AROMA THERAPY



For me, nothing beats the salivating bouquet of garlic and onions sweating in olive oil. It’s the first easy step of so many recipes, but it’s also the one that so many people seem to get so wrong. Do not brown your garlic as this leaves a strong, slightly bitter aftertaste in the finished dish. Make sure you warm your pan slightly, and then add a little olive oil. This way you will use less oil saving you money, because the oil spreads and thins out in the warm pan. Add the onions and garlic, and then place them over a gentle heat. Let them cook slowly without colour, stirring with a wooden spoon. Don’t fry, but sweat them gently to encourage them to release the heavenly smell that can fill your kitchen with this most amazing, mellow aroma. Long slow cooking of garlic removes most of its pungency and should pacify even the most ardent garlic-haters. Spanish Restaurants are awash with garlic from marinated olives, aioli, chorizo and anchovies. In spring young green garlic shoots called “Ajos Tiernos” are simply grilled and sprinkled with olive oil and sea salt or stirred into scrambled eggs known as “Revueltos”. Fresh clams or mussels are perfect partners and are often served “a la marinera”. “Merluza en salsa Verde con almejas” is one of Spain’s most famous dishes. It is fillets of hake with clams, garlic and parsley and it’s a national institution in the Basque region along with a garlicky salt cod dish called “bacalao al pil pil”. In Mallorca we have P’amb oli, which consists of rubbing country bread with olive oil, garlic cloves and crushed tomatoes while in the south, just about anything, including chicken, rabbit and prawns are fried “al ajillo” and come sizzling on hot oil with copious amounts of the stuff. I know there are some people who are still wary of garlic, and in its raw state it can be a little daunting. That said, it can’t be all bad. The Egyptians worshipped garlic and placed clay models of garlic bulbs in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Garlic was so highly prized; it was even used as currency. Recent studies have shown that garlic lowers cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart disease, fights infection and boosts immunity. And let us not forget to mention the alleged aphrodisiacal powers of garlic, which have been extolled through the ages. And then off course, there’s that amazing aroma.

AJO BLANCO MALAGUEÑO
Ingredients: serves 6

150g peeled almonds

3 garlic cloves (peeled)
600ml milk

150ml water

100ml olive oil
2tbsp's. Sherry vinegar
50g fresh white bread
Seasoning

Place the peeled almonds and garlic cloves in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and pour over the milk and water. Cook over a gentle flame for 30-35 minutes until the almonds are soft and cooked. Add the white bread and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and place in a food processor and blend to a puree. Whisk in the olive oil, season and pass through a fine sieve. Chill for at least 3-4 hours in the fridge and pour into a flask.

CORDERO A LA RIOJANA RIOJAN LAMB STEW

Ingredients: serves 4-6
1.2 kg shoulder of lamb (boned and cubed)
250ml olive oil
1tspn. paprika
1 Spanish onion (peeled and finely chopped)
3 carrots (peeled and chopped)
1 leek (washed and chopped)

2 garlic cloves (crushed)
300g tomatoes (peeled, de-seeded and chopped)
30g flour
100ml chicken stock
200g shelled peas
300g diced potatoes

2 cooked artichokes (trimmed and quartered)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 sprig of parsley (finely chopped)
seasoning

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and fry the meat in hot oil until brown. Add the onion, leeks, carrots, red pepper and fresh thyme, fry gently until the vegetables start to colour. Add the crushed garlic, paprika and stir in the flour. Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the shelled peas and artichokes and simmer for a further 20 minutes. Fry the potatoes in hot oil until golden brown. Add to the saucepan and cook for a further minutes. Season to taste, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

BASQUE STYLE FILLETS OF HAKE WITH SALSA VERDE AND CLAMS

Ingredients: serves 4

4 hake fillets (300g each)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
100ml olive oil
2tbsp chopped parsley
500ml fish stock
20 clams
1tbsp flour


Heat the olive oil gently in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the garlic and stir in the flour. Stirring gently, add half the fish stock and bring to the boil for 1 minute. Season the hake fillets and then add them to the pan, skin side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes then turn the fillets over and add the clams. Cook gently for another 3-4 minutes, adding more fish stock when necessary. Remove from the heat; add the chopped parsley, season and serve.

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