cooking it sous-vide for a second day. It was literally falling apart and melt in the mouth.

chicken hearts and rabbit

I put some large chicken hearts on skewers with onion and pimiento, these went on the now sizzling barbecue with marinated rabbit. The marinade made the rabbit quite succulent, grilled gently for about 45 minutes.

grilled vegetables

The leftover chopped onion and pimiento were cooked on a griddle pan.

cured salmon

We got a whole salmon in the Boqueria and cured it, as Salmon Negroni.

Salmon Negroni – a very fishy cocktail (Oli’s recipe):

Take a whole side of salmon, fresh as you can.
Pin bone it, it’s bound to have some still in there…
Rinse and pat dry

Cure 1:
• 250mm gin (any rubbish gin will do. Keep the good stuff for yourself, the fish can’t tell the difference)
• A small handful of salt
• A couple of heaped tablespoonfuls of caster sugar
• Several juniper berries, freshly ground in a mortar and pestle
• Zest of an unwaxed lemon
Mix all but the gin together
Rub all over the fish and press this firmly into the flesh
Leave for 5/10 minutes

Line a baking tray or Tupperware dish, as near to the size of the salmon as you can find, with cling film
Lay the salmon in and pour the gin over it. Pour yourself one too while you’re at it!
Give fishy a wiggle to get some liquid underneath.
Bring up the sides of the cling film and wrap around.
You are aiming to keep as much air out as you can while still soaking in gin, the fish, that is.
You can also achieve the same effect with a sealable freezer bag.
Stick in fridge for at least a couple of days, turning twice a day or so and topping up with gin as needed, yourself included.

Cure 2:
• 250mm Red vermut or Martini Rosso
• A couple of heads of fresh beetroot , or jar of the same, rinsed and blended to a juice. You want to end up with a small cupful or so. (You could even try and reduce it a bit as it is mainly the colour you are after but cool it afterwards if you do, before using.)
• A spoonful of grated horseradish
• A bunch of chopped fresh tarragon
• A heaped tablespoonful of salt
Mix all this up
Rinse the gin from the  salmon – Do not be tempted to drink this, however, much as it pains you to pour good liquor away.
Pat dry then go though the whole salmon cling film shebang again, but this time with the vermut mix.
(You may want to wear gloves at this stage if you intend to go out that evening or you’ll look like a serial killer!)
Stick back in fridge for a day or more, turning occasionally.

Reward your hard work with a reviving G&T if there’s any more gin left.

campari ice cream

Instead of the usual Campari Jelly I just made Campari Ice cream this time,
it was mainly just Crème Fraîche and campari in the ice cream maker.

Now may be a good time to treat yourself to a real Negroni, topped off with an olive, to remind you of what you are trying to achieve.

sliced salmon

After a day or so, when you are ready to eat and the hangover has subsided, drain off the salmon, rinse with gin, and pat dry.
Slice across the width of the fillet at a diagonal angle with a very sharp knife
You should see a lovely red-to-pink graduation running towards the centre.
(If you see too much red liquid check your fingers; you may have cut yourself with that very sharp knife!)
Return the sliced salmon to the fridge if you are not ready yet, as it should be served slightly chilled.

negroni salmon

Stir a teaspoon of olive tapenade into the ice cream. It should be just a subtle olivey flavour as one would enhance a cocktail. Add a dab of horseradish to taste.

Plate up salmon slices around a cube or two of ice (on your favourite slates or miniature shopping trolley if you so wish).
Lightly drizzle ice cream over the salmon. Dress with a couple of tarragon leaves.
Tuck in.

