Bacalao al horno con pimientos (Baked Salt Cod with Peppers)

The full name for salt cod in Spanish is bacalao en salazón but it is so popular that it is simply known as bacalao (cod). If you want fresh cod you actually have to specify and ask for bacalao fresco. Salt cod features in traditional recipes all over Spain such as Bakailaoa Bizkaiko from the Basque Country, Ajo Arriero from Castilla la Mancha, Bacalao a la Galega from Galicia, Esgarraet from Valencia or Buñuelos de Bacalao from all over Spain. This recipe however is an adaptation of a dish one of my parent’s friends from Tenerife used to make. The original chef refused to share the recipe with my mother but she worked it out herself and since then it has become a family favourite.

In my house we traditionally save this recipe for special occasions such as Good Friday when we are meant to abstain from meat and Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve in Spain is BIG and is actually more elaborate than Christmas Day itself.

Before cooking salt cod you have to desalt otherwise it would be completely inedible!

How to desalt salt cod:

1 Wash the salt cod pieces under cold running water to remove the visible salt off the surface.

2 Completely submerge the salt cod in cold water and leave to soak in the fridge.

3 You need to soak the salt cod for at least 48 hours and change the water every 6 – 12 hours.

4 To check if it has been desalted enough you can try a piece of the flesh; it should be slightly salty but not a kick in the teeth.  bacalaodesalaoIngredients

1 kg salt cod pieces, desalted

4 peeled potatoes, cut into medium thick rounds

1-2 onions, half moons

1 red pepper, cut into strips

2 ripe tomatoes, grated

2 tsp. sweet pimentón

1 Tbsp. sugar

200g pitted green olives

1 glass white wine or beer (water is also an option)

Method

1 Boil the potatoes in unsalted water for around 10 minutes; they do not need to be fully cooked as they will be baked later on. Once they are cooked, rinse in cold water and layer on the bottom of an ovenproof dish. bacalao12 Fry onions until slightly translucent and then add the peppers for 1 – 2 minutes. bacalao23 Add pimentón and then quickly add the grated tomato to make sure the pimentón doesn’t burn. Mix well and then add sugar and wine or beer. Cook on a low flame. bacalao34 Meanwhile cook the bacalao in cold water until it comes to a boil and then carefully strain making sure you don’t break the fish. Save some of the water from boiling the salt cod and add to the pepper sauce. At this point you can remove the sauce from the heat. bacalao45 Now it’s time to assemble: lay the salt cod pieces on top of the potatoes, spoon over the sauce and add olives. Make sure there is enough sauce to submerge the potatoes, if not add some wine/beer/water. Bake in a hot preheated oven for 20 – 30 minutes. bacalao5

Serve and enjoy. I also like it cold but each to their own. bacalao6

Advertisements

Dim Sum Black Bean Spareribs 豉汁蒸排骨

If you go to westernised Chinese restaurants you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with spareribs and black bean dishes but forget that, this is authentic Chinese cooking. These  spareribs are steamed with whole black beans and are a quintessential dish in any good Dim Sum restaurant.

Fermented black beans, known as Douchi (豆豉), are salted and fermented black soybeans that are used often in Chinese cuisine. They are primarily used as a seasoning and are not meant to be consumed in large quantities; you don’t want to eat a whole bowl of them.

Ingredients

500g pork spareribs

1 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground white pepper

1 Tbsp. light soy sauce

2 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine

3 garlic cloves, minced

4cm fresh ginger, julienned

1 Tbsp. Douchi (Salted/Fermented Black Beans), rinsed

1 ½ Tbsp. cornflour (or potato/tapioca starch)

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

1 spring onion (optional)

Method

1 Marinade the pork spareribs with all the ingredients except the cornflour and sesame oil for at least 30 minutes or preferably overnight if you have the time. dimsumspareribs12 Just before cooking, add the cornflour to the ribs and mix well until evenly coated. The cornflour helps to tenderise the meat. Arrange the ribs on a plate that fits inside your steamer. dimsumspareribs23 Bring a pan of water to a boil (I boil the water in a kettle to speed up the process) and steam the spareribs on a medium heat for 20 – 25 minutes. The spareribs are done once the bone has retracted from the meat but not falling off the bone. dimsumspareribs34 Drizzle with sesame oil and garnish with spring onions. Serve as part of Dim Sum or as a standalone meal with steamed rice. dimsumspareribs4

Chilli Tamarind Rabbit

I love rabbit but I know that a lot of people just see them as pets and think it’s cruel to eat them. Funny how they don’t bat an eyelid when they are happily munching on other animals that are not traditionally kept as pets but hey-ho, each to their own.

This recipe is mainly based on Thai cuisine with influence from other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia but it was entirely created in my Frightful kitchen. Rabbit is not eaten in Thailand, except for perhaps in high-end westernised restaurants, but the flavours in this dish really go well with the gamey taste of rabbit.

If you have any qualms about rabbit you can easily use chicken or any other meat instead.

Ingredients

1 whole rabbit (approx. 1kg), cut into pieces

5cm fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

1/2 lemongrass stalk

3 Thai chillies

1 Tbsp. Shrimp Paste (I used Indonesian Belachan but any type will do)

Approx. 80g seedless tamarind block (can use 5-6 Tbsp of store-bought tamarind concentrate)

White pepper, to taste

2 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. black soy sauce (see ew dum ซีอิ๊วดำ) or Kecap Manis

1 1/2 Tbsp. fish sauce

5 kaffir lime leaves, bruised and torn

1 Spring onion, sliced

Method

1 Make a ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chilli paste in a mortar and pestle and then add shrimp paste. Combine well and reserve for later. chillitamarindrabbit12 Soak tamarind block in enough hot water to slightly cover and soak for 15 minutes. Using your hands squeeze the pulp and then use a sieve to make 5-6 Tbsp of tamarind. N.B. Store-bought tamarind concentrate works perfectly fine too just make sure it is from Thailand as Indian Tamarind for example is completely different. P.S. Excuse the photos of the tamarind; yes, I know exactly what it looks like… chillitamarindrabbit23 Marinade rabbit in 5-6 Tbsp of tamarind, white pepper, honey, black soy sauce and fish sauce. Leave to marinade for 30 minutes or preferably overnight. chillitamarindrabbit34 Fry the paste in some vegetable oil for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and then add the rabbit and mix well with the paste. Fry the rabbit for a few minutes until the flesh is no longer translucent and then add cold water until it is just covering the rabbit. Bring to a boil, add kaffir lime leaves and then braise on low for 30 – 40 minutes. chillitamarindrabbit45 Add spring onion and serve with Thai jasmine rice. chillitamarindrabbit8

Thai Chilli Coconut Prawns

Using Thai flavour profiles I came up with this dish using left over น้ำพริกเผา Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chilli Paste) from my ต้มยำกุ้งน้ำข้น Tom Yum Goong Nam Khon (Thai Hot & Sour Creamy Prawn Soup) recipe and a bit of my own ingenuity.

You can just as easily make this recipe with peeled prawns but personally I love whole prawns because then you can enjoy sucking the prawns and its head! mmmm prawn brains, my fave!

Ingredients

500g whole prawns

1 stalk lemongrass

4cm galangal

3 garlic cloves

2 Thai red chillies

1 ½ Tbsp. น้ำพริกเผา Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chilli Paste/Jam)

1 Tbsp. Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce)

1 Tsp. palm sugar

1 lime, juiced

1 cup coconut milk

3 kaffir lime leaves, torn up

Method

1 Using a mortar and pestle pound the garlic, lemongrass, galangal and Thai chillies into a paste and then incorporate the Nam Prik Pao. namprikprawns12 Fry this paste in vegetable oil for 1 minute and then add the prawns. Toss and fry for a few minutes making sure you coat the prawns in the aromatic paste. namprikprawns23 Add coconut milk, Nam Pla and palm sugar; fry for a few minutes until the sauce slightly reduces. namprikprawns34 Add lime leaves and lime juice and fry for 1-2 minutes. namprikprawns45 Serve with a bowl of Thai jasmine rice. namprikprawnsfeatured

Chinese Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐

Tofu doesn’t have the best reputation in the western world: it has been shunned by omnivores and carnivores and monopolised by vegetarians and vegans. It doesn’t have to be this way; tofu is much tastier than people give it credit for especially when it’s swimming in a fiery sauce. So if you are on the fence about tofu, give this recipe a go. It might just blow your mind; if not, at least it’ll blow your tastebuds!

Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐 is a quintessential Chinese dish from the Sichuan province that is known for its numbing spiciness also known as Ma la 麻辣. In the western world however, Chinese restaurants tend to tone it down to cater to the local palate or even transform it into a vegetarian/vegan dish as most people who would even order a tofu dish will most likely be vegetarian or vegan.

There are two ingredients in this recipe that you may have trouble finding if you don’t have an Asian supermarket at hand:

  • Douchi 豆豉, often labelled as Salted/Fermented Black Beans, are fermented black soybeans that are used as a flavouring in authentic Chinese cuisine. In the western world they tend to be mashed into a gloopy sauce and used to make a variety of Black Bean dishes. To use: Rinse the beans in cold water and use either whole or minced.
  • Pixian Doubanjiang 郫县豆瓣酱, often labelled as Pixian Douban or Chili Bean Sauce, is a spicy paste made with chillies and broad beans beans from Pixian, a district in Chengdu in the Sichuan province. It is the soul of Sichuan cuisine and used in practically everything. Outside of Sichuan, Doubanjiang is usually made with soybeans and is not spicy. If you can’t find Doubanjiang from Pixian at least make sure that you buy one that is made with chillies and broad beans rather than soybeans. To use: it is recommended to run a knife through the paste as sometimes there are big chunks of beans intact.  mapotofuingredients

Ingredients

500g soft tofu, cut into medium sized cubes

200g pork mince

1 ½ Tbsp. Douchi 豆豉, rinsed and minced

2 Tbsp. Pixian Doubanjiang 郫县豆瓣酱, roughly chopped

1 Tbsp. Sichuan peppercorn oil (optional)

2 tsp. chilli powder

4cm fresh ginger, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, finely diced

1 spring onion, finely diced (keep white and green part separate)

1 Tbsp. light soy sauce

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. cornflour (or potato/tapioca starch)

Cold water

Sesame oil, to taste

Ground Sichuan peppercorns, to taste

Method

Optional step:

If you wish you can make your own Sichuan peppercorn oil at home by dry frying the Sichuan peppercorn for a few minutes until aromatic and then adding vegetable oil for a few seconds to let it infuse. Drain and use just the flavoured oil. If not, skip. maposichuanoil1 Bring a pan of water to boil, lower the heat to medium and gently simmer tofu for 2 – 3 minutes and then strain with a slotted spoon making sure you don’t break the tofu. Keep aside. mapotofu12 Stir-fry the pork in vegetable oil until browned and then move to the edge of the wok/pan. Add the white part of the spring onion, garlic and ginger and stir fry until fragrant and then mix in the pork. mapotofu23 Move the mince to the edge of the wok/pan and fry off the Douchi and then incorporate with the mince.

4 Move the mince to the edge of the wok/pan and fry off the Pixian Doubanjiang until the oil turns red and then incorporate with the mince. mapotofu35 Add water (just enough to cover the tofu), chilli powder, Sichuan peppercorn oil and then bring to a boil.

6 Once it has come to a boil, lower the heat to medium and add the tofu. Shake the wok/pan to coat the tofu in the liquid and use a spatula to gently push the tofu back and forth. It is important to be careful and resist stirring as the tofu will break easily. Simmer for a few minutes.

7 Make a cornflour slurry by dissolving cornflour with 2 Tbsp. cold water. Add this slurry to the tofu and gently stir the liquid and shake the wok/pan to thicken the sauce. mapotofu48 Once the sauce has thickened remove from the heat and garnish with the green part of the spring onions, sesame oil and ground Sichuan peppercorns. DSC04546

ต้มยำกุ้งน้ำข้น Tom Yum Goong Nam Khon (Thai Hot & Sour Creamy Prawn Soup)

If you love Thai food you will undoubtedly be familiar with Tom Yum as it is Thailand’s quintessential soup but there’s a new kid on the block that has risen to popularity in Thailand. The main difference between these two soups is that the original known as Tom Yum Nam Sai ต้มยำน้ำใส has a clear broth whereas Tom Yum Nam Khon ต้มยำน้ำข้น is creamy. This creamy element is evaporated milk although you can use cream, milk or coconut milk. In fact, some people favour coconut milk which is also delicious but in this recipe I prefer evaporated milk because it is neutral and does not overpower it. If you are looking for a Thai coconut soup I recommend Tom Kha Gai.

As with most Thai soups, remember that the aromatics (lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves) are not meant to be eaten but as served in the bowl for flavour and a visual representation of its ingredients.

Ingredients

500g fresh whole prawns

5 cups water or chicken stock

2 stalks lemongrass, bruised & cut into long pieces

8 thick slices galangal

6 kaffir lime leaves, bruised & torn

3 Thai chillies, bruised

½ cup evaporated milk

150g oyster mushrooms

2 ½ Tbsp. น้ำพริกเผา Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chilli Paste)

2 – 3 limes, juiced

น้ำปลา Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce), to taste

Method

1 First off, make a prawn stock by removing the heads, shells and veins from the prawns (reserve the peeled prawns for later) and frying in a pan with a little oil for a few minutes until the shells turn bright red and have slightly caramelised. Add a bit of water to deglaze the pan and then add the remaining water. Bring to a boil and then simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes. Tomyum1Optional step: In order to maximise the prawn flavour you can blitz the stock using a hand blender and then straining through a fine mesh. Alternatively, you can just fish (pun intended) out the prawn shells out of the stock. I’ve never seen a Thai recipe that actually blitzes it but this is my personal touch. tomyum22 Once the prawn stock is ready bring back to gentle boil and add kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and chillies and then simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes to infuse the aromatics in the stock. tomyum33 Dilute the Nam Prik Pao with a few spoonfuls of stock and then add to the prawn stock along with the evaporated milk, 2 Tbsp. Nam Pla and oyster mushrooms. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes on medium heat. tomyum44 Add the shelled prawns to the soup and cook for about 1 minute or until the prawns are cooked to your preference.

5 Turn the heat off and cool slightly (around a minute) and then add half the lime juice. If you add the lime juice in the boiling stock you’ll lose the freshness and perhaps curdle the milk so it’s best to wait a little bit before ruining your hard work.

6 Taste test: taste the soup and adjust lime juice and fish sauce according to your personal preference but keep in mind that it should be quite sour. tomyum57 As with most Thai soups, serve with Thai Jasmine rice. If you’d rather go rogue and against Thai tradition just eat it on its own just like a western style soup; it’s your choice.
Tomyumnamkhon

Salmorejo: the lesser known cousin of Gazpacho

You wouldn’t be in the minority if you think that Gazpacho is just a cold tomato and vegetable soup consumed on hot summer days. However, there is actually more to Gazpacho than meets the eye; its family is far larger and older than most people realise.

It is thought that the primitive Gazpacho was just a mixture of stale bread, olive oil and vinegar consumed in Pre-Roman Spain; to this other ingredients were added and others were changed. Throughout time this Gazpacho evolved especially after the Columbian Exchange when tomatoes were introduced into Spain; can you imagine a gazpacho without tomato? Well, there are actually many that still survive such as Mazamorra (mixture of bread, olive oil, vinegar & almonds) & Ajoblanco (practically identical to Mazamorra but hailing from Malaga instead of Cordoba). On the other side of the spectrum there is Gazpacho Manchego (from La Mancha in central Spain) which may seem totally different as it is more of a hot stew made with meat and unleavened bread (click here for recipe).

The full name of the Gazpacho that most people recognise is Gazpacho Andaluz (Andalusian Gazpacho, from Andalusia in Southern Spain) and as established is a cold tomato and vegetable soup. Salmorejo, from Cordoba (also in Andalusia) is very similar but it uses more bread so it is thicker and only tomato is used instead of other vegetables (yes, I know technically a tomato is a fruit…). Traditionally it is topped off with hardboiled egg and Serrano Ham but if you are vegan you can easily skip the garnish and just enjoy the soup.

N.B. I always use a splash of vinegar in my Salmorejo but many Salmorejo purists believe vinegar has no place in Salmorejo. If you are a hardcore traditionalist, skip the vinegar but if you frankly don’t care, do whatever your heart desires. Remember, there is always more than one way to skin a cat.

Ingredients

Main:

1kg ripe tomatoes, quartered (you can remove the seeds and peel but it’s not necessary)

1 stale baguette, broken into pieces

1 clove garlic

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, as much as needed (we Mediterraneans tend to go overboard)

Splash of vinegar

Salt, to taste

1 tsp cumin powder (optional)

Garnish:

Hard boiled eggs, cubed

Serrano Ham, diced and lightly fried

Method

1 Place the quartered tomatoes into a bowl and add the garlic, bread, salt and cumin. Drizzle over a generous amount of olive oil and a splash of vinegar. Combine well, cover and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour. You can leave it overnight, if you wish. salmorejo12 Using a hand immersion blender (or high-speed blender/food processor such as a Thermomix) blend all the ingredients together and then add more olive oil until your desired consistency is reached. Bear in mind that it should be thick. Optionally, you can also strain the Salmorejo is you want it to be more velvety and without any trace of the tomato skins but it’s not necessary. salmorejo2Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour and prepare the garnish just before serving. salmorejo34 Pour some Salmorejo into a bowl and top off with the egg and Serrano Ham garnish, if you wish. salmorejo4