‘Spanish’ Ribs with Padron Peppers

Spanish ribs and padron peppers

Well, it’s been a few weeks but Helen and I are still banging on about Barcelona. It really was a superb city – every street was a piece of art.

The harbour in Barcelona

Armed with Mad Dog’s recommendations and a link to this website we found some great places to sit, eat and drink in between wandering around the place.

Salamanca near the harbour.

Salamanca, near the harbour.

It was also my first introduction to the tapas bar. They ranged in quality when we strayed from the the aforementioned lists but some of it was excellent. There was one in particular that we visited a couple of times in the Gothic Quarter. It was manically busy and cramped but great fun. Quite how the owner (we presumed) managed to keep track of all the plates flying out was anyone’s guess. Maybe he didn’t? I’ll try and get the name of the place.

It’s a great way to eat: you sight-see, you sit, you eat a little, you have a drink and repeat. No bloating three course dinners making you feel like a nap – people still do though of course.

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Cerveceria Catalana – great bar and tapas. Sorry for the focus issue, many cervezas had no doubt been consumed.

Slicing serrano ham

So we’ve had a few tapas style dinners since but this dish is more an inspiration born from some of the flavours we had. Pork and tortilla are ubiquitous of course, but I also really liked these small padron  peppers. I managed to find the delicious little suckers in a certain UK higher-end supermarket. Unfortunately they were also at a higher-end price…

fThe ribs were cooked the night before and literally fell off the bone. Seriously, I know that’s generally BBQ nirvana, but when they’re sticking to the grill and falling apart in your hand the novelty wears off a little. The were slow cooked in a mixture of tomato, stock and orange and paprika, which I then kept, reduced and blended to make a superb sauce.

Definitely one to try. May I also add, the plates were not my idea.

For the ribs:

  • 8-10 ribs if you’re hungry
  • Juice of 1 large orange
  • 1/2-1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 500ml chicken or pork stock.
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 good pinches of sea salt (and more to taste).
  • Black Pepper

For the tortilla:

  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 new potatoes, sliced thinly
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • A pinch of smoked paprika
  • A good pitch of salt
  • Ac couple of handfuls of Manchego cheese
  • Olive oil

For the peppers:

  • 20 or so padron peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • The night before:

Preheat the oven to 140°C/280°F

Add all the rib ingredients to a hob proof pot and bring to a simmer. I added in half of the juiced orange to add a little more flavour.

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Ribs in a tomato and orange sauce

Put it in the oven for 2 hours. Check it with an hour to go to make sure it hasn’t dried out, but it should be OK with a lid on.

I tend to just turn the oven off and go to bed, letting it sit in the sauce until I need it the next day. You may want to put it in the fridge once cooled in the morning.

If you do put it in the fridge, just heat the pan contents through a little on the hob before you try and take the ribs out or they stick firmly. They are pretty fragile.

Remove the ribs and put them on a plate. Blend the sauce thoroughly (again you may need to heat it slightly first) and bring to a simmer. Let it reduce if too watery or add a little more stock if too dry to blend.

Orange and tomato BBQ sauce

For the tortilla, simmer the potato sliced briefly and drain. In a frying pan, fry the onion, and green peppers to soften. Add the potatoes, egg and paprika. Cook the base then add the cheese and grill/broil to finish it off. Keep warm.

I feel like I should dedicate this shot to Conor...

I feel like I should dedicate this shot to Conor…

Put the ribs on BBQ if you can. I have a gas one with some lava rocks in that does a decent jobs of replicating the charcoal Webber. Other wise you can put them in a hot oven to sear. Cook them until coloured well.

BBQ ribs

Mean while, simply fry the peppers in a little oil and season with sea salt.

 

Padron peppers

That’s it. Delicious.

 

Lamb Chops with Minted Pea Puree and a Rosemary Anchovy Sauce

Lamb chops, anchovies, minted pea puree

I can’t put it any other way, but I made this dish because my wife would hate it.

I just know she would battle on regardless and I’d get one of the standard responses I’m used to when thing aren’t to her liking: “that was…..fine” typically.

Or worse, the dreaded:  “at least it’s healthy”.

Lamb, peas, anchovies and mint are not a combination she’d enjoy so I had to wait until she was going out so I could make it for myself. I, on the other hand, love this sort of thing.