Serve with frozen jenever or vodka as you have now run out of gin.
Bon profit!

ox heart and second rabbit

We bought an ox heart (also from the Boqueria) on Saturday, which the stall holder sliced thinly for us. This was flash grilled on the barbecue. Oli cooked a fiery Chilli Bourbon Jam to go with all the meat, which sadly escaped the camera

Chilli Bourbon Jam (Oli’s recipe):

1/2 kilo of smoked bacon
A couple of handfuls of finely chopped onion
A whole bulb of smoked garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1  jalapeño pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked pimentón
200/250 ml bourbon
200 ml Date syrup – substitute Maple syrup if necessary
A good slug of balsamic de Modena
a bit of brown sugar

Chop into small pieces and fry bacon on medium heat until very crispy
Remove bacon leaving fat in pan, and dry on kitchen roll
In remaining bacon fat sauté onions and garlic until browning
Add spices and sweat for a while
Return the bacon and pour in bourbon and flame to remove alcohol (NB have a lid fitted to your pan, ready to put out flames before kitchen catches fire)
Add syrup, Vinegar and sugar and simmer really low for 20 mins or so
Do not burn
Cool then decant to a jar.
Store in fridge until you are just about to eat.

barbecue pork belly

…and then came the sous-vide pork belly, which I like crispy.

mackerel barbecued

There was one last mackerel, which didn’t fit in the smoker,

grilled mackerel

so I slapped it on the barbecue and it cooked perfectly.

steaming mussels

Finally on the barbecue we did some steamed mussels (I’ve just notice Sean’s spectacular marinated pork hidden behind the aluminium foil blob – the pork was delicious as per last year).

blanc pescador

The molluscs steamed in a little Blanc Pescador – what else would you use?

steamed mussels

The coals were loosing heat by this point and the mussels took about 20 minutes to open.

cake

Somebody brought this beautiful cake, containing a crème pâtissière like mixture. I only noticed it when Kai came over and asked if he might have some.

joaquín

We made some new friends a couple of night’s ago, at Nookie’s birthday. I was sitting next to Joaquín and talking castellano – looking for a common interest. We go onto food and I was delighted to discover he’d  been acquainted with Catalan detective writer and gourmandManuel Vázquez Montalbán. This sparked off a food discussion and Joaquín told me he was very keen to cook an ox heart stuffed with foie gras. At this point I told Joaquín we were barbecuing an ox heart on Sunday and invited him and his wife (Kuki) to come along.

prunes in aguardiente

Joaquín brought us some fantastic prunes in aguardiente (fire water) and some blow your head off pili pili. He commented that only crazy Englishmen would cook a barbecue on a day like this and only Englishmen could carry it off!

When the sun went down we retired downstairs to Oli’s apartment, for a little Armagnac, brought by Sebastian, the owner of Iposa. We had planned to steam a Christmas Pudding, but so far, it’s still sitting in the fridge…

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Can Punyetes

can punyetes

After our walk up to Sarria and visit to Mercat Galvany, we were hungry, so Silvia suggested lunch at Can Punyetes, just round the corner.

can punyetes logo

Can Punyetes is an old school Catalan taverna, with charcoal grill. It has beautiful art nouveau windows and an astonishing solid bar made of marble.  The restaurant logo (above) depicts a traditional Catalan wearing a barretina (cap), armilla (waistcoat) and faixa (wide belt). He drinks from a porró (porrón), a glass drinking vessel, originally from Cataluña, that became popular across Spain. It looks to me, like he might also be treading grapes.

can punyetes interior

They don’t offer a lunchtime Menú del Día in Can Punyetes,

can punyetes menu

but their à la carte menu is relatively inexpensive.

xató

We shared a xató salad to start – this is a Catalan salad containing endive, bacalao, tuna, anchovies, olives (plus boiled eggs here) and what makes it really special is the xató sauce of ground almonds, hazelnuts, ñora peppers, bread, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and sherry vinegar.

can punyetes counter

We both ordered our main courses from the brasa (charcoal grill) section of the menu. The grill is above right, behind the counter, so everything is cooked almost in front of you. These dishes come with patata al caliu (barbecued potatoes) or mongetes (white beans).

xai

Silvia ordered xai amb patata al caliu – grilled lamb chops with potatoes. These were deliciously tender and smokey from the charcoal.

