Loquat & Ginger Juice (without juicer)

One of the many advantages of living in Spain is that even if you live in a big city you are bound to know someone who either has a second home in the mountains or by the sea, has a village they go back to often or has some patch of land where they grow fruits and vegetables. The plus point of this is that you are more than likely going to receive bulks of homegrown produce for free. On this particular occasion, I received a sack of loquats from some friends who have a beautiful second house in the mountains with a large kitchen garden. Shout out to Isthar & Miguel, thanks ever so much my lovelies! My first idea when confronted with this ridiculous amount of loquats was to make loquat juice because it is not something that is common to find in juice form.

This recipe is aimed at those people (like me) who do not have a juicer. This is what I call the traditional method of making juice which involves a blender and a cheesecloth. If you don’t even have a blender you can squash the fruit with a fork or even a pestle and mortar. There is no need to actually peel the fruits but I find that it is easier to extract the juice from the fruit as there’ll be less “waste” to deal with later.

Loquats are not very common in the UK but they are big in Spain and I hear that they are extremely popular in California. They taste like a cross between a peach and an apricot. The only downside of the fruit is that the season is very short!

If you choose to peel the fruits before making the juice, this is the way I tackle the task:

1 Cut either end off and make an incision from the top to the bottom of the fruit.

2 Pull the fruit apart.

3 Take out the seeds and peel. The peel should come off easily and in one go.

How to peel loquat

To make the juice

Ingredients

Loquats, peeled

Large piece fresh ginger (no need to peel)

Method

1 Blend the loquats and ginger into a puree. If you want a loquat smoothie you can leave it like this or add some milk of your choice or yoghurt.

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2 Place a fine mesh sieve on top of a jug and line with a cheesecloth. Pour the loquat and ginger puree and using the back of a spoon or a pestle stir the puree. When most juice has filtered into the jug, gather all sides of the cheesecloth and twist into a ball; gently squeeze all the juice out.

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3 Once you have extracted as much of the juice, place in refrigerator and chill for a few hours before serving, unless you are partial to warm juice.

Feel free to add sugar, honey or any other sweetener of your choice but I prefer to enjoy the natural sweetness/tartness of the fruit.

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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.

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5 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.

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How 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.

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Note: 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.

100% Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is addictive. By the time I want to use it in a recipe I’ve already eaten the whole pot using a spoon…oops!

However, store bought peanut butter is laden with unnecessary hydrogenated fats, salt, sugar and lots of other things that are unpronounceable, which can’t be good! So, I’ve embarked on making my own peanut butter from scratch; gotta make good use of my food processor after all!

Most recipes I’ve seen online add olive oil or other “healthy” oils, salt, honey or agave (or some kind of other “healthy” sweetness) but you really do NOT need any of these! Feel free to use them yourself if you wish but peanuts already have plenty of oil in them so there is no need to add more to the mix and also peanuts already taste good so why add saltiness or sweetness?

This recipe is made from 100% peanuts and nothing else, well…except patience. I used whole raw peanuts with their skins still attached as they are cheaper but if you can/want buy roasted shelled peanuts or any other peanuts your prefer; honey roasted would be nice but would most probably be laden with undesirable ingredients which kind of defeats the purpose of making homemade healthy-ish peanut butter!

You can use this same technique for any other “nut” (peanuts are actually legumes but hey-ho) butter such as almond, cashew, pistachio, pecan, macadamia etc.

Ingredients

400g whole raw peanuts (fills a 250g jar)

Method

1 Preheat oven to 150ºC

2 Spread the peanuts on a baking tray in an even single layer. Roast in oven for 10 – 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them and turn the peanuts every once in a while to prevent burning.

3 Let peanuts cool. Transfer to a sieve and scrunch the peanuts together to release them from their skins. Toss them in the sieve to separate the nut from the thrash. As the skins are lighter than the nut they will “float” out of the sieve. If not, pick out the nuts and transfer to food processor.

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4 Add all peanuts to the food processor and pulse a few times to crumble. Then process.