The dish covers the range of bases with the sweet peas making a great contrast to the salty anchovies. The soft puree works against the crunchy blanched vegetable. It’s very simple, on the face of it, but actually becomes a bit of a balancing act bringing it together in the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it though.

Now I’m just awaiting her next evening out with friends so I can buy some baby squid….

Northumberland Lamb Chops

Serves 2 (providing your ‘other’ will eat it).

  • 4 good lamb chops – these were local, from a Northumberland farm.
  • Oil
  • Salt

For the minted pea puree:

  • 4 handfuls of frozen peas
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 300ml Vegetable stock (or enough to cover)
  • 15g butter
  • Salt to taste

For the anchovy sauce

  • 6 anchovies
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • A sprig of rosemary, stalk removed
  • Vegetable stock form the peas above
  • A little more butter
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large courgette/zucchini
  • 6 decent sized Jersey Royal new potatoes.

Heat the oven to 160°C/320°F

Boil a kettle and start the potatoes – they’ll take 15-20 mins. Prepare the courgette and carrot by making them into thin strips using a potato peeler or a mandolin if you’re brave. Leave in water until needed.

Get an oven proof frying with a little oil smoking hot. Season the lamb lightly and fry it until well coloured. Flip them over and seal the other side for about 30 seconds then place the pan in the oven for around 10 minutes if you like it rare (as I do). A kitchen thermometer will help you here.

At the same time, heat the peas in the stock until well heated through Try not to boil them. Drain the stock but keep it to one side. 

In a blender, place the peas, butter, good pinch of salt and chopped mint leaf. Blitz and add some stock, a little at a time, until loosened a little. Keep warm.

Pea puree

By now the potatoes should be done (or nearly done) Take them out the pan and set aside. They’ll need to cool down a bit anyway.

In the same water, blanch the vegetables for just a minute or two. Set aside with the potato to keep warm.

Once the lamb is done, turn the oven off and open the door to cool it down. Wrap the lamb in foil to rest. You may want to use it to keep everything warm whilst you finish the sauce:

In the lamb frying pan, add a little more oil if needed and fry the garlic gently for a minute or two. Add the anchovies and stir them around until they form a pulp.

Anchovies, garlic, rosemary

 

Add the rosemary and the reserved stock. Gently reduce by half. Taste but you shouldn’t need to season it. Stir in the butter to melt.

Serve it all up with a nice ‘big’ Rioja if you have some. Lovely.

 

 

Smokey, and some Piri Piri Chicken.

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That’s Smokey. Sadly we had to have her put down after 17 years yesterday. Helen and I knew it would come and I always thought it would be difficult after all these years when that time came, but man….

I know, I know, a majority of you will think, “it’s just a cat” and many won’t even like them, but Helen got her as a kitten when we were in our mid-to-late twenties, just a couple of years before we met.

Since we’ve had her, we’ve seen so many births, deaths, marriages (including our own) and some separations. We moved and renovated our house. I started a business. Helen started a new career. I started writing this blog….We had some great times and some decidedly more challenging.

All this time Smokey was there. Normally wanting food, or letting out, although she never wandered far and immediately wanted back in. She’s cost us a fortune in vets bills over the years, including the infamous Christmas Day dive under a moving car. Have you any idea how much vets charge on Christmas Day?

Nonetheless, she’s featured daily for most of our adult lives.

Most who know me would not include ‘sentimental’ in my list of attributes, but the house feels horribly empty without her. Having to stand there and have her put down was like the end of a chapter.

I confess, I really didn’t see that coming.

When making the food that appears in this blog, she was normally sat under my feet most of the time waiting for something to drop and so this is for you Smokey, although you’d no doubt just sniff it and walk off.

It was great having you. I know you enjoyed all the chicken.

Piri Piri Chicken

Piri Piri Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 2 Legs and 2 wings
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 birdseye chilli, finely diced
  • 1 mild red chilli, finely diced. Seeds and all.
  • 50ml red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed black pepper

I prefer to skin the chicken – the marinade does it’s work much better that way. Mix the ingredients together and marinade the the chicken overnight in a food bag

The next day, in an ovenproof pan, fry the chicken on one side, turn and roast for 15-20 minutes in a medium oven, turing again half way through.

Serve it with some plain white rice and salad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bucatini All’Amatriciana

Bucatini All'Amatriciana

Funny isn’t it.