assortiment de botifarres

I looked at the menu and wanted botifarra, a traditional Catalan sausage, but couldn’t make my mind up about which type, until Silvia pointed out that they do an assortment de bottifarres, where you get all three – Catalan, Aragonesa (Aragonese) and negra (morcilla – blood sausage). It’s traditional to eat botifarra with mongetes (white beans AKA judias blancas). I can’t say which sausage was best, but I would definitely order the same again

allioli

with lots of allioli, which goes perfectly with both lamb and sausages.

pa amb tomàquet

We also had a plate of pa amb tomàquet, rustic bread, toasted on the grill, rubbed with garlic and tomato then drizzled with olive oil

sal

and sprinkled with salt.

vi rosat

I drank the usual vi rosat with lunch, while Silvia had a Moritz, Catalan beer, brewed close to where I’m staying.

crocanti

For pudding, Silvia had a crocanti ice cream – vanilla and chocolate with crunchy nuts on the outside.

mel i mató

I ordered mel i mató, a simple whey cheese, traditionally made from goat’s milk (but it can be made from cow’s milk), with honey on top. This was one of the best ones I’ve ever had!

carajillo

…and of course, I finished my meal with a carajillo de cognac,

la cuenta

while perusing the bill. Note that the half carafe of rosado cost €2.80!

can punyetes restaurant

Can Punyetes was founded in 1981 by three friends interested in recreating the atmosphere and food of traditional Catalan taverns. They have since opened in several other locations, including Madrid. We had lunch in the original restaurant, where the food, decor, atmosphere and service were fantastic!

Can Punyetes is at: C/ Marià Cubí 189, 08021, Barcelona.

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Mercat Galvany

mercat galvany

“Al mercat de Galvany volem compartir amb vosaltres la nostra passió pel menjar de qualitat incomparable. Amb molta cura busquem i oferim els millors productes per cuinar, menjar i gaudir.”

“At Galvany Market we want to share our passion for food of incomparable quality. With great care, we seek to offer the best products for cooking, eating and enjoyment.”

From the Mercat Galvany website.

temple d’aliments

Barcelona has many local markets, most of which were rebuilt in the late 19th and early 20th Century as the city expanded. Mercat Galvany is one of these, above the older part of town in the wealthy district of Sarria (probably the last outlying village to be annexed by Barcelona in 1921). Construction work started on Mercat Galvany in 1868 and it was completed in 1927. As you can see from the pictures, the market sits behind imposing stone walls and looks somewhat temple like, with it’s ornately decorated exterior and stained glass windows. It’s even laid out in the shape of a Greek cross.

entrada

I’d heard about Mercat Galvany – it’s somewhat special, selling the very best quality ingredients, mostly to locals and it’s completely off the tourist track. Growing increasingly tired of how La Boqueria looses a few stalls each year to cheap fruit juice and fast food on sticks, I decided it was about time I sought out Mercat Galvany, so far untouched by a tidal wave of ignorant guiris. I set out on a sunny morning with Silvia, to discover if this market really is the jewel in Barcelona’s market crown.

ridsan fruits

Entering the market from C/de Santalò, one is drawn towards the centre of the market, but I noticed straight away, that the quality of produce here is exceptional.

ridsan tomaquet

These purple Mar Azul tomatoes at Ridsan Fruits were stunning.

cercle de peix

At the very heart of the market is a circle of fish stalls, not unlike the Boqueria (although this is somewhat smaller).

peix fresc feli

Peix Fresc Feli had a beautiful selection of

pescados

anchovies, brill, langoustinemonkfish, squid, etc.