Patience is required at this stage but fear not. At first the peanuts will turn into something akin to sawdust but with persistence the natural oils will be released and the mixture will turn into a clump. At this stage process further and like magic it will eventually break down and turn into peanut butter. At this point it depends on your preference if you want thick or smooth peanut butter. I prefer smooth so I processed it till it was smooth and silky. If you like chunky you can add some whole peanuts and pulse a few times.

And that’s really it! No need to add oil to “help” it to break down!

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5 Transfer to an airtight jar and store in the fridge. Will keep for at least 2 months but do you really think I am going to give it time to expire?

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Ajoaceite (Spanish Garlic Mayonnaise)

Depending on where in the Mediterranean you find yourself, you are most likely to know this sauce under a plethora of different names such as ajoaceite, alioli, allioli or as it is most commonly known in the United Kingdom under its French name of aïoli. Its name literally translates as garlic and oil (from Latin allium + oleum)  and it is just that, an emulsion of both these ingredients much like a mayonnaise. It goes great with meat, fish, vegetables and in Valencia it is traditional to eat it with some rice dishes or fideua like this one.  

There are many purists out there that will argue to death that the ONLY way to make authentic ajoaceite is by using the pestle and mortar method but times have changed and we now have electricity. If our ancestors, who worked themselves to the bone, knew about electricity I really doubt they would be that adamant about using their own elbow grease! I think most purists prefer to make it with a pestle and mortar to cling on to the old ways as they believe it is more “authentic”. I, on the other hand think that if there has been a technological advance that can help you do do something with greater ease than before then why heavens not take full advantage of it? You don’t see many people going to the river to wash their clothes anymore, do you?

My tried and tested method to make ajoaceite is by using a hand immersion blender. It is the only way that I can achieve perfect ajoaceite every single time without it ever splitting.

Talking about splitting, there is a weird Spanish superstition that if you are a female and you are on your period, the ajoaceite will split when making it. I’ve had to come to the rescue on many occasions to cater our ajoaceite needs when someone has been in this position. My mother (who can’t use that excuse anymore) and female cousins all swear that this is true but I have a funny feeling they just use it as a good excuse to get away with slaving away: kudos to them if this is really the case!

Alternatively, you can make this ajoaceite by swapping the egg for milk. Use 1 part milk (room temperature), 2 parts vegetable oil and follow the same recipe as below.

Ingredients

1 egg, whole

1 garlic clove

Pinch rock salt (or table salt)

1 glass vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil as it is too strong)

Lemon juice, a few drops

Method

1 Put garlic clove and salt into a container and blitz with a hand immersion blender.

2 Add lemon juice, vegetable oil and egg.

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The trick is to insert the hand blender right to the bottom of the container and start to blitz without stopping or moving the blender. You should start to see the mixture emulsifying at the bottom of the container. It is best to use a container where the blender fits snugly instead of having a large surface area.

Once most is emulsified you can start to lift the blender to incorporate the rest of the oil and start to move the blender up and down, slowly and gently. Once most oil has emulsified you can move the blender up and down faster until you get it to the thickness that you desire.

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Egg-free Ajoaceite

Ajo Aceite de leche

Mojo Picón (Canarian Spicy Mojo Sauce)

This entry is dedicated to Fina. She was my friend’s grandmother and the source of this particular recipe. I have very fond memories of her and even though she wasn’t blood, our families were close. May God rest her soul.

We were lucky that Fina would make us this typical Canarian spicy sauce so we had a good supply of it in the fridge to satisfy our needs. Traditionally, it is eaten with Papas arrugadas (Canarian Wrinkled Potatoes) but it goes with just about anything: meat, fish, vegetables, heck you could even use it as a marinade (light bulb idea)!

There is no right or wrong way to have mojo as each person has different tastes but I’ve always been used to a slightly chunky mojo which has NOT been taken to the brink of turning into a mayonnaise. You can play around with the texture yourself by adding more or less vinegar and olive oil and also in the amount of time you blend the sauce. Don’t forget to taste the sauce as you go along to adjust the seasonings according to your taste.

Traditionally, the spicy element to this sauce is Pimienta Picona Canaria which is a red chilli native to the Canary Islands. It is however extremely hard to track down even on mainland Spain so you can easily substitute it for any red chilli pepper you can get your hands on.

This recipe is enough to fill a good sized jar.

