Mexunxe de bonito (Galician Tuna with Red Peppers and Onion)

Mexunxe (pronounced meshunshe) de bonito is the most popular and traditional filling of Empanada Gallega (Galician turnover). I love it so much that when I can’t be bothered to make the actual dish it was invented for, I just make the filling and eat it with some nice crusty Galician bread. It ends up tasting more of the less the same, albeit completely different.

It is best served cold but feel free to warm up if that is what your heart desires; there is no right or wrong way!

Ingredients

1 onion, halved and sliced

1 red pepper, cut into strips

2 tomatoes, grated

2 small tins tuna (80g each)

1 tsp pimenton

Pinch salt

Pinch sugar

Method

1 Fry the onion in olive oil and add a pinch of salt.

2 Add the peppers and fry for 1 minute.Mexunxe de bonito13 Make a well in the centre and add the pimenton for a few seconds before adding the tomato and sugar. Fry on a low heat for 10-15 minutes. Halfway cooking add some water to keep the mixture moist.

4 Once the mixture is nicely cooked add the tuna and cook for circa 5 minutes. If the mixture is too dry add some water to loosen it up slightly.Mexunxe de bonito25 Leave it to cool completely and enjoy with bread.Mexunxe de bonito

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Paella Pan Cleaning and Maintenance

Hailing from Valencia (Spain), paella has become a quintessential Spanish dish known worldwide. Unfortunately though, this fame has also bastardised the original recipe and made it so unrecognizable that most Valencians call these dishes arroz con cosas (Rice with things).

I’ll delve into this controversy further when I finally post my own Valencian Paella recipe but for the meantime, I’ll just stick to the cleaning and maintenance of the pan it is cooked in.

The only paella pan that I ever use to make paella is the traditional one made of carbon steel (paella de acero pulido) and this is the one the post is about.  While the more modern paella pans (enamelled steel, stainless steel or non-stick) are easier to clean and maintain they lack the main feature of its traditional counterpart i.e. to create the socarrat (the “burnt” layer at the bottom which most Valencians fight over). A paella without socarrat is sacrilegious!

Follow all these steps if you haven’t used your paella pan in a long time and it has become unrecognizable:

1 Fill paella pan with vinegar (any type will do) and leave it overnight to work its magic.

2 Use a kitchen scouring pad to clean the surface and empty the vinegar. At this point you should notice that most of the rust and grime has disappeared.

3 Using a dash of soap, clean the surface with a scouring pad and rinse with clean water until clean.

4 Thoroughly dry using a kitchen paper towel.DSC04952_Fotor_Collage5 Add a drizzle of olive oil to the clean pan and work into the surface using a kitchen paper towel. Make sure to not leave any excess oil in the pan but it does need to be greasy.

6 Hang or store wherever you like.DSC04952_Fotor_Collage2How to clean a paella pan after each use:

Soak the paella pan with soapy water for around 30 minutes and then follow steps 3 – 6

How to prepare a newly purchased paella pan:

Check instructions that come with the paella pan; some require you to burn off the manufacturers protective layer. If not, all you need to do is follow steps 3 – 6.DSC04967Note: The exterior of the paella pan will blacken. This is normal and does not need to be thoroughly cleaned, treated with vinegar or polished with oil.

Spicy Tomato Sausage Stew with Polenta

Ever since I realised that polenta is much easier to make than what I was led to believe, I have firmly fallen in love with the stuff. It definitely makes a nice change from potatoes, rice or pasta. The other plus point is how full it makes you feel which for a glutton like me is good as it prevents you from mindlessly guzzling food down. I do love me food!

Ingredients

Polenta:

1 cup polenta

4 cups water

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

1 slice butter (optional)

Spicy Tomato Sausage Stew:

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

3 dried small cayenne chillies

1 tsp. chilli powder

1 tsp. sweet pimenton (or paprika)

4 pork sausages, thickly sliced

1 Tbsp harissa

1 tin sieved tomatoes

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried dill

2 tsp. dried parsley

Method:

Make Polenta:

1 Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, reduce the heat to a low flame and add a steady stream of cornmeal while stirring vigorously to avoid any lumps. Once the cornmeal starts to thicken, cook for around 20-30 minutes. Stir every 5 – 10 minutes to prevent it from burning. It is ready once the grains are no longer hard and it easily comes away from the sides of the pan.