We arrived at the market at around 1pm. You will notice from the pictures that it’s quite quiet at this time. No doubt the shopping for lunch is done earlier in the morning and market stall holders stay open for latecomers. Most people in Cataluña have a cooked lunch between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. This is consistent with taking a siesta after lunch – it’s quiet mild at this time of year, but in summer the middle of the day can be unbearably hot and sticky.

joan i antonio

Above, the fishmonger at Joan i Antonio makes good use of his time by filleting small fish, such as anchovies. Anchovies are an inexpensive fish, often cured in wine vinegar (boquerones) and served as a tapa or starter.

red bream

This beautiful red bream really caught my eye.

fruites josuna

At the far side of the market (C/d’Amigó) we found Fruites Josuna – note the in-season calçots at the bottom centre of the stall. The exterior entrance/exit here is a mirror image of the one we’d come through on C/de Santalò.

tastatu

We started to walk around the stalls on the edge of the market. Vegetables seem to be positioned by the doors, fish belong  in the middle and everything else radiates from the centre. TastaTu specialises in artesanal Catalan products, such as goats cheese, natural yogurt, honey, olive oil etc.

el torrador del galvany

Here El Torrador del Galvany sells dried fruit, coffee, tea, caramels, etc.

eulàlia qualitat

Eulàlia Qualitat specialises in olives, tinned fish and vegetables. I noticed she even sells HP Sauce and Colman’s Mustard.

antic estanyol

Antic Estanyol sells sauces, canned goods, eggs, dairy, bottled water and (on the far right of the stall) bleach and cleaning products!

encarna mauri

The Encarna Mauri stall (like Antic Estanyol) look to be original, with a beautiful marble counter. Encarna Mauri is a delicatessen, selling national and international cured meat and cheese. On their web page they state that they specialise in German produce.

ous jordi

Ous Jordi sells eggs, direct from the farm with an emphasis on free range and organic. On the left is Montse, with dried fruit and fresh pasta.

polleria salut

On the walls next to Montse and Ous Jordi, there’s an exhibition of photos from the 1950s – I particularly like the one above of the Polleria Salut (healthy chicken) stall, who no longer seem to be present, but perhaps the family married or joined another stall in the market – I’d like to think that’s the case.

roast beeff

I was amused to find roast beeff (their spelling) on the Alex stall,

ternasco

but joking aside, their Ternasco de Aragón Marinat – Aragonese lamb marinated with olive oil, lemon, pepper, garlic and herbes de Provence, looks delicious.

carns selectes macià

Next door is Carnes Selectes Macià,

rolled meats

where I spotted this roll of breadcrumbs, mince, chicken and spinach.

bar el rincón

Bar el Rincón is cute, with seating for 8 people. I bet they have a large breakfast trade and a carajillo (expresso with rum or brandy), at 11.30, is a popular morning pick up. You can tell they’ve been busy by the rubbish left underneath the stools!

seating

There’s even a large seating area to sit down and rest your weary feet, not to mention a little Magic Roundabout by the door!

il raviolo

Il Raviolo sells fresh and dry pasta, sauces, pesto, cheeses and aromatised oils. To the left of the stall, they even have their own kitchen where the pasta and sauces are made.

xarcuteria carles

I’m not a huge fan of pre made pizza, but Xarcuteria Carles

pizza y confit

may have changed my mind. I’d definitely buy their confit de canard.

murgula

Silvia pointed out some fungi, called Murgula (Morchella), which are imported from Turkey.

tortillas

These hand made tortillas contain mushrooms

dauphinoise

and just look at these slabs of dauphinoise potatoes!

We were delighted by Mercat Galvany – many of the stalls retain their original features and the quality of the food is stunning. I will definitely be coming back here to shop! The produce is not cheap, but as they say, “Lo barato siempre sale caro” – “The cheap always comes out expensive.”

Tired and by now starving, we went in search of a suitable lunch…

Mercat Galvany is at: C/de Santaló 65, 08021, Barcelona.

Opening hours, Monday to Saturday: 07.00  – 14.30, Friday: 07.00 – 20.00.