You can get spaghetti  in the shops for next to nothing in the UK; as little as 50p for a supermarket own brand – but you get what you pay for of course.  A decent brand like De Cecco costs around £1.50.

Start delving into the stranger shapes and you could be paying twice that. Same ingredients, there or thereabouts, just a different form. I know, I know it’s all about economies of scale, but go with me on this.

I confess I’m a sucker for the more obscure pasta shapes, especially if it comes in rustic paper packaging and with nothing but Italian written on it. I’m a food importer’s dream. I must say decent pasta does make a difference – it has better bite – but I think there is a bit of a plateau, once you get to a certain price point. A bit like wine really.

Walking around town the other day I spied this bucatini: paper packaging. Check. English instructions? No. Check. Funky shape? Close enough. Check. Cost £4.95. Jeez…

Bucatini pastaAs you can see they’re thick hollow tubes, about the same thickness as Pici.bucatini pasta

I bought it anyway of course but now what to do with it? l had a recipe for bigoli in salsa from my prized Polpo recipe book that suggests bucatini as a nice alternative. The ‘salsa’ in question is mainly anchovy fillet though, so I wasn’t sure Helen would have shared my enthusiasm.

This recipes was the obvious answer in the end of course. It’s the Romanised and therefore more widely recognised version of the Amatrice dish that authentically calls for spaghetti, pecorino Amatriciano and cured pork jowl called Guanciale *closes Google tab* Pancetta is a worthy alternative it seems though thankfully. I’ll try and get the ‘original’ ingredients in the future but trying to emulate super-regional dishes in a different country will test even the best stocked delis.

If you can get a nice block of pancetta like this, it’s so much better than the ready cubed supermarket version. It’s no more expensive generally either.

One thing I did find is that the sauce, being made with dry white wine and tomatoes, turns out very sharp in flavour. Unpleasantly so for my personal taste. Maybe using the type of sweet fresh tomato you get in sun bathed Italy the results are different, but here in the UK? So, as much as it pains me with current clamp down on excessive  sugar, I had to add a teaspoon in. It’s still a tenth of what you’d find in a can of Coke though and it makes enough sauce for 4 so I wouldn’t lose too much sleep.

Oh and a word of warning: bucatini, being pretty thick, has a certain ‘spring’ to it. After eating the left overs for work in the office, I ended up looking like an extra in Reservoir Dogs.

Thankfully I had no meetings that day.

Serves 4

  • 300-400g bucatini pasta
  • Olive oil for frying. Not extra virgin, it’s a waste.
  • 1 can of plum tomatoes.
  • 1 Glass white wine
  • 1 red chilli
  • 200g pancetta
  • 1 onion
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar (or as you need it).
  • Pecorino (or parmesan) and extra virgin olive oil to serve.

Slice the pancetta into thick cubes and finely dice the onion.

Brown the pancetta in a medium sized frying pan. When crisp, turn the heat down and add the onion and chilli. Cook gently until softened but don’t colour it..

Pancetta onion chilli

Add the wine to the onion and pancetta and reduce to almost gone.

Finally, pour in the tomatoes and reduce.

While this is happening, start the pasta. 1l/35 fl oz salted water per 100g. It will take about 12 minutes. Better to have the sauce ready before the pasta.

The pasta sauce should be fairly thick when done. Season to taste with the sugar, salt and pepper.

If you can, drain the pasta just before it’s done and return to the pot –  keeping a few tbsp of water back. Add the sauce and reserved water and finish it off with the lid on. It’ll take on a bit more of flavour of the sauce.

Serve it with pecorino, or parmesan if not, black pepper and a quick drizzle of  extra virgin olive oil.

Pecorino cheese

Bucatini All'Amatriciana

 

 

 

Chargrilled Sardines with Orange and Fennel Salad

Chargrilled sardines orange and fennel salad

I know many of you have been just dying to know what my favourite fish is. Well, thanks for asking and the answer is sardines.

And by sardines I mean the proper ones, caught fresh from the sea, filleted and cooked on a chargrill or over hot coals with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt. There is nothing better in my view, but then I do have a habit of changing my mind depending on how much I enjoyed the LAST fish dish I ate.

But no, I stand firm. It’s sardines and by extension (literally) pilchards*.

Sardine fillets

*Oh, and maybe mackerel.