Once the polenta has started to thicken, move on to make the spicy tomato sausage stew.

DSC05571_Fotor

2 Fry onion in olive oil until translucent along with the garlic and cayenne chillies.

3 Add chilli powder and the sausages and fry for 5 minutes. Add pimenton followed by harissa, sieved tomatoes and sugar. Simmer on a low heat for 15-20 minutes.Spicy Tomato Sausage Stew with Polenta_collage14 Add oregano, dill and parsley and cook for a further 5 minutes.

5 When the polenta is cooked add butter, salt (if needed) and pepper. Mix well.Spicy Tomato Sausage Stew with Polenta_collage2Serve the spicy tomato sausage stew on a bed of creamy polenta.

Spicy Tomato Sausage Stew with Polenta_featureTIP: When polenta cools down it will solidify; to reverse this and return it to a soft state all you need to do is add some milk (or water) and return to a low flame. Mix in until the polenta has returned to your desired state.

Zorza Gallega (Galician Chorizo-Spiced Pork Loin)

When my parents were younger they partook in a traditional Spanish custom known as La Matanza (The Slaughter) whereby a pig (or more depending on your social background) would be slaughtered around St Martin’s Day or Martinmas (11th November), time of the end of winter preparations.

“A todo porquiño lle chega o seu San Martiño” (Similar to an old English saying His Martinmas will come as it does to every hog, meaning wrongdoers will get their comeuppance.

La Matanza was a bittersweet family celebration. On the one hand, it was sad because a poor piggy had to be sacrificed (my mum says that she can still hear the poor piggy squealing and eventually taking its final breath) but on the other hand it was a joyous occasion because the pig would feed the family for the coming year.  Each member of the family (from young to older generations) had different jobs assigned to them; from the butchery to collecting the blood in a bucket and stirring it with your hands to prevent it from clotting, which would then be made into black puddings or filloas de sangre (Galician blood pancakes).

From this pig they would make 2 cured hams (ready for the coming year, meaning they could dig into last year’s ham), black pudding, chorizo, sausages and a myriad of other preparations depending on which part of Spain you are from. In my mums area (Cuenca) they would prepare lomo de orza, which is pork loin gently fried over a low heat in lard and spices which would then be preserved in an orza (a type of terracotta pot) along with the lard (which would as a protective barrier from bacteria and thus preventing the meat from spoiling) and eaten throughout the year. In my dads area (A Coruña) they would make zorza. 

Zorza began its life as the meat and spice mixture that was used to make chorizos. Before actually encasing the meat in pig intestines, some of the mixture would be fried to check for seasonings (and pig out – pun intended).

La matanza may have practically died out (such as shame; you couldn’t ask for better organic, no carbon footprint local food) but people still want to savour that meat that was fried off before becoming chorizos and therefore Zorza has evolved into a dish that is thoroughly enjoyed all over Galicia (and other parts of Spain).

The meat can be prepared two ways; either minced (as it would be to be encased in intestines) or in bite sized chunks. Personally, I prefer it in chunks.

Alternatively, you can use this recipe to make chorizos. Encase the meat in intestines (or artificial sausage casing), tie up and hang to dry.

Ingredients

500g pork loin, diced or minced

3 Tbsp. hot pimenton (or hot paprika)

2 Tbsp. sweet pimenton (or regular paprika)

3 bay leaves

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp oregano

1 glass white wine

A good glug of olive oil

Salt, to taste

Method

1 Marinade the meat in all the ingredients and leave for AT LEAST 48 hours.

2 In a pan, fry the meat off (no oil needed) till cooked through. Add a bit of water to keep the meat moist during cooking.

Serve with fried potatoes and eggs and you have a good satisfying meal or serve as a tapa.