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Bitacora

bitacora

Back in Cataluña (I had to pinch myself twice), it’s Thursday and sunny out, so I arranged to meet Adrian and friends for lunch in Poblenou. This is the old industrial suburb of Barcelona, somewhat transformed since the 1992 Olympics, with a large population of artists, it’s own quiet Rambla and long sandy beach. I left the choice of restaurant up to Adrian, who’s always good at finding an excellent spot for a Menú del Día. Today was no exception – Bitacora (binnacle – stand or case for on deck compass and navigation instruments) was a great find!

menú del día

Bitacora is several streets off the main Rambla de Raval, but nevertheless, was full of people, mostly locals, which is always a good sign. The restaurant offers 3 courses for €11 including bread and a drink.

vi rosat

My vino rosado arrived while we waited

vi negre

…but I couldn’t help feeling jealous of Julia’s house red, which came in a larger half carafe.

paella marinera

I chose Paella Marinera (seafood paella), as did Adrian and Julia, for my first course. Thursday is paella day in Poblenou, so I’d been expecting to find this on the menu. As you can see, the portions are generous.

enchilada de pollo

Geppe had a most intriguing starter of Enchilada de Pollo – a chicken enchilada, minus the corn tortilla. Unusual, but delicious

pa

…and there was some very good bread to hand.

vitello tonnato

Julia ordered a stunning Vitello Tonnato as her segundo plato – an Italian cold sliced veal dish with a creamy, tuna flavoured mayonnaise.

bacalao al pil pil

The rest of us had a Basque dish – Bacalao al Pil Pil  – salt cod cooked with garlic in olive oil (served with fried potatoes here) – if you can master this dish it’s considered to be the sign of a good cook. The oil should thicken and become a sauce during cooking, the garlic helps in this as it contains a natural emulsifier, along with gelatine in the cod. Pil-pil is the sound of something bubbling while cooking.

lemon pie

Puddings are included in the price of the menú del día, but Bitacora also has some posh, home made, postres (which reminded me of home), costing an additional Euro. I opted for Lemon Pie, which turned out to be Lemon Meringue Pie.

crumble de manzana

Adrian and Geppe ordered Crumble de Manzana con Helado – Apple Crumble with Ice Cream.

carajillo

Afterwards, I had the usual carajillo de cognac (for courage). Julia had a large brandy and coffee, since (as she said) she hadn’t had all those pudding calories.

Our lunch was excellent and the service was prompt and friendly.

Bitacora is at: Plaça Unió 24, 08005, Poblenou, Barcelona.

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Conejo al Vino (Rabbit with Wine)

rabbit with wine

This is a simple Spanish rabbit recipe, with the ingredients kept to a minimum – probably what’s local and to hand. The flavour goes a long way to proving the old adage, that less is more!

conejo

Rabbit is not an indigenous British species, it’s thought that they were brought here by the Romans or Normans, to farm for meat and fur. Vegetable farmers have to do a considerable amount of shooting and trapping in order to protect their crops (our food). It’s all very well for rabbit lovers and vegetarians to protest, but countries like Australia have biblical plagues of rabbits, which, like locusts, eat everything in their path. I’m not suggesting eliminating rabbits, but we should be eating them instead of factory farmed chicken. Wild rabbits get culled regardless. In New Zealand they are planning to eliminate rabbit completely with a disease. To be fair to New Zealanders, the rabbit is not a native species and it probably outnumbers the 4.5 million human population by at least ten to one. Apparently 7 – 10 rabbits consume the same amount of vegetation as a ewe in a single day (though sheep arrived by boat, with the British, too!). But I digress, so on with the recipe…

chopped

Conejo al Vino recipe (serves 2 – 3 people)

1 wild rabbit (jointed)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped) or a little Spanish jamón serrano
1 large onion (chopped)
a whole head of garlic (finely chopped)
500ml dry white wine
a splash red wine vinegar
rabbit blood (optional)
a few sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 heaped dessertspoons of plain flour
1 teaspoon of rosemary, sage and thyme (a few sprigs of each), juniper berries, coarse sea salt and black peppercorns ground in a mortar and pestle
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for cooking

sangre

Save the blood to thicken the sauce later on (pour a little red wine vinegar into it to stop it coagulating).