I managed to get hold of some the other week and being such a lovely evening, we got the charcoal going and put this together. I’m determined to get my wife to enjoy fennel (I’ve given up with lamb and I’m onto the next project) so keep buying it and introducing it bit by bit to dinners.

I think I really did push the boat out here though by serving the sardines with and orange and fennel salad but thankfully it went down a storm.

Orange, fennel and oily fish is such a good combination and perfect for a summers evening with a chilled white wine, or even an ice cold beer straight from the fridge.  It’s what summer is all about for me. This, and despairing at sporting events of course.

Serves 2:

  • 4-6 Fresh-as-you-can-get sardines. Filleted or un-filleted, its up to you
  • Salt
  • Oil to brush

For the salad:

  • 1 Large orange
  • 1  fennel bulb
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 sweet pointed red pepper, roasted or not.
  • 1/2 a large red onion
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Good balsamic vinegar
  • Salt

Start by lighting your barbecue and getting the coals nice and ashy. I use one of those chimney starters – a Godsend.

Meanwhile, get the salad ready:

You can roast the red peppers, to make them even sweeter, but I left them as they were for a bit of extra crunch.

Slice all the ingredients horizontally so that they separate into rings.

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Slice the orange peel away, removing the white pith as you do so.

Arrange it neatly on a plate and do the fish…..

Brush the fish skin with oil but make sure the griddle of the barbecue is very hot – the sardines will be far less likely to stick. Grill skin side down directly over the coals. Sprinkle the top with sea salt.

Put the lid on the barbecue if you have one, to cook the fish through, it will take just a couple of minutes. Oily fish is a a bit more forgiving to being left on the heat a little too long but don’t push it. I don’t bother to flip them as it often ends in tears.

Grilled sardines

Gently lift them off the grill with a large spatula and keep warm; either on the cooler side of the barbecue or in a warm oven.

Dress the salad with the olive oil and balsamic and season with a little salt. Lay the fillets on top and sprinkle with parsley.

Now where’s that beer…..

Chargrilled sardines orange and fennel salad

Salmon, Roast Peppers, Spiced Chickpeas and Basil Oil

 Salmon, chickpeas, basil oil, roast peppers

We recently went over to Barcelona for a long weekend with friends and loved it, as does everyone that visits it seems. It’s really is a great city. I’ll be writing a little more about it later, but like most of you, I do tend to get that temporary post-holiday pining and food seems to most immediate and accessible ‘fix’.

So, dinner in the Food Frankly household started to develop a distinct Catalan accent last week. This dish started out as a typical fridge raiding midweek dinner but I actually realised that, once I’d finished, this one might be worth sharing. My camera was  sat in the office throughout so I only got a couple of ‘after’ shots, but still…

The salmon and prawns were fresh but the chickpeas were canned. I prefer cooking dried ones, but by roasting them in spices and seasoning for a few minutes, as I did here, they lose some of the water than makes them a little too soft. Anyway, normally I’m not nearly organised enough to have them soaking the day before so this is a good alternative. I baked them gently in some salt, pepper, smoked paprika (only a little) and ground chilli.

Roasting the peppers (another Spanish influence) apart from being delicious, is a great way to use up old produce that’s started to wrinkle a bit. I do however, apologise for the Chorizo, I know it’s an obvious one, but it’s always in the fridge. Anyway, the garlic/paprika oil it releases is a great way to flavour fish and seafood. So there… ;)

The basil oil finish was influenced by a dish we had in a great little tapas bar in the city. It worked really well with this.

Serves 2

  • 2 Salmon fillets
  • 8 prawns
  • 400g/14oz Chickpeas (canned), or half the amount if dried.
  • A red, yellow and green pepper.
  • Chorizo, about the length of your thumb, sliced into 6
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of chilli power (I ground dried chili)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • Salt – make sure it’s very fine
  • Black pepper
  • A handful of basil leaves

If you’re cooking dried chickpeas, soak them overnight beforehand and boil for around 40 minutes in slightly salted water until just done. If canned, just crack on below…

Set the oven to 200°C/390°F.

Brush the peppers with oil and roast on a baking tray until burn marks appear and they start to wilt. The should be very soft when done. Dunk them straight into cold water to loosen the skins and peel them off. Bloody fiddly, but occasionally you get lucky and it comes off in one piece. Cut  them into finger-width slices and cover. You can warm them up later in the oven.

Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Mix them with the paprika, chilli powder, salt and pepper in a bowl, then spread in a single layer on a baking tray. Turn the oven off (if the peppers are done) and bake them gently in the residual  heat. 10 minutes or so, but check often to make sure they don’t dry out. This won’t take long if they were cooked from dry. Add the finished peppers toward the end to heat through.

If using coarse sea salt, you might want to grind it to a fine powder.

In a pan, fry the chorizo until cooked through to release that lovely oil. Remove it and keep warm but leave the oil in the pan. Add a little more oil and fry the salmon (seasoned with salt & pepper) on a high heat skin side down (if it has skin) for most of the cooking time. Add the prawns for the last couple of minutes. The salmon is done when at 60-62°C/145°F, so use a thermometer to make sure you don’t over cook it. The prawns only take a minute or two,

Meanwhile quickly blitz the about 10 tbsp of good extra virgin oil with the basil leaves and season to taste with coarse salt.

Serve the dish on warmed plates and spoon over the basil oil.Salmon, chickpeas, basil oil roast peppers

Pork Chops with Black Pudding, Cavolo Nero, Grilled Peaches and Port

 

Pork chops, peaches, black pudding, port, cavolo nero

It’s fair to say ‘planning and meticulous detail’ aren’t really words I’d apply to some of the things I come up with. When I get the chance to find somewhere decent to food shop, I tend to try and pick something interesting and then build an idea around it.

Cavolo nero, I admit is something I’d never tried and threw in the basket to kick this one off, but heading up to the meat counter, I saw some decent local pork chops, made a connection and it started from there….

I think the grilled peaches idea came from a salad recipe. That black pudding accompaniment; well, pretty much most gastro-pub menus and a little personal preference. The sauce was originally pencilled in using Marsala wine, which the store was out of, but later a quick rifle through the drinks cupboard indicated that we had a stockpile of Port and it seemed silly not to use it.

The pork was good and inexpensive. I liked that the bone was still attached, but you need to cook it carefully to make sure you cook the meat in contact with it, without cremating the rest. Thermometers – the most important tool in the kitchen!

This would have been great, nicely done on the BBQ/grill. But, well, this was the scene in the back garden, so kitchen it was….

IMG_7056-impI must admit, we liked this. The peaches were a little under-ripe and therefore a bit sharper than I’d like but it’s easily resolved next time. The sweet port sauce helped though and added a bit of richness.

peaches, cavolo nero

Ingredients for 2

For the pork:

  • 2 good pork chops
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Oil for frying

2 peaches, halved and stoned. You know what I mean.

6 small slices of black pudding (or fewer, larger ones).

4 handfuls of sliced cavolo nero

Sauce:

  • About 100ml port
  • A little oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed, but in its skin
  • 200ml good pork or chicken stock
  • A handful of thyme, on the stalks
  • Salt
  • Butter to finish (about 30g)

A handful of peashoots to finish

Let the pork come to room temperature. Preheat an oven to 160°C/320°F.

In a heavy pan/skillet, heat some oil until smoking and brown the meat well. Flip it over. Add the black pudding to the pan and place in the oven for ten minutes.

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Meanwhile, in a small pan, fry the garlic and thyme very gently to infuse the oil. Pour in the port and stock and gently simmer to reduce it until thickened.

Boil and kettle and steam/gently boil the cavolo nero in shallow water for about 5 or 6 minutes – making sure the tough stalks are tender. Drain, season and put back in the pan with a lid to keep warm.

Check the pork with a thermometer, especially near the bone. I take 62°C/144°F as cooked without being overdone – good pork is pretty safe these day and some cuts can be served rare – but I’ll leave this for you to decide yourselves!

Remove the pan from the oven and cover with foil to rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a griddle pan until smoking. Take the peach halves and place them cut side down to heat through and take on some bar marks. Gently prise them free with a spatula or preferably a thin palette knife. They might be stuck so be careful not to take away the nicely charred bits.

Stir the butter into the sauce, which should have reduced nicely. Taste and season.

Heated plates are important here. Place the pork on the cavolo nero and arrange the rest around it.  Pour over the sauce to make a nice cheffy ‘moat’ and tuck in.

This cries out for a nice citrusy white wine and who was I to argue.

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