Saturday, 29 October 2011

New Blog Recipes

Blogosphere Recipes is a new space for archive, cook and comments about the best ideas or recipes I came across through the week.

My first blog recipes must to be from my favourite Spanish food blog el Comidista, Mikel López Iturriaga a Spanish journalist start a few years ago a food blog named Ondakín such was his success that now is writing a new blog in the most popular newspaper in Spain. Easy and tasty recipes, restaurant review and any connection with food appear in their blog. If I need to label him, he is the Spanish version of Mark Bittman.

Here I share and I translated for you their fig salad, that was perfect for using my fig leftovers from my tomatoes and fig soup that I needed to cook for the next week special autumn soups.

Fig Salad.

My fig salad
Ingredients for 4 serve.
400 gr of watercress – 8-12 figs depending of the size – 200g feta cheese – 100g cherry tomatoes – 3cm rosemary sprig – 1 zest lemon (peeled) – Extra virgin Olive oil

1. Peel a piece of lemon zest ( Little less than half) . Peel the figs.
2. Heat the olive oil with low heat in a small pan. When it is hot (is not needed to start to smoke) remove from the heat and stir in the rosemary and lemon zest. Cover and infusion by 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the rosemary to avoid too much flavour.
3. Spread the watercress in a serving dish. Mix with the little tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper (salt lighty because the feta cheese is salty) . Scatter over the figs in big pieces and the feta cheese crumbled. Remove the lemon zest from the olive oil once colder and dress the salad. Serve.

Also you can do it with another green leaves. Yesterday I made it again with rocket, watercress and spinach leaves and was even much better!

In Spanish:


Friday, 28 October 2011

Trip to the Medieval Sigüenza

Towers of  Sigüenza Cathedral
Sigüenza is  only one and half  hour form Madrid, where  you can have a perfect day out or weekend from the busy tourist attraction of the Spanish capital. Its just not an easy trip by road or by train, it  is a trip to the medieval times. Sigüenza today is a sleepy town in midweek and gets pretty busy at weekends, but not always has been in the same way. Since early time Sigüenza “the young noble man city” has been an important location to all the civilization of the Iberia peninsula, in the roman and Visigoth times was an important hub communication centre, then the Moorish transform the castle to a defensive strategic point and medina, later when the catholic re-conquest the city Sigüenza once more was transformed to an important catholic centre and even reached the status of episcopal city. With such history it  is not hard to imagine why Sigüenza is part of the Quixote Route, or where is believed Doña Blanca (daughter in law of Charles V of France) was imprisoned in the Castle after her husband king Pedro I of Castilla (the cruel) abandoned her two day after the wedding starting a civil war in the kingdom. This and another legend or histories like the young noble man are tangible in the street and building of the medieval town.

Castle Walls from the back
Views from Doncel House

Once in Sigüenza  there is nothing more to do that just stroll around in the medieval street discovering palaces, abandoned ruin houses, with the must stops in the Doncel House, the fantastic Diocesan Museum of antique art, the Santa Maria Cathedral of Sigüenza where several styles like romanic, baroque and gothic live together and where inside is a must to see the Doncel chapel where you can see one of jewels of the funeral of all the times.
Then is time to climb one of the street that go to the Castle, today a fantastic Parador where the best way to explore it or discover is staying in, unfortunately if you are not a guest little you can do more than be fascinated with the outside walls and enjoy a coffee in the interior gardens, but if you can book a room you will discover fantastic saloons and even a very charming chapel.
Also from the Castle you will have great views over the town, but even in Sigüenza every corner is history and full of charming corner even better to appreciate are the colours of the surrounding hills and smell of the pine forest of the near natural park.

Castle Courtyard
Sigüenza shop street

Also before to leave will be a nice idea going to shop to the commercial street Cardenal Mendoza for  get some of the best products in the little supermarket or in the butchery, Alcarria honey is just delicious like the cheeses and the pastry and sweets product of the Monastery located in the Paseo de la Alameda street.

Where to Stay and Eat

Parador Sigüenza.

Views from our balcony
This was my first experience of a Spanish Parador (Spanish luxury hotels run for the state in historical buildings). In Sigüenza the Parador is located in an ancient Castle from the 12th century with a commanding view of the town.
We arrived earlier than expected and our room was not ready so we decided to take a snack of fried eggs and chips and a tuna sandwich with some local red wine-simple and delicious. We returned to reception to get our room key to discover that we had been upgraded to a suite with a large balcony overlooking the countryside and the pine forest, in the night the silence is imposing
The room was very elegant with antique furnishings and a huge 4 poster bed with red velvet hangings. The bathroom was well appointed with a luxury jacuzzi bath.
The public areas of this Parador were just waiting to be explored and we discovered a chapel which we viewed from a first floor tiny doorway. The chapel had motion detectors which lit up the room momentarily which was a great surprise.
The other public rooms  were equally impressive and we took dinner in the restaurant that evening.

The famous Migas shepherds dish
Lamb kebab

We had various dishes including a typical Spanish shepherds dish Migas (see video min. 10) made with stale bread and garlic served with the best local products in the area followed by lamb kebab with potatoes and green vegetables in a filo pastry, lamb is very tasty and traditional in the area, but here was served with a distinctive Moorish touch, the another main dish was duck breast with celeriac mash, a bit up to the north are founded the best Spanish duck farming. The Sigüenza area is not wine traditional but they are not too far from the improving Castilla y la Mancha denomination, our Tempranillo Señorio deGuadianeja with cherry colour and soft to taste in the mouth was a great companion for our meat.
Service was attentive and the food was of very good quality and well presented.
A lot of time and money has been spent on refurbishing this Castle and I look forward to staying here again.

Hostal Doña Blanca

Hostal Doña Blanca stove and hall room
Situated next door to Parador Sigüenza this hostel is housed behind an old facade. The interior has been gutted to create a light and airy contemporary hotel.
We were unable to see the bedrooms but the public space was spectacular with a revolving wood burning stove as its centrepiece.
Serious money has been spent on fixtures and fittings and where possible reclaimed wood has been used to dramatic effect. The overall decoration is in white which creates a spacious and light feel to the main public area. If you want spend less and have exiting boutique experience this is your place!

Calle Major Restaurant

Calle Mayor dinning room
Situated in the medieval town of Sigüenza the Calle Mayor restaurant offers superb food in elegant surroundings where the food and service were superb.
To start we had artichokes stuffed with prawns and mushrooms croquettes. The flavour of both these dishes was amazing and the artichokes were the best I have ever tasted without being overpowered by the prawns resulting in a very delicate flavour combination
As a main course we had two meat dishes, a well-cooked steak served with homemade crisps and kid goat also with homemade crisps. Kid goat is another speciality in Castilla-La Mancha and is a must try .This was washed down with a couple of glasses of  Castilla- La Mancha red wine recommended by the house.

Kid goat leg with crisps

Apple tarte tatin

These dishes sound simple but often simple dishes are the best and these were excellent.
A dessert of apple tarte tatin served with the famous and tasty Alcarria honey completed an amazing meal. This restaurant well deserves the accolades it has received by numerous companies including Michelin

For tapas The Gurugu Tavern since S.XVII a charming and weird place at the same time specialised in mushrooms tapas from Spain and around the world. They also host art exhibitions.
For afternoon cakes and guilty breakfast Atrio cake shop just opposite the Cathedral offer a wide range of local delicatessen to die for!!

*Check for the Medieval train Madrid-Sigüenza. 
*In spring the local decorate their balconies with flowers.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Spanish Sandwiches

Spanish Sandwiches (I)

Sandwich Mixto or Sandwich Bikini
Without doubt the more popular sandwich in Spain. Served in most of the Spanish food bar around the country, also known in Catalonia as Bikini Sandwich, because was made in the famous dancing club Bikini

Ingredients:  2 slices sandwich bread. Spread butter – York ham – cheese sandwich.
1. Spread butter for both side of each slice of bread.
2. Take one of the bread slices and top with one slice of your favourite cheese, then 2 of ham and finish it with another cheese slice and close it.
3. Now toast both side of the bread in a hot non-stick pan until the cheese start to melting.

Vip Club.

Cooking the Vip Sandwich

Vip Sandwich with fires

The VIP restaurant chain is the favourite of the Madrid people, and until sometime was the place for have the best American dining style with a very Spanish touch. Their cheese cake, and pancakes were a decade ago a really hit like their more popular sandwich the VIP club. Today they still are, but some old fans like me start to abandon the ship, their big chain expansion, drop of quality and services are a problem. Anyway if you are around one is always better option than the American burger chain. In the Neptune fountain near Prado and Thyssen museum you can find one.

Ingredients:  2 slices of bacon, 1 chicken fillet, York ham, cheese sandwich, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. 3 slices sandwich bread.
1. Cook the chicken fillet in a frying pan with a tbsp. of olive oil. Season.
2. In  a grilled pan toast your bread in both side
3. Remove the chicken when is ready and in the same pan cook the bacon.
4. Now take one bread slice and spread a little mayonnaise, top with shredded lettuce and a nice slice of tomato.
5. Next top with the York ham, cheese and add a second slice of bread and again top with the chicken fillet and bacon. Close it with the 3rd slice of bread.
6. The tricky part is cut the sandwich.  In the popular Madrid restaurant chain VIP, they cut in a half and again they cut in another half, making 4 little triangles. Each one is helped with a cocktail stick.
7. Serve with French fries!!

Chicken and asparagus sandwich.

Ingredients: 2 slices bread sandwich – 1 chicken fillet – 2-3 green asparagus – 2 slices Spanish ham. 2 thin slices manchego cheese.
1. Cook in salty boiling water your green asparagus until tender (5-7 minutes)
2. Cook your chicken fillet in a frying pan with 1 tbsp. olive oil.
3. When you finish with the chicken in the same pan cook and extra minutes the asparagus so they can have some extra flavour.
4. Then prepare the sandwich, first spread some butter in one of the bread slices, top with the chicken, asparagus, ham and cheese and close it!

Gouda cheese, courgette and ham sandwich.

Gouda  courgette and ham sandwich
Ingredients: 2 slices of bread – 3 slices of York ham, 2 slices of Gouda cheese – 2 thin lengthways slices of courgettes. Mayonnaise (or ali-oli sauce) – Parsley.
1. Make the courgette lengthways slices with a cheese cutter or similar. Brush in both side with olive oil and cook for a couple of minutes each side in a hot grilled pan.
2. Now make the sandwich, putting first the courgette over the bread, and then cheese, ham and finish it with the mayonnaise and chopped parsley. Taste great as well with ali-oli.

Rodilla walnuts and cream cheese sandwich.

Rodilla Sandwich Shop
Rodilla is the most famous Spanish sandwich chain, even you can find some surprising combination and tasty bites like the fig sandwich (sorry I didn’t find the recipe) for those that came  from countries with a more sandwich tradition will be a little disappointed, anyway I bring to you one of the  more popular, the walnuts sandwich. I am afraid that the cream that they use is more industrial and more a kind of béchamel sauce with extra mayonnaise and complicate to know what is inside, so I make a simpler mix.

Ingredients: 2 bread sandwich slices – 100g chopped walnuts – 100g cream cheese -3 tbsp of spread butter.
Method: In a little bowl mix very well the cheese and the butter, then add the walnuts and mix again. Season with a pinch of pepper and spread on the bread!