browning

Cut the rabbit up into about 6 pieces. Dredge the meat in seasoned flour (I mix in a teaspoon of ground herbs and juniper berries) and brown lightly (in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan) in extra virgin olive oil. When the rabbit has a little colour remove it to a plate. Do include the heart, liver and kidneys for flavour – if they are not your thing, you can remove them before serving.

bacon, onions and garlic

Using the same cast iron casserole and oil, fry the onion with the bacon. When the onion goes translucent, stir in the garlic. After a few minutes, sprinkle on any leftover flour and mix to form a roux.

thyme for wine

Pour in the wine and a splash of red wine vinegar. Return the rabbit to the pot, along with a few sprigs of thyme and 2 bay leaves. Bring the liquid to a simmer and allow it to bubble away for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol, before putting the lid on and removing the casserole to a preheated oven at 150ºC. Cook for about an hour and turn the rabbit about half way through.

blood

After 60 minutes, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Stir in the blood to thicken the sauce.

conejo al vino

Return the casserole to the oven for a final 10 to 15 minutes with the lid off. The rabbit is done when it feels tender to a fork. Serve with mashed potato and seasonal vegetables. I recommend dry white wine as an accompaniment, or better still, cava!

lead pellet

As with all game, mind your teeth – watch out for lead shot and pellets.

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Bar Douro

bar douro

I had lunch with Oli yesterday, at a Portuguese restaurant in Southwark called Bar Douro.

bar

Bar Douro is a bit hidden away in a railway arch off Flat Iron Square, but once inside, the traditional Portuguese tiled bar (above) is stunning, which lead me to expect authentic Portuguese food and wine – I was not disappointed.

meio queijo

Oli had arrived slightly ahead of me and had a bottle of Meio Quijo Douro, open and waiting. The restaurant is owned by Max Graham of the Graham’s Port dynasty. This hearty Douro red is from the family estate and very drinkable at £23 per bottle. The bar itself, is named after Douro, the wine region famous for port, so this is exactly the right thing to drink.

combo menu

We ordered from the 3 course Lunch Combo Menu, which costs £11.50 – drinks are extra, but the price is good for London.

pataniscas de bacalhau

I was immediately taken by the Bacalhau (Bacalao) dishes and ordered Pataniscas de Bacalhau (salt cod fritters). These were perfect – a delicious fluffy mixture of salt cod, flour, eggs, onions and parsley, deep fried, with a spicy sauce on the side.

croquetes de alheira

Oli had the beautifully presented Croquetes de Alheira – crispy croquetas containing smokey garlic Alheira sausage (a Portuguese Jewish creation, containing no pork) and served with a little lemon mayonnaise.

bacalhau à brás

I had the second salt cod dish on the menu too, Bacalhau à Brás – shredded salt cod with fried onions and potatoes, bound together with eggs and garnished with sliced olives and chopped parsley. This was quite a big plateful and extremely satisfying.

pig cheeks

Oli ordered Braised Pork cheek with Turnip Top Salsa Verde. The cheeks were melt in the mouth tender and perfect with the sauce.

polvo

Being hungry greedy boys, we went off piste in order to try the restaurant’s signature dish – Octopus (polvo) with sweet potato. By this time, we’d had a couple of bottles of wine and it was a quiet day, so we got talking with all the staff. Our chef Joderick came over to chat to us and we were discussing equivalent words and expressions between Spanish and Portuguese – the two languages are both derived from Vulgar Latin and have many words in common, but I digress. Joderick described the process of cooking the octopus – he said he always freezes the polvo beforehand to break down the tissue and make it tender. He went on to say he steams the defrosted octopus for 12 hours before charring briefly and serving. This was definitely one of the best cooked octopuses I’ve ever had – slightly caramelised and smokey from the griddle on the outside and mouthwateringly tender in the middle.

pastel de nata

For pudding, I had Portugal’s well known Pastel de Nata (custard tart) – this was every bit as good as the famous tarts made by Lisboa on Goldbourne Road and comes with cinnamon ice cream on the side. Oli had a waffer thin taste, before going off to choose the port.

churchill’s port flight

We were unable to resist the Churchill’s Port Flight, a taster of 3 family ports – White Port (normally an aperitif), a 10 Year Old Tawny and a Late Bottled Vintage. Churchill’s was founded in 1981 by John Graham, who wanted to create a new family port with it’s own individual style – it is named after his wife, Caroline Churchill.

We enjoyed a fantastic lunch here and will definitely go back. The staff were exceptionally friendly and the food was delicious.

Bar Douro is at: Flat Iron Square, 62-66 Union Street, Arch 35b, London SE1 1TD.

Posted in Drink, Eating Out, Fish, Food, Meat, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Paloma en Escabeche

pigeon in escabeche

Escabeche is a method of food preservation, using vinegar (and sometimes citrus juice), invented by the Persians  many centuries ago. Both the Greeks and Romans used vinegar as a preservative, so escabeche might have reached Spain before the the Moorish conquest of Iberia but it certainly became popular during their reign. The Spanish added an extra taste dimension to escabeche when they discovered South America 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, muscles, 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.

perdiz roja

Most if not all of these foods in escabeche (listed above) can be found canned in delicatessens and supermarkets across Spain (and specialty Spanish shops around the world). You may remember a post I made some time ago on the Perdiz Roca (red-legged partridge) I found at Casa Petit in Barcelona. Bought food in escabeche can be quite spectacular, but cooking at home takes it up a notch – all the way to eleven!

paloma

Paloma en Escabeche (pigeon in escabeche) recipe:

1 pigeon (per person)
1 medium onion (thinly sliced)
8 cloves garlic bruised and peeled
1 carrot sliced into batons
1 lemon (unwaxed and thinly sliced)
250ml extra virgin olive oil
125ml dry white wine
125ml red wine vinegar
a heaped teaspoon pimentón de la vera dulce
10 black peppercorns
a pinch of ground chilli
3 bay leaves
2 cloves
4 sprigs of thyme
a teaspoon of sea salt

N.B. Escabeche may contain other ingredients too, such as saffron, olives, whole chillies, oregano, etc. It is thought that the origin of South American ceviche, may have it’s roots in Spanish Conquistadors taking food preserved in escabeche to the New World, along with citrus fruits.

pigeon in oil

This recipe should provide enough liquid for any small game bird and probably enough for several quail. This is quite a simple process, there’s no brining required, just cooking, cooling and a little patience while the escabeche marinates over a few days.

browning

Pour enough of the olive oil into a cast iron casserole to brown the pigeon all over and caramelise the sugars in the skin.

browned

When done, remove the pigeon to a plate.

vegetables

Pour in the remaining oil and fry the onion and carrot for a few minutes before stirring in the garlic, thyme, peppercorns, chilli, cloves, salt and bay leaves.

salsa

Add the white wine and red wine vinegar then bring the casserole up to a simmer.

pigeon simmering

Return the pigeon to the pan

pigeon with lemon

and position the lemon slices around the edge. Put the lid on and place the dish into a pre heated oven at 120ºC for an hour. Turn the pigeon over half way through.

paloma en escabeche

Allow the pigeon and escabeche to cool down before sealing in a glass jar. At this point the sauce will taste nice, but will improve considerably over several days. Do not put all the lemon slices in the jar, as the citrus flavour will become overpowering (I recommend using no more than 2 slices). Make sure the bird is fully covered by the sauce! Keep the escabeche refrigerated for a few days before serving. Serve, either chilled with salad or reheated, this makes for a perfect lunch or starter at supper time. 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. Once the pigeon is eaten, any leftover sauce can be used as a dip for good quality bread or for adding a little kick when cooking fish, pork or other meat.

Posted in Drink, Food, Game, Meat, Recipes, Spanish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments