Friday, 3 February 2012

Perfect cup of tea with jam biscuits

Perfect afternoon tea with jam biscuits
Since I moved to England my friends or my family always asked me how the English make the perfect cup of tea.  England’s national drink to be honest doesn't have a precise formula, something uncommon for the English culture, in Mediterranean countries is very common to find every popular drink or dish prepare in a different way , just not north to south, we can say in every town just separates for a few miles.  But that continental or European rules like the English wasn´t  part of the European continent, something that First minister David Cameron seems to have very clear doesn't apply to England where everything have rules or formula. But not for the tea.

First of all I need to say very few English of the new generations or at least from the last 20 year knows very little about a really nice cup of tea. Homes and offices are invaded by the tea bag, very pragmatic for these times; but is like a fast food drink, just an intense flavour without balance and flavours, and unfortunately much of the restaurant don’t really bother to offer a nice cup of tea either, a pot of hot water and a cup with a tea bag inside.

Anyway after 3 years in England I started to figure out how to make my own perfect cup of tea.

Tea Pickers, Photo by dmahendra
You need: Organic English breakfast loose leaf-tea  (to taste) – Splash of milk – Purified boiling water – China Pot (pre warmed) and preferably a mug rather than a cup

1. Boil the water in your kettle or similar just when reach the boiling point and let rest for 1 minute.
2. Add the English breakfast leaf tea to your taste in a pre-warmed the pot, like a guide is recommended 1 tsp. by cup. But every brand with different tea consistency will need different measures to you taste or your like weaker or stronger. Pour in the water.
3. Let steep for 3:30 minutes, exactly, this one of the few things on which the majority of tea drinkers agree. Even if you see that the tea become very dark after 1 minute, leave to rest because the tea flavour needs more time for be released than the colour.
4. Serve in individual’s mug rather than a tea cup. For some reason taste a little better.
5. Add a splash of milk (to taste), no sugar please!

 I use purified water because in south-England the lime scale is so bad that left a film over your brew.
• Earl Grey tea is a very good alternative to English breakfast.  Herbal tea such as mint or green tea are been drinking more and more in office and at home
• Do you know that the majority consumption of  energy in England is around the traditional tea time?  So many kettles are on that some time that England needs to buy extra energy to France.

Italian Jam Biscuits

Also I would like to share one of my favourite’s homemade cookies of my child-hood, I am pretty sure that my mum got the recipe from the strong Italian community living in Uruguay.  The Uruguayans are well known for another brew the “mate”, but for reason they are also attached to the afternoon tea with cake or biscuits. Seems that they incorporated the tradition after the brief English invasion in the River Plate (1807) and the new free commercial relationship between them. (Please don´t confuse with the Falkland conflict)

Jam biscuits recipe  – Makes about 15 cookies. Oven at 180ºC

You need: 3 boiled eggs – 150g plain flour – 80g caster sugar - 50g butter (softened) – 1tsp vanilla extract - 30 ml whole milk – Apricot or quince jam.

Jam biscuits roll log
Jam biscuits thumb indentation

1. After you boiled the eggs, remove the white and set aside the yolks.
2. In a bowl sift the sugar and flour. Now sift in the yolks, is a bit slowly but is worth it.
3. Make a well, and add the softened butter, milk and vanilla extract. Mix all together until you have dough. Work the dough for about 5 minutes pressing with your hands firmly.
4. Move to a work surface, sprinkle some flour and make a log roll of about 3 cm od diameter 20cm long. Roll in a cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Filling Italian jam biscuits
5. Remove from the fridge and cut the roll in pieces of 2cm long. Gently with your hands roll each piece in a ball.
6. Put the ball in a greased baking tray with enough room. Best if you baked them in batches or in 2 trays.
7. Pressing down with your thumb to make an indentation in the centre of each ball.
8. Fill each whole with your favourite jam. Each whole will need about ¼ tsp.
9. Bake in the oven for 17 minutes, until golden and the jam is bubbling.


Thursday, 2 February 2012

Easy Salad for a gum infection

The last week I went to a restaurant in Brighton and  very crispy prawns caused a Gum infection, at the beginning I didn't give too much attention because  I wasn't felling any pain at all and I didn't feel that I had any food stuck, so I was taking care cleaning my mouth with toothpaste and mouthwash.

But I was wrong, 4 day later after I had for dinner a Galician Turnover for my next Spanish Turnover Special, I started to feel some pain, so I took Ibuprofen and went to sleep. I awoke at 3 Am of the morning with an unbearable pain, even worse than any toothache I had suffered (lucky just one in my life). So was impossible to sleep and pretty soon I find out that wheat and caffeine (Ibuprofen has) are very bad when you have a gum infection. The only good news was that I was sure that the gum infection was caused by the food. Hopefully I had just the medication that is needed in this case and I went to sleep.

Two day later my dentist in Brighton, cleaned my mouth and confirmed that I had a little piece of prawn shell stuck in my gum.
When I came back I was very happy and also very hungry, the past day I didn't manage to have too much food, I still I don't feel confident to have pasta, cake or steak, after 2 days eating soups, juices and some chicken that I managed (eat protein with gum infection really help you) I really was looking for something tasty and nutritive, I was thinking in my vegetarian cottage pie leftovers but I really wanted something refreshing, so I make for myself an easy tasty salad that really challenge my best Winter Salads.

Easy Salad recipe

You need for 2 serves: 50g salad leaves - 4 milano salami - 2 boiled eggs - 3tbsp of olive plus 1/2 tbsp of truffle oil for the dressing.

1. For the dressing mix the two oils and season. Set aside
2. Boil your eggs just for 6 minutes if you like them a bit runny. Let them cool down and cut in quarters.
3. Already in the serving plates, spread the salad leaves and salami, sprinkle with the dressing and top with the quarter eggs. Easy, healthy and tasty!


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

China Iberian ham

Photo by kisocci
Some time ago the Spanish crown visited China with the important task to open the Chinese market to the Spanish product. China is a country that consumes around 2 million pigs a day so was very easy to think that the famous Spanish ham will be have a great market to explode. So the Chinese government sent to Spain to inspect the Spanish ham producers for health production reason. Apparently more than healthy inspector China sent spies. A few year later China start to produce Chinese ham that look very similar to the Spanish ham, of course produced in half of the time and 10 times cheaper, they use Chinese pig breed but how they produced the ham is very similar process to the Spanish and they will be soon exporting to the rest of the world. As far I read some people say that the flavour is not even close and other that for not expert consumer or new market consumer will be taste all right.
Anyway the Spanish start to fear like happen before with another products that the Chinese Ham overtake the global market , so the Seville University already is working in project through a chemic identification process to determinate the authenticity of the famous Iberian ham and another Spanish traditional food products,  where  it came from and which product has been used.


Three tasty and cheap meats for this winter.

Braised Ox Cheek. Photo by mirvettium'
 Ox cheek - (6 £ by kilo) I know that in England is not very popular and can raise some eyebrows on the table but in some Mediterranean countries are real delicacy. I know that came from the head of the cow but is a cut with plenty meat and when is well-cooked is very tender, especially in stews

Feather Steak (8 £ by kilo) – Came from the shoulder of the cow and has a lot of marbling which will be perfect for grill

Pork belly (5 £ by kilo) without the bone is a very flexible meat for your kitchen. You can stuff, cube or mince for cook terrines or burgers.

Here some Brighton shops to buy organic meat.


Monday, 30 January 2012

Cottage Pie

The Ivy Restaurant in London make one of the best Cottage Pie´s
Photo by Garry Knight
Cottage pie like other famous traditional dishes started in kitchen of the poor farmers when the potatoes started to be affordable by them. Today Cottage pie is one of the most favourite food of all the British, served at home, pubs and some of the best restaurants have their own version. In Spain we also have a similar recipe translated more like Meat cake with mash potatoes, some time I preferred because is a simple cottage pie recipe.  In England a popular vegetarian version is Quorn cottage pie with a kind of mock meat, but for be honest I don’t like it, so instead I used chickpeas  that give you plenty of calories, protein and fibre like the white beans.

Classic Cottage Pie    Serves 6 -  Time 2 hours.

You need for the mash: 900g King Edward potatoes (peeled & chopped) - 115g butter -115ml double cream.

1. In a pan of salty boiling water put in the potatoes more or less chopped in similar sizes, now simmer for 12-15 minutes until tender.
2. Drain the potatoes, and put it back to the pan in a very low heat, stir a couple of times for remove the excess of moisture. Heat off
3. Mash the potatoes with a masher or similar, then add the butter and cream, until you have a very smooth mash. Season. Set aside.

With a piping bag you can decorate your Cottage Pie
You need for the filling: 650g minced beef -300g shallots (finely chopped) - 4 sprigs fresh thyme, (leaves only) - 2 tbsp tomato purée - 1 tbsp plain flour - 150ml red wine -400ml beef stock -2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce – 50 ml olive oil.

1. Heat 25 ml of the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the minced beef, in batches will be easier to cook until browned all over, about 4-5 minutes. Set aside.
2. Heat in a separate pan over a medium low heat the remaining olive oil and fry the shallots and thyme for 5-6 minutes, until just softened.
3. Stir in the tomato purée and flour and cook for an extra minute, then add the cooked beef.
4. De-glaze the frying pan used to cook the beef with the red wine, scraping up any caramelised bits with a wooden spoon. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the wine has reduced by half, then pour the wine into the pan with the beef.
5. Add the stock to the pan and leave to simmer for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and 2 tbsp of the Worcestershire sauce.

For the Cottage Pie

1. In a baking dish place the mince beef mixture and spread all over the dish.
2. Then spread over the mash potatoes or you can fill a piping bag  and pipe the mash over the top in a more decorative way
3. Set your oven to a 190º C and cook the cottage pie for about 18- 20 minutes until the top is golden-brown. Serve.

Cottage Pie with a Spanish touch  Serves 6 -  Time 70 minutes.

The white eggs give a extra sponge to the mash
For the Mash potatoes (read above)

You need for the filling: 200g mince beef – 200g mince pork  - 1 green pepper (finely chopped) – 1 onion (finely chopped) -  150g can chopped tomatoes – 2 eggs (boiled)  100g olives (chopped) – 2 white eggs – 50g grated cheese  such as cheddar – 1tbsp breadcrumbs

1. Heat 25 ml of olive oil in a pan over a medium low heat and fry the onion and pepper for 5-6 minutes, until just softened.
2. Then add the minced meats and season with salt and pepper. Let cook 3-4 minutes browned all over. Add the chopped tomatoes and let reduce for another 4 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and add the chopped olives and the boiled eggs also chopped. Taste and check the seasoning.

For the Spanish Cottage Pie

Spanish Cottage pie has eggs and olives
1. Oil a baking dish and sprinkle over a tbsp. of breadcrumbs. Now take half of the mash potatoes and spread over the baking dish creating a first layer.
2. Next over the mash potatoes layer spread over the meat filling pressuring down. Sprinkle over a half of the cheese.
3. Cover the meat layer with the remaining mash potatoes.
4. Now whisk the egg whites until form peaks. When is ready cover with them all the cottage pie and sprinkle over the rest of the cheese.
5. Put in the oven at 180ºC for 30 minutes. Serve.

Vegetarian Cottage Pie.   Serves 6 Time 70 minutes

Vegetarian Cottage Pie
You need for the mash: 550g King Edward potatoes – 300g swede (both peeled & chopped) – 50 g butter - 30 ml milk.

1. In a pan of salty boiling water put in the potatoes and swede more or less chopped in similar sizes, now simmer for 12-15 minutes until tender.
2. Drain the potatoes and swede, and put it back to the pan in a very low heat, stir a couple of times for remove the excess of moisture. Heat off
3. Mash the potatoes with a masher or similar, then add the butter and a final splash of milk, until you have a very smooth mash. Season. Set aside.

You need for the filling: 1 onion (finely chopped) - 2 garlic clove (crushed) - 1 large carrot (peeled and finely chopped) - 1 leek ( trimmed, thinly sliced) - 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves -  400g canned chick peas (drained and rinsed) -  400g canned  cannellini beans ( drained and rinsed)  -  400g can of chopped tomatoes - 2 tbsp. tomato purée.  Some grated cheese - Oven at 180º C

1. Heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a frying pan at medium low heat and fry the onion until for 4 minutes.
2. Now add the carrot, leek and thyme leaves, cook for other 4 minutes.
3. Meanwhile roughly ground the chickpeas in a blender. Then add to the frying pan.
4. Also add the cannellini beans, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir all very well and add 50ml of fresh water. Simmer for 4 minutes. Check if the carrot is tender. Season.

Vegetarian Cottage Pie.

1. Spread the filling in a baking dish and top with the mash and sprinkle over some cheese.
2. Put in the oven for 20- 25 minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve.