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Showing posts with the label Mediterranean Food

Wild Asparagus time in Mallorca

Wild asparagus or “Ttrigueros” as they are known here in Spain, grow all over the Island of Mallorca in March and April.  The locals spend hours scouring the fields and roadsides filling their baskets with them. 
Growing wild throughout the Mediterranean, the Romans are believed to have been the first to domesticate asparagus. After the fall of the Roman Empire, asparagus was cultivated in their monastery gardens, along with medicinal herbs. Cultivated for more the 2000 years, asparagus will grow wherever it can find a good footing. Wild Asparagus loves secluded hedgerows and undisturbed country roads. When choosing asparagus, look for firm, brightly- coloured spears with tight, crisp tips. (Very large stalks tend to come from older plants and can be tough.). If the stalks bend without breaking it’s a good sign that they have definitely seen better days. Asparagus is usually boiled or steamed, but can be grilled or roasted for a different, slightly nutty flavour. There is a special aspa…

"The Rolls Royce of Rice."

As a chef, I’m more than a little obsessive about finding the best ingredients for my kitchen; I also believe that we as cooks have a duty to really get to know and understand where those ingredients come from, how they are made and why they are so special.
One of the ingredients that I’m obsessing about right now is Acquerello rice. It’s organic, aged Italian carnaroli rice. That's right, aged! It is grown using a crop rotation system and is the only rice variety sown on the farm, to avoid the possibility of inadvertent hybridisation with other varieties. After the harvest, the grains of Acquerello carnaroli are aged from one to three years, a process which, by allowing the rice to “breathe”, optimising its qualities and characteristics. Aging renders starch, proteins and vitamins less water-soluble, improving the consistency of the grains and enabling them to absorb more cooking liquid. When cooked, the grains become bigger, firmer, do not

Turn the other cheek

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At our restaurant, we love to slow cook delicious, tender beef cheeks until they practically melt in your mouth. They are consistently popular with our guests; especially during the winter months when there is a little chill in the air. I would argue that stewing and braising are the quintessence of good home cooking. Rich comfort food with robust flavours in the shape of pot roasts, casseroles, hot pots and stews, cooked slowly to create memorable dishes that are not only delicious but also economical.
There is a myth that slow cooking is a lot of bother and takes too much time. The reality is that braising can be quick and easy to produce, leaving you time to get on with other things while the meat is cooking and tempting you with all those fabulous aromas that float around the kitchen.

SPICED CHICKPEA & SPINACH PATTIES WITH HARRISA MAYONNAISE

Ingredientsserves 4
400g cooked chickpeas, drained 150g spinach, cleaned and chopped 1 tbsp ras el hanout 1 large egg yolk 2 tbsp Gram chickpea flour, plus extra for dusting Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

SOUL FOOD

--> When it's cold outside and the rain is lashing against the windows we tend to look to uncomplicated comfort foods, certain dishes that can be easily made from simple ingredients to warm our souls and sooth our cold bones. If you are looking for a little comfort during the long winter nights, there’s nothing more satisfying than a big bowl of steaming hot soup.

For most of us, soup represents nourishment, healing and comfort and the secret to good soup is to make the perfect stock.
Stocks need a little care and attention but if you follow these basic rules, you’ll be rewarded with clear-looking, healthy broths with flavours that are true and clean. For a simple chicken stock, place 2 clean chicken carcasses in a large saucepan and cover them with cold water. Bring the stock slowly to the boil and skim the impurities and fat from the surface as they rise to the top. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Add 2 small diced onions, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2 sliced carrots…

MALLORCA'S CHEF POWER

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These days there are so many great little restaurants all over Mallorca where talented, young chefs have opened their own establishments in far-flung villages such as LLubi, Selva, Caimari, Orient, Llosesta and Mancor de la Vall as well as the Island's capital, Palma. They are the type of restaurant where you can really feel the passion and see and enjoy all the different styles and philosophies of each chef. They are not the faceless type of restaurant opened out of vanity by people who can't even boil an egg and have never even worked one day in our industry.

The secret of Umami: Unlocking the fifth taste.

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This week I received a little present from the Michelin starred chef, Ricard Camarena. Apparently he has spent the last few years developing a new product called “Letern” and he very kindly sent a nicely packaged bottle to all the Michelin starred chefs in Spain. Ricard Camarena has been using this anchovy essence for the last six years as a taste enhancer and as a substitute for salt in his stocks and broths, whether they contain fish, meat or vegetables. “Anchovy brine is my salt”, he states, “It’s the umami of the sea and has everything the sea contains: salt, iodine, oxide and the salting of fish over time”. I must admit that I liked it a lot and it has inspired me to make my own mix.

So what is umami and why are chefs obsessing over it?

MEDITERRANEAN PEACHES

The markets are bursting with fresh fruits including luscious strawberries, stunning looking cherries, thirst quenching melons, the season’s first figs, awesome apricots, plums, nectarines and succulent peaches are all jostling for position on the local market stalls.

Although I absolutely adore all these fruits, for my money, nothing beats the succulence of sweet, aromatic Mediterranean peaches, bursting with flavour. 
They provide delicious eating but can also be used in so many different and interesting ways in the kitchen. They can be poached in sugar syrup with cinnamon, vanilla and cloves, roasted with cardamom or pan-fried and caramelised with brown sugar and almonds. Peaches also make perfect partners for champagne, cassis and calvados and they combine perfectly with ginger, lemons, oranges, strawberries and hazelnuts. Pan-fried foie gras or roast duck are amazingly good with glazed peaches and sweet and sour peach chutney can really liven up cold meats, pâté and salads.

MARC FOSH RESTAURANT

Ingredients we love!

--> 1,SumacIf you have never tried cooking with Sumac, a decorative bush that grows wild throughout the Middle East and parts of Italy, you should seek it out and give it a try. I must admit that I love it and the dark purple-red berries are sold dried or ground and have a fruity, astringent taste. Sumac is used in the cooking of Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Iran. Ground sumac is rubbed into meats for grilling and is good with potatoes, beetroot, and in mixed bean salads. It can also be added to marinades, salad dressings, sauces and yogurt.
2, za’atar is another incredibly versatile middle eastern spice blend and a fantastic ingredient to have kicking around your kitchen. It is made by grinding hyssop leaves to a coarse, aromatic, brownish green powder then mixing the powder with olive oil, toasted sesame

“Se venden como Churros”

As if anyone needed another reason to eat chocolate, recently published research showed that dark chocolate and cocoa may help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke, and provide other cardiovascular benefits, multiple studies have shown. Good quality dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids, believed to improve the flexibility of blood vessels. Unfortunately, it only counts if eaten in moderation!
Once known as ‘the food of the gods' in Aztec culture, the story of chocolate really began with the discovery of the Americas when Columbus returned in triumph and laid before the Spanish throne a treasure trove of strange and wonderful things.

DRESSED TO KILL

Good salads are essential to help you stay cool and healthy during the hot summer months and they do not have to be boring and tasteless.
I was pleasantly surprised walking around my local supermarket the other day at the many different varieties of lettuce and salad leaves available. You don’t even have to go through the hassle of cleaning your lettuce as you can buy ready mixed salad leaves, full of different flavours, textures and colours all cleaned and ready to eat. All you need to do is drizzle the leaves with a little dressing at the last minute and tuck in.

Sweet Pea!

The taste and texture of fresh peas has almost been forgotten in these times of convenience and frozen foods. Most people can’t even remember the last time they tasted sweet, fresh peas straight from the pod and rely solely on the frozen or, worse still, the tinned ones that sit in a fowl-smelling, cloudy liquid. I’m a big fan of fresh peas and early spring is the best time to use them.

“Life is like a pancake. No matter how flat or rough it is, it always has two sides…”

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Let’s face it…who doesn’t like pancakes? They have been popular in some shape or form the world over for centuries and Archaeological evidence suggests that pancakes are probably the earliest and most widespread cereal food eaten in prehistoric societies dating back to 5th century B:C!

With their beautifully freckled surface, glistening straight from the pan, pancakes are delicious eaten simply with lemon juice and sugar, but they can be filled with a variety of sweet ingredients such as maple syrup, fruit, ice cream or chocolate sauce.

POTAJE…..Spanish One-pot wonders

Miserable weather calls for desperate measures. It’s a time to indulge in heart-warming dishes designed to keep out the cold, simple recipes to revive flagging spirits and jaded palates. I must admit that I rarely cook at home, but when I do I love to throw everything into one pot and place it in the middle of the table for serving. It not only saves on the washing-up but it also helps to stimulate and heighten your senses so you can enjoy your meal even more. One-pot dishes are real comfort food at this time of the year, winter warmers that sooth the soul. The Spanish of a great variety of one pot dishes called “potajes”. This basically means stew or mixture/jumble, this is peasant, rustic food and each region throughout Spain has one or two specialties normally prepared with pulses.

A Mediterranean Herb Garden

--> I couldn’t imagine my kitchen without fresh herbs. A simple dish can be transformed by using a few fresh herbs as they greatly enhance the taste, appearance and nutritional value of practically all the food we eat.

The word “herb” comes from the Latin herba, meaning grass or green plant. These days we associate herbs for their culinary and medicinal value. In the kitchen, bland food can be made exciting with the addition of herbs and they can also help to enhance and bring out the natural flavours of food in a similar way to salt, but it is important to use herbs correctly. Too many herbs can overpower and completely overshadow the natural flavour of food and too little in a dish will achieve nothing. The addition of herbs must be balanced to complement the natural flavours that are already in foods. They do deteriorate very quickly once they’ve been picked, so by growing a small selection of herbs, even in pots or a window box, they will always be on hand when you need t…

BACK TO LIFE

-->Paprika is one of those things that most of us take for granted, but its importance in Spain’s regional cookery cannot be overstated. It lends it’s deep, intense, sweet, spicy flavour to many of the country’s favourite dishes including “paella”, “habas a la Asturiana”, “sopa de ajo” as well as a multitude of “chorizos” and off course, local “sobrasada”. It is produced from cone-shaped peppers (capsicum annuum) that are ripened to redness and was introduced to Spain by natives of Hispaniola during Columbus’ second voyage to the New World in 1493. Hungarian scientist Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1937 for isolating vitamin C in paprika. He also discovered that, pound for pound, paprika is a richer source of the vitamin than citrus and the red spice quickly became an important ingredient in preserving meats and sausages.

MEDITERRANEAN SPICE

--> I love the smell of the gently toasted spices and the way they fill the kitchen with the most amazing aroma. The sheer variety of flavours that they have to offer and can bring to a dish is endless, but seasoning with herbs and spices means complimenting your dishes, not overwhelming and hiding the true flavour of the food.
Mediterranean cooks have been blending spices for centuries and they were among the first of many foods brought back to Europe from the east by Marco polo. Spices encouraged the early voyages of Columbus and Vasco

Love your local market

Every time I visit a Spanish city I always try to visit its food market or ‘mercado’ as its known here in Spain.  Every town seems to have at least one market and cities will often have two or three. You could argue that the heart of any Spanish city is its central market.
Recently I found myself in Barcelona and I was excited to visit the famous “La Boquieria”. This market has a worldwide reputation and I really enjoyed my first visit nearly 20 years ago.
I have to say that this time I found it extremely disappointing and nothing more than a sad tourist trap with every stall filled with diced fresh fruit & juices on ice for the amateur Japanese photographers to take away. It made me realise just how good our “Mercat de L’olivar” here in Palma really is and I truly believe we are blessed with one of the best markets in all of Spain.

The Big Food Issue

I am reading two books at the moment with two very different views on the organic food debate. One is extolling the virtues of choosing organic because it is produced in non-intensive ways that avoid synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, arguing that is prohibits routine antibiotics and growth-promoting drugs and safeguards and nurtures our most precious asset - the soil. I can buy into that and believe every word. Then I read from the other book that claims that the multi-billion euro organic food market is, for the most part, a gigantic con, and its willing victims are the affluent middle classes who see it as just a trendy lifestyle choice.