Ingredients

4 heads garlic

6 Tbsp. cumin seeds

4 Tbsp. sweet pimenton (or paprika)

8 Pimienta Picona Canaria (or fresh red chilli)

Pinch saffron

12 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

Salt, to taste

Olive oil, as much is needed

4 Tbsp breadcrumbs (optional)

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Method

1 Dry roast cumin seeds and saffron in a frying pan and grind into a powder using a coffee or spice mill.

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2 In a food processor or hand blender blitz the garlic and chilli together. Then add the cumin, saffron, pimenton, salt and a good glug of vinegar. Blitz again.

3 At this point you can start to add the olive oil. Pour in a steady stream of oil while blitzing. Make sure not to over blitz to prevent it from emulsifying and ending up as mayonnaise. Taste and adjust seasonings. At this point you can also play with the consistency you desire; there is no right or wrong way.

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4 In order to thicken up the sauce you can add some breadcrumbs. Blitz one more time to incorporate.

5 Pour into an airtight container or jar and top up with more olive oil. The olive oil acts like a natural seal that prevents oxygen from spoiling the ingredients.

6 Store in the fridge. It keeps for months on end.

NB This sauce is best consumed after it has had time to settle in the fridge for a few hours but if you can’t wait you can also use straight away. 

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Cucumber and Mint Raita

There are countless recipes for raita but this is my favourite to accompany a curry. All elements of the raita cut through the spiciness and richness of a curry.

I tend to use English Mint Sauce (yes, the type you traditionally eat with Roast Lamb) as it gives the dip that acidity it needs and also boosts the mint flavour. It is of course entirely optionally but if you don’t have any or prefer not to use any, do make sure to use some lemon juice or vinegar instead to give the raita some kind of acidity.

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. Greek yogurt

6cm piece cucumber, grated

Bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped

1 ½ Tbsp. Mint Sauce

Method

1 Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until serving time.

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How to break down a whole chicken

There are countless ways you can break down a chicken but this is my usual operation which results in 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 breasts and a carcass.

I tend to buy a whole chicken rather than separate parts as it is much more cost effective. From one whole chicken I can get all the chicken parts and also use the carcass to make a great stock to make sopa de fideos or any other recipe calling for chicken stock. Once broken down, I then freeze the separate pieces for later use.

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1 Lay the chicken on a cutting board and trim off the excess skin around the cavity and the parson’s nose, if you wish. You can skip this step but I prefer to do it this way.

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2 Cut the skin connecting the drumsticks and breast so you have clear access. You can also skip this step.

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3 Hold the thigh bones and break away from the breast; the bone should pop out of the socket. Cut between the joint and remove both hindquarters.

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4 Turn the chicken over and grab the wing, pull taught from the body and make an incision; this should expose the joint so you know where to cut. Cut between the joint and remove both wings.

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5 Turn chicken over and pull off the skin from the breasts.

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6 Run your finger down the centre of the breast and locate the breast bone. Cut either side of the bone to expose the breast and cut away. Keep your knife close to the bone and make swiping movements to detach it from the bones and around the outside of the wishbone.

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To prepare the chicken parts

Hindquarters: You can leave the hindquarters intact if you prefer or remove the drumsticks from the things. To do this lay the drumstick as show and score the meat where the joint is; cut between the joint and remove both thighs; alternatively you can pop the bone out of the socket so you know exactly where the joint is.

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Wings: You can leave the wings intact or separate each part. Personally, I like my wings whole including the tip.

Breasts: You can leave the breast whole or fillet. To fillet: lay the breast upside down. Pull away the tender (it looks like a small flap) and cut off. Cut the breast in half as shown.  Repeat the process.

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Carcass: You can leave intact, which is perfect to make stock or break it down further into individual pieces. To break down place the carcass flat and cut horizontally through the chicken ribs. When you get to the end fold and break away from the carcass; you can easily break away with your hands without the use of a knife. Now you cut the carcass into how ever many pieces you require. The easiest way is crack the pieces and bend backwards and then use you knife to cut through.

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To freeze: You can wrap each piece separately in Clingfilm or into groups. I tend to freeze the pieces separately because then I can pick and choose which pieces I want in my next meal instead of having to defrost the whole